"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

VISAFF brings an inconvenient truth to light Featured

Gurpreet Singh

If the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival has achieved anything this year, it is the breaking of silence over state repression in the world’s so called largest democracy.

Half Widow, a film by Danish Renzu, is based on the plight of women whose husbands were abducted and killed by the Indian army in the disputed territory of Kashmir.  

An armed struggle has been going on for years in the Indian side of Kashmir, over the right to self-determination. In response, the Indian forces have been involved in enforced disappearances of political activists and civilians caught on mere suspicion. The women whose husbands were never found and are presumed to have been killed are referred to as half widows in Kashmir.

Renzu, who is a Kashmiri himself, estimates that there are 2,500 half widows in the region, who have been fighting for justice and closure for the past three decades.

The movie was screened at Simon Fraser University campus in Surrey on Saturday, November 24. Incidentally, Surrey has a sizable Sikh population that also witnessed an era of enforced disappearances in Punjab during the period of militancy for a separate Sikh homeland.

Although the Indian state has always been complicit in suppression of dissent through violence, under the current right wing Hindu nationalist regime of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the tyranny has actually grown more aggressive in Muslim-dominated Kashmir. Those who try to defend the democratic and human rights of the people of Kashmir are frequently branded as “anti-national” and ostracized by supporters of the ruling BJP. So much so, ordinary Kashmiris are harassed by the police and vigilante groups in other parts of India. 

It is rather interesting that Half Widow passed the censor cuts in India. This may have to do with the fact that Renzu never wanted to point fingers at anyone and focused more on the healing and closure. The protagonist of the story whose husband is missing decides to give up participating in rallies and learn to write to tell her own story. 

Renzu told Radical Desi that more protests lead to more killings, and it is time for people of Kashmir to live in peace. 

While Half Widow does not take a definite position against the Indian state, and tries to look at the issue from a purely human perspective, it helped in educating the Canadian audience about the ongoing repression on the people of Kashmir.  

 

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