Conflicts and Riots: History and prevention

Mumbai has been plagued by a series of riots between different groups that are often defined or identified in religious terms (and religious performances and rhetoric were recurrently part of mobilization strategies).

So far, however, we are lacking a history of these confrontations that would analyze recurrent patterns and mechanisms in the light of theoretical patterns of riot-dynamics (e.g., Brass 2006; Frøystad 2006). Moreover, even while there is a sense of potential danger among the population, the fact remains that there have not been any riots since 1993. In the context of the planned Mumbai project, a careful analysis of the main social actors and their strategies of conflict delegitimization in the aftermath of the 1992-93 Mumbai riots, as well as in more recent situations where people’s inner resistance to engage in violent conflict was enhanced, and thus (armed) combat contained/avoided, has the potential to offer considerable results with far-reaching consequences for societal development not only in an Indian context, but for multireligious societies in general. The project will focus on the active role of the so-called mohalla (neighborhood) committees in the recognizing, localizing, and handling of potentially conflictual situations in their respective parts of the city. These citizen police committees were set up in the aftermath of the 1992-93 riots, with the aim to establish communication channels between the order forces and the city’s inhabitants, particularly the Muslim community. The mohalla committees contributed substantially to the de-escalation of tense, potentially conflictual situations developed, for example, during the annual Ganapati festival in 1995, or after the Godhra killings in March 2002. One of the methods used by the committees for bringing communities together that proved effective was the organizing of sports events.

The project will look also at sport clubs (gymkhanas), and the ways in which they constitute/represent spaces of encounter, dialogue and mediation, and facilitate strategic dialogue, conflict prevention and resolution. Research on this subproject will be conducted by PhD candidate Sumanya Velamur.

(PhD project)