Delhi pitch for Ambedkar film

The foreign office is scouting for a filmmaker to direct a documentary on B.R. Ambedkar for an international audience at a time Dalit protests against a spate of attacks are threatening the Narendra Modi government's global sheen.

By Charu Sudan Kasturi
  • Published 23.05.17
  •  
BR Ambedkar

New Delhi. May 22: The foreign office is scouting for a filmmaker to direct a documentary on B.R. Ambedkar for an international audience at a time Dalit protests against a spate of attacks are threatening the Narendra Modi government's global sheen.

The foreign ministry wants the film ready by mid-October, when it will send copies to all its missions abroad to showcase the Dalit icon's role as chairperson of India's constitution drafting committee, officials have told The Telegraph.

The plan for the film coincides with growing protests by Dalit groups that are accusing the Modi administration and BJP state governments of doing little to stop the attacks on them.

More than 6,000 Dalit protesters had yesterday marched through central Delhi, accusing the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government of "saffron terror" following recent attacks on the community in Saharanpur.

In Gujarat, Dalits led by 36-year-old lawyer Jignesh Mevani are protesting the state government's alleged inaction following the flogging of community members in Una last summer.

The Ambedkar film "should be fast-paced, engaging to watch, cohesive and creatively presented", a foreign ministry document says. "Narration or anchor-driven approach may be chosen without long monologues."

According to the document, the film will try to familiarise global audiences with Ambedkar's life, including his fight against social inequality, role in the freedom struggle and influence over the drafting of the Constitution.

The ministry also wants the film to detail Ambedkar's education - he studied at New York's Columbia University - and family.

But it is unclear whether the documentary, estimated to be of 50 minutes' duration, will also include Ambedkar's renunciation of Hinduism and conversion to Buddhism, or his criticism of Hindutva, the guiding philosophy of the Sangh parivar to which the ruling BJP belongs. The foreign ministry document is silent on these aspects of Ambedkar's life.

India has faced criticism internationally in recent months over the attacks on Dalits and other forms of caste discrimination.

In March, a UN Human Rights Council special rapporteur, Rita Izsak-Ndiaye, wrote a scathing report on caste discrimination in India, including the use of manual scavengers by local governments and municipalities.

Izsak-Ndiaye, from Hungary, also argued that access to timely healthcare in India was often linked to caste. She cited an Indian study that "demonstrated stark disparities between Dalit and non-Dalit women in terms of life expectancy and access to prenatal and postnatal care".

India criticised the report and questioned Izsak-Ndiaye's mandate. It argued that her official mandate involved reporting on the minorities and that she had breached that by studying Dalits.