Pad.ma 2009: SanjayKak (Flight over CFL)
Duration: 00:38:12; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 344.962; Saturation: 0.072; Lightness: 0.194; Volume: 0.210; Cuts per Minute: 3.690; Words per Minute: 128.009
Sanjay Kak, an award-winning documentary filmmaker from New Delhi, was invited by Pad.ma to write over a two-hour long tape of found footage, 'Flight over the CFL'. This film acts as a campaign video of a protest march organised by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in February 1992. In what can only be described as an ethnography of a media event, Sanjay Kak's reading of this film opens out for us ways in which we can think the relationship between events, fragmentary material and contested political histories. See: http://pad.ma/MJ/info
Kak's recent film, the feature length Jashn-e-Azadi (How we celebrate freedom, 2007), made extensive use of anonymous archival material from Kashmir. For a Skype discussion with the director see: https://pad.ma/AM/info
For a report on the event, see http://camputer.org/event.php?id=75
Sanjay Kak: Just to say that my own interests in the possibilities of archiving and archival footage had been considerably sort of enhanced by the last 3 or 4 years, when I was making a film in Kashmir. And one of the difficulties about Kashmir, and thinking about it, is that there are hardly any sources that you can actually rely upon. Because, largely, if you look at the 1990's, then we have turned to the mainstream media and to a handful of publications. And predictably, they speak only one voice, they represent only one way of looking at it. I think, many of us who read the daily newspaper about events that we know, are often so shocked by how poorly the news of the day represents the gravity that we know, that if we just retrospectively start reading, you know, archival print sources of the 90's, then we will begin to shudder at how inexact the description they may be of that particular time.
So, it was in trying to search and archive a kind of memory of the 1990's in Kashmir, that I began looking for material. Its a long story of how I actually happened to lay my hands on some - a very, very small portion of such an archive.
Who are We hall, Nehru Centre, Worli
Sanjay Kak: But, what... for me personally, I realised that, even the most random set of archival video images, such as I got hold of, were so dense with possibility of - even evidential possibility - not just the fact that this footage gave us an insight to what was happening on the streets of Srinagar or what people were saying, but even in terms of rather complex and subtle shifts in local politics, that these pieces of video were able to do that. I myself, you know, for a long time I was not fully able to understand what Padma was about. And I think the page that was up here when we entered, about the doubts that documentary film makers have about such an idea - I think I probably would have shared at least some of those doubts. But I think that, just the last week or so, I've been thinking about the interface and making my way around it, and then the piece of video that Shaina sent me, it confirms to me, that I think that this is an extremely valuable exercise, in all sorts of ways. I haven't spent a great deal of time looking at this piece, but already fr me, it has done quite a lot.
So, just to start with the image, because, I am a film maker...I'll just play a little clip from the video. Its of a speech given in Muzaffarabad by someone called Azam Inquilabi, who, as it happens, is somebody I know and I have interviewed him, I have even used an interview with him in my film. Let's just watch maybe a minute of it, and then I'll begin the presentation.
(CFL on Padma
(CFL info page on Padma
Shaina: Sanjay, we don't have internet, we are working offline, so we need to restart the...
Sanjay Bhangar: OK, I can play it off this...
Sanjay Bhangar: Sorry...30 seconds...
Sanjay Kak: I think you should keep the image small.
SK: OK since we're not able to get audio I think we should...
(Clip of Azam Inquilabi giving his speech, initially there are problems with audio)
Sanjay Kak: OK. The piece of video is tentatively titled 'Flight over the CFL'. This 2 hour video compilation constructs an account of a significant incident in the contemporary of Kashmir. As found footage, this is in the tradition of a 'campaign video', with footage of a march, inter-cut with speeches, and the whole thing papered over with popular 'movement' songs of the period. And like many other similar videos, verifying its authorship will remain daunting, given the various kinds of material it uses. Assembled by Arshi Video Centre, Muzaffarabad, their watermark runs across the whole 2 hours.
