Then & now: Beyond belief

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The Independent Online
1934-35: Imprisoned by the British for political activities, Jaharwarlal Nehru, later to become India's first prime minister in 1947, wrote of India's religious problems in his autobiography:

'India is supposed to be a religious country above everything else, and Hindu and Muslim and Sikh and others take pride in their faiths and testify to their truth by breaking heads. The spectacle of what is called religion . . . in India and elsewhere, has filled me with horror, and I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always it seems to stand for blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, superstition and exploitation, and the preservation of vested interests. And yet I knew well that there was something else in it, something which supplied a deep inner craving of human beings. How else could it have been the tremendous power it has been and brought peace and comfort to innumerable tortured souls? Was that peace merely the shelter of blind belief and absence of question, the calm that comes from being safe in harbour . . . or was it something more? In some cases certainly it was something more.'

11 December, 1992: Following five days of nationwide Hindu- Muslim violence in which about 1,000 people were killed, Indian Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao said he would launch a pro-secularist campaign with like-minded parliamentary groups. Mr Rao said he and secularist allies would work out 'a large campaign to educate the people to fight against the forces of communalism'.

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