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The Emergence of Hindutva Terrorism in India

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The recent realization that a Hindutva terrorist group is responsible for several bombings targeted at mosques, beginning in November 2003, challenged the common belief that terrorist acts are always at the hands of Islamic extremists. The emergence of Hindutva terrorism has complicated the already tumultuous relationship between Hindus and Muslims, and could lead to the radicalization of the marginalized Muslim community. In Explaining Terrorism(2011), Martha Crenshaw states the "first condition that can be considered a direct cause of terrorism is the existence of concrete grievances among an identifiable subgroup of a larger population, such as an ethnic minority discriminated against by the majority (p.35). With Hindus comprising 80% of the population of India, and the Indian government's failure to provide Muslims with equal opportunities to education, health care, and job opportunities, individuals could increasingly resort to terrorism as a way of reclaiming their lost identity. Through the examination of the turbulent relationship between Hindus and Muslims, the history of religious fundamentalism, the driving forces behind terrorism, and the Government of India's indulgence of Hindutva terrorism, it will become clear that the emergence of Hindu terrorism is setting the stage for what could be one of the most horrific religious battles in history.

History of Hindu-Muslim Relations

Communalism, defined as "the advocacy and projection of a group identity based on religion, language, and/or ethnicity," has plagued Hindu-Muslim relations in India since the 1800s (Lyon, 2008, p.45). Since Hinduism has been present in Indian culture for thousands of years, many Hindus view Islam as an 'intruder' trying to disrupt the traditional way of life in India. The tension and violence between the two groups resulted in numerous riots with heavy casualties in the decades preceding the 1947 partition of the subcontinent. The creation of India and Pakistan as separate nations gives much insight into how indoctrinated each group is about the validity and worth of their particular religion and way of life in comparison to the other group. Although religious difference was not the root cause of partition, it was used as a way to easily "define differences, legitimize hostility, and appeal to people who were not moved by arguments about constitutional niceties (Embree, 2011, p. 236)."

Considered by historians to be the largest migration in history, "some twelve to fifteen million people crossed the border, leading to massive displacement and one to two million deaths due to communal violence (Cohen, 2011, 62)." While some thought that the implementation of the Two-Nation theory would ease tensions between the groups, by allowing each new nation to pursue its own laws, customs, and religious preference, communal violence has continued until modern times. Although the people of India and Pakistan are certainly responsible for their actions, the British policy of "divide and rule" and efforts to pit the two groups against one another during colonialism were driving factors in creating some of the negative sentiments that are still present between the two groups today.

While most Muslims migrated from India to Pakistan, many Muslims did not have the resources to migrate to Pakistan, and were therefore left in India. This created a small population of poor, mostly uneducated Muslims that were subjected to discrimination at the hands of the Hindus. In Why do Indian Muslims lag behind? Soutik Biswas points out that even though thirty-one percent of Muslims are below the official poverty line, many Hindus still accused them of being appeased by the state and treated them as a threat to Hinduism (2007,p.2). The disadvantages faced by Muslim individuals in India impact almost every aspect of every day life, from health care to education. The alienation from public life spurs a vicious cycle that promotes segregation between the groups, and forces Muslims to associate more with their religious group than their country. Without the vital integration into Indian culture, Muslims feel disempowered, and therefore are more likely to commit radical acts in order to better their plight.

During partition, all princely states had to associate with either India or Pakistan, it was not an option to remain independent. Kashmir, a state in the northwest of the continent, had borders with both Pakistan and India, but did not initially join either nation. Since the population was mainly Muslim and the ruler was a Hindu, the decision about which new nation to join was extremely difficult. When Pakistan aided an effort to take Kashmir by force, Indian forces stepped in to prevent Kashmir from being a state in the newly created Pakistan. The resulting war left the borders as they are currently, with one-third of Kashmir given to Pakistan, and the remainder under Indian control (Cohen, pg.64). The debate over who should have control over Kashmir has been an excuse for Pakistan to incite violence------The spread of Hindutva ideology, a term used by Hindu nationalists to define an "India essence," directly resulted in an increase in violence between Muslims and Hindus.

Waves of communal violence also spread after the 1992 destruction of the Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodha by Hindu extremists who claimed that the mosque was built on the god Ram's birthplace (Shani,2007, p.16). Although there was not any official evidence supporting this claim, the destruction of the mosque highlights the aggressive steps Hindu nationalists are willing to take in order to establish themselves in opposition to all non-Hindus. The focus on the god Ram also reflects an elemental difference between traditional and fundamentalist Hinduism. Traditional Hinduism lacks official texts or doctrines, and instead is a pluralistic religion in which each individual is free to worship as s/he sees fit. Fundamentalist Hinduism desires to eradicate some the differences among Hindus through starting to view Ram as the central god, and using the official version of his story, The Ramayana (DeVotta, 2011, p.5). Fundamentalists believe that the traditional, pluralistic idea of Hinduism represents "weakness," and therefore want to move in the direction of a stronger, unified Hindu society.

In 2002, the worst religiously motivated violence in years occurred when Hindu mobs in Gujarat brutally murdered up to 2,000 Muslim civilians. In "Terrorism in India has many faces," Martha Nussbaum states that the right-wing Hindu's movement "has insisted that India is for Hindus, and that both Muslims and Christians are foreigners who should have second-class status in the nation," since the 1930s(2008). It is therefore not shocking that they would "have embraced

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