Workshopping in Kashmir
Pandies has been doing the impossible, doing theatre in one of the hottest, continuous conflict torn zones in the world, Kashmir. Extremely challenging and almost incredible. And pandies has been doing it with the warring communities, the Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmir Pandits together. Primarily in partnership with the Kashmir based organisation Yakjah, and spread over fifteen years, pandies pioneer (almost exclusive) theatre work in the conflict torn zone of Kashmir forms an important chapter in the history of theatre.
In the preceding fifty years, theatre in war has emerged as a sub genre in itself. Does theatre have a special place in zones of conflict? Does it acquire special meanings when it takes place in times of war? The two together would seem to constitute an oxymoron, it seems impossible to do theatre in times of war. Pandies workshop theatre in Kashmir exists in an intersectional zone - workshop theatre on the one hand and intrepid theatre in zones of war and conflict ops the other.
It critiques war, looks at the people who suffer during war, making a critique in the Brechtian mode, shows the anti people aspect of wars. Distancing them from the immediacy of destruction it tries to mitigate the amount of suffering. Ambitiously it even tries to get the warring peoples together to see each others point of view. Taking a developmental veneer and focusing on the next generation, it looks forward to a more cooperative future.
Today as we sit in a post 370 abrogation India, it becomes essential to recount the 14 years of intense praxis of workshop theatre in Kashmir by the pandies. A complex of socio-political happenings provides the context for pandies theatre in Kashmir (2000-2014). In Kashmir’s history these are the years of Mufti Muhammad Syed’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) taking over the government reigns in Kashmir. These are also the years that witness increased militancy in the valley – brutal violence and brutal suppression. In India’s political history these years chronicle the increasing stranglehold of the BJP-led NDA over the national politics (1999 - 2004) and then the re-emergence of the centrist UPA, led by the Indian National Congress (2004 -2009 and 2009 - 2014) to only give way again to the NDA with its supremacist politics. It also seeks its co-ordinates in the pandies’ increasingly aggressive position against right wing fundamentalism.
- 2001 onwards - Workshops with youth in Kashmir valley and Jammu. Separate work with Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits
- 2002 November Theatre Festival including plays from Jammu at British Council, Delhi.
- 2003 December pandies festival at Dilli Haas, Delhi, having plays by youth from Delhi and from Jammu and from orphanages of Kashmir.
- 2005 June A rare combined 6 day theatre workshop of youth, Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits. It culminated in a performance in Srinagar on the 8th day
- 2011 August Jammu University Bhaderwah campus. Three day workshop for college teachers and students
- 2014 April Sonamarg: Rehab workshop theatre with Stone pelters from Sopore
The first integrated phase of theatre in Kashmir can be located from 1999 to 2005. It started with sporadic workshops in Jammu and the Kashmir valley, moved on through a series of festivals of plays in Delhi to a rarest of rare combine workshop of Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims in Gulmarg to intermittent creative exercises including an extremely rewarding experience in the Bhaderwah University. and a workshop with (in)famous stone pelters of Sopore.
Difficult to measure, this is a theatre of possibility, opens possibilities of political solutions, it remains incomplete in the traction of all great theatre. Not about impact but possible methodologies of getting on not there.