What’s Next for Indians Living Under Modi?

Modi’s individual popularity had seen a surge despite declining support for his lawmakers and policies. His ‘earthliness’, a carefully crafted image that contrasts with the elite, English-speaking opposition in the centre-left Congress Party, continued to make him a favourite of the aspiring middle classes, who identify with his rags-to-riches story to the extent that it managed to overshadow glaring unemployment figures (the highest in 45 years) and a spiralling farming crisis, which brought thousands of farmers onto the streets in protest last year.

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Will downtrodden farmers decide Modi’s fate?

On the outskirts of the village of Deora, in the drought-affected Bundelkhand region in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state with a population of over 200 million, lies a large excavation, covered with drying, overgrown vegetation.

‘This is a pond. Can you see any water? This was dug to benefit us during droughts. But it has been dry for over three years now. No one really cares. We have complained enough. Not a single engineer has come to check this out,’ says Chiranjilal, a local farmer. ‘There’s no future for farmers in this country.’

The 72-year-old says his entire family has migrated to Delhi in search of better livelihoods. But he stayed back.

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When viral hashtags promote religious extremism

In our hyper-connected world, hashtags are often a state of mind. A recent popular hashtag campaign made it clear to me that polarization and the religious divide are firmly entrenched in India. On 17 July, #TalkToAMuslim trended at #1 on Twitter. Over 500 Twitterati picked it up, followed by hundreds of thousands of ‘impressions’. Of late, there have been several such successful hashtag campaigns here, including the #NotInMyName protests against the lynching of Muslims in the country, and the global #MeToo campaign against the sexual harassment and assault of women. They helped raise social awareness, created a momentum of protest. I participated in them, too. So why did #TalkToAMuslim make me uncomfortable?

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Militant Hinduism and the Reincarnation of Hanuman

Last Sunday, I was stuck in traffic on my way to Noida’s Sector 18. Craning my neck, I saw a sea of saffron ahead of me – men in saffron kurtas and turbans, on motorbikes, carrying swords, tridents and knives. They chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’, ‘Jai Hanuman’ and ‘Hindustan Humara Hai’.

My taxi driver, a young man named Mustafa, said it was a procession by the Bajrang Dal to celebrate Hanuman Jayanti.

“But Hanuman Jayanti was yesterday?” I asked. Today was Easter.

“It doesn’t matter. They can do what they want, whenever they want. Look at those police officers,” he said. “They are standing there laughing with them. They are providing them security, not us.”

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