Jashn-e-Azadi Video chat with Sanjay Kak
Duration: 00:36:08; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 229.755; Saturation: 0.036; Lightness: 0.456; Volume: 0.153; Cuts per Minute: 13.335; Words per Minute: 96.416
Summary: Jashn-e-Azadi (How We Celebrate Freedom, 2007) is the latest work to have been produced by acclaimed documentary film maker Sanjay Kak. The film, which took over three years to make, examines the violence of the last two decades in the struggle for azadi (freedom) in Kashmir's complex history with India.
Kak himself has stated that the movie, while focusing primarily on the situation in Kashmir, also subversively examines "... the degrees of freedom in India." This fact was borne out by the disruption of the Mumbai screening of Jashn-e-Azadi by the police on the 27th of July, 2007. The police broke into a screening of the film organised by VIKALP, a group of independent documentary film-makers that constitute Films For Freedom (FFF), and confiscated the DVD, claiming that the showing could not proceed without an appropriate censor certificate due to the fact that the film was supposedly 'needlessly provocative', 'inflammatory' and 'might create a law and order problem.' Ashok Pandit, a Mumbai-based film-maker and member of the Kashmiri Pandit group, Panun Kashmir backed the actions taken by the police, stating “This city is sitting on a volcano. It has been hit by terrorism. This film looks like it has been produced by Bin Laden. In the name of freedom of expression, we must not allow anyone to sell terrorism.” (sic!)
Kak fought back by stating that the need for a censor certificate was moot at a private showing. However, the police held strong on the issue and the subsequent screening of the film at Prithvi House, Juhu on the 30th of July, 2007 was also prevented.
In protest against this censorship, Majlis arranged for a private viewing of Jashn-e-Azadi on August 4, 2008. Following the screening, Majlis, in association with CAMP, asked Sanjay Kak, who had returned to Delhi after the aborted screenings to join the audience for a quick conversation via Skype post screening. Opening with a few clips taken from the film itself, the recording then proceeds with footage of the interview itself.
CAMP, KRVIA, Wilson College, and others also arranged to have private showings of the film.
As a prelude to the interview with Sanjay Kak, the film Jashn-e-Azadi
(How We Celebrate Freedom, 2007) was shown to the audience; short clips of the same have been included in this viewing. The camera focuses on a screen depicting a moving shot, showing soldier walking alongside children while a young male child welcomes the viewers.
is described as an examination the violence of the last two decades in the struggle for azadi
(freedom) in Kashmir's complex history with India. http://kashmirfilm.wordpress.com/synopsis/
provides a quick synopsis of the film.
A review of the film by Priyadarshan, a famous poet and writer, was published by Aaj Samaj
, a Hindi newspaper, on 15 March, 2008. The same is available on Priyadarshan's blog in Hindi at http://bharosa.blogspot.com/2008/03/blog-post_11.html
, or is translated and available at http://kashmirfilm.wordpress.com/2008/03/24/jashn-e-azadi-zakhm-e-azadi/
Your learned presence, distinguished guests Col. V K Sharma, Commanding Officer, other officers, dear friends as-salam-aleikum.
As the camera focuses on scenes of orphans waving flags and changing for a function, the child's voice continues to describe the current state of Kashmir. He focuses in particular on the state of the widowed women and young children left orphaned by the war.
The Jammu & Kashmir Yateem Trust http://www.jkyateemtrust.org/
is a registered, recognized charitable Trust, not affiliated with any government body, who aim to provide assistance to these orphans and widowed women.
As you know, for many years now Jammu and Kashmir has faced a climate of terrorism. Many homes have been uprooted, many women have been widowed and children left without support. Some of these poor orphans have become the responsibility of our army.
The film shows clips of little children dancing a Kashmiri folk dance, and children singing 'saare jahan se accha'
provides articles and information about the Kashmiri poet Dina Nath Nadim, while Radio Kashmir http://radiokashmir.org/poets/nadim.html
has translations of some of his work and audio clips of the same.
