“The Kashmir Files” is based on the infamous exodus of Kashmiri Pandits which started in the year 1989. The film, directed by Vivek Agnihotri, serves as an argument made from the side of the Kashmiri Pandits. There are two narratives at play in the film, and the makers seem inclined towards one. Though they have been magnanimous in their approach to at least giving some representation to the other narrative too, even if it is a tainted one.
The film has started a debate all over again. Who was responsible for the plight of Kashmiri Pandits and all those people belonging to other castes who were involuntarily forced to leave Kashmir? What was their fault? Why were innocent lives taken? Why was there such a gross violation of human rights? And most of all, why wasn’t it ever given the media coverage that it deserved? It is not only the people who picked up guns who were to be blamed, but also the ones who kept quiet, who spread misinformation, and, most significantly, the ones who played along and took leverage of the situation to fulfill their own vendettas.
It becomes easy to stereotype and start the never-ending blame game, but it is very necessary that we as a nation understand the plight of those who lost their homes and have been living as migrants in their own country. In the war of ideologies, it is often the common man who suffers the most. “The Kashmir Files” rightly talks about the hierarchy of people in this bureaucratic food chain. In the strife to gain political mileage, it is the people who are at the bottom of the food chain who become the collateral damage. Let’s try to understand the narrative and the viewpoint that has been put forth by the makers.
‘The Kashmir Files’ Plot Summary
It was the gloomy evening of January 19th, 1990. There was socio-political unrest in Kashmir. Slogans of a convert, run or die, (Ralive, Tsalive, Galive) were echoing in the valley. Paradise on earth was experiencing a state of unrest and fear. Tikalal Taploo, a leader and also a Kashmiri pandit, was among the prominent personalities who had been killed a few months back. The society was polarized and communal hatred had engulfed the entire valley.
Pushkar Nath Pandit’s (Anupam Kher) family was also stuck in the chaos. His grandson, named Shiva, was still out with his friend Abdul. A trembling Pushkar Nath picks both the children up and takes them home. Area commander of JKLF (Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front) Farooq Ahmad Dar, a.k.a. Bitta Karate, had entered their home forcefully. He was searching for Puskar’s son, against whom a “fatwa” had been issued, accusing him of being an informant of the Indian government. Farooq Ahmad Dar shot Pushkar’s son brutally and left the other family members, as he wanted the news of the catastrophe to spread in every corner of India.
The story of “The Kashmir Files” moves 30 years ahead, and we see Pushkar Nath Pandit’s four friends waiting for his grandson to come. Brahma Dutt and his wife Laxmi Dutt, Dr. Mahesh Kumar, DGP Hari Narian, and Vishnu Ram waited eagerly, and it was decided that nobody was going to talk about the exodus in front of the young lad who was coming to Kashmir for the very first time after his family left in 1990.
We see Pushkar Nath Pandit’s grandson, Krishna Pandit, studying in JNU and running for the post of President of the prestigious institute. We see him surrounded by people who believe that Kashmir should be declared a free state. They believed that the Indian government was doing injustice to the people of Kashmir and, more importantly, was spoiling the future of the youth residing there. The rhetoric was very clear: the youth in Kashmir were bound to pelt stones because the Indian government had left them with no option. Radhika Menon, Krishna’s teacher, was vocal about this cause. She guides him and tells him that he had to sell a narrative that was larger than life.
Krishna doesn’t understand which narrative to believe. He sees his grandfather, who was fighting and protesting to abolish Article 370 of J & K, which gave it a special status. Pushkar Pandit wanted to go back to his home. He says dreams only come true if you chase them. But his chase ends, and his dream of going back to his home remains unfulfilled. He makes a last wish, telling his grandson to scatter his ashes in his home in Kashmir and to meet his four beloved friends, with whom he had a lot of good memories.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘The Kashmir Files’ Ending Explained – Which Truth Did Krishna Pandit Believe In?
Pushkar Pandit had always told his grandson that his parents and elder brother, Shiva, died in an accident. He never knew that they were brutally killed by the terrorist group, JKLF. Listening to the friends of his grandfather, his thought process becomes even more convoluted. He always believed that the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits was a hoax created by the Indian government. He felt that the truth was always masquerading. His teacher, Radhika Menon, had told him to meet somebody in the valley to get a perspective and understanding of the true Kashmiri plight. That person was actually Farooq Ahmad Dar, who had killed his parents. The terrorist leader calls himself a flag bearer of love and peace and tells Krishna that his family was killed by the Indian Army and not by the people of the JKLF.
Krishna comes back and blames Brahma Dutt for misleading him into believing something that was totally made up and miles away from reality. That’s when Brahma Dutt loses his calm demeanor, seeing his friend’s grandson believing somebody was responsible for the deaths of innocent Kashmiri Pandits and even his own family. He tells Krishna exactly what he saw during those tumultuous times. Krishna comes to know each and every detail. He knows the sacrifice made by his family and the sufferings that the community had to go through. He knows how his mother ate the blood-soaked rice and how his grandfather sacrificed his own well-being to save money for his studies.
He goes back to JNU and speaks. But this time, not what he had read, or what he had been told by Radhika Menon. He speaks from the heart. He speaks about what he saw and what he felt. He came from a family that had witnessed the atrocities first-hand, and there was no scope for speculation. Krishna Pandit, shaped his own narrative, but this time not influenced by hearsay evidence or historical misinterpretations. He had seen the plight in those eyes, and he knew that words might be misleading, but the eyes never lie.
The infamous Nadimarg incident, where 24 Kashmiri Pandits were shot point-blank, was also recreated in the film. It was horrifying to see such a chilling event on screen, let alone experience it in reality. It would be improper to say that we understand the plight, because we cannot. Only those who suffered, who lost everything in this senseless warfare, truly understand what it would have felt like.
The film is based on true incidents but has also taken creative liberty and dramatized and altered certain facts and events.
“The Kashmir Files,” running at approximately 170 minutes, could have been a little more compact. A film that caters to such an important subject matter needs to be backed up by extremely strong performances and dialogs that arouse the intended fervor. Though the performances lift up the narrative, the dialogues lack that much-needed punch and spark. The performance by Anupam Kher as Pushkar Nath Pandit steals the show. The film deals with a controversial subject, but in my opinion, we should keep the politics aside and try to empathize with a community that has suffered a lot.
“The Kashmir Files” is a 2022 Indian Political Drama film directed by Vivek Agnihotri.