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Violence Inflicted on Muslims: Direct, Cultural and Structural

Recognition of the various forms of social, economic and political violence that have been inflicted on Muslims in India is a prerequisite for ensuring equality to the community. This article utilises the frame of reference in Johan Galtung's theory of violence to explore the interaction between cultural, direct and structural violence against Muslims. It points out how direct violence reinforces structural violence, and how cultural violence is used to justify both direct and structural violence on Muslim men, women and children. Consensus to such violence is found in a new understanding of the "self" forged in opposition to a common "other". The Gujarat pogrom of 2002, the most recent, massive and extensive use of violence against Indian Muslims, serves as a good example because it contained within it the multidimensional forms of violence defined by Galtung.

Violence Inflicted on Muslims: Direct, Cultural and Structural

Taha Abdul Rauf

Recognition of the various forms of social, economic and political violence that have been inflicted on Muslims in India is a prerequisite for ensuring equality to the community. This article utilises the frame of reference in Johan Galtung’s theory of violence to explore the interaction between cultural, direct and structural violence against Muslims. It points out how direct violence reinforces structural violence, and how cultural violence is used to justify both direct and structural violence on Muslim men, women and children. Consensus to such violence is found in a new understanding of the “self” forged in opposition to a common “other”. The Gujarat pogrom of 2002, the most recent, massive and extensive use of violence against Indian Muslims, serves as a good example because it contained within it the multidimensional forms of violence defined by Galtung.

Taha Abdul Rauf ( is at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

uch of the debate after the 2006 Sachar Committee report on the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community in India has focused on the relative development deficit of Muslims while little attention has been paid to the processes that have contributed to their present socioeconomic condition. Prioritising income poverty over social exclusion, absolute measures over relative ones, deprivation over inequality, and economic efficiency over social cohesion, the post-Sachar debates have excluded alternatives based on the premise of multiculturalism while emphasising development-oriented strategies. Besides the relative development deficit, recognition of the various forms of social, economic and political violence that have been inflicted on Muslims is a prerequisite for ensuring equality to the community. Barefoot empiricism of direct cruelty, in isolation, undermines the perpetuation of structurally built-in repression. The interplay of identity, equity and security is at the core of the socio-economic and political processes that Muslims are exposed to on a daily basis (Basant and Shariff 2010: 2; Sachar 2006).

This article points to factors that are a consequence of not only discrimination but also structural processes embedded in everyday life, which vitiate generational and life course dynamics altogether, and result in unequal opportunities for Muslims in India and their disenfranchisement. The Gujarat pogrom of 2002, the most recent, massive and extensive violence against Indian Muslims, serves to divert attention away from discussions of the development deficit because it encompassed the multidimensional forms of violence defined by Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung. True, all factors related to the multidimensional violence on Muslims in Gujarat cannot be generalised for Muslims in the country as a whole. But similarities do exist because of the pan-India expansion of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party that was ruling Gujarat at the time of the pogrom. Recalling Gujarat now is not to dwell on a past calamity but to consider trends and questions in an attempt to identify the roots of multidimensional violence against Muslims in India. In other words, to deconcretise it to explore the deeper issues it signifies and find out what it means for Muslims in the country.

This article takes Galtung’s theory of violence that classifies violence into three categories – structural, cultural and direct

  • as a point of departure. Galtung’s theory, highly valued in peace and conflict studies, provides a framework for explaining the interdependence and functions of structural, cultural and direct violence in bringing about the systemic exclusion of a population (1990). Structural violence – for example, poverty – among a particular ethnic group such as dalits, encompasses different forms of domination, exploitation, deprivation and humiliation that emanate from societal structures, and is not necessarily a form of violence that Koessler describes as a “manifest exertion of physical force” (2008: 33). In this conceptualisation, often cited to describe the prevalence of caste, class and ethnic inequalities, power relations and domination occupy a central place. Direct violence – for example, a street fights or an international war – harms or kills individuals or members of a group in a targeted manner. Cultural violence refers to those aspects of culture, the symbolic sphere of our existence – exemplified by religion and ideology, art and culture, and empirical and formal science
  • that are used to justify or legitimise violence in its direct and structural forms. A good example of this is media glorification of violence (Galtung 1990). While distinguishing between forms and expressions of violence, anthropologist Phillipe Bourgeois (2001: 5-34) argues that violence plays out not only in times of war but also in times of peace. He identifies four forms and expressions of violence – direct political violence (targeted physical violence and terror); structural violence (historically entrenched political and economical
  • oppression, and social inequality); symbolic violence (internalised humiliations exercised through misrecognition); and everyday violence (daily practices and expressions of violence on a micro-interactional level). Here, we utilise the frame of reference in Galtung’s theory of violence to explore the interaction between cultural violence, direct violence and structural violence during the Gujarat pogrom. The article points out how direct violence reinforces structural violence, and how cultural violence is used to justify both direct and structural violence on Muslim men, women and children in India.