We start with a Kashmiri folk dance with the lyrics 'O bumble bee, o! O! Dusky dark bumble bee...' - written by the late Kashmiri poet Dina Nath Nadim - '...better than the whole world - this Hindustan
(India) of ours, we are its songbirds, this is our garden...'
Second group of women chanting 'Here they come, Here they come... Lashkar-E-Taiba.'
The film shows women and men chanting, juxtaposed with images of people rioting and throwing stones.
Group discussion member 1:- First of all thank you for taking us there. My question is about the entire documentary as a whole. I noticed throughout that you have not even, except for a token focus, you have virtually ignored the roles of the Pakistan funded militants. I was thinking, if I could watch your documentary and and if I could draw my conclusion of what was happening I would think that it is the Indian army which is the bad guys and once they are gone everyone will live happily ever after. Senior Kashmiris had mentioned in major documentaries that were made by American documentary makers about how they feared the army going away and Pakistani militants taking over. Why have you not given this very serious aspect of Pakistani militants? Why have you lost this over the film?
The documentary footage having ended, the interview with Sanjay Kak begins. The same is carried out with the assistance of a cell phone and Skpe. Kak is visible via a video-uplink and can be seen by the audience, although he is unable to do the same.
Sanjay Kak is is a well-known and well-respected independent documentary film-maker whose works include the internationally renown work Words on Water
which explored the anti-dam movement in the Narmada Valley in Central India (2003), One Weapon
, a video about democracy in the 50th year of Indian independence (1997), This Land, My Land, Eng-Land!
exploring the lives of people of Indian origin living in the fringes of London (1993), and Jashn-e-Azadi
Kak is particularly active with regard to the issues of censorship in Indian film, having experienced it himself with the ban on Jashn-e-Azadi
provides more information on the state of film censorship in India, whereas http://www.freedomfilmsindia.org/
is a coalition of over 300 documentary film makers in India who have come together to oppose the act of censorship on their work.
SK: Without being perverse about it, what I did was while both shooting and editing this film, it was almost a conscious decision to not use the standard pillars by which Kashmir is understood; which is to reduce it to simply that 'all was well till Pakistan came along in 1989, and these jihadis
came into Kashmir, and then everything went downhill thereafter.'
If I were to throw this question back to you, I would say in that formulation the suggestion is that if Pakistan somehow miraculously shuts the tap on militancy, then militancy is over and the Kashmir issue is solved.
Unfortunately that is not my reading of the situation, and that is not the reading I wanted to share with the audience. I wanted to say that there are some parts of what is going on in Kashmir, which have for too long been ignored. For example the whole sentiment of azadi
, that is something that people seemed to at least in India have assumed is over, its history and now its just a question of Pakistan and India.
The clip shows Sanjay Kak responding to the statements of the first caller, refuting his suggestions.
Kak took over three years to make Jashn-e-Azadi
(How We Celebrate Our Freedom). An interview with Shivam Vij in Tehelka (available at www.tehelka.com
, or alternatively reproduced at http://shivamvij.com/2007/03/31/%E2%80%98you-can%E2%80%99t-take-silence-for-victory%E2%80%99/
) discusses Kak's motivation for having made the film, as well as his interpretation of the current situation in Kashmir.
Caller 2 questions the effect of widespread unemployment and a possible lack of education in Kashmir, and the lack of reference to the same in Kak's documentary.
Caller 2: It's very nice to see this documentary, but I felt personally that it was more against the Indian army. You brought out very nicely the problems faced by Kashmiris, children, women, etc. But somehow I felt that you should have highlighted that this problem is because of education and unemployment. If this was brought out, it could have had a better impact.
