While grieving for Kashmiri Pandits, we cannot remain oblivious to such tragedies elsewhere in the country
Rashae’ K | Clarion India
NOBODY would have faulted Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his wholesome praise for Vivek Agnihotri’s controversial film on the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. But he went a step further saying more films like The Kashmir Files need to be made so that people can know the truth. The irony is not lost on anybody. Someone on whose watch the worst pogroms of our times have been swept under the carpet is calling for“speaking the truth.”
Modi’s newfound love for truth needs to be welcomed whole-heartedly. But how could one forget the fate of a film, Parzania. The Rahul Dholakia directed movie could not be screened under pressure from the ruling dispensation in Gujarat when Modi was the chief minister. Why? Because the film touched upon the anti-Muslim genocide in Gujarat, that too, in passing!
PM @narendramodi Sir!
Appreciating your openness’, advocacy for free&open environment; promoting #kashmirifiles, as a patriot I expect an advice from you to the Gujarat Government “to remove ban on screening of #Parzania” which was imposed during your CMship in Gujarat.
Jai Hind! pic.twitter.com/GElfwPHb9A
— Navaid Hamid نوید حامد (@navaidhamid) March 16, 2022
The English-language film, starring Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika, based on a true incident of the disappearance of the teenage son of a Parsi family during the riots in Gujarat in 2002 could not see light of the day. Why did the then chief minister not intervene to ensure the release of the film in the state to serve the cause of truth? He owes an answer to the country.
The Kashmir Files, as the title suggests, claims to have documented the facts relating to the persecution, massacre, and eventual displacement of Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir Valley. Without going into the merits of its claims and factual accuracies, the question needs to be asked if what it depicts is the whole and unblemished truth.
Addressing the BJP parliamentary party meeting before the start of day’s proceedings in Parliament, the Prime Ministerclaimed that there have been attempts to “conceal the truth” (about Kashmiri Pandits) from the nation for a very long time and more films like ‘The Kashmir Files’ are needed to bring out the “truth”before people.
“Truth should be brought in the right form before the country. The truth prevailed in Kashmir Files. Torchbearers of freedom of expression have started a campaign to discredit the film. Whole ecosystem is active against the man who tried to present the truth. Instead of judging the film they are trying to stop people from watching the film,” the Prime Minister said.
But what really is the “truth” of the so-called massacre of Kashmiri Pandits?
It has been more than two decades since the Pandits left Kashmir following the outbreak of Kashmiri separatist insurgency in 1989. As per records, the casualty figure of Pandits stands at 79, not in thousands as Agnihotri’s propaganda claims. Most tragic and unfortunate as the killings had been, the number is miniscule in comparison to the Kashmiri Muslim lives lost during the same period. Lakhs of Kashmiri Muslims fled the Valley in time with the help or connivance of the administration.
This is not the first incident of its kind, nor is it the last. Thousands of innocent lives were lost in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom well before the Pandits episode. In 2002, at least 2,000 Muslims were butchered in Gujarat in what proved to be the most organised genocide in the nation’s history. In between we witnessed the Bhagalpur riots in Bihar, the massacre of Christians in Kandhamal, Orissa in 2008, Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 in Uttar Pradesh, and, the last but not the least, the riots in northwest Delhi in 2020 which claimed the lives of 52 people, mostly Muslims.
And what about the continuing mob lynching incidents that have claimed scores of innocent lives in the past eight years of this government?
But those who do not tire of raising the bogey of Kashmiri Pandits’ plight off and on never once uttered a single word of sympathy for those who suffered untold atrocities at the hands of Hindutva zealots. They rush to raise the bogey of Pandit killings at the drop of a hat every time there is a mention of Kashmir or the continuing deprivation and dispossession of its people. Why? Because the Pandit blood is clearly purer and holier than that of Muslim, Sikh, Dalit blood.
This is a testament to the racist and communal mindset of the Parivar that has unfortunately gone mainstream. Filmmaker Agnihotri is the latest to jump on its bandwagon. Doubtless, what happened to the Kashmiri Pandits at the hands of the militants leading to their exodus to other parts of the country is most unfortunate. But while grieving for the suffering Pandits, we cannot remain oblivious to such tragedies elsewhere in the country.
And what about the greater tragedy of Kashmir and its perpetually tormented people? Who would document their suffering and predicament?
Truth cannot be selective or subjective. By its very nature, truth is universal.
Rashae’ K is a Delhi-based journalist. The views are personal and Clarion India does not necessarily share or support them