Sanjay Kak: Here is what we know about the event- On February 11th and 12th 1992, several thousands of people attempted to cross the Cease Fire Line, (So the title 'Flight over the CFL' refers to the Cease Fire Line), from the part of Kashmir held by Pakistan, to the part held by India. Under the banner of the then undivided Jammu-Kashmir liberation front, and the leadership of Amanullah Khan, the march marked a critical juncture in the history of the armed struggle in Kashmir. By February 1992, only 2 years after the armed militancy had broken out in Kashmir, fissures had begun to appear in the relationship between the pro-independance armed groups, and their supporters in Pakistan. This in turn had led to a sharpening of ideological divisions within the movement itself, with serious consequences for the future of the movement, and for the idea of 'Azadi'(Independance). The video is therefor witness to a significant historical moment.
Are we going to be able to play the clips now?
Shaina: -...trying to get the router working, its a wireless problem...
Sanjay Kak: OK.
Sanjay Bhangar: Sorry, we're trying to simulate the internet here.
Sanjay Kak: In the first half of the video, the speeches of Amanullah Khan and his associates makes clear the seriousness of the ruptured relationship between the JKLF and Pakistan, represented in the names of Nawaz Sharif (then Prime Minister), Durrani (head of the Inter Services Intelligence) and Sardar Qayoom (the 'Prime Minister' of Azad Kashmir). Its only Sardar Qayoom who we actually see, very briefly, speaking to a BBC correspondent.
The date of the march inherits an older significance too- On February 11th 1984, Maqbool Butt, one of the founders of the Kashmir valley based JKLF, was executed in Tihar Jail, New Delhi. Just short of his 46th birthday, his hanging made him not only the pre-eminent 'Shaheed-e-Kashmir' (Martyr of Kashmir), but also 'Baba-e-Quam' (Father of the people).
At the start of the Flight over CFL we see literally hundreds of placards with Maqbool Butt's image in Muzaffarabad town. In the last 25 years, February 11th has continued to a day of protest in Kashmir. 2009 was no exception - protests wracked downtown Srinagar and several other towns.
Sanjay Kak: Throughout the speeches (made mostly in Muzaffarabad town, and en route), the video suggests that the march was mounted despite stiff opposition from the Pakistani authorities. News reports of the day described Pakistani soldiers setting off landslides, dismantling bridges, and erecting barricades to stop the attempt. In this compilation however, we do not see much of this, except in what we will call the 'BBC footage'. Only flashes are revealed, and then, only if you look very carefully.
But the Pakistani army were clearly not trying too hard to hide their attempts to stop the march. The extensive aerial footage of the Flight over the CFL, is after all, shot from a helicopter provided by the Pakistani army. So while the march is clearly not intended to reach its stated goal, (crossing the Cease Fire Line), how both sides were hoping- or planning- for it to end, will remain a bit of conjecture.
(addressing Sanjay Bhangar) - I'm not waiting for the clips till you tell me they are working, I will just read on.
SK: From the few reliable contemporary print sources reporting the event, we do know that the Indian army had said that it would shoot any marcher crossing the Cease Fire Line. The Pakistani army said it would use force to stop the march, if necessary. And force was used: before the march was abandoned, quite far from the Line of Control, at least 12 people were shot dead by the Azad Kashmir police.
This was 1992. Its difficult not to then think of the Ekta Yatra - the Unity march - organised by the Hindu nationalists of the Bhartiya Janata Party, led my Murli Manohar Joshi, who had tried just over a year earlier to carry an Indian flag to Srinagar, and raise it on the Ghantaghar - the Clock Tower in Lal Chowk, sentimental heart of Srinagar. When militants announced that they would target such an event, security forces airlifted Joshi's yatris (all 15 of them) to Srniagar for a symbolic 11 minute flag-raising. Despite blanket security, several rockets were fired at the Clock Tower, and Murli Manohar Joshi narrowly escaped with his life.
Sanjay Kak: Interestingly, while the speeches and songs in the Flight over CFL are all in Urdu, the information about the rupture with Pakistan is given to us through English language voice over, on footage borrowed from Newstrack, the Indian video magazine of the period. This use of comment from the mainstream Indian media, marks a rare coincidence of interests, since the general tone in these Newstrack extracts - both, of the anchor, and the woman's voice over - seems to celebrate the appearance of anti-Pakistan sentiment, and the growing sense of betrayal, amongst Kashmiris. JKLF cadres interview seemed to endorse such a reading, which the Newstrack voice over is quick to underline.
