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Social Movements and the State

Readings in Indian Government and Politics-4


Readings in Indian Government and Politics

Series Editors: Zoya Hasan KuldeepMathur GhanshyamShah

Other volumes in the same series: Volume1: Development Policyand Administration edited by Kuldeep Mathur Volume2: Decentralizationand Local Politicsedited by S.N. Jha and P.C. Mathur Volume3: Politicsand the State in India edited by Zoya Hasan


Social Movements and the State


Readings in Indian Government and Politics-4

Edited by

Ghanshyam Shah

Sage Publications New Delhi • Thousand Oalts• London

Copyright © Ghanshyam Shah, 2002 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system without permission in writing from the publisher . First published in 2002 by Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd M-32 Market, Greater Kailasb-1 New Delhi 110048 Sage Publications Inc. 2455 Teller Road Thousand Oaks, California 91320

Sage Publications Ltd. 6 Bonhill Street London EC2A 4PU

Published by Tojeshwar Singh for Sage Publications India Pvt Ud, phototypeset in lOpt. limes by Line Arts, Pondicherry and printed at Chaman Enterprises, Delhi.

Library of Congreu Cataloging-in-PublicationData Social movements and the state/edited by Ghanshyam Shah. p. cm.-(Readings in Indian government and politics; 4) Includes bibliographical references and index . 1. Social movements-India . 2. Social problems-India. 3. India Social conditions-1947- 4. India-Politics and government-1947 1. Shah, Ghanshyam. II. Series. HN683.5.S6135 303.48'4'0954 dc21 2001 2001019680

ISBN: ~7619-9513-7 ~7619-9514-5

(US-hb) (US-pb)

81- 7829-023-5 81-7829-024-3

(lndia-hb) (lndia-pb) •

Sage ProductionTeam: Abantika Chatterji, Sana Aiyar, N.K. Negi and Santosh Rawat

Contents Preface by the SeriesEditors Acknowledgements

1 9

1. Introduction

GlumshyamSW 2. Nine Theses on Social Movements Andn GunderFrankand Marta Fumles 3. Cyclical Movement towards the 'Etemal'-'Nine Theses of Social Movements': A Critique DN.Dluuu,ganandJ.Jolua 4. Masses, Classes and the State Rajni Kothari 5. Social Origins of the Peasant Insurrection in Telengana, 1946-51 DX Dhanagan 6. Naxalbari and the Left Movement SUlftlUIJa JJanerjff 7. Farmers' Movements in Contemporary India DipankarGupta 8. Organized Labour and Militant Unienism: The Bombay Tuxtile Workers' Strike of 1982 Salim Lakha 9. 1Hbal Solidarity Movements in India: A Review Surqjil Sinha 10. 1Hbal Autonomy Movements in Chhotanagpur K.S. Singh 11. Ambedkar and After: The Dalit Movement in India Gail Omvedt 12. Thking Stock: Women's Movement and the Stiite


13 32

56 68

91 125 193

230 251

267 293 310



13. Direct Action in India: A Study of Gujarat and Bihar Agitations Ghanshyam Shah 14. Little Nationalism Turned Chauvinist: Assam's Anti-Foreigner Upsurge, 1979-80

AmalenduGuha 15. 'God Must Be Liberated': A Hindu Liberation Movement in Ayodhya Peter van der Veer 16. Chipko: Social History of an 'Environmental' Movement Ramachandra Guha

Select Readings About the Editor and Contributors Index



402 423 455 460 463

Readings in Indian Government and Politics

Preface by the Series Editors

This series focuses on significant themes in contemporary Indian government and politics. Each volume explores a wide range of problems and issues in specific areas of Indian politics and locates them within wider debates on politics, society, economy and culture. The series focuses on the interface of social forces, political institutions and proce~ in an attempt to understand the changinggrammar of Indian politics. A variety of approaches have been deployed by social scientists in general and political scientists in particular to understand the relationships between state and society, democracy and development, state and classes controlling its power, formulation of public policy and its implementation, and between issues of cultural recognition and distribution, as also between different segments and regions, religion, caste, languages and culture. The analysis of some of these themes and issues from different perspectives and approaches constitutes the principle endeavour of this series. The reviewof issuesof theoretical and substantiveimportance both within institutional structures and outside them can illuminate the complex interplay of socio-politicalforces and political processes and dynamics of social formation and political transformation in modem India. The aim is to strike a balance between empirical observation and theoretical analysisof political processes. Each volume in the series consists of a detailed introduction and a selection of essaysessential for the understanding of the theme. Using this pattern, each volume will criticallyappraise the state of research in the theme, re-examine old problems and open up new issues for • enquiry.

8 Preface

The series will be of interest to anyone concerned with the study of Indian government and politics.However, it will be of special interest to students of political science, sociology and contemporary history and to policy makers, bureaucrats, journalists and social activists. ZoyaHasan GhanshyamShah lwldeepMathur

Acknowledgements The papers, with their complete citations, included in this volume are mentionedbelow~ Andre Gunder Frank and Marta Fuentes D.N. Dhanagare and J. John

Rajni Kothari

D.N . Dhanagare

Sumanta Banerjee

1987 'Nine Theses on Social Movements', Economic and Political Weekly,29 August. 1988 'Cyclical Movement towards the "Etemal"-"Nine Theses of Social Movements": A Critique', Economic and Political ~ekly, 21 May, Vol. 33, No. 21. 1986 'Masses, Classes and the State', Economic and Political ~ekly, 1 February. Vol. 21, No. 5. 1983 'Social Origins of the Peasant Insurrection in Telengana', in D.N. Dhanagare, PeasantMovements in India 1920-1950, New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press, New Delhi. 1980 'Naxalbari' and 'Srikakulam', in Sumanta Banerjee, In the Wake of Naxalbari:A History of the Naxalite Movement in India, Calcutta: Subamarekha. 1996 Subamarekha and 'Strategy Thctics and Forms of Political Participation Among Left Parties', in T.V. Sathyamurthy (ed.), Class

IO Acknowledgements

Dipankar Gupta




Surajit Sinha


K.S. Singh


Gail Omvedt


Lakshmi Lingam


Formation and Political Trans/ormation in Post-ColonialIndia, New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Reprinted by permissionof Oxford University Press, New Delhi. 'Conceptua lizing Rural Unionism', 'The Jats and their Union' and 'The Jats and the Marathas', in Dipankar Gupta, Rivalryand Brotherhood:Politicsin the Life of Farmersin North India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press, New Delhi. 'Organized Labor and Militant Unionism: The Bombay Textile Workers' Strike of 1982', Bulletin of ConcernedAsian Scholars, Vol. 20, No. 2. '1Hbal Solidarity Movements in India: A Review', in K.S. Singh (ed.), TribalSituation in India, Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study. 'Tribal Autonomy Movements in Chhotanagpur' in K.S. Singh (ed.), TribalMovements in India, Vol. II, New Delhi: Manohar Publishers. ~bedkar and After: The Dalit Movement in India', in Ghanshyam Shah (ed.), Dalit Identity and Politics,New Delhi: Sage Publications. 'Toking Stock: Women's Movement and the State', The Indian Journal of Social Work, Vol. 59, No. 1.

Ghanshyam Shah

1979 'Direct Action in India: A Study of Gujarat and Bihar Agitations', Con-

tributionto Asian Studies. Amalendu Guba

1980 'Little Nationalism Turned Chauvinist: Assam's Anti-Foreigner Upsurge 1979-80', Economic and

Political~ekly. Peter van der Veer

Ramachandra Guba

1987 '"God Must be Liberated", A Hindu Liberation Movement in Ayodhya', Modem Asian Studies, Vol. 21, No . 2, Cambridge University Press. 1991 'Chipko: Social History of an "Environmental" Movement' in Ramachandra Guba, The Unquiet Woods,New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press, New Delhi.


I Introduction


Political science has largely focused its attention on moral political philosophy, normative concepts and the working of political institutions such as the executive, the legislature, parties and elections. The dynamics of these institutions and political processes are not sufficiently deliberated. The study of politics of the masses, their aspirations and demands, articulation of their problems, the modus operandi in asserting their demands outside the institutional framework and ~eir occasional efforts at overthrowing the existing state power are, by and large, ignored by political science academia. One of the reasons for such an approach is the heritage of Indian political science. Earlier, under the influence of the British tradition, political science in India was confined to political philosophy, fonnal government institutions and international relations. Empirical studies, including the functioning of the institutions, are of recent origin. It started in the late 1950s and was influenced by the behaviour school developed in America. Positivism dominated the analysis, and the question 'why' was relegated to oblivion. Second, the concept of politics adopted by political scientists influenced by the American and British traditions is narrow, confined to the political system whose functions are : rule making, rule application and rule adjudication.For many political scientists'politics' means who gets what. when and how in society. For others, the definition of


Ghansla,a• Shala

politics is the 'authoritative allocation' of values. Elaborating on the meaning of 'authoritative', David Easton points out, ' ... a policy is clearly authoritative when the feeling prevails that it must or ought to be obeyed ... that policies whether formal or effective, are accepted as binding' (Easton 1953: 76). These definitions delimit the study of politics to the functions of the government and the state; or politics of the ruling class or elite. Therefore, it is not surprising that in America and Britain, some universities have departments of 'government' or 'public law', and in India, 'civics and administration' instead of 'politics' or 'political science'. Third , thanks to the dominance of post-World War II liberal political ideology and the structural-functional approach, there is more emphasis in the social science literature on equilibrium and harmony rather than on conflict and change . Political science, though primarily concerned with power and conflict, has refrained from researching the issue of societal conflict for social change . Political scientists have primarily remained interested in studying the internal conflict of the power-elite and not the conflict between the masses and the rulers . According to them, societal conflicts have to be resolved by the government and political institution s. Their area of concern begins when conflict enters the political orbit of the government. For them conflict resolution is more important than the cause of conflict. A majority of the political scientists are liberal in their ideology and consider the Constitution as sacrosanct. Existing political institutions, they used to feel till the 1960s, could solve all social conflicts (Aiyar 1966). There are innumerable constitutional channels to solve conflicts; and people should explore various constitutional methods or evolve/reform institutional mechanism rather than resort to direct action . Even in 'a desperate situation ' in which the constitutional system fails to solve conflict, the path of social wisdom , the liberal political scientists believe, 'would lie in collectively exploring more rational and more human forms of settling social conflicts' (ibid .: 33). They believe that people should develop the habits of obedience and respect for the authority. Democracy ends when power shifts to the masses. The masses have to be kept in check, political scientists advise (Srinivasan 1966). Though the number of political scientists of this school of thought has declined as political institutions fail to cope with the increasing unrest in society, their aversion to direct action continues. Their faith in reforming institutions persists. However, a small section of political scientists, both liberals and radicals , do not



abide by the narrow definition of the subject . They have begun to explore the area of social movement for greater understanding of political processes.

Defining Social Movement There is no precise definition of the term 'social movement' accepted by scholars of all disciplines or even scholars belonging to the same discipline. Like many other terms such as 'democracy', 'masses' , 'popular' , 'equality', the term 'movement ' is often used differently by different social activists, political leaders and scholars who have written on 'movements' . Some scholars use the term 'movement ' inter changeably with 'organization' or 'union'. Some use it to mean a historical trend or tendency such as rena issance, 'analytic movement' 'empiricist movement' , etc. It is fashionable for political leaders and social reformers to call their activities, which are essentially confined to lobbying or advocacy, as 'movements' even though their activities are restricted to forming organizations with less than a dozen members . Some claim to launch movements by issuing press statements on public issues. Like many other words, the term 'movement ' is still regarded a 'hurrah word!'-T.D . Weldon 's memorable classification (1955) . The term social movement became currency in European languages in the early nineteenth century . This was the period of social upheaval. The political leaders and authors who used the term were concerned with the emancipation of the exploited classes and the creation of a new society by changing property relationships . Their ideological orientation is reflected in their definition . However , since the early 1950s, various scholars have attempted to provide a 'thorough-going' definition of the concept of social movements. The works of Rudolf Heberle (1951, 1968), Neil Smelser (1963) and John Wilson (1973) are important , though each one's definition is not without difficulties . Paul Wilkinson gives the following working con cept of 'social movement':

Social movements are thus clearly different from historical movements, tendencies or trends. It is important to note, however, that such tendencies and trends, and the influence of the unconscious or irrational factors - in human behaviour, may be of crucial

16 Glttuulaya• Shah

importance in illuminating the problems of interpreting and explaining social movement. A social movement must evince a minimal degreeof organization, though this may rangefrom a loose, informal orpartial levelof organization to the highlyinstitutionalizedand bureaucratizedmovement and the corporategroup. Indeed, it will be shown that much of the literature of social movements has been concerned with natural histories, models or theories of movement development. Such models have attempted to simulate changes in movement structure and organization ranging from states of initial social unrest and excitement and the emergence of a charismatic leadership, to a revolutionary movement's seizure of power. A socialmovement's commitment to changeand the raison d'etre of its organizationarefounded upon the conscious volition,normative commitment to the movement's aims or beliefs,and activeparticipation on the part of the followers or members. This particular characterization of social movement in terms of volition and normative commitment is endorsed by something approaching a consensus among leading scholars in this field. Heberle, for example, conceives of these belief-systems as an expression of the collective will of the people among whom they are accepted. He is emphatic that it is the element of volition that makes the beliefs socially effective. It is the conscious volition of individuals acting collectively that brings about the embodiment of ideologies in social movements (Wilkinson 1971:27). This working concept does not claim to offer a precise definition. It is too broad and includes collective action through legal means within the boundaries of political institutions (such as voting in elections or presenting memoranda), as well as violent extra-institutional collective action. The 'minimum degree of organisation' is problematic. It is difficult to say precisely what the 'minimum degree' is. One also wonders whether the social movement begins with setting up an organization having committed members, or does the organization evolve in the course of time as the movement develops. Such a definition may exclude protests and agitations which may not have organization to begin with. Notwithstandingthe difficultieswith Wilkinson's working concept, it has a heuristic value. Needless to say that, like many other concepts, the meaning given to the term social movement by the participants, has temporal and cultural contexts.



Components of Movements Objectives, ideology, programmes, leadership, and organization are important components of social movements. They are interdependent, influencing each other. The objectives of the movement change from narrow particular local issues to broad aims for social transformation. Sometimes a movement which begins with broad objectives may in the process get bogged down to one or two particular issues. Ideology also undergoes change. It provides direction for evolving strategies and programmes; and also keeps the participants together by developing feelings of 'we-ness'. Various strategies and programmes are evolved to mobilize the people. They sustain the movement for a long period. Leadership which initiates or emerges in the course of the growth of the movement plays a crucial role in articulating ideology and objectives, evolving strategies and programmes and maintaining the spirit of the participants. Neither of these components are a priori and static. They evolve. They get changed in the course of the movement. They are in a rudimentary form in some movements and fairly welJ developed in oth ers. Ranajit Guba rightly points out that though these components are found in all types of movements or insurgencies, including the socalled 'spontaneous' rebellions, their forms vary-from very unstructured to well organized . He challenges the contention of some historians who opine that the peasant insurgencies were spontaneous and Jacked political consciousness and organization. Such insurgencies lacked, 'neither in leadership nor in aim nor even in some rudiments of a programme, although none of these attributes could compare in maturity or sophistication with those of the historically more advan ced movements of the twentieth century' (Guba 1983a: 10). The present volume is confined to those studies which examine non or extra -institutionalized collective political actions which strive for or resist social and political change. Collective actions, which follow the path of acquiescence for social mobility and change in status, are not treated as 'social movement'. The action which is legally permitted and 'widely accepted as binding in society or part of society' (Johnson 1966: 21), at a given point of time, is institutionalized action. Such actions include petitioning, voting in elections, fighting legal battles in courts of law, etc. However, sometimes these methods are accompanied by other collective actions and used as tactics. Such


Ghanshyam Shah

mobilization though can be treated as a social movement, the anthology is largely confined to the direct actions of a group of people. In David Bayley's words, it is 'illegal public protest ' (1962). The term 'illegal' raises many questions and it is a matter of interpretation of law and constitution . A particular action can be interpreted as illegal by those who are in authority or support the status quo; but the same action may be interpreted as legal by those who strive for social change. According to Rajni Kothari, 'direct action can be defined as an extra-constitutional political technique that takes the form of a group action, is aimed at some political change and is directed against the government in pow er' (1960 : 27) . The term 'extra-constitutional ' can be a matter of interpr etation. In the 1960s, Kothari 's concept of 'political change' was narrow , confined to change in the government. We believe that political power is not solely confined to the government, it is also located at various levels in society . All those who strive for 'political change' do not always struggle against the government· alone. After all, change in government does not necessarily bring significant changes in the nature of politics : relationship between the ruling class and the ruled, power relationship among various segments of society , the institutional mechanism for resolv ing conflict in society. Such transformation calls for the collective action of people at various levels against dominant caste, class and ideology. Non-institutionaliz ed collectiv e action takes several forms such as protest , agitation, strike , satyagraha,hartal, gherao, riot, etc . Agitations or protests are not strictly social movements if we follow the working definition quoted earlier. But, more often than not, a social movement develop s in the course of time , and it begins with protest or agitation which may not have an 'organization ' or an 'id eology' for change. For instanc e, when stud ents of th e engineering college in Gujarat protest ed against the mess bill, it was a relatively spontaneous act. But that protest led to the Nav Nirman Andolan of 1974 in Gujarat (Shah 1977). Moreover, a particular collective action may only be an agitation for some scholars , and a movement for others, depending upon the level of analysis and perspective. For example, the collective action of a section of society demanding the formation of linguistic states in the 1950s was viewed as an 'agitation' by some, and a movement by others; or the same scholars , at a later stage, saw 'agitations ' transforming into 'movements '. Agitations, protests, strikes and even riots are often but not always part of a social movement of a



particular stratum of society. Some collective actions are often labelled by the authorities as 'riots', but they are more often than not a part of ongoing movements. A striking example is that of the so-called Deccan riots of the late nineteenth century against the government's land policy.

Social and Political Movements More often than not, political scientists and sociologists do not make a distinction between 'social' and 'political' movements. Sociologists assume, and rightly so, that social movements also include those movements which have a clear objective of bringing about political change. 1\vo volumes on Social Movements in India (1978) edited by the sociologist M.S.A. Rao , include two such studies: the Naxalite movement which aims at capturing state power; and the backward caste movement asserting a higher status. Rudolf Heberle (1951) argues that al! movements have political implications even if their members do not strive for political power . Political scientists , too, are not inhibited in using the term 'social movement'. The book on Social Movements (1971) by Wilkinson , published under the series 'The Concept of Political Science' , is suggestive of this approach. In the contemporary social science literature , the term 'new social movement ' is in vogue. It is largely West-Europe-centric, derived from some of the movements there. Though there is no precise defi nition of new social movements, generally such movements are related to the issues of the 'post-modem' society. They are not raising economic issues and not concerned with state power . These movements are primarily concerned with protecting and enlarging the autonomy of civil society. These movements are not class based . They raise the issue of humanity cutting across the interests of all classes . In that sense 'new social movements ' are social and not political. Andre Gunder Frank and Marta Fuentes (Chapter 3) make a distinction between social and political movements . According to them , the former do not strive for state power . The social movements 'seek more autonomy rather than state power' . There is a difference between social and political power, and the latter is located in the state alone. According to these authors, the objective of social movement is social transformation. The participants get mobilized

20 Ghanshyam Shah

for attaining social justice. This thesis is problematic. Of course, society and state, and therefore social and political power are not one and the same. But to differentiate between social power and political power in the contemporary world is to gloss over reality , and ignore the complexities of political processe s. Politics is not just located in the political parties. The authors ignore the political implications of the movements involving issues concerning the sense of justice or injustice. It is simplistic to say that classes have disappeared . Though some movements do not directly raise issues related to one class, dominance of a particular class in such movements cannot be wished away. Though environment is apparently a non-class issue, it is an issue raised by the middle class with its class perspective which is different from that of the working class or Adivasi perspective. Dhanagare and John (Chapter 4) rightly assert that Frank and Fuentes are committed to a process of 'depoliticization of the social realm '. Any collective endeavour, we believe , to bring about social transformationchange in labour and property relationship , distribution of resources, protecting the global environment for sustainable developmentand struggle for justice, involves capturing or influencing political authority, though it may not be on the immediate agenda. Therefore , in the present context, the difference between 'social' and 'political' movement is merely semantic .

Approaches Generally, studies on social movements follow either a Marxist or non-Marxist framework for analysis. Scholars following the Marxist approach are primarily interested in bringing about .revolutionary change in society. According to them, the causes for social movement are located in the economic structure of society. Antagonistic interests between the propertied and labour classes are inherent in a class-based society which generates contradictions . The former use the coercive power of the state , as well as of other institutions including religion, education, mass media , etc ., to impose their ideology on society and control the exploited classe s. The latter resist, protest and occasionally revolt or launch organized and collective action against the dominance of the propertied classes. It is their effort to bring about revolutionary political change by overthrowing the



dominant classes in power. Though to Marxists, structural causes of conflicting economic interests are central to their studies, a number of Marxist scholars have begun to pay attention to ethnic, religious and other cultural factors. Some of them have begun to analyse the nature of the consciousness of exploited classes. According to Marxist scholars, members of the same class not only have common interests vis-a-visthe other classes, but also share a common consciousness regarding their position in society and the common interests they share. This facilitates their collective action against the ruling classes and state . There is a good deal of debate among Marxist scholars on theoretical and methodological issues. Recently a group of Marxist historians, known as subaltern scholars, have begun to study 'history from below'. They criticize the 'traditional' Marxist historians for ignoring the history of the masses, as if subaltern classes do not make history of their own, depending solely on the advanced classes or the elite for organization and guidance. lt is argued that traditional Marxist scholars have undermined cultural factors and viewed a linear development of class consciousness (Chatterjee 1983, 1985; Guba 1983a, 1983b;Hardiman 1987).On the other hand, the subaltern studies are strongly criticized by other Marxist scholars for ignoring structural factors and viewing'consciousness' as independent of structural contradictions. They are accused of being Hegelian 'idealists' (Alam 1983;Chopra 1982;Singh and Menon 1984).Other issues of debate are: are the parties and trade unions equipped to lead revolutionary social movements? Can the peasantry be divided into classes? Which class of the peasantry has more potential to deal with the revolutionary movement? Which class in capitalist society has the potential to be a vanguard to lead revolutionary movement? Non-Marxist scholars accuse Marxist studies of being 'reductionist', 'mechanical' and 'over determining' economic factors. There is a great deal of variation amongst the non-Marxist scholars also, in their approach to analysing social movements. The ideological positions regarding a need for social and/or political change, and the role of movements therein differ. It is argued by William Kornhauser (1959, 1968),Robert Nisbet (1953), Edward Shils (1982) and others that mass movements are the product of mass societies which are extremist and anti-democratic. These scholars are in favour of excluding the masses from day-to-day participation in politics, which hampers the efficient functioning of the government. The

22 Ghanshyam Shah

Indian scholars who approved of the agitations against foreign rule for Iqdependence , did not approve of them in the post-Independence pericil, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. They condemned them outright as 'dangerous ' and 'dysfunctional ' for 'civilized society '. Though some others do not favour revolutionary change in the polit ical and economic structure, they advocate 'political change' which is confined to change in government and political institutions. A few are for revolutionary change but they differ from Marxist scholars in class analysis. They lay emphasi s on politi cal institutions and culture. In their analysis of the movements , some do not inquire into causes. Others differ in their emphasis on the causes responsible for the movements. Some emphasise individual psychological traits , some focus on elite power struggle and their manipulation; and some others emphasize the importance of cultural rather than economic factors . The theory of relative deprivation _developed by American scholars (Gurr 1970) has also guided some studies on agitations and mass movements. It ignores the importance of consciousness and the ideological aspects of the participants . It explains protests and movements of revolt , but does not analyse revolutionary movements . Protest does not necessarily lead to a movement. M.S.A. Rao asserts that relative deprivation is necessary but not a sufficient enough condition for 'protest movements '. He argues, '.Asufficient level of understanding and reflection is required on the part of the participants, and they must be able to observe and perceive the contrast between the social and cultural conditions of the privileged and those of the deprived , and must realize that it is possible to do something about it' (Rao 1978: 207). The deprivation theorists view movements as 'temporary aberrations ' rather than as 'ongoing processes of change ' (Oommen 1977). Moreover , they do not deal with the sources of deprivation. For Gurr, 'deprivation ' is primarily psychological; therefore he does not deal with the socio-economic structure which is the source of deprivation. The psychological dimension of the participants is important but not sufficient . How and why do individuals join together for collective direct action to attain political objectives also needs to be examined. The theory of relative deprivation is largely confined to acts of individual revolts. It does not explain the nature and the reasons for collectivity and collective actions. It deals with riots, not with the purposeful movements launched for achieving

Introdau:tion 23

social transformation. It explains only one type of movement and does not take into consideration revolutionary movements in which political parties and ideologies play an important part.

State and Movements The immediate response of the state to all movements pressuring or challenging its authority is negative. The state assumes the responsibility of holding sovereign power, is the repository of wisdom for 'common good' and manages the public sphere. It has therefore a tendency to resist any collective action which by nature either exerts pressure on the authority for certain policy and action and/or protest against the decision and action of the state. The state looks at social movements as a challenge to its legitimacy of governance . Neither the capitalist state, overtly representing propertied classes, nor the 'communist' state, claiming to be the state of the working class, prefers to face the movements of the classes it supposedly represents . After the initial response, the state uses different measures to deal with the movement. The measures vary from soft-paddling and leniency involving dialogue and negotiation to brutal repression: torturing and killing the activists and creating fear among the participants . Simultaneously the state also uses various tactics to appease and co-opt the participants. In order to diffuse collective action, appeasement with doles and concessions, and co-option of the leaders in decision making bodies are followed. The state is somewhat more soft with those movements which have reformist demands within the institutional framework than those movements which aim at overthrowing and replacing state power. However, when the state realizes that mere brutal force would not work and lead to counterproductive results, the state changes the strategies which include cooption of the leaders, infiltration in the movement, evolving counter ideology and use of all kinds of gimmicks to pacify and divert the attention of the participants and the movement's supporters.

Social Movements and Indian Society In the mid-1960s, a group of political scientists addressed themselves to the question: why has India witnessed an explosion of violence on

24 Ghanshyam Shah

such an unprecedented scale? (Aiyar 1966). They disapproved of agitations. One of them argued , 'One can understand, if not justify the reasons which led the people in a dependent country to attack and destroy everything which was a symbol or an expression of foreign rule. But it is very strange that people should even now behave as if they continue to live in a dependent country ruled by foreigners ' (Phadke 1966: 52). They blamed opposition parties, leaders and trade unions for instigating the masses to direct action (Aiyar 1966; Srinivasan 1966). Many of them have changed their position after the Emergency. Some scholars, including a few Marxists, assert that mass movements or protests are redundant in Indian culture and civilization due to its 'multilineal character' and 'all-pervasive hierarchy '. Because of the Brahminical ideology and hierarchical social structure , the oppressed classes have become docile , obedient and fatalist (Badrinath 1977; Moore 1967; Pratap 1977). Such assertion s are refuted by other scholars who point to a number of struggles by the oppressed classes in pre - and post-Independence India (Dhanagare 1983; Gough 1974; Thapar 1977). Some explain that the protests and agitations in postIndependence India are the result of the conflict between 'tradition ' and 'modernity'. According to them, parliamentary democracy has been transplanted in India, where th ere is no tradition of voluntary effort. People have developed an ambivalent attitude towards authority, they take the advantages offered by the political authority but at the same time do not legitimize it. Morris-Jones argues that, 'Even after independence the government is relied upon, and at the same time spat upon and abused. The same man who is "looking to government" one moment may in the next take part in demonstrations involving violence and on a scale that threatens to make any government impossible' (Morris-Jones 1964). This was the result of the conflict between traditional values and attitudes on the one hand , and modern institutions, on the other. The scholars who adhere to the theory of political development consider that the rising aspirations of the people are not adequately met by existing political institutions which are rigid or incompetent. As the gap widens between the two, 'political instability and disorder' leading to mass upsurge increase (Huntington 1968; Johnson 1966). Rajni Kothari argues that 'direct action ' is inevitable in the context of India's present-day 'parliamentary democracy' . 'The general climate of frustration, the ineffectiveness of known channels of



communication, the alienation and atomisation of the individual, the tendency towards regimentation and the continuous state of conflict (which may remain latent and suppressed for a time) between the rulers and the ruled-all these make the ideal of self-government more and more remote and render parliamentary government an unstable form of political organisation' (Kothari 1960). David Bayley (1962) argues that public protests have a certain 'functional utility' even in a parliamentary form of government. He observes that before and after Independence, a large number of the people felt that the institutional means of redress for grievances, frustrations and wrongs-actual or fancied-were inadequate. In 1960, Kothari did not justify all types of 'direct actions'. The action is desirable 'only if the political change desired by the group involved in direct action offers a greater scope of political freedom than is offered by the existing political arrangements' (ibid.) . Kothari and Bayley confine their discussion to the direct actions which are against the government. They do not consider the direct actions or protests against socioeconomic dominance and power structure in society. A.R. Desai (1965) joins issue with Kothari and Bayley, and argues that their discussion on direct action is confined to a 'formal level and offers no basic clues to the understanding of the problem'. Desai asserts that, 'The parliamentary form of government, as a political institutional device , has proved to be inadequate to continue or expand concrete democratic rights of the people. This form, either operates as a shell within which the authority of capital perpetuates itself, obstructing or reducing the opportunities for people to consciously participate in the process of society, or is increasingly transforming itself into a dictatorship, where capital sheds some of its democratic pretensions and rules by open, ruthless dictatorial means. Public protests will continue till people have ended the rule of capital in those countries where it still persists . They will also continue against those bureaucratic totalitarian political regimes where the rule of capital has ended, but where due to certain peculiar historical circumstances Stalinist bureaucratic, terroristic political regimes have emerged . The movements and protests of people will continue till adequate political institutional forms for the realization and exercise of concrete democratic rights are found' (Desai 1965: 323). Desai reiterated his position (1986) that the civil and democratic rights of the people are not protected by the Constitution. Consequently, the movements for their protection have increased.


Ghanshyam Shah

In his recent writings, Rajni Kothari (Chapter 2) argues that 'democracy ' in India has become a playground for growing corruption, criminalization, repression and intimidation of large masses of the people . The role of the state in 'social transformation' has been undermined. People have started asserting their rights through various struggles. 'There is discontent and despair in the air-still highly diffused , fragmented and unorganised. But there is a growing awareness of rights, felt politically and expressed politically, and by and large still aimed at the State. Whenever a mechanism of mobilisation has become available, this consciousness has found expression, often against very heavy odds, against a constellation of interests that are too powerful and complacent to shed ( even share) the privileges . At bottom it is consciousness against a paradigm of society that rests on deliberate indifference to the plight of the impoverished and destitute who are being driven to the thre shold of starvation-by the logic of the paradigm itself.' Kothari feels that mass mobilization at the grassroots level is both 'necessary' and 'desirable'. He asserts that it is in the state of 'vacuum in the traditional superstructure of the liberal polity that was supposed to render it humane despite powerful trends that the real counter-trends are to be found-not in the party system , not in the arena of electoral politics and of State power, not in the typical confrontation between the so-called haves and havenots within the conventional economic space dominated by trade unions. In their place there is emerging a new arena of counteraction, of countervailing tendencies , of counter -cultural movements and more generally of a counter-challenge to existing paradigms of thought and action'.

'fypologies .The studies providing conceptual framework have largely dealt with typologies of social movements. One of the classifying movements is their objectives or the quality of change they try to attain. Shah (1977) classifies movements into revolt, rebellion, reform and revolution to bring about changes in the political system. Reform does not challenge the political system per se. It attempts to bring about changes in relation between the parts of the system to make it more efficient, responsive and workable . A revolt is a challenge to political



authority, aiming at overthrowing the government . A rebellion is an attack on existing authority without any intention to seize state power . In a revolution, a section or sections of society launch an organized struggle to overthrow not only the established government and regime but also the socio-economic structure which sustains it, and replace the structure by an alternative social order . For Partha Mulcherji (1977) the social movements are accumulative, alternative and transformatory. Accumulative changes ate changes within the given structure and system. M.S.A Rao (1978) also offers more or less similar typologies: reformist, transformatory and revolutionary. However , T.K. Oommen believes that 'the movements will neither have the potentialities to root out the existing system completely nor will they succumb to the traditional structures entirely . Essentially then, social movements provide the stage for confluence between the old and new values and structures' (Oommen 1977: 16). His typologies are related to the process of movement crystallization, the lifestyle and the phases of social movements. For him, movements are charismatic, ideological and organizational . All these typologies, though useful, do not explain the dynamics of the movements which undergo change in the course of time . They do not take into consideration those movements whose objectives change during the devel opment of the movement. Some movements do not have clear objectives in terms of the 'maintenance' or the 'transformation' of the system. Often the unfolding of the objective forces shape the cause of the movements including its immediate and long -term objectives . David Bayley (1962) divides 'coercive public protest' into legal and illegal protests . Each category is further sub-divided into violent and non-violent protests . Some others classify movements into grassroots and macro movements . Social movements are also classified on the basis of issues around which participants get mobilized. Some of the movements are known as forest, civil rights , anti-untouchability, linguistic, nationalist and such others. Some others classify movements on the basis of the participants such as peasants , tribals, students, women , dalits, etc. In many cases the participants and issues go together. Some movements have participants from all the strata or from a number of strata . If the issue of ecology, for instance preservation of forests , is raised by tribals, should that movement be treated as a tribal movement or ecological movement? They are both, as sustenance of forests is important for the livelihood of tribals . At the same time, tribals are

28 GhanshyamShah

raising larger ecological issues. Hence, issues like ecology or civilliberty are not merely class or social group based issues, though in the given ·system they affect certain classes more than others. Similarly, economic and social position-the subjective identity of belonging to a particular social group-do not always go together . For instance, persons from backward castes are also peasants and sometimes they get mobilized around the issue involvingtheir status, thanks to their caste consciousness. The same is the case with tribals. In such a situation, the issue around which the participants get mobilized leads us to classify the movement in one or another category. If the main issue is related to caste or tribal issues, though they are often intermingled, it is classified accordingly. This reminds us of the complexities of the situation and the limitations of typologies.

Organization of the Book As the selection of essays for this reader is from available published studies, it is imperative that we follow a widely accepted typology which is mainly based on social groups and issues. The anthology is divided into two parts. The first part has three chapter s besides the 'Introduction '. Chapters 2 and 3 by Andre Gunder Frank and Marta Fuentes, and Dhanagare and John respectively deal with the new social movements. Chapter 4 by Rajni Kothari analyses the nature of growingunrest in India and failure of the existing institutional set-up to meet the aspirations of the masses. The second part has 12 chapters which examine movements by various social groups on different issues. We begin with peasant movements which dominated the political scene during the colonial and post-colonial period . Barrington Moore Jr . (1967) and others find that Indian peasants are traditionally docile and passive. Their rebellions thanks to social structure are absent in Indian history. This view is strongly contested by many scholars such as Kathleen Gough (1974),AR Desai (1979),D.N. Dhanagare(1983), RanajitGuba (1983a) and others. They observe that agitation on different kinds of agrarian issues such as ownership of land and production, rent and wages were frequent throughout the British period. Their scale varied from being confined to a village to involvingseveral hundreds of villages in the region. The Telengana peasant armed struggle between 1946and

lntrodtlfflOJI 29

1951 was one of the important peasant struggles in post-Independence India. It was led by the Communist Party of India. D.N. Dhanagare (Chapter 5) examines the insurrection focusing on its class character . The Naxalbari movement of the 1960s have had a far reaching impact on Indian politics. The state has and is still using all repressive as well as ideological methods to suppress the struggles. Sumanta Banerjee analyses the ideologies and strategies of the Naxalbari movements launched in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh by various CPI (ML) parties. The Telengana and Naxalbari movements strive to bring about structural change in agrarian relationships. As against that, various farmers' movements launched in the 1970s in different states specially Punjab, Gujarat, Maharahstra, Kamataka, Tamil Nadu, Haryana arid Uttar Pradesh were dominated by rich peasants demanding price rise of their produce and subsidies in input. They enjoy political clout. Dipankar Gupta (Chapter 7) studies the Bharatiya Kisan Union of Uttar Pradesh focusing on the nature of its mobilization and the issues raised, highlighting the country-town nexus which developed with the 'green revolution' of the 1960s. Salim Lakha (Chapter 8) examines the Bombay textile workers strike of 1982. He argues that though the initial demands of the workers were centred around improved employment conditions, the collective action had wider repercussions which impinged upon the interests of the state. The Scheduled lribes, Adivasis and dalits are socially and economically the most oppressed sections of Indian society. Adivasis constitute nearly 8 per cent of the population and have a long history of militant struggles for maintaining their autonomy and protecting their natural resources. Chapters 9 and 10 by Surjeet Sinha and K.S. Singh respectively examine the nature of tribal movements in India. Chapter 11 by Gail Omvedt discusses the nature of the dalit movement after Ambedkar. Lakshmi Lingam in Chapter 12 offers the overall scenario of women's movement in India and its relationship to the state. She highlights the multiple identities of the women's movements and specificity of women's experiences that confound the analysis and action of the women 's movements. Indian politics in the 1970s was dominated by students ' movements that raised issues varying from corruption, price rise, rights of the sons of the soil in employment to total revolution. Chapters 13 and 14 by Ghanshyam Shah and Amlendu Guba are on students' movements in Gujarat (in the 1970s), Bihar and~ (in the 1980s).

50 GlaamhyamShah

Peter van der Veer in Chapter 15 analyses the Hindu religious movement in Ayodhya to remove the Babri mosque, focusing on the local level political actors: their aims and actions in the 1984 movement. Ramchandra Guba in Chapter 16 examines social participation in the Chipko movement and its reflection in popular consciousness in terms of the changingrelationshipbetween the state and the peasantry.

References Alyar,S.P. (ed.). 1966. The Politicsof Mass Violencein India. Bombay: Manaktalas . Alam. Javeed. 1983. 'Peasantry, Politics and Historiography: Critique of New lrend in Relation to Marxis.m',Social Scientist, 11 (2), February: 43-54. Badrinath. C. 1977. 'Dissent, Protest and Social Reform: The Historical Context', in S.C. Malik (ed .), Dissent, Protestand Refonn in Indian Civilization.Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study. Bayley, David H. 1962. 'The Pedagogy of Democracy: Coercive Public Protest in India', The American PoliticalScienceReview,56 (3), September . -. 1963. 'Violent Public Protest in India: 1900-1960', Indian Journal of Political Science,24 (4), October-December . -. 1969.'Public Protest and the Political Process in India', PacificAffairs, 42 (1), Spring. Chatterjee, Partha. 1983. 'Peasants, Politics and Historiography: A Response', Social Scientist, 11 (5), May: 58-65. --. 1985. 'Models of Power: Some Oarifications' , Social Scientist, 13 (2), February: 53-60. Chopra, Suneet. 1982. 'Missing Correct Perspective', Social Scientist, 10 (8), August: 38-47. Desai, A.R. 1965. 'Public Protest and Parliamentary Democracy', in S.P. Aiyar and R. Srinivassan (eds), Studies in Indian Democracy, pp. 299-324. Bombay: Allied Publishers. • --. (ed.). 1979.PeasantStrugglesin India. Delhi: Oxford University Press. - -. (ed.) . 1986.Violationof DemocraticRightsin India. Bombay:Popular Prakashan. Dhanagare, D.N. 1983.PeasantMovementsin India 1920-50. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Easton, David. 1953. The PoliticalSystem: An Inquiry into the State of PoliticalScience. New York: Alfred Knopf. Gough, Kathleen. 1974. 'Indian Peasant Uprising', Economic and Political Weekly, 9 (32- 34), Special Number, August: 1391-1412. Guba, Ran~it. 1983a. ElementaryAspects of Peasant Insurgencyin Colonial India. Delhi: Oxford University Press. -. 1983b. 'The Prose of Counter -Insurgency', in Ranajit Guba (ed.), Subaltern Studies-II , pp . 1-42. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Gurr,T.R. 1970. Why Men Rebel. Princeton: NJ . Princeton University Press. Gusfleld, Joseph. 1970. Peasant,Refonn and Revolt: A Reader in Social Movements. New York: John Wiley and Sons.



Hardiman, David. 1987. TheComingof Devi:AdivosiAssation in Weston India. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Heberle, Rudolr. 1951.Social Movements: An lnlrOductionto PoliticalSociology. New York: Appleton-Century Crafts. -. 1968. ''lypcs and Functions of Social Movements', in Shills David (ed.), International Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences, pp. 438 44. New York: Macmillan Company. Huntlqton, Samuel. 1968. PoliticalOrder in Changing Societies. New Haven: Yale University Press. Johnson, Chalmen. 1966. RevolutionaryChange. Boston: Little Brown. KombauHr, WUUam.1959. The Polincsof Mass Society. Glencoe: Free Press. -. 1968. 'Mass Society', in Shills David (ed.), International Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences, Vol. 9, pp. 58--M. New York: Macmillan Company. Kothari, RltjnL1960. 'Direct Action: A Pattern of Political Behaviour', Quest , 24, January-March : 1-24. Moore, Barriopon, Jr. 1967. Social Originsof Dictatorshipand Democracy. London : Allen Lane . Morris-Jones, W.H. 1964. The Gow:mment and Polilicsof India. London: Hutchinson University Library. Mukberjl, Partba. 19n. 'Social Movement and Social Change: To a Conceptual Clarification and Theoretical Framework', SociologicalBulletin, 26(1): 38-59 . Nisbet, Robert. 1953. The Questfor Community. New York: Oxford University Press. Oommen, T.K. 19n . 'Sociological Issues in the Analysisof Social Movements in Independent India', SociologicalBulletin, 26(1): 14-37. Pbadke, U.D. 1966. 'The Historical Background of Mass Violence in India', in S.P.Aiyar (ed.), The Politicsof Mass Violencein India. Bombay: Manaktalas. Pratap, Chandra. 1977. 'Study of Ideological Discord in Ancient India: Search for a Suitable Model', in S.C. Malik (ed.), Dissent, Protestand &form in Indian Civilization, ShimJa: Indian Institute of Advanced Study. Rao, M.S.A. 1978. 'Conceptual Problems in the Study of Social Movements', in M.S.A. Rao (ed.), SocialMovements in India, Vol. I. pp. 1- 16. Delhi: Manohar. Sbah, Gbanshyam. 1977. Protest Movements in 1wo Indian States. Delhi : Ajanta Publishers. Sblls, Edward. 1982.'The Political Cass in the Age of Mass Society:CollectivisticLiberalism and Social Democracy', in M. Czudnowski (ed.), Does H-7ioGovernsMatter? Elite Circulationof ContemporarySocieties. De Kaib: Northern Illinois University Press. Singh, Sangtttha and Menon Mlnakhl. 1984. 'Subaltern Studies II: A Review Article', Social Scimtist, 12 (10) October, pp. 31-34. Smelser, Nell. 1963. The Theoryof CollectiveBehaviour.New York: Free Press. Srinivasan, R. 1966. 'Democracy and the Revoll of the Massc:s', in S.P. Aiyar (ed.), The Politicsof Mass Violencein India, Bombay: Manaktalas. 1bapar, Romlla. lm . 'Ethics, Religion and Social Protest in the First Millennium B.C. in Northern India', in S.C. Malik (ed.), Dissent, Protestand Reform in Indian Civilization. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study. TIily,Charles. 1978.From Mobilizationto Revolution. Reading: Addis-Wesley. Weldon T.D. 1955. The Vocabularyof Politics. London : Penguin. WIikinson, Paul 1971.SocialMovements. London : Pall Mall. WIison, Jobn. 1973. Introductionto Social Movements. New York: Basic Books.


Nine Theses on Social Movements


The 'new social movements' today are what most mobilize people in pursuit of common concerns. Far more than 'classical' class movements, the social movements motivate and mobilize hundreds of millions of people in all parts of the world-mostly outside established political and social institutions that people find inadequate to serve their needs. This chapter discusses the character of these social movements, th~ir strengths and limitations. The chapter will develop the followingtheses: (a) The 'new' social movements are not new, even if they have

some new features, and the 'classical' ones are relatively new and perhaps temporary . (b) Social movements display much variety and changeability, but have in common individual mobilization through a sense of morality and (in)justice and social power through social mobilization against deprivation and for survival and identity. (c) The strength and importance of social movements is cyclical and related to long political-economic and (perhaps associated) ideological cycles. When the conditions that give rise to the movements change (through the action of the movements themselves and/or more usually due to changing circumstances), the movements tend to disappear.

Nine Theses on Social Movements


(d) It is important to distinguish the class composition of social movements, which are mostly middle class in the West, popular/working class in the South, and some of each in the East. (e) There are many different kinds of social movements. The majority seek more autonomy rather than state power, and the latter tend to negate themselves as social movements. (f) Although most social movements are more defensive than offensive and tend to be temporary, they are important (today and tomorrow perhaps the most important) agents of social transformation. (g) In particular, social movements appear as the agents and reinterpreters of 'delinking' from contemporary capitalism and 'transition to socialism'. (h) Some social movements are likely to overlap in membership or be more compatible and permit coalition with others, and some are likely to conflict and compete with others. It may be useful to inquire into these relations. (i) However, since social movements, like street theatre, write their own scripts-if any-as they go along, any prescription of agendas or strategies, let alone tactics, by outsiders-not to mention intellectuals-is likely to be irrelevant at best and counterproductive at worst.

The 'New' Social Movements are Old but have Some New Features The many social movements in the West, South and East that are now commonly called 'new' are, with few exceptions, new forms of social movements which have existed through the ages. Ironically, the 'classical' working class/union movements date mostly only from the last century , and they increasingly appear to be only a passing phenomenon related to the development of industrial capitalism. On the other hand, peasant, localist community, ethnic/nationalist, religious, and even feminist/women's movements have existed for centuries and even millennia in many parts of the world. Yet many of these movements are now commonly called 'new', although European history records countless social movements throughout history. Bxamples are the Spartacist slave revolts in Rome, the Crusades and


34 Andre Gunder frank and Marta Fuentes

countless religious wars, the peasant movements/wars of sixteenthcentury Germany, historic ethnic and nationalist conflicts throughout the continent, and women's movements that unleashed backlashes of witch-hunts and more recent forms of repression. In Asia, the Arab world and the expansion of Islam, in Africa and Latin America, of course, multiple forms of social movements have been the agents of social resistance and transformation throughout history. Only the ecologicaVgreen movement(s) and the peace movement(s) can more legitimately be termed 'new', and that is because they respond to social needs which have been more recently generated by world development. Generalized environmental degradation as a threat to livelihood and welfare is the product of recent industrial development and now calls forth largely defensive new ecologicaVgreen social movements. Recent technological developments in warfare threaten the life-of masses of people and generate new defensive peace movements. Yet even these are not altogether new. World (colonialist/imperialist) capitalist development has caused ( or been based on) severe environmental degradation in many parts of the Third World before (as after the Conquest of the Americas, the slave wars and trade in Africa, the Rape of Bengal, etc.) and has aroused defensive social movements . These included but were not confined to environmental issues, like North American Indian and Australian Aborigine movements again today. Of course, war has also decimated and threatened large populations before and has elicited defensive social movements from them as well. Foreshadowing our times, Euripides described a classical Greek women's/peace movement in his play Lysistrata. The 'classical' working class and labour-union movements can now be seen to be particular social movements, which have arisen and continue to arise in particular times and places. Capitalist industrialization in the West gave rise to the industrial working class and to its grievances, which were expressed through working class and union(ization) movements. However, these movements have been defined and circumscribed by the particular circumstances of their place and time-in each region and sector during the period of industrialization-and as a function of the deprivation and identity that it generated. 'Workers of the world unite' and 'proletarian revolution' have never been more than largely empty slogans. With the changing international division of labour, even the slogans have become meaningless; and working class and union movements are

Nine Theses on Social MO'Vffllfflts 35


erodingin the West, while they are rising in those parts of the South and East where local industrialization and global development are generating analogous conditions and grievances. Therefore, the mistakenly 'classical' working class social movements must be regarded as both recent and temporary, not to mention that they have always been local or regional and at best national or state-oriented movements. We will examine their role in the demand for state power, when we discuss the latter below. A new characteristic of many contemporary social movements, however, is that-beyond their spontaneous-appearing changeability and adaptability-they inherit organizational capacity and leadership from old labour movements, political parties, churches and other organizations, from which they draw leadership cadres who became disillusioned with the limitations of the old forms and who now seek to build new ones. This organizational input into the new social movements may be an important asset for them, compared to their historical, more amateurishly ( dis )organized, forerunners but it may also contain the seeds of future institutionalization of some contemporary movements. What else may be new in the 'new' social movements is perhaps that they now tend to be more single class or stratum movementsmiddle class in the West and popular/working class in the Souththan many of them were through the centuries. However, by that criterion of newness, the 'classical' old working class movements are also new and some contemporary ethnic, national and religious movements are old , as we will observe when we discuss the class composition of social movements below. Whether new or old, the 'new social movements' today are what most mobilize most people in pursuit of common concerns. Far more than 'classical' class movements, the social movements motivate and mobilize hundreds of millions of people in all parts of the worldmostly outside established political and social institutions that people find inadequate to serve their needs-which is why they have recourse to 'new' largely non-institutionalized social movements. This popular 'movement to social movements' is manifest even in identity-seeking and/or responsive social mobilization or social movement with little or no membership ties : in youth (movement?) response to rock music around the world and football in Europe and elsewhere; in the millions of people in country after country who have spontaneously responded to visits by the Pope (beyond the

36 Andre Gunder Frank and Marta Fuentes

Catholic Church as an institution); and in the massive spontaneous response to Bob Geldorfs extra- (political) institutional Band Aid, Live Aid, and Sport Aid appeals against hunger in Africa. The latter was an appeal and response not only to compassion, but also to a moral sense of the (in)justice of it all. Thus, some of these nonmembership forms of social mobilization have more in common with social movements than do some self-styled 'movements', like the Movimiento(s) de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR) in Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Venezuela, which are (or were) really 'Leninist' democraticcentralistpolitical parties, or the Sandinista 'movement' in Nicaragua which formed a coalition of mass organizations, all of which sought to capture and manage state power. This is not to mention the NonAligned Movement, which is a coalition of states or their governments in power and certainly not a social movement or a liberation movement of the peoples themselves.

Social Movements Differ but Share Moral Motivation and Social Power It may aid our examination of contemporary social movements to identify some ideal types and selected characteristics which emerge in (or from) their review below; although, of course, this exercise is rendered hazardous by the movements' variety and changeability. (We refer to 'ideal' types in the Weberian sense of an analytic distillation of characteristics not found in their pure form in the real world.) We may distinguish movements that are offensive (a minority) and defensive (the majority). On a related but different dimension, we can identify progressive, regressive and escapist movements. A third dimension or characteristic seems to be the preponderance of women rather than men-and therefore apparently less hierarchization in the movements' membership or leadership. A fourth dimension is that of armed struggle, especially for state power, or unarmed and especially non-violent struggle, be it defensive or offensive. It can be no coincidence that the armed movements coincide with more hierarchical ones and the unarmed ones with movements in which women's participation is preponderant ( even if women also participate in armed struggle). Few movements are at once offensive, in the sense of seeking to change the established order, and progressive in the sense of seeking

Nine TMses on Social Movnnents


a better order for themselves or the world. Characteristically, these movements are largely led and/or peopled by women, notably of course the women's movement(s) itself/themselves. Most movements by far are defensive. Many seek to safeguard recent ( sometimes progressive) achievements against reversal or encroachment. Examples are the student movements (which in 1986-87 reappeared in France, Spain, Mexico and China in masses not seen since 196768) and many thousands of Third World community movements seeking to defend their members' livelihood against the encroachment by economic crisis and political repression. Some defensive movements seek to defend the environment or to maintain peace, or both (like the Greens in Germany). Other movements react defensively against modem encroachments by offering to regress to an (often largely mythical) golden age, like seventh-century Islam. Many movements are escapist, or have important such components, in that they defensively/offensively seek millenarian salvation from the trials and tribulations of the real world, as in religious cults . Varied as these social movements have been and are, if there are any characteristics they have in common, they are the following: that they share the force of morality and a sense of (in)justice in individual motivation, and the force of social mobilization in developing social power. Individual membership or participation and motivation in all sorts of social movements contains a strong moral component and defensive concern with justice in the social or world order. Social movements then mobilize their members in an offensive/ defensive against a shared moral sense of injustice, as analyzed in Barrington Moore's 'Injustice: The Social Bases of Obedience and Revolt'. Morality and justice/injustice (perhaps more than the deprivation of livelihood and/or identity through exploitation ~nd oppression through which morality and (inliustice mainfest themselves), have probably been the essential motivating and driving force of social movements both past and present. However , this morality and concern with (in)justice refers largely to 'us' , and the social group perceived as 'we' was and is very variable as between the following: family, tn'be, village, ethnic group, nation, country, First, Second or Third World, humanity, etc., and gender , class, stratification, caste, race, and other groupings , or combinations of these. What mobilizes us is this deprivation/oppression/injustice to 'us', however 'we' define and perceive ourselves. Each social movement then serves to combat deprivation and in so doing also to (re)affirm the identity of those


Andre Gunder Frank and Marta Fuentes

active in the movement, and perhaps also the 'we' for whom the movement is active. Thus, such social movements, far from being new, have characterized human social life in many times and places. At the same time, social movement generate and wield social power through the social mobilization of their participants. This social power is at once generated by and derived from the social movement itself, rather than from any institution, political or otherwise . Indeed, institutionalization weakens social movements and state political power negates them. Social movements require flexible, adaptive, and non-authoritarian organization to direct social power in pursuit of social goals, which cannot be pursued only through random spontaneity. Such flexible organization, however, need not imply institutionalization, which confines and constricts the social movements' social power. Thus, the new self-organizing social movements confront existing (state) political power through new social power, which modifies political power . The slogan of the women's movement that the personal is political applies a fortiori to social movements, which also redefine political power. As Luciana Castelina, a participant in many social movements ( and some political parties) observes, 'we are a movement because we move '--even political power.

Social Movements are Cyclical Social movements are cyclical in two senses. First, they respond to circumstances, which change as a result of political-economic and, perhaps, ideological fluctuations or cycles. Second, social movements tend to have life-cycles of their own. Social movements, their membership, mobilization and strength, tend to be cyclical because the movements mobilize people in response to (mostly against, less for) circumstances, which are themselves cyclical. There seem to be culturaVideological , politicaVmilitary, and economic/technological cycles, which affect social movements. There are also observers/participants who lend greater or even exclusive weight or determinant force to one or another of these social cycles. The name of Sorokin is associated with long ideological cycles, Modelski with political/war cycles, and Kondratieff and Schumpeter with economic and technological ones. Recently, Arthur J. Schlesinger

Nine TM1e1 on SocialMovnsents


Jr. drawing in part on the work of his father, has described a 30-year political-ideologicalcycle in the United States of alternating progressive social-responsibilityphases (of the Progressivesin the 1910s, the New Deal in the 1930s, and the New Frontier/Great Society-civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements in the 1960s) and individualist phases (of the Coolidge 1920s, the McCarthyist 1950s, and the Reaganomic 1980s),which is to generate another progressive social movement phase in the 1990s. The renewed world economic crisis and technological invention of the last two decades has led scientific and popular attention to world-wide long economic/technological cycles and to their possible relations to, or even determinant influence on, political and ideologicalcycles.Detailed examination thereof (and of the disputes about whether ideological,political or economic cycles are dominant) is beyond our scope here. However, to understand contemporary social movements, it is essential to view them in the cyclicalcontext(s), which shape if not give rise to them. Moreover, it is not amiss to consider the possibility (we should argue the high probability) that there are political-economic cycles with ideological components and that we are now in a B phase downturn of a Kondratieff long wave or cycle, which importantly influences if not generates contemporary social movements (including those examined and predicted by Schlesinger). The Kondratieff long cycle was in an upward phase at the beginning of this century, in a long downward 'crisis' interwar phase (where the two world wars belong in the cycle is also in dispute), a renewed post-war recovery, and again in a new downward 'crisis' phase beginning in the mid-1960s or more visibly since 1973. Social movements appear to have become more numerous and stronger in the last downward phase from 1873 to 1896 in the preceding century, during the war and interwar crisis period of this century, and again during the contemporary period of economic, political, social, cultural, ideological and other crisis. The historical evidence may be read to suggest that social movements decline in number and strength during economic upturns (although the 1960switnes~d many social movements in North and South America, Europe, A,tica and Asia), and revive during the economic downturn. However:,at the beginning they are largely defensive and often regressive and individualist (as in the past decade). Then, when the economic downturn most detrimentally affects people's livelihoodand identity, \he social movements become more offensive, progressive and socially responsible.


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Schlesinger prognosticates this for the 1990s in the United States, and it is perhaps incipiently visible there already in the popularity of new protest rock music and the success of the stage play Les Miserables in 1987, etc . Of course , this 'movement to social movements' has already occurred in many community and communal movements in the Third World in response to the spread of the world economic crisis there, which in Latin America and Africa is already deeper than the one of the 1930s. Thus, much of the reason for and the determination of the present proliferation and strength of social movements must be sought in their cyclical historical context, even though many of their members regard themselves as moving autonomously in pursuit of timeless and sometimes universal seemin _g ideals , like the true religion, the essential nation , or the real community . The development of the present world political-ec onomic crisis and its multiple ramifications in different parts of the world is generating or aggravating (feelings of) economic, political, cultural and identity deprivation and is a moral affront to their sense of justice for hundreds of millions of people around the world. In particular , the world economic crisis has reduced the efficacy of, and popular confidence in, the nation state and its customary political institutions as defenders and promoters of the people's interests. In the West, the Social-Democratic welfare state is threat ened by economic bankruptcy and political paralysis, especially in the face of world economic force s beyond its control. In the South, the state is subject to domestic militarization and authoritarianism and to foreign economic dependence and weakness. In the East, the state is perceived as politically oppressive (as in the South) but economically impotent (as there and in the West) and socially corrupt, and therefore also not an attractive model for emulation elsewhere . Hardly anywhere , then, during this crisis, is 'state power' an adequate desideratum or instrument for the satisfaction of popular needs . Therefore, people everywhere-albeit different people in different ways-seek advancement, or at least protection and affirmation , or at least freedom , through a myriad , of non-state social movements, which thereby seek to reorganize social and redefine political life. In many cases , particularly among middle-class people, newly deteriorating circumstances contradict their previously rising aspira tions and expectations. More and more people feel increasingly

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powerless themselves and/or see that their hallowed political, social and cultural institutions are less and less able to protect and support them. Therefore, and in part paradoxically, they seek renewed or greater empowerment through social movements, which are mostly defensive of livelihood and/or identity (like rural and urban localcommunity, ethnic/nationalist and some religious movements), or often escapist (like the mushrooming religious cult and spiritualist and some fundamentalistmovements). Ecological,peace, and women's movements-separately or in combination with other social movements-also seem to respond to the same crisis-generated deprivation and powerlessness, which they mostly seek defensively to stem or redress. Only marginally are these movements offensivelyin pursuit of betterment, like the women's movement, which seeks to improve women's position in, and society itself, albeit at a time when the economic crisis is undermining women's economic opportunities. As social movements come and grow cyclically in response to changing circumstances, so do they go again. Of course, if the demands of a particular social movement are met, it tends to lose force as its raison d'etre disappears (or it is institutionalized and ceases to be a social movement). More usually, however, the circumstances themselves change (only in part if at all thanks to the social movement itself) and the movement loses its appeal and force through irrelevance or it is transformed (or its members move to) another movement with new demands. Moreover, as movements that mobilize people rather than institutionalizing action, even when they are unsuccessful or still relevant to existing circumstances, social movements tend to loose their force ~ their capacity to mobilize wanes. This susceptibility to aging and death is particularly true of social movements that are dependent on a charismatic leader to mobilize its members. The various 1968 movements, and most revolutionary and peasant movements, are dramatic examples of the cyclical lifecycle of social movements. Of course, history also has long-term cumulative trends as well as cycles. However, the cumulative historical trends seem not to have been generated primarily by social movements. Some major social movements may nonetheless have contributed to these trends. Examples may be past major religious movements, like Christianity, Islam or the Reformation. Political movements like the French, Soviet and Chinese revolutions are widely regarded as having changed the world for all future time. Yet it is equally arguable that they had no


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cumulative effect on the world as a whole, and that they have been subject to considerable reversal even at home. As we will argue below, 'real existing socialism ' does not now appear to be an irreversible, cumulative long-term trend as its proponents claimed and some still think. Most social movements by far, however, leave little permanent and cumulative mark on history. Moreover, probably no social movement has ever achieved all of or precisely what its participants (who frequently had differing and sometimes conflicting aims) proposed. Indeed, many if not all social movements in the past brought about rather different consequences from those that they intended.

