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Table of contents :
List of tables
List of contributors
Preface and acknowledgements
Introduction: The politics of social exclusion in India: democracy at the crossroads
1 Some theoretical issues concerning social exclusion and inclusion in India
2 Social exclusion and the strategy of empowerment
3 Identity politics and social exclusion in India’s North-East: the case for redistributive justice
4 Inclusion in nationhood: Bhudev Mukhopadhyay’s concept of jatiyabhav
5 Rabindranath’s concept of social exclusion and inclusion in India: a nation without nationalism
6 Identity and social exclusion in India: a Muslim perspective
7 Inclusive and exclusive development in India in the post-reform era
8 Social exclusion in India: evidences from wage labour market
9 The Polavaram Dam project: a case of displacement of marginalized people
10 Purity as exclusion, caste as division: the ongoing battle for equality
11 Narrating gender and power: literary and cultural texts and contexts
12 Girish Karnad’s The Fire and the Rain: a study in myths of power
Conclusion: democracy at the crossroads
The Politics of Social Exclusion in India
Social exclusion and inclusion remain issues of fundamental importance to democracy. Both exclusion and inclusion relate to access to participation in the public realm, public goods and services for certain groups of people who are minorities, marginalized and deprived. Democratization has led to the inclusion of the previously excluded in the political process. Although even in advanced Western countries the problems of exclusion remain in respect of minorities and the underprivileged, the problem of deep-rooted social and cultural exclusions is acute in post-colonial countries, including India. This book analyses social exclusions in India, which remain the most solid challenges to Indian democracy and development. Communal clashes, ethnic riots, political secessionist movements and extremist violence take place almost routinely, and are the outward manifestations of the entrenched culture of social exclusion in India. With its interdisciplinary approach, the book looks at the multidimensional problems of social exclusion and inclusion, providing a critical, comprehensive analysis of the problem and of potential solutions. The authors are experts in the fields of historical sociology, anthropology, political theory, social philosophy, economics and indigenous vernacular literature. Overall, the book offers an innovative theoretical perspective of the long-term issues facing contemporary Indian democracy. Harihar Bhattacharyya is Professor of Political Science, University of Burdwan, India. He has been awarded international fellowships and visiting assignments by the universities of Heidelberg, London, Hull and Fribourg. His publications include India as a Multicultural Federation: Asian Values, Democracy and Decentralization. Partha Sarkar is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Business Administration at the University of Burdwan, India. Angshuman Kar is Reader and Head of the Department of English, University of Burdwan, India. He edited Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Literatures.
Routledge Advances in South Asian Studies Edited by Subrata K. Mitra, South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg, Germany South Asia, with its burgeoning, ethnically diverse population, soaring economies and nuclear weapons, is an increasingly important region in the global context. The series, which builds on this complex, dynamic and volatile area, features innovative and original research on the region as a whole or on the countries. Its scope extends to scholarly works drawing on history, politics, development studies, sociology and economics of individual countries from the region as well those that take an interdisciplinary and comparative approach to the area as a whole or to a comparison of two or more countries from this region. In terms of theory and method, rather than basing itself on any one orthodoxy, the series draws broadly on the insights germane to area studies, as well as the tool kit of the social sciences in general, emphasizing comparison, the analysis of the structure and processes, and the application of qualitative and quantitative methods. The series welcomes submissions from established authors in the field as well as from young authors who have recently completed their doctoral dissertations. 1
Perception, Politics and Security in South Asia
The compound crisis of 1990 P. R. Chari, Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema and Stephen Philip Cohen 2
Coalition Politics and Hindu Nationalism Edited by Katharine Adeney and Lawrence Saez
The Puzzle of India’s Governance Culture, context and comparative theory Subrata K. Mitra
India’s Nuclear Bomb and National Security Karsten Frey
Starvation and India’s Democracy Dan Banik
Parliamentary Control and Government Accountability in South Asia A comparative analysis of Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka Taiabur Rahman
Political Mobilisation and Democracy in India States of emergency Vernon Hewitt
Military Control in Pakistan
The parallel state Mazhar Aziz 9
Sikh Nationalism and Identity in a Global Age Giorgio Shani
10 The Tibetan Government-in-Exile Politics at large Stephanie Roemer 11 Trade Policy, Inequality and Performance in Indian Manufacturing Kunal Sen 12 Democracy and Party Systems in Developing Countries A comparative study Clemens Spiess 13 War and Nationalism in South Asia The Indian State and the Nagas Marcus Franke 14 The Politics of Social Exclusion in India Democracy at the crossroads Edited by Harihar Bhattacharyya, Partha Sarka and Angshuman Kar
The Politics of Social Exclusion in India Democracy at the crossroads
Edited by Harihar Bhattacharyya, Partha Sarkar and Angshuman Kar
First published 2010 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2010 Harihar Bhattacharyya, Partha Sarkar and Angshuman Kar for selection and editorial matter; individual contributors their contribution Typeset in Times New Roman by Prepress Projects Ltd, Perth, UK Printed and bound by MPG Books Group, UK All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data The politics of social exclusion in India: democracy at the crossroads/ [edited by] Harihar Bhattacharyya, Partha Sarkar, Angshuman Kar. p. cm. – (Routledge advances in South Asian studies; 14) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Marginality, Social – Political aspects – India. 2. India – Social conditions – 1947– I. Bhattacharyya, Harihar. II. Sarkar, Partha. III. Kar, Angshuman. HN690.Z9M26655 2009 323.154 – dc22 2009022793 ISBN10: 0-415-55357-1 (hbk) ISBN10: 0-203-86424-7 (ebk) ISBN13: 978-0-415-55357-5 (hbk) ISBN13: 978-0-203-86424-1 (ebk)
List of tables List of contributors Preface and acknowledgements Glossary Introduction: The politics of social exclusion in India: democracy at the crossroads
vii ix xi xiii 1
Harihar Bhattacharyya, Partha Sarkar and Angshuman Kar
1 Some theoretical issues concerning social exclusion and inclusion in India
Sobhanlal Datta Gupta
2 Social exclusion and the strategy of empowerment
T. K. Oommen
3 Identity politics and social exclusion in India’s North-East: the case for redistributive justice
N. K. Das
4 Inclusion in nationhood: Bhudev Mukhopadhyay’s concept of jatiyabhav
5 Rabindranath’s concept of social exclusion and inclusion in India: a nation without nationalism Jyotirmay BhattacharyYa
6 Identity and social exclusion in India: a Muslim perspective
Asghar Ali Engineer
7 Inclusive and exclusive development in India in the post-reform era
Pravat Kumar Kuri
8 Social exclusion in India: evidences from wage labour market
9 The Polavaram Dam project: a case of displacement of marginalized people
10 Purity as exclusion, caste as division: the ongoing battle for equality
11 Narrating gender and power: literary and cultural texts and contexts
12 Girish Karnad’s The Fire and the Rain: a study in myths of power
Conclusion: democracy at the crossroads
Harihar Bhattacharyya, Partha Sarkar and Angshuman Kar
6.1 Educational backwardness among the Muslims in India: graduates as proportion of population by age groups, all India 6.2 Percentage of Muslim Members in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha 6.3 Share of employment in national security agencies 6.4 Muslim employees in government sector employment 6.5 Share of Muslims in all India civil services 7.1 The extent of poverty under different social groups 7.2 Head count ratio for all-India (rural and urban) population by social group cross-classified by means of livelihood, 1993–4 to 1999–2000 7.3 Unemployment rates for fiftieth round (1993–4) and sixtieth round (Jan–June 2004) of NSSO 7.4 Incidence of child labour and nowhere children in India 7.5 Growth in literacy in India (age group 6+) 8.1 Shares in population and employment by social groups in India, 1993–2004 8.2 Shares in wage earnings by social groups in India, 1993–2004 8.3 Earnings by social groups in India, 1993–2004 8.4 Distribution of workers among different wage classes in India by social groups 8.5 Shares of different social groups in top and bottom wage classes in India 8.6 Earning ratios for social groups in India – by states 8.7 Occupational distribution of wage workers by social groups in India 8.8 Earning ratios for social groups in India by occupation 8.9 Working status of wage workers by social groups in India
79 81 82 82 83 91 92 93 94 95 104 105 105 106 106 107 109 110 111
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Angshuman Kar is Reader and Head, Department of English, Burdwan University, West Bengal, India. Anima Biswas is Professor of English Literature, Burdwan University, West Bengal, India. Asghar Ali Engineer is a noted Muslim scholar and internationally known for his work on liberation theology and Islam, and Director, Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai, India. Harihar Bhattacharyya is Professor of Political Science, and formerly Dean of Arts, Commerce, Management etc., Burdwan University, West Bengal, India. Jasbir Jain is a retired Professor of English Literature and UGC-Emeritus Fellow at the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, India. Jyotirmay Bhattacharyya is a retired Reader in Political Science, Burdwan Raj College, Burdwan University, West Bengal, India. N. K. Das is a noted anthropologist, Anthropological Survey of India, Kolkata, India. Partha Sarkar is Teacher-in-Charge and Senior Lecturer in Business Administration (Human Resource), Centre for Management Studies, Burdwan University, West Bengal, India. Pravat Kumar Kuri is Reader in Economics, Burdwan University, West Bengal, India. Rajarshi Majumdar is Reader in Economics, Burdwan University, West Bengal, India. Sanjukta Dasgupta is Professor of English Literature and Dean, Faculty of Arts, Calcutta University, West Bengal, India. Sobhanlal Datta Gupta is retired S. N. Banerjee Professor of Political Science, Calcutta University, West Bengal, India.
x Contributors Sudipti Banerjea is Professor of Commerce, Calcutta University, West Bengal, India. T. K. Oommen is one of India’s foremost sociologists and Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India.
Preface and acknowledgements
Social exclusion and inclusion remain issues of fundamental importance to democracy. Social exclusion remains a persistent problem of all societies. The problem is acute in the post-colonial countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Multidimensional in nature, social exclusion manifests itself often in such ugly forms as ethnic conflicts, communalism and communal riots, pogroms, ethnic cleansing, class wars, secessionist violence and so on. Globalization has added to the problem of social exclusion by creating new forms of inequalities and deprivations. Social exclusion has of late been receiving increasing attention from the policymakers, multilateral donor agencies, academic community and other researchers. Economists, by and large, have analysed it as a problem of poverty and capability deprivation. Sociologists have looked at the issue from the perspective of discrimination based on caste and ethnicity in India. A comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach to social exclusion and its implications for democracy is singularly lacking in the existing literature on the subject. This volume of twelve essays composed by sociologists, anthropologists, political theorists, economists, social theorists and literary scholars seeks to offer an interdisciplinary, comprehensive and comparative perspective on the vexed issue of social exclusion and assesses its implications for democracy in India. The essays are original in that they are being published here for the first time, and many of them are based on vernacular sources otherwise inaccessible to the English-speaking world at large. The origin of this volume dates back to a maiden National Seminar on ‘Politics of Social Exclusion and Empowerment: A Multidisciplinary Approach’ held on 28–29 May 2007 in Burdwan under the auspices of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies (CIS) of the University of Burdwan, West Bengal (India) when Harihar Bhattacharyya was Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Commerce etc. of the University of Burdwan and the founding Director of CIS. The seminar was liberally financed by the University Grants Commission (UGC), for which we sincerely record our thanks to Professor Suranjan Das, then Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Calcutta University, now Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, and Professor S. K. Thorat, Chairman, UGC, who took particular interest in the seminar. We are deeply grateful to Professor Amit Kumar Mallik, former Vice-Chancellor of Burdwan
xii Preface and acknowledgements University, for his encouragement and support at all phases, and faculty members and staff of the Burdwan University, who extended all possible help in making the seminar a grand success. Anjan Palit and Ranjit Banerjee, of the office of the Dean, Faculty of Arts, Commerce etc. of Burdwan University, deserve special thanks for their unstinting support. Regrettably, for reasons of space, we could not accommodate all the papers presented in the seminar as well as to us subsequently. We hope Professor Subrata K. Mitra, the Series Editor, will not mind if we record our very sincere gratitude to him for advice, and to Dorothea and Suzanne of Routledge for their unstinting support and cooperation. Harihar Bhattacharyya wishes to thank the Department of Political Science Delhi University (North Campus), more particularly Professor Achin Vanaik, HOD, for providing him during March–May 2009 with the near ideal infrastructural support for drafting a chapter and a half. Bhattacharyya also wishes to record with appreciation the patience with which Saswati and Sahon have borne with his ‘non-availability’ to them during the long period of editing this volume. As Amartya Sen (2000) himself has forewarned, the conceptual territory of social exclusion is disputed. Apart from the broad conceptual framework of discrimination, deprivation and marginalization as constitutive of social exclusion, we have not imposed any rigid notion of social exclusion on the individual authors. Our somewhat flexible approach to social exclusion has been guided by the collaborative pursuit of interdisciplinary and comparative insights and perspectives to build on for better understanding social exclusion, on the one hand, and democracy, on the other. We appreciate the help rendered by Sahon Bhattacharyya (the son of Harihar Bhattacharyya) and Arijit Bhattacharyya, Lecturer in Political Science, Burdwan University in preparing the indexes. Harihar Bhattacharyya Partha Sarkar Angshuman Kar Burdwan University, Golapbag
Reference Sen, A. (2000) ‘Social Exclusion: Concept, Application, and Scrutiny’, Social Development Papers No. 1, Asian Development Bank, http:www.abd.org/Documents/Books/ Social_Exclusion/Social_Exclusion.pdf, accessed on 24 August 2009.
Adivasi India’s aboriginal communities Awadhi A regional language in India Bhojpuri A regional language in India Chandala Outcaste in Indian caste system Chattisgarhi A regional language in India Chaturvana Traditional model of Indian caste system Dalit Formerly untouchables in India; mostly scheduled castes in India Jati Caste Kshatriya Second social rank in the traditional Indian caste hierarchy Mahajati A Bengali word meaning a composite nation Maithili A regional language in India Mali A low-caste community in India Marwari A community in Rajasthan, famous for trade and business Nagalim A federation of the Nagas claimed by some Nagas in India’s North-East Naxalism A word commonly used to refer to the activities of the Naxalite groups in India Rajasthani A regional language in India Rajbanshi A community in Northern West Bengal Samabayniti Cooperative principle Samajtattwa Sociology Sarva Siksha Avijan Mass education programme of the Government of India Shakas Ancient foreign invaders of India Shudras The lowest social rank in the traditional Hindu caste hierarchy Ulama Teacher of Muslim laws and theology Vaisya The third lowest rank in the traditional Hindu caste hierarchy, usually engaged in trade and commerce Vaisyarajaktantra Rule of the Vaisyas Varna Social rank in traditional Indian caste order Varnashrama The philosophy of traditional Hindu life Zamindar Landlord
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Introduction The politics of social exclusion in India: democracy at the crossroads Harihar Bhattacharyya, Partha Sarkar and Angshuman Kar
Social exclusion and inclusion are issues of fundamental importance to democracy. Social exclusion remains a persistent problem in all societies. It occurs when some groups of people for reasons of colour, caste, ethnic identity, religious beliefs and so on are systematically denied access to opportunities and resources, which are necessary for their survival and sustenance. It is thus the result of discrimination, mostly against minorities. It hampers democracy, development and social integration. Social inclusion, by contrast, is participatory and empowering, requiring various kinds of affirmative measures designed to remove discrimination, marginalization and deprivation. The two strategies are designed to serve opposite purposes, one exclusionary and the other inclusionary, in matters of extending or withholding access to participation in the public realm, public goods and services etc. to certain groups of people who are minorities, marginalized and deprived. Democracy is nothing if it is not inclusionary. In modern times, democratization of the public realm has meant more inclusion of the excluded in the political process. Although social philosophers and writers have from time immemorial lamented over the large-scale exclusion and deprivation in society, and harped on the goal of inclusion of larger and larger numbers of people, especially the weaker sections, in the overall social, cultural and political processes, as a remedy against large-scale deprivation of them, societies everywhere remain exclusionary to different degrees and extents. The removal of social exclusion remains thus at the top of the agenda of the advocates of inclusionary, democratic society. Although even in advanced Western countries the problems of exclusion remain in respect of minorities and the underprivileged, the problem of deeprooted social and cultural exclusions is acute in post-colonial countries, afflicted as they are with the processes of manifold age-old and deep-rooted social and cultural exclusions, which serve to act as the basis for other kinds of exclusion, most notably economic and political. The subject, or rather the problem, though very old, has of late been receiving international scholarly attention. Amartya Sen, the Nobel Laureate economist, laments, however, that the literature on social exclusion remains still ‘somewhat disorganized and undisciplined’ (Sen 2000: 1). Sen says that Rene Lenoir,
2 Bhattacharyya, Sarkar and Kar an official of the French government, is the author of the expression of ‘social exclusion’; he originally used it in 1974 to refer to the ‘mentally and physically handicapped, suicidal people, aged, invalids, abused children, substance abusers, single parents, asocial persons, marginal and other social “misfits” ’ (Sen 2000: 1). However, the term has ever since been used widely in the discussion of poverty and deprivation (Sen 2000: 1). Quoting another author on the subject (Silver 1995), Sen has listed the things that people were said to have been excluded from: a livelihood; secure, permanent employment; earning; property; credit, or land; housing; minimal or prevailing consumption levels; education; skills, and cultural capital; the welfare state; citizenship and legal equality; democratic participation; public goods; the nation or the dominant race; family and sociability; humanity; respect; fulfillment and understanding. (Sen 2000: 2) So already we see the expansion of the ambit of the concept of social exclusion that encompasses many dimensions: social, economic, legal, cultural and even political. However, in Sen’s (2000) theoretical analysis the central emphasis is on the relational aspects of social exclusion in respect of poverty and deprivation, arguing that poverty is a capability deprivation. In India, the scholarly problematization of the country’s old and manifold exclusions, and inclusionary attempts, is still meagre.1 Following Sen, Thorat has discussed the issue of social exclusion within a welfarist framework, and argued that social exclusion is group-based, and rooted in social relations, institutions and processes paying particular attention to caste and ethnicity-based exclusions.2 Hasan’s (2008) study addresses the question of representation of Muslims and other disadvantaged groups in India, and defends the case for affirmative action for the disadvantaged groups, most importantly the Muslims in India. In Baviskar and Mathew (2009), detailed case study materials are presented on the inclusion and exclusion of the socially disadvantaged sections, such as Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), women and Muslims in the local government bodies in India. But a comprehensive account of the multidimensional issues of social exclusion and inclusion in relation to democracy in India is singularly lacking in the existing literature on the subject. To be sure, social exclusions of many kinds remain the most solid challenges to Indian democracy and development. Communal clashes, ethnic riots, political secessionist movements in parts of India and extremist violence, which do take place almost routinely, are but some of the outward and ugly manifestations of deep-rooted social exclusions in India. Very recently, these have also been receiving renewed attention from the current Congress-led (United Progressive Alliance) federal government in India (2004–9) which has adopted the goal of ‘inclusive development’ to be central to its development agenda despite the process of ongoing globalization in the country since the early 1990s.
Introduction 3 The politics of social exclusion and inclusion, strategically speaking, has remained intertwined with increasing demands for democratization of the public domain in modern times. It also serves to offer additional grounds for legitimacy to the political regime. History has taught us that societies based on large-scale social exclusion do not last long (e.g. ancient slave societies) and, in fact, have broken down. Hierarchical, exclusionary, feudal societies suffered the same fate, giving birth to more inclusive societies under capitalism. The issue is organically linked with social exclusion, the removal of which tops the agenda of the advocates of inclusive, democratic societies. Although even in advanced Western countries the problems of exclusion remain in respect of minorities and the underprivileged, the problem of deep-rooted social and cultural exclusions is acute in post-colonial countries, afflicted as they are with the processes of manifold age-old and deeprooted social and cultural exclusions, which serve to act as the basis for other kinds of exclusion, most notably economic and political. The enfranchisement of increasingly larger numbers of people has meant further inclusion and democracy. But the degree, manner, level and depth of inclusion vary a lot across democratic countries depending upon the specific contexts. In any case, social exclusion, caused by many factors – hierarchical social order, age-old customs and practices, economic development, exclusionary ideological constructions of nationhood and so on – remains a challenge to democracy. The complex whole of exclusion–inclusion is yet to be adequately problematized in the ongoing debate on Indian democracy. By nature and instinct, democracy is opposed to discrimination, inequality, hierarchies and exclusion, which are inhospitable conditions for the operation of the central democratic principle of equality. The so-called inhospitable conditions, as above, would strive to halt the march of democracy because the latter is a destabilizing force for the former. The celebratory accounts of Indian democracy give us indications about the exclusionary depths of democracy’s environment, but not much by way of the level of inclusion achieved. Historically, and contemporaneously too, discrimination of sorts has been routinely practised as a ‘strategy’ to exclude as well as, we will not be surprised to note, to include. ‘Positive discrimination’, ‘protective discrimination’, ‘affirmative action’, ‘reverse discrimination’ etc. are familiar terms of popular and intellectual discourse on contemporary Indian politics (Mitra 1990; Mahajan 1998; Weiner and Katzenstein 1981). This strategy is widely used in many countries of the world including the very advanced ones. Since there is large-scale exclusion of disadvantaged social groups, there is a need to include them in the mainstream of society, and the policy of positive discrimination provides a strategy for it. The objective of this strategy has been to fight the deep-seated discrimination by another form of discrimination, as above. This reminds us of various forms of ‘reservation’ practised in India in favour of the marginalized sections of society such as women, scheduled castes and tribes, and the so-called ‘other backward classes’. We cannot argue for certain that such ‘protective discrimination’ strategy has been able to protect the rights of the vulnerable in all cases.
4 Introduction Social exclusion has thus been a persistent problem of human civilizations for ages. Multidimensional in nature, social exclusion remains a major problem of multicultural societies. The problem is central to Indian society and polity. In India, it manifests itself in many forms in different times and contexts. When the lower castes demand to be recognized for some special advantages it draws our attention to the problem. It can be proposed here that, the more social exclusion a society experiences, the more fragmented it is. And the more fragmented it is, the less national cohesion and unity exists. Religious discrimination suffered by minorities in the West is quite common because of uniformity policies insisted upon in education and the workplace. Since social exclusion marginalizes some groups from the rest (in most cases the minorities are marginalized, although often the majority is marginalized too by the minority in power, e.g. the Hutus by the Tutsi in Burundi in Africa), the socially (and hence politically too) excluded rise in protests, riots, rebellions, secessionism and extremist violence and so on, causing a decline in governance. Conflicts between the included few and the excluded many have taken (and still do) the forms of communalism (most common in India), ethnocide, pogroms, separatism and so on. Historically, social (and hence political and economic) exclusion worldwide has taken many forms: slavery; caste systems (in India); apartheid (in South Africa); gender and racial discrimination; cultural and linguistic discrimination; social exclusion; religious exclusion; and so on. Such exclusionary processes prevent groups of people – whether based on race, occupation or sex – from claiming equal rights with the rest, and deprive them of entitlements to opportunities. Social exclusion thus has been institutionalized. From time immemorial, social exclusion has remained associated with what may be called social othering, a process of labelling and branding some groups of people as the ‘other’, meaning abject and ‘barbarian’, ‘traditional’, ‘primitive’ and so on. The European Enlightenment and its offshoot, modernity, could not do away with this dichotomization of the ‘we’ and the ‘other’, but only replaced the old dichotomy by a new one: modern (i.e. rational, normal) and traditional (i.e. irrational, abnormal). As a corollary to the above, (majoritarian) democracy’s other (i.e. minority), development’s other (i.e. those who ‘fail’ to catch up with development), progress’s other (i.e. the reactionary) and so on came to dot the overall script of modernity. In Orientalist thinking since the late eighteenth century, a very broad and illusive category ‘East’ took the place of the ‘other’ for the ‘West’. This stereotyping of groups of people entailed the process of excluding them from rights, opportunities, access to goods and services, and often the entitlement to live their own lives. Evidently, the multidimensional problems of social exclusion and inclusion require an interdisciplinary approach, which is lacking in the growing literature on Indian democracy and development, let alone the very limited writings on social exclusion in India. A critical multidimensional discourse on the subject is, therefore, called for, throwing fresh and comprehensive light on the problems and their solutions. The twelve essays collected in this volume, three each from
Introduction 5 sociology/social anthropology/political theory, social philosophy (two vernacular language-based), economics, and the Bhasa (vernacular) literature (a genre in the growing post-colonial literature in India), critically reflect upon the issues of social exclusion and inclusion in India, historically and contemporaneously. The very meagre literature that has very recently been emerging on the problems of social exclusion and inclusion in India focuses on the issue of reservation/quota for the underprivileged castes and groups in public institutions (e.g. employment and local governance), and is more empirically grounded. The aim of this book is to reflect upon the issues of social exclusion and inclusion in India from a broader canvas of historical sociology, anthropology, political theory, social philosophy, economics and indigenous vernacular literature, which provide together a fresh theoretical perspective for understanding the long-term obstacles to and issues of Indian democracy. The lenses used by the twelve authors in this book are: aspects of liberal political theory; broader historical sociology of social exclusion, identity, particularly drawing on India’s North-East, and empowerment; the Muslim perspective on identity and social exclusion; nationhood; religious discrimination, gender-based disempowerment, caste and class discrimination; the concept of purity; inclusive development; globalization and displacement of the marginalized; the wage labour market; and so on. However, the common themes that run through these essays are discrimination, marginalization and deprivation (social exclusion) as well as the routes to empowerment of the subaltern (inclusion). In the chapters that follow, Sobhanlal Datta Gupta (Chapter 1) examines the problem through the lens of liberal political theory, and highlights the complexities involved with special reference to contemporary Indian politics. Paradoxical though it may seem, it is liberalism, which has, however, faced of late a whole barrage of criticisms for its relative failure to face up to the challenges of diversity and differences, that has nonetheless provided the broad intellectual canvas for re-problematizing the issue of recognition of difference, of the excluded. And yet it is important to understand, Datta Gupta argues, the central paradoxes of liberalism in regard to the issue of exclusion and inclusion, theoretically and practically speaking. A theoretical understanding of the issue will help clarify the conceptual issues involved in extending recognition to differences, and the strengths and weaknesses in the alternatives proposed practically, particularly with contemporary Indian identity politics. This theoretical exercise is needed to understand the paradoxes of, and the dangers embedded in, many brands of identity and the politics of recognition in India, if not also elsewhere. Datta Gupta concludes that social inclusion as an antidote to social exclusion involves first of all the extension of recognition of difference, philosophically speaking, a task with which modern liberal political theory still grapples. Social exclusion of groups from the mainstream, from access to certain practices, services and opportunities, has remained from ancient times almost a standard practice, more or less accepted by society at large. Ancient Greek as well as ancient Indian civilizations practised large-scale social exclusion. As Oommen
6 Introduction (Chapter 2) has argued, in ancient Greece, ‘the slaves were completely excluded, the plebeians were grudgingly included, only the patricians were fully included in the decision-making processes.’ The above had their near replicas in ancient Indian Hindu society: the caste-Hindus (higher castes) were the patricians; the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) were the plebeians; and the Shudras (lowest rank in the old caste hierarchy in India) were those beyond the pale. In the Indian context, the caste system was a dreadful form of social exclusion, and the practice of untouchability associated with it was abominable. Ironically, exclusion and inclusion in the Indian caste system were often inseparable: while the caste system upheld the practice of untouchability (which segregated the Shudras as untouchable), the upper-caste men had privileged sexual access to untouchable women! Oommen’s historically broad-based, sociologically well-argued and empirically rich chapter in this volume has provided the genealogy of social exclusion over the last five centuries, its various transnational, regional and national as well as local forms, and the limited progress made in inclusion despite democracy. He has also pointed out that the project of nation-states is homogenizing and therefore exclusionary. Inclusion, per se, he argues, may not be a desirable goal if it does not ensure equity and identity. His proposition is that inclusion and exclusion are not to be seen as ‘conceptual opposites’ because coercive assimilation is often resorted to in the name of inclusion, which leads to subordination. India’s aboriginals, commonly known in India as ‘tribals’, numbering more than 100 million, are a very important subject of social exclusion. Marginalized in their ‘own lands’ by surges of migration of the more advanced sections of society, they have for long suffered most from discrimination, marginalization and deprivation. As a result, the discontented aboriginals have taken recourse to the various brands of separatist politics, often verging on political extremism. India’s North-East, comprising seven federal units, and a highly sensitive region, strategically speaking, is the home of a very large concentration of tribesmen, and also of brands of identity politics and separatism. N. K. Das examines the issue through the lens of an anthropologist. In Chapter 3 he examines how various brands of identity politics since the colonial days have served to create the basis of exclusion of groups, resulting in various forms of rifts, often envisaged in binary terms: majority–minority; sons of the soil–immigrants; locals–outsiders; tribal–non-tribal; hills–plains; inter-tribal; and intra-tribal. Given the strategic and sensitive border areas, low level of development, immense cultural diversity and participatory democratic processes, social exclusion has resulted in perceptions of marginalization, deprivation and identity losses, all adding to the strong basis of brands of separatist movements in the garb of regionalism, sub-nationalism and ethnic politics, most often verging on extremism and secession. It is argued by Das that local people’s anxiety for preservation of culture and language, often appearing as ‘narcissist self-awareness’, and their demand for autonomy, cannot be seen unilaterally as dysfunctional for a healthy civil society. Their aspirations, he argues, should be seen rather as prerequisites for distributive justice, which the Indian nation-state cannot neglect.
Introduction 7 Since the nineteenth century, arising from uncritical acceptance of the postEnlightenment-inspired construction of nationhood as a uniform and homogenous category, as an ideological legitimacy to the nation-state, Indian nationhood came to be ‘imagined’ increasingly in those terms, giving birth to a predominantly exclusionary concept of national identity, mostly based on religion (Hindus and Muslims, for instance), in binary oppositions of ‘we’ and the ‘other’. While this paved further the way for social exclusion – a schism between the Hindus and the Muslims, if not among other communities in an already divided society – it stood in the way of political cohesion required for forging a national identity and unity. The birth of Muslim separatism and the eventual secession in favour of Pakistan in 1947 was one unfortunate culmination of the above process. More sadly, the schism among different communities in India, most notably between the Hindus and the Muslims (more than 12 per cent of the 1,000 million-plus population) has grown rather than lessened. The rival discourses of identity, of the Hindus and the Muslims, each emphasizing homogeneity and uniformity, separateness and exclusiveness, are constructed by various political forces with predictable results. In Chapter 4, Harihar Bhattacharyya presents the pioneering (mostly unknown) case of construction of an alternative nationhood by Bhudev Mukhopadhyay, a nineteenth-century Bengali social philosopher, and India’s ‘first social theorist’, in which an inclusive, predominantly society-centric Indian national identity was articulated in terms of the indigenous notion of jatiyabhav (a national feeling; a sense of nationhood), and with indigenous communities such as the Hindus, the Muslims, the Christians, the tribes and so on. While his compatriots were mostly busy with construction of nationhood in exclusivist terms that entailed Muslimbashing and hatred of the other, Bhudev was well ahead of his time and quite radical in finding a place for the Muslims, and other communities including the aboriginal people, in his articulation of Indian national identity in a spirit of recognition of differences, and within a framework of knowledge based on a trenchant critique of the West more than 100 years before the birth of post-colonialism as an intellectual trend. In Chapter 5, Jyotirmay Bhattacharyya critically presents, using fictional and non-fictional writings, Rabindranath Tagore’s very incisive analysis of different forms and layers of social exclusion in India (inter-religious, intra-religious, gender, inter-class and so on) and identifies the affirmative processes in his thought for building up an inclusive social and political national identity of India. Radically critical of the many pitfalls of the state-centric Western notion of nationhood, which had been the prevalent form of understanding, Tagore, as Bhattacharyya shows, defended the case of a society-centric mahajati (composite nation) that includes the Muslims politically. Unlike Bhudev, Tagore does not defend the indigenous traditions, but argues strongly in favour of demolishing the walls of separation both within the communities and between them for preparing a secular public sphere in which to integrate with each other for a national identity and unity. The alienation of the Muslims in India from the so-called ‘mainstream’, from the process of development, and their relative backwardness despite many decades
8 Introduction of development programmes since independence has remained perhaps the most burning issue of Indian democracy. The discrimination, marginalization and deprivation among the majority of Muslims in India have been officially recognized in the official Sachar Committee Report of the Government of India (2006). Even some six decades after the birth of Pakistan, the integration of the Muslims into the nation’s space remains a far cry, manifested in almost regular communal clashes and riots which kill more Muslims than Hindus. In Chapter 6, Asghar Ali Engineer, India’s world renowned Muslim scholar and activist, and a member of the Sachar Committee appointed to uplift the Muslims, centrally deals with this question. He argues that, in a democracy, the issues of social exclusion and inclusion become prominent and sharpen but at the same time a vibrant democratic society always remains sensitive to the question of exclusion of any community. He first demolishes the myth of the Muslims as being a homogenous community, and examines the manifold exclusions that the Muslims in India are subject to. In this empirically rich chapter, the author identifies multiple dimensions to the problematic of the exclusion of the Muslims. He begins with the international socio-political perspective and then moves on to the Indian context. He examines the exclusion of the Muslims in the pre-Independence and post-Independence phases of Indian history with special reference to the much talked-about report of the Sachar Committee. The author concludes the chapter with a plea to the politicians of the country to take steps to include all the backward sections of society in the nation’s space, for otherwise the total exclusion of any caste or community, he argues, may prove very disastrous for Indian democratic polity. The next three chapters deal with economic aspects of social exclusion and inclusion in India. They examine India’s globalization in relation to its exclusionary implications, as well as the differential wage earnings relative to socially excluded positions of the labouring classes. There is also a case study of the impact of a displacement-induced development project (Polavaram Dam in Andhra Pradesh in South India) with its further consequences for discrimination, marginalization and deprivation on the underprivileged sections. In Chapter 7, Provat Kuri shows that globalization has serious implications for economic and social exclusions worldwide. In fact, globalization has produced highly varied results in different countries of the developing world in terms of economic growth, employment and income distribution. While countries in Asia have experienced acceleration in their economic growth rates, the same cannot be said of many Latin American and most African countries. Among academics a serious debate has been going on in India about the social implications of economic reforms and globalization. Although these debates are taking place all over the world, they have become much more significant and complicated in a society such as India, which is highly stratified on the basis of caste, religion, region and gender. A section of scholars are strongly advocating that the economic reforms initiated by the Government of India are creating prosperity and growth for the nation, particularly referring to constant growth rates after globalization and economic reforms. On the other hand a large section of economists, sociologists and social researchers are arguing that the growth is not inclusive and the economic
Introduction 9 reforms as well as globalization have widened the gap within society in terms of growing marginalization, deprivation and discrimination. They have been constantly exposing the negative dimensions, saying that the market economy is in a way excluding a large section of the people and it is working against the spirit of ‘social justice’, a primary principle of the Indian Constitution. The development strategy through economic liberalization undoubtedly yielded higher economic growth in India, but the distributional aspects of development could not be addressed adequately, and that resulted in higher levels of economic and social exclusions. Despite many achievements, India’s development strategy resulted in unforgivable failure to deal with mass poverty, illiteracy and various forms of religious, social and gender discrimination. In the post-reform period, India’s record in eliminating human poverty remains far from satisfactory. One fourth of the population is still living below the poverty line. The unemployment rate is on the rise. The employment elasticity of growth has declined at an alarming rate. Millions of child labourers in this country are surviving without a future. A sizable proportion of children in this country are blind and crippled by malnutrition. Almost half of Indian children suffer from under nourishment. Twenty per cent of rural children are severely undernourished. One in four girls and one in ten boys still do not attend school. The Indian economy today faces the twin challenges of accelerating sustained economic growth and simultaneously ensuring the elimination of human deprivation and inequalities. Analyzing the contemporary development challenges in India vis-à-vis the inclusive development paradigm, this chapter explores critically the alternative route towards development that proposes full employment, equality and social justice for the disadvantaged. In Chapter 8 Rajarshi Majumdar has analysed the issue of social exclusion in India in the light of earnings differentials existing in the Indian wage labour market across social groups. It has been observed that the share of the excluded groups – SCs, STs and OBCs (all underprivileged social groups) – in wage employment is lower than their corresponding share in population and their shares in wage earnings are even lower. Moreover these groups have a negligible share in the top wage classes and have limited upward mobility to higher wage classes. In the opinion of the author such disparity can be ascribed to the fact that there is skewed occupational distribution and prevalence of casual workers among the excluded groups. He feels that the disparity has increased in the post-reform period and hence there is a need to pursue inclusive growth strategies and participatory development programmes in order to address the problem. The issue of development-induced displacement has been an area of special interest to researchers, policy-makers and society at large. The fact that some development initiatives ‘induce’ displacement has been recognized in the literature. The economic policies that are being pursued in many underdeveloped/ developing countries under the liberalization, privatization and globalization (LPG) syndrome have, inter alia, significantly contributed to the displacement of people on a massive scale from their existing sources of livelihood.3 Temporary/ contractual jobs with meagre compensation are pushing the regular sources of
10 Introduction livelihood (in both rural and urban areas) to the back seat to a large extent, thus affecting a sizable section of the poor population and forcing them to accept a very difficult economic situation. Although there has been opposition to certain development initiatives such as dams on the supposition that they might affect people, there have also been several instances of marginalization and deprivation arising out of certain recent developmental initiatives (special economic zones and industrialization, for instance) that could have either been avoided or been pursued with a ‘human face’. Whereas on one hand it has been argued that ‘dams have made a significant contribution to human development, and the benefits derived from them have been considerable’ (Chapter 9 below) the adverse effects of certain development initiatives have been identified in the existing scholarship. The entire process of LPG (howsoever inevitable that might be and in spite of some positive features) is leading to increasing discrimination, marginalization and deprivation of the socially underprivileged in many underdeveloped/developing countries, and it appears that sections of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary are contributing to that process. Unfortunately, in a vastly populous country such as India, where already discriminated-against, marginalized and deprived people constitute a substantial population, only special economic zones (SEZs), big dams, superhighways, mega-infrastructural projects, massive projects to extract minerals and forest resources, flyovers in big cities, urban beautification, etc., are projected by a section of the society as development and criticisms from different social quarters are often labelled anti-development. But still adequate drinking water, electricity, primary health services, primary education, etc. in the vast rural India continue to be unavailable. The question remains whether this type of development is really for the socio-economic betterment of the already discriminated-against, marginalized and deprived people or it will lead to their large-scale disorganization, destabilization and displacement in many underdeveloped/developing countries. The underlying causes, inter alia, are regional/sectoral imbalances, a fast-growing rural–urban divide, disharmonious industry–agriculture relationships, increased focus on nearjobless growth-oriented capital-intensive industries and fast marginalization of employment-generating small-scale industries. The problem is more acute in the countries that are populous, have a vast majority of people with little or no formal education, are mainly dependent on export of primary commodities and are having a high degree of socio-cultural conflicts and political instability. The already discriminated-against, marginalized and deprived people (including the tribals and the other economically backward categories of people), who constitute the lower strata of the society, are increasingly made to feel that their culture and society is inferior, backward and primitive. They seem to develop a feeling of helplessness, inadequacy and rootlessness. The development-driven displacement appears to contribute to disrupt their sense of belonging to their place and culture, a long-term and an almost irreversible damage, no doubt. In Chapter 9 Sudipti Banerjea analyses the issue of displacement brought about by the process of development by examining the case of the Polavaram Dam project in Andhra Pradesh. In this case study, the high-handed approach
Introduction 11 of the policy-makers in implementing the project has been highlighted and concomitant issues such as suppression of facts, undermining the consent of the local inhabitants, waste of public money, serious environmental impact and physical displacement of a large number of tribal populations have been identified. The author argues that there is a need to reassess the contemporary approach to development and share the pains of the large number of people who are being displaced as a consequence of developmental initiatives. The last three chapters (10–12) present three literary representations of the myriad forms of social exclusion suffered by its victims – social outcastes, women and tribal women – as reflected in the post-independence fictional and non-fictional Bhasha (vernacular) literature in India. The three authors critically examine, on the basis of both the original as well as translated texts, the complex issues of discrimination, marginalization and deprivation in society as well as the assertions of freedom, albeit in limited forms, by women in particular. The inadequacies of public policies for redressing the problems of social exclusion have also been pointed out. The picture that emerges, although offering a social documentation of the reality of social exclusion, is rather bleak for India’s route to democracy through the principle of equality. In Chapter 10, Jasbir Jain situates caste as a major trope in the context of social exclusion in India and shows that, despite different strategies of empowerment, it has persistently remained a problem for the nation-state. The author’s analysis begins with a brief critical discussion of castes in India, situates castes and the Dalits as a problem of Indian nationalism, and then dwells at length on the issues of social exclusion (discrimination, marginalization and deprivation) and also resistance, drawing on different classical and experiential narratives of Bhasha literature. She shows how different authors at different historical junctures in colonial and post-colonial India have portrayed caste-based exclusion, human degradation and the difficult paths of negotiation, if any, with the issues of exclusion and empowerment in regard to the trope of caste. In Chapter 11, Sanjukta Dasgupta’s main focus is on the second sex and its marginalization in society. Based on fictional narratives from Bengali Bhasha literature she reiterates the inexorable marginalization of the second sex, addressing the abjectness of women of all classes, their lack of identity and independence and the systematic exploitation and oppression of women in a patriarchal social system. Dasgupta also emphasizes the condition of Dalit, or subaltern, women who are more wretched than others because of their subjection to triple colonization. These women, Dasgupta argues, are colonized not only by imperial and patriarchal ideologies but also by the internalized cultural prejudices of the natives towards the marginalized sub-proletariats. Women writers have sensitively represented the nuanced interpersonal relationship that interrogates the binaries of power and disempowerment that are inherent in the masculine and feminine cultural constructions. Twentieth-century Bengali fiction by women writers significantly breaks the silence, questions the absences and slippages, and even dreams of an environment that celebrates the well-being rather than the stereotypical ill-being of women. The fiction of Ashapurna Devi, Mahasweta Devi, Nabaneeta Dev Sen,
12 Introduction Bani Basu and Suchitra Bhattacharya among others insinuates the possibilities of deconstructing the traditional paradigms of patriarchy that define gendered behaviourism. The aboriginal people in India, comprising more than 100 million, are another case of social exclusion subjected to all the vagaries of so-called development and modernization. They suffer from oppression, exploitation and domination by the dominant castes and classes. In Chapter 12, Anima Biswas utilizes, for the purpose of portraying the tragic struggle of a tribal girl named Nittilai against social exclusion by the higher castes and classes, one of the plays of the famous Indian playwright Girish Karnad, entitled The Fire and the Rain which revisits the ‘Vanaparba’ of the Mahabharata, one of India’s great epics, and foregrounds the interface between patriarchal tyranny and caste as agents of social exclusion. Karnad, in his play, rewrites an original story of two friends by inventing a tribal girl, Nittilai, who in order to bring peace and happiness to a parched land sacrifices her life and becomes a martyr. The chapter critically examines this reconstruction of a minor story of the Mahabharata to critically reflect upon social exclusion and marginalization of tribal women in India as well as caste-dislodgement and socio-religious exclusion suffered by low-caste people in India. In the Conclusion, we evaluate our findings, and assess their significance for the prospects of democracy in India. We argue that there is an urgent need to take the conventional discourse of democracy beyond the various conventional democratic procedural practices, which, ironically enough, most often serve to strengthen the very forces of social exclusion, and thus cut into the very bases of democracy. We strongly advocate that the discourse of democracy needs to be conjoined to the discourse(s) of social exclusion and inclusion.
Notes 1 Apart from Sen (2000), see Thorat (2007); Hasan (2008); Baviskar and Matthew (2009); and Thorat (2009). 2 Thorat (2007: 8). In his most recent work (2009), as mentioned above, he continued the theme with detailed case materials to suggest that, despite improvement in the situation of the Dalits since independence, there is still evidence of discrimination against the community in many areas such as employment and markets. 3 Arundhoti Roy in an incisive essay full of empirical details shows that the Narmada Dam Project in South India, with 3,200 dams of different sizes, involving 419 tributaries of the Narmada river, affects some 25 million people who live in the valley, most of whom are Dalits and aboriginal people. Roy, foreseeing disaster from this project, comments that it revealed in relentless detail a government’s highly evolved, intimate way of pulverizing a people behind the general mask of democracy. See, for further details, Roy (2006); also Dreze et al. (1997).
Bibliography Baviskar, B. and Mathew, G. (eds) (2009) Exclusion and Inclusion in Local Governance, New Delhi: Sage Publications. Dreze, J., Samson, M. and Singh, S. (eds) (1997) The Dam and the Nation: Displacement and Resettlement in the Naramada Valley, Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Introduction 13 Hasan, Z. (2008) Politics of Inclusion: Caste, Minorities and Affirmative Action, Delhi: Oxford University Press. Mahajan, G. (ed.) (1999) Democracy, Difference and Social Justice, Delhi: Oxford University Press. Mitra, Subrata K. (ed.) (1990) The Politics of Positive Discrimination, Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Roy, Arundhoti. (2006) ‘The Cost of Living: The Narmada Valley and the Indian State’, in L. Rudolph and J. K. Jacobson (eds), Experiencing the State, Delhi: Oxford University Press. Sachar Committee. (2006) Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India, New Delhi: Government of India. Sen, Amartya. (2000) Social Exclusion: Concept, Application and Scrutiny, Manila: Asian Development Bank (Social Development Papers No. 1). Silver, H. (1995) ‘Reconceptualising Social Disadvantage: Three Paradigm of Social Exclusion’, in G. Rodger et al. (eds), Social Exclusion: Rhetoric, Reality, and Responses, Geneva: International Institute of Labour Studies. Thorat, S. K. (2007) Human Poverty and Socially Disadvantaged Groups in India, New Delhi: HDRC (Discussion Paper Series 18). Thorat, S. K. (2009) Dalits in India: Search for a Common Destiny, New Delhi: Sage Publications. Weiner, M. and Kaztenstein, M. (1981) India’s Preferential Policies, Chicago: Chicago University Press.
