The Kashmir Files: Courting ControversyMar 11, 2022 | Shalini Rai
‘The Kashmir Files’ has run into trouble again. After being delayed first by financial constraints and then by the COVID-19 pandemic, its release, scheduled for today, March 11, could be affected by the order of a court in Jammu and Kashmir. The court on Thursday restrained the promoters of ‘The Kashmir Files’ from showing scenes depicting late IAF Squadron Leader Ravi Khanna in the movie. The order came after Nirmal Khanna, wife of the Indian Air Force officer, approached the court seeking removal or amendment of scenes depicting her husband, claiming it 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 Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik. “Given the facts as stated in the plaint the defendants are restrained by way of temporary injunction from showing the scenes depicting the acts pertaining to the husband of the plaintiff namely martyr squadron leader Ravi Kanna in the movie The Kashmir Files,” Additional District Judge Jammu, Deepak Sethi said in the order.
However, he said the order is subject to objections, alterations or modification if any by the other side. The court further observed that if no relief is granted to the applicant without serving prior notice of the application on the defendants, the suit of the applicant will become infructuous and hence would be defeated by delay.
The movie, which has got an ‘A’ certificate from the Censor Board, is based on the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley and is directed by Vivek Agnihotri, who grew up in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh. Earlier, in February, after its trailer released, the movie had made headlines for its graphic and empathetic depiction of the trials and tribulations of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990s Kashmir, when they had to leave overnight the land of their ancestors and take refuge — in basic, unhygienic and sometimes, downright tawdry, tents and tenements — in various parts of India.
Even I have certain memories of those days, living as I was in Bhopal, where some KP families had sought shelter. We used to live in a locality called Idgah Hills then and I vividly remember family members speaking in muted tones about a few KP families with unique surnames who had recently shifted to Bhopal from Kashmir. My parents could be heard discussing, in front of us, how to extend some kind of help and support to the KP refugees. In the end, however, it was decided, perhaps incongruously, to keep our distance from them and let time heal their wounds.
This and the reaction to the release of ‘The Kashmir Files’ makes me wonder what kind of horrors did KP families face, 32 years ago and which have still not been truthfully and in detail, documented and dissected. Drawing parallels between the fate of the Jewish community in Germany during the Holocaust, director Vivek Agnihotri has spoken, in an interview, about the necessity of including the true sequence of events in 1990s Kashmir, in order to begin the process of healing and reconciliation, possibly even a return home, of KPs.
It goes without saying that whichever side of the ideological divide you may find yourself on, it would be a welcome step to see first-hand what the film tries to depict and unearth.