Inshallah, Kashmir

2012 Feature Documentary

“they make a desolation and call it peace.” Agha Shahid Ali, poet.

Home to a syncretic and mystical culture, its heritage of learning, its arts and craft - crucible of Buddhism, Hinduism and Sufi-Islam. Its verdant forests, snow-capped peaks. Its guileless, beautiful people. This is the story of a conflict that has ruptured much of that - leaving, in its wake, a people brutalised by two-decades of militancy and its terrible response.

This film about the surreality of living in terror within India - a secular, democratic, republic.

Now available on Netflix

Inshallah, Kashmir

“Then I was compelled. There was no other way…” Abdul Hamid Shah, EX-MILITANT, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen

Story

Army, crackdowns, curfews, widows, orphans, rape, enforced disappearances, fake encounters, mass graves, sadistic torture, trauma, depression and new categories of people like ‘half-widows’. Twenty years of atrocities have altered ideas of ‘normalcy’. And yet, there isn’t a more congenial, generous, warm-hearted and cultured individual than the average Kashmiri.

Military and paradise, bulletproof 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 institutionalised and ritualised since the advent of militancy in 1991.

Through footage that very few people have managed to record, emerges a human face to militancy, the plight of the average Kashmiri and contradicts the cliches of the government of India, amplified by the Indian media.

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.

“Outside I’m being treated as a terrorist, here I’m being treated as a slave.” Malik Sajad, ARTIST

They said, ‘let him die, don’t take him to the hospital.’ Javed Pathan, ASPIRING SPORTSMAN

Mass Graves

International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice has been demanding exhumation of mass-graves since the the earthquake in 2005 first confirmed their existence. Though the group sought intervention of National Human Rights Commission and State Human Rights Commission in 2009, little has been done to find the identity of the bodies in the graves and the perpetrators of crime.

The Indian state, for the first time, admitted the existence of thirty-eight unmarked graves with two thousand one hundred and fifty six unidentified bodies in a mass-graves on the 21 August 2011. However, in 2012 the government of Kashmir refused to perform DNA testing on the bodies found in the mass grave due to lack of resources. The interviews in the film were shot in 2009.

Ashvin’s next film Noor is a fictional story about the women and children caught in the limbo created by disappearances.

Disappeared

Parveena Ahangar’s life changed when her sixteen year-old son was allegedly picked up by the Indian army on the suspicion of being a militant. From someone who seldom ventured out of her house, Parveena went around the country, from jail to jail, looking for her son. The authorities were silent. She formed the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), to unite families of the disappeared looking for their kin. Without formal education, from an orthodox Muslilm family, Parveena mobilised women in Kashmir who are still waiting for the loved ones to return. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Price in 2005.

Parveena’s is a story that echoes across eight to ten-thousand families scattered all over Kashmir.

Ashvin’s next film Noor is a fictional story about the women and children caught in the limbo created by disappearances.

“It has been 19 years… no one has returned.” Parveena Ahangar, Founder of APDP

Disappeared | Video Clip

Nearly ten-thousand people have disappeared in Kashmir. This clip, from Inshallah, Kashmir, shows the fallout on the women and children of the men who have disappeared. Some heartrending accounts of fraught lives, compounded by state apathy.

(half) Widows

Wives of disappeared men are euphemistically known as half-widows. Their husbands are missing but not declared dead. The absence of a bread earner leaves the family economically vulnerable. Apart from this the wives aren’t allowed to transfer husband’s property or have bank accounts. In certain cases the relationship of the in-laws with the wife also sour. In a society where married women don’t live in their parents’ home, half-widows find themselves without support and along with their children are a constant reminder of the family’s loss and additional mouths to feed. The matter of inheritance as determined by the Muslim Law leaves their children without economic support. Some of these women have given their children to orphanages or have turned to menial work, begging and prostitution. Others, to secure their future and children, have married their brothers-in-law.

APDP estimates at least one thousand five hundred half widows in the Kashmir valley.

Ashvin’s next film Noor is a fictional story about the women and children caught in the limbo created by disappearances.

Dardpura also known as the village of widows and orphans.

(half) widow and her daughter, awaiting their disappeared husband and father’s return.

Half Widows | Video Clip

The wives of disappeared men face economic hardships, uncertainty about their children’s future and are socially ostracised. Caught in a pincer of militants and soldiers, without status, rights or claims, their lives are reduced to an endless vigil.

Kunan Poshpora

On the night of February 23, 1991, 4th Rajputana Rifles cordoned off the village, the men were taken to a field for an overnight interrogation and at-least 53 women were allegedly gang-raped in their homes from from 11:00pm till 9:00 am the next morning. The age of the alleged victims ranged from 13 to 70.

