Alternate Media Times – Volume 5 Issue 17

March 2001

Discussion

Whose world will it be?

Marx had once mentioned that an individual appears in the history twice, first as a tragedy, then as a farce. To a large extent, this is also true of events. If the first phase pf liberalization was a tragedy for the Indian people, the second was that of farce. In the first phase the Babri Masjid was demolished; then, in great hurry and secrecy, the then Congress Government signed the WTO agreement without any debate in the Parliament; for the first time Harshad Mehta drew financial institutions into a financial scam – it is said that he caused a Rs 7000 crore loss to the economy. After the Harshad affair, the then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh had said it was a failure of the system. Those days, corruption and scams were so rampant, that the Narasimha Rao government came to be known as a government of scams.

Then came the Bharatiya Janata Party with the slogans “Sabko dekha bar bar, Bhajapa ko dekho ek bar”(“You’ve seen all of them for so long, now test the BJP once”) and “Vote unhe deejiye jo raj chala sake” (‘Vote those who can govern”). Clean, honest, hard working, experienced politician and successful administrator -that is the image that the media and corporate sector had created of Atal Behari Vajpayee. They took an immense effort to bolster and spread this image of Vajpayee, so much so that when Vajpayee himself went against this created image, they called it the political politician; the negative aspect of trying to keep the balance and harmony between different political forces. He is like the Bhishma Pitmaha, caught between the Kauravas. He can suffer from the violation of Draupadi’s modesty, but cannot run away from his commitment. He is tied to Karma.

That is why when Christians are attacked, instead of condemning it he demands a debate on conversion, or when he claims himself to be always a swayamsevak, or when he describes the building of Ram Temple as an expression of national sentiment, the corporate media writes volumes on his compulsion.

Meanwhile, the Director of ICSSR M.L. Sodhi, an appointee of Murli Manohar Joshi himself, raised his voice against the blatant saffronisation of the institution. He made a frantic appeal to the Prime Minister that the institution be saved from the RSS. He wrote, “ This is not the time for saffronisation, that would be harmful…. We need to incorporate information technology and social consequences of emerging technologies.” (Asian Age, 20/4/01)

And after Tehelka, a thunderstruck Government first said it was a foreign conspiracy, then said it is a defect of the system, that the system has failed. The share scam, the arrest of the Excise director for financial scam, these are all failures of the system. And what is the system? Like the almighty, it is abstract and universal. Here human beings are of no consequence, they are insignificant, they are mere pawns in the hands of the system.

The government tells us not to be sensitive about corruption, but to discus and debate about the failure of the system; that we should understand that foreign forces are trying to destabilise the government and spread anarchy in the country; that we should not get entangled in the hypnotic web of corruption; the path of salvation lies in the understanding of the system. While the NDA government is busy making us understand the system, Dottopant Thengadi, the president of EMS, the labour wing of RSS (BJP is its political wing), blatantly accuses the government of selling the country to the foreign companies.

In a phase of unregulated, disorganised and misdirected so-called liberalisation, the corporate sector is fanning corruption at all levels, in. order to earn more and more profits. Profit is their only motive and they can go to any extent to achieve it -this is their nature. This is what the Union Carbide did in Bhopal in 1984, and this is what is going on in BALCO in 2001. The logic is different, but the goal and impact are the same.

The suicide of small farmers, artisans and workers has become routine news these days. Even when it is spreading like an epidemic in Andha Pradesh, the central and state governments remain indifferent. Now that all restrictions have been removed from imports, it is not difficult to assess its impact on the farmers. It is said that many countries in Africa that are now reeling trader terrible drought and famine, Were at one time self sufficient in food production. But due to various exploitations and wrong policies, these countries are on the verge of perish. It is like the death of a civilization.

Only the future can tell whether we as a nation and civilization would become extinct or rise from the ashes like Pheonix. But, at the moment there is no alternative to consciousness, resistance and protest. Whose world will it be in the new millennium? A handful of privileged elites or the people at large – this will certainly be decided on the soils of Asia. And we have to be ready for it.

Media News

Anand Patwardhan does it again

High Court orders Father, Son and Holy War to be screened on Doordarshan

Once again Anand Patwardhan had to go to court to have his film cast on Doordarshan. His two-part, two-hour documentary film Father, Son and Holy War on the relationship between male dominance and communal violence, was completed in 1994 and was submitted for telecast to Doordarshan (DD) in 1995. When DD failed to respond, a second and third preview copy was submitted. Finally a writ petition was filed in 1998 asking the Bombay High Court to order the telecast of the film on the national network of DD.

It may be recalled that on the previous occasions, DD has refused to telecast documentaries made by Anand Patwardhan, despite the fact that these films won national and international awards. Each time Anand went to the High court and obtained an order for telecast following arguments that were preceded by a special screening for the judges and lawyers concerned.

Bombay Our City (1985) a film on the plight of Bombay’s slum dwellers won the National Award for Best Documentary but DD said it was “unsuitable for telecast”. When the High Court or dered DID to show the film, DD appealed to the Supreme Court. The SC rejected DD’s petition and the film was screened four years after completion, at midnight.

In Memory of Friends (1990) dealt with the relevance of the ideas of Shaheed Bhagat Singh in the riot torn Punjab of the 80’s. It met the same intransigence from DD and obtained the same result in the High Court and was finally telecast by court order in1995. This time the court ordered the film to be screened at prime time and DD was forced to oblige.

Ram ke Naam (1992) documented the rise of Hindu fundamentalism during the Rath Yatra of 1990 and. the first assault on the ‘Babri Masjid. Once more the film won a national award but was rejected by DD’ and finally screened at prime time by court order.

The present case has followed the same pattern. P.A. Sebastian, the advocate on all four occasions, successfully argued that the petitioner’s freedom of speech and the right to information of the public at large were being curtailed by DD’s arbitrariness. DD’s lawyers argued that the film in question, although considered good enough for a national award, was “unsuitable” for the common man.

On each occasion the court reprimanded DD for its elitist views that denigrated the intelligence of the common man. DD argued that reportage of politician’s speeches would incite communal hatred The judges noted that it would be better to curb the speech-makers than to ban the report age.

When DD argued that the film depicts a problem but does not give so lutions, Justices A. P, Shah and S. Vazifdar noted that by this logic one may not report on earthquakes. They ordered DD to telecast the film in an evening slot reserved for award winning films, within 6 weeks, and after giving due notice to the public.




National award for ‘Scribbles on Akka’

Scribbles on Akka, Madhushree Dutta’s film on the 12th century bhakti poet Mahadevi Akka, has received a National Award in the non- fiction category at the 48th National Film Awards.

The news of National Award was a moral booster for the whole unit as the orthodox, section of the lingayat community (to which Mahadevi Akka belonged) has been voicing their protest on moral grounds, accusing the filmmaker of blasphemy.

“The fact that the general audience’ and the literary circle of Karnataka have warmly received the film did not dither them from threatening us. But our joy at receiving this award was short lived as reports of saffronisation of the jury for the fiction category hit the headlines,” said Madhushree Dutta.

One consolation for Madhushree is that the non-fiction jury was different and there has been no controversy in this category.




Media Council in the making

The Minister of Information and Broadcasting Ms. Sushma Swaraj announced recently that the ministry is in the process of finalizing a proposal for setting up a Media Council to replace the existing Press Council. The proposed Media Council will also include the electronic media and internet.

At the moment the Bill is in a consultative process where a concept paper is being finalized in order to discuss the issues involved with various bodies. The draft Bill would be finalised only after the consultative profits is complete.

According to the I & B minister, the need for such a Council stems from the fact that there is no mechanism to keep a tab on television and internet journalism.

“At present, the censor board is for films, print media -has the Press Council, but the electronic media has no such overseeing body… Nor is there any possibility of a broadcast or convergence bill or the electronic media going through Parliament in the near future,” she said.

Disassociating herself from an earlier draft that came under major criticism by the media, she added that a framework for the Bill was provided by the Press Council of India chairman, Justice P.B.Sawant, and that her ministry has nothing to do with it.

Ms. Swaraj said that the ministry had an open mind on the subject and decisions on whether the Media Council should be a statutory or a self-regulating body, issues concerning composition, functions, power and financial aspects will be taken only after the consultative process is completed.




Radio serial by Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan wins award

The radio serial Kunjal Panje Kutchji produced by Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan was awarded the Chameli Devi Jain Award 2000 by the Media Foundation in New Delhi on March 29, 2001.

This weekly serial was the result of a collaboration between several persons and organisations. Scripted by Paresh Naik and prepared with the direction support of Drishti Media Collective in Ahmedabad, the serial was probably the first sustained use of radio for development by a voluntary organisation in India. Though scripted and directed with outside proffesional support, the program sought to provide a platform for local expression and dialogue – through participation by local communities in the drama, song and news-reporting.

The Centre for Educational Innovation, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, supported the Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS) in conducting village- based surveys to assess the impact of the radio program on the ground. The first survey conducted three months after broadcast indicated a dedicated listenership of 6%. After 10 months of broadcast, this figure had grown to 50% of surveyed Kutchis and 80% of the radio- owning population of Kutch.

After completing 53 episodes in December 2000, KMVS continues its intervention in radio through a new bi-weekly 15-minute radio program called Tu Jiyaro Ain! (You are Alive!) in March 2001 in the aftermath of the earthquake, once again with the support of Drishti Media Collective. The program is in a magazine format,, featuring a range of interviews, songs, and profiles and is conceived as a platform for the earthquake – affected to air and share their concerns about rehabilitation. For both these programme broadcast from All India Radio, Bhuj, KMVS is financially supported by UNDP- GOI, including the cost of commercial airtime.




The New Delhi Video Forum

The National Institute of Social Communication, Research and Training (NISCORT) of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India organised the second New Delhi Video Forum (Feb 23- 25, 2001) at the Indian Social Institute in New Delhi. It screened 53 films in various Indian languages on exploitation, moral questions, human rights violations, gender discrimination, development and environmental issues.

NISCORT awarded prizes to three categories of films – student – made, up to 40 minutes long, and longer than 40 minutes. Besides certificates and statuettes, winners of first prizes carried cash awards of Rs.25,000 and second prizes Rs.15,000.

The jury consisting of Sitaram Yechury, Nandini Sundar, Shikha Jhingan, Fr. Henry DiSouza and headed by Jai Chandiram decided on the awards.

In the student’s section, My Lament, My Plea… directed by Yirmian S Arthur, Salma and Irene S.Phunthsog, was awarded the best film in this category. The film was produced by MCRC, Jamia Milia Islamia, Delhi. The second prize in this category went to Whose Reality? Directed by Vaibhav Kumresh, produced by Praxis, Patna.

Among the longer duration films, Guhya, produced and directed by Kirtana Kumar of Bangalore won the first prize. The second prize went to Saacha, directed by Anjali Monteiro and K P Jayashanker, produced by the Audio Visual Unit of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

In the category of Shorter Duration films, Between the Lines, directed by Dr.Parvez Imam, produced by F-20 Communications, Delhi, was given the first prize, while the Many Faces of Madness, directed by Amar Kanwar and produced by National Tree Grower’s Association, Anand, won the second prize.




National Award for ‘The Nest’

The Nest, a 28 minute film by Sudipto Sen won the National Award for the best environment preservation film made in Bengali at the 48th National Film Awards.

Nearly 5000 birds migrate to Kendua every year and live in Mahato’s house who looks after their upkeep and breeding. The film shows how Mahato’s family has been looking after these rare birds for three generations, and has been ostracised by the other as he protects the birds from the preying villagers, who would rather have the meat.




Indian to make film on neo-Nazism

Anindita Sarbhadikhari, whose film Barkha was nominated for the Student Oscar in three categories, is planning a documentary on the rise of Neo- Nazism in Europe.

A graduate of FTII, Pune, Anindita was attacked by Neo-Nazi skin heads while travelling in a crowded local train in Germany. Three bald, clean-shaven youth sporting Nazi badges approached her and started to kick and abuse her. The terror of these skin- heads is such that not one person in the crowd came forward to help her.

Based on this experience, the film will portray what it feels like to be a minority in a civilised society. Specifically referring to torture inflicted by skin-heads on Asians and Africans. This extremism perpertrated by the youth, has it’s roots in the economic depression and acute unemployment faced by them after the unification of Germany. And this behaviour is an attempt at masking the failure of the system.

The film will be multilingual with the Bengali version titled Shaat Somudra Tero Nadir Paar. The documentary is planned to be shot extensively in Germany, and in Austria, Poland, Romania and Switzerland.




PIL seeking ban on Crorepati rejected

The Mumbai High Court has rejected a public interest litigation which sought a ban on the telecast of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) on the ground that it encouraged gambling.

The PIL was rejected on merits by Chief Justice B. P, Singh and Justice Kanjana Desai, who opined that this money spinner show did not encourage gambling.

The PIL, filed by social activist and former corporator Nicholes Almeida, had sought a direction to the I&B Ministry to ban KBC which induces people to indulge in open gambling and earn easy money up to one crore of Rupees. It was not only illegal but also against public interest and was being broadcast in violation of provision of prize competition act and other laws.

The judges held that gambling means unexpected gains or losses in uncertain events. KBC was not such a programme because success of a participant in this show is based on his knowledge and not on mere chance.

