Communal or sectarian violence poses a serious threat not only to India’s secular and democratic spirit but also wreaks serious havoc on its economy, writes Asif Rameez Daudi for South Asia Monitor
The long-festering Ayodhya land dispute was finally resolved on November 9, 2019, following the verdict of the Supreme Court. The disputed land had been a bone of contention between Hindus and Muslims and which resulted in the prolonged unwelcomed skirmish, leading to many lives lost and properties destroyed.
The verdict cleared all obstacles on the way to build the Ram Temple by giving the ownership of the disputed 2.77-acre land to the trust formed by the government.
India's composite culture
The apex court further ordered the government to provide five acres of alternative land at a suitable place in Ayodhya to build a mosque. There are mixed reactions from both communities. The verdict seems to aim at ending the decades-old political, historical, and religious debates and to infuse life in the dying communal harmony in the country.
India has been a country known for its great composite culture in the world. It cradles people of different religions, cultures, races, and languages, etc. living together harmoniously. However, some incidents certainly smeared its reputation before the world and affected the communal harmony in the country.
It affects people of both communities emotionally, mentally, socially, and economically and that trauma travels with them through generations.
Economic effects of violence
Communal or sectarian violence poses a serious threat not only to India’s secular and democratic spirit but also wreaks serious havoc on its economy. In the Economic Survey for 1992-93, “The riots in December 1992 and January 1993 disrupted transport, slowed the growth of exports and industrial production, and reduced the country’s revenue." If not for the riots, India would have seen “faster recovery" in both output and employment. Post-riot consequences led to the economic downfall of the country.
Last year's violence in Delhi alone incurred a huge financial loss. According to the Delhi Chamber of Commerce, the total damage was worth Rs. 25,000 crore. Shockingly the overall economic loss of the year 2017 alone, as per the data given by the Institute for Economics and Peace says violence cost the Indian economy a whopping USD 1.19 trillion (over Rs 80 lakh crore) last year in constant purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, which amounts to roughly USD 595.4 per person.
How far and to what extent will people go in the persuasion of their hatred of religious identities. Europe has learned lessons from world wars and communal violence between Catholics and Protestants. The loss in human life and in material goods was beyond any calculation. According to contemporary historians, around one billion people died, half of them were civilians. The economic consequences changed Europe from creditor to debtor. England had once been the superpower but had an overseas debt of 3.355 million pounds after the war. What was the gain? India’s neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Afghanistan lost more than a hundred thousand lives and still struggling to refurbish its economy.
The economic effects of violence whether it be between countries, communities or families often travel beyond the conflict period. It becomes a real hindrance in the progress and development of a nation. Europe is now flourishing day and night after preventing violence on their soil as the main priority and focusing on development and growth for their countries.
On the eve of the verdict of the Supreme Court on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land title case, people were very apprehensive that communal violence could break out. The country was on high alert. But the consciousness of the people posed a major barrier in stopping any such incident occurring in the country.
In fact, communalists are not interested in religion; they are interested only in the manipulation and exploitation of religious identities and emotions for their vested interests. Despite the fact, communalism is the most serious challenge for Indian society and polity. But it is not the dominant mode of thought of the Indian people.
Choose the India you want to live in
Following the guidelines of the Supreme Court, the Uttar Pradesh government allotted a five-acre land in Ayodhya's Dhannipur village for the construction of the mosque and the Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation Trust was given the responsibility of building it. The proposed mosque complex is to have a multi-specialty hospital, a community kitchen, and a library. However, as per the Indian media reports, a debate has been raging over the legitimacy of the proposed mosque. The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board has opposed the proposed mosque and declared it against the Waqf Act and "illegal" under the Shariat laws.
Following the verdict, the dispute of Babri Masjid has now come to an end which was the root cause of all communal skirmishes in India. Politics prevails in a democracy which could perceptibly be manifested in various strata of society. Politicians certainly will find ways for doing their kind of politics but it is time to live in peace and harmony. A peaceful country only brings economic prosperity and development. Tranquility in the country will certainly make it compete with the developed nations of the world.
Democracy provides every person to contribute something for the betterment of the country. People’s positive contributions, while rejecting violence and living together happily have always been reckoned as the greatest contributions in nation-building.
Therefore, there is a big question before the people - what type of India they like to build? A nation that is embroiled in sectarian and communal problems and whose government is constantly trying to resolve it, or a nation that focuses on economic prosperity and development and making India a superpower!
(The writer is an educationist and faculty member of King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The views are personal. He tweets at @asiframeez and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)