Sanjay Kak: But in the main, its difficult not to read Flight over the CFL without remembering the 'Muzaffarabad Chalo' (On to Muzaffarabad!) march of August 2008, which marked the culmination of the tumultuous protests of the summer of 2008, in the Kashmir valley.
Khichi huee hai, dil pay mere, khooni surkh lakeer...
Tuhi batade, kab tootegi paon ki zanzeer- Ai mere Kashmir!
- This sentimental ghazal, which I will quickly translate for those who don't understand Hindustani -
Drawn across my heart, that murderous red line...
You tell me when will my feet be unshackled! O My Kashmir!
Sanjay Kak: The tremendous sentiment aroused by imagining the end of that Line of Control, animates much of Flight over CFL, as it did 'Muzaffrabad Chalo!' last year. As a piece of archival video, accidentally and providentially offered to us for a reading, Flight over CFL is rich resource. It unearths meanings, illuminates it, complicates it, and allows us to return to video, the power of witness.
- This is the note I had written for the front of the annotation for Flight over CFL. Basically, to me, for an issue as complicated as Kashmir, some understanding of this moment in 1992, of the rupture within the independantist movement, is something which is extremely difficult to interrogate, because there are no - how shall we say - there are no reliable sources. You only have versions from one side or the other side. It makes it almost impossible to figure out what was going on. So, when we are able to play some of these clips, and of course, when properly annotated and transcribed, you can see in language that is being used by Amanullah Khan, you can see the words that are being used by Azam Inquilabi, and many other speakers, that there is a very- at one level, - there is a very strong attempt to break out of the kind of control that the Pakistani state is trying to establish over the independantist movement.
Sanjay Kak: But at the same time, you can also see, that there is a world of shadows at play. Because, after all, if it were simply a quesiton of stopping the march, then the international press would not be there, the BBC would not be flying over in a military helicopter. So, as with so many things with areas in conflict, even an image can only give you several ways of reading it. And I believe that the layers available within this interface, is for me, ...you see, as a documentary film maker, you are sometimes...your interpretations, you tend to silence them. Because you are aware of the multiple interpretations that exist. Say...even in my film, there are passages where I've chosen not to say something specific, because there are at least 4 different realities that are travelling at the same time.
So, for me, I think not just as an archival project, but just as a way of presenting material, I think that this is a very complex and rich tool, which allows that kind of multiple reading.
Shaina: Sanjay, I really apologise, the router had crashed
Sanjay Kak: OK...
Shaina: - that's on now.
Sanjay Kak: Ok
Shaina: The audio is fine. So I have the list..
Sanjay Kak: So what I'll do is I'll just play bits of it and...
Shaina: If you could just say 1:59 and I will start it there...
Sanjay Kak: Alright.
Sanjay Kak: So we'll start with Amanallah Khan - its 00:59...........
Shaina: I will explain this problem - We are not online here. So we've had to download all of Padma - it belongs to the internet. We had to download it last night on to a piece of ...
Sanjay Kak: A fascinating layer for me, which I spoke about, in terms of the Newstrack footage, is the - how important a role, the whole presence of the media plays in this state. It actually, quite the alternately touching, and sad and pathetic, the way in which Amanullah Khan, for example, who at this time is the head of the undivided Jammu-Kahmir liberation front, he counts his success by the presence of international media. You know, he actually introduces the BBC correspondent and says "Woh dekho, BBC ke hain..." ("See them, they are from the BBC,...."). So, its like with so many movements, even now, contemporary present, sometimes movements begin to mistake publicity and international publicity as some kind of substitute for real organisation.
