“SOMEHOW IT HAPPENED”: Violence, Culpability, and the Hindu Nationalist Community



For more than four decades, local-level workers of the Marxist Left and Hindu Right in the southern Indian state of Kerala have been involved in a grievous political conflict. Drawing on my ethnography among members of the two groups, I describe how responsibility for this violence has been elided and effaced especially among members of the Hindu nationalist group, Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS). Crucial to this elision has been the workers’ close-knit community of friends and supporters that they forge by extending everyday assistance, care, and mobilizing support in small neighborhoods, towns, and villages of the region. Modes of sociality and concepts of relatedness so generated not only mitigate individualizing experiences of suffering but also subsume individual responsibility for acts of violence within the whole. This article is about such dissolution of culpabilities, and the affects, emotive concepts and conditions of collective life that make it possible.