The Kashmir Files making resident Kashmiri Pandits feel unsafe
“The Kashmir Files makes resident Kashmiri Pandits unsafe,” said the Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS), which has been closely observing the hate generated online and offline soon after the Bollywood movie was released. The Samiti is an organisation that has for decades worked to address the concerns of resident Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus who have stayed back in the Valley.
The Kashmir Files, directed by Vivek Agnihotri is based on the trials and tribulations of the Kashmiri Pandit community that was forced to leave their homes in wake of a Pakistan sponsored intimidation campaign in the region in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, in 2022, it has presented a dramatised version of the narrative, painting Muslims as villians, and glossing over the responses or the lack of responses of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supported government of that time. This is what the resident Kashmiri Pandits are hoping that the viewers understand before the onground situation takes a violent turn.
As the hate continues to brew, it is also making the Kashmiri Pandits, as well as Muslims feel more vulnerable and unsafe now. This is especially true in the aftermath of this controversial film.
Squarely blaming the government, KPSS president and Human Rights Defender Sanjay Tickoo has often asked, where is the security for KP families in the Valley?
Tickoo told SabrangIndia that while the incidents of attacks in the film did happen, the way they have been “dramatised” is wrong. “Another mistake they made is connecting abrogation of Article 370 to this [narrative], and it shows the entire Muslims as jihadi, that is wrong. In 1990 there were local militants, our hamsayas, then when the massacres started Pakistani [terrorists] were involved,” he said.
According to Tickoo, the hate going on in the past few days, as seen on social media, is being generated by those who “do not have a stake in Kashmir”. He further said, “It is the non Kashmiri Pandits who are chanting Jai Sree Ram slogans,” and therefore they are not the ones generating the divisive discourse.
The Kashmiri Pandits have never chanted this slogan traditionally, revealed Tickoo. “We chant the name of Krishna Bhagwan when we take out the jhanki (procession), chant hare ram hare ram, ramm ramm hare hare on Shivatarty; all prayers are for Bhagwan Shankar,” he says adding that the slogans like ‘jai shree ram’ used now were not uttered before the 1900. The Kashmiri Pandits who moved away to other states, heard these there in the mixed culture they were exposed to. “Never in Kashmir, not even now,” he says.
Ironically, the 808 Kashmiri Pandit families who are still living in the Valley have not seen the movie. “All the cinema halls are shut here,” said Tickoo, “Those outside are all seeing it.”
Reflecting further on ground realities, Tickoo said, “Not even one Kashmiri Pandit has returned to live in the valley after the abrogation of Article 370. Those claiming otherwise are lying.”
From Jammu’s Jagti township that was built in 2011 where about 4,000 displaced Kashmiri pandit families currently reside. According to a BBC report, the Pandits are saying that “even after three decades, the central and state governments could not ensure” their safe return home. They asked, “Why did the then National Front government not protect us?”
The hate generated by this movie in 2022, is being called out by many as “getting ready for the 2024 elections” so it can be claimed to the world “that there has been atrocities against Kashmiri Pandits” reported BBC quoting Sunil Pandita, a social worker who lives in Jagti Camp. “Pakistan devastated us in 1990, targeting us among terrorists sponsored by Pakistan and non-Muslims living in Kashmir. BJP people have been telling everyone for a few days, ‘Congress has done all this’,” he said, asking if the people were told which government was at the centre? He clarified, “The Janata Dal was supported by the BJP from outside and VP Singh was the Prime Minister.”
The residents told the BBC, “From 1990 till today, only films have been made in our name and nothing has happened…We have been used everywhere since 1990 till now, just like a 'political tissue paper'. Even today, the same is happening. From government officials to media and politicians have sold us everywhere. How long will this continue to happen? We want a permanent solution, want to return to our homes, nothing else."
Pandita told the BBC that “from 1990 till today, the people of the civil society worked hard to reduce the distance between us and the people of Kashmir, but because of this film, those distances have increased.”
The families reiterated that those still living in the valley are scared, “They are afraid that something will happen. Let no untoward incident happen.” According to the news report, Pandita said he too was also getting threats in Jammu,. He said, "I want to ask the Indian government that when our migration happened in 1990, then the government was also responsible for it. Why did they not protect us at that time. From where 30,000 to 50,000 people used to come to our village at that time. Slogans were raised, slogans of Kashmir's independence were raised, but the government was nowhere to be seen. It was just a failure of the Indian government.”
The news report quoted him asking, "How such a large quantity of weapons from across the border came inside the border of India. Whatever the government says, for 32 years we have been searching for our nest, we will not get it so soon and if such films are made they will be available only on both sides. Will create distance between people and nothing else."
Another resident Jagti township, Pyare Lal Pandita, was quoted by the BBC saying, “The film narrates an incomplete story of Kashmir,” and, “Along with Kashmiri Pandits, people belonging to the Muslim and Sikh community of Kashmir were also displaced but they are not mentioned anywhere in this story.”
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