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aaLAWchak: Mulk

 

  • Movie: Mulk
  • Starring: Rishi Kapoor, Taapsee Pannu, Manoj Pahwa, Ashutosh Rana, Prateik Babbar, Rajat Kapoor
  • Directed by:  Anubhav Sinha
  • Year of release: 2018

Mulk is inspired by a true story when a man named Sartaj in Lucknow, in 2017, refused to take the body of his son Saifullah who was a member of a newly formed ISIS cell. Sartaj refused to take the body stating that his son was a traitor to his country and thus he was no longer fit to be his son.[1]

The Premise

Mulk is a movie about how religion impacts communal harmony and how often the people as a society promote bigotry and hypocrisy. The world of the film is set in Varanasi.

Murad Ali Mohammed (Rishi Kapoor), a lawyer by profession lives with his family in a densely-populated locality of Varanasi. His daily routine includes namaz (prayers)  followed by some chit-chat over a cup of tea at a tea stall managed and owned by one of his close Hindu neighbours. His close-knit family consists of his wife, younger brother Bilaal (Manoj Pahwa) who owns a mobile phone shop, brother’s wife, nephew Shahid (Prateik Babbar) and niece. Murad’s son Aftab (Indraneil Sengupta) stays in London with his wife Aarti (Taapsee Pannu) who is a lawyer.

The Build-up

The story begins on the day of Murad’s 65th birthday, when Aarti comes to visit them. The family enjoys a lovely night with the neighbours and friends. Another story is shown in parallel, where it is revealed that Shahid has joined hands with a terrorist organization headed by the wanted Mehfooz Alam (Sumit Kaul) who assigns Shahid with the task of a bomb blast. After the night of the anniversary celebrations, Shahid leaves Varanasi early morning for Allahabad by a bus and executes the attack as planned with two other acquaintances. A lot of innocent people get killed and SSP Danish Javed (Rajat Kapoor) is assigned with the task to investigate the crime. He is also the head of anti-terrorist squad and hence tracks down everyone involved with the attack, corners Shahid and finally shoots him dead as he tries to escape instead of surrendering.

Soon, police arrives at Murad’s house and starts interrogating the family members.

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The cops turn the place upside down to gather evidence. They come across Shahid’s laptop, a wire transmitting antenna and other materials required establishing a private network and making bombs.

As the news spreads across, people start to flock outside Murad’s house. Police takes Bilaal into custody for further interrogation. Aarti steps up as his defence lawyer along with Murad and escorts him to police station. Danish tortures and interrogates Bilaal overnight but couldn’t extract any information out of him.

Within a matter of hours, the situation around Murad’s neighbourhood changes drastically. Everyone whom Murad had known for decades starts looking at him as a terrorist. His life’s reputation and goodwill gets shattered in a day. Bilaal is taken to court for hearing and the judge Harish Madhok (Kumud Mishra) denies his bail and grants police custody of him for 7 days for further interrogation on the request of the public prosecutor Santosh Anand (Ashutosh Rana).

After post-mortem, police brings Shahid’s body to hand it over to Murad, but he refuses to accept it. Despite him strongly condemning Shahid’s act, situation worsens around Murad’s neighbourhood where the Hindus tag his entire family as terrorists trying to shame them in every possible way.

Stones get pelted inside the house and words like ‘Go back to Pakistan’ and “terrorist’ get written on family’s boundary wall and gate.

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On the other hand, some of the Muslims with extremist mind-set approach Murad in order to convince him that Shahid has sacrificed his life in the name of Jihad and that he is a true martyr and all the Muslims should appreciate his act and rise up against Hindu dominant society which Murad strongly opposes. Despite everything, the family maintains their calm and relies on rule of law to get justice.

