‘The Kashmir Files’ Marks India’s Descent Into Darkness

Once known as “heaven on earth,” Kashmir today is the world’s most militarized zone. A proper evaluation of the causes of conflict would obviously be the first step in defusing tensions and promoting reconciliation—but a new film is doing the opposite, even as it claims to be honestly confronting the past.

In March, it was released in Indian cinemas. The Kashmir FilesA Bollywood drama of 170-minutes about Kashmiri tragedy Pandits, or Brahmins—the priestly highest caste of the Hindu religion. In Muslim-dominated Kashmir, Hinduism is an endangered faith. The Pandits fled the area in large numbers in the 1990s when militant Islamists from Pakistan began targeting them.

This Hindi-language movie has received a tax exemption and is heavily supported by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government. urging peopleGo watch it. Time off is offered to government workers if they watch the film. However, the movie’s main theme (made by Modi sympathizers) and the graphic portrayal of Pandits being intimidated and killed is stirring up Hinduism and aggravating religious strife.

You can find videos on social media of audience members bursting into song. rousing hate speechesThe film was filled with calls for Muslims to be killed and other arousals. boycott Muslim-owned businesses. Often, these speeches are staged by Hindu vigilante organizations ideologically allied with Modi’s government. This movie has made Indian Muslims feel even more outcast in an atmosphere of rising intolerance and where marginalization and exclusion have been mainstream political discourse. more fearful.

The “truth” that the film claims to reveal is that there was a “genocide” of Pandits in the 1990s, hidden by a callous ruling establishment and a servile media. It claims that Pandits were murdered in thousands and not the hundreds, as claimed by the film. governmentOrganizations of Kashmiri Pandit have also stated.

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It’s not clear why the horrors visited upon the Pandits are presented as having been hushed up. The film’s young protagonist learns about it all from files of newspaper cuttings of the time. His inability to remember the events of three decades ago—like the 65% of India’s population below the age of 35—is a function of demographics rather than deceit. Neither is it clear why the film’s central characters repeatedly blame a Congress party-led government in Delhi for the exodus, when it took place during the time of a coalition government that was supported by Modi’s own Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

But accuracy is not the film’s priority, nor is it interested in justice and closure for the Pandit community. The film’s purpose is to The Kashmir Files is to inflame hatred against Muslims; against secular parties that Modi’s followers brand anti-Hindu; liberal intellectuals and activists, whose faith in India’s inclusive democracy runs contrary to the supremacist tenets of Hindu nationalism; and against the liberal media that the Hindu right disparages as sold-out “presstitutes.”

Muslims are shown as evil, treacherous, predatory and all-around bad. Even small Muslim boys are depicted as demonic. Lascivious Muslim men are shown as lusting after Hindu women. The latter is a particularly resonant trope employed by the BJP and goes by the term “love jihad”—a supposed Islamist conspiracy to impregnate Hindu women with the end of numerically overtaking Hindus. (In fact, Muslims make up just 14% of India’s population.)

This propaganda was evident in the wild reception that the film received. One viral video shows an angry member of the public urging Hindu men not to abandon their faith. marrying Muslim girls. Majoritarian angst such as this—evident from hashtags like #WakeUpHindu—is what the film aims to fuel, rather than a sincere tackling of the complex story of Kashmir.

Kashmir’s cycles of violence

The “truth” about Kashmir, a more complex one, is that an endless cycle of alienation, distrust, and violence has been fed by decades of broken political promises, rigged elections, the claustrophobia and humiliation of a constant military presence, foreign-funded Islamist insurgencies, custodial deaths, torture, rights abuses, brutal crackdowns, and the Indian state’s legitimate fears of loss of sovereignty.

Both Muslim and Hindu women have been subject to sexual violence from militants, as well as the security forces. In Kashmiri Muslims, the number of people fleeing from violence has been far higher than that for Hindus. And many Pandits who braved the militancy and chose to stay were “protected by Muslims,” according to a former Indian intelligence chief. All of these are not yet in India. The Kashmir Files.

Modi could have tried to reset the region, even though he has not been involved in any of the atrocities and political failures that occurred in Kashmir in the past. Modi, a Hindu powerfulman, is driven to impose a more strict policy on Kashmir than any of his predecessors. Soon after his re-election in 2019, Modi stripped Jammu and Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority state, of its statehood and partial autonomy, imprisoned its elected representatives, sent in an additional 40,000 troops, locked down the region, and imposed a months-long information blockade.

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Kashmir’s long struggle for secession validates the Hindu nationalist case that Muslims, with their extraterritorial loyalties, are an existential threat to Hindus and the integrity of India. Kashmir thus fits neatly into the BJP’s use of Muslims as the bogeyman to unite the vastly disparate Hindu voter base against the dangerous “other.” This mass radicalization is driven at various levels—through social media, divisive political messaging, a craven mainstream news media (at times compared with Radio Rwanda), and historical revisionism, increasingly through cinema.

The construction of group identities is based on shared histories. This helps to manipulate and weaponize popular opinion. These events are based on historical facts that show the suffering of Hindus by Muslims. A noticeable rise in Islamophobia has occurred recently in Bollywood. This is especially true for period films that feature noble Hindus fighting against devilish Muslim rulers.

Compare with Nazi movies like Jew Süss Die Rothschilds At least some people. The Kashmir Files is an escalation of Indian cinema’s revisionist trend, used to justify the brazen Hindu extremism of the present. Today, Muslims are subject to humiliation and lynchment. Many Muslims have been subject to calls for genocide as well as economic and social boycotts. The state has criminalized religious hatred through movement against hijabs, and opposition to public prayers.

Drip-fed with nuggets of rewritten history through social media and popular culture, the Hindu vigilantes leading the charge against India’s Muslim population rationalize their bigotry as justice for past wrongs. India sinks deeper into the dark future of an illegal one. You can find it hereIt cites its history to support its decline. The more “truth” that films such as The Kashmir FilesAs a result, there is more risk for civil conflict in the country. Climaxing with cries for the extermination of Muslims ringing out from the dim theaters, the film marks a major milestone in India’s rapid descent into darkness.

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