In their long struggle for equality, India’s dalits, or “untouchables,” have often exchanged their Hinduism for Islam, Christianity, Sikhism or Buddhism, believing that they will better their lives by doing so. They have been persuaded that Hinduism, with its varna ashramas (caste distinctions), has been solely responsible for all their ills.
On February 27, an express train carrying more than 2,500 passengers and running four hours late drew up at the Godhra railway station on the Gujarat-Madhya Pradesh border in Central India. It was a little after seven in the morning.
September 11 and December 13—to Indians, the events of these days were startlingly similar. On one day, suicide bombers used hijacked planes to destroy the centers of industry; on the other, suicide terrorists used hand grenades and AK47s in an aborted attempt to bring down a nation’s government.
This past May, India’s population crossed the one billion mark, according to the country’s registrar general and census commissioner. The billionth citizen of this ancient land entered a country with 40 political parties and 24 official languages, each spoken by more than a million people.