Muharram / SAFAR 1424 H
Volume 16-04 No : 196
Camps \ Workshops
A documentary film based on interviews with survivors of riots in Gujarat last year, has run into trouble with the Indian Censor Board.
A short documentary film on the Gujarat riots, made by a group of Mumbai-based producers, was refused a certificate by the censor board, apparently because it “portrays the police and the government in bad light”.
The 22-minute Hindi film, called Aakrosh, or Cry of Anguish, consists of a series of interviews with survivors of the riots that ravaged Gujarat in March 2002. The Mumbai-based censor board, the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC), has not picked on any particular scenes in the film as objectionable. But it says the entire film “depicts violence and reminds the people about the Gujarat riots”.
These were the words in the letter from the Board to the film’s producer when the certification was refused. The producers said the film makes no reference to the government, police, religion or any organisation. They said the film only addresses the issue of rehabilitation of the survivors and does not feature any graphic images of violence, victims or dead bodies. Ramesh Pimple, one of the members of the People’s Media Initiative (PMI), which made the film, said, “It is a narration of the experiences of witnesses. The main issue that the film addresses is rehabilitation of the survivors. We protest this kind of action of the Censor Board. It seems they are toeing the line of the state government.” PMI has made television serials like Ehsaas, which included fictionalised stories of human rights abuses, and Lok Adadat, which dealt with custodial deaths. Aakrosh was shot during the riots on a shoe-string budget of Rs 1 lakh and privately screened recently at the Hyderabad Film Festival organised by the South Asian Forum.
However, when the producers tried to exhibit it at the Film Division’s Film Festival in February, the organisers insisted on a CBFC certificate. The film’s makers then applied for a certificate last month.The producers say that by refusing them a certificate, the Censor Board has denied them the right to go to other national and international film festivals, like in Japan and Venice, both scheduled in April. They said they were invited to screen the film at the Japan Film Festival in April.
Ramesh Pimple told the Islamic Voice: “We shot extensively across the state while the riots were going on. We had footage that showed burnt homes, bodies, destroyed property but finally decided to zero in on tales of survivors coming from the lower strata of society. We thought this way the common man could connect with what happened to these people.” He said the censors did not ask for any cuts or omissions.
‘I think the Gujarat state government or the central government does not want to encourage any activity that will remind people of what happened in the state during the riots,’ said Ramesh Pimple
Present chairman of the the CBFC, Arvind Trivedi, the superstar of Gujarati films and a former BJP MP from Gujarat,said, “The movie is not as per the guidelines of the board and the board members were not satisfied with the documentary. So it didn’t get the clearance. As for specific reasons, I can’t tell you that”.
Trupti Shah of the Baroda-based women’s organisation, Sahiyar Stree Sangathan, says the government doesn’t want to face the reality. “ I have seen the film. And I saw the despicable riots also. It’s not a fictionalised version. It’s a narration of what happened in those dark days through the eyes of the victims,’’ Shah remarks. The film makers have now appealed to the Review Committee of the Censor Board and are hoping for a positive decision by the end of this month. They also plan on going to court and mobilising various groups in order to protest against the Board if the decision is not made in their favour.
Bangalore: A meeting of prominent Muslims of Karnataka held recently, expressed solidarity with the secular forces in the State and resolved to speed up socio-economic progress within the community. It also expressed concern over the sporadic outburst of communal passions and called for effective policing and check on communal elements. The meeting was jointly convened by North Bangalore MP, C. K. Jaffer Sharief and eminent social activist Dr. Mumtaz Ahmed Khan.
Attended by nearly 300 social workers, intellectuals and heads of educational societies, they felt that increasing number of communal flare-ups were part of the Sangh Parivar’s build-up for the Assembly elections slated for next year and called for watchfulness and restraint from the community. Speakers observed that several Sangh Parivar elements infiltrate religious procession and raise provocative slogans against minorities in order to create trouble in sensitive localities. The meeting urged the State Administation to maintain watch against such elements. There were complaints of harassment of Muslims and indiscriminate arrest of Muslim youth in Neelasandra area of Bangalore where violence broke out last month.
Presiding over the meeting, Housing Minister Saghir Ahmed called for reviving the Central Muslim Association all over the state as the principal nodal organisation. He also advised the Muslims to themselves urge the Government to ban cow slaughter. He said even otherwise, 80 per cent of beef -eaters were not Muslims, but from among Dalits and backward classes for whom it was a cheaper and rich source of protein. Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Small Scale Industries, R. Roshan Baig asked Muslims not to get worked up over processions that passed by the Mosques and called for initiating steps whereby leaders of the processions were garlanded. This, Baig said, would soothe the passions, if any. He stressed the need for developing mature outlook and avoiding play of sentiments. Baig also called for setting up development institutions such as skill imparting centres, disabled reformatories, micro-loan schemes etc in the mosques.
Wakf Board Chairman Khalid Ahmed urged reconciliation rather than confrontation. Jaffer Sharief said Muslims should avoid spreading and believing in rumours, the main source of communal trouble. He therefore asked the mosques to act as information centres and to counsel patience.
Karnataka Muslim Muttehada Mahaz, convener, Mohammad Nisar said the Mahaz was guiding the community on the political plane in directing their choices towards secular parties and candidates. He pointed out that the Police administration was lax in dealing with communal elements who inflame sentiments in sensitive localities. Among others who spoke were Dr. Mumtaz Ahmed Khan, Rashid Ahmed Mecci, Abdur Rahman, Rafiq Ahmed and scores of other social workers.
Bangalore: It was a perfect picture of peace and harmony, as eminent intellectuals, social workers and human rights activists-all non-Muslims stood up in one voice in favour of the Muslims and the riot-hit victims in Gujarat. VOICES, an NGO in collaboration with ActionAid India, organised a seminar on “Gujarat, Governance and the Media” recently. Ashish Sen, Director, VOICES, put across a very pertinent question-how many publications really carry items that are of relevance to the common man-like death of the tribals, oppression on minorities?
“ Gujarat, Governance and the Media is not just about Gujarat. It is about all of us in the context of a professedly multi-cultural society which should conform to the constitutional legitimacy of a social, democratic and secular republic. The events in Gujarat also clearly leave no room for sitting on the fence. As Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed out long ago, A time comes when silence is betrayal,” said Ashish. Editor, Frontline, N. Ram noted that Muslims need not panic as all is not lost. If they unite together, they can fight the communal forces in India. Harsh Mander, Country Director, Action Aid, India, said that the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat was a planned strategy by the saffron forces and what was the media doing all along when it was supposed to be playing the role of watchdog? While, K. Sreedhar Achar and former editor, Kannada Prabha, Sathya Narayana agreed that the vernacular press had covered the Gujarat events in an unbiased fashion, they also stressed that “ personalised reporting was missing. “ the reports in the vernacular press were published as if the Gujarat riots were happening in Rwanda and not in India.”
Lawrence Liang and Arvind Narayan of the Alternative Lawyers Forum suggested that the events in Gujarat were a perfect case for Genocide, while Namita Malhotra from the Centre for Child Law made a touching presentation on the difficulties faced by human rights activists in relief camps in Ahmedabad where kids bore the brunt of the riots.
Get in touch with Ashish Sen, Director, VOICES, for copies of their journal VOICES FOR CHANGE-the latest issue is packed with brilliant analysis on the Gujarat events-”Reflections on Gujarat and Beyond”.
VOICES, 165, 1st floor,
9thcross, Indiranagar, Ist