That silence in Ahmedabad

Two, history shows us that intergroup solidarity emerges through shared political practices. Ahmedabad was active in the freedom struggle but in the main, the Muslim community seems to have participated in it only partially and fitfully. The Congress leadership failed to reach out to the Muslims, and Muhammed Ali Jinnah resigned from the Congress in 1920. This had a decided impact. According to census reports, Muslims participated in the census operations of 1921 and 1931 despite the boycott. After Jinnah reinvented the Muslim League in Gujarat in the 1930s, the divide between the two communities was complete. The district magistrate's report in 1941 stated baldly that, since 1937, relations between the two communities had deteriorated.

Three, since textile workers in Ahmedabad adopted Gandhi's distinct brand of trade unionism, the textile labour association failed to develop a radical workingclass culture. Workers were unable to create solidarities on the basis of class because they retained their distinctive identities.

A vigilant civil society is a necessary precondition of democracy, but what are the preconditions of civil society? Unless people come together across divides to keep watch on transgressions by the state and by their own groups, civil society can prove fairly indifferent to the plight of citizens. And it is precisely this that has happened in Gujarat.

The writer is a professor of political science at Delhi University

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