The Rise of Hard-Line Hinduism in Modi’s India

The Rise of Hard-Line Hinduism in Modi’s India
Devotees wait to worship at the Sabarimala temple, one of the world’s largest Hindu pilgrimage sites, in Kerala state, India, Nov. 5, 2018 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

Narendra Modi has been associated with Hindu nationalism, or the notion that India is for Hindus first and foremost, since long before he became prime minister in 2014. Nevertheless, the manifestations of Hindu nationalism on display during his first term have alarmed his critics. They include controversial proposals to place new restrictions on citizenship as well as “cow protection” gangs, vigilantes who have killed dozens of people as part of a violent campaign against the trade and consumption of cattle.

Modi’s government, and Modi himself, have taken pains not to explicitly champion a “Hindu first” agenda, yet the government’s policies make clear where its sympathies lie. The prime minister’s supporters say these policies make sense given that Hindus account for 70 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people. And they argue that concerns about the potentially corrosive effects of Hindu nationalism have been overplayed.

For this week’s in-depth report for WPR, journalist Saptarshi Ray traveled to Varanasi, often referred to as India’s holiest place, to examine how Hindu nationalism has shaped Modi’s political rise. In this week’s interview episode of the podcast, he talks with WPR’s senior editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, about how the debate over Hindu nationalism is playing out in the context of India’s ongoing election and what Modi might prioritize if he wins a second term.

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Relevant Articles on WPR:
Hindu Nationalism Is Reshaping Indian Politics. Can It Propel Modi to Another Victory?

Trend Lines was produced and edited this week by Andrew Green. You can follow him on Twitter at @_andrew_green.

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