Women living in the South Asian conflict zone of Kashmir have been represented by mainstream media and film as mainly victims of the Indian state power’s political and sexual violence, as protestors who are supporting their men’s insurgency in Kashmir, or as aligned with local Islamic militant groups. This obscures their nuanced testimonies, political objectives, and multivalent agencies within the conflict zone. The author shows how Vishal Bharadwaj’s 2014 film Haider, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, disrupts such erasures to highlight Kashmiri women’s lived experiences in the conflict zone at intersections of everyday and extraordinary violence. By close reading scenes from the film via cinematic structure, dialogue, acting, camerawork, and mise-en-scène, the author shows how Haider not only mounts a scathing critique of the Indian occupation of Kashmir but also underscores the need for more capacious considerations of postcolonial feminisms as emergent from lived experiences versus adhering to established checklists approved by Euro-American feminism. The film’s investments in its female protagonists—Ghazala and Arshia—more than the men also uncovers the former’s redefinitions of azadi (freedom) as not just about Kashmiri political autonomy from India and Pakistan but also about nonviolence, equality, and justice for women and by extension all marginalized populations in Kashmir.

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