Class Composition of Social Movements The new social movements in the West are predominantly middle class based. This class composition of the social movements , of course, in the first instance reflects the changing stratification of Western society from more to less bi-polar forms . The relative and now often absolute reduction of the industrial labour force , like the agricultural one before it, and the growth of tertiary service sector employment ( even if much of it is low-waged) and self-employment have increased the relative and absolute pool of middle-class people. The decline in industrial working-cla ss employment has reduced not only the size of this social sector but also its organizational strength, militancy and consciousn ess in 'classical' working-cla ss and labourunion movements . The grievances about ecology, peace, women's rights, community organization adtt identity (including ethnicity and minority nationalism), seem to be felt and related to demands for justice predominantly among the middle classes in the West. However , ethnic , national and some religious movements straddle class and social strata more. In particular , minority movements , such as the Black civil rights and the Latin Chicano movements in the United States, do hav e a substantial popular base, though much of the leadership and many of their successful demands come from the middle class. Only nationalist chauvinism and perhaps fundamentali st religiosity (but not religiou s cultism and spiritualism) seem to mobilize working-class and some minority people more massively than their often nonetheless middle -class leadership. Although most of these people's grievances may be largely economically based (through

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increased deprivation, or reduced or even inverted social mobility), they are mostly expre~d through allegiance to social movements, which pursue feminist, ecological, peace, community, ethnic/nationalist and ideological demands. In the Third World, social movements are predominantly popular/ working class. Not only does this class/stratum have more weight in the Third World, but its members are much more absolutely and relatively subject to deprivation and (felt) injustice, which mobilizes them in and through social movements. Moreover, the international and nationaVdomestic burden of the present world economic crisis falls so heavily on these already low-income people as to pose serious threats to their physical and economic survival and cultural identity. Therefore, they must mobilize to .defend themselves-through social movements-in the absence of the availability or possibility of existing social and political institutions to defend them. These Third World social movements are at once cooperative and competitive or conflictive. Among the most numerous, active and popular of these social movements are a myriad of apparently spontaneous local rural and urban organizations/movements, which seek to defend their members' survival through cooperative consumption, distributions, and also production. Examples are soup kitchens; distributors and often producers of basic necessities, like bread; organizers, petitioners or negotiators; and sometimes fighters for community infrastructure, like agricultural and urban land, water, electricity, transport, etc. In the 1980s, there were over 1,500 such local community/movements in Rio de Janeiro alone; and they are increasingly widespread and active in India's 6,00,000 villages. In other words, 'the class struggle' in much of the Third World continues and even intensifies; but it takes or expre~s itself throughmany social-movement forms as well as the 'classical' labour (union) vs capital and 'its' state one. These popular social movements and organizations are other instruments and expressions of peoples' struggle against exploitation and oppression and for survival and identity in a complex dependent society, in which these movements are attempts at and instruments of democratic self-empowerment of the people. In the Third World, region, locality, residence, occupation, stratification, race, colour, ethnicity, language, religion, etc., individually and in complex combination, are elements and instruments of domination and liberation. Social movements and the 'class


Andre Gunder frank and Marta Fuentes

struggle' they express must inevitably also reflect this complex economic, political, social, cultural structure and process. However, not unlike working-class and peasant movements before, these popular movements often have some middle-class leadership and now ironically offer some opportunities for employment and job satisfaction to otherwise unemployable middle-class and intelligentsia professionals, teachers, priests, etc ., who offer their services as leaders, organizers or advisors to these community and other popular Third World social movements . More often than not, these local community movements overlap with religious and ethnic movements, which lend them strength and promote the defence and assertion of people's identity. However , ethnic, national and religious movements also straddle class membership more in the Third World. Ethnic, religious and other 'communal' movements in South Asia (Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Thmil,Assamese and many others) and elsewhere in the Third World-perhaps most dramatically and tragically in Lebanon-also mobilize peoples against each other, however. The more serious the economic crisis, and the political crisis of state and party to manage it, and the greater the deception of previous aspirations and expectations, the more serious and conflictive are these communal, sometimes racial, and also community movements likely to grow in the popular demand for identity in many parts of the Third World. _The (so-called) Socialist East is by no means exempt from this world-wide movement to social movements. The 10,000,000 mobilized by Solidarity in Poland and various movements in China are well known examples, but other parts of Eastern Europe and even the Soviet Union are increasingly visited by similar movements. However, corresponding to the Socialist East's intermediary or overlapping position between the industrial capitalist West and the Third World South (if these categories still have any utility or meaning, which is increasingly doubtful), the social movements in the Socialist East also seem to straddle or combine class/strata membership more than in the West or the South . Ethnic, nationalist, religious, ecological, peace , women's, regional/community and (other) protest movements with varied social membership are on the rise both within and outside of the institutional and political structure throughout the socialist countries for reasons, and in response to changing circumstances, similar to those in the rest of the world.

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Social Movements and State Power Most social movements do not seek state power, but autonomy, also from the state itself. For many participants and observers, this statement is a truism since rwt seeking-let alone wielding-state power is a sine qua non of a social movement, and state power would negate the very essence and purpose of most social movements . This incompatibility between social movement and state power is perhaps most intuitively obvious for the women 's movement(s). On the other hand, for both participants and observers of social movements, it is hardly satisfactory to define or even describe them in terms of what they are not, instead of what they are . The most numerous-because individually small-scale-social movements, which are community based , of course cannot seek state power . However, similar to the women's movement, the very notion of state or even political party power for them would negate most of their grassroots aims and essence . These community movements mobilize and organize their members in pursuit of material and non-material ends, which they often regard unjustly denied to them by the state and its institutions, including political parties. Among the non-material aims and methods of many local community movements is more grassroots participatory democracy and bottom -up self-determination . These are sensed as being denied to them by the state and its political system. Therefore, the community movements seek either to carve out greater self-determination for themselves within the state or to bypass the state alto gether. These community movements have recently mushroomed all over the South and West, although perhaps less so in the East. Of necessity, in the South the community movements are more concerned with material needs-and often survival itself-while in the West many can afford to devote greater attention to local grassroots participatory democracy. Of course, uncontrollable forces of the national and world economy severely limit the community movements' room for manoeuvre. Not even national states have sufficient power-and do not protect the communities-in the face of world economic forces beyond their control. That is why-perhaps ironically since they are even more powerless-the local communities attempt protection on a self-empowering do-it-yourself basis . Collective action and direction are consciously pursued and safeguarded, and concentration of power is shunned as corrupting ( as though speaking Actonian prose).

46 Andre Gunder franl and Marta Fuentes

The other side of this same coin is especially during the economic crisis-the increasing disappointment and frustration of many people with the economy itself. 'Economic growth', 'economic development ', 'economic ends', 'economic means ' , 'economic necessities', 'economic austerity '-so many economic slogans and 'solutions'and they do not satisfy people's needs for community, identity, spirituality, or often even material welfare. Moreover, political (state) institutions are perceived as handmaidens rather than alternatives or even satisfactory directors of these supposed economic imperatives . No wonder that particularly women , who suffer the most at the hands of the economy , are in the forefront of non- and anti-economic extrainstitutional social movements , which offer or seek other solutions and rewards . Many social movements also respond to people's frustration with, and sense of injustice towards, political-economic forces beyond their control. Many of these economic forces-some( times) perceived, some(times) not-emanate from the world economy in crisis. Significantly, people increasingly regard the state, and its institutions, particularly political parties, as ineffective in face of these powedul forces . Either the state and its political process cannot or it will not face up to, let alone control, these economic forces. In either case, the state and its institutions, as well as the political process and political parties where they exist, leave people at the mercy of forces to which they have to respond by other means-through their own social movements. Accordingly, people form or join largely protective and defensive social movements on the basis of religious , ethnic, national, race , gender, ecological , peace , as well as community and various 'single' issues. Most of these movements mobilize and organize themselves independently from the state , its institutions and political parties . They do not regard the state or its institutions, and particularly membership or militancy in political parties, as adequate or appropriate institutions for the pursuit of their aims. Indeed, much of the membership and force of contemporary social movements is the reflection of people's disappointment and frustration withand their search for alternatives to-the political process, political parties, the state, and the capture of state power in the West, South and East. The perceived failure of revolutionary , as well as reformist, Left -wing parties and regime s, in all parts of the world, adequately to express people's protest and to offer viable and satisfying

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alternatives, has been responsible for much of the popular movement to social movements. However, in many cases, people's grievances are against the state and its institutions; and in some cases social movements seek to influence state action through mostly outside-much more rarely inside-pressure. Only some ethnic and nationalist, and in the Islamic world some religious, movements seek a state of their own. One of the major problems of and with social movements, nonetheless, is their coexistence with national states, their political institutions, process and panics. An illustration of this problem is the Green Movement/Party in Germany. The originally grassroots ecological movement became a political party in parliament. The 'Realo' (realist, realpolitik) wing argues that the state, parliament, political panics, etc., are a fact of life, which the movement must take account of and use to its advantage, and that influence is best exerted by entering these institutions and cooperating with others from the inside. The 'Fundi' (fundamentalist) wing argues that participation in state institutions and coalitions with other political parties like the Social Democrats compromises the Greens' aims and prostitutes their fundamentals, including that of being a movement. Ethnic, national, religious, and some peace and community movements, face similar problems. Whatever they can do outside the state, the pressure to try to act within the state, as or as pan of, or through, a political party or other state institution sometimes becomes irresistible. But then the movement( s) run the danger of compromising their mission, demobilizing or repelling their membership, and negating themselves as movements . The question arises, whether the end justifies the means and is more achievable through other more institutionalized non-movement means. Moreover, the question arises whether old social movements which were often created as mass front organizations of political parties are now replaced by new social movements, which themselves form or join political parties. But in that case, what difference remains between the old and the new social movements, and what happens to the non-/extra-/antistate and party sentiments and mobilization of many movement members? Perhaps the answer must be sought by shifting the question to the examination of the life-cycle of social movements and the replacement of old new movements by new movements.

48 Andre Gurukr Frank and Marta Fuentes

Social Movements and Social Transfor 111ation Social movements are important agents of social transformation and new vision, despite their above-mentioned defensiveness, limitations and relations to the state . One reason for the importance of social movements, of course , is the void they fill where the state and other social and cultural institutions are unable or unwilling to act in the interests of their members . Indeed , as we have observed above, social movements step in where institutions do not exist, or where they fail to serve, or violate and contradict, peoples' interests . Often , social movements step in where angels fear to tread. Although many social movements , and particularly religious ones, invoke the sanctity of traditional ways and values, other social movements are socially, culturally and otherwise innovative. Nonetheless, if the circumstances that give rise to and support a social movement disappear, so does the movement. If the movement achieves its aims or they become irrelevant , it loses its appeal. It loses steam and fades away, or it become s petrified. Much social transformation , cultural change and economic development, however, occurs as the result of institution s, forces, relations, etc., that are not social movements, nor the political process in national states. World economic development, industrialization, technological change, social and cultural 'modernization ', etc., were and are processes, which are hardly driven or directed by social movements or political (state) institutions. Their intervention has been more reactive than promotive. Although state intervention . should not be undere stimated (as it is by the free marketeers), its limitations are ever greater in a world economy whose cycles and trends are largely beyond control. Even 'socialist ' state ownership and planning is now unable to direct or even to cope with the forces of the world economy. This circumstance should make for more realism and modesty about the prospects of social movements (or for that matter of political institution s) and their policies to counteract or even modify, let alone to escape from, these world economic forces-but they do not. On the contrary, the more powerful and uncontrollable the forces of the world economy, especially in the present period of world economic crisis, the more they generate social movements (and some political and ideological policies), which claim both autonomy and

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immunity from these world economic forces and which promise to overcome them or to isolate their members from them. Much of the attraction of many social movements, of course, comes precisely from the moral force of their promise to free their participants from the deeply felt unjust (threat of) deprivation of material necessities, social status and cultural identity. Therefore, objectively irrational hopes of salvation appear as subjectively rational appeals to confront reality-and to serve oneself and one 's soul through active participation in social movements . The message becomes the medium, to invert Marshall McLuhan. The reference in this context to 'antisystemic' (social) movements, for instance by Amin and Wallerstein, requires clarification, however. Many social movements are indeed antisystemic in the sense that the movements and their participants combat or otherwise challenge the system or some aspect thereof . However , very few social movements are antisystemic in their attempt, and still less in their success, to destroy the system and to replace it by another one or · none at all. There is overwhelming historical evidence that the social movements are not antisystemicin this sense. As we observed earlier, the social consequences of social movements themselves are scarcely cumulative. Moreover, their effects are often unintended, so that not infrequently these effects are incorporated-if not co-opted-by the system, which ends up being invigorated and reinforced by social movements , which were antisystemic but did not tum out to be antisystemic. There is scarce contemporary evidence that in the future the prospects for social movements and their consequences will be very different from the past . Indeed, the systemic means, ends, and consequences of social movements~ven if some are subsequently co-opted-are to modify the system 'only' by changing its systemic linkages.

Delinking and Transition to Socialism in Social Movements Social movements today and tomorrow may be regarded as offering new interpretations and solutions to the problematiques of 'delinking' from capitalism and 'transition to socialism.' Southern dependent national state delinking from the world capitalist economy and its


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cycles proved to be impossible during the post-war period of expansion. Eastern socialist states and their planned economies have been relinked to the world economy, and both its cycles and its technological development, during the present crisis in the world economy. No national economy or its state, and hardly any political parties anywhere in the world today, seriously regard delinking a national economy to be a serious practical proposition. Therefore, the thesis about delinking-'Stop the World, I Want to Get Off!'-is in for an agonizing reappraisal from those {like one of the present writers) who have sustained this as an option and a necessity. However, if the national state and economy are not and cannot be independent today or in the foreseeable future, perhaps the idea of 'delinking' can and should be reinterpreted rather than abandoned altogether. The problematique of 'delinking' may be reinterpreted through the different/new links, which many social movements are trying to forge, both between their members and society and within society itself. The women's movement and some Green ones are examples. Many social movements seek to protect their members physically or spiritually from the vagaries of the cyclical world economy and propose different kinds of links for their members to the economy and society, which they also propose to help change. Perhaps 'delinking' should be amended to read 'different linking ' or 'changed links'. In that case, it is the social movements, which are changing some links into different ones for their members today. This would include those religious and spiritualist movements, which claim to offer isolation and protection from the traumas of the secular world to their true believers, and some (especially minority ethnic ones), which seek to affirm identity among member s and different links with the society around them. Similarly, the problematique and prospects of transition to socialism may be reinterpreted in view of the experience with 'really existing socialism' and contemporary social movements. 'Rea lly existing socialism' has proven unable to delink from the world capitalist economy. Moreover, despite its achievement in promoting extensive growth (by mobilizing human and physical resources), it has failed to provide adequately for intensive growth through technological development. Indeed, the same state planning which was an asset for absolute industrial autarchic national growth has proven to be a liability for competitive technological development in a rapidly changing world economy. The related political organization of 'really

Nuu Tiu,~, on Social MOVffllfflts 51

existing socialism' has lost its efficacy at home and its attraction abroad. Most importantly perhaps, it is becoming increasingly clear that the road to a better 'socialist' future replacement of the present capitalist world economy does not lead via 'really existing socialism'. As the Polish planner Josef Pajestka observed at~ recent meeting at the Central School of Planning and Statistics in Warsaw, 'really existing socialism' is stuck on a side track. The world, as one of the present authors remarked, is rushing by in the express train on the main track, even though, as Pajestka retorted, it may be heading for an abyss. Indeed, the utopian socialists-whom Marx condemned as utopian instead of scientific-may tum out to have been much less utopian than the supposedly scientific socialists, whose vision has turned out much more utopian than realistic. In seeking and organizing to change society in smaller, immediate but realizable steps, which did not require state power , the utopian socialists were perhaps more realistic than the scientific ones-and they were more akin then to the social movements of our time than the 'scientific' socialists of the intervening century. What is more, many utopian socialists proposed and pursued social changes and particularly different gender relations, which were subsequently abandoned or forgotten by scientific socialists . In 'Eve and the New Jerusalem', Barbara Taylor documents the struggle and where possible the implementation of women's rights and of participatory democracy by the (Robert) Owenite utopian socialists, and the importance of the same as well among those associated with Fourier and Saint-Simon. Participation was also present in the early Marx as an antidote to the alienation which concerned him and, again, many social movements today. Thus, some contemporary social movements might benefit from greater familiarity with the goals, organization and experience of earlier utopian socialists-and of some anarchists as well. The real transition to a 'socialist' alternative to the present world economy, society and polity, therefore, may be much more in the hands of the social movements . Not only must they intervene for the sake of survival to save as many people as possible from any threatening abyss. We must also look to the social movements as the most active agents to forge new links, which can transform the world in new directions. Moreover, although some social movements are subnational, few are national or inter-national (in the sense of being between nation states), and many, like the women 's, peace and

52 Andre Gunder Frank and Marta hentes

ecological movements could be trans-national(that is, non-national) or people-to-people within the world system. Not surprisingly perhaps, there is more transnationality among metropolitan-based social movements tban among the more fragmented ones in the also more fragmented depen~ent Third World. This real social(ist) transformation-if any-under the agency of the social movements will, however, be more supple and multifarious than any illusionary 'socialism in one country' repeated again and again . •

Coalitions and Conflict among Social Movements It may be useful-without seeking to give any advice-to inquire into likely possibilities of conflict and overlap or coalitions among differ ent (kinds of) social movements . Euripides already remarked on the relation between women and peace in Lysistrata. Riane Eisler has traced this same relation even farther back in human society in her The Chalice and the Blade. Today, the women's and peace movements share membership and leadership and certainly offer opportunities for coalition. Substantial participant or membership and leadership overlap can also be observed between women's movements and local community movements. At least women are especially-and in Latin America preponderantly-active in community movements, where they acquire some feminist perspectives and press their own demands, which serve to modify these movements, their communities, and hopefully society. In the West, there is a similar if lesser overlap between community and peace movements, also with marked woman leadership, which expresses itself in 'nuclearfree' communities for instance. Again, environmental/ecological/ Green movements in the West share compatible goals and membership with women's, peace and community movements. Therefore, these women's, peace, environmental, and community movementsall of which shy away from pursuit of state power and most entanglements with political institutions-offer widespread opportunities for coalitions among social movements. Moreover, thanks to their preponderance of women, they also manifest more communal, participatory, democratic, mutual support and networking instead of hierarchical relations among their participants and offer hope for their greater spread through society.

Other areas of overlap, shared membership and compatibility or coalition may be observed among some religious and ethnic/ national and sometimes racial movements . The movement led by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and some of his followers elsewhere in the Islamic world is the most spectacular example, which has the most massive and successful mobilization of recent times to its credit. The Sikhs in Punjab, the Tumils in Sri Lanka, perhaps Solidarity in Poland, Albanians in Jugoslav Kosovo and Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland, are other recent examples . Notably, however, these religiousethnic-nationalist movements also seek state power or institutional autonomy and sometimes incorporation within a neighbouring ethnic/national state. If communities are religiously and ethnically homogeneous, there may be overlap or coalition with these larger movements. Opportunities for compatibility or coalition among different social movements are enhanced and may be found when they have common participants/membership and/or common enemies. The common membership of women in general in various different social movements has already been noted earlier. However, common membership also extends to individuals and particularly to individual women, who dedicate active participation to various social movements at the same time and/or successively. These people are in key positions to forge links, if not coalitions , among otherwise different social movements . Such links can also emerge from the identification of one or more common enemies like a particular state, government or tyrant; a certain dominant institution or social, racial or ethnic group; or even less concretely identifiable enemies like 'the West ', 'imperialism', 'capital', 'the state', 'foreigners' , 'men ', 'authority' , or 'hierarchy '. Moreover, both the opportunities for coalition and the massiveness and strength of social mobilization are probably enhan ced when people perceive that they must defend themselves against these enemies . There are also significant areas of conflict and competition among social movements. Of course, movements of different religions and ethnicities or races conflict and compete with each other. However, all of them also seem to conflict and compete with the women's movement(s) and often with the peace movement. In particular , virtually all religious, ethnic and national(ist) movements like working class and Marxist-oriented movements and political parties as wellnegate and sacrifice women's interests . Moreover , they successfully

54 Andre Gunder Frank and Marta Fuentes

compete with women's movements, if any, which lose ground they may already have gained to the onslaught of religious , ethnic and nationalist movements. Religion and nationalism, and even more so the two combined, seem to sacrifice women's interests and movements . Shiite Iran deliberately increases women 's oppression. In Vietnam, Nicaragua and elsewhere, women first participated actively in and benefited from the nationalist struggle, but subsequently also saw further advances of their interests sacrificed to the priority of 'the national interest ', and in Nicaragua also to Catholic support. Similarly, nationalist and national liberation movements in many parts of Asia and Africa tend to overlook and neglect, or even to suppress and combat, minority ethnic and other movements and their interests. Often, social movements also have serious internal conflicts of ends and/or means. Of course, when social movements are coalitions, especially for temporary tactical purposes, the participants may have different and sometimes conflicting ends and/or prefer ences among means. These have been common, for instance , among anti -imperialist national liberation and socialist movements in the Third World. The combination of religious with other social movements, such as those with significant elements of liberation theology , also contain the potential for internal conflict. Indeed, most religious or strongly religiously -oriented movements seem to contain important seeds of internal conflict between progressive and regressive, and sometimes also escapist , aims. Appeal to religion, not to mention a church , may be the main or even the only recourse for people to mobilize against a repressive regime or to overcome oppressive and/or alienating circumstances. In this sense , religion offers a liberating progressive option, like liberation theology and church-related community movements in Latin America, the Polish Catholic Church, the movement against the Shah in Iran, and some ethnic/religious communal (defence) movements in Asia . However, the same religion and church also contain important regressive and reactionary elements. Regressive or even escapist elements are the offer to bring back the golden age of seventh-century Islam or even to eliminate all traces of Westernization. Literally reactionary are the Islamic and Catholic attempts to tum back or prevent the further development of progressive developments in gender relations, including divorce, birth-control and socio-economic opportunities for women, and other civil rights and liberties. Indeed, religion is more often an instrument of reactionary than of progressive forces in the West, East and South .

Nw Tllae1 on Sodal MtlVnlffltl


The Impropriety of 'Good' Outside Advice to Social Movements As long as the social movements have to write their own scripts as

they go along , they cannot use and can only reject as counterproduc tive, any prescriptions from on high or outside as to where they should go or how they should get there. In particular , the social movements cannot use the kind of imaginary blueprints for the future which Smith and Marx avoided but which have been so popular among many of those who claim to speak in their name . For this reason also , good advice from intellectuals and other well-meaning people is both hard to fmd and hard to assimilate for the social movements . Most inappropriate perhaps is supposed counsel from nonparticipant observers (like us?) . On the other hand, many social movements can and do benefit from the vision and organizational skill inputs by participants and more rarely from transient outsiders, who transfer some vision and/or experience from other movements, parties, and institutions . Many community movements , especially, also benefit from or even depend on the support of outside institutions, such as the church , non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and occasionally even the state. Such aid, and especially dependence , also involves dangers of co-optation by these institutions of individual leaders or intermediaries, the leadership and its goals, or even the social movement itself. Nonetheless, what most characterizes social movements is that they (must) do their own thing in their own way. In fact, perhaps the most important thing that social movements have to offer both to their participants /members and to others in the world is their own participatory self-transforming trial-anderror approach and adaptability . Herein is the hope they promise for the future .•

• Authors express thanks for written comments on the first draft to Orlando Fals Borda, John Friedmann , Genit Huizcr , Marianne Marchand, Andree Michel, Betita Martinez, Yildis Sertel, and Marshall Wolfe and to other friends for oral comments .


Cyclical Movement towards the 'Eternal''Nine Theses of Social Movements': A Critique


Andre Gunder Frank and Marta Fuentes claim to have formulated their 'Nine Theses on Social Movements' (Frank and Fuentes 1987). A thesis is generally understood as a proposition or a set of propositions that is to be maintained first at the logical level and later to be proved at the empirical level. In this sense , a thesis is like a theorem in algebra-a general proposition which is not treated as self-evident but whose validity has to be demonstrated. In itself a thesis does not constitute a theory-i.e., a system of ideas that explain phenomenon, in general and more abstract terms . Since the statement of any thesis can make a significant contribution to theory construction, Frank and Fuentes ' 'Nine Theses ' evoke considerable interest among social science readers. According to the authors , there is 'a world movement towards social movements' and 'they are what most mobilize people in pursuit of common concerns (ibid. : Thesis 1, 1503-10) . They make a clear distinction between 'classical class movements ' and 'social movements ' in the sense that, 'far more than classical class movements ', the 'social movements ' motivate and mobilize hundreds of millions of people in all parts of the world-mostly outside

Niu Tltue1: A Critique


established political and social institutions that people find inadequate to serve their needs (ibid.: Thesis 1). And hence their concern for developing those theses on social movements . It may appear to a casual reader that the arguments in the nine theses are based on innocuous simple facts on social movements. Nonetheless, one need not labour much to discern that the statements are heavily loaded and that the authors' intentions go beyond those explicitly stated in the 'Nine Theses' . A better appreciation of the implicit purpose of their article could be posgble, if we place it within the broader framework of the Frankian thesis of world economy. Diptendra Banerjee has concisely described Frank's concept of world economy thus : Frank generalises (Paul) Baran's circulationist notions to build up his (Frank's) thesis of a single organic capitalist world economy, in which 'development' of the metropolis and 'underdevelopment' of its satellites are 'the opposite faces of the same coin', the product of a single but dialectically contradictory, economic structure process of capitalism. This global capitalist process, Frank wants to show, originated with the rise in the 15th century Europe of 'a commercial network ' which gradually encompassed the entire earth through the world mercantile capitalist and world industrial capitalist phases (Banerjee 1987: 171-72). There is only one world economic system, namely the world capitalist system, subsuming under it the distinctions of 'West, South and the East'. In the article under discussion, there are repeated references to 'a world economic crisis' which presuppose the notion of 'world economy'. For readers familiar with Frank 's other writings, this point needs no further elaboration. Social movements are described by Frank and Fuentes as a popular response to 'people's frustration with and sense of injustice towards, political-economic forces', many of which 'emanate from world economy in crisis' (Frank and Fuentes 1987: Thesis 5). Frankian thesis of a world economy has invited considerable criticism all around. We shall, however, confine ourselves to the points directly relevant to our discussion.Ernesto Laclau, in a study of Frank's theoretical scheme of world economy has observed that Frank is ' . .. trying to situate the fundamental contradiction in the field of circulation rather than production .. .' (Laclau 1977: 34) and that he has


D.N. Dhanagare and J. John

'totally dispensed with relations of production in his definitions of capitalism and feudalism' (ibid.: 23). Hence, in Frank's conceptual explication, the 'capitalist' and 'the proletariat' are not consequential elements of the internal contradiction of capitalism. As a logical step, at the socio-political realm, he dispenses with the strategic importance of working class and working class organizations. One has to presume that Marta Fuentes who co-authored the article under discussion totally subscribes to Gunder Frank's theoretical positions on the nature of basic contradictions in capitalism. There are many statements which will corroborate this criticism. Gunder Frank and Marta Fuentes have denigrated 'the classical working class/union movements' as 'a passing phenomenon related to the development of industrial capitalism' (Frank and Fuentes 1987: Thesis 1), and have suggested that 'they have always been local or regional and at least national or state-oriented movements' (ibid .: Thesis 1). To them, at the world level 'workers of the world unite' and the 'proletarian revolution' have never been more than largely empty slogans (ibid. : Thesis 1). It may not be improper to conclude that Gunder Frank's theoretical scheme contains a conceptual vacuum to the extent that the notion of an active social agent or the image of an active social agent who (conceptually) transforms the world economy and world systems, is totally absent in his formulations. Moreover, it may also not be out of place to argue that the 'Nine Theses' are quintessentially a transposition as well as a logical extension and consequence of the Frankian thesis on world capitalism. Frank and Fuentes assign social movements the role of 'important (today and tomorrow perhaps the most important) agent of social transformation' (ibid.: Thesis 6). The importance of social movements is largely due to the fact that they fill the void where 'the state' 1 and other social and cultural institutions are unable or unwilling to act in the interests of their members (Frank and Fuentes 1987: Thesis 6). The authors are much more specific when they say, 'the perceived failure of revolutionary, as well as reformist, left-wing parties and regimes, in all parts of the world, ... has been responsible for much of the popular movement to social movements' (ibid.: Thesis 5). They also visualize a possibility for some of the social movements to become 'trans-national (that is, non -national) or people-to-people within the world system' (ibid.: Thesis 7). Hence, Frankand Fuentes are projecting the emergence of social movements as the re-assertion of world actors who have

Niu T'lwu1: A CriluJI"


been overshadowed by the undue emphasis or importance given to the 'cl~ical' working class movements. But, what is the nature and character of the transformative actors of these social movements? Interestingly, it amounts to nothing substantial. We shall return to this point later in our discussion. First we address ourselves to some of the methodological inadequacies and logical inconsistencies inter spersed throughout their theses . The concept of 'social movements', albeit the very core of the article has not been substantiated by providing a comprehensive definition . On the contrary, the authors engage themselves in a grand generalization and abstraction. In this process they convert the concept of 'social movement( s) ' into an all-embracing absolute category. Ernesto Laclau too has been critical of Gunder Frank for having employed a similar methodology of 'high level abstraction' to arrive at a 'sufficiently wide notion of capitalism .. .'.2 In the present context Frank and Fuentes repeat similar high level abstractions to arrive at a sufficiently wide rubric of social movements covering effortlessly a wide variety of sociaVpolitical phenomena, spanning across the continents and over time , ranging over centuries and even millennia like 'the Spartacist slave revolts in Rome, the crusades and countless religious wars, the peasant movements/wars of the sixteenth -century Germany (see Engles 1971), ' ... the classical Greek women 's/peace movement described by Euripides in his play Lysistrata' (Frank and Fuentes 1987: Thesis 1). The list of contemporary social phenomena akin to social movements, that find a place in the 'Nine Theses ' would baffle any social scientist , let alone a lay reader. Their list includes 'youth response to rock music around the world and football in Europe and elsewhere', 'spontaneous response by millions of people in country after country ...' to the visits by the Pope , 'massive spontaneous response to Bob Geldorf's extra-political institutional Band Aid , Live Aid and Sport Aid', 'student movement s reappeared in France , Spain, Mexico and China', 'many thousands of Third World community movements ', 'the mushrooming religious cult and spiritualist and some fundamentalist movements' , 'ecological , peace and women's movements', and more specifically 'movement led by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran ', 'Sikhs · in Punjab' , 'the Thmils in Sri Lanka' , 'Solidarity in Poland', ½lbanians in Jugoslov Kosovo' , and 'Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland '. Frank and Fuentes have not demonstrated convincingly how a single concept 'social movement' can sufficiently denote and encompass


D.N. Dhanagan and]. John

the multiplicity of social phenomena they enlist. The lack of rigour in determining the object of their analysis and 'conceptual imprecision' (Laclau, 1977: 22) have seriously undermined the substance of the 'Nine Theses' which revolve around a concept overabstracted and not properly defined . Let us briefly touch upon a few other but related methodological inadequacies . First , in their overenthusiasm for generalization , Frank and Fuentes have practically banished from their agenda the 'historical specificity' of each social situation they discu ss. 'social movement' as an over abstracted category, thus, enables the authors to divulge and escape from the real issues posed by spatio-temporal cases. In using the term as an abstract category , not tied to any historicity , Frank and Fuentes are only evading, not solving, the problem by redefining terms. Second, they venture to attribute transformative potential to every mass action they observe regardle ss of its professed or unstated ideology and agenda or its social character . Even after recognizing that 'we can identify progressive, regressive and escapist movements' (Frank and Fuentes , 1987: Thesis 2), the authors tend to shirk probing the political implications of that acknowledgement. Instead , irrespective of the context of a social movement's emergence and its ·contents , it is crowned with the title 'agent of tran sformation' , by 'definition' which itself is not spelt out.

Glorifying Terrorism? The high level of abstractions of Frank and Fuentes have led them to grave distortions of history on the one hand and to rationalization and reinforcement, though tacit, of reactionary and regressive forces at work internationally on the other . The movement of the 'Sikhs in Punjab ', Frank and Fuentes claim, is another example of 'massive and successful mobilization of recent times ' (ibid. : Thesis 8). They deliberately skip over the historical specificities of the Punjab situation as it has developed, within the geopolitical compulsions and cultural realities in India, and therefore describe it as an instance, of religious, ethnic and national mobilization of the people which will 'promote the defence and assertion of people's identity' (ibid .: Thesis 4). A grossly simplified representation of a complex phenomenon can entail an understatement or a distorted profile. A counter

Niu Tlw,a: A Critique 61

argument on the case of Punjab could be that Sikhs do not constitute the only ethnic community there, nor do they subsume all those who speak the Punjabi language. Moreover, the majority of the Sikhs do not support the secessionist demand of Khalistan. The demand, itself political, clearly aims at something more than capturing state power in what is conceived as an 'alternative geopolitical nation-state' . Religion in the hands of Khalistanis is expressed as religious fundamentalism. One should also distinguish between the genuine frustrations of the Punjabi populations which are the resultants of an uneven development of capitalism in India and the manipulations and machinations of national as well as international reactionary forces for whom a fundamentalist resurgence, often decried otherwise , is a convenient tool to restore balance of power in their global diplomacy . For them it is not people's aspirations promoted through mass mobilizations but the terrorists' identity which is to be sustained under the guise of 'civil liberties' though, quite paradoxically, through wanton killing of the innocent. By what stretch of imagination can 'Sikhs in Punjab ' be wished away as a social movement? Is this illustration an attempt to substantiate the incoherent 'Nine Theses' or a veiled and surreptitious glorification of terrorism? Social movements are repeatedly qualified in the 'Nine Theses' as 'the important agents of social transformation and new vision ' (ibid.: Thesis 6). When the authors discuss the question of ' transition to socialism', they declare, 'the real transition to a "socialist" alternative to the present world economy, society and polity, therefore, may be much more in the hands of social movements ' (ibid.: Thesis 7). This argument is quite misleading, mainly because the authors divest the concepts of 'socialism ' and 'social transformation ' of their substantive contents . The life being drained off, what is left in those concepts is their mere form and not substance. Moreover , there are a number of conspicuous inconsistencies in this line of argument. Frank and Fuentes have circumscribed the scope of 'socialism', first, by refuting a purposefully misconceived proposition namely that socialism vouches for an existence completely delinked from capitalist economy and then by arguing that 'delinking a national economy' is not a 'serious practical proposition'. Second, they reinterpret 'del inking' as ' the different/new links many social movements are trying to forge ' . Third, the authors prove their theorem by citing 'really existing socialism ' ( including its historical distortions) as having proven unable

62 D.N. Dhanagare and J. John


to delink from the world (capitalist) economy. Fourth, they re-define socialism itself by rejecting 'scientific socialists' and upholding 'utopian socialists'; the latter being more realistic '... in seeking and organising to change society in smaller, immediate, but realisable steps, which did not require state power .. .' (ibid .: Thesis 7). Socialism thus gets reduced to lifeless evolutionism. By maintaining an astute silence on who the agents of social transformation are, Frank and Fuentes are hinting that development of alternatives to state power (namely social power) is a natural process which requires no activist intervention . This position is questionable unless one subscribes to pui:e evolutionism. Frank and Fuentes are emphatic in saying that 'social movements are not antisystemic' in the sense that they do not attempt and succeed 'to destroy the system and replace it by another one or none at all' (Frank and Fuentes 1987: Thesis 6). They add ' ... the systemic means, ends and consequences of social movements ... are to modify the system only by changing its systemic linkages' (ibid. : Thesis 6). Social movements are thus supposed to modify the system by changing the linkages . Social movements are said to respond to peoples' 'frustrations with the forces that emanate from the world economy in crisis'. Frank and Fuentes give a grim picture of human beings' manoeuvrability in these situations. Traditional political processes and institution s as well as the new emerging social movements are incapable of intervening in the situation because, 'limitations are ever greater in world economy whose cycles and trends are largely beyond the control' (ibid.: Thesis 6). The statement, 'politicaleconomy forces are beyond control' has been almost rhythmically repeated throughout the article. Frankand Fuentes are visualizing a situation where the world economy in crisis and the political economic forces emanating thereof are positioned over and against man/woman. The picture is of an ahistorical undialectical and slavish relationship of man/woman with political-economic forces. The possibility of 'conscious human intervention ' historically divested of economic forces appears as an oppressive meta-reality beyond the reach of human beings. The thrust of the 'Nine Theses' is, therefore , on fate -oriented social movements destined to operate as a natural course within the limits set by cyclical contexts of the world economic order. With diligence, though repeatedly, Frank and Fuentes have argued that social movements are mostly defensive and reactive and that

Niu Tlteu1: A Critique


'only marginally are these movements offensively in pursuit of betterment' (ibid .: Thesis 3). The same reasoning is discernible in their affirmation that social movements are temporary and that they 'by far .. .leave little permanent and cumulative mark on history' (ibid.: Thesis 3) . The phrase 'cumulative mark on history' has been used here in a loose sense . One wonders whether the authors are reducing the complex process of formation of political organization to a simple summation of events. The authors seem to overlook the possibility of a dialectical movement transforming quantity into quality whereby the organization itself gets changed substantially. At a stroke of the pen, Frank and Fuentes wish to prove that 'political movements-like the French, Soviet and Chinese revolutions' 'had no cumulative effect on the world as a whole' (ibid.: Thesis 3). The observation is as much nihilistic as it is negativistic towards the historical importance of these revolutionary movements notwithstanding the distortions, ideological or otherwise, that entered in post-revolutionary routioization processes. In their 'Nine Theses ', Frank and Fuentes seem to be engaging themselves in deceptive intellectual acrobatics perhaps aimed at concealing their real intentions. On the one hand, they treat social movements as sole agents of social transformation . On the other hand, they restrict the contents of social transformation by dealing with it in an apolitical sense purely (implying pursuit of 'social power' instead of 'state/political power') . It is quite interesting to note how Frank and Fuentes manage to superimpose on social movements a non-critical apoliticism. Let us briefly examine three themes that pervade the whole article which may also unravel the not too explicitly political implications of the 'Nine Theses '. The themes are (a) the cyclical nature of social movements; (b) the moral and social power of social movements as against political power; and (c) social movements' rejection of state power. Social movements are cyclical, Frank and Fuentes will argue, since (a) 'there seem to be culturaVideological , political, military and eco nomic/technological cycles, and social movements respond to the changing circumstances'; (b) 'social movements tend to have lifecycles of their own' (Frank and Fuentes 1987: Thesis 3). To understand contemporary social movements , Frank and Fuentes thus maintain that 'it is essential to view them in the cyclical context(s), which shape, if not give rise to, them' (ibid .: Thesis 3). Whether the political economy of a nation/nations can be understood historically,


D.N. Dhanagare and J. John

in terms of 'crisis-recovery' cycles is the real question that deserves greater attention. Since it is beyond the scope of this comment, it should suffice to concentrate on the political implications of such a position. Most prominently, a cyclical paradigm negates any possibility of overcoming the cyclical process itself through human intervention. Human beings are caught up in a vicious cycle that goes on interminably, where the only desirable option left to them is to forge 'different/new linkages' within the area already defined and circumscribed by the cyclical paradigm. As far as the 'Nine Theses' are concerned, the cyclical content operates within world capitalism; it begins from capitalism (perhaps of a 'primitive' type) and ends with capitalism (of a self-producing a~d self-correcting type). Therefore, capitalism with its all-sided manifestations of economy, culture, politics and ideology provides the only overarching and the necessary condition for the existence of human beings . Socialism is thus projected in the 'Nine Theses' as nothing more than an incarnation of capitalism with 'new and different linkages', or capitalism re-defined. Force of morality and sense of justice/injustice are held as the 'essential motivating and driving force of social movements, both past and present' (ibid.: Thesis 2). Morality and a sense of justice/injustice are used in the 'Nine Theses' to denote a state of consciousness of the masses. According to Frank and Fuentes, 'hundreds of millions of people around the world' perceive 'the present world politicaleconomic crisis and its multiple ramifications' as a 'moral affront to their sense of justice' (ibid.: Thesis 3) and not as a political question. Morality and concern with (in)justice are said to abet reaffirmation of the identity perceived as 'we' and to 'us' (ibid.: Thesis 2). The sense of morality and (in)justice are introduced in the 'Nine Theses' as alternative autonomous consciousness which are tendentially apolitical and sectarian. The sense of morality and (in)justice are neither critically conscious nor consciously political. At the same time they function as philosophical parameters which set limits to the degree of political consciousness the agents of social transformation can • acquire. The authors' insistence on using 'social power' as a category independent of and opposed to 'political power' also calls for some comment. According to Frank and Fuentes, 'Social power is at once (spontaneously) generated by and derived from the social movement itself, rather than from any institution, political or otherwise' (ibid.:

Nine TMses: A Critique


Thesis 2). Thus, 'social power' is said to be self-generative. 'Social mobilization' of their participants, (and not political mobilization) is the mechanism through which social movements 'generate and wield social power' (ibid.: Thesis 2). A basic theoretical premise of this argument is that there exists two binary realms of power-social and political-which are independent and opposed to each other. Frank and Fuentes go beyond a conceptual separation between the two and attnbute a differentiation in reality. Unless the social realm is depoliticized, an autonomous social realm and a corresponding social power cannot be conceived of. Here Frank and Fuentes are obviously committed to a process of depoliticization of the social realm . The depoliticization is carried out not only by giving a dubious autonomy to social power, but also by negating political processes forthwith . Social movements, which represent the social realm, are supposed to be antithetical to and provide 'alternatives' to the existing political institutions. To Frank and Fuentes , social movements reflect 'people's disappointment and frustration with-and their search for alternatives to-the political process, political parties, the state and the capture of state power in the West, South and East' (ibid.: Thesis 5). This is so because 'either the state and its political process cannot or it will not face up to, let alone control, these economic forces' (ibid.: Thesis 3) which 'emanate from the world economy in crisis' . Frank and Fuentes are most eloquent in their antistate tirade: ' ... hardly anywhere, in the West, South or East, is state power an adequate desideratum or instrument for the satisfaction of popular needs' (ibid.: Thesis 3). Social movements are the alternatives which are described as 'non-and-anti-economic', 'non-state', 'extra-institutional', etc. They emphatically add that 'not seekinglet alone wielding-the state power is a sine qua non of a social movement' (ibid.: Thesis 5) and moreover, 'state power would negate the very essence and purpose of most social movements' (ibid.: Thesis 5). The established mainstream political processes in their totality stand denigrated in Frank and Fuentes ' 'Nine Theses ' while they strive to establish that social movements are the agents capable of transforming society without the burden of capturing state power. To that end, they generalize, re-define and simplify the complex concept of 'state' so as to fit it into their scheme of things. The over-generalized state shows no distinction in content whether it be in the 'West, South or East'. Frank and Fuentes bestow the

66 D.N. Dhanagare and J. John

'formal' state with a universality, but characterized by morbid ineffectiveness. They deliberately overlook the reality that the state still remains the most effective and crucial instrument of the hegemony of the capitalist classes. They create a ghost out of the 'formal state' and declare a war against it. They go many steps further to project the state as displaying the redundancy of the whole political process. They cleverly play up the frustrations of the exploited classes in order to denounce not only the state but also the political process in its essence which explains why the authors found it necessary to caricature the concept of 'capture of state power '. Since they argue that social movements are 'apolitical' Frank and Fuentes also reject the proposition that capture of state power is a necessary and an immutable law in the advanced stage of the struggle for social transformation. Implicitly, Frank and Fuentes belittle, ridicule and reject a possibility of the radical transformation of capitalism by the exploited classes assuming that it is in the pursuit of so-called autonomous social power that lies the emancipation of the masses. Here lies the political significance or implication of the 'Nine Theses on Social Movements'. Frank and Fuentes conspire theoretically to take away political consciousness from the exploited classes and bestow upon them an apolitical force of morality and social power. They, then, proceed to eulogize social movements as the important agents of social transformation. At the same time they set limits to the transformative potential of the social agents as well as to the very process of social transformation. Simultaneously , they succeed theoretically to scuttle the possibility of the emergence of genuine political transformative agents to appear on the scene . Frank and Fuentes have thus completed a cycle and subaltern masses are left with no other option than creating different and new linkages within the world capitalist system. By implication, but very consciously, the 'Nine Theses' of Frank and Fuentes are an attempt to provide the newly emerging non-party political processes (and action groups) in the Third World with an agenda as to what they should be truly doing. All those engaged in conscientizing and mobilizing oppressed masses at the grassroots in India through a variety of action-groups 3 must read the 'Nine Theses' with caution and can only ill-afford to miss the message the authors exhort in between the lines.

NiM The1e1:A Critique


Notes l. In the parlanceof Frankand Fuentes, the term 'state' is repeatedly used synony-

mous with the term 'political' as in the case of the usage of phrase 'political (state) institutions' . 2. ~•u (1977: 23) describeshow the high level of abstraction employed by A. Gunder Frankenables him (Frank)to 'arriveat a sufficiently 1ft'idcnotion of capitalism, to include different exploitative situations suffered by the indigenous Peruvian peasantry, the Chilean lnquilions, the Equadorian huasipunguerous, the slaves of West Indian sugar plantations or textile workers in Manchester' . 3. For exhaustive discussions on 'action -groups' in India, see BUIID Documentation C.Cntrc (Background Papers No. 5) which is a compilation of papen . Also see W. Fernandes (ed.). 1985. Social Activists and. Pwpk's M~mmts . Delhi: Indian Social Institute. ·

References Baaerjee. Oeptndra. 1987. 'TIie Historical Problematic of Third World Development', Social Scienlist,August-September: 171-72. F.apes, F. 1971.hasant Wan in Gmnany . London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Frank,AndreGander and Marta Fuentes. 1987. 'Nine Theses on Social Movements', Economic and.Political Weekly, 29 August: 1503-10. Ladaa, Erwsto. 19n. 'Feudalism and Capitalism in Latin America', in Politicsand luolo1y in Monist TMory. London: Verso F.ditions.


Masses, Classes and the State


I It is commonplace the se days to say that we live in an age of turbulence. What is not clear are the sources of this turbulence and reasons why, de spite so much of it, it is not able to change the world we live in which those who wield power and authority are still able to thwart , divert or suppress it . What I propose to do in this chapter is to explore precisely this relationship between an increasingly defensive status quo desperate to retain its power and the forces of change and transformation that are getting increasingly restive and restless, conscious of the shackl es that bind them and the need to move out of them, yet frustrated and disorganized and unable to cope with the growing repression and terror from the status quo . Now there is nothing new in this undertaking . All social commentators, at least since the middle of the nineteenth century , who have cared to look at the larger dynamics that lie behind the myriad expressions of the human condition , have sought to deal with this very problem: the encounter between the forces of status quo and those of change . What is new in examining the same problem in our time (and by that I mean the 1980s of the twentieth century) is the deep confusion and uncertainity about what really is under way on both sides of the equation-on the side of the global, regional and local

Masin, Cla,1u mul tM Stau


status quo and on the side of agents of change and transformation from the very local and 'micro' to the global and planetary 'macro'. It is by seeking to unravel this deep uncertainty about the directions in which the world is moving-both the dominant structures and those opposed to the dominant structures-that we may be able to at least begin to understand what is at work, what new factors have emerged or are emerging, how these are likely to shape the future and what, if any, countertrends may be in the offing and may perhaps work. At present, no clear framework of understanding, far less of explaining, reality exists, not even a method of coming to grips with it. There has taken place an obsolescence of ideological frameworks, of any grand theory, of any clear guide of formulating a praxis. There is a striking decline of confidence among all but the most naive dogmatists . And this pervading sense of uncertainty has given rise to pyramids of insecurity, helplessness, bewilderment , withdrawal, cynicism and apathy . Now to a large extent periods of uncertainty in history are occasioned by major changes in the structure of reality, changes at so many thresholds of human organization and so simultaneous that their impacts on consciousness leave the latter adrift and without any firm anchor . In the contemporary situation we see this at so many thresholds or levels of human endeavour and organization. At the larger political level of the world power structure, both the rise of the Third World in the post-colonial period and the replacement of a world structured around the European balance of power by a bi -polar world structured around the two superpowers, have unsettled all earlier understandings of international relations. While each of these two facts is recognized the two have not been considered together in an adequate manner. Once one does that, one can immediately see how a colonial kind of bondage was replaced by a much greater and stronger integration into either the global capitalist market or into the world strategic straitjacket fashione.d by the struggle for world hege mony by the two superpowers. Our existing conceptual categories of historical analysis are somehow ill-equipped to grasp the full implications of this split in the human community occasioned preci sely by its greater integration , globalization and homogenization. Most existing ideologies-and their offshoots-were born in the typical European setting of nation states, the setting of first generation


Rajni Kothari

industrialization and one of essentially class-based identities . They seem to be ill-equipped to deal with a transnationalized world in which the dominant currency is technological as distinct from economic and military as distinct from political. It is a totally different human setting . Second, this is also reflected at the level of the organization of the productive forces. We are confronted with a completely different model of world capitalism, a switch from the European to the American model, in which technology as a system, propelled on the one hand by the communications and information order conditioning the minds of men and on the other by the corporate form of organization conditioning the behaviour of states , makes all other relations of production subsidiary . This has generally forced all other 'systems'the socialist system, the Third World, the Japanese system-to fall in line and measure success on terms laid out by the American cultural syndrom e (technology being the only culture the Americans have) . Third , this growing autonomy of the technological estate has found its greatest manifestation in the military field and the field of military-civilian relationship. We live in an age not just of growing militarization of the whole globe-from the powerful nuclear powers to the powerless Third World countries-but of a model of militarization that is essentially technological. Nation states are at the mercy of the growing menace of the military research and development which marches inexorably and forces every major and even minor country to discard existing weapon systems and adopt newer ones , at escalating costs no doubt and with increasingly hazardous effects on social and ecological systems. It is a new version of militarism, rather auto. nomous of the will of the rulers and of course of the peoples. Fourth, this dominion of technology and its pervasive impact of political, economic and security dimensions each of which has come to become vulnerable to its design-has in tum produced a massive erosion of the ecological basis of human civilization, destroying the resources base of the people and especially of the millions of rural and tribal and 'ethnic' poor who have not just been made into surplus and therefore dispensable populations by the aggressive march of high -tech capitalism but whose traditional access to natural resources and non-commercial produce has also been taken away from them. The usual syndrome facing even the most remote hill peoples is one in which the military builds roads, the urban and

Masse,, Clas1e1 and IM Stau


tourist traffic moves in with its artefacts and consumerism, modem communications 'hard-sells' these products and then comes the modem technology and its commercial arteries, drawing away all the resources of nature and heritage of history that were traditionally given f rec to these peoples. With all these forces impinging on traditional societies forcing them to fall in line and accept the dominant mode and ideology of forced modernization and, what is more, with the supposedly independent states too being forced to fall in line instead of providing new lines of defence to civil society, with this a deep socio-cultural crisis has ensued, especially in older civilizations. As the state in effect withdraws from its responsibility and surrenders its autonomy, civil society in these lands is thrown on its own resources. And this precisely when these societies are experiencing deep convulsions thanks to the powerful impacts both of the modernizing juggernaut immanent in the aggressive thrust of ruthless technologism which is the form that world capitalism has assumed and, in a different way, of the social and ethnic conflicts generated by formal electoral democracy in which somehow wresting a majority at the time of elections has become the main stuff of politics. This formal apparatus of democracy as a vehicle of modernization worked somewhat smoothly so long as it was controlled by an alliance of feudal and bourgeois elements . With the rise and assertion of the masses which in good faith believed in the formal pretenses of bourgeois democracy, a big backlash arose from both the feudal landed interest and the industrial bourgeoisie which has found expression in massive repression of the poor on the one hand and the promulgation of a depoliticized technocratic state impervious to social and political aspiration of the masses on the other. It is the bewildering interface between these powerful trends each heralding a strong current of domination and destruction-that we need to come to gripswith if we are to comprehend, assess and hopefully steer the countertrends that are emerging on behalf of the affected masses and people of the world. Crucial to such an understanding are two prerequisites. First, we should give up the specialized, single issue oriented approach to problems and crises that has characterized the dominant method of both the hard sciences and the social sciences. And, second, we need to identify the emerging ideological elements in the current praxis of the counter-movements and to

72 Rajni Kothari

relate them into some sort of a whole which, while drawing upon the best in earlier ideologies, empowers the masses towards a liberating process of their own creation and volition. If this is an 'age of the masses' it is the masses and their leader that have to evolve a relevant ideology, not some ivory tower intellectuals except as aides (nor the wielders of state power who, all indications suggest, have a declining interest in the masses except to 'mobilize' them from time to time for their own perpetuation and glorification. Hitherto ideological claims or pretenses have been made either by intellectuals in their role of being 'vanguards' or by government or party leaders in control of the state or by 'planners') in which the masses have been treated as mindless followers with no ideas of their own, indeed no capacity for cognition. At least in our age this presumption must go. For, all the elites, including revolutionary elites, have failed to grasp the reality on the ground. On the other hand, one notices some refreshing and original ways of thinking among the masses from which we can all learn.

II Now, both the need to consider the multiple dimensions of domination, exploitation and marginalization in their interrelated manifestations and the need to similarly interrelate and integrate the large variety of countertrends and their new ideological underpinnings can be best done by working on the central issue of our time-the changing nature of the state and its role in civil society, especially as it impinges on the masses and the peoples of the world, and of Third World in particular. We need to re-examine our assumptions about the state and its presumed role as liberator, equalizer, 'modernizer' and mobilizer. As we do this-and I propose to go into it in some detail in this paper-we shall be able to uncover a series of simultaneous dimensions. The state and its relationship to the people come through as not just a relationship between classes and the masses, but also between the principal carrier of modem capitalism and technology and the social order (marginalizing a large part of the latter). Between the military and the civil order. Between the development policies of the state and its transnational sponsors and the economic




Cltu1e1 artd tM Stak


and ecological catastrophes that are hitting the masses and affecting sheer survival of large numbers of people. Between the global information order and the citizen reduced to a package of consumption, social prejudice and dazzling circuses organized by the state and corporate intelligence . And finally between dominant races and ethnic communities that have control of the state and those at the periphery, presumably still members of the civil order but progressively being pushed out of it by repressive and genocidal policies. It is this capture of the state by a convergence of class, ethnic, technological and military actors, by developmentalists, communicators and managers, including managers of votes, that has set the stage for the contemporary confrontation between the 'classes' and the 'masses'. There has been with us, especially in the post-colonial world, a presumption of the state as a mediator in ameliorating the harshness of traditional social structures for the purpose of ensuring justice and equality, a protector of vulnerable peoples and liberator of oppressed and colonized populations, and an engine of growth and development that would usher in a new civil order based on progress and prosperity and confer rights to life and liberty, equality and dignity, on the people at large. There was a further presumption of relative autonomy of the state from entrenched interests and classes, of the state as an independent actor with preponderant powers to influence, discipline and, where need be, coerce established interests and estates to accept state policies aimed at transforming-either incrementally or through rapid strides-the status quo. And for a while it did seem that the bearers of power in the new states meant to act as autonomous actors and use their authority for the pursuit of declared policies. The written constitutions and fundamental statutes that were enacted and the wide array of social legislation that followed were designed to do this. The vigorous pursuit of economic models that then ensued, whether in achieving greater self-reliance through import substitution and the building of a substantial infrastructure for industrialization ( as for instance was the case in India) or in achieving greater welfare through provision of social minima in the fields of food, health and education ( as for instance was the case in Sri Lanka), also suggested that the state meant to be a positive state in the interests of clearly laid out policies, in turn based on a given social and economic philosophy.

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During the same period the opening up of the political space, either through exercise of adult franchise as in the liberal polities or through involvement in party structures and at production sites as in more socialist polities or through a combination of competitive politics, local self-government and cooperatives in the rural areas as in mixed-economics,also meant that leaders of those states were keen on involving the masses and seeking legitimacy from them. And in fact, large segments of the masses accepted this new benevolent form of a paternalistic state, and hoped to use it to improve both their life chances and their status in society and indeed in course of time to challenge the hegemony of the dominant classes in society. In short, though not alwaysstated in that manner, built into the positive thrust and progressivist creed of the post-colonial state was an eventual encounter between the 'classes' and the 'masses' with the state providing a frame for mediation through which a confrontation of contending interestswas translated into a seriesof transformativepolicies. Now such a promise of the liberal polity through a mixture of faith in 'development', quite a degree of zeal in 'doing good' to the people and the availability of a credible and exemplary leadership that was on the whole not a prisoner of a particular class or estate was not without failings,or of serious critics. Many compromiseswere effected along the way, as for instance in the implementation of land reforms or in putting on the ground truly effective public distribution systems. Concessions were made when entrenched groups and interests put up a tough resistance to intended changes. There was too much dependence on the bureaucracy which was in most of these states a direct continuation of the colonial civil service. And finally,there was not a little ~rruption in high office and the inevitable compulsions of the middle class basis of the leadership and the social milieu in which both ministers and their secretaries and technocrats moved. All this was there and we were all along told about this. And we had also been warned that the state was an instrument of a class or of a colonial power or simply of bureaucrats and policemen and soldiers. And yet whether it was Lenin or Mao, Nehru or Nkrumah, Nyerere or Nasser, they all pinned their visionsof transformation on state power. Only Gandhi did not, but he was, even before India became independent, rendered important and irrelevant. Leaving the Gandhian stream (and most Gandhians also went for a model of voluntarism and 'constructive work' which heavily depended on state patronage),

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there was consensus across the board, from the industrialists to 'leftof-centre' politicians to the radicals including the Marxists on a positive and interventionist role of the state on behalf of the masses. It is now clear that the expectation of such a role of the state, and the presumed alliance between the state and the masses in such an expectation, have been belied. Today the state is seen to have betrayed the masses, as having become the prisoner of the dominant classes and their transnational patrons and as having increasingly turned anti-people. Nor has it provided the sinews of a radical bourgeois transformation from the dynamics of which a revolutionary alternative would emerge. The state in the Third World, despite some valiant efforts by dedicated leaders in a few countries, has degenerated into a technocratic machine serving a narrow power group that is kept in power by hordes of security men at the top and a regime of repression and terror at the bottom, kept going by millions of .hard-working people who must go on producing goods and services for the 'system' for if they did not, everything would collapse. The fact of the matter is that without landless labourers and sharecroppers and without the unrelieved drudgery of women and children the rural economy would collapse and without slum and pavement dwellers the urban economy would collapse but there is no chance of any of these rising above their levels of penury and destitution-either the landless acquiring land or the homeless urbanites getting homes. The chances on the contrary are the opposite: sinking below existing levels in the wake of still greater increases in unemployment flowing from still further modernization and given the growing sentiment against migrant labourers without whom the cities cannot be built but who are becoming eyesores for the affluent middle classes, bulldozing them whenever they get settled a bit.

