The Bitterest Truth of History: Raliv, Tsaliv ya Galiv – Makarand R. Paranjape

Bloody History of Kashmir

Prof Makarand R. ParanjapeWhile we debate the ‘truth’ of the feature film The Kashmir Files, why aren’t its critics shouting out about the continued targeted attacks and killings of Hindus in Kashmir? – Prof. Makarand  Paranjape 

The success of Vivek Agnihotri and Pallavi Joshi’s The Kashmir Files has, naturally, attracted its share of controversy and criticism. One standard complaint has been, “Oh, but it doesn’t tell the truth fully.” How can any single narrative tell the whole truth about our history? Such an expectation itself smacks of prejudice and animus.

Especially when the movie itself never claims to be a documentary. It is a feature film, with imaginary characters, but a story-line that is backed by a plethora of evidence. The latter includes press coverage, printed material, government records, oral testimony and a variety of other sources suggested eponymously. Three “Kashmir Files” are actually shown in the movie at its turning point.

The files surface when its young protagonist, Krishna Pandit, struggles to find out what actually happened to his own family as well as the other Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley. It is only after he encounters the documentary proof of the massacres and forced exodus of his people from the land of their birth and ancestry that he is convinced. With Krishna, it is presumed the audience will also be persuaded.

Not so. Many have pointed to various errors, misportrayals, exaggerations, or omissions, as perceived by them, in the film. But while we debate the “truth” of a feature film, why aren’t its critics shouting out about the continued targeted attacks and killings of Hindus in Kashmir? What is so shocking and sad is that it is these outbursts of terrorism in the UT that loudly and clearly endorse the basic premise of the movie. That there was a planned ethnic cleansing, tantamount to genocide, of the Kashmiri Pandits in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Worse, even today, these terrorists cannot be named openly for what they are but must be dubbed “militants” by the media. Likewise, their targets are euphemistically referred to as “minorities,” not Hindus, Kashmiri Pandits or Sikhs. In this manner, the “militants vs minorities” discourse continues to water down, even whitewash or deny the attack on the fountainhead of Indian culture and civilisation, our beloved and revered Kashmir, which is already truncated and dismembered. The movie shows this quite graphically in the sawing of Sharada, the protagonist’s mother, symbolic of Kashmir herself.

Let us look at some of these incidents of targeted killing to get a better sense of the ground reality. On April 3, two motorcycle-borne assailants fired on Sonu Kumar, a Kashmiri Pandit shopkeeper in Chotogam, Shopian district. The victim luckily survived because he was rushed to the army hospital in time. Kumar and his family have operated the medical store for decades.

They are one of three Hindu families that still remain in the village. His brother, in a video widely circulated over social media, complained that even the Hindu cremation ground and cemetery has not been spared. Land sharks have built right on top of it, signalling that Hindus will not be able to use it. If this is not ethnic cleansing and genocide, what is?

Just prior to that attack, seven people, including migrant workers from outside Kashmir in Lajoora village, Pulwama district, as well as two CRPF personnel were shot at. One of them, Head Constable Vishal Kumar, died in the terror strike on April 4 at Maisuma in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk. Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha issued a condolence message, “Strongly condemn the dastardly terror attack on civilians and CRPF personnel.” But it cannot hide the fact that Hindus are unsafe in J&K even after the nullification of Article 370 and the subsequent turning of the state into a UT directly under Central rule.

In the previous year, 2021, there was a spate of similar assaults, killings and grenade attacks. For instance, on October 7, Ramesh Pal Singh came to know of his wife’s killing in a WhatsApp forward that showed a woman in a blue salwar kameez lying bleeding on the ground. A distraught Singh said, “I had never expected something like that to happen to ordinary people like us. I am still in shock.” Singh was a bank employee while his slain wife, Supinder Kaur, the principal of a government school in the Idgah area of Srinagar. Both were Kashmiris. Deep Chand, another Kashmiri Hindu who taught in the same school, was also killed. Images of him in a puddle of blood, his mobile still in one hand, circulated on social media. Two terrorists had stormed into the school, killing its only two non-Muslims teachers. On October 5, M.L. Bindroo, a Kashmiri Pandit who owned a chain of medical stores and Virender Paswan, a golgappa vendor from Bihar, were shot dead. According to government figures, between 30 and 40 such innocents, nearly all of them Hindus or non-Muslims, have been killed in Kashmir since 2017. The death count in the killing fields of Kashmir runs as follows: 2017–40; 2018–39; 2019–36; 2020–33; 2021–38.

There is a bitter truth that these facts serve to underline, which the film The Kashmir Files dared to utter for the first time: Raliv, Tsaliv ya Galiv—Convert, Flee, or Die. This truth is so horrifying and shocking to the modern Hindu—or Western, for that matter—mind that it refuses to see history through its lens. But this is the one simple and single explanation for what happened to territory after territory and country after country in the drive of the theologically-sanctioned conquests for Zan, Zar, Zameen—Wealth, Women, and Terrain.

It is this template, applied repeatedly, that explains how and why not a single Pagan person is left in Arabia, not a single Zoroastrian in Iran, not a single Hindu in Afghanistan, and very soon, not a single Hindu will be left in Pakistan. Where there are no Hindu women left, whom will the men marry? Where there is not a single temple left, where will they worship? When there is not a single cremation ground left, where will they lay their dead to rest?

What sort of ideology legitimates the belief that the wealth, women and land of others belongs to you if you conquer or overpower them? It is that ideology that India must stand up against if it is to save its civilisation. Until we confront and overcome the challenge this truth poses, we will not have understood, let alone learned, the lessons that our history teaches us. When it comes to Kashmir, as Rakesh Kaul puts it, it is a perpetual tussle between Shariat Kashmir vs. Sharada Kashmir. We cannot stand on the sidelines. We must take sides. – The New Indian Express, 9 April 2022

Prof. Makarand R. Paranjape teaches English at JNU, New Delhi.

Kashmir Jihad Cartoon