Riots in India : Data and Clues to End them

Ashutosh Varshney in his important book “Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India” (Yale University Press), 10 years in the making, marries the sophistication of cutting edge Western scholarship with the empirical richness of micro-level cases studies from India.

His findings are as surprising as they are potentially optimistic. My lifelong memories are false. Riots in India are not a national phenomenon; they are highly localized. In a country that remains mainly rural, religious violence is a chiefly urban problem: the countryside accounts for under 4 percent of all riot-related deaths. Using data from 1950 to 1995, Varshney shows that riots are concentrated in just four of India’s 28 states. On a per capita basis, the worst states are Gujarat, Bihar and Maharashtra.

More startlingly, 70 percent of Hindu-Muslim violence occurs, albeit repeatedly, in just 30 of over 400 cities (with three in Bihar, including my hometown, Sitamarhi). Slightly under half of all deaths occur in just eight cities that have a substantial Muslim minority but also a high literacy rate and large middle class. Unfortunately, the megacities of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Delhi and Calcutta are among the eight.

Why the serial riots in 30 cities? Why are there no comparable outbreaks in cities with almost identical demographic details?

Varshney attributes the absence of deadly riots to the presence of civic associations. Civil society, not government, is the answer. The most violence-resistant, stable states and cities are those with flourishing labor, industrial, educational, social and political associations embracing both Muslims and Hindus.

With intercommunal networks of engagement, inter-ethnic tensions and conflicts are moderated and managed; without them, segregated lives lead to ghastly violence. The policy implication is clear: Support with practical measures the growth of integrative civic associations.

More in the Article, A proven way to end India’s communal riots, by Ramesh Thakur (IHT)

2 thoughts on “Riots in India : Data and Clues to End them”

  1. hi shrikant went thru your thoughts on India and roits.Liked the way u have easily in a user friendly tone explined roits in Our country. too good. Shrikant i too cover Indian events whether its roits or anything related to india. kindly refer indiadaily.org for my posts and let me know your valuable comments


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