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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 15:39 GMT
India: How can the violence be stopped?
At least 30 more Muslims have been burned alive in the western Indian state of Gujarat as troops struggle to quell the worst communal bloodshed in 10 years.

Reports said the massacre took place in a village 50 km (30 miles) from Godhra, where an attack on Hindu activists travelling by train on Wednesday sparked the latest explosion of violence.

A local administrator told reporters a mob of about 3,000 suspected Hindus had attacked the village of Pandarwal, burning Muslims to death in their homes.

Hundreds of troops have been deployed in Gujarat since the train attack to try and stop the violence, which has left at least 250 people dead so far.

Many of the passengers were supporters of a hardline Hindu group, the VHP, which is threatening to build a Hindu temple on a site in the city of Ayodhya where Hindu activists tore down a 16th century mosque in 1992, sparking widespread rioting.

Have you been affected by the outbreak of violence? What can be done to stop the clashes?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Our secular country is indifferent in its attitude towards various communities under its umbrella

Andy Malik, India
The tragedy in Gujrat is beyond redemption, but it is disturbing to hear the comments of our Government Officials. It is high time that these people stop throwing accusations around and open their eyes to the reality that our secular country is indifferent in its attitude towards various communities under its umbrella. It is because of this tussle that majority of the conflict arises and not because of some external hand, blaming whom has become an easy way out for us all rather than taking the blame or facing the realities, may it be Kashmir, Assam or Gujrat these conflicts will arise unless we mend our ways and attitudes and not provide opportunities for others to exploit.
Andy Malik, India

It hurts me too see a nation that I have grown to love is being torn by reckless violence. Religions are meant to preach peace, this is just mindless bloodshed.
Alkesh Patel, Cambridge, England

It is heartbreaking to read the hatred in views expressed by some educated people in these columns accusing the other side. Can't a person understand whoever dies is a human being instead of identifying them as belonging to a particular religion. Whoever is committing such act or justifying such act should put their feet in the position of the oppressed person and imagine how he would feel. Hindus and Muslims have a equal right on the land of India they have to live in peace instead of killing and accusing each other. The disputed and the surrounding land should not be given to either parties and a hospital should be constructed.
Aiman, US

I live in India. My country does not 'promote' poverty nor subjugate the poor. Rather, they make promises to slum dwellers to legalise their properties only to gain votes. And Vajpayee is one of the few sensible ones left around - though his pro-Hindu party has him by the throat. The truth is, that the whole government structure is corrupt to the core. People are paid to turn up at rallies and cast their votes. The last appearance of the government has been so abysmal that there is nothing left for them to play but the 'Hindutva' card. Stir up some sense of worth in the thousands of unemployed and illiterate in the country. After all, it's easier than cutting back on your own kickbacks and creating real jobs, isn't it?
Fay, India

The levels of violence we have seen in the Gujarat are never likely to cease whilst the government and culture of the country promotes poverty, promotes a divisive class system and subjugates the poor. If you force people to live in ignorance and fear these are the results. People will not be able to understand words like liberty and equality when they are not capable of reading them.
Mick Sheehan, U.K

India represents several millennia of peaceful coexistence between its diverse peoples. Neither the construction of a temple nor a mosque at Ayodhya will bring the troubled people of Gujarat and India closer to their Gods. Focusing on faith without concern for goodness or wisdom is an affront to the Gods to whom Hindus and Muslims pray. Perhaps the people of India would be better served by building a monument of unity that celebrates the shared history of Indian peoples and the rich and unique culture she has produced.
A & R, Tokyo/Hamburg

The VHP and the BJP have been planning violence and ethnic cleansing along the lines of Milosevic and the Serbs

Mike, UK
It is blatantly obvious that the VHP and the BJP have been planning violence and ethnic cleansing along the lines of Milosevic and the Serbs. Vajpayee and many of the Indian politicians in league with the Hindu religious extremists should be tried for crimes against humanity.
Mike, UK

People who are engaged in such violent activity are non-believers. They have nothing to do with religion. A religious person understands the value of humanity and brotherhood.
Farahim khan, Bahrain

Our history shows that invaders from the Arab world have always wanted to grab whatever they could from India

CRD, India
Our history shows that invaders from the Arab world have always wanted to grab whatever they could from India. We have been facing this problem of terror for the last thousand years. Various countries attacked us, among them the Arabs, the French, the Dutch, the British - and still this list are incomplete. We will deal with our troubles only if we have an able leader for the Prime Minister. Vajpayee is the only real leader after Ghandi in India (opposition parties agree or not but this is a fact)
CRD, India

The media has a major role to play in controlling violence. I am a regular viewer of BBC world & Asia Today news. Time and again this channel is only focussing on the sufferings of the minority Muslims in the aftermath of the horrendous Godhra Train burning. Not even once I could see BBC relaying the sufferings of people burned to death in the train and the people injured by the barbaric act of train burners. This kind of lop-sided reporting will only aggravate further sectarian violence. At least the BBC could have displayed better wisdom. How can the violence end if the media around the globe does not want it to?
Vtiyer, India

I respectfully offer that the BBC or the Indian government should publish all the names of the dead, victims of the murderous rampage of the past week. A memorial fund should be set up for them, and anyone who would want to contribute to their memory should do so. Only then can their memory have any meaning, and justice begin to prevail over murder. Barbaric killing in the name of religion is not freedom, it is terrorism., United States

