The year 2012 saw evolution of mass media which constructively narrated the largely ignored stories of atrocities committed on common people in Kashmir conflict to a larger audience, Shams Irfan reports
“At least he [Syed Ali Geelani] is not an employee of intelligence agencies and has his own agenda”
Prof Bhim Singh, National Panthers Party leader told a local news agency from New Delhi.
It was only after the success of two successive tourist seasons, which saw over 2 million Indians visiting Kashmir that the state governments showed its eagerness to shadow the presence of half a million troops occupying every corner of Kashmir.
Equipped with big banners depicting beautifully decorated Shikaras, snow covered peaks of Pahalgam, tourists enjoying state of art gondola joy ride in Gulmarg and file photos of fresh water lakes in Kashmir, the tourism department made efforts to resell Kashmir to the world.
But, beyond the postcard perfect pictures of Kashmir, there is an ugly world in which 10 million souls struggle for space to make their lives meaningful and safe. These images of the other Kashmir kept hidden behind the facade of peace and large billboards placed tactically across Kashmir give an impression of peace to visitors who come looking for Bollywood’s paradise on earth.
Any attempt to show real Kashmir is either silence or played down. Recently, an independent filmmaker Bilal A Jan, after securing a censor certificate for his 27-minute documentary, ‘Ocean of Tears’, which talks about the human rights abuses in Kashmir, was barred from screening at an auditorium of Kashmir university.
Before the screening of ‘Ocean of Tears’, a seven minute excerpt of the documentary was uploaded on video sharing website, Youtube which was viewed by more than 1.5 lakh users. It was taken down from the website by Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) who have funded Jan’s documentary.
The documentary comprising interviews and individual accounts raises issues of Kunan Poshpora mass rape and Shopian twin rape and murder case. The blackout on alternative voices from Kashmir badly reflects on government’s policy to deal with human rights abuses.
In July, a film titled ‘Kashmir’s Torture Trial’ which was shown on Channel 4 network follows a Kashmiri human rights lawyer Parvez Imroz in wake of discovery of mass graves in Kashmir. The film largely shadowed India’s claim that human right abuses in Kashmir are often exaggerated to malign half a million Indian forces in Kashmir. The documentary is available on Channel 4 website which describes it as ‘the powerful and shocking film’ which ‘uncovers a state-sanctioned torture programme that has set India on a collision course with the international community’.
Inspired by JKLF founder Mohammad Maqbool Bhat, Kashmiri rap sensation, Roushan Illahi, aka MC Kash launched his first album ‘Rebel RepubliK’ featuring eight tracks including a letter from Bhat which he wrote to one of his comrades from Tihar Jail.
MC Kash became famous after he sang ‘I Protest’ during the peak of 2010 summer protests. He is the first Kashmiri rapper who was featured in Indian edition of world’s best music magazine Rolling Stones. MC Kash has a huge fan following in Kashmir, especially among younger generation mostly born during early 90’s after Kashmiris took arms to challenge Indian rule in Kashmir. In order to make his music widely available, MC Kash launched his official website where he offers free download of his new album.
= But it was Bollywood big wigs who kept state government officials and security personnel on their toes during peak tourist season. A long overdue visit by Bollywood king Shahrukh Khan who camped in Kashmir along with Anushka Sharma and Katrina Kaif to shoot sequences for Yash Chopra’s romantic thriller ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ made tourism officials hopeful that the lost love between Bollywood and Kashmir will be reviewed finally.
After SRK packed his bags and was about to bid adieu, he charmed local media by claiming his ancestral roots in Kashmir. Before SRK it was Amir Khan who made a brief visit to Kashmir to shoot sequences for his television debut, Satyamav Jayte.
Around the same time, young Kashmiris found cinema a potent medium to reach out to the world audiences and make them aware about the pain and sufferings undergone by Kashmiris in last two decades. Valley of Saints, a romantic film set in the background of unrest in Kashmir and shot entirely around Dal Lake made debutant director Musa Syed a globally recognized name. The film won the audience award and the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at Sundance. Syed’s film also opened Hamburg International Film Festival. Syed attended the premiere, along with producer Nicholas Bruckman and members of the film’s cast, Afzal Sofi and Gulzar Ahmad Bhat. Aamir Bashir’s critically acclaimed ‘Harud’ was the first full-length feature film by a Kashmiri born director which was screened in Indian theatres.