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«ESTHER WAPSTRA Thesis submitted for MA degree Supervisors: Dr. Laurens G. H. Bakker Prof. Paul J. C. L. van der Velde 30 August 2013 COMMUNAL HARMONY ...»

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India has a history of Hindu-Muslim violence, a topic which has written about extensively (for example Brass, 2003; Engineer, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998a, 1998b, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005; Kishwar, 1993; Pandey, 1990; Varshney, 2002; Veer, 1996; Wilkinson, 2004). In section 3.3.1 we will see Ayodhya is the city where Ram was born, Mathura is the city where Krishna was born (both avatars of Vishnu), and Varanasi is where the first linga of light came up, marked by the Vishwanath temple.

In these significant places the temples were destroyed and replaced by a mosque. Later the templeswere rebuilt in the vicinity of the mosque http://vhp.org/movements/shriram-janmabhumi-mukti-andolan that in Varanasi, like elsewhere in India, riots come and go. A question that intrigues me is how Hindus and Muslim interact with each other in non-riotous situations. The point of departure of this thesis is the assumption that where people live and work together, they need to find a way to cope with one another’s presence. Whether they find positive ways (e.g., forging friendships), negative ways (e.g., ignoring or avoiding the other), or something in between, in daily life people have to find ways to deal with each other.

–  –  –

The research objective of this thesis is

Figure 1. Map of India threefold. The importance of the Vishwanath temple for Hindus was played out for political purposes. The VHP forms a religious-cultural-political alliance with the RSS and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and the Liberhan Ayodhya Commission report, the report that reviews the Ayodhya affair and the people responsible for it, agrees that the Ayodhya issue also played out because it was “electorally convenient” (2009b, p. 748).6 Firstly, I was interested to know the attitudes of ordinary Varanasi citizens about the co-existence of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque. Is it a thorn in their flesh, a situation they loath and want to change as soon as possible? Or perhaps, given the violent history following the destruction of Babri mosque in Ayodhya and the high likelihood of a similar reaction throughout Varanasi and India after a change in the co-existence of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque, they prefer to leave the situation unchanged? Secondly, I was curious about Hindu-Muslim interactions in daily life in non-riotous circumstances. What do they think about interreligious relationships in Varanasi? Do people seek one another’s presence and are they positive about people The VHP sees itself as the religious authority; the RSS aims at changing people culturally; and the BJP is a political party. Together they are called Sangh Parivar from the other religious community, or do they live segregated lives, do they ignore and avoid one another? Lastly, if there is a constant threat of conflict in the city, people must find ways to deal with this threatening and unpleasant situation. I was interested in finding out how people cope with this threat. Do they actively try to change the situation through peace work or do they use psychological coping mechanisms to minimize its impact? The emphasis of this research will be on communal harmony in a place that seems to be communally divided and affected by communal riots. We will therefore look at cases of positive relationships between Hindus and Muslims and examples of ground-level initiatives to maintain the harmonious atmosphere.

Three research questions form the basis for this research:

 What is the attitude of Banarasis towards the (co-existence of the) Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque?

 What are Hindu-Muslim relationships between ordinary citizens in Varanasi like in daily life?

 How do Banarasis psychologically and practically cope with (the threat of) communal conflict?

1.3 Thesis outline

After introducing the research questions and briefly explaining an aspect of the sociopolitical situation in India which influences Hindu-Muslim relationship to this date, the next chapter discusses the research methods used. It gives elaborate information on the three techniques used to collect data: interviews, questionnaires, and observations. Selection procedures and information on interviewees and respondents can be found in appendices A and B. Since twenty interviews were conducted in Hindi ant throughout this thesis Hindi and Urdu words are used, it discusses considerations with regard to the transliteration and the translation. Eventually some reflections on ethics and on the researcher are given. These two chapters form the first part of this thesis.

The second part of discusses relevant background information. Chapter three is divided into three sections. The first section gives a historical background of the city, from its early history to the arrival of the first Muslims to the British rule in Varanasi.

Each have their influence in today’s Varanasi. The next section discusses in detail why the city is so important for Hindus. Four reasons are mentioned: the prominence of Shiva, its status as microcosm and representation of the whole world, the holy river Ganges, and its liberating qualities. Although the Hindu character of the city predominates, Varanasi is also important for Muslims: the prominent mosques and many mazārs constitute a sacred Muslim geography. Lastly, some words are spent on the relationships between Hindus and Muslims in Varanasi, on the conflictuous as well as the harmonious side of it. Chapter four zooms in on the specific location in town where the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque are located. It sketches a lively image of the area in which both are located and gives information about the temple and mosque specifically.





Part three reflects the data that forms the body of this thesis. In four chapters the attitudes of Banarasis with regard to the co-existence of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque, the relationship between Hindus and Muslims, and conflict in the city pass by. Chapter five discusses the knowledge of interviewees on the coexistence of temple and mosque, their appraisal of the situation, and some thoughts on how the situation has changed throughout the years. Chapter six focuses on various aspects of the relationship between Hindus and Muslims. Interviewees show that friendly interactions between Hindus and Muslims in Varanasi exist as well as many stereotypes, mainly of Muslims. One section reviews how Banarasis experience the religion of people from the other religious community and another examines four factors that influence the relationship between Hindus and Muslims. Chapter seven introduces some ideas on conflict and gives an idea of the power field in which relationships between Hindus and Muslims are situated. It concludes with some techniques Banarasis use to deal with these forces and with communal conflict. The last chapter of the section discusses responses of Banarasis with regard to whether they prefer a change in the co-existence of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque or not. Concrete examples of change in the situation of the temple and mosque are also presented.

