En Dino Muzaffarnagar (2014) is distressing in its narrative on communal violence, where it shows how little a riot has to do with a single incident but is a long brewing cauldron of conflict. Shubhradeep Chakravorty’s last film was screened in a private screening in Shadipur, West Delhi, earlier this week, honouring the filmmaker’s second death anniversary.
A former journalist with Doordarshan, Chakravorty turned filmmaker after the 2002 Godhra riots. Over the next 10 years, he would go on to make five documentaries on communalism – Godhra Tak (2003), Encountered on a Saffron agenda (2009) (on fake encounters in Gujarat, including Sadik Jamal, Javed Seikh, Ishrat Jahan and Shorabuddin Seikh), Out of Court settlement (2012)(on the attack, intimidation and murders of lawyers defending terror accused, including Shahid Azmi, and After the Storm (2012) (on the stories of seven youth who were acquitted of terror charges after several years in custody) – all of which refused to buy into “state truths”. Chakravorty passed away in August 2014, suffering a massive brain haemorrhage at the age of 42.
En Dino Muzaffarnagar on the 2013 riots, which had claimed over 60 lives, was the first time that Chakravorty had approached the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC); CBFC refused to clear the film then. In April this year, CBFC Chairman Pahlaj Nihalani in an order denied certification to the film, claiming that the Ministry of Home Affairs had opined that the film was “highly provocative and incites communal disharmony.’ Meera Chaudhary, Chakravorty’s wife and co-director of the film, is currently fighting a legal battle in the Delhi High court against the ‘ban’ on the film.
The 2 hour-27 minute film includes interviews with victims of the riots, persons accused of participating in the riots, people from neighbouring villages as well as footage sourced from local reporters and stringers about the rising communal tensions and violence in the days before and after the riots. Footage of excited mobs talking about attacking a particular community, and images of the destruction left behind are contrasted with stories of people from both communities who took a stand and helped in saving the people being attacked. The documentary also includes interviews with leaders from the Uttar Pradesh farmers’ movement, about the impact of the riots on the local economy, and the role of political leaders who “took advantage” of the situation and “got votes” by fanning the flames. The interviews of the families of the victims from both communities and the persons accused of participating in the violence also show the stark realities of the ingrained biases and emotional divide among the people living next to each other in the same village.
In the introduction to the film at the screening, Chaudhary spoke of how the filmmaker wanted to show how communalism is not about one incident but has a long history and context. “Organisations like the VHP and ABVP have interfered in every screening of his previous films, on Godhra riots, and now Muzaffarnagar,” she said, “We wanted to screen the film initially in central Delhi but no one was willing to take the risk of some protests or attack by goons.” The organisers, therefore, kept the local police station informed of the screening.