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Israeli filmmaker’s comments on Kashmir film fuel controversy


NEW DELHI – Israel’s envoy to India on Tuesday denounced a filmmaker from his country after he called a hit Bollywood film about disputed Kashmir “propaganda” and a “vulgar film” at a film festival, fueling a debate on recent history that fuels the ongoing conflict.

Naor Gilon, Israel’s ambassador to India, said he was “extremely hurt” by filmmaker Nadav Lapid’s comments in which he said the film “The Kashmir Files” was unworthy of screening at the highly acclaimed International Film Festival. Indian movie. The event, hosted by the Indian government in West Goa state, ended on Monday.

“The Kashmir Files” was released in March to resounding success and is largely set in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when attacks and threats from militants led to the migration of most Kashmiri Hindus from the disputed Muslim-majority region. Many film critics and Kashmiri Muslims have branded the film as hate propaganda, while its fans and supporters, including India’s many federal government ministers, consider it an essential viewing of the plight of Kashmiri Hindus, locally called pundits.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the entire territory. In 1989, tens of thousands of mostly Kashmiri Muslims rose up against Indian rule, leading to a protracted armed conflict in the region.

On Tuesday, Gilon tweeted at Lapid, saying, “YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED.”

“I am not a film expert but I know that it is insensitive and presumptuous to talk about historical events before studying them in depth and which are an open wound in India because many people involved are still there and paying for it. always the price,” Gilon tweeted. . He also accused Lapid of causing damage to the growing relations between India and Israel.

The festival jury distanced themselves from Lapid’s comments and called them a “personal opinion”. An internationally renowned director, Lapid’s films ‘Synonyms’ and ‘Ahad’s Knee’ have won awards at major festivals.

At the time of its release, “The Kashmir Files” was endorsed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and promoted by his Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata offering him tax breaks in some states he governs.

The film, however, sparked heated debates. His supporters praised him for telling the truth about Kashmiri Hindus, while critics said the film was aimed at stoking anti-Muslim feelings at a time when calls for violence against minority Muslims in the India have multiplied.

Nevertheless, the film was a blockbuster. Made on a budget of $2 million, it has grossed over $43 million to date, making it one of the highest-grossing Indian films this year.

The filmmakers of ‘The Kashmir Files’ have repeatedly said it exposes what they call the ‘genocide’ inflicted on the region’s Hindus and compared it to Hollywood’s ‘Schindler’s List’ which chronicles the history of the Holocaust. But many critics, including some of Bollywood’s top directors, called it divisive, full of factual inaccuracies and provocative.

Hindus have lived mostly peacefully alongside Muslims for centuries in the Himalayan region of Kashmir. In the late 1980s, when Kashmir turned into a battlefield, attacks and threats from militants led to the departure of most Kashmiri Hindus, who identified with the Indian regime. Many believed that the rebellion was also aimed at annihilating them. He reduced the Hindus from around 200,000 to a tiny minority of around 5,000 in the Kashmir Valley.

Most Muslims in the region, long resentful of Indian rule, deny that Hindus were systematically targeted and say India helped them leave in order to label Kashmir’s freedom struggle as Islamic extremism.

According to official data, more than 200 Kashmiri Hindus have been killed in the past three decades of conflict in the region. Some Hindu groups put the number much higher.

Tensions in Kashmir returned in 2019, when India’s Hindu nationalist government removed the region’s semi-autonomy, split it into two New Delhi-administered federal territories and imposed a crackdown on free speech accompanied by widespread arrests. Kashmir has since witnessed a series of targeted killings, including that of Hindus. Police blame anti-Indian rebels for the killings.

On Tuesday, “The Kashmir Files” actor Anupam Kher, who plays a protagonist, called the film’s review “pre-planned.”

“If the Holocaust is right, then the Pandit exodus from Kashmir is also right,” Kher said in a video posted to Twitter.

“The Kashmir Files” is directed by Vivek Agnihotri, whose previous film “The Tashkent Files” alleged a plot in the death of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. The film was heavily criticized for presenting unproven conspiracy theories as fact.

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