By Arundhuti Banerjee
Mumbai, Nov 30 (IANS) Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri is currently on a tour of several prestigious universities around the world, including Columbia University and Oxford University, where he is addressing sessions to share his experience of meeting Kashmiri Pandits living as refugees in various parts of the world, after the exodus of the nineties. He feels young Kashmiris will get radicalised by extremists unless they are educated, and adds that Pakistan is will do everything possible to stop the peace process in the Kashmir Valley.
“There is a group of students who come to all my sessions and started coughing and creating ruckus. When I asked one of them where are you from, he said, ‘I am a Kashmiri, my parents are from Srinagar’, and when I said that meant he is an Indian — because Kashmir is a part of India — he refused to accept. The fact is we are losing the battle because of the narrative, and Pakistan is taking advantage of this,” said Agnihotri.
“Pakistani extremists are lobbying to influencing people, and spending thousands of dollars in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and internationally they are giving money to various media houses to sell their narrative of how Kashmir is not a part of India. This is a myth, this is wrong! That is why the US Congress rallied against India on Kashmir. It is our internal issue. Who are they to comment? Are we commenting on the racism and refugee issues in America?” he added.
The filmmaker said that along with his wife, actress Pallavi Joshi, he has been meeting Kashmiri Pandits worldwide, and through his upcoming film, “The Kashmir Files”, he intends to tell the story of people who were forcefully driven away from their own land.
It is importance that Kashmiri Pandits return to the Valley, he said. “The Pakistan lobby will do everything to stop the process to bringing peace in the Valley. Generations of youngsters are killed in terrorism only because they are radicalised by extremists, and not given proper education and a career. I want every child in the state of Jammu and Kashmir to go to school and have a great career like anyone else in any parts of India. You see, it is tough to radicalise an educated mind who is earning well for himself or herself,” Agnihotri pointed out.
“Also, unless Kashmiri Pandits return to the Valley, religious diversity will not be established in Kashmiri society. Unless Hindus and Muslims stay together, the hatred won’t stop. To protect the future of young Kashmiris, education, job opportunities and religious co-existence is important,” he said.
The filmmaker has announced his film ‘‘The Kashmir Files’ will release on August 15 next year.
While the injustice that has happened to Kashmiri Hindus over the decades deserves to be highlighted and criticised, there are reports that the abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian government has led to a virtual lockdown in the state.
What doe she feel about the situation there? “Whenever the government opens the lockdown they end up killing civilians because there are terrorists living there, too. At end of the day, only innocent people are suffering. Since youngsters have no other life and career choices, they are picking up the gun. Pakistan is highlighting on lockdown and not the reasons behind it. Kashmir is a big industry for them to earn money and disrupt the peace process,” replied Vivek.