How The Kashmir Files has caught our bleeding-heart liberals off guard and their lies exposed

It was a bolt from the blue that caught our bleeding-heart liberals off guard; their lies exposed, their chicanery defined with precision an...

It was a bolt from the blue that caught our bleeding-heart liberals off guard; their lies exposed, their chicanery defined with precision and their immorality hanging like a banner for all to see. The spontaneous and spectacular success of the movie, The Kashmir Files, which portrays movingly the brutal ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley, has expectedly unleashed a barrage of criticism — violent and malignant — that attempts to shred the credibility of the movie, undermine its message and ensure that the atrocities committed on the Kashmiri Pandits is relegated to oblivion so that the nation does not have to answer uncomfortable questions.

One film critic dubbed it 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 Kashmiri Pandits be wished away or trivialised just because the movie fails to address the issue of Kashmiri Muslim lives lost in the conflict?

Tagging a narrative as hate or inciting 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, 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 picturises 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 penalised.

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.

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The charge that failure to co-opt the Kashmiri Muslim 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 sugarcoating 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 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 has 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, including movies till now has been lopsided; a narrative that has focused overwhelmingly on what has been touted as Muslim self-determination. That story does not warrant reiteration.

Emphasising this one-sided depiction of the Kashmir issue so far, Aanchal Magazine, herself a Kashmiri Pandit writes (‘On Kashmir, listen to all those who suffered’; Indian Express, 24 March): “I was one-year-old in 1990. Growing up, I would often scan news reports about us but not to much avail. I would sit through movies “based” on Kashmir, waiting for a mention of Kashmiri Pandits. An insignificant territory to explore for mainstream filmmakers, they would often be a fleeting reference. In one such movie shot in Kashmir and released in 2014 with a running time of 162 minutes, Kashmiri Pandits had a mention: One line.”

When previous films have consistently blanked out the tragedy of the Pandits, why is it that The Kashmir Files is being held to a different standard?

Such double standards and hypocrisy cannot help to build a nation that is morally robust and equitable.

Another reason for the ire of the liberals is because this movie conclusively punctures the myth of Hindu majoritarianism: A false narrative craftily woven into our national discourse by painting a communal riot as a pogrom (Gujarat 2002) and dubbing a humanitarian law (CAA) as discriminatory. Can brutalisation of the majority community occur with such audacity in a nation where the reigning mantra is majoritarianism?

  • 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 majority community, a departure from the sham fa├žade of a past pseudo-secularism that revelled in justification of even criminal 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: Why was this atrocity hidden from us for so long?

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 Agnihotri gives it death blow; Amogh Rohmetra, The 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 Agnihotri has tanked the credibility of JNU, those ‘selective politicians’ and those biased sections of the media that downplayed what is unequivocally the ultimate moral lapse of post-Independence India: The blatant ethnic cleansing of over a quarter million Kashmiri Hindus who became refugees in their own country overnight — all in a secular democratic nation.

Finally, what is extremely troubling is the utter insensitivity and crass moral depravity of the anti-Kashmir Files campaign. Instead of sincerely acknowledging the sufferings of the Pandits with sobriety and empathising with them, what we are witnessing is a vicious and deliberate game of whataboutery; one that derides the government for making it tax-free and accuses the movie of inciting hate — all in attempt to distract from the main focus of the film and achieve its nauseating objective — the denial of the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Pandits; a negation that parallels the holocaust denial.

The writer is a US-based author. Views expressed are personal.

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How The Kashmir Files has caught our bleeding-heart liberals off guard and their lies exposed
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