Ethnicity and Conflict 22-12-2011

For this purpose they openly adopt violent means and further strengthen the ethnic strife in these cities. The discussion uses the example of political parties such as Shiv Sena and Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) which derive their support by banking on the ethnic divide prevalent in the analogous cosmopolitan cities of Mumbai and Karachi. linguistics or tribal lines has become futile as we see that it is a concept that persistently presents throughout history and presently envelopes many countries throughout the world. “Because we believe that our ethnic group. Attempts to elucidate ethnic conflict have been made through numerous theories but we find that none are able to solely support the argument for the origin of ethnic violence but observed in concert they form a probable explanation. which can reach extraordinary levels. our God.” From this quotation we can infer that dividing the human race according to ethnic lines is a prime example of failure of reason and when reason fails violence ensues. our society. The multi-ethnic constitution of the population in both cities is the basis of the regional politics these parties play in order to gain power. In the discussion below all various theories have been presented in an effort to explain the causes and circumstances which lead up to ethnic conflict. Neale Donald Walsh described this concept in very straightforward and apt words. Thus the central thesis of this article will be the role of ethnic violence in South Asian politics while at the same time it will reflect upon the similarities between the two cities and similar ethno-nationalist divide present in countries outside the subcontinent. our political party. Seeking to characterize ethnicity along religious.Introduction Ethnic conflict is a reality that has plagued humanity since time unknown. we kill each other. . is better than your God.

Horowitz in his book “ethnic groups in conflict” discusses that the formation of any ethno-nationalist movement requires a few essential ingredients: firstly the presence of an ethnic division in a sizeable majority. became amongst the worst affected regions of the globe. policies. because of them being highly ethnically-charged urban centers. secondly a strong sense of deprivation and insecurity to act as . did give this fact due consideration. As a result once the fervor of independence wore off. South Asia particularly Pakistan and India. At the same time nationalist movements too. Their origin. During this time very little importance was given to the ethnicities present in the areas from which these new countries were being formed and thus we saw diverse and sometimes opponent ethnicities being grouped into one nation. This can partly be attributed to the end of colonial rule and the inception of nation states. there was an upsurge in ethno-nationalist movements which adversely affected the writ of governments and lives of individuals. the Pakistan Movement.The origin of Ethnic Conflict and the role of violence In the 20th century has been a rapid surge in ethnic conflict around the globe. After the end of the World War II many new countries were carved up on the world map by the victorious countries. methods of political mobilization and blatant utilization of excessive violence as a means of establishing of a social identity and mobilization analysed in the light of theories of ethnic conflict provide insight into the deceptively simple causes and effects of ethnic conflict. e. Formation of political parties such as MQM and Shiv Sena with their political stronghold in Karachi and Bombay respectively are paradigms of such “ethno-nationalist movements”.g. The impact of these movements encompassed a variety of issues ranging from economy to security to public image.

Punjabis. traditions. In order to explain this phenomenon it would be helpful to view it in accordance with origins of MQM and Shiv Sena and the state of affairs which led up to it. traditions. This in turn is attributable to the ethnic split seen in the cities these parties are most powerful in and the influential propaganda these parties utilize. Bengalis and Muhajirs(Urdu Speaking migrants from all over India) and the fact that these communities had major difference of culture. Ethnic Groups in Conflict . history and religion to be responsible for ethnic polarization and subsequent division along these lines.1 Other theorists such as Karl Marx attempt to explain ethnic polarization according to social class does not hold true especially in South Asia as we find that affiliations to political parties according to ethnic background permeates through all strata‟s of society. According to a census Karachi‟s Muhajir (migrant) population was estimated as 55%. Rise of the MQM in Pakistan. The new nation comprised of Pashtuns. L (1985).2 During Ayub Khan's government (1958-1969) a sense of change in policy towards the Muhajirs was strongly felt and decisions like shifting of Pakistan‟s capital from Karachi to Islamabad was taken as a deliberate 1 2 Horowitz. Horowitz proponent of the primordial theory holds color. These affiliations are sometimes so strong that even fairly educated individuals fail to logically explain why they support parties like MQM which adopt violent nativist or quasi-nativist agenda. Farhat. Balochis. The massive influx of Muslims from India led to a Muhajir (migrant) majority in Karachi. feature similarities combined with common customs. language and customs was largely ignored.Berkely University of California Press.fuel and a political issue capable of providing a spark to ignite the masses. Sindhis. D. 1995 . Haq. After gaining independence from the colonial rule of the British in 1947 the nation of Pakistan was formed on the ideology of Islam which was the sole binding force between the Muslims.