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1 Some theoretical issues concerning social exclusion and inclusion in India Sobhanlal Datta Gupta
The problem Paradoxical though it may sound, it is liberalism, which has faced of late a whole barrage of criticisms for it relative failure to face up to the challenges of diversity and differences (Gray 1995),1 that has nonetheless provided the broad intellectual canvass for re-problematizing the issue of recognition of difference, of the excluded. And yet it is important to understand the central paradoxes of liberalism in regard to the issue of exclusion and inclusion, theoretically and practically speaking. A theoretical understanding of the issue will help clarify the conceptual issues involved in extending recognition to differences, and the strengths and weaknesses in the alternatives proposed practically; meanwhile, particularly with contemporary Indian identity politics, this theoretical exercise is needed to understand the paradoxes of, and the dangers embedded in, many brands of identity and the politics of recognition in India, if not also elsewhere.
Roots The notion of exclusion is deeply embedded in liberalism, more in its ideological postures than perhaps in its ontology. Whereas ontologically liberalism, with focus on the notion of the self, recognizes no apparent boundaries and thus no notion of exclusion, liberalism as an ideology universalizes a vision of the world that necessarily promotes a kind of exclusivism and declares a closure. This contradiction between philosophy and politics, the possibility of denying exclusion and the practice of legitimizing only a certain kind of inclusion, which ultimately establishes the equivalence between modernity and the valorized image of the Western Man, thus rejects the Other, the notion of pluralism and the voice of difference. The enormous void that emerges out of this contradiction, the blank spaces that do not match the universalist canons of liberalism, eventually demand to be categorized as the zones of exclusion, which give birth to an alternative politics of recognition of identity and difference. The birth of ethnonationalism, the decline of the idea of the nation-state and the consequent scepticism about the project of nation building, the post-modern/post-colonial concern for the marginalized/
16 Datta Gupta subaltern, the communitarian and multiculturalist challenges to liberalism and the whole gamut of identity politics constitute the different dimensions of this urge to contest the universalist claims of liberalism. Recognition of the problem of exclusion in contemporary political theory is a consequence of these frontal challenges to liberalism’s historical project to universalize itself. The sources of these challenges to the notion of the Cartesian self can be traced back to three major intellectual movements that flourished in the West, namely conservatism, romanticism and Marxism. In three quite different ways they reject liberalism’s prioritization of the self and argue in defence of how the community constitutes the individual. For conservatism this becomes justification of an order, which is grounded in a set of community-oriented values; for romanticism it becomes celebration of a preordained social order; and for Marxism the question is to explain the significance of the collective in relation to society and the individual. The liberal notions of citizenship, rights and sovereignty, which have continually been understood with reference to the moral requirements of a democratic polity grounded in the atomistic notion of the individual and his autonomous self inevitably, then, legitimize the notion of exclusion of, first, the voices of dissent and difference and, second, categories of the non-European world. A classic illustration is the case of Max Weber, who in his celebrated work Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, although appreciating that in ancient India, Babylon, Egypt and China considerable developments had taken place in various spheres of science, affirmed that, first, the true explanatory, rational and mathematical proofs were provided by the European mind, notably, the Greeks, and, second, the modern, rational, universalist understanding of science also developed in the West with the advent of capitalism, in the birth of which Protestantism, especially its Calvinist variant, played a decisive role. (Kalberg 2005: 53–65). Although it is undeniable that science is a major attribute of modernist rationality, the Weberian understanding becomes a problem for the non-Westerner, when the spirit of European modernity is universalized and necessarily associated with Protestantism as a religion, which, alone, is supposedly reflective of the temper of reason and science. For Weber, this cultural divide was unbridgeable, because, as one commentator points out, reflecting on Weber’s notion of the Orient, he was guided by the understanding that ‘Asiatic religions differed from those of the Christian West because their soteriological interests were so different’, meaning thereby that the Oriental religions were inevitably marked by their focus on magic, otherworldliness and mysticism, which reduced the importance of knowing and transforming the material world through scientific reasoning and technological rationality to a non-issue. In contrast, Protestantism had cultivated the opposite process of demystification and demagnification, contributing thereby to the growth of science, capitalism and democracy in the West (Love 2000: 197–8). That the universalization of the liberal temper promotes a certain kind of inclusion and a certain kind of exclusion is further illustrated by the fact that on 31 May 2003, when leading European newspapers published a manifesto calling for a ‘Renaissance of Europe’, written by Habermas and endorsed by Derrida,
Some theoretical issues concerning social exclusion 17 Eco and Rorty, among others, its central thesis was to espouse the cause of the European protest movements (led by France, Germany, Belgium and Luxemburg) against the Iraq War and project it as an assertion of European counter-hegemony against that of the United States, the crux of it being that, freed from the narrow trappings of Eurocentrism, the EU could now confront the USA with the Kantian universalistic vision of a global domestic politics regulated by stable and powerful international institutions. The problem of such a universalistic vision, as critics later have pointed out, is that it completely obscures the politics and ideology underlying the EU’s notion of European identity and thereby excludes the possibility of any other alternative strategy (Deppe 2005: 329–40).
Responses The failure of liberalism to explain and accommodate the sphere of exclusion has, consequently, evoked critical responses in recent years, deserving serious attention. Whereas the central focus of this scholarly literature is on recognition of the politics of difference, the approaches are not necessarily similar. The contributions of three distinguished theorists, namely William Connolly, Charles Taylor and Etienne Balibar, are taken up as illustrations of an alternative understanding of the notion of exclusion. Drawing heavily on Nietzsche and Foucault, Connolly totally dismisses the liberal view of the self as something autonomous and authentic, to which the liberal democratic order would correspond. Connolly, however, does not reject liberalism per se but aims at a reconstruction of the liberal polity, which would be anchored in a kind of radicalized pluralism. What he stands for is an ‘agonistic’ democracy, its central features being rejection of the notion of any kind of fixity, boundary or essentialism, and celebration of heterodoxy and difference. This involves accommodation of the voice of the Other, its normative implication being that the liberal polity has to sensitize itself to the claims, demands and aspirations of those who are traditionally left out of the agenda as well as the reach of the liberal polity. Reminiscent of Foucault’s understanding of modernity’s pejorative vision of normality and sanity, which ultimately breeds arrogance and intolerance vis-à-vis the marginalized, Connolly’s pluralist strategy thus expresses serious doubt concerning the idea of any consensus, which constitutes the essential hallmark of a liberal polity (Connolly 1995). Connolly’s understanding thus opens up the passage from the politics of difference to the politics of recognition of the excluded. The problem of exclusion has been addressed by Charles Taylor through his well-known advocacy of multiculturalism. Although strongly critical of the liberal notion of an authentic self, Taylor speaks in defence of the recognition of the plurality of cultures and respect of their differences. The kind of monoculturalism that has been traditionally nurtured by classical liberalism in the name of a pregiven universalism, the parameters of which have been defined by the Western notion of modernity, is thus frontally questioned by Taylor (1994). This leaves unsettled, however, the complex question of how to adjudicate in a situation where cultural practices of different communities are marked by intolerance and arrogance instead of mutual acceptance, negotiation and recognition.
18 Datta Gupta Balibar’s treatment of the question of exclusion is quite distinct and unique. Primarily drawing on Marx and taking cues from post-structuralism, he rejects the liberal notion of autonomy of the self and replaces it by the notion of heteronomy, whereby he argues, following Marx, that autonomy cannot be a prior assumption, since it is a product of collective individualization. In his recent writings he has dismissed the liberal notion of territoriality as the key element of sovereignty and has called for its replacement by the notion of popular will, just as in his invocation of the idea of citizenship he describes it as the basis for political development of human rights and not vice versa as liberalism claims. This is grounded in his radical understanding that human rights are not conferred by the institutions of the state but originate in the masses, the implications of this proposition being, as Balibar points out, assertion of rights, which he associates with insurrection, and their defence, which he relates to solidarity. This masterly reversal of the very assumptions of liberalism by Balibar leads him to espouse the cause of the excluded and marginalized. Thus, in the European context he demands recognition of the political, social and economic rights of asylum seekers, criticizes social discrimination on the basis of nationality, and calls for abolition of national borders as instruments of social and political repression, and recognition of the right of entry and residence for migrant workers and refugees (Balibar 1994). In Europe, the issue of immigrant workers, especially non-whites, is a very sensitive question and the Right as well as the traditional liberals betray an attitude of hostility, intolerance and arrogance vis-à-vis the immigrants. Balibar’s alternative perception is a powerful critique of this position.
Problems This alternative view of politics demanding recognition of the notion of difference and the voice of the Other is certainly a vindication of the cause of the excluded, with the consequence that it celebrates the cause of identity politics. But this, in turn, creates a host of problems. Thus Amartya Sen (1999: 19–27) in his famous Romanes Lectures at Oxford argued, first, while taking up a critical position vis-à-vis communitarianism, that there is a danger underlying the communitarian argument that the individual ‘discovers’ his self only in his community identity, since this makes an absolute of the community identity of the individual, denying him any choice. This denial of plurality, choice and reasoning in identity can, however, become very well a source of repression, new and old, as well as a source of violence and brutality. Second: there is no necessary conflict between reason and identity in the sense that it would be a dangerous claim to argue that micro identity alone, namely the individual’s belonging to an ethnic group, for instance, gives him the real power to reason; because there is a distinction, as Sen points out, between how our reasoning is influenced by a particular cultural tradition, flowing from the concerned community, and how it is determined fully by other influences, coming from other cultures, provided the choice is given. Third: making an absolute of identity politics leads to a kind of epistemological relativism in ethics whereby ethnic groups claim to be cognitive or moral islands
Some theoretical issues concerning social exclusion 19 by espousing the notion of difference. This may straightaway act as a justification for the worst kind of fundamentalism and conservatism in the name of contraposing reason and identity. In other words, if religion and identity are believed to be counterweights to modernity’s intolerance of difference, they, in turn, can turn out to be promoters of another kind of intolerance and suppression of difference. Recognition of exclusion, in other words, may generate the problem of exclusivism and this may pose a threat to democracy. Sen, again, alerts us about its dangers. First, this is the kind of argument that, ironically, legitimizes the post-modern claim of valorization of the uniqueness of the East, religion being the oppositional force vis-à-vis the power and arrogance of European modernity. Second, Sen draws our attention to the argument of the protagonists of the so-called ‘Asian values’, which draws sustenance from this juxtapositional understanding of the East and the West and feels greatly encouraged to claim that the Orient, indeed, is not the appropriate terrain for cultivation of such Western ideas as democracy and rights, and that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with authoritarian values, which have traditionally found favour in the Orient (Sen 2006: 93–99).2 Another problem that remains unresolved is the question of how the excluded are to negotiate with the zone of inclusion. In other words, if the identities that demand recognition and accommodation pose a frontal challenge to the dominant culture of the zone in which they are given entry on grounds of the autonomy and authenticity of their respective cultures, then how to settle such tensions and conflicts? The controversy that has erupted in a number of European countries regarding the veil and the observance of certain religious practices of the Muslim community is a case in point. The most disturbing aspect of this controversy is that a socio-cultural issue involving deprivation, discrimination and degradation gets obscured by a religious debate, namely, Islam vs Christianity, the so-called ‘clash of civilizations’, to take the cue from Samuel Huntington (1996). The Habermasian notion of dialogue and negotiation in public space, aiming at a consensus, is thus impossible to work out in this kind of situation. This brings into focus a larger question, namely the question of democratization of the agenda of the excluded. If the demands of the excluded do not go beyond a mere negative assertion of difference and expression of dissent vis-à-vis the discourse of the inclusive zone, then the democratic aspirations of the polity as a whole will get severely jeopardized. This is exactly what is happening in the name of caste politics in India over the years. This happens on two levels. On one level, hatred, suspicion and violence creep into the relationship between the ‘outsiders’ (the excluded) and the ‘insiders’, which vitiates the nature of the polity itself. On another level the zone of the excluded itself may witness war among its various constituent elements, as manifest, for instance, in the struggle for power between the Bahujan Samaj Party led by Mayavati and the Samajvadi Party, headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav, in Uttar Pradesh in recent times. Similarly politics in Bihar is quite often marred not simply by conflicts between the upper and the lower caste but also by internecine conflicts among the lower castes themselves. In the North-East, besides conflicts between tribals and non-tribals, conflicts among the tribes have become an endemic feature over the years, the latter having been excluded from the mainstream for centuries.
20 Datta Gupta Finally, there is the complex question of universalism. Whereas enlightened and civic liberalism, represented, for instance, by Habermas, calls for inducting the Kantian spirit of cosmopolitanism in the agenda of social science, for those who belong to the domain of the excluded any notion of universalism may appear to be a threat, associated with violence, intolerance and excision. This leads to a dilemma in the sense that, if universalism is considered a threat, there is no guarantee that valorization of difference too would not generate the opposite spirit of crude parochialism and particularity. The only way to resolve this issue is perhaps to redraw and thereby reformulate our understanding of political theory, demanding anchorage in the old Hegelian maxim that, after all, the universal exists only through the particular and vice versa. Taking our cue from this dialectical proposition, it is perhaps possible to suggest the following. One: between the zone of ‘insiders’ and that of ‘outsiders’ there has to be not just negotiation but an active engagement, which alone can ensure mutual trust, tolerance and, most importantly, respect and humility. Two: both parties must endeavour to be guided by a sense of collective social responsibility. It is the ethical injunction of this Kantian categorical imperative that alone can perhaps act as a regulatory mechanism in regard to the play of inclusion and exclusion. Three: while acknowledging the great importance of recognizing the voice of the excluded and marginalized, a task in which classical liberalism has, indeed, failed, it is also an imperative to remember that, ultimately, they all belong to the category of the people, the masses, and in that capacity it is possible to be engaged in a common and collective endeavour. In the case of India, for instance, the question may be posed like this: while taking care of the different aspects of one’s identity (i.e. caste, ethnicity etc.), is it not also possible to project the vision of a social order that will move towards the elimination of the different markers of identity, since, these are markers that identify as well as discriminate, provide selfhood as well as legitimize divisions? Consequently, what gets obscured and lost is the concept of the people, the masses, the crucial notion of popular sovereignty. Recognition of the concept of the people as the core may provide an alternative to the twin problems of an overarching universalism and a cloistered notion of exclusion.
Notes 1 John Gray, while meeting the challenge, believes that in this post-modern age the ‘task of post liberal political thought is to seek terms of peaceful co-existence among different cultural forms without the benefit – dubious as it proved to be – of the universalistic perspective’ (1995: 96). He asserts: ‘In the postmodern age, liberal cultures and liberal states must renounce any claim to universal authority, and learn to live in harmony with other, non-liberal cultures and polities’ (p. 96). For further details, see Gray (1995/1986). 2 Sen has shown how an impressive tradition of democratic values and public reasoning flourished at different times in the so-called third world countries and questions thereby the credibility of this sort of argument, which becomes a dangerous legitimization of the suppression of democracy, freedom and human rights in the name of the uniqueness of the East.
Some theoretical issues concerning social exclusion 21
Bibliography Balibar, E. (1994) Masses, Classes, Ideas: Studies on Politics and Philosophy before and after Marx, New York: Routledge. Connolly, W. J. (1995) The Ethos of Pluralization, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. Deppe, F. (2005) ‘Habermas’s Manifesto for a European Renaissance: A Critique’, in Leo Panitch and Colin Lys (eds), Socialist Register, 2005: The Empire Reloaded, London: Merlin Press. Gray, J. (1995/1986) Liberalism, 2nd edn, Buckingham: Open University Press. Huntington, S. P. (1996) The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New York: Simon and Shuster. Kalberg, S. (2005) (ed.) Max Weber: Readings and Commentary on Modernity, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Love, J. (2000) ‘Max Weber’s Orient’, in Stephen Turner (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Weber, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sen, A. (1999) Reason before Identity: The Romanes Lecture for 1998 (Delivered before the University of Oxford on 17 November 1998), Delhi: Oxford University Press. —— (2006) Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny, London: Allen Lane. Taylor, C. (1994) Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition (edited by Amy Gutman), Princeton: Princeton University Press.
2 Social exclusion and the strategy of empowerment1 T. K. Oommen
I Human history can be viewed through different lenses: history of class struggle, of creating marginals, of excluding people from the mainstream. On the other hand, it could also be seen as gradual inclusion of erstwhile marginals into the mainstream. Exclusion is nothing new in human history; it is a normal social fact in the Durkheimian sense of the term in that one cannot visualize a society entirely exempt from social exclusion. But one must recognize the nature and types of exclusion to evolve a strategy of empowerment, which can be formulated and implemented so that avoidable exclusion can be eliminated and the intensity of inevitable ones can be reduced. Even in the much acclaimed direct democracy of ancient Greek city states the slaves were completely excluded, the plebeians were grudgingly included, and only the patricians were fully included in the decision making processes. Ancient India’s patricians were caste-Hindus consisting of Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, the plebeians were today’s Other Backward Classes; the Shudras above the pollution line. The untouchables of those days were worse than slaves, totally excluded from all aspects of public life. Exclusion then could be partial or complete; more importantly exclusion is contextual. In spite of the oppressive caste system and the abominable practice of untouchability, upper-caste men had privileged sexual access to untouchable women; they were excluded publicly but not privately. On the other hand, in spite of the fact that Brahmin males were the accredited producers and communicators of knowledge, Brahmin women were denied the privilege of even consuming knowledge; they were excluded and denied access to Vedas, the traditional sources of knowledge. I have alluded to two of the most ancient civilizations, those of Greece and India, to suggest that exclusion as a social phenomenon is as old as the hills. But in the last five centuries exclusion has become a worldwide phenomenon and is persisting in spite of the onward march of democracy. Three moments are crucial in this context; they are European colonialism, the Cold War and globalization. European colonialism started with the sixteenth-century geographical discoveries and invented three Others, treated them as excluded, marginalized, stigmatized,
Social exclusion and the strategy of empowerment 23 demoralized and dominated over them. The three excluded categories were the Savage Other, the Black Other and the Oriental Other, located in three different geographical spaces (Oommen 2006a: 3–18). The habitat of the Savage Other was the New World, the Americas and Australia, that of the Black Other was Africa, the Dark Continent, and the Oriental Other was located in Asia. The Savage Other was not racially inferior; the Native American was originally referred to as Red Indian and red is not treated as inferior to white! But the Savage had no history, that is written history, they lacked social order and their life was nasty, brutish and short, to recall the classic description. By the twentieth century the conceptual liquidation of the Savage Other was accomplished; we do not hear of them any more. That is, the Savage Other is incorporated into the world society but with pariah status. Advocates of inclusion should be alert about this possibility because incorporation without equality is subordination. The Black Other was also invented in the sixteenth century; racial classification of the human species became common and persisted through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. By the nineteenth century attempts were made to link phonotypical features, intelligence and culture, to demonstrate the superiority of the whites. Anthropometric measurements became an academic industry: colour/ pigmentation, blood groups, cross-section of hair, cephalic index were all measured and correlated with IQ and sophistication in culture. The argument was that the non-whites lacked mental ability and intelligence and hence racism was justifiable. Gradually racism was condemned and de-recognized by the constitutions of democratic and socialist countries. UNESCO made Herculean efforts to demonstrate that racial superiority is a myth but acknowledged that racism persists and everyday racism is rampant. This empirical predicament unfolds another point of theoretical interest: formal inclusion and informal exclusion can co-exist. The Oriental Other too is racially different but the Aryan myth, which attributed mental superiority to Aryans, created some complications because along with Europeans some Asians, particularly North Indians, constitute Aryans (Poliakov 1974). At any rate, unlike the Savages and the Blacks, the Orientals have a long history, longer than that of Europeans. However, it is not correct to assume that the entire Orient was marginalized and constructed as an Other. Contrary to the prevailing view I suggest that there were three Orients. The Far Orient, co-terminous with the Chinese civilization region (including Japan), was viewed as an equal other. In fact Europe conceded that this region met with the required civilizational standards (Gong 1984). The fact that Chinese inventions of gunpowder and printing and the evolution of sophisticated religions such as Confucianism and Shintoism made it difficult to label Chinese civilization as inferior. The civilizing mission was not relevant and hence colonialism was not launched in China. The region of Indian civilization, the Middle Orient, too had a long history, the splendid Sanskrit language, highly abstract religions such as Hinduism, the invention of zero and astronomy to its credit but had the oppressive caste system, practiced untouchability and assigned low status to women. Therefore it needed
24 Oommen to be civilized and hence to be colonized. Third, Egyptian civilization was noted for its great accomplishments and had Islam, a religion of the book, one of the Semitic trio. But oppression of women and slave trade were its negative traits, which justified colonialism. A considerable amount of European scholarship was geared to the marginalization and exclusion of the Orient and Black Africa. The publication of Henry Maine’s Ancient Law in 1861 and L. H. Morgan’s Ancient Society in 1887 facilitated this process. And Europeans irrespective of their ideological differences endorsed the superiority of Europe and the marginalization of the rest, including most of the Orient. Emile Durkheim the conservative, Max Weber the rationalist and Karl Marx the revolutionary agreed on declaring the non-West as inferior. This brings me to a third point about exclusion. The strategy of exclusion is not uniform or universal but its rationale will be invented focusing on those attributes of the excluded defined as negative. Colonialism ended with the Second World War; the Cold War, which followed, was in existence for only 45 years, between 1945 and 1989 to be precise. The terms of discourse for marginalization and exclusion radically changed during this period. In the place of the three Others, the Savage, Black and Oriental, and the three dichotomies they implied, a trichotomy of three worlds – the First, Second and Third – was postulated. If civilizing mission was the thrust of the colonial era, modernization was the motto during the Cold War period. The proliferation of nation-states and intensification of nation building accelerated the process of the modernization project. But in the place of the singular civilizing mission there appeared two competing versions of modernities: the ‘natural’ modernity (because it evolved gradually) of the capitalist First World and ‘enlightened’ modernity (because it is a product of revolution) of the socialist Second World. The Cold War was an exercise in annexing the Third World into one of these modernities. However, conceptually the three worlds were put into a hierarchy: the First World, totally modern, at the top; the Second World, partially modern, in the middle; and the Third World, largely traditional, at the bottom. That is, the Third World was marginalized and excluded. In consonance with the mode of analysis pursued so far let me note that exclusion could be partial or total depending upon the historical context and the requirements of the hegemon. The perceived deficits of the Second World were two: absence of multi-party democracy and lack of structural differentiation. One-party democracy of the Second World was designated as ‘people’s democracy’ by socialist regimes but dismissed as ‘totalitarianism’ by capitalist countries. The socialist party occupied the commanding position; the socialist state took over the reins of the market and sponsored the civil society. The Third World societies and states either did not have democracy or, if they had it, did not work it well. Markets were either overregulated or under-regulated and civil society worth the name did not exist in the Third World in the perception of the First World. The remedy to overcome these deficits was to accept the structural adjustment programme (SAP), which prescribed minimal state, free market and vibrant civil society. The conjoint efficient functioning of these three entities would deliver good governance, the instrument
Social exclusion and the strategy of empowerment 25 of globalization, which would rehabilitate everybody into one world, that of the Global Age. The one world of the Global Age is a world that can incorporate all, the erstwhile Savages, Blacks and Orientals of the colonies, the failed democracies of the Second World and the ill-equipped modernizers of the Third World. But to be included they should accept the required prescriptions, which are basically two as hinted above: creating a regime of three pillars – state, civil society and market – and its corollary – good governance. But there are two issues here. One: the form and content of state, civil society and market cannot be the same in all regimes and civilizations as they differ vastly in terms of their history and social structure. And two: if the above proposition is accepted the indicators of good governance cannot be the same everywhere. The relevant point here is that globalization that prescribes universal norms and pursues cultural homogenization cannot have inclusion as its value orientation; they pull in opposite directions. It tends to establish the hegemony of the dominant and exclude the dominated. There is a system of global governance in place already run by the Security Council of the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. The decisions they take affect the whole world; but they function through exclusion. Thus viewed, the central tendency at the global level is that of exclusion and an inclusive world society is not even on the horizon.
II The capsule conceptual history provided above is not intended to convey the impression that creating marginality and indulging in exclusion is the demonic activity of Europeans and we are mere victims of it. Please note that I began by recalling the extreme exclusionary practices prevailing in Ancient Greece and Ancient India, two pre-European civilizations. To start let me put forward a couple of general propositions. One: the nature and types of social exclusions in a society depend upon the complexity of social structure of that society. Two: the greater the complexity of social structure of a society the larger will be the contexts of exclusions and the more varied will be the contents of exclusions in that society. The relevance of these propositions should be understood in the context of the widespread currency of the notion of social exclusion gained in contemporary social science writing. In its present incarnation the expression ‘social inclusion’ was introduced in the 1970s in France to refer to the predicament of ‘disabled people’, although the term preferred now is ‘differently abled’. But most economists most of the time invoke the term in the context of exclusion from the market, that is, economic disabilities. It is absolutely necessary to rescue the notion of social exclusion from these narrow connotations. Apart from income disparity it is also necessary to take into account discrimination, deprivation and displacement caused by ‘development’ (Oommen 2004). Presently I propose to illustrate the above propositions with special reference to India. Indian society is stratified like all other societies, based on class, gender and rural–urban differences, to list just three factors. Income disparity in India is mind-boggling; if we have a few thousand filthy rich, one-third are below the
26 Oommen poverty line. The shining India is a pigmy in size as compared with the sinking India, which is a giant. Not only is unemployment rampant, of those who are employed 92 per cent work in the informal sector and 98.5 per cent of them do not have any social security entitlements. The 8 per cent who work in the formal sector receive five times or more in wages than those who are in the unorganized sector. Incidentally this is a global phenomenon; according to the International Labour Organization 48 per cent of workers are in the informal sector even in the affluent North America. As I have observed earlier, inclusion has no meaning without equity, and the bulging informal sector is a standing testimony to increasing inequality and exclusion of the majority of the Indian working class from the much acclaimed new economic prosperity. This market exclusion is compounded by patriarchy and rural–urban disparity. Indian women workers do the lowest-paid and least stable jobs according to the 2005 estimates of the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO). The tendency to sub-contracting and outsourcing is rapidly increasing since the structural adjustment programme (SAP) was launched, bulging the proportion of home-based women workers. Thus in 2000, 35 per cent of women workers were home based but in 2005 it increased to 51 per cent. The corresponding proportion for men workers in 2005 was only 11 per cent. The preference for home-based work by women seems to be based on considerations of physical security but paradoxically these jobs are economically the most insecure (Oommen 2006b). Although gender inequality viewed in material terms is a world phenomenon, there are deep-seated cultural factors that perpetuate this in India. As is well known, Manusmriti, one of the most influential ancient texts of India, prescribed: ‘Nothing must be done independently even in her own home by a young woman or even by an aged one . . . a woman must never be independent’. It would be foolhardy to believe that this injunction is observed in letter and spirit now but it would also be rash to dismiss it as totally irrelevant. Whereas Indian women from the middle class are gradually but steadily making inroads into the economic and cultural sectors their presence in the political sector is weak. The persisting resistance to provide for reservation in the Indian Parliament for women is an apt example of the deep-seated values of patriarchy leading to exclusion. The rural–urban disparity of India is proverbial. William Digby, the British colonial administrator, commented: ‘There are two Indias – the India of the Presidency, of Chief Provincial Cities, of the railway systems, of the hill stations . . . There are two countries: Anglostan . . . and Hindostan’ (1901: 291). This disparity has not disappeared and the current nomenclature is India (urban) and Bharat (rural). However, the divide between Bharat and India is not neat and tidy any more; those who benefited from land reforms and the Green Revolution are prosperous. On the other hand, millions of urban refugees from rural India are in a state of squalor. And yet, given the fact that 70 per cent of Indians live in rural India, the budget allocations, the scarce facilities for education and health, the dilapidated infrastructure and the like clearly point to the exclusion of Bharat from the development process.
Social exclusion and the strategy of empowerment 27 Although all societies are stratified most societies in the contemporary world are also heterogeneous based on race and/or culture. Race or physical type is not an explicit basis of exclusion in India. And yet it cannot be denied that pigmentation or skin colour often plays a subtle role in excluding people from several contexts. At any rate, those from the North-East with distinctive physical features are often taken to be non-Indians (say from Thailand, China or Myanmar) and may be excluded from certain contexts. However, they may not be always and necessarily treated as inferiors, which is to say that those who are excluded may be treated as different but not necessarily discriminated against. That is, exclusion without discrimination should be recognized as a distinct possibility. An important dimension, which contributes to the cultural heterogeneity of India, is language. There is no other state-society in the world with so many languages and dialects and it is commendable that two dozen languages are given official recognition by putting them in the Eighth Schedule of India’s Constitution. And yet exclusion based on linguistic identity is widespread and obtains in different forms and contexts. First, it manifests in the exclusion practised against even the officially recognized languages, when the speakers of these languages migrate to another linguistic region in the context of asserting the claims and interests of the ‘sons of the soil’. The mobilizations by Shiv Sena in Mumbai and Kannada Chaluvaligars in Bangalore against Tamils are well known. In such contexts exclusion is based on actual or imagined threat posed by cultural outsiders, that is, those who belong to other linguistic groups, in the context of economic and educational opportunities. Second, exclusion is practised through stigmatization of those who speak the dialects of developed languages. The classic case in India is the exclusion of the numerous, and even numerically substantial, dialects of Hindi such as Bhojpuri, Awadhi, Chattisgarhi, Maithili and Rajasthani. Not only are these languages excluded from the Eighth Schedule, all of them are not even used for imparting education till the age of 14 as mandated in the Indian Constitution. Apart from this exclusion the state indulges in, speakers of sanskritized Hindi look down upon the speakers of these dialects. Third, culturocide (systematic destruction of cultures) is practised in the case of the subalterns, particularly tribes, by vivisecting and assigning them to different states, each of which has a dominant language. For example, the Santali tribal community is divided between West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. The Bhils are divided between Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan. There are several other examples too. What is relevant for the present analysis is to note that through this stratagem the tribal communities are reduced to cultural minorities in their own homeland, leading to the process of exclusion and imposing the dominant language of the state on them. If this is the predicament of numerically large tribes the condition of numerous tiny ones can be easily visualized. Religion is a forceful basis of exclusion in most societies but in India religion is invoked for both inclusion and exclusion by the state and society. But it needs to be underlined at the very outset that in spite of the fact that 82 per cent of Indians are listed as Hindus in the Indian census, Hinduism is not the official religion
28 Oommen nor is it elevated to the status of a national religion. This is a crucial device to eliminate the feeling of exclusion among non-Hindus, who number 180 million in India. Having acknowledged this positive dimension it needs to be noted that through a process of incorporation of religions of Indian origin – Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and the primal vision of the tribal communities – into Hinduism, the identity of these minority religions are imperilled. Both the Hindu Code Bill and the Hindutva ideology, which incorporates the minority religions of Indic origin into Hinduism, are against the true spirit of inclusion. Thus inclusion that dismantles identity is not a positive measure: indeed it is a negative step accentuating alienation. As against this, exclusion is practised against minority religions of non-Indic origin. There are two versions of this. One, a type of patron–client orientation, obtains between the followers of Hinduism and the tiny groups of descendants of immigrant religions – Jews, Zoroastrians and Baha’is. This orientation is facilitated by the fact that these religious minorities do not indulge in proselytization. Two, an explicit exclusionary orientation is practised by the state and a virulent negative attitude by society, particularly the Hindutva ideologues, against Muslims and Christians. Part of the problem here is distorted history: Muslims are perceived as products of conquest and Christians those of colonialism. And part of the problem is distorted perception: Muslims as terrorists indulging in reckless violence and Christians as congenital proselytizers through fraudulent means. The most telling instance of exclusion practised by the Indian state vis-à-vis religious minorities relates to the implementation of the policy of protective discrimination, popularly referred to as reservation. Soon after India became a republic the policy to facilitate the entry of the traditionally disadvantaged groups, the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes, into educational institutions and government service was enunciated by reserving positions for them, proportionate to their population. Whereas the Scheduled Tribes irrespective of their religious background were given these entitlements only Hindu Scheduled Castes were given these benefits, ignoring the fact that conversion to other religions does not erase the stigma of untouchability. However, Sikhs and Buddhists of Scheduled Caste origin were later brought under the purview of reservation. But Muslims and Christians of Scheduled Caste origin are excluded from these entitlements to this day, although enormous documented evidence is available to prove their social disability. The spokespersons of the Hindu cultural mainstream do not even consider Muslims and Christians as part of Indian society and polity. And the much quoted pronouncement of Golwalkar (Golwalkar 1939: 55–6) is the most eloquent proof of this: The non-Hindu people in Hindustan . . . may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges . . . not even citizens rights. Muslims and others [read Christians] if not actually anti-national, are at least outside the body of the nation.
Social exclusion and the strategy of empowerment 29 There is a confluence here between the actions of the Indian state in denying the citizen’s rights to Muslims and Christians of Scheduled Caste origin and the advocacy of Hindutva ideologues. It is clear then that there are two diametrically opposite approaches professed and practised in India with regard to religious minorities: one that marginalizes and destroys their identity, applicable to Indic religious minorities, and the other, which externalizes and denies even citizenship rights, applicable to non-Indic religious minorities, primarily Muslims but even Christians. It should be noted here that externalization operates at two levels and contexts in India. I have already referred to the ‘sons of soil’ phenomenon operating with regard to language. But externalization here is partial in that Tamils or Bengalis of India may be treated as cultural aliens outside Tamil Nadu and West Bengal respectively but they are cultural insiders in their homelands. But the advocates of Hindu Rashtra define Muslims and Christians as cultural outsiders to the whole of India. Thus one can speak of partial exclusion or total exclusion of groups and communities from polity and society depending upon their actual or attributed cultural characteristics. Externalization based on cultural attributes may be found in several statesocieties but exclusion based on hierarchy is peculiar to Indian society in that inequality is not simply institutionalized through caste system but sanctified through the Hindu Doctrine of Creation, the theory of Karma and Rebirth, the Varnashrama Dharma and Chaturvana scheme. Let me recall advice from the Apastamba Dharmasutra: ‘Pollution will occur if untouchables are touched, conversed with or even looked upon. If the Chandala was touched you must bathe submerging the entire body, if looked upon, observe the lights (Sun, Moon and stars)’. I am not suggesting for a moment that the abominable practice of untouchability persists with all its strength in twenty-first-century India, but it continues in myriad forms even today, particularly in rural India, as is evident from a recent study (Shah et al. 2006). Indeed, the social architecture of Indian villages, which spatially separates the residential area of ex-untouchables from the rest of the population, is a standing testimony of the indignity imposed on them. It is of signal importance to emphasize here that ‘exclusion’ effected through the caste system does not externalize the untouchables; they are already incorporated into the body social. Because untouchables were an essential ingredient of the ancient Indian society, they continue to be included in the society but not of it. But this inclusion is devoid of dignity and equality.
III In the course of my discussion above, I tried to suggest several theoretical propositions. I do not intent to recall them all but want to highlight a couple of them so that we can reflect on the strategy of empowering the excluded. It is clear that there are several sources of exclusion and these may operate independently or in conjunction, in different permutations and combinations. Some of the sources of exclusion such as patriarchy and income disparity exist in all societies. Other
30 Oommen sources such as cultural and racial heterogeneity are found in most societies. Exclusion through externalization is in existence in quite a few societies although the ideological thrusts are often different. But hierarchy, which incorporates the lowliest but excludes them from the public sphere, is unique to India. That is, all the plausible sources of exclusion are found in Indian society and therefore the strategy of empowering the excluded will have to be specific to different social categories. It is important to underline here that, whereas some of the social categories are cumulatively excluded, others are excluded only from selected contexts. The intensity and nature of exclusion and the strategy of empowerment should therefore be considered as clearly linked. Inclusion is not the answer to exclusion; they are not conceptual opposites as often imagined. Sometime inclusion is attempted through coercive assimilation leading to subordination. This is the very antithesis of empowerment. Inclusion to be authentic should fulfil three conditions: inclusion with equality, inclusion without dismantling desirable identity, and inclusion imparting dignity. Let me briefly dilate upon these. Authentic inclusion presupposes equality but it is a tortuous project to be realized in polities such as India. True, the Indian constitution promises equality to all its citizens irrespective of gender, caste, tribe, class and religion. But it is not easy to translate this ontological equality into reality. The first step in this context is providing equality of opportunity, for which the citizens should have equality in access to relevant resources. But there are two serious social structural bottlenecks, hierarchy and externalization, in the Indian context as I have noted in section II. Therefore it is necessary to create equality of condition in favour of those citizens who are victims of these maladies. In India these social categories are primarily Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. This is the justification for the policy of protective discrimination or reservation, as it is designated in popular parlance, for these social categories. The Scheduled Tribes irrespective of their religious background are eligible for the benefits of reservation as I noted earlier. But Muslims and Christians of Scheduled Caste origin are denied these entitlements. I suggest that there is no legal or moral justification for this exclusion. Exclusion thus may be total or partial. Total exclusion implies exclusion from economic, political, social and cultural contexts; the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes were examples of this. There are social groups in Indian society who are subjected to partial exclusion; the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) are an example of this. The OBCs benefited from land reforms and the Green Revolution and experienced substantial improvement in their economic condition. Given their numerical strength the OBCs also captured political power thanks to universal adult franchise. But their entry into higher education, bureaucracy and professions is not proportionate to their population. That is, the OBCs do not suffer from total exclusion; their deprivation is anchored to status incongruence, which should be and can be remedied through appropriate affirmative actions. This is true of women as well as religious minorities of OBC background. This vital distinction, the total exclusion of SCs and STs and the status incongruence
Social exclusion and the strategy of empowerment 31 of OBCs, is totally missing in the ongoing controversy regarding the extension of reservation benefits. Let me get back to the complexity of equality to which I referred to earlier. In the process of creating equality of condition some families and individuals from the traditionally disadvantaged groups are likely to benefit more. That is, while creating equality of condition it is likely to produce inequality in outcome unless one assumes that the measures introduced had no effect. The fact is that the policy of reservation did produce a small elite section among SCs, STs and OBCs; they are the much-discussed creamy layer. That is, some of those who were totally excluded and/or were victims of status incongruence are now included in the societal mainstream and they should therefore be excluded from the policy of protective discrimination. There is considerable legal and moral force in this argument, which unfortunately is not given the importance it deserves because of political expediency. To put it pithily, it is wrong to assume that the status of social categories remains static and therefore both inclusion in and exclusion from entitlements are prerequisites to create a just society. There is enormous evidence to suggest that the economic condition of the socio-religious communities is characterized by considerable income disparity (Government of India 2006). Although social policy may not succeed in creating parity it should attempt to bring about equity between groups and communities, the necessary first step towards empowerment. The relationship between inclusion and identity is also crucial. If in the process of inclusion, that is, providing equity to a group or community, its cultural identity is destroyed, that would create collective alienation. And yet this is precisely what the institution of the nation-state is designed to do: creating a culturally homogeneous society is its mission (Oommen 1997). But the trade-off between equality (read inclusion) and identity is no longer a feasible proposition. This is so because most state-societies in the contemporary world are multinational or multiethnic and often a combination of the two. India is a telling example of this. I have already (section II) referred to India as not having an official religion and having two dozen official languages. That is, India has not endorsed the tradeoff between identity and equality; in other words, inclusion is an acknowledged policy of the Indian state. It is necessary to distinguish between two types of identity and recognize their implications for polity and society (Oommen 2002). Identity, which is hegemonic and invoked to perpetuate domination, is antithetical to the democratic ethos. On the other hand, identity, which is emancipatory and is capable of imparting a sense of participation and security to groups and communities, needs to be nurtured. Some of the identities lead to exclusion from participation in economy, polity and culture. There are other identities that exclude communities because of their lifestyle. That is, both participation exclusion and living-mode exclusion should be done away with from democratic societies (Human Development Report 2004). The advocacy for a policy of inclusion of identity groups, which brings about equity, should not be confused with vote-bank politics. Similarly, avoiding the trade-off between inclusion and identity is not to perpetuate identity politics.
32 Oommen Finally, inclusion that compromises the dignity of the included undermines the very purpose of inclusion. There are two aspects to be noted here. One: the tendency to stigmatize the very instrument of inclusion and its beneficiaries should be avoided because it deeply hurts the beneficiaries of these measures. Two: potential beneficiaries have a proclivity to retreat into psychological cages and perceive themselves as receivers of charity and not as those entitled to citizenship rights. Both of these, stigmatization by others and demeaning self-perception, erode dignity. Authentic inclusion can only be accomplished without sacrificing equity, identity and dignity. And that is the road to empowerment.
Note 1 This is a revised version of the text of the keynote address delivered on 28 May 2007 for the national seminar on ‘Social Exclusion and Empowerment: A Multidisciplinary Approach’, organized by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Burdwan, West Bengal.
Bibliography Digby, W. (1901) ‘Prosperous’ British India, London: Macmillan. Golwalkar, M. S. (1939) We or Our Nationhood Defined, Nagpur: Bharat Prakashan. Gong, G. W. (1984) The Standard of ‘Civilization’ in International Society, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Government of India. (2006) Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India, Prime Minister’s High Level Committee, Cabinet Secretariat, New Delhi. Human Development Report (2004) New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Oommen, T. K. (1997) Citizenship, Nationality and Ethnicity: Reconciling Competing Identities, Cambridge: Polity Press. —— (2002) Pluralism, Equality and Identity: Comparative Studies, New Delhi: Oxford University Press. —— (2004) Development Discourse: Issues and Concerns, New Delhi: Regency Publications. —— (2006a) ‘On the Historicity of Globalization: Construction and Deconstruction of Others’, in J. Tiankui, M. Sasaki and L. Peilin (eds), Social Change in the Age of Globalization, Leiden: Brill. —— (2006b) Understanding Security: A New Perspective, New Delhi: Macmillan. Poliakov, L. (1974) The Aryan Myth: A History of Racist and Nationalist Ideas in Europe, London: Heinemann. Shah, G., H. Mander, S. K. Thorat, S. Deshpande and A. Baviskar. (2006) Untouchability in Rural India, New Delhi: Sage Publications.
3 Identity politics and social exclusion in India’s NorthEast The case for redistributive justice N. K. Das
This chapter examines how various brands of identity politics in North-East India since colonial days have served to create the basis for exclusion of groups, resulting in various forms of rifts, often envisaged in binary terms: majority–minority; sons of the soil–immigrants; locals–outsiders; tribal–non-tribal; hills–plains; inter-tribal; and intra-tribal. Given the strategic and sensitive border areas, low level of development, immense cultural diversity, and participatory democratic processes, social exclusion has resulted in perceptions of marginalization, deprivation and identity losses – all adding to the strong basis of brands of separatist movements in the garb of regionalism, sub-nationalism and ethnic politics, most often verging on extremism and secessionism. It is argued that local people’s anxiety for preservation of culture and language, often appearing as ‘narcissist self-awareness’, and their demand for autonomy, cannot be seen unilaterally as dysfunctional for a healthy civil society. Their aspirations should be seen rather as prerequisites for distributive justice, which no nation-state can neglect.