III Now such a transformation in the role of the state in regard to the masses in the post-colonial world, from being an instrument of liberation of the masses to being a source of so much oppression for them, is a result of a number of factors. Some of these were foreseen by theoretical models of historical change but many others are a

76 Rajni Kothari

result of developments that were not foreseen then, at least not adequately. One set of factors has to do with the very model of development that was adopted in most ex-colonial countries. Based on the urge to emulate and catch up with the countries that had once colonized them and from where our intellectuals continued to derive their main stimulus and sustenance after Independence, it produced a structure of opportunities that was inherently inequitous and pitched against the masses. The emphasis on capital accumulation for rapid industrialization and the understanding of industrialivition and associated patterns of urbanization and modernization being outwardoriented (from the villages to the metropolitan countries), inevitably distributed resources ·unevenly, against the poor . And not just resources that were created by planned economic development but also the resources that originally belonged to the people or to whom they had free and easy access. Initially it was thought that these inequalities and disparities between classes or regions-were transitory and technological, largely due to the inevitable lag between accumulation and distribution, and will not only disappear with further development but will be reversed in favour of the poor and towards a more egalitarian society. In fact, despite a degree of welfare measures and despite a mixedtechnologicalpackage that included development schemes for rural development meant to benefit the poor and the unemployed, the pattern of inequalities and of increases thereof has acquired a structure that has more or less become permanent and in which a great manyvested interests have been created. The reasons for this are many. There isjust the greed of the classes that controlled or had access to state power and the administration at different levels and who were unwillingto make the so-called 'sacrifices', which in fact meant allowing the poorer classes access to a part of the surplus that they had created in the first place, so that the whole society could move forward and develop even more rapidly, benefiting all classes. This was the typical liberal bourgeois 'democratic' assumption that has not worked in these highly divided societies where the classes and the masses constitute two worlds apart. But it was not simply a matter of greed and selfishness and lack of not just empathy for others but also of perspective on how better distribution leads to even greater enlargement of the cake instead of the narrow view that there is not enough to distribute and let us first

Mauu, Clouu a,ul 1M State


simply enlarge the cake; in such a view there will in fact never be enough. But it is not just this. These very lacks, of empathy on the one hand and perspective on the other, were caused by other pressures. At the level of individuals and groups-of the owning classes-there was the snare of an imported package of consumption, amenities and lifestyles, a highly seductive 'consumerism' that has had a powerful pull through global outreach of a particular culture of consumption, namely the American mass culture which in the case of our societies bas become an elite culture that has kept the masses out. In terms of the role of the state in this, what has happened is that havingcreated an adequate industrial infrastructure or enough exportable surplu.~ to satisfy the consumer needs of the owning classes and their middle class cohorts, and all this through the instrumentality of the state, these classes lost interest in continuing the operation of an interventionist state for that would have meant responding to the demands for redistribution, welfare and a more participative framework of economic management. The result has been an emphasis simultaneously on liberalization and lowering of taxes on the rich, presumably to increase incentives and replace the role of the state by that of the markets and on modernization and computerization of the technological base in which of course the state is expected to play a big role. The 'classes' (by which I mean the upper and the middle classes) will wallow in the imported mass culture of consumption and comforts, the masses will be left to the playground of the market and that too largely in the unorganized sector, and the' organized sector of the economy will be modernized for effectively competing in the export-led model of development to which all developing countries have of late been led, again by a global mindset launched by international financial institutions and an international academic and policy elite that are at once clients and consultants to these world bodies. It is all part of the 'catching up' syndrome-in consumption patterns, in technology, in the ruling doctrine as regards the best path to economic affluence. This is one set of factors. The other, and to my mind more powerful set, has to do with a still bigger process of 'catching up' that is at work. This is the very strong drive at building an efficient, strong, hard state, heavily industrialized after the high-tech model on the one hand and sufficiently militarized in which too the latest ,

78 Rajni Kothari

sophisticated armament are acquired . Once this thinking takes shape, both the transnational salesmen and experts in the latest civilian technologies and the merchants of violence and war and of repressive technologies and intelligence systems come in and lay out both their hardware and their software . This mirage of greatness in a world increasingly dominated by the superpowers and the multinationals only serves to drain away resources from the countryside to the urban areas, and from there to overseas in return for both civilian and military high-tech, to increase areas of tension as the phenomenon of regional overlordship takes shape as part of a global management structure, and to harden the very arteries of the state which finds it necessary to suppress challenges locally as part of dealing with them externally . This lies in the very logic of a global order based on technocratic and militarizing states. As far as the masses of these states are concerned, all this only draws away economic resources that could have been available for their well-being and , what is worse , drains away natural resources to which they hitherto had access and of which the new technologies are particularly destructive . Third , as a consequence of these factors-the greed of the classes, particularly under the impact of modem consumerism, the 'catching up ' syndrome, the drive towards a hard and efficient and militarized state, and above all the growing faith in market economies-we are witness to another important development that is still under way but is bound to grow: the collapse of the welfate state and of those component s of development that were directed to the amelioration and welfare of the underprivileged. We need to remember that one of the more progressive streams in modem economic thought, still within the broad bourgeois-liberal framework, has been the effort to chasten the harshness of modem capitalism and technology through the rise of the welfare state. In fact it has been said that the welfare state · has proved to be a major defence of the capitalist order against radical and revolutionary forces. When the po st-colonial states designed their models of development from the experience of the West , they also took on the welfare components of the same . Now with the welfare state under attack everywhere (including in the West) those components have been the first to have suffered in the Third World too. The belief in the market and in technological solutions to basically social and political problems ha s taken their place. The fact is that, unlikt: in highly urban societie s that were industrialized over

Mas,n, Clas,e, and th.e State


time, where the growth of strong class consciousness permitted the demands for equity and justice to emanate from the social space in the form of pressures on the state, in predominantly rural and tnbal societies the state become a direct, unmediated presence, and whether it treats its citizenry in a humane way or becomes oppressive depends largely on the model of development as well as the balance of sociopolitical considerations that informs the model. This depends to a large extent on the ruling elite . When such an elite makes a direct jump to high-tech without having gone through the dynamics of capitalist growth, and when it allows the military, the tourist, the television and the computer full play, obviously welfare goes out of the window. Once this happens both capitalism and the state get hardened, the latter becoming an instrument of the former in place of chastening its excesses. Thus it' gives in to the compulsions of this computerized phase of capitalism, namely automation, in the organized sector and a new division of labour in the unorganized sector in which migrant and bonded labour and women and children become the targets of exploitation, in both cases destabilizing the 'working class' and its organizations . Their capacity to combat poverty and marginalization and destitution-and slow death-declines as these in fact become integral parts of the advance of the system , of science, of modem civilization. They are inherent in a dual economy which in tum is inherent in the wholly technocratic vision of capitalism. Fourth, a new ideological crystallization has emerged of late which is taking hold of the minds of leaders and intellectuals in all parts of the world ( including to some extent, I am afraid, the socialist world). The crux of the new ideology is breathtakingly simple : replacement of the state by the market. Building mainly on the right wing critique of a positive and interventionist state and of the phenomenon of bureaucracy, but also drawing indirect support from the critique of the state from the Left and from liberals (though of course distorting it), the new thought that is emerging is to give full play to the market, which is euphemistically called a 'free market', to competition, to modernization, to technology and to the great catalysts of all this, namely the transnational corporate giants. In large part this is a doctrine promulgated by the state itself, or the new bearers of power in it (the post -Fabian generation if you like). But here too it is important to catch the nuance. The idea is not only to


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dismantle the state apparatus in regard mainly to distribution of national produce, in short in the social sphere, but to fully and systematically use it for promoting the new technologies and the dual economy that goes with them. It is a state that somehow bears a human face, uses 'liberal' symbols and invites everyone to come in, especially voluntary organizations and the NGOs, opposition groups and the liberal intelligentsia . We want to reduce the role of the bureaucracy, depoliticize government and the administration and to draw motivated and highly educated people in this great march into the twenty-first century, as our new prime minister (Rajiv Gandhi) heralds us in India. In this the state is still central for it is the state that will drive us all like a homogeneous mass into the future. It is a grand strategy of cooperation of the classes away from the masses which are also, of course, being asked to look after themselves. That behind the state lurks the structure of corporate capitalism is true. But we are also witness to the rise of a new model of the state, the corporate capitalist state . All over the ASEAN world, elsewhere too where the so-called NICs are to be found, it is a direct marriage of the state and corporate capitalism, and not between the local bourgeoisie and foreign capital as was the case earlier . In fact , the local businesses are being wiped out . There is one final and most dangerous element in this growing crystallization of the ruling class. Aware that the dual economy and the likely consequences thereof are likely to generate restlessness and revolt from the bottom and lower middle tiers of society, as also from the politicized elements of the middle classes, it has set into motion a completely new canard that is meant to detract attention from the socio-economic sphere to the highly volatile communal and ethnic sphere, releasing strong religious, linguistic and cultural sentiments, pitching people against people, utilizing mafia operations and the availability of hordes of lumpens and criminals , and unleashing a reign of terror on vulnerable castes, communities and regions. Obscurantist sentiments and fundamentalist ideologies are mobilized for this purpose , the state acquires still more fire power, this time legitimized in the name of national unity and threats to it, undermining in the process all the politics of struggle and social movements that had challenged the hegemony of the upper castes earlier. Draconian Jaws against 'terrorism' are enacted in the same vein which are then used to deal with popular unrest and suppress

Masses, Classes and 1M Stau


social movements. It is an extremely serious development that has been a direct consequence of the ruling elite wanting to somehow hang on to power and, to this end, engender into the political process a strong dose of violence and civil strife . As it succeeds in undermining the caste and class basis of social interactions, and in communalizing that too, it threatens to tear the social fabric apart. Or at any rate the social fabric below the technocratic superstructure. In fact, we are witness to the rise of not one but two new ideologies, of technologism and of fundamentalism, and the two do coalesce as the exercise of power becomes increasingly cynical. The result is civil wars, ethnicization of civil society, and collapse of secularism as a mode of organizing plural societies. It undermines the conception of pluralism as such, of a conception of unity that not only respects diversity but draws its resilience and strength from it. In ·countries where a large majority is able to steamroll the whole society into a monolithic whole, it goes hand in hand with the homogenizing drive of the modem corporate capitalist state. For the masses, it a double steamroller .

IV Let me now tum to the obverse of this all, to the masses, having considered at some length the classes and the state that they have come to control, camouflage and commandeer. The question is how the masses allow these two-the classes and the state-to stampede them into what looks like abject surrender. Especially in this supposed age of the masses which has led major observers of the human condition to pronounce the arrival on the scene finally of the masses, the 'revolt of the masses' as Ortegay Gasset announced some decades ago. The actual situation we face is 'fascinating' as the Americans would say, excruciating as we would say (for the Americans, all suffering is fascinating, as is all sport). It is like this. There is a flurry of mass action, in various social settings, at a variety of sites at so many levels. There is also a spurt of state repression, usually at local and para-local levels but often escalating upwards to the urban metropolitan areas including the capitals of countries. There is at the same time an increase in exploitation in the economic sense, not just in the wage-capital relationship but also in terms of new production

82 Rajni Kothari

relations that have given rise to new structure of exploitation and there is wanton distortion and undermining of whatever laws and allocations there are for the poor, the backward and the destitute. It is against this matching of opposite forces, this deadlock, this tension, this peculiar state of stagnation and exhaustion arising precisely out of so much action from so many opposing segments and sites that we have to evaluate the actual condition in which the mass of the people are placed . There is, first, as already mentioned, the continuing drudgery of so-called 'work ' that must go on, for the system demands it, even under deteriorating conditions of which everyone including those who drudge along are aware, though perhaps not always so consciously. There is, second, the capacity of the ruling class to divide and split the labouring classes and the people generally-to break their strikes , to bring in 'outsiders' and count on 'black sheep ', to be certain that when one set of people walk out or protest, another will walk in, or in any case incapacitate the protesting, to know that scarcity and poverty are the best conditions of demobilization than of mobilization (as radical theory would have it). In rural areas and tribal belts even this is not necessary : the feudal order in league with the centralized bourgeois state ensures full success of the exploitative chain-all the way up and all the way down. They 'sur vive' preci sely by surrendering. And third , there is, beyond the drudgery and the divisions and the chain of exploitation , a deep and pervasive conditioning of the mind of the masses by the powerful impact of modern communication media on the one hand and the deep schism and scare caused by fundamentalist drive s on the other hand. The unfortunate fact is that the masses are more duped by both than the middle classes and the professionals , their having little information on which to base a more discerning and discrete structure of appraisal and choice. The moot point , of course, is that such conditioning perpetuates the other characteristics of mass behaviour from continuing drudgery to systemic exploitation . And yet we know that the masses are on the march despite the drudgery , the exploitation, the conditioning. There is a great spurt in consciousness, willingness to challenge hegemonies and unearned privilege, to protest against injustices , to mobilize horizontally to deal with oppressions of a vertical kind. There is no doubt that all this is there, and growing. What is it that prevents it from crystallizing into an effective counter-force against dead drudgery, inhuman exploitation and involuntary conditions?

Mtu1e1, Cltu1u artd the State


Here we come to the crux of the problem. The masses in the postcolonial world arc unorganized, they lack politicization, they are unable to withstand co-option and conditioning despite constant struggle and growing consciousness. The poor, the minorities, those outside the stream of the main civil society-the tribals, the forest people, large segments of the women all suffer from this state of deep disorganization . This is largely because the typical avenues of mass mobilization and redress of disabilities and deprivation have given way before larger forces, or rather that are seductive and corrupting in a way. I have particularly in mind political panics on the one hand and trade unions on the other, two conventional channels and modes of mobilization and struggle. Unfortunately-and this observation applies almost 'across the board'-political parties (not just ruling parties) have been so taken in by the compulsions of the electoral process that they have lost their capacity to have the rna5$CS,in particular the more destitute and backward among them. As regards the trade unions, there has taken place a near collapse of them as catalysts of a working class consciousness and a working class movement. Even the press and the judiciary are found to fall in their appointed tasks, they too are found to be corrupted by the crumbs of 'development' on the one hand and the miasma of a national security state and corrosive fundamentalism on the other. The masses are on the rise but the institutional channels through which they ought to have found expression and which were to provide a springboard of radical action are found to be wanting, coopted and corrupted. It is in this state of vacuum in the traditional superstructure of the liberal polity that was supposed to render it humane despite powerful trends that the real countenrends are to be found-not in the party system, not in the arena of electoral politics and of state power, not in the typical confrontation between the so-called haves and the have-nots within the conventional economistic space dominated by trade unions. In their place there is emerging a new arena of counteraction, of countervailing tendencies, of counter-cultural movements and more generally of a counter-challenge to existing paradigms of thought and action. It is necessary to understand the nature of this challenge. It is in many ways new and even unintended in the sense of some well thought out grand design. It is composed of a series of obvious and inevitable strands of struggles against existing hegemonies of organized


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resistance, of mainstream protest of civil liberties and democratic rights . But it is much more than this. It is an effort to redefine the scope and the range of politics . It is an effort to open up new spaces in both the arena of the state and in several other spheres of civil society outside this arena. And it is based on new spurts in consciousness-beyond economism, beyond confined definitions of the political process , beyond the facile ( and false) dichotomy of state versus market, beyond both dehumanizing religiosity and dehumanizing modernity , discovering new indigenous roots and substance and strength based not so much on either the fractured Old or the mediocre and insipid New as on genuine possibilities of alternatives that can in fact work in generating this process of 'conscientization' and engaging in actual struggles as well as searching for new alternatives has resulted in the emergence of a whole new class of people known as activists, essentially drawn from the conscious and enlightened and troubled streams of the middle class, engaged on a wide range of activities from Sarvodaya style 'constructive work' and NGO type development projects to more struggle-oriented political work, but essentially settling in the latter mode of intervention. It is from this convergence of a conscious and restless people and a conscientious and equally restless class of volunteer politicians ( to be distinguished from professional party politicians) that the new grass roots movements are taking shape. It is a convergence that is making it possible to conceive of the thousands of micro struggles and experiments in some kind of a macro perspective. It is from such a convergence of new grass roots politics and new grass roots thinking that new definitions of the scope and range of politics are surfacing and around these redefinitions of new social movements are emerging. The environment , the rights and the role of women , health, food and nutrition, education, shelter and housing, dispensation of justice, communications and dissemination of information, culture and lifestyle, the achievement of peace and disarmament-none of these were considered subject matter for politics at any rate , not for domestic politics and not for mass politics in which ordinary people were indulged. This has now changed . Ecology is something that cannot any longer be left to experts in ecology or in economic development, or even to departments of environment, though the establishment of such department is itself a new development, a concession to popular political pressure. Nor can ecological considerations be left to be sorted out in the future on the

Masses, Classes arul the State


presumption that if development and technology erode the enforcement in the short-run, this can be remedied in the long-run. It is something to be preserved here and now, it cannot be left to the good intentions and pious declarations of governments but must become part of peoples' own concern, an organized concern at that, including agitations and movements to restrain the state and corporate interests from running amuck and ruining the life chances of both present and even more importantly that of future generations, and indeed of non-human species and plants as well. Concern for nature and reversing the rapacious approach to it that is inherent in modem science is becoming part of a political movement, both worldwide and within individual societies. The same is the case with health, and with food and nutrition. These are matters that were hitherto left to specialists and experts and to ministries manned by them. Not any longer. It is increasingly being realized that the new hazards to health, the new epidemics that are breaking out, the horrors created by modem drugs are in good part a product precisely of the experts, doctors, the medical profession and the multi-billion dollar global drug industry with millions being spent on research and development, the much boasted of R & D . They are also a product of the kind of development that has been let loose on trusting people, of technology and the environmental hazards created by it. In the meanwhile, modem civilization has created a whole new spectrum of diseases known as civilizational diseases which in tum has produced a whole industry of specialists who are nowhere near curing either cancer or mental disorders, nor will they ever be able to. All this is being confronted by various strands of the alternatives movement. The same is the case with the availability of and access and entitlement to food, to minimum nutrition and to shelter and housing . These are among the most serious problems in distributive policies and the clearest refutation of the logic of development based on accumulation and production, with distribution to be taken care of at a later stage implied in this logic was also a view that treated people as beneficiaries of the process of development, not direct participants in it, thus without any real control over how things would go. And it is now being realized that things have indeed gone away. The faith in Green and white revolutions, in the revolution in materials technology and in so-called 'cheap-housing' has been shattered with the realintioo of growing hunger and malnutrition and millions

86 Raj,ti Kotluui

living in slums and on pavements, to be driven out and bulldozed from there too. It is realized that these are matters of empowerment and rights for which people will themselves have to fight . And that too not just at the level of securing more of the same goods but of devising alternative ways of attending to these needs, more often than not by the people themselves. The same is the case with education, so clearly related to being underprivileged. Something that was supposed to be an instrument of liberation has turned to be one of subjugation. Education just cannot be left to the mercy of the socalled educationists. This whole perspective applicable to so many areas, about de-expressing and de-bureaucratizing the provisions of basic needs is seeping into the grass roots political process and generating a new agenda of concerns for it. Even as presumably learned and technical matters as dispensation of justice on the one hand and communicating information on the other are being subjected to not just greater public gaze but a large degree of direct involvement. Both the rise of public interest litigation and the growth of investigative journalism, in both of which human rights activists are getting deeply involved and which are together generating substantial movement of civil liberties and democratic rights, provide ample testimony to my point about politicization of issues and areas that were hitherto considered beyond the pale of politics, especially of mass politics. Now here is the enlargement and redefinition of the scope of politics brought out as vividly and dramatically as in what is called the women's movement and what I would prefer to think of as a feminist input into our whole thinking on politics. Not just that the scope of politics has been enlarged by bringing into its ambit what was till recently considered a personal and private world. From a position that personal and political are polar opposites to the one that personal is political, that political is personal is a massive shift in not just the position of women in politics but in our whole understanding of politics itself. But also, in the process new approaches and methods to deal with basic problems like the environment, health, drunkenness and sanitation and choice of technology are gradually getting evolved-and not just by women but by men too for there is no necessary exclusive overlap between feminism and womanhood. Above all, there is emerging an unprecedented convergence between the environment and feminist movements and between them and the peace movement. This has already happened in Europe with the

Ma.s,u, Cla.s,e, mul 1M State


spectacular spread of the peace movement, with the affirmation that peace and disarmament are too important to be left to governments who left to themselves will in all likelihood blow up the world, and in this women have played a major role. This is yet to happen in our part of the world, given the powerful hold of theories of threat from within and without. But it will happen here too; we just cannot afford to be prisoners of this arms race, and women will have to play a major role in changing this. But the more important point is one about . inter-relationship of dimensions and movements, of a holistic approach to life, which goes against the grain of the modem scientific culture with its emphasis on specialization and fragmentation. As women come out of their presently narrow approach of catching up with men, and the more generalized feminist values become, a holistic approach will develop. A holistic approach that is also plural and based on complementarities. This is more likely to happen in the non-Western world than in the West. This all too brief sojourn into the grass roots orientation of mass politics a vast terrain that isjust opening up and still being shapeddoes suggest one thing: the universe it seeks to build would be much more worth living in than the universe that the dominant tendencies seem to be building. The basic question is: can all this activity, all these 'movements' produce a macro challenge, a general transformation (whether one calls it a revolution or not)? The analysis and prognosis of this chapter says that this cannot be achieved through the conventional channels of political parties, trade union activity, peasant organizations and capture of state power through electrol mobilization. That for this we need new building blocks, partly through the non-party politicalprocess,partly through counter-cultural and alternative movements that are global in scope and partly through 'nationality' type of movements for regional autonomy and within the caste and community framework for texturing a pluralist social order supported by a decentralized political order. It is a convergence of class, culture, gender and environment that one has in mind on the basis of emerging countertrends. These are possibilities that have not yet acquired high probability but which alone, it seems to me, can enable us to transcend the dual economy based on a technocratic and militarized vision that we are fast moving towards. And all this of course in close alliance with the more economic forms of struggle for fairwages and dignity in the treatment of the so-called lower rungs, the backwards, the untouchables and the bonded, or of the social peripheries, the tribals, the forest people and the aboriginals.

88 Rajni Kothari

Let me move towards ending this chapter by saying that I do not conceive of the non -party political process as in any way hostile to the party political process. On the contrary, it is partly to revitalize the party political space, partly to correct its inadequacies but most of all to provide a constant grass roots infrastructural process, not just to act as watchdogs but also to intervene whenever necessary and above all, to permit direct involvement of the people in both the nonparty and the party political spaces that the whole conception of an autonomous grass roots politics (instead of one where it is a derivative of elite politics) has taken place . It is not in any way opposed to or even deflecting from the party political process as is sometimes alleged by some party leaders jealous to occupy the whole political space and particularly suspicious of autonomous formations operating in the public space. Where this conception of politics does differ from party politics is that for it state power is not seen as the only or even predominant object of politics . It sees an equal and perhaps even greater necessity to keep struggling against injustices which are bound to occur no matter which party or coalition of parties is in power , experimenting with new modes of organizing social, economic and technological spaces, insisting on norms in politics and keeping the intellectual ferment alive so that the state-based politics does not become an orthodoxy. It believes that it is not enough to provide participation in the system, even if this could be made less formal and more substantial; the aim is also to creat e a just society. Participation is necessary but not sufficient for this to happen. For that what is needed is selfgovemment, a decentralized order through which the masses are empowered, not decentralization in the sense of some territorial schema of devolution of functions and resources to lower levels but decentralization in which the people are the centre. It is towards this end that the various social movements of the type discussed by me in this chapter have a role to play, alongside of course the typical working class and peasant movement, in short a coalition of social movements and mass struggle. One without the other cannot bring about the necessary transformation. There is, moreover, a socio-demographic reason why such a direct and dynamic role of mass politics of the grass roots variety becomes necessary, quite apart from being desirable. In a predominantly rural society with great diversity party formations like the various social democratic parties or labour parties that emerged in Western Europe

Muu1, Clauu a,ul 1M Stak


and heralded the dawn of a mass age are not likely to emerge. We also know that without such formations and the pressure they generated, the phenomenon of the modem welfare state also would not have taken place . So on both these counts-the role of parties on the one hand and of the state on the other-we need to think wholly afresh, for ourselves, transcending all that we imported which we had to, to begin with. And as we do this we will see that there is no alternative to moving towards a pluralist, decentralized polity with a humane technology and a relatively self-reliant economy. Self-reliant for the people and not just for the state as has been the thinking on self-reliance till recently. The point is, in our kind of a context, a just society cannot be built except by the people coming into their own and assuming responsibilities for shaping their lives. We just cannot afford to hand over things to experts. This may be possible in centralized and homogeneous societies like the Western ones. To follow the same model here is of necessity to create a dual society with large masses left out of citizenship, out of civilization really. Fundamentally, the vision that informs the grass roots model of mass politics (as against the parliamentary or presidential or party model of mass politics) is one in which the people are more impor tant than the state. This is crucial and it is not as simple as it sounds. In fact, in the times we are living in, it is a revolutionary idea. The dominant tendency and mode of thought today is to place the state above the people, the security of the nation state above people's security , the removal of real or imaginary threats more pertinent to the state than to the people. Hence too the spectre of threat-from communism in Marx 's time to terrorism in our time . On the other hand, to restore to the people their sovereignty is not to undermine the role of the state but to transform it. This is to be achieved in four simple ways. The transformation of the state is to be achieved through the transformation of the civil society, not the other way around in which the state was to be the author of social transformation-that was a real misjudgment of the processes and pitfalls of secular power. Second, the role of the centralized state must decline . It will be very much there-some functions will have to be carried out by a centralized apparatus-but it is basically to operate in concert with other centres as well as other institutional spaces in civil society. Third, the state should be enabled to regain its autonomy from dominant interests and classes; it should be gradually made to wither away as an instrument of class and ethnic oppression but enabled to survive, and

90 Rajni Kothari

survive effectively, as a mediator in conflicts and stresses that will continue to take place in civil society. And fourth, we will need to move beyond the nation state syndrome of statehood, in particular move beyond the national security state syndrome which has been the source of both authoritarianism and hegemonism in our time . In any case, so long as the national security state rules the roost the masses cannot and will not come into their own.


Social Origins of the Peasant Insurrection in Telengana, 1946-51


The revolt in Telengana and in the adjoining districts of the Andhra delta was one of the two post•war insurrectionary struggles of peas. ants in lndia .1 It was launched by the Communi st Party of India after the shift from its earlier policy of collaboration ('United Front ') with the Congress to a strategy of encouraging or initiating insurrection• ary partisan struggles in India. The Telengana revolt began in the middle of 1946 and lasted for over five years till it was called off in October 1951. The sustained peasant resistance provoked a land re• form inquiry and legislation that produced 'some perceptible change' in the agrarian social structure of the region. 2 The Thlengana peasant revolt is often considered to be paradig • matic, and the only instance worthy of attention in a comparative sociological study of peasant movements in -India .3 We shall here examine both the general and the specific features of the Thlengana insurrection . The focus will be mainly on the structural setting and the class character of the revolt and also on the specific historical conditions that shaped its peculiar course of development.

92 D.N. Dhanagare

Land Control and Social Structure in Telengana under the Nizams Hyderabad State was one of the largest princely states in India before Independ ence, and here a political structure from medieval Muslim times had been preserved intact till the state merged with the Indian Federation in 1948.' The Nizam, who was seventh in the line, was an absolute and the wealthiest ruler in the world and ruled over the state from 1912.3After the advent of the British in India , the Nizams retained a semblance of sovereignty which they exercised with the tacit consent of the representatives of the British Crown. From the troubled days of the Indian Mutiny (1857), through the two world wars of the last century, the Nizams liberally contribut ed to and ardently supported the British Empire. For this record of loyalty, the British rewarded the Nizams with distinctive titles and honours from time to time. 6 The State of Hyderabad covered a substan tial part of the southern plateau in the Indian peninsula. Its total area was some 82,CXX) square Map 5. 1 location map of the Hydera bad Stat e before its me rger with India

Social Oripu of tlw Petualtl lrutm"ttliora 93

_miles; in 1901 its population was 11.1 million which had gone up to 18.6million by 1951 (an increase of 67.5 per cent in half a century). There were three linguistic regions of Hyderabad: Telengana-constituted of nine districts of Telugu-speaking people; Marathwada, a region of five districtsof Marathi-speakingpeople; and three Kanarese districts (Kannada-speaking). The first formed a majority of 47 per cent of the total population while the other two regions shared the rest except the 12 per cent Muslimswho spoke Urdu, the official language of the state, and ruled over the Hindus who formed a majority . of nearly 80 per cent.7 Map 5.2 Map of AndhraPradeshshowingthe lelengana and the Andhra Delta districts and also the areas of the lelengana insurrection, 1946-51


0 50 100 Kilometres

[.-: .: .; 'Iclengana District E: ; : 3 Areas of Telengana Insurrection

94 D.N. Dhanapn

The agrarian social structure in Hyderabad was like a page from medieval, feudal history. There were two main types of land tenure: Khalsa or diwani tenures implied what in some parts of India was called raiyatwari,i.e., the peasant proprietary system. About 60 per cent of the total land was held under these tenures in 1941. The landholders were not called 'owners' per se but were treated as pattadars (registered occupants). The actual occupants within eachpatta were called shikmidars , who had full rights of occupancy but were not registered. As the pressure on land grew, the shikmidars, previously the cultivators of lands, began to lease out lands to subtenants (asamishikmis) for actual cultivation. These latter were tenants-at-will having neither legal rights in land nor any protection against eviction. 8 As we shall see later , the process of subinfeudation had steadily penetrated deep into the system of raiyatwaritenures, particularly from 1920 to 1950. There were some special tenures called jagirs: One, sarf-e-khas, was obviously the most important of them, being assigned to the Nizam himself as Crown lands . Scattered in several parts of the state, the sarf-e-khas covered a total area of 8,109 square miles (1,961 villages), and fetched revenues totalling about 20 million rupees ( over one million pounds) which met the Nizam 's household, retinue and other expenses and partly met the cost of his army .9 There were vari ous other types of jagir besides sarf-e-khas but their details are not relevant for our purpo se. The jagirdari system of land administration was the most important feature of the political organization of Hyderabad . The Nizam created his own noblemen and bestowed on them one or the other distinguished rank and order-each with a large grant of land. In return the trusted noblemen undertook to maintain an army for the Nizam to rely on in time of need. These jagi.rswere thus typically feudal tenures covering some 40,000 square kilometres in area but scattered in different parts of the state. Nearly 6,500 villages , i.e., about a third of the state 's total area, were under thejagirdari system. 10 Over the years the number ofjagi.rdarssteadily multiplied. In 1922 there were 1,167 jagi.rdarsin the Nizam's domin ions; in 1949 their number had gone up to 1,500. 11 Conditions were, however, far more oppressive onjagir lands than on the sarf-e-khas. The civil courts had no jurisdiction onjagir lands and therefore the jagirdars and their agents or middlemen-were free to extort from the actual cultivators a variety of illegal taxes and



thus to fleece them. 12 Conditions remained practically unchanged until thejagirdari system was abolished in 1949. 13 The khalsa (diwani) land or the raiyatwari system produced no better alternative . On such lands, dahmukhs and dahpandn were the hereditary collectors of revenue for groups of villages. As the system of direct collections was introduced in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, these intermediaries were granted vatans (annuities) based on a percentage of the past collections. This only propped up their position in the agrarian hierarchy. Very often the deshmukh landlord a figure roughly midway between the bureaucratic official and the feudal seigneur-himself became the newly-appointed village revenue official or at least had access to land records. His influence thus permitted him to grab lands by fraud which, in countless instances, reduced the actual cultivator to the status of a tenant-atwill or a landless labourer. 14 Nowhere in Hyderabad was feudal exploitation of the peasantry more intense than it was in the Tolengana district. 15 Here some of the biggest landlords, whether jagirdars or deshmukhs,owned several villages and thousands of acres of land each. Such concentration of landownership in the hands of a few landed magnates was more pronounced in Nalgonda, Mahbubnagar and Warangal districts than elsewhere. Significantly, it was this region which was the locus of the peasant insurrection in 19~51. In the local dialect these powerful jagirdars and deshmukhswere called durra (also spelt Dora), meaning 'sir', 'master' or 'lord of the village' . A durra, often a combination of a landlord, money-lender and village official, traditionally enjoyed several privileges including the services of occupational castes in return for some payment either in cash or in kind. But the durra tended to exact these services free owing to his power and position. 16 Such exactions had become somewhat legitimized by what was known as the veni system under which a landlord or a dahmukh could force a family from among his customary retainers to cultivate his land and to do one job or the otherwhether domestic, agricultural or official, as an obligation to the master . Veniexactions were thus a symbol of the dominance of landlords in Telengana. Most of the agricultural labourers on whom the vetti obligations fell, were from the lower and untouchable castes of Malas and Madigas. 17 Like the vetti, the system of bhagela serfdom was prevalent in the Warangal and Nalgonda districts. Similar to the pannaiyals of Tunjore

96 D.N. Dhanagare

or the du.biasof Gujarat, the bhagelas,drawn mostly from aboriginal tribes, were customary retainers tied to their masters by debt. Doing domestic or menial labour and deeply in debt, they had to work for their masters generation after generation on a pittance. Legislation passed in 1936 to limit and curb bhagela serfdom had remained largely ineffective. 18 It seems that the vetti and bhagela arrangements were perversions of the traditional Hindu jajmani system which was based on the principle of reciprocal exchanges. Its Telengana variant was highly exploitative, being based on the economic power wielded by those jajmans, like the durras, who owned land . The hierarchical nature of caste Hindu society, in which economic power is frequently correlated with political influence and ritual status, reinforced the power of the landed jajmans .19 Brahmins were once predominant among the substantial landowners and pattadars in the Telengana districts. With the rise of the Reddis and Kamrnas-the two notable castes of peasant proprietorsthe influence of the Brahmins as a landowning caste declined, although in the field of politics they continued to be powerful. The Komtis, a caste of traders and money-lenders, had considerable influence on the economic life in the countryside. From the tum of the nineteenth century, however, Marwadi sahukarsgradually penetrated rural Telengana and established their ascendancy as money-lenders although the Komtis still remained on the scene as traders, shopkeepers and merchants. The bulk of the rural masses-the poor peasants, unprotected tenants, share-croppers and agricultural labourers--Olme either from the lower untouchable castes, such as the Malas and Madigas, 20 or from tribal groups like the Hill Reddis, Chenchus, Koyas, Larnbadis and Banjaras. 21 These tribal communities had longstanding grievances against the government on account of its truces and levies, against money-lenders and revenue officials who usurped their lands , and also against private contractors who exploited the tribal labourers in the forests, on construction sites, or in mines and collieries. 22 1\vo important aspects of the agrarian economy of an otherwise backward region like Tulengana must be noted here . First, the development of irrigation facilities and cultivation of commercial crops had been taking place since the late nineteenth century. The main commercial crops of Telengana-groundnuts, tobacco and castor seeds-were grown in Nalgonda, Mahbubnagar, Karimnagar and Warangal districts . Both the total acreage and the produce of

Social Orips of tlw Petuaat lnnirnction

97 •

commercial crops increased steadily and after 1925 commercial fanning assumed an increasingly greater importance in the regional economy. 23 Second, the development in commercial fanning was not, however, matched by any corresponding growth of towns, of industrial enterprise , and markets, nor even of transport and communication facilities. Consequently , cultivators had to depend almost entirely on urban money-lenders , traders, merchants and businessmen who controlled the few and highly centralized markets in Telengana for the sale of their produce. Local retailers, agents and village sahukars helped urban commercial interests in securing the produce from the cultivators, and thus managed to have a share in the profits of the marketing enterprise. Land alienation increased considerably between 1910 and 1940, particularly during the depression , when many lands previously owned by tribal peasants passed into the hands of non-cultivating urban interests, mostly Brahmins, Marwadis, Komtis and Muslims .24 Economic surveys carried out in 1928-30 showed that in Warangal district alone 9 per cent of the total land and 25 per cent of the irrigated land had changed hands . Most of the land thus transferred went either to big landlords and deshmukhs or to sahukars (from both the Marwadi and Maratha castes), traders and non-cultivating pattadars who dominated the economic life of the district. 25 As a result of growing land alienation many actual occupants or cultivators were being reduced to tenants-at-will , share-croppers or landless labourers. This trend dominated till 1930 or so. Thereafter, the proportion of non-cultivating occupants (rent-receivers) and of cultivators of land-wholly or mainly unowned-began to decline . Owner-cultivators and agricultural labourers , on the contrary , steadily increased in number in Hyderabad State as a whole . These shifts in the agrarian class structure point to the gradual development of the rich peasant sector of the agrarian economy (Table 5.1). Significantly, the decline in the number of non-cultivating occupants and the increase in the number of cultivating owners and land less labourers were more marked in the Telengana districts, particularly in Mahbubnagar, Nalgonda, Nizamabad and Warangal. 26 The rise of the 'rich peasant ' sector, however, did not supplant the 'landlord-tenant ' sector of the rural economy completely; absentee landlords were very much there though their number was declining after 1930.27 Nor did it signify any fundamental change in the modes and relations of production. In fact where rich pattadars held holdings

0 IO

!:!. N

ro a. 0-

unc and Intervention by the Communists in India', in Sathyamurthy (ed.), pp. 336-mepilgrims of darkness. Thal one, our father, canying, carryingthe darkness is now bent; Now, now wemust lift that burdenfrom his back. Our blood was spilledfor this glorious city

And what we got was the rightto eat stones. Now, now we must explodethat building which kisses the sky! After a thousand years we wereblessed with a sunflower-givingfakir; Now, now we must, like sunflowers,tum our faces to the sun.2

Dalit poetry frequently uses the sun as the imagery for the movement led by Dr B.R Arnbedkar, often seeing him as the sun, the bringer of a total new world. In his lifetime Babasaheb Ambedkar did indeed give birth to a movement that encompassed all the needs of human society-economic, social, cultural, political and spiritual. He sought


Gail Omvedt

a total transformation and in doing so, attempted to make use of the best scholarship, the greatest insights of his time. Yet, like other social movements, the 'post-Ambedkar Dalit movement'-a term many use for the dalit movement in independent India - has today come under an eclipse. It is floundering, without a total vision . How did this happen?

'fypes of Social Movements Sociological theories distinguish social movements along two axes, whether they seek radicalor limited change,and whethertheyfocus on the entire society or on specific individuals. Alternative social movements see limited change among specific individuals , largely through remodelling life styles and behaviour ( example : the hippie movement) . Redemptive social movements (example: religious conversions) . Reformist social movements attempt to change the entire society, but in limited ways, while revolutionarysocial movements, finally, attempt radical change in the entire society. 3 In terms of this paradigm, the anti-caste movement which began in the nineteenth century under the inspiration of Jyotiba Phule and was carried on in the 1920s by the non-Brahmin movements in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu and then developed under the leadership of Dr Ambedkar had characteristics of all four types of social movements, though at its best it was revolutionary in terms of society and redemptive in terms of individuals. In partial context, the 'postAmbedkar Dalit movement' has had revolutionary practice. It has provided alternative ways of living, at some points limited and at some points radical and all-encompassing, ranging from changes in behaviour such as giving up eating beef to religious conversion. It has focused on changes in the entire society , from radical revolutionary goals of abolishing caste oppression and economic exploitation to the limited goals of providing scope for members of Scheduled Castes to achieve social mobility. But, on the whole, looking back on 50 years of Independence (though slightly over 40 since the death of Ambedkar) this movement has been a reformist movement . It has mobilized along caste lines but made only half-hearted efforts to destroy caste; it has attempted and achieved some real though limited societal changes,

.Ambedlar and After


with gains especially for the educated sections among Dalits , but it has failed to transform the society sufficiently to raise the general mass out of what is still among the most excruciating poverty in the world. Though this movement has carried forward the challenge of empowerment and brought anti-caste issues into the political agenda it still seems unable to become a decisive political force, leaving Dali ts and other suppressed caste-groups forced to bargain for concessions with the dominant political parties it characterizes as 'Manuwadi' , dominated by upper castes and the ideologies of Brahmanic Hinduism. The day promised by the 'new sun' seems still far away. To understand what has happened, we can begin looking at some aspects of Dr Arnbedkar's transformatory anti-caste movement .

Dr Ambedkar's Movement Babasaheb Arnbedkar made his entry into the political and social life of India in the period immediately after the First World War and the Russian Revolution . It was an era marked by social and political upheaval, and the increasing hegemony of Marxist socialism in movements for social liberation. Though Arnbedkar organized and led one of these movements as an autonomous movement for Dalit liberation, rejecting the leadership and ideological hegemony of nonDalit socialists, he was influenced by Marxism throughout. His own theory which begins from the heritage of indigenous radicalism and stands in the tradition of Phule's revolutionary challenge, can appropriately be compared to it. Marxism was a totalistic and unified theory of change . The industrial workingclass, according to it, was both the most oppressed class in society and at the same time the most capable of leading other social groups to revolution. This thesis was backed up by a comprehensive analysis of the causes of social conflict and contradictions, of the underlying nature of society, and thence of the factors necessary for change. During much of his social and political life, roughly from the late 1920s through the 1940s, Arnbedkar accepted most of the economic analysis of Marxism, and even attempted to organize along these lines, creating a radical movement of Mahar and Kunbi peasants against landlords, allying with communists in the working class struggle.



These were years in which the pages of Janata, Ambedkar's weekly, were filled with reports of the struggles of workers and peasants against 'capitalists and landlords' as well as the fights of Dalits against atrocities. Ambedkar did not have much time for theoretical writing in this period of tumultuous organizing, but his programmes and speeches indicate that he accepted broadly the Marxist analysis of class struggle so far as economic issues were concerned . What this led to, though, was a kind of dual systems theory which saw capitalism and Brahmanism (casteism) as separate systems of exploitation, one to be fought by class struggle, the other by caste struggle. As he put it in his famous address to the Mahar railwayworkers at Mahad. There are in my view two enemies which the workers of this country have to deal with. The two enemies are Brahmanism and Capitalism .... By Brahmanism I do not mean the power, privileges and interests of the Brahmins as a community. By Brahmanism I mean the negation of the spirit of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity . In that sense it is rampant in all classes and is not confined to the Brahmins alone though they have been the originators of it (reported in The Times of India, 14 February 1938). The climax of this approach in many ways came with the writing of Statesand Minorities, proposed to be a draft of sections of the Constitution. Here Ambedkar gave a severe critique of capitalism and calJed for the nationalization of land and basic industries, explicitly calJing this 'state socialism'. In a sense the term 'state socialism' indicated his difference with the communists, in that in contrast to a revolution under 'working class leadership' the state ownership was to be written into a democratic constitution . At another level, the phrase simply made the assumption of a mechanical Marxism that 'socialism' or collective ownership of the means of production was equivalent to state ownership. There were, however, many problems with the 'dual systems' of Brahmanism and capitalism. These became clear in State and Minorities itself, which seemed to contain two rather disparate sections, one advocating land nationalization and state socialism, the other calJing for separate village settlements of Dalits. The connection between the two was not clear. The problems of any 'dual systems theory' remained: seeing separate systems of class and caste exploitation left unchallenged the mechanical Marxist assumptions of a

AabedAar a,ul After


class analysis, and accepted the idea that 'class' Dalit with the economic issues while the 'caste' system of exploitation was at a cultural and ideological (superstructural) level. The dual systems of 'capitalism' and 'brahmanism' provided useful rhetoric and a rule-of-thumb for analysis, but it left the question of the connection between the two systems completely unresolved. And if other systems of oppression (for instance 'patriarchy' and 'national oppression') were also included, then such an approach simply would yield to an unwieldy amalgam of many disparate 'systems' of exploitation. In other words, dual systems theory could not give an integrated, holistic explanation. It reflected Ambedkar's initial grappling with Marxism, when he insisted that 'caste' be added to a class approach ( and even in that it should have priority) but did not develop an overall alternative theory. As a result of this and some disillusionment with communism after the end of the Second World War, Ambedkar moved away from this analysis at the end of his life. As he moved closer to Buddhism, he both reinterpreted it and sought to use it. In The Buddha and His Dhanna be gave it a modernistic, 'liberation theology' interpretation that interpreted dukkha as exploitation and called for a sangha oriented to social welfare, while in a draft essay on 'Buddha and Karl Marx' he tried to give a broad outline of what might be called 'Buddhist economics' seen as a conscious alternative to Marxist socialism. As he summed up his position at the conclusion of this essay: . Society has been aiming to lay a new foundation as was summarised by the French revolution in three words, fraternity, liberty and equality. The French revolution was welcomed because of this slogan. It failed to produce equality. We welcomed the Russian revolution because it aims to produce equality. But it cannot be too much emphasised that in producing equality society cannot afford to sacrifice fraternity or liberty. Equality will be of no value without fraternity or liberty. It seems that the three can coexist only if one follows the way of the Buddha . Communism can give one but not all.4 Finally, in long historical essays such as 'Revolution and CounterRevolution in Ancient India' he offered broad-ranging analyses that linked Buddhism, Brahmanic Hinduism and cultural exploitation to


Gail Omvedt

large scale political changes in India (Ambedkar 1986). All of this implied the creation of a theory that sought to be a totalistic and allencompassing alternative to Marxism, wedding the ideals expressed in the French Revolution, 'liberty, equality and fraternity', (for gender purpose here we will substitute 'community') with his analysis of the role of Buddhism and Brahmanism in Indian history and with an economic approach that groped towards a social market economy. 1bis embryonic theory had the following characteristics: (a) Ambedkar took as his basic goals the ending of exploitation and oppression, the achievement of equality, liberty, community. He was flexible about what he called it, insisting that it represented all that Marx had wanted to achieve with 'communism' but frequently describing it as 'social democracy'. 5 (b) He had a -vision of development that emphasized the creation of a modem society of abundance; though by the end of his life he rejected the economics of Marxism, his positive approach to economic growth, his insistence on creating a society free from suffering and his readiness to take the best of the global heritage was radically different from a Gandhian orientation to the traditional village and limitation of needs. 6 (c) The path to achieving this was backed up both by an under standing of the nature of human society and an interpretation of Indian history. Human society, as he saw it, was characterized by conflict and contradiction but also by reason and will. Not simply 'economic factors' were motivating force in history, but also efforts to achieve power and efforts at liberation. Similarly, along with class caste (and by implication patriarchy) were stratification defined sections of society which represented decisive factors in contradiction and processes of social change .7 (d) Within India, Brahmanism/Hinduism was the historical basis of the stratification system, of the social inequality which was constituted in the caste system. Hinduism meant the lack of liberty, the negation of inequality for all groups but especially for women and untouchables, and the destruction of community. Historically speaking, where a Buddhist upsurge had been revolutionary, Hinduism was the 'counter-revolution of ancient India '.

Ambedlrar a,ul Afler


(e) Dalits of the ex-untouchables had a crucial role to play in defeating Brahminic Hinduism and opening the road to a society of equality and liberation. Whereas originally Ambedkar had emphasized the destruction of caste as a prerequisite to economic equality (socialism) now he began to argue that untouchables were the carriers of Buddhism, the liberatory message of Indian tradition. (f) The process of change involved internal (spiritual) change, the 'slave 's rejection of slavery' , and also a process of social struggle and political dialogue and political organizing . Ambedkar's rejection of violence was not a matter of absolute principle, like the Gandhians , but simply because he saw it as normally ineffective as a main method of change. Ambedkar 's philosophy was an Enlightenment philosophy that could be described as of 'social liberation '8 combined with an emphasis on caste as a social reality; and it distinguished Ambedkar both from Marxists who saw the proletariat as revolutionary and neglected cultural and social factors , and from both the dominant Congress trends (not to mention the Hindu right) which refused to see elements of exploitation and oppre ssion in Indian tradition .

After Ambedkar: The RPI and Buddhism In the last years of his life Dr Ambedkar gave a beginning to two institutions he saw as necessary for liberation of his peopl e and the welfare of the country : Buddhism, and the Republican Party, a spiritual force and a political platform . Both were seen as more than the vehicles of the ex-untouchables . For religious and cultural change , he hoped that all of India would become 'prabuddha Bharat ' and experience a cultural renaissance . For political struggle, he hoped that the Republican Party would be a vehicle for all who sought to achieve the great goals, surpassing the narrow confines of the Scheduled Caste Federation. But this was not to happen . Ambedkar himself could not really establish either the RPI (Republican Party of India) or the organizational form of Buddhism . The RPI itself was formed with a constitution that emphasized its broad approach, projecting itself as a party


Gail O.Vedt

of all the oppressed sections. Yet it was little more than a change of name for the already-existing Scheduled Caste Federation. The dilemma of how Ambedkarite Buddhism ( now referred to by many as 'navayana Buddhism') would be carried on was in many ways even greater since there was not even any existing institution. The main Buddhist organization in India, the Mahabodhi Society, was mainly staffed by Sinhalese Buddhist monks but was headed in India by ( of all people) Shyama Prasad Mookerji ( thus giving credence to the Hindutva position that Buddhism was only a form of Hinduism and Buddha was the ninth avatar of Vishnu) . Ambedkar could not but reject this, and in the vacuum it was English-based Buddhist converts who took up the task of consolidating Buddhism among Dalits themselves immediately foilowing Ambedkar's death and formed the Trailokya Bauddh Mahasangh. 9 Both Buddhism in India and the Republican Party of India remained not simply 'Dalit' institutions, but institutions limited to specific jatis among Dalits: Mahars in Maharashtra, and sc~ttered groups of Chamars (known as Jatavs in the twentieth century) in UP Buddhist conversion allowed for a tremendous change in the consciousness of ex-untouchables but it did not produce much of a change in their social identity. Almost no caste Hindus followed them in converting, and the result was that Buddhism itself became rather 'untouchable' in India. In the case of the RPI, though it had enough of a base in UP and elsewhere to achieve the status of an 'all-India party' (its elephant symbol today, though, has been taken over by the BSP), 10 in Maharashtra it not only remained a party of Mahars, but factions within it were based upon subcastes. The RPI had genuine radical moments, under the leadership of Dadasaheb Gaikwad, when it joined socialists and communists (under the leadership of Nana Patil) in land satyagrahasin 1956 and 1965, aimed at gaining access to forest land and 'common' lands for cultivation by Dalits and other landless. But by the late 1960s it had subsided into a coopted and stagnant party, with some alliance with the Congress in exchange for patronage, and with membership and leadership drawn only from ex-Mahars. Thus, even in Maharashtra, the centre of Ambedkar's efforts, the Dalit movement thus remained confined within the boundaries of jati. The creative and transformatory potential of the Dalit movement however, was shown by the fact that it took only a little over 10 years for the stalemate after Dr Ambedkar's death to be shattered . Following the stagnation of the first decades of Independence, about the



same time as the upsurge of Naxalism in the 1960s, came the beginnings of a powerful poetry of protest in Maharashtra, the Dalit sahitya movement. It was sacrilegious ('One day I cursed that motherfucker god .... '), defying cheap patriotism ('Shout victory to the revolution, but bum, bum those who strike a blow at tradition'), renouncing fundamentalism, expressing the raw urge of the rebellious youth. Then came the Panthers ....

The Dalit Panthers and the New Dalit Movement 'We don't want a little place in brahman galli, we want the rule of the whole land ... our revolution will flash like lightning .. ,.' So proclaimed the 1972 manifesto of the Dalit Panthers, 11 born in the slums of Bombay but spreading to cities and villages throughout the country, proclaiming revolt. The Manifesto, the Dalit Panther intervention in electoral politics to help the defeat of Congress, their readiness to engage in street fighting against the Shiv Sena, hurled them into fame. It was a defining moment of the post-Ambedkar Dalit movement in India, a moment that was an upsurge giving inspiration to all of India. Along with the Naxalite movement, the Dalit Panthers emerged as a mass symbol of revolt. 'Will the caste war tum into a class war?' asked journalists, some with fear, some hopefully. It was the massive stirring of the Dalit rural poor in village ghettos throughout the country that was the basis of the conflicts seen as the 'caste war' that many hoped would tum into a 'class war', and it was the Panthers with their fervor for raw revolt and their poetry of hope, born in response to a deadened Republican Party and taking the ideology of movement far beyond that, who gave this symbolism and ideology. Following the Panthers, the Dalit movement throughout the country took on a multifaceted expression. In Kamataka, Dalit students and youth organized themselves after rioting provoked by the statement of a Dalit minister that upper-caste dominated Kannada literature was only bhoosa, 'cattlefeed'; caste Hindu students attacked Dalits and Dalits not only retaliated physically and with a poster war ('throw the Brahmins into the gutter along with the Gita') but also organized themselves in a series of local organizations that finally formed a state-wide Dalit Sangarsh Samiti in 1974. In Bihar and


Gail Ornvedt

Andhra, the rural Dalit upsurge was organized by Naxalites, and it is clear that along with economic issues of claiming a share of the village 'commons', higher wages, or trying simply to counter landlords' dominance, issues relating to caste and gender self-respect were paramount. The Bihar struggle had dated from the 1967-71 work of a poor village school-teacher, Jagdish Mahto, who is said to have read Ambedkar before he had come across Marx, and organized Dali ts in his own town to demand 'Harijanistan'. As Arun Sinha later described this movement: This man has risen from the grave; he seems to have gone berserk and is frenziedly chopping the branches of feudalism. His desire is to see the 2,500-year-old tree felled here and now . So far he has only been humiliated , whipped and slain, denied the status of a man; his wife treated as a prostitute . Th en one day somebody brought him news of Naxalbari and things began to change. The Harijan died, the Koeri was burnt; the new man who rose from the flames felt that he was neither a Harijan nor a Koeri but a man. 12 Thus , while Naxalism often provided, for the independentlyminded Panthers as well as the Dalits in their own organization, an overall language of 'semi-feudalism ' for the struggle, the issues of concern clearly involved those of anti-caste self-respect as much as economic issues. These were interwoven with gender issues, or more explicitly, the concerns of love and sexuality which had been for so long structured and confined by caste and power. On one hand, Dalits fought against the casual claims of upper -caste men over Dalit and other poor women; on the other, the sparking event of many atrocities-mass attacks on Dalit communities or socially organized murders and beatings of many Dalit youth - was very often the defiance of caste restrictions occurring even in villages when upper caste girls fell in love with Dalit boys and the entire society fell on them with fury . 13 The Dalit upsurge, then, found varying issues: the desire for recognition as human beings, the urge for education and a share in development, the aspiration to political power. It took varying forms : efforts to gain power through the gun, through the schools, through the ballot, through marches in the streets and rallies and meetings in slums and villages everywhere. And it included a wide variety of organizations, ranging from participation in Left party campaigns

AmbedAar a,ul After


and organizations to autonomous organizations that usually characterized themselves as organizations of Dali ts as such ( even if they were often based on only a single Dalit jati) sometimes also attempted to include other former 'shudra' castes (or in an increasingly popular term, bahujan). 14 The new movements achieved much. Moving beyond just waging a defensive battle, they show that Dalits were no longer willing to suffer silently, that their interests had to be taken into account and their voices heard for any movement to succeed, for any government to be stable. The challenge to caste and the rise of the low-castes was put firmly on India's political agenda. In spite of atrocities, even rioting against Dalits, they were putting their stamp on India's institutions, from universities to government offices. In spite of upper-caste oppositions, reservations were not reversed but even extended, from SCs and STs to OBCs. They expressed support for the upsurge of other low-castes, 'OBCs' or 'bahujans'. But ultimately there were serious failures. Again, the fading of the Panthers symbolized them. It was not simply that the Dalit Panthers died away within a couple of years, split into the ~bedkarite' ( or 'Buddhist') and 'Marxist' factions. The deeper problem was that in spite of their all-encompassing revolutionary rhetoric, the Panthers failed to move forward to the kind of total transformation that Babasaheb had envisaged. Their rhetoric and most of their theory were borrowed from the Naxalites and were in any case ignored by most of the slum youth who said, 'we didn't read the manifesto, we only knew-if someone puts their hand on your sister, cut it off!' Beyond militancy, the Panthers failed to elaborate a vision for the socio-economic programme of a new society and a strategy for moving forward. The militant Naxalite movement couldn't do this either. While it expressed the Dalit upsurge in some of the most backward rural areas, it never allowed a real Dalit vision to fertilize Marxism in India. The Naxalites remained stuck in the theoretical bankruptcy of borrowed Maoism; to the end they could see Dr Ambedkar as no more than a 'petty -bourgeois' misleader and could not admit the reality of caste as a social structure (as suggested even in the quota tion of Arun Sinha earlier). By the 1980s leading Dalit cadres of the Peoples' War Group had resigned , charging the leadership with being Brahminical. As for Dalit Voice,though it began with the proclamation of combining 'class' and 'caste' struggle, class issues began to be completely neglected. It provided a widely read and often sparkling journalism,


Gail Oavedt

and its editor Rajshekar managed to write the only humorous political tract in India 'Dialogue of the Bhoodevatas', but its thrust was vitriolic and ultimately negative. On one hand Rajshekhar claimed that the Dalit movement was the core social movement in India which could take leadership of all the rest; on the other he only poured scorn on environmentalism, feminism and other social movements without any serious discussion of their issues or attempts to provide alternatives. This was symptomatic of a larger failure: Until today, sadly, the Dalit movement as a whole has failed to evolve its own perspective on the problems of environment and women, though Dalit women have been active from the very beginning of the movement and Dalit and bahujan feminist organizations have begun to emerge.

The Problems of Jati Identity Politics The Panthers represented nonparliamentary militancy; the political parties expressed the same aspiration within the political system. A political party should express a broader political agenda, and in their own ways, the (Bahujan Samaj Party) BSP and BRP not only sought to fulfil Dr Ambedkar's saying that 'we must become a ruling community' , they also represented moments of breakthrough from the stagnation of being only a 'Dalit movement'. Both sought to give Dalit leadership to all the oppressed. The BSP claimed to represent the 'exploited 85%' of 'backward castes' including Dalits, adivasis and OBCs and minorities; its most significant slogan in many ways was 'jat todo, samaj jodo'. The first actions of the BRP were to organize a campaign against the Maharashtra sugar barons ' control of sugar factorie s; later it formed the Bhumiheen Hakk Sarankshan Samiti to take up the intere sts of all landless . Both had some notable political success in becoming important players on the political scene. The BSP in particular made a mark in northern India by becoming an ally in the government first with Mulayam Singh, then after breaking with him (on the basis, however, of BJP support) producing the first Dalit woman chief minister in India. Yet both in crucial ways not only failed to achieve the goals of overall liberation and political leadership , they did not even attempt Ambedkar 's most far-reaching goals. Whereas Ambedkar always had a broader economic, social and cultural programme backing up

his political thrust and took positions on all the crucial issues of his day, the BSP was content to have a 'one-point programme' of political power, arguing that everything else would automatically flow from this. And the BRP, in tum, seemed content to remain a Dalit (Mahar)pany;even when it sought to promote a 'bahujan' identity, it did so by helping the formation of a separate Bahujan Mahasangh. It was in one sense a major step forward to encourage the independent political action of the OBCs. But at another:level it was an admission that the BRP would remain a party of Dalits only, and that other oppressed castes needed a separate organization. Prakash Ambedkar even justified this with an article 'Every Caste a Nation', and in fact, the mid-1990shave seen in many ways a retreat to caste-based politics, so the politics ofjati identity. The principle of separation seemed to be at work everywhere.The reaction to the hegemony of Buddhists in Maharashtra, Malas in Andhra, etc., was for the smaller, less liberated Dalit castes to emphasize their own identity, sometimes a 'Hindu' identity, in distinction from the others. Acceptance of this by the leadership of Dalits gave endorsement to a process that many social sciencesthought was happening anyway,in which the caste system was being transformed through the solidification of jatis, competing partly with each other as 'vote banks', achievingsome social mobilitywithout a loss of caste identity. This was representative of the failure of vision for the entire Dalit-led anti-caste movement. And it was put forward as a principle by Rajshekhar of Dalit Voicewho argued that Brahmanism should be fought by maintaining and strengthening jati identity rather than destroying it. The result can be seen in the parliamentary elections of 1998: Dalits have moved forward in politics in many states from being simply 'vote banks' controlled by Brahman-bourgeois political parties (usually the Congress) to becoming voting blocs, autonomous, acting on their own, bargaining with the larger parties. But these have proved to be jati-based blocs: the united RPI in Maharashtra (where Prakash Ambedkar was finally forced to merge his BRP with the other Republican faction) could get four candidates elected in open seats through its alliance with Sharad Pawar's Congress, but these are all Buddhists and other Dalit jatis (Matangs, Chambhars) are already unhappy and mobilizing on their own, liable to be won over by the BJP-SbivSena Hindutva forces. In UP, BSP's vaulting ambitions took a crash; with no allies, it won 25 per cent of the vote but


Gail Orrtvedt

only four seats in UP drawing a blank in both Punjab and Madhya Pradesh, with Kanshi Ram himself losing. This was a result in UP of the failure to make the necessary Dalit-OBC alliance with Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party; the effect was to throw the state to the BJP.In Tamil Nadu, Dalits in the southern districts organized an independent party, after a long bitter conflict with the OBC Thevar community; when the DMK-TMCfront refused to accommodate them they put up their own candidates-winning enough votes to give several seats to the Jayalalitha-led saffron alliance. Thus the overall result of Dalit political assertion in 1998 has been highly ambivalent, and fragile. It is a genuine assertion and represents a step forward, but if it stops there the Hindutva wave is likely to go on prevailing. It is clear, by 1998, that it is not enough to say 'we must become a ruling community': a political movement has to have a broad agenda; a vision of transformation or development; it has to say why it should rule, what it has to offer. To go back to the comparison with Marxism, the 'proletariat as vanguard' was presumed to be qualified because it promised socialism-equality and development, advance of the productive forces-to all sections of society. What do Dalits promise, besides reservations and a claim to equality, or a wanned-over version of Marxism interpreted as state socialism? This has never been made clear in the post-Ambedkar era.