Sanjay Kak: I mean, when you have 10,000 people, and when you have the international press, you'd think that a political movement has been arrived at. Whereas, actually, it might be very slender. And, again during the march, Amanullah again speaks, and he says, "Ek cheez main aapko bataaunga, jo west ke jo log hai, yeh bahut kuch seh lete hain, lekin jab innocent aadmi ko goli mari jati hai, toh woh bilkul sehan nahi pate hain." ("I'll tell you one thing- people from the west, are very tolerant, except when an innocent man is shot at, this they just cannot tolerate.")
Its such a sad thing to say, because if there's one thing the west can cope with, it is the brutal extermination of many numbers people. And he says, "Isi liye unhone helicopter mein ek camera rakha hua hai. Woh dekh raha hai. Agar kisi ko bhi goli lagi, toh woh puri duniya mein ekdam khabar pahunch jayegi." ("This is why they have kept a camera in the helicopter, if anyone is wounded with a bullet, the whole world will hear of it.")
Sanjay Kak: So there are all these threads which are written into the material. If you could navigate quickly, you can actually piece them together in a way which is more than interesting, it actually,....you sort of...you begin to understand what's going on. I refer to this business of this shadow play that is going on, because at one level, there is the JKLF, in public, posing a challenge to the Pakistani state. But at the same time, we know that there is a lot of accomodation that is going on behind the scenes. And you have to read that into the material. I think that this could apply to anything, but since I'm obsessing about Kashmir right now, that's what I'll talk about. The ability to offer a multiple and non-contradictory readings, is for me, a very very important aspect of what something like Padma could achieve.
Sanjay Kak: And since I don't think we are going to be able to play the video, I'm a little bit...like the woman in the end of Silent movie....you remember?
Shaina: Do you want to go through some more of the clips and annotations?
Sanjay Kak: Do you think any of them will play?
Shaina: They are not playing, but we can rush through it, and at least see your annotations.
Sanjay Kak: OK. Well, to be totally honest, I haven't sort of transcribed the whole lot, but yes, I think some of those BBC ones might be interesting. So if we could look at BBC-2, which is at 01:50...
Sanjay Kak: Ya...for those of you who remember George Alagiah of the BBC, this is another thing which, for me, was very interesting. Where does this material come from? If you look at the frame, this is a clean frame. It doesn't have BBC's logo on it. So, both, the aerial footage, and this interview with this camera is obviously being on site, stolen, dubbed, whatever you like, by some really (?). If you read what George Alagiah says: "This is a small victory, this was to be a turning point in a campaign for Kashmiri independance. The relative ease with which the Pak authorities have been able to frustrate the liberation fronts again, is a mark of how fragile its hopes really are."
And there are all these continually...what I referred to earlier also, the kinds of synapses that exist between this desire to cross the Cease Fire Line in 1992, and the sentiment that was behind 'Muzaffarabad Chalo!' in 2008, its difficult not to see them.
Sanjay Kak: Yes, we should also look at the section, which I thought, which is Indian media. Its at 07:22. Am old friend, for those who might remember, Manoj Raghuvanshi,...is back here....ya...we could start from this.
Could you just highlight that, it just makes reading a little easier on the screen.
"The option of independance has to be there. That has to be given under guarantee from the United Nations or any other international forum. Till then, the gun struggle will not be over...."
And immediately after this is the next bit with Manoj...
(reading from transcript)
"Tension between India and Pakistan, yet again, this time over Amanullah Khan's proposed march over the Line of Control. Though Pakistan stepped up its India bashing, it realised that a war against India was not a luxury it could afford. The firing in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir that left 15 dead also proved something to the Kashmiris - That when it came to the crunch, they were on their own..."
Sanjay Kak: I mean, I don't know, you know, this could have been written in December 2008.
Could we just look at the next transcript...ya.
So, this is a slogan on the street: No India, No Pakistan. We want only freedom! Hum khudmukhtari chahte hain Kashmir ki.
And the voice over, the woman announcing says: Anti-Pakistan sentiment in Kashmir is not a usual phenomenon. But last month's incident made sure that India was not their sole enemy.
I think there's one more line......yes....the next one is very interesting....after this.
(reading from transcript) - The march came as a great boost to the sagging fortunes of the JKLF. Azadi grips the popular imagination once again, this time at the expense of pro-Pakistan groups. The developments led to increasing tension between the two. Several militants were killed in inter-group shoot outs in late February. Nevertheless, the JKLF benefited most of all.