Colonial impact and the genesis of early ethnic consciousness North-East India is a politically vital and strategically vulnerable region of India. Surrounded by five countries, it is connected with the rest of India through a narrow, 30-kilometre corridor. North-East India is divided into Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. Diversities in terms of Mongoloid ethnic origins, linguistic variation and religious pluralism characterize the region. This ethnic–linguistic–ecological–historical heritage characterizes the pervasiveness of the ethnic populations and the Tibeto-Burman languages in the North-East. North-East mountain ranges and river valleys indeed divide South-East Asia from South Asia. This predominantly tribal region, replete with protracted records of isolation, difficult terrain, and lack of intense inter-ethnic contacts, had witnessed the formation of three types of society and polity: ‘tribe’, ‘chiefdom’ and ‘state’ (Das 1989). The clans and age set systems within them had often functioned hierarchically – involving unequal statuses (Das 1993). Some kind of state formation took place in the fourth century ad. Hinduism remained confined to some pockets, including the royal families, among the
34 Das Kachari, Ahom, Jaintia, Koch, Tripuri and Meitei. Penetration of Sarania dharma (a gospel) of Shankar Dev was felt in some plains and tribal societies. Interestingly enough, the followers of Sarania simultaneously pursued tribal religions often replete with ‘animal sacrifices’ (Das 2003). The British colonization process of Assam started in 1826 and was completed in 1898. The colonial regime, at the beginning, resorted to the policy of non-intervention in most of the then larger Assam. Two administrators, J. H. Hutton and N. E. Parry, advocated the separation of hill areas from the general administrative scheme. In 1873 was introduced the ‘Inner Line’ in hill areas, beyond which no person could pass without a licence. Local tribespeople resisted colonial interference in their midst, and thus they often attacked the British. Their resistances were depicted as ‘raids’ and ‘uprisings’ (Das 1989; 1993: 28). There is a long chronology of such resistance. In 1860 and 1862 the entire Jaintia tribe and in 1852–7 and 1872 the Garos rose against the imposition of taxes. The Lushai-Kuki, Manipuri and many plains Assam tribes raided British posts in 1860–90, 1891 and 1892–4 respectively. There are records of Aka/Khamti resistances in 1835–9, Naga resistances in 1835–42, and even an agrarian movement in 1893–4 (Das 1982: 39–52). The Sonaram (1902), Kuki (1917) and Jadonang–Gaidinliu movements (Singh 1982; Das 1989) represented the early ethnic struggles. Consequent upon the visit of the Statutory Commission in the late 1920s, further apprehension of marginalization had grown among the tribespeople and minority communities. Colonial rulers allowed missionary activities. Association with the Christian missionaries and gradual spread of education amongst the tribes and other communities infused in them a sense of self-esteem. This factor is crucial in understanding the birth of ethnonationalism eventually among the Nagas, the Mizos and the Manipuris. In some hills and the Brahmaputra valley, there was simultaneous revulsion against Assamese linguistic–cultural domination. This perception alienated a few tribes and thus grew discontentment among the Bodos, the Karbis, the Ahoms and many others. In the relatively peaceful period of the 1930s – which may be called ‘the silent phase of identity consciousness’ – the tribespeople had demanded ‘participative representation’ in the Legislative Assembly. The Khasi, Ahom, Naga, Mizo, Bodo-Kachari, Miri and Deuri were the first to demand ‘ethnic representation’. The Lalungs established a Durbar in 1967, and the Koch people had similarly been conscious about their minority status. In a memorandum submitted to the Assam government the Assam-Koch-Rajbanshi-Khatriya Sammilani demanded proper representation in all bodies, quotas in employment, scholarships to students and publication of their history and culture. The All Assam Garo Union was established in 1983. The Hajongs in Assam urged the government to recognize them as a scheduled tribe. In the long history of this region the feelings of in-group–out-group, perceived marginalization and ‘minority consciousness’ have variously surfaced as key factors causing ethnic unrest. Depending on varied influences of marginality and ethnicity, some movements remained more explicit and specific than others in articulating and defining their objectives. Strategies of operation correspondingly varied. Ethnic conflicts in the North-East originally grew essentially through
Identity politics and social exclusion in India’s North-East 35 primordial affiliations. The distinctive ethnicity factor amongst communities led to a steady expansion of aggressive binary categories of in-group and out-group (Das 1989, 2004a, 2007).
Linguistic and religious revivalist movements Language has always been in the centre-stage of ethnic turmoil in the North-East. Making Assamese the compulsory language from class 8 onwards led to massive agitation in the Barak valley, reminiscent of the agitation launched earlier over the issue of the medium of instruction. In 1972 the Bodo-led Plains Tribes Council of Assam (PTCA) complained that the plains tribes had been ‘uprooted in a systematic and planned way from their own soil and that the step motherly treatment of the administration, dominated by the Assamese-speaking people has reduced them to “second class citizens” of the state’ (B. P. Singh 1987: 101–2). The Bodo Sahitya Sabha (established in 1952) and the PTCA, however, ultimately succeeded in making the Bodo language the medium of instruction (up to the secondary level). In doing so the Bodo leaders opted for the roman script though they were ultimately persuaded to accept the Devanagari script. The Mishing Agom Kebang (Mishing Sahitya Sabha) formed in 1972 and several other Mishing organizations had also worked consistently and in 1987 succeeded in introducing the Mishing language as a subject of study in primary schools. The rejection of the Assamese script by the Miris, the Bodos and others dismayed the Assamese, who thought that without their tribal counterparts they would become a minority, overwhelmed by the Bengali-speaking population (Miri 1993: 71). Following the recognition of native languages at primary level in Bodo-Kachari and the Karbi areas, the Mishing perception of being marginalized sharpened. This led to the formation of the Mishing Literary Association in 1972. In order to maintain a distinct minority linguistic identity vis-à-vis the majority Assamese, the Mishings were in favour of the roman script. The Assam Sahitya Sabha insisted that the Assamese script should be retained for the Mishing language. The Mishings were ultimately allowed to use the roman script; as well as their textbooks also some newspapers and journals were printed in the roman script. The Bishnupriya Manipuri language issue, particularly in Assam, has also acquired the shape of an ethnic movement. The Ahom, Meitei, Zeliangrong, Seng Khasi and Zomi communities had all felt threatened by the near extinction of their original language and religion (Das and Gupta 1982; Das 1989). In Manipur Valley, the Meitei revivalist leaders (before the formal inclusion of Manipur-Meitei in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution), had demanded that the Manipuri language be named ‘Meeteilon’. The Zeliangrong movement grew as a religious–cultural movement, originally against the spread of Christianity, but later on it assumed an anti-colonial political overtone. It actually came to be the only tribal movement in the North-East that maintained links with the national freedom struggle (Das 1989). The Zeliangrong People’s Conference (ZPC) demanded the recognition of the ethnic nomenclature ‘Zeliangrong’, an acronym (Ze-Liang-Rong) referring to peoples spread over the
36 Das contiguous areas of Manipur, Nagaland and Assam. In 1905, when the spread of Christianity was widely felt in Meghalaya, the Seng Khasi organization took upon itself the responsibility of defending the Khasi religion. The members of the association called themselves the ‘Khasi-Khasis’ so as to distinguish themselves from those Khasis who had adopted Christianity. Having initiated the process of revival and reformation of the Khasi religion, the Seng Khasi encouraged the people to abide by the matrilineal system of descent, to respect kith and kin on the maternal and paternal side, to believe in God, and to serve God through service of humankind. The Seng Khasi flag came to depict a crowing cock on a white and red background. The red signifies courage and the white represents the world. The Seng Khasi started organizing archery compositions and traditional dance performances such as ‘Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem’ and ‘the Nongkrem Dance’.
Ethnic conflict and militancy On the eve of the independence of India, several ethnic groups had variously made effective use of the factors of ethnicity and regionalism as basis of ethnic rage and democratic struggle for self-rule, greater autonomy and militant actions. Other factors such as frontier location, development process, rise of Christianity, democratic process, the partition of the country, influx of ‘infiltrators’ and minority syndrome variously encouraged the claims of separatism among the communities. The more assertive tribes who consistently rebelled against their incorporation within the new Indian nation-state, such as the Nagas and the Mizos, ultimately succeeded in getting separate states with greater autonomy. Thereby they also succeeded in changing their minority status to that of a majority status in respective hilly states. Even after the formation of Nagaland, however, the Naga movement had not died, as A. Z. Phizo, who had originally given the call for a ‘long Naga struggle’ in 1953, continued to occupy centre-stage later (Das 1982, 2004b, 2007). The Naga movement, in which both ‘ethnicity’ and ‘extreme nationalism’ were used as operational strategies, is regarded as the mother of all movements in North-East India. The origin of ethnicity among the Nagas may be traced first in the formation of a Naga Club in 1918, which consisted of the Naga headmen and members of the English-educated Naga middle class (Das 1982). The Nagas formed the Naga Hills District Tribal Council in 1945, which was renamed the Naga National Council (NNC) in 1946 (Das 1993: 33). The NNC had gradually articulated the sense of ‘Naga nationalism’ (Das 1982, 2001). It also emphasized the theme of Naga oneness as ‘a moral category’ (Imchen 1993). In order to globalize the Naga cause, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) – NSCN (IM) – took a delegation to the UN Conference of Indigenous Peoples, held in July 1994. Mr I. Muivah, its top leader, established links with the Asia Indigenous People’s Pact and the Belgium-based Flemish Support for Indigenous People. The Nagaland Legislative Assembly also passed a resolution in 1994, extending support to the demand for the greater Nagaland – Nagalim. Outside the hills, the Ahoms (who formed the Ahom League, in the wake of the Government of India Act 1935) and the Bodos (by forming the Plains Tribes Council of Assam
Identity politics and social exclusion in India’s North-East 37 or PTCA) had consistently raised the question of ‘tribal self-rule’ right from the colonial era. The All Assam Ahom Association (formed originally in 1893) was perhaps the earliest ethnic association of its kind (Das 2001). From the 1980s onwards, virtually the entire North-East was plagued by various ethnic movements. Most of the movements were non-violent in earlier stages, but gradually assumed a severe militant nature. In the seven states of North-East India reportedly more than 30 ‘insurgent’ groups operated, carrying on a protracted armed struggle. Among them the NSCN (IM), NSCN (Khaplang) and the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) remained prominent. Even though some scholars have tried to apply a typology of class formation to describe the ethnic conflict in the region, it may be argued that there are innumerable ethno-regional factors buttressed by typical tribal features, which seem to influence the escalation of unrest. The larger inventory of organizations appended at the end of this chapter highlights the severity of the ethnic dissent prevalent in the region. Amongst the above-mentioned outfits, some are non-operational, some are currently active, and some have ceased their former activities. It is amazing to note that at one point more than 120 militant groups operated in India’s North-East. Their demands ranged from autonomy to outright secession. In recent years, the Indian state has had considerable success in achieving stability in the region, using tactics ranging from negotiations to military operations to root out militants. Militant outfits also used various tactics. They even joined hands as early as 1989, forming the Indo-Burmese Revolutionary Front (IBRF), which consisted of NSCN, ULFA, KNF (from India) and Chin National Front (Myanmar). The influence of IBRF diminished gradually. Until recently, the NSCN (IM), NSCN (K), Bodo Security Force (BSF), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), ULFA and Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) remained the most forceful and assertive groups. In the meantime quite a few Muslim extremist outfits too became active in the region (Das 1993). In the Manipur Hills, the most powerful defiant groups, besides the NSCN, are UNLF (Meghen), PLA, KNO, KNF, KNA, KDF and KFC. The Kuki–Naga conflict rocked the state of Manipur in the mid-1990s. When the Naga claim of ‘proprietorship’ over the vast hilly region of Manipur was endangered by demands for a ‘Kuki Homeland’, the NSCN quickly asserted its dominion. The Kuki Impi and the Zomi Council had worked tirelessly to bring about a permanent settlement. In Mizoram areas, the Reangs came to form the Bru National Liberation Front, whose leaders held talks with the Mizo Chief Minister. The population of displaced Reangs rose to 40,000 in camps in Tripura. The Mizos were especially perturbed when the Bru National Union, formed in 1994 to protect the rights and privileges of the Reang minorities, called for an Autonomous District Council under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. What gives strength to the demand of the Reangs (Brus) is their position as the second largest ethnic group in Mizoram. In both the pre-Independence and post-Independence eras, Tripura witnessed a regular inflow of immigrants, and land alienation of tribals was rampant. The tribespeople thus became a minority in their own homeland. Tripura National Volunteers therefore did not target the state, but it opposed a community. In this respect, Bhaumik says, ‘The TNV’s
38 Das anti-Bengali violence created a general climate of ethnic hatred, which was sharpened by large-scale alienation of the tribal lands and actual marginalization in jobs, professions and politics’ (Bhaumik 1996). Prior to TNV, the Seng-krak (Clenched Fist) surfaced as a tribal insurgent group in 1967. It maintained close links with the Mizo National Front (MNF). Tribal leaders of Tripura, right from 1974, voiced demands of reservation, restoration of tribal land, the restoration of native Kok-Borok as one of the official languages, and finally the Autonomous District Council. The language and script issue, which engulfed Tripura for a long time, has hardly been addressed in earnest.
Illegal émigré, anti-infiltrator – movement and terrorism There is a long history of incursion by outsiders, immigration and resettlement in Assam. One can see this broadly in four spheres; tea plantation-related manual labour, Bengali Muslim immigration (mostly in agriculture), Hindu Bengali migration (mostly in the service sector) and Marwari migration (in the trading sector). The Bangladesh war resulted in over 1 million refugees taking shelter, who never returned. Modern Bangladeshi ‘infiltration’ is, however, said to be a more severe phenomenon. It was alleged that Bangladesh Char area dialects, spoken by the migrant Muslims, were declared as Assamese dialect to the census enumerators. Politicians too encouraged the Bangladeshi Muslims and other minorities into Assam, giving them voting rights. This was a narrow exercise in electoral politics (Dixit 1998, 2003). This last wave of illegal exodus from Bangladesh is a more dangerous phenomenon, as some among these infiltrators got involved in terrorist activities in parts of urban India. It is said that fear within the native Assamese community of being overwhelmed by the unabated influx of illegal Bangladeshi migrants from across the porous border triggered off the longdrawn-out anti-foreigner mass uprising (1979–85), spearheaded by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU). It ended by arriving at an agreement, the Assam Accord of 15 August 1985. The Accord fixed 25 March 1971 as the cut-off date for detection and expulsion of the illegal foreign migrants. The Assam movement was led by the AASU. All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP), which was the umbrella organization of several outfits, including Asom Sahitya Sabha, emerged as the political forum of the AASU. In 1985, AAGSP swept the elections on the wave of anti-foreigner sentiments. The ULFA’s inception dates back to the frenzied years of the Assam Movement when a section of the militant youth lost faith in peaceful programmes of AASU and the AAGSP. According to Baruah (1992) the ULFA combined Naxalism with a strong dose of ‘sub-nationalism’. In 1990, the ULFA had forged links with various insurgent outfits inside and outside the country, including the PLA, NSCN and even JKLF in Kashmir. In 1986, ULFA first established contacts with the then unified NSCN and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) of Myanmar for training and arms. Subsequently, links were established with Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). The ULFA, according to Gohain, ‘advocated a line of “de-nationalization” or “divesting oneself of ethnic identities except that of Assamese identity”. It characterized India as a
Identity politics and social exclusion in India’s North-East 39 “colonial state” and the northeast as the “colony”, though no serious economic analysis substantiating this assertion had come to light’ (Gohain 1990a,b).
Identity politics of ‘small ethnicities’ and ‘minority syndrome’ in Assam After several contractions, Assam was left with 23 tribes, comprising 14 hill tribes of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills and nine plains tribes inhabiting the plains of the Brahmaputra Valley. Seeing development in the hills, some tribes became conscious of the need to develop their sub-regions. Some tribes who had earlier launched movements rushed to renew their agitations. Thus the Ahom renewed the demand for rescheduling their Scheduled Tribe status. In order to push forward the demand for a separate Ahom State, the Tai–Ahom Land Committee was formed by merging the old organizations. In 1995 the Ahoms put forward a 17-point charter of demands. Showing his concern for the Ahoms, the then Ahom Chief Minister of Assam, Hiteshwar Saikia, highlighted the unique cultural heritage of the Ahom people. The Karbis have been conscious about their minority status vis-à-vis the majority Assamese. Notwithstanding the gradual incorporation of the Karbis into Assamese society, culturally and linguistically, the cultural incorporation was never conceded. What is more, the thriving kinship-based tribal political system, the territorial affiliation (Mikir hills), survival of Karbi folksongs and fables of their distinct origin, tribal mortuary rituals, and tribal costumes which survive in vibrant manner helped the Karbis to put forward their autonomy demand (Das 1989: 188–90). Though the Karbi National Council demanded in 1986 only an autonomous district, the last two decades have seen the growth of the Karbi Students Association and the Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC) spearheading a movement for the creation of a separate Karbi state. Seeing the ever-growing demands of the minority tribes the administration had granted the Sixth Schedule status to some plains tribes, such as the Mishing, the Rabha and the Tiwa. The Bodo movement is the longest social movement in the plains of Assam. The first two phases of the Bodo movement were concerned with social reforms (1947–67) and consolidation of the Bodo identity vis-à-vis the Assamese community (1967–87). The earlier phase of the Brahma movement (1907 onwards) was a short-lived ‘Sanskritization movement’ led by the Mech-Bodos. The early cultural awakenings had led to the birth of the Bodo Sahitya Sabha in 1952, which demanded Bodo language as the medium of instruction at secondary level. In its modern phase (1967 onwards) a new section of Bodo elite emerged which demanded a greater share in political power. A call was given for carving out a separate region called Udayachal. After the second phase of mass protests, a Bodo Accord signed in February 1993 led to the creation of a Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC). The BAC was a non-starter, as the territorial boundary issue remained unresolved. The movement for maximum autonomy by the Bodos succeeded ultimately in securing a new politico-administrative structure within the existing state of Assam following a memorandum of understanding with the
40 Das Government of India on 10 February 2003. The Bodo-majority areas have now come under the new Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), an elective body. The BTC Accord is seen as a fulfilment of the sub-national aspirations of the Bodos of Assam. Under the BTC understanding, the Government of India provides financial assistance of Rs 1,000 million per annum for five years for projects to develop the socio-economic infrastructure. The North East Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Forum, comprising 15 diverse tribal organizations, resolved in its meeting in October 1994 that ‘The entire region has been swamped by alien people migrating from neighbouring countries and also from other parts of India’ (The Telegraph, 6 October 1994). Similarly the Tribal Students Federation (TSF) was constituted by several tribal students’ organizations such as Karabi Students Union, All Tiwa Students Union, Takam Miashing Porin Kebang, All Assam Deuri Students Union, Maan-Tai Students Union, Sonwal Kachaari Students Union, Dimasa Students Federation and All Assam Tribal Students Union. The main objective of the TSF was to provide a coherent direction to the various tribal movements of the region for ‘the right of self-determination’. An important aspect of TSF was its abhorrence of militant, armed actions. The TSF failed to achieve its goals. In view of the extensive demand of the Chakma and the Hajong for Indian citizenship, the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed a unanimous resolution to deport these émigrés settled in the state. To protect the cultures of indigenous tribes the Legislative Assembly passed the Arunachal Pradesh Protection of Customary Laws and Social Practices Bill, 1994, for protection of the native tribal institutions. The All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union (AAPSU) also opposed such demands for citizenship. The Nepalese of Assamese origin demanded ‘special protected status’ under the Constitution. They aimed to thwart attempts at branding them as ‘foreigners’ or illegal infiltrators. The fact remains that the Nepalese did face the Khasi anger manifested in the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the late 1980s, which had triggered the larger Nepalese demand for the Gorkhaland (Das 1989; The Statesman, 18 July 2002). In September 1994 the North-East-Students-Organization (NESO) alleged that the Illegal Migrants (Determination of Tribunal) Act 1993 was full of loopholes that had made the detection and expulsion of illegal migrants in the North-East difficult. There have been strong reactions to threats of infiltration of outsiders in varied manners. Thus, the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) made it mandatory for non-Nagas living ‘all over Nagalim’ to make identity cards for themselves and their families. In Assam, the Adivasis today can broadly be divided into two communities, the tea garden workers and those who came out of the tea gardens at the end of their contracts and settled in and around the tea gardens after procuring some land. Through gradual expansion these Adivasis form nearly 20 per cent of the state population, but their representation in the Legislative Assembly is said to be markedly less (India Together 2008). The All Assam Adivasi Students’ Association along with Assam Tea Tribal Students’ Association (strong in the Sibsagar, Dibrugarh and Laximpur districts of upper Assam) have been agitating for years
Identity politics and social exclusion in India’s North-East 41 demanding recognition of tea tribals and Adivasis as Scheduled Tribes. The Adivasis have been neglected by the state. Only special measures, such as the campaign against poverty, can win their hearts. The state Congress leaders failed to muster the political will to fulfil that demand. The latest response from the Registrar General is that some relatively homogeneous groups among this population may be considered for inclusion under this list if the state government agrees.
Reconciliation for self-rule and autonomy: ceasefire and peace accords Noteworthy peace initiatives were undertaken during the 1960s and 1970s involving several militant outfits of the region. However it was during 1994 that several underground organisations came ‘overground’ and surrendered before the government authorities, particularly in Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram. These organisations were the Dimasa National Security Force (DNSF), Achik Liberation Matgrik Army (ALMA) and Hmar People’s Convention (HPC). The Dimasa Kachari groups generally live in the North Cachar Hills, Cachar, Karbi-Anglong, Nowgong (all in Assam) and the Dhansiri region of Nagaland. Prior to the 1961 Census they were identified as a ‘Sub-tribe’ of Kachari. In the 1971 census and afterwards they projected themselves as a distinct tribe. The Dimasa Jalairaoni Hosoma was established in 1972 to promote their distinct cultural identity. The Dimasa National Organisation (DNO) was born in 1979. In March 1979 the Dimasa demanded the proper preservation of ancient Dimasa monuments and relics. In 1980, Nikhil Hidimba Barman Samity, Cachar, demanded reorganization of the Dimasa-speaking areas of North-East India. Even though the DNSF had close ties with the NSCN, its leaders realized the futility of their actions and thus they had surrendered before the Assam State government authorities in 1994. A breakthrough achieved during 1994 was the signing of the Hmar Peace Pact. An accord was signed at Aizal on 27 July 1994 between the Hmar People’s Convention (HPC) and the Mizoram government, bringing an end to the seven-year-old Hmar insurgency. The accord envisaged the setting up of a Hill Development Council in Hmar-inhabited north Mizoram. In Meghalaya also the ALMA, trained by the NSCN and inspired by the ULFA, surrendered before the Meghalaya Chief Minister at Tura, on 25 October 1994. The Garo Baptist Convention (GBP) played a major rule in bringing the militants to the negotiating table. In Assam, the state government led by Mr Hiteswar Saikia (Congress) declared ‘grant of total autonomy to several major ethnic tribes’ (Hussain 2006). Besides the Bodo Accord (1993), his government signed accords with the Karbi and Dimasa tribals. Selfruling bodies were provided to the Rabhas, the Mishings and the Lalungs (Tiwas). In Assam, many organizations have ceasefire agreements with the government, including the UPDS (1 January 2004) and the NDFB (25 May 2005). Similarly, in the state of Meghalaya, the Achik National Volunteer Council has had a ceasefire agreement with the government since 23 July 2004. The ULFA in Assam in 2005, too, has appointed a People’s Consultative Group to prepare the ground for eventual dialogue with the government.
42 Das The Naga peace initiative has had a long tradition. Diverse perceptions surrounded the earlier 19-point Agreement of 1960 and the Shillong Accord of 1975. In recent times the Naga Hoho convened a series of meetings with church leaders and NGOs from all Naga areas culminating in a call for a ‘journey of conscience’ to seek reconciliation and to rebuild Naga society. A declaration was adopted in 2001 to pursue the cause of peace. Since 1998–9 peace parleys, particularly with the NSCN (IM), have been generally successful. The NSCN (IM) has been demanding a homeland for all Nagas living in the North-East, which will be called ‘Nagalim’. These peace initiatives have led to what is termed bilateral ceasefire, whereby belligerence and hostility is halted. Even during the ceasefire the cause for worry has been the fratricidal schisms between the different factions of the Naga National Council, the Isak-Muivah group and Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland. There have been successes in peace talks with the Khaplang faction too. It is also pleasing that ‘substantive issues’ have been discussed. At the same time in a statement titled ‘Journey for Peace’ the NSCN (IM) has recognized the ‘legitimate aspirations of all neighbouring people including the Meiteis, the Assamese and others’ and appealed to them to ‘let us end tension between us’ (Navalakha 2003). The NSCN (IM) has appreciated the Government of India’s understanding of the ‘unique history of the Naga people’. The Kamtapur movement, initiated by the Kamtapur People’s Party (KPP), involves the Koch and Rajbanshi communities, who call themselves Kamtapuris. The Kamtapuri ethnicity and language question gave birth to this movement, which started peacefully, but subsequently turned violent after the movement came in contact with some Assam-based militant outfits such as the ULFA in 1999–2000. Apart from the demand for a separate state to be carved out from five north Bengal districts, the 11-point charter of the KPP includes the recognition of the Kamtapuri language, introduction of Kamtapuri programmes on TV, and ‘resettlement’ of the people who arrived after 1971. The KPP supporters, mostly of Rajbanshi origin, consider themselves indigenous to the region and they feel they have the right to self-determination. Today indeed the situations mainly in Manipur, Assam and Tripura remain disturbing. The Manipuri militants have shown no inclination for peace talks. The All Tripura Tiger Force and the National Liberation Front of Tripura, which operate from camps in Bangladesh, will be weakened by the Naga peace accord, if reached (The Statesman, 23 November 2002). The NLFT has links with the NSCN and the ATTF has links with the ULFA. Though the NLFT talks of secession, the state is not their enemy. Their targets are the settlers who have migrated from the former East Pakistan after the Partition and subsequent settlers who have reduced the indigenous tribes of Tripura to a minority (The Statesman, 23 November 2002).
Conclusion In North-East India cultural differences and incongruity have sharpened the ethnic boundaries and generated cleavages along ethnic conflict leading to inter-ethnic discord. Ethnic unrest in the North-East is as old as the country’s independence,
Identity politics and social exclusion in India’s North-East 43 if not older. Indian independence along with the Partition, influx of émigrés, suspected fear of linguistic–cultural subjugation, economic negligence, and the failure to value emerging political institutions have variously infused in the minds of the ethnic communities a ‘sense of narcissistic self-awareness’. The spectre of social exclusion, minority syndrome and ethnic rivalry have remained the driving force for movements demanding autonomy in the shape of a homeland, state or autonomous district council, within the constitutional framework. Some of the movements followed violent paths. While some opted for a constitutional path, others sought an extra-constitutional/secessionist path. Ever increasing evidences, however, now indicate that most of the militant outfits in the North-East have now transformed themselves into terrorist entities, empty of their original objectives and ideology. For example, since the 1990s the ULFA in Assam has repudiated its earlier anti-Bangladeshi position. Vested interests and quarrel over interests led militant groups to clashes among themselves. It would be incorrect to attach the terrorist label to the NSCN, but the media reports suggest that most fatalities in Nagaland are the result of the infighting between the two factions of the NSCN, rather than of the activities of the government. Poor governance has been a major problem in the region. It is argued that the region is caught in a vicious cycle of the lack of economic development and that militancy and the resultant violence further retards economic growth. Under the circumstances, it is natural to find the people of the region harbouring a sense of alienation from the Indian mainstream and feeling neglected. Special provisions for self-governance and autonomy are provided for the people of the North-East within the Constitution of India, such as the Sixth Schedule, North-Eastern Council (NEC) and the Department of North-Eastern Region (DONER). The DONER and the North-Eastern Council under the control of the Union Government need to tackle the problems of unemployment, underemployment and the economic backwardness of the region more effectively. These institutional arrangements and provisions need to be appropriately regulated to assuage ethnic misgivings. In more recent years the peace initiatives, such as the bilateral ceasefire, and the peace talks held between militant leaders and government representatives, symbolize the determination of the Indian nation-state to resort to a broad-spectrum consensus on vital issues by adhering to flexibility and extendibility. These are basic measures aimed at national consolidation, which should be strengthened. Peace, development and proper linkages are bound together and are intrinsic to harmony in the region. Gradually the region has increasingly witnessed not only the naturalization of electoral politics, but also the slow adaptation of national political parties. Resurgence of ethnic identity and persistence of ethnicized politics do not indicate repudiation of the political state. Their concern for variously perceived threats to their distinct ethnic identities, their anxiety for preservation of their culture and language, and their demand for autonomy cannot be seen as dysfunctional for a healthy civil society. Their aspirations should be seen rather as prerequisites for distributive justice, to which no nation-state can be indifferent. The Indian path of institutional adjustments aimed at winning over and changing
44 Das the opinion of hostile ethnic groups and extending special safeguards to hill states have helped solve ethnic problems to a great extent. These need to be treated with tolerance.
Bibliography Baruah, Sanjib. (1992) ‘Symbolism and Statesmanship’, The Telegraph, 11 June. Bhaumik, S. (1996) ‘Patterns of Minority Violence in North East India’. Unpublished paper presented at a Seminar in the Department of Political Science, Calcutta University. Das, N. K. (1982) ‘The Naga Movement’, in K. S. Singh (ed.), Tribal Movements in India, vol. 1, New Delhi: Manohar. —— (1989) Ethnic Identity, Ethnicity and Social Stratification in North East India. New Delhi: Inter-India Publications. —— (1993) Kinship, Politics and Law in Naga Society. Memoir No. 96. Calcutta: Anthropological Survey of India. —— (2001) ‘Regionalism and Ethnicity in Northeast India’, Journal of Anthropological Survey of India, 50: 1–16 —— (2003) ‘Religious Syncretism and Cultural Homogenisation on Northeast India’, in N. K. Das (ed.), Culture, Religion and Philosophy: Critical Studies in Syncretism and Inter-Faith Harmony, New Delhi: Rawat. —— (2004a) ‘Ethno-Historical Processes and Ethnicity in Northeast India’, Journal of Anthropological Survey of India, 29 (1–2): 3–35. —— (2004b) ‘Regionalism, Ethnicity and Nationalism in Northeast India’, in A. Basu et al. (eds), Anthropology for Northeast India: A Reader, Kolkata: Indian National Confederation and Academy of Anthropologists. —— 2007 ‘Regionalism, Ethnicity Nationalism in Northeast India’, in R. K. Bhadra and Mita Bhadra (eds), Ethnicity Movements and Social Structure: Contested Cultural Identity, Jaipur: Rawat. Das, N. K. and Gupta, P. (1982) ‘Ahom Movement’ in K. S. Singh (ed.), Tribal Movements in India, vol. 1, New Delhi: Manohar. Dixit, J. N. (1998) ‘No Suitors for Seven Sisters’, The Telegraph, 26 October. —— (2003) ‘Back to Square One’, The Telegraph, 12 March. Gohain, H. (1990a) ‘The Task before Assam’s Elite’, The Telegraph, 6 April. —— (1990b) ‘Whom does the ULFA Seem to Liberate’, The Telegraph, 31 July. Hussain, W. (2006) ‘India’s North-east: The Problem’, Part 1, 9 May, http://www.manipuronline.com/North-East/May 2006/NEthe problem09_1html, accessed date. Imchen, C. L. (1993) ‘Naga Politics: Regionalism or Non-State Nation’, in B. Pakem (ed.) Regionalism in India, New Delhi: Har-Anand Publications. India Together News Service (2008) ‘Other Backward Class’, 5 May, http://www.indiatogether.org/php/search.php?words=Other+Backward+Class%2C+5+May+2008&=10 &y=10, accessed date. Miri, S. (1993) Communalism in Assam: A Civilisational Approach, New Delhi: HarAnand Publications. Navalakha, G. (2003) ‘Naga Peace Process: Larger Issues at Stake’, Economic and Political Weekly, 22 February. Singh, B. P. (1987) The Problem of Change A Study of North-East India, Delhi: Oxford University Press. Singh, K. S. (ed.) (1982) Tribal Movements in India, vol. 1, New Delhi: Monohar.
Identity politics and social exclusion in India’s North-East 45
Appendix: state-wise inventory of organizations operative in India’s North-East Arunachal Pradesh National Liberation Front of Arunachal: Koj Tara Dragon Force (ADF) United Liberation Movement of Arunachal Pradesh (ULMA) United Liberation Volunteers of Arunachal Pradesh (ULVA) United People’s Volunteers of Arunachal Pradesh (UPVA) Assam Adivasi United Liberation Front of Assam Barak Valley Youth Liberation Front (BVYLF) Birsa Commando Force Bodo Liberation Tiger Force (BLTF) Bodo Security Force (BDSF) Cobra Force Dima Halim Daogah (DHD) Dimasa National Security Force (DNSF) Hmar People’s Convention – Democracy (HPC-D) Karbi National Volunteers (KNV) Karbi People’s Front (KPF) Koch-Rajbongshi Liberation Organisation (KRLO) Muslim Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA) Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam (MULFA) National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) Rabha National Security Force (RNSF) United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) United Liberation Front of Barak Valley United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) United Social Reform Army Of Assam (USRAA) Manipur Iripak Kanba Lup (IKL) Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) Kangleipak Kanba Kanglup (KKK) Kuki Defense Force (KDF) Kuki Front Council (KFC) Kuki National Army (KNA), Kuki National Front (KNF) Kuki National Organisation (KNO) Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA)
46 Das Manipur Liberation Tiger Army (MLTA) Manipur People’s Liberation Front (MPLF) National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN (IM)) North East Minority Front (NEMF) People’s Liberation Army (PLA) People’s Republican Army (PRA) People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleilpak (PREPAK) Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) United National Liberation Front (UNLF) Mizoram Bru National Front of Mizoram (BNFM) Bru National Liberation Front Bru Welfare Association of Mizoram (BWAM) Chin Kuki Revolutionary Front (CKRF) Hmar People’s Convention – Democracy (HPC-D) Hmar People’s Convention (HPC) Hmar Revolutionary Front (HRF) Indigenous People’s Revolutionary Alliance (IRPA) Kom Rem People’s Convention (KRPC) Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA) Zomi Revolutionary Volunteers (ZRV) Meghalaya A’chik National Volunteers Council (ANVC) Achick Liberation Matgrik Army (ALMA) Hajong United Liberation Army (HULA) Hynniewtrep Achik Liberation Council (HALC) Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) Hynniewtrep Volunteer Council (HVC) People’s Liberation Front of Meghalaya (PLF-M) Nagaland Naga Federal Government (NFG) Naga National Council (Khodao) (NNC (K)) Naga National Council (Adino) (NNC (A)) National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) (NSCN(IM)) National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) (NSCN (K))
Identity politics and social exclusion in India’s North-East 47 Tripura All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF): Ranjit Debbarma Group All Tripura Tigers Force (ATTF) All Tripura Volunteer Force (ATVF) Borok National Council of Tripura (BNCT) Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT): Biswamohan Debbarma Group Nayanbashi Jamatia Tripura Liberation Force (TLF) Tripura National Army (TNA) Tripura Tribal Volunteer Force (TTVF) West Bengal Kamtapuri Liberation Organisation (KLO)
4 Inclusion in nationhood Bhudev Mukhopadhyay’s concept of jatiyabhav1 Harihar Bhattacharyya
The problem India’s nationhood, the ‘national’ identity of the Indians, their sense of belonging to one community, if at all, remains more than six decades since independence a highly contentious issue among academics, policy-makers, and contending political and social forces demanding radical changes (Chatterjee 1986, 1995, 2000; Kaviraj 1995a; H. Bhattacharyya 1989; Vanaik 1988; Brass and Vanaik 2002). The rise of the Dalits, a major socially and economically disadvantaged group, to take but one example, since the 1980s, has challenged the existing notion of nationhood in favour of an alternative vision of nationhood for India (Illaiah 1999; Pandian 1999a,b; Pai 2002). The problematic of nationhood in India has remained predicated upon a society based upon manifold hierarchies and exclusions such as caste, communities, religions and aboriginal identity. During British colonial rule for over two centuries, intercommunal differences and conflicts, most particularly between the Hindus and the Muslims, became sharpened, giving rise to mutual hatred and animosity. Rabindranath Tagore, India’s Nobel laureate poet and social philosopher, saw it as an old ‘sin’ which is yet to be atoned for. The social and cultural schisms between the two communities could not be overcome even by decades of anti-colonial nationalist movements that had preached unity and cohesion. The social and cultural schism between the above two communities surfaced time and again in the wake of India’s national movements for unity and cohesion. The so-called nineteenth-century Bengal Renaissance had problems accommodating the Muslims, and its leading light H. V. Derozio, otherwise an ultra-radical intellectual, indulged in a kind of Muslim bashing (K. Bhattacharyya 2007). Since the nineteenth century, there have been attempts at articulating a homogenous and exclusionary concept of nationhood by the new elites, centring on single identity markers (Hindus or Muslims). Such exclusionary brands of nationhood subsequently provided strong ideological support for separatist politics among the Hindus (e.g., apart from the so-called Hindu versions of two-nation theory, the various sub-brands of linguistic and regional–nationalist political movements are also to be cited as examples), the Muslims, and also other communities such as the tribals and Dalits. In the post-independence period, with a renewed sense
Inclusion in nationhood 49 of ethno-nationalist consciousness, the problem has been exacerbated rather than resolved. One of India’s leading political theorists of nationalism, Partha Chatterjee (1986, 1995), thus believes that the national question in India still remains largely unresolved. The above suggests that socially and culturally, and perhaps politically too, India has yet to build a nation of many communities, as exclusion has remained a major problem. The Government of India’s own official report (Sachar Committee 2006) on the social and cultural status of the Muslims, for example, accepts that this community still remains largely backward and has a strong feeling of being discriminated against, marginalized and deprived, and hence alienated. The aboriginal peoples in the North-East and other border areas of the country are often hesitant to consider themselves Indians! Intercommunal mutual hatred, suspicion and lack of understanding are more real than what is portrayed in the standard and often celebratory intellectual accounts of Indian democracy (e.g. Kohli 2001). Painfully enough, the celebratory accounts of Indian democracy have been co-existing with large-scale and multilayered social exclusions. The objective of this chapter is to recover a radical notion of Indian nationhood, broadly ethnic yet inclusive, articulated in vernacular Bengali in nineteenth-century Bengal in order to reflect upon the current and ongoing problem of nationhood in India, generally, and the current concerns of social exclusion and inclusion in India, specifically. The notion of jatiyabhav (a Bengali word for a national feeling, or a sense of being a nation) articulated by an otherwise (undeservedly) neglected figure of the so-called Bengal Renaissance of the nineteenth century was a pioneering nationalist discourse that assumes significance and merits attention, given the above context, for a number reasons. First, Bhudev, going somewhat against the then dominant intellectual trend in India, defined the nation’s space as socially and culturally inclusive. Second, it was based on the recognition of differences (identity, to be precise). Third, his concept of jatiyabhav showed the way in India for the possibility of nationhood despite diversity, which in his time (as well as perhaps ours too) seemed difficult to attain. (Anderson 1983/1991 called this the ‘third wave nationalism’, which did not require homogeneity.) Fourth, his was a society-centric notion of nationhood, which asserted the sovereignty of culture/society, swadeshi samaj, and rejected the Western state-centric (and hence society-destroying) exclusionary notion of nationhood, much propagated in modern political sociology of the states and nations in the West, most notably by Max Weber. For Bhudev, jatiyabhav stood for tolerance of others, an antidote to exclusion, and the space for inclusion. Untypical of an otherwise ‘traditional Brahmin’, Bhudev was ready to include Muslims, Indian Christians, Buddhists, Jains and aboriginal peoples in his conception of Indian nationhood, which is the highest-order inclusion, as distinguished from lower-order inclusion such as reservation, or quota in public employment, local government bodies and so on. The latter has been in vogue in post-independence India; yet it seems more nationsplitting (by ghettoization) than nation-uniting. Bhudev found richer indigenous traditions of unity among different communities than what was being offered by the Western notion of nationhood.
50 Bhattacharyya Bhudev Mukhopadhyay (1827–94), an outstanding and original nationalist thinker of modern India, whom Kaviraj (1995b: 253) called ‘the only social theorist that the celebrated age of the Bengal renaissance produced’, remains still largely unexplored and undeservedly neglected in Indian social and political theory. Vehemently resenting the utter neglect of Bhudev in understanding the so-called Bengal renaissance, Kalyan Bhattacharyya (2007: 31) asserted rightly: ‘Bhudev stands tallest as an original thinker, much ahead of his time’. The serious social scientific writings on him are few and far between.2 Mitra’s (1979: 81–110) essay was pioneering but conceived somewhat in a conventional framework, using a simplistic Marxist interpretation of Bhudev in which his sociology (Mitra called it ‘the beginning of Indian Sociology’) was taken to be a ‘defence of tradition’. Mitra’s view of Bhudev’s project as one of transforming ‘an otherwise disintegrating3 and defeating India into a self-reliant homogenous nation through a revival of faith based on facts and reason in the grand tradition of Hindu social living’ (Mitra 1979: 83) is not warranted by the facts. The fact of the matter is that neither was Bhudev a revivalist, nor was his project homogenizing. The way Bhudev sought to incorporate the best elements from Islam into the remaking of a new culture for India, and his broad-based incorporation of other communities including the aboriginal tribes and the converted Christians in the proposed jatiyabhav, suggest that the charge of revivalism and homogenization do not hold much water. This revivalist charge against Bhudev is also one of the conclusions drawn by Ray Chaudhuri (1988) and Kaviraj (1995b), to a very limited extent. Ray Chaudhuri’s (1988: 26) was the first ever full-length critical account of Bhudev’s reflections on the West in which Bhudev’s concerns were said to be ‘causally linked to a new articulation of nationalist identity and, marginally, to its more frantic expression, the bizarre glorification of Hinduism’. Summing up Bhudev’s project, Ray Chaudhuri (1988: 58, emphasis added) wrote: The central purpose of all his writings was to clarify and affirm the Indian identity, especially its hard Brahminical core, in which all Indians – to his understanding – had their share, Muslims very much included. This identity was threatened by the indiscriminate imitation of the West. The West in general, the British impact in particular, hence had to be assessed carefully, western norms and mores analyzed and compared to Indian ones to decide what was suitable for the country’s needs. As is obvious from the above passage, especially the emphasized portions, the reconstruction of Indian identity that Bhudev sought to undertake was actually plural in nature (the so-called ‘Brahminical core’ is a little exaggerated). Bhudev was ready to accept the best principles and practices of the Muslims. Second, Bhudev’s nationalist project was not a wholesale rejection of the West, but a critically selective acceptance of the same in a thorough discursive engagement with the West’s culture and civilization.
