Religious violence in India
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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.
Quotes (19th century and earlier)
- They (the Hindus) differ from us in religion… There is very little disputing about theological topics among themselves; at the most they fight with words, but they will never stake their soul or body or their property on religious controversy. ... in all manners and usages they differ from us to such a degree as to frighten their children with us… and as to declare us to be devil’s breed and our doings as the very opposite of all that is good and proper,...
- Alberuni, I, pp.19-20. quoted from K.S. Lal, Indian Muslims who are they, 1990
- Gangadevi the wife of Kumar Kampana (died 1374 AD) of Vijayanagara writes as follows in her Madhurãvijayam regarding the state of things in the Madurai region when it was under Muslim rule: “The wicked mlechchas pollute the religion of the Hindus every day. They break the images of gods into pieces and throw away the articles of worship. They throw into fire Srimad Bhagwat and other holy scriptures, forcibly take away the conchshell and bell of the Brahmanas, and lick the sandal paints on their bodies. They urinate like dogs on the tulsi plant and deliberately pass faeces in the Hindu temples. They throw water from their mouths on the Hindus engaged in worship, and harass the Hindu saints as if they were so many lunatics let large.”
- Gangadevi, quoted in Goel, S. R. (2001). The story of Islamic imperialism in India.
- [But ultimately the brunt of all such riots was borne by the Hindus. For instance, this is how Pelsaert describes the situation prevalent in the time of Jahangir (1605-27) during Muharram.] “The outcry (of mourning) lasts till the first quarter of the day; the coffins (Tazias) are brought to the river, and if the two parties meet carrying their biers (it is worse on that day), and one will not give place to the other, then if they are evenly matched, they may kill each other as if they were enemies at open war, for they run with naked swords like madmen. No Hindu can venture into the streets before midday, for even if they should escape with their life, at the least their arms and legs would be broken to pieces…”
- Pelsaert, Jahangir’s India. Quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
- Jafar Sharif’s description of the Muharram scene for the eighteenth-nineteenth century is still more detailed. Writes he: “Whenever the Muharram… chances to coincide with Hindu festivals, such as the Ramnavmi or the birth of Rama, the Charakhpuja, or swing festival, or the Dasahra, serious riots have occurred as the processions meet in front of a mosque or Hindu temple, or when an attempt is made to cut the branches of some sacred fig-tree which impedes the passage of the cenotaphs....
- Jafar Sharif, Islam in India or the Qanun-i-Islam, quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 8
- “Sometimes they ate only raw flesh. Their eyes were red with the intoxication of wine. They could run twenty yojanas within the span of half of a day. They used to pass the day with the (bare) loaf under their arm… (The soldier) takes into custody all the women of the enemy’s city… Wherever they happened to pass in that very place the ladies of the Raja’s house began to be sold in the market. They used to set fire to the villages. They turned out the women (from their homes) and killed the children. Loot was their (source of) income. They subsisted on that. Neither did they have pity for the weak nor did they fear the strong… They had nothing to do with righteousness… They never kept their promise… They were neither desirous of good name, not did they fear bad name…” ... “Somewhere a Musalman shows his rage and attacks (the Hindus)… It appears on seeing the Turks that they would swallow up the whole lot of Hindus.”
