Archive for the 'violence' Category

A stone in her hand

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


Jashn-e-Azadi in The Human Rights Collection

Here is a link to a recent article on
For ease of access, we’ve placed it below as well:

IndiePix and The Human Rights Collection

by Jef Burnham

IndiePix, if you haven’t heard of it, is an internet-based, video distribution company that specializes in independent film from past to present, featuring filmmakers like the neo-realist Robert Bresson (Pickpocket, Au Hasard Balthasar) alongside first-time filmmakers– their only prerequisite is quality. I spoke with Bob Alexander, President of the now three-year-old company, and he told me, “Our view is that, very simply, there are very many terrific films that very many people would like to watch. The problem is making that connection.”

IndiePix has made getting your film to a distributor foolproof for independent filmmakers. If you visit the IndiePix website, you’ll see a section for submissions labeled, “Filmmakers;” but they don’t distribute just anything. “I would say that we probably accept 20-25% of the films we get,” Alexander estimated. “What we look for in a film is that it has some festival history and that it has won some sorts of awards… If the film has some kind of credentials and is submitted to us, we’re going to get back to the filmmaker and put it on our site.” One film that was submitted to the site, having been selected by IndiePix for distribution, is a film called Skid Row by Linda Nelson, which follows a rapper living on Skid Row in Los Angeles for one week.

By recruiting independent filmmakers and gathering distribution rights from companies such as the prestigious The Criterion Collection, IndiePix has compiled a catalogue just shy of 3,100 titles. One duty of the manager of the IndiePix catalogue, Shreekant Pol, is to identify the natural groupings of films from within their catalogue to market as collections. Pol recently organized 9 films into the IndiePix Human Rights Collection, which covers topics from nations oppressed by military occupation to civil rights. “Human rights is a theme that independent films have explored in many different ways very effectively over the years. In fact, with great result,” Alexander said. “For example, The Trials of Darryl Hunt [one film in the collection] by Annie Sundberg and Ricky Stern is credited in part with having re-opened that man’s trial, leading to his release on a wrongful conviction.”

The 9 films that comprised in the collection are:

1. The Devil Came On Horseback (2007)
2. The Trials of Darryl Hunt (2006)
3. Words on Water (2002)
4. Jashn-e-Azadi – How We Celebrate Freedom (2007)
5. The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)
6. Sentenced Home (2006)
7. The Battle of Algiers (1966)
8. The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez (2007)
9. Iraq in Fragments (2006)

I had the opportunity to view two films from the collection. Jashn-e-Azadi – How We Celebrate Freedom (2007) is an unsettlingly subdued documentary about the daily struggle of the citizens in Indian-occupied Kashmir. The Kashmiri people adhere to their traditions even as their friends, family, and livelihoods are cruelly and unjustly taken from them by the occupying forces, which the Indian government admits outnumbers the Kashmiri militants by a staggering 7,000 to 1. The film is at its most effective when juxtaposing scenes of the Kashmiri people enjoying their coveted land of paradise with archival footage of Indian troops maliciously assaulting the homes of innocent civilians, leaving entire villages in ashes. The most telling scene in the film is when the totals of the first-ever “Survey of ‘Conflict-Related’ Deaths” are tallied. Although the occupying Indian forces admits to 5,000 casualties of their own, and claims that there are a mere 1,000 armed militants in Kashmir, the survey reveals that the occupation has claimed the lives of 60,000 Kashmiri with another 10,000 missing and presumed dead.

The Battle of Algiers is as Bob Alexander aptly described it, “an absolute classic,” and available on The Criterion Collection DVD with two bonus discs of documentaries. This extraordinary 1966 production from director Gillo Pontecorvo surprisingly features not a single frame of archival footage, though much of the film appears to be documentary as vast groups of protesting Algerians are parted by the tanks of the occupying French forces. Ultimately, the effectiveness of the film lies in the fact that Pontecorvo depicts the heinous acts committed by the French Army as well as the rebel National Liberation Front (FLN), who recruit children to participate in the random execution of French Officers. Pontecorvo leaves us jittering nervously as we anticipate the devastation caused by FLN explosive devices left in public places and what it will mean for the Algerian people. The terrorist attacks aggravate the situation, spawning French officer Colonel Mathieu, head of Operation Champagne. Operation Champagne was a Machiavellian mission of the French authorities to torture and destroy their way through to the top of the FLN’s Executive Branch, even if it meant leveling the entire Kasbah of Algiers. The Battle of Algiers is as powerful today as it was when it was banned in France in 1965.

