Statement by concerned citizens condemning the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) attack on filmmaker Gopal Menon and his team in India
Press Release | 12 July 2003
In yet another bid to suppress basic citizens‚ rights as well as freedom of expression, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Kerala state police have manhandled well-known documentary filmmaker Gopal Menon and his team in a public function at Kozhikode on Tuesday, July 8.Gopal Menon, who has made several films on human rights violations in India including ‘Hey Ram—Genocide in the Land of Gandhi’ (that documented the post-Godhra communal carnage in the State of Gujarat) was trying to record the vituperative public speech of VHP chief, Praveen Togadia, when the VHP activists and the police manhandled him.
Gopal Menon was accompanied by Viju Verma and Mustafa Deshamangalam, who were also subjected to manhandling. As soon as the team reached the spot at the Muthalakkulam Maidan in Kozhikode where Praveen Togadia was addressing the crowd, Gopal Menon was identified by the VHP activists. With the help of the state police, VHP activists manhandled all three and then threw them out of the venue. The VHP activists threatened the filmmakers and asked the police not to allow them again inside the maidan. The police threatened to arrest them if they failed to leave immediately.
The filmmakers argued that since the event was a public meeting, they had every right to attend and also film the function. But neither the organisers of the meeting nor the police paid any heed to basic ethics of media freedom or citizen rights. The police force was evidently acting hand in glove with the VHP, giving protection to Togadia all through his Kerala tour aimed at fomenting communal hatred and violence. This was a clear instance of the official machinery of the State that is supposedly committed to secular principles being hijacked by a communal outfit like the VHP for its nefarious ends.
The attack on Gopal Menon is a sequel to concerted attempts by the VHP, RSS and BJP activists last year to disrupt screenings of several documentary films across the state and the State police to foist cases against the organisers of such film screenings.
The latest open tirade against the minority communities by none other than the Chief Minister of Kerala, Mr. A.K. Antony, amply proves that the State has already been hijacked by the VHP-BJP-RSS combine which is making a concerted bid to spread fascism in Kerala.
We feel that it‚s high time we stand up united to uphold basic citizen rights against the plans by the State as well as the fascist forces to divide the people on communal lines. We feel that it’s high time the socially-conscious citizens of the country joined hands to uphold the rights of expression of truth and reality against poisonous statements of communal politicians.
We condemn the efforts of the VHP and its ilk to spread violence and hatred that would lead to further bloodshed. Let’s see to it that the fascist ‘Gujarat experiment’ is not repeated anywhere.
M.T. Vasudevan Nair
Asghar Ali Engineer
Prof. Babu Mathew
Mukundan C Menon