Magazine article The Christian Century

Religious Violence Rips India

Magazine article The Christian Century

Religious Violence Rips India

Article excerpt

More than 1,200 people died and some 4,500 were injured recently in india when longstanding tensions between Hindus and Muslims erupted in extensive rioting throughout the country. Some observers say the religious fighting was the worst to hit the country since independence, when violence between the two groups forced the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. The current fighting broke out after extremist Hindus destroyed an Islamic mosque December 6 in the town of Ayodhya in northern India. Many Hindus believe that Babri Mosque, constructed in the 16th century by conquering Muslims, was situated on the spot where a Hindu deity, the god Ram, was born 5,000 years ago.

The destruction of the mosque at Ayodhya was the latest and most spectacular action by Hindu fundamentalists, who have won significant elections throughout India in recent years and amassed influence in the Parliament. Their political success has heightened fears that fanatic religious elements are out to take over the government. In destroying the mosque the fundamentalists defied the country's constitution, which prohibits such actions, as well as the government, the Supreme Court and many Hindu leaders who counseled moderation.

Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao has staunchly upheld the constitutional definition of India as a secular state. He has spent months negotiating with the Hindu extremists, but failed to find a compromise that would have preserved the temple and satisfied Hindu extremists. …

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