History uncensored

Ayushman Jamwal
The Indian freedom struggle, the laboratory of our democracy is etched in every Indian’s mind. The carnage, the bloodshed, the thirst for power and the fight for liberation has played out in our history books in schools and colleges, but namely via our potent popular culture. Multiple films, TV shows, plays, documentaries and songs have kept the fairytale alive of how an enslaved people united under one banner and fought to emancipate themselves from the yolk of colonialism.
The Emergency is one chapter of contemporary Indian history where our hard fought democracy was suspended and the nation rallied against dictatorship under Congress rule. Similar to the Indian freedom struggle, my generation did not experience it, yet neither our education system nor popular culture has given us a great insight into what happens when the Constitution is suspended to accommodate the whims of those in power. For years, India’s youth and the masses at large have not been shown that slice of history where democracy was crippled by a Prime Minister who wanted to hold power even after her legitimacy as a public servant was dismissed.
Beyond the books and documentaries, National award winning filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar is bringing that time to the grand stage of Bollywood through ‘Indu Sarkar’. The movie tells the story of a fearless woman who braves the hardship of Emergency and joins others like her to fight back. The trailer also has references to forced sterilisations, mass jailing of civilians, police torture, media blackouts and rampant slum clearances which marked the period of absolute dictatorial rule. Actor Neil Nitin Mukesh dons the role of Sanjay Gandhi drunk on power, laying down diktats on how to run the country. The trailer also shows how citizens rallied with protests, underground newspapers, courting arrest via demonstrations to reclaim their Republic.
The Congress has already dubbed ‘Indu Sarkar’ as BJP backed propaganda demanding a pre-screening from the CBFC. Already on the ropes in the electoral boxing ring, the Congress fears the political effect of another Bhandarkar film achieving success and acclaim. A dark part of their long reign of India is poised to be refreshed and exposed before audiences and voters old and young.
It is ironic that the leaders of the ‘anti-Intolerance’ brigade demand the film be edited to their liking, but can the Congress deny Indian history? Can any Congress leader or senior journalist call Sanjay Gandhi a man of humility, a benevolent politician or spin the Emergency as a necessary move for national interest? Useless politicking around the Gandhi family continues to be the Congress’ calling card. Even on the fringes of power they believe the name is their strongest political weapon.
The Congress’ stand on ‘Indu Sarkar’ must refresh their memory of ‘Kissa Kursi Ka’, the political satire by Director and Ex-Congress leader Amrit Nahata which poked fun at Indira and Sanjay Gandhi as well as their inner circle. After Nahata submitted the film to the CBFC in 1975, the then Information and Broadcasting minister Vidya Charan Shukla got all the negatives destroyed on the orders of Sanjay Gandhi. In fact, non other than Congress leader Raj Babbar who starred in the film should remind his party colleagues of how dangerously close they are to a legacy they have been trying to get the nation to forget.
Cinema unleashes the essence of the human condition on all senses. It breathes life into mute pages of history elevating the poignancy of our eternal struggle towards the future. I saw the human despair, loss and chaos of the Gujarat riots in the film ‘Parzania’. I felt the death, destruction and communal fury of the 1993 Mumbai blasts in the film ‘Black Friday’.  In reality, I have witnessed India coming undone only through headlines, debates and news reports. Cinema shows us a portrait of scorched humanity, which breaks through the passive way we absorb the news.
I want to see the Emergency beyond the words and documentary evidence. I want to see Independent India’s second fight for freedom. History’s record of corruption, war, violence, sacrifice, bravery and kindness must resonate in the minds of citizens to strengthen our resolve to safeguard the future. That endeavour will always be more noble than the politics which surrounds it.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here