Till now most of the Muhajir youth was involved in politics only at the activism level for the Jamiate-Islami but all this was about to change.4 The picture was even grimmer on the streets of Karachi and Muhajir youth was subject to open discrimination at the hands of the other ethnicities present in the city especially Pathans. The circumstances can be judged from the fact that when a Pathan (since they had a monopoly over the public transport business in the city) entered a bus a Muhajir had to vacate his or her seat to accommodate the new traveler. Farhat. . The new found strength of number in the Muhajir community and the struggle of the Bengalis for their own nation built a conviction in the Muhajir youth that in order to improve their situation there was a dire need for action. 1995 Ibid. Muhajir students were publicly and brutally beaten in Karachi University on trivial arguments.attempt to marginalize the Muhajir population. Rise of the MQM in Pakistan.3 The subsequent governments of Bhutto and Zia also did not help the situation and the sense of isolation amongst the Muhajir population grew. Most of these migrants settled in Karachi and thus there was an exponential growth in the number of Muhajirs in the city. Altaf Hussain a student of B.Pharmacy in the University of Karachi had already formed a student organization called All Pakistan Muhajir Student Organization (APMSO) which included primarily if dissidents from the student wing of 3 4 Haq. Perhaps one of the most significant events which affected the evolution of the Muhajir community during this time was the formation of Bangladesh from East Pakistan. During the terrain of these governments there was gradual curtailment of Muhajirs from government offices and Muhajirs were reduced to a minority in the provincial government of Sindh although they still held important offices in the federal government due to their string educational background. The partition of Pakistan saw a huge migration of Biharis from the previously Pakistani province of East Pakistan which had now become the independent country of Bangladesh.

In the neighbouring country of India.6 This marked the birth of MQM‟s violent agenda which has weighed down on Karachi ever since. The Marathis claimed to be rightful heirs to the land. education and government. As the 5 6 Waseem. Wages of violence: naming and identity in post-colonial Bombay. promoting the sense of deprivation and hence need for action. Akmal. In order to solve this issue the influx of migrants had to be stopped and the South Indains were vehemently opposed. Saffronisation of the Shiv Sena. 1995 8 Hansen.5 He was actively spreading the „cause‟ of Muhajirs which was to fight back with violence against the forces discriminating against them. the Marathis in Mumbai guided by a similar sense of deprivation were led by Balasaheb Thackeray to form a movement capable of representing their issues. The state of Maharastra was formed on the 1st of may 1960 and its capital Mumbai comprised of 57% migrants consisting of a various ethnic groups ranging from Biharis to Gujratis and South Indains7 and as a consequence the Martathi were suffering a decrease in share of jobs. 1990 7 Lele. the 'sons of the soil'8 and hence believed that they deserved a far greater share of the opportunities then that which they were receiving. Based on claims of 'indigeousness' Thackeray created awareness amongst the Marathi population of Mumbai. Ethnic Conflict in Pakistan. Mohammad. 1996 . Altaf was successful in provoking the sense of deprivation prevalent in the community and a huge amount of Muhajir youth rallied behind him. Jayant. a young muhajir girl was murdered in a road traffic accident by a reckless pathan bus driver. Aggression reached a peak on April 15th 1986 when Bushra Zaidi. Riots and armed clashes broke out throughout the city between pathans and muhajirs. The Karachi Riots of December 1986. A proficient orator.Jamiat-e-Islami. 1996 Hussain. It is important to note here that this apparent decrease was exaggerated by Bal Thackeray in his weekly Marmik as data shows that the distribution of jobs amongst the various ethnicities in Mumbai was fairly stable during the 60‟s. Thomas Blom.

