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Sahmat - Statement, May 23rd, 2002

Writers and Artists to Unveil a Symbolic Structure of Wali's Mazar
Forum For Communal Harmony - Bicholim, Goa
Press Release, May 23rd, 2002

The Forum for Communal Harmony is deeply distressed at the news of police seizure of a video cassette, Hey Ram, directed by Gopal Menon, which was being screened in Velim on 21 May 2002.

The Forum has viewed the video cassette, Hey Ram, and is convinced that it is a very human document. It has very consciously placed the carnage in Gujarat in the perspective of Gandhiji^"s philosophy of communal harmony and calls for Hindu-Muslim unity. It raises human issues. It is based mainly on interviews of victims of violence in Gujarat. The brunt of the criticism of those interviewed is not against any particular community. Their appeal is to humanity. Their anger is against the police, whom they accuse of direct complicity in acts of violence and refusal to take action against perpetrators of violence. There is acknowledgement of an instance of a Muslim family finding refuge in a Hindu household. The victims themselves speak of communal brotherhood and their determination to live in the land of their birth. There are shots of peace marches for communal harmony and an end to violence. The entire approach is to rouse human compassion, stress national unity, and point out that such acts of violence amount to genocide and are acts fascism, which need to be resisted for our very survival as a nation of multiple hues.

India is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This Convention defines genocide as follows: "In the present convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, such as:

    a) Killing members of the group;

    b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group^‰"

What has happened in Gujarat are acts of planned genocide and the people of India have a right to know the truth. The police have claimed that exhibition of the video cassette has resulted in offence under Sections 153-A and 153-B of the Indian Penal Code. These two Sections relate to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth or residence, language etc., and doing acts prejudicial to National Integration. The actions of the police are patently illegal and high-handed.

This is a matter of serious concern, because it is part of a series of actions against BJP-led governments, at the Centre and the State, against freedom of expression. One of the most dramatic examples is the Tehelka exposure episode. Those who exposed the very vital issue of the corruption in our defence system and the threat to our national security are being harassed in different ways, while the perpetrators of the crime are being shielded. These are actions against the freedom of expression, a fundamental right under the Indian constitution.

The recent communal violence in Gujarat is qualitatively different in character from all previous ones since Independence. As Arundhati Roy writes in her article in Outlook, of 6th May 2002, with reference to the responsibility of Congress-ruled Governments in the Centre and States, when they were in power:

"It is true that the Congress party has sinned, and grievously, and for decades together. But it has done by night what the BJP does by day. It has done covertly, stealthily, hypocritically and shamefacedly, what the BJP does with pride. And this is an important difference."

The Forum for Communal Harmony believes that, without freedom of expression, there can be no communal harmony, no end to violence, no democracy. We are deeply concerned, because the illegal seizure of the video cassette Hey Ram, by the police, under the present political environment in the country, augurs ill for Goa, which has been free from such inhumanity as we have witnessed in Gujarat.


Adv. Amrut Kansar
Ramesh Gauns
V. Gadgil

Best wishes,