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Communal Violence in Muzaffarnagar Agrarian Transformation and Politics

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Communal Violence in Muzaffarnagar Agrarian Transformation and Politics Jagpal Singh This paper is an integrated version of presentations made at the Centre for the Multi-level Federal Studies, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi in November 2013; Academic Committee’s Discussion Forum, School of Social Sciences, Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi in August 2014; and in Doon University in February 2015, Dehradun. I thank Balveer Arora, S V Reddy, Nandini and an anonymous referee for their helpful comments and suggestions. Jagpal Singh ( teaches Political Science at the School of Social Sciences, Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi. The scale of communal violence in Muzaffarnagar in August–September 2013 was unprecedented in the villages of western Uttar Pradesh after partition. It happened due to what Paul R Brass conceptualised as the institutional riot system, which until the Muzaffarnagar riot was understood to be primarily an urban phenomenon. The growth of the IRS, a post-green revolution phenomenon, that is, since the 1980s in western UP, was on account of the emergence of new classes in the villages, and changes in the nature of rural–urban relations. The Lok Sabha elections of 2014 provided a suitable context for the rural IRS to operate. I n August–September 2013, Muzaffarnagar district of western Uttar Pradesh (UP) witnessed ghastly communal riots bet ween Hindus and Muslims. In the violence, over 60 persons were killed and around 50,000 displaced, and their houses and properties destroyed. The victims of the riot by and large belong to the poorer class of Pasmanda Muslims, generally engaged in non-agricultural occupations. This riot shared many features in common with communal riots that occurred in other parts of India. It was caused by an alleged incident, most victims were members of minorities, charges and counter-charges were made, state machinery was perceived to be indifferent/partisan, an inquiry committee was set up, etc. It was also different in several ways. It principally spread communal violence into rural western UP society after 1946,1 caused an exodus of Muslims from villages, and the social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp) played a role in deepening communal polarisation.2 Why did the riot happen in villages that had maintained communal harmony in the post-independence period? Why were low-caste Muslims the principal targets of attack, despite them having no major economic contradictions3 with Jats or with any other dominant castes? Why did the riot take place in August–September 2013 and not earlier? How has the riot affected civic relations? These can be explained against the background of agrarian transformation which has taken place in western UP in the post-green revolution period, that is, the period from the late 1980s. 4 This paper is based on observations, discussions, and fi eldwork in the riotaffected areas. The thrust of the argument is as follows. The Muzaffarnagar riot was a culmination of social, economic and political processes in western UP which can be traced to the mid-1980s, that is, the transformation of agrarian society. These changes have provided a fertile ground for what Brass (1996, 1998, 2003) conceptualised as the institutionalised riots system (IRS), which was, till the Muzaffarnagar riot, largely an urban phenomenon. It is the IRS that has contributed to the growth of communal polarisation and riots in the villages. Narrative of the Riot: Sequence of Events5 The communal riot began within a few days of an alleged incident of eve teasing, and continued for over a week. First, the alleged incident of the teasing of a Hindu (Jat) girl took place in Kawal, a qasbah. 6 Second, a Muslim boy allegedly involved in teasing the girl was allegedly killed by the brother of the SPECIAL ARTICLE Economic & Political Weekly EPW JULY 30, 2016 vol lI no 31 95 girl. Third, Muslim political leaders from different parties, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP), an exCongress legislator, and major Muslim castes held a panchayat of Muslims and made provocative speeches. Fourth, a mob of Muslims is supposed to have lynched the girl’s brother, and another Jat boy to avenge the murder of the Muslim boy. Fifth, a mahapanchayat (large public meeting) of Hindus (specifi - cally Jats) was held, which was addressed by leaders of major political parties—Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD)—who belonged to the major politically dominant castes (Jats, Rajputs, and Gujjars). Like the leaders in the Muslim panchayat, those in the Hindu mahapanchayat also made provocative speeches. Sixth, people returning from the Hindu mahapanchayat were allegedly attacked in Muslim-dominated areas, and Muslims were attacked in Hindu/Jat-dominated villages. Seventh, a large number of persons, especially low-caste Muslims were killed, and their properties destroyed, which resulted in their displacement from their villages. Eighth, the Justice Vishnu Sahai Inquiry was set up. The accused were arrested and subsequently released, some later became ministers, and charges and counter-charges were traded. Ninth, after eight months of the riot, the general election was held in May 2014 which resulted in the formation of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in which one of the riot accused became a minister. Indeed, there are various contradictory versions and interpretations of the riot. For example, that the reasons for the riot was not a case of eve teasing but an accident which led to the riot, or that the girl related to the issue was indeed