‘Film on Kashmiri Pandits has further widened the wedge between two communities,’ says top Pandit leader

Sanjay Tickoo, President of Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS). | Photo Courtesy: The Kashmir Walla

A prominent Kashmiri Pandit leader Sanjay Tickoo in an interview with TwoCircles.net castigates the hate generated by the film The Kashmir Files. 

Auqib Javeed | TwoCircles.net

Support TwoCircles

JAMMU AND KASHMIR — The controversy over Vivek Agnihotri’s film The Kashmir Files is not dying down. The film, which portrays the displacement of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir to different parts of the country in the early nineties, has been in news since its release on March 11. The film has been accused of inciting a communally charged environment, with anti-Muslim hate speeches and sloganeering witnessed in theatres.

However, Kashmiri Pandits who didn’t migrate and decided to live in the valley have expressed dismay over the film and slammed the government for further dividing the two communities in the valley. 

In an exclusive interview with TwoCircles.net, Sanjay Tickoo, President of Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS), the largest Kashmiri Pandit group of 808 families living in 272 villages of Kashmir, talks about the film, the fear it has generated and what lies ahead for the minority community. 

Below are the excerpts from the interview:

How do you see the film?
The way this movie has dramatized the situation is wrong. Some scenes have been blown out of context. For example, in one scene the directors have shown that Pandits were separated from the Muslim community and then killed, which is not true. In reality, nowhere have Hindus been separated from Muslims and then killed. The killings took place in Hindu localities and Muslims lived at some distance. That is how they (militants) executed their plans.

The film also depicts the entire Kashmiri Muslims as extremists, which is also not true. The film doesn’t show the massacre of Sikhs and other communities.

You tweeted that the film has made resident Kashmiri Pandits unsafe in the Valley. Can you tell us how?
The current militancy in Kashmir is faceless and mostly youth are involved. The control of parents over their children is less than what it used to be in our childhood. One of the biggest issues of present times is that children don’t listen to their parents. We have an invisible militancy today. People who support militancy get provoked by films like this. This makes us feel unsafe.

How has this film affected you?
If you go and watch a film in a theater and raise slogans about a particular community, it will create a wedge between the two communities who are living peacefully. Why do I have to raise religious slogans? Why do I have to raise derogatory words against the  other community?

As a member of the community and a member of KPSS, I am against this. If religion is used to invoke something, we can’t endorse it.

Do you think the movie will benefit Kashmiri Pandits who seek to return to their homeland?
Has anyone returned? I don’t think anybody will. You need to understand that if the Pandits return, they have to live with the Kashmir Muslims but this movie has further widened the wedge which was already there.

You know there was a sympathy wave for Kashmiri Pandits before 2019 thanks to the civil society of Kashmir. But it is over now. 

Now that the world has seen the movie, what next? The onus lies with the Government of India now for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits.

How do you see the role played by the majority community during the turbulent nineties? Does the film do justice with that?
During the 1990s, the militants would prepare a hit list and these would be posted in alleys etc. It included all—Muslims and Hindus as well. When a Muslim would see the name of any Kashmiri Pandit on the list, he would inform him secretly, and thus save the lives of several Pandits.

In the film, the portrayal of the entire Kashmiri Muslim community as terrorists is wrong. How can 808 Pandit families still live in Kashmir? Was their survival in Kashmir possible if we believe this film? No, it wasn’t as per this film.  

We are a miniscule minority and we live amidst Muslims. There was no social boycott of our community. It happened in the rarest of the rare cases during the early nineties. 

Who do you blame for the misconceptions between the two communities?
The problem is from both ends. The majority community in Kashmir thinks that the Pandit community are hand-in-glove with the central government and that the decisions taken by the government are on the behest of Pandits, which is not true. This is the misconception that has been created over the last 72 years.

At the same time, the Pandit community believes that every Kashmir Muslim is a Pakistani—which is also not a fact.

The fact is that when a mob from the majority community (of whichever religion) is on the road, the minority community will get terrified. It is the same everywhere. When the majority community raises religious slogans, the minority community feels that they are raising slogans against us.

A section of the Kashmiri Pandit community supported the revocation of Article 370. Do you think the revocation of the former status of the state will benefit your community?
I agree there was a section of the Pandit community who was in favour of the abrogation of Article 370.

In 2014, the then Home Minister Rajnath Singh gave a statement about Article 370 and the return of Kashmiri Pandits. The Hurriyat gave a shutdown call against it. We had maintained at that time that we don’t want to mix the issue of the return of Kashmiri Pandits with article 370. Ours is a separate issue but unfortunately it was mixed with the abrogation of article 370.

Do you endorse calls for a separate township for Kashmiri Pandits?
We want to live with the majority community. Let there be a mixture of cultures. If it is not a mixed culture, it can be used as a political tool.

Auqib Javeed is a journalist based in Kashmir. He tweets at @AuqibJaveed