ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Rehabilitating Riot Victims

Welfare Relief or Citizen Rights?

Communal Violence, Forced Migration and the State: Gujarat since 2002 by Sanjeevini Badigar Lokhande; New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2015;pp xii + 215, price not indicated.

The trauma of partition in 1947 has become part of our wounded history, such that chauvinist politicians on both sides of the majority–minority draw on the divide to polarise the subcontinent. They use communal riots to re-enact the horrors of that event. Pakistan ya kabristan (go to Pakistan or the graveyard) becomes the taunting battle cry of Hindu nationalists in a communal riot. Neo-liberal, corporate-led growth, displacing state-sponsored equity, accentuates tensions that scapegoat vulnerable communities, which become easy targets for collective violence. When defensive Muslims retaliate, we have a full-blown communal riot, and the state is hardly ever neutral. Inevitably, casualty statistics confirm how vulnerable minority communities suffer far more than dominant majority ones (Engineer 2004).

Gujarat has a history of such communal riots, chauvinistically used to consolidate vote banks. The post-Godhra violence in 2002 escalated out of control into a planned state-sponsored pogrom. This book examines the social, cultural and economic costs of the forced migration, and the disrupting displacement in its aftermath, which turns rights-bearing citizens into homeless refugees. The author begins by setting the context of the study with a description of “Demography and Population Movements in Gujarat” (p 21). The state’s development model has for decades accentuated relative inequalities. Continuing communal conflicts have segregated communities, ghettoised Muslims in cities like Ahmedabad. Once it was in power, the Bharatiya Janata Party took advantage of this to make the state a laboratory for its Hindu nationalist agenda.

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