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Editorial: India’s ‘Ideological’ Turn

P.M. Narendra Modi’s actions appear to desire an Indian society divided into Hindu and non-Hindu sections

by Editorial

File photo. Prakash Singh—AFP

Last week, India inaugurated the Ram Mandir—built on the site of the Babri Masjid demolished by Hindu extremists in 1992—highlighting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aim to “correct” history and return the country to its “nativist” roots. Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have made no secret of their desire to erase the “irrelevant Mughal period that sought to integrate the various religions that comprise India” by separating society into Hindu and non-Hindu sections and dismissing the secularism enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Hindutva is meant to take over, even as the “ideological” turn dismays western democracies that have long seen Delhi as their preferred regional partner.

The clearest result of Modi’s aims is the ongoing pruning of secular India, with the country increasingly adopting religious prejudice as state policy. According to the Indian Express, this extends to historical revisionism, with textbooks detailing Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination at the hands of Hindu extremists over his pursuit of Hindu-Muslim unity no longer making any mention of their religious affiliation. The new villain under Modi is India’s non-Hindu community, particularly Muslims and any role they have played in the country’s history. In Rajasthan, textbooks incorrectly proclaim that Mughal Emperor Akbar lost the 1576 Battle of Haldighaat to Rana Pratap, the ruler of Mewar despite earlier stating Pratap had lost to Mughal forces led by Raja Man Singh, a fellow Rajput.

In 2019, India’s Upper House of Parliament followed the Lower House in passing a Citizenship Amendment Bill granting citizenship to immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh “so long as they are not Muslims.” The Indian government’s defense for the discrimination maintained that Muslims in the country did not need the facility because “they are not members of the minority communities in the three pertinent countries.” This also stretched to Sikhs, who Modi has sought to sideline over the Khalistan Movement. A key question now is whether India’s secularism will continue to deteriorate under Modi or whether better sense will prevail and return the country to the form it has otherwise maintained since 1947.

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