Tensions have risen in India since Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi came to power, with complaints about “growing intolerance” filtering through the media. A recent flashpoint: the arrest of a student on allegations of sedition, relating to meetings at Jawaharlal Nehru University about the 2013 execution of Afzal Gurul, a separatist from the India-controlled section of Kashmir. A former lecturer from Delhi University was also picked up on sedition charges related to a different event at the Press Club on India. These cases have roiled India, upsetting more moderate and left-wing Indians, and after the arrests, according to the Wall Street Journal, the government launched a campaign to promote patriotism:
The three-day “mass awareness” campaign by members of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party included hundreds of candlelight vigils across the country, the world’s largest democracy. At one of them here in the capital, participants shouted “long live mother India” and “hang separatists” while snaking through the crowded lanes of a residential neighborhood. The event ended with a loyalty oath.
“It is our moral duty to spread the spirit of nationalism,” said Kiran Chadha, a BJP leader in New Delhi. “No one who lives here has the right to speak against the country.”
Prime Minister Modi has not himself spoken about the protests or the detentions. Modi has always had two sides: the reformer and the nationalist. We, along with many others, have hoped he would emphasize the former and not as the latter during his tenure. But the reality has been more mixed. Much of Modi’s economic reform agenda remains stalled, and his party’s nationalist urges—if not his own—have been let out of the cage. In a multiethnic country there will naturally be a desire on the part of the country’s leaders to find some unifying national identity. But the Hindu variety isn’t one that will work well for many Indians—particularly the 180 million Muslims. We hope tensions get under control before the situation gets too ugly.