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Interview Hindi

Victims of Article 35A's dreams had been stolen: Kamakhya Narayan Singh on his National award-winning documentary

The film Justice Delayed But Delivered was adjudged Best Film On Social Issues.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

At the recently announced 68th National Film Awards, Kamakhya Narayan Singh’s documentary Justice Delayed But Delivered won — along with Three Sisters directed by Putul Mahmood — the Best Film On Social Issues award. 

Justice Delayed But Delivered is the story of Radhika Gill, and lakhs of other people like her, who suffered due to Article 35A in the region of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). A Dalit, Radhika is a Valmiki who is unable to pursue her dreams due to a basic right denied to her by the Union territory that she lives in, a Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC). 

In the director’s statement, Singh spoke about how the documentary came about. “It was around 10 years ago when I got to know about the victims of Article 35A. In 2016, I made my first documentary on these victims [#Article35A] and that's when I saw Radhika Gill for the first time. Whenever I would talk to her, I could sense that she wasn't able to reach her goals in life due to Article 35A, and I was right.

"I followed her and kept covering her activities. Since she belonged to the Valmiki community which was brought to J&K in 1957 from Punjab to do the job of sweepers in Jammu they were not granted the PRC.  Thanks to Article 35A, without a PRC a person in J&K practically is denied all rights. Despite being a citizen of India and despite being qualified, Radhika was not allowed to join the BSF because she didn't have a PRC. I wanted her voice to reach the people.” 

“When Article 370 was amended and Article 35A was abolished, there was joy and happiness in the Valmiki community just like all the other communities which suffered due to this draconian law in J&K. I already had clippings when these laws were effective. Hence I made this documentary with the post-370 and 35A scenario.”

In an interview with Cinestaan.com, the filmmaker talked about the contentious issue that affected the lives of countless people in one part of the country and what enabled him to make the film. He said, “You cannot deny anyone their rights. The constitution gives certain rights to people…In 2020, when Radhika got her PRC, we saw someone getting what is their right and felt that this story needs to be told. We screened the film at the International Film Festival of India and thankfully, the film has won a National award. The biggest issue for me was that their dreams had been stolen and nothing was done about it.”

Speaking about winning the prestigious award and what propels him as a filmmaker, Singh said, “As a documentary filmmaker, I had felt that I should make documentaries on social issues. If my documentary could be the voice of people, that would give me satisfaction.”

Justice Delayed But Delivered highlights the unique situation in Jammu & Kashmir, where women were also denied property rights. However, being a political issue, his film could be seen as toeing the line of the government, even being a propaganda film. Discussing this aspect, he said, “If you become scared about all these things, when will you be able to talk about peoples’ rights? Whenever you raise your voice, the other side will say that it is propaganda but in this country, Gandhiji said that democracy should reach every last person in the country. We need to protect their rights. So will I not talk about their rights? If I have shown anything that is factually incorrect, then this can be called propaganda.”

Expanding this thought to the ways in which political issues can be dealt with through the medium of cinema, Singh offered his thoughts. “If you are factually correct and you are open to being challenged on your facts, if what you are saying is true, there is no problem at all. If from what you are saying, it is evident who the victim and victimiser are and that is evident in the documents as well, you should make a film. In this country, everyone has the right to make films, and everyone should make them. Talking about politics, it exists in everything…. If you get scared of it, politics will finish you. You make your film and see what happens. This film is about a person getting their rights.”

Singh also spoke about the audience's reaction to the film, saying, “People said that they did not know about this issue. The humanitarian impact of this Act was always hidden, so my effort was to bring out the humanitarian aspect of this larger policy. For me, the problem was not the removal of Article 370, it was the fact that these people did not get their rights. With the abrogation of Article 370, they got their rights. The people of this country should get their rights and their rights need to be defended.” 

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National Awards