Last weekend, I watched Vishal Bhardwaj’s
. It’s been three days since then but still I can’t figure out why some people want to ban/boycott this wonderful film.
I searched the social media for explanations and this page --
-- popped up. The main grouse of the protesters seems to be this: "Haider is a pro-Pakistani film and it "insults" the Indian Army.
There are no owner details on the FB page (no surprises here) but a tagline on the cover photo gives an insight into the owner/owners’ mindset and affiliations: “I am a patriot, I am a Nationalist, I am a born Hindu” (henceforth PNH). Another member of the PNH brigade has a cracker of a suggestion on how to hit the film where it is sure to hurt, at the box office. The PNH writes on the Boycott Haider page, "We must incentivise watching of a patriotic film like Bang Bang by sponsoring tickets for those who are ready to #BoycottHaider!" Truly creative, I must say.
It is true that the Haider does not depict the Indian Army the way the PNHs would like it to be: a benevolent force that can do no wrong. Probably, PNHs want soldiers to carry roses, not guns, in films. Even at the risk of being called "sickular" and several other unimaginative names, let me put it straight: while I believe that the Indian Army is one of the best forces in the world, has done/is doing a lot for the country, is one of the two institutions that still work in this country (the other being the judiciary) and must be respected, one must also accept that the Indian Army’s track record is not without blemish. This holds true for our paramilitary forces and police as well. In fact, no army in the world has a blot-free resume simply because of the kind of job they are expected to do.
In Kashmir, as the film shows, the Indian Army countered terror with its own methods against Pakistan-funded and trained terrorists, supported and used Ikhwanis (who provided intelligence/local knowledge/information about militants to them) and of course, the men in uniform used horrendous tactics to extract information and many a times, made mistakes in identifying the real terrorists and ended up killing innocent people.
Here’s an interesting piece by an officer who served in the Valley in the early 1990s, when militancy was in its peak in the state:
. There is no byline -- the author probably doesn’t want to betray the force he served (which is just as well) -- but doesn’t mince words when he agrees with what the film has shown.
And why talk about Kashmir only? Fortified with the dreaded Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the paramilitary forces have had -- and still do -- several run-ins with citizens in the Northeast also. Remember the photograph of Manipuri women who took to the streets naked to protest against the rape and killing Manorama by soldiers? In Chhattisgarh’s Maoist areas, where the CRPF operates, there have been hundreds of cases of abuse by the men in jackboots. Some are documented, some are not.
It’s high time that people start accepting the reality that places like MAMA II (interrogation centre) existed in Kashmir and its variants still flourish in other parts of the country. Whether one should support such strong-arm tactics or not; whether the Army was/is right in doing so (considering the tough situation it was working under and the brief it got from New Delhi) are a matter of debate and individual opinion.
But as far as the movie is concerned, the director did nothing wrong in showing these incidents in the film. Can a film on holocaust be shown without the gas chambers or the torture scenes? The same attitude (disbelief and anger whenever something goes against the standard belief system), is also seen when the personal lives of Indian political leaders are depicted candidly in movies. While it is okay to show them corrupt and scheming, all hell breaks loose if they are seen in the company their lovers/girlfriends.
It’s high time we realise that we need to confront many truths regarding the Indian Army’s conduct, however uncomfortable they are, and accepting that truth does not make anyone unpatriotic in any way.