There are thousands of mosque and temples in India where Hindus and Muslims practice their religions. Why is there a need to build a temple or mosque in a place which was a ghetto before 1992? That place should be utilised in building an educational institute where people from all religion should gain some knowledge. I request all Hindus and Muslims to think of ways to make their lives worthwhile and not kill innocent people.
Mohammed, UK

Those convent/missionary school "educated" Hindu's who say that the issue of Ayodhya doesn't matter say this because of their upbringing in schools with anti-Hindu influence

Ohioguy, USA
The fast is that there is nothing like or never was anything like a Babri Masjid. It was always a Hindu temple, the birthplace of Lord Shri Ram. Those convent/missionary school "educated" Hindu's who say that the issue of Ayodhya doesn't matter and that they don't care about it say this because of their upbringing in schools with anti-Hindu influence. They make it through to top and become the elite and actually never represent the true feelings of people of India. Hence we see such anti-Hindu comments and feelings from such "educated" Hindu's on message boards like this. I ask such Hindu's "How many times a day do you say Ram?" or how many times a day do you remember your God? I guess none, you were never taught to pray properly in your convent schools. The killings in retaliation for train attack would never be understood by these "educated" Hindu's. For them the money/dollar is their religion!
Ohioguy, USA

Educate people, create decent jobs and tell the community that there's more to life than this nonsense.
Sachin Saraf, India

VHP should build a mosque at Ayodhya in deference to the innocent Muslim brethren and a secular monument should be erected at the disputed site without delay.
Pradeep, USA

The events of the past few days have saddened my generation and me a great deal. But what is more upsetting is the attitude of some of the people writing comments about "sending Muslims to Pakistan". My parents had to leave their homes during partition to move to "India" because they were Hindu. Do our Muslim brothers and sisters have to feel the same disgrace in "secular India"? If educated Hindus and Muslims keep on breeding the hatred 50 years after partition, I see no hope for India in the near future. This is an opportunity for the BJP government to prove that it leads a secular country and not society dominated by extremists of all religions.
Namrata, USA/India

I want to tell something to the Indian Hindus especially to Virender Pratap Singh. It might sound anti-Indian but the fact is your country has so many problems with every thing and you are stupid enough to believe in the media and what they say. You should believe what you see. Just tell me one thing: what would you think if you were Muslim? I need to say one more thing: this is all a political game.
Yaseen, USA

No perpetrator of any crime ever gets punished in India

Sandeep, USA-India
The carnage at Godhra and its aftermath are equally condemnable. However we find the media in India only talking about the aftermath, not the Godhra attack. It is conveniently being said that the train attack was the work of the ISI or some other foreign power. So, were the two thousand odd people who attacked the train all ISI agents? ISI can't foment trouble unless our own citizens support them. It's time the media woke up to this fact. Someone had also mentioned in this column about how the US citizens never went on a witch-hunt after September 11. Well, they didn't need to. Their government is doing that for them by bombing Afghanistan day and night. Our citizens do not have that comfort. No perpetrator of any crime ever gets punished in India. Look what's happening with the serial blast accused cases in Bombay? Has anyone been punished at all?
Sandeep, USA-India

Why the big outcry for the Muslims? When the Muslims kill Christians and Jews it seem to be OK. Now the Muslims have the shoe on the other foot.
William Bellew, USA

As an Indian first and a Hindu next, I am appalled at the recent sad events. I condemn the trouble makers from both religions who ignite the flames and let the innocent burn in it. There should be a non-faith worship place built at the Babri site and let everyone go and pray for the loss and sorrow of each other.
Jayant Kumar, USA

The real religious person should bother about the betterment of the poor in their communities

Subbu, Australia
The real pious or religious person whether Hindu or Muslim should bother about the betterment of the poor in their communities where the majority live below the poverty line and are in need of the bare basic needs rather than worrying about the fictitious issues like the whereabouts of the worshipping place. Those playing with the innocent lives directly or indirectly are criminals supposed to be behind the bars. All the organisations fuelling the sentiments of the community or the religion to achieve their vested interest should be banned.
Anyone giving importance to human values would not certainly participate in any barbaric activity of slaughtering a human life.
Subbu, Australia

To think that we value a building made of brick and stone over a human life, flesh and blood.

Leena, USA
How depressing it is that we live in a world where people will massacre one another - murder men, women and children by the hundreds and thousands - in the name of religion and of God. To think that we value a building made of brick and stone over a human life, flesh and blood. Forget the mosque, forget the temple. Instead let us start by working on living side-by-side in harmony. Let us find the common human bonds between us instead of dividing ourselves into groups based on religion. Let us learn to value living breathing human beings over a piece of land or a building. Maybe then we can find the solution to this problem.
Leena, USA

Burning a train with men, women and children trapped inside is a barbarous act and should be condemned outright. But revenge attacks are not the solution, as that is falling straight into the trap. The government must ensure peace is maintained at all times, and protection also be given to those VHP supporters (as well as the Indian Muslim community) who are now clear targets of attacks. Perhaps one solution would be for the Muslim leaders to allow the temple to be re-built on the site. This would indeed be a noble and grand gesture which indirectly apologises to the Hindu community for Mogul atrocities committed upon them. Surely this would cement brotherhood between the two religions.
Zameer Ahmed, India/ Ksa

The way in which the Government handled the massacre of Muslims tells of the Hindu chauvinism of the Indian Government

