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All work, no play

It is not militancy alone that has snatched childhood away from Kashmir’s children, the evil of child labour, too, has added to their woes. Aurangzeb Naqshbandi reports.

india Updated: Nov 24, 2008 00:27 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi

It is not militancy alone that has snatched childhood away from Kashmir’s children, the evil of child labour, too, has added to their woes. Filmmaker Bilal A. Jan’s documentary — The Lost Childhood — which was recently screened at the Teheran international short film festival, portray’s this very fact.

“Militancy cannot be blamed for all that ails Kashmir. Social issues like child labour have bedevilled our society for long,” he told Hindustan Times.

According to 2001 census, there are over 1,75,000 child labourers in J&K. The earthquake in 2005 and militancy, to a small extent, has added about a lakh children to this figure, he said.

The 32-minute documentary in Kashmiri also shows the exploitation the children face. They are made to work for long hours but paid low wages — at times they don’t get a penny.

Screened at 10th Mumbai film festival early this year, The Lost Childhood — produced by Srinagar-based Arooj Productions of M. Maqbool Lone with a budget of less than Rs 2.5 lakh in 2007 — attempts to find the root cause of the problem. “Child labour is more of an economic problem than social. I wanted to highlight the plight of Kashmiri children working in hazardous industries like carpet, shawl and automobile and to sensitise the society towards the problem,” said Jan, who has worked with noted film directors like Shyam Bengal and Vidhu Vinod Chopra.

“Despite various laws, the practice of child labour continues unabated. I wanted to highlight the flaws in these laws,” he said.

Jan said he drew inspiration from legendary filmamker Satayajit Ray. “I want to develop cinema culture in Kashmir.

Militancy might have overshadowed important concerns of the Kashmiri society, but there are other aspects which need to be put in right perspective and highlighted appropriately,” he added.