    During the Gujarat pogrom, political preconceptions, not just senseless mob hysteria, played a big part in fuelling the direct violence unleashed on Muslims. Forms of violence such as murdering people and burning their bodies, sexual atrocities on women and killing unborn babies had a particular subtext to them, rooted in concepts such as “alien” Muslims, “other” Muslims and a “dying Hindu race”. All which served to demonise Muslims, by manipulating historical truth, arousing mass hysteria, and propagating the notion that Muslims were a “past and future threat”. The hollow “dying Hindu race” thesis was a major reason why such constructions originated in colonial India, when Muslims were depicted as a threat to radical Hindu nationalists. Consequent constructs justified and perpetuated acts of direct as well as structural violence by changing the moral colour from red/ wrong to green/right or at least to yellow/ acceptable (Galtung 1990: 292). For example, a murder on behalf of an individual was wrong, but many murders of Muslims on behalf of the country were right.

    The Dying Race Syndrome

    The anxiety about the “dying Hindu race” is of prime importance while exploring violence against Muslims. As Datta argues, to sustain its colonial rule, the British Empire in India strained communal relationships through the use of a variety of texts, forms and methods (1993: 1305-19). Religion was dexterously wielded to achieve this end, not only in the census, but also, as Pandey points out, in other discourses such as Indian history, which was cast in terms of Hindu and Muslim, unlike the categories of ancient, medieval and modern used in European history (1989: 132). Bhagat, in a seminal paper on communalisation of the census, argues that religion as a category, introduced when the census began in 1872, instilled a geographical and demographic consciousness among people belonging to different religious communities. The people, who till then did not know the geographical extent of their religious communities or their strength in numbers, began seeing themselves as members of either one or the other of the enumerated communities after the census (2001: 4353; Das 1994: 201). Hasan explains that the political instrument of separate electorates, whereby seats were set apart in legislative bodies for religious minorities on the basis of their proportion in the population, and the extension of communal electorates to local bodies by the Morley-Minto reforms (1909) served to entrench communal politics at the grass roots (1980: 13951407). This transformed the enumerated communities into political communities (Bhagat 2001: 4353). The census data gave rise to a communal debate on the size and growth of religious communities, hinting at a decline in the Hindu population. Soon, the stereotype of emasculated Hindus took shape, morphing into a threat to the Aryan race from Muslims, evoked particularly in U N Mukherjee’s Hindus: A Dying Race (1909) and Swami Shraddhanand’s Hindu Sanghatan: Saviour of a Dying Race

    (1924) (Datta 1993: 1305; Zavos 2000: 109). Later, in 1912, Mukherjee concocted the horror of Hindus becoming extinct in the next 420 years. It was asserted that the Hindus had to become a politically uniform community, disregarding affiliations of caste, class or sect, to defend their threatened existence. Thus, as Bhagat shows, divide and rule was made possible by constructing identities on the lines of homogeneous and mutually exclusive communities (2001: 4355).

    The idea of a demographic decline was interpreted as a political decline and formed the cornerstone of the theory of a perceived Muslim threat. The Arya Samaj, Hindu Mahasabha and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) set themselves the task of creating a mythology, beginning from the period of Allauddin Khilji to the

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    present, marked by the forceful abduction of Hindu women, their rape, pillage and conversion. Allauddin, characterised by his alleged excesses, both sexual and martial, became an invader. The supposed abundance of sexual prowess and militancy of the Muslim invaders came to mean the political impotence of Hindus. Chakravarti explains that the charge of Hindu effeteness was supplemented by a rhetoric of decline from a glorious Aryan past inhabited by fierce and vigorous men and spiritual and learned women (1989). Communities such as the Marathas and the Sikhs, with a recent history of battling the Mughals, were celebrated and extolled for their valour and brought into the fold of a collective Hindu identity.

