Kashmiri Pandits Refute Communal Claims Made in The Kashmir Files
Over the week, right-wing media enthusiastically hailed The Kashmir Files for voicing the grievances of the Kashmiri Hindus or Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) who also were forced to flee their homes during the Kashmir insurgency in the late 80s and early 90s. At the same time, the very community in question expressed fear many times in the last seven days about the possible repercussions of the movie.
The Kashmir Files narrated an evocative story about the plight of KPs around 1989. However, as balanced reviews came in, it appeared that the movie had glossed over many facts and nuances to only focus on the state of Hindus in the region, ignoring the Sikh and Muslim community that also suffered greatly at the time. What's worse, though the insurgency was sponsored by Pakistan, the movie squarely blames Indian Muslims for it!
Most recently, Director Vivek Agnihotri claimed 4,000 KPs were killed during the exodus without offering any means to verify this number. Over time, official government data, RTI enquiries, unofficial data by extremist and genuinely-invested groups such as the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS) have brought to light how the deaths range from 219 (official data) to as many as 650 deaths (unofficial data by KPSS). However, no source has ever cited deaths in the thousands.
This fact was even called out by ‘Kashmirnama’ author Ashok Kumar Pandey who posted a half an hour video on YouTube criticising the portrayal of history in the movie.
Pandey also talked about how the ‘Al Safa’ newspaper was described as a supporter of terrorism in The Kashmir Files when in reality Editor Shaban Vakil was murdered by terrorists on March 23, 1991. Earlier, on September 22, 1990 – a year after the exodus – 23 KPs jointly wrote a letter to the Vakil. In it, the writers alleged that the exodus was a planned conspiracy. They accused Governor Jagmohan of making the community a scapegoat for the benefit of “Hindu communal organisations like the BJP, RSS and the Shiv Sena in connivance with the state administration.” Writers said that the Muslim and Hindu communities were living amicably and happily as neighbours until some self-styled leaders of the KP community created trouble. The entire letter may be read below:
Considering that this letter was written by the very community that the movie is based on, it was not surprising that the organisation invested in the benefit of KPs said the movie made residing Kashmiri Hindus feel unsafe.
During an interview, KPSS President and Human Rights Defender Sanjay Tickoo blamed the government for the hate-spreading, generated only by the non-Kashmiri Pandits who, he says “do not have a stake in Kashmir”. Among the many criticisms, he pointed out how the movie connected the attacks to the abrogation of Article 370 and portrayed Muslims as jihadi. Tickoo also revealed a great irony that the movie touted as representing Kashmiri Hindus is still not shown in the Valley.
Further, a BBC report that included interviews of various Kashmiri Pandits showed that the community was in fact unimpressed by the movie. Many people called it out for mixing or skipping facts, while others asked why the movie completely side-lined Muslim and Sikh communities’ tortures.
Civilians accused politicians of hailing the movie only to use it as a “stunt” for the 2024 elections. Some people even asked other directors to create a more nuanced movie depicting the real horror of the exodus and insurgency. Many of them were actual survivors, who witnessed the attacks.
Despite multiple cinema reviews decrying the movie for its communal sentiments, The Kashmir Files has been endorsed by Union and State Ministers alike including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Left with no other choice, the KP community has taken it upon themselves to maintain the communal harmony among the two communities in question and discourage the hate created by the film. Some videos show KP community members vocally decrying the movie in theatre halls for its damaging impact.
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