Analysis: Do Indians care about secularism anymore?

ET: KARACHI: After Imam Bukhari’s press conference, in which the imam of India’s largest mosque announced his support for the incumbent Congress party, religion has again resurfaced as a divisive, potentially decisive factor in the Indian elections kicked off this week.

“We have to fight unitedly against communal forces,” Bukhari said in New Delhi last Friday, alluding to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its controversial leader and candidate for Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

During election time, many of India’s ethnic, linguistic and religious groups that are otherwise marginalised, are courted by political parties that identify them as potential voting blocs and pools of support. As unified constituencies, the ‘Dalit vote’, the ‘Muslim vote’ and the ‘backward (referring to castes and adivasi tribes that the Indian constitution recognizes as underprivileged) vote’ become crucial to determining a candidate’s success.

In that respect, the only reason why there is still a competition between Congress and the BJP is the ‘Muslim’ vote’s ambivalence, if not hostility, towards Modi for his alleged role in the Gujarat riots of 2002 that killed at least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims.

Violence between religious communities in India is not new, and it is recurrent. Isolated incidents of violence happen frequently with varying levels of intensity. Last year, communal violence in Uttar Pradesh left almost 50 people dead, and thousands, mostly Muslims, without a home.

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Categories: Asia

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