Religious Violence and the “Developmental State” in Rajasthan



Religious conflict, known as “communalism”, has had a long history in India. Although Hindu–Muslim conflict has been, what Varshney (2002) calls, the “master narrative” of Indian politics, it is observed that since the 1990s the Christian populations have increasingly become the targets of violence. What is interesting is that most of these atrocities have occurred in provinces that not only have a sizable tribal population but also are ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and/or its allies. The central question then is why has violence against Christians increased in the tribal dominated, BJP-ruled provinces in particular? The paper argues that in order to explain this, it is important to understand the political economy of the tribal society and the politics of Hindu nationalism as well as of Christian missionaries during the post-colonial period. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the tribal dominated regions of south Rajasthan, the paper concludes that economic “backwardness” and contested cultural identity of tribals on the one hand and the competing projects of “conversion” by Christian missionaries and Hindu nationalists on the other are responsible for this increasing anti-Christian violence in India.


Hindu nationalism Religious conversion Anti-Christian violence Freedom of religion Developmental state Bhils of Rajasthan 



I would like to thank the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IRD Project: MI00940 and Planning Project: MI00935) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for providing financial support to carry out this research. I would also like to thank Martin Fuchs (Max-Weber-Kolleg) for his valuable comments and suggestions. A shorter version of this paper appeared in the ISA E-Symposium.


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© Springer India 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Humanities and Social SciencesIITNew DelhiIndia

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