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Why Kashmir Files?

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Kisi ne suna bhi toh nahin’

The Kashmiri character laments when asked why Kashmiri Pandits haven’t told their side of the story. True, we as a nation did turn deaf to their heart wrenching tales of persecution. For thirty two long years we did try to white wash the ugly truth staring in our faces at the expense of Kashmiri Pandits, to keep the facade of our being secular and democratic nation going. The horror tales did keep trickling in and we read them with our desensitised minds, protecting our intellect by the armour of aloofness. It may have happened but it happened at some distant place to few unrelated people, we told ourselves. If it happened it did for so and so reason we clinically justified.

Kashmiri Pandits were cowards to run away and not stand up in the face of terrorism, we judged. It takes two hands to clap and probably they were equally at fault we fell for the false equivalence narrative. Why dredge the past and spoil the communal bonhomie of the present, we soothed the questioning brows. ‘Terrorism has no religion‘ we lied to ourselves and dug our heads in the mud. We did hundred things to escape one simple truth. The ugly truth of Kashmiri Hindu genocide! It takes courage and sensitivity of Vivek Agnihotri to tell the brutal truth to us in a place where we can no longer hide from it, on the silver screen of our neighborhood theatres. And unlike few earlier pathetic attempts of apologetic, secular directors particularly Vidhu Vinod Chopra of Mission Kashmir and Shikara fame/ defame, Vivek Agnihotri did justice to Kashmiri Hindus. The movie may not be a masterpiece and may have directorial, casting, technical, special effects glitches but the plain and honest truth and sincerity of the film maker transcend the shortcomings and we watch with eyes brimming with tears. In the course of about three hours we unlearn what we were told for thirty years. We stand educated on number of facts

1. What happened in 1990 wasn’t just seventh exodus of Kashmiri Pandits it was a GENOCIDE

2. It’s wrong to alienate ourselves by thinking that it happened to some community called Kashmiri Pandits. It happened to Kashmiri Hindus , in continuation to their persecution since several centuries starting from tyrant like Sikander Butshikan in fourteenth century

3. It happened in 1990, in a democratic, secular country and no one was able to stop it. Government, administration, police, army, judiciary etc every organisation was in place and working and still helpless or lacking the will to stop the genocide. So there goes the false sense of security we lull ourselves into.

4. As we watch we realise it’s happening now too in various parts of the country and we are still sleeping to the tunes of the same lullabies. We have Makhan Lal Bindroo, a seventy year old chemist killed in Srinagar as recent as Oct 2021. We have unpleasant news trickling of various wrong doings in places like Bengal but we choose to ignore it. We see Hindus leaving town like Kairana in Uttar Pradesh and we witness the tyrant behind it winning the recent elections even from the prison. We stay silent to such evil repercussions of democracy where just numbers matter. We realise that any place in our country has the potential of becoming another Kashmir. It’s just a matter of time and intent. As we realise it, it’s harder for us to alienate ourselves from the horrors that we see Kashmiri Pandits going through on the silver screen. It can be us! And yes, victims of terrorism have religion too!

5. We become acutely aware of the cruelty and injustice done to the victims when politicians, media, intellectuals and society in general normalises such acts of terrorism by whitewashing, diluting and ignoring them and hobnobbing with the perpetrators of these crimes in the guise of negotiating for peace. The memories of photographs of Yaseen Malik with PM, CM and likes of Arundhati Roy flashes in our minds and we recognise the sinister hypocrisy behind it all.

The tag of former terrorist besides their names disturb us. It was so easy for them to get this tag. When did they receive punishment for their crimes even those they confessed themselves without remorse or regret. Hence it is in 2020 we find Yasin Malik getting charged with killing four unarmed Air force officials in 1990. It takes thirty years to send him to Tihar jail and now too, he is awaiting trial for his crime! In fact J&K government spent crores of rupees in giving security to separatist leaders for years. The self confessed killer of Hindus, Bitta Karate still roams free in Kashmir.

6. We learn that it’s dangerous to keep our present generation ignorant of past however unpleasant. It gives space to the false narratives to settle in and repeat the history in the future. And yes, it’s the dangerous war of narratives and the victim may get depicted as tyrant or even used as a tool by the tyrants.

7. Yes, it’s wrong to tell lies but even worse to hide the truth.

Thanks Mr Vivek Agnihotri to make us learn and unlearn many things in these three hours. Amidst all the brutality, torture and gory killings unfolding on the screen the most terrifying image that stayed with me was of the small child tapping the window of the car of an IAS officer with an Urdu newspaper in his hands and mouthing the slogan of Raliv, Galiv or Tshaliv (convert, die or leave) not as a human but like some kind of a robot programmed with numbing hate and then too without any expression of hate on his face. The robotic child symbolises the terrifying hopelessness for the future brainwashed with Jihad ideology.

Kashmir Files is a must see movie for number of reasons. The most compelling one is to realise how frail is the humanity claim we endorse and how easy it is to dehumanise and persecute fellow humans!

-Maj (Dr) Shalini Singh

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