HomeBusinessMoodywood: India's Hindu hardliners jump on Kashmir blockbuster MIGMG News

Moodywood: India’s Hindu hardliners jump on Kashmir blockbuster MIGMG News

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Hardline Hindus in India have jumped on an explosive new film approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi about a mass flight of Hindus from Kashmir 30 years ago to stir up hatred against the Muslim minority.

Critics say “The Kashmir Files” is the latest Bollywood show – best known for its lyrical and dance love stories – to tackle topics close to the political agenda of Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.

It was released last month and is already one of the highest-grossing films in the country this year, depicting in harrowing detail how hundreds of thousands of Hindus fled Muslim militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir in 1989-1990.

Authorities have allowed the film to be entered tax-free in many states, giving police and others some time to watch it.

Several videos circulated on social media that AFP confirmed to be authentic, showed people in cinemas calling for revenge and the killing of Muslims.

One clip shows Swami Jitendranand, a Hindu monk, leading a crowd in nationalistic and anti-Muslim chants.

“We think we are safe, but we are safe as long as they are not attacking us,” he said.

“(Muslims) are dangerous not only to India, but to the whole world.”

real or fantasy?

Muslim-majority Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan since 1947, has a bloody past.

Three decades of insurgency – backed by Pakistan, according to New Delhi – and a harsh response by the Indian army have killed tens of thousands of people, most of them Muslims.

About 200,000 Kashmiri Hindus, known as Pandits, fled after the outbreak of violence in the late 1980s. As many as 219 people may have been killed, according to official figures.

Correcting this “genocide” and “displacement”, as right-wing Hindu groups call it – and likening it to the Holocaust – has long been a central theme of the BJP.

In 2019, his administration – often accused of marginalizing and denigrating India’s 200 million Muslims – rescinded the region’s partial autonomy and imposed a vice-like security blanket.

But Sanjay Kao, a Kashmiri Pandit journalist who fled himself in the 1990s, said the film did not refer to the persecution of the Muslim community in the region either before or after.

“One of my relatives was shot dead … 300 meters from our house,” Kao told AFP.

“The film only talks about the displacement part, and only refers to the failure of the state and not the things that led to this situation.”

BJP agenda

The film’s director, Vivek Agnihotri, a Modi fan, told AFP he wanted to “give some dignity to the people who have been hurt”.

“No one asked Steven Spielberg why there was some backlash on ‘Schindler’s List,'” he said, referring to the 1993 film about the Holocaust that was widely praised as historically accurate.

“Give (people) the right to respond the way they want to react. As long as they don’t physically harm anyone, I think it’s okay.”

The film’s director, Vivek Agnihotri, a Modi fan, told AFP he wanted to “give some dignity to the people who have been hurt”. Photo: Agence France-Presse

Documentary director Sanjay Kak said the film “definitely has an agenda”, as it “strongly fuels anti-Islamic rhetoric in our society”.

“I think the film makes these (BJP’s) goals very clear: mainly related to the creation of Kashmir as a kind of ideological pole for their new Hindu vision,” he told AFP.

Moodywood

Modi responded to the criticism, saying, “The entire ecosystem is trying to silence the person who made the movie and is trying to reveal the truth.”

The world’s largest democracy has a long history of film censorship, but critics say the industry has come under increasing pressure to produce films more in line with the BJP’s narrative.

In 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s story about the prime minister’s life story was too much even for the Election Commission, which delayed its release until after the vote that year.

The same year saw Ori, a blockbuster based on the 2016 Hindi “surgical strikes” on militants across Pakistan, which critics said played a heavy and fast-paced role in dealing with the facts.

It was just one of a string of modern, military-themed films that were nationalistic, gun-toting tales of heroism by soldiers and police – usually Hindus – against enemies outside and within India.

“Most Indians think what happened in Uri is what they saw in the movie,” Kak said.

“The same way they see it in this movie becomes the story of Kashmir.”

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