Red Ant Dream: A documentary on naxalism, Moaists and the Punjab revolution

Published: August 20, 2013

This film is a saga of heroism and sacrifice in the face of a brutal enemy camouflaged as the world’s “largest democracy”. PHOTO: RED ANT DREAM FACEBOOK PAGE

A few years ago, I watched a documentary film. I watched it till the very end. Once finished, I played it again – for I searched for meaning; the meaning of ‘azaadi’ (freedom), which to me, before watching this documentary had an altogether different connotation.

The film inspired me.

It made me believe in the significance of the word azaadi. It turned my life towards a different dimension. For the first time, I understood that occupation is not only about tyranny, killings and oppression. Something more perilous was hidden beneath – capitalism and foreign investment, just to fulfil some neo-liberal aspirations. The film celebrated martyrdom, revolution and of course, freedom. It exemplified ‘Jashn-e-Azadi’ (How we Celebrate Freedom).

There are documentary films that try to tell emotionally complex stories and succeed in making an impact. Red Ant Dream, fortunately, is one of those films. It is an awe inspiring video documentary from the red areas of India. This film documents the emergence of the Indian revolutionary procedure, coming as it is in a world of struggle, mass upheaval, revolt and revolution.

Directed by Sanjay Kak, a well-known documentary film-maker from India, Red Ant Dream invokes memories of struggle, revolution and redemption. A poetic representation of revolution and a tribute to people’s war, Red Ant Dream is cinema of resistance.

Kak’s movie (Jashn-e-Azadi) and anthology (Until my Freedom Has Come) created a ripple among many people who believed Kashmir to be an integral part of India. Both had taken a strong stand against the Indian Army’s illegal occupation of Kashmir.

This film too, is filled with the syringe of revolution. One feels mesmerised seeing people who can hardly manage their night meals, shouldering rifles with their fingers fixed to the trigger. Hope can be seen in the eyes of women, who are wearing torn chappals and a tanned uniform but are part of the revolutionary force that is fighting a people’s war- a war to save their lives and turn their habitat into a living heaven. A people’s war which is justifiable, which a person can believe in, when Azad the former spokesperson CPI (Maoist) says:

“Maoism teaches us that self-preservation is possible only through war.”

Azad, the revolutionary was killed in an encounter in July 2010.  Such is the influence of Azad in the Maoist movement that people consider him their guru. Ladda, an Adivaisi activist declares before the camera,

“Azad is my guru, and if he is a Maoist, then I am too.”

The film shows Bhagat Singh stating that ‘the state of war does exist and shall exist’. The activists and farmers of Punjab cheering ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ (long live revolution). The guerrillas of Bastar and Adivasi’s of Niyamgiri sloganeering ‘jal, jangal and zameen’, which calls for the protection of their own homes and habitat they live in. All these things themselves show struggle – the struggle to live their lives and the justified demands of a human – to live free and celebrate the living.

Yes the state of war exists.

Capitalism doesn’t get into a head-on collision with communism in Red Ant Dream and that makes it interesting. There are two forces fighting against each other but their goals are not global. It’s more of a war between two entities. This film is a saga of heroism and sacrifice in the face of a brutal enemy camouflaged as the world’s “largest democracy”.

One of the strong points of the film is its clear depiction of the severity of environmental racism and the role of imperialism in creating it. Liberal environmentalists, as well as leftists, who fail to honestly engage with the very serious flaws between capitalism and a healthy thriving planet, obviously maintain political lines that are incomplete and will both result in ecological decay.

The film has celebrated the lives of Bhagat Singh, Pash and Commander Azad, who all died for a cause. All of them were revolutionaries. This shows where the true understandings of the filmmaker lay – the vendetta for one’s own existence.

The film makes you to listen to the voices from the darkest corners of the jungle which, until that time, were shadowed by non-existence. It makes you understand that the society needs to be saved from authoritarians, oppressors and hierarchical hegemony that have made this society rotten. It teaches you, how the lives of the obsolete and the unfeasible (as said by West) can shake the roots of the so-called-self-styled biggest democracy in the world. It is a tribute to the revolutionaries.

Red Ant Dream chronicles a burning issue. This is no Bollywood representation of Maoists or Bhagat Singh. The Quentin Tarantino of documentary making in India, without any doubt, by breaking all rules in film making, has made a gem and a thought provoking film which leaves you thinking till the very end.

It is moving meditation.

A must own for anyone who is earnestly making an allowance for a whole new world, which in true terms is ‘Azaad’.

