NPR and the BBC both covered this story this morning. The two major political parties in India are the BJP (Hindu Nationalists) and Congress (the old powerhouse that dominated indian politics from independence to 1998 when the BJP took the coalition. They recaptured the control in 2004.) The BJP still has a stronghold in the state of Gujarat, located on India’s western coast. In 2002 major religious riots erupted all over Gujarat resulting in the death of over 1000 people, the majority of them Muslims. Narendra Modi was the chief minister at the time and he has been widley criticized for the way he handled the riots and his partial behavior towards the Hindus. I traveled extensively in Gujarat in 2005 and noticed that the state is widely segregated between Muslim and Hindu populations (however many other areas of India have similar populations distributions.) Gujarat is one of the only dry states in India and the BJP has quite strict enforcement.
It will be interesting to see if Modi holds his power and what the reactions will be if he does. I also find it interesting that NPR and the BBC have chosen to give this story attention. It is a major election in a country with much tension around religious differences, but does it really effect the west? I am happy they are covering it, becauae I probably wouldn’t know it was going on otherwise. We will see how well they report the results.
Wiki has more on the 2002 violence. The Hindu has a good article on the voter turnout, but does not mention any of the violence in 2002. The article just states that the elecetions were peaceful. Oh, and by the way, The Hindu is not a Hindu Nationalist paper and is actually one of the best newspapers in India.