Directed by Shaheen Ahmed and Ashfaque EJ, Lynch Nation is a documentary on the mob lynching of Muslim and Dalit men and boys that have shocked the country. Or at least, should have. A crowd-funded film with a runtime of 43 minutes, Lynch Nation travels across the country, to places where such communally coloured and casteist lynchings have taken place, reconstructing the murders through the accounts of the victims' friends and family.
Over the past few years, the murders of men like Akhlaq, Ansari and Pehlu Khan have made it to the headlines. However, the shock and outrage soon give way to helplessness as the system re-victimises their families all over again. In fact, there have been instances when the police has registered a complaint against the families for "cow smuggling" instead of turning their attention to the men who lynched their relative.
The pain in the eyes of Shakir, Junaid's brother, is hard to ignore as he remembers his sibling. How the two of them would spend time together when Junaid came home for Ramzan from the madrasa in Mewat where he was studying. The 15-year-old was stabbed to death in a train after an argument over seats – Junaid and the other Muslim boys were mocked for their beards and accused of being "Pakistanis".
Seen through the eyes of those who loved them, the victims in these cases rise before our eyes as ordinary people leading ordinary lives, who had no inkling that their religious identity would suddenly endanger them.
The documentary also sheds light on the political support that the accused in such crimes receive, from elected representatives declaring on camera that those who "smuggle cows" will be killed, to the accused boldly writing which political party they belong to in their confessions. The documentary further reveals how such lynchings are not a sudden outburst of mob fury but are actually planned conspiracies.
The case of Dalit men who were stripped and flogged by upper caste men in Gujarat's Una and the subsequent protests also feature in the documentary. The men were accused of cow smuggling and the video of gau rakshaks attacking them was circulated on social media. Vasram Sarvaiya, who was one of the men who were beaten up, speaks of how untouchability is still practised in his village. He adds that his grandfather as well as father were in the profession of skinning dead cows, revealing how cow politics is also linked to livelihood. He further speaks of how his uncle was burnt to death by villagers who couldn't tolerate his prosperity.
In the Una case, too, the police took the side of the gau rakshaks, and the victims of their violence found themselves behind bars.
Lynch Nation was released on November 25 as part of the 'Not in my Name' campaign at the Press Club in Delhi. The crew plans to screen the film in different parts of the country soon.
Watch the trailer here: