ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Not a City of Gold

Riots and After in Mumbai: Chronicles of Truth and Reconciliation by Meena Menon (New Delhi: Sage), 2012; pp xcii+267, Rs 595.

This book is on the 1992-93 riots in Bombay (now Mumbai) and its continuing aftermaths: the economic and social disruptions and displacements faced by individuals, families and households and the resultant trauma and suffering that affect the victims, both Muslims and Hindus. It states that its goal is to unravel how these individual and family histories affect the general health of the city. It argues that violence and displacement ultimately lead to divisions, polarisations and subsequent ghettoisation of both Muslims and Hindus. This process creates further fissures and divisions and affects the city’s growth and ultimately the well-being of its population. It uses testimonies from the violence-­affected victims and buffers these with secondary literature (collected ­between February 2007 and November 2009) to state that there were lacunae in the governance of relief programmes and argues that the victims continue to see and feel themselves as victims rather than migrant actors framing a new life for themselves in the city. This victimisation, the book argues, is accentuated due to the lack of legal redress – the ­testimonies vouch for the state’s apathy towards the victims.

And yet, time and again, the author asserts that her research suggests that most victims hanker for their past lives, not only because rehabilitation was ­tardy. They remember their pre-riot life as being both satisfying and happy with intra-community relations being harmonious and peaceful. According to them the riots and the subsequent trauma and fear forced them to choose and accept a “false” alternative: the need for security. The author argues that many Muslims think that this choice and this decision has led the Muslim community to assert orthodoxies and has pushed Muslim women further on the path towards ­conservativeness. Also, the book records narratives of hope: the strength of some individual women and men to fight the negativities of the communal divide, the organisation of new collectives against communalism by women residents ­(mahila mandals) as also by the non-governmental organisations (NGOs), such as Yuva.

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