Practices of the State : Muslims, Law and Violence in India – Tanweer Fazal


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There is no dearth of hagiographies of the Indian state. Overwhelmed by its assurances of individual liberty and freedom, theorists have tended to see it as a harbinger of passive revolution and a moderniser par excellence. Breaking from this, Practices of the State investigates the behavioural dimension of the state vis a vis the margin, in this case the Indian Muslim. It looks at its quotidian, routine practices, as well as at those marked as exceptional, seeing both as convergent and complementary to each other.

What is offered here is a cumulative and graded idea of marginality. It is re-inforced by a combination of material and symbolic forms of violence, often endorsed by the public at large, whether vociferously or silently. Those at the bottom suffer from all counts, while its upper crust can escape occasionally, not always. The book, therefore, proposes a triadic lens, ‘state-dominant public-margin’ to comprehend this complex relationship of power.

Practices of the State attends to the interface between the state and the ordinary Indian Muslim at multiple sites: the lower caste arzal seeking entitlement as scheduled caste, the Bengali peasant in Assam stigmatized as a foreigner, the Qureshi meat-seller and the Meo cattle-trader brutalized by the gau rakshak and the law alike; or those awaiting justice in the aftermath of targeted violence. In each of these cases, Muslimness is produced – not as much through an inner system of beliefs, or the commonality of cultural practices, for they vary immensely — but discursively at the cross-section of the triad.


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