The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India

Paul R. Brass

  • Published: July 2015
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / South Asia; Anthropology
  • Bibliographic information: 448 pp., 34 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Chronic Hindu-Muslim rioting in India has created a situation in which communal violence is both so normal and so varied in its manifestations that it would seem to defy effective analysis. Paul R. Brass, one of the world's preeminent experts on South Asia, has tracked more than half a century's riots in the north Indian city of Aligarh. This book is the culmination of a lifetime's thinking about the dynamics of institutionalized intergroup violence in northern India, covering the last three decades of British rule as well as the entire post-Independence history of Aligarh.

Brass exposes the mechanisms by which endemic communal violence is deliberately provoked and sustained. He convincingly implicates the police, criminal elements, members of Aligarh's business community, and many of its leading political actors in the continuous effort to "produce" communal violence. Much like a theatrical production, specific roles are played, with phases for rehearsal, staging, and interpretation. In this way, riots become key historical markers in the struggle for political, economic, and social dominance of one community over another.

In the course of demonstrating how riots have been produced in Aligarh, Brass offers a compelling argument for abandoning or refining a number of widely held views about the supposed causes of communal violence, not just in India but throughout the rest of the world. An important addition to the literature on Indian and South Asian politics, this book is also an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the interplay of nationalism, ethnicity, religion, and collective violence, wherever it occurs.
Paul R. Brass is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Washington. He is the author of many books including Theft of an Idol and Riots and Pogroms.

"Brass is the leading South Asia political scientist in North America, and he brings to this work a maturity and a wealth of field experience unmatched by others."
-N. Gerald Barrier, University of Missouri
Abbreviations Used in This Book
Maps, Figures, and Tables
Preface and Acknowledgments

Part I / Introduction
1. Explaining Communal Violence

Part II / Communal Riots in India and Aligarh
2. Aligarh: Politics, Population, and Social Organization
3. Hindu-Muslim Violence in India and Aligarh
4. The Great Aligarh Riots of December 1990 and January 1991
5. The Control of Communal Conflict in Aligarh

Part III / Demographic, Social, and Economic Factors in the Production of Riots
6. The Geography and Demography of Riots
7. The Economics of Riots: Economic Competition and Victimization

Part IV / Riots and the Political Process
8. Riots and Elections
9. The Practice of Communal Politics
10. Communalization and Polarization: Selected Constituency-Wise Results for Aligarh Elections
11. Communal Solidarity and Division at the Local Level
12. The Decline of Communal Violence and the Transformation of Electoral Competition

Part V / The Process of Blame Displacement
13. Riot Interpretation, Blame Displacement, and the Communal Discourse
14. Police Views of Hindu-Muslim Violence
15. The Role of the Media

Part IV / Conclusion
16. The Persistence of Hindu-Muslim Violence: The Dynamics of Riot Production

Postscript: Aligarh and Gujarat
Index of Mohallas

"Paul R. Brass is the most distinguished political scientist working on Indian politics today..[This is] an outstanding work that marks a radical new departure in the study of riots in India and, probably, much more broadly."
-Ethnic and Racial Studies

"In this important book, Brass has collected a quite astounding amount of material on elections, caste politics, and the geography of riots and their morphology. The book contains a wealth of detailed observations about political parties, economic actors, and developments, as well as the geography of rioting, which makes it a landmark study of South Asian politics."
-Contemporary Sociology