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A Review of a Book by Rowena Robinson, 'the Tremor of Violence; The Muslim Survivors of Ethnic Srtifes in Western India'

A Review of a Book by Rowena Robinson, 'the Tremor of Violence; The Muslim Survivors of Ethnic Srtifes in Western India'

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Published by Prafulla Rana

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Published by: Prafulla Rana on Nov 01, 2011
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 Submitted by: Prafulla kumar RanaIII semester, sociology, CSSSSSS, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Rowena Robinson’s
Course: Religion and society in IndiaAssignment
2 : Book ReviewSubmitted to the Course Teacher: Prof. Susan Viswanathan 
Book introduction:
This book is written by one of the eminent sociologists in India Prof. Rowena Robinson. She is currently teachingat the centre of Social Sciences of Indian Institute of Technology (Mumbai) and was also the teacher in thedepartment of sociology of Jawaharlal Nehru University. It was written during 2003-04 just after the Post-Godhra riots in Gujarat and the subsequent persecution to the Muslims and published in the year of 2005 by the Sage publications, New Delhi.
Tremor of violence: the Muslim survivors of ethnic violence in western India
’, the book by
Rowena Robinson, is a study of the Muslims and their condition in the present days of twenty first century after the riots. It deals with only the western parts of the countryparticularly focussing on the three major cities of Mumbai, Ahmadabad and Vadodora inGujarat. It is an ethnographic study based on qualitative ethnographic methods and theinterviews of the Muslim survivors residing in the riot-hit areas. Based on the narratives andthe explanations of the Muslim men and women as modes of expression, she tries tounderstand the world and the worldviews of those who have lived through several violentconfrontations and riot. The book seeks to explore the difficult and troubling questions suchas; what are the ways in which the memories of violence bring about shifts in everydaypractice of living and what it means to be a Muslim in India considering the space and timeof the present day.
In her introductory chapter, ‘Inaugurating responsibility’ (pp. 13
-37), she underlines theextent of the challenges facing ethnographers in relation to how far they are, or they allowthemselves, to become personally involved in their work, and she reflects on what being anChristian Indian may have meant as far as her responsibilities as a researcher wereconcerned.
In the second chapter, ‘Space, time and the stigma of identity’ (pp.38
-77), offers interestingreflections on the physical reorganisation of urban spaces that has altered Mumbai since theearly 1990s, with similar processes of reconfiguration taking place in the cities in Gujarat. Italso explores how the survivors of violence remember and recollect their experiences.Interesting insights are provided about the demarcation of space in cities such as Mumbai,with green and saffron flags increasingly used to mark and inscribe Muslim and Hinduresidential as well as religious space. From her interviewees, it would seem as if urbanpublic space has become Hindu space, something recognised by NGOs who have called forthe process of the recovery of [Muslim] rights to use urban public spaces, whether forentertainment, work or even for protest (p. 56)In this third chapter Marginality and the experience of violence, (pp.78-112), the authortries to make out the consciousness of the marginality among the Muslims. She brings outthat the violence and discrimination meted out to them is mainly due to the marginality.Though this section constitutes the 12% of the total population, still they enjoy a little
representation in the govt services, higher administration, and even in the army. Sheuncovers that their proper representation in the hierarchy of power has made themvulnerable to violence.
Chapter four, ‘I can harden my heart to bear this: women’s words and women’s worlds (pp.
113-153), contains particularly revealing insights. In it Robinson explores the extent to whichwomen and men speak differently about the violence that they have experienced. It iswidely accepted that communal violence is gendered, but Robinson helps us to understand
more clearly how and why this is the case. Women’s narratives,
she concludes, are tingedwith personal sadness, while those of men are couched in more abstract terms. However,
what adds extra value to this chapter is the way in which it demonstrates ‘differences’
between women themselves. Hence, there are variations between the narratives of women
interviewed in Mumbai and in Gujarat, with the voices of Gujarati women seem ‘splinteredand caught up in images of distress ’, while ‘those from Mumbai showed a greater tendency
to mould themselves into fuller and more compl
ete narratives’ (p. 140).
 In Chapter five, Fissures in a time of crisis (pp. 154-193) she takes the discussion outside thehome into the world of community members and leaders working with the survivors of communal violence, and there seeks to explore the
‘negotiated intricacies of the “real”’ (p.
157). Here we learn about the ways in which the pain of these events has not necessarilybrought Muslim communities together, as might be expected, but has led to processes of community fragmentation and increased sectarian antagonisms.
In the sixth chapter, ‘Breaching boundaries: experiments in remaking the world’
(pp.196-224), she has given the life stories of some Muslim men and women activists about theirpost-riot life and through it discusses some of the women issues, muslin laws relating tothem etc. Then the author starts with giving an account about the life and work of a Muslimboy Altaf who is caught with the dilemma after he is told by his neighbours and familymembers that his father died in the riot of 1985. Despite the wound, he has taken up thework of social service to assist the riot victims in his area.In the last chapter
Through a dark tunnel: the face of the future
(pp.224-250), the author istalking about some core issues of discrimination in the fields of law, protection andeducation etc. she states that where there is no education, where is no job for the
educated, no protection of life and property and no dignity of life…How can we talk about
maintaining law and order? (pp.224). She then focuses upon the harassing laws of TADA andPOTA and their misuse by the state forces to prosecute the minority Muslims. She quotes
the eminent writer Arundhati Roy “in Tamilnadu the POTA is used to stifle the criticism of 
the state govt., in Jharkhand it is used to threaten the tribal to punish as the Maoists, in U.P.it is clamped down against those who protest for the alienation of their land and livelihood
and in Gujarat it is mainly being used against the Muslims.” Later she brings the explanation
of exploitation by Young and then has focussed upon the education of the minorityMuslims.

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