Fears for Democracy in India

Martha Nussbaum in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Nussbaummartha1 On February 27, 2002, the Sabarmati express train arrived in the station of Godhra, in the state of Gujarat, bearing a large group of Hindu pilgrims who were returning from a trip to the purported birthplace of the god Rama at Ayodhya (where, some years earlier, angry Hindu mobs had destroyed the Babri mosque, which they claimed was on top of the remains of Rama’s birthplace). The pilgrimage, like many others in recent times, aimed at forcibly constructing a temple over the disputed site, and the mood of the returning passengers, frustrated in their aims by the government and the courts, was angrily emotional. When the train stopped at the station, the Hindu passengers got into arguments with Muslim passengers and vendors. At least one Muslim vendor was beaten up when he refused to say Jai Sri Ram (“Hail Rama”). As the train left the station, stones were thrown at it, apparently by Muslims.

Fifteen minutes later, one car of the train erupted in flames. Fifty-eight men, women, and children died in the fire. Most of the dead were Hindus. In the days that followed the incident, wave upon wave of violence swept through the state. The attackers were Hindus, many of them highly politicized, shouting slogans of the Hindu right, along with “Kill! Destroy!” and “Slaughter!” There is copious evidence that the violent retaliation was planned before the precipitating event by Hindu extremist organizations that had been waiting for an occasion. No one was spared: Young children were thrown into fires along with their families, fetuses ripped from the bellies of pregnant women. Particularly striking was the number of women who were raped, mutilated, in some cases tortured with large metal objects, and then set on fire. Over the course of several weeks, about 2,000 Muslims were killed.

More here.