By Fahad Shah
“Whatever is going on is not your fault?” tells the father, Yusuf (Reza Naji, Iranian actor) to his son, Rafiq (Shahnawaz Bhat). Harud, means autumn in Kashmiri, is a first of its kind film on Kashmir’s brutal conflict, which has been going on for decades now. The film starts with three friends going to Kupwara, a northern district close to Line-of-control, to cross over to Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PaK) for arms training. One of them is the protagonist, Rafiq. He is a teenager, looks in his early 20s, who has this expression of being disturbed and agitated with the presence of Indian forces everywhere. The story is about Kashmir, told through Rafiq and his family.
The conflict of Kashmir started when the then autocratic ruler of this country did a conditional accession with India, with Sheikh Abdullah’s continuous support, in 1947. From then to late eighties Kashmiris were resisting politically, demanding their right to self-determination- promised to them. In 1988, a year after the rigged assembly elections youth crossed over to PaK to return with guerrilla training along with arms and ammunition. This started a war in Kashmir between militants and Indian forces. More than 70000 people have lost their lives so far and millions have got injured. There are around 10000 disappeared persons, as per the human rights watch groups, who involuntarily went disappeared. Indian government doesn’t acknowledge the findings of the human rights organisations. Since 2004, human rights organisation International People’s Tribunal of Human Rights in Kashmir has been exposing unmarked graves in Kashmir. Nearly 6000 unmarked graves have been found in five districts only.
The film touches this issue too. Rafiq’s older brother, Touqeer, has disappeared and his mother, Fatima (Shamim Basharat) sits in the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) meeting every month. They hold a sit-in to demand the return of their kiths and kins or any proof of their death, a grave. A scene in the film shows how these women are sitting in a park in Srinagar holding framed pictures of their husbands, brothers or sons. Rafiq too joins his mother. Touqeer was a photographer and his brother now tries to follow him and uses his camera. The disappearance of his brother haunts Rafiq.
In whole film, there is this sadness which tells how much deep the conflict of Kashmir has affected its people. There is no background music, except for a few scenes. The fact that its director and script writer, Aamir Bashir is himself a Kashmiri can be seen in the film. He tells the story from the heart of a Kashmiri that he/she feels. Most of the films I have watched on Kashmir, mostly documentaries, do present a picture of Kashmir’s conflict but this film is not only different but quite an achievement. Aamir has not only proved he understands the complex knots of Kashmir conflict so well but also that it can be articulated brilliantly on screen.
The film is a must watch. All the issues which have come up in Kashmir in last two decades of war like psychological trauma, depression, sadness, being caged, occupation, killings, enforced disappearances, helplessness, exploitation and an enormous loss both physically and mentally, are in this more than a hour long film. The film was released at Toronto International Film Festival in 2010. Since then it has been screened in many cities around the world. Now in India, it will be released at PVR theatres from 27 July as a part of its Director’s Cut series in major cities of the country.
Well directed and tight dialogues. The actors are in their characters and each of them is well connected with the plot. Camera work is beautiful. Falling of autumn leaves, lakes, mountains caught in the camera gel with the story. Lightening techniques have been used as metaphors in many scenes.
How the situation, the on-going conflict and its unsolved mysteries affect Rafiq’s father expresses every Kashmiris loss. The focus of the camera on barbed wires and barricades gives the sense of how Kashmiris are living in a cage, locked by more than half a million Indian troops. The film doesn’t go into accusations and propagandas. There are no cooked stories or exaggeration. Aamir has been successful to tell the tale of heaven-turned-hell, Kashmir. The layers of truth and the suppression have been beautifully narrated in the Harud. The losses of Kashmiri Pandits, who have lost their roots, are not missing. A metaphorical scene at a journalist’s office (I am keeping more for you to watch for yourself) shows Kashmiri Pandits are no more in Kashmir. Valley has changed. It is no more like 1947 anymore. The basket of unfulfilled promises and oppression has uprooted many things from valley.
The government “gift packages” like the launch of cellular services in Kashmir on Eid has nothing to do with the resolution. Even that, shown in it, is used to keep family updated about being alive. Today, things have come to an existent where government has banned SMS services in Kashmir. I would say Harud is focussing on all, women, men, children and youth. Rafiq and his friends are the expression of Kashmir’s youth. In last few years, we have seen how youth have taken up the resistance movement on their shoulders. Youth played a remarkable role in mass protests of 2008 and 2010 and those killed by Indian troops were mostly youths like Rafiq who are living with this trauma of being in hell. As Rafiq tells his mother, “It was better not to return to this hell” rather be a trained militant, the current generation of Kashmir is feeling same.
After I returned from Harud’s screening a journalist friend from Kashmir called up and told me the police has said that youth are joining militancy again. As per police there are forty new militants who have joined Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba. Most of them are in early twenties. This has been so because India has failed to give Kashmiris a space and listen to their legitimate demand of giving them right to self-determination. The answer to the question, why school and college going youth are joining militancy is Harud.