Several BJP-ruled state governments actively pushed the film by either offering tax concessions or giving government employees special leave to watch it
A report by the Yashwant Sinha-led Concerned Citizen Group has linked the recent terrorist attacks on minorities to The Kashmir Files, a film promoted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, emphasising that both the Pandit and the Muslim communities fear a backlash in the Valley or outside.
The 19-page report, released on Saturday, has painted a grim picture, claiming that its members during the recent visit have encountered a “worsening public mood”, an “environment of political distrust”, “media in distress” and a damaging impact of The Kashmir Files.
Directed by Vivek Agnihotri, the controversial film projects Muslims as the villains behind the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley.
Several BJP-ruled state governments actively pushed the film by either offering tax concessions or giving government employees special leave to watch it.
The CCG members, including activist Sushoba Barve, former Air Vice-Marshal Kapil Kak, journalist Bharat Bhushan and former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, met a cross section of people in Jammu and Kashmir from March 20 to 25.
Former external affairs minister Sinha, the report said, could not visit because of “pressing personal engagements” but has endorsed the report.
The members said the visit came about in the aftermath of the release of the film and a preliminary report by the Delimitation Commission, which proposes to give more seats to Hindu-majority areas of Jammu.
The Valley has witnessed a spate of terrorist attacks on minorities in the last fortnight.
The report said the film was the recurring theme and people the CCG members met spoke forcefully about it. It recalled how the initiatives of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former state governments, which include providing jobs and creating secure camps, had enlarged the footprint of the Pandits in the Valley from 3,000 in 2002 to 10,000. Most of the nearly two lakh Pandits had migrated out of the Valley during militancy.
“Almost the entire opinion spectrum in the Valley conveyed to our group that the film sought to give a spin to the deeply tragic and unfortunate exodus of Pandits by weaponizing their suffering and marketing their pain for politico-commercial considerations and possible electoral dividends,” the report said.
“Not surprisingly, the producers of the Bollywood blockbuster are said to have grossed a thousand per cent return on their investment”.
Quoting an anonymous “leading academic,” the report said the film sought to “slander, vilify and delegitimise the Valley’s majority community’s own pain and suffering,” among whom “every family lost of member” (to militancy) and has a story to tell.
“But The Kashmir Files, in a brutal and dehumanising manner, people averred, describes every Kashmiri Muslim as barbaric, devious and jihadi to boot,” the report said.
“Wounds of Pandit migration had begun to heal somewhat, but the film has not only reopened these but sought to inflame passions…. Wide cross sections in the Valley opined how the film had exacerbated their all-pervasive sense of dread and distress. The majority community fears that their wards and relatives studying and working in the rest of India could come to harm under the prevalent environment of polarisation and communal tension.”
The report said the local Pandit leadership had conveyed to the group during an earlier visit that nullification of Article 370 and revocation of Article 35 A could trigger a counter-reaction.
“On our visit this time, they expressed their deep sense of mounting insecurity emanating from The Kashmir Files. The recent attempted killing of a Pandit medical store owner in Shopian, and attacks on three non-locals in four days (after our group returned) appears to vindicate the fears of both communities,” the report reads.
The report said the members encountered a “worsening public mood,” that was summed up by a “public intellectual” before the members.
“A terrible isolation has been thrust upon us. It has impacted our minds. We avoid calling each other. We don’t meet each other. Leave alone differing with someone or debating an issue, people are even scared of whispering. You can no longer argue with the younger generation about India’s democratic institutions to which one can appeal for redress. They don’t seem to exist for us,” it quoted him as saying.
A political leader told the CCG members that Delhi was now fiddling with delimitation of constituencies to further disempower Kashmir.