India will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth this October 2. During his life, Gandhi and his disciple, India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, championed a vision of India as a secular, multipolar democracy that would treat all of its citizens equally. That vision is being tested as India embarks on a general election which started on April 11 and continues in seven phases until the last day of polling on May 19. India’s current ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or Indian People’s Party, won enough seats in the 2014 election to form the first simple majority in India’s parliament in thirty years, and under their rule Indian minority communities such as Muslims and Dalits, as well as broader Gandhian notions of secularism and pluralism have come under attack from a resurgent nationalist movement that seeks to define Indian identity as inherently Hindu.
Gandhi’s grandson, Rajmohan Gandhi, is a historian, political activist and professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joins the show to talk about secularism, nationalism and historical memory in India as well as his new book, Modern South India: A History from the 17th Century to our Times. Also with us is Gowri Ramnarayan, an award-winning playwright, theater director and journalist at The Hindu.