The Kashmir Files, directed by Vivek Agnihotri, is based on a true story of the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir Valley in 1990 after a series of gruesome incidents. The director and his wife claimed to have interviewed around 700 victims. Check out the below article to find out the series of incidents that unfolded in Kashmir and displaced hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus from their homes.
Released on March 11, ‘The Kashmir Files’ is based on real-life incidents of the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir Valley in 1990 to different parts of India after a series of gruesome incidents. The multi-starrer movie has been directed by Vivek Agnihotri.
The movie revolves around Pushkar Nath Pandit and his grandson’s quest to find out about the tragic incident that befell his family. Krishna was told several accounts of the events that unfolded in Kashmir during the large scale migration but wanted to gain clarity and closure. This led him to embark on a journey to the valley, where the story of Pushkar who doesn’t wish to leave the place where he was born and bred unfolds.
The movie is based on the real-life stories told by the refugee Kashmiri Pandits to Vivek Agnihotri and his wife. The director, along with his wife, claims to have interviewed over 700 victims of the exodus over the course of two years before taking the project forward.
What led to the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley?
Jammu and Kashmir was a princely state constituting around 4-6% of the Hindus and 94-95% Muslims in the Kashmir Valley, according to the censuses from 1889 to 1941. The Valley is a subject of dispute between India and Pakistan since the partition of India in 1947.
In 1975, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah inked an agreement, Indira-Sheikh Accord, thereby allowing the latter to return to power after 22 years as the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. The agreement was widely criticised and laid the groundwork for a future uprising.
In the 1980s, Sheikh Abdullah’s government changed the names of hundreds of places to Islamic names, with Abdullah delivering communal speeches in mosques, and referring Kashmiri Hindus as mukhbir (informants of the Indian Army). The upcoming years saw a significant rise in terrorist violence in Kashmir.
JKLF militant Maqbool Bhat was hanged to death in 1984 after he carried out militant operations in the region that killed two officials. This led to widespread anti-India demonstrations in the region by Kashmiri nationalists. The then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah was blamed for the situation and was consequently removed from the position. He was replaced by Ghulam Mohammad Shah who had support from Indira Gandhi.
As Shah’s administration didn’t have had people’s mandate, this helped Islamists to gain some legitimacy in the region through religious sentiments. In 1986, GM Shah decided to construct a mosque within the premises of an ancient Hindu temple in Jammu to make it available for ‘Namaz’. This led to clashes between Hindus and Muslims.
In February same year, he incited the Kashmiri Muslims by saying Islam Khatre me hai (Islam is in danger) which led to the 1986 Kashmiri riots wherein Hindus were targeted and killed by Muslims, their properties looted, and temples destroyed and damaged. The then government led by Shah called in the Indian Army to contain the violence, but with little progress. Governor Jagmohan Malhotra dismissed Shah’s government over communal riots in south Kashmir and started ruling the state directly.
Over the course of time, the Islamists organised themselves against interference from the Centre and in support of Islamic unity under the banner of the Muslim United Front. The polyglot coalition contested the 1987 state election but lost. In the following years, Kashmiri Hindus were targeted because of their faith, and people supporting pro-Indian policies were killed by Kashmiri militants.
The insurgency rose as JKLF advocated the secession of Kashmir from India. In September 1989, the group killed BJP leader and advocate Tika Lal Taploo in his home in Srinagar. Following this, the judge of Srinagar High court, Nikanth Ganjoo, who awarded Maqbul Bhat a death sentence, was shot dead in Srinagar. This instilled fear in Kashmiri Hindus as they felt they could also be targeted at any time.
In 1990, Srinagar based newspaper, Aftab, released a message for all Hindus to leave the region immediately and sourced it to Hizbul Mujahideen, a militant organization. A few months later, another Srinagar based newspaper, Al-Safa, published the same warning. By now, walls in Kashmir had threatening messages on them and the Kashmiris were asked to adhere to Islamic rules, and restrictions were imposed on women.
Buildings, establishments and shops were coloured green as a sign of Islamic rule, and the properties owned by Kashmiri Hindus were either burned or destroyed. Posters were pasted on the doors of Kashmiri Hindus, threatening them to leave the Valley immediately.
In January 1990, the Gawkadal massacre took place in Srinagar where the Indian Army open fire on protestors. As a result, around 50 people died and over 100 were injured, leading to further chaos and lawlessness in the region.
In another incident, four Indian Air Force personnel, Squadron Leader Ravi Khanna, Corporal D.B. Singh, Corporal Uday Shankar and Airman Azad Ahmad were killed and ten other IAF personnel were injured.
Over the course of time, several intelligence operatives were assassinated, Hindus in the Valley were gruesomely murdered, and their women kidnapped, raped and murdered. These incidents instilled fear in Hindus and expedited their exodus from Kashmir. The migration that lasted for over 10 years displaced around 1,50,000 Kashmiri Hindus from their homes.