There are reasons why a certain film becomes popular and some controversial. It is not unusual for filmmakers to engineer a controversy to sell the film to the public. The Kashmir Files is both controversial and attracting public attention for totally different reasons. As a film it does not have many things a box office hit should have — matinée idol, super star cast, super hit songs and corresponding screen depiction with the so-called ‘mass’ appeal (a euphemism for vulgarity).
Incidentally, going by the popular norms, The Kashmir Files does not qualify to rake in profits, much less become a box office hit. Yet, the film is doing fairly well.
But the larger question is the storyline and its effect on the people watching it. The film is fictional but the incidents on which it is based are true and part of India’s, and Kashmir’s, recent history. The fact that the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus, also referred to as Kashmiri Pandits, took place cannot be dismissed as a figment of imagination. It was not an ordinary migration as a result of some natural calamity or in search of greener pastures.
Who would leave the cool comforts of a place like Kashmir, give up the caring shades of chinar trees or the energising mountain springs? Not unless one is forced to “leave, convert or die”. And that exactly is what happened in the years beginning from 1989 to around 1995. The worst part of the threat by Islamic fundamentalists and the resultant killings and exodus was in 1990.
Lakhs of Hindus who were driven out of their homes and hearths were first accommodated in refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi and other parts of the country. This was probably the first time in independent India that citizens had to become refugees in their country. The naked dance of Islamic extremism, the vulgar announcements from mosques, the brutal killings, rapes and inhuman executions of women and children are all part of history and lakhs of KPs stand testimony to these brutalities. Therefore, when a filmmaker decides to record this history on celluloid, they deserve to be complimented for their efforts.
Look beyond the film’s flaws
Those who are opposed to this endeavour of presenting a historical tragedy are truly the ones who were either part of the gangs that perpetrated these heinous crimes or guilty of not being able to prevent the crimes. Some of the critics have gone to the extent of calling for a ban on the film. Some have even suggested that the film will polarise the citizens on Hindu-Muslim lines.
It is outrageous to bracket all the Muslims with a motley crowd of Islamic radicals and terrorists who infiltrated from across the border to perpetuate these crimes. Why would any sane person or a responsible political party take a brief to shield such anti-social and anti-national elements or try to camouflage atrocities on Hindus as fiction? Suggestions that many other unfortunate riots and atrocities elsewhere should also be brought out in similar celluloid forms is crass whataboutery that serves no purpose in healing the wounds of KPs.
Likewise, nitpicking on the plot of the film and the minor deviations from facts, as part of creative freedom, will hardly help in building up a case to prevent the film from reaching the audiences. The film may have flaws but dismissing its message is like shooting the messenger.
Meanwhile, the Congress party has asked the government to specify a date by which the displaced Kashmiri Pandits will be rehabilitated. Nothing could be more cretinous and irresponsible than such statements.
Like the issue of abrogation of Articles 370 and 35a, which granted special status to Kashmir, the promise of resettlement of the displaced Hindus has been on top of the agenda of the present ruling party. Incidentally, the Congress had also promised the safe, secure and dignified’ rehabilitation of KPs.
The support to the film and the opposition should be kept out of narrow political vote bank considerations. The sordid episode of Hindus’ exodus from Jammu and Kashmir is a pre-meditated act of terror committed at the behest of forces inimical to our national security and integration. Neither the Kashmiri Pandits nor the country should live with this ignominy of Hindus living in exile in their own country. As such, rehabilitation of Hindus with dignity, compensating their losses and guaranteeing their safety should be the common agenda of all political parties in the larger interest of the security of the nation.
The author is the former editor of ‘Organiser’. He tweets @seshadrichari. Views are personal.
(Edited by Prashant)