South Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - Right-Wing Populism and Violence on Dalits in Gujarat

Friday, July 6
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Casuarina, Lower Ground Floor

In this ethnography, I argue that ‘lynching’ is a new form of political violence created by forces at the center and mediated through groups working in tandem to reinforce a shared collective will based on transforming a diverse nation into one ‘Hindu Rashtra’.


Through in-depth interviews of Dalits’ in Una, I highlight how if on one hand the democratization of Dalits has challenged the principle of hierarchy on which the Hindu caste system is formed, on the other it has created an environment of negotiation where power and force have constantly worked in tandem to retain the existing caste practices; in this case through the trope of moral policing, which vigilante groups use to monitor the lives of those living on the margins, viz. Dalits and Muslims.


My interviews focus on Dalits in Una, Gujarat where self-appointed ‘Gau Rakshaks’, themselves upper caste but economically poor, inflicted violence upon the Sarvaiya family merely relying on rumors being mediatized through mobile applications such as WhatsApp, beating up Dalit youth for killing a cow when in reality they were doing the dirty work of disposing a cow carcass of a Patel (upper-caste) family. Beyond explaining the paradox of democratic disempowerment, my aim through these narratives is to highlight the cruel and traumatic moments of this new form of political violence and unpack its impacts on Dalits’ livelihood opportunities. I also focus on the counter-narratives of hope and trust in jurisprudence that emerge as this community looks forward to resuming their normal lives.

Saurabh Das

MICA, India

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2 - Right-Wing Populism and Violence on Dalits in Gujarat



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