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Last week, an Indian prime minister, dressed like a priest-king in a saffron scarf, a silver crown and a lockdown-lengthened beard, performed a sacred ritual in the ancient capital of Ayodhya. Narendra Modi thus founded a new Hindu temple on a site where, for hundreds of years, a mosque had stood.

After decades of legal warfare and mob violence, Hindu nationalists have now effectively reclaimed the land where they believe the god Rama was born. The state-sponsored pageantry of the moment, however, proclaimed their greater victory: the transformation of India from a secular-nationalist republic into an ethno-nationalist state.

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