friendly with the accused. Also, some ask which community started it fi rst, Hindus or Muslims? Some question the role of the state government, and one of its ministers (that is, indifference of the local administration, etc). In a situation where the truth about a riot is unclear or contested, it is plausible to comprehend it by situating it in a larger context (Brass 1998: 3–5).7 As I shall discuss in the following pages, the Muzaffarnagar riot can be better understood by situating it in a context, that is, the socio-economic and political changes in village society in the post-green revolution period. Theoretical Framework Before proceeding, it is essential to clarify certain conceptual issues related to communalism or communal identity. Indeed, the concept of communalism/communal identity can better be understood by referring to another related concept: ethnicity or ethnic identity. Some scholars do not differentiate between ethnicity and communalism. Others consider an identity formed on the basis of multiple markers as ethnic, distinct from those formed on a single marker as communal (based on religion), caste identity (based on caste), and language (based on language).8 In fact, notwithstanding the semantic differences of concepts, the theoretical frameworks to study communalism or ethnicity are the same. The ethnic/communal riots have generally been viewed in terms of a bipolarity: the “primordial” and “instrumental” app roaches on the one hand, and approaches which view riots as rational/planned or spontaneous/irrational on the other.9 This bipolarity tends to ignore the context of riots. Why do riots take place on particular occasions? Irrespective of whether a violent act is rational or irrational, the context and specifi c nature of society are equally or perhaps more important. For a proper understanding of communal riots we need to combine bipolar approaches, depending on the requirement. Three frameworks have been applied to study ethnic riots in the recent past: Horowitz’s (2001), Brass’s (1996, 1998, 2003), and Varshney’s (2002). In Horowitz’s framework the causes of riots lie in passion and calculation or in the psychological and strategic behaviour of the riots’ protagonists. Brass’s framework situates riots in the context of a well-thought-out strategy of the protagonists of riots. Unlike Horowitz, Brass does not consider psychological factors. According to Varshney’s framework, ethnic riots occur due to the absence of civic associations, or do not occur due to their presence. In this paper I have preferred to follow Brass’s framework to Horowitz’s or Varshney’s to analyse communal riots in western UP villages. I choose Brass’s framework rather than Horowitz’s because my focus is not on the psychological factors. I prefer Brass’s framework to Varshney’s because the former is more comprehensive. Brass proposes a theory of IRS. The scope of the IRS is much broader, and takes into account strategic factors, state–society relations, and the political context of riots. Varshney’s framework is limited, as it ignores the role of the state and contexts of riots.10 Brass’s framework suggests that riot-prone regions, cities and towns develop the IRS, which consists of a network of persons, community organisations, political organisations, cultural organisations, and political parties. The persons in the IRS consider the other community its enemy and a threat. They “maintain communal, social and other ethnic relations in a state of tension, of readiness for riots” (Brass 1998: 16). Some of them act as “conversion specialists”/“riot specialists” because they can convert a “moment of tension into a grander riot event.” They also operate as “fi re-tenders” who “maintain the fuel at a combustible level, sometimes stoking it, sometime letting it smolder” (Brass 1998: 16) or as riot specialists who spread rumours and mobilise communities. They occupy formal and informal roles in the existing organisations and outside them. After riots, “fi re tenders” become the members of “peace committees.” Brass also argues that riots occur in some contexts that suit the “riot specialist.” The most common among the contexts is party electoral politics, that is, “before and during elections, during movements of mass mobilisation, especially when the political balance between contending forces appears to be changing, that is, when political opportunities are such that a riot may increase public sympathy for one’s own party or movement and may weaken one’s rival” (Brass 1998: 17–18). According to Brass, riots may also be the by-products of mass mobilisation. Violence may break out as a result of the provocative actions of its perpetrators. SPECIAL ARTICLE 96 JULY 30, 2016 vol lI no 31 EPW Economic & Political Weekly Agrarian Transformation in Western Uttar Pradesh As stated earlier, the growth of communal polarisation and genesis of communal riots in villages can be explained in terms of agrarian transformation which has taken place in western UP in the post-green revolution period. This transformation is exemplifi ed not by the changes within villages, but also in the changing nature of villages, qasbahs, and cities. The riot affected, in varying degrees, around six districts in western UP. Two of them, Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, were the epicentre of the riot (henceforth EOR). In villages such as Kutba, Kutbi, Phugana, Launk, Lishad, Bahavdi, Jauli, PurBaliyan and Kakda, Bassi and qasbah Kawal,11 Hindus and Muslims attacked each other. Four of them—Saharanpur, Baghpat, Meerut and Bijnor—formed the periphery of the riot (henceforth POR). Here the villages or qasbahs did not witness the organised or group communal riot in terms of attacks on communities, but communal polarisation and stray attacks took place. Size of Religious