India’s 900 million-strong electorate began voting in a general election on April 11, and the voting will continue in seven phases until May 19. Since the 2014 general election saw the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or Indian People’s Party, elected to a simple majority in India’s lower house of parliament, lower-caste Hindus and ethnic and religious minorities, especially Muslims, have faced increasing levels of violence and threats to their participation in Indian democracy.
BJP leaders at the national and state level have described Muslim voters and immigrants as “a green virus” and “termites,” and the state government of Assam is undertaking a process to purge almost two million people it alleges are Bangladeshi migrants, many of them Muslim, from its register of officially recognized Indian citizens. Legislation proposed by party members, currently stalled in the upper house of India’s Parliament and in the Supreme Court, would amend Indian citizenship law to streamline the naturalization process for non-Muslim immigrants and allocate funds to construct a temple to the Hindu deity Ram on the ruins of a 16th century mosque razed by Hindu fundamentalists in 1992.
New studies now show that millions of otherwise eligible Muslim and Dalit voters are missing from the country’s electoral rolls and could be barred from participating in the ongoing election. Joining today’s show for analysis, and to unpack what the election means for Indian minorities is independent journalist Soumya Shankar. She’s written about South Asian politics and social movements for The Intercept, Foreign Policy, and The South China Morning Post.