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

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Women in Riots

The article by Ward Berenschot, (“Muzaffarnagar Riots: Perils of a Patronage Democracy”, EPW, 22 March 2014), refers to the “eve teasing” incident which triggered the riots as a “small incident”. Berenschot then goes on to identify political forces which instigate polarities within the electorate and ends by saying that pre-existing power inequities based on access to institutional resources are perceived as being ironed out, rationalising the riots. In effect, he argues that riots are conflicts over resources which get extenuated during election periods as political parties in India are sectarian.

However, Berenschot is unable to explain the relation of the “small incident” to the riots. Women in a feudal society are seen as primary resources owned by families. Caste divisions often shape what is known as the “roti-beti veyhavar” (bread-daughter exchange). Women are generally perceived as a more valuable family resource than access to institutional resources. Notions of honour and culture are attached to women. Unfortunately women are often carriers of their caste identity.

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