Reality bites


Pankaj Shankar?s documentary on Godhra - In The Name

Of Faith - throws up several questions we all need to

answer, feels R AKHILESHWARI 



http://www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/july28/at9.htm



As documentary maker Pankaj Shankar screened his video

film, one waited with trepidation on having to see the

horrors that were committed by one human being on

another. As the film started to roll, eyes filled up

and the mind went numb. Such mindless violence all in

the name of faith. It hurt, even long after the film

ended. The images return to haunt, to question, to

torture. ?Is this government only yours? Isn?t it ours

too?? demands a young woman and it sears your

conscience. Fellow Indians have been reduced to being

non-citizens all because they follow a different

religion? 



Pankaj (34) says this question was the turning point

in his life. He decided to do something to retrieve

what had been snatched from him, that is his religion,

that had made him what he was. ?All of us are

answerable... we have to answer that lady, as Indians

and as human beings... I realised I should take a

stand... I need to speak my mind,? said Pankaj, maker

of the film In the Name of Faith, a short version of

which was screened at Hyderabad recently.



Pankaj had no idea what turn his life would take when

he left Delhi to go to Ahmedabad after Godhra . He had

a story idea in his mind for Channel Four of United

Kingdom. He arrived in Ahmedabad three days after

Godhra. He filmed horror after horror for five days.

On the sixth day, as he was filming a mob on rampage

in Gomtipura area, the police pounced on him. He was

beaten up, his camera broken, taken into custody and

dumped into the police jeep. Protestations, flashing

of the media accreditation card and appeal to reason

did not move the Deputy Commissioner of Police. The

DCP kept Pankaj confined in his jeep for three hours

as it rushed from one area to another in the dark of

the night.



?If police had only done their duty, Gujarat would not

have burned,? said Pankaj. ?That one night and that

one question of that lady transformed me. I then

realised we have to take a stand... we cannot allow

hooligans who claim to be Hindus to take away from us

the sense of who we are... which is we are human

beings first, and Hindus and Muslims later,? he said.

So instead of returning to Delhi after five days with

the footage to do the film for Channel Four, Pankaj

stayed back for 45 days, canning 54 hours of his

encounters with the evil that had Gujarat in its

deadly embrace.



Pankaj, a native of Bihar, was a full-time cartoonist.

With the explosion of satellite/cable TV channels

Pankaj moved to animation and then to documentary

making. He has done many assignments for several

prestigious channels both in India and abroad. Gujarat

proved a turning point in his life. He was forced to

rethink on the truths of life. He decided to adopt a

brother and sister, whose parents were burnt alive in

Sardarpura. ?The ultimate aim of my life is to take

care of these two kids,? he says. 



?Although 90 per cent of the people are not communal,

they don?t speak out. I know they are with me,? he

says and believes by not speaking out we have allowed

hooligans to take over our lives and the country.

In the name of Faith has been shown in just three

cities, Delhi, Calcutta and Hyderabad, but its message

has been carried far and wide. It evoked horror and

sorrow. It shook people. ?How can anyone not cry when

you see the kid crying out of terror... I see my son

in the child,? says Pankaj. But it also inspires him.

?It makes me stronger.?



Along with appreciation for this effort came threats,

harassment and intimidation. Fortunately for him,

film-maker Mahesh Bhatt stood by him. There have been

lucrative offers to buy his footage but he has not

succumbed to them. For, he has other things lined up.

He would like people to chip in to rebuild the future

of Dilawar and Salma (his adopted kids), take back

Hinduism from the hooligans and drive home the point

that all of us are responsible for Gujarat. ?I want to

show the film all over the country. We have to come

face to face with evil... it is a mirror of our fall

as a people,? he says.

(Pankaj Shankar can be contacted at

pankajshankar@yahoo.com)





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