The Proceedings

Prosecutor’s Contentions:

  • Act of Shahid is not a standalone incident but an eye opener about how Muslims are breeders of terrorists.
  • Every single member of Murad’s family was aware and supportive of Shahid’s action and his home was the hub of terrorist operations.
  • Shahid’s laptop has detailed procedure of how to make bombs, a transmitter which was installed at Murad’s home to communicate with the terrorists via private network. The public prosecutor provides the court with the
  • Call logs of Bilaal show continuous communication with Pakistan over the past few months and
  • Bilaal received 1500 dollars from Pakistan on the day of the bomb blast itself.
  • Thus, Murad is also as a person of interest in this case and he should be removed as Bilaal’s defence lawyer.

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The court agrees, Murad has to step down and Aarti takes his place as the main lawyer for this case.

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Meanwhile, Bilaal, who is already tired, ashamed, confused, saddened, tortured and humiliated, suffers a massive heart attack and passes away on his way to the hospital. Murad’s family again suffers another setback and now everything comes down to Aarti to get her father-in-law and his family acquitted of all the charges that were laid upon them on the basis of mere prejudice.

Contentions on behalf of the Accused:

  • There is no evidence against any of the family members except Shahid that they were involved with terrorism.
  • Shahid was the only person who knew how to operate a laptop and the transmitter was installed by him under the excuse to boost cable TV signal.
  • Since he had access to Bilaal’s mobile shop he only took those SIM cards without any document and used those to communicate with the terrorists.
  • Phone calls shown in the call logs of Bilaal were all made to his relatives staying in Pakistan and the money he received from Pakistan was sent by his cousin sister to pay for his medical treatment.

While giving their closing statements the public prosecutor reiterates that Shahid’s family always knew what he was doing and they not only supported him but encouraged him to do so.

Aarti on the other hand argues that:

  • It has become a mind-set of people to consider all Muslims as terrorists and someone just by growing a beard or practicing Islam becomes a terrorist in public eye.
  • Just because of this established taboo about Muslims, Murad and his family is going through this horrible trauma and humiliation which even claimed Bilaal’s life.
  • India as a nation has been divided into two parts namely – We and Them, by the people living here. This division has created a sense of supremacy where the mind-set is that ‘We are better than Them’. If this division is not overcome by our nation then it will not be possible for us to move forward.

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Decision:

The court concludes that all evidences against Murad and his family are circumstantial thereby dropping all charges against them. Judge Harish Madhok dismisses the case stating that the main problem is with people’s mentality and everyone irrespective of their religion should fight against it to bring a change. He further states that there is no penalty in the law for not being able to see the signs of destructive behaviour and thus the family shouldnot be blamed for not knowing/noticing something that is done by a family member.

The movie ends with giving its viewers the moral that we should change our way of thinking from “We and Them” to “Us”.

Legal Angle

The prosecutor charges Bilaal with the following:

  1. Section 16 of The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 that contains punishment for a terrorist act.
  2. Section 9B of The Explosives Act, 1884, that contains punishment for anyone who is found manufacturing, selling, buying, importing, exporting or in possession of explosives.
  3. Section 120B of The Indian Penal Code, 1860, that contains punishment for criminal conspiracy.
  4. Section 124A in The Indian Penal Code, 1860, that contains punishment for sedition; and
  5. Section 302 in The Indian Penal Code, 1860, that contains the punishment for murder.

Even though the prosecutor showed evidences that accused must receive punishment under these sections, those evidences were not conclusive enough. After Bilaal’s death the same accusations were thrown Murad’s way.

The film only goes to promote that terrorism is not related to religion and if a person is accused of terrorism then it does not automatically make their family members terrorists too. There should not be a division of ‘We’ and ‘Them’, instead there should be an ‘Us’.

[1] “Won’t Accept A Traitor’s Body: Father of Terror Suspect Saifullah Shot In Lucknow”, available at: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/wont-accept-a-traitors-body-father-of-terror-suspect-saifullah-shot-in-lucknow-1667482, last visited on 14th August, 2020

 

Author: Pragati Pachisia, JCCLC

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