Online Short Docu Festival : 13 - 15 August, 2021
To celebrate India’s 75th Independence Day, a film festival – “Reimagining Citizenship” was organised by Karwan e Mohabbat, the University of York and the Centre for Equity Studies.
On these three days there were stimulating discussions about what being an Indian means today, and what it takes to defend that belongingness. Films that documented. the protests and state repression, and asked fundamental questions about the future of this country were screened online. The festival also featured key voices of the resistance, witnesses and survivors of the repression, and artists who gave the movement its soul.
Session One - Lived ways of resistance
LEMONADE HAS NO RELIGION
“Shikanji ka koi dharm nahi hota, Sir, says Chandan with a shy smile. Meet Chandan, a young man who makes lemonade for community Iftar in Delhi’s New Friends Colony every #Ramzan Meet Lalaji Devendra Arora who waits for Ramzan when his neighbours send Iftar everyday. The shops at Community Centre in New Friends Colony is a symbol of our country syncretic culture and it proves that no matter what, we stand united with love.
THE RAMLEELA OF AMANULLAH KHAN
“I feel blessed to be born in the town of Kunra in Chhatisgarh,” says Amanullah Khan, a garment shop owner who is also plays the very popular role of Ravan in the annual Ramleela.
Varna Balakrishnan in conversation with Meena Kandaswamy
Meena Kandasamy is a poet, fiction writer, translator and activist who was born in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. She has published two collections of poetry, Touch and Ms Militancy, and the critically acclaimed novel, The Gypsy Goddess. Her second novel, When I Hit You, was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018. Her latest novel is Exquisite Cadavers.
INDIA READS, INDIA RESISTS
Fatima Sheikh – Savitribai Phule Library, just 50 meters from the main protest site of Shaheen Bagh. A bus stand converted into a library gave the protest another meaning. People from all walks of life would come and spend time at the library, reading and registering their protest in a revolutionary manner.
INDIA WILL STAND UNITED AGAINST HATE
Amidst the ruins of Delhi Riots 2020, we must also honour the stories of solidarity between communities who refuse to fall prey to the politics of hate. The small town of Malerkotla, farmers join the protests and extend solidarity.
A CELEBRATION OF UNITY #FARMERS PROTESTS
It was a sea of yellow as thousands of women from different parts of Punjab and Haryana joined the protesting farmers at the Bahadurgarh Chowk, Tikri border. For centuries women have been told that their place is within the four walls of the house. On the occassion of #InternationalWomensDay, women activists, farmers and citizens, all stood united against the government and their divisive new farm laws.
Session Two - Cost of resistance
DELHI POGROM 2020 : HUMAN COST
Three activists share their stories of what they experienced when they went to the riot affected areas after the Delhi Pogrom in 2020.
Suroor Mander in conversation with Sasikanth Senthil
Sasikanth Senthil is a former IAS officer who resigned in 2019 citing “disillusionment with the state of democracy in the country”. He has since been a key figure in the dissent against the government over the Citizenship Amendment Act and other issues. He has recently joined the Tamil Nadu Congress.
Suroor Mander is an advocate and human rights activist based in Delhi.
I HAD NOT IMAGINED A MORNING LIKE THIS
Sadia Khan brings the reality of the troubling times of unrest and police brutality to life in a beautiful poem.
HOW DELHI POLICE REACTED TO PRO AND ANTI CAA PROTESTORS
A video that highlights the difference in treatment of anti CAA peaceful protestors and those protesting in favour of CAA by Delhi police
THOSE DARK NIGHTS STILL HAUNT ME
Dr. M A Anwar of Al Hind Hospital, Mustafabad as he recounts the horror of the pogrom in NE Delhi in February, 2020. The 25-bed hospital became the first place of refuge for those grievously injured in the violence left nearly 60 dead and hundreds injured within a week.
Anirban Bhattacharya in conversation with Natasha Narwal
Natasha is an activist associated with the feminist student organisation named Pinjda Tod. She was arrested on May 24 2020 for allegedly engaging in “premeditated conspiracy” in the northeast Delhi riots of February 2020. She was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. After a year of incarceration she was released on bail in June 2021.
Anirban Bhattacharya is a researcher and activist, and the former head of the research team at the Centre for Equity Studies, New Delhi. His work has been centred around political justice labour rights, issues concerning caste and gender based discrimination, minority rights, social protection, migration, and democratic rights at large.
“RUNNING THESE PROTESTS WAS CHILD’S PLAY” – NILOFER SHEIKH
The approx twenty min long film is an essay into the life of a young, Muslim woman, a teacher and mother of two who participated for the first time in a civil society protest. It seeks to see the protest from the point of view of a regular Muslim woman – the regular Muslim woman who led the protests from the front to the utter amazement of the world. It also traces the history, events and moments of the movement contextualising the whole around her specific story.
