Tuesday, 31 July, 2007

Media Release by Shabnam Hashmi

It is with deep anguish and pain that I release this statement today to the media. My brother Safdar Hashmi was attacked on January 1, 1989 and he died the next day.

I started my activism in 1981 and worked for 7 years doing adult literacy work in Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti, later I spent a few years working with the People’s Science Movement.

Safdar always wanted to start a theatre repertory and he had asked me several times to manage the repertory whenever he was able to start it. Unfortunately he could not fulfill his dream as was life was snatched away at the peak of his creative carrier. In 1989 after Safdar’s death a trust in his memory was formed Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT). I felt that I owed it to his memory and also the fact that we had the same dreams to devote time to the running of the Trust.

My involvement with SAHMAT (Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust) within the first week turned into almost 14-18 hours and the next 15 years I spent along with a small core group building and running the organization. My son who was two and a half years at that time did not see a routine life after that and slept most of the time on old banners inside or outside the small office, he did not know what regular meals were.

I do not want to narrate here what all SAHMAT did during those 15 years, the Delhi media is well aware of the major national level campaigns, initiatives and advocacy work that we did. Media is also aware of SAHMAT’s activities after 2003.

After the Gujarat 2002 carnage I spent most of my time in Gujarat and because of many reasons found it stifling to work within SAHMAT. I resigned from the organization in January 2003.

I had heard a lot of stories from friends of being hounded once they move out of a particular movement but realized it only when I experienced it myself.

The allegations varied from corruption, to amassing a huge amount of wealth, to be surviving personally on money from the Congress Party, to have joined a foreign funded NGO, to be taking a huge salary from some other organizations, to have collected money in the name of SAHMAT in USA and not given to the organization. All these were spread by very effective rumor spreading machinery across India. Where ever I went the rumors preceded me and people were given specific instructions not to work with me or Anhad. We had to vacate the small garage office ( 4, Windsor place) under tremendous pressure.

Fortunately for me the Delhi media knew me well and had seen how we survived and lived. The constant dependence on loans from my husband’s PF or running around every second year and looking for some consultancy so that the children’s school fee could be paid. Even today as I release this statement, my son has got into one of the most prestigious film institutes (EICAR in France) and we are asking our friends and family to contribute for his fee. Out of the 15 years that I worked in SAHMAT it was for probably a year or so that SAHMAT picked up my travel and I took 3000 per month towards the travel expenses. Apart from that I have spent more than 25 years working on voluntary basis. It was during a major personal economic crises that Gauhar took leave from office and worked in TVI for over an year. He made several films (Jang e Azadi, In the Dark Times, A Beautiful Spaceship) during this one year apart from doing a weekly science programme ‘Kasauti’. Since both of us were deeply involved in SAHMAT’s work most of the first screenings were done at that platform and Gauhar’s films were kept there and sold and always the money went to the organization. Gauhar never claimed from anyone money for his films as he always made them to be used by the secular movement across India and abroad.

Last four years after we established Anhad, we have consistently worked in Gujarat and remote earthquake hit villages of Kashmir and many other states as well as intervening constantly at the national level. I do not understand what more ordinary citizens can do to contribute to the society, to improve the world around us, which we have tried to the best of our abilities. We do not claim to be perfect but we have definitely tried our best to work for the under privileged, we have tried our best to counter the communal fascist forces in the country and will continue to do so.

We avoided reacting to all the attacks and allegations for the past four years as we considered it counter productive to the cause for which we are fighting. Unfortunately despite our best efforts we have been forced to respond as this time the attack along with rumors that Gauhar Raza, my husband has taken huge amount of money for a film which is not his but SAHMAT’s , there is a legal notice also which has been sent. We have no option but to reply now.

A legal notice (reply from Gauhar Raza) is also being released along with this statement.

I want to reiterate that it is most unfortunate that we have been forced to bring this out in the public, that too against an organization that we built with our own blood and sweat and which is in the name of my dear brother, who sacrificed his life fighting for the rights of the most deprived sections of the society. I also want to underline that it is not the whole SAHMAT collective which is responsible for this but a few people within SAHMAT, who are responsible for this situation.

Shabnam Hashmi
July 27, 2007

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