In This Gujarat Village, You Get Tax Rebate If You Watch ‘The Kashmir Files’

| Updated: March 17, 2022 7:39 pm

When ‘The Kashmir Files’ is close to netting Rs 100 crore riding piggyback on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s profuse praise for it, BJP’s forte Gujarat could not be far behind — to the extent that a village panchayat has announced tax exemptions to those who display the movie’s ticket.

While Gujarat followed other states in giving the film a tax-free status, a group gram panchayat in North Gujarat has given an incentive to 5,000 village families of a 20% tax exemption in their annual tax of Rs 400 if they produce the original ticket of the commercial film.

Dated March 16, 2022, the circular signed by VL Vaghela, sarpanch of Rozad Group Gram Panchayat comprising four villages in Talod taluka (tehsil) in Sabarkantha district, says, “Those who pay their tax dues by March 30 and produce as well as deposit the original ticket of the Kashmir Files at the panchayat office would get a 20% tax rebate.” The villages under this panchayat are Deviya, Kharana Muwada, Chhanapur and Krishnapura with an estimated population of 5,000 families.

When contacted, sarpanch VL Vaghela said, “Yes, we have issued this circular under my signature. It is a very good movie and if everyone watches it.” Asked under what law, provision or precedent such a circular was issued, Vaghela said, “Arrey, this won’t cast a burden on the panchayat’s exchequer. I am offering the discount with my own money.” To a question where did he get the money from, he shrugged, “Well, people have contributed.”

When pointed out that even if he was offering this discount from his own money or through donations, he could not use the gram panchayat’s official letterhead and stamp, Vaghela simply said, “If I say I will give the discount, nobody will believe me. When it goes on the panchayat letterhead, it carries more weight.”

Asked if he had been asked to do so by the State Government or had he taken any permission before issuing such a circular, the village sarpanch said, “We are ourselves an elected body, we don’t need to take any permissions for this.”

Wasn’t the gram panchayat forcing the people to watch this movie to avail themselves of this “gratis” rebate? Vaghela said, “We are not asking or forcing anyone to go watch the movie.” When told that this was tantamount to forcing the people to go for the film since everyone would wish to save his money, he asserted, “No, there is nothing like this.”

When contacted, Vipul Mittra, Additional Chief Secretary for Panchayats, Rural Housing and Rural Development, said, “We have not issued any such instructions and a gram panchayat is an independent body.”

Mittra said he was not aware of any such circular from any panchayat but asked for a copy of the Rozad Group Gram Panchayat, stating that he would inquire about it. (His official version had not been received while publishing, but the story would be updated once the reply comes).      

 However, the bountiful endorsement of the hotly-debated movie by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP helped the commercial film fetch a cool Rs 60.20 crore in the first five days of the release.   

 The Vivek Agnihotri directed movie is based on the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits at the peak of militancy in the Kashmir valley and has received a mixed response, including that it has several misrepresentations and a politically-motivated film.

 Like several places in the country, the movie has been released in 35 cinema halls in Ahmedabad with an average of five shows each and evoked highly aggressive and provocative sloganeering in the middle of the movie.

 “I, my wife and some friends went to watch the movie yesterday. We all left during the interval. It was disgusting; there was so much sloganeering that didn’t even allow us to watch the movie carefully,” Mayank Mehta (name changed to protect identity) said.

 “People were even spewing abusive language, while Jai Sri Ram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai slogans were so deafening, I could not stand all that,” quipped Mayank’s wife Rashmi. They didn’t wish their names to be revealed because Rashmi is working in a State Government office, while Mayank is a businessman and they were scared.

 “Some boys even made dirty and sexist remarks about women, which I can’t even tell you,” Bharatbhai Joshi, who also went with the Mehtas, said. The name has been changed to protect the identity.  

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