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Talk about a generation

india Updated: Mar 07, 2011 10:17 IST
Manoj K. Jha

Close to 60 young boys have lost their lives in Kashmir in the last two months. The streets of Kashmir have not seen 'normalcy' during that time. Contrary to belief, unemployment, poverty and hunger are not the core issues for the protesting youth in Kashmir.

Many of us watched Peepli Live and enjoyed it. Let me also remind you of Rang de Basanti, a film that was a little different from the usual 'patriotic' movies. During the 1960s, the patriotic Hindi film often bordered on xenophobia and invariably juxtaposed nation and nationalism with an 'enemy'. In Rang de Basanti, the director blends and fuses the memories of India's freedom struggle with the misdeeds and corruption of today's politicians. It brilliantly showcased the fact that the 'Art of the Protest' is always entwined with social, economic and political forces that find expression in the context of the specific culture and that none can exhibit it better than the youth.

Peepli Live, on the other hand, is a satire on the response of the elite, the government, the bureaucracy, ministers and the media to the issue of distress suicides by farmers who failed to repay loans. In a turn of well-lampooned events, the plight of Natha, the protagonist, is turned into a spectacle by a voyeuristic and insensitive nation.

With a span of more than four years between the two films, the two films exhibit certain commonalities through their frames. The issue of the blatant denial of what is due to common people, the utter disregard for human rights and the easy tendency for indulging in wrongs appear as the running thread in the films.

But more than that, the two movies are also about the politics of manipulation of memory. They are also about the struggle of ordinary citizens to be seen and the blatant move by the State to somehow make them 'invisible'. Both underline how our trumpeted democracy has indeed become a facade for domination and subjugation in the name of the undefined and indecipherable national interests.

It is in this locale that I intend to return to the issue of today's angry Kashmiri youth. Kashmiri youngsters have probably been able to understand and acquire their own share of the 'A Generation Awakens' phenomenon. Defying all forms of threats including that of death, the protest of an average Kashmiri youngster today is, in essence, a committed transformation of the material and ideological conditions that robbed them of many things, including what they wanted to remember and commemorate.

Manoj K. Jha is Associate Professor, University of Delhi. The views expressed by the author are personal.