The Challenges Ahead And this was not what Babasaheb Ambedkar intended. The anticaste movement, a cultural revolutionary movement spearheaded by Mahatma Phule in the nineteenth century and Dr Ambedkar in the twentieth century, and with all its aspects of being an altemativ _e way of living, of working for reforms, of redeeming Indian society from the hold of Brahminism, was basically a transformative social movement. It sought to deal with the problems of caste, and Brahminism-and went beyond this talk of issues of development in a way far different from either the Nehruvian or more dogmatic Marxists or the village-romantic Gandhians. Liberty, equality and fraternity, social transformation, political power, economic philosophy, cultural transformation were all on its agenda.


au After


The 'post-Ambedkar Dalit movement' was ironically only that in the end-a movement of Dalits, challenging some of the deepest aspects of oppression and exploitation, but failing to show the way to transformation. This failure of one of the potentially most powerful social forces in Indian society has left a gap. In terms of economic and political transformation, the only powerful ideological currents seem to be either an unadulterated acceptance of capitalist transformation or the new wave of swadesbi Hindutva, which 'western commercialism' and globalization in the name of the 'sacred Indian (Hindu) culture' and seeks to maintain an economy closed as much as possible to the needs of bureaucrats and big industrialists, Brahmans and banias. The rejection of the modem world seen in Gandhian ecological fundamentalism; or the weak voices of left nostalgia for Nehruvian statism have proved no alternative, they have in fact only fed the flames of swadeshi. In spite of their promises, there is little room for a transformation in the interest of Dalits and low castes in this, and this has provided the gap for a rising Hindutva. As one Dalit poet had written: Frompitch-black tunnels they gather ashes floating on jet-black water and reconstructthe skeletons of their ancestors ... There is no entry here for the new sun (Rashingkar 1992~

Notes 1. From a Marathi song of the 1970s anti-caste movement .

2. 3. 4. 5.

From a poem by Namdev Dhasal (1992) . See the summary in John Macioni s (1995: 625--626). Ambedkar (1986: 482). See also Gail Omvedt (1996) . In his final speech introducing India 's Constitution he used the term 'social nomics', Foul1hWorld,3(1). Reahlaper , Vilea. 1992. In Arjun Dangle (ed.),No Entryfortlae New Sun: Translations from Modem DaJiJPoetry. New Delhi: Disha Books. Saaparak■hata.

1986. AmbedJ:arand Buddhism. Windhorse Books . Sinha, Ana. 1987. 'The Oass War in Bhojpur', Economic and Polilical Wttkly , 1

January .

12 Taking Stock: Women's Movement and _the State


Among the contemporary movements, the women's movement can proclaim to have enormous recorded material on various campaigns, experiences of the campaigns/struggles, ideological debates on positions, strategies along with transparent internal analysis of its functioning and so on. The enormous literature thus makes the task of writing yet another article on the women's movement plausible, nevertheless challenging.

Literature on the Women's Movement The two decades of the second wave women's movement has been reviewed, assessed, examined at various junctures with wide ranging concerns. Significant among these are covered here. (a) The relationship of the women's movement with the Left parties or organizations functioning with Leftist ideologies had been the concern of several writings. The assertion of women activists, who originally had allegiance to the Left struggles , through the women's movement, and the condemnation

through writings from the Left groups and counter arguments from the women's movement can be observed (Kannabiran and Shatrugna 1986;Omvedt 1986; Ranadive 1987;Sen 1989). lbis phenomenon is evidently present in the neighbouring countries as well (Jayawardena and Kelkar 1989). While the transformation of society is a vision common to both the movements, the struggles led by Leftist ideologies undermine the gender concerns and feminist analysis of patriarchy. Prioritizing these concerns is viewed as essentially divisive of the class struggle. The feminist writings, while acknowledging the Marxist origins of feminist analysis, plead for enriching the Left struggles through a conscious incorporation of the analysis of patriarchy and the struggles against it at the personal, party and societal levels. The need to incorporate the issues generated by new movements on caste, gender and ecology, in order to broaden the definition of social revolution and the nature of various social revolutionary forces is also expressed (Omvedt 1988). The writings by Lohia (1996) unravel the political dimensions of the gender issue and inform the Left-radical politics the social transformative potential of uniting with women, Dalits and Muslims-all of whom occupy similar disadvantaged locations in the social structure. Hesitation about socialism as a harbinger against all forms of inequality also have been articulated. (b) A review of various issues that have arisen during the two decades, the strengths and limitations of the movement in the formulation of strategies, campaigning, structure and functioning of autonomous movement and the newer challenges it faces have also been undertaken (Agnihotri and Majumdar 1995; Centre for Women's Development Studies 1995; Datar 1990, 1993; Desai 1988; Dietrich 1990; Gandhi

and Shah 1992;Patel 1991). (c) The recovery of the history of women's participation in and their experiences of the struggles during the pre-Independence period (Custers 1987; Kumar 1993; Lalita 1988; MunshiSaldanha1986;Singharoy1992;Stree ShalctiSanghatana1989),

has been attempted.The recordingof contemporaryagrarian struggles(Omvedtand Rao 1988;Rao 1995)and severalmass

~12 Lalumni Li,agam

struggles in rural, tribal and semi-urban areas, on issues per.taining to land rights, deforestation, industrial mechanization, wages and so on (Datar 1989; Jain 1984; Kanhere and Savara 1980; Mies 1983; Nayak 1986; Sen 1990), from a feminist perspective have also been attempted. A close analysis of the different mobilizations of women and whether they could be classified as part of the women's movement was made by Kishwar (1988). The reference to much of this literature in this chapter would pertain to the interface of the second wave women's movement with the state on selected issues such as violence, religion and fundamentalism.

Women and Movements The multiple forms of women's participation in and the different approaches adopted to understand or incorporate the woman question by struggles/movements makes the task of discerning 'what is the women's movement' rather complex. However, the broad patterns that emerge on the basis of ideology, forms of mobilization and orientation can be classified as follows: 1

Social Reform Movements Social reform movements that were pervasive during the preIndependence period in several parts of India ranged on issues such as abolition of sati, widow remarriage, women's education, and so on. These issues were taken up not as part of the women's movement, but as reform issues designed to 'modernize' or upgrade the society. Individual women had risen to visibility as models for rest of the womanhood, but .the movement largely comprised male reformers and ~as directed by their visions of the 'new' women. However, the issues of reform-age at marriage, widow remarriage-had taken a backstage when it was contested by the Hindu nationalist leaders as linked to the issues of cultural identity of India. Fighting against colonial rulers was seen as more impending.

Taki,agStock 31!

Women participated in the freedom struggle on the call of Mahatma Gandhi, who extolled the self-sacrificing,enduring nature of women and their strategies as a powerless group as important symbols for the independence struggle. A few women's organizations such as the All-India Women's Conference were set up during this period as women's wings of major political parties (Basu and Ray 1990).A few organizations turned into welfare and charity organizations and lost their vitality. The or~nizations basically functioned within a liberal feminist (rights) framework. Therefore, their visibilitydeclined after the state had engraved equality in the Constitution of India document.

Agrarian Struggles and Revolts Women participated along with men in struggles and revolts originating in the rural and tribal areas of different parts of India during the pre-Independence period. The orientation, the ideology and the strategies of these struggles were radical. These movements have taken up women's issues, but the focus was on forms of oppression which also oppress women. Women's oppression within the class/ caste were articulated by women but nonetheless were not seen as major issues of concern by the male leaders of the struggles. Moreover, women's sexuality within the guerrilla type of struggles was seen as a problem. The Naxalbari and the Tebhaga movements in Bengal; the uprising and revolt of the landless class, well-known as the Tulengana arms struggle from the erstwhile Nizam's rule; and the Warli tribals' revolt against bondage and servitude in Maharashtra could be cited as some of the examples here. The focus is on class solidarity where the agent of oppression is located outside. The gender specific questions of patriarchy and its oppression when articulated by women in the movement, were seen as issues that were divisive of the class struggle (Stree Shakti Sanghatana 1989). A study of the women's experience of the Warli revolt also observed that women gave a higher priority to the class struggle and opposed sexual exploitation at the inter-class level (Munshi-Saldanha 1986). Among the contemporary farmers movements such as the Shetkari Sanghatana of Maharashtra, women are mobiliz.edin large numbers,


Lakshmi Lingam

through the Mahila Aghadi, along with men in support of remunerative farm pricing, and also the liberalization of the market. Gender issues are seen as synonymous to class interests and tokenist or populist steps for equality are adopted. 2

Issue-based Campaigns In issue-based campaigns where women are the major protagonists, the rallying concerns centre around the traditional roles and values of women. The anti-price rise campaigns of the 1970s (Gandhi 1995), mobilizations for water by the Vasai-Virar women's struggles of Thane district, Maharashtra, and to a large extent the Cbipko women's movement in the Uttar Pradesh hills against tree felling could be cited here. However, the participation of women in such numbers and the visibility they gain form the basis for the emergence of a critical consciousness. Issue-based campaigns against women's representation in media, obscenity, and so on, are routinely organized by several political parties, especially the Right, through their women's wing. While women's groups of the autonomous kind oppose the representation from the view point of opposing the objectification of women, the Right wing women's groups oppose the representation from the vantage of cultural inappropriateness, or seen as Western influence on Indian values, as that which is antithetical to the Indian social order and cultural moorings.

Women's Liberation Movements Women's liberation movements on the other hand are broadly guided by an ideology of fighting the different forms of patriarchy existing in society with an aim to arrive at an egalitarian society. The movement is guided by the conscience of taking up the cause of women from the resource poor toiling classes of the society, though several issues pertaining to dowry, property rights, issue of joint land pattas and so on, represent the issues of different class groups of women. During the middle and the late 1970s, several 'autonomous women's organizations' (that is, organizations not affiliated to any political



party), emerged which adopted issue-based 'protest politics' for mobilizing women and affecting change (Patel 1986). The autonomous women's movement is an integral part of the broader non-party movement sector in India that emerged in the early 1970s and blossomed in the wake of the internal Emergency in 1975.

Women's Studies While violence was the rallying issue for the women's movement, the marginalization and impoverishment of a large majority of women within the existing development framework, and limitations in the theories, concepts and research methods had spurred academics, especially women academics into the movement. The growth of women's studies and its induction into the university system runs parallel to the growth of the movement. Unequal distribution of social resources other than economic resources and forms, locations, agency and sources of exploitation and oppression, had been unveiled through the women's movement and research in women's studies (Sharma 1991). The women's movement and women's studies research share a symbiotic relationship, in general. For purposes of this chapter women's studies is considered to be an important segment of the movement, and no further distinction is made.

Major Issues of the Women's Movement Campaigns for amendments in existing laws and drafting of new legislations relating to rape, dowry murders, sati (widow-burning on husband's pyre); regulation of sex detection and sex pre-selection tests; misrepresentation in the media; protests against harmful contraceptive dissemination and test trials; and a coercive population policy have marked the two decades of the movement. The demand for gender just laws (term used in the place of Uniform Civil Code); the right to matrimonial home; the right to quality health care, sustenance, survival and livelihood; the elimination of domestic, communal and social violence against women; and the access to education, employment and natural resources are other major issues that the

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women's movement in India is grappling with . A steady opposition to structural adjustment programmes (SAP) and the New Economic Policy is also building up.

Women's Rights and the Indian State The concept of state has been understood as a dominant structure that is not monolithic , not dominated by any one class or caste group but by shifting groups , not gender neutral and not apart from or outside of society. It is an institution through which the multiplicity and plurality of the civil domain has been ordered in both perception and reality (JAWS 1995). The democratic, welfarist and liberal values that the state displays provides spaces for negotiating rights and privileges. However, through its policies , programmes , implementation and surveillance of the functioning of everyday life, it also demon strates strong shades of patriarchal, bourgeois and capitalist domination and subordination (Agarwal 1988; Swaminathan 1987). At the level of state policies and programmes , the process of incorporating women's concerns is encouraging. However, it is done in a narrow, superficial and fragmented manner . In response to the findings of the Gommittee on the Status of Women in India (CSWI) report , the Government of India had adopted a ' National Plan of Action for Women ' in 1976. The Sixth Plan (1980-85) document de voted a chapter on 'women ' and recognized the role of women in national development as partners /contributors rather than recipi ents/beneficiaries . A National Perspective Plan for Women (19882000) was drawn up in 1988. A compr ehensive study on the situation of women workers in the informal sector was commissioned , the outcome of which is a report titled 'Shram Shakti' (1987) which documented the situation and made several recommendations . The National Commission for Women was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1990. The 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution stipulate that not less than one -third of the seats at the panchayats, zilla parishads, municipal corporations and councils will be reserved for women . The bill to reserve 33 per cent of seats for women in the Parliament is been meeting with a lot of opposition. Whether the reservation is a

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solution to empower women or a mere tokenism is being debated widely. The record of the state in adopting a 'pro-women' stance is largely limited to rhetoric, policy documents or enacting a piece of legislation. The legislations have in-built loopholes, the policy documents remain inoperative and unoperationalized. The heightened interest of the state in women's status needs to be also seen in the context of the priorities set by international donor agencies that place women's development indicators and population control at the same level. During the past decade, the women's movement bas been confounded by the state, which simultaneously initiated processes of introducing innovative empowerment programmes on the one hand and, on the other hand, introduced economic policies that significantly worked towards impoverishing the majority of women, in conjunction with a population control policy that isolate women as targets for invasive contraceptive technologies. By its inaction the state sanctions discriminatory personal laws. While the state plays the role of a benevolent patriarch, the arms of the state-the police and the judiciary-are either gender blind or anti-women, which reinforces the ambivalent relationship of the movement with the state. The spirit of a struggle that is endemic to any movement for developing into a significant mass-based movement, is continuously short-circuited by appealing to an 'overenthusiastic' state for claiming 'rights' or regulating injustices. Women's issues are coopted into the state's language and official lexicon, leaving the movement in a limbo on aspects pertaining to widening the base and linking with other movements.

Government-run Empowe101ent Programmes Since the Sixth Five Year Plan (1980-85) onwards the Indian state has introduced women's empowerment programmes with an emphasis on 'awareness raising' and 'mobilization'. This leads to a peculiar situation of the state sponsoring women's struggle against itself. This is like waking the sleeping giant. The outcome of empowering women even in a limited way can be witnessed in the Women's Development Programme (WOP) of Rajasthan. The prachetas, who are at the supervisory level, unionized in 1992, while the sathins, who are the


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village level functionaries of the programme, unionized in 1993, in the face of victimization and harassment from the authorities. Issues relating to minimum wages, work conditions , appointments and dismissals and exploitative nature of 'voluntarism' had come up . The sahyogi,nisin Kamataka also unionized in 1995, effectively revealing the waves of unrest hidden at the lower rungs of workers in most programmes, such as the anganwadiworkers of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), the community health visitors (CHVs), the multi-purpqse workers (MPWs),health visitors (HVs) and auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) of the health programmes, most of whom are women. Based on the experience of the WOP of Rajasthan, changes in the organizational structure at the village level have apparently been made in the later programmes introduced in Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Gujarat and so on. There seems to be a hidden 'lakshman rekha' 3 that is drawn about how much of empowerment is tolerated , and towards what structures rebellion and discontent can be expressed. The case of Bhanwari Devi, 4 asathin of the WOP, is a pointer to understand the limitations of government-sponsored empowerment that seeks to address the bastions of patriarchy at the household, community and the state level, but falls short in supporting women in their struggle to change the structures (Navlakha 1992).

Policy on Women The policy documents on women issued by some and initiated by some state governments as well as the government at the centre is seen as a new strategy to woo the women voters . The Maharashtra policy for women, the first of its kind , is progressive in some ways but naive and full of contradictions in many ways (Gothoskar et al. 1994; Guru 1994; Samuel 1996; Srinivasan 1995). The Andhra Pradesh Telugu Desam (Naidu) government had released a women 's empowerment policy document with schemes and programmes for women . The Congress government at the centre toyed with the idea of a policy for women titled 'National Policy for the Empowerment of Women, 1996', before the elections in February 1996 (Haider 1996). The present focus is on preparing state-level documents on the lines

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of the Human Development Report of the UNDP, with special focus on gender indicators. These documents, if sensitively compiled, would be eye openers for assessing the status of women since the Mexico Conference.

Gender Sensitivity Programmes The other alluring word that has caught the imagination of the state and its machinery at various levels is 'gender sensitivity', as an important ingredient in the success of development programmes, to achieve gender justice and facilitate the mainstreaming of women. That the state is today ready to recognize that gender inequality is not purely a matter of intra-familial relationships and, therefore understands the significance of gender aware policy and planning as a gain of the women's movement. However, even while basing itself on the institutional relations of gender framework that argues for the need to change many aspects of the existing gender relations , power distribution and so on, hard decisions concerning power sharing continue to follow the principle of non-confrontation. This is especially evident in the way the ruling United Front government withdrew the bill for reservation of seats for women in the Parliament twice this year . One fears that the gender sensitivity approach and the 'gender relations' framework which are ahistorical and apolitical , could at best be able to deal with the problem of gender inequality at a behavioural practice level at the cost of soft pedalling structural roots, causes and manifestations of inequality. The narrow space created within state structures may be used . However, the subversive edge that these strategies have need to be kept in focus to guard against the dangers that ensue institutionalization.

Women's Rights and the International Concern The mid-1970s had witnessed a surge in interest on women's issues nationally and internationally. The declaration of the International Women 's Year by the United Nations in 1975, followed by a declaration of the Women's Decade after the UN Women 's Conference at



Mexico in 1975, the issue of the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDA W) during the Mexico Conference, 1985, and the 'Plan of Action' draft during the recent Conference on Women, Peace and Development held at Beijing, 1995, are the several milestones that mark the two decades of UN concern with women . Women have been catapulted to the centre of population and environment issues during the Earth Summit held at Rio de Janeiro, 1992, and the Population and Development Conference held at Cairo , 1994, where women's reproductive rights, self-determination and empowerment have been seen to be of utmost importance to tackle multiple problems such as population growth, environment degradation, family survival and the control of AIDS . The heightened interest of the state in women's status falls in line with the priorities set in the international arena , which many a times initiate seemingly contradictory processes in motion. Therefore , empowerment programmes for women, structural adjustment progr~es for the economy and population control policy for the people are all introduced in conjunction. The mobilization of women from the movement and the NGO sector to represent the voices of women of the south, in the various Prepcom meetings and at the NGO Forum meetings during the Cairo Conference, set in motion the new 'awareness' in the movement to advocate at international fora. This has been observed as a natural outcome of prevailing circumstances where there is a visible shift in the locus of control and planning away from the state with liberalization and globalization (Raghuram and Manorama 1995; Sinha 1995). Does this make fighting for women's rights far more complex than it was before? Or does it prepare the ground for a 'feminist international solidarity'? It is yet unclear as to how this would move beyond 'networks', conferences, communication and solidarity among 'some women of north and some women of south' (Waterman 1993).

Multiple Approaches and Identities In the contemporary context, 'women's issues' or 'gender issues', as they have come to be known, are not merely the concern of the

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women's movement which creates its own peculiar complexities. Campaign groups, support groups, research groups, organizations that run only income-generating programmes, and others that move beyond this, party-based women's wings, broad-based networks/fora, voluntary organizations that run sectoral programmes for women, some that incorporate women's participation in a range of community development programmes, self-help groups, empowerment groups and combination of many of these, constitute the broad spectrum of the women's movement, (or should it be called women's movements?). The term 'empowerment', interpreted in a simplistic manner in general, is employed by most groups. It is part of the government organization and the non-government organization jargon. An assessment of what constitutes empowerment of women in operational terms to several organizations, had been carriedout by the Molyneux's defmition of 'practical' gender needs and 'strategic' gender needs framework (Batliwala 1993). It has been observed that most NGO or grass roots development organizations that run sectoral programmes for women address only gender practical needs. However, the fact remains that by addressing women's needs, these organizations have an opportunity to gain insights and establish rapport with women . At times, women move ahead and beyond the agenda of the NGO that attempts to remain political (Vindhya and Kalpana 1988) . Grass roots development approach, therefore, provides a larger scope to speak on behalf of women. This aspect gives rise to a tension in the 'practical' needs priorities set by the NGO sector and the 'strategic' needs priorities set by the autonomous women's movement. The divergence in priorities of the two groups are not necessarily irreconcilable; however a dialogue to bridge this gap is necessary (Kalegaonkar 1997). The Beijing Conference preparations for the NGO Forum through the Coordination Unit, which was set up by donor agencies, had · attempted to link up activists and groups, and primarily the NGOs working on women's issues. This process , in a way, sends in a signal that NGOs working with practical gender needs, that is, water, housing, sanitation, creches, and so on have greater legitimacy to speak on behalf of women . The participants to the NGO Forum or the Beijing Conference consisted of women from different ideological backgrounds. The multiplicity of perspectives, voices and ideologies that contribute to the celebration of 'difference', also need to

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contribute to a sharper understanding of women's subordination, rather than confound it.

Cobwebs in the Movement . The issue of maintaining autonomy and resisting any form of 'cooption' , is the cornerstone of the autonomous women's movement. This issue surfaces as the touchstone to judge the participation of the activists with state-run programmes, or NGOs or other movements. Collaboration with the state is, at times, seen as 'cooption'. Women activists expressed the need to use spaces provided by the state and consolidate work with women, rather than get bogged down by the fear of cooption. Value-based and feminist-principle based interaction is considered important. It has been observed that a 'pure' feminist praxis need not be the only politically correct way of working (IAWS 1995: 23-26) . Moreover, within the principles of democracy and within the framework of the Constitution, if the state is the guardian of rights in general, it seems to be the task of the women's movement to negotiate for a better state . Since the beginning of this decade, it is being observed that activists who belong largely to the urban educated middle and upper middle classes, exhausted with purportedly empty activism, seem to move towards starting study circles and resource centres. Should this be seen as spaces for women to conceptualize a better future course of action and strategies? Or does this indicate a void in the autonomous women's movement? Activists who developed contacts with women in poor urban neighbourhoods/communities have begun to address a range of issues pertaining to housing, health, domestic violence, awareness raising and so on, through a set up similar to an NGO. Can this be seen as a steady 'NGOization ' of the movement? Is this a strength or a weakness? Does it have the potential of broadening the mass base? Or does it nip the spark of the movement and lead to the maintenance of status quo? Or can this be seen as feminist politics where the movement would move from mere protest politics to need-based campaigning and a slow change at the pace set by women from the poorer and lower caste communities? Another area for introspection is, why is activism or organizing women limited to poorer women? If patriarchy operates at different

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levels and in different forms, why is work with women only limited to lower or lower middle classes? Besides the lower strata, that also belongs to Dalit or minority communities, are also mobilized on caste and religion lines . The gender issues along with community issues addressed among these class/caste/ethnic groups within a 'secular' framework, by the women activists, seem to have serious limitations , in bringing about sisterhood . On the other front, despite two decades of the second wave women's movement, the movement is still seen as 'urban', 'middle class ', ' English speaking', 'Hindu' and so on. It is apparent that the interaction of activists who are broadly declassed, at least ideologically, with women of the same social strata has not been successful. Women come to women's groups or counselling centres, only when in crisis and rarely continue to explore the need to develop sisterhood . On the contrary, it is being observed that the language, jargon, idiom and values promoted by the right wing communally-oriented groups seem to appeal to women much more! There is a hard need to relook at many of these aspects.

Contested Issues Among the several issues that have been dealt with during the past two decades of the movement, the brief review here would pertain to violence and religion and fundamentalism , to highlight the complexities that these issues are attaining, and the dilemmas that they throw.


Violence against Women The women's movement in India during the mid-1970s and after came into being around the issue of rape (Datar 1988). The focus was on the state, which was seen as the agent of this violence. The sati of Roop Kanwar of Deorala, dowry deaths/murders of young brides, female foeticide, the representation of women and their bodies in the media, sexual harassment of women at the workplace, mass rapes of women identified on the basis of religion and caste, child sexual abuse, trafficking of women and girls, sex tourism and so on, have enlarged the inquiry into a range of venues , agents and expressions of violence on women.

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The direction of the movement has been from the more visible state violence exercised by agencies like the police and the judiciary to the rather invisible violence perpetrated within the four walls of the family. In terms of analysis and strategy it meant that, in some sense, the agent of oppression was identified as out there. This fell in line with the Leftist struggles from where the first generation of activists in the second wave women's movement originate. The emergence of different expressions of violence directed the search to examining the more painful and threatening private realm in women's lives, and linkages of the private and public realms . The slogan that 'personal is political' determined this journey from beyond to within. While the earlier movements stifled the vitality that this analysis promises, the women's movement continues to explore this tool, for it holds an explanatory potential to comprehend genderbased subordination, domination and oppression that cut across class and caste. The formation of several women's organizations, essentially in llrban areas, to oppose domestic violence against women; to lobby for changes in legal provisions; to provide shelter and legal support for women; and so on, has been the contribution of the first decade of the women's movement. However, with the simultaneous emergence of caste and religion-based mobilizations and their consolidation in 1980s, the demarcations of women's identities have begun to be drawn. The shortcomings in the feminist analysis of understanding religion, caste ·and ethnic identities become obvious. The tendency to play down the caste factor and emphasize on unity among women as victims of violen~, ~nd concomitant limitations in analy~is and action, was pointed by Dietrich (1990). The ·underlying assumption that, if patriarchy is tackled, caste will be weakened automatically, does not represent the reality of lower caste women even remotely. While upper caste women experience systemic family violence, the Dalit caste women face the collective threat of physical harm from upper caste forces over and above domestic violence. Rapes of women during caste clashes become a rallying ground for struggling against upper caste domination. Violence_on women is seen as the violation of 'property', dignity and social honour of one caste by the other. Dalit struggles that rally around the issue of rape, project the husband of the raped woman or the community as a whole as the victim . Therefore, caste oppression is challenged leaving the significant dimension of inter-caste and intra-caste gender oppression untouched (Kishwar 1988).

. A move to recognize these dimensions seem to be emerging from within, in the recent years . The National Federation of Dalit Women (NFDW) in their national meet in Delhi and at a conclave organized by Satyashodhak Mahila Aghadi in Maharashtra, provided an independent political expression of Dalit women to counter the marginalization they face due to Dalit patriarchy and representation of Dalit women's issues by non-Dalit women (Guru 1995). It is being increasingly observed that where the women's movement has attempted to contextualize the woman victim on the basis_ of prevalent social inequalities, the dominant divisions in society take the edge out of the condemnation of the crime by concentrating on parameters of polarization such as caste, community, regional or politico-ideological cleavages . Therefore, the assumption of the movement that gender lines can be drawn up sharply where women are affected across class, caste and religious lines, has limitations . The issues of communalism and fundamentalism exaggerate this even further . The deserted women's struggle-the 'Parityakta Mukti Morcha 'of rural Maharashtra, and the opposition to liquor-related domestic neglect and violence which culminated into the anti -arrack movement spearheaded by rural women of Andhra Pradesh, can be cited as examples of struggles for and by lower class/caste women of rural areas. These struggles speak for the pervasiveness of domestic violence and women's opposition to it. The problem of liquor was connected up with and crystallized into a variety of issues, namely , deteriorating economic conditions, chronic unemployment, increasing debts, absence of basic amenities like water and health care (Anveshi 1993). The dimension of women confronting the state , its machinery policy and rhetoric are the larger issues that the village women question through the movement (Reddy and Patnaik 1993). Similar movements seem to be emerging from other parts of India (Dogra 1985)., Strengths and Weaknesses In addressing the issue of violence the women's movement moved in the direction towards agitating for legal changes to address multifaceted expressions of violence at the advocacy level and constrained into

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developing support structures for the provision of immediate help to victims, handling problems of housing battered women, irivestigatioQ by individual organizations for collecting 'true' facts regarding particular cases, legal support, counselling, and so on. Most organizations have documented this initial challenge they faced in sorting out their priorities regarding their identity which would be anywhere amongst being a propaganda group, a study group or a resource group for providing immediate assistance to victims. Lack of basic necessities like permanent office space, full-time workers and funds along with the pressure to keep going, to keep the momentum of the movement intact, necessitated the focus on the agitational and organizational aspects of the campaign rather than on the development of support structures. The debate was carried on in the 1985 conference of women activists in Mumbai under the subject 'Relationship between Consciousness Raising and Individual Support' . The questions that surface are often documented in the reports and articles written by members of autonomous women's groups: Is 'casework' or 'community work' that is important? (Saheli 1995). Is supporting individual women 'political' work or merely reformist welfare type of activity? How does one maintain the sisterly support and not create dependence? (Forum Against Oppression of Women 1990). The emphasis on both in addition to campaigning for changes in the direction of politics is unveiling ever so often, especially in the case of violence against women. In the absence of support from the family and community, women 'victims' back out from following up the police case or withdraw their cases as in the Jalgaon sex scandal of Maharashtra. The complicated and prolonged procedures in the courts, the higher probability of acquittals and the focus on 'punishment' to the culprit rather than compensation to the 'victim', dwindling chances of marriage in the case of minor girls and unmarried women are real issues which prompt women and families to not pursue further, even if the complaint has been lodged at all. The women's movement traversed through a major debate on the issue of 'dowry' in journals like Manushi and the Economic and Political Weekly.1\vo decades of experience in the area of violence, the limitations of various legislations and the campaign strategies have been reviewed by Agnes (1992). The renewed campaign on violence, foresees the need to redefine rape and bring it out of the realm of patriarchal confines. A FAOW (1990) document raises questions

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pertaining to rape: why is sexual assault by husband the most common and blatant form of rape not even recognized as rape by law? Why is penis penetration the most important aspect of rape? There have been cases of women whose vaginas were penetrated by sharp objects, sticks and the like. In these cases the rape victim stands a weak chance of justice under the rape law. Why is rape a state worse than death? The slippery ground that the women's movement treads when it counters violence at the domestic and community level lead to the acknowledgment of this concern. On the basis of the experiences of Stree Shakti Sanghatana, Hyderabad, activists Kannabiran and Shatrugna (1986), pose a question on 'what is "meaningful" political intervention especially in the context where issues of politicisation are so firmly rooted in the personal'. Agnihotri and Majumdar (1995: 28) raise the question: 'Does the extension of the issue of violence against women from the domestic to the social and political spheres indicate a backsliding or an advance?'

Violence on Women and the Media In its pursuit to give visibility to atrocities on women, to mobilize widespread support to question state structures, the instruments of justice and their functioning, the women 's movement had found an ally in the media. This, to date, proves to be a strength and a weakness. The association may be traced back to the post-Emergency period where in the aftermath of the curtailment of civil rights and state endorsed atrocities on the public, the movement found an unexpected ally in the media. A much repressed media sought to dismantle the Emergency chains by a consistent and conscious focus on state atrocities and in this respect gave wide reportage of rape, especially custodial rapes . This went a long way in gathering support and gaining political relevance, on a hitherto taboo topic . However, at the same time, women's issues also gathered sensationalism. The media while capitalizing on the news value of the women's issues, simultaneously through its 'inconsistent' projections, also trivializes and misplaces attention. This ambivalence has continued to define the relationship of the women 's movement with the media (Baxamusa 1991~Gandhi and Shah 1992).

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Religion, Communalism and FundamP.ntalism Family, community and religious-bound identities for women, 'new' standards of morality, domestication and womanhood have reemerged with more vigour over the past decade, with a tacit approval of the state. The 'communal card', often played in electoral politics for political mileage and to allay different ethnic communities' disenchantment with the pace of economic development and their share of the resources, has lead to an unprecedented state of affairs that has tom the social fabric of India (Engineer 1984). The series of incidents that have contributed to the complexity of this issue for women are elaborated here . The Muslim Women's (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986,deprived divorced Muslim women of their rights to seek maintenance under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, a secular law open to all communities. The demand for a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is being seriously reconsidered by the women's movement, since major Right living political parties are also espousing the cause. The broad-based debate on the UCC ranged on examining: Is it the personal law of the majority community? Should the UCC be a patchwork of various religion-based personal laws that are male defined and male determined? Or is it possible to integrate progressive elements from all the personal laws? In the recent past at least three proposals have been drafted for the demand for gender just laws (Vikalp 1996). The sati of Roop Kanwar at Deorala, a village of Rajasthan amidst several thousands of people witnessing the incident, extolling and chanting slogans glorifying the act, took place in 1987. An Act, against sati and the glorification of it, was passed in 1987. The ineffectiveness of the law is evident from the fact that the major protagonists of the sati event were acquitted due to lack of evidence, in 1996 by the additional district and sessionjudge (The Sunday Tunes, 1996). The glorification of this ritual continues in many parts of India, where Sati Mata temples exist. Issues revolving around the identity of minority communities and their religious and ethnic assertion through a definition of appropriate.or true 'womanhood ', were discussed during this period. A prominent Right wing women political leader publiclysupported sati and also defended it as 'voluntary sati'. The Mandal Commission's reservation policy and the efforts to implement the same by the government, had led to cases of rioting

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and clear division of the Hindu community along caste lines. The forces that had drawn the boundaries along caste lines and along religious lines received support from housewives, the section most difficult to mobilize (Agne s 1994). Mfdle-class women participated in protest rallies opposing the recommendations of the Manda] Commission, which deprive their sons from acquiring seats in professional colleges. The Shiv Sena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could mobilize women under the banners such as Durga Vahini and Hindu Mahila Sammelan, wherein women 's roles as mothers, and defenders of the faith are highlighted along with their role in the family. The images of women as 'shakti ', 'kali' and so on , employed by the women 's movement in the initial stages as indigenous icons, unconsciously perhaps to counter the allegation that the movement is a Western import, seems to have bounced back in a warped manner (ibid.) . The women's movement is confronted by communalism in the field of personal laws at one level and the impact of communal violence at the level of women's physical survival and self-esteem. Women bear the brunt of private as well as public violence (Women and Media Group 1985). The post-Ayodhya riots, in many parts of India, revealed women's vulnerability, agency and participation in violence. Analytically, this observation departs from identifying women merely as 'victims' (CWDS 1995; Ponacha 1993).

Strategies: Strengths and Weaknesses Among the several structures that create and perpetuate inequality and gender subordination , the institution of religion has also come into focus. With the tradition of rationalist humanist values among the activists of the movement , the appeal was towards women's solidarity together with a commitment to the plight of the vast majority of poor women and the poor and exploited in general. The steady consolidation of communalist forces and women 's allegiance to these forces, had led to a rethinking of the understanding of religion. It has been observed that the vast majority of women are under the impact of religion not only in terms of being oppressed, but also in the sense of drawing inspiration and sustenance . Dietrich (1986: 49) pointed out that religion for women 'need not automatically have a


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function of an "opiate" but may be genuine self-preservation, resistance and at times even rebellion'. This is an area that confounds the movement 's approach, perspective and strategies (Dietrich 1986, 1988). I The construction of a uniform Hindu religion, culture and history, by the communal forces, to form the basis of communalism, is devoid of the humanist content of religion. Several means by which the communist propaganda could be countered have been discussed on many occasions by the National Conferences of the Autonomous Women 's Movement and the National Conferences of the Indian Association for Women's Studies . However, the analysis also points to the hard reality that communalist groups have a stronger base in the communities than groups with secular ideals (Bakshi 1985; Kishwar 1991). It has been observed that movements which have rallied only around the economic issues such as·the trade union movement , also fall short in their appeal to counter communalism . In the present context, there is a real need to decommunalize religion by building an overall political perspective of the women's movement with alliances with other movements.

Conclusion The divergent paths, the multiple identities and voices, analysis and approaches need to CQnverge on a platform for moving towards a common agenda of understanding for the future. The pre-occupation with one or another issue, though extremely significant at the local or national level, will nevertheless remain limited in its vision . The dominant paradigm of development, which has been examined thoroughly , needs to be opposed through broad-based alliances with environment, tribal, Dalit and labour (formal and informal) movements and struggles. If the fight against the colonial state had brought people of different approaches together at the time of theJndependence movement, the structural adjustment programmes, the receding of the state and the invasive role of the supra state, perhaps, provide the point of convergence for the various movements today. The combined opposition could be built on the strengths of the divergent analyses that have emerged over the two decades.

Notes l. Omvedt had followed this scheme in her monograph of 1987. 2. An 'anti-Beijing rally' was organized in Mumbai by Mr Sharad Joshi, the leader of

the Sanghatana, immediately after the Beijing Conference, 1995,to condemn 'ur• ban' women's opposition to globalization and liberalization voiced during the Beijing Conference. This is a typical brickbat hurled at the women's movement, that it is urban and unaware of rural women's issues. The liberalization agenda in Mr Joshi addresses the landed classes alone. The aspects concerning increase in women's work burden, unequal wages, gender violence and increase in inequalities in the rural areas, are left out from this paradigm. 3. The term 'lakshman rekha', used as an analogy is drawn from the Hindu epic Ramayana. It denotes the demarcation drawn at the threshold of the hermitage by Rama's brother Lakshmana, to caution Sita, his sister-in-law, to remain within the confines of the boundary in his absence. Sita who violates this code is abducted by Ravana. 4. Rajasthan , a state in Western India, is a region endemic for child marriages. Marriages below the age of 18years for girls and 21 years for men is null and void under the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929. However, it is a non-cognizable offence. Bhanwari Devi, a sathin of the Women's Development Programme, Rajasthan , not only opposed the practice but also had the courage to lodge a complaint with the police. As a backlash to her action, Bhanwari Devi was gang-raped by politically strong men of the dominant caste of the village. The rapists were acquitted by the court. Bhanwari Devi has received awards and solidarity from outside, but within the village she and her family are ostracized and stigmatized.

References Apes, F. 1992. 'Protecting Women against Violence: Review of a Decade of l.egisla•

tion, 1980-89', Economic and Political Weekly, 27(17): 1~32 . -- - . 1994. 'Women's Movement within a Secular Framework-Redefining the Agenda', Economic and Political ~ekly, 29(19): 1123-28. Agarwal, B. (ed.). 1988. Structuresof Patriarchy:State, Community and Household in ModernisingAsia . New Delhi: Kali for Women. Agnibotri, I. and V. Miyumdar. 1995. 'Changing Terms of Political Discourse: Women's Movement in India, 1970-1990s,' Economic and Political Weekly, 30(29): 186~78 . Aovesbl. 1993. 'Reworking Gender Relations, Redefining Politics: Nellore Village Women Against Arrack', Economic and Political Weekly,28(3&4): 1869- 1978. Bakshi, R. 1985. 'The Bombay Bhiwandi Riots', Lokayan Bulletin, 3(2): 1~36 . Basu, A. and B. Ray. 1990. Womens St,uggle:A Historyof theAll Indian Women's Conference 1927-1990._New Delhi: Manohar Publications. Batliwala, S. 1993. Empowerment of Women in South Asia: Concepts and Practices. New Delhi: Asian South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education and FAO.

33% Lakshmi Lingam Baxamusa, R. 1991.Media Reflectionson Women's Movemenl in India. Readings on Women Studies Series: 2. Mumbai:_Research Centre for Women's Studies, SNOT Women's University. Centre for Women's Development Studies. 1995. Confronling Myriad Oppressions: Voicesfrom the Women's Movement in India. Report of a Consultation in Bombay, 7-9 January '1994. CUsters,P.1987. Womenin the TebhagaUprising.Calcutta: Naya Prakash Publications. Datar,C. 1988. 'Reflections on the Anti-Rape Campaign in Bombay', in S. Wieringa (ed.), Women's Strugglesand Strategies,pp. 13-30. The Hague: Institute of Social Studies. -. 1989.WagingChange:WomenTobaccoWorkersin Nipani Organise.New Delhi: Kali for Women. -.. 1990. 'New Women's Movement in Maharashtra : Reflections from Within'. Paper presented at the 13th International SociologicalCongress, Madrid. --. 1993. The StruggleagainstViolence.Calcutta: Stree Publications. Desai, N. 1988.A Decade of Womens Movemenl in India. Bombay: Himalaya Publishing House. Dietrich, G. 1986.'Women's Movement and Religion', Economic and PoliticalWeekly, 21(4): 157-59. --. 1988. Womens Movement in India: Conceptual and Religious Reflections. Bangalore: Breakthrough Publications. --. 1990. 'The Relationship between Women's Movements and Dalit Movements: Case Study and Conceptual Analysis'. Paper presented at the National Conference of the Indian Association of Women's Studies, Jadhavpur. Dogra, B. 1985. 'Village Women vs. Liquor Contractor', Economic and Political Weekly,20(48): 2112. Engineer, A.A. 1984. Communal Riots in Post-IndependenceIndia. l:lyderabad: Sangam Books. ForumAgainst Oppression of Women.1990. 'Moving... but not quite there' (mimeo), Mumbai. Gandhi, N. 1995. 'Masses of Women, but Where is the Movement? A Case Study of the Anti Price Rise Movement in Bombay, 1972- 75', in S. Wieringa (ed.), Subversive .Women: Women's Movements in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, pp. 213-30. New Delhi: Kali for Women. Gandhi, N. and N. Shah. 1992.Issuesat Stake: Theoryand Practicein the Contemporary Women'sMovement. New Delhi: Kali for Women. Gothoskar,S., N. Gandhi and N. Shah. 1994.'Maharashtra 's Policyfor Women', Economic and PoliticalWeekly,29(48): 3019-22. Guru, G. 1994. 'Maharashtra Women's Policy: Coopting Feminism', Economic and Political~ekly, 29(32): 2063-65. -. 1995. 'Dalit Women Tulle Differently', Economic and Political Weekly, 30(41&42): 2548-50. . Haider, S. 1996. 'National Policyfor Women', Lokayan Bulletin, 13(2): 17-26. Indian Association for Women's Studies (IAWS). 1995. 'The State and the Women's Movement in India'. A Report of a Workshop held in New Delhi, 19-21 October 1994. Jain, S. 1984.'Women and People's Ecological Movement: A Case Study of Women's Role in the Chipko Movement in Uttar Pradesh', Eco'!'Jmicand PoliticalWeekly, 19(41): 1788-94.



Jayawaadaa, K. and G. K.elbr. 1989.'The Left and Feminism', Economic and Polilia,J ~~. 24(38): 2123-26. Kalepookar, A. 1997. 'Pursuing Third World Women's Interests, Compatibility of

Feminism with Grass Roots Developments', Economic and PolilicolW«~. 32( 17): WS2-4. Kanbere, S. and M. S.Yara. 1980.A CaseStudy on the Organising of Landless lnbal Women in Maharashtra, India (Monograph), Bangkok: Asian and Pacific Centre for Women and Development. Kannablran, V. and V. Sbatrupa. 1986. 'The Relocation of Political Practice: The Strcc Shakti Sanghatana Expcriencc,' Lokayan BuJJetin,4(6): 23-34. Klsbwar,M. 1988.'Nature of Women's Mobilisation in Rural India: An Exploratory Essay', Economic and PoliticalWee~ . 23(52-53): 27~3 . -. 1991. 'Ways to Combat Communal Vtolencc: Some Thoughts on International Women's Day!', Manu.shi,62: 2-9 . Knmar, R. 1993. Historyof Doing. New Delhi: Kali for Women. Lallta. K. 1988.'Women in Revolt: A Historical Analysisof the ProgressiveOrganisation of Women in Andhra Pradesh', in S. Wieringa (ed.), Women's Sttuggl.esand Strat~s. The Hague: Institute of Social Studies. Lobla, R.M. 1996. 'Caste, Oass and Gender in Indian Politics. Excerpted and Introduced by D.L Sheth', Lokayan Bu/Jetin,13(2): 1-15. Mies, M. 1983. 'Land less Women Organise: CaseStudy of an Organisation in RuraJ Andhra', Manushi, 3(12): 11-19. Munshl-Saldaaba, I. 1986. 'lnbal Women in the Warli Revolt, 194~7 : "Oass" and "Gender", in the Left PeBpective', Economic and PolilicalWee~ , 21(17): Ws41Ws52. Nayak. N. 1986. Struggle Wuhin the Struggle:An Experienceof a Group of Women. 1Hvandrum: Programme for Community Organization. Navlakha, G. 1992. 'Under the G~isc of Women's Empowennent: Fate of Rajasthan Sathins', Economic and Political~e~, 30(27): 164~7. Omftdt, G. 1986.'Women's Movement: Some Ideological Debate(, Lok.ayanBulletin, 4(6): 3~3 . --. 1987. 'Feminism and the Women's Movement in India,' RCWS, Working Paper No. 16, Mumbai: SNOT Women's UniveBity. --. 1988.~ysing Capitalism, Defining Revolution: Dalits, Women and Peasants', Economic and PoliticalWee~ . 23(48): 2551-52. Omvedt,G. and N. Rao. 1988. 'Mobilisation of RuraJ Women: The Khanapur laluka Experience', in N. Desai (ed.},A Decadeof Women'sMovmaentin India, pp. 69-87. Mumbai: Himalaya Publishing House. Patel, S. 1991.'Women's Spaces Within Mlm and Struggle (Book Rcvicw}',Economic and PoliJicalWee~. 26(1 and 2), 33--34. Patel, V. 1986. Em~nce and Proliferationof tM Autonomous Women'sOrganisations. Mumbai: SNOT PoDacba. V. 1993. 'Gendered Step: Review of 1\vo Decadesof Women's Movement and Women's Studies', Economic and PolilicalWee~. 29(13): 725-28. Rap~m, S. and R. ManoramL 1995. 'Fourth World Conference and Women: Gendering Development: Issues and Politics', Economic and Polilicol We~ . 30(35): 2162-64.


Laluh•i Ungam

Rao, N. 1995. Rural Women in Non-party Struggles: E.xperiencesfrom a Grassroots Organisation in Sangli District, Maharashtra (Monograph), Mumbai: Women's Studies Unit, TISS. • Ranadive, V. 1987. Feminists and Women's Movement (mimeo). Mumbai: All India Democratic Women's Association. Reddy, D.N. and A. Patnaik. 1993. ½nti-Arrack Agitation of Women in And.bra Pradesh', Economic and Political Weekly,28(21): 1059 66. Saheli. 1995. The 'Casework' Debate in Saheli. New Delhi: Saheli Women's Resource Centre, 31- 36. Samuel, J. 1996. A Comparative Review of Policy for Women in Maharashtra (Unpublished). Pune: NCAS. Sen, I. 1989. 'Feminists, Women's Movements and the Working Qass', Economic and PoliticalWeekly,24(29): 1639-41. --.

1990. A Space Within the Struggle:Women's Panicipation in People's Movements. New Delhi: Kali for Women.

Sharma. K. 1991.'Women's Movement in India: Dialectics and Dilemma', inAltema tives: Women's Visions and Movements, II, Brazil:DAWN, 157-90. Singbaroy,D. 1992. Women in Peasant Movements: Tebhaga,Naxalite and After. New Delhi: Manohar Publications. Sinha, D. 1995. 'Commentary in Summit-Led Humanitarianism Towards Fourth World Women's Conference', Economic and PoliticalWeekly,30(34): 2102--04. Srinivasan,B. 1995. Myths of the Maharashtra State Policyfor Women. FactsAgainst Myths, 11(9). Stree Sbakti Sanghatana. 1989. ~ are Making History: Life Stories of Women in the TelenganaPeople'sStruggle.New Delhi: Kali for Women. The Sunday Times. 1996. DeoralaSati CaseAccused Acquitted, 7(2). Swaminathan,P. 1987. 'State and Subordination of Women', Economic and Political Weekly,22(44): WS34-WS38. Vikalp. 1996. 'Uniform Civil Code: A Debate' , ThematicIssue, 5(3). Vlndhya,U. and V. Kalpana. 1988. Voluntary Organisations and Women's Struggle for Change: Experience with BCT. Paper Presented at the Fourth National Conference on Women's Studies, December 28-31, 1988, Visakhapatnam. Waterman,P. 1993. 'Hidden from History-Women, Feminism and New Global Soli• darity', Economic and PoliticalWeekly,28(44): WS83-WS100. Womenand Media Group. 1985. 'Impact of Ahmedabad Disturbances on Women', Economic and PoliticalWeekly, 20(41).


13 Direct Action in India: A Study of Gujarat and Bihar Agitations


Parliamentary democracy in India is a British legacy. Its form was decided and legalized by the Constituent Assembly, consisting of the representatives of the property holders, the Western-educated elites and the nominees of the former princely states. The parliamentary system was, however, opposed without success by Mahatma Gandhi, the Gandhians, the Socialists and the Communists (Austin 1972; see also Narayan 1978). Nevertheless, it has so far survived in the midst of the breakdown of similar systems in the Afro-Asian countries; but not without difficulties. It has had to pass through several crises. During its first decade, it faced severe challenges from centrifugal and parochial forces. Some felt that 'India stands the risk of being split up into a number of totalitarian small nationalities' (Chatterji • • 1957; see also Hamson 1960). The system, however, succeeded, to some extent, in containing the communal, caste and regional forces. Slowly they were weakened. But a crisis arose again in the late '1960s' and the '1970s', and this time it proved to be of a mo~e serious nature. It was, and is, at once a political and an economic crisis. If it is not resolved, not only will economic and social discontent mount, but the trend towards national unity and secularization will be adversely affected.





Despite Mrs Gandhi's sweeping victory in the parliamentary and assembly elections in 1971-72, the Congress government could not cope with the mounting economic crisis. Some blamed the Congress leadership for this failure and sought for an alternative party or leadership within the system. Some others started questioning the basic assumptions of parliamentary democracy itself. Doubts were also raised about the capacity of the existing political system to solve the country 's socio-economic problems. The legitimacy of the electoral system itself and the representative character of the elected legislators and the political parties were and had been widely questioned. Direct action for developing pressure and overthrowing the elected government was given credibility by several intellectuals, politicians and some cross -sections of society. The Gujarat and Bihar agitations of 1974-75 only exemplified the general situation .

Theoretical Perspective Whether direct action is a legitimate form of political behaviour is a question that regularly causes controversy among statesmen and social scientists. The stand one takes depends upon one 's evaluation of the given political system, i.e., of its performance and/or capabilities to solve societal problems. Problems facing any society are bound to be many and they require an order of importance. This order (of priorities) varies according to one's value judgement and perspective. One's stand on direct action vis-a-vis political authority also depends upon the issues involved, goals professed and modus operandi followed by the actionists. The issue of direct ~ction is thus related to the political system and/or ruling groups on the one hand and the protesters on the other. Direct action implies discontent with the existing situation. Some' it is useful as a safety valve and gives vent to accumulated distimes content and influences the politicai authority without challenging its legitimacy. In some cases , it destroys the system; in others, it exposes weakneS$eS in the system as a result of direct action. No matter which, it is always a challenge to the political authority and the ruling groups. Ruling groups (i.e., political elites in the government, bureaucracy, and the dominant wealthy class) rarely give up political power

Dirw:t Action in lrulia


or share it with others voluntarily . However, their attitude and their capacity to deal with direct action vary, depending upon the cohesiveness of the group and the form that direct action takes . If the participants in and leaders of the direct action are close to the ruling groups or are in a position to influence them, the political authority is usually soft and likely to grant concessions. If the participants in and the leaders of the direct action group are opposed to the ruling groups , ( i.e ., are almost out of the orbit of political power), the politi cal authority either takes stem measures to suppress them or displays indifference towards their demands. The response of the ruling groups depends, too , upon the intensity and strength of direct action . If the actionists are numerous or are likely to pose a serious challenge to the ruler 's power either immediately or in the near future--the state measures are more repressive. And they become extreme when the actionists aim at overthrowing the ruling group. This increased repression necessitates bypassing the legal and constitutional mea sures for dealing with challenges posed by the opposition . The result is a blunt and unyielding confrontation between the holders of power and their opponents. The success of one or the other depends upon leadership, strategy and the capacity to win over the masses to one 's side. The question regarding the desirability or the undesirability of direct action in this or that political system is pedantic . Direct action is a factual reality in every political system, be it a direct democracy or an authoritarian system .' What is important therefore is an understanding of the socio-economic and political forces which lead to direct action , its nature (who resorts to it and the socio-economic and political conditions that encourage direct action) , its form( s) and its consequences on the politics of the given society . Direct action takes several forms and each is either related to another, or one form leads to or creates the conditions for the appearance of another form. Some forms of direct action do not make any impact on the political system or even on the decisions of the political authority ; other forms change the system completely . On any graph representing the continuum of the direct action , protest rests at one end and revolutionary movement at the other. Protest is the somewhat spontaneous response of a part or parts of society and often arises out of some impul sive action the particular part undertakes . On the other hand , a revolutionary movement , as explained below, is planned and organized in order to change the existing system.



The taxonomy of direct action varies from scholar to scholar depending upon his preferences or bias. lypologies of Lasswell and Kaplan are confmed only to revolution (Lasswell and Kaplan 1950). Eckstein offers a composite typology comprising unorganized spontaneous violence (riots), intra-elite conflicts (coups) , two varieties of revolution, and wars of independence. 2 Ted Gurr gives a somewhat similar typology: turmoil (spontaneous and unorganized); conspiracy (organized with limited participation) and internal war (organized with widespread popular participation) ~3 For Gurr and many others the differences in various types of direct action or political violence 4 are only 'of scale'. Theoretically, Gurr's as well as Eckstein's typologies do not explain different types of organized collective action which may be violent or non-violent. Not every direct action involving organized violence with high participation aims at or brings about revolutionary changes in society. Some of these direct actions re-establish the status quo with minor changes here and there. Such actions are generally undertaken by either a protest or a reformist movement. It is important to note that there is a qualitativedifference between a reformist movement and a revolutionary movement. Similarly, there is a qualitative difference between a conspiracy and reformist or revolutionary movements. Differentmovements bring about differ-

ent political outcomes. Gurr, however, is not concerned with outcomes, and because he ignores outcomes, his explanation of violence is incomplete. He explains political violence with a theory of relative deprivation. Relative deprivation is defined as actors' perception of discrepancy between their valueexpectationsand their environment 's apparent value capabilities. Value expectations are the goods and conditions of life to which people believe they are justifiably _entitled. The referents of value capabilities are to be found largely in the social and physical environment; they are the conditions that determine people 's perceived chances of getting or keeping the values they legitimately expect to attain' (Gurr 1967-68; see also Berkowitz 1972). Although the theory of relative deprivation faces several methodological problems (Miller et al. 1977), nevertheless it partially helps us in understanding turmoil, upsurge and even conspiracy or revolt. Those who perceive deprivation and as a result experience a feeling of frustration become aggressive, though this does not happen invariably. Out of their feelings, they may act impulsively. They are

Dirm Action ill Indio


jealous of those who have more . In the extreme, they may take a viQlent course. But their impulse usually subsides whether they win or lose. They do not change much even when they come to power. They either take to the path of revenge or find a means to satisfy their passions and behave more or less in the same manner as those against whom they revolted. In defeat, they either become indifferent to the problems that prodded them into action in the first place and accept deprivation as their lot in life, or they ignore political reality altogether and seek solace in religion or some other substitute . Every protest does not take the form of a movement. A protest which sustains conflict against the political authority over a length of time, develops an organization around a defined ideology and launches struggles, takes on the form of a movement. But all movements are not revolutionary movements. There are reformist movements and minor and short-lived rebellions and feeble protest movements as well . The differences among the various movements are qualitative and it is these difference s which define objectives, programmes and support structures . Hence, the impact on politics of some movements is substantially different from the impact of others . Reformist, rebellious and revolutionary movements all have different objectives. A reformist movement does not aim at the over throw of the political system. I ts main purpose is to bring about some changes in the relationships between the parts of the system or in certain policies and programmes so as to make the system more efficient, responsive and workable .5 On this account , it tries to replace one elite group or one political party with another, but all represent the dominant economic classes and profess the same socio-political ideology. A rebellious or protest movement is not much concerned with reforming the system, nor does it want any revolutionary change in the society. Nonetheless , it may indulge in slogan-mongering to make it appear as if it has revolutionary as well as reformist objectives . It attacks the existing authority without any intention of seizing state power. Rebels struggle for some concessions or rewards for themselves or for those section(s) of society to which they belong . They challenge the existing values and institutions, but they do not envisage setting up alternative institutions or establishing a new social order. They build their confidence by believing that they can 'change the way things are ', but they usually do not describe the direction of · such change in any systematic manner, beyond saying that those in



power 'ought to do this and ought to do that ' (Boggs and Boggs 1974; see also Dunn 1972). A revolutionary movement , in contrast with the others, aims at overthrowing not only the established government and state power, but also the socio-economic structure which sustains them. It has in mind some general or specific alternative social order which it wants to establish . The objectives of any movement have to be defined through programmes and strategies . These must go together, otherwise a movement started for the purpose of achieving revolutionary objectives may turn into merely a reformist or a rebellious movement . All movements must develop a capacity to resist the attack which is certain to be launched by the state machinery . In the case of a revolution, this capacity may make the difference between success and failure. Coherence between objectives and programmes depends largely upon the leadership of the movement. The leader's perspective, i.e., his diagnosis and prognosis of the problems that the society is facing , shapes the direction of the movement. The leaders of revolutionary and reformist movements are generally well acquainted with 'social reality '. (They see reality of course, within their concept of society.) Any political movement demands a political organization which can formulate and implement programmes and can recruit members and 'politicize' them effectively. Both the reformist and revolutionary movements develop cadre s who are thoroughly acquainted with the ideology of the movement, have a general understanding of the problems of the society they inhabit and understand the problems that the movement faces. In contrast, protest movements are not usually as highly developed and organized as are the reformist and the revolutionary movements. The nature of their political organization varies from movement to movement , depending upon such local conditions as the political history , the state apparatus, the economic condition of the large masses, and the strength of the cultural traditions. Knowledge of the persons who participate in the movement and the sections of society (classes) they represent help to determine a movement 's potentialities. And how these sections relate to the production system determines the relative power of each . A reformist movement draws a large number of its supporters from those who are near or within the orbit of the state apparatus. A revolutionary

Direct Action

ueIrtdia MI

movement mobilizes its supporters from the exploited classes who arc away from the orbit of the political power. Rebellious movements sometimes draw support from those who are near the centre of power and sometimes from those who are distant from the centre of power. Because of this their support structure may keep fluctuating. However, if a reformist movement draws a considerable number of its activistsand supporters from the exploited sections of society,it is likely to follow a revolutionary course as it develops. Similarly, if the cadres and supporters of the revolutionary movement belong to the exploiting classes (the power classes) or those who are closer to them, it may tum into a mere rebellion. However, the mere presence of objectives, class and power position are not enough for mobilizing and sustaining political support for the movement. What is crucial, particularly for a revolutionary movement, is the political consciousnc~sof the participants in terms of their class position and interests, ideology and values. The development of political consciousness depends upon the economic conditions of a group, its political history and the strength of its traditions (Althusser 1969). This consciousness develops in the course of the movement and leadership and organization play an important role in its development. Thus, relative deprivation may play either the role of catalyst or an active role in mobilizingsupport for direct action. Direct action varies from mere protest at one extreme to a revolutionarymovement at the other. Relative deprivation explains only some protest or rioting, but not other forms of direct action. Political movements-reform, rebellion and revolution-require specific or general objectives and/ or ideology, programmes, organization and participants. These requisites are interdependent and each influencesthe other. In addition, there is a qualitative difference in objectives,programmes, activities etc., which distinguishes different forms of the movement.