Communities Muslims and Hindus constitute around 98% of the population in the riot-affected districts. Muslims form a large percentage of population of the state, 19.26% in comparison to the Hindu population of 79.73%. In the three districts—Muzaffarnagar (41.30%), Saharanpur (41.95%) and Bijnor (43.43)—the Muslim population is almost twice of the proportion in the state’s population (Table 1). The percentage of households of religious communities in the surveyed villages is as follows: Tanda (Meerut district) is a village situated in the POR (Muslims 6%, Hindus 96%); villages situated in EOR (Muzaffarnagar district) were Kawal qasbah (Muslims 48% and Hindus 52%), Shoron (Muslims 33% and Hindus 67%), and Malikpura (Hindu Jats 51%, Sikh Jats 49%). Size of Castes: Hindus and Muslims Dalits: Not all riot-affected districts have Dalit (Scheduled Caste or SC) populations equivalent to the proportion of population in UP, which is 20.69% (Table 2). In the surveyed villages/ qasbahs, Dalits form around 29% of households in Tanda, around 20% in Shoron, around 10% in Kawal, and no households in Malikpura. The castes among Dalits in these villages are Jatav/Chamars, Valmikis and Khatiks (Kawal). However, Jatav/Chamars constitute between 95% and 99% of the Dalit households in these villages. Non-Dalits: The only comprehensive source on number of non-Dalit castes, the 1931 Census, enumerates various castes among Hindus and Muslims in UP (Turner 1933). The castes which generally inhabit, in varying numbers, the districts affected by the Muzaffarnagar riot are the following. Among Hindus: two middle castes, Jats and Gujjars; two high castes, Brahmins and Rajputs; and fi ve Most Backward Classes (MBCs), Sainis, Kahars, Kumhars, Nais and Gadarias. Among Muslims: two middle castes, Jats (Mule Jats) and Gujjars; four Ashrafs (high castes), Rajputs, Pathans, Saiyeds and Sheikhs; and nine Pasmanda Muslims (backward classes), Badhais, Lohars, Dhobis, Dhunias, Faquirs, Nais, Telis and Qassabs (Qareshis). In EOR, Muzaffarnagar, among Hindus, two middle castes and two high castes form 32.36% of the Hindu population, with Jats (15.16 %), the largest, and fi ve MBCs form around 21% of them. Among Muslims in Saharanpur, two middle castes and four high castes (Ashrafs) form 22.82%, and nine backward class (Pasmandas/Ajlafs) constitute 43.12% of the population (Table 3). It is essential to clarify that though a section of the high-caste Muslims had migrated to Pakistan after partition, they still constitute an jinfl uential section of the Muslim elite in the region. Most of the nonDalit castes, enumerated in the 1931 Census, are found in surveyed villages. In Tanda, among Hindus, the Jats, high castes (Brahmins and Rajputs), and MBCs (Sainis and Gadarias) constitute around 15%, 19% and around 9% of households respectively. This village also has 28.36% households of Meenas (a community which is found in Rajasthan but also in four villages of Meerut district). Among Muslims, all 5.66% households belong to backward-class Muslims. In Shoron, among Hindus, Jats, high castes (Rajputs and Brahmins), and the MBCs constitute 18%, 1% and 15% of households respectively. Among Muslims, Mule Jats and backward classes constitute 18% and 22% of the households. In Kawal among Hindus, Jats form less than 2%, the MBCs more than 75%, and high castes (Brahmins) less than 1% of households respectively. Muslims form around 48% of households in the village of which 60% belong to backward classes, the rest belong to the high castes. In Malikpura all households belong to Jats (Hindus and Sikhs). Table 4 (p 97) provides a caste-wise break-up of the 100 households surveyed in the villages/qasbahs. Two features of the transformation of agrarian society are crucial to understand the evolution of the IRS and communal riots in western UP villages. One is the rise of new social Table 1: Percentage of Hindus and Muslims in the Riot - affected Areas Districts Muslims Hindus EOR* Muzaffarnagar 41.30 57.51 POR** Saharanpur 41.95 56.74 Bijnor 43.04 55.18 Meerut 34.43 63.40 Baghpat 27.98 70.41 * EOR: epicentre of riot; ** POR: periphery of riot. Source: in/pca/Searchdata.aspx, viewed on 20 April 2016. Table 2: Percentage of Dalits in the Riot-affected Areas Districts Dalits EOR* Muzaffarnagar 13.55 POR** Saharanpur 22.05 Bijnor 21.38 Meerut 18.12 Baghpat 11.44 * EOR: epicentre of riot; ** POR: periphery of riot. Source: in/2011census/PCA/PCA_Highlights/ pca_highlights_file/UP/CHAPTER_2. pdf, viewed on 20 April 2016. Table 3: Percentage of Non-Dalits in the Riot-affected Areas Castes Muzaffarnagar Saharanpur Bijnor Meerut Hindus Jats 15.16 1.80 10.73 15.79 Gujjars 5.24 7.96 1.12 6.90 Two high castes* 11.96 11.67 19.55 19.23 Five MBCs* 20.95 17.53 12.46 11.55 Muslims Jats 4.39 0.12 0.00 2.08 Gujjars 5.57 5.36 0.12 0.16 Four high castes** 34.42 22.82 37.32 44.18 Nine low castes** 35.95 43.12 53.67 31.47 * Two high castes: Brahmins and Rajputs; five MBCs: Sainis, Kahars, Kumhars, Nais and Gadarias; ** Four high castes: Rajputs, Pathans, Saiyeds and Sheikhs; nine low castes: Badhais, Lohars, Dhobis, Dhunias, Faquirs, Nais, Telis and Qassabs/Qareshis. Source: Turner (1933). SPECIAL ARTICLE Economic & Political Weekly EPW JULY 30, 2016 vol lI no 31 97 classes/groups, and the demise of the old ones. The second is the changing nature of rural–urban contradictions. I shall discuss these features in the following section. Emergence of New Social Classes/Groups The new classes/groups which have emerged in post-green revolution agrarian society in western UP are: entrepreneurs, “intellectuals of societies (castes),” retired army/police per - sonnel, the rurban middle class (a middle class which has economic, social/kinship, and cultural links simultaneously in the cities and villages), footloose labour, non-farm labour, politically