ID please?

Subasri K. started out as a print journalist, but she has spent the last 10 years working on films after she completed her masters in filmmaking from Jamia Millia Islamia. “My first film was called Brave New Medium – about the idea of Internet censorship in South East Asia,” she says establishing some background before she starts to talk about her new film This Or That Person, that has been produced by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust.

The Unique Identity number (UID or aadhar) project was introduced in India in 2009 and through the lens of the UID, the film looks at what identity documents means to people, and how the aadhar project is perceived.

The documentary dwells on the notion of personhood as seen by the India State, or as the director puts it, “It is a conversation with the State about ideas of inclusion, exclusion, surveillance and citizenship, and it does so by interrogating the Unique Identity number project.

“The Unique Identity Number that the State will give each citizen is meant to be the solution for a lot of problems, but in a system that is already suffering from structural problems how effective will the UID be?” questions Subasri.

The film chooses to focus solely on the UID. “It is fundamentally an identity project – the UID is an identifier, something that will confirm that I am who I say I am,” she says. Her films switches between Delhi and Manipur as she shows the images associated with the UID. So while in Delhi the UID will help make it simpler to get a bank account, in Manipur we see a tool for political surveillance. “I wanted to examine the everyday versus a moment of crisis especially in border areas where identities are fluid. Manipur could just as easily have been Kashmir or Chhattisgarh or any other place that is under the gaze of the state.”

Can you pin someone’s identity on a fingerprint or an iris scan? It brings us back to the clichéd argument of how we barely have power in many States, how are we going to rely on a biometric system to help with governance?

Subasri who has been reading about the subject and speaking to people since 2009 says that her film is not just about the UID but also the relationship of a citizen and a non-citizen with the State. The UID has been severely critiqued by different quarters – there have been questions about privacy, access to government programmes, technological challenges but in the 28-minute-slot that was given to her, she says that she wanted to look at the history of fingerprints as identification and the fallacy of it.

The film will be screened at the Alternate Law Forum, Infantry Road on August 14 at 6 p.m.