gandhi to savarkar: the gujarat way


Even after its partition based on religious divide, India continued to wear its secular costumes, while communal divides and tensions remained at its core. During the first four decades of independence India managed to project itself as a secular republic, amidst the rapid communalisation and criminalisation of politics. The demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 and the communal riots that followed brought a political party that identifies itself with a single religious group into power, both at the centre and most of the northern states, including Gujarat, the land of Gandhi, thereby ripping off this secular costume. Ten years later, India took a further step towards becoming a Fascist nation with the communal riots that erupted in Gujarat, which the rightwing ruling parties claimed to be a mere reaction to the Godhra carnage. The riots which killed more than 2,500 people and displaced 25,000 becomes unique from numerous other communal conflicts of the past by the direct involvement of different machineries of the State in its planning and execution. The riots in fact resembles a well-planned genocide, perhaps could only be compared with the anti-Semitic operations by the Nazis.

Rakesh Sharma's powerful documentary, Final Solution examines the aftermath of this well planned genocide, which once again proclaimed the victory for the politics of hatred. The film with four parts documents the horrifying incidents that happened in Gujarat and exposes the masterminds behind these incidents who succeeded in creating a climate of hatred and convert it into electoral victory.

The film begins with scenes of Chief Minister Narendra Modi's aggressive and arrogant poll campaign, the 'Gaurav Yatra', which he claimed to be a journey across Gujarat to reiterate the 'pride of Gujarat'. We see his venomous speeches, making a mockery of the Law that prevents candidates using communal references in election campaigns. We see the leaders of the rightwing parties openly speak about their dreams of a 'Hindu Rashtra', for which they ask the Muslims of India either to accept Hinduism or quit India ("go to Pakistan"). For them Gandhi is outmoded and Savarkar is the new hero. The results of this hate campaign demonstrated the level of communal polarisation in the state, with the election results virtually indicating the Hindu and non-Hindu population of the state. Also, we see streets marked 'Hindus Only', housing colonies with physical boundaries demarcating regions for Hindus and Muslims, children expelled from schools for just being Muslims and hear nightmarish incidents narrated by women, the major target of the communal violence in Gujarat. Incidents like roads built over holly shrines by using official machinery within hours of start of riots and hundreds of dead bodies missing just after the massacres happened, indicates the level of preplanning involved in the Gujarat riots, and makes it difficult for one to believe that it was a natural mob outburst as a reaction to the Godhra carnage, whereas the mystery behind the Godhra incident itself remains unsolved.

The film begins with young Ijaz narrating the violence he witnessed in which several of his relatives were killed. And the film ends with Ijaz speaking about his dreams of the future. The dream of becoming a soldier and killing all the Hindus he meets. Perhaps, he would be speaking about the inevitable future of India.

The teenage boys playing cricket next to the very well where truckloads of dead bodies were dumped, speaks about the ball worth Rs.25/-, which is more valuable for them than the dead bodies. When repeatedly asked about the killings they witnessed, we see the uneasiness reflecting on their faces coming deep from their internal conscience. May be a powerful documentary like 'Final Solution' could evoke the inner conscience of those people who acted, blinded by the ideological vision of a 'Pure Nation Theory', when they see themselves at a distance, away from the mob they belonged.

In a society so degraded, where even Hitler is considered a hero, it would be worth remembering the history of the resent past so that we too would not be condemned to relive it. The history of a man who dreamt about a 'Pure Nation', the 'Final Solution' he planned to execute his dream, a population who danced according to his tunes, a generation who marched to concentration camps and finally all that ended with the inevitable doom.

politics of the middle class

vincent valdmanis

Let me first say that I'm an outsider, an American who worked at an NGO in India, so I accept that I may be talking out of hand.

It is striking how similar the discussions of communalism in India and race in America are. The middle classes often imagine that the source of the problem comes from somewhere else: communalism thrives among the poor, backward, and illiterate; racism in America comes from 'red necks' (aka, working-class whites). The problem isn't us, say the middle classes; it's the people below us.

The number of times I heard middle class professionals in India repeat this were countless. Virtually every middle class person I knew voted for the BJP. When I asked for their thoughts about the BJP and the riots in Gujarat, they'd say it was overblown, Indians are religious and therefore prone to communal hatred, all political parties engage in communalism, what do I know anyway, I'm from the West. Congress is just as bad, etc etc. But look at the BJP, they'd say. The stock market is up, foreign reserves over $100 billion, Indian is Shining. So to BJP, the party of L K Advani, their vote would go. (If they voted at all, that is.)

The BJP banked on the support of middle class urban India. This is why it lost. Frankly, sheer numbers alone will tell you that counting on middle class urban India is a losing proposition.

All those backward, illiterate poor slum dwellers, the ones who the middle classes insist are largely responsible for communalism, were the ones who punished the BJP. After all, it is they without running water, not those who can patronize Barrista, who suffer the most devastating consequences of communal violence.

Many assume that the middle class is the bulwark of civilization against the unwashed. Some fret that these films will change nothing, implying that those seeing the film are in no way responsible for the problems shown in the films. Others say that the films must be shown to a wider audience (an idea I support), again implying that it's the poor who are primarily responsible.

It strikes me how little stewardship India's middle class seems to feel for the rest of the country. You can see it clearly in the contrasting quality of public and private space. The inside of people's homes are immaculate, well-maintained, invested in with care. Outside are open gutters full of sludge, sidewalks with gaping holes, roads in shambles. Bottled sparkling water is served in restaurants, but clean water barely flows from taps.

Is the middle class really so innocent? Is it really so helpless to make much of a difference? Is it really unable to speak with one voice and say unequivocally that the communal games politicians plays are unacceptable in a modern democracy?

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