Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Religious violence in India

Religious violence in India includes acts of violence by followers of one religious group against followers and institutions of another religious group, often in the form of rioting. Religions such as Zoroastrianism and Judaism have survived peacefully with Hindus for thousands of years.

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 carried out by Non-governmental organizations, sporadic and sometimes serious acts of religious violence tend to occur as the root causes of religious violence often run deep in history, religious activities, and politics of India

Ancient India

Ancient India has no history of large scale religious violence.

The Divyavadana ascribes to him the razing of stupas and viharas built by Ashoka, the placing of a bounty of 100 dinaras upon the heads of Buddhist monks (bhiksus) and describes him as one who wanted to undo the work of Ashoka. This account has however been described as "exaggerated". Archaeological evidence is scarce and uncertain. However to many scholars, Sunga kings were seen as more amenable to Buddhism and as having contributed to the building of the stupa at Bharhut.

With the possible exception of reign of King Pusyamitra, Buddhism and Hinduism seem to have co-existed peacefully with almost all Buddhist temples, including the once at Ajanta Caves, being built under the rule and patronage of Hindu kings; along with Jainism and other religions and there were no anti-religious bloodshed.

Medieval India

Muhammad bin Qasim

Photograph of the Surya Temple, The most impressive and grandest ruins in Kashmir, at Marttand-Hardy Cole's Archaeological Survey of India Report 'Illustrations of Ancient Buildings in Kashmir.' (1869)

Muhammad bin Qasim, during his conquest of Sindh (in present day Pakistan), assaulted the town of Debal and destroyed its great temple .[13] He then built a mosque over the remains of the original temple at Debal and later in towns of Nerun and Sadusan (Sehwan)[13][14] After each battle all fighting men were executed and their wives and children enslaved. One fifth of the booty and slaves were dispatched back to Hajjaj and the Caliph.[13] Chach Nama also records instances of conversion of stupas to mosques such as at Nerun.

After the conquest, Muhammad bin Qasim adopted a controversial policy, asking for acceptance of Islamic Sharia law, in return for non-interference in their religious practice,.[15] No further mass conversions were attempted and the destruction of temples such as the Sun Temple at Multan was forbidden.[13]

Mahmud of Ghazni

Somanatha Temple Prabhas Patan, Gujarat, from the Archaeological Survey of India, taken by D.H. Sykes in c.1869

Mahmud of Ghazni was a Sultan who invaded the Indian subcontinent from present-day Afghanistan during the early 11th century. His campaigns across the gangetic plains are often cited[citation needed] for their iconoclastic plundering and destruction of Hindu temples such as those at Mathura, Dwarka, and others. In 1024 AD, Mahmud of Ghazni attacked and destroyed the third Somnath temple killing over 50,000 and personally destroying the Shiva lingam after stripping it of its gold.[16]


Aurangzeb 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.

Tipu Sultan

The Jamalabad fort route. Mangalorean Catholics had traveled through this route on their way to Srirangapatanam

The ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan is regarded to be anti-Christian by many historians.[17][18][19] 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.[20]

The Bakur Manuscript reports him as having said: "All Musalmans should unite together, and considering the annihilation of infidels as a sacred duty, labor to the utmost of their power, to accomplish that subject."[21] Soon after the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784, Tipu gained control of Canara.[22] He issued orders to seize the Christians in Canara, confiscate their estates,[23] and deport them to Seringapatam, the capital of his empire, through the Jamalabad fort route.[24] However, there were no priests among the captives. Together with Father Miranda, all the 21 arrested priests were issued orders of expulsion to Goa, fined Rupees 2 lakhs, and threatened death by hanging if they ever returned.[21]

Tipu ordered the destruction of 27 Catholic churches, all beautifully carved with statues depicting various saints. Among 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.[21] All were razed to the ground, with the exception of The Church of Holy Cross at Hospet, owing to the friendly offices of the Chauta Raja of Moodbidri.[25]

According to Thomas Munro, a Scottish soldier and the first collector of Canara, around 60,000 people,[26] 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.[27] The young men who offered resistance were disfigured by cutting their noses, upper lips, and ears.[28] 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 Tipu was the cutting off of the ears, nose, the feet and one hand.[29]

