India and Pakistan Two nations, two religions

By Jonathan Mong

This is a map of South Asia with the disputed region of Kashmir circled in red.

I investigated the topic of diplomatic and religious relations between Pakistan and India. In doing so, I uncovered pieces of history, such as the Gujarat train violence of 2002, that I would not know otherwise. On the other hand, I have questions such as:

Why is there such a schism between Indian Muslims and Indian Hindus?

How has the Kashmir conflict not already been stablilized before a nuclear arms race?

Before the independence movement, led by a very famous Mohandas K. Gandhi, Indian Muslims’ and Indian Hindus’ were closely intertwined. Events such as intermarriage and religious conversion linked these beliefs in a way that only deepened the ties between the two. For example, Indian music and art have many influences between both religions, and one of the Hindu sacred texts, the Ramayana, has the influence of Muslims. However, during the independence movement, the Muslims and the Hindus were put in a compromising position due to their conflicting beliefs, and they were swept into violence when the British abruptly left in 1947, with many dying.

Now, Hindus and Muslims, and by extension India and Pakistan, are split over three major issues: different laws regarding Muslims in India (the only domestic issue), Ayodhya, and the region of Kashmir. In India, there are different laws regarding Muslims’ customs- usually on the topic of marriage, inheritance, and divorce. However, many religious and nationalist groups have called for one law for all people. The tensions from Ayodhya are spawned from radical Hindus calling a mosque as where the holy god Rama was born. During non-action from the state and central governments, Hindu radicals tore down the mosque and placed an image of Rama there, which spawned sectarian violence and resulted in the loss of thousands of lives. Ten years later, a Hindu organization attempted to construct a temple at the site, and tensions flared again. The last and possibly the most major is Kashmir, a full-blown territorial dispute between the two nations, who have gone to war three times over it. The reasoning behind this is that it is a majority-Muslim region, but was also ruled by a Hindu prince, or maharajah. The maharajah hesitated, and a popular uprising went through the capital and forcing him to go to India, where he signed an agreement to give India the state in exchange for personal protection. While India attempted to quell the revolutionaries, Pakistan quickly responded to protect their Muslim brethren and ended up with thousands of deaths. Now, both countries have nuclear arms, but are preparing to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, the region is in danger of destabilizing. Lastly, in 2002, the state of Gujarat fell victim to sectarian violence when Muslims set fire to a train in the village of Godhra. When Hindus retaliated, many died and Muslims began an exodus to refugee camps or to Pakistan.

In conclusion, while it started nicely, Indian and Pakistani Muslims and Hindus no longer have a good relationship with each other and could boil over into armed conflict at any moment.

Americans should know the history of this because it would make them more sensitive to other global sectarian issues around the world and also because of the very real threat of nuclear warfare, and also because American relations with both countries are not the best.

Created By
Jonathan Mong

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