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Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life

Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India

Ashutosh Varshney
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life
    Book Description:

    What kinds of civic ties between different ethnic communities can contain, or even prevent, ethnic violence? This book draws on new research on Hindu-Muslim conflict in India to address this important question. Ashutosh Varshney examines three pairs of Indian cities-one city in each pair with a history of communal violence, the other with a history of relative communal harmony-to discern why violence between Hindus and Muslims occurs in some situations but not others. His findings will be of strong interest to scholars, politicians, and policymakers of South Asia, but the implications of his study have theoretical and practical relevance for a broad range of multiethnic societies in other areas of the world as well.The book focuses on the networks of civic engagement that bring Hindu and Muslim urban communities together. Strong associational forms of civic engagement, such as integrated business organizations, trade unions, political parties, and professional associations, are able to control outbreaks of ethnic violence, Varshney shows. Vigorous and communally integrated associational life can serve as an agent of peace by restraining those, including powerful politicians, who would polarize Hindus and Muslims along communal lines.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12794-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface to the Second Edition
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)

    In this book I seek to establish an integral link between the structure of civil society on one hand and ethnic, or communal, violence on the other. To be more precise, the focus is on theintercommunal, notintracommunal, networks of civic life, which bring different communities together. These networks can, in turn, be broken down into two parts: associational and quotidian. I call the firstassociationalforms of civic engagement and the second,everydayforms of civic engagement. Business associations, professional organizations, reading clubs, film clubs, sports clubs, festival organizations, trade unions, and cadrebased political parties are some of the...

  6. Chapter 2 Why Civil Society? Ethnic Conflict and the Existing Traditions of Inquiry
    (pp. 23-52)

    The existing traditions of inquiry into ethnic conflict can be classified into four categories: essentialism, instrumentalism, constructivism, and institutionalism. All four traditions have a distinguished lineage, but none can account for the local or regional concentrations of ethnic violence. Were India the only country to have such internal variance in the incidence of ethnic violence, we could save the theories by calling India an outlier. But the inapplicability of theories turns out to be more general. Although disaggregated statistics on local or regional dispersions of ethnic violence have not been systematically collected for many countries, the data that we do...

  7. [Part II Introduction]
    (pp. 53-54)

    The next two chapters present anationaloverview of electoral and ideological trends, on one hand, and Hindu-Muslim riots, on the other. The purpose is to show that there is a divergence between the national and the local.

    After being electorally small for much of the century, the power of Hindu nationalists rose in the late 1990s. But their ideology, focused on Muslim disloyalty to India, did not triumph. In the process of making coalitions for capturing power, they had to make fundamental ideological compromises with the programs of other parties not wedded to Hindu nationalism. More important for our...

  8. Chapter 3 Competing National Imaginations
    (pp. 55-86)

    There were three master narratives in Indian politics in the twentieth century.¹ By “master narratives” I mean the major organizing devices formass politics,or the leading political idioms that mobilize large numbers of people. Master narratives tell stories that make the critical issues in politics intelligible to the masses. They are ways of putting together popular social coalitions so that politics can be altered and political power won.²

    Two of the three master narratives of Indian politics—secular nationalism and religious nationalism—speak explicitly about the nation; the third, focusing on caste, does it indirectly in that it aims...

  9. Chapter 4 Hindu-Muslim Riots, 1950–1995: The National Picture
    (pp. 87-112)

    This chapter deals with the overall statistics on Hindu-Muslim riots, the so-called large-n of communal violence.¹ Based primarily, though not exclusively, on an interpretive reading of theTimes of Indiafor forty-six years (1950–95), it compiles the riot data and analyzes them. The purpose is to set the stage for the detailed case studies that follow and to ask three questions in particular. First, how is India’s communal violence distributed across the nation? Second, do aggregate data, in and of themselves, support some nationwide explanations? Third, if variance is what we should be studying to develop explanations for communal...

  10. [Part III Introduction]
    (pp. 113-116)

    We proceed now to the three paired cases—a comparison in each case of a violent and a peaceful city having, at the very least, roughly similar Hindu-Muslim proportions in the population. The case materials follow a two-step methodological procedure.

    First, we ask why one city has been peaceful and the other violent in recent times. The method of process-tracing is applied to establish how, given similar stimuli or provocations, different kinds of civic networks—intercommunal versus intracommunal, associational versus quotidian—are linked to the divergent outcomes—peace and riots, respectively.

    Second, it must be asked whether the relationship observed...

  11. Chapter 5 Aligarh and Calicut: Civic Life and Its Political Foundations
    (pp. 119-148)

    Before investigating the similarities and differences between the towns of Aligarh and Calicut, let me relate the story of our field research in the two towns. The story bears on a key theme of the comparison: intercommunal trust or communication in civic life.

