We came out of the Bahar Cinema, a theatre in Bombay in absolute silence. I and Suchit chose to watch Haider instead of Bang- Bang. The rest of our friends ditched us on Haider. They said Haider would be serious and boring. I and Suchit are sensitive people with quite similar tastes in movies, art and literature. Haider was serious but far from boring for both me and Suchit. We slowly got to the car-park and the silence continued. We were both lost in our own thoughts and we were both trying not to interfere. We finally reached the car. Suchit started the engine and then began the conflict.
Suchit: This was bloody Anti-Indian. How did the censor board allow it’s release?”
Me: What are you saying you didnt like it?
Suchit: I hated it. Vishal Bharadwaj could have set up the movie in any different background and adapt Hamlet. Why choose Kashmir, make it political and then also show the Indian military in a poor light in it’s own country.
Me: Why not Kashmir? Isn’t it high time that we start making political movies. Show things that people dont want to accept and understand. Just because it is the Indian Military it cant go wrong? Kashmir is a complex issue with so many layers to it just like Hamlet and its characters. I absolutely loved the idea.
Suchit: I cant believe you are actually debating this. It is thanks to the Indian Military that Kashmir is still part of our country. They have been able to curb the militant movements and helped to bring some peace to that beautiful valley. If they wouldn’t have done that we would have lost Kashmir long time ago.Why isn’t there any mention of Pakistan and US funding to the young boys of Kashmir ,to fight the Indian Army. He just comfortably chooses to show the torture camps and the brutal killings by our soldiers.
Me: Suchit, Kashmir is not at peace, it will never be. Because it isn’t free. India got freedom in 1947, but Kashmir is still fighting for it. Kashmir till date remains one of the most military occupied state in the world. In 2007 there were 3,37,000 army troops in the state. After a lot of debate on the subject the government stopped giving any official figures after that year, but the number is pretty much the same. You say the valley has been peaceful. Then why the hell do so many army personnel need to be there? Haider mentions A.F.S.P.A. ,I do think it is the most undemocratic thing ever created by mankind! Under this act the army basically can kill,kidnap,torture, rape do anything and not be prosecuted by law. What sort of bullshit is that? Yes the army has done some unbelievably good things. It is one of the best armies in the world.Though in Kashmir they have got a lot of things wrong and for a very long time.
Suchit: This is what movies do. They show you things and then make you believe that it is all true. Do you have any proof of the things that you are claiming to be true?
Me: I am not 10 anymore! I dont find any pride in claiming my own country’s Army as brutal and wrong, and not realise the seriousness of it. The human rights report called Alleged Preparators; Stories of Impunity in Jammu and Kahmir is such amazing work. It is a detailed report of 214 stories of rape,torture, abduction,killings and enforced disappearances. The report is a detailed account of all the crimes, as they happened with names of all the army soldiers involved,with dates and witness accounts. It states everything with the proof. Ofcourse out of all the cases only 1 army officer was actually punished. Rest of them were either promoted, given a raise or a medal of honour. The report states that the Judiciary cant touch anyone functioning under the A.F.S.P.A act. The whole system seems flawed it is actually made in a way that facilitates all the things that are absolute violation of fundamental human rights.
Suchit: I haven’t read the report, not heard of it either.
Me: Our media can give space for women boobs but not to such an important piece of work.
Suchit: (Smiling) Let’s not go there now. Do you recollect any of the cases in there?
Me: Yes! I do remember one very clearly. It is about Major Avtaar Singh. He was involved in numerous cases right from the killing of a human right activist Jaleel Adrabi, and then also five innocent men who stood up as innocent witnesses, whom he later slated as militants. He was involved in abduction of two more people and a judicial killing of a Sikh tailor. Major was never brought to trail ever ,even though there were cases against him in the High Court. His passport was impounded but still he managed to flee to Canada with his family. He disappeared. Though a few years later he resurfaced in the news when he shot his wife and two sons and called the police before killing himself.
There was silence, an uncomfortable one! Until he spoke again with a little irritation in his voice.
Suchit: There is no solution to this problem. Kashmiris want an independent state. Though how is it going to happen? Are they really capable of taking care of themselves? If we let them be is there any guarantee that Pakistan will not try their stunts?
Me: It is just so complicated man. The whole thing. Kashmiris might not want to be a part of India, not after all that has happened since the first insurgency in 1987. They seem to have totally lost faith in our government. The only solution is a dialouge, a political one. The solution to this can only be political, definetely not war. Not A.F.S.P.A. Recently when our PM made his first visit there he spoke about giving them roads and infrastructure. Do you really think a Kashmiri worries about the infrastructure of his state when his father is shot, brother missing and a friend’s wife raped? Why wouldnt the PM talk about the article 370, or taking the heavy army personnel off Kashmir or talk about scrapping A.F.S.P.A.? Kashmir isn’t hungry for development as the other states it is hungry for humanity, just their basic human rights. You just cant impress Kashmiris with development. They are not going to take the bait.
By this time we had reached home. I got off and said goodbye. Suchit didn’t seem too convinced. All the while the one thing that amused me was his inability to accept that not everything needs to be black and white. The Kashmir conflict deals with a lot of grey pastures. As much as we have done well to counter terrorism , mistakes have also been made by us. Why is it so difficult to accept that? Kashmir has two sides ,one of it’s people and one of the Army. In a democracy people need to rule, not the army. Even if we win Kashmir, we know we have already lost it’s people. The wounds are too deep to heal.
The success of the movie Haider is exactly this. It has again raised discussion, debates and awareness. Two generations of Kashmiris have only lived on the background of war. They have lived in fear, trauma and struggled to keep their humanity intact in the midst of brutality. If we continue to make the same mistakes we are going to face serious consequences. The bomb is already ticking. At the end of the movie Haider chooses not to kill, he chooses life. We need to make the right choices too and soon. We need to choose humanity, make it win!