Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Echoes from the Near Past

There is a slight uneasiness in watching movies on contemporary Kashmir. (I am not speaking of the Bollywood type where a well built Punjabi dude can shout whole of Pakistan into submission.) I felt it when I watched Ashwin Kumar's "Insha Allah : Kashmir". I felt it again when I watched the much hyped Channel 4 documentary on Kashmir, "Kashmir's Torture Trail".

The stories narrated in both the documentaries are essentially Kashmiri. And as Kashmiris who lived in such times, we should have known them. But we don't. It takes an outsider to come and tell us. And then we agree even more.

These are troubling tales of conflicted times. Narratives from people who, for long, have made it a routine to go about tragedies as being a part of their lives. It takes courage to tell them. Some courage to listen to them. And a lot of courage to work for them. That is perhaps what human rights lawyer, Parvez Imroz, wants the parents of Wamiq (who was killed in 2010, aged 12)  to understand when he tells them that they must see their case through, and not give up hope. Every little movement in any one case serves as a symbol of hope to others fighting against the institutions in similar cases. Many cases do not reach any end. Many are not even started. 

These are events so many in number that its impossible to pick one as a typical case. And then, so much has happened since then that its become convenient to blame the whole turn of events for every wrong. Like Qalandar Kataana, in the documentary. His fingers were broken by the beatings he received at the hands of Indian Army-men and both his feet were cut with a knife. He was made to eat his own flesh. Obviously, he never moved on.

An Indian journalist once remarked that. "Trauma in Kashmir is like a heritage building—the elite fight to preserve it. ‘Don’t forget,’ is their predominant message, ‘Don’t forget to be traumatised.’ They want the wound of Kashmir to endure because the wound is what indicts India for the many atrocities of its military."  Try explaining this to Qalandar Kataana. He is definitely not among the elite (even though I am not sure who this preserving elite are), nor is he trying to give out any message. And it is pointless to talk to him of indictment when his case has been in the court for 20 years.

So it goes for the rest of Kashmir. People who know all that happened prefer not to talk about it. Sometimes its just too painful, and they are thankful that its all over. Other times its just not safe. Like the little family of Parvez Imroz feels and says in the video. And then, of course, there are people who have no clue of the events of the of Valley's last two decades. And it is here where documentaries like these become important. They are like history lessons from your present, not past. A little glimpse of what shouldn't be forgotten. 

It's time for some lessons in modern history of Kashmir.

PS: Related article from The Guardian. The Mass Graves of Kashmir.

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