Inclusion in nationhood 51 Kaviraj’s (1995b) essay, very original and an examination of the social theoretic significance of Bhudev’s project, delineates the various aspects of Bhudev’s counter-challenges to epistemic interventions that the British rule had made in India. It concludes that even though Bhudev’s project was, by his own declaration, conservative, traditionalist, it was to be accepted as the ‘unfailing mark of intellectual radicalism, the courage to think against the grain of history’ (Kaviraj 1995b: 278). Kaviraj also made it clear that Bhudev’s defence of tradition was innovative in the sense that he showed a deep sense of the historicity of traditions (ibid.) rather than a blind uncritical and unreasonable defence of the same, as is done nowadays by fundamentalists the world over. Kalyan Bhattacharyya’s (2007) essay is also an exercise in theoretical understanding of Bhudev’s project by focusing on Bhudev’s reaction to Western modernity, and his alternative epistemology called samajtattwa for Indian nationhood alone. For Bhattacharyya, the charges of conservatism and traditionalism against Bhudev are pejorative and evaluative, and smack of the same post-Enlightenment paradigm of knowledge as manifested in the so-called Renaissance in nineteenth-century Bengal, for instance. Bhattacharyya has appreciated Bhudev’s efforts in resisting colonialist intellectual–cultural domination more than 100 years before the birth of anti-Orientalist and post-colonialist discourse in the world. The focus in this chapter is on the ‘political imagination’4 of an inclusive nationhood of India as found in the social thought of Bhudev. This major modern thinker of India pioneered a distinct trajectory of India’s approach to ‘unity-in-diversity’, in other words a nation out of diversity and despite diversity, and prepared, in a way, the cultural backdrop of independent India’s path of accommodation and management of diversity as the key to India’s relative success as a nation-state. Bhudev, an educationist and later a bureaucrat by profession, was deeply concerned about India’s nationhood as well as its differences. Going somewhat against the then intellectual trend of thinking in terms borrowed from the West, and being a trenchant critic of the perils of the impact of the West on the Indians, he sought to conceive of Indian nationhood on the basis of the indigenous elements. Although he wrote a few novels and some other essays dealing with the everyday rituals and the norms of family life, purporting to emphasize the national identity among the Indians (Ray Chaudhri 1988), Samajik Prabandha (1892)5 (Social Essays) remains his magnum opus. The central theme in all writings remains though jatiyabhav, an identity, a national feeling, rather than ‘nationalism’ (which as a political doctrine betrayed Orientalist thinking, which Bhudev wanted to abjure), a feeling of unity to be developed among all communities of India – the Hindus, the Muslims, the Christians, the tribes and so on – who were all to be part and parcel of this sense of nationhood. His project of nationhood, ultimately a political project, called for a social preparation before considering the issue of political independence. In the very Preface of his book, Bhudev expressed his deep lamentation over the following:
52 Bhattacharyya Among the English educated people, there is no clear knowledge about Indian religion, society, the family life, codes of conduct and so on, and about their duty and activities to be performed in respect of the above. (1892: 2) In the same Preface he asserted that the means of ‘establishing and developing national feeling on the elements of swadeshi-samaj [native/indigenous society] were not entirely lost.’ His thoughts on the Muslims, the examination of the contributions that the Muslims made to the development of nationhood in India, and the analysis of the common social and cultural basis of unity between the Hindus and the Muslims were thought-provoking, well ahead of his time, and very radical in nature by even today’s standard. To begin with, Bhudev has clarified his, or rather the Indians’, approach to things after being awakened as a nation. In a conversation with an Irish nationalist friend of his, he made it clear that: we Indians with the consciousness of being a nation do not as yet engage ourselves in political rebellion. We learn more and more English, much adore Sanskrit, and do our job so carefully and laboriously that our English rulers are compelled to feel a sense of being defeated. (1892: 4) In the same vein, he condemned in no uncertain terms any manner of stereotyping the others in India – the Muslims, peoples in the West of India, the peoples in the South and so on. He here vehemently objected to considering the others as ‘abject’, as some of the leaders of the Bengal renaissance, most notably Derozio (‘our first poet of patriotism’), indulged in (Bhattacharyya 2007: 38). One of the primal conditions of the growth of national unity or cohesion among the Indians was the development of mutual interaction and integration among peoples of different regions of India. The contributions of British rule in paving the material basis of unity in India have been admitted by Bhudev. But he was not forgetful of the contributions of pre-British empires and kingdoms, whether Hindus or Muslims. He has mentioned in particular the contributions of such Muslim emperors as Akbar, the Great, for paving the basis of unity among different regions of India. Bhudev then dwelt at length on the nature of the Muslims in India, their culture and life-style, their entitlement to nationhood and so on. The central concept in this regard for Bhudev is samadukhosukhota (a Sanskritized Bengali word for commonality of sorrow and happiness). He used this term to harp on the common material basis of unity between the Hindus and the Muslims born of being under the same ruler or government. Bhudev’s argument is that being governed under the same ruler and system of government is a principal factor in uniting people of diverse characteristics (1892: 10). He has identified four distinctive traits of the Muslims in India that set them apart from the other communities of India. First, the religious scriptures and prac-
Inclusion in nationhood 53 tices of the Muslims are very different from others in India. Second, the social life of the Muslims is rather more similar to the Muslims of other countries, and different from the other communities of India. Third, since the Muslims once were supreme rulers until the arrival of the British, that memory of being superior still lingers on to some extent, which makes the Muslims more sympathetic to each other. Fourth, the Muslims of India exhibit extra-territorial loyalty, particularly to the Khalif of Turkey, or the emperor of Persia on religious grounds (1892: 11–16) Not finding it surprising, Bhudev indeed noted it as a fact of life of the Muslims: The fact is that most Muslims of India show extra-territorial sympathy to others and take either the emperor of Turkey, or that of Persia as their religious leader. (1892: 11)6 He did not think it stood in the way of development of nationhood in India because the Catholic community in England, to cite a counter-example, also showed extraterritorial loyalty to the Pope. Bhudev’s important point of argument was that religious differences were not obstacles to the development of nationhood (1892: 11–12). Bhudev then highlighted the points of similarity between the Hindus and the Muslims in India, and hence the common basis of unity between them. First, the periods of Muslim rule in India have paved some basis of unity. The Muslims wherever they have established their rule have married the women of the conquered in large numbers; they have done the same in India too although, because of the caste systems here, their marriages were mostly limited to the lower-caste women. As a result, most of the Muslims in India (12 in every 16), Bhudev believed, are derived from the lower-caste Hindu background. Bhudev’s point of argument here is that the Muslims in India are different from those of Afghanistan, Persia, Arabia, Turkey etc. because they resemble in everyday practices more the Hindus than other Muslims. Second, the Muslims in India have adopted many practices of the Hindus, commonly participate in festivities, invite the Hindus to their ceremonies, and are much restrained in their food habit (particularly beef eating). He has also noticed that in Bengal as well as South India many higherclass Muslims have sponsored and organized Durga Puja and Ratha-jatra (chariot festivals) with the help of the Brahmin priests! However, two respects which the Hindus and the Muslims do not share in common are marriage and food-taking, which again is on account of the caste systems of the Hindus. Nonetheless, owing to many similarities between them, the so-called religion-based conflicts among them did not last long (1892: 13). Bhudev held the British rulers responsible for dividing the two communities by presenting, among other things, false stories that during the period of Muslim rule in India the Hindus had suffered a lot. (Bhudev was at pains to notice anti-Muslim attitudes among the Western-educated youth in India, which sharply contrasted with the earlier periods’ Brahmins; well educated in Persia, they maintained not even half that attitude!) In his Samajik Prabandha he recorded many anecdotal
54 Bhattacharyya incidents to prove how the well-educated Moulavis (literally, the Doctors of Islamic Law, commonly understood as religious teachers of the Muslims), were held in the highest esteem even by the Brahmins in parts of India. Now, Bhudev acknowledges the various contributions that the Muslim rule has made in India. It was due to that that India was able to have a nearly all-India language in Hindi. It was true that there were many Muslim zealots among the rulers, but their wrongdoings were targeted not against the whole country but against some rich and powerful persons; there were many good rulers too who upheld some principles of justice. Apart from Hindi, which paved the basis of unity in the country, Bhudev also noted the role that Islam as a religion, particularly by upholding the principle of equality, has played in clearing the space of integration by making way for more similarity between the lower-caste Hindusturned-Muslims and others in India. Refuting the charge (of the colonialists) that the Muslim rule in India had been ruinous, Bhudev argued that, if the destruction of a nation resulted in the destruction of the nation’s language(s), then there is proof enough that, during the 500 years of Muslim rule in India, India’s religion, languages and social life were not adversely affected. In fact, whereas during the Muslim rule India’s provincial languages were quite active, it was during the British rule, he argues, that the indigenous languages were neglected. Further, many remarkable literary creations took place during the Muslim rule such as the Adi Granth in Punjabi, Sursagars of the Kabirs, Bhaktamala, Jnaneswari in Marathi, Chaitanyabhagabat, Chandi and Mansamangol (poetry) in Bengali. Those medieval literary productions were much appreciated by the people at large. Bhudev here has made an outstanding point: successive changes in (Muslim) rulers in India gave birth to new senses/ideas (natun bhav), and called for reintegration of Hindu and Muslim ideas (of identity and unity), and the literature mentioned above variously sought to do that job. It was for all those reasons that Bhudev asserted: ‘India is truly highly indebted to the Muslims’ (1892: 15).7 Bhudev took cognizance also of the other communities in India such as the Christians, the Buddhists, the Jains and the aboriginal peoples, and explored critically their incorporation into Indian nationhood (jatiyabhav). As regards the Christians, who numbered about 1.8 million (a negligible number for the purpose of jatiyobhav, he said), they are as important to consider. According to Bhudev, most of these Christians were converts from the Indian people, and they had not abandoned their national feeling along with the change of religion. These Christians were a neglected lot; despite being believers in the religion of the rulers, they did not get any special benefits; they received as much neglect, hatred and humiliation from the British rulers as any other Indian community. Equality that was promised in conversion was never practised by the Christian preachers, or the rulers. Bhudev had met such converted Christians who were found to be proud to introduce themselves as ‘Brahmin by caste, Christian by religion’ (1892: 19). Bhudev’s conclusion was that such people had still retained their social/national identity. The same is true, he argued, with regard to the Buddhists and the Jains who considered themselves to be part of Hindu society and were fully sympathetic to the national cause.
Inclusion in nationhood 55 Finally, Bhudev considered the aboriginal peoples of India, who numbered about 6.4 million and spread over different parts of India, particularly in the hills. They spoke, he believed, in at least 150 languages, and belonged to different groups and practised different ways of life. According to Bhudev, their national feeling (jatiyabhav) was still limited to the group level although they were gradually being incorporated into the Hindu ways of life, as the only means of uplifting them from the group level of consciousness to the national level. That their number has shrunk to only 6.4 million shows that that is the number yet to be incorporated. For him, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Christians, the Buddhists, the Jains and the aboriginal tribals were all elements of what he called swadeshi samaj (indigenous society, native land), and he was confident that jatiyabhav could be established on those elements, and the same could be expanded. Bhudev harped on India’s long tradition of unity-in-diversity thus: India is a sub-continent. It has seas and mountains, fertile lands and hills, plateau and valley, watery provinces and land-locked ones, all possible naturally given regions – it is like a world unto itself. As result, this has given India its distinctive identity, and her inhabitants bear the imprint of the same. Her inhabitants are not narrow-minded, but very tolerant (udar) by nature. Despite all the differences existing among peoples of different provinces, all are wonderfully tolerant (udar). The Indians are more capable of accepting others as their kind than any other nation on earth. Her famous poets of different regions have condemned discrimination and exclusion and praised tolerance. Indians are so hospitable that the foreign travellers without a penny can travel around the country. (1892: 7–8) For Bhudev then jatiyabhav (national feeling or a sense of being national) is what stands for nationhood. Central to this feeling is one’s love (anurag) for one’s country and its people, something that once grown never disappears (1892: 6). This feeling grows, Bhudev argued, as a result of living in the same country and by being reared and sustained in the same for long (1892: 6). Bhudev has another term for this feeling: samadukhsukhata (commonality of happiness and suffering), among the people living in the same country, under the same rule etc. (1892: 10). Consider the following passage he drafted about the Christians in India: But the English being the ruler here, the converted Christians in India have not received any privileges. Like all other Indians, they are as much hated and neglected. So they have not been detached from the national feeling (jatiyabhav). (1892: 17) That apart, the other elements of jatiyabhav for Bhudev are India’s various communities (as mentioned above), good lessons of various religions, particularly
56 Bhattacharyya Islam,8 and various regimes. However, the overarching framework of Bhudev remained Hindu, in the very broad sense of the term; he had not understood it in any specific religious sense at all. Neither was it taken in any uncritical sense and in any revivalist mode. The boundaries of this so-called Hindu framework were very wide indeed. Whereas Bhudev was all along positively appreciative of many contributions that the Muslims made in India for its unity and integrity, he was also critical of many blemishes and weaknesses of the Hindu society, such as untouchability and varna-based discrimination. There are instances in his writings to show that he condemned untouchability and also that he was opposed to varna discrimination. We have already discussed the above in great detail. But nonetheless we need to highlight further the egalitarian elements in Islam in India to distinguish them from manifold inequality in Hindu society that Bhudev identified with pains. While explaining the continuance of jatiyabhav among the converted Christians, he wrote at length: Had the principle of equality among the European Christians been like that of the Muslims – that is, what was preached was also practised – then there would have been a change of mind and heart among the converted Christians. But the Europeans missionaries’ job is done simply by conversion. Unlike the Muslim aristocrats and emperors who served to convert the Hindus (thereby defiling the Hindus!), welcome them to their fold, marry them off to good Muslim families, give them land and property, a job etc. for a living, eat with them in the same place, the European missionaries do nothing of the sorts. (1892: 17) Hindu society for Bhudev was the bedrock of his nation-building efforts. He considered it to be the foremost one in the world. He had all praises for this society: Indeed, the Hindu society is the most glorious one. Its antiquity is infinite, its mechanisms of bonding are unique, its ideals are the most sacred, and its inner strength is so high that no society on earth can be compared with it. The old Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek and Roman civilizations have all disappeared! But the Hindu society has remained intact, unbroken. Was it possible for it to survive so long had there been no inner strength of this society? (1892: 30–1) What then was the key to the survival of Hindu society? For an answer Bhudev directed our attention to some abiding features of this society: it is self-governed; it is peace-loving; it is tolerant; and it is very broad-minded (1892: 32–5) There is nothing religious in particular about this society. In this respect he has highlighted in particular the role of the Brahmins for giving the above orientation to the society, and exemplifying the ideals of Hindu society (1892: 35).
Inclusion in nationhood 57 Bhudev was, however, critical of some important weakness of Hindu society that worked against its unity, and caused it to be subjugated. He said that Hindu society was internally conflict-ridden and lacked internal unity. Because of the caste system, he argued, warfare was considered to be the activity of some specific caste (of the Kshatriyas, to be precise) rather than of the whole society. When the reverse was the case, the invading Muslims were defeated (1892: 32). Before we conclude this discussion, two caveats are in order. First, it is societycentricity, society’s self-governance that has received priority in Bhudev. Arguing against those scholars who gave priority to the political or the state over society, Bhudev argued: The loss of political power does not mean the loss of society – if the society stays, there is every hope and possibility of gaining in political power. That Italy and Greece have regained themselves as independent states showed that their societies did not die out. With the loss of society are also lost religion, language and the nation itself. (Bhudev 1892: 50) Second, Bhudev’s Hindu society is not an unchanging ancient Hindu society. He stressed that ‘humanity does not develop simply by clinging to ancient ideals’. He wrote: It is wrong to leave ancient ideals because of some inconsiderate judgment or imitation of others. When some new ideas appear they have to be compared with the old. The new ideas can be accepted if their acceptance and assimilation adds to the knowledge of the old and to its glory, then they should be accepted; otherwise they must be rejected. (Bhudev 1892: 80)
Conclusion In terms of the historical time of construction of nationalist discourse by Bhudev Mukhopadhyay, his discursive intervention took place at the right time, that is, in the late nineteenth century, when nationalism, as Benedict Anderson indicated, passed into its ‘last wave’ (Anderson 1983: 104–28). This was marked by the following traits: (1) nationhood was inseparable from political consciousness; (2) the nation and the nation-state being the international norm, ‘nation can now be imagined without linguistic homogeneity’; and (3) with the Swiss experience of nationhood (which was a latecomer post-dating 1891) in mind, with the age of nationalism as vernacularizing movements being over, nations and nationalism now could be conceived despite diversity and out of diversity, as a possibility (Anderson 1983: 123–6). Bhudev’s concept of jatiyabhav seemed to fulfil all the three traits mentioned above. And yet Bhudev’s originality lies more in conceiving of an Indian national identity that took into account all the communities: as a strategy, a political one
58 Bhattacharyya at that, of protecting the society from further divisive onslaughts by the colonial authorities, their ideologues and, more importantly, Western-educated new elites of India indifferent to India’s own traditions, resources and histories of mutual co-existence of communities, and its synthetic quintessentially plural identity. Although the above were indications of a threatened identity, or what Kinvall would call ‘insecure subjectivity’ in search of a securitized subjectivity or identity, as faced with an external challenge, Bhudev’s discursive interventions in the nationalist discourse and his articulation of an Indian identity in a mode of an ‘ontological security’ nonetheless did not exemplify any withdrawal syndrome. In the face of the very serious threat of westernization to Indian identity and culture, and the consequent cultural/epistemological domination of India by the West, he defended a plural Indian identity born of diversity, recognition and inclusion of the Muslims and other communities living in India including the converted Christians, and very selective acceptance of Western practices following an engaged dialogue with Western social and political theories, cultural values and practices. Bhudev’s was not a wholesale rejection of the West/the British because he learnt very well the essential message of the strength of the British: it is their sense of national unity born of their respect for their country, culture, rites and rituals and so on (‘Acharprabandha’ quoted in Ray Chaudhuri 1995: 50). Bhudev’s project of nationhood was a response to the search for an ‘ontological security’, to use Kinvall’s term, when faced with a global challenge to India’s identity from the West. The resolution of the problem for him resulted, however, in not the exclusion of the other communities in India, as it is done nowadays (Kinvall 2006), but their respectful inclusion in a newer articulation of national identity, which was composite, ethnically speaking, yet not religious or communal. This nationhood did not entail civic elements, more particularly in the shape of a state for the nation. Neither did it give priority to the state in matters of the nation. A critical traditionalism that informed his approach to intercommunity amity and nationhood for India is full of very original insights calling for further, fuller inquiry.
Notes 1 The author wishes to thank Professor Sudipta Kaviraj, currently Head of the Department of Indian Politics and Intellectual History, Columbia University, New York, for kindly reading an initial draft of this chapter and making suggestions for improvement. 2 See Mitra (1979); Ray Chaudhuri (1988); Kaviraj (1995b); Bhattacharyya (2007). 3 Bhudev himself protested against such understanding. ‘I am the last one to accept that Hinduism degenerated’, he is quoted as saying (Ray Chaudhuri, 1988: 46). 4 Although Bhudev’s project was a social or cultural one, for asserting social freedom rather than the political, for finding and examining the bases of unity in the social and cultural plane comprising a complex diversity, the very project of developing a sense of nationhood, and that, too, on the basis of all indigenous elements, itself was political, in intent and implications too, by virtue of being under colonial rule. In Bhudev’s period, the project of nation building, as Kalyan Bhattacharyya (2007) has pointed out, was undertaken within the framework of colonial rule, thereby decoupling the
Inclusion in nationhood 59
5 6 7
nation from the state and hence the right of self-determination. For Bhudev, there was an additional decoupling: ‘social freedom from the political’. For further details, see Bhattacharyya (2007: 30–45). This is an original treatise (in Bengali, paged 1–267) on social theory with immense political implications yet to be translated into other languages, most notably English. For an initial essay on the subject of nationhood, see Bhattacharyya (2007). Surprisingly enough, Bhudev’s approach to the Muslims, very liberal and radical, had, a century back, offered a rebuttal and an antidote to Huntington’s much propagated notion of the ‘clash of civilizations’ (1996). In later editions of Samajik Prabandha, Bhudev added further proofs of the many positive aspects of the Muslim rule in India. In one place he recognized that, going by the character of Muhammad and Ayesa or Ali and Fatema, it was certain that the Muslim civilization was higher too (1892: 275). Bhudev believed the Almighty had sent the Muslims to India to teach them that all men were equal (Ray Chaudhuri 1995: 53).
Bibliography Anderson, B. (1983/1991) Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London: Verso. Bhattacharyya, H. (1989) ‘The Emergence of Tripuri Nationalism, 1948–50’, South Asia Research, 9 (1–2): 54–72. Bhattacharyya, K. (2007) ‘Bhudev and Modernity: Nationalism and Beyond’ in H. Bhattacharyya and A. Ghosh (eds), Indian Political Thought and Movements: New Interpretations and Emerging Issues, Kolkata: K. P. Bagchi. Bhudev, M. (1892) Samajik Prabandha (Social Essays) (edited with an Introduction by Jahnabi Kumar Chakrabarty, 1981), Kolkata: West Bengal State Book Board (in Bengali). Brass, P. R. and Vanaik, A. (eds) (2002) Competing Nationalisms in South Asia, New Delhi: Orient Longman. Chatterjee, P. (1986) Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse, London: Zed Books. —— (1995) The Nation and its Fragments, Delhi: Oxford University Press. —— (2000) ‘Jatiyata’ (‘Nationality’) in P. Chatterjee (ed.), Itihasher Uttaradhikar (Inheritances of History), Kolkata: Ananda Publishers (in Bengali). Huntington, S. P. (1996) The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, London; Simon and Schuster. Illaiah, K. (1999) ‘Towards the Dalitization of the Nation’ in P. Chatterjee (ed.), Wages of Freedom: Fifty Years of the Indian Nation-State, Delhi: Oxford University Press. Kaviraj, S. (1995a) The Unhappy Consciousness: Bankim Chandra Chattapadhyay and the Construction of Nationalist Discourse in India, Delhi: Oxford University Press. —— (1995b) ‘The Reversal of Orientalism: Bhudev Mukhopadhyay and the Project of Indeginist Social Theory’ in V. Dalmia and H. Von Sticttencron (eds), Representing Hinduism: The Construction of Religious Traditions and National Identity, New Delhi: Sage Publications. Kinvall, C. (2006) Globalization and Religious Nationalism: The Search for Ontological Security, London: Routledge. Kohli, A. (ed.) (2001) The Success of India’s Democracy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
60 Bhattacharyya Mitra, A. (1979) ‘Bhudev Mukhopadhyay and the Beginning of Indian Sociology’ in A. K. Mukhopadhyay (ed.), The Bengal Intellectual Tradition, Calcutta: K. P. Bagchi. Pai, S. (2002) Dalit Assertion and the Unfinished Democratic Revolution: The Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi: Sage Publications. Pandian, M. S. S. (1999a) ‘Nation from its Margins: Notes on E. V. Ramaswamy’s “Impossible” Nation’, in R. Bhargava, A. Bagchi and R. Sudarshan (eds), Multiculturalism, Liberalism and Democracy, Delhi: Oxford University Press. —— (1999b) ‘Stepping Outside History? New Dalit Writings from Tamil Nadu’, in P. Chatterjee (ed.), Wages of Freedom, Delhi: Oxford University Press. Ray Chaudhuri, T. (1988) Europe Reconsidered: Perception of the West in Nineteenth Century Bengal, Mumbai: Oxford University Press. —— (1995) Europe Punordarshan (trans. Gitashree Bandopadhyay), Kolkata: Ananda Publishers (in Bengali). Sachar Committee (2006) Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India, New Delhi: Government of India. Vanaik, A. (1988) ‘Is There a Nationality Question’, Economic and Political Weekly, 22 (29 October 1988): 44.
5 Rabindranath’s concept of social exclusion and inclusion in India A nation without nationalism Jyotirmay Bhattacharyya
Introduction Social inclusion is a remedial as well as a positive strategy to situate individuals, groups or entire communities of people suffering from systematic social exclusion and marginalization in the mainstream of social processes, and to ensure for them equal access to all forms of rights, opportunities and resources. The problem of social exclusion is multidimensional, multilayered and dynamic in nature, and the degree of exclusion is relative to the society in question. India is traditionally projected as a land of ‘unity in diversity’. It is but an expression of pride for the genius of this vast country in holding together, in spite of tremendous historical vicissitudes, its innumerable diversities into one indivisible ‘Indian’ identity. But this eulogy, at the same time, conceals myriad forms of exclusion and marginalization, ranging from a unique caste system among the Hindus and the gap in Hindu–Muslim relations at the social level, on the one hand, to the exclusive processes operative in the political and the economic levels, on the other. These make problematic the building up of an inclusive civil society appropriate to a modern state. With the acumen expected of a social scientist, Rabindra Nath Tagore (1861– 1941) (henceforth Rabindranath) examined different forms of social exclusion in India and tried to find out the affirmative processes through which an inclusive social and national identity of India could be built up. The above have, however, escaped the attention of very limited social scientific scholarship on Tagore, in which, although Tagore’s views on nationalism have merited some critical discussion (Chakrabarti 1986; Nandy 1994), the exclusionary and inclusionary aspects of his concept of India’s national identity have remained neglected. The first part of this chapter explores the various aspects of Rabindranath’s understanding of different forms of social exclusion in India. In the second part, Tagore’s approach to social and political inclusion of various groups is discussed. Finally, in the concluding part, Tagore’s views of an Indian nation without nationalism are explored.
Exclusionary processes in India Rabindranath dealt with all the major forms of exclusionary processes operative in India in a socio-historical perspective and exposed their multidimensional and multilayered character. His personal stand on many of these exclusionary processes and the related problems of inclusion might have undergone radical changes over time, but his analyses were always incisive and unusually objective for a poet and an idealist. He gave special emphasis on the religious dimension of social exclusion and examined both its inter-religious and intra-religious aspects. His perception of gender exclusion represents the excellence of an amazingly dynamic mind. His depiction of the intensity and ramifications of the basic socioeconomic exclusion of the working class in the present capitalist civilization, whatever might be his prescription for remedy, represents a rare insight. Social exclusions in Hindu society As part of his general critique of all religious practices that inculcate narrowness and discrimination in the name of religion, Rabindranath takes on the Hindu religion and society, which, according to him, has successfully alienated those who are actually within itself and failed, at the same time, to incorporate others (RR 13: 362).1 Hindu society, according to Rabindranath, is divided into so many islands insulated from each other by a narrow sense of localism and driven by self-sufficient inertia. It is a vegetative society where narrowness, irrationality and the power of local folkways, local mores and local gods go on increasing, where peculiar practices and blind superstitions have created innumerable closed groups with the highway of general humanity closed before them. Suffering from parochialism, as it were, it lacks the liberty of thought, logical customs and the initiative to protect the general interest befitting a large country and a large society. In a word, it could not achieve the success of living in a wide world (RR 13: 31). In its caste regulations, says Rabindranath, India recognizes differences, but not the mutability that is the law of life. In trying to avoid collisions she set up boundaries of immovable walls, thus giving to her numerous races the negative benefit of peace and order but not the positive opportunity of expression and movement. Referring to the low-caste people, who are held to be low-born, he says that through the ages they have been deprived of social honour and the opportunity of higher education. It was inscribed in their mind that they are only the junior partners in the spheres of religion, work and knowledge. This belief has got hold of their self-consciousness as well. They felt so abashed about their own social position that use of force was unnecessary to keep them at a distance. As they had no independence of thought, they could not create anything substantial, they only produced; they could not drive, but could only carry. The society intended to keep them ignorant because knowledge allows one to know not only the external world but one’s own self as well. But what a great potential has thus been kept suppressed through the ages is amply proved by the religious leaders of the Middle Age, who far surpassed the higher castes in knowledge, performance
Rabindranath’s concept of social exclusion and inclusion in India 63 and character. Those who were hereditarily placed at the foot of the society transcended themselves to reach the top of it and became gurus (RR 13: 27). As a result of these exclusions, Rabindranath says, life departed from India’s social system. A world of cages that was created (i.e. the exclusionary social system) is made inert throughout by age-old customs and sacred commandments. Here, ‘what ought to be always follows what actually is’, and ‘only as much fluttering of wings is allowed as is possible within a cage and the unlimited sky outside is full of forbidding’ (RR 13: 217–18). This is nothing but the willing self-sacrifice of man at the altars of ‘religious touts and priests, or the pundits prescribing religious penances, or Shitala, Manasa, Olabibi, Dakshinroy, or the Saturn, the Mars, the Rahu and Ketu’ (RR 13: 235). Rabindranath says with unprecedented precision: The world that we live in is narrow and too familiar. All its affairs and inner currents have rotated year after year, generations after generations, in unchanging circles. The prejudices and superstitions of our life have accumulated solidly around them. The construction of our peculiar world has been completed by the hard bricks and stones of those prejudices and superstitions. (RR 13: 209) In the course of his efforts as a Zamindar to build up ideal villages, pulling together the efforts of his Hindu and Muslim subjects, he noticed such exclusiveness at the very root of the Hindu religion and Hindu society that any effort at public good was obstructed from within itself. Innumerable exclusive small communities, group affiliations, local, regional and provincial differences within Hindu society, he says, have raised such hard walls of mutual separation that they failed to unite even in the face of grave external attacks at different stages of the Indian history. Rabindranath, therefore, straightaway expressed his unwillingness to indulge any more in any self-annihilating and pleasant-sounding lie idealizing the Hindu society (Mukhopadhyay 1960, 2: 188). Religious exclusions The Muslims came to India from outside. So did the Christian English after them. Both these religions, according to Rabindranath, confront other religions with such militancy that there is no other way of uniting with them than by accepting their religion. One positive aspect of the Christians is that they are the carriers of modernism; their minds are not kept confined in the Middle Ages. It is also not a totalizing religion. It, therefore, does not barricade out the believers in other religions. European and Christian, he says, are not synonymous terms. There is no natural contradiction in one’s being a ‘European Buddhist’ or a ‘European Muslim’. But when a people is named after the religion it professes, religion becomes its only identity (RR 13: 356). The Muslims, Rabindranath says, entered our home, occupied it and shut the outer door. They did not make us expand our outlook to the outside world as the
64 Bhattacharyya English did. They could not come to us as widely and as deeply, did not hit our ossified mind as hardly as the modern English did, because they were also of the ancient Orient, they were also not modern; they also kept themselves confined in the past centuries. Their influence entered into the political processes, but its impact on our mental processes was not sufficiently powerful. Two age-old insulated civilizations stood side by side in India without looking at each other. Not that they did not interact, but it was minimal. The impact of sheer force on our country was tremendous, but it failed to enthuse our mind in any creative enterprise, in any new realm of thought (RR 13: 209–10). The result, as Rabindranath points out, has been that both the Hindus and the Muslims have demarcated their boundaries permanently and unchangeably in terms of their religion. It is their religion that has distinctly divided their human world into white and black – the We and the Others. Both Hindus and Muslims profess themselves to be religious at the core of their hearts. That is, for both, very little of their life is left outside religion. It is on account of this that they keep each other and also the rest of the world at a maximum possible distance. This wall of distance and division which they have built around themselves so securely has actually obstructed the humanistic development of their mind, which comes out of a true communion with all others. Religious divisiveness has constricted their attitude and alienated them from the endless manifestations of truth (RR 13: 316). Rabindranath called it a sheer self-delusion to assert that there were no sins in Hindu–Muslim relations, that it was the English who drove the wedge between them. The devil can enter only through a hole and, therefore, we should be more careful about the hole rather than the devil. Hindus, according to him, have failed to accept the Muslims from the core of their hearts. The two communities are not only separate; they have turned out to be opposed to each other (RR 12: 909). Making out the basic difference between two religions, Rabindranath says that, for the Hindus, it was not so much in their religious faith itself as in their religious practices, and, for the Muslims, not so much in religious practices as in the rigour of the religious faith itself. The closed door of one community confronts the open door of the other. There was no mutuality that could make unity possible. Practices, according to Rabindranath, form the bridge that connects, and no barrier to inter-human proximity is as solid and forbidding as that of considering those having different practices as impure. It is here that the Hindus have erected their own barriers. There was a time, he laments, when such different races as the Greeks, the Persians and the Shakas freely came to India and through intermingling formed one great Indian community. But that was before the dawn of the Hindu Age. Denigrating outright the Hindu Age as reactionary, Rabindranath points out that it is in this era that a forbidding structure of Brahmanism was solidly built up. (RR 13: 357). Apart from distancing the Muslims, the Brahmanic Hinduism with its rigid caste hierarchy and caste practices has not only created schisms within the Hindu community itself but also compelled a large portion of the low-caste and outcaste people to adopt Islam and thus inflate the Muslim community (RR 13: 224). After the advent of the English, while the Hindus took up in right earnest the education introduced by the English, the Muslim repugnance to it kept them
Rabindranath’s concept of social exclusion and inclusion in India 65 backward not only in education but also in other spheres of life. This relative backwardness and the discriminations they had to face for it, according to Rabindranath, created among the Muslims a sense of isolation that was fast turning into a strong grievance and a deeper sense of identity. If this new-found consciousness among the Muslims sometimes degenerated into communalism, then Rabindranath thinks it came mostly as a reaction to Hindu revivalism. When the Hindus began trumpeting their pride in Hinduism, Islam also reared its head. Now they want to be a big force as Muslims per se and not in unison with the Hindus (RR 13: 182–3). The Muslims, as a result, have come down to us as a numerical issue. In the sphere of the state they have created a problem of summation and deduction. That is, these numbers have given rise to a bizarre arithmetic of division rather than multiplication. They are very much there in the country, but in respect of national unity their very existence poses a problem graver than ever. The census of India has therefore turned to be a pathetic document with its huge numerical compilations (RR 13: 210). Gender-based exclusion One of the major forms of social exclusion in India is that of women, not only in the larger society outside their basic locus, the household, but also within the household itself. Rabindranath was seized with the issue from his early youth and, as in other spheres of his thought, his gender perception also underwent a qualitative transformation. While in Europe in his later teens, Rabindranath, in a series of letters to Bharati (RR 10: 275–322), expressed his views quite aggressively against male superiority and subordination of women in the hierarchical social and family structure in India. He particularly spoke of conjugal relations in which the right of the husband over his wife was absolute and the slavery of the wife was abysmal. But it was dressed up in an illusory image of beneficence and the women too lost themselves in this constructed image of them. But this youthful exuberance of Rabindranath under the sudden Western impact was followed by a period of cool conservatism when he tried to explain that the gender disparity was but the social expression of the essential natural distinction between man and woman. Women have a different locus of activity, he says, because they are by nature different from men both in body and mind (RR 11: 633–4). Whereas woman’s sphere of creation is the household, that of man is the outer world. It is in fulfilment of the intention of the organic nature (RR 10: 197). He also lamented that presently a section of women, in their penchant for revolt, refuse to accept this basic truth. Men, they claim, are forcing obedience on them in utter disregard of their nature, and it is nothing but slavery. But the truth is that woman is by nature a wife and a mother, and that does not mean slavery. She is affectionate to her child because she has affection; she serves her husband because she has love. There is no question of compulsion in it. It is in the nature of love to surrender and therein lies its glory. Whereas woman’s compulsion is love, that of man, according to Rabindranath, is power. And in this sphere, men,
66 Bhattacharyya the builders of civilization, are no less slaves to society, perhaps more than the women (RR 11: 633–4). But in his conceptual journey towards the religion of man, Rabindranath came to realize the essential human equality of the sexually different and designates gender inequality as a social construct. Rabindranath confessed that he was long of the opinion that deficiency in education and underdevelopment of mind was necessary for women so that they could perform their duties properly. Sluggish wings, no doubt, facilitate flying within a cage (RR 13: 26). But then he realized that man has severed her femininity from the total human being that she is, defined it as he desires it to be and inflated the difference out of all proportions to make her more covetable. Accordingly, the woman also has oriented herself as a woman per se, has become only an object of sensual pleasure at the cost of her value as a total human being. Reciting incantations, he said, man has established himself in the pulpit as a deity and reduced his wife to a sacred endowment. By virtue of his sole right to interpret the scriptures he has become both the deity and the priest made into one. Woman, as a result, has become incidental to man and a burden as well. Birth of a female child creates a crisis in the family, company of a woman is to be avoided during a tour, a wife without dowry has no value in the household, and even in spiritual pursuits she has no place. A woman has no right of her own, she is dependant on men. She has as much value as men may attach to her (RR 13: 22). Rabindranath made special mention of child marriage for a woman, to show how it is used as a means to block the awakening of her independent will. It minimizes the possibility of conflict between the individual and the society. But it does not recognize equal rights of man and woman. It serves the vested interest of a patriarchal society (RR 13: 219). Rabindranath’s depiction of the patriarchal nature of the present civilization gains extra poignancy when he said: the management of the civilization is in the hands of the males. It is they who built up its state-system, its economy and its social order. In this civilization, inclined on one side, the male, as a matter of right, has kept the beauty of the female heart and the service she can provide confined within his private enclosure under strong vigilance. It has everywhere been easy because the propensity to oblige is in the very nature of a woman. (RR 13: 377) Situated in the most narrow sphere of the household and bound by stiff norms, women emitted sounds and moved their hands and feet like mechanized dolls. They were made to know that ignorance and weakness were their ornaments. They were specially packaged as mother and housewife. Any demonstration of their special qualities as human beings, other than their constructed images, was either unrecognized or condemned (RR 13: 28). Pointing out this social exclusion of women as a great human and social loss, Rabindranath said the great power that is within a woman is being exhausted in her household duties, and the country, as a result, is getting poorer by losing the
Rabindranath’s concept of social exclusion and inclusion in India 67 benefit of the treasure of her mind as well as the service she could render (Roy 1985: 192). All works in all sections of the world, Rabindranath thought, need the participation of the special power of women. If expression of that power is obstructed, the world becomes poorer in ways we are not even aware of. If men and women were equal in all respects, the loss would have been only numerical, but as there are unique differences in the nature of women, restrictions imposed on that power has made the loss qualitatively deeper (RR 13: 25). Class-based exclusion Tagore’s analysis of the basic economic form of exclusion due to division of society into classes is very incisive too. Inequality, he said as early as 1914, is in the very nature of wealth. It is a thing that cannot be accumulated unless exploited out of others and protected from them. It is for this reason that the wealth-seeker creates poverty in his own interest. In the Indian caste idiom he designates this rule of wealth, that is, capitalism, as Vaisyarajaktantra, and points out its emergence out of feudalism and unfolds its exploitative character. He said: The flow of power has now changed its course and is moving away from the Kshatriya to the Vaisya coast. Man is being made an integral part of their business machine. Man’s hunger is producing the steam that drives that machine. The huge grinder of the labour process is turning everything in him except his labour power into dust. The more these working people are seething in anger, the more are they being fed with lullabies instead of food for their hunger; they are being duped with tiny morsels of this thing or that. (RR 13: 225) Referring to the alienation of labour to which this system of production gives rise, he said in his speech at Santiniketan on 19 November 1919, ‘Where there is no intimate relationship between the work and the worker, the labour there is alienated from its nature, and therein lies the slavery. This slavery is now a global phenomenon’ (RR 3: 39). His objective analysis of the socio-economic realities of modern civilization comes close to Karl Marx. In his Samabayniti (Principles of Cooperation) he describes capital as the material transformation of the ‘labour power’ (Rabindranath uses this term) of a large number of people, and defines exploitation as the accumulation of the same (RR 13: 421). The nature of exclusion and marginalization of the vast majority of people in a class-divided society gets most vivid and exquisite expression in Rabindranath’s first letters from Russia in 1930. He said: Throughout the ages civilized communities have contained groups of nameless people. They are the majority – the beasts of burden, who have no time to become men. They grow up on the leavings of society’s wealth, with the least food, least clothes and least education, and they serve the rest. They toil most, yet theirs is the largest measure of indignity. At the least excuse they
68 Bhattacharyya starve and are humiliated by their superiors. They are deprived of everything that makes life worth living. They are like a lamp stand bearing the lamp of civilization on their heads: the people above receive light while they are smeared with the trickling oil. (RR 10: 675) However, his class-cooperative solution of the problem, when not backed by any measure of land reforms, begged a lot of further questions, and seemed to reveal the inherent class limitations of the zamindar (landlord) Tagore (RR 13: 225, 435–6; 3: 39; 6: 363–418, 647–92; 1095–1120; 13: 343–50, 435–6).
Towards an inclusive nation The basic purpose of a society, according to Rabindranath, is to spread over the mutual differences a bonding layer of harmony (RR 13: 224). Inclusion, therefore, to him, means not obliterating all the differences and uniting, but uniting despite differences (RR 13: 183). To do away with all the differences is to do away with the life itself. Man’s constant endeavour should be to make the differences harmonious and his constant struggle should be against what is wrong within the difference itself. There is, he says, in every sphere of life some natural distinction between the ‘we’ and the ‘others’. But making too much of such a distinction is injurious. A Bushman indiscriminately kills by poisoned darts any stranger he confronts, who does not belong to his own tribe. The fact is that the Bushman has failed to acquire those human qualities that emerge out of a true communion with others and has, therefore, kept himself confined to utter barbarism. The less this sense of distinction in the psyche of a people, the greater is the humanitarian height they have achieved (RR 13: 316).
Hindu–Muslim unity The problematic of Hindu–Muslim unity in India, to Rabindranath, is one of forging a unity of the different. But hapless is a country that cannot unite the people on any criterion other than religion (RR 13: 363). Unfortunately in India, he says, our principal identities are that we are Hindus or Muslims. Instead of lessening the sense of difference, religion here has turned the differences into barriers and declared them to be eternal and beyond history (RR 13: 364). He finds no way to progress and meet with others if religion is made a grave to bury the entire people totally and permanently in the hoary past. The Hindus and the Muslims, he feels, both will have to come out of the boundaries they have so securely built around themselves. We will have to give up altogether the notion that the cage is larger than the wings that fly. As others have in other countries, we will also have no other way but to pull down our mental barricades and come out of the age of chrysalis to an age of winged flight (RR 13: 357). But this will not be possible if Hindus, first of all, cannot unite themselves. ‘If by the grace of God’, Rabindranath said,
Rabindranath’s concept of social exclusion and inclusion in India 69 the Hindus can get themselves united by overcoming all their internal divisions, then the unity of the Hindus and the Muslims will also not be surprising. They might fail to unite on the basis of religion, but will surely unite through popular integration. (RR 13: 67) The popular integration of which Rabindranath speaks is more than a mere marriage of convenience that may work for some time but is bound to fail as soon as the convenience changes its direction (RR 12: 911). He points out the Khilafat movement2 as such a marriage of convenience that failed utterly, as its bloody aftermath amply proved. As no real all-round unity could grow among the Hindus and the Muslims at the social level, efforts for forging unity in the political sphere came under suspicion and distrust. ‘We’, says Rabindranath, cannot discard this suspicion as baseless. Whenever we called on the Muslims we did that for their assistance in serving our own purpose and not as belonging to us. We did not consider them as our fellows, but only conceded to take them as incidental. The reason why the Muslims did not share the pains of the Bengal Partition of 1905 with the Hindus is that we never wanted to develop a heart-to-heart relation with them. (RR 13: 182) As an example of how grotesquely the social distance arising out of religious difference can express itself, Rabindranath cites an incident during the swadeshi movement in 1905,3 when a Hindu swadeshi, to avoid pollution while drinking a glass of water, asked his Muslim compatriot to get down from the terrace they were both standing on (RR 13: 182). It is not that harmful, he says, when in competing with others in the work field one insultingly pushes another out of the way (as the Muslims are being pushed back from schools and offices), but social insult cuts deep into the heart. If we cannot accept others as our brothers and intimates in social intercourse, any call for unity at the political level with widespread arms is sure to reduce itself to a mere dramatic posture and is destined to fail (RR 13: 223). Recounting the shock of his first experience as a Zamindar, Rabindranath says how in his Zamindari office the Hindu subjects were offered a seat on the mattress spread over a cot while the Muslim subjects had to sit at one corner of the same cot where the mattress was neatly folded off. ‘Then one day’, he says, we summoned them and said, we are brothers, you are to suffer with us, you also may have to go to prison and even die. Suddenly, look, wearing bright red religious headgear they declare that they are separate. Astonished, we implore, where lies the obstacle to our unity in the political sphere? It lies nowhere but in the gap of that folded mattress. (RR 13: 360)
70 Bhattacharyya Rabindranath, however, could not give his support when this sense of separate identity of the Muslims was expressed in their demand for Urdu as a national language. In an address sent for Bangiya Sahitya Sammelan at Suri in 1926 he says: Are they so different from the Hindu Bengalis, the Christian Bengalis, the Buddhist Bengalis that they are showing reluctance to call themselves Bengalis? They are Muslims and we are Bengalis – this happens to be a very popular usage in rural Bengal. (Mukhopadhyay 1960, 3: 337–8) If the Hindu–Muslim unity is not based on their mutual compatibility in social power, mere subjective solutions, according to Rabindranath, will always remain in jeopardy (RR 13: 318). It is in the interest of the Hindus that the Muslims should come up as equals in status, honour and education. For higher education for the Muslims, he thought it proper to sincerely support their demand for a separate university. But, ultimately, he found no other way to a real permanent solution than through economic initiatives. It is here that we have the same interest and we thrive through mutual exchange (Mukhopadhyay 1940, 13: 145–6). While in Soviet Russia in 1930, he particularly noticed how economic equality could overcome the religious differences. Rabindranath’s call to both the Hindus and the Muslims to come out of the age of chrysalis to an age of winged flight is actually a call towards an all-inclusive ideal of religion of man, in which the crux of religiosity lies in recognizing the value of man as a man (RR 13: 363). Equality is fundamental to the religion of man and that is the only religion that unites. If any particular religion attacks the religion of man, then therein lies the devil, the annihilator. Gender inclusion One of the important traits of this age, Rabindranath says, is that those who were so long left back in darkness are coming forward. This is as true for women as with the Sudras in the Hindu caste hierarchy. There is, according to him, difference in nature, but that does not mean marking out two different worlds for those who are different. Men and women belong to the same social sphere, but they act differently (RR 13: 25). A time has now come when women are demanding their recognition as complete persons and not merely as glorified mothers. In human society there is no wealth more precious than the spread of self-esteem. Humankind cannot be measured by numbers; the real measure lies in its completeness. In our own country too, when women, freed from artificial bondages, will be able to acquire the glory of complete persons, men will also find their own fulfilment (RR 13: 28). Woman, according to Rabindranath, is the primordial power, her basic nature is in conformity with her role as a housewife and a mother, and the credit of tying the first social knot of household as the basis of all civilizations goes to her. But with the change of time there has been such an expansion in the sphere of a
Rabindranath’s concept of social exclusion and inclusion in India 71 woman’s life that cultivation of intellect and knowledge has become absolutely necessary on her part. That the price of a woman is determined by the domestic market is no longer a totally valid assumption even in the marriage market. The mind of a modern woman is fast transcending domestic society to a world society. Now the door of the treasure trove has opened up. Women so long kept confined in the household are stepping out on the world stage every day. Now they will have to assume the responsibility of this huge household and, if they cannot do that, it is their shame, their failure. In the creation of a new civilization the efforts of women will undoubtedly have to be fully utilized. The women also will have to prove themselves equal to the situation. The question of the outcome will come later – there may not be any outcome at all – but the question of acquiring competence is the foremost one (RR 13: 378). But Rabindranath does not think that this can be done by women forcing themselves into the position of men. This is possible only if a woman can play her role equally with a man in every sphere of life. One hopes that the want of balance and harmony in this patriarchal civilization will move towards equality For this women need more than mere instinct or unlearnt skill to assure their own position. To be a woman with all her powers, she needs full development of all her human capabilities (RR 13: 26). As the woman in his poem Sabala (RR 2: 783–4) demands, she must have the right to win her own fortune, find out her own way of fulfilment independently and courageously; she must not enter the bride-chamber as a bride wearing jingling ornaments, but with the fearless strength of love she will accept the wedding garland from the hands of a valiant hero, shaking off the cover of weak bashfulness. Incidentally, Rabindranath welcomes the birth control movement not only because it will save women from enforced and undesirable maternity, but because it will help the cause of peace by lessening the number of surplus population of a country scrambling for food and space outside its own rightful limits (Roy 1985: 223).