Each data chapter concludes with a summary of the findings as well as conclusions based on previous research. Information on interviewees and respondents can be found in appendices A and B. Statistics of the questionnaire are given in appendix G and the informed consent and questionnaire in English as well as Hindi are adopted in appendices C to F. Hindi and Urdu words used regularly throughout this thesis are explained in the glossary.

The last part of this thesis consists of one chapter only. It contains a general discussion of all the findings of this thesis and tries to answer the three research questions given in section 1.2.

2. Research methods This chapter describes the methods with which the research was carried out. The second section gives an overview of the way in which data was collected. The three techniques used are discussed elaborately. Before discussing the data collection, the first section gives information about the transliteration used for the Hindi and Urdu words used in this thesis as well as information about the translation. About two thirds of the interviews were conducted in Hindi; these interviews were translated and later transcribed by Dr. Sushil Kumar. Subsequent sections discuss the analysis of data, give ethical as well as personal reflections, and express some thoughts about the validity, reliability and relevance of this research.

2.1 Transliteration and translation

2.1.1 Transliteration Hindi and Urdu words are used throughout this thesis, because some words do not convey the same meaning when translated, because a colloquial word adds a dimension of information, and because text comes closer to the original utterances of interviewees. These words are italicized and written in Roman script with limited diacritics, following the notation of Platts’ ‘A dictionary of Urdu, classical Hindi, and English’ where possible, or cited literature (e.g., Eck, Klostermaier, or Kumar) where not possible.7 To make the words easier readable, diacritics are used for the vowels, letters with a macron (ā, ī, ū) denoting long vowels. However, for convenience diacritics for consonants are left out (like in ṅ and ṛ in Hindi and in ḥ and in Urdu).

Apostrophes in Urdu words are also left out (e.g., Qurān and urs instead of Qur’ān and ʻurs). Letters ś, ṣ, and š like are transliterated as sh (e.g., darshan, moksha, and shirk instead of darśan, mokṣa, and širk) and ć is transliterated in ch (e.g., chāī instead of ćāī). Words in diacritics are pluralized by adding an s instead of following the rules for plurals in Hindi (e.g., sārīs instead of sāriyã as plural of sārī) or Urdu (e.g. madrasas instead of madāris as plural of madrasa). Words that are used frequently are also adopted in the glossary.

Names, including names of gods and goddesses (e.g., Shiva, Krishna), are not written in diacritics, nor are names of cities (e.g., Varanasi, Banaras) or structures (e.g., Vishwanath, Gyanvapi). An exception is made in cases of direct quotes from articles, books, newspaper articles, etc, in which cases the word is taken over as written in the original source.

Platts, John T. (1884). A dictionary of Urdu, classical Hindi, and English. London, England: W. H.

Allen & Co. In case of Devanagari script (Hindi script) 2.1.2 Translation 2.1.2.1 The translation During interviews conducted in Hindi Dr. Sushil Kumar translated roughly per question. Afterwards these interviews were first transcribed in Hindi and then translated into English. The consent form was also translated into Hindi so that interviewees could keep a copy of the conditions of the interview as well as contact details of Dr. Sushil Kumar and me. The questionnaire was also in English as well as Hindi to enable respondents to fill it in on their own.

2.1.2.2 The translator Before going to India I expected people to speak English fairly fluently and I did not expect to have problems conducting interviews and regular conversations in English.

However, the level of English of most people appeared to be lower than anticipated.

Conducting interviews in English only would have limited the results. It would have resulted in fewer interviews and in interviews with a restricted group of people; only people who had enough training in English, and had most likely overall a higher level of education would have been able to participate. This would have restricted my research severely. Fortunately, I coincidentally met Dr. Sushil Kumar, who agreed to help me with the research mainly by translating interviews conducted in Hindi and transcribing the audio tapes of these interviews afterwards. Dr. Sushil Kumar has obtained a master degree in sociology from BHU and also did his PhD there. He has been living in Banaras for years and is familiar with the situation, as well as the language and culture. Furthermore, he has a broad interest in religions; he was raised a Hindu, but with sensitivity towards other religions. Besides Hindu religious literature he reads the Bible and Qurān.

Having little knowledge of Indian culture and of the subject of my research, it was very helpful for me to work together with someone who is more sensitive to cultural cues and can pick up information that I might be unaware of as well as keep me from making mistakes (e.g., unintentionally offending interviewees). An experienced social researcher, it was also interesting to exchange ideas and have discussions together. As for his motivation, Dr. Sushil Kumar told me several times how much my research topic interested him and how it gave him unique insights in his city and the people in his city. He added that the interviews were very interesting to him because of “questions for which I would be slapped in any other situation”, such as sensitive questions (e.g., about security of the sacred complex) or personal questions.

Moreover, we agreed that I would pay him the equivalent of 1500 euros in rupees and that he may use the data for his own research provided it takes place within reasonable time (for the contract, see appendix H).

Two disadvantages about this collaboration must be mentioned. There was a bias in the selection of interviewees, as they were chosen based on convenience (see section 2.2.1.1). For interviews I was dependent on the interviewees Dr. Sushil Kumar approached, although his selection was usually guided by directions from me (e.g., ‘people from lower socio-economic background’ or ‘Muslim women’). Making a selection for interviewees myself would not have eliminated this bias. Also, Dr. Sushil Kumar might have had (subconscious) ideas about the views of his fellow city residents that might have translated into subtle, unintentional cues or selections modifying the outcomes of the research. Again, the same holds for me: subconscious ideas might have influenced the research. For example, ideas about the nature of the relationship between Hindus could have prompted me to ask about certain topics and neglect others. The points of convenience sampling and subconscious ideas are hard to eliminate; therefore it is important to keep this in mind during all the phases of the research (i.e., gathering, analysing, and interpreting data).



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