Cinemas reopen after more than two decades in Indian-controlled Kashmir

New Delhi

Cinemas in Indian-controlled Kashmir have reopened, more than two decades after they were forced to close during an armed insurgency that saw numerous threats and attacks in crowded public places.

Jammu and Kashmir Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha on Tuesday inaugurated the controversial region’s newest cinema in a ceremony marked by much fanfare and fanfare.

“(The inauguration) is a reflection of a new day of hopes, dreams, confidence and aspirations of the people,” Sinha told reporters outside the theater in Srinagar, India’s largest Kashmiri city, in what the press called a “historic” day. trust of india

The theater held a special screening of ‘Lal Singh Chaddha’, the Bollywood version of ‘Forrest Gump’ starring two of India’s biggest superstars, Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor.

The cinema will open to the public on September 30, according to Vijay Dhar, CEO of India’s Inox Leisure Ltd. which has partnered with the cinema chain to open a theater in Srinagar.

“I’m doing this from the bottom of my heart. This is for Kashmir, it is in the national interest,” Dhar told CNN.

“Bollywood and Kashmir have a long association,” he said. “Many older Bollywood films were shot in Kashmir. We would like to bring Bollywood back, to create that same atmosphere.”

Inox Leisure Ltd. said it was “overwhelmed” in a Twitter post, adding that it was “the beginning of a new era”.

Kashmir is one of the most dangerous places in the world. Claimed in its entirety by India and Pakistan, the mountainous region has been the epicenter of a violent territorial battle between the nuclear-armed neighbors for more than 70 years. A de facto border called the Line of Control divides New Delhi and Islamabad.

In the late 1980s, a violent insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir claimed the lives of more than 9,000 civilians, according to the Indian government, although estimates vary. The movie theaters had to close after that.

Here’s why Kashmir is so important

Authorities tried to reopen it, but a deadly attack on the Regal Cinema in 1999 thwarted those efforts, the Press Trust of India reported.

In 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status and officially split the former state into two union territories, giving the government in New Delhi greater control over the disputed Muslim-majority region.

Following the move, Modi imposed a near-total communications blackout for more than two-and-a-half months, a move that was heavily criticized by local leaders and sparked protests.

India said the move to withdraw the status was to ensure that the nation’s laws were equal for all its citizens and boost economic development in the region, as well as to end separatism and terrorism that Pakistan supported and encouraged.

Since then, the Government of India has implemented a series of policies that will bring development to the region.

Last year, the government introduced a policy to promote Indian-controlled Kashmir as a popular filming destination.

“A well-grown film industry can be an effective tool and platform for wealth generation, employment generation and preservation of the culture and expression of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. “Industry can boost Jammu and Kashmir’s potential as an investment and tourist destination.”