30 December 2014

Religion in India bubbles over into politics

In this Friday, May 16, 2014 file photo, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and India's next prime minister Narendra Modi greets the gathering at the home of his 90-year-old mother in Gandhinagar, in the western Indian state of Gujarat. Modi was catapulted to power on promises to develop India’s economy and root out the corruption and incompetence that had crippled the previous government, but he had launched his political career in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a militant Hindu group that combines religious education with self-defense exercises, and parent organization of the ruling party. Powerful Hindu nationalist leaders, some with close ties to Modi’s government, say they intend to ensure India becomes a completely Hindu nation. Modi, on his part, has remained silent as nationalist demands have bubbled into day-to-day politics, and amid growing fears among minority religious groups of creeping efforts to shunt them aside.
In small-town northern India, Muslims are offered food and money to convert to Hinduism. If that doesn't suffice, they say they're threatened. Across the country, the Christmas holiday is canceled for hundreds of government servants who spend the day publicly extolling the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Powerful Hindu nationalist leaders — some with close ties to Modi's government — say they intend to ensure India becomes a completely Hindu nation.