VARANASI: The Hindu priest on the banks of the holy Ganges talked quietly, but he had a threatening message 75 years after India became independent: his religion must be at the centre of Indian identity.
“We must evolve with the times,” Jairam Mishra stated. “We must now slash every hand raised against Hinduism.”Although Hindus constitute the vast majority of India’s 1.4 billion inhabitants, Mahatma Gandhi gained India’s independence from Britain in 1947 as a secular, multi-cultural state.
Right-wing calls for the country to be designated a Hindu nation and Hindu supremacy to be codified in law are becoming stronger, making the country’s 210 million-odd Muslims increasingly concerned about their future.
These demands are central to Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity, and his government has supported policies and projects around the country, including a huge new temple corridor in Varanasi, that reinforce and embody the trend.