When I think about Kashmir I cannot but help think of this imagery of a child who is being pulled in all directions wanting to be claimed after a bitter divorce, and my heart goes out to this child which is Kashmir and ‘living in terror’. What does this child want is not an easy answer and Ashvin Kumar has tried to delve into the heart of Kashmir to explore this question.
“On 21st August 2011 the Indian state made a historic announcement. The State Human Rights Commission admitted to 2156 unidentified bodies from 38 unmarked graves in Kashmir” this statement made in the beginning of the film by Ashvin Kumar who has written, directed and edited the film is one of the key concerns that the film revolves around, which questions the two decades of Militancy, living terror, and the irony of living in terror under the watch of a secular, democratic republic, India. An integral part of the film is about the atrocities of the law enforcers on the common man and the probe into the militant identity.
The film leads us into its narrative and the land of Kashmir with a point of view shot from the edge of a boat in the Dal lake along with the soundtrack of the Director and how he discovered this film. The shot is powerful and poetic and symbolizes the troubled waters of this beautiful land that we are about to enter. The film is largely interview based and it is the human stories that take the narrative forward including Ex Militants, a Kashmiri Pandit and the other voices of the common man in Kashmir, interspersed with views and comments by Omar Abdullah and government of India officials and experts. “Inshallah Kashmir” is culled from three hundred hours of rare footage shot in the conflict-zone of Kashmir while shooting “Inshallah, football”. This film reveals the scars of two decades of conflict through testimonies of over forty people whose families have been devastated by the conflict. In order to avoid censorship after his earlier films were banned/restrained from circulation Ashvin decided to bypass the Indian censor board and release “Inshallah Kashmir” online and free-of-charge on 26th of January 2012, India’s Republic Day.
The film as a whole develops a dialogue between the visual and the sound and the drama of real life is combined with poetic moments of pause and reflection. One such instance is the beginning of the chapter of ‘The Kashmiri Militant’. The meeting ground for the director’s first interview with a militant is a poetic imagery of dried burning leaves being swept in a football field in a village in Kashmir and the soundtrack draws us into the reflections of the director as he speaks on the militant identity “..the Kashmiri militant is not part of a single homogenized group. Differing motivations and ideologies are at play, at times working against each other…”
The film does try and make a sincere attempt at presenting a picture with varied shades and voices and has distinct chapters like ‘The Kashmiri Militant’ ‘The Kashmiri Pandit, the Hindus of Kashmir’, ‘Missing or Disappeared’, , Kids in Conflict’ etc. Is the film the whole truth? But can one film ever attempt to be? I feel its value lies in the pertinent questions that it raises; it asks you to probe and involves you in the midst of the human turmoil that Kashmir is suffering.
An independent voice not controlled by the establishment is extremely precious and the least we can do as an audience is engage ourselves meaningfully in its narrative and begin our search for truth.
For those who are yet to watch the film and for those who would like to revisit the same here’s the complete film for you all-