The Kashmir Files Row: Why Did I&B Officials Invite Nadav Lapid Despite His Dubious Credentials?

    Nadav Lapid, an Israeli filmmaker, was invited by the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) to be a jury chief this year. He, however, used the platform to target The Kashmir Files, a film that depicted the plight and persecution of Kashmiri Hindus, saying he was “shocked” and “disturbed” by its inclusion in the competitive section. The film also “felt” to him “like a propaganda, vulgar movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival”.

    Lapid’s statement has met with sharp criticism. Even the Ambassador of Israel to India, Naor Gilon, accused the filmmaker of “abusing” his invitation to chair the panel of judges at IFFI. “In Indian culture, they say a guest is like God. You have abused in the worst way the Indian invitation to chair the panel of judges at IFFI Goa as well as the trust, respect and warm hospitality they have bestowed on you,” Gilon wrote in an open letter to Lapid, which he shared on Twitter.

    The incident, however, has exposed muck at different levels. First and foremost, it brings out the absurdity on the part of the IFFI’s organisers to invite someone whose credentials have always been a suspect, to say the least: For, even a scratchy background check would have made it evidently clear that Lapid was a typical woolly-headed, bleeding heart Leftist filmmaker pretending to be a liberal. His films, after all, “explore the machismo of the Israeli regime, the moral predicaments of its artists, and the ‘sickness’ in the souls of its citizens”.

    His most recent film, Ahed’s Knee, was about a real-life Palestinian child and political prisoner who was detained for slapping an Israeli soldier. Likewise, Lapid’s 2019 film, Synonyms, depicted the story of Yoav, an Israeli soldier so disgusted with his country that he moved to Paris and attempted to become a French citizen. One wonders what made the IFFI officials invite him and not expect what actually happened! Maybe the incident is a reminder to why the government should stop being an organiser of a film event. It’s a relic of an old, outdated socialist era that needs to be abandoned at the earliest.

    Coming to the larger issue of what Lapid said, one wonders what he meant by The Kashmir Files being a “a propaganda, vulgar movie”. Does he mean that the killing of Kashmiri Hindus showcased in the film was “a propaganda”? Is it “vulgar” to show the Pandits being persecuted, killed and forced to live in exile since 1990? Is it a propaganda that one BK Ganju was mercilessly gunned down while he was hiding in a cereal drum, though one is not sure who the biggest culprit was — the terrorists who shot him dead, or his ‘friendly’ neighbour who signalled the armed men to look at the “right place”? Or, does Lapid think that the filmmaker has crossed the Lakshman Rekha by showcasing Ganju’s wife being forced to eat the cereal lashed with her husband’s blood?

    Maybe the Israeli filmmaker thinks the story of the blind-folded Girja Tiku, who was gang-raped by four men in a moving taxi, was orchestrated to villainise the people of Kashmir. Maybe writer Rahul Pandita too was pedalling a lie when he wrote in his book, Our Moon Has Blood Clots: The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits, about Girija Tiku. When Girija recognised one of her rapists, she asked with an inconceivable pain: “Aziz, are you here as well?” The four men, then, took her to a wood-processing unit and cut her alive on a mechanical saw.

    Lapid’s hypocrisy is obvious when one finds him circumspect in showcasing Islamist terror in Kashmir. Yet, the Israeli filmmaker finds nothing “vulgar” or propagandist while showcasing the plight of Palestinians. His humanity is reserved for one set of people; the agony of the rest doesn’t move him. This phenomenon is, however, not confined to Lapid alone; it’s the malaise that afflicts most of the Left-‘liberal’ ecosystem across the world.

    The most tragic aspect of the Lapid saga is the fact that the criticism for The Kashmir Files has come from a person hailing from the community that has been persecuted for centuries across continents, with India being an exception. If the Israeli filmmaker finds the persecution of Kashmiri Pandits “a propaganda”, does he hold a similar view for the Holocaust? Does he find the depiction of Jews being executed in a gas chamber “vulgar”? If he shares this view, he may end up inviting legal action in several countries. After all, 16 countries, including Israel and Canada, have laws against Holocaust denial — the denial of the killing of six million Jews in Europe by Nazi Germany in the 1930s and ’40s.

    The author is Opinion Editor, Firstpost and News18. He tweets from @Utpal_Kumar1. Views expressed are personal.

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