Rakesh Sharma directed Final Solution, a searing documentary on the 2002 genocide of Muslims in Gujarat. He has continued to go back since then to record the changing face of the state’s right-wing politics. Excerpts from an interview with Namrata Joshi:
How did you start documenting Gujarat?
While working in 1991, on a Channel 4 documentary on the caste-based and centrist polity, I got an inkling of the consolidation of Hindutva forces, of the laboratory of Hindu nationalism. But the genocide came as a big jolt. The scale and nature of the violence and terror were too benumbing. If the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 was a significant marker in the right-wing upsurge, then the 2002 genocide was yet another. It heralded Prakhar Hindutva, the aggressive side of Hindutva, which later turned into Moditva.
And you have kept at it?
I went back to shoot extensively during the 2007 poll process, travelled far and wide and spoke to a diverse audience. I felt the documentation should continue, that this universe should be explored. I was there for the 2008 Ahmedabad bombings and Godhra’s 10-year marker. It’s been a record of carnage, polity and the people. I’ve gone back to the people I encountered 10 years ago to see what has happened to them. This election marks the last chapter of my record of Modi’s decade.
How have things changed?
At the ground level, the polarisation is a grim reality masked by ‘Gujarat Shining’. The ghettoes are worse, the divides are clearer. The Muslim-dominated Juhapura would be bereft of basic amenities, but the adjoining Hindu areas won’t. There’s discrimination on every count, be it to get a BPL card or to ply an auto in a smaller town. It’s not a blatant, but a latent division. The general sentiment is “abhi Hindu ki chalti hai”.
How has Modi adapted?
Modi has been clever in trying to reinvent and reposition himself. He’s had a carefully crafted makeover from the chest-thumping ‘Miya Musharraf’ days. He’s marketed himself very well. But if you look past the development rhetoric at the social markers—malnutrition or crime—it’s a different story.
Why wasn’t Godhra an electoral issue?
There is a deliberate amnesia amongst the urban middle class youth. They want broader roads, malls and the riverfront. They are happily consumerist. Even if you bring up the issue they say, “Bahut purani baat ho gayi”. But it is not so in the minority. They say, “Ek baar to afsos kiya hota”. But Modi has maintained complete silence. It goes well with the core constituency he’s cultivated. If he apologises, it’ll be seen as weakness, a chink in the armour of his projected supreme leader. The whitewash may happen later in 2013-2014 to become more widely acceptable.