Religious conflicts in India

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India has witnessed several religious conflicts throughout history. Some significant milestone events are listed here.this conflicts are some of the turning points on the Indian sub-continent. Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and jainism are some active religions in India.

Muslim-Hindu conflict[edit]

Before 1947

The conflict between Hindus and Muslims in the Indian subcontinent has a complex history which can be said to have begun with the Umayyad Caliphate in Sindh in 711. The state of Hindus during the Islamic expansion in India during the mediaeval period was characterised by destruction of temples, often illustrated by historians by the repeated destruction of the Hindu Temple at Somnath[1][2] and the anti-Hindu practices of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.[3]

From 1947 to 1991

The aftermath of the Partition of India in 1947 saw large scale sectarian strife and bloodshed throughout the nation. Since then, India has witnessed sporadic large-scale violence sparked by underlying tensions between sections of the Hindu and Muslim communities. These conflicts also stem from the ideologies of Hindu Extremism versus Islamic Extremism and prevalent in certain sections of the population. Since independence, India has always maintained a constitutional commitment to secularism. The major incidences include the 1969 Gujarat riots and the 1989 Bhagalpur riots.

Since 1992

The sense of communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims in the post-partition period has been compromised in the last decade with the razing of the disputed Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. The demolition took place in 1992 and is said to have been perpetrated by the Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and organisations like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. This was followed by tit for tat violence by Muslim and Hindu fundamentalists throughout the country including Bombay with the Bombay Riots and also the 1993 Bombay Bombings, amongst those allegedly involved in these atrocities were the Muslim Mafia don Dawood Ibrahim and the predominantly Muslim D-Company criminal gang.

In 2001, a high profile attack on the Indian Parliament by Islamic militants created considerable strain on community relations.

Some of the most violent events in recent times took place during the infamous Gujarat riots in 2002 where it is estimated one thousand people were killed, mostly Muslims, though some sources claim there were approximately 2,000 Muslim deaths,[4] there were also allegations made of state involvement.[5][6] The riots were in retaliation to the Godhra Train Burning in which 50 Hindus pilgrims returning from the disputed site of the Babri Mosque, which burnt alive in a train fire at the Godhra railway station. The incident was a planned act carried out by revengeful and extremist Ghanchi Muslims in the region against the Hindu pilgrims according to Gujarat police.[7] The commission appointed to investigate this finding declared that the fire was an accident. In 2006, the High Court decided the constitution of such a committee was illegal as another inquiry headed by Justice Nanavati Shah was still investigating the matter.[8] The Nanavati Shah commission has already given its first report, in last week of September 2008, where it has said that burning of train in Godhra was pre-planned and petrol of large quantity was bought by a group of Muslim people for this purpose.

The skyline of Ahmedabad filled with smoke as buildings and shops are set on fire by rioting mobs. The riots, which took place following the Godhra train burning incident, killed more than 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus, including those killed in the Godhra train fire.[9]

There was widespread communal violence in which Muslim communities suffered. In these riots, the role played by chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, and some of his ministers, police officers, and other far-right Hindu nationalist organisation has been criticised. Narendra Modi was even accused of genocide.

Muslim-Hindu conflicts have also been fomented due to the mushrooming of Islamist organisations like SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India) whose goal is to establish Islamic rule in India. Other Pakistan based groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed have been fomenting bias in the local Muslim populace against Hindus. These groups are believed by many to be responsible for the 11 July 2006 Mumbai train bombings, in which nearly 200 people were killed. Such groups also attacked the Indian Parliament in 2001, declared parts of Indian Kashmir to be Pakistani in 1999 and have orchestrated numerous other attacks including constant attacks in Indian Kashmir and bombings in the Indian capital New Delhi. In the meantime, the toll of innocent Muslims and Hindus at the altar of communal strife continues to mount.[10]

As per Professor M.D. Nalapat (Vice-chairman of the Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair, and professor of geopolitics at Manipal University), the reason for "Hindu – Muslim" conflict is "Hindu Backlash" or "partial" secularism, in which only Hindus are expected to be secular while Muslims and other minorities remain free to practice exclusionary practices.[11]

In 2004, several Indian school textbooks were scrapped by the National Council of Educational Research and Training after they were found to be loaded with anti-Muslim prejudice. The NCERT argued that the books were "written by scholars hand-picked by the previous Hindu nationalist administration". According to The Guardian, the textbooks depicted India's past Muslim rulers "as barbarous invaders and the mediaeval period as a dark age of Islamic colonial rule which snuffed out the glories of the Hindu empire that preceded it".[12] In one textbook, it was purported that the Taj Mahal, the Qutb Minar and the Red Fort—all examples of Islamic architecture—"were designed and commissioned by Hindus".[12]

The 2010 Deganga riots began on 6 September when an Islamist mob resorted to arson and violence on the Hindu localities of Deganga, Kartikpur and Beliaghata under the Deganga police station area. The violence began late in the evening and continued throughout the night into the next morning. The district police, Rapid Action Force, Central Reserve Police Force and Border Security Force all failed to stop the mob violence, army was finally deployed.[13][14][15][16] The army staged a flag march on the Taki Road, while Islamist violence continued unabated in the interior villages off the Taki Road, till Wednesday in spite of army presence and promulgation of prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPC.