ambitious persons in every caste/community, and a large number of unemployed youth. In varying degrees, the new social classes/groups belong to all castes, though some of them exist in larger proportions in some castes. We now have some literature dealing separately with these social classes/groups that have emerged in western UP. 12 The post-green revolution era’s new social classes are different from their predecessors, that is, those of the green revolution period. In the green revolution period social classes were broadly divided into two broad classes: the land - owning middle peasants/rich peasants/kulaks/capitalist farmers/“bullock capitalists”/landlords on the one hand, and agricultural labourers/poor peasants/small peasant/marginal pea sant on the other (for western UP, see Singh 1992). Indeed, a section of rich peasants who emerged from green revolution have moved on to become entrepreneurs, rurban or rural– urban (Jeffrey 2010) middle classes, etc, while the other have disintegrated into poorer classes, engaged mainly in the nonfarm sectors. This change is not peculiar to western UP. In fact, the caste profi le of “new capitalists” has undergone a change in the country at large, though it has been less remarkable in North India in comparison to the South (Damodaran 2008). In coastal Andhra Pradesh also, the green revolution’s Kamma “rich peasant” class became “the farmer capitalists”/“new u rban” middle class later, indicating an “integration of town and countryside” (Upadhya 1988a, 1988b). The survey of 100 households in the riot-affected areas show that members from all castes/classes are engaged in more occupations than one. Unlike till the mid-1980s, that is, the green revolution period, now a typical middle farmer, rich peasant/landlord, the agricultural labourer, or those engaged in a traditional occupation, such as a barber, a blacksmith/ carpenter or a Brahmin priest, rarely exists in western UP villages. The new social classes form the most signifi cant feature of rural society (Table 5). It is important to note that 65 households of those surveyed own land with varying ranges of landholdings, but only 17 are engaged only in agriculture (Table 5 and Table 6). The rest of the households combine agriculture with other occupations. Such change is once again not peculiar to western UP (Damodaran 2008; Upadhya 1988a, 1988b; Breman 1996). The entrepreneurs in my sample include brick kiln owners, jaggery merchants, khandsari producers (unrefi ned sugar), kolhu owners (those who own cane crushers and produce variants of jaggery), building material traders, cattle traders (Qureshis), orchard owners, milk traders (dudhias/milkmen), and a school owner. The middle classes consist of teachers, serving and retired army and police personnel, home guards, sports coaches, transport drivers in the UP government, and medical doctors. Footloose labour, and not the agricultural labour, formed the dominant type of labour in the surveyed villages. Footloose labourers mostly commute daily to work in cities such as Meerut, Muzaffarnagar or Saharanpur located within 15–20 km from their villages. Footloose labour includes a wide range of activities such as plumbing, building/house repairing, masonry, ferrying items from one place to another, cleaning houses, rickshaw pulling, etc. The self-employed include persons engaged in haircutting, tailoring, cycle repairing, street vending, horse cart driving, or small shop keeping. A total of 27 (42%) landowning households, out of the 65, employ agricultural labourers, but most of them employ them from one week to three months in a year for some specifi c activities such as cutting or harvesting wheat or sugar cane. Besides, these agricultural labourers do not belong Table 4: Caste-wise Break-up of Households Surveyed in Villages/Qasbahs Castes Tanda Kawal Malikpura Shoron Total (POR)*** (Qasbah) (EOR)*** (EOR)*** (EOR)*** Hindus Jats 10 2 16 6 34 Rajputs 4 - - - 4 Brahmins 1 - - - 1 MBCs* 2 4 - 5 11 Dalits (Jatavs/ 8 1 - 3 12 Khatiks/Valmikis) Muslims Qureshis - 15 - - 15 Rajputs - 13 - - 13 Others** 6 - - 4 10 Total 31 35 16 18 100 * Includes: Sainis, Nais, Jogis, Kumhars, Badhais and Lohars; ** Include backward-class Muslims other than Qureshis, Telis, Dhunas, Darzis, Julaha and Lilgars; ***POR: periphery of riot; EOR: epicentre of riot. Source: Fieldwork. Table 5: Social Classes and Castes Social Classes Castes (Hindus) Castes (Muslims) Jats Rajputs Brahmins MBCs* Dalits Qureshis Rajputs Others** Total Entrepreneurs 8 - - - 1 1 2 - 12 Middle classes 26 4 - 3 8 2 - - 45 Footloose labour 3 - - - 11 10 6 13 43 Self-employed 1 3 3 9 3 2 5 6 32 Unemployed 19 3 3 4 5 7 - 62 Only agriculturists 10 - - - - 2 5 - 17 Total 211 *Includes: Sainis, Nais, Jogis, Kumhars, Badhais and Lohars; **Includes backward-class Muslims other than Qureshis, Telis, Dhunas, Darzis, Julaha and Lilgars. Source: Fieldwork. Table 6: Size of Landholdings and Castes Range of Landholding Hindus Muslims Jats Rajputs Brahmins MBCs* Dalits Qareshis Rajputs Others** Total Landless 4 - - 8 6 10 - 7 35 Up to 1 acre 5 2 - 1 3 3 6 3 23 >1–3 acres 14 1 - - 2 1 3 - 21 >3 acres 11 1 1 2 1 1 4 - 21 Total 34 4 1 11 12 15 13 10 100 *Includes: Sainis, Nais, Jogis, Kumhars, Badhais and Lohars; ** Include backward-class Muslims other than Qureshis, Telis, Dhunas, Darzis, Julaha and Lilgars. Source: Fieldwork. SPECIAL ARTICLE 98 JULY 30, 2016 vol lI no 31 EPW Economic & Political Weekly to the same village or the areas. These are migrant labourers from Bihar or Madhya Pradesh. In the sample, except four households (6%) who are farmers with larger landholdings (larger than fi ve acres), those who actually combine farming with being entrepreneurs—brick kiln owners, orchard owners and rurban middle classes—employ agricultural labourers for almost the