By Amritapa Basu:
The other day I was watching ‘Rang De Basanti’ — just a re-run on a television channel. I have watched the film umpteen numbers of times, yet I choose to watch the television re-runs and every time I watch it I shed a tear or two, get goose-bumps, salute the MiG fighters in my mind and when the film ends, I simply exclaim, “What a film!” In a moment’s notice I find myself surfing through other channels and remember Rang De Basanti simply as ‘thought-provoking and beautifully made film which calls the youth of the country to do something’. DO SOMETHING? Well, yes, of course. I do. I do suggest the handful of those who claim not to have seen the film yet to get a copy as soon as they can and watch it.
My readers, I am sure, can identify with this. How many of us actually stir up to action to do something on watching such films? Our patriotic feelings have limited themselves to hoisting national flags and singing the national anthem in the morning twice a year and spend the rest of the day watching the patriotic films on television or on an outing with the family. We are patriotic as long as it is limited to uhhs-ohhs-ouchs at the bloody sights splashed across the newspapers. We are patriotic as long it does not demand too much from us. We are patriotic as long as our profit-making means are not hampered. Sadly, ‘I love my India’ is only a graphic on sides of the trucks or on T-shirts.
Do not get me wrong. I am not here to add onto the number of patriotic writings that are already there. I am happy the way I am. I am one of those urban educated individuals who are aware of the culture and lifestyle on the other side of the globe, and can tell you the local time of Tokyo, Paris, London and New York at an instance. I am global. I am happy when mega-pixels increase on my mobile camera and my laptop becomes lighter with a longer battery life. Why the hell should I bother? I wouldn’t bother until it is me or my dear ones who are affected.
It is not until then that I start screaming at the system. But no one would be there to hear me. Just as there is no one to hear the shrieks of Ismails, Altafs and Abduls who are arrested after the bomb blasts under the ‘suspicion’ that they are terrorists and are forced into narcotic tests and electric shocks until they are unrecognizable. Their fault — they chose to keep beards and wear taqiyahs. Just as there is no one to hear to the pleadings of a Kashmiri pandit rotting in some camp in Kashmir. Just as there is no one to pay heed to the claims of the north-eastern states of India to be considered a part of the country. They specifically pointed it out in Chak de! India but the Adivasi had to be content with a ‘Ho!’.
We can give our cricketers a bike/car to squeeze into their already full palatial garages and a lakh for each ball delivered at the IPL but we can only feel sorry at the sight of naked child sleeping blissfully on the pavement. We would intern at an NGO centre just because it looks good and adds value to our CV. We can devote several days of color newspaper reports on Michael Jackson’s death but Bhimsen Joshi’s death finds a corner in the sidebar of the newspaper and a black-n-white obituary in an inside page. “Big deal dude! My circulation figures matter more. After all, MJ was anyway more ‘happening’ than BJ!”
India Shining, India Rising and India Emerging as a superpower to be counted equal to China and the Far East are like putting your hand on your heart and saying ‘Aal Izz Well!! Aal Izz Well!!’ but reality stares straight into our face. A report on Global Newswire, March 19, 2010 reads
“Atta Mohammad, 68, a gravedigger and caretaker at Chehal Bimyar in Baramulla district, spoke on the record before the State Human Rights Commission in Srinagar, about burying 203 bodies on a hillside adjacent to the Jhelum river from 2002 to 2006. The bodies, he says, were delivered to him by the police, primarily after dark.”
Very few of us are aware that there are numerous unmarked and unnamed graves which dot the Kashmir landscape. Graves which are said to be of ‘Pakistani terrorists’, ‘unidentified militants’, ‘militants from encounters’, ‘tracked down militants’ and permutation-combination of names go on. An internal investigation revealed that how fake encounters aid in the promotion of senior army and police officials including Colonels and Superintendents, how innocents are picked up and killed and labeled as ‘intruding militants’ which help in felicitation and awarding of the officials.
“Very recently Atta Mohammed had to open up a grave of an unidentified militant after court orders. It was found to be the graveyard of Bashir Ahmed Dar from Jalshiri village, 10kilometers away from Tchahal( village in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri district). Dar had left home to bring back his wife from his in-laws’ place, but never came back. Many, like Dar, never come back. Some dead bodies are lucky to be identified and later have a plaque announcing their death. Other not-so-fortunate ones lie in unnamed mounds consigned to history.”
— (P. Mukherjee)
This Independence Day we will be celebrating four ‘successful’ years into India’s official retirement (64 years) but still we do not seem to be any close to the Purna of the Purna Swaraj as dreamt by our martyrs. Hope has carried us this far and we ardently hope that Hope alone will see us through as we continue to conveniently keep our eyes shut.