(66 mins., 2003, English/Hindi with English subtitles)
Co-sponsored by Asia Society's Asian Social Issues Program and Breakthrough
April 14, 2004
Sonia Jabbar, filmmaker
Farooq Kathwari, Chairman and CEO, Ethan Allen Inc and Chairman, Kashmir Study Group
Maya Chadda, professor of political science, research fellow at Columbia University's Southern Asian Institute
Mallika Dutt, Executive Director, Breakthrough (Moderator)
The suffering of four displaced women who now live in Kashmir was the subject of a stark and sobering documentary April 14 at the Asia Society. Reporter and activist Sonia Jabbar introduced Autumn's Final Country as "not a film on the Kashmir problem." But the underlying concern of both audience and panel participants was the recent hope for a settlement of the Kashmir conflict.
Autumn's Final Country was originally recorded by Ms. Jabbar as testimony for the South Asia Court of Women in Dakha in August 2003. The Asia Human Rights Council had asked her to arrange for some Kashmiri women to come to Dakha to testify about how they came to be displaced. Unable to afford the cost of transporting the women, Ms. Jabbar bought a camera and became a quick learn on filmmaking in order to transport their stories to the Court.
Her four subjects were from disparate backgrounds but were all cruelly impacted by religious or political conflict. The stories tell of Indu, an English teacher living in Kashmir, who fled her comfortable family home in Srinagar when religious violence flared. Although settled and employed for the last two decades in Kashmir, this Hindu woman still calls Srinagar home. Zarina was brought from Bangladesh to Kashmir by a family friend, only to be sold as a young bride who quickly became the virtual slave of a two-wife family. Shahnaz was abducted as a young girl, kept and then raped by Kashmir guerillas, only to be"saved" and raped by Indian police, who turned her into an informant. This Muslim woman lives from hand to mouth, as no man will marry her given her past. And finally we meet Anju, a young Hindu adolescent living in a refugee camp in Jammu, who fled her family home along the Pakistani border when its army shelled her village in attempts to destroy a nearby Indian army outpost. She and her mother and grandmother go back to the house with care to tend the shrine to her father, killed in the escape.
The discussion following the documentary centered on the continuing conflict in Kashmir and the most recent hopes for peace. The previous evening at Asia Society, a panel including India and Pakistan's Permanent Representatives to the United Nations discussed in amicable terms their mutual desires for peace. Sitting on that panel as well as the documentary's panel was Farooq Kathwari, chairman and CEO of Ethan Allen Inc, the international furniture concern, and chairman of the Kashmir Study Group, an influential political lobbyist organization for the resolution of the Kashmir conflict.