When the film finished, I went up to the director and told her, I don't know how to tell you this was a good film, because right now I'm shaking with anger, burning up inside. An hour later, I still am. That's what Amu did to me.
Several thousand of my countrymen were slaughtered in Delhi in 1984, solely because they wore turbans. Because they were Sikh. Prominent Delhi Congress leaders urged thugs on as they killed. Police stood by and did nothing to stop the massacres, often participated themselves. An administration failed, a city went up in flames, a nation was shamed forever.
India has had plenty of ghastly crimes, but this was arguably the worst of the lot.
Yet there is actually something that shames us even more than those days of killing. In twenty years -- count 'em, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-20, count 'em and weep -- we have not managed to bring one of the killers to justice. It's not as if the wheels of justice do move, but just slowly; after all, the two Sikh killers of Indira Gandhi were swiftly tried and punished. The truth is, for the victims of the 1984 horror, the wheels move not at all. Not one measly revolution.
Ah, but there have been inquiries. Eight official, government appointed inquiries into the murders, and a ninth going on as you read this. Count 'em, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9. These and other unofficial inquiries have clearly identified the guilty. Not one has been punished. (Here is something I wrote two years ago about these inquiries).
Amu reminds us of this 20-year-long charade. It left me so angry, I was unsure I'd be able to speak. Or type, now.
Because I hear all this talk about India Shining, and our Indian image improving by the hour, and being self-sufficient, and joining the war on terror, and aspiring to a seat on the Security Council -- and I think, how empty it all is. When we are a land -- let's be frank, shall we? -- of no justice whatsoever, what do any of those fine phrases mean? And when we are complacent about that absence of justice, what do those fine phrases mean? When we let the terrorists live untouched in our midst, even give them police protection, what do those phrases mean?
And if we won't give thousands of destroyed families the minimum we owe them -- a measure of justice -- we paint one broad-brushed certainty on ourselves: we will have more such days of shame. With each one, we will refine that lack of justice into an ever smoother art. Right enough: Bombay in 1992-93. Gujarat in 2002. Thousands dead. Nobody punished. People -- apparently respectable, upstanding people -- actually justifying these unspeakable crimes. That last, by itself, an even more unspeakable horror.
So if Amu doesn't shake the too-long dormant conscience of an entire country, nothing ever will. My gut tells me it won't. But go see it and prove me wrong. Please.