The Ayodhya of our minds

A documentary on the temple-masjid controversy at Ayodhya explores the religious bigotry behind the mayhem.

I saw Ramayana with the attention that can only come from a seriously escapist 8-year old. This was in 1989. Then came 1992, and with so much mention again about Ayodhya, I felt Ramayana was being replayed somewhere. And why not – everyone must have been as enthralled with Hanuman carrying the mountain for Lord Ram – as I was. Only this time, it didn’t come with that happy feeling. After a few years I understood all that unfolded then was a drama of a different kind. And the Hanumans’ in it were the mindless destructive monkeys who called themselves Ramsevaks.

CD cover

On December 6th, the anniversary of Babri mosque demolition that happened in the year 1992, Centre for Education and Documentation (CED) screened Vani Subramanian’s documentary, Ayodhya Gatha. The movie is a touching account of how this small town in Bihar became a battle ground for religious bigotry. Even now, after 15 years, tempers run high. Some remarkable responses came from the Muslims who were asked wherein the probable solution to this whole issue lies. The Muslim social worker, resigned to the situation, said it made sense to have the temple constructed if that meant for violence to stop. In the market place in Ayodhya, Hindus gleefully buy CDs showing the demolition of the Babri Mosque – a political propaganda to keep the atmosphere inflammable. Vani also interviews an old man who used to worship at the Babri mosque. He thinks building something more neutral, like a cancer hospital, might rest the issue. Yet another resident of Ayodhya, a poor Muslim lady, says something that might echo the sentiments of most of us. “I don’t care if this particular mosque is burnt; I can always go pray in another one. But what I don’t appreciate is Hindu bigots coming into my home and burning it,” she says as a matter-of-fact.

From the documentary, what we see is the present Ayodhya, a place where much has happened in the name of god. Even today, what is seen here are tours given by politically appointed karsevaks who take the tourist around the proposed model of the Ram temple. The tour is rife with anecdotes from history of how many Hindus who were killed and how the mosque was built over the temple. What the movie brings out, subtly, without stating the obvious, is of the cheap attempts of our political class to play on the differences that existed (or didn’t) from history, all to their present advantage.

Most bits of the movie are in Hindi, especially the responses of the people who were being interviewed. The voice-over is both in English and Hindi. The subtitles are clear and bring the essence of what is being communicated. The film highlights the issue played by dirty politics and dirty politicians, by interviewing the common man who is stuck in the muck. The 62-minute documentary doesn’t feel boring or lengthy at any point.

Centre for Education and Documentation at Domlur (Pic: Poonam J)

About CED

The film was screened on the roof-top of Centre for Education and Documentation (CED). Beach mats strewn about and nippy wind in the air, it’s a great way to bring back the drive-in theatre experience, except that you leave the car below. However, the inside hall can accommodate around 50 people. During any screening, one can avail free reference of library books, journals and news clippings on any contemporary issue. CED is open to public from Monday to Saturday,from 10 AM to 6 PM, entry is free. 

The Travelling Film South Asia 2008 (TFSA 08), a film festival which featured 13 documentaries, was already hosted in the city from November 21 to 23 at the Institution of Agricultural Technologists. The event was in partnership by three media organisations- Maraa, Pedestrian Pictures and Vikalp Bengaluru. All those who missed these award-winning documentaries can watch them at CED.

For more information contact:

Centre for Education and Documentation (CED)
No. 7, 8th Main Road, Domlur 2nd Stage, 3rd phase, Bangalore-71
Phone: 080 2535 3397

Tentative schedule (call CED for confirmation)

Documentary Date [6 PM onwards] Country; Director About the movie
Living Goddess (96 mins) 20/12/2008 Nepal, 2006/07; Ishbel Whitaker Lives of Kumaris during People’s Movement of April 2006
From Dust (60 mins) 27/12/2008 Sri Lanka, 2005; Dhruv Dhawan Post-Tsunami expose of corruption
Motherland Afghanistan (74 mins) this movie will be screened indoors 03/01/2009 Afghanistan, 2006; Sedika Mojadidi An Afghan father’s return to the home country
Eisenfresser (Ironeaters) (85 mins) 10/01/2009 Bangladesh, 2007; Shaheen Dill-Riaz Famine forces farmers to seek work as ship breakers. [Winner of Ram Bahadur Trophy for best Film at FSA ’07]
A Life With Slate (59 mins) 17/01/2009 Nepal, 2006; Dipesh Kharel Poetic dimensions of slate-mining in Nepali village [Joint Winner of Best Debut Film Award at FSA ’07]
Rabba Hun Kee Kariye (Thus departed our neighbours) 59 mins 24/01/2009 India, 2007; Ajay Bhardwaj The scars of partition in Indian Punjab
Chamma Deu! Tara Nabirsa ! (Forgive! Forget Not!) 59 mins 31/01/2009 Nepal, 2007; Pranay Limbu A journalist’s fight for survival in a Nepali barrack
The miseducation of Pakistan (30 mins) 07/02/2009 Pakistan, 2005; Syed Ali Nasir Primary schools in Pakistan: an indictment of state and poverty
Every Good marriage begins with tears (62 mins) 14/02/2009 UK/Bangladesh, 2006; Simon Chambers Sassy Londoners sent to Dhaka for arranged marriage

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