Nadeem Ahmad, India
There is no denying fact that the gruesome killing of 50 passengers travelling in the Sabarmati express is not only undesirable but also deplorable. At the same time, it is worthwhile to mention here that the way in which the government handled the massacre of Muslims tells of the Hindu chauvinism of the Indian government. The statements issued by the top Indian leaders after the Godhra incidents indicate that the killing of passengers was perpetrated by the VHP/Bajrang Dal activists. However, just two days later some of the leaders started blaming Pakistan and its intelligence agencies. It is likely that the BJP is in coalition with the so-called Hindu chauvinistic forces planned the massacre in order to spread communal hatred in the country and thereby polarise the Hindu votes in view of up coming Assembly election in Gujarat & Goa. There is high-level insecurity in the mind of every individual belonging to Muslim Community. It appears that the democratic set up in India has been dilapidated and authoritarianism is stepping in.
Nadeem Ahmad, India

We all know the terror of communal violence in Gujarat. But there are more people affected by it. We the people of Dahod have in the past two days been also targeted by gangs. People's houses were looted, and their houses were set on fire. The same happened to their shops. They lost almost all they had. Why are we all targeted? We are innocent! Here in Dahod we have lost hope! And the chief minister is telling the press that all is under control!
In lots of fear
Shabber Vasan, Dahod, India

It is really shameful to see what has been happening in Gujarat

Shirish, UK
It is really shameful to see what has been happening in Gujarat. Though all this was initiated by a section of Islamist fundamentalists by burning Hindi does not justify killing Muslims. What have the Hindus (involved in attacking Muslims) achieved? What is the point of building the temple and Masjid when scores on innocent people are getting killed? It is therefore high time that the government should planned something useful for both the communities like a University where both sections of the divided society could come together on the common platform and get educated and matured.
Shirish, UK

All the barbarians who are behind this carnage must be brought to justice. The Indian secularism is a farce and is used by the politicians to gain votes. Both the majority and minority groups are suffering from India's secularism. We need a dictator who will shoot all the hooligans (Hindus or Muslims or any one else) creating trouble on the streets. We must ban all the religious organisations like VHP, Jamati-Islami Hind, Bajrang Dal etc and arrest all the leaders making provocative or anti-national statements.
Suresh, India

Excessive emotion is nothing but madness. This is exactly what is happening, and we don't want our society go mad. We should learn to use our anger in a constructive way, and not for destruction. Mahatma Gandhi taught us the principal of non-violence. But today politicians try to use emotions and anger for their own political needs. We need a leader like Mahatma Gandhi who can give a proper direction to the emotions and the anger of the people.
Rahul Lanje, UK/India

In some Muslim-dominated areas of India Pakistan flags have been seen hoisted at times

Sridhar Pichumani, UK
I am not affected by the violence but am sure every Muslim in India is affected by this riot. This will definitely leave them insecure in their own country. The reason for this riot is simple: Hindus think the Muslims in India consider themselves Muslims first and Indians next. To a certain extent this is true. In some Muslim-dominated areas of India Pakistan flags have been seen hoisted at times. And the Indian media exaggerates things to a greater extent thereby creating a rift between the religious communities instead of uniting them. The third reason is the ISI. This might sound like an anti-Pakistani comment but the Indian leaders have once again claimed that the ISI stimulated this attack. Will the world community ever listen to India's allegations or just ignore that because Pakistan is an Ally in the War against terrorism?

Gujarat is just an example which shows the world how dangerous a communal party can be if it is ruling a country. The areas barring Gujarat and a few others where the BJP has effect are peaceful. More surprising is the fact that though police is searching for those who attacked the train, nobody cares about who killed the 500 people afterwards.
Virendra Pratap Singh, Guwahati, India

We have suffered enough and have been conquered by many religions, if we want to keep our traditions we must let the Muslims got to Pakistan. After all the Pakistani boost about Islam let's see if the will accept the India Muslims?

Its funny that Pakistan has had no incidents of hatred against the Hindu minority and has banned extremist parties while the BJP has not. Also reading some of the Indian comments it's very obvious why Muslims of the sub-continent needed their own nation. Thank God for Pakistan. The Muslim mob that attacked the train was a small number of extremists, the Hindu reaction was a nearly nationwide outpour of hatred.
Adil Ehsan, Pakistan

Ayodhya is to a Hindu what Mecca is to Muslims. Muslims should give up the disputed land to Hindus for preserving their religion and identity. India needs a USA-type constitution, and only when it is implemented will there will be peace.
Tejura, USA

The solution here is sending these Muslims to Pakistan. India should be declared a Hindu republic.
Sachin, India

This is chilling. Killing people in the name of God?

Kevin Mattias, Sweden
This is chilling. Killing people in the name of God? For Hindus-will the god Vishnu forgive you for killing small children??? For Muslims-will the god Allah forgive you for killing small children???.... The so-called religious leaders, are the people to be blamed. To Indian government-why can't you build a temple sacred to both Hindus and Muslims! Dear Muslims and Hindus! If you can drink the same water, if you can breath the same air - why can't you share the same temple!
Kevin Mattias, Sweden

There is no such thing as Hindu fighters and Muslim fighters. These cowards from both sets of groups are hiding behind "religion" in an excuse to fight each other - many have probably lost sight of the original "cause". If they are truly religious people, do they really genuinely think that God is going to thank them for killing and injuring and ruining the lives of those children/wives/husbands/parents left behind just for their "cause"? Get real. The media should not entertain that these fights are based on religion.
Sheenal Thaker, UK

