Inshallah, Kashmir: Living Terror
They make a desolation and call it peace. Agha Shahid Ali.
Testimonies of ordinary Kashmiris recount a brutal militancy and its terrible response.
Dodging agents of Indian armed-forces, the filmmakers were able to obtain rare testimonials in the highest militarized zone in the world. The film tells how freedom is conceded and replaced by fear, governance by institutionalized oppression and a paradise made desolate on the watch of India : a secular, democratic republic.
A Kashmiri poet has said of the Indian occupation of Kashmir, “they make a desolation and call it peace.”
Once the epitome of a syncretic, mystical culture, a deep heritage of learning, of arts and craft; the crucible of Buddhism, Hinduism and Sufi-Islam; verdant forests, snow-capped peaks, populated by a guileless, beautiful people; till the dark cloud of terror enveloped the Kashmir valley overnight.
This film is the story of the conflict recounted as personal history, and that of present-day Kashmir. A series of counterpointed testimonies, the heartbreaking coming-of-age of a people brutalized by two decades of militancy and its terrible response. Together they provide a sense of what it is like to be living terror and the the irony of living with terror under the watch of a secular, democratic republic, India.
Today Kashmir is all about army, crackdowns, curfews, widows, orphans, rape, enforced disappearances, fake- encounters, mass graves, sadistic torture and trauma, and new categories of people like 'half-widows'. Twenty years of atrocities have altered the average Kashmiri’s perception of ‘normalcy’. And yet, there isn't a more congenial, generous, warm-hearted and cultured individual than she.
So, military and paradise, bullet proof jackets and the veil; breathtaking vistas of mountains and crystal lakes are projected through barbed wire. Darkened army bunkers, the alert eyes of battle-ready soldiers watch over not an enemy or a border but school children, women going shopping, men delivering goods. And the certainty of yet another militant attack, blood, limbs, followed by reprisals by the armed forces. Such is the state of ‘normalcy’ into which children are born and raised. A cycle institutionalized and ritualized since the advent of militancy in 1991.
The film makers were able to record rare and precious footage under the guise of making a movie on Kashmiri football. The rare, unmediated access has resulted in footage that very few people have managed to record.
It gives a human face to militancy and the plight of the average Kashmiri. It demands a solution to this endless and mindless conflict.
This is the story of Indian democracy, the grand experiment that was founded with Indian independence from the British. Of how it has been tested in Kashmir, and found wanting.
‘Inshallah Kashmir: Living Terror’ answers comprehensively the question, often asked in exasperation by those who live in the rest-of-India, ‘what the hell is it that the Kashmiris want?’