Searching for a shared nation in a fading democracy

Searching for a shared nation in a fading democracy
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Let me tell you about one of my friends – for reasons of confidentiality, let’s call her Huma. 

Imagine Huma flagging down a rickshaw in one of the many suburbs of urban India. She sees a saffron flag flapping on the side mirror– a double triangle flag with a fierce-looking Ram in a warrior pose, an arrow pointed skywards. She does a double take – this is an utterly new sight to her. While sitting in the rickshaw, she thinks back to two years ago when, at the peak of the hijab controversy in Karnataka, some teachers were made to remove their hijabs on the street before entering their schools. 

The rabidness of the men with saffron flags during these incidents and other violent attacks on minority citizens remain etched in her mind. Her hands go to her new peach and yellow hijab; she feels uncomfortable for the rest of the rickshaw ride. 

She gets off at her usual supermarket. The store is the same chaotic space, the storekeeper treats her the same as always. The only new thing is the large storefront sticker – saffron with “Jai Shree Ram” in large English print. She is surprised at this sudden show of – what exactly? Piety? Power? Politics?

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