Gujarat and Bihar Agitations What followsis a brief account of two political agitations; one was no more than an upsurge while the other took the form of a movement. One took place in Gujarat and the other in Bihar, western and eastern states of the country, respectively. The former is larger in size


Ghansh,a• Shah

than the latter, but the latter has more than double the population of the former. In terms of 'development' indicators, Gujarat is the more developed-more literacy, per capita income, urbanization, industrialization etc.-than Bihar. However , the size-in absolute numbers-of the middle class which dominated the agitations is almost the same. About 8 lakh in Bihar and 5 lakh (persons) in Gujarat are employed by the central, state or local government bodies. There are 1,46,258 and 10,356 school and college teachers respectively in Bihar; and 1,10,446 and 7,695 school and college teachers respectively in Gujarat. The number of college students in Bihar and Gujarat amounts to 2 and 1.5 lakh respectively (StatisticalAbstracts India 1972). The Gujarat agitation, known as the Nav Nirman (social reconstruction) movement, continued for two-and-half-months from January to mid-March 1974. The Bihar movement, known as the 'Total Revolution' movement, formally continued for more than a year from mid-March 1974 to June 1975.6 Both the agitations began as a protest against the price rise and the scarcity of commodities. The retrogressive process of the Indian economy began during the mid-1960s. The rise in national income had been slow and uneven. The production of basic and capital goods and even mass consumption goods had been stagnant or had declined. In the farm sector , though the production of some crops had shown a slightly upward trend, agriculture output had generally declined. The Economic Survey for 1976-77 observed: 'Despite the record level of production in 1975-76, the growth rate of agricultural production during the seventies so far has been lower as compared to the growth rate achieved during the sixties. This decline has occurred both in the rate of growth of acreage as well as yield.' Consequently, there was a scarcity of essential commodities and prices increased sharply. The wholesale price index reached 313.0 in 1974-75 (taking 1961 as the base year). Unemployment shot up. One economist observed that 'the sluggish performance of the economy, in terms of poor investment and employment generation, has anywhere between tripled and quadrupled the number of unemployed in a period of ten years-from about 10 million in 1966 to the range of 28 million or 38 million in 1976' (Shetty 1978). A retrogressive economy, needless to say, sharpened inequality. The number of those who lived below the poverty line not only increased but their condition worsened. And the groups with fixed and limited income were hit hard. The average urban dweller who

Direct Action in India


was sensitive to economic hardships found himself powerless and alienated. His faith in the political system had sharply weakened after the 1972 assembly elections. An increasing number of people began to feel that direct action, even violent action was inevitable if their problems were to be solved. 7 Protests, agitations and clashes multiplied. In the year 1970, there were 649 agrarian agitations in Bihar many of which resulted in violent clashes between agricultural labourers and landlords. (This is seven times the number of agitations that took place in the previous year [Pant 1973).) The urban middle class and the students were in the forefront of many agitations. In Bihar, for instance, 59 per cent of the protests and agitations between 1967 and 1971 were launched by white collar employees, teachers and students (Sinha 1974). And student agitations became endemic in India from 1966-67 onwards. During the period 1967-68 to 1969-70, the incidence of agitations among university students taking a rough count was around 45 agitations per 10,000 students per year and of these 14 per cent were violent (Pant 1973). The state increased its repressive measures to curb the protests, whether violent or non-violent. The paramilitary arm of the central and state authority-the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Border Security Force (BSF), the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of the security police, the State Reserve Police (SRP)-all have been strengthened during the last decade . And, the Defence of India Rules (DIR) and the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) have ·been increasingly used to detain political opponents, and members of trade union movements. This was evident in the Gujarat and Bihar agitations . Paramilitary forces frequently used brutality indiscriminately with the result that more than 100 persons lost their lives in each state, and several hundred more were injured. As well, agitating students, teachers, political leaders and Sarvodaya workers were arrested . under DIR and MISA. On 20 December 1973, the students of the college in Ahmedabad became violent because of the high mess charges and set fire to the furniture. The incident was repeated on 3 January 1974. Gashes between students and police took place for several hours on 3 and 4 January . Several students were severely beaten by the police and some were arrested. Students from the other colleges in the city and later students from other parts of Gujarat joined the protest against the price rise and against the police brutality to the students. The ball


Ghanshyam Shah

was now set rolling. Some towns in Gujarat observed bandh, i.e., a general strike, on the issue of price rise. And sporadic violent incidents involvingstone throwing, looting of foodgrain shops, setting of buses and milk booths on fire were common in Ahmedabad during the first week of January. During the course of these events, the demand for the resignation of Chiman Patel, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, arose. Ahmedabad bandh, observed on the 10 January, resulted in widespread riots that continued for two days each in Ahmedabad and Vadodara. The violence then spread to the other towns of Gujarat. On the eve of 25 January, Gujarat bandh, the government imposed curfew for 24 to 36 hours in as many as 44 towns. On 28 January, the army was called out in Ahmedabad. By the first week of February, the agitation covered almost all towns of Gujarat. The president of the state Congress and the dissidents had already come out in opposition to the chief minister. This was followed by the dramatic resignation of a few ministers and, on the advice of Mrs Gandhi, the prime minister, Chiman Patel resigned as chief minister on 9 February.8 The governor suspended the state assemblyand President's rule was imposed on the same day. As the agitation entered the last phase, the rioters demanded the dissolution of the state assembly.Uprisings spread to the countryside where they continued for several days. The en bloc resignation of 15 Congress (0) 9 MLAs from the state assemblyon 16 February, added momentum to the agitation. Later, the Congress (0) members of different municipalities also resigned in support of the demand for the dissolution of the assembly.Jana Sangh MLAs followed suit. The student and non-student youths manhandled and sometimes 'roughed up' the Congress MLAs and the members of local governments. By the second week of March, 95 out of 167 MLAs resigned from the assembly. And, Morarji Desai, the leader of the Congress (0) , went on an indefinite fast on 12 March in support of the demand. In the meantime, the ri~ts continued on a large scale in many cities and towns. On 16 March, the state assembly was dissolved. While riots were going on in Gujarat, Bihar was preparing for state-wide agitation. On 16 December 1973, the working class-120 trade unions representing steel mills, the mines and other industrial workersand whitecollar employees--0rganizeddemonstrationsbefore the state assembly against price increases, the scarcity of essential commodities, the government's failure to ensure a regular supply of

Direct Acnon in India


foodgrains at cheap rates, etc. Again on 21 January 1974, Bihar observed bandh, with support from the same groups. In order to exploit the economic grievances of the people and to counter the attempts (above) of the Left groups and parties, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) evolved a strategy for state-wide agitation in early January. The ABVP sought Jayaprakash Narayan's (JP) support since he advocated a need for a student movement and was anti-Marxist. ABVP formed a broad-based organization, the Bihar Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti (BCSS), excluding Communists, to wage an organized struggle in support of both students and non-students. Its demands included the lowering of prices of essential commodities, reduction in tuition fees, availability of cheap books, etc. During this time, however, sporadic student agitation relating to student problems and price increases erupted in several towns of Bihar. The students unearthed hoarded commodities and forced the traders to sell the new stock at ftxed prices. These sporadic agitations were linked together and given direction by the 18 March gherao of the state assembly. The gherao was organized by the BCSS and led to widespread riots in Patna. Different groups of students and other agitators adopted different methods: one mob set fire to the government buildings and newspaper offices; another looted posh hotels and godowns of the Food Corporation; another broke open six railway wagons and looted mustard and vegetable oil. On the following day further riots took place in various towns and soon this type of confrontation between rioters and police became the regular order. On 8 April the Sarvodaya groups organized a silent procession led by JP,in support of the Patna agitation. This gave it a new and decisive tum. The processionists gagged themselves and covered their heads with saffron-coloured scarves. A new slogan emphasizing nonviolence was raised; Hamla Chahe Jaisa Hoga Haath Hamara Nahi Uthega(whatever be the form of attack we shall not raise our hands in retaliation). JP took the leadership of the movement which grew to the point that it sometimes paralyzed the state machinery. But unlike Gujarat, the union and state government did not submit to the demand for the dissolution of the state assembly. Mrs Gandhi did not wish to see a repetition of Gujarat in Bihar, fearing that the movement would spread to other states. And when JP attempted to organize the agitation on an all-India level and


Ghanshyam Shah

demanded Mrs Gandhi's resignation, he and many opposition leaders were arrested . Internal Emergency was imposed. Some students, teachers , party leader s and Sarvodaya workers were arrested. Bihar became calm and quiet; there was no resistance to Emergency. After the mess-bill episode (noted earlier) the students of Ahmedabad formed the Yuvak Lagni Samiti (Committee for Expressing Feelings of Youths) which was later transformed into the Navnirman Yuvak Samiti (NYS). Similar organizations, with similar or different names , came into existence in different cities , towns and in some villages. They were mainl:y sponsored by political parties, youth clubs, political leaders, although some were spontaneous. All were ad hoc; there was no cooperation or even programme links between these committees. Besides the committees, the School and College Teachers' Associations, the Bar Associations, Sarvodaya Mandals , Mahila Parishads, Journalist's Associations, the 14 August Sramajivi Samiti (coordinating white collar trade unions and different political parties, etc.) provided organizational apparatus to the agitation. The most important of the se were the College Teachers' Associations of the different universities. Informally the teachers maintained links with different NYS. All the organizations and committees were autonomous, without any central organization directing the agitation. In Bihar, on the other hand, the BCSS was the central organization of the movement. Its office was located in Patna where it coordinated and directed local Chhatra Sangharsh Samitis (CSS). It was the main organization and it formulated all programmes . There was a division of work under the supervision of JP, so that the different functions of the movement were looked after . As well, it published an irregular weekly known as the TarunKranti. Ad hoc CSS were formed in all the cities and district headquarters, in many towns and villages, in colleges and schools. In some places, particularly at the district level, the CSS had an office. Some Samitis published a weekly or a fortnightly paper. The local CSS largely carried out the programmes decided by the BCSS but the organizational links between the local CSS and the BCSS were weak. However, the Sarvodaya workers functioned as a link between the two and provided either written or oral reports of the activities of the CSS's to the BCSS. They also conveyed and explained the instructions and programmes of the BCSS to the CSS.

Direct Action in India

34 7

Like Gujarat, various associations-teachers, bar, students (political and non-political) and voluntary-provided organizational apparatus before JP joined the movement. In April 1974, the Bihar Jana Sangharsh Samiti (BJSS) was formed to coordinate non-student organizations and programmes. Like CSS, Jana Sangharsh Samitis (JSS) were organized at local levels. But both BJSS and CSS were not active beyond occasionally issuing statements to the press. The members of the NYS, BCSS and CSS belonged to the upper middle class and the upper castes. In Gujarat most of them did not belong to any party or to their front organizations, whereas in Bihar most of them belonged to one or another of the front organizations of the different political parties . The student leaders of both the states can be divided into two categories : the radicals and the rebels. The former were consciously pro-poor and against injustice in society. The latter enjoyed any act of defiance of authority regardless of whether it helped or harmed the rich, poor or anyone else including students like themselves. They used words and phrases borrowed from JP, Mao or such others without understanding their meaning. Like the politicians against whom they revolted, they gave promises which could never be fulfilled. They were demagogues. They often emphasized not only traditional symbols but also values. They had, of course, many fans and followers. In contrast, the radical student leaders were a mere handful in number and did not have many fans and followers. During the early phase of the agitations, the student leaders were relatively united. Later on, differences developed either over the party line or over petty issues. In Bihar, the leaders of the ABVP made every attempt to dominate the CSS's givingkey positions to the cadre of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The Thrun Shanti Sena (of Sarvodaya) and Samajwadi Yuva Jan Sabha's (of Socialist Party) members worked as a counterforce to the ABVP,and tried to isolate the ABVP, RSS and Jana Sangh members . In some places the rivalry grew to such an extent that parallel organizations came into existence. The BJSS and JSS's in the towns were dominated by shopkeepers , pleaders and doctors. In villages, they were dominated by rich peasants. The JSS's were active wherever political leaders took the initiative. The leadership in Gujarat was diffused among students belonging to different groups, political parties, teachers, lawyers, etc. There


Ghanshya,n Shah

was no coordination among the groups and often they directed an agitation at cross-purposes. In Bihar, JP was clearly the leader of any agitation. As he made clear : 'I won't agree to be a leader only in name. I will take the advice of all, of the students , the people, the Jana Sangharsh Samitis. But the decisions will be mine and you will have to accept them '. Some students and Sarvodaya workers claimed that Nav Nirman was the objective of the Gujarat agitation. But no attempt was made to define and clarify the concept. The Bihar movement aimed, too, at total revolution. 'This struggle', JP said, 'is not for any petty or small aim . It is a revolutionary movement'. He emphasized the ' internal and external change, changing the entire social frame from within and also from the out side, individuals as well as institutions'. The society that JP and Sarvodaya workers envisaged was a Sarvodaya society-non -exploitative, casteless and classless. The above objectives were derived from the various issues which gave rise to the agitations. The Gujarat and Bihar agitations started as agitations against economic crises-price increases and a scarcity of essential commodities. People, in general, and the urban middle class in particular, felt that traders and industrialists exploited consumers by charging exorbitant prices, by hoarding and by blackmarketing in essential commodities. They demanded that unearthing hoarded commodities be revealed and their equitable distribution at fixed price ensured. Simultaneously, 'educational ' problems were raised by students in both the states. Their demands included a reduction in fees; the representation of students on the policy-making bodies of the universities (i.e., the senate, the syndicate and the Academic Council); employment-oriented education; unemployment allowances; etc. In both the states, the economic issues were 'side-tracked' later and the issue of 'corruption ' was put forward as the most important one facing the country . In Gujarat, soon after the beginning of the agitation on 11 January , Purushottam Mavalankar and some college teachers asked students to remove the 'corrupt' ministry of Chiman Patel. In Bihar, JP highlighted the issue of corruption after he took the leadership. 'If it is not checked', JP warned, 'the whole country will be drowned in the bog of corruption'. The Sarvodaya leader supported this: 'Neither economic development nor social equality is possible if corruption is not rooted out'. Political corruption, in his view, was the worst form of corruption because it bred many other forms.

........ Di ~.nir:1 ,..~-

1:u· •.ra,..9

• anua

To save democracy from the authoritarian regime of the Congress was another issue in both Gujarat and Bihar. JP believed that democracy was in danger and that it was the students' responsibility to save it. He felt that the weakening of democracy in the country bad reached the point where the mechanism of self-correction had completely broken down-political parties cared only for their power and not for the people and the people lacked political consciousness. It was, therefore, necessary to develop Jan Shakti, people's power. The right to recall the elected representatives was demanded. Repressive measures to curb the agitations were opposed. And the right to speak, assemble and hold demonstrations was asserted. The dissolution of the assembly became the main issue in both agitations . JP dubbed the assembly the source of 'all the sins that the government has committed. The Assembly supports them. That's why the ministry must go . The Assembly must go'. Thus, the agitations which arose out of economic and educational issues turned political. Issues like political corruption and dissolution of the assembly became paramount after mid-January in Gujarat and after April, 1974 in Bihar . It is interesting to note that, although complete agreement among the various groups in Gujarat and between students and JP in Bihar, on the nature and causes of some of the issues was not reached, there was no disagreement on the question of the resignation of the chief minister and/or dissolution of the assembly. This is evident from the programmes that the agitations undertook to carry out . During the early phase of the agitations, the revealing of hoarded goods and the fixing of the prices of essential commodities were the main concerns. Looting of provision stores took place whenever riots occurred, particularly in Gujarat; and in Bihar during the early phase of the Bihar agitation. Later, JP confined the programme to finding ghost ration cards and negotiating with traders and government officials to ftx the prices of essential commodities. (This programme was later withdrawn so as to win over the traders.) Gheraoes, dhamas , satyagrahas, strikes , bandhs, demonstrations, fasts and processions were the dominant features of the agitations. Congress Ml.As and MPs were gheraoed and forced to resign from the assembly or the Parliament. In October and November the agitators gheraoed government offices in Bihar to disrupt their activities. Several satyagrahas were launched in both the states, demanding the


Ghanshyam Shah

dissolution of the state assemblies. The longest of these was the satyagrah in Bihar from 7 June to 12 June, before the assembly. Throughout the agitation, schools and colleges remained closed in Gujarat; in Bihar, they remained closed for the larger part of the year after JP asked the students to boycott the colleges for one year. Several towns observed bandh at one time or another ~nd there were a few statewide bandhs. Massive processions, demanding dissolution of the assembly were organized in Bihar. The Gujarat agitation ......largely unplanned ......was confined to such programmes as those given here and various groups took them up in their own way. But in Bihar, the programmes were planned and organized by BCSS and CSSs. Detailed instructions, including Do's and Don'ts, were issued to the participants. Taron Kranti and other journals and leaflets not only gave details about the programmes, but also explained the aims and the objectives of the movement. However, some of the programmes related to anti-corruption, social justice, social reform and lok-shakti did not make much headway in Bihar. As a part of the anti-corruption drive 'Sadachar (honest behaviour) Week' was observed. During this week the sons and daughters of corrupt persons, including government ministers, businessmen and big farmers, were expected to observe a 12-hour fast in their homes in order to persuade their elders to end corrupt and antisocial practices. This programme was unsuccessful. A programme for the speedier implementation of land ceiling and bataidari laws and distribution of legal documents for homestead land to Harijans remained unimplemented. Programmes against wearing the sacred thread and dowry did not get wide response. In order to paralyze the government and at the same time develop a sense of awareness in the people, JP suggested a programme for establishing Janata Sarkar, i.e., people's government. This was to start in each village and move upward from there. However, by the end of March 1975 the so-called Janata government was formed in only 18 out of 587 blocks of the state. And none of them fulfilled the criteria laid down by JP. They were ad hoc organizations and they functioned for only a few weeks. Unlike Gujarat, the cadre-building programmes in Bihar were planned by JP. Students were the vanguard of JP's Total Revolution. He called upon them to give up their studies for one year for the cause of the revolution but very few responded to his call. The BCSS organized training camps in which Sarvodaya leaders gave speeches

Direct Actioa in India


on several topics related to Gandhian philosophy and world student movements. The Gujarat agitation affected all cities and towns during its first phase . After Chiman Patel's resignation, the peasants who withdrew their agitation against levy to save Patel, extended it to rural areas, particularly, the developed districts. The Bihar movement touched all parts of Bihar, but its intensity varied from place to place. It was at its lowest ebb in the industrial belt of south Bihar and most active in the cities and the countryside of the Ganga-belt of north and south Bihar, particularly in areas where the middle peasants had improved their economic conditions since the 1960s. Adivasis, Harijans and Muslims as well as poor peasants, landless labourers, industrial workers and casual labourers tended to remain indifferent to the agitations in both the states. During the two-and-ahalf months of the Gujarat agitation and the early part, perhaps three to four months, of the Bihar movement, the urban middle-class was active. It supported and participated in all anti-government protests, but enthusiasm declined as members saw that dissolution of the assembly was not in sight. Their support remained selective throughout. They attended meetings , observed bandhs and donated money to the movement, but stopped there in order 'to look after their business, their interests '. Their sympathy with the Bihar movement notwithstanding, they forced their children to appear at the examinations for the sake of their 'career'. Businessmen who were, in the beginning, indifferent to the movement because it was against price-rise , hoarding, etc ., joined it as it took a political tum . The farmers, (mainly those who were benefited by the agriculture devel opment programme s) had already been agitating against the government, demanding more agricultural facilities and higher prices for their products. They were thus predisposed to make common cause with an agitation directed against the government . The students and the youth were the most active elements in both the states. In Bihar, however , they did not participate in all programmes. Processions, demonstrations and bandhs attracted them in large numbers, but not so the picketing of liquor shops , reforming social customs, visiting villages and leaving colleges . All the non-Congress political parties-including the Communist Party of India (CPI) in Gujarat and excluding CPI in Bihar-participated in the agitation . Among the parties, Congress (0) in Gujarat


Ghamla:,a• Shala

and Jana Sangh in Bihar dominated the scene. The ABVP was the dominant student organization in Bihar. In Gujarat, the College Teachers Associations played a dominant role during the first phase of the agitation. 10

Post-Agitation Normalcy was restored in Gujarat soon after the dissolution of the state assembly. Schools and colleges reopened. Students demanded mass promotions without examination and these were granted by the authorities in order to avoid trouble. Student leaders quarrelled among themselves on petty issues and were divided among various parties including the Congress and Kishan Majdoor Lok Paksha (KMLP) founded by Chiman Patel. Later Jayaprakash Narayan asked the students to launch an anti-corruption movement in Gujarat but this received a cold response. In March 1975, Sarvodaya workers formed the Lok Sangharsh Samiti (People's Struggle Committee, LSS) backed by the non-Congress parties. The LSS gave a call for satyagraha, fast, etc., to force an early poll. Neither students nor urban middle class participated in these programmes. Neither did they protest publicly against Emergency even though during the Emergency, elections in college and university students' unions were replaced by nomination. In April 1975, Morarji Desai launched a fast unto death in support of holding assembly elections. The union government gave in to the demand and elections were held in June 1975. The non-Congress and non-Communist parties, except KMLP, formed the Janata Morcha, i.e., United Front to fight the elections. The Congress lost its majority and its votes declined from the number registered in the 1971 elections. The Congress secured 75 seats in a House of 181 members. The Morcha received fewer votes than the Congress but it won 11 more seats. None got an absolute majority. 11 However, with the support of the independents, the Morcha formed the government. During the Emergency, some independents and members of the Morcha defected to the Congress and the Morcha lost its majority. The Congress formed the government. After the 1977 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress lost its majority and the Morcha formed the government. There was no significant difference between the

Direct Action in India


perfonnance of the Congress and the Morcha government. How ever, the dominance and arrogance of the landed class increased , particularly after the 1977 Lok Sabha elections. Corruption continued and prices rose. After the lifting of the Emergency, JP and Morarji Desai took the initiative in forming a non-Congress non-Communist party . The Janata Party was the result. JP worked for the Janata Party in the March 1977 Lok Sabha elections . 'layaprakash Ka Yahin Nishan, Kandhe Pe Hai Liya Kisan' (to vote for JP, vote for the farmer with the plough-the symbol of the Janata Party) was the popular slogan in Bihar; the Congress was routed. The state assembly was dissolved by the Janata Party government of the centre and assembly elections were held in June 1977. The student leaders were divided over the issue of the selection of candidates. The Janata Party, however , selected its candidates with the same considerations-caste , community, money, etc.-as the Congress. Though it secured a majority, 218 seats out of 324 in the assembly , in three months its votes sharply declined from 65 per cent to 43 per cent. As in Gujarat, the performance of the Janata government in Bihar, during the last 10 months , has not been different from that of the Congress. Corruption has continued . Prices still rise. Administration has deteriorated further . Repressive measures have continued, if not increased . Here is a typical pre ss report: 'Satyagraha before ministerial residence and government offices is no more permitted; government employees are prohibited under the service conduct rules from going on strike . If the government cannot ban a strike , it just ignores it: 30,000 local bodies' employees struck for two months; 20,000 health workers abstained from work for six weeks ; 2,000 temporary college teachers organiz ed relay fasts for over a month ; the government ignored all of them . When the struggle committee of 12,000 unemployed engineers was holding an indefinite group fast at the residence of the Chief Minister , the police uprooted their camp and chased them away' (EPW 1978). Several person s are in jail without trial for a longer period than what the law prescribes (Gandhi 1978). After the assembly elections, students held demonstration s in the portico of the state assembly for the extension of the examination date. Some of them raised a curious slogan : 'Chori Se Tum lite Ho; Chori Se Ham PassKarenge'(You won election by corrupt means, we


Ghanshyam Shah

will pass the examination by corrupt means). Rivalry amongst the various students' organizations sharpened during university union elections. Out of 24 major posts in six universities, 17 were taken by the ABVP. The defeated student groups-includiag the members of the Janata Party-protested that the elections were unfair and demanded that they should be declared invalid. While this is being written, Bihar is in turmoil. JP's meeting in Patna was recently disturbed by students. •'JayaprakashMurdabad, Murdabad' (Down with JP) they shouted. A disappointed JP disassociated himself from all organizations. Processions, bandhs, dharnas, etc., have been the order of the day. The trouble started against the reservation policy of the government. Following the election promise, the Bihar government decided to reserve 26 per cent of jobs and seats in the educational institutions for the backward castes which constitute about 47 per cent of the total population. 12 (This is over and above the 24 per cent reservation for Scheduled Castes and Tribes.) The students of upper castes and the well-to-do sections of backward castes (whose family income was Rs 1,000 or more per month, which excluded them from the benefits of reservation) were up-in-arms against the government decision. One of their slogans was 'Arakshan Bandh Nahin Hua To, Khoon Bahega Sarkon Par' (If the reservation is not taken back, blood will flow on the streets). The students of backward castes , whose number is small in colleges, backed by some political groups, organized a demonstration in favour of retaining the decision. One of their slogans was 'Sao Main Nabbey Pichhe Hain, To Nabbey Bhag Hamara Hai' (If 90 out of 100 are backward, then 90 per cent of the total is ours). The outcome of this war between the upper and the backward castes is hard to guess but it is certain that the upper caste students who have dominated the Bihar movement are well organized. They have the time and the inclination for an agitation (H. Narayan 1978).

Conclusion and Discussion The Gujarat agitation succeeded in attaining its immediate goal, i.e., dissolution of the state assembly, whereas the Bihar movement failed. This is not because the former was better organized and stronger than the latter, but because of the different approach that the

Di~ct Action in India


central government adopted (for its own reasons) towards the agitations. In the case of the Gujarat agitation, the dissident Congressmen indirectly supported the movement and also put pressure on the union government to force Chiman Patel to resign. Later, proChiman Patel groups within the Congress pressed for the dissolution of the assembly. But the union government was sterner towards the Bihar agitation and intra-party factions closed their ranks. Both these direct actions, no doubt , succeeded in defeating the Congress party at the polls even though it had ruled the country for 30 years. The Janata government and the centre repealed some of the repressive laws curbing _'freedom'. Freedom of the individual and of the press was restored. Several hundreds-though not all-of the political prisoners who were in jail for many years without trial were set free . Attempts were made to amend the Constitution in such a manner that any party would find it difficult to impose Emergency through con~titutional means. All of these attempts at reform are useful and are important for India's political development. But they are not enough. What is also needed is the development of a supporting structure for maintaining and encouraging freedom. Without this, there is the danger that the above actions will be undone soon either by the present or another party or by the state governments. And so far, no process has even started to build the supporting structure. The economic or political structures have remained the same. The Janata leaders behave in more or less the same manner as those of the Congress. So far-after one year- new directions are not in sight. Those who fought against Mrs Gandhi are now thinking of launching another agitation against the Janata Party, either to bring Mrs Gandhi or someone else or no one, back to power. In retaliation, the present regime takes the same measures-including heavy repression-that Mrs Gandhi took . Thus political events are about to come full circle. This seems to be what a sense of deprivation does, but all deprived persons do not take to direct action. Even for collective protest, some sort of organization-loose and informal or otherwise-and leadership are required so as to exploit grievances and raise issues publicly. Without politicization, (not merely participation in elections and other political institutions, but also and more important, ideological orientation) mere protest remains at the level of emotional reaction. And emotions rise and subside quickly. When the protesters get power they behave more or less in the same manner as

356 Gharuhyam Shah

those who earlier wielded the power , either out of vengeance or inefficiency. Their perspective for social chang e is no different from that of their predecessors . Which is precisely what has happened both in Gujarat and Bihar . The Gujarat agitation, spearheaded by students and the unorganized middle class, did not have an ideology or a centralized organization to direct it. The organized groups such as the teachers' associations, Khedut Samaj and political parties raised issues, provided programmes and directed the agitation, but they often worked at cross-purposes. The agitation failed to sustain any spirit for long . It was thus not able to take the shape of an organized, well-ordered movement ; it was an upsurge which lost momentum and slowly sputtered out. In Bihar, the upsurge gradually took the shape of a movement. It assumed all the characteristics of a movement: ideology, programmes, organization, leader s and cadre , and a large number of participants. But was it a revolutionary movement as its leader claimed? The Bihar movement fallowed the Sarvodaya ideology which is full of contradictions. 13 It is essentially a reformist ideology which lays special empha sis on a simple way of life, on class collaboration and morality . The working of the Sarvodaya movement over the last 25 years has not produced , or even set itself in the direction of, any kind of change in society let alone a revolutionary one . In fact, it has produced results exactly the opposite of those intended by the Sarvodayites themselves . Moreover , most of the constituent partners of the Bihar movement did not subscribe to the same ideology as did the Sarvodayites . They did not want a revolution . Unlike Sarvodayites , they were quite clear on this point. They were primarily interested in dethroning the Congress government and seizing politi cal power, which they succeeded in doing. The programmes did not define the objectives of the movement. Like those of Gujarat , most of the programmes were meant for mobilizing the support of people so as to create a tempo. The partici pants in these programmes did not get involved in other programmes which had some potential-if taken to their logical end-for changing the socio -economic structure. The movement soon side-tracked economic issues and raised political and moral issues. The suggestions regarding electoral reforms catered to the convenience of opposition parties , rather than suggesting the means for curbing money power and reforming the

Direct.Action in India


electoral system. Similarly, JP's revolutionary education offered nothing more than the course offered by the present-day universities and by private coaching institutes . His crusade against corruption touched only the symptoms and not the disease. He ignored the corruption of his supporters and attacked only the Congress party. The issues pandered only to the emotions . Under JP the dissolution of the assembly became an end in itself. There were no socio-economic programmes ready to be implemented after the dissolution. This is what has happened after the dethroning of the Congress . The students were the vanguard of the Bihar movement . As a group they suited the class-collaboration theory of Sarvodaya . They are not earning, hence they are not in the economic market. They do not have a vested interest in society, hence they do not harbour animosity against any class. Moreover, the Sarvodaya leaders accept the theory of the generation gap and believe that students need not approve of the values , customs and institutions of their parents. Therefore, they can become the agents of change in society . Sensitive and vocal and having no family responsibilities, students can afford to be full-time revolutionaries . That students do not generally inherit the class character of their families is wishful thinking . The issues that the students of Bihar and Gujarat took up during the agitations were concerned with the class in which they had grown up . Clashes among students in the campuses were (and are) often based on class or caste conflicts . It is true that students revolt against t~eir parents , but not because of a clash of values and norms . Empirical studies show that students do not uphold values which differ markedly from those of their parents except in matters of dress and sex. Students accept the caste system, the caste customs, the economic structure, etc . It was because of this that JP's call for effecting changes in social custom received a cold response . The student leaders, who come largely from the upper and middle classes, are careerists; they are concerned with jobs, better prospects, securing facilities and the good things of life. Therefore, they continued to attend colleges in large numbers against JP's advice . Their present agitation against the reservation of jobs for the under-privileged shows the same attitude and proves the point. The Sarvodaya workers and their supporters banked upon Janata, and his followers, to bring about a revolution. They formed Jana Sangharsh Samitis, Janata Sarkars, Janata Morchas, and now Janata


Ghanshyam Shah

Party. But who is this Janata? This question has been ignored because _ it is against the Gandhian philosophy. To them , Janata includes all and sundry. But in reality, their Janata was only confined to urban upper and middle class, landlords and neo-rich farmers who form a small section of the total population. These were the people who supported and participated in the movement. They are the people who are benefitted in different degrees by the present system. They want more benefits . They do not believe in changing the basic contours of the system. They have a stake in the system. To them revolution is merely a slogan. Whenever JP has taken the slightest radical stand in favour of workers and have-nots , the same Janata which rode JP on their shoulders, backed out and did not hesitate to call him a confused person, out to create class conflicts in society . This Janata was not for any kind of revolution ; and the other Janata stood bewildered. The latter was outside the movement , an alien. Thus , the Bihar movement was not truly a revolutionary movement. Despite its shortcomings , the Bihar movement protested strongly and in an organized manner against the failure of the Congress rule to improve conditions. It vented the dissatisfaction and grievances of large sections of society. For this reason it can properly be called a protest movement. The guiding light and the Sarvodaya cadre of the movement denied themselves the positions of power which would have involved respon sibilities and also provided opportunities for putting their ideas into practice. Those who were activists and who were interested in power sought power after the elections . But they were not revolutionaries. They lacked the perspective even to reform the system. Hence they accept the status quo and the rhetoric of social justice , freedom and Sarvodaya or else they sigh in helplessness. It is sad to say that all these happened after the movement .

Notes 1. Sec,Robert Bcncwickand 1\-cvorSmith (1972); George Saunders (1974); see also 2. 3. 4. 5.

Rajni Kothari(1960). See, Ted Robert Gurr (1970). • Ibid. All political violence includes direct action, but direct action is not always violent. A movement which sets revolutionary objectives but tries to attain it by non violence and believesin piecemeal change becomes a reform or rebellious movement.

Direct Action in India


6. StatisticalAbstract India (1972). For details see Shah (1974, 1977a).Now both the studies arc available in Shah (1977b);see also for Gujarat Agitation, D.E. Jones and R.W. Jones (1976); P.N.Sheth (1977); for Bihar, see R. Basik (1977); and for comparative study see John Wood ( 1975). 7. See Shah (1974). 8. For details see P.N. Sheth (1977). 9. In 1969 Congress split into Ruling Congress and Organizational or Opposition Congress. 10. For details see D.E. Jones and R.W. Jones (1976). 11. See Shah (1976, 1978a). 12. See Shah, 'Reservations for Backward Castes or Qasses? ': The Economic Times, 14 June 1978. 13. See Shah (1977b); See also Dandekar (1978) and Shah (1978b).

References AllbDIRI', 1969. For Marx. London: Penguin. Austin, Gralffllle. 1972. The Indian Constitution. New Delhi: Oxford UniversityPress. Barik, R. 1977. PoliJicsand the JP Movtment. Delhi: Radiant. Bcoewtck,Robert and TrevorSmllb (eds). 1972.Dim:t Action and Danocratic Politics. London: George and Unwin. Berkowitz, L 1972. 'Frustrations, Comparisons and Other Sources of Emotional Arousal as Contributors to Social Unrest', Journal of Social Issues, 28(1). Boas, James and Grace Lee Boas-1974.Revolution and Evolution in the 1wffltieth Cen1ury.New York: Monthly Review Press. Chatterji, Sunld Kumar. 1957. 'Minority Report', Repon of the Official Language Commission. New Delhi: Government of India Press. Dandekar,V.M. 1978.'Gandhian Economic System: A Path to Non-economicGoals', Mains~am (18-25 March). Dunn, Jobn. 1972. Modem Revolution: An Introduction to the Analysis of a Political Phenomenon. London: Cambridge University Press. &-k IUfd PolilialJ W«kly. 1978. ~ther Movement in the Making', Economic and PoliticalWeekly,13(10), March: 483. Gandhi,P.C. 1978. 'Leading Bihar to Caste War', Sunday(April 9). Gurr,T.R. 1967~ . 'Psycholo gical Factors in Civil Violence', WorldPolitics,20. --. 1970. Why Men Rebel. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Harrison, Sell&1960. /ndia the Most DangerousDecades. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Jones, D.E. and R.W.Jones. 1976.'Urban Upheaval in India: The 1974Nav Ninnan Riots in Gujarat' ,.AsianSurvey, 16(11) (November): 1012-33. Kothari, ~nt. 1960. 'Direct Action', Quest, 24: 21- 35. Lasswelland Kaplan. 1950.Powerand Society:A Frameworkfor PoliticalEnquiry. New Haven: Yale University Press. Miller, A.H., LH. Boice and M. Halligan. 1977. 'The J-Curve Theory and the Black Urban Riots: An Empirical Test of Progressive Relative Deprivation Theory', The American PoliticalScienc.eReview, 71(3).



Narayan, H. 1978. 'Back to Populis.m , Forward to War', Sunday(April 9) . Narayan, Jayaprakasb. 1978. 'Dissolve the Constituent Assembly ' in Brahmanand (ed .), TowardsTotalRevolution:Politicsin India, Vol. 2. Bombay: Popular Prakashan . Pant, K.C. 1973. 'Violence in a Period of Social Change', YoungIndia, 3(29-30). Saunders, George(ed .). 1974. Saniizdat, Voicesof the Soviet Opposition. New York : Monal Press . Shah, Gbanshyam. 1974. ' Upsurge in Gujarat ', Economic and PolilicalWeekly,9(3234), Augu st : 1429-1454. --. 1976. 'The 1975 Gujarat Assembly Election in India' , Asian Survey, 16(3) (March) : 270-82 . --. 1977a. 'Revolution, Reform or Protest ', Economic and PoliticalWeekly, 11(1517), April-May : 605- 702. -. 1977b. Protest Movements in Two Indian Stares. Delhi : Ajanta Books International. - - . 1978a. 'The 1977 Lok Sabha Elections in Gujarat ', PoliticalScience Review (April-June). --. 1978b. ' Gandhian Approach to Rural Development ', Ideas a.ndAction, 125: 3-6. Sbetb, P.N.1977. Nav Ninnan and PoliticalChangein India. Bombay: Vora and Co. Sbetty, S.L 1978. 'Structural Retrogression in the Indian Economy Since the MidSixties' , Economic and PoliticalWeekly,13(6- 7)(February) : 185- 244. Sinha, A.P. 1974.AgitationalBehavioursin a State Capital:A CaseStudy of Bihar.New Delhi : Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (mimeograph) . Slalisti.c:al Abstracts India. 1972. New Delhi : The Controller of Publications. Wood,John. 1975. 'Extra -Parliamentary Opposition in India : An Analysis of Populi st Agitations in Gujarat and Bihar' , PacificAffairs, 48(3)(Fall) : 313-34 .


Little Nationalism Turned Chauvinist: Assam's Anti-Foreigner Upsurge, 1979-80


Not being convinced that Assam's so-called anti-foreigner movement is a cudgel of chauvinism,Gail Omvedt (1980) raises some pertinent questions in EPW (Omvedt 1980) and she herself answers these in Frontier(7 June 1980). In the wake of the movement, the month of January saw an anti-Bengali pogrom in North Kamrup. In March she suggeststhat, to understand the events correctly, we need an analysis of 'the fundamental class/national characteristics of the society and the movement' as well as of the 'objective basis' for the autochthons' fear that 'they and their cultural-national identity may be swept by the Bengali influx'. She almost jumps to the conclusionand this without the necessary homework-that the agitation is one of national self-determination. In her June article, she further says: The basic Assamese fear is not so much of losingjobs to Bengalis (or other 'outsiders') but of losing their land. This is a much more basic issue, because it calls into question one of the defining characteristics of a nationality, that of a territory; and the loss of territory to people who settle on it tends to be permanent.

362 Amalendu Guha

In his articles in EPW, Sanjib Kumar Baruah (1980a and b), too, refuses to take note of the chauvinist and middle class character of the Assam movement and holds that, despite contradictions, it is in essence a legitimate, non-violent and peaceful rebellion of the Assamese civil society for self-expression. Like Gail Omvedt, Baruah too rationalizes the agitation in terms of supposed dangers from the Bengali influx to the autochthons' cultural-national identity, but with one difference. He avoids the term 'self-determination', and prefers to talk of Assamese sub-nationalism. This is understandable. For , his frame of reference is not multinational India in the Marxist style, but India 's 'plural society', a concept borrowed from the neocolonialist social scientists-Chicago sociologists and Cambridge historians, for example-who attempt to deny usefulness of such categories as class and nationalism in the case of Third World countries like India. Yet another contributor to EPW, Tilottama Misra (1980), highlights the movement as one essentially set against extra-regional big business domination over the region's economy. Over the months the movement has been able, she says, to make the common people aware of the big business stranglehold being the cause of economic underdevelopment. According to her, the present exploitation of Assam is in no way different from what one experienced in the colonial period; it now reflects the domination of a small nationality by the rest of India. Misra 's is an attempt to provide the economic rationale for what she passes as a popular struggle for self-determination. In an attempt to understand the Assam movement in relation to the national question, we shall take up the issues raised by the abovementioned authors and offer our own comments. Throughout this article, we shall mean by the term ½ssam ese' all inhabitants who have their domicile in the present state of Assam, whether of origin or of choice; and by the term ½samiya' , those among st them who profess Asamiya to be their natural or acquired mother tongue. Thus, the neo-Asamiyas , i.e., those immigrants and tribal autochthons who have adopted Asamiya as their language are also covered by the term ½samiya', unless otherwise stated. Little nationalism is defined by us as a spiritual sentiment that holds together a group of people claiming a common cultural-regional identity (to distinguish themselves from the other groups) and desirous of a degree of autonomy within the larger nation-state . India continues to be a melting pot of several yet-unconsolidated nationalities which simultaneously tend

Uttk Natioftalina 7krud Cl,auvinist


to merge with each other. Hence, one has to take note of the flexibility of the situation and avoid ascribing finality to any national formation, as it is found today, within the larger concept of the growing Indian nationhood .

Assamese Society: Its National and Class Characteristics The present state of Assam as well as the horizon of the Assamese society is much larger than what it was under the Ahom Kings. During the last 100years of its existence, or even before , the Ahom Kingdom of Assam did not include the districts of Goalpara, Cachar and the North Cachar Hills within its territory. After its annexation in 1826 to British India, the erstwhile Ahom territory or Assam Proper (i.e., Kamrup, Nowgong, Darrang , Lakhimpur, Dibrugarh , Sibsagar and Karbi Anglong districts of today) became a new division of the Bengal Presidency. Later, during 1874-1947, it used to form part of a separate province- an amalgam of Asamiya-speaking, Bengalispeaking and myriad-tongued hills tribal areas-in which Asamiya was the claimed mother tongue of less than a quarter and Bengali of more than 40 per cent of the population . As a result of the progressive reorganization of the state during 1947-72, on the basis of the linguistic principle, the state of Assam today is 61 per cent Asamiya-speaking, another 8 per cent speaking indigenous tribal languages. However, 99.3 per cent of the state's Asamiya-speakers are concentrated in the seven districts of the Brahmaputra Valley, which homeland they share with tribal autochthons spread over pockets of concentration . In each of the two other regions-(a) the hills region enjoying a degree of autonomy under the Sixth Schedule of our Constitution, (i.e., the districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills) and (b) the outlying district of Cachar-the Asamiyas constitute an insignificant linguistic minority (as the Bengalis do in two subdivisions of Darjeeling in West Bengal). In Cachar, their home district, Cachar-Bengalis constitute 78 per cent of the population while the Asarniyas there account for less than 0.05 per cent. Besides, there are other minorities as well, such as the Meiteis. The tangled national question of Assam cannot be comprehended unless this historically evolved regional-cultural pattern is constantly kept in mind (See Table 14.1).

Tobie 14.1 Mother Tongue-wiseDistribution of Population i


'°'"· "' c;

Brahmaputra Valley





Mishing Meitei Dimasa Garo Munda Santai . Others Total population

Not available


Not available



CacharP (thou

1,3 1



Not av


Source: Census of India 1971,Series3 Assam Part 1-A GeneralReport, Tobie VII, 2, p. 91 and TobieC-V-B.

Littk Ntztionalisa Turned Chauvinist


It was Anandaram Dhekiyal-Phukan (1829-59) who first talked of an Assamese 'nation' and made language the unifying symbol of its modem national consciousness. He also saw it as a member of the family of nationalities that, today, form the Indian Union. Of the 89 lakh Asamiya-speakers of India in 1971,99.4 per cent were enumerated in Assam and only 0.6 per cent in other parts of the country. Only 6 per cent of the Asamiyas live in towns as against a corresponding 18 per cent in the case of the state's Bengalis. The gap will be much narrower if the village-dwelling Muslim immigrants from East Bengal, who have adopted Asamiya as their language, are not accepted as Asamiyas and deemed as Bengalis. These indices of spatial immobility and low urbanization are nevertheless revealing. Because of a retarded and distorted economic growth under colonial conditions,the ongoingprocess of nationality-formation,too, remained handicapped in Assam as elsewhere in India. Ever since its beginnings in the early nineteenth century, our nationalism has been developing at two levels one all-India, on the basis of pan-Indian cultural homogeneities and an anti-imperialism shared in common; and another regional (Bengali, Marathi, Asamiya, etc.), on the basis of regional-cultural homogeneities. From the very outset, the two nationalisms are found intertwined and dovetailed. lraditionally, an average Indian identifieshimselfwith both the nationalismsexcept in some peripheral areas (e.g., Nagaland and Mizoram), left untouched by the railways and by the Indian national movement. Assam is, however, fairly integrated with the rest of India, both economically, culturally and politically. Like an average Indian, an average Asamiya, too, is simultaneously aware of both his regional and Indian identities. Madhav Dev, a sixteenth-century Vaishnava saint of Assam, wrote in a verse that he was proud of his birth in 'Bharata', and this fact is often invoked as a symbol of the latter identity. Yet another aspect of the development is that, after the British had quit, no particular nationality could be identified as an oppressor nation in relation to other nationalities within the Union, as the Russians could be in the Czarist State. The duality of our national consciousness found expression in the articulated attitudes of Dhekiyal-Phukan, Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay and M.G. Ranade, and also the later heirs to their tradition. In his presidential address at the annual conference of the Asam Sahitya Sabha at Dhubri in 1926, Benudhar Rajkhova (1872-1955), for instance, said:

366 AnsalenduGuha

Let all nationalities (jati) of India follow their own paths. The Brahmaputra, the Ganga, the Yamuna , the Kaveri, the Sindhu-let all of them go on and flow along their respective courses. Let there be no attempts to merge one with the other. Finally, all will converge in the Indian Ocean, that is the Indian nation (mahajati). Troubles will increase if any other method is resorted to for creating the Indian nation (author 's translation). Rajkhova was happy to note in the course of the same address that a large number of Bengali Muslims from the neighbouring district of Mymensingh had settled in Assam, and he predicted that they would all be proud to call them selves Asamiyas in due course. His prediction came out to be true . Asamiya little nationalism began to take shape since the 1850s through political mobilization by the Asamiya middle class on the language issue and, later, on the job and land issues as well. It gradually developed as a comprehensive ideology that underwent orga nized consolidation during the 1920s. Though basically protectionist and defensive till about 1947,Asamiya little nationalism had; by then, assumed an aggressive tone as well. For example, while presiding over the annual conference of the Asam Sahitya Sabha in 1927,Tarunram Phukan (1877-1939) said: We, Asamiyas, are a distinct nationality (jati) amongst Indians. Though our language is Sanskrit-based, it is a distinct language. A risingnationalilyshows signs of life /Jyway of extendingdomination over others. Alas! it is otherwise (with us); we are incapable of selfdefence today! We are not only dependent, but even a dependent neighbour is trying to swallow us, taking advantage of our helplessness . Brother Asamiya! recollect your past glory to have an understanding of the present situation (author's translation and emphasis). '

Seeds of chauvinism sown by such speeches were sure to germinate in due course . However, until about 1947, Asamiya little nationalism was not a cudgel and there were no language or racial riots . As the Asamiya middle class emerged strong~r and more ambitious than ever after Sylhet was shaken off its back, its little nationalism started degenerating into chauvinism and minority-baiting. R.P. Vaghaiwalla, as census superintendent for Assam in 1951, did not fail to take note of this

Littk Nationalinre TunaedChauvinist


new trend of 'aggressive linguistic nationalism'. Riots directed against non-Asamiyas in 1948, 1950, 1960, 1968, 1972 and 1980 in the Brahmaputra Valley bear him out. Large-scale genocides, giving expression to anti-Bengali hatred, in particular, began to take place from 1960 onward. Both at the all-India and regional levels, the emergence of nationalism was a middle-class phenomenon. At the top of the society were the foreign capitalists and their allies, the big landlords; and at its bottom, the primary producers-the toiling peasants, artisans and workers. The middle positions were held by Indian industrialists, traders, petty landlords and various sections of the petty bourgeoisie, urban and rural. A middle class wants to project its own interests as the interests of a large group so that the latter could be politically mobilized in the struggle for power. This is how Indian nationalism as well as regional little nationalism originated. The former aimed at consolidating the all-India market and reserving it for Indian middle classes to the exclusion of the foreign domination. The latter was and is interested in developing the regional market as an exclusive preserve of the regional middle class or classes. Under colonial constraints, Assam failed to develop a viable capitalist class of its own. By now North Indian big bourgeoisie, in collaboration with foreign capital, are well-entrenched in and at the top of Assam's economy, but there is no Asamiya (for that matter even Bengali) big bourgeois to share the market with them. Asamiya business houses that could be ranked as middle bourgeoisie would hardly exceed half a dozen in number. The Asamiya middle class is therefore virtually constituted of small capitalists and other sections of the petty bourgeoisie including professionals and service-holders; many of them are also simultaneously small landlords. They and their Assam-based Bengali rivals (mostly long settled in Assam or sons of the soil in Cachar) operate at the margin of the big capital-dominated economy-in petty industries, petty trade, professions and administrative services. It is these economic circumstances, and not land relations, that largely explain the traditional anti-Bengali edge of Asamiya little nationalism. Problem of land, too, is a relevant issue, which we shall discuss in a following section. The Asamiya middle class believed-and British civil servants encouraged them in the past to do so-that their own people would be turned into a minority in their homeland unless the Bengali Muslim peasants' incessant influx into the Brahmaputra Valley since about 1905 was checked.

368 A.ffUllnulaGa/aa

This fear complex was built into their ideology and has been constantly harped on since the 1920s. They raised the cry of the Asamiya nationality and their cultural foothold being in danger with a view to mobilizing the peasant masses behind them. Little nationalism had an idealism of its own too. Local patriots dug up the ancient glory of the land and rediscovered its literature, art and music . They proudly recalled the sphynx-like reappearance of their language after prolonged suppr~ion during 1837-73. Mother language was looked upon as a sacred vehicle of collective selfassertion. They also found it convenient to identify the Bengali as the stumbling block on their way to progress and cultivated a sense of grievance against him. The grievance was based, amongst others, on the fact that the Asamiyas were under-represented and Bengalis over-represented in the services and professions in the province . Lachit Phukan , the seventeenth-century hero who defeated the Mughals at the battle of Saraighat in 1671 was projected as the symbol of resistance to immigrating outsiders . All little nationalists were not necessarily chauvinists. There was scope for one to remain a local patriot and an Indian nationalist at the same time. Local administration by, and jobs for, the sons of the soil, introduction of Asamiya as the only medium of instruction in all schools, a halt to settlement of wastelands with immigrants for protection of the indigenous peasants' interests and reorganization of the multilingual province into a linguistic one with Asamiya as the official language-these were the demands that sustained Asamiya little nationalism over the decades . In the 1940s when the danger of the , province being absorbed into East Pakistan (Group C of Cabinet Mission Plan , 1946) became imminent, the anti-grouping agitation, • an assertion of faith in both Indian unity and local autonomy, was led by the local Congress and Left parties, in defiance of the All-India Congress Committee 's contrary stand. It was largely because of this stiff opposition that the Cabinet Mission Plan failed , and a partition of India and Assam followed. Henceforth , Bengali-speaking populous Sylhet ceased to be a part of Assam . Jyoti Prasad Agarwala (1903-51)-Congressman , litterateur and founder -president of Assam 's IPTA movement-showed how local patriotism , Indian nationalism and internationalism could go together. Whatever was progressive , democratic and legitimate in the demands raised by Asamiya little nationalism did find a place in the programme the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee stood for , For example , it

Littk Nationalism Tunud Chauvinist


stood for reorganization of the province on a linguistic basis and was in favour of the line system as a check to uncontrolled immigration in the Brahmaputra Valley. This committee had its jurisdiction only over the Brahmaputra Valley-the traditional Asamiya homelandand, later, also Shillong . Bengali-speaking Cachar and Sylhet were , on the other hand, under the jurisdiction of the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee until 1947. Nevertheless, despite provocations from Asamiya and Bengali chauvinists, the two committees were, by and large, able to make a common anti-imperialist cause and stand together on the Sylhet question till 1946. The separate platform of Asamiya little nationalism was constituted of the Asam Sahitya Sabha (estd in 1917) and the Asamiya Samrakshini Sabha (estd in 1926 and renamed Asam Jatiya Mahasabha in the 1930s). Generally, it used to attract government servants, client intellectuals and Congress drop-outs. Nilmani Phukan (1~1978) and Ambikagiri Raychaudhuri (1885-1967) emerged as their dedicated leaders. Bengali loyalists and chauvinists of the Brahmaputra Valley, on the other hand, looked forward to the Assam Domiciled and Settlers' Association (estdin 1935 and renamed Assam Citizens' Association by 1940, but soon defunct) professedly for the defence of the civil and political rights of all persons having their domicile of choice in Assam. Assamese masses paid least attention to these divisive forces and did not allow themselves to be distracted by such influences from their participation in the anti-imperialist national upsurge . When the Congress and allied Left parties were busy fighting imperialism , the Asamiya little nationalist platform went on projecting British civil servants like Bampfylde Fuller , P.R.T. Gordon and C.S. Mullan as saviours of the Asamiya people. Imperialism encouraged regionalism to counter the Congress movement and looked upon its high priests as allies of the Raj . Rai Bahadur S.I(. Bhuyan (1894-1964), who did painstaking and path-breaking research to invoke historical and cultural symbols of Asamiya little nationalism, was nominated to the membership of the Gauhati Municipal Board during the Non-Cooperation days, to act as a check upon the Congress bloc therein. Later in the 1940s, he was pursuaded to leave his teaching job in the Cotton College to join the National War Front. Other instances of little nationalists ' collaborationist role could also be cited. While many Asamiya tea planters were with the Congress, wealthier and more powerful ones clung to British imperialism and the

370 Amalendu Guha

Asamiya movement. To propagate the cause, Sivaprasad Baruathe biggest As~iya and Indian tea planter of his times-started in the 1930s Assam's first and shortlived daily newspaper, the Dainik Batori, with Nilmoni Phukan as its editor. It was in course of an article published in this news-daily in 1937 that Jnananath Bora, a law teacher, held out the frivolous threat of Assam's secession from India, obviously to blackmail the Congress movement. This happened even before the Muslim League had taken a similar move. Bora's was still a lone voice, not backed even by his own class, not to speak of the peasant masses who were then deeply involved in the Congress and its Ryot Sabha movement. Later, in the 1940s, the masses continued to respond to the antiimperialist struggle and gave electoral support to the Congress, rather than to the little nationalist platform. The Congress stood for separation of Sylhet from Assam, but tried to maintain the broadest possible Assamese unity by sb.elving parochial demands, like the imposition of Asamiya on the unwilling minorities, that might divide the people. It was only after the 1950s that Assam began to shrink in area with every retreat the Congress made before the tide of rising chauvinism. The Asam Sahitya Sabha's recent demand at its Raha session, 1980, for denying the major minorities their existing privilege of using their own respective mother tongues as the media of instruction in schools even in their own localities has come as a threat, sowing seeds of dissension in Cachar and tribal areas. In pre-1947 Assamese society then, the Asamiya middle class and peasantry were under greater influence of the ideals of Indian nationalism than of region-based little nationalism. The social base of the latter remained narrow. Neither the Congress nor the Asamiya little nationalists had mentionable influence over the tribal, Muslim and tea garden labour masses. This reflected a certain degree of nonintegration within the Assamese society, no doubt. Nevertheless economic, political and social forces of integration were silently at work and , with elimination of many of the colonial constraints, emerged stronger during the post-Independence period. Howeve.r retarded or distorted, some economic development did take place in Assam attracting hundreds and thousands of peasants and workers-a sizeable number of them from neighbouring Bengal-to the farms, mines, plantations and towns during the last one century and a half. As a result , there has been both diversification and interpenetration of social groups. Through the latter process,

Littk Nationalism 'Iumed Chauvinist


the Asamiya society has emerged numerically stronger and culturally more enriched. It has to gain more from the continuing process of voluntary integration. The limited economic development and assimilation that had taken place despite colonial restraints is an indisputable fact today that can no longer be nullified with retrospective effect. The solution of Assam's national question, looked at from a Marxist point of view, therefore lies not in putting the clock back, but in an emphasis on assimilation and a halt to further immigration for the sake of 'national peace'.

