India is a country located in the region of Southern Asia. In the spring of 2014, the Hindu Nationalist Party BJP won governmental power in India through a electoral victory that almost completely left the old state-bearing Congress Party in ruins. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the forefront, the BJP government embarked on an ambitious reform agenda to fulfill a plethora of electoral promises ranging from a million new jobs per month and rapid expansion of the infrastructure to hard-fought corruption and the black market. Five years later, at the end of the BJP term, it was clear that the results were mixed. Nevertheless, BJP and Modi were re-elected with an even greater victory margin in the 2019 elections.
The Modi government has implemented a lot of political and economic reforms, but hardly as many as the promised voters ahead of the 2014 elections. The government has been praised for no major corruption scandals having occurred during the term of office and Modi is considered credible at that point.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of India, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
The BJP-led government (BJP chose to include three small alliance parties in its government) has also been successful in its efforts to open bank accounts to Indian citizens as well as in the digitization of various types of transfers in society. The introduction of a new tax system that better links the states to a single Indian economy also seems to have worked well.
Modi’s initiative “Make in India”, which aims to create new jobs and high economic growth by attracting more foreign investment into the country with simplified rules for companies, etc., may have succeeded to some extent. However, the promise of a million new jobs per month has not been fulfilled, which creates frustration among the more than one million young Indians who join the country’s workforce every month.
Modi received sharp criticism from economists, among other things, when in 2016 he decided to scrap 86 per cent of all banknotes in the Indian market at short notice. It was an attempt to pull off the carpet for the black trade. The measure, however, greatly affected all Indians with savings in cash (mainly self-sufficient farmers and those living in the informal sector) and who in many cases lost their assets because they had no bank account to deposit the banknotes.
Most criticism has perhaps been received by the government for a growing intolerance in Indian society, especially towards minorities such as Muslims and Christians but also towards Dalits (formerly castless) and opposition voices. The harassment of Muslims in the so-called Hindi belt (cobalt) in northern India has increased and lynching of people dealing with beef (not infrequently Dalits or Muslims) has occurred (see Political system). Academics or activists of various kinds who have criticized the government testify to increased political pressure, and there has been criticism of political involvement in the courts and also against the central bank.
The situation of women has been brought to the attention, especially after a group rape in Delhi in 2012 that led to the victim’s death and an upset reaction from society. Since then, several laws have been introduced to strengthen women’s rights and special “women’s courts” are being set up to speed up legal processes relating to crimes such as rape or abuse of women. Gender discrimination was also highlighted when two women in January 2019 attempted to visit a Hindu temple in Kerala that forbids menopausal women to enter the building. Although the Supreme Court ruled in September 2018 that the ban on visiting was contrary to the Constitution, believers tried to stop women from entering the temple (see further Social Conditions).
An opposition in crisis
The BJP has its roots in a conservative and nationalist policy where Hinduism (Hindutva) is seen as a given part of Indian identity and where Muslims and other religious minorities are seen as deviant. To capture a larger constituency, the BJP downplayed Hindu nationalism ahead of the 2014 election in favor of economic issues.
The Congress Party has undergone a steel bath since the 2014 election loss and is suffering from a leadership crisis, a weakened party organization and ideological divide between different factions, from socialist to conservative. The party has lost some of its contact with the grass roots and is sometimes described as elitist or top-run by the Nehru / Gandhi family. Party chairman Rahul Gandhi (son of the murdered former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi) was the face of the Congress party during the 2014 election campaign and lost big to Modi.
Ahead of the April / May 2019 elections, Rahul Gandhi tried to get the Indians back to his party. But many felt that he lacked both radiance and commitment. To his aid, Rahul Gandhi had this time gained the more popular sister Priyanka Gandhi who entered politics (at the state level) as late as early 2019. Success in some state elections at the end of 2018 seemed to give the Congress party increased confidence.
BJP and Modi are re-elected
When the electoral movement gradually started in early 2019, both camps turned as usual to the large peasant population, where there are many votes. In recent years, India’s farmers have suffered a crisis with falling producer prices, increased indebtedness and the most severe drought in decades. Many farmers feel let down by the BJP government, which they believe has not fulfilled election promises on more favorable living conditions for the rural population. During 2017 and 2018, the farmers conducted large marches in protest of the situation.
