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The Kashmir Files: Countering the counter narrative

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As expected, a counter narrative based on half- truths, twisted logic and whataboutry has begun for the recently released movie Kashmir Files. It is being lapped up by the ecosystem that is now famously known as ‘toolkit’ gang of Indian media.

Now let’s analyse some of the arguments used in these counter narratives & do a bit of myth-busting.

1) MYTH: Only 89 Pandits were killed, so why is this a genocide whereas there have been riots in India where thousands of people have been killed in different parts of India

FACT: As per reasonable estimates anywhere between 300 to 500 of the members of microscopic Kashmiri Hindus community died in Kashmir’s post-1989 insurgency and thousands died due to snakebites, heat strokes, poor hygiene and other reasons while living in squalor in different refugee camps across India. The official figure continues to be 89, which is based on the cases where formal FIR has been filed

However, that is not the real reason why it qualifies for being termed as genocide. It is a genocide because it led to complete extermination of Kashmiri Pandits – a minuscule minority of Kashmir numbering less than 3% of the population of the State. Kashmiri Pandits lost not only precious members of their society but also their culture, homeland, and roots. This is the single biggest reason why this qualifies for a genocide.

 2) MYTH: Jagmohan conspired with Pandits, asking them to flee the valley so that the field could be left open for killing Muslim Kashmiris by local administration.

FACT: While this argument is so poor that it does not merit an answer, but it is important to counter this misinformation. Here’s the chronology of events:

-Jagmohan was appointed as Governor of J &K on 18-19th Jan 1990.

-He flew to Jammu on 20th & then to Kashmir.

-He reached Kashmir on 21st Jan 1990 as the freshly appointed Governor of J&K.

-The Chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah had resigned on 18/19th, so practically the State was headless between 19th & 21st January. There was no formal handover from the incumbent to the new administrator.

The situation Kashmir had started deteriorating severely from 1988 onwards. It started reaching a boiling point in mid 1989. The killings of prominent Kashmiris started on August 1989. The targeted killings of Kashmiri Pandit leaders started with the killing of Tikalal Taploo, who was killed on 14 Sept 1989, nearly FOUR months before Jagmohan was appointed as the governor of Kashmir.

In Dec- nearly a month before Jagmohan was appointed as the governor of Kashmir, there was a MASSIVE procession through the heart of Srinagar city in favour of JKLF. The procession was by common Kashmiris to show solidarity with the killers of innocents. As per estimates nearly 10 Lakh (1 million) Kashmiris participated in this march. All the passers-by and bystanders were forced make V (victory signs) with their fingers.

On 19th January, there was a mass agitation in Kashmir where people assembled near mosques and other public places shouting slogans against India, against Kashmiri Pandits and demanding Azaadi. This triggered the mass exodus of Pandits. In other words, the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits started nearly 24 hours BEFORE Jagmohan reached Srinagar or had even a single meeting with the administrative officials of Kashmir. As a matter of fact, he issued an appeal requesting Kashmiri Pandits NOT to flee from Kashmir! This was published in most prominent newspapers including the leading English daily, The Kashmir Times. All this must be available in government records even today.

Lastly, there are some officials who claim that Jagmohan had asked the officials to try and ensure none of teh fleeing Pandits are physically harmed while they were fleeing from Kashmir. That might be at the root of ‘Jagmohan conspiracy’

 3) MYTH: Why only Kashmiri Pandit massacre, why not Gaw Kadal Massacre?

FACT:  There’s a huge difference between inflicting brutalities on peace loving community of Pandits by terrorist and killings of protestors by law enforcement agencies.

The Gaw Kadal killings in which anything between 28 (official figure) to 50 (unofficial figure) protestors might have been killed was at the most an administrative lapse. A huge procession shouting anti-India, pro-Pakistan, and Islamic slogans such as “Indian dogs go back”, “Azadi ka matlab kya, La Ilahi lilillah [illallah]” (“Freedom for us means Islamic rule”) was about to turn violent, the Director General of Police & other officials in-charge of controlling this mob in their discretion took a decision to fire on the mob to avoid escalation of the issue. There were intelligence reports that terrorists were planning to carry massive subversion on the Republic Day (26th January), which was only 5 days away.

Every killing of people is extremely sad, but not every killing is comparable. Justifying or whitewashing the targeted killings of Kashmiri Pandits by using an administrative decision as a counter is a deliberate attempt of obfuscating facts.

Also, this movie is about the massacres that led to mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus, it does not talk about every issue that is related to Kashmir, so Gaw Kadal, Kunan Poshpora etc are irrelevant as far as this movie goes.

4) MYTH: Only a handful of terrorists were involved in these killings who had no local support at all.

FACT: When the killings started, the terrorists got MASSIVE support from the Kashmiri Muslim masses, particularly in Srinagar, Sopore, Anantnag etc. They were hailed as heroes and common Kashmiris were totally in awe of these Mujahid “gun holders”! they were felicitated, led in processions and feted by common Kashmiris. It was only when the Frankenstein monster of terrorism started attacking the common non-Pandit Kashmiris, they started losing mass support.

Some examples of how common Kashmiris supported the killers:

  • When the killers of telecom engineer BK Ganjoo were unable to locate him the attic and were about to leave the house empty handed, Ganjoo’s neighbour directed the killers to the drum in which he was hiding. The killers sprayed a volley of bullets on the drum killing the engineer.

Kashmiri masses feted and showered the terrorists with flower petals on multiple occasions at different places. The terrorists were considered heroes.