    If centuries of Muslim and British rule had emasculated Hindus, the thinking went, virility was to be rejuvenated by defeating present-day Muslims. The fixation on ultra-virile male “invaders”’ and their over-fertile females was seen in the use of sexual assault as a weapon during the Gujarat pogrom. The alleged raping sprees of Muslim invaders testified to the unusual virility of all Muslim men while the alleged high fertility rate among Muslim women was testified to by census data (which primarily dwells upon population growth and differentials pertaining to religions) in both pre- and post- independent India (Bhagat 2001: 4355). Ergo, Muslim men were a threat to Hindu women and had to be eliminated. The danger their future generations may embody was taken care of by destroying Muslim females, the carriers of culture, ideology and future generations (Kandiyoti 1991; Yuval-Davis and Anthias 1989).1

    The use of expressions such as “love jihad” for inter-religious marriages shows how they have been turned into religious projects. Even the left chief minister of Kerala observed that a Muslim fundamentalist organisation was using “money and marriages to make Kerala a Muslim majority state” (Economic Times 2010). Given the patriarchal temperament of Hindutva, where the woman is valued primarily for her family functions of reproduction and child-rearing, such ideas tend to gain currency. Inter-religious marriages, apart from casting doubts about the ability of Muslim women to control their sexuality,

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    are translated into a question of masculinity on the part of Hindu males. Such an interpretation leads to a penis envy that can only be overcome by inverting the image of the manly Muslim male and taking up an aggressive, militant stand, manifested in the killing of Muslim males. Manhood, Bharucha states, is proved through forced sex on Muslim women, which is emblematic of the physical and sexual prowess of the macho male, and an inverse kind of imaginary castration of the Muslim male (1995: 1611). The myth of a high growth in numbers of Muslims contributes to a fascination with the bodies of Muslim women, who are thought to possess an immoderate sexual drive. Riots provide an opportunity to access these bodies and prove that the Hindu male’s allegedly waning libido is a figment of the imagination.

    Conflicts are often fought over women’s bodies the world over, and India is no exception. This has been illustrated repeatedly since Partition in 1947 when countless women were raped, abducted or killed to dishonour one religious community or the other (Butalia 1998; Menon and Bhasin 1998). During the Gujarat pogrom, sexual assaults on Muslim women to dishonour the Muslim community were prominent (Hameed et al 2002; Helie et al 2003; Sarkar 2002). The desire to avenge past excesses supposedly suffered by Hindus found a release in violence on Muslim women. The notion that the honour of a community is represented by its women served as an impetus to violate Muslim women’s bodies so as to prevent the extension of honour to successive generations the women could produce (Kandiyoti 1991; McClintock 1997; Yuval-Davis and Anthias 1989; Yuval-Davis 1997). Thus, the Muslim identity, superimposed on the physiology of women, constituted the female variant of the threat as an object of fascination as well as disgust.

    The fear of alleged higher Muslim fertility, a proclivity for violence and the myth of impotent Hindu males contributed to the fiction of an endangered Hindu race struggling for its survival. Muslim children, born and unborn, representative of the Muslim future, thus came to signify a danger to the existence of Hindus and were killed in Gujarat (Hameed et al 2002; Sarkar 2002: 2875). The concluding act of burning the bodies denied a proper Islamic burial to Muslims, while cremation, a Hindu ritual, Sarkar says, ceremonially represented a forced reconversion of Muslims to the Hindu fold (2002: 2876). It also symbolised a civilisational retaliation for supposed Muslims excesses. Violence against Muslim men, women and children served to assert and justify the capability to respond to Muslims as a threat of the past, present and future.

    Countering the ‘Alien’ Invasion

    According to Edward Said, the pretention of a pre-existing essence, which defines a culture once and for all, negating external influences and diversity within, is present in all cultures because of ideology, not history (2003: 141). To undermine the cultural interrelatedness of Muslims to non-Muslims, the representation of Islam as an intolerant creed in opposition to an allembracing Hinduism is crucial. The bipolar discourse on tolerance, Hashmi attests, consists of a largely mythical image of a tolerant Hinduism that measures patriotism based on veneration of Bharat Mata, the icon of a Hindu identity for Bharat (2008). Elaborating, he argues that to perpetuate the myth of tolerance, a very large part of the “pre-Islamic” past is reinvented, and uncomfortable questions airbrushed out of recollection. Some of the past brushed under the carpet includes the brahminical monopoly on religious texts, and the exclusion of women, shudras, ati shudras and the aboriginal people from all social processes. It is this frame of selective omission and commission, not the homeland as it was and is, that is used to build the image of Bharat Mata as a goddess.