In January, a report showed that unemployment exceeded 6 percent, the highest rate since 1972. Earlier than that, there are no comparable statistics. The report was very bad news for the BJP government, which was blamed by the authors behind the report for trying to stop the publication. However, the report was leaked to media. Among young people in the cities, the proportion of unemployed was 27 percent for women and almost 19 percent for men.
The giant Indian elections took place between April 11 and May 19. The tone between Modi and Gandhi became fierce and unrest arose in Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, among others.
The public election results were published on May 23. It showed that the BJP and Modi had won with an unexpectedly large share of the votes and taken home 303 seats. This was an increase of 21 seats compared to the 2014 election. It was also the first time in almost 50 years that a prime minister was re-elected with an increased number of seats. The Congress party received 52 seats, which was only slightly better than the 2014 disaster election. The result was yet another major defeat for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who in July of the same year left the post as party chairman and temporarily replaced by Sonia Gandhi.
Prime Minister Modi’s new government, called Modi 2.0, was dominated by Hindu men belonging to high caste from northern India, especially BJP veterans and men who were close to Modi. The important post of finance minister went to Nirmala Sitharaman, former Minister of Defense. She was one of six women among the 58 ministers. Sitharaman thus became the second woman in India at the post of finance minister, after Indira Gandhi. One minister was Muslim.
In August 2019, the BJP government fulfilled one of its electoral promises when it repealed the state of Jammu and Kashmir’s far-reaching self-government (see also Conflicts: Kashmir).
In the same month, the government was granted extra capital from the central bank to be able to invest heavily in increasing economic growth and reducing unemployment. The Indian economy had slowed down and during the period July – September 2019 showed the lowest growth rate in over six years (see Financial overview).
At the beginning of December 2019, a new citizenship law was passed by Parliament, at the initiative of the BJP government. The law gives six religious minorities in neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh increased opportunities to obtain Indian citizenship. Muslims are exempted from that opportunity. Reactions became strong against the law that many Muslim groups perceived as discriminatory, while other groups felt that the law would lead to increased immigration (see further Conflicts in Northeast India). Extensive popular protests around the country led to dozens of deaths in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Karnataka, among others. Eleven of the country’s 28 states opposed the introduction of the law at the state level.
Coronapandemin affects India
The protests against the citizenship laws came to an abrupt end in March 2020 when the pandemic caused by a new coronavirus reached India. The Modi government decided to quarantine the entire country to prevent the spread of infection too quickly. Travel to and from the country was halted, borders were closed, travel between the states was banned and residents were allowed to go out only to do necessary matters. Anyone who violated the curfew risked imprisonment. Industries and other businesses were closed, as were schools, entertainment venues and monuments such as the Taj Mahal.
The severe restrictions at least temporarily slowed down the spread of infection. In May, India had relatively low figures for the number of coronas infected and deceased with covid-19. Many analysts, however, felt that the dark figures were high.
The shutdown of society hit hard on the country’s already weakened economy. In particular, the millions of day-paid migrant workers were affected. At one point they stood without a livelihood. The far-reaching effects on society caused the government from April to gradually open up society again, starting with agriculture and industry.
As the country opened up, the number of coronas infected residents increased rapidly. In June, India was one of the world’s four most corona-affected countries, counting the number of confirmed cases of infected individuals. Above all, big cities like Delhi and Bombay were hit hard.
Read more about the events in the Calendar.
Read more about the conflict in Kashmir here.
Read about other conflicts in India here and here.
