“The Kashmir Files”: Hope, despair, and dislocation of Kashmiri Pandits

Only hope remained when Kashmiri Pandits were exiled from Kashmir, the hope which still reminds Kashmiri Pandits of the dream of returning to their homeland.

Sultana Banu

  • Read Time 4 min.

“Hope is the biggest despair in human life.” This quotation is taken from the movie The Kashmir Files. “Hope” holds a positive meaning and connotes aspiration and dream. Moreover, hope is the key to positively perceiving life and is the only aspect of life that shows the bright side while humans face dark circumstances. The above-mentioned quotation is well recited by Mithun Chakraborti in the movie. With this line, the entire cast and crew of the movie are telling us that only “hope” remained when Kashmiri Pandits were exiled from Kashmir. That is “only the hope” that still reminds Kashmiri Pandits of the dream of returning to their homeland—Kashmir. Additionally, that is again the “hope” and “hope” was hoping for the betterment of Kashmiri people and the belief that hopefully, the bright sunny day will shine in Kashmir.

The Kashmir Files is directed by Vivek Agnihotri. The movie is based on a true story of the Kashmiri Pandits’ tragedy. The story tells the genocide and exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the year 1990 by the Islamic State. On that day, a rebellious Islamic group in Kashmir demanded freedom—freedom in terms of their land and Kashmir being the free State from India. Thus, the rebellious group targeted Kashmiri Pandit males and left them only three choices—Raliv, Galiv or Chaliv meaning convert to Islam, die or leave the place. Meanwhile, the rebellious group started to kill young or most of the Kashmiri Pandit males. Women and girls are raped, tortured, and murdered and children are left in a very deep traumatic shock after being a witness to the situation of horror and killings.

Anupam Kher as the protagonist plays one of the Kashmiri Pandits of that time named Puskar Nath. He has performed outstandingly in his role as a Pandit who belongs to Kashmir and who is rooted there. Through him, the audience gets to know the emotional attachment of Pandits to their land, their loss of identity, humanity and belongings among others. On the contrary, Anupam Kher’s character as Puskar Nath represents hope for the day of the betterment of Pandits and their hope of being able to return to their ancestral land one day. Additionally, Puskar Nath gives a strong message that knowledge has bigger power and value than guns to run life peacefully. Being an intellectual protagonist, Pukasar Nath believes and acts based on ethics and shows solidarity to all. He is a rebel who fights to protect the identity of his people. The protagonist shows hope, fidgeting in most of the act to show the real connection with the plot and fighting as a one-man army to get back into his hometown. He is one of the representatives of those common people living in Kashmir with their families, following daily rituals and isolating themselves from politics and political agendas. Hence, he is the symbolic representation of Kashmiris rather than the representation of Hindus or Muslims of Kashmir.

The Kashmir Files explicitly unravels the bitter truth and experiences of the Kashmiri Pandits as well as the common Muslims of Kashmir who witnessed such destruction. At the same time, the movie raises some important questions: Whose victory upon whom? Whose vested interest in the separation of Kashmir and creating a new identity for the Kasmiri in the name of freedom?

The movie answers these questions: It’s politics and it’s all about political leaders. In the name and game of politics, political leaders treat the public like a puppet and keep them in an illusion with their false promises. As a result, good governance suffers and there are high risks of building space to create loopholes by the political parties with vested interests for power, position and resources.

Moreover, the movie shows the trend of brainwashing the young generation by leaders in the name of the identity, socio-cultural, political and contemporary issues. Universities become the centers for producing young students as puppets, who then are provoked to take part in the so-called revolution to ‘save’ humanity. Students blindly follow and support such cases because they are vulnerable in terms of their age, emotion, psychology, lack of career opportunity and many more. Leaders encourage young minds to form political parties or join politics. Without knowing the consequences students follow their leaders and spread the agenda of the big parties. Student unions become a means of gathering masses to run political campaigns. Being involved in such activities some of the young leaders may be rewarded but not all. And those rewarded are again weaving the cycle of disillusionment for an upcoming generation. The vicious cycle runs deep.

The education system limits students to only one kind of philosophy rather than alternative viewpoints. Jacques Derrida, the father of the theory of deconstruction, argues that there is no center, nor margin. According to him, there is no ultimate center at all and the center can keep changing. Thus, the truth can have multiple connotations and meanings based on context.  The director has presented multiple layers of truth in the movie.

Whose victory upon whom? Whose vested interest in the separation of Kashmir and creating a new identity for the Kasmiri in the name of freedom?

Vivek Agnihotri deconstructs the truth of the Kashmiri Pandits’ genocide of 1990. He shows how one-sided historical information or facts delivered to college students can play as a catalyst to provoke them. In addition, the movie shows the real faces of so-called preachers who put masks on their faces to create and maintain propaganda.

The movie has well researched the incidents of the genocide. There is so much bloodshed and terrific situations that even adults struggle to come to terms with them. The story can be interpreted as a religious conflict between the two parties. However, it holds multiple layers of the current socio-political, cultural and religious matters.

The Kashmir Files thus sets a record as a game-changer in the genre of cinemas. It not only screens the real stories but also shows the reality of the contemporary situation in Kashmir with a message of hope. Hope is a powerful weapon for survival.

Sultana Banu is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in English Literature at Saraswoti Multiple College.