In this last week Jashn-e-Azadi has been in the news again, sparked off by the cancellation of a screening scheduled at the Symbiosis university in Pune. In the attendant fuss that always accompanies such incidents, one story keeps cropping up. On twitter, on television, and on the net. This refers to the cancellation of a screening of the film ‘And the world remained silent’, at an undergraduate college in Delhi in August 2007, and the role of Jashn-e-Azadi (and its makers, I suppose) in edging out this film.
That there was no truth in this allegation was made clear only a few days later by Sanjay Muttoo, visiting faculty at the same college, but this clarification from the teachers who had scheduled the screenings has obviously had little effect. (Truth, as we have heard said sometimes, is no defence!)
This week a respectable Mumbai newspaper, the DNA, once again repeated the same old story of how a screening of ‘And the world remained silent’ was pushed out by Jashn-e-Azadi. This falsehood was accompanied by a twitter rush that tried to reinforce that story. Obviously, there would be some people who may think there is some truth in the allegation. Sanjay Muttoo, who still teaches at the college, wrote a letter of clarification to the DNA, but it seems not to have found place there. He has now mailed us a copy, and we share it with those who have followed the exciting life of Jashn-e-Azadi!
Invoking the memory of a past event often necessitates the invoking of a counter-memory. I refer to the sequence of events Aditya Raj Kaul narrates to contend that a screening of Ashok Pandit’s film “And the World Remained Silent” in Delhi’s Kamla Nehru College was conspiratorially cancelled at the behest of “some powers”. He goes on to say that this was done to facilitate the screening of Sanjay Kak’s film Jashn e Azadi instead but “the Delhi police asked Kak not to break the law and the screening was cancelled.”
Implicit in this argument are some erroneous assumptions which I would like to contest invoking a `counter-memory’. Referring to Ashok Pandit’s film, Kaul says, “On the eve of the screening, the organisers called it off”. In stating this he would like us to believe that the college authorities had actually scheduled a screening of ‘And the World Remained Silent’ on August 24 and later reneged on this commitment. In fact, this allegation was also made by Rashneek Kher in a post on the Sarai Reader-List way back in August 2007. As visiting faculty in the department of journalism in Kamla Nehru College then and the person who had invited Sanjay Kak to screen his film ‘Jashn e Azaadi’, I cross-checked the facts with Anubha Yadav, the then Teacher in Charge responsible for taking decisions regarding screenings. She acknowledged that a request for screening Ashok Pandit’s film had been made but was quite emphatic in denying that the college had agreed to screen his film on August 24. So, the question of `some powers’ making sure that the screening of Ashok Pandit’s film was cancelled to accommodate Sanjay Kak’s film just did not arise.
Aditya Raj Kaul goes on to say that “as expected, the Delhi police asked Kak not to break the law and the screening was cancelled.” I am curious to know how the Delhi Police got to know in the first place that Mr Kak’s film was to be screened in Kamla Nehru College. It wasn’t a great secret but I wonder if the Delhi Police as a matter of routine policing monitors each and every film screening that each college organizes. Having agreed to screen the film, would the college authorities in some moment of insanity have themselves informed the police and invoked a direction from them not to do so? Or was it that activists from ‘Roots in Kashmir’ complained to the police and got the screening of Sanjay Kak’s film cancelled ? This question begs an answer, an answer that might contain clues to why the police asked Kak to cancel the screening.
Kaul says that Jashn e Azadi’ has “been denied a public screening certificate from the censor board.” I am quite intrigued by this statement of his. As far as I know and I have checked this up with Sanjay Kak, he has not once applied for a censor certificate. So, where does the question of his film being “denied a public screening certificate from the censor board” arise? Is Kaul just ill informed or has he been too lazy to verify his facts……or is he choosing to deliberately peddle a lie? I will be happy to be corrected if Kaul can substantiate this claim of his. Till that happens, I will continue to wonder if this is a tactical move in the larger gameplan of trying to attack the film using the bogey of ‘illegality’ whenever it is scheduled for a screening to try and make it invisible in the public domain?
Sanjay Muttoo, New Delhi Feb 2, 2012