Communal violence informs post-independent India’s socio-political history in a way that master narratives surrounding any violent event focus mainly on perpetrators and victims. Then, how must one tackle the challenge of discerning microhistories from within these master narratives? I examine the role of bystanders as an analytical category to reconstruct the memory of communal riots in India. For this, I look to the 2002 Gujarat Riots as a case study as they represented collective forms of violence and victimization, and raised complex questions about the links between individual responsibility, collective behaviour, and state-sanctioned violence. The memory of political violence in India has been shaped by the people and groups who are at the helm and possess the power to establish the truth. With this hierarchical characterization of society and resulting national histories, I have utilized local and alternative testimonies that provide a lens to view human experiences ostensibly different from our own and create a historical understanding of violent political events as they have unfolded in India. As the research was mainly undertaken during the pandemic, much of my sources look at the testimonies presented in the Times of India, the Human Rights Watch Report on 2002 Gujarat, monthly journal Communalism Combat, and the book Gujarat Files by journalist Rana Ayyub. This paper aims to place the bystander in its geographical, historical, and to an extent its sociological setting, to understand bystander behaviour and their socio-historical role in the making of the 2002 Gujarat Riots.
Suyesha Dutta, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, Canada
About the Presenter(s)
Ms Suyesha Dutta is a Independent Scholar at Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada in Canada
See this presentation on the full schedule – Sunday Schedule