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Nadav Lapid, your Kashmir Files remark achieved what the Left couldn’t—denial of Pandit agony

Lapid reminds me of many western intellectuals who have argued that Jews lie about anti-Semitism and routinely exaggerate violence against them.

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Dear Nadav Lapid

I am not well-acquainted with the world of Avant-Garde cinema. I am told that you are a shining star in that community. In that capacity, you were, I believe, recently invited to chair a jury in a film festival held in my country.

I too have been a member of juries, admittedly not in exalted art circles like the ones you inhabit. The general rule that everyone of the not-so-exalted juries that I was a member of, was that we chose winners and runners-up and we praised them. We were conscious that the others, the “losers” must in any case be feeling bad. We invariably stayed silent about them. In the opinion of the non-Avant-Garde juries that I was a member of, it was not appropriate to utter negative comments to persons who are feeling pretty bad already. As jurors, we adhered to a rather old-fashioned position that it is not proper to kick a person when the person is down. In any event, we believed that we had been invited to act as jurors in order to choose winners, not to draw attention to losers and gratuitously insult them.

You have chosen to insult one of the losing entries—The Kashmir Files. And you have chosen to repeat your insults again and again. You have chosen to perch yourself on a high mountain-top of artistic judgement. Given your expertise in the area of aesthetic judgements, you feel that not only are you entitled to express pretty hostile opinions about an entry which you dislike and disapprove of, you also believe that you need to sustain your position in a vociferous manner. In fact, it appears that it is your solemn duty and obligation to keep on attacking and disparaging one entry. And of course, you have made it quite clear that you are not a person who shirks from duty.

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The woke agenda

Clearly, your attacks are not about any mean-minded pleasure derived from beating down someone who in turn cannot sit as a juror on a committee judging you. Your attacks are also most certainly not designed to obtain publicity among influential persons of the woke persuasion who find your words reassuring and even useful. You are simply doing your duty as the great guru of film aesthetics, a guru who doubtless has every right to speak ex-cathedra on this subject. O duty-loving guru, please accept humble salutations from this ignoramus who is a babe in the woods in filmology (I presume that is the appropriate word—pardon my ignorance). But unlike you, as juries, we have no claim to be able to speak ex cathedra on any subject.

Lapid, let me give you a different take which I believe is the correct one.

It is part of today’s woke agenda to attack dead White males and to organise boycotts of the Jewish apartheid State. It has also become quite central to the woke agenda to attack the ‘majoritarian’, ‘supremacist’, ‘Indian bigot’ who supports a State which is to the former ‘an oppressor’ in Kashmir. The woke narrative cannot and will not tolerate any suggestion that the Pandits of Kashmir may be victims. They must be sly oppressors plotting against brave freedom-fighters. That there are no ISIS supporters in Kashmir; there are no terrorists; there are only non-violent youth and children who protest by throwing non-lethal soft stones. Their democratic aspirations are being assaulted by the Indian State and the Pandits are the agents of the Indian State. There has never been any violence against Pandits because they are Pandits. If some of them have been killed, it is because they have been quislings to the liberation cause. In fact, it can be safely asserted that the Pandits have been treated well. Even when they have been killed, the manner of killing has been eminently humane. We woke people therefore welcome your criticism of a movie, which is not only an artistic failure but also represents a politically unacceptable narrative.

Lapid, as a great aesthetician, you are in good company. You remind me of many western intellectuals who have argued that Jews (not Left-wing Jews like you, I mean “other” Jews) lie about anti-Semitism and routinely exaggerate violence against them and seek phoney victimhood. The Pandits clearly have learnt from such Jews. In the coming weeks, months and years, woke activists may target the Pandits using your argument. Such activists will doubtless use your words to justify their actions. You should take credit for this attribution.

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The blame you shouldn’t take

There is no need for you to feel any guilt for the targeting of Pandits. By definition, Pandits are not innocent. You should actually live with a sense of glee whenever you hear of any such incidents and have a warm glow of satisfaction that your duty-bound and dutiful artistic judgements have also directly or indirectly resulted in appropriate woke punishments for the ‘racist, supremacist, majoritarian, bigoted Pandits’.

Congratulations, Lapid. You may argue in future that you were not aware that your artistic judgements could result in unnecessary targeting of the Pandits. After all, you have stated that you have not taken a political stance on the film’s content. That mere statement should absolve you of responsibility. Come on, Lapid. You are a well-known woke philosopher and of course we all know that you are an honourable man. We are sure that you were quite aware of what you were doing and you also know how to indulge in self-serving euphemisms.

You have not talked about poor cinematography or bad editing. You have used the expression “propaganda”, which is all about content, not artistry. As an aside, in my ignorant opinion, some of the best films in the world have been propaganda movies. You have used the adjective “vulgar”. Vulgarity can be only about content. Merely stating your lack of interest in political content fools no one although it does give you the halo that you seek.

In any event, we join you in expressing pride in anticipation of your conscious achievements and of course we welcome all intended and unintended consequences. The ‘activists’ would now assert that the Pandits were never persecuted, always treated lovingly — this must be true as a great artistic film director has endorsed this. Hiding behind your artistic armour, you have so adroitly achieved the political goals of the Left — the denial of Pandit agony. Well done, sir.

I would like to close with a piece of advice to Kashmiri Pandit readers. Earlier, according to the brave humane freedom-fighters, there are no political or religious hurdles coming in the way of killing, torturing, raping or dismembering you folks. Now thanks to Lapid’s brave, dutiful and magnificent intervention, there are no artistic hurdles either. It makes eminent sense therefore for Kashmiri Pandits to change their surnames and go underground. And from underground bunkers, please do send thank-you notes to Lapid.

Jaithirth Rao is a retired businessperson who lives in Mumbai. Views are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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