    In order to gather statistics on the Hindu-Muslim breakdown of business ownership in Aligarh, a town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, a Muslim member of our research team approached the District Industries Office. A Hindu journalist was sitting there. The project was introduced and a request for data made. A story appeared in the...

  12. Chapter 6 Vicious and Virtuous Circles
    (pp. 149-168)

    If the major puzzle of pre-1947 Calicut politics was that the Malabar rebellion did not leave a bitter communal legacy, another paradox marks the city’s (and the region’s) post-1947 politics. The Muslim League, a political party representing the Muslim community, has acquired remarkable power over the past three decades. It has held a number of ministries in state government since 1967 and used its governmental participation to deliver a large number of benefits to the Muslims. Yet a “Hindu reaction,” or Hindu-Muslim bitterness, has not come to the fore. Incidents of communal violence have been few and far between in...

  13. Chapter 7 Princely Resistance to Civil Society
    (pp. 171-200)

    The second pair of cities—Hyderabad and Lucknow—introduces another important dimension of civic life: the difference between civic integration at the level of the elite and the masses. As briefly stated in Chapter 2 , this distinction matters for ethnic peace and conflict. If politics is not an arena confined to the elite anymore, and the masses have begun to act ascitizens,not simply assubjects,then masslevel integration is likely to be a stronger bulwark of peace than a mere elite-level integration. The size of the former differentiates it from the latter, making electoral strategies that respond...

  14. Chapter 8 Hindu Nationalists as Bridge Builders?
    (pp. 201-216)

    Hyderabad and Lucknow have continued to follow different electoral and civic courses since independence. It is not, however, simply a continuation of pre-independence politics. Unlike the pre-independence days, when the franchise was limited, electoral politics since 1947 has been based on a universal franchise. Both Hyderabad and Lucknow have seen the rise of communal parties in India: the MIM in Hyderabad and the BJP in Lucknow. The outcomes, however, are very different for communal relations. Hyderabad has gone through a veritable communal nightmare, as communal politicians have promoted Hindu-Muslim violence as a way to create communal solidarity and win votes....

  15. Chapter 9 Gandhi and Civil Society
    (pp. 219-238)

    Analytically speaking, the comparisons thus far have been across space, not across time. During the times in question, the four cities examined in the previous chapters have had a virtually unchanging character. Communal riots in two cities—Aligarh and Hyderabad—took place repeatedly, and communal peace in the other two—Calicut and Lucknow—was rarely broken. The trends were established in the 1920s and 1930s, and they endured after independence. The rise of mass politics and the political transformations of 1920s and 1930s laid the foundations of civic interaction between Hindus and Muslims or of its absence; and demonstrating path-dependence,...

  16. Chapter 10 Decline of a Civic Order and Communal Violence
    (pp. 239-261)

    Surat’s communal peace lasted until the early 1990s.¹ In December 1992, after the Baburi mosque was torn down in Ayodhya, ghastly riots took place for five days. According to police records, 197 people were killed, 175 of whom were Muslim.² All deaths took place in the shantytowns; no lives were lost in the old city, although it witnessed some arson and looting. Of the many riots that broke out in the aftermath of the Baburi mosque demolition, only Bombay’s violence surpassed the brutality, arson, and plunder witnessed in Surat.

    Ahmedabad also had riots in December 1992 and January 1993. At...

  17. Chapter 11 Endogeneity? Of Causes and Consequences
    (pp. 262-278)

    The preceding two chapters have presented two rather different pro-files, disjointed in time. Our first profile came from the period between the 1920s and the 1940s (Chapter 9). The intercommunal civic structures of Ahmedabad and Surat were sturdy, and communal riots by and large did not take place; and if riots did break out, their spread in the two cities was successfully contained. Our second profile shifted attention to the 1980s and 1990s (Chapter 10), when we noticed that the integrative strength of civic structures had declined and riots took place frequently in Ahmedabad and managed to break the peace...

  18. Chapter 12 Ethnic Conflict, the State, and Civil Society
    (pp. 281-300)

    In its search for factors contributing to ethnic violence and peace, this book has concentrated on the significance of intercommunal or interethnic civic engagement¹ and on the greater value of associational, as opposed to everyday, engagement. It is because of such engagement that, despite having the same demographic proportions of Hindus and Muslims, some cities remain peaceful but others have repeated communal violence. And it is because the utility of everyday engagement declines with size that quotidian civicness may suffice to keep villages in peace but typically fails to prevent violence in cities, making integrated associations more valuable.

    My argument...

  19. Appendix A. Questionnaire for the Project on Hindu-Muslim Relations in India
    (pp. 301-308)
  20. Appendix B. Data Entry Protocol for the Riot Database
    (pp. 309-313)
  21. Appendix C. Regression Results: Hindu-Muslim Riots, 1950–1995
    (pp. 314-318)
  22. Notes
    (pp. 319-372)
  23. Index
    (pp. 373-382)