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Jats, Khaps and Riots: Communal Politics and the Bharatiya Kisan Union in Northern India (pages 22–42)

R. Ramakumar

Journal of Agrarian Change, Volume 17, Issue 1, January 2017

Contrary to the general view that communal riots in India are urban-centred, the rural areas of Muzaffarnagar in the state of Uttar Pradesh were the site of a major communal riot in September 2013. The majority of victims in the riot were Muslim labourers from the lower-caste groups, and the alleged perpetrators were members of the relatively prosperous Hindu Jat households. This paper deals with how the leadership and membership of a ‘new farmers’ movement’ – the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) – actively internalized, and helped entrench, a communal discourse that preceded the riots. It argues that the reasons for why the identity of a ‘Hindu’ prevailed over the class-neutral identity of a ‘farmer’ during the riots can be traced to the ways in which the BKU has historically sought to culturally construct the identity of a ‘farmer’. The political intermediation of the traditional institution of khaps is highlighted as central to this process. Khaps played a major role in spreading and sustaining a communal discourse and preparing the ground for the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013.

URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/joac.12146/abstract

Courtesy: Wiley online library

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