Why has ethnic conflict broken out in some parts of India at certain points in time and not others?
Ethnic conflict = violent ethnic conflict What is ethnicity? Donald Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict: “Ethnic groups are all groups based on ascriptive identities” That is, race, language, religion, tribe, caste But NOT class, gender and sexual preferences.
Types of Ethnic Conflict Ethnic groups versus New Delhi Movements for greater self-determination - Autonomy - Separation Ethnic groups versus each other Hindu-Muslim violence
Princely state sharing boundary with both India and Pakistan Muslim majority but significant Hindu and Buddhist minorities ruled by (an autocratic) Hindu ruler, Hari Singh Popular Movement led by Sheikh Abdullah and the National Conference against Hari Singh Hari Singh’s ambitions for Kashmiri independence Invasion of Pakistan-sponsored Pathan tribesmen Signing of Instrument of Accession with India Indian army pushes back Pathan tribesmen at LoC
Repeated undermining of electoral institutions Failure to allow for development of an honest opposition to Sheikh Abdullah & the National Conference Blatant central intervention in Kashmiri politics
1950s-1970s: Deinstitutionalization BUT no mass political mobilization = Peace 1977: First free & fair elections 1983: Farooq Abdullah comes to power 1983: Critical turning point: Indira Gandhi orders unconstitutional dismissal of Farooq 1987: “A Horrible Mistake” - Farooq-Rajiv Gandhi pact + Rigged elections 1989: The Insurgency Begins
On 11 June, mass civilian protests erupted in Srinagar when a 17-year-old boy died after being hit on the head by a police tear gas canister in the congested old part of the city. Killings had happened before, but why the outcry this time? Actually, on 11 June there was not one death, but two.After the boy died, police sought to put the blame on those who had tried to rush him to hospital to save his life. The police killed the boy first - and then killed the truth.
Worst riots in many years Triggered by police killings of civilians (esp young and old) Cycle of violence: Reprisals to riots further triggers protests…
Shocking One of India’s most wealthy states Well integrated into Indian union Close ties between Hinduism & Sikhism Active Sikh involvement in Indian polity
Why did this peaceful, symbiotic relationship break down, all of a sudden, in the 1980s? Why is it that communal rhetoric and demands were contained in the earlier periods and spiralled into violence in the 1980s? Why did Sikh youth, overwhelmingly quiescent in the ethnically charged atmosphere of the 1960s, take up arms against the Indian state in the 1980s?
Contrasting patterns of centre-state relations Several critical differences in the character, functioning and leadership of the Congress government in New Delhi in the 1960s vs. 1980s. Nehru vs. Indira Gandhi
Nehru’s unwritten but consistent rules no demand for political recognition of a religious group would be considered, that explicitly secessionist movements would not be tolerated and would be suppressed by force whenever necessary, that no capricious concessions would be made to the political demands of any linguistic, regional or other culturally defined group, and that no political concessions to cultural groups in conflict would be made unless they had demonstrable support from both sides in the conflict (Brass 1988:170).
Sant Fateh Singh Demand for Punjabi-speaking state Nehru Master Tara Singh Demand for Sikh state Nehru Leadership of Akali Dal
Firmly refused demands made on the basis of religious communal identity by leaders whom it considered had secessionist inclinations. Did not intervene directly in the politics of Punjab. The state remained an autonomous arena.
Indira Gandhi’s abandonment of Nehru’s rules More instrumental, real politik-driven relationship with the provinces Intervened directly & blatantly in state politics (like in Kashmir) Supported militant over moderate Sikh leaders
Sought to divide Akali Dal Ignored legitimately presented demands of Longowal, for example, Anandpur Sahib Resolution Supported militant preacher, Bhindranwale
Competition with extremist Bhindranwale forced Akalis to make more militant demands Rise of Bhindranwale: The beast Mrs Gandhi could no longer control
Complex interplay of factors Emphasized (often neglected) role of state institutions For the most part, India has managed its ethnic diversity and conflicts well Compare to Yugoslavia, Soviet Union, Africa
Clash of three nationalisms Secular nationalism – India Rejection of two-nation theory India: Homeland for Hindus & Muslims Challenge from Hindu nationalism
Clash of three nationalisms Ethnic nationalism – Kashmiri Syncretic, pan-religious idea of Kashmiriyat More militantly Islamic Kashmir nationalism Why?
political consciousness among Kashmiris + Actions of the central and state governments that removed the possibilities of institutional protest.
Clash of three nationalisms Religious nationalism - Pakistan Secular nationalism - India Ethnic nationalism – Kashmiri
Clash of three nationalisms Religious nationalism – Pakistan -Two-nation theory Pakistan: Homeland for sub-continent’s Muslims Challenge posed by Muslim-majority Kashmir in India