Was Batla House An Exercise In Propaganda?

Posted: August 30, 2019

Propaganda movies are not new to Bollywood (watch Azhar or Thackeray if you think I am lying).

Neither is it restricted to any particular country. ‘Reefer Madness’ or ‘Triumph of the will’ are just few examples of how effective propaganda can be in spreading outright lies under the garb of public interest.

Like most Bollywood movies inspired by true events, Batla House was meant to build a narrative that could be grasped easily by the public. And a narrative that could pass off as the actual truth.

It was pretty clear that there was a lot of dramatisation. Anyone who hoped to find out the truth behind this incident might end up with more questions than answers. And if you need further proof just read the surprisingly long disclaimer at the start of the movie.

I am not a journalist and neither do I have access to all the facts of this case. Whatever I am writing below is based on some news reports. I do not profess to know the whole truth. But there need to be some serious questions asked to the movie makers on whether there was a deliberate attempt to distort the truth and misrepresent the facts in favour of the police under the garb of dramatisation.

The director needs to answer whether there a deliberate attempt to dehumanise the minorities and social activists while feeding into the majority narrative that we need to trust the police and armed forces blindly and any questions on their work amounts to disrespecting the entire nation.

Truth be told, the Batla House encounter and the subsequent investigation has not been handled as properly as it should have been. Which is probably why the case is still in court and it has not been established yet if the encounter was genuine or fake. John Abraham, playing the role of ACP Sanjay Kumar, was resisting an independent judicial enquiry in the case because he believed that it would demoralise his men. Is it a true reflection of the attitude of our police forces? Because something like this does not bode well for the general public.

There are questions on the NHRC report wherein it is alleged that the Human Rights body did not conduct it’s own enquiry and relied only on the reports submitted by the police. Has the allegation sufficiently been countered by NHRC? More importantly we still didn’t know if Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma was killed by the guns of the alleged terrorists or was it a case of foul play.

We still don’t know how Shahzad and Junaid could manage to escape the apartment when all the exit points were cordoned off. Additionally, during the case of State vs Shahzad Ahmad, there were police officers who deposed that they had not seen these two escape the building. A fact that was not mentioned in the movie.

If what those policemen said is true then one is bound to ask why such an important fact was not a part of the movie. There is controversy surrounding the post mortem report of the two alleged terrorists. According to reports, it was obtained after filing multiple RTIs which is strange since there should be no reason to keep such information away from the public domain.

In the movie, there were scenes portraying a huge group of Muslims literally manhandling the police force. It is very hard to believe that any layperson in this country has the power to even attempt to misbehave with the police forces and face no consequence at all.

The fact is that if something like this actually happened with those policemen why was there no action taken against the people in the crowd? Why hasn’t there been any condemnation of such actions by politicians, activists or policemen? And why has this fact come out only now and that too in a movie?

And if this was just an attempt to dramatise the movie, what message is the director trying to send? That you need to pit the general public and specifically a community against the police and show them in bad light to add masala to your movie?

You can add as many disclaimers as you want to but it is pretty clear that the director and his team has come with an agenda to promote a narrative that they believe will fetch them more profits even if it obfuscates the truth and tries to portray some people in a very bad light at the expense of glorifying the police forces when the reality is that the case is still in the courts and no one really knows what actually happened on September 19th, 2008 at L-18, Batla House.

Image is a still from the movie Batla House

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