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What Happened to India?

The India the world once celebrated – the world’s fastest-growing free-market liberal democracy – seems to be giving way to a violent, intolerant, illiberal autocracy. It is a turn that was long in the making, reflecting the impact of eight major factors on the country's society and politics.

NEW DELHI – It’s a question I hear increasingly these days. International news media report on repression in Kashmir, mounting Hindu chauvinism, widespread protests against new laws, assaults on women, and more. The India the world once celebrated – the world’s fastest-growing free-market liberal democracy – seems to be giving way to a violent, intolerant, illiberal autocracy.

The reports are true, and the picture they paint is not a pretty one. But India’s well-wishers should not give up on the country. The democratic opposition is fighting back, buoyed by the support of young people protesting spontaneously, and not at the behest of any political party, against the excesses of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. Democracy has deep roots in India, and it will not collapse without a fight from the country’s many independent institutions and politically aware citizens.

India’s current predicament is the culmination of three decades of evolving trends in Indian politics. Eight stand out.

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