Book Review: Verghese, Ajay. 2016. The Colonial Origins of Ethnic Violence in India

AuthorAmit Ranjan
Published date01 August 2017
Date01 August 2017
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 251
and foundation for students across the social science disciplines as well as for
scholars who are eager to understand the political perspectives on democracy,
and their struggle to get there. The much-awaited journey to a consolidated
democracy in Thailand is like a roller coaster ride that requires serious commitment
of the Thai people towards their king, their society and above all their country.
However, Ferrera could have discussed the fact that in spite of intermittent political
challenges, the Thai society has remained stable due to the enduring role-played by
the monarchs. Today, Thailand is strongly committed to participatory and multiparty
democracy based on good governance. How such things have been possible remains
a big question.
Nalanda Roy
Armstrong State University
Savannah, GA, USA
Verghese, Ajay. 2016. The Colonial Origins of Ethnic Violence in
India. Stanford, USA: Stanford University Press. 273 pp. ISBN
DOI: 10.1177/2347797017710577
Ethnic violence in multi-ethnic India is almost a political norm with some groups
able to reap major political gains out of their activities. Such reactionary violence
also tends spread across the entire country as was the case with the 1984 anti-Sikh
riots, the 1989–1990 caste riots, the 1992 Hindu-Muslim riot and so on. This has
become rampant in post-independent India, especially since 1980s when identity-
based groups mushroomed and everyone started seeking power. In such a stiff
competition for power, ethnic violence proved to be an effective weapon through
which society can be polarized to reap an electoral gain.
In The Colonial Origins of Ethnic Violence, Ajay Verghese has explored the
reasons for ethnic violence in colonial India through a comparative study of an area
under the British India and princely states. In essence, the key conclusions of his
study were that the religious discrimination was part and parcel of the Hindu princely
states while caste-based discriminations were there in British India. He found out
that the Hindu princely states were accomdative towards caste but practiced
discrimination against non-Hindu religious groups. In contrast, the British provinces
maintained the religious and caste differences. His conclusion is based on study of
Ajmer and Jaipur in North India, Travancore and Malabar in South and Bastar in the
central India. There is some but not full reflection of his conclusion in present India,
still an analogy can be drawn from such an important study by Verghese.
Looking into the politics over religious groups in medieval India, Verghese
finds out that during the rule of the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, there was a
sudden rise in the religious revolts, such as those carried out by the Marathas,

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