READING TIP – read more about India in the UI’s web magazine Foreign Magazine:
Indian effort against corona center (2020-03-28)
New laws create uncertainty for India’s Muslims (2020-03-10)
Ideology and identity at the center after the elections in India (2019- 06-06)
DEEP on India can also be found in World Policy Day Issues:
India – Great Power on Growth (No. 4 2018)
About our sources
FACTS – POLITICS
Republic of India (Bharatiya Ganarajya) / Republic of India
republic, federal state
Head of State
President Ram Nath Kovind (2017–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (2014–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Indian People’s Party (BJP) 303, Indian Congress Party 52, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam 23, All India Trinamool Congress 22, Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party 22, Shiv Sena 18, Janata Dal (United) 16, Others 87 (2019)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Indian People’s Party (BJP) 282 + its allies in NDA 55, Congress Party 44 + its cooperation parties in UPA 15, Ordinary People’s Party (AAP) 4, other parties 143 (2014)
66% in the April / May 2014 parliamentary elections, 67% in the April / May 2019 parliamentary elections
parliamentary elections 2024
Alongside the conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir in the north, several lesser-known armed conflicts are ongoing within India’s borders. The Naxali literacy struggle for a Maoist takeover of power in eastern and central India is one of the country’s most serious security problems.
The so-called Naxali movement arose in the late 1960s within left-wing circles in the major cities of Calcutta (Kolkata) and Bombay (Mumbai). A group of intellectual Maoists traveled to the small village of Naxalbari (which gave the movement its name) in the northeastern part of the country to lead poor peasants and landless farmers in an armed revolution against oppressive landowners. They renounced feudalism, imperialism and capitalism and wished to fight for the poor and tribal people forgotten by the government.
It is unclear how Maoist peasants were, but there was a deep dissatisfaction in the area with severe oppression from landowners and many years of neglect on the part of politicians. An uprising took off and its political leadership gathered in the Communist Party Maoists of India (CPI-M).
When the uprising reached its peak in 2009 and 2010, it took place in 16 of India’s 28 states. Since then, the Naxalites have been pushed back by the military and are now concentrating their operations on the five states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkand, Orissa and Maharashtra in the west. The number of people killed by the Naxalites has fallen from 1,005 casualties in 2010 to 183 (109 civilians and 74 soldiers and police) seven years later. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been fleeing the violence since the uprising began in the 1960s.
The Naxalites for their struggle, among other things, through the murder of landowners and suspected runners, as well as sabotage of infrastructure (to hinder the military’s progress) and police, military, politicians and government officials. In some places, the Maoists have established revolutionary free zones, where they have introduced their own legal order. They finance their activities mainly through smuggling, extortion, forced taxation and drug trafficking. The money is used to buy advanced weapons, but they also get weapons by plundering the military’s weapons stockpile or assaulting soldiers who fight them. The Naxalites also resist by organizing general strikes or disrupting electoral processes.
The government (at both federal and state levels) is fighting the Maoists with military offensive, large paramilitary forces and massive police operations, as well as special exemptions that give the security forces extended powers.
During the 2010s, the Naxalites have been in decline. The movement was estimated a few years into the same decade consisting of about 46,600 active members, of which 8,600 represented a well-equipped armed core of rebel soldiers.
It is difficult to know how much popular support the Naxalites have today. Of all the judgments, the support of the rural population for both the Naxalites and the authorities has decreased as the violence intensified. There are reasons to believe that many villagers are tired of both the rebels’ progress and the military’s counter-offensive. However, the Naxalites still seem to enjoy some support among vulnerable groups who feel that the rulers are neglecting developments in their areas.
Conflicts in Northeast India
Alongside the conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir in the north, several lesser-known uprisings and armed conflicts are ongoing within India’s borders. In the northeastern states, both ethnic conflicts and separatist uprisings are fought. In the state of Assam, a few million people risk becoming stateless.
In Assam, there are several contradictions side by side. One of them gained momentum in 1979 when residents increasingly began to oppose the fact that Muslims from mainly Bangladesh without permission immigrated and settled in the Hindu-dominated state. The leaders of this resistance claimed that immigration undermined Assam’s economy and threatened its Hindu culture and traditions.
Violence arose between ethnic groups in Assam on the one hand and the Muslims who moved in on the other. Ethnic violence culminated in 1983 with over 2,000 dead, the majority of whom were Muslims.
