Why are Hindus and Muslims clashing in India?

Why are Hindus and Muslims clashing in India?

Earlier this week, India saw some of the worst sectarian violence in decades as Hindus and Muslims clashed in the streets of the capital, Delhi, killing dozens of people. Why?

The immediate cause of the unrest was a confrontation between critics and defenders of a new citizenship law that offers refuge in India to ethnic minorities from neighboring countries, but excludes Muslims from those protections. Opponents of the measure say that by basing people's rights on their religious identity, the law violates guarantees of secularism enshrined in India's constitution. Street demonstrations about the law have roiled many cities for months. But when a group of women protesting in a Delhi neighborhood earlier this week refused to clear the streets, a fiery local Hindu nationalist politician called on his supporters to do the job themselves. Almost immediately, the streets exploded in violence.


The historical context: India was born in a crucible of communal violence. When India declared its independence in 1947, ending nearly a century of British rule of the sub-continent, Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India became separate countries. Large numbers of people found themselves on the wrong side of a newly drawn border, and the ensuing sectarian violence and expulsions displaced 15 million people and left as many as 2 million dead. Against this backdrop, independent India was founded as a secular democracy, the better to accommodate, however messily, the rich patchwork of ethnic, linguistic, and religious identities held by its citizens.

The idea of a secular India has always been challenged by Hindu nationalists, who believe that the state should have a more explicitly Hindu character – the way that Israel (excluding the occupied territories) is a democracy which also identifies as a "Jewish state."

This fight over religious identity and secularism has come to a head in recent years. In the 2014 election, the BJP, a political party with roots in Hindu nationalist movements, swept to power. Narendra Modi, a lifelong politician who first joined one of those movements as a schoolboy, became Prime Minister.

Modi and his government have done many good things for India: they've streamlined taxes to make the sprawling economy more efficient; used new technology to massively expand poor and illiterate Indians' access to state benefits and bank accounts, and done hugely important basic things like installing millions of toilets in remote areas.

But his government and party have also pursued policies that appear to target India's 200 million-strong Muslim population. National citizenship registers are being revised in ways that threaten to exclude millions of Muslims who arrived as migrants from neighboring countries in the 1970s. Delhi has also revoked the special status long enjoyed by the state of Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority state in the country. And human rights groups, along with the UN, have accused the government of turning a blind eye to rising hate crimes against Muslims.

History rhymes: Twenty years ago, long-simmering tensions between Muslims and Hindus over holy sites in the northwestern state of Gujarat exploded into violence that left more than a thousand people dead, most of them Muslims. Hate crimes against Muslim women and children were particularly grotesque.

The local government, controlled at the time by Hindu nationalists, was accused of allowing or even tacitly encouraging the violence. And though a supreme court investigation later disputed this claim, the governor at the time was banned from the US over the issue. That governor's name was Narendra Modi.

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

More Show less

Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

More Show less

Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

More Show less

80: If polar ice caps continue to melt at their current pace due to climate change, 80 percent of all emperor penguins will be wiped out by the end of the century because they need the ice for breeding and keeping their offspring safe. American authorities want to list emperor penguins, which only live in Antarctica, as an endangered species so that US fishing vessels will be required to protect them when operating in their habitat.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

More Show less

On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

Does alcohol help bring the world together?

GZERO World Clips

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal