South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Lynching, Norms, and Silence in Contemporary India

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Juniper, New Building

Since September 2015, mobs have lynched dozens of Muslims and Dalits in India, most of them accused of killing cows or consuming beef. Bharatiya Janta Party ministers and parliamentarians have asserted that although the violence was unfortunate, a majority of Indians support upholding the preventive and punitive protection of cows. So why don’t target atrocities against Muslims and Dalits carried out in the name of Hinduism evoke effective political sanction? I offer an account of the creation and sustenance of a social norm that justifies lynching, and subsequently obfuscates and stifles dissent and opposition. I argue that social organizations effectively built support for the norm of punishing cow-slaughter by creating a singular, reductive account of Hindu political objectives and becoming the sole spokespersons of Hindu interests.

I discuss two mechanisms that might sustain this norm. First, drawing on Alexis de Tocqueville, I suggest that the BJP's double majority – its electoral majority and the Hindu majority it claims to speak for – produces pluralistic ignorance. That is, it allows the norm’s proponents to assert that a majority of persons consents to its defense and prevents dissenters from identifying others who disagree with this projected majoritarian view. Second, the greater the number of proponents of a belief – regardless of the independence of that belief – the more reasons an epistemic peer has to believe in the truth of the belief. This enables the deepening of norm adherence within epistemic communities.

Vatsal Naresh

Yale University, United States


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3 - Lynching, Norms, and Silence in Contemporary India

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