India-Pakistan: Traditions To Die For


August 31, 2008:  For the last two months, fighting in Pakistan, along the Afghan border, has left over a thousand dead, several thousand wounded and over half a million refugees. Most of the casualties are among the Islamic militants, and most of those are Taliban. Al Qaeda and Taliban suicide bombers operate, but not in large enough numbers to have much impact.

In Pakistan's Swat valley, the army continues its offensive against Islamic militants, who refuse to surrender, or adhere to the terms of any ceasefire they agree to. It's the usual factionalism among the Islamic radicals that makes it impossible to negotiate with the radicals. So the army is bombing Islamic radical camps, and rounding up leaders, or at least trying to. In the Swat Valley, the local Islamic terrorist leader (a cleric with a militant following) has based his terror campaign on the need to halt the education of girls. The Taliban considers this un-Islamic, and over a hundred girls schools in the Swat Valley have been shut or destroyed by the Taliban.

Civil unrest in Indian Kashmir, where the Moslem majority in the northern half of the state agreed to halt their campaign of non-violent protest. The Hindu minority agreed as well. This is more of a truce, than a resolution of the conflict. The Moslems were protesting the expansion (by a hundred acres) of facilities around a Hindu shrine, and the increasing number of Hindus making the pilgrimage (many doing so as a form of protest against Islamic efforts to separate Kashmir from India). This goes to the root of Moslem-Hindu relations in South Asia. While Hinduism is a tolerant (by world standards) and ancient religion with thousands (polytheistic) of gods, Islam is a much more aggressive, monotheistic (one god) and recent religion that is intolerant of other religions. While Islam appeared 1400 years ago, it took about 400 years before a proper invasion of India could be carried out. The Hindus resisted, India being one of the few places where the majority of the conquered people did not convert. In fact, most of the Indians who converted to Islam were those from the bottom castes (of the Hindu caste system that assigns all families to a permanent socio-economic status, and is pretty bad for those in the lowest castes). In all, Islam managed to convert about a quarter of the people in what is now India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. While most of the 15 percent of India's population that is Moslem have accommodated themselves to peacefully coexisting with Hindus (and Christians and all the other religious minorities of India), there are still Islamic conservatives in majority Moslem Pakistan and Bangladesh who regard India as unfinished business, in terms of the need to forcibly convert those pagan Hindus to the One True Religion.  In majority Moslem Kashmir, that ancient animosity towards Hindus is back in play as a popular enthusiasm. There, two months of Moslem protests against Hindu shrines and pilgrims has caused enormous damage to the local economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism (both secular and religious). The widespread violence prevented food and other goods to get to many parts of the province, causing much hardship. While the generally peaceful mass protests have been going on, the Islamic terrorists have still been active. But these were easier to deal with, as the Islamic terrorists fight to the death, while the protesters keep on coming back.

In Pakistan's northwest, major fighting continues in the Kurram Agency (along the Afghan border) where hundreds of Shia and Sunni tribesmen have been killed or wounded in over two weeks of fighting. It's all about religious differences and tribal feuds.

August 30, 2008: In southwest Pakistan, the provincial Senate of Baluchistan had a debate where members defended five recent cases of young women being murdered (by being buried alive) for having somehow offended the honor of their families. Many Senators insisted this must be allowed to continue, as it is an important tribal tradition among the Baluchi tribes. Female Senators and politicians disagreed.

In Pakistan, the army has announced a Ramadan (the annual month of prayer, fasting and feasting) ceasefire. This probably won't hold, but many tribesmen go back to their home villages for Ramadan, so the level of violence will probably decline. The army later pointed out that the ceasefire does not over all the tribal areas, and that the army will continue operations against Taliban and al Qaeda groups that are still active.

Over a week of religious violence in eastern India (Orissa) has left at least a dozen dead, and 5,000 people (mainly Christians) chased from their homes by Hindu radicals. The army has been ordered in and told to shoot Hindu rioters and looters, and do whatever it takes to stop the violence.

August 26, 2008: The Pakistani government has officially banned the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan), the umbrella organization for the Pakistani Taliban. This means the TTP can no longer operate openly throughout Pakistan. No bank accounts, no public fund raising and recruiting. It will slow down the TTP.

August 25, 2008: In Pakistan, the government refused a Taliban offer of a ceasefire during Ramadan. The Islamic radicals constantly violate these agreements, and the government is no longer willing to go along with this scam.

August 24, 2008: In eastern India (Orissa) a group of Maoist gunmen killed a Hindu political leader. The Maoists were trying to gain the support of local Christians. Most of the people converting to Christianity are from the bottom castes (of the Hindu caste system that assigns all families to a permanent socio-economic status, and is pretty bad for those in the lowest castes). This makes the upper caste Hindus, and Hindu radicals, angry, especially about 20 percent of the tribal peoples in Orissa have converted to Christianity. In this area, that comes to over 120,000 people. The radicals accuse the Christian missionaries of paying poor Hindus to convert, and use this fantasy to justify using force against the missionaries and their converts. The large number of Christians in the area are seen as a threat to Hinduism. The government tries to keep the peace, while the Maoists try to stir up Hindu radical violence. The Maoists don't believe in any religion, but will exploit religious feuds for political gain. About three percent of Indians are Christian, while 84 percent are Hindu.  




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