entire year. In the context of the Muzaffarnagar riot, it is important to underscore that most victims were Pasmanda (backward class) Muslims, but who were not agricultural labourers. Muslims (Sheikhs, Ashrafs or high castes and Pasmanda Muslims, or Telis, Julaha and Lohars) now settled (125 families) in Palra village told me that they were footloose labourers or selfemployed as grocery shop owners, mobile cloth vendors, car/ cycle mechanics, horse-cart drivers prior to their displacement from their village, Kutba. Most families in the villages have more than one unemployed/ underemployed youth each in their 20s or older (Table 5). Some of the unemployed/underemployed become an easy prey for the IRS that engineer caste or communal violence. For example, I was told during fi eldwork that attackers of the Muslims in Kutba village were familiar faces—Jats, MBCs (Dhinwars, Gadarias and Kumhars) and Dalits (Jatava)—aged between 18 years and 28 years. One 17-year-old Rajput boy narrated how he was impressed by the speeches of Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal leaders in a village in Meerut district three years ago, and joined the Bajrang Dal. He was jailed for attacking a Muslim of his village who “tortured a calf,” but he said he was bailed out by the VHP and Bajrang Dal leadership. Changing Nature of Rural–Urban Contradictions During the green revolution phase, the rural–urban contradiction formed a signifi cant part of the political economy in western UP, like in several other areas. Two dimensions of this contradiction are signifi cant with reference to the communal violence: the fi rst was between farmers and the traders of agricultural produce (especially the grain traders); and the second was between the farmers and cattle traders. The fi rst has been used in political mobilisation of farmers (see Sinha 1978; Singh 1992: 113–14, n 55),13 that is in the Jat (rural)–Bania (urban) divide/confl ict, which was rooted in the speculative transactions of farmers’ produce in the mandis (markets). In western UP, such mandis had existed in Hapur, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Hathras and Agra (Tyabji 2015: 10–11). Indeed, such mandis are now almost defunct. The Bania/trader is no longer considered an exploiter (Singh 1992: 183–84). The following are the reasons: direct procurement from the farmers was introduced in the 1960s, eroding the monopoly of the Bania/urban traders on procurement from farmers (Duncan 1979), shrinkage in area of grain cultivation and expansion of sugar cane, emergence of grain traders/brokers among farmers, and the availability of grain buyers among the non-agrarian classes in the villages. In the survey only seven farmers sell grain in the mandis. The urban trader is no longer the target of farmers/people’s fury. It is now the state or the political party which controls the government. The second is related to the interaction between a village farmer (Jat) and qasbah-residing cattle trader (Muslim Qureshi/ Qassab/Kasai in western UP). Prior to the communal polarisation in the villages, there had existed a mutual dependence between them. The former would buy milch/healthy cattle from the latter, and sell the old to him. Often the transaction would involve credit on both sides, signifying a mutual trust between them. The communal polarisation has disturbed this trust. Emergence of new social groups in the villages has enhanced the interaction between villages and cities. Members from around 44% households of the sample live either permanently or live in cities such as Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur or Delhi, and maintain regular contact with their families in the villages. This has wide social, cultural and political ramifi cations. The extension of the IRS from the city into the village is one of them. Indeed, one perception even attri buted the rise of insurgency in Punjab to agrarian changes brought about by the green revolution (see Singh 1984; Chima 2015). IRS in the Villages: Profile and Evolution The IRS have been observed in the Indian cities (Brass 2004; Singh 2011). Emergence of the IRS in the villages has been a distinct feature of the Muzffarnagar riot. As mentioned earlier, the increased interaction between cities and villages enabled the urban IRS to grow in the villages. Profi le of Villages: In a sense, the village IRS was an extension of the city IRS. On the basis of their ideological and political orientation and organisational strengths, the rural IRS can be placed into three groups: one, the Sangh Parivar; two, some individual Muslim leaders opposed to the Sangh Parivar; and three, the state/government. The Sangh Parivar consists of a large number of organisations: VHP, Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini, Samadhan Samiti, Gau Raksha Dal, Sanghe Shakti Kaliyuge, etc. Besides these, are the ephemeral organisations formed for specifi c purposes that further the agenda of the Sangh Parivar: protection of honour/izzat of Hindu bahu–beti (protecting the honour of Hindu wives and daughters), stopping “love jihad,” ghar wapsi/stopping conversion from Hinduism to other religions, cow protection, etc. In the Muzaffarnagar violence, as the fi eldwork indicated, the rural IRS largely consisted of the new social classes: political leaders and activists, entrepreneurs, contractors, brick kiln owners, builders, the rurban middle class, unemployed youth, etc.14 Not all members of the IRS from the Sangh Parivar are committed to the ideology of Hindutva. It is important to underscore that the IRS also consists of certain persons who are with the BJP as it has given them tickets in the elections, and in return, such people prove to be more ardent supporters of Hindutva than others. Their support to the Hindutva agenda is actually guided by political