With the release of The Kashmir Files, discussions and debates around the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 have taken the centre stage on social media. There is a flurry of content related to the ‘Kashmir Genocide’ on social media platforms with users calling out ‘liberals’, ‘left intellectuals’ and a section of media for hiding the ‘truth.’ In this backdrop, an old video claiming to show journalist Barkha Dutt “justifying the Genocide & Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir” has found its way on social media once again.
In the twenty three-second-long video, Dutt can be heard saying, “Today hapless victims, they were once privileged elite of the valley. They may have been a minority but at that time they had monopolised government jobs, plum postings and other such social benefits. In fact, the sharp economic disparity between the Pandits and the poor Muslim majority was one of the earliest reasons for popular discontent in the state.”
Several Twitter users shared the video
The video is doing the rounds on Facebook as well
The video has been in circulation for the past seven years. A simple keyword search for ‘ Barkha Dutt Kashmiri Pandits’ on Facebook led us to several such posts from 2015.
Based on video interviews of the first generation victims of the ‘Genocide’ of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, The Kashmir Files features Anupam Kher, Mithun Chakraborty, Darshan Kumaar and Pallavi Joshi in lead roles. The Vivek Agnihotri-directorial has garnered much political attention with PM Modi hailing the makers for “daring to make a film on the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus during the Kashmir Insurgency.” The film has been declared ‘tax-free’ in several states including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tripura, Karnataka, Goa, Haryana, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh.
Meanwhile, the Kerala unit of Congress posted a series of tweets claiming to tell ‘Facts’ about the Kashmiri Pandits issue and blaming the BJP-RSS for the exodus. “Pandits left the valley en masse under the direction of Governor Jagmohan who was an RSS man. The migration started under the BJP-supported VP Singh government,” read a tweet.
“BJP-supported VP Singh government came to power in December 1989. Pandits’ migration started the very next month, in January 1990. BJP did nothing and continued supporting VP Singh till November 1990,” claimed the Kerala unit of Congress.
We noticed the watermark of NDTV and the logo of the show Reality Bites on the viral video. Taking this as a clue, we conducted a keyword search for ‘Barkha Dutt Kashmiri Pandit NDTV’ on Google and found a report published on NDTV’s website on May 7, 2013 with the title ‘Kashmiri pandits: The forgotten minority.’ The report carried twenty one minute and forty four-second long video footage of NDTV’s show ‘Best Of Reality Bites’ featuring Barkha Dutt which was originally aired in October 2004.
The description of the video read, “Despite all the attention on the state of Jammu and Kashmir, one issue often forgotten is that of the Kashmiri pandits. Ever since the Pandits were forced out of the Valley, they have stayed on the margins of public and political attention. In this episode of Reality Bites, Barkha Dutt investigates the events that led to this mass exodus and also how the danger of a declining population is only made worse by a life in exile, as assimilating to new cultures and new cities means discarding an old ethos and embracing new rituals.”
Newschecker carefully watched the video. In the beginning of the show, Dutt can be heard saying, “The Prime Minister will fly to Srinagar in early April, announcing this after meeting with him in Delhi, Jammu Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said a new political dialogue at the highest level should get off the ground soon. But in all the attention on the state, often forgotten is the community of Kashmir Pandits. It was exactly 13 years ago, this very month that the Pandits were forced out of the valley and have since stayed on the margins of public and political attention,” followed by snippets from interviews with Kashmiri Pandits including director-producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra with the caption ‘Living in exile The forgotten minority.’
At the counters of 02:55 minutes, there is a brief explainer about the 1990 exodus of Kashmiri Pandits followed by a video of Dr Shakti Bhan, a Kashmiri migrant, who can be heard narrating her personal account of the incident.
05:36 minutes into the video, we found the keyframe of the viral video. Here Dutt can be heard speaking, “In fact, history has turned full circle for the Kashmiri Pandits. Today hapless victims, they were once privileged elite of the valley. They may have been a minority but at that time they had monopolised government jobs, plum postings and other such social benefits. In fact, the sharp economic disparity between the Pandits and the poor Muslim majority was one of the earliest reasons for popular discontent in the state”, and goes on to talk about the condition of Kashmiri pandits after the exodus.
At 8:40 minutes, she can be heard saying, “ Perhaps, what is most frightening are reports of the slow and steady demise of the Kashmiri pandit community both in terms of their cultural identities and numerically. It may sound paranoid, but the Kashmiri pandits say their numbers are dwindling.”
The video features interviews of several Kashmiri Pandits including H N Jattu of All India Pandits Conference, director-producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra and his mother Subhagrani Chopra among others.
Dutt concludes the video by saying, “Well, the new government in the state finally has a lone Kashmiri Pandit minister. The only one from his community to actually have won the elections and he has promised to create what he calls mini homelands for the return of the old residents. But let’s remember that more than 90 per cent of the properties once owned by Kashmiri pandits have been destroyed or ruined and most will never be able to go back to the homes they once lived in.”
We can thus conclude that the video essentially highlights the plight, struggles and conditions of Kashmiri pandits after the 1990 exodus and their longings for their homeland. Notably, a 23-second-long clip has been pulled out from the video and being shared out of context to create a false narrative and misled people into believing that Barkha Dutt ‘justified the Kashmir genocide.’
Newschecker also reached out to Barkha Dutt, who termed it as “dangerous fake news.” “It’s astonishing that an edited clip, already proven to be part of a long documentary on the plight and trauma of Kashmiri Pandits, is being recirculated. This is toxic and dangerous fake news. And multiple fact checking sites over the years have already shown it to be so,” Dutt told us.
The claim that Barkha Dutt had justified the mass exodus of Kashmiri pandits is false. The viral clip has been taken out from a longer video highlighting the plight of Kashmiri pandits after the exodus and is being shared out of context.
Result: Misleading/Partly False
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