In Modi’s India, a case of rule and divide

May 16, 2014
(Muslim boys play cricket in a ground in the Muslim dominated Johapura area in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad February 28, 2014. Narendra Modi's critics depict him as an autocratic Hindu supremacist who would tyrannize the country's minority Muslims if his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power. Modi himself insists he is a moderate who will create a prosperous India for people of all creeds. Picture taken February 28, 2014. To match Special Report INDIA-MUSLIMS/ REUTERS/Ahmad Masood )

(Muslim boys play cricket in a ground in the Muslim dominated Johapura area in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad February 28, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood )

Ali Husain is a prosperous young Indian Muslim businessman. He recently bought a Mercedes and lives in a suburban-style gated community that itself sits inside a ghetto.

In Gujarat, it is so difficult for Muslims to buy property in areas dominated by Hindus even the community’s fast-growing urban middle class is confined to cramped and decrepit corners of cities.

Husain embodies the paradox of Gujarat: the state’s pro-business leadership has created opportunities for entrepreneurs of all creeds; yet religious prejudice and segregation are deeply, and even legally, engrained.

If a Muslim enquires about a property in a new development, often the response is: “Why are you even asking?” said Husain, speaking at his home in the Muslim neighborhood of Juhapura, where filthy slum streets rub against smart new apartment blocks and enclaves.

Separation of communities is common across India. Nowhere is it as systematized as it has become in Gujarat.

That matters because the state’s chief minister, Narendra Modi, could soon run the country. Exit polls show that when results of a general election are announced on May 16, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies will win a majority in parliament, almost certainly making him India’s next prime minister.

The 63-year-old Hindu nationalist has ruled the western state of Gujarat since 2001. He has surrounded himself with technocrats – and also ministers and advisers who promote “Hindutva”, a belief in the supremacy of Hinduism. As prime minister, Modi would lead not just 975 million Hindus but 175 million Muslims, around 15 percent of India’s population and the third-largest Muslim population in the world.

Read the full story by John Chalmers and Frank Jack Daniel here.

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