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FACT & THE #KashmirFiles

As a young journalist, I covered the Kashmir separatist movement approximately from 1989 to 2002. This opened my eyes like nothing else would. In those days, the entire Western correspondents' corps would periodically descend to Srinagar from Delhi to cover the events in Kashmir. At some point, because of the strife, there was only one hotel open in Srinagar, the Adhoos on the Jhelum Bund. The foremost voice in those days was that of Mark Tully, the bureau chief of the BBC News عربي, and an internationally recognised journalist. The Indian National Congress government was then accusing #Pakistan of funding, arming, financing, and training inside Pakistani Kashmir, the Indian Muslim militants (JKLF in those days), and then sending them back across the LOC border to create havoc. Mark Tully’s contention was that it was not true. And in this, he was followed not only by the entire Western correspondent group, but also by most of the Indian newspapers and magazines, stringers, and correspondents in Kashmir (like India Today).

I was the lone voice that felt it made sense, and wrote so not only in the French and Swiss papers (Le Figaro) I was working for, but also in articles in the Hindustan Times, Indian Express and Bombay’s tabloid Blitz. The ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Hindus (the term ‘Pandit’ is misleading) shocked me beyond belief: I saw for the first time that a people in the name of their exclusive and intolerant religion, could kill, rape, maim, and chase out another people from a different religion, who had lived side by side with them for generations. Till today, the plight of the Kashmiri Hindus hounds me.

In 2004, I received in the Parliament of India, at the hands of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (photo) the Nachiketa Award for Excellence in Journalism. With it came a cheque of 50,000 rupees and I decided to use the money to curate for the first time an exhibition on the plight of the Kashmiri Hindus https://www.factmuseum.com/kashmiri-pundits/). This exhibition was opened in Habitat Centre, New Delhi, by Srisri , L K Advani, and was visited by numerous leaders of that time, including Murli Manohar Joshi, Dr Karan Singh, and many others. We then travelled India with this exhibition: Bombay, Calcutta, Bangalore, and Chennai. Then, thanks to the help of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar we showed it in many parliaments around the world: Scotland, England, Germany, Poland, Israel, and others, and in 2011 in Capitol Hill, Washington, which led to a US Congress resolution, taking notice of the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits. This was the first time that the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Hindus was brought into the public domain, much before the film #KashmirFiles

I am also proud to say that shortly thereafter, my wife and I put up an exhibition - the first one ever - on the Hindu holocaust https://www.factmuseum.com/hindu-genocide-over-the-years/ from the Hindu Kush, where 500,000 Hindus died, while being taken as slaves to Afghanistan, to Mumbai 2011. This exhibition is now permanently housed at the FACT Museum (the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History, Pune), which Namrita and I started in 2012 on 5 acres of land donated by @srisri. It was not enough for us to have only the Hindu holocaust exhibition and the Kashmiri Hindus Habitat Centre replica, we decided also to show - as they were - the tyrants who were instrumental in that genocide, We have for instance, a unique exhibition on the Goa Inquisition (https://www.factmuseum.com/the-portuguese-and-the-goan.../) another one on Aurangzeb based on his own records, and one on Tipu Sultan (https://www.factmuseum.com/tippu-sultan/) has been unnecessarily and unjustly glorified.

Some of these exhibitions brought trouble; the one on Aurangzeb https://www.factmuseum.com/aurangzeb-as-he-was-according.../ for instance, which we also opened in the Habitat Centre in Delhi, was closed down by the police in Chennai and seized for 6 months after the descendant of the Nawab Arcot who came to see it and complained to his friend Stalin, now Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, that it was offensive. He was particularly angry at the depiction of the razing of the Somnath Temple, a painting which was based on an edict (firman) of Aurangzeb, which he had approved and stamped with the Emperor’s seal. @narendramodi, who was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat heard about it in an article published by The Hindu, and called me to Ahmedabad. He subsequently flew to Bombay in 2016 to open our Shivaji Maharaj exhibition 'https://www.factmuseum.com/chhatrapati-shivaji-maharaj-a.../ with Sri Sri.

Shivraj Singh Chouhanj Vivek Agnihotri The need of the hour for Hindus is to unite, as at present there is an onslaught on this ancient universal spirituality that knows all and accepts all. Why make another Hindu Holocaust exhibition when it already exists and is well documented by historians and is available free online for downloads and is exhibited at the Chhatrapati Maharaj Museum Of Indian History, Pune ?

@factindia is a Sewa project: not only is the entrance to the Pune museum free, but we have uploaded all our exhibitions online, and we encourage people to download them, print them, and show them around the world. Indeed, our exhibition ‘The Defenders of Dharma’ on Sikhism and its sacrifices (https://www.factmuseum.com/the-defenders-of-dharma/) which we inaugurated in the main Gurudwara of Delhi; Bangla Sahib, with Sri Sri and the Sikh leadership, has been exhibited free all over India, as well as in the USA and Canada.

So many people have visited this museum and praised it: Nitin Gadkari Dalai Lama Uddhav Thackeray along with his son, the present CM of Maharashtra and his wife, and so on … We are immensely happy at the astounding success of the #TheKashmirFiles because it shows that there is a tremendous change in the mentality of Indians, and that they are now able to see and realise the tragedy of Kashmir … Nevertheless, let us not forget that FACT played a pioneering role in that awakening.

Namrita and François Gautier

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