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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Excellence Vs Perversity. Divakar S Natarajan's Sathyagraha.

A bare account of Divakar S Natarajan’s “no excuses”, ultra peaceful, individual, non-partisan, sathyagraha against corruption and for the idea of the rule of law.
Now,well into its second decade.

In the winter of 1990, I conceptualised, researched, scripted, directed, presented and produced a 37-minute documentary for Doordarshan in Urdu, entitled, “Hyderabad. August 1948.”

Responding to the horrendous communal riots that erupted in Hyderabad in the wake of the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign in 1990, I traced the course of events leading to the “police action” in the erstwhile Hyderabad state and brought to light the role of forgotten Muslim heroes, who had valiantly opposed the Nizam’s anachronistic fantasies.

One of them was the brilliant young editor of Imroose, Shoebullah Khan. He was slaughtered by the Razakars of the demagogue Qasim Rizwi.

The film received excellent reviews in the Press. The Hindustan Times called it a “fine documentary,"

From Fine documentary

The Hindu, New Delhi explained to its readers, why it found the film, “ a viewer’s delight and a maker’s pride”.,

From The Hindu, New Delhi Rediscovering The Lost Hero

Nikhat Kazmi, in the Times of India, oracularly titled her piece, “The Trouble with Truth”.

From The Trouble With Truth Times of India

The Indian Express,

From The Indian Express, Hyderabad

The Pioneer,

From The Pioneer, New Delhi Of unknown fighters

The Deccan Chronicle,

From VH Desai Deccan Chronicle

, Qaumi Awaz, all recognised the value of documenting an important aspect of our freedom struggle, which had been forgotten.

From VH Desai The Hindu Hyderabad

From Newstime Hyderabad

Among the most epiphanic reviews of my work was that by Dr Sanjaya Baru,appointed by the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh as his handpicked Media Adviser.

From Resurrecting History

Freedom fighters who had known the late Shoebullah Khan, welcomed the film as
a significant contribution to the cause of communal understanding and harmony.

Kaloji Narayana Rao's Open Letter To Prime Minister Of India And Chief Minister, Andhra Pradesh

Historians of the calibre of Dr Bipan Chandra commended the painstaking attention to research, detail and documentation.

The Oral History Project of the Jawaharlal Museum and Library was alerted to record some of the forgotten heroes who had featured in the documentary.

The documentary had also been instrumental in my successful campaign for a Svatantra Senani pension for the martyr’s widow, under the Chairmanship of Dr Abid Hussain, with Dr Sanjaya Baru and several senior journalists as signatories, more than 40 years after his martyrdom.

Doordarshan’s response, triggered by the venality of some middle level officials and tolerated by the lethargy of higher ups, was unfortunately, a study in contrast.

* Doordarshan attempted to vandalise my work by asking for arbitrary cuts. It took me more than two years, most of which I had to spend in cheap hotels in Delhi, to get them to cease and desist.

* This experience bankrupted me. It was a body blow from which I have not yet recovered.

* The film was finally telecast without any cuts but abruptly and without any prior promotion or notice.

* When the film was finally telecast, it received only favourable attention, reinforcing the unconscionable nature of the delay.

* Requests from several responsible people, including Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee (then leader of opposition, Lok Sabha) and Padma Vibhushan Kaloji Narayana Rao, that the film be dubbed and displayed in other national languages were ignored.

* The documentary’s contribution to the cause of national history and communal harmony was not allowed any formal national recognition, awards, etc.

* Doordarshan lost the master tape containing the documentary.

* Finally, not only has Doordarshan not invited me for any projects in all these years, but has also truncated the concepts I presented and provided an unworkable and potentially calamitous pittance as budget.

On the 9th or 10th of September 1996 - around 5.30pm, the Commissioner of I & PR, Government of AP, informed me that the former CM Shri N Chandrababu Naidu was rushing to Bombay to collect funds for cyclone relief the following day and asked me whether I would be able to make a film to help the Hon’ble CM’s efforts.

Eager to be of service to the devastated people of the coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh, I accepted the challenge - and delivered.

Enthused by the extraordinarily positive results produced by my creative effort, the former CM (whom I had never met ) was thoughtful enough to call for me and to personally thank me.

In an interview to The Hindu recently, (April 4, 2003) the former Chief Minister has said that the 1994 cyclone was the first of the two "major" crises that he had faced in his tenure.

During that occasion, I took the opportunity to mention some of the problems I was experiencing with the Doordarshan management and requested his intervention and support.

The former Chief Minister agreed and wrote to then Minister of Information & Broadcasting Shri C M Ibrahim and later to Shri Jaipal Reddy (3-6- ’97)

From Hon'ble Cheif Minister of Andhra Pradesh Shri Chandrababu Naidu to Jaipal Reddy, Minister of Informa

Despite the fact that Jaipal Reddy and the Home Minister Shri Indrajit Gupta had watched and had recorded their appreciation for “Hyderabad. August 1948.” nothing positive happened.

