India is home to billion people from different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. There are close to 120 million Muslims living in India whose ancestor, Jihan Shah, build the famous Taj Mahal. Diverse groups live side by side, unmixed, and in general superficial harmony. When tensions arise, they explode with violence. The rapid growth of a 200 million strong middle class that demands increased openness and embraces western values creates an equally strong opposing force in the form of Hindu nationalism. If you can believe it, India has right-wing Hindu vigilante groups loosely linked to the BJP Political Party and who are active in many parts of India. They target Muslim and Christian minorities as well as events such as the Valentine's Day.
During my one week stay, two disturbing incidents caught my attention. First, a group of College girls and boys were attacked and beaten for drinking beers at a bar. The incident was caught on camera showing riffraff Hindu right wing youth beating young girls in the streets. In reaction to this "The Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women" was formed on Facebook last Thursday with 5000+ female and male members. The group exhorted women to "walk to the nearest pub and buy a drink" on Valentine's Day in protest of the right wing Hindu nationalists.
The second incident involved the twisted tale of a young Hindu girl who committed suicide. She was attacked for going to an ice-cream parlor with her Muslim male friend. She was dragged out, taken to a nearby empty building and beaten. Once she and her boy friend got on a bus to go home, it was stopped and attacked with stones. Her Muslim boy friend was taken down from the bus and beaten by the Hindu nationalists. The story became even more disturbing when she committed suicide. Her family accused the young Muslim boy of rapping their daughter and said that she committed suicide in shame. Police arrested the Muslim boy while the Hindu nationalists who beat the Hindu girl and the Muslim boy are at large.
As India becomes richer, more modern and industrialized, these tensions are sure to increase in frequency. There is a big divide between the haves and have-nots. While 200+ million people are leveraging the global trade to live a better life, the remaining majority is increasingly being left behind.
This is not an Indian problem, but an issue that even faces us here in the US of A. We should learn from the Indian experience and stop the erosion of our own middle class.