The judges noted that if a participant in KBC knew the answer of a question put to him he would certainly earn the prize money. But if he did not know the answer, then he may take a chance and thereby he may lose or win. In that event too, he will not lose any money invested by him and therefore KBC did not amount to gambling, they held. The judges noted that in competitive examinations or entrance tests the students are asked questions with four optional answers and they have to tick any one of them which is the right one. If the petitioner’s contention was accepted then such examinations would also amount to gambling.




FTV to ‘tailor’ programmes

FTV officials met Mrs Sushma Swaraj and assured her that they would ‘tailor’ their telecasts to suit ‘Indian sensibilities’.

The FTV Director General also met the Joint Secretary (Broadcasting) of I&B and agreed to make suitable changes. He promised to speak to B4U, which provides software for the channel.

The crusade began after Ms Swaraj took over as minis- She ensured the programmes were monitored by the Central Monitoring Service, Some cassettes were shown to ministry officials and portions to parliamentarians in the consultative committee. Members of all major parties are represented in the committee, that also includes Mrinal Sen and Shabana Azmi. Many MPs agreed that certain sequences with models in- revealing clothes were objectionable.




An Open Letter to Prime Minister Mr.Vajpayee

We all appreciate your appeal to world leaders asking them to condemn the Taliban for vandalising and destroying historic Buddhist monuments and archaelogical sites in Afghanistan. It is an act of incredible stupidity.

But was it not you sir, who less than two months ago defended the destroyers of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya and described their intentions of building a Ram temple in its place as being,” in the national interest”? Does the similiarity in the thought process of you, your party and the dreaded, hated, Taliban, not strike you?

Granted, perhaps the Babri Masjid was perhaps not as valued an object of art or even of archaelogy as the monuments in Afghanistan. But is it not indisputable that demolishing it, hurt the sentiments of a religious minority as well as the sentiments of a secular (though unfortunately largely silent) majority that had been nurtured on the belief that this country is proud of the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and that it believes in tolerance and humanity?

At the time of the Masjid demolition, the destroyers openly stated that they were driven by their sense of intense piety, that they were the children of God (“ Bachcha, bachcha Ram ka Janmabhoomi ke kaam ka”). The Taliban says the same. Their god has told them to destroy all idols. Is their intolerance really very different from yours? Will the world stand by and reward them for this intolerance as the people of this nation stood by and rewarded you for yours? Your party had two seats in Parliament before it started the campaign to demolish the Masjid. The campaign brought you to power and from time to time, whenever necessary, you revive these very sentiments of intolerance, to keep yourself in power. But you are of course not as crude as the Taliban. You sit in an office under a photograph of Mahatma Gandhi, a man who was killed in 1948 by the gurus of your own ideology, a man whom you murdered once more on December 6, 1992 and then again for the third time on May 11, 1998 when you exploded once and for all, India’s claims to pacifism. Yes, you can take refuge in the fact that you were not alone in your madness. At least 5 other nations preceded you. Should I be consoled by this? That my nation is no worse than an America that bombed Hiroshima? Than a Pakistan that invokes Jehad? Than an Afghanistan?

I do not wish to neutralise the horror I feel at the destruction of Buddhist monuments with the thought that my national leaders did the same thing a decade ago. But I do believe that if this act sparks in us the desire to fight intolerance of all kinds, then surely the Buddha will not have lived and taught in vain.

Anand Patwardhan
3 March, 2001




ARCHIVE

Tagore’s letter to the Viceroy renouncing his knighthood.

Rabindranath Tagore wrote the following letter to his Excellency Lord Chelmsford the Viceroy, giving voice to what Indians felt about the atrocities in Jallianwala Bagh and renouncing the knighthood.

Your Excellency,

The enormity of the measures taken by the Government in the Punjab for quelling some local disturbances has, with a rude shock, revealed to our minds the helplessness of our position as British subjects in India. The disproportionate severity of the punishments inflicted upon the unfortunate people and the methods of carrying them out, we are convinced, are without parallel in the history of civilized governments, barring some conspicuous exceptions, recent and remote.

Considering that such treatment has been meted out to a population, disarmed and resourceless, by a power which has the most terribly efficient organization for destruction of human lives, we must strongly assert that it can claim no political expediency, far less moral justification, The accounts of the insults and sufferings undergone by our brothers in the Punjab have trickled through the gagged silence, reaching every corner of India, reaching the universal agony of indignation roused in hearts’ of our people has been ignored by our rulers-possibly congratulating themselves for imparting what they imagine to as salutary lesson. This callousness has been praised by most of the Anglo-Indian papers, which have in some cases gone to the brutal length of making fun of our sufferings, without receiving the least check from the same authority, relentless careful in smothering every cry of pain and expression of judgment from the organs representing the sufferers.

Knowing that our appeals have been in vain and that the passion of vengeance is blinding the noble vision of statesmanship in our Government which could so easily afford to be magnanimous as befitting its physical strength and moral tradition, the very least that I can do for my country is to take all consequences upon myself in giving voice to the protest of millions of countrymen, surprised into dumb anguish of terror.

The same has come when badges of honour make our shame glaring in their incongruous context of humiliation, and I for my part wish to stand, shorn of all special distinctions, by the side of my countrymen who, for their so-called insignificance, are liable to suffer a degradation not fit for human beings. And these are the reasons which have painfully compelled me to ask Your Excellence with due reference and regret to relieve me of my title of knighthood which I had the honour to accept from His Majesty the King at the hands of your precedessor, for whose nobleness of heart I still entertain great admiration.




Violation

The recent riots in Kanpur

Suman Raj & Javed Rasool (Kanpur)

In the recent spate of violence in Kanpur – UP’s largest industrial centre with a population of 40 labs – the UP government’s attempts to make Muslims the target of violence and give the incident a communal colour, is not only a clear violation of human rights, but also an indication of a fear that the BJP and its Hindutva brigade are attempting to reclaim their shrinking mass base by pushing the entire state into communal fire.

On March 15, while demonstrating against the demolition of Buddha idols by the Taliban in Afghanistan before the United Nations office at New Delhi, Bajrang Dal activists, with prior announcement, set fire to the holy Quran. What then could have been Bajrang Dal’s motive behind burning the Holy Quran? Its motive becomes clear from the subsequent developments.

There was severe reaction among the Muslims against burning of the Quran. On March 17, some Muslim organizations called for protest against the burning of Quran all over India. The central government claimed that even before the incident occurred, it had already arrested the possible offenders and that nobody had burnt the Quran. But a news agency exhibited a photograph of the incident on a website that proved the government’s claim wrong.

Meanwhile posters – without any print line – were put up all over Kanpur with the photograph of demonstrators burning the Quran. The administration generally removes provocative posters to curb any untoward incident. But this time they never did so. On March 15, in a scuffle between the police and some Muslim youth who were protesting the burning of the Quran, a police sub-inspector was injured when a crude bomb was thrown. Even then, the local administration did not feel it necessary to be vigilant. The administration never felt it necessary to restrict the procession that came out after the Jumma Namaaz on March 16 to Muslim areas. And when the police tried to disperse the percussionists at the Carsett crossings, some unlawful elements took advantage of the situation in and destroyed some shops and vehicles. The police were waiting for this moment. Without any official permission, the police opened fire. The administration held the Muslims responsible for the death of an ADM (finance), Mr. Pathak in the firing. But no bullet was recovered from the body after the post-mortem. Later the police claimed that they had recovered some lead bullets after cremation. Locals feel that since they were not given permission to fire, the police and the PAC shot the ADM down.

After this incident the police and the PAC unleashed a reign of terror. During March 16, 17 and 18 the Muslim areas of Kanpur were under curfew and shoot-at-sight orders. In these three days, the police and PAC opened fire in several other areas. According to official records, 17 people were killed. The Press feels there were far more deaths. 500 people were arrested as rioters, most of who were construction workers and daily wage earners.

Significantly, shops owned by Muslims in close proximity to the police of stations were looted and burnt. Most of shops were looted around Kotwali, that was the main centre of the police operations through the entire period where senior police and administrative officers were stationers including the Inspector General of Police. Some mosques were also damaged and partly burnt. According to the administration, it was because the Hindus reacted after a temple was destroyed on the first day. But there were no instances of any action taken against the Hindus. Besides, it is impossible to go on a rampage near Kotwali and police stations without the connivance of the administration and police. There are many eyewitnesses among Muslims who have seen the police and PAC indulging in looting and arson. The Muslims are openly saying that the police and PAC consciously destroyed mosques so that Muslims attack the is Hindus and the entire incident takes a communal shape.

On March 17, after being disbanded by the police, the Muslim demonstrators went into their own areas, after which barring a few stray incidents, they never tried to attack Hindus. Then why in those three days did the police and the PAC repeatedly fired on Muslims in a number of areas? The truth is, they were trying to get into the Muslim areas, but the Muslims, fearing uncontrollable violence and looting, tried their best to resist the forces. In some areas they resisted the PAC in order to save their mosques.

Not only did the Muslims not attack Hindus, in many Muslim areas they saved the lives and properties of Hindus. Till the curfew relaxed they sheltered Hindus in their own homes. They saved many temples that were in Muslim areas. Many such anecdotes were published in the local newspapers. Similarly, in Hindu dominated areas, apart from a few stray incidents of Hindus being incited against Muslims, there was no communal feeling among the Hindus either.

During the curfew, Muslim leaders repeatedly appealed to the state government to deploy the army or a central force instead of the PAC. But the Chief Minister Rajnath Singh refused to remove the PAC. It is well established and has been proved by a number of inquiry committees that the PAC has been far from neutral during riots.

According to local newspaper reports, when Muslims were demanding that the PAC be removed, the Chief Minister instructed the administration to “teach the rioters a lesson.”

Police runs amok at Mirzapur

On 9 March 2001, 16 inncocent people were gunned down by the police in Bhawanipur village, in the Mirzpur district of Uttar Pradesh. Following is an excerpt from the report of the fact finding team that had visited Bhawanipur. The report was prepared by Dr.Lal Bahadur Verma, Chittaranjan Singh, Ram Nivas Yadav, Sushil Tripathi, A.N.Mulla, Vijay Pratap and K.K.Roy.

In October last year, a SHO and a constable were killed in a village in Mirzapur district, when he had reportedly gone to attack some alleged Naxalites of to Maoist Communist Centre (MCC). Though it is yet to be established who had really killed them, the Chief Minister Rajnath Singh declared war on Naxalites. ”Ek ke badle char sar chahiye,” (We want four heads in exchange of one”), he announced in a public platform. Many human rights groups had expressed deep concern and felt that the pronouncement of the Chief Minister would give a free hand to the police.

On 9 March, the police declared that 15 Naxalites were killed in Bhawanipur village, in Mirzapur district of U.P, after exchange of fire for three hours. It is said that the operation was led by the IG himself.

The Chief Minister visited the area and announced cash awards of Rs. 2 lakhs each to the injured policemen, gallantry awards, out of tern promotions etc. The district administration announced Rs.10, 000 each to those who participated in the ”encounter”. There were also reports that various police stations were vying with each other for taking credit for the operation.

The fact finding team visited the village and talked to a large number of villagers, officials and employees of the Sardar Hospital, Mirzapur, where the injured policemen were admitted.

On 9 March, some political activists, probably belonging to a leftist group, held a meeting with the villagers. This was the second meeting they had in this village. At abut 1:30 PM, the police arrived and cordoned off all the houses. They asked everyone to come out with their hands raised.

At Bhagwan Das’s house, the police entered keeping Pappu as a shield. The small door at the entrance led to a courtyard and two rooms. The men were sitting in one of those rooms. It is alleged that the firing that injured SHO Dalip Singh began from inside the room. But everyone confirmed that all those inside the house came out with raised hands. The police, however, shot two of them while they were still in the courtyard. The rest were taken to other spots and killed. 5 bodies were found near Babunanan’s house and 3 were shot at the end, near Ganga Pradhan’s house.

In between, the police also went to Lal Bahadur’s house where his son’s gauna ceremony was to take place. Relatives who lead assembled were asked to come out. One young boy Kallu(13), belonging to Khairpur village, had involuntarily clutched his trousers while coming out. Immediately one policeman shot him dead.

All the villagers who were made to assemble at Ganga’s house were beaten up and abused by the cops. They even beat up Bhagwan’s wife with lathis and shouted, ”catch her husband and encounter him!” One lady Kanchan, was taken away by the police. The dewan and other policemen present at the thana Madihan informed the team that she was taken away by the SP of Sonbhadra and shown as arrested from Sonbhadra itself. Her whereabouts are unknown. There was also no incident of any bomb being thrown at anybody in that village as has been claimed in the police version.

At about 5 PM the firing stopped, after which senior police officials and the District Magistrate came to the village. They were there for quite some time but they did not make any enquiry from the villagers. They left looking very pleased. The press arrived later in the night.

The police made no effort to identify those who were killed. Neither people of Bhawanipur, nor the neighbouring villages were called to identify the bodies. They had called Lal Bahadur for the panchnama, but later got it done by one Govind Singh of Naugarh, reportedly a big mining mafia of Naugarh.

The police claimed to have recovered 13 firearms including 2 police rifles, 2 civil rifles, 2 double-barrels and 1 single barrel guns and 5 country made pistols kattas. They also claimed that the cross-firing continued for 3 hours. However, the physical location tells a different story. These people were inside Bhagwan Das’s house in the darkness while the police were outside in the open, entering the courtyard through a small door. If the police version of cross-firing is true, then with so many weapons, many policemen would have been killed. As for the ”injured” SHO, Ganga said that he had some blood stain on his trousers. But later he saw the SHO sitting comfortably in the front seat of his vehicle. Obviously, he had no serious injury.