It is true that all politicians are trying to gain mileage instead of sincerely solve the issue. However, this 'incident' did not start with the train burning nor did it start 10 years ago with the temple issue. What we see today was started with the Islamic invasion of the subcontinent about 900 years ago. Hindus have never gone to someone's land and plundered it in the name of religion. It is only due to the tolerance of Hindus that such small a minority of Muslims live freely and prosper. India is the only country in the world which has special laws for Muslims. Muslims of India enjoy more freedom of religion than Muslims in Islamic countries itself.
Sunil, USA

I've been reading the comments in this column and the sentiments of people expressed in editorials. Although many Hindus have expressed deep remorse for the riots and have even gone to the extent of saying that they "are ashamed to be Hindus", not even a single person from the Muslim community has expressed their anger at the barbaric act of torching Hindus on the train and of course, you could never expect them to say that they are ashamed of being Muslims. Muslims in India enjoy more rights and are pampered more than any other minority in India. And in return they complain that they are treated like "second-class" citizens and instigate their community against other religions! Where else in the world can this happen except India where secularism has acquired a totally different meaning altogether?
Asha, India

I think it's amazing that these people in the Indian subcontinent want to keep killing each other forever. The people of Europe were killing each other a few centuries ago, but wised up and started trading with each other. So today you have a prosperous Europe and a united community, while people in India/Pakistan/Bangladesh still keep killing each other. When will they wise up?
Robert Clive, UK

Retaliatory attacks on innocent people do not achieve anything just the like burning up people in trains did not

Raj Nayar,
After reading all the comments I can see that the majority of the people are civilized and agree to a basic point: Retaliatory attacks on innocent people do not achieve anything just the like burning up people in trains did not. Well, everyone except for "IR" from Pakistan. It is a very ignorant position to take to think that the blame for burning the train was conveniently placed on Muslims. Yes we (Indians) know that VHP is standing for everything that is not coming of a Hindu. We are not proud of them nor their actions. Ayodhya is a disputed site. For Hindus it is the birthplace of Lord Ram. Was there ever a temple where the Babri Masjid stood for centuries? Probably. Does that mean that the actions (destroying a place of worship) of some hooligans be condoned? Absolutely not. Two wrongs will not make it right. Perhaps we should quit trying to find out who started it and start living like human beings. Not as a Hindu or a Muslim. After all we were all born just that - a human being.
Raj Nayar,

I agree someone should remove this government mainly for its non-commitment to do anything but use force. I really hope this situation doesn't result in another break-up between the two peoples.
Ali, UK

The only reason we Hindus celebrate Deepawali and Dushera has been snatched away from us 500 years back. The birth of Bhagwan Ram Chander signifies the victory of good over evil. The future of our culture and religion is in the hands of Hindus like you and it is very insecure. USA is fighting the same war in Afghanistan right now, and luckily the enemy is outside their country. But in India the enemy is within and that is called the carnage of Muslims.
Jay, Bharat

Why is the Western media and democracy silent on the Hindu hardliners killing innocent Muslims in India? The USA doesn't see the fundamentalists and terrorism in India. This double standard forced the Muslims in the world to hate America. The current situation proved that how vital the creation of Pakistan was. And I think it's time to create another separate homeland for Indian Muslims. The Muslims and the Arabian countries will have to take action to force the Indian government to provide protection to the minorities, especially to the Muslims who are subject to atrocities.
Tariq Mehmood, Pakistan

The rule of law must prevail in India if it wants to prosper peacefully

F. Manzoor, Belgium/India
The dramatic events that are occurring in Gujarat and other parts of India are simply not tolerable. The apathy and the irresponsibility of India's political leaders are among the main causes that led to the present situation. How a country like India can be called "the greatest democracy in the world" while its leaders fail to deliver the basic requirements of democratic polity, namely the rule of law, the efficient protection of minorities,etc. What is needed is a bold and, most of all, an unbiased attitude from our political leaders and law enforcement officers in order to bring an end to this cycle of violence. The rule of law must prevail in India if it wants to prosper peacefully.
F. Manzoor, Belgium/India

Does the world still think that India is a secular state where the law and informant agencies helped the rioters in pointing out the minority group. Not only pointing/singling them out but helping in a sense of not reaching to the reported places on time. I think now it is the time the people of India should wake up and protest against the present government.
Fehmida, Canada/India

All the communal violence is occurring because of the Babri Masjid issue. Because this temple-Masjid issue, which started a decade ago, went too far. Nobody in Indian political parties (either BJP or Congress or third party) is trying to resolve the issue and instead is using this issue to come back to power. Forty years after the partition, the communal violence again started because of this issue.

This issue is making both Hindu and Muslim communities nervous. The political parties are chanting the Secularism or Hindu mantra, but keeping the issue alive and burning. Nobody wants to compromise and hundreds of innocent people are getting killed. The best solution for this problem is to resolve the Babri Masjid issue and bring peace to Hindu and Muslim communities and to avoid the recurrence of communal issues.
Regoti, USA/India

I think generally it is agreed that what is happening in India is disgusting and unacceptable situation. But the point that no one is highlighting WHY has this happened? To put it simply tensions have existed between Muslims and Hindus in India, since the extremist Hindus took apart the Mosque (Babri) The recent violence that has occurred only helps one party the Hindus i.e. BJP, which is a Hindu nationalist party full of extremist fanatics.

