India: Documentary on Kashmir Censored After Fundamentalists Protest
In January a group of students at Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce in Pune, India protested the screening of the 2007 documentary, Jashn-e-Azadi (How We Celebrate Freedom), which is controversial for its critical view of the Indian military’s role in Kashmir. The screening was indefinitely postponed after the fundamentalist Hindu student organization Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) protested it and the three day “Voices of Kashmir” seminar in which the film was included.
The seminar was organized “to explore socio-cultural themes, Sufism and the rich heritage of Kashmir” said Symbiosis College principal Hrishikesh Soman. He added that the conference was never meant to be a political one.
Soman denied that the film and seminar were shut down because of pressure stemming from the student organization ABVP. He claimed the cancellation was because of police involvement, but justified canceling the film by saying: “We do not want any unnecessary controversy. If these [students] are so passionate about the issue, then there must be some valid reason. We, as academicians, want to listen to their views and respect them.”
This is not the first time police have intervened and denied a showing of Jash-e-Azadi, but Sanjay Kak , the documentarian behind the film, claims he was told by a teacher at Symbiosis College that the film was canceled primarily because of the student protest.
“It’s not the idea of a public screening that is threatening [to adversaries of the film],” Kak said. “It’s the idea that a real conversation about Kashmir is happening in a mainstream educational institution, that this conversation is getting the legitimacy it deserves; that is what I think is scaring them. And it’s not just scary for the ABVP … It’s scary for all those who have all these years prevented a genuine debate about Kashmir in India. Right wing, Left wing, Centrist, whatever….”
India currently ranks at 131 out of 179 on Reports Without Borders Press Freedom Index (2011-12). Fiji Zimbabwe, and Venezuela —countries with a known lack of press freedom—rank above India by several places.
Read an interview with Sanjay Kak about the events at Symbiosis College.