Art, Literature and Resistance

Views from Srinagar

Z G Muhammad

When a brush, a goblet of paint and a sheet of canvas sends shockwaves to the citadels of power. When a strip of celluloid causes the mighty to jitter in their mansions. When a tune played on a Santoor shatters window panes of the bastions of the authority. When verses like “You may write me down in history—but still, like dust, I’ll rise” or “Write down! I am an Arab, And my identity card number is…..” erupts skins and causes rashes on the bodies of the usurpers of the rights of the people. Believe it is the victory of a nation struggling for its freedom or its rights.
Some days back New Delhi banned screening of “In the Shades of Fallen Chinar” a documentary on Kashmir at the 10th edition of the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala. It is a beautifully made film by two young filmmakers Fazil NC and Shawn Sebastian from Kerala that looks at the Kashmir tragedy through the eyes of young artists in Kashmir University, who had brought to life a fallen Chinar tree in the Naseem Bagh campus through their brush and paint. Fifteen students from Music and Fine Arts department like all children born and brought up during the past two and half decades of curfews, gruesome killings, custodial deaths, enforced disappearance and mass rapes bursting with angst used a fifty feet long trunk of the fallen Chinar tree as a medium to express their pent-up urge for freedom. Through their labor of love, they made it sing the saddest songs of their land. The muse in the log could catch the imagination of even commonest of commoners and not say about creative filmmakers- it had captured the imagination of two creative filmmakers from South India, who immortalized this piece of ‘resistance-art’ by capturing it on celluloid.
Lots of boys since the 2010-Intifada have adopted and popularized folk and various forms of the Western music as alternative forms of resistance. In picturizing some young music student, who have beautifully blended folk song and rap to tell the world the story of agony and pain of their people the filmmakers have added power and beauty to the documentary. In banning the documentary from screening at the International Film Festival, New Delhi has given more wings to Kashmir narrative to reach out to the global audience. True, the informed group of viewers at the film festival could not watch it, but overnight it became viral on social media across the globe. And ‘the Shades of Fallen Chinar’ became a new motif for the resistance movement of the land of Chinars.
In sensitizing the conscious international community and needling the conscience of people who matter, art, music, and literature have a significant role to play. The artists, rappers, singers, writers, and filmmakers are to be futures ambassadors and leaders of the land. I realized this when I saw some videos of a young Kashmiri rapper, at his best with “rhyme, rhythmic speech, and street vernacular” playing his guitar and singing songs of resistance to a big audience in historic Hyde Park, London known for over two centuries for free speeches and demonstrations. Music having universal language his songs at many other places did not attract only Kashmir Diaspora but large crowds of the Westerner- perhaps the audience that the pen pushers would not be able to reach out. In England only, there is more than a million of Kashmir Diaspora having a lot of potential for organizing such events for enabling the Kashmir rappers, singers, poets, and musicians to reach out to the world with their protest songs.
The 2016-Intifada internationally known as the year of “dead eyes” for blinding of hundreds of school going children with troops firing deadly pellets into their eyes made writers across the world to respond and write heart-wrenching write ups in the international press. Nevertheless, it has been some artists like Masood Hussain who through their art universalized the agony of blinding of children of Kashmir. Hussain’s visually arresting digital images of children pelleted to live with dead eyes for rest of their life on the social media stirred the conscience of even stone-hearted. Once, the artist translates these digital images on canvas in the history of Kashmir struggle these paintings will be as iconic as works of Norman Rockwell on the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
The art, music, poetry, films, and literature are powerful weapons to deconstruct the ‘State narratives’ and demolish the ‘hegemonic discourses’ than many other forms of protests. In 2013, the State in collaboration with the German Embassy, New Delhi organized the Zubin Mehta’s concert in the Shalimar Garden for a high-profile select audience under cover of large contingents of the military. With about a million and a half citizens locked in their homes and heavy boots clicking theirs heals on streets, it was telecast all over the world not only by Indian television channels but by a premier television station in the world. The cultural event by no stretch of the imagination was a routine one; the objective behind was more than obvious. It was to tell the world that everything in Kashmir was hunky-dory- when the wounds of 2008, 2009 and 2010, bloody summers were still fresh.
Instead, of disturbing the official event and challenging the enormous military bandobast around the venue, people decided to hold a parallel concert “Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir” ( the reality of Kashmir) at a public park about ten kilometers away from the site of Zubin Mehta concert. Notwithstanding, harassment and impediments by the government the youth and civil society succeeded in putting a parallel show and through the language of art, rap, music, folk theater and poetry told the world that all was not well in the blood-drenched state. Moreover, attracting as good international attention as that of the official event- for which millions of rupees had been spent.
Notwithstanding, the success of the “Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir, it could not graduate to what is called as the creative resistance movement.
— Courtesy: GK. [Writer is Srinagar based famed intellectual/writer].

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