Sometimes, no often, the most revealing things come from the most unexpected quarters.
Here's the situation: The film "Fanaa" won't be screened in Gujarat. Theatre owners anticipated trouble if they did show it, so they've decided not to. The film, of course, stars Aamir Khan. Aamir Khan, of course, famously spoke up during recent protests over the dam on the Narmada.
The BJP's Yuva Morcha in Gujarat has a leader called Amit Thakker. This man, presumably a young man, spoke to "Hindustan Times" (May 24) about the release -- or the non-release -- of the film in Gujarat. "We have not issued any threats," he said. "We have only requested theatre owners not to screen 'Fanaa' in the interest of Gujarat."
How it might be "in the interest" of an entire state not to see one more Bollywood film would be good to learn. But my guess is, we won't. Thakker just wants us to assume it.
Nevertheless, more interesting by far is something else Thakker also told the press. "Gujarat," he said, "is not to blame for non-completion of rehabilitation of the affected people."
You see: the young man actually admits that "rehabilitation of the affected people" is incomplete. And of course Gujarat is not to blame: for the very simple reason that the great majority of affected people are in not in Gujarat (nor even, for that matter, in Maharashtra), but in MP.
For just one indication of this, consider these figures taken from the minutes of the 52nd meeting of the R&R sub-group of the Narmada Control Authority, held on February 8 2002. These are all numbers for Project Affected Families (PAFs) in MP.
(That is, at the current height of the dam, some 70 per cent of the total PAFs are from MP. At the full height, that rises to over 80 per cent).
What these numbers show is clear: the state of R&R in MP, even four years ago, was a mess. It has been a mess for a long time. Which is just the point of the recent protests over the dam, that Aamir Khan expressed support for. He too was concerned -- as I assume Thakker is -- that rehabilitation is incomplete.
So why the anger against Aamir Khan?
Why would one of the BJP's senior-most leaders, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, tell reporters: "We can end this row if he (Aamir Khan) apologises to the people of Gujarat"? What must Khan apologise for?
But of course, demanding apologies is easy. If "people of Gujarat" like Amit Thakker want this dam built, they might want to ask: who, after all, is responsible for the hurdles in the path to completion?
Which of these deserves the anger of the "people of Gujarat"?
Should the "people of Gujarat", whom Malhotra and Thakker seem willing to speak for, begin asking their own leaders for some answers? After all, if rehabilitation is done with a degree of dispatch and sincerity, that dam will be ready that much sooner. The point is precisely that it has not been done. Should the "people of Gujarat" start to wonder why Amit Thakker can say so, but if Aamir Khan says so, he must be immediately branded "anti-Gujarat" and his films denied to the "people of Gujarat"?
But there's something here that interests me more than apologies demanded and films seen or not.
There seems to me a very simple solution to R&R with dams. I often wonder why nobody has seriously attempted it. Why not resettle displaced people in the command area of the dam? Meaning, they get the benefits of the dam that drove them out of their homes. In fact, why not make the the first beneficiaries of water and whatever else the dams deliver? Why not tell those who live in the command area: "You want all these goodies from the dam? Well, here's the price: you have to find a way to accept these people whom the dam has displaced."
Seems like a perfectly plausible answer. After all, we're asking these displaced people to "sacrifice" for the "good of the country." Why not treat them as we treat others whom we applaud for making such sacrifices: meaning, of course, our armed forces? We treat those people extraordinarily well. They get housing, quality education and innumerable other benefits, not forgetting the respect of an entire country. Well, why not the same for these other sacrificers?
So here's the proposition, and I believe it should be far more in the interest of Gujarat than not seeing a film. What if the "people of Gujarat" say to the affected people who are not being rehabilitated (and who are willing to move to Gujarat): "Please come live in our state. If you're affected by the dam, we welcome you here and you will be its first beneficiaries." What if they demand that this be done?
How about it, Amit Thakker? Make us proud.