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Water: A short study of progressive behaviour

Water: A short study of progressive behaviour

Arvind Singh
The Organiser
March 5, 2000
Title: Water: A short study of progressive behaviour
Author: Arvind Singh
Publication: The Organiser
Date: March 5. 2000

"We got full support from the people of the town," says Shabana Azmi. "At most times there were no more than a dozen people protesting against the film," she said to the Hindu (Dated Feb.9). "And when they managed to mobile support, their numbers never crossed 100," She asserted. But notice this, "65% of Varanasi hurt by Water", broadcast an opinion poll conducted by MDRA a leading market research organisation and published in "Outlook" dated Feb 21. To a question, "Do you think that the story and script of the film hurt the sentiments of the people of Varanasi?," 65% respondents say 'Yes' and 23% say 'No'. "Who do you think is responsible for this?" was the next question put to them, and 67% held Deepa Mehta responsible. The poll sample comprised 300 people in the age group of 15 to 30. More than half of the people of Varanasi held Deepa Mehta responsible for this mess. There is a huge difference between two versions of protest offered to us, one by Azmi and one by the media, and remember both are not sympathetic to Hindu sentiments. It must also be mentioned here that the Outlook poll was conducted among the age group of 15 to 30, that is, young people who are much more influence by westernisation and hence should have supported Mehta. This indicates that the people of this country are very firmly routed in the Hindu culture, in spite of the programme of pseudo-intellectual

But remember what Azmi told to the Hindu- "At most there were no more than a dozen people protesting against the film". All those who have watched TV reports diligently emanating from Varanasi would certainly debunk Azmi's claim.

Time and again, it has been proved that the statements by our freedom expressionists pertaining to the freedom of expression controversy are marked by lies, and half-truths and chiefly they are grim patients of selective memory. For proof, just recall the statement of Shabana Azmi. If you are not convince take another instance. "We heard that you were not allowed to shoot Earth 1997 in Lahore, and that the Pakistan government refused permission to shoot," a question was posed to Mehta in one T. V. programme telecast on Feb. 6 on Star Plus. "No. Not at all," she screams, "In fact I and my photographer went to Lahore and we discovered that most of the houses in the city were equipped with dish-antennae, so it was not possible for us to create the scene of 1947. Hence we decided not to shoot in Lahore." But the lie was nailed after two days, when PTI circulated an interview of Nandita Das. The interview mentioned, "Recalling that the Pakistani authorities did not allow Mehta to shoot Earth 1947 in Lahore, Das, who played the lead role in the film, said, 'We had to shoot the film in Delhi and we felt really proud of our country and our culture of tolerance at the time.'

Now who is right, mehta or Das? Read Mehta's above statement again. It is very astute and crafty and carries a very subtle meaning. Whereas she was not allowed to shoot Water in India, in case of Earth 1947, she was emphatic to assert that she herself decided not to shoot in Pakistan, and the Pakistani authorities were not in the picture. The Pakistani authorities are blameless. But India is not equal to Pakistan, we did not allow her to shoot. The opinion that Pakistan refused her permission is completely false, she maintains. She lies to such an extent to defend Pakistan!

"Before venturing into any film I do research," and she said she did a lot for Water. She said in the same T. V. programme that she had studied widow problems in India and especially in Kashi. After that the anchor confronted her with evidence that in the 1930's there were three widhwa ashrams in Kashi and none of them had been reported for carrying on prostitution. And he also asked her to reveal what she has read on the issue she first evaded the question, but finally quoted one book - Widows in India. Note the sudden decline in degree of her "research" it ultimately boiled down from "a lot" to one book. So much for authenticity and historical records.

Our freedom expressionists have a typical habit of expressing themselves on the basis of events according to the ethnic and political identity of the participants in any event. The noted journalist T.J.S. George wrote an article on 1st January, in the New Indian Express, Bangalore, quoting a book that was published in the sixteenth century. Only one quotation from that article was perceived derogatory to the Prophet Mohammed. Angry Muslims took to the street and protested against the article. This is what the newspaper wrote on 3rd January about the agitation, "While the group was withdrawing peacefully, some unruly elements in the mob set fire to a lorry carrying newsprint. The van was gutted in the fire and the mob pelted stones at the office and other buildings. They also pulled down the Express sign board.

"In the melee, several vehicles parked in front of the Parsi temple on the Cunninhgam road were damaged. The violence left 28 policemen injured.. The PTI building and other adjacent buildings were also damaged."

No editorialist ventured to denounce the rioters, no investigative feature was written to denounce the Muslims, no full page special report was carried to analyse that quote, no T.V. talk to poor T.J.S George, no exclusive interview of the victims, no Girish Karnad came forward to criticise.

Recall the attack of the Shiv Sena on the Marathi eveninger Mahanagar in Mumbai a few years back. The whole "Editor's Guild" came down to Mumbai to protest. They organised a whole day's dharna in front of the Shiv Sena headquarters. But this time they did not plan to go to Bangalore to protest against the vandalism. No Kuldip Nayar organised a silent protest march, no Khushwant Singh even took notice of the event.

Shool, a movie based on criminalisation of politics, was released all over India, but faced protests in Bihar. The agitators pointed out that the movie showed Yadavs in a bad light because the villain in the movie was one politician named Bachchu Yadav. Did you hear our freedom expressionists raising their voice to defend the freedom of expression? Read anything about this in our national dailies?

When Mulayam Singh Yadav was chief minister of U.P., his men did not allow the circulation of one newspaper, vendors were attacked. But no condemnation of the act. Our freedom expressionists know where to maintain reticence and where to shout. It is their liberty to shout or keep mum. If you ask them to act according to your will it is trampling on their freedom of expression. They decide what issues and events should feature in our public discourse. We have incessantly heard about controversy surrounding Fire, but not of Mee Nathuram Godase Boltoy, they justify banning of the Satanic Verses, justify banning of the Sufis of Bijapur, they disrepute the author of Worshipping False Gods, but eulogise Why I Am Not A Hindu.

Returning to our Water controversy the problem with our creative persons is that they don the role of preacher and pass judgement without social accountability. Mehta says that she wants to reform society. And to be specific she wants to reform Hindu society. Finances are pouring in from Canada to India to make movies with the sole motive of reforming Hindu society. The Muslim society is an illustration of a perfect society. There is no problem of divorcees and estranged wives in Muslim society. Similarly, in India we have not an iota of deficiency in the Christian community. But problems are aplenty in Hindu society. So make movies to eliminate these problems! But while creating "art", don't care for records, don't bother for historical evidence, and don't care for people's sentiments. After all, you are doing it for their betterment, although these gullible people don't understand this. Only you can understand it.

The behaviour of our freedom expressionists during all these events is very dubious and more such events will reveal more about their character. Indeed, the English language has a beautiful word to describe their behaviour, and that is hypocrisy.

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