In Search of India’s Soul Part 2
Directed by Bruno Rosso (A Jazeera) 2020
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.