Hayley Segall- Ayodhya: The Physical Manifestation of Interfaith Relations in India

 Introduction

In the academic and political worlds, the Islamic faith and its Muslim followers are often deemed incompatible with the broader global environment. More often than not, outsiders pit Islam against concepts of reason and civility, using it as a scapegoat for socio-political problems and deeply-seated historical trauma. Yet, it seems almost impossible that conflict is this simplistic: faith against reason. Despite Western literature and media that implying the inherent hostility of Islam, case studies of clear communal tension reveal that Islam is more than capable of coexistence with other faiths and that tensions are far more complex than a simple clashing of theological beliefs or philosophies.  One of the clearest examples of such communal relationships is the violence that has consistently erupted between Muslims and Hindus over the city of Ayodhya in the state of Uttar Pradesh in the northeast corner of India.[1] Ayodhya is an ancient city claimed in the name of religion by both Hindus, who believe it to be the birthplace of Lord Ram, and Muslims, who historically worshipped in the Barbur Mosque built on the site during the Mughal Empire (1526-1857).[2] While there was no initial resistance by Hindus at the time of the mosque’s construction, and the relationship between the Mughal leadership and the Hindu population was largely peaceful and productive, communal violence over the space has been volatile since the mid-19th century.[3] These tensions peaked in intensity in the 1990s and early 2000s with the rise in Hindu-nationalist sentiments and have resulted in widespread carnage on both sides. As a result, India has been the global example of the consequences of communal violence as Hindus and Muslims battle over territory, power, and philosophy. Ayodhya is a physical manifestation of the intersection of these three elements. The perceived tension between Islam and Hinduism, as exemplified by the long-term political and social violence over Ayodhya, is not in fact exemplary of inherent friction in religious tenets, but is rather a reflection of the impact of colonialism and power mongering.

The Historical Hindu Perspective

In order to understand the points of contention surrounding Ayodhya, it is essential to understand the Hindu perspective. India has a long history of cultural and religious interaction and evolution. Since the beginning of Hindu traditions, which derive from the Upanishads around 700 BCE, the Hindu majority has experienced cross-cultural interaction through trade, conquest, and rule by non-majority faiths–including the Mauryan Buddhists and Mughal Muslims.[4] While violence amongst faiths and social groups is inevitable in any polity, no surge in religious division and violence was as prominent as the events that occurred in the environment cultivated and perpetuated   by British colonization in the 19th century; the first reported case of violence at Ayodhya was not until 1853, during British Company rule and just before the establishment of the formal British Raj in 1858.[5] Even the term “Hinduism” is a relatively new construct imposed by the British during colonization in an attempt to categorize a vast array of regional beliefs in India that drew on the foundations of the Upanishads.[6]  The participation in violence by Hindus surrounding Ayodhya may be interpreted as a reclaiming of India and their “cultural” identity that has been threatened by foreign infiltration. Yet, in practice, the foreign infiltration is projected onto Indian Muslims. India has historically been home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the world, so the notion of Muslims being “outsiders” is false.[7] Instead, much of the “othering” and Hindu hostility derives from the political tactics of the British: inflaming Hindu-Muslim relations was a key tool used by the British to create domestic economic competition and  maintain power; it is logical, therefore, that Hindu discontent was projected onto Muslims in contexts such as Ayodhya during British occupation.[8] That being said, the controversy surrounding Ayodhya does not exist solely from British instigation, but also from  a manipulation of already existing religious beliefs. The site is commonly revered by Hindus of broad sectarian beliefs as one of the seven sacred cities in the Hindu faith.[9] The consecration of the city derives from the belief that Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Ram, the hero in one of the most important and widely circulated Indian epics, the Ramayna, which was written around 500 BC.[10] As an avatara, or descent form, of the preserver God, Vishnu, Ram is one of the most revered household names in India and for Hindus domestically and abroad; entire sectarian groups worship Ram as a symbol of strength, wisdom, and piety.[11] Studies regarding the scientific plausibility of Ayodhya being the true birthplace of Ram are largely contested and inconclusive.[12]  Regardless of the academic discourse over the site, it has remained historically and religiously precious to Hindus around the world and its disruption by Babur’s mosque is widely condemned by Hindus.

