In their own land

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FIRE WITHIN Filmmaker Ashok Pandit
FIRE WITHIN Filmmaker Ashok Pandit

Ashok Pandit talks about his film "And the World Remained Silent" that opens at IFFI this Thursday

Many years before we became familiar with the term citizen journalist, Ashok Pandit was doing it all. As Kashmir lay burning, torn by militant violence, Pandit was moved to tears. "I shot all those moments when the separatist movement was at its peak, the national flag was burnt. That fire is still with me. That is why you see me raving and ranting at so many places," says Pandit, in Goa for the 37th International Film Festival of India, now on in Panaji. His film, And the World Remained Silent, is the opener in the non-feature film section, beginning this Thursday."Nobody has understood till today that the people who kill cannot be freedom fighters. The world woke up when 200 people died in Mumbai but when lakhs of people were being driven out of their homes in the Valley, America called them freedom fighters."

No one spared

The director of Sheen, known for his fearless views, is clearly angry. "I have talked about the world being quiet on the issue of Kashmir Pandits in my film, but I have begun by questioning our own people first. I have not spared any political party. I hold the Congress as well as the BJP responsible. The latter came to power on the tears of Kashmiri Pandits but did nothing for the people still in refugee camps. My film talks of these people whose camps are like smallpox on the face of the nation."According to Pandit, the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits must have been the first case in the history of world politics where the people of a country lived a life of refugees in their own country. "This documentary was a reflection and reaction to the mayhem I had witnessed there in Kashmir in that era," he says, thanking the IFFI jury for lending him a platform to express his anguish.And the World Remained Silent, a 25-minute film replete with video footage of troubled Kashmir, right from the time of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front demonstrations in 1990 to the pathetic conditions in the refugee camps, was recently screened in the U.K. in the House of Commons.

No financier

"The MPs were shocked. They did not know Kashmiri Pandits existed," Pandit exclaims, adding he shot the film and developed it in the form of a documentary on his own. "There is no financier. I have incurred a personal expenditure of Rs.2.5 lakhs. However, I am not expecting any commercial gains. The motive is bigger than commerce."

Next film

Through with And the World... Pandit has already moved on to his next subject. This time, it will be a full-length feature film like Sheen. Yet again, the film is based in Kashmir. A story of Kashmir Pandits living in refugee camps in Jammu, it stars Anupam Kher in a pivotal role. "Tentatively called Homeland, the film go on the floors in January," says Pandit.He concludes on a more conciliatory note: "The entire system is suffering from cancer. Our priorities have gone wrong. Be it in Gujarat or Kashmir, justice has to be done. Somebody needs to focus on the North-East, which is a bigger problem than Kashmir. The victim and the militant do not have a religion."ZIYA US SALAM




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