Tires burning in the middle of a ransacked village in Gujarat, India, that is only one example taken from a documentary on the Gujarat pogroms, illustrating the carnage bestowed upon the minority Muslim and Christian communities in a retaliatory strike by Hindus allegedly supported by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. The attack left 2,000 dead and 100,000 in refugee camps following the burning of a train in Godhra on February 27, 2002.
University of Victoria political science lecturer Radhika Desai said that her “pessimistic” analysis of the situation leads her to believe that the events of Gujarat might constitute an example of what India’s future could become during a CERAS conference held in the Hall Building last Sunday.
Desai argues that the BJP (an upper-middle class constituency of Hindu Nationalists), the current ruling political party in Gujarat with its Hindutva (cultural nationalism) ideology, won the 2003 election over the Congress party, supposedly representing the lower caste/class minorities, because the Congress failed to present a better alternative and failed to mobilize on the post-Godhra massacres which could have assured the party’s victory.
“How can a state-sponsored pogrom which took the lives of thousands not be an election issue?” she asked.
Desai outlined four reasons why she thinks Gujarat represents an example of what’s to come in Indian politics rather than a “freak” incident.
First she explained that,”Gujarat is highly industrialised to the extent that the agrarian property owners have made some of the deepest inroads into urban sectors of the economy.” The agrarian and industrial propertied, she says, have meshed to further their interests and control labour.
Secondly, Desai argued, “Gujarat has a disproportional high upper caste population, just under 15 per cent.” She says that the Hindutva ideology has lead to the formation of a predominantly Hindu upper and middle caste/class, representing a concentration of socio-economic and political power.
Thirdly, “Gujarat is probably unique for the sheer number of castes it features, more then 80 Brahmin and 40 Bania caste alone.” Since there are more class divisions in Gujarat and little “Gujarati identity”, Hindutva becomes the only thread of unity.
Finally, Gujarat has the largest number of