Archive for the 'words' Category

Children of the Tehreek

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.


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.

blogflash: gorakhpur film festival

This last week has been an exciting journey into an important new territory. It began appropriately, with a screening of Jashn-e-Azadi at the closing day of the 3rd Gorakhpur Film Festival, organised by the Expressions film society of Gorakhpur, in the heart of what is known as the “hindi heartland”.

Gorakhpur is the home of the legendary publishing institution, the Gita Press, of the writer Munshi Premchand, the poet Firaq Gorakhpuri, and of course the eponymous Gorakhnath temple. (In recent years it has also emerged as the site of a particularly virulent format of right-wing Hindu chauvinism, and the importance of the Gorakhpur Film Festival has to be located particularly within this last quite considerable challenge.)

In the 60th year of Indian Independence, the festival significantly chose to stay away from the officially generated celebratory hoopla, and commemorated the event under the sobre slogan of visthapan aur vibhajan ke saath saal (sixty years of division and displacements). It opened with a screening of M S Sathyu’s classic representation of the trauma of Partition, Garam Hawa, and closed on Feb 26th with the first festival screening of our recently completed “Urdu/Hindustani” version of Jashn-e-Azadi.

The Gorakhpur Film Festival showed an interestingly curated range of films, from contemporary documentaries (Ajay Bharadwaj; Biju Toppo; Surabhi Sharma; Vinod Raja) to classics old (Ritwik Ghatak) and new (Saeed Mirza), and a whole Sunday devoted to films for children. There was also theatre, and poetry…

The very well-attended screening of Jashn-e-Azadi was followed by an intense Q&A. This was hugely helped by the fact that the GFF had brought together an excellent group of progressive writers, critics and teachers associated with the Jan Sanskriti Manch (Forum for People’s Culture); and they came from Allahabad, Basti, Bhilai, New Delhi, Patna… Once again the openness and the complex thinking that people brought to their viewing of the film was a vindication of the value of sharing an apparently complex argument. (Never complicate what is simple. Or simplify what is complex…)

In the days immediately before and after the Gorakhpur screening I have had very similiar experiences with discussing the film with groups of young college students at the Jamia Milia Islamia (Awam) and at Delhi University Arts Faculty (Premchand Vichar Manch). Already more and more groups of people have expressed an interest in using the film in India, to raise questions around the hard issues of Nationalism, and Nationality.

Could it be that the film is finally finding it’s mark…?

blog update – Jashn-e-Azadi has a trailer!

a short trailer for the film, made for the forthcoming
International Documentary Festival, Amsterdam (Nov 22-Dec 2, 2007)

[ blogrumination: intifada! ]

At a screening of Jashn-e-Azadi in Hyderabad I was asked if there was a reason why the word ‘intifada’ was used in the context of Kashmir. I tried to explain that the news of the first Palestinian Intifada (and in particular, the television images) came to Kashmir at a very crucial time: in the aftermath of the infamous rigged election of 1987 . The character of the street battles that followed surely took inspiration from what was happening in Palestine…

Someone then asked me what the precise meaning of intifada was. The unsure nature of my response has egged on another viewer of that day to send us this – thanks, Bhashwati:

As a verb intifada means “to be shaken, to wake up”. As a noun it means “shudder, awakening, uprising”, with the implication of “a shaking off” — referring to the process of shaking off sleep or shaking off the dust from one’s feet.
In the context of 37 years of Israeli military occupation (as of 2004), Intifada represents a ‘shaking off’ of the chains of occupation.
The word was first coined in 1987, to describe the first Palestinian uprising against Israeli military rule.

Last week there was a connected comment on this blog from yet another viewer of that days TEFLU screening – thanks, Shafeeq:

This was something I had to ask after the screening at TEAFLU, Hyderabad:
In your docu, the resistance seem to have the language of Islam, also there is this reference to ‘Intifada”. Now, even though an influence of cable TV, intifada carries other connotations too, of an Islamic struggle against the infidel imperialists.
So, what exactly is the role of Islam, is it a garb in which resistance carries itself forward? or is it a programme in itself?
Is Kashmir existing in a metaphysical space (of course, a resistance fighter was pointing to metaphysical battle) for the Kashmiris, in oneness with Palestine and Chechnya, or are they aware of the concrete geopolitics which then can’t avoid Pakistan from referencing? Can’t that be one of the reason why while West [of Kashmir] is so familiar to Kashmiris, South [of Kashmir] is so distant?

I think this is an important question, which I’m unable to answer. We’re posting it here in the hope that sometime in the near future (days, weeks, months, even years), some people will reflect upon this, and share their ideas with all of us.

[blog update – audio 1]

Now you can listen to some of the audio from the film.
slogans of azadi   If you want to read a translation of these slogans (and hear some more) click here.
You can also sample some of the poetry with Zarif Ahmed ‘Zarif’ and Piarey ‘Hatash’ reading their poems

[ blog connection 3 – robin ]

After ‘Jashn-e-Azadi’

The kite of the smoky chinars is not a symbol
The rose has migrated from the garden of paradise
Freedom will never come
Poured into goblets waiting to be raised
Martyrdom is a handout from god the hagiographer.
Only poetry of ruins is real.
The dumb rose still blooms
From some beloved breast torn open.

Robin S Ngangom
26 May 2007


Robin S Ngangom is one of the major Indian poets writing in English today. He is based in Shillong and also writes in Meitei.

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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