When all-encompassing corporations like Amazon dominate the sales market, we need the smaller, specialized companies like IndiePix to give a forum to the as yet undiscovered talents; and for IndiePix, it’s not just a matter of finding a hole in the market and filling it. With the unveiling of the Human Rights Collection and the showcasing of so many unknown filmmakers, IndiePix has tried to show that it’s not just profit, but people they care about. This was obvious when Bob Alexander spoke of the company’s relationship with Sanjay Kak, director of Jashn-e-Azadi. “He is relying on us to provide distribution for that film to the expatriate [Kashmiri] communities in England and throughout Europe. I think it’s going to be an important project.”

For more information on IndiePix and the films in their Human Rights Collection, visit .

Jef Burnham is a writer and film critic living in Chicago.

[ blogflash 13: hyderabad jitters !]

This week saw 3 screenings of Jashn-e-Azadi in Hyderabad, where an important (although not un-connected) coincidence cast it’s shadow over the plans. The attack by fundamentalists on writer Taslima Nasreen at the Hyderbad Press Club only a few days before had made the city “jittery”, and it was decided that the film society screening (organised by Pure Docs at the regular venue, Prasad Preview Theatre, Banjara Hills) would be strictly restricted to it’s members, and kept low key.

So once more we have it, as in a few weeks ago, when the impending court judgements of actor Sunjay Dutt, and the accused in the 2003 Mumbai train blasts, had made the Mumbai Police “jittery” enough to stop our screenings. This time, the attack on Taslima Nasreen had the same effect on Hyderabad. What did either event, or both, have to do with a film on Kashmir? We don’t know. But this is how censorship works, not necessarily by denying us Censor Certificates, or seizing DVDs, but by making us “jittery”, and casting a shadow on our imaginations. But jitters notwithstanding, the screenings went on. There is at least one excellent account of the film society screening that we would like to share, from a blog called spaniardintheworks.

As always, we followed up this preview with screenings for students, organised at the Sarojini Naidu School of Communications, University of Hyderabad, and at the Centre for Media and Communication, The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad (what we all knew until recently as CIEFL). The Media students at the Sarojini Naidu School had an extended Q&A, and there was a very sharp and observent set of questions posed to the film: on form, technique, and even moral/ethical issues for documentary film-makers!

There is at least one response from these screenings that we’d like to pull up from the comments bar into this space. If only because it justifies our faith in the blogsphere as a space of genuine reflection, concern and intelligence:

From Smita

Just reading these responses to the film especially from people who claim never to have seen the film leaves me with the thought of how badly such a perspective as the film aimed at was required. At least for us Indians. My father, an army officer posted in kashmir in the early nineties was always stumped when I asked why the Kashmiris wanted freedom. I was even more mystified when later in gatherings of officers and families, at both official and non official occasions, conspiracies were exchanged and built upon like a game of chinese whisper. Never, even by mistake was it mentioned in any way – discussion, debate, argument anything, that Kashmir was not as natural a part of India as we have been made to believe.Obviously, we learnt it on our own later but we still got stumped at one major point time and again. Always everything, every discussion, every talk of kashmir, its current armed and bloody struggle would take a turn and go around to the violence towards the pandit community and never immerge from it to look beyond- or actually back at when and why it started. Self determination is still a fancy phrase if you ask my father- to cover an Islamic movement against a Hindu state. May be for some that would have been a rallying point, but was this all there was to it? Or could there be other factors? Is it a crime to dig deeper and understand? Or at least attempt to?

