Communal Violence in Twenty-first Century India: Moving Beyond the Hindi Heartland

Date01 December 2020
Published date01 December 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Communal Violence in Twenty-first
Century India: Moving Beyond the
Hindi Heartland
Sanjal Shastri1
Using communal violence data between 2006 and 2017, this study challenges the idea that communal
violence is primarily an issue in the Hindi Heartland. The data demonstrates how Karnataka and West
Bengal are also witnessing rising levels of communal violence. The study goes on to take a closer look
at the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka and West Bengal. It demonstrates how a
combination of factors ranging from localized narratives of Hindu nationalism, caste coalitions, alliances
with regional parties and the decline of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI[M]) in West Bengal
and the Janata Party (JP)/Dal in Karnataka have been crucial factors for BJP’s rise in these two states.
Communal violence, Indian politics, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Hindu nationalism, Karnataka,
West Bengal
The sheer scale of the Godhra riots of 2002 captured national and international attention. These riots
came nearly a decade after the Babri Masjid was demolished on 6 December 1992. Looking at Hindu–
Muslim violence historically, rioting has generally taken place in waves (Brass, 2003, p. 8). The first
wave of riots goes back to 1947, when the country was partitioned. The second wave was in the late
1980s and early 1990s, when the Ram Janmabhoomi movement was accompanied by riots across the
country. The Godhra riots can be looked at as the third wave. However, unlike the previous two waves,
the Godhra riots were different. While the intensity of the violence was unlike what India had previously
seen, it was geographically confined to Ahmedabad, Vadodara and some neighbouring areas. During the
Ram Janmabhoomi agitation, rioting was geographically spread with riots in Aligarh, Bhagalpur, Meerut,
Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Mumbai and Hyderabad among other places.
Studies in Indian Politics
8(2) 266–280, 2020
© 2020 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/2321023020963721
Note: This article has been developed from my 2017 Master of Arts thesis submitted at the University of Auckland.
1 Politics and International Relations, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.
Corresponding author:
Sanjal Shastri, Politics and International Relations, University of Auckland, Auckland 1010, New Zealand.

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