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Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir
an article by Tairah Firdous

New Delhi's attention on Kashmir might be flawed and can be critiqued but it is still better than the international silence on the issue. Kashmir has become a sexy topic for Delhi citizens, be it Kashmiri cuisine, documentary screening, or a book release like Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir.

Sanjay Kak, the editor of the book who prefers to be called a Kashmiri than a Kashmiri Pandit describes summer 2010 in Kashmir as a paradigm shift from an armed struggle to a mass rebellion. "Guns were replaced by the stones accompanied by words. There was lack of fear; I should say loss of fear on streets and in words," reads Kak from his introductory essay in the book.

The book celebrates the loss of fear both on the streets and in words in Kashmir. The self confidence in writing that poured out of Kashmir was not a fit in the traditional way of reporting on Kashmir. The writings, be it in form of blogs, facebook updates, magazine or journal articles were not an appeal to outside but a mature way to understand what was happening in Kashmir and sharing it with the world. "Summer 2010 was Intifada of mind besides Intifada on Streets," adds Kak.

Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir, edited by Kak, the noted film maker has essays contributed by journalists, writers, scholars, social activists, academics, and even a young rapper from Kashmir, MC Kash. In fact, the first part of the title is from MC Kash's song I protest until my freedom has come. Explaining the reasons for choosing word Intifada and not Ragda the indigenous slogan for protestors in Kashmir, Kak explains, "Ragda is a word that was used by protestors to annoy and irritate the security forces in Kashmir, and we were looking for a more dignified word, that is why Intifada."

"Furthermore, Intifada is more than a revolt; it is shaking off the chains of oppression and that is what defined summer 2010 in Kashmir," he adds.

Kak believes that when it comes to dealing with Kashmir, there is not one single India. "There is military, intelligence, and various other stakeholders who have their own interests in Kashmir and they quite often step on each other's toes. But the bigger concern is what if the State keeps on ignoring what happens in Kashmir?" questions the film maker.

"One has to understand that the militant insurgency has been around and survived on the public sympathy in Kashmir. The last three years, however, has seen a growing public opinion saying to armed militants, "Hang on, it is not working now." But if you keep on ignoring this public opinion that has taken a shape of euphoria of rebellion on streets of Kashmir, one might see some other way round effect," suggests Kak.

Kak has been criticized by his fellow community for his opinions on Kashmir. Screening of his documentary Jashn Azadi was interrupted in past by some Kashmir Pandit groups as a protest for his stand on Kashmir, which does not echo with the large sentiment of the community. "I have always maintained that the Pandit migration was a big tragedy not only for Pandits but for Kashmiris and Kashmir. But radicalization and closed minds are not going to do any better. There should be reconciliation, and I don't see that happening at group level or at an organizational level. It can only happen at the personal level," says the writer turned film maker.

DISCUSSION

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How can a culture of peace be cultivated in Kashmir?,

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This discussion question applies to the following articles:

Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir
India and Pakistan: Growing beyond the boundary
India: Aaghaz-e-Dosti conducted three Aman Chaupal sessions in Pakistan


This report was posted on July 24, 2011.