Can a historical wrong ever be undone by acceptance of the truth? Can violence ever "unmark" and “release” its victims? What is the social cost of endemic violence? What kind of a closure can the criminal justice system bring? I Witness explores these questions through the mass killings that occurred in Delhi in November 1984. The film includes in its fold those who lost everything, those who participated hands-on in the bloodbath and those whoʼre the unwitting by-products of that deathly time. Anthropologists, writers, activists have variously described the carnage as “genocide,” “pogrom,” “riots” and yet these terms do not fully capture the character, the longevity and the aftermath of that violence. 1984 violence was a major marker of the stateʼs role. Far from being a neutral actor whose job was to mediate between already constituted social groups and their factional interests, several functionaries of the state were, in fact, actively involved as perpetrators of violence against the minority Sikh community. It was a first in the history of democratic India, setting up an unfortunate precedent. As per official estimates, 2733 people were killed in 3 days. And yet, the conviction rate has been less than 1% in 32 years. 1984 can be summed up by an oxymoron – it is a “public secret.” “Informed” by a muddle of rare credible journalism, several judicial inquiries and an indifferent State, 1984 is an inconvenient truth. Those complicit in the violence donʼt want its details to be recounted and have, until now, successfully subverted and used the legal system to their advantage to suspend justice. The film is a witness to the truth of 1984, and in being so, reveals the face of a tragedy that needs articulation and acknowledgement. I Witness moves through intimate life-worlds of the victims, the accused and of the intermediaries to bring to the fore disturbing truths and reaffirm the power of free speech and the human will to fight. In this journey lie valuable life-lessons in history and also peace for entire generations – both the dead and the living.
Film list is subject to change without notice.