In 1985, the anti-immigrant movement and the state government agreed in an agreement to limit the rights of immigrants, including the right to vote (see below, under the heading Right to Citizenship). At the same time, Bangladesh announced that those who left the country no longer had the right to return there. There was thus a large group of mainly Muslims who risked becoming stateless.
Fight for your own Bodoland
Among the tribal people who opposed the immigration of Muslims were the Bodo people, who fought for their own state called Bodoland. At the end of the 1980s, they stepped up their fight with explosive acts and violent demonstrations. The fight was led by the militant separatist movement Bodos Security Forces (BSF) and Bodos Student Union (ABSU).
At the same time, a Maoist group, called Assam’s United Liberation Front (ULFA), launched an armed uprising for an independent Assam. The methods were murders, kidnappings and explosions.
When the violent situation began to threaten Assam’s important tea industry in 1990, the central government sent soldiers into the state and introduced direct government from New Delhi. In 1993, the Central Government and ABSU agreed that a special Bodo Territorial Council would be responsible for cultural and socio-economic issues concerning the Bodo people. But militant bodo groups and Maoist ULFA continued to target violent attacks against both the military and civilians throughout the 1990s.
In 2003, the state parliament gave a measure of self-government to the settlers in some districts governed by the special council. Some militant bodo groups then gave up their weapons, while new groups were formed and the fight continued. The Maoists also continued to be active and violence also arose between different ethnic groups. Bodo attacks on immigrants increased, as did the Maoist attacks on politicians.
When several ULFA leaders were arrested in Bangladesh in 2009 and handed over to India, the Maoist violence decreased. But the conflicts between bodo and Muslim immigrants have continued into the 2010s. The strongest grouping is now the Bodoland People’s Front (Bodoland People’s Front, BPF).
The right to citizenship
In the fall of 2018, the ethnic contradictions in Assam returned to focus when a draft of an updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) from 1951 was published. The final version of the updated register came in August 2019. Out of 33 million people living in Assam, and whose right to Indian citizenship has been tested, 1.9 million were not on the list. They risk expulsion. The vast majority of them are Muslims.
The original register was created in 1951 at the request of those groups in Assam who opposed the influx of Muslim immigrants from the area that is today Bangladesh. When the ethnic conflicts escalated in the 1970s, NRC was updated. It was Bangladesh’s liberation from Pakistan on March 26, 1971, that was the origin of the conflict taking off. Millions of people fled to India from a bloody civil war that year in Bangladesh. A large proportion of the refugees settled in Assam.
The extensive violence in the 1970s led to the agreement in 1985 (see above). It provides that anyone who is unable to prove that they lived in Assam on March 24, 1971 (two days before the Bangladesh Declaration of Independence) or earlier should be removed from the electorate and considered stateless. But this part of the agreement was thus not realized.
In 2014, the Supreme Court ordered the government to update the NCR register. It was then that a voluntary organization in Assam handed over a call with this requirement.
Millions of stateless people?
The 33 million are all people living in Assam, and the documents requested can be passports, ID documents, legal acts or lease agreements. Persons born after 1971 must be able to show that their parents lived in the state before the date in question.
Nearly two million people in Assam have not been able to submit such documents and are not included in the updated register. This group has the right to appeal the decision and such a process is ongoing. Many analysts say mass deportations are unlikely, as Bangladesh has been clear that the country is not receiving this group.
Extensive demonstrations erupted in Assam and Tripura when the federal parliament in December 2019 adopted a controversial amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955. The amendment came on the initiative of the Hindu nationalist BJP government and involves six religious minorities (Hindus, Buddhists, Jainists, Sikhs, Christians and parser) in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan should be able to get a fast track to Indian citizenship, provided they have lived in India for at least six years. The fact that the law does not apply to Muslims has stirred upset feelings among Indian Muslims. Even groups in Assam that oppose all kinds of immigration are protesting.
Violent conflicts are also ongoing in the northeastern states of Nagaland, Tripura, Bihar, Mizoram and Manipur. These are separatists, hostile groups or contradictions between different peoples. In the famous tea district of Darjeeling in West Bengal, Nepalese-speaking Gurkha is struggling to form a new state called Ghorkaland through an outbreak of West Bengal.