Nowadays, the film ‘The Kashmir Files’ is the talk of the town with people discussing it enthusiastically in social media and in every nook-and-corner. The film has been sensationalized as a national emotion. It seems that the film ‘The Kashmir Files’ has become the leading topic of the country as even the Prime Minister of the country is canvassing for the film and is buzzing about it; making people believe that whatever is shown in the film is a truth that has been kept hidden for years. What is the truth that a film can expose, but a government with a majority cannot? And what is the reality of that hidden truth?
At the time when there was a big exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, BJP-backed V.P. Singh’s government was in force. Had the BJP withdrawn its support, that government would have come to the ground. But why didn’t the BJP withdraw its support? The real reason behind this is yet shrouded in mystery. This is the hidden truth number one. There was the President’s rule in Kashmir.
Jagmohan was the governor sent by the Bharatiya Janata Party who encouraged Kashmiri Pandits to migrate from Kashmir instead of safeguarding them. When the then Leader of Opposition Shri Rajiv Gandhi laid siege to Parliament, the army was forced to conduct a flag march. What was the reason behind Jagmohan doing this? Who asked him to do this? This is the hidden truth number two. Today, Kashmiri Pandits are questioning the BJP which is indulged in doing politics in the name of Kashmiri Pandits, that even after being instrumental in forcing the Kashmiri pandits to flee, why was Jagmohan made the MP and minister four times in the Vajpayee government. Why was he rewarded instead of being punished? This is the hidden truth number three.
The truth is that due to this action of Jagmohan, BJP got a political issue to assume power at that time and Kashmiri Pandits were sacrificed for that purpose. It is also true that through the issue of ‘The Kashmir Files’ an attempt is being made to poison and embitter the country’s atmosphere. And it is most unfortunate for the people of this country that to conceal this truth, the Prime Minister of the country is claiming to find the truth blindfolded.
India produces the maximum number of films as compared to the whole world. Since Indian audience is basically very emotional, films leave a deep impression on their psyche. But this is happening for the first time that people are seen crying their hearts out after watching a film. This is how people’s sentiments are being displayed time and again for the recently released film ‘The Kashmir Files’. BJP is supporting the film only under a well thought out strategy. The film has been made tax free in many BJP ruled states. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma even granted half a day’s leave to the government employees to enable them to watch the film. And the most surprising thing is that the Prime Minister of the country praised the film as if it had won the Oscar.
The truth is that this film is based on a one-sided truth. Watching the film ‘The Kashmir Files’, it seems that the entire Muslim community was against Kashmiri Pandits. This is the reason that even after 32 years of this incident, the sentiments of many Hindus are being awakened by watching the film. In fact, it is clearly visible that the purpose of this film is to incite similar sentiments. Watching this movie, it seems that all the houses of Kashmiri Pandits were blown down to ashes. Even though many houses were destroyed then, the reality is that even today, in many places, Kashmiri Pandits go to their old homes. Many homes are still safe today. But ‘All’- this word is the motive of this film. It is said in this film that Kashmiri Pandits were only 2 percent. What could have happened if 98% Muslims had been against Kashmiri Pandits?
After all, what do the makers of the film want to say or prove through this film? Every artist has the freedom to express his opinion through his art, but if an artist is prejudiced, then it is natural to question his purpose. The closeness of the film’s producers Vivek Agnihotri and Anupam Kher to the Bharatiya Janata Party and the BJP’s support to the film clearly underscores their motives. The one-sided truth shown in the film has now been challenged by Kashmiri Pandits themselves. The founder of ‘Panun Kashmir’ (Our Kashmir) organization, Dr. Agnisekhar has asked the Modi government as to what has he done for Kashmiri Pandits so far? Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, headed by Kashmiri Pandit leader Sanjay Tiku, has said that Kashmiri Muslims are not terrorists and Kashmiri Pandits are not fanatics. Both these communities have been suffering for the last 32 years. He also said that the film ‘The Kashmir Files’ is endangering the lives of Kashmiri Pandits currently living in Kashmir. When news channels like BBC interviewed Kashmiri Pandits expatriated from Jammu, people said the same thing in unison.
Many historical facts have been covered in this film, while some incidents have also been shown in a distorted form. The film portrays the newspaper ‘Al-Safa’ as a supporter of terrorists. The truth is that the editor of this newspaper, Shaban Vakil, was killed by terrorists on March 23, 1991. In 2003, a conference of Kashmiri Pandits was held in Delhi. The book ‘Kashmir Pandit Problems and Perspectives’, which gave the form to the proceedings of this conference, clearly states that when the Kashmiri Pandits had been migrating from Kashmir, Maulvi Farooq and Farooq Abdullah of the Mirwaiz (the chief maulvi of the Muslim community) opposed it. Mirwaiz was also killed by terrorists on May 21, 1990. Shri Rajiv Gandhi is referred to in the film, but V.P. Singh, during whose tenure the worst form of terrorism was seen, is not even mentioned anywhere.
It is absolutely wrong to say that till date nothing has been done for Kashmiri Pandits. It is not true. In the last 32 years, many governments discussed this issue and efforts were made to solve the problem of Kashmiri Pandits. Even today, Kashmiri Pandits get the highest amount of Rs. 2,500 per person per month as compared to any other displaced person in the country. Five lakh rupees were announced to the family of the deceased and a job to one member of the family. There is reservation in many universities for the families of Kashmiri Pandits. Under the leadership of Dr. Manmohan Singh, 3,000 jobs were given to Kashmiri Pandits under the Prime Minister’s package in ten years. 5911 houses were built. On the contrary, in the eight years of the Modi government, only 520 jobs have been given and only 1000 houses have been constructed.
In the last several Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has repeatedly assured respectful rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir Valley. I have a small question. Wouldn’t it be difficult to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits by blaming the entire Muslim community in Kashmir? To rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits, should love and harmony be encouraged among all communities in Kashmir or hatred and disdain? It is clear from this that the Modi government has no sympathy for Kashmiri Pandits, rather it wants to use this issue for its own selfish ends by instigating the sentiments of the people. It is not in national interest to draw the hearts of Kashmiri people away from India. While being the Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee had not given the slogan of ‘Insaniyat, Jamuriat, and Kashmiriyat’ only for the sake of it. Taking it a step further, Shri Vajpayee had even started talks with Kashmiri separatists. He was well aware of how sensitive the Kashmir issue was.
There is no doubt that the atrocities committed on Kashmiri Pandits were horrific, as shown in the movie ‘The Kashmir Files’, but did such atrocities happen only in Kashmir in India? Religious and caste conflicts are not new in India. India was itself born in the background of religious hysteria. Lakhs of people lost their lives in Partition. More than twenty lakh refugees came to India. In the meantime, about two lakh Muslims were killed in the riots in Jammu in 1947. Despite attacks on Muslims, there were no riots in the Kashmir Valley until the mid-90s. This is because Kashmir issue is not a religious issue rather it is a question of identity of Kashmiri people and this identity is not only of Muslims but also of Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs and other Hindus. Seeing the possibility of a one-on-one war with India to capture Kashmir, Pakistan started a guerilla war on the basis of religion. This is where terrorism started. This terrorism is the reason for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. Organizations of Kashmiri Pandits estimate that after 1990 till the intensity of terrorism subsided, there have been about 650 people in Kashmir. At the same time, according to government figures, about 15,000 Muslims were also killed. The organization of Kashmiri Pandits puts this figure at 25,000. In this era of terrorism, if 1.5 lakh Kashmiri Pandits migrated, about 50,000 Muslims migrated too. Former ministers and public representatives of Kashmir were also included among the Muslims who died during this period. Many of these were protecting Kashmiri Pandits, that is why the terrorists killed them. This means that they were all killed, because they were in favor of India. Former IB chief of India AS Dulat has also mentioned this in his book.
Many films have been made around the world on topics such as atrocities, genocide and community violence. Examples are Steven Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’ or 2002’s ‘The Pianist’. Both the films are based on the murder of Jew during World War II and both films won the Oscar for Best Picture. But these films did not incite hatred for the Germans. These movies do not give the message that the whole of Germany is in favor of genocide.
Unfortunately, the Modi government is putting the national interest at stake for the sake of power. The Modi government, which addressed Bangladeshi Muslims as infiltrators, did not care at all that Bangladesh would come closer to China. How is the removal of Article 370 from Kashmir in the interest of Kashmiri people? Instead of explaining this, the Modi government kept bragging in front of the people of the country. Why did the situation in Kashmir not improve after the abrogation of Article 370? The Modi government does not have the answer to this. In fact, keeping Muslims under suspicion all the time is BJP’s policy.
Against the backdrop of Partition, Nehru tried to heal the wounds inflicted on minds due to religious riots. Congress believed that bigotry would be fatal for a united India and a healthy democracy. Patriotic government creates love among citizens. Unity makes a nation strong.
The opinion of the Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari on ‘dictatorship’ is important. In dictatorship, it is necessary to increase fear and hatred among the citizens. This ensures that the people will not fight unitedly against the ruling party. For this, the old wounds of the society are scratched. It is sought to find out the subject of difference of opinion among the citizens. It is made sure to keep these wounds greener? This divides the society into two parts. The leadership of the larger community is taken over and the larger community is incited to defeat the other community. Due to this, the society starts fighting amongst themselves. The atmosphere of distrust created by this becomes favourable for the dictatorship. The world history is replete with such examples. If you look at the events of the last eight years in your own country, you will realize how true this idea of Yuval Harari is.
Kashmiri Pandits will continue to dream of going to the Kashmir Valley someday. But when the issue of using Kashmiri Pandits to incite public sentiments will be over, the ruling party will look for some other issue.
The author is AICC Member and General Secretary of Maharashtra PCC