Hope in history

April 5, 2002

Ian McDonald encapsulates as many ambiguities as the Indian nation ("A nation on the brink?", THES , March 22). While the side-heading said "groups of young men could be relied on to kill their Muslim neighbours", buried in the article are sentences such as "today, a majority of Indians, including most Hindus, would agree with the (sic) sentiments" of Jawaharlal Nehru.

No civilisation can prosper without a wide base of intellectual, cultural and other beliefs and practices. The fact that Indian civilisation has withstood so much turbulence should raise hope that it will survive the present conflicts. Although one group managed to gain recognition by taking an extreme form of "religious righteousness", one cannot ignore the relatively peaceful existence of different faiths and races - for example Aryans and Dravidians - over many centuries, probably millennia.

It is hasty to say that a nation that allows any capable individual, irrespective of religious background, to reach the highest office in public life, is on the brink. There are many different opinions on what Hinduism is and what equality means in Hinduism. While no one can condone the atrocities, the truth may be rather different than the obvious headline-grabbing one.

It is never easy to decide when history starts and which version to follow. As long as there is sufficient freedom for good-natured open discussion and argument, there is hope for the better.

Prasad Ponnapalli

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