Kashmir and the fading voices

Unrest, media restrictions and dwindling freedom

Society

June 21, 2017

/ By / Kolkata

Kashmir has always been admired for its beauty, feared for its violent uprisings

Kashmir has always been admired for its beauty and feared for its violent history

The valley is suffering, innocents lives lost and yet the struggle continues to grow with each passing day.

 If a Bengali can call himself a Bengali, a Gujarati can refer to herself as one, Punjabis proudly proclaim to be Punjabis, why are we termed anti-nationals if we call ourselves Kashmiris? Why is no one listening, are our voices so meek and faint? Where have our husbands disappeared, where does the grave of our children lie? Stones pelted, university shut, networks disrupted, we are left here unarmed.

These are not words you haven’t heard before.

This is how the conversation sounded like with a native Kashmiri friend, following the current unrest in the valley. My other friends could not share the joy of graduation with Kashmir University shutting down and a curfew imposed.

“They can barge into my house anytime and arrest me without any warrant or a government document” – the lines from the film ‘In the Shade of Fallen Chinar’, struck a chord. The film, directed by Fazil NC and Shawn Sebastian, is reflective of the dissent and the views of the youth through music and art as a mark of resistance. The film, along with two other documentary films, was withheld from screening at the 10th International Documentary and Short Film Festival in Kerala. The Kerala High Court on Friday, 16 June 2017, dismissed a petition by Shawn Sebastian against Information and Broadcasting ministry’s decision to withhold screening permission for the film. As of now, no explanation has been put forward as to why the film was denied screening.

Several believe that the film is controversial and harmful towards national integrity.

 

A still from the film of the same name

A still from the film of the same name

Following are two sets of dialogues from the film:

“Conflict is the perfect place for art to thrive. Art for the heck of art is one thing; art for personal healing, for that sake, is something else. We Kashmiris have that kind of art.”

“Someone like me in the ’90s would have picked up a gun; 20 years later I picked up a guitar with the same ideology — to resist.”

Soon after the film was released, Burhan Wani was killed and a curfew followed alongside mass agitation that aggravated the socio-political tension into what it is today.

 Protests and resistance

My friend grieved the closing down of the fortnightly university journal, Mizraab very close to its inception in June, 2016. The students from different discourses across the campus of Kashmir University started the journal with a hope of expressing their views on a common platform, “about things that really matter”.  It all started with a fallen Chinar tree which became the symbol of artists from around the campus. Artists gathered here and expressed dissent through various forms of art, from graffiti to music. “That too sadly was taken away from us leaving us devoid of the basic rights that an average Indian is entitled to,” said a student of the university.

In recent news, the Jammu and Kashmir government disrupted 3G and 4G services in south Kashmir fearing protests.

Prior to this, on June 7, the ruling government in Jammu and Kashmir suspended mobile internet services in the Kashmir valley after the killing of a civilian by security forces. Incidentally, a ban was also placed on social networking sites in the valley, including Facebook, Whatsapp and Snapchat.

Train services were also interfered with, fearing further protests.

Though the Government maintains that there is no evidential curbing of the Freedom of Press, the valley people feel otherwise. “Show me a Kashmiri newspaper/ film/ journal that has found its way into the Indian mainstream,” exclaimed a Kashmiri shawl seller.

Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu recently stated at All India Radio’s Annual Awards, “Some people are saying that the media is being gagged. But there is no such thing. The only time media was gagged was during the Emergency. There is no such thing now.”

Shazia, a frequent visitor to the state and with Kashmiri grandparents, said, “It is disturbing, to see hundreds dying. There are no official accounts that would state the number of people who went missing. Who are we accountable to for so many deaths? Politicising everything Kashmiri has become a norm, like there is nothing left. The Kashmiris are secretly losing out on their identities. But they have always been fearless, even more now.”

 

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