India perhaps has one of the most diverse and multicultural societies in the world today. With over 400 spoken languages and over a 100 different communities of people based on language, religion and caste multiculturality is woven in the fabric of India.
India has been a home to foreigners for many centuries now.No stranger to Islam it had been invaded by Muslim forces as early as the seventh century AD, and since the early 1300's, the south-eastern portion of India, the Rajput, was dominated by the Dehli sultan, a Turkish invader. European settlers landed in Kollam Kerala as early as the 16th century.
Zoroastrianism and Judaism also have an ancient history in India and each has several thousand Indian adherents. According to the 2008 census,Hinduism accounted for 80.5% of the population of India. Islam (13.4%), Christianity (2.3%) and Sikhism (1.9%) are the other major religions followed by the people of India. Thus we see that the diversity of religious belief systems existing in India today is a result of, besides existence and birth of native religions, assimilation and social integration of religions brought to the region by traders, travelers, immigrants, and even invaders and conquerors.
For years there has been a debate if whether this multi cultural system is advantageous or not and still remains an open debate.
India has had her fair share of communal indifferences with innumerable riots and violence. Perhaps the most infamous being the *2002 Gujarat violence* which was sparked off by the Godhra burning and resulting communal riots between Hindus and Muslims. On 27 February 2002 at Godhra City in the state of Gujarat, a train was forcibly stopped and attacked by a large Muslim mob. As a result, 58 Hindu pilgrims mostly women, children and seniors returning from the holy city of Ayodhya were burned alive. The attack prompted retaliatory massacres against Muslims on a large scale. There have been recent cases of disharmony as well with many different sects calling for partition and separate recognized states or territories. Some instances being the uprising in coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh with the Telangana community demanding a separate State.
The Shiv Sena in Mumbai is a far-right political party in India founded on 19 June 1966 by Balasaheb Thackeray It is currently headed by Thackeray's son, Uddhav Thackeray. The party originally emerged out of a movement in Mumbai, favouring an increase in influence and power of Maharashtrians in Maharashtra .It propagated the agenda that Maharashtra belonged to the Maharashtrians and that they must be given preference over immigrants. The Sena today is perhaps one of the most influential parties in Mumbai.The Sena often resorts to threats and violence against people belonging to other communities as part of its ‘Maharashtra for Maharashtrians’ Ideology.There have been numerous cases of the Sena paying a hand in violence against Muslims. Followers of the Party have gone so far as to burn Cricket pitches where an India and the Muslim dominated Pakistan was scheduled to be held.
The advantages of a multicultural society are not evident currently in India. As of now the horrors of communal violence and religious intolerance has torn apart a country rich in culture and heritage. However I feel that with the advent of education and globalization of the younger generations we could move towards a Utopia where cultural differences did not exist.
The Ayodhya issue a a 60 year dispute between Hindus and Muslims over claims of religious land in Uttar Pradesh ended peacefully in 2010.
The Supreme Court pronounced that the land be divided between the two communities. The decision was met with peaceful demonstrations and majority of the public accepted the decision. Instances such as this give us hope that we may move towards a more tolerable society and reap the benefits and advantages of multiculturality.
By: Khasi Mohamed Oweise ul-Haq
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