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Letter: India’s Lower Castes Empowered by Modis’ Political Hinduism




Updates to the letter

In your review of Christophe Jaffrelot’s book Modi’s India (Life & Arts, FT Weekend, August 28) You say that the author sees the rise of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata as a “seizure of power by the old upper castes”.

On the contrary, Modi’s ascendancy is fueled by the BJP which is making immense political inroads into low-caste Dalit communities and “other backward classes”.

For the first time in the history of postcolonial India, the two highest constitutional positions are held by lower caste Hindus, both members of the BJP and its volunteer force, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Modi is an OBC and Indian President Ram Nath Kovind is a Dalit.

The BJP and RSS even offer financial incentives to encourage intercast marriages. Last month, Modi’s party passed a constitutional amendment, which was called for by lower caste communities, to allow Indian states more freedom to designate socially and economically disadvantaged groups.

Lower castes perceive political Hinduism as a source of social mobility and dignity, and they vote accordingly. In the 2019 federal election, the BJP won almost 60% of parliamentary seats reserved for lower castes and tribes. So Jaffrelot’s caricature demands a suspension of disbelief.

Nathan Punwani
Los Angeles, California, United States




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