‘Kashmir Files Is A Political Ploy To Demonize Muslims’

Majid Maqbool, a senior journalist from Srinagar, saysthe movie seeks to selectively exploit the tragedy of Kashmiri Pandits and promote hatred

The Kashmir Files has been released at a time when Kashmir remains besieged, post August 5, 2019, following the unilateral abrogation of Article 370 by the ruling BJP government in New Delhi and further downgrading of the former state into a Union Territory. This has been followed by a six-month long lockdown and communications shutdown and world’s longest internet shutdown, which, suddenly, disconnected people from each other and the outside world for months.

Since then the Indian State, under the current regime, has tightened its grip and sought to curb all forms of independent media, civil society engagements, and political voices across the spectrum, including the local media. This has virtually compelled them to either remain silent or toe the line of the ruling dispensation.

Draconian laws like the PSA and UAPA continue to be slapped against civil society activists and journalists and anyone who dares to raise his or her voice against the many injustices normalized in the Valley are hounded, punished and put into prison.

Predictably, the film is a brazen attempt to selectively exploit the tragedies of one community – the Kashmiri Pandits of Jammu and Kashmir. This community is shown as the only victim in the state, and the other community, the Kashmiri Muslims, is further demonized and projected as the perpetrators.

ALSO READ: ‘Kashmir Files Is A Farrago Of Disinformation’

The fact is that the film was openly promoted by the ruling party and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and, other BJP ministers and rightwing groups.  This was a clear message to the people of India to watch the film and thereby proves the political intent behind the making of this kind of biased cinema.

The Kashmir Files is a political project to further demonize Kashmiri Muslims and Indian Muslims at a time when they are already politically dispossessed and repressed by the State. Certainly, they are being attacked ritualistically, and are being treated as second class citizens. The assault on Muslims and their religious places during the auspicious occasion of Ram Navami, especially in certain BJP-ruled states, is a transparent pointer.

Contrary to the relentless hate politics and anti-Kashmiri propaganda by certain sections of Kashmiri Pandits in public forums and media, the besieged people in Kashmir, across all communities, Hindus and Muslims, are not consumed by so-called ‘anti-KP’ hatred. They are largely sympathetic to their condition and desire their return home without their pain being politically exploited and used by the rightwing political forces.

While growing up in Kashmir, I have never heard a single Kashmiri Muslim not fervently wanting the return of Kashmiri Pandits to their homes — however, not in separate, isolated and ghettos protected by security forces. This would only sharpen the divides and disconnects among both the communities and block all forms of meaningful individual and collective engagements. Over the years, the return of the KPs has been politicized and exploited by parties like the BJP to further their political agendas, instead of making genuine efforts for their welfare and rehabilitation. 

The film has intentionally fictionalized and exploited old, simmering wounds of the Pandits. The rightwing groups and parties have tried to further stoke anti-Muslim sentiments by invoking this film in their hate speeches to demonize and marginalize the Muslim community at large in India. Not surprisingly, the film has allegedly done good business at the box office, creating an easy template to replicate in future and a dangerous business and cinematic model of monetizing and marketing hate.

As told to Amit Sengupta

Govt Owes Kashmiris

‘The Kashmir Files is A Farrago of Disinformation; A Propaganda’

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.

ALSO READ: Kashmir Files Brings Alive Our Pain & Plight

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

Kashmiri Pandit

‘The Kashmir Files Brings Alive Our Pain And Plight’

Ashwani Kachru, a Kashmiri Pandit staying in Gr Noida, says the movie also exposes the political and intellectual ignorance about his community’s struggle

First and foremost, I wish to congratulate Vivek Agnihotri, the director of The Kashmir Files, from the bottom of my heart. Never ever before this movie, the facts about the forced and violent migration of Kashmiri Pandits were laid out before the rest of the country so realistically.

Some of the scenes in the movie brought alive my own frightening memories of the 1990s. My house was located barely one km from the spot where four Air Force personnel were shot dead in Srinagar by terrorists. Other scenes of selective killings of Kashmiri Pandits; the horrific announcements made from places of worship against non-Muslims and; the Hindu families from the Valley living in fear… as shown in the movie, left me in cold sweat.

Agnihotri has the heart to call a spade a spade. This was not an exodus; this was a genocide – premeditated ethnic cleansing of Pandits from the crown of India. Radical Islamic groups supported from within the country and across the border distinctly targeted a peace-loving community in Kashmir and the unfortunate part is that all this happened in a free and democratic India.

Yet, no one in over three decades every talked openly about the pain and tragedy of the victims; in fact repeated attempts were made by the previous governments, terrorist sympathisers, liberal thinkers and the so-called intellectuals to misguide the people of India on this issue and to cover up the real face of a radicalised movement.

ALSO READ: ‘Kashmir Will Never Be Same Without Pandits’

I am glad, the issue is now being talked and how! The filmmakers have done justice to our sufferings by revealing the truth. Simultaneously, they have also exposed the brain-washed Kashmiris involved in our killings, a couldn’t-care-less government machinery, a section of the deaf and dumb media, and the intelligentsia.

Communal harmony is the proven culture of India since centuries and this could not be digested by terror sympathizers who want to dismantle the several thousand years old Indian secular structure.

I often wondered why those people in power kept quiet to our situation. It seems as if these people and organisations were funded to prove the terrorists in the Valley innocent. Spineless governments and judiciary never showed the courage to act against such anti-national elements.

Through your columns, let me also congratulate the state governments who have made this movie tax free, this will definitely help in conveying the message to a large section of our society.

I recently read media reports that a political leader, an ally of the Congress party in Assam, has demanded a ban on this movie. I feel the Congress party has remained at the centre of many major problems that India is facing today. Their declining vote share is a clear indication that the new and young Indians don’t want to continue with their policies any longer.

As told to Deepti Sharma