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South Asian History and Culture
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Gujarat beyond Gandhi: notes on identity, conflict and society
Nalin Mehtaa; Mona G. Mehtab a Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, Singapore b Department of Politics and International Relations, Scripps College, Claremont, CA, USA Online publication date: 15 October 2010
To cite this Article Mehta, Nalin and Mehta, Mona G.(2010) 'Gujarat beyond Gandhi: notes on identity, conflict and
society', South Asian History and Culture, 1: 4, 467 — 479 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/19472498.2010.507019 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19472498.2010.507019
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it saw the ﬁrst large-scale anti-reservation violence long before Mandal would eventually divide up the north Indian heartland. It is the land of Somnath. Scripps College. USA Introduction The bureaucrat in Ahmedabad was sitting across the table. Westernized no doubt. b Department of Politics and International Relations. Dinshaw Wacha. next only to Nehru in the Congress trinity. violence and identity. It was mid-2002. 4.2010.K. rhetoric and reality.com Downloaded At: 10:04 30 October 2010 . Gujarat. or contrasting versions of it. In Gujarat. Badruddin Tyabji. the land of the Mahatma. It also produced Mohammad Ali Jinnah.’1 Muttered half-seriously.507019 http://www. as if taking account for all those centuries of humiliation. of the invasions from Ghazni which.com ISSN 1947-2498 print/ISSN 1947-2501 online © 2010 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10. ‘It is almost like they are taking revenge for Somnath. Gujarat’s soil gave Indian nationalism some of its earliest torch bearers – Dadabhai Naoroji. in many ways. in Navnirman. Advani chose to start his Rath Yatra in *Corresponding author. and in the early 1980s.informaworld. Singapore. CA. seen through the jaundiced lenses of colonial-era history. National University of Singapore.South Asian History and Culture Vol. but also a Gujarati Khoja who would change the sub-continent’s destiny. his creative methods of passive protest arguably drawing as much from the colonial experience as they drew from indigenous Kathiawadi and vaniya traditions. 467–479 Gujarat beyond Gandhi: notes on identity. The region now known as Gujarat has always been a crucible for ideas of India. October 2010. shaping identity. history. ﬁrst mastered the mechanics of creating a party machinery on his home turf in Gujarat.2 It is also.1080/19472498. Email: nalinnikki@gmail. When the BJP adopted the politics of Ram. politics and social mobilization more deeply perhaps than anywhere else. Claremont. Yet there was something in the sentiment that captured the unique centrality of Gujarat in some of the most important debates that have deﬁned the political iconography of modern India. of course. turned into a deﬁning leitmotif in the hagiography of twentieth-century Hindu revivalism. discussing relief camps. Pherozeshah Mehta.3 The iconic Sardar Patel. conﬂict and society Nalin Mehtaa * and Mona G. Personally appalled by the violence. rehabilitation and the elections. It is the land where the British encounter ﬁrst began in 1608 when William Hawkins docked his ship in Surat. it would perhaps have sounded banal in any other setting. It was on the Sabarmati that he ﬁrst set up home when he returned from South Africa and began turning Indian nationalism from an elite debating club to a mass movement. Mehtab a Institute of South Asian Studies. Even earlier. 1. she was musing aloud about its psychological wellsprings. is a land of ﬁrsts. seeps constantly into the present at every turn. Gujarat saw independent India’s ﬁrst police action in Junagarh. Rahimtulla Sayani – all of whom presided over the annual sessions of the Congress in its early decades. it was from Somnath that L. the drumbeats of Narendra Modi’s election campaign were just becoming audible and the talk was about the discourse of action and reaction. No. it arguably produced India’s largest public protest movement since the anti-British agitations.
