The Kashmir Files is a fine work of fiction, which weaves the undeniable and ugly truth of the Kashmiri Pandit exodus into a well-groomed story for the celluloid. I say ‘fiction’ purely for cinematic reasons, or else it wouldn’t qualify to be called a ‘film’ – we would have had to watch a ‘docu-series’.
When I say ‘fiction’, it is also about combining three separate terror crimes directed against Kashmiri Pandits – the cold-blooded murder of a young Kashmiri Pandit Engineer, BK Ganjoo, the brutal rape and murder of a young laboratory assistant in a school, Girja Tickoo, and the 2003 Nadimarg Massacre – into a single script in order to ultimately turn it into a cinematic experience for the viewers.
The Many Twisted 'Facts' in Kashmir Files
When I say ‘fiction’, it’s about the fact that the mastermind of the Nadimarg massacre was a foreign terrorist, Zia Mustafa, who pledged allegiance to the proscribed terror outfit Lashkar e Taiba, and who was arrested by the Jammu & Kashmir police in 2003 itself. The man recently met his awful fate in a gunfight in the Poonch district of Jammu & Kashmir.
When I say ‘fiction’, it’s about the broad daylight murder of four Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel, including that of Late Squadron Leader Ravi Khanna. The perpetrator of this incident and that of the targeted killing of 20 Kashmiri Pandits (with the murderer having confessed this on a televised interview) are not the same people.
When I say ‘fiction’, I say this with the authority of having lived the Kashmir conflict and having been a keen observer of men and matters thereof – the Hazratbal Shrine and the Khanqah Mosque have never been the flashpoints of anti-Hindu protests and sloganeering.
When I say ‘fiction’, I say this with complete authority and far from confirmation bias that rarely were Kashmiri Pandits denied rations at ration depots, or were denied medical treatment at hospitals. Neither was an IAS officer of the rank of Divisional Commissioner suspended for the suspicion of being an ‘Indian spy’ back then.
How Kashmiri Pandits' Agony Became a 'Film' Experience
While the filmmaker, Vivek Agnihotri, has effectively turned the ‘undeniable’ agony of Kashmiri Pandits into a ‘film’ experience, the lack of even-handedness in the approach with respect to the name ‘Kashmir Files’ is barely concealed. I say this because since time immemorial, the most prized tradition of the Kashmiri society has been its pluralism and syncretism. And it is this Kashmiri value that came under the attack of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in the 1989 and the ’90s, and very strategically so.
The masterminds of the ‘attack’ sitting in Islamabad knew their business well. They knew how and when to instigate people in the name of a political struggle with ‘Hum Kya Chahte Azadi’, and then gradually turn it into a theocratic one with ‘Yahan Kya Chalega, Nizam E Mustafa’; they closed down cinemas and bars and threatened people associated with art, literature & music.
The strategic and multi-pronged attack on Kashmir by Pakistan and her proxies brought misery upon every Kashmiri – Kashmiri Pandits, Muslims and Sikhs included. The show of strength was such that it ended up pushing a few people into a delusion of ‘Azadi around the corner’. They went on to rechristen some roads and avenues – for instance, Ram Bagh was renamed “Rahim Bagh”, and the IGI Airport Road was renamed “Shaheed Ejaz Road”; they even matched their wristwatches with the Pakistan Standard Time.
Pak-Sponsored Terrorism Remains Alive
These few people constitute the small section that supported terrorism back then and who peddled fear, forcing Kashmiri Pandits to flee for their lives. This ‘terror-milieu’ still exists. It hasn’t gone anywhere – in fact, it has grown into a demon now. If this were not so, terrorists would not have been able to identify and hit their targets to this day, ‘targets’ who, in some way, stood by or subscribed to the ‘idea of India’.
This should be enough to indicate that the genocide of ‘Kashmiris’ and the ‘Indian ideology in Kashmir’ is still ongoing. Who failed or has been failing Kashmiris, and who was to safeguard the constitutional guarantee of life and security against terrorism, is a different debate altogether. The filmmaker here has failed to showcase the complete pages of the ‘Kashmir Files’ by omitting the stories of hope, communal amity and harmony in the 32-year-old conflict, which, I again reiterate, have been vital in Kashmir’s defiance of terrorism.
I wish that with this movie, the truth of one ‘holocaust’ doesn’t end up becoming the justification for another.
The movie should be treated by the audience only as an ‘eye-opener’, an eye-opener for collectively calling out violence and terrorism and starting a process of reconciliation and rehabilitation of the many Kashmiris living as refugees in their own country.
Nonetheless, I extend my personal appreciation to all actors, especially Anupam Kher and Bhasha Sumbli, for giving their soul to what they were entrusted with. Chinmay Mandlekar and Darshan Kumar have put painstaking efforts into their characters, and that deserves an applause. Mithun Chakraborty and Pallavi Joshi, in their respective roles, are certainly the driving force in the movie.
(Dr Suneem is serving as a Medical Doctor with CRPF, Srinagar. Views are personal. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)