    Such veneration of a goddess, unacceptable according to Islamic principles, automatically excludes Muslims from the Indian cultural fold. It makes them “alien” entities, invading the goddess Bharat Mata. It is a policy of homonationalism that attempts to remove all traces of Muslim history, culture and identity from public consciousness and construct a false narrative of historical antagonism for justifying the violence used against the community. Thus mosques and dargahs, including historical monuments such as Babri Masjid, are damaged or demolished and Hindu symbols such as saffron flags and idols placed inside them (Mander 2009). According to Pandey (2002), the Gujarat pogrom saw 298 dargahs (visited by non-Muslims as well) and 205 mosques damaged or demolished. Hindu agitators sought to Hinduise these structures, as Harsh Mander (2009: 192) contends, by placing idols of huladiya Hanuman, or “riot Hanuman”, inside several of them. Such acts were not only attacks on the sociocultural symbols of Muslims, motivated by revenge for what were considered to be historical wrongs, but also a reclamation of history and heritage by Hinduising “alien” Muslim spaces, denying the community the space to express its cultural diversity and interrelatedness.

    The ‘Other’ Muslim

    Mamdani (2005) and Roy (2005) are of the opinion that discussions about 11 September 2001 the world over have increasingly equated Muslims with terrorism, antimodernity and religious hysteria. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s pronouncement that all Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims (You Tube 2008) and then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s statement that Muslims are the source of problems all over the world (Bhatt 2002; Varadarajan 2002: 450-52) associated Indian Muslims with the globally prevalent notion of terrorism being a Muslim monopoly Muslims everywhere are painted as acting in concert, depriving them of their locality and differences, and pitting a dreamt-up Muslim civilisation against others. Muslims are believed to accord primacy to their own religion, which transcends the nation state (Sambrani 2002: 1309). Sambrani (2002: 1307) obser ves that the brave new world of the Indian media, with an aggression bordering on inquisition and snap judgments, feeds on such rhetoric. Terrorist activities are quickly labelled the handiwork of “Muslim terrorists” and newsreaders whip up hysteria about national security and ever-looming war.

    Muslims in India are clubbed with non-Indian Muslims during anti-terrorism campaigns and when anti-Pakistan rhetoric is employed. The consequence is that they are “othered” into invisible and untouchable foreign figures of whom nobody has any experience through human relationships. This stereotype is reinforced by the trend of spatial segregation in ghettos (Panikkar 2006; Robinson 2005). In the minds of Hindus, these ghettos constitute an anonymous mass, popularly called “Mini-Pakistan”. Framed as an anti-social, criminal underclass, they become ineligible to be accepted into the imagined rosy reality of India (Panikkar 2006; Robinson 2005). Such popular perceptions lead to an internalisation of worthlessness among Muslims, which takes the form of “stigmatisation”. This climate of prejudice often results in under-achievement by members of the minority group, especially children. Burns and Aspeslagh (1996: 166) argue that such an environment may sometimes be coupled with problems of identity and cultural worth among Muslims, inducing hatred towards their selves; their own history; markers of identity such as skullcaps, burkhas or beards; community leaders; and the community’s own struggle for whatever little emancipation has been achieved, resulting in political stigmatisation as well. It is with reference to such geographies of disadvantage, devoid of the opportunity and right to define themselves, at remote distances from more “civilised” parts of the city, that the “other” is constructed as having neither name nor face. New building projects in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai are marketed on caste/community lines where one can live without the troubling presence of the “other”. The Supreme Court of India validated such trends by upholding the formation of cooperative housing societies that restrict membership to persons from the same caste or religion (Khan 2007: 1532).

    Galtung (1990: 298) writes that once depersona lised into a “demonic larger than life but less than a citizen” figure, direct violence can be blamed on the victim itself, making extermination a psychologically possible duty. He elaborates that the causal factors of violence are avoided by the perpetrators through a long and empirically unverifiable chain of factors that can be traced only to the demonised victim. Direct violence puts a spatial seal on the divide between communities, reengineering societal structures on the basis of mutual hostility and opposition. Such reconfiguration of space through events of direct violence strengthens and expands structural violence. Subsequently, the cultural violence needed to sustain and legitimise both produces a vicious, self- fulfilling triad of endemic violence.

    Re-engineered relationships have transformed the bargaining power of Muslims in Gujarat, fortifying the scope for structural violence against them. Mander observes that they have been reduced to secondclass citizens facing a socio economic boycott from fellow Gujaratis2 (2009). Villages in Gujarat, claiming to be “cleansed” of Muslims, have erected boards by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) saying “Welcome to this Hindu village in the Hindu Rashtra of Gujarat” since 1998. References to “their” ghettos and “our” shining cities are common in Gujarat where borders have been drawn up segregating one community from the other3 (Mander 2009: 6; Panikkar 2006; Robinson 2005).

    Mobilising Consensus for Violence

    The word “Hindutva” suggests a monolithic, non-stratified and homogeneous Hindu entity that has no contradictions within it. It conveniently circumvents the issue of caste, not clarifying whether the


    lower castes are equal to the higher ones. Jan Breman (2002: 1485) points out that the Hindu majoritarianist’s opposition to a society based on diverse and open-ended social segments necessitates the creation of an enemy against it to unite the hierarchy of castes within it. Tagging societal exclusion and subjugation as domains of the Muslims while the unity of higher and lower castes is rhetorically emphasised serves such an end. Tribals are asked to worship Hanuman, a Ram bhakt (devotee), while the brahmin-Bania combine worships Ram. As Hanuman was devoted to Ram, so must the tribals be to Ram devotees. Foot soldiers were made out of tribals during the pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 (Mander 2009: 124). Yagnik and Sheth note that tribals such as those belonging to the north-eastern belt in Gujarat played a complicit role in the violence on Muslims. Three months before the pogrom, the militant RSS, dominated by upper-caste Hindus, organised a large gathering of adivasis from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh on the theme of “anti-conversion”, presided over by RSS chief K S Sudarshan, in the area (2002: 1009). They further argue that dalits and adivasis, caught in a growing state of flux in the caste balance caused by upward mobility and simultaneous sanskritisation, find opportunity in such “events” as pogroms to rid themselves of their “inferior” status and become included in the growing Hindutva fold. The acceptance is bought at the price of antipathy towards Muslims, in acts of direct violence on behalf of the upper castes (Breman 2002: 1485).

    In Gujarat, the biased role of the police was not new. But that the whole state machinery from the governor, chief minister, home minister and BJP allies to the district administrators, judicial magistrates and even doctors and hospitals (who refused to treat Muslim victims) were brought together to ensure the success of the pogrom was unprecedented (Mander 2009: 76; Sarkar 2002: 2873).4 The state apparatus and the leading political party condoned or even facilitated the pogrom (Breman 2002: 1485). According to Mander (2009: 59-62), civil society activists preferred to stay safely indoors because almost none of the national or international humanitarian organisations came forward to set up rehabilitation camps for Muslims refugees as they had done during the Gujarat earthquake of 2001. It was as if the Muslims themselves were to be blamed for the violence they suffered, making them ineligible for any assistance.

    The pogrom also saw the active participation of professional and propertied middle-class people. Success for them is based on competition with their peers, thereby, reflecting individual talent and achievement (measured in material advance ment) rather than any wider social process. Jayati Ghosh (1999: 124) holds that in the absence of such success, the alienation induced can be easily directed towards any apparent or potential competitor. The inability of the middle-class to vent its frustration on the elites, who hold the power to distribute material largesse to it, is then redirected towards Muslims (Ghosh 1999: 125), who on account of being “less than a citizen figure” have to forfeit all claims to national resources. So, it is not only Hindutva extremists or rabble-rousers who talk and act out of hurt pride and injustice done to them, but also the urban and the urbane (Mander 2009; Sambrani 2002: 1309).

    Sarkar writes that recruiting widely divergent social groups, training them in combat action, and the mobilising an immense will to violence speaks of tenacious and long-standing political activity across classes and an infiltration of each thread of the state and social fabric (2002: 2873). It is by forging a new understanding of the “self” in opposition to a common “other” by combining circumstantial positions that the structural and often conflicting differences of caste and class within the Hindu fold are sought to be circumvented.

