Let us just say that the June 3 episode of Satyamev Jayate was like watching a concoction of Mughal-e-Azam, Bombay and Mera Gaon, Mera Desh. Add to that a love guru.
First, let me get this out of the way. I am simply amazed that people who are glued to television, read the newspapers, surf websites look on what is around us as a “Bingo!” expose.
Caste, class, religious, economic status barriers between couples have always been there. It is tragic when people have to suffer because of it, but not all such love alliances end up happily. The host refuses to touch upon that. He is on a mission and this time it was to see that people who found each other got married. There was no attempt to understand the compulsions.
Everybody loves a lover, but is it all about ‘honour killing’? There is absolutely no doubt that the khap panchayat in Haryana has been interfering in such alliances. One of the groups was there with its members, and while what they said was bizarre – one mentioned how even in England tradition is more important than the law – it ended up as a comic diversion.
Aamir Khan gave his spiel about the Indian Constitution and how the panchayats were running contrary to it. This is now along expected lines. He is the man upholding the Establishment of a free, democratic country. He does not live in those villages and small towns. Action has been taken against these panchayats, but we just might get news about more, all thanks to our Mission Man.
Will he dare talk about organisations like the Sri Ram Sene or the Deoband fatwas that publicly humiliate lovers?
Why does the show invite people whose cases are subjudice to talk? This is a convenient ruse to steer clear of asking inconvenient and pointed questions. What we get is to skim the surface. He did not touch upon caste dynamics, religious differences, and if I may say so even physical debility (one of the men was on crutches)?
Then, he brought in this Sanjay ji who assists those who have problems. He was the court jester, throwing one-liners on how love conquers all and the older generation should realise the folly of their views. How many people can he help? Most of these runaway couples are from small towns and it is important to know how they will subsist.
There have been lovers immortalised on screen and in literature, and there are lovers in real life. There are crimes of passion. There are hurdles – some created by outsiders. When there was such an opportunity, he copped out. The case is in court.
Then what was the purpose of sitting and witnessing a mother’s tears?
This was surprisingly no different from when the case was first reported. Let me reproduce this from my piece written then, in 2007:
His skull was smashed and his body thrown on the railway tracks. The police in Kolkata claimed that Rizwan-ur-Rehman had committed suicide. His diary and complaints to human rights organisations show that he was being threatened by the cops for marrying Priyanka Todi, the daughter of an influential industrialist from a Marwari family, traditionally considered clannish.
This was less than a month after their wedding. The girl has disappeared; the voice of the criminal party is barely heard and the victim’s family is hounded by the media. In a most appalling move, Rizwan's brother and mother were in the studio for a panel discussion on one of the private channels. At one point the anchor asked the audience to put up their hands if they believed he could have been forced by circumstances to commit suicide. This was media interference in legal matters. Is this how justice is conducted?
Later, the lights were dimmed to show us how Bollywood has portrayed inter-religious alliances. This was demeaning and facile.
The screen captured the father, a butcher, brandishing an axe. The young man was pleading with him to let him marry his daughter. He glowered in return, screaming. The girl cowered in a corner wearing a veil, but her eyes dripped pain. For the sake of cinematic licence they showed the eyes and the face. Our beauties are not to be hidden.
The lover, his ardour not lessened, grabbed the weapon and then the girl’s hand, slashing her arm near the wrist, then his and letting their blood mix. All differences were wiped out in that one melodramatic moment.
Why is it disgusting? It isn’t about Hindi cinema but about how a serious discussion on inter-religious marriage that led to a tragic death chose to use clips from movies; this particular one ended the montage, while the brother and mother watched. The brother said that this in fact was Rizwan’s story.
No, it is not. Not all Muslims are butchers with axes. The sly media devil is creating a most dangerous trend. Rizwan was educated at St. Xavier’s college in Kolkata; he graduated with English Honours. He had ambitions of being a journalist, but due to financial pressure chose to be a graphic designer. They are not a poor, but a middle-class family.
Middle-class does not sound exotic enough when you talk about Indian Muslims. Poor, shabby, illiterate look great.
Communal divisions are getting more pronounced. Disturbingly, while the youth are prone to making choices, they are increasingly making pro-clannish choices. The voices of dissent are not rising against the status quo but for it.
I’d like you to read the full article Two Lovers and the Funeral of Secularism if you can. It may not make you cry, but perhaps you’ll think again about what you already know?
There are muffled sounds about how the tragic cases on the show appeal to the sensitive. Listen, some of us have been through stuff, or seen it up-close and wept our eyes out. We do not need to be given lessons in sensitivity only because someone’s tears on screen move you. This has become a cathartic herd instinct where everyone gathers at 11 am on Sunday to publicly mourn something or the other. If only they could purge the hype.
(c) Farzana Versey