The villagers are very shaken. They all condemn the police for this barbaric act of killing innocent people. Nobody in the village celebrated Holi as has been reported by the police. Not one villager had anything to say against the outsiders for whom the police unleashed terror on the entire village.

Global Media

BBC correspondent expelled

Joseph Winter, a BBC correspondent in Zimbabwe and Uruguayan Mercedes Sayagues, the Zimbabwe correspondent for South African based Mail & Guardian newspaper were ordered to leave Zimbabwe on 18 February, 2001.

In the early hours of February 19, Winter was terrorised by security agents, who tried to break into his Bat, forcing Winter and his young family to flee to the British High Commission for refuge. On the 20th, Winter flew out of Harare despite a court order extending his stay till the 23rd.

The Information Minister Jonathan Mayo said that Mr. Winter’s weak permit had been obtained through fraudulent means and hence the expulsion order- Mr. Winter who has worked in Zimbabwe for four years and was the only BBC correspondent in Harare on February 18, called the charge “absolute rubbish.”

Relations between Zimbabwe and Britain have been strained over the last year, with the Zimbabwe government angrily rejecting London’s criticisms of President Robert Mugabe’s rule. Mr. Mugabe’s government has regularly accused the BBC and other foreign news organisations of bias against it.

In an address to foreign diplomats in Harare, Mr. Mugabe accused the Western media of damaging Zimbabwe’s image, saying reports of violence and instability were “completely false”.

In London, Britain’s junior foreign office minister Brian Wilson called on Zimbabwe’s London envoy to protest at what he said was the intimidation of a BBC reporter and harassment of the judiciary. Expressing concern to High Commissioner Simbarashe Mumbengegwi at the expulsion of journalist Joseph Winter, Wilson also raised the concerns of the international community about the treatment of journalists in Zimbabwe and the wider implications for the Press and the Judiciary. Wilson also asked for assurances that there would be no further expulsion and that Zimbabwe’s Daily News, whose presses were destroyed by bomb attacks, would be able to replace its equipment without government obstruction.




One out of five boys carry guns to school in America

A majority of US teens say they used violence in the past year, and one in five high school-age boys took a weapon to school, according to a new survey conducted by the California-based Institute of Ethics.

“The seeds of violence can be found in schools all over America,” said Institute of Ethics President Micheal Joesphson, who heads the institute’s “Character Counts” initiative dedicated to teaching character- building skills to young people.

“Today’s teens, especially boys, have a high propensity to use violence when they are angry, they have easy access to guns, drugs and alcohol, and a disturbing number take weapons to school,” said Josephson.

America is experiencing an epidemic of deadly school violence. In 1999, two teenagers killed fifteen people including themselves at Columbine High School in Colorado. At Santana High School in Santee, California, two teens died and thirteen were wounded after a 15 year old fresher opened fire in a boy’s bathroom. The suburban San Diego shooting splurred a flurry of copycat shootings across United States and a renewed national debate about youth violence.

The random survey, conducted last year among more than 15,000 teenagers at schools nationwide, showed that 75% of boys and 60% of girls said that they had hit someone out of anger in the past year.

Moreover, the survey showed that 43% of school boys, 37% of middle school boys and 19% of high school and middle school girls believed it was okay to hit or threaten a person who made them angry.




Planet Radio

Community radio stations, often the only mass media available to the rural poor, can now share and exchange programming worldwide. The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), that has over 2500 members and associates in 110 countries, has created an internet initiative, Moebius/Planeta Radio, to counter unequal access to telecommunications.

The goal is to democratize the airwaves by helping small, often low-powered, community radio stations around the world produce and share radio programmes featuring different viewpoints than those of mainstream media.

Supported in part by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), MoebiuS/Planeta Radio has three functions. It allows member broadcasters around the world to exchange radio programs through an online archive. It has a lower- tech backup redistribution system so that members without web access can also exchange programs using older communication methods such as fax and surface mail. The project also runs a training program to teach members digital radio production, so they can feed the archive.

Courtesy: Indev




A brief Oscar

He not only won an Oscar but also a television set. Keeping things short paid off for Micheal Dudok de Wit. He won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film and a high definition TV set for making the shortest acceptance speech – 18 seconds – at the 73rd Annual Academy Awards.

Every year the Academy tries to limit the length of speeches – usually filled with endless lists of thank yous – to keep things running on time. In a tribute to punctuality, this year’s show finished on schedule for the first time in years at a breakneck pace of 3.5 hours.

De Wit, whose speech ran 9 seconds shorter than his closest competitor’s, said he will give the TV to a children’s charity.




Pakistan afire with protests

In January, a frenzied mob in Islamabad torched the printing press of The Frontier Post, an English daily published from Peshawar, as a protest against the publication of a blasphemous letter against Prophet Mohammed. They also took to streets demanding death penalty to the publishers and proprietors for the offensive letter that appeared in the paper.

Mr. Rahimullah Yusufzai, in-charge of The News in Peshawar, is purported to have said, ”the decision of the administration to seal the premises of the paper and registration of cases against six of the senior staffers including the Managing Editor, has not helped cool down the tempers.”

Several hundred protesters marched to the residence of the Governor of the North-West Frontier Province and submitted a memorandum seeking immediate action against the culprits responsible for the mischief. The protesters want the administration to cancel the registration of the publication and hang in public those responsible for the publication of the letter under the draconian blasphemy laws.

The letter that has virtually set Peshawar on fire appeared in the letters to the editor column of the paper. Titled ‘Why Muslims hate Jews’, it contained several offensive references to Prophet Mohammed. The letter, apparently written by a Jew, Bendzac, was sent to the paper through e-mail.

On the afternoon of January 29, the district magistrate of Peshawar, accompanied by the police, raided the offices of the daily and sealed its offices and printing press for an indefinite period.

Realising the damaging potential of the mischievous letters the Pakistan Chief Executive, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, issued a statement the same night condemning the ”outrageous and sacrilegious letter.” Gen. Musharraf said that the letter had hurt the sentiments and feelings of all the Muslims. ”The Government will not allow publication of such objectionable material” and said that stern action would be taken against the culprits.

The Frontier Post management ran a front-page advertisement in all the leading papers, begging the nation for forgiveness. It alleged that the letter was the product of a ”conspiracy” against Pakistan and the paper profoundly regretted its publication.

In two other incidents in Peshawar, a group of angry protesters, mostly students of local colleges, attacked two cinema houses in the city, Shama and Firdaus, and set one of them on fire. It is alleged that the protesters also thrashed the cinema manager, and contractor, when they tried to prevent them from ransacking the building.

An employee of Shama cinema claimed that the attackers belonged to the student wing of a religious political party. This statement was supported by the owner of the cinema who termed the attack as ”terrorism in the name of religion” and held the Jamaat- e-lslami responsible for the attack.




Progress triggers neurosis in China

China’s nearly double-digit economic growth has contributed to a rapidly rising army of around 16 million mental patients, health minister Mr.Zhang Wenkang has said.

”China’s rapid socio-economic development, accelerating rate of urbanization and aging population, as well as intensified competition and the rising unemployment rate, are responsible for increasingly causing adverse impact on people’s health.” Mr Zhang said while speaking at a forum to mark World Health Day 2001.

A survey shows that in recent years Chinese people have been more vulnerable to depression, neurosis, alcoholism and senile dementia.

The prevalence rate of mental illnesss among the Chinese population has risen from 0.54 % in the 1970’s to the current 1.347 %, warned Mr Deng Pufang, Chairman of a forum called the China Disabled Persons’ Federation.

China’s ministry of health sponsored the china Disabled Persons’ Federation to call for more attention to pay to mental health in communities which was the theme of this year’s World Health Day.

Under the slogan ”Stop exclusion, dare to care,” the World Health Organization aims to create a more favourable social environment for the world’s 400 million victims of mental illness.

Mr Zhang conceded that, as a developing country, China is still comparatively inefficient in rehabilitating mental patients, especially those in outlying and vast mountainous regions, most of whom are neglected.




Time apologises

The Time magazine has apologized for carrying an image of Prophet Mohammad in its April 16 issue, which led to widespread disturbances in Jammu and Kashmir.

Protesters fought pitched battle with the Police and raised anti-US slogans, following which authorities banned sale of the issue.

The magazine’s Asia editor, Mr. Adi Ignatius, in a statement said, “in an article about Jerusalem during the time of Jesus’ we published an image of Prophet Mohammad, an unintentional affront to the Islamic faith. Time regrets the publication of this image,” he added.

Controversy

Storm over National Awards

The 48th National Film Awards raised a huge storm as two jury members resigned alleging saffronisation of the awards and nepotism in the selection process, a rare occurrence in the long history of the awards. A day before the awards were announced, filmmakers Pradeep Krishen and Shashi Anand, both and members of the jury, walked out while two more members, actor Dhritiman Chatterjee and Odissi dancer Madhumita Raut, registered strong protests against the selection process, calling the whole exercise a farce.

Much of the ire was directed at the Best Actor and Best Actress categories, the awards for which went to Anil Kapoor for his performance in Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Pukar and Raveena Tandon for her role in Kalpana Lajmi’s Daman. Pukar also got the Nargis Dutt award for the best film on national integration.

According to Pradeep Krishen, there was a ”cabal” of eight members and the chairperson, who called the shots in the selection procedure. He added that the eight members could be traced either to I&B minister Sushma Swarty or BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha. Among those eight were Tarun Vijay, editor of RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya , Parvati Indushekhar, reportedly Sushma Swaraj’s campaign manager in Bellarv, actor MacMohan, who apart from leaving a saffron tint is also Raveena Tandon’s uncle – something that goes against the rules, Nibedita Pradhan who represents the BJP from Cuttack Sadar, Shashi Ranjan, the producer of Shotgun Show , Pawan Kumar, former secretary of Shatrughan Sinha and the chairperson Vyjayantimala Bali, a BJP MP. Raveena Tandon herself is supposed to have campaigned for the BJP in the past.

”A large number of jury members were political plants. This included a politician who slept through most screenings and other people who have little to do with cinema” said Shashi Anand.

Dhritiman Chatterjee said, ”the chairperson has made a deliberate attempt to trivialise, marginalise and deintellectualise the distribution of the National Film Awards. She did not leave any scope for discussion in the jury. Incompetent people constituted the jury and meetings of the jury were not non-partisan in character.”

”I didn’t realise the whole process was rigged” said Madhumita Raut. ”I am not a film personality and my family members are asking me why I got into all this”, she added.

Both the chairperson and I&B minister tried hard to ward off the allegations. Ms. Bali countered questions raised about MacMohan with the argument that the latter had abstained from voting in the category in question. The I&B minister, Sushma Swaraj dismissed the allegations as ”unnecessary controversy.” She said that the presence of Mr. Pradeep Krishen, Mr. Shashi Anand and Mr. Dhritiman Chatterjee on the jury nullified their charge that the jury was ”saffronised.”

”If our agenda was to saffronise the selection process, then why have only four people with links – direct or remote – to the Sangh Parivar on the jury?” she said, adding, ”When people with established links with the Left or Congress can be on the jury, why are BJP sympathisers disqualified?”

Further, the minister denied that Raveena Tandon had ever campaigned for the BJP and that Parvati Indushekhar had never been her campaign manager in Bellary. Tarun Vijay, she said, is an acclaimed film critic and has worked with established directors. Mrs. lndushekhar was included in the jury as a representative of the public, particularly housewives.

However, the controversy seems to have opened a can of worms on what goes on behind such prestigious events. According to Pradeep Krishen, both Daman and Pukar were recalled after being unanimously rejected by the jury. ”Pukar wasn’t even seen in its entirety and it goes on to win two of the major awards. Anyone would smell a rat” said Pradeep Krishen.

”l addressed the chair four times”’ said Shashi Anand. ”This film defied and even defiled the purpose of national awards … I didn’t want to rubber-stamp such films,” he said, adding that 30 awards were ”predecided” Bharathi, judged the best Tamil film, and Pandavas, the best feature film in English, are two other glaring examples of the irregularities in the awards procedure. Pandavas, agreed all four dissenting members, was a ”badly made” animation film that was pushed through by the chairperson herself on the premise that ”it would go a long way in promoting the epic overseas.” Dhritiman Chatterjee recalled how Mr. Tarun Vijay lectured on ”Indian values” when the English film Split Wide Open came up for review. ”Here again the saffron tendency of brushing relevant issues under the carpet held sway,” he said.

Reacting to the controversy, Gautam Ghosh decided to return his national award for the best Bengali film Dekha citing the resignation of three jury members and ”other unfortunate developments.” Veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee also returned his special jury award in protest.

Significant in the award list is the dominance of high profile, big budget films. Anil Kapoor beat Soumitra Chatterjee for the best actor award. Soumitra settled with a special jury award for his role in Dekha. Raveena pushed Tabu ( Astitva) and Karishma Kapoor (Zubeida) out of contention. The award list includes Anu Malik (best musical score) for Refugee. Anupama Chopra got an award for her book on Sholay. However, Mammooty or Jabbar Patel’s contribution for Ambedkar has not found any mention anywhere.

