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Trauma of Displacement

Mahtab Alam

By Sanjeevini Badigar Lokhande
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2015, pp. XI 216, price not mentioned.

VOLUME XL NUMBER 8 August 2016

Displacement and migration constitute what might be called a traumatic experience for many as they lead to uprooting one from one’s base. But if this happens due to some large scale violence, which has a communal and a caste overtone, it doubly marginalizes the victims. Till recently, it was the violence in Muzzaffarnagar that had become such a distressing story. According to a conservative estimate, more than 41,000 Muslims were rendered homeless, with most of them never being able to return to their villages and having to live the lives of destitutes. Gujarat (2002) was another example of communal violence which led to the displacement of a large number of people, as more than 2 lakhs were displaced within the first two years itself. Those who had to flee their homes had to settle down in houses on rent in Muslim concentrated villages and towns. As per a status report (2012) published by the Ahmedabad based NGO, Janvikas, 16,087 of them continue to live in 83 relief colonies built by faith based (Muslim/Islamic) organizations and NGOs. The book under review, taking a cue from the much talked about and equally criticized category of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) of the United Nations (introduced in 1998), examines violence in Gujarat since 2002. The author argues that ‘displacement (in Gujarat) is not only symptomatic of the state being taken over by a majoritarian vision of the nation in which the minorities may be threatened, but that in our globalized times it entails a shift in the very idea of the state in terms of what can be rightly expected of it and the source of its legitimacy.’ The introduction and the book’s five chapters reflect the meticulous research undertaken by the author of using ethnographic data, government documents, archival materials, NGOs and media reports, and show how over the years, people who were displaced during the anti-Muslim Gujarat violence of 2002 have been reduced to the status of subjects from once being citizens, and how it is now affecting their lives. Present ing a brief history of communal violence induced displacement, the author notes that it is not entirely without precedent in Gujarat. ‘The displacement of thousands of Muslims due to the violence in 1969, which the camps bore testimony to, also meant a loss of livelihood and even the means of livelihood for thousands as those who had been rendered homeless had lost all their possessions that included their ...

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