'Jai Bhim' Rajanna and 'Teenmaar' Mallanna

‘Jai Bhim’ Rajanna and ‘Teenmaar’ Mallanna

‘Jai Bhim’ Rajanna and ‘Teenmaar’ Mallanna


“In order to uphold democracy, now and then one must be authoritative” this dialogue of an Inspector General Perumalsamy (Prakash Raj) during a conversation with a committed advocate Chandru (Suriya) in the just-released ‘Jai Bhim’ movie encapsulates the mindset of the powers-that-be.

"In order to uphold democracy, now and then one must be authoritative" this dialogue of an Inspector General Perumalsamy (Prakash Raj) during a conversation with a committed advocate Chandru (Suriya) in the just-released 'Jai Bhim' movie encapsulates the mindset of the powers-that-be.

Call it brutality, highhandedness or oppression, the fact is that those in authority scrupulously abide by this ruthless philosophy.

This conviction is the driving force behind inhuman brutalities like genocide, holocaust, mayhem, or fake encounter. The irony is that those who strongly oppose the iron-hand policy of the government of the day adopt the same draconian approach when they gain control of power. History stands testimony to this perennial game that has been played out by successive rulers against the 'subjects'. A sense of entitlement and superiority can be attributed to such a tyrannical attitude.

In the movie, Prakash Raj shares an incident in which he had bludgeoned the ten fingers of an eve-teaser. "Fearing that the girl's parents could discontinue her studies on coming to know about the incident, I had to deal the issue this way (without booking a case). What is the value of the uniform I am wearing if I fail to address the schoolgirl's issue?" he quips.

Bad cops take law into their own hands and try to get away with the crime of being extra-judicial. Police machinery, the strongest arm of the government, is misused and abused by the political masters and thus the protectors of law and order are often blamed for violating the same.

Based on a real-life fight launched by an illiterate and pregnant Irula tribal woman Sengani ('Sinatalli' played by Lijomol Jose) seeking justice for the gruesome custodial killing of her husband Rajakannu ('Rajanna' by Manikandan) in Tamil Nadu in 1993, 'Jai Bhim' leaves you dumbfounded.

Police brutality, a very common phenomenon in policing, is the central theme of the movie directed by Gnanavel and produced by Jyotika-Suriya. The carefully crafted movie also highlights the plight of tribals and discrimination they face in every sphere of their lives.

A similar, and equally dastardly, lock-up death of a Dalit woman Mariamma (45), a suspect in a theft case, in a police station in Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district on June 18, 2021 crosses the Telugu viewers' mind while watching 'Jai Bhim.'

At a time when there is a heated debate on ways and means to uplift SCs, STs, BCs and minorities in India and the TRS government's resolve to implement an ambitious 'Dalit Bandhu' scheme, the title Jai Bhim, meaning 'Long live Bhim' or 'Hail Bhim', a greeting used by followers of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, has grabbed people's attention.

The determined efforts of Sinatalli, initially to find out the whereabouts of her missing husband and later to bring the police officers to book for having tortured him to death, and the socially- conscious advocate Chandru's painstaking efforts to put the 'killer' cops behind bars keep viewers on tenterhooks.

The way local human rights activists, especially a night-school teacher Mythra (Rajisha Vijayan), stand by the victims is highly inspiring. I am mighty impressed by Mythra's extraordinary guts to extend psychological support to the victims to continue a tireless struggle against the powerful establishment in the face of many adversaries. The teacher does not confine herself to her professional role but shoulders her social responsibility to admirable levels.

Undeterred by the refusal of advocates to take up Sinatalli's case, the teacher stumbles upon Chandru and helps him connect some missing dots to nail the murderers. For me, the selfless teacher is the real hero of 'Jai Bhim.' We need more Mythras to come to the rescue of the socially and financially weaker sections.

The trials of Teenmar Mallanna, an independent journalist-cum-political activist, haunted me when I was watching the struggle of Rajanna in 'Jai Bhim.' Though the intensity is less, the police brutality is as spine-chilling as in Mallanna's case too. It is not about individuals called Rajanna or Mallanna, but it's all about the human endeavour to safeguard the 'Right to Live' and protect the 'Freedom of Expression.' There is remarkable parallel in the lives of both the real-time characters.

As with Rajanna, Mallanna is facing 'false cases' that have been foisted by police to please their patrons. Rajanna, an expert snake-catcher, gets into trouble after visiting an influential man's house to catch a cobra as part of his duty. Similarly, Mallanna was arrested on the night of August 28 because he discharged his bounded professional duty, lending voice to the voiceless. He paid for exposing the alleged misdeeds of an astrologer.

Rajanna's house is raided in the night and a posse of police conducted search operations, not once but thrice, in Mallanna's Q-News office. In a bid to stifle the voice of Sinatalli, a police officer whisks away her kid when she insists that she speak to her lawyer before going to the police station. It is a crude attempt to pin down the hapless woman in distress.

Similarly, police confiscated hard-disks, cable wires and other material that could be used for shooting and live streaming in Mallanna's office. It is also a crude attempt to disrupt live shows of the hugely popular YouTube channel. Like Rajanna's wife, Mallanna's wife also appealed to the government and the civil society to help secure her husband's release.

Rajanna is subjected to unbearable torture in the police station when he refuses to confess to the crime. In Mallanna's case, police adopted a terrible ploy, by way of a series of PT warrants in quick succession, to keep him behind bars for the maximum possible time. It is nothing but a psychological torture of the journalist.

"After getting bail in the astrologer's case, we thought Mallanna would come out. To our surprise, police sought his judicial remand by registering a number of cases against him," one of the key functionaries of Q-News told me. An SC, ST Atrocities case filed by his former employees further delayed his release. After 73 days of incarceration, finally, he was out on bail on Monday. Rajanna is killed in police custody and there was an attempt to kill Mallanna in custody, if his version is to be believed.

All opposition parties rallied behind Mallanna even as mainstream media associations failed to make enough protracted noise to scare away the government. The lukewarm response of intelligentsia, academia and the media is highly disturbing in Mallanna's issue.

A good number of people like Mallanna-type of journalism. The points raised by him are of public importance and the daredevilish exposes he made are praiseworthy. He is also living up to the true spirit of investigative journalism. I, however, can't endorse the highly provocative language he uses to criticise individuals and the government. A journalist should follow the code of conduct in exposing black-sheep and there is no point in announcing a war against a section of people close to the ruling party. Taking political sides is also unwarranted.

Dubbing the elected Chief Minister as 'Baataala Poshetty' and his Minister son as "Drama Rao" is not in good taste but Q-News team believes that such 'activist journalism' is working wonders on social media. That is why, Mallanna is able to earn millions of followers besides a decent amount and he has become a household name in both Telugu States. If police have any information on the 'corrupt deals' of Mallanna, nobody would stop them from booking him under various laws. Police can counter Mallanna's allegations by way of slapping libel, slander and defamation clauses instead of resorting to cheap tricks as done by police in 'Jai Bhim.'

Sinatalli proves that intimidations, threats and money power can't save the trigger-happy cops for a long as truth will prevail eventually. As Suriya puts it, love for others and responsibility towards society are the two key factors to uphold democracy.

(The author, a PhD in Communication and Journalism, is a senior journalist, journalism educator and communication consultant)

(The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of The Hans India)

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