Violence. Extreme acts of aggression committed against a minority community. Terrible acts such as they were and I am sure are still frequent enough to be responsible for the exodus of much of the kashmiri pandit community from Kashmir, we have to realize, and I say it in the gentlest of ways, that to understand the beginnings of a conflict, to understand and acknowledge the roots of dissent is not the same as bestowing heroism on the perpetrators of such acts.

To see the passion and the fervor of a people trying to disengage from India and to witness their struggle, to see in their folk lore, music, poetry a sense of loss, a history of servitude and oppression, a sense of humiliation borne by the community through centuries does not support, or in any way justify violence against the kashmiri pandits.

Is it so difficult to see?
Does this mean that we may never move beyond judging the Kashmir conflict from any other perspective than that of the pandit community’s exodus? Will it bring us any closer to any understanding of the issue at hand or should we just close the chapter at the happy note of tit for tat for the piling corpses of the muslim kashmiris responsible for the ‘national crisis’?

What has been done to the pandit community was terrible. And nobody is in denial of that. The only thing which a lot of us Indians ARE in denial of, is what the ‘other side’ wants. And why they want it. But the fact remains that whether we approve of it or not, they DO want it, there politicians we decided to throw into jails wanted it, their parents wanted it, their children are dying for want of it, can we close our ears and eyes and just scream bloody murder at them and hope to erase them from the face of India and snatch peace from them?

Everytime an attempt is made to understand the struggle should we all raise our voices and crush it in the name of nationalism or hinduism or patriotism (which are all increasing interchangeable today anyway) or even vengeance?

Cant we for once just listen? Is it too much to ask for? And if we see or hear something that does not sound fair to us, cant we analyse and put it in words that express something other than a loud shrill series of abusive viscious accusations of glorifying terrorism? Is that the only choice? Either you are with the terrorists or with us?

And If I were to go looking for a struggle armed or otherwise and only choose to understand those which suite my sensibility, my principles, my ethics, I may not really be with any choice whatsoever. No movement, no resistance will be without its share of ‘black spots’, but then to deny it its existence, its meaning, its history and to rally around to crush every attempt at a fresh discussion is just an expression of a mentality dipped in hatred, intolerance and prejudice.

[ blog flash 12&half-mumbai continued ]

pandit says ban

a nice blog entry on the episode. anyone who can produce the copy of the email complaint referred in the blog, gets a free poster from blogmistri

and a discussion at passionforcinema 

sarai reader list conversation (1 & 2) on the interruption

mumbai police 1

mumbai police’s crack critic team

mumbai police 2

mumbai police’s crack critic team 2

[blog flash 12 – mumbai interruption]

Yesterday evening, blogmistri had been lazily formulating a post about the great response Jashn-e-Azadi had in its first festival/public screening at Osian’s Cinefan Festival of Asian & Arab Cinema (New Delhi, July 22) – and waiting for the news of the first Mumbai preview from Sanjay. But around 8.30pm, he heard that the preview of the film organised by Vikalp, the film-makers group, at Bhupesh Gupta Bhawan had been interrupted and the screening DVD of the film seized by Mumbai Police.

We will keep you posted on this interruption in the life of the film, but till then you could check out this news report in Mumbai Mirror. There is a first person account on a blog called paddlesweep. And the films for freedom/vikalp site for an incisive remark by Ranjit Hoskote of The PEN All-India Centre. (And for a very different view see this first comment on our post!)

[ blog engagement 2]

by Ather Zia

April 08, 2007 11:28 PM

Losing the rose colored lens

In 1991, I a young Muslim teenage girl waited for my Kashmiri Pandit (Hindu) friend. I stood outside the only greeting card and gift shop in Kashmir at that time. We were meeting at 11 o’ clock. As any normal teenager excited at this “out alone for the first time” expedition, I looked forward to a fun afternoon with my friend. Our time of meeting came and passed; I kept waiting looking for the familiar blonde head, the face with a golden dusting of freckles and light eyes.

She never turned up.
The phone in her home kept ringing and the only other contact I had for her, a person in the shop belonging to her family, informed she had gone out of the valley and would return after some time.
The answer to my query that I would in my imagination pose to my friend for keeping me waiting; as it finally dawned on me, was not the one for personal explanation but of a very public, tragic, and political nature.

