Between 'Everyday' and 'Extraordinary': Partition, violence and the communal riots of 1946 in Bihar

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Abstract

The year 1937 saw the establishment of Congress Ministries in eight of the eleven provinces in which the provincial elections had been held, Bihar being one of them. The resounding victory of the Congress which secured a clear majority in the province of Bihar and the dismal performance of the Muslim League seemed at the time to depict the mood of the people in general. It was taken as a clear rejection of the politics of communalism and separatism and as an expression of faith in the secular credentials of the Indian National Congress. However, less than a decade later, the province was gripped by severe communal tensions and had become one of the most prominent parts of India from where the movement for Pakistan drew support. This article thus explores the nature of the communal violence that occurred in Bihar in 1946 against the backdrop of the 'escalating' communal tensions during the late 1930s and early 1940s. It seeks to problematise the dichotomy that exists in literature on communal violence between moments of what have been called 'extraordinary' violence (such as riots) and the everyday structures of (what Gyanendra Pandey has called) 'routine violence'. Through its analysis of contemporary material produced by the Muslim League, the Congress Ministry and the provincial British administration to explain the causes of the 1946 riots in Bihar, it argues that it is in the moments of rupture presented by riots that everyday structures of violence are trivialised or normalised through processes of 'dichotomisation', 'dehumanisation' and 'denial'.

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  • Aarhus University
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  • History
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Royal Asiatic Society
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2019 Dec 23
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes