Leaflet by Leaflet, a Few Aging Activists Fight India’s Tide of Bigotry

Asia Pacific | Leaflet by Leaflet, a Few Aging Activists Fight India’s Tide of Bigotry

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As politicians stoke religious hatred online, these veterans of social causes deliver their messages in person: “Talk to each other. Don’t let anyone divide you.”

Roop Rekha Verma, 80, talking to women at a home in Lucknow, India, about their right to vote. Credit… Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times By Sameer Yasir

Reporting from Lucknow and New Delhi in India

One recent morning, Roop Rekha Verma, an 80-year-old peace activist and former university leader, walked through a north Indian neighborhood prone to sectarian strife and parked herself near a tea shop.

From her sling bag, she pulled out a bundle of pamphlets bearing messages of religious tolerance and mutual coexistence and began handing them to passers-by.

“Talk to each other. Don’t let anyone divide you,” one read in Hindi.

Spreading those simple words is an act of bravery in today’s India.

Ms. Verma and others like her are waging a lonely battle against a tide of hatred and bigotry increasingly normalized by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his deputies have vilified the country’s minorities in a yearslong campaign that has escalated during the current national election, the small band of aging activists has built bridges and preached harmony between religious groups.

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Ms. Verma fought India’s religious divides as a philosophy professor. She says the Hindu majority has a responsibility to protect minorities, “not become complicit in their demonization.” Credit… Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.

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