For Educators

Muslim-Hindu Conflict in India – Procedures For Teachers

PrepPreparing for the lesson
StepsConducting the lesson
ExtensionAdditional Activities


Media Components

Computer Resources:

  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above.
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM.Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0 or higher. Download the free Adobe Acrobat reader here:

Bookmarked sites:

TIP: Prior to teaching, bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson and create a word processing document listing all of the links. Preview all sites and videos before presenting them to the class.

  • PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Cover Story — Hindu-Muslim Conflict in India, May 24, 2002
    Provides a variety of perspectives on the outbreak of Muslim-Hindu violence in the province of Gujarat in February 2002, as well as some historical background on the tensions.
  • PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Cover Story — India’s Muslims, October 26, 2001.
    Explores the impact of September 11th and the War on Terrorism on India’s Muslim and Hindu communities. Provides interesting background information on the Muslims of India.
  • “Hindu-Muslim Violence Imperils India,”,8599,213670,00.html
    A good description of the historical significance of the holy site in Ayodhya, and how extreme violence has been justified by both Hindus and Muslims in the name of preserving holy sites for their people.
  • Protecting Religious Freedom and Holy Sites
    A discussion from the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee about how holy places are often targets of violence or vengeance instead of veneration and reverence. The Committee offers thoughts and recommendations about how to reduce this violence and promote greater inter-group understanding.
  • United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18
    For the purposes of this lesson, draw students’ attention to Article 18 regarding freedom of religion.
  • United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, November 1981
    From the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, this resolution will provide students an international framework for understanding the necessary rights and freedoms associated with “freedom of religion.”
  • Overview: “Ireland’s Troubled History,” Washington, updated April, 1999.
    Provides an excellent historical overview of the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland.
  • “India’s secularism under threat?” BBC News. March 15, 2002.
    Raises important questions about whether the secular state of India is threatened with collapse in the face of some of the worst Muslim-Hindu violence in history.
  • PBS Wide Angle: Global Classroom Lesson Plan on Religion and Culture
    Using the Hindu-Muslim conflict in India as a case study, students investigate violent acts carried out in the name of religious conviction.


Teachers will need the following supplies:

  • Board and/or chart paper
  • Ideally a screen on which to project the Web-based video clips
  • Handouts of Web resources if computers are not available in the classroom

Students will need the following supplies:

  • Computers with the capacities indicated above
  • Notebook or journal
  • Pens/pencils
  • Dictionaries

Other Prep: Prepare a list of contact information for Muslim and Hindu leaders, community members, or representatives from cultural, social, or political organizations. Good sources for this information include the phone book (particularly the “community” directory in the beginning, a directory of mosques or temples in the area, and Internet search engines. You might want to contact these places yourself, describe the project your students are working on, and ask if there are individuals who might be willing to make themselves available for interviews (on the phone, in person, or even via e-mail).


Introductory Activity:

1. Distribute the What I Know, Want to Know, and Learned organizer. This organizer should be completed and handed in on the final day of the unit, following the student presentations.

2. Elicit from students what they know about Muslims and Hindus in India, the tensions between the two groups, and the reasons they have clashed violently in the past. Track responses on a piece of chart paper labeled “Know,” and remind students to do the same in their student organizers. Inform the class that even misinformation and myths can be listed here and can be later revised in the “Learned” section towards the end of the unit. If necessary, ask some prompting questions such as:

  • Where is India?
  • Are Hindus or Muslims the majority in India?
  • Is India a religious state or a secular democracy? (make sure they understand the terms “religious state,” “secular,” and “democracy”)
  • What happened in the province of Gujarat in India in 2002? (If the students don’t know about it, prompt them to add it to their “want to know” list.)

3. Ask students to brainstorm what they want to know about Hindus and Muslims in India, about the relationship between these two groups and the reasons they have clashed violently in the past. Track responses on a piece of chart paper labeled “Want to Know,” and remind students to do the same in their student organizers. Suggest that they can add to this list any questions that arise during the upcoming learning activities.

4. Hang the “What I Know” and “Want to Know” chart paper lists in the classroom for the remainder of the unit.

5. Inform students that the culminating activity for the lesson will be a presentation by an independent research team (groups of 4 students) to the Indian government that includes:

  • an overview and history of Muslim-Hindu conflicts in India, and
  • research and findings (including interview data) to guide the government in efforts it might make to promote greater religious freedom and understanding throughout India.

Learning Activities:

Activity One: Introduction to the Hindu-Muslim conflict in India

1. Explain that the class will be viewing a video clip from Religion and Ethics from May 2002 — following months of violence between Muslims and Hindus in the province of Gujarat in India. The clip covers the violence that broke out in February, but also examines the underlying causes of that violence.

