Jashn-e-Azadi is again travelling to Thrissur, Kerala, as part of Kashmir – Before Our Eyes package which will screen on August 29, 30, and 31 at the Kerala Sahitya Academy, Changampuzha Hall. The travelling event has been curated by Ajay Raina and Pankaj Rishi Kumar for FD Zone, Mumbai, and organised by Films Division Thrissur Zone, Naz Media, and Thrissur Chalchitrakendram.
Archive for the 'politics' Category
But there is a screening scheduled for August 25th (Sunday) morning as part of the FD Zone screenings of the Kashmir – Before Our Eyes package hosted at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai with documentaries, features, short films, readings and discussions on Kashmir.
The full programme is listed at https://www.facebook.com/events/1403728749848464/?ref=3
The schedule says the screening will be followed by a Panel Discussion moderated by Nirupama Subramaniam, Journalist with The Hindu. More details will probably become available closer to the date. We’ll keep you updated.
This week Jashn-e-Azadi was the closing film at the 2nd Nainital Film Festival, part of the ‘Pratirodh ka Cinema‘ (Cinema of Resistance) circuit of film festivals that have been so patiently (and brilliantly) put together by film-activists of Jan Sanskriti Manch. Fast growing into a legend on the alternative cinema circuit, the Gorakhpur Film Festival (already headed for its 6th edition) has spawned a series of clones all over Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Marked by a sharp curatorial sense, and a remarkable insistence on remaining unfunded (despite many offers of funding and sponshorship) the Cinema of Resistance festivals – and the many one-off screenings and workshops that they have encouraged – are a truly unique initiative in the democratisation of screening culture in India. (And perhaps in the world)
Jashn-e-Azadi has been shown–and allow us this little list–at the following ‘Pratirodh ka Cinema‘ events:
- 3rd Gorakhpur Film Festival , Feb 26, 2008
- 1st Bareilly Film Festival , Jun 8, 2008
- 1st Patna Film Festival, Dec 27, 2009
- 3rd Lucknow Film Festival, Oct 10, 2010
- 1st Jabalpur Saarthak Cinema Karyashala (Meaningful Cinema Workshop) jointly organized with Pahal parivaar, Sept 4, 2010
- 2nd Nainital Film Festival, Oct 31, 2010
(for those who can read devanagari, a brief report on the screening from the DewalthalPost)
Quietly upstaging all these remarkable screenings though, is one that we were not witness to. I’ve received a heart-warming report about it though, from Baijnathji, who mans the sales desk at all the ‘Pratirodh ka Cinema‘ events. Here is his account, in a quick translation:
27 April. Since 1995, every year 27 April refreshes the memories of a special day for my family, because that is the day our father died an untimely death. My father was simple by temperament, but in his personality there was a commitment to struggle. From the ordinary position as a laborer, he spent his life fighting against exploitation, injustice, and atrocities, and was always seen on the side of the oppressed.
After his death, a tradition has come about of organizing something in his memory on 27 April every year. Sometimes its a story reading, sometimes a discussion on the problems of farmers. But this year our doorway saw something quite different. We remembered him as we do every year, but in a different way. In the evening about 40-50 children, some young people and some old men and women were sitting there. On a table was a television. The children were thinking that a Bollywood film will start. The older people were hopeful that it would be the Ramayana or the Mahabharata. But when my brother set up the system, and ran it, what they began to see was Majid Majidi’s Iranian film “The Children of Heaven”. In just a little while the whispering amongst the crowd turned into silence. When it ended, there was a demand to run the same film again. But the fear of a power cut made it necessary for us to begin the second film.
Sanjay Kak’s “Jashn-e-Azadi” began. As the film went on, the silence began to break. Watching the scenes from the film people began to whisper amongst each other. After the film it was tea time. But the electricity turned it all dark. But despite this people sat on the matting outside at our doorstep till late at night talking about this film about Kashmir.
In this large village situated on the borders of Bihar, the little doorstep of our house saw a few educated young people, some children, lawyers and teachers engrossed in arguments and counter-arguments of the reality of Kashmir, and the women were even abusing the army. People were saying that such films should be shown all over the place.
son of late Virendra (“Vaikunth”) Mishra
Village Katiyan, Post Office Katkuiyan
Dist Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh
For those who can read Devanagari, here is the original report too: Enjoy!
