Steven Allan Spielberg, the American director, producer, and screenwriter hailing from Orthodox Jewish lineage produced the epoch-making film Schindler's List in the year 2003 and it bagged seven Academy Awards, seven BAFTAs, and three Golden Globe Awards. It was also designated as culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant and selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry. It is pertinent to mention that the film follows a German industrialist who saved more than a thousand mostly Polish Jewish refugees from the Holocaust. The acceptance of the movie, in other words, was universal.
If we draw a parallel to the above phenomenon with the Kashmir Files, the movie which is the talk of the Country today, several moot points and emotions are stirred up in the minds of rational Indians. The unprecedented sentiments the film evoked is a cause for serious deliberations at the national level.
The first moot point worthy of deliberation is that a J&K court on 17th March barred the producers from representing the late IAF Squadron Leader Ravi Khanna based on a move by Nirmal Khanna his wife claiming the scene was contrary to facts. Ravi Khanna was one of the 4 IAF personnel shot dead in Srinagar on January 25, 1990, allegedly by a group led by JKLF chief Yasin Malik.
Secondly, the film strenuously argues “genocide” being perpetrated on the Kashmiri Pandits during the militancy and copious use of the word “exodus” and references to the Holocaust. Numbers are trotted out to support the argument – 4,000 Kashmiri Pandits killed and five lakh displaced since the armed conflict began. On the other hand, as per the RTI application submitted by one RP Kapoor of Panipat Haryana, which went viral on social media, several Kashmiri Pandits who were killed by terrorist attacks since the inception of militancy is 89 whereas the report from one Journalist Shujaat Bukhari, who was subsequently shot down by unidentified gunmen in Srinagar in 2018, in the Hindu, put the figure as 219. In a recent report, ‘Seven Exoduses and The Ethnic Cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus’, research think tank Centre for Integrated and Holistic Studies (CIHS) has published a graphic list of select documented cases of murder, rape, and violence against the community in the Valley from March 1989 until March 2003. Such discrepancy in the number of deaths shrouded in mystery should be unveiled at the earliest leaving no scope for wild speculation.
Thirdly, what prompted and who decided for the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, and on what assessments this was based. In hindsight, were there other ways to ensure the safety of Kashmiri Pandits who were concentrated in areas like Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla, etc
Fourthly, the reasons as to why arrangements in camps in Jammu remain so shoddy even after months/years.
Fifthly, the reason for the abrupt rise of insurgency with violent ethnoreligious fervor in 1989 in Muslim-majority state J&K needs proper scrutiny. The contention of the previous DGP Jammu and Kashmir Shesh Paul Vaid, released through a tweet dated March 16th, 2022, that the first batch of 70 terrorists trained by ISI was arrested by J&K police but the ill-thought political decision had them released and the same terrorists later on led the many terror organizations in J&K, deserve serious consideration. These hardcore Islamic terrorists were released by the Farooq Abdullah (1987-1990) government and later committed the killing of Hindus. Pointing fingers at the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government at the Centre the DGP quipped “Could this have been possible without the knowledge of the Union Government of 1989?”
Lastly, the depiction of certain scenes in the movie seems to be very dramatic and sensational. The film appears to deliberately exaggerate the number of victims to paint militants and Kashmir Muslims as hostile and having hands in the Hindu exodus. It is alleged by a section of people that the movie tried to hype the oppression, exhibiting a ‘rightist’ mindset, and fiction was sensationalized.
On January 20, 1990, the first stream of Kashmiri Pandits began leaving the Valley with hastily packed belongings in whatever transport they could find. However, we should not forget the Gawkadal massacre, the very next day, perpetrated by CRPF leading to the death of 160 Kashmiri Muslims, and this was not depicted in the movie.
It is precise because of these two events- the flight of the Pandits and the Gawkadal massacre taking place within 48 hours. Neither community could accept the pain of the other, and even today, mutual suspicion exists in some way or the other.
Learning from past mistakes is the way ahead for the removal of this distrust. Strict punitive actions on terror, speedy rehabilitation and resettlement of the Kashmiri Pundits through a process of reconciliation and inclusion with the majority community, implementation of the so-called Vajpayee Doctrine incorporating Insaniyat (Humanity), Jamhuriyat (Democracy), and Kashmiriyat (identity of the Kashmir people), and financial inclusion of all communities are other measures which can lead to a prosperous Kashmir of our dreams.
Credit must of course be given to Vivek Agnihotri and Pallavi Joshi (one of my favourites) for bringing such an important national issue close to the hearts of the Indian people. The famous saying of the Spanish Philosopher, George Santayana will be a grim reminder to all Indians in general and the people of Kashmir in particular: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Pallab Bhattacharyya is a former director-general of police, Special Branch, and erstwhile Chairman, APSC. Views expressed by him are personal.