Review – Even the Crows: A Divided Gujarat 3 August 2014

Here, we review Even The Crows, a documentary exploring the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat. The documentary provides a useful resource in understanding modern India and Indian politics.

Even The Crows begins with the story of Ahsan Jafri, a prominent Gujarati Muslim MP who was murdered during the 2002 riots that swept over parts of the Indian state. The story is told by his daughter Nishrin, currently living in the United States, who describes her father lovingly and with unmistakeable pain in her voice.

Nishrin Jafri

Nishrin Jafri shares her experience of the loss of her father, Ahsan Jafri.

It brought home an issue that was, at best, at the periphery of my consciousness. I was aware, vaguely, that there were anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat. It was however something I never stopped to explore, or understand. The opening scnenes of this documentary shattered the distance I had placed between myself and that incident.

As a synopsis, Even The Crows is a documentary that explores the rise of Hindutva, Hindu nationalism, and its role in the pogrom of 2002 that saw over 1000 Muslims killed. It is however much more than that; at its heart, it is a collection of moving personal stories – a visceral insight into a world of pain and loss for survivors. The producers, two sisters who are both filmmakers, are open about their personal stake in the topic. They are from a Gujarati Jain family, and this documentary is as much a personal exploration of the violence that has ripped apart their homeland as it is a journalistic endeavour to understand the politics and religion of India.  

The documentary also introduces Imran Dawood, a British-Gujurati who was caught in the riots during an ill-timed trip to his homeland, and who is the sole survivor of an attack by rioters that left his two uncles and friend dead. The documentary shifts from the sunny suburbs of Delaware, the home of Nishrin, to the misty and grey north of England, the home of Imran, to poor ghettoes in the outskirts of Ahmedabad. These striking juxtapositions are made even more powerful by the thread that ties these contexts together – living with the impact and fallout of the riots. The film visually presents globalisation—the violence of Gujarat in 2002 had shockwave over ten years later and thousands of miles apart.

We also meet the supporters and detractors Narendra Modi, the now-Prime Minister of India who was Chief Minister of Gujarat during the riots. In London, this includes a human rights lawyer working to indict Modi for his involvement in the pogrom, and also a businessman and supporter of Modi who speaks glowingly of his economic reforms. Statements by supporters of Modi which try to downplay the riots and his involvement, are placed next to scenes in which it is clear that survivors are still grieving.

The film explores the rise of Hindutva, Hindu nationalism, in India.

The film explores the rise of Hindutva, Hindu nationalism, in India.

As a piece of journalism, the documentary excels. In a BBC Radio 4 Profile on Modi, reporter Ritula Shah, said that the accusations against Modi and his involvement in the riots are about ‘what he didn’t do’. The documentary provides an important antidote to such sanitised coverage on the Prime Minister who is accused not simply of inaction, but complicity in planning and orchestrating the violence.

The value and relevance of Even The Crows is shown through its inception. The documentary was crowd-funded, meaning supporters from across the world donated to the project – a total of £8,000. The end product is far from amateur, and a testament to the two sisters’ talent as well as dedication.

The documentary was released before the election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, but we are yet to see the long-term impact of his victory on Indian people and politics. Even The Crows is a must-watch for those wishing to understand modern India and how the changing political landscape might affect the country’s future.

Even The Crows: A Divided Gujarat was produced by Guerrera Films. To check for future screenings or purchase the film on DVD, visit www.eventhecrows.com.

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