Whatever One’s Personal Bias, The Central Theme Of The Movie Cannot Be Contested
Kashmir Files has created a furor. It is among the few Indian movies around which there is hot debate across India and also abroad – wherever there is Indian or Pakistani diaspora. There is appreciation. There is criticism. Everybody has an opinion about it – even those who have not watched it. In the socio-political and media circles, the critics of the movie say Kashmir Files trivializes the issue of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. They charge the makers of the movie with exaggeration of the events and concealing the other side of the story. Everyone has the right to make a film over any historical event. So does Vivek Agnihotri, the writer-director of Kashmir Files. Globally, cinema has fictionalized events in order to present specific narratives. Every film seeks commercial value. It also aims to influence mind space. On both these counts, Kashmir Files is doing well. It is earning handsome revenue. Reports suggest that it is impacting and influencing minds. Thousands from the Kashmiri Pandits community who suffered these terrible times correlate themselves with particular characters in the film. On the political front, the film has created a storm. Even the Prime Minister spoke about it.
THE DEBATE OVER THE MOVIE
The film certainly brings to the fore a vital chapter of Kashmir’s contemporary history. Unfortunately, the debate over the film has been reduced either to statistics or around the communal narrative of Hindu versus Muslim. It is saddening to see the arguments and counterarguments being reduced to the number of killings on either side. The political class of Kashmir is very critical of the film. They draw the comparison of which community has suffered how much by producing figures of those killed by terrorists. There is an attempt by both sides to score brownie political points over the catastrophe. It is naïve to talk about statistics and polarize the atmosphere. Whatever be one’s personal narrative, there is no denying that the Pandits suffered immensely. Equally, there is no denying that the Kashmiri Muslims too suffered immensely. The film should have united the people in acknowledgment. There should have been united response to the condemnation of terrorism. Though late, the majority community in Kashmir should have apologized for being mute through the colossal crisis of 1990, irrespective of their compulsions.
BJP has very limited stakes as a political force in Kashmir. The party should have responded over the issue carefully. But it won’t because it is always in election mode. And in Indian politics everything is fair and nothing is unfair when the ultimate aim is luring electoral support.
In The Fires Of Terror Lighted By Pakistan
Pandits Were Killed For Their Religion
Muslims Were & Are Being Killed For Opposing Jihadist Ideology
As an observer who has watched Kashmir closely, I have reservations regarding the narrative of Kashmiri Muslims versus Kashmiri Pandits which is playing out since the release of Kashmir Files. Constant comparison is being made regarding the numbers of those who fell to the bullets of the terrorists from the majority community of Kashmiri Muslims vis-à-vis the minority community of Kashmiri Pandits. But the fundamental question which needs to be asked is this. Were the Kashmiri Muslims killed by terrorists because they were Muslims? Was it declared on posters for the Kashmiri Muslims: Leave Kashmir or you will be killed? Did the terrorist organization that targeted him issue a statement that the man had been killed solely because he was a Kashmiri Muslim? No. The suffering of the Kashmiri Muslim community can be summed up this way. Kashmiri Muslims are the sufferers of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism not because they were or they are Muslims. They were killed because they didn’t toe the line of the terrorists. They were killed because they didn’t subscribe to deadly radicalism. In hundreds and thousands, they were killed because they identified with one political party in Kashmir, and not with another which drew strength from terror ranks. Religion was not the basis on which the majority community of Kashmir has suffered colossal losses. There were killed and they continue to be killed because they did not toe the line of the terrorists. For over 30 years, Kashmiri Muslims have been killed for their liberal secular outlook which rejects jihadi thought. They are being killed for their ideas and affiliation. They are being killed for not adhering to the ideology that drives terrorism in Kashmir. They are being killed because they earn bread and butter for their families by working with JK Police. They are being killed for rejecting the deadly extremist ideology.
It is in this context that the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits must be seen. There should be honest admission by those who represent public sentiment in any capacity that the human tragedy which fell upon Kashmiri Pandits was solely on account of their religion. Kashmiri Pandits were threatened, intimidated, maimed and killed because they had a different religion. They were killed because their religion was different from what the terrorists claimed to be the guardians of.
Kashmiri Pandits were hounded out of their homes and hearth because they were Hindus and they were in minority. It is not me who is saying this. All of us in the majority community may not acknowledge this, but we are all aware of this. The posters pasted on the houses of the KPs declared this. These slogans echoed from the streets where they lived. The Mullahs screamed this from the mosques, on blaring loudspeakers. The youngsters influenced by deadly exclusivist ideology shouted this. Last but not the least, the political narrative was this.
NO ONE CONSOLED THE PANDITS WHEN THEY NEEDED IT THE MOST
Another important distinction which we need to understand is that there was no one to console the minority community of Kashmir at the time when they needed it the most. I must speak about the sympathy and empathy of some members of the majority Muslim community towards their Pandit neighbors. Some counted a few helped their Pandit friends. Most just conveyed their helplessness with the prevailing situation of terror. For many, even the expression of helplessness was cosmetic and ceremonial. Many in Kashmir are saying that Kashmir Files distorts reality. Many are claiming that it concocts stories to deepen the horror. Others are stating that it conceals the other side of the story. Whatever be one’s personal belief, narrative, or bias, the central theme of Kashmir Files cannot be contested.