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BBC 2 Extend Due Credit to Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed - "Seven Days In Summer" (on Indian partition)

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BBC -2 while making and broadcasting a programme 'Seven Days In Summer: Countdown to Partition’ aired on 15 Aug 2017 covering partition of India 1947 has deceived, cheated and betrayed Author/ Researcher Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed on many accounts.

1.  Firstly, they contacted the author and almost over 80% of the script of programme was articulated with the intellectual and personal help of the Author over the period of 3 months.

2.  During the course of making the script, BBC 2 gave an impression that due to lack of funds, the Author may not be called for the personal appearance. However, later offered £500/- to the Dr Ishtiaq as honorarium which was though not accepted by the Prof, but the amount in question was enough to cover the boarding & lodging of anyone travelling to London. Therefore, BBC - 2 plea of lack of fund has not been understood.

3.  Moreover, BBC - 2 also gave impression to the Prof that no one has been invited for commentary in the programme owing to lack of funds. However, as we view the movie, presence of many renowned historian and researchers can be seen.

4.  In the movie, extensive data from Dr Ishtiaq famous book "The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed: Unravelling the 1947 Tragedy Through Secret British Reports and First-Person Accounts" has been used but BBC - 2 failed to mention or give credit to the author/ researcher's book.

5.  Only a token of thanks was extended at the end of the programme which was hardly been noticed by most of the viewers, and can not be regarded as “due credit” to Author’s efforts

6.  Here is link http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p059jt1j/seven-days-in-summer-countdown-to-partition

Review of the facts points that BBC-2 made this movie with lot of references from Dr Ishtiaq’s famous book "The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed: Unravelling the 1947 Tragedy Through Secret British Reports and First-Person Accounts" and made most  of script with his consultation since 26 April 2017 (Dr Ishtiaq has all the proof of communications with BBC-2). Moreover, anyone who would have read Dr Ishtiaq’s book and then watched the movie can easily reach to the conclusion that BBC-2 has failed to give “due credit” to the Author. It is stressed upon that at the end, just a “thanks for his oral contribution” (nothing was said about his book on Punjab Bloodied Partition which is hallmark of Dr Ishtiaq' s research) can’t be termed as “due credit” to the Author.

Additionally, it seems that BBC -2 intentionally avoided inviting the Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed for personal appearance in the documentary (pretext of lack of funds can’t be justified in the wake of offer of £500/- honorarium).  

In view of the above, it can safely be presumed that BBC -2 has intentionally or unintentionally undermined the stature of the Author in the intellectual world, failed to mention research work/book of author and deceived him amounting to plagiarism & cheating which is highly regrettable.

Therefore, it is expected from BBC-2 to take remedial measures so to give “due credit” to Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed by suitable means and compensate him appropriately.

Here are his details/ arguments :-

Dear All - Latest Developments BBC 2's unethical behaviour:

Dear All,

Let me thank all of you who wrote and expressed solidarity with me.

However, I would never keep you in the dark about the facts as they have emerged now.

1. At the end of the film in the titles which moved with great rapidity I am mentioned along with a number of other sources for giving oral histories. That in itself is a grossly unfair acknowledgement of what I had done for them. Neither I nor several of my friends who watched the film saw the titles properly. I am attaching herewith the picture where I am mentioned.

2. If you remember I told you that I have been told that my contribution would be accredited. That was based on the deception done to me that NO COMMENTATOR WOULD BE INVITED TO TAKE PART IN THE PROGRAMME. This understanding I was given.

3. Were it not for that, why would I do all the work and others do the commentary?Since April 26 I had been helping them through telephone discussions, email exchanges, and on their insistence even got Dr Ali Raza at LUMS to send them interviews I recorded on cassette tapes in 2004 which they had identified from my book to be sent to them.

4. The film A Week in Summer is a wrong title. It should be Seven Days in Punjab in Summer. 80 per cent of the film revolves around Punjab and Lahore and mine is the only book which covers the Punjab in detail and depth. about one minute is on a Hindu goonda of Calcutta having a change of heart when meeting Gandhiji in 1947. Another flash of some 1 minute is on a Muslim woman from north-east and the rest are small quips of the Mountbattens in Karachi and the the flag hosting in Delhi on midnight 15 August. These together and other quips like Manto's mental hospital in Lahore are decorations not research as such. Together they occupy no more than 15 minutes. The rest of the book is on the Punjab.