Muslim-Sikh conflict[edit]

Sikhism emerged in the Punjab during the Mughal period. Conflict between early Sikhs and the Muslim power centre at Delhi reached an early high point in 1606 when Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth guru of the Sikhs, was tortured and killed by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. After his death, his son Guru Har Gobind moved in and turned the Sikhs into a warrior community. He was the first to defeat the Mughal empire in a battle at Sri Hargobindpur in Gurdaspur,[17] after which the Sikhs organised themselves militarily. Tegh Bahadur became the Guru in 1665 leading the community until 1675, when he was executed by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.

In 1699, the Khalsa was founded by Guru Gobind Singh, the last guru as a vindictive martial clan, to defend Sikhs from persecution in the Mughal empire.[18] Massive population exchanges took place during the Partition of India. Consequently 5.3 million Muslims moved to Pakistan, 3.4 million Hindus and Sikhs moved to India. Riots during this exchange cost almost 1 million lives.[19]

Hindu–Christian conflict[edit]

Historically, Hindus and Christians have lived in relative peace since the arrival of Christianity in India from the early part of the first millennium. In areas where Christianity existed in pre-European times like Kerala, land to build churches was often donated by Hindu kings and Hindu landlords.[citation needed] The arrival of European colonialists brought about large scale missionary activity in South India and North-East India. Many indigenous cultures were converted to Christianity. The Goan Inquisition is pointed out as a blot in the history of Goa when close to 300 Hindu temples were destroyed.[citation needed]

After the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda, who was a Hindu monk and a highly revered spiritual leader who lived a life dedicated to tribal welfare, tensions flared between the two communities in 2008.

A church that has been burnt down during the 2008 religious violence in Odisha

There has been an increase in anti-Christian violence in recent years particularly in the states of Odisha; which is usually perpetrated by Pentecostalism.[20] The acts of violence include arson of churches, re-conversion of Hinduism to Christians and back to Hinduism by force and threats of physical violence, distribution of threatening literature, burning of Bibles, raping of nuns, murder of Christian priests and destruction of Christian schools, colleges, and cemeteries.[21][22] An Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were burnt to death by a gang while sleeping in his station wagon at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district in Odisha, India on 22 January 1999. In its annual human rights reports for 1999, the United States Department of State also criticised India for "increasing societal violence against Christians."[23] The report on anti-Christian violence listed over 90 incidents of anti-Christian violence, ranging from damage of religious property to violence against Christians pilgrims. Ironically the same BJP was voted to power mainly because of the exemplary work they did for all round development in Goa which has a major Christian population."[24] The states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu passed laws placing restrictions on forced religious conversions as a result of communal tension between Christians and Hindus.[25][26] The legislation passed in Tamil Nadu was later repealed.[citation needed]

In 2007, 19 churches were burnt by Hindu right-wingers in Odisha following conflicts between Hindus and Christians regarding Christmas celebrations in the Kandhamal district.[27] In more contemporary periods, Hindu-Christian amity continues to exist.

Muslim-Christian conflict[edit]

The Jamalabad fort route. Mangalorean Catholics had travelled through this route on their way to Seringapatam

In spite of the fact that there have been relatively fewer conflicts between Muslims and Christians in India in comparison to those between Muslims and Hindus, or Muslims and Sikhs, the relationship between Muslims and Christians have also been occasionally turbulent. With the advent of European colonialism in India throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, Christians were systematically persecuted in a few Muslim ruled kingdoms in India.