Lastly, let’s not forget all said and done most of the killers like Yasin Mallik were and still are popular leaders of common Kashmiris. When Bitta Karate, the cold-blooded butcher of Kashmiri Pandits was released from the jail, he was given a hero’s welcome by showering traditional jaggery (shirin) on him & garlanding him. Today he is married to a senior government official and is a political activist. Yasin too is similarly placed.

5) MYTH: Kashmiri Muslims always wanted Pandits to come back. Pandits became pawns in the forces of Right-wing politics & did not come back to Kashmir once militancy subsided.

FACT:  Here’s what happened in Kashmir:

When Kashmiri Pandits fled from the valley, immediately a movement started – burning down the houses of Pandits, forcefully occupying them, and even purchasing them at dirt cheap rates from Pandits. Similarly, the temples, lands of Kashmiri Pandits were destroyed or encroached upon. This made the Pandits truly homeless.

Whenever Pandits attempted to return to Kashmir, mass killings started again. Nadimarg massacre, Chattisinghpura massacre, killing of a Pandit chemist Makhanlal Bindroo, a Sikh school teacher and a few other Hindus in 2021 are some ready examples. The first non-Kashmiri to purchase land in Kashmir post abrogation of article 370 was killed too. Even Girija Tikoo, whose story features in the film had returned from Jammu before she was kidnapped, brutalised & sawed alive. The message was clear: Pandits are NOT welcome in Kashmir as residents. Lip sympathies notwithstanding.

Hurriyat Conference, which got the moniker of Hartali Conference for calling for a hartal for every major and minor issue, never ever called for a hartal in favour of Pandits or about their rehabilitation.

6) MYTH: Terrorism started in 1987 when the elections were rigged in 1987 in favour of National Conference & MUF was defeated in the elections

FACT:  There were indeed widespread allegations of rigging the elections. But these allegations have been levelled against nearly EVERY election held in the state of J & K. As a matter of fact, allegations of rigging is heard in most of the elections in other parts of the nation as well.

Rigging of the elections on 1987, if true, might have contributed to the rise of militancy in Kashmir. It certainly was NOT the primary or sole reason. Indications of what happened in 1990 appeared in 1986 itself, which is rightly called the ‘dress rehearsal’ of 1990. Islamic fanaticism under a newly emerged leaders of South Kashmir such as Nisar Qazi had spread its tentacles around that time. Nisar Qazi defied the government diktat of not selling meat on Janmashtami by organising mass slaughter of the livestock at different crossings of Anantnag town.

7) MYTH: Misguided youth gave up their guns & adopted Gandhian values of peaceful resistance through non- violence

FACT: Some of the erstwhile terrorists did indeed give up their guns. This was only when they realised the true might of Indian security forces and also realised that Pakistani and international support was a mirage.

Separatist leaders such as Yasin Mallik, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Salahuddin, Shabir Shah, Burhan Wani were/are hugely popular amongst the masses. They have never raised their voice against violence perpetrated against Pandits. A few of them have adopted non-violence as a tactic, rather than a change of heart.

 8) MYTH: Kashmir is a paradise on earth

FACT: In the last 32 years, Kashmir has turned into a mono cultural, xenophobic state, which looks more like an extension of Afghanistan than a part of forward-looking democracy like India. The most influential Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani in his book has mentioned clearly that the only option for Kashmiris is Islamic rule and secession from India. Anything less than that is not acceptable. Nearly 100% of Hurriyat leaders follow this basic principle, the sugar-coated statements notwithstanding

9) MYTH: All the people involved in the film making are pro BJP & this is a narrative to help BJP

FACT: Shooting the messenger is the worst crime of the intellectually dishonest. Without commenting on the people who made the movie, we need to focus on facts shown in the movie. Personal agendas or attributes of the makers is irrelevant

 10) MYTH: Present government has done absolutely nothing to improve the situation in Kashmir.

FACT: While very little has been done, but this is a complicated human tragedy. A few positive steps have been taken by the present government which were NOT taken so far:

-Article 370 and 35A removed. This is the first step towards integration of the state with India

-JKLF banned in 2019 & its top leaders are in jail. Earlier they used to be hosted in 5-star hotels to participate in talks with government officials, human rights activists etc. 

-Annual spend of 5 crores on the welfare and security of Hurriyat leaders stopped

-J&K state bifurcated. Monopoly of Kashmir division at the cost of Ladakh and Jammu division stopped

-Project Roshni under which illegal Rohingya Muslims were given houses and lands in J&K stopped. 

11) MYTH: This is an out & out propaganda film 

FACT: This film has taken negligible artistic liberty to weave the story together. Nearly 60 odd percent of the dialogs used in the film are already available in the public domain in the form of interviews, reports, articles, and press releases. The makers of the film claim that they have video recording of interviews with first hand victims 

12) MYTH: The film is lopsided and gives a one-sided viewpoint

FACT: This film is about atrocities committed on Kashmiri Pandits by Pakistan supported Kashmiri terrorists. Trying to create a balanced viewpoint between victim and perpetrators- where no such balance exists – would be intellectual dishonesty. 

13) MYTH: Why only Brahmins/ Pandits Hindus were affected, why not lower caste Hindus?

FACT: While this might sound outright silly, but people have asked this question on the social media. The fact is that Kashmiri Hindu is known as Kashmiri Pandit. There are NO OTHER castes amongst Kashmiri Hindus

One can only hope that saner elements of Kashmiri society wake up and call for an end to this mindless violence. And the first step for that is to acknowledge the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits, followed by concrete steps for healing these wounds. A strong and vocal opposition to Pakistan and its sponsored players such as Hurriyat etc. could be the next.

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