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Modi's India
Hindu Nationalism on the Rise in India

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 Journalthe 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.

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  • Anthony

    “…there will naturally be a desire on the part of the country’s leaders to find some unifying national identity.” And India must be different from such human inclination?

  • GS

    the whole idea of India partition in 1947 was a) pretty messily carried out and b) left grossly incomplete. One could argue that everything would be happier there [with fewer tensions] were that partition and the population exchanges carried out to completion. Much less stringent internal controls, for example, would be one of the results. Why, look at the Greek/Turk split of 1923. They keep hating each other, but the only war between these communities ever since the 1923 population exchange has been in Cyprus, where they had been forced to live side-by-side [the less contact, the less friction]. How many armed conflicts have been there between India and Pakistan? And over a shorter time period, too.

    • Jim__L

      The Greek / Turk split in the interwar period involved lots of ethnic cleansing against Greeks.

      Is that what you’re looking for here?

      Also, there was a lot of ethnic sorting (and cleansing) in Iraq post-2003 — has that made things better?

      • GS

        1923 was an exchange of populations- so it was against the Turks [from what is now Greece] too. In the long run, however, it was not “against” but “for” everyone there. I repeat: the less contact, the less friction. The best one can do is to keep them apart.

  • Andrew Allison
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