2. Ask students to brainstorm some questions that might guide the class in their viewing of this clip. They may refer to their “Want to Know” list for questions. Post their questions on the board. Offer one or two of your own guiding questions as well. Some examples include:

  • What are Hindus and Muslims fighting about in Gujarat?
  • What have been the effects of their conflict?
  • Have they affected us? Do these conflicts affect the US?

3. Have the class view part of the video clip from the Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly Cover Story: Hindu-Muslim Conflict in India, May 24, 2002 (the video clip link is in the middle of this Web page)
View the first 4 minutes and 38 seconds, finishing after the piece about the boy, Naved, when the commentator says, “An uncle who lives in south India has offered to take him in, Naved says, when it is safe. It will be a while.” This is right before the commentator says, “It is not often that one can walk in the middle of the street.”

4. Refer back to the guideline questions on the board (see step 2 above), and call on volunteers to provide answers based on the video. Allow time for discussion and/or questions about the video.

Activity Two: Investigating the Gujarat case study

1. Tell students that their work will evaluated based on their performance in the following areas:

  • Participation in class discussion
  • Completion of the What I Know, Want to Know, and Learned student organizer
  • Reading of materials, and thorough responses to questions.
  • Quality of participation in group work
  • Quality of the Key Arguments to Be Presented organizer.
  • Serious preparation for interviews with Muslim and Hindu religious leaders and/or community members and with other community members (a draft of interview questions should be due before students conduct the interviews)
  • Performance on the culminating activity: a presentation by an independent research team (groups of 4 students) to the Indian government that includes:
    • an overview and history of Muslim-Hindu conflicts in India, and
    • research and findings (including interview data) to guide the government in efforts to promote greater religious freedom and understanding throughout India.

2. Divide the class into groups of 4. Students will remain in these groups for the remainder of the unit, and group members will prepare and present their final projects together.

3. Have students read (silently to themselves) the following two resources:

4. Allow 20-30 minutes of reading time, and have students keep a list of any new terms they come across.

5. Post the following questions on the board:

  • What have been the consequences of Hindu-Muslim conflicts in Gujarat?
  • Is either group innocent in this conflict?
  • Who is most to blame for the violence early in 2002?
  • Does either religious group have a more legitimate claim to the disputed sites in Gujarat?
  • How have people’s religious identities impacted their quality of life, rights, and freedoms?

6. Back in the groups of four, students should first define any of the new terms they identified in the readings. Students should draw on one another’s knowledge and use dictionaries to define new terms. (You might mention a few of the “big” ones from the readings so students can add them to their lists if they do not have them already. These include: secular, communalism).

7. Then, explain that you want each small group to do the following:

  • Read and make sure they understand the questions (ask one another or the teacher for further explanation).
  • Take 5 minutes to individually write short responses — not necessarily full sentences — to each of the questions (have students time themselves).
  • Each group member presents to the group his/her answers to the questions.
  • The group discusses their answers, their similarities, and differences.


  • Refer students to the Tips for Interviewing handout (make sure to distribute this in advance of the homework assignment). Also hand out the pre-prepared list of contact information for Muslim and Hindu community members/ leaders. Remind students that when they make contact with these individuals, they should identify themselves, describe their project, and ask when a good time for a 15-20 minute interview might be.
  • The task: Prepare interview questions, and contact Hindu/Muslim representatives to schedule interviews.
    • Prepare 10 questions for interviews with community members regarding:
      1. their views on conflicts between religious groups,
      2. their views on what can be done to prevent religious violence, and
      3. their experience in, or opinions about, different countries with issues of religious freedom or conflict — how have these countries addressed violence related to religious beliefs?This last aspect would be particularly interesting to explore with individuals who are from, or have spent time in, a country that has struggled with issues of religious freedom or conflict (e.g. Israel/ Palestine, Iran, Northern Ireland, etc.).
    • Schedule interviews with family members, neighbors, teachers, friends — but be sure to have some variety among your respondents.
    • Schedule an interview with at least one Muslim and one Hindu community member by using the contact list your teacher generated or by reaching out to Hindus or Muslims you might know.

    Activity Three: Exploring options for quelling the violence and promoting greater freedom

    1. Students hand in homework (10 interview questions). You should return the homework the following day.

    2. To prepare students for the readings they are about to explore, ask for volunteers to describe what the United Nations is and track their responses on the board. You may need to offer additional information: mention that the UN is an international organization that was established in 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Ask students why they think the UN was established in 1945 — what did that year mark the end of? Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership totals 189 countries. Explain that some of the documents students will be reviewing are UN documents, and that they influence the policies and practices of many nations.

    3. Have students read (silently to themselves) the following three resources:

    Allow 30 minutes of reading time, and have students do two things as they read: (1) keep a list of any new terms they come across, and (2) in one or two sentences, summarize the main idea of each of the three pieces.

