Will “Parzania” reawaken memories?
Often cinema provokes, especially feature films. The just released Bollywood movie, “Parzania” (All About Parzan), not merely brings back memories of a genocide in the Western Indian State of Gujarat in early 2002, but also draws attention to an unresolved crime against humanity.
In March 2002, thousands of people, mostly Muslims, were killed in Ahmedabad, the largest city in Gujarat, and elsewhere in the State. The immediate cause of this was a massacre (February 2002) of some 50-odd train travellers in Godhra, near Ahmedabad, and many of them were Hindu sadhus (godmen). Nobody knows who had set fire to the train compartment in which these men died, but a whispering campaign by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), then ruling Gujarat, held Islamic fundamentalists guilty.
Just days after this tragedy on rails, an ugly wave of killings in Ahmedabad and other places wiped out thousands of Muslims. The official estimate said that 2000 people were slain, but this is gross under-valuation. For, it is widely believed that about 10,000 men, women and children were mercilessly butchered, and many of these sordid events were captured live on television, including one where the abdomen of a pregnant Muslim woman was ripped open and the fetus thrown into the fire. The culprits behind this bloodbath were Hindu radicals, and the genocide was widely documented by human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and reported by respected newspapers in India and abroad.
While the carnage was raging, the State Government and the police stood by as passive watchers, and there are reliable reports which say that the administration not only encouraged Hindu rebels, owing allegiance directly or indirectly to the BJP, but also made it a point not to interfere as the mobs went around with bombs and swords in a mission of annihilation. The police literally looked the other way or laughed at the murder and mayhem.
Worse, the Army was deployed after a delay of 72 hours, when most of the brutality had been committed.
Sadly in a travesty of truth and justice, not a single conviction has taken place in all these five years since those dark days of 2002. Obviously so, because the Gujarat State Prosecution is under the same BJP Government and Chief Minister, Narendra Modi. Some of the cases have been transferred to the neighbouring States, but even with a non-BJP administration at the Centre in New Delhi, now for about two years, the Gujarat genocide remains a blot on the nation with those thousands of wrecked families still fighting for that elusive justice.
Modi has been blacklisted by the world at large: he was refused a visa to visit Britain, and with Gujarat set to go to the polls later this year, there is a lot of fear and anxiety among the Muslims who still live in the Hindu-majority State.
It is here that a movie like “Parzania”, just released all over India, except in Gujarat where no distributor is willing to touch it, will definitely create a massive awareness of a terrible social felony whose perpetrators are still walking free.
“Parzania” is an extremely well made work that is based on the true story of director Rahul Dholakia’s friends. A Parsi (another religion in India) couple lost their 14-year-son in the genocide. His body has not been found till now, and so he is officially stated missing. The couple and their young daughter are hoping that this film would help them trace the boy.
Although “Parzania” was made two years ago, it was not given a certificate for screening, because the powers that be tried their best to see that it never got out of the cans. Yet, Dholakia’s constant efforts to see that his picture got a release paid off eventually, and indications are that it is doing well at the cinemas.
One hopes that Dholakia’s attempts to tell the story of a dark chapter in India’s history serve the purpose of justice by creating awareness, and ensuring the defeat of evil forces.
(Posted on the website on February 4 2007)