A fresh batch of chapters from Anand Patwardhan’s new documentary Reason (Hindi title: Vivek) have appeared on YouTube. The film looks at the murderous attacks on critics of Hindutva, in addition to casting a critical eye on Hindu extremist organisations such as Sanathan Sanstha and Abhinav Bharat, the rise of hyper-nationalism, assaults on Muslims and Dalits in the guise of cow protection and the attacks on progressive students in universities across India.
Last week, the first two chapters, about the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar and Communist leader Govind Pansare, became available on the platform.
The new chapters released take a look at the legacy of Pansare and Dhabolkar, the Hindu extremist organisation Sanatan Sanstha alleged to have killed them, the 2015 case of lynching and murder of Mohammad Akhlaq, the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula in 2016, and the demonising of student activists like Jawaharlal Nehru University scholars Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid.
Chapter three looks into the appropriation of Maratha king Shivaji as a totem of Hindutva. The episode considers how Pansare through his books, writings and speeches, noted that Shivaji employed Muslims in large numbers and was respectful to Islam. This stands in contrast to the portrayal of the 17th-century warrior presented by Hindutva adherents.
Chapter four considers the legacy of Pansare and Dhabolkar and how the social movements they created inspired hundreds to spread their message. While Pansare’s and Dhabolkar’s followers passionately continue their work, the police are dragging their feet in the investigation of the murders of the two men.
Chapter five investigates the creation, objective and impact of the Sanatan Sanstha. Through an interview with Sourav Lotlikar, a resident of Goa’s Ponda where the organisation’s ashram is located, the episode looks into the organisation’s association with violence, which included planting bombs in Maharashtra’s Thane, Panvel and Vashi in 2008. The episode also offers a peek into the mind of the organisation’s founder Jayant Athavale, who, among other things believes that spectral beings will come down to India from the skies and establish a Hindu nation in the near future.
Chapter six looks into Hindutva organisations that support the ritualistic submergence of giant statues of Hindu gods, Ganesha and Vishnu, despite scientific evidence showing that the polymers used to make these statues make waterbodies toxic.
Chapter seven looks at the opposition to Hindutva organisations.
Chapter eight, looks back at the 2015 lynching of 52-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh. Akhlaq on the suspicion that he had slaugtered a calf. Investigations found that the meat in Akhlaq’s fridge, which triggered the violence, was mutton, not beef. This chapter features interviews with Akhlaq’s son, Mohammad Sartaj, who is employed with the Indian Air Force, and daughter, Sajida. Akhlaq’s neighbours and the father of Vivek, one of the prime accused in Akhlaq’s murder, have also been interviewed.
The next chapter is about atrocities committed on Dalits by upper-caste Hindus, starting with the brutal assault of seven Dalit men in Una, Gujarat, in 2016.
Chapter 11 is about the suicide of University of Hyderabad’s student Rohith Vemula in January, 2016. His death sparked protests across the country against the mistreatment meted out to Dalits in educational institutions. Vemula was a vocal critic of Hindutva politics.
Chapters 12 and 13 continue the focus on Narendra Modi’s battle with student activists. The episodes document the arrests of Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid for allegedly chanting “anti-national” slogans on the campus of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2016. As it turns out, Kumar is contesting in the 2019 general elections from Bihar’s Begusarai constituency as a Communist Party of India candidate.