Conclusion: a nation without nationalism According to the Western archetype nationalism was the guiding spirit of a people in transforming itself from a nationality to a nation and then forming a nationstate. In socio-economic terms, it was at the same time a process of undoing the feudal order by a rising bourgeoisie to take control of state power as well as the home market, both defined territorially. The national machinery of commerce and politics, Rabindranath says in his Nationalism in the West (Das 1996: 456, 552–6), turns out neatly compressed bales of humanity, which have their use and high market value; but they are bound in iron hoops, labelled and separated off with scientific care and precision. Whereas society, according to him, is a spontaneous self-expression of man as a social being and a natural regulation of human relationships, nation is a mechanical organization of a whole people for political and economic purposes. In it the personal man, the moral man, the complete man gives way to the political and the commercial man – the soulless, impersonal,
72 Bhattacharyya self-seeking, greedy and fearful man. Nation is, therefore, the organized selfinterest of a whole people, a complete welding of the people into one uniform mass. It is an organization of power, a cult of self-worship and by its very nature terribly exclusive. Nationalism is used as a powerful anaesthetic. Pride in one’s own nation constructs a barrier of insolence around oneself. The spirit of conflict and conquest is at its origin and centre. As a brotherhood of hooliganism it ensues an endless bullfight of politics. It gloats over the feebleness of its neighbours. Nation can trust nation only where their interests coalesce, or at least do not conflict. Nation is, therefore, the greatest evil for nation, and nationalism is a great menace. Calling the Western system a state-centric system (rashtratantra) in which state is the total entity, Rabindranath distinguishes the traditional Indian system as society-centric (samajtantra), in which the country protected itself by the collective strength of the society and the king was only a part of it, just like the crown on a head (RR 13: 373). India, he says in Nationalism in the West, suffers from a looseness of its diversity and feebleness of the unity. This diversity was not of her own creation. Races ethnologically different have come into this country and it had to accept them. The spirit of toleration has acted all through its history. India’s difficulties being internal, its history has thus been the history of continued social adjustment and not that of organized power for defence and aggression. She had never had a real sense of nationalism, which through state formation inevitably turns into an exclusivist and confrontationist pride in one’s own nation. What, then, should be the state form of India? It should be, says Rabindranath, not the construction of a sublime seat of state power (rashtrik mahasan) as in a nation in the West, but the creation of a state form appropriate for a composite nation (rashtrik mahajati) (RR 13: 363). Vis-à-vis the West, he says, the process of nation formation in India has taken a reverse course. Following a lot of warfare and bloodshed the nations in the West were formed with a homogeneous (sabarna) population. It was easy for them to forget the exclusions and antagonisms they had to suffer previously. But the Hindu civilization went through wars and conflicts in forming a nation out of a people that is extremely heterogeneous (asabarna) in character. It was, therefore, not easy for them to forget the social exclusion that they had to suffer right from the age of the Aryans (RR 12: 679). The heterogeneity of the Indians is in language, religion and innumerable variations in folkways and mores. The basic division of the population being between the Hindus and the Muslims, the formation of the Indian nation, of course a composite nation, is not possible without full-fledged political inclusion of the Muslims in it. ‘If a nation’, Rabindranath says, ‘called the Indian nation has to take its form, it cannot be possible by leaving out the Muslims’ (RR 13: 67). And the inclusion of the Muslims in the Indian nation has to be made not as a separate religious category, but as an integral part of the mahajati that is India. Englishmen, he points out, call themselves English. If they had called themselves Christian then mutual conflicts among Buddhist, Muslim and atheist Englishmen would have made the state formation problematic. It is for this reason that the history of France, Soviet Russia, Spain and Mexico has shown again and again that,
Rabindranath’s concept of social exclusion and inclusion in India 73 whenever a great nation staged a revolution in quest for a new life, it gave vent to a vigorous anti-religious feeling. The new Turkey under Kamal Atatürk did not abolish religion, but forcefully reduced its hold over the people (RR 13: 364). Just as in his transcendence of a denominational allegiance to the concept of religion of man, Rabindranath reached his internationalist worldview through a critique of nationalism and its manifestations both in his personal life and on the world stage. As to his personal life, Rabindranath states in his Nationalism in India, ‘Even though from my childhood I had been taught that the idolatry of Nationalism is almost better than reverence for God and humanity, I believe I have outgrown that teaching’ (Das 1996: 456). His widening contacts at home and abroad and an intensive analysis of the political economic processes operative throughout the world raised his understanding to a qualitatively new height. In the second and the third decades of the twentieth century, the political atmosphere of India was charged with the nationalist emotion for self-determination. In the international arena, on the other hand, the nationalist states were madly engaged in grabbing other countries, expanding imperialist holds and making a world war inevitable for dividing the world among themselves. Rabindranath not only identified all these manifestations of nationalism but also showed remarkable insight in finding out the logic of capitalism operating behind them. As far back as in 1914, he had pointed out that commerce was no longer commerce per se; the flow of commerce and the flow of occupation armies had already coalesced together in a marriage of love giving rise to imperialism. Germany, a late runner on the capitalist path, was going to have its own share by forcing a war for redivision of the world. Standing face to face with this tremendous prowess of nationalism both at home and abroad, in a series of lectures abroad during the First World War, Rabindranath showed enough courage to reject this doctrine of national exclusivism altogether and uphold the all-inclusive spirit of internationalism. Mutual interdependence, according to Rabindranath, is the religion of man (RR 13: 332), and the freedom for which man struggles is not only political freedom, but freedom from all bondages. True to what the concept of social inclusion actually suggests, Rabindranath’s idea of an inclusive humanity has to be achieved through a process of adjustment and not of antagonism. Cooperation, he says, is at the very root of sociality and it is not instinctive as among the animal herds, but conscious and creative, that is, based on mutuality, empathy, unity and assimilation. Harmony is the basis of society. There is, of course, conflict also in the organic nature of man. But the sacred endeavour of being a man is the endeavour to transcend it (RR 13: 416). It applies equally to the process of political inclusion. At the national level it must be through inter-class cooperation instead of class struggle and of establishment of equality by force. At the international level as well it must not be through aggressive conflict among nations, but through reconciliation and amicable settlement. Politics will be a great sphere of endeavour for truth, he says, only when man will clearly understand that the interest of every nation can really be served through a cooperative union of all the nations (RR 13: 332).
Notes 1 RR refers to Tagore (1961). Various volumes are used, indicated in the text by ‘RR’ followed by the volume number. Also, except Raktakarabi (the play), and a few poems, this chapter has used mostly Tagore’s essays. The author has translated them into English. Full references to the essays are given in the Bibliography. 2 The Khilafat movement was a pan-Islamic movement led by the brothers Shaukat and Muhammad Ali in the post-First World War period, after the victorious Allies in the War had decided to dismember the Ottoman Empire of the Caliph (khalifah) of Turkey. In defence of the Caliph, Mahatma Gandhi, as the supreme leader of the Indian National Congress, extended support to this movement, and gained a considerable Muslim mass following. 3 The Swadeshi movement in Bengal in 1905–8 was a powerful nationalist mobilization in Bengal launched in order to undo the Partition of Bengal by the British colonial authorities along communal lines, which had created two provinces out of united Bengal, one dominated by the Muslims and the other by the Hindus.
Bibliography Chakrabarti, R. (1986) ‘Tagore: Politics and Beyond’, in T. Pantham and K. Deutsch (eds), Political Thought in Modern India, New Delhi: Sage Publications. Das, S. K. (ed.) (1996) The English Writings of Rabindra Nath Tagore, vol. 2, New Delhi: Sahitya Academy. Mukhopadhyay, P. K. (1960) Rabindra Jibani (A Biography of Rabindra Natha Tagore) , 7 vols, Calcutta: Viswa-Bharati (in Bengali). Nandy, A. (1994) The Illegitimacy of Nationalism: Rabindra Nath and the Politics of Self, Delhi: Oxford University Press. Roy, S. N. (1985) Rabindra Rachana Sankalan (A Selection of Writings of Tagore), Kolkata: Granthalay (in Bengali). Tagore, R. (1961) Rabindra Rachanabali (Collected Works of Rabindra Nath Tagore) (Centenary Edition), Kolkata: Government of West Bengal (in Bengali). The following are the essays of Tagore in Bengali used in the text: ‘Swamai Sraddhananda’ in RR 13; ‘Hindu Aikya’ in RR 13; ‘Narir Manushyatwa’ in RR 13; ‘Kalantar’ in RR 13; ‘Bibechana o Abibechana’ in RR 13; ‘Kartar Ichchay Karma’ in RR 13; ‘Hindu-Musalman’ in RR 13; ‘Samasya’ in RR 13; ‘Byadhi o Pratikar’ in RR 12; ‘Lokohit’ in RR 13; ‘Hindu Viswavidyalay’ in RR 13; ‘Europe Prabasir Patra’ in RR 10; ‘Strisiksha’ in RR 11; ‘Europe Yatrir Diary’ in RR 10; ‘Nari’ in RR 13; ‘Nariprasanga’ in Roy (1985); ‘Samabayniti’ in RR 13;
Rabindranath’s concept of social exclusion and inclusion in India 75 ‘Kot ba chapkan’ in RR 13; ‘Achalayatan’ in RR 6; ‘Raktakarabi’ in RR 6; ‘Rayater Katha’ in RR 13; ‘Bharatavarshiya Samaj’ in RR 12; ‘Larier Mul’ in RR 13; ‘Charka’ in RR 13; ‘Rabindranather Rajnaitik Mat’ in RR 13.
6 Identity and social exclusion in India A Muslim perspective Asghar Ali Engineer
In multireligious, multicultural democracies the problems of identity and social exclusion–inclusion become extremely important. Under authoritarian societies, owing to suppression, the problem of exclusion remains hidden and does not surface until it is gravely aggravated. But in a democratic society, being open and based on rights, the question of identity and social exclusion and inclusion becomes very important and even determines its very dynamics. A vibrant democratic society always remains sensitive to the question of exclusion of any section of society. For social exclusion several factors play their role. A caste hierarchy can account for neglect of those at the bottom; a class society may ignore those who belong to lower classes. A multireligious society may work against those belonging to religious minorities and multiethnic or multicultural societies may marginalize ethnicities that do not constitute the core culture or ethnicity. In economically backward and underdeveloped countries the problem of exclusion becomes much more acute in view of scarce resources. Even in advanced economies, such as those of Western countries, exclusion on the basis of both race and class is a well-known phenomenon. The African Americans in the USA are victims of racial prejudice even today and incidence of poverty among them continues to be very high. The USA is not only a highly developed country but also economically most advanced. It has highly developed democratic institutions. Yet it cannot claim total inclusion of all sections of society. The white majority monopolizes a major chunk of all resources. The Western countries were monoreligious and monocultural for centuries. The very concepts of pluralism and multiculturalism were unknown among them. The term ‘multiculturalism’ was coined by Western social scientists only in the postcolonial era when large numbers of workers from ex-colonies began to migrate to metropolitan countries. The Western countries such as the UK, France, Germany, Sweden and Holland became multicultural as migrants were from African and Asian countries. Another term coined was ‘pluralism’, which signified the multireligious and multicultural nature of these post-colonial Western countries. After the Second World War there was great demand for workers in these European countries to
Identity and social exclusion in India 77 meet requirement for human resources, as large numbers of Europeans had been killed in the war, resulting in a shortage of human power, and reconstruction of economies needed more and more human power. However, later on children of these migrant workers were born and educated in these metropolitan countries and became their natural citizens with awareness of their rights and privileges. They began to demand equal rights and equal job opportunities, though not an equal share in power as they were mostly tiny minorities. This resulted in racial tension, particularly in the UK, France and Germany. These countries continue to experience these racial and cultural conflicts and the question of exclusion and inclusion has become very important. In France there was a youth uprising in 2006 and the violence, including burning cars and stoning police, went on for several weeks and the police found it very challenging to control it. The sociologists pointed out that the reason for this violence by the young people was their marginalization, high rates of unemployment among them or generally getting low-paid jobs that other French people refused to take up. These young African Muslims were mostly born in France though their parents had migrated from Algeria, Morocco etc. The government had to announce a series of measures to contain this conflict. Though these measures were far from satisfactory, they gave them some sense of inclusion and the violence abated. The bombings on 7 July 2005 on the London underground were also explained by many scholars in the light of the marginalization of these young British Asians in the UK, though that was not the only reason. Brainwashing such marginalized people becomes much easier. They are made to see the white majority as the ‘enemy’ and unacceptable other. They also become enemies to the faith and killing them is justified. Thus there are very complex factors involved in terrorism and terrorist acts. Whenever such acts of terrorism take place the Western leaders (most prominently the former US President George W. Bush and the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair) have stated that ‘our values, our freedom, our democracy’ are at stake. After 11 September 2001, President Bush said that the terrorists ‘hate us, hate our freedom and democracy’. After 7 July 2005, Blair also used similar language. The obvious assumption is that we Westerners have universal values such as freedom and democracy and those Afro-Asians hold authoritarianism dear and reject concepts of freedom and democracy. Thus, though Western social scientists did coin terms such as multiculturalism and religious pluralism, Westerners as a whole have hardly imbibed these concepts or, though people accept them mentally, these concepts have not touched their hearts and souls. Thus in Western societies the problem of exclusion of primordial identity-based minorities is very deep rooted and will not go away easily. Many Indians have richly contributed to economies and services in the UK, the USA and Canada, yet they are victims of social prejudices. They are still far away from being fully integrated in social, cultural and economic senses. They are full citizens of these Western countries yet they experience social and cultural exclusion. Racial prejudices still continue to be powerful barriers to full integration in Western societies.
78 Ali Engineer Thus it will be seen that social exclusion plays an important role universally. In most countries religious and cultural minorities are experiencing social exclusion. One can say social exclusion is to some extent natural (though it should not be) as cultural and religious minorities are migrants from outside and these migrations are just half a century old. These migrations began just after the Second World War. It will take a long time for these minorities to become completely naturalized. In the case of India and other Asian countries it is not so. The Asian countries in general and India in particular have always been multicultural, multireligious and multiethnic. India has been bewilderingly diverse in this sense for thousands of years. Be they Buddhists, Jains, Christians or Muslims, they have co-existed in this country and have not, unlike Western countries, migrated from outside. The Muslims who came as invaders, or as their companions, from Central or Western Asia centuries back have long become an integral part of this country and totally forgotten their foreign identity. No Muslim in India has any awareness of his foreign origin nor does he try to trace his ancestry to outsiders, be they Syeds, Sheikhs or Pathans (higher social ranks among the Muslims). Those who came from outside centuries ago are a small minority; the overwhelming majority of Muslims converted from Indian stock and belong to lower castes. The Christians too are not of foreign origin and they are also mostly converts from either low-caste Hindus or tribals. The Christians of foreign origin never settled down in India. They kept their distance from Christians of local origin. The Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs are, of course, all of Indian origin. Yet the question of exclusion remains important for all minorities but much more so for Christians and Muslims. Christians are a small minority whereas Muslims are a very large minority and hence their exclusion from social, cultural, economic and political processes poses much greater problems. Democratic processes create greater awareness among people and, the greater the awareness, the greater will become the nature of the problem. Also after independence modern secular education has spread much faster than before and, though the level of education among Muslims is lower than average, it has increased considerably. Education certainly increases awareness, and increased awareness about social, economic or political exclusion creates greater challenges for political management.
Socio-political exclusion and the Partition of India Our country saw the tragedy of the Partition at the time of independence. This Partition was also a direct result of a sense of socio-political exclusion and fear of further exclusion in a united independent India on the part of the educated Muslim elite. The British colonial rule provided opportunities for more education, particularly to the scions of jagirdars (feudal lords) and it was these educated elite Muslims who headed the Partition movement. It is interesting to note that the Muslim Ulama who had their roots among poor and illiterate masses never provided any leadership to the Partition movement.
Identity and social exclusion in India 79 On the contrary, they vehemently opposed it. The Jami’at-ul-Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) remained a staunch ally of the Indian National Congress and even accepted the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and opposed the two-nation theory of M. A. Jinnah, the supreme leader of the Pakistan movement. Maulana Husain Ahmed Madani, then chief of JUH, wrote a book Muttahida Qaumiyyat aur Islam (Composite Nationalism and Islam) and exposed the fallacies of the two-nation theory.1 Thus the Partition was the direct result of the sense of exclusion from a share in economic and political power among the educated elite, and Jinnah, a Western-educated Muslim and a trained lawyer from England, rather than any religious leader, provided both theoretical and political leadership to the Pakistan movement. The Ulama, on the other hand, led by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani, opposed Partition vehemently, putting full faith in the programme of the Indian National Congress and its secular philosophy. No doubt, the Constitution of India promulgated on 26 January 1950 fulfilled the promise the Congress leaders made to minorities. The constitutional philosophy is all inclusive. Even Scheduled Castes and Tribes were given reservations. But the constitutional spirit was one thing; its actualization was a different matter. In practice there was not only non-fulfilment of constitutional promise but downright neglect of minorities, especially the Muslims. So, it is seen from Table 6.1 that the proportion of graduates from the Muslims of various age groups taken together falls even below the OBCs and other minorities. The Christians and the Muslims, particularly the Muslims, suffer from a double disadvantage: they are converts from low-caste Hindus and traditionally low-caste Hindus suffered from total exclusion; and the Christians and the Muslims also became victims of religious prejudices, thanks to communal propaganda. Thus the Christians and the Muslims have been doubly excluded from socio-economic and political processes. For 40 years the Congress wielded power at the centre and also in many states but, despite its pro-minority sympathy and commitment to secularism, Muslims were subjected to deliberate neglect. Undoubtedly the Congress propounded a secular ideology but it could not even provide security of life and property to Table 6.1 Educational backwardness among the Muslims in India: graduates as proportion of population by age groups, all India (2004–5) Hindus
20–30 years 30–40 years 40–50 years 51 years and above Total
18.6 16.8 14.6 9.8
6.5 4.6 3.2 1.9
3.3 2.3 1.5 0.9
4.5 3.3 2.8 2.1
11.6 9.2 8.1 5.7
Source: Estimated from NSSO (2004–5) 61st, Round, SCH, 10, and Sachar Committee (2006: 67).
80 Ali Engineer Muslims, let alone ensure their due participation in economic development and educational achievements. A series of communal riots started from Jabalpur in 1961 onwards and the decade of the 1980s was full of communal violence from Moradabad in 1980 to the Mumbai riots of 1992–3. In between, many major riots took place in Biharsharif, Meerut, Baroda, Neli (Assam), Bhivandi-Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Meerut (again, in 1987) and Bhagalpore. There were 300 riots when Mr L. K. Advani took out Rathyatra (which The Times of India described as bloodyatra). Thus the whole 1980s was a bloody decade and the Muslims began to feel terribly insecure.2 In post-Partition riots more than 35,000 lives were lost and properties worth thousands of millions of rupees destroyed. The Congress swore by secularism but could not effectively provide protection to Muslims from communal violence. Let alone inclusion of Muslims in economic development, the government could not even provide security of life to them. Also, communal forces of Sangh Parivar, a political and militant outfit of the Hindu Right in India, continued to question the loyalty of Muslims on one hand, and accused the Congress of ‘appeasement of Muslims’ on the other. This was the most ridiculous of all communal propaganda. The Muslim minority was continually falling behind in both economic and educational fields and yet the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main political expression and the party of the Hindu Right in India, launched an aggressive propaganda offensive about appeasement of Muslims. Nothing could be more absurd! The Muslims were very backward, falling behind Dalits, who at least benefited to some extent from the reservation policy; the Muslims could not even avail themselves of reservation. They did take advantage of reservation in educational institutions in some southern states such as Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, which is why the educational status of Muslims in these states is far better than that of Muslims in the north. The Muslims, generally being converts from low-caste Hindus, continued to follow those caste-based professions such as weavers (a large number of Muslims in India are weavers), dyers, bangle-makers, Malis, faqirs, lalbegis, grave diggers, carders and dhobis. They are naturally mostly self-employed. The Muslims comprise as many as 92.1 per cent of those employed in the informal sectors. (This contrasts sharply with only 7.9 per cent in the formal sector.) These artisans and manual workers are also facing an acute crisis due to liberalization and globalization. The Government of India’s Gopal Singh Commission report in the early 1980s and the Sachar Committee report in 2006 have provided a wealth of data on economic and educational status of Indian Muslims to show the backwardness of Muslims in socio-economic status. Both these reports bring out vividly the exclusion of Muslims in these fields. In the political field too Muslims have never got representation in proportion to their share in population. The number of MPs did not even reach 10 per cent in any elected parliament. It is even worse when it comes to state assemblies. In the BJP-ruled state of Madhya Pradesh there is a single Member of the Legislative Assembly, although Muslims constitute about 7
Identity and social exclusion in India 81 per cent of the population in the state. This speaks volumes about the exclusion of Muslims even from political power (Table 6.2). The Gopal Singh Commission report was put in cold storage and was not even tabled in Parliament. When Mr V. P. Singh became the Prime Minister of India and convened a meeting of Muslim leaders and intellectuals, I asked him about implementation of the Gopal Singh Commission report. He, to my shock, was not even aware of any such a report! He promised, however, to table it in Parliament and he seemed to be sincere about it but his government fell before he could table it. It was quietly forgotten during the period of Mr Narsimha Rao’s (Congress Party-led) government (1991–6). It was never tabled. One could not expect it to be tabled during the BJP-led NDA government (1999–2004). When the Congress Party-led UPA government came to power in 2004 it promised to take concrete steps for welfare of minorities and the Sachar Committee was appointed. The Committee has done its work painstakingly and submitted its report but the big question is whether this time it would be implemented or not. The Muslim leadership at various levels held seminars, meetings and demonstrations for the implementation of the Sachar Committee report. The Prime Minster, Mr Manmohan Singh, has also given assurances about its implementation. But no concrete steps have been announced so far. Maybe these steps will be announced nearer the 2009 elections as a political sop!
Table 6.2 Percentage of Muslim Members in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha (lower and upper houses of Indian Parliament)
No. of Muslims in Lok Sabha
Total no. of MPs Percentage Year
No. of Muslims in Rajya Sabha
Total no. of MPs
1952 1957 1962 1967 1971/2 1977 1980 1982
22 26 23 30 30 32 47 46
499 499 496 520 520 544 531 554
4.4 5.2 4.6 5.8 5.8 5.9 8.9 8.5
1952 1958 1964 1970 1976 1982 1988 n/a
n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 27 22 n/a
n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 233 n/a n/a
n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 11.59 9.44 n/a
1989 1991 1994 1998 2000
32 27 27 29 32
531 533 544 545 545
6.0 5.1 4.9 5.3 5.9
2000 n/a n/a n/a n/a
26 n/a n/a n/a n/a
n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
10.73 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Source: Muslim India 2000.
82 Ali Engineer It is because of this exclusion of certain castes and communities that identity becomes such an important player in democratic politics. Among religious communities there is the question of exclusion of Christians and Muslims, particularly Muslims; among caste communities there is exclusion of Dalits and backwards; and among regional communities there is exclusion of certain regions, such as the North-East. The Muslims suffer from a high degree of exclusion, evident in their low percentage of employment in National Security Agencies, the government sector and the All India Services (higher level civil administration of the country) (Tables 6.3–6.5). Table 6.3 Share of employment in national security agencies (total number of employees 519,008) Hindus Category Higher positions Lower positions Group A Group B Group C Group D Others
SCS/STS Other Hindus
1.3 2.6 91.5 4.2 0.4
86.0 88.2 88.7 89.3 85.3
11.9 11.6 23.8 36.8 24.2
74.1 76.6 64.9 52.5 61.1
3.1 (23.1) 3.9 (29.1) 4.6 (34.3) 4.3 (32.1) 3.3 (24.6)
10.9 7.9 6.7 6.4 11.3
Source: Sachar Committee (2006: 369).
Table 6.4 Muslim employees in government sector employment Depts/institutions reporting State-level departments Railways Banks and RBI Security agencies Postal service Universities All reported government employment Central PSUS State PSUS All PSUS
Muslims as Reported number of Reported number of percentage of employees Muslim employees reported employees 4,452,851
1,418,747 680,833 1,879,134 275,841 137,263 8,844,669
64,066 15,030 60,517 13,759 6,416 438,173
4.5 2.2 3.2 5.0 4.7 4.9
687,512 745,271 1,432,783
22,387 80,661 103,048
3.3 10.8 7.2
Source: Sachar Committee (2006: 165).
Identity and social exclusion in India 83 Table 6.5 Share of Muslims in all India civil services (2006)
Service Civil service officers (IAS, IFS, IPS) Direct recruitment through competitive examination Promoted from state service Indian Administrative Service Direct recruitment through competitive examination Promoted from state service Indian Foreign Service Direct recruitment Grade of IFS (B) personnel Indian Police Service Direct recruitment through competitive examination Promoted from state service
No. of Muslim officers
Muslims as percentage of total
2,367 4,790 3,542
130 142 80
5.5 3.0 2.3
6 4 0
1,248 828 621 207 3,209 2,297
62 15 12 3 128 63
5.0 1.8 1.9 1.4 4.0 2.7
4 0 0 0 6 4
Source: IAS Civil List (2006); Indian Police Service Civil List (2006); Indian Foreign Service Civil List (2006); Sachar Committee (2006: 166).
The excluded communities mobilize their respective identities to put pressure on the system. Immediately after Independence many people felt that we should emphasize only one identity, the national identity, and all other identities should be de-emphasized, if not forgotten. But it was mere idealistic talk. As long as there is exclusion of some, identities will come into play. Both Muslim and Dalit identities played a very powerful role in pre-Independence days, when Jinnah mobilized the Muslims and Dr B. R. Ambedkar mobilized the Dalit identity. Whereas Ambedkar could win reservations by way of the Poona Pact in 1935, there was no such luck for the Muslim separatist movement and our country fell apart before Independence. Thus in a democratic society identities can play a constructive and creative as well as a destructive role. If corrective steps are not taken in time to do away with exclusion, identity mobilization is the only alternative left. Injustices leading to exclusion can be fought only by appeal to the concerned identity. One cannot talk of only national identity unless national policies are inclusive of all sections of society contained in the nation. Thus in today’s India we cannot expect a cohesive nation to emerge when those who monopolize all resources go on talking of national identity without any concern for those who are left out. In the political field even upper castes are mobilizing people of their caste on the basis of caste identity. Identity has become a potential weapon in the hands of politicians today. The whole of politics in the first past the poll parliamentary system is based unabashedly on caste and communal identities without even any
84 Ali Engineer honourable exception. Miss Mayavati (of the Bahujan Samaj Party) in UP came to power by first invoking the Dalit identity and raising abusive slogans such as tilak tarazu talwar (i.e., symbolizing brahmins, banya and rajput) and inko maro jute char (beat them with shoes and slap them), and then subsequently by raising placating slogans for these upper castes (hathi nahin ganesh hai). Ideally speaking, the question of exclusion should not have arisen but thanks to it these identities are playing a powerful role in our political system. Not only is it impossible to do away with reservations for jobs for excluded sections, but more and more categories will have to be included and there is even talk of including the private sector in reservation of jobs. It may not be possible immediately but either the private sector will have to come forward voluntarily with some scheme to include these low castes and tribes in offering jobs or the government may have to take steps. Of course Muslims have no chance of being included in reservation but some sections of the Muslim community – the most backward castes or Dalits among them (about 4 per cent; Sachar Committee 2006) – may have to be offered reservation. The Sachar Committee has recommended this measure too. All parties are based on vote banks of their own or coalitions of certain castes and communities. This is essential in a way for correcting historical injustices as far as low-caste and backward religious communities are concerned. The Muslims are now being wooed by several caste and regional parties. Both RJD in Bihar and SP and BSP in UP have tried to attract Muslims along with Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Dalits. Still Muslims have not got much out of it as far as economic inclusion is concerned but they have at least gained security of life and property to some extent. Thus it will be seen that exclusion and inclusion in our complex diverse society will continue to play an important role in the political dynamics of our country. Total exclusion of any caste or community can prove disastrous for our democratic polity. Political wisdom demands that our politicians should take steps for gradual inclusion of all backward sections of our society. Even incremental inclusion will greatly help in stabilizing our polity.
Notes 1 Madani (1879–1957) originated from Uttar Pradesh, India, and had a Deband schooling; he was a President of JUH for 17 years (1940–57). A great nationalist and a freedom fighter, he argued in this book (which contains his letters and speeches from the 1920s) against the two-nation theory, and pointed out the divisive policy of Jinnah and the Muslim League. Dealing basically with two essential words, namely qaum and millat, drawing on the holy Koran and the Hadith tradition, the book argues that, despite many social and cultural differences, the people of India are but one nation. Madani also pointed out that this divisive policy was a ‘ploy of the ruling power’. Chapter 20 of the book, titled ‘It is possible for an individual and a nation to have different identities’, is indication of the radical yet accommodative approach of Madani. (The book was first published in 1938 and has been reissued in 2006 as a paperback edition.)
Identity and social exclusion in India 85 2 I have written extensively on communal riots in the post-independence period, and also edited volumes on the subject. See, for instance, Engineer (1984), which contains some 23 essays on the subject. The Union Home Ministry annually reports on such violent incidents in their volumes titled ‘Crime in India’.
Bibliography Engineer, A. A. (ed.) (1984) Communal Riots in Post-Independence India, London: Sangam Books. IAS Civil List (2006) New Delhi: Ministry of Public Grievances and Pensions, Government of India. Indian Foreign Service Civil List (2006) New Delhi: Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. Indian Police Service Civil List (2006) New Delhi: Ministry of Home Affairs. Madani, Shaykat M. H. A. (1938/2006) Composite Nationalism and Islam (with an Introduction by Barbara Metcalf), New Delhi: Monohar. NSSO (National Sample Survey Organization) (2004–5) Sachar Committee (2006) Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India, New Delhi: Government of India.
7 Inclusive and exclusive development in India in the post-reform era Pravat Kumar Kuri
Introduction Social exclusion is a process in which individuals or groups are wholly or partially excluded from full participation in the society in which they live. Most generally, it may denote three characteristics of members of a society at large: their inability to participate effectively in economic, social, political and cultural life; their alienation from the so-called mainstream society; and their isolation from major societal mechanisms which produce or distribute social resources. Centrally, the term ‘exclusion’ has conceptual connections with the notions of marginalization, discrimination and deprivation. Economic exclusion is measured through poverty, income disparity, wage differentials, and access and control over productive resources. Social/cultural exclusion centres on caste hierarchies, ethnicity, religion, class stratification etc. Social exclusion analysis focuses on the lives and intrinsic human rights of the poor, not just their lack of income. It is concerned with the central role of imbalanced social relations and exclusion of certain groups (Sen 1999). Development strategy and institutions have important bearings on economic growth and on the process of social inclusion/exclusion. The new development initiatives under the human development paradigm suggest that economic growth should be pro-poor; budgets must adequately support primal human concerns; the political space should be expanded to ensure appropriate participation; environmental resources and ‘social capital’ of poor communities should be protected; all forms of discrimination should be removed and human rights should be secured in law (UNDP 2000a). The central message that it conveys is that poverty is an infringement on freedom, and that the elimination of poverty should be addressed as a basic entitlement and a human right – not merely as an act of charity. It calls for a framework for development, trade and investment that respects, protects and promotes human rights, thereby encouraging greater commitment by donor governments to provide adequate funding of human rights priorities (UNDP 2000a). Transparency and accountability are deemed essential to bring about desired institutional changes to reduce poverty, including the way the poor masses are treated by service providers. Equality of rights for all is the indispensable foundation on
Inclusive and exclusive development in India in the post-reform era 87 which human development must be built. The Millennium Declaration recognizes the importance of human rights. It states: We will spare no efforts to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty. We are committed to making the right to development a reality for everyone and to freeing the entire human race from want. (UNDP 2000b) There is reason to doubt the distributive growth potential of globalization, a process that has since the late 1980s been ravaging the world in the name of development. To be sure, globalization has produced already highly differential results in different countries of the world in terms of economic growth, employment and income distribution. While countries in Asia have experienced acceleration in their economic growth rates, to some extent, the same cannot be said to be true for many Latin American and most African countries. Employment growth has slowed down and unemployment rates have increased in most developing countries. Income distribution is seen to have become more unequal in most countries. Concerns have therefore been raised about the ‘inclusive’ character of growth accompanying the process of globalization that accentuates the process of social exclusion (Papola 2007). India has been striving hard to improve its pace of development since the dawn of independence. To expand economic opportunity and to bring about all-round socio-economic development of the people, the Government of India introduced a new economic policy in 1991 along with the principles of liberalization, privatization and globalization (LPG). However, as elsewhere, it has been subjected to ongoing, often acrimonious debates among scholars of different persuasions. Such debates assume special significance in a country such as India, which is highly stratified on the basis of caste, religion, region and gender. The academic community has been divided on the merits/ demerits of globalization. Its inclusive growth potential has not been accepted by all. Scholars have highlighted the negative effects of globalization producing large-scale social exclusion in India (Bardhan n.d.; Srinivasan 1996, 2000). This chapter seeks to examine, given the above backdrop, the current development challenges in India and to attempt a possible road map of development strategy for combating these challenges. I Since the early 1990s, there has been a noticeable shift in the focus of development thinking from mere economic growth to enhancement of human well-being (Sen 1985; Dasgupta 1993). Taking into consideration the developmental need of the society, that is, making development sustainable, with a view to enhancing people’s choices to lead a long and healthy life, and to ensuring participation and non-discrimination, the concept of development has been redefined time and again. Various concepts such as ‘sustainable development’, ‘human development’,
88 Kumar Kuri ‘participatory development’ etc. have been coined. Today the term ‘inclusive development’ is much used in development economics the world over. What does it mean? On the issue of development, the Millennium Development Goals provide a basic framework of developmental needs (see Appendix I). The key ingredients of development are poverty alleviation, human rights and civil society participation. On the other hand, inclusion is a process that aims at bringing all the people into the developmental network. Development efforts that bypass vulnerable people can hardly succeed. The challenge is to pursue economic growth through inclusive development. This is, in fact, an indication of a paradigm shift in development thinking that combines initiatives to expand and equalize opportunities to combat discrimination and foster participation. The philosophy of inclusive development is based on five basic premises: autonomy and independence, nondiscrimination, full-inclusion and participation, respect for differences, and equality of opportunity. Basically, a twin-track approach is advanced to achieve inclusion: removal of the barriers that exclude; and strengthening the capacity building of the excluded and extending support to them to enable them for inclusion. Since inclusion involves everyone in the society at all levels, collaboration and networking are core strategies to achieve inclusion. Inclusive development is a goal of comprehensive and integrated development strategy based on a community development approach with a special focus on the participation of economically and socially disabled/disadvantaged people in the development process. Strategically, inclusive development uses political, economic and social policies to reduce vulnerability in a framework of pro-poor sustainable economic growth. In short, inclusive development is the process of ensuring participation of all marginalized and excluded groups in the development process and bringing out economic development, political cohesion, and social stability through mutual interdependence. Inclusive development equals economic growth plus sharing the benefits of growth to reduce poverty. It is a rights-based approach to development, understood in terms of a framework for human development as a process firmly grounded in international human rights standards and focused on the promotion and protection of human rights (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusive_development). Failure to promote the principle of non-discrimination not only would constitute a human rights abuse, but would be negating the concept of civil society. The formal laws, policies and rules that determine the efficient functioning of the market and the state are crucial for inclusive development. Most people recognize that the state has responsibilities to provide affordable and effective public goods and services, including those under the Millennium Development Goals. Understanding the relationship among governance, poverty and vulnerability from the viewpoint of the poor is vital to institutional reforms that promote inclusive development. Well-functioning social institutions, both formal and informal, can greatly aid in the fulfilment of human aspirations. The designing of effective institutions ensures mandates for participation and transparency of transactions; provisions for public and professional scrutiny and accountability; public voice in determining outcomes; and taking local circumstances into account in institu-
Inclusive and exclusive development in India in the post-reform era 89 tional design. Development strategies must ensure meaningful participation of all stakeholders, as inclusive development has relevance for all sectors and at all levels. The strategy of inclusive growth focuses on the process of expanding economic opportunities to reduce poverty and social deprivation. The creation of economic opportunities, ensuring equal access to socio-economic opportunities and the provision of social security are the three essential pillars of inclusive growth strategy (Figure 7.1; Ali and Zhuang 2007). The economic opportunities created by growth are to be made available across the entire spectrum of population including the vulnerable sections of society. To ensure equal access, it is necessary to strengthen human capabilities to enable the people to qualify for productive and decent employment. The importance of equal access to socio-economic opportunities can be justified from both its intrinsic value as well as its instrumental role. The intrinsic value is based on the belief that equal access to opportunity is a basic right of a human being and that it is unethical and immoral to treat individuals differently in access to opportunities. The instrumental role comes from the recognition that equal access to opportunities increases growth potential, whereas inequality in access to opportunities diminishes it and makes growth unsustainable. It leads to inefficient utilization of human and physical resources, lowers the quality of institutions and policies, erodes social cohesion and increases social conflict. On the other hand, a social protection system through the provision of a social safety net is required for the chronically poor to enable them to survive with dignity. The social safety net acts as a springboard to enable vulnerable sections of the society to break out
Creating economic opportunity
Full, productive and decent employment
Equal access to economic opportunity
Governance and institutions
Figure 7.1 Inclusive growth: a conceptual framework.
Social safety net
90 Kumar Kuri of the poverty trap. The framework for inclusive growth can be made effective only through democratic decentralized governance with full transparency and accountability. In short, inclusive growth strategy addresses the economic, social and political constraints in generating opportunities and to ensure equal access to all the stakeholders irrespective of socio-economic stratifications such as caste, gender and religion (Appendix II). II Since independence, India has achieved considerable success along several dimensions of socio-economic development. Distinctly visible are the significant expansion and diversification of production made possible by the application of modern science and management. This has contributed to a steady and impressive growth in India’s GDP. Achievements have also been recorded in the sphere of social development. Life expectancy at birth has gone up from 40 years in 1951 to 65 years in 2004. The crude birth rate has fallen from 40.8 in 1951 to 26.4 in 2003. Since 1960s infant mortality has been halved to 71 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2003. Remarkable progress has been achieved in immunizing children and in providing access to safe drinking water. In the field of education, the literacy rate went up from 18 per cent to 65.4 per cent during 1951–2001 (UNDAF 2000). Despite many achievements, India’s development strategy resulted in unforgivable failure to deal with poverty, illiteracy and various forms of religious, social and gender discrimination. Heterogeneity is pronounced in all the facets of social, economic and cultural spheres especially in the post-reform period. India’s record in eliminating human poverty remains far from satisfactory. One-fourth of the population is living below the poverty line. The unemployment rate is on the rise. The employment elasticity of growth declined during 1994–2002 (Bhaduri 2005). Millions of child labourers in this country are surviving without a future. Millions of children are blind and crippled from malnutrition. One-half of Indian children suffer from undernourishment. There is widespread undernutrition among women and children; maternal and child health still remain areas of great concern. Twenty per cent of rural children are severely undernourished. One in four girls and one in ten boys still do not attend school. Thus, higher economic growth in India in the post-reform period is found to be non-inclusive and the duality in development is a visible reality. The development strategy through economic liberalization undoubtedly yielded higher economic growth but the distributional aspects of development could not be addressed adequately. That resulted in higher levels of economic and social exclusion, which, in turn, is exerting a threat to the current development strategy of the country. The growing socio-economic inequality during the period of high economic growth leads us to conclude that the growth process is non-inclusive and thus poverty, unemployment and destitution are found to co-exist with high economic growth.
Inclusive and exclusive development in India in the post-reform era 91 The extent of poverty In spite of five decades of development planning in India, one-fourth of the population are still lying below the poverty level. Moreover, there exists a significant disparity between the SC/ST and non-SC/ST population regarding the incidence of poverty. The condition of the SC/ST population is more precarious than the non-ST/ST population. In 1983–4 as high a proportion as 63.8 per cent of the ST population was below the poverty level compared with 37 per cent for non-SC/ST population (Table 7.1). Among the SC population 58.1 per cent were below the poverty level. The disparity index1 between the SC/ST and non-ST/SC population was found to be 0.37, which indicates severe inequality among the poor between the SC/ST and non-SC/ST population. Between 1983–4 and 1993–4, there is a significant decline of the disparity index by 6.95 per cent; it again increased by 1 per cent in 1999–2000. This clearly establishes the proposition that the disparity between SC/ ST and non-SC/ST population increased during the period of liberation in India, especially after the 1990s. The classification of population by means of livelihood pattern brings out the fact that among SC, ST and all population, both in 1993–4 and in 1999–2000, the incidence of poverty was highest among the agricultural labour households. In 1993–4, 57.02 per cent of rural agricultural labour households under the SC category were below poverty level. This percentage reduced to 46.20 in 1999–2000. More severe is the fact that poverty among agricultural labourers under the ST category increased from 59.51 per cent in 1993–4 to 60.69 in 1999–2000 (Table 7.2; Council for Social Development 2006). The extent of unemployment The recent experience of the rising level of unemployment is a cause for concern in India’s development planning. It is worth noting that during the post-reform period there is a sharp positive trend in growth rates of GNP/NNP at factor cost. The GNP growth rate at 1993–4 prices has almost doubled from 4.0 per cent in 2000–1 to 7.6 per cent in 2004–5 (Economic Survey 2005–6). Similarly, the growth rate of per capita NNP at 1993–4 prices increased from 2.1 per cent in 2000–1 to 6.1 per cent in 2004–5. However, this high rate of growth has failed
Table 7.1 The extent of poverty under different social groups (%) Rural
SC ST Other All
58.1 63.8 37 45.6
48.1 52.2 31.3 37.1
36.2 52.2 31.3 37.1
56.5 54.2 39.1 42.2
49.9 42.4 30.6 33.7
38.6 34.8 20.6 23.7
Source: Thorat (2006: 65).
Source: Sundaram and Tendulkar (2002: 66).
46.44 27.11 64.44 38.14 42.85
Urban 39.71 22.07 56.85 25.74 33.63
59.51 46.25 33.88 48.81
57.02 38.34 32.98 45.69
Self-employed Regular wage/salaried Casual labour Others All
Self-employed in agriculture Self-employed in nonagriculture Agricultural labour Other labour Others All
Category of livelihood
26.30 13.44 54.21 18.45 23.39
48.19 31.99 17.36 28.30
15.62 57.25 21.05 26.41
52.97 35.82 21.69 34.19
45.28 18.12 58.19 33.89 37.84
46.20 32.82 22.45 38.38
36.95 20.16 63.86 24.91 35.15
60.69 44.22 23.55 48.02
23.59 9.83 45.08 14.26 19.98
39.39 22.59 12.18 23.23
26.11 11.36 49.95 16.85 23.09
44.64 27.70 14.93 28.93
Table 7.2 Head count ratio for all-India (rural and urban) population by social group cross-classified by means of livelihood, 1993–4 to 1999–2000
Inclusive and exclusive development in India in the post-reform era 93 to absorb the higher level of employment and is thus causing a greater level of unemployment in the post-reform period (Table 7.3). The unemployment rate went up during the period 1993–4 to 2004. On the basis of current daily status, during the reference period, unemployment rate for males increased from 5.6 per cent to 9.0 per cent in rural areas, and from 6.7 per cent to 8.1 per cent in urban areas. Similarly, the unemployment rate for females increased from 5.6 per cent in 1993–4 to 9.3 per cent in 2004 in rural areas and from 10.5 per cent to 11.7 per cent in urban areas. Thus the post-reform period experienced higher levels of unemployment in both rural and urban areas. The magnitude of child labour Both the 1991 census and the National Sample Survey (NSS) 1999–2000 figures indicate that more than 24 per cent of children entered family labour (i.e. working with the family) between the ages of six and nine and 32 per cent entered between the ages of nine and eleven. It is a national shame that children as young as five years are working in India (Council for Social Development 2006). A study of the industrial classification of child labour (5–14 years) of India reveals that 30.19 per cent are engaged as cultivators, 18.66 percent as agricultural labour, 5.97 percent as livestock rearers, 0.07 per cent in mining, 4.83 per cent in manufacturing, 15.5 per cent in construction, 5.01 per cent in trade, 0.98 per cent in transport and 19.68 per cent in the household. According to the 1991 census, the total child population of India in the age group 5–14 years is 203 million. The 1991 census data show that 45.2 per cent of the children in this age group, that is, about 91.75 million children, were neither working nor enrolled in schools, usually called the nowhere Table 7.3 Unemployment rates for fiftieth round (1993–4) and sixtieth round (Jan–June 2004) of NSSO Rural (all India) Male Round Sixtieth (2004) Fiftieth (1993–94)
Usual 24 20
CWS 47 30
CDS 90 56
Usual 22 14
CWS 45 30
CDS 93 56
Usual 46 45
CWS 57 52
Round 81 67
Usual 89 83
CWS 90 84
Round 117 105
Urban (all India) Round Sixtieth (2004) Fiftieth (1993–94)
Source: NSSO (2004). Notes CWS: Current Weekly Status, CDS: Current Daily Status. Unemployment rates (number of persons days) unemployed per 1000 persons (or persondays).
