The cancellation of the January 24 screening of filmmaker and author Sanjay Kak’s documentary titled Jashn-e-Azadi (How we celebrate freedom) has once again stirred up a hornet’s nest.
Point out that Salman Rushdie’s appearance at the recently concluded Jaipur Literary Festival was cancelled under similar circumstances, and he is quick to retort, “It is not similar to the Salman Rushdie affair. But we need to raise our voice against mindless censorship.”
Kak adds, “The fact that the film had been cancelled was a pointer to the difficulties one faces in talking about Kashmir.” Kak’s documentary was part of the three-day seminar to be held at the Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce, Pune. Though the seminar was being supported by UGC, a government body, the college was asked to cancel the whole event because some groups were against the screening. But that is not the main cause of concern, says Kak, who has also edited a book on Kashmir titled Until My Freedom Has Come.
He says, “The scary part is that a reputed educational institution is being told how to run a seminar by groups like Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and Hindu Jan Jagriti Samiti.”
He adds, “It’s the police’s job to protect the event, not to put pressure on the college to dump the film. Now, the whole event has been postponed indefinitely. There were panel discussions and other film screenings planned. Dilip Padgaonkar, NK Raina, journalists and students from Kashmir were to attend.”
He adds, “Even culture in Kashmir is a political thing. So how can you say, ‘let’s talk about Kashmir, but only about its weather and food’? I am not saying that mine is the only correct point of view. But how dangerous can one five-year-old documentary, which has already had 100 screenings, be?” Kak urges students to download the film and discuss it: “If they want to approach me, they contact me via my website and I will happy to answer any questions.”