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Gurgaon’s image soiled in the riot flames

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By Sidharth Mishra

Communal riots in India emerged only towards the second decade of the 20th century. During their 100 years journey, the communal riots have largely remained an urban phenomenon. This has been attributable to the lack of cultural roots in the urban settlements and natural bonhomie in rural habitats.

They have rarely spread to rural areas but whenever they have, it has been an onerous task to control it. The last such riots was in western Uttar Pradesh, and when we have the ongoing strife in Manipur, where the centuries long bond between farming communities belonging to different religions snapped.

The riots in Nuh and Gurgaon districts of Haryana last week, though had all the potential to spread to the rural areas, it remained limited to the urban settlements. The violence which began in the backward district of Nuh, in fact, gained media prominence only after it spread to neighbouring millennium city of Gurgaon.

Faridabad and Nuh have large Gujjar population, which are spread across to both the Hindu and the Muslim communities. When one checked during the riots with an acquaintance, a Hindu, living in Nuh about his safety, he replied that he and his property were secure and that the riots were limited to the urban periphery.

This analysis could be best matched with the hot spot of the riots – Badshahpur. This urbanised village is a famous milestone enroute to the Ansal farms on the Aravalli hills and also some of the famous schools and popular resorts in the area. The Gurgaon riots could also be called as Badshahpur riots.

But then why such riots in Badshahpur? Social theorists give three reasons for communal riots. First political, that is to survive in politics, leaders promote polarisation among the communities. This gives rise to political communalism where different sets of people belonging to different communities are divided on political lines.

The second is, social communalism, which is when beliefs of people belonging to different communities divide them into different groups, which in turn leads to social rivalry and subsequently communal violence. The third is economic communalism, when the difference in economic interests of the communities lead to clashes in the society.

Looting and burning of shops and eateries have been the most common occurrence during the urban riots during the past 100 years and the same spectacle was repeated in Gurgaon too. The economic rivalries have always added fuel to communal tension in the urban areas as it did last week in Gurgaon too.

Another point to be noted here is that the portion of Gurgaon which suffered the riots and the portion which is known globally are two totally different social and economic identities. There was peace inside the gated societies and corporate localities. Since many in Gurgaon now work from home, even the discomfort of taking a riot-hit road to office was discounted.

Such feeling of ‘safety’ reiterates a finding made by a group of sociologists few years ago mentioning, “Most (urban) households were not affected by the riots, even in the neighbourhoods that experienced riots at a higher intensity.”  The only pinch which the riots caused in these high rise condominiums was the absence of the maids, cooks, drivers and such other domestic helps.

Most of these workers belong to the migrant community, not necessarily from a minority religion. Their neighbourhood was worst affected by the riots. The urbanised villages are homes to the migrant population, living in the concrete pigeon holes in the inner alleys of Badshahpur or the shanty like camp colonies on the vacant plots.

While the riots may not have hurt and caused loss of human lives in large numbers, it certainly has hurt the image of that Gurgaon, which prided itself as India’s millennium city. A strong identity built over a period time but lost shine in no time as the news of the riots spread globally.

 

(The writer is an author and president, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice)

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