The violence was initiated by the BJP so it could strengthen its support among the Hindus who had become disillusioned with the BJP. A clear cut evidence being the recent elections that it suffered defeat in, so by initiating the wage of violence by blaming that a group of Muslims burnt a train carriage killing 58 people (Hindus) it was able to further raise the emotions of the fanatic Hindus and provided a green light for the current violence. The only solution being to this problem is by having a system that deals with human beings as human beings as we saw in the past that Muslims and Hindus lived peacefully side-by-side. There will always be tensions till the Hindu fanatics rule a nation whose premise is built on Hindu nationalism.
IR, Pakistan

If these people who are creating these riots claim it in the name of Hinduism, they are in a way killing their own mother, brother and child

Kanna, Hindu Indian in the US
No Religion teaches hatred and there is no justification for killing innocent civilians. If one believes in Hinduism he has to believe in re-incarnation. By Hinduism, its very much possible that a Hindu after death can be re-incarnated in a Muslim family. If these people who are creating these riots claim it in the name of Hinduism, they are in a way killing their own mother, brother and child. VHP has no rights to claim itself as a World Hindu Council by creating chaos with the support of mobs.
Kanna, Hindu Indian in the US

I recall that on the eve of partition Gandhi went on a fast unto death to stop the communal violence

Donald Ariel, Canada
I am a Christian from India. We have an acronym WWJD, meaning what would Jesus do? It would be pertinent to come up with a similar acronym WWGD, meaning what would have Gandhi done. I recall that on the eve of partition Gandhi went on a fast unto death to stop the communal violence. It worked. In modern India we do not have any leader who remotely thinks about these kinds of moral measures. They are all dwarfs compared to Gandhi. It is a greatest tragedy that all this happened in the state from where the light was shone in the darkness, and which was put away by one of the representatives of of modern India. I hang my head in shame.
Donald Ariel, Canada

The recent medieval massacres in India triggered by religious jingoism, point squarely to the absence of a functional law and order apparatus to protect citizens in most parts of North India. It is also poignantly pertinent to point out that though, sections of India have made vast strides in technology and science, the vast majority live in abject squalor and misery, reacting to religious issues as tragic puppets on the strings of ignorant political brigands. It is time for the educated elite in India to take control of their country or face a downward spiral into civil anarchy and eventual disintegration of the republic.
Reuben D, USA

A Hindu should have respect in Hinduism and a Muslim should have complete faith in Islam. This is the only solution to this problem. If everyone has faith in his or her own religion, then no one needs a temple, a church or a mosque. Blaming anyone doesn't serve the purpose. Everyone should be honest in his or her duties and religion. These recent riots are just to de-throne the Indian economy and peace. All are aware of it, but irony is that no one thinks of it.
Mahindra, India/UK

Does Mr. Vajpayee have the courage to ban VHP the way President Musharaf has banned extremist parties in Pakistan? or is his vote bank and Prime Ministership more important to him than citizens of his own country? Instead of waging war on its borders, Mr. Vajpayee should wage a war on the extremist element in India.
Tufail, US

It is quite interesting to note the number of messages posted here from Hindus saying that they do not care for a temple to be built in Ayodhya. There are two points to be made here: 1) Not a single Muslim stated that he did not care for the mosque to be rebuilt there, which is their hard-line position. Any solution needs a flexible attitude from both parties and I do not see any from the Muslims. 2) I believe that the overwhelming opinion of the ordinary Hindus is for a temple to be built in the birthplace of Lord Rama (where strangely none exists today). This is not reflected in the opinions of the intellectual elite that post here.

The temple has become more than a matter of faith. Rather, that of the identity of India itself. As a Hindu in India, I feel threatened by the aggressive Muslim minority that resorts to acts of violence on the slightest pretext and Hindus are chastised as being anit-secular every time a rightful finger of blame is pointed at them. I believe that now they are reaping the whirlwind. No matter how meek or tolerant Hindus might have been, they have protected their religion and culture throughout history. Otherwise, India would have been an Iran, Afghanistan or Pakistan. Not a democratic, secular nation of a billion.
Aditya , USA/India

Secularism and special privileges based on religion don't go together. Yet that's exactly what is happening in India as politicians, for the pursuit of power, pander to minority votes that are big enough to swing the result and, in the process, sacrifice secularism. The solution will be a long process, but the starting point must be to treat all Indians equally in the eyes of the law without reference to their religion. This means removing all special privileges based on religion. An example is the government subsidising visits for Hajj - the government should have no involvement in this personal and private activity. Unfortunately, groups do not want to give up privileges gained under the name of religion, yet when it suits them, they hide behind the term "secular". A case of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds!
Rajesh, UK

Hindus have come to the defence of their Muslims neighbours in some areas.

Raghavendra, USA/India
India has been a nation where Hindus and Muslims (and people of other faiths) have been coexisting peacefully for centuries. Although Hindus are in majority, we are honoured to have Muslims who have done the country proud in various fields - notably people like Abdul Kalam, Azim Premji and several great musicians like Ustad Bismillah Khan.

