Fragile India


For doing the right thing, V. P. Singh's minority coalition government of India may fall in a vote of confidence on Wednesday. He is protecting the rights of minority Moslems against virulent fundamentalism within the Hindu majority. He is upholding not only the law but the secular vision -- so necessary to unite a huge population -- on which modern India was founded.

By sending police to protect the Babri Mosque at Ayodhya and arresting a political ally to stop a march on it, Mr. Singh has taken on the Hindu nationalism that put him on top of a shaky coalition last December. He also upheld the courts and defused a willingness among India's minority of 100 million Moslems to fight for the mosque. Already, hundreds are dead from anti-Moslem riots, with reprisals growing against the Hindu minority in neighboring Bangladesh.

In 1528, the first Moghul emperor built a mosque on the revered birthplace of the Hindu warrior-god Lord Rama to symbolize the triumph of Islam. The Moghul empire fell apart in the 18th century, but resurgent Hindu nationalism is still trying to erase such relics. It may win, but federal India cannot survive such a victory.

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