Saturday, July 19, 2008

Filmmaker's arrest ignites controversy

The 10th Osian's Cinefan film festival is on in New Delhi but alongwith the films an issue that dominated this year was the arrest of filmmaker, journalist and human rights activist Ajay TG in Chhattisgarh.

Ajay was arrested in May this year allegedly for being a Maoist sympathiser. Ajay has made films on Dr Binayak Sen, another activist under arrest in Chhattisgarh. His own arrest now has sparked off a campaign in the film community.

"The methods used by the Chhattisgarh government, and especially of the Salwa Judum movement are as antithetical to the Indian Constitution as are the methods of the Naxalites. However, had I lived in Bhilai and not in Bangalore, I might have not have been free to say as much," said Ram Guha, historian.

"I am with you. I wish I was 30 years younger so I could have physically joined you all in this campaign," said Mrinal Sen, filmmaker.

A self taught filmmaker, Ajay's films reflected life as he saw it around him.

In 2004, while accompanying a PUCL team in Bastar they were detained by Maoists and his camera taken away.

In January this year, during a raid on a Maoist hideout, the police allegedly recovered a letter written by Ajay asking for his camera. On May 8 Ajay was arrested for contacting an 'unlawful' organisation.

The film community is outraged. Filmmakers say after Binayak Sen it's now their turn.

Film-makers who have come from all over to participate in the film festival say it's a much larger issue of curbing their freedom of expression.

They may not have known Ajay TG personally but his struggle has found a resonance with everyone here.

"No FIR, no chargesheet, it's shocking how the Chhattisgarh government thinks it can get away with anything. How can journalists and film-makers not respond to their political and social situations? Does that mean they become Maoists? asked Aruna Vasudev, Director, OSIAN Film Festival.

Under pressure, the Director General of Police says that he will take a relook into the Ajay's case to see if there is a direct link with Maoists or was he arrested on just a technicality and plans to meet him soon.

But that's not enough say filmmakers who are planning "Release Ajay TG" film festivals where his film Anjam on Dr Binayak Sen will be screened.

"First Binayak and now him what is the message that is coming out of Chhattisgarh? asked Amar Kanwar, Filmmaker.

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