Episode: The Authoritarian's Playbook: Exploiting Religion in India


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The Authoritarian's Playbook: Exploiting Religion in India

In August, 1947, British colonial rule officially ended in India. Within 6 months, Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s independence movement, was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist who rejected Gandhi’s
openness to India’s Muslims. For more than 70 years, India more or less remained a constitutional democracy granting religious equality to all.

In 2014, Narendra Modi was elected prime minister. In May of 2019, Modi and his BJP party swept the elections with an overwhelming majority. This mandate gave Modi the power to reforge India in the mold of a Hindu nationalist ideology. To many observers, Modi literally unleashed the forces of Hindu nationalism that Gandhi feared, and that motivated his assassin.


Ever since 2013, candidate Modi has made three campaign promises:

He would cancel a provision in the Indian constitution that granted the troubled region of Kashmir its autonomy. He would weed out “illegal immigrants” from the country through a process called the NRC or National Register of Citizens. And third, he would enable construction of a Hindu temple on the site of a mosque used by Muslims for centuries.

GroundTruth Global Reporting Fellow Soumya Shankar tracked Modi’s progress on each of these campaign promises. She begins in Kashmir, where she witnesses the upheaval of Modi’s latest policy shift on the only Muslim majority state in the country.

It’s early August. Day 5 of the lockdown in Kashmir…

ABOUT THE SERIES
In a six-month reporting project titled Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, GroundTruth reporting fellows in India, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Italy and the United States chronicled how seven nationalist leaders in each of these countries seem to be working from the same playbook. It is a playbook that can be pieced together from the speeches and techniques in use by an interconnected web of populist leaders and their strategists as a way to gain power, impose their values and implement their agenda. Scholars on democracy say they seem eager to join China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other leading authoritarian states in stamping out democratic protections and reshaping the global order.

Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, A GroundTruth Podcast/Atlantic Magazine Collaboration



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