Of Triumph and Fear

What Modi’s Ram Rajya looks like

31 January 2024
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A burst of smoke engulfs much of a lopsided image. Men appear to run behind the grey haze, donning scarves of a bright saffron colour. The same hue shimmers on the sun-lit flags plonked in the background. It might seem like any other image of communal violence under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reign, if it were not for the firecrackers visible towards its lower half and a poster of the deity Ram emerging from behind the fumes.

The image was made on 22 January, capturing celebrations of the consecration of a Ram temple in Ayodhya that day, outside the Bharatiya Janata Party’s headquarters in Mumbai. The scene could well be from any part of India in the third week of January; in many pockets of the country, the colour saffron with a photo of Ram and the words “Jai Shri Ram” appeared omnipresent—etched on every conceivable surface, from the arms of youth to the insides of the Mughal-era Safdarjung’s Tomb. Saffron flags were a hallmark of the jubilation, fluttering on rickshaws, cars and trucks; hoisted on tents, on balconies, in homes and offices. Hindu nationalism’s triumph was inescapable. Even regions that have seen aggressive opposition to the ideology, such as Punjab, Kashmir and West Bengal, also saw some event to mark the day.

A person carrying a photograph with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on one half and a man dressed as the deity Ram with a BJP flag in the background on the other half, on 19 January. . Indranil Aditya / NurPhoto / Getty Images A person carrying a photograph with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on one half and a man dressed as the deity Ram with a BJP flag in the background on the other half, on 19 January. . Indranil Aditya / NurPhoto / Getty Images
A person carrying a photograph with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on one half and a man dressed as the deity Ram with a BJP flag in the background on the other half, on 19 January.
Indranil Aditya / NurPhoto / Getty Images

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    Sanna Irshad Mattoo is a journalist based in Kashmir.

    Shreya Wankhede is a photographer based in Mumbai.

    Amit Malhotra is a book designer based in Delhi.

    Zishaan A Latif has been an independent photographer since 2005. His work has been featured in both commercial and non-commercial collections, exhibitions and publications worldwide.

    Keywords: Ram temple Ayodhya
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