Why the government doesn’t want you to watch this documentary on Kashmir

May 15, 2013 5:05 pm 0 comments Views: 90

The documentary has been twice stopped from being screening at the University of Kashmir and the Aligarh Muslim University and its seven-minute Youtube trailer was taken down two months after it was uploaded

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Produced under the banner of the Public Service Broadcasting Trust of India (PSBT) in September 2012 and supported by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ocean of Tears, a documentary on human rights abuses in Kashmir is now struggling to find a place in the country where it could be screened. The reason? Its sensitive content has made the government change its mind on allowing a free exhibition of the film in the country.

The documentary has been twice stopped from being screened at the University of Kashmir and the Aligarh Muslim University and its seven-minute YouTube trailer was taken down two months after it was uploaded by the PSBT, during which it was viewed around 1,49,000 times. So far, the film has only been exhibited at the festival organised by the Federation of Film Societies of India, Kolkata in March. However, outside India, the film was screened at Third Human Rights International Film Festival in February and at the Al Jazeera film festival in Doha in April.

The film which has been produced by noted documentary film maker Rajiv Mehrotra was passed by the Censor Board without any cuts, albeit it took around two months to do so. “PSBT has been helpful. The organisation has no objection to screenings but the places where I took it for screening came under pressure and refused to exhibit it at the last moment. The Kolkata film festival was a welcome exception,” film-maker Bilal Jan told TEHELKA. “But I have now given up on the effort”.

The documentary graphically depicts the sufferings of Kashmiri women in the course of the turbulence of the past two decades. It features the plight of the women of Kunan Poshpora- victims of the alleged 1991 mass rape by the army, and those of the families of the hundreds of missing people, besides other excesses.

Sitting alone in her dark room, Begum Sara recounts how troops raided their village on the night of 23 February, took the men with them and then barged into their houses and raped them. So far, the documentary says, four rape victims have died, among them Zareefa, the mother of six unmarried daughters, who died of excessive bleeding.

Similarly, Muhammad Amin Sheikh, a resident of the village talks about the “shame of the village”. “We saw our women in tattered clothes. People from nearby villages came in vehicles to help us and nursed our womenfolk. It is so humiliating to narrate and re-narrate what happened that night,” Sheikh says.

The documentary is equally unsparing about the atrocities committed by the militants. One such prominent incident is the cold-blooded murder of two sisters Akhtara and Asifa by militants in Sopore in February 2011.

Then there is the tragedy of the families looking for their missing loved ones. The documentary captures the weekly sit-in by families at the Srinagar’s Pratap Park to press for their right to know the whereabouts of their children.

Mymoona Banoo displays the photograph of her dapper husband Akhtar Hussain. “It has been 14 years since my husband is missing,” says Banoo. “He left to attend his friend’s funeral and never returned.”

A report published by the International People’s Tribunal for Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons estimates there are more than 8,000 people missing in the state since the onset of militancy in 1989. The state government on the other hand, has come out with varying figures, with maximum number being pegged at 3,744.

However, among those missing, a certain percentage does fall in the kitty of militants. According to the Coalition of Civil Society, a civil liberties group, militants are responsible for forcing the disappearance of around 15 percent of the total number of those missing.

“My effort has been to present the reality as it is,” says Bilal Jan, the director of the film. “But at the same time, I have tried to be as objective and unbiased as possible and tried to reflect all aspects of my subject”.

On 15 December, the film was about to be screened at the Kashmir University with an audience of around 400 people, including students and civil society members, when police suddenly arrived at the spot and stopped the screening. This led to a spontaneous protest by the students who shouted slogans against the university authorities.

However, the movie is now effectively under an unofficial ban, says Jan. Efforts to screen it in J&K or elsewhere in the country have been frustrating. When contacted, PSBT denied that they had any role in the screening of the documentary. “It is the director’s job. We have no role in the exhibition of the documentary at the places where it was prevented from being screened. If Kashmir University or Aligarh Muslim University has cancelled the screenings, then they should know the reasons,” an official at Rajiv Mehrotra’s office said.

– See more at: http://tehelka.com/govt-sponsored-kashmir-documentary-struggles-with-unofficial-ban/#sthash.RNpulkSY.dpuf

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