Session One - Citizenship crisis in Assam
I AM MIYA
‘Miya’ poetry is a reclaiming of one’s Muslim identity by the Bengal-origin Muslims of Assam. It is protest poetry that rebels against oppression and subjugation.Poets and activists from the Muslim community in Assam have found a way to take the derogatory term “Miya” and subvert it. Miya poetry seeks answers to questions of belonging and citizenship. It echoes the fears of a community threatened by exclusion from the NRC
Abdul Kalam Azaad in conversation with Suraj Gogoi and Yasmin Saikia
Abdul is a human rights researcher, community worker, and writer based in Assam. He is currently working on his Ph.D. thesis on Assam’s citizenship crisis at Athena Institute, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He is a co-investigator of the Reimagining Citizenship Project
Suraj Gogoi is a PhD candidate in sociology at National University of Singapore. His doctoral project is about water lives and state making in contemporary Assam.
Professor Yasmin Saikia is the Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and a Professor of History in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at the Arizona State University.
ERODING CITIZENSHIP IN ASSAM
This is the story of the people of the Char islands, 10% of the population of Assam. This film looks them in the eye, listens to their voice, their song and their despair.
THE DIARY OF HAMIDUL ISLAM
Meet Hamidul Islam, a 13-year-old school boy from #Assam. A first generation student from the Char islands, Hamidul’s parents can barely afford his school uniforms, leave alone have a smartphone for him to access online classes. The mid-day meals he used to get in school had become a way to make sure there remains enough food for everyone else at home. As he prepares for the impending floods that may wash away his home, Hamidul is very busy these days. Listen to him as he shares his story.
“WE ARE ADIVASIS, NOT TEA – GARDEN TRIBES”
“We, Orang, Munda, Santhal and Kharias are Adivasis. We demand our rights.” Listen to the powerful voice of Mansukh Sankharika, public secretary of All Adivasi Student’s Association of Assam (AASAA) as he walks us through the lives and history of the Adivasis residing in Assam’s tea-gardens. Officially referred to as ‘tea-garden’ tribes till date, Assam’s tea-garden workers are asking for ST status. While ministers and elected officials refuse to listen to the demands of the Adivasis.
WHO KILLED ZABEDA’S BABY?
What does it mean to lose your home? Your income, savings, family, identity, citizenship? What does it mean to lose your own child…all because of the state’s arbitrary rules and callous human errors? The exclusion of over 41 lakh people in Assam from the National Register of Citizens has led to widespread distress and anxiety amongst the most vulnerable communities in Assam.
Smitana Saikia in conversation with Ashraful Hussain
Smitana is a faculty with the School of Development at Azim Premji University. She completed her Ph.D. from King’s College London. Her doctoral research focused on the longue durée state and identity formation processes in northeast India to understand why certain conflicts reach a resolution while others continue to fester.
Ashraful Hussain is an activist, social worker and politician from the state of Assam. He is the youngest Member of Assam Legislative Assembly projected by All India United Democratic Front, elected in 2021 from Chenga.
THIS EID, A SONG FOR MY FATHER
Meet 16-year-old Saddam Khan from Kharballi Char in Barpeta district of Assam. On the occassion of Eid, he dedicated this song to his father who is stuck in Delhi due to the lockdown. This is a spiritual song known as Murshidi, in Miya dialect, spoken by Bengal origin Muslims.
Session Two - The crisis of citizenship and democracy in India
FLIGHT OF FREEDOM – AZADI KI UDAAN
The kite makers in Lal Kuan in Old Delhi give us a glimpse into the history of the largest kite market in our country. They also remember a time when being a citizen of India meant being free. In the current times, however, there is more fear and anxiety which prevails
MAZHAB – POOJAN SAHIL
Singing of Poojan Sahil that evokes the feelings of hopelessness and despair we see all around, yet gives us hope. Set to the visuals of violence and arson that was witnessed during the Delhi riots of February 2020.
WE WILL SAVE THE CONSTITUTION – VARUN GROVER
Where Varun Grover compares Narendra Modi to an authoritarian father and shares that poetry is the weapon of the vulnerable. “Poetry is a cry for help,” he says. Poetry empowers the self to say, “I have not lost yet…” At Azad Maidan during anti CAA protests and in conversation with Karwan e Mohabbat
Banojyotsana Lahiri in conversation with Harsh Mander
Harsh Mander is a social justice and human rights activists. He works with survivors of mass violence and hunger, as well as homeless persons and street children. Formerly an IAS officer, he is the director of the Centre for Equity Studies, a research organization based in New Delhi. He also served as a special monitor for the National Human Rights Commission to the detention centres for ‘declared foreigners’ in Assam. He is also co-investigator for the Reimagining Citizenship Project.
WHY DO WE NEED KARWAN E MOHABBAT
Harsh Mander, Natasha Badhwar and Navsharan Singh give us a glimpse into the idea behind Karwan e Mohabbat and why we need it in todays time. Surrounded by hate, the people of country need to be made aware of the power of love, compassion and empathy.