today Gujarat is on the political agenda. anthropology. the evolution of what has been called the Modi model and the questions it raises about notions of development. Downloaded At: 10:04 30 October 2010 Ideas of Gujarat: identity and self in the nineteenth century Most scholars agree that the colonial period proved a seminal turning point in coalescing modern ideas of Gujarat as we understand it today. . the rise of Hindutva and the paradoxical linkages between vegetarianism and violence. Gujarat was carved out of the erstwhile Bombay state in 1960. presciently noted in the pages of the Economic and Political Weekly that the turmoil of Gujarat may well be a precursor of larger things to come. it critically explores some of the deﬁning aspects of the making of modern Gujarat since its inception. The deadly political drift continues. Gujarat has held up questions that are intertwined with larger trajectories of change reshaping India. Taken together. Mehta 1990 and for over two decades now the state has consistently been denoted by a cliché. the politics of reservation.468 N. a pan-Indian political ideal always . Mehta and M. bootlegging. by any means. Rather it brings together a number of interesting scholars from various disciplines – history. the evolution of new religious movements like Swadhya and Tablighi Jamaat and their impact on cultural change. of course. Yes.. identity and modernity have always had important ramiﬁcations far beyond its borders. It seeks to explore key trends and events with fresh eyes. sociology and media studies – to take a new look at some of the major issues of the past ﬁve decades. ‘laboratory of Hindutva’. Tomorrow. one that remains crucial for anyone interested in the larger story of India. Bihar. an exhaustive catalogue of events or a comprehensive revisionist history.. What are the key ideas and concerns that have shaped this state over the decades? What have been the dominant modes of political mobilization? What has it meant for the politics and culture of the state and for the rest of India? These are the questions that animate this collection and. perhaps the whole of India. using a variety of scholarly perspectives.G. including the political drift that led to the upheavals of the Emergency and the turmoils of the Janata era: The old questions form again. its society and its politics. It is not. global diasporas and Gujarat’s centrality in their evolution. mass media and historical trajectories of rioting in Ahmedabad. Time and time again. for instance. As far back as 1975.4 The politics and narratives of Gujarat have changed drastically in the three and a half decades since Thapar’s observation but the underlying concerns remain as important as ever as it celebrates 50 years of its existence as a state in the Indian Union. It cuts a broad sweep: Navnirman and its legacies in the 1970s. Romesh Thapar. And the day after. The complexities and paradoxes of Gujarat’s politics. of the old academic chestnut about whether British colonialism created India as we know it: the nationalist answer is always a resounding no. they provide a ﬂavour of Gujarat’s historical trajectory. ? When will the opposition parties learn that the ruling Congress Party cannot be toppled with ex-Congressmen or creatures closely resembling them?. There are faint echoes here. corruption and public power in the early 1980s. political science. the Narmada movement and its pervasive inﬂuence on Gujarati nativism and the overall political discourse. to shed new light on hidden corners and to discern new meanings. Have the repeated crises in Gujarat thrown up a qualitatively different leadership and if not why not? Is Indira Gandhi too tied up with the old political gangsters to make a break . . India’s ﬁrst televised riots in 2002 and the rise of Narendra Modi are obvious recent milestones.
linguistic development. for instance. The game changer in the colonial experience was the introduction of colonial education in the big centres and the subsequent creation of a new literati and a new middle class: Those involved in the language debate of this period were essentially people educated in high schools and colleges in cities such as Ahmedabad.9 The numbers tell an important story. began to identify Gujarat and the Gujaratis. Mahipatram Rupram and Karsandas Mulji emerged as the leaders of a new literary and social consciousness.6 At the same time. schooled in British notions of history. for instance. common patterns and enduring legacies between the past and the present.15 The origins of what is now called Gujarati asmita.12 He composed the ﬁrst Gujarati essay (tellingly on the advantages of forming forums) in 1851. only to be replaced later by Devnagari. This stands out when we compare it with Maharashtra where the Modi script developed under the Marathas. Jai Jai garvi Gujarat [hail hail proud Gujarat] to preface his dictionary. In Gujarat. 27 schools were functioning in Gujarat. New regimes often lead to a new politics of languages and novel cultural landscapes. and to deﬁne regional culture and history. His lexicon followed a number of other such works14 but his slogan was to become a virtual Gujarati national anthem.These educated elites. The newly formed Gujarat Vernacular Society’s winning essay in 1850. They began to develop a sense of fellowship based on their common experience of ‘new education’ under the colonial system. This was a time when ﬁgures like Narmadashankar Lalshankar. there can be little question about the cultural continuities.13 ﬁnalized the Narmakosh. in particular. But. Premanand Bhatt in Nalakhyan could proclaim ‘Garvo desh Gujaratji’ – Gujarat is majestic. Narmadashankar Lalshankar. was a pivotal ﬁgure in the nineteenth-century ferment. in that sense. A recent history points out that the earliest reference to the land now known as Gujarat probably goes back to the eighth-century work Kuvalayamala. He is credited with expounding the idea of Gujarati asmita and with Dalpatram heralded the modern age of Gujarati literature.10 Language and identity are intrinsically linked..11 For many of the reforming elites. the ﬁrst clear notions of a Gujarati language are believed to have developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the works of Premanand. which refers to Gurjardesh. as a linguist. can be traced back to Narmad’s writings. thus claiming to represent the region. In tandem with school education. The ﬁfteenth-century poet Padmanabh used the term ‘Gujarati’ in Kanhadde Prabandh and by the seventeenth century.. as a writer and as an ideologue for the idea of Gujarat. the modern Gujarati script itself seems to have established dominance only during the British period.5 The Gujarati language itself derives from Gurjar Apabhramsa. As many as 78 new printing presses started between 1817 and 1867 and 94 newspapers and socio-literary journals began publishing between 1831 and 1886. In the end.South Asian History and Culture 469 Downloaded At: 10:04 30 October 2010 existed. and coined the slogan.8 British rule had signiﬁcant cultural consequences. cultural assertion and modernity went hand in hand. focused on the history of Ahmadabad. But this is a notion that would be dismissed as pure romanticism by the traditionalists.7 The British experience had a profound impact in as much it created the conditions for the evolution of modern notions of Gujarati-ness. By 1841. .. the answers always depend on who is asked the questions and on how we deﬁne our modern categories of community and nation. Surat and Bombay. the ﬁrst systematic Gujarati lexicon. as Riho Isaka has shown. stretching back at least to the Mauryas. it is argued. and literary scholars point out that from Bharatesvara Bahubali Ghor in 1185 there has been an unbroken tradition of oral and written literature in Gujarat. came printing with its potential for cultural churning.
