On Watching “The Kashmir Files”
I watched today The Kashmir Files at Inox in GVK One Mall in Banjara Hills – the 9:40 pm show. As I was travelling in Uber to Inox, the Uber driver picked up a conversation with me by asking whether I was going to Inox to watch RRR movie. I said, “No. I am going to watch The Kashmir Files.” And I added, “I am seeing a lot of talk about it. So I thought I will go and check it out.” He said, “Yes, there’s a lot of talk about it.” Then he wondered aloud, “Would the movie have become popular if it was not about Pandits?” I sort of guessed where he was leading the conversation. I concurred, “Yes, that is possible. Because every year there are nearly 4,000 violent incidents happening against Dalits here in India, but I doubt if a movie about them will become popular and het talked about.” Then I hastily added, “The movie Jhund seems to be on some such themes, though I have not seen it.” He said rather reproachfully, “Even Prime Minister Modi has praised The Kashmir Files. But, he did not praise Jai Bhim.” I tried to explain that away by saying, “Maybe because Jai Bhim was about the injustice done to only one family, but TKF was talking about a genocide.” In this context he said, “The other day some politician in Bangalore had refused to unfurl the flag on Independence Day last August unless Ambedkar’s photo was removed from there.” I was dismayed to hear that. We talked a little about the Caste issue. He said that he heard about a video that was doing the rounds where KCR had sort of threw away the shawl that was wrapped around him by a Dalit. He sort of said helplessly, “If people like KCR are doing it, what message it sends out to the people at large.” I had to admit that was beyond inexcusable if the video was genuine. He went on to mention about an SC boy from Nizamabad being murdered by the parents of an upper caste girl whom he had married. He then mentioned an incident in the recent Huzurabad election where the Reddy candidate was asked to come on to the dais by being addressed as “Reddy garu” whereas other candidates (presumably lower caste candidates) were addressed merely by their name without the respectful “garu” being suffixed to their name. He sort of wondered why only Reddys, Raos etc., get addressed as “garu” and not others. I had no good justification for that. But I did tell him that while I myself was a Reddy, I did not hold any caste prejudices. He immediately became apologetic saying he was not accusing me. Presently we arrived at Inox in time for the 9:40 show and our conversation got cut short.
Coming to the movies itself, so much has been said, written, critiqued and denounced regarding it that there seems pretty much little else new that I can add to it. Quite a few times in the movie, the question gets asked, “What is Justice?” I guess the Uber driver had already set me thinking about that question. But, I do not think I have a good answer for that. At the same time, I can say this much. What was done to Kashmiri Pandits was in the name of religion; what’s being done to Dalits is in the name of caste, etc. In the end one can only recite these lines of William Wordsworth:
“And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man”