Director Hansal Mehta, whose upcoming film, Shahid, tells the story of slain human rights activist Shahid Azmi, is amused by the recent circular issued by the Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde. The letter, sent to all states and Union Territories, urges them to “ensure that no innocent Muslim youth is wrongfully detained in the name of terror,” takes Mehta aback.
“It’s sad that he had to make an effort to request states to grant the citizens the rights they should enjoy anyway, in a free country,” says Mehta. His film deals with the same issue raised by the ministry, and he feels that Azmi’s life was a standing example of a faulty bureaucracy. “It’s not about religion,” says Mehta, adding, “Leaders use religion as a tool to further their vested interest in electoral politics. My theory is that defenceless people are soft targets,” says Mehta.
Shahid chronicles the struggles of Azmi, who was killed in 2010 by unidentified assailants at his office. “My film is about innocent people who are made to suffer in jail. The story of Shahid’s inspiring life is an essential viewing in these times of strife, discord and mistrust. It taught me to be fearless and to never shy away from standing up for my values,” says Mehta.