Subhradeep’s latest documentary etches to relief, the reality of a campaign against terror by the law and order machinery.
After the Storm
A film by Shubhradeep Chakravorty
Reviewed by Maqbool Ahmed Siraj
“If there is an organised gang of criminals in the country, that could be the police force.”
These historic though harsh words came from Mr. Justice Anand Narain Mulla, the late lamented chief justice of Allahabad High Court. Some four decades later, they carry more meaning today, what with scores of people booked by the police for terrorist activities being released by the courts, finding the charges against them totally fabricated.
After the Storm by Shubhradeep Chakravorty weaves together the reign of terror unleashed by the cops all across the states in India in the name of campaign against terrorism. The tales told by seven Muslim youths picked up from Muslim ghettoes around the country, tortured to confess heinous crimes against the nation that they had not committed, imprisoned, tried and released on being found totally guiltless, exemplify the bias and hatred that characterizes the law and order machinery.
The documentary is based on self-revealing narratives from Mukhtar, Fassiuddin, Umar Farooque, Moutasim, Harith, Musarrat and Abdul Kaleem. Pattern of their being picked up is similar and speaks of hush-hush manner in which the anti-terror forces of the government operate. In most cases, plainclothesmen, often wearing hoods, appear in Muslim localities, randomly grab some bearded youth, hurl him into vans and speed away to an undisclosed destination. Torture follows with pejorative barbs against their faith and religious symbols. Information is elicited about the younger members stationed elsewhere in India to be picked up in order that a neat imaginary network is presented before the court. Post confession under duress, nay torture, the innocent victims are produced before magistrates for police remand. Boys as young as 18 to 20 are asked to own up connections to Al-Qaeda and Osama Ben Laden, names that were totally unheard before.
Students ruin careers as well as lose friends. Families run from pillar to post, mustering resources to pay legal fees . Neighbours look the other way avoiding meeting of eyes with people ‘accused of harbouring terrorists’. Sisters discontinue studies to take up tuitions, parents sulk and friends avoid even the shadow of the house. In Nardrabhai’s shining Gujarat, the harassment is reserved for punishment of civil rights activists who are causing legal hassles in court against the Chief Minister’s highhandedness. A lower court judge in Kolkata awards sentence for hanging of the accused, but privately seeks pardon from the family of the accused. The High Court throws away the charges and Supreme Court sets him free, after a seven-year incarceration and traumatic experience for the family, mocking at the charges framed against the innocent youth. Even as one ordeal comes to conclusion, the news headlines assault the senses with it being replayed elsewhere ad nauseum. Court acquittals have, of course, little value for the merchants of sensationalism. So why waste space and time.
Will there ever be an end to this campaign to terrorize the minorities? Or is it an exercise in telling them, “Better opt for right to existence and forget the human rights’. The narratives kick up umpteen number of questions about the democratic and secular credentials of the security and law and order apparatus that is committed to stamping out terrorism.