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The achingly beautiful Himalayan valley was flooded with soldiers and roadblocks of razor wire. Phone lines were cut, internet connections switched off, politicians arrested. Public gatherings were banned. The prime minister of the world’s largest democracy had clamped down on Kashmir to near-totalitarian levels. And Narendra Modi’s country reacted with roaring approval: As he had Kashmir stripped of statehood and its special constitutional status, even some of his political opponents were calling out support. Modi, a Hindu nationalist by the time he was 10 years old, had upended life in India’s only Muslim-majority state, flexing those nationalist muscles for his millions of followers. They loved him for it. “All of Kashmir is ours!” a jubilant middle-aged demonstrator, draped in the saffron-colored scarf of a Hindu, shouted during a New Delhi street celebration just before Parliament voted to end Kashmir’s decades of semi-autonomy. “Modi has fulfilled another promise,” said a more quiet-spoken supporter, Sushanto Sen, a retired senior manager with an aerospace and defense company, who lives in the crowded north Indian city of Lucknow. “Kashmir is part of India, and whatever rules apply to us should apply to others too.” To his critics, Modi is an authoritarian manipulator who wants to turn India into an avowedly Hindu nation. But to his supporters, Modi is an incorruptible ascetic unafraid to tell the truth — a man who understands what it means to be poor but, like so many of his supporters, wants India to be treated with respect by the rest…

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