I’m still a bit too overwhelmed by the screening to unclog my thoughts easily, so please bear with me as I try and discover what I think of this documentary.
It hit me on several fronts:
- The silence that surrounds social injustices in India
- Ongoing injustice (against the Dalits)
- Shiv Sena and the Hindutva movement’s political attitudes towards other faiths and castes
- A look at undocumented histories (Panther movement)
- Real heroes who have fought against the injustices committed against them and despite all pain continue to fight
As Mr. Patwardhan pointed out, one flaw of this documentary is the lack of breathing space for the viewer to absorb the stories he presents. I feel that acutely as I try and distil what I got out of this 198 minute long record.
Jai Bhim Comrade starts with a brief intro to Vilas Ghoghre, a Marxist Dalit poet whose suicide, following the police shooting at residents of Ramabai colony in Mumbai, prompted Patwardhan to create this documentary. Interviewing primary sources, Patwardhan shows the official police interpretation of the events for the fabrication they are. He documents the failed prosecution of Manohar Kadam, the police officer who ordered the shooting and puts this story of injustice alongside others, showing the systematic prosecution of Dalits by the “Suvarana” and the Hindutva movement in Maharashtra.
In brief interviews with four non-Dalit members of the public, Patwardhan documents their ignorance of the Dalit cause and explores the hollow foundations of their prejudices. Following the Kabir Kala Manch, and other poets he explores how the Dalits employ the medium of poetry to carry the history of their plight, efforts of their savior (Ambedkar), messages to stay strong, and betrayals by their own leaders.
3 hours and 18 minutes later, I sat stunned in my seat as my mind struggled to grapple with the reality that had been laid bare before me. I still can’t believe that the public which goes crazy about dumbass things like Richard Gere kissing Shilpa Shetty stands by and allows killing, maiming and systematic prosecution of our fellow countrymen by bigots who, shamefully, are our countrymen too!