Omair Hasan* counters the Bollywood narrative which, he argues, is an attempt to further polarize the country and a disservice to the cause of Kashmiri Pandits
I was about three year old when the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley happened. I have very little memory of the incident. But the story of their migration came in front of me in various forms. As I grew, I realized a couple of houses in my neighbourhood were always deserted. Those were the houses of Pandits who left during the 1990 violence.
I also came across many other stories of violence against them. Nobody can justify the atrocity and violence which happened on them. But weaponising those tragic incidents against Kashmiri Muslims is also not justified.
I saw The Kashmir Files and I seriously doubt the intention of the movie. It is a farrago of disinformation. A complete distortion of facts; a misrepresentation of history and a vicious propaganda.
Every incident has been presented in the movie in a way with an agenda. If we start with the death toll, 89 Kashmiri Pandits were killed in attacks since the inception of militancy in 1990, according to the government data. The movie completely evades the data on the number of killings.
There are various scenes in the movie which show the massacre but never address the number of deaths or what led to the start of killings.
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In his book Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years, AS Dulat addresses the reason behind the start of killings. He writes that some Pandits were on the payrolls of Intelligence Bureau which he was heading. He also goes on to name some of them who were killed. This vindicates the position taken by militant groups that they were not targeting Pandits in general but had selective targets not linked to their religion but for their affiliations with Indian Intelligence.
This thus debunks and punctures the Indian state’s propaganda to shame Kashmiri resistance movement. I believe that the intention behind hiding the numbers and reason in the movie was to obfuscate people than to make them aware of the event.
Another distorted fact which has been shown in the movie is Kashmiri Pandits demanding removal of Article 370 in 1990. It is laughable. Why were Pandits demanding the removal of Article 370 then, when it also suited them as much as it suits Kashmiri Muslims?
Now let’s talk about slogans used in the movie. Slogan has always been a big part of any movement and so it has been in Kashmir. But the film shows some false slogans that was never a part of the public movement in Kashmir. The film shows Kashmiri crowd raising slogans like “Ralive, Tsaliv ya Galive (convert to Islam, leave the place or perish).” This is completely false. It was never a part of the ‘Kashmir movement’ in its entire history.
According to the movie, all Kashmiri Muslims support Pakistan, including Abdullahs and Muftis. The fun fact for readers of this article is that the so-called nationalist BJP has formed many governments with these so-called Pakistani supporters both at the Centre and in Kashmir.
The movie hails the present government at the Centre as if this is the first time the BJP government has come to power since 1990. I would like to remind people that in these 32 years, the BJP government has remained in power at the Centre for 14 years. We must not forget that it also formed government in Kashmir too. In these years, how many Pandits have been resettled in Kashmir?
Injustice has happened to Pandits but we can’t do justice to them with this kind of propaganda by building anti-Kashmiri narratives. Such kind of movie will further polarise the country and anger of people will be vented out on innocent Kashmiri students who are studying in universities and colleges in different parts of the country. These students have nothing to do with things which happened when they were not even born or were very young and had no say in the politics of the state.
Whether Pandits or Muslims, I think Kashmir is the real victim here. It has been victim for many centuries and still fighting the battle.
As told to Md Tausif Alam
* Hasan declined to share his picture for safety reasons. Respecting his wish, we have used a representational picture