The trailer of Shikara, directed and produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, was released on the 6th of January. The movie, set to hit the screens on the 7th of February, will tell “the story of resilience in the face of insurmountable odds.” “It’s also the story of a love that remains unextinguished through 30 years of exile. A timeless love story in the worst of times,” the makers say.
The trailer of the movie looks fantastic and it appears that the movie is the first venture by Bollywood to accurately depict what happened to Kashmiri Pandits all those years ago. Although one can expect the movie to include some sort of token symbolism which would sing paeans to secularism and tolerance to tone down the overarching message and to negate allegations of bigotry, it is still expected to be a definitive shift in the Overton Window in the entertainment industry.
In the trailer, chants of ‘Azadi’ can be heard in the background as genocidal mobs run rampage on the streets. The visuals capture the terror that Kashmiri Pandits must have felt in 1990 very well. The movie will surely ruffle a lot of feathers as it has been an unsaid rule in the entertainment industry for a great many years to maintain a stoic silence over Islamic fanaticism.
Efforts are currently being made to turn slogans of ‘Azadi’ into a fancy call revolution but a slogan that is soaked with the blood of the innocents could never hope to become something completely antithetical to what it was. Just like in 1990, ‘Azadi’ was symbolic of the deep-seated anti-Hindu bigotry among Kashmiri Muslims, 30 years later, the slogan is still symbolic of the same brand of hatred. The trailer serves as a chilling reminder to those who believe ‘Azadi’ is a slogan for peace.
As expected, some people are not pleased with the turn of events. According to some people, “given the state of the country right now and the vast Islamophobia that’s making the country burn right now, isn’t it odd that the creators are planning on releasing the movie now?” The sentiments are not that of one individual, it’s a sentiment that serves as the foundation for secularism in India.
The persecution of Hindus has to be ignored, silenced and whitewashed in order for secularism to prevail in the country; or so runs the conventional wisdom. In pursuit of secularism, the genocides of Hindus by Islamic invaders and fanatics at various points in history have been continuously ignored and the sentiments of the Hindu community have been trampled at every step in order to ensure communal harmony in the country. But such peace comes at a steep price for the very basis of it is a gigantic lie.
In three decades, the real story of Kashmiri Pandits has never been told. And when the first attempt has been made to tell it, some say it’s not the right time. Unfortunately enough, it has never been a good time to speak of the persecution of Hindus in independent India. History became a legend, legend became myth and in three decades, the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits was turned into a voluntary exodus from the valley. But Hindus never forgot, Hindus remembered and now the real story, it appears, shall finally be told on the big screen.
The denial of Islamic bigotry and genocides of Hindus is not a recent phenomenon. It has been an ongoing project since the very inception of the Indian State. The Indira Gandhi government made a deliberate effort to whitewash the genocide of Bengali Hindus which led to the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. Gary J Bass, author of the book ‘The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide’, made the revelation in his book.
Bass, who was then a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, wrote, “Rather than basing this accusation primarily on the victimisation of Hindus, India tended to focus on the decimation of the Bengalis as a group.” He added, “The Indian foreign ministry argued that Pakistan’s generals, having lost an election because their country had too many Bengalis, were now slaughtering their way to ‘a wholesale reduction in the population of East Bengal’ so that it would no longer comprise a majority in Pakistan.”
Most significantly, he wrote, “From Moscow, D P Dhar, India’s ambassador there, decried the Pakistan army’s preplanned policy of selecting Hindus for butchery, but, fearing inflammatory politicking from rightist reactionary Hindu chauvinist parties like Jana Sangh, he wrote, ’We were doing our best not to allow this aspect of the matter to be publicised in India’.” Bass went on to assert, “They were unarmed and dispersed around East Pakistan. But the Hindus were tainted by purported association with India, and were outliers in a Pakistani nation defined in Muslim terms.”
“In India, we have tried to cover that up,” Swaran Singh (the then External Affairs Minister) candidly told a meeting of Indian diplomats in London according to the book, ”but we have no hesitation in stating the figure to foreigners.” It notes, “Singh instructed his staff to distort for their country: We should avoid making this into an Indo-Pakistan or Hindu-Muslim conflict. We should point out that there are Buddhists and Christians besides the Muslims among the refugees, who had felt the brunt of repression.” The Indian government feared that the plain truth would splinter its own country between Hindus and Muslims, Bass observed.
Thus, as we see clearly, it is never a good time to speak of the genocides that have been inflicted upon Hindus by Islamic genocidal maniacs. It was not a good time to speak of it in 1971 and 48 years later, it’s still not a good time to portray the suffering Hindus had to endure for so long. Simultaneously, the genocidal Islamic invaders were completely whitewashed and now, we were at a situation where it is argued in the highest court in the country is arguably the most important judicial dispute in Indian history that Aurangzeb was a liberal leader.
The excuse, even then, was that ‘rightwing Hindu forces’ would benefit if facts were told as they are. It reveals a moral bankruptcy of the highest order when genocides are whitewashed because those in power are apprehensive about the political implications of it. Another obvious fact is that if the edifice of secularism is built on a foundation of genocide denial, it is bound to crumble at some point in time. And such secularism deserves to be uprooted root and stem and thrown into the nearest garbage dump.
Those who are concerned about the imagery in the trailer of the movie Shikara believe it isn’t a good time for the movie to release. And that sentiment stems from the fact that India just passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, a piece of legislation that seeks to provide citizenship rights to those persecuted minorities who have come to India before 2014 and reduces the residency requirement for naturalization for those who came after.
We have seen insanity descend upon the streets in the aftermath of the CAA and people are still protesting against it. These protests were not born in a vacuum. These protests have their roots in the organized genocide denial that has plagued the country for so long. A mythical narrative of Islamophobia has been conjured but it’s an indisputable fact that for all the genocides that Muslims have committed upon Hindus, there has never been retaliation on any comparable scale by Hindus. Despite all the screeching about Hinduphobia, it’s only Islamic fanatics that have committed genocides and only Hindus that have suffered genocides in the ongoing Hindu-Muslim conflict.
Shikara is the first real effort by the entertainment industry to bust this organized campaign of genocide denial. It will make many people uncomfortable, as it should because for far too long, they have closed their eyes to the reality that their secularism is founded upon the blood and bones of Hindus. This entire edifice of moral corruption has to be destroyed, regardless of the potential consequences that might surface. A brand of secularism that sustains itself by genocide denial is as morally repugnant as an Islamic State. Monuments to Islamic demagoguery such as this must be smashed to dust.
Guilt-tripping Hindus into keeping silent regarding their persecution will no longer work. Hindus will no longer remain silent about the misery they had to endure. Narendra Modi’s election as Prime Minister is a consequence of Hindus finally speaking up. The CAA was an effort by the Indian government to finally rectify a historical wrong. The protests that we see today is an effort to maintain the same status quo that is built upon the organized campaign of genocide denial that has prevailed upon the country for far too long. And this edifice will be made to crumble, regardless of the extent of protests