Babur and Hindus

The building of the Barbur Mosque at Ayodhya in 1528 holds political, social, and religious significance for Muslims as well as for broader interfaith relations. The construction of the mosque came two years after the establishment of the Mughal Empire in the subcontinent of modern day India and Pakistan, an Empire that would be deemed invaluable to the identity of contemporary Muslims and Hindus alike. The building of this mosque is a key factor contributing to communal tension in India, while  also reflecting the transformative and largely positive influence of the Mughal Empire on the territory. The mosque built at Ayodhya was named after its constructor and the founding emperor of the Mughal Empire, Babur. After seven years of attempts at conquest in the subcontinent, Zahir-ud-Din Muhammad Babur (1483-1530) captured then-Hindustan, Agra, and Delhi, uniting them to create the beginnings of the Mughal Empire and what would become central to contemporary Indian geo-political territory.[13]  Babur established a Persian-Mongolian-Indian society in which trade flourished through expansion beyond South Asia into the Islamic world, and subsequently throughout Europe.[14] The expansion of the economy allowed the exchange of physical commodities as well as ideals surrounding philosophy, faith, and ideology. While the styles of each emperor varied, Babur established a system of interfaith tolerance and earned respect as a Muslim ruler in a majority Hindu land; while Babur was known for his brutality in conquest of land, his policies as a ruler were friendly to the diverse population, allowing the construction of new temples and encouraging political and social mingling among faiths.[15] Babur was especially sensitive to the beliefs of the Hindu population, as the majority demographic in his territory. As a gesture towards this majority and proof of his desire for and ability to coexist, Babur, in one of his first proclamations after conquering Delhi, forbade the killing of cows, because of the sanctity cows hold in Hinduism.[16] Through the cultivation and preservation of religious freedom, foundational Hindu philosophies were bred, including concepts of bhakti: “The bhakti (devotion) tradition, especially Vaishnavism (also developed during the Mughal period), indeed began during Babur’s reign and it has been suggested that without this, ‘Hinduism as a living practice would not be what it is [today]’”.[17]  While contemporary Hindu nationalists base many of their Islamophobic rhetoric on the belief that Muslims, and specifically the Mughal empire, stripped Hindus of their religious autonomy and empowerment, the reality is that the fostering of tolerance by Babur and other rulers in the Mughal Empire allowed for the formation and evolution of contemporary Hinduism. That being said, during Babur’s reign, countless mosques were built, often through transformation of previously established Hindu temples, causing a cycle of reclamation by Hindus and Muslims of holy space.[18]  The establishment of this pattern of discourse regarding possession of space is clearly reflected in both the historical and contemporary conflict surrounding Ayodhya.

The Mughal Empire and Shaping India

As a whole, the Mughal Empire may be seen as a transformative period for India when interfaith dialogue and interaction were permitted and even encouraged. Beyond Babur, successors in Mughal leadership fostered some of the most important cultural and political innovations known in the history of the subcontinent. As the largest empire in India prior to European colonial powers, the Mughal Empire combined diverse populations and faiths to create new styles of art, architecture, language, ritualistic practices, and social systems in India.[19]  The centralization of the government through Babur and his successors reshaped the politics and infrastructure of the subcontinent. The political reformation resulted in a stronger push towards legal codes regarding human rights, unifying kingdoms throughout south India and resulting in the emergence of Urdu (a combination of Hindi and Arabic which is spoken predominantly by Muslims in the subcontinent).[20]  One of the best examples of the essentiality of Hindu-Muslim interfaith relationships within the Mughal Empire was the construction of the Taj Mahal and its architectural style that permeates throughout the rest of India. Like Ayodhya, the Taj Mahal holds cultural and religious significance to both faiths. While it was constructed as a tomb memorializing the death of a Muslim Emperor’s wife, over time Hindus have claimed it as a holy space for prayer, and it has become a staple in the image of Hinduism in India.[21]  Although the Taj Mahal has not been a source of communal violence as prominently as Babur’s Mosque, the cycle of possession over these spaces reflects the historical interconnection between Hindus and Muslims dating back to the Mughal Empire. Mughal emperors such as Babur, Akbar, and Darashikooh were responsible for the institutionalization and codification of Hindu-Muslim interfaith relationships through centralization, tangible legal doctrines such as the Din Ilahi (which contained a mixture of Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity, and Jainism), and the first codified Islamic-Hindu dialogues in Persian.[22] However, as Indian nationalists reflect back on the leadership of the Mughal Empire, there is more of a focus on the consequences of Islamic-fundamentalist rulers such as Aurangzeb, whose lack of tolerance and reckless policies marked the beginning of the downfall of the Mughal Empire and the transition into colonial British hands in 1857.[23] This perspective whitewashes the importance of the Mughal Empire in shaping Hindu traditions, Muslim presence, and the evolution of Indian culture.