Islamic and British period.. Much of the work in this period dwelt on the splendour of Gujarat before the advent of Muslim rule. His essay Downloaded At: 10:04 30 October 2010 . found a ready audience and gained further momentum with the formation of the Gujarat Sahitya Parishad in 1905. Munshi’s work who was to later become a pivotal ﬁgure in the reconstruction of the Somnath temple. Narmad penned his seminal poem. Such is the terror of Ganim Not a rag nor a penny was spared Oh Mother Goddess Ambika! Protect Gujarat . If you kill the Ganim The world will be saved And you will be called Life-giver. ganim. Both Narmadashankar Lalshankar and Dalpatram Dahyabhai attributed the decline of Gujarati culture and knowledge to Muslim rule. Shivaji and the Marathas were reconstructed as heroes who fought Muslim rule.16 The notion of Gujarati asmita.470 N. . along with Sardar Patel. from William Jones to Max Mueller.. [Whose is Gujarat?]. and writings on Indian history through his Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan. Koni Koni Chhe Gujarat?. familiar to anyone following the state’s recent politics. There was a history of antagonism in Gujarat with Marathis ever since Maratha armies had rampaged Gujarati cities in the eighteenth century. Mehta At a time when the idea of an Aryan identity took root among the middle classes.18 As Romila Thapar argues.G. and also to those who are foreigners but nurtured by this land. this wider trope of ‘tyrannical’ Muslim rule went back to James Stuart Mill and overlay most historiography in this period. in the new construction of Gujarati-ness. Riho Isaka has shown that Gujarati scholars in the nineteenth century depended on British works on the history of India and Gujarat. to those who observe Aryadharma of all varieties.17 This was also a theme that animated much of the Congress politician K. and therefore accepted the simplistic British periodization of history into Hindu. and to those who follow other religions (Paradharma) but are well wishers of Mother Gujarat and therefore our brothers. Muslim rule came to be seen as synonymous with decline.M. It [Gujarat] belongs to all those who speak Gujarati.22 By the nineteenth century though. had negative connotations21 and such was the antagonism that when Baroda was sacked. an unknown poet wrote The city of Baroda was burnt to ashes . This poem was to become a central tenet of the idea of Gujarat and though it heralded an inclusive vision based on language and land as binding forces. . If Hindu rule was seen as one of great prosperity.23 Narmad had indeed talked of an inclusive identity in his seminal poem on Gujarat but generally wrote with Hindus in mind. whereas the British rule was seen as ramrajya. Gujarati nationalism was not built in opposition to any other regional identity but scholars have pointed out patterns in the literary works of this period to show how the distinction between Hindus and Muslims as foreigners came to be built into dominant discourses. it also held within it the divide of ‘Arydharma’ and ‘Paradharma’. Achyut Yagnik and Suchitra Sheth pointed out that the Gujarati word for Maratha.19 Many of the histories of Gujarat drew from the same style sheet. Mehta and M.20 One consequence was the reconstruction of the Marathas in the Gujarati consciousness.
including by Muslim chroniclers from the fourteenth century onwards. it has passed into the hands of mlechha people of foreign countries. . As K. Yet. the Gujarat states and Baroda into Bombay in March 1948 and Kutch was made a Chief Commissioner’s province. Later inscribed in the education curriculum. and his historical work. Munshi described it as the ‘land of Mahatma Gandhi. this popular text came to inform ideas about images of Muslims and Hindus.27 Similar sentiments would inform the discourse on the Somnath temple whose reconstruction would lead to the ﬁrst major dispute between an Indian prime minister and president. The blanking out of all other factors except religious antagonism was arguably a manifestation in that sense of later communal politics. and Chalukya inscriptions on the subject never highlighted religious identity. It concludes with a telling emotional lament: Readers! Shed some tears over the body of Karan. understood the emotive power of Somnath. ‘for a thousand years Mahmud’s destruction of the shrine has been burnt into the collective sub-consciousness of the [Hindu] race. Gujaratno Nath (Master of Gujarat). Munshi put it. like the later British categorization and equates the post-Rajput period with degradation. This is why he refused to get the Indian state ofﬁcially involved in its reconstruction in the 1950s.M. The dream of a greater . it has been oppressed by barbaric foreigners.M. .’28 Yet Romila Thapar has shown that contemporary Indian accounts do not support this line of thinking. Nehru. ‘none of the sources provide evidence of a starkly hostile reaction or a trauma among those that are viewed as the victimized. The destruction of Somnath came to be one of the foundational motifs of the Hindu– Muslim problem. not as Muslims. The Glory that was Gurjaradesa. the evidence from the years 1000–1400 shows a resurgent prosperity among Jain traders and if anything.25 The same sensibility is inherent in the ﬁrst Gujarati novel by Nandashankar Mehta.31 Downloaded At: 10:04 30 October 2010 Creating Mahagujarat Writing about Gujarat in 1935. for example. Munshi.’30 The history of the history of Somnath is one of later embellishments. The Ministry of External Affairs was refused permission to collect waters from foreign rivers for the ceremony and an angry Rajendra Prasad was forced to attend the rebuilt temple’s opening as a private citizen rather than as president. Karan Ghelo: Gujaratno Chhello Rajput Raja [The Last Rajput King of Gujarat] in 1868.33 Baroda and more than 300 princely states and estates of the Western India and Gujarat states Agencies covered nearly four-ﬁfths of present-day Gujarat. In fact.34 After independence. the Saurashtra states were integrated into United States of Kathiawad in February 1948. as an unforgettable national disaster . largely referred to swadesh as a Hindu entity. Muhammad Begada and other Sultans of Ahmedabad have much degraded it. . less than 15% of modern Gujarat was directly under British rule. Gujarat has been widowed after his death. ever mindful of history. K. such as his novel. as once it was of Sri Krishna. They refer to the invaders as turushkas.South Asian History and Culture 471 Swadeshbhiman.29 According to Thapar.’32 Gandhi’s imagery and his Gujarati-ness had already come to deﬁne Gujarat.26 It puts the conﬂict in Hindu and Muslim terms. in 1856.24 This perception of greatness and subsequent decline is even more pronounced in the works of K. his overarching personae hid the political reality that until 1947.M. amicable social relations among both communities.
