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India scores badly on the Global Peace Index

June 11, 2009

India slipped 15 points on the Global Peace Index (GPI) ranking, from 107 in 2008 to 122  (out of 144 countries) in 2009. Whether one gives any credence to these rankings or whether one accepts the definition of peace as stated by them, what I can say from my personal experience is that as a citizen I have perceived a deterioration of “peace” over the past two decades. At one time I perceived India to be peaceful and safe. I guess I was protected from the kind of violence in society that one read about in the newspapers (gender violence and crime) and I believed that as long as one kept away from the underworld and otherwise led a clean life one was relatively safe from crime and violence. In any case there was nothing in our daily lives to graphically remind us of a violent world…there was no checking at parks and malls and cinema halls, no bomb blasts and no terrorism. And no cable television.

There were wars though. As a child I remember rushing to hide under tables, running to safety at the sound of the siren, blackening our windows to prevent enemy planes from seeing city lights…but well, 1971 passed.

As time went on I realised that India was not as safe as I had imagined. There were incidents…like the time I was caught in a serious stone pelting incident (I was in a cab) when the news of Sanjay Gandhi’s accidental death spread. There was the time when I was stranded in a car on a burning street…in the midst of the 1984 riots, the day after Indira Gandhi was shot. When we were in Bangalore I’ve seen trouble because of the water sharing issue. Every year it seemed to be getting worse. Riots and bombs, riots and bombs, riots and bombs…and cable television was bringing it live into our homes.

Still, many of us think of India as a peaceful country. But this is not what the world thinks.  Here is the map:

How the GPI is calculated
The Global Peace Index takes into account qualitative as well as quantitative factors relating to political stability, corruption, education, human rights, criminality and so on. There are 23 “indicators” under three broad categories: measures of ongoing domestic and international conflict, measures of safety and security in society and measures of militarization. The more the militarization, the worse the score.

The best and the worst
The most peaceful countries are New Zealand, Denmark and Norway, Iceland, Austria and Sweden. Sudan, Israel, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq are the bottom five. India may not be last, but it is ranked only a little better than Pakistan (137) and Sri Lanka (125).

Regional rankings
India does not fare well even if we look at it from a regional angle. India falls under the Asia and Australia region and here it ranks 20 out of 25, beating only Pakistan, Aghanistan, North Korea and Mynamar. Our regional leaders in peace are New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan.

Why does India score so badly?
Well, India has too many external and internal conflicts and then we score poorly when it comes to perceptions of criminality and corruption in society, respect for human rights, gender equality, potential for terrorist acts, the level of violent crime, likelihood of violent demonstrations, ease of access to weapons and level of military sophistication.

India scored alright on factors like political stability, military expenditure as a percentage of GDP (less), our fair electoral processes, and freedom of the press.

Is the GPI an accurate barometer?
No system can be quite “accurate” but it can certainly give us a reasonable guideline. Critics of the GPI say that the USA should have got a better rank as America’s high military expenditure gives a skewed picture because the USA is one of those countries which fights for the defense of other countries. That internally the USA is a peaceful country. Others believe that gender violence is not given adequate weightage in the index (for example female feticide and infanticide in China.)  There are also those who bemoan the fact that “political and social freedom play no role in the rankings…that is why a totalitarian state like Cuba would be considered more peaceful than many a free country, like the USA for example.

I think when it comes to measuring peace (which I see as something affecting a peaceful, law-abiding citizen) then whether a state is totalitarian or not shouldn’t make a difference. Even if China is communist and Cuba has a dictator and Singapore is totalitarian I shouldn’t think it matters as long as the citizens are protected from random senseless violence.  And perpretrators of such violence are put behind bars. India is democratic but I do not see those who indulge in rioting being punished. I do not see us fighting terrorism and naxalism effectively.

What do the peaceful countries have in common?
Small and politically stable countries do well. The fact that these countries have more or less homogeneous populations plays an important part in their peacefulness. Diversity can be a problem, particularly if the government and the police and the judiciary is weak and/or corrupt. In India our government spends its time dividing the people on the basis of caste and religion for the sake of votes and the opposition parties do the same.

Economic prosperity, a high literacy rate and equal opportunities for all go a long way in removing frustration from the minds of the people.

There are those who believe that the lack of religiosity is important and say that countries with the most atheists are more peaceful. Well, religious fanatics who believe in conversions do divide people and sow the seeds of violence. India is a religious country, with more than 90 percent of its population religious. If one compares it to Sweden, one of the most peaceful countries of the world, 85% of its population is atheist/agnostic. The USA though has a lot of religious people – 59% of its population.

Which is then the most critical? Personally I think that economic prosperity and strong governments which come down hard on criminals irrespective of their political and religious leanings are the critical factors.

