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The Kashmir Files is a 2022 Indian Hindi-language drama film, written and directed by Vivek Agnihotri. Produced by Zee Studios, the film is based on the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits during the Kashmir Insurgency. It stars Anupam Kher, Darshan Kumar, Pallavi Joshi and Mithun Chakraborty. The film was theatrically released on 11 March 2022.
The film became a box office success, but critical reception has been mixed. The cinematography and the performances of the cast (particularly Kher's) has been described as compelling, but the film has faced accusations of historical revisionism, and of being propaganda aligned with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), aiming to foster prejudice against Muslims. The film was endorsed, promoted and provided with tax-free status in multiple states by the BJP.
The plot frequently switches between the contemporary period (2021) and flashbacks to 1989–1990 throughout the film.
In 1989–90 Kashmir, Islamic militants storm and banish Kashmiri Hindu Pandits from the Kashmir valley using the slogan "Raliv Galiv ya Chaliv" ("convert (to Islam), leave or die"). Pushkar Nath Pandit, a teacher, fears for the safety of his son Karan, who has been accused by the militants to be an Indian spy. Pushkar requests his friend Brahma Dutt, a civil servant, for Karan's protection. Brahma travels with Pushkar to Kashmir and witnesses the plight of and violence against Kashmiri Pandits. He takes up the issue with J&K's chief minister, who suspends Brahma.
Militant commander Farooq Malik Bitta, also a former student of Pushkar, breaches Pushkar Nath's house. Karan hides in a rice container but is found and shot by Bitta. Pushkar and his daughter-in-law Sharda plead for their lives. Bitta compels Sharda to eat rice soaked in Karan's blood in exchange for their lives. After Bitta and his gang leave the house, Pushkar takes Karan to the hospital and requests his doctor friend Mahesh Kumar to save Karan's life. However, the hospital gets taken over by militants, who forbid the hospital staff from treating non-Muslims. Subsequently, Karan succumbs to injuries from gunshots.
Journalist Vishnu Ram takes Pushkar and his family to Kaul, a Hindu poet who maintains a cordial relationship with Muslims. Kaul takes in many Pandits into his home but a group of militants arrives to pick Kaul and his son up in the guise of offering protection. The rest of the Pandits leave the place but are later shocked to find the dead bodies of Kaul and his son hanging from trees.
The refugee Pandits from the Kashmir valley settle in Jammu and live on meager ration and harmful conditions. Brahma is appointed as an advisor to the new Governor of J&K. On his request, the Home Minister visits the Jammu camps where Pushkar demands the removal of Article 370 and the resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits. Brahma manages to get Sharda a government job in Nadimarg in Kashmir, and the family moves there.
One day a group of militants headed by Bitta dress up as Indian Army and arrive at Nadimarg. They round up the Pandits living there. Sharda resists when the militants get hold of her elder son Shiva. Angry Farooq strips her and saws her body in half. He lines up Shiva and the remaining Pandits and shoots them into a mass grave. Pushkar is spared to spread the word about what happened.
In the present day, Sharda's younger son Krishna is brought up by Pushkar. He believes that his parents had died in an accident. A student of Jawaharlal Nehru University,[a] Krishna is under the influence of professor Radhika Menon who believes in the "Kashmir cause". Pushkar's friends Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, and police officer Hari Narain , who had served in Kashmir when Karan was killed, recall the events of Kashmir from their memory that Brahma calls a "genocide."
Krishna contests the ANU's student election. Following the advice of professor Radhika Menon, he holds the Government of India responsible for the issue of Kashmir, much to the anger of Pushkar. Pushkar dies, and Krishna travels to his ancestral home in Kashmir to scatter the ashes per Pushkar's last wish. Menon asks Krishna to shoot some footage in Kashmir in order to expose the government. With the help of one of Menon's contacts, Krishna meets Bitta and accuses him of being responsible for the situation of Pandits. But Bitta declares himself to be a new-age Gandhi who is leading a non-violent democratic movement. Bitta claims that it was the Indian Army, who killed Krishna's mother and brother. When Krishna questions Brahma about this claim, Brahma hands him newspaper cuttings (collected by Pushkar), which stated that militants disguised as Indian Army soldiers killed them.
Krishna returns to Delhi and gives a scheduled speech for university presidential elections, among the roaring crowd of the ANU campus. He elaborates on the history of Kashmir and the plight of his family and other Kashmiri Hindu victims that he perceived from his trip. This is a bolt from blue to his mentor Professor Menon and her students. Krishna is then met with resistance and ridicule from students and an eventual embrace by a few.
A public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by an Uttar Pradesh resident which sought a stay on the film's release on grounds that the film may portray the Muslims as killers of the Kashmiri pandits, presenting what it described as a one-sided view that would hurt the sentiments of Muslims and could trigger violence against Muslims. The PIL was dismissed by the Bombay High Court on grounds that the filer should have challenged the certificate issued to the film by the Central Board of Film Certification.
Another lawsuit was filed by the widow of an Indian Armed Forces squadron leader who died during the Kashmir Insurgency. The widow's lawsuit said that the film portrayed a false depiction of events related to her husband and sought a stay on its release. Accordingly, the court restrained the makers from showing relevant scenes.
The Kashmir Files was set to release theatrically worldwide on 26 January 2022, coinciding with India's Republic Day, but was postponed due to the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. It was released in over 630 screens in India on 11 March 2022.