Sacrifice, Ahimsa, and Vegetarianism: Pogrom at the Deep End of Non-Violence
This dissertation explores the relation of ahimsa (non-violence) and vegetarianism to sacrificial logic in post-independence Ahmedabad. It follows the transformation of ahimsa--from a protection of the sacrifier against the revenge of the animal victim; to a doctrine of renunciation, self-reform, and prohibition of animal sacrifice; to Gandhi?s famous tool for nonviolent resistance to colonial domination; and finally, to the ritualization of violence itself in the organized persecution of minorities in a secular state. Central Gujarat is often called the ?laboratory of Hindutva.? Hindutva offers an interpretation of ?Hinduism? as a historical subject threatened by Islam and Christianity. It portrays Hindus as victims of Muslim barbarism, slaughtered and humiliated, butchered and raped, and demands a response that redefines the relation of violence to ahimsa. Its electoral success can be traced to a claim to unify Adivasi, lower, and intermediary caste groups with the Savarnas (high castes) as ?Hindus? in opposition to Muslims and Christians, who are positioned as foreigners. As ethno-religious identifications have become integral to representation in a secular democratic system, traditional practices relating to diet and worship are simultaneously reconfigured. This research investigates the embodiment and experience of disgust among members of upwardly mobile castes, who are encouraged both to externalize their own low caste practices and to distance themselves from Muslims and Christians in new ways. In the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Ahmedabad, an event around which this dissertation turns, I witnessed a mimetic reversal of Hindutva?s claim. Violence returns as legitimate punishment of Muslims. The contemporary conjuncture of sacrificial language, beef prohibition, and vegetarianism makes explicit a subliminal criminalization of the dietary practices of minorities positioned permanently outside Hindutva identity. Most criminalized among these groups is the unabashed meat-consuming Muslim. The excessive expenditure of phantasmatic projections onto the Muslim is expressed in a m?lange of culinary and sacrificial idioms. The putatively excessive sexuality, violence, and power of the Muslim are themselves transformations of the symbolics of food and ingestion. The pogrom and reactions to it reveal how a notion of nonviolence becomes implicated in violence that has a sacrificial character.
James T. Siegel Benedict Anderson Bernd Lambert David Lelyveld
Social Science Research Council Wenner Gren Foundation
sacrifice, disgust, body, experience, food, identification, Muslim, minority, Hinduism, Gandhi, ahimsa, vegetarianism, Gujarat, non-violence, riots, violence, India, communalism, Hindutva, religion, nationalism, Ahmedabad, pogrom
dissertation or thesis