Buisnessline, Hindu, Divya Trivedi
Twenty six brave new voices have come together to repair the fractured memory of a nation and set the record straight on Kashmir. Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir, is a hard hitting anthology, put together by documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak. Intifada loosely means popular uprising and has been used to describe Palestinian resistance against the Israeli State.
Over many decades now, the Kashmiris have cried themselves hoarse on how their stories are being drowned in the cacophony of distortions circulated and repeated by the media, politicians and ‘experts’.
This significant tome was born out of the insight of a new generation of writers, activists, sociologists, anthropologists, a graphic artist, a rap singer and journalists in 2010 when militancy was fading out and being replaced by mass uprisings in the Valley. Violence, freedom and demilitarisation form the skeleton on which all stories in the volume take shape. In ‘A Time for Freedom’, Professor Angana Chatterji from the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, says, “The violence is staged, ritualistic and performative, used to re-assert India‘s power over Kashmir’s body.” She talks of how the military’s fabrications about “escalating perceptions of cross-border threat and fake encounters function as the truth-making apparatus of the nation.”
In essay after essay — Shuddhabrata Sengupta’s ‘Kashmir’s Abu Ghraib?’, Aaliya Anjum and Saiba Varma’s ‘Curfewed in Kashmir: Voices from the Valley’, Mridu Rai’s ‘Making a Part Inalienable: Folding Kashmir into India’s Imagination’, Wasim Bhat’s ‘Captive City’ and Dilnaz’s Boga’s ‘The People are with Us: An interview with Masarat Alam Bhat’ to name a few — the authors spell out the distress and human rights abuse in the Kashmir Valley, not through emotions or pleas, but hard facts and evidence.
Gautam Navlakha in the ‘False God of Military Suppression’ states there were 6,27,000 security forces posted in Jammu & Kashmir in 2010, translating into more army presence in J&K than even in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Journalist Najeeb Mubarki points in the ‘Islamism Bogey in Kashmir’, how every issue gets interpreted through the prism of religion while Hilal Mir tells us how he became a stone thrower for a day.
Srinagar-based journalist Nawaz Gul Qanungo, used to be a dental surgeon in a Government hospital. “We used to treat these patients with bullet and blast injuries among others but realised that no matter how many you treat, the flow of patients will not stop unless the real problem is addressed.” In his essay, he points to the political discourses of the mainstream media and systematically exposes how it misleads not only through content but also language by parroting the establishment’s lies. Young graphic novelist Malik Sajad makes his debut in the book, representing Kashmiri subjects with Hangul, the endangered deer. His drawings show how mothers led groups of stone-pelters to save their sons from being dragged away by soldiers. A particularly telling frame shows a soldier addressing the media — “our strategy is to shoot at legs to disperse the protestors. The trouble is the kids — “they are short of height, so our bullets and tear gas shells hit them on their heads.”
The last essay in the book is ‘A letter to fellow Kashmiris’ by anthropologist Mohamad Junaid, based in New York. He says, “A new life deserves a chance. History must not be allowed to come in the way of building a shared future.” The book ends with a timeline chronicling Kashmir conflict from 1846 — under the dogra rule to the present day.
Kak says the hood of silence that used to shroud Kashmir until five years ago has lifted and there is a real curiosity in the Indian public about Kashmir. “They are no longer buying the official line… and the attempts to muddle, confuse or refuse to see what’s in front of you is no longer going to work,” he adds.