On the occasion of the release of the film “The Kashmir Files”, which was shown in various German cinemas shortly after its first screenings in India, we wrote an open letter to various German politicians, journalists, cinemas and cultural institutions.

Dear _______,

We, India Justice Project, are writing to you to bring to your notice that a film like “The Kashmir Files” based on Goebbelesian hate and atrocity propaganda is now being shown in German cinemas. The movie poses a grave danger for the Muslim community in general and more specifically Kashmiri Muslims and Indian Muslim minority. It is likely, that an audience without much background-information of the historical events as well as political climate in India will perceive the movie as an informative, fact-based and true. And thus, in this letter, we want to explain the context and why the screening of this movie in Germany is shocking and upsetting to us.

We are a group of Berlin-based human rights researchers, advocates and community organizers who document and analyze the continuing verbal and physical attacks against different minorities in India, and the deteriorating conditions for protection and fulfilment of fundamental human rights norms in India.  Some of the members of the India Justice Project have first-hand experiences with Indian state’s repression and have been forced to leave the country.

The topic of the film, Kashmir files, is particularly sensitive. The movie claims to be based on a real-life incident that occurred in 1990s in Kashmir where Kashmiri Pandits (a Hindu community in Kashmir) faced violence. We are not denying the tremendous human tragedy suffered by the Kashmiri Pandit community. However, the concerned film has been called out for showing many factual inaccuracies, exaggerations and for deceitfully using the events of 1990 to dehumanize and demonize the Muslim community, specifically the Kashmiri Muslim community.[1] Social media clips and news articles about the screening of the movie have shown the incendiary effect of that movie. Videos of members of the audience (in most instances militant Hindus aligned with the BJP government) giving hate speeches, with calls for slaughter of Muslims, boycott of Muslim businesses, rape and forceful marriage of Muslim women, and demand for Hindu-only Nation abound social media.[2] In the present climate of growing state sponsored violence against Muslim minority in India, the movie has resulted in more vulnerability and fear for Muslims residing in Indian borders.

The film should be seen as part of the broad Islamophobic, militant Hindu nationalist propaganda of India’s BJP-led government, which is an authoritarian ultra-Hindu right-wing regime that openly calls for genocide of Muslim and dispossession and marginalization of other religious minorities, workers, indigenous communities, and Dalit communities.[3] The film is also an attempt to discredit general progressive discourse and civil society actors who have been actively questioning current government discriminatory and regressive policies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the political wing of the fascist Rashtriya Sayamsevak Sangh (RSS) volunteer corps. The RSS evolved along with the ideologies of the German Nazi regime and Italian fascism and maintained close links with their leadership.[4] Anti-Muslim pogroms under the influence of the Hindu nationalist movement have a long history in India (most recently in Delhi in 2020[5]).

The timing of this movie is particularly sensitive and politically motivated. Kashmir, the most militarized zone in the world has been facing violent oppression by the Indian state for decades. The situation has aggravated since 2019, when the Government of India stripped the state of Jammu and Kashmir, of its constitutional autonomy, along with a physical and communication lockdown/blockade that lasted for over a year.[6]  Kashmiri community experience oppression, violence, and discrimination by the Indian State not only in Kashmir but throughout India. As a result of State propaganda, in India Kashmiri’s face denial of lodging, profiling and surveillance in public educational institutions and police brutality. In 2021, the founder and president of Genocide Watch, a global organization that flags the intentional destruction of ethnic, racial and religious groups, said “The systemic state-sponsored discrimination against Kashmiri Muslims bears all the hallmarks of a genocide”.[7] The danger posed by the manipulated factual matrix portrayed in “The Kashmir Files” must be understood with this context.

The violent and hateful impact of the movie is not by accident but by design. The director of the movie, Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri has time and again made public hateful comments targeting Muslims, other minorities, and progressives in India.[8] He is closely aligned with the current political leadership and their efforts to propagate right-wing Hindu ideology and hateful content.

Although this movie is not directly funded by the state, it can be seen as state-sponsored propaganda through the back door because of the way the entire government machinery is promoting and encouraging the movie- many states governed by BJP have announced tax breaks to encourage people to see the film and announced special screenings of the film,  government employees were given off to watch the film and top BJP politicians including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promoted the film, encouraging everyone to watch.[9] The film uses numerous historical facts, including visuals, but manipulatively weaves them together in incorrect contexts to paint a picture of the Kashmiri Muslim population as consisting mainly of radical Islamic terrorists and where coexistence between different religious communities is not possible.[10] Films like this further set back the efforts of those working for peaceful co-existence of religions.

The Kashmir Files movie is right out of Goebbels playbook on cinematic propaganda — just as cinema played a key role of propaganda in the Third Reich, the BJP is using similar techniques of opinion-formation in order to create a “truly religio-psychological phenomenon” against Kashmiris and Muslims in general.[11]

To summarize, we believe that “The Kashmir Files” should be seen as instrument for political propaganda to incite, deceive and instigate its audience. We are concerned that the film will lead to more hate speech and violence against Muslims, not only within India but also beyond. A movie like this will fuel the sentiments of islamophobia across the world.    For us, Germany is a country where we are safe from arbitrary political persecution from the Indian state and where we have the civic space to fight for human rights and against authoritarian politics and far-right propaganda. We appreciate the predominantly open and at the same time critical political culture here, where issues around discrimination against minorities are mostly dealt with sensitively. We would therefore like to ask you to be aware of your responsibility in this matter and to discourage such a film from being screened in German theatres to put a stop to the further spread of propaganda, provocation and hate speech.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us in case you have further questions or if you would like to discuss this in more detail. Thank you very much for your attention.

Yours sincerely,
India Justice Project


Insta: @ indiajusticeproject

Twitter: https://twitter.com/indiajusticep

[1]The Kashmir Files: How a New Bollywood Film Marks India’s Further Descent Into Bigotry”, https://time.com/6162035/kashmir-files-india-hindu-muslim/, https://theprint.in/features/reel-take/the-kashmir-files-tries-showing-1990-exodus-truth-but-vivek-agnihotri-gives-it-death-blow/871254/

[2] https://thewire.in/communalism/kashmir-files-hindutva-anti-muslim-hate

[3] https://thediplomat.com/2022/03/bjp-government-uses-a-movie-to-incite-anti-muslim-violence/

[4] https://caravanmagazine.in/history/rss-golwalkar-links-nazism, https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/foreign-hand-in-the-sangh-rss-hindu-society-muslims-christians-5117648/

[5] https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2021/2/24/why-the-2020-violence-in-delhi-was-a-pogrom

[6] https://thewire.in/rights/kashmir-370-communication-blockade

[7] https://www.genocidewatch.com/single-post/kashmir-is-on-the-brink-of-genocide-warns-american-scholar

[8] https://standwithkashmir.medium.com/why-is-rutgers-university-hosting-an-islamophobe-and-a-sexual-predator-to-talk-about-kashmir-e9be82a40bfc

[9] https://scroll.in/article/1019708/how-the-bjp-is-promoting-the-kashmir-files-modis-endorsement-tax-breaks-leave-from-work

[10] Farooqui. D, The wire (March 2022) “The Script Is Shoddy, Truth Is Distorted But The Sole Intent of ‘The Kashmir Files’ Is Manipulation of Emotions”, https://thewire.in/film/the-kashmir-files-manipulation,  Chowdhury. D, TIME, (March 2022) 

[11] https://thewire.in/film/the-kashmir-files-manipulative-propaganda-vehicle-rouse-emotions-vivek-agnihotri-bjp

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