The Winds Of Change? : Kashmir Opens Its First Theatre In 23 Years

The Winds Of Change? : Kashmir Opens Its First Theatre In 23 Years

Kashmir has always been the most controversial territory in India. Since the partition in 1947, it has been subject to riots and terror. Following the 1989 insurgency, of which ‘Ralive-Tsalive-Ya Galive’ (convert to Islam, leave or die) was a famous rallying call, a great majority of Pandits (a group of Kashmiri Hindus and a part of the larger Saraswat Brahmin community of India) felt threatened and left the Kashmir Valley for other parts of India. A large number settled in the Jammu Division of the State and the National Capital Region of India. Some emigrated to other countries entirely.

On August 18, 1989, a lesser-known militant outfit ‘Allah Tigers’ led by its chief Air Marshal Noor Khan appeared on the scene, announcing a ban on cinemas and bars through local newspapers. The aim to shut down these popular public hangouts was to wage a full-scale rebellion against Indian rule.

The Farooq Abdullah government tried to reopen cinema halls in 1999 when the Regal, Neelam and Broadway were allowed to start filming movies. But there was a terrorist attack during the first show in the Regal Cinema, killing one person and injuring 12 others. The theatres were locked once again.

Decades later in 2017, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) collation government called for the reopening of theatres in Kashmir after Saudi Arabia lifted a decade-old ban on cinema halls. A year on, in 2018, the government allowed the construction of a multiplex in Srinagar’s cantonment areas. But the permission expired as the builder failed to construct the complex within a stipulated time, according to a report in The Statesman.

Now, after more than 3 decades, Kashmir finally has a movie theatre. The Inox multiplex, owned by a Kashmiri Pandit business family of Vikas Dhar from Srinagar, took five years to be completed. It has three screens and a total seating capacity of 520.

The multiplex was inaugurated by Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha on 20th September and Aamir Khan’s ‘Lal Singh Chaddha’ was screened on the inaugural day where entry was free as the multiplex will start commercially functioning on September 23. Chairman of the Essel Group, Subhash Chandra Goenka was also invited to the inauguration, and he congratulated the Dhar family for bringing the cinema back to the Kashmir valley.

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