Sanjay Kak: So in the subtext of what Newstrack is saying, you can see that an attempt is being...something is being configured. And I think that, as a way of looking at how media, and particularly the corporate media now, is involved in the larger project of the state., providing a certain spin to a certain historical moment. I think this kind of archival material is really, really valuable resource, and will always provide readings.
So I think...
Shaina: Could we play a bit of the aerial song?
Sanjay Kak: Yes, can we?
Shaina: I thought we could play the text and some of the frames...
Sanjay Kak: Wel, the frame is actually not that interesting. Basically the crux of it is the aerial footage of, as I said to you, shots from a Pakistani helicopter, by the BBC, with this song played over it...'Khichi huee hai, dil pay mere, khooni surkh lakeer...', and there's something really cheesy, and at the same time extremely important about that sentiment.
Is there a question or something..? We have 5 minutes I think. So does anybody have anything you want to ask?
Hansa Thapliyal:Its just a comment actually. When we collected - just to sort of add to what Sanjay is saying - when we collected this material from Majlis, I just wanted to talk about how the material itself circulates, and in particular, who are the people who gather footage. One is what you were talking about, configuration- the tape itself, the video tape itself is like a ....Its like a reconfiguration of Newstrack. And that keeps going on, back and forth, back and forth. Newstrack has one thing to say, and this becomes part of JKLF's responding moment, plus propaganda,and so on.
The other thing I wanted to say, is that, a lot of young boys joined the militant movement. And also many women too, for various reasons. And those who didn't, I suppose felt vulnerable form many sides. One of the things that a lot of them did, was try and get a press card, because a press card gave you protection, from the army probably, and perhaps - er...and people who ran video libraries, you know as militancy became more conservative, you couldn't play or show Hindi films ....Alot of this material is actually re-edited on to old Hindi film tapes. So, that is the way it sort of circulated. Because 'videowallas' went out of work, because they couldn't shoot 'shaadi'(wedding) videos anymore. Because Kashmiri weddings are traditionally very lavish, and there was a stricture that you should not be shown at this moment to be comfortable with excess. So I just hoped to talk about the people who made these videos, were often people seeking, also, a certain type of protection in that moment, and trying to find their way in this new place where their economies were completely dismal(?).
Sanjay Kak: ...your archiving across the border will not acknowledge, and its the way NGO's are these days. Unless you have a video to show that you are doing good work, the funders won't, you know, send in the next round of funding.
So, there were people who were appointed by different tanzeems, and by the mid 90's, when it was not so fashionable anymore to be seen associated with a tanzeem, people went underground and the material went underground. Frankly, ....
SK: A Tanzeem is a group- A militant group. So, every group had its own videographer, who was attached to it. He would be given a little bit of money, he mayeven be bought a camera, sometimes they give you a scooter, whatever the case is.
Sanjay Kak: I'm not so sure...I also found...archival material I got also came on Hindi film tapes. But, just if one had a look at it crudely, after all its one little tape. You would have had thousands of Hindi movie tapes, why would you just need to recycle those?
So it was not as if....yeh jo ek kaha jata hai na ki mahol 90's mein bahut kharab tha aur koi hindi film dekh nahin sakta tha... (its often said that the situation in the 90's was dismal, and one couldn't even watch Hindi films...) You know there's a kind of mythology around it. As if the openness represented by Hindi cinema was suddenly being defaced by these militant videos. I would argue with that. You know I think its obviously, of course you're right. You couldn't have those grand venues, you couldn't have those grand videos, but it was a whole complicated time, no doubt.
But the fact that they come is also a method of concealment. The box of...the bag of tapes that I got all had Dharmendra movies of the 90's written on the spine. And that would have been because kal ko agar koi pakadta aapko, uske uper (some day if someone were to catch you, he would not have seen JKLF March, Feb 1992. It would have said 'Dharma' or whatever, something like that.
