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Historic Election or Not (76 KB)

The Modi Wave

The Modi Wave
Historic election or not? The election results were certainly a surprise to most people Although the BJP had been favored to win, none predicted a landslide for the party. On the non-historic side is an article by Adam Ziegfield, in which he enumerates several aspects of the victory that seem less surprising than many people think. For the most part, his reasoning reflects the proverbial diversity of the country, which has never permitted a single party or political tendency to win a majority of votes in the country as a whole, though the Congress on a few occasions came very close to doing so. Moreover, even on those occasions, it has rarely been the case that the parties involved in the several states of the union, have been sufficiently united to impose a genuine single-party dominance. Most coalitions that have been put together to win a majority have fallen short in numbers of voters, have been, in fact, alliances of different tendencies rather than united single parties. To put the matter bluntly, they have all been marriages of convenience, for there is, in fact, no such thing as party loyalty in India at all. Indeed, to go even further, India simply has never had a party system based on what is called in the West "party loyalty." It is alien to Indian politics.

The Politics of Northern India: 1937 to 1987, Volume I: An Indian Political Life: Charan Singh and Congress Politics, 1937 to 1961

This book follows the early career of a man of principle and pride, a dedicated nationalist, who at once loved his country while condemning the path chosen for it by its leaders and the majority of its practicing politicians. He came from a humble background and from the countryside, though he was no country bumpkin, but a self-made man of high intellect and spoke for a new social movement, that of the backward castes of northern India, whose interest he always promoted and in whose advancement he played the most important role.

False Dichotomies: Truth, Reason, and Morality in Nietzsche, Foucault, and the Contemporary Social Sciences

Atrocities punctuate the daily news in our times, intensified since 9/11 in New York to Bombay (Mumbai) 2008 as this abstract is written. While such atrocities arise from sentiments of grievance, they are fed, continued, and justified by false dichotomies that are proclaimed by world leaders and commentators in the press and academia, especially the true believers among them, believers in good and evil, in ultimate truths, in reason, and morality. They infect east and west, all exclusive religions, and the minds of millions. They infect academic debates as well, where Nietzscheans and anti-Nietzscheans, Foucauldian and anti-Foucauldians contest stridently, while often misreading the writings of both. But my reading, at least, is that reflection on what these two thinkers have had to say about truth, reason, and morality should give us pause to think about the broader complicity of world leaders, campaigners for truth and justice, religious spokespersons, ardent nationalists in new states and old, and our own academic selves in the descent of our societies into justifications for spreading murder and mayhem and into retaliations that produce nothing but an interminable spiral that is likely to lead nowhere but to the next nuclear catastrophe we all claim to fear.

Forms of Collective Violence: Riots, Pogroms, and Genocide in Modern India

This collection of essays focus on the various forms of collective violence that have occurred in India during the past six decades, which include riots, pogroms, and genocide. It is argued that these various forms of violence must be understood not as spontaneous outbreaks of passion, but as productions by organized groups. Moreover, it is also evident that government and its agents do not always act to control violence, but often engage in or permit gratuitous acts of violence against particular groups under the cover of the imperative of restoring order, peace, and tranquility. This has certainly been the case in numerous incidents of collective violence in India where curfew restrictions have been used for just such purposes. In this context, secularism constitutes a countervailing practice, and a set of values that are essential to maintain balance in a plural society where the organization of intergroup violence is endemic, persistent, and deadly.

The Political Uses of Crisis: The Bihar Famine of 1966-1967

The great drought of 1966 in bihar and the declaration of famine that ultimately followed it in 1967 precipitated a major political crisis. Controversy raged among the politicians concerning the seriousness of the anticipated crop failure, the extent of its distribution, the severity of the distress it produced, the adequacey of relief measures and the responsibility for them, whether or not the situation might have been anticipated and prevented by alternate policies, and what policies might be adopted in the future to prevent a recurrence. The press reports about the developing crisis situation and the responses of the politicians and authorities to the situation turned the Bihar Famine of 1966-67 into a political drama in which many of the pricnipals self-consciously played their roles on the public state.

