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Quo Vadis: Where is India Going to?
|by Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee|
Peter, fleeing from the persecutions of the Emperor Nero had a vision of Christ whom he asked "Domine, quo vadis?" (Lord, whither goest thou?). Jesus answered him, "Whither I go, thou cannot follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards".
Today we may ask ourselves where we are really going to. We are killing our own brothers and neighbours simply on the grounds of religion and ethnic differences. We have been oblivious of human values. The recent ethnic conflicts have turned violent and are gradually taking the shape of communal violence.
Thousands of Indians from the country’s North East have fled the southern city of Bangalore following rumors of impending attacks in retaliation for recent ethnic clashes in their home state. More than 80 people have been killed and 400,000 displaced in clashes in recent weeks between members of the Bodo tribe and Bengali Muslim settlers in Assam. The death toll from clashes between Bodo tribes people and Muslim settlers has risen to 44. Police also opened fire on groups armed with sticks and spears for violating a curfew. Fearing for their lives, tens of thousands of Muslims and Bodos have fled their homes in remote hamlets along the border with Bhutan, and sought shelter in camps in larger towns. 200,000 people had been displaced by the fighting.
The relief camp in a school in the town of Bijni is just one of nearly 60 hastily set up to cope with the flood of refugees. This is a sad news for all Indians because we know that such things have occurred only in the past. Why will such things be repeated now again after sixty six years of Independence, after so much progress of civilization and after so much of secularisation?
India is characterized by more ethnic and religious groups than most other countries of the world. Aside from the much noted 2000-odd castes, there are eight "major" religions, 15-odd languages spoken in various dialects in 22 states and nine union territories, and a substantial number of tribes and sects. Despite the secular and religiously tolerant constitution of India, broad religious representation in various aspects of society including the government, the active role played by autonomous bodies such as National Human Rights Commission of India and National Commission for Minorities, and the ground-level work being out by Non-governmental organizations, sporadic and sometimes serious acts of religious violence tend to occur as the root causes of religious violence.
Of the recent ethnic conflicts mentioned, Assam has attracted the largest attention of late. Two ethnic or religious conflicts have occurred of late in the state of Assam, and the more widely known Hindu-Muslim conflict, continues to persist. The Assam problem is primarily ethnic.The ethnic violence between Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims, which sparked off in Kokrajhar on July 20 and soon affected neighbouring Chirang and Dhubri districts, has spread to new areas with fresh incidents of violence being reported from Baksa, Nalbari and Kamrup. This intolerance can be traced back to history of the past.
In the distant past, Timur's campaigns in India were marked by systematic slaughter and other atrocities on a massive scale inflicted mainly on the subcontinent's Hindu population. The Muslim army lead by Malik Kafur, a slave turned general of Allauddin Khilji attacked the beautiful temples of Hoysalas in the 14th century. After the defeat of the Vijayanagara dynasty by the Bahmani Sultanates at the battle of Talikota, the Muslim armies of Adil Shah ransacked the great city of Hampi, massacred its denizens and destroyed its temples and palaces and looted aways its riches. Aurengzeb cherished the ambition of converting India into a land of Islam and his reign was particularly brutal. Aurangzeb banned Hindu festival of Diwali, placed a jizya (tax) on non-Muslims and killed the ninth Sikh guru Tegh Bahadur.
The Mughal Empire was marked by periods of tolerance of non-Muslims, such as Hindus and Sikhs, as well as periods of violent oppression and persecution of those people. Emperor Nadir Shah, the Shah of Iran and founder of the Afsharid dynasty, invaded India with a fifty-five thousand strong army, eventually attacking Delhi in March 1739 where he sacked the city, after issuing orders for a general massacre to take place. His brutal and bloody actions gave rise to the word nadirshahi, meaning holocaust.
The ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan is regarded to be anti-Christian by many historians. Moplah Rebellion was an Anti Hindu rebellion conducted by the Muslim Mappila community of Kerala in 1921. Inspired by the Khilafat movement and the Karachi resolution; Moplahs murdered, pillaged, and forcibly converted thousands of Hindus.
For several decades after Partitions, Sikhs in Punjab had complained about domination by the Hindu majority. In the name of ethnic cleansing, in the Kashmir region, approximately 300 Kashmiri Pandits were killed between September 1989 to 1990 in various incidents. Many Kashmiri Pandits have been killed by Islamist militants in incidents such as the Wandhama massacre and the 2000 Amarnath pilgrimage massacre. Two major anti-Muslim riots have happened in India since the 1990s and none since 2002.
The history of modern India has many incidents of communal violence which, in many cases, are alleged to be state-backed, and police has supposedly played an active and biased role in carrying out cold blooded massacres, acts of rape and damaging properties of the minority communities especially Muslims, Christians and Sikhs. In Orissa, starting December 2007, Christians have been attacked in Kandhamal and other districts, resulting in the deaths of two Hindus and one Christian, and the destruction of houses and churches. Hindu Extremists claim that, Christians first killed a Hindu saint Laxmananand. So the attacks on Christians supposedly were in retaliation.
The 1998 Chamba massacre, the 2002 fidayeen attacks on Raghunath temple, the 2002 Akshardham Temple attack allegedly perpetrated by Islamic terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba and the 2006 Varanasi bombings (supposedly perpetrated by Lashkar-e-Toiba), resulted in many deaths and injuries. On 6 December 1992, members of the Vishva Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal destroyed the 430 year old Babri Mosque in Ayodhya leading to communal riots all over the country and also to recent attacks on Hindus by Muslim mobs include Marad massacre and Godhra train burning.
All this should end. The separatist forces have already started raising their ugly heads. The women the Kashmiri Women's separatist leader Syeda Asiya Andrabi led a protest in Srinagar against the 'persecution of muslims in Myanmar (Burma) and Assam' offering them shelter in Kashmir. Asiya Andrabi, who heads Dukhtaran-e-Milat (Daughters of Faith), staged a protest along with dozens of her supporters carrying placards and raising slogans against the alleged massacre of muslims in Assam and Myanmar. This has made the dark scenario dismal also.
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