Religious Tensions Rise As Indian Elections Come To Fore

Last week, India entered the second of five phases of voting for seats within the Indian Parliament.

This is the first major election in India since the conservative Indian People’s Party (BJP); led by Narendra Modi, won a landslide victory in the 2014 General Election. This election is viewed by many as a major test of approval for Modi’s policies as Prime Minister.

In addition to a reflection on Modi’s performance as Prime Minister, this election has taken a much greater significance as religious tension flares throughout the country. The tension comes as a result of conflict between India’s Hindu majority and other religious minorities.

In late September a 50 year old man in northern India was killed in a mob lynching allegedly over rumors that his family had been storing and consuming beef at home. The lynching took place in the state of Uttar Pradesh, one of a number of states that have imposed tightened laws banning cow slaughter and the sale and consumption of beef on religious grounds.

“We would want the BJP to win all the state elections because only then can significant social, political and cultural changes take place in this country,” said RSS Joint General Secretary Dattatreya Hosabale.

Uttar Pradesh is a traditional stronghold for the Hindu nationalist group, The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS was founded in 1925 as anti-colonial organization, but since independence has advocated for Hindu first policies in the hopes of uniting the Indian people under the Hindu faith. The RSS is the ideological forerunner to the BJP, and Prime Minister Modi was a volunteer with the RSS during his youth.

In addition to the lynching in the Uttar Pradesh region, the Punjab region of India has also erupted into violent protests by the region’s Sikh population following the destruction of copies of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib – Sikhism’s holy text.

The RSS played a major role in the BJP’s electoral victory in 2014, as a majority of the BJP’s ground volunteers were also members of the RSS. Likewise, the RSS is now running a grassroots campaign to ensure a victory in the upper house of Parliament for the BJP.

“We would want the BJP to win all the state elections because only then can significant social, political and cultural changes take place in this country,” said RSS Joint General Secretary Dattatreya Hosabale. “The 2014 election victory should be seen as the starting point of a long term mission.”

Read More: Deep Dive into the issue by Reuters

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Photo Credit: Al Jazeera English/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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About the Author
Kyle Jones is a columnist with Rise News. He is a senior honors student at the University of Alabama, studying Political Science and Spanish with a focus on Public Policy Studies.

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