Islam and Hinduism in Conversation

Many point to the codified differences between Islam and Hinduism as justification for their patterns of communal violence surrounding spaces such as Ayodhya. Islam is strictly monotheistic, while Hinduism thrives on a polytheistic perspective; Islam prohibits idolatry while Hinduism incorporates idolatry inside and outside of religious spaces; Islam elevates the importance of a community while Hinduism largely focuses on individual prayer; Islam rewards just behavior with a promise to Paradise after death while Hinduism believes in the cycle of Samsara, a process of rebirth in accordance with one’s actions during one’s previous lives. All of these differences are valid; however, using an analysis of the historical Hindu perspective alongside an understanding of the Mughal Empire, it becomes clear that these differences can be in a harmonious conversation with one another. During the period of the Mughal Empire, both sides reflected and incorporated elements of the other faith to innovate their own. Through the incorporation of Hindi, the Urdu language gave rise to a new form of Muslim autonomy in the region. Influenced by Islamic rule, the Hindu expression of art and architecture changed to reflect one’s connection with the divine, and new forms of worship, like bhakti (arguably one of the most essential elements of the practicing of Hinduism) were born and cultivated. Together, these interactions produced what is known as Indian culture; in the context of India, Islam and Hinduism are in many ways codependent.

Reflecting on the British Impact on Interfaith Relations

In reality, communal violence was fairly limited until the arrival of the British presence in India. The infiltration of Western powers and the imposition of Western institutions are predominantly responsible for exacerbating communal tensions and dissolving the unity that the early Mughal rulers had instilled: “After the collapse of the Mogul empire, British colonial domination weakened the Muslim aristocracy, strengthened the Hindu bourgeoisie and created the bases for communal mobilization in both religious communities.”[24] As a result of over 100 years of British presence, Muslims and Hindus self-segregated economically, socially, and politically; additionally, as British presence grew, the recorded number of outbreaks of communal violence increased.  As mentioned before, the first recorded incident of religious violence at Ayodhya was not until 1853, and the British reacted by erecting a fence to separate the areas of worship at the site in   1859, exacerbating increased feelings of separation and intolerance.[25] The act of creating a tangible wall between Muslims and Hindus encouraged distance and resentment of one another, a dynamic that hindered the ability of Indians to unite in demanding decolonization and autonomy. Despite the social intolerance this fence implies, Muslims prayed peacefully in the Babri Mosque until December of 1949, when idols of Ram were placed in the mosque overnight, and Hindus began to reclaim the space for iconic prayer.[26] This provocative act came two years after the most bloody and devastating conflict in the subcontinent, the partition of modern day India and Pakistan in 1947. Partition was the result of Indian independence, but was also extremely reflective of the hostile environment and inorganic systems of institutions that the British left with the Indian people.  By the end of Partition, around two-thirds of the 100 million Muslims in pre-partition India had moved to Pakistan.[27] The scars of partition were raw when the idols were placed in the Babri Mosque. The act of reclaiming a religious site in Northern India, where communal violence was most severe, through the tainting of Islamic prayer space, was a deliberate assertion of political dominance, territorial victory, and proclamation of philosophical superiority. This assertion may have been received as reminiscent  of the Mughal appropriation of Hindu temples, the residual effects of the competition created by the British, or of a Hindu claim to the next regime (an assertion that for the first time in hundreds of years, Hindus would be in charge of India).  The surge in communal violence at Ayodhya parallels the relationship that the British had with India, and the escalation of violence post-colonization may be directly related to the state that Britain left India in: divided and angry.