Class/National Characteristics of the Movement These are some of the roots of the chauvinism that is now resurgent and is represented by the Asam Sahitya Sabha, the Asam Jatiyatavadi Dal and the Purbanchaliya Loka Parishad (PLP)-the latter two floated around 1977. The PLP has a wider vision than the Sabha and the Dal, to the extent that its plans and programmes relate to the entire north-east region that consists of seven sister states. The Sabha, Dal and Parishad, these three are the main constituents of the Gana Sangram Parishad-the united front of all Asamiya regionalnationalist forces-which has over 1,200 branches in the state. The Asam Sahitya Sabha, alone, has 700 branches of its own. In the 1970s, every annual conference of the Sabha was attended by several lakhs of people. It is a unique institution which, though actively and formally involved in the current movement, also happens to be a UGCrecognized research body. The All Assam Students' Union (AASU) is another important organization which, together with the Asam Sahitya Sabha, spearheaded the 1972 Asarniya language movement, was in the forefront of the second refinery movement in 1970 as well as the food movement in 1966 and is, again, in the forefront of the current agitation. It represents the student power that has added respectability to chauvinism and a spirit of dedication to the cause. While untangling Assam's tangled national question, Sanjib Kumar Baruah brings into focus not the social classes, but such categories as 'ethnicity', demographic imbalance and 'plural society' as the key determinants of 'the logic of political power' in the given situation . But this logic, we assume, cannot be autonomous in operation, it

372 Amalendu Gulla

requires the mediation of a class or class-in-making in need of that political power. In Baruah's analysis, too, one finds the students and 'socio-cultural and literary bodies' as the mediators in the process through which the mass agitation is fed with myths and perhaps 'a false consciousness'. But in terms of economic interests whom do these students (AASU) and the socio-cultural and literary bodies (Asam Sahitya Sabha) represent? Asamiya toiling peasants and workers? No. They represent the Asamiya middle class or classes, as defined by us, constituted of bourgeois-landlord and petty bourgeois elements. In our view and as its chronology is sketched below, the agitation was started by the Asamiya capitalists and gentry through the communication media they control, and the students and other sections of the petty bourgeoisie including sections of peasants were gradually drawn into it. Ethnicity was not a given factor to which politics responded; rather, ethnicity-awareness was encouraged and exploited by the upper classes for political ends. Although the present movement was formally launched by the students in a big way only a year back, its preparations were being made by the Asamiya bourgeoisie since 1978. Hard-pressed by big capital from above and the rising labour and peasant m,ovement from below and, at the same time, being internally divided by caste politics, the Asamiya upper classes are terribly agitated about the economic stagnation. Not being strong and resourceful enough, they are hardly optimistic about pushing out big capital from positions of domination in industries and trade. So they aspire to monopolize what residual is left over, that is, small industries and petty trade as well as professions and services in their state. Their survival, they think, is dependent on three conditions: (a) elimination of Bengali and other competitors (for instance, at one stage, the AASU demanded even the abolition of all reservations in the matter of jobs and scholarships for Scheduled Castes and Tribes); (b) opportunities of intensification of labour exploitation, unhindered by trade unions (for instance , on 6 November, 1979, Nibaran Bora publicly gave out his call to smash the 'Bengalidominated' trade unions and, still earlier, Jatiyatavadi volunteers had helped city bus owners to break the strike of Gauhati city bus workers; and

Link Natitntalins 7unud Cllauvinist


(c) unhindered control over the state administration for the creation of bureaucratic capital of which the Asamiya upper classes could be made the beneficiaries. The spurt in the Left activities since 1977 goaded them to consolidate their forces on the basis of a chauvinist political programme, which alone was deemed effective to nip the threat in the bud. The cudgel of chauvinism is handy for capitalists and landlords on several considerations. It could be used to cut to size not only Bengali and other non-Asamiya competitors, but also their workers and tenant farmers, a large number of whom are non-Asamiya , by dividing them . Third, by blackmailing the centre through connivance with clandestine threats of secessionism , more local power could be gained for the Asamiya upper classes. For, the cake has to be now larger indeed to accommodate new middle-class elements from the neo-Asamiya community, heretofore backward but now forcing their way up with claims to a share of the spoils. The bourgeois-landlord chauvinists skilfully used the press and other communication media to create an impression amongst the politically backward sections of the people that the Bengalis, as a community, are opposed to the aspirations of the Asamiyas, that they are all Leftists and that all Leftists in Assam are , in general, a mere agency of Bengali expansionism in eastern India . This stand helped the Asamiya middle class to overcome the caste politics oriented to the Ujani Asam Rajya Parishad and the other backward communities (OBCs) faction and emerge united out of the chaos that the divided Congress house was. This stand also initially helped the chauvinists to win over to their cause, or at least neutralize , the local Marwari business houses representing traders, tea planters and industrialists, who were themselves victims of a racial hate campaign and riots during 1966-68. It misled the backward toilers and caused a division in the trade unions and the liquidation of some of them . How the initial phase of the agitation developed 'by and large peacefully' with blessings of the press, organized intimidations and jingoist wall writings, how ceaseless protest meetings fed with myths and false statistics since 1978 finally culminated into a mass hysteria after September 1979 and how this hysteria led to large-scale antiBengali pogroms in January and May-June of 1980 is interesting to trace from the files of the local press. An obscure piece of research in a departmental journal of the Dibrugarh University, misconstrued to

, 374 Amalendu Guha

reflect its author's anti-Asamiya attitude, the misbehaviour of a player of the East Bengal Club in a football match at Guwahati, the naming of the conference venue of the P & T Workers' Unions in the Cotton College campus as Bhupendra Nagar in honour of late B.N. Ghosh, an eminent trade unionist of all-India stature-all these were turned into contro _versial and nasty public issues by the chauvinist local press, ostensively to provoke communal ill-feelings and parochialism. Untruths and slanders were spread about the Bengali's role in Assam. Articles in dozens appeared to convince the credulous masses that if the toiling non-Asamiyas were pushed out, their shares of the cake would go to the sons of the soil. It was as early as in July 1978 that the working committee of the Asam Sahitya Sabha passed a resolution expressing exaggerated concern over the fresh influx of immigrants across the border . The Dainik Asam flashed the news with startling headlines and devoted unusually large space to cover it. Doubtful statistics, often emanating from high officials, continued to be poured into publicity to exaggerate the influx and outsiders' domination over Assam's economy, polity and culture. In an editorial article entitled 'Nationalism: In Whose Interest?' in its October 1978 issue, the Sampratik Samayi.kii, a progressive Asamiya monthly, viewed the rising chauvinism as an indication that the conspiracy of the national and international vested interests against the growing Leftist forces had started yielding its bitter fruits. The editor deplored the complacency and lack of political will on the part of the Left to close their ranks and forestall any further worsening of the situation by an alternative programme of Left and democratic unity to combat the danger and, at the same time, to voice the frustrations and injured feelings of the Assamese people. From June 1979 onwards, the press directed its hatred campaign almost exclusively against the so-called 'Bangladeshis'-all post-1951 East Pakistan migrants and their progeny, most of whom did not possess readily acceptable documents to prove their Indian citizenship in a no longer permissive setup. The insistence on documents exposed also the pre-1951 Bengali settlers to humiliations of the foreigner-hunt. The campaign was against immigrants from Nepal as well. 'Detect, Disenfranchise and Deport the Foreigners' and 'No Deletion, No Election' were the populist demands that emerged out of the campaign. On 8 June 1979, there was the first-ever 12-hour Assam Bandh called by the AASU to back the demand of foreign

Little Natioltalism Turned Chauvinist


nationals' expulsion. On 26 August, the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad was formed. Then followed the unprecedented popular upsurge in the form of mass sit-ins, picketings, satyagrahas, strikes and a mass signature campaign-all these culminating into the 34hour Assam Bandh on 3 December. Meanwhile, printing press owners, as an organized body, had refused to print the electoral rolls for the parliamentary election of 1979-80. On 10 December 1979 the movement claimed its first martyr who reportedly died of a CRP lathi charge on that day. On 18 December, lakhs of people took oath to carry on life-long struggle until all foreigners were ousted. The year ended with the observance of a state-wide non-co-o~ration week , and the new year began with a 58-hour Assam Bandh. On 3 January, the movement claimed a second martyr, who had been murdered under mysterious circumstances . Then followed the largescale genocide in Kamrup. Boycott of the election all over the state, excepting Cachar, was complete. Even gazetted officers on election duty mostly refused to cooperate with the government. Oil was refused to the rest of India. Schools and colleges were closed. During the period from the collapse of the last Lok Sabha to the installation of the Indira Gandhi government into power in January 1980, there was virtually no administration in Assam, and the officers were often seen taking their orders from the AASU and the Gana Sangram Parishad. Over the months, the movement demonstrated that it could mobilize hundreds and thousands of people without disturbing peace or creating violence , if it so wished. This was feasible also because dissident political and linguistic minorities preferred not to come in their way by holding parallel meetings and processions to disapprove of some of their slogans and methods. The minorities were submissive in general. Yet incidents of intimidation, arson and violence continued to mount from August 1979 resulting in an exodus of Bengali and Nepali settlers in trickles. Soon the government of West Bengal was forced to open two camps in Jalpaiguri district to accommodate them. Swelling to 10,000 souls by now, they are mostly evicted peasants, tenant farmers, artisans and fishermen . Nepali refugees of Assam origin who found their way to Kathmandu are graziers and peasants and/or retired armymen. The People's Union of Civil Liberties, New Delhi, constituted a fact-finding committee with G.P. Deshpande, Dhirendra Sarma and Chamanlal of the Jawaharlal Nehru University on the Assam Unrest

376 Amakndu Guha

(Mainstream, 8 March 1980). After their week-long investigations in Assam during 9-16 February 1980, they submitted a report which is revealing . Between August 1979 and 16 February, altogether 23 persons got killed in Dibrugarh district alone; of them 6 including 4 claimed as martyrs died of police firing and 17 were killed by mob violence or unknown assailants . Of the latter 17, one was an Asamiya and the rest non-Asamiyas, mostly Bengalis as the names suggest. The Committee submitted a long list of persons known to have been killed in other district s as well, but could not make it exhaustive . The January genocide in North Kamrup alone caused death of some 200 persons , according to some non-official estimates; dead bodies of only some 80 persons, however, could be found and identified and all of them, excepting two including a non -Asamiya CRP jawan belonged to linguistic or religious minorities . Nearly 25,000 people were rendered homeless by large -scale arson . Retaliatory killings and arsons in Lower . Assam, particularly in Nowgong, for days together in the wake of the observance of the Assam Minority Students ' Unions ' Protest Day on 26 May 1980, far surpassed even what had happened in North Kamrup. As the Daily Assam Tribune reported, on its eve the pre sident of the AASU had asked the people to 'crush ' the count er-agitation . Mor e than 3 lakh peopl e had come out on the streets in protest de spite the threat. The Assam arm ed police acted in a partisan manner and , on one spot at Bijni alone , mowed down at least 23 persons including children on a single day, thus surpassing the earlier record of killing 4 participants of the movement at Duliajan on 18 January. According to some non-official estimates, the number of deaths due to violence, directly and indirectly connected with the year-old movement so far is a thou sand or so. The butchering of minorities went underreported and mostly unlamented in the local bourgeois press and on the platform of the movement. There has been premature and even late attempts at making the CPl(M) and a certain statement of Jyoti Basu in November 1979 the scapegoat for all that happened in Assam. What was that statement? It expressed nothing but goodwill for the Assamese people and concern about what would happen if the West Bengal-bound exodus were to attain serious proportions. Even the Daily Assam Tribune, 8 November 1979, otherwise rabidly partisan to the movement, found it innocent and published the news along with a gist of Basu's view

Link Natinalint

n.rnal Chauvinist 377

under the following caption : 'Fear of Assamese about Outsiders is Genuine and Real-Says Jyoti Basu'. In course of its resolution dated 21 September and a note submitted to the government-sponsored all-party meeting at Delhi on 28 November 1980, the Assam State Committee of the CPI(M) called for an immediate sealing off of the Bangladesh border to stop inftltration and start detecting and deporting the real foreigners, in accordance with the country's law and international agreements. The CPI, CPI(M) and other Left parties, too, bad taken a similar stand on the foreigner issue. But all these parties insisted, at the same time, on the due process of law so that citizens of the minority communities were not harassed in the wake of the foreigner-hunt. They were all aware that the so-called 1951 national register of citizens was not admissible as a proof of one's citizenship under the Indian Evidence Act, as had been noted in a judgment of the Gauhati High Court. This conditional and limited support to the cause was interpreted as half-hearted, even mischievous, and violent attacks were concentrated on the Left in general and the CPl(M) in particular. So far, frve CPI and two CPI(M) cadres-the latter on 2 July 1980-have been killed by fanatics let loose by the movement. On 17 August, the press in which the Asamiya progressive weekly, Ka/akhar, is printed was attacked and damaged, and a students' and youth rally, opposed to the movement, at Gauhati was broken up by force. These are only select instances of the reign of terror. Hundreds of Leftist cadres have been beaten up , tortured and maimed, expelled from their villages or are under social boycott. They are facing all these brutalities with exemplary heroism, to defend the principles of a consistent democracy. In July and August , seven all-India parties jointly held a series of successful public meetings in select towns, as had been carefully planned, to assert their freedom of expression and movement. This has provoked the AASU president to come out with a public threat that they will no longer be 'allowed' to carry on their counter-agitation. What is the character of the movement then? Although it has the appearance of an Asamiya national movement, its content is undemocratic and rabidly anti -Left. Its methods are double-faced and protofascist. The destructive anger it roused has been directed not against bourgeois and landlord properties, not even bureaucratic properties, but against the thatched huts and liberty of a section of the poor people and the dissidents. Aspirations of the Asamiya middle class are well-articulated in course of the agitation and propaganda, but not

378 Amakndu Guha


the anti-feudal demands of the peasantry. Another noticeable feature of the movement is a tendency to disown the humanist-liberal and intellectual elements in the national heritage of Asamiya culture and to revive its clerical, conservative aspects . Thoughts of Joytiprasad Agarwala and Bishnu Rabha are being misconstrued , divested of some of their humanist -liberal content and misused for the purposes of the movement. (Both Agarwala and Rabha were, incidentally, progressive and internationist in outlook; the former died as a close friend and the latter as an active leader of the communist movement in Assam.) Hen ce, despite mass participation , the middle-class character of the movement cannot be denied . More about this in a fol lowing section.

Bengali Influx and Fear Psychosis Who are the foreigners? In 1978 and early 1979, the terms, 'bideshi' (foreigner) and 'bahiragata' (outsider) were used interchangeably. These terms not only covered non-Indian s, but also tho se Indians who had come to Assam from India 's other states . Later, the Asam Sahitya Sabha-the intellectual wing and seniormost constituent of the Gana Sangram Parishad-intervened to narrow down the meaning of the term to post -1951 immigrants from foreign countries with questionable citizenship status, and this got wide acceptance amongst the other constituent s of the movement. It represented a major tactical shift. The AASU and the Gana Sangram Parishad estimate the number of such foreigners at 45 lakh, almost all of them of Bengali stock. This means that the AASU and the GSP want nearly one -fourth of Assam 's present estimated population of 188 lakh to be declared stateless and removed. They are mostly toiling peasants, artisans and workers, born or residing in the state for a period up to 30 years, virtually as naturalized citizens. They were given shelter and relief, and in many cases even wastelands by the government. Besides, patronage and hospitality were also extended to them by their Asamiya neighbours, so that they could make Assam their new home . Being poor and illiterate and because of con stant mobility in search of a living and in the wake of recurrent race riots , most settlers lost their 'border slips', camp cards and even refugee registration

Little Nationalum TurnedChauvinist


certificates . They failed to take advantage of the constitutional provisions for their naturalization because of these reasons and general indolence. For their failure, the bureaucracy is also to be blamed. For it did not provide easy and inexpensive access to such a validation procedure . Whatever be their formal status now, these settlers are, in any case, already assimilated or are on the way to assimilation. That there has been large-scale immigration of Bengalis to Assam, mainly from Sylhet-once part of Assam-and East Bengal during the last seven decades and that the state's population has been growing at an alarming decadal rate of 35 per cent since 1951 are wellknown facts. But what is not noted generally is that more than fourfifths of the decadal population growth is due to natural growth and only about one-fifth due to immigration . Space does not permit us to elaborate the basis of our estimate here, except for one exercise. Let us take the indigenous tribes listed for the Brahmaputra Valley who constitute 11 per cent of its population. These listed tribes are Bodo/Bodokachari, Mech, Hojai, Kachari/Sonowal, Tiwa (Lalung), Rabha, Deuri and Mishing(Miri), whose number outside the valley is insignificant. In fact, they are conspicuously absent in Bangladesh or any other foreign country. The tribal population under scrutiny is visibly almost free of any migration-induced demographic change. Yet the rate of population growth for this tribal group for the decade 1961-71 is as high as 41 per cent as against a 38 per cent growth for the Brahmaputra Valley population as a whole (Tobie 14.2). Even with a reasonable margin of error allowed, the tribal case surely demonstrates a very high rate of natural growth in Assam. This is due to a high birth rate and lowered death rate resulting from public health measures. This cuts to size the exaggerated role ascribed to migration Tobie 14.2 Distribution of Scheduled Tribe Population of Assam

No. in Thousands

Brahmaputra Valley Autonomous Hills Area Cachar State of As&lm

Dtcadal PercentageGrowth





943 211 14 1,168

1,329 263 15 1,607

386 52 I 439

40.9 24.6 7.1 37.5

Nole: The enumeration is tribe-wise , not language-wise . Source: Processed from relevant census data in 'Statistical Handbook , Assam', · Guwahati, Annual Series.


Arnalndu Guha 'Dible 14.3: 1971 Population, Assam-Mizoram (Birth Place Data on the Basis of 1 Per Cent Sample) Bomin

Assam and Mizoram

Other Indian states Pakistan Nepal Other foreign countries Total population

Number (Thousand)

Pucentage to TotalPopulation

13,213 701 931 92





4.7 6.2

0.6 100

Source: G.K. Mehrotra, 'Birth Place Migration in India', Census of India 1971, Spe-

cial Monograph No. 1, New Delhi, 1974,Appendix B, pp. 15-19.

in Assam's population growth in recent times and corroborates S.K. Dass' (1980) contrary findings in EPW. The immigration intq Assam, we are told by Sanjib Kumar Baruah, is 'on a scale that has few par_allels anywhere in the world within a relatively short period '. Had he done a little homework, he would have found a parallel in some other parts of India as well, at least in neighbouring West Bengal. According to the birthplace data of the Census of India, migrants from outside the state constituted 15.7 per cent of the population of West Bengal in 1961 and 11.9 per cent in 1971. The comparable figures for Assam are 11.4 and 10.2 per cent, respec tively-thus in both the years lower than in West Bengal. What is to be noted is the declining trend in both cases. The absence of migration-induced social tension in West Bengal, despite a sizeable number of the migrants and majority of the industrial workers in its organized sector continuing to be non-Bengalis, is also a fact to be noted. Its position slided down from the first to the third amongst India's states in the scale of industrialization during the post-Independence years, thus bringing in its trail mounting unemployment, economic discontent and a fertile soil for Bengali chauvinism. But the Left has not allowed chauvinism to strike its roots in the agonies of West Bengal. The exact number of post-1951 settlers in Assam, together with their locally born progeny, is and will remain an unknown quantity . Yet fair estimates are not impossible . Birthplace data for Assam including Mizoram indicate separately the number of residents born outside the states (Table 14.3) along with information on duration of residence in the state of emumeration. From these data, we could get the number of actual migrants who entered Assam from foreign

Little Nationalina n,,ud

C/aawi,aist 581

countries during 1951-61 and 1961-71. But ~uch data do not cover the children born of them in Assam. Again, the language data cover all, but do not distinguish between the post-1951 and old settlers (Table 14.1). Nor do these data include those migrants who have meanwhile changed their language for Asamiya. Nevertheless, these sets of data, together with the available periodic counts of registered displaced persons, might make a fair estimate possible if the task is left to the research staff of the Registrar General of Census Operations . It appears, as per our quick estimates, that the number of post1951 settlers with questionable ~itizenship status would in no case exceed 13 lakh by any measure and that the number of persons born in Pakistan (including Bangladesh) and enumerated in Assam shows a declining trend over the period 1951-71. Of these 13 lakh, less than 3 lakh appear to be post-1971 settlers. No doubt there is a fear psychosis, built into the Asamiya mind, of being outnumbered by outsiders in due course. This fear had an objective basis too, during the British period, as I had elaborately shown in my book, Planler Raj to Swaraj, in 1977. During that period the Asamiya population, numbering less than 7 to 8 lakh around 1826 and 15 lakh in 1901, was growing very slowly, both in absolute and relative terms and their language was under many handicaps, was even suppressed for long 36 years, 1837-73. But the situation is radically changed since Independence, with an ascendant Asamiya middle class. From 20 lakh in 1931, the number of Asamiya speakers in Assam leaped to 50 lakh in 1951 and to 89 lakh by 1971. Asamiya poetry, fiction, literary criticism and music are now at a height that was never attained at any point of time during the post-Shankardeva period till our Independence. In the province/state of Assam, the share of the Asamiya linguistic community in the total population moved up from 23 per cent in 1931 to 55 per cent in 1951, 57 per cent in 1961 and 61 per cent in 1971. lf we keep in view only the area that constitutes Assam today, then the share has increased from 36 per cent in 1931, to 62 per cent in 1951 and to 61 per cent in 1971. The Bengali-speaking population, on the other hand, has been growing more modestly with its share in the total population of reconstituted Assam of today, steadily declining from 30 per cent in 1931 to 21 per cent in 1951 and 20 per cent in 1971. During the 195171 period, the state's Bengali linguistic group expanded only 71 per cent, while the Asamiya linguistic group expanded 80 per cent.

382 Amakndu Guha

In consequence of these changes, Asamiya achieved the status of official language of the state in 1961. It is also, together with English, the sole medium of instruction at the level of university education since 1972. These are welcome developments which, after some conflicts, were accepted by the linguistic minorities on a give and take basis. Thus, the exceptionally high demographic growth, due to both natural growth as well as linguistic conversion, provided an expanded base to the Asamiya middle class for the exercise of state-wise cultural and political domination within reasonable limits . The above analysis, relevant to the last half-century and based on census data , shows that the population influx in general, and the Bengali influx in particular, have not created any linguistic imbal ance in Assam, which could be deemed as detrimental to the Asamiya cause . Neither have they disturbed the religious balance over the period 1941-71. In the reconstituted Assam of today, the proportion of the Muslims to the total population remained almost static-near about 25 per cent throughout this period. In fact, between 1951 and 1971 this share decreased from 24.7 per cent to 24.6 per cent. For , while the state's Hindu population increased 83.4 per cent and the Sikh and Jain communities at a much faster rate meanwhile, the comparable growth for the Muslims was only 81.2 per cent. Thus, whether judged in terms of the balance between the major linguistic communities or between the major religious communities, the prei 951 situation remained virtually the same also in 1971. The theory of the Asamiya language and culture being in danger today is therefore more a myth than a reality . The influx into Assam is surely the central focus of the recent movement and social tension. However, while discussing this Sanjib Kumar Baruah introduces a number of misleading half-truths. He says, for instance, 'origins of immigration into Assam began at the tum of the century when Assam's virgin land s were opened up for East Bengal refugees'. In fact, rural immigration started in the wake of the tea industry half a century earlier and attained a much larger scale after big tracts of virgin lands were made over to the tea planters . Tea garden labour immigration and their settlement on wastelands in the Brahmaputra Valley continued on a big scale, with intermittent vigour, right up to the 1930s. Nearly 15 lakh acres of government lands were directly settled with the foreign tea planters , as their private properties by 1940-41. On the other hand, another 11 lakh acres of government lands were settled with various groups of migrants from

Link Nationalinn 1urrwd Chauvi,.ut


other provinces including ex-garden labour, for ordinary cultivation; of this, only 5 lakh acres, with migrants from East Bengal (relevant annual report of the Land Revenue Department, Government of Assam). Baruah's description of the influx as a 'sudden demographic change' is also ahistorical. There was no question of 'emergence' of a plural society either; that too, suddenly. For, the plurality and the integrative process are twin phenomena of the Assamese society ( as much as of the Indian society at large) that have been continuing for many centuries. Assam was not free of immigration and plurality in any period of history. lndo-Aryan and Mongoloid elements continually came into the population-poor valley and intermingled to form the Asamiya/Assamese society. Any further influx may be unwelcome now on grounds, economic and political, but facts need not be given a twist to suit one's theory of culture being in a crisis. , After having said this about the fear-psychosis and its basis, let us now examine the modus operandi of the chauvinists to sustain the fear, even when its objective basis is thin in the post-Independence period.We shall limit our citations to only recent propaganda carried on by the Asam Sahitya Sabha-a major constituent and ideological inspirer of the movement. It is claimed that the movement is above racism and is not directed against the Bengali community as such. Yet, in its printed memorandum submitted to the President of India on 4 November 1979, which is widely circulated, it makes Bengali Hindus, as a community, responsible for the suppression of the Asamiya language in the schools and courts of Assam in 1836. In its memorandum submitted to the home minister on 23 February 1980, also printed and widely circulated, the same charge is repeated: There were Bengali-speaking people and on their advice Bengali was introduced in the courts of justice and other government offices and schools in Assam (author's emphasis). The statement was not necessary at all to boost a movement professedly directed against the foreigners only, nor is there any historical truth in it. The East India Company did not rule and formulate its policies according to the advice of its 'native' clerks. The research of Benudhar Sarma (b. 1894), a distinguished historian and life-long associate of the Sabha, had decisively blasted the myth in an article in Pravandha-Saurabh (in Asamiya) long back, quoting Francis Jenkins

who as commissioner had taken the decision. He wrote: 'It was I who was at the root of the advice in favour of introducing Bengali. I was in favour of Bengali. It was my orders that Robinson carried out' ( retranslated) . The fact that many Bengalis like Ramlochan Sen, Janakinath Sen, Swarupchandra Dewan , Madanmohan Ghosh Dewan and no less a personality than R.C . Dutt lent active support to the cause of the restoration of the status of Asamiya by 1873 and that dozens of Bengalis starting with Jaychandra Chakravarty, Abhayshankar Guba, Gopalkrishna De and Rajmohan Nath were involved in the Asamiya literary movement even in its most critical days are also known to the Sabha. In Bengal, Ashutosh Mukherjee and P.C. Ray successfully fought Bengali chauvinism in defence of the rights of the Asamiya language. Yet the Asam Sahitya Sabha goes on repeating an untruth, with obviously understandable purposes . This is but one instance of how the mass frenzy is created and directed against the Bengalis . The Sabha's reaction to the North Kamrup genocide-the bitter fruit of the frenzy it nurtured - is also worth noting: 'The recent outbreaks of violence resulting in Assamese villagers of North Kamrup becoming refugees in their own state, the arson and looting of Assamese villages , the rape of Assamese village women and the brutal murder of a CRP jawan bear testimony to the militant posture and expansionist design of Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam• (Assam Sahitya Sabha I 980 : 2). Fed by such Goebbles-like propaganda, the Asamiya patriotic masse s really came to believe that they, and not their Bengali and neo-Asamiya neighbours, were the victims of the genocide . As has been noted by many , fanta stically exaggerated statistics raising the number of foreigners from an initial 13 lakh to 45 and even to 51 or 70 lakh , also contributed to the frenzy. Language-wise , Bengalis and Nepalis in Assam numbered only 29 lakh and 3.5 lakh , respectively , in 1971. As per birthplace data, there were no more than 10 lakh of persons born in foreign countries, mostly in Pakistan (Bangladesh), in the same year . It is hence clear that the target, set by the anti-foreigner movement far in excess of the population of either category, was to deliberately mi slead the people so that they reacted with a do-or-die spirit. On the other hand, these exaggerated figures made the minorities apprehensive of attacks on their own cit izenship rights as well. This is one of the reasons why the social base of the movement later became narrower than what it initially was.

Little Nationalis,,.

n,,.,._ Cltaawinist


People's demand that Assam should not be burdened with further immigration from foreign lands and that all genuine foreigners, who do not substantively qualify for citizenship in terms of law and constitution, should be detected and removed is legitimate. It was accepted in principle by the central government and all major Indian political parties by September 1979, and this acceptance they reiterated again and again. Yet the dispute lingers on because the movement refuses to admit even those immigrants who have stayed for 10 years or more in India or are born in India-and whose parents or grandparents were born in undivided India-thus substantively qualifying themselves for naturalized citizenship as provided for by our Constitution . The movement's insistence on the so-called 1951 National Register of Citizens as the basic document for determining citizenship is motivated by this refusal.

National Register of Citizens, 1951 If 1951 is accepted as the cut-off year, then several lakh families will have to be asked to pack up and go, after they had re sided in Assam for up to 30 years, reared their children and grandchildren here and largely assimilated themselves to the original people in many ways. The cruelty of asking people to undergo the sufferings of an Operation Deportation after a generation gap apart, one may perhaps pertinently question its practicability. Is it feasible at all, short of a civil war or gendarme -backed fascist terror? Even if feasible and even if the 1951 Register is finally dug up out of oblivion, one may still have doubts about the legality of its use for the purpose . The Prefatory Note of Vol XII , Census of India 1951, Part 1-B, relevant to Assam , Tripura and Manipur, informs us that as a part of census work, . . . there are National Registers of Citizens, prepared simultaneously with the filing up of enumeration slips, giving important details for each person of every village or ward in a town. The se Registers are preserved in manuscript as permanent records in District offices . Under Section 15 of the Census Act, records prepared by the censu s officers are neither open to inspection nor admissible in evidence in

386 Amalend,, Guha

any legal proceeding. In a test case of 1967, the Gauhati High Court refused to COn$iderthe copy of an entry in NRC, 1951 as an admissible proof of one's citizenship (AIR 1970, Assam and Nagaland 206) precisely on the above grounds, inter alia. This explains why the Government of India, while .having allowed the police intelligence to consult it in their search for foreigners in the 1960s, is hesitant now to admit this publicly and to commit that the practice would continue. If the NRC is not a public document according to the Census Act, how could it be made available to a citizen to establish his claim? Or, how could it be mended if, e.g., one's name is not entered by mistake? In any case, as we have shown above, no basic inter-community imbalance was created during the period 1951-71 that might be Said to have threatened Asamiya culture in its religious and lingui stic aspects. Under the circumstances, 1971 should have been accepted as the cut -off year by the movement , had the fear of being swamped been their real and major concern. It needs to be stressed that even if all those who came to Assam till 25 March 1971 (birth-date of Bangladesh) are absorbed, the state 's cultural map remains almost the same as it was in 1951. Why not then think in terms of expelling only the post-1971 infiltrators, the sealing off of the border and other safeguards rather than putting the clock back?

Self-deterrnination or Self-annihilation 'The principle of nationality is historically inevitable in bourgeois society and taking this society in due account ', said Lenin (1964: Vol. 20, p. 34) in 1913. 'The Marxist fully recognises the historical legitimacy of national movements '. Yet, in continuation of his argument, he also warned: But to prevent thi s recognition from becoming an apologia of nationalism , it must be strictly limit ed to what is progressive in such movement s, in order that this recognition may not lead to bourgeois ideology obscuring prol etarian consciousness . These guidelines hold good for Marxists of any country when they face the national question at the stage of the democratic revolution. Let us see how Gail Omvedt applies her Marxism to the Assam situation . Almost the sole demand of the year-old movement is the expul sion of all those whom it considers as foreigners, with reference to

Littk Nationalirln 'lunud Chauvinist



the NRC, 1951. Its reluctance to thrash out all other pressing demands, even the economic ones until then, leaves no ambiguity about this prime objective. The movement is built up on the false belief that such foreigners constitute about one-fourth of Assam's population. Surely amongst them there are some landlords, capitalists and other exploiters just as there are among the Asamiyas and among people of all nationalities. But that does not justify the movement'1; untiring and indiscriminate tirades against all of them. We have shown that neither the overall linguistic nor the religious balance, in terms of proportions internal to the Assamese society, has been affected by the migration movements of 1951-71. This may not be convincing for Gail Omvedt. She might still argue that since Asamiya national culture is threatened by changes in its original racial base, this makes an Operation Deportation all the more necessary to preserve that base and restore the 1952 voting potential to the people so that their autonomy and homeland were not robbed of their original racial content. Omvedt does not mind even if that means rendering lakhs of settled peasants and workers homeless and economically ruined. But for Marxists, and even for liberal democrats, such a solution is monstrous and questionable. Does history furnish us with other examples of this kind of negative demand-and on such a scale-being equated with the urge for 'self-determination'? 1\vo such examples come off-hand to our mind. In Germany , the National Socialist Party's demand for disenfranchisement and deportation of the Jews in the name of the purification and unification of the German nation led ultimately to disastrous consequences for them as well as others . Again, in Pakistan, the Muslim League's insistence on treating the non-Muslims on a separate footing as 'jimmis' and on an exchange of population with India-all this in the name of self-determination of the Pakistanis only helped disintegrate Pakistan itself and strengthen the forces of authoritarianism and subsequent army rule. One finds yet a third example from the history of Assam itself. During the second-half of the eighteenth century, the Ahom Court carried on a determined struggle to identify and wipe out the Mayamarias ( a protestant religious sect representing the whole Moran tribe and others), then estimated to be 8 lakh or about one-third of the Assamese population, in the name of protecting cows, Brahmans and culture. The result was a lingering civil war for three decades and total ruin of Assam, its population coming down to just half of what it

388 Amalendu Guha

was and its smiling fields turned into sprawling wastelands. Much of the stagnation in Assam's peasant economy during the nineteenth century may be traced back to that calamity. Assam's anti-foreigner movement, unless self-restrained in time, might also lead to disintegration not only of the Assamese but also of the Indian society, which is a mosaic of ethnic diversities. The January and May-June, antiBengali pogroms and their subsequent impact on the agrarian economy of Lower Assam are pointers . Omvedt 's 'loss of territory' (not of peasant -occupied lands, but mostly wastelands 'lost ' to equally exploited migrant peasants and artisans) argument to explain the anti -foreigner movement in terms of defence of national self-determination is not convincing. These migrants did not come as conquerors and exploiters but as sources of cheap labour supply to not only the big bourgeoisie, but also to the Asamiya landlords and the rising Asamiya capitalists. If this combination had broken down-as Omvedt says- the outdated modes of cultivation of the autochthons, is that a sufficient reason to put the clock back by three decades to get rid of them and the process? 1 Are not these people mostly independent small peasants, agricultural workers and tenants , and not landlords, in relation to their Asamiya neighbours? If so, the Asamiya nationalism connected with such land relations is gentry nationalism , not peasant nationalism . The original settlers may be dead, but catch hold of their children and grandchildren and deport , even if they were born in Assam and are toilers! Such is the solution from a professed disciple of Lenin! Let us see what Lenin had to say in a somewhat similar context. The historically-rooted mistrust between the Little and Great Russians in 1913was no less than what prevails today between the Asamiyas and the Bengalis, but ·more because the Russians were an oppressor nation, dominating every sphere of the Czarist state, economic, cultural and political. Yet, while making a note of the old modes being broken down by the migrants in Ukraine, Lenin observed: For several decades a well-defined process of accelerated economic development has been going on in the South, i.e., the Ukraine, attracting hundreds of thousands of peasants and workers from Great Russia to the capitalist farms, mines and cities. The 'assimilation '-within these limits-of the Great Russian and Ukrainian proletariat is an indisputable fact. And this fact is undoubtedly progressive. Capitalism is replacing the ignorant, conservative settled

Littk Naliolaalint 1mNd Cha"'1iwid 589

muzhik of the Great Russian and Ukrainian backwoods with a mobile proletarian whose conditions of life break down specifically ilarrowmindedness, both Great Russian and Ukrainian. (Lenin 1964: Vol. 20, p. 31.) All this Lenin said despite the fact that Russia and Ukraine were unequal partners locked in an oppressor-oppressed relationship. To drive home the point to fellow Mancists, he continued: Even if we assume that, in time, there will be a state frontier between Great Russia and the Ukraine, the historically progressive nature of the 'assimilation' of the Great Russian and Ukrai. nian will be as undoubted as the progressive nature of the grinding down of nations in America (ibid.). Later in 1919 Lenin saw that the Ukrainian language was given due status and more Ukrainians got government jobs in their own state, but never did he advice deportation of Russians from the Ukrainian soil. Omvedt's use of the term 'self-determination' in the Assam context is also inappropriate as a Marxist proposition. Lenin made it clear in course of his many writings that the multinational centralized states were a tremendous historical step forward from medieval disunity and, therefore, Marxists were opposed to their decentralization. What was necessary, according to Lenin to ensure 'consistent democracy' and elimination of national oppression in such states, was to follow the Swiss model and to create autonomous areas, however small, with homogeneous populations, as far as practicable to which 'members of the respective nationalities scattered all over the country ... could gravitate' . Marxists demand not a right to autonomy but straightaway autonomy itself. For, it is an integral aspect of consistent democracy they stand for. Self-determination, on the other hand, is more than autonomy; it is the right to secede and form a separate state. Marxists do not popularize the demand for self-determination on their own, but only recognize the right to it, 'where such a movement is actually in existence' and is directed against an oppressor nation which is economically and culturally dominant within the state. Again even where this right is recognized, the decision of the relevant working class might be in favour of opposing secession, depending upon the national and international circumstances. (Lenin 1964: Vol. 20, pp. 45-46, 405,410,441 and Vol. 22, p. 345.)

390 Amalendu Guha

It is in consideration of these basic principles that Omvedt should have refrained from her childish prattle over self-determination when such a demand (in the Marxist sense) has not been on the agenda of the movement itself. Although the idea is toyed with by peripheral forces therein, it has not yet emerged as a class demand. Even if it does, a true Marxist will oppose it and continue to demand more of autonomy and equality for all nationalities and languages, big and small in India-if necessary through a revision of the centre, state relations in favour of the latter and creation of new autonomous areas for tribal populations within constituent states . Encouragement to divisive forces and disruption of the unity of working people will lead the people of Assam not to self-determination but to self-annihilation. Assam can defeat the rule of Indian big bourgeoi~ sie only in close cooperation with the working people of all Indian nationalities. Let us therefore emphasize 'assimilation' as an alternative solution of the problem. Lenin said in this context: Fight for every kind of national development, for 'national culture' in general? Of course, not. The economic development of capitalist society presents us with examples of immature national movements ... and also examples of assimilation of nations . The proletariat , however, far from undertaking to uphold the national development of every nation, on the contrary , warns the masses against such illusions, stands for the fullest freedom of capitalist intercourse and welcomes every kind of assimilation of nations, except that which is founded on force or privilege (Lenin 1964: Vol. 20, p. 35). For more than the past 100 years, large-scale immigration has been said to be a threat to the Asamiya society and culture. Yet, like Pisa's leaning tower, it still maintains its tall existence and even grows at a rate faster than in the case of any other linguistic group in India and casting its shadow over the tribal and other minority groups. Its numerical dominance as a linguistic community in the state, as a ratio to the total population, is also higher today than in any past period. How did this miracle happen? Along the path of assimilation, an age-old, active historical process. During the pre-British period, the Asamiya society swelled its ranks by absorbing autochthonous tribal groups as well as Tai-Ahom and north-Indian immigrants. This process continued through the British period and

Littk Nationalinlt 1urned Chauvinist


reached out to the immigrating tea labour, Nepali and Bengali communities. The trend is expected to continue unless halted and reversed by repeated anti-minority pogroms and a reaction thereto. Given the high rate of linguistic assimilation, we repeat, the fear of the Asamiyas being swamped by Bengalis has little objective basis. This fear was cultivated by British civil servants like Gordon and Mullan in the past, as was pointed out earlier, as a part of their divide and rule policy. Under the Raj, political participation through separate electorates, settlement of wastelands in communal and caste blocs under the Line System and segregated schools and syllabi for the majority and minority communities-these were some of the features of this divide and rule policy. Mullan, in his 1931 Census Report, provocatively described the immigration process as an 'invasion' and 'conquest' and predicted that Sibsagar would ultimately remain the only Asamiya home district. His prediction has not come out to be true. Nor was his interpretation of the Census Data held correct. The Governor of Assam had to clarify and tell the Assam Legislative Council in 1933 that, despite heavy immigration since 1901, the percentage of speakers of Asamiya to total population had remained 'very steady' and that 'the language at present is in no danger of supersession' (ALC Proc, 1933, Vol. 13, p. 5). If it was true of 1931, it is much more so today since the ratio of Asamiya-speakers to total population has increased enormously meanwhile both in the Brahmaputra Valley and the state of Assam as a whole. This is the result of assimilation. Sanjib Kumar Baruah's obsession with Myron Weiner and the 'concept of plural society' (not the Laskian, but its neo-colonialist variant meant for the consumption of Third World scholarship) leads to his scepticism about assimilation. What has developed in Assam, notes Baruah, is 'not a composite society of peoples who mingle with one another, but a plural society of separate communities', and that politicians 'had hardly contributed to a genuine integration of the communities and evolution of composite cultural patterns'. Such platitudinous statements could be made to describe any nationality in making, the United States in its formative stage and China not excluded. In the former, ethnicity-oriented voting blocs are still an important aspect of the political culture. The process of nationality-formation does initially exhibit intergroup tensions. Yet, given appropriate leadership and time-as was •

392 Amalendu Guha

seen in the days of Ujani-Namani (Upper Assam and Lower Assam) conflicts-the formative process goes ahead overcoming the specific contradictions among the people. The social scientist should also concern himself with 'what is becoming', instead of being solely occupied with 'what is'. A plural situation is not something static and insurmountable, but is correlated with the pace of economic development. It is the economy, not society or polity, that one should primarily look into for the root s of the malady for a cure. This does not mean that ethnicity and politics are of no importance and the national que stio n can be untangled through the economic measures alone. As Lenin pointed out long back that would be sheer economism. To say that there has been no real assimilation in Assamese society is as much a half-truth as saying that assimilation is complete. Avail able Census Data on the mother tongue and bilinguism leave no doubt about the fact of assimilation, though much remains to be acQieved. During 1931-7 1, the number of Asamiya-speakers made a great leap forward from 20 to 89 lakh and their percentage propor tion to the state population from 36 per cent (adjusted for reorgani zation of the state and made comparable) to 61 per cent. But Baruah is not happy with this growth since 'the Bengali Muslim s' who had en masse returned Asamiya as their mother tongue consistently for the last thr ee censuses as a matter of 'political act', might shift their language loyalty and join the 'u rban Bengali Hindus' to spite the real Asamiyas! The contrary RSS propaganda has been that they are in league with the Asamiya Muslims to spite the Asamiya and Bengali Hindus! Such is the logic of the ethnicity approach to politics. The decision of Bengali Muslim settlers of the Brahmaputra Valley to eschew the League politics , support the Congress and merge their linguistic identity with the major language and culture was indeed a political act in 1948 with a view to minimizing social tension. It was also an act of political wisdom-an expression of genuine urge for assimilation comparable to , say, the voluntary integration of diverse migrant groups to the dominant linguistic group in the US. Wrote the census superintendent of Assam in 1961: 'When they come to Assam, those Muslim immigrants honestly try to know the Assamese language and send their children to schools where the Assamese language is the medium of instruction '. They have been intermarrying with Asamiya Muslims. They have been long adopted by their Asamiya neighbours as Neo-Asamiyas. Even Nilmoni Phukan , one of the high priests of little nationalism, said in 1972:


Little Natiotlalua n.nwd Claafl'Dirwt595

Today these very immigrants, having undergone assimilation to the Asamiya society have been able to take their rightful place in the realm of language and culture and, with equal access to leadership, have been able to share the responsibility of the country's administration on an equal footing. This is the normal path to naturalisation. (D. Chaudhuri, Nilamani Phukanar Cintadhara, Guwahati, 1972, p. 91, trans ours.) It is a pity that Baruah does not share this optimism and wisdom and, instead, is in constant dread of a sinister world of pretensions all around . Despite possible drifts in language loyalties at the margin and lags between a formal change of language and firm emotional and cultural integration, the overall long-term trend is unmistakably set by the last three censuses, in favour of Asamiyization. From their second generation, the Bengali migrants' major dialect, Mymensinghia, began to borrow words and even idioms from their Asamiya neighbours. As a result, by now, their dialect-like Sadri or Garden-baat spoken in tea gardens and ex-garden labour villages-is increasingly gravitating to Asamiya. For it has once for all lost its anchorage in distant East Bengal. Thus, Sadri and Mymensinghia might be accepted as newly developed dialects of the Asamiya language. Indeed, the Asam Sahitya Sabha did a good job by getting folk tales in the latter dialect collected and published . Assimilation is facilitated also by the awareness that Bengali and Asamiya have a sizeable common vocabulary and a common script, with the exception of only two letters in the alphabet. The same script is used for Bodo, Karbi, Meitei and Dimasa languages as well. Rural Bengali Hindus also tend to follow their Muslim brethren in respect of opting for linguistic assimilation . Many such people were victims of recent riots in North Kamrup, amongst whom were people who had even adopted typically Asamiya surnames to be more acceptable to the society at large. AJI these people used to send their children to Asamiya-medium schools and spoke flawless local dialect. Thus, linguistic assimilation involves both Bengali Muslims and Bengali Hindus, though with a varying degree. The trend is reflected also in contemporary Asamiya literature. Sakina Khatun, Ilimuddin Dewan, Rajmohan Nath, Dhiren Datta and Ravindra Sarkar-these are some of the neo-Asamiya writers of Bengali stock, who have contributed to Asamiya literature. Sananta Tanti, a son of the tea garden soil of Cachar, has added to contemporary Asamiya poetry a new vigour that emerges from the rural proletariat.

394 Amalendu Guha

The Tui-Ahoms took at least three to four centuries to completely Assamise themselves by the seventeenth century. But some of the recently Assamized communities have not taken even half -a-century to do so. Urban Bengalis and Cachar-Bengalis are on the other hand, particular about their language rights and no reason why they should not be. They , two, are getting culturally assimilated to the typically Assamese psychological make-up and way of life, through various economic , political and social ties, geographical compulsions and inter-penetration of group memories, sentiments and forms of culture . Under the circumstances , we do not share the conspiracy theory (propounded by Baruah to explain the Assamization process going on amongst the migrant Muslims), but have faith in the inevitability of the historical integrative process. The linguistic conversion no longer remains a political act. It is an economic act , dictated by the needs of the regional market with its centre at Gauhati. Migrants increasingly find the value of Asamiya as the language of the market place in the Brahmaputra Valley. The Asamiya festival , Bihu , has emerged , like its script , as the secular symbol of Assamese unification. Asamiya folk music , powerfully represented and recreated by Bhupen Hazarika, has cast its spell over Bengali light music. One can readily agree with Baruah when he says that the principle of linguistic states in India has, amongst other factor s, held out the promise of an Asamiya homeland. Not the Asamiyas alone, others too within the state of Assam and outside it have similar aspirations for a homeland. The national formations are still in a melting pot; and these are expected to take their final appropriate shapes only after consistent democracy and automization are accepted as basic principles of state organization . Under the circumstances, two possibilities of regional-national development are open before us in the present state of Assam : (a) The Asamiyas, the K.arbis, the Dimasas and the Cachar-Bengalis continuing to share the same autonomous state on the basis of their historically-evolved understandings, so far achieved in an attempt to resolve national contradictions, or (b) the Asamiyas limiting the unilingual state concept strictly to only the homogeneous Asamiya-speaking area. , The formation of a state-wise Assamese nationality through an integration of the Asamiyas, the Cachar-Bengalis , the K.arbis, the Dimasas and other tribal national formations on the Swiss model, is

Little Nationalism TurnedChauvinist


not an impossible thing . Wide acceptance of the Assam State Language Act, 1961, declaring Asamiya the official language of the state and Bengaliof Cachar, and the introduction of Asamiya in 1972 as the medium of instruction at the level of university education (with English as an alternative medium )-these resulted from a common concern of the Cachar-Bengalis and the Asamiyas for the preservation of their age-old historical association. If consistent democracy with autonomization is practised, there is no reason why the Asamiyas, Bengalis, Karbis, Dimasas, Mishings and Bodo-Kacharis could not fulftl their cultural and linguistic aspirations, while sharing the same state. Even now the Karbis and the Dimasas enjoy a considerable degree of territorial autonomy in their respective territories, under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule. The other possibility open before the people is to allow little nationalism to degenerate into chauvinism and go through further 'territorial fragmentation just so that what is left of their state can unambiguously be a state of their own'; in other words, to retreat to the old, more or less stable boundaries of the late seventeenth century Ahom Kingdom, for achieving an unadulterated Asamiya homeland. The Asam Sahitya Sabha led, with its aggressive linguistic policies in the past, to this fragmentation. By its insistence on the adoption of Asamiya as the only medium of instruction in all schools, during the currency of the present movement , it is again preparing the ground for another fragmentation. Given the two possibilities, the Marxists surely opt for the first and go on working for a larger territorial base for the regional state so that a bigger Asamiya/ Assamese nationality is developed slowly through a process of voluntary integration, with Asamiya continuing to be the official language of the state and the medium of higher education, with English as an alternative medium ( as long as the linguistic minorities insist on it) in the universities .

Communists and the Anti-Foreigner Upsurge T. Misra highlights Assam in her article as a colonial hinterland; G. Pardeshi, as an internal colony within the national exploitative system; and H. Gohain, as an underdeveloped area, depressed in the process of the law of uneven development of capitalism and its colo nial legacy. There is a consensus among the leftists that the colonial


Amakndu Guha

legacy of an exclusively raw material supplying role still persists in Assam, serving the interests of the Indian big bourgeoisie and feudal exploiters. This is indeed one of the basic points of the agitation and propaganda communists of all shades have been carrying on in Assam since Independence. Most of them, however, would not agree with Misra when she, like Omvedt, characterizes the parochial and chauvinist outbursts as the 'movements for self-determination ( economic and political) of the oppressed and backward nationalities of India'. For, in Marxist terminology, self-determination involves the right to secede and this is unwarranted by the situation unaccompanied by an economically, culturally and politically dominant nationality within our multinational state. No demand for self-determination or even more power for the state has been raised from the organized platform of the movement. Its almost sole emphasis is on expulsion of a very big proportion of Assam's population, irrespective of their local birth and/or long residence. How could then the communists join the mass mobilizations in favour of this specific central demand and against the basic human rights of a fourth of the population, going back on the ideals of Marxism-Leninism, as explained above? The Beogalis, or, for that matter, the Nepalis are not an oppressor nationality in their relationship with the Asamiyas; nor are the Asamiyas, in relation to the plains tribals. There are only specific contradictions, chauvinism and local nationalism among them, that need to be overcome. In China, for instance, Han chauvinism was pretty bad, but that did not justify Tibetan local nationalism. In China, the communists fought both and defended the working peoples, irrespective of their nationality. The Bengalis are neither dominant in the economy nor in the state machinery. The Indian big business is represented by the Marwaris in Assam , and the state power, also, largely by non-Beogalis. Even in the professions, government services, universities and the cultural field, the Bengalis have lost their pre-Independence position of dominance to the Asamiyas long back; they still retain it only in some of the central government establishments. How is it, then, that more than 90 per cent of those declared undesirable as citizens happen to be Bengalis? By accidental circumstances? If so, how is it, then, that worn-out myths and past anti-Bengali prejudices are being raked up

Link N""'""'1ua 'Blrutl Clla"11UWI 597

afresh during the movement by the Gana Sangram Parishad and its constituents? All these questions need an answer, before any honest attempt is made to assess the communists' role vis-a-vis the movement . It goes to the credit of Misra that she has given also one instance as to how Jyotirmoy Basu, a CPl(M) MP, used the floor of the parliament to give voice to the agonies of Assam. The plight of Assam, indeed the whole of north-east region, is pretty bad under the big business rule and exploitation. But the same big business is also exploiting Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal; in fact, all parts of India in varying degrees. Rajasthan, the home of Marwari capital, too, is one of India's relatively more backward states, both economically and culturally. A comparison of the average per capita incomes and literacy rates of states (Tobie 14.4) suggests· that some of them, too, have reasons to be discontented. Sometime back, Bihar's case was represented in a book with the sub-title 'Colony within a Colony', and the title of Ranajit Roy's book on West Bengal is Agonies of WestBengal. Under the circumstances, the interests of the toiling masses in all these states and all over India are identical-to defeat big business policies by their united struggles. Tobie 14.4: Average per Capita Income of Select States Comporabk Estimates of A~nige Per Capila Per Capila State Domestic Income, /973-74 Product at State Current Prices, to /975-76 1975-76

Punjab Haryana Maharashtra West Bengal Kerala Rajasthan Orissa Assam Madhya Pradesh Uttar Pradesh Bihar

o/oageof Literacy



(Per Cent)

1,688 1,514 1,455 1,100 1,000 873 834 848 790 727 669

1,586 1,399 1,349 1,033 948 853 793 791 776 715 645

34 27 39 33

60 19 26 29 22 22 20

Sourct : Repon of the 7th Finance Commission, 1978,cited in Basic Statisticsof North &Siem Region, NE Secretariat, Shillong, February 1980, pp. 65-66; and Sta· tisticalHandbook, As.Jam1978, Directorate of Economics and Statistics,Govt of Assam, Gauhati, p. 281.

398 Amalendu Guha

The present movement , instead of uniting the toiling masses of various castes, creeds and languages in an anti-feudal, anti-monopolist struggle has divided them. It has made tea labour suspicious of the motives of the movement. It denied 20,000 organized plywood workers their basic right to work for a living since August. Three demands in the 16-point charter of demands canvassed by the AASU were anti-tribal. All these apart, the leaders of the movement have taken an active role in breaking up trade unions , for reasons already explained. · Similarly, the land nexus of the movement relates to the interests of the Asamiya landlords rather than of the peasantry, particularly in Lower Assam . The lefti sts came in a sizeable number in the Assam Legislature in 1978, with 24 seats in a 126-member house and 11 per cent of valid votes. Landlord circles had apprehensions that the left would now press for tbe implementation of the Land Ceiling Act, long kept in abeyance by the Assam government, and for new legislation in defence of the tenant farmers' rights on the West Bengal model and of tribal peasants' intere sts in protected tribal blocs on the lripura model. Besides , the CPI(M)'s influence was rapidly increasing among Asamiya poor peasants in notorious landlordinfested areas. All these, amongst other factors, prompted the landlords-many of them are salaried and professional people or moneylenders (dehati)- to become true sons of mother Assam overnight, forgetting their all-India party ties. This is how the land nexus and anti-tenant character of the movement as well as the overnight disappearance of some all-India parties should be explained . It is not the case of landlords merely taking advantage of otherwise a noble movement. On the contrary, the landlords, in league with Asamiya capitalists, saw to it that a fierce movement with an anti-Bengali and anti-communist edge was created so that they could get rid of undesirable elements on their farms and keep the toiling peasants divided . One finds such landlords and their sons and daughters at all levels of the Gana Sangram Parishad. Unfortunately the ideology of Misra and Baruah, though differing in language and jargon, is at once a rationalization of the Asamiya upper classes' interests and a view of social reality from their class standpoint. Because of the largely communal (caste Hindu) and pro-land!ord stance of the movement in terms of non-secular symbols and even secular demand s (this explains why the RSS has emerged as a friend of the movement) , the social base of the movement went on narrowing

Little Nationaluna Turmd Claauvinilt


down. The plantation labour class apart, large sections of Asamiya Muslims and plains tribals, too, who had been initially with the movement, are now opposed to it. Syed Abdul Malik , MP , an exsecretary, ex-president and life-long associate of the Asam Sahitya Sabha who , himself, had hailed the earlier language movement as 'stone given life', for instance, has gone against the present movement. Tribal peasants want all transferred lands restored to their original tribal proprietors from the clutches of intruders, irrespective of their citizenship status, in the tribal belt constituted of 31 reserved blocs . They also want education of their children through their mother tongues at the school stage. Seeing that the movement is not sympathetic to these demands, they are now increasingly turning hostile to it. L. Pangging , a plains tribal youth leader , has for instance observed recently: Yes there are foreigners in Assam, they need to be expelled. The tribal people are aware that it is a major problem . But the demand for deportation of foreign infiltrators is a demand of secondary importance , i.e. , a short-term demand ... It cannot be a last-ditch battle for the survival of Assam, unless the Assamese people are going to be submerged in milk and honey following the expulsion of the foreigners. (Trans . from Sampratik Samayikii, April-May 1980.) We repeat our conclusion that the present movement in Assam is essentially national in form (at least it was so at the outset) and, despite mass participation , is reactionary and undemocratic in content . The methods of the movement are proto -fascist, and an involvement of foreign agents as a peripheral force in it is not impossible. Under circumstances, there was no scope for the leftists to be within it or to fraternize with it. A section of the CPI(M) students led by Uttam Barthakur tried to democratize AASU and remain with it in the movement , despite reservations, only to bum th eir fingers. They found the platform too hot and they quit it. It is not by expelling, but by assimilating the settlers that the bulk of the problem could be resolved. A powerful process of voluntary integration is already there , and the communists apparently should want not to halt , but to expedite it through the maintenance of national peace under any cost . Even in the past, when the Brahmaputra Valley and Cachar were at loggerheads over the language issue in 1960, the united CPI

400 Amalendu Guha

of those days helped dissolve the tension with its compromise for mula which was acceptable to all and is still working. Now also they are in favour of a negotiated political settlement, since the sensitivities of a whole people and their injured feelings , for reasons real and imaginary, are involved. Upper class women alone did not come out on the streets, nor is the movement picnic-style as an embittered Jyoti Basu told us once in despair this year. It is dangerous because it has a mass character. History has shown that even in Germany and Italy during the inter-war period, much stronger communist movements had temporarily collapsed like a house of cards when injured national feelings gave vent to blind forces of chauvinism and obscurantism in the form of anti-Jewish pogroms and anti-left storm-troopers. The cudgel of chauvinism being based on a small nationality within a federal state ; its proto-fascist tendency is a passing phase in Assam. But the harm done meanwhile is immense. Forces of authoritarianism have been consciously or inadvertently strengthened in Assam by the movement by its attacks on democratic rights of the people an·d its handing over of the initiative for a settlement to Delhi. 2 As space does not permit, we propose to present a more comprehensive review of Assam 's left movement in relation to the national question and the upsurgeboth its weaknesses and points of strength-in course of an article to follow. Myron Weiner's book Sons of the Soil and its impact on Assam will also be taken up then for a scrutiny.

Notes 1. Incidentally , Gail Omvedt is totally mistaken to suggest in her Frontier (7 June 1980) article that ploughless shifting cultivation continued to be an important mode of agriculture until the Bengali migrant peasants brok e it down. In fact the the plough and wet rice culture was the basis of the expanding Ahom and other kingdoms in med ieval north-east India. Hoe and digging stick culture survived only in the hills and pers isted feebly in some remote pockets in the Assam plains. Ploughless shifting cultivation was already a thing of the past in these plains when the migrants arrived . Bengali migrant peasants were generally more skilled, but not in every respect. For instance , the tribal peasants in some areas made use of techniques of gravitational irrigation to grow wet rice, but not the Bengalis . However, some features of tribalism, suc h as slash-and-bum and land rotation, survived in combination with plough -tilling on lands not suitable for permanent wet rice cultivation. It is these features which the migrant peasants intervened with. The latter contributed towards the spread of double-cropping, new crops such as jute, mung

LiltJ. Natioltalina TurnedCltauvi11ist 401 pulse and new varieties of vegetables, etc., and also new techniques such as the Bo,oj methodof betel-vine cultivation and a relatively advanced fishing technology. If the tea labour migration into plantations had made the Brahmaputra Valley rice-short in the nineteenth century, the Bengali peasant migration of the twentieth century made it more than self-sufficient in rice. 2. ~ some of the articles on Assam published during this year in EPW.e.g., those by K.M. SarmaandS.K. Dass, reproduce much of the relevant census statistics in tabular form, our statistical tables arc kept to the minimum.

References Al•• S.llltya S.Nw 1980. 'ln Eclipseof the East: An Analysis of the Present Agitation in Assam•. lamb, SaDJlb IC■mar. 1980a.'Assam: Cudgel of Chauvinism or langled Nationality Question', Economicand Polmcal Weekly, 15(11), March: 343-45. --. 19!0>. 'Allam: Beyond Patriots and lhtitors', Economic and Political Weekly, 15(20): 876-77 . 0.11, SJC. 1980. 'lmmignation and Demographic lransformation of Assam 18911981', Economic and Political ~kly. 15(19), May: 850-59. J,«nia, V.I. 1964. Coll,ct,d Worts. \vis. 20 and22 . Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing Houw:. Mura, 1Hlott1m1 191K).'Allam: A Colonial Hinterland', Economic and Political ~kly. 15(32), August: 1357-64. OIM'edt, Gall. 1980. 'Relevant and Committed Sociology', Economic and Polilical W«lcly, 15(10),March:513-15. Welner,Myron. 1978. Sons of th, Soil. New Delhi: Oxford UniversityPress.

15 'God Must Be Liberated!': A Hindu Liberation Movement inAyodhya


There seem to be at least two elusive concepts in the sociology of India: caste and communalism. On caste Eric Wolfe makes the point eloquently : 'The literature on the topic is labyrinthine , and the reader is not always sure there is light at the end of the tunnel' (1982: 397). The sociological perspective on caste seems to be obscured by a great deal of confusion about the place of religious values and sentiments in Hindu society. According to Louis Dumont (1970: 6-7), the primary object of the sociology of India should be a system of ideas and the approach that of a sociology of values. Since the religious ideology, on which the caste system is based, in his view, seems to have been ftxed already in the classical period of Indian civilization, caste becomes a static, ahistorical phenomenon in Dumont's writing and in much of the debate originating from it (cf. van der Veer 1985). The same may easily happen with that other most elusive concept of the sociology of India, communalism . Again Dumont can be our misleading guide here. He argues that 'communalism is the affirmation of the religious community as a political group' (Dumont 1970: 90). In terms of their religious values and norms there is a lasting social heterogeneity of the Hindu and Muslim communities (ibid.: 95-98).

