India's Second Great Mutiny?

For all its long history, India is a young country, with perhaps 70% of its population under 30 years of age. The number of those with memories of the bloody 1947 partition that produced India and Pakistan as independent states is declining, and for the young generation, Pakistan is no longer a part of the great nation that was lost, but a hostile neighbor that supports violent, fundamentalist jihad. Sadly, distrust of Pakistan increasingly touches India's Muslim community, more than 100 million strong, but still only 12% of the Indian population.

Despite partition, India's mood in the first decades of independence was one of idealism and hope. Most Muslims saw Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, as the true inheritor of Mahatma Gandhi's vision of India as a tolerant, multi-national state. In turn, several of Nehru's Muslim associates were respected nationally across the religious divide. Muslims trusted Nehru implicitly, and his Indian National Congress Party had a near monopoly on Muslim votes.

This support persisted despite difficult conditions for the Muslim minority, including blatant discrimination in employment and in the distribution of government largesse. More ominously, Muslims were often considered a Fifth Column within India, plotting to divide the country further. Such suspicions frequently boiled over into religious riots, in which Muslims bore over 90% of the casualties. No one has ever been punished for these killings.

By the 1980s, the Congress Party's dominance of Indian politics was ending. From the Muslim point of view, no major political party took up the cause of Indian pluralism with the conviction that guided Nehru. Other parties moved in to take their share of Muslim votes while the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, (BJP) the current ruling party, began creating and consolidating a growing bloc of anti-Muslim voters.