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Ethnic and Religious Differences


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Heterogeneity in religious culture sometime creates serious problems in South Asia. In terms of number of followers, Hinduism has the largest number of followers, with Islam and Buddhism being the two other major faiths. Although a strong secular movement was launched by the Indian and many other South Asian governments, it failed to minimize cultural gaps among the various religions. Most prominent clashes between religious groups seem to involve Hindus and Muslims, or one Muslim sect against another, or Sikhs and Hindus, or Buddhists and Hindus.

Relations between the two most powerful states of South Asia, India and Pakistan, have been greatly complicated by religious factors. Clashes between Sri Lanka's Buddhist Sinhalese majority and the predominant Hindu Tamil minority have destroyed the peace not only in the island state, but also to some extent in India. Pakistan continues to proclaim it an Islamic state (there are virtually no Hindu left in the country).

India is officially secular, although about 11 percent of India's population is Muslim. Hindus comprise 13% of Bangladesh's population. The minorities in both countries are discriminated against, in fact if not in law, and a recurrence of communal violence in either country could undermine relations between New Delhi and Dhaka. Cross-border religious links in South Asia create suspicion and friction between majorities and minorities within states rather than bonds between the countries. So the communal relations in South Asia necessarily possess a majority- minority dimension cutting across national boundaries. The dynamics of Hindu-Muslim relations in the Sub-continent directly impinge upon the state-to-state relations.

In view of the above it is evident that different ethnic groups in the region sometimes create insurgency problems in South Asia.

This is one of the reasons of mistrust among the South Asian states. For example, India blames Bangladesh for providing arms to Indian ethnic groups who are fighting for autonomy. On the other hand, Bangladesh blames India for giving shelter and arms to Bangladeshi insurgents.

Ethnic crises between Tamil and Sinhalese creates problem between Sri Lanka and India. It is common belief in Sri Lanka that Indian support for Tamil people has created this ethnic crisis. Diversified Indian ethnic groups sometime create internal problem in India, which has serious impacts in other countries of the region.


Atiar Rahman is a distinguished author and a poet. He has unbounded publication in national and international media.


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