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Indian politics based on intolerance?
AFAR
12/9/2002



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[Gujarat, India] For the upcoming Indian elections in Gujarat, Narendra Modi is drawing in a large number of supporters -- mainly those who regard him as a national Hindu hero.

Only 10 months ago, Modi was given the mission to handle the aftermath of a terrorist act, when a mob set a train on fire in a small town in Gujarat. Fifty-eight Hindu pilgrims were killed. In the weeks following the incident, anything that could be related to the Muslims was crushed; Muslim shops were burned down, women were raped, men were slain and decapitated, and even some unborn were not spared. It is estimated that more than 2,000 Muslims were killed by Hindus and tens of thousands were forced to flee their homes as Modiís police force reportedly stood and watched. The population that supported this act of revenge makes up the core of Modiís supporters.

It is popular belief that what protects Modi from being tried for genocide, as human rights groups have demanded, are the Hindu political parties, cultural groups, and massive crowds of street demonstrators that idolize him as Indiaís great defender.

The other candidate for the December 12 election in Gujarat is Shankersinh Vaghela of the avowedly secular Congress Party. The results will be a reflection on whether a greater part of the 50 million Gujaratis are seeking a way out, through intolerance or tolerance.

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