It is, therefore, very unfortunate that the VHP is destroying India's secular fabric by bringing up the meaningless issue of Ayodhya temple, when the Hindu religion clearly points out that Ram is present in all living beings and not just in temples. One thing from which we can still take heart is the way some Hindus have come to the defence of their Muslims neighbours in some areas. The spirit of secular India is alive among them.
Raghavendra, USA/India

And the cycle continues. First one side does something barbarous and heinous and then the next side replies with repercussions. Priming the next generation for more hatred and polarity. We need dialogue and strong impartial leaders to stir the people blinded by faith towards being thinking individuals and not animals bent on hatred and distraction.
Ritu, India

The death toll over the last 5 days could well be over 1,000. The majority of victims, slaughtered in that all too common way of burning, were innocent Muslims. The train killings should rightly be condemned. But we must ask the question why so many are intent on building the temple rather than waiting for the courts to decide? Who do the VHP think they are - setting deadlines in the knowledge that this would inflame the situation? The violence that followed was not 'riots' or communal disturbances that the Indian government or media may have us believe. This was an outright massacre. Secularism is dead. I do not have any faith in the land of Gandhi anymore.
Parvinder Singh, UK

I am appalled at the violence occurring in India. No religion condones taking a human life. How can a temple or mosque be worth this kind of carnage? I, for one, would feel like a hypocrite to step inside this temple (assuming it ever gets completed. I like the idea of building a 'dual' structure- part temple, part mosque. If this can't be agreed upon, then the ground should be considered beyond use for ANY project.
Mitesh Thanki, UK

Any action the government takes now will be of a face saving one. The violence will stop by itself, today or tomorrow... but the one thing that will be remembered is that no action was taken when it was needed the most. This incident has opened up the hard lined sectarian division that exist within the Indian society for years. There are only two real solutions to this problem, either you educate the people to be self-responsible or crack down on the fanatics who take advantage of the naive people to gain political or personal benefits.
Mitin Rathod, Hindu, Indian/USA

When one's religion compels one burn to burn children alive, then it ceases to be worthy of worship.

Syed Ghani, Indian in US
When one's religion compels one burn to burn children alive, then it ceases to be worthy of worship. We of India who take pride in seeing many manifestations of the same almighty, see God in children too. When we are ready to burn them, we are burning our Gods and with that our faith. Irrespective of who perpetuates the heinous crime they are worth condemning as the Godless as they truly are. How does one justify such mass killing of innocents? Did any God require it? If that is so, I will not propiate that God.
Syed Ghani, Indian in the US.

The Hindu 'backlash' against the torching of the Sabarmati Express by Muslims was a disgraceful act by the Hindus. I, as a Hindu/American-from-India am ashamed that my 'compatriots' undertook this carnage. However, I have not heard/read even ONE WORD of apology or regret in Muslim newspapers worldwide or from the large Muslim community in the US for the initiation of this trouble. On the other hand, Muslim groups are reiterating the divisive '2-nation' theory - a theory that has forever left Muslims in limbo throughout the planet.
Hemant Sharma, USA

At this point, what is required is an innovative approach to the entire problem. Any solution based on a religious sentiment is bound to invite conflict. Hence, what is required is a solution over and above religious sentiment.

For example, the disputed site should be converted to a historical site in the very form it exists today with historical explanations of what has happened. Appreciate history as it occurred; do not attempt to rechange it. Yes, there was a temple, then yes, the ruler changed and built a mosque over the temple...And now we should look at history and treat it as a place to visit... Both are supposedly dwellings of God...Lets both respect the region as history decided without any further distortion. Make a beautiful museum and let it be a learning place for the new generation children, a visiting place for the tourists and YES, why not, a prayer place for the religious pilgrimages...

Innovation and creativity are tools for progress...

International human rights agencies ought to put more pressure on the Indian government

Irfan Ayub, Canada/Pakistan
Loss of innocent life for any cause whether it is religious or political is immoral. International human rights agencies ought to put more pressure on the Indian government to act swiftly in order to stop this violence.
Irfan Ayub, Canada/Pakistan

The vicious and cowardly acts of burning of a train and the subsequent burning of houses with innocent men, women and children trapped inside is a crime against the entire humanity and should be strongly condemned by every decent human being on this planet, including all God-fearing Hindus and Muslims.
Shahid, USA

I think it is the religious extremism, low standards of living and feelings of hatred for the other religion that has been sown into the minds of the people by their elders that is causing the much debated mayhem.
Juzar Maimoon, India

The VHP deserves a long overdue ban like the SIMI. Any extremist group in India, be they Hindu, Muslim, Communist etc, should be banned. Thins will protect India's secularism. As for the Babri Masjid issue, it should be turned into a peace monument built by people of all faiths and backgrounds.
Shankar, USA/India

Build both a temple and mosque to put the issue to rest

Rajiv Sinha, USA
Hatred begets violence. It is time for the BJP government to assert itself and resolve the temple issue once and for all. Build both a temple and mosque to put the issue to rest. India does not need another Godhra incident or what has followed in its aftermath.
Rajiv Sinha, USA

Well, what we can do is teach our children not to think like we do. During our childhood, our parents teach us that WE are Hindus/Muslims and what we follow is the true religion. This childhood teaching/preaching is shaping lives of our future generation. The only way forward is to go beyond justice - that is - to forgive instead of punishing.
Ali, Pakistan/UK

The rioters whether Muslim or Hindu have no faith or trust in god. The ugly politicians warm their bodies by creating such things. The people of the nation must be aware of these selfish fellows.
Mohamed Mohideen, India

No temple, no mosque is worth the blood of so many innocent human beings

Suprabha Ray, Indian in the US
There is but one answer to the current crisis - the violence must be stopped at all costs. And with that must come the realisation that religion, be it Hinduism or Islam, is about making one a good human being. No religion will condone the murder of fellow human beings. Violence will beget violence, hatred will beget hatred. No temple, no mosque is worth the blood of so many innocent human beings.
Suprabha Ray, Indian in the US

There are tears rolling down my cheeks as I read one article after another about the brutal killings in Godhra and Ahmedabad. It is hard to believe that such a heinous crime was committed in MY country. The solution to this problem lies not in one person's hands but in the hands of the community. I pray to the Almighty to give peace to the departed souls.
Mufaddal Husainy, USA

There must have been a lot of resentment and tension building up for a long time in India for either Muslims or Hindus to resort to such extreme acts of violence. When civilians feel they must take matters into their own hands, it's a clear sign that the government is too busy playing politics to solve problems that affect its people. It's time for the Indian government, which claims to be secular and multi-ethnic, to step up and bring this situation under control.

