Lynch Nation: A documentary that makes you confront lynch mob survivors

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: November 30, 2018

Directed by Ashfaque EJ and Shaheen Ahmed, the film tells the stories of mob lynchings in rural north India over the past few years along with witness and family accounts of those who were killed.


Lynch Nation
 
Who remembers the first person that was lynched by a mob in India in the recent past? Does anyone know who or what started the trend of murdering innocents, mostly belonging to the minority communities? A documentary film titled ‘Lynch Nation’ might be the only film on the subject, filled with testimonies of people who were left to pick up the pieces after their loved one was killed by a frenzied mob.
 
Directed by Ashfaque EJ and Shaheen Ahmed, the film tells the stories of mob lynchings in rural north India over the past few years along with witness and family accounts of those who were killed.
 
“Narrating his ordeal in the film, Junaid Khan's brother Hashim, who was also attacked, relates how the attackers called him and his brothers ‘Mullah, Pakistani, traitor and beefeater’ because of their attire. They pulled off the young men’s caps and that’s how it began,” reported the Citizen.
 
16-year-old Junaid was coming back home from Delhi in June 2017, with his friends and brothers including Hashim, on a Mathura-bound train. He was killed while his mother waited to celebrate Eid with him.
 
All the accused in the case have been granted bail by the courts and have been set free.
 
“As the legal process continues to test their patience, Hashim and his family members have found new hopes in a documentary film. “I appreciate the hard work of the filmmakers who compiled this film, maybe after watching the film some goons might have a change of heart,” Hashim remarks after watching “Lynch Nation” at its first press screening in the Press Club in Delhi last week,” reported TwoCircles.
 
“In almost every case, lynching convicts have walked out on bail. Earlier this year, the men who lynched Maryam’s husband were garlanded and feted by Union minister and BJP MP Jayant Sinha, who was credited with helping them get bail. A man accused of lynching Jan Mohammad’s brother is going to contest India’s general election to become a Member of Parliament. The six men who Irshad’s father had accused of murder in his dying declaration were given a clean chit by Rajasthan’s Crime Branch and CID,” the Leaflet reported.
 
“Having resolved to make what is arguably one of the first films on lynchings in India, Ashafaque and Shaheen-both residents of Kerala-reached out to other people for help. Having roped in journalist Amit Sengupta (Ashafaque’s former teacher from Indian Institute of Mass Communications as a mentor) they were joined by their friends Furqan Faridi and Vishu Sejwal as they travelled across North India covering Dadri, Alwar, Latehar, Ramgarh, Bhaivratpur, Ballabgarh and Una. As they travelled with their crew across several North Indian states, they received help from members of Not In My Name Campaign, United Against Hate Campaigns, local activists and people for their crowdfunded project,” the report said.


 
The crew was always worried about their safety and the hostility that they could face from fringe groups. “We were extremely precautious throughout our entire journey. For example, we steered away from Jharkhand during Ramnavami when local activists warned us that the environment could be communally charged,” Shaheen told this reporter. “We were scared throughout the film…at one point we thought that we were being followed and all our movements were under watch. But thankfully, nothing big happened,” the report added.
 
As a filmmaker and member of the Not in My Name campaign, Rahul Roy termed the film “quiet and largely observational” in its approach. He was certain the film could not be screened at many public spaces like Delhi University without coming under attack from right-wing groups, the report said.
 
To be on the safe side and be able to take the film to as many people as possible the filmmakers said they would apply for certification from the Censor Board.
 
“The filmmakers believe that lynchings have become a routine affair in the country and see their film as a fight against the increasing normalisation of such events in the media and the mainstreaming of the ideology which promotes it. Talking about what the film sets out to achieve, Ashfaque said, “We might not be able to counter the growing hate with this film but we hope that somewhere we are able to prick people’s conscience. We want people to connect to the families who lost their loved ones and feel their pain. Everytime a Pehlu Khan is killed or a Ummar Khan is killed or a Junaid is killed, we want people to feel that their own brother died,” the report said.
 
The report added that apart from what the film can achieve, the film itself was seen as an achievement of sorts by the likes of Prof Apoorvanand who attended the inaugural screening of the film. “It is no coincidence that the filmmakers are young Muslims, which is extremely important and necessary. It’s important in the context of Muslims reclaiming their rightful share of spaces, fighting for themselves and not being represented by other groups” argued the Delhi University teacher.


 
“With a restrained and journalistic approach, Lynch Nation documents the visceral fear and silent strength of families whose witness has gone unheard in the shrill of the mainstream—especially in a polarised India. For the victims’ families, who are supposed to be given police protection but often don’t receive any, the act of speaking up has become an exercise in proving that the lynchings indeed took place. They recount and name, with remarkable clarity, the crucial sections of the Criminal Procedure Code that the police “left out” while filing FIRs against the lynching accused,” a report by Leaflet said.
 
Lynch Nation might be a rare and only opportunity to listen to survivor accounts which have been dealt with compassion and people who understand what it feels to be oppressed by the system that is supposed to protect you. The movie makes you confront the ugly face of communal hatred and cow vigilantism and how it tightens its grip on the Indian psyche.
 
Ashfaque and Ahmed intend to screen the 44-minute documentary in various public places. They are also planning to submit it to film festivals and maybe even release it online.