Sheikh Saaliq

Sheikh Saaliq

A writer based in Indian controlled Jammu and Kashmir. His work has been featured in different organizations and he edits an online journal which is run independently from Kashmir. He mostly writes fiction and poetry. He tweets @Sheikh_Saaliq twitter.com/Sheikh_Saaliq

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • N

    You’re comparing the freedom fighter Bhagat Singh to a maoist ? Lol ..Recommend

  • N

    You’re comparing the freedom fighter Bhagat Singh to a maoist ? Lol ..Whats next…comparing OBL to Mandela ?Recommend

  • AbsoluteIndia

    @author:Recently What did happen in kishtwar ,jammu..we dont know..Can you prepare a documentary to show us ,how tolerant you guys r towards your own hindu minority???Recommend

  • N.Baig

    Read foreign papers-The world knows what ‘freedom’ is provided to Kashmiris in the so called ‘Azad’ kashmir by the Pakistani govt…they don’t even have half the rights that is provided by the Indian govt. to Jammu and Kashmir-elections,a muslim chief minister,seats in the parliament.
    The Indian govt. has tried hard to preserve the kashmiri identity-unlike in pakistan,where the kashmir land is sold off to wealthy punjabis-this is not done in India.Neither does the Indian govt.do things like the Chinese did in Tibet and Manchuria-brutal crushing of revolts by genocide and cultural wipeout and relocation.
    Since Kashmiris don’t appreciate the Indian govts efforts-maybe they should become a part of Pakistan by emigrating there…they should’ve left during partition like the rest of the millions who did.
    Live in peace wherever you go and be law abiding citizens.Recommend

  • http://India Feroz

    India is a country from which a million ideas bloomed — revolution, philosophy, spiritualism, etc. From a diverse civilization will spring diverse ideas, beliefs, faiths and outlook to life. It is not to be destroyed but cherished like every idea before it. India is also the crucible from which every global experiment played out, teaching mankind many lessons, some good and bad.
    Yes, the tribals of Niyamgiri are not the oppressed souls as shown to the World. The Indian SC recognized them as owners of their land with or without any documents and accepted their plea that mountains were their God and sacred to them. They came from all the twelve villages and voted against development and protection of their way of life. Now the multi billion dollar Aluminium refinery put up by Vedanta may rust. So be it, no terrorists to terrorize the landless tribals and alter their way of life.Recommend

  • http://www.pltacademy.com Travel_Tart

    If any issue can, and most likely will, destroy both India Pakistan completely…. that will be Kashmir.
    .
    Now decision is yours…Recommend

  • N.Baig

    Illegal occupation ? Mr.author,the dogra king,Hari Singh begged Lord Mountbatten to send the Indian army to assist him to chase out pakistani guerillas,sent to frighten the king.After he signs papers and ceeds his princely state to the Indian Govt. and requests for the army to be sent in..can you explain how you refer to it as ‘illegal’ ?Recommend

  • Parvez

    Would like to take a look at the documentary, hope my video guy can dig it up.
    Recommend

  • Noor

    Muslims in Kashmir are strange people…they kill and chase out the hindu pandits…now the pandits are refugees in their own country..and yet the Indian govt. cares so much about kashmiris and kashmiri identity to give them rights,Omar Abdullah and free seats in medical colleges throughout the country..even uptil the south.
    My own classmate in Karnataka was a kashmiri muslim and her brother was studying in Tamil nadu on govt.sponsored free seats.
    Our Indian govt.takes better cares of muslim Kashmiris than the homeless hindu kashmiri pandits…
    If Kashmiris hate India-please migrate to Pakistan and follow pakistani laws and don’t carry out terrorist activities there.Recommend

  • Indian

    think of the millions of Hindus and Sindhis who came to India and the millions of Mujahirs who went to Pakistan in an effort that lead to the death of one million people on the subcontinent..those people are living under their respective Indian and Pakistani governments as law abiding citizens.Recommend

  • Naveen

    Thanks to the mess of Kashmir Valley, Jammu (and the rest of India?) is fast becoming a laboratory of Hindu Nationalists. I would have loved to see the Valley get out of India in 1947 but now it is too late. Over the years, Valley has become a litmus test for veracity of modified two nation theory- whether a Muslim majority province can ever be a peaceful part of India (as Sikh majority Punjab or Christian majority Meghalaya, mizoram and Hindu majority rest have become). It is a clear cut battle between ideology od Communalists (who say no) and Secularists(who say yes). Since Indian State’s philosophy says yes; I am afraid it will deploy all State power to prove it so. Recommend

