Prof. Van Hollen
October 26, 2013
Over the past thirty years, the relationship between Hindus and Muslims in India has largely been marked by tensions and turbulence. Since the early 1980s, recurring communal violence between the top two religions of India has taken place in the form of intense public riots. The reason for such violence, as many scholars believe, lies primarily in the fundamentally different cultural and religious norms of Hinduism and Islam. And therefore, conflicts are generated by the two groups' "natural antagonism" toward each other as a result of the irreconcilability of such differences. However, this view is largely inconclusive, because in India, the way communalism is manifested is often shaped by economic and political factors, rather than being merely religious or cultural (Shani, 2011: 297-298).
By characterizing the relationship between Indian Hindus and Muslims as "naturally antagonistic", this aforementioned view is implying that, a mutual hostility between the two peoples is historically present regardless of the conditions and circumstances.
However, this implication can be easily proven wrong. First of all, if Hindus and Muslims had always been hostile toward each other, it would follow that the process of interaction between the two religious communities is a historically violent one. But this is certainly not the case. In fact, Hindus and Muslims have shown that they are able to coexist peacefully, or even to form a "close intercommunity relationship" (Williams, 2011: 248-252). This relationship could be a product of necessary economic interactions, as is the case with the city of Varanasi, where the production of silk sari requires the cooperation of Hindus and Muslims (Williams, 2011: 250). Also, there is also a tendency for Muslims to bond more easily with Hindus who belong to a lower caste. For example,