Kandhamal and the horrific cycle of religious violence that the remote district of Odisha witnessed in 2008 is not an easy story not tell.
Though the numbers, of the dead, of the injured and of the displaced, do allow one to sift out the reality from the various conflicting narratives, there remains the question of how things came to play out like that at that point in time.
For a documentary about communal violence, K.P. Sasi’s Voices from the Ruins , screened at the Press Club on Tuesday, takes quite some time to arrive at the series of incidents that it focuses on. It takes you further back in time, to 1936, the year of formation of Odisha State.
It starts with the story of Madhusudhan Das, one of the key players in the formation of that State.
The documentary tells you that he was a religious convert, thus connecting it to the violence of 2008, for which the Hindutva forces cited conversion as a reason.
The violence is brought on screen through found footages and through recollections of the victims. In one of those old footages, the viewers get to see a mob going on a rampage at a church, even as police personnel in considerable numbers, stand by as mute witnesses.
The recollections of the victims from different parts of the district are similar, pointing at the organised nature of the violence.
Particularly disturbing are the stories of the gang rape of a run and the killing of a man who wanted to pray before he was cut down to pieces.
The third act focuses on the conversion debate and delivers a critique on the State’s anti-conversion law, which goes against the tenets of Constitution.
It busts the myth of forced conversions, with the converted Dalits and adivasis themselves speaking out their reasons on the camera. Dignity remained top on the list of reasons.
“I started working on this documentary in 2009. I have visited the affected areas quite a number of times and making this film has been a draining process,” says Mr. Sasi. CPI (M) leader V.S. Achuthanandan who inaugurated the screening said that the documentary was the helpless cry of those who had been victims of continued violence of over half a century.
CPI State Secretary Kanam Rajendran and witnesses of the Kandhamal violence, Ajay Singh and Dheerendra Panda, were also present.
Documentary on communal violence, Voices from the Ruins , screened at