This leads to the belief in an „other‟ who is not truly responsible for the suffering of the former. 1995 Zizek. According to Zizek's theory the ethnic group believes that all the current problems must be attributed to a certain enemy. Saffronisation of the Shiv Sena. symbolism. Interestingly violence itself is a product of the perception of the „other‟ argues Slavoj Zizek10. Throughout the course of these parties it is seen that their ethno-nationalist policies are directed to appeal to the target groups they derive their support from. the youth brimming with feelings of resentment demand a culprit to direct those feelings. Jayant. In 9 10 Lele. Thus it is usually observed that both cities always suffer from underlying ethnic strife with intermittent bouts of violent uprising between the different ethnicities. A prime example of this sort of projection of the „other‟ can be seen in one of Thackeray‟s statement about Muslims: “Their aim is to convert entire Hindustan into Islam. Thomas Blom. justifying the need for violence and subsequent mobilization.”11 Such negative propaganda creates a sense of insecurity and urgency to take dire action.9 Both Karachi and Mumbai are one of the biggest cosmopolitan cities and economic hub of their respective countries and cannot afford to be persistently engulfed in ethnic riots. Thackeray formed Shiv Sena on the 19th of June 1966. The baseline ethnic tension is precisely what MQM and Shiv Sena rely upon and work to maintain. The Big Other Doesn’t Exist! p. 8 Hansen. Personifying the ancient 'might is right' both organization moved forward resorting to conflict in order to determine their supremacy. The dissemination of such beliefs by propaganda is able to give shape to the vague ideas of the public and is used to justify the need to take violent action against the „other‟ ethnicity.anti-migrant sentiment gradually translated into hostility against the migrants. Slavoj. Wages of violence: naming and identity in post-colonial Bombay. 1996 11 . We are left with two choices either to embrace Islam or destroy Islam. This is achieved through various means which include negative propaganda.

Numerous posters of MQM can be found throughout Karachi showing a closed fist which is an expression of power and aggression that aptly illustrates the policy of utilizing violence to establish dominance. the alpha predator who is at the top of the food chain. Aided by these modalities of disseminating beliefs to mesmerize the public an insignificant issue suddenly becomes vital for the survival. and a sense of insecurity that the violence builds which leads to the belief that if the party in question is elected than the violence will end (e. Mary F. the ethno-political affiliation they feel to these parties as a guardian of their ethnicity (a point both parties repeatedly pronounce). Ethnic mobilization and ethnic violence. As illustrated by Fearon that ethnic presence is only relevant in the wake of a socially significant issue adversely affecting the ethnicity. Oxford handbook of political economy 2004 .13 The circumstances are a product of mass propaganda by party leadership spreading a belief via speeches.12 Through the above mentioned strategy these parties are able to gain the vote of individuals not aligned with the ethnic movement and the latter are inevitably led to join in based on mainly three factors. these parties create circumstances which pose different ethnicities against each other.James. The Shiv Sena on the other hand is represented by a Bengali tiger.. the impending feeling of injustice due to the violent hostility they create between ethnicities. Almost more than a year 12 13 Katzenstein. A recent occurrence demonstrating this phenomenon is the wave of killings seen all around Karachi from August to December of 2011. The Rebirth of the Shiv Sena. At the same time whenever these parties feel that they are losing their support amongst the public they tactically work to create issues which can spring their agenda back into relevance. banners. 1997 Fearon D.addition to this the symbols of these parties are pertinently chosen to represent their policies and ideologies and promote hostile behavior. pamphlets and the electronic media.g. et al. hence emphasizing the need for immediate action which manifests as ethnic violence. if MQM is elected than violence will cease in Karachi).