The Resurgence of Communal Violence: the 1990s

After the Hindu attempt at total reclamation of the Babri’s mosque at Ayodhya  in 1949, four decades of judicial action attempted to re-evaluate the roots of the site and re-divide the space.[28] At the same time, a newly formed Indian Republic began to develop ideological groups and parties. According to some scholars, the emergence and philosophies of these groups were deeply reflective of colonially-instituted tensions: “From [the] early twentieth-century communal competition emerged both contemporary Hindu nationalist organizations and their Muslim counterparts, such as the Muslim League (Vanaik 1990: 143). Out of this competition also arose a pattern of Hindu–Muslim communal violence.”[29] The 1990s saw some of the most radical cases of communal violence in modern India; this violence erupted after Hindu Fundamentalists demolished the Babri Mosque in 1992.[30] According to media reports, on December 6, 1992, tens of thousands of Hindus stormed the mosque and demolished it with their bare hands and sledge hammers: “Despite an order from India’s Supreme Court that the site remain intact, L.K. Advani, a prominent leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., and the nationalist World Hindu Council, mobilize[d] the mob.”[31] This direct disregard of the ruling Congress Party and court systems became a pattern in the Ayodhya conflict, emphasizing the lack of authority of the elected government and its judicial systemwhen faced with Hindu fundamentalists. The riots killed more than 1,000 people, with a majority of deaths being Muslims, make it the deadliest religious clash since partition. [32]  The BJP, a Hindu fundamentalist group, together with the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), the cultural wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), were responsible for the demolition and for instigating the deadly riots that persisted throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s[33]. The BJP, VHP and RSS had mobilized under the concept of Hindutva, meaning “Hindu-ness”. The term sought to create a movement that redefined national identity in a way that pitted a unified Hindu front against internal “enemies”—Muslims.[34] This notion of the internal enemy may be deeply tied to resentments and lingering memories of the brutal devastation of British colonization, as well as an attempt to prove the capability of “true” Indians to rule autonomously and through fundamentalist Hindu tenets. Nevertheless, the justifications of Hindutva organizations for their action and violence are justified as reparation for Mughal rule, specifically the conquest of Babur.  Hindutva slogans and banners label all Muslims residing in India as “alien ‘sons of Babur’” regardless of their ancestry.[35]

After the initial 1992 demolition, the Hindutva organizers acted quickly to assert their ideological superiority and success. Within a week of the demolition, organizers had already created a “makeshift temple to Lord Ram atop the Ayodhya rubble, smuggled in sympathetic priests and organized a steady stream of Hindu pilgrims whose simple piety served to validate the new shrine.”[36]  While this reclamation is not unfamiliar to the historical pattern of the mosque/temple rotation discussed earlier, the Hindutva organizations extended beyond a  religious statement of reclaiming territory by using Ayodhya as justification for inciting widespread violence against Muslims. Mobs, whose members labeled themselves kar sevaks, or “voluntary religious workers,” were met virtually uncontested by police and army units.[37]  During the following days and weeks after the demolition, kar sevaks rioted in well-organized mobs throughout Northern India, targeting enclaves of lower-to-middle-class Muslims by using tax or voter rolls supplied by city officials:  “People of all ages were hacked apart, beaten to death, blinded or set alight. Women and girls were singled out for rape and subsequent murder.”[38] In addition to the thousands of deaths, hundreds of thousands of Muslims were displaced. Due to the reigning dominance of the BJP in the Indian national government, pleas for assistance were largely ignored or inadequately addressed; some policemen even took part in the attacks.[39] Yet, the outbreak of these tragic riots went beyond a resurgence in differing religious beliefs; the tenets of Islam and Hinduism have been codified for thousands of years and Hindus and Muslims had lived in relative peace for much of this time. Therefore, the truth behind the carnage of the 1990s is deeper than the desire to reclaim sacred land. Behind every act of destruction and violence in the 1990s were the organization, rhetoric, and resources of the BJP and VHP; as riots worsened and Islamophobia intensified in northern India, the parties’ influence and parliamentary representation grew exponentially. While there is definite truth behind the religious values fueling the Hindutva fundamentalism, much of its leadership manipulated Hindus seeking place and identity into division and violence in a bid for power. Therefore, the BJP seemed to be utilizing tactics of division and fear mongering, like the colonialist British did, as a means of demobilizing public autonomy through inciting chaos and absorbing the vacuum of power for their own benefit.