Whether or not the world can exist without political lobbies and pressure groups is a matter for endless debate. But the important question that this controversy raises is the transparency and autonomy of institutions like the Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF). If DFF is the sole institution entrusted with the task of conducting the National Awards, why should it bend it- self to its knees to accommodate political pressure? Instead of being cynical about the whole affair and being entangled in peripheral issues, there should be a public demand for such institutions to be more accountable in the free and fair selection of works, competent jury and impartial judgement for such a significant felicitation as the National Film Awards.

Events

Community Radio deliberations

Vinod Pavrala

A national conference on ”Human Rights, Social Movements, Globalization and the Law” was organised at Pançhagani from 26th December to 1st January 2001. Seventeen workshops on various issues from labour, environment to gay rights ran parallel. Vandana Shiva, Medha Patkar, Justice Krishna Iyer and Kuldip Singh, Justice Albie Sachs of the Constitution Court of South Africa, Achin Vanaik, Kancha llaiah, Bina Agarwal, Devaki Jain, Fr.Thomas Kocherry were among the prominent speaker at the plenaries.

One of the workshops was on “Human Rights and Media” that ran parallel from December 28-31. The first two days were devoted to issues of representation and censorship. Praful Bidwai, Tapan Bose, Uma Chakravarty, Sucheta Dalal, Venkatesh Chakravarty, and Shohini Ghosh were some of the speakers during these sessions. The last two days of the workshop were spent exclusively discussing Community Radio. Here we present a report on the session on Community Radio by Vinod Pavarala.

The Community Radio Deliberations, co-organised by the Sarojini Naidu School of Performing Arts, Fine Arts, and Communication (SN School), University of Hyderabad, were kicked off by a presentation on the background and context for the Community Radio movement in India by Vinod Pavarala, Faculty of Communication, SN School. Recalling the Supreme Court judgement (1995), the Bangalore Declaration (1996), and the Pastapur Initiative (2000) as well as the various community media efforts in the country such as those by Deccan Development Society (DDS) and the Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS), Pavarala emphasized the demand for an independent community radio sector in India, free from the state anti the market. This was followed by presentations of two case studies.

P. V. Satheesh of DDS in Andhra Pradesh based his presentation on a critique of both the mainstream media and a literacy-centred development model. Articulating a vision of development that incorporates genuine people’s participation at its core, Satheesh described the community media initiatives of DDS as part of a princess in which people in the region sought gradual control over land, natural resources, and now, media technologies. He went on to explain the setting up of a 100W- FM radio station set up at Machnoor village, about 100 km from Hyderabad, with UNESCO support. As most people on the Community Radio (CR) list are aware of this project I will not go into details here, except for saying that in the absence of a license to broadcasts the poor rural women (many of whom only partially literate) who run the station continue to produce programmes of local relevance and take them to the weekly ‘ meetings of the DDS sanghams for narrowcasting.

Preeti Soni of the KMVS, Gujarat, provided an alternative model for community radio in the current broadcasting scenario in India. KMVS has been involved in community development work in the region for over a decade. Since December 1999 KMVS has had a weekly, half-hour sponsored slot on All India Radio’s (AlR) Radio Bhuj, during which it has been airing Kutchi language broadcasts. Reviewing the first year of the broadcasts, produced in collaboration with Drishti, Soni shared the excitement generated in the region by the highly successful programmes. Listenership surveys designed by the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad showed tremendous response to the programmes. Again, details of this project have appeared in the popular media and are known to many of you.

Vinod Pavarala and Kanchan Kumar (Research Scholar, SN School) presented a paper that compared the national broadcasting policies of different countries, with special emphasis on community radio. The broadcasting policies of Australia, USA, Canada, Ireland and South Africa, they asserted, offer, within a liberal democratic context, models which are either long lasting and durable or relatively new but incorporating a breadth of vision required for the new global communication scenario. Although the policies vary by country political system, purpose and organization, they are all based on the actual experiences of civil society organizations in organizing such media on a self-managed, democratic basis, as an alternative to the media hierarchies of the official public realm. Arguing that policy-making in the area of broadcasting is integrally related to the struggles between the state, market, and civil society organizations to define and fix the boundaries of the public sphere, Pavarala and Kanchan Kumar suggested that the CR movement in India and elsewhere should be seen as an effort to carve out an alternative public sphere.

Mahesh Acharya of Voices, Bangalore spoke about his organisation’s advocacy efforts for community radio with key shareholders. Discussing their work on training and building the capacities of communities for radio in Karnataka (especially in Kolar and Kanakpura), he underlined the need for ”bringing the community into community radio.” Based on the work of Voices with the Sri Ramana Maharshi Academy for the Blind, Acharya made a strong case for providing access to radio to the visually impaired.

P.Thirumal, Faculty of Communication, SN School, attempted to unpack the concept of ”community” expressing serious skepticism about the ”reinvention” of local communities, he pointed out that three agencies, viz., new global order, the nation-state, and the NGOs, were involved in the construction of the ”local”. While the global order seeks to dilute the sovereignty of the nation-state, the latter would rather be reduced to a ”procedural state” involved in rule-making and be content to let people govern themselves. The emphasis by NGOs on preservation of local cultures and indigenous knowledge limits the potential of people and confines their spatial imagination. Cautioning against excessive romanticisation of communities, Thirumal argued for retrieving political modernity through the concept of citizenship.

Finally, Bandana Mukohpadhyay, formerly of AIR and currently a media consultant for the National Foundation of India, shared her reading of the current thinking about broadcasting in the I & B Ministry. Prasar Bharati, she said, defined ”community” to include features such as geographical proximity, a single language/dialect and cultural proximity and, understood ”community radio” to be characterized by non- profit making, community control and community participation. Tracing the history of AIR, Mukhopadhyay pointed out that the idea of local radio in India emerged out of the SITE project in 1975 and inspired by commune radio in Vietnam and Australian educational radio from the outbacks. She informed the participants that the 85 local radio stations (LRS) set up by AIR have either become unused –or underused. Stating that the I & B Ministry is looking upon the heavy investment in these radio stations as an albatross around its necks she made a strong case for taking advantage of the situtation and claim free air time for communities on these stations. This she said, could be the first step in the evolution of an independent community radio sector in India. While the mood in the Ministry is to hand over these stations (or at least provide some free time on them) to communities, it is seeking answers to some of the following questions:

  • How to define community for AIR?
  • Do the communities have the capacity to run regular radio programmes?
  • Should AIR depend on NGOs to run community radio programmes?
  • How to deal with the threat of insurgent groups threatening the sovereignty of the nation?
  • What would be the procedure for allotment of time slots and funding?
  • How to form effective advisory councils?

Discussions

Following the DDS presentation, some participants shared P.V. Satheesh’s apprehensions about the appropriation of local knowledge systems and appreciated that the DDS provided a good model for a grassroots media alternative. However, some audience members hoped that it would not be reduced to just a model. Satheesh’s critique of formal literacy also came under question, with some participants cautioning against the dismissal of literacy and the written word. Preeti Soni’s presentation raised the possibilities of community radio within the existing state structure. Issues of freedom and censorship in that context came up, but Soni assured that as it was a commercial slot bought by KMVS the interference was minimal. A more participatory methodology was also suggested to elicit audience responses to programmes. It was heartening to hear from representatives of grassroots organizations in the Garhwal hills about the dire need for an effective local medium of communication in difficult terrains. P.Thirumal’s paper elicited an intense discussion on the notion of citizenship, tradition and modernity and on whether an unreformed political modernity is worth retrieving. Some participants also sought technical clarifications about costs of transmitters, receievers and production.

Strategy

The final session, following Bandana Mukhopadhyay’s presentation, was dedicated exxlusively to chalking out concrete strategies for community radio in India. As one of the legal experts originally scheduled to speak in the workshop could not attend, the organizers sought the legal opinion of Justice Suresh, retired judge of the Bombay High Court and Colin Gonsalves, lawyer-activist and member of the India Centre for Human Rights. Justice Suresh hinted at the possibility of a public interest litigation (PlL) asserting tile right to produce, transmit, and receive information under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. Gonsalves, however, felt that a PIL was bound to be a long drawn-out process. He suggested, instead, the starting of a broadcast straightaway and see if it invites legal action from the government. At that stage, he said, a case could be fought on the basis of the SC judgement declaring airwaves to be public property. Grassroots organizations currently involved in community radio work responded with caution to Gonsalves’s approach, saying that if the government cracks down on such an ”illegal” broadcast, it may put at risk the very communities on whose behalf they were fighting. There were suggestions that offshore broadcasts (requiring only ”a boat, a transmitter, and a community) could be difficult to track down, if they are done, say, from locations in Kerala or Daman.

The participants then picked up Bandana Mukhopadhyay’s suggestion of exploiting the current mood in the Ministry and seek a voice in the existing local radio stations (LRS) of AIR. She felt that with elections in six states coming up soon, the government would be keen to take the credit for ignoring radio to the peopled. Some, however, expressed apprehension that this strategic move may preempt the demand of the movement for an independent community radio sector. The possible role of Panchayat Raj was brought up, but most people were of the opinion that, with very few elected panchayats in the country they may not be a feasible alternative. However, even as there was consensus that we must prioritize our energies on behalf of marginalised voices, participants were not averse to the emergence of multiple models in varied institutional settings (educational, local government, etc.). After much intensive discussion, a majority of participants felt that the situation demanded moving on multiple fronts.

Finally, the group decided that a group comprising of community representatives, media academics and activists, and communication advocacy groups would meet Sushma Swaraj, the Minister for Information & Broadcasting, at the earliest and seek the following:

* Free time of up to one hour on the local radio stations of AlR for broadcasting by communities belonging to marginalised linguistic groups (or dialects), such as the Kutchi or the Garhwali.

* Five independent, low-power FM (about 30 km radius) community radio stations, on an experimental basis, to be owned and managed by women’s groups in rural areas.

* Limited free time on LRS for the visually impaired.




The Panchgani Human RightsFilm Festival

Stalin K.

One of the unique features of the Panchgani Conference was a parallel festival of documentary films on human rights and social issues, that evoked an overwhelming enthusiasm and response among the 2000 odd participants. Here Stalin K., one of the key persons behind the success of the film festival provides a first hand account.

Concurrent to the National Conference on Humans Rights, Social Movements, Globalization & the Law at Panchgani, Maharashtra (December 26, 2000 to January 1, 2001) – better known as the Panchgani meeting – a film festival of various films dealing with human rights issues was organised at the same campus.

In the span of seven days the Panchgani Human Rights Film Festival screened 64 films in three venues, an initiative that was greatly appreciated by everyone present. Ajay Bhardwaj’s ‘Ek minute ka maun’ was the inaugural film on December 26 and Safdar, a film by SAHMAT, was shown as the closing film on January 1. The screening of Safdar was a fitting tribute to Safdar Hashmi who, on the same date twelve years back, was brutally murdered while performing a street play. Both these films are on activists who were eliminated because they represented a certain ideology and had chosen to oppose oppression. Both these films, despite focusing on death and gross violation of human rights, are a great inspiration for the times ahead.

What made this festival different from the other festivals perhaps, is that the audience were primarily representatives of activists groups who are interested in using these films in their mobilization, advocacy and training efforts. Many are requesting the organizers for copies of the films shown at Panchgani.

The viewers ranged from 10 to 165, in the smaller screening venues and up to 400 in the main auditorium. There were also 17 workshops running parallel to the film screenings every day. A number of films were scheduled keeping in mind the workshop schedule, for example, films on child rights were slotted a day before the workshop began or a day after it got over.

The festival became a significant event around which a number of filmmakers gathered and participated both in the festival as well as the various thematic workshops of the conference. Shriprakash, Amudhan, Challam Bennurkar, Vinod Raja, Anand Patwardhan, Stalin K., Shabnam Virmani, Gargi Sen, Sujit Ghosh, Sarnath Banerjee, Ajay Noronha, Salma, lrenz Yirmiyan, Madhu Kishwar, TSS Mani, Paromita Vohra, Meghnath and Vidhi Parthasarthy were present to introduce their films and lead the discussions after the screenings. Some filmmakers like Saratchandran, Rajan (SAHMAT), Madhushree Dutta and Anand Patwardhan lent films from their personal collection.

Even while the festival was going on, many groups came forward with requests for these films to be screened in their areas. The intricacies of organizing such screenings were discussed in detail in an informal meeting of filmmakers during the conference. It was felt that it would be more convenient if these films were available at one place for people to access for their own small festivals. Besides, some of the films that could not be shown in this festival either because they could not be accessed in time or for technical reasons should also be included in the list. From this emerged the thought of a travelling film festival where documentary makers and enthusiasts take the responsibility to host the festival in their respective regions. And in the meeting itself there was representation from 18 cities. Also since this would need much coordination and detailing it was thought best to launch an a-group of documentary makers, users and enthusiasts. And hence ”docuwallahs” was born.

For the organizers of the film festival, Drishti Media Collective and Magic Lantern Foundation, it was an uphill task to select the films, simply because there was so much to choose from, given the fact that the festival was only for seven days. In the process a number of films could not make it to the final list even though they were equally good and relevant as the ones shown. It shows the gold mine of material that already exists, that, if put to effective use, can generate a tremendous impact. The experience of the festival also highlights the immense need for such festivals all over the country.

PANCHGANI PAPERS

Media representations of minorities
Dilip D’Souza

I was asked to speak to you today about media representations of religious minorities. Thinking about the subject and wondering what in my experience would be relevance I came up with two things. One is an incident that happened to me some years ago; the other is the riots that overwhelmed Bombay in 1992-93. Let me try to draw a connection between them and you can tell me if I succeeded.

I’ll begin with some fond reminiscing. One evening some years ago, I was taking sunset photographs of crows on the terrace of my building in Bombay. I had been up there for perhaps 30 minutes, when several burly policemen in plainsclothes burst onto the terrace and began shoving me around. Insisting I had been taking photographs of their nearby police office, they tried to manhandle me down the stairs and to that office. When I asked them for some identification, two of the men pointed their guns at me. One muzzle was no more than an inch from the bridge of my nose.

Some months later, the playwright Vijay Tendulkar filed a petition in Court citing this incident and some others and asking the Court to appoint a body to monitor the behaviour of the police. In response, an affidavit explaining away the incidents was filed in the High Court ”on behalf” of the Police Commissioner of Bombay, who was then one S Ramamurthy. According to that affidavits my pleasant memory of looking down the barrel of that gun must have been a mere dream: ”it is absolutely false”’ the Police Commissioner told the Court, ”that the police officers concerned pointed a gun at the said Dilip D’Souza.”

Besides, and more revealingly, it also asserted that when the policemen ”questioned” me that evening, I had said my name was ”Sheikh.” That roused the suspicions of what the affidavit called the ”extremely watchful” officers. ”There was no explanation given … by the said Dilip D’Souza,” the Police Commissioner told the Court, ”as to why he had falsely stated his name as ‘Shaikh ”’

And I was left to ruminate the intricate implications in this affidavit. Now I knew that the highest police officer in the city could lie, and had done so to the High Court, and on two counts. But far worse was the implication that a Muslim name, even one that was part of a lie, was automatically ground for suspicion. Suppose my name lead indeed been Shaikh. Why should that have been assumed to be a lie, aroused any suspicion? Besides, why was the truth – I told them my name was Dilip D’Souza and I lived in the building – not enough to send them trooping quietly back to their office? Besides too, why not tell the court that my real name aroused their suspicions? On the other hand, what if I had said my name was Srinivasan? Would
the policemen have packed away their guns and trooped off, leaving me to my terrorist doings?

Where have we reached? When it can be assumed that a Muslim name causes suspicion; when this is apparently such a common, understandable, unquestioned, assumption that it can be preferred in Court; yes, I have to wonder as I have ever since this incident: where have we reached? When did it become acceptable in India to make such a statement?

I’ll return to that in a while.

It is easy to blame the media for this situation, and no doubt it has a part to play. Much is often made of how press reports will highlight the Muslim-ness of some criminal’s name, intentionally or otherwise, but will not draw similiar attention to the name of a Hindu criminal. Much is also made of how our popular films tend to have Muslims as villains, Christians as drunkards, and so forth.

In this context, I cannot resist this delicious aside. After seeing the recent film Fiza , a fiercely Hindutva-wadi columnist I know asked in her next column: ”Why was the Hindu politician so obviously inferior to the dignified Muslim one?” Of course, she was making the point that the media is anti-Hindu. Now if you’ve seen the film, you will recall these two characters. The Muslim politician is certainly a calmer, smoother man than the Hindu one. But only in that slick, glib, smarmy politician way. The kind of fellow whom, after meeting him, you want to run home and wash your hair and hands and mouth out. With industrial-grade detergent. To me, both figures were equally repulsive. But if I wanted to refute this columnist’s point, consider the curious position I could be in. If I don’t agree that the Hindu politician in Fiza was more repulsive than the Muslim one, I am anti-Hindu!

And in a curious way, this aside really makes my point for me. The way 1 see it, everybody can find their religion being slighted by the media – if they want to. In other words, if you go looking for insults, you will find them, Which is why Christians objected to some recent film in which something nasty was done to a Bible; Muslims objected to a scene in Bombay, I think, in which a Koran was burned; Hindus objected to a scene in Mohabbatein in which Amitabh Bachhan recites the Gayatri mantra without removing his shoes.

Apparently we are living in a time when if you are a true follower of your religion, you will go out and find some way that the world offends it. And I happen to believe none of those offended people, let alone being true followers of their religions, even know anything about them.

So in such a climate, and because it is such a climates my feeling is that the media does fine on this particular score. That is, I have no particular problem with how the media represents the minorities, or indeed any community.

What I think is a problem is the way the media often uncritically accepts things it should be challenging: things, in fact, that it is the business of the press to challenge and refute. And because the media prefers to evade being critical, the rest of us also accept them. And they become, as if by default, common knowledge.

Take, for example, my encounter on my terrace. Specifically, the repugnant affidavit the Police Commissioner filed in Court. At the time, the case got some attention from the press. Yet none of the coverage chose to remark on, or even point out, the assertion about the name ”Sheikh.” Now it’s true, the case was hardly major news, and it may have been too much to expect an examination of the details in a police affidavit in a minor Court case.

But similar things happen in other situations too, and there is rarely a critical examination of the implications. And this is why I want to spend a little while recounting to you some of my experience with the riots in Bombay in 1992-93, and while I do so, touch on some aspects I wish the media had explored in greater detail.

Riots

On January 20, 1993, before the rioting had ended, I went to JJ Hospital to speak to some victims. I was part of an Ekta Samiti team that visited affected areas of the city to compile a report on the riots.

That day, I met several bewildered, injured, innocent victims: men and women who had been attacked by mobs or shot by the police. One of them was a 22-year-old called Pappu, a cable TV operator in Girgaum. After speaking to him, I wrote this paragraph, based on my diary notes, for the report Ekta later issued (”Bombay’s Shame: A Report on Bombay Riots”):

”Pappu is from Azamgarh in UP. In October 1992, he came to Bombay(his aunt lives in Dahisar) to look for work. He has been working for a cable TV firm since then, installing cables in buildings. He is Hindu. On January 10th, at 8 am, Pappu went to Kamathipura to buy some cigarettes. About 12 Hindu boys surrounded him and asked him his name. When he told them, they began to assault him with knives and choppers. Pappu ran to a private car and asked the driver for help; the driver took him to JJ Hospital. He says several policemen watched him being attacked but took no action. Pappu plans to return to Azamgarh as he is too scared to continue living in Bombay.”

I heard a lot of harrowing tales that day at JJ Hospital; Pappu’s was just one. But in some ways, Pappu’s story seemed to me to capture the essence of the riots. This is why I mention him here.

While most other victims were Muslims attacked by Hindus or Hindus assaulted by Muslims – horrifying, but at least in line with the terrible logic of those weeks – Pappu was, on the face of it, a senseless instance of the violence. He was a Hindu attacked by other Hindus. In my mind that very senselessness said something about the tragic perversity of the riots.

In all that has been written about the riots, in the films about them, I have often found myself wishing this particular senselessness had got more attention. Because I think if it had, there would have been more questions about politicians and their doings that drove Indian to turn against Indian in this vicious, but vacuous, way. Maybe there would have been a greater recognition of just what I am implying here: that it was not so much that Hindus and Muslims were killing each other in those weeks but Indians killing Indians. And that – Indian turning on Indian – shames us most.

Most who were in Bombay during the 1992-93 riots will remember the scenes at VT station at the time. Thousands had gathered there waiting to catch trains out of the city. There were estimates then that one-a-half to two lakh people fled Bombay. Nor were these, as some of us might have expected, al1 Muslims. There were thousands like Pappu: Hindus, many from Uttar Pradesh, people called ”bhaiyyas” who had come to live and work in Bombay. The rioting sent them back.

Besides those who fled, others were forced from their homes into refugee camps. According to a report on the riots by the Lokshahi Hakk Sanghatana and CPDR (”The Bombay Riots: The Myths and Realities”):

“61 relief camps in various parts of the city housed more than 48,000 refugees. … The camps were run by voluntary organizations, both secular and religious, and concentrated on providing grains, clothes, medicines, blankets, stores and utensils.”

As far as I know, the media has never tried to fully determine just how many fled Bombay; nor how many of those who fled eventually returned to Bombay; nor how many of the refugees in the camps managed to return to their homes and jobs. I will not hazard a guess either. But it seems to me that what they went through at the time exemplifies a phenomenon we are distressingly tolerant of in India: violence, as in riots, that utterly disrupts people’s lives; violence that is accepted as the way things must be.

Again, I can’t help feeling that if the media had told us some more about this vast flood of refugees, if it had followed some of those refugees, let’s say, the full horror of the violence might have hit us a little harder. And if that had happened, we might have been a little less willing to believe the stereotypes that we have been fed for years by our leaders.

There is much evidence to show that bias among policemen was responsible for some of what happened during the riots. As Justice B. N. Srikrishna comments in the report of his inquiry into the riots:

“Police officers and men, particularly at the junior level, appeared to have an in-built bias against the Muslims … The bias of policemen was ran in the active connivance of police constables with the rioting Hindu mobs on occasions, with their adopting the role of passive onlookers on occasions and finally, in their lack of enthusiasm in registering offences against Hindus even when the accused were clearly identified.

Bias of this kind and on this scale should worry us all, but not just because it is directed against Muslims. We should worry what we are doing to our men in uniform: the way we now see them as beakers of the law, rather than its keepers. That is, bias like this, acted on can only lead to unbiased, unvarnished crime. Of course there are upright, dedicated police constables and officers who serve the public interest conscientiously. But the image of the cop as criminal is firmly sets and it will take a lot to change it. This is the price we are paying for allowing the police force to politicized, corrupted and biased.

Once more, I wish the media would examine this more deeply than it has so far: the implications for us all of such public bias. I would have liked the press to go beyond just making such prejudices, which it has and draw the connections between the biases and the general fear many of us have of the police. Perhaps that will wake us up to the danger of allowing prejudices a free run.

Finally: in a diverse country like ours, ridden as we are with tensions of all kinds, perhaps riots are always a possibility. But the state’s unwillingness to put down such rioting before it whirls out of control is now a pattern, as is its unwillingness to swiftly punish the perpetrators of the rioting. We have seen it over and over again: in the1984 massacre of Sikhs, in the 1970 riots in Bhiwandi, in the 1969 riots in Ahmedabad.

In fact, in his report on the Bhiwandi riots, Justice D. P. Madon’s comments about the police might well have been Justice Srikrishna’s comments a generation later:

”The police did not arrest any of (the people who were) shouting abusive and provocative slogans … (at) the Muslims with a view to annoy them…. The police (did not realize) the incalculable harm and damage that has caused by their failure to take firm action against … the unruly sections (who) were obviously encouraged by the attitude of the police into believing that they had a license to indulge in their misbehaviour. (Had the police acted firmly) the communal history of Bhiwandi might perhaps have been different.”

I am always surprised that the press has not paid greater attention to this dreary similarity between inquiry reports. It’s not just that riots keep happening but that they keep happening for the same reasons, stoked by the same provocations. Making more of that might in itself be a way to fight the tendencies that lead us into riots. But when these reports simply pass in unrewarded onto the dusty shelves do where they lie, we tend not to question the sly demonization that takes us into riots in the first place. The telling thing about inquiries is not just that our Governments never act on them; it’s also that they read so similarly. Put together, they make a tragic commentary on an India that remains congenitally unwilling to tackle its major criminals. That is something that the press must address to a greater degree than it has.

Conclusion

In this discussion, I have attempted a somewhat delicate task: to show you that I don’t believe the media is particularly biased in its representation of religious minorities; but that I do believe that by being uncritical, it promotes the biases all of us come to accept.

But if I have made that case, there’s one more point I must make. This abdication of critical examination of events and issues is a tragedy not just because it promotes biases and thus encourages riots. It is a failing of the very function – the very reason for being – of the press in a democracy.

The easy thing to believe about a democracy is that the majority rules. But there is a profound reality behind that. The majority rules because, and precisely because, the minorities are heard, represented and find justice. By ‘minorities” here I don’t mean just reigious minorities, but all those who night otherwise be unheard.

And that is why an uncritical, unquestioning media is not just damaging to minorities, but a disservice to democracy itself.

- Dilip D’ Souza presented this paper at the Human Rights and the Media workshop of the Panchgani human rights conference.

Representation of gender in the media
Uma Chakravarty

There is a larger context in which we need to look at electronic media and women on the media. There is a phenomenon on television in which some groups are completely out of the frame. The screen does not represent certain categories of people – in which one includes bridals, dalits, women and other minorities. But let us be clear that women are not a minority. They are not marginalised on television. They are very much there on television. The point is, how are they being represented on television? That is the issue that one has to be concerned with.

I would like to go back to the time when I first started watching television – which was Doordarshan, the state controlled media and the sole player in the field at that time. We were all very critical of what was included and excluded on Doordarshan. And we all got into the habit of treating Doordarshan as something which was boring, pretentious and sloppy. We were very critical of Doordarshan in terms of what it was including or excluding. It was an organ of the state and to some extent serials began to be beamed initially because they were tied to ideas of development. You all will recall that it was the Mexican soap operas that were the basis for putting something like the long serial on it. Among the long serials made here, the first was Hum Log. Hum Log was a story of a middle class household, a story that was supposed to tell you about the problems of large families. It was meant to be a population promotion argument. But what was interesting about ‘Hum Log’ was that it was set in a middle class household. Also in terms of representation, it actually did show certain kinds of contradictions within the middle class, or a lower middle class, household that is economically vulnerable. Then came Buniyad and several others. However, if you compare those serials with the serials of today, I am actually nostalgic about them.

