Religion, poverty and conflict in a garbage slum of Ahmedabad

Journal article

Miklian, Jason & Ida Roland Birkvad (2016) Religion, poverty and conflict in a garbage slum of Ahmedabad, International Area Studies Review 19 (1): 60–75.

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Ahmedabad is often called an Indian ‘success story’ in terms of economic urbanization, but it is also a city highly segregated along religious and caste lines, and a flashpoint in the 2002 Hindu–Muslim riots that left thousands dead. Most of the Muslim communities relocated after the violence work in a vast informal sector around the city’s landfills and waste management peripheries that are disregarded by local government and endemic with corruption. While many scholars see this as a recipe for violent conflict, we explore the garbage slum community in Chandola to show that a leveling of social stratification and reduction of segregation amongst Hindu and Muslim communities in this slum results in a more congruous inter-group relationship than current literatures on the relationship between poverty, religion and violence might predict. However, their unity has come at the expense of jointly ‘othering’ an even more vulnerable group of newcomers – a Bangladeshi migrant community that is persecuted both by the state as well as by fellow residents. We show that while violence markers are constituted in new ways, challenging some assumptions of how inter-group violence is triggered, the fundamental societal weaknesses that facilitate such tensions remain prevalent despite changing conflict actor allegiances.

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