While Western media uses cases like these riots to exemplify the inevitable incompatibility of Hinduism and Islam, some regions of the country with large  Muslim populations did not experience the same conflict. Areas such as Meerut, Banaras and Bhiwandi, all regions with past histories of Hindu–Muslim conflict and sizable Muslim populations, were able to survive this period unharmed because of the preemptive actions taken by local officials: “Using a whole arsenal of legal repression, a judicious mix of arbitrary arrest, curfews and coercive rumor control, combined with heavy pressure on Hindu and Muslim religious leaders to act as peacekeepers, officials prevented outbreaks.”[40] These cases of unified interfaith efforts to dismantle the Hindutva mission show that Islam and Hinduism are inherently capable of coexistence based on the values of the broader public. As Johanna Lessinger stated in her piece, “Religious” violence in India: Ayodhya and the Hindu right, “…communal violence is neither inevitable nor a ‘natural’ feature of the Indian political landscape, but is a product of inaction on the part of the Indian state and passivity on the part of citizens – passivity the Hindu right tries to promote through its carefully orchestrated violent outbursts.”[41] These orchestrated outbursts fueled by rhetoric of division are vividly reminiscent of the British seeking to cement distinctly separate identities to assure centralized power.

The 2002 Godhra Train Incident

While the riots of the 1990s may have ceased, the increasing power of the BJP over the Congress Party in the central government facilitated increasing tensions surrounding the Ayodhya site. The BJP’s leadership in the riots became crucial to their parliamentary campaign in 1998; however, the party abandoned its pledge in its manifesto to build the Ram temple in order to gain a parliamentary majority.[42] This political tactic emphasized the BJP’s prioritization of power over a genuine religious pursuit. In the election of 1998, the BJP successfully formed a coalition government under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.[43] After gaining power, the BJP publicly backed off many of its fundamentalist promises  regarding Ayodhya, stating it would not formally promise to construct the Ram Temple. However, the issue harshly resurfaced on February 27, 2002, when a train of Hindus returning to Gujarat from their pilgrimage at Ayodhya were stopped in the violence-prone Muslim-majority town of Godhra.[44] Allegedly the Hindu activists were chanting rightist slogans and started to engage in conflict with Muslims standing nearby.  More than 50 people, including women and children, died after the train of Hindu activists was set on fire, which initial reports stated was the doing of a Muslim mob.[45] The charred bodies of the victims were placed on display in Ahmedabad and the State’s Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, endorsed a widespread strike, thus promoting anti-Muslim sentiment.[46]   These sentiments were largely spread amongst Hindu extremists seeking a justification for violence, rather than a true mission of “justice.” The disconnect between the average Hindu person’s belief and the ideology elevated by extremists was discussed in Sarah Pierce Taylor’s course, Introduction to Hindu Beliefs, in the fall of 2016 at Oberlin College. During the semester, students watched “Final Solution,” a documentary produced in 2004 that covered the Gujarat riots; in the film, the victims’ families expressed their distaste for the martyrdom of their lost ones and acts of violence in their names.[47] While the names and faces of the victims and their families were used as propaganda for violence, their pleas for peace were silenced; a 2005 investigation ruled that the fire was an accident, but violence had already consumed Gujarat by this point.[48]

Hindus who saw the Godhra train incident as an attack on the Hindu reclaiming mission at Ayodhya and the broader authority of the Hindu community took up in arms with an eye-for-an-eye mentality. A day later, February 28th, 2002, mobs of Hindu extremists viciously attacked, raped, looted and killed whole Muslim communities (and even non-extremist Hindus) using fire, machetes, guns, and knives; over the course of two months of rioting, more than 1,000 people (primarily Muslims) were killed.[49] More than 20,000 Muslim homes and businesses were destroyed, 360 places of worship were demolished, and 150,000 people were displaced.[50] While these instances of grotesque murder and destruction were labeled as a war between faiths, the reality was that false reports by trusted public officials, such as Modi,  of the BJP party, said that Muslims were posing a deadly threat to the authority and livelihood of Hindus in India. These false allegations indicate the greed for power  of the BJP; as was true during  the 1990s riots, the BJP and central government did little to stop the attacks or defend Muslim communities: “There are widespread allegations that the B.J.P…. and the World Hindu Council … were complicit and in some cases instigated the mobs… The day after the train attack, for example, police officers in Ahmedabad do not arrest a single person among the tens of thousands of angry Hindus.”[51] The widespread suspicion of foul play by BJP discredits the notion of the riots as purely religious violence; neither Islam nor Hinduism promotes violence in its tenets as a means for political empowerment. Hinduism itself is not a theologically-based faith, meaning its foundational doctrines focus on the individual journey rather than political structure. Therefore, a threat to political authority is an issue beyond religious values. Conversely, the religious tenets of Islam are deeply embedded in political/institutional structures. Yet, Indian Muslims have lived in the country for hundreds of years – since the fall of the Mughal Empire – with little threat to the political or economic stability of Hindus.

