Srinagar, March 25 (KMS): When filmmaker Pankaj Butalia was shooting in the Valley for his yet-to-be-released documentary ‘Textures of Loss’, the Indian troops forced him to delete the footage.
The well-known filmmaker from New Delhi isn’t the only one who has had to withstand hostilities from troops or the authorities to be able to document the tragedies of Kashmiris.
The recent years have seen several documentaries and feature films on Kashmir, highlighting the killings, torture, disappearances and other human rights violations. The list is growing with ‘Jashn-e-Azadi’ by Sanjay Kak as the first one and ‘Harud’ (autumn) and ‘Ocean of Tears’ as the latest entrants.
But in an apparent bid to prevent the documentation of atrocities, the filmmakers, professional or amateur, aren’t allowed to work freely by the civil and or military authorities in the Valley. The filmmakers have to shoot with low profile, minimal crew, and hide the cameras in robes or luggage for otherwise they may have the footages deleted and the work halted.
“When I decided to make ‘Textures of Loss’, I was well aware that I may not be allowed to do it freely. So I had to maintain a low profile throughout the course of the shooting. I used to go on shoots alone or with one or two associates, hiding my camera in bag so that no one would notice what I was doing,” Butalia said in a media interview.
Butalia’s 61-minute documentary showcases the sense of loss among the Kashmiri families that lost their loved ones in the 23 years of conflict.
Despite the caution, Butalia was spotted with a camera by Army once when he was shooting the convoy near Singhpora, Pattan, in north Kashmir.
“Two trucks with machine guns immediately turned back and stopped before me. The Army men came out and asked my purpose of shooting the convoy. They made me reveal the footage in the camera, and later they deleted it. I lost some beautiful shots because of that,” he said. “Only problems were created by the Army.”
The local documentary filmmakers were reluctant to come on record for obvious reasons. An amateur filmmaker, wishing not to be named, produced a documentary in 2011 about the killing of a teenager by CRPF during 2010 agitation. She says she was under surveillance of police after her film was screened. “I was very careful while shooting. I made sure every time that I am not being noticed by anyone because many people had warned me of the aftermath,” the filmmaker said. “I did not let anyone know what I was up to. But after screening of the film my phone was tapped for some duration. My Facebook was also working ‘abnormally’.”
The filmmaker is presently out of Kashmir for studies. The authorities haven’t been allowing screening of the documentaries. The screening of Jashn-e-Azadi, for instance, was not allowed at Delhi University. Similarly, ‘Ocean of Tears’ was not allowed to be screened at University of Kashmir despite the fact that it was funded by a government of India body.
A Kashmir-based filmmaker, whose film was also not allowed for screening in the Valley, said he has been receiving threats.
“While shooting I too was made to delete the footage by Army on many occasions,” the filmmaker said. “But since my film was screened in many places outside Kashmir, I am receiving calls from various quarters asking me not to screen my film anywhere.”
His documentary, which vaguely highlights the human rights violations in Kashmir, may miss important events in near future because of the threats.