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."[21]

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

Tipu Sultan's rule of the Malabar coast had an adverse impact on the Syrian Malabar Nasrani community. 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 Tipu's soldiers. A lot of centuries old religious manuscripts were lost forever.[30] The church was later relocated to Kottayam where it still exists. The Mor Sabor church at Akaparambu and the Martha Mariam Church attached to the seminary were destroyed as well. Tipu'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 Tipu'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.[30]

Tipu's persecution of Christians even extended to captured British soldiers. For instance, there were a significant number of forced conversions of British captives between 1780 and 1784. Following their disastrous defeat at the 1780 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.[31]

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.[21]

Hindus, particularly the Nair and Kodava communities were also persecuted by Tipu Sultan. They were subjected to forcible conversions to Islam, death, and torture.[32][33] The Nairs were treated with extreme brutality by the Muslims due to their strong adherence to the Hindu faith and martial tradition.[34][35][36] The captivity ended when Nair troops from Travancore, with the help of the East India Company defeated Tippu Sultan in the Third Anglo-Mysore War.[37][38] It is estimated that out of the 30,000 Nairs put to captivity (including women and children), only a few hundred returned to Malabar alive.[38][39]

In 1783, the Kodavas erupted in revolt against Tippu Sultan and threw their forces out of Kodagu. In 1785, Tippu declared the Kodava of being guilty of polyandry.[40] He threatened the Kodavas that he would not revile or molest a single individual among them and instead make Ahmadis (Muslims) out of the whole of them, transplanting them from their homeland in the Coorg to Seringapatam.[41]

Tippu gave the task of implementing the orders to Runmust Khan, the Nawab of Kurool. This task was accomplished when in a surprise attack, the Kodavas were besieged by the invading Muslim army. 500 were killed and over 40,000 Kodavas fled to the woods and concealed themselves in the mountains.[41] Thousands of Kodava Hindus were seized along with the Raja, Dodda Vira-Rajendra, and held them captive at Seringapatam. They were also subjected to forcible conversions to Islam, death, and torture.[40]

Colonial Era

Goa Inquisition

St. Francis Xavier who requested the Inquisition in 1545

The first inquisitors, Aleixo Dias Falcão and Francisco Marques, established themselves in what was formerly the king of Goa's palace, forcing the Portuguese viceroy to relocate to a smaller residence. The inquisitor's first act was forbidding Hindus from the public practice of their faith through fear of death. Sephardic Jews living in Goa, many of whom had fled the Iberian Peninsula to escape the excesses of the Spanish Inquisition to begin with, were also persecuted. During the Goa Inquisition, described as "contrary to humanity" by Voltaire ,[42] conversions to Catholicism occurred by force and many native Goans were executed by the Portuguese.[43][44] The adverse effects of the inquisition were tempered somewhat by the fact that Hindus were able to escape Portuguese hegemony by migrating to other parts of the subcontinent.[45] Though officially repressed in 1774, it was reinstated by Queen Maria I in 1778. The last vestiges of the Goa Inquisition were finally swept away when the British occupied the city in 1812.

Indian Rebellion of 1857

In 1813, East India Company charter was amended to allow for government sponsored missionary activity across British India.[46] The missionaries soon spread almost everywhere and started denigrating Hinduism and Islam, besides promoting Christianity, in order to seek converts.[47] Many officers of the British East India Company, such as Herbert Edwardes and Colonel S.G. Wheeler, openly preached to the Sepoys.[48] Such activities caused a great deal of resentment and fear of forced conversions among Indian soldiers of the Company and civilians alike.[47] The perception that the company was trying to convert Hindus and Muslims to Christianity is often cited as one of the causes of the revolt. The revolt is considered by some historians as a semi-national and religious war seeking freedom from English bondage [49][50] though Saul David questions this interpretation.[51] The revolt started, among the Indian soldiers of British East India Company, when the British introduced new rifle cartridges, rumored to be greased with pig and cow fat - an abhorrent concept to Muslim and Hindu soldiers, respectively, for religious reasons. However, in the aftermath of the revolt, British reprisals were particularly severe with hundreds of thousands being killed. While the death toll is often debated by historians with figures ranging between one hundred thousand and one million, it is usually agreed that several hundred thousands were killed.[52]

