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Amhedabad, built environment, segregation and infrastructure for violence

by Arvind Rajagopal, 2 November 2010

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South Asian History and Culture, Vol. 1, No. 4, October 2010, 529–556

Special political zone: urban planning, spatial segregation and the infrastructure of violence in Ahmedabad

Abstract:

The violence in Gujarat in 2002 presented a paradoxical phenomenon, namely, a spectacle of violence ostensibly enacted by non-state forces that was covertly and overtly sanctioned by the state. Violence was both spatially localized and physically concentrated on Muslims. Apologists invoked a history of communal conflict and specifically of Muslim provocation, explaining the pogrom of 2002 as having ample precedent and justifiable cause. This paper addresses Ahmedabad’s urbanity as an enabling locus for such violence, and draws on historical and ethnographic research to argue that spatial and perceptual practices in the city have combined to ghettoize Muslims, and produce forms of knowledge complicit with structural and episodic violence against them. Such practices (and their discursive uptake) are enabled by political conjunctures that give structurally embedded processes form and visibility. This paper explores the issue of political violence and Muslim vulnerability in Gujarat under the explanatory rubric of the ‘Special Political Zone,’ an informal analogue to a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), the latter being a site exempt from prevailing regulations, purportedly to enhance economic growth. The political ability to endow specific sites with exceptional legal status for economic outcomes implies the ‘Special Political Zone,’ a site where select laws of the land are voided to ensure specific political outcomes, for example the staging of violence to dramatize the restructuring of the relationship between majority and minority. This paper offers a limited examination of this hypothesis taking Ahmedabad as a privileged site where much of the violence in Gujarat in 2002 was concentrated.

Full Text at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/19472498.2010.507024