Why is it that we don’t talk about our right to know the truth? In the endless wars and conflicts we humans have experienced in the short span of time that we’ve spent on earth, the only thing that survives eventually is the truth and yet we are reluctant to seek it,” says filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, who was in Chandigarh on the invitation of the group Once in 30 Days to deliver a talk on free speech in independent India
Initiating new dialogues and encouraging meaningful and thought-provoking conversations is one of the aims of the group that largely works for the empowerment of working women and men. Once a month the members meet to share stories of strength. Artists and storytellers are also invited to share their experiences.
During his discussion with the members, Agnihotri also introduced them to his film The Kashmir Files, that tells the story of Kashmiri Pandits. The success of Tashkent Files — based on the mysterious death of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri — says Agnihotri, encouraged him to explore yet another untouched and politically sensitive subject of the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley. It was while shooting for a film in Kashmir some years back that he learnt that art, theatre and cinema are now almost non-existent in Kashmir, which was once a reputed centre of learning. He also realised that people in the Valley face extreme hardships because of violence and fear. “There is a need for an alternative narrative which looks at the many dimensions of the exodus. More than 3.5 lakh people were displaced, so many were killed, yet many of us are oblivious to this dark chapter of our history. Why justify
violence and terrorism? These are critical stories that need to be shared without any religious or political baggage. We all have a right to truth, liberty and justice,” says Agnihotri.
He has formed a tribunal for the film. As many as 1,000 testimonies of first-generation Kashmiri Pandits settled across the country and abroad are being recorded for Agnihotri to pen his script. “We will be choosing insights that are not in the public domain. I also love the idea of a documentary on the subject,” says Agnihotri, who has also been referencing books, writings and reports for the last one year.