Friday, March 13, 2015

Final Solution (2004)

Director: Rakesh Sharma

The Final Solution is a documentary directed by Rakesh Sharma about the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat that arose as a response to the Godhra train burning incident on February 27, 2002, where 58 Hindus were burnt alive. According to the official figures , the riots resulted in the deaths of 790 Muslims, 254 Hindus and further 223 were reported to be missing (unofficial figures are much higher). 2500 people were non-fatally injured with many instances of rape, children being burned alive and a widespread looting and destruction of property. The current prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, was the chief minister of Gujarat during the riots and many have accused the state for initiating and condoning violence. He was cleared of complicity in violence by a Special Investigation team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court.

The title for the film comes from Nazis' euphemistic term for their plan to annihilate the Jewish people. Such euphemisms were the norm for Nazis when communicating about their plans about murder. Before the War starting in 1939, their persecution of Jews involved intimidation, expropriation of their money and property and forcing them into living in Jewish Ghettos. In this documentary, Rakesh Sharma draws parallels with what happened to Jews under Nazis then with the situation of Muslims in Gujarat during and after the riots in a non-explicit manner. The overt references to Nazis is restricted to a couple of references about shocking inclusion of mutual admiration in Gujarat State's school text books. That is not surprising since RSS, the Hindu nationalist organization which exerts considerable influence over BJP and Modi, are known for its admiration for European fascists during its formative years and their ideological demand of India being re-branded as a Greater Hindu nation should sound familiar. 

Film begins with George Sanatayana's quote: 'Those who does not remember the past are condemned to repeat it'. It becomes even more significant these days with the resurgence of Hindutva ideology at  the national level. This is something that is alluded in the documentary at the end with a footnote saying that BJP were comprehensively defeated in 2004 National elections when they ran on the development agenda and that would make them put their Hindutva ideology again at the forefront. The documentary consists mostly of interviews with both Muslims and Hindus, of multiple generations and sexes, asking them their views regarding what happened, causes, justifications, as well as their prospects for the future. The first section of it is titled 'Pride and Genocide' which is largely the footage taken during the time of Modi's 'Gaurav' Yatra before the assembly election in late 2002. The second part titled 'Hate Mandate' documents the actual poll campaign showing the exploitation of Godhra incident by the right-wing propaganda machinery. Film ends with a tragic set of interviews featuring a couple of Hindu and Muslim children which reveals that they are indoctrinated beyond belief.  

The version I saw of it from Youtube was 150 minutes long but IMDB lists its running time as 218 minutes. I thought even the version that I saw could have been cut down significantly to under two hours without much loss to its power-fullness. It was initially banned in India in 2004 and the ban was lifted after a sustained campaign by October 2004. It involved a 'Pirate & Circulate' campaign in protest against the ban with the condition of 'Get a free copy only if you promise to pirate and make five copies'. It is yet to be shown on India television but several international broadcasters like BBC, NHK, DR2 etc have screened it and it won Special Jury award at the Berlin International film festival.

Rating: 3.5/5