The Blog of Cafe Dissensus Magazine – we DISSENT

A Short Film on Communalism and Manto

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By Café Dissensus

This shocking short film (which has been doing the rounds for a while), Bombay Mirror, directed by Shlok Sharma, poignantly captures how a perfectly normal relationship between two friends belonging to two different religions can turn into a communal one in a matter of minutes. Shakeel comes for a shave to a barber’s shop, run by his friend. As the man (never named) is about to start shaving, they notice a Hindu man is attacked by a bunch of Muslim men and killed just outside the shop. As they witness the incident, in a fit a frenzy, the man slits Shakeel’s throat, only to realize minutes later that the scene outside was a film shoot.

What’s the psychology that undergirds such communal hatred?

Saadat Hasan Manto, the eccentric Urdu writer, ponders on this in his memoir that recounts his last days in Bombay before leaving for Pakistan after Partition (1947). Here we quote a few lines from his memoir:

It seems such a long time ago. The Muslims and Hindus were engaged in a bloody fratricidal war. Thousands died every day from both sides. One day, Shyam (Manto’s good friend and actor) and I were with a newly-arrived Sikh refugee family from Rawalpindi [Shyam came from Rawalpindi which was now a part of Pakistan] and listening in shocked silence to their horrifying account of what had happened. I could see that Shyam was deeply moved. I could well understand what was passing through his mind. When we left, I said to him: ‘I am a Muslim. Don’t you want to kill me?’ ‘Not now,’ he replied gravely, ‘but while I was listening to them and learning of the atrocities committed by the Muslims, I could have killed you.’

His remark shocked me deeply. Perhaps I could have killed him too when he made it. When I thought about it later, I suddenly understood the psychological background of India’s communal bloodbath. Shyam had said that he could have killed me ‘then’ but not ‘now’. Therein lay the key to the communal holocaust of Partition.

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Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.


Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Lucknow’s Many Muslims”. Edited by Prof. Nadeem Hasnain & Aseem Hasnain. The rich array of essays explores various facets of Lucknow, a ‘Muslim city par excellence.’


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