Tunzelmann who was one of the main commentators has to her credit only one book, Indian Summer, which is typical Nehru-Edwina-Mountbatten triangle. She has no primary work on Punjab. The other person is Yasmin Khan who has down good work but not on the Punjab. Nishid Hijari has referred five times to my book in his work. The others are individuals about whom I know nothing.

THE POINT IS NONE OF THEM IS A PUNJAB RESEARCHER.

So, now, they made me do all the work and without my help there would be no script but they had others do the talking. Now how is that for a feeling? I feel cheated and deceived.

The BBC fellow who overruled my participation wrote to me and I responded. I am sending the complete transcript:

Dear Dr Ahmed,

I’m the executive producer on the BBC programme that went out last night. Paul forwarded me your email this morning.

I’m sorry to hear you are disappointed and feel like you have been mistreated. That is not our intention in anything we do and we take a lot of pride in working with the same people time and again, both on screen and off.

As far as a credit is concerned it is the BBC policy not to give a ‘with thanks’ to anyone who has been paid by the production. We did credit you for the source material you provided.

The decision to not invite you to be filmed was mine. Unfortunately by that stage of the production the budget was very tight and from my point of view there were people in the UK who were qualified to talk on this subject. We would love to be able to fly in the perfect expert from anywhere in the world on any of our productions but this is rarely possible.

I would like to thank you for your time and all the assistance you gave the team. I know you were paid a fee but it was generous of you nonetheless to share your views and your time.

Kind regards

Jon Alwen

Ishtiaq Ahmed <billumian@gmail.com>

18:57 (5 hours ago)

to Jon

Dear Mr Alwen,

You say you are surprised! I am on the other hand shocked by your complete lack of regrets. The truth is you would not take such a callous stand were it not part of your nature to exploit people because otherwise this whole incident would not have transpired at all.

Let me quote the complete note sent to me by Mr Berczeller to challenge your assertions and I hope you have the integrity to respond to the points I have raised. I am putting in bold the portions of his email which are relevant for my argument:

Paul Berczeller via voltagetv.onmicrosoft.com

15 Aug (1 day ago)

to me

Dear Professor Ahmed

First, my apologies for not getting back to you sooner after your email last week.

I went away for a few days with my family to rest a bit after the film was done.

Your help with the film was absolutely invaluable… and i insisted on your receiving a credit, thanking you for your invaluable assistance with providing us with stories.

But you have not only helped me — everyone I spoke with during research for the film talks acknowledges that a great deal of the scholarship in the area is based on the work you have done over many years.

It was my strong personal wish to have you appear in the film as well — but for various reasons beyond my control, that wasn’t possible.

I will send out a link so you can see the film after it goes out tonight.

Thank you once again.

Warm wishes

Paul

Paul Berczeller
Producer/Director
One Week In Summer
Voltage TV Productions | 68 Wells Street, London, W1T 3QA
T: 0203 141 5987 | M: 0787 662 0232

Sentence 1: Your help with the film was absolutely invaluable… and i insisted on your receiving a credit, thanking you for your invaluable assistance with providing us with stories.

Any literate person would read 'invaluable' to mean - indispensable, crucial, critical, key, vital, irreplaceable, extremely useful, extremely helpful, all-important, vitally important, of the utmost importance.

I just checked the online thesaurus of Oxford University for synonyms of 'invaluable' so that you can appreciate that I am not imputing meanings to a word arbitrarily.

So, my contribution stands well above all others you have in your programme and I wish there was a way to have you and all your experts brought in a court of law to tell us under oath if they have any research to the credit for 80 per cent of the film which is on the Punjab and Lahore. It is no ordinary input from my side. Not only that but the two telegrams of Sir Evan Jenkins mentioned in the programme are also from my book.

I know the team read it very thoroughly and we even had a discussion on the role of Sir Evan.

Sentence 2: But you have not only helped me — everyone I spoke with during research for the film talks acknowledges that a great deal of the scholarship in the area is based on the work you have done over many years.

