The New Zealand release of Vivek Agnihotri‘s The Kashmir Files is on hold despite the film getting clearance from the country’s censor officials, who have decided to review the decision after concerns were raised that it might stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.
Stuff reported that the country’s chief censor David Shanks is reviewing the film’s R16 classification after concerns were raised by the Muslim community ahead of the movie’s release. Shanks told the publication that the Classification Office’s action does not mean the film is being banned in the country. He further said that the members of the Muslim community had approached him with concerns that the film “could raise anti-Muslim sentiment and potential hatred.”
This move has been criticised by Winston Peters, the country’s former deputy prime minister and leader of the political party New Zealand First. In a Facebook post, Peters wrote, “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,” Peters said, adding that 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,” he further wrote.
The film’s director too had earlier claimed on Twitter that there was pressure from “some communal groups” on the New Zealand censors to ban The Kashmir Files.
The film is based on the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandit community from the Kashmir valley in the 1990s. It features an ensemble cast, comprising of actors Anupam Kher, Mithun Chakraborty, Darshan Kumaar, Pallavi Joshi, Prakash Belawadi, Puneet Issar, and Atul Srivastava, among others.