April 18, 2014

Pen World Voices Festival: A Guide to The Djinns of Eidgah

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On Wednesday, April 30, The Play Company will present a public reading of The Djinns of Eidgah by Abhishek Majumdar, as part of The Pen World Voices:  International Play Festival.  The presentation begins at 7:30 at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center and is fee and open to the public on a first come first serve basis.

In The Djinns of Eidgah, Indian playwright Abhishek Majumdar examines the effects of the decades long Kashmir conflict on contemporary teenagers coming of age in the war-torn region.  The play is set in the Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian State of Jammur and Kashmir.  Famous for it’s lakes, houseboats and Kashmiri handicrafts it is also the setting of frequent clashes between the predominantly Muslim population and Indian security forces.  The djinn in the play’s title refers to the race of spirit beings that, according to Muslim folklore, can be either good or evil and are capable of possessing humans.  The djinn prefer to live in places not inhabited by man, such as a deserts, ruins or graveyards.  The Eigdah is an open air mosque on the outskirts of a town where the faithful go to offer up Eid, the celebratory prayer that marks the close of Ramadan.  The Eidgah portrayed in Majumdar’s play is a graveyard for martyrs and perhaps haunted by the djinn.

When the British withdrew from the subcontinent in 1947 the region was divided primarily between Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India, but the status of Kashmir remained unresolved.   Under the 1947 partition plan, Kashmir was free to accede to either India or Pakistan.  Kashmir’s Hindu Maharaja decided to accede his Muslim dominated region to India and the region has been disputed every since.

The Rajouri region of the Kashmir Valley.

The Rajouri region of the Kashmir Valley.

For more detail on Kashmir’s troubled history here’s a timeline of important events:

1947 – End of British rule and partition of sub-continent into mainly Hindu India and the Muslim-majority state of Pakistan.

1947 – The Maharaja of Kashmir signs a treaty of accession with India after a Pakistani tribal army attacks. War breaks out between India and Pakistan over the region.

1948 – At India’s behest the UN Security Council passes Resolution 47 calling for a referendum on the status of the territory, for Pakistan to withdraw its troops, and India to scale back its military. A ceasefire comes into force, but Pakistan refuses to evacuate its troops, leaving Kashmir essentially partitioned.

1951 – Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir elects to accede to India. India claims that the election makes a referendum unnecessary, but the UN and Pakistan say a referendum needs to take into account voters throughout the former state.

1953 – Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah, leader of the governing National Conference, takes a pro-referendum stance and delays formal accession to India, leading to his arrest and removal from office by Indian officials.  A new Jammu and Kashmir government ratifies accession to India.

1957 – The constitution of Indian-administrated Jammu and Kashmir defines it as part of India.

1950sChina gradually occupies eastern Kashmir (Aksai Chin).

1962 – China defeats India in a short war over Aksai Chin.

1963 – Pakistan cedes the Trans-Karakoram Tract of Kashmir to China.

Detail of the Kashmir region.

Detail of the Kashmir region.

1965 – India and Pakistan fight a short war over Kashmir ending in a ceasefire and a return to the previous positions.

1971-72 – Pakistan again loses a war to India, leading to the 1972 Simla Agreement. The Agreement defines Kashmir’s ceasefire line as the new Line of Control, pledges both sides to settle their differences through negotiations, and calls for a final settlement of the Kashmir dispute. The Agreement forms the basis of future Pakistani-Indian relations.

1974 – Jammu and Kashmir’s Opposition Plebiscite Front reaches an agreement with the Indian government and drops its demand for a referendum in return for extensive autonomy.

1984 – The Indian Army seizes control of the Siachen Glacier, an area not demarcated by the Line of Control. Pakistan makes frequent failed attempts to capture the area in the following decades.

1987 – Disputed state elections in Jammu and Kashmir give rise to a pro-independence insurgency led by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). India accuses Pakistan of fomenting the insurgency by dispatching fighters across the Line of Control, which Pakistan denies.

1990 – The insurgency escalates after the Indian Army kills about 100 demonstrators at Gawakadal Bridge. Attacks and threats lead to the flight of almost all Hindus from the Kashmir Valley area of the state. India imposes Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir. Throughout the decade, the insurgency continues, with Kashmiri militants training in Pakistan and India deploying hundreds of thousands of troops in Jammu and Kashmir. Violence against civilians by both sides is widespread.

1999 – India and Pakistan go to war again after militants cross from Pakistani-administered Kashmir into the Indian-administered Kargil district. India repulses the attack, accuses Pakistan of being behind it, and breaks off relations.

2001-2004 – Despite efforts to improve relations between the two countries outbreaks of violence continue, including an attack on the parliament of Jammu and Kashmir in Srinagar in 2001.

2010 – Major protests erupt in the Kashmir Valley of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir after a demonstrator is killed by the Indian army. After many months the government announce measures to ease tensions and the protests abate.

2011 August – Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announces an amnesty for the 1,200 young men who threw stones at security forces during the anti-government protests in the Kashmir Valley the previous year.  Indian State Human Rights Commission confirms the presence of more than 2,000 unidentified bodies in unmarked graves near the Line of Control. Activists say many may be people who disappeared after being arrested by security forces.

2011 September – Indian forces kill three Pakistani soldiers in firing across the Line of Control. India accuses Pakistan of opening fire first.

2012 August – The Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, says that the security situation there is not yet conducive to the revoking of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the state.

2012 September – Newly elected Indian President Pranab Mukherjee visits Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. Despite the threat of protests from separatists, the visit passes off without serious incident.

2013 March – Curfew imposed in Indian-administered Kashmir following a day of violence in which at least eight people were killed.

2013 September – Prime ministers of India and Pakistan meet and agree to try reduce the number of violent incidents at their disputed border in Kashmir.

Author: buzzadmin
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