Today, sixty-three years after the British left South Asia, the curse of colonization is a distant memory in the minds of a small number of people who are still alive to remember British rule of the sub-continent--for most others it is just a part of the history. But every year when August rolls in discontented communities across South Asia wonder what ‘Independence Day’ celebrations mean to them.
In Pakistan, this year’s Independence Day celebrations were marred by all kinds of violence: foreign-sponsored, local--in retaliation, accidental, and through natural disaster. Death-toll from a mindless ongoing War on Terror and retaliatory suicide bombings were added to by last month’s airline crash, and now unprecedented (at least in the near past, in the context of Pakistan) death and destruction caused by floods.
Projection of alternate views on South Asia’s ‘independence’ separated two particular Bay Area Independence Day programs from other festivities customarily steep in nationalism, where people normally get their highs singing anthems and waving flags. The first was a screening of the movie ‘Jashn e Azadi’ (by Sanjay Kak), on August 6, at the San Jose Peace and Justice Center. Though the documentary lacked focus and the cinematographer appeared to be ‘trigger-happy’ [fuzzy-to-sharp transition technique was used ad nauseam], the film is timely and very important as it fills a visible gap. This correspondent is not aware of any other independent movie being made to depict everyday life in the Indian-held Kashmir after the last two violent decades of the past century. To the outside world, today’s Kashmir may appear to be peaceful, generating a couple of news stories—worthy of international coverage--every couple of months, but the movie shows the Kashmiri population to be restive, longing for independence.