A newly released Bollywood film has kicked up a storm in India, with several videos from theatres showing audiences chanting anti-Muslim slogans.
In one of the videos, a mob inside the theatre could be heard saying, “When Muslims will cut into pieces, they will call for a Hindu God, Ram!”
Inside Indian movie theaters, after watching a regime sponsored movie on Kashmir, slogans are being raised – “when Muslims will cut into pieces, they will call for a Hindu God, Ram!” The world is just waiting for another genocide. pic.twitter.com/qeLTq5WeDr
— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) March 16, 2022
Released on Friday, The Kashmir Files depicts the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley in the 1990s. It tells the fictional story of a university student who discovers his Kashmiri Hindu parents were killed by Islamist militants.
The film is written and directed by Vivek Agnihotri, who is also seen as a BJP supporter. Agnihotri has often been accused of inaccuracies in his work. His previous film, The Tashkent Files, on the death of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, was criticised for presenting rumors as facts. In a legal notice to Agnihotri, Shastri’s grandson said the film was trying to “create unwarranted and unnecessary controversy.”
Read more: India is persecuting Muslims: Noam Chomsky
But critics call the film exploitative, saying it’s careless with facts and Islamophobic. Reportedly, Muslims going to the theatres now stand the risk of mob violence amid calls for their extermination.
This is call for extermination.
Theatres used to be a safe space for everyone: for couples, for minorities, for friends. Muslims have been robbed of one more comfortable public space today. Muslims going to theatres now stand the risk of mob violence. pic.twitter.com/Uwe8XHBRZa
— Alishan Jafri (@alishan_jafri) March 16, 2022
Even the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party weighed in on its behalf. Modi said films like ‘The Kashmir Files’ need to be made to bring out the truth before people.
But the loudest endorsements appear to be from BJP ministers. In a Tweet, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani urged people to watch the film “so that this history soaked in the blood of innocents may never repeat itself.”
On the other hand, Kashmiri leader and president of Peoples Democratic Party, Mehbooba Mufti, said the Centre is “weaponising” the pain of Kashmiri Pandits and deliberately tearing the Hindu Muslim communities apart.
The manner in which GOI is aggressively promoting Kashmir Files & is weaponising pain of Kashmiri Pandits makes their ill intention obvious. Instead of healing old wounds & creating a conducive atmosphere between the two communities, they are deliberately tearing them apart.
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) March 16, 2022
Meanwhile, prominent Bollywood stars, including Akshay Kumar and Kangana Ranaut, have tweeted in the film’s favour and voiced support for the government.
Asked whether the film could only be made under a BJP government, its lead actor Anupam Kher reportedly said: “That’s true. Every film has its time.
Read more: Akshay Kumar starrer Sooryavanshi slammed for Islamophobia
Indian filmmakers seemed to have neglected hundreds of Kashmiris who have been killed and detained by the Indian security forces over the years. After the Modi government revoked Kashmir’s statehood in 2019, furious protests against Delhi resulted in massive casualties, while locals die in staged encounters every week.