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Pogrom in Gujarat

Pogrom in Gujarat: Hindu Nationalism and Anti-Muslim Violence in India

Parvis Ghassem-Fachandi
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Pogrom in Gujarat
    Book Description:

    In 2002, after an altercation between Muslim vendors and Hindu travelers at a railway station in the Indian state of Gujarat, fifty-nine Hindu pilgrims were burned to death. The ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party blamed Gujarat's entire Muslim minority for the tragedy and incited fellow Hindus to exact revenge. The resulting violence left more than one thousand people dead--most of them Muslims--and tens of thousands more displaced from their homes. Parvis Ghassem-Fachandi witnessed the bloodshed up close. InPogrom in Gujarat, he provides a riveting ethnographic account of collective violence in which the doctrine of ahimsa--or nonviolence--and the closely associated practices of vegetarianism became implicated by legitimating what they formally disavow.

    Ghassem-Fachandi looks at how newspapers, movies, and other media helped to fuel the pogrom. He shows how the vegetarian sensibilities of Hindus and the language of sacrifice were manipulated to provoke disgust against Muslims and mobilize the aspiring middle classes across caste and class differences in the name of Hindu nationalism. Drawing on his intimate knowledge of Gujarat's culture and politics and the close ties he shared with some of the pogrom's sympathizers, Ghassem-Fachandi offers a strikingly original interpretation of the different ways in which Hindu proponents of ahimsa became complicit in the very violence they claimed to renounce.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4259-9
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-30)

    Pogrom in Gujaratis a study of an anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat, India, that began on February 28, 2002, and lasted for three days—approximately seventy-two hours. Officials rationalized the violence as a reaction—pratikriya—to the aggression of its victims. In the city of Ahmedabad and in Gujarat—s central provinces, a state of exception ruled for approximately three weeks. Several mass killings were followed over a few months by many instances of violence on a lesser scale. Muslim homes and religious structures were desecrated and destroyed; Muslim commercial establishments were boycotted. Countless flyers circulated, appealing to Hindus to...

  5. CHAPTER 1 “Why do you leave? Fight for us!” INCIDENT IN GODHRA
    (pp. 31-58)

    The Gujarat pogrom began on February 28, 2002, but in local understandings it was set in motion the previous day at a railway station in the midsized town of Godhra in the Panchmahals district of eastern Gujarat. In the early morning hours of February 27, a tightly packed Sabarmati Express reached the station four hours behind schedule. Godhra is the administrative headquarters of the district, located near the railway junction connecting the large cosmopolitan centers New Delhi in the north and Mumbai in the west. The overcrowded train included many Hindu pilgrims on their way back from the temple town...

    (pp. 59-92)

    On February 27, 2002, several hours after the Godhra incident, the chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, insisted against the explicit advice of the local district collector, Jayanthi Ravi, that the charred bodies of the train victims be transported in a motorcade to Sola Hospital in Ahmedabad. Modi also allowed ample time for the press to take detailed photographs of the corpses recovered from the burned-out coach. The images then appeared in the evening news, and a day later in many local newspapers, as bundles of charred bodies wrapped in linen.

    In the evening, Chief Minister Modi proclaimed on TV...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Gujarat Pogrom
    (pp. 93-122)

    In the first few days, the epicenter of the Gujarat pogrom was not in the old city, where I had ventured expecting to witness “communal violence” at one of the traditional trouble spots, such as Shahpur Darwaja. The scenes were short of anything like a “riot,” but rather a festival of sorts by one community in the absence of the other, while the police guarded cows, smokedbidis, and read the newspaper accounts about what unfolded in front of them. In other parts of the city, however, from the early morning hours to the late afternoon, Muslim residential areas such...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Lack of Muslim Vulnerability
    (pp. 123-152)

    How can a familiar neighbor, with whom one frequently interacts and even shares laughs, arouse extreme forms of disgust, fear, or anger? This chapter examines how, in the time of the pogrom, the neighbor was turned into a stereotype. It explores how the distance between stereotype and the experience of the neighbor suddenly collapsed as cliché coalesced with experience. Chapters 1 and 2 presented the imaginary grid that emerged in media representations and in the circulation of rumors during pogrom violence; chapter 3 presented more documentation of the pogrom. This chapter depicts how residents of Ahmedabad articulated oversimplified notions of...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Vibrant Vegetarian Gujarat
    (pp. 153-184)

    In 2003, Narendra Modi, weakened by international criticism of his leadership during the Gujarat pogrom in the previous year, commemorated the 135th anniversary of Mohandas K. Gandhi with a speech in Porbandar, the birth town of the Mahatma. The chief minister reassured Gujaratis of their nonviolent credentials, despite the pogrom, by meditating on “Bapu’s principles”—Gandhi’s unique blend of social reform, village economy, removal of untouchability, and the Khadi movement. He also devoted considerable time to the “hidden strengths” of Gujarat, that is, to the treatment of animals and vegetarianism:

    Gujarat’s main strength lies in its vegetarianism. Most Gujaratis are...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Ahimsa, Gandhi, and the Angry Hindu
    (pp. 185-212)

    On May 1, 2002, the government of Gujarat published an advertisement in English inThe Times of Indiacommemorating the forty-third year of the existence of the state, founded in 1960. It appealed for a “present of peace and harmony to the state of Gujarat.” The advertisement included an astonishing mistake, the omission of the prefix “non” in the word nonviolence—a printed Freudian slip.

    A picture of Mahatma Gandhi stands at the head of the spiritual lineage, followed by pictures of three prominent Gujaratis: Sadar Vallabhai Patel and Ravishankar Maharaj, who fought for independence with Gandhi, and the current...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Split City Body
    (pp. 213-256)

    A series of contradictions mark the urban experience of Ahmedabad. The city is Gujarat’s largest and one of India’s major commercial centers. It has an official and fast-growing population of over five million residents. In normal times, it is felt to be safer than most metropolitan Indian cities. Residents are proud to point out that instances of rape, murder, and robbery are much more frequent in Bombay, Bangalore, or Delhi. Yet there is something conservative and staid about its cultural scene, meaning that despite the general perception of safety, many of its younger residents frequently aspire to move to other...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Heterogeneity and the Nation
    (pp. 257-272)

    Romain Rolland, a French author and contemporary of Mahatma Gandhi, recounted an anecdote of Gandhi’s school years: since the obstinate young Mohandas often brushed against untouchables, his mother recommended he then touch a Muslim in order to cleanse himself from the contamination accrued (1923: 78). David Pocock mentioned the same practical solution to pollution when witnessing similar scenes in rural Gujarat during his fieldwork some eighty years later (1972a: 5–7). Comparing this solution, the touching of a Muslim, to a game of tag, Pocock explained that the contradictory nature of the Muslim in caste society provided the possibility of...

  13. Postscript
    (pp. 273-282)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 283-302)
  15. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 303-304)
  16. Glossary of Indian Terms
    (pp. 305-308)
  17. References
    (pp. 309-322)
  18. Index
    (pp. 323-335)