As Nehru wrote to a colleague. the creation of other linguistic states was only a matter of time. the Congress Working Committee rejected the Gujarat unit’s proposal on 2 August 1956. Jan Sangh and dissident Congressmen – under the leadership of Indulal Yagnik. Marathi speakers in the old Central Provinces-Berar region were to be awarded their own state of Vidarbha. One of the key issues was the status of Bombay. In response to their protests. In the early 1950s. Mehta and M.37 The demand for creating a Mahagujarat grew in tandem with the moves of the Samyukt Maharashtra Parishad. In the face of mass-scale organizational dissent in the Maharashtra unit.35 A separate Gujarati-speaking state would have been a logical outcome of the policy of creating linguistically divided provincial Congress units adopted by Gandhi in 1921.39 There were broadly two arguments. led by the city’s leading industrialists and the Gujarati-dominated Bombay Citizens Committee was to keep it autonomous. Within a week. Kutch and Marathwada to the existing state. the city. In practice though. This did not go down well with Marathi speakers who wanted their own Maharashtra with Vidarbha added to it. cosmopolitan and outside of a proposed Marathi state. From then on. Mehta Gujarat always lurked in the background as Sardar Patel articulated in a 1948 speech in Jamnagar: One dream has been realized. protesters were out in force in Ahmedabad and the killing of ﬁve students outside Congress Bhawan on August 8 became a point of no return. The idea was duly rejected ﬁrst by a committee of jurists within the Assembly and then by the JVP committee specially set up to examine linguistic provinces. the leaders of independent India. The next objective would be to attract the neighbouring States. One view.40 Bombay was the most difﬁcult of issues before the States Reorganization Commission set up to redraw the map of India and it recommended a bilingual Bombay state. beset by Partition and social strife chose initially to keep the idea of re-carving states based on language in abeyance. another 15 lives were lost and by now it was clear that the experiment of a bigger bilingual Bombay was a failure. had to be the capital of a new Maharashtra.36 Marathi. namely the United States of Kathiawad. and pave the way for the ultimate realization of a greater dream – a Mahagujarat – which you can achieve by being strong and self-reliant.G.41 Gujarati and Marathi Downloaded At: 10:04 30 October 2010 . which would add Saurashtra. the Gujarat Congress remained opposed to changing the status quo on Bombay’s links with Gujarat. Within a month. including Kutch. the Gujarat Congress in 1956 announced that if Vidarbha was to be included in Bombay then Gujarat would demand a three state formula: Gujarat. surrounded by Marathi-speaking districts. Maharashtra and Bombay City as separate states. Communists. while four Kannadaspeaking districts were to be hived off and added to Mysore. who had earlier opposed Nehru on the question of Kisan Sabhas in Gujarat38 and resigned as Congress state secretary in 1921 after a dispute with Patel.and Gujarati-speaking members protested but the larger question was put aside until the fast and death of the activist Potti Sriramulu in Andhra Pradesh unleashed such passions that the new state of Andhra was carved out in 1953. For the proponents of Maharashtra though. Patel supported Nehru on this and worked hard within the Constituent Assembly to reverse the ofﬁcial Congress policy on linguistic provinces. under the inﬂuence of Morarji Desai. The real turning point came in 1956 when ﬁve students died in police ﬁring during protests about the future of the state and the Mahagujarat Janata Parishad united all opposition groups – Praja Socialists. ‘we have disturbed the hornet’s nest and I believe most of us are likely to be stung’.472 N.
