The momentum generated by The Kashmir Files must be used by the government to bring justice to the Pandits | TO SEE

On March 11, 2022, a low budget movie titled The Kashmir Files was released. It is based on the tragic events and stories of the Kashmiri Pandits and their exodus from Kashmir in 1990. It has been a week and the film has already been declared a blockbuster with its collection touching almost Rs 150 crore. What is the reason for such enthusiasm for a film that does not have a big star and does not correspond to Bollywood standards? How is it that a tragedy that happened 32 years ago can still resonate in 2022 through cinema?

Cinema has been used for decades as a powerful means of political and cultural communication, especially since independence. With India’s first prime minister being inspired by the USSR, there was an emphasis on the need for greater cultural intervention through films. Whether it’s the Soviet Union, Nehru, or the Jewish community, all have rallied around films to generate political and social awareness and portray perspectives that help their respective communities or countries. Cinema shapes people’s consciousness. Over time, we have seen how history, culture, cinema and politics go hand in hand.

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Take the case of the Kashmir files. It is based on real stories and oral testimonies of victims of Islamist terrorism in Kashmir. The narrative put forth by the director is commendable. He tried to incorporate all types of characters, whether it was an IAS officer, a policeman, a journalist, a doctor and even a terrorist turned “combatant”. of freedom”, to show the events leading up to the exodus.

The portrait shows how the whole administration failed in Kashmir and how New Delhi remained deaf to our frantic pleas. A significant portion of the dialogue is in the Kashmiri language. The chants of ‘Raliv Galiv Chaliv’ from the mosque, the dejection of a pundit Sharda, the cries of a character as he suffers from dementia and is brainwashed by the main terrorist – all the important dialogues have been said in Kashmir to keep the authenticity of the film and the tragedy alive. These dialogues still ring in our ears.

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Within a week, this film became a blockbuster. The post-release response was phenomenal and showed how the PR machinery of big movies is pure worthless marketing, as content and honest storytelling turned out to be king. It’s become a movement in which people, small businesses and merchants offer discounts to customers to encourage them to watch this movie. Politicians from all political walks of life are debating the film. Some call it half-baked propaganda without even seeing the movie. If there are genuine reviews about the movie, criticize its scenes, story, screenplay, or any other technical details. But the truth has a way of coming out, sooner or later. Here it took three decades. Don’t mock our history or try to attach some sort of spin doctrine to it, without acknowledging the atrocities inflicted on the community.

What next after the success of the film? A historic wrong has been demonstrated and recognized after three decades. An irresistible desire has now been created among the masses to read and educate themselves on this subject from all remaining resources. Academia should push for more Pandit-focused research. It is now up to the government to ensure justice.

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The pundits have not only left their homes, there has also been a political, religious and cultural extirpation of the Kashmiri community. Our centuries-old traditions were lost, temples destroyed, Sharda scripture forgotten, and over the decades even the emotional connection to the homeland began to fade. The past cannot be corrected and there can be no justice until there is a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate every incident of violence against the Pandits. Repatriation can start later. Thus, in addition to the commerce and the movement it sparked, The Kashmir Files is a good example of cinema as a tool for generating cultural and political awareness.

Thanks to the powerful medium of cinema, the cultural movement triggered by this film should be used by the government. First, the government must ensure that an exodus like this never happens again with any community. Second, the thousands of Kashmiri pandits must receive justice through speedy trials. Third, the historical wrong should be corrected by including the events of 1989-1990 in the school curriculum. Make our history known to the future generation; otherwise, two decades from now, we might not even exist in any memory. Finally, more independent documentarians and filmmakers should be encouraged to cover our stories from 1989-90 – the terror, the exodus, the life in the slums, the denial of basic necessities, the deterioration of physical health and mentality and our desire to focus on education and not on violence. There are thousands of such stories that need to be shared.

Art heals us. If this film can be the start of some sort of closure for the community, then it’s a good case for the fusion of culture with politics.

(Srishti Kaul, a Pandit from Kashmiri, lives in Jammu and works as an educator.)

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James C. Tibbs