SK: Unfortunately, that is something I just don't believe. I mean, if anyone comes to Kashmir, I can guarantee you you will see less poverty in rural Kashmir than in any other part of North India. And I'm not just talking about Bihar and Rajasthan, but I'm also talking about Uttar Pradesh, I'm talking about Orissa, I'm talking about rural West Bengal.
Sanjay Kak refutes Caller 2's statements.
Kak continues to respond to the video chat.
Kashmir is perhaps the only state that had very successful land reforms in the early 1950s, and also education had been made free. It would be totally erroneous to assume that militancy is a by-product of poverty and lack of education.
I also wanted to remind you that the same administration, Sheikh Abdullah's National Conference, also made education 100% free and compulsory upto school, and even college. The broad social indicators in Kashmir are better than many other northern Indian states without militancy. This is after 18 years of real upheaval and also 30 years of maladministration before that.
Sanjay Kak on education and poverty in Kashmir.
I would really caution people from assuming that this militancy comes out of unemployment or lack of education. That is what we like to believe. But I think its roots are political, this might be in some sense accelerated by social conditions. But I think it is essentially political, and it demands a political solution.
Kak states that the likely causes of Kashmir's militancy are political.
I went to Kashmir in 1989, and then again in 2003. When I went in 2003, it wasn't completely with the intention of making a film. But it had a strong motivation.
Kak provides the background to his reasons for having made Jashn-e-Azadi
In December 200, the there was an attack on the Parliament. A few months later I was contacted by the defence lawyers of SAR Geelani, whom we now know was falsely accused of being a co-conspirator, to translate a small telephone tap, a 1:18 sec transcript. When I asked them why they wanted me to do it, they told me it was because I was a Kashmiri Pandit. Perhaps we should not be shocked by this, that this was the reality of the court system... that if your accused was a Kashmiri Muslim, then to make a better case for him you try to get a Kashmiri Pandit. When I said that there must be a lot of other Kashmiri Pandits in Delhi, they answered that they had asked others but no one had agreed. I don't want to make too much of it, but this was a defining political moment that led to the film. I could not believe that this was how a Kashmiri Muslim was being received in Delhi.
I eventually did transcribe the conversation, testify at the TADA court and also was part of the campaign in defence of Geelani, somewhat peripherally. But I also started following what was happening to Kashmiris in the legal system, etc. It coincided with a time... the kind of work that I was doing for the last 6 - 7 years where one was beginning to question the nature of democracy in India and the degrees of freedom we enjoy or don't enjoy . What kind of democracy was this?
I went in 2003 just to see what it was like. Everybody who goes to Kashmir does go through a shock. One is not prepared for the level of militarisation and hostility, and so on. So I immediately began to think not only what I can do here, but what I ought to do...
SK describes a political moment leading to the film, his being asked to translate a phone tap of SAR Geelani.
has a number of online dossiers available on the Geelani case, available at http://www.outlookindia.com/dossiersind.asp?id=637
Caller 3 questions Kak regarding the fact that his movies has no images of daily life, and wonders about the lack of individual voices in the film.
Caller 3: They are not really questions; I don't know how you would take them. The constant image that is in my mind after I watch this film is that of the Indian Army. You have asked so many of the Indian officers about what they're doing, what's their daily routine and stuff. I'm wondering why you haven't kept any footage of how the Kashmiri women, or children and students go about their lives, their daily routines. Also, the Kashmiri voices were always in chorus, there were no individual voices. What do they really feel? In the spur of the moment, they might be talking about azadi
, and so on, but what do they think about on a day-to-day level? Also, what are your thoughts about the violence of the oppressed? Do you think the violence of the oppressed is all right?
Sanjay Kak describes reflects his reasons for not being able to use individual testimonies in his film.
When I was describing the processes of making this film, what I was saying was that Kashmir is not a place where those individual testimonies that we have begun to take for granted as the gospel truth - as the essence of the documentary film - Kashmir is not a place where it is worth anybody's while to speak to you honestly. If I had gone into a home in a village where they have been particularly oppressed by the local army camp, it would not be worth anybody's while to share that. I don't think that if a young student on the Kashmir university campus would tell me about the humiliations he might incur, I don't think it's worth his while being on television, or video, and sharing that with me. Because, he could land up in a whole lot of trouble.
