In one of the shocking scenes in the movie Kashmir Files terrorists line up 23 Kashmiri Hindus and start shooting them one by one. The camera moves behind the lone terrorist holding the gun. We see the face of the victim, and in the next instant, a bullet enters his forehead, and the body falls into the pit. The terrorist moves to the next Hindu and shoots him. The camera does not skip a single victim. Finally, to make up for a count of 24, the terrorist pulls in a little boy and shoots him. There was pin-drop silence in the theater as the movie ended on this note, and we all walked out silently. I mentioned “one of the shocking scenes” because this is not the most gruesome scene. There is one which I could not watch.
While there are many movies on the Holocaust, there is almost none on the Hindu genocide in Kashmir. As I watched this movie, which brings out an ignored past, I felt angry, sad, and horrified. Anger at how various governments did nothing for the Kashmiri Hindus, sadness at how we let it be forgotten, and horror at the brutality that was done. The movie demonstrates the total failure of the system, which stood by, turned a blind eye, and was complicit in the atrocities. Kashmir Files packs a powerful punch, and it’s a punch to your gut.
There is a reason why the movie — without the usual Hindi movie elite and mandatory Punjabi songs– became a critical and commercial success. The film is brilliantly made, and it exposes the elites.
Except for a few movies like Uri, Sardar Udham, Shershaah, or Ghazi Attack, most Hindi films tell the same tired story repeated and rinsed. The fashionable ones just copy “woke” ideas from the West. Kashmir Files is a different breed. The story is told through the eyes of a young Kashmiri, who was ignorant of the events of 1990. Falling into the trap of a treacherous and scheming university professor he is motivated to fight for aazadi. Switching to the past, the film shows what happened in 1990. This was when Kashmiri Hindus were asked to either convert, leave or die. This was when politicians formed alliances with terrorists and a time when Pakistani currency was returned as change.
The movie manages the challenge of telling the forgotten story of Kashmiri Hindus through the intense performance of Anupam Kher. The full impact of the violence is etched in his face, and we all experience his traumatic memories. The scene where he sits in a refugee camp with a box of two biscuits to when he walks around calling for the abrogation of Article 370 touches your heart. His transition from fear to sadness to numbness is one of the heart-wrenching performances by an actor in recent memory.
This is an event that the Indian “Ministry of Truth” has tried to suppress for the past 32 years. As part of writing this article, I searched up on some papers written about this incident and this is a gem by Haley Duschinski
Kashmiri Hindus are a numerically small yet historically privileged cultural and religious community in the Muslim- majority region of Kashmir Valley in Jammu and Kashmir State in India. They all belong to the same caste of Sarasvat Brahmanas known as Pandits. In 1989-90, the majority of Kashmiri Hindus living in Kashmir Valley fled their homes at the onset of conflict in the region, resettling in towns and cities throughout India while awaiting an opportunity to return to their homeland.Haley Duschinski
A genocide was packaged as a voluntary exodus and then repeated by politicians, media, and intellectuals. This narrative was then sold to the public by the Hindi movie industry. Just watch Mission Kashmir, Haider, etc. The Malayalam movie industry, which shed copious tears over Gujarat, was busy re-reading Karl Marx while this happened in India.
Another reason this movie struck a chord is because it exposed the Leftists and their strategy. The Breaking India forces are called out, and the links between “eminent intellectuals” and terrorists are revealed. One of the interesting characters is the university professor portrayed by Pallavi Joshi. If you have read Breaking India, you know the playbook. There is an ominous dialogue she says, “The government might be theirs, but the system is ours.”
The movie brilliantly shows how fake news is created, truth is hidden, and how history is converted from “ashuddho” to “shuddho .” After watching this movie, you will not read the news the same way. It also calls out the current intellectual favorites, the Sufis, and their role in converting the Pandits many hundred years back. The technique was repeated in Malabar in 1921.
One of the most uplifting scenes in the movie is where we get educated on Kashmiri history. It answers the question: why should we care about Kashmir? Kashmir was the land of Kashyapa, Abhinavagupta, Charaka, Vagbhata, Panini, Vishnu Sharma, and Bharat Muni. It was the center of educational and cultural excellence and spirituality. Heard of Kashmiri Shaivism? Kashmir was the place for ambitious explorers seeking to grasp the vast reality of the mind, arts and sciences. A person from Kashmir was treated with respect like how we respect graduates from the best universities in the world. Unfortunately, it was this world that was ended by the Islamic invasion. The keepers of that knowledge were forced to flee at gunpoint.
The movies that have come in the past have tried to portray the terrorists as victims. However, Kashmir Files takes an unapologetic stance and shows what happened in the few days in 1990. Such movies need to be made to not forget the lessons from its aftermath. It’s not that such atrocities won’t happen again, but it will keep us on the alert to ensure that they are bought to light more quickly than in 1990 when the whole country looked the other way.