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Mainstream, VOL LX No 15, New Delhi, April 2, 2022

Kashmir Files : Half Truths and falsehoods galore | Ram Puniyani

Friday 1 April 2022


by Ram Puniyani

Major weapon of sectarian nationalism is to spread misconceptions and create hate against the religious minorities. This process which has been going on since long has now got a new tool, a film, “Kashmir Files”. As such misconceptions against minorities are based on half truths, selective truths, lies and this film is another addition to that. The slogans-misconceptions against religious minorities have gone through various phases. It began with communal historiography. Here the Muslim kings as tormentors of Hindus, destroyers of Hindu temples and imposing Islam through force had a long run. Add on came with the constructed fear that Hindus will become a minority as Muslims are procreating fast. Islamic terrorism, the phrase coined by American media, added to the majoritarian propaganda.

The result has been the type of hate displayed in lynching and attacking Muslim youth on ground of love jihad. The sort of culmination of this was the call for genocide given by Holy Seers in Dharm Sansads, on which the Prime minister kept a deliberate silence. This film ‘Kashmir files’ (KF) tries to put the blame of Pandits exodus 1990 on Kashmiri Muslims and blames the parties like National Conference and Congress for the same. It depicts the murders of Kashmiri pundits selectively and resorts to falsehoods to harp its point.

In one of the scene during the curfew school girls are shown in school uniforms! Late Squadron Leader Ravi Khanna’s widow points this out and says there are falsehoods in the film. Omar Abdullah summed up the partisanship of the film, “Many false things have been shown in ’The Kashmir Files’ movie. When the Kashmiri Pandits left the valley, Farooq Abdullah was not the chief minister. Jagmohan was the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir. VP Singh’s government was at the Centre [1], supported by the BJP," Abdullah said. “Why wasn’t VP Singh’s government and BJP shown in the film? It is not right to play with facts. We condemn the killings of Kashmiri Pandits. But didn’t Kashmiri Muslims and Sikhs lose their lives?”

Kashmir, the land of Kashmiriyat (Synthesis of Vedant, Budhhism and Sufi traditions) (Land of Nooruddin Norani aka Nund Rishi and Lal Dedh) has been mired in the pain of alienation turned into militancy, which took the lives of Hindus and Muslims both. After India got freedom Kashmir’s Maharaja Harisingh decided to remain independent. Jinnah wanted J&K to merge with Pakistan as it was a Muslim majority state. The tribal sent by Pakistan were backed by the Pakistan army. In the face of this aggression, Harisingh’s representative and Sheikh Abdullah the President of National Conference, the major party of Kashmir, approached Government of India to send Indian army to counter the aggression of Pakistan.

India agreed to send the army and the agreement was that Kashmir will accede to India with full autonomy, article 370, which gave all the powers to Kashmir Assembly except in matters of defense, communication, currency and external affairs. Indian army halted the march of Pakistan army but by then 1/3rd of Kashmir was occupied by Pakistan. As matter went to UN, UN’s verdict was that referendum should be held in Kashmir with the options that Kashmir can remain Independent, or merge with India or Pakistan. The referendum was to be held under UN supervision. The condition was that Pakistan will vacate its aggression and India will reduce its military presence in the area. Pakistan did not vacate the aggression, plebiscite was not held.

Sheikh Abdullah was deeply impressed by Gandhi and Nehru, whom he regarded as stars of secularism. With Gandhi’s murder by Godse and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee’s insisting on forcible merger of Kashmir to India, Sheikh Abdullah was shaken and started a rethink about the accession. He was arrested and put behind bars for 17 years. This is what initiated the process of alienation in Kashmir. This process was intensified as autonomy was trampled by and by. In 1965, the Kashmir’s Prime Minister’s status was reduced to Chief Minister and Sadar-E-Riyasat was changed to Governor.

The alienated youth started and intensified their protests. They were duly helped by Pakistan in supply of weapons. The initial protests were on the grounds of Kashmiriyat. With Zia Ul Haq’s Islamization and rise of radical Islam, planted by the American project to raise Al Qaeda-Taliban to fight against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, the radical Islam started dominating the area.

In late 1980s the militants changed their track from Kashmiriyat to Anti-India and then Anti Hindu. While the political establishment kept changing hands; youth were disgruntled also due to lack of jobs and economic development. After the hanging of Maqbul Bhatt, many youth left for Pakistan for training in terrorism. JKLF was mainly talking of Kashmiriyat and Azadi, Hijbul Mujahideen gradually became more dominant and was pro Pakistan and anti Hindu.

The initial murders were those of pro India elements, Maulana Masud, Abdul Ghani, Wali Ahmad Bhatt were done to death. Gulam Nabi Azad’s nephew was abducted. Respectable doctor and thinker Abdul Guru was murdered. Rubiya Saeed; daughter of Mufti Mohammad Saeed, the Home minster was abducted. The V P Singh Government signed on the dotted lines of terrorists and released many of the dangerous terrorists, worsening the atmosphere. Neelkanth Ganjoo, the judge who had pronounced death penalty on Maqbool Bhatt, Tikalal Takloo, the BJP leader and Premnath Bhat (Journalist) were killed brutally. The militants turned their guns against Pandits. Threats to them, asking them to leave the valley started being blared from mosques. Similar leaflets also appeared. Pandit community was in the grip of fear.

With re-appointment of Jagmohan (19 January 1990) as the Governor, Farooq Abdullah resigned. On the same night the security forces searched the houses of nearly 300 people and dragged them mercilessly to the police stations. As a protest thousands came out on the streets and they were fired upon. Nearly 50 protesters died in the worst massacre in Gau Kadal.

The task of the state was to provide protection to the intimidated community and to combat the militants. Jagmohan took another route, he promised Pandits safe exit to Jammu camps. The rumor was that he wanted to have the valley free from Pandits so that he could unleash strong repressive measures against Muslims.

The local Muslims were mostly against the migration of Muslims. We need to distinguish between Pakistan trained militants and local Muslims. Jagmohan generalized all Muslims being against Pandits and this film does the same. As 3.5 Lakh Pandits migrated, close to 50000 Muslims also had to leave. Can this be called genocide? Genocide means a violence to finish the race off. In the killings by militants the official figures are (RTI inquiry- 27/11/2021)-Pandits 89, others 1635 (Muslims mainly and also Sikhs and personnel of security forces).

The way film has been made creates anti Muslim hysteria. India has seen massacre of Muslims (Nellie, Mumbai, Gujarat, Delhi) of Sikhs (Delhi) all these in thousands. Films made on Gujarat massacre Perzania was not permitted to be screened in Gujarat. That film made us think and not incite. The KF just selectively shows violence against Hindus and presents local Muslims as collaborators in that. Half truth and falsehood combined! The responses in cinema houses are alarming. The crowds are giving dangerous slogans. Do we need such films which are one sided, based on half truth and some falsehoods and promote Hate?

Omar Abdulla’s vision is on the dot when he says, “The pain & suffering of 1990 & after cannot be undone. The way Kashmiri Pandits had their sense of security snatched from them & had to leave the valley is a stain on our culture of Kashmiriyat. We have to find ways to heal divides & not add to them.”

After 1990, BJP led NDA has been in power for nearly 14 years. Earlier Manmohan Singh Government started many schemes for Pandits, What has BJP led Government done to rehabilitate them is a matter of introspection. Using them as a political tool is totally unwarranted. What we need is to give justice and rehabilitate the victims of violence, Pandits as well as others.

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