But our mindset at the time of Doordarshan was that if you privatized television you would automatically get a wider choice and multiplicity of narrative which we al1 could tune in to. This is how the shift to the private channels or globalization sold. In other words what was wrong with Doordarshan was the control – State control.

There was a transition period in which you had the news videos Newstrack. It was meant to be an alternative to Doordarshan’s monopoly over news. However if you did a reconstruction of Newstrack, you would find that it reproduced the same biases – class, gender – in almost precisely the same way as Doordarshan. In fact, it was worse as far as issues of caste and class were concerned. For instance the representation of the Mandal issue on Newstrack was the most private use of a ‘public facility’. You had Madhu Trehan with her understanding and her upper middle class perspective, talking emotionally about these youngkids dying on the streets of Delhi. I found that amazing because I lived in Delhi University and watched the anti- Mandal agitation being played out right in front of my house. I saw no idealism involved. It was the potential IAS students who started the destruction. And Newstrack played right into this. I recall a demonstration where the agitators would not break the windows of the buses till, Newstrack came. They rang, Newstrack up and when Newstrack came they began their destruction, which was beamed to the people. One could say that the transition to privatisation began with Newstrack. Also the voice of the upper class began to be heard.

Of course, with privatisation and the opening up of the private channels, another phenomenon began to exert itself. When you have a state run television channel, it is subject to certain kinds of pressures. It is subject to questions that you can ask in the Parliament. I am not a proponent of state control, but what is the difference between state control and now? Who is in control now? Where do you lobby now? Earlier, many women sensitive serials came on Doordarshan, partly because of the vociferousness of the women’s movement. Even rural India was depicted. You had serials like Kab Tak Pukaroon, Thoda sa aasmaan. A mainstream serial like Udaan was strongly woman centered and it had picked up some things from the women’s movement not entirely corrupted in the way that you see some of the serials today.

When Private channels came in, roughly in the 90s, they inherited an already consolidated viewership, via Doordarshan. Prior to Doordarshan there was no television, and over a period of time Doordarshan, especially through serials like the Ramayana and Mahabharat had actually consolidated a fairly large viewership which cut across, to some extent, both region and class. This viewership, to a large extent, consists of the lower middle class, who are willing to pay Rs 100/ – for the 3 or 4 channels they can get, apart from Doordarshan. What is striking is that in the aggressive predatory war between the channels, to capture that viewership to capture the ads, the iewers don’t get the choice that they have actually subscribed to. Because once a formula begins to be considered important and successful, it gets replicated across the channels. The famous Kaun Banega Crorepafi is a prime example.

Now, these channeled with their wide viewership are creating the notion of an India – through the ads, serials and programmes that they telecast. An India which is upper middle class, upper caste north India. Hindi speaking north India. You may have a Marathi, Tamil or a Telugu Channel. But a Telugu channel is not going to be watched by a Tamil speaking person in Delhi. On the other hand, Doordarshan actually had serials in Hindi which were located in Tamil Nadu, or Malgudi or Kerala. There was an attempt at the representation of different regions. But now, all popular serials are located in upper class, upper caste, Hindi speaking households, except perhaps for the Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi , which is clearly a Gujarati location. How is this phenomenon – specific in terms of class, caste and region – actually being received by viewers across the country? What makes them watch these serials? How do they relate to them? Is it about their lives? How does someone sitting in a small town in Tamil Nadu or Kerala relate to a serial which is located in North India?

We are facing an extremely transitional moment in our history with all kinds of displacements taking place. We are talking about Narmada. We are talking about Delhi -with it’s displacement of industrial workers. We are talking of Rural India moving to Urban India. Now in this scenario, what is it that makes everybody want to watch a wealthy household and it’s internal dynamics?

It seems to me that the common phenomenon which everybody is buying into is actually the universality of consumption desires. Serials cannot be viewed by themselves. They come with advertisements. There is a strong presence of the market which comes via the ads. The presence of the market is now absolutely central. No serial can be sustained without TRP ratings. These TRP ratings are based on viewers, which in turn decides how much sponsorship a serial gets. The success of a serial does not necessarily depend on the quality of the serial. It depends to a large extent on advertisements. Advertisements are very central. Starting from a point where they used to be at the beginning and the end of a serial, they have now moved to intervening in the serial itself. There are advertisements even in the news. Commercials beak up your news into different segments. Also sections of our people are completely out of the frame. They are out of the frame as far as ads are concerned. They are out as far as narratives and serials are concerned. There is no serial today that describes something about rural India. The only ad which might be located outside of a metropolitan city, is a haveli in Rajasthan – as a backdrop for the Siyaram ad. The only time rural india, and to some extent everybody, does exist is in the news, where they come as disasters. And again they are broken up into segments with glossy ads in between. What does this do to our sense of reality? Do we actually register what’s happening? Does the news seep into us?

All programmes are designed to the buying public. All ads are designed to the buying public. You see this formula in Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). Amitabh Bachchan introduces KBC with – ”agar aap bees hazar ke hisab se kamate hain, to aap ko kitne saal lagenge? Das Saal? Bees Saal? Pachas Saal lagenge ek crore kamane me. Par aaj, abhi, isi waqt aap ek crore kama sakte hain.” (”If you earn at the rate of Rs. 20,000, how many years will you take? Ten years? Twenty years? You will take 50 years to earn one crore. But today, now, at this moment, you can earn one crore!”) The word is “kama sakte hain” (” you can earn”). There is this hype about that buying power, the reason for the excitement about the opening up of the Indian market, the 20 million or the 200 million goodies which you could buy. This phenomenon of quick money propagated by KBC was so popular that it led to a whole spate of similar programmes like Sawal Dus Crore Ka which pushed al1 other programmes off the air. What is important is – what got thrown out?

Ads featuring women are getting slicker and slicker. There is this ad showing a woman in the kitchens dancing to music on the headphones as her mother-in-law calls out the different masalas from the next room. But she doesn’t need any of that because Everest Masala has liberated her. The market has solutions for all kinds of oppressions. You don’t need any revolution, any empowerment, any feminism. Because the market will liberate you. Women are no longer being shown to sell an object. Women are now being featured and targeted as buyers. This vibrancy of women’s demands is being depicted in many serials and ads alike. From the point of view of the market, the vibrant market is one which includes women. There is a kind of agency that is being granted to women as far as the ads are concerned. But all these ads are not fantastic and they don’t a1l provide agency. There is a kind of playing out of the division of labour. Often the buyer is a woman but the payer is a man. Also, labour is shown as the field of women, typified by the Moov ad, ”kamar fit to parivaar fit.” If the woman’s back is in good shape, the family will be in shape. Domestic ideology is being reinforced here. Domestic ideology has come up with a very interesting game. I am struck by the way MNCS are touting their goods with a very strong Hindu Domestic ideology. Take for instance the Cadbury ads – from the celebration of marriage to Karva Chauth. Then you have DeBeers. It is the marriage anniversary – again, celebrating that domestic space. And for the first time in an ad, there is reference to an arranged marriage. It says ” hame auron ne bandha, lekin malum nahin kab woh rishta kuch aur me badal gaya ” (”others tied us together, but never realized when that relationship changed to something else”), and of course, the cut is from marriage, to pregnancy, to having produced the son. So, now the woman gets the deBeers diamond, because there she is playing out this whole role of hers following an arranged marriage. Everyone knows the importance of arranged marriage in a highly caste oriented society of ours. The one institution that will never die, regardless of what is going on around us, is the endogamous family. Because it is the only way you will be able to maintain the caste system. So the arranged marriage is not as neutral as it might appear to you.

It is important to note that Kargil actually broke down some of the agency that was being shown. With Kargil, it went back to the situation in which women were widows and body bags were going to the house. And everything was charged with emotion. Because as far as the nation is concerned, women are very important in bringing on the tear ducts. And you had many of those women sayings ”if we had another son, we would send him off to battle as well.” This message was important because the consent of the women was necessary. And I think Barkha Dutt going there and doing those reports is quite interesting – the first woman to break into war journalism, a woman sending you the message from other women, a message showing that the women are fully behind the national security issues. And that is important. Women are being given agency where nationalism is concerned, a certain amount of agency were serials and ads are concerned. But this agency is extremely controlled. If it is for domestic ideology, if it is for upholding family norms for culture within the household, then the agency. ‘Tulsi in Kyonki Saas bhi kabhi babu thi’ is the most fantastic manipulator, but she is basically upholding the Hindu patriarchal household. Her war is with her mother-in-law. Look at the formula in most of the serials. The confrontations are between women and women. Men are shown as decent, except for the odd extra-marital affair on the side. The older men are all fantastic while the older women are all vicious. Basically women are the problem. The question we started off in the women’s movement 20 years ago when they said, ”what’s wrong? We are not the oppressors, it’s women oppressing other women.” We are back to this formula as far as television is concerned. Patriarchies have disappeared. Essentially, you play your role of virtuous Tulsi, of a pativrata woman, and at festive occasions they get a diamond necklace. So this very strong Hindu domestic ideology that has come in. Serials are reiterating consent for existing ideologies and structures of power, be it the nation state, class, caste or Hindu household.

There is this Murdochisation, globalization and Hinduisation of television. A complete sedimentation of ideology. The westernization and globalization are being sorted out by Hindu households on television. There is a very conservative message coming across. Would I get space on television were I to do art alternative version of Sita? In newspapers you have an EPW and a Hindu, but nothing as far as television in concerned. How do women portray an alternative message on television? How do you reach out? Where do you go? Who do you lobby with? Who do you speak to? The state at least had a face. The market has no face. It is completely dispersed. Everywhere you looks the mainstream, the media, are marginalising voices of the alternative. To break through al1 dissenting groups we will have to join together. Whether it is national, regional or whether it is a dalit movement we all have to tie up to be able to be a reckoning force.

Television is a very popular medium. It is controlling it is shaping ideology in a very dramatic way. The ‘gharelu ‘ serials are not coming out in an age of innocence. They are in response to issues raised by the women’s movement. Hence television cannot, left out. Yet, it is inaccessible to us and I don’t see a way in which we can make our presence, at least immediately, on television.

- Based on Uma Chakravarty’s talk at the Human Rights and Media workshop in the Panchgani conference.

BOOKS

Mine Your Business

“Mine Your Business ” a concise resource and reference handbook on why and how “We, the people of India’ are opposing bauxite mining by UAIL in Orissa. It discusses the anti mining struggle and compares the claims and counterclaims regarding the effects of the Company’s operations. It also provides information on mining and its impact on people, livelihood and environment foreign investment and our legal and constitutional framework for the protection of tribals.

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Capitalism and the Information Age:
The Political Economy of the Global Communication Revolution

The world is abuzz. New Technologies are constantly transmitting information to millions of sites worldwide. This brave new reality is reshaping the labour force and market relations, and seems to be altering the course of history. Capitalism and the Information Age presents fourteen new essays by leading critical thinkers, taking on the communications revolution from the vantage point of history and political economy.

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Published by Cornerstone Publications, India and Monthly Review Press New York

Paperback: Rs. 150
Hardbound: Rs. 250

For inquiries, contact:
CORNERSTONE PUBLICATIONS
PO Hiji Co-operative, Kharagpur 721306

Nukkad Janam Samvaad
Vol II/III, Issue 4-8,
July 1999 – September 2000

People’s Art in the Twentieth Century: Theory and Practice

The sun is setting on a century of revolutions. But the questions that the century threw up are not going to disappear in a hurry, moreover, new problems are already demanding our engagement. This selection of writings will, it is hoped, be of some use in negotiating the slippery ground of theory, and to evolve a radical art practice that will enrich the revitalized revolutionary struggle of the century coming to birth.

Price: Rs. 125
Published by Jana Natya Manch
For inquiries, contact:
Jana Natya Manch;
J- 147, R. B. Enclave, Paschim Vihar,
New Delhi 110063
e-mail: jananatyamanch @yahoo.com

Festivals

Film South Asia 2001

4-7 October 2001, Kathmandu

The 3rd edition of Film South Asia (FSA) calls for entries for the FSA 2001. FSA, the competitive biennial festival of documentary films on South Asian subjects, brings together the best the Subcontinent has to offer in non-fiction. The festival, organised by Himal South Asian magazine and Himal Association, provides a quality platform to exhibit new works and to promote a sense of community among independent filmmakers, and helps develop audience and market for documentaries within and outside the region.

As usual, a selection of this year’ films and those from earlier years will go for the Travelling FSA festival.

Deadline: 30 June 2001
For details, contact:
Manesh Shrestha Festival Director
e-mail: fsa@mos.com.np

International Working Class Film & Video Festival

July 2001 San Francisco

LaborFest calls for videos & films for the 8TH Annual International Working Class Film & Video Festival. Laborfest, held in San Francisco every July, commemorates the 1934 San Francisco General Strike through the cultural arts of working people. Videos and films can include union struggles. Political struggles of labor, locally, nationally and internationally. The videos should explore the connections between labor and democracy, race, sex, environment, media war and the capitalist economy.

