(Centre for Culture, Media & Governance successfully organized a book launch and panel discussion ‘On Everyday Communalism, Riots in Contemporary Uttar Pradesh’. The panel discussion was followed by question and answer session by the audience that included students, research scholars and the faculty. The book is written by Prof. Sudha Pai and Dr. Sajjan Kumar.)
Introducing the author and the book, Prof. Biswajit Das noted that the very title of the book is extremely fascinating. He suggested that the notion of ‘everyday’ is a debated and engaged topic in social sciences as we are more engaged with the everydayness of late. This book goes beyond the traditional binaries of secularism and communalism and the idea of everydayness provides a unique theoretical perspective to engage with the term communalism.
Prof. Sudha Pai in her brief overview of the book opined that the book is an attempt to understand the reasons for the resurgence of communalism and riots in Uttar Pradesh in 2000s after a long interval. She explained the meaning of everyday communalism which she suggests has root in communal conscious. Its aim is to make a permanent anti-Muslim communal prejudice within the society and make it accessible in public discourse. The book has documented the riots in eastern and western UP. It delineates the new ways and means by which communalism is being manufactured by the Hindu right in UP in the 2000s. Uttar Pradesh in 2000s is very different from that of 1990s. In order to analyse the new form of communalism the book has used the model of ‘institutionalized everyday communalism’. Everyday communalism is a powerful tool and has succeeded in creating a pervasive polarization that communal riots in the past did not.
Dr. Sajjan Kumar explained how everydayness in the context of everyday communalism is operating on the ground. He explained the modus operandi of the everyday communalism; how it is happening in eastern UP as well as in the western UP. He suggested that in the post-Mandal politics that emerged in late 1990s, the lower OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits felt left out as their aspirations were not met by the political parties like BSP and SP. This created a vacuum amongst lower OBCs who did not resonate with the identity of Dalit Bahujans which led to the rise of a new phase of Hindutva politics in UP. Traditionally, the lower OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits have been sharing the social space with the Muslims. The sense of relative deprivation between these groups contributes to the communalisation of the petty and mundane incidents in everyday life.
Prof. Rizwan Qaiser shared his concerns on how and why have Muslims have become the ‘other’ in India, a phenomenon which according to him is inadequately explained in most literature produced on communalism in India. He also observed that the everyday space which Muslims and Hindus shared historically has shrunk. Making his observations on the book, Prof. Rizwan Qaiser raised his disagreement on the term ‘fringe’ used in the book to refer to organisations like VHP, Bajrang Dal etc., as they ceases to be the fringe group but has become mainstream already.
Dr. Mujeebur Rehman noted that the strength of the book lies in the fieldwork undertook by the authors. When we use the concept of ‘everyday communalism’, we presume that there is something called everyday secularism and as its sequel everyday communalism. However, everyday secularism is a non reality in India. He recognized that the book goes beyond the common understanding of communalism apropos riots whereas communalism persists in a non riot situation as well.
In his concluding remarks, Prof. Das noted that the book demystifies the notion of riots and communalism. This book could be placed as point of departure from the conventional narrative of understanding communalism by using the theoretical apparatus of everydayness.
Compiled by Shipra Raj