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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Kashmir Files & 1921 Puzha Muthal Puzha Vare – Two Movies On Agony And Horror

The period between 1989 to 1991 was a period of political instability in India. The country had four prime ministers in this period and this was evident in the tumultuous democratic complexity that the country had been through. Probably the exodus and the social extermination of a section of the society from heaven on the earth did not get much attention as the Doordarshan, run by the government, depicted the beauty of the valley to houseful audiences conveniently covering the bloodstain on the canyons

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By: M R Lalu

Movies can depict ideas and also help people change their views and vision on issues that have been haunting the human conscience for years. And history gives us space to recollect, recompose and relive as there are plenty of leaflets of events that have got engraved into the collective consciousness of human lives with discomfort, disregard, and wounds of agony and perils. All you need to do is to tear the pages of anguish from the already fading book of history and try to magnify them to clarity and for a better vision. The Kashmir Files is one such effort- a leaflet in the form of a film that began to itch the already settled wounds once again, forcing the collective minds of the country to wake up and excavate the truth of a genocide that remained buried under the heap of deliberately stitched fantasies, that we often celebrate in the name of secularism. The film has broken box-office records and a large chunk of the population watched it with horror and dismay. History also brings out bitter realities unearthing them unexpectedly. Nobody, except for those who were part of the persecution, would know the reality in detail. Pressing thousands of people from the most beautiful state of Jammu and Kashmir to flee in exodus for the most disagreeable reason was the undeniable truth. History reveals for itself figuring the hidden facts for the rest of the world from antiquity. Now no mechanism, however strong it is, holds the power to wipe the tears of some hapless people who were thrown out of their land for the reason they did not resonate with the exclusivist thoughts of their neighbours. Fanning flames into the level of an ethnic cleansing that took place in a country that is the largest secular democratic republic with an absolute flavour of constitutional morality is the reality. Fuelling and gruelling a Hindu – Muslim chasm in the Kashmir valley, the genocide and the exodus of uncountable families of the pandits into the wilderness of India still remain an unpleasant memory.

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The God’s Own Country, Kerala also had its Kashmir moment long back. It was in 1921 Kerala witnessed a similar episode of genocide and ethnic cleansing and barbarity. Malayalam film star Prithviraj Sukumaran had the harshest of social media attacks for his choosing the biopic on Variyankunnathu Kunjahammed Haji, one of the key controversial figures in the infamous Moplah rebellion of 1921 in Kerala. The state witnessed hundreds of Hindus being butchered behind the veil of the celebrated Khilafat movement. The movie was to be directed by Aashiq Abu with Prithviraj in the lead role purposefully trying to whitewash the Haji element of atrocities. A genocide that was spearheaded by Kunjahammed Haji led to the massacre of thousands of Hindus, forcefully converting many and those who refused to accept were thrown into wells and mud-filled alive. The movie wanted Haji to be projected as a humanitarian, propagating Hindu-Muslim unity while the real history was far from what the movie desperately wanted to project him as. In the movie, a particular community in the locality was unethically supporting the British and the Haji’s efforts were to be projected as a rebellion against the colonial ways of the British, and he subsequently established a Malayala Nadu (land of Malayalis) for some time. So undoubtedly the biopic planned the Haji as a superhero, a freedom fighter with no parallels. The violence started against the Hindus on 20 August 1921 in the Malabar region and lasted almost four months killing thousands and displacing many. Forcing to apostatize the beliefs of some people was the main demand and the region witnessed one-sided cruelty establishing a Khilafat Raj crowning a king who set to kill in abundance for the reason somebody in the area did not agree with the betrayal of their country and faith. Unprepared to withstand the heat of opposition from the masses, the movie was later withdrawn.

While supporting the Khilafat movement, Gandhi believed that he was standing for gaining the love and respect of Muslims, who indeed, he thought, would fight to gain the country’s freedom with an indubitable spirit. A campaign that gained momentum in India defending the Caliph of Turkey, who was feared to be stripped of his powers after the first world war; and Gandhi being made to believe that the campaign would follow his non-violent means but turned outrageous and a killing mission. Though the Haji’s beatification remained an unsuccessful dream in the Ashiq Abu movie, another movie in the line of The Kashmir Files began to take shape by famous Malayalam director Ali Akbar. His movie ‘1921 Puzha Muthal Puzha Vare’ is scheduled to show the atrocities run on the Hindus by Kunjahammed Haji and his henchmen. Ali Akbar was a Wazim Rizvi, converting to Hinduism with his family. He did this by condemning the disrespectful reactions by some to the tragic death of the Chief of Defense Staff General Bipin Rawat in the chopper crash. He said he was unable to patch up with the level of intolerance in the religion that he followed. Gandhi, who believed that India’s freedom was not possible without Hindu-Muslim unity, supported the Khilafat movement, unable to understand the undercurrent of mistrust and discontent that some in the movement cherished while slitting the throats of their innocent neighbours. Ali Akbar- now named Ramasimhan is all set to release the movie next September which he developed with the partnership of the public.

The period between 1989 to 1991 was a period of political instability in India. The country had four prime ministers in this period and this was evident in the tumultuous democratic complexity that the country had been through. Probably the exodus and the social extermination of a section of the society from heaven on the earth did not get much attention as the Doordarshan, run by the government, depicted the beauty of the valley to houseful audiences conveniently covering the bloodstain on the canyons. Vivek Agnihotri’s daring enterprise has created a whirlwind of emotions. People watching the movie reacted piercingly to the plight that the Kashmiri pandits suffered and held the political leadership of the country and the state responsible for the predicament. Historical inscriptions reveal the fact that the freedom movement by the Moplahs in the Malabar region of Kerala had done nothing serious to harm the British. The aggressor took the situation as an opportunity to prowl on the innocent people across the region and vent their fury. No doubt, certain jihadi elements of the Malabar region today began to demand a particular state on religious lines chiselling the present Malabar out of the Kerala State where a particular community is a majority. Lessons in history never end. The Ali Akbar movie would also speak the truth loudly to an audience, who would come out wiping tears and imprecations haunted by paranoia. Constitutional morality would grin for its own meaninglessness and from the fading pages of history, we can hear the lamentations of truth, struggling to find light and send waves of shuddering once again to our collective consciousness. (The author is a freelance journalist/social worker & can be reached at mrlalu30@gmail.com)

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The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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