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Saturday, Feb. 9, 2002

Indian director blasts the bomb

Documentary suggests patriotism has obscured truth


Staff writer

While many Indian people greeted the nuclear tests conducted by New Delhi in 1998 with enthusiasm, one Indian film director claims that nationalist fervor has blinded the Indian public toward the hideous potential of nuclear weapons.

Anand Patwardhan

The film "War and Peace: Non-violence to Nuclear Nationalism," directed by Anand Patwardhan, was awarded the grand prize at the Earth Vision -- Tokyo Global Environmental Film Festival, which was held in Shinjuku Ward the first two days of February.

Patwardhan, who has made documentaries on social and political issues in India for nearly three decades, spent 3 1/2 years making a feature documentary centering on India's successful nuclear test of May 1998.

Naturally, the patriotism and euphoria generated by the test are covered in the work. But the documentary also features those who believe in the teachings of Mahatama Gandhi and started a nonviolent antinuclear movement, as well as the lower classes and indigenous people who oppose the development of such arms.

"(Poor people) know that every bomb costs money, which they need," said the 52-year-old film director, stressing that the people in question lack food, clothing and education.

About two-thirds of India's national budget for research and development is channeled toward nuclear, defense and space technology, he said.

As one vivid example of the poor being overshadowed by nuclear development, the director turned his gaze toward the indigenous people of Jadugoda in the east Indian state of Bihar.

Patwardhan said that the people of Jadugoda are victims of India's security policies as their health has been damaged by radiation emitted from the nation's only uranium mine.

He explained that cancer and deformity rates have risen because the mining company that operates the facility has implemented no measures to protect residents and mine workers from radiation exposure.

For his latest work, Patwardhan filmed several deformed children, although the government denies that the deformities are the result of radiation exposure, he said.

According to a report by an Indian journalist in 1999, research conducted by a group of local residents showed that 18 percent of women living in seven villages within a 1-km radius of a pond that receives effluents from a uranium processing plant said they had suffered either miscarriages or given birth to stillborn babies within the previous five years, while 81 men who worked in the uranium mine died between 1994 to 1997.

"They are the victims of so-called national security, no security for the people who live there," Patwardhan said.

He claimed that the Hindi-led government, in an effort to maintain its grip on power, has developed nuclear weapons and stirred up patriotism at the expense of these people.

He also said, however, that the deterrent factor supposedly achieved by the weapons has not managed to prevent conventional wars, with border hostilities between India and Pakistan continuing unabated.

Indian politicians say in Patwardhan's film that nuclear weapons are a "passport" to becoming a superpower, while others shout "Every Indian is an atomic bomb!"

The documentary also features tanks with models of atomic bombs rolling down Indian streets and people voicing their admiration for nuclear scientists.

Patwardhan also shot footage in Pakistan, Japan and the United States, in an effort to portray the reality and historical background behind these weapons of mass destruction.

Although commercial factors make it difficult for the director to get his documentary shown at Indian theaters, he said he plans to show the film at colleges, and hopes it will be shown in other countries, including Pakistan and the U.S.

"People are very susceptible to the idea of patriotism, not just in India," he said.

He added, however, that he believes India has become much more insecure since it got the bomb.

"Now we are very afraid of Pakistan's bomb, and they are afraid of our bomb," he said.

The annual film festival, which started in 1992, represents a forum at which global environmental problems can be considered through films and photographs.

Film entries from both amateurs and professionals are accepted from Asia, Oceania and Polynesia.

This year, 96 films from 17 countries and a region applied to enter the film category of the festival. The two-day event attracted some 2,000 onlookers, according to organizers.



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