Related Reading: Indians believe their judiciary to be tainted
There is no reason or justifcation for violence
Rural and urban crime patterns of the world
Violent crime pattern in different parts of the world

Read all posts on Terrorism
Read all posts on Corruption

60 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2009 8:30 am

    Very nice post. I think building such an index is obviously a challenge and there will always be detractors, but overall I think they have indeed focused on all the major factors that matter to peace.

    I was going to write about the atheist factor in my comment, only to discover later that you’ve already covered it! 🙂

    Does economic prosperity lead to greater peace? Doesn’t it make other nations/groups more envious and make one a target? And if economic prosperity is ‘unequal’ among different sections of society, it does lead to more conflict, so the presumption is all-round economic prosperity, I guess.

    Difficult questions, something to ponder over…

    Mahendra, thanks. As you said, difficult questions indeed. But overall I think equal opportunities for all can help alleviate conflict. – Nita

  2. June 11, 2009 9:17 am

    Hi Nitaji,
    I think there’s a great lesson to learn from Bihar when we take up a topic like the one you have so incisively dealt here. I’m not talking of what is the common impression of people engendered by an atmosphere where only easy conclusions are preferred; I’m talking of what we see in Bihar on the ground these days. People here themselves have difficulty to believe in the turn-around, how such a thing could happen. The messiah of so-called divisive politics were shown the way by the same people who were once led to believe that politics means sharing some jokes from the dais and amassing vote…and money.
    How it all happened? Here I am in full agreement that stressing on development issues makes people see for themselves what they deserve and how to get them in a peaceful manner.
    Thanks for such a nice post.

    A.N. Nanda, I think that Bihar will improve now, with a more responsible leader like Nitish Kumar. Development is the only long term answer to stop the evil of Naxalism. – Nita

  3. Vinod permalink
    June 11, 2009 9:32 am

    I think when it comes to measuring peace (which I see as something affecting a peaceful, law-abiding citizen) then whether a state is totalitarian or not shouldn’t make a difference.

    I agree. I live in Singapore, a one-party dominated parliament that allows the opposition a gratuitous presence with a grudge. But I will testify that few countries have as much peace and security as Singapore (Scandinavian countries will do better, I think)

    Besides overall economic prosperity, I think the quality of education that shapes the citizens also matters. In a country as diverse as India, citizens need to be taught, from school days, about how to value this diversity in a meaningful manner – fundamental prejudices need to be challenged, history needs to be taught rigorously (I believe history is a great leveller; it rips apart any facades of false pride derived from whatever identity) and a humanitarian outlook needs to be fostered.

    Then there has to be good quality grassroot movements that makes sure citizens feel like they are participants in the governance of the country.

    Vinod, these are good suggestions. I too think we could inculcate more understanding by teaching children how to live with diversity. This applies to all countries because there are some who brainwash their children in certain kinds of schools to not tolerate diversity at all. – Nita.

    • rags permalink
      June 12, 2009 6:34 am

      “(I believe history is a great leveller; it rips apart any facades of false pride derived from whatever identity)”

      Have you wondered why many historians seem to have whitewashed Mughal history to suit India’s secular credentials? NCERT books stand a testimony to that. India is still to come to terms with its invasions…. I agree, history should be taught the way it is and not through any ideological lenses but I’m sure this would lead to a lot of discomfort to a lot of people….

      • Vinod permalink
        June 12, 2009 8:40 am

        Rags, history by nature is too political to not be tampered with 🙂 That’s realistic and unfortunate at the same time. It does disservice to this great subject which is rarely taught very well anywhere in the world. The pakistanis start off their history with Muhammad bin Qassim giving a perfunctory treatment of the Indus valley “kaffir” civilization. The Persians do the same to the pre-islamic persian civilzation. The Americans gloss over the treatment that the “pilgrims” meted out to the native americans and the brutal treatment of the Conquistadors of the Incas hardly gets a passing mention and the Spanish try to gloss over the 600 year Moorish rule over them and so on and so forth.

        He who has to retain power has to control history.


        • rags permalink
          June 12, 2009 9:29 am

          So how do you expect history to be a great leveller if it is used to bolster that very false sense of pride that you were talking about? 🙂 A slight digression, but I don’t think early Indian hostorians glorified Indian history, quite the opposite. That is what I meant by white washing Mughal history.

          • rags permalink
            June 12, 2009 9:49 am

            “The pakistanis start off their history with Muhammad bin Qassim giving a perfunctory treatment of the Indus valley “kaffir” civilization:

            Fascinating that you mentioned this…. Do they even realize Indus valley had nothing to do with Hinduism….

          • Vinod permalink
            June 12, 2009 10:04 am

            Well…truth in history has a way of resurfacing. It never gets completely quelled. There are people who keep working to get the truth of history out. There are people in China who are trying to preserve the stories of the people involved in the Tiananmen square even as the Chinese govt tries to crush that. There is the book ‘The Lies my teacher told me” that sharply criticizes the teaching of history in the US.

