films that make a difference
With the world’s media attention focused on repression in Syria and the threat to the Euro, the Indian state of Kashmir, nestling in the shadow of the Himalayas, is in danger of becoming a forgotten conflict.
But two years back this Valley in the shadow of the Himalayas erupted in some of the most violent street protests it has ever seen. Hundreds of thousands of stone-throwing teenagers took aim at heavily armed Indian Security Force troops, who returned live fire, with 118 demonstrators killed, many of them children, followed by a lock-down in which no one could get in or out of the state.
In among the rioters, to find out why they risked their lives, and accompanying a local human rights lawyer determined to investigate how India restored an uneasy peace, True Vision uncovers a state-sanctioned torture programme that has set India on a collision course with the international community.
Kashmiri lawyer Parvez Imroz has never filed a divorce or defended a thief. Instead, this veteran Supreme Court advocate has spent his entire legal career dressed in a grey morning suite and working pro-bono. Broke but determined, with two young children and a wife who complain he has yet to take them on a picnic, Imroz has always risked his life to keep the Indian authorities accountable in this disputed mountain state where, unseen by most of the world, an insurgency has rumbled on since 1989, claiming an estimated 70,000 lives.
He has had some success, in 2008 uncovering a network of 6,000 unmarked graves hidden among the pine forests and apple orchards, in which the Indian government eventually conceded might be some of the bodies of the 8,000 Kashmiris who have vanished in custody - four times more than disappeared in Pinochet’s Chile. Two years later, seeking reprisals, the Indian security forces attacked Imroz’s family home, sending his wife and children into flight.
As stone-wielding Kashmiri youth fought pitched battles with the Indian security forces, BAFTA-winning film-maker JezzaNeumann followed Imroz as he turned his attention to an even more incendiary project, probing how the Indian security forces drove the rioters off the streets and imposed peace, in one of the most heavily militarised places on earth.
Sending out survey teams across the valley, at great risk, he asked ordinary Kashmiris to describe their lives and how India suppressed the riots. Their answers helped him expose and map a network of government-run torture centres, through which as many as one in three Kashmiris have been hauled.
Along the way, the lawyer acquired scores of new cases including Danish, a 16 year old whose friends have been branded, had their bones crushed and their finger nails pulled by the security forces, while his own 12-year-old brother was shot dead in the street by police, as he played cricket with friends.
Filmed, Directed & Edited by: Jezza Neumann
Producer: Catie White
Executive Producer: Brian Woods
Narrated by: Hugh Bonneville
Click here for a number of HRW reports on Kashmir
Including this report on unmarked graves, highlighting the fact that an inquiry by the police investigation team of the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission has found 2,730 bodies dumped into unmarked graves in four of the state’s 14 districts.
And this report from January 2012, focussing on the impunity of security forces, and the problems of enforced disappearances in conflict areas, extrajudicial killings, the persistent use of torture, and increasing attacks against human rights defenders
Click here if you want to read how the lawyer Parvez Imroz and his field workers uncovered a network of thousands of unmarked and mass graves thought to contain the bodies of 8000 missing Kashmiris who have vanished in the custody of the Indian security forces.