STUDENT LEADERSHIP AND THE ANTI CAA PROTESTS – FAHAD AHMED
The film takes a deep dive into the experiences of a young Muslim student activist who was a part of the movement from its inception. It also traces the history, events and moments of the movement that made it a historic movement.
WHO KILLED AMRIT DAS?
Amrit Das was a healthy man when he was picked up arbitrarily and locked up in a Detention Centre in Assam. His sons visited him there and he still seemed healthy, yet he died days later. The family have no post-mortem report and no hope for justice. Why are some Indians in Assam being branded Doubtful-Voters when their names have been on the electoral list throughout their life? Why has the state turned against its own citizens?
Session One - Resistance through Art
THE REVOLUTION WILL BE PAINTED
Meet the band of young artists who started painting on the walls of Jamia Millia University to express their feelings and angst in response to the brutal police crackdown in the university on 15 December, 2019.
MAIN INKAR KARTA HUN
Aamir Aziz echoes the feeling of resistance and protest that surrounded us during the months of CAA protests. Makes us look back at our fight for independence and remember the ‘idea of India’ which was based on the Constitution that promised each citizen equal rights and justice.
THE UNSUBTLE ART OF DISSENT
Varun Grover answers questions you’ve always wanted to ask. How much money does the opposition pay to stand-up comics? When does it become okay to speak nonsense?
Amitanshu Verma in conversation with Varun Grover, Aamir Aziz and Sabika Abbas Naqvi
Varun Grover is a stand-up comic, writer and poet. He won the award for Best Lyricist at the 63rd National Film Awards in 2015. Known for his sharp wit and political musings, Grover is one part of the music-comedy-political satire trio, Aisi Taisi Democracy, along with Rahul Ram and Sanjay Rajoura.
Aamir Aziz is a delhi based poet from Patna. Known for his resistance poetry, he rose to fame with his poem Acche Din Blues. His poem ‘Sab yaad rakha jaega’ eventually went on to become a leading verse in the anti-CAA resistance.
Sabika is a performative poet and the Founder of Sar-e-Rahguzar: Poetry on the Streets. She is a story-teller, translator, alternative educator and campaigner. With two of her books set to release, she is soon going to be an author as well. Her work revolves around intersectionality, gender, minority, LGBTQI+ , and other progressive rights. She writes in Urdu, Hindi, Hindustani, and English. She believes in subverting public spaces with her poetry and story-telling. As an educator she helps create inclusive school curriculum based on social and emotional learning
SHAHEEN BAGH – A PROTEST THAT INSPIRED A NATION
The Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest led by Muslim women reaffirmed that the people of India understand their Constitutional rights and can will fight not only for themselves but for others too. Shaheen Bagh has shown us a people’s democracy in action. Shaheen Bagh will live forever.
BELLA CIAO – Punjabi version by Poojan Sahil #FarmersProtests
Listen to the melodious voice of Poojan Sahil as he pays tribute to the farmers of Punjab protesting on Delhi’s Tikri border, against the 3 new farm bills. After facing water cannons and lathis of the police, the farmers continue their protest to become symbols of resilience and bravery.
MAIN HAR SHEHER KA SHAHEEN BAGH HUN – FARAH NAQVI
A poem recited by Farah Naqvi as she pays a tribute to all the brave women protestors
Session Two - Solidarity as Resistance
INDIA – A LOVE STORY
The story of Sharda Baruah’s life and love is also the story of the best version of India. An India we have been, one we are capable of being again. In 1958, she married U L Baruah, but this love between a Hindu woman and a Muslim man transcended way beyond religious identities.
RIGHT TO AN EQUAL LOVE
In a joyful, glorious celebration of love and marriage in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, 15 transgender persons married the men they love. The ceremonies were inspired by a mix of Hindu tradition and #Bollywood. For once, those who have been relegated to the margins of mainstream family life and celebrations, created a space for themselves and for their own loves.
GEORGINA LAZAR AND HER URDU BIBLE
Story of Tai-ji of Turkman Gate or Georgina Lazar who reads her bible in Urdu.
THE UNITED COLOURS OF BASANT
Do the colours of nature have a religion? Can we allow the joy of seasons to be tainted by bigotry? “My mother used to make two pigtails for me and decorate them with yellow ribbons, as if to admire her child as installation art…” On Basant Panchmi , Madan Gopal Singh sings about the universal joy of immersing oneself in the beauty of the Universe
Harsh Mander in conversation with Prof Apoorvanand and Navsharan Singh
Harsh Mander is a social justice and human rights activists. He works with survivors of mass violence and hunger, as well as homeless persons and street children.
Apoorvanand teaches Hindi at the Department of Hindi, University of Delhi. He is a literary and cultural critic. Has two books of essays in criticism and several articles published in major literary journals.
Navsharan Singh is a Delhi-based researcher and human rights activist. She has worked and published extensively on informal sector workers, especially women workers and the precarity of their work and lives.