In 2006 and 2007, I spent several months in Ahmedabad while on a fellowship from my university in the US. During my time in Ahmedabad, I interacted with the mostly-Hindu NGO staff where I was based, residents of the largely Hindu shantytown where the NGO was working, and professors at Gujarat University. Less than five years had passed since the city had gone through its nightmare: vicious riots involving saffron-clad men entering urban neighborhoods and brutalizing, gang-raping, and burning other human beings. Some 1,500 Muslims were killed.
How can an event be at once ordinary and extraordinary, simultaneously decisive and indecisive? The victory of Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Indian parliamentary elections of 2014 is indeed a watershed moment; for the first time in the history of independent India, it will be ruled exclusively by a Hindu supremacist party. And yet, a careful look at the way the Modi/BJP campaign produced this victory yields a picture that can only be characterized as simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary, decisive and indecisive.
In response to the recent swearing in of Narenda Modi as India’s 15th prime minister, SAMAR releases this special issue which takes a deeper look at the differences between rhetoric and reality, and the connections between communalism and neoliberalism.