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June 25, 1999
A reel story of Kashmiri Pandits
With Kashmir in the spotlight in the wake of Pakistani's intrusion in Kargil, the plight of Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to flee the Valley following the outbreak of secessionist violence in the early nineties, needs to be addressed, feels film-maker Ashok Pandit..
In his 40-minute documentary Sharnarthi apne hi desh mein, Pandit explores this issue which has been side-tracked for several years. The award winning documentary tells the story of the traumatic exodus, that took Pandits from their homes to plastic tents, from being Indians to being ''refugees'', from living with pride to living in fear.
The film is a realistic portrayal of the kind of torture Kashmiri Pandits went through at the hands of Pakistani militants. It shows the horrors of genocide that took place and exposes the ''ethnic cleansing'' that was unleashed in the Valley.
The documentary, which won the RAPA Award 1999, takes the audience on a journey with the refugees as they search for refuge. It captures the sheer bewilderment of a community banished overnight to an alien land, far from the mountains that they loved. ''It's a statement and a plea. I sincerely hope that it does not fall on deaf ears,'' says the director.
Pandit, who is a well known director with serials like Filmi Chakkar, Tere Mere Sapne and Colgate Top Ten to his credit, told reporters after the preview that making the documentary was a mission for him. ''My family was among the displaced and I worked in the refugee camps and saw the pain and anger from close quarters,'' he said and added that the documentary was meant to provide a voice for a community that has been silenced for too long.
Recollecting the tragic circumstances in which half a million families were thrown out of their homes, Pandit said Janaury 19, 1990 was an extremely unfortunate day for the Pandits, when loudspeaker broadcasts from mosques asked all Hindus to leave the Valley within three days or face dire consequences.
He felt that the intellectuals, including film-makers, had shied away from taking up the issue of Kashmiri Pandits for the fear of being branded communalists.
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