Hindu-Muslim Riots

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Lambert, Richard D

This study includes a history of the patterns and background of the long sequence between Hindus and Muslims in India. The riots are discussed in terms of the geographic locations where they were most prevalent, the times when they were most frequent, and the structure of the mob violence once it occurs. The method utilized is reconstruction of as many past riots as possible, together with data collected on major riots witnessed by the author during his field research upon this subject in India and Pakistan. For this purpose, a detailed schedule was constructed. The various sources for finding data upon social violence in India are discussed and their relative merits for different types of information are weighed. In addition to a chapter on methodology, the work includes the division of social violence into categories on the basis of the location of political power in respect to the warring factions. The period of Muslim rule in India found a religious minority in the dominant position so that any violence against the Muslims brought strong retaliation from the state. Under the British colonial realm, a theoretically neutral third force made religious violence a combat between equals neither of whom was backed by the government. Although there is some evidence for the biased participation of British officials in communal affairs generally in an effort to “divide and rule”, in cases of the suppression of actual violence they were relatively impartial in restoring order. Gradually the indigenous population won greater participation in the government and in the struggle for the share in the power, used the weapon of religion to gain better position and used the enhanced political position in their religious quarrels. The cycle was complete when the two religions, this time upon a basis of majority control, again became identified with state power in India and Pakistan. Once again the dominated religious community was relatively helpless in the face of the onslaught of the opposite community, now a majority, and assumed to be supported by the government. The specific riots described in detail include the Muslim-Parsi riot of 1875, the Moplah Rebellion of 1921, the Kohat Riots of 1924, the Calcutta Riots of 1925, the Bombay Riots of 1929, the Dacca Riots of 1930, the Cawnpore Riots of 1931, the Dacca Riots of 1941, the Calcutta Riots of August 1946, the Noakhali Riots of October 1946, the Bihar Riots of October-November 1946, and the Punjab Riots at the time of Partition in 1947. In addition to detailed accounts of important individual riots, a chapter describes the incidents which most frequently resulted in communal clashes, and the general political and economic background. This report is part of a larger work now in preparation on a comprehensive history of Hindu-Muslim relations in India up to and including the present troubles between India and Pakistan.

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