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‘Aim is to give youngsters entertainment’: Kashmir to get big screen back with 1st multiplex

Most theatres in Kashmir were shut due to diktats issued by militant groups in late 1980s & 1990s to limit access of local residents to Indian cinema, says a former DGP.

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Srinagar: Kashmir will finally get its first-ever multiplex as the Cantonment Board, Srinagar, last week granted permission for its construction.

The licence, however, will only be issued after the construction of the building is complete, which might take another 8-9 months, said senior Jammu and Kashmir administration officials.

This apart, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation has also granted permission to the owner of the famous single-screen theatre, Naaz Cinema, to renovate the building into a multiplex, said a senior J&K official.

At present, the officials said, only 2-3 single-screen theatres are functional in Kashmir, while the rest are either shut or occupied by paramilitary forces.

Most of the theatres in Kashmir were shut due to diktats issued by militant groups in the late 1980s and 1990s in a bid to limit access of local residents to Bollywood and Indian cinema, a former DGP of J&K told ThePrint.

It was Satyapal Malik, the last governor of the erstwhile state of J&K, who had said in June 2019 that efforts were on to open a multiplex in the Valley to provide the residents some source of entertainment.

The senior J&K official mentioned above told ThePrint the first multiplex in Kashmir will be constructed by M/S Taksal Hospitality Pvt Ltd owned by Vikas Dhar and Vishal Dhar on a piece of land owned by them in Srinagar’s Badami Bagh Cantonment area. The Dhar family also runs the Delhi Public School branches in the union territory.

“The building is likely to be completed in the next one year as the two-storey structure of the proposed 5-storey has been completed as per Cantonment Board permission,” said the official, who didn’t want to be named.

“A licence u/s 11 of The Cinematograph Act can be granted only after completion of the building and mandatory clearances after final inspection by PWD, fire services and disaster management (officials). The licence is pending and will only be issued after the proposed building is complete,” added the official.

When ThePrint reached Vikas Dhar for a comment on the matter, he said: “We felt that youth here has never received anything in the last 30 years. These youngsters have not received any entertainment. Basically a child here or a young man here should have the same facility that is available in Jammu.”

Asked to comment on how the people of Kashmir would respond to the idea of a multiplex coming up in the Valley, Dhar said: “The purpose is not that it should be commercially successful or not. My aim is to give youngsters entertainment, which I am sure they will like more than watching Netflix at home. Whether it is a security risk or not is to be decided by people who are going to watch the movie.”


Also read: Jammu and Kashmir’s biannual Darbar Move is bleeding India. Must stop now


Controversy over opening of liquor shops

The development with regard to multiplexes comes in the wake of a controversy over the union territory administration’s reported move regarding issuance of fresh liquor licences in unserved areas. 

At present, J&K has 224 wine shops with 220 in Jammu and four in Kashmir, where shops, due to militant threats, run from high-security zone areas.

The excise department carried out a survey and identified 183 new locations — 116 in Jammu and 67 in Kashmir — for sale of liquor. The department had sought approval for e-auction of sale points from the finance department. 

But it resulted in an outrage by local residents on social media, accusing the administration of hurting sentiments of the population as sale and consumption of liquor is forbidden in Islam.

Subsequently, the J&K administration was Sunday forced to issue a statement. “The Finance department has NOT taken any policy decision regarding issuance of fresh liquor licences in unserved areas. NO list of unserved areas has either been considered or approved. No decision will be taken without participation of stakeholders and due process,” it said.

“We have not issued licences and a final decision is yet to be taken. As of now only a survey has been done,” another senior government official said. 

Rohit Kansal, J&K administration spokesperson, said: “Urge everyone not to believe any rumours or half-baked news.”

Kashmir’s ‘love-hate’ relationship with cinema

The possibility of the opening of liquor shops was condemned by the National Conference, with party leader Aga Ruhullah Mehdi describing the move as a “cultural invasion”.

“Are these the big development projects (construction of multiplexes and setting up of liquor shops) they were talking about? It turns out that the big developmental projects they were talking about (after the scrapping of Article 370) was actually all about a cultural invasion that they had been planning,” he told ThePrint.

“Kashmir being a Muslim-majority state is hostile to the decision they are planning to take or have taken. It is a very insensitive plan (opening of liquor shops) they are unleashing on us. We can draw a parallel to a hypothetical situation that if someone imposes a law or plan to open beef shops in Hindu-majority places. Isn’t it equivalent to that?” Mehdi told ThePrint.

The former J&K DGP mentioned above, meanwhile, said cinemas and Kashmir share a “love-hate” relationship. 

“There have been multiple attempts to revive cinema in Kashmir. In 1996-97, the Farooq Abdullah-led government had also contemplated the same when militant activities came down. However, late 90s saw an emergence of fidayeen groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba after which militancy witnessed a spike,” said the retired officer.

“At the same time it was the screening of Lion of the Desert (a film based on Libyan tribal leader and Bedouin guerrilla fighter Omar Mukhtar’s war against Italy) that had led to riots in Kashmir. A perception was given that Kashmiris realised that Sheikh Abdullah had compromised Kashmir’s future by entering into an arrangement with Indian government,” he added. 

A second administration official, however, said projects (such as multiplexes) will not just be a source of entertainment, but also help in generating employment.


Also read: Five militants killed by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian


 

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9 COMMENTS

  1. No studies for almost a year now. And they want to entertain youngsters. We are living in lala land.

  2. There will be no peace on Earth until they modify the Jihadi verses in the holy book. Just google

    4.24 women are inferior, whip them if you fear rebellion.

    8.39 , 5.53 , 9.5 and others kill the idol worshipers wherever you find them

  3. We need Big libraries not cinemas. We need good environment to live. We need military free region. We want to live peacefully. India please leave us alone. For God sake.

  4. Don’t need to open cinema for jihadis.

    They will use the building to rape, plunder, murder Kashmiri Hindus just like they used the mosques during Hindu genocide and cleansing of 90s.

  5. Well their religion permits violence and killings but consumption of Alcohol is not allowed what a bullshit
    This is the breed that was breed to be jihad’s for 72 hoors

    • The whole world knows who is the violent one in Kashmir. The ones involved in rape, torture, extra judicial murders, loot, burning of villages and killing of children. Any guesses here from 100 Rs paid RSS trolls?

      • This is your real face. U can block roads, burn properties, but don’t have balls to call them terrorist. Feel u are not more than 50 rupees stone thrower or road blocker for biryani.

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