but the 1970s were mired in political unrest. the state has been identiﬁed with the Hindutva resurgence. created a political vacuum and ‘thereby has handed over Gujarat. Harijan. the Bombay Reorganisation Act of 1960 was introduced in the Lok Sabha and the two new states of Gujarat and Maharashtra were created on 1 May 1960. In 1974. which started with rising food prices and turned into a directionless student’s rebellion. the Baniya– Brahman styles of politics with its vague Gandhian concepts of propriety in public life dominated’. Gujarat’s anti-reservation violence ultimately turned into communal rioting and became an important chapter in the gradual saffronization of the state that gathered apace thereafter. completed his full tenure of 5 years between 1980 and 1985. the public life of Gujarat entered ‘a new phase in its political style – a gradual progression from elitist to mass politics. Madhavsinh Solanki. 1960–2010: politics. the 1960s was a time of relative political stability in the state. of the regimes that came to power. presaged the Emergency in 1975 and the 1985 anti-reservation riots were a precursor to the upper caste protests across north India when V. served to create an image of Gujarati-ness that was at odds with everyday reality and he studies the social strife that came to characterize the state from the 1970s within this context. in his view.43 This period included nine chief ministers and only one. communal and caste disturbances45 and since the 1990s. The identiﬁcation of Gujarat with Gandhi.South Asian History and Culture 473 politicians both favoured bifurcation and separate unilingual states. but it also led to the anti-reservation riots of 1985. for one reason or another. high schools from 1099 to 3153. Between 1961 and 1981. which led to the 33rd constitutional amendment empowering speakers to not accept resignations submitted by legislators under duress. Gujarat had eight vidhan sabhas and 20 ministries. Both were seminal events in the political history of the state and both had major all-India ramiﬁcations. Leaving aside the time under President’s rule. once a bastion of Congress party.000 to Downloaded At: 10:04 30 October 2010 . conﬂict and society The social scientist Ghanshyam Shah has argued that with the creation of Gujarat and the panchayati raj in 1963. It was the cynical pursuit of this caste arithmetic that kept the Congress ﬁrmly in power until the mid-1980s.000 to 180. this gives an average of one and half years per ministry. After a series of negotiations. and college students from 50. Till the mid-1960s. The Navnirman movement. Between 1960 and 1990. to the BJP’. If the 1970s produced the Navnirman movement. the 1985 riots and the fallout of KHAM greatly eroded the Congress. It turned the upper castes away. Gujarat’s anti-reservation violence in – in 1981 and 1985 – took place in the context of a state that had a rising middle class. for instance.42 One measure of the new style of politics was the relative instability. they also produced one of the ubiquitous acronyms that Indian politics often produces: KHAM. At the same time unemployment rose threefold between 1971 and 1982. giving the BJP its strongest electoral citadel in India. growing from 150.44 Broadly speaking. the assembly was dissolved under mob fury. or the Kshatriya. But this was to change. literacy increased from 31 to 44%. Muslim coalition. The telling fact is that only once did a government fall because it was defeated on the ﬂoor of the house – the rest was all due to unstable factionalism or due to politics from the Centre. the 1980s witnessed political indiscipline. The veteran political scientist Nagindas Sanghavi examines Gujarat’s political trajectory from Navnirman to the anti-reservation riots in this collection and argues that although the legacies of Navnirman ﬁzzled out. Singh announced the implementation of the recommendations of the Mandal Commission in 1989. Adivasi.P.000. in political terms.
and she picks up on the illicit trade in bootlegging – focusing primarily on the period in which the Congress was in power – to discuss the political economy of corruption that developed at the local level and how it surfaced in the context of communal riots. The Electricity Board. In a fascinating exploration.49 As Ashis Nandy. By 1980.G. The Rane Commission’s report rejected caste as a principle of backwardness and focusing on economic criteria instead. reservations were introduced into engineering and medical colleges only in the 1970s. especially in 1985. The Sangh parivar had supported the upper castes in the violence. identiﬁed 63 occupations as backward. many castes. The 1985 agitation. Solanki rejected the economic criteria argument but with elections just 2 months away.000. targeted the Mandal communities. Achyut Yagnik and Shikha Trivedy put it: At last the Gujarati middle class – spread out over large cities like Ahmedabad. Madhavsinh Solanki set up another Commission under Justice C. Amarsinh Chowdhary became the ﬁrst tribal chief minister of the state. were now demanding a greater share in the pie. for a state that had always prided itself for its governance. Gandhi’s Gujarat has always been known for its prohibition. engendered heavy protests from the middle classes and as a spiral of violence began. non-violent Gujarat. learnt to use this ideology as a ready cure for rootlessness and as a substitute for traditions. Solanki lost his chief ministership. More tellingly perhaps.474 N. but in an echo of the recent Gurjar agitation in Haryana.47 The move was seen with cynical eyes in every quarter.50 But how did the state machinery get compromised over time and become complicit in these divisive processes? Ornit Shani picks up on these threads to draw the linkages between entrenched forms of corruption experienced by ordinary people in their everyday lives and communal violence in the 1980s.V. she probes how the system of corruption around illicit alcohol permeated into socio-political arenas far beyond the transactions around liquor. he used the report to woo backward castes and increased backward quotas from 10 to 28% in January 1985. the effect this had on compromising the state law enforcement mechanisms in ordinary times. the municipality and state government employees all at various points went on strike as Gujarat was engulfed by a conﬂict between the old and the new entrants to the middle classes.48 The earlier anti-reservation agitation of 1981 when savarnas fought with dalits in Ahmedabad had already exploded the myth of peaceful. and a compromise formula was worked out with the agitators. and consisting mainly of Savarna and also Dalit and Adivasi government servants. Hindutva had become for this class a new purana to validate their pre-eminence. . teachers and petty contractors – had begun to ﬁnd security within the ideology of Hindutva . the violence revealed a state where the police and the bureaucracy had played a blatantly partisan role.46 In tandem with this. Rane in 1981 to consider further reservations. including the kshatriyas. In 1981. Locked in a power tussle with Jinabhai Daraji. and its overall impact in implicating the system of law and order in a manner that it could . the Baxi Commission’s recommendations had taken total reservations up to 31% in education and state service. What started as a ‘half-hearted political measure’ changed the political dynamics of Gandhinagar. Mehta and M. Mehta Downloaded At: 10:04 30 October 2010 521. It received little vocal support from its intended beneﬁciaries. Yet by the end of the 1980s. Baroda and Surat and more than 40 large towns. Solanki was forced to withdraw his decision but soon thereafter the violence turned communal and continued for 2 months. . Rajiv Gandhi called for a review from Delhi. Hindutva had supplanted suvarna and the Sangh parivar had systematically co-opted adivasis and dalits through a number of course corrections. that includes accounts of the underworld don Abdul Latif and the patronage he enjoyed.
