In a world of speculation and assumption, it is wonderful that Raheel Dhattiwala’s work has focussed on Gujarat 2002 from an academic angle (Dec. 31). Instead of making spurious declarations, the work tabulates data and draws its conclusions from hard facts. In India, we often find that academics is far removed from real life. The article reminds us that every researcher’s end aim must be to draw real-world conclusions from his or her academic endeavours.
No one can disagree with Ms. Dhattiwala’s observation that “spontaneity in violence has worked admirably in favour of the political elites in India.” Instead of rooting out the cause, politicians thrive by dividing people, instigating violence and trying to appease one group or the other. Citizens should understand that peace cannot be achieved through political processes. Most riots take place as a result of inflammatory religious speeches and atrocious political statements that wound sentiments.
S.A. Srinivasa Sarma,
The well-analysed facts show that the 2002 riots resulted in political gain, intentionally or otherwise. More than 11 years after the unfortunate sequence of events, the riots provide a revelation on the vicious side of a top political party.
The writer concludes that the intensity of violence in 2002 was higher in places where the BJP was politically weak and that in the subsequent election, the vote share of the BJP increased there. However, the article does not attempt to make it clear whether the result was coincidental or consequential. Logically, a high incidence of violence should have alienated Muslims further. It should have dismayed the majority community also as most people abhor a violent approach to resolving social tensions and believe in secular practices. If the objective was to instil fear in both communities, there would have been a joint reaction to defeat the offenders through adverse voting. Thus, the greater violence in weak areas for the party should have led to electoral defeat. However, the inference that the violence was caused rather than being spontaneous is well-established.
The article is misleading. In statistics, correlation does not indicate causality. It might well be true that there is positive correlation between the BJP’s electoral performance and the “amount” of communal violence that occurred in constituencies. But a researcher cannot conclude that one caused the other. Ms. Dhattiwala states that violence was the highest in areas where the BJP faced stiff electoral competition, and not where it was strong or weak. There is probably a simpler explanation. The BJP’s strongholds were probably Hindu-dominated areas with a small and dispersed Muslim population. Where the BJP-RSS was weak, presumably the “Hindu sentiment” was low. It is those constituencies that have a substantial representation of minority communities and a fairly strong BJP-RSS machinery (Hindu sentiment, that is), which are most prone to communal violence.
The article has just presented a hypothesis that violence correlates with electoral gains and used data from Gujarat to support this conclusion. It is erroneous to conclude on the basis of this article that communal violence was initiated with electoral gains in mind.