On Friday August 2, confusion and panic hit the people of Kashmir, in the wake of several orders claiming there is a serious situation in Kashmir, urging yatris and tourists to return and the deployment of thousands of additional troops. But, on my social media feed, there were voices of humour and resilience reminding Kashmiris of what they collectively as a people have suffered and endured through the years, of how the Indian state has persistently viewed Kashmiris as the “other” and sought ways of repression. Scrolling down one searing image went through my mind. It is that of Mir Suhail’s illustration of a man in checked headgear and greying beard that accompanies the report, Torture: State’s Instrument of Control in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir. I recognise it as that of Qalandar Khatana of Kalaros, Kupwara.
You are told you write depressing poetry
You answered “The trick is to read newspapers incessantly”
You didn’t tell them “The trick is to feel every death in your bone”
The familiar blackout is not because of load shedding, now it is your choice because electricity is prepaid.
In another time I am sure
they’ll treat you with electricity
coursing your skin or maybe they did.
Among nationalists in India, who have wet dreams of global “superpower” and watch over and over videos of “Indian weapons” and “most powerful militaries” on the YouTube, seeing images of those arms and men being reduced to a barbaric spectacle against an unarmed people produces a dispiriting dissonance. “Indian man” has fantasized a genocide for long. In its eyes, a genocide has a metonymic association with “national will.” This fantasy is now a metastasized desire to act like the US in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as ISIS in Syria. They want Indian military to kill without any compunction: “kill 1000 of them for our one;” “drop MOABs on them;” and “take Kashmiri women as slaves.”
A whole population that challenges the Indian rule is identified as an enemy that can be dealt with only through exceeding violence. On the ground, a cobweb of military installations and camps acts as an instrument for the military to identify, persecute, and maintain a hold on the local population. In Kashmiri rural areas, one finds an army camp after every three kilometers and in some places, the pervasion is even deeper.
The film is partly based on a novel titled Lockup by an auto driver Chandrakumar based on his own experience as a 17-year-old labourer in an Andhra police station and the second part of the film is based on a record of everyday policing events.
Rumi always has the same questions for him. The first one is, “Can you understand Farsi?” Avtar nods, even though he does not understand the language. When he is awake, it always torments him that he is a liar even in his dreams. Rumi continues in Persian, which Avtar now understands because he has lied about it, “Do you know what murder is?”