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Dharma Files | The Kashmir Files: India needs a Truth and Reconciliation Commission before it’s too late – Firstpost

India claims to be a democratic secular nation. Those who saw the film must have begun wondering whether to believe it any more
An estimated 100,000 Kashmiri Pandits have reportedly fled the Valley in the early 1990s. PTI
The film — The Kashmir Files — has taken India, and perhaps the world as well, by storm; and the storm continues to rage. While I have not yet seen the film, what I wish to address in this post, is not the film itself, but rather the exceptional reaction it has generated which is a phenomenon that needs to be examined on its own.
To describe the reaction to the film as exceptional is to understate it. It seems set to rival the most successful of films, such as Dangal, in terms of its earnings at the box office. People have been known to colour their faces on Holi, as Anupam Kher, an actor in the film, does as a Siva devotee. The Kashmir Files has already been seen by 1.1 billion people in the world and it is being described as a movement rather than a movie. It has also generated a lot of controversy. Calls have been issued to ban the film. Unsuccessful attempts have been made to interrupt its screening in Calcutta and UP, and the Rajasthan government has imposed Section 144 in Kota from 22 March to 21 April, presumably to avoid any untoward incident.
Image courtesy: Twitter/@AnupamPKher
I first heard that something was amiss in Kashmir from a friend here in Montreal. I did not believe him because I thought his Right-wing sympathies had got the better of him and he was unduly worked up about some stray incident. But when I shared my scepticism with him, he wondered whether I would like to visit the camps in Jammu. I was still incredulous: “But how could this happen without anyone knowing it?” I expostulated, and the discussion trailed off into other matters.
Then by chance I read somewhere about the Girija Tickoo incident. This was not something which could be overlooked if true. And, as the details of the exodus dribbled out, I could not contain my sense of shock. How could this happen in India — with a Central government, a state government, a district administration in place? With a police force, an Army, an active media, an active judiciary also in place? How could more than three hundred thousand people be driven away from one part of India without so much as a ripple?
I recalled Nobel laureate Professor Amartya Sen’s remark, that a famine was impossible in a democracy, because any death would immediately become news forcing any government to take immediate remedial action. I had once believed it. What do I do with it now?
This is what I want to address in this post.
India claims to be a democratic secular nation. Those who saw the film must have begun wondering whether to believe it any more. I was led to doubt it without seeing the film. The legislature, the executive, the judiciary are said to be the pillars of the democratic system, with a free press as the fourth. None of these took note of a crisis of this magnitude? How could that be? We also claim to be a secular state in which everyone has the freedom to practice their religion freely. How could more than 3,00,000 Hindus be displaced in this way, without such an egregious violation of human rights getting noticed?
Then the train of thought becomes more disturbing. If such blatant religious persecution can be suppressed in a democratic secular polity in modern times, what might have happened to the Hindus in medieval times under Muslim rule? Are the accounts of the persecution of the Hindus, which manage to trickle through, despite the efforts to suppress them in modern historiography, not exaggerations but understatements? And what if other states in India beside Kashmir become Muslim-majority states, what then? And what if all Hindus do not react non-violently like the Kashmiri Hindus.
In a televised Hindi poetic symposium, the other day a young pre-teen girl brought down the house by openly asking, thumping her thigh, why the Hindus of Kashmir did not return fire with fire?
And the most disturbing thought of all: What if the millions of young Hindus, who have watched the film, started wondering — if a minority could be driven out of Kashmir by the majority with impunity, could the majority similarly drive out the minorities out of India?
If such thoughts are occurring to someone who has not watched the movie, what might be passing through the minds of those who watched it?
I think we need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in India before it’s too late.
The author, formerly of the IAS, is the Birks Professor of Comparative Religion at McGill University in Montreal Canada, where he has taught for over thirty years. He has also taught in Australia and the United States and at Nalanda University in India. He has published extensively in the fields of Indian religions and world religions. Views expressed are personal.
Updated Date:
The vicious lobby of Bollywood has started a campaign against #TheKashmirFiles for #Oscars, says director Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ruling the state for more than two decades now, is not seen as a viable option for Muslim voters which have a sizeable presence in over two dozen seats in the 182-member state Assembly
Anupam Kher shared a selfie with Kartik Aaryan and wrote how The Kashmir Files and Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 made massive money worldwide, and called himself and Aaryan the two Superstars.
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