One of the strange things that one observes along with the turmoil created by The Kashmir Files is near total silence from the perpetrators of the mass violence described in the movie. What is shocking is the absence of any sane or compassionate response from the members of community who were its perpetrators thirty years ago. There is no admission of culpability or guilt from any quarter. There is no shame, no regret that a heinous crime of this magnitude was allowed to take place with near total impunity for the perpetrators with everyone remaining silent. It is as if the movie appeared, showed a mirror and passes away without creating a whimper for the perpetrators. It is as if for the perpetrators everything continues to be normal and nothing has changed. One wonders when the movie holds a mirror to the atrocities showing a genocidal mindset of an entire people, why hasn’t a single voice from the community come forward to ask for an apology, a dialogue, acknowledge the complicity of a generation or ask for healing and reconciliation with Kashmiri Hindus. The people who seemed to have been moved are the survivors and others from their community.
So, why this deafening silence and what explains this phenomenon by Kashmiri Muslims on this issue? Why there has been no guilt shown by any intellectual, no accountability of owning up by its intelligentsia or even the leaders of the community? Except for the occasional lone voice of a man that seems too feeble to be heard and make an impact, there has been there no collective guilt or palpable perceptible emotion.
Puzzled I had asked this to a Kashmiri Muslim, an intellectual of the community. He asked me first if I had watched The Kashmir Files and what I thought of it. After hearing me out, he asked, “Isn’t the movie totally one sided?”
“Which is the other side?” I asked him. “Not a single mosque was burnt down or destroyed, not a single Muslim was killed or ran away because of his religion from the valley. No mass shooting of Muslims took place like that of Hindus. A whole civilization of only one group of people was wiped out with they being forced to run away from their homes. Did anyone else run away? It was all one sided. Then, what is the so called other side?”
He smiled and said, “The other side is imaginary but it has been created by you people.”
“I don’t understand,” I said puzzled.
“We don’t need to defend ourselves if that is what you think,” he said seeing my expression. “Couple of days ago, we were discussing the above movie in a family gathering. What an elder told us when we brought up the issue of the image of our community being dented by the movie was, “Don’t worry, it is not we who should say anything. They will end it by fighting amongst themselves. One Chief Minister of their community has already mocked his own community on a public platform. Another leader has said that this movie spreads hatred and must be banned and not allowed to be screened. Many other leaders of the community have been derisive. It is only a few States that have made it tax free. When their community is fighting amongst each other, why should we explain anything to anyone? Some of their own leaders are ridiculing the people and questioning the truthfulness of the movie. Some are even creating guilt in their own people for having brought up the issue and ruining the country’s secular character. Even their courts refuse to listen to it saying enough time has passed. With so many of them questioning the movie, why do we have to own up anything? This event too will die down just like it has passed every time the question of accountability of our community has come up in the past. The problem may arise when they will stop fighting amongst themselves. I am sorry but that is the current thinking amongst my people.”
As Hannah Arendt famously said, “The language of trauma is silence. All the perpetrator has to do is say or do nothing when the survivor brings up the issue in front of the world. He has to deflect the issue towards the victim pointing the finger at him saying it is he who invited it. That he alone is responsible for it and created it. It is he who should explain to the people, not us.”
“You know the last thing he said to us before leaving. He said no member of our community would be worried. Even if it is termed genocide, it is not we who should be worried. The onus of proof is not on us.”
For every crime like genocide, the disclosure of the suffering by the victims has not been easy. It has been accompanied by near deafening silence of the perpetrators. Silence is their biggest ally. They have to do nothing, nor explain anything. It is a lesson from history that every perpetrator has learnt too well. This is what we may be witnessing in the present.
That is perhaps the reason why it is understood that it is not possible to fight denial of reality through mere statements, films, books or articles like this. Crimes like genocide are erased by those eager to hide their involvement through silence. Nothing but a law that prohibits the denial of reality can only stop it. That is how either the shameless mocking of a genocide or questioning the truth of it can be prevented. In Germany and most of Europe, denial of holocaust and antisemitism today has been made a stringent crime. It had to be done for the reason that people fell silent and began to mock it. This is the same that we are facing now in midst of genocidal disclosure of our people or if we as a nation bring up our traumatic history. The law enacted in Europe not only stopped the similar shameless mocking as done by a Chief Minister near home, or others making fun around holocaust and make it sound trivial, but also paved the way for sensitive and compassionate understanding amongst youth leading to healing and reconciliation for future generations and a deeper understanding of the past. It was felt that the denial of genocide is a reflection on the very survival of a society and could not be hidden anymore.
Today the youth of our country need to become aware of their true history and who were the perpetrators in this country. How far will it be possible if writers, filmmakers try to bring it up and are met by mocking and ridicule if there is no protection against barbaric and inhuman responses that try to silent the voice? Isn’t it time that our lawmakers and intellectuals and people understand this and start thinking along similar lines, failing which we may face the same danger that these societies faced confronted by genocide denial and its mocking? I wish we do it sooner than later.
Psychologist, professor and Author of ‘The Infidel next Door’