A Hindu I..ibn-alion Movnwttt


This argument amounts to a 'two-nation' theory, based upon an ahistorical sociology of values. Dumont is not alone in this kind of argument. In fact, there is a strong tendency in symbolic or semiotic studies of religion to construct static systems of symbols shared by all members of a group or society. The most important example of this tendency is the work of the leading American anthropologist Clifford Geertz. In Geertz's view religion is a cultural system of symbols, while he takes culture as 'a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life' (Geertz 1973: 89). He seems not to be interested in the historical conditions necessary for the existence of particular religious practices and discourses (cf. Asad 1983). In discussing integration in the New States, Geertz derives phenomena like communalism in India from 'primordial attachments', 'the assumed "givens" of social existence' (Geertz 1973: 259). It is not my intention to deny that religious values and sentiments are of importance in understanding political actions of Hindu, Muslim or other religious groups in India. My point is, rather, that it seems unfruitful to divorce these values and sentiments from the political arenas in which they are shaped.•Religious experience cannot be seen apart from religious organization and group-formation; and since the latter changes over time, the former changes with it. The notion of a Hindu identity-being a Hindu and acting as suchis an option open to the social actor who may articulate, underplay or stress this identity, depending on the situation in which he finds himself. He is of course not 'free' to choose, since identity-formation can be seen as the result of forces operating on the individual and the group from within, and those impinging on them from without (Epstein 1978: 102). Being a Ramanandi, a Vishnuite, a Hindu or an Indian is therefore not a 'primordial attachment', but the result of political processes. 2 Just as we are accustomed to describe nationbuilding and state-formation. in political terms, we should do the same while describing communalism and the development of religious organization (cf. van der Veer and van der Burg 1986). In this chapter I want to present an analytical description of a Hindu movement, which made an attempt in 1984 to remove the so-called Babar Mosque in Ayodhya from the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram, on which it had been built in the sixteenth century. First, I want to give a short historical account of the changing relations between


Pe~r van tiff, Veer

Hindus and Muslims in Ayodhya to show that it is misleading to take the antagonism between them as an unchanging factor which is culturally given. The main focus of the chapter is, however, on the movement of 1984 and on the political actors at the local level: their aims and actions. I want to show that the sentiments aroused by the movement are not 'primordial', but that they are fragmented and depend on developments in the political arena. The interest of the case, presented here, lies partly in the fact that the actors are sadhus who dominate part of the religious scene of north India. Moreover, the principal arena of their political activities is one of India's most important places of pilgrimage, a focus of Hindu beliefs and actions.

Hindus against Muslims in Ayodhya: Changing Configurations Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Ram, one of north India's most important Hindu gods. It is situated on the banks of the holy river Sarayu, some 120 kilometres distant from Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. In a well as a metaphorical sense it is a tirtha. This Sanskrit word for place of pilgrimage means literally 'ford ', a place to cross the river, but it has wider metaphorical ramifications. The river descends from heaven and therefore the pilgrim can come into contact with heaven at the tirtha. In the ritual context of ancestor-rituals the sacrificer crosses over to heaven to make contact with the world of the ancestors, while in the spiritual context of the devotion to Ram the worshipper leaves the world of illusion and comes into Ram's presence. The religious specialist of the ritual context is the Brahman panda who performs the rituals on the banks of the Sarayu. The spiritual context is dominated by Ramanandi sadhus who occupy most of Ayodhya's temples (van der Veer 1984). The Ramanandis have come to dominate the religious and political scene of Ayodhya in the course of this century as the result of a long-term process in which they increasingly abandoned their peripatetic lifestyle for 'sedentary' life in places of pilgrimage . In Ayodhya is the exact place of birth of Ram, of course, the foremost object of pilgrimage. The difficulty, however, is that on this spot a mosque was built in the sixteenth century after the destruction of a Hindu temple. Some of the old pillars of the temple are still visible

A Hinft Uberatio,a Movntnt


today and date to the eleventh ·century AD (Bakker 1984: 44). Local tradition has it that the temple, like many other temples, had been built by the Legendary King Vik.ramaditya. According to the theory of Ayodhya's religious specialists, Ram lived in the Treta period, the second of the four 'world-periods' (yugas) of Hindu cosmology. At the end of the Treta period Ayodhya disappeared only to be 'rediscovered' in the present Kali period by King Vik.ramaditya. Helped by his meditation he succeeded in finding the places associated with Ram's life and he started to build temples on them. This typical Hindu story of the 'rediscovery' of lost sacred places is partly confirmed by historical research. Bakker (1984) argues that the fictional Ayodhya of the sacred saga Ramayana came to be identified with the important north Indian town of Saketa during the reign of the Guptas in the fifth century AD. The Guptas removed their capital from Pataliputra to Saketa, which they decided to name Ayodhya. The Gupta kings Kumaragupta and Skandagupta styled themselves devotees of Vishnu, and Skandagupta took the title of Vikra~aditya. He liked to compare himself with Ram and it was a dominant theme in the Gupta court that the Guptas continued the glory of Ram's dynasty and had restored the capital of Ram to its ancient glory. After the reign of the Guptas, the town fell into insignificance, but not into oblivion, thanks to its recognition as Ram's place. On the eve of Muslim expansion in north India, Ayodhya contained several temples, amongst which was the important temple on Ram's birthplace . This temple then was destroyed by the Moghul ruler Babar and replaced by the mosque which is still on the spot. An inscription on the mosque reads as follows : By the command of the Emperor Babur, whose justice is an edifice reaching up to the very height of the heavens, the good-hearted Mir Bagi built this alighting-place of angles. Bavad khair baqi! (May this goodness last forever). The year of building it was made clear likewise when I said buvad khair bo.qi( = 935 AH, i.e. AD 1528) (Beveridge 1922: II, App . U, p. LXXVII f.).

According to local tradition the temple was at the time of destruction under the supervision of Sadhu Syamanand. 'Iwo Muslim pirs came to Syamanand to learn from his devotional methods. Impressed by the great power (mahima) of Ram's place, they wanted to transform it into an Islamic place. Their chance came when Babar visited


Peter van der ~er

Ayodhya. They promised Bahar to make him and his descendants emperors of India if he would destroy the temple and build a mosque instead. Bahar ordered his general Mir Bagi to fulfil this wish, and he succeeded in doing so after several difficulties. Tradition is corroborated by the fact that there is a Muslim grave nearby of the Pir Fazl Abbas Musa Ashikhan which shows two pillars belonging to the ancient Hindu temple. The demolition of the temple did, however, not imply that Hindus stopped frequenting the place. Until the middle of the nineteenth century the pilgrims continued to worship there unhindered, throwing flowers in a pit, which was said to be the actual spot of Ram's birth (Sitaram 1930: 36).3 The exact configuration therefore seems to be rather complex and can easily be misinterpreted. In the first place there is clear evidence that an important Hindu temple has been destroyed by an officer of the Mughal Babar at the instigation of local Muslim saints. This seems to be a pattern quite common in Indian history, in which a Muslim ruler is enjoined by religious leaders to spread Islam and to suppress Hinduism. On the other hand, there is the local story that the Muslim saints had come to learn from a Hindu sadhu. This also testifies to a common pattern in Indian history of Hindu and Islamic syncretism. This makes it hardly possible to speak of incompatible and mutually exclusive belief systems. Moreover, there is no evidence for a total suppression of Hinduism in Ayodhya. Hindu worship remained possible in the compound of the mosque and the activities of the Brahman pandas of Ayodhya are recorded by the first European visitor of the place, William Finch between 1608 and 1611 (Forster 1921:176). In fact there seems to be nothing definite to say about the attitude of Muslim rulers and officials in the Mughal period towards Hindu institutions. They could gravitate towards the demolition of temples as well as towards the active patronage of temples. For both extremes examples can be found. At least in the case of Ayodhya the call for the spread of Islam by religious leaders seems to have been successful.To neglect such a call completely has always been a sheer impossibility for Muslim rulers, since the legitimation of their power and the extent of the support given by several groups to their regimes depended for an important part on their use of Islamic symbols and rhetoric. For Hinduism, the positive pole of the continuum between demolition and support of Hindu institutions stood the regime of the Nawabs of Awadh (Oudh) who succeeded the Mughals as the dominant

A Hindu LiberationMovntnt


regime of northern India in the eighteenth century. Awadh is, of course, another writing of Ayodhya and the Hindu sacred place was during the rule of the first Nawab, Saadat Khan (1722-39), the centre of this expanding regional realm. His successor, Safdar Jang (1739-54), however, removed the administration from Ayodhya to the newlybuilt Faizabad, and later in the eighteenth century Lucknow wasmade the capital of Awadh. In the modem literature on Ayodhya Hindu writers tend to interpret the removal of the Nawabi administration from Ayodhya as the liberation of a Hindu sacred place from Muslim oppression (see e.g., Sinha 1957).The idea is that only after · this removal could Ayodhya develop as an important pilgrimage centre and this theory is substantiated by pointing out that most of the older temples in Ayodhya were built in the eighteenth century. There can be no doubt about the fact that Ayodhya became an important pilgrimage centre only in the eighteenth century, but this seems not to have been the result of the removal of Nawabi interference, but, on the contrary, the effect of patronage of the Nawabi court. In bis recent study Richard Barnett (1980) makes it very clear that the rule of the Nawabs depended to a great extent on the successful collaboration of Hindus and Muslims. The administration was largely in the hands of kayasths, a caste of Hindu scribes, while the military force was dominated by Shivaite nagas.The growing significance and prosperity of Ayodhya in this period seems rather to be the result of the upward mobility of Hindu groups in the expanding realm of Nawabi Awadh than the result of the removal of Muslim rule from the place. This view is enforced by documentary evidence found amongst the Brahman pandas and Ramanandi sadhus. The diwan of Nawab Safdar Jang, the saksena kayasth Nawal Ray, built and repaired several temples in Ayodhya, while Safdar Jang himself gave land to Abhayramdas, abbot of the Nirwani akhara, for building a temple on what is known as Hanuman's hill. Asaf-ud-Daulah's diwan, the srivastavakayasth Tikayat Ray, later supported the building of the important temple-fortress Hanumangarhi on this land. Moreover, in the documents kept by the pandas we find evidence of several gifts given by Muslim officials of the Nawabi court for rituals performed by these Hindu priests. The mutual understanding between Muslim rulers and Hindus seems therefore to have been great in the eighteenth century, but it had its limits. There was no sign of removing the mosque from Ram's birthplace, although as before Muslims and Hindus continued to




tkr VHT

worship in the same compound . When the power of the Nawabs gradually eroded due to the growing influence of the British in Awadh's politics the peaceful coexistence of Hindus and Muslims in what had become one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage centres in north India came to be threatened . During the reign of the last king of Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah (1847-56), who had become almost a puppet in the hands of the British, the Sunni leaders began to assert themselves against the authority of the Shia Nawabs. In 1855 Muslims of Ayodhya, led by a Sunni leader Ghulam Husain, claimed that there had been a mosque within the precincts of Hanumangarhi. This mosque should again be opened for Muslim worship. The Muslims gathered in the Bahar mosque and started to threaten the Ramanandi nagas with an attack on Hanumangarhi. This led to a violent battle, which was won by the nagas who killed some 70 Muslims. The events caused considerable agitation amongst Muslims in the whole of Awadh, which the British tried to quell by appointing a commission of both Hindu and Muslim noblemen to investigate the Muslim claim. Although the commission came to the conclusion that the claim was unjustified, the Sunni preachers continued to rouse their followers to start a holy war against the nagas of Hanumangarhi. An army was formed under the leadership of Maulvi Amir-ud-din alias Amir Ali against the explicit orders of the king of Awadh. Before it could reach Ayodhya, it was, however, stopped by British troops.' 4 When the British annexed Awadh in February 1856,they decided to put up a railing around the Bahar mosque, so that the Muslims could continue to worship within the mosque, while the Hindus were forced to make their offerings on a platform, which they raised outside the fence (Camegy 1870:21). The configuration in the eighteenth century, in which the cooperation of Hindu groups was essential to the expansion of the realm of the Shia Nawabs, had been important to the rise of Ayodhya as a pilgrimage centre. The British rule did not have a negative influence on this rise, but it changed its character. Patronage of Muslim rulers and officials was not anymore needed. Petty rajas and zamindars of the region started to invest money in Ayodhya's temples on an enormous scale, probably because of the greater security of property which they enjoyed in the British period (cf. Metcalf 1979:352). The removal of Nawabi rule seems, however, not directly to have exacerbated the relations between Hindu and Muslim commoners after the events of 1855. Ayodhya is not different from other places in north India in

A Hilulu LiheratiortMO'llnlnl


that it was affected by the so-called Cow Protection Movement and there is evidence of riots on a great scale during the Muslim festival of Bakr-Id in 1912 and 1934. In both cases the Hindus launched an attack on the Babar mosque. In 1934 hundreds of Muslims seem to have been massacred and the army to have intervened. After this explosion of violence the British imposed a punitive tax of a few hundred thousand rupees on the Hindu citizens of Ayodhya. Nevertheless Ayodhya seems not to have been a centre of Hindu-Muslim communal strife; rather it seems to have followed the general pattern of deteriorating Hindu-Muslim relations in the national polity in the first half of the twentieth century. However, a fundamental change in the status quo concerning the Babar mosque on Ram's birthplace took place in the years following Partition in 1947. In the night of 22 to 23 December 1949 an idol of Ram suddenly appeared in the mosque, which was guarded by an armed guard to prevent any breach of the peace . The news spread very quickly the following morning. For the Hindus Ram had appeared, while the Muslims interpreted the events as an attempt to defile their mosque. The ensuing riots were quelled only with great difficulty by police and army, while both religious groups were prevented from entering the mosque. Leaders of both parties started litigation to obtain their right of entrance, but the case is still pending, illustrating the capacity of the Indian judiciary not to decide 'unsolvable' cases. In the meantime , the Commissioner of Faizabad, Syam Sundarlal Dar, ordered the District Magistrate K.K.K. Nair to remove the idol from the mosque, but this official refused, with the argument that such an action would mean the rekindling of communal violence. Nair was a supporter of the Hindu communalist movement Rastriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and was forced to retire from his post together with his assistant Gurudat Singh because of his role in the Hindu-Muslim conflict. Gurudat Singh continued to play a prominent role in communalist politics in Faizabad ( cf. Gould 1966). Ram's idol remained in the mosque and, since an idol has to be worshipped, a committee was formed for this purpose. From 1950 the members of the Ram Janmabhumi Seva Committee obtained permission to worship Ram's idol once a year in the night of 22 to 23 December. Besides that, the committee organized a so-called uninterrupted devotional singing (akhand kirtan) in front of the mosque, as long as the birthplace was not liberated. The execution of this activity was given into the hands of Sadhu Ram Lakhan Saran, who

410 Pdff- van tkr Veer

was succeeded by Ram Dayal Saran in the 1960s. The latter we shall meet in our description of the events in 1984. The new situation had therefore become one in which Muslims and Hindus were refused the entrance to the mosque, while Hindus had organized an activist devotional practice in front of it. Both parties were engaged in legal procedures, which gave the government the opportunity to remain neutral pending the decision of the court. The persons who had contrived to put the idol in the mosque had tried to use the changed configuration in north India after the Partition to the advantage of the Hindus, but they had not really succeeded. Until 1984 the mosque remained guarded by the police, but nothing much happened.

A Sacrifice to Liberate the Spot on which Ram was Born On the evening of Saturday 6 October 1984, several groups of Ramanandi sadhus stood on the bridge over the River Sarayu waiting f~r a procession coming from Sitamarhi in Bihar and expected in Ayodhya that evening. The name of the procession was somewhat strange : Ram Janmabhumi Mukti Yajna, which means literally ~ sacrifice to liberate the spot on which Ram was born'. It was thus clearly a religious procession with a rather activist aspect. In the attitude of the waiting sadhus, however, nothing could be seen of a grim determination to sacrifice their lives or anything in a violent attack on the mosque. When the procession arrived on the bridge, it, too, did not tum out to be of a violent nature: only a few trucks with shouting people and some private cars crammed with sadhus. The piece de resistance of the procession was indeed of a more or less religiou~ character: a truck with the large statues of Ram and his wife Sita under a banner with the slogan: Bharat Mata ki Jay (Hail to Mother India}. It was clearly not the intention to take the mosque by storm. It remained a religious procession with Hindu-nationalist slogans. After the arrival of the procession, the people were invited to come on the following day to the banks of the Sarayu, where a programme would be held with speeches and sacrifices. On the next day, a platform had been erected on a stretch of wasteland near the river. On the side of the platform facing the

A Hindu LiberatuneMOHfltfflt 411

audience, a large painting was fixed representing a fight between Muslims with swords and sadhus without weapons. On the platform, a rather large group of sadhus took their places, while between the platform and the audience some room was left for the press. As far as I could see only some 5,000-7,000 people had come to listen to the speeches. This seemed a disappointing number, since Ayodhya is a pilgrimage centre which attracts regularly thousands of pilgrims; and, on festivals, even hundreds of thousands. The Hindu press was not taken aback by this number, however, and inflated it to 50,000 and in some papers even to a 100,000, numbers which were taken over by the national press . Although the number of spectators was in fact relatively small, it was not possible to identify the faces in the crowd and to trace their origin, which is often recommended if we want to come to grips with crowd behaviour. As far as I can see, this is only possible when something goes wrong, when the crowd starts rioting and the police are forced to make arrests, so that documentary evidence on the rioters becomes available (cf. Yang 1980). Nothing of the kind happened, however, in Ayodhya, so that we are forced to restrict ourselves to the faces on the platform. First of all, two office-bearers of the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) addressed the audience . This organization had taken the initiative to organize the procession to liberate Lord Ram from his Muslim jail, as it was expressed during the meeting . It is often said in India, as well as abroad, that the VHP is a cover of the former political party Jan Sangh, which has recently become the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the RSS . The latter organizations are the best known examples of what is called Hindu communalism in Indian politics and therefore the VHP, too, is called a communalist movement .5 The VHP is, however, to some extent different from the other two organiutions . It was founded in 1964 by Swami Chinmayanand as an attempt to unite the religious organizations of Hindus for common purposes . At the first congress of the VHP there were representatives of many religious communities, including Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs (Master 'Iara Singh), who obviously did not object to incorporation in a movement for Hindu unity. The organization has two levels : an 'assembly of religion' (dharmsansad) with 500 representative members, chosen by the several local branches , and an 'advisory committee' (margdarshak-mandal)having as its members leaders of the various participating religious communities. As distinct from the BJP and RSS, the VHP seems to be dominated by religious leaders, \



Peter van der Peer

while laymen, including politicians from all parties, can be members. Amongst these laymen Hindu conservatives of the Congress-I seem to be as prominent as the members of the BJP. The VHP 's attempts to unite the Hindus have never been very successful until the Ekatmatayajna, i.e., 'Sacrifice for Unanimity' of 1983. From all directions processions traversed the country. Prominent in the processions were trucks with enormous bronze pots (kalashas ), containing water from India's most sacred river, the Ganges. Water from the pots was distributed in the villages on the way, while the pots were refilled with water from local or regional reservoirs of sacred water , like temple-tanks or sacred rivers. This mixture of sacred, purifying water symbolized in an immensely direct way for Hindus the unity of Hindu India. The success of these processions was enormous and enabled the VHP to strengthen its network of local branches throughout the country. In a way, the processions aimed only at Hindu unity , but it cannot be denied that the notion of a Hindu nation excludes non-Hindu groups and primarily the Muslims from the nation . The so-called 'Hindu unity' implies, therefore, a clearer demarcation between 'We Hindus' and 'They Muslims' . This implication is even clearer in the liberation movement started by the VHP in 1984. The demand to remove the mosques from Hindu sacred places including, besides Ram 's birthplace, also Krishna 's in Mathura and the important Viswanath temple of Shiva in Benares, does not so much stimulate Hindu unity as it stresses the antagonism between Hindus and Muslims . The mosques were built several centuries ago, so that Muslims have also a historical claim that these places are important in their religion. The office-bearers of the VHP who spoke at the meeting included an abbot of the Gorakhnath Jogis from Gorakhpur, Mahant Avaidyanath, and a former Congress-I minister of Uttar Pradesh, D. Khanna. They spoke about the disgrace that although India had become independent in 1947, Hindus were still second-rate citizens , who did not even have access to their most sacred places . After them a few sadhus from Ayodhya came forward. The most powerful speech was delivered by Paramahams Ramchandradas, the active abbot of the Digambar Akhara of the Ramanandi order. He asked loudly: 'Where are the Ramanandis of Ayodhya? Does it not interest them that their god is in a Muslim jail?' To understand this challenge we shall have to ask ourselves who had not come to speak on the platform. To this and to Ramchandradas's role in the events later that year we will return

A Hued•

~ Mow,.,,at


in the next two paragraphs . The sadhus of Ayodhya were succeeded by a seemingly unending row of religious leaders, belonging to various religious orders, and coming from regions as far apart as the Punjab and Kerala. Their speeches all amounted to the same message , but one recurring theme has to be mentioned here . The audience was asked repeatedly to give their vote only to those parties which explicitly promised to give the Hindus their sacred places back. We have to realize that all this happened before the murder of Mrs Gandhi, who had announced that general elections were to be held in the beginning of 1985. The liberation movement was, therefore, perfectly timed for putting pressure on the politicians. This is not the same, of course, as a call for the support of the BJP or other Hindu parties. It can also be seen as an attempt to influence the secular policies of the Congress-I, to which several important VHPmembers belong . The first aim of the movement seemed to be the creation of a broad platform for Hindu religious aims without identification with any particular political party . One of the most striking aspects of the meeting in Ayodhya seems to be that leaders of various independent orders of sadhus spoke to an audience without even mentioning their differences . Vishnuites, Shivaites and Tuntrists who have a long history of violent competition were peacefully gathered under the banner of a goddess not worshipped by any of them : Bharat Mata (Mother India). Moreover, regional differences were underplayed, since sadhus from all parts of the country had come to take part in the liberation movement. The VHP offers therefore a platform for several sadhu leaders from different orders and regions (excluding other leaders) to participate in actions of broad Hindu interest. In this way the actions of the VHP bear some similarity with the Cow Protection Movement which emerged in north India at the end of the nineteenth century. There is the same emphasis on symbolic action in the protection of the cow, the nurturing mother, featuring in almost all important Hindu rituals, as in the mixing of sacred water from all parts of the country or the liberation of Hindu gods from their Muslim jails . Moreover, just as in the actions of the VHP, the spread of the Cow Protection Movement seems to have been for the greater part in the hands of peripatetic sadbus who were here for the first time , as it seems, collaborating in a movement which lay outside their immediate interests , but within the interests of a newly defined 'Hindu community ' (cf. Freitag 1980; Yang 1980). Times have changed, however. While the Cow


htef" van der ~er

Protection Movement had distinct anti-British overtones (Yang 1980: 583), the VHP cannot anymore agitate against British rule, but must address itself to a secular national state, almost continuously governed by Congress governments, which are supported by considerable groups of Hindus as well as Muslims. It has chosen not to ally itself with any Hindu political party because this kind of party has not been tremendously successful since Independence. In fact, there is no Hinduism or Hindu community existent which can be represented by a political party. There are two words in Hindi for communalism: sampradayavad andjativad. The latter is often translated with 'caste ism', while the former pertains to religious communities. The differences between the interests of castes and between the interests of religious orders makes an easy identification with a Hindu community impossible. There are, however, specifically Hindu issues that can be the basis of broadly supported actions with various implications in the political arena. The liberation movement of the VHP is such an action which has the potentiality to attract broad support from various Hindu groups which may have different and even antagonistic interests in other field s of political and economic action. The success or failure and in general the implications of the movement depend on political processes at various levels. Some of these processes on the local level of Ayodhya and on the national level will be examined in the next two paragraphs.

The Defenders of the Status Quo There are Ramanandi sadhus in Ayodhya who believe, of course, in Ram 's liberating power, but do not desire to liberate the god himself . Those were the Ramanandi sadhus to whom Ramchandradas alluded, when he asked where the Ramanandis of Ayodhya were and why it did not seem to interest them that their god was in a Muslim jail. We have therefore not only to examine who did speak on the platform , but also who did not. First of all, the sadhus of Ayodhya's most important temple, Hanumangarhi, were not represented . Second, Ram Dayal Saran , the leader of the uninterrupted devotional singing in front of the mosque, was conspicuously absent . And , finally, Ramcaritradas, the President of the Ramjanmabhumi Seva Committee , also did not show up at the meeting .

A Hindu LiHration MOflffltfflt 415

The sadhus of Hanumangarhi are nagas, so-called 'fighting ascet• ics', who do not shy away from the use of naked violence to defend their interests, as we have seen in our summary of the history of the conflict about the birthplace. Moreover, the modem legitimation for the military training of nagas in wrestling and the use of weapons is that they have the historical duty to defend Hindu religion . There• fore, it is surprising that they did not take part in the liberation move• ment, organized by the VHP. The most important reason for it seems to be that they feared the success of the movement. This would disturb the status quo in Ayodhya considerably. At the moment there are two important temples in Ramkot, the centre of Ayodhya, and these are visited by almost all pilgrims. The first is Hanumangarhi, the temple•fortress of the monkey•god Hanuman, and the second is Kanakbhavan, the palace of Ram and his wife Sita. The latter is not in the hands of Ramanandi sadhus, but of a trust presided over by the heir of the builder of the temple, the Raja of Orccha. These two tern• pies obtain the larger part of the offerings presented to the gods by millions of pilgrims, visiting Ayodhya every year. Near them is the mosque, and almost all pilgrims also go there to give some offerings to the sadhus who are sitting in front of the mosque, singing their devotional songs. However, as long as there is a mosque on the spot and not a temple, the attraction of the place is minimal in comparison with Hanumangarhi and Kanakbhavan. The removal of the mosque and the building of a temple, which would probably be in the hands of the government, would mean a considerable loss of income for Hanumangarhi and Kanakbhavan. They would still be visited, but would obtain less offerings. For the trustees of Kanakbhavan, who only derive status, not income from their wealthy temple, this would not be a very threatening prospect. But for the 500 to 600 nagas living in Hanumangarhi, who depend largely on the temple's income, such a future can hardly be welcomed. There is another, less important reason why the nagas of Hanumangarhi stayed away. They seem to have a long tradition of easy accommodations with 'the powers that be '. They obtained their temple and their land from the Muslim nawabs, as we have seen. After that, they seem to have supported the British during the Mutiny of 1857 (Bayly 1983: 362) and, according to my information, during the nationalist agitation of the 1920s and 1930s. Since Independence they have the reputation of being staunch supporters of the Congress party. Good contacts with the rulers and their bureaucracy have always been



considered to be of great value by the nagas of Hanumangarhi, who are comfortably settled in their wealthy temple. It was primarily the absence of these nagas that led Paramahams Ramchandradas to call out defiantly: 'Where are the Ramanandis of Ayodhya?' He is also a naga, but of a different branch and his temple is considerably less important than Hanumangarhi, which clearly irritates him. That is why he relished the awkward situation in which the nagas of Hanumangarhi were brought by the liberation movement. Even more conspicuous than the absence of the nagas of Hanumangarhi was that of Ram Dayal Saran, the leader of the devotional singing. The singing will continue as long as the place is not liberated and therefore it would seem that Saran's intentions and those of the liberation movement ought to coincide. This is, however, not the case. Officially, the singing is an activity of the Ram Janmabhumi Seva Committee and Saran is only the man to perform it. Since the 1960s he has, however, not presented to the committee any fmancial account of the offerings given by the pilgrims to sustain the singing. Gradually he has become a free entrepreneur, who puts the whole income, which is estimated to be at least Rs 1,00,000 a year, in his own pocket . The committee has not taken any action against Saran, since he is known to be a tough, a goonda, who commands a small group of armed retainers. Saran is, of course, not at all interested in the real liberation of Ram's birthplace, since in that event the singing would lose its raison d'etre. His role in a new temple would be negligible, since the government would take the management into its own hands. The last sadhu to be absent at the meeting of the liberation movement was Ramcaritradas, President of the Ram Janmabhumi Seva Committee. In daily life he is the abbot of a Ramanandi temple near the River Sarayu, but he is better known as an important moneylender and entrepreneur. He looks like a fearsome wrestler and in fact he has a violent reputation, derived from his moneylending and other commercial activities. He is a sadhu, whom we would expect to lead a celibate life, but this is not the case. He is rather the kind of Ramanandi sadhu, already described by Nesfield (1885: 86), who shows himself to the outside world as an ascetic, but who has in fact adopted the life of a layman. He leads a kind of double life, having a wife, two sons, who call themselves his disciples (chelas), and a daughter . Ramcaritradas is a religious entrepreneur who has many interests in the economic and political life of Ayodhya and who had chosen himself as president of the committee in 1983. To win the

A Hindu UNration Movement



yearly elections is not difficult, since every person who has paid a contribution has the right to vote. By making a certain number of his friends paying members, Ramcaritradas could easily win, but the question is rather, why should he have wanted to win. What interests Ramcaritradas is money; but the only money-producing activity is the devotional singing, which is in the hands of Saran. One of the few sadhus in Ayodhya to be able to tame the wild Saran is, however , the not less wild Ramcaritradas, who just like Saran has a small group of armed retainers at his disposal . In fact, Ayodhya was already waiting for a violent encounter of the two sadhus, when the news of the liberation movement reached the town. The attention given to Ram 's birthplace in the press and by the authorities prevented any of Ramcaritradas's plans to avail himself of part of the income of the devotional singing . This is not to say that he lost the money he invested in becoming president. He told me that he did not want to support the movement, since he had good contacts with the Congress-I which had promised him to do 'something' to solve the problem of Ram's birthplace, if he would not give his support to the movement. Persistent rumours in Ayodhya, however, have it that the 'something' promised by the Congress-I had nothing to do with Ram's birthplace, but everything to do with the coming elections for the municipal council of Ayodhya, in which Ramcaritradas would be put on the Congress-I ticket for chairmanship of the council. These rumours seem to have more truth in them than Ramcaritradas ' statement, since there were no indications at that time that the Congress-I would even consider losing the Muslim vote by conceding to the Hindu demand. The status quo in Ayodhya has thus its defenders, although it is a status quo which seems contrary to Hindu feelings and wishes . There is no reason to think that the sadhus mentioned here do not have 'belief in Ram' while those sadhus who support the liberation movement do have that belief. The point is that the aims of the liberation movement are quite contrary to the real interests of these sadhus and that is why they prefer not to support it.

Further Events: The Ramayan-mela What happened in Ayodhya after the meeting of the liberation movement near the river? The procession started on the next day for


Peter van der ~er

Lucknow to present a petition to the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh . Rumours were spread in Ayodhya that the procession was attacked on the way by Muslims, but these were almost at the same time contradicted by other rumours. Some of Ayodhya's sadhus had accompanied the procession to Lucknow and told, after their return, that it had had a far greater success in Lucknow and in the places on the way than in Ayodhya itself . The procession would go on to Delhi, where it would arrive in December. In Delhi a petition would be handed to the national government. Ramchandradas informed me that he expected much of the outcome of the liberation movement, because leaders of Hindu parties as the BJP as well as leaders of conservative factions in the Congress -I welcomed the movement as a support for their position in the elections. During the Hindu month Kartik,which is one of the great months for pilgrimage, Ramchandradas and other sadhus of Ayodhya would have to stay in Ayodhya to receive their lay disciples, but in December they would also go to Delhi. However, the whole situation changed dramatically with the murder of Mrs Gandhi by Sikh extremists. Congress-I, led by the son of the murdered Mother of the Country, became at once the symbol of a unified India for Hindu s as well as Muslims. The 'Us' and 'Them' identifications changed overnight from Hindus against Muslims to Indians against Sikhs. The liberation movement became an anachronism, since-at least in this period-the political situation could not anymore be represented in terms of Hindu - Muslim antagonism. The change was not only reflected in the ugly riots in Faizabad, in which Muslims and Hindus attacked Sikh property together, but also in rather more subtle events in November 1984 in Ayodhya. In the last week of November there were three Ramayan-me/as, i.e., meetings for the recitation of the Ramayana, organized in Ayodhya: one by the government of U ttar Pradesh, one by the national government , and one by· Ramchandradas. For the first meta a few wellknown regional experts in recitation were invited as well as some of the most important sadhus of Ayodhya, who were known to support Congress-I . The second meta had an international character. Besides two participants from the Soviet Union, there were expatriate Indians from all parts of the world: the Caribbean, Canada, ·United States, Great Britain, Netherlands and so on. This mela was broadcast on television. The third meta was organized by Ramchandradas as a protest against this 'show' of piety by the government, in which

A Hindu Libnatiott Move,amt


Ram's saga was recited, while the god himself was not liberated from his Muslim jail. In this meeting several sadhus of Ayodhya participated. While the two melas organized by the Congress-I governments were reasonably well attended, Ramchandradas's mela was an abject failure. The sadhus on the platform recited for each other, not for an audience. People who had formerly supported the liberation movement avoided this mela and told me with subdued voice that it was not correct to organize anything against the government in these difficult days. With great enthusiasm the audience in the two melas, organized by the government, reacted to suggestions that Lord Ram was a bridge between his subjects and that the late Mrs Gandhi was a great lover of the Ramayana. At the end of his mela, Ramchandradas left for Delhi to join the procession. A few days later he returned disappointed. No one in Delhi had been interested in the liberation movement. It had become a failure due to unforeseen circumstances. Ramchandradas drew his conclusions and supported without any hesitation the election campaign of the Congress -I, which indeed turned out to be an unprecedented success for Rajiv Gandhi.

Conclusion Ayodhya is an important Hindu centre of pilgrimage. Ram is one of the most important Hindu gods of north India and Ayodhya is his place. It is therefore a focus of Hindu beliefs and actions . It seems reasonable to suggest that the very location of a mosque on Ram's birth-site has always been a humiliating affront of Hindu feelings. The argument would then be that the liberation movement of the VHP is the simple expression of these feelings in the political arena. This line of thought, which is quite common in sociological thinking on religion and communalism, hinders, in my opinion, the correct interpretation of the events described in this chapter. First of all there is no 'simple expression of Hindu feelings'. Those who believe in Ram may support the liberation movement or may not support it, depending on their interests and interpretation of the situation. Moreover, there is no constant and static existence of Hindu feelings and values. They are not 'cultural givens '; rather they are the products of a political process. There are, of course, ancient notions of a 'Muslim community' and a 'Hindu India', but these notions change constantly in content and can only become dominant sentiments and guiding ideas as the result of specific political processes. It is certainly


Peter van ,kr Yur

incorrect to say that there has always been an unchanging antagonism between Hindus and Muslims which is culturally given. As has been seen, it is better to speak of changing configurations, in which Muslim rulers might destroy a temple, but also may support it. The rise of Ayodhya in the eighteenth century seems to depend on the success of Nawabi rule in Awadh, while communal strife between Muslims and Hindus coincides with the decline of that regional realm. It is difficult to attempt an interpretation here of the rather sudden success of the VHP's Ekatmatayajna processions of 1983. Its symbolism of the mixing of sacred water from all parts of India was no doubt a 'direct hit', but this does not explain why it was done only in 1983, while the VHP was already founded in 1964. An explanation would imply an analysis of changes in the national political arena, in which attention would be given to the fear of the international 'revival' of Islam as well as to the success of regional movements in Assam. Andhra Pradesh and Panjab. Such an explanation is not attempted here . We have to limit ourselves to the observation that the success of the Ekatmatayajna inspired the VHP to organize a movement to liberate Hindu sacred places the next year. Although the movement was not particularly successful at the local level of Ayodhya, it was met with greater enthusiasm in other parts of Uttar Pradesh. It is impossible to predict what would have been its political implications at the national level, bad the murder of Mrs Gandhi not spoiled everything . It is, however, clear enough that the movement aroused sentiments which had been virtually dormant since 1950. Between 1950 and 1984 there had been no action, no movement to demand Hindu occupation of the place of Ram's birth except for legal actions, destined to remain endlessly unfruitful. 6 These new sentiments, whatever their exact social origin, were, however, counterbalanced at a later stage by the upsurge of national feelings following Mrs Gandhi's assassination. Therefore it may be concluded that religious feelings and values do matter, but that they cannot be divorced from the political processes in which they are produced and managed.

Notes 1. The larger part of the data presented in this chapter was collected during fieldwork in Ayodhya in the last three months of 1984, which wasfinancially supported by the Netherlands Foundation for 'lropical Rescarc:h. I want to thank Ram Raksba

A Huult, UIM,cdioft Mow•ent



4. S.


Tripatbi for his help during the fieldwork and Mart Bax, Peter Staples an(J Bonno 1boden vanVelzen for their comments on an earlier version of this chapter. My position seems somewhat similar to that of Bayly ( 1985: 202-203), though I fail to see the advantage of using the tenn 'mentalit~• instead of 'identity' . The situation resembles that of Benares, where a 'well of wisdom' (/nan.a Vaj,;) is situated before the mosque, which wasbuilt on the demolished Visvanath lcmple ( cf. Eck 1982). See for these events the exteDSM description in Bhatnagar (1968: 117-41). See, for a description of the political history of the Jan Sangh and the RSS, Baxter (1966) .

6. Although SCYCral cases are already pending in the High Court for more than 30 years, the District and Session Judge of Faizabad decided on 14 February 1986 that

the gates of the shrine should be opened immediately. It would not be difficult to say that this decision was politically motivated, as indeed Muslim leaders have already done . It seems, however, that the judge decided upon a petition of a local Hindu lawyer 'seeking the unlocking of the gates of the disputed shrine on the grounds that it was only an earlier district administration and not a court which had ordered its closure' (India Today, 28 February 1986). These developments triggered off great communal disturbances in many north Indian cities. India Today also reports that violent quarrels over the control of the shrine have already broken out between several Hindu groups. It is imposstble to say what will be the future of the shrine, since it is still not decided by any court whether it is a mosque or a temple.

References Asad, T. 1983. ~thropological (n .s.) 18: 237-59.

C.onccptions of Religion: Reflections on Geertz' , Man

Baldrff,H. 1984. ~yodhya' . Ph.D. Dissertation, Groningen . Ba1•1t, R. 1980.Nonh India berw«n Empires:Awadh, the Mupa/s and the British, 1720-1801.Berkeley: University of California Press. Ba~ C. 1966. 'The Jana Sangh: A Brief History', in D. Smith (ed.), South Asian Politics and Religioll,pp. 74-102. Princet on: Princeton University Press. Bayly,C. 1983.Rukrs, Towmmen and Jlowars: North Indian Society in the Age of BriJish Expomiofl, 1770-1870. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


. 1985. 'The Pre-history of "C.ommunalism"? Religious C.onflictin India, 170018(,()',Modem.Asian Studies, 19(2): 177- 203. 8e'f'ertdae,A.S. 1922. The Babwnoma in English.London. BbAtnap"', G. 1968. Awadh under Wojid AU Shah. Benares : Bharatiya Vidya Prakashan . Carnegy, P. 1870.A Historical Sketch of Tohsil Fyzobod, Zillah Fyzabod. Lucknow: Oudh Government Press. Dumont, L 1970. Religio11,Politics and History in India . The Hague : Mouton. Fd, D. 1982. Banaras: Cily of Light . New York: Knoff. Epsteia, A. 1978. Ethos and ldefllily . London : lllvistoct. Fonta-, W. 1921.Early Travelsin India, 1583-1619. London.


hter van thr ~er

Freitag, S. 1980. 'Sacred Symbol as Mobilizing Ideology: The North Indian Search for

a "Hindu Community'", ComparativeStudies in Society and History,pp. 597-625. Geertz, C. 1973. The Interpretationof Culb.,ru. New York: Basic Books. Gould,H. 1966. 'Religion and Politics in a U.P.Constituency', in D. Smith (ed.), South Asian Politicsand &ligion, pp. 51-74. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Metcalf, 1b. 1979. Land, Landlords and the British Raj: Northan India in the Nineteenth Century.New Deihl: Oxford University Press. Nesfteld, J.C. 1885. Brief View of the C~ System of the N. W. Provinces and Oudh. Allahabad: Government Press. Sinha, B.P. 1957. Rombhakti Mem Rasik Samprruiaya. Balrampur: Avadb Saltitya Mandir . Sltaram, L 1930.Avadh kilhanki. Prayag. van der Veer,P. 1984. 'Structure and Anti-Structure in Hindu Pilgrimage to Ayodbya', in K. Ballhatcbett and D. Tuylor (eds), Changing South Asia: &ligion and Sociay, pp. 59-67. Hong Kong: Asian Research Service. --. 1985. 'Brahmans: Their Purity and their Poverty. On the Changing Values of Brahman Priests in Ayodhya', Contributionsto Indian Sociology(n.s.) 19(2): 303-21. 'ffn der Veer, P.and C. van der Burs, 1986. 'Pandits, Power and Profit. Religious Organization and the Construction of Identities among Surinames Hindus', Ethnic and Racial Studies, 9(4), October: 514-28. Wolfe,E. 1982.Europeand the Peopk without History. Berkeley: University of California Press. V.Ug, A. 1980. 'Sacred Symbols and Sacred Space in Rural India: Community Mobilization in the '½nti-Cow Killing Riot of 1983"', ComparativeStudies in Society and History,pp. 576-96.


Chipko: Social History of an 'Environmental' Movement


As a popular movement that has focused worldwide attention on the

environmental crisis in the Himalaya, the Chipko andolan provided the point of entry for the present work. In this chapter I explore the major dimensions of Chipko as a social movement. Essentially, a sociologicalstudy of the Chipko andolan must grapple with three sets of issues. First, there is the understanding of the movement in its historical dimension. On the one hand, we need to interpret the social idiom of Chipko in the context of earlier movements centring around the question of peasant access to forests. On the other hand, we need to examine the interconnections between Chipko and different aspects of state intervention, scientific forestry in particular and, more generally,the administrative policies followedby different governments. In keeping with the overall emphasis of this work, both social participation in Chipko and its reflection in popular consciousness are sought to be depicted in terms of the changing relationship between the state and the peasantry. Second, the links between specific forms taken by Chipko and its relationship to the social structure of Uttarakhand need to be spelt out. Here, one must emphasize the social changes that have created a 'money-order' economy and a lopsided demographic profile in the

424 Ramacha,ulra Guha

villages of Uttarakhand. Thus, Chipko can be read as a response to the fragmentation of the village community in recent decades. Again, women have always played an important role in economic life and this structural constant may explain the widespread participation of women-marking an important departure from the preIndependence period-in contemporary social movements. 1 At the same .time, the participation of women in Chipko and its associated movements has been influenced by the impact of recent economic changes in intensifying their traditional dependence on the natural environment. Finally, while Chipko lies in a direct path of continuity with an earlier history of social protest, as an organized and sustained social movement, at the same time, it represents an expansion in the scale of popular mobilization and the development of popular consciousness. This extension has two distinct aspects. First, the enduring nature of Chipko and its assumption of an organizational form has raised major questions: the nature of leadership, the ideological clashes between different subcultures of the movement, and the redefinition of the relations between the sexes. These were absent from many of the earlier, largely 'unorganized', movements of social protest in Uttarakhand. Second, notwithstanding its internal schisms, as an extension of popular consciousness Chipko attempts to combat the growing social and ecological disintegration of hill society. This attempt consists, on the one hand, of an expansion of the movement to embrace other social issues, and, on the other, of the presentation to the state and the general public with alternative strategies of resource use and social development.

Chipko: Its Origins and Development The Background Not surprisingly, the continuation by the government of independent India of forestry practices inimical to local needs generated a certain amount of discontent. In 1958 a committee was formed to 'investigate ... the grievances of the people' of Uttarakhand concerning forest management. It deplored the situation in the hiU tracts where,

CM#Jlto: SocialHutory 425

even after the attainment of independence, 'not only great discontent against the forest department prevails at several places, but it is also looked upon with extreme suspicion and distrust'. While recognizing the need to locallydevelop the resources of the hills,the committee considered as inevitablethe continuance of restrictionsviewed by the people as a 'forfeiture of their hereditary natural rights'. Its typicallynon-specific recommendations gave priority to the 'preservation, development and extension of the forests' and to meeting the 'genuine needs of the local people'. It also asked for a declaration from the government that it would respect village rights over forests and that, along with forest preservation, 'it would provide every opportunity for the economic progress of the people'.2 In the absence of concrete programmes, local legislators warned, there was every chance of a popular upsurge in the tradition of movements against the British and the Tehri durbar.3 In fact, Communist Party of India activists in the Yamuna valley had organized several satyagrahas againstthe high-handednessof different state agencies.• Great resentment continued to be expressed against the practice of large timber coupes being sold to 'outside' contractors. Villagers also refused to help the forest staff extinguishfires, as they were bound to do under the forest act.5 The undercurrent of protest against forest management was combined with opposition to other facets of commercialization and the continuing underdevelopment of the hills. Led by Sarvodaya workers, thousands of villagers, mostly women, opposed the widespread distillation and sale of liquor. Processions and the picketing of liquor stills were organized in different districts of Garhwal. In Tehri the prominent Sarvodayaleader Sunderlal Bahuguna and several women were arrested for defying prohibitory orders.6 A partial prohibition was imposed on the occasion of the centenary of Gandhi's birth; when this was successfullychallenged by liquor contractors in the high court, sale was recommenced. This led to a fresh waveof dhamas , with Bahuguna embarking on-an indefinite hunger strike. Thirty-one volunteers were arrested in Tehri for picketing liquor shops.7 Meanwhile the demand for a separate hill state gathered momentum. Students went on strike demanding the establishment of universities in the hills. Bandhs were successfully organized in several towns. In a metaphor reminiscent of the forest movement of 1921, the government was termed 'Bania', a government which yielded only under coercion. Consciously seeking to establish a continuity

426 Ramaehandra Guha

with earlier protest movements, the Uttarakhand Rajya Sammelan had organized a meeting at Bageshwar on the sacred occasion of the Uttaraini mela. Here, speakers stressed the looting of natural resources from the hills, the growing unemployment, and the cultural similarities between Garhwal and Kumaon. The government responded by setting up universities and autonomous development corporations in both Garbwal and Kumaon divisions. 8

The 1970 Flood The unusually heavy monsoon of 1970 precipitated the most devastating flood in living memory. In the Alakananda valley, water inundated 100 square kilometres of land, washed away 6 metal bridges and 10 kilometres of motor roads, 24 buses and several dozen other vehicles; 366 houses collapsed and 500 acres of standing paddy crops were destroyed. The loss of human and bovine life was considerable. The Gauna lake, formed by the Alakananda flood of 1894, was filled with debris. Apart from the tributaries of the Alakananda, the Kali and Bhageerathi rivers also spilled their banks. Houses in Rishikesh, where the Ganga enters the plains, were also destroyed. Due to the blockage of the Ganga canal, 95 lakh acres of land in eastern UP went unirrigated. 9 The 1970 floods mark a turning-point in the ecological history of the region. Villagers, who bore the brunt of the damage, were beginning to perceive the hitherto tenuous links between deforestation, landslides and floods. It was observed that some of the villages most affected by landslides lay directly below fores ts where felling operations had taken place (Bahuguna 1970). Preceding official initiative, 'folk sense was the only body that surveyed the grim scene and drew conclusions. The causal relationship between increasing erosivity and floods on the one hand, and mass scale felling of trees on the other, was recognized by [it)' (Bhatt 1983). The villagers ' cause was taken up by the Dashauli Gram Swarajya Sangh (DGSS), a cooperative organization based in Chamoli district. Organized by several local youths in the mid-1960s, the DGSS had as its major objective the generation of local employment. Despite serious obstacles it operated a small resin and turpentine unit , manufactured agricultural implements, and organized the collection and sale of medicinal herbs.

Chiplt.o: Social History


On 22 October 1971 the DGSS organized a major demonstration in Gopeshwar, the district town of Chamoli. The demonstrators called for an end to liquor sale and to untouchability , and for giving priority to the local use of forests . Arguing that they had nurtured the forest growth themselves, villagers demanded that local units be given preference in the allotment of raw material. Led by Sarvodaya workers, such as Gandhi's English disciple Sarla Devi (who had set up an ashram in Almora district in the 1940s) and the leading local activist Chandi Prasad Bhatt, the procession was of a size never before seen in Chamoli district. 10 In the following year major public meetings were held at Gopeshwar and Uttarkashi , which demanded the replacement of the contractor system with forest labour cooperatives (FLC' s) and the setting up of small-scale industries. 11

Mandal 12 In early 1973 the DGSS had asked for an allotment of ash trees in order to make agricultural implements. The forest department refused to accommodate this request. Instead, they asked the DGSS to use chir trees , totally unsuitable for the purpose. However, the Symonds Co. was allotted ash trees in the forest of Mandal, barely several miles from Gopeshwar . This blatant injustice inspired the DGSS to organize several meetings in Mandal and Gopeshwar to discuss possible action . 1\vo alternatives presented themselves : (a) to lie down in front of the timber trucks; (b) to bum resin and timber depots as was done in the Quit India movement. When Sarvodaya workers found both methods unsatisfactory , Chandi Prasad Bhatt suddenly thought of embracing the trees. Thus 'Cbipko ' (to hug) was born . Led by their headman, Alam Singh Bist, the villagers of Mandal resolved to hug the trees even if axes split open their stomachs . Young men cemented the oath with signatures of blood . The birth of Chipko preceded the actual advent of Symonds Co . in Mandal. Hearing of the villagers ' plan, the district magistrate wired the UP government, who responded by calling Bhatt for negotiations to Lucknow . A compromise was suggested, whereby the government would allot the DGSS ash trees on condition that the sporting goods firm could take away its quota. Despite raising its offer from one ash tree to five, the authorities could not break down the stiff resistance .


Ramachasulra Guha

The labour and agents of Symonds f'...o.were forced to tum away from Manda) without felling a single tree. In June Symonds was allotted trees near the village of Phata in the Mandakini valley, en route to the shrine of Kedamath. 13 When the news reached the DGSS, they were able to contact ( the late) Kedar Singh Rawat , a prominent social worker of the area . Despite heavy rainfall a huge demonstration was organized on 24 June . Dismayed, the company 's agents returned to Gopeshwar, where they complained at the forest office that even after depositing the guarantee money they were unable to fell the trees marked for them .



Despite these early protests, the government went ahead with the yearly auction of forests in November. One of the plots scheduled to be assigned was the Reni forest, situated near Joshimath, in the Alakananda valley-a locality affected by landslides in the recent past ..Reni itself was a village inhabited by members of the Bhotiya community who had abandoned nomadic pastoralism in favour of settled agriculture. Hearing of the auction , DGSS workers contacted the block pramukh of Joshimath, Govind Singh Rawat of the Communist Party of India. While trekking through the area they noticed that over 2,000 trees had already been marked for felling. Ironically enough, the labour for marking had been provided by the themselves . Meetings were organized at which the tragic 1970 flood was remembered, and the possible consequences of felling the marked trees highlighted. Bhatt suggested to the villagers that they adopt the Chipko technique . The village women huddled some distance from the meeting were clearly amused at the thought of 'Chipko'. The tellings were scheduled for the last week of March 1974. On the 25th a massive demonstration was organized in Joshimath where college students from Gopeshwar threatened to embark on a Chipko andolan unless the tellings were called off. Fearing opposition to the felling operations, the forest department resorted to subterfuge. The conservator of forests, who was based at Pauri, hoping that Chandi Prasad Bhatt could be persuaded to stay on in Gopeshwar, arranged to visit the DGSS premises on the 26th . Bhatt stayed on to receive

Claif,lt,o: S«ial Hutory 429 him. The same day the men of Reni and neighbouring villages were

called to Chamoli to receive the compensation long overdue for lands appropriated by the Indian army after the Chinese invasion of 1962. With both DGSS workers and local men out of the way, the lumbermen proceeded to the forest on the 26th. The same evening Govind Singh Rawat phoned Bhatt with news of the department's deceit. Now it was believed to be too late. A plan to gherao the conservator was foiled when the offJCialfled from Gopeshwar. At Reni events had taken a dramatic tum. The contractors' men who were travelling to Reni from Joshimath stopped the bus shortly before Reni. Skirting the village, they made for the forest. A small girl who spied the workers with their implements rushed to Gaura Devi, the head of the village Mahila Mandal (Women's Club). Gaura Devi quickly mobilized the other housewives and went to the forest. Pleading with the labourers not to start fellingoperations, the women initially met with abuse and threats. When the women refused to budge,the men were eventually forced to retire.

TM Gove,.,,ment Steps In Reni's importance in the saga of the Chipko andolan is twofold. It was the first occasion on which women participated in any major way, this participation, moreover, coming in the absence of their own menfolk and DGSS activists. As Gaura Devi recounted : It was not a question of planned organization of the women for the movement, rather it happened spontaneously. Our men were out of the village so we had to come forward and protect the trees . We have no quarrel with anybody but only we wanted to make the people understand that our existence is tied with the forests (Das and Negi 1983:390). Second, no longer could the government treat Chipko merely as the reaction of motivated local industry deprived of raw material. For, until then, Reni was an archetypal hill village isolated from the market and dependent on the forests only as an input for subsistence


Ramachandra Guha

agriculture. From now on Chipko was to come into its own as a peasant movement in defence of traditional fore st rights, continuing a century-long tradition of resistance to state encroachment. The chief minister of UP , H.N. Bahuguna , who himself hailed from Garhwal, had earlier told the Chipko leaders that he could not meet their demands as he was 'the chief minister of the entire state, not only of the hill districts'.1 5 After the Reni incident he conferred with them and agreed to set up committee to investigate the incident. Headed by a botanist, Virendra Kumar, the members of the committee included Bhatt and secretaries of several government departments . Later, its terms of reference were extended to include the entire upper catchment of the Alakananda. The committee concluded that one important reason for the 1970 flood was the widespread deforestation in the Alakananda catchment. Accordingly, commercial fellings were banned for a period of 10 years in the upper catchment of the river and its tributaries. 16 A second government committee , headed by K.M. Towari of the forest department, was formed to investigate the existing practices of resin tapping. 17 The Tewari Committee found that tapping rules were rarely followed. In the several forest divisions toured by it, irregulari ties concerning the width, depth and length of cuts were observed to be widespread. Such maltreatment had made the trees particularly vulnerable to lightning. 18 The UP government also promised to review the lease granted to Star Paper Mills. Proposals to set up units in the hills were examined by another committee, headed by a paper technologist from the Forest Research Institute (FRI) , and included Bhatt. The latter proposed that a number of small units, spread over the entire hill region, should be set up . Although eight sites were identified for the purpose, the scheme was found economically unviable . H,owever, the committee found two sites suitable for the siting of units of a capacity of 25 tonnes per day, and where infrastructural and raw material facilities were available. Although detailed proj ect reports were prepared, these recommendations were never implemented by the government. 19 One proposal that did materialize in response to Chipko was the constitution of a forest corporation or Van Nigam , to take over all forms of forest exploitation. As originally envisaged , the auction system would be abolished and a large proportion of forest lots were to be allotted to FLCs by the corporation . Over time , however, the


Claiplu,:Social History 431

corporation reverted to the old system wherein outside agents were subcontracted the task of felling. 20

Chipko Spreads to Tehri Following Reni, forest auctions were opposed in different parts of Garhwal. In Dehradun the auction of the Cbakrata division forests had to be called off following protests led by local students. At Uttarkashi's Hanuman Mandir, Sunderlal Bahuguna underwent a two-week fast in October 1974, calling for a change in the existing forest policy. 21 That summer youths from both Kumaon and Garhwal had embarkedon a 700 kilometre trek from Askot village-the eastern extremity of Kumaon-to Arakot on the borders of Himachal Pradesh. The marchers traversed the breadth of Uttarakhand in 44 days. They were accompanied for part of the distance by Bahuguna. 22 The lack of cooperation between the newly constituted Van Nigam and labour cooperatives, coupled with the damage done to chir trees, was central to the next major form the movement was to take. On the occasion of Van Diwas (30 May, the anniversary of the Tiladi firing), Chipko activists in Tehri district informed the for est department that the resin-scarred chir trees would be bandaged. When the department did not respond to the call to save the trees, a direct action programme was commenced on another historic day, the anniversary of Sridev Suman's death (25 July). Villagers of Khujni patti started pulling out the iron leaves inserted to extract resin. In Advani forest, close to the Hemval river, the Sarvodaya worker Dhum Singh Negi went on a fast which was called off when villagers assured him that they would save the marked trees. Signifying their close relationship with trees, women tied 'raakhees' around the wounded spots. A reading of the Bhagavad Gita was also organized. 23 The monsoon of 1978 saw another major flood, this time in the Bhageerathi valley. The immediate cause was a blockage in the Kanodia Gad, a tributary of the Bhageerathi. The financial loss due to the flood was estimated at Rs 25 crore. 24 Despite the flood, forest auctions were held at Nainital under heavypolice protection. Opposition to forest felling also took place in the Chamyala forest, near Bahuguna's ashram at Silyara. 25 Elsewhere, people's committees were formed which successfully opposed felling at Loital and Amarsar.

4~2 Ramachandra Guha

Now Cbipko moved on to Badyargarh, where over 2,300 trees had been marked for felling by the forest corporation .26

Chipko in Kumaun In Kumaon the Chipko andolan had first been introduced during the Nainadevi fair at Nainital in 1974, following which forest auctions were opposed at several places .27 However, it gathered momentum following the major landslides at Tuwaghat, a village situated close to the India - Nepal border, in 1977. In the landslide, 45 men and 75 heads of cattle perished. Young activists of the Uttarakhand Sangharsh Vahini (USV) opposed the auctions that were scheduled despite the Tawaghat disaster. In October 1977 large demonstrations were organized in Nainital. When several leaders of the USV were arrested, a crowd of a thousand people surrounded the Rink Hall, where the auctions were being held. The auctions were rescheduled for November. This time too section 144 had to be enforced. In the presence of the police and the provincial armed constabulary, protesters sang the songs of the legendary folk poet, Gaurda. Again, the leaders were arrested. Some rowdies, probably not connected with Chipko, then set fire to the Nainital Club .28 In the following months different Chipko agitations were organized by the USV. On 15 December, Chipko activities were commenced in the Hat forest of Almora, where 5,000 chir trees had been marked for felling. The USV demands included the revision of the forest settlement and a ban on the export of raw material from the hills.29 In Chanchridhar forest , situated in the sensitive catchment area of the Gagas river, protesters marched into the block where the forest corporation planned to fell 6,000 trees. They camped in the forest for over a week till the foresters had to admit defeat. Later, fellings scheduled by the corporation were successfully stalled at Janoti Palri and at Dhyari on the Almora - Pithoragarh road (Dogra 1982: 60-61).

Chipko Returns to Chamoli Chipko witnessed a resurgence in Chamoli, when, despite its early successes, commercial tellings continued to threaten the ecological

Chiplu,: Social History


stability of different habitations. In the Bhyunder valley, adjoining the famous Valley of Flowers, oak trees were marked to meet the fuelwood needs of Badrinath town . In Badrinath, an important pilgrim centre, the te~ple alone consumed over 100 quintals of wood between May and November every year, during the pilgrim season. The total fuelwood con sumption of the town was estimated at 2,500 quintals . When trees were marked near Pulna village, the village panchayat wrote to the divisional forest officer and the district magistrate . Officials replied that 250 villagers could not get precedence over 1.5 lakh pilgrims. On the second day of felling operations (5 January 1978) the women of Pulna, despite 40 centimetres of snow, surrounded the labourers, took away their implements, and gave them a receipt for the tools. In this manner 621 trees were saved. 30 One of the more significant agitations occurred in the Pindar valley, near the village of Dungri-Paintoli. Here the men of the village wanted to sell their oak forest to the horticulture department , which intended to establish a potato farm on the land. If the forest , the only good one for miles around, had been cut, the women would have had to walk a long distance every day to collect fuel and fodder. When the women voiced their opposition , it went unheeded. At this juncture Chipko activists intervened and, helped by the district administration, ensured that the forest area remaining (some forest had already been cleared) was saved. 3 1 Angered at the women's success, the village headman threatened Bhatt and his colleague Ramesh Pahari with dire consequences if they came back to the area .32 The significance of Dungri-Paintoli lies in the open conflict of interest between the men and women of the village. Lured by prom ises of better communications and other 'modem' facilities, the men hoped to make some quick money. The women, for their part, 'raised some fundamental questions challenging the system. In their opinion, agriculture and animal rearing was entirely dependent upon them, both closely related to the forest, and yet they were not consulted with regard to any [decisions] taken relating to forestry' (Bhatt and Kunwar 1982: 84). The next Chipko agitation took place at Parsari, near the army encampment of Joshimath. Here, kharsu and moru {high-level oak) trees were being felled to ~eet the fuel requirements of Joshimath town. The appointed forest provided fuel and fodder to four villages nearby which had appointed a watchman to guard it. In fact, the Kumar Committee had recommended that there be no felling in this


Ramachantlra Guha

area. A people's committee headed by Narendra Singh and Narayan Singh organized the village opposition , which refused to allow the fellings .33

The Badyargarh Andolan Thus far, I have presented a broad overview of the major Chipko agitations that have occurred since the movement 's inception. Let us · now look more closely at one particular Chipko mobilization in order to properly appreciate its social and cultural idiom. The Chipko agitation that occurred in the Badyargarhpatti ofTehri Garhwal district in the winter of 1978-79 forms the focus of the section , and my analysis of it is based largely on fieldwork conducted iri early 1983. I pres ent here an internal analysis of the movement, i.e., its patterns of mobilization and type of organization, the participation of different social groups, its ideology and methods, and the relationship between the leadership and the rank and file . I also highlight the changing perceptions of the state which has replaced the Tehri durbar as the unit of legitimate authority. The fundamental characteristics of Chipko , as the movement is conceived by its participants , may thereby become clearer . The patti of Badyargarh is situated between the Bhageerathi and Alakananda rivers, about 130 kilometres north -east of Rishikesh. The social structure, in conformity with the rest of Uttarakhand , is built around relatively homogeneous and cohesive village communi ties. For the past few decades, however, grain production has been inadequate to sustain the population . In this money-order economy, women labour hard to perform household and agricultural tasks. Badyargarh is a relatively prosperous patti, containing a large number of retired and serving army personnel. The growing opportunities offered to individuals by commercialization, education, government employment, etc., have definitely contributed to the erosion of the community cooperative spirit. The possibility of individual social mobility that the outside world offers is reflected in the village by the return of successful individuals to build cement structures. Although the community spirit is still present, as shown by Chipko, there is, simultaneously, a slowly growing differentiation within the village due to the impact of commercialization . There is, too, a sense of

Chipl,o: Social Hinory


disruption of the traditional social fabric that the opening out of Garhwal has brought, as well as anger at the comparative underdevelopment of the hills. Commercial forestry in the region started only around 1965,with the buildingof a motor road into the area . In the followingyears the extraction of resin and turpentine was commenced, alongside the felling of chir trees. In 1979 the Van Nigam gave out a big contract for the felling of chir pine in the area. The felling, which went on for several months, was, according to villagers, very destructive, with young regeneration being removed in addition to the logged trees. Several dozen trucks came and went daily, taking away all the wood, includingthe branches of trees. As people later reminisced, the contractor replied to early signs of protest by remarking that he would not leave any part of the tree behind ('Hum ped lea koi hissa nahin choddenge').

