The recent disorder in Leicester echoes the ‘communalist’ politics that now dominates India thanks to the ruling BJP
- Chetan Bhatt is professor of sociology at the London School of Economics
The terrible events in Leicester last month saw several hundred young people marching to Green Lane Road on 17 September chanting, “Jai Shri Ram” (“Glory to Lord Rama”). Other youths, in response, gathered to chant “Allahu Akbar”. Both expressed heady allegiance to their god – not as a simple demonstration of faith, but as a combative slogan against others. Several British politicians have intervened, as have the governments of India and Pakistan. Social media “influencers” descended on Leicester to video themselves and their “patrols” and further provoke young people. With a few important exceptions, most of those intervening chose to enlarge, rather than contest, a dangerous logic of communalism. It is in their political interests to keep communities pitted against each other.
“Communalism” is a term that will be familiar to those who follow the politics of south Asia. Perhaps less so to others: it refers to a negative, discriminatory, or hate-driven orientation to people of other faiths, and a superiority regarding one’s faith. Once upon a time, in post-independence India, it was a filthy word. To be accused of communalism was to be considered to be something like a racist or fascist, someone who harboured hatred and wanted to generate antagonism towards other religious or caste groups.
Chetan Bhatt is professor of sociology at the London School of Economics Continue reading...