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How Polarisation threatens India’s Democracy

How Polarisation threatens India’s Democracy

Event Venue:

Room C2.05, Level 2, Building C, Deakin University Burwood Campus 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, VIC, 3125, Australia ( Map )

A seminar by ADI’s Governance, Development and Peace Stream

Since the late nineteenth century, the primary source of political and societal polarization in India has been a fundamental question of nationhood: should India be a secular country or a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu nation), given that 80 percent of the population is Hindu? While the hegemony of the secular and pluralist Congress Party limited polarization over this issue until the 1970s, subsequently the rising prominence of Hindu nationalist organizations has sharply escalated tensions. Divisive political leadership—coupled with India’s economic transformation, changes in the media landscape, and the rise of competitive cast politics— have steadily brought polarization to a boil.

Particularly since the landslide electoral victories of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014 and 2019, the consequences of severe polarization have grown ever more worrisome. Intolerance and violence against minority communities have risen, civic life is becoming toxic and characterized with “us vs. them” kind of phenomenon, partisan attacks on India’s independent democratic institutions have intensified, and many Indians now feel that their democracy is in serious peril. Though various actors have launched efforts to counter the country’s majoritarian turn and to improve civic dialogue, India’s polarization is more toxic today than it has been in decades, and it shows no signs of abating.

Please RSVP to Dr Zahid Ahmed at

Lunch will be provided after this event.

Dr. Niranjan Sahoo is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, a leading think tank in New Delhi. With years of expertise in governance and public policy, Dr Sahoo now leads studies and programmes on democracy, electoral reforms, insurgencies and governance among other. A recipient of Ford Asia Fellowship (2009) and a former Sir Ratan Tata Fellow (2010), Dr Sahoo currently serves a member for the Carnegie Rising Democracies Network, Washington, D.C. His forthcoming book is on Funding India’s Democracy by Routeldge, London. His work on polarisation in India (titled “Hindu Nationalism and rising political polarisation in India”) was recently published by The Brookings Press.


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