TheAndolan Followingupon this activityand just prior to the proposed loggingin the Malgaddi forest, Sarvodaya workers, trusted associates of the Chipko leader Sunderlal Bahuguna, came to Badyargarh to enquire into the people's grievances. These leaders,Dhum Singh Negi, Kunwar Prasun, Pratap Shikhar and Vijay Jardari, among others, went from village to village informing people of the proposed felling and its harmful ecologicalconsequences. At the same time Bahuguna's wife, Vimla,and other ladies mobilized the villagewomen on the issue. The andolan started on 25 December 1978but acquired momentum only after Bahuguna went on a hunger fast from 9 January 1979. Conducted in a disused shepherd's hut in t~e forest, and in the middle of winter, the fast was a rallyingpoint for people of the surrounding villages.Thus, over 3,000men, women and children participated, 'one for every chir tree in the forest'. An attempt at cutting by night was foiled by villagerstaking night duty by turns. Qassic non-cooperation tactics were adopted, there being no question of any violence being used ('himsa lea koi saval nahin tha'). Bahuguna was carried awayby the policeon the night of 22 January and interned in lehri jail, where he continued his fast. Meanwhile, a reading of the Bhagavad Gila was started on the 26th. Meeting determined resistance from


Ramachandra Guha

the villagers even after the removal of their leader from the scene, the contractor and forest officials had to admit defeat and abandon felling. Participation:A feature of the andolan was the active participation of all social groups. This was explained by the evident fact that all were equally affected by deforestation. The Bajgis, a caste of musicians, were solicited to mobilize villagers through their dholaks (drums). Women played a prominent part, as ~id government servants and defence personnel , though their support could only be covert. Children too joined in a movement which recreated the atmosphere of joyous celebration in a fight against injustice. When police camped in Dhadi Ghandiyal High School, children went on strike in protest at the invasion of a 'temple of knowledge ' (Vidya Mandir). While the strike itself lasted four days, all through the andolan students skipped school with the connivance of the teachers . As the principal recounted, he was placed in an awkward position, with the police harassing him, on the one hand and, on the other, villagers imploring him to let his wards come to the forest. The schoolteacher, highly respected in Garhwal, symbolized in his person the conflict between government and people . As a figure of authority the state expected him to control the people, while the people wanted sanction for their acts by that very same authority. The moral content of Chipko: Two further incidents that occurred after the successful completion of the andolan serve to illustrate the strong moral content of Chipko. When the contractor abandoned his labour, the locals fed them from village ration shops and petitioned officials to alleviate their plight. Only with the arrival of the labour commissioner could the grievances be redressed and the labour sent home to Himachal. The second incident relates to the wood felled prior to Chipko, which was not allowed to be carried away for conversion to sleepers. The Badyargarh Van Suraksha Samiti (BVSS) resolved to release the wood only after the local people had fulfilled their needs. This entailed that the first claim would be exercised by those individuals and villagers who had not been granted timber rights, following which the requirements of the other inhabitants of Badyargarh and its neighbouringpattis would be met on payment of nominal rates. It was proposed that the income so generated would be used to regenerate the deforested areas of Badyargarh. Despite stem official warnings the BVSS stuck to their stand. 34

ClaiJllw:Sodal History 457

Chipko and Popular Consciousness There are several important characteristics of Chipko as the movement relates to popular perceptions. The link betweenforests and humans: During my fieldwork I found that almost everyone I interviewed was aware of the importance of forest cover in regulating soil and water regimes. Chipko has contributed to a heightened awareness-the interesting question is the extent to which this ecological consciousness predates Chipko. Thus, in Badyar village no grass cutting has traditionally been allowed on the steep hill overlooking the settlement. The cliff has a thick crop of grass and shrubs, in the absence of which boulders would come tumbling down the hill during the monsoon-hence the ban. The link between humans and forests that existed before the inception of commercial forestry has been eroded by the loss of community control. In this context Chipko aims at halting the growing alienation of humans from nature, an alienation with potentially damaging consequences. Chipko and community solidarity: An ecological consciousness, however attenuated, and the manifold benefits of forest cover to the hill economy (and ecology) can explain Chipko's success in mobilizing all sections of hill society. In response to criticism that the andolan depended largely on Bahuguna's appeal, the BVSS pointed out that if the movement did not enjoy popular support it would have terminated with Sunderlal's arrest and removal. As villagers see it, efforts to put out forest fires, which they are obliged to do under the settlement, are made in the belief that their property was being destroyed. Thus, when the government started indiscriminate felling (andhadhun katai) it was keenly resented. Attitude towardsofficials:The lack of fulfilment of the basic needs of education, health and employment found the accumulated griev• ances being crystallized in Chipko. One BVSS activist put it thus :

Humme thoda sa anaaj mi/a, jab usse bhi nahin paka sake, tho andolan kama pada. 35 The implacable hostility towards state officials, particularly those belonging to the forest department, can be read as a symbol of such disillusionment. Chipko participants expressed delight in recalling


Ranuu:handra Guha

the impotence of high officials (ucchadhikari) in the face of the andolan. Senior officials of the civil and forest administration, as well as the police, arrived but were powerlc,ss to resume felling operations (' Ucchadhikaripahunch gaye, leki.nk:uchnahi kar paye'). Womenand Chipko: It has been stressed that hill women have agricultural tasks. This situation is further aggravated, in Badyargarh and elsewhere, by the absence of adult males. Some analysts see a direct causal link here . According to Bahuguna himself, Due to washing away of fertile soil, the menfolk were compelled to leave their families and wander in search of employment, thus making the women bear all the responsibilities, collecting fodder, firewood and carrying water, which form the main chores besides farming (Bahuguna 1980a: 5) This interpretation can be disputed : for the important economic role of women is culturally specific to the hill family and not merely a result of changed ecological or economic conditions. Can one then relate the subordinate position of women in Uttarakhand to the enthusiastic support given by them to the Chipko andolan? An interesting conversation at a teashop in Badyar village brought out the conflicts inherent in such a situation. One retired army man was strongly of the opinion that women's participation in Chipko was a consequence of their inferior position in hill society. Observing the men gathered around the shop, he asked rhetorically, 'We men are sitting drinking tea, but can we see any woman here? Why not? ' A look at the far hillside, where women were gathering firewood, provided the answer: 'They are not here for they have work to do.' This feminist stand brought forth jeers from fellow villagers, who later advised me not to take him seriously. 36 Nevertheless, the local women's leader , Sulochana Devi, was emphatic that the success of Chipko depended on women. The movement, she argued, was only the first step; women needed to be educated and dowry banned in order that others did not fritter away women's wealth ('ladkiyon ka

dhan na khoya jaye').

Chipko in a History of Protest Badyargarh was the scene of a wide-ranging peasant movement in 1948 that culminated in the merger of Tehri state with the province

Claiplu,:Social History 439

of UP. Protesting against extortion of money by the king's officials, villagers gathered at a religious fair at Dhadi Ghandiyal, marched towards the capital, Tehri, capturing outposts on the way and symbolically replacing corrupt patwaris by their own men. The 1948 dhandak remains vividly in the collective memory of the peasants of Badyargarh and their heroism then was invoked by the Chipko leaders in 1979. Apart from the participation of many in both, the movement itself has strong similarities such as the identification of officials as the main exploiters, the belief that justice was on their side, and the forms of protest itself. ,n both instances the act of protest was seen as having a moral-religious sanction. While in 1948 the peasantry was mobilized on the occasion of a religious fair held once in 13 years, an important event in Chipko was the reading of the Gita. Camped in the forests, Chipko volunteers commenced the reading of the epic and the rendition of folk songs. The conservator of forests who opposed the ceremony was firmly told that all the Vedas were written in the forest. And when the patwari threatened one of the priests with arrest, the priest replied: 'Arrest me under any section of law, but what are the rules for the Nigam people?' Bahuguna and the idiom of protest: The idiom of Chipko, then, can be understood in terms of the 'moral economy' of the Garhwal peasant, who could readily comprehend the tactics of the charismatic leader of the Badyargarh andolan, Sunderlal Bahuguna. Bahuguna concentrates his fire on the officials of the forest department who, in league with contractors, 'do not leave a splinter of wood in the forests' (Bahuguna 1980b: 31). The call to forest officers to change their ways and serve local communities evokes a positive reaction from a people exposed to extortion by officials during earlier regimes. Bahuguna's method of functioning is far removed from that of self-seeking politicians. A non-political person, he was able to strike a chord in the hearts of those disenchanted with the hypocrisy of politicians and the electoral process. Gandhian methods of non-violence and Bahuguna's personal asceticism were appreciatively responded to by the predominantly Hindu peasantry. The capacity for physical suffering (vide the hunger fast in the bitter cold) and spirit of sacrifice (tyaga) in an age of selfishness were constantly marvelled at by villagers who read into these acts the renunciation of worldly ambition as exhorted by Hindu scriptures. Sunderlal's charisma is undoubted and his deeds are still an object of wonder in Badyargarh. His su~ is clearly related to the distinctive


Ramachandra Guha

character of social protest in Tehri Garhwal. The attacks on forest officials can be understood in the context of dhandaks aimed at the raja's minions. Sunderlal's remarkable physical endurance and sagelike appearance make him a natural leader whose followers look to him to restore a pristine state of harmony and just government. In fact, Bahuguna records that his life was changed by a chance encounter with Sridev Suman when he was a schoolboy. He 'proudly refers to Sridev Suman as his guru in all respects' -a theme he stresses repeatedly in his speeches. 37 Here one finds a striking parallel with other agrarian movements, where too the invocation of the spirit and memory of peasant martyrs is a primary 'means by which a sense of the past is revived, codified, and used'. References to predecessors like Suman reinforce Bahuguna's own credentials , as a notable ascetic of his time, to be the undisputed leader of the peasantry of these districts. The Tehri Garhwal case provides yet another illustration of what is a much more pervasive phenomenon so far as lower-class movements are concerned, for, as Eugene Genovese has pointed out : From the peasant revolts of medieval Europe, to revolutionary Puritanism, to the early working class organizations, to the great revolutionary movements of our own time, asceticism has provided a decisive ingredient in the mobilization of popular risings. 38 For its practitioners, asceticism is a potent vehicle of cultural com munication. Even as Bahuguna's own lifestyle evokes a sympathetic response among peasants, his message is conveyed through a local cultural idiom, both by his own acts and those of his followers-for example, the noted folk-singer Ghanshyam Sailani, who has played a central role in the Chipko movements of Tehri Garhwal. What is distinctive about Sunderlal Bahuguna's asceticism is that it is accompanied by a call to higher authority to side with the suffering peasants. During the course of the Badyargarh andolan, Sunderlal assured the villagers that even if the forest department was opposed to the movement, the Prime Minister, Morarji Desai, and Lokanayak Jayaprakash Narayan were on their side. While breaking the fast he commenced in Badyargarh in Dehradun jail Bahuguna said he did so only due to a request from 'JP', whom he called his general (senapathi). He recalled Suman's historic 84-day fast in Tehri jail and

ClaiJ,1,o : Social Hutory


also mentioned the support of Home Minister H .M. Patel for his dharmayuddha(holy war) to save the Himalayan forests .39 After the victory of the Congress party in the elections of 1980 he invoked the support of the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi , citing her concern at the situation in the Himalaya .40 In this invocation leading politicians assume a role not dissimilar to that of the Tehri maharaja in earlier days. While their functionaries are viewed as being in league with corrupt contractors, those in power are believed to sympathize with the oppressed. Chipko then become s, in a strikingly similar fashion to the dhandak, the only possible means to obtain justice by bringing the wrongdoings of officials to the notice of heads of government.

Custom and Confrontation in Chipko As an organized movement of both national and international significance, Chipko can be analysed from the perspective of the sociology of social movements. In this study, too , I have highlighted several classic themes in the literature : the pattern of leadership, the forms of mobilization, the emergence of a codified ideology , and the relationship between leader and led;u I would, however, stress that this analysis of the formal characteristics of Chipko as a social movement must be supplemented by a study of its less formal features. Moving away from the public arena of Chipko and its popular stereotypes , through a case study of the Badyargarh movement I have tried to understand the transformations of meaning it has brought in the lives of its participants . An exploration of the less structured aspects of the movement reveals the existence of certain tenaciously held values , adhered to by village participants. The ideology that can be inferred from peasant actions is not entirely consistent with the formal ideology of Chipko as presented to the outside world. Finally , one of Chipko's central features is its historicity-i.e ., its relationship with past movements which raised similar questions concerning the relationship between the state and the peasantry. Locating Chipko culturally and historically provides a long overdue corrective to the popular conception of Chipko, which is that of a romantic reunion of humans, especially women , with nature . The dramatic act-often threatened but rarely brought into play-of hugging the tree to save it from the contractor's axe is the chief

44% RarnaelaandraGuha

characteristic with which the movement is identified. Some writers have seen Chipko as having its origins in an incident believed to have occurred in Rajasthan in 1763, when members of the Bishnoi sect laid down their lives to protect trees being felled under orders from the Mabaraja of Jodhpur (St Barbe Baker 1981: 1-4). Within the movement, Sunderlal Bahuguna's writings and lectures have done much to propagate this view of Chipko. 42 Other writers have stressed the role of women, as the sex crucially affected by deforestation. It has even been suggested that Chipko is a 'feminist' movement (CSE 1982: 42-43). It will be clear from our study that the above stereotypes are seriously inadequate in interpreting the origins, idiom and trajectory of the movement. The analogy with the incident involving the Bishnoi community obscures Chipko's origins, which are specific to the conditions of U ttarakhand. Chipko is only one, -though undoubtedly the most organized, in a series of protest movements against commercial forestry dating from the earliest days of state intervention. Different Chipko agitations have invoked the spirit and memory of past upsurges against the curtailment of customary rights. This continuity is also strikingly manifest in the moral idiom in which protest has been expressed. Similar notions of morality and justice have permeated movements against the durbar and the colonial state as well as Chipko. As this case study of the Badyargarh andolan reveals, the peasantry was protesting against the denial of subsistence rights which state policy has wrought. Essentially, the movement was in response to a perceived breach of the informal code between the ruler and the ruled known as the 'moral economy' of the peasant. Clearly, this continuity is more marked in the case of Tohri Garhwal. Here, Bahuguna's personal acquaintance with later movements against the durbar as well as the distinctive flavour of the dhandak has informed a movement whose contemporary character cannot be adequately grasped without reference to its historical context. The identification of officials as oppressors, the belief that Indira Gandhi or other high-level politicians-the contemporary equivalent of sovereigns-could intervene and dispense justice, and Bahuguna's own asceticism, which is reminiscent of Suman, all testify to this continuity. lo so far as Chipko constitutes a part of an overall tradition of protest, this continuity is present, albeit in an attenuated form, in other parts of Uttarakhand as well. Thus, certain variations in the different

Chiplu,: Social History


subcultures of Chipko can be explained with reference to the different socio-political structures in which they operate. Bhatt's identification of macro forces, such as overall state policy, as the major cause can perhaps be related to the rather different political history of the Alakananda valley, where, much earlier, the rupture between the state and the people had occurred as a result of British colonialism. Similarly, the adherence of the USV to a more radical posture may in part be a consequence of the earlier, and deeper, penetration of 'modem' political ideologies into Kumaon. In Uttarakhand the participation of women in popular movements dates from the anti-alcohol agitations led by Sarvodaya workers in the 1960s. However, despite the important role played by women, it would be simplistic to characterize Chipko as a feminist movement. In several instances, especially the early mobilizations at Mandal and at Phata , it was men who took the initiative in protecting forests. Women came to the fore in Reni , when in the contrived absence of menfolk they unexpectedly came forward to thwart forest felling. In other agitations, such as Badyargarh, men, women and children have all participated equally. Dungri-Paintoli is the only instance of an overt conflict between men and women over the management and control of forest resources. As such, even at the level of participation Chipko can hardly be said to constitute a women's movement. Undoubtedly, the hill women have traditionally borne an extraordi narily high share of family labour-and their participation in Chipko may be read as an outcome of the increasing difficulty with which these tasks have been accomplished in the deteriorating environment. Interestingly, Chandi Prasad Bhatt does believe that women are capable of playing a more dynamic role than the men who, in the face of growing commercialization, are apt to lose sight of the longterm interests of the village economy .43 On the other hand, it has been suggested that while they are the beasts of burden as viewed through the prism of an outside observer , hill women are in fact aware that they are the repository of local tradition . In the orbit of the household women often take decisions which are rarely challenged by the men. In the act of embracing the trees, therefore, they are acting not merely as women but as bearers of continuity with the past in a community threatened with fragmentation .44 The conflict between men and women has surfaced much more sharply in other social movements in the hills, most notably in the anti-alcohol movement organized by the USV in 1984.45


Ramaehandra Guha

Another possible source of confusion lies in the important role played by leaders owing an allegiance to the Sarvodaya movement. Gandhian institutions have been quick to hail Chipko as a modem example of satyagraha,calling it 'direct action in the best Gandhian spirit'. 46 Insofar as the personal commitment and personal lifestyle of activists like Bhatt and Bahuguna exemplify the highest traditions of Gandhian constructive work, the characterization is not altogether incorrect . However, both Bhatt and Bahuguna, like the Praja Mandal activists of an earlier era, are anything but alienated from the historical and contemporary specificities of village life in Garhwal. Their involvement in Chipko is crucially informed, albeit in quite different ways, by a sharp historical sense and the experience gleaned from years of social activism in the hills. At the level of popular par ticipation the Gandhian label is even less appropriate . It seems clear from the description of different Chipko agitations that the role played by external ideologies is a severely limited one . Villagers see Chipko as a fight for basic subsistence denied to them by the institu tions and ·policies of the state. Although Chipko, like many Gandhian movements, has an important ethical dimension, its underlying notions of morality and justice are intrinsic to a history of protest against state restrictions on peasant access to forest produce. Nor should superficial similarities in methods of protest lead one to designate Chipko as 'Gandhian', its 'non-violent' method being an inspired and highly original response to forest felling rather than ideologically motivated. At the same time, the Gandhian association may actually have helped Chipko in its largely successful bid to stop the onslaught of commercial forestry in the Himalaya. It is noteworthy that while the last decade has seen the emergence of several forest-based move ments in peninsular India, none of these movements has had a com parable success in attracting public support or influencing the direction of government policies.47 Indeed, they have on occasion been crushed with a brutality that has been notably absent in the state 's attempt to deal with Chipko . Several factors account for the relative lack of success which these movements have enjoyed. First, the regions in which they have arisen have undergone rapid economic differentiation; wracked by internal contradictions, these struggles are unable (unlike in single-class hill society) to present a united front in opposition to forest policies. These movements have also tended to be more violent. Second, the cultural composition of forest dwellers in

Claiplt,o: Social Hutory 445

peninsular India is overwhelmingly non-Hindu. Chipko, on the other hand, located as it is in an area of enormous religious significance for the majority Hindu community, has struck a sympathetic chord in the heart of the Indian public. Finally, there is the veneer of Gandhianism with which Chipko is cloaked, a matter of some embarrassment for a state claiming to be the rightful successor of the freedom struggle and upholding Gandhi as the Father of the Nation. In this manner Chipko has, knowingly or unknowingly, successfully exploited the ambiguities in the dominant ideology of the Indian state. While this ideology is avowedly non-religious in its actions, the state goes to considerable lengths not to off end the Hindu sentiments of the majority of its subjects; and while its development policies are a strong repudiation of Gandhian economics, by paying daily obeisance to the Mahatma in its official rituals the state tries to symbolically appropriate the enormous prestige associated with his name. Faced with a popular movement which originated in the watershed of the holy Ganga, used techniques of non-violence and was led by Gandhians, the state has been hoist with its own petard. 48 \

Chipko as an Environmental Movement I have repeatedly emphasized the fact that Chipko lies in a path of continuity with earlier peasant struggles in Uttarakhand; at the same time, as an organized and sustained social movement it promises to go beyond them. Here it is useful to distinguish between the 'private' face of Chipko, which is that of a quintessential peasant movement, and its 'public' profile as one of the most celebrated environmental movements in the world. Thus, while the last Chipko agitation in Uttarakhand occurred in 1980, the movement's activists have since been tirelessly propagating its message. Within the Himalaya, footmarches and environmental camps are organized at regular intervals. There has also been a significant attempt to contribute to the environment debate in India and abroad.


The Widening of Chipko In April 1981 Sunderlal Bahuguna went on an indefinite fast, urging a total ban on green felling in the Himalaya above an altitude of

446 Ramachandra Guha

1,000 metres . In response the government constituted an eight-member 'expert ' committee to prepare a comprehensive report on Himalayan forest policy. Although the thrust of the committee's report was to exonerate the forest department and 'sustained-yield' forestry, the government agreed to allow a 15-year moratorium on commercial felling in the Uttarakhand Himalaya. 49 Well before the moratorium, however, there was little doubt that the Chipko movement had significantly slowed the march of commercial forestry . Thus the output of major forest produce from the eight hill districts had declined, in the decade 1971-81, from over 62,000 to 40,000 cubic metres per annum (Saxena 1987: Table 2). · By successfully bringing commercial fores try to a standstill, Chipko marks the end of an epoch for the people and landscape of the Indian Himalaya . However, state forestry is by no means the only threat to the ecological and social stability of the hills, for the past decades have witnessed a rapid expansion in the scale of commercial penetration in Uttarakhand. This is exemplified by the location of large dams, increasing mining operations and the spread of alcoholism. This intensification of resource exploitation has been matched almo st step by step with a sustained opposition, in which Chipko has played a crucial role, in catalyzing and broadening the social consciousness of the Himalayan peasantry . Thus, movements against big dams , unregulated mining and the sale of illicit liquor have been organized by all three wings of the Chipko movement. While a detailed description of these ongoing struggles is beyond the scope of this study, in such a widening of the movement 's horizons changes in forest policy are conceived of as only one element in an alternative development strategy. Moreover, despite insinuations that Chipko has a localized frame of reference , the bid to rescue hill society from the ravages of capitalist penetration does not call for a narrow 'regionalism '. As the agriculture of the lndo-Gangetic plain depends heavily on an assured supply of water from the river s that originate in the Himalaya , the stabilization of Uttarakhand ecology and society has far wider implications.

Three Environmental Philosophies Drawing on the experience of years of social activism , the leaders of the different wings of the Chipko movement have put forward their

CJd/11,o: Sodal HinorJ 447 own interpretations of local and national processes of environmental

degradation. One of the most forceful statements has come from Sunderlal Bahuguna, perhaps the best-known Chipko leader . Bahuguna holds commercial forestry and the close links that exist between contractors and forest officials as responsible for the deteriorating Himalayan environment. However, shortsighted forest management is a symptomof a deeper malaise-the anthropocentric viewof nature intrinsic to modem industrial civilization.Thus, 'the ecological crisis in Himalaya is not an isolated event. It has its roots in the [modem] materialistic civilization, which makes man the butcher of Earth' (Bahuguna 1980a: 18). While Bahuguna's group is active in the Bhageerathi valley, the wing of Chipko active in the AJakananda valleyis associated with the name of Chandi Prasad Bhatt. Unlike Bahuguna, Bhatt does not deny the villagers' role in deforestation, stressing, however, that 'this bas been a result of separating the local population from the management of the forest wealth' (:see Tobie 16.1) (Bhatt 1980). Further, Bhatt argues, both forest officials and commercial forestry are merely agents of a developmentprocess biased in favour of the urbanindustrialcomplex and against local needs. He is also sharply critical of the growingseparation between the state and the people, as clearly manifest in the framing of development schemes by urban-centred technocrats that have little relevance to the realities of rural India (Bhatt 1984). Interestingly, the two leaders also affirm alternative systems of environmental activism. Bahuguna works in what one might call a prophetic mode: attempting to convert the uninitiated with a constant flow of articles, lectures and marches. In an inspired move, he undertook a 4,000 kil9metre foot march across the Himalaya, which was completed in April 1983,attracting wide coverage on the extent of environmental degradation in hill tracts outside Uttarakhand. Chandi Prasad Bhatt and his group work in what I would call the · mode of reconstruction. Apart from several afforestation camps conducted yearly, they are also working on the installation of bio-gas plants and _on other low-cost energy-savingdevices. A remarkable fact about the afforestation camps organized by the DGSS has been the rate of survival of saplings (65 to 80 per cent )-the survival rate achieved in government plantations (around 10to 15per cent) seems pathetic by comparison.50 Interestingly, the rate of survival showed a rapid rise following the greater involvement of women. (Agarwal and Narain 1985)

448 Ramachandra Guha

The major differences between the perspectives of the two major leaders are presented in the chart at the end of the chapter. Here, the major schism in Chipko is interpreted along two separate but interlinked axes: historically , with reference to the earlier division of Uttarakhand into a traditional monarchy and a colonial bureaucratic regime; and ideologically, with reference to two distinct philosophies of development. A third group , the Uttarakhand Sangharsh Vahini (USV), which is active in Kumaon, adheres to an ideology strongly influenced by Marxism . While attempting to move away from the public identification of Chipko with the two major leaders, USV insists that the humannature relationship must not be viewed in isolation from existing relationships between humans. For the USV, social and economic redistribution is seen as logically prior to ecological harmony. It follows that the USV refuses to associate itself with state-sponsored development programmes , and in its own work it has occasionally come into sharp confrontation with the administration. 51 These stream s within Chipko reflect, in microcosm, different strands in the modem environmental debate. In his rejection of industrial civilization, Bahuguna comes strikingly close to the American historians Lynn White and Theodor Roszak who stressed the role of religious beliefs in determining human attitudes towards nature . Modem science and technology are largely informed, in this per spective , by Judaeo -Christian ideals of human transcendence and rightful mastery over nature . This ethos is contrasted with the value systems of so-called primitive societies which, unlike Western science, viewed the ecosystem in its totality , thereby ensuring a rational and sustainable use of resources. 52 While accurately pinpointing the inability of Western science to come to grips with the eco-crisis , the alternative proposed by this school implies a return to pre-industrial mode s of living- a vision perhaps as elusive as Western science's claim to bring material prosperity for all. While acknowledging the alienation of modem science from the true needs of the people, Bhatt places a far greater emphasis on alternative technologies that could be more environmentally con scious as well as socially just. In this respect his views are similar to the pioneer formulations of the technologist AKN. Reddy, who emphasizes the role of appropriate technology in an environmentally sound development policy. The criteria of technological choice advocated by Reddy are, briefly: technologies that are employment

Chi/MO:Social History 449 'Dtble 16.1 Bahuguna versus Bhatt: Personality and Ideology

Historical influences

Identification of agentsof deforestation

Broader underlying causes

Methodsof working

Personal style

Relation to Gandhian movement

Solution: local



Specific to lehri Garbwaluses the symbols and targets of dhandaks. Invokes past protests and heroes like Suman. Secs high-lCYel politicians as supporting movement ( analoguewith sovereign?) Representatives of forest dept in league with timber contractors

Less specific-but rccognil.cs and stresses overall history of deprivation of forest rights and protest in Uttarakhand

Forest policy influenced by commercial interests-vii lagers alienated from forest growth they helped to nurture Modem industrialization in Development policy biased which man is the Butcher of towards city and big indusNature try and against local cconomic and ecological selfreliance A prophetic modc-artiLocaliud reconstruction des, lectures, padayatras, work and appropriate techfasts-of late mostly outside nology of various kinds-in Garhwal small industry, mini hydel plants, and bio-gas plants. Also the occasional article or lecture Ascetic, charismatic and all- Relatively low-keyed. More inclusive. Relation with oth- democratic-works closely ers in the movement more alon~ide others in the DGSS. Ascetic, but less in the gu"'-shi.shya or master-disciple mould consciously so Idealism, invocation of Synthesis of Gandhianism scriptures reminiscent of and Western socialismVinobha Bhave, to whom ideologically closer to he was close both personJ.P. Narayan and ally and ideologically R.M. Lohia Total ban on green felling- Ban felling in sensitive forests to revert to villagers. areas. Large-scale afforcstalrees for fuel, fodder, fertil- tion drives involvingstate izer, fruit and fibre to be and villagers. Judicious propagated extraction for local use Tabk 16.1 continued


Ramaelaandra Gulaa

Table16.1 conlinued Bahuguna

Solution: global

Not specified-but a return to pre-industrial economy implied

Bhatt only-aimed at generating employment through ecologically sound technology . Alternative path of industrialiution-with political and economic decentralization. Based on technologies that promote selfreliance,social control and ecological stability

generating, ecologically sound, which promote self-reliance (both in terms of invoking mass participation and using local resources), which tend to reduce rather than reinforce inequalities, and which build upon rather than neglect traditional skills.53 While the USV does share with the DGSS this vision of an ecologically ori_ented socialism, the two groups differ in their relative emphasis on political activism. The usv· clearly prefers organizing social movements that confront the state to grass roots reconstruction work such as afforestation, arguing that it is the responsibility of the state to reverse the processes of capitalist penetration and environmental degradation. It does not share, either, the doctrinal emphasis on non-violence espoused by both Bahuguna and Bhatt. In their own very different ways the three wings of Chipko have questioned the normative consensus among Indian intellectuals and political elites on the feasibility of rapid industrialization and technological modernization. Of course, the environment debate is, worldwide, as yet in its very early stages. The linkages between technology and ecology, and politics and culture, will undoubtedly undergo significant changes in the years ahead. In the Indian context the Chipko movement and its legacy have helped define these issues with particular clarity and sharpness: It is likely that the continuing evolution of Chipko and of its three contending subcultures will help define the outcomes as well.


Chi/Mo:SocW Hidory


Notes 1. It is very likely that women played a key supporting role in the peasant fflVements in both Tchri Garhwal and Kumaun divisions, by keeping the household and farm economy going in periods of social conflict with the state, and perhaps even by aiding rebel movements. The sourcesare obviously biased towards reporting the activities of men, who, unlike women, came into repeated contact with the state and its officials. 2 The &port of tM KJunawaForut FactsFinding Committee(Luclcnow, 1960), esp. pp. 26 ff. 3. Speech by Ramachandra Uniyal in Vidhan Sabha, reported in Yv Yugvani (YV), 3 April 1960. 4. Sec yv, 20 November 1966. 5. Sec Gopal Singh (1969). 6. yv, issues of 2 April. 22 May 1970 and 9 July 1967. 7. yv, issues of 14 November, 21 November and 28 November 1971. 8. Sec YV, issues of 13 June, 15 July, 29 July, 5 September, 12 September, 19 September, 26 September, 3 October 1971, 24 December , 31 December 1972 and 28 January 1973. 9. C.P. Bhatt (1980: 11-13). 10. Sec YV, 31 October 1971; Uttarakhand Obsova- (in Hindi), 25 October 1971, in Chipko file, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi (hereafter CSE file). The DGSS is now knownas DGSM (M for Manda!). However, I shall continue to refer to it as DGSS. 11. Sec VV, 24 June 1973. 12. This account is based on A Mishra and S. 1iipathi (1978: 7-12) supplemented by S. Bahuguna (1973); news report in yv, 6 May 1973; interview with Alam Singh Bist (CX'-pradhan,Manda! village), Gopcshwar, May 1982. 13. The villagers rendered the firm's name as 'Simon Co.' Interestingly , the finn has been referred to as 'Simon Co.' in all subsequent literature on the Oiipko aodolan. 14. Based on Mishra and 1iipathi (1978: 16-18, 21-30); J.C. Das and R.S. Negi (1983: 383-92) ; poster issued by Zita Chamoli Sangharsh Samiti, Joshimatb, in CSE file; interviews with C.P. Bhatt , Gopcshwar, May 1982,and Pithoragarb, October 1983. 15. Interview with C.P. Bhatt, Gopcshwar, May 1981. 16. yv, issues of 17 November 1974 and 7 August 1977; Bhatt (1980: 18). 17. V.P.S.Verma (1973). 18. B. Dogra (1983: 38-40). 19. File no . 15(25), cellulose and paper branch , FRI, Dchradun . 20. Sec YV, 5 September 1976. 21. VV, issues of 20 October and 10 November 1974. 22. Dogra (1982: 46-4 7); Shckbar Pathak, 'Chipko Andolan lti Nayi Lahr' , Dluumayug , August 1977. 23. Sec Dogra (1982: 52-3); yv, issues of 14 August and 18 December 19n. 24. VV, issues of 13 August and 27 August 1978. 25. VV, 8 October 1978. 26. VV, 17 December 1978; Dogra (1982: 53-54) . 27. yv, 29 September 1974.


Ranuu:llandra Gtiha

28. Dinman, issues of23-29 October and 18-24 December 1977(CSE file); interview with G.B. Pant of ~e USV. Nainital, May 1983. 29. Janpath, 15 December 1977, CSE file. 30. Rosalyan Wilson,'Phulon ki Ghati mein Chipko Andolan', Dainik Nayi Duniya, 1 March 1978,CSE file. 31. Gopa Joshi, 'Men Propose, Women Dispose', Indian Express,14 January 1982. 32. Interview with C.P. Bhatt, Gopeshwar, May 1982. 33. C.P. Bhatt, 'Joshimath mein "Chipko" Andolan', CSE file. 34. Chipko Samachar, datelined Badyargarh, 4 February 1979, in file of the Badyargarh Van Suraksha Samiti (BVSS). 35. Freely translated: 'when we could n~t obtain the wood to cook even the little grain we get, we had to resort to a movement'. 36. This is in keeping with the tendency, often reported by anthropologists, to minimize internal criticism in the presence of outsiders. 37. Interview in The Telegraph,6 August 1983; S. Bahuguna, ~n Shramik, Silyara, 1977. . 38. See Anne Walthall (1986); Eugene Genovese (1973: 276). 39. S. Bahuguna, 'Badyargarh mein ltihas Ban Raha Hai', YV, 7 January and 21 Janu ary 1979.CT.also YV.4 February 1979. 40. Cf. S. Bahuguna (1983). 41. a. J.R. Gusfield (1981), J.C. Jenkins (1983). 42. See, for example, S. Bahuguna (1980a). 43. Speech at a village meeting at Bakarkhatia, district Pithoragarh, October ..... 1983. 44. This is the position (as expressed in personal communications) of two scholars with an intimate knowledge of Uttarakhand, Sbekhar Pathak and Jean aaude Galey. 45. See Shekhar Pathak (1985). 46. Foreword by Radhakrishna of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, in A Mishra and S. lripathi, ( 1978). 47. For an analysisof these movements see, irakr alia, De Silva et al. (1979), PUDR (1982), Sengupta (1982). 48. A relevant analogy within Uttarakhand is with the massive anti-alcohol campaigns organized by the Uttarakhand Sangharsh Vahini (USV) in 1984.Divorced from the Gandhian movement, the USV leaders do not enjoy the kind of access both Bhatt and Bahuguna have to several high officials. This clement, and the more militant nature of their struggle, clearly played a role in the state's punitive response and its reluctance to concede the long-term demands of the movement. 49. 'Report of the Experts Committee to Look into the PolicyRegarding Fcllingsand Protection of lrces and to Bring Improvement in the Maintenance of Environmental Balance in the Himalayan Region of U.P.', mimeo, Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, Lucknow, March 1982. In Uttarakhand proper, Bahuguna's fast marks an end to the activist phase of Chipko and its shift towards both publicity and reconstruction work. While Chipko-style movements (for example, the Appiko movement in Karnataka) have emerged in other pans of India, one must not make the mistake of seeing these movements as merely derivative of Cllipko. Appiko, like Chipko, must be studied in its local historical and cultural contexts; assimilating it to Chipko, as some writers have done, does it as much violence

CldfJAo:Social Hutory


as assimilatingOtiplto itlelf to abstractideas of feminism, environmentalism and Gandhianism .

50. Personal communication to me from S.N. Prasad of the Indian Institute of Science,who conducted the study. 51. This paragraph is based on interviews with USV activistsin Nainital and Pithoragarh,in May and October 1983. 52. Lynn White (1975) and Theodore Roszak (1975). also John ~more (1980). 53. See AK.N. Reddy (1982).



References Aprwal, ADUand Sanita Nania (eds) . 1985. lndia: 71teStau of Environmenl 1984 85:A Citizen'sReport. New Delhi .

Bab......, S. 1970. 'Uttarakhand mein Mrityu aur Tubahi ki Janam

Key Liye

Jangalon ka Janaja Zimmedar', Yv )ugvani, 4 October. -. 1973. 'Uttarakhand ka Chipko Andolan', Yv Yugvani, 6 May. -. 1979. 'Badyargarh mein ltihas Ban Raha Hai', Yv )ugvani, 4 February. -. 1980a. Chipko. Silyara. -. 1980b. 'Her Story: Women's Non-violent Power in the Chipko Movement' , Manushi, 6: 31. --. 1983. WaJlcinB wilh the Chip/coMessage.Silyara. Bhatt, c.P. 1980. Eco-system of the CotlraJ Himalayas and Chipko MovanmJ. Gopeshwar .



1983. 'Eco-development: People's Movement', in T.V. Singh and J. Kaur (eds), Studio in Ec~lopmenJ : Himlllayo: Mountain and Mm, p . 475, Lucknow. -. 1984. 'Himalaya Kshetra Ka Niyojan'. Mimeo. Gopeshwar. Centre for Sdence and Ea'fll'Ollment (CSE). 1982.77teStak of theEnvironment: A Citizen's&port . Delhi . Bhatt, C.P.and S.S. Kanwar.1982.'Hill Women and their Involvement in Forestry', in S.S. Kunwar(ed.), Huggingthe Himalayas: The Chipko Experience.Gopeshwar. Du, J.C. and R.S. Neat. 1983. 'The Otipko Movement', in K.S. Singh (ed.), 1Hbal Movmients in India, Vol II. Delhi. De Sim, G. and V.Mehta. 1979. 'Bbomi Sena : A Struggle for People's Power', Bulletin, 5(1,2). National Labour Institute . Dosn, B. 1982.'Let the Himala)'IUIForest Live', Science Today, March: 41-46 . Forest Facts f1ndln1 C-ommlttee.19batla,140 Kalakhar, 377 Kale, Shankarrao, 226 Kalegaonkar, A , 321 Kalpana, V., 32 Kamgar Aghadi (Workers' Front), 242 Kanhere, S., 312. Kannabiran, V., 311,3 27 Kanshi Ram, 306 Kaplan, 338 Karbi Anglong autonomous state movement, 182 Kelkar, G., 311 Khan, Mohammad Ibrahim, 211 Khan, Saadat, 407 Khanna, D., 412 Khatun, Sakina,393 Kherwar movement, 251 Khomeini, Ayatollah, 53, 59 Kisan Sabha, 101, 197 Kishan Majdoor Lok Paksha (KMLP), 352 Kishwar, M ., 312, 324, 330 Kol Rebellion (1832), 251 Komarayya, Doddi, 105 Konar, Harekrishna, 126-27, 132, 161 Kondratieff, 38-39 Kornhauser, William,21 Kothari, Rajni, 18, 24-26, 68 Kulak movements, 196 Kulkarni, A.G., 241 Kumar, R., 312 Kumar Committee, 433 Kumar, Virendra, 308 Kumaragupta, 405 Kunwar, S.S., 433 Kurian, Paul, 233-35 Laclan, Ernesto, 57, 59 Lakha, Salim , 29, 230 Lal Nishan Party, 243 Lalita, K., 312 Land Ceiling Act, 398


Lanai. Sardar,251 I 1awc:U,338 Latin Cbi.canomovement, 42 Left Front governments: performance of, 162-73; in West Bengal, 125-28 Left political parties: challenge to and emergence of, 1~2; changing strategy and tactics of, 157-(,();future prospects and problems, 18-488; government performance, 125-28, 16273; movement in Indian politics, 15155;national question and, 178----84; parliamentary participation, 155-60 Lele, Jayant, 223 Lenin, 74,386,388-90,392 La Miserabks,40 Liberation, 137,145,150 Ungam, Lakshmi,29, 310 Lin/c, 233,235,238 Lohia,R.M., 311, 449 Lok SangharshSamiti (LSS), 352 Lysistralll,52, 59 MahabodhiSociety, 300 Mahapatra, LK., 252 Maharashtra Gimi Kamgar Union (MGKU), 230, 232-33, 241, 246 Maharashtra State 'R:xtileCorporation, 240 Mahendra, 110 MahilaAghadi,314 Mahto, Jagdish, 302 Mainstream,376 Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA),343 Majlis lttehad -ul-Musalmin, 100, 106-7 Malik, Syed Abdu.l,399 Man in lndiJJ,251 Mandal Commission, 328 Manorama, R., 320 Manu.shi,326 Mao 1se Tung, 74, 125, 132, 138, 154, 347

Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), 153, 174,183,188 Marathas: high and low caste, 216-18; high Marathas and cooperative

469 '

movement, 224 25; Jats and, 212-16; multi-caste alliances, 222-23; of South-West Maharashtra, 216-18 market, replacement by state, 78- 79 Marx,K., 51, 55, 89, 173, 297-98, 302 mass politics, grassroots model of, 88-89 masses, class and state, ~90 Mavalanltar, Purushottam, 348 Mazumdar, Cbaru, 127, 129-35, 138, 143, 146-48 Mazumdar, V., 312, 327 McCarthyist, 39 McLuhan, Marshall, 49 Mehrotra, G.K., 380 Menon,Mioakbi,21 Metcalf, Th., 408 Mies, M., 312 militant unionism, and orpn.ized labour,230-47 Mill-ownen'Association of Bombay,

237 Miller, AH., 338 MirBaqi,406 Mishra, Vmod, 153, 156, 173, 188 Misra.T"Llottama,362, 396-98 Mizo National Front Movement, 252-53 Modelslti,38 Mohiuddin, Mukaddam,103 Moolterji,Shyama Prasad, 300 Moore, Barrington, 24, 28, 37 Morris-Jones, W.H.,24 movements: components of, 17-19; see also, social movements; state and, 23 Movimiento(s) de lzquierda Revolucionaria (MIR), Chile, 36 Mukherjee,Ajoy, 131,136 Mukherjee, Ashutosh, 38,4 Mukherjee, Bishwanath, ~32 Mukherjee, Partha, 27 MuUan, C.S., 369, 391 Munda-Oraon Education Conference (SikshaSabha), 269 Munshi-Saldanha, I., 312,314 ~u•Jim League, 172, 268, 270, 387 Muslim Women's (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986,328

470 lrula Nadkarni, M.Y., 194, 196-97 Naga National Front movement, 253, 260 Nagaland movement, 252 Nagi Reddy, T., 142, 145-49 Nair, K.K.K.,4-09 Namboodiripad, E.M.S., 179 Narain, Sunita, 447 Narasimha Rao, 187 Narasimhulu, Toegala, 144 Narayan, H., 335 Narayan, Jayaprakash, 152,278, 345, 347-50,352-54,357-58,440,449 Nasser, ·74 Nath, Rajmohan, 393 National Commission for Women, 316 National Federation of Dalit Women (NFDW), 325 National Perspective Plan for Women (1988-2000), 316 National Plan of Action for Women 1976,316 National Policy for the Empowerment of Women 1996, 319 National Register of Citizens 1951, Assam, 385-86 National Socialist Party, 387 National lextile Corporation, 240 Nav Nirman Andolan, 18 Nav Nirman (social reconstruction) movement, Gujarat, 342 Navlakha, G., 318 Navalakha,.S., 255 Navbharat Tunes, 196 NavnirmanYuvakSamiti (NYS), 346-47 Naxalbari: Naxalite movement in, 12838 Naxalbari movement, 29, 252 Naxalbari Peasants' Struggle Aid Committee, 132, 137 Naxalbari Sangibhaba Committee: in Guntur, 143 NaxalbarirShiksha, 134 Naxalite movement in India: area of operation, 149-51; assessment of, 132-35;beginning of Naxalbari, 12829; consequences of, 135-37; Coordination Committee, 137-38;

differences in, 142-44;future prospect and problems, 184 88; history of, 125--88; ideologicalpolemics, 142; Immediate Programme of Nagi Reddy, 147-49; lesson learnt from, 135; main events, 129-30; Nagi Reddy and 145-49; national question and 17$-84; in Naxalbari, 128-38; parliamentary Left and emergence of, 16062; repe~ions, 131-32; in Srikakulam, 138-51; United Front government in West Bengal and, 12528, 162-73 Nayak, N., 312 Negi, Dhum Singh, 431, 435 Negi, R.S., 429 Nehru, Jawaharlal, 74, 179,226 Nesfield, J.C., 416 New Dalit Movement: and Dalit Panthers, 301-4 newsocial movements, 33-36 Nilamani Phukanar Cinladhara, 393 Nisbet, Robert, 21 Nkrumah, 74 Non-Aligned Movement, 36 Non-Brahmin movement, 223 Nyerere, 74 Omvedt, Gail, 29, 232, 240, 242-44, 246, 293, 311- 12, 361-62, 386-90,396 Oommen, T.K.,22, 27, 195 Orans, M., 258-59, 261 organized labour, and militant unionism, 230-47 OverseasHindustan, 234, 236-37 Owenite, Robert, 51 PUDR, 176

Pahari,Ramesh , 433 Pai, Prabhakar S., 241 Pajestka, Josef, 51 Panchbhai, S., 260 Pangging,L., 399 Pant, K.C., 343 Pardeshi, G., 396 Paranjape, H.K., 233 Parha revival, 270


Parikh-Baruah, Manju, 235 Parityakta Mukti Morcha, 325 Party Unity (PU) group, 153, 174 Patankar, Bharat, 235, 238 Patel, Chiman, 344,348, 351-52 Patel, H.M., 440 Patel, V.,315 Patil, D.8., 242 Patil, Nana, 300 Patil, Santram, 243-44 Patil, Vasantdada, 243 Patil, Vikhc, 216 Patnaik, A., 325 peasant insurrection in "Iclcngana: beginning and growth of, 104-10; decline in, 11~18; participants, 11215; politics and, 100-4; see also farmers' movement; social origin of leaders of, 115; social origins of, 91-118; withdrawal of struggle, 117-18 Pcndse,Sandip,239 People's Union of Civil Liberties, 375 People's War Group (PWG), 152, 173, 176-77, 181,188,303 Phadke, U.D., 24 Phukan, Lachit, 368 Phukan, Nilmani, 369-70, 392 Phukan, Thrunram, 366 Phule, Jyotiba, 233, 294, 306 PianJerRaj 10 Swaraj,381 police action: in Hyderabad, 108, 110, 115-16 political change concept, 18 political movement, 19-20, 63 politics, concept of, 13-14 Ponacha, V.,329 Pradhan,218 Praja Socialist Party (PSP), 152 Prasadarao, N., 141 Prasun, Kunwar, 435 Pravandha-Saurabh,383 Preventive Detention Act, 128 Protestants of the German Mission, 288 Purbanchaliya Loka Parishad (PLP), 371 Rabha, Bishnu, 378


Raghuram, S., 320 Railwaymen's Federation, 102 &iyatwari tenures system, 94-95 Rakbova, Bcnudhar, 365--o6 Rajshckar, 304-5 Rajya Ryota Sangha, Kamataka, 195 Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue, 185,222 Ram Janmabhumi Scva Committee, 409,414,416 Rama Rao, N.T., 171 Ramayan-me/a, Ayodhya, 417-19 Ramayana,405, 419 Ramchandradas, Paramahams, 412,414, 416-19 Ranade, M.G., 365 Ranadive, 8.T., 109 Ranadive, V.,311 Ranga, N.G., 101 Rao, C., Rajeshwar, 116 Rao, Chowdhury"Icjcswara, 143 Rao, D. Venkateshwar, 103 Rao, M.8., 157 Rao, M.SA., 19, 22, 27 Rao, N., 312 Rao, V.K.R.V.,196 Rashingkar, Vilas, 307 Rashtriya Mill Mazdoor Sangh (RMMS), 233-38, 242 Rashtriya SwayamscvakSangh (RSS), 347,392,409,411 Rath, Nilkantha, 197 Ravivar, 291 Rawat, Govind Singh, 428-29 Rawat, Kedar Singh, 428 Ray, 8 .. 313 Ray, Nawal, 407 Ray, Niharranjan , 254 Ray, P.C., 384 Ray, Tikayat,407 Raychaudhuri, Ambikagiri,369 Razvi, Kasim, 107 Reaganomic, 39 Red Flag movement, 137 Reddy, AK.N ., 448 Reddy, Badam Yella, 102-3, 116 Reddy, Chandra Pulla, 153, 173, 175 Reddy, D.N., 325

472 Inda Reddy, Ravi Narayan, 102-3, 116 Report on the TeraiPeasants'Movement, 133 Republican Party of India (RPI), 299301,305 RevolutionaryCommunist Committee of Andhra Pradesh, 149-50 RevolutionaryCommunist Party of India (RCPI), 151 RevolutionarySocialist Party (RSP), 151, 153,284-85 Roman Catholic Cooperative Society, 268 Roszak, Theodor, 448 Roy, A.K. , 286 Roy, M., 163-64 Roy, Prodipto, 261 Roy, Ranajit, 397 Roy, Sarat Chandra, 268 Roy Burman, 258, 260-61 rural movements, 195-98 Ryot Sabha movement, 370 Sadachar Week, 350 Safdar Jang,407 Saheli,326 Sailani, Ghanshyam, 440 Saint-Simon, 51 Salakshapal,218 SamajwadiParty, 152,306 Samant, Datta, 230-33, 235, 237-4-0, 242,244 47 Samant, P.N.,232-33 Samata Party, 152 Sampratik Samayikii, 374,399 Samuel, J ., 318 Samyukta SocialistParty (SSP), 152 Sandinista movement, Nicaragua, 36 Santai Rebellion (1857-58), 251 Santhal,Jangal,128, 130 Sanyal, Kanu, 133-34, 153 Sapir, Edward, 261 Saran, Ram Dayal, 410, 414, 416 Saran, Ram Lakhan, 409 Sardar Movement (1859-95), 287 Sarkar, Ravindra, 393 Sarla Devi, 427

Sanna, Benudhar, 383 Sarva Shramik Sangh, 243 Sarvodaya movement, 345-48, 356, 444 Sathe, Vasant, 156 Satyanarayana, Vempatapu, 139-40, 142-44 Satyashodhak Mabila Agbadi, 325 Satyashodhak Movement, 223 Savara, M ., 312 Saxena, N.C., 446 Sayal,Kanu, 127-30 Scheduled Caste Federation, 299-300 Schlesinger,Arthur J., 38-4-0 Schumpetre, 38 Selvam, Nenjil, 137 Sen, I., 312 Sen, J., 256, 260 Sen,Janakinath, 384 Sen, M., 158-59 Sen, Ramlochan, 384 Shah. Ghanshyam, 13, 18,20, 26, 223 Shah, N., 327 Shah, S., 312 Shah, Wajid Ali, 408 share moral motivation, and social movements, 36-38 Sharma, Dhirendra, 375 Sharma, K., 315 Shatrugna, V., 311, 327 Shetkari Sangathan (SS), 195, 197, 21315,219,223,314 and BKU, 213-15 Shetty, S.L., 342 Shikhar, Pratap, 435 Shils, Edward, 21 Shiv Sena, 238,301,305,329 Shivaji,223, 225 Shram Shakti (1987), 316 Sikhs movement, 59-61 Simon Commission, 270 Singh, Balbir, 209 Singh, Bhopal, 207 Singh, Charan, 205, 209-11, 219-20, 225-26,278 Singh, Dharambir, 209 Singh, Gurudat, 409 Singh, Harpal, 222 Singh,Jaipal, 209, 270 Singh, K.S., 29, 268

Index Singh, Kalyan, 222 Singh,Narayan,434 Singh, Narendra, 434 Singh, Sangeetha, 21 Singh, Sukhvir, 209 Singh, Tara, 411 Singh, Vir Bahadur, 211 Singharoy, D., 312 Sinha,A.P.,343 Sinha, Arun, 302-3 Sinha, 8.P., 407 Sinha, D., 320 Sinha, Surajit, 251-52, 254-55, 259-60, 264 Sinha, Surjeet, 29 Sirohi, Ashok, 209 Sitaram, L, 406 Sitaramaraju, Alluri, 139 Skandagupta, 405 Smelser, Neil, 15 Smith, Adam, 55, 193 social conflicts, 14 · social mobility movement, 251 social movement: agents of social transformation, 61; approaches for studies on, 20-23; class composition of, 4244; coalitions and conflict among, 5254; components of, 17- 19; concept of, 59; critique of nine theses on, 56-67; cyclicalmovement towards nine theses of, 56-67; cyclicalnature of, 38-42, 63--{,4;defensive and reactive movement, 62; definition of, 15- 16, 252; delinking and transition to socialism in, 49-52; environmental movement, 423-50; impropriety of 'good'outside advice to, 55; Indian society and, 2326; issue-based classification, 27-28; moral and social power, 63; new movements, 33-36; nine theses on, 32--67; political movements and, 1920, 63; protective and defensive social movements, 46; share moral motivation and, 36-38; social power and, 3638, 64--65;state and, 23; state power and, 45-47, 63, 66; studies on, 20-23; types of, 294-95; typolo~ies, 26-28; women and, 312-15


Socia/Movement, 19 SocialMovemLnts,19 social power, and social movements, 3638 social transformation, and social movements, 48 49 socialism, 49-52, 61; delinking and transition to in social movements, 49-52 Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI), 151-5 2 solidarity in Poland, 44, 59 Sons of the Soil, 400 Sorokin, 38 Srikakulam: Naxalite movement in, 138-51 Srinivas, 258 Srinivasan, 8 ., 318 Srinivasan, R., 14, 24 Standstill Agreement of 1947, 107 state: class and masses, 68-90; movements and, 23; power and social movements, 45-47 States and Minorities, 296 States Reorganization Commission, 272 Stree Shakti Sanghatana, 312, 314, 327 students movement, 29, 37 Students' Conference, Dacca, 269 Sulochana Devi, 438 Suman, Sridev, 431, 440, 442 Sundaram, K., 137 Sundarayya, P., 111, 115-16, 158 Sunday Observer,The, 245, 291 Sunday Times, The, 328 Surjeet, H.S., 179 Swaminathan, P., 316 Swatantra Bharat Party, 223 Swatantra Pa.rty,272 Syamanand, 405 TMK,306 lakshana Karyakramam, 148 lamil Nadu Agricultural Association (TNAA) 197 lanti, Sananta, 393 TarunKranti, 346, 350 laylor , Barbara , 51 'Iebhaga movements, 313

474 lrula Telengana; employment pattern in agriculture in, 98-99; land alienation in, 97; land control and social structure in, 92-100; peasantry and politics in, 100-4; under Nizams, 92-100 Telenganainsurrection, see; peasant insurrection in Telengana lelugu Dcsam, 178 lenancy Act 1945, 98 terrorism, and social movement, 6()-66 lerrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act 1984, 178 lewari, K.M., 430 TewariCommittee, 430 textile industry, workers' grievances and conditions in, 232-37 Thapar, Romila, 24 Third WorldMagazine, 244 Tikait, Mahendar Singh, 195, 198-200, 202, 206, 208-10, 213, 218-22, 227 Tunes of India, The, 206-7, 231-46, 296 Tirth, Swami, 107 Total Revolution movement, Bihar, 342 lrade Union Act, 222 lrade Union Joint Action Committee (TUJAC), 244 ' lrailokya Bauddh Mahasangh, 300 tribal autonomy movements: agrarian radicalism, 277-78; in Chhotanagpur, 267-91; cultural radicalism, 277- 78; evaluation of, 289-91; fragmentation and factionalization, 275; goal, strategy and mobilization, 278-85; historical development, 267-75; ideology, structure and geography, 285-89; political extremism, 277-78; urban pressure groups, 276 tribal solidarity movements: during 1776-1947,255-56; from 1947 onwards, 257; characterization of, 257-58; general propositions, 262; infra-nationalism, 258; models for situation of, 257~2; observations on, 251-52; pre-British, pre-industrial and pre-market phase, 254-55; rank concession syndrome, 258-59; as

revitalization movements, 259, 261; situations, 252-54, 257~2; subnationalism, 257-58 Tulpule, Bagaram, 234-35 Turner, Victor,223 UN Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), 320 UNDP,319 Ujani Asam Rajya Parishad, 373 Uniform Civil Code (UCC), 328 United Front, 125- 28, 133-34, 160 Uttarakhand Sangharsh Vahini (USV), 432,443,450 Vaghaiwalla,R.P., 366 Vaishnavite reform movement, 251 Van der Burg, C., 403 van der Veer, Peter, 29, 402-4 Venkayya,Kolla, 141 vetti system, 95, 102, 104-5, 112 Vidyarthi, LP. , 256

Vikalp,328 Vikramaditya, 405 Vindya, U., 321 Vishwa Hindu Parisbad (VHP), 329, 411-15, 419-20 Wallace,AP.C ., 259 Wallerstein, 49 Wangdi, Sonam, 131 Waterman, Peter, 239, 320 Weiner, Myron, 391, 400 Weldon, T.D., 15 West Bengal United Front Government, 125-28 Western Uttar Pradesh, farmers and peasants of, 201-5 White, Lynn, 448 Wilkinson, Paul, 15-16, 19 Wilson,John, 15 Wolfe, Eric, 402 women, and media group, 329 Women's Development Programme (WOP), 318

Inda women's movement, 29, 310-30: agrarian struggles and reYOlts,313-14; cobwebs in, 322- 23; gender sensitivity programmes, 319; government-run empowerment programme, 317-18; issue-based campaign, 314; issuesof, 315--16, 323; liberation movement, 314-15; literature on, 311-12; media and violence on women issue. 327; multiple approach and identity, 32022; policy on women and, 318-19; religion, COIIIJllunalism and fundamentalism,328-29; social reform


movements, 312-13; state and, 31030; strategies,strength and-weakness, 325-27, 329--30;violence against women is.we, 323-25; women's right issue,316-17, 319--20 women's right and: Indian state, 316-17; international concern, 319--20 ~ and Speeches,297 Yadav, Laloo Prasad,183 Yadav,MulayamSingh,306 Yang.A., 411, 413-14 YuvaJanata Units, 280 YuvakLagniSamiti, Ahmedabad, 346