It’s been 11 years since the tragic Dhemaji incident happened, an incident that could only be described as devastating, horrendous and shameful in the same breath. People mostly children had gathered in large numbers along with their parents, guardians, and teachers to celebrate and observe Independence Day. But suddenly the national anthem abruptly ended. The rejoicing soon turned into an indescribable horror when a bomb of massive-scale exploded, leaving the scene at the play ground of Dhemaji College on that fateful day of August 15, 2004 in absolute carnage. The Independence Day celebration ground turned in no time into a killing field. The incident claimed the lives of 13 innocent children and leaving many severely injured. This act of savage brutality further revealed extreme cowardice on the part of terrorists who carried out this senseless act of violence. The heart-breaking incident forever changed the lives of those parents and families whose children died, along with those who survived with life-changing injuries, pushing them into edge of hopelessness.
The parents continue to shoulder the trauma in silence. Time has failed to heal the wounds. The government has never bothered to give any priority to their grievances and concerns. No mental counselling was provided, something that would have somewhat assisted all those aggrieved parents and surviving children, in coping with the pain of the tragedy.
Parthajit Baruah’s new documentary ‘Dhemaji Tragedy : An Undefined Chapter’ is a fascinating, unbiased and heart-felt account of the ubiquitous trauma and pain endured in immense measure by all those parents over the years. The grave issues on hand provided Baruah with enough substance and reasons to become a committed journalist cum activist during its filming, as he revisits the courtyard of the angst ridden, and mostly neglected guardians of the innocent souls, still haunted by those memories. It also exposes a major flaw in the system – the way majority of the populace, including the print and electronic media, scramble around to glorify a false hero’s home coming. The documentary begins with the apologies tendered by ULFA’s Commander-in-chief Paresh Barua and Pro-talk ULFA President Aravinda Rajkhuwa for the Dhemaji Blast.
The film liberally uses generous amount of poetry, motifs, and symbols. Filmmaker Baruah, de constructing the notion of narrating a story, uses an artist’s motif to narrate the suppressed angst and untold pain of the parents of the dead school children. As the story develops, the image of an artist drawing the incident in his canvas is brought from time to time to give an aesthetic meaning to their death, as death becomes an art for the children. His activist approach has created a new aesthetic in the documentary.
Baruah also conducts a series of interviews with the distraught victims, who have entrusted all of their painful memories to him. We can’t help but feel so much empathy for them. The memories of the tragic event still linger all these years later. The tragedy has led the miscreants to apologize but is tight-lipped when it comes to admitting their guilt. Till date, none of the perpetrators were prosecuted or brought to book. One can only hope and pray that an incident like this can never happen again.
Recently, the 40-minute long ‘Dhemaji Tragedy : An Undefined Chapter’ fetched Parthajit Baruah the best director award in the documentary category at the Kolkata Short International Film festival. He has dedicated the award to the parents who have lost their children, those tiny brave patriots who have gathered in large numbers, in the Dhemaji bomb blast.
‘Dhemaji Tragedy’s editing has been done by Hiranya Kalita, sound recording and mixing are executed by the much experienced Deepak Dutta and Bijoy Nath. The film’s camera work has been done by Pranab Haloi.
Parthajit Baruah first came to the limelight with his critically acclaimed 30-minute long documentary ‘Laxmi Orang : Rising from the Grave’, that depicted the life and struggle of gutsy Laxmi Orang, a feisty girl from Assam’s Sonitpur district, who was stripped in public during a protest rally, the trauma she underwent and the way she has been fighting for justice.
Both ‘Laxmi Orang : Rising from the Grave’ and ‘Dhemaji Tragedy : An Undefined Chapter’ has been a part of number of film festivals in India and abroad. Baruah has proved to be a provocative, gutsy young documentary filmmaker cum activist who believes passionately in the power of film to educate and enlighten.
After completing his post graduation in English literature and M.Phil in the subject ‘Film Adaptation : Shakespeare in Celluloid’, Baruah did an all-important Film Appreciation course at the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune. He has also written a few widely acclaimed books on cinema. He bagged the Prag Channel Film Critic award in 2010 for his book ‘Chalachitraor Taranga’ (Film Theory). His research-oriented book on the filmmaking legend Adoor Gopalkrishnan entitled ‘Face-to-Face : A Cinema of Adoor Gopalakrishnan’, brought out by the renowned publishing house ‘Harper Collins’, has received much praise and recognition. He is presently writing a book on eminent director Jahnu Barua’s movies. He teaches English and Cinema at Renaissance College in Nagaon. He is also the founder Secretary of Renaissance Cine Club.