A Collaborator in Kashmir

Amitava Kumar, writer and academic, has a new story out in PEN America, described as “a journal for writers and readers”. A Collaborator in Kashmir is a troubling account of a journey that Amitava makes to Sopore in north Kashmir to meet with Tabassum Guru, wife of Afzal Guru, the man sentenced to death for his part in the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. It makes a welcome addition to the unmasking of the terrible apparatus of oppression that has been spawned in the last two decades of military occupation in Kashmir.

I quote a passage from the piece here, because it connects Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul with our own Srinagar:

Reading those words I thought again of Srinagar. I had flown in from “a rich Western city,” and everything there looked drab to me, draped in a dirty military green. Every house that was new looked gaudy and vulgar or curiously incomplete. Many structures were shuttered, or burnt black, or simply falling down due to disrepair. Pamuk writes that those who live in Istanbul shun color because they are grieving for a city whose past aura has been tarnished by more than a hundred and fifty years of decline. I believe Pamuk was also describing plain poverty.

Jashn-e-Azadi had shown me another Srinagar. The film’s richness lay in the space it created, in the viewers mind, despite the violence, for thought and for color. The filmmaker had discovered again and again in the drabness of the melancholy the gleam of memory: the memory of blood on the ground, of the beauty of the hills and red poppies, of the keening voices of mothers, and painted voices of village performers. Also the memory of the dead, of falling snow, of new graves everywhere, and the shining faces crying for freedom.

Others have spoken to me of a sense of connection between Pamuk’s evocations of Istanbul and Kashmir, but Amitava Kumar evokes that synapse with grace and unusual intelligence.


4 Responses to “A Collaborator in Kashmir”

  1. 1 Vivek Raina June 2, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Dear Mr Kak,

    I was hit by a wave of nostalgia and thus visited your blog again.
    I was present on the first screening of Jash E aazadi at the IHC.The only problem i was a part of ROOTS IN KASHMIR.
    I was infact the first ones to have raised my voice there against presence of Mr Yasin malik, and eventually spoiling your evening.

    After that when i wasnt able to show my resentment to the fullest i had also posted on this blog.Its a surprise that my post no longer exists.
    You must have deleted it.

    Youve gained enough publicity with your distorted truth( as i see it). And many people might have accepted your story( your version of what happened) by now.

    Ive nothing against Yasin or free film makers or your movie, or kashmiri muslims.

    I however am upset.

    What upsets me is the fact that you say that what happened to kashmiri pandits is exaggerated, isnt true, inst opression, isnt genocide.

    I dont know where you were when it all happend but i was there.
    I saw it with my own eye.

    You are a documentry maker.
    Your role is to present the trut and let the world know.

    Why would someone of a noble profession as your lie.

    It wasnt even (1990) it was 1987 and i wasnt even 8. I used to study in caset school in raina wari, dont know if it still stnads.
    I was in LKG.

    it was my birthday and i went to school after the regular kashmiri pandit pooja. I had this tilak on my forehead and guess what i was bashed up for that.

    i used to have some neighbourhood kid wating for me to come out to play or visit school so that he could lay a punch on me, the reasonw as i was a hindu.

    Yes you are right i might have been considered pro indian and they hated india then.

    But was i not free to choose my loyalty like them. If they cose islam and pakistan or azadi, was i not free to choose to be a hindu or feel abt india.

    What do you or your film have to say abt this.

    It still comes to me fresh in front of my eyes.

    No i am not angry nor do i hate them. they were uneducated and had a limited perspective, i had the privileged of running away they were stuck there and had to face insurmountable hardships in these years.

    Its who who disgust me.

    You say nothing happened.

    Ive seen 3 ladies with a dead body in a house for 3 days because there was curfew and no one could have come.

    the man shot was my uncle principle of vasantaschool. The reason he was shot was because he wanted the education system to continue, he wanted exams to take place.

    Maybe he was wrong maybe it was a sin to think that violence want a way to get azadi.

    What had those 3 ladies of ages 56 35 and 9 done?

    Dont you find it inhumane.

    Wouldn’t it have been really great of you if you had said there that yes i know kashmiri pundits suffered.

    They suffered and even then remained non voilent. They brought no ill to anyone.

    its one thing to die in a battle like the glorified hero’s of jihad.

    its another thing to get crucified and suffer silently.

    I dont know what you make out if it but this question that i ask you is a very important question.

    All i know for now is truth will stand one day though crippled by people who try to play around with it.

    Youve deleted my first post.

    You might delete this one maybe as soon as you read it maybe after a year or maybe 10 . but i promise you sir that as long as i exist ill keep coming back and asking you this question.

  2. 2 aniket June 4, 2009 at 11:59 am


    Can someone tell me where I can get a copy of this movie?

    Thank you.
    Aniket Sharma

  3. 3 rehaan September 27, 2009 at 8:20 am

    dear vivek,

    Assalamualaikum and adaab arz brother from a muslim brother in Srinagar…

    I feel your emotions. I understand your pain. I share with you a few lines..

    we have lived together in tradition of harmony . i studied with pundits they were just like my brothers. we had pundits in neighborhood we used to be at each others home. i never felt the difference between the two homes. their and mine. then who attacked pundit brothers who killed about 100 innocents ? some miscreants probably. a few psychos who wanted to damage the fabric of communal harmony. I condemn those culprits and i condemn those closed minded inhuman people who carried out attrocities against our pundit brothers. I would tell you frankly that they had nothing to do with islam and the holy prophet ( may peace be upon him. A verse in holy quran says that if you killed one innocent human it is as if you killed the entire humanity. if you saved one is as if you saved the entire humanity. then how can its follower kills innocent in cold blood ? It is sheer ignorance nothing else. it is contrary to the quran and its teachings. WE MUSLIMS CONDEMN SUCH MISCREANTS AND WE ALWAYS HAVE OUR HOMES AND HEARTS OPEN FOR OUR PUNDIT BROTHERS. WE WANT THEM TO RETURN AND LIVE IN HARMONY WITH US AS WE LIVED BEFORE.

