Conflicts & War

Controversial Kashmir film praised by Modi sparks Islamophobic calls in India

By Shah Abbas

Srinagar, India, Mar 18 (EFE).- A movie on the migration of thousands of Hindu families from the disputed Kashmir region, endorsed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has sparked Islamophobic calls in India.

Titled “Kashmir Files,” the movie depicts the painful migration of Hindus in 1990 when the Himalayan region was swept by an armed anti-India rebellion even as some families of the minority community continued to live in the Muslim-majority idyllic valley.

The Hindus who fled the Kashmir valley, took shelter in migrant camps in Jammu and other Indian cities of India amid unkept promises by the government to ensure their safe return to their homeland.

The 170-minute Hindi-language movie is a story of a migrant Hindu student who learns that his grandfather’s narrative about the death of his parents killed in an accident is false.

The movie shows that an Islamist militant had killed them like many from their community and how the local majority failed to stand up for them.

The ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has hailed the movie for telling what it calls a story never told before.

But the critics of the film, released on Mar. 11, say it is a propaganda movie to widen the Hindu-Muslim wedge and an attempt to justify the government’s controversial policies in Kashmir.

The critics also include some Kashmiri Hindu leaders, who accuse the government of politicizing their plight and longing for their home.

Pandit Satish Mahaldar, who head an organization for the reconciliation, return, and rehabilitation of (Hindu) migrants, said the BJP government had got the movie made as “a customized product for 2024 elections.”

“The ‘Kashmir Files’ is a specially customized product for a special purpose,” Mahaldar told EFE.

Ironically, at the time when the Hindus fled Kashmir, the BJP was part of a ruling coalition at the center.

But the right-wing party, known for using the issue to garner Hindu votes in the rest of India, has accused the opposition, particularly the Indian National Congress of “ignoring the plight of Kashmiri Hindus.”

A professor, who teaches at a Kashmir university, said the government is using the movie “to justify whatever is being done” to Kashmir and Kashmiris.

The teacher, refusing to be named due to the fear of government reprisal, referred to the controversial abrogation of Kashmir’s autonomous status in 2019 and the division of the state into two federally-administered territories.

Sanjay Kak, a noted Kashmiri Hindu filmmaker, told EFE that “Kashmir Files” director Vivek Agnihotri had taken a “very serious event” and presented “it exactly as the right-wing in India wanted it to be presented.”

Prime Minister Modi, a Hindu nationalist icon, has hailed the runaway-success of the movie while targeting the opposition.

Several regional governments led by the BJP have ordered tax exemption for its screening.

Multiple viral online videos shot during the screening of the movie in different theaters show people shouting anti-Muslim slogans and calling for revenge against Kashmiri Muslims for forcing Hindus out of their homes.

Sanjay Tickoo, who heads the Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti, an organization that claims to represent 800 Hindu families that stayed back after the eruption of an armed insurgency, said the movie depicts all Kashmiri Muslims in a bad light.

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