GROUP VIOLENCE IN A NEIGHBOURHOOD: A CASE STUDY OF WORLI B.D.D. CHAWLS...
GROUP VIOLENCE IN A NEIGHBOURHOOD: A CASE STUDY OF
WORLI B.D.D. CHAWLS IN BOMBAY*
N. SHARMA AND C. A. K. YESUDIAN
A unique feature of Indian society is its pluralistic structure. It includes
various castes, religions, linguistic and regional groups. Such a multi-dimensional
situation divides the economic and power interests of various sections of the
population on ethnic and kinship lines. The incompatibility of their interests is
often manifested in group conflicts. For instance, violent clashes between the
Hindu and Muslim communities have by now become an associated part of social
life in the country. Organised movements and agitations for sharing economic
or political gains on regional or linguistic basis, are another form of social conflict
in our society. Shiv Sena movement in Maharashtra, anti-Hindi movement in
Tamil Nadu and the recent "Assam agitation" are a few instances of such a
conflict. One more form of group violence which no more confines to a particular
region in the country and which appears to shake the traditional social base of
community life is caste conflict. The traditional Hindu system divided on
principles of inequality and restrictions on choice of occupations, does not fit
into the 'desired' democratic system — preaching equal opportunities for all. The
age long privileges and monopolies of higher caste Hindus on social, economic
and political opportunities are under continuous threat due to the growing awa-
reness among the deprived castes. The traditional ties based on reciprocal accom-
modation of castes are breaking down. Instead, caste intolerance and hostility
are taking over. And such a problem is found all over the country in rural as
well as urban sectors. The growing symptoms of such a malaise in Indian society
could be found in a few conflicts like Backward Caste Movement, Dalit Panther
Movement, Marathwada University agitation, Gujarat agitation on the 'reserva-
tion issue' and the mass killing of Harijans in various parts of the country. To
understand the nature and dimensions of such a social conflict and its consequences
on social life provide a serious challenge to researchers in the field.
How such group conflicts operate at micro level, and how the environ-
mental factors in specific social situations influence the phenomenon is the
focus of present paper. A neighbourhood, Worli B.D.D. Chawls in Bombay
was chosen. In the central part of greater Bombay, at Worli there exist 121 B.D.D.
Chawls. These tenements were constructed by the Bombay Development Depart-
ment between 1922 to 1928, to provide cheap houses for labourers working in
factories around the area. Each chawl complex has four storeys and each floor
has twenty tenements (one-room dwellings). The population of B.D.D. Chawls
is estimated to be around 1.5 lacs — consisting of 10,000 Households. This makes
* The present paper is a part of the research project, "Social Conflict in an Urban Setting
conducted by the authors and financed by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Bombay.
R. N. SHARMA AND C. A. K. YESUDIAN
the area highly congested with an average of 15 persons occupying a single
chawl-room. The residents of these chawls are of heterogeneous groups. The two
dominant social groups, caste Hindus and Neo-Buddhists constitute the major
part of the population. Caste Hindus — mainly the Maratha caste group are the
largest group and occupy some 45 chawls. The Neo-Buddhist population is con-
centrated in 29 chawls. There are also police residents accommodated in 19 chawls.
They include some 86 officers, 2353 policemen and their families. There are a
few chawls occupied by both upper caste Hindus and Neo-Buddhists. There is
also a small percentage of minority groups like Muslims and Christians residing
in the locality.
In terms of occupational categories, the population belongs to the low income
social group engaged in police, factory work, lower cadre jobs in government
offices, daily wage work, scavenging etc.
Since 1974, the B.D.D. Chawls have been facing a series of stress situations.
Other than several sporadic incidents in the last eight years, resulting in damage
to human life and property, there occurred as many as 93 rioting instances in
the area, a majority of which were reported from the B.D.D. Chawl locality. A
few major incidents eg. the famous 1974 riots lasted almost two months — from
January 5 to February 16 and from April 6 to April 19. During these riots the
police had to resort to firing 19 times. Six persons lost their lives and about 113
were injured. As many as 70 chawl complexes were damaged affecting more than
half the population. The Maharashtra Government ordered a judicial enquiry into
the matter. The one-man Inquiry Commission headed by the then Chief Justice
of State, S. B. Bhasme submitted its report in 1976.