    That is one side of it. What i said is crystal clear view of most of muslims. Now we see the other side is that indian armed criminals in the display of worst example of state sponsored agression killed more than hundred thousand kashmiris in cold blood, looted and torched billions worth of property, molested raped and humiliated thousands of women and elderly. equal number of people are languishing in indian infamous jails.
    I can see it is not a matter of bata or musalman. We need to come to common terms between us. We are sons of the same soil. We need to understand that leaders of both india and pak are not in our favour. We need to share each others grief and sorrow. Together we form a country where we maintain our traditional values of humanity and live together in harmony and maintain each others honour and dignity.

    Without going into further details i wish to tell you that we need to sit together and support each others common concerns. We have to look forward. Let us leave the extreme views of both sides.Let us not bang our heads in criticising each other which will leade us nowhere. As i see there are some who want to exploit our weaknesses on both sides for their political motives. They are both hindu and muslim. I would call them brainless fanatics. Let us follow the example of people like brother Sanjay Kak , Professor Tikoo and get together and talk about peoples voice. We dont talk about Pak or India we talk about Kashmiriat. What do you say ?

    With prayers and best wishes

    Rehaan Bhat
    Srinagar, Indian Occupied Kashmir

  4. 4 Musadiq ALi November 2, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    finally I get to see one film which at least tried to raise the curtain and show the real truth of kashmir situation and the ugly truth of the indian army in kashmir…
    I know how hard it must be for the patriotic indians to see this movie and hear anything against their army but trust me the movie was actually very soft on the army…They didnt dare to show the various attrocities such as rape and massacre and everyday local newspaper headlines which the indian newspapers never report…
    The truth is we suffer day in adn day out at the hands of army…I personally dont hold a grudge against india…but the sentiments of the public cant be ignored…conduct a plebiscite as per the un solution to kashmir and you will know for urself the true sentiments of the people…


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Jashn-e-Azadi is available through various online outlets like amazon

You can now buy a DVD of the film, or Download it and watch
More than two years in the making, Jashn-e-azadi [How We Celebrate Freedom], is a feature length documentary by film-maker Sanjay Kak which explores the implications of the struggle for Azadi, for freedom, in the Kashmir valley.

Click here to watch the Trailer

As India celebrates the 60th anniversary of it's Independence, this provocative and quietly disturbing new film raises questions about freedom in Kashmir, and about the degrees of freedom in India.

And here is a short Interview with the film-maker.

This Jashn-e-Azadi blog is an open forum for conversations about the film, about Kashmir, and about Azadi itself.

For more information about screenings, sales and broadcast write to


For dispatches from the present

Voices of protest can be found here or call you from here

Stone in my hand

In the season of solutions, the late Eqbal Ahmad's wise words have to be remembered

Kashmir blog has the best one line blog take on Kashmir - they call it paradise, I call it home.

Zarafshan is a Kashmiri blogger whose blog (and blogrolls) are "just ways of dispersing news, views and feelings!"

For a considered discussion on the vexed issue of Pandits in Kashmir see Kasheer. And for more on this Ephemeral Existence

And a discovery called Paradise Lost

RSS Kashmir via Greater Kashmir

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Festival screenings

May 26, 2008 / International Video Festival of Kerala
Apr 28, 2008 / Dok.Fest
Feb 10, 2008 / Himalaya Film Festival
Nov 28, 2007 / International Documentary Festival
Oct 12, 2007 / Film South Asia
July 22, 2007 / Osian’s Cinefan film festival

Previous Previews

7 Dec 2007 / School of Oriental & African Studies & Sacred Media Cow
6 Dec 2007 / Workshop Theatre, School of English, University of Leeds
Egham, Surrey
3 Dec 2007 / Royal Holloway, University of London
New Delhi
26 Nov 2007 / Russian Centre of Science & Culture & Magic Lantern Foundation

New Jersey
Oct 5, 2007 / College of New Jersey
New York City
Oct 4, 2007 / Columbia School of Journalism
Oct 2, 2007 / University of Texas
Sep 28, 2007 / Temple University
Sep 27, 2007 / University of Pennsylvania
New York State
Sep 26, 2007 / Vassar College
New York City
Sep 25, 2007 / New School for Social Research
Sep 23, 2007 @ MIT
Sep 22, 2007 / SALDA
Sep 21, 2007 / University of Toronto
New Haven
Sep 20, 2007 / Yale University
Sep 18, 2007 / University of Minnesota

Aug 10, 2007 / Pure Docs, Prasad Preview, Banjara Hills

interrupted previews!! [[ MUMBAI ...
July 27, 2007 (Fri)
Vikalp: Films for Freedom @ Bhupesh Gupta Bhawan, 85 Sayani Road, Prabhadevi
July 30, 2007 (Mon)
Vikalp: Films for Freedom @ Prithvi House, Juhu...]]

July 14, 2007 / Institute of Agrl. Technologies, Queens Road
July 13, 2007 / Centre for Film & Drama, Millers Road
June 13, 2007, Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar Hall
June 12, 2007, National Film Archive of India Auditorium
May 29, 2007, Blue Moon Hotel
May 26, 2007, Assam Club, Laban
May 12, 2007, Hindi Bhavan Hall
March 31, 2007, Tagore Hall
New Delhi
March 23, 2007, Sarai-CSDS
New Delhi
March 13, 2007, India Habitat Center



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