Friday, May 06, 2011

Terror of Religion


It was past midnight when the plane landed at the airport in Delhi. Bleary eyed and sleepy, I trudged to the counter to get a visa. The Philippines was recently granted the visa-upon-arrival facility by India to encourage more travel and trade between the two nations.

Aside from the usual questions such as how long do you plan to stay in the country, which places are you visiting, I was jolted awake when the immigration officer suddenly asked something strange.

"Do you have any family members or relatives living in Pakistan?" the burly dark skinned man interrogating me said.

I shook my head.

Ten young Pakistanis stormed two luxury hotels, a Jewish centre, and a train station in Mumbai, India's fiinancial capital, in November 2008. The attack killed 166 people, and highlighted the decades-long conflict between the two nuclear-armed rivals that began more than sixty years ago.
When the British left, their former colony British India was partitioned based on religious demographics that led to the creation of the two separate states of India and Pakistan on August 15, 1947.

That prompted what probably was the greatest migration in human history. On that day, more than 12 million people packed up and left their homes. Muslims in India headed for Pakistan, while Hindus and Sikhs living in newly created Pakistan journeyed to India.

Religious hatred was viciously unleashed and over a million people were slaughtered in the massacres and riots that followed.

In his book the Age of Khali, historian and travel writer William Dalrymple wrote about the experience of one of the survivors of that day, Khawajah Bilal, who was the train station master of Lahore at that time. The city of Lahore went to Pakistan, just fifteen miles from the Indian border, and the train station became witness to the religious war.

Here is an excerpt of Bilal's account from the book:

"We heard an announcement that Partition had taken place. Soon after that the killing started, the slaughter began… One morning, I think it was August 30, the Bombay Express came in from Delhi. We found dead bodies in the lavatories, on the seats, under the seats. There had been around 2,000 people on this train. We checked the whole train, but nobody was alive except for one person...

Only one man out of two thousand. After that, every train that came from India was attacked. We used to receive one hundred trains a day. Each one was full of corpses."
The years have passed since then. But for some, the horrors of the Partition still live with them; unhealed wounds that to this day continue to poison relations between Hindus and Muslims, India and Pakistan.
Today, the border between the two nations is fortified, covered with razor wire and guarded by soldiers in sandbagged bunkers. Since the Partition, the two have fought three wars, two of them over the disputed region of Kashmir.

In February, India and Pakistan said they will resume formal peace talks before July for the first time in more than two years after it was derailed by the Mumbai terror attacks. While little may be achieved, it is still better than nothing.

Religious bigotry has caused numerous wars and extreme acts of cruelty in human history. It is heavily tainted with self righteousness, sustained by the belief that it is God's will.

I was inside the Jama Masjid mosque in Old Delhi, the largest mosque in India. The courtyard can hold up to 20,000 worshippers. India, though predominantly a Hindu country, is home to the third-biggest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan.

I watched as the faithful washed their hands and feet before praying. It seemed so peaceful; so removed from the violence that had happened to this country.

I wondered what they were praying for.


Sean said...

i can't understand how one can kill in the name of God.

enjoy your trip kane. eat pray love? i love shopping for home stuff in india.

Mugen said...

Blessed are those whose faith goes beyond religion.

Have a blessed trip Kane. Hope you can visit the citadels of Rajasthan for me.

~Carrie~ said...

Enjoy your trip, Kane :)

Nimmy said...

Have a safe trip Kane. :)

Anonymous said...

omg... good thing you're not scared for dear life... ikaw na ang brave...

♥N said...

Be safe. ♥

Spiral Prince said...

I found this quote in the internet:

"Spiritual people inspire me, Religious people scare me," anyway, enjoy India, Kane. :)


R. Burnett Baker said...

Your last line speaks (asks?) volumes. Even my Presbyterian minister, who, at the age of a sharp 91, is still a mentor for me, said to me years ago, "The world would be a much better place if all organized religions disappeared from the Earth!" Religion, he went on to say, has "bastardized" the true meanings of what all religions should be teaching: Wishing each person you meet the "very best, in the spirit of kindness, and with an attitude of love."

I agree.

Have a wonder, and SAFE trip, Kane.


Raft3r said...

wow, india!
gusto ko din magpunta dyan!

enjoy your trip, kane!

Kiks said...

i thought you got back already...

and you had me checking my atlas for those figures and right, india does rank third.

Yj said...

some things are just way beyond understanding...