Yasmin Qureshi (shown in the picture below) adds:
A Question and Answer session that followed the movie screening is being summarized below.
Q: What was the message of the film?
A: Well, the director Sanjay Kak leaves it to the audience really. His objective was to bring out the voices of the people of Kashmir since we rarely read about them in the media and open an avenue for discussion on the issues and aspirations of the Kashmiris. Back in 2007 the word azadi for Kashmir was shocking for the Indians. As a Kashmiri Sanjay wanted to make a film about the people there and what they feel.
Q: It is true that the media doesn’t cover the Kashmiri Muslims but it also doesn’t cover the pundits either. How do you justify the killing and migration of 100,000 pundits?
A: I disagree that the media doesn’t cover the pundits. In fact most articles published in India on Kashmir address this issue. What they don’t cover is what the army is doing there, the murders, missing people, rapes and what the people there want and why. Recently Shivam Vij had a detailed article on the pundits living in Delhi area, in kafila.org.
Yes, what happened to the pundits is unjustifiable. And certainly Pakistan and the Afghan mujahedeen had a role to play as Kashmiris started crossing borders to get training in the 90s. The people I spoke to in the valley last year wanted them to come back. People there at this point are not in favor of a militant resistance.
Q: You mentioned the media and I am comparing to the media coverage of Palestine in Israel. How is the Indian media coverage?
A: As I mentioned earlier, Kashmir is not covered well in the Indian media. Discussing aspirations of the Kashmiris is taboo. For example, no one wanted to publish my article, ‘Democracy under the Barrel of a Gun’, in India. The media does write about the presence of the army and that the Indian government needs to deal with it but what they don’t cover is what the militarization has done to the society..or, the root causes such as the annexation, as Kashmiris say, ‘The Brahminical rule of India’. Mass graves were found, many women have been raped. This is not covered very well not just by the Indian media but also the international media. There isn’t a discussion on what and why Kashmiris want azadi and what it means.
Siddharth Varadhrajan wrote an article recently on the protests in The Hindu. He mentioned the elections of 2008. What he didn’t mention is that the Kashmiris participated in them more to vote for local governance issues and not anything to do with future of Kashmir or rule of Indian state. However, the media presented the 60% turnout as a vote of endorsement of the rule of Indian state and the Kashmiris felt betrayed. Partly why we see the kind of massive protests since 2008 is this.
Q: But what about the militant movement in Kashmir? If it got independent they would take over.
A: The argument that Indian army shouldn't leave Kashmir or the Kashmiris shouldn't be independent because the militants will take over to me is similar to the argument that the US shouldn't leave Iraq or Afghanistan. Isn't that what was said even during the Vietnam War?
At this point it is really a people’s movement--students, youth, women, civilians. The people saw what the militant movement did to them and how the Indian army dealt with it. Almost every family was impacted by it, killed, tortured or in custody. Also they see the power of the protests. I had asked the same when I went to the valley last year. What people said was the militant groups are not that prominent now and they don’t need a militant resistance anymore. I spoke a friend just two days ago to ask the same question since I knew someone would ask. He narrated an incidence. Two militants came to join a protest in a village but the people pushed them out!
Q: Why is the Indian government’s attitude so belligerent? Is it because of the vote bank they may lose?
A: There are many reasons. Yes, the vote bank is certainly an important one. Kashmir is considered ‘Bharat ka attot ang’ and to discuss anything about autonomy or independence leads to the question about further disintegration of India in the east for example or how it would impact other insurgencies such as in central tribal areas…also the fact that it borders with Pakistan. The argument is ‘if we reduce troops Pakistan will invade’. There isn’t a great willingness on either side to deal with this issue even though it is the most important from a geo-political angle. Also, Kashmir is rich in natural resources, source of water and India wouldn’t want to give those up.
Someone from the audience expanded on the ‘atoot ang’ by giving the history of the Dogra rule and how Maharaja Hari Singh annexed Kashmir(and that it was conditional) without taking the opinion of the Muslim majority and how that was the opposite of what happened in other princely states like Junagarh or Hyderabad where the majority was Hindu and the ruler was Muslim and the vote went the will of the majority population.