I think that both as film-makers and as people who watch films, I think we draw too much false comfort from these individual testimonies. That if I speak to that one voice, and he or she shares some insight of their lives, then this becomes a larger truth than the truth I can elicit from a crowd of 5000 people. For me, there is no hierarchy between these two. My reading of the situation in Kashmir is that it is not at all good territory to ask individuals to speak the truth, because this may have consequences,and I don't think I am interested in putting them in that situation.
Sanjay Kak denounces the false comfort drawn from supposed 'true' testimonies provided by individuals. He also states that he would not wish to deal with the consequences of the same, should they come to pass.
Kak is not the first documentary film-maker to raise questions regarding the nature of a 'true' testimony or opinion. Andrew Jarecki , creator of Capturing the Friedmans
, 2003, "repeatedly interrupts the flow of individual testimonies and juxtaposes conflicting statements made by other interviwees. Because of the editing, viewers constantly question the truthfulness of the statements..." (Pramaggiore, Maria and Tom Wallis, Film: A Critical Introduction
(London: Lawrence King Publishing, 2005).
About this phrase you used "if I think the violence of the oppressed is a good thing"? Well, is that how you read the film? Am I making a case for violence? That is not what I intended. If anything, it makes a case for conversation, for listening. I am the first one to agree that when arms and violence enters into the political debate, that is, in one sense, the end of politics. But I don't think we can particularly blame the oppressed for introducing violence into society in this case. If we believe the Indian army, there are only 700 militants in the Kashmir valley. The rest are certainly not bearing arms, they are peaceful citizens. But they also may be part of the protest. So I don't think there is a case of the violence of the oppressed. When the state uses power, we call it 'order', restoring order, or discipline. But if the oppressed use it, it's called violence... so I'm not comfortable making those distinctions.
Sanjay Kak calls into question the terms of 'violence' and 'order' revolving around the debate.
violence of the oppressed
Caller 4 questions Kak as to why the film does not show the story of the pandits in images.
Caller 4: I have been following some of your comments on your website for the film, and I wanted to bring up the pandit question just once. I wanted to know from you as a film-maker, forgetting your Kashmiri identity for a moment, you chose to bring this up through statistics in the middle of your film, and through the voice of the poet. You chose not to do this with images, while at the same time you show the rhetoric, the dance of azadi
, and the JKLF leader. But not these images. Why is that?
Sanjay Kak provides his reasons for having left the Kashmiri pandits out of his film, except as a poem and some statistics.
The question about the pandits is the first question put to me. You can imagine it was the first important issue that one had to deal with, both while shooting and editing. So it was not something that one trivially cast aside. Over the two or three years that I had worked on the film, I began to realise that within the discourse of Kashmir, you could not bring up what was happening in Kashmir without someone saying 'but what about the Kashmir pandits?' As I have said it before and I'll say it again, I think what happened to them was a terrible tragedy. Kashmiri society realised this, as much as anyone else. But sometimes such an issue precludes the possibility of the debate moving anywhere beyond. I thought that I don't want to do another balancing act.. another Big Fight... on the one hand this, on the other that. So let me just sidestep this issue, and bring to an Indian audience a sense of what happened prior to 1989. After all, the Kashmiri pandits left in those years. What were the sentiments prior to this? That story needs to be told. It is a very very complicated story. Not that in 1989 Islamic extremists came in, and the pandits left. There were a 100 years of dogra
rule, what was the relationship of the pandits with the Indian state, given the settlements in Kashmir from 1947 onwards? I couldn't make this story part of this film... it's a separate story, a separate book.
