India is the land of multifaceted landscapes. Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Christianity, Jainism, Parse, Judaism as well as other isms are very much a part of the landscape. It is a multi-religious, multi-lingual, multi-cultural society. Even though Hinduism is the religion of the majority in India, but some 20 percent of the total population in India follows different other believes. Muslims are the second largest community after Hindus and followed by Sikhism and others.
The various elements of the Indian community have emerged as a single united entity that is known as India. It is very much like the Indonesian community that is varied and heterogeneous. It is not surprising that Indian community also faces problems that any other heterogeneous society is facing. So even though Indians are known to be tolerant and respectful to others, communal hiccups are, however, phenomena that cannot be missed since the beginning of India’s independence.
It was in the early 1940s that a proponent of a Hindu rightwing movement, Hindu Mahasabha, proposed a two nations theory for India, a Hindustan for the Hindus and Pakistan for the Muslims. The theory was later re-packaged and proposed by M.A. Jinnah of the Muslim League in the mid 1940s and was finally approved by the British Government for the creation of the modern day India and Pakistan.
The Indian Partition of August 1947 was the biggest mistake of history in which thousands or even millions of innocent lives fell victim to the greed and lust for power of a few individuals. The Partition bore witness to the worst communal history in the 20th century. Religious affiliations have put the Indian people in a very difficult situation in which conscience was lost and they were left to the options of to kill or to be killed. Indian Partition of 1947 was the blackest chapter in the history of the Indian sub-continent.
Moving on into the independent India, the traits of communal disharmony is very much apparent as well as communal harmony in Indian society in which several large scales of communal clashes occurred and have left thousands of innocent lives killed in the name of religion. Politics have left many of these innocent lives to suffer.
In the 1980s India witnessed Hindu – Sikh communal violence in which thousands of innocent souls departed. A larger scale of communal violence had flared up in the early 1990s when Hindu activists claimed that at the very site of a mosque in Ayodhya built by a Muslim ruler, Babar, was once the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram. Thus they had to destroy the old mosque to make way of a temple construction. Politicians from the rightwing Hindu nationalist group took advantage of this situation and ignited the anger and religious sentiments of the majority community who then targeted the Indian Muslims and branded them as the invaders of the Hindu civilization that must be expelled. The violence in Ayodhya spread as far as Mumbai in Maharashtra.
Every one thought that the Ayodhya tragedy in the 1990s was to be the last communal violence ever to have occurred in the modern day India. However, India was shocked by a seemingly choreographed communal violence in 2002 in Gujarat in which an angry mob ransacked and killed thousands of innocent people after a freak train accident had killed some 50 kar sevaks (Hindu pilgrims) in a fire that burnt the coach of a train in Godra, Gujarat.
The communal violence that erupted after this train incident was seen by many as a choreographed and sponsored violence by certain political group as a strategy to win the support of the people, a similar scenario that was used in the 1990s of Ayodhya violence.
In last week of October 2005, during the busy days of a Hindu festival of Diwali and an approaching day of Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, series of bomb blasts rocked the Capital in which more than 50 innocent people have been killed and several others have been injured. Luckily, no communal flare up arose from this incident.
Yesterday evening, another series of bomb blast rocked the very city of Hinduism: Varanasi. 12 people have been reportedly killed and several others have been injured. This attack on the heartland of Hinduism is a clear sign by certain individuals or groups to ignite some communal sentiments of the majority communities for some personal or political gain, a grim reminder of the 1990s Ayodhya violence.
The governments, both in New Delhi and the state government of Uttar Pradesh, have quickly condemned the attack as an irresponsible act of terror and appealed to the people to remain calm and cautious. Security has been beefed up throughout the country and an appeal to maintain communal harmony has come from different quarters.
It is now the need of the hour to keep vigil and cautious toward any provocative actions by certain groups or individuals who want to break the tradition of harmony and tolerance that long has been practiced in India. The communal violence that occurred in the earlier periods must be taken as hard lessons that need to be remembered and avoided in the future.
Democratic tradition in India has long been entrenched in the society and such kind of provocation should not let the conscience of the people to be replaced by anger and sentiments that are destructive. Preserving communal harmony in a heterogeneous society is an important key to build a strong and powerful society. Falling victim to communal disharmony and intolerance will only lead to destruction and disintegration.