The Kashmir Files film has nothing to do with either Kashmir or the tragedy of the Pandits
While pointing out the half and selective truths in the recent blockbuster The Kashmir Files, well-meaning people forget the larger objective of the film and get into the triviality of comparative statistics.
Contrary to the claims, the film has nothing to do with the tragedy that befell the Kashmiri Pandits in the early years of the 1990s. What’s more, it has nothing to do with the Kashmiri Muslims either. Kashmir and the trauma of the Pandits has merely been used as a plot point in the movie to miniaturise the plight of the Hindus in their motherland ever since the first Muslim invader cast his marauding eye on this sacred land in the 11th century. In other words, it is a microcosmic version of the Hindus in India under the ‘Muslim rule’.
Once we understand this, we will realise that ‘The Kashmir Files’ is not a mere propaganda film. It’s a visual, easy to understand tool for indoctrination of the doubters. This is the reason the government has thrown its weight behind the film. Reaching the lowest common denominator, the film exemplifies what the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh’s universe has been doing since the 1930s: Building a lurid history of India spanning six centuries in which Hindus have always been the victim and Muslims always the perpetrator.
Until ‘The Kashmir Files’ came along, projection of Hindu victimhood had to rely extensively on non-Hindu sources, since there was not much tradition of history-writing in India. However, using the victor’s narrative to underscore the victim’s plight had two problems. One, the constant need to justify trusting some narratives of the victor’s history and not others; and two, the mortification of relying on the history-writing skills of those who were deemed uncouth, uncivilised and illiterate.
Perhaps, this was the reason that centuries of purported horrors faced by the Hindus were described in vague, generic terms without laying too much emphasis on details or dates. The history writing by post-independence historians was accused of deliberately underplaying the vileness of the Muslim rulers and hence dismissed as Leftist. Attempts at writing alternate history, especially of the medieval period, has not met with much success either. Lack of scholarly references and peer reviews has come in the way of its credibility.
The targeted killing and subsequent exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, on the other hand, is contemporary and is backed by both documentary as well as anecdotal evidence. Once shorn of context, it perfectly fits the Hindu-Muslim narrative of perpetual strife. Much before the film was conceptualised, the RSS and its larger family had started using the tragedy of the Pandits as a comparative reference against the Muslims in the rest of India. ‘But what about Kashmiri Pandits’ has long been the final argument of the bigot when called out for his/ her lies.
Since this argument has not been called out or put in context in a more concerted manner, and since the question of the Kashmiri Pandits remain unresolved, much like the Kashmir issue itself, it was only a matter of time that it would be given a populist shape in the form of a movie. The only surprise is that it took so long.
A film, whose objective is indoctrination and radicalisation of Hindu youth, cannot be countered by pointing out its exaggerations or crudeness. Or even the fact that more Kashmiri Muslims died. So what? In any case more Muslims have died in communal violence in other parts of India too. The film is not about the Muslims. These details are immaterial. The important part is that Hindus died, and some of them were betrayed by those they trusted–Muslims. Just like the context, the numbers also do not matter. What matters is its power to mobilise the foot-soldiers against the Muslims in the rest of the country.
Take Karnataka for instance. As the campaign against the Muslims in the state gets shriller, from hijab to halal, the film is constantly referenced as a justification for Hindu rage. As if the massacre of the Pandits happened last month. It’s not only the convenient ‘fringe’ which has woken up to the plight of the Pandits. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Chauhan has also recently learnt that Kashmiri Pandits were killed and driven out of their homes in the 1990s. To atone for his ignorance, he wants to build a genocide museum for them in Bhopal. No prizes for guessing what purpose the museum would serve.
Radicalisation of the majority can only have disastrous consequences. As much for the minorities as for the nation. The Hindu rage is being fuelled by the idea of past atrocities and humiliation. The young are frequently being exhorted to overcome their timidness to take on the virile Muslim who violated not only their motherland but the mother too. This rhetoric drives in a sense of historic inferiority and consequently hatred. All of these are negative and debilitating emotions, which stymie human development. Is it any wonder that Indians are among the world’s unhappiest people! Because all the emotions they hold are negative—inferiority, hatred, anger, despair. There is plenty of research that shows that happiness is a consequence of positive emotions—love, generosity, trust, hope. An unhappiness society is a sick society.
So, what should the saner lot among us do?
Understand and accept the challenge before us. Thereafter begin the process of deradicalization of the Hindu youth in a bottoms-up manner. From home to neighbourhood and then communities. Of course, the RSS through its units has had a head-start, but sensible people need to start somewhere. Instead of fire-fighting every time A File releases, we need a concerted, sustainable effort to cleanse our society of hatred. It may take a while, but at least we would be on the track that can lead us someplace inclusive and happy.