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Hindu Nationalists Ascendant in India: Will Narendra Modi Be Prime Minister of All Indians?

May 19, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

For years India has disappointed expectations. Tagged as the next great power preparing to challenge China and eventually America, India instead has lagged economically, stagnated politically, and battled religiously. Now Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won a stunning political victory. India’s future depends on Modi’s ability to transcend his sectarian roots and govern on behalf of all Indians.

India achieved political independence in 1947, when the British colony was divided into largely Hindu India and mostly Muslim Pakistan. Twelve million people abandoned their homes and hundreds of thousands of them died in the process. Nevertheless, many religious minorities remained behind. For instance, India’s Muslim population runs roughly 177 million, the 3rd largest on earth — behind only Indonesia and Pakistan.

Throughout the Cold War the Delhi government kept its people poor by mismanaging the economy. Indian officials followed Stalinist economic nostrums to develop and depended on foreign aid to make ends meet. Politics was dominated by the dynastic India National Congress Party, which treated the system as the property of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Eventually change came to India: the Congress Party began economic reforms and the BJP broke the Congress political monopoly.

India is a secular republic in which freedom of religion is formally protected. However, legislation authorizes government interference in the name of preventing conduct “promoting enmity,” undermining “harmony,” intending to “outrage religious feelings,” insult “religious beliefs,” and more. In these cases, noted the State Department’s report on religious liberty, Delhi restricts “minorities’ freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.” Moreover, 7 of 28 states have passed anti-conversion laws, which target proselytizing.

The Indian people need more opportunity, not more dependency.”

Of particular concern is the government’s inability or unwillingness to combat religious violence and prosecute those responsible. Explained the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom: “Despite the country’s status as a pluralistic, secular democracy, India has struggled to protect minority communities or provide justice when crimes occur due to a lack of political will, political corruption, and religious bias by government officials. This exacerbates the climate of impunity that already exists in the country.”

Much violence occurs between the two largest groups, Hindus and Muslims, but other religious minorities also are targeted. In 2007 and 2008 in the state of Odisha (formerly known as Orissa) rioting Hindus murdered scores of Christians, forced thousands to flee, and destroyed many homes and churches. Mobs even torched a Christian …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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