With the strongest mandate of any incoming government in India in 30 years, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime minister-designate, Narendra Modi, has a historic opportunity to shape the country’s future. Many Indians, and many of India’s friends, are eager to move forward with Mr. Modi. It is time, they say, to forget his troubling past, when he was associated with deadly riots in his home state of Gujarat that killed more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.

Unfortunately, there are several factors that will keep that past alive and hinder the ability of the new government to deliver on its economic promises. One is Mr. Modi’s unapologetic allegiance to the Hindu political right. On the day after the election results were announced, Mr. Modi made a symbolically charged trip to Varanasi, the Hindu holy city on the banks of the Ganges. This pilgrimage — where Mr. Modi vowed to take on the “dirty work” he said was his God-given purpose in life — sent one signal to his supporters on the Hindu political right, and a very different message to Muslims.

Mr. Modi needs now to offer a powerful balancing message by acting promptly to end the neglect of nearly 4,000 Muslim families displaced by the 2002 riots and now living in 86 settlements in Gujarat. A U.S. State Department report states that 30 percent of these victims have yet to receive any aid at all. Though Mr. Modi boasts of infrastructure development in Gujarat, these camps lack drinking water, power and sanitation.

The new government should also demonstrate its commitment to a fair and effective judiciary. There are still cases related to the 2002 riots wending their way through courts. Mr. Modi must guard against even the appearance of meddling with the judiciary, including the Supreme Court. Ensuring impartial, speedy and certain justice for all of India’s citizens would do much to inspire confidence across the board in his new government, and to strengthen the democratic foundation of the country’s future.

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