VIFF needs to be applauded for bringing a documentary that takes a critical look at Modi’s India

While Canada remains indifferent to the growing repression of minorities and political dissidents in the world’s so called largest democracy, Anand Patwardhan’s documentary based on startling facts about India might help in breaking the global silence over this inconvenient truth.  

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Shown at Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) Reason reveals how attacks on oppressed groups, religious minorities and civil societyo

Thanks have increased under a right wing Hindu nationalist regime led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Mainly focussed on the murders of at least four prominent rationalists and free thinkers who were assassinated by the extremists for challenging bigotry and superstition, Reason goes into the root cause of the emergence of Hindu Right. The perpetrators of these crimes enjoy the political patronage of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) that is trying to turn India into Hindu theocracy and continues to shield those involved in terrorist attacks directed at Muslims. It takes into account the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Hindu fanatics in 1948. Even though his killers owed allegiance to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) a Hindu supremacist group of which BJP is a part, Modi shamelessly tries to appropriate Gandhi because of his worldwide acceptance as a pacifist leader. Modi himself is a member of the RSS. Reason goes into these complexities and contradictions to educate people about the motives of BJP.

Not surprisingly, there were attempts to stop the public screening of the film in India. So much so, some Hindu leaders openly called for physical violence against Patwardhan during a press conference right in his presence. The footage of this incident was part of the film.

Patwardhan has made similar documentaries in the past, including In Memory of Friends which was based on the murders of Communist revolutionaries who were systematically killed by the Sikh fundamentalists in Punjab during 1980s. Ironically, the Sikh militants were liquidated through extra judicial means to restore peace in Punjab, whereas Hindu extremists enjoy the backing of the Indian state. 

Talking to the Straight, Patwardhan said that he is really concerned how the current government is patronizing violence and terror even as the space for secularism and scientific temperament mandated by the Indian constitution continues to shrink. He pointed out that the problem isn’t just confined to India as far right movements are on the rise all over the world, including US. It is pertinent to mention that Spice Radio had sponsored the VIFF screening of Reason. It’s CEO Shushma Datt had started a campaign against racism in 2015. #HandsAgainstRacism as it is widely known is part of social justice movement Patwardhan cares for. He told this writer that there is a need to make broader alliance against fascism under these difficult circumstances. 

In the meantime, the members of Indiansn Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) – a group based in Greater Vancouver that was formed in response to the growing violence against minorities and efforts of turning India into Hindu theocracy ever since Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014, presented Patwardhan with Radical Desi medal of courage before the screening of Reason at Vancity theatre on Monday, October 7.

Radical Desi is an online magazine that covers alternative politics and has been raising these issues in the Indian Diaspora in partnership with IAPI. Patwardhan was presented with the medal by the IAPI President, Parshotam Dosanjh. Others present on behalf of IAPI at the event were Rakesh Kumar, Tejinder Sharma and myself. 



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