Wed. Oct 20th, 2021

Letter updates

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

On the contrary, the rise of Modi is fueled by the BJP making huge political traces in the low-caste Dalit and ‘other backward’ communities.

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

The BJP and RSS even offer financial incentives to encourage spousal marriages. Just last month, Modi’s party approved a constitutional amendment, required by lower-caste communities, to give the Indian states more freedom to indicate which groups were socially and economically disadvantaged.

Lower castes view political Hinduism as a source of social mobility and dignity, and vote accordingly. During the 2019 federal elections, the BJP won nearly 60 percent of the parliamentary seats reserved for lower castes and tribes. Thus, Jaffrelot’s caricature requires a suspension of unbelief.

Nathan Punwani
Los Angeles, CA, United States

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