The second major incident in the locality occurred in June 1979. There
were violent clashes between two groups of residents. As a result of 'police action'
two persons died and five more were injured. Many chawl tenements were
damaged by stone-throwing.
The third major case occurred fairly recently — June 2 to June 18, 1981.
Rioting erupted following a sudden quarrel between the two groups of residents.
Soda water bottles, stones, bricks and sticks were freely used in the clashes, some
chawls were also set ablaze. As a result several persons were injured. The police
arrested some 80 persons allegedly involved in the violence.
Other than these major incidents, there occurred several cases of mob-rioting
in the locality. The incidence of crimes by individuals is equally high. The
following statements of some of the residents effectively portray the situation:
"Worli is the Naxalbari of Bombay".
"We have accepted quarrels and stone-throwing in the locality as our way
of life. We don't bother much about such incidents".
"It is in the nature of B.D.D. Chawl people to fight with each other".
"There is always a tension situation prevailing in the locality. When we
return home after work during night hours, we are always in danger.
The fear that something is going to happen is always there".
"For the last two months there had not been any case of violence. I am
surprised at such a lull because no month passes here without group violence"
GROUP VIOLENCE IN A NEIGHBOURHOOD
(This was stated by a senior police officer when contacted in the month
of April 1981. Soon after, in the first week of June, rioting erupted).
What could be the possible reasons for such a tense situation? By their caste
and creed who are the persons involved in such violent acts? To answer these
questions, it would be relevant to look into the details of such incidences of
Major Rioting Instances
R. D. Bhandare, a sitting member of Parliament from the Central Bombay
Parliamentary Constituency comprising Worli, Naigaum and other related
areas resigned his seat to accept the governorship of Bihar. The consti-
tuency, therefore, had to go through a mid-term bye-election and 13th January,
1974 was the polling day. The main contest was between the candidates of the
Ruling Congress, the Communist Party of India and the Jana Sangh. The Shiv
Sena and one of the two groups of the Republican Party had already extended
their support to the Congress candidate. However, the Dalit Panthers — an acti-
vist organisation of young Neo-Buddhists gave a call to boycott the elections.
The purpose of boycott was to draw attention of the government and people
to the pathetic conditions of dalits' in the country. As a sizeable population of
Neo-Buddhists and Harijans in B.D.D. Chawls — especially the younger element
— was under the influence of Dalit Panthers, it could be decisive in the outcome
of bye-elections. Since the Ruling Party heavily depended on scheduled caste votes,
its candidate was in danger of losing the fray. Therefore, the Congress party and
its ally, the Shiv Sena were desperately trying to break this unity of Dalit Panthers
and Neo-Buddhists. Under the circumstances, high tension prevailed in the
locality which culminated into mob-rioting on the occasion of a public meeting
called by Dalit Panthers. The incident did not confine to the occasion but the
political conflict, as it began, turned into group violence. Subsequently, for almost
two months, there were widespread clashes between upper caste Hindus and Neo-
Buddhists in the locality resulting in the loss of human lives and widespread
damage to property. A detailed account of this conflict is given in the Bhasme
Commission Report (1976).
The May 1979 riots began on a very trivial issue. A Buddhist boy was
'caught' urinating near a Maratha chawl. This was resented by a group of Mara-
tha boys who started beating him up. On this, some Buddhist boys came to his
rescue. Within minutes violence spread in the locality. The two groups—Buddhists
and upper caste Hindus (including police residents) started throwing stones and
missiles at each other. Police opened fire, in an attempt to control the crowd. Two
Buddhist boys — brothers — became victims of the police firing. Five others were
injured. Violence continued another day.
