Keeping up its practice of gagging freedom of expression, the Modi government has persuaded YouTube to ban a nine-plus minute short film Anthem for Kashmir in India which highlighted the enforced disappearances and fake encounters in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
A product of award-winning documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan and Sandeep Ravindranath, and Carnatic singer TM Krishna, the short film was released on May 12. It coincided with the 1,000 days of the abrogation of Article 370 on May 1, which revoked the special status of the occupied territory.
However, following the legal complaint by the Indian government, the video streaming platform has geo-blocked the short film for the viewers in India.
A letter from YouTube Legal Support Team sent to Sandeep Ravindranath said they have received a notice from the Indian government seeking blocking of the video. Expressing their inability to share the communication from the BJP government, the YouTube letter said this was since the notice itself is confidential.
Talking to the Indian media, Sandeep said that he found it ironical that a “nuclear-armed state is perturbed by a few minutes of video clips and the power of the pen… There is a pattern in the recent government crackdown on media persons, intellectuals and social activists. The underlying objective is to silence voices that question its unilateral discourses on key issues pertaining to politics, policy-making, governance and essentially the structure and ethics of the state”.
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He said the clampdown in IIOJK in the aftermath of August 5, 2019 had motivated him to chronicle the human rights violations in the Muslim-majority valley.
Sandeep Ravindranath said the aim, and the motivation were to also try and portray the “truth of today’s Kashmir”.
The Federation of Film Societies of India (FFSI), Kerala Region has condemned the ban on the short film.
“The film opens a window into the real status of IIOJK. The film portrays the silent cries of Kashmir’s border villages where the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is in force,” FFSI President Chelavoor Venu was quoted as saying by an Indian newspaper.
The short film has visual references to forced disappearances and military oppression and is accompanied by a Tamil protest rock track.
Through the short film, the filmmaker tried to contradict the popularity of the movies like The Kashmir Files, which had been widely criticised for trying to villainies Muslims in the IIOJK.
“I have Kashmiri friends, it was a hard time. I was not able to get in touch with them as communication was affected at the time. More than that, even if I did not have Kashmiri friends… It is about people struggling,” he added. He said the filming was not easy, given the situation (restrictions) in the occupied valley and the pandemic.