Understanding Contemporary Muslim “Othering”

While the leaders of these movements were Hindu extremists, whose violence was largely condemned by Hindus around the rest of the country and world, regular citizens were somehow convinced by these groups to commit brutal acts of hatred. So how were these extremist groups so capable of normalizing violence against Muslims? The answer connects back to the Hindutva mentality of the foreign enemy infiltrating Indian culture and disempowering Hindus in their religious rite. Muslims are the largest religious minority in India, yet they only comprise twelve percent of the Indian population and pose little threat to Hindu economic or political leverage: “Indian Muslims tend to be urban, poor or petty bourgeois, and tradition-minded, since much of the educated Muslim elite relocated to Pakistan.”[52]  Rhetoric “other-izing” Muslims was used to justify the need to cleanse India of its Muslim inhabitants. One of the main tools of othering Muslims is to point to their trans-national religious connections, versus  Hindus who are supposedly native and centralized in India: “Muslims are today closely linked to a global Islamic movement, centered in the Middle East but manifest worldwide. Indian Muslim contact with the Middle East began under Mogul rule and has been continuous ever since.”[53] In reality, while Indian Muslims are connected to communities in the Middle East, they have been fundamental to the creation and evolution of India and differ greatly in tradition from those in the Middle East. The resentment of Middle Eastern relationships, dating back to Babur’s formation of the Mughal empire and the facilitation of cultural exchange through this empire, parallels the resentments surrounding Ayodhya. The Hindu resentments of Babur’s rule and mosque at Ayodhya go beyond a religious transgression; they incorporate notions interpreted to mean an allocation of Hindu world power to the Middle East by connecting its Muslim population with people of the same faith. The evidence of this transfer of Hindu influence has become evident in Muslim attempts to emphasize “doctrinal purity and orthodoxy” to counteract the Hindu influence in patterns of “worship, dress and behavior.”[54] While the traditionalism of contemporary Indian Muslims is not a rejection of Indian culture, it is threatening to Hindu radicals who see this cultural shift as an indication of the rising power of perceived Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East.

Conclusion: A Contemporary Shift Toward Interfaith Peace

Perhaps, retrospectively, the most positive outcome of the violence during the 1990s and early 2000s is its fundamentalist roots are largely disfavored in modern-day India. Religious leaders on both sides of the aisle have stepped up to the global stage, declaring their dedication to an interfaith peacebuilding mission in India. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a Hindu politician, has become a leading humanitarian and advocate of facilitating interfaith dialogue: “We [Hindu and Muslim leaders] both agree that we have to build bridges. There is really no conflict between the communities. We have been living together for centuries and we have to create an atmosphere of friendliness and togetherness.”[55] While efforts of interfaith peace like these have been countered by acts of militant fundamentalist groups from both faiths, the rising presence and popularity of peace dialogue by devout members of both communities implies that religion is not the true fuel behind violence, as radical and fundamentalist groups seeking power are not the defining members of a faith. Evidence of the inherent coexistence of Hindus and Muslims is apparent in the people’s reactions after the court ruling in 2010 which divided Ayodhya in a way that “was based not on hard, irrefutable evidence but on the claimed faith and belief of a claimed Hindu majority.”[56] Neither Muslims nor Hindus broke out into violence or fervent contestation, revealing the desire of those who vividly remembered the decade of brutal violence  to prioritize safety and peace above possession over land.[57]  Further, young Hindus and Muslims whose experience with the riots were either less direct or whose memories had faded demonstrated a different ideological view than the fundamentalist agenda presented by the Islamic militant groups, the BJP, and broader Hindutva organizations. Values of young people have changed:  “It is now not as easy to mobilise young people under the banner of religion as it was in the early 1990s. India’s economic boom has changed priorities, and development is now the key issue.”[58] This shift in values and agenda indicates a new rising identity: an identity that allows one to have a personal religious experience that harmonizes with a nationalist-secular Indian identity. In a piece on the young Muslim perspective on the Ayodhya site crisis in The Hindu, an Indian news source, the young people interviewed expressed a new nationalist identity: “They do not identify with the mosque. It is immaterial to them whether a mandir or a masjid comes up on the spot. But as some of them told The Hindu, they are Indians first and committed to the values held sacred by the Constitution. These values, including protection of minority rights, cannot but come into question when justice, delivered in a court of law, tilts visibly towards the majority.”[59] In a way, this shift in identity to promote Indian unity is deeply reflective of Islamic tenets and values in which human rights and peace are prioritized above initial justice; in order for Muslims to achieve a just place in society, they practically let go of their historic mosque. While the territory is still a subject of conversation in the Indian political arena, there is some consensus on elevating  religious values of peace, right to life, and community over territory: “India had indeed moved on. Equally heartening, Indians had proved that communal violence is never spontaneous, it is always politically engineered.”[60] The ability of the people to acknowledge the importance of peace and the presence of religious figureheads as leaders of this movement towards interfaith dialogue reveals that communal violence is not a natural phenomenon. Rather, the history of communal violence between Hindus and Muslims in India coincides with the rise of nations/groups seeking power and influence: first the British, who co-opted vocabulary and concepts that created largely arbitrary social and political divisions between the two faiths; and then the fundamentalist political parties that sought control over a newly independent Republic of India.

