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 statesGujarat and Rajasthan. Gujarat is characterised by Hindu-Muslim political conflict as well asendemic religious violence. In 2002 more than 2000 people, predominantly Muslims werekilled in religious violence. The State Government, the Police and the Judiciary havedisplayed pro-Hindu and anti-Muslim sympathies. The government of Rajasthan is generallynot perceived as biased, nor has the state experienced widespread religious violence. Thereligious 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 ofdegree of Hindu-Muslim polarisation in conventional politics. Cleavage theory is utilised toexplore the relationship between crosscutting and overlapping cleavages and Hindu-Muslimpolarisation. The role of actors in constructing religious identities and thereby influencing thedegree 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 ofelites in preparing, enacting and explaining violence is explored through an instrumentalistapproach to violence, and the relationship between electoral incentives and Hindu-Muslimviolence will also be discussed. Furthermore, the thesis also explores incentives andmotivation behind violence and other forms of violation of Muslims. The study is a MostSimilar Systems Design and it is explorative and case-oriented. The sources includessecondary data and 23 elite interviews. Empirical findings suggest that the Hindu communityis more homogenous in Gujarat than Rajasthan due to socio-economic developments as wellas the role of actors. The absence of cleavages that crosscut religious identities increases thereligious divide in Gujarat. Violence is a deliberate strategy and large-scale violence involvescivil as well as state actors. In Gujarat the government’s support for violence is partly relatedto electoral incentives, but electoral incentives do not explain the variation between states asthis strategy has not been utilised under similar conditions in Rajasthan. Variation in thedegree of conflict between the two states is related to ideological incentives and the adoptionof a hard-line Hindu nationalist ideology. By combining cleavage theory and a constructivistapproach this study argues that degree of polarisation influence the potential for mobilisingon a Hindu nationalist agenda and the adoption of a hard-line ideology. Religious polarisationand nationalist ideology give incentives for utilising violence as a strategy. Political conflictand violent conflict are not unrelated. Exploring violent conflict in the context of politicalpolarisation reveals conditions that favour the development of violent conflict.