SK: So its always clouted. And once again, to return to this interface, I think that these are very important ways in which...because you see, no one has a perfect state of knowledge. You learn one way, I learn another, x learns another way....so there's a way of contributing so that it kind of becomes additively...OK.
Sadanand: Just a question related to that Sanjay, with respect to your comments on the media, its been known for some time a large amount of material that appears on mainstream media, particularly the mainstream channels, are also material analysed by surveillance state agencies who identify people who, in one sense understand the game that's being played, etc. Much of the material that you have used and you have collected from sort of non-mainstream actors, if you want, and you have put this together, can easily also enter that purpose. It can be re-absorbed into the surveillance processes and methodolgy of the state. And thereby, identify people, build up dossiers on people and so on... That's one aspect.
The other I found is very curious in my knowledge of the way a group, let's say like the MTG(?)/MTD functions for many years in Tamil Nadu and now in Sri Lanka, there hasn't been a single MTG(?)/MTD action of any kind, small, big, medium, which they did not film themselves. It was constantly the camera looking at themselves. Very narcissistic. In one sense, very celebratory almost.
Sadanand: It's curious for example that the entire drama of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination was built by video camera lying there, videographer having got blown up in the blast, but the camera lying there. And this is something that is constantly set up. There are friends who have films in Sri Lanka who have used large numbers of MTG(?) archival footage.
How do I understand...What is this tension in the archival process- where, on the one hand state can use it, on the other hand protesting groups can use it. But at some point its merging in the media and becoming a different entity.
Sanjay Kak: I think this is a very very real danger. Not just the material they are generating now, but in, say material which is 5 years old, and which may have delivered something which will, which is almost certainly going to land somebody or the other in trouble. I think that the difficulty of getting archival material- certainly in Kashmir- has to do with that. That nobody is quite sure what is content in a certain way. Muzaffarabad March, 1992, and I would argue that a lot of material from the early early 90's uptil '97-'98, people would be,...there's no present danger anymore. There are embarrassments, you know. I have a 1991 video of which I've used soft-shot snatch of in my film from Hazarat Bal where various tanzeems are getting up and speaking. And where the JKLF representative gets up and says that 'Hamare baare mein bola ja raha hai ki hum secular hain, toh hum yeh kehna chahte hain ki hum bilkul secular nahin hain.' (It is being said about us that we are secular, but we would like to make it clear that we are absolutely not secular.)
You know...this is JKLF- in 1991 they are darling of half the world for being THE secular force.
So there are all these embarrassments which are also embedded within this material, and I think in that sense there is a real moral quandary involved.
Madhushree: Are we running out of time?....I would also like to respond...
Madhushree: Sadanand, I am taking to the ethical part of it, not the technical part of it... I think the problem that, either by the mainstream media or by what you are calling alternative media- I'm not really sure, I think it may serve the alternative use of documentary material. I think the problem ...not problem...the area concern is that you know, the polemic ...If you are reading this material or looking at it academically, our relationship is very linear and is polemic. So we get a HDV(?) image, we get a dummy(?) surveillance image...(?) narrative... That relationship with footage I think is anti-annotation. How else we are trying to address that it is possible to have multiple annotations at the same time. In some sense the sharp and linear polemic image of it is content. I know it sounds very romantic and almost unrealistic. That's one way I think we... I think the problem is that our relationship with who comes with documentary, the realness of documentary and our expectation of a polemic narrative inherenetly.
Sadanand: No, Madhu, ....there is time? The I guess...2 minutes...my problem is not with documentation per se. My problem is with the role-play for documentation.
Madhushree: Performance of the documentation!
Sadanand: Take the case of the 2002 riots in Gujarat. Virtually every big or small town in Gujarat has a videographer with a camera to film shaadis, that's what you were saying. And many of them voluntarily, many of them under duress were forced to film all the burnings and murders and rapes that were going on, which is now available in the video lending libraries and every small store. Its all available. People are watching this as entertainment at home. God forbid, with children present.
Sadanand: The point is, what do you do is definitive. Annotation of course is brilliant, but we can do counter annotations.. but the point is, when it enters the media, something else is getting over(?). The spectacular nature of the media is in fact making certain annotations impossible.