Book: Everyday Communalism: Riots in Contemporary Uttar Pradesh
Authors: SudhaPai and Sajjan Kumar
Hardcover: 364 pages
Publisher: OUP India (5 January 2018)
Based largely on secondary works this work is a welcome addition to the existing literature on religious strife in India. Benefitting from interviews, discussions and field works the book under review is a breakthrough in the field of studies on Hindu-Muslim strife.
It explores the Hindu-Muslim violence in Uttar Pradesh (UP) since the 2000s, which has characteristics clearly different from the earlier decades. The book gifts us with an apt phraseology, “everyday communalism”.
The authors offer a ‘new model’ of ‘institutionalized everyday communalism’. Their moot point being that instead of instigating major communal violence and episodic riots which invite public and media scrutiny and legal battles, the BJP and RSS have devised a new method of creating and sustaining the constant, low-key, frequent communal tensions to keep the pot boiling.
A significant feature of this new phase of communalism, they argue, is the shifting location of riots from vulnerable areas to otherwise peaceful areas and even more distinctly from urban locales to the rural ones.
The book illustrates that ‘Subalternization’ of Hindutva (inclusion of Backward and Dalit castes), clubbed with the much-hyped idea of development on Gujarat model were the main factors behind the electoral success of BJP in 2014.
Chapter I describes the historiography of communal violence in Uttar Pradesh from post-independence time to the 1990s depicting Nehruvian era as the period of relative peace and communal harmony.
Chapters II and III, which constitute the Part I, are entirely devoted to the communalism and communal violence in eastern Uttar Pradesh, while Chapters IV and V which comprise Part II explore the same in western Uttar Pradesh.
The authors argue that the nature and form of communalism in eastern Uttar Pradesh is markedly different from that of western Uttar Pradesh because of the variance in demography, history and political economy of the two regions with in the large province.
There is no denying the fact that Part I of the book holds the corner-stone of it. To a student, working on eastern Uttar Pradesh, it offers something almost original while highlighting the rise of Yogi Adityanath (Ajay Singh Bisht) and the re-appearance of communal tension and violence in eastern districts. They illustrate it particularly with the Mau (2005) and Gorakhpur (2007) Violence.
It also explains how the weakening of the identity politics and the Congress’ failure to revive its organizational base led to the strengthening of the BJP which provided a perfect opportunity for the BJP to put to test its ‘New-Experimentation’.
The book brilliantly addresses the conflict within the high castes leading to the formation of the ‘non-Brahman Hinduism’ of Yogi Adityanath, a Rajput (Thakur) and his Hindu YuvaVahini (HYV), which according to the authors, is significantly different from the one advocated by the BJP and RSS, which has dominance of Brahmans.
The communal violence in eastern part are urban phenomenon whereas in the western Uttar Pradesh these are rural phenomenon.
However, the authors have left the question unanswered as to how the rise of Pasmanda politics led to the communalization in Uttar Pradesh. Whatever little description they give about the Pasmanda politics is more to do with Bihar than with Uttar Pradesh.
Moreover, this description does not correlate it as a factor for majoritarian assertion against the Muslims. The authors have also very inadequately dealt with the roles of the ruling SP (2002-07; 2102-2017) and BSP (2007-2012) in letting off Adityanath for his role in 2007 Gorakhpur violence.
The authors, could have benefitted from Apoorvanand (“Riot, Manufactured in Gorakhpur”, Tehelka, February 17, 2007), ShahnawazAlam, (“How SP and BSP Helped Adityanath Get Away With His Hate Speeches, The Wire, March 29, 2017) and AjitSahi’s two reports (The Wire, February 22, July 2017 and February 22, 2018) who argue that onus lies on those parties and on the criminal justice system in letting off Adityanath.
Part II of the book on western Uttar Pradesh argues that the planned and sustained everyday communal mobilization coupled with the agrarian decline (which began from the Green Revolution period), resulted into the deterioration of Jat-Muslim relationship.
A unique, yet worrying feature of communalism in western Uttar Pradesh is the shift of the battleground of communal politics to rural locales, from riot-prone areas to the relatively peaceful areas.
