It’s 15th August, Independence Day, and the Indian flag ritually goes up at Lal Chowk in the heart of Srinagar. But the empty streets and the sullen silence that greet India's claim on Kashmir spark off old questions about freedom–azadi–and the denial of freedom. In the aftermath of 18 years of an armed struggle, with 60,000 dead and nearly 7,000 missing, death and loss is everywhere. Sometimes this loss is marked by the dozens of ‘martyrs' graveyards’ that dot the valley; sometimes in the process of being uncovered as we follow a group of men involved in a ‘survey of death’; sometimes expressed in the fractured minds of ordinary Kashmiris we encounter in the psychiatric ward of a city hospital.
As the Kashmiri people begin to look within their ledger of loss, the film tries to slowly prise open the meanings of Kashmir's struggle for azadi. Using a mix of verite footage, rare archival material, poetry and text, this a provocative look at Indian democracy, and a reflection on power, resistance and “freedom’s terrible thirst”.
"The subject of the film", one review said, "is the response of Kashmiris to the occupation: their defiance, their rage, their suffering, their trauma, their resignation, their irony and, occasionally, their acquiescence. But the acquiescence is rare and temporary: this film has a moral and it is spelt out by the director... In the middle of the film he says... “The lesson from the most militarised region in the world is that domination doesn’t mean victory.”
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© Sanjay Kak