Ajay Verghese is interested in questions pertaining to South Asian politics, ethnicity, political violence, and religious politics. He is the author of “The Colonial Origins of Ethnic Violence in India” (Stanford University Press, 2016), and is currently working on a book about secularization in modern India.
On Ethnic Conflict in India
In his book, “The Colonial Origins of Ethnic Violence in India,” Verghese argues that much of the ethnic conflict in contemporary India – for instance, violence between Hindus and Muslims, or between high castes and low castes – is shaped by British colonial legacies. Areas that were directly under British control tend to have higher levels of caste and tribal violence today, but areas that remained under the control of native kings tend to have higher levels of religious conflict.
On Hindu-Muslim Relations in India
The 1980s and 1990s saw the deadly growth of Hindu-Muslim riots throughout India. Most scholars have argued that religious (or “communal”) violence is a legacy of British rule in India, and that the precolonial period was marked by religious tolerance and assimilation. Counter to these widely held views, Verghese argues that the violent Hindu-Muslim conflicts in modern India are historically deep – they date back to long before the arrival of European administrators. This viewpoint requires a rethinking about the causes of religious violence in the modern Indian Republic.