Ideological Violence II

June 24, 2009

Ayyo! Alas! Alamak! My post on ideological violence in Delhi and other cities has provoked controversy in the comments, with various people accusing me of saying that everyday violence provides catharsis, or that I was trying to use twenty years of peace to play down the anti-Sikh riots, or that I was saying that Delhi was better than everywhere else or that Delhi was worse than everywhere else.

People, I was not trying to imply anything with that post. It was purely an observation, and I threw it out in a short blogpost. I did not give much thought to the why’s and wherefores of this. I am now paying the price for writing like Dilip D’ Souza and not stating what is a premise and what is a conclusion. So, to clarify things:

  • I don’t think that the everyday violence necessarily acts as catharsis or prevents large scale violence from happening. The presence of everyday violence and lack of ideological violence in Delhi probably spring from two different reasons.
  • One thing I didn’t write in the original post but mentioned in the comments was that there is mob violence in Delhi but it’s not ideological. Just yesterday a mob ransacked a police station and thrashed the policemen after they gangraped someone inside. In fact the thrashings by mobs happen regularly everytime some rich wanker runs down a kid. And back in the 1990s, when power cuts would go on too long, entire neighbourhoods would get together and start stoning transformers or Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking offices. So yeah, the catharsis thing is definitely untrue – there is mob violence – but it’s retributive, not ideological.
  • I am not trying to say that a high murder and rape rate makes Delhi preferable to places where these are lower but there’s a riot every six months. Or vice versa. That’s just stupid.
  • I am not trying to play down or be apologetic for the anti-Sikh riots.

Now that I’ve given some thought to this issue – I think the reason there’s very little ideological violence in Delhi is that in the other states ideological violence is usually caused by different identity groups jockeying for power and access to government machinery  – or if not directly to grab power, as a show of strength or threat on behalf of political parties.

In Delhi, everyone has access to someone in government somehow. A neighbour or relative or some connection will be anything from a political party member to a minor clerk to an IAS officer. There’s hardly anybody who’s totally excluded from the administrative or political process, and so nobody needs to join a mob to grab the spoils of government. Delhi’s corruption is very democratic. In other states, government servants’ class, caste or language biases could mean that they won’t do your work even if you’re ready to bribe them.