This post is by filmmaker Vinod Raja.
On the 25th May I was attacked while filming a peaceful rally by the Kue Kondhs, an Adivasi (tribal) community in the Indian state of Orrisa. They were marching against police attrocities and repression. For the past thirteen years the Kue Kondhs have been consistently opposing the plans to mine Bauxite from their Sacred and Ancient Mountain — “BapliMal” and the setting up of an Aluminum Plant at Doraguda, very close to the village of Kuchepadhar, where most of the protesters were from. In December 2000, police opened fire on a peaceful demonstration at a village called Maikanch killing three Adivasis and injuring many others. Since then the repression has been constant and unrelenting, with many Adivasis having been jailed on false charges.
The march began in Kuchepadhar at 12 noon and was headed to Tikiri. In the small town of Tikiri is a major police outpost specially created to stifle opposition to the mine and the plant. Lots of women participated in the rally, in fact more women than men, some of them were carrying their babies along in the blazing heat as they marched 12 kilometres to Tikiri! The rally reached the outskirts of Tikiri at about 4 pm.The police had put up barricades to stop the rally from entering Tikiri. I moved a little ahead to film the barricade,just as I completed the shot and turned back, about 5 police officers and some police pounced on me, trying to grab my camera. In the ensuing scuffle, I managed to hold on to the camera for a couple of minutes before it was snatched. Failing to remove the cassette from the camera , one policeman thumped the camera to the ground destroying it. (Fortunately, I managed to save the filmed material.) There were cameras from the company side that was filming the rally, mine was the only one that was filming from the people’s side. The police tried to attack me a second time, but by then the people had formed a cordon around me and were able to keep the police away.
Independent filmmakers are increasingly subjected to such attacks from the police in recent times. The Orissa police attacked Samarendra Das, a photojournalist covering the 16th December Rally and his camera was smashed. Filmmaker Anand Patwardhan was attacked somewhere in Maharashtra and his camera was damaged.
Filming in public spaces is becoming increasingly difficult for us filmmakers. Since we are not affiliated to any press nor do we carry a press card, this considerably increases the risk involved. Almost every fortnight we hear of an attack on a journalist or filmmaker or harassment by the state administration.
The fact remains that filmmakers documenting social movements are facing increased state repression and are being subjected to assaults, threats and infringements on our civil liberties. Even more threatening are the Goons, henchmen hired by the Company to attack any sympathisers or supporters of the struggle.
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UPDATE: More craziness in Orissa.