As India heads to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, it finds itself at a crossroads. Over the last five years, the idea of India as a secular and pluralistic democracy has been aggressively challenged by an authoritarian government led by Narendra Modi, and backed by the Sangh Parivar, which wields the sword of militant Hindu nationalism.
With growth stagnating and unemployment at a four-decade high, it is now becoming clear that the Modi government has failed to deliver on its promise of economic development. But whether this will weaken the majoritarian groundswell, currently buoying the Bharatiya Janata Party, remains to be seen. On the evidence of the activist-filmmaker Anand Patwardhan’s latest documentary, Vivek, or Reason in English, it seems unlikely that even an electoral defeat for the BJP will halt the march of Hindutva.
Nearly half-a-decade in the making, Vivek plays out over eight chapters that document Hindutva’s ascendancy in recent times through the trail of blood that it has left in its wake. The film covers the murders of rationalists such as Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, the connection of these crimes to the militant-Hindu outfit Sanatan Sanstha, the violent attacks on Muslims and Dalits in the name of cow protection, the caste-based discrimination that led to the suicide of the young student leader and scholar Rohith Vemula, and numerous other outbursts of violence, large and small, connecting them to present an overview of the turmoil that India is currently witnessing.