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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Reconciled through Photography: A Happy Ending from India, Sort Of

pictures by Arko Datta and Sebastian D'Souza

Here is an uplifting story of redemption, salvation and photography, this time from India and focussing on what many believe to be the provincial state-sanctioned killings of Muslims in Gujarat 2002. The man who allegedly sanctioned the killings is set to be become India's prime-minister, though money and political power may tone down his nationalist edge. 

The story focussed on two men, one Hindu, one Muslim, '...whose images came to define some of India’s deadliest communal violence.'

'One of the photographs - which capture different incidents during more than a week of violence - is of Qutubuddin Ansari, a Muslim man whose home had been torched by a Hindu mob and who was pleading with the police to save him. His face is filled with terror.

The other is of Ashok Parmar, a Hindu, whose head was wrapped in a saffron scarf and who wielded an iron bar against a backdrop of flames and mayhem. His face was twisted with anger.'

12 years later and '...the two men in the photographs have been reaching out to each other in a way that is little short of staggering. Last month, Mr Ansari, 40, and Mr Parmar, 39, shared a platform at an event in Kerala where the latter apologised for the horrors inflicted on the Muslim community.

"I shook his hand and said 'I am happy to meet you'," Mr Parmar recalled this week, sitting at his roadside cobbler's stand. "I said I regretted what happened in 2002. I am very sorry." Mr Ansari, a father-of-three who works as a garment stitcher, said of the meeting: "He said he had seen my photograph in the paper and that it should not have happened. It was a public apology. I think my photograph was instrumental in changing the attitude of Ashok."'

Ansari was photographed as a mob gathered to burn down his house and it is probably the photographer Arko Datta and other photographers who saved his life. '"I thought we would be dead in ten minutes," said Mr Ansari, wiping his eyes as he flicked through a photo album of his blackened, destroyed neighbourhood and remembered friends who were killed..."Arko Datta was like a gift from God."'

It's a great story and one with many undercurrents that connect to contemporary politics, memory and the 'trauma created by the photograph.' I get the feeling there's a whole bunch of stories but let's stick with the happy one today.


colin pantall said...

A rather incoherent reader posted a link to an alternative view of the picture of the rioter, but it doesn't seem very convincing.

And I remain unimpressed by any publication that has the name of a religion in its title. But you can read the alternative Hindu perspective here.


colin pantall said...

If you have any remotely fanatical religious leanings that excuse killings of people on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexuality, do not bother to post comments on my blog as it is not a place where fascists will find a voice.