            Do they even realize Indus valley had nothing to do with Hinduism….

            ‘Hinduism’ is too vague a word defined by what it is not. I have lost any hopes of the word conveying anything of precision

  4. June 11, 2009 11:17 am

    Wonderful post and very informative. I was not aware of such an index neither did I know that 85% of Swedes are atheist/agnostic.

    As you have very rightly said, a very strong independent judicial system shall go a long way in in binding the diverse population of countries.

    Thanks Aathira. – Nita.

  5. June 11, 2009 11:18 am

    I don’t think this should be taken too seriously, peace is not something which can be gauged by the level of noise pollution, or if from the outside there looks to be strife among the communities, Indians despite of all these are one of the happiest people in the World, you go to any village , slum you will people / children smile, any where… which I guess is because of the predominance of faith in our country…if all these Western countries are so peaceful how come they have the largest suice ,homicide attacks ,how come they are the largest consumer of medicines!!

    rahul, vinod has answered some of your doubts. It is true that we Indians are satisfied with less, and tend to be happier, but I also think because the law and order mechanism is so weak here, it tends to encourage violent acts on innocent citizens. Burning of buses, trains, happens on a regular basis here. The culprits are never punished. – Nita

    • Vinod permalink
      June 11, 2009 12:52 pm

      if all these Western countries are so peaceful how come they have the largest suice ,homicide attacks ,how come they are the largest consumer of medicines!!

      Is it more likely because they go undiagnozed in India? For eg – take lactose intolernace in kids. When I was growing up it was unheard of. Does that mean it did not happen in India? Quite likely, it did; just that it passed off as something else under the “wisdom” of Dr mom and Dr grandmom. I think the same would go for psychiatirc illnesses. I know little about this but I think Psychiatry is not a well developed field in India. I would bet that many indians suffer from BPD, depression and mani depressive illnesses throughout their lives without getting a prognosis on it.

  6. June 11, 2009 12:29 pm

    An interesting comparison would be among the different states in India…

    But overall , I don’t think we all feel “that secure” .
    I think stability has got to do with the attitude of the people and the way people move with each other..

    vishesh, there is no doubt that some states are more peaceful than others. But where the world is concerned, they don’t care. – Nita.

  7. locutus83 permalink
    June 11, 2009 1:27 pm

    With regards to peacefulness, I think India is unlucky to a certain extent because of its geo-political scenario and an extremely volatile and violent neighborhood. External peace is at a premium, with constant territorial squabbles and threat of terrorism and potential conflict looming all the time. Unfortunately, India does not have too much leverage here, as the threat of nuclear war always looms – which prevents India from taking strong military steps to bring peace in the region.

    However, internally, where the country and its people have full responsibility for law and order and peace, India scores poorly on peace due to three major factors:
    1. A socio-culturally diversified population which has been, and continues to be, intolerant of differences on the whole. The major factors in play are religion, region, caste and community.
    2. Extreme economic poverty and inequality, which still persists in rural and urban, which in turn leads to class-based tension and resentment and is the root cause of most crimes.
    3. A pathetic police and judicial system and a corrput buerucracy – a system which is so badly screwed up that there is little hope for quick justice for common people who are wronged. Criminals go scot free and innocents suffer. This too leads to a tremendous amount of resentment and invariably people start taking the law into their own hands.

    I think, for a state of long term peace, at least internally, the following factors are necessary:
    1. A quick and strong law and order and justice system which works without bias – any criminal should be punished correctly and quickly according to civil or criminal law, irrespective of who he or she is.
    2. A basic level of economic prosperity without too much glaring inequality – majority of the population should at least be above the poverty line and should have access to food, shelter, education, decent employment, basic healthcare and basic facilities like clean water, electricity and good waste disposal. Plus, the magnitude of economic inequality in society should be lesser – which would lead to less envy and resentment. There should be dignity or labour in all fields. A very important factor here is basic minimum wage which should be increased to an optimum level and strictly adhered to.
    3. Good quality education with strong focus on science, logic, humanism, environment and liberal thought. This sort of education helps us understand our surroundings better and broadens our acceptance of different cultures and people.

    Regarding atheism vs. religion as a barometer for peace, I think a bit differently on this matter. It is the level of extremism and forceful collectivism in a religion or in any kind of ideology which in turn decides how peaceful it is.
    Medieval Age Christianity, Radical Islam and Marxist Communism are good examples of violent ideologies since they were/are high in extremist ideas and coercive collectivism.
    Bhutan is a good example of a highly religious society, which is very peaceful. Bhutan is peaceful as the people are not extremists and do not forcefully try to impose their Buddhist beliefs on others.
    Even an atheist who tries to violently impose his atheist ideals on unwilling people (like anarchists) would trigger some kind of violence eventually.
    If people keep their religion, spirituality and beliefs to themselves in private or in closed conclaves (like private clubs), and do not try to preach their gospels or denounce other religions and cultures, then the chance of violent conforntation reduces.
    I might privately be a religious devout and may be extremely conservative, but if I behave rationally with others and keep my views to myself, I limit chance of confrontation!

