Troubled by the Congress and Left parties' narrative of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, a 36-minute documentary, backed by the Sangh Parivar, will now offer a new perspective, the film ready for telecast in hundreds of colleges — including Left-leaning ones across India.
Directed by Vivek Sinha, who has had a long association with the Sangh Parivar, the film, titled Muzaffarnagar, Akhir Kyon that translates into Why Muzzafarnagar?, has already been screened at the annual Woodpecker film festival that showcases documentaries from across India. The move to telecast the film about the riots that left 64 dead and thousands injured, is being pushed by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the students wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Sinha, a former journalist who worked with Tehelka and Hindustan Times, says he spent more than seven months at the site of the riots and gained what he claims is “an insider narrative that very few know in India”.
“My film shows how a recurring issue of law and order was allowed to slip into a vicious riot that killed many and polarised two communities. Sadly, law and order still remain nightmarish in Muzaffarnagar and the state administration has done nothing about it,” says Sinha.
The film — shot and edited last year — comes almost eight months after the Justice (retd) Vishnu Sahai Inquiry Commission, set up to probe the riots, tabled its report in the Uttar Pradesh state assembly in March, 2016. The report exonerated the state’s ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) government despite the failure of the top leadership of the government to prevent and control the riots, one of the worst episodes of communal violence in recent memory.
Interestingly, this is the second film on the riots, the first, Muzaffarnagar Abhi Baki Hain, was directed by filmmaker Nakul Sawhney. The film was criticised as “biased” by the Sangh Parivar and other right-wing elements who claimed the filmmaker had Marxist leanings and disrupted its screenings in various cities, including Delhi.
Sinha says his film is distinctly not biased, he has interviewed people from both communities living in Muzaffarnagar and found the violence that killed many and destructed thousands of homes and families was “a result of total apathy of the local administration”.
“I accessed local intelligence reports which blamed the district administration for deliberately not reacting despite repeated calls for help from both sides. The stoic silence of the local police added fuel to the fire, both communities suffered,” says Sinha.
“It was not an intelligence failure, it was the state government’s attitude of not taking any action that caused the riots, there was no timely intervention.”
The Justice (retd) Vishnu Sahai Inquiry Commission’s 700-page report — prepared over a period of two years — squarely blamed intelligence failure and laxity on the part of administrative officials for the riots which resulted in the displacement of over 60,000 people in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of Uttar Pradesh. The commission scrutinised the actions of 40 officials and names four of them — then Principal Secretary (Home) RM Srivastava, then Circle Officer Jansath Jagat Ram Joshi, then Muzaffarnagar District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma and then Muzaffarnagar Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Subhash Chandra Dubey.
It said the Local Intelligence Unit (LIU) Inspector Prabal Pratap Singh failed to give correct intelligence inputs on the maha panchayat held in Nagla Mandaur on 7 September, 2013 which triggered the violence. The maha panchayat was attended by 40,000-50,000 people, while intelligence inputs claimed that 15,000-20,000 people would be in attendance, the single-member commission said.
But Sinha said his film does not give the Akhilesh Yadav government a clean chit, it lists reasons for the riots which directly indicate its abdication of responsibility. “We must remember Yadav also holds the Home portfolio,” says Sinha. Like the report, his film also lists reasons which led to communal polarisation and riots after the deaths of three young men, Shahnawaz, Gaurav and Sachin, in Kawal village of Muzaffarnagar on 27 August, 2013.
The report said the release of 14 Muslim youth, not named in the FIR relating to the murders of Gaurav and Sachin, was seen as an attempt by the state government to favour the Muslim community.
Another reason for the riots, claims Sinha, was the transfer of the then District Magistrate of Muzaffarnagar Surendra Singh and then SSP Manzil Saini just before the riots. “The sudden transfers antagonised the Hindus (especially Jats) against the government and this antagonism eventually spilled into the riots,” says Sinha.
“Like the other film, this one is also a ground report. I have asked why such riots continue to happen and the role of politicians behind the riots, and severely questioned the role of appeasement,” says Sinha.
Sinha said he found acquittals happening in the riot-related cases amid allegations of pressure on witnesses to turn hostile. Worse, the victims were not expecting any radical justice, “they were shocked to see the denial of justice and the political ambition behind the incitement of violence”.
He says he is not worried of possible incidents of disruption in Left-leaning colleagues and universities. “It is a film, it is there choice to watch it or leave it,” says Sinha.
The stage, it appears, is set for another round of slugfest over reasons and causes leading to the bloody riots in 2013.
Updated Date: Jan 08, 2017 10:58 AM