India Election Results 2024, Modi’s ruling BJP asks for five more years: Live updates

The Gyanvapi Mosque, left, and the Kashiviswanath Temple on the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi, India, December 12, 2021. Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP

Varanasi, an ancient city of temples and gods, is the spiritual capital of India. It is also the political stronghold of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the place where tensions between the two faiths are escalating.

When Modi chose this holy city as his constituency a decade ago, it was the ideal setting to merge his party’s political and religious ambitions. Having come to power on the basis of a promise of development and the fight against corruption, his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is now accused of having transformed India – a nation constitutionally bound by secularism – into a Hindu rashtra , or homeland.

Vying for a rare third term in power, he is defending his seat in this diverse and traffic-clogged city of some 1.7 million residents. Yet ten years after his ascension, many Muslims in Varanasi feel neglected, even betrayed.

Muslims in Varanasi pray during Eid, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Muslims in Varanasi pray during Eid, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. John Mees/CNN

Local Muslim leader Syed Mohammad Yaseen, 78, believes the government is failing to protect his community, who he says increasingly feel vulnerable and fear hate crimes in today’s India.

“The worst will happen (if Modi is re-elected),” he said. “We tolerate these things, maybe one day there will be change. But we are desperate.

Modi’s BJP has its roots in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing paramilitary organization that advocates Hindu supremacy in India – although the party has repeatedly said it does not discriminate against minorities.

During Modi’s decade in power, religious polarization has deepened.

Hindu nationalists have been appointed to senior positions in key government institutions, giving them the power to make sweeping changes to legislation that rights groups say unfairly targets Muslims. School textbooks were rewritten to downplay the history of India’s former Islamic rulers, towns and streets with Mughal-era names were renamed, and Muslim properties were demolished.

In 2019, the Modi administration passed a controversial citizenship law that excluded Muslim migrants, sparking deadly riots.

Several human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Federation for Human Rights, have warned of continued discrimination against religious minorities, particularly Muslims, during the last decade, and have repeatedly called on the authorities to put an end to it.

Look at what Indians in Varanasi said about Modi during his campaign:

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *