We are not your monkeys: VHP angry with Patwardhan

BY KOUNTEYA SINHA

THE ASIAN AGE 10 FEBRUARY 2002

www.asianageonline.com
He is one of India’s greatest documentary filmmakers with films like Business As Usual on fund raising for Bangladesh refugees, Waves Of Revolution on the anti-corruption movement in Bihar which led to a state of emergency being declare in India, Prisoners Of Conscience on the political prisoners in India before, during, and after the emergency, the award-winning A Time To Rise on the efforts of Indian immigrant farm-workers in Canada to form a union, and In Memory Of Friends on the efforts of a group of Sikhs and Hindus to rebuild communal harmony in strife-hit Punjab, to his credit. ‘ But the filmmaker now seems to have annoyed many with his direct investigative subjects.

The VHP is up in arms against award-winning documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan and has called for the withdrawal of his films We are not Monkeys and In the Name of God, from being screened at the American Museum of National History, on the condition that it distorts history and shows Hinduism in poor light. The two documentaries, which were filmed prior to the demolition of the Babri Masjid, focuses on the campaign waged by VHP to destroy the Masjid and tries to unravel what motivated the Hindu group in demolishing the 16th century mosque in Ayodhya, said to have been built by Babar, the first Mughal Emperor of India.

VHP branch of America in a letter to the director of public affairs of the museum, Elaine Charnov, said the documentaries “would not only mislead the viewer because of gross distortions of facts but also help . advance politically motivated Marxist agenda.”

Declaring Mr Patwardhan as a “self-proclaimed Marxist whose agenda appears to be to manipulate rightly or wrongly every social, religious or cultural issue and present it as a class struggle between haves and have nots or between dalits and upper caste people and then offer Marxist ideology as a solution to resolve the dispute” general-secretary of the Parishad, Gaurag G. Vaishnav said “In one of the videos, Mr.Patwardhan had attempted to demonstrate that Rama, the main character in the epic Rarnayana, was an Aryan who enslaved Dravidian people and called them his monkeys. ” The documentary is creating artificial division among the people of India, imposed on racial lines,” the letter said.

In the second documentary, the letter says, “he attempts to distort the history of India and blame’s a large segment of the Hindu population for the destruction of the Babri structure which was not a mosque even by the standards of Islam. It totally ignores the entire history behind the structure and attempts to create division among Hindus and Muslims of India.” ” We fail to understand how these two documentaries relate to the objective of the exhibition,” Mr Vaishnav wrote.

However, Directorate of Film Festival sources revealed the films in question were very well appreciated in all the film festivals it has been screened in. Kay Armatage of the Toronto Film Festival had said, “The screen is electric with religious fervour, masses of people swarming through the streets, gathering in rallies, or violently rioting. This is investigative cinema documentary at its dynamic best.” Another critic had written, “Hard-hitting, provocative, revealing look at secularism in India under siege from militants on both sides. Patwardhan explores this tragedy is this lucid, courageous film that allows supporters of both sides to have their say. A documentary well worth seeking out.”

Directorate sources said Mr Patwardhan has consistently created thought provoking movies during his 20-year-plus career.

Petition in support of screenings at the AMNH 
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