The decision-makers who chose an obscure Israeli filmmaker as the head of the international jury at the 2022 International Film Festival of India (IFFI) could not have picked his name at random from a list. Somebody, most likely an NGO known to them, must have suggested that Nadav Lapid was the best choice as head of the international jury for the IFFI. Such a selection indicates that, contrary to what is being said about the Union government, it is willing to entertain views wholly contrary to their own. Lapid’s sharply etched views are well known, including in his own country. That he must regard Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the same light as he so obviously sees Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have been known to those who chose him after considerable thought to serve as the head of the jury choosing the best (in their view) from amongst 15 IFFI entries. Of these, Lapid was allergic to just The Kashmir Files. It is not possible that the Israeli filmmaker ever visited Kashmir during the period depicted in the movie, for had he done so, it would have been clear to him that what The Kashmir Files portrayed had actually taken place. From 1989 until 1993, Kashmir was forcibly denuded of its Hindu population, which had been there for millennia. Contrary to what Lapid believes, there exists substantial evidence of the truth underlying Vivek Agnihotri’s work. Abandoned homes, or mansions sold at hyper-distress rates by fleeing Hindus to those in the Valley and its environs who were lucky enough not to be Hindu, stand as testimony to the forced exodus. Just as in the case of the Holocaust (the many accounts of which Lapid hopefully does not regard as “fascist propaganda”), sympathisers and perpetrators of the genocide of Kashmiri Hindus that took place in that state from 1989 to 1993 deny that any such horrors took place, Genocide Denial is part of the toolkit of those complicit in the execution of, or the condonation of, mass murder of a population.
It would be interesting to know just who the source was from which the head of the international jury of the IFFI got the impression that the situation in Kashmir was not what the film depicted. There are those who specialise in spreading canards, such as that “the Hindus went away on their own so as to provide a clear field of fire for the security forces”. There are several verified accounts of the genocide of Hindus in Kashmir, such as the book “And the Valley Remained Silent” by a Kashmiri Hindu. His family under threat of annihilation within less than 24 hours fled from their imposing mansion in Srinagar to a single-room shack in Jammu that did not even have a toilet. Thus far, there has been no official effort to compile an inventory of the temples and homes ransacked during that time, although such is essential in order for historians to understand the horrors that even those who came for a short period of time saw for themselves. Let us assume that the Israeli filmmaker was misled by a denier of the Kashmir genocide. All the more reason for the victims of that period to meet him and tell him about their experiences. All the more reason to ensure that Nadav Lapid visits Kashmir and sees for himself abandoned and ruined homes, or those occupied by those residents of a locality who were fortunate enough not to be Kashmiri Hindus. That is the least that the Information & Broadcasting Ministry (whose minister courteously sat through Lapid’s rant against The Kashmir Files without complaint) should do. Across the world, false narratives about India have often been getting traction. It is time that the I&B Ministry worked harder at correcting misinformation that is spread about India, including what is often deliberately disseminated by the Sino-Wahhabi nexus. Lapid’s misinformation about Agnihotri’s film ought to serve as a wake-up call. As someone who visited Kashmir multiple times during the 1990s, when for a time it appeared as though the Pakistan-sponsored insurgency was about to triumph, the events depicted in The Kashmir Files have been presented in a manner that was an understatement rather than an exaggeration of the genocidal events that took place in Kashmir during 1989-93.