    Thanks for that detailed analysis and I agree with you about the religion. It is only the fundamentalists from any religion that create the problems. – Nita.

  8. June 11, 2009 2:06 pm

    You have given very interesting information.
    I was wondering why we are in red band like our most of the neighbours. Countries in bottom 20% of the rankings are in red band for 2009.
    Though in 2008 report, we were not in red band, in 2007 report again we were in red band.
    Whether being in bottom 20% has anything to do with our last 5 years of UPA governance/Dynastic politics/so called ‘Secularism’ ? If there is any relationship, we are bound to remain in red band for the next 5 years also.

    OldSailor, I didn’t think of it that way. But there is no doubt that the UPA govt has been weak in tackling terrorism. Even the ruling state congress govt. in MH is very weak and responded very poorly to the Mumbai terror attacks although they had enough disasters in the past to have been able to improve their reaction time and organise defense. I too feel terrible that we are in the red, but well, we do have problems. Today I do not feel safe while going for a movie on any weekend as terrorists invariable go for soft targets. Now I am hearing that a red alert has been sounded for India and places where foreigners will go are most likely to be attacked, specially american citizens. Intelligence reports say that a major terrorist strike is slated for somewhere in south india. Who knows where they will strike. Those who protect themselves well will escape. – Nita.

  9. June 11, 2009 4:18 pm

    Very interesting post, Nita. (As always!)

    Can’t touch on everything that you’ve mentioned, but about the last but paragraph….

    You’re probably right about there not being a connection between religiosity and peacefulness. I looked up where Ireland stood, and it ranks at 12 (12th most peaceful, that is). Yet, only 4% of its population profess to have no religion; most are Catholics.


    mummyjaan, ofcourse you are right. It is not religiosity per se, but just extremists who use religion to divide people who are the trouble makers. Mostly it is organised groups who do this, not individuals. – Nita

  10. June 11, 2009 4:24 pm

    Ignore that last ‘perhaps’, please. It means nothing – it’s the one word that got left behind in the other para that I deleted.

  11. June 11, 2009 5:14 pm

    Nita,I suspect such downgradation will continue to happen .We may claim to be developing nation.We may claim that we are creating wealth…may be,but we are not distributing the wealth.There is unequal distribution of wealth and also filthy expression of wealth and security cover of the rich and famous.Mark my words…when this desparity is removed,even partially,we will be better nation as we will not feel frustrated.

    BK Chowla, and this poverty makes India a fertile recruiting ground for criminal gangs who pretend to be religious or pretend to be fighting for the rights of the poor. – Nita.

  12. June 11, 2009 8:50 pm

    Nita, I agree with locutus83’s comment above. My observation from reading posts and comments is that a good majority of people view incidents like 1984 (riots following Indira Gandhi’s death) and 2002 (riots following train burning in Gujarat) differently, and even to this day, try to justify one act or the other based on their ideology or partisanship, instead of looking at both acts primarily in the same way – an issue of law and order, innocents killed, and justice; rest all is secondary, though not unimportant.

    As long as this continues to happen in India, especially among the educated and powerful, I doubt that India will progress or achieve some semblance of peace; as excuses for, or justification of one act set up a loop for justification of the other act and the cycle continues. It is important and necessary to analyze the different reasons for those two acts, but the bottom-line should be that a crime was committed and justice needs to be served, irrespective of the religion of those killed or involved. I think we Indians lack respect for rule of law, be it those protesting against Supreme Court’s decision on Mohammad Afzal, or those who justify Feb 14 vandalism or Naxal violence.

    • Vinod permalink
      June 11, 2009 9:09 pm

      an issue of law and order, innocents killed, and justice; rest all is secondary, though not unimportant.

      I’m afraid treating it as an issue of law and order is addressing only the proximate cause of it all. The ultimate cause is the festering religious tensions that need addressing. I don’t know why the ultimate cause is secondary and proximate primary.

      • June 11, 2009 10:34 pm

        Vinod, I think you misunderstood. First of all, if you read my comment, I didn’t say that it needs to be treated only as law-and-order/justice issue. Yes, I’m very well aware that there are other reasons related to minority-majority issues, religion and the long and hallowed tradition of Indian pseudo-secularism, all of which need to be addressed and corrected – and I did mention that those are not unimportant.
        But, when those reasons start interfering with the wheels of justice or start justifying injustice, then that’s a problem. When people start citing Congress party’s apology to Sikhs in lieu of justice and are comfortable with it, then that’s a big problem. When people start citing 1984 to justify Godhra, then that’s a problem. So, the two options are – either I pick a side based on where my sympathies lie, or I place law-and-order/justice above both sides, while also acknowledging those issues and working to resolve them. I choose the latter.

