Watch ‘The Kashmir Files’ to know the story of pain & suffering of Pandits in the Valley

 Watch ‘The Kashmir Files’ to know the story of pain & suffering of Pandits in the Valley

Rajkumari Sharma Tankha

One day in 2016 while surfing the Internet for a film on Gautam Buddha, I chanced upon the movie, Buddha in a Traffic Jam. Thinking it must be some modern take on Buddha, I began watching it. A few minutes into the movie, and I realised it is not about Buddha at all. But by this time, I was hooked on to this brilliantly-made movie. I just couldn’t leave it. Watched the whole of it. Frankly, at that time, I was a politically naïve person, and this movie that talked about urban naxals and how deeply they have seeped into the fabric of society, educational institutions, government bodies jolted me. What impressed me the most was the way its director Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri narrated the story. It made me think, and I learnt to not take NGOs on their face value. There are many who peddle their own agendas cashing in on the grief of the poor, I learnt.

Then came The Tashkant Files, in 2019, wherein the plot revolved around the death of former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri. Most critics gave bad reviews and called it a politically-motivated story. But it is the way the movie was panned by leading publications that motivated me to watch it. Agnihotri must have hit some raw nerves to get such a scathing attack. And I watched it. I was struck by his story-telling skills and the amount of research he had done. Wiser by now, I realised that why the mainstream media was against it. It was a hard-hitting attack on certain politicians.

But did such harsh criticism discourage him? No. Agnihotri has now come up with another, equally hard-hitting one – on Kashmir genocide this time. Titled The Kashmir Files, the movie talks about the conditions that forced Kashmiri Pandits to move out of the Valley, and live as refugees in Jammu, Delhi and other cities across India.

I know some “stories of pain” first-hand. I met a few who left the Valley on January 19, 1990 around 1996-97. To tell you the truth, I didn’t have the heart to go deeper into their stories at that time – it was too painful to see them crying. As a family, we did help, in whichever way we could. But we all knew, they didn’t need help. They were not beggars. They needed the government to recognise the enormity of their plight, address their issues, make the Valley a safer place and help them get back to their “home”.

But no one bothered. No one cared. In fact, the then (or later) government brushed the issue under the carpet. They didn’t even term it a genocide. Why?

As time passed, most people forgot about it. The “thrown out Kashmiri Pandits” too moved ahead in their lives – many of them are now doing well in their careers, but have they forgotten what happened to them? Have they forgotten how the successive governments ignored them? No. They are angry, sad and all long to go back to their “home”. And, what pains them the most is that the nation and its people failed them.

No one talks about Kashmiri genocide. In fact, people in the far flung south, east and west of India are not even aware of what had happened. It is the collective amnesia about such a huge part of our nation’s history that hurts the most.

And this film, The Kashmir Files, is a reminder that what happened in January 1990 was not some simple migration but exodus affected due to genocide of Kashmiri Pandits. A very well made movie, it tells the story of Kashmir through the life story of teacher Pushkar Nath Pandit (Anupam Kher), his family and friends. Hard facts. Hard-hitting real stories.

All the actors did justice to their roles – every time Farooq Ahmad Dar (Chinmay Mandlekar) came on screen he freaked me out, I cried with Pushkar and his daughter-in-law Sharda Pandit (Bhasha Sumbli). My blood boiled when I saw Prof Radhika Menon (Pallavi Joshi) brainwashing Krishna Pandit (Darshan Kumar) and felt frustrated seeing him becoming a puppet in her hands.

I give full marks to Agnihotri for being direct in his approach. He doesn’t beat about the bush. There is no mincing of words or hiding the truth. The shocking truth is bared open when

Radhika says: We will never allow Kashmir to be a part of India. Govt bhale hi unki ho, system to hamara hai or when Journalist Vishnu Ram (Atul Srivastava) says: Padma Shri was given to silence you, Hari (DGP Hari Narain played by Puneet Issar).

The film stings, but truth is like that only. And in the words of Pushkar more dangerous than peddling fake news is hiding the real news. Truth needed to be told, and the film has successfully done that.

While the film makes you feel sad and depressed, what made me feel there is hope was the fact that I had entered a packed Audi number 2 at Wave Mall in Sector 18, Noida on March 13 to watch this film. I saw a lot of youngsters excitedly running up the escalator to reach the hall in time. I saw quite many old people – some of them walking with a limp, one old women with an orthopaedic belt on – walking slowly to the hall. Throughout the movie, I could hear people sobbing. One of them even howled loudly, only to be told by her husband that it was just a movie to which she replied, “But it happened to hundreds and thousands out there, right?”`

After the show ended, a man got up and said: We must never ever forget how our countrymen were made to suffer. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it – George Santayana.

I asked the woman sitting next to me why she had come to watch the movie – she wasn’t a Kashmiri, like many others in the hall – and she replied, “I wanted to know what happened to Kashmiri Pandits in 1990. There are no books on it. I never read any report in any newspaper.”

Well, that’s how the ecosystem had worked. The news that Kashmir was burning barely made it to the newspapers outside the city. The local journalists were brutally killed, and the international media was fed the stories of “Muslims uprising due to ill-treatment by Kashmiri Pandits”. The truth was the exact opposite. But it never made to the headlines.

I am heartened to note that people now want to know the truth without any bias, wherein lies the hope. As Pushkar says in the movie: Impossible takes time but you must always keep hope.

But, I wonder why leading publications are silent on the film. Why is no film critic writing about it? Why columnists, who wrote about My Name is Khan and PK with glee, not talking about The Kashmir Files?

I leave it to you, dear reader, to find your own answers to the whys in my story.




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