These aspirations were not merely economic or spatial.000 workers jobless. During the 2002 campaign.54 But the asmita argument did not emerge out of blank social context. with the patterns of spatial expansion and capital accumulation working to force Muslims more closely together while rendering the rest of the city as a canvas for Hindu aspirations. As Upendra Baxi put it. he delves into the realm of the symbolic and the psychological to show how the insistence on an identity formulated in the language of non-violence. It has a long history in Gujarat and even Shankarsinh Vaghela in the 1990s had sought to exploit this theme Downloaded At: 10:04 30 October 2010 . and the paucity of an internal public debate beyond the usual binaries of us versus them.South Asian History and Culture 475 later be harnessed for other means. may paradoxically render a permissive identiﬁcation with violence. In contrast.51 Others have pointed to the break-up of traditional social linkages and a systemic penetration by Sangh parivar outﬁts among adivasi and dalit communities. it becomes subservient. Parvis Ghassem-Fachandy takes an ethnographic approach. he investigates processes of stereotyping in Hindu nationalist mobilization and the relationship between imageries of Muslim meat consumption. Coming to 2002. it cannot be expected to function impartially in times of strife and can therefore be misdirected for any purpose. telling Gujaratis that they had a choice between the ideas of the Mahatma and Godse. mostly Dalits and Muslims. Arguing that the affect of disgust for meat became an important cultural relay for the vegetarian politics in the state. This may well help explain the utter lack of reﬂection in Gujarat about 2002. Rajagopal who has written extensively elsewhere on the divides inherent in the press draws attention here to the physical divisions in the city itself to understand the psychological divisions that contributed to fuelling the violence. This must be seen in tandem with the role of the media and mediated structures of publicity in forging social imaginaries. Arvind Rajagopal studies urban geographies of violence in Ahmedabad to understand how historical patterns of spatial ordering may have contributed to a given socio-political imagination. economic development and ghettoization appear to have worked in tandem in Ahmedabad. which rendered 50. Examining the urban development of the city. much has been written about the gradual penetration of Hindutva in the social DNA of Gujarat.53 One of the central prongs of the BJP’s mobilization in Gujarat since 2002 has revolved around the rhetorical device of Gujarati asmita. Gujarati newspapers were ‘thought to be capable of bringing down state governments’52 and the vibrant Gujarati press has played a pivotal role in public violence since the 1980s. Sonia Gandhi harked backed to Gandhi in Porbandar. By the 1980s. we witness ‘a most profound enactment of what Pierre Bourdieu named as the language of power and the power of language’. in Modi’s recourse to asmita. Two of the contributors in this collection focus speciﬁcally on deeper issues related to 2002. such as in the 2002 violence. mixed with clever usage of the double meaning political entendre. These patterns have assisted in the conduct as well as the denial of violence. Going beyond the immediate spark of Godhra and looking at deeper reasons. Looking at violence through the fascinating prism of vegetarianism and researching its street discourse. for instance. Communal violence is not an automatic by-product of routine patterns of corruption – it is one among many possibilities – but Shani makes the interesting observation that once a governance system is compromised in everyday life. despite its strong Jain and Bhakti traditions. but also perceptual’. concepts of diet and worship and Hindu notions of disgust. This argument resoundingly lost out to Narendra Modi’s brandishing of a hurt regional pride and asmita. scholars have pointed for instance to the collapse of the Ahmedabad textile industry in the 1980s. Rajagopal argues that historically ‘urban growth.
