Saturday, September 7, 2013

VHP disrupts Hyderabad's Kashmir Film Festival

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) supporters disrupted the Kashmir Film Festival here on Saturday on the contention that the movies to be screened at this film fest are 'anti-Indian'. The VHP activists took strong objection to screening of the movie, 'Kashmir in front of my eyes', and resorted to violence by vandalising property of the venue. One of the protestors, Rahul, claimed that he had earlier alerted the police to stop the screening of the movies since these were anti-Indian, and he objected to his arrest from the spot and said that he came to assess the scenario. "They are arresting me though I have peacefully told them not to screen the movies here and I am insisting again that these movies are anti-Indian," he said. (ANI)
Violence disrupts Kashmiri Film Festival in HydOrganisers of the Kashmiri Film Festival, which was slated to be held in Hyderabad from September 7 to 12, now plan to call off the fest as they came under attack by certain groups who called the event 'anti-national'. The inauguration ceremony of the much awaited Kashmir Film Festival, Kashmir Before Our Eyes, came to an abrupt halt on Saturday afternoon when around 30 protestors barged in to the venue, vandalising the property and attacking those present. Within minutes, the Prasad Film Labs resembled a riot scene, as the mob pelted stones, broke chairs, even as they shouted slogan with one protestor running away with a filmmaker's laptop. All this because they felt the festival is 'anti-national'.
Surprisingly, the festival organisers had an inkling of trouble brewing, but they did not anticipate what transpired. "A few days ago, Prasad Labs received a five-page letter which threatened of dire consequences if the festival was not called off. The letter was signed off by a person named Rahul Razdhan, claiming to be a Microsoft employee and a right wing activist. His main grouse was that some films screened at the fest were anti-Indian and that they sympathised with terrorists and anti-nationals," said Dr Subhadra Jalali, chief organiser of the film festival. Apart from Prasad Labs, the letter was addressed to the Governor as well as Annapurna Studios. "The protestors had singled out the film Jashn-e-Azadi, by Sanjay Kak. Though we didn't think it necessary to lodge a formal police complaint, we did inform the police of this threat," informs Dr Jalali. Subsequently, a police van with two constables was sent to the venue, but clearly that wasn't enough to control a 30 member- strong violent mob. "It was a five-page letter which said that a couple of movies were 'anti-Indian' and they don't show the Hindu migrants' point of view, but instead, sympathise with terrorists and anti-nationals," said Dr Jalali.

Interestingly, the story of the techie Rahul,who had allegedly sent the threatening letter, takes another bizarre turn. Festival organisers claim that he had initially written to them, requesting that he wanted to be part of the festival. Filmmaker Ajay Raina, one of the curators of the fest,whose laptop was taken away by the protestors, claims Rahul wanted to curate some films at the fest. "Yes, Rahul wanted to curate some films. He had contacted us and in fact, had offered to bear the cost of the festival, including flying down filmmakers from various cities. But since we already had 12 movies,we had to refuse. It was after we turned him down that he had problems and threatened us."

Calling the whole incident an act of 'goondagardi', Sanjay Kak, director of the film Jashne- Azadi, said, "What happened today is complete goondagardi. Apart from indulging in hooliganism, these protestors also went up to the control room and damaged some equipment. One of the staff tried to get back Ajay's laptop, but he was beaten mercilessly. It is extremely dangerous and undemocratic. I think there is a growing inability to hear out anyone's point of view other than your own. And every time someone attempts to tell an alternate story, it immediately comes under attack. If you have a problem with my film, you can argue with me, criticise my movie, but you cannot take away my democratic right."  Speaking on his controversial film, Kak said, "It's not like the whole of Hyderabad has a problem with my movie. It's only a handful of intolerant people. I have screened the film in Hyderabad in 2007, and there weren't any issues at all." On learning of the incident, the cops rushed to the venue and took a few people, including Rahul Razdan into custody. "I wasn't at the venue when the protestors barged in. But we've taken the accused Rahul and a few others into custody.We will interrogate them, and retrieve the laptop," said C Santhosham, area in-charge, Banjara Hills Police Station.

