Riot Politics: Hindu-Muslim Violence and the Indian State

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Columbia University Press, 2011 - Political Science - 236 pages
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On February 27, 2002, a train coach caught fire just outside a railway station in Gujarat, killing fifty-eight people. The incident initiated one of the worst outbreaks of Hindu-Muslim violence since India's independence. As mobs of Hindus thronged the streets of Gujarat's cities and villages, local and state-level politicians made inflammatory speeches and distributed weapons for revenge, excusing the police from their responsibility to protect citizens from harm. In the end, the bloodshed claimed the lives of more than two thousand people.

Based on an extensive ethnographic study of Gujarat's local politics, this volume introduces a novel approach to comprehending the processes fostering communal violence. Ward Berenschot argues that the difficulties faced by Indians, especially the poor, in dealing with state institutions enable political actors to incite communal violence with ease. Guiding readers through Gujarat's shadowy local politics, Berenschot details the capacities of various rioters, from local criminals and Hindu-nationalist activists to neighborhood leaders, politicians, and the police, and their ability to organize and perpetrate violence. Specifically, he explains how different official positions allow some individuals to exploit patronage networks supplying access to state resources.

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About the author (2011)

Ward Berenschot is a political scientist and postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) in Leiden. His research focuses on identity politics and local democracy in India and Indonesia.

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