Gareth Price: This will show if anything has been learnt from past troubles

Share
Related Topics

From independence in 1947, India has prided itself on its religious tolerance. India was secular – dominated by Hindus, but with substantial populations of Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and tribal groups. India represents a mosaic of different religions, languages and ethnic groups.

At times, this narrative has faced challenges. Communal clashes between Muslims and Hindus are not infrequent, and the insurgency in India's only Muslim-majority state, Kashmir, reflects religious intolerance.

Ayodhya is perhaps the most significant physical symbol for those that believe that India should move away from its secular origins and become a more explicit Hindu state. The Babri Mosque had been built on the foundations of a temple, believed to have been the birthplace of Rama, a Hindu deity.

In 1992, a protest of around 150,000 Hindu nationalists grew into a riot; the mosque was destroyed. The court ruling on ownership of the temple, delivered yesterday, was pending since then.

Much has changed since 1992. In the 1990s the Congress Party was threatened by an emboldened Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which espoused the notion of "Hindutva", that India should reflect the Hindu society it predominantly is. Ayodhya became the focus of BJP resentment.

In 1998 the BJP came into power. Many saw it as the natural party of government (with Congress in apparently terminal decline). It appealed to rabid Hindu zealots and those who liked a party which appeared to take more overt pride in being Indian. After its six years in power, the BJP has been defeated by Congress in two general elections. The party needs flammable issues, like Ayodhya, to ensure its more hardline apparatchiks turn out the vote. But more progressive voices in the party believe focusing on Hindu nationalism makes it unelectable. Its response to the verdict will indicate the party's future direction.

India, too, has moved on. There is anger at inequalities, most clearly articulated through a Maoist rebellion. Since the Gujarat riots of 2002 there have been no severe "communal" riots. Narendra Modi, the state's chief minister accused of complicity in the riots, has tried to move away from his firebrand past, and reposition Gujarat as India's economic hub.

The government prepared for the worst in the run-up to the verdict. But it would seem that what appears to be a sensible verdict, attempting to appease Hindus and Muslims, has had a conciliatory effect. Each side, at least, could claim the other had lost. Like the BJP, Congress faces a dilemma. It does not want to alienate Muslims or Hindus.

Communal tendencies on both sides are likely to try to use the verdict, and the certain appeal, to stir up trouble. Their success, or lack of it, will signal how far India has progressed.

Gareth Price is head of the Asia programme at Chatham House

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Argyll Scott International: Risk Assurance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Hi All, I'm currently recruiting for t...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Bill Cosby speaks onstage at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund 25th Awards Gala on 11 November 2013 in Washington  

Bill Cosby: Isn’t it obvious why his accusers have stayed silent up until now?

Grace Dent
 

Our political landscape is not changing anywhere near as much as we assume it is

Steve Richards
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible