Res Publica - Journal of Undergraduate Research


Intercommunal violence in India, especially between the Muslim and Hindu communities, has been a constant cause of conflict within the nation since it achieved independence in 1947. Social scientists have attempted to understand what makes certain communities in India more and less vulnerable to this conflict. Paul Brass’s theory of an institutionalized riot system which involves every level of society in the construction of politically motivated violence, and Ashutosh Varshney’s theory of an integrated civil society being crucial to keeping ethnic conflict at bay are two of the strongest in the field. This paper applies these theories to the 1992 riots in the otherwise peaceful region of Surat, searching for an explanation of why these violent riots erupted and how the region achieved a remarkable recovery. Ultimately, the evidence demonstrates both the existence of an institutionalized riot system that causes the eruption of violence and the importance of civic links in regaining stability post-conflict.