the question is not how these groups perceive their own project but how they are perceived by the others’. but it is a useful prism to unpack the authoritarian model of governmental developmentalism that has come to characterize Gujarat in recent years. Her ethnographic research over nearly a decade with followers of both movements leads her to question the notion of necessarily politicized religious movements. and the public discourse around it. Mona Mehta explores the narratives of the Narmada movement in Gujarat to show how the movement engaged the instruments and rhetoric of democracy to forge a popular consensus around a coercive Gujarati nativism marked by ideas of victimhood and an adversarial ‘Other’.56 A signiﬁcant constituency within the BJP clearly saw Modi as the ﬁrst among equals in a post-Advani age and he enjoyed – as he still does – the backing of capitalist elites and large swathes of the middle classes for delivering a corruption-free administration. The state-sanctioned prosecution of Ashis Nandy over a newspaper article that criticized the Gujarati middle classes was ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court of India. Mona Mehta’s account looks at it from a new angle and provides an important context to how its discourse foregrounded processes of identity formation in the state over the decades. with dollops of muscular ‘terrorist’-bashing thrown in. She Downloaded At: 10:04 30 October 2010 . fast-track clearances and what is seen as a no-nonsense rule of law. the debate about Moditva is also a metaphor for alternative visions for India. movements like Swadhyay and Tablighi Jamaat have been critiqued as being symbolic of the inroads made by religion into the secular fabric of the state. the architect of the BJP’s post2002 citadel in Gujarat? And the potential for Modi’s possibilities outside of Gujarat? Nalin Mehta puts the spotlight on the chief minister’s brand of personality politics and uses the legal battle between the eminent sociologist Ashis Nandy and the Government of Gujarat. one in which Gujarat and its politics were once again at the centre of the debate. good roads. hailing his excellent developmental record post-2002 and the creation of an investment-friendly climate in Gujarat. serve as a useful prism to understand the deeper processes at work within Moditva and the particular brand of authoritarian developmentalism it offers. But what after 2002? And what of Narendra Modi. This nativist consensus became the touchstone of political action and played a catalytic role in consolidating a politics of Hindutva in the state at the turn of the twenty-ﬁrst century. as a case study to illustrate the dominant impulses of what has been termed ‘Moditva’ or the Modi model. One of the biggest social themes in Gujarat in the past two decades has been the rise of religious movements. At one level. which unfolded in 2008. Therefore. Problematizing the concept of ‘apolitical’ movements. In this context. Mehta and M.G. On seemingly opposite sides of the spectrum. it can be read as a straight narrative of an iconic battle for freedom of speech. with little scope for dissent. But in many ways. Its future trajectory will be decisive not only for the future of Gujarat but equally for the future of the BJP and for the idea of India itself.55 At its heart is a discourse of nativism and mobilization around a narrative that had long seen Gujaratis as victims of outside meddlers. Anindita Chakrabarty focuses the anthropological gaze on both movements and argues that this may be too simplistic a reading. The legal battle erupted just a few months before a galaxy of India’s top industrialists publicly backed Modi as a future prime minister. politics and secularism. Ashis Nandy’s legal battle.476 N. she has an interesting insight: ‘Whether a movement is political or apolitical is not necessarily a question of choice that religious groups make but they acquire political signiﬁcance under certain circumstances. The Narmada movement has usually only been given prominence from the point of view of the dispossessed. Her exploration of the everyday practices of both sects and their mobilization tactics sits on the contentious junction of religion. Mehta through his Asmita Rath and Gujarat Asmita Rath.
In this context. Rather they negotiate complex internal ideological/metaphysical conﬂicts as well as larger socio-political conditions and the transformation of religious movements into political actors follows multiple trajectories. ‘Towards Hind Svaraj’. like gems in a treasure trove were the people. Taken together. 9. In East Africa there were once so many Gujaratis in the East African railways that at one point it was commonly referred to as the Patel railways. 43. The year 2010 marks not only the 50th year of the institution of the linguistic state of Gujarat. 8. Yashachandra. Somanatha. from east and south . 2. 14. 43. 5. Yagnik and Sheth. Famine and social customs both played a part in Gujarati emigration from the nineteenth century. No discussion of Gujarat can be complete without a discussion of its powerful diaspora. ‘Towards Hind Svaraj’. the important question is can it produce a novel and inclusive politics in the present era to recover this glorious image? Notes 1. Thapar. This conversation took place while on a TV reporting assignment and in the presence of Sanjeev Singh. Goolam Vahed highlights the distinct migratory history of Gujarati South Africans and the importance these histories have in perceptions of community identity. 1278–85. ‘Gujarat’. who blossomed from this conﬂuence in the world. Through a rich narrative history of transnational Gujarati mobility. . Yashachandra. ‘Communalism’ is just one of those possibilities. Vahed’s essay offers insights into the ways in which diasporic Gujarati identities have been reconﬁgured over the past century. . then NDTV’s Ahmedabad’s correspondent. 713. 7. . 42. ‘On the Origins of Gandhi’s Political Methodology’. see Thapar. Isaka. but also the 150th year since the ﬁrst-indentured Indians set foot in Natal. 12. Fifty years ago. xi. 2. the poet Sundaram lauded its role as the traditional entry point to India and as a melting pot of cultures. 13. Yashachandra.57 Nowhere was the Gujarati imprint more visible than in South Africa. Yagnik and Sheth.. Even as it remains an industrial powerhouse. ‘Towards Hind Svaraj’. 361–72. and how the Gujarati homeland is imagined in the diaspora today.. 10. The Shaping of Modern Gujarat. The Shaping of Modern Gujarat. 8. His personalized account. 77. Gandhi learnt his trade as a political reformer here. Ibid. uses ethnography and history to trace key features of the early Gujarati migratory process. Spodek. 3. long before the term NRI became famous. Chandra. 11. 6. Ibid.South Asian History and Culture 477 Downloaded At: 10:04 30 October 2010 argues that religious movements should not automatically be seen as tautologically culminating into ‘Hinduization’ and ‘Islamization’. these contributions highlight key facets of the evolution of Gujarat since 1960. ‘Language and Dominance’. as a Gujarati South African himself. and South Africa has been home to one of the larger concentrations of Gujaratis in the diaspora for over a century. To the threshold of this land came the entire world. It puts speciﬁc focus on Gujarati Muslims while also analysing the relationship between Gujarati Hindus and Muslims in South Africa.58 Gujarat’s reputation as a tolerant society and its mercantile ethos has been cardinal pillars of its self-image over the centuries. Isaka. ‘Regional Consciousness in 19th Century India’. from north and west. Mohandas K. ‘Language and Dominance’. 1–19. 4. on the occasion of Gujarat’s founding. 5.
