Kanishka Sonthalia (b. 1990) is an independent documentary photographer currently based in Mumbai, India. Her work focuses on human rights issues related to women, the social construct, and the identity of sub-communities. Education Eddie Adams...
A BJP supporter sets up the music system before the Lok Sabha election results were disclosed.
Identity politics is inevitable in democracies, however, it is articulated through a persistent sense of discrimination and oppression along the axis of defining one identity from the other. Rather than understanding oneself as having diverse and multiple identities, Indians are provoked to support political parties based on their religious identity. The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) experimented with this unique mix of caste and religion-driven politics in 2014 and has cemented it in 2019. This body of work explores these phenomena from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency; Varanasi, India.
A broken front of a temple next to Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is widely recognized as one of the most important places of worship in the Hindu religion. The Kashi Vishwanath Corridor Project announced in March 2018 is an initiative aimed at giving the temple an undiluted visual prominence and providing pilgrims uncongested roads from the temple to the ghats which in turn has jeopardized livelihoods of hundreds of people who have been living there since generations.
"He has taken away the soul of this temple by tearing apart all the houses and temples that lead to the river," says Geeta Devi, a pilgrim who traveled nearly 1000 kilometers with her sons to visit the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi.
Two men look over a funeral ritual at Manikarnika Ghat. "This ghat is very sacred to our Hindu culture. It is a gateway to heaven for those who are cremated here. I have spent all my life on this ghat. On average I see around 100 to 150 bodies being cremated each day. In the midst of these elections, for the first time ever, I have seen a political party dishonoring the sanctity of this ghat by erecting a flag of their party," says a cow shed owner.
"There are two kinds of people in Varanasi; one who are blind fans of Modi, an exact impact of a 5000 crore marketing campaign and there is another part that is disappointed with Modi who exactly know that his ideologies are not right and this is not how you win elections and run a government, but they remain silent. If you don't have a strong social standing and if you vocalize your dissent then there is a fear of social boycott, unnecessary confrontation, and humiliation", says Sana Sabah, co-founder of a social start-up in Varanasi.
Date of Work
May 2019 - Jun 2019
Updated Feb 2020
Documentary, Essays, Photography, Photojournalism, Portraiture, Street