Which caste pays more taxes in India?
"Human life no longer has any value in India"
ARTE: What made you decide to make this film?
Lourdes Picareta: When the media hit numerous headlines about violence against women in India, it caught the attention of our editorial team. We quickly realized that the riots against women are only a small part of the violence in India. The woman is the weakest link. But the violence goes beyond that and is rooted in Indian society. To see how this violence expresses itself, where it comes from, was a real revelation. It was my first time in India for the film. I was shocked by the contrast between the idea that we have of this country, the country of Gandhi, the great soul that one goes to to find oneself, and the terrifyingly unjust reality.
What were your first impressions when you got there?
Lourdes Picareta:On the one hand horror at the "Old Testament" ideas of men. At first I thought that these ideas were only common in the hinterland, where people did not have access to education. But in New Delhi we encountered the same attitude. For example, we spoke to a doctor who had been pushed down the stairs by her husband for refusing to abort her female twins. Her husband, himself a doctor and from New Delhi, also works according to the basic convictions that girls are bad luck for the family. Because the family has to pay an enormous trousseau at the wedding age to the family into which the girl marries. And not just at the wedding - often for a lifetime. If the family does not pay, the daughters will be killed ...
Western tourists spend their holidays in luxury hotels in a country where two million women are victims of violence every year and children die on the streets.
What also shocked me was the country's extreme pollution. As soon as you leave New Delhi's air-conditioned airport, it smells like feces.
It is also frightening that there is largely a lack of empathy with the weak. In the holiest of all cities in India, in Varanasi, I almost stumbled upon a dead child on the street. My stringer and colleague, herself an Indian from New Delhi, explained to me: “This is everyday life.” The dead children are picked up on the street every day. Just imagine: Western tourists are vacationing in luxury hotels in a country where two million women are victims of violence every year and children die on the streets. Human life has no value in India.
You deal with the caste system in your film. Why is this so persistent in Indian society?
Lourdes Picareta:I don't have a clear answer to that. In my film, scientists from various fields try to answer this question. I think that the caste system was taken over by savage capitalism and continues in this new role. It enables people to be manipulated and exploited as workers. Workers move to big cities and toil building high-rise buildings - in Mumbai, four-room apartments in these houses are then sold for two million dollars. The workers themselves live in barracks in the slums, their children don't even go to school. When the skyscraper or business park is finished, they continue to work as servants for the owners. In the state of Gujarat in particular, the current prime minister, Narendra Modi, who has been the state's head of government for many years, promoted the creation of glamorous buildings. And that only widened the gap between rich and poor. The ancient thinking of the castes shakes hands with wild capitalism.
The question arises: "Where can a woman assert her rights?"
Is there any way to break out of the caste?
Lourdes Picareta: The protagonist of our film is a Dalit, a member of the low caste who was raped by a group of men. Because she does not want to withdraw her complaint, she has received numerous death threats and is under police protection. Her fate remains open at the end of the film. I think she's still alive, I haven't heard anything to the contrary. If she doesn't survive, then I would have to answer that question with no. But their example shows that there are young people who rebel and who long for change. There are hope, like our interview partners, who are calling for an end to the system. And the voices of women who no longer want to accept discrimination and violence are getting louder.
However, it is questionable whether they can really bring about a change in society. The doctor I was talking about has been fighting her husband in court for 14 years - this is how old her twin daughters are. She was hit on the street and has to deal with corrupt courts. The question arises: "Where can a woman assert her rights?"
The Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi writes the suppression of Muslims directly on the flag.
You also go into the role of Muslims ...
Lourdes Picareta: Yeah, it's a complicated story. The Muslims are part of this system of oppression, castes and violence. But they belong to a different religion and are therefore additionally persecuted. The new Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi writes the oppression of Muslims directly on the flag.
Has the riot against Muslims increased since he took office?
Lourdes Picareta:I myself haven't been in the country long enough to be able to judge that. But our Muslim protagonists and organizations who work for the rights of Muslims speak of a clear deterioration. The film features a Hindu activist who campaigns for the rights of Muslims. She has received multiple death threats and is in constant need of police protection. That already says it all.
Gandhi was trapped in Hinduism. This went so far that he was against the abolition of the castes being included in the constitution.
You called your film “Violence in the Land of Gandhi”. One of her interviewees, a politics professor, suggests that Gandhi did not advocate the abolition of the castes. Because the system is closely related to Hinduism. Should the documentation also take away some of its glamor from the image that the West has of Gandhi?
Lourdes Picareta:In any case. The writer Arundhati Roy, who has dealt with the subject, shows in her detailed and investigative foreword to the book The Doctor and the Saint on that Gandhi was trapped in Hinduism. This went so far that he too was against the abolition of the castes being included in the constitution.
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