Film: Mission Kashmir
Year of Release: 2000
Director: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Producer: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Mission Kashmir (2000) was not the first Bollywood movie to sympathise with terrorists. However, it is matchless in having the nerve to suggest that Kashmiri Pandits who suffered the 1989 genocide are the real bigots.
This misleading advocacy was produced, directed and written by Vidhu Vinod Chopra (born and raised in Kashmir).
The film opens with Senior Superintendent of Police of Srinagar, Inayat Khan (Sanjay Dutt), saving the life of a Sikh cop Gurmeet Singh from an explosive by forcing him to jump into a river.
Singh is not willing to jump because he is shivering with fear (so much that he pees on himself) and cannot swim. He is a simpleton who suffers sarcastic ridicule throughout the film.
In the world of Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the Dharmic community is not the one that rose against Mughal fundamentalism. They are a submissive group needing the patronage of people like Khan, who yell at his subordinates. Gurmeet is the only Sikh character in the film.
The plot of this film revolves around a young boy named Altaaf Khan (Hritik Roshan), who witnesses his family die in a crossfire between cops and terrorists. SSP Khan adopts him but doesn’t reveal that he had led the police firing squad on that eventful day.
When Altaaf finds out, he runs away from home and becomes a terrorist to seek revenge on Khan for his family. Trust Bollywood to introduce any excuse for people to become terrorists.
By the way, Khan is married to a Hindu woman named Neelima, who wears a mangalsutra. It is unclear what her religious identity adds to the story other than promoting Khan as a broad-minded cop and generally pushing the Muslim man-Hindu woman interfaith relationships on the same lines as Lollywood (Pakistan).
This film reinforces various problematic narratives that Bollywood has been promoting for decades. It tells you that people of a particular community become terrorists because law enforcement agencies have oppressed them. It wants you to believe that terrorism has nothing to do with religion.
It reinforces the idea that Hindu men in authority (Chief Secretary Deshpande) discriminate against patriotic cops like Inayat Khan because of faith and are the real bigots coming in the way of peace.
Among other tripe, we didn’t miss noticing how Chopra shows that security personnel like Singh are slow-witted, but terrorist Altaf is an intelligent fellow stronger than everyone else.
To even suggest that security forces recruit dull-witted and physically weak people is offensive. Does it come as a surprise when such insinuations expand prominently in films like ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ that claim that the Indian army recruits less than capable people to defend the country?
Such gems keep coming in the film. For example, the audience learns that the shootout involving Altaf’s family happened in 1989. In reality, this was the time when Kashmiri Pandits had to flee the valley due to vicious religious persecution.
Is the Kashmiri Pandit genocide even discussed in the film? Yes. However, Chopra manipulates that narrative so that the scene ends by showing Hindus as fundamentalists.
This is how it happens. There is a cop named Avinash Mattoo, who reports to Khan. There is a scene where Singh and Mattoo discuss how their respective families were victims of organised massacres in 1984 and 1989. Mattoo angrily recalls how powerless he had felt against those atrocities even though he was a cop then.
And just when we were about to admire Chopra’s gutsiness for introducing the genocide perspective in a Bollywood story on Kashmir, he threw up a disturbingly misleading counter-narrative.
Singh shares how his family was killed during the anti-Sikh pogrom, but his killers were none other than Hindus (like Mattoo). Yet, unlike his Kashmiri colleague, he doesn’t harbour any grudges towards such “extremists”. He advises Mattoo to change his attitude similarly towards Islamists.
What a machiavellian stroke! Chopra shamelessly uses a false equivalency to set several vicious agendas in motion. He pits one Dharmic faith against another and plants the pro-Pakistan propaganda that Hindus can be terrorists. He gives a clean chit to Islamists by using fake narratives against Hindus.
Were the Hindu temples in Delhi blaring threatening slogans asking Sikhs to convert to Hinduism, leave Delhi or perish? Did any Sikh family receive any threatening letter from Kalashnikov-wielding Hindu extremists asking them to flee Delhi but leave their daughters and sisters behind? Did the Sikh families abandon their ancestral homes in Delhi during their seventh forced exodus? Did the anti-Sikh pogrom not preceded by mass killings of Hindus in Punjab?
Above all, how did Chopra and his ilk get away with such virulent propaganda that year?
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