'The Kashmir Files': Pandits settled in Valley not amused

A number of Kashmiri Pandits living in the Valley debunk the ‘Muslims against Hindus’ narrative in the Vivek Agnihotri film

'The Kashmir Files': Pandits settled in Valley not amused

Mudassir Kuloo

Chuni Lal was 32 when militancy broke out in Kashmir in 1989. Unlike thousands of Kashmiri Pandits who left Kashmir, he did not leave the valley. Over these years, he stayed at Srinagar’s Habba Kadal area surrounded by Muslim houses.

“I did not leave because of Kashmiri Muslim brethren. I did not face any discrimination based on my religion. Neither was I was threatened by anyone over all these years. I freely roam around like all other people,” says Chuni Lal, who lives with his wife and son in Srinagar.

His 25-year-old son was brought up in Srinagar, studied right here and is now working at a private company here.

There are hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits like Chuni Lal who have good neighbourly relations with Muslim residents and no one is amused by The Kashmir Files which is not just endangering the lives of Muslims elsewhere but causing resentment and danger to peace, harmony and the lives of Pandits in the Valley.

He said all communities suffered in Kashmir due to the conflict. “It would be wrong on my part if I blame Muslims for Pandits’ sufferings. Muslims also suffered as much as Hindus. The only difference is that we (Pandits) are in minority and there was more fear among us,” he said.

He is also the president of Hindu Welfare Society of Kashmir, a socio-religious organisation of Kashmiri Pandits.

There are 808 Kashmiri Pandit families who did not leave the Valley. They are living peacefully with other communities in Kashmir.

Chuni Lal said that communal harmony in Kashmir is unmatchable anywhere across the world. “We all (Muslims, Hindus or Sikhs) have the same culture. We participate in each other’s festivals. I have more Muslim friends than Hindus,” this retired government employee said. He is not amused at some people trying to give a communal colour to what happened in 1990. “Vivek Agnihotri has made a movie on the sufferings of Kashmiri Pandits. He should have also included what non-migrant Pandits went through and have been ignored by successive governments over the years,” he says.

Agnihotri’s movie ‘The Kashmir Files’ is focusing on the exodus of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits back in 1989 when the insurgency erupted in the Valley. The movie has been largely criticized in Kashmir and across the country by people who believe that it has shown only half-truths and is creating an atmosphere of hate against Muslims.

Countering a narrative created by some people that Muslims in Kashmir have illegally occupied houses of Pandits, Chuni Lal said, “We originally hail from Sumbal Sonawari in North Kashmir. We have a house and also some land. But nobody has occupied that property.”

Sunny Kaul is another Pandit who did not leave Kashmir. He has two children working outside the state but he and his wife have no urge to move. “In 2020 when one of our relatives passed away, it were local Muslims who performed his last rites. Last year when I had Covid, it was my Muslim friend’s son who took me to the hospital in his car,” he said.

Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS) led by Sanjay Tickoo recently tweeted, “Every Kashmiri Muslim is not terrorist, every Kashmiri Pandit is not communal. We both respect, love and share our pain which every Kashmiri has gone through last 32 years. TKF makes resident Kashmiri Pandits unsafe.”

According to Satish Mahaldar, Chairman Reconciliation, Return and Rehabilitation of Migrants, Vivek Agnihotri’s movie is overtly communal. And not quite factual.

“He blanked out the fact that it was the V.P. Singh-led government backed by BJP in 1989 which was in charge at the time. He has not shown who released Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Latram. He has not shown that Kashmiri Sikhs and Muslims were also killed,” Mahaldar said. “Genocide took place because of state and central governments’ failure. Kashmiri Pandits were urged to leave the Valley and were promised free rations in Jammu. But there were no arrangements for them,” he said.

He asked the government to hold a judicial probe into killings of Kashmiri Pandits also into Chittisinghpura, Kunan Poshpora and Gawkadal incidents and then punish the culprits. “I am a Pandit staying in New Delhi and want to ask the government when will I be able to return to my motherland, that is, Kashmir?” he added.

Umesh Talashi, another Kashmiri Pandit, said, “My father was under constant threat and was attacked once. Every time he was saved by Muslims. They hid him in their house for days and moved him to Jammu safely. What happened with us is unfortunate. We don’t deserve it but we can’t hold every Kashmiri Muslim responsible for it.”

Former CM Omar Abdullah called the movie a “concocted” story.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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