Now, Mr Berczeller is making a very honest and decent statement which any man of conscience should read for what it says: everyone who he spoke with during research acknowledged 'that a great deal of the scholarship in the area is based on the work you have done over many years.'

In any court of law this sentence cannot be read otherwise than to mean that it is my work which is the foundation for the way the script was put together because as he says, 'the scholarship in the area is based on the work you have don over many years'. What does it mean? It means exactly what I wrote to you: without my book and the hours of labour I devoted to this project it would not be possible to put it together.

You say that the team did archival research and much more. Possible and I have no reason to doubt that but in the final film which is shown the focus is not on the partition of India but as I said 80 per cent on what transpired in the Punjab. Two stories are from my work but that is not all. I explained why the partition of India is actually the partition of the Punjab.

Others who have written, for example Tunzelmann has followed the general pattern: dig deeper into the Nehru-Edwina affair. That is not what the film is about.

The truth is that others who are in the programme have relied on secondary sources - which must include my book for speaking on Lahore and the Punjab because none of them have any primary field research in the Punjab - or their research is focused elsewhere but not on what the film is about.

It was not about the last seven days in August but more or less the last seven days in the Punjab. Other areas are mentioned in very short spurts. For example, for Bengal you have only a short piece of this criminal who comes to Gandhi and changes his mind. There is another shot about a Muslim woman from the north-east. Tunzelmann's only contribution is a continuation of the Nehru-Edwina liaison which is a most superficial journalistic exercise on the partition. Nishid Hijari refers to my book when it comes to the Punjab. Yasmin Khan who along with Tunzelmann are your main sources has done good work but on another area. None of the people have any original work to their credit on the Punjab.

Sentence 3: It was my strong personal wish to have you appear in the film as well — but for various reasons beyond my control, that wasn’t possible.

Now, that shows that the producer did want to have me appear in the film but someone overruled him. All the ladies who worked on the project told me that they have recommended in their reports the importance of I appearing in the programme. The question is why I was excluded?

If one were to say that it was because of budgetary constraints then that is a bogus argument because £500 would suffice to have me over from Stockholm for a day to be able to make a contribution. Obviously you exercise your discretion against me and in favour others.

I invite you to provide me a better argument and I will accept it.

You see, I have devoted all my life to find out the truth and have paid whatever price is needed to speak out the truth and face the consequences.

It is only after my book was published that from the realm of fiction the truth about the Punjab - all communities and not some handful of women (as Urvashi Butalia has done) or one community have been presented.

It took me 12 years to collect oral histories and go through official documents.

The Punjab book has won three awards, two of which are mentioned on the jacket of the paperback cover which I am attaching for your convenience.

I am sure that if we can have all the ladies who called me and spoke to me on the phone give testimony in a court of law they would admit that I was given the impression that the programme was not going to have any commentators and therefore I could not be invited.

Were that true I would of course have no axe to grind or a much smaller one if at all.

But that is not true. I was deliberately deceived and misled.

You put a price of £500 on it as the value of my contribution. Mr Berczeller's letter shows that my services were invaluable and therefore cannot be reduced to five hundred pounds.

I am professor emeritus of a reputable university and this October I am invited to speak at several universities in Canada on the partition. On 17 October I shall be speaking at Harvard where the South Asia Institute has a project on partition underway.

I will not accept your high handed treatment of mine with resignation. I will see what I can do to make you admit your guilt.

May I draw your attention to the first sentence which I have already taken up with you but in a different context:

Mr Berczeller wrote: Sentence 1: Your help with the film was absolutely invaluable… and i insisted on your receiving a credit, thanking you for your invaluable assistance with providing us with stories.

He says, he insisted that I receive credit, thanking me for my invaluable assistance.

I am attaching herewith a picture of the titles which moved with such speed that neither I nor many of my friends noticed because the titles moved with great speed and there too was I lumped up with others for just oral histories.

I consider it malicious intent and nothing else. It does no justice to the work I contributed. There would be no such film without my help at all stages in explaining to the team all what happened and why.

Your hostility to my contribution need not be overemphasized. I am not going to take this lying down I can tell you.

Best Regards,

Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed

Best Regards,

Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed



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