From Shri Jaipal Reddy, Leader Of Opposition, Rajya Sabha

From Shri Indrajit Gupta Ex Home Minister to Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee

About a year after its non-response to the former CM’s recommendations, my various representations and article in the editor’s page of the Hindustan Times

From The Dross In Doordarshan

and an op-ed article by the media correspondent of The Indian Express,Kavaree Bamzai

From Kavaree Bamzai Indian Express

DD sent me a notice for breach of contract on precisely the same issues contained in the former CM’s recommendations.

The prosecution/persecution on this matter (for a value of Rs 25,000/-) continues to this day.

The former CM wrote again (17-5-98) to Smt Sushma Swaraj, recommending that I be commissioned as “filmmaker of acknowledged eminence” to make films to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Indian Independence.

From AP CM to MIB

He wrote once more to Smt Sushma Swaraj on 17-7-98.

From AP CM to MIB I

In a welcome and unexpected affirmation of the documentary, “Hyderabad. August 1948”, the BJP advertised, “Our Martyr and Patriot Shoebullah Khan! The state of Hyderabad will not forget your sacrifice”. (The Deccan Chronicle 21-8-98.)

From Sathyagraha

Now the then state BJP president and Member of Parliament , Shri Ch Vidyasagar Rao, also endorsed the CM’s recommendations.(ltr dtd 10-9-98 to Smt Sushma Swaraj and Dtd 16 - 12 -98 to Shri Pramod Mahajan.)

In the absence of any results, I travelled to Delhi and could not find any of my papers on file.

Shri Yerrannaidu MP, several serving and past members of the NDA ministry, the Speaker of Lok Sabha, the late Shri GMC Balayogi and others revived the matter and requested that a favourable decision be taken “as a special case”.

This persuasion has not borne any positive result.
Some of the finest contemporary creative minds including Sarvashri Soumitra Chatterji, Shyam Benegal, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Sidharth Kak, Om Puri, Jabbar Patel, Jahnu Baruah, Derek Malcolm, Jean Claude Carriere endorsed the former CM’s representations in a petition to the Prime Minister,

From Filmmakers petition to Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee

India's editorial class did not support this petition.

Padma Vibhushan Shri Kaloji Narayana Rao (18-01-2001)wrote a moving open letter to the then Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee and the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Shri Chandrababu Naidu.

India's editorial class, barring an honourable exception, saw it fit to censor this most distinguished call for justice.

The Confederation of Indian Industry - Southern region (July 13,2000), The Andhra Pradesh Union of Working Journalists, have all represented to the former Chief Minister on my behalf without any avail.

In October 2002, I met the PS to the former Governor of Andhra Pradesh seeking an appointment to meet the Governor.

After four months of meeting with this officer, almost thrice every week, I realised he had no intention of letting me meet the Governor.

I then met the Lady Governor at a concert and gave her a detailed petition.

I received an appointment the very next day. The former Governor gave me a most patient hearing. But nothing happened.

Last August I met the former Chief Minister, in his new capacity as Leader of Opposition, and showed him how his representations on my behalf had been well founded, reasonable, phenomenally popular and utterly ineffective.

He promptly shot off another letter to the Minister for Information & Broadcasting.

I am not aware of any response.

Prasar Bharathi’s conduct of the 50th year celebrations had been termed a , “50th year racket” by Sevanti Ninan , biographer of Shri N Chandrababu Naidu and media columnist of The Hindu. (August 9, 1998).

From 50th year racket

Other senior media columnists (Amita Malik, Indian Express) had similar views.

While my documentary was reasonably well reviewed, the editorial class has been strangely muted in responding to my unwillingness to submit to the "patronage paradigm".

I have personally met Sarvashri N Ram, Shekhar Gupta, Dilip Padgaonkar and several other colleagues in the media to explain my persecution.

It must be said that they have been unable to speak my truth to the powers that be.

From The Indian Express makes Divakar S Natarajan a non person

It has now been a decade since I responded productively to a serious crisis faced by the Government of Andhra Pradesh - at a moment’s notice and overnight.

Close to two decades - a life sentence - since my documentary earned national critical acclaim for having “brought to life” a forgotten but inspiring chapter in the history of the freedom struggle in Hyderabad and for having conveyed a measure of justice to some forgotten heroes.

The preposterous and bizarre non-implementation of the former CM’s repeatedly expressed and widely acclaimed recommendations has grossly violated my life.

Such an unrelenting perversity and egregious abuse of power has robbed me of the rewards and recognition that I have earned and deserve, arrested my professional development and blighted my personal growth, brought great anxiety and fear to my family, humiliated me and made me appear a dupe and a charlatan.

My Gulag type nightmare is an insult, threat and challenge to all those who would like to see India grow from a dependant, derivative and predatory system to a vibrant, autonomous, benign and productive force in the world.

For that reason, it demands a just and proper accounting.

PS: Please click on the pictures (thumbnails) to reach the full size version.

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