This may be possibly because of the jealousy on part of majoritarian community due to the improving status and prosperity of certain Muslim communities coupled with the rising aspirations of Muslims to share the structures of power and their virtual upsurge in rural and Urban Local Bodies which the authors have completely missed out.
This is something which was brought out by A K Verma (“Muslim Resurgence in Urban Local Bodies of Uttar Pradesh”, EPW, October 6, 2012).
The authors have completely missed out on this significant factor in making BJP’s task easier towards anti-Muslim hatred, jealousy, and weaving a Hindu consolidation.
To a student working on western Uttar Pradesh, this section, honestly speaking, does not offer anything substantially new. In fact it is ‘disappointing’ as said in Jagpal Singh’s review of the book in (The Book Review, June 2018).
On Muzaffarnagar riots (2013), to my understanding, Jagpal Singh’s essay, (“Communal Violence in Muzaffarnagar Agrarian Transformation and Politics”, EPW, 31 July, 2016) raises some key questions and also answers them in far better way than the book under review does.
This work also ignores the question why formation of religious-based communities is taking place relegating the caste differences to the background as has been pointed out by Jagpal Singh in his review of the book.
This is probably because the authors seem to be obsessed so much with the social context that they deliberately ignore the political context of riot underlined long ago by Paul R. Brass.
Further, this work while calling the Muzaffarnagar violence as an orchestrated riots and something carried out by the SP (to woo Muslims) in tacit or explicit connivance with the BJP, the authors do not substantiate or corroborate their respondents’ statements with any other tangible evidences. They say,
"...the BJP and the SP were working in tandem with each other". (P. 259). This aspect needs more of academic scrutiny and substantiation.
The authors could have benefitted from Mohammad Sajjad (“This is AkhileshYadav's way of running UP”, Rediff.com, August 5, 2013). This column had forewarned us that besides NarendraModi and the SanghParivar there are many others who are out to communalise the national atmosphere of India.
However, the discussion on the Muslims displaced is commendable but can’t be credited as pioneering as has been argued by Jagpal Singh’s review.
The authors could have benefitted from Ghazala Jamil (Internally Displaced Muslims of Western Uttar Pradesh, EPW, December 20, 2014) who argues that as far as provision of relief was concerned, some areas got serviced more than the others whereas the better off amongst the victims managed to leave the relief camps.
She further questions the very nature of compensation criterion of compensating only those villages/families where people have died in communal attacks.
Besides these shortcomings, the book also suffers from multiple content repetitions, factual errors, proof-errors and carelessness which generally are the domain responsibility of the peer-reviewers and copy-editor.
Institutionalization of Everyday communalism, the Gujarat model of development and Subalternization of Hindutva are the repetitive contents of the book. No doubt, the authors do offer a ‘new model’ but the over repetition of the contents, which at times become sickening have camouflaged the otherwise valuable contribution of the book.
Some appalling factual errors have been made viz. "JiyaudeenBarni's historical book gives a short description of Mughal emperor Akbar passing through Mau on his way to Allahabad....." ZiauddinBarani (1285–1357) was a 13th -14th century historian who died in 1357 how could his account provide any description on Emperor Akbar who reigned from (1556-1605). Moreover, the authors have not cited any source.
Besides these, there are some other spelling (read proof errors), for example Ziauddin’s name has been mistakenly written as Jiyauddin (p. 135), IshakeNamaz as PeshakeNamaz (p. 143), Kanval as Kanwal (p. 232-233) and sometimes as Kawwal (p. 236). This inconsistency and carelessness both on the part of authors as well as reviewers/copy-editors, is visible elsewhere too.
Two consecutive sentences repeating the same thing both in content and as well as in the meaning is the other problem of the book. Same person has been written as the DM of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli at the same time which creates confusions as readers.
This otherwise valuable piece of work needs a thorough revision and editing. This is highly recommended for those who are interested in the subject of communal mobilizations and strife which has become a greater bane of India in recent years.
Author is a research scholar at Centre of Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University