Poverty and demographic change are shaking different parts of India: The multi-ethnic nation sees violence errupt as its rising economy excludes some of its most fragile regions.
Looking calmer than it is (via cishore, Flickr)
Living with other people is not easy. India has known this song for years, but seldom has it sounded worse: By now, the international conflict in Kashmir is not the only thing to worry about; in the last months, clashes between Hindu tribesmen and ethnic Bangladeshis in the North Eastern state of Assam as well as attacks on Christians in Orissa have made it into the news.
The state of Assam has been seeing multi-ethnical tensions grow over the last few years. The local tribes, some of which are Christian (and some Hindu), fear being overrun by the Bengali Muslims, a section of the population which has grown – not least because of 1.6 millionen Bangladeshi immigrants, most of whom live illegally in India.
In Orissa, it is Christians vs. Hindus: On August 23, a famous Hindu preacher known as Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati was killed. Though Maoist guerrillas have claimed to be responsible, his followers blame Christians (side note: a lot of the Maoists are Christians as well). Only four percent of the Indian people are Christian, but in this region, conversion rates from poor Hindus are rising. The unsolved murder has triggered violence against the Christian minority and there are reports about forced conversions. But behind religion lies a conflict between two of the poorest groups, the Kondha (who have become mainly Hindus) and the Panas (who have embraced Christianity): Both communities have been fighting for influence and government money for decades.
In large parts of the East (to which Orissa belongs, too), Naxalite Maoist rebels have gotten a firm grip on the region. They have become especially influencal in south-eastern states like Andhra Pradesh: As elections lie ahead and the established Teluga Desam Party (TDP) recently embraced an independent state in the Telangana-region, a step some say might create a “Maoist haven”, there are fears the situation might escalate and trigger riots.
As in a lot of conflicts, these regions do not only share a multi-ethnical population; they also share the fact their people have not seen much of the economic growth and wealth some other states in India have experienced.