A Workshop Sponsored by the Program in Human Rights & Justice, Center for International Studies Massachusetts Institute of Technology April 9, 10,  2010


Event is Free but please register:


In recent decades, group violence, especially communal violence, has become a recurrent theme in the lives of Indians in many parts of the country. Starting with the Nellie, Assam massacre of Muslims in 1983, anti-Sikh massacres in 1984, communal violence has continued to challenge India’s secular credentials in the Ayodhya riots (1992), Bombay bomb blasts (1993), Gujarat pogrom (2002), and the Orissa riots (2008). There is a rising phenomenon of terrorism, as seen in the Mumbai terror attacks (2008), which lead to societal and State responses that centrally challenge secularism and rule of law. There is a dire need to study these forms of violence and the impunity enjoyed by its perpetrators.


This workshop thus aims to fulfill a timely need to examine the roots and processes of such violence. The workshop begins with the premise that rather than being endemic to the region, group violence needs to be contextualized and is always historically contingent. Violence, whether perpetrated by terrorists or civil society or states, is a process rather than a discrete product of random “mob” activity. India has had a history of violence based on religious and cultural differences since the colonial period culminating in the Partition violence of 1947. The workshop seeks to explore how and why such violence continues, or is different in the postcolonial period. Among the ideological reasons for violence are differing ideas of India, of who, what groups or communities belong to it and who are the others/outsiders even if they meet the criteria of legal definition of citizenship. Similar is the case with variant definitions of secularism and its implementation by the postcolonial state.


This workshop seeks to critically engage with the relationship between group violence and the rule of law. In doing so, it seeks to put to test the many definitions of ‘secularism’ and examine the role of the Indian state in perpetuating group violence.


This workshop is organized by Dr. Omar Khalidi, Prof. Balakrishnan Rajagopal, and Prof. Haimanti Roy. Prof. Paul Brass, University of Washington, will give the keynote address.


Besides the keynote speaker and the organizers, participants include Prof. Angana Chatterji, California Institute of Integral Studies; Prof. Parvis Ghassem-Fachandi, Rutgers University; Meenakshi Ganguly , Human Rights Watch; Prof. Chinnaiah Jangam, Wagner College, New York; Dr. Ratna Kapoor, CFLR New Delhi; Shafiq R. Mahajir, Attorney, Hyderabad; Manoj Mitta, Senior Editor, The Times of India, New Delhi; R.K. Raghavan, IPS, retd. and former Director of Central Bureau of Investigation; Prof. Srirupa Roy, University of Massachusetts-Amherst; Prof. Bish Sanyal, MIT; Prof. Ornit Shani, University of Haifa, Israel; Attorney Mukul Sinha and Nirjhari Sinha, Jan Sangharsh Manch, Ahmedabad; and Prof. Arvind Verma, Indiana University.



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