When i came to New Delhi from Chandigarh in 1986, i heard about Alliance Fracaise from my husband who had learnt french language from the institution as hobby classes. Even though, i never visited the venue in South Extension, its reputation as a cultural hub of Delhi was known to one and all. I had wanted so much to visit it, but it never happened . Till today :)))
When IHM invited me to join her along with a few other women to attend a documentary ' Izzatnagari Ki Asabhya Betiyaan, (The Immoral Daughters in the Land of Honour), focusing on the Honour killings in Haryana in the name of GOTRA, by Nakul Singh Sawhney, which was being screened at Alliance Francaise, i happily agreed. But what was to be a fun meeting with friends turned out to be a revelation..... an enchanting evening i wold always remember. Read on to know what transpired .
As i walked through the gate at Lodhi Estate, bright potted marigold cheerfully welcomed the visitors. There was also a lovely Lotus Pond.
As i waited for IHM to arrive i decided to explore the premises. Right in front of the M L BHartia Auditorium is an ancient sprawling tree which is a fv sitting place with students. As i walked along the corridor i reached the end of the building which was undergoing renovation. towards the right was an open courtyard and once again another huge sprawling tree stood in the middle. Towards the left was the Cafetaria, a sunny open eating place a midst greenery.
As i walked back to the Auditroium, a crowd had gathered. Soon IHM arrived and we waited for the Auditorium to open for the screening of the documentary.
Finally we sat down, on the very front row. A few minutes later, the director announced that the screening would start as soon as special guests arrived. Soon enough, a graceful middle aged woman in saree sat down next to me. A minute later she turned to me and introduced herself, "I am Neelam".
' And i am Aabha.' . 'A Blogger', i added as an after thought. In the meantime IHM who was watching us said, 'You are Nilam Katara?". And then the title of the documentary hit me and i realized that the woman seated next to me was none other than the Nationally renowned activist mother of the murdered boy Nitish Katara, the case which had caught the attention of the entire country , when Nitish was killed by his girl friend's brothers. The enormity of her presence hit me hard and i told her it was an honor to meet her. She was kind enough to give me and IHM her visiting card.
Nakul, the director announcing the start of the documentary and invited Neelam Kataria to address the audience
Nakul Singh Sawhney , the director
|Neelam Kataria addressing the audience|
It was now time to inaugurate the CDs of the documentary. Nakul invited Nliam Katara and Jagmati Sanghwan , President of All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), Haryana, to do the honors.
The Documentary finally opened to a jam packed elite audience
|M L Bhartia Auditorium at Alliance Francaise|
The 90 minute documentary was , as you might have guessed by now was on the Honor killings in Haryana and UP Jat community and the role of Khap Panchayats. There were several protagonists in the documentary, Seema ,Manoj's sister in the famous Manoj - Babli case who were killed in Kaithal, Haryana in 2007. Mukesh, a woman who fought hard to free herself from being forced into an arranged marriage, and now working with AIDWA. Gaurav Saini , whose wife had mysteriously disappeared three years back post their marriage, and a few others. A greater part of the documentary was shot in rural Haryana where there were ample view put forth by the Khap Panchayats who sweared to uphold the belief that no girl and boy belonging to the same Gotra could marry and get away as it was against tradition, and it was the duty of the Khap Panchyats to protect the honor of their community.
The movie is powerful and riveting and held the audience's attention. it alternated between talks with the protagonists, activists like Jagmati, interviews with Khap Panchyats amid scenes of rural Haryana nad theatrical street plays and hear eloquent songs.
But perhaps the highlight of the entire evening was yet to come. Alive interaction with the protagonists in the form of a panel discussion , moderated by Githa Hariharan., the renowned freelance editor.
|Post Screening discussion with protagonists|
The audience was invited to ask questions and there was a vibrant exchange of points of views.
The Title of the movie is a Satire on those who claim that choosing one's life partner equates to'\asabhyata'
Each of the protagonists expressed the explicit need to speak out against the atrocity of Honor killings. By talking about the media, creating awareness and making films and inviting post film discussions, this is a brave attempt to foucs on the issue , with the hope that out government will soon frame a law for those indulging in this activity due to a constitutional loophole.
Kudos to Nakul for making a hard hittig documentary and inviting a select audience who will hopefully take the cause ahead.
The evening finally concluded around 9 p.m. As we left the auditorium we bought a CD of the documentary and a book on Honor Killings.
The evening turned out to be a complete surprise, one could have never imagined. Thank you IHM for making it possible. Let us do it more often!