२७ अप्रैल – प्रत्येक वर्ष १९९५ की २७ अप्रैल की यादें ताज़ा कर जाता है . यह दिन मेरे परिवार के लिए एक खास दिन होता है. क्योंकि इसी दिन हमारे पिताजी की असमय मृत्यु हो गयी थी . मेरे पिताजी का स्वभाव सरल एवं व्यक्तित्व संघर्षशील था . अपनी छोटी सी औकात में श्रमिक जीवन व्यतीत करते हुए, शोषण, अन्याय, व अत्याचार के खिलाफ हमेशा पीड़ितों के पक्ष में खड़े दिखाई देते थे .
उनके निधन के बाद प्रत्येक वर्ष २७ अप्रैल को उनकी याद में मेरे घर कुछ न कुछ आयोजन करने की परंपरा विकसित हो चुकी है . कभी कहानी पाठ, कभी कृषक समस्याओं पर विचार विमर्श हुआ करता था . लेकिन इस वर्ष मेरे दरवाज़े पर कुछ अलग ही दृश्य दिखाई दिया . प्रत्येक वर्ष की भांति इस वर्ष भी उन्हें याद किया गया लेकिन तरीका बदला हुआ था . शाम को कुछ ४०-५० बच्चे, कुछ युवक व कुछ वृद्ध पुरुष और महिलाएं बैठे हुए थे . सामने एक मेज़ पर टेलीविजन रखा हुआ था . बच्चे यह सोच रहे थे कि कोई बॉलीवुड कि फिल्म चलेगी . वहीँ उम्रदराज़ लोग रामायण या महाभारत देखने कि आस लगाये हुए थे . लेकिन मेरे भाई ने टेलीविजन का सिस्टम ठीक करके उसे चलाया तो माजिद मजीदी की ईरानी फिल्म “द चिल्ड्रेन ऑफ़ हेवन” का नज़ारा दिखाई देने लगा . कुछ ही समय बाद आपस की फुसफुसाहट मौन रूप में बदल गई . फिल्म के समाप्त होने पर उसी फिल्म को दोबारा चलाने की मांग उठाने लगे . लेकिन बिजली काट जाने की आशंका को देखते हुए दूसरी फिल्म दिखाया जाना आवश्यक था .
संजय काक द्वारा निर्देशित डॉकुमेंटरी “जश्न-ए-आज़ादी” आरम्भ हुई . और फिल्म ज्यूँ- ज्यूँ आगे बढती गयी लोगों की ख़ामोशी भी टूटती गयी . फिल्म के दृश्यों को देखकर लोग आपस में एक दूसरे से काना फूसी करना आरंभ कर दिए . फिल्म के समाप्त होने के पश्चात चाय का दौर प्रारंभ हुआ . लेकिन बिजली नें अँधेरा कर दिया. बावजूद इसके लोग देर रात तक मेरे दरवाज़े पर चटाई पर बैठे-बैठे देर रात तक कश्मीर पर बनाई इस फिल्म के बारे में चर्चा करते रहे .
बिहार सीमा पर स्थित मेरे बड़े से गाँव के मेरे छोटे से दरवाज़े पर कुछ किसान, कुछ पढ़े-लिखे युवक, बच्चे, वकील और अध्यापक जमकर कश्मीरी हकीकत पर आपस में तर्क वितर्क करते रहे और महिलाएं तो सेना को गलियां भी दे रही थी . ऐसी फिल्म को लोग कह रहे थे कि जगह-जगह दिखाया जाना चाहिए.
पुत्र स्व: वीरेन्द्र (उर्फ़ वैकुण्ठ) मिश्र
ग्राम: कटियाँ , पोस्ट: काटकुइयां
जिला: कुशीनगर (उ.प्र)
We’re happy to post a ‘report’ on the screening of Jashn-e-azadi on August 6, 2010, at the San Jose Peace and Justice Center, San Jose , CA. The event was sponsored by Culture & Conflict Forum and co-sponsored by San Jose Peace and Justice Center. The discussion was moderated by Yasmin Qureshi, whose account of her trip to Kashmir in August 2009, The fate of Kashmir, some of you may already have read on Counterpunch.
Yasmin has forwarded three email responses she received after the screening, and below that, the Q&A she conducted with the audience:
Jashn-e-Azadi was released in 2007 and it has taken me until now to finally watch it, thanks to a screening organized by the Culture and Conflict Forum at the San Jose Peace Center on Friday, August 3rd, 2010. It’s difficult to remember the details, the names and the incidents from the documentary, but the extraordinary impression one leaves with, an impression that continue to haunt long after the screening, is the pervasiveness of the Indian military and paramilitary presence in Kashmir and the universal opposition to it. It’s one thing to have heard that there are 700,000 troops deployed there, one soldier for every 15 Kashmiris; it’s quite another to see them everywhere, in the city square, the streets and alleys, the countryside. It’s also one thing to have heard about the opposition to this military presence, and quite another to witness, through this documentary, the manifestation of this universal opposition from women, men and children of all ages, with huge turn outs at protests, funerals and marches, and even a street play. And, in striking contrast, was the observance of Indian Independence Day by the military forces under conditions of curfew with deserted streets.