In early 2014, then deputy commissioner Kupwara S M Yasin, broke his silence after 23 years. He said that he had been threatened and offered promotions to change his report on the alleged mass rapes in Konan Poshpora in February 1991. In his report Yasin had written that the Army-men “behaved like beasts” and that he feels “ashamed to put in black and white the kind of atrocities and their magnitude that were brought to my notice”. He was transferred a fortnight after filing his report.

“An Army major who was a good friend of mine said, ‘You are on the hit list of the Army, please take care’,” The state had used “every tactic and every organ including media” to prove that the Army was innocent and that the women were lying.

“Yes, in turns. About ten times during the night. They would wrestle with each other.”
Sameera Begum, rape-survivor, Kunanposhpora.

AFSPA

One of the most militarised places on earth, there are seven-hundred thousand armed-forces stationed in a valley not much larger than greater Los-Angeles.

Life and liberty of people is controlled by these armed forces whose mandate to create fear-psychosis and terror is fulfilled by draconian practices such as preventive-detention, arrest, search, seizure, power to shoot-to-kill-on-suspicion, use lethal-force.

These powers are accorded by legislation such as the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, and the lethal Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1990.

Culture of impunity fertilised by this legal architecture has resulted in rampant human rights violations without accountability. Despite investigations and judicial enquiries, not a single armed-forces personnel has been punished for crimes such as extra judicial executions, custodial torture, rape and enforced disappearances.

As recently as March of 2014, a boy was allegedly shot by the police during a protest.

Cast

Interviews

Sajad Malik, Cartoonist

Bashir Baba, Ex-militant

Abdul Qadeer Dar, Ex-militant

Manzoor, Ex-militant

Ghulam Mansoor, Ex-militant

Wajahat Habibullah, Former div.commissioner, Kashmir

Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister, Jammu & Kashmir

Dr. Amit Wanchoo, Kashmiri Pandit

Parveena Ahangar, Founder, APDP

Parvez Ahmed, Brother missing since 1996

Vrinda Grover, Lawyer & Activist

Parvez Imroz, Human Rights Lawyer and Activist

Parvez Khurram, J&K Coalition of Civil Society

Zahoor Ahmed Hajam, Ex-militant

Abdul Hamid, Ex-militant

Khemlata Wakhloo, Prominent Kashmiri Pandit

O.N. Wakhloo, Prominent Kashmiri Pandit

Haseena, Husband forced into militancy

Sameera Begum, Victim, mass-rape by Indian Army

Zoona Begum, Bashir Ahmed’s family

Javed Pathan, Aspiring Sportsman

Ghulam Mohd Pathan | Shameena Bano Baba, Javed Pathan’s Parents

Crew

Director & Narrator
Ashvin Kumar
Co-Producer
Jaaved Jaafferi
Associate Producer
Giulia Achilli
Editor
Ashvin Kumar
Associate Editor
Yashodara Udupa
Assistant Editor
Aditi Joshi
Camera
Ashvin Kumar
Shivraj Santhakumar
Music Performed By
Sajad Bin Mohammad
Sound Recordists
Roland Heap
Udit Duseja
Sound Editor
Nora Wendel
Text Quotations From
Agha Shahid Ali
The Country without a Post Office
Basharat Peer
Curfewed Night
Nitasha Kaul
Kashmir: A place of blood and memory
Kashmir Research Consultants
Mohammad Umar Baba
Wasim Khalid
Kashmiri Translators
Ajaz Kotroo
Muhammad Gowhar Bhat
Special Thanks
Neil Sadwelkar, Dheights studio

Making

In making feature documentary, Inshallah Football, about three-hundred hours of footage was filmed in the Kashmir valley - much of the story, remained untold. The result was a second film – Inshallah Kashmir.

It took a month just to view the footage. Then, began the process of stringing bits of stories together, weaving in more as time went by. The interviews were not filmed to be part of a cohesive whole and had no spine, and one had to be found. The idea that informed this process was to convey a sense of normalcy in Kashmir, what an average Kashmiri sees and has experienced through the last two decades and build a connection for the audience through human experience.

The biggest challenge was the structure for the volume of compelling footage overwhelming. The film had to be simple and coherent without loosing the complexity of the situation in Kashmir.

Almost a year after work began the film was released online and free-of-charge on the 26th of January 2012, India’s republic day, for a limited time.

In the editing studio, Goa.

At the Al-Jazera Documentary Festival, Chicago Intl’ Film Festival and the National Film Awards, Delhi.