Communalism and Sexual Violence

Ahmedabad since 1969

Megha Kumar

Sexual violence has been a feature of several communal conflicts in India since independence in 1947. The Partition riots, which saw the brutal victimization of thousands of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh women, have so far dominated academic discussions of sexual violence during such conflicts. By examining three of the deadliest riots that occurred in Ahmedabad city, Gujarat, in 1969, 1985 and 2002, this book identifies the specific conditions motivating gendered violence against religious minorities. Providing in-depth, grassroots-level analysis, Megha Kumar moves away from existing academic approaches that focus exclusively on the role of Hindu nationalist ideology in inciting
attacks on women. Rather, by examining the actual dynamics of each episode of conflict, this book shows gendered communal violence to be governed by the interaction between elite ideology, and the unique economic, social and political factors at work. Using government reports, Hindu nationalist publications and civil society commentaries, as well as interviews with activists, politicians and riot survivors, the book also identifies the conditions that have prevented sexual violence in riot contexts. Communalism and Sexual Violence: Ahmedabad since 1969 will be valuable for academic researchers, human rights organizations, NGOs working with survivors of sexual violence, and those involved in community development and urban grassroots activism.


"This book combines fine-grained empirical research with considerable conceptual acumen and penetrating analysis. Megha Kumar has taken on a particularly difficult theme to write about and she writes with great honesty and meticulous scholarship" – Tanika Sarkar, retired professor of history Jawarlal Nehru University, Delhi.


"This book makes it clear that social scientist can approach analytically the question of sexual violence at the time of communal conflicts" – Christophe Jaffrelot, senior research fellow at CERI-Sciences PO/CNRS, and professor of Indian politics and sociology, King's College London.


"This is a gripping and, unfortunately, apparently accurate account of the largely hidden and silently tolerated victimization of mostly Muslim women and men by a vast segment of Indian society that, for the most part, turns a blind eye to it." – Paul R. Brass, professor emeritus of political science and South Asian studies, University of Washington. 


"The thoroughness with which Kumar has unpacked her primary material into a compelling analysis establishes her claim that her book [ Communal and Sexual Violence in India: Ahmedabad since 1969] is one of the initial attempts to link discourses of communal conflict with sexual violence against women at the grassroots level." – Mallarika Sinha Roy, Centre for Women’s Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. Studies in History


"Assiduously researched and deeply committed, [Communal and Sexual Violence: Ahmedabad since 1969] book explores the close, in fact, integral connection between communal conflagration and sexual savagery." – Subhoranjan Dasgupta, The Telegraph


"It is a testament to the book’s richness that, while it clearly shows the effects of economic privation and electoral failure on the exercise of sexual violence in communal riots, it also elicits questions that far exceed this purview. Communalism and Sexual Violence: Ahmedabad since 1969 is an important addition to a library of resources that help explain how we have reached this point politically, and possibly, how we may change its course." – Svati P Shah, Economic and Political Weekly