Deadline: 31 May 200
For details, contact: International Labor Film & video Festival,
E -mail: lvpsf@labornetorg,
website:
www.laborfest.org

MlFF’ 2002

3 – 9 February 2002, Mumbai

The 7th Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Short and Animation films is scheduled for 3 – 9 February, 2002. Films and videos shot and produced between 1 September, 1999 and 31 August 2001 are eligible for entry in the competition section of the festival organised by the Films Division. The festival has a wide range of awards that consist of citations as well as cash awards. Apart from the competition, the festival will also showcase films and videos in several retrospectives.

Deadline: 10 October 2001

For details: visit website: www.filmsdivision.org

Green Vision

September 13-15, 2001, St. Petersburg

The 6th International Environmental Film a Festival “Green Visions” at St. Petersburg is being organised by the Department for Environmental Protection of St. Petersburg City Administration. This competitive festival welcomes entries of any genre reflecting environmental issues.

Deadline: 15 July 2001
For more information write to Elena Titova, Festival
Manager, e-mail: ecatsp@spb.cityline.ru

San Diego Asian Film Festival

September 28 – 31, 2001

The 2nd Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival is between September 28 – 30, 2001 at Mann’s Hazard 7 Theaters. This festival is organized by the San Diego chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). Last year, more than 40 films (documentary, short and feature) over two days with 3,000 people were screened over 2 days in abundance.

Deadline: 1 June 2001
For details, visit website at www.sdaff.org

Opinion

An Interview with Moloyashree Hashmi

For the past 28 years Jana Natya Manch (Janam) has been synonymous with people’s theatre, not only in Delhi, but the entire Hindi speaking belt. And one of the faces in Janam that has remained unchanged in almost as many years is that of Moloyashree Hashmi, who has been one of the strongest pillars of Janam and given exemplary performances, show after show, in most of Janam’s plays from Machine, Aurat, Mother, or the more recent Ek Aurat Hypatia Bhi Thi, to name only a few. We intended to interview Moloyashree on her life and experiences, but instead talked more about Janam and theatre, since both seem to be inseparable from her life.

How did you come into theatre?

I came to theatre quite by chance. Around 1969-70, a group of SFl students got together and tried to revive the defunct IPTA. When they contacted several of the older members, my mother (Aparna Roy) was also approached, because she used to be in the IPTA in Delhi during the 50s and 60s. One day I just came to meet her. It was good fun because many things were going on – young people talking, discussing, rehearsing, and getting ready to perform. Initially I started coming just like that, then slowly I started coming regularly and that’s how 1 got involved with theatre. It was as simple and ordinary as that. Later, this group moved away from IPTA and formed Jana Natya Manch in 1973. In the beginning I wasn’t formally associated with Janam, but I was around doing other sorts of things. Thenz 1977 onwards, I have been with Janam on a completely regular basis.

Was Janam always doing street theatre?

In the early phase, Janam wasn’t doing street theatre. They were largely doing proscenium plays, big and small. Then there was something which we have never been able to get back to choral singing. We prepared chorus songs related to what was happening in the country and in the world, made song squads and went around singing, especially in market places. I remember, during Vietnam, we went from shop to shop with a leaflet, singing songs about Vietnam and collecting money. This must have been 1971.

Although initially Janam didn’t do any street theatre of the kind that we are doing now, but in one sense the basic motivation of doing theatre was much the same, which was taking theatre to the people. So even our large proscenium productions were very rarely confined to auditorium spaces, they were usually in the open where some makeshift stage was erected. Those days we went a lot to the rural areas. Bharat Bhagya Vidhata and Bakri were performed in front of audiences of thousands. During Emergency, Janam was not doing anything. With the kind of ethos and atmosphere that was prevailing in Delhi at that time, it was diffcult to do anything.

After the Emergency, one task was to regroup the group, which is why some productions were launched. In 1977 summer we did Firangi Laut Aye and in late winter we did Ab Raja ki Bari Hai . After that, we didn’t know what to do. We had this group of 30-40 people with us but we couldn’t organise shows. And as it happens, if you don’t have regular performances, people tend to go away. So we thought, if we can’t take big theatre to the people, we can take small theatre to the people – these were actually Safdar’s words. That’s when we started looking at small plays. But whatever we looked at, nothing excited us. So we took a very major decision in Janam, which was probably one of the important turning points – creative turning points – that we are going to write our own plays.

The first play in our street play phase was Machine. While conceptualizing Machine, we talked to some of our trade union comrades. Among the many things that they discussed with us, they told us about this incident in Herig India, a factory on the Ghaziabad-Delhi border, where there was a long struggle on two issues – a place to park the workers’ cycles, and a place to heat their food. There was a long-drawn struggle that culminated in a strike and police firing, in which six workers were killed even for such simple demands. We took that incident and wove a play around it. It is a very short play. It’s really one machine and it has 3 or 4 parts, that of the industrialist, the workers, the security guards or officers, and there is a sutradhar.

The first show was done on 15 October 1978 at a meeting of progressive artists. It was done on a stage – meaning really an elevated platform – in a small college ground and the play went off quite well. Some people seemed to like it and gave us many comments.

But the second show, I thinks is one of our most important shows. We performed this play at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium to a 7,000 odd group of trade union delegates. There was a big conference against the Industrial Relations Bill with al1 trade unions participating, and there were many all-India delegates. We said to our local trade union comrades, let us perform there. They said no, no, plays are not so important, right now we have other more important things to do – which, of course, was true. So we told them once your meeting is over, just allow us to be there. They agreed.

So we went in to the centre of the stadium, six of us in black T-shirts and blue trousers, and created a machine with a sound. Since the meeting was over, all the delegates had started to leave. But when they saw something was happening in the centre, they took their seats again. When they all sat down, that’s the point we knew we had it. From then till the end of the play, which was not very long, we had complete attention from everybody. At the end, there was first a silence – the play ends with the song ‘The International’ – so there was silence. And then, I have never heard that kind of applause. I mean, ‘thunderous’ is not enough. Yes, it was thunderous, but it was far more than that. There was something, some chemistry coming from the audience to us. And that’s when somewhere, maybe completely subconsciously, all of us realized that here is something what we don’t know what we’ve done.

We need to explore much more. The people were simply fascinated. They said, “this is it!” And from Talkatora stadium to V.P. House, where we were coming after that, we were surrounded and picked up and chucked up in the air. People said, you come to my village, and you come to my factory; we didn’t know who was talking to us. It was very exhilarating. Even today, I think that has been one of the most inspiring moments in my lifts probably the most.

The following day there was a major rally against the Industrial Relations Bill as a follow up of the conferences at the Boat Club. There were about a lakh of workers there and we were performing this very same play on a very huge, high stage. I don’t know what people who were far away saw of us because I could see the India Gate and till there, it was a sea of humanity. I’ve never performed for such a large audience, and just the sheer numbers is something that is overwhelming. I don’t think they could see us very much. But they could hear us very dearly and lots of people taped it at that time. Even today, when we go to far-flung areas, some elderly per son comes up and says I still have that cassette. What more can you ask for?

Then one after the other we started evolving our own plays. They were sometimes written by one or two people. Sometimes there were ideas from lots of people, given shapely one or two people. Sometimes it was largely improvised and then given words. We had a mad rush of shows.

Were you only confined to North India?

Actually, even now we are based in Delhi and surrounding areas. Yes, North India, because our plays are in Hindustani. But today, because of street plays, our reach is much more. One of the reasons for our reach is due to the contribution of Savyasachi, a Marxist writer and thinker from Mathura. He used to bring out a little magazine called Uttarardh.

In 1981, he published a special issue on theatre that carried our plays. That created a fantastic impact. A number of people started doing our plays. Even today when we go to smaller towns, people say – we got those plays from that issue of Uttarardh. By the mid-eighties, some of our plays were being translated into other languages by groups like Janam, Samudaya (a Kannada people’s theatre group) had translated some of our plays very early so had Andhra Praja Natya Mandali and some groups in Bengal too.

In 1988 when we observed our ten years of street theatre, we had a round table conference and a festival of street plays, exhibitions, etc. Even at that time, again by word of mouth, we came to know that our plays were being translated and performed extensively in the north. I don’t know whether it is entirely true or a little apocryphal but Safdar had a story to tell. I am sure it had a base in some north Indian university town. There was this student festival, where many other colleges were invited for a drama competition. So, 20-odd or maybe 15-odd groups had come. The first group came and performed the Janam play Raja ka Baja.

Then came the second group and performed Raja ka Baja. Then the third group came and they also performed Raja ka Baja. By that time, the audience had enough. But the poor judges were stuck. And the story goes that there were 17 groups like that who al1 did Raja ka Baja. The number is not so important, and somewhere it also makes us feel very good that our play is being done; but it is so sad that many more good plays weren’t being written, and that, unfortunately, is the case even now.

How do you weigh street theatre and proscenium theatre in terms of reach and impact?

When we decided to do street theatre because we were not able to take proscenium theatre to the people, we were also very clear that when we have resources within the group and when we are able to, we would be doing proscenium theatre also. So, from 1988 onwards, we have been doing proscenium plays and going to the people, not merely in auditoria but elsewhere too. In fact, in 1997, when we completed 25years of our work, we manufactured a Mobile Theatre.

What exactly is a ‘Mobile Theatre’?

It is really a dismantle-able unit, which is put up by the actors themselves and taken down, and we can virtually go to any place, any ground, any flat space and put it up. With metal rods and fabric we can create a transportable space that has an acting space – a wide stage about 20 by 35 feet in dimension with three wings, a back-drop which is again 20 feet high and 30 feet across, a green room, the entire lighting system, as well as a public address system. It can seat about 700 people if people are sitting on the floor and about 350 if we use chairs. Since we had the Mobile Theatre, we have never really performed in an auditorium, unless it’s in a college auditorium. We just up the Mobile Theatre and invite people to our show there. And these are entirely proscenium plays, they are full-length, 2-hour long plays. We have also used the Mobile Theatre in a variety of other ways, to hold seminars, organize lectures, and so on. The Safdar Hashmi Memorial Lecture is now held in the Mobile Theatre. Incidentally, it is called Safdar Rang Manch, or Safar, which is an acronym that combines mobility and the memory of Safdar.

How did you dream of such a thing, does it exist elsewhere?

The dream.. the first time I heard of the dream.. again, Safdar was the source, that we must go around doing theatre; we have to have our own transport, only then you can go around; so why not take a truck and do it up in a way in which it can open up and the stage is formed; in which you can carry your own generator and be self-sufficient. Many years ago, Habib Tanvir has made a rough blueprint for a truck like that, which is where probably Safdar had heard it for the first time. But that was not the only source. Groups elsewhere in the world have often erected their own stages.

Apart from the gear for the theatre, we had also planned for getting a van. We had sent out hundreds of letters to friends, trade unions, and a large numbers of mass organizations, asking them to contribute in order to build up money for this. And lots of people responded. Many trade unions sent us money, and insivisuals as well, some of whose names we hadn’t even heard of. But we weren’t able to collect enough to both buy the van and build a theatre. So the idea of the van had to be given up. But the theatre got built, and was wonderfully designed for us by our friend Janak Mistry, who is a graduate of the National Institute of Design. It really is a very flexible and useful structure, and we have found that as we have gone alone we have found more and more ways in which it can be used. We also wanted to have a space of our own, which could be a kind of an office-cum-library for serious people doing theatre, we wanted to publish a series of books, and many things like that. Now, we weren’t able to collect the entire amount that we had
planned initially. But the idea of the books is still there and we are using that money to publish books.

Can you tell us about your proscenium plays?

In 1988, we decided to do a proscenium play again after a gap of a decade. Safdar wrote it, based on a short story by Prem Chand, Mote Ram ka Satyagraha . Habib Tanvir directed it. In 1990, we approached M.K. Raina to direct a play for us. He said, ‘why don’t we do Brecht’s Mother ?’ Because that was just after Safdar’s murder, he felt it would be homage to Safdar. Safdar was also very keen on doing Mother at one point of time.

Subsequently, we have always been able to bring out original scripts. Somewhere along the line, we realized that by doling original scripts we are also addible to the body of Hindi scripts, and not merely doing adaptations of western plays – not that adaptation per se is a bad idea. We also do adaptations.

One of the plays that we’ve done was an adaptation of Brecht’s Roundheads and Peakheads directed by Anuradha Kapoor.

Then G. P. Deshpande had written a play on Jotiba Phule called Satyashodhak, which was directed by Sudhanva Deshpande. It was written in Marathi, and was first performed by us, in Hindi. This was in 1992. We then did Varun ke Bete, which was directed by N . K. Sharma and the script was by Brijesh. This is the dramatization of a novel by Nagarjun by the same name on a fishing community set in rural Bihar. Again, that was an original script. The first play that we did in our Mobile Theatre was a 2 hours 10 minutes long full-length proscenium play Hum Yahin Rahenge which was entirely improvised. Sudhanva had directed it.

The most recent play was Ek Aurat Hypatia Bhi Thi , whose script was written by Habib Tanvir for us, and it is a story of a woman mathematician in 4th Century AD Alexandria, called Hypatia. The Christian bigots finally killed her. This play was not just against bigotry of a specific religion, but intellectual bigotry, social bigotry.

This year again we are going to do a proscenium play. We have not yet located a novel or a play, or even a director for that matter. So we are not sure what it will be.

How has Janam continued for so many years when so many other groups seem to found it difficult to do so?

