Indian Christians and other community members take part in a solidarity march to pay tribute to the victims of the Sri Lanka attacks in Siliguri, India.
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This bloody ethnic conflict, pitting the largely Hindu Tamil minority against the largely Buddhist Sinhalese majority, surprised those who had previously regarded this beautiful country, with its clever population and its strategic location in South Asia, as a model of Asian democracy.In his own study of identity and violence, the Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen recalls seeing as a child in India a terrified Muslim being chased through his family's front garden by a Hindu mob, which hacked the man to death.We had largely forgotten about this sort of politics in much of the world, certainly in Europe and America, in the decades since one form of identity loyalty extreme nationalism remade entire societies. The Austrian Jewish intellectual Stefan Zweig's book "The World of Yesterday" offers one of the best descriptions of how the rich, brilliant civilization of Europe at the beginning of the 20th century was destroyed, first economically and then politically, by those who defined their identity overwhelmingly by their national loyalties, often attached to a bogus history and idealized institutions.Sometimes, perhaps more dangerously, the "others" are members of a country's own minorities, who may be recent or even not-so-recent immigrants, a different color or have different languages or religious beliefs.
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