- The poet Vidyapati writing about Muslim soldiers. Kirtilata. Quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
- “The infidels demolished a mosque,” writes the author of the Ganj-i-Arshadi, “that was under construction and wounded the artisans. When the news reached Shah Yasin, he came to Banaras from Mandyawa and collecting the Muslim weavers, demolished the big temple. A Sayyid who was an artisan by profession agreed with one Abdul Rasul to build a mosque at Banaras and accordingly the foundation was laid. Near the place there was a temple and many houses belonging to it were in the occupation of the Rajputs. The infidels decided that the construction of a mosque in the locality was not proper and that it should be razed to the ground. At night the walls of the mosque were found demolished. Next day the wall was rebuilt but it was again destroyed. This happened three or four times. At last the Sayyid hid himself in a corner. With the advent of night the infidels came to achieve their nefarious purpose. When Abdul Rasul gave the alarm, the infidels began to fight and the Sayyid was wounded by the Rajputs. In the meantime, the Mussulman residents of the neighbourhood arrived at the spot and the infidels took to their heels. The wounded Muslims were taken to Shah Yasin who, determined to vindicate the cause of Islam. When he came to the mosque, people collected from the neighbourhood. The civil officers were outwardly inclined to side with the saint but in reality they were afraid of the royal displeasure on account of the Raja, who was a courtier of the Emperor and had built the temple (near which the mosque was under construction). Shah Yasin, however, took up the sword and started for Jihad. The civil officers sent him a message that such a grave step should not be taken without the Emperor’s permission. Shah Yasin, paying no heed, sallied forth till he reached Bazar Chau Khamba through a fusillade of stones… The doors (of temples) were forced open and the idols thrown down. The weavers and other Mussulmans demolished about 500 temples. They desired to destroy the temple of Beni Madho, but as lanes were barricaded, they desisted from going further.”
- Faruki, Zahiruddin, Aurangzeb and His Times, Delhi reprint, 1980. , pp. 127-28 citing from Ganj-i-Arshadi, reproduced in Sharma, op. cit., p. 144 n.12. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 8
Quotes (20th to 21st century)
- Even a superficial observer cannot fail to notice that a spirit of aggression underlies the Hindu attitude towards the Muslim and the Muslim attitude towards the Hindu. The Hindu's spirit of aggression is a new phase which he has just begun to cultivate. The Muslim's spirit of aggression is his native endowment, and is ancient as compared with that of the Hindu. It is not that the Hindu, if given time, will not pick up and overtake the Muslim. But as matters stand to-day, the Muslim in this exhibition of the spirit of aggression leaves the Hindu far behind.
- B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946)
- The third thing that is noticeable is the adoption by the Muslims of the gangster's method in politics. The riots are a sufficient indication that gangsterism has become a settled part of their strategy in politics. They seem to be consciously and deliberately imitating the Sudeten Germans in the means employed by them against the Czechs. So long as the Muslims were the aggressors, the Hindus were passive, and in the conflict they suffered more than the Muslims did. But this is no longer true. The Hindus have learned to retaliate and no longer feel any compunction in knifing a Musalman. This spirit of retaliation bids fair to produce the ugly spectacle of gangsterism against gangsterism. How to meet this problem must exercise the minds of all concerned. (p. 269)
- B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946)
- “When Indian intellectuals use existing theories about religion and its history – for example, to analyse ‘Hindu-Muslim’ strife – they reproduce, both directly and indirectly, what the West has been saying so far. (…) the ‘secularist’ discourse about this issue can hardly be distinguished – both in terms of the contents or the vocabulary – from Orientalist writings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.” (p.47) [Secularism is the direct heir of the colonial dispensation.]
- S. N. Balagangadhara quoted from Koenraad Elst, On Modi Time : Merits And Flaws of Hindu Activism In Its Day Of Incumbency – 2015. Ch. 3. The Lost Honour of India Studies
- We will look after ourselves. Let there be a direct confrontation between communal forces. The world will witness the battle, but let the police forces keep out.
- Imam Bukhari, During Friday noon prayers on 14/12/1990 in the Delhi Jama Masjid. Reported in Times of India, 15/12/1990. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.
- Once Muslims feel that the state is not going to protect them and they are on their own, it is only a question of time before they start doing what the Sikhs are doing in Punjab. As it is, when we visit a town after a communal riot, people say : if the police wasn't there, we could take the Hindus on.
- Tavleen Singh quoting a Muslim leader in Indian Express, 9/12/1990. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.