    4. Post the following questions/tasks on the board (you might want to write them out on chart paper in advance):

    • As a group, define any new terms members of your group came across.
    • Share each of your notes regarding the main idea of each resource.
    • Should freedom of religion be an international human right? What are the arguments for securing it as an international human right? What might the counter-arguments be?
    • Is there a legitimate argument that individual countries can determine for themselves how to deal with issues of religious freedom and tolerance?
    • What steps have been taken in the U.S. to promote and secure religious freedom and tolerance? (See note below.)
    • What steps might be taken in India to promote and secure religious freedom and tolerance?

    Note: If time permits, have students explore the measures taken by governments of countries in which there has been a history of religious conflict, such as Northern Ireland. While students examine this case study, they should look for similarities and differences between it and the India case study, as well as between it and the United States. For background information about Northern Ireland, have students visit

    6. In their small groups, have students engage with the above questions. Tell them they all need to take notes during the discussion, highlighting the key arguments made by each of their group members.

    7. One member from each group should then fill out the Key Arguments to Be Presented organizer, while members take turns sharing the key arguments they highlighted during the previous discussion.

    Homework: Finish scheduling interviews with all your interviewees for the next 2 -3 days. Prepare 2-5 more interview questions based on what you learned during today’s lesson.

    Activity Four: Work on interview skills and conduct mock interviews

    1. Hand back interview questions with comments/suggestions.

    2. Discuss interview techniques and guidelines, reviewing the Tips for Interviewing handout that students received.

    • Have volunteers read each bulleted point from the handout. Allow students to give examples of each one to illustrate their understanding.

    3. Model an interview for the class by selecting a student as your subject, and ask a set of questions (modeling the appropriate body language as well — active listening etc.). The following is an example of how you might choose to model an interview:

    1. What is your full name, your age and occupation?
    2. What are your feelings about the state’s policy about students having to pass state exams in order to graduate from high school?
    3. What are some ways that state and school leaders might ease the effects this policy has on students?

    4. Have students partner up and conduct mock interviews with one another, using the interview questions that were returned at the beginning of class. Remind the interviewing students to keep notes on their interviewee’s responses. These responses can be included in students’ interview analysis and summary.

    Homework (if possible, for two nights): Conduct interviews (can include phone interviews, and even some e-mail interviews). Remind students to include the 2-5 questions regarding freedom of religion they added for homework after Learning Activity Three. Tell students to take organized, legible notes, and to make sure they record the name, age, and other relevant information for each respondent.

    Culminating Activity/Assessment: Preparing proposal for India’s government

    1. Explain the nature of the final presentation to students. Each independent research team (group of four students), will present the following to representatives of the Indian government:

    1. An overview of the most recent manifestation of Muslim-Hindu conflict, and an account of the history of such conflict in India.
    2. A summary of their findings regarding the Gujarat case and the question of religious freedom as an international human right (based on readings, class discussion, interviews), with facts, quotes, and examples to illustrate these findings.
    3. A recommendation from the group regarding steps India might take to begin to quell the violence and promote greater religious freedom and understanding throughout India. Include concrete steps that the government, schools, communities, and families can take to promote greater understanding among the religious groups in India.
    4. Include visuals if at all possible.

    2. Have students suggest how their performance on this project might be assessed. Track their responses on chart paper. Then share the Rubric for Culminating Project and explain that these are the elements that you will be evaluating students on. Ask the class if any of those that they identified are missing from your rubric. If they are, you might agree to incorporate all or some of them into the rubric.

    3. Allow class preparation time. Urge students to assign tasks to each member of the group, so that each group participant has an opportunity to prepare and present the final presentation. Students should refer back to their work on the Key Arguments to Be Presented organizer, and also use this time to compare their interview notes and prepare summary statements, draw conclusions, etc.

    Homework: Students work on their presentations, including the preparation of visuals.

    Culminating Activity/Assessment: Presentations of independent research teams

    1. Student presentations

    • Remind students that they will be assessed for both their individual and group efforts in these presentations.
    • As each group presents, the rest of the class should take notes and record any questions they have for the presenters.
    • Allow some time after each presentation for students to ask questions of one another.

    2. Following the presentations, have students fill out the “Learned” section of the What I Know, Want to Know, and Learned organizer. Collect these from students.


  • Have students conduct case studies of countries and/or peoples where conflict over religious beliefs and holy sites has caused violence and destruction. For example, students might examine the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians over Israel:
  • Students may also consider the Taliban’s destruction of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan:
  • NPR: The Buddhas of Bamiyan
  • # Have students study the geography and wildlife of India, learn about the various regions and landscapes, and examine how the country’s environment has impacted its people:

  • NATURE: India: Land of the Tiger