Putting aside the political, literary and academic debate, it’s widely known that a Kashmiri society remains deeply imitated by films.
In one of the most populated nations like India, films have played a huge role to not only create an impact on the society, but also to build opinion on much-talked about issues like Kashmir.
And it all started in the sixties — when the valley was manifested as a vacationist spot.
Kashmir’s identity was not only confined solitarily to lakes, shikaras, snowy hills and valleys, but its political, social and cultural significance was also smudged.
Jangli (1961), Kashmir Ki Kali (1963), Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965), Arzoo (1965), Bobby (1973), Noorie (1979) and Henna (1991) are some of the prominent films among the list.
The kind of stories, whereabouts, clothing, language, and songs used in these films proved to be a milestone in demystifying not only the reality of Kashmiri people, but also the lingua franca, the koshur dialect, and the culture.
The protagonists of these films were often belonged to Hindi-speaking regions, who used to visit Kashmir only for tourism purposes, but there they fell in love with a Kashmiri girl.
And from there began not only the process of normalization of stalking and anti-women songs, but also the promotion of male-domination and patriarchal hegemony in the society.
Lyrics like “Aji humse bachkar, kahan jaaiyega, jahan jaiyega hume paaiyega” clearly normalized the absurdity of molestation, peddling, chasing and continuous hampering as if all this is just a way of expressing the feeling of love.
It tends to be plainly seen in numerous scenes that women have no significance of their own in this general public.
It appears as though there is no work left aside from shying, dancing, singing, and romancing with the protagonist.
By looking at the enumeration of films, it can be understood that there was an abatement in such films in the 80s, but it is difficult to guess whether the reason for this was the intensification of socio-political unrest in Kashmir or the political turmoil going on in India.
This kind of monotonous chastisement through films continued till the early 90s until the demolition of Babri Masjid on 6 of December 1992.
During that time, not only Kashmir or India, but the whole world was witnessing a major political upheaval. A part of the world was facing the Gulf War, at the same time the disintegration of the Soviet Union was taking place. The global market was being liberalized and the term ‘Islamic Terrorism’ was being sold by the First World countries around the world.
From there Islamophobia starts spreading like wildfire all over the world. This is when the content like—“Doodh Mangoge Kheer Denge, Kashmir Mangoge Cheer Denge” (If you will ask for milk, we will give kheer. You will ask for Kashmir, we will rip you off)—began.
After a period full of beauty and brilliance of Kashmir in films, the era started where not only Muslims but the entire religion of Islam became a synonym of terrorism.
Looking at so-called “patriotic” films from the nineties, it appears that Indian cinema and the Kashmir connection have been inextricably tied. Their demeanour and the essence of the film industry are becoming increasingly intertwined, taking it upon themselves to “reform” society. .
Indian film industry has a proclivity for creating content on Kashmiris that “teaches” them how to “live in peace” and harmony in the “motherland”. And in films created at the period, Kashmiri people’s religious beliefs are shown as insane, fuelling belligerent impulses.
It’s indisputable that the Indian film industry wants Kashmiris to embrace the theatrical notion of nationalism, or they would encounter difficulties, as depicted in their films.
In essence, the only trustworthy Kashmiris in these films are those who “prioritise their motherland”, while others are visually identified as criminals, terrorists, separatists or liabilities. In this vein, extreme symbolism and negative personifications of Kashmiris are deployed.
These movies depicted a Kashmiri bearded man with skullcap, and kurta planning a terrorist attack shortly after praying or completing certain religious practises. The list of films is enormous, but Roja (1992), Mission Kashmir (2000), Maa Tujhe Salaam (2002), Jaal – The Trap (2003), Yahaan (2005), and Fanaa (2006) stand noteworthy.
These films have, regrettably, aided the cause of both Hindutva ideology and the neoliberal status quo by combining two topics with independent histories — the Kashmir conflict and the condition of Indian Muslims.
At the same time, their connections with embryonic global terrorist narratives have created an extra-national discursive arena where unwanted Kashmiri Muslims might be expunged, thus “cleansing the national body”.
And then came “India – Pakistan ne milkar khela humse border border” (India – Pakistan played border – border against us)…
After 2013, some such films were released which to a large extent lived up to the background of Kashmir. Haider (2014), Kafiron Ki Namaz (2016), Hamid (2018), and No Fathers in Kashmir (2019), are prominent in the list of these films.
Some of these films worked to strike and create a balance between Kashmir and the Indian state and showed the lingering strife in a pessimistic manner.
These films showed what the contemporary political situation of Kashmir really is. If there is problem in Kashmir, why is it there? What mental stresses a whole society is going through because of being caged for years? And in the midst of all this, how does the state function?
These films will have thousands of flaws in the eyes of sociologists and film thinkers but the truth is that these are the films whose narrative matches the perspective of a Kashmiri man.
But on the whole, it’s a pivotal moment in the development of the Indian film industry’s specific interest in Indian Muslims as subjects that traversed simultaneously by international and domestic pathways of ‘the War on Terror’: films that focused on the Kashmiri as Muslim, caught up in the Kashmir conflict, and thus in conflict with the Indian nation and state.
This argument on Kashmir, Islam, and Films may be refuted by claiming that art, literature, and fiction should not be compared to actual life. However, the fact is that identity of not only Kashmiri Muslims, however all Muslims, have been moulded into such a structure in the minds of Indians that they have begun to hate Islam.
And there are several chances that this is owing to these movies.
Notably, celebrations were held throughout India when Article 370 was eliminated on August 5, 2019, yet no one seemed to care about the plight of Kashmiris.
In today’s time when Islamophobia has increased so much, we should expect from the film industry and filmmakers of the country to expose the propaganda through their films. But still, films like Kashmir Files come and show a particular perspective of history.
People associated with India’s ruling party and the wider populace assume that the tale of this film is true and that the events shown in it are real, but historians and intelligentsia see it as a piece of fiction.
A viral RTI report claims that 89 Kashmiri Pandits have died in Kashmir over the past three decades. Aside from that, 1,724 people belonging to other faith have lost their lives.
The point is that no official or non-official document can ever validate someone’s killing. In fact, not a single document justifies the mass migration of Kashmiri Pandits.
The only question that arises here is, whether this or any other film live up to every narrative of Kashmir’s background? Not at all!
Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position and policy of Free Press Kashmir. Feedback and counter-views are welcome at [email protected].