By Viva Revolucinema
This is a repost of a 5-year-old note and since then many more such things have happened. For instance Amar Kanwar’s appropriation of Odisha’s Adivasi movement videos ended up in a Tata Steel sponsored show. But the reason to re-post it is that the very filmmakers whom Tata had hired for this con-job have added much more capital to their feminist and progressive credentials in the subsequent years. They have rendered no apology to the Adivasi & Dalit people of Kalinga Nagar.
One of them (Paromita Vohra) is even being celebrated with a Retrospective of her films this year at the biggest NGO film festival in India, VIBGYOR, that otherwise claims to be a pro-people documentary festival. There is a pattern here, the Brahminical state and the Corporations kill Adivasi-Dalit for their resources and to enslave them and then these filmmakers are hired to clean up the image and then you have such festivals to clean up the image of the filmmakers.
Why else any documentary festival promote or celebrate the work of an unethical filmmaker who claims that these TV commercials for Tata were ‘documentary style ads’ (in other words those deceptive ‘advertorials’ and paid news we all condemn as unethical)?
Who will wash the Adivasi blood stains on Tata’s image?
1 September 2011 at 07:49
A little more than a year ago Nira Radia was heard telling Vir Sanghvi about her fight with the ‘Maoists’ for the Tatas in Kalinga Nagar. Around the same time Madhyantara Vol 4 (a video magazine) was released and featured extensive footage of hundreds of policemen pillaging villages in Kalinga Nagar. A few defenseless villagers threw stones at a sea of marauding para-military forces but at the end their foodstocks were on fire, their utensils were systematically broken and their water sources were contaminated with kerosene
This was part of a long drawn battle between the Adivasi people of Kalinga Nagar and Tata Steel, with the entire administrative and police machinery at Tata’s disposal.
Had it not been for the Radia tapes then one would have found it almost impossible to prove that indeed the Tatas had campaigned with the media to portray the anti-displacement Adivasi activists of Kalinga Nagar as ‘Maoists’. After the 2nd Jan 2006 massacre of 14 people, Tata Steel engaged in a media war against the tribals of Kalinga Nagar. The strategy was very clear, to paint the movement as a Maoist movement and facilitate excessive police action.
Despite everything Tata Steel was unable to wash off blood stains from its image. Despite attempts to completely censor news from Kalinga Nagar during last year’s raids on the villages, illegal evictions and atrocities by a mixed force of goons and para-military, a lot of revealing information came out in the form of videos shot by self-taught Adivasi filmmakers from the villages that were put up on Youtube immediately
And around the same time even the Radia tapes started surfacing.
A year later, Tata has got much smarter. They are no longer banking on the Nira Radias to do the job. Rather they have hired some of the most credible documentary feminist filmmakers (Paromita Vohra, Samina Mishra, Leena Manimekalai) to do the best whitewash job in recent advertising history – a series of TV Commercials highlighting some CSR ventures by Tata Steel – namely Bachendri Pal’s mountaineering antics; the story of another woman who has supposedly been empowered by wearing pant-shirt and being employed as an earth-moving vehicle driver, etc.
Perfectly timed to bolster the company’s announcements, of completing the Kalinga Nagar plant by next year.
In short, the TVCs announce that the Tatas have won Kalinga Nagar. Not only the battle on the ground but the information war as well. To get top-notch documentary filmmakers, known especially for their rights based approach, to do their whitewash job is a clean triumph in the media turf. They have won after getting about 20 Adivasis killed by bullets. Including the 12-year-old Janga on the night of 31st Dec 2010. Hundreds displaced. Villages divided. Scores arrested. Tortured. Many more denied of medical services. Pregnant women unable to go to hospitals fearing they and their accompanying relatives will be arrested. Half a dozen villagers died when Kalinga Nagar remained out of bounds for the rest of the world except for Tata goons and an all pervasive para military force.
What compelled the filmmakers to do the job is hard to put a finger on. Most of them were aware of Tata Steel’s doings in Kalinga Nagar. I have reason to believe even some of them had seen the videos on Youtube. In the past, a national Award winning filmmaker had done a similar job for Posco and then more recently another emerging ‘development’ filmmaker’s company was found to be doing videos for Vedanta.
It is sad to see the kinds of Nira Radia being replaced by ‘brighter’ and more ‘sensitive’ people which will only lead to more compelling propaganda from the house of Tata Steel. The people of Kalinga Nagar will have to re-invent their communication skills now as a more ‘evolved’ breed of communicators and media practitioners have arrived to silence their voices.
Please follow link given below to know more about the Tata Steel TVCs.