  13. Dev permalink
    June 11, 2009 8:50 pm

    Thanks once again for the well researched post. Agree completely with your take on this matter.

  14. vasudev permalink
    June 11, 2009 11:24 pm

    ‘democracy in diversity’ is best suited only for a poor india. for a richer and more developed india democracy would shatter peace. becoming overall economically improved creates as much of a disbalance as being ‘mass poor few rich’. both are stages of shock. being suddenly recognised and famed throws a beggar into confusion. whatever happens then to his being is as a result of confusing signals his brain emanates.

    • vasudev permalink
      June 12, 2009 8:51 pm

      no comments?

      well…the type of cranky half said things that i say only vivek can understand.

      vivek…did i do the bull?

  15. June 12, 2009 9:46 am

    Nita, India today is possibly the most violent society on this planet. I doubt this survey assessed violence in rural India, this video will give you some idea of the physical and psychological violence that goes on in our villages,

    One must keep in mind that this kind of violence against the oppressed people of India might be the result of their increasing protests and their political emergence.

    India’s society is in some kind of transition, its difficult to say just how things will turnout.

    In comparison to other countries, you must consider the magnitude and duration of gratuitous violence that European societies (Wars, ethnic cleansing of Jews, ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims) and East Asian societies (Chinese civil war, Japan in WW 2, Korean war and Vietnam war) have undergone in the last century. Conflict in India has been of relatively smaller scale but seems to be spreading over a longer duration.

    • June 12, 2009 9:12 pm


      i am unable to open that file. but i can relate an incident.

      last week,while travelling by taxi from jamshedpur to ranchi i saw the maximum number of naked female upper crests than i could hope to see ever. all on roadside villages with mud huts.

      i saw coal and piles of coal dust on the roadside (driver tells me it is a pilferage which is known to the govt)

      the driver stopped only once along the way (at a kali temple) and after that he did not bow to my commands to stop! for beautiful views or painful pees. said both would be interfered by the naxalites. while i was seeing only peaceful countryside flash-by he was seeing only drains and bushes full of cluster bombs and maoists! reminded me of the vietcong!

  16. June 12, 2009 12:18 pm

    Amit, I tend to agree with what you say because I too have noticed that people tend to find justification and reasons for reacting violently. To react violently towards innocent people is not self defense, it’s criminal behavior and it’s shocking that even educated people want to find reasons for attacks on innocents. Today anyone can be a target. It’s senseless to find reasons for attacking innocent people and I agree that it is is a law and order problem. There are enough violent people in society and they will clutch at any reason to be violent and they get the support of a silent cowardly majority whose cause they espouse. And the law turns a blind eye. That is why in India there is no respect for the law. The law is not impartial and worse, it is weak.

    Dev, you are welcome.

    Vinod, there are a lot of things that need to be corrected in our society. We are doing it bit by bit.

    vasudev, I don’t think it is necessary that a democracy leads to a wide gap between the poor and the rich. In any case India has to work towards closing this gap.

    rags, I think you have made a pertinent point. Maybe I am wrong, but I tend to think that there is some truth in what you write. In Indian history I know for a fact that we play down the atrocities committed by the British and glorify their :”Lords” and “kings and queens.” I am not so sure about Mughal history because I have spoken to Muslims who feel that too much is told about the cruel Mughal kings and the damage they did and less a about the good kings. Not knowing the real truth I cannot say who is right.

    Vikram, when you say that “India today is possibly the most violent society on this planet” my heart did lurch a little. I was trying to think of examples which could contradict you, but I realise that if we talk of the civilized world, you are right. We are extremely violent and when I wrote in my post that I was protected from crime and gender violence I guess I should have added that I was protected from caste violence too. There are two Indias. One for us. One for them. And now I think the two Indias are meeting.

    • June 12, 2009 6:58 pm

      “I am not so sure about Mughal history because I have spoken to Muslims who feel that too much is told about the cruel Mughal kings and the damage they did and less a about the good kings.”

      Nita, the irony is that most Muslims don’t think highly of Jalaluddin Akbar for very obvious reasons – as a Muslim who was quite knowledgeable not only of his own religion, but other religions too, he tried to start a new religion and the implication of that act.

      • June 12, 2009 8:01 pm

        Amit, can you please provide some references that the common Muslims of India do not rate Akbar highly ?

        • June 12, 2009 8:19 pm

          Vikram, reading the archival posts and comments on Indian Muslims blog should be a start.

        • Vinod permalink
          June 13, 2009 8:25 am

          Vikram, I’d like to share some of my experiences regarding this in my interactions with muslims both educated and well off and the poor Bangladeshi workers.