Whatever be one’s position on the question of Kashmir, one thing is for clear from watching this documentary, that this situation cannot continue. Not for long. That inevitably raises the question where to from here. That indeed must have been what prompted some of the lively discussion that followed the screening, even though the question itself is not raised in the documentary, let alone addressed in it. To have raised this question is perhaps the most important service that this documentary has done.
It is easy to frame the question in religious terms, Kashmiri Muslims versus Kashmiri Hindus, facile terms made to appear justified on account of the tragic displacement of Pandits from the Valleys and the roles played by Pakistan and the Afghan mujahedeen in promoting violence. But to do so would also be to ignore that to most Kashmiris, it is a struggle for freedom and national self-determination, a struggle in the making for over 500 years that gave rise to Kashmiriyat, the unity of Kashmiris of all religions, a struggle in which religion has not been the divisive factor that it is portrayed to be in India.
The first half of the film was like watching a thriller and left me spellbound! It moved so fast. There were 4 parallel tracks or stories – one of the old man searching for his son’s grave which was very touching, covering the militant resistance and what it did. Second the man surveying and documenting number of deaths. Third the arrogant attitude of Indians, as if they own and control Kashmir through the tourists and later through the pilgrims. Lastly the play which is very important as it explains the 100s of years of colonization and how Kashmiris were docile then but are now determined to fight for self determination. The history is important to understand why kashmiris want freedom.
The scene of the women walking in the mosque followed by prayers in the snow was very surreal. The first half was complete in itself and maybe the Q&A session should have been then instead of in the end. It would have given more time for discussion. The scenes were going back and forth which may have been confusing for someone who doesn’t know much about the history and sequence of events.
The film is not a comprehensive analysis of the Kashmir situation.. And it is not a straightforward narrative; (often, there wasn’t much narrative.. and in that regard it reminded me of Amar Kanwar’s Night of Prophecy). there are no easy answers, or clear sides that one can easily take. The film touched a nerve in me on many levels. In parts I wasn’t sure what the director was getting at. For example he hints at the plight of the pandits, and the religious dimension of the resistance; but doesn’t make any further comment on it. One thing came through loud and clear, though – it showed what an occupation by the Indian army looks like (and it does not look pretty).
The shots of Srinagar during Indian independence day were especially telling. If you have to put the entire city under lockdown in order to “celebrate” your independence, you aren’t having much “independence”, are you? And this is why it is probably an important movie to watch.
I think that the film – or the half of it that I saw- did not have much focus. Not because of any fault of the director but because of the need to show the film to a larger audience in India, the director perhaps was constrained to come out and show what he truly belivies to be the issue at stake. This lack of focus, in my view, is a direct measure of the sorry state of affairs vis a vis Kashmir in India. There is a dire need to keep the focus on Kashmir issue in and out of India by people like the director of this film who care for the people of Kashmir.
It showed very well the beautiful people and the beauty of the region but also the poverty and violence. But the film was very long and confusing — it kept switching back and forth between different incidents of violence, interviews with people.
Question and Answer session
(Questions were answered by Yasmin Qureshi, member of Culture and Conflict Forum. She had visited the Kashmir valley in August 2009.)
Q: What was the message of the film?
A: Well, the director Sanjay Kak leaves it to the audience really. His objective was to bring out the voices of the people of Kashmir since we rarely read about them in the media and open an avenue for discussion on the issues and aspirations of the Kashmiris. Back in 2007 the word azadi for Kashmir was shocking for Indians. As a Kashmiri Sanjay wanted to make a film about the people there and what they feel.
Q: It is true the media doesn’t cover the Kashmiri Muslims but it also doesn’t cover
the pundits either. How do you justify the killing and migration of 100,000 pandits?
A: I disagree the media doesn’t cover the pundits. In fact most articles published in India on Kashmir address this issue. What they don’t cover is what the army is doing there, the murders, missing people, rapes and what the people there want and why. Recently Shivam Vij had a detailed article on the pundits living in Delhi area in kafila.org.
Yes, what happened to the pundits is unjustifiable. And certainly Pakistan and the Afghan mujahedeen had a role to play as Kashmiris started crossing borders to get training in the 90s. The people I spoke to in the valley last year wanted them to come back. People there at this point are not in favor of a militant resistance.
