Of Poems and Prophesies
January 12 – February 23, 2003
1947 marked the birth of two nations, India and Pakistan, as British colonial rule was transferred to sovereign states that together formed the bulk of what was once British India. The states were partitioned along religious differences with India’s population being largely Hindu and Pakistan’s Muslim. Amongst the obstacles, however, were 565 princely states scattered throughout the region that, although under British rule, did not belong to British India proper. A lapse in colonial authority meant these states would technically regain their independence. The months leading up to partition were filled with intense diplomatic wrangling as these states were given the option to join either India or Pakistan. All but 11 joined India.
The consolidation process wasn’t always smooth. In October of 1947, when Pathan tribes-men from Pakistan threatened to overrun the Kashmir valley, its Maharaja requested military assistance from India which granted the request only after he signed documents acceeding the territory, with its largely Muslim population, to India. Troops were flown in, the raiders were pushed out of the valley and a ceasefire zone established. After agreeing to refer the border dispute to the United Nations, the Indian government also promised to hold a plebiscite, a regional election in which Kashmir’s populace would decide to whom they would pledge allegiance. Also part of the cease-fire agreement was the understanding that Pakistan would withdraw its forces from the area. Neither side fulfilled its commitment.
According to the work of New Delhi-based filmmaker Amar Kanwar, the conflict in Kashmir represents a border anxiety running throughout India. For Kanwar, this political crisis is but one example of the country’s many unresolved social and political tensions. The exhibition will feature three of Kanwar’s films which are a mixture of documentary, poetic travelogue, and visual essay.