Hindu-Muslim violence is surprisingly small scale and geographically concentratedby Edward Luce / May 20, 2002 / Leave a comment
Published in May 2002 issue of Prospect Magazine
Ethnic conflict and civic life
Yale University Press, ?35
A curious thing happened in India earlier this year. While the city of Ahmedabad and other places in the state of Gujarat were undergoing a gruesome orgy of “communal” violence, the rest of India was not.
It might sound callous to attach significance to the fact that the killings did not spread on any scale to other parts of India. After all, more than 700 Indian Muslims were slaughtered in the course of five days by Hindu gangs, following the massacre by a suspected Islamist group of 59 mostly Hindu train passengers.
Many of those killed in the attacks were children, methodically incinerated after being doused in kerosene. Crowds gathered to cheer on a series of such burnings, sometimes with the police acting as cheerleaders-hardly, perhaps, a moment to talk about sectarian restraint in India. And yet, this is one of the themes of Ashutosh Varshney’s original new book-Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India. Its findings challenge the standard international commentary on the Gujarat massacres: India (or it might be Bosnia or some other ethnic flashpoint) is a land of dark hatreds that spill over into medieval-style slaughter, so there is no need for context. Communal killing is just what happens.