Tax Exemption, Special Leaves & Politicking as The Kashmir Files Plays in India

The Kashmir Files has been riding high on success amid overwhelming and unprecedented support from the government.

7 min read
Hindi Female

The Kashmir Files is a film based on video interviews of the first generation victims of the genocide of the Kashmiri Pandits community in 1990, documenting their plight in Jammu and Kashmir.

Director Vivek Agnihotri focuses on the plight of displaced Kashmiri Pandits and the events that led to lakhs of them being rendered homeless overnight.

Released on 11 March, the film has assumed centre stage with much political hullabaloo being conducted over it, with some criticising the film and some endorsing it heavily.

The hotly debated film has enjoyed glowing success at the box office so far, racing towards the Rs 100-crore mark, as it grossed Rs 79.25 crore by end of Wednesday, according to film trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

The film has been riding on overwhelming and unprecedented support from the government, as well as tax exemptions from several states across India.


The Politicking Over the Film

The Kashmir Files has enjoyed support from many top-level leaders of the country, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the vanguard.

Addressing a BJP meet on Tuesday, 15 March, Modi highlighted the role of the film industry in presenting history and praised the film, saying that there is an ongoing campaign to discredit it.

"Truth should be brought in the right form before the country. The truth prevailed in Kashmir Files," a BJP MP said, quoting the PM, according to IANS.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah meanwhile on Wednesday met with the team of The Kashmir Files, and hailed it as a "bold representation of truth."

"Met with The Kashmir Files team today. The truth of the sacrifice, unbearable pain and struggle of Kashmiri Pandits who were forced to leave their home in their own country has come to the notice of the whole world through this film, which is a very commendable effort," Shah stated.

"The Kashmir Files is a bold representation of truth. It will work to make the society and the country aware in this direction that such historical mistakes are not repeated. I congratulate the entire team for making this film," Shah wrote on Twitter.

Many BJP leaders also made use of the means of the film to criticise the Congress, which had been in power at the centre at the time of the exodus from Jammu and Kashmir.

Blaming the Congress for the condition of the Kashmiri Pandits, BJP MP K J Alphons said that the Congress and its allies created a situation in which the Pandits could not live in Kashmir anymore.

He added that the Pandits were murdered and had a genuine fear for their lives resulting in the exodus, reported news agency ANI.

Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh has been quoted as saying that "the Kashmiri Pandit community was made to leave their homes in the most painful condition."

Singh stated that the exodus and killings of Kashmiri Pandits was a result of "a series of Congress blunders," starting from "what's now recorded as infamous Nehruvian blunders."

Further, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said, "The Kashmir Files movie brings the truth about what happened in Kashmir during the '80s and the '90s. I hope all Kashmiri Pandits get back their land, property and get settled down there."

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan watched the film on Wednesday night and urged everyone in the state to watch it.

The chief minister also congratulated director Vivek Agnihotri for "showing courage to make film on such serious subject." Targeting the Opposition Congress, Chouhan said, "Those not watching this movie are trying to get away with fact."


“The Kashmiri Pandit genocide and their exodus are a blot on humanity," wrote Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma on Twitter, after watching the film.

Samajwadi Party (SP) President Akhilesh Yadav said if a film like The Kashmir Files could be made, then there should also be one on the October 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri violence.

"Your Sitapur is a neighbouring district of Lakhimpur Kheri. If a movie has come up on Kashmir, then a film can be made on the Lakhimpur Kheri incident also," Yadav said, in response to a question by reporters on the sidelines of a function in Sitapur on Wednesday evening, reported IANS.

The Congress meanwhile accused the government of seeking to spread hatred in society through The Kashmir Files, saying, "India is not a film but a reality. India will not be run by films but by government's policy and governance."

The party's chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala asked PM Modi to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits instead of spreading hatred in society.

"Life will not be run by seeing or showing films and spreading hatred and division in society. Modi ji should tell when will our Kashmiri Pandits be rehabilitated and should give us a date as his government is there both at the Centre and in the state."
Randeep Singh Surjewala

He said PM Modi should also provide data on as to how many Kashmiris have been rehabilitated, given jobs and housing, as well as compensation paid to them, reported news agency PTI.

Claiming distortion of facts, the Congress Kerala unit on Sunday said in a series of tweets, "Pandits left the valley en masse under the direction of Governor Jagmohan who was an RSS man. The migration started under the BJP-supported VP Singh government."