          Aurangzeb is considered a scholar. His simple lifestyle – he did not take a pie from the treasury, he made his living by selling handicrafts and translations of the Quran – is admired. His crushing of musicians from the courts is spoken of highly. He wrote the book ‘Fatwa-e-Alamgiri’ which is considered a scholarly work. His killing of his brother is considered as the fulfillment of the Shariah law regarding apostates. Nobody talks much about his war with his son. His war with the Shiite kingdoms of the south is spoken of as the eradication of heretical sects in Islam.

          Akbar was staunchly opposed by a famous orthodox muslim scholar – Shah Wali Ullah – who considered Deen-e-Ilahi as a ‘fitna’ on the muslims. Shah Wali Ullah was a scholar immensely popular among the muslim masses and regarded very highly. He bemoaned the rise of Hindu power in India and invited the Shah of Iran to attack India and restore pure islam. His letter to the Shah of Iran is recorded history and is full of the hate for Hindu dominance. The death of Deen-e-Ilahi in India is attributed to the grassroots efforts of Shah Wali Ullah Dehlawi. It is also said that Akbar ‘repented’ on his death bed for his deviant ways.
          Among orthodox scholars, who do weild significant influence among the masses, the Taj Mahal is considered to be a structure against the spirit of the Shariah which recommends keeping graves as simple as possible and as level to the ground as it can. Having said that, ShahJahan is spoken of as a pious muslim who never missed a single ‘Tahajjud’ prayer (the optional prayer to be done in the last one third of the night) for 40 years. But he is also spoken of as a ‘softie’ – somebody was not strict enough in the implementation of the Shariah.

          This is the chatter among the muslims. Trust that helps. As I recall more, I’ll add more.

          • rags permalink
            June 13, 2009 2:48 pm

            Is it only Bangla Muslims or is this the general perception among Indian Muslims too? If it is then I’d say we’re grossly underplaying the role of fanatic elements among them. I’m actually shocked that people would approve of Aurangazeb(he might be a big scholar but so what?) inspite of all the damage he did to Hindus (or maybe that’s why they approve of him….)

          • Vinod permalink
            June 13, 2009 8:01 pm

            To be honest, I have interacted more with Bangladeshi muslims and Pakistani muslims than with Indian muslims. I’m glad you brought that up. So yes, what I’ve written may not represent what Indian muslims think. But the muslim community is very organized along religious lines that are headed by Imams who derive their scholarship from orthodoxy that is no different across the countries in the sub continent. Very tentatively, I will say that this same state of mind is extendible to Indian muslims, except those middle and upper class muslims who are quite cut off from the masses of lower middle class and lower class muslims. But even they are not completely insulated from this chatter. Their extended family can have religious members who will be regurgitating the historical narrative of the orthodoxy.
            About Aurangzeb, I don’t think he is easily characterized. While he did destroy temples, there is evidence that he also guaranteed the protection to many temples. So Aurangzeb is difficult to analyze without more evidence. Unfortunately the study of Aurangzeb is too politicized now for any objective conclusions.

            • rags permalink
              June 13, 2009 9:47 pm

              Funny… these guys will support Aurangazeb (the destroyer of temples) and on the same breadth condemn Advani for Babri masjid demolition (though it cannot be directly attributed to him). I have lost all hopes on true secularism emerging in this country. We are doomed to remain in deep shit for a long time to come. I think we deserve it.

              • rags permalink
                June 13, 2009 10:46 pm

                Oops! should be breath…

              • Vinod permalink
                June 14, 2009 7:08 am

                I cannot see secularism take root in a real sense in India. Indian population is more than 90% religious and they are unable to rise above their religious leanings in governance. It will constantly be challenged by narrow religious minded people. Secularism will always have to be an elite-imposed mode of governance in India. It has gone into the constitution and it is upto the concerned citizens to make sure that it is put into practice.

                • June 14, 2009 11:36 am

                  I agree with you Vinod. Only a minority of religious minded people can be truly secular. This is because even if someone who is religious and secular, he/she can be manipulated by a religious fanatic. Not everyone, but quite a few. The fanatic will attempt to make the secular religious person insecure and this can give rise to irrational behavior. As long as the masses are religious there can be no end to religious violence, but mind you this is my personal opinion. I am an agnostic and that is why I think like this. I personally feel that every religion has fanatics but this fanatic needs the masses to feed on. If only 5% of the population is religious, the fanatics will have no one to feed on. They will starve to death. So the more intensely religious you are, the more the chances that a fanatic could make you feel insecure about your religion.

                  • vasudev permalink
                    June 14, 2009 9:30 pm

                    nita…there are two faiths which i know that can be enmasse manipulated by a few fanatics.
                    looking at things from the broad-based, liberal viewpoint of a hindu can sometimes confuse you to think that everything is honky-dory in this world.

