India — June 2007

Sociopolitical Situation

India is in a turbulent country, and will continue to be so for decades. Economically, India is growing in leaps and bounds, but this growth is destabilizing the country.

The recent remark by the president of India, who urged political reform and the adoption of a two-party political system, has been rejected by the people of some states. (Political parties are usually based on caste and confessional membership and often trigger election fraud.) A regional political party was elected recently to form the government in the state of Uttar Pradesh, despite the attempts of the Hindu fundamentalists, whose politicians have never succeeded in making themselves acceptable to the Indian population.

There has been interconfessional agitation in Rajasthan, a state governed by a hardcore Hindu fundamentalist party, which opposed the efforts of one ethnic caste, the “Gujjars,” to achieve “Scheduled Tribe” status. The agitation left many persons dead and brought Rajasthan and the neighboring states to a standstill for many days.

India’s incredible economic growth has widened the polarity between the rich and the poor. Banks have started to provide loans liberally, but at higher interest rates, thus preventing the average family from living a debt-free life. Many farmers who had obtained loans have committed suicide due to the exorbitant interest rates. Commodities have escalated by more than 30 percent in last six to seven months.

Religious Situation

Some state governments have introduced legislation of a specifically Hindu character. Others have passed legislation that offend traditional Hindu prejudices or discriminate against untouchables. The social structure of traditional Hinduism is slowly crumbling in the cities. Intercaste and interreligious marriages are becoming more frequent, though some aspects of the caste system show remarkable vitality, especially in the matter of appointments and elections.

Though changing, Hinduism is far from dying. Mythological films, once the most popular form of entertainment, are enjoying a renaissance. New teachers appear and attract considerable followings. Militant fundamentalist Hindu organizations are steadily growing. Such movements can be seen behind the persistent outbreaks of interreligious violence, affecting for example Sikhs in Punjab, Muslims in Gujarat and Hyderabad, Gujjars and Meenas in Rajasthan and Christians throughout the country. On the intellectual and the popular levels, Hinduism is in the process of adapting itself to new values and new conditions, sometimes employing the methodologies employed by the church.

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