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The Kashmir Files: Jolt to the conscience of a nation

NewsThe Kashmir Files: Jolt to the conscience of a nation

Tagging a narrative as hate has become an expedient modus operandi for some to discredit their ideological adversaries or counter a stance that does not suit their viewpoint. Vivek Agnihotri did not manufacture the ‘hate’ that is depicted in the movie.


The unexpected and spectacular success of the movie The Kashmir Files, which portrays movingly the brutal ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley has raised the hackles of the usual suspects—the left-liberal lobby, the anti-BJP political parties and the Bollywood cabal—all of whom have gone to town to decry the movie.
One film critic dubbed it as a “fantasy-revisionist drama”, while another accused the movie of “propagandist verve”, and “cementing the current dispensation’s favoured discourse”. The very first sentence of yet another review in a major newspaper left no doubt as to where its sympathies lay: “Once upon a time, writer-director Vivek Agnihotri told us a Hate Story; this week, he has etched yet another.”
But how accurate and valid are these over-the-top conjectures? Do a few insignificant factual compromises that can pass for artistic liberty detract from the leitmotif of the film? And can the sufferings of the KP be wished away or trivialized just because the movie fails to address the issue of Kashmiri Muslim lives lost in the conflict? Tagging a narrative as hate has become an expedient modus operandi for some to discredit their ideological adversaries or counter a stance that does not suit their viewpoint. First, Vivek Agnihotri did not manufacture the “hate” that is depicted in the movie. He merely did his duty by bringing the hate that was rampant in the Valley to the attention of the public, something that nobody had the courage to do so far. The gory incidents that he picturizes are all based on real events. For hate to be countered, hate needs to be identified, highlighted and condemned so that the purveyors of hate know that it is unacceptable and will be penalized.
By papering over such incidents under the dubious pretension of not upsetting the delicate communal balances and by not confronting hate face to face we not only embolden hate mongers but become unwittingly complicit in their crime. Our inability as a nation to highlight and counter the diabolicity of the separatist movement in Kashmir is what allowed it to fester for so long and get away with such barbarism.
The charge that failure to co-opt the anti-KP, anti-India version of the conflict, makes the movie unbelievable and biased does not pass muster. The tragedy of the Kashmiri Pandits is apocalyptic: brutal, savage and barbaric. It was also a story that had been deliberately swept under the carpet to mask the fundamentalism and xenophobia of separatism in Kashmir. Therefore, their story had to be told with a single-minded focus, without nuances, without sugar-coating and without dilution or distraction by the other facets of the Kashmir conflict. The perpetrators of the crime had to be called out with a definitiveness that was indisputable. That is what Vivek Agnihotri has done in blunt, unvarnished terms; a bluntness that the so-called intellectuals supporting the separatist movement find troubling because the same derogatory terms like Nazi and fascism that they used so flippantly to describe the other side have now become an apt and telling euphemism for them and their misguided cause.
And by the way the dominant narrative of the Kashmir conflict in the international and domestic media till now has been lopsided; a narrative that has focused overwhelmingly on what has been touted as Kashmiri self-determination. That story does not warrant reiteration.
The runaway success of the Kashmir Files attests to a welcome change in Indian public attitudes: a growing political awareness; a new moral boldness, a courage to acknowledge and confront without any apologies or guilt, the victimhood of the state’s majority community; a departure from the sham façade of a past pseudo-secularism that revelled in justification of aberrations of minorityism at the cost of majority interest. Today post The Kashmir Files viewing, a sense of aghast has claimed the audience, prompting many to ask the million-dollar question of both the government and the media: Why was this atrocity hidden from us for so long?
Vivek Agnihotri has cast aside the false filters of political correctness and shed the inhibitions of a warped secularism to tell the story directly to the people as it happened. He has dared to uncover the truth of a horrendous past, intentionally kept buried for over 30 years; he has dared to let Indians know what their brethren suffered; and he has dared to jolt the comatose conscience of an indifferent nation. We must be grateful to him for this moral wake-up call.
One film critic (The Kashmir Files tries showing 1990 exodus ‘truth’ but Vivek Agnihotri gives it death blow. Amogh Rohmetra. Print 13 March, 2022) wryly remarked “While The Kashmir Files brings out the truth and the much-needed story of Kashmiri Pandits, it tanks its credibility by mingling with facts, defaming JNU, blaming selective politicians…”
It is not the credibility of the movie that is tanked. By his heart wrenching expose Vivek Agnihotri has tanked the credibility of JNU, those “selective politicians” and those biased sections of the media who downplayed what is unequivocally the ultimate moral lapse of post-Independent India: the blatant ethnic cleansing of over a quarter million Hindu Kashmiri Pandits who became refugees in their own country overnight—all in a secular democratic nation.

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