                    • June 14, 2009 10:06 pm

                      Vasudev, I do not have the kind of optimistic view of Hinduism that you have. I guess thats because I have seen it from inside, and I have seen it as a woman. Also most people I know are Hindus and well I know quite a few bigot Hindus as well. You just need to read some blogs and you will know what I mean. I also know people from other religions like Islam and Christianity who are liberal and broadminded and are against violence and are secular. I guess having studied in a school with people of different religions is what gave me this opportunity to make good friends with people of different religions. People who have studied in schools with only people of their religion tend to have a narrower outlook as it is when one is young that many opinions are formed, and lifelong impressions and friendships are formed. However, again this is my opinion, that a liberal education is what is a prerequisite to a liberal and broadminded outlook on life, and the religion one comes from does not matter.

                    • Vinod permalink
                      June 14, 2009 10:25 pm


                      I do not hold Hinduism and its followers in any higher regard than I hold Islam and Christianity and their followers. I don’t think I have indicated otherwise, have I? I have been speaking generally about religion (including Hinduism) wherever I have used that word.

                      Vinod, that comment was meant for Vasudev, but I typed your name by mistake. I realised it, and changed it to Vasudev and in bold, but by then I think you had already read the comment. – Nita.

                • Vinod permalink
                  June 14, 2009 7:17 pm

                  A pre-requisite for a secularistic attitude is the awareness (or assumption) that all religions cannot satisfactorily give guidance or meaingfully address all the modern situations that large groups (like nations) find themselves in. Every religion developed within a certain time and age and the limitation of their developmental contexts will manifest in one particular modern scenario or another. In other words, time invariably overtakes the teachings of every religion in some domains. It is impossible for a religious person to acknowledge this fundamental limitation of his/her religion. Even where he purports to derive his secularistic attitude from his religion, he is inevitably playing down some other onflicting principle within his religion. How long can he sustain himself on that in the face of others within his religious community who play up that conflicting principle?

                  This is just my view of things.

                  ps – I too am agnostic.

                  • vasudev permalink
                    June 14, 2009 9:36 pm

                    1) ‘cannot’ or ‘can’?

                    2) every religion has been developed within a certain time frame. so is religion important or is modernising your views important?

                    3)can you make a relative comparison of the behaviour of the three prominent religious groups in the modern world (statistics of murder of all types of animal kind would be sufficient)?

                • Vinod permalink
                  June 14, 2009 10:16 pm


                  (i) didn’t understand your question ‘cannot or can’?

                  (ii) religion is important
                  insofar as it gives meaning to life and in exhorting to good and keeping away from vices. ‘Modernizing’ is not a word I want to work with. It’s meaning is too broad for me to think coherently.

                  (iii) I think your third question was rhetorical, right? I’m also unsure of what you meant by ‘murder of animals’.

                  • vasudev permalink
                    June 14, 2009 10:46 pm

                    [i]A pre-requisite for a secularistic attitude is the awareness (or assumption) that all religions cannot satisfactorily give guidance or meaingfully address all the modern situations that large groups (like nations) find themselves in.[/i]

                    if religions ‘can’ (not ‘cannot’) give satisfactory guidance to address modern situations then the society would become secular. is that what you wanted to say? quite often, in a large and mostly illeterately densely populated country like india we cannot leave things to ‘intelligent’ conclusions. hence, religions have an important role to guide their flock in the right direction which is beneficial to all.

                    [i]Every religion developed within a certain time and age and the limitation of their developmental contexts will manifest in one particular modern scenario or another. In other words, time invariably overtakes the teachings of every religion in some domains. It is impossible for a religious person to acknowledge this fundamental limitation of his/her religion. Even where he purports to derive his secularistic attitude from his religion, he is inevitably playing down some other onflicting principle within his religion. How long can he sustain himself on that in the face of others within his religious community who play up that conflicting principle? [/i]

                    to my understanding you have spoken of wanting to be modern but circumstantially pegging oneself in old theories and getting frustratingly governed.

                    3) no! it is not a ‘leading’ question. do you consider it as a ‘murder’ if you kill a chicken/goat/bull/cow/duck/cow. often i have considered why man has one law for man and another for other animals? afterall god ordained equal rights to all animals (including man). man usurped the lesser is different. wanton killing for sake of religion or pleasure…which of the three religions mostly recognises and respects this wholesome right of every animal to inhabit earth?

                  • Vinod permalink
                    June 15, 2009 7:53 am

                    (i) I meant cannot
                    (ii) There is a big role that religion can play even in modern times. In fact, that role of religion is especially important in modern times. But there is also a limitation of religion which needs to be recognized. I’m definitely not advocating letting go of religion and embracing modernity uncritically. Religion often provides a particular critical view of modernity that is worth considering.
                    (iii) I don’t think killing animals for food is murder. This is a whole ‘nother discussion which is better not had here.

