Opinions on Newton: An Essay

*Newton is a piece of fiction and so is this essay. Please don’t kill me*

Enough movies get made about poverty and the Adivasi are just poor people in the jungle, so why bother making a movie on them. Or they are the communist insignia wearing terrorists, so let’s portray that aspect of their lives. How about portraying them as martyrs dying valiantly for a lost cause?

The portrayal of Adivasi people in movies is a tricky one- because not only their situation is extremely complicated but because an average Adivasi probably doesn’t subscribe to a belief system that resembles anything to that of the movie going audience. This is where Newton comes in. It is a story set in the jungles of Chhattisgarh about the righteous and overzealous democracy trying to bring into its fold the unwilling and clueless Adivasi people- whom it does not understand and the pragmatic military trying to keep peace in an area where it kills the same people in the crossfire that it is trying to protect, supposedly.

The commentary of the film on the perception of state and democracy by the Adivasi people is interesting. They do not understand the concept of elections. Their problems of food and shelter are more immediate and the few disagreements in their small community can be solved by their local leaders. Cut out from the outside world, they do not recognize the Indian state and what it implies. When they are forced to vote in the election, they are visibly confused why their local leader cannot represent them in Delhi. They do not recognize any of the candidates they are asked to vote for or even what voting represents. It poses a very interesting question- what role does the Indian state play here. It offers the people nothing except conflict and the people do not recognize it. So is it a state or an occupying foreign force. The question is further given weight by the movies ending- which shows that the people have been displaced and now the area is a mine. The Adivasi people have been displaced from the land they call their own by forces whose authority they do not recognize.

Newton also showcases an interesting example of how democracy, even in its truest and most uncorrupt from is not the ideal one size fits all governance system it is perpetrated to be. The Central Government in Delhi means nothing to the Adivasi people. It does nothing for them. Even if the elections were held fairly and everyone was given the opportunity to vote- the question arises- to what end? Does election ensure representation- specially a minority too insignificant for the candidates to even campaign for. And does representation solve anything- these people do not have problems that need a powerful state bureaucracy.

Another important narrative is the effect this inclusion process is having on the Adivasi people. The war against Naxal forces in Chhattisgarh is war these people didn’t agree to participate in. Nor do they want to be a part of it. Yet it is being waged on their land and they are stuck in a cycle of violence and destructions. Both sides offer the villagers incentives to join and punish them with destruction of life and property if they refuse. The Indian state sponsored violence maybe justifiable in the editorial columns of newspapers that Adivasi’s won’t read but to them- the violence on the ground is just violence no matter who perpetuates it. In the movie, the village has been completely burned down to the ground and no one is sure who did it- the Naxals or the Police but those affected are very visible.

Newton showcases a completely new narrative of the Indian State, as perceived by the Adivasi people in the jungles of Chhattisgarh, whose voice is seldom heard in movies. It is that of the unwelcome oppressor pillaging the area for its natural resources.