Looking for ‘Reason’ in Modi’s India

Ratik Asokan in the New York Review of Books:

The first murder came as a shock; the second suggested there might be a larger plot; by the third there was talk of government collusion; and when the fourth happened one felt it would not be the last. The victims—Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M.M. Kalburgi, and Gauri Lankesh—were all killed in the same way, shot point-blank with a 7.65mm pistol by a gunman who came and fled on a two-wheeler. All beloved activists and thinkers, who wrote in the vernacular press, they had been vocal opponents of the BJP and its brand of Hindu nationalism. Their assassinations were meant to send a message, and far-right trolls on social media duly rejoiced. “One bitch died a dog’s death,” a man from Gujarat wrote on Twitter, referring to Lankesh; his account was followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

These killings, which happened between 2013 and 2017, lie at the heart of Vivek (Reason), a four-hour documentary by Anand Patwardhan. (The version I viewed was re-edited and posted to YouTube ahead of India’s general election earlier this year.) Each chapter opens with an allusion to the crimes—a motorcyclist is seen driving down a dark road—and some third of the show is given over to telling the victims’ life stories. Yet the murders are only the starting point. Behind the grisly events, Patwardhan sees the broader threat of religious intolerance that is once again spreading across India. It is this trend that he sets out to chart.

More here.