With his latest film Kashmir Files, Bollywood filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, who is notorious for his anti-Muslim prejudice, has sparked a polarising discussion about Kashmiri Pandits. Being viewed as a BJP supporter has also made the film and its contents controversial. Even, Mr Agnihotri’s previous film – The Tashkent Files, which was about a conspiracy in the death of former Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, was also criticised for presenting a conspiracy theory. Shastri’s grandson issued Mr Agnihotri a legal notice, saying the film was trying to “create unwarranted and unnecessary controversy”.
As concerns The Kashmir Files, although, Mr Agnihotri has stressed that The Kashmir Files – “It’s not about Hindu or Muslim like people would want to believe.” But the film has been chastised for making inflated claims about Pandits fleeing the Kashmir valley in order to manipulate 32-year-old events to inflame anti-Muslim emotions in India and the Illegally Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
Kashmiri Pandits are a relatively small population that evacuated the Valley in the early 1990s after being incited by Jagmohan Singh Kang, who was the Governor of Kashmir at that time.
The film by Agnihotri portrays a few events of Pandit deaths and exodus as genocide. People defending the controversial director have flooded social media with remarks, while many others have refuted his assertions with facts.
The Kashmir Files, according to journalist Samrat Chaudhary, is an “atrocity propaganda film.” He posted a snapshot of a page from Prof Sumantra Bose’s book on Kashmiri Pandits, which stated that just 32 of the community’s members were slaughtered in the valley. He inquired about films on the “genocide” of Bengali Hindus in Assam.
People are also sharing information from a Right to Information (RTI) response by IIOJK police in November 2021, which alleges 89 Pandits have been slain since 1990, to dispute the assertions stated in the video. Mohammad Zubair, Co-founder of Alt News, claimed on Twitter that the film is using the Pandit tragedy to “stoke hate towards the opposition and Muslim minority.”
Video footage from theatres has also surfaced, showing enraged audiences chanting violent slogans such as “shoot the anti-nationals” during the film’s viewing. “Anti-Kashmiri/anti-Muslim hate is the only item that sells in the Indian public market,” a Kashmiri professor residing in the United States, Mir Junaid, remarked in response to one such video.
The BJP-led Gujarat administration, on the other hand, has confirmed that film screenings in the state will be tax-free. Furthermore, following the film’s release, not only did it receive endorsements from BJP ministers, Agnihotri, his actress wife Pallavi Josh, and producer Abhishek Aggarwal met with Prime Minister Modi, who, according to Abhishek, spoke about the film in a noble and respectful manner.
At a time when India is suffering worldwide embarrassment as a result of the defenseless deaths of one lakh Kashmiris and the regular escalation of human rights crimes in IIOJK – The blemishes on the face of so-called democratic India are over 30,000 missing individuals and 0.1 million orphaned Kashmiri children.
To defame and give a communal and sectarian hue to the ongoing indigenous freedom struggle movement in IIOJK, the Indian establishment released the film Kashmir Files, which was already rejected by the Congress Party in India and dubbed another political card of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the upcoming elections.
Notably, what made the film controversial was the fact that the story of Kashmiri Pandits cannot be told without narrating the story of Kashmir during all those years – since 1947. What if, as Pakistan Peoples Party Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Chaudhry Muhammad Yaseen said, a few hundred Kashmiri Pundits were killed by the Indian army in the early 1990s to defame the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir Liberation movement and what if the same army is now using them again through The Kashmir Files to divert the world’s attention away from the current situation in IIOJK, where people are too scared to live with India.