However, this assurance isn't enough for the organisers. They are planning to call off the film festival, blaming it on "lack of tolerance and awareness". "Right now, I feel the best thing to do is call off the film festival. The whole point of having this festival was to present and discuss various issues related to Kashmir. But if one film that shows a particular side of Kashmir cannot be screened, there will be a dent, a void," said Ajay.
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/regional/telugu/news-interviews/Violence-disrupts-Kashmiri-Film-Festival-in-Hyd/articleshow/22410915.cms
Isn't this similar to what the proponents of Azaadi did with the Harud festival?
(September, 2012) The news of the ‘postponement' of Harud, a literary festival scheduled to be held in Kashmir in September, should be read with concern by those who believe in, and fight for, the right to express themselves freely. How the self-righteousness of some fighters for democracy actually forecloses any possibility of democracy can be seen from this incident. In a statement last week, the organisers of Harud explained that they were forced to put off their festival as there was a concerted campaign by some people on the Internet, on Facebook and some other sites attacking the festival. According to these critics, “We fear, therefore, that holding such a festival would, willy-nilly, dovetail with the state's concerted attempt to portray that all is normal in Kashmir. Even as the reality on the ground is one of utter abnormality and a state of acute militarisation and suppression of dissent, rights and freedoms.”
The organisers of Harud had dared to call the event apolitical, which did not go down well with the critics of the event. They demanded that the description be withdrawn. One of the signatories went to the extent of demanding an apology from the organisers for having committed the cardinal sin of suggesting that there could be something apolitical in Kashmir. They asked them to come clean on their source of funding and their affiliations. When they clarified that the event was not sponsored by the Indian state and was privately funded and aimed to create a platform for free and open debate, discussion and dialogue through contemporary narratives, literary fiction and poetry, it was not found acceptable and the campaign persisted. Meanwhile a hint was dropped by anonymous activists on Facebook about the possibility of Salman Rushdie participating in the festival. Eventually, the campaign against the festival reached a level where the authors started feeling insecure and the organisers did not feel confident that the event could be held peacefully... What is even more disturbing is that the campaigners against Harud are now blaming the organisers themselves for shutting down the event to evade questioning.. 

Report circulated by a participant/organiser Kashmir Film Festival in Hyderabad Vandalized: 'At approx 12 noon today, the organizers of the festival 'Kashmir - Before our Eyes', had gathered along with the film makers, at Prasad Lab preview theater, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. At this point a group of about 60 to 70 men arrived, began shouting, and damaging property of Prasad Lab preview theater. They smashed the plait glass door and windows, TV screens, flower pots on the ground floor. Then they came up to the first floor, where we were siting and tried to stop the music and take away the music system.
They then forced open the door of the auditorium and then they went to the the 3rd floor, forced opened the door of the projection room. They damaged the hard disk, belonging to Prasad Lab preview theater, removed some film material and set it on fire outside the theater building. They destroyed the monitor of the projector and also removed a Mac book Pro laptop belonging to Ajay Raina, when a staff member of Prasad Lab preview theater tried to retrieve the laptop, he was badly beaten up and chased by the mob, till some organizers, particularly Dr. Vasundhara Jalali saved him.

An invited film maker Siddhartha Giggo was also attacked. In all this Ajay Raina was able to identify one Mr. Rahul Razdan, who was wearing a black t-shirt with the slogan, 'I am a Kashmiri Pandit'. He was seen with the mob and pointing out at Sanjay Kak, who was also subsequently attacked by the mob.  The film festival jointly curated by Ajay Raina and Pankaj Rishi Kumar in association with FD zone Mumbai, is a travelling film festival of Kashmiri films. This festival has been shown, in Mumbai, Chennai, Trissur, and Pondicherry to an appreciative audience so far. The stolen laptop contains all the films and valuable data both for this festival and Ajay's personal work. The event is going on right now with a blank screen and the discussion on Kashmir is continuing.