I affirm that I have adhered to the Honor Code in this assignment: Hayley Segall

[1] “Q&A: The Ayodhya Dispute”, BBC News, 5 December 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-11435240.

[2] “Timeline: Ayodhya holy site crisis”, BBC News, 6 December 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-11436552.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “India Timeline”, Ancient History Encyclopedia, https://www.ancient.eu/timeline/india/.

[5] Dr Chandrika Kaul, “From Empire to Independence: The British Raj in India 1858-1947”, BBC History, 3 March 2011,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/modern/independence1947_01.shtml.

[6] Sarah Pierce Taylor, The Aryan Controversy and the Discovery of Language Families, lecture, 1 September 2016.

[7] “Babur”, New World Encyclopedia, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Babur.

[8] Johanna M. Lessinger, “Religious” violence in India: Ayodhya and the Hindu right, (Taylor and Friends: 2002), pg 158.

[9] The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, “Ayodhya”, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 18 January, 2017, https://www.britannica.com/place/Ayodhya.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “Rama”, Ancient History Encyclopedia, https://www.ancient.eu/Rama/.

[12] “Babur”, New World Encyclopedia, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Babur.

[13] Michael H. Fisher, The Mughal Empire, (London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, 2016), pg 16.

[14] “Mughal Empire (1500s, 1600s)”, BBC Religions, BBC, 2009-09-07, http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/history/mughalempire_1.shtml.

[15] Jafar Mahallati, The Mughal Empire, lecture, 27 October 2017.

[16] “Mughal Empire (1500s, 1600s)”, BBC Religions, BBC, 2009-09-07, http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/history/mughalempire_1.shtml.

[17] “Babur”, New World Encyclopedia, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Babur.

[18] Jafar Mahallati, The Mughal Empire, lecture, 27 October 2017.

[19] “Babur”, New World Encyclopedia, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Babur.

[20]  “Mughal Empire (1500s, 1600s)”, BBC Religions, BBC, 2009-09-07, http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/history/mughalempire_1.shtml.

[21] Jafar Mahallati, The Mughal Empire, lecture, 27 October 2017.

[22] Jafar Mahallati, The Mughal Empire, lecture, 27 October 2017.

[23] Jafar Mahallati, The Mughal Empire, lecture, 27 October 2017. and The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, “Ayodhya”, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 18 January, 2017, https://www.britannica.com/place/Ayodhya.

[24] Johanna M. Lessinger, “Religious” violence in India: Ayodhya and the Hindu right, (Taylor and Friends: 2002), pg 158.

[25] “Timeline: Ayodhya holy site crisis”, BBC News, 6 December 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-11436552.

[26]“Q&A: The Ayodhya Dispute”, BBC News, 5 December 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-11435240.

