In the last 12 days since Article 370 and 35A were revoked, around 8 million people have been house-arrested, Renzu tells the American Bazaar.
Kashmiri American filmmaker Danish Renzuâ€™s critically acclaimed first feature film Half Widow, released in 2017, depicted the plight of a half widow from the valley. The UCLA alumnus was in Srinagar when the Government of India revoked Article 370 of the countryâ€™s constitution that had guaranteed a special status to the region.
Renzu, who is currently in India, spoke to the American Bazaar about life in Kashmir in these momentous times.
Were you in Kashmir when the clamp down happened? Take us through the initial few days before the announcement of revoking Article 370 was made. What was the mood like when people were sensing something was coming?
Yes, I was in Srinagar at the time. There was already a scare surmounting in the valley when thousands and thousands of troops were deployed in the valley. ATMs were running out of cash, and petrol/diesel stations were crowded with people thus leading to a shortage. There was a sense of fear in the valley, especially when out of nowhere all the tourists and Amarnath yatris were ordered to leave the valley within 24 hours. It was a nightmare of not knowing what will happen as there were so many rumors circulating around.
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When and how did you get to know about the revoking of Article 370. Can u share the initial reactions? Can you explain why Kashmiris feel stabbed by the revocation?
There were rumors already circulating about this before midnight on 4th August when suddenly we received a notification that â€¦ all means of communication would be disconnected until further orders.Â So, for the last 12 days, since the 370 and 35A were revoked, people around here â€” 8 million of them â€” have been house-arrested, and curfew has been placed everywhere in the valley. Even press has been banned ever since, so Kashmiris never got even a chance to react at all as they have been banned since the day this order was announced.
I really don’t think this will be acceptable to Kashmiris, as losing their statehood and special status, we think, is unconstitutional and was not done via means of democracy but force, and [so is] revoking of freedom of speech and expression. Even though some parts in the Article 370 were definitely discriminatory to the Kashmiri women marrying outsiders, but the way this was implemented and how people were house-arrested and force was deployed is unjust and unacceptable.
Would you know more details on the situation inside Kashmir? What is the situation in the interiors, villages etc.?
I left the second day of curfew for Mumbai for my work. But of course, people are going to protest. This is unacceptable to them, and they were not taken into confidence but are forced to accept this for their so-called benefit, which I really don’t understand is happening in the 21st century. To be honest, it’s a jail at the moment. Barricades everywhere.
There are reports about the fact-finding mission by activist Kavita Krishnan that gives a gory picture of life in the valley right now. Children being arrested, pellet shots being fired.Â And even young boys being picked in the middle of the night to create terror. Did you hear or come across any such incidents?
It must be true. This has been happening ever since our childhood. Innocents are the ones who are targeted, while politicians play their game. If you go back and see the history, Kashmiris have always been forced to accept the occupation on them. They were always promised their autonomy but never given.
Politics aside, how is life on a day to day basis for an average Kashmiri. How are you managing amenities, food, medicines? What are the other challenges?
I’m, right now, in Mumbai but heard it’s a nightmare as everything is shut and people aren’t allowed to go out. I remember when I was leaving the valley, airlines were only accepting cash for any new bookings since all communication was shut and ATMs had no cash. So, if you weren’t carrying cash, you won’t able to even buy a ticket.
The worst thing is communication. I haven’t been able to talk to my family for 11 days, and everyone around the globe is worried sick for their loved ones because so many rumors are making rounds, and one can’t find peace until they’re not able to communicate.