By: Radhakrishna N S
By Nadeem Badshah
BRITISH Pakistanis have dismissed fears that a new film highlighting “disappearances” in Kashmir will spark tensions in the UK and have praised the director for highlighting human rights.
No Fathers in Kashmir, directed by Ashwin Kumar, was released in cinemas in January and is about a British-Kashmiri teenage girl who travels to the state to search for her father and discovers he was killed after being taken away by Indian soldiers for interrogation.
An estimated 8,000 people have “disappeared” over the past 30 years in Indian-administered Kashmir with allegations that they were taken by security forces, according to human rights groups.
An Indian political group based in the UK has warned the film could trigger tensions between British Indians and Pakistanis.
But community leaders believe the movie is a vital insight into the region’s problems after the Indian government revoked its special status and placed it in lockdown last August.
Khalid Mahmood, a Labour MP who was born in Kashmir, told Eastern Eye: “Thousands of women are leading this life in Kashmir, their husbands are not going to come back, they have been gone for too long.
“It is not about taking sides with any particular country but focus on the women in this instance and the human rights.
“It is raising good awareness, I praise the producers for doing this.
“It is a brave step. It won’t heighten any tensions.
“We should look to empower the rights of these women, it is not about being against any individual nation.”
No Fathers in Kashmir, which is partly funded by a group of British Kashmiris, was released in India last year after the country’s board of censors insisted some scenes be cut and the film also contain a number of disclaimers.
Kuldeep Shekhawat, head of the UK branch of the Overseas Friends of the BJP, said the film “does not serve any purpose”.
He added: “It will just inflame hostility and tension. Things were difficult enough last year between the two communities but have calmed down a lot since then.
“If Kashmir is an issue then it is between India and Pakistan. We are all British here, so why should we be getting so obsessed with Kashmir?
“This film will not help community relations. India is a democracy and has an effective legal system, so if there are any human rights violations they are addressed through these channels.”
However, Fiyaz Mughal OBE, founder of the Faith Matters charity, said the film shows human rights abuses in Kashmir which need to be highlighted.
He told Eastern Eye: “Gross human rights abuses need to be highlighted. However, those watching the film should also realise that no-one deserves hatred and intolerance and that the human rights abuses need to be held to account through political action and activity, and not through violence.
“Kashmir has so much potential and “disappearances” of people need to be highlighted”.
It comes after hundreds of people protested outside the Indian High Commission in London in January over the Indian government’s handling of the region.
The Rise For Kashmir rally aimed to raise awareness of the area’s lack of internet and phone access along with the large military presence.
Of the 1.1 million Pakistanis in Britain, more than one million hail from the part of Kashmir governed by Pakistan with the majority living in Bradford, Yorkshire.
Usman Younas, who runs the Watan Superstore in Bradford, said: “It is a good idea to raise awareness among our community and other communities.
“It has been closed off for that part of the world because of the shutdown of the media.
“It is difficult to evaluate the circumstances, we never get a feel of it from here.
“This movie should give an insight into what is going on.
“I doubt it will raise any tensions between communities, there is always going to be two sides to it.”