South Asian Political Thought (SAPT) Discussion Group: MT18 Week 7: A Social Epistemology of Mob Lynchings in India

Convener(s): Udit Bhatia & Amogh Dhar Sharma

Speaker(s): Vatsal Naresh, Yale University

Why do Hindus remain silent when Muslims and Dalits in India are lynched to death for alleged infractions against Hindu religious practice or other, secular misconduct? This paper will attempt to explain the occurrence, causes, and consequences of silence among the majority’s peer group when atrocities are carried out against minorities. First, it will argue that these acts trigger the compulsion to conform among Hindus by publicly enacting punishments for alleged infractions against long-standing scripts of Hindu nationalism. Group members or aspirants to Hindu identity who hold private preferences against such violence conceal their disapproval with silence (or worse, insincere approval) because they believe a majority of their peers expects them to behave in a particular way. Second, the paper specifies the causal chain of this phenomenon. It suggests that violence induces the falsification of one’s disagreement in the form of silence, which produces greater uncertainty of peer opinion, thus creating a cycle of uncertainty and silence. In closing, the paper discusses the promises and prospects of solutions through a ‘trendsetting’ approach and considers the value of ‘meta-lucidity’ as a way forward.

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