    The new understanding was represented by the status of the BJP in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition government that came to power in New Delhi in 1998. While the 1992 demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was condemned by all political parties outside the Hindutva fold, Aijaz Ahmed (2002: 27) and Ghosh (1999: 117) confirm that by 1998, the BJP was sheltered by an array of regional parties, indicating how much the political centre had shifted towards the right. The allies of the BJP in the NDA, Banerjee writes (2002: 1708), were self-proclaimed socialists who were a part of the Jayaprakash Narayan-led anti-corruption movement of the 1970s, regional parties and those claiming to represent the historically marginalised castes in India. Mander (2009: 32) notes that today sympathy for right wing majoritarianism is openly and clandestinely displayed by centrist and even left political formations. This trend reflects an acceptance of the second-class status of Muslims, whose needs and concerns regarding identity, security and equity, let alone demands, can be conveniently sidelined from political equations in the country. Even the multilevel process involved in constituting a government, Abu Saleh Shariff (2008) argues, is based on the majority principle, automatically excluding and suppressing the Muslim minority from exercising its negotiating power. The declining share of Muslim voters across the country has pushed negotiability further down.

    Mander (2009: 138) observes that efforts are being made to promote an altogether peaceful and modern version of Hindutva, thinly disguised as an agenda for national development. In development debates during elections in a competitive plebeian democracy like ours, the Muslim is positioned in opposition to the development bandwagon. The low socioeconomic condition of Muslims, frequently used images of their poor and unsafe ghettos and their allegedly violent tendencies further consolidate the binary, making a choice between good and bad governance. In other words, between a development-led governance that marginalises the threat of Muslims and a governance that exposes one to such a danger. The formation of the state government in Gujarat by the BJP a few months after the pogrom, Chief Minister Modi’s openly malevolent rhetoric against Muslims and his triumphant return in 2007, when he campaigned as being pro-development, demonstrates that a policy of conducting multidimensional violence on Muslims has gained enough legitimacy and consensus to take home a comfortable majority.

    Structural Violence

    In the aftermath of the pogrom, thousands of Muslims were abruptly thrown out of jobs and those who dared to return to their homes continue to face a social and economic boycott even by professionals such as doctors and lawyers, not to mention traders in urban and rural settlements (Mander 2009). Many villages and cities in Gujarat have spatially excluded Muslims, drawing borders between what are now known as “their” ghettos and “our” shining cities (ibid: 6). The atmosphere in Gujarat is vitiated with fear of, and hostility towards, Muslims who renegotiate their socio-economic existence only to live as second-class citizens. Moreover, as Vora and Palshikar (2003) maintain, such imprisoned localities lead to a social existence that results in political ineffectiveness. The concealed nature of such violence, embedded in re-engineered spaces and relationships produced by direct and cultural violence, fuels structural violence, a continuous process in itself.

    It is this structural violence, manifested in varying combinations in the economic, political and social spheres, that affects all facets of Muslim existence. Children, especially girls, do not attend normal and regular schools for fear of their lives as such facilities are often in spaces where Muslims do not reside (Shariff 2008). Muslim women do not venture out to secure employment in common areas such as markets and even well-educated and qualified Muslim men may not be employed by the private sector because they are considered untrustworthy (ibid). Glorification of police encounters with alleged Muslim terrorists and the detention of innocent Muslim youth in combing operations after every terrorist attack induce a terror phobia in each member of the Muslim community, enhancing the perception of discrimination, especially by public institutions. The perception of discrimination in the public and private sectors, recognised by the Sachar Committee report, is engendered by the terror-inducing components of governance and unequal opportunities and outcomes, all of which are gradually eroding the Muslim faith in democratic spaces and processes, which have, in effect, suppressed them from realising their rights and potential.

    Since independence there has been an improvement in the educational status of various social groups because of an increase in educational infrastructure and a resulting rise in opportunities. The scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs), who were the most deprived at the time of independence, have since made long strides in educational attainment. On the other hand, according to Das (2008), Muslims, who started off with a better growth rate in education, are now showing a deteriorating rate of increase in educational attainment. The already lagging girl child is bound to be the worst sufferer in this scenario. That the majority of Muslims tend to be self-employed probably prompts them to see little market returns in education due to discrimination, thereby propping up the perception of discrimination and further pushing them into ethnic economic enclaves (Das 2008). The crucial work of Sengupta et al (2008) substantiates that Muslims had the lowest level of decline in poverty (2.9%) between 1993-94 and 2004-05, with 95% employed in the unorganised sector in 2004-05. Jeemol Unni (2010) empirically shows that the highest proportion of home-based, self-employed women among all socially vulnerable groups is in the Muslim community (56%). She suggests that it might be distress conditions or income shocks that compel so many women to thus economically support their families.

    Poor Socio-Economic Indicators

    Surprisingly, recent trends, according to an empirical study by Deolalikar (2010), indicate that the decline in gender disparity of education is the highest among all social groups among Muslims. Murthi et al show that in comparison to socially vulnerable groups benefiting from affirmative action such as SCs/STs, Muslims have lower infant and under-five mortality, going against the generally held belief of a negative relationship between maternal education and child mortality rates in India (1996). The higher sex ratio among Muslims compared to the same vulnerable groups is also unexpected (Basant and Shariff 2010: 8). Such empirical findings challenge those who excessively blame Muslim personal laws for what they see as the sorry status of women in the community. Sabina Kidwai (2005) affirms that in mainstream secular Indian society, Islam and Muslim personal laws are taken to be the only factors responsible the deprived

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    socio-economic status of Muslims,

    ing the non-religious factors of structural and cultural violence.5
    mittee report says that though Muslims constitute 13.4% of the country’s population, their representation is one of the lowest among all social groups in the civil services, higher education, and in literacy and enrolment rates. It also notes a marked reluctance on the part of houseowners to sell or rent houses to Muslims and discrimination by banks in sanctioning loans to Muslims.

    If a wife is beaten by her husband one night, it is personal violence. But if one billion wives are beaten the same night by their husbands, it is the result of structural violence, caused by an institution called patriarchy. Similarly, when a handful of Muslims do not show up on socio-economic indicators, it is individual failure, but when most of those in the community do not, it is structural violence. The structural violence is perhaps best mirrored in Bollywood films where most of the time a Muslim is never a teacher, clerk, shopkeeper, artisan, engineer, doctor, professor or businessman. Instead, he is a whining lackey, a rather lost poet or a debauched nawab. He lives on the fringes of society or in an unreal world. In the heydays of Hindu Muslim bhai bhai (brotherhood), the Muslim was mostly cast in the role of a do-gooder who died while saving a Hindu; never did a Hindu die in Mumbai cinema while trying to save the life of a Muslim. Dying for a Hindu was to die for India; it was the price the “alien” Muslim had to pay for proving his “Bhartiyata”, or Indian-ness (Hashmi 2008). A few good Muslims in the movies survived and became police constables. But all of them died, dutifully saving the lives of their Hindu superiors, who were busy foiling Pakistani terrorist

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    plots to annihilate India (Hashmi 2008). Gradually all the “good Muslims” died in cinema, and in real life as well. Now there are only “bad Muslims” in Mumbai cinema, and also in Dhulia, Malegaon, Batla House, Ajmer, Hyderabad and Jaipur, and these “vermin” are being bumped off in more and more macabre fashion in every new film, and in real life too.

    Legitimising Multidimensional Violence

    If the conflicts are not solved creatively and the political culture defines violence as legitimate in such situations, then structure implies conflict implies violence. But conflicts do not necessarily lead to violence; that depends more on culture.

    – Galtung (1994: 141)

    Right wing majoritarianists make use of nomenclature and symbolic imagery to legitimise direct violence like that of the Gujarat pogrom and the structural violence that socio-economically and politically oppresses and represses Muslims. Galtung (1990: 294) theorises that when the triangle of violence stands on legs of direct and structural violence, it projects the image of cultural violence as the legitimiser of both. When the head is direct violence, an event, an image of the cultural and structural sources of violence is revealed. When direct and cultural violence are at the foot, structural violence is revealed in the social, economic and political status of the violated.

    Galtung (ibid: 296-301; 2002: 5-6) claims cultural violence motivates actors to commit direct violence and omit counteracting structural violence insofar as it imbeds the inevitability and righteousness of violence into people’s world views in terms of “Dualism- Manichaeism-Armageddon” or a conflict between good and evil. Nowhere is the battle between good and evil played out more adroitly than in the commission and omission of historical truth, for there is a strange symmetry between the historical truth and the present violence. Forcible conversion to Islam by Muslim rulers, something yet to be established, is highlighted, while the question of why dalits opted out of Hinduism from the time of Buddha and continue to do so even today is not explored. The destruction of temples by Muslims is talked about while the same done by Hindu rulers is buried out of sight. What is hidden is that Aurangzeb ordered the execution of Muslim Sufi Sarmad Shah and not just Guru Tegh Bahadur Singh. A hierarchy of sufferings and wrongs is thus established; between the victim community, the Muslims, and the supposedly long-suffering majority, the Hindu community, stretching all the way to the present and even to the future by constructs such as a “dying Hindu race”, an “alien Muslim” and an “other Muslim”. Such a hierarchy, Varadarajan (2002) argues, justifies structural violence on Muslims by creating a moral universe in which questions of accountability and justice can be indefinitely postponed or ignored without hurting the conscience. This permits mobilising around the common threat of “demonised” Muslims by opportunistically catering for the interests of other classes and social groups.