Moplah Rebellion

Moplah Rebellion was an Anti Hindu rebellion conducted by the Muslim Mappila community (Moplah is a British spelling) of Kerala in 1921. Inspired by the Khilafat movement and the Karachi resolution; Moplahs murdered, pillaged, and forcibly converted thousands of Hindus.[53][54] 100,000 Hindus[55] were driven away from their homes forcing to leave their property behind, which were later took over by Mappilas. This greatly changed the demographics of the area, being the major cause behind today's Malappuram district being a Muslim majority district in Kerala. According to one view, the reasons for the Moplah rebellion was religious revivalism among the Muslim Mappilas, and hostility towards the landlord Hindu Nair, Nambudiri Jenmi community and the British administration that supported the latter. Adhering to view, British records call it a British-Muslim revolt. The initial focus was on the government, but when the limited presence of the government was eliminated, Moplahs turned their full attention on attacking Hindus. Mohommed Haji was proclaimed the Caliph of the Moplah Khilafat and flags of Islamic Caliphate were flown. Ernad and Walluvanad were declared Khilafat kingdoms.[56]

Annie Besant wrote about the riots: "They Moplahs murdered and plundered abundantly, and killed or drove away all Hindus who would not apostatise. Somewhere about a lakh (100,000) of people were driven from their homes with nothing but their clothes they had on, stripped of everything. Malabar has taught us what Islamic rule still means, and we do not want to see another specimen of the Khilafat Raj in India."[55]

Partition of British India

A railway station in Punjab during large-scale migration that followed partition of India along religious lines.

Direct Action Day, which started on 16 August 1946, led approximately 3000 dead and 17000 injured.[57]

After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British followed a divide-and-rule policy, exploiting differences between communities, in order to prevent similar revolts from taking place. In that respect, Indian Muslims were encouraged to forge a cultural and political identity separate from the Hindus.[58] In the years leading up to Independence, Mohammad Ali Jinnah became increasingly concerned about minority position of Islam in an independent India largely composed of a Hindu majority. Although a partition plan was accepted, no large population movements were contemplated. As India and Pakistan become independent, 14.5 million people crossed borders to ensure their safety in an increasingly lawless and communal environment. While the British authority was gone, the newly formed governments were completely unequipped to deal with migrations of such staggering magnitude, and massive violence and slaughter occurred on both sides of the border along communal lines. Estimates of the number of deaths range around roughly 500,000, with low estimates at 200,000 and high estimates at 1,000,000.[59]

Modern India

Constitutionally India is a secular state, [60] but large-scale violence have periodically occurred in India since independence. In recent decades, communal tensions and religion-based politics have become more prominent.

1984 Anti-Sikh Riots

Sikh man being beaten to death

For several decades after Partitions, Sikhs in Punjab had complained about domination by the Hindu majority.[61] In a 1975 court case, Indira Gandhi was found guilty of electoral malpractice which barred her from government offices for six years and opposition parties staged protests to demand her resignation. In response, she declared a State of Emergency during which she jailed thousands of opposition members, censored the press, postponed elections, and changed the constitutional law she was convicted of violating. During the Indian Emergency, thousands of Sikhs campaigning for autonomous government and against the "fascist tendency" of the Central Government[62] were imprisoned.[61] As a result of their "Campaign to Save Democracy", out of 140,000 people arrested without trial during the Indian Emergency, 40,000 were Sikhs.[63]

In later elections she supported the politics Jarnail Bhindranwale, a religious conservative, in an effort to undermine the Akali Dal, the largest Sikh political party. However, Bhindranwale began to oppose the central government and moved his political base to the environs of the Darbar Sahib in Amritsar, Punjab. While there he gained considerable political power and disrupted the local state machinery. In June 1984, under orders from Indira Gandhi, the Indian army attacked the Darbar Sahib with tanks and armoured vehicles.[64] Although the operation was militarily successful, it aroused tremendous controversy, and the government's justification for the timing and style of the attack are highly debated.[65] In response, some Sikhs and some Punjabi Hindus began a separatist campaign to free Punjab from the Indian Government.[66]

Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31 October 1984 by two of her bodyguards in retaliation for the storming of the Golden temple. After the assassination the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms took place in Delhi, where government and police officials aided Congress party worker gangs in "methodically and systematically" targeting Sikhs and Sikh homes.[67] As a result of the pogroms 10,000-17,000 were burned alive or otherwise killed, Sikh people suffered massive property damage, and "at least 50,000" Sikhs became displaced persons.[68] To date, the Government of India has not prosecuted any of the assailants.[67] The attack on the Harmandir Sahib and the 1984 Anti-Sikh pogroms led to the increasing popularity of the Khalistan movement. From 1987 until 1992, the Indian government dismissed the elected government of the state, banned elections and imposed direct rule.[69]

In the peak years of the insurgency, religious violence by separatists, government-sponsored groups, and the paramilitary arms of the government was endemic on all sides. Human Rights Watch reports that separatists were responsible for "massacre of civilians, attacks upon Hindu minorities in the state, indiscriminate bomb attacks in crowded places, and the assassination of a number of political leaders".[70] According to Human Rights Watch, the Indian Government's response "led to the arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial execution, and enforced disappearance of thousands of Sikhs".[70] The government generally targeted "young Sikh men on suspicion that they were involved in the militancy" but would later deny having them in custody, as a result, many of the victims of enforced disappearances are believed to have been killed.[70] The insurgency resulted in the paralyzation of Punjab's economy until normalization in 1993.[70]

Ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits

A Kashmiri child, killed along with several others to eliminate Kashmir Pundits via "Systematic efforts" and violent methods.

In the Kashmir region, approximately 300 Kashmiri Pandits were killed between September 1989 to 1990 in various incidents.[71] In early 1990, local Urdu newspapers Aftab and Al Safa called upon Kashmiris to wage jihad against India and ordered the expulsion of all Hindus choosing to remain in Kashmir.[71] In the following days masked men ran in the streets with AK-47 shooting to kill Hindus who would not leave.[71] Notices were placed on the houses of all Hindus, telling them to leave within 24 hours or die.[71]

Since March 1990, estimates of between 500,000 to 750,000 pandits have migrated outside Kashmir[citation needed] due to persecution by Islamic fundamentalists in the largest case of ethnic cleansing since the partition of India.[72] The proportion of Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir valley has declined from about 15% in 1947 to, by some estimates, less than 0.1% since the insurgency in Kashmir took on a religious and sectarian flavor.[73]

Many Kashmiri Pandits have been killed by Islamist militants in incidents such as the Wandhama massacre and the 2000 Amarnath pilgrimage massacre.[74][75][76][77][78] The incidents of massacring and forced eviction have been termed ethnic cleansing by some observers.[71]

Religious involvement in North-East India Militancy

Religion has begun to play an increasing role in reinforcing ethnic divides among the decades old militant separatist movements in north-east India.[79][80][81]

The separatist group National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) seeks to convert all tribals in the state of Tripura, who are mostly Hindu or Buddhist, to Christianity. It has proclaimed bans on Hindu worship and has attacked animist Reangs and Hindu Jamatia tribesmen who resisted. Some resisting tribal leaders have been killed and their womenfolk raped. The RSS has attempted to counter Christian separatist groups by backing Reang and Jamatia tribals, and has called for the central government to help arm and fund them.[80]

Hindu nationalists, upset with the rapid spread of Chistianity in the region, link the overt Christian religiosity of the groups and the local churches' liberation theology-based doctrine to allege church support for ethnic separatism.[80] Vatsala Vedantam identifies statements from the American Baptist Churches USA as endorsing the Naga separatist cause.[82]

According to The Government of Tripura, the Baptist Church of Tripura is involved in supporting the NLFT and arrested two church officials in 2000, one of them for possessing explosives. In late 2004, the National Liberation Front of Tripura banned all Hindu celebrations of Durga Puja and Saraswati Puja. The Naga insurgency, ethnic separtism reinforced in their identity by Christianity, has been repeatedly involved in violence against Hindus in the region.

The United States does not designate as terrorist organizations most of those groups that continue violent separatist struggles in India’s northeastern states.

Source: Wikipedia

1 comment:

  1. See Mysorean invasion of Kerala: