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The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India

by Paul R. Brass

Publication Year: 2003

Published by: University of Washington Press


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pp. vii-viii

Abbreviations Used in This Book

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pp. ix-x

Maps, Figures, and Tables

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pp. xi-xiv

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xix

This book follows upon my last two books on collective violence, Riots and Pogroms and Theft of an Idol, published in 1996 and 1997, respectively. Although temporally earlier than this book, many of the ideas contained in them were developed first in my work on riots in Aligarh. It was here, during...

Part I: Introduction

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1. Explaining Communal Violence

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pp. 5-40

Among the many paradoxes and contradictions that must confront observers of India is the competing imagery of violence and nonviolence, symbolized in two recurrent representations of that country. One is the image that has been flashed countless times during the past half-century in the media and the cinema of the bloody riots that occurred immediately before and after Independence as a consequence of the events...

Part II: Communal Riots in India and Aligarh

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2. Aligarh: Politics, Population, and Social Organization

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pp. 43-59

Party politiCS., elections, and riot. s are political dramas of contestation involving simplification of complex realities. They reduce heterogeneity and complexity in order to mobilize large enough numbers to form a party or movement, win an election, or confront a rival ethnic or religious group in riotous violence. This is especially so for competitive political systems in which election contests are decided by the first-past-...

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3. Hindu-Muslim Violence in India and Aligarh

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pp. 60-115

The annual reports of the Home Ministry of the government of India, whose responsibility includes reporting on the state of law and order in the country, including the incidence of communal riots, has failed to produce its annual reports for the past fifteen years, the most recent one available being for the year 1984-85. Those reports that were produced...

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4. The Great Aligarh Riots of December 1990 and January 1991

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pp. 116-131

In the minds of most commentators, reporters, and my own interview respondents, the 1990-91 riots in Aligarh were dramatically different from all that preceded them in several respects. First, the scale surpassed all previous riots in the city, including those just before Partition in 1946, both in the extent of the areas touched by them and in the numbers of persons killed. The official figure for deaths in these riots given out by the district...

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5. The Control of Communal Conflict in Aligarh

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pp. 132-146

For a decade there was relative peace in the town of Aligarh. No incidents classed as riots occurred during this period. Yet, during this same decade, in the nearby district of Meerut, two of the most vicious communal riots in this state since Independence occurred in 1982 and 1987, respectively. Why were there no riots in Aligarh in this period? Answers...

Part III: Demographics, Social, and Economic Factors in the Production of Riots

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6. The Geography and Demography of Riots

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pp. 149-198

Collective violence such as riots rarely-indeed almost never-engulfs an entire town or city of any substantial size. Nor does it ever include all elements in the city's social organi:r.ation, whether defined by class, caste, religion, or other cultural community. This obvious and elementary character of collective violence is usually ignored in studies that identify...

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7. The Economics of Riots: Economic Competition and Victimization

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pp. 199-216

A ligarh, like several other towns in western U.P. that are also riotprone, has developed in the twentieth century from what is known . in the Indian literature as a qasbah town dominated by a rentier class of rural landholders-from both the Hindu and Muslim communities-with an economy "based on small shopkeeping, service occupations, and cultivation of crops," to a semi-industrialized economy in which...

Part IV: Riots and the Political Process

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8. Riots and Elections

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pp. 219-239

WiIkinson has argued that the principal cause of Hindu-Muslim riots in India, indeed of ethnic riots in general, is a "close electoral race in which one party believes it can win by appealing to ethnic majority-group voters."1 Although I have argued above that the search for causes of such large-scale and multiplex events as riots...

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9. The Practice of Communal Politics

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pp. 240-261

Although I have argued that, insofar as Aligarh City is concerned, riots that precede elections intensify interparty competition and provide a basis for it through communalization and polarization of the electorate, Aligarh is also part of a broader framework of interparty competition at the state and national levels that must also be kept in mind in considering...

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10. Communalization and Polarization: Selected Constituency-Wise Results for Aligarh Elections

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pp. 262-285

The effects of riots on the processes of communalization and polarization in Aligarh elections are dramatically illustrated by the elections that followed the communal riots in October 1961 and by the series of elections associated with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the riots that occurred along with it. The effects of a decline in communal...

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11. Communal Solidarity and Division at the Local Level

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pp. 286-295

Let us now have a look at the available election results for the infamous mohalla of Manik Chauk, center of so many of the riots in Aligarh since Independence and home and business premises of Krishna Kumar N avman. Recall first the demographic characteristics of this mohalla. Even in 1951, it was a large mohalla, with a total population of 3,848 persons...

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12. The Decline of Communal Violence and the Transformation of Electoral Competition

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pp. 296-302

For a decade after the destruction of the.Babri Masjid in December 1992 and the negative reaction to it in the country and around the world, there was a decline in communal violence in India as a whole and in the state of U.P. and Aligarh as well. This decline was in no small measure...

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Part V: The Process of Blame Displacement

A scathing denunciation of the recent happenings in Bombay and the conduct of those who had remained passive witnesses of the same constituted the core of Gandhiji's address after the evening prayer gathering at Rungta House today. The news of these events, said Gandhiji, had filled him...

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13. Riot Interpretation, Blame Displacement, and the Communal Discourse

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pp. 305-327

The preceding parts of this book have focused on the first two stages in riot production: preparation/rehearsal and enactment. It has been demonstrated that preparation and rehearsal for the enactment of large-scale riots are ongoing activities in which known persons and groups are actively engaged and in which there is a specialized division of labor embedded...

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14. Police Views of Hindu-Muslim Violence

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pp. 328-343

Most of the persons killed in most riots in India and in all riots in Aligarh since Independence have been Muslims; moreover, most have been killed by the police. That fact alone would normally arouse the suspicion that what are called riots in India and in Aligarh are actually pogroms, that is, the deliberate killing of Muslims by the agents of the..

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15. The Role of the Media

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pp. 344-352

In the months before Independence and Partition in 1947, the watchful British governor of the United Provinces, as Uttar Pradesh was then called, kept reassuring Mountbatten in his fortnightly reports to the Viceroy that the communal situation in the U.P. was manageable, if difficult. At the same time, he feared the effects on the communal situation in U.P. of news reporting of the developing catastrophe..

Part VI: Conclusion

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16. The Persistence of Hindu-Muslim Violence: The Dynamics of Riot Production

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pp. 355-384

Riots persist in India and have become. endemic at a multiplicity of sites in the subcontinent. They constitute, in effect, a normal, routine aspect of politics whose very normality and routine character are masked by both the sincere and hypocritical comments that follow in the aftermath of their most savage occurrences. So long as they are considered abnormal...

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Postscript : Aligarh and Gujarat

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pp. 385-392

Uttar Pradesh (U.P.), and Aligarh as well, have experienced a reduction in the incidence of Hindu-Muslim violence during the past decade. Further, the February 2002 Legislative Assembly elections in Aligarh City produced a result that in itself reflects a decline both in riotous activity and in electoral communalization and...


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pp. 393-412


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pp. 413-462


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pp. 463-474

Index to "Mohallas"

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pp. 475-476

E-ISBN-13: 9780295800608
E-ISBN-10: 0295800607
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295985060
Print-ISBN-10: 0295985062

Publication Year: 2003