Hindu-Muslim Relations in India

The relationship between Hindus and Muslims is stereotypically characterized by conflict, rooted in the deep and flawed division of the former British colony of India into separate Hindu and Muslim states. The migration of thousands of each religious group resulted in violence. The territorial conflict between India and Pakistan over the mountain province of Kashmir has added reason to violent Islamic fundamentalist groups to launch major terrorist attacks against Indian targets, including in July 2011 in Mumbai, where a severe one had occurred in 2008, which killed more than 150 people.

The early contact between Muslims and Indian Hindus was cordial, economic and gradual. Minor groups of settlers from Arabia who professed Islam are said to have landed in India as early as 630 C.E., during the lifetime of Muhammad. A century later, the Umayyad Caliphate launched an attack into the Indian subcontinent from Sindh in modern Pakistan, but was defeated by a coalition of Indian rulers at the Battle of Rajasthan. The Umayyad forces then fled back beyond the Indus River. This region would characterize a diversification as Islam fragmented, introducing Ismaili Shi'ism. These Ismailis would establish a dynasty under the Fatimid flag, becoming the target of the Abbasid Caliphate in the early 11th century. Once defeated, the Abbasids began a series of raids into India, led by Mahmud of Ghazni. He established a dynasty that would last nearly two centuries over northern India, in the meantime utilizing Hindu generals in his campaigns and deputizing local Hindu dynasties as colonial governors. When the empire fell into decline at the later end of the 12th century, it was largely conquered by Muhammad of Ghor, who aligned himself with local Hindu rulers. However, his campaigns into India devastated Hindu communities, which likely provoked his assassination. His son founded the Sultanate of Delhi, the first major Muslim regime to rule in the subcontinent.

With the Sultanate, relations with subject Hindus varied, but an innovation in Islamic thought or pragmatism by the rulers extended the status of dhimmitude (being of the protected religions) to Hindus. This was despite Hindus' polytheistic beliefs in contradistinction to Islam and the beliefs of traditionally acceptable confessions. Part of the reason might have been because of Muslim alliances with Hindu principalities. This exemplified policy toward Hindus for most of the Mughal Empire's history, until Shah Jahan and his son, who reverted to Hindus paying poll taxes and devastated many Hindu temples.

India, today, is comprised mostly of Hindus and Sunni Muslims, but the country is incredibly diverse and the origin for several other religions such as Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism. Today, there are additionally Jews, Christians and Shiite Muslims. The country is also linguistically diverse. It has been suggested that not so much in spite of, but because of this diversity the country has remained relatively stable. This could be accounted for in the legacy of common civic action and association. Many of the roots of this phenomenon are found in the era of Mahatma Gandhi, who led a world-renowned campaign against the continuation of British rule in India. Hindus and Muslims cooperated in this endeavor, though the later partition into separate Hindu and Muslim polities plus the precursor tension to it would predicate future conflict. Additionally, the growth of the Indian economy has contributed incentives to both communities to quell rumors and prejudice as they may spread and provoke rounds of violence.

The growth of both Hindu and Islamic fundamentalism has fueled tension between the two groups and, consequentially, between secular but Hindu-majority India and the so-proclaimed Islamic State of Pakistan.

A trend of right-wing, violent Hindu nationalism is also said to have surfaced in the country, leading the notable atrocities against Muslims such as those attacks in Gujarat in response to the death of 58 Hindus in a burning rail car. It is estimated that 800 people were murdered, many of the women included having been sexually assaulted. Between 1997 and 2000, India faced a wave of violence against Muslims and other minorities, particularly Christians, emanating from Hindu nationalists. The nationalist and Hindu-supremacist movements, as labeled by Peggy Froerer, have become instrumentalist political movements aimed at protecting Hindus' resources given economic change. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), known as a viscerally pro-Hindu party, first attained power as the head of an Indian coalition government in 1996.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Pogrom in Gujarat: Hindu Nationalism and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
Parvis Ghassem-Facbandi.
Princeton University Press, 2012
Hindu Nationalism: Origins, Ideologies, and Modern Myths
Chetan Bhatt.
Berg, 2001
Beyond Hindu and Muslim: Multiple Indentity in Narratives from Village India
Peter Gottschalk.
Oxford University Press, 2000
Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism in India
Meera Nanda.
Rutgers University Press, 2003
Sudhir Kakar and the Socio-Psychological Explanation of Hindu-Muslim Communal Riots in India
Saha, Santosh.
The Australian Journal of Politics and History, Vol. 55, No. 4, December 2009
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Hindu and Muslim Strife in India
Ninian, Alex.
Contemporary Review, Vol. 280, No. 1637, June 2002
Eight Lives: A Study of the Hindu-Muslim Encounter
Rajmohan Gandhi.
State University of New York Press, 1986
Legacy of a Divided Nation: India's Muslims since Independence
Mushirul Hasan.
Westview Press, 1997
Sattion Dollars: How Hindu Nationalist Organizations Fund Ethnic Violence in India with Money Raised in the U.S
Din, Suleman.
Colorlines Magazine, Vol. 8, No. 1, Spring 2005
The Pitfalls of Pluralism: Talibanization and Saffronization in India
Demerath, N. J.,, III.
Harvard International Review, Vol. 25, No. 4, Winter 2004
The Rhetoric of Hindu Nationalism: A Narrative of Mythic Redefinition
Roy, Abhik; Rowland, Robert C.
Western Journal of Communication, Vol. 67, No. 3, Summer 2003
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
India's Embattled Secularism. (Holy Wars)
Kesavan, Mukul.
The Wilson Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 1, Winter 2003
India's Time of Reckoning: The World's Second-Largest Population of Muslims Has until Now Resisted the Pied Pipers of Jihad. but, Provoked by Hindu Nationalists, It Too Turns to Violence
Mishra, Pankaj.
New Statesman (1996), Vol. 132, No. 4657, September 29, 2003
Riots and Victims: Violence and the Construction of Communal Identity among Bengali Muslims, 1905-1947
Patricia A. Gossman.
Westview Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "The Legacy of Non-Cooperation and Khilafat and the Hindu-Muslim Pact" begins on p. 63, and "The Swarajists and the Hindu-Muslim Pact" begins on p. 70
Muslim Perceptions of Other Religions: A Historical Survey
Jacques Waardenburg.
Oxford University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 17 "Muslim Views of Hindus since 1950"
Democracy, Nationalism, and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia
Asma Barlas.
Westview Press, 1995
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