The Bollywood film about the exodus of Hindus from Kashmir that won praise from India’s prime minister is accused of stoking anti-Muslim sentiment.
An Indian film centering on the exodus of thousands of Hindus from Indian-administered Kashmir and awarded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is stoking anti-Muslim feelings in the country.
The Kashmir Files, a 170-minute Hindi film released last week, tells the fictional story of a college student who finds his Kashmiri Hindu parents killed by rebels – not in an accident as he was told his grandfather.
Hundreds of thousands of people were driven from Kashmir, losing their homes and many lives, when a revolt broke out against Indian rule in 1989. Many were Hindus, known as “Kashmir pundits”, and ended up living in camps in northern India.
A small number of the community, however, continue to live in the predominantly Muslim valley.
Supporters of the film, which is set both during the violent upheavals of 1989-90 and today, say it sheds light on an often overlooked chapter in the history of Indian-administered Kashmir.
Calls for the extermination of Muslims after the screening of Kashmir Files. This one, as always on you, Prime Minister Modi. Nothing has changed for you from 2002 to 2022. https://t.co/S6RYwLlq4f
— Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) March 16, 2022
Since coming to power in 2014, Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party has offered support to displaced Hindus who eventually want to return to Indian-administered Kashmir.
Since removing the disputed region’s special status in 2019, Modi’s government has taken a series of measures which local Muslims say are aimed at changing the region’s demographics and depriving them of their land and livelihoods. subsistence.
Modi praised the film on Tuesday, saying it showed the truth and that special interests were waging a campaign to discredit it.
“They are shocked that the truth that has been hidden for so many years is known and backed up by facts,” Modi said, without specifying who he was referring to.
A BJP state leader gave government workers half a day off to see the film, while Modi and BJP supporters endorsed the film on social media.
However, critics say he is loose with facts and targets Indian Muslims even outside Indian-administered Kashmir. Many see the film as evidence of the growing religious polarization that Modi’s critics say he has encouraged since taking power in 2014.
Several videos have been posted online showing people in theaters cheering, shouting hateful slogans and calling for violence against Muslims.
Al Jazeera could not verify the authenticity of the videos that went viral on Indian social media.
“The state apparatus supporting the film and the reaction to it are disappointing,” said Hussain Haidry, a screenwriter who works in Bollywood.
“As a Muslim, you feel a sense of despair that films like The Kashmir Files encourage and add to Muslim hatred in the population.”
“Jab mulle ka @ te jaayenge Ram Ram chillaayenge” – this slogan is thrown around by people in a theater in Bijnor after watching Kashmir Files. They also held up the slogan “Bharatiya Janata Party Zindabad”. Scary that there is no police action on these murderous slogans against Muslims. pic.twitter.com/t15JhToqZx
— Kaushik Raj (@kaushikrj6) March 16, 2022
Many critics have denounced the virulent hate speech against Muslims in theaters and questioned why the government is not acting against the perpetrators.
“Calls for genocide of Muslims in theaters after screening of #KashmirFiles. Will the directors, actors, fans of the film, including the Prime Minister, appeal against such appeals? You know the answer,” tweeted politician and feminist Kavita Krishnan.
Columnist Asim Ali also criticized the film in an article on the Newslaundry news site.
“The message that an ordinary Hindu is supposed to take from the film (as evidenced by many viral videos coming out of cinemas) is another kind of ‘never again’ – never again trust the Muslim, the secular or the the left,” he wrote. .