There is a lack of leadership and ideas in India. Why can't the Hindus and Muslims work together and build a temple and a mosque side by side? Or just build a monument for peace? Many of us have worked with and have friends of all religions!
Arnold, USA

Religion has been the cause of war and the murder of millions for thousands of years. Who are we to think we can stop it now? As long as there is religion there will be death.
Chuck O., USA

What is happening here today is not what we pictured of a peaceful state

Surabhi Bhatt, India
I'm a resident of Gujarat state and I strongly disapprove and condemn of what is happening here. What is happening here today is not what we pictured of a peaceful state. Shops, restaurants, shopping complexes are burning and the people are watching the drama with a mute face. Even the police is unable to take full control of the situation. The train burnt down in Godhra killing so many people was expressed as a sad incident by many... but not one single man has taken any right steps for figuring out the culprits who really did it. Gujarat has faced many hurdles before and after the earthquake in January 2001. I'm a 16 year old girl writing to all those people who would find my information resourceful and know the reality of Gujarat.
Surabhi Bhatt, India

In a Modern and Democratic India there should be dialogue between those affected. To kill a person will not resolve anything but will fan the flames of anger and hatred. We should be proud of being Indian whether you are a Muslim, Christian, or Hindu. I myself was not born in India, but feel strongly about my nation. God Bless India!
Praful Vadher, England

Gujrat has had a history of communal violence. It is sad to see that no concrete steps are being taken to stem such kind of mob frenzies. The Centre and the State governments should have a plan to prevent such incidents. As the violence spreads, there are revenge killings and it is all the more difficult to contain. It is even more sad that its been 2 days since the train burning incident and still the Gujarat government has not been able to contain rioters. The Centre should immediately impose Presidents rule in Gujarat, and the Prime Minister should deal with the situation first hand. I urge the present government of India to act fast, and that the people involved, whether politicians or others, be brought to book in such a way that such things don¿t happen again. I can only hope and pray that righteousness will prevail.
Vishal Bijlani, USA

We are responsible for our own misery - we must be able to forgive.

Simon, UK
Ghandi was the last person who was able to make a difference - and he was killed for it. JFK tried, his brother, Martin Luther King as well died for a belief. The world and mankind do not belong together - we as humans do not deserve to live while murdering our brothers. Children will continue to die as each side says, "Now it's fair". The children always lose. We all lose. There is no way out other than selfless compassion for one another - true love for one's self and those around us. We must all remember, we are responsible for our own misery - we must be able to forgive. May we all find and share love.
Simon, UK

After the events of September 11th I saw why the united states was a great democracy. There were no riots and revenge killings of Muslims. India on the other hand responded differently. What can you expect from a country where the former prime minister once stated on the death of his mother Indira Gandhi that the subsequent riots and murders of sikhs were justifiable?
I am ashamed of calling myself a Hindu and an Indian.
Sanjay Kumar, USA

India is the only country with people who practice so many religions, talk in SO many languages and still get along well. There will be some hiccups here and there. Hindus and Muslims lived like brothers for so many centuries and we will live like a family in the future too. We need to bring awareness in the common people to root out the "Bad and flagrant thoughts taught by a handful of Fundamentalists mostly for their own selfish reasons". We should stop throwing darts at such a wonderful country and give helping hand to masses by teaching "A new way of life where we all can live together". It is less than 55 years since we were all fighting together as a single family, Protesting against English Rule. We will live together peacefully and WE MUST.
Srinivas, India

Failed intelligence at every level, lax security at every level, unqualified political leaders, extremist groups aided from outside amongst the Muslims and followed by ignorant masses on one hand, and extremist group like VHP amongst the Hindus followed by ignorant masses, etc. form a potent mix for what is happening in Gujarat. Shame to both State and Central Governments for not doing their job.
P.K. Basu, USA

The problem will never be solved because the upper middle classes are never affected directly by riots.

Farhan, USA
There is only one thing that can prevent future greatness for India - a serious rift between Hindus and Muslims in the country. India can probably survive corruption and apathy towards poverty, but not internecine fighting. Of course, this bout of fighting will soon become part of our collective amnesia. The problem will never be solved because the upper middle classes are never affected directly by riots. Hence the sense of urgency is not there to root out the miscreants. We in the middle class will relate to these riots by metamorphosing these events into documentaries and novels and stories. Our horror will be the horror of cold intellectualism. God help India !
Farhan the secular Malik, USA

First things first. As an (admittedly lapsed) Muslim, my first target of rage is the Muslim barbarians who set the train on fire. No matter how great the provocation, there is absolutely no justification for what they did and the lion's share of the blame for the subsequent carnage is definitely theirs. Obviously the disquieting complacency, if not tacit connivance, of the police in retaliatory Hindu attacks is equally reprehensible. What strikes me as particularly odd is the fact that in an increasingly sectarian polarized nation why didn't Muslims/ Muslim organizations with pretensions of having the moral upper ground roundly condemn the acts of Muslim thugs in Godhra? Why don't Hindu organizations like the VHP and RSS do the same about the carnage in Ahmedabad? That would make a healthy start, I think.
Ashfaque Swapan, California, USA

What are we going to achieve by building another temple in Ayodhya? Already we have several thousand temples in India.