  • Shazia Iqbal

    Brilliant review. Recommend

  • G. Din

    @N.Baig:
    “Illegal occupation ? Mr.author,the dogra king,Hari Singh begged Lord Mountbatten to send the Indian army to assist him to chase out pakistani guerillas,sent to frighten the king.After he signs papers and ceeds his princely state to the Indian Govt. and requests for the army to be sent in..can you explain how you refer to it as ‘illegal’ ?”
    When Hari Singh begged the then Governor-General of India to send in the Indian army, the Pakistani Qabailis were but about twenty miles from Srinagar at a place called Pattan where they made an obligatory brief stop to sack a church and rape its nuns. Mountbatten expressed his inability to grant the Maharaja’s request unless he first acceded his state to India. Maharaja was desperate enough to agree forthwith.
    But now Nehru stepped in and refused to accept Maharaja’s Instrument of Accession unless and until it was endorsed by the only leader of the party, National conference, which had been agitating against Maharaja’s rule. Sheikh Abdullah endorsed that Instrument of Accession which is when the airlift of Indian troops into Kashmir began. By now, those invaders were surrounding the only airfield Srinagar had and the rout started as soon as the first troops had landed on to it.
    So, the Instrument of Accession was not only a legally accepted document but a morally accepted one, too.
    Subsequently, Sheikh Abdullah was part of the Indian delegation to the UN Conference on Kashmir held at Lake Success, New York.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com Anoop

    This is precisely what Gandhi feared. Young souls talking about Revolution and they instantly start gravitating towards the gun.

    This is what happened to Muslim League, the legacy of which still haunts Pakistan today.

    Revolution, I hear is a popular sentiment in Pakistan nowadays. So it has been in Egypt since many months.

    The only Revolution worth waging or supporting is a non-violent one.

    Malala in her UN speech invokes Gandhi, not Suhrawardy of Muslim League. Recommend

  • Anon

    The U.N. can do nothing about this…they asked for a unilateral withdrawal of troops from the Pakistani side of the loc..But that never happened.Recommend

  • Aaziya Rehman

    Not many reviews are so beautifully crafted. This is a fantastic piece of detailed review. I must watch this documentary. Thanks Sheikh Saaliq.
    Happy to see young and brilliant writer like Saaliq from Kashmir coming up with these awesome stories. More power to you.Recommend

  • Double standards

    If Pakistan loves kashmir so much,why did Pakistan give a part of the pakistani kashmir (between Gilgit and Siachen) to China in the ’60s ?Recommend

  • Critical

    This is no Bollywood representation of Maoists or Bhagat Singh.

    There are so many representations of Bhagat Singh and Maoists in Bollywood…..

    In the Prakash Jha movie,they have even showed how Gandhi was indirectly responsible for his death by refusing to demand pardon from British govt

    Regarding Maoists,though some Bollywood director romanticize them…They are literally like the Joker in Dark Knight…They love anarchy,they are just dogs who chase cars,they dont know what they will do when they catch one…They just want to let the country burn

    Maoism is a form of a totalitarian Socialist govt where your freedom will be squashed..Its a pipe dream which looks good on paper but a disaster in reality…China and North Korea are live examples….

    Does Sheikh Saaliq thinks his freedom would be represented better in a Communist govt or a democratic country like India??

    Maybe he will realise it when he works in the prison camp of Gulag

    lastly,please dont compare Bhagat Singh with the Maoist..Maoists are the new form of NazismRecommend

  • Futile effort

    I saw on the news recently that a kashmiri muslim girl had received an American scholarship,but she was refused a passport because she was the niece of a surrendered militant. Why should a militants niece get an Indian passport ? Indians are adjusting too much to cater to kashmiris…if after all this they want to kill hindu minoroties in Kishtwar and they hate us so much,pls feel free to leave for Pakistan.Recommend

  • hammad

    @N.Baig:
    illegal my friend it was not the will of people of kashmir? you believe in democracy just do a fb poll and c the result? Recommend

  • Nasir Mehmood

    Kashmir is and ll be part of pakistan.kashmiris want to be the part of pakistan .i have seen myself many partition’s and todays kashmir’s documentaries…so much bloodshed by indian army. There are thousands of ijtimai qabarie and thousands of innocent women taken arrested…chained..beaten ..murdered for sake of usual investigations .what is this? I think both sides are showed one side of picture..never the brutalality faced by kashmirisRecommend

  • observer

    @Sheikh Saaliq

    The film has celebrated the lives of Bhagat Singh, Pash and Commander Azad, who all died for a cause. All of them were revolutionaries.

