Showkat A Motta | Greater Kashmir, Srinagar | March 31, 2007:
‘Domination does not mean victory’
Sanjay Kak’s Jashn-e-Azadi screened in Srinagar
Sanjay Kak in his documentary film Jash-n-Azadi (How we celebrate freedom) tells Kashmiris their own truth, that is, they may be dominated but they’re not defeated, the domination does not mean victory and that the folkloric thirst for Azadi is so firmly imprinted in their genes that fight Azadi has become an instinctive need for them.
Hence, at Srinagar’s Tagore Hall where the film was screened Saturday, when the audience booed at the image of troops celebrating India’s Independence Day on empty streets of Lal Chowk it was not the cathartic release of anger, but an expression of gratitude that for the first time “the truth about India’s untenable occupation discourse” has been said fearlessly, and said in its most undiluted form.
Kak, a Delhi-based Kashmiri Pandit, was instantly repaid with flowery words of gratitude and clapping. A veteran pro-freedom leader gifted away his black embroidered shawl which he called as his “resistance shawl” to Kak. Another resistance leader found in this bold narrative a lesson for Kashmiris journalists working for “Indian media”: he wanted them to emulate Kak in telling the truth.
The atmosphere at the jam-packed Tagore Hall was so surcharged that many in the audience synced their slogans with the slogans of the people shown in the film carrying the body of a militant killed by the troops.
Kak says his aim in making the film was to disturb the “Indian audience” for whom the film is essentially meant. According to him, many “sensitive Indians” lost their sleep for many days after watching the film, probably because they had never been told “the unpalatable truth about Indian control of Kashmir.”
Barbed wires, troops and their vehicles as massive as their presence, whizzing past the depressed people form the leitmotif of the film, but that would be stating the obvious.
So what makes the Jash-n-Azadi the boldest political statement in the contemporary Kashmiri discourse? The film is portrayal of the Azadi theme that leads into history’s back chambers and picks up one unalterable fact: Kashmiris have resisted subjugation for centuries even though in their misery they might sometimes ridicule their own efforts of resistance.
The armed resistance of the past 18 years, however is the focus of the documentary. But showing a band of Bhands (folk theatre artiest) to have incorporated theme of resistance in a village show, and performing it for centuries while shuttling between one oppressor to another, is no less than a homage to the spirit of Kashmiris.
The apparent contradictions in the people’s quest for Azadi, for example, elections, their own people (read Ikhwanis) 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 director’s obsession with the theme of Azadi might have narrowed his focus and he has deliberately left out many things in the film, but it has no bearing on the main theme of the film.
The ultimate reality that people want Azadi emerges untouched among these contradictions.
Thus a ‘Goodwill Operation’ which is a convincing piece of propaganda for an Indian news channel, in Jash-n-Azadi becomes what it is: a hugely ludicrous exercise,” said an excited youth, Abdul Mateen Bhat after watching the film.
With his film Sanjay Kak has complemented Arundhati Roy’s—she was among the Tagore Hall audience—biting prose on Kashmir. Like Roy’s prose the Jash-n-Azadi is a rarity, hence invaluable.