The trailer of Ayushman Khurana starrer ‘Article 15’ was released recently. The movie is made by Anubhav Sinha of ‘Mulk’ and Ra-One fame. The film claims to be based on true events and a look at the trailer makes it clear that it is based on the infamous Badaun hanging case where two young girls were murdered in a village in UP.
A report quotes Manoj Pahwa, one of the actors in the film saying, “This film is not completely based on the heinous crime that took place in Badaun where two girls were raped and hanged. We can say that this film is inspired by that incident and we have included some chunks of it.”
The trailer begins with the reference to Article 15 of the Indian constitution which gives a right of equality to everyone. However, the movie seems hell-bent on driving home the fact that ‘equality’ means showing Brahmins as the villains in the story.
The trailer shows two young girls of a village brutally raped and murdered, their bodies hanging from a tree. It shows the girl, whose families are marginalised and forced to work as day labourers, were targeted because they demanded a hike of 3 rupees in their daily wages and shows how caste equations are prevalent in the area. The trailer also mentions that the crime was committed by ‘Mahant ji ke ladke’. Mahant ji is mentioned as a Brahmin of the highest order.
The scenes of the trailer also show how the people in the area think that the Dalits have no right to demand higher wages, and their status is what the ‘upper caste’ deems fit.
In its attempt to be ‘inspired’ from the Badaun case, the movie seems to have taken wide liberties with facts. The case got wide attention in national and international media, bringing shame for the then Akhilesh Yadav government in UP because it was highlighted as a case of upper caste atrocity against Dalits.
The accused were named Pappu Yadav, Avadhesh Yadav, Urvesh Yadav, Chhatrapal Yadav and Sarvesh Yadav. Chhatrapal and Sarvesh were policemen. The police department was accused of showing leniency to the accused in the case due to political pressure from the Samajwadi Party which was favouring the Yadavs. Even the police investigation was severely criticised and the people had demanded a CBI inquiry.
The CBI had later stated that their probe indicates that the two girls, aged 14 and 15, had committed suicide and they were neither raped or murdered. The five accused were all given a clean chit.
Anubhav Sinha, the person whose own shady money laundering attempts have been highlighted before and who was last seen requesting Pakistanis to watch his ‘Mulk’ movie illegally, has made great efforts in his movie to take a widely publicised crime and paint it in colours of casteism that suits his political narrative. The invisible ‘Mahant ji’ (a probable sly at Yogi Adityanath) who is a Brahmin, is painted as the all-powerful root of evil in the movie. Also, the over-emphasis of ‘upper castes’ and Brahmins being the sole cause of all atrocities seems to be the central theme in the movie.
The attempt to pick a highly publicised crime and paint it in anti-Brahmin, anti-upper caste colours is unfair, even in the name of artistic liberties. The Badaun case had no brahmin angle. Changing the ethnicities and identities of a highly publicised crime only reeks of narrow political agenda, an agenda which is dangerously partial and divisive.
In the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, Uttar Pradesh has shown that it has discarded its age-old political tools of caste and community. The SP-BSP alliance whose entire politics is based on caste divisions and antagonisation was rejected and the BJP who fought the elections on the issues of development and nationalism was selected by the people with an overwhelming mandate. At a time when the people are ready to cement their faultlines and look forwards, movies like this are a shameless attempt to further enforce the old shackles of caste identities down their throats.