Published On:12 February 2013
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

'Face' of Gujarat riots Qutubuddin Ansari resent illegal use of his photos, sues Bollywood flick 'Rajdhani Express'

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: The "face" of 2002 post-Godhra riots, Qutubuddin Ansari, is seeking financial damages from the makers of Bollywood flick Rajdhani Express for "illegally" using his photo and causing him and his family "mental trauma".

"We have sent a legal notice to the producer and principal director of the film for using the photo of my client (Ansari), which was taken during the 2002 riots, in a demeaning way, thus causing mental trauma to him and his family," said advocate Amit Nair, who is representing Ansari in the matter.

Ansari's photograph pleading with security forces with folded hands and teary eyes during the post-Godhra riots had not only gone viral in 2002, but also became the face and symbol of the carnage.

Tired of being projected as the victim of riots, Ansari, who has settled down in his life doing tailoring work, has sought damages worth Rs 25 lakh from the makers of the film.

Film Rajdhani Express, with which tennis star Leander Paes made his debut, is a suspense thriller and was released on January 4 this year.

A legal notice has been sent to producers SLA Impex and Manoj Kejriwal and to the principal director of the film, Ashok Kohli, while giving them two days to reply from the date of receipt of the notice.

"We are also seeking a sum of Rs 25 lakh as damages for their actions and have demanded to publish an apology prominently in two leading newspapers having national circulation," Nair said.

Ansari has also sought to remove the use of the said photograph from the film and/ or any such content directly or indirectly referring him.

"It was shocking to see the appalling manner in which his image is portrayed in the film. The said depiction is further accompanied with slanderous dialogue of one of the lead actors of the film," Nair said.

"Ansari is facing serious social and family problems after the film was released in city theatres earlier this month. This has in fact created a circumstance of fear and danger to his personal safety and security," he said.

After the 2002 riots, Ansari's photo was widely used by NGOs and political parties. It was also used by some terror outfits to show "injustice" meted out to minorities in Gujarat.
Ansari had earlier requested people not to use his picture since it appeared in a threat mail issued by Indian Mujahideen after serial blasts that rocked Ahmedabad in July 2008.

In the notice, Ansari has also alleged that the film makers used his photograph to sensationalise the film and have left a "false and negative image" of his character.He wants to wipe out the features that keeps him tied to the state’s turbulent past despite all his attempts to escape it. Ansari’s photograph pleading with security forces with folded hands and teary eyes during the post-Godhra riots had become the face and symbol of the carnage across the world. Recently, the photograph was shown in Bollywood suspense thriller Rajdhani Express, starring Jimmy Shergill and tennis star Leander Paes.

“The photograph was used by many for their benefit. But it has destroyed my life, my peace. I have tried moving away and moving on. But someone, somewhere displays this picture and turns my life upside down,” says Ansari, who has slapped a legal notice on the filmmakers for using the photograph in a ‘slanderous’ manner.

Cursed Photograph

Qutubuddin Ansari pleading during Gujarat Riots
The self-employed tailor is settled in eastern Ahmedabad. “Please do not reveal the area I live in. I don’t want to be in the limelight. Following the riots, I moved to Malegaon to escape the attention. I got a job as a tailor. I did not tell anyone about my past. Life was smooth till one day, my coworker saw the cursed photograph printed alongside a riot-related report in a newspaper.

He showed it to my employer who fired me because he did not want to court any controversy. I shifted to Kolkata and lived peacefully. But whenever focus shifted to the Gujarat riots, this photograph was featured prominently in most papers. “Finally, I got tired of the probing looks.
I was also terribly homesick so I returned to Ahmedabad and got a job in a factory as a tailor. Things were fine till an NGO used my face on their posters to mark the anniversary of 2002 riots. My employer saw it and promptly fired me,” says Ansari, who had famously written to the Ahmedabad police commissioner, requesting a ban on the use and publication of this photograph.

‘Ban My Picture’

Ansari’s picture also appeared in a threat mail issued by Indian Mujahideen after serial blasts that rocked Ahmedabad in July 2008. “The police questioned me. My Hindu friends vouched for my secular ideology and convinced the cops that I would never be involved in such a heinous crime.

“I was fed up. Everyone who saw the photograph looked at me with pity. It hurt to see my picture with folded hands depicting my helplessness in newspapers, on websites and cover reports of NGOs. So, I requested the police chief to impose a ban on the use of my picture in future. And ask all media, websites and NGOs to remove my picture from their documents. Everyone from politicians to NGOs have used my picture to further their goals. No one thought what it might to do to me.”

Qutbuddin Ansari leading life after Gujarat Riots
Though the application brought no result, Ansari is determined to fight it out this time. “I have two daughters and a son. They are growing up and I do not want the memories of the riots weighing them down. If I had the money, I would undergo plastic surgery to change my face without a second thought. I want my kids to live in a stable and safe environment,” says Ansari, who berates the negative effect the photograph has had on his social life.

Avoiding Strangers

The 38-year-old has friends but he has known them for a long time. “I avoid strangers. People want to befriend me because of my face. They would show me off to their friends and associates as if I were a curio. I was afraid of protesting against the use of my photograph earlier because I thought people would either question or be curious about my political affiliations.

However, when my friend drew my attention to Rajdhani Express and the scene with my photograph in it, I was disturbed. Everyone watches movies. My kids might watch it and be affected negatively. I am a middle- class man. I am not wellversed with the law. But my friend asked me to take legal action against the filmmakers,” he says.

[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on February 12, 2013. Filed under , , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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