Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Indian Left and Freedom of Expression

Mayuresh Didolkar writes:

To truly appreciate the scale of the attack on Freedom of Expression (FoE) that the Jadavpur incident represents, you have to see ‘Buddha in a Traffic Jam’. I think most of the social media discourse about the movie is misleading as it refers the movie as anti-naxal or anti-left, and hence the battle for its screening as a battle between red and saffron in a manner of speaking. Actually the movie is neither of these. It is a microscopic, almost anthropological, look at how the poorest people of India are hard done to by evil corporates on one side and the militants on the other. Vivek turns his creative eye on the right wing hooliganism like the Mangalore pub incident, where women were attacked for wearing skimpy clothes. He is also critical of the counter insurgency movements like Salwa Judum, showing how often the ground levels of both Naxal and Salwa Judum are in cahoots to target the poor people. That intellectuals supporting terrorism and NGO activists are in bed with the militants is no secret either. As the movie cuts back and forth between the metro where college professors talk revolution, and the harsh, arid landscapes of rural India, we realise there are no heroes, only victims. That, argues Vivek, is the true tragedy of this conflict.

What the movie refuses to do, is to portray the cold blooded Naxallites as messiahs of the poor, like in the 2012 film ‘chakravyuh’ where Om Puri’s Naxal leader is seen telling to Abhay Deol to distribute money earmarked for buying guns to the poor. That does not happen in real life. You cannot call a movie right leaning or anti left just because it refuses to fabricate lies. Vivek’s own credentials as a right winger (Or Sanghi if you will) are iffy at best. After all, less than 18 months ago, his wife and eminent actress, Pallavi Joshi, resigned from the FTII in protest. One of the reasons for the protest, as we all know, was NDA government appointing Gajendra Chouhan as the Chairman.

So here is a movie that reflects the counter insurgency movement and the right wing extremists in an extremely unflattering light, made by a moviemaker with no particular political leanings, and yet the activists at Jadavpur nearly killed the filmmaker when he landed in their den to screen his movie. When you reflect on this, the true extent of left fascism and intolerance will dawn upon you.