94 Kumar Kuri children (Chowdhury 1996). The proportion of nowhere girls in India is higher than that of nowhere boys by a huge margin of about 13 per cent (Table 7.4). The nowhere children come mostly from poor families with children either directly or indirectly involved in income-earning activities, or where they are engaged in household chores, animal rearing and child care for siblings (Chaujar 2001). Table 7.4 Incidence of child labour and nowhere children in India Boys
Andra Pradesh Arunachal Pradesh Assam Bihar Goa Gujrat Haryana Himachal Pradesh Jammu and Kashmir Karnataka Kerela Madhya Pradesh Maharashtra Manipur Meghalaya Mizoram Nagaland Orissa Punjab Rajasthan Sikkim Tamil Nadu Tripura Uttar Pradesh West Bengal Delhi India
9.5 4.6 6.8 4.9 2.0 5.1 3.2 3.6 n/a 8.9 0.6 7.6 4.9 3.1 8.2 9.0 4.9 6.3 5.0 5.2 5.0 4.6 2.6 5.0 5.6 2.1 5.66
34.7 49.6 58.6 52.4 15.7 32.0 31.1 21.0 n/a 29.6 13.9 39.8 26.7 43.0 54.2 3.0 42.5 36.9 30.2 43.2 7.8 22.2 40.8 50.6 44.8 26.2 39.0
10.5 6.7 4.1 2.9 1.1 5.5 1.8 5.6 n/a 8.7 0.5 8.6 6.6 4.3 6.5 9.8 5.7 5.4 0.9 7.9 5.4 5.1 2.0 2.5 2.7 0.4 5.06
47.5 57.5 70.7 71.2 19.1 42.6 45.4 27.4 n/a 40.6 14.0 53.9 33.9 46.6 55.2 3.3 44.8 51.5 40.1 67.0 11.2 28.9 47.7 69.7 55.1 30.6 52.0
10.0 5.7 5.5 4.0 2.0 5.3 2.6 4.6 n/a 8.8 0.6 8.1 5.7 3.7 7.4 9.4 5.3 5.9 3.0 6.5 5.2 4.8 2.3 3.8 4.2 1.3 5.37
41.0 53.4 64.6 61.2 17.4 37.1 37.7 24.1 n/a 35.1 13.9 46.5 30.2 44.8 54.7 3.2 43.7 44.1 34.8 54.4 9.5 25.4 44.1 59.5 49.8 28.3 45.2
51.0 70.0 65.2 19.4 42.3 40.3 35.4 28.7 n/a 43.9 14.5 54.6 35.9 48.5 62.1 12.6 48.9 50.0 37.9 60.9 14.7 30.3 46.4 63.3 54.0 29.5 50.6
Source: Council for Social Development (2006). Notes CL Incidence of child labour defined as the proportion of working children in the age group 5–14 years. NWC Incidence of nowhere children defined as the proportion of children who are neither enrolled in/attending schools nor working in the age group 5–14 years.
Inclusive and exclusive development in India in the post-reform era 95 Gender discrimination in education Despite earnest efforts for the expansion of education, especially after independence, the progress achieved so far has not been satisfactory. Undoubtedly, the literacy rate in India increased significantly over successive census years from 36.1 per cent to 59.2 per cent over the 20-year period 1981–2001, yet still around 40 per cent of the population are illiterate. The gender disparity in education is a visible reality in India. In rural India the Sopher’s index2 of gender disparity is found to be 0.4318 in 1981 compared with 0.352 in urban areas. This clearly indicates that there exists a gross gender disparity in India in the attainment of the level of education, and that the severity of discrimination is more pronounced in rural areas than in urban India. There is both a qualitative and a quantitative deficiency in the attainment of education. The general feeling is that education in India is in peril and the unfinished tasks in education seem gigantic (Table 7.5; Tilak 2006). Although education and health sectors have been accorded high priority in all pre- and post-Independence development plans, and the Indian Constitution requires the state to provide free and compulsory primary education, actual achievements have been modest in comparison not only with what is needed but also with what many other developing countries in Asia and Africa have achieved. Even within India, some states, with Kerala as the leader, have done much better in social indicators than others. Sex disparities in school enrolments, high dropout rates and poor quality of instruction are the norms rather than exceptions. One of the most important reasons for the dismal performance of the Indian economy in recent years is that the growth is non-inclusive and there is a weak Table 7.5 Growth in literacy in India (age group 6+) 1981
Rural Male Female Total Gender Disparity Index
49.7 21.8 36.1 0.4318
57.8 30.3 44.5 0.3573
71.2 46.6 59.2 0.2601
Urban Male Female Total Gender Disparity Index
76.8 56.4 67.3 0.2601
81.0 63.9 73.1 0.1613
86.4 73.0 80.1 0.1219
Male Female Total Gender Disparity Index
56.5 29.8 43.6 0.352
64.2 39.2 52.2 0.288
75.9 54.2 65.4 0.216
Source: Tilak (2006: 34).
96 Kumar Kuri link between growth and distribution. The weak link between GDP growth rate and employment generation is evident from the fact that during 1950–90 the per capita income of the country grew at the rate of 1.5 per cent per annum, whereas employment grew at the rate of 2.72 per cent per annum during 1985–95. On the contrary, since the 1990s per capita income has grown at the rate of 5–6 per cent per annum but the rate of growth of employment has reduced drastically to 1.02 per cent. Thus the growth of income has not made a corresponding dent on employment generation and so on poverty reduction. In the era of globalization, the development strategy of India is being guided by the economic philosophy of achieving a high growth rate, efficiency and leaving things to the market. However, an obsession to become internationally competitive and to achieve a high growth rate of export, as a means of increasing output growth rate, is found to be counter-productive. It leads to the phenomenon of jobless growth, which acts as a hindrance to the removal of poverty and to meaningful democracy and thus, in turn, goes against the basic requirements of inclusive development. In the liberalized Indian economy the high GDP growth rate has mainly been achieved through the expansion of the service sector and higher growth in labour productivity induced by focus on cost reduction. Since most of the growth has come from higher output per worker, the number of employed workers has not increased as much. As a result we have been experiencing nearly jobless growth. Broadly, the Indian economy today faces the twin challenges of accelerating sustained economic growth and simultaneously ensuring the elimination of human deprivation and inequalities to include the excluded in the development process. High and sustainable growth is an absolute requirement, but the fruits of growth must be shared equally by all strata of population irrespective of gender, caste and other social categories.
III In development literature the idea of development is being contested from several quarters. The market fundamentalists argue that development will come as a natural process of economic growth, thanks to the trickle-down effect. On the other hand, the post-modernists challenge the possibility of indefinite growth of material products given the finiteness of the resources base. In a world of appalling inequalities it is preposterous to pretend that rich must become even richer in order to allow the destitute to become somewhat less destitute. To tackle the problems of mass unemployment and growing inequalities a re-approximation between ethics, economics and politics is urgently needed (Sen 1987). ‘The economics that disregard moral and sentimental considerations are like wax works that, being lifelike, still lack the life of the living flesh’ (Gandhi 1921). Moral inequalities can be overcome only through responsible voluntarism – public policies promoting necessary institutional transformation and organizing affirmative action in favour of the weaker and voiceless segments of the population. In India, there is a clear polarization among economists on the issue of economic reforms. Two contrasting groups of thinkers give different weights to
Inclusive and exclusive development in India in the post-reform era 97 equity and efficiency of economic reforms. The pro-reform people occasionally overlook the fact that the equity–efficiency trade-off is exaggerated and that there are other ways of enhancing equity that can also improve production efficiency (Bardhan, n.d.). On the other side, those who fundamentally object to market reforms try to establish socialist or communitarian goals of development (Srinivasan 1996). With more than 1,000 million people and one-third of the world’s poor, India needs rapid growth together with strong employment creation and extended social protection to reduce poverty and sustain income increases for its growing population. The greatest challenge before India is to make development more inclusive towards an increased social cohesion and a substantial reduction of poverty in line with the Millennium Development Goals. The goals of decent work and social inclusion somehow have to be embedded in the development path and in the process of globalization (Rodgers 2007). The basic issue that needs to be considered here is the consistency between economic and social goals, which are interrelated and have to be addressed together. This necessitates the designing of coherent policy frameworks that can encompass both economic development and social development. In this context, as an alternative, an affirmative approach advanced by Bhaduri (2005) styled Development with Dignity may be considered. This approach charts out a new path of development for India advocating participatory democracy through higher productive employment for all. It is argued that all people should be accepted as equal partners in the development process and be included as full participants in all development activities. These activities should promote inclusive development through non-discrimination and equal opportunities for everyone to participate in every facet of life – civil, political, economic, social and cultural. The development process must not concentrate exclusively either on higher growth rates or on transfer of income in favour of the poor. Without growth it is impossible to generate the resources needed for investment in social infrastructure, particularly primary health and primary education, and physical infrastructure provided and maintained by the public sector. But growth alone cannot be the ultimate development goal of any economy or society. Growth must be inclusive. The benefits of growth need to be widespread, especially by ensuring the active participation of the disadvantaged groups of society. The basic proposition that has been made to achieve the goal of development with dignity is the immediate provision of full employment with a legal minimum wage and the basic needs of the people within a democratic framework. The increasing importance of the domestic market vis-à-vis the external market must be considered essentially to fulfil the objective of a full employment society. The strategy to achieve development with dignity is required to be implemented through public–private partnership and mutual cooperation. However, the programme of full employment would require the state to offer all Indians regular work at a legally stipulated minimum wage. According to Bhaduri, there can be two important sources of public finance to achieve this goal:
98 Kumar Kuri (a) Full employment schemes should be financed preferably by borrowing from the Reserve Bank. If there is any concern over the debt servicing obligations created by fiscal deficits, then it is better to print money than to emit interest bearing debt by amending the counter-productive Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Act.3 (b) As a second best approach, to avoid the conditionalities of IMF/World Bank and for ensuring independence in decision making, government can borrow from the public by issuing government securities at the domestic market. (Bhaduri 2005) Widest participation in the development process is the central issue in the framework of Development with Dignity. The development process must be characterized by the reciprocity of duty and rights for every citizen to participate and derive benefit from it. Decentralization of decision making can be the guiding force in ensuring accountability of the government. The participation of the poor would enforce accountability on the government and certainly would ensure development with dignity.
IV Since the economic reforms of the early 1990s, the Indian economy witnessed a rapid rise in the mean income level but the capacity to provide core services has not kept pace with growth momentum. The glaring socio-economic inequalities are expected to undermine the very fabric of our society, while caste and gender discrimination threaten to accentuate social divisions and exclusions. For an inclusive society, India’s rapid economic growth needs to become more inclusive across regions, across sectors and across people, by bringing more people into economic opportunities on fair terms. Even while we are on the threshold of global supremacy in fields such as information technology and knowledge-based production, we continue to be haunted by internal contradictions. The government has to take responsibility for building up human capital by education and for the creation of a growth-enhancing social infrastructure. The efforts of the government need to be directed towards developing appropriate institutions for ensuring effective governance to achieve the target of an ‘inclusive society’.
Notes 1 A disparity index value of 0, according to the modified Sopher’s index by Amitabh Kundu, indicates equality. Any value greater than 0 indicates a disparity. 2 See Tilak (1999) for details on the method of estimating the Sopher’s index. 3 Concerned over the deterioration in the fiscal situation, the Government of India passed the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act in 2003. The Act casts responsibility on the central government to ensure intergenerational equity in fiscal management and long term macro-economic stability by achieving sufficient revenue surplus, removing fiscal impediments in the effective conduct of the monetary policy and prudential debt management through limits on borrowing and deficits.
Inclusive and exclusive development in India in the post-reform era 99
Appendix I: Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015 Goals for development and poverty eradication set at the UN General Assembly in 2000 1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; • Halve the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day. • Halve the proportion of people suffering from hunger. 2 Achieve universal primary education; • Ensure that children everywhere – boys and girls alike – complete a full course of primary education. 3 Promote gender equality and empower the women; • Eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education by 2015. 4 Reduce child mortality; • Reduce infant and under five mortality rates by two-thirds. 5 Improve maternal health; • Reduce maternal mortality ratios by three-quarters. 6 Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; • Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. • Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases. 7 Ensure environmental sustainability; • Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country’s policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources. • Halve the proportion of people without sustainable drinking water. • Achieve by 2020, a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers. 8 Develop a Global Partnership for development. Source: Millennium Development Goals Report (2008)
Appendix II: Dimensions of poverty, deprivation and exclusion Well-being: needs
Ill-being: without which one suffers
Adequate food Other needs Good health and literacy and knowledge of opportunity Public services and good governance Ability to survive shocks, social and environmental capital Ability to invest for betterment Freedom, inclusion and empowerment
Hunger Consumption/income poverty Poverty of human development
Source: Parikh (2007).
Capability/functional poverty Insecurities Hopelessness Lack of self-respect
100 Kumar Kuri
Bibliography Ali, I. and Zhuang, Juzhong. (2007) ‘Inclusive Growth towards a Prosperous Asia: Policy Implication’, ERD working paper No. 97, Asian Development Bank, July. Bardhan, P. (n.d.) ‘Nature of Opposition of Economic Reforms in India’, http://emlab. berkeley.edu. Bhaduri, A. (2005) Development with Dignity: A Case for Full Employment, New Delhi: National Book Trust. Chowdhury, D. P. (1996) A Dynamic Profile of Child Labour in India, 1951–91, New Delhi: International Labour Organization. Chaujar, Paro. (2001) The Relevance of Education for Child Labour: A Case Study of Agra Region, UP, New Delhi: Centre for Education and Communication. Council for Social Development. (2006) India Social Development Report, 2006, Delhi: Oxford University Press. Dasgupta, P. (1993) An Inquiry into Well-being and Destitution, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Economic Survey (2005–6), place: Government of India. Gandhi, M. K. (1921) ‘Non-violent Economy’, www.mkgandhi.org/momgbook/chap.54. National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) (2004) title (60th Round, January–June), place: Government of India. Papola, T. S. (2007) ‘Development with Dignity: A Case of Full Employment’, International Labour Review, 22 March. Parikh, K. S. (2007) ‘Infrastructure and the Poor’, paper presented in the global conference on ‘Taking Action for the World’s Poor and Hungry’ held in Beijing, China, 17 October. Rodgers, Gerry. (2007) ‘Decent Work, Social Inclusion and Development’, Indian Journal of Human Development, 1 (1): pp. Sen, A. K. (1985) Commodities and Capabilities, Amsterdam: North-Holland. —— (1987) On Ethics and Economics, Oxford: Basil Blackwell. —— (1999) Development as Freedom, New York: Alfred Knopf. Srinivasan, T. N. (1996) ‘Economic Liberalization and Economic Development: India’, Journal of Asian Economics, 7 (2): 203–16. —— (2000) Eight Lectures on Indian Economic Reforms, Delhi: Oxford University Press. Sundaram, R. and Tendulkar, S. (2002) ‘Poverty among Social and Economic Groups in India in the Nineties’, working paper no. 118, New Delhi: Centre for Development Economics. Tilak, J. B. G. (1999) ‘Investment in Human Capital in India: An Inter-state Analysis of Stock and Flow of Human Capital’, Journal of Indian School of Political Economy, 11: 39–75. —— (2006) ‘A Saga of Spectacular Achievement, and Conspicuous Failures’, in Council for Social Development, Social Development Report, Delhi: Oxford University Press. Thorat, S. K. (2006) ‘Empowering Marginalized Groups: Policies and Change’, in Council for Social Development, Social Development Report, Delhi: Oxford University Press. UNDAF. (2000) ‘Executive Summary, India’, United Nations Development Assistance Framework, July. UNDP. (2000a) Human Development Report 2000, place: publisher. —— (2000b) Overcoming Human Poverty, place: publisher.
8 Social exclusion in India Evidences from wage labour market Rajarshi Majumdar
Introduction In economic terms, exclusion from labour markets, credit and other forms of ‘capital assets’ are key processes. Socially, exclusion may take the form of discrimination along a number of dimensions – gender, religion, caste and age – which effectively reduce the opportunity for such groups to gain access to social services and limit their participation in the labour market. Under such circumstances it becomes imperative to understand the magnitude and trends in the process of social exclusion in India, where we have both a substantial mass of a socially backward population and a significant social disparity among groups. Of all the lines along which exclusion and disparity have been practised in India none has had as long-lasting an effect as the division along caste lines. The Scheduled Castes and Tribes have been a pariah in the development process of India for quite a long time. Affirmative actions in the form of Reservation in Education and Employment were taken after independence to provide them space in the mainstream and trigger self-sustaining growth of these groups. In recent years the issue has again come to the centre-stage in view of the debate between pro- and antireservation lobbies. Before aligning with any of the groups, one must first take a stock of the real situation of these socially excluded groups in the labour market.
Dimensions of social exclusion – brief review of studies Internationally, social exclusion has been studied by individual researchers as well as multilateral bodies such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) and World Bank. Three broadly distinct and identifiable approaches to researches on social exclusion may be identified (Beall 2002). From a neo-liberal perspective, SE can be seen as an unfortunate but inevitable side effect of global economic realignment, a necessary result of global realignments of production structures and the concomitant fact that workers formerly protected by trade barriers at national level, and social security and formal employment conditions at personal level, are now excluded from such benefits. A second more radical position argues that
102 Majumdar social exclusion is nothing but inequality generated by the workings of the economic system and is termed social only to conceal its economic origin (Willis 2000). The third view is that social exclusion is a process by which people are evicted from spaces they previously occupied or are deprived of rights of access in the first place by international processes and institutional relationships associated with rapid social and economic global change, and local impacts and responses (Joint-Lambert 1995). The message coming out of these studies is that people might be excluded from land and other natural resources (because of scarcity, landlessness and lack of legal entitlement); agricultural livelihood (for lack of access to inputs); formal and informal employment (through patterns of labour absorption, education and social identity); organization and representation (through patterns of political inclusion); physical infrastructure and social services (because of distance, usage costs); and credit (because of lack of collateral). Closer at home, in India, SE has been studied by a few researchers in recent times (Nayak 1995). However, most of them have either analysed exclusion from the gender angle (Duraisamy and Duraisamy 1996; Madheswaran and Lakshmanasamy 1996; Dunlop and Velkoff 1999; Kumar et al. 1999; Sharma and Papola 1999; Esteve-Volart 2004), or explored existing levels of poverty among social groups and how poverty among certain groups has been consistently higher than the rest (Sundaram and Tendulkar 2003; Mutatkar 2005). Social exclusion in these studies has been construed as a stock concept with little effort at identifying the reasons behind perpetuation of such discrimination even after 60 years of independence, planning and affirmative action. Only a handful of studies (Banerjee and Knight 1985; Borooah et al. 2005; Takahiro 2007) look into the social disparities in the labour market in India, or examine wage differentials between scheduled and non-scheduled castes in the urban labour market and caste discrimination in the labour market in north India. These studies on social disparity and labour market, however, are either case studies or limited to studying the unemployment rates only, without exploring the earning differential – the crux of disparity. Also, no effort has been made to understand how the process of globalization is affecting social discrimination. The present study will bring out not only the nature of unemployment among socially disadvantaged groups but also that of non-employment among them (defined as employment without adequate remuneration). In addition, the study will enquire how the post-liberalization regime has affected such social disparities. The study is thus significant from the viewpoint of both assessing the current dispensation and suggesting remedial measures.
Objectives The objective of the study can be outlined as follows: a determination of disparities among social groups in the Indian labour market regarding availability of employment, nature of employment (casual/regular),
Social exclusion in India 103
b c d e f
occupational distribution (National Occupational Code, 1968), industrial distribution (National Industrial Code, 1998); determination of disparities among social groups in the Indian labour market regarding earnings from wages; exploring whether such disparities follow any regional pattern or not; exploring how globalization has affected these trends in recent times; indicating some of the factors causing such social disparities; and suggesting some policies to bridge the gap between advanced and backward groups.
Database Social exclusion in the labour market may occur along the lines of: 1 2 3 4 5
exclusion from employment opportunities, especially formal employment; exclusion from skills, capabilities and productive assets; exclusion from job protection and social security; exclusion from rights at workplace; adverse inclusion (child labour, bonded labour, excessive intensity or duration of work, lower wages, etc.).
In this chapter, we take up the issues of exclusion from employment opportunities and disparities in earnings for exploration. Details of employment status, employment structure and wages received are collected during the Quinquennial Surveys on Employment and Unemployment conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in India. We use the NSSO databases of the fiftieth, fiftyfifth and sixty-first round surveys, pertaining to the years 1993–4, 1999–2000 and 2004–5, for this paper. NSSO unit level records have been processed, collated and tabulated before doing the econometric exercises. A note on the database seems necessary at this point. NSSO data for 1993 distinguish between STs, SCs and Others (whom we call General Caste or GEN) whereas the 1999 and 2004 data provide information for OBCs separately from the GENs. Thus, there are some comparability problems in the data, which however are not insurmountable. With this background, we now explore the situation.
Social exclusion in India: Evidences from the labour market Employment opportunities In spite of 60 years of affirmative action, both in the job market and in the arena of capacity building through education, the situation of Excluded Groups (EGs) is grim. It is observed that the share of them in employment is substantially less than their corresponding share in total population or workforce (Table 8.1). Thus the EGs are underrepresented in the labour market, which, given the substantial high level of poverty among them, is definitely not voluntary. It is quite clear that
104 Majumdar Table 8.1 Shares in population and employment by social groups in India, 1993–2004 Shares in population
Shares in employment
Scheduled Tribe Scheduled Caste OBC General All groups
8.4 18.4 n/a 73.2 100.0
8.9 19.6 35.8 35.6 100.0
8.5 19.7 41.2 30.6 100.0
10.5 26.0 n/a 63.5 100.0
8.5 20.6 24.8 46.1 100.0
10.1 27.1 26.8 36.0 100.0
Source: Authors’ calculation based on NSSO (1997a, 1997b, 2001a, 2001b, 2006a, 2006b). Note: for 1993, General includes the OBCs as well.
they are marginalized in the job market and employment opportunities are quite restricted for them. More significant is the fact that in the immediate post-reform period, while their share in population increased, their share in employment declined, indicating further discrimination in the labour market after the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). It is only during 2000–5 that the share of the EGs in employment increased, though remaining significantly below their share in population. Earnings We are, however, more concerned about the earning differentials in society. Although equitable employment opportunities are desirable, jobs per se are not important unless they ensure a decent living standard. Ensuring jobs is crucial in as much as they ensure a certain minimum income for the hitherto deprived people, which they can utilize for capacity building and thereby come out of the trap of deprivation and backwardness. However, this requires equality in the arena of earnings as well, since any inequality herein against the already excluded would only create further deprivation and widen the disparities. Evidences from the Indian labour market show that we have failed miserably in this regard. While shares of EGs in employment are lower than their share in population, their shares in total wage earnings are even lower still (Table 8.2). This implies that, even when they are getting jobs, they earn relatively less than the rest. The disparity is also alarmingly high, earnings per worker per week and per man day for the STs being almost one-third of that of the Included Group (IG; Table 8.3). If we classify weekly earnings into top, middle, and bottom wage classes (according as weekly earnings are above Rs 500, between Rs 200 and Rs 500, and below Rs 200 respectively), we find that about 70 per cent of workers from the EG are in the bottom wage class and only about 3 per cent of them are in the top wage
Social exclusion in India 105 Table 8.2 Shares in wage earnings by social groups in India, 1993–2004 Shares in wage earnings Social group
Scheduled Tribe Scheduled Caste OBC General All groups
6.8 18.0 n/a 75.1 100.0
5.6 14.3 20.8 59.3 100.0
2004 6.1 18.4 21.6 53.9 100.0
Source: Same as Table 8.1. Note: for 1993, General includes the OBCs as well.
Table 8.3 Earnings by social groups in India, 1993–2004 Social group Scheduled Tribe Scheduled Caste OBC General All Groups
Earning per worker
Wage per man day
236 251 n/a 432 365
309 324 391 600 467
304 337 427 838 497
34 36 62
53 57 67 102 80
53 54.8 51.6 35.8 59 58.6 54.1 40.2 72 n/a 65.2 51.0 132 100.0 100.0 100.0 83
Source: Same as Table 8.1. Note: for 1993, General includes the OBCs as well.
class in 2005 (Tables 8.4 and 8.5). The corresponding figures for the IG are 40 per cent and 14 per cent respectively. This clearly indicates significant disparity and discrimination in the wage market resulting in further deprivation of the EGs. If we now look at the temporal trends, we find that the earning ratio (earning per worker of EG as ratio of that of IG) is continuously decreasing, most sharply during 2000–5, the period when employment for the EGs increased relatively faster (as evident from their rising share in employment during this period). It can therefore be commented that much of the employment expansion of the EGs during the post-SAP period is distress employment in low-paid jobs – a feature that has been termed ‘non-employment’ by researchers (Mathur 1999; Mukherjee 2003). Some upward mobility is perceived with movements from bottom wage classes to middle and top wage classes. However, this is more pronounced for the IG than the EGs. Quite clearly, deprivation and disparities are on the rise in the post-SAP period. This has serious consequences for social equity in India, which we will discuss later.
106 Majumdar Table 8.4 Distribution of workers among different wage classes in India by social groups 1993
Percentage of workers in class Bottom Middle Top Bottom Middle Top Scheduled Tribe Scheduled Caste OBC General All groups
Bottom Middle Top
n/a 65.3 72.4
n/a 32.1 25.9
n/a 2.5 1.7
64.4 51.7 61.3
32.3 39.4 33.3
3.3 8.9 5.5
59.9 40.1 58.1
36.3 3.8 46.2 13.7 36.2 5.7
Source: Same as Table 8.1. Note: for 1993, General includes the OBCs as well.
Table 8.5 Shares of different social groups in top and bottom wage classes in India Bottom wage class
Top wage class
Scheduled Tribe Scheduled Caste OBC General All Groups
12.9 29.8 n/a 57.3 100.0
11.2 23.8 26.1 38.9 100.0
13.7 30.4 37.9 18.0 100.0
1.9 3.5 n/a 94.6 100.0
3.9 6.6 14.8 74.7 100.0
3.7 9.7 24.4 62.2 100.0
8.4 18.4 n/a 73.2 100.0
8.5 19.7 41.2 30.6 100.0
8.9 19.6 35.8 35.6 100.0
Source: Same as Table 8.1. Note: for 1993, General includes the OBCs as well.
Regional pattern of disparities Whereas social exclusion is widespread in India, there are certain regions that are more unequal than others. It is generally expected that deprivation and discrimination in terms of lower shares in employment and wages and lower earning ratios would be more severe in the economically lagging regions. Although it is true that exclusion is pronounced in weaker states such as Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, surprisingly the situation is no better in some of the economically advanced states such as Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi and Haryana (Table 8.6). Thus exclusion and deprivation seems to follow a U-shaped pattern with high exclusion at the lower and higher ends of the economic scale, and moderate exclusion in the middle regions. This pattern can be explained by the dynamics of exclusion. In poorer states with limited employment and earning opportunities, the EGs face considerable hardship in getting jobs, and even when they get one they are largely the most ill-
Social exclusion in India 107 Table 8.6 Earning ratios for social groups in India – by states 1993 State Andhra Pradesh Arunachal Pradesh Assam Bihar Chattisgarha Goa Gujarat Haryana Himachal Pradesh J&K Jharkhanda Karnataka Kerala Madhya Pradesh Maharashtra Manipur Meghalaya Mizoram Nagaland Orissa Punjab Rajasthan Sikkim Tamil Nadu Tripura Uttar Pradesh Uttaranchala W. Bengal Delhi All India
100.0 85.1 n/a 56.3 51.8 63.8 94.5
80.7 60.5 n/a 65.2 71.0 57.0 62.9
100.0 78.9 n/a 47.8 46.6 37.5 100.0
76.0 53.8 n/a 50.1 72.1 52.2 65.0
84.9 69.4 n/a 79.7 66.6 66.5 66.0
86.4 51.1 26.9 56.7 39.1 70.7 80.1
73.0 37.7 27.9 74.3 41.0 32.2 61.4
78.5 53.1 26.1 62.6 47.5 43.1 71.3
56.6 n/a 55.5 74.7 47.6
53.0 n/a 54.2 73.3 59.4
46.0 n/a 53.1 74.0 55.8
46.6 n/a 47.7 72.0 50.8
71.6 n/a 71.5 81.3 62.7
99.3 31.1 32.6 52.7 24.0
64.0 32.9 38.7 59.3 27.3
81.6 43.3 51.5 80.4 35.9
43.4 100.0 81.0 100.0 100.0 44.4 81.5 51.3 82.7 100.0 57.4 98.9 n/a 50.4 76.7 54.8
61.1 100.0 86.5 100.0 100.0 46.7 69.6 59.7 82.1 59.2 65.3 47.9 n/a 54.3 58.2 58.6
54.9 100.0 87.7 93.0 100.0 47.0 68.2 53.4 100.0 68.5 91.5 100.0 n/a 45.9 42.6 51.6
60.5 100.0 100.0 91.4 74.3 53.4 64.4 65.9 78.9 49.1 78.8 53.8 n/a 59.7 53.1 54.1
68.4 100.0 100.0 87.2 60.1 70.9 82.0 73.8 82.7 78.0 74.5 64.8 n/a 78.2 52.8 65.2
30.3 100.0 57.6 100.0 100.0 32.1 52.1 42.8 100.0 16.3 74.9 94.2 33.4 44.8 100.0 35.8
46.9 100.0 31.2 100.0 100.0 39.3 41.7 49.6 79.1 15.0 66.5 47.5 34.7 56.1 44.9 40.2
52.2 100.0 104.8 68.3 85.8 55.0 47.4 62.8 100.0 24.2 72.9 60.4 46.8 76.2 62.3 51.0
Source: Same as Table 8.1. Notes a States were formed after 2000. For 1993, General includes the OBCs as well.
108 Majumdar paid ones. On the other hand, whereas employment opportunities are wider in the advanced regions, the nature of jobs and the associated capability requirements shut out the EGs, who have not been able to build up the requisite capabilities. Thus, initial inequalities in entitlements prevent capacity formation among the EGs, which in turn prevents them from entering the job market even when the economy is vibrant and growing. This has wider policy implications.
Disparities in earnings: some causal factors Now that the disparities have been clearly brought out, we must also try to explore why such differentials exist. Two specific factors seem to be instrumental in this, which we briefly elaborate below. Occupational structure A major factor behind such earning disparities among social groups in India has been the employment structure itself. The occupational distribution is highly skewed with very few from the EGs present in the socially elite occupations such as professionals (teachers, lawyers, doctors etc.), technical personnel (engineers, scientists etc.) or administrators (mostly managers and those in government administrative services). The overwhelming majority of the workers from EG are in occupations such as farming and labourers, and also in repair services and transport operations (Tables 8.7 and 8.8). Quite naturally, since wages and earnings in these occupations are much lower, the shares of EGs in overall wage earnings are also lower. (Ir)regularity of employment Another important factor is the status of employment. It is observed that the workers belonging to the IG are more in regular jobs with secure wages whereas the EGs are more in casual jobs, which do not have any surety regarding availability of work and hence suffer from uncertainty regarding earnings too (Table 8.9). Since total earning depends on both rate of wages and job availability, those with casual jobs earn much less because of unavailability of jobs for a major part of the week/month/year. Underemployment being more predominant among EGs, it follows that their earnings are much lower than those of their counterparts in the IG. Further significant is the fact that the share of regular workers in total wage employment has increased during 1993–2005 but, while the increase has been prominent for the IG, it has only been marginal for the EGs, aggravating the relative deprivation further.
Dynamics of disparities and the impact of globalization It is thus obvious that substantial disparities among social groups do exist in the Indian labour market and the disparities have increased in the post-SAP period.
5.2 4.5 2.5 4.0 2.8 5.5 14.4 4.4 5.1 10.5 10.5 8.4
Professional Technical Administrative Clerical Sales Service Farmers etc. Production etc. Transport Labourers etc. All occupations Population share
19.7 7.2 5.0 10.5 9.6 24.7 33.4 17.7 13.4 25.6 26.0 18.4
SC 75.1 88.3 92.5 85.5 87.6 69.8 52.2 77.9 81.5 63.9 63.5 73.2
Note: for 1993, General includes the OBCs as well.
Source: Same as Table 8.1.
6.0 5.6 3.5 4.1 1.5 4.9 11.7 3.6 3.6 7.7 8.5 8.9
16.0 7.6 5.0 9.8 7.7 20.2 26.6 13.4 13.4 19.4 20.6 19.6
Table 8.7 Occupational distribution of wage workers by social groups in India
22.8 19.1 11.9 19.3 27.7 22.8 25.1 32.4 27.2 26.2 24.8 35.8
OBC 55.2 67.8 79.6 66.8 63.1 52.1 36.6 50.6 55.9 46.6 46.1 35.6
GEN 3.7 5.8 2.0 4.4 3.5 5.0 14.7 5.9 3.0 9.2 10.1 8.5
12.8 10.5 7.8 15.2 14.1 31.5 32.3 21.3 21.8 30.0 27.1 19.7
28.2 28.0 27.0 31.7 36.3 34.2 37.2 45.0 43.4 38.0 36.8 41.2
55.3 55.7 63.2 48.6 46.1 29.3 15.8 27.9 31.8 22.7 26.0 30.6
59.1 80.9 46.2 87.1 66.4 100.0 89.8 100.0 95.7 70.1 54.8
Professionals Technical Administrative Clerical Sales Service Farmers etc. Production etc. Transport Labourers etc. All Occupations
35.2 82.6 73.5 84.7 63.3 87.1 99.0 97.6 76.2 85.1 58.6
Note: for 1993, General includes the OBCs as well.
Source: Same as Table 8.1.
1993 56.1 88.6 75.5 91.8 86.2 85.4 81.1 76.5 100.0 71.2 51.6
Table 8.8 Earning ratios for social groups in India by occupation
35.0 82.0 71.8 85.0 69.1 80.2 95.9 87.2 92.8 79.4 54.1
SC 54.4 83.6 68.5 78.4 73.1 81.0 94.9 73.3 84.9 88.9 65.2
OBC 73.8 81.0 73.8 89.1 47.8 66.3 71.7 52.1 105.7 63.2 35.8
2004 54.5 76.7 36.8 77.5 51.5 70.7 78.1 67.2 74.3 71.4 40.2
67.7 80.2 53.3 84.1 66.9 67.7 84.4 70.7 77.1 80.2 51.0
Social exclusion in India 111 Table 8.9 Working status of wage workers by social groups in India 1993 Social groups Scheduled Tribe Scheduled Caste OBC General All groups
Regular 14.5 16.4 n/a 40.4 31.4
1999 Casual 85.5 83.6 n/a 59.6 68.6
Regular 16.3 19.0 30.3 44.8 33.5
2004 Casual 83.7 81.0 69.7 55.2 66.5
Regular 17.1 23.8 35.5 60.8 37.0
Casual 82.9 76.2 64.5 39.2 63.0
Source: Same as Table 8.1. Note: for 1993, General includes the OBCs as well.
The close association of such rising disparity with increasing globalization of the Indian economy merits some discussion. With increased global interlinkages, employers in India are focusing more and more on employability and efficiency of workers. With substantial disparities among social groups in educational attainment and skill formation, it is quite natural that these will be reflected in the labour market as well. Global forces are also leading to flexible specialization in the labour market with more jobs being casual or contractual in nature rather than regular. The same globalization process is also associated with increased presence of multinational corporations in India. These companies are concentrated mainly in the information technology, telecommunications, energy and financial sectors. They and their Indian counterparts offer astronomical salaries to a handful of in-house employees while at the same time outsourcing much of their work to low-paid contract workers. Thus the period of globalization in India has created substantial polarization in the labour market – a small group of permanent regular workers earning high salaries while a majority of the workers earn substantially less and that too without any regularity. This polarization has created a new divide in the labour market with skill, education and social background fetching assured jobs and premiums in earnings for the included group while the excluded groups are finding it increasingly difficult to acquire decent jobs. Moreover, during this period the occupational structure of the economy has shifted away from the directly productive sectors to the tertiary sectors (Mukherjee 2007). Stagnation and squeezing of the production-related jobs have hurt the EGs more as they have been concentrated in these jobs. Desperate for a living, the EGs are moving into the lower rungs of the tertiary sector: sales and repair services. Thus, the dynamics of the labour market following globalization in India are leading to increased disparity among social classes in terms of both employment opportunities and earning levels, divergence being much more for the latter. This is a matter of serious concern and needs immediate attention by policy-makers.
Conclusion The situation of the socially excluded groups in the Indian labour market in particular and socio-economic arena in general is therefore far from satisfactory.
112 Majumdar Considerable disparities exist in terms of employment levels, status of jobs, and earning standards between the social classes. Moreover, after the SAP, in the first quinquennium both employment levels and earnings drifted further apart, whereas in the second, although employment levels picked up, relative earnings fell further, indicating the distress nature of the (created) jobs. It would therefore be safe to infer that the objective of social equity has not been fulfilled up to the expected level even after 60 years of affirmative action. Rather, the present policy regime seems to negate the achievements of the first 40 years. This calls for a serious rethinking on the existing instruments to achieve social equity. It is necessary not only to provide more jobs to the EGs through quotas, but to make them more employable through imparting of quality education and handson skill formation. Chronic poverty among excluded social groups, much more acute than others, is also responsible for their drop-out from the capacity building process and entering the job market too early. Unless skill and efficiency among EGs can be built up, the labour market will continue discriminating against them and, with them bereft of earnings, a vicious cycle of low human capital–low earnings will continue over generations. In a growing ‘market friendly’ economy with the state gradually withdrawing from the economic sphere, the intervention cannot be at the point of earning. Rather, it has to be at the point of human capital formation through development of social infrastructure – education and health. Also, bringing them to technical and vocational training institutes would be much more effective than the headlines-hogging policies of reserving seats in blue-chip Management Institutes. Targeting regions where the EGs are spatially concentrated is also expected to bring better results rather than the ambitious Sarva Siksha Avijan spread across the country. Only then can we have both a growing and an equitable society.
Bibliography Banerjee, B. and Knight, J. B. (1985) ‘Caste Discrimination in the Indian Labor Market’, Journal of Development Economics, 17: 293–300. Beall, J. (2002) ‘Globalization and Social Exclusion in Cities: Framing the Debate with Lessons from Africa and Asia’, Working Paper No. 02–27, DESTIN, London School of Economics. Borooah, Vani K., Dubey, A. and Iyer, S. (2005) ‘Has Job Reservation Been Effective? Caste, Religion, and Economic Status in India’, unpublished manuscript, Northern Ireland: University of Ulster. Dunlop, John E. and Velkoff, V. A. (1999) ‘Women and the Economy in India’, U.S. Census Bureau, Official Statistics. Duraisamy, M. and Duraisamy, P. (1996) ‘Sex Discrimination in Indian Labour Markets’, Feminist Economics, 2 (2): 41–61. Esteve-Volart, B. (2004) ‘Gender Discrimination and Growth: Theory and Evidence from India’, DEDPS 42, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, London School of Economics and Political Science. Gore, C. and Figueiredo, J. (eds) (1997) Social Exclusion and Anti-Poverty Policy: A Debate, IILS Research Series 110, International Labour Organization, Geneva.
Social exclusion in India 113 de Haan, A. and Maxwell, S. (1998) ‘Poverty and Social Exclusion in North and South’, IDS Bulletin, 29 (1): 1–9. Joint-Lambert, M. (1995) ‘Exclusion: Pour une Plus Grande Rigueur d’Analyse’, Droit Social, 3. Kumar, Arun, Prushothaman, S., Purohit, S., Padma, A. K. and Kumar, A. (1999) ‘Women Workers: Inequalities at Work – Report of the Survey of Women Workers’, Working Conditions in Industry, Best Practices Foundation, Bangalore, India Madheswaran, S. and Lakshmanasamy, T. (1996) ‘Occupational Segregation and Earnings Differentials by Sex: Evidence from India’, Artha Vijnana, 38 (4): 372–86. Mathur, A. (1999) ‘Economic Reforms, Employment and “Non-Employment”: Theory, Evidence and Policy’, keynote paper for Technical Session VI of 82nd Annual Conference of the Indian Economic Association, December. Mukherjee, D. (2003) ‘The Changing World of Work and No-Work’, Indian Journal of Labour Economics, 46 (4): 561–75. —— (2007) ‘Post-reform Trends in Wage-Differentials: A Decomposition Analysis for India’, Indian Journal of Labour Economics, 50 (4): 955–71. Mutatkar, R. (2005) ‘Social Group Disparities and Poverty in India’, working paper no. WP-2005–004, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research. Nayak, P. (1995) ‘Economic Development and Social Exclusion in India’, in P. Nayak (ed.), Social Exclusion and South Asia, Geneva: ILO. Sharma, A. and Papola, T. S. (1999) Gender and Employment in India, New Delhi: Indian Society of Labour Economics and Institute of Economic Growth. Sundaram, K. and Tendulkar, S. D. (2003) ‘Poverty among Social and Economic Groups in India in the Nineteen Nineties’, working paper no. 118, Centre for Development, New Delhi. Takahiro, Ito. (2007) ‘Caste Discrimination and Transaction Costs in the Labor Market: Evidence from Rural North India’, discussion paper series no. 200, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University. Willis, M. (2000) ‘Meddling with the Media’, Democratic Left Discussion Zone, http:// www.democratic-left.org.uk/discuss/mwillis.html. World Bank (2000) World Development Report 2000–2001: Attacking Poverty, http:// www.worldbank.org/.
9 The Polavaram Dam project A case of displacement of marginalized people Sudipti Banerjea
Development-driven displacement in India: an overview The issue of development-induced displacement has been an area of special interest among researchers, policy-makers and society at large. The Nano (small car production of Tata Motors) project (2008) in Singur in the state of West Bengal, India, was supported by the state government. Though failed, it is a most recent illustration of displacement, which has assumed major importance on the Indian political scene of late. The fact that some development initiatives ‘induce’ displacement has been recognized in the existing writings on the subject (De Wet 2006). The economic policies that are being pursued in many underdeveloped/ developing countries under the liberalization, privation and globalization (LPG) syndrome have, inter alia, significantly contributed to displacement of people on a massive scale from their existing sources of livelihood. Temporary/contractual jobs for meagre compensation are pushing the regular sources of livelihood (in both rural and urban areas) to the back seat to a large extent, thus affecting a sizable section of the poor population and forcing them to accept a very difficult economic situation. Whereas there has been opposition to certain development initiatives, such as dams, on the supposition that they might affect people, there have also been several instances of marginalization and deprivation arising out of certain developmental initiatives that either could have been avoided or could have been pursued with a ‘human face’. Although on one hand the positive impact of dams has been widely acknowledged, the adverse effects of certain development initiatives have been identified in the existing scholarship. The entire process of LPG (however inevitable that might be and in spite of some positive features) is leading to increasing discrimination, marginalization and deprivation in many underdeveloped/developing countries and it appears that sections of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary in India are contributing to that process. Unfortunately, in a vastly populous country such as India, where
The Polavaram Dam project 115 already discriminated, marginalized and deprived people constitute a substantial population, only special economic zones (SEZs), big dams, superhighways, mega infrastructural projects, massive projects to extract minerals and forest resources, flyovers in big cities, urban beautification etc., are projected by a section of the society as development and criticisms from different social quarters are often labelled anti-development. But still adequate drinking water, electricity, primary health services, primary education etc. continue to be unavailable in the vast rural India. The question remains whether this type of development is really for the socio-economic benefit of those who are already discriminated against, marginalized and deprived or will lead to their large-scale disorganization, destabilization and displacement in many underdeveloped/developing countries. The underlying causes include regional/sectoral imbalances, fast-growing rural–urban divide, disharmonious industry–agriculture relationship, increased focus on nearjobless-growth-oriented capital-intensive industries and rapid marginalization of employment-generating small-scale industries. The problem is more acute in the countries that are populous, have a vast majority of people with little or no formal education, are mainly dependent on export of primary commodities and have a high level of socio-cultural conflicts and political instability. The already discriminated against, marginalized and deprived people (including the tribals and the other economically backward categories of people), who constitute the lower strata of the society, are increasingly made to feel that their culture and society is inferior, backward and primitive. They seem to develop a feeling of helplessness, inadequacy and rootlessness. The term development then appears to them with a big question mark, as it contributes to disrupt their sense of belonging to their place and culture, a long-term and almost irreversible harm, no doubt.1 Experts believe that the extent of the impact of certain development initiatives such as dams has to be judiciously calculated and assessment of the benefits of big dams must confront the human costs of displacing millions of people. According to a study carried out by the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) it has been estimated that on average 44,182 people are displaced by dams.2 Issues such as landlessness, joblessness, homelessness, enhanced morbidity, food insecurity and mortality, social disintegration and marginalization are some of the threats that have been identified by experts studying the issue of development-induced displacement (Cernea 1999). In many cases of human rights violation, coercion as against conciliation leading to further marginalization and deprivation of the excluded section have been observed. From the perspective of developing countries, a typical example involving the issue of development-induced displacement is the case of the Narmada dam in India.3 Although the basic objective of the project was to address issues related to the development of dry areas and to facilitate industrialization, there have been stiff resistance to the project on the ground of ecological imbalances and negative socio-economic effects endangering the livelihood and survival of the excluded people of the region (Bhalla and Mookerjee 2000). Dreze and Sen, world-famous economists, aver that development vis-à-vis displacement should be viewed
116 Banerjea in terms of the real freedoms that the citizens enjoy, to pursue the objectives they have reason to value, and in this sense the expansion of human capability can be, broadly, seen as the central feature of the process of development. (Dreze and Sen 1996: 10) In order to naturalize deprivation and marginalization, experts advocate the formulation of a holistic approach vis-à-vis planning and implementing development projects such as dams, making ‘non-fundamental modifications’ such as decreasing the height or forging a trade-off between the engineering/technical excellence and the minimization of the social costs (Bartolome et al. 2000: 20). Experts also advocate the formulation of amalgamated criteria encompassing aspects such as height, storage volume and the submerged area for evaluation of the negative social and ecological effects of dams, and they are in favour of increasing the accountability of water development agencies towards the population directly affected by large dams (Shah and Kumar 2008). Some experts have put forward the argument that the human rights approach needs to be aligned with developmental issues and they are in favour of promulgating the approach of putting ‘human beings ahead of “developmental” imperatives that have driven dambuilding so far’ (Rajagopal 2008: 12). In case of construction of big dams/storage capacities, the benefits generated often cannot be matched with the harm done in the form of displacement of poor people living in the vicinity of the construction sites. A modest attempt has been made in this chapter to focus on some critical issues centring around the actual/ potential displacement arising out of the famous Polavaram Dam Project in Andhra Pradesh, a state in India’s south.
