Political leaders favour screening The Kashmir Files

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But not all community leaders have spoken

(Mithun Chakraborty, Anupam Kher and Dharshan Kumar in the film)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, March 20, 2022

‘The Kashmir Files’ has raised raging debates about the ‘genocide’ that occurred in the Kashmir Valley in 1989-1990. Indians from India and journalists like us who were active in their jobs then know that hundreds of thousands of Hindus, known as ‘Kashmir Pandits’ had to flee their home State and settle elsewhere.

Many have settled in various other States in India and overseas including New Zealand. Conservations with them reveal the pain and the scar that they endure- or more specifically, their parents and older relatives had suffered. In such a context, the release of ‘Kashmir Files,’ has unleashed a volley of emotions.

However, it has had its share of controversies and objections.

In New Zealand, in response to complaints from the Muslim community, the Chief Sensor has decided to review the status of ‘The Kashmir Files.’  An announcement on his decision is expected over the next few days, even as speculation that the film will have a revised (higher R Rating) or maybe banned altogether continues to grow.

We approached the spokespersons of the Muslim community in New Zealand to comment on the issue but they declined. To that extent, this story does not have the benefit of being balanced.

Following are the statements issued by three Members of Parliament.

National Party List MP Melissa Lee

Melissa Lee (National Party)

I am concerned at reports overnight that the Kashmir Files may be stopped from screening in New Zealand. I have spoken with the Chief Censor this morning (Sunday, March 20, 2022) raising my concerns and he is in the process of talking to all affected stakeholders on this issue. I will be watching closely and getting an update soon.

This is an incredibly emotional topic for many Hindu, Muslim, Indian and Pakistani New Zealanders. Internationally, there has been significant debate over its content and the facts. Regardless of what the film is about, we cannot rewrite history, We can only learn, debate and discuss its impacts.

Freedom of expression is incredibly important in New Zealand and something I and the National Party take seriously, particularly around uncomfortable and sensitive conversations affecting New Zealanders. Censorship is a serious matter and one that requires transparency and careful judgement.

If you have any concerns about this please contact my office at MPLee@parliament.govt.nz

ACT Party Leader David Seymour

David Seymour (ACT Party)

Minister for Internal Affairs Jan Tinetti needs to explain why the Classification Office appears to have carried out last-minute censorship of the film ‘The Kashmir Files,’” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

The Kashmir Files is controversial for some New Zealanders, but New Zealand is a country committed to freedom of expression. Furthermore, the film is widely regarded as being based on facts and has been defended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as such.

It appears some complainants have had the film censored but the answer to uncomfortable issues is not censorship. The New Zealand Government should not try to resolve foreign disputes by censoring one side in favour of the other. If you come to New Zealand, you accept New Zealand values such as free speech.

“The film has been shown widely overseas in countries such as Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. New Zealanders should have the right to watch it too.

At present, the Office of Film and Literature Classification has deemed it R16 and the Film and Video Labelling Board also reports it is authorised at that classification. And yet, it cannot be shown as scheduled on March 24, according to widespread reports.

The Classification Office needs to explain why it has abruptly banned a film that was scheduled to begin showing next week. The Office has left no indication on its website as to why the film has been pulled.

By failing to front, the Office has created widespread speculation about political interference and bias. While the Office should indeed be politically independent, it is ultimately up to the responsible Minister to find out why this censorship has occurred and what happens next.

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters

Winston Peters (New Zealand First Party)

The ‘Kashmir Files’ has been shown in America, Australia, India and many other locations around the world. To date, the film has been viewed by over 1.1 billion people.

The film is about true and real events surrounding the 1990 ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Kashmir and today over 400,000 Kashmir Pandits remain in exile after 32 years.

To censor this film is tantamount to censoring information or images from the March 15th atrocities in New Zealand, or for that matter removing from public knowledge all images of the attack on 9/11.

Mainstream Muslims have both in this country and around the world readily and rightly denounced all forms of terrorism on the basis that committing violence in the name of Islam is not Muslim. Neither should steps taken against Islamophobia mistakenly lead to the shielding of terrorists in the name of Islam.

Terrorism in all its forms, no matter what its source, should be exposed and opposed. This attempt at selective censorship would amount to one further attack on the freedom of New Zealanders and people worldwide.

Note to Readers:
Please send your opinion on ‘The Kashmir Files’ to
The Classification Office and the Chief Censor expressing your views.
Email: info@classificationoffice.govt.nz
Phone: (04) 4716770; Freephone: 0508-236767
You can also copy the message to your local Member of Parliament.


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