Kairana, a small town in western Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli district has recently been in the headlines. In June 2016, Kairana’s MP, Hukum Singh, who is from the Bharatiya Janata Party, claimed that there was an exodus of Hindus from Muslim-majority Kairana because of harassment by Muslims. To substantiate his allegation, he released a list of 346 Hindu families who had supposedly migrated from the town. It didn’t take long, but the list was soon discredited. Many in the list were still living in Kairana, some had moved out over a decade ago for economic reasons, and while some did claim that deteriorating law and order was a serious concern, no one attributed their migration from Kairana to a Hindu-Muslim conflict.
In my film, ‘Kairana, Surkhiyon ke Baad…’ (Kairana, After the Headlines…) – produced by Chalchitra Abhiyan and The Wire – I attempt to look at the town and its politics, and the issues that affect it, beyond the binaries of Hindu versus Muslim. The film speaks to a range of voices from Kairana – from Muslim youth, to Hindus and Jains, the workers who have to travel far from the town for their daily wages, Dalits and women. The town, like many others in UP (and perhaps India) is today confronted with the grim reality of its real issues being glossed over under the shrill rhetoric of religious polarisation imposed on residents by influential politicians.
Even as the recent National Human Rights Commission report on Kairana gives credence to Hindu right wing claims that Kairana’s Muslim men selectively molest Hindu women, my film tries to scratch beneath the surface of such claims to reveal the larger patriarchal assault on women of both religions, by men of both religions. The Dalits of Kairana speak of how they’re at the receiving end of caste hierarchies upheld by dominant caste men of both religions. Muslim youth and workers speak of stark issues of unemployment in the town and the lack of any basic amenities – factors that are leading to growing criminalisation of the youth. A criminalisation that both Hindus and Muslims are victim to. The Hindus and the Jains of Kairana speak of how they’ve never felt vulnerable in a Muslim majority town.
In the midst of this despair, the film tries to look at the daily resistance of the people of Kairana and their struggles to bring back to the fore the real issues that afflict them.
Nakul Singh Sawhney is a film-maker. He trained at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. His previous films include the critically acclaimed Izzatnagari ki Asabhya Betiyaan, on crimes and killings in the name of honour, and Muzaffarnagar Baqi Hai, on the 2013 Muzaffarnagar communal violence.