The Rise of Hindu Nationalism in India

In Search of India’s Soul Part 2

Directed by Bruno Rosso (A Jazeera) 2020

Film Review

Part 2 of this series looks at significant triggers leading to the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a once-obscure Hindu nationalist party. The first were December 1992 riots that occurred following the demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque by Hindu activists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).* The mosque was built in the 16th century on the site of a Hindu temple demolished by Mogul occupiers. Two thousand people would be killed in the ensuing riots.

The second trigger was a long running TV adaption (starting in the 1980s) of the Ramayan.**

The third involves a court case that overturned a Muslim divorce,*** In 1986, then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi sponsored a law, which proved extremely controversial among women’s rights and Hindu activists, vacated the court ruling.

The final trigger was a February 2002 incident in which Hindu activists set fire to a train of Muslims returning from the Burbury Mosque. After allowing Hindu activists to parade the 38 charred corpses through the streets, local police stood by as a thousand people (75% Muslim) were killed in riots that ensued. As president of the state of Gujurat, future Indian president Narendra Modi was barred from visiting the US for 10 years, following his failure to intervene in the riots.

The film also includes an illuminating segment about Hindu attacks on Indian Christian communities. In 2008, 40,000 Christians came under attack, with their hospitals and schools being burned, and several nuns being raped.

For me the most interesting segment concerns a recent trend for Hindu Dalits (Untouchables) to convert to Islam to escape the discrimination and exploitation they experience under the Hindu religion.****

At the film’s conclusion journalist (and narrator) Aatish Taseer is stripped of his Indian citizenship owing to an article critical of Narendra Modi he published in Time magazine.


*The RSS is the largest civil society in the world fighting for Hindu supremacy.

**The Rāmāyan is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient Indian history, the other being the Mahābhārata.

***Under Muslim law, a man can divorce a woman (and absolve himself of any responsibility for child support or spousal maintenance) by repeating three times “I divorce you.”

****Hinduism is the only religion in the world that purposely enforces Inequality based on circumstances of birth.

 

India’s BJP and the Right Wing Nationalist Government of Narenda Modi

In Search of India’s Soul: From Mughals to Modi Episode 1

Directed by Bruno Rosso (Al Jazeera) 2020

Film Review

In this documentary series, writer and journalist Aatish Taseer returns to his country of birth, to investigate increasing vigilante violence by Hindus against Indian Muslims.

India’s current 1.25 billion population breaks down into 1 billion Hindus, 200 million Muslims and 50 million members of other faiths (mainly Sikh, Buddhist and Christian). When India obtained independence from Britain in 1947, it was divided into Pakistan, which adopted Islam as its official religion, and India, remained a secular state. Many Muslims born in British-occupied India emigrated to Pakistan. However many remained.The last three decades has seen the rise of Hindu nationalism, which helped bring right wing Hindu nationalist party BJP and Narenda Modi to power in 2014. Many analysts believe Modi is deliberately stoking anti-Muslim sentiment, just as Trump stoked anti-immigrant and anti-minority sentiment to win votes in the US.

In Part 1, Taseer mainly investigates the vigilante attacks by Hindu nationalists against Muslim cow herdsmen and traders (at present cattle is a big export for India, even though cows are sacred in the Hindu religion). Although numerous Muslims have been killed in the attacks, no perpetrators have been convicted as yet.  When the Congress party recently replaced the BJP in the state of Rajasthan, the new government passed an anti-lynching law and launched an appeal against the acquittal of six Hindu nationalists in a high-profile murder case.

At least half of the film is devoted to Taseer’s efforts to understand the intensity of the anger Hindus feel towards Muslims they have lived alongside for 500 years. Most of the Hindus he interviews blame historical atrocities by Emperor Barbur, founder of the Mughal Empire. He and the sixth Mughul emperor Aurangzeb destroyed many Hindu temples to force Hindus to convert to Islam.

An Indian psychiatrist Taseer interviews a psychiatrist who points out that India was under continuous occupation (first by Mughal and then by the British) between 1526 and 1947.  He blames the ongoing racial hatred on intergenerational trauma stemming from colonization.

