Ethnic conflict in India

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In spite of being a secular democracy with generally peaceful co-existence amongst its diverse ethnic and religious communities, India has witnessed occasional bouts of large-scale violence sparked by underlying tensions between sections of its majority Hindu and minority Muslim communities, and amongst different hierarchically structured casts within and outside the Hindu fold.

Over the last decade, the focal point of the communal tension has been the site of the disputed Babri Mosque in Ayodhya which was destroyed in 1992.

In the 2002 Gujarat violence of February/March 2002, about 58 Hindu passengers died in a fire on a train, and at least 1000 people died, (a vast majority of Muslims) in the communal riots that followed according to the Indian Government’s official figures. However the actual toll is reported to be in excess of 2800, according to reputable sources such as the British High Commission which commissioned its own report. The BJP state government in Gujarat led by Narendra Modi came under fire for the ineptitude of the administration to respond in time and prevent the breakdown of law and order, and some charge that the VHP supported the violence. The latter was supported by the observation that it would have been impossible for Hindu mobs to identify Muslims business to destroy within 24 hours as they had Hindu names.



Hindu activists razed a 16th-century Muslim mosque (the Babri Mosque), built on site of an earlier Hindu temple thought by many Hindus to be the birthplace of Lord Ram in Ayodhya, sparking nationwide riots between Hindus and Muslims that killed more than 6,000 people. The vast majority of the victims were Muslims.


A series of 12 bomb blasts rocked Mumbai city. The attacks were allegedly masterminded by the Dawood Ibrahim gang. Dawood is a Muslim fugitive, allegedly based in Pakistan or Dubai, from where he is said to control various underworld activities. This series of attacks was apparently in retaliation for the 1992 post-Babri riots.

February 27, 2002

58 Hindus on a pilgrimage organised by the VHP, died in Godhra when a carriage on the Sabarmati Express train caught fire. The cause of the fire is disputed; some people claim that the local Muslims lit the fire, while forensic reconstructions suggest that the fire was lit from inside the train. The train was en route to Ahmedabad. See 2002 Gujarat violence.

February 28, 2002

In retaliation for the previous day's violence, Hindu rioters set fire to about fifty buildings, mostly Muslim-owned, in Ahmedabad, killing more than 60 Muslims. Curfews were ordered in thirty towns in Gujarat.

March 1, 2002

28 people died in continuing violence in Ahmedabad. Police shot and killed five while attempting to control rioters. 2000 Muslims were estimated to be killed by Hindu rioters and police by this date.

August 2003

August 15 - In a sign of defiance against Indian Independence day, Christian separtists gunned down 34 Hindu cilivians.

August 25 - Two powerful bomb blasts rocked Mumbai again, leaving more than 50 people dead. These attacks were carried out by Arshad Shafique Ansari, Fahimida Sayyed (37), wife of Sayyed Rahim, and their daughter Fareen Sayeed (17) (all Muslims).

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