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In historic move, two cinemas thrown open in Kashmir after 40 years

In a cultural riposte to militancy LG Manoj Sinha inaugurates two mini-cinemas in South Kashmir (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@airnewsalerts)

Two mini cinema halls with multiple utilities were inaugurated by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Sunday in the South Kashmir districts of Shopian and Pulwama, otherwise known for separatist violence and terrorism since 1990.

At the district headquarters of Pulwama, Sinha inaugurated a 60-seat mini theatre at the office building of Assistant Director Employment in a well- protected area. A gathering of over 700 local students and citizens and government officials witnessed the inauguration. Some of them later watched several clips of the 2009 Bollywood film “3 Idiots” in which Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor play stellar roles.

“Today is a historic day for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Multipurpose cinema halls at Pulwama and Shopian will offer facilities ranging from movie screening, infotainment and skilling of youth”, Sinha said at the inauguration.

The UT Government’s Mission Youth department, functioning under Secretary Tribal Affairs Dr. Shahid Iqbal Chowdhury is creating one each mini theatre for the benefit of the local youths and students at Anantnag, Srinagar, Bandipora, Ganderbal, Shopian, Doda, Rajouri, Poonch, Kishtwar and Reasi. While the two halls were inaugurated today, officials said that all other mini theatres would be thrown open for the local youths within a couple of months.

Sinha dedicated the multipurpose cinema halls of Pulwama and Shopian to the people, especially the younger generation of Kashmir who have waited for a long time for this moment. He shared the government’s vision to establish similar multipurpose cinema halls in every district of the UT under Mission Youth.

“Cinema is a powerful creative medium which reflects culture, values and aspirations of the people. It opens the door to the world of knowledge, new discoveries, enables people to get a better understanding of each-other’s culture”, Sinha asserted.

J&K has a long association with the world of cinema. The new film policy and facilities created has once again made J&K the favourite shooting destination and brought back the golden era of film-making in the UT, the LG said. “With the support of Mission Youth, District Administration, Jadooz Group and the society, I am confident the timeless creativity offered by cinema will be appreciated across generations”, Sinha said.

Reiterating the Government’s commitment to youth empowerment, Sinha said that his government would ensure that the talented youth of J&K got a right platform and modern facilities for education and skill development. The new cinema halls will generate employment for the local youths and also provide a vibrant space for holding capacity building workshops and seminars.

Later Sinha inaugurated a number of the developmental projects including a 120-ft tall national flag mast. The mechanised mast which operates with a simple push of the button has been procured by the District Administration at a cost of Rs 20 lakhs through Gem Portal. Sinha unfurled the first national flag.

After the inauguration, Sinha flew to the adjoining district headquarters of Shopian where he inaugurated another mini theatre at the local municipal building. A gathering of over 600 students and local youths and officials witnessed the inauguration. Later the clips of 2013 Bollywood biopic on the iconic Indian athlete and Commonwealth Games champion Milkha Singh were played for a limited audience of 54 persons. Farhan Akhtar, as Subedar Milkha Singh, and Sonam Kapoor play stellar roles in the film.

Youth-related facilities including reading rooms and libraries and coffee shops are being built up around the mini theatres at all the district headquarters.

Significantly, the twin districts of Pulwama and Shopian have been strongholds of the separatist movement and militancy right from 1989, when they were one district. Most of the killings of the pro-Indian political leaders, including former Ministers and legislators, took place in the same Pulwama district in 1990-95. In  the Lok Sabha elections of 1998, this Jamaat-e-Islami bastion voted for the then Congress candidate Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and helped him defeat the National Conference candidate Mohammad Yousuf Taing.

Subsequently, after 1999, this whole area voted en masse for the candidates of Mufti’s own People’s Democratic Party (PDP), defeating most of the NC candidates in Pulwama and Shopian districts. In 2009, this area remained hugely disturbed out of a turbulence over the death of two young women in Shopian who, according to the separatists, had been “raped and killed” by Police officers. However, the agitation fizzled out after the CBI established in an investigation that the allegations were baseless.

In 2016, these districts witnessed maximum of the violence and bloodshed in the street turmoil after the Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter. Pakistani flags and slogans dominated the area as the businesses, government offices and educational institutions remained closed for about three months. Even after Mehbooba Mufti’s government collapsed in June 2018, militants set up their bases and remained active for a long time in South Kashmir.

A top government official revealed to INDIA NARRATIVE that on Tuesday, 20 September 2022, LG Manoj Sinha would inaugurate Kashmir’s first multiplex at the site of the famous Broadway Cinema at Shivpora, facing the entrance of the Chinar Corps Headquarters at the Badami Bagh cantonment. He said that Aamair Khan-starrer “Laal Singh Chhaddha” would be screened at the grand inauguration of the Multiplex to be operated by Inox.

Unlike in Jammu and other district headquarters in the Jammu division, there are currently no functional cinema halls in the militancy ravaged Kashmir valley. With the eruption of insurgency, militants had imposed a blanket ban on all forms of entertainment, fashion and glamour including cinema, video libraries, beauty parlours, wine shops in the valley in December 1989. All the 17 movie theatres in Srinagar, Sopore, Baramulla, Anantnag and Handwara were permanently closed down on 31 December 1989.

In 1998, Farooq Abdullah’s government attempted to reopen the cinema with screening of the Bollywood films at Broadway, Neelam and Regal. However, all the three theatres were soon shut down after a grenade attack at Regal and an encounter at Neelam.

Twenty-four years later, the UT Government under LG Manoj Sinha introduced the first film policy and started a campaign to revive the film, fashion and entertainment industry in the Kashmir valley.

Also Read: Kashmir’s first multiplex theatre ready to screen Bollywood films from September