Silver screens lit up in Indian-administered Kashmir for the first time in a generation at the opening of a new cinema on Tuesday, decades after an armed rebellion shuttered local movie halls.
India has been fortifying its control over the strife-torn Muslim-majority region after a grinding conflict between security forces and insurgents fighting for independence or a merger with neighbouring Pakistan.
Most cinemas were shut down by rebel groups in 1989, the year of a huge uprising against Indian rule, with the insurgents saying their Bollywood blockbuster screenings were avenues for cultural imperialism.
The theatres were later mostly occupied by security forces, who used them as detention and interrogation centres, with some still used by soldiers as staging posts.
Periodic attempts to revive cinema halls in Kashmir in the 1990s and later failed, with a heavy security presence deterring ordinary patrons.
Authorities have feted the new multiplex as the consequence of an improved security situation since New Delhi took steps to bolster its control of the territory.
Its opening was a symbol of a government commitment to “establishing peace” in the region, said Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, India’s top administrator in Kashmir.
“We are bringing back a lost era,” he said at a ceremony and screening marking the movie house’s opening in the city of Srinagar. It was attended mostly by government and security officials.
“The opening of this cinema reflects the changing picture of Kashmir.
“The new multiplex opens to the public next week and Sinha’s administration has pledged to support the opening of 10 more cinemas around the region. (RFI)