Some Q’n’A with Angry Workers of the World Regarding the Delhi Violence

*We received to our article about the violence in Northeast Delhi the following questions from Angry Workers of the World, a workers’ group based out of London. We have presented the same and our responses for discussion.*

Questions:

* You say that the violence happened in areas where there is already communitarian segregation; as an observation that is fine, as an explanation it would be a bit tautological. Why do you think certain areas are more segregated than others, such as Kapashera etc.; I guess wherever there is more small business / trading rather than industrial wage work, people tend to use ’their community links’ in order to survive, get self-employed work etc.? 

* You mention that the areas where there was violence had a mix of middle-class and displaced slum-dwellers / ‘lower working class’ population? Do you think the protagonists of violence were mainly from the lower working class, perhaps like during the Gujarat riots (‘Dalits’ vs ‘Muslims’)? What would be their interest (are there any immediate material interests)?

* The last paragraph makes a bit of a leap (‘religion’ aspect not so relevant, more about infight between proletarian sections in a ‘decaying social order’). That runs danger to neglect the concrete issues and become a one fits all’-explanation; any social conflict could be analysed like that. I think we would need another thought about what the CAA might mean materially for people in both camps; or is it purely symbolic? I would compare this briefly to the anti-reservation protests – where the immediate material clash is more pronounced – or the protests to be categorised as ’scheduled caste’ (Jats, Gujjars). What impact does CAA have?

Response:

I completely agree that this should be looked at specifically.. earlier flare-ups have been specific to specific parts.. they are close to 1) deindustrialised, 2) small scale industrialised areas, with either lower income regular housing or slum housing.. these kind of areas attract a large number of informal lower income  working people, and judging from the videos and stories coming, they are mostly the protagonists of violence, on both sides..

But this still does not answer your question about why the communitarian segregation takes place in the first place.. it is a difficult question to answer, but i’d start by saying that places like kapashera (or many such places in noida (surajpur) or faridabad) are seeing global investment, which creates a different dynamic.. i tried touching upon this in the last paragraph by pointing out that neither anti-caa protests nor pro-caa formations gained much prominence in those places.. so those places are kind of an exception, rather than the norm when it comes to social segregation.. segregation of housing along caste or religious lines has been the dominant practice in most parts till now.. maybe it is because of how migration into the city works: somebody comes in, settles down, then some relatives of theirs, or somebody else from the village.. so the circle of familiarity remains within the caste or community.. people feel “comfortable” being among their “community” perhaps.. interestingly, there were localities caught in the violence which were mixed.. there are two trends which one can see: either there was no violence because community members of the majority decided to shield the minority in the community, or there was a complete demolition of minority property in some other mixed localities.. this is not to paint a pessimistic picture, but just trying to understand how a symbolic issue becomes widespread.. for example, manu describes how the workers who come to his company, who have not gone to the protests nor to counter-protests, are still busy discussing hindu-muslim during work.. manibhushan ji had also once told me about how the kashmir  issue had become very hot topic for lunch discussions in his factory so it seems like the symbolic has some impact

I’ll emphasise this once more, ne delhi was particularly polarised because the anti-caa protests were visible there at multiple places.. i would be more keen to understand what you mean by the term “material interests”.. the citizenship issue has been imported into the rest of india from assam.. in assam (and other parts of northeastern india), a large number of bangla migrants over a long time have been a reason for nativist movements.. the bjp conducted an exercise in which large numbers of bengalis (both hindus and muslims) living there since ages have been excluded from indian citizenship.. you could say that in those conditions, it definitely attacks the material interests of the working class.. in the rest of india, the bjp is playing a gamble with the citizenship thing (since it has nothing left to offer).. there is no clarity about how it will come about.. there is widespread speculation, and partly this entire so-called movement has been around speculation.. bjp government has encouraged such speculation.. so yes, it is largely symbolic..

At a local level in northeast delhi, though, it is also an attack on small capitalists/traders.. a large tyre godown (owner was a muslim from old delhi) was burnt, shops and houses were looted and burnt, even fruit and vegetable stalls were burnt (making me think if this is also a fight about who gets to put their stall in the gully).. houses of a few politicians were attacked.. my guess is that political power also often decides who gets to put up stalls, drive the shared auto sewas (as in gurgaon and noida), and other such informal things in nexus with the thekedars..

Regarding CAA. It says that non muslim refugees from bangladesh, pakistan, and afghanistan will be given citizenship. So it makes religion the basis of citizenship. It does not affect muslims directly. But home minister has said before elections that they will conduct national registry of citizen updation to pick out infiltrators from country and strip them of citizenship. If hindus are found, they will be retained through caa. This was on television. Officially, no such thing.

Although I am a little iffy about it, but something needs to be said about the strategy of a number of our Leninist friends to repeat the same tactics in these wider protests which failed in places like DU, JNU, [universities] Bengal, etc… I’m talking particularly about mobilising among the Muslim populations with the slogans of “our rights, our constitution, our nationalism” on one hand, and in private messages calling it a struggle of the working class without locating it in its specific place.. The coming of BJP means a failure of this strategy – organising a small but militant minority – because a much larger militant mobilisation now resides with the BJP… I do not know how they avoid the question of looming civil war (perhaps they still believe that the state will not use all its force and hence try to hide behind constitution, nationalism, etc.). There is not even a basic attempt to formulate a proposal for new precarious working class which does not depend on muslim or dalit identity.. In northeast Delhi, the participation of “upper castes” is undeniable.. but these “lumpen” upper castes are somehow “privileged” and not worth speaking to. Mostly i feel the leftists are not even in a position to speak to them after years of identity politics.

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