The Polavaram Dam project: the critical issues It is a mammoth dam and river interlinking project undertaken by the government of Andhra Pradesh in 2005 involving an estimated cost of more than US$3 million, and having serious repercussions not only in the state itself, particularly for its poor tribal people, but also in neighbouring Chhatisgarh and Orissa states, which have raised strong objections to it. Originally mooted by the British colonial government in 1941, the project aims at constructing a dam on the mighty Godavari River and diverting large quantities of water 174 km through a link canal to the Krishna River. The construction of the dam project has ever since independence remained an agenda of the state government, and the federal government has always been rather forthcoming to give it a go-ahead. However, the project’s course has not had a smooth sailing, as it has been entangled in conflict and power politics among many organizations, institutions, organs of the government itself, NGOs, state governments, and the affected communities and their representatives themselves. To cite an example, although in 1982 the Union Government’s Central Water Commission (CWC) granted hydrological clearance to the project, opposition to the project stalled it until 2005 when it was taken up
The Polavaram Dam project 117 seriously by the government of Andhra Pradesh to complete it within the next 10 years. The land acquisition process for construction of the Polavaram Dam on the Godavari River – named after the closest town in the West Godavari district, across nine mandals (an administrative geographical jurisdiction) in the Khammam, East Godavari and West Godavari districts – in fact, started long before getting clearance from the CWC, the Forest Department, the Environment Department, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and other relevant departments and agencies. The Honourable Andhra Pradesh High Court is said to have announced a stay order on the project. But even before the necessary clearances were given and the stay was vacated, the state government started the work of digging of canals and undertaking other construction work by spending crores of rupees (one crore equals 100 million). The latest cost estimate is over Rs 20,000 crore, though the original one was Rs 9,265 crore. The Polavaram Dam is to be constructed at a level of 45.72 m (declared by the state government in January 2006), following the recommendations of a nine-member panel (much against the views of a number of leading experts in this field all over the country), straight across the Godavari River (15 km north of Rajahmundry in the East Godavari district; AndhraNews.net 2006). The Supreme Court has asked the Andhra Pradesh government to comply with the directives of the CWC but the said government has continued to issue contradictory statements in association with different government institutions/agencies from which it has to get the statutory clearances (All India Fact-finding Report 2007). While the tribal groups are getting organized, experts have revealed that the state government has distorted and suppressed some crucial facts relating to submergence in the Khammam district in the reports it has submitted to the CWC for obtaining clearance for the project (Deccan Chronicle 2005). It is interesting to note that, while answering a question in the Rajya Sabha (Council of States and second chamber of Indian Parliament) on 22 April 2003, even the Union Minister of State for Water Resources stated ‘The Polavaram Project of Andhra Pradesh has not yet been cleared for investment for want of resolution of inter-state issues and submission of remaining chapters of the DPR by the State for techno-economic appraisal by the Central appraising agencies’ (SANDRP 2005). Tribal villages in the submergence areas fall under Scheduled Areas notified in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution (Constitution of India n.d.). As per the Constitution 73rd Amendment Act, 1992 (which received the assent of the President on 20 April 1993 and was notified on 24 April 1993), the Eleventh Schedule has been added, which contains an exhaustive list (Article 243G) of matters/subjects that have been devolved to the Panchayats (local bodies) by Part IX of the Constitution, among them land improvement, implementation of land reforms, land consolidation and soil conservation; and welfare of the weaker sections, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Constitution (Seventythird Amendment) Act 1992).
118 Banerjea Land can be acquired for the Polavaram Dam Project in such submergence areas only if the local bodies pass resolutions to that effect. People in the tribal villages have started passing resolutions against the project and the land acquisition process. They have decided to file cases of trespassing and intimidation, if the revenue or irrigation officials try to come to such areas for survey and acquisition (SANDRP 2005). The state government has no powers in the matter and only the President of the country can de-notify these villages for the purpose of acquisition of land. The consent of the people of the affected area was not taken before the land acquisition process started. The people likely to be affected by the submergence, mostly tribal, have not been informed about details of the Polavaram Dam Project since the executive summary of the so called Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report has not been made available to them in their local language. The state administration had conducted public hearings simultaneously in the Khammam, West Godavari, East Godavari, Visakhapatnam and Krishna districts in a single day, 10 October 2005 (SANDRP 2005). As a result, more than 200,000 people, facing submergence of their villages and consequential displacement, have been deprived of the only and very limited opportunity available to them to raise and voice their concerns, objections and opinions. A team of officials of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF) was supposed to have visited the affected areas to assess the situation and meet some affected people, but the bias of the MEF became apparent when they visited only selected areas where there are some people who are in favour of the Polavaram Dam Project (SANDRP 2005). The same is also largely true of the visits by the Centrally Empowered Committee (CEC), appointed by the Supreme Court, which visited parts of the Polavaram Dam Project-affected areas between 29 and 31 July 2006 (India Together 2006). There are villages in the Godavari, Rayalaseema, and Telengana regions of Andhra Pradesh, having sizable sections of non-tribals. However, the non-tribals in such regions, having no legal entitlement, are also under much pressure. If they are displaced, the tribals, even having legal entitlement, will be forced to move out (All India Fact-finding Report 2007). Though the state government is claiming that construction of this dam will solve all the water-related and power-related problems in the state, it continues to maintain secrecy vis-à-vis all its operations in this connection. The tribal and non-tribal people of the project-affected area are largely unaware of the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) package, which is claimed by the state government to be one of the best such packages ever made in the world. Interestingly enough, it varies from village to village, between tribal and nontribal, and according to the nature of land holdings, and the package operates not in writing but on a verbal basis. In most of the cases, the absentee landlords will get the compensation without giving any or due share to the agricultural labourers, who are tribals. The general complaint from the tribals is that the land records
The Polavaram Dam project 119 are largely manipulated and mostly the absentee landlords, who are outsiders, will get the benefits (Patwardhan 2008). One of the main agreements between the people in an affected village and the government, before they agreed to part with their land against compensation, was that the agricultural loans from the banks (which were actually struck off by the Prime Minister the year before) would not be deducted from the compensation amount; yet, once the compensation is given, all the banks queue up to recover their loans. Though more than 80 per cent of the water of the Godavari River flows through the drought-prone Telengana region, ironically, this massive project will be of little help to this region, in terms of availability of water and power, as compared with the Godavari and Rayalaseema regions. The people of this region have naturally become apprehensive of the state government’s haste to push through the project before the possible formation of the Telengana state which, they believe, will certainly come in the way of this project. The tribals under the banner of the Adivasi Sankshema Parishad (an organization of the tribals), have decided to launch an agitation against the Polavaram Dam project. This organization has declared that the construction of the dam is against the interests of the tribals in the Khammam, East Godavari and West Godavari districts and has sought cancellation of the project. A big rally in the affected area faced tough state response on 25 October 2006. The Telangana Rashtra Samiti (a political party) has stated that it will intensify the agitation against this project (SANDRP 2005). Apart from huge public expenditure, an apprehension is that the rich flora and fauna in the forests of the Eastern Ghats on both sides of the Godavari River in the catchment areas of the dam will be largely affected. Koyas and Konda Reddys, some of the oldest tribal communities, who are inhabitants of this region, would be badly affected as a result of the Polavaram Dam Project. According to official estimates, all the nine mandals that will be submerged in the three districts of Andhra Pradesh come under the Scheduled Areas and some 236,000 people, living in 276 villages (predominantly tribal villages) in an area of about 100,000 acres, including forest land (which is likely to be submerged), are expected to be uprooted from their land and habitats. These include 13 villages in one taluka (an administrative geographical jurisdiction) in the Dantewada district and 10 villages in one taluka in the Malkangiri district in the states of Chhattisgarh and Orissa respectively. About 50 per cent of the affected populations are Scheduled Tribes (STs) and 15 per cent are Scheduled Castes (SCs). The number of affected families has gone up to 27,798, 1,372 and 814 in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa states respectively since the Polavaram Dam project EIA was done in 1985, when displacement was estimated to be 150,697 people from 226 villages (NWDA 2005), and such data in that report do not tally with the 2001 census figures, thus making the authenticity of the report questionable today. According to an NCAER study:
120 Banerjea a part of the area to be submerged has deposits of chromite, graphite and iron ore . . . The coal also occurs below the submersible area and this coalfield is a part of the important Sigaroni coal fields of South India . . . Some actions will be necessary to minimize the loss of mineral deposits. (1996: 2) These are revealing statements. About 3,267 ha of reserve forest area – spread over the Khammam (2,820 ha), Visakhapatnam (112 ha), East Godavari (149 ha), West Godavari (136 ha) and Krishna (49 ha) districts – is likely to be submerged, including about 85 ha in the notified Papikonda Wild Life Sanctuary (WLS), where about 10 patches of wild animals’ habitations are likely to be affected. That apart, the project would lead to the submergence of several archaeological sites including Gollagudem, Rudrama Kota and Tutigunta, which have not even been surveyed (Protected Area Update 2006). The Forest Department has been asked to conduct a survey of the flora and fauna in the Reserve Forest Area likely to be submerged by the reservoir. The EIA report states that the diversion of this land sought has been cleared by the concerned officials of the state government of Andhra Pradesh, but the question remains whether these officials have the authority to allow such diversion. Moreover, as per the subsequent Supreme Court order, no land of a protected area can be diverted without express permission of the Supreme Court. By recommending clearance, the MEF has most probably violated a number of stipulations. However, the clearance for the project, from the Forest Department, is yet to be applied for. As per the circular of the MEF, before diversion of any forest area in the tribal areas, express consent from the gram sabhas (local, grassroots democratic bodies) is necessary. This stipulation also seems to have been ignored by both the state government and the MEF. The state government had sought diversion of 1,850 ha of reserved forest land for the Polavaram Dam project, a part of which comes under Papikonda WLS. Any diversion or de-reservation of such notified area has to be ratified by the appropriate authorities and there has to be a Gazette Notification to that effect, declaring such a diversion or de-reservation, as it involves a change in the land use pattern. Moreover, the Reserved Forest Area proposed to be diverted is ecologically rich in terms of crown density, ranging from 0.4 to 0.5, and is of moist to semi-moist nature or of a dry deciduous kind. This means that the state government has to make a provision of a very large amount towards Net Present Value (NPV) as the average NPV per ha will be Rs 800,000 and for the total Reserved Forest Area of 3,223 ha it will come to Rs 2,578,400,000, which has not been provided for in the Polavaram Dam project’s cost. This is an important point to notice as some of the world’s richest biodiversity will be destroyed. The tribals in the affected region do not live in the non-forest areas. If displaced, even assuming them to be rehabilitated in other areas, they will certainly lose the constitutionally guaranteed rights meant for the Scheduled Areas and their social organization and cultural roots will be destroyed. There is every possibility that they will be forced to become migrant labourers and urban slum-dwellers, to
The Polavaram Dam project 121 which they will not be able to adjust in their lifetime. In these areas, the ownership of land and forest produce is not fixed and the traditional sharing method is largely in vogue; therefore, no such R&R package will do justice to the tribal communities there (Ghosh 2007). Ultimately, the situation will inevitably lead to many social and political conflicts. In spite of a number of violations and quite serious impact of the project and protest from many individuals and some organizations, the MEF went ahead and recommended clearance to the Polavaram Dam project in its meeting held on 19 October 2005, subject to some information to be obtained from the state government (Deccan Chronicle 2005). On 25 October 2005, the clearance letter was issued. Normally, for any project requiring clearance from both the forest and the environment authorities, the environmental clearance (EC) cannot precede the forest clearance (FC). Therefore, giving the EC when the FC has not been obtained is contrary to norms. The decision of the MEF to accord EC so expeditiously for a project of such a magnitude, involving so many impacts (submergence of nearly 300 villages, displacement of more than 200,000 people including tribals and other less privileged people, loss of a vast stretch of rich forest land, loss of flora and fauna, and serious threat to endangered species), makes the clearance highly questionable, particularly when it is a river valley project combined with linking of two major rivers (Godavari and Krishna), requiring a lot more thought and consultative process. How it was agreed to initiate a project that is going to cost over Rs 20,000 crore, when there is such a huge backlog of unfinished projects and when adequate resources are not there for even proper maintenance of existing projects, continues to be a big question. It appears that the EIA report has not seriously considered the possible alternatives to the Polavaram Dam project. The state government is pushing the Polavaram Dam project forward and some of the opposition parties have also declared their support. At the centre, the chief proponents of this project include the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Union Ministry of Water Resources and the National Water Development Agency (NWDA). The Union Government itself has not declared its view till now. Other crucial players who are silent so far include the Orissa and Chhattisgarh state governments and the National Advisory Council. However, some national/ state/local-level NGOs have opposed the move but they seem to lack coordination at the moment. Because of some massive impacts of a negative nature, this project is bound to face stiff resistance in the near future.
Conclusion: defeat of democracy To be sure, the above project would most probably result in the largest displacement of the already deprived local communities, mostly tribals and Dalits (Roy 2006: 56) since Independence, quite apart from the massive environmental degradation. Local tribal people are said to have been moving uphill for forest and homesteads. Many have refused to leave their villages, and are engaged in opposition to the project. There is opposition to the project from the NGOs; the state
122 Banerjea governments of Orissa and Chhatisgarh have voiced their serious opposition to it. But such voices of opposition have not been heeded. The Gram Sabhas of the Panchayat, the grassroots democratic bodies, were said to have been ‘completely sidelined’, and the public hearings in October 2005 were held too haphazardly and so inadequately that not a single one was held in Orissa or Chhatisgarh! Painfully enough, all political parties including the Communist Party of India (Marxists) (which only asked the state government to reduce the size of the dam to minimize submersion!) gave tacit approval to the project. Transparency, which is an important guideline of the World Commission on Dams, has, in this case, been the casualty. The Polavaram Dam project thus offers a major case of the triumph of the technocrats, bureaucrats and politicians (and perhaps the vested interests) over democracy, the rights of the marginalized and deprived. Some 200,000 people, mostly aboriginal people, some 300 villages, and the submergence of some 63,692 hectares in the three states are here development’s casualties!
Notes 1 Among other sources, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development-induced_ displacement provides an effective conceptualization. 2 Information available from http://archive.corporatewatch.org/magazine/issue12/ cw12w4.html. 3 Gail Omvedt (1989) has argued that opposition to dams in India (of which various ecology movements are one form) raises ‘crucial issues about the form of capitalist development in India’ and directed our attention to the effects of such measures in ‘intensifying unequal development’ rather than mitigating it.
Bibliography All India Fact-finding Report on Polavaram Dam Project: Preliminary Report (2007) http:// fightdisplacement.blogspot.com/2007_08_01_archive.html, accessed on 6 December 2008. AndhraNews.net (2006) ‘Polavaram Dam height to be at 150 ft.’, 24 January, accessed on 6 December 2008. Bartolome, L. J., Wet, C., Mander, H. and Nagraj, V. K. (2000) ‘Displacement, Resettlement, Rehabilitation, Reparation and Development’, working paper, World Commission on Dams, http://www.dams.org/docs/kbase/thematic/drafts/tr13_draft.pdf, accessed on 4 February 2009. Bhalla, S. S. and Mookerjee A. (2001) ‘Big Dam Development: Facts, Figures and Pending Issues’, Water Resources Development, 17 (1): 89–98. Cernea, M. (1999) ‘Why Economic Analysis is Essential to Resettlement: A Sociologist’s View’, in M. Cernea (ed.), The Economics of Involuntary Resettlement: Questions and Challenges, Washington, DC: World Bank. Constitution of India (n.d.) Fifth Schedule, http://www.mmpindia.org/Fifth_Schedule.htm, accessed on 6 December 2008. The Constitution (Seventy-third Amendment) Act (1992), http://indiacode.nic.in/coiweb/ amend/amend73.htm, accessed on 6 December 2008. Deccan Chronicle (2005) ‘Clearance for Polavaram Soon’, November 26
The Polavaram Dam project 123 De Wet, C. J. (ed.) (2006) Development-induced Displacement: Problems, Policies, and People, New York: Berghahn Books. Dreze, J. and Sen, A. (1996) India Economic Development and Social Opportunity, New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Ghosh, A. K. (2007) ‘Tribal Travail: New Economic Policy and the Matrix of Poverty’, The Statesman, Kolkata, 18 May. Omvedt, Gail. (1989) ‘Ecology and Social Movements’, in H. Alavi and J. Harriss (eds), South Asia, London: Macmillan. India Together (2006) ‘Polavaram Dam: Preparing to Repeat a Dammed History’, http:// www.indiatogether.org/2006/sep/hrt-polavaram.htm, accessed on 6 December 2008. National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) (1996) ‘Report on Godavari (Polavaram) Krishna (Vijayawada) Link (GKVL)’, NCAER, New Delhi National Water Development Agency (NWDA) (2005) ‘Report on Godavari (Polavaram) Krishna (Vijayawada) Link (GKVL)’, NWDA, New Delhi Patwardhan, A. (2008) ‘Dams and Tribal People in India’, prepared for Thematic Review I.2: Dams, Indigenous People and Vulnerable Ethnic Minorities, World Commission for Dams, http://www.dams.org/, accessed on 6 December 2008. Protected Area Update (2006) ‘Polavaram Dam is Estimated to Submerge 3267 Hectare of Forest Including 85 Hectares in Papikonda WLS’, Protected Area Update (News and Information from Protected Areas in India and South Asia), 12 (1). Rajagopal, B. (2008) ‘Human Rights and Development’, contributing paper to the World Commission on Dams, http://www.dams.org/docs/kbase/contrib/ins206.pdf, accessed on 3 December 2008. Roy, A. (2006) ‘The Cost of Living: Narmada Dam and the Indian State’, in L. Rudolph and J. K. Jacobson (eds), Experiencing the State, Delhi: Oxford University Press. SANDRP (2005) ‘Agitation against Polavaram, Sept.–Oct.’, http://www.sandrp.in/dams/ polavrm_article.pdf, accessed on 6 December 2008. Shah, Z. and Kumar, M. D. (2008) ‘In the Midst of the Large Dam Controversy: Objectives, Criteria for Assessing Large Water Storages in the Developing World’, Water Resources Management, 22 (12): 1799–1824.
10 Purity as exclusion, caste as division The ongoing battle for equality Jasbir Jain
Dosto, Mera gaon Tumhare gaon se dur hai (Gaikwad 2008: 137) Friends, My village Is far away from yours (trans. mine)
Caste as a major trope Caste oppression and discrimination have been problems for India and Indians for a very long time despite a multitude of efforts at reform, rationalization and resistance. Even today, in 2010, news of violence and discriminatory practices stare one in the face as, despite the provision in Article 17 of the Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution, the implementation of the recommendations of the Mandal Commission in 1990 and the upward graph of reservations, and the rise in economic and education levels, caste discrimination continues to persist, so much so that it has also infiltrated such professedly egalitarian groups as the Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. The category of caste has been variously defined – as ‘Varna’ and ‘Jati’1 – and umpteen justifications offered by practising Hindus, including Gandhi,2 on the grounds that it is functional, but in day-to-day practices caste is more than mere occupational identification. In common parlance ‘jati’, with its endogamous unit, cultural practices, food habits and rituals, still serves as a source of categorization and identity. Birth is the dominant factor in the determination of caste, in other words the blood line. In this the concept of race and that of occupation have been merged and blind prejudice or pride continues to be at work. Recent media reports about the refusal to eat midday meals cooked by Dalits, from places as different from each other as Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, tell their own story.3 Caste has acted as both a unifying factor and a dividing one. It impinges on every aspect of life – work, dignity, social status, class, marriage and kinship,
Purity as exclusion, caste as division 125 land ownership, education as well as political and religious spaces (see Menon 1993). More than anything else it impacts the idea of equality as well as the idea of the nation. Nicholas Dirks deliberates on the colonial construction of caste, which, even if it was not an invention (as Dirks chooses to call it), definitely was a hardening of the boundary lines through means such as separate electorates, anthropological studies and census data. He writes: Indeed, my argument is about the power of the colonial leviathan to produce caste as the measure of all social things, a feat that could not have been accomplished had caste not become one of the most important emblems of tradition [. . .] at the same time as it was a core feature of colonial power/ knowledge. (Dirks 2004: 8; see also pp. 12–14) Caste thus has had its own negative share in national history as well as the humanist discourse the nation is so proud of. Untouchables have traditionally constituted a fifth varna ‘outside the pale of caste society’ (Chakravarti 2006/2003: 9). But when we talk of caste, it is not only the untouchables but ‘sudras’ as well that constitute a problematic category. ‘Varna’ means colour in Sanskrit, whereas ‘sudra’ means sons (children) of prostitutes, thus indicating an illegal birth, a bastardization of a whole category, which in itself is a clear indication of the exploitation by the upper castes of the women of the lower castes.4 Chatterjee (1997) refers to two different strategies that have been adopted by Indian nationalists: one is to accept caste as essential to the characterization of Indian society, which will ‘wither away’ under the impact of modernization; the second is to accept it as a basis for civilizational identity and as an attempt at harmonizing the distinct parts of society. Both these approaches have worked differently in the context of modernity. Chatterjee is of the view that, whereas the first works with the universal concept of modernity, the second has worked through a new synthetic theory of the unity of Indian society (Chatterjee 1997: 174–5). But despite the fact that each has dominated a fair amount of social and political reality as traced by Chatterjee and several other historians, it is obvious that neither of the two has succeeded in its aim. Instead caste has worked itself into some contradictory positions and encouraged separatist tendencies. It has played a major role in mobilizing vote banks and in the rise of separatist movements such as Periyar’s for Dravidsthan, which surfaced in the 1930s to be pursued later by the DMK. In 1967 the DMK was voted to power on this count and now the Bahujan Samaj Party is riding high on this wave. The Gujjar-Meena confrontation in Rajasthan, apparently a caste issue and a struggle for space, is also a political move. Jati panchayats have also continued to exercise a hold on individual choices, marriage alliances and kinship patterns. In fact, caste has resisted the impact of modernization and has not transformed itself into class.
Strategies of empowerment Bakha at the end of end of Mulk Raj Anand’s novel Untouchable has four choices and possible solutions for the problem of caste. These are: Gandhism, with its insistence on reform; the missionary with his promise of conversion; the poet who holds forth the way of imagination and the possibility of transcendence; and finally technology, which may render manual work unnecessary. Anand does not look at economic uplift or even at education as possible means of change. In 1935 when the novel was published (through written in 1932), political participation had also become a possibility with the announcement of separate electorates on the basis of caste. When Gandhi resisted the separate electorates on the ground that it was a divisionary move and threatened to go on fast, Ambedkar was compelled to yield to the pressure. But, nevertheless, provision was made for reservation in the main category.5 V. P. Singh’s government extended both the period and the scope of the reservation provided for in the constitution by implementing the Mandal Commission Report in 1990, which in its turn evoked its own protests.6 This implementation was part of the affirmative action on behalf of the state. The question is: have these affirmative measures succeeded? Are education and economic uplift leading us towards a more equal and less discriminatory society? And is modernity having any impact on caste relationships? Difficult questions to address, and a whole range of answers both from the ‘insiders’ and the ‘outsiders’ as they negotiate the problematic issue of social discrimination on the basis of caste, especially as Dalit writing has now acquired visibility.
Classical and experiential narratives: ongoing dialogues Sisir Kumar Das in his essay ‘The Narratives of Suffering: Caste and the Underprivileged’ (2002) considers the rising awareness of social issues as both a source of embarrassment as well as a challenge for writers of the educated middle class. For one, they had to negotiate their pride in their caste origins; two, they had to adopt an ideological position. But by and large the criticism of caste was on humanitarian grounds. We have some sensitive and moving portrayals of the inhuman aspect of caste discrimination in the writing of Tagore (Chandalika, 1933) Premchand (Kafan and Sadgati, the latter made into a memorable telefilm by Satyajit Ray), Shivram Karanth (Choma’s Drum, 1978/1933) and Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (Scavenger’s Son, 1948), to name only a few. Tagore centrestages the power of love, Premchand the brutalization of both the oppressors and oppressed, Karanth the desire for land and belonging, and Pillai the problem of smell. Mulk Raj Anand in Untouchable (1970/1935) gets into Bakha’s aspirations for freedom. There were also the literary reflections of the oppressed themselves. Jotirao Phule, a non-brahmin who came from the mali caste, in his very first play Treetya Ratan (1855) took up the question of caste and brahmin versus non-brahmin. It questioned the parasitical life of the upper classes as well as the social hierarchy, which claimed vedic authority. Phule’s characters discuss social issues (in fact it is a play of debates and discussions), and one of them points out the need
Purity as exclusion, caste as division 127 for the state to take up a systematic spread of education among the poor (Phule 1994/1855: 41).7 Well before Ambedkar, Phule was inspired by the ‘egalitarian philosophy of the Buddha and Kabir’ (Mani 2005: 254). More than a century later we also have Girish Karnad moving back into history to take up the twelfthcentury revolution led by Basavanna against religious and caste hegemony.8 In more recent times, one of the major statements attacking the domination of the upper castes is Kancha Illiah’s Why I am not a Hindu. Illiah critiques the educational system that renders other cultures invisible and subjects the Dalit child to a culture as strange to him as the Western. This point has its other side as well, as Kumud Pawle points out in her essay ‘The Story of my “Sanskrit” ’. Despite her Sanskrit education and academic merit, caste becomes a barrier to employment. She describes the years of struggle when several efforts were made to dissuade her from pursuing this course. ‘The point is’, she writes, ‘that Sanskrit and the social group I come from, don’t go together in the Indian mind’ (Pawle 1998: 85). As a student she had to put up with caste prejudice (Pawle 1998: 89) and later it was only when she married a non-shudra that the doors of employment opened for her (Pawle 1998: 97). Education, conversion, economic upgrading and reservation have made marginal difference to the fact of discrimination, except that today it has become associated with protest and resistance, the new basis of identity construction. Sharan Kumar Limbale’s 2004 novel Hindu illustrates the complexity of the issue when like-sounding surnames signify different castes. The village community is divided into two on the basis not merely of caste but also of political power. The caste-Hindu Rambhau Kawle is about to complete his term as the village patil and it is very likely that Tatia Kamble will take his place. Therefore it is necessary to get him out of the way and there can be nothing easier than murder. Power politics succeeds in buying the loyalty of the dead Tatia’s brother Sadanand by promising him a seat in the cabinet. The court judgment acquits the murderers leading to large-scale violence and retaliation. The irony is that even power does not unite. When a joint electoral victory is celebrated, caste-Hindus object to the display of Ambedkar’s portrait (Limbale 2004: 14) and the Dalits in their turn worship Hindu gods in the privacy of their homes (Limbale 2004: 17). The social scene constantly throws up its own contradictions. The narrative structure is held together by two murders – one of Tatia Kamble and the other of Prabhakar, who had murdered Tatia. The first is motivated by political greed, the second by revenge. As the novel proceeds, every moral law is subjected to scrutiny and every possible strategy of reconciliation has an immoral aspect. The various meanings of loyalty are debated. Is loyalty the quality of obedience ingrained and expected in a hierarchical feudal structure? Or is it based on blood and of caste? Or is loyalty merely personal greed? Is loyalty to be contextualized in the living present or in the traditional structures of the past? The Dalits find that only the refusal to perform their caste-assigned duties can lead them to self-worth and dignity. Yet this mode of resistance deprives them of their livelihood. Milind, who is part narrator of the novel, is caught in a constant self-critiquing as he is unable to become a full-fledged rebel because
128 Jain of his economic compulsions. He is aware that any compromise would destroy the movement; he also knows that a democracy based on compromises is no democracy at all; yet he continues to be a fence-sitter and a sense of physical impotency grows upon him to match his political impotency. The novel ends with a metaphorical change of sex: My masculinity was being destroyed. I was undergoing a metamorphosis. My sex was changing . . . How did I undergo this metamorphosis? What kind of a miracle was this? In one moment, so rapidly! I began to think. My memory was weakened. Thoughts were paralysed. Despite the fact that I was searching for myself. This impotency has not come all of a sudden. It has been a long process. The day I withdrew from the movement, right from that day this impotency began to creep on me. (Limbale 2004: 150, translation mine) Milind is conscious of this split within Hinduism, which is genocidal in its impulse. As Tatia’s funeral procession is on its way to the cremation ground, Milind’s thoughts interrogate this harsh reality. Neither the Muslim nor the Sikh nor the Christian kills a Dalit – it is the Hindu alone who does it and seeks an exclusion of the Dalit. If occupations are determined by caste, in Gurdial Singh’s novel Parsa (1999/1998) caste is transformed in accordance with the occupation. Parsa is not of the lower castes, but because of the devaluation of the Brahmins by Sikhism he is deprived of his religious employment and takes to farming. This leads him to become a Jat-Brahmin. Kamlesh Mohan in ‘Clamping Shutters and Valorizing Women: Tensions in Sculpting Gender Identities in Colonial Punjab’ has elaborated upon how this kind of a social change began to take place. He points out that the new operational values of Sikh religion such as self-respect, dignity of labor and egalitarianism inspired the Jats to join the new brotherhood. During the nineteenth century land grants by Maharaja Ranjit Singh boosted their social and economic positions. Conversely the brahmins went down the social scale and became cultivators and landowners (Mohan 1999: 167) and began to be known as Brahmin-Jats. The novel itself is dominantly concerned with the working philosophy of the central character, who has an immense faith in spirituality but none at all in ritualistic practices. The debate is about the meaning of dharma (religion) with all its various connotations and implications and its counterpart karma, which is interpreted as action and not destiny. Gurdial Singh’s novels work at several levels: there is the social depiction of the economic stratification, the nature of power, social violence and personal suffering; then there is a redefining of the concept of masculinity and an attempt
Purity as exclusion, caste as division 129 to free it from stereotypical macho images. Constant engagement with philosophical issues constitutes a major strand in his work and he works through spaces – houses, villages, peripheries and fields – in order to build his rural world. He is not afraid of portraying strong individuals along with their private package of desire and suffering. Bama, a Tamil woman writer, titled her autobiography not ‘my life’ or ‘my story’ but Karukku. In her preface to the English translation, she writes: There are many congruities between the saw-edged palmyra karukku and my own life. Not only did I pick up the scattered palmyra karukku in the days when I was sent out to gather firewood, scratching and tearing my skin as I played with them; but later they also became the embryo and symbol that grew into this book. (Bama 2002: xiii) Bama writes of how any public acknowledgement of her caste sent others into ‘a titter of contempt’ and how the nuns discriminated between the rich and the poor (Bama 2002: 19). Strangely enough it was these limitations on part of the church that inspired her to become a nun so that she could set this right. But just when she was on the verge of becoming a full-fledged nun, one of the sisters informed her that in certain orders harijans were not accepted as nuns. Continued experience of caste discrimination made her realize that there was no getting away from caste – not education, not conversion, not change of occupation, not merit, and not even death, ‘Even after death, caste-difference does not disappear’ (Bama 2002: 23). Even the burial grounds were different (Bama 2002: 25). Finally, it is the insensitivity of the nuns towards the poor that led to her withdrawal. Bama comments on the exploitation of the poor, who continue to be marginalized in every way. It is only the upper-caste Christians who enjoy the benefits and comforts of the Church . . . And if Dalits become priests or nuns, they are pushed aside and marginalized first of all, before the rest go about their business. It is because of this that even though Dalits like me might wish to take up the path of renunciation, we find there is no place for us there. (Bama 2002: 69) Even those who are aware of the discrimination and wish to resist it find that they lack money power, and resistance wars cannot be carried out on an empty stomach. Despite the discriminatory practices of religious institutions and the power-wielders in them, religion still serves as a social force for group formation and social resistance. It acquires a symbolical role. Nandini Gooptu in her research on the resurgence of bhakti in the early decades of the twentieth century believes it came to ‘be practised more extensively by the urban untouchable . . . as a form of denial of caste distinction’. This was a departure from medieval bhakti, which was more direct and personal communion with God (Gooptu 1993: 284–5).
130 Jain When the first hurdle is crossed and one ‘arrives’ in the middle class, then what happens? Arjun Dangle’s short story ‘Promotion’ (1994/1992) provides an insight into the psycho-social dilemma. The newly promoted protagonist of the story finds it difficult to control his subordinates who belong to the upper castes but is equally distanced from members of his own class. He prefers to wait for a later local train in the evenings rather than travel with them. One day, on reaching home, he finds a whole crowd of children accompanied by a woman relative of his wife, watching TV. They are from a neighbouring Dalit basti. After they have left, he reprimands his wife for continuing to mix with the low-caste people as it does not befit her status as an officer’s wife. The story raises questions about human relationships and kinships. How much does one have to change in order to be accepted by the upper caste? Food, habits, dress, culture, kin – all of them? Yet remain on the periphery, this time locked up in a well of loneliness?
The present Where are we more than 60 years after Independence and after 60 years of reservations, 18 of which have been of intense reservations? At one level caste is more visible than ever before. Associations, celebrations, bonding, employment and democracy: almost all of them still work on the basis of caste. Reservations act both ways. Even as they enable the deprived to come forward and study and work towards better living conditions, they also act as devaluation of merit. Even those who have made it on their own are labelled as ‘reserve’ category. Power too escapes them. They may have money and official status but high capitalism has located power much more firmly than ever before in the business world. What is much more deplorable than all this is the fact that society is still far from being egalitarian or even acquiring the semblance or prospect of it. In a recent article Sen Gupta and others point out that the extremely poor, poor marginal and vulnerable constitute about 77 per cent of the population – that is 836 million out of a total population of 1,090 million – and this group contains 88 per cent of SC/ ST and 80 per cent of OBCs; illiteracy figures are also higher in this group (Sen Gupta et al. 2008). They conclude that ‘social deprivation arising out of social identity (i.e., caste/community) seems to be so deeply entrenched that it cannot be brushed aside by addressing only economic deprivation’ (Sen Gupta et al. 2008: 60). The mindset that continues to believe in myths of purity and pollution of blood does not discriminate between inherited belief systems and reality. For this mindset identity is decontextualized. It has nothing to do with the present, the individual or the making of the individual in an empirical framework. Dipankar Gupta in his introduction to Caste in Question, while recognizing the fact that caste orthodoxies are challenged and that caste works differently in different religious groups, goes on to admit that caste cannot change intrinsically as long as it is ‘fundamentally founded on identities that draw their sustenance from a rhetoric of natural differences that are imbued with notions of purity and impurity; as the saying goes, the more things change the more they are the same’ (Gupta 2004: xix–xx). It is not easy to dismantle caste identities. Gupta suggests,
Purity as exclusion, caste as division 131 ‘To disarticulate caste, endogamy has to be surmounted’ (Gupta 2004: xx). But how often does this happen? Gupta also discredits literary reflections, overlooking the fact that literature is not merely a reflection of reality but also a capturing of the unconscious drive. A short story by Narain Singh, ‘Married to Separateness’, captures the problems that beset exogamous marriages. These problems are not necessarily social – they are self-originated in an atmosphere of social hostility. Dilip visits a family in search of a prospective son-in-law, where he confronts the ghost of his wife’s chamar lineage. Disappointed, Dilip returns home to reflect on his own marriage. Though his father-in-law was a gazetted officer was he right to cross the caste boundary? The unconscious fear that drives him is the possibility that his daughter may commit the same mistake and marry Deepak, who too hails from the chamar caste. He feels that ‘nature is against the growth of mixed bloodlines’ (Singh 2004: 63). Dilip’s final admission of his hidden fears and the barriers that he had faced expose the social scenario and the criss-crossing of interests. Whereas vote banks are carefully nurtured, relationships are separated from their public acknowledgement. Education and caste remain separate, sex and marriage are placed in separate zones; reputations are based on adherence to orthodoxy and traditional patterns have a habit of reasserting themselves. Distances are maintained, social interaction limited to official/business transactions. The concept of purity – the purity of the ‘untouched’ body, of bloodline, of race and religion – in all these manifestations creates barriers as ‘Married to Separateness’, Karukku and the earlier novels of Pillai, Raja Rao and Anand portray. Dalit writing as a means of social critiquing and articulation of resistance has framed the narrative of caste from another perspective. One needs to go along with Dipankar Gupta in his advocacy of exogamy, but at the same time two other areas that need attention – or rather three – are steps to move outside caste-based vote banks, a relook at the reservation policy and a concerted effort to reconstruct cultural discourses. The point is who is going to do this. Education still remains the best option but sadly enough we are not moving in that direction with the liquidation of standards in subsidized sections, with caste prejudices working in primary and government schools operative in poorer localities, and with literacy levels remaining deplorably low. Equality – even in the notional sense – needs a multipronged, multidirectional effort. And the project of democratic freedom will remain unfulfilled as long as the caste divisions exist. Dwarka Bharti has expressed his agony in the following lines: Neech jati ka arth woh nahin Jo seedha-sadha aur masoom-sa lagta hai . . . Es ka arth Aadmi ki gardan par seer ka na hona hai Arthath – Bina sason ke to hai Woh neech jati jai (Bharti 2008: 194)
132 Jain The meaning of low caste is not that Which appears to be direct and innocent-like . . . Its meaning is Not to have a head On your shoulders That is Without head Without breath He who is Is low caste. (translation mine) Although empowerment strategies can help dismantle the conditions of poverty, discrimination, ignorance and sanitation, what they cannot achieve by themselves is a redefinition of the concept of ‘purity’. For this we need not reason, but an emotional and a religious approach. The act of redefining would necessarily shift the focus from the outside and the ‘other’ to the ‘self’ and one’s own emotional make-up. This necessary change requires a hypothetical erasure of economic and political considerations and a refocusing on the individual. I refer the reader to Tagore’s Gora, written as early as 1909, in which ‘purity’ is examined not as a caste problem but as a personal and a religious concept. Gora, the protagonist of the novel, has such a fetish for purity that he does not even share his meal with his mother and abstains from all social intercourse with Brahmo Samajis (the followers of Brahmo Samaj). Gora’s mother, Anandmai, is far more liberated than her son and believes that caste is a matter not of birth but of behaviour. Gora and his friend Vinay carry on an unending dialogue on the issue of purity. Vinay is of the view that it is the humanity of each one of us that needs to be recognized and valued, that the ‘other’ has to be seen in this perspective. Gora, on the other hand, is drawn towards tradition and its religious practices. Their debates uncover the split at the heart of Hindu tradition – the compassion and humanity, the need to reach out, the belief and valorization of asceticism and self-abnegation, on one hand, and on the other, a disproportionate attention to externals and the ego-enhancement that comes with ritualistic observation. Thus, while there is a theoretical belief in the need to reach out – that too is dharma – there is physical enclosure within which the self begins to live. How does one begin to distinguish between right and wrong? Confronted by this basic dilemma, Gora begins to realize that purity is not of the externals, in fact defining it on the basis of externals is nothing short of adharma. Is purity preserved by sharing food with a family that commits atrocities on the other or by sharing it with the oppressed? The Vinay–Gora debate comes out in public and is carried on in the newspapers. It is when Gora’s notion of identity is shaken-up on learning that he is an adopted child, when birth and nationality and religion simultaneously become uncertain, that his true self-questioning begins and he is liberated
Purity as exclusion, caste as division 133 from his narrow self-imposed prejudices. Gora realizes that castelessness is true freedom, now no invisible gap of separation exists (Tagore 1998/1909: 474–5). Once again it is the relationship between the ‘I’ and the ‘Other’, between the inherited self and the socially created self, that is at the centre of the debate. The gaps and the divisions between the two need to be bridged. For centuries we as a nation have been struggling with the meaning of dharma and karma but why do we look for fixities? Their true meaning lies between the relationship between the ‘I’ and the ‘Other’ outside and above divisions of caste and birth.
Notes 1 See Chakravarti (2006/2003: 9): ‘ “varna” in sanskrit is literally color . . . Varna referred to a status order system later; a fifth varna, one that was regarded as being outside the pale of caste society, comprising “untouchables” was added to the Varna divisions in Hindu society; “Jati” refers to an endogamous unit within which members of a jati are, members of a descent group’. 2 See Dirks (2004/2001: 260–1). Dirks refers to Gandhi’s public statements on caste and his acceptance of the four varnas along with endogamy. E. V. Ramaswamy Naicker (usually known as Periyar) described Gandhi’s wishes to reform religion and his acceptance of varnas as contradictory to each other. 3 For more details see Awasthi (2007) and “Untouchables or the children of India’s Ghetto Part II” http://www.ambedkar.org/ambcd/22B.Untouchables%20or%20 the%20children%20of%20India’s%20Ghetto%20PART%20II.htm. 4 C. Aranganayagam (1998) points to this meaning of ‘sudra’. In a patriarchal society it is male lineage that is recognized, but the phrase ‘sons of prostitutes’ reveals the contradiction. Here fatherhood is uncertain but ‘sons’, who will carry forward the line, are recognized. Amongst the Rajputs also there is a category known as ‘Daroga Rajputs’, which, in the process of claiming peripheral affiliation with the Rajputs, proudly announces its illegitimacy. One need not document this. Every other day we have reports of this in the media. The ‘new wave’ films of the 1970s, financed mainly by the National Drama and Film Corporation (NDFC), such as Ankur and Nishant, work with this theme. Closer to the present we have Gautam Ghosh’s Paar. 5 The Indian Council Act first announced separate electorates in 1909; they were extended in 1919, and in 1932 separate electorates were also created for the uppercaste Hindus and the Harijans. Gandhi resisted this move and, as a consequence, reservations within the Hindu category were provided. 6 See ‘Prologue’ to Chakravarti (2006/2003: 1), where she refers to demonstration by upper-caste women college students at the height of the anti-Mandal agitation carrying placards, ‘we don’t want unemployed husbands’! Chakravarti comments that these women were protesting on part of their potential husbands who would be deprived of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) jobs because of the reservation. 7 For details see Phule (1994/1855: 41), where the male character is of the opinion ‘I feel that the government’s Board of Education should pass a law that in every village, after assessment of the mali families, a certain percentage of their children be imparted school education’ (trans. mine). 8 Basavanna was a twelfth-century social reformer, philosopher and mystic living in Karnataka. He worked against caste prejudice and ritualistic religion, and preached the concept of a formless God. The well-known dramatist Karnad has written about his social reform movement, the subsequent opposition to it and the failure of the revolution in his play Tale Danda (1993).
Bibliography Anand, Mulk Raj. (1970/1935) Untouchable, New Delhi: Orient Paperback. Aranganayam, C. (1998) ‘An Insider’s Perception of Dravidian Movement’, in G. Palanithurai and R. Thandavan (eds), Ethnic Movement in Transition: Ideology and Culture in a Changing Society, New Delhi: Kanishka Publishers & Distributors. Awasthi, Puja. (2007) ‘Caste Discrimination Persisting in U.P. Schools’, http://www.indiatogether.org./2007/aug/edu_caste/htm. Bama. (2002/1992) Karukku (translated by Lakshmi Holmstrom, edited by M. Krishnan), Chennai: Macmillan. Bharti, Dwarka. (2008) ‘Jati Ka Arth’, in V. Thorat and S. Badtaya (eds), Bhartiya Dalit Sahitya Ke Vidrohi Swar, Jaipur: Rawat Publications (in Hindi). Chakravarti, Uma. (2006/2003) Gendering Caste: Through a Feminist Lens, Calcutta: Stree. Chatterjee, Partha. (1997) The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories, Delhi: Oxford University Press. Dangle, Arjun. (1994/1992) ‘Promotion’ (translated by Lalita Paranjape), in A. Dangle (ed.), Poisoned Bread, Hyderabad: Orient Longman. Das, Sisir Kumar. (2002) ‘The Narratives of Suffering: Caste and the Underprivileged’, in T. Basu (ed.), Translating Caste, New Delhi: Katha. Dirks, Nicholas B. (2004/2001) Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India, New Delhi: Permanent Black. Gaikwad, Laxman. (2008) ‘Mera Gaon Dur Hai’, in V. Thorat and S. Badtaya (eds), Bhartiya Dalit Sahitya Ke Vidrohi Swar, Jaipur: Rawat Publications (in Hindi). Gooptu, Nandini. (1993) ‘Caste and Labour: The Untouchable Movements in Urban Uttar Pradesh in Early Twentieth Century’, in P. Robb (ed.), Dalit Movements and the Meaning of Labour in India, Delhi: Oxford University Press. Gupta, Dipankar. (2004) ‘Introduction’, in D. Gupta (ed.), Caste in Question, New Delhi: Sage Publications. Karnad, Girish. (1993) Tale Danda, New Delhi: Ravi Dayal. Karanth, A. (1978/1933) Choma’s Drum (translated by U. R. Kalkur), Delhi: Hind Pocket Books. Limbale, Sharan Kumar. (2004) Hindu (translated by Suryanarayan Ranasubhe), New Delhi: Vani Prakashan. Mani, Braj Ranjan. (2005) Debrahmanising History: Dominance and Resistance in Indian Society, New Delhi: Manohar. Menon, D. K. (1993) ‘Intimations of Equality: Shrines and Politics in Malabar, 1990– 1924’, in P. Robb (ed.), Dalit Movements and the Meaning of Labour, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mohan, Kamlesh. (1999) ‘Clamping Shutters and Valorizing Women: Tensions in Sculpting Gender Identities in the Colonial Punjab’, in P. Singh and S. S. Thandi (eds), Punjabi Identity in a Global Context, New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Pawle, Kumud. (1998) ‘The Story of My “Sanskrit” ’, in S. Tharu (ed.), Subject to Change, New Delhi: Orient Longman. Phule, Jotiba. (1994/1855) Treetya Natak, in Mahatama Jotiba Phule Rachnavali, Vol. 1 (translated by L. G. Meshram and Vimal Kirti), Delhi: Radhakrishan Prakashan (in Hindi). Sen Gupta, A., Kannan, K. P. and Raveendran, G. (2008) ‘India’s Common People: Who
Purity as exclusion, caste as division 135 Are They, How Many Are They and How Do They Live’, Economic and Political Weekly, 15 March. Singh, Gurdial. (1999/1998) Parsa (translated by Rana Nayar), New Delhi: National Book Trust (in Punjabi). Singh, Narain. (2004) ‘Married to Separateness’ (translated Geeta Sahai and Rupalee Verma), in T. Basu (ed.), Translating Caste, New Delhi: Vani Prakashan. Tagore, Rabindranath. (1998/1909) Gora (translated by Sujit Mukerjee), New Delhi: Sahitya Academy (in English). —— (1933) Chandalika, place: publisher. Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, T. S. (1948) Scavenger’s Son (translated by R. E. Asher), Delhi: Hind Pocket Books.
