Meet Mangal Kunjam, the real life journalist who asks tough questions in Newton
Mangal Kunjam , a 26-year-old tribal journalist in the Maoist-hit Bastar, is a happy man after Newton, the film in which is played the brief yet important role of a journalist. Newton has been declared as official entry for Oscars from India.
In the film, Kunjam asks a very important question from the inspector general (IG) who came to visit the polling booth, “ Aap jin Maovadiyon ka samarpan karvaate hain –fir unhee maovadiyon ko badookh dekar unhee se ladvaate hain..aisa kyun ?”
In 2005, when Salwa Judum – a government-sponsored vigilante movement to fight Maoists – started, more than 6,000 tribal youths and surrendered Maoists worked as special police officers (SPOs). In 2011, the Supreme Court banned Salwa Judum and ordered the state government to stop using SPOs. It was later observed that SPOs are used as assistant constables in a special force – district reserve guard (DRG).
Kunjam is working in the core Maoist area for last five years and is known for his nuanced reports. He has faced continuous threats from security forces for reporting fake encounters in the Dantewada region.
“In the movie Rajkumar Rao played a role of ‘imaandaar’ presiding officer of a booth. The same thing is happening with everyone who is honest in Bastar. I have been threatened several times and most of police officers still brand me as Maoist just because I am an honest journalists working in the region,” said Kunjam.
Kunjam is the only person from Bastar who got a role in the film.
Talking about how he got this role, Kunjam said, “I have a journalist friend in Mumbai, Javed Iqbal, who was close to the director and the writer. They called me when they came for research in Bastar and asked about the ‘real situation’ of Bastar.”
The film has been shot in Dalli Rajahara in Balod district, which is not Maoist affected, because of security reasons.
“ I honestly narrated the whole situation and later they decided to give me the role in the film. I got the role of a TV journalist and the director had also given me the freedom to ask any question to IG in the film which I have asked,” told Kunjam.
Kunjam further said that most of the questions which were asked from the tribals in the film by me are not scripted.
“In the film I ask about the benefits of elections and they reply that never think of any benefit the election in this area. This is fact that most of the tribals who are living in Maoists affected area feel that election has never helped them,” said Kunjam.
At many places the election is a farce just like it was depicted in the film. “ When a foreign journalist came to cover the booth in the Maoist affected village , the villagers were forced to come to the election booth for voting which is a reality at many places,” said Kunjam.
“This is reality that tribal are trapped between security forces and Maoists in Bastar,” he added.
“ After the success of the film , which depicts the reality of Bastar, I want that a film should be made of the journalists working in Bastar. Most of the scribes working in this area are threatened and implicated in false cases,” Kunjam said.