Ahmedabad: The horrors of one of India’s worst religious riots have come alive in a new film that focuses on the atrocities through the eyes of a pregnant woman who is raped and forced into prostitution by a mob.
The protagonist of “Kya Hum Jinda Hai?” (Are We Alive?), a 23-year-old pregnant Muslim, is raped and has her house torched by a mob which then leaves her at a brothel.
But the heroine, Shayra, pursues justice against all odds, even using her earnings as a prostitute to pay her lawyers.
“The most important aim of the film is to show the pathetic condition of women during and after a riot,” director Rafique Pathan told Reuters. “Women have no role in starting a riot, but they are the worst hit.”
Human rights groups say some 2,500 people, mostly Muslims, were beaten or burnt to death in the western state of Gujarat five years ago, although officials put the toll at about 1,000.
The riots erupted after a Muslim mob is said to have torched a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, killing 59 people.
Pathan says some 600 women saw their husbands being killed, many had their houses burned down, some saw their children being stabbed and hundreds of them were gang raped.
“Do Hindu or Muslim women deserve this? This question is at the heart of my film,” said Pathan.
The 77-minute Hindi film, which also tries to delve into the psyche of a mob blinded to all reason, steers clear of holding any community responsible for the carnage.
In Gujarat, where cultural vigilantism is widespread, cinema owners refused to screen an earlier film about the 2002 riots, reportedly for fear of being attacked by Hindu zealots.
Cultural vigilantes claim such films shouldn’t be shown because they can create fresh trouble.
But Pathan hopes his film will give courage to women victims of the rioting and help them lead a life of dignity.
Many viewers agree.
“Please see the movie. You will know what women go through during chaos not stirred by them,” said Tabassum Syed, a 45-year-old widow who lost her husband and two sons in the riots.
“Kya Hum Jinda Hai?”, now showing in Gujarat, will open across the rest of the country later this month.