So I said 'let me represent this how I think it is, this hole, through a poem. Not through easily accessible sources or sentiments, but through the poet, perhaps something a little more complicated.' I knew that I will have to answer for this every time I showed the film. Perhaps my audience also needs to confront the fact that 'how is it that no conversation on Kashmir can (not) begin with Kashmiri pandits?' Is it because independent India sees itself primarily as a Hindu country? Or what is it? I don't know. It's a complicated story, and I couldn't simplify it enough, for this film.
Caller 5 (Hansa): I wanted to say that I liked your film, a lot. It manages to go into a lot of difficult places. But there is one place where I hit a blind spot, which was when you represented Geelani. In a way for me, it was a positive thing that the film was about India, more than about Kashmir telling us, as citizens, about how India is treating Kashmir. I don't have as much of a problem with the people becoming a chorus and so on, because I completely respect the reasons why you didn't interview them. But when you represented the leadership, there was a certain benign quality about the way Geelani was represented, how he was shot, how he became a soothing voice. And I am saying blind spot because after a while I didn't want to hear what he was saying.
From my limited experience of trying to work in Kashmir, within Kashmir, there is a genuine anger against the leadership. And perhaps it is okay to represent this also, without saying that India is not doing all this. Of course it is, power has its own way of functioning. I didn't have a problem with the way you represented Yasin Malik and so on, actually...
Of course, you are absolutely right. To me, this is as much a film about Kashmir, azadi
and freedom in Kashmir, as about freedom in India, and how we as Indians do or do not take responsibility for what is going on there in our name.
About the political leadership, it is very interesting. If you have the patience to see the film again, none of the political leaders in the film actually talk politics. Almost all of them are indulging in rhetoric. This is important because to me - that is the window through which I can access what is it that appeals to people. Just the same way as sitting in the psychiatric ward allows me a certain entry into what's going on in the minds of people in Srinagar.
Or following Yasin Malik on the signature campaign is for me completely analogous: he doesn't actually say anything remotely political, or about what he stands for. But he employs a rhetoric of dismissiveness about the election, and so on, which every Kashmiri understands and responds to.
Sanjay Kak responds to the question, stating that the political leaders in his film only speak rhetorically, which is an entry point to understanding what people may actually want.
Sanjay Kak responds with a comparison of Geelani to A. B. Vajpayee, the thirteenth and sixteenth Prime Minister of India, and L. K. Advani, a prominent Indian politician and former leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP), making reference to the former as a flexible politician.
You were very troubled by my depiction of Geelani, Hansa. At some point we can have a conversation about why you consider him such a demonic figure. I am not making a case for him, or his politics. But because you saw him as a victim being benign, that does not mean he did not actually be. The fact is that unlike every other two-bit Kashmiri politician who makes it to the television networks, Geelani doesn't.
So maybe, Geelani is not an over the top Islamist demagogue. Maybe that's a reasonable sighting to be misled by. I see him as a public figure looking extremely reasonable and as reasonable in a different direction as Atal Behari Vajpayee or L. K. Advani. If you can bear to see Atal Behari or L. K. Advani, then I do not think why you can't do the same. Again he is talking about a certain rhetoric of martyrdom, of blood of martyr, which again, irrespective of what you tell me, that they resent the leadership. Of course they resent the leadership but they also respond to their regime and that is the unfortunate situation Kashmiris find themselves in. That time and again any attempt at a more sophisticated leadership has been destroyed by India, by Pakistan, by themselves, whatever it is. So what we are left with is people who are able to do the rhetoric but unable to deliver the goods.
Caller 5 (Hansa) clarifies her point on the basis of Sanjay Kak's answer.
Caller 5 (Hansa): It's something to do with the image. I actually am very credulous of the people protesting and their anger and when it's overlaid with the voice of Geelani, then the image of Geelani. It's like a blind spot. I don't think that because I think that he is an Islamist 'demon', in fact that was not so much, he is a politician pretty much like not only like Attal Bihari Vajpyee but as any other congressman and I understand the anger that people have in a more fierce situation.
