Raqs-e-Inquilab – Art in a Time of Conflict

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

Mahatma Gandhi

You can find the film Raqs-e-Inquilab (translation: Dance of Revolution, tagline Art in a Time of Conflict) on mubi (one-month free subscription by clicking here) where you get one Indian and one International release everyday. The films are curated and high-quality. You also get one free PVR ticket (now not available due to lockdown). I can vouch for the movie quality, and the first month is free if you follow the above link.

Raqs-e-Inquilab is a documentary that covers the narratives of four artists, three being children of conflict, painter/artist Syed Mujtaba Rizvi, painter/sketch artist/digital artist Hina Arif, and poet Zeeshan Jaipuri, whose arts have been born out of conflict, while the fourth one, renowned painter and art teacher Masood Hussain, whose art changed mid-way since the 1989 and the events that continued. They all talk about their art and journey in this documentary.

The Film Poster – Why Colors Have Gone from the Art of Kashmir, which Masood Hussain hopes will come back.

Let me talk about Kashmir while talking about this documentary. We are in the middle of a lockdown of 21 days, and if we overlook the plight of migrant workers and the homeless, and the reverse migration, we will notice the people who have enough but are struggling. People are going through lockdown with great difficulty. Kashmir has been in curfew for months. The difference between lockdown and curfew is that you won’t have a problem buying essentials, you can’t easily be arrested either. Curfew means something else completely. The impact has been social as well as economical with Kashmir having lost over $1.5 billion in the first 4 months itself (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-49956960). Here, though, we are talking about the combined effects on the psyche of people.

Syed Mujtaba Rizvi is a painter who works with stories of Kashmir. He landed in India from Iran (where he spent his first 5 years after being born in India) on the day of the curfew. If you check his Instagram feed – you will notice the Conflict and Kashmir being the common theme. In the documentary, he talks about the Iron Lady of Kashmir – Parveena Ahanger – and his art portrait of her. Apparently, there are over 8000 people who have disappeared from Kashmir since 1989. Not dead, not in prison, not anywhere – just disappeared.  

Parveena Ahanger – The Iron Lady of Kashmir (Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons in Jammu and Kashmir (APDP))

Hina Arif is an artist who used to sketch landscapes until one day when conflict changed her. One day, she started painting conflict. She says that people call her anti-national and traitor, but she isn’t a traitor. This is what she has seen. This is her core memory – conflict. Right now, there would be furthermore children growing up with conflict. How do we expect a generation to have any sense of belonging to the nation at all?


Hina Arif’s Gallery on Human Rights Violation of Kashmir (and further link to her profile and other works)

Zeeshan Jaipuri is the 3rd child of conflict – who is a poet. He speaks the same thing – that he can sit in a corner and think about peace, but he cannot escape life. He writes about conflict, and he says he is helpless in this regard. He recites his nazm Raqs-e-Inquilab (The Dance of Revolution), some of the lines being

Aye parwani jaago jaago,
Dekho sab taare jaage hain,
Hain ummeedein zinda zinda,
Sab kal ke haare jaage hain…


Tu kaise khud ko bhool gaya,
Kyun marte marte jeeta hai,
Kyun shaitano ki mehfil mein,
Nafrat ke pyaale peeta hai…

I guess it will be unfair to share full – watch the documentary for it on Mubi.
Check him recite here, not Raqs-e-Inquilab but some other nazm on Kashmir

Masood Hussain, the renowned painter and art teacher, has seen the canvas change. He has seen the good times, the happiness, and he has also seen the events from 1989 when Pandits (Hindus) of the valley were forced to leave Kashmir and the rise of militancy (which was actually the reason). Kashmir is now under AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Protection Act), which makes it the most militarized zone in the world.

A Film on Hindu Exodus, First in 3 Decades. Will Review this Soon.

While the events of 1989 were themselves shameful, the 30 year plus militarization of a region means that it becomes synonymous to North Korea. We keep criticizing North Korea, we see pain of people there, the lack of freedom etc. Yet, we have a place in India that is more militarized than North Korea since last 3 decades.

Masood Hussain talks of about his art and how Kashmir has changed. He worked on digital medium for first time after the 2016 unrest (famous for stone pelting and use of pellet guns to control, leaving many children half blind or blind and specific wards of hospitals dedicated to pellet injuries). Check this video where he talks about the series, and some of them have been shared – https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-india-37587520/kashmiri-artist-my-work-is-shrouded-in-darkness.

Silent Images

Masood Hussain’s series – Silent Images

Surprisingly, as I reached the end of the documentary towards the credits, all the names appeared to be Hindus. The film is directed by Mukti Krishan (also additional cinematography, and co-producer) and Niyantha Shekar (also co-producer and editor). The problem with documentaries is that they appear slow. This one doesn’t appear to be, and perhaps that can be attributed to direction and editing. You can check Niyantha’s work profile here (https://niyantha.com/) and Mukti Krishan’s work profile here (https://vimeo.com/user1787850). Cinematography is done by Anirudh Shekar and portrays both the beauty and the turmoil beautifully.

The saga of hatred and revenge works in combination to take away peace. We have examples from the world over. Germany was broken for years thanks to the hatred and its result. India has been broken too. It started with hatred and with the Kashmiri Pandit exodus – one of the most painful incidents in the entire history, and it continues today. Religion or land, we will continue finding reasons for hatred but till the day we start being objective, and absolutely honest, be it in owing up for the flaws or calling something for what it is, we will be in eternal turmoil, in eternal Kashmir.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere. – Martin Luther King Jr.

Kashmir 1989 – present, hence proved

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