“… it is a life of small things played out amid gigantic surroundings, this existence in the happy valley hidden away from the outer world behind the great mountain barriers. Shuttered-in boats float by on the river, camps of unknown folk pass one on the road, occasionally greetings are exchanged with folk whom we knew not before and shall not meet again. It is a restful, unfettered, unique life amid all the beauties of a country decorated by Nature in her most varied manner, a land that is like a dream when one is in it, that haunts one with the reality of an obsession when its snowy peaks and flower-filled valleys have been exchanged for grey skies and grimy towns.”
There is a slight uneasiness in watching movies on contemporary Kashmir. (I am not speaking of the Bollywood type where a well built Punjabi dude can shout whole of Pakistan into submission.) I felt it when I watched Ashwin Kumar’s “Insha Allah : Kashmir“. I felt it again when I watched the much hyped Channel 4 documentary on Kashmir, “Kashmir’s Torture Trail“.
The stories narrated in both the documentaries are essentially Kashmiri. And as Kashmiris who lived in such times, we should have known them. But we don’t. It takes an outsider to come and tell us. And then we agree even more.
These are troubling tales of conflicted times. Narratives from people who, for long, have made it a routine to go about tragedies as being a part of their lives. It takes courage to tell them. Some courage to listen to them. And a lot of courage to work for them. That is perhaps what human rights lawyer, Parvez Imroz, wants the parents of Wamiq (who was killed in 2010, aged 12) to understand when he tells them that they must see their case through, and not give up hope. Every little movement in any one case serves as a symbol of hope to others fighting against the institutions in similar cases. Many cases do not reach any end. Many are not even started.
These are events so many in number that its impossible to pick one as a typical case. And then, so much has happened since then that its become convenient to blame the whole turn of events for every wrong. Like Qalandar Kataana, in the documentary. His fingers were broken by the beatings he received at the hands of Indian Army-men and both his feet were cut with a knife. He was made to eat his own flesh. Obviously, he never moved on.
An Indian journalist once remarked that. “Trauma in Kashmir is like a heritage building—the elite fight to preserve it. ‘Don’t forget,’ is their predominant message, ‘Don’t forget to be traumatised.’ They want the wound of Kashmir to endure because the wound is what indicts India for the many atrocities of its military.” Try explaining this to Qalandar Kataana. He is definitely not among the elite (even though I am not sure who this preserving elite are), nor is he trying to give out any message. And it is pointless to talk to him of indictment when his case has been in the court for 20 years.
So it goes for the rest of Kashmir. People who know all that happened prefer not to talk about it. Sometimes its just too painful, and they are thankful that its all over. Other times its just not safe. Like the little family of Parvez Imroz feels and says in the video. And then, of course, there are people who have no clue of the events of the of Valley’s last two decades. And it is here where documentaries like these become important. They are like history lessons from your present, not past. A little glimpse of what shouldn’t be forgotten.
I wonder what that part of Kashmir looks like. Not that I have travelled and seen everything on this side. How the people there live? Do they come across army-men as often as we do? Its surprising how little news of everyday affairs travels onto this side of the LoC, which is not even a border. There is a concept that a lot of people from the towns which went with Pakistan administered Kashmir have settled in the West. I wonder how true is that?
What about Nun-chai and its company of girda?
In a samovar?
Our bagel, czachwour?
In winters, do you too have harissa?
Do you dry vegetables for winters?
In threads under the roofs?
Do you tell children of our history – together and apart?
Do we appear in your History? Are you a part of ours?
Do you speak the languages we do?
Are you a part of our great Sufi tradition?
Do mothers there tie threads on the Aasthaan doors?
Are your hopes fulfilled? Do you hope for the same things as we do?
Generations ago, we were the same. How different could we be now?