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

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Agrarian Transformation and New Sociality in Western Uttar Pradesh

Over the last three decades, rural western Uttar Pradesh has undergone rapid change. The ongoing changes in agriculture, the decline of Jat political dominance, and the rise of the marginalised caste–communities have changed socio-economic and political relations, and have produced a new sociality shaped by new technologies and changing land–labour relations.
The new sociality, which is a result of altering agrarian landscape, rural–urban dynamics and technologies of communication, mobility, and entertainment has provided fresh grounds for communalisation and communal violence.

The author thanks A R Vasavi, Peter R deSouza, Rakesh Pandey, and Michael Levien for their useful and constructive comments on this paper. Field research was conducted between September 2004 and August 2005, and revisits were made between January 2014 and June 2015 to the Khanpur and Pampur villages in Meerut and Muzaffarnagar districts respectively.

More than two dozen big and small incidents of Hindu–Muslim violence have been reported from different villages of western Uttar Pradesh (UP) since 2013.1 Many people have been killed and continue to lose their lives in ongoing communal violence.  In August 2013, a major riot broke out when a Hindu Jat girl was harassed by a Muslim boy in Kawal village, of Muzaffarnagar district. Competing narratives of this incident were floated and violence spread to Shamli, Baghpat, Saharanpur, and Meerut.2 The incident led to killings which forced thousands of people to migrate to urban neighbourhoods, while others found place in refugee camps where they continue to live.3 As a result, the socio-demographic structure of villages in rural western UP has changed forever. Villages are purged of their Muslim and Hindu presence.

In such cases of communal violence, the riots have occurred between Jats and low-caste Muslims. Most of these Muslims are from the artisan-service and labour-caste groups such as carpenters, barbers, weavers, and washermen. For generations, these artisans had been living with Jat farmers as an integral part of the village and agricultural economy. Despite a history of communal violence in urban areas, rural western UP has been devoid of such conflicts. It was so even during the 1992 communal riot. 

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Updated On : 5th Jul, 2018
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