Secularism, Ideology, People and That Little Bias

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

As the Maoists lay siege in Lalgarh, there was growing pressure on the State Government to take action. With West Bengal polls due in a little over a year and the ghosts of Nandigram not forgotten, the Left and Trinamool cautiously jumped in to extract political mileage. In the evening news, I saw Prakash Karat coming forward in a press conference and telling that he was against banning Maoists and wanted to engage in a dialogue with them. It was strange to note the “don’t ban” stance adopted by the comrade knowing fully well his stand on organizations such as VHP and Bajrang Dal. On one hand he wants VHP and Bajrang Dal banned and on the other he clearly shows a biased stance in response to the move initiated by the centre to ban the Maoists. I decided to dismiss it as a political gimmick and read nothing more into it.

Then I got down to watching a film – Shaurya. It was based in Kashmir and depicted a Muslim army officer being victimized by a powerful Brigadier who seemed to be hell bent on rooting off his community from the face of the country because of a personal tragedy. The film ended on a humane note with the Muslim officer being acquitted and the Brigadier being taken into custody on charges of culpable homicide. I somewhat liked the film-maker’s approach to story telling but then a thought crossed my mind. Some of these recent films like Firaq, Shaurya and Mr and Mrs Iyer that were based on populist phrases such as “humanity”, “showing the wounds” of the victims affected in riots had a commonality. All these films showed a community A being the victim and community B being the bully. Yes there were references to the reactions of community B being the result of some suffering but no one went ahead to highlight it. A passing mention in a scene or devoting a two minute rant in the end by the protagonist was all that was offered.

The two disconnected observations made me put up a question that I want to share with you all. Do we, in our attempt to show our unbiased and humane face to the world around, become somewhat biased in our own reactions? If Karat wants VHP and Bajrang Dal to be banned, why does he not share the same belief when taking on the Maoist menace? Similarly, if you have films like Shaurya talking about certain people in the army victimizing innocent people in the Valley (with definite religious overtones), why is there no one attempting a film to speak about the exodus of Kashmiri pandits (there was an attempt by Ashok Pandit to show the plight of displaced Kashmiri pandits in Sheen back in 2004. No one chose to revisit the subject before him!) who were made to live the life of refugees in their own country?

Quoting Nandita Das on allegations that her film Firaaq was pro-Muslim:

"I totally disagree with those who say the film is pro-Muslim. If I make a film on the Jews and their suffering will I be expected to present the other side's version? What can I do if there's no 'other side'? What happened to Muslims in Gujarat was not a communal riot, it was carnage. My film is not pro-Muslim. It's pro-humanism. Period. And if some people or political groups want to see Firaaq as a communal statement then so be it. I said what I had to."

How can she feel that there was ‘no other side’ in the Godhra riots? 250 Hindus killed in the riots can’t be dismissed just as a figure not worth mentioning. I am not against Nandita for showing what she showed. I am against the mindset of taking a moral high ground by always siding with the “seemingly” oppressed. I can understand the politicians doing it for their vote banks but how can thinking people of the society too follow the herd mentality?

In all the stories that I read in my childhood, there was always this underdog that won in the end. We have a tendency to always empathize with the underdog and view the ‘other side’ with suspicion. There is possibility that this tendency creates bias in the stand that we take on certain issues. I have observed that being pro-Hindu is equated to being anti-another religion. We need to correct this perception. I agree that the fundamentalists on either side have contributed to this perception but can we let such elements highjack our thinking?
Religion is a touchy subject on which everyone holds an opinion. When you choose to voice it, you need to be balanced and accommodating rather than be judgmental and defiant. For example, when we rightly choose to condemn the atrocities committed in a place like Kandhmal, we should be equally vociferous against the act of forced conversions. Had we done it, a lot of sufferings that happened might never have happened.

One of my friends called me a sucker for Govinda brand movies when I trashed Firaq. My problem, as I told him, was not with the presentation (it might have been factual) but with the bias that I resent.


FromSpace said...

This article shows trend but does not offer any reason why it is happening. This is what I think:
Though the facts stated in the blog are right. Most of these films you mentioned are post Babri era and many filmed after 2002( year of Godhra riots). If you look in the recent past Hindus had an upper hand in all the riots in last 15 years. This has created sort of victim face for them while Hindus as aggressors. Eventually these movies reflects the prevailing trends. Now deviating from the topic, all these problems based on religion,caste, region etc are more deeply connected to non-availability of resources to ever burgeoning population. With almost 75% population having no stake in development, infrastructure and other aspects it is bound to have people who would always be ready for rioting. I see India heading for a large scale civil war in next decade.

Sensible Garbage said...

@FromSpace: Very true. Resources do play a major role in increasing the discord. I hope your civil war prediction doesn't come true!

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