The story of caste inequality behind the Film Art 15

Radhakanta Barik

After seeing the film Art 15 by Anubhav Sinha which is designed as a crime thriller but it reality it is a political film based on caste crimes against Dalits and women which violates the Art 15 of Indian Constitution that is Right to Equality. One feels to write something about the social text. It is reality of Northern India where social elite has confronted administration but not public administration. As colonial administration from Moghul rule realised that one does not disturb the social structure based on hierarchy of caste system one can go on ruling. Strangely a novel written by Srilal Shukla 's Ragdarbari explains the social phenomenon. Shivpalganj has confronted administration in such a manner by which the caste hierarchy has not changed. On the contrary administration has supported the caste hierarchy and maintain a friendly relation with the elite. Police sub inspector, Tahsildar, BDO and the college Principal all have supported the Brahmin landlord and he had managed to appropriate both material and political benefits out of these institutions. In one case the police sub inspector wanted to pick up somebody involved in ganja trade and he is transferred. The celebration goes over liquor and bhanga by the village elite.

This film is an extension of Shivpalganj but in a different context. The rise of Dalits and backwards have changed the balance of social forces which has put pressures on administration. Administration is slowly changing towards public administration. Once the concept of public has been added to administration then question comes up who is going to change. It has changed in both ends and social structure has changed and administration has changed. This changing relationship between administration and social structure has got portrayed in the film Art 15. This is a constitutional provision telling every officer involved in public administration that Right to equality is a critical right to be enjoyed by all. Discrimination cannot be done on the basis of caste, gender and religion or race. This is a constitutional mandate for public administration. Officials joining public administration find that administration at cutting age does not bother of this constitutional right. They are oblivious of such a political imaginary based on equality. 

The story is based on true facts of UP that two sisters got raped and killed by the local landlord as they demanded Rs 3 additional wage as they are working in a shoe factory. This demand by Dalit workers makes the landlord revengeful and attacks these girls and murders them and hangs them from a tree. Local police station requests the newly appointed the IPS officer to close the file as they have committed suicides. He starts investigating the matter and finds viciousness of the story. Everybody is scared of the matter. The police officer tells the victims' fathers and they should vanish for some time which will make them forget their pains. As the local administration is unable to give justice, Dalits of the locality have started boycotting the works related to sanitation. The doctor doing the investigation is under pressures from the local police station that she should manipulate the result of her findings. With the backing of the IPS officer she writes true report regarding deaths. As deaths have happened because of gang rape. A reporter has published this story in the national press. This brings furor of political establishment as Hindutva believes in an imaginary brotherhood on the basis of sharing a meal together. In the film camera is moving over the event that a leader feeding a dalit person not vice versa. It is a political movie where caste-based Hindutva is getting exposed in the film. It is a bold film where the actors have acted in such a manner which exposes the caste system of our society. The best scene when a IPS officer kneels down to a dalit person when camera is moving over the space shared by a dalit and Brahmin officer which explains the underlying philosophy public administration based on equality and rule of law. This film brings out darkness surrounding our administrative system in a film where dark scenes are shown. Audience has enjoyed the film as somebody sitting next to us telling that a hero of the film meets his girlfriend where usually a film song comes which he opposes it. Audience enjoy the story telling of the film where brutal reality of our society gets articulated.

Indian caste system is taken as dirtiest pond in the town which helps the criminals to create mischiefs and across the pond there is a small forest where crimes like rapes and murders happen. Out of three girls one is left out is in the jungle. Jungle stands for Indian administrative system where administrative laws do not work. Constitutional democracy does not have a place here. Jungle is supported by the caste system which is like the dirtiest pond known as the pig pond. Both these symbols work together to keep India backward as rule of law cannot be enforced here. To clean the pond the police officers made an attempt collectively who are being supported by the village people. After the clearing the pond they reached the jungle where they found the girl whose mouth is tied and legs are tied to show social inequality in terms of gender. This film is about gender inequality and caste inequality confronted by public administration which can weaken the system for enforcement of rule of law.

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Jul 8, 2019

Prof. Radhakanta Barik [email protected]

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