    OK.

    So when do we see the Bhagat Singh monument in Lahore?

    Or are you just indulging in some name-dropping.Recommend

  • Dp

    @ Hammad
    Will of the people – What else were migrants doing during partition ? They went where they wanted.

    @ Nasir Mehmood

    What you’re saying would be as sensible as Sindhis who refused to migrate during partition and would agitate in ’89 against their legal pak.govt.,that they want Sindh to join India.Recommend

  • Futile effort

    The militants niece got her passport through the intervention of the Jammu chief minister and the Indian news channel,in just two days.Recommend

  • Sid

    I dont know if ET will publish this.

    Whichever way you look at it, ethnic, religious whatever (and this statement is coming from an Agnostic indian)..Kashmir was/is/will be ours.

    Your obsession will be the end of you. :-)Recommend

  • mind control

    @Nasir Mehmood:

    A. .i have seen myself many partition’s and todays kashmir’s documentaries…so much bloodshed by indian army.

    Really? How many ‘partition’s’ have you seen? And when partition of India took place there was something called East Pakistan. Have you seen any ‘documentaries’ of East Pakistan too?

    B. thousands of innocent women taken arrested…chained..beaten ..murdered for sake of usual investigations .what is this?

    Errr. How does this work? First you ‘arrest’ innocent women and then ‘Chain, Beat and Murder’ them, and then do the ‘usual investigations’. Or you first Murder them and then ‘arrest, chain and beat’ them. You tell me ‘what is this’?

    C. I think both sides are showed one side of picture..never the brutalality faced by kashmiris

    IF, Both sides never show the ‘brutalaility faced by kashmiris’ then where and how did you see the ‘many kashmir’s documentaries’ that you claim to have seen?Recommend

  • mind control

    @Sheikh Saaliq

    Did you notice the sponsor of the Red Ant Documentary?

    It is the Department of Communication, Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad.

    And, do you know who funds the University of Hyderabad?

    It is the University Grants Commission (UGC).

    And, any idea where UGC gets the money from.

    Yes, from the same brutal enemy camouflaged as the world’s largest democracy.
    Also commonly known as.the Republic Of India OOOPS….

    Don’t worry, that is why democracies are known as democracies.Recommend

  • Pradhan

    @hammad

    illegal my friend it was not the will of people of kashmir? you believe in democracy just do a fb poll and c the result?

    I have few question??
    – Are you saying you know the will of Kashmir?? Please let me know How??
    – By your definition shall I say Baluchistan and Gilgit Baltisthan is not part of Pakistan??
    – Do you know what is the percentage of people who have an account on facebook against population of J&K forget about if they access it regularly or not? And would you call a facebook poll democratic??Recommend

  • Pradhan

    One thing is for sure: People with a mindset like this guy are actually responsible for the riots in kishtwar. They will never understand or respect the freedom until it is gone.Recommend

  • Vishal Kaul

    Shaikh saliq Muslims of Kashmir and specially like of you not a true kashmiri . Who is Sanjay kak you say about them: well known Indian documentary film maker: Mr he is also a kashmiri Hindu from Kashmir. Like my Kashmiri Hindu community Sanjay kak live in exile since1989 for what because communal Muslim of Kashmir never want Hindu live in Kashmir in their mother land because we believe in original religion of Kashmir Hinduism. We never accept invaders religion and face atrocity from them . But like of you many thousands accepted it in past and today in your thinking is that Kashmir only for Muslims. For that like of you communal Muslims force and torture Hindu community of Kashmir to leave valley and live in exile in there own country. Like Sanjay kak many of us kashmiri Hindus love for Kashmir never dies . My family and other many thousands kashmiri Hindus go to live in our houses in Kashmir. Because we have more right on Kashmir than you communal Muslims who forget there ancestors reality and plight they face by the hand of Muslim invaders of Kashmir. Recommend

  • Nasir Mehmood

    All of you just keep talking..blathering…fussing …but mind it ….we ll take kashmir from india and you would just watch….lie lie and die ! Kashmir is ours….sheh-rug of pakistan…this comment is from the second generation of freedom fighters of pakistan.just make lame comment after me …! LolsRecommend