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Of the panoply of challenges faced by the leader of a large democracy, some are perennial (when is the economy not an issue?) and usually of a low intensity; others are seasonal and high-stakes.

This week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has found his forbearance and strategic capabilities exercised to their fullest by a domestic crisis (to some citizens, a foreign policy one) partly of his own making. An ambitious political experiment engineered by Modi and his Hindu nationalist party in the border state of Jammu and Kashmir — the only Muslim-majority state in India — threatens to implode within just a few days of its inauguration.

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