Justice Project: Stories on resistance, conflict and turmoil from five nations

New Delhi, June 1 (IANS) The mysterious disappearance of an activist in Nepal, displacement from a dear valley to live as a refugee in Pakistan, a judge who sexually abused two women in Sri Lanka and got away with it – these are some of the instances of justice denied for few decades now.

Toward this, directors from five nations – India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – put together the Justice Project to showcase for the world at large these heartrending stories of conflict and turmoil.

Snapshots of three of the five films screened at the India International Centre here May 27-30. The project was formulated in coordination with Aakar, a Delhi-based trust and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Castaway Man (Director: Kesang Tseten, Nepal; Duration: 82 min; 2015)

About 20 years ago, Dor Bahadur Bista, an anthropologist who fought against Nepaal’s caste system had disappeared without a trace. Director Kesang Tseten, after a series of interviews with Bista’s family and friends, reveals the kind of man Bista was; an outright rebel who fought the Brahmanical rituals and was termed anti-national after his book ‘People of Nepal’ was published.

His second book ‘Fatalism and Development’, which spoke of Brahmanical brainwashing making Nepalis fatalistic received an equally violent backlash from the society. Tseten documents the struggle Bista went through in his struggle the caste system. A local woman he had taken undr his wing to educate her even accused him of having an affair.

Bista disappeared before 1996, when the when the Maoists began their campaign to topple the monarchy. Ironically they destroyed Bista’s house and books.

There is no sign of the man till now, though his work is highly valued now. The mystery deepens further as the story ends with an archival clip of Bista burying a time capsule in 1994 – with instructions to open it 100 years later.

Silence in the Courts (Director: Prasanna Vithanage, Sri Lanka; Duration: 57 min; 2015)

Prasanna Vithanage documented this heart-wrenching tale of two women who were sexually abused by a judge presiding over cases involving their husbands nearly two decades ago. Despite seeking justice, their pleas were continually turned down by the apex court the Judiciary Services Commission and even the president.

Victor Ivan, a Sri Lankan journalist who took up the cause to bring justice to these women had published several reports on the issue and on the judge who abused the women. Three years later, the charges against the judge were proven and he was sent on compulsory leave with pay instead of being dismissed.

Vithanage, in 2014 documented the case, while the two women still await justice.

A Walnut Tree (Director: Ammar Aziz, Pakistan; Duration: 92 min; 2015)

An old man, dearly called Baba by his family, planted a walnut tree in front of his house in Pakistan’s Swat Valley a few decades ago. He put all his efforts into taking good care of the tree so that his family could go grow around the tree. But, the beautifull lush green valley slowly turned into a land filled with blood due to the conflict between the Taliban and the army. Men and women were killed mercilessly and bodies piled up on the roads. Even birds refused to make their nests in the valley anymore.

Baba, his son, Mahir, his wife and two children along with many thousands were forced to displace to Jalozai refugee camp, 35 km southeast of Peshawar. Director Aziz and his camera team lived at the camp for few months to document the plight of the people. Men had no jobs and made ends meet through petty jobs, women often fell sick but had no access to medical care and children were weak, out of schools and left on the streets.

After about four years in the camp when most of the refugees seem to have nearly settled in at the camp Baba still reminisced about the valley. The eerie silence around him at the camp made his mind chaotic. Being a poet, his subtle poetry yet with very strong words was his only way out from the horrible living conditions at the camp. The violent valley seemed more welcoming to him. On a cloudy morning Baba was nowhere to be seen in the camp. Leaving his family behind at the camp, Mahir left for the valley in search of his Baba.

The walnut tree, despite bearing fruit, stood there still in the valley. And, Baba was never found again.

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