This is about Bollywood director Vishal Bhardwaj’s movie “Haider” whose script writer is Basharat Peer, journalist and author of “Curfew Nights”. Since Basharat is a Kashmiri, many people had laid down expectations that the movie would represent the true picture of the Kashmir conflict and would let the world know about the true aspirations of the Kashmiri people. While I was watching the movie I came to the conclusion that it was quite different than the other Bollywood movies produced on the issue of Kashmir. In this movie, one does not see the so called ‘valour’ and ‘bravery’ of the Indian trooper, who single handedly fights hundreds of the enemy force, which is generally portrayed in other Indian movies on Kashmir. There are grave human rights violations shown in the movie which makes us feel that Bollywood has perhaps changed its conventional stance on the Kashmir issue in its movies. While I was writing this, I found many people praising the movie, saying that although it has not done complete justice but somehow it has shown human rights violations committed at the hands of the Indian troops. Therefore, they claim that “Haider” somehow portrays the aspirations of the Kashmiris, which is not true at all, in my opinion. Therefore, I present my point of view which will prove beyond doubt that “Haider” is not Pro-Kashmir at all.
Movie starts with the subtitle of “Srinagar India, 1995”, which is the first point that shows Kashmir to be a part of India when actually it is a disputed territory. Thus when the disputed nature of Kashmir is not even accepted by this movie, it cannot possibly be considered as pro-Karshmir because Kashmiris do not consider Kashmir as a part of India.
Thereafter, the movie shows an encounter, an attempt at showing some sort of ‘valour’ and ‘courage’ of the Indian Army. Troops barge into a house in which they know there are militants hiding. After a brief exchange of gunfire some militants gets killed and a few succeed to run away from the site and the Indian army also suffers some damage. After seeing that soldiers are being killed, the officer in command orders to blow up the house from a distance. However, the ground reality is something different. While dealing with militants who takes refuge in a building or in the case of any hostage situation, the Indian troops do not engage in combat at all. After a brief exchange of gunfire from a far distance they just blow up the whole building with explosives and raze it to ground killing everyone.
This movie revolves around the case of a disappearance. A ‘doctor’ who treats a militant is picked up by the Indian troops, subjected to enforced/ involuntary disappearance. The movie projects that it is the brother of the doctor who actually masterminds the disappearance because of his evil intentions towards his sister-in-law. All this seems to be a personal vendetta which over shadows the human rights violations by the Indian forces. Having come across many enforced disappearance cases in Kashmir, such examples are very rare where personal revenge is the cause of disappearance. However, the cause of disappearance shown in the movie has tried to generalize the issue which completely misrepresents and hijacks the actual reasons of disappearances. In order to counter the armed rebellion in Kashmir, India has tried to suppress the Kashmiri Nation by many ways and means like threatening, killing, torture and forced disappearances. So most of the disappearances were carried out by the Indian army to weaken the armed struggle of the Kashmiri freedom fighters, not on the basis of some personal vendetta or revenge, as projected in the movie.
Interestingly, the troops in the Indian army attire and uniform are shown speaking Urdu/Hindi in a Kashmiri accent. Mastermind of the disappearance is shown a kashmiri (brother of disappeared Doctor) and the government sponsored renegades are also shown Kashmiri, unleashing a reign of terror. Nowhere does one see any active front and prime role of India itself in the atrocities shown in movie. This Movie tried to project that the outbreak of Kashmir conflict is not due to unresolved political issue but due to its own civil war.
Though at some point the movie tries to raise the issue of illegal occupation when “Haider” shouts slogans of “Azadi” in Lal Chowk but while listening to slogans he says “Us Par bhi lenge Azadi, Is par bhi lenge Azadi” by which the director wants to convey that “Us par” (i.e Azad Kashmir) is also occupied and disputed like Indian Occupied Kashmir. This part is completely different from the narrative of Kashmiri people because we believe that Azad Kashmir is literally free and Pakistan has always been sincere in resolving Kashmir dispute peacefully by granting Kashmiris the right to self determination. What the movie tries to project is that just like India, Pakistan is also an occupier which does not comply with the narrative of majority of the kashmiris on this issue. This represent the narrative of minority section of people by which the writer and director of the movie intentionally or unintentionally tried to project the Indian ploy.
The perception that this movie is pro-Kashmir by showing a few scenes of human rights violations (and then attributing them to Kashmiris themselves) and not accepting the disputed nature of Kashmir is just like calling a person a true Muslim who offers prayers, pays zakat etc but doesn’t believe in one God.
There is no denying the fact that right wing Hindus in India have protested against this movie. #BoycottHaider was also trending on twitter. This does not make this movie pro Kashmir. The reason behind their outrage is because the violators of human rights (although portrayed as Kashmiris) shown in few scenes of the movie is the Indian army or most probably the other reason could be the scene in which the hero mentions the UN resolutions in Lal Chowk while sloganeering.