It is documented in history that Ram Mandir was destroyed by the Mughal emperor Baber when he came to Hindustan but the exact place of the temple is unknown. just like MQM did in Karachi. a political rival of MQM. Almost nine years prior to this event.says MQM. Nearly 900 people lost their lives in the days after the demolition but Shiv 14 15 Ali Rashid. Shiv Sena had also shattered the peace of Mumbai. Utilizing this moment as an opportunity to gain electoral advantage and to prevent fingers being pointed to them for the spillage of blood. Friday 23 December 2011 Jaffrelot C. once again. with the Ayodha dispute of Babri Masjid. Eventually hindu masses were rallied for this cause and the mosque was annihilated. that Muhajirs were being victimized in Karachi. Unfortunately. no one was held responsible and MQM converted the ugly situation into its gain by using ethnicity as a shield against the blood it spilt.15 The Hindu „conscience‟ was provoked through fiery speeches to destroy the Babri mosque to avenge an incident which occurred nearly 400 years ago. Claims were made that the Babri Masjid had been built upon land where once a hindu temple called Ram Mandir existed. C. as is the case with most issues in Pakistan. Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics 1925-1990’s. As expected the muslims retaliated back against the injustice and the whole situation culminated in what is now remembered as the Bombay riots of 1992. Slowly tensions began to rise amongst the two parties and a power struggle for the city‟s resources ensued.14 This alleged „talibanisation‟ were new migrants entering Karachi most of whom were pathans and consisted predominantly of supporters of ANP (Awami National Party). The power struggle eventually culminated into armed clashes and targeted killing throughout the autumn of 2011 and once again the sewers of Karachi were filled with blood. The Talibinization of Karchi must be stopped. MQM gave the wave of violence an ethnic color and started projecting.before this wave of killings Altaf Hussein had repeatedly started releasing statements that Karachi is under the threat of „talibanisation‟. Hurst 1996 rd .

.Sena was able to achieve its goal. Hurst 1996 ^ "Transitional Justice in the Former Yugoslavia". CONCLUSION: MQM and Shiv Sena analyzed under the light of theories on ethnic conflict reveal the fact that the creation of these organization is a gradual process initiating with a sense of deprivation that serves to unite the ethnic group and polarize the society. Furthermore the flagrant use violence used for establishing identity by providing direction to the enraged youth for purely political motives is highlighted by Shiv Sena and MQM‟s colorful history. Ethnic conflicts global impacts need to be understood in order to resolve them. As ethnic conflicts are not confined to the South Asia but are an issue of global importance. worsened by leaders politicizing the deprivation utilizing the concept of the „other‟ by means of holding the other responsible for the present state of affairs that emphasizes the necessity of political organization to represent the ethnic group. 140.17 Genocide was committed in the name of ethnic cleansing with the objective of eliminating one group to establish their dominance. C. 1 January 2009. Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics 1925-1990’s. Crimes as heinous as intentional 16 17 Jaffrelot C. Another example of ethnic violence is the Yugoslav wars (1991-1995) fought between the Serbs and the „Croats and Bosniaks‟ mainly is further evidence of the crimes committed by man solely on the basis of ethnic differences.000 human lives were taken because they simply had been born to the wrong family.16 They went on to win a sweeping majority in the next municipal elections of Bombay as they had broken the muslim vote of Congress (as muslims lost hope in the Congress government to protect their rights) and gained popularity amongst the Hindu voters as the avenger of past atrocities and a messiah of the future.

the incontrovertible evidence provided in this essay is sufficient to trigger government reforms to finally lay this beast to rest if only it found it pair of willing hands. And the time for action is now.18 Such blatant use of violence is unjustifiable . As we step in the new millennium unfortunately we are still unworthy of labeling ourselves „civilized‟. Ethnic conflict is a constant reminder of man‟s thirst for violence since time immemorial. Despite of creating a global village we still haven‟t learnt the value of a human life and still consider it insignificant in comparison to our greed for power and influence. In the wake of these conflicts the human race cannot and will not progress. a proof of his barabarism. 18 ^ United Nations Commission on Breaches of Geneva Law in Former Yugoslavia .rape of Bosnian women by Serbian soldiers were committed with the purpose of eliminating the bonds between the women and their community.

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