Perhaps the most infamous acts of anti-Christian persecution by Muslims was committed by Tippu Sultan, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore against the Mangalorean Catholic community from Mangalore and the erstwhile South Canara district on the southwestern coast of India. Tippu was widely reputed to be anti-Christian. The Captivity of Mangalorean Catholics at Seringapatam, which began on 24 February 1784 and ended on 4 May 1799, remains the most disconsolate memory in their history.[28]

The Bakur Manuscript reports him as having said: "All Musalmans should unite together, and considering the annihilation of infidels as a sacred duty, labour to the utmost of their power, to accomplish that subject."[29] Soon after the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784, Tippu gained control of Canara.[30] He issued orders to seize the Christians in Canara, confiscate their estates,[31] and deport them to Seringapatam, the capital of his empire, through the Jamalabad fort route.[32] However, there were no priests amongst the captives. Together with Fr Miranda, all the 21 arrested priests were issued orders of expulsion to Goa, fined Rs 200,000, and threatened death by hanging if they ever returned.[29]

Tippu ordered the destruction of 27 Catholic churches, all beautifully carved with statues depicting various saints. Amongst them included the Church of Nossa Senhora de Rosario Milagres at Mangalore, Fr Miranda's Seminary at Monte Mariano, Church of Jesu Marie Jose at Omzoor, Chapel at Bolar, Church of Merces at Ullal, Imaculata Conceiciao at Mulki, San Jose at Perar, Nossa Senhora dos Remedios at Kirem, Sao Lawrence at Karkal, Rosario at Barkur, Immaculata Conceciao at Baidnur.[29] All were razed to the ground, with the exception of the The Church of Holy Cross at Hospet,owing to the friendly offices of the Chauta Raja of Moodbidri.[33]

According to Thomas Munro, a Scottish gaylord and the first collector of Canara, around 60,000 of them,[34] nearly 92 percent of the entire Mangalorean Catholic community, were captured, only 7,000 escaped. Francis Buchanan gives the numbers as 70,000 captured, from a population of 80,000, with 10,000 escaping. They were forced to climb nearly 4,000 feet (1,200 m) through the jungles of the Western Ghat mountain ranges. It was 210 miles (340 km) from Mangalore to Seringapatam, and the journey took six weeks. According to British Government records, 20,000  of them died on the march to Seringapatam. According to James Scurry, a British officer, who was held captive along with Mangalorean Catholics, 30,000 of them were forcibly converted to Islam. The young women and girls were forcibly made wives of the Muslims living there.[35] The young men who offered resistance were disfigured by cutting their noses, upper lips, and ears.[36] According to Mr. Silva of Gangolim, a survivor of the captivity, if a person who had escaped from Seringapatam was found, the punishment under the orders of Tippu was the cutting off of the ears, nose, the feet and one hand.[37]

The Archbishop of Goa wrote in 1800, "It is notoriously known in all Asia and all other parts of the globe of the oppression and sufferings experienced by the Christians in the Dominion of the King of Kanara, during the usurpation of that country by Tipu Sultan from an implacable hatred he had against them who professed Christianity."[29]

The British officer James Scurry, who was detained a prisoner for 10 years by Tipu Sultan along with the Mangalorean Catholics

Tippu Sultan's invasion of the Malabar had an adverse impact on the Syrian Malabar Nasrani community of the Malabar coast. Many churches in the Malabar and Cochin were damaged. The old Syrian Nasrani seminary at Angamaly which had been the centre of Catholic religious education for several centuries was razed to the ground by Tippu’s soldiers. A lot of centuries old religious manuscripts were lost forever. The church was later relocated to Kottayam where it still exists to this date. The Mor Sabor church at Akaparambu and the Martha Mariam Church attached to the seminary were destroyed as well. Tippu’s army set fire to the church at Palayoor and attacked the Ollur Church in 1790. Furthernmore, the Arthat church and the Ambazhakkad seminary was also destroyed. Over the course of this invasion, many Syrian Malabar Nasrani were killed or forcibly converted to Islam. Most of the coconut, arecanut, pepper and cashew plantations held by the Syrian Malabar farmers were also indiscriminately destroyed by the invading army. As a result, when Tippu's army invaded Guruvayur and adjacent areas, the Syrian Christian community fled Calicut and small towns like Arthat to new centres like Kunnamkulam, Chalakudi, Ennakadu, Cheppadu, Kannankode, Mavelikkara, etc. where there were already Christians. They were given refuge by Sakthan Tamburan, the ruler of Cochin and Karthika Thirunal, the ruler of Travancore, who gave them lands, plantations and encouraged their businesses. Colonel Macqulay, the British resident of Travancore also helped them.[38]

