Jashn-e-Azadi: How We Celebrate Freedom
Director: Sanjay Kak
Review by Farah Aziz
There are traces of hell in the heaven. “Kashmir is not the story, it is a story”, rectifies Sanjay Kak, his own default statement–“Kashmir is the story of–pains of many bereaved relations.”
Kak, in his documentary ‘Jashn-e-Azadi’– ‘How We Celebrate Freedom’ is as explicit to speak of violence in Kashmir as the violence itself. Jashn-e-Azadi, is not only a rear glance of life with military, it is a smidgen more, in and out, interlacing the cowed survivals and the recurring pangs of death.
A desolate father looks for his son’s grave in a Shaheedi Qabristan (martyr’s graveyard), a teenager girl describes the body of a young man in the neighbourhood, killed during an army operation–“The body is lying in the crossroad amidst the houses, no one is allowed to approach, even the dog did not go near it.” Her stoic, flat voice, communicates a long endurance.
Post trauma centres, flood with disjointed minds, doctors listen to the staccato stories of a woman, and more. In her dreams, shrouded figures appear – and never reveal their faces.
Funerals succeed funerals, funerals precede the same.
Kak’s Kashmir, traverses from the sun lit sheen of the white snow valleys to the blood red streets, from the life as it spells from the tourists getting clicked in colourful Kashmiri attires to the mounting debris of ash and wood remains, from peace to violence, and from violence to more violence only. It traverses true.
Jashn-e-azadi hula hoops round the word azadi (freedom), the feeling that it is, and the irony it sets free in Kashmir. The feeling is deep and resonant with halted lives of 100,000 dead over the last 18 years.
It’s Independence Day. Orphaned, children sing Iqbal’s ‘ sare jahan se achchha, hindostan hamara,’ and mark the glorification of their lives being spared, while their loved ones got killed. A feeling as alien like freedom would not tick these young hearts to sing, slaved within the terror of the past and an uncertain future.
The totter rolls right from 1947, the culmination of the old feudal order, the redistribution of land to the peasants, the unbound feeling of freedom, to 1948–“the creation of two Kashmirs, and 60 years down the line, to the armed struggle, the volatility of agreements, the charges, sanctions, combats, encounters and the false encounters, the Army, the BSF, the RAF, the STF, and more Fs. Bandipora, Kupwara, Ganderbal, Pulwama, Kulgma-and so on so forth.
The way the film captures self defending attempts by the armed forces to manage for itself, an image of credibility is poignant in sense of negation. The images of the army run schools and orphanages, the donation of portable radio sets by them to the victims, the insistence to sing the national anthem, and an added pinch of “operation successful”, as claimed by the forces, give bouts of disillusionment to the boasted claims of peace. Lives put to discord and then mend up with patches of compensations are received as a mockery.
The movie doesn’t escape to obtain martyrdom as it is hugged by Kashmiri youth. Martyrdom in Kashmir is more often a given status than achieved. One encounter and ten martyrs are recognised, another encounter, a score more. Mixed with the enraged slogans of protest and praise to the martyr, funerals ring with refrains of loss.
Theatrical performances demonstrate a five century old colonisation of the valley, and its fate being decided and re-decided by the any one but the people of the land.
However, with all the ugliness, the beauty of symbolism is maintained. The symbol of tourists wearing colourful Kashmiri attires to be clicked in as a remembrance of Kashmir, when the movie opens and the same attires being replaced by a military scarf that a girl chooses to be clicked in as the film closes, leaves a strong impression of the slow generated change. The change of recognition of Kashmir, from beauty to the spectors of death.