52. ‘Catch the Inﬂuenza’. Ibid. 38. 50. Isaka. 2009). 46.. 16. Thapar. Yagnik and Sheth. 1. Yagnik and Sheth. 51. Babubhai Jashbhai Patel and Chhabildas Mehta. See for instance. ‘Gujarati Intellectuals and History Writing in the Colonial Period’. 13. 12. 75. ‘Gujarati Intellectuals and History Writing in the Colonial Period’.478 15. Mehta Yagnik and Sheth. Amarsinh Chowdhary. Ibid.. 30.com/news/2005/nov/29inter1. 171. The Shaping of Modern Gujarat.. India After Gandhi. 26. 57. Thapar. Greens and Co. Sanghavi. Creating a Nationality. 104. 79–85. 191–3. 201. November 29. 17. ‘Gujarati Intellectuals and History Writing in the Colonial Period’. Isaka. 80. 4871. Jeffrey. Wood. ‘Gujarati’. AN 160–1. despite the confrontation between Muhammad Ghuri and local rulers in twelfth century. 321–2. The Shaping of Modern Gujarat. 49. Thapar. 31. 77. 4868. 19. 21. Somanatha. Gujarat: Political Analysis. N. The Life and Times of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna. ‘In Turbulent Times Incredible Gujaratis have Raised a Voice’. Jagadu had a mosque constructed for trading partners in the fourteenth century. Shah. 55. 29. Nazim. Somanatha. 37. Chandra. ‘Gujarat Kisan Sabha.. Somanatha. 80. ‘Regional Consciousness in 19th Century India’. he refrained from conﬁscating the property of a wealthy Hindu merchant in Ghazni. Ibid. 43. 16. Downloaded At: 10:04 30 October 2010 33. 42. 54. ‘Mobilisation. 56.. ‘Patels of Central Gujarat in Greater London’. 3521. Longmans. 22. 1282–3. 58. 4867–72. 32. http://www. Munshi. 2426–31. 189. 2005. 18. 39.rediff. 34. 1197–200. 28. 200. ‘Gujarati Intellectuals and History Writing in the Colonial Period’. ‘British Versus Princely Legacies and the Political Integration of Gujarat’. The Shaping of Modern Gujarat. Guha. 202. KM Munshi. 23. Ibid. Bombay. . 35. Balwantrai Mehta. Hitendra Desai. 44. 36. Baxi. Madhavsinh Solanki. Naqvi et al.. 20. xiv. a Jaina merchant.. Quoted in Isaka. Similarly. 952–4. AN 167–72. 41. htm (accessed November 30. Ibid. 27. Isaka. ‘Review – Politics of Gujarat’. AN 162. Shah. Yashachandra. 1936–56’. 1437. Ibid. Factionalism and Voting in Gujarat’. 47. Chimanbhai Patel. ‘Towards Hind Svaraj’. On this point see Suchitra Sheth: the Rediff interview. The Shaping of Modern Gujarat. ‘British Versus Princely Legacies and the Political Integration of Gujarat’. 45. 48.. Wood. Ibid. 182–3. ‘Gujarati Intellectuals and History Writing in the Colonial Period’. ‘The Second Gujarat Catastrophe’. Ghanshyam Oza. The nine chief ministers in this period were: Jivraj Mehta. 106–10. 43. 40. Vishwanath.. Isaka. India After Gandhi. ‘British Versus Princely Legacies and the Political Integration of Gujarat’. Wood. 103–4. ‘The Upsurge in Gujarat’. 4869. Somanatha.. Patel and Rutten. Ibid. Patel. 24. 53.. Thakkar. Mehta and M. The Shaping of Modern Gujarat. ‘Middle Class Politics’. 67. 2201..G. Ibid. For instance. AN 158. 31. Quoted in Yagnik and Sheth. Ibid. Guha. Ibid. 25. Gujarata and its Literature: A Survey from the Earliest Times. 57–8. Nandy et al. Yagnik and Sheth. 4868.
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