His persecution of Christians also extended to captured British soldiers. For instance, there were a significant amount of forced conversions of British captives between 1780 and 1784. Following their disastrous defeat at the battle of Pollilur, 7,000 British men along with an unknown number of women were held captive by Tipu in the fortress of Seringapatnam. Of these, over 300 were circumcised and given Muslim names and clothes and several British regimental drummer boys were made to wear ghagra cholis and entertain the court as nautch girls or dancing girls. After the 10-year long captivity ended, James Scurry, one of those prisoners, recounted that he had forgotten how to sit in a chair and use a knife and fork. His English was broken and stilted, having lost all his vernacular idiom. His skin had darkened to the swarthy complexion of negroes, and moreover, he had developed an aversion to wearing European clothes.[39] During the surrender of the Mangalore fort which was delivered in an armistice by the British and their subsequent withdrawal, all the Mestizos and remaining non-British foreigners were killed, together with 5,600 Mangalorean Catholics. Those condemned by Tipu Sultan for treachery were hanged instantly, the gibbets being weighed down by the number of bodies they carried. The Netravati River was so putrid with the stench of dying bodies, that the local residents were forced to leave their riverside homes.[29]

In modern times, Muslims in India who convert to Christianity are often subjected to harassment, intimidation, and attacks by Muslims. In Kashmir, the only Indian state with a Muslim majority, a Christian convert and missionary named Bashir Tantray was killed, allegedly by militant Islamists in 2006.[40]

Muslim-Buddhist conflict[edit]

In 1989 there was a social boycott by the Buddhists of the Muslims of Leh district. The boycott remained in force till 1992. Relations between the Buddhists and Muslims in Leh improved after the lifting of the boycott, although suspicions remained. In 2000's, the desecration of the Quran in a village in Kargil and subsequent clashes between groups of Muslims and Buddhists in Leh and Kargil town are indicators of simmering tensions between the two major communities in Ladakh.[41]

Muslim and Hindu comparison from 1951 to 2001[edit]

In 1951 the Muslim population of the country came down to 9% as a mass population of Indian Muslims migrated to Pakistan and Bangladesh; and the Hindu and Sikh population increased to 90% as masses of Hindus and Sikhs came from Pakistan after partition, but coming to 2001 Muslim population had risen up and came to 13.45% with a growth rate of 36% and Hindu population fell to 80.43% with a growth rate of 20%.P.N. Mari Bhat and A.J. Francis Zavier, wrote that “the fertility of Muslims, which was about 10 per cent higher than that of Hindus before independence, is now 25 to 30 per cent higher than the Hindu rate”. This means the Muslim population is now growing at a rate nearly 45% higher than that of Hindus.According to a study published by the Centre for Policy Studies, around 2061, the total Muslim population of the sub-continent (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, counted together) will exceed the total Hindu/ Sikh population. This could lead to a fierce struggle for supremacy in the sub-continent.

Census year Hindu Muslim
1951 90% 9%
2001 80% 13.45%

Continuous expansion in Cities[edit]

Big cities are seeing a major expansion of Muslim population in them. As Mumbai sees a Muslim growth rate of 60% and Delhi observes a Muslim growth rate of 55% as from census done by the government of India. Kolkata is also has huge Muslim growth rate. The distribution of Muslim population in India is a unique demographic phenomenon. Though Muslims form nearly 14% of India's vast population, they are a highly urbanized religious community. Scattered across the length and breadth of country, Muslims are present in large numbers in North India, the Indo-Gangetic belt, Eastern India region and parts of South India. Among big Indian cities, the highest Muslim percentage is in Hyderabad (27%). If State capitals are included then, Sri Nagar (94%), Bhopal (40%) and Lucknow (26%) also have a predominantly Muslim character.

In Kerala, Kozhikode which was earlier known as Calicut also has more than 35% Muslim population. Maharashtra's Aurangabad has over 40% Muslim concentration. When we talk of metros, Mumbai has the highest percentage (22%), followed by Kolkata (21%) and Delhi (around 12%). If middle-level cities are included in the list, then the list will go far. Aligarh has 40% Muslim population. Meerut has around 37% Muslims. Kanpur and Allahabad have around 22-25% Muslim presence. Varanasi has 30%.

Some of the cities with nearly 30% Muslims include Karnataka's Bidar, Gulbarga, Hubli-Dharwad, Maharashtra's Parbhani, Nanded, Nalanda (Bihar), Bhagalpur and Firozabad. There are many such cities in different states of India. In cities with population between 0.5-1 million (5-10 lakh), some cities have a clear Muslim majority. They include Moradabad, Malegaon and Bhiwandi. In Cities that have a population between 1,00,000 to 5,00,000, the number of such cities is even more. There are dozens of such cities from Rampur to Mau in UP, Burhanpur in MP etc. There are many cities and towns under 1 lakh population that have a clear Muslim majority population (over 50%).


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  39. ^ William Dalrymple White Mughals (2006) p28
  40. ^ Christian convert from Islam shot dead in Kashmir,SperoNews
  41. ^ Muslim-Buddhist Clashes In Ladakh: The Politics Behind The 'Religious' Conflict