expediency, though sometimes they are as aggressive as the more ideologically committed are known to be. However, if political expediency demands, they may even give up this agenda. It is the ideologically committed group which is consistently active to pursue the Hindutva SPECIAL ARTICLE Economic & Political Weekly EPW JULY 30, 2016 vol lI no 31 99 agenda, whether they (their party) is in power or out of power. They are the activists and leaders of organisations of the Sangh Parivar. In western UP, the shakhas (organisational units or branches) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) were fi rst set up in 1940 but became active in the region in the 1950s. The RSS aimed to educate students about cultural and social issues and focused on character building. Some of the students who had joined the RSS shakhas later became leaders and activists of the RSS. For instance, the extant kshetra sangh chalak, three prants of the region—Uttarakhand, Meerut and Brij, which covers several districts of western UP—had joined the RSS in 1959, as a young student in class two. However, until the mid-1980s the RSS remained an urban organisation with its following largely confi ned to the urban trading community of Banias and Punjabis.15 Its expansion into western UP villages began with the Ayodhya movement, though the RSS had some followers in early 1990s in village Palhera situated in the vicinity of Meerut city (Singh 1998: 2,615). From 2013, the RSS has sought to create its support base in the villages of western UP more consistently than before through its Mandal Yojna (a plan for mandals (a group of villages) which is akin to its Basti Yojna plan for cities). For instance, during 2015–16 the RSS set up shakhas in all 987 mandals of Meerut prant: Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Ghaziabad, Meerut, Ghaziabad, Moradabad, Bijnor, and some other districts. The RSS has plans to establish its shakhas in the villages situated along the roads under its plan “Sadak Kinare Gaon.” The RSS sought to enter villages by identifying potential contact persons in the villages, who generally belong to the new social classes/groups. It is important to note that the RSS’s expansion into western UP villages over the past few years has taken place along with that of some other member organisation of the Sangh Parivar, especially the VHP (though operative since the 1960s) and the Bajrang Dal. The other two types of the IRS, that is, the non-Sangh Parivar leaders (some Muslim leaders), and the state organ (the government) help in sustaining the fi rst type of the IRS by their public actions/stances on issues relating to communal violence/religious communities. They act as agent provocateurs. In this context, the statements of some Muslim leaders and the stance of the state government are used by the Sangh Parivar to justify their efforts in stereotyping Muslims, and emphasising the alleged neglect of the Hindus by the government. The activities of the Sangh Parivar in turn encourages some Muslim leaders to make more controversial statements. All three types of the IRS feed on each other to survive in communal politics.16 Evolution of IRS: The communal polarisation between Hindus and Muslims in western UP villages is the result of the multipronged strategy of the Sangh Parivar to expand its base in the rural communities since the mid-1980s. This strategy has three phases. During the fi rst phase (1984–92) it mobilised Hindus across castes to construct the Ram temple in Ayodhya, it also allotted to a Saini (MBC) to the Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha constituency in 1985 (the fi rst party to do so). In the 1991 Vidhan Sabha elections it fi elded candidates to the constituencies in Muzaffarnagar district in consultation with Mahendra Singh Tikait, the Bharatiya Kisan Union leader. During this phase a section of Hindus in villages had turned communal (Singh 1992: 175–88). The second phase (Rajnath Singh-led BJP regime: October 2000–March 2002) sought to win the MBCs by appointing Hukum Singh Social Justice Committee with the purpose of subdividing Other Backward Classes (OBC) reservation quota to benefi t the MBCs. It is important to note that Hukum Singh, who was allegedly involved in the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar, also hails from the same region. During the third phase (2011–15) the IRS in western UP villages got consolidated. Desperate to win the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and following the appointment of Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, and Amit Shah as election/campaign in-charge of UP, the BJP concentrated to consolidate its support base in UP. In order to do so in the villages of western UP, it deployed the Sangh Parivar, which worked as the IRS in the Muzaffarnagar violence. It organised public meetings through its contact persons, who generally belonged to the new social groups/classes. There are instances of such meetings from villages of Muzaffarnagar and Meerut districts. The fi rst such public meeting was held in Kutba village in November 2011, around six months before the 2012 UP Vidhan Sabha elections. This meeting was attended by BJP leaders, including its president Nitin Gadakari, and Rajnath Singh, as well as local leaders (Sangeev Balyan and Umesh Malik). Following the Kutba meeting, Balyan and Malik worked systematically in the villages dominated by their khaps (traditional caste panchayats) to popularise the Sangh Parivar. Indeed, it was from this meeting that Sangeev Balyan came into the limelight, and later won a seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Within a few years of the Kutba meeting there emerged an organisation—Sanghe Shakti Kaliyuge—started by two youths of Kutba village, one Jat another Dhinwar (MBC), a