SK: The one thing that you must make place for is that whatever people think of Geelani, they respect him for not having shifted his position. They may laugh at him also, at his unchanging position, his inflexibility but they respect the fact that from the beginning he has had one position. The same way the Indo-Pak/ independentist position but he has not wavered from that position much; that's what makes him special in Kashmir. That's why when he appears in public there is tremendous support. But that does not mean that when he stands for elections tomorrow he is going to be the chief minister of Kashmir. He is respected for his doggedness, his steadfastness.
Sanjay Kak continues to discuss Geelani and his political support from the people of Kashmir.
Caller 6 congratulates Kak on his documentary and questions him on his solution to the Kashmiri problem.
Caller 6: The fact that you have made a documentary and got your point of view... We need more people like you who need to say what they feel. My question to you is how to solve the Kashmiri problem?
Sanjay Kak responds to the question on the solution to Kashmir's problems.
You are asking me to be a Kashmiri pandit and not a Kashmiri pandit. I'm completely reluctant to do that. But as an Indian I think I know what I would ask for and I would say that given that how Pakistan (garbled) states. It's possible to have a period say ten years in which both India and Pakistan could have a hands off policy. That does not mean they leave Kashmir (garbled)... but that they allow at least the semblance of democratic politics to emerge in a place where it has been systematically undermined for 60 years. 20 years with guns, and 40 years before that by bribery and corruption/ money, arrests and extra-constitutional means and so on. So I think that the solution of Kashmir has to come from within Kashmir. But I don't think you will know the answer to that question until you allow the people of Kashmir to think.
I'm so glad this question came right at the end. You know, people ask what Kashmiris want; you know, they are so confused about what they want. I just keep thinking that after the incident in Mumbai where they banned my film, how will you ever know what Kashmiris want when you don't hear what they have to say. I have made this on the behalf of the Kashmiris. I am a filmmaker who has made a film which stumped the outcome of the ideas in Kashmir. If a film like mine brings out the worst in the city of Mumbai, then what chance do Kashmiris of ever telling India what they want? I'm a protected person, I'm a filmmaker, I'm middle-aged, I live in Delhi, I have friends. But how will anybody tell you what they want to know? I think to even contemplate such a state would be a good place to start. In public opinion, if this seems like even a possible solution then it would also be my solution. Having said that, finding solutions for Kashmir is a million dollar business for this country; a lot of good people take very good claims in coming up with ideas which don't lead to actuality. So I'm not looking on the horizon, I'm not even aspiring for that perceived (garbled) table.
I'm being skyped a question that do I want to talk about i.e. the events of last week in Mumbai... actually not. I think this event is really both a negation of what happened and a celebration of possibilities of our bypassing this kind of censorship. The fact that all of you in the audience there in (Location garbled) and had the courage to gather and show the film and talk about it for about an hour. What more do I need to tell the people who sent of the email to the police commissioner about the semi-inflammatory pro-jihad
political film? We had this civil conversation across I don't know how many thousand miles We are talking about it and the reason we are doing this is because of what happened. I think that its really fantastic and I want to thank Shaina for coming up with this idea for this video link and Ashok who has been getting us to try and talk to each other.
Sanjay Kak's final reply and thanks.
More information on Jashn-e-Azadi
can be found on it official site http://kashmirfilm.wordpress.com/
has a free, downloadable transcript of a further discussion on Jashn-e-Azadi
by a group of Mumbai's reputed film-makers, artists, journalists, critics, teachers, writers, poets, sociologists and historians. Having spent the evening of August 15, 2007 screening two films on Kashmir, The Human Tragedy
by Ashok Pandit and Jashn-e-Azadi
by Sanjay Kak, the group was then able to interact with Sanjay Kak via an internet phone system. The interview has been recorded and is available to download.