    Rouhana and Bar-Tal (1998: 762) explain that a collectively held ethos that justifies one’s position while it degrades the other’s generates an intense animosity that becomes integrated into the socialisation process through which conflictrelated emotions and cognitions are transmitted to new generations. Collectively cultivated and shared memories, Salomon and Nevo say, provide a historical dimension to a conflict maintained, revived and promoted by politicians, national historians, textbooks, school curricula and the media, thereby affecting the views that individual members of the collective are likely to hold. They affect the way an individual interprets the actions of the other and the way an individual relates to the other in a manner that justifies their unequal status in the political economy and in social interaction (2002: 8). With structural violence institutionalised and a violent culture internalised, Galtung (1990: 302) writes, direct violence also tends to become institutionalised, repetitive and ritualistic, like a vendetta.


    It is clear that socio-economic inequality among Muslims not only arises because of a development deficit but also because of a right wing Hindutva majoritarianism that seeks to define and intertwine Muslim identity with myth, hysteria and hostility to forge a “self” in opposition to a society based on open-ended social segments. It is such a project that seeks to prohibit the 13.5% Muslims in the population from partaking in activities of the citizenry as equals and defines them not only as a numerical but also a social, political and economic minority. For there to be no violence in totality, not just direct violence, the oppressive social, economic and political societal structures that give rise to socio-economic inequality and injustice need to be recognised, reconstructed and transformed (Galtung 1994: 134-36; Hamber and Kelly 2004: 4).

    Religious diversities, not “others”, have to be affirmed, politically recognised as equals (though not the same) and transformed in their articulation, with the historical and relational categories central to public life being democracy, citizenship and the public sphere. Only then can cultural differences be naturalised and Muslims’ access to and outcomes of opportunities, power sharing and negotiability be violence free. Reflection of the diversity natural to a population in public spheres, without denying the particular and the multiple, is the bare minimum required as an indicator of the absence of all violence. Such a transformation, a testament to the multicultural credentials of Indian society, has to find roots in an electoral verdict of the Indian masses that recognises and rejects multidimensional violence against Muslims. For only when the myths, stereotypes, hysteria, selective memory and lies about the demonised other are attended to can the forging of a “self” in opposition to the “other” be thwarted.


    1 When the role of the women is considered to constitute the ideological reproduction of a culture and religion through socialisation of the next generation as well as biological reproduction, they come to be perceived as crucial markers of community boundaries (Yuval-Davis and Anthias 1989; Kandiyoti 1991).

    2 Researchers report that Muslims in some of the villages in Gujarat are prohibited from even cultivating their own fields. Muslim labourers are hired only when all the labourers from non- Muslim communities have been hired (Mander 2009). Galtung explains that such an economic boycott hits the weakest first; that is, women, children and the aged. By making the causal chain longer, the actor avoids having to face violence directly. The victim is given a chance to trade his or her freedom and identity for loss of life and limb (Galtung 1990: 293).

    3 In Gujarat, physical borders have also come up demarcating Muslim communities from other communities. The infrastructure in the Muslim areas is considerably poorer and some villages even prohibit Muslims from using public resources such as ponds (Mander 2009).

    4 On 22 April 2011, a senior Gujarat cadre police officer, Sanjiv Rajendra Bhatt, filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that Chief Minister Narendra Modi directed top police officers on the eve of the 2002 pogrom to “allow the Hindus to vent their anger” and “teach a lesson” to Muslims following the Sabarmati Express carnage in which Hindu passengers died. Bhatt, who at the time was Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence in the State Intelligence Bureau, Gandhinagar, also accused the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team of trying to “cover up the larger conspiracy and official orchestration” behind the riots (“Gujarat Police Officer Implicates Modi in Riots”, The Hindu, 23 April 2011).

    5 Kidwai shows how “media coverage of the Muslim community invariably assumed its complete insulation from larger processes and trends in Indian society, and diagnosed its members to be suffering from one shared problem – Islam” through an analysis of the coverage of Muslims in newspapers and on television during 1991-2001.


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    vol xlvi no 23

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