Kandhamal Dalit and Tribal Christians mourn KP Sasi’s death

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By Purushottam Nayak

Raikia, January 8, 2023: K.P. Sasi, the filmmaker of “VOICES FROM THE RUINS,” the world-famous documentary film on Kandhamal anti-Christian violence in 2008, lives in the hearts and minds of hundreds of Kandhamal survivors.

“Sasi was a committed and dedicated human rights activist, filmmaker and director, and cartoonist.

He worked courageously and selflessly for the cause of justice, peace, equality, and fraternity among the people of Kandhamal,” said Susila Pradhan, one of the Kandhamal widows, during a meeting paying tribute to him.

The incident occurred in Raikia, Odisha’s Kandhamal district in eastern India, which was the most affected block of death and destruction of houses, churches, and institutions.

“Sasi was very much behind the Kandhamal Day observation every year on August 25 after the anti-Christian violence of 2008,” said Pradhan.

On January 5, 2023, hundreds of Kandhamal Dalit and tribal Christian survivors, Catholic priests, and stakeholders gathered at Raikia Block in Kandhamal district to pay tribute to K.P. Sasi. The gathering first watched 1.3 hours of “Voice from the Ruins.”

He succumbed to a prolonged illness and breathed his last on December 25. He was 64 years old.

Sasi used his craft to highlight people’s struggles across the country over the past four decades.

“Through his documentary film and writings, Sasi informed the entire world about the incident of anti-Christian violence in 2008.

“Sasi was the strongest voice for the persecuted Christians, especially in Kandhamal,” said Ajaya Kumar Singh, a human rights activist.

“He was the strongest voice for the voiceless, he coordinated and facilitated the National People’s Tribunal on Kandhamal in New Delhi. He inspired and encouraged us to walk in justice and peace,” adds Singh.

“I worked with K. P. Sasi closely in the National Solidarity Forum for over one and a half decades. He doggedly pursued the Kandhamal issue for the last many years and kept us on our toes to keep fighting for the human rights of victims of the violence,” continued the activist.

“Kasi is dead, but his spirit will remain, as he is a fighter against injustice and communalism. He was also a great inspiration for generations to come. May his soul rest in peace,” prayed Nalini Nayak, a Dalit Christian leader of Kandhamal.

Sasi was born on March 14, 1958, in Thrissur, Kerala, south India. His father, Damodaran, was a Marxist theoretician, writer, and one of the founding members of the Communist Party of India.

In the late 1970s, while still a student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, he began working as a cartoonist. In the early 1980s, he began experimenting with films on an 8mm camera.

His documentaries include “A Valley Refuses to Die,” “We Who Make History,” “Living in Fear,” “In the Name of Medicine,” and “Voices from a Disaster.”

His books include Fabricated!, America AmericaResisting Coastal Invasion, and Development at Gunpoint

His feature films include IIayum Mullum (Leaves and Thorns), on the social and psychological violence against women in Kerala, released in 1994. 

Ek Alag Mausam (a different season), released in 2003, is a Hindi-language movie directed by Sasi, starring Nandita Das, Anupam Kher, and Renuka Shahane. Actor Gopi played a guest role in “Ek Alag Mausam,” aka “A Different Season.”

Sasi was a founding member of the ViBGYOR Film Festival. As a cartoonist for Posters in 2004, he authored the book When the Birds Stop Singing.

“Voices from the Ruins” (2016), “Fabricated” (2014), “A Climate Call from the Coast” (2009), “Like Leaves in a Storm” (2009), “Tsunami Rehabilitation: An Unfinished Business” (2009), “Gaon Chodab Nahin” (2009), “Resisting Coastal Invasion” (2007), and “Gaon Chodab Nahin” (2009) were all directed by him.

“If It Rains Again” (2006), “Redefining Peace: Women Lead the Way” (2005), “America, America” (2005), “The Source of Life for Sale” (2004) “Ssh…Silence Please!” (2003), “Development at Gunpoint” (2002), “Voices from a Disaster” (2001), “Ek Alag Mausam” (1998), “The Wings of Kokkrebellur” (1994), “Iyayum Mullum” (1991), “Appukkuttan in Time Runs” (1993), “A Valley Refuses to Die” (1998), “A Campaign Begins” (1989), “The Rope” (1988), “In the Name of Medicine” (1987), “Living in Fear” (1986), “We Who Make History” and “That Angry Arabian Sea” (1985), and “Science to the People” (1984) are some of the films he has directed. 

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