i have been reading a book called In Spite of the Gods by Edward Luce, a non-fictional account of Indian society in its entirety: economy, government, politics, corruption, castism... it really covers the kit and caboodle. it is one of the more unbiased books i've read, and what i am enjoying most about it is Luce offers objective (and sometimes harsh) descriptions and still somehow establishes his affection and respect for the country.
i'm roughly halfway through the book, and what is extremely disturbing are the growing similarities between the Hindu-Muslim history and the current situation in Gaza. it is far more complicated than i'm about to explain, but in a nutshell the current religious feud in India seems to stem from Indian politics:
a political party, the BJP, holds a strong Hindu nationalist stance (read: only Hindus are Indian), and gained popularity in the late 80s and early 90s on this platform. in 1992, BJP members created riots because of a mosque in a city Ayodhya, which they claim was built on a Hindu temple previously destroyed by Muslims in the 1500s. they also claim Ayodhya is the birthplace of Ram, a prominent religious figure of Hinduism. it should be noted at this point that many of the BJP's claims have never received any academic or scholarly support, nor any empirical evidence of any kind.... including the claims about Ayodhya. for reasons i still do not understand, this minor detail goes largely unacknowledged within India society -- even though most have accepted that the BJP rewrote textbooks used in the Indian education to include unsupported claims.
in response to the mosque placement where a temple was allegedly previously burned (500 years ago), the BJP burned down the mosque in 1992. riots ensued, and 3000+ Muslims were killed. a decade later, a train carrying Hindus through the state of Gujarat was burned and many Hindus were killed. in response, the BJP began the now infamous Gujarat riots of 2002, which tortured and killed numerous Muslims. just a little snippet into what i mean by response:
"Mobs gathered around and raped the women, then they poured kerosene down their throats and the throats of their children and threw lighted matches at them. Hundreds stood by and cheered these gruesome incinerations, which symbolised revenge for the burning of the train passengers in Godhra. The male family members were forced to watch their wives and children burn to death before they too were killed."
to date, the two religions are bitterly unresolved over the true rights of Ayodhya. as i mentioned before, the situation is actually far more complex than i'm making it out to be here. but the following parallels have been gnawing at me:
*both sides of the conflict use previous points of history, no matter how dated, to justify virtually any action in the present
*both sides of the conflict wholly demonize the opposing party, and refuse to acknowledge that atrocities have been carried out by BOTH parties
*the punishment rarely seems to fit the crime
while the vague similarities are disturbing enough, what has been bothering me much more is how differently this information has been relayed to me in the past. to my knowledge, my entire immediate and extended family is 100% Hindu; no other religion has yet penetrated it. we are also Brahmin, which i objectively understand creates a higher stake to support the BJP nationalist views (since we directly benefit from them). and yet, the tidbits of information i've gathered from my extended family on the Hindu-Muslim divide have very obviously been a one-sided account. and i don't expect that it's specific to my personal experiences or conversations; many others are probably receiving (and accepting) equally biased explanations for the current crises around the world.
my intent is not to anger BJP-supporters, and i'm definitely not questioning why i feel that i may have been misled in the past. yet as with the situation in Gaza, it seems so blatantly clear that innocent people need to stop being brutalized... regardless of religion or nationality. and i think it may be up to the younger generations to do our due diligence and read as many perspectives as possible before passing judgement on the history of our people.