Gowrishankar Chelliah, USA
I am deeply sorrowed by the ghastly train tragedy that took place in Gujarat, India. What followed after this was a stupid, atrocious, communal act. I am ashamed of being an Hindu because we are no different from terrorist. My perception is that this is driven by so called religious hooligans and anti social elements. Is the government taking any measures to stop this violence that has already taken hundreds of innocent lives? This violence is going to spread like a wildfire and destroy the good elements of the society. Finally, I think the government of India (a government that is Perpetrating sectarian, religious forces) should strongly condemn the act and take stern against all forces (VHP, RSS, Muslim Leagues) that provoked this kind of extremist act. What are we going to achieve by building another temple in Ayodhya? Already we have several thousand temples in India; If you need to worship the Almighty, the omnipresent a small peaceful place is more than enough. Let the people of India think about it and take a rational decision. This message has to come from the educated, elite mass who can make the uneducated/illiterate to realise the insignificance of this barbaric communal violence.
Gowrishankar Chelliah, U.S.A.

The nation has become polarized. The resurgence of both Muslim and Hindu anger since the September 11 attacks, the stand off with Pakistan and attacks on the Indian parliament, have made things worse, not better.
Sampath Kumar, India / USA

Having grown up in India and witnessed it first-hand, I can tell you that this entire issue has less to do with religion and more to do with politics. I agree with the person who said that the government should reclaim the land in dispute and build something there for the greater good. If, however, everyone wants to insist on a religious context, perhaps the government should build a structure there that has two faces, one a mosque and the other a temple. There is a similar structure in Mumbai city which has four faces mirroring four different faiths-- because THAT is the real India.
Geeta , Singapore/India

There cannot be any justification for such a dastardly act.

Ash Kahn, Canada / India
I am appalled at the recent burning of a train in Gujarat. No matter who provoked who, there cannot be any justification for such a dastardly act. Both the central and the state governments should act immediately to stop the communal groups from further enflaming the situation. In a democratic society, the governments have a responsibility to protect all of its citizens and arrest those who practice intolerance.
Ash Khan, Canada / India

I am an Indian Muslim. It troubles me to see my innocent brothers and sisters, both Hindu and Muslim die like this. They are victims of the ugliest religion on earth - Extremism! Followers of this ugly faith practice it with heinous acts of mindless violence. Neither the Babri Masjid or the proposed temple is worth the lives of so many people. No temple or mosque, no matter how grand, will ever bring peace back to the life of that father who just saw his little daughter being burned alive!! The only means to end this mindlessness is to recognize these extremists not as Hindus or Muslims, but as an evil entity all its own! May God bless the souls of those perished during these riots!
Moiz Bhinderwala, India

From the Train Burning incident in India, it seems that LIFE has no value and it is becoming worthless. Anybody is killing anybody unreasonably. Looking back into the historical restless days of riots and mob looting, it is clear that any of the political parties is not in a position to control these kind of massive killings. Ultimately, it is damaging Indian economy, social peace, cultural harmony. Strict enforcement of laws with out political considerations is the necessity of the hour.
Mandar Ambekar, India /Germany

I am a Hindu, who believes in tolerance. Our religion is known for its tolerance towards others. It is a shame we have lost it. I can understand the emotion behind what Hindus are doing, but it does not justify the actions. History will never forgive this continuing violence - Stop this carnage please !!! What do the Hindus gain by killing those innocent Muslims? Will it bring back the dead?. God is neither Hindu nor Muslim. Let us just be ordinary human being, not any sword wielding "defenders" of any religion.
Aks Pillai, UK

As an Indian, albeit living abroad, it is a source of intense shame to me, and no doubt others, that a country that produced someone like Mahatma Gandhi, is unable, 50 years after independence, to address the problems caused by religious and other sectarian divisions. It is no good if Indian politicians - and specifically those from the BJP - make grave comments after such violent incidents. It is because those in power (supposedly educated people) use religion and caste when it suits them, that ordinary, uneducated people think it is acceptable to use violence means to support your beliefs. Unless Indian politicians themselves stop using religion and caste to further their own selfish means, it is unreasonable to expect ordinary people to do so. Strong and secular leadership, unfortunately, is a rare commodity in India.
Rustam Roy, England (ex-India)

As long as people believe that every religion has a separate God this violence will never come to an end. To be religious people need to have self realisation, we all share the same God no religion says kill the innocent. The Almighty will not forgive any being for committing such a sin. It's extremely sad that a country that has a huge potential fails due to the mentality of a few disillusioned people.
Kiran Jass, UK

Muslim Indian citizens should not suspected for everything that happens wrong in India

Ram, India
First and foremost the law enforcement agencies should do their job. Secondly, Muslim Indian citizens should be treated well and not suspected for everything that happens wrong in India. If the government acts in a truly secular manner, Muslims will feel like an integral part of India and won't resort to taking law into their own hands.
Ram, India

See also:

01 Mar 02 | South Asia
Fresh riots rock Gujarat
28 Feb 02 | South Asia
Violence flares in western India

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