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'Some of my secular friends disgust me'

by Mohammed Wajihuddin, 13 September 2009

Hindutva hardliners have attacked Shubhradeep Chakravorty for his documentary Encountered on Saffron Agenda, a sharp rebuttal of the Gujarat government's claims that four people accused of `terrorist' motives were killed in police encounters. They were Sameer Khan Pathan (2002), Sadik Jamal (2003), young Ishrat Jahan-Javed Sheikh (2004) and Sohrabuddin Sheikh (2005). When magistrate S P Tamang recently pronounced that the encounters of Mumbra girl Ishrat and her friend Javed were `fake', the Delhi-based former journalist and now independent documentary film-maker, felt vindicated. Excerpts from an interview:


Q. Were you scared to screen your film in Mumbai?

A. When I reached the Press Club, I saw police posted there. From my past experiences, I guessed that perhaps it was the saffron brigade who had informed the cops about the screening. They did it in Bhopal too. There, the VHP mistook the local organiser for me and thrashed him. I quietly slipped away as the poor organiser bore the brunt. I thought there would be trouble in Mumbai too. But it went off peacefully. I later found out that the police were there for VHP leader Ashok Singhal who was holding a press conference at the Marathi Patrakar Sangh next door at about the same time.


Q: What were your first thoughts when you heard of magistrate Tamang's report on the way Ishrat Jahan and Javed Sheikh had died?

A: I felt that my story had been given a stamp of approval by at least a section of the judiciary. I was not surprised when the Narendra Modi government rejected the report and appealed against it. But I was disgusted at the rejoicing among some of my secular activist friends.


Q. Why were you disgusted?

A. Because these are the same people who would not entertain me after the VHP members attacked screenings of my film in Bhopal (February 8, 2008) and Jaipur (March 14, 2008). Since then, there has not been a single public screening of my film across the country. A few people saw it at the Prithvi Theatre a couple of months ago, but they saw it behind closed doors, and I was not invited as they feared my presence would create trouble. Buckling to fascist pressure is no solution. We have to stand up to the communalists' agenda which is to subvert the constitution and hold the country to ransom.


Q. Rights activists question encounters. But the police say they are necessary to deal with armed killers and terrorists.

A. The urgency of the police to kill the alleged terrorists raises questions. Did the cops try to catch Ishrat Jahan and her friends who were on a supposed suicide mission? Why do all the encounters in Gujarat since 2002 have an identical tagline? All the victims were out to `kill' chief minister Narendra Modi. Javed was an electrician who had worked in Dubai before he set up a business in Pune. Sadiq Jamal was a domestic help and had worked in Dubai. Sohrabuddin was a petty criminal. Sameer Khan Pathan was accused of killing a cop and was absconding. They all were bumped off in cold blood. Perhaps the cops didn't want to kill Ishrat Jahan initially but she could have spilled the beans later. Nobody supports terrorists, but selective targeting and demonising of a community will create more terrorists.


Q. Your first documentary Godhra Tak: The Terror Trail was labelled a pro-Muslim account of the burning of a Sabarmati Express coach.

A. When I held a screening in Ahmedabad in October 2003, a mob attacked me. I tried to explain to them that they should first see it, but they would not listen. The police rescued me. I am branded a Marxist and anti-Hindu. My being a Hindu Brahmin is the fascists' biggest problem. They cannot reconcile to my being a Hindu Brahmin and yet make films which don't side with Hindus. For that matter, I am not siding with anyone. I am just against injustice. My documentaries don't have masala, they are very boring. When I showed the encounter documentary to senior cops in Jaipur, they were aghast at the VHP's hungama over it. "Bus isi pe hungama hai,'' they said. I don't exaggerate the facts.


Q. Why did you quit journalism?

A. Journalism doesn't allow you time to reflect. It took me eight months to complete my documentary. No editor would have allowed me to sit on a story so long.



Folowup of "The truth - Gujarat2002" Special issue from Tehelka


Of God And Our Country:
An avalanche of response from concerned readers


IT’S BEEN an instructive week at TEHELKA. Intensely. The politicians have been eerily silent. Or disturbingly evasive. The people have spoken. In reams and cascades. On e-mail, through SMS, through letters and on phone. It’s been a task this past week manning the floodgates; as we went to press, the response was still streaming in. Congratulation. Outrage. Concern. Even abuse. No matter what you do, it’s foolhardy not to expect abuse in India.

But we have been clear why the truth of Gujarat 2002 had to be told — it’s about where we have fundamentally erred as a people and a nation, it’s about critical and urgent lessons we need to learn. That is why we called it the most important story of our time. Hearteningly, the preponderant response to the story has affirmed that sense. Something deeply violative and vile happened in Gujarat. And it awaits correction — punishment to the guilty, justice to the victims. That’s the call that rings again and again through these letters. Over to them.

From Tehelka Magazine Issue 44, Dated Nov 17, 2007

'Take the Tapes as Prima Facie Evidence’
Zakia Jafri Fights On
‘I Know Men in the Gulbarg Mob’

‘A Test Case for the Indian State’
The Evidence Won’t Go Away

Tarred with the Same Brush

We, the People,the Bystanders

Storming the Fortress of Impunity

India Overseas Outraged

Religious Leaders Decry Hate Politics

Voice from the Past?

You’re the Majority — So What?

Well Known, Yet Still a Shock

Expected Better, BJP

For My Brothers, Hindu, Muslim

The Sabarmati Weeps

Options for the Supreme Court

Do Something. Come Together

Out of Gujarat, Its Other Voices

Enforce the Rule of Law. Now

‘Mr PM, Millions Have Put Their Trust in You’

A Landslide Win for Mass Murder?

Assault on Pluralism

Someone Blow These Myths

Wages of Mob Politics

No Takers for Art on the Riots

‘A Blot on the Very Core of Civil Society’

What About the Banerjee Commission?



The truth - Gujarat2002 - Special issue from Tehelka

conspirators & rioters

First-hand accounts from the men who plotted and executed the genocide in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Sabarkantha. Mayhem was meticulously planned and carried out by VHP-Bajrang Dal cadres across Muslim localities.


the bomb makers

The VHP and the Bajrang Dal manufactured and distributed lethal weapons across the state, often with the connivance of the police.

role of the police

Shocking accounts of how the guardians of the law colluded with the outlaws to make Gujarat’s horror even worse.


what they said about modi

Key BJP, RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal activists speak openly of how Narendra Modi blessed the anti-Muslim pogrom.


legal subversion

How public prosecutors ran with the hare and hunted with the hound, keeping their sympathies strictly for the accused. Government Counsel Arvind Pandya on how he hopes to subvert justice by manipulating the Nanavati-Shah Commission, set up to ascertain the truth.


dance of hate

The truth behind Naroda Patiya, the grisliest massacre of 2002. Ahmedabad police’s collusion in the pogrom and its cover-up. Gory details of how former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was hacked limb by limb at Gulbarg Society, in the words of those who did it.


godra mob fury, not terror

How spontaneous mob fury was shown as a premeditated conspiracy by the police who produced fake witnesses by bribing, coercion and torture.

Tehelka, Special Issue - Monday, Nov 03, 2007

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