Wednesday, October 6, 2021
4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
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Commentators: Neelanjan Sircar, Centre for Policy Research Patrick Heller, Brown University
About the book: A riveting account of how a popularly elected leader has steered the world's largest democracy toward authoritarianism and intolerance.
Over the past two decades, thanks to Narendra Modi, Hindu nationalism has been coupled with a form of national-populism that has ensured its success at the polls, first in Gujarat and then in India at large. Modi managed to seduce a substantial number of citizens by promising them development and polarizing the electorate along ethno-religious lines. Both facets of this national-populism found expression in a highly personalized political style as Modi related directly to the voters through all kinds of channels of communication in order to saturate the public space.
Drawing on original interviews conducted across India, Christophe Jaffrelot shows how Modi's government has moved India toward a new form of democracy, an ethnic democracy that equates the majoritarian community with the nation and relegates Muslims and Christians to second-class citizens who are harassed by vigilante groups. He discusses how the promotion of Hindu nationalism has resulted in attacks against secularists, intellectuals, universities, and NGOs. Jaffrelot explains how the political system of India has acquired authoritarian features for other reasons, too. Eager to govern not only in New Delhi, but also in the states, the government has centralized power at the expense of federalism and undermined institutions that were part of the checks and balances, including India's Supreme Court.
Modi's India is a sobering account of how a once-vibrant democracy can go wrong when a government backed by popular consent suppresses dissent while growing increasingly intolerant of ethnic and religious minorities.