INDIA always does a tremendous job when it comes to agenda-setting, framing, and disseminating fake news.
The Kashmir Files a movie released on 11 March 2022 is one such story. A movie directed by Vivek Agnihotri, starring Anupam Kher among others, is based on the 1990 Hindu-Pandit exodus from Indian Occupied Kashmir.
The movie is doing very well on box-office in India, and it has received mixed reviews from critics.
The majority of the Indian audience has appreciated it for bringing to light the forgotten tragedies of the 1990 Hindu-Pandit exodus, whereas some have called it exploitative and dangerous.
The film has been much acknowledged and promoted by the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) government. Several BJP-ruled states have waived tax on the film.
In addition, the police department in Madhya Pradesh has been offered a day’s leave to go watch the movie.
Furthermore, Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally met the team of the movie and highly appreciated and endorsed the work ‘for bringing forward the reality’.
These events provide enough evidence to prove the film to be a propaganda item that serves the interest of the right-wing nationalists.
The purpose here is not to challenge or negate 1990 Hindu-Pandit exodus but to focus on how sickeningly biased and anti-Muslim narrative the film has constructed.
In a society where Muslims are already subject to discrimination and violence, driven by an Islamophobic mindset, this film will further fuel the hatred of nationalist Hindus towards Muslims, consequently making life more miserable for Muslims living in India and IIOJK.
Videos are already circulating on social media that show Hindu youths raising anti-Muslim slogans in theatres right after watching the film.
The trailer of the movie gives a clear sense of anti-Muslim rhetoric where Anupam Kher who plays the role of Pandit is seen saying, “Azaadi (freedom) is a song of terrorism”, this single sentence undermines the whole freedom movement of Kashmiri Muslims, and their struggle for justice when you call their demand for freedom as an act of terrorism.
The discourse as such is not only biased but it repetitively paints all Muslims as extremists, violent and irrational beings.
The actress Pallavi Joshiplays the role of a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professor named Professor Radhika Memon.
It is a character modelled around Arundhati Roy who is a popular novelist, political activist and a Booker Prize-winning author, who among her other work has written several books on Kashmir.
She is well-known across the globe for her work as well as independent dissident views.
The character of Professor Memon (that is modelled around her) in one of the scenes says, “Kashmir is not an integral part of India, and it is a historical fact”, and these are the exact words Arundhati Roy uttered in one of her interviews.
What makes the portrayal of Arundhati Roy’s character problematic is the fact that talking to the media the actress Pallavi Joshi unequivocally emphasized, “I want people to hate my character”.
Asking people to hate a character based on a dissident voice of the country is equal to telling people to hate that person and what she believes in.
From targeting Arundhati Roy and stereotyping an education institution like JNU which already stays under fire by the right-wing nationalists, the movie has left no stone unturned to fuel the existing Islamophobia in the country.
India has a very well-organized and institutionalised agenda machinery across the globe, and it uses and abuses media outlets to promote its rhetoric.
The movie is released at a time when people from within and without India have started to question India on its human rights violations in Kashmir, particularly after the abrogating Articles 370 and 35-A, stripping the state of its special status and changing domicile laws to change the demographic of the region.
Kashmir dispute is 75 years old and in these more than seven decades there is a long list of gross human rights violations including forced disappearances, mass killings, rapes, and torture that took place in Kashmir.
Gawkadal Bridge Massacre, Kunan-Pashpora mass-rape case, Sopore massacre, and Bijbehera massacre are to name a few that took place after the 1989 insurgency in IIOJK, and these are the crimes that were committed by the Indian security forces and Indian army.
Every family in Kashmir has a harrowing story to tell. But the state celebrates a movie that ignores million of Muslims martyred in Kashmir in last 7 decades by handpicking the tragedy that only strengthens its agenda.
India is once again trying to fool the world of the ground realities by putting the blinkers of victimhood on its eyes.
Unless someone makes effort to take those blinkers off the world will keep falling for their tactics.
—The writer currently works at the Institute of Regional Studies.