[27] Johanna M. Lessinger, “Religious” violence in India: Ayodhya and the Hindu right, (Taylor and Friends: 2002), pg 159.

[28] “Q&A: The Ayodhya Dispute”, BBC News, 5 December 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-11435240.

[29] Johanna M. Lessinger, “Religious” violence in India: Ayodhya and the Hindu right, (Taylor and Friends: 2002), pg 159.

[30] “Timeline: Ayodhya holy site crisis”, BBC News, 6 December 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-11436552.

[31] “Timeline of the Riots in Modi’s Gujarat”, The New York Times, 19 August 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/06/world/asia/modi-gujarat-riots-timeline.html?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=A8FF73CCCA5066B8C4DF6CDC2F66444E&gwt=pay.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Michael H. Fisher, The Mughal Empire, (London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, 2016), pg 237.

[34] Johanna M. Lessinger, “Religious” violence in India: Ayodhya and the Hindu right, (Taylor and Friends: 2002), pg 149-50.

[35] Michael H. Fisher, The Mughal Empire, (London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, 2016), pg 237.

[36] Johanna M. Lessinger, “Religious” violence in India: Ayodhya and the Hindu right, (Taylor and Friends: 2002), pg 152.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid,153.

[39] Ibid, 154.

[40] Johanna M. Lessinger, “Religious” violence in India: Ayodhya and the Hindu right, (Taylor and Friends: 2002), pg 154.

[41] Johanna M. Lessinger, “Religious” violence in India: Ayodhya and the Hindu right, (Taylor and Friends: 2002), pg 155.

[42] “Timeline of the Riots in Modi’s Gujarat”, The New York Times, 19 August 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/06/world/asia/modi-gujarat-riots-timeline.html?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=A8FF73CCCA5066B8C4DF6CDC2F66444E&gwt=pay.

[43]“Timeline: Ayodhya holy site crisis”, BBC News, 6 December 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-11436552.

[44] “Timeline of the Riots in Modi’s Gujarat”, The New York Times, 19 August 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/06/world/asia/modi-gujarat-riots-timeline.html?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=A8FF73CCCA5066B8C4DF6CDC2F66444E&gwt=pay.

[45] “Q&A: The Ayodhya Dispute”, BBC News, 5 December 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-11435240.

[46] “Timeline of the Riots in Modi’s Gujarat”, The New York Times, 19 August 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/06/world/asia/modi-gujarat-riots-timeline.html?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=A8FF73CCCA5066B8C4DF6CDC2F66444E&gwt=pay.

[47] Rakesh Sharma, Final Solution, Youtube, 2004, can access film through https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0ZvADtrDPM.

[48] “Timeline of the Riots in Modi’s Gujarat”, The New York Times, 19 August 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/06/world/asia/modi-gujarat-riots-timeline.html?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=A8FF73CCCA5066B8C4DF6CDC2F66444E&gwt=pay.

[49] “Timeline of the Riots in Modi’s Gujarat”, The New York Times, 19 August 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/06/world/asia/modi-gujarat-riots-timeline.html?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=A8FF73CCCA5066B8C4DF6CDC2F66444E&gwt=pay.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Johanna M. Lessinger, “Religious” violence in India: Ayodhya and the Hindu right, (Taylor and Friends: 2002), pg 159.

[53] Ibid, pg 164.

[54] Johanna M. Lessinger, “Religious” violence in India: Ayodhya and the Hindu right, (Taylor and Friends: 2002), pg 164.

[55] Lalmani Verma, “Ayodhya land dispute: Solution from heart will be recognised for ages, says Ravi Shankar”, The Indian Express, 18 November 2017, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/ayodhya-land-dispute-sri-sri-ravi-shankar-solution-from-heart-will-be-recognised-for-ages-4942852/.

[56] Vidya Subrahmaniam, “Young, Muslim and reflecting on Ayodhya”, The Hindu, 8 October 2010, http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/Young-Muslim-and-reflecting-on-Ayodhya/article15773141.ece.

[57] Ibid.

[58] “Q&A: The Ayodhya Dispute”, BBC News, 5 December 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-11435240.

[59]  Vidya Subrahmaniam, “Young, Muslim and reflecting on Ayodhya”, The Hindu, 8 October 2010, http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/Young-Muslim-and-reflecting-on-Ayodhya/article15773141.ece.

[60] Ibid.