The Maquiladoras: What’s Really Going on at the Mexican Border

Maquilapolis

Directed by Sergio de la Torre and Vicky Funari (2006)

Film Review

This documentary documents the untold history of the Mexican women who built a union movement among the the 800+ maquiladoras on the Mexican side of the US/Mexico border.

In the 1960s the US and Mexico signed a treaty to establish duty-free factories (known as maqiladoras) just south of the US border. This US corporations to take advantage of cheap Mexican labor without paying import duties.

Because wages were higher than elsewhere in Mexico (with jobs practically non-existent in rural areas), the maquiladoras attracted workers from all over Mexico. Despite the higher wages, working conditions were abysmal, with workers being denied toilet breaks and experience toxic exposures and bullying from management.

The number of maquiladoras increased substantially after passage of NAFTA (North American Fair Trade Agreement) in 1994 reduced tariffs and duties still further.

At the time of filming, women comprised 80% of the maquiladora workforce. Employers prefer female workers, especially in electronics assembly as they have smaller, more agile hands and are viewed as more docile and compliant. Most were single mothers.

The film tells the story of the long struggle of Chipanchingo Collective for Environmental Justice to successfully form a union to improve working and living conditions.

The response by numerous corporations has been to move their factories to Indonesia, where there are no unions and wages are lower still.

 

The Role of Slavery in Chocolate Production

Chocolate’s Heart of Darkness

Directed by Paul Moreira (DW) 2019

Film Review

In this documentary, filmmaker Paul Moreira visits illegal cacao plantations in the Ivory Coast that employ child slaves to prepare the cacao beans they sell to local cooperatives. One third of plantation workers are children, most immigrants from drought and violence plagued Burkina Faso.

Parents sell children to traffickers for the equivalent of 300 euros each. The traffickers, in turn, sell them to growers. Typically the children work without pay for up to six years. Then growers with a small plot of land to grow their own cacao. In addition to performing forced labor, the children are required to spray plantations with lymphoma-linked Roundup without protective masks or suits.

The illegal plantations result from systematic deforestation of “classified” forest reserves.

The Ministry of Forests is supposed to enforce laws again child labor, slavery and illegal deforestation but clearly fails to do so. Likewise Cargill and other global food merchants are in violation of international agreements not to purchase beans from illegal plantations.

The global chocolate industry generates $100 billion annually, with growers receiving only six percent of this income.

How the West Steals Congo’s Mineral Wealth

Congo My Precious

Directed by Anastasia Trofimova (2017)

Film Review

This documentary exposes the shocking reality that the standard of living in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DAR) hasn’t improved since it was the personal property of Belgian King Leopold II.

As of 1960, when Congo first declared independence, the country provides 60% of the world’s uranium, 70% of its cobalt, 65% of its coltan (essential for manufacturing cellphones, laptops and nuclear reactors), 70% of its industrial diamonds, as well as substantial quantities of cassiterite and gold.

Following independence, the CIA assassinated the country’s first president Patrice Lamumba, and Belgium, determined to protect its monopoly on the country’s precious minerals, launched a four-year mercenary war.

Between 1967-83, the country enjoyed a brief period of relative wealth when CIA-installed dictator Mobutu Seko Sese was on good terms with the US and Britain. In 1973, he made a UN speech condemning Western powers for brutally exploiting his country for its mineral wealth. In response, the West cut off all aid to Zaire (DAR was known as Zaire between 1971-97). In 1997, the US supported a joint Kenyan/Rwandan effort to invade DAR and remove Mobutu from power.

DAR has been in a continuous state of civil war ever since. Both the CIA and British intelligence provide weapons and other aid to the rebel groups that control access to important mines. See The CIA and the Congo’s 20-year Civil War

Exporters pay mineworkers $6/kg for coltan and cassiterite (which is insufficient to cover their living expenses). Which they on-sell to Western markets to for $120/kg.

The Western-sponsored civil war (efforts to disarm various rebel groups are ongoing – see DR Congo Ituri Rebels Disarmament), makes it virtually impossible for workers to organizer for better pay.

The School to Prison Pipeline: Abuse, Trauma and the Criminalization of Black Girls

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls

Directed by Jacoba Atlas (2019)

Film Review

In the US, it is quite common to see African American girls excluded from school for “insubordination.” The label tends to have a very different meaning for white and Black teachers. It is common for white teachers to misconstrue a Black girl’s distress over heavy family responsibility or bullying as a bad attitude.