Corruption and Anti-Corruption on the Eve of Indian Independence

Before Independence, before the first General Elections, before the First Five Year Plan, before the full-scale launching of the elaborate and all-pervasive system of controls over the production, import, and distribution of “essential” commodities under the policies of import substitution, and before the coining of the term, “permit-license-quota raj,” a corruption system was in place in Meerut district and, to be sure, in every other district in this state, if not in the rest of the country as well. Further, corruption was embedded from the beginning in the very roots of Indian society, in its local conflicts from village to town, district, and state. Paradoxically, the very pervasiveness of corruption also imparted to Indian political rhetoric a distinctive spirit, namely, a focus on personal character, reputation, and integrity, which in turn had two consequences. One was that mud-slinging became the preferred form of attacking one’s rivals and opponents. This in turn led to the constant need for those unstained by corrupt practices to defend themselves and their integrity against charges that they were themselves corrupt. Further, it turned a whole society towards a chimerical search for one honest man who could be trusted with power.

Collective Violence, Human Rights, and the Politics of Curfew

Curfew imposition and administration in times of collective violence raise human rights issues that have been virtually completely ignored, often allowing local, state, and national political units to act with impunity against internal racial and religious minority groups. Many regimes have used curfews as means of control, victimization, and outright violence against targetted groups rather than as devices to bring peace during violent times for the benefit of all. Evidence from field research in northern India is provided to illustrate the myriad abuses of curfew restrictions that have taken place regularly in that country over the past half century. A list of suggested reforms are provided as a step towards ending the misuse of curfew restrictions during times of violence in India and elsewhere.

Victims, Heroes, or Martyrs? Partition and the Problem of Memorialization in Contemporary Sikh History

Consideration of some general aspects of genocide and ethnic cleansing that present great obstacles to the peoples concerned in finding appropriate terms of commemoration, lessons for the future, and recovery of group respect, with special reference to the case of the Sikhs, but in a comparative perspective.

Review Symposium: The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India by Paul R. Brass

Reviews of my book by Thomas Blom Hansen, A. R. Momin, and Roger Petersen, with my response. From ETHNICITIES, March, 2006, Vol. 6 (1): 102-17.
Review Symposium (86.8 KB)

Development of an Institutionalised Riot System in Meerut City, 1961 to 1982

Meerut city in Uttar Pradesh (India) has been a site of endemic Hindu-Muslim riots since before Independence. In Meerut, as in other cities and towns in northern India and elsewhere, an institutionalised system of riot production (IRS) has been created, which can be activated during periods of political mobilisation or at the time of elections. This article focuses on two riots in Meerut that occurred in post-Independence India, divided by a gap of 20 years. The 1961 riot is presentd as a benchmark to contrast with the much deadlier killings that occurred in 1982, to illustrate how the IRS became more efficient and deadly in the intervening period and to explain how and why these changes took place.

Elite interests, popular passions, and social power in the language politics of India

Movements for the recognition and official establishment of particular languages in India, among the many hundreds that have been identified and classified by linguists, grammarians, and census takers, have been prominent and recurring features of politics in the subcontinent for a century-and-a-half. These movements have invariably been competitive in character, demanding preference for one, and displacement of other, actual or potential rivals. Further, they have sometimes been associated with hostile and venomous characterizations of both a rival language and its speakers, leading to intercommunal/interethnic violence. Despite the turbulent history of such movements in modern India, viable compromises have been reached concerning the status of the multiplicity of Indian languages and their hierarchical ordering for various purposes. These compromises, however, have profound consequences for the life chances, including the empowerment and disempowerment of all India’s citizens. These consequences have only recently begun to attract scholarly attention.

"The Body as Symbol in the Production of Hindu-Muslim violence"

There exists in India a discourse of Hindu-Muslim communalism that has corrupted history, penetrated memory and contributes in the present to the production and perpetuation of communal violence. This discourse is infused with body symbolism. It characterizes the partition of India as a vivisection of the Hindu body perpetrated by Muslims, which requires and justifies retaliation upon Muslim bodies. This retaliation has been enacted repeatedly in numerous riots and pogroms in post-Independence India.

The 1984 Parliamentary Elections in Uttar Pradesh

"The 1984 Parliamentary Elections in Uttar Pradesh," Asian Survey, XXIV, No. 6 (June, 1986), 653-669.

Muslims in Hindu Nationalist India

Transcript of a discussion with Asghar Ali Engineer and audience at the Center for Ethics and Public Policy, Washington, D. C., held on January 12, 2004

On the Study of Riots,Pogroms, and Genocide

The study of the various forms of mass collective violence has been blighted by methodological deficiences and ideological premises that are as endemic to the contemporary social sciences as are riots in many of the societies we study. Indeed, it often seems that, as with so much other social science work, our purpose is to display our theoretical skills rather than to expose to view the dynamic processes that produce the phenomena we study. Our work then becomes entangled—even through the very theories we articulate—in the diversionary tactics that are essential to the production and reproduction of violence.

