One month ago, when Vivek Agnihotri’s infamous movie Kashmir Files – a film based on the Kashmiri Pandit exodus – was released worldwide, it unleashed a pandora’s box. It led to a fallout between two US-based Indian citizens over the issue of the “call for Muslim genocide”.
The issue started when Dr Rajiv Pandit, who describes himself as a Kashmiri Hindu, after watching the film on March 23, wrote on his Twitter account, “What was the most powerful emotion you felt immediately after watching @vivekagnihotri‘s #TheKashmirFiles? One word, any language.”
One of the users with a handle named ‘Right-Wing Alpha’ wrote, “To pay them back 100 fold, in their own coin”, and Pandit responded with the word “retribution”.
Taking offense, a US-based journalist Raqib Hameed Naik replied in a series of tweets that Dr. Pandit was wrong and his tweet was a call for genocide against Indian and Kashmiri Muslims. He said, “There is no evidence of “Hindu Genocide” in Kashmir and it is primarily a Hindu nationalist construct.”
The journalist tagged a series of articles, RTI (Right to Information) NHRC report (National Human Rights Commission) to prove his point.
He reconfirmed the fact that more than Kashmiri Hindus, Kashmiri Muslims were also targeted and killed. He said that the movie was explicitly made to vilify Muslims in general. “The hate being sowed by this film could potentially result in targetted violence against Kashmiris living across the country,” Naik’s tweet said.
The Doctor-Journalist Feud
This did not go down well with Dr. Pandit who demanded the journalist’s tweet be deleted. Pandit hit back stating he belonged to a “Kashmiri Hindu family whose members were killed and faced ethnic cleansing” and wanted “those terrorists that perpetrated that violence to face consequences – only them”
Naik alleged that soon after his tweets, a few right-wing organisations started harassing him. Speaking to The Print he said, “I started getting death threats. I have been harassed by The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and its supporters in the United States since I expressed my views over a film that portrayed Kashmiri Muslims as murderers and thugs.”
He also said that his parents who are based in Doda, Jammu, and Kashmir, received calls from the CID (Crime Investigation Department) for “questioning”.
Meanwhile, Dr. Pandit claimed his practice has come “under attack”.
“I received dozens of phone calls from angry people [from among the diaspora who support Naik], demanding that my practice and the hospitals where I see patients, revoke my privileges or ‘fire’ me from the staff,” he added. “They were also going to various online, and very important rating sites, and giving me 1-star ratings (for his medical skills) without ever having met me, let alone ever being treated by me. There is an ongoing campaign to damage my reputation and end my livelihood.”
When the Print asked about his “retribution” comment, he said, “When I tweeted a single word, ‘retribution’, I was referring to the justice delayed — even denied — that Kashmiri Pandits everywhere truly believe is a stinging injustice that precludes reconciliation or even closure.”
What Happened next
Members of the HAF threatened that if Naik’s tweet is not deleted, they will sue him in court. Not one to be bullied, Naik also filed a case against them stating he did nothing wrong.
Now, after a month, on May 4, a tweet by Dr. Audrey Truschke who is an activist, displayed four pieces of documents written by Naik’s attorney and through The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Texas-Houston stating that Raiq Hameed Naik’s tweet was not wrong in any sense and there is no question of it been deleted.
The reply said, “When Dr. Pandit responded by typing “retribution” alongside a thumbs-up icon, he was expressing complete understanding of, and agreement with Right Wing Alpha’s genocidal sentiments. It is important to note that Right Wing Alpha has a long disgusting history of posting Islamophobic content and stoking hatred against Muslims, including calls for violence and removal from the country.”
“Mr. Naik and anyone reading this interaction on Twitter could easily recognize that Dr. Pandit was endorsing Right Wing Alpha’s call for a retributive genocide. the context is clear from the included text thread, which readers can see for themselves, and moreover falls under the “fair comment” privilege and the truth and “substantial truth” doctrines,” it further said.
The reply also stated that both Dr. Pandit and Right Alpha Wing expressed a desire to respond to the genocide by committing genocide. “Genocide is, by definition the mass extermination of an entire group of people because of their identity. It is impossible for genocide to be targeted at specific perpetrators unless you believe that an entire community is responsible for a crime because of their identity, which is exactly what The Kashmir Files implies,” the reply said.
In the end, Naik’s counsel stated that if Dr. Pandit still wants to go further with a lawsuit against Mr. Naik then they will be filing a Texas Anti-Slapp motion to dismiss in which Mr. Naik will be seeking fees and sanctions. “If Dr. Pandit has a change of heart then Mr. Naik and his attorney are looking forward to it,” it said.