Filmmaker Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri falsely claimed that the US state of Rhode Island had recognised the “Kashmir genocide” through a citation for his film The Kashmir Files.
Boom found that the claim is misleading and false. The citation was given only for the premiere of the movie at Rhode Island College on December 9, 2021, and is not an endorsement of the State of Rhode Island and the House of Representatives.
On March 14, Agnihotri tweeted a photo of a citation by the House of Representatives of the state of Rhode Island in recognition of the premiere of The Kashmir Files. The certificate was issued on December 9, 2021, in the State House in Providence, Rhode Island. However, Agnihotri claimed that the “liberal state” of Rhode Island has officially recognised the “Kashmir Genocide due to a very small film”.
“Pl read this and decide who is the persecutor and who should get the punishment. This is #NewIndia,” he tweeted.
The Kashmir Files, which was recently released, is based on the ordeal of the Kashmiri Pandits during the onset of insurgency in the Kashmir valley.
The film has been heavily promoted by the Hindutva right and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, with several Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states making the movie tax-free. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also spoken about the film.
The movie has had several screenings before its theatrical release and videos of inconsolable audiences have been viral on social media for a while now. However, it has also seen a fair share of misinformation. Boom has debunked an old photo of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath crying and an old video of BJP veteran LK Advani crying that were circulated separately with false claims of the two breaking down while watching the Kashmir Files.
A closer look at the photo of the citation tweeted by Agnihotri clearly shows it is recognition for the premiere of the movie and not an official acknowledgement by the House of Representatives or its members of a genocide in Kashmir as claimed by the director. Independent journalist Raqib Hameed Naik from Kashmir who is now in the United States was the first to call out Agnihotri’s tweet.
Hameed Naik said that he had contacted Representative Brian Kennedy who told him that the citation was simply to recognise the premiere of the movie at Rhode Island College and not a “Hindu genocide in Kashmir”.
Naik also tweeted that a staffer for K Joseph Shekarchi, Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, had responded to him that the Representative is not even aware of this citation.
“Speaker Shekarchi was not aware of this citation that was requested by Representative Kennedy in off-session,” the staffer told Naik. “It is not an official position of the House. All citations requested by House members carry the pre-printed names of the Speaker and the two leaders.”
Boom contacted Naik, who forwarded us the email response he received from Representative Brian Kennedy from the email address rep-Kennedy@rilegislature.gov. We cross-checked the email and found that the statement mentions that the citation is “Not an endorsement of the State of Rhode Island and the House of Representatives.”
“I was contacted in December 2021 by an Indian-American from East Greenwich who is involved with the Federated Indian Organizations of New England regarding securing a citation for Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri for the premiere of his film The Kashmir Files that was being presented at Rhode Island College on December 9, 2021,” Representative Brian Patrick Kennedy said in a statement to the journalist.
“The citation from the state was to simply recognise the premiere of this movie. I have not met the director nor was I present to view the movie, although I have seen scenes of the movie that were provided to me in advance of the showing.
“I understand there were over 250 people present at the movie premiere at Rhode Island College and that it was a very compelling movie that generated many emotions. A citation is what we provide to people for a special event of life. We give them to Boy Scouts who achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. We give them to students who attain a special honor or sports achievement. We provide them to retirees and those having a special birthday.
“A citation is simply the acknowledgement of a special event. It does not hold the weight of a Resolution approved by the members of the House. This citation was strictly given to the movie director for the premiere of his movie.
“It is nothing more and it is not an endorsement of the State of Rhode Island and the House of Representatives.”
Boom contacted Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy separately, who sent us the same statement. We also asked him who provided the description of the movie mentioned in the citation? The citation states the following: “...the Kashmir Files, detailing terrorism and extremism by memorializing the events of 1990 in which 500,000 Kashmiri Hindus were ethnically cleansed in the Kashmir valley by Islamic gangs and forced to live as refugees”.
Rep. Kennedy told Boom that the same Indian American, who applied for the citation, provided the description of the movie. “The description was provided in the press information that was provided by the Indian American who lives in Rhode Island and had contacted me,” Rep. Kennedy said .
Boom also sent email to Rep Blake A. Filippi (Minority leader, State of Rhode Island), Rep Christopher Blazejewski (Majority leader, State of Rhode Island), and Rep K Joseph Shekarchi (Speaker of the House, State of Rhode Island), whose signatures are present on the citation. The article will be updated if we receive a reply.
This article first appeared on BoomLive.
The article has been updated with Rep. Brain Keneddy’s email response.