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Whose India?

The narrow-minded, sectarian India that has emerged over the past six years will never appeal to the country's many alienated young people. Only an India that ensures full rights and dignity for all – the promise of liberal democracy – can do that.

NEW DELHI – As India prepares to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of its independence on August 15, a growing number of Indians are coming to believe that the battle to preserve the essence of the country born in 1947 is already lost. Many commentators have concluded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has already, in effect, inaugurated a “second republic” by upending the key assumptions of the first.

According to these despairing analysts, this “refounding” began on August 5, 2019, when Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated and Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of its autonomy, and was completed in Ayodhya earlier this month, exactly one year later. There, in an hours-long grand ceremony televised to adoring millions, Modi performed a bhoomi poojan (worship of the Earth) and laid a 40-kilogram (88 pounds) silver brick into the foundation of a future temple to the Hindu god Rama, on the site of the demolished Babri mosque.

Even before the construction of the temple had begun, this ceremony (and Modi’s participation in it) set the seal on the grand Hindutva project of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Many feared that India, which from its foundation has been a secular state, had turned a corner to becoming a Hindu Rashtra, a state of and for its Hindu majority.

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