A Polyphony of Voices
Tania Mehta
THE GUJARAT CARNAGE by Asgar Ali Engineer Orient Longman, New Delhi, 2004, 467 pp., 425.00
May 2004, volume 28, No 5

A serious enquiry into the psychology of communal violence, this anthology brings together essays, editorials, surveys, articles, opinions, documents and reports. The book transcends its stated goal of providing the future generations with a great deal of information and its usefulness to policy makers to question the contentious issues of ‘secularism’, ‘nation’, ‘identity,’ and ‘community’ through a polyphony of voices. Asgar Ali, a seasoned thinker, a social activist and a political psychologist explores issues that he has been raising in his books like Rethinking Issues in Islam [1998]and The Origin and the Development of Islam [1987] and offers insights into the complex process of formation of religious identities. He has argued how religious identities are not ‘primordial attachments,’ inculcated by tradition but products of changing identities spread by institutionalized devotionalism and shaped overtime by piligrimage, migration and more recently by print and visual media. Riots are not new to India and take place with frightening regularity. What triggered the violence in Gujarat is a complex question. The narratives of horror, the images of bestiality, the told and untold tales of suffering and humiliation that occurred in Gandhi’s own land is ironical and painful.

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