mechanic. The units of Sanghe Shakti Kaliyuge sprung up in several villages. Its members included youth (18–28 years) from different Hindu castes (Jats, MBCs and Dalits). I was told during the fi eldwork that these youth played a leading role in attacking Muslims in the riot. In an important example, the VHP/Bajrang Dal leader, Sudarshan Chakra organised a meeting in 2013 in Gotca village, situated near Sardhana, Meerut. The meeting encouraged a large number of youth to join the Bajrang Dal. A Bajrang Dal activist told me that there are 70 Bajrang Dal activists in his village, Baparsi. Their task is to protect cows, Hindu women, and Hindu culture from the attacks of Muslims. In the Muzffarnagar violence, the Sangh Parivar (IRS) acted as “conversion specialists”/“riot specialists.” It used the alleged incident of molestation of a Hindu woman to protect the Hindu “bahu beti ki izzat,” to convert different Hindu castes (Jats, Gujjars, Rajputs, Brahmins, OBCs, MBCs, etc) into a single community.17 It used this incident to communally polarise rural society, resulting in the communal riot. The Sangh Parivar got emboldened to pursue its agenda after the formation of the NDA government at the centre in May 2014. SPECIAL ARTICLE 100 JULY 30, 2016 vol lI no 31 EPW Economic & Political Weekly Conclusions In conclusion, village society, which generally had maintained communal harmony, became a site of communal violence in August–September 2013 due to the growth of the rural IRS in the post-green revolution period. The dominant component of the rural IRS—the Sangh Parivar—was able to construct the identity of Muslims as inimical to the interests of Hindus, namely, the honour of the Hindu bahu-beti, Hindus and Hindu religion, and national interest. Economic reasons played a relatively insignifi cant role in this construction, compared to the cultural or religious factors. Though Muslims of all classes were attacked, it was the Pasmanda Muslims that became the prime victims as they were more vulnerable than the middle castes or the Ashraf Muslims. The violence occ urred in a particular context, August–September 2013, just six months prior to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The timing of the riot was perhaps part of the third phase (2011–16 mentioned earlier) of the Sangh Parivar’s strategy. The riot has adversely affected civic relations. Village society has got divided into two broad religious communities—Hindus and Muslims—relegating to the background the internal caste divisions within them. For instance, the Hindu Jat farmers of Shoron village lamented that the trust which had existed between them and qasbah-dwelling Qureshi cattle traders no longer existed. There are fears among people that as the 2017 Vidhan Sabha election approaches, certain members of the IRS would seek to further bolster the communal divide. The communal divide has even effected a shift in the support of a section of Jatavs (Dalits) from the BSP to the BJP. Dalits in Shoron and Shahpur told me that Muslim leaders help only Muslims over Dalits even if these leaders belong to the BSP. One of them, a plumber, said about a Muslim BSP leader: “Party to hamari, Kadir Rana Muslmano ki madath karta hai. Hamne tho is baar Balyan ko vote di hai” (the party [the BSP] is ours but Kadir Rana [a Muslim BSP Member of Parliament] helps Muslims. This time [2014 Lok Sabha election] we have voted for Balyan (Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, the BJP candidate). However, the Jatav shift to the BJP does not present a general picture. My visits to villages—Khanauda, Maithana Inder Singh, Uldeypur and Jalalpur—of Meerut district show that rarely have Jatavs voted for any other candidate other than of the BSP. Electoral performance is not a consistent indicator of the nature of social relations. Within a few months of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP lost the by-election in Kairana Vidhan Sabha constituency to the SP. But in the Vidhan Sabha byelections held in February 2016, the BJP won the Muzaffarnagar seat, and the Congress won the Deoband seat. However, notwithstanding electoral politics, the communal divide in rural society remains a glaring feature of the current agrarian scenario. Though there exist secular and democratic forces in the region, they are not articulate and assertive enough. In the existing context of social, cultural and economic changes, electoral politics remains a conducive ground for operation of the IRS in the villages of western UP. Notes 1 Riots had occurred in the Jat-dominated rural areas earlier (for Haryana, see Chowdhry 2011). For the Garhmukteshwar riot in western UP, see Brass (2011: 46–52). For a post-green revolution period “local incidents” of religionbased violence in a western UP village, see Brass (1997: ch 3). The major contemporary instance of communal riot affecting the villages include Bhagalpur riot of 1989 in Bihar. 2 While the media has raised the level of social and political awareness in western UP villages, it has also heightened the divisions on caste and communal lines (for print media and TV, see Singh 1998; see also Basu et al 1993: 93–109). Earlier, media’s role was confi ned to the cities. Gita Press, for example, played an important role in widening communal divide, and demonising Muslims, Dalits and women (Mukul 2015). 3 Economic contradictions: relations between landowners (middle/rich peasants) and landless labourers/poor/small peasants are not dominant relations in western UP. Indeed, these are relationships of one-sided dependence of the rural poor on the rural rich, not mutual dependence (landowning classes depending on the landless and poor for work, and the latter on the former for wages) which are dominant (Singh 1992). 