  • In primary school, Black girls are six times more likely than white girls to receive one or more suspensions.
  • In high school, they are three times more likely than white girls to be suspended.
  • At all levels, they are three times more likely to be physically restrained.
  • In high school, they are twice as likely to receive corporal punishment.
  • In high school, they are three times more likely to be referred to law enforcement.
  • The suicide rate of Black students of either sex is twice that of white students.

Overall there is growing concern about all US teenagers being stripped of their First and Fourth amendment in public schools. The film refers to a 12-year-old Black girl being forcibly strip searched by her principal for “being too happy.”

The filmmakers interview an African American judge who reveals that sexual abuse and/or neglect is the common denominator for Black girls who end up in the criminal justice system. When they are pushed out of school for “attitude” problems, they are the drop-outs most likely to be assaulted and/or sex trafficked on the street. And despite being the victims of sex trafficking, the girls themselves are targeted for prosecution.

Much of the film was shot in a New York program where teachers receive specialized training in working with traumatized students and employ resource materials openly acknowledging the oppression experienced by African American girls and their families. In an environment free of surveillance, policing and a punitive attitude towards discipline, students learning to de-escalate their anger and openly express their vulnerability.

Public library patrons can view the full film free at Beamafilm.

 

Indigenous Australians: A Portrait of Modern Day Oppression

Utopia

John Pilger (2013)

Film Review

This documentary examines the extreme poverty and apartheid-like living conditions of  Aboriginal peoples in Australia’s Northern Territories. The film’s title refers to the town of Utopia, identified as the most disadvantaged community in one of the world’s richest countries. Pilger tours homes one of the local doctors. Most have no kitchen, electricity, or indoor plumbing. Utopia’s many homeless live in tents or in the open air.

The extreme poverty is responsible for health problems more typical of Dickensian England. Examples include trachoma (an eminently treatable Third World eye disease leading to blindness); rheumatic fever; “glue ear” (chronic otitis media), leading to hearing impairment in 70% of the town’s primary students; cockroach infestation of the ears; malnutrition; and epidemic levels of diabetes and heart and renal disease.

One-third of Australia’s aboriginal people die before age 43.

According to Pilger, Australia’s First Nations people (who first settled Australia 65,000 years ago) have a proud history of resistance against British colonization. However owing to their lack of modern weapons, British troops massacred, imprisoned and tortured tens of thousands.

One of the cruelest government colonization strategies involved the systematic kidnapping of Aboriginal children to be raised in residential schools. As in other British colonies, the goal was to hasten assimilation by eradicating first nations customs and culture.

Although the program allegedly ended in the 1960s, in 2007 the conservative Howard government concocted a (later discredited) pedophile ring scare to justify the invasion and occupation of Northern Territories communities by Australian troops. Residents were given a choice between handing over leases to their homes or losing their government benefits. Over the next several years, the government removed dozens of children from indigenous home, with no legal justification, no appeal rights, and no option to regain parental rights.

A few months after the Norther Territory National Emergency was declared, an Australian mining company coincidentally announced the discovery of large uranium deposits in the targeted communities.

A subsequent Australian Crime Commission Report revealed the Northern Territories had the lowest incidence of child abuse in Australia.

Boot Camp: Italy’s Far Right Solution to the Refugee Crisis

Italy’s Immigration Boot Camps for Migrants

Al Jazeera (2020)

Film Review

This documentary is about and appallingly racist boot camp for African migrants in Bergomo Italy. At the so-called Academy for Integration, inmates study Italian five mornings a week and perform unpaid community service four afternoons weekly. They are required to wear uniforms (which they iron themselves), make their beds with army-style corners, follow a rigid time table and stand when the white boot camp director enters the room. They are forbidden to complain about racial or anti-immigrant injustices.

Although the camp director supports Italy’s center left coalition, the Academy is located in the heartland of Italy’s far right Tricolour Flame Party. As chief of staff for Bergomo’s mayor, the influence he carries with local businesses means he’s in a good position to place Academy graduates in permanent jobs.