- A recurring scenario, in conformity with the general pattern of Hindu-Muslim riots in the twentieth century, was that Hindu processions, especially the Ram Jyoti processions, were attacked when passing through Muslim- dominated areas. These attacks were largely a materialization of all the fiery curses that Mulayam in his mass rallies had cast upon the Ram processions... However, it seems it was not only by the power of the word that those riots got going. The Gonda riot started when actual bombs were thrown at a Hindu procession.... Many papers have, in their final overview of the riot, consciously blurred the first stage of the Gonda riot, and highlighted the last stage in order to absolve the Muslims and put the blame on he Hindus, i.e. on the Janmabhoomi movement, i.e. on L.K. Advani who was far away... But of course, bombs are not picked up and thrown in an emotional reaction to inflammatory slogans, as too many journalists would like us to believe. Bombs are quite certainly purchased or made beforehand, and a bomb-attack is definitely premeditated... It is very clear to an unbiased reader that the Gonda carnage has started with a pre-meditated attack on the procession. Going by the original newspaper reports, some Janata Dal miscreants affiliated with Muslim party leaders were the aggressors, and the processionists were the victims. However, it is in the nature of aggression that the victims get the blame. Thus, a rapist will usually say that the girl had asked for it, that she had provoked him. Here too, it is not stated simply that the processionists were attacked. Rather, it is said in goonda-speak, approvingly broadcast by the secularist press, that the procession has provoked violence and caused riots.
- Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society. citing Times of India, 7/10/1990. Muslim India 12/1990 issue.
- So, at every stage of the escalation, you see Muslims starting, Hindus merely reacting, and Muslims pre-planning large-scale violence. And it is not me who says so, I read this in the reporting of secularist newspapers (though not on their Opinion page). These are indications from unsuspected sources that members of the Muslim community take a disproportionately large part in starting communal violence... But going by the riot information generally available, I do find that there is truth in the received wisdom that 1. a clear majority of the riots are started by Muslims, 2. a clear majority of the victims are Muslims, at least in the final count 3. a clear majority of the victims shot by the police (not including the Kar Sevaks) are Muslims; the police in most of these case claims self-defense against attacks by mobs or snipers. ... In order to keep an assessment of riot patterns in perspective, we should compare with the situation in Pakistan and Bangla Desh. The general pattern there is: 1. Roughly 100% of Hindu-Muslim riots are started by Muslims. 2. Roughly 100% of the victims in the actual communal confrontation are Hindus. 3. Those few times the police intervenes, it does have the decency to stop the attackers rather than their fleeing victims, so the vast majority of those killed in police firing on the occasion of riots, are Muslims. But like in India, the police often fails to intervene, which may get interpreted as a form of passive connivance with the majority community. ... If Muslims are not more riot-prone than Hindus, then why do you never ever hear of a Hindu attack on mosques in Bangla Desh, but a lot of the reverse? Or, for that matter, why not Christian attacks on mosques, even while Christians do get their share of attacks and harassments from the Muslims? In these Muslim-majority countries, communal violence is a completely one-directional affair. Even when Muslims destroyed hundreds of Hindu temples on the pretext of protest against the Shilanyas in Ayodhya, there has not been any report of similar retaliation by the Hindus.... As a general rule, in communal conflicts the world over, you will find majorities attacking minorities, seldom the reverse.... But in India, you do see one of the minorities on the offensive even where it is clearly outnumbered. Even if their percentage of starting riots was only proportional to their percentage of the population, i.e. about 12% (and no secularist so far has been dishonest enough to suggest this), then that would still be more than what minorities elsewhere, and especially in Islamic countries, would dare to do.
- Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.
- This ... excuse of the provocative slogans leading mechanically to stone-throwing and worse, is used routinely by biased reporters.... A procession with about 100 women members of Durga Vahini had gone out to the Ghanta Ghar area. "There they raised communal slogans, resulting in stone-pelting and bomb-throwing." (Remark the belief in mantra magic: a slogan is uttered, and hocus pocus, a bomb explodes.) This cheap excuse for a pre-planned bomb attack is even contradicted by other information in the same article.... This case proves that newspapers keep on blaming the slogan-shouters even when it is crystal-clear from their own information that the violence was premeditated and engineered by the other side. .... When today Muslim goondas create a riot in Bhagalpur or in Gonda, the secularist press will obscure this beginning (in both cases bombs thrown from Muslim establishments at Hindu processions) and highlight the ensuing Hindu part of the violence. Some M.J. Akbar will poignantly describe the suffering of some Muslim villagers, and then blame the atmosphere created by the Rathyatra in some distant town, without even mentioning that the riot started with a pre-planned armed attack on a Hindu procession. (...) Not only do you gain on the propaganda front, the press may even come out in support of your demands. For some time, Muslim communalists have demanded a ban on processions. More than 95% of religious processions are Hindu processions anyway, for processions are a thoroughly Pagan practice which in Islam can only be a heterodox oddity. (...) A very good illustration is the next and very important demand of the Muslim communalists : a larger than proportionate reservation for Muslims in the army and the police...
