Grave human rights violations have taken place in Kashmir under the watch of India, the world’s largest democracy. Approximately 10,000 men have disappeared in this conflict which has claimed at least 100,000 lives – three times more than Israel and Palestine. Yet Kashmir remains one of the most under-reported conflicts in the world, almost obliterated by Western media. This film is my attempt to address that imbalance.
I recall the sense of shame and disbelief that I felt as an Indian when I first embarked on my Kashmir documentaries, the Inshallah series, in 2009. Everything that I was witnessing and recording contradicted what I had consumed in the past about India’s relationship with Kashmir.
Despite twenty years of a gruelling and bloody conflict, and despite being, for all practical purposes ‘the enemy’ (an Indian), the ordinary Kashmiri not only welcomed me but gave me unprecedented access to their most private, secret thoughts and feelings – as evidenced in the preceding documentary features.
I came away humbled and somewhat perplexed by that sense of shared humanity that seems to bind people, transcending divisive religious and national affiliations. They have a word for this in Kashmir – its called ‘Kashmiriyat’. Very hard to translate into English but loosely, lets call it ‘brotherhood’. For me Kashmiriyat encapsualtes optimism, hope, light-heartedness. A sense of culture, sophistication, understanding, forgiveness.
It is this sense of Kashmiriyat that I want to recall in Noor.
Conflict, I realised, is its most brutal in the kitchen – when the family is gathered for a meal or a cup of tea. And that it is the women and children who are gathered around that hearth, upon whom the crushing weight of absence and loss falls most heavily.
So it is through a depiction of the mundane, the humdrum lives that this story of two teenagers from a disparate worlds and their experience of love, pays an homage to the indomitable spirit of these women and children of Kashmir.
They are the traumatised survivors who endure a merciless occupation, a colonisation of hearts and minds that is now become institutionalised by ritualised humiliations in a conflict that doesn’t seem to have any end or respite.
Theirs is a heartbreaking vigil with no end. And yet, remarkably, it is they who keep the struggle for dignity alive, long after the world has forgotten their predicament.