There is something deeply wrong in Gujarat, an advanced State in terms of conventional development indicators. For the second time in a year, a film duly cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification for public exhibition is not being shown there because movie hall owners are scared of incurring the wrath of lumpen foot soldiers of the Hindu Right. If the first film, Fanaa, was blacked out to punish Aamir Khan for the support the actor provided to those being displaced by the Narmada dam, the second case is even worse. Parzania is the true story of a young Parsi boy, Azhar Mody. On February 28, 2002, he sought refuge along with his family in the house of Ehsan Jafri, the former Congress Member of Parliament, at the Gulbarg housing society in Ahmedabad. Jafri was murdered along with about 60 other Muslims that evening, despite making repeated calls to the police for help. Not so well known is the fate that befell the Mody family. As the communal killers attacked the Jafri residence, Azhar got separated from his mother and sister and has not been seen since. He was 13 at the time. Parzania is the gut-wrenching story of one boy, but it is also the story of close to 2,000 people who were killed or went missing in the terror that consumed Gujarat under the stewardship of Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Five years later, his regime shows neither remorse nor respect for the rule of law which is a good part of the reason why cinema owners in Gujarat are terrified of showing Parzania.
There are those who will argue that Parzania is `biased' and does not present `both sides' of the story; they may even contend it is `inflammatory.' Ever since the Supreme Court's 1989 decision in the Ore Oru Gramathile case, it is settled law that the yardstick for determining whether a film is inflammatory or not is the perception of an ordinary person "with common sense and prudence and not that of an out of the ordinary or hypersensitive" person. Hypersensitive individuals are free not to see the film or to criticise it using democratic means. But to allow threats by bigoted goons to block the exhibition of a film that has won the necessary certification is to defy the Constitution and the law, as interpreted by the highest court in the land. There is another fundamental principle at stake here. Gujarat underwent a terrible trauma in which the communal killers not only targeted and victimised an entire section of the State's population but also turned hundreds of thousands of ordinary people into silent bystanders or even accessories. It is these mute witnesses of genocidal evil who need to see Parzania. Only if the truth is brought out into the open can reconciliation take place in a polarised society.