Hidden History: The 2014 Revolution in Burkina Faso

Burkinabé Rising: The Art of Resistance in Bukina Faso

Directed by Lara Lee (2017)

Film Review

Burkinabé Rising is about the 2014 revolution in Burkina Faso which overthrew dictator Blaise Compaoré after 27 years in power. To the best of my knowledge the event received no coverage whatsoever in the Western media. The vast majority of Americans have never even heard of Burkina Faso. I confess I first discovered the west African country when I  heard their music performed at Womad* in 2000.

Burkina Faso is bordered by Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Ivory Coast. It has a population of 20 million (four times the size of New Zealand). They received their independence from France in 1960.

The primary focus of the film is the historical use of art (music, modern dance, hip hop, visual arts, slam poetry, drama, and traditional masks and mud hut architecture) to raise revolutionary consciousness among young Bukinabé.

Music and dance have been especially successful in evading censorship while  preserving the memory of revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara and investigative journalist Norbert Zonga. Both were assassinated by Compaoré  and his family (Sankara in 1987 and Zonga in 1998).

The use of art in preparing the Bukinabé for full self-government has continued since Compaoré’s ouster in 2014. The role of women, the breadwinners of two-thirds of the country’s households, is of prime importance. At present several grassroots campaigns focus on women’s literacy and the education of girls, as well as the participation of women in civic organization.

There’s also a major emphasis on reviving indigenous languages and reducing food imports by banning GMOs and returning to traditional organic agriculture.


*Womad (World of Music, Arts and Dance) is an international arts festival celebrating the world’s many forms of music, arts and dance. My local city New Plymouth hosts Womad every March.

IRA Leader Michael Collins: Father of Modern Urban Warfare

Michael Collins and the War of Independence

Episode 23 of the Irish Identify (2016)

Featuring Marc Conner

I also found the 23rd episode, focusing on the 1921 Irish War of Independence, really valuable. For the 120 year lead up to the war see Hidden History: The Long War for Irish Independence

In the 1918 UK election Sinn Fein, which ran on a platform of full Irish independence, won all the seats in southern Ireland. Instead of taking their seats in London, they formed their own Irish National Assembly. This Assembly, in turn, voted to declare Ireland an independent Republic with Eamon de Valera as president and Michael Collins as minister of finance. It also founded the Irish Republican Army (IRA), as well as demanding the withdrawal of all British troops.

Originally born in New York City, De Valera had been imprisoned after the 1916 Easter Rising. He now returned to the US to raise funds for the coming revolution, leaving Collins to fill his shoes as president.

The Irish War of Independence began in January 1919, when the IRA, under Collins’ leadership, attacked a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) outpost to seize their explosives and killed two RIC officers.

Collins, considered the father of modern urban warfare, conducted a mainly guerilla war aimed at assassinating both RIC* members and the large British spy network that supported them.

Focused on keeping order in the cities, by 1920 the RIC had totally lost control over rural Ireland. The British responded by recruiting Irish criminals as mercenaries. Referred to as the “Black and Tans” for their irregular uniforms, they became notorious for their lawless brutality against unarmed civilians.

By 1921, it became clear that the IRA lacked the numbers and weaponry to defeat the British military. De Valera, who had returned from the US, sent Collins and Arthur Griffith (founder of Sinn Fein) to negotiate a truce with British Prime Minister Lloyd George.

The best deal they could achieve was a December 1921 treat that created and Irish Free State (consisting of all but six countries in Northern Ireland**) which remained a member of the British Commonwealth and required all public servants to swear a fidelity oath to the British monarch. The treaty stipulated the withdrawal of all British troops except for designated bases.

Ireland would remain a Commonwealth member until 1936, when a new constitution transformed it into a full republic.


*The RIC was an internal police force made up primarily of Irish Catholics. Many who weren’t killed resigned in preference to attacking fellow countrymen.

**Britain had long encouraged the settlement of Northern Ireland by Scottish Protestants who they rewarded with large land estates. The 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty redrew the boundaries for the six counties to guarantee the region a 2/3 Protestant majority. The resulting political system denied Catholics access to land, adequate housing, and government positions – resulting in a virtual system of apartheid.

People who belong to a public library can view the entire course “Irish Identity” free on Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine.