Hundreds of reports and essays have been written on the ongoing Kashmir unrest in the last five months and thousands of photographs have been taken. But, for the first time, the first 120 days of the unrest has been captured on film by independent local film-makers.
Directed by two journalism students of the Media Education Research Centre, Kashmir University — Sheikh Adnan (23) and Furqan Khurshid (23) — Tales of Siege narrates how the continuous state-imposed curfew and strike by separatists has played out in the Valley. The film is desribed as a movie about the “resilience and survival of people of Kashmir” in the first 120 days of the unrest.
The duo, which also kick-started their YouTube channel, called Raconteur, with the film, was helped by their batch mates Saher Iqbal and Muneem Farooq. They are all third semester students at the University.
The 18-minute-long film was uploaded on YouTube on Sunday and had garnered 2,500 views in less than 24 hours.
The number of views climbed to 4,675 by Tuesday evening.
“The idea was to talk to all stake holders of the conflict, understand the events that had unfolded and present an unbiased picture of what really happened,” Adnan said.
He adds that most officials did not agree to interview requests, making it difficult for the filmmakers who wanted to present all sides of the events.
The film was shot from October 8 to November 7, because, Adnan says, “moving around Kashmir before that was difficult.”
The team says they were not allowed to record interviews of pellet victims inside hospitals by authorities.
The short film captures what many Kashmiri youth think about militant commander Burhan Wani, how mobile internet was banned for more than four months, how prayers were disallowed at the central Jamia Masjid for 19 weeks and how schools remained shut and syllabus was incomplete.
The movie also captures the trauma of pellet victims and families of people killed in the clashes, and the effects of shutdown on businesses and day-to-day life.
The short film features prominent lawyer Aijaz Ahmed speaking on how the state cracked down on unrest by making mass arrests and pediatrician Dr Altaf Hussain talking about the kind of injury that pellet guns cause.
In a powerful sequence in the film, sister of twelve-year-old Junaid Ahmed, who was killed when pellets struck him on the evening of October 7, breaks down and cries: “Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said my brother was a stone-pelter. What proof does she have? Does she know that he was martyred on his door step?”
The film-makers believe that the film, available free online, will be of archival importance in the coming days.
The duo is also coming out with a sequel that captures life in Kashmir post the first 120 days.