India: history, politics, terror

Submitted by Anon on 4 December, 2008 - 2:12

India has a population of 1.1 billion, reckoned to be 80% Hindu, 14% Muslim, and the rest Christian, Sikh, and others. Since independence from Britain in 1947, Indian politics has mostly been dominated by the avowedly secular Congress party, now in government; but the last decade or more has seen the rise of the Hindu-chauvinist BJP, based mainly on upper-caste Hindus, and linked to openly-fascistic Hindu militias. The BJP led governments in 1996 and 1998-2004. Both BJP and Congress, since the early 1990s, have been pushing policies of deregulation, privatisation, and engagement in world markets.

There have been a series of terrorist or communalist attacks in India since December 1992, when a mob of 150,000 Hindu communalists destroyed the ancient Babri mosque on the grounds that it had allegedly been built, in the 16th century, on the site of a previous Hindu temple.

The destruction of the mosque was followed by anti-Muslim riots across India in December 1992 and January 1993 in which about 900 people were killed.

There were bombings in Mumbai, in March 1993, killing 257 people, attributed to a Muslim criminal-syndicate boss.

In pogroms in Gujarat in early 2002, up to 2000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

In July 2006, 209 people were killed when bombs were set off in commuter trains in Mumbai, apparently by an Islamist group.

Mumbai is the biggest city in India, with a population of 19 million. Mumbai's port handles over half of India's maritime cargo; the city accounts for 25% of India's industrial output and 70% of capital transactions.

It has attracted workers from all over India, and natives of the state in which it is located, Maharashtra, are only 50% of the city's population. The balance of religions among Mumbai's population is similar to that among India's population as a whole.

It is governed by Shiv Sena, an extreme right-wing Hindu-communalist organisation.

What is now India and Pakistan was ruled as a single country by Britain from the 18th century. Partly because of British policies of divide-and-rule, tension between Hindus and Muslims in India rose as the movement for Indian independence progressed.

When Britain granted India independence in 1947, it simultaneously divided the country into two — present-day India, and a Muslim state in the north, Pakistan (which then included what is now the separate state of Bangladesh). Up to one million people were killed as people frantically migrated to one side or another of the partition line.

India and Pakistan have since fought wars in 1965 and 1971. A major issue between them is the status of Kashmir, a Muslim-majority province which is nonetheless within India.

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