The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India

Communal violence in India has become endemic and a "normal" part of politics in that country. This book exposes the mechanisms by which such violence is deliberately provoked and sustained. It implicates the police, criminal elements, business people, and many of India's leading political actors in a continuous effort to "produce" communal violence. Much like a theatrical production, specific roles are played, with phases for rehearsal, staging, and interpretation.

Theft of an Idol:Text and Context in the Representation of Collective Violence

Presents five studies of rural and urban public violence in contemporary India, including police-public confrontations and Hindu-Muslim riots. In each case, large-scale public violence arose out of common occurrences such as a drunken brawl, the rape of a girl, and the theft of an idol. In all cases also, multiple narratives, meanings, and interpretations arose to explain the violence, often strikingly different from each other.

Riots and Pogroms

Riots and Pogroms presents comparative studies of public violence in the twentieth century in the United States, Russia, Germany, Israel, and India with a comparative, historical, and analytical introduction by the editor, Paul R. Brass. The focus of the book is on the interpretive process which follows riots and pogroms, rather than on the search for their causes. Its emphasis is on the struggle for control over the meaning of riotous events, for the right to represent them properly. How do political and social forces seek to assign causes and attach labels to riots, attribute motives to rioters and "pogromists," and explain why particular groups are selected for violent assaults? To what degree does organization and/or spontaneity play a role in these incidents?

The Politics of India Since Independence

The first edition of the Politics of India Since Independence argued that the Indian state, society, and economy were in the midst of a systematic crisis produced by the centralizing drives of a national leadership determined to transform the country into a modern, industrialized, militarily strong state. This second edition noted the intensification of the crisis that revealed itself in secessionist movements and in increased inter-caste conflicts. The country also witnessed at the end of this period the rise of Hindu nationalism and the worst communal massacres since Independence following the destruction of the mosque in Ayodhya. The issue before the country then and since has been whether or not it could find within its own traditions the moral and material resources and the leadership to restore a political and communal balance in state and society.

Ethnicity and Nationalism: Theory and Comparison

Ethnicity and nationalism, interethnic conflicts, and secessionist movements have been major forces shaping the modern world and the structure and stability of contemporary states. In the closing decades of the twentieth century, such forces and movements emerged with new intensity. Drawing examples from a wide variety of multiethnic situations around the world, with special emphasis on South Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union, the book presents a distinctive theory concerning the origins of ethnic identity and modern nationalism.

Ethnic Groups and the State

Contains nine chapters: an introduction by Paul R. Brass and chapters on Africa (Crawford Young), the Ottoman State (Kemal Karpat), Slovak Nationalism (David M. Paul), Yugoslavia Paul V. Warwick and Lenard J. Cohen), Spain (Davydd J. Greenwood), Belgium (Maureen Covell), South Africa (Heribert Adam), and the United States (Alvin J. Ziontz).
The book examines the effects of the state, its official ideologies, its structural forms and its specific policies upon the formation of ethnic identity viewed as a process that involves three sets of struggles. One takes place within the ethnic group itself for control over its material and symbolic resources. The second takes place between ethnic groups, as a competition for rights, privileges and available resources. The third takes place between the state and the groups that dominate it on the one hand and the population that inhabits its territory on the other hand.

Language, Religion, and Politics in North India

This book is concerned with the ways in which two powerful symbols of group identity, i.e. language and religion, have been manipulated by political elites to promote communal and national movements and with the consequences of such movements for the political cohesion of India. It focuses specifically on the great issues of religious cleavage and language change in north India during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which witnessed the simultaneous development of political conflict among Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs and between the Hindi movement and movements on behalf of other languages and dialects in the north.

Factional Politics in an Indian State

Case studies from five districts in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (the largest state in the Indian Union) of the functioning of the Congress party in the first 15 years after Independence. Based on field research and personal interviews in the state for a period of nearly 17 months.

Foucault Steals Political Science

The subject matter of what has been traditionally considered central to political science, namely, power and government, has been stolen by Foucault while central trends in the discipline as a whole have departed markedly from serious engagement with those topics. Yet Foucault's discussions and analyses of power and government are so original, so striking in their import not only for the way we do political science, but for our lives, thought, and practices as scholars, that his work ought by now to have become a focal point for the resurrection of these topics and their restoration to centrality in the discipline.