By Mitul Thakkar, ET Bureau | 5 Oct, 2013, 04.57AM IST
 Bhattacharjee with Balachadi survivors RomanGutowski, Zbigniew Bartosz and Weislaw Stypula in Warsaw during her visit in 2004.
Bhattacharjee with Balachadi survivors RomanGutowski, Zbigniew Bartosz and Weislaw Stypula in Warsaw during her visit in 2004.  
The Modi government wanted to showcase to the world one of Gujarat‘s best-kept secrets with a film on the ruler of the princely state Nawanagar, the region where Reliance IndustriesBSE 0.86 % built the world’s biggest refining complex. The king had sheltered hundreds of Polish children displaced byWorld War II, initially in his seaside summer palace and then for six years in the Balachadi camp he built for 800 of them. He hosted them in the camp, now a Sainik School in modern Jamnagar, before they left to settle in different parts of the world.Modi’s information department, Doordarshan and the Polish Institute provided Rs 55 lakh for a documentary on the ruler, Jam Saheb Digvijaysinh, nephew and successor of Ranjitsinh, the legendary cricketer of Ranji Trophy fame. The film shows the compassionate face of Gujarati rulers, which came under a cloud after deadly Hindu-Muslim riots erupted during Modi’s rule. It would be an evocative walk down memory lane for Balachadi camp survivors and their families now settled in US, Canada and Australia besides European nation.

The little known sweet spot in Jamnagar’s history had been researched and chronicled byAnuradha Bhattacharjee in her book ‘The Second Homeland – Polish Refugees in India‘, which is based on her PhD thesis submitted to the Pune University. She has filed a legal suit against the producers of the film that is based on testimonials of Polish survivors. Bhattacharjee alleges that Aakaar Films’s Anu Radha used her name and research work for the film ‘Little Poland in Kathawar’ without her consent. She wants Rs 30 lakh as compensation and a public notice in India and Poland stating that she is not associated with the documentary. The case is going on.

Gujarat’s information department, which previewed the film in July, was planning to organise the premier show of the film directed by Aakaar Films in a high profile event on Independence Day eve after Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi returned to the capital from Kutch. But the show was called off.

The Controversy Some officials say the state government developed cold feet as it did not want negative publicity from the issue that has reached the Delhi High Court, but the Gujarat’s deputy director at the information department, Kalpana Barot said the that the state had not yet decided when to release the film. “The film launch has nothing to do with the legal case, which is between the production house and author of the book. The state government has nothing to do with the same,” Barot said.

Former faculty member at Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad and wife of a retired army officer Bhattacharjee said: “Aakaar Films promoter approached me for my consultation.

But, I refused to join hands with an unknown production house since well before my book was published, my thesis attracted well established Indian and international directors and I agreed to work with Primehouse of Berlin.” She went on to add, “basically this story suits the image that Mr Modi desperately now wants to build and project, so ethics have gone out of the door.”

Aakaar Films’Anu Radha declined to comment saying it would be more appropriate for producer Polish Institute to talk about the project. Aakaar Films identifies itself as a ‘creative management group’. Space for Everyone Director of the Polish Institute, the cultural wing of the country’s diplomatic mission in India Anna Tryc Bromley said, “It is not positive for such documentary film to get involved in a legal tussle.

At the Polish Institute we want more and more documentation of the Poles in India. There is already a lot of work done by Polish historians in this area. It is a vast subject and there is space for everyone. We are glad to have found enthusiasm among Indians for this subject.”

Last year, the story of Jam Saheb taking care of war victims drew a lot of attention after Sage Publication published Bhattacharjee’s PhD thesis, which was submitted to Pune University in 2009. Bhattacharjee stumbled on this subject in early 1990s, when she met an old Polish lady who was one of those children in Nawanagar.Bhattacharjee’s book quotes Polish survivor Marian Raba from Balachadi paying a tribute to Digvijaysinh: “He welcomed us to Nawanagar saying he was Bapu, father, to all, which meant a lot to us. He lived up to it by involving himself in our lives and taking pride in our achievements and later we heard that he had even adopted us to prevent our forcible removal to communist Poland. In his farewell speech he said that he would always be Bapu to us and we could return to Nawanagar in our lives.”

The author says it is important to research this subject further before the survivors are lost. People in Poland, after the Soviet army moved in, were knocking every door, including Britain’s, for help. Digvijaysinh knew the Polish PM through Ranjitsinh during their stay in Switzerland, and the British were encouraging Indian princes to help. Digvijaysinh, who was the head of Chamber of Princes in British Raj, obliged.

“During the World War II, holocaust drew most attention and Digvijaysinh’s humanitarian act remained in the archives. Princely states of Baroda and Kolhapur too came forward and accommodated Poles like Digvijaysinh who was also heading Chamber of Princes,” said Bhattacharjee.


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