The irony was pointed out by actor of Kashmiri origin Anupam Kher as he quoted a tweet by Indian National Congress leader Shashi Tharoor where the politician seemed to be exulting at the news that Singapore would not allow the screening of Vivek Agnihotri’s film of the Hindu genocide in the Muslim-dominated valley in the late 1980s and early 1990s, The Kashmir Files. Kher slammed Tharoor for his tweet, saying (edited), “Dear Shashi Tharoor, your callousness towards Kashmiri Hindus genocide is tragic. If nothing else, at least for Sunanda (Pushkar)’s sake, who was a Kashmiri herself, you should show some sensitivity towards Kashmiri Pandits and not feel victorious about a country banning The Kashmir Files!”
An ordinary netizen was the first to highlight the irony. He informed Agnihotri that Sunanda Pushkar was a Kashmiri Hindu, and then the director asked Tharoor to delete his earlier post and “apologise to her soul”.
“Hey @ShashiTharoor, Is this true that Late Sunanda Pushkar was a Kashmiri Hindu? Is the enclosed SS true? If yes, then in Hindu tradition, to respect the dead, you must delete your tweet and apologise to her soul,” he wrote.
A duel had erupted between Shashi Tharoor and The Kashmir Files duo of Vivek Agnihotri-Anupam Kher on 10 May after the INC leader tweeted about the movie being banned in Singapore, drawing sharp remarks from the director and the actor who also invoked Tharoor’s late wife Sunanda Pushkar’s Kashmiri origins to attack him.
Tharoor said “dragging” his late wife Sunanda into the matter was “unwarranted and contemptible”.
The controversy erupted when the MP from Thiruvananthapuram shared a news report on Twitter about the ban on the film in Singapore. “Film promoted by India’s ruling party, #KashmirFiles, banned in Singapore,” the INC leader tweeted.
In his reply to Tharoor, Agnihotri called Singapore the “most regressive censor in the world”.
“Dear Shashi Tharoor, FYI, Singapore is the most regressive censor in the world. It even banned The Last Temptations of Jesus Christ (ask your madam).” (edited)
“Even a romantic film called ‘The Leela Hotel Files’ will be banned. Please stop making fun of Kashmiri Hindu Genocide,” Agnihotri tweeted, apparently referring to the incident where Sunanda Pushkar was found dead at a Delhi five star hotel in 2014.
In a cutting retort, Tharoor posted a statement on Twitter and, without naming Agnihotri and Kher, said he tweeted a “factual news item” this morning, with no comment on its contents or the film. He also said that he has not seen the film.
“At no point did I mock or disparage the sufferings of Kashmiri Pandits, of whose plight I am intimately aware, and to which I have repeatedly drawn attention over the years,” Tharoor said.
“Dragging my late wife Sunanda into this matter was unwarranted and contemptible. No one is more aware of her views than I am. I have accompanied her to the destroyed ruins of her ancestral home in Bomai, near Sopore, and joined her in conversations with her Kashmiri neighbours and friends, both Muslim and Hindu.
“One thing I know, unlike those attempting to exploit her when she is not around to speak for herself: She believed in reconciliation, not hate,” the INC leader said.
The Kashmir Files has so far collected over Rs 350 crores at the box office, even though its critics called out the film for its problematic politics and exploitation of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the 90s from the Valley.
The film sparked a debate among political parties after several BJP-ruled states, including Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat exempted it from the entertainment tax. While film personalities normally do not lock horns with politicians, both Agnihotri and Kher had earlier condemned similar insensitive conduct of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for his supposed joke inside the assembly where he said, “The BJP could do better than putting up posters of a film,” while his colleagues in the AAP giggled.