Warriors in Politics: Hindu Nationalism, Violence, and the Shiv Sena in India

Warriors in Politics: Hindu Nationalism, Violence, and the Shiv Sena in India

Warriors in Politics: Hindu Nationalism, Violence, and the Shiv Sena in India

Warriors in Politics: Hindu Nationalism, Violence, and the Shiv Sena in India

Excerpt

In January 1993, an activist who runs a Muslim women's organization took me to a tenement building on Sandhurst Road, a predominantly Muslim area, in downtown Mumbai (Bombay). Building residents, all Muslims, refer to the structure as dorga chawl, the mosque tenement, because of a small, single-room mosque tucked just inside the entrance. Looking straight up at the building, I could see that all three floors had been looted and burned; the mosque room itself had been reduced to a pile of charred embers. Most of the occupants had fled the neighborhood, seeking refuge with rural relatives. Of the remaining tenants still inhabiting their homes, several hobbled about on crutches; their legs had been broken in falls, leaping from third-story windows, to escape the marauding Hindu mob that had rushed in to attack their building. The tenement's only water supply--a tap in front of the entrance, shared by 150 people-- had been destroyed. Two toilets that were also shared were likewise in ruins. Even in the best of times the crowded living conditions in the slum were not comfortable for the residents, but the violence that swept Mumbai in the previous weeks had destroyed even the little they possessed.

My guide had come to meet with the women of the building. During previous visits, some of the mothers had shared how many of their children were not speaking or exhibiting compulsive nervous behavior-- twitching eyes, nail biting, thumb sucking, excessive hand washing, and suffering from constant nightmares. In fact, many of the children in the city's riot-stricken slums manifested physical signs of post-traumatic stress, derived from first-hand experience with the violence. The children had witnessed neighbors being hacked to death, women being raped, and buildings full of people set on fire by mobs. My companion had persuaded a child psychologist friend to come and talk to the children. Today's meeting was to find out whether the mothers wanted their children to speak to the psychologist.

As we walked along the narrow path winding through open drains and heaps of garbage, I noticed a row of shacks adjacent to the chawl. Constructed of plastic, tar paper, and other refuse found littering the streets of a city, these homes were occupied by residents belonging to a . . .

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