India, Secularism and Riots

 “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist SECULAR democratic republic and to…” is how the Preamble to the Constitution of India starts. Secularism implies not being exclusively allied with, or against any particular religion. We Indians do not just live; we co-exist.

Recently, the Uttar Pradesh government, led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath decided to rename Allahabad to Prayagraj.

Allahabad was the name given to Prayag nearly 500 years ago and it is an integral part of Indian history. In August this year, BJP changed the name of Mughalsarai Junction to Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Junction. They also intend to change Ahmedabad’s name to Karnavati, Hyderabad to Bhagyanagar and Aurangabad to Sambhaji Nagar.  In addition to this, Yogi’s views are that the Taj Mahal was a part of the ancient “Tejo Mahalaya” temple.


There is nothing wrong with wanting to know and explore the history and tradition of your country, but changing pre-dominantly Muslim names to Hindu names sends another message altogether. Whether it is intentional or not, it seems like the Government is trying to spread ‘Hindutva’ (promoting Hinduism) around, something that shatters the spirit of our constitution and the very foundation on which our country stands 71 years after Independence. Such actions are bound to create communal un-rest in our country and one only has to search ‘Riots in India’ to see that majority of the riots since 1947 have between Hindus and Muslims.

The Nellie Massacre- Unofficially, over 10,000 people were killed in 1983 when Hindus in Assam attacked East Bengal Muslims who had relocated in pre-partition India. This violence was the fallout of the decision to hold the controversial state elections in 1983 in the midst of the Assam Agitation, after Indira Gandhi’s decision to give 4 million immigrants from Bangladesh the right to vote.


The Gujarat Riots (2002) – Another bloody communal riot that killed 1044, wounded more than 2500 and caused unfathomable damage. The burning of a train in Godhra on 27 February 2002, which caused the deaths of 58 Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya, is cited as having instigated the violence.

There are so many other Hindu-Muslim riots that have taken place, sometimes triggered by the most trivial issues. Countless precious lives have been lost and damaged. The bloodiest riots may have taken place 20-30 years ago, but that doesn’t mean all is well now. Promotion of one religion over the other, or favoring any religion is wrong and must be condemned. The beauty and pride of India lies in its unique symbiosis of culture and religions, and in such situations it is more important than it ever has been, that we stand together, not as Hindus, Muslims, Parsis or Sikhs, but as Indians.


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