Thursday, May 04, 2006

An interesting fact I didn't know (but probably should have)

From a "dialogues" entry by Amartya Sen* in on the so-called clash of civilizations:

"[T]he vast majority of Indians come from a Hindu background—more than 80 percent, in fact. And yet, if you look at the three principal governmental positions in India, none of them is held today by a Hindu: The president is a Muslim (Abdul Kalam), the prime minister is a Sikh (Manmohan Singh), and the leader of the ruling party (Sonia Gandhi) is a Christian of Italian ancestry."

He then writes, hopefully:

"Not only is this situation the result of a democratic electoral process, you will detect no sense of the country being in a state of explosion for this reason. This despite the fact that there have been systematic attempts at cultivating the divisions of religious identity, often quoting [the author of Clash of Civilizations] . There were even killings of minorities in the riots of Gujarat in 2002, which ended up, in the Indian general elections of 2004, as a major vote-loser for the party that seemed implicated in that violence."

* Lamont University Professor at Harvard, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics, and author of Identity and Violence.

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