No, what happened was not genocide. No, they weren’t like Nazis, neither were we like Jews- systematically and deliberately persecuted by the state. No, a dramatised film so obviously conniving and cunning in its telling is not the gospel. The wheels of justice have not suddenly sprung into motion, unless we choose to believe so. By drawing misleading parallels, we insult the history that isn’t ours and bastardise the truth that is.
Monumental box office numbers, multiple twitter trends and incessantly buzzing WhatsApp notifications might suggest a long overdue unification of Kashmiri Pandits for justice.
However, with a single minded interest in pushing the discourse into a vortex of technicalities like Genocide Vs Exodus, and number of killings, despite its marketing tagline - RightToJustice – this film has neither an interest, nor the answer for what this justice could possibly entail. Not even lip service.
Regardless of its cinematic worth, The Kashmir Files relentlessly pursues a version of truth those hailing it, swear by. By misrepresenting facts just enough, deceitfully layered with disinformation and obfuscating any context, the film succeeds in its true purpose - blatant vilification of Kashmiri Muslims.
Several friends, and acquaintances reached out recently, asking – did it really happen? Yes. Did it happen the way it is shown? Yes, but not really. And, therein lies its voodoo.
Three decades ago, when thousands of Kashmiris left their home, we were perhaps luckier than some to have extended family already in Delhi to stay with. Thereby sidestepping the quagmire of refugee-camps. To that extent, ours wasn’t the median story. It wasn’t even the worst. Others who left, lived in abysmal conditions for years, and died. And yet, many others that survived, showed remarkable resilience by building back lives since - from scratch, despite the tragic displacement, and thrived. Did time heal all the pain? Or did we forget everything that happened, as a defence to cope with our unaddressed trauma?
Unfortunately, trauma works in mysterious ways. Every life event, in one form or the other, gets linked to that traumatic event. I have seen this within my immediate and closed ones. Admittedly, I too, lived so for many years. Silently. And assumed that’s just the way it was, is, and will continue to be.
Even though, the first friend I made in Delhi (and life) was a Kashmiri Muslim, himself a product of this complex tragedy of Kashmiris (not just Pandits), I failed to recognise what stared me in the face, for a long time. Today when I struggle with many trepidations of life, more than thirty-two years after that fateful day, I realise I am a product of privileges, choices, misgivings, mistakes and learnings, all uniquely mine. It took me many years to realise – Trauma induces hate, and hate consumes you. No matter how deep a wound runs, hate can't be right. Because, it blinds you.
What happened in Kashmir, did it happen spontaneously, out of thin air? Did it happen to just us? Even in its most modern form, there is over seventy years of history to Kashmir, that includes the exodus, but also multiple wars, ambiguous promises and a continual sense of estrangement. We know it.
History is a double edged sword. In the right hands, it inevitably bleeds out its wielder. In the wrong ones, it does so to rest of the world. In our emotional and vociferous response to the events depicted in the film, we are staking claim over our truth. By discarding everything that happened before, and continues to happen after; and calling it history; we are consciously choosing a side where all of them are fundamentally baying for our blood, and will not stop until our extermination. Unless, annihilated first, eye-for-an-eye style.
Pitting one’s loss against another’s, is criminal. The only thing worse is to deny the other truth just because it does not align with ours, and attempt to obliterate it. When we put a magnifying lens on our suffering, every minutiae stands out in high-definition. It hurts. Of course, it does. Shift that lens a little and the new details that emerge, will hurt in equal measure too, if not more. There’s a truth outside ours. As confusing and uncomfortable as it may appear, that is real too.
So, to what end is this much awaited, delayed and rightful revolution of ours, triggered by a film, headed towards? What are they - not the society, but the individuals - supposed to see, feel and say? And we, the “soft-hearted” and “peace-loving”, who once took pride in not retaliating with an eye for an eye - was that really pride, or cowardice camouflaging thus? Did we seek justice all this time? Or revenge? In the name of injustice done to us, vengeful hate is being justified in television studios, cinema halls and WhatsApp groups. Now, its entering the streets, corroding the hearts and minds of little children. Let’s face it, we have finally, and unequivocally, embraced violence.
Why did it take this long then, I wonder.
Reasons could be several and subjective enough to render a single definitive answer impossible. What is definite, however, is the blessing disguising itself in the innumerable number and kinds of those reasons. Now that someone else is ready to do it, we need not pick up the gun any more. Ready to maim, kill, rape, mutilate and exterminate the very race, in the name of emotional catharsis for Kashmiri Pandits.
Safety in numbers, however, is a dangerous mirage.
To let our suffering, grief and trauma turn into a battle cry, and be appropriated as a weapon of mass hatred, we do grave disservice to our tragedy.
By reducing our idea and understanding of truth, to mistrust, suspicion and today’s zeitgeist -hate for them- we stand to denigrate our very essence forever. Was hate the right language to tell our story in? Were shock and awe the only words to write our history in?
Before it’s too late, we need to open our eyes to see through this mirage. Instead of falling into the trap of being told what, and who, we should stand against, we need to decide for ourselves, what we should stand for.
(Mohit Kilam is a screenwriter and producer, based in Mumbai. A Kashmiri Pandit, he was born in Srinagar and raised in Delhi. This is an opinion article and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)