Most of the Kashmiri Pandits by then had left the valley. Many of my friends spoke in whispers about trucks and buses, which had taken them out of the Kashmir, in wee hours of morning, in the dead of night… Some Muslims had helped find vehicles for them and many were trusted with the keys to their house and properties as they fled.
My father called up his Pandit friends only to let the phone ring endlessly.

So started the saga of Pandit community’s migration from the valley which has since been attributed to many reasons and debated greatly. While Muslim begrudge their migration, in moving away from violence and safeguarding their lives, future and education of children. Many attribute the then Governor Jagmohan for engineering their mass exodus. The former pro-India Chief Minister of Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah went on record, as he answered the query about Muslims driving the Pandits out of Kashmir, saying, “No I don’t agree with that. But the situation was such that they were frightened that they could be a target. And the Governor of that time Jagmohan told them to go away for some time promising them that they will be brought back (Shibli, M., Kashmir Affairs, 2006)”

The Kashmiri Muslims for long have had to bear the burden of getting blamed for mass Pandit Kashmiri migration in the early 90’s towards other parts India, mainly to Jammu and Delhi. A huge debate rages within the two communities as choicest blames, are heaped upon each other, the Kashmiri struggle for Independence and the administration of that time. It should also be noted that during the early 90’s not only Kashmiri Pandits but also prominent Muslims with suspect political leanings became targets especially those who were pro-India. Ordinary Muslims who supported but were not a part of the movement opine that they had nowhere to run or were not willing to leave, so they roughed it out while the Pandits left. Pandits on their part blame foremost the Kashmiri movement for selectively targeting Pandits and their Muslim brethren for becoming a silent witness to the treatment meted out to them.

There are grudges on both sides.
This migration, as has the Kashmir issue as a whole has become a great melting pot of problems, resolutions, explanations, and chaos, wherein people draw whatever suits their viewpoints and augments their own arguments.

The Raging Silence In-between

There is always a human need to establish a dialogue over the long angry silences that reign between estranged communities, that is, if the cacophony of hatred is to be driven out. The fact remains, the Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims, are entwined together in their shared history, their motherland, tragedies and troubles. In early 2000 I became a part of the group which sought to visit each other’s final reality, the sense of what we had become and if at all, it was possible to reach a common amicable ground even as the death toll in Kashmir continued to rise and the watery political theatre began to dilute the Kashmir issue.

We saw Kashmiri Pandits, in various stages of living their life outside Kashmir.In the camps of Purkhu, Muthi etc in Jammu, at privately-owned residences, businesses, schools they had established by then. We also met many Muslims who had migrated and were living in camps. We met many like-minded Pandits, mainly women, who finally became the Hindu component of our venture and were ready to respond with a parallel process towards understanding and reconciliation (even if returning to Kashmir was a remote possibility).

As we met, the decades old tragic history, which we (Muslims) were living and breathing and which they (Pandits) had left behind had produced two different symptomatic effects, that made us what we were and the reason for doing what we were doing, to each other per se. Our group from Kashmir comprising of Muslim women, seeking to understand, ease the estrangement and bridge the divide somehow, were living in a litany of incessant deaths and witnessing the political theatre wedded to eroding the very soul of Kashmir struggle; the Kashmiri Pandits, pursued explanations and deliverance while frozen in the amber of the ordeal they had faced and left behind in the early 90’s.

The conversations, between us to an outside ear must have seemed to emerge from two different time zones. From the point we had broken off in history, both the sides had walked different paths; our views were colored uniquely by dalliances in the homogenous cocoon of our insecure and estranged communities.

While we as Muslim Kashmiri women were journeying over the piling heap of over one lakh deaths and gross human rights violations in the valley, Pandits lamented the early deaths they had faced and the excruciating loss of the homes and property. Although it seemed a common ground was a shaky prospect, we soon came to realize there was too much to lose in not going further with the process that we had begun.