One of our strengths, I think, is our consistency, the ability to just go on performing, creating more and more plays and not giving up. What has also helped somewhere is the fact that we are politically aligned with the Left, that we were aware of the political and the social role that theatre could play. We would have liked to do lots of things, why just theatre? Songs, dances, and god knows what else? But since we were a small group, we confined ourselves to theatre, and street theatre, because a smaller play takes less time to prepare, there is practically no arrangement that needs to be made, which means that we can go virtually anywhere and perform. And finally, because of our link with other organizations like trade unions, women’s organizations, and student and youth organizations, we were able to come out with plays with such frequency and constantly changing our plays based on responses from a wide range of audiences. So many times we have completely changed our plays after the first few shows, we have scrapped plays even though they were quite good, because the audience found it wanting or we ourselves felt so.

Your association with a Left party gave you a lot of space. But cultural activists usually complain about the party structure, that they don’t provide enough scope for cultural activities, even though they always use culture to spread their work.

Our association with the Left par ties has not been at a formal organizational level. Our association is far more with the trade union sector, with individual trade unions as well as Left trade unions. There has been a link only in terms of their providing us a platform to perform, an occasion to perform. Even with the trade unions, we don’t have formal links with them; whenever they have approached us or whenever we meet at meetings or conferences, we have always got a lot of encouragement.

Do you feel that the parties have a long- term perspective on the medium or cultural action?

I think that the situation is that the fight for minimum wage is so much a real fight, an everyday ongoing fight, that the link between minimum wages and the cultural arena is something that is not felt on a day-to-day level. At an overall ideological level, no party will negate the importance of culture. But there is a problem there, a gap there. Now, we have been able to negotiate that gap pretty successfully. And I think it’s a way of being able to link cultural work to what is happening. How can we divorce ourselves from the major issues or democratic movements? You cannot. And yet one has to address questions of culture also. The point is, questions of culture are not separate. They are linked to questions of politics. There we’ve seen able to make this blend. Now, there can be questions on how is it being done, whether it is successful or whether it is adequate. I think it is not being done adequately. But this is not to say that there is no sense of realization.

How has Janam reorganized after Safdar?

Actually, we didn’t ‘reorganise’. At that point of times there was a tremendous emotional setback. But at the same time, because of Janam’s own work, the way we looked at it was, we needed to pool in our resources more actively, push ourselves more and draw upon sources beyond Janam to do things. Whether it was by way of training, whether it was by way of creative input, whether it was by way to getting help from people to do plays, work with us, or write for us. In street plays, we were not able to get a direct input. But what we did draw upon from other people was by way of technical help by organising workshops for us, improving acting, voice, directions etc. And they continue to do that. Habib sahib is one person who we always think of as part of Janam. It is true for many others as welt for longer or shorter periodic depending upon their availability. So, it’s not that we can do without Safdar- that’s putting it far too negatively – but we have learned to go beyond that. Each time when an interesting scene is created, many of us, especially those of us who knew Safdar, would say ‘Ah! He would have found this interesting’. Or, ‘this would have really tickled him’; that sort of thing keeps happening. In that sense, the spirit of Safdar, his work, his personality, his thoughts and everything which is also what Janam believes in, something that is a very living presence. But I think I would be denigrating Janam’s work if I say that we are ‘carrying forward Safdar’s ideas’. I think that would be denigrating Safdar’s ideas too. Because he never saw himself separate from Janam. The spirit of Janam’s work or our basic orientation has not changed.

With the public space gradually shrinking because of the political atmosphere, what do you think is the future of street theatre?

I wouldn’t say public spaces are shrinking. That’s not true. Any group can perform any play and get a crowd of 500 within seconds. I don’t think public space in that sense is shrinking. But what has happened is, some people feel this space is being encroached upon, and therefore, we need to be careful. In this feeling of ‘being careful’, one is actually imposing restrictions on oneself. But at the same time, what is equally true is, in a place like Delhi for example, there are areas where we cannot perform just like that. We have to give a letter to the local police station. It’s supposed to be a permission, but we simply say we are doing this now it’s up to you, the responsibility is yours. Earlier, till the mid-80s, it was possible to go and perform in Connaught Place, Lajpat Nagar, or any market place without being stopped by anybody. But now, with all this fancy equipment of the police, there is far more control. But I still think we’ve never had the feeling that we can’t perform at such and such place. It’s really the matter of having the guts to go and do it.

How do you feel the new generation is responding to theatre with so much growth and spread of electronic media?

I personally don’t think that the younger people are not attracted to theatre. But it is true that there is an effect of the electronic media. Yet, what is also true is that wherever the democratic movements or mass movements are gaining ground, lots of people, young and old, al1 sorts of people, are involved in some kind of cultural activity or the other. When such movements are not in their growth phases, fewer people are attracted to theatre. It is not to say that people have been lured away by the electronic media, which is a notion that many people have, but people have gone away because they’ve wanted to go away. The backbone of the theatre movement was the amateur theatre movement, amateur groups who were serious about theatre, doing good theatre. What has happened is somewhere along the line, with all this big money coming in, NGOs getting into theatre, a lot of corporate bodies and funding agencies – governmental, non-governmental and foreign – who are giving money to do theatre projects, it has made people think that without a ‘project’ you can’t do theatre. Theatre practitioners themselves have created this notion. Today if you ask a theatre group, they will immediately say we need sponsorship. You need sponsorship, but what kind of sponsorship?

There was a time when you and I were in college. We used to have cultural festivals. They are still happening. Those days people got a little bit of money from the college and somehow you managed the rest of it by pooling in all the resources you have. But now, you have to have a sponsorship from some soft drink, some shoe company, from some XYZ, it’s all linked with that. And because there is so much money available, you tend to go there and then you are bogged down. It is not that those agencies giving money are necessarily clamping censorship or something. They are not. But you yourself start to feel that this will be acceptable and this won’t be acceptable. You can take money, but why indulge in self-censorship?

What do you think are the challenges ahead for theatre?

I am always uncomfortable with the word ‘challenge’ because it means different things to different people. I think what is important for people engaged in socially relevant theatre, and even for those groups that are not directly engaged with socially relevant theatre, who would want to reach out to audiences, is that they have to go to the audiences. There is no reason why a group, which is doing any play in the auditoria in Delhi, cannot go and per form in our Mobile Theatre, and get a crowd of 700 every evening. You want audiences, so go there. You can say that the audience is shrinking, but I don’t believe that.

If you take a place like Delhi, which culturally has never been much of an exciting place, certainly in the 80s there was very little theatre happening. Now there is much more. I do have a problem with some of the plays that are catering to a very select audience; they need to come out and reach wider audiences. But even there, the audience has gone up a great deal. The Theatre Mahotsav that NSD did recently went house full. In Mandi Houses some group or the other is performing everyday. If you want to go and book a hall, it’s not easy. That means more theatre is being done, because more people are watching it too. In schools and colleges much more theatre is being done. One reason for that of course is to expand their portfolios for better prospects. Then there is another reason which is linked to this the notion, that theatre is ‘message oriented’. In school, one feels that theatre is one way of improving one’s personality, Again, that’s a fairly mechanical way of looking at things. Theatre does improve personality, but so does dance, so does music, so does looking at trees. Why not? But ‘theatre for personality development’ has become a catchword now.

You have so many workshops happening in the summer for children, which is good; I am not demeaning them at all. I think it is wonderful for a child to be engaged in some theatrical activity sometime in their lives. After all, they are our future audiences.

Resources
New Films

The Many Faces of Madness

19 minutes, English and Hindi. 2000
The Many Faces of Madness is a short and hard- hitting film that emerges from the reality of destruction and the appropriation of the commons in India.

This film, with its images of contemporary ecological destruction in India, brings people face to face with the intensity and impact of commerce and greed, as it travels through images from different parts of India, revealing glimpses of traditional water harvesting systems, mining, chemical pollution, community forest protection, displacement, deforestation, biopiracy, and coastal ecosystems.

Film by: Amar Kanwar
Produced by: NTGCF, Anand, Gujarat
Source: Public Press, N 14 A, Saket, New Delhi – 110017,
e-mail: at pubpress@vsnl.net
VHS Price: Rs. 500 (individual) and Rs. 1000 (Institutions)

Baphlimali 173

28 minutes. English, Hindi and Oriya, 2000
Baphlimali 173 is a film about the resistance movement of the Kashipur bridals in South Orissa against bauxite mining and aluminum companies. It is a film about globalization and tribal consciousness, a brief glimpse into an 8 year long struggle that is pushing out powerful Indian and international companies from the tribal lands in the Eastern Ghats in Orissa, India.

Film by: Amar Kanwar
Produced by: NTGCF, Anand, Gujarat.
Source.. As above.
VHS Price: Rs. 500 (Individual) and Rs. 1000 (Institutions)

Majma

(Performance)
50 minutes, English/Hindi, 2001

Aslam sells medicines for sexual problems on the pavements of Meena Bazaar near Jama Masjid in Delhi Khalifa Barkat presides over an akhara in the adjacent park and puts a group of young men through the moral and physical grind of wrestling. Through the park and the market pass hundreds of men everyday. Majma explores the instability and insecurity of working class lives and its impact on male sexuality and gender relations.

Film by: Rahul Roy
Source: Rahul Roy A- 19, Gulmohar Park,
New Delhi 1 10049, Fax: 6960947.
e-mail: aakar@del3.vsnl.net.in

My Lament, My Plea…

24 minutes, English, 2000
The Naga people have been undergoing a struggle for self-determination for more than 5 decades. In the process, many lives have been lost, but the national media has ignored most of it and the general public is ignorant of the inherent issues and the happenings. There have been gruesome crimes committed by both, the Indian Army and the Underground Militant outfits. How many of us actually know about it? How many of us are sensitive to the Naga issue?..,..

This film attempts to deal with these issues through personalized accounts and interviews of Human Rights Activists.

Film by: Yirmiyan S. Arthur Salma, Irene S. Phunthsog.
Source: The Director A. J. Kidwai Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia University Jamia Nagar, New Delhi 110025,
Fax: (011) 684681 1

Ku’near

30 minutes, Hindustani/English and Kashmiri, 2000
The Kashmiri word Ku’near has multiple meanings, particularly Onenesss and Solitude Ku’near is a film on Kashmiri language as the language of solitude and the language of Kashmir’s struggle for “azaadi” (Kashmir for Kashmiris” as Salman Rushdie aptly called the Kashmiri aspiration in Midnight’s Children).

Kashmiri struggle was ”written on othingness, as an artifact in the void” and the white space between the words is more real than the black signs themselves.

Nearly 95% Kashmiri’s can ‘t read or write Kashmiri. It isn’t surprising that Kashmiri writing – Sufi or Saivite – is inaccessible to most Kashmiris. There is something about the Kashmiri word that threatens both India and Pakistan. Ku’near uses the state of the Kashmiri language to encounter the unconscious of the azaadi struggle in Kashmir… And Ku’near discovers the beginning of an ethical solution to what is proclaimed as the ”Kashmir problem” in the reconciliation of Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims.

Film by: Abir Bazaz & friends
Source: A. J. Kidwai Mass Communication Research Centre,
Jamia Millia Islamia, University, Address as above.

Saacha
(The Loom)

49 mins, English, 2001
Saacha is about a poet, a painter and a city. The poet is Narayan Supe, and the painter Sudhir Patwardhan. The city is the city of Mumbai, the birthplace of the Indian textile industry and the industrial working class. Both the protagonists have been a part of the left cultural movement in the city. Weaving together poetry and paintings and memories of the city, the film explores the modes and politics of representation, the relevance of art in the contemporary social milieu, the decline of the urban working class in an age of structural adjustment, the dilemmas of the left and the trade union movement, and the changing face of a huge metropolis.

Film by: Anjali Monteiro and K. P. Jayasankar
Source: Unit for Media and Communications, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Deonar, Mumbai 400 088,
e-mail: umctiss@vsnl.com
VHS Price: Rs. 500

Breaking the Barriers

60 min, English, 1999
Domestic violence is one of the gravest and the most pervasive of human right violations. Yet, there is very little by way of response from the community or the State. For this crime is looked upon as a personal matter, notwithstanding the fact that for large number of women this personal matter translates fret a lifelong adjustment” with torture, both mental and physical. For many, these adjustments end only with the loss of their lives. Even then, these deaths are passed off, largely as accidents both in hospitals and police
records. While the commmunity looks upon it as an end of domestic dispute. There have been attempts to mainstream the issue of domestic violence both by the State and the civil society. This film looks at some of these initiatives of the community and the State aimed at breaking the barriers that divide lives into personal and public.

Film by: Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar
Source: Unit for Media and Communications, TISS,
Address as above
VHS Price: Rs. 500

Lakhuben

25 minutes, English subtitles, 2000
‘What work does your mother do?” a teacher asked the children. ”Nothing, She just does housework,” …… came the answers. Women’s work does not count because they do not count! As a matter of fact, any mother does a full time job running the house. If she is poor, she also does a full time job working outside, as Lakhuben does. Two full time jobs in a day, and society still considers women as ”doing nothing” (worthwhile). The programme just shows what Lakhuben does from the time she gets up (the first to do so) till she goes to sleep (the last one to do so). In fact, we could not include all she really does, because the programme would have been too long!

Film by: Rappai Poothokaren S.J, and Kavita Arvind
Source: Gurjarvani, St Xavier’s College Campus, Ahmedabad 380 009,
Fax (079) 6300725,
e-mail: gurjarvani@wilnetonline.net
VHS Price: Rs.240/-