Hindus in India think Partition was good for relations with Muslims: survey

Published July 5, 2021
Sept 19, 1947: Muslim refugees sit on the roof of an overcrowded coach railway train near New Delhi in trying to flee India. — AP/File
Sept 19, 1947: Muslim refugees sit on the roof of an overcrowded coach railway train near New Delhi in trying to flee India. — AP/File

WASHINGTON: Hindus are more likely than Muslims in India to say the 1947 Partition was good for Hindu-Muslim relations, reveals a US survey released this week.

The surveyors — Pew Research Center survey, Washington — also found that the majority of Hindus “think it is very important to be Hindu and to speak Hindi to be truly Indian”.

The study is based on nearly 30,000 face-to-face interviews in India that Pew conducted in 17 languages between late 2019 and early 2020.

“More than seven decades after [the partition] predominant view among Indian Muslims is that the Partition of the subcontinent was a bad thing for Hindu-Muslim relations (48 percent). Only three-in-ten Muslims say it was a good thing,” the study shows.

“Hindus, however, lean in the opposite direction: 43 percent of Hindus say Partition was beneficial for Hindu-Muslim relations, while 37pc say it was harmful.”

Sikhs are even more likely than Muslims to “say the event was bad for Hindu-Muslim relations: Two-thirds of Sikhs (66 percent) take this position”, the report adds.

The surveyors also found that among Hindus, views of national identity go together with politics. Support for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is greater among Hindus who closely associate their religious identity and the Hindi language with being truly Indian.

In the 2019 national elections, 60pc of Hindu voters who think it is particularly important to be Hindu and to speak Hindi to be truly Indian cast their vote for the BJP, compared with 33pc who feel less strongly about both these aspects of national identity. These views also map onto regional support for the BJP, which tends to be much higher in the Northern and Central parts of the country than in the South.

Nearly three-quarters of Hindus (72pc) say a person cannot be Hindu if they eat beef. That is larger than the shares of Hindus who say a person cannot be Hindu if they do not believe in God (49pc) or never go to a temple (48pc).

Similarly, three-quarters of Indian Muslims (77pc) say that a person cannot be Muslim if they eat pork, which is greater than the share who say a person cannot be Muslim if they do not believe in God (60pc) or never attend mosque (61pc).

The surveyors also found that Indians generally stick to their own religious group while making friends. Hindus overwhelmingly say that most or all their close friends are also Hindu. Even among Sikhs and Jains, who each form a sliver of the national population, a large majority say their friends come mainly or entirely from their small religious community.

Many Hindus (45pc) say they do not want people of other religions in their neighborhood. More than one-in-three Hindus (36pc) say they do not want a Muslim as a neighbor. Among Jains, 54pc say they would not accept a Muslim neighbor, although nearly all Jains (92pc) say they would be willing to accept a Hindu neighbour.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2021

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