In Search of India’s Soul: From Mughals to Modi Episode 1
Directed by Bruno Rosso (Al Jazeera) 2020
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.