Identity, Votes and Violence: Degree of Hindu-Muslim Conflict in Gujarat and Rajasthan
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The thesis explores variation in the degree of Hindu-Muslim conflict in the Indian states Gujarat and Rajasthan. Gujarat is characterised by Hindu-Muslim political conflict as well as endemic religious violence. In 2002 more than 2000 people, predominantly Muslims were killed in religious violence. The State Government, the Police and the Judiciary have displayed pro-Hindu and anti-Muslim sympathies. The government of Rajasthan is generally not perceived as biased, nor has the state experienced widespread religious violence. The religious conflict is manifest through party politics and the degree of conflict is moderate. The analysis of Hindu-Muslim conflict is two-fold. First, the states are compared in terms of degree of Hindu-Muslim polarisation in conventional politics. Cleavage theory is utilised to explore the relationship between crosscutting and overlapping cleavages and Hindu-Muslim polarisation. The role of actors in constructing religious identities and thereby influencing the degree of religious polarisation will be explored through a constructivist approach to identity. Second, states are compared in terms of violence, judicial and government bias. The role of elites in preparing, enacting and explaining violence is explored through an instrumentalist approach to violence, and the relationship between electoral incentives and Hindu-Muslim violence will also be discussed. Furthermore, the thesis also explores incentives and motivation behind violence and other forms of violation of Muslims. The study is a Most Similar Systems Design and it is explorative and case-oriented. The sources includes secondary data and 23 elite interviews. Empirical findings suggest that the Hindu community is more homogenous in Gujarat than Rajasthan due to socio-economic developments as well as the role of actors. The absence of cleavages that crosscut religious identities increases the religious divide in Gujarat. Violence is a deliberate strategy and large-scale violence involves civil as well as state actors. In Gujarat the government’s support for violence is partly related to electoral incentives, but electoral incentives do not explain the variation between states as this strategy has not been utilised under similar conditions in Rajasthan. Variation in the degree of conflict between the two states is related to ideological incentives and the adoption of a hard-line Hindu nationalist ideology. By combining cleavage theory and a constructivist approach this study argues that degree of polarisation influence the potential for mobilising on a Hindu nationalist agenda and the adoption of a hard-line ideology. Religious polarisation and nationalist ideology give incentives for utilising violence as a strategy. Political conflict and violent conflict are not unrelated. Exploring violent conflict in the context of political polarisation reveals conditions that favour the development of violent conflict.
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