Saturday, June 14, 2008

A plea to take up the case of film-maker Ajay T.G., held on false charges in Chhattisgarh

The following is a message from Sudha Bharadwaj (, which has been circulated by Rights Support Centre (

Dear friends,

This is an appeal to you to actively campaign for the freedom for film-maker Ajay T.G, who was recently arrested in Bhilai under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act (like Dr. Binayak Sen) on charges on sedition!

Ajay, who would be about 35, hails originally from Kerala. Coming from a very ordinary family, he has been involved in CPI politics and is still an office-bearer of the local youth federation. He learned film-making at "Jan Darshan" an effort of journalist Lalit Surjan (of Deshbandhu fame) to train local youth in the audio-visual media.

As a research assistant of the well known sociologist Jonathan Parry of the London School of Economics, Ajay made several films on the interface of caste and class among the permanent workmen of the Bhilai Steel Plant, which were widely appreciated

As a member of PUCL, he had the courage to accompany several fact-finding teams including into fake encounters, and capture on film the statements of victims. (Presumably it is this activity of Ajay's that is being dubbed "sedition"?)

He had started a foundation called "Drk Sakshi" (Eye-witness) to make socially relevant films and under this banner he made a number of films for various people's movements and organizations. For instance "Phool Nahi Chingari Hai" a film capturing the 8th March programme of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, and a film on the rich diversity of rice varieties in Chhatisgarh for social organization Rupantar. Ajay had also made an interesting film on the lathi charge on the Honda workers at Gurgaon in the wider context of liberalization based on TV footage, which proved invaluable material for educating workers. Just before his arrest he was planning a documentary on displacement.

Ajay also ran an informal education centre for women and children in one of the bastis of Bhilai. This unassuming, sensitive and courageous young man was the much loved "Bhaiyya", and always there for the people of Dabrapara - taking a cancer patient to hospital, intervening on the behalf of the girl children against patriarchal attitudes, helping to deal with insensitive authorities....

In the year 2004 Ajay had accompanied a group of researchers to Dantewada and there his camera was snatched away from him by youthful villagers, possibly frontal organization members of Maoists. Later an unknown young man came to him and offered that the camera or its cost would be returned and asked him to write down information about the make of the camera and its cost. Ultimately neither the camera nor its cost were returned to him, but it is possibly the seizure of some such letter that forms the flimsy basis that Ajay was the member of a the banned organization CPI (Maoist). It is pertinent that the Act under which this organization was banned itself came into existence in April 2006.

Of course, the real crime committed by Ajay was that he insisted on standing in solidarity with Dr. Binayak Sen even after his arrest. He made a film on Dr. Sen, ironically called "Anjam". In a recent hearing he had been unduly harassed when a pocket knife (cum nail cutter cum corkskrew - one of those handy kits) was found in his rucksack while entering the court. This was splashed in the media as a "weapon"! Interestingly the so-called "incriminating letter" is said to have been seized in January. It took the police five months to decide whether or not to book Ajay. There could be no greater evidence that there is no evidence!!

Be that is it may, Ajay is now in a jail. Clearly the Chhattisgarh government is hell bent on clearly giving the message: "Speak about the conditions in Bastar and you go to jail. Of course we know you are not Maoists, but so what .... rot in jail till you prove your innocence!"

And it’s not only Ajay. The journalists who tried to expose atrocities of the police or Salwa Judum were sacked, bashed up or otherwise threatened. Many TV journalists had their cameras and footage snatched away. Out of the 52 detainees under the Chhattisgarh Act, two are journalists.

If you think you can take up the campaign for the release of Ajay, we can send a detailed profile, a list of films and selected CDs etc.

The campaign of doctors in favour of Dr. Binayak Sen has gone far beyond the borders of Chhattisgarh, and even India, and has forced them to think deeply over their Hippocratic Oath which tells them to "treat a patient irrespective of political affiliation". It has also made them question "How should a doctor act in a conflict situation". This time it is the turn of the film makers to turn their attention to Chhattisgarh.

Hoping you will respond. With warm wishes,

Sudha Bharadwaj,
on behalf of Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, and Chhattisgarh PUCL

Kindly see reports on the arrest of Ajay T.G., posted in BHASKAR blog in May.

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