- Elst, K. Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society (1991)
- These days, much-acclaimed characters like John Dayal, Harsh Mander and Arundhati Roy lie in waiting for communal riots and elatedly jump at them when and where they erupt. They exploit the anti-Hindu propaganda value of riots to the hilt, making up fictional stories as they go along to compensate for any defects in the true account. John Dayal is welcomed to Congressional committees in Washington DC as a crown witness to canards such as how Hindus are raping Catholic nuns in India, an allegation long refuted in a report by the Congress state government of Madhya Pradesh. Arundhati Roy goes lyrical about the torture of a Muslim politician’s two daughters by Hindus during the Gujarat riots of 2002, even when the man had only one daughter, who came forward to clarify that she happened to be in the US at the time of the “facts”. Harsh Mander has already been condemned by the Press Council of India for spreading false rumours about alleged Hindu atrocities...*These riot vultures do a lot of damage to India, among other reasons because they are so eagerly believed abroad.... Since approximately the Stone Age, Engineer has been travelling to riot spots in India (butchering of minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh somehow doesn’t interest him as much) with prefabricated riot reports invariably showing the same ingredients: Hindu pre-planning, Muslim victimhood, anti-Muslim complicity of the police and some local politicians. With the “facts” of the matter fixed beforehand, the main purpose of his visits is to note down some local names in order to give his reports more credibility. ... Undeniably, Asghar Ali Engineer remains a formidable master of disinformation. This makes him an excellent representative of Indian secularism and of the anti-temple campaign in particular.
- Elst, K. Ayodhya, the Finale (2003)
- There could not be a more grisly method, even when it involves no violence, to cover up ghastly crimes committed by a people than to indulge in the fallacy of false equivalence. In this fallacy, two incomparable things are compared and declared to be equal because there are always two sides to the story. What is going on in the aftermath of the worst communal violence in Delhi since 1984, in which 34 Muslims and 15 Hindus have died, is precisely this fallacy. Thus, here, both Hindus and Muslims are at fault for the violence; hence the refusal to call it a pogrom or state-backed violence against Muslims despite all the evidence. Moral equivalence completely obscures the root causes of a problem. It instead focuses on the immediate and the superficial, and is employed by well-intentioned observers as well as Hindutva supporters when on the defensive. Thus, six years of relentless hate-mongering against Muslims is seen to be of no consequence in creating an absolutely inflammable social sphere.
- To place the responsibility of violence on the illiterate, poor and unemployed mobs is to completely miss the pathologies amongst us, the privileged and the powerful, which are the greatest enablers of violence.
- The narrative of moral equivalence is persisted with regard to the Delhi violence, despite the overwhelming evidence of the police acting emphatically in favour of one side. A wide swathe of retired police officers has opined that it is impossible for riots to go on beyond a few hours, especially in the capital of India, with a relatively better-equipped and 80,000-strong police force, without police complicity and sanction.
- This is when false equivalence fails to recognise not only the unbridled state-backed violent majoritarianism but also its farcical nature. To counter false equivalence and to assert what happened in Delhi was an anti-Muslim pogrom, we do not have to take the morally dubious position of denying that there has been the loss of innocent lives among Hindus as well (after all, what can be more heartbreaking than losing a 15-year old boy – the youngest victim of the violence, Nitin Kumar – who was killed while stepping out to buy food), or that the victims are not capable of brutality. But to remain at the level of a statistical apportioning of grief, or false equivalence is to fundamentally misread the nature of the beast which has succeeded in replacing every critical problem in India with the narrative of a Hindu-Muslim war, and which has produced suffering even among the oppressors.
