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Current Religious-Based Conflicts


India vs. Pakistan
(Hindus vs. Moslems)

          India has one of the world’s largest Moslem populations - 120 million -among its more than 1 billion people.

          The continuing controversy and present threat of nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan is religion: India is basically Hindu and Pakistan is Moslem. And, even within Pakistan itself there is conflict between the hard line Sunni Moslems and the equally as fundamental Shiite Moslems.  One of the several contentions between India and Pakistan is the state of Jammu-Kashmir where India controls two thirds and Pakistan one third.  The two South Asian rivals have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since 1989.  Estimates are that about 25,000 people have died, as well as leaving the region socially scarred.

          And, within India itself, In August, 2000 violence reached a high pitch when nine different attacks in one day by Islamic guerrillas mowed down unarmed Hindu pilgrims on their way to a religious shrine near Pahalgam, south of Srinagar leaving 101 dead.

          Again in early 2001 members of the All India Hindu Protection Committee entered a 200 year old Kheruddin Mosque in Amritsar and burned copies of the Islamic holy book, Quran; and threw pork, a meat forbidden to Moslems, into the main compound.  The Hindu group claimed this was in retaliation for the slaughter of cows in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime, which said it needed to atone for the delay in destroying ancient statues of Buddha that were deemed idolatrous. Hindus consider cows sacred.

          And in early 2002, a Moslem mob set fire to a train carrying 2,500 Hindus home from a disputed religious site in Ayodhya where they planed to build a temple at the site of a 16th century Moslem mosque which the Hindus had destroyed in 1992, killing 55 people including 14 children.  The mosque is a touchstone of Hindu-Moslem tension.  An additional 65 were injured.  Subsequently, some of the worst Hindu-Moslem violence in nearly a decade left a total of more than 500 dead.

          By April, 2002, there had been 900 deaths attributed to this religious-based conflict, and the communal riots showed no signs of stopping.  Intentionally or not, these riots have created a kind of ethnic cleansing, with lower-class Hindus leaving mostly Moslem neighborhoods and Moslems fleeing for all-Moslem refugee camps in the area.

          As 2002 progresses, the conflict - within and without India - continues with increasing loss of life, property and remains at the nuclear brink with its neighbor.

Hindus versus Sikhs

          Sikhism, founded in Northern India about 500 years ago, claims about 15 million believers.  About 13 million are in India, where they make up about 2 percent of the population but exert a far greater influence over the economy and politics than their numbers might suggest.

          The word Sikh means disciple in Hindi. It refers to the followers of the first Sikh mystic, the Guru Nanak, and nine succeeding gurus, or teachers, who preached the Sikh Dharma, or path. It was Nanak who tried to bridge the gap between Islam and Hinduism by teaching a monotheistic creed, with the emphasis on religious exercises and meditation.

          Their conflict with the Hindu majority centers largely in the northern state of Punjab, the prairie homeland of the Sikhs.

          Most of the unrest, killing and terrorism is said to involve Sikh extremists. Over the years, Sikhs as a whole lived up to their reputation as hard working and successful people who contributed more than their share to India's economy.  The Punjab, by Third World standards, became a model of development.  However, by 1947 the seeds of smoldering resentment surfaced. Sikhs felt cheated out of a homeland.  There was a feeling that the Hindu-led government in New Delhi was treating Punjab and the Sikhs with less than fairness.

         Among their grievances, the Sikhs accused New Delhi of manipulating wheat prices and of steering new industry away from Punjab toward poorer sections of the country.  Sikhs were affronted when, in 1966, the government severed some Hindi-speaking portions of the Punjab, made them into a new state of Haryana and then made both of them share one capital, Chandigarh.

          By 1982, the main Sikh party, the Akali Dal, broke in the open with a movement of civil disobedience.  Its principal objectives were considerable autonomy for Punjab and recognition of Amritsar, the Sikh's spiritual focus, as a holy city.

          Occasional killing police officers and others culminated in the major bloodshed of 1983-1984. The militants went on a rampage against police officers, politicians and even moderate Sikhs.

          The conflict continues.

Sunni Moslems versus Shiite Moslems

          In Pakistan’s mostly Moslem population of 140 million, about 15 percent are Shiites.  There has been a long-running feud between the Sunni and Shiite Moslems which, in the last decade alone has taken more than 2,000 lives.

          On April 25, 2002, a powerful bomb exploded at a mosque in Bukker, Pakistan killing 12 Shiite worshippers, all of them either women or children, and injuring at least 23 others, in an attack blamed on Sunni Moslems in this religious-based conflict between two sects of the same religion.  Earlier in February, 11 Shiites died when Sunni gunmen fired on worshippers at a mosque in Rawaplindi.  At this writing, there appears to be no connection with this violence and the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

          Likewise, this conflict continues.


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