Theatre

Of memory and violence

Iffat Fatima’s films capture the trauma of the families of the disappeared.

Iffat Fatima an independent filmmaker from Delhi, went to Sri Lanka in 2000 for a fellowship project on Education and

Identity. In the years that followed, she worked at a television channel, Young Asian Television. In 2005, Iffat made a documentary ‘The Other Side of War and Peace’ on conflict in Sri Lanka and what it had done to the lives of people. When she met Parveena Ahanger, the chairperson of the Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in 2006, the urge to make a film on Kashmir’s disappeared was strong. After nine years of travel and research, Iffat made ‘Khoon Diy Bharav’. A guest at The Hindu’s festival of literature, Lit for Life, in Chennai in January 2017, Iffat answers a few questions.

Can you please tell us about the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP)?

In 1994, with the support of legal professionals and human rights activists, the families of the victims of Enforced Involuntary Disappearances (EID) in Jammu and Kashmir organised themselves into a collective. Over the years APDP has become an important space for a continuous engagement with issues of justice and accountability. Drawing attention to the trauma of the families engaged in struggling against the Indian security establishment, APDP has succeeded not only in breaking the silence over the issue of enforced disappearances in Kashmir, but has also kept alive a public discourse on resistance and what it means to resist against all odds. APDP in the very act of its being poses a challenge to the official discourse of erasure that is being systematically imposed in the public domain in Kashmir.

‘Khoon Diy Bharav’ was made over a period nine years? Can you speak about the work that went into the film?

I was, in a sense, introduced to the trauma and grief of the families of the disappeared through the making of my film on Lanka - the other Side of War and Peace. In 2006, almost a year after I finished the film I began working on the issue of enforced disappearances in Kashmir. I had been in touch with Parveena Ahangar whose son was a victim of enforced disappearance in 1990. Parveena had been largely instrumental in bringing the families together under APDP. She became my constant companion and I travelled all over the Valley with her meeting the families. I was drawn into the struggle, the continuous trauma, the continuous torture the families were going through. I cried and laughed with them, carrying a camera and recording their struggle became an organic process. I was not thinking of the end product. The affected families kept using the term ‘Khoon Diy Baarav’ which eventually became the title of the film. What they implied is that blood has flown, it has congealed and sedimented into memory and transformed into resistance. So resistance is a form of justice, while there is no hope of justice from the Indian state. After 2010, I felt I had to come to grips with my 100 hours of material and give it a tangible form. The editing process was long and agonizing, I made several cuts. Friends were supportive and their suggestions and feedback were valuable.

How did the Army react to your film?

“If there is a rule of law, why are the armed forces exempt from it?” is a question that Parveena poses in the film several times. This is a challenge that many people find difficult to confront, especially in the current atmosphere of hyper-nationalism in India. I have screened the film extensively in India and most audiences have been moved by it.

You have been arrested several times. Can you speak about it?

I haven’t been arrested but have been apprehended several times. Majority of people in Kashmir have experienced that and most certainly anybody roaming around the streets with a camera has to be prepared for it. It is disconcerting and rather scary, I must admit. But maybe part of being a film maker or a journalist is to learn to negotiate and work around these difficult situations. As a director there is also the added responsibility of the crew and the expensive equipment.

Over 8,000 men have disappeared in Kashmir. How are the women coping? Have they reshaped their lives?

The disappeared are all men and the women are left behind to cope. There are some women who have remarried and moved on with their lives, but those with children largely have chosen to stay single. They don’t have a choice. However, it has taken a big toll, most of them have health problems — physical and as well as psychological.

Do the two experiences, Sri Lanka and Kashmir, have any similarity?

In both cases, the state has used brute military power to repress people’s aspirations and political demands leading to a cycle of violence. Brute military power can only lead to a shattered social fabric with deep wounds and scars. The state seems to be impervious to that. It doesn’t care.

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Printable version | Jul 8, 2020 11:24:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/of-repression-and-resistance/article16958879.ece

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