After that fist meeting of rage and fury, it seemed a certain catharsis had taken place. In due course, tears replaced the anger, the biting words became a muffled cry; at least at personal level, it seemed something like a travesty of empathy and patience was taking root. At least that was a start. Even if the vested political interests would not take heed for yet another decade and more.

Celebrating Freedom – Looking Forward

Such events have taken place since, in the personal lives of countless people in the valley, as the resistance movement goes on and a political solution remains elusive. There may not be an overflow of empathy or acceptance, but there is a modicum of tolerance in the narratives emerging from both communities. At an intellectual level, where film, theater and art steps in, artists from both Kashmiri Muslim and Pandit community are trying to understand the humanizing realities of each other’s situation.

As a certain validation for this sentiment, a film titled, “Jashn-e-Azadi” (translates into celebration of freedom) has been made by a young Pandit Kashmiri filmmaker, Sanjay Kak, who is based outside Kashmir. For sure, the communally dividing hawks must be eating their heart out to see a young Kashmiri Hindu making this revealing and honest film about a movement that has been predominantly seen as Muslim resistance to a Hindu India; an issue that has been exaggerated as being more religious than political.

Sanjay’s film tries to understand Kashmir’s cry for freedom in the less sought historical perspective wherein Kashmir has always been oppressed by external forces. The film has been received well in Kashmir where pro-independence audiences have been moved to tears, some bestowing Sanjay with emotionally significant gifts, which they relate to their right for self-determination and ultimately independence.

Kashmiri papers have called it by far the “boldest political statement in the contemporary Kashmiri discourse.” The film tries to understand freedom, not only in the contemporary context but through a historical perspective where Kashmiris have never been free of occupation. The film is significant not only for the rare and profound exegesis on Kashmir’s cry for Independence and resistance to occupying powers, but also for the fact it is conceived and made by Hindu Pandit.

This unlikely contribution validates the universal soul of the Kashmiri struggle from a historic and contemporary lens.

In the scenario of what is the Kashmiri carp-club (Kashmir sympathizers or non-sympathizers who use Kashmiri bashing to explain the tragedy that has befallen the valley); it’s a welcome departure that explains it is not weakness but centuries of “handed-down” subjugation that has deprived and oppressed Kashmiris.

The film weaves in the “Bhands”, the traditional folk theatre troupes of Kashmir, who have incorporated theme of resistance in their plays and have been performing them since centuries. A leading daily reports, “The apparent contradictions in the people’s quest for Azadi (independence), for example, elections, their own people unleashed as collaborators on them, plight of the Kashmiri Pandits, or, a man struggling to locate the grave of his son in Srinagar’s Martyrs Graveyard, vanish in the film’s grand narrative.”.

The most poignant and crucial realization from the film is, “The ultimate reality that people want Azadi (independence) emerges untouched among these contradictions.” This is no news to Kashmiri ears or those who have witnessed the struggle around them, the fact that the validation is coming from the other side of Kashmiri community, marks a significant moment in the history of Kashmiri struggle.

Kudos to Sanjay for taking the first step.

[ blog life 1 ]

Was Posted as a comment by J on

Witnessing a pro-independence rally in 1990, an immense sea of people, I saw people tearing of their clothes in ecstacy. It was not rage against any recent killings by the Indian army that had brought them out; but the pure joy of being able to express a desire for freedom, made possible by this collective action. Women sang the azadi slogans to a rhythm. They brought back memories of martyrs of freedonm struggle by singing songs that spoke of loss and meloncholy at the same time as courage and heroism. Songs from different parts of the rally spilled into each other. There was no direction to go; it had not been decided. For many hours, braving the icy winds of early January, people just stuck to their places. No stones were hurled, till police got impatient and started teargassing. Women, old men, children seperated; young men went ahead and hurled stones and chased police. More police came, and chased back people. This went on for quite some time, till shots were fired, and three people lay dead.
This went on, day after day, till Jagmohan imposed a three month long curfew to starve Kashmiris. And when curfew was lifted in the first week of March, even those who had missed it the last time came out on streets.
I think it was much more than just slogans… It has kept Kashmir’s struggle for freedom going.

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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