Special Efforts in States To Push the Film

Several states have announced that the film will be made tax-free and some have also announced other special measures to increase the audience for the film.

The Madhya Pradesh government has made the film tax-free in the state and has urged theatre owners not to hike its ticket price. The state Home Ministry has also announced to provide special leave for cops to watch the film with their families.

Several other BJP-ruled states – Haryana, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Tripura – have also made the film tax-free.

Karnataka Speaker Vishveshwara Hegde Kageri had also arranged a special show of the film on Tuesday in Bengaluru for the ministers and legislators in the state, IANS reported.

Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb had announced on Monday that the state government would make the film tax-free.

Deb said in a tweet: "'The Kashmir Files' made by Vivek Agnihotri depicts the heart-wrenching struggle and trauma faced by Kashmiri Hindus. To support his movie and encourage the people of the state to watch it, Tripura govt has decided to make it tax-free in the state."

The Uttar Pradesh government has also granted tax free status to "The Kashmir Files," while the the Tamil Nadu Bharatiya Janata Party unit announced a screening of the film on 16 March evening at Rohini Silver Screens in Chennai, reported IANS.

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant too had on Monday declared that the state government would make it tax-free.


"Youngsters should know the history of the 1990s in Kashmir when the residents of the state had to face hardships," Sawant said after watching the film at a special screening.

Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma announced on Tuesday that all state government employees are entitled to a half-day leave to watch the film in theatres.

“Glad to announce that our Govt employees will be entitled for half-day special leave to watch The Kashmir Files. They will have to only inform their superior officers and submit the tickets the next day," he tweeted.

Maharashtra BJP MLA Nitesh Rane has written to CM Uddhav Thackeray requesting him to make the film tax-free in the state, while BJP leaders in Bihar on Wednesday demanded that it be exempted from tax in the state.

Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said on Wednesday, 16 March that all MLAs, irrespective of their stand on the movie, have been invited to watch the movie the same day at 8 pm.

He tweeted in Hindi, “Today all respected members of the Legislative Assembly (including government and Opposition) have been invited to watch the movie 'Kashmir Files' together. Tonight at 8 o'clock in a cinema hall in the capital, all of us MLAs/invited citizens will watch the film together.”

Rajasthan Congress MLA Bhanwar Lal Sharma has also said that the government should make the film tax-free in the state, for which he will write a letter to the chief minister.

Legal Obstacles & IMDB Controversy

The film has not escaped without its share of legal hurdles, with a Jammu court passing an interim order restraining the makers of The Kashmir Files from showing scenes depicting late Squadron Leader Ravi Khanna in the movie, as per a report by Bar and Bench.

Additional district judge Deepak Sethi passed the order on 11 March after a suit was filed by the wife of Ravi Khanna. In the petition, she alleged that the scenes showing her late husband are factually incorrect and demean him.

Meanwhile, Internet Movie Database (IMDb) on Monday, 14 March, changed the voting pattern to calculate ratings for the film after detecting ‘unusual voting activity’ on the movie’s review page. While it was first rated a perfect 10, the rating was changed to 8.3/10, based on over 2.3 lakh votes.

Reacting to the changed voting pattern, Vivek Agnihotri, the director of the film, tweeted on Monday that it was “unusual and unethical.”

Amid Hate Speech & Sloganeering, Delhi Police Steps Up Security

The film has led to a more communally charged environment, with anti-Muslim hate speeches and sloganeering emerging in the theatres.

A video of a crowd shouting slogans of 'Jai Shri Ram' outside Delite Cinema in New Delhi has emerged, while another slogan, explicitly asking for violence against Muslims, can be heard from a theatre in Bijnor.

Amid this, the Delhi Police has been asked to make security arrangements in areas with a "mixed population" so that no untoward incident occurs after the release of the film.

A letter was addressed by the DCP (special branch) on 14 March to district commissioners of police, police control rooms and traffic, saying, "The movie is based on the lives of Kashmiri Pandits, and reportedly is based on true events. It depicted the barbarism committed against Kashmiri Hindus in its crudest form."

"Adequate police arrangements by local police, including women staff, PCR, and traffic are suggested, especially in mixed population areas, to handle the situation tactfully," the letter added.

It was also stated that a "one-sided view" of the event could possibly trigger violence between communities.

(With inputs from ANI, PTI, and IANS.)

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