- He should have remembered, there was [an Islamist] attack on Akshardham temple in September 2002, so many people were killed inside the temple, yet Gujarat maintained peace. Gujarat maintained peace even after serial blasts. There was a time when Gujarat used to have riots over kite flying and cricket matches. Gujarat has not witnessed riots for last 12 years. The children of Gujarat don’t know what is curfew all about? Gujarat has progressed because of peace and harmony. And this is what the nation needs for growth as these things will have catalytic effect in achieving that.
- Narendra Modi. Interview with Rajat Sharma and audience members on Aap Ki Adalat, aired and translated by India TV, "Read full interview of Narendra Modi to Rajat Sharma in Aap Ki Adalat" (14 April 2014).
- Every riot is followed by an Inquiry Committee, but its report is never published. Take U.P. for instance. A report in the Times of India of 13.12.1990 from Lucknow says: “At least a dozen judicial inquiry reports into the genesis of communal riots in the state have never seen the light of the day. They have been buried in the secretariat-files over the past two decades. The failure of the successive state governments to publish these reports and initiate action has given credence to the belief that they are not serious about checking communal violence… There were other instances when the state government instituted an inquiry and then scuttled the commissions. In the 1982 and 1986 clashes in Meerut and in the 1986 riots in Allahabad, the judicial inquiries were ordered only as an ‘eye-wash’…” Judicial inquiries are ordered as an eye-wash because the perpetrators of riots are known but cannot be booked. In a secular state it is neither proper to name them nor political to punish them. Inquiry committee reports are left to gather dust, while those who should be punished are pampered and patronised as vote-banks in India’s democratic setup. Therefore communal riots in India as a legacy of Muslim rule may continue to persist. If these could help in partitioning the country, they could still help in achieving many other goals.
- Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
- I really do not know why the Christian leaders suddenly backed out of the dialogue ( to broker a peace dialogue between the Christian and Hindu leaders).... Certain Christian quarters are carrying on a systematic and deliberate campaign against the Minorities Commission. I do not want to mention the names of the Christians who compelled the church leadership to call of the dialogue. I know the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, Archbishop Cyril Baselius very well.... It is not they who are trying to create unnecessary hysteria over the so-called attacks on Christians. It is some lay Christian leaders who are advising the bishops to act against the interests of the community. They are trying to vitiate the communal atmosphere in the country. ... Everybody in political circles and in the media knows who these Christian leaders are. John Dayal, who heads three Christian organisations, is the main leader. He is the president and secretary of the All India Catholic Union, the All India Christian Council and the United Christians Forum for Human Rights. Every day, these organisations come out with press statements from every nook and corner of the country. ... I sincerely feel that some of these Christian leaders want the attacks to continue so that they can be in the limelight. They are playing politics in the shadow of the attacks. Some of these leaders want the tension to increase in the country. They want to achieve so many other things in the name of the attacks against Christians in the country. In the name of violence and atrocities, I suspect some Christian organisations are trying to get foreign funds. ... I did not say that all the attacks on Christians in the country are isolated incidents. We, the Commission members, after studying five out of the 40, 50 incidents of attacks on Christians, came to the conclusion that these five incidents in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana were totally isolated cases. We mentioned just five cases. No Sangh Parivar group was behind the attacks on Christians in these cases. We stand by our report. But the problem is that Christian leaders want the NMC to portray all the incidents of attacks against Christians in the country as being the handiwork of the Sangh Parivar. Sorry, we are a responsible organisation. We are supposed to tell only the truth, according to the Constitution. ... I do not know. I do not want to comment. Let the truth come out. In a few days, you will hear who are behind these attacks. The country is gong to be shocked when it hears that the attacks against Christians have not been perpetuated by pro-Hindu organisations. Look at the church blast in Bangalore. The police arrested a Muslim fundamentalist. I do feel there is a definite link between the bomb blasts in churches in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Goa. But these blasts were surely not carried out by Sangh Parivar outfits.
- John Joseph, Head of the NCM and a leader of the Pentecost church in India Rediff, 2000