Aimee Baruah, an Assamese actor-turned-director, will be participating with her documentary about love jihad in Assam at the forthcoming 5th South Asian Short Film Festival to be held in Kolkata. The producer held one-to-one conversations with many victim ladies on camera where she asked them about their heinous victimization. The documentary named ‘Screaming Butterflies’, which most recently won the Silver Conch award for Best Documentary Film at the Mumbai International Film Festival will be screened by the Films Division this month in association with the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI). According to the schedule of the film festival to be held at Nandan in Kolkata, the documentary is being screened today, 3rd August 2022.
According to the reports, the documentary contains dreadful stories of all such women who became a victim of conversion to Islam under the pretext of love affairs by Islamist men. The reel in the very beginning displays a message that says that the documentary cannot be considered as evidence in the lawsuits that are underway in the Court of Law. Baruah also states that she has made no attempts to hide the faces of victims after the latter asked the director not to deliberately conceal the identities.
Elaborating about the film Screaming Butterflies, the director said that in early 2021, she knew 26 girls from Assam who were tricked and tortured by Islamist men who posed with false religious identities to lure them. It is then that she began to shoot the film. “I first wanted to hear their stories. I asked the permission for filming once I heard them out”, she was quoted. The Assamese actor says she is still in touch with each one of them.
Out of a total of 26 women, Baruah decided to focus on four women. To comfort the ladies, she also decided to operate the camera herself and no other crew members were present during the filming. Describing the plight of the women, the director said, “the women shared their stories with a hope that it might help other girls from being duped in this way. Every word they spoke came out from the depth of truth”. She added that the film is not about targeting one particular community. “It is wrong for a person from any faith to dupe girls this way and force them to convert”, she stated.
Talking about not blurring the faces of the victims in Screaming Butterflies, Aimee Baruah said that when the faces of victims are not shown, it is very difficult to show their emotions. And it was good that the victims themselves wanted to reveal their faces in cameras, and gave legal consent for the same. The victims said that they have narrated their stories to the media in the past, but the issue was not highlighted, therefore they came forward to tell their stories on camera.
Saying that the tortures that the women went through were unimaginable, Aimee said that she could not show everything as she felt it will be too much. She also said that her film is not against a particular community, but nobody in the world should be allowed to treat women like this using fake identities and falsehoods.
Though Love Jihad is not considered a problem by many leftists and Islamists, it is a fact that forces non-Islamist women to go through discomfort and unimaginable misery. Non-Islamist women are trapped in a ‘love affair’ by the Islamists who sometimes even hide their identities to lure the victims. The women are then sexually exploited and forced to follow the Islamic rituals and later accept the religion forever. In some cases, they are also forced to consume beef as a part of the Islam religion.
Though the problem of love jihad or grooming jihad has networked all over the country, cases like these are found more in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and West Bengal. OpIndia has documented several such cases over the last few years.
In June this year, the film which shows the stories of the victims won the award for the Best Documentary film (below 60 minutes) in the National Competition section of the 17th Mumbai International Film Festival. The Director also received a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh and a Silver Conch. “For me, they aren’t just some mere film characters but original people who went through terrible experiences. And if we don’t observe their pain closely, we won’t understand their hardships,” she had said then.
The director stated that despite there are stringent laws that have been implemented against love jihad in various states, the country sees no slump in such continuing incidents of love jihad. She said that the life of women gets ruined after facing misery. “They hardly have friends even now. Unfortunately, our laws are not strong enough to punish the perpetrators”, she noted.
Before ‘Screaming Butterflies‘, Aimee Baruah also earned accolades for another film titled ‘Semkhor’. The Dimasa language short film was screened at several film festivals including Berlin International Film Festival, and she made her Cannes debut this year where the film was screened, and she was also invited to talk about the film. Semkhor won awards the National Film festival, and film festivals at Bengaluru, Dhaka and Toronto.
Actor-director Aimme Baruah, who has acted in a large of Assamese feature films and video films, is married to current Assam minister and BJP leader Pijush Hazarika.