Q: You mentioned the media and I am comparing to the media coverage of Palestine in Israel.
How is the Indian media coverage?
A: As I mentioned earlier, Kashmir is not covered well in the Indian media. Discussing aspirations of Kashmiris is taboo. For example, no one wanted to publish my article, Democracy Under the Barrel of a Gun in India. The media does write about the presence of army and that the Indian govt needs to deal with it but what they don’t cover is what the militarization has done to the society. Or the root causes such as the annexation, as Kashmiris say, The Brahminical rule of India’. Mass graves were found, many women have been raped. This is not covered very well not just by Indian media but also the international media. There isn’t a discussion on what and why Kashmiris want azadi and what it means.
Siddharth Varadhrajan wrote an article recently on the protests in Hindu. He mentioned the elections of 2008. What he didn’t mention is that Kashmiris participated in them more to vote for local governance issues and not anything to do with future of Kashmir or rule of Indian state. However, the media presented the 60% turnout as a vote of endorsement of the rule of Indian state and the Kashmiris felt betrayed. Partly why we see the kind of massive protests since 2008 is this.
Q: But what about the militant movement in Kashmir? If it got independent they would take
A: The argument that Indian army shouldn’t leave or Kashmiris shouldn’t be independent because the militants will take over to me is similar to the argument that US shouldn’t leave Iraq or Afghanistan. Isn’t that what was said even during the Vietnam war?
At this point it is really a people’s movement – students, youth, women, ciivilans. The people saw what the militant movement did to them and how the Indian army dealt with it. Almost every family was impacted by it, killed, tortured or in custody. Also they see the power of the protests. I had asked the same when I went to the valley last year. What people said was the militant groups are not that prominent now and they don’t need a militant resistance anymore. I spoke a friend just two days ago to ask the same question since I knew someone would ask. He narrated an incidence. Two militants came to join a protest in a village but the people pushed them out!
Q: Why is the Indian govt’s attitude so belligerent? Is it because of the vote bank they may lose?
A: There are many reasons. Yes, the vote bank is certainly an important one. Kashmir is the only state with a majority Muslim population and they want freedom from India! So they want another partition?
Kashmir is considered ‘Bharat ka atoot ang’ and to discuss anything about autonomy or
independence leads to the question about further disintegration of India in the east for example or how it would impact other insurgencies such as in central tribal areas. Also the fact that it borders with Pakistan. The argument is ‘if we reduce troops Pakistan will invade’. But then have troops on the border. What is the justification for troops or police in a crowded city like Srinagar? If the argument is to protect pundits, most of them are no longer in the valley. So who is it protecting?
There isn’t a great willingness on either sides to deal with this issue even though it is the most important from a geo-political angle. Also, Kashmir is rich in natural resources, source of water and India wouldn’t want to give those up.
[ Someone from the audience expanded on the ‘only muslim majority state’ by giving the history of the Dogra rule and how Maharaja Hari Singh annexed Kashmir(and that it was conditional) without taking the opinion of the Muslim majority and how that was the opposite of what happened in other princely states like Junagarh or Hyderabad where the majority was Hindu and the ruler was Muslim and the vote went the will of the majority population.]
For all those who are following events in Kashmir, a comment written by me on a relatively new phenomenon:
But now an unfamiliar new photograph of the Kashmiri woman has begun to take its place on newspaper front pages. She’s dressed in ordinary salwar-kameez, pastel pink, baby blue, purple and yellow. Her head is casually covered with a dupatta and she seems unconcerned about being recognized. She is often middle aged, and could even be middle-class. And she is carrying a stone. A weapon directed at the security forces…
To read the full piece, do take a look at the Times of India of Aug 8, 2010
The August 2010 issue of Himal Southasian magazine has a commentary contributed by me on the recent events in Kashmir:
When columns of the Indian Army drove through Srinagar on 7 July, rifles pointed out at the city, it was meant as a show of force; to tell its ‘mutinous’ population – and those watching elsewhere – just who was really in charge. Disconcertingly for the Indian government, it has had the opposite effect…
Do read the rest of Children of the Tehreek too.
The online bilingual literary magazine Pratilipi, has quietly built an exceptional reputation for its quality, the regularity of its bimonthly appearance, and the fact that it is genuinely bilingual, carrying excellent translations of all articles, in English and Hindi.
Readers of this blog may enjoy reading a series of essays on the Indian documentary, commissioned by Guest Editor Sridala Swami, with reflective pieces by filmmakers Paromita Vohra, Surabhi Sharma, and Kavita Joshi. In the December 2008 issue I have written an account of the making of Jashn-e-Azadi. Enjoy!