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

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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence