Skip to main content

Über dieses Buch

Questions of the extent to which social movements are capable of deepening democracy in India lie at the heart of this book. In particular, the authors ask how such movements can enhance the political capacities of subaltern groups and thereby enable them to contest and challenge marginality, stigma, and exploitation. The work addresses these questions through detailed empirical analyses of contemporary fields of protest in Indian society – ranging from gender and caste to class and rights-based legislation. Drawing on the original research of a variety of emerging and established international scholars, the volume contributes to an engaged dialogue on the prospects for democratizing Indian democracy in a context where neoliberal reforms fuel a contradictory process of uneven development.



Chapter 1. Social Movements, State Formation and Democracy in India: An Introduction

India, as Thomas Blom Hansen (1999: 5) notes, presents us with “the longest, most sustained, and most successful trajectory of democracy anywhere in the postcolonial world …”. The coming of national independence in 1947 witnessed the introduction of universal franchise and a system of electoral democracy that—with the exception of the Emergency period from 1975 to 19771—have remained stable for close to seven decades. As media pundits are quick to point out every time India gears up for general elections, this makes for a favourable comparison with other countries and regions in the global South where democratic rule has tended to rest on feeble foundations and often has given way to outright authoritarianism. “For the 64 years since independence, democracy has perhaps been India’s greatest asset,” wrote one commentator in 2012, “the magic that has kept the country’s dizzying array of linguistic, ethnic and religious groups together as a nation” (Denyer 2012). Moreover, Indian democracy is unique in the sense that the poor exercise their right to vote more eagerly and in greater proportion than India’s middle classes and elites: “In India alone, the poor form not just the overwhelming majority of the electorate, but vote in larger numbers than the better-off. Everywhere else, without exception, the ratio of electoral participation is the reverse” (Anderson 2012; see also Thachil 2014 and Banerjee 2014).
Alf Gunvald Nilsen, Kenneth Bo Nielsen

Chapter 2. The Slow-Motion Counterrevolution: Developmental Contradictions and the Emergence of Neoliberalism

The Modi government represents the greatest threat Indian democracy has faced and this paper seeks uncover better what it represents, the dangers it contains and the possibilities for resistance to it. To understand the current government better, and to better distinguish it from the wider rightward drift in Indian politics that has long been evident, this paper presents an original understanding of the shifts in India’s political economy in marketist direction, dating it back to the late 1960s. It was the work of the middle caste landed classes whose power is not often recognized and their transformation into more and less successful Provincial Propertied Classes (PPCs) is the key social development that explains the political changes – the decline of Congress, the rise of the Parties of the Provincial Propertied Classes (PPPCs) and the rise of Hindutva – in the decades since that have moved Indian politics to the right. The Modi government represents, however, an even narrower class, the Indian corporate class, than previous governments and could be endangering the social alliance that brought it to power.
Radhika Desai

Chapter 3. The Politics of Caste and the Deepening of India’s Democracy: The Case of the Backward Caste Movement in Bihar

As the Bihar election approached in the fall of 2015, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies appeared to have a clear advantage (Manor forthcoming). Coming after the BJP’s dramatic victory under the leadership of Narendra Modi in the 2014 parliamentary elections, the contest in Bihar was widely seen as a test as to whether the BJP could gain control over crucial state governments in order to consolidate nationwide hegemony. Aligned against the BJP were two regional lower caste leaders—Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav—longtime rivals who came together in order to stop the “Modi wave.”
Jeffrey Witsoe

Chapter 4. Transnational Dalit Feminists In Between the Indian State, the UN and the Global Justice Movement

This chapter explores to what extent Dalit feminists have been able to challenge their marginal position as so-called untouchables by way of transnational relations. Over the last few decades, Dalit feminists have bypassed the Indian state and, on the one hand, turned to the UN in an international context, and on the other hand, turned transnationally to activists in other countries and continents, thus playing an active part in both the Global Justice Movement and the World Social Forums (WSFs). I will discuss how we might conceptualize their involvement in these two different contexts—the UN and the Global Justice Movement—as well as how these involvements both differ and relate to each other, and to the Indian state.
Eva-Maria Hardtmann

Chapter 5. Feminist Efforts to Democratize Democracy: Insights from Four Decades of Activism in India

The focus of this edited volume is on the relationship between social movements and the contemporary Indian state. As the editors note, this relationship, particularly as it relates to subaltern movements, is often theorized in binary terms: the state as an elite controlled entity with little to offer subaltern movements versus the state as the primary avenue through which subaltern movements can further their emancipatory projects. Most authors in this volume, rightly in my view, challenge this binary in favor of a more nuanced understanding.
Manisha Desai

Chapter 6. Women Workers, Collective Action and the “Right to Work” in Madhya Pradesh

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act enacted by the Indian Parliament in 2005, created a legal, justiciable “right to work” for all households in rural India and effected the implementation of the largest public works programme of its kind in the world. Adult members of all rural households were now legally entitled to “demand” work on publicly funded worksites, for “at least” 100 days per household per financial year. The enactment of the NREGA was significant, since this was the first Parliamentary statute that introduced a framework of universal, justiciable rights for the implementation of a “developmental” or poverty-alleviation program in post-independence India. This chapter discusses the significance of the NREGA for women workers. It also looks at the potential and limitations of collective action in enabling women workers to access their rights.
Nandini Nayak

Chapter 7. Turbid Transparency: Retelling the Story of the Right to Information Act in India

The enactment of the national Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2005 has been produced, consumed, and celebrated as an important event of democratic deepening in India both in terms of the process that led to its enactment (arising from a grassroots movement) and its outcome (fundamentally altering the citizen-state relationship). This chapter proposes that the explanatory factors underlying this event may be more complex than imagined thus far. The chapter discusses how the leadership of the grassroots movement was embedded within the ruling elite and possessed the necessary resources as well as unparalleled access to spaces of power for the movement to be successful. It shows how the democratisation of the higher bureaucracy along with the launch of the economic liberalisation project meant that the urban, educated, high-caste, upper-middle class elite that provided critical support to the demand for an RTI Act was no longer vested in the state and had moved to the private sector. Mirroring this shift, the framing of the RTI Act during the 1990s saw its ambit reduced to the government, even as there was a concomitant push to privatise public goods and services. It goes on to investigate the Indian RTI Act within the global explosion of freedom of information laws over the last two decades, and shows how international pressures had a direct and causal impact both on its content and the timing of its enactment. Taking the production of the RTI Act as a lens, the chapter argues that while there is much to celebrate in the consolidation of procedural democracy in India over the last six decades, existing social and political structures may limit the extent and forms of democratic deepening occurring in the near future.
Prashant Sharma

Chapter 8. Rights-Based Legislation in Practice: A View from Southern Orissa

In recent years, rights-based legislation has emerged as a critical site of contestation for communities struggling against dispossession and claiming their rights to land and forests (see Nielsen and Nilsen 2014; Kumar and Kerr 2012). In response to the increasing violation of the legal rights of the rural poor by powerful actors, the judicialisation of politics—that is, the increasing reliance on the courts and judicial means for addressing questions of livelihood and fundamental rights—has emerged as a significant phenomenon (see Randeria 2007). Comaroff and Comaroff (2006: 26) rightly argue that with the emergence of this new form of mobilisation, “politics itself is migrating to the courts”. This new terrain of engagement has variously been labelled “lawfare” (Sundar 2009: 3) or “law struggles” (Sundar 2011: 188), and involves contention over law and the attempts of ordinary people to define the rule of law, and ensure that the laws are observed. In doing so, the rural communities often operate according to the logics of what O’Brien and Li (2006) have called “rightful resistance”—that is, a form of contentious politics that operates near the boundary of authorised channels and appeals to elites’ commitment to laws and policies.
Minati Dash

Chapter 9. Re-making Labour in India: State Policy, Corporate Power and Labour Movement Mobilisation

This chapter interprets the shifting political dynamics of state–capital–labour relations with reference to contemporary debates in global labour studies on the relationship between (spatial) capitalist strategies for accumulation and the emergence of new sites of labour conflict and associated opportunities for labour movement mobilisation. Capitalist states, while promoting and pursuing accumulation through subordination and re-regulation, cannot completely evade questions of legitimacy or the “problem” of either co-opting or negating the associational, structural and political bargaining power of workers. The chapter considers how these logics translate to the operation of the current labour relations regime in India and the design and implementation of reforms proposed by the Modi Government. The chapter also considers the relative opportunities for, and obstacles to, labour movement mobilisation to defeat, mediate or transform current labour policies and practices. The relationship between labour movement action and labour policy and institutions can also be understood with reference to the factors that enable unions and workers organisations to act as social movements, and thereby contribute to broader struggles for democratic deepening, and those that constrain or circumscribe them to a narrowing role and legitimacy as institutional participants.
Michael Gillan

Chapter 10. Blind Alleys and Red Herrings? Social Movements, the State, Class Alliances and Pro-Labouring Class Strategy

This chapter reflects on strategies aimed at improving the material and political conditions of India’s labouring class. It does so through an analysis of two prominent Indian social movements that engages with debates about where the fundamental fault-lines of domination and collective action lie. In line with approaches that recognise class differences within the countryside as well as transnational aspects of exploitation, it argues that cross-class alliances are not in labour’s interests, and should be rejected in favour of organising ‘classes of labour’. This requires place and time-sensitive strategies, which may include engagement with the state when this can augment labour’s room for political manoeuvre. Undue acceleration of pro-labour strategies may trigger countermoves that leave it in a worst position, while undue hesitancy can unnecessarily restrict the scope of change and hold down the material conditions of millions.
Jonathan Pattenden

Chapter 11. Disappearing Landlords and the Unmaking of Revolution: Maoist Mobilization, the State and Agrarian Change in Northern Telangana

This chapter seeks to explore changing forms of Maoist mobilization in the plains of northern Telangana from the 1970s onwards. Bringing to view mutually constitutive relations between Maoist mobilization, the state and agrarian change, this chapter challenges the dominant view of the decline and collapse of the Maoists in northern Telangana.I argue that prevailing scholarly accounts leave unexplored patterns of mobilization and demobilization that are crucial to a comprehensive understanding of the Telanganacase. Presenting empirical material in the form of oral historical narratives, I show that the disintegration of landlordism in the region profoundly affected the Maoist movement and gave shape to subsequent developments. This chapter thus seeks to show the value of centering regionally specific processes of state formationand agrarian political economies in analyses of Maoist trajectories in India.
Jostein Jakobsen

Chapter 12. Conclusion

We began this book by asking to what extent social movements in India have been capable of deepening democracy in such a way as to enhance the political capacities of subaltern groups and thereby enable them to contest and challenge marginality, stigma, and exploitation. Underlying this question has been a view of democracy that holds that democracy is not reducible to its formal components alone, but rather encompasses both effective and substantive qualities. Insofar as the substantive dimensions of democracy centre crucially on “the political and economic integration of subordinate classes” (Heller 2000: 486) we have foregrounded this aspect without, however, losing sight of how the mutually reinforcing connections between all three dimensions of democracy are forged via different trajectories of mobilization from below in specific contexts. It has been from this starting point that our exploration of the interrelationship between social movements, state formation, and democracy in India has proceeded.
Kenneth Bo Nilsen, Alf Gunvald Nielsen


Weitere Informationen