Israeli jury head at Indian Film Festival labels Modi-promoted ‘Kashmir Files’ as propaganda

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A worker cleans a display with the poster of the Bollywood movie ‘The Kashmir Files’, outside a cinema hall in New Delhi (AFP)
Critics have argued that the film ‘Kashmir Files’ was used by the Indian government to revise Kashmiri history and demonise Muslims as part of its right-wing Hindutva project

The head of the jury of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) has expressed his shock and disgust over the inclusion of the Indian film, The Kashmir Files, in the competition section of the event, describing it as “propaganda” and “vulgar” and “inappropriate for an artistic festival”.

The film has been at the centre of a storm over the past year for its dishonest depiction of the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus, known as Pandits, from Indian-controlled Kashmir in the early 1990s when an insurgency began against Indian rule.

Addressing the audience in Monday night’s closing ceremony in Goa, Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid, appointed to head the jury convening on the best films screened over the course of the week-long festival, said The Kashmir Files left members of the jury shocked and disturbed by its inclusion. 

“We were – all of us – disturbed and shocked by the 15th film, by the movie The Kashmir Files. That felt to us, seemed to us like a propaganda, vulgar movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival. I feel totally comfortable to openly share these feelings here with you on this stage. In the spirit of this festival, [we] can surely also accept a critical discussion, which is essential for art and life,” Lapid said.

Lapid’s comments are the latest in a stream of criticism levelled at a film that was both celebrated and endorsed by the Indian government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.

Critics have argued that The Kashmir Files was used by the Indian government to revise Kashmiri history and demonise Muslims as part of its right-wing Hindutva project, which aims to turn India into a Hindu state.

With the support of the government, the film has become one of the highest-grossing Indian films of 2022.

Israeli propaganda at IFFI

Indian activists, however, told Middle East Eye, that the festival was also guilty of artwashing Israeli crimes at the event.

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On Sunday, the festival hosted the international premiere of the fourth season of the Israeli hit television series, Fauda, which is about an Israeli Mista’arvim, or elite undercover unit, that keeps Israel “safe” from “Palestinian terrorists“.

Fauda enjoys a massive following in India. Earlier this month, a television show based on Fauda, called Tanaav, premiered on the Indian streaming service, SonyLiv. Instead of being set in the occupied Palestinian territories, Tanaav is set in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Days prior to the premiere, the Boycott Divestment Sanction (BDS) movement released a statement calling the festival to “end its valourisation of apartheid Israel’s death squads, war crimes and settler-colonial violence”.

“By hosting the Asian premiere of Fauda’s new season, IFFI is complicit in promoting and justifying grave human rights violations.” 

“Leaders of Israel’s apartheid regime have expressed their “pride” and “gratitude” for Fauda and its significant role in sanitising Israel’s brutal military occupation,” the statement read.

Achin Vanaik, a Delhi-based writer and social activist, described the Indian government as “admirers” of Israel and Zionism. 

“Since it is pushing its Hindutva messaging through media, education and even Bollywood, there is reason why it may wish to bring in a pro-Zionist film or push the idea that Muslims (whether Palestinians or otherwise) are terrorists or ‘naturally’ prone to terrorism,” Vanaik told Middle East Eye.

“Of course, Israel provides training for Indian police officers who serve in and outside of Kashmir, and here, too, the message of ‘Islam or Muslim-terrorism’ needing to be punished is one this government would be keen to push,” Vanaik added.

Under Narendra Modi, Tel Aviv has emerged as a key ally of New Delhi. The countries upgraded ties to a strategic partnership in 2017.

India is Israel’s largest buyer of arms and weapons, amounting to around $1bn per annum.

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Disclaimer: Israeli jury head at Indian Film Festival labels Modi-promoted 'Kashmir Files' as propaganda - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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