The recent incidence of group violence in June 1981 also began on a trivial
issue. Two Muslim boys requested an illicit liquor seller (a Hindu resident) to
give them liquor on credit. On his refusal they went back to their chawls and
returned with their associates. There developed a quarrel between the two groups.
R. N. SHARMA AND C. A. K. YESUDIAN
It subsequently turned into stone-throwing between Hindu chawls and Muslim
chawls in the vicinity. As Buddhist chawls are also located between the above
Hindu and Muslim chawls, they joined the Muslims in hurling stones on Hindu
chawls. Soon the stone-throwing spread to other parts of B.D.D. Chawls. Though
it started as an individual quarrel between a few Hindu and Muslim residents, it
subsequently turned into widespread violent clashes between upper caste Hindus
and Neo-Buddhists. The violence persisted over two weeks.
The Conflict Groups
The above profile of problem situation in the neighbourhood brings
out a few important facts. The participation of residents in violence is mainly
at group level. The involved groups can be identified according to their
social characteristics. The caste Hindus on one side and Neo-Buddhists on
the other, are two important groups indulging in group conflict. Another fact
that emerges from the rioting cases is that the year 1974 was the starting point
for sowing seeds of discord and violence in the community. It was also the period
when the Dalit Panther movement was gaining popular support in the city
and many young boys of the Neo-Buddhists of Worli B.D.D. Chawls came under
its influence. The 1974 bye-election in the area therefore proved to be a testing
ground for the movement's strength. The opportunity also appears to be utilised
by the Ruling Congress to crush the movement as it threatened the Party's stron-
ghold— the scheduled caste voters in the area in particular and in the city in
general. The Shiv Sena with conflicting ideologies joined hands with the ruling
party in order to "teach a lesson" to its staunch opponents — the Dalit Panthers.
As there were strong sympathisers of all these organisations among the chawl
residents, the ground was prepared for a group conflict which lasted nearly two
months. Thus, the 1974 violence in the area was caused mainly due to the ope-
ration of outside interest groups. The residents divided among various social and
occupational groups played into their hands. The political conflict due to differing
ideologies, as it began, gradually turned into a social conflict where caste or
communal intolerance and hostility proved to be a dividing force creating tension.
Though after 1974 the influence of Dalit Panthers and Shiv Sena was not
that strong in the locality, the animosity and hostility that surfaced during the
period between caste Hindus and Buddhists continues. The growing awareness
among Harijans against age old exploitation by privileged castes has filled them
with bitterness and hostility towards upper castes. At the same time, members of
upper castes are passing through a different kind of frustration and resentment.
Their rising aspirations remain unfulfilled due to a fierce competition for scarce
resources. This helplessness associated with their 'perceived victimisation' because
of government's protective discriminations in the form of reservation of seats in
educational institutions and government offices to the scheduled castes, have made
them prejudiced and caste intolerant. The Worli Chawl residents are no exception
to such an attitude. The result being that a small quarrel between chawl residents
is converted into power mechanism where both caste Hindus and Neo-Buddhists
try to assert their strength and supremacy. As many as 90 riots in the area within
GROUP VIOLENCE IN A NEIGHBOURHOOD
a small period of 8 years are a glaring example of such a communal intolerance
and hatred. During our contacts with some prominent people in the locality —
social workers, group leaders, political workers etc. — we hardly found a single
person who would not use the terms "they and "we" while discussing the beha-
viour of ethnic groups in the areas. Communal harmony or accord appear to be
elusive words describing inter-caste relations in the neighbourhood.
Other than these structural inequalities in the system, there are certain
motivating factors which equally contribute to tension in the community.
Spatial distribution of chawls in the locality, role of police as an agency
to maintain law and order in the locality as well as police residents' participa-
tion in the community life, a higher instance of unlawful activities in the area,
rising unemployment among youth, alcoholism, high pressure of population and
economic condition of residents in the locality are such motivating factors which
add to the situation. A brief description of these factors would help in under-
standing the situation.
Location of Chawls:
Spatial distribution of chawl buildings and the con-
centration of higher caste Hindus and Neo-Buddhists in separate chawls are two
quite significant factors contributing to social tension in the area. Caste Hindu
chawls and Buddhist chawls either face each other in different rows or are ad-
joining. Thus, for example, the worst hit chawl (No. 54) of Buddhists during the
1974 riots is surrounded on both sides by the upper caste chawls. Likewise, caste
Hindu chawls (No. 113 and 114) which were the main targets in the above riots
are on the eastern side of the Buddhist chawls (No. 94-99). Such a location of
chawls is very ideal for stone-throwing. It makes it easier to mobilise group mem-
bers in any eventuality. It also contributes to a sense of unity and defiance. The
concentration of certain caste groups in specific chawls and their repetitive par-
ticipation in rioting has earned them the reputation of being identified as 'trouble
chawls' in the area (Gujarati & Malva, 1975: 31-36).
Face to face location of higher caste and Buddhist chawls creates other pro-
blems. In villages, Harijan residences are generally separated from those of the
higher castes. Such a physical distance — though discriminatory — often avoids
face to face conflict. But in Worli locality they are brought face to face and have
to share services provided by public agencies. Under the situation there is scope
for friction especially among the first generation migrants from villages who do
not tolerate such spatial proximity.
Location of the Ambedkar Chowk including an Ambedkar temple is another
significant factor. On one side of this chowk are the caste Hindu and police
chawls while on the other are the Buddhist chawls. Neo-Buddhist residents con-
sider the Ambedkar temple in the chowk as the symbol of their rising awareness
and prestige. Any affront against the temple is resented by them. Thus when
the Neo-Buddhists have some function such as Ambedkar Jayanti, a solitary
instance of stone-throwing at the temple by a caste Hindu or some disparaging
R. N. SHARMA AND C. A. K. YESUDIAN
remark on Ambedkar or his followers, results in violent clashes between the rival
Role of Police
: The role of police — including both personnel on duty and
police residents in the area — as a group participating in violence, has become
a highly controversial matter. Neo-Buddhist residents and their leaders invariably
accuse the policemen as serving the interests of upper caste Hindus. In support
they point out the fact that whenever police resort to firing or lathi-charge, the
victims are always from among Buddhists. Some specific allegations against police-
men in the area are: (1) policemen side with Hindus whenever there are clashes
between Hindus and Neo-Buddhists, (2) policemen's sons wear their fathers'
uniform and harass Buddhist boys, (3) police shield the boys of police residents
who are associated with unlawful activities like gambling, 'matka' playing, or
bootlegging in the area, and (4) since a majority of police residents in the area
belong to Maratha caste, they have general hatred towards Neo-Buddhists and
Dalit Panthers. Because the present paper is restricted to a brief summary of our
observations on the situation, a detailed discussion on the role of police in the area
is excluded here. However, a few observations are worth-noting. The allegation
that boys of some police residents have taken to unlawful activities and create
terror in the area appears to be true. These boys approach hawkers and petty shop-
keepers in the locality, threaten them and collect 'chauth' (money) from them.
When drunk they instigate Buddhist boys by using abusive language. As alcohol-
ism is widespread among the Neo-Buddhist youth in the area, they in return
quarrel with the police youth. This naturally results in a free for all struggle.
For example, the 1979 violence had started when a policeman's son scolded the
Neo-Buddhist boy who was caught urinating near a Maratha chawl. These police
boys appear to be directly or indirectly protected by the police force in the
Another fact that emerges from our understanding of the role of police in
the area is that at an outbreak of riots in the area, whether Neo-Buddhist resi-
dents initiate it or not, they bear the brunt of the police wrath. In 'controlling'
them the police does not hesitate in using third degree methods, and usually
does not discriminate between the real riot-mongers and the group at large. Thus
the allegation that the police are prejudiced in their dealings with the 'dalits' in
the area is not unfounded.
Such an attitude by the police towards the Neo-Buddhists and Harijans
creates a sense of security among the caste Hindus. This leads the upper castes
to "teach a lesson" to the traditionally subjugated untouchables who have "dared
to raise their heads in the neighbourhood".
While discussing the activities of anti-social elements
operating in Worli chawls, we are reminded of the comments of a social worker
in the area: "Even a small child could tell you all about gambling and 'matka'
playing. Not only this, he would take you to those chawls where such activities
continue unabated...." It is alleged that one of the top 'matka kings' in Bombay —
some Kalyanji — operates in Worli area and also patronises a number of 'matka'
dens in B.D.D. Chawls.
On the 1974 riots, Justice Bhasme (1976 : 196) observes:
GROUP VIOLENCE IN A NEIGHBOURHOOD
"The anti-social elements who were operating matka dens, illicit liquor trade
centres, gambling dens etc., and their associates or supporters or patrons may
have availed of the disturbed conditions and freely joined one community
against the other. On account of their participation, the riots continued for
a considerable length of time despite the police intervention".
Though the Bhasme Commission emphatically drew the attention of the
government and police, particularly to such problems, there is no check on such
activities. It would be too naive to think that the police are unaware of these
activities. A fullfledged police station operates in the B.D.D. Chawls. While
almost all chawl residents accuse the police of condoning these illicit dens, the
police keep silent since they receive their specified 'haftavari'.
To what extent such anti-social elements contribute to group conflict in the
area is a question worth-probing. Leaders and social workers active in the area
present two different views. For some, such bad elements operate in their own
world. Their quarrels confine to their members only. This helps them in main-
taining the secrecy in their trades. It is only when some serious rioting erupts in
the area that they get involved in the conflict. The other view is that they are
very important factors contributing to violence. Those frustrated and deviant
youth who usually start conflict in the area work under these 'dadas'. Drinking
and gambling which result in fights and goondaism are solely the contribution of
these operating dens in the locality. Thus it appears that a direct involvement in
group violence may not be in the best interests of anti-social elements. However,
those youth who come under their influence are major contributors to the tension
in the neighbourhood.
By now it is quite evident that liquor is quite popular among
residents in the area. Some young boys are engaged in bootlegging and are also
habitual drunkards. One can usually see these people roaming around at night,
totally drunk. They start arguments on petty issues and begin fighting on the
flimsiest pretext. According to one senior police officer in the area, a majority of
the mob-rioting begins at night when "alcohol starts revealing its colour".
There is widespread discontent among residents of B.D.D.
Chawls because of a high incidence of unemployment especially among their youth.
And this problem is common to all the social groups. Frustration due to unem-
ployment among youth is so high that they are prepared to do anything to make
money. The result being that they develop delinquent traits and some of them
are used by anti-social elements and mischief makers. From our sample survey
of 200 households in B.D.D. Chawls, we found as many as 71 houses having
atleast one unemployed member. And such families were distributed among all
castes or religious groups. Among the adult — mainly from lower castes — there
were many 'badli' (substitute) workers whose insecure jobs and poor financial
condition filled them with frustration and insecurity. Such an environment in the
locality may add to unrest and discontent.
As mentioned earlier, it is estimated that the population
of Worli B.D.D. Chawls is more than one and half lacs concentrated in just
households. Thus on an average 15 persons live in a single chawl room.
R. N. SHARMA AND C. A. K. YESUDIAN
The sample survey shows that nearly half the sample households have five or
more dependents in the family and there are frequent cases where more than
one family reside in the same tenement. This overcrowding has made the life of
chawl residents miserable. In this regard, the observations of Justice Bhasme
(1976 : 324-25) are worth quoting:
"I went around the chawl areas and saw the conditions. In the one room
tenement of 10'X10' families consisting of 15 to 20 members reside. Young
couples, adults, old men and women and children are huddled together like
cattle. There are common latrines and bathrooms. Although they are well-
built chawls, they present an appearance of slums or 'zopadpattis'. Everything
is stinking and there is dirt and filth everywhere. There is glaring absence of
sanitation and hygiene. The density of population coupled with the unhygie-
nic conditions make the lives of these working class folk miserable. They
quarrel for petty reasons and brawls and street fights go on everywhere at
all times of day and night. As if this is not sufficient, anti-social elements
thrive on gambling, illicit liquor trade and matka dens. All these conditions
have furnished a fertile breeding ground where seeds of communal hatred
could be sown in no time".
The sample survey of the area was confined to those
chawl buildings which were identified as more active during group conflicts. The
present data on household income of respondents, therefore, restricts to such
twenty-one chawl buildings comprising some 1680 tenements. As mentioned ear-
lier, the population in the area mainly belongs to low income group. However,
due to their stay in the city for a considerable period of time, they have succeed-
ed in stabilising their gains. The present table includes the earnings of sample
households separately for Neo-Buddhists/Harijans and higher caste Hindus.
TABLE: MONTHLY EARNINGS OF SAMPLE HOUSEHOLD
7 ( 8.54)
3 ( 2.75)
11 ( 5.50)
6 ( 7.32)
5 ( 4.59)
11 ( 5.50)
1 ( 1.22)
7 ( 6.42)
9 ( 4.50)
No regular income
6 ( 7.32)
6 ( 3.00)
(Av. Income Rs. 657.89) (Av. Income Rs. 652,52)
N = 7 6 N = 109
GROUP VIOLENCE IN A NEIGHBOURHOOD
The data show that about a two-thirds of households belonging to both the
major groups have earnings of Rs. 500 and above. Interestingly enough, the ave-
rage income of Neo-Buddhist/Harijan group is slightly higher (Rs. 658) than
that of the higher caste group (Rs. 652.50). Also, there are about 25 per cent
Neo-Buddhists/Harijans whose income is above Rs. 1,000. In the case of higher
castes such income group confines to only 14 per cent households. Thus, on the
whole, in our sample the earnings of Neo-Buddhist/Harijan households are rela-
tively higher than those of higher caste residents. Caste Hindus who are used to
seeing the other group living the life of almost slaves cannot 'tolerate' a section
of these people earning more than them and living face to face. Therefore, im-
proving economic conditions of Neo-Buddhists and Harijans might be perceived
by higher caste Hindus as leading to their economic deprivation.
Role of Welfare Organisations:
The foregoing discussion gives an impression
that the community under study is continuously under tension and every social
process there is a manifestation of conflict. Since it is a study on social conflict
in the area, the emphasis has been given to discussing those factors causing dis-
harmony in the system. However, there also operate a number of welfare organi-
sations in the area. Information was sought to examine their activities — especially
their role in alleviating tension in the locality.
Some of these organisations are sectarian, serving a particular group, and
others are secular. Often people are not aware of their activities. Though some
of these organisations have been operating in the area for several years, they have
made little impact on the community. Even the services rendered by them are
piecemeal. They mostly provide simple charity type services like organising games,
study classes, sewing classes, eye camps, running 'balwadi' and visiting hospitals.
Thus they have undertaken a wide range of activities for different groups. But
none of them have mentioned that they work to contain growing tension in the
community. Though some of these welfare agencies are long standing and highly
reputed ones, their network of influence is limited to a few chawl buildings ad-
jacent to their agency offices. They do not have any programme or strategy to
combat destabilising forces. Under the circumstances, the only role that these
organisations play is to console the victims of riots and provide some relief after
the tension precipitates into violence. When the attention of a few social workers
was drawn to take up the task of mitigating social tension in the area, they pre-
ferred to remain "apolitical" as their move to resolve conflict in the area "would
mean their getting involved in politics".
A Complex Problem
The above profile of Worli B.D.D. Chawls in Bombay brings out the fact
that the prevalent disharmony in the community is an outcome of a multi-factoral
situation. Factors like role of interest groups, caste hostility, role of police, loca-
tion of chawls, unlawful activities, unemployment, congested housing and perceived
economic deprivation are some important causes of instability in the community.
It would be desirable to classify these factors into basic and proximate causes
for the reason that some of these factors which appear to motivate violence in
R. N. SHARMA AND C. A. K. YESUDIAN
the community also happen to be familiar characteristics of social life in the
country and still one could see a lot of harmony and consensus in the system.
For instance, in Bombay itself, there exist similar B.D.D. Chawls at Delisle
Road where the socio-economic conditions are not different from those at
Worli chawls, but there is no such instance of group conflict in those localities.
Likewise, concentration of people in different neighbourhoods based on their caste
or religious affiliations is a characteristic phenomenon of both urban and rural
lives in the country. Again, a high rate of unemployment, over-population, eco-
nomic impoverishment are the associated facts of Indian life and Worli com-
munity is no exception to this. Then how is it that Worli chawls suffer from
such an unusual state of violence and tension? To search an answer we have to
go deep into the problem.
The 'self-respect movement' started in different parts of the country to bring
awareness among Harijans against their age-old exploitation by the privileged
castes has brought significant changes in the attitude of scheduled castes towards
their life situations. Nadar's 'Sanskritisation' movement in Tamil Nadu and
Mahar's Buddhist movement in Maharashtra are parts of such a process (Rao,
1978). Under their influence, Harijans no more consider their plight as the con-
sequent of their 'karma'. Now they are more asssertive and do not take gross
injustices lying down (Dube 1950 : 503). They have begun to organise themselves
and establish new identities based on diverse ideologies. These ideologies: 'rein-
terpretation' (taking to Buddhism) and 'rejection' (of Hindu philosophy of reli-
gion), along with the ideologies of civil rights based on democracy and class con-
flict bring a new confidence among Harijans and motivate them to fight for equa-
lity in educational, economic and political opportunities (Rao, 1978:99). Dalit
Panther movement that started in Maharashtra in the early seventies is an ex-
treme manifestation of such a rising consciousness among Harijans particularly
Neo-Buddhists in the State.
While the passing decade saw a new confidence among Harijans, the privi-
leged castes in the country have been passing through a difficult phase. As their
life opportunities are diminishing in proportion to the rising rate of population
in the country, there has grown a widespread feeling among them that the chang-
ing social norms worked to their disadvantage and even detriment. Therefore,
governmental efforts like distribution of surplus land and 'reservations' for sche-
duled castes are seen by higher caste Hindus as affecting their life opportunities.
Consequently, at the slightest opportunity, they do not hesitate in 'punishing'
Harijans who, till now, had lived the life of almost a slave (Reddy, 1981). The
growing atrocities on Harijans is an outcome of such a conflicting situation.*
The basic cause of social tension at Worli B.D.D. Chawls is therefore the
incompatibility of interests of the upper caste Hindus and the Neo-Buddhists.
The growing awareness among Neo-Buddhists brought about by Dalit Panthers
in the early seventies and by other organisations like Republican Party, Buddhist
Society of India etc., has made them status conscious and bitter towards the pri-
* A few case studies of such violent clashes between caste Hindus and Harijans in some
parts of the country are worth-noting: Morkhandikar (1978), Lynch (1981) and Bose (1981).
GROUP VIOLENCE IN A NEIGHBOURHOOD
vileged castes. The upper caste community in the locality aggrieved due to its
'perceived' deprivation (Gurr, 1970) has turned hostile towards the opposite group.
Its over-zealous members seek the reaffirmation of traditional dominance and
intimidate the subordinate group. Therefore, once these structural conditions are
favourable to raise conflicting situation in the neighbourhood, the other motivat-
ing factors like role of police, location of chawl buildings, unlawful activities,
unemployment etc., turn the prevalent caste intolerance and hatred into group
violence. Till these deharmonising factors operate in the area, the conflict will
persist there unabated. The fact that B.D.D. Chawls at Delisle Road are free of
such conflicts is mainly due to the absence of the kind of politicisation and
awareness observed in the case of Neo-Buddhists of Worli B.D.D. Chawls.
R E F E R E N C E S
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