Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai: The Riots Weren’t Just About Religion
Main Mussalmanon ko chetavni de raha hun, ki Gujarat shayad aap bhool gaye honge par Muzaffarnagar aap nahi bhule honge. (I am warning Muslims - you may have forgotten Gujarat but you wouldn’t have forgotten Muzaffarnagar)
— Praveen Togadia, VHP Leader, July 2014
If the Jat Mahapanchayat is allowed, to Khuda kasam, Muzaffarnagar main ek Hindu baccha bhi zinda nahi bach payega. (Not even one Hindu child will be alive in Muzaffarnagar.)
— Qader Rana, BSP Leader, Before the Riots
Nakul Singh Sawhney’s documentary Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai has created waves, not least for the ABVP’s attempts to shut down screenings in Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. So, The Quint felt the documentary warranted a critical look.
The 2-hour 16-minute-long documentary certainly doesn’t pull any punches about its premise – that the riots were caused by the political powers that be.
In a straight, cutting tone, the documentary argues that those who benefited the most from the violence that led to the deaths of 100 people and the displacement of 80,000 people were the political parties, the mill owners and the upper castes.
Kyun dange hote hain? Koi ghatna hoti hai aur prashasan apna kaam nahi karta, tab janta ko majboor hokar maa beti ki ijjat ke liye road par aana padta hai, kisi ko danga karne ka shauk nahi hai. (Why do riots occur? When there is an incident and the administration does nothing, people are forced onto the streets to protect the honour of their mothers and sisters, no one enjoys rioting.)
— Amit Shah, BJP, April 2014
Hindu kisi ko chhedta nahi lekin koi chhedega to chhodta nahi. (A Hindu provokes none, but if provoked he doesn’t spare either)
— Ram Pratap Chauhan, BJP, November 2013
It’s difficult to present the dramatic events that transpired in 2013 without a certain degree of emotional manipulation and ‘Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai’ succumbs to this as well. This is reflected in the background score and the use of children and the elderly to present the story.
But the documentary also manages to move between the dramatic and the dispassionate telling of horrific violence. The narrators often share their stories in a distant manner as if the trauma and loss aren’t of their own experience but are part of a haunting tale they were told.
Do Hindu bacchon ko tadpa tadpa ke, behrehmi ke saath aur Muslim Jihad ke naare lagate hue, maara gaya. Aur parshasan ki neend ab bhi nahi tooti. (Two Hindu boys were mercilessly tortured. The mob shouted slogans of Muslim Jihad and killed them. But the administration has not woken up)
— Sadhvi Prachi, BJP Leader, Before the Riots
Watching the film, you get the feeling that the riots were as much about Hindu-Muslim tensions as they were about the interplay of religion with caste, class, and gender. For instance, upper-caste Muslims (Muslim Jats) were largely unaffected by the violence. Most of the violence was directed at poor, lower caste Muslim agricultural labourers by upper caste Hindu Jats.
The film also makes clear that the biggest victims of the riots were women. It does so by demonstrating that women were harassed and assaulted by men regardless of religion, caste and class. This is contrasted with the perceptions of local Hindu men who believe that it was the Muslims who harassed and molested “their” women.
The documentary also tries to highlight the efforts being made by people from within the region to re-establish peace and erase communal fault lines.
In the end, the viewer comes away with an understanding that as Muzaffarnagar burned, it was the ruling classes and castes, regardless of who was in power, who reaped the economic and political harvest.
Agar hamari kisi harkat se Mulayam Singh ya BJP dono jeet jaate hain, to abhi to hamari naak aadhi kati hai, iske baad puri kattegi, phir aap iss layak nahi rahenge ki aap yahan chehra utha karke aur naak rakh karke aap chal sakein. (We are partially wounded right now, but because of our mistakes, if either Mulayam Singh or BJP, wins, that will completely destroy us)
— Hakimuddin Qasmi, Secretary, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, After the Riots
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