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The Rape of India’s Soul

India’s rapid descent into xenophobia, violence, and irrationality has an important economic dimension, but it takes politicians to channel these emotions into nationalism, and to embolden the nationalists to commit violence. Now that the ruling BJP has done so, is it able – or willing – to exorcise the many demons it has unleashed?

NEW DELHI – Injustice, discrimination, and violence are hardly unheard of in India. But today, they are being normalized, enabled, and even encouraged by the state, which is promoting an aggressive form of Hindu nationalism that looks increasingly like mob rule. India’s diversity and complex civilizational legacy are now under assault, and it is shaking the very foundations of Indian democracy.

In August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripped Jammu and Kashmir – India’s only Muslim-majority territory – of its special status, which had granted it considerable autonomy, and split it into two “union territories” over which the central government now wields more direct control.

In order to stave off unrest, the government deployed thousands more troops to Jammu and Kashmir before announcing the changes. It then placed prominent local politicians, including former allies of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), under house arrest; enforced a curfew on residents; restricted movement into, out of, and within the state; and imposed media and telecoms blackouts.

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