Biggest takeaway from ‘The Kashmir Files’: A simple question – ‘What’s your humanism?’ (Opinion)

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Some dialogues in the film ‘The Kashmir Files’ are worth pondering over.

The protagonist, a journalist, tells a former top cop: “You were given the Padma Shri so that you remain silent.”

The retired police officer — utterly frustrated of course — shoots back: “When we the police have to arrest or take action against a big terrorist or a criminal, you know first we try to find who is the keep (the Hindi word used is ‘rakhel’) of that criminal. Do you know, who these keeps are: these media people.”

I was in an Old Delhi cinema watching the movie with my teenage daughter. She laughed out. I also made some noise apparently. Did I like the statement?

Someone who joined journalism with a commitment to the ‘ism’ — mind you, in my age it was not fashionable and your dad would not proudly tell his colleagues and neighbours that his eldest son is a journalist.

Pallavi Joshi plays an intellectual professor and a great motivator. She is suave, throws around her one-liners carefully, waxing eloquently. The impact is huge. The youngsters adore her. Only at the fag end of the film does she talk about her real intent — “the battle of narratives” she has to win.

She uses a Kashmiri Pandit as an ultimate pawn. She convinces him that every story — or electoral journey — needs a villain and that villain should be the ‘state’ or the Government of India.

The young man discovers that she was photographed with a terrorist in a joyful mood — holding hands. And the photograph is preserved with utmost love and respect in the terrorist’s den. The Left-liberal lobby is ‘exposed’.

Here is the big and basic problem with the film. Hence, Bollywood could not back it unanimously.

One video has gone viral showing similarities between the reel-life ‘Radhika Menon’ and a real-life Ms Menon. Some would definitely call all this propaganda.

Remember the blockbuster ‘Deewar’, where Amitabh questions Lord Shiva: “Khush toh bahut hogey.” Hindu film lovers often say this scene was possible only in a temple.

There were a few more one-liners in ‘The Kashmir Files’. “Kya Kashmiri Pandit ko apne ghar jaane ka mauka milega? Is this justice?” The refrain so far has been to not ask these uncomfortable questions.

The film talks about ‘cultural genocide’ and ‘administrative genocide’, but how does the police behave in some of the so-called communally sensitive places?

The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits is only one part of the story. Maybe a day will come when people will have the guts to do films on other such instances of mass exodus, albeit on a smaller scale, in some other states.

What about my beloved north-eastern India? Are things good or ‘better’ there? What was the population break-up in the 1980s or in the early 1990s, and what is it now?

Why is the ‘herd syndrome’ still a malady? Why does a young man who studied in Kohima, Lunglei or Shillong have to settle down either in Delhi or in Mumbai, or even in the sub divisional town Siliguri? Is it only a career move?

For the film’s protagonist, Kashmir is his mother because he was born there. What about people in the audience?

At the end of the film, the chief protagonist says, “Kya hai aap ka humanism (What is your humanism)?” Perhaps, it is a wrong question even in circa 2022.

Parochialism is a disease. Some states have just walked into the lap of the politics of hatred, violence and insurgency, riding on this dangerous tiger called parochialism.

Some of this bitterness reached a crescendo. The Naga-Kuki clashes of the mid-1990s are now a part of the gory but legendary tales from Nagaland and Manipur. Vai Naupang — the ‘outsider’ — is a bad word in Mizoram.

Locals say the name ‘Meghalaya’ was imposed on the people of the state without taking them into confidence. In Meghalaya, even the coffee and tea industries were opposed initially as a result of the fear that more and more outsiders would flow in.

In Shillong, people have sold their properties to settle down in mainstream India. A friend of mine lost his mom recently in Delhi. He said his mother’s last wish, that she should go back and live in her residence at Jail Road, was never fulfilled.

Like most people in the north-east, I too believe that matter were mishandled in New Delhi too. The north-east has been often made to feel like a sore thumb, an unwanted growth in the extremities of Mother India’s anatomy.

There existed a lobby in Delhi — netas, babus and some others, including businessmen — that allowed the north-east to be engulfed in flames.

The volunteers of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) were once dubbed as ‘goons’.

Giani Zail Singh, when he was India’s Home Minister, had said in an interview to ‘The Indian Express’ in January 1980: “The Assam problem is no problem at all. Indiraji’s will shall prevail. If she wishes it tomorrow before sunrise, I shall fill Punjab’s jails with 10,000 Assamese to crush the movement.”

Others were no different. Morarji Desai and even Charan Singh had taken wrong steps on the Naga issue and the Assam agitation. Things do change and yet some things remain the same.

(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist and author of ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’)

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