4 This can been considered as the post-green revolution period, following the impact green revolution (late 1960s–70s). This is a rough demarcation meant to delineate certain features of the agrarian society, which became prominent during this period. It does not show a sudden rupture from the preceding green revolution period. What it implies is that these features became prominent during the post-green revolution period. Indeed, the germination of features of the post-agrarian society began during the green revolution period. 5 I am not reproducing the details of the riot, since they are available in the public domain. I am instead presenting the patterns in the form of sequence of events related to the riot. 6 Qasbahs (towns) are different from the cities in that the latter have more urban features, showing a relative delink from the villages. Qasbahs are much closer to the villages than the cities, they in fact are semi-rural. Quoting Wilson’s Glossary, M Raisur Rahman underlines some of the features of a qasbah as “small town or large village, the chief or market town of a district” with Muslim converts usually its inhabitants (Rahman 2015: 29–30). 7 For the signifi cance of context, see also Gupta (1997-96) and Frietag (1990: 87, n 9). 8 Although Paul R Brass considers a group identity as ethnic, he mentions the specifi city of the group relationship such as Hindu–Muslim violence or confl ict/communal riot (Brass 1991; 1998; 2003). Varshney (2002) uses communal and ethnic violence interchangeably; Subramanian (1999) uses caste mobilisation as ethnic; Singh (2012) uses multiple marker-based identity as ethnic; historians generally refer to the religion-based confl ict/mobilisation as communal (Pandey 1990: 6–22). Dipankar Gupta, however, differentiates between ethnic and communal: in the former the reference point is the nation-state (territory and sovereignty): loyalty of a persons to the nation-state is doubted, in the latter the government: loyalty of a person to the nation-state is not doubted (Gupta 1997/1996). 9 This discussion heavily draws upon my publication (Singh 2011: 190–94). 10 Besides, as pointed out by Brass in response to Varshney’s critique of Brass’s framework published in India Today, 10 November 2003, even Varshney “copies” Brass’s arguments by “inversion” to explain the absence of riots in some cities of India by using the concept “institutionalised peace system” (Singh 2011). 11 Kawal did not witness a riot but the alleged incidents, mentioned earlier, of molestation and murder. 12 These social classes/groups are emerging in almost all caste groups, though wage labourers/ non-agricultural labours/footloose labourers mostly are Dalits and the Most Backward Classes (both Hindus and Muslims). We now have enough literature dealing separately with these social classes/groups of western UP. This helps us to identify the major trends in formation and de-formation of social classes/groups in western UP in the post-green revolution period (for Dalit entrepreneurs, see Jodhka (2010); for non-farm employment, see Rajni (2007); see Singh (1992) for wage labourers in nonagrarian sectors; for Jat brick kiln owners see Chopra (1985); see Singh (2011) for an autobiography of the DLF chief (Jat); for rurban middle class, see Jeffrey (2010); for diversifi cation of occupation among Yadavs and MBCs in a village, see Kumar (2014); for “intellectual of societies (castes),” see Singh (2008). For a general view of Dalit entrepreneurs, see Prakash (2015) and Kapur et al (2014). For a comparative view of the Dalit and OBC entrepreneurs in India, see Varshney (2014). For the concept of footloose labour, see Breman (1996). 13 However, in comparison to the Shetkari Sangathana leader of Maharashatra Sharad Joshi, the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Mahendra Singh Tikait was more circumspect in emphasising the rural–urban divide. I was a participant observer in the meetings addressed by both these leaders in 1980–90. 14 Lawyers are the largest group of the rurban middle class which have links both in the cities and villages. Brass (2004) notices that during communal riot, the Bar Council of Meerut had SPECIAL ARTICLE Economic & Political Weekly EPW JULY 30, 2016 vol lI no 31 101 banned one of its members for disagreeing with it to support the cause of Hindutva. 15 The narrative on the RSS is from my discussion with Darshan Lal, kshetra sangha chalak, three prants (Uttarakhand, Meerut and Brij Prant, Meerut) on 10 April 2016. 16 For instance, Muslim leaders such as Hazi Akhlak Quereshi, Hazi Yaqub Quereshi, reportedly declared a reward for killing a Danish cartoonist, and for the attackers of Charlie Hebdo offi ce in France respectively (though they retracted the statements). Azam Khan, the minister in the UP government, wished to take up the communal attacks on Muslims following the killing in the Bisada village. 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Review of Women’s Studies April 30, 2016 Feminist Research Is a Political Project —Kalpana Kannabiran, Padmini Swaminathan Studying Women and the Women’s Movement in India: Methods and Impressions —Joan P Mencher Real Life Methods: Feminist Explorations of Segregation in Delhi —Ghazala Jamil Stories We Tell: Feminism, Science, Methodology —Banu Subramaniam The Erotics of Risk: Feminism and the Humanities in Flagrante Delicto —Brinda Bose Feminist Critical Medical Anthropology Methodologies: Understanding Gender and Healthcare in India —Cecilia Van Hollen Impractical Topics, Practical Fields: Notes on Researching Sexual Violence in India —Pratiksha Baxi Globalisations, Mobility and Agency: Understanding Women’s Lives through Women’s Voices —Bhavani Arabandi For copies write to: Circulation Manager, Economic and Political Weekly, 320-321, A to Z Industrial Estate, Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400 013.