      • June 12, 2009 9:15 pm

        amit…muslims do not think highly of the democratic, socialist akbar! they however think highly of the barberous babar and the murderous mad jehangir!

    • rags permalink
      June 12, 2009 8:17 pm

      “I am not so sure about Mughal history because I have spoken to Muslims who feel that too much is told about the cruel Mughal kings and the damage they did and less a about the good kings”

      I respect your views but I think quite the opposite happened when it comes to NCERT books (only these can be expected to be read by the majority of population, we really can’t expect the avearge citizen to research stuff). Our historians did this deliberately but their intentions were good.

  17. Kish permalink
    June 12, 2009 12:26 pm

    “Well, religious fanatics who believe in conversions do divide people and sow the seeds of violence”

    What made you say so? Any statistics is available to prove this argument? Please note that some of the religions believe in conversions believe in non-violence also. On the other hand some of the religions which bans conversions (believes religion by birth) also supports violence conditionally and we know that they involved in many riots. Think…


    Kish, I have thought and yes I concede your point! In fact I admit I detest the idea of conversion which in itself I associate with violence, though not of the physical kind. – Nita

    • June 12, 2009 9:27 pm

      if you meant the peaceful christianity…welll…it is deceitful as of now and and a trickster can never be violent.
      as regards that part the muslims account for themselves very well by stating things openly.
      now,coming to the non-conversion kind…obviously you meant the hindus…if all the hindus united for a purpose like christians and muslims do, india would have been saffron-road-rollered (nay…vibratory compacted) long ago! thank your stars that hindus are so shredded, disintegrated and disorganised! we need a second walk from the great Adi Sankaracharya.

  18. June 12, 2009 1:53 pm

    I would like to ask a question what is the standard of
    measurement for peace. I don’t believe such type of news, and I want to say only that :

    “East Or West , India is the best”.

  19. Sudhir Jatar permalink
    June 13, 2009 5:11 pm

    A very unusual and informative post. Congrats, Nita.
    One of the main reasons for India’s low ranking is our propensity to disobey the laws and lack of quick judicial redresssal. People obey the laws, if there is an effective law enforcement agency. We are perhaps still in the colonial mind-set of ‘civil disobedience’, which won us our freedom.
    Corruption is the least in a country, where there is strict obedience of the laws of the land. India lacks on all these counts. Pakistan and Bangladesh more so.
    ‘Peace’ is affected when the government or the people try to enforce the law, more so if the people are used to ‘disobeying’ the laws.
    We are generally unaware that there is a “Doctrine of Desuetude”, which simply means that a law is impliedly cancelled and repealed by virtue of long disuse and contrary practice. That is what our politicians want to achieve. They keep a weak law enforcement machinery and weaker judicial system to attract the “Doctrine of Desuetude”. When any one tries to enforce the law, ‘peace’ is disturbed.

  20. June 14, 2009 2:50 am

    Excellent write up dear friend.

  21. June 14, 2009 3:14 pm

    If we assume peace as happy state of mind, I believe we need to include the basic attitude of fellow people in addition to communal riots, gender biases etc. The selfishness and careless attitude of our fellow people affects me a lot. When I see someone damaging road to erect shamiyana or when they dont maintain queue or when they park vehicle in such a way that the first parker can not retrieve his/her vehicle or doing similar activities with out caring for other person’s self respect and freedom, I get increasingly irritated and loose happiness. Though this seem to be trivial aspects, I believe this is a small example of the attitude, our fellow people have.

  22. June 15, 2009 1:26 am

    It is indeed saddening. More than the physical abuse, I think there is also a lot of mental abuse as well, by people who are in authority. We can never measure that. I think it is to do with honesty – outright. Since we are not honest to ourselves or others, we tend to see ourselves as peaceful and want to believe in it. Hypocrisy, also is killing us.

    Destination Infinity

    DI, I agree. Mental violence makes people suffer and one day the anger comes out in a physical form. – Nita

  23. wishtobeanon permalink
    June 15, 2009 2:36 am

    Wow, Nita, good one and I enjoyed reading the comments too!

  24. June 15, 2009 5:24 pm

    Nita, an offtopic: just wanted to drop a note that your header images are getting more and more beautiful every time!!

  25. June 21, 2009 10:27 am

    wow! u have been in some tough times. My city is still a very peaceful one..I have never heard of any riot be it 1984 or Babri Masjid (1992 right?) So I have never faced any such thing. Sad to know India’s position though.

  26. GP65 permalink
    August 11, 2009 1:51 am

    I think most of these indexes have a role to play in terms of setting up global benchmarks and allowing a good government to identify areas of improvement.

    Having said that, any peace indicator that ranks a country like Sri Lanka that was in the middle of a brutal civil war higher on a peace index than India is something I would really question.


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