Undergraduate Humanities Forum 2007-2008: Origins

Document Type


Date of this Version

April 2008


2007-2008 Penn Humanities Forum on Origins, Undergraduate Mellon Research Fellows.

URL: http://humanities.sas.upenn.edu/07-08/uhf_fellows.shtml


"Before I tell you what happened to in 2002…Do you know the history behind this? Do you understand the origins, how all this started?" To the majority of residents living in the city of Rajkot in the state of Gujarat, India the 2002 riots are comprehensible only as addendums to a kind of perennial Hindu-Muslim communal conflict that they describe as having waged for "many years" in the region. But, the central ambiguity to decipher is this term "many years." While it might seem as if residents are referring to a historically significant time period beginning in the medieval ages and concluding now, within minutes of interviewing them, regardless of their gender, class, age or religion, it becomes clear that even ancient history to them is in fact the history of India's independence. The term "many years" is specifically referring to a fairly recent 1990's decade of violent Hindu-Muslim relations, sparked by destruction of the Ayodhya mosque in 2002. This raises the logical question: so why is no one talking about preindependence Hindu-Muslim relations?

The answer to this question becomes fairly evident from interviews. If a Rajkot resident is asked specifically about the earliest pre-independence history of Hindu and Muslims relations in Gujarat, the response if given, usually by an older male Hindu resident2, focuses on tale of the Mahmud of Ghazni and his destruction of the Hindu temple at Somanatha. A very general discussion of undefined or dateless instances of "Muslim" capture and torture of Hindu kings and residents follows. Rarely is the distinction of Mahmad of Gazni as a Turkish versus Arabian ruler mentioned. Rarely is the distinction between oppressive Muslim political ruler and oppressive Muslim general citizen made.



Date Posted: 18 June 2008

This document has been peer reviewed.