11 Narrating gender and power Literary and cultural texts and contexts Sanjukta Dasgupta
Gender inequality Gender studies have mostly prioritized discussions about gender inequality, social justice and the possibility of the attainment of the subject position for women. The endeavour in the twenty-first century is to represent women as subject, signifying therefore what Amartya Sen has categorized as the well-being and not ill-being of women in our society. Admittedly, the idealized notion is of course the desire and dream to cherish the advancement of women as subjects, so that they can become active agents of social change. This development of women will necessarily contribute to the development of the community and state till the march towards equal power relations becomes a transforming reality. Gender inequality1 does not merely lead to the disempowerment of women but it affects all members of the social group; as a result men and children too inevitably suffer from the backwardness of women. Social justice can be achieved through awareness of the need of a complete development for all citizens, overcoming gender bias. However, these assertions ring like clichéd platitudes as the status of women is still very precarious and the competing issues about women’s identity, image and empowerment are still serious unresolved factors that need to be addressed as a structured agenda in India’s social development. On a macro level, however, gender inequality is an integral part of the social and economic inequality that is still prevalent in independent India: India’s record in reducing social and economic inequalities since independence has been very disappointing. Despite a virtual consensus about some kind of ‘socialism’ being a fundamental goal of economic policy, few practical steps have been taken to remove the pervasive inequalities that divide Indian society. (Dreze and Sen 2002: 92) Fictional narratives by women writers underpin the indisputable fact that gender equality will not be possible till the mind is liberated from patriarchal, sexist value systems and till that happens women will be in chains. It is the invis-
Narrating gender and power 137 ible chains that have silenced women, and the silent suffering woman has been emblematic of romanticized notions of motherhood and nationhood. Women have been located as the preservers of tradition and culture and their passivity has been valorized as a cultural value. As a result any resistance to this systematic eliding of the identity of the adult and mature woman is regarded as a stigma. This deliberate snuffing out of women as a desiring subject has been very carefully tracked in the post-colonial environment in Aparna Sen’s films Parama and Paromitar Ekdeen and Rituparna Ghosh’s Unishe April as well as in two films that address the issue of rape and sexual violence, Adalat O Ekti meye and Dahan, among others. Both visual texts and literary texts have critiqued the patriarchal system as being the perpetrator of crimes against women and the complicity that consolidates women’s peripheral status as second sex.2 The Foucaldian defining paradigm of repressive silence in The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, and the discursive counter-balance of the voices of silence, however, need to recognize concrete realities that contribute to epistemic understanding of women’s position as it is situated both historically and anthropologically rather than archaeologically. This may be considered to be a precondition for a holistic understanding of representations of woman in literary and cultural narratives, wherein, though language is in play, recognition of historical data problematizes performance and play. Amartya Sen referred specifically to women’s movements and feminist literature in chapter 3 of The Argumentative Indian, deliberately titled ‘Women and Men’. By reversing the received normative order, Sen’s title attempted to break free from the stereotype of foregrounding men as the more active and progressive gender. Sen observed: Women are, in this broadened perspective, not passive recipients of welfareenhancing help brought about by society, but are active promoters and facilitators of social transformations. Such transformations influence, of course, the lives and well being of women, but also those of men and all children – boys as well as girls. (Sen 2005: 222) It is therefore inevitable that one needs to examine the performance of masculinist ideologies and patriarchy in society, for both have systematically contributed to the retardation of the progress of women desirous of claiming subjecthood. Women have been socially conditioned to believe that self-confidence and assertiveness leads to de-feminization, in both cases leading to social ostracism whereby a kangaroo court adjudicates that she is either a witch or a bitch. The most spectacular instances include of course the burning of Joan of Arc at the stake and the severing of Khana’s tongue, besides the denial of priesthood to women, barring of women from entry to holy shrines, and the sartorial rigours enforced on her body and her sexuality, such as the veil, hijab and burkha. Even in present times both locally and globally, women’s bodies linked with women’s appearance and clothing seem to exude strange obsessive attention. This social conditioning that is an integral part of the patriarchal structure leads to rape,
138 Dasgupta domestic violence and sexual harassment both at home and in public places. Just this morning all newspapers and the media carried the news that a 17-year-old girl was publicly whipped by the Taliban in Pakistan, as she was suspected to have engaged in an un-Islamic relationship with a man (Times of India, 3 April 2009). In other words, it is the compulsion to adhere to the socially constructed image that gains recognition, whereas demand for recognition of social and personal identity may be often considered as subversive. Therefore, de-colonizing the mind of both men and women in the social structure by demolishing stereotypes of the Western iconic figure of the angel in the house, the Indian (Hindu) counterpart being the domestic goddess Lakshmi, may lead to the possibility of an alternative process, though in practice such alternatives are still exceptional. Cultural texts, however, have created the fissures within the patriarchal space by interrogating and refracting the stereotypes. One may consider the transition that was happening in the culture when we read for instance a few of the short stories of Tagore written during colonial times – ‘Streer Patra’, ‘Laboratory’, ‘Aparichita’ – and how the pace of cultural change becomes accelerated in post-colonial times as we track the road map traced by Ashapurna Devi in her path-breaking trilogy, Pratham Pratisruti, Subarnalata and Bakulkatha. All these representative narratives have acted as an alarm-bell and a wake-up call for drawing attention to the abjectness of real women in developing societies. Though the nature of oppression may vary, the constant is the marginalization of women in most human societies. Fiction is able to represent the nuanced invisible structures that operate in familial and interpersonal relationships, thereby revealing the fault-lines and the fragile overtures towards gender sensitization and gender mainstreaming.
Resistance as power Yet in recent times there have been instances both in real-life experiences and in fictional writing wherein resistance has been enshrined, and women seem to have at least endeavoured to de-colonize their minds, setting themselves free from the imperialistic rigours of the domestic. Fiction and women’s autobiographies trace how women have striven to break free from the seductive status of pathetic victimhood that seemed to be apparently desirable, as it seemed to secure domestic security within the undisturbed comfort zone of passivity. Women’s passivity through the insinuating allurements of sado-masochistic social and cultural compulsions and constructions has often been valorized as a desirable and romantic objective that ensures self-effacement and identity-denial, whereas women’s self-assertion has correspondingly been demonized as catastrophic for the family, community and society. Bani Basu’s short story ‘Panchojonyo’ (Quintuplets) suggests a utopian sisterhood of women, demolishing the traditional notion of women as arch-rivals and the worst misogynists. Nabaneeta Dev Sen’s short story ‘Porobrit’ (Parasite) narrates with confidence how a woman can reject the misuse of her docile body, by resorting to abortion when she finds herself pregnant soon after her good but sexually indifferent husband takes renewed intimate interest in her as he fantasizes about his burgeoning affair with another woman (Dasgupta 2002: 49, 65).
Narrating gender and power 139 For a cultural commentator the issue of gender perspectives on the question of identities raises in turn one crucial question – the viability of a homogeneous identity for Indian womanhood. Can there be just one definition of the Indian woman irrespective of class, caste and religion in such a vibrant pluralistic society? Indian literature through the centuries has scripted the journey of the Indian woman in her search of the self – focusing on her negotiations with her subjective identity and her experiential social participation in her role-playing at home and in the world. The title of Nabaneeta Dev Sen’s volume of short stories is an outstanding signifier – Sita Theke Shuroo (It begins from Sita). Dev Sen implies that women’s oppression began from the celebrated epic Ramayana in which Ram is held as an ascetic, noble and just king, whereas his wife and queen is presented as an abject suffering woman who is constantly commanded by society to prove her fidelity and chastity. Vulnerable Sita and victorious Ram represent the obvious polarities and parallel registers of the dominant discourse of Indian patriarchy. Fictional texts have tracked this journey of the woman from victimhood to subject status with sense and sensibility. Narratives have mapped a woman’s journey in which she is represented as traversing a rough terrain of hostile borders, barbed lines of control and the inexorable cultural and social conditioning of compulsory feminization and domestication. Male-authored texts, both printed and visual, have systematically consolidated the stereotypes, so that any behavioural tangent has been identified as subversive and transgression from the established norms of the patriarchal state has been punished with relentless emotional or physical torture and violence in all sections of society. We are not aware of any possibility of a women’s liberation movement in India along the lines of the West and the prospect of such a movement being replicated in India seems very remote. Women’s concerted movements here have been more about awareness campaign, rehabilitation centres, counselling centres and charitable welfare institutions. In contemporary times Indian women’s idealized silent visibility and the inevitable passivity have been given a voice in women’s writing as an unorganized concerted effort, leading to a more organized participatory role that has contributed to women’s freedom from exploitation. Women’s securing of cultural freedom and striving towards economic and emotional independence can be the road map that can lead to social inclusiveness. In the case of women this target can be the magic mantra that can liberate women of all classes, castes and religions, from women living in mansions to women living in slums. After all, ‘the emancipation of women is an integral part of social progress, not just a “women’s issue” ’ (Dreze and Sen 2002: 178). Triple colonization: the subaltern as subject However, I would like to locate a category that is not about appropriation or abrogation and turn to ‘under-represented’ people within the post-colonial scenario and their erstwhile systematic marginalization through the colonial period. This clearly indicates the internalization of the imperialistic agenda and fascist practices in our own social and political system. Joya Mitra’s powerful short story
140 Dasgupta ‘Andhakarer Ushto Theke’ (From the Heart of Darkness) significantly tracks the lifespan of an illiterate rural woman, Shantobala, who is married off to a man old enough to be her father. She gives birth to nine children; four survive. When Shantobala’s husband plots to marry off Shanto’s school-going daughters, husband and wife quarrel for the first time, leading to his lashing her mercilessly. Later Shanto chops off her sleeping husband’s head with a sharp sickle and surrenders herself to the police, by walking to the police station seven miles away from her home, as she believes she has committed a sin and punishment is due to her. Shantobala took this gruesome and drastic step as she had a single dream. She did not want her daughters to suffer in silence as she had done; she did not want them to be married before they became literate; she hoped they would acquire basic learning skills that would enable them to write letters to their mother from their marital homes, informing her about their lives. The name Shantobala means the patient girl and Joya Mitra translates the name into a symbol of resistance that signifies that the fury of the patient and oppressed can be violent and explosive. The resonance of Shantobala’s voice echoes through the narrative: ’I won’t let such a young daughter of mine get married. I shall send Jamini and Kamini to school. I want to make them into human beings.’ Shanto hadn’t known she would be able to speak so many words in such a voice. (Dasgupta 2002: 110) However, it is the fiction of Mahasweta Devi that needs to be read with serious attention as it gives voice to uninhibited resistance or abject victimhood, whether it is in the historical account of the Rani of Jhansi, the first Indian woman revolutionary, the exploited domestic worker Chinta or the pathetic suicide of the tribal student Chuni Kotal. It is a case of what may be described as not just ‘double colonization’; I would suggest that the subaltern experiences a triple colonization, colonized not only by imperial and patriarchal ideologies but by the internalized cultural prejudices of the natives towards the marginalized subproletarians (Ashcroft et al. 2002: 250): the subaltern has no history and cannot speak, the subaltern as female is even more deeply in shadow . . . (Spivak).3 (Ashcroft et al. 2002: 28) Interestingly, in September 2005 Ananda Publishers brought out a very significant volume of 100 women’s short stories from 1893 to the 1960s: Bongo Narir Golpo Shotok. In her preface to the stories, the well-known fiction writer and critic Bani Basu observed with chilling insight: Of the 100 stories almost 80 per cent seem to be the elaboration of the same story. There is just one woman writer. In all the stories it seems as if a sorrowful, neglected, marginalized figure is staring at us with sad eyes. (Ghoshal 2005: 5, translation mine)
Narrating gender and power 141 Does that mean that the subjects of the women writers’ narratives are all enchained by tradition and social practices, and there can be no question of claiming a level playing field for women and men? Foucault makes a succinct observation about such power relations: There cannot be relations of power unless the subjects are free. If one or the other were completely at the disposition of the other and became his thing, an object on which he can exercise an infinite and unlimited violence, there would not be relations of power . . . Even though the relations of power may be completely unbalanced or when one can truly say that he has ‘all power’ over the other, a power can only be exercised over another to the extent that the latter still has the possibility of committing suicide, of jumping out of the window or killing the other. That means that in the relations of power, there is necessarily the possibility of resistance. (McNay 1992: 173) Fictional narratives have reiterated the inexorable marginalization of the second sex, addressing the abjectness of women of all classes, their lack of identity and independence and the systematic exploitation and oppression of women in a patriarchal social system. Women writers have sensitively represented the nuanced interpersonal relationships that interrogate the binaries of power and disempowerment that are inherent in the masculine and feminine cultural constructions. Twentieth-century Bengali fiction by women writers significantly breaks the silence, questions the absences and slippages and even dreams of an environment that celebrates the well-being rather than the stereotypical ill-being of women. The fiction of Ashapurna Devi, Mahasweta Devi, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Jaya Mitra, Bani Basu and Suchitra Bhattacharya among others insinuates the possibilities of deconstructing the traditional paradigms of patriarchy that define gendered behaviourism. The essays that Malashri Lal and I have included under Literary Representations in The Indian Family in Transition (Dasgupta and Lal 2007) critique tradition and change in the lives of family members ranging from the persecuting mother-in-law and the politics of food in Ashpaurna Devi’s Chinnamasta, to the changes that are represented in the fiction of Esha Dey and Nabaneeta Dev Sen, among others.
Internalized cultural prejudices Though the fictional texts of the women writers mentioned here address issues of sexual harassment, domestic violence, exploitation and oppression of educated middle-class women, some of them occasionally reject the shackles of patriarchy and decide to work out their own destiny. In this part of the essay I will prioritize a few texts of Mahasweta Devi as her fiction stands out as being emblematic of wellresearched documentation and representation. Along with her many well-known texts that address rural and tribal issues of gender marginalization, Mahasweta has scripted many revealing narratives about urban middle-class women and their
142 Dasgupta complicit role, their collusion and often their silence about the injustice to women in both public and personal spaces. Simultaneously Mahasweta has also explored the plight of subaltern women without the privilege of education and economic support. In a tenuous yet significant way, Mahasweta brings the helplessness and exploitation of women of all classes on a similar platform. Although oppression of women of all classes emerges as a constant factor, the variable is the methods of oppression used by the advantaged and disadvantaged sections of the patriarchal system. Kanika Biswas offers two major categories that define Mahasweta’s activist writing: (a) representing and (b) challenging the prevalent socio-political structure.4 Interestingly, in each act of resistance or even lack of it, the enemy within rises to stifle the voice of protest; the gendered subject in a phallocratic environment ultimately is destroyed by the forces against which she had raised her voice, or could not raise her voice because of her social conditioning that had made her believe that claiming one’s rights was a transgression and so deserved punishment. Referring to Mahasweta Devi’s women warriors and women victims, Spivak makes an interesting observation about this psychological constraint: Mahasweta dramatizes the difficult truth that internalized gendering perceived as ethical choice is the hardest roadblock for women the world over. The recognition of male exploitation must be supplemented with this acknowledgement (Landry and Maclean 1996: 272). When Mahasweta Devi began her work for the denotified tribes of India, she had underscored the distance between the privileged and the disadvantaged within the socio-economic structure of independent India. In her fiction as well as in her non-fictional writing such as ‘The Rani of Jhansi’, ‘Aranyer Adhikar’, the internationally acclaimed Breast Stories and many others, this activist-writer has consistently and relentlessly emphasized the social injustice replete in the nationstate’s indifference to the wretched of the Indian earth. These groups of tribals have been systematically oppressed and ignored since colonial times, and in independent India also; much more needs to be done for the welfare of such tribals. In her fiction Mahasweta Devi has represented the invincible spirit and resistance of these indigenous people who are neither white- nor blue-collar workers in the establishment. In her introduction to the short story collection Bitter Soil, Mahasweta observes, ‘I believe in documentation . . . To fully understand these stories, one must have knowledge of agricultural economy and land-relations; because caste and class exploitation and the resistance of the exploited ones are rooted in India’s land system’ (Devi 1998: vii). So is Mahasweta the facilitator who enables the subaltern to speak? Spivak defines this speaking ability of the subaltern with critical precision: ‘When the subaltern “speaks” in order to be heard and gets into the structure of responsible (responding and being responded to) resistance, he or she is on the way to becoming an organic intellectual’ (Landry and Maclean 1996: 271). In this connection I would like to discuss briefly the representation of the part-time domestic worker Chinta, in the short story by the same name. The Bengali word chinta, used throughout India thanks to its Sanskrit root, signifies thought-process and worry, often synonymous with anxiety. In the story ‘Chinta’,
Narrating gender and power 143 Mahasweta very neatly intermeshes the urban and the rural and also brings out the gaps and borders that exist between the two, which enforce the urban and rural divide of misperception and rejection. The apparently educated and cultured middle-class female urban narrator recounts: What followed was an age-old tale. But Chinta was not aware of it. She kept on repeating, ‘He escaped after ruining me. He did not marry me, nor did he give me any jewellery. Instead he beat me up, took my money and then disappeared after giving me two kids. (Dasgupta 2002: 41) In her long short story or novella titled Hunt (Shikar Parba) Mahasweta fictionalizes the life of the young, talented tribal woman Paro, re-named Madhumanti by her schoolteacher. As an overt authorial comment Mahasweta writes: ‘Madumanti had wanted to pluck the sun out of the skies for the Shabars’ (Devi 2002a: 47). Mahasweta narrates the tragic incidents that had dogged the life of the ambitious tribal girl Chuni Kotal, who had aspired to study for an MSc in anthropology in a West Bengal university, but systematic and relentless psychological violence ultimately led her to commit suicide. When a teacher mocks her for wanting to gain an MSc, ridiculing the brave tribal girl for daring to dream, Mahasweta comments on her behalf as it were: I came out of the room, disappointed. That day I realized this must be the phase of the hunt. This phase has not been represented in great detail in the Puranas. Didn’t Ekalavya have to chop off his thumb at the orders of Dronacharya? At the instructions of Ram, didn’t Shambhuk court death? If the people in the lower rungs of the social ladder aspire to education or acquire skill in the use of weapons, the upper strata of society is bound to hunt that person to death. (Devi 2002a: 49) After Chuni Kotal committed suicide on 16 August 1992, Mahasweta Devi wrote an article protesting at the injustice and insensitivity shown to an ambitious tribal girl.5 Much later, in 2002, in an interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Mahasweta asserted, ‘Globalization is not only coming from America and the first world, my own country has always wanted to rob the people of everything’ (Devi 2002b: xv). In her fiction and non-fiction Mahasweta reiterated the internalized imperialism within the repressive state apparatus and the cultural state apparatus of mainstream India. We understand that ‘the material conditions of women’s oppression and hence women’s political interests, are themselves historically specific and therefore cannot be framed in terms of gender alone’ (Landry and Maclean 1996: 12). In all aspects of civil society the issues of gender and economic class intermeshed with the caste hierarchy are implicit. As Rajeshwari Sundar Rajan observed, in all discourses – socio-political, economic, religious, new social movements addressing
144 Dasgupta the Dalits, tribals, peasants, trade unions, self-employed women’s associations – gender has now become an issue and a category for analysis (Rajan 2000: 3). In the twenty-first century therefore there is a crucial need to sensitize not only the world but also ourselves about the under-represented, invisible and silent indigenous people who have survived neglect and intolerance for centuries. Spivak also offers the interesting expression ‘subproletariat’, which can define the subaltern subject positioned as a subject of displacement between the colonization–decolonization reversal. ‘Mahasweta Devi lingers in postcoloniality, in the decolonized space of difference, in decolonized terrain’ (Devi 2002b: 106). To a significant degree therefore Mahasweta’s effort to make the silent subaltern a vocal agent contributes to an understanding of the multilayered reach of what we may understand as nativism. Turning to internal representation in Nativism: Essays in Criticism, Makarand Paranjape asserts in the Preface: Nativism is a part of a world-wide phenomenon of cultural nationalism and self-assertion in which colonized and other marginalized literary cultures have begun to vociferate their differences from Euro-American, universalist critical discourses . . . Those who are anti-imperialistic, those who believe in the value of indigenous and local cultural resources, those who are opposed to centralizing and homogenizing authoritarian structures whether traditional or modern, may broadly be called nativists no matter what their vocation or discipline. (Paranjape 1997: xvi) Documentation can stir the minds, but cultural representations stir the hearts, leading to the acceleration of new means of rehabilitating those who have been ignored for too long. Fictional narratives can persuade one to pursue dreams that can be realized despite the obstacles. Aspiring to claim the sun for her people is an achievement by itself, though the end result may have been tragic. As we move towards a more critically informed inclusive policy for all citizens within a nation we are indeed moving in the direction of fulfilling a dream by heralding a paradigm shift and attitudinal change at both the national-governmental and personal levels. This dream of transformation is not just a wake-up call but a caveat that can no longer be ignored. It is the ‘false documents’ of fiction that can accelerate the process of transformation through a structure of dreams, ideas, innovations, that can help to inspire and motivate a movement towards systematic extermination of the experience of leading the life of the ‘wretched’ on this earth. After all, the earth is not an exclusivist domain; it is a terrain that includes all members of the human race, irrespective of class, colour, race and gender. Fictional texts penetrate into the axis of perception and reality and though there are no available statistical data and documentation of tears shed in silence and privacy, nor any statistics of smiles after a failed or successful act of resistance, a pyrrhic victory, it is fiction that can put its finger on the pulse of the matter; it is fiction that can light a lamp in the heart of darkness, thereby enabling a path to liberation and progress.
Narrating gender and power 145
Notes 1 The six categories of gender inequality listed by Amartya Sen are by now clichéd, though reiteration may imply the seriousness and stagnation of these issues, which seem to have a carcinogenic spread and to be too deep-rooted to be exterminated easily. These so called different faces of gender inequality are: • survival inequality; • natality inequality; • unequal facilities; • ownership inequality; • unequal sharing of household benefits and chores; • domestic violence and physical victimization (Sen 2005: 224). 2 It is not irrelevant here to refer to the extremely morbid Hindi film Matrubhoomi, which constructs a cynical dystopia about a world without women. The film is at once a caveat and a protest against the complacent persistency of patriarchal exploitation of the bodies of women, as well as their contribution to human labour as an integral part of human capital. In terms of both production and reproduction the bodies of women are the sites of oppression and women’s writing interrogates this site of representation, by exposing and dismantling the conservative practices and the hypocrisy that underpins the posturing about ethical conduct and ideal womanhood. 3 The reference here is made to her famous article titled ‘Can the subaltern speak?’ (published in Ashcroft et al. 2002). 4 Kanika Biswas’s essay on Mahasweta’s representation of the subaltern includes several well-researched lists of categories that can clearly define the author’s agenda, which is totally committed towards the exposition of social injustice and violation of human rights. Here is the list of 12 categories of which at least one and often more than one can be applied to her fictional writing (Bhowmik 2003: 155–6): 1 related to food and drink; 2 related to housing and location; 3 related to livelihood; 4 related to health; 5 related to education; 6 related to culture; 7 related to environment; 8 related to infrastructure; 9 related to law and order; 10 related to politics; 11 related to religion; 12 related to gender. Analyzing the content of her narratives, Biswas offers ten sub-categories that can define the agenda of her literary writing (Bhowmik 2003: 157). These are: 1 communality – Saaj Shokaler ma, rudali, lifer; 2 cashing in on customs and folk belief – Rudali, Arjun, Sindhubala, Saaj Shokaler ma; 3 cheating the advantaged – Bichan, Maaach, Rudali; 4 secret sabotage – Bichan, Shishu; 5 evading confrontation as one is not prepared – Bichan, Shikar; 6 pretending submissiveness – Bichan, Shikar; 7 resisting contact – Putra, Double Rakhdar, 10+10; 8 using law and administration – Jol, Bichon, Mohonpurere Rupkatha, Behula, Vishma er Pipasha; 9 resorting to alternate strategies – Stree, Putra, Ponno, Pratham path, Tetri Kahani; 10 hopeless surrender – Douloti, Chinta, Bayen, Dhouli, Hero ekti blue print.
146 Dasgupta 5 The article published in the Economic and Political Weekly, 29 August 1992, included Mahasweta’s emotionally charged observation: ‘Chuni felt increasingly desperate and cornered. A tribal girl, she was ill equipped to fight the enemies. She did not know the ways of the hunters’ (p. 1836).
Bibliography Ashcroft, Bill, Griffiths, G. and Tiffin, H. (2002) The Post-colonial Studies Reader, London: Routledge. Bhowmik, Tapas (ed.) (2003) Mahasweta Devi, Kolkata: Korok. Dasgupta, Sanjukta. (2002) Her Stories: 20th Century Bengali Women Writers, New Delhi: Srishti Publishers. Dasgupta, S. and Lal, M. (eds) (2007) The Indian Family in Transition, Delhi: Sage Publishers. Devi, Mahasweta. (1998) Bitter Soil (translated by Ipshita Chanda), Calcutta: Seagull. —— (2002a) Shikar Parba, Kolkata: Mitra & Ghosh Publishers. —— (2002b) Chotti Munda and His Arrow (translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak), Calcutta: Seagull. Dreze, J. and Sen, A. (2002) Participation and Development, Delhi: Oxford University Press. Ghoshal, Sukla. (2005) Banga Narir Golpo Shotok, Kolkata: Ananda Publishers. Landry, Donna and Maclean, Gerald. (1996) The Spivak Reader, New York: Routledge. McNay, Loi. (1992) Foucault and Feminism, Boston: North Eastern University Press. Paranjape, Makarand (ed.) (1997) Nativism: Essays in Criticism, New Delhi: Sahitya Academy. Rajan, Rajeshwari Sundar. (2000) Signposts: Gender Issues in Post-Independence India, New Delhi: Kali for Women. Sen, Amartya. (2005) The Argumentative Indian, London: Penguin Books.
12 Girish Karnad’s The Fire and the Rain A study in myths of power Anima Biswas
I Based on the story told by Sage Lomash to Yudhisthira in ‘Vanaparba’, chapters 135–8 in The Mahabharata (one of India’s two great epics), Girish Karnad’s play The Fire and the Rain reconstructs the original story1 of the two sages – Raibhya and Bharadwaj – and foregrounds a character of his own invention, the tribal girl Nittilai2 whose struggle against social exclusion by the dominant class and caste results in making a martyr of her. Through her self-effacing love she feels spiritually empowered and actually breaks beyond all narrow boundaries. She defies the bondage to her ethnic group and its imposition of a forced marriage with a boy of her own tribe; she even tries to outgrow her emotional attachment to her lover Arvasu and to dedicate herself to the service of the distressed and the deprived including Arvasu (who was beaten up by soldiers under orders from his brother Paravasu, the chief priest), the actor-manager, his famished family and his limping brother. In fact, like Nittilai, the actor-manager and his limping brother (another actor) are invented by Karnad perhaps with the purpose of projecting the relevance of the theatre to the present times, drawing sustenance as it did from traditional roots of Indian myths of The Mahabharata. By the power of her boundary-breaking love Nittilai ultimately succeeds in bringing peace and happiness to the parched land ravaged by drought, famine and bloodshed. The play offers to question the validity of the entire order of existence – the divine, the moral and the socio-political – thus subverting the sacrosanct Brahminic tradition. Along with Nittilai, Arvasu too becomes a victim of social exclusion on the grounds of a double fault – first, by his desire to marry a girl of the tribe of hunters, he has defiled his Brahminic caste, and second, by his choice of the profession of an actor, he is dislodged from his high-caste status and stands dispossessed. He is not permitted entry into the sanctified sacrificial enclosure: this socio-religious exclusion is imposed on him because of his caste-dislodgement as a professional actor and because of his being charged with the crime of patricide. Although the question of patricide is treated as a larger dramatic issue here, the issue of the social exclusion of professional actors has been intentionally incorporated by Karnad to highlight another area of domination (class and caste) by the ruling class, comprising the king and the royal hierarchies, the priests and sages. The
148 Biswas actors are required under social and religious exigencies to propitiate the rain-god Indra through staging of plays, only with specific permission from the king (the mortal ruler) of an affected land and his chief priest. The irony is that these actors as outcastes become specially empowered on the stage, and Karnad projects this phenomenon as illustration of the power of the theatre which can both destroy (evil) and create (good). Thus, the central theme of Karnad’s play seems to hinge on the complex operation of a multidimensional concept of power, which I prefer to describe as ‘myths of power’,3 an expression coined by Terry Eagleton for the title of his famous book on the Brontes (Eagleton 1976). By that phrase Eagleton wants to point to the ‘mythical’ or perennial struggle for power and dominance manifested in various forms of ‘conflict between bourgeoisie and landed gentry’ (Eagleton 1993: 212) in Charlotte Bronte’s novels, and that between culture and acquisitiveness/ possessiveness of different types in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. In the latter, the life of Heathcliff (of unknown origin but rising to great power through money) is shaped by the ferocious contradiction between the two forces or worlds of Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. Like a man living in two sharply divided houses, which signify two opposite planes of existence, Heathcliff is torn between culture and the power of money, social norms and the blind passion of love. Eagleton comments on this mixing-up of values and norms in Heathcliff: ‘His rise to power symbolizes at once the triumph of the oppressed over capitalism and the triumph of capitalism over the oppressed’ (Eagleton 1993: 210). I apply the phrase ‘myths of power’ in a generalized and expanded sense to underline the tragedy of conflicts between various power-blocs clustered around and cutting across knowledge blocs, caste status, class hierarchies, gender etc. This is what Karnad’s play The Fire and the Rain projects in the tyranny of power over the powerless subalterns, whose social exclusion and exploitation, while preserving and perpetuating various levels of power and hierarchies, also glaringly exposes the whole situation to serious questioning and challenge. Power here is shown to be operative on three levels – the divine, the demonic and the human – through transference and agency: just as the sages/priests/Brahmins derive their power from God, so do the others (ministers, guards etc.) including priests and Brahmins from the king to some extent, particularly on the social and economic levels. But ultimately, the power of love and sacrifice proves to be the supreme force that can transfigure this human world. The significant point is that Karnad dramatizes how this supreme power is wielded by a subaltern, a low-caste tribal girl whose sacrifice redeems the world from its dreary, strife-torn, droughty and famine-stricken state.
II The critical output on Girish Karnad to date has been so flourishing that the dramatist has become an institution in his lifetime. His multifaceted personality and prolific creativity as Rhodes scholar, playwright, director, actor, poet, critic, translator and cultural administrator have earned him the sobriquet of ‘a Ren-
Girish Karnad’s The Fire and the Rain 149 aissance man’ (Sunday Times of India, 17 April 2005). Karnad belongs to the first generation of Indian playwrights who chose, after national Independence, to dramatize the ‘tensions between the cultural past of the country and its colonial past, between the attractions of Western modes of thought and our own traditions’ (Karnad 1999: 21).4 Karnad states on a number of occasions that his main source of inspiration is his cultural background: ‘I have never bothered about what tale to invent. I dip into my mind, into our own culture. The notion of originality is a romantic tradition. Edgar Allan Poe didn’t need it. Neither did Shakespeare’.5 Through his uses of myth, folklore, folk-theatre and ancient Indian theatre conventions, along with the technical strategies of modern Western theatre, Karnad has enriched and revitalized modern Indian theatre. His main objective in his dramatic career – from Yayati to A Heap of Broken Images – seems to be to bring the present into focus, to subject the fundamental questions of our present-day life and existence into a close as well as broad perspective. As he tells Allen Mendonca so succinctly: ‘What I do is hold a mirror to the present’.6
III ‘Vanaparba’, which, we know, is the major source of The Fire and the Rain, gives an account of Sage Raibhya’s act of revenge by getting Sage Bharadwaj’s son Yavakrita killed by the Brahma Rakshasa (invoked by him) for having violated the chastity of his daughter-in-law (Vishakha7 in the play). In retaliation Bharadwaj (who is physically absent as a character in the play) invoked a curse on Raibhya to the effect that, as Bharadwaj himself would die by the shock of his son’s death, Raibhya too would have to die at the hands of his elder son Paravasu. Thereafter, Bharadwaj cremated his son’s body and himself entered into the funeral pyre. Meanwhile, Raibhya’s sons had been conducting a holy fire-sacrifice for the King. One night while surreptitiously on his way home through the jungle, Paravasu killed his father Raibhya dressed in deer-skin, mistaking him for a beast; after cremating him, he silently returned to the sacrificial enclosure and instructed his brother Arvavasu to perform the penitential rites for the sin of Brahminicide. The latter in good faith completed the rites and returned to the place of their firesacrifice, where Paravasu condemned him before the king as a Brahmin-killer and got him debarred from the sacrificial rites and thrown out of the place despite Arvavasu’s loud denial of the charge. Then Arvavasu undertook a long penance and prayer course to the sun-god in the jungles, as a result of which the gods were pleased to grant him a boon; on the strength of this he asked the gods to restore Yavakrita, Raibhya and Bharadwaj to life. When so restored, Yavakrita was advised by the gods to pursue knowledge by the right method. The second source for Karnad’s play is the Rig Veda, from which the myth of Vritra being killed by Indra has been borrowed to highlight the prevalent theme of mutual fear and betrayal between brothers, even of obsession with fratricide. Indra, anxious to ensure his unrivalled reign in the three worlds, treacherously kills Vishwarupa and Vritra (his half-brothers by Brahma’s union with a mortal
150 Biswas woman and a demoness of the nether-world) by isolating one from the other on the plea of Vritra’s exclusion from the sacrificial place. Indra got absolved of his sin of Brahminicide on this score by his holy dip in the Samanga river. This is where Sage Lomash’s story begins in ‘Vanaparba’ (chapter 135). If the central myth in the play The Fire and the Rain8 is that of Yavakri’s pursuit of knowledge of all the Vedas without going through the long-drawn process of learning them from the guru, then the second myth in it is that of Vritra, who is the archetypal enemy of Indra. Indra manages to continue in power through treason and treachery and other ignoble strategies. The title of the play thus combines the antithetical elements of ‘fire’ and ‘rain’, the dual myths of Indra (as the god of rains, the wielder of thunder and lightning) and Vritra (the ‘shoulderless serpent’ who swallows rivers). In order to propitiate Indra, Yavakri reportedly performed a hard penance for 10 years in the jungle, finally undergoing the ordeal of his limbs being thrown into fire, after which Indra appeared to him and granted him the boon of mastery of the Vedas. The play, which dramatically presents the main spectacle of a ‘seven-year-long fire sacrifice’ being conducted by the priests in the sacrificial enclosure with the king as its host, significantly unfolds the myth of the other fire-sacrifice reportedly performed by Yavakri for 10 years in the jungle as a personal penance. Thus, the two ritual performances are in contrast with each other. Yavakri’s fire-sacrifice – as the blind (Shudra) Andhaka visualizes and recounts to Nittilai and Arvasu – offers a refracted (and rather incredible) myth of the ritual performance: Ten years of rigorous penance. And still Lord Indra would not oblige. Finally, Yavakri stood in the middle of a circle of fire and started offering his limbs to the fire – first his fingers, then his eyes, then his entrails, his tongue, and at last his heart – that’s when the god appeared to him, restored his limbs, and granted him the boon. (Act 1, 9) But Nittilai in the simplicity of her logical queries challenges the traditional view of the whole episode by asking him about his source of information: was he told by Yavakri himself? Though Arvasu rules out such a possibility, Nittilai continues her queries: ‘Then how does everyone know what happened in a remote corner of the jungle – miles away from the nearest prying eye?’ (Act 1, 9). In her ‘argumentative mood’ she wants to know why the Brahmins are ‘so secretive about everything’, why ‘their fire-sacrifices are conducted in covered enclosures’, and then she observes: They mortify themselves in the dark of the jungle. Even their gods appear so secretly. Why? What are they afraid of? Look at my people: Everything is done in public view there. (Act 1, 10)
Girish Karnad’s The Fire and the Rain 151 An ignorant tribal girl, excluded from such higher pursuits of ‘inner knowledge’ under the dictates of Brahminic social order, is capable of questioning the very foundation of this Yavakri myth, that is, the traditional concept of the knowledge of power (and also the power of such knowledge), since it cannot solve natural or social problems such as drought or famine. She tells Andhaka that she feels confused about the goal of Yavakri’s knowledge: ‘Since Lord Indra appeared to Yavakri and Indra is their God of Rains, why didn’t Yavakri ask for a couple of showers?’ She expresses her wish to ask Yavakri two questions: ‘Can he make it rain? And then, can he tell when he is going to die? . . . What is the point of any knowledge, if you can’t save dying children and if you can’t predict your moment of death?’ (Act 1, 11). Nittilai’s comments expose the hollowness and uselessness of the myth of knowledge as power, which Yavakri is believed to have acquired. Yavakri’s unfeeling, blind and selfish acquisitiveness is focused in sharp contrast with Nittilai’s selfless dedication to the service of the distressed and the deprived. However, when Yavakri meets her, he answers her second question (which he heard from Andhaka) with a curse: ‘I don’t know when I’ll die. But I promise you this – you’ll be dead within the month’ (Act 1, 18). Yavakri’s egotistical claims of superiority and his inflated sense of magical power embolden him to face the demon Brahma Rakshasa called up by Raibhya. Without being cautious at the crucial moment, he confidently recounts to Vishakha his own concept of knowledge by referring to his debate with god Indra: One night in the jungle, Indra came to me and said: ‘You are ready now to receive knowledge. But knowledge involves control of passions, serenity, objectivity’. And I shouted back: ‘No, that’s not the knowledge I want. That’s not knowledge. That’s suicide! This obsession. This hatred. This venom. All this is me. I’ll not deny anything of myself. I want knowledge so I can be vicious, destructive!’ (Act 1, 23) Yavakri’s pursuit of knowledge had one goal or objective – fulfilment of his vanity and egoism through lowly exercise of power. His priority is to satisfy his natural passions, desire or lust. That is why he tells Vishakha: ‘It was fortunate that you yielded. If you hadn’t, I would have had to take you by force.’ Vishakha’s response is one of unspeakable horror both for his lustful audacity and for his total unconcern about the impending danger to his life. At this moment when Brahma Rakshasa is hunting for his life, Yavakri maintains his unruffled complacency about his superior power of knowledge, as he ‘triumphed over Indra’. He therefore boastfully waits for the demon with the consecrated water in his kamandalu and does not notice that Vishakha has poured the water out to make him run for sure safety within his father’s hermitage. But it becomes too late, so that he is speared to death by the demon before he steps into the hermitage. This killing of Yavakri is obviously Raibhya’s act of vengeance on him for having sexually violated Vishakha, Raibhya’s daughter-in-law. But this act of violence leads on to a chain reaction of crime, punishment and betrayal. Though Raibhya’s motive
152 Biswas behind this killing is ostensibly a righteous one of punishing the crime against his daughter-in-law, his son Paravasu understands it as a game through which to display the extent of his (Raibhya’s) power to his son (Paravasu), the chief priest in charge of the king’s magnificent fire-sacrifice.
IV We find that in Karnad’s dramatic reconstruction of the Mahabharata story of two close friends into that of two brothers Raibhya and Bharadwaj affecting and vitiating the relationships between members of their families, two very important sociological and psychological issues are thrown up – empowerment of different kinds and exclusion on different levels. In other words, it is the politics of power that possesses and vitiates learned minds and alienates them, while it actually aims at perpetuating the hierarchy in the prevailing form and maintaining the status quo along with the prevailing system of social exclusion. Karnad’s play quite explicitly explores these issues. In the Mahabharata episode, Raibhya and his two sons were famous for their learning and spiritual power. In Karnad’s play, Yavakri (son of Bharadwaj) refers to his father’s magnanimous attitude in going to congratulate Paravasu (his brother Raibhya’s elder son) on his honour of being chosen the chief priest of the great sacrificial rites under the king’s patronage and to give him his sincere blessings. Though he was ‘one of the most learned men in the land’, Bharadwaj was not considered eligible for that high office, for which there was no report of any jealous reaction on his part. But Yavakri took it as a case of discrimination against his father in social and spiritual power politics, leading to the promotion and empowerment of an unscrupulous person and to the humiliation and exclusion of a man with ‘the most brilliant mind’. Karnad thus de-mythicizes the ancient episodes to project them in terms of modern sociological phenomena. This grievance against the authorities, Yavakri confesses to Vishakha, prompted him to leave home and undertake penance for 10 long years in the jungle. His jealousy of Paravasu has now drawn him into a retaliatory game of sex with Vishakha, for which he has been waiting for four days. Vishakha too realizes that it is lust – and not love – that Yavakri wants to satisfy on her. That power politics in any form and period leads not only to social or political conflicts but also to deep psychological disturbances is explored in Karnad’s play. Whereas Yavakri’s feeling of jealousy towards Paravasu for his appointment to a great position of power is understandable as a common phenomenon, Raibhya’s reaction to his own son’s honour is strange and mysterious and bears profound psychological implications. The king’s choice of Paravasu as the chief priest for the great fire-sacrifice hurts Raibhya’s ‘egotistical sublime’ as a learned sage instead of elevating his fatherly pride in his son’s glory. Is it a mysterious psychic projection of the son as the arch rival, a reverse of the Oedipus complex? Raibhya suffers the humiliation of exclusion from the higher circle of priests. Does Raibhya’s sexual exploitation of Vishakha imply a kind of retaliation on her husband Paravasu, his son, as eternal rival in (sexual/egoistic) domination? Vishakha feels herself a subjugated victim to male dominance, sexual and other-
Girish Karnad’s The Fire and the Rain 153 wise, from various corners including her father-in-law (the great Raibhya), and so at last she reacts by revealing the bare, naked facts of her insufferable situation and seeking her own punishment of death at the hands of her illustrious husband: VISHAKHA: We’re three of us here. Your brother’s never home. That leaves me and your father. (Pause) Something died inside your father the day the King invited you to be the Chief Priest. He’s been drying up like a dead tree since then. No sap runs in him. (Pause) On the one hand, there’s his sense of being humiliated by you. On the other, there’s lust. It consumes him. An old man’s curdled lust. And there’s no one else here to take his rage out on but me. (Pause) At least Yavakri was warm, gentle. For a few minutes, he made me forget the wizened body, the scratchy claws, and the blood, cold as ice. And he paid for it with his life. (Act 2, 32–3, emphasis added) Meanwhile, both of them hear Raibhya’s footsteps approaching, and Vishakha observes: ‘Here it comes. The crab! Scuttling back to make sure I don’t defile the Chief Priest as I did Yavakri.’ So she repeats her plea to Paravasu to grant her the favour of killing her which will be a new form of experiment – ‘Human sacrifice!’ However, Paravasu very cleverly manipulates the situation by killing – not Vishakha, for her fornication with Yavakri – but his father Raibhya. The bow and arrow handed to him by Vishakha with the arrow pointing at herself are quickly redirected by Paravasu at the approaching figure. He then consciously aims and chooses to kill his father. Does he consider it a crime? On the contrary, he justifies his act with full confidence and conviction: He [Raibhya] deserved to die. He killed Yavakri to disturb me in the last stages of the sacrifice. Not to punish Yavakri, but to be even with me. I had to attend to him before he went any farther. (Act 2, 33, emphasis added) Vishakha, however, is not wholly convinced with this stated explanation offered by Paravasu, and she suspects some other reasons – ‘And it wasn’t just your father. Something else you’ve come looking for.’ The possible motives behind Paravasu’s killing of his father may be both political and psychological. One motive may be to maintain his own supremacy and status as the chief priest, to stop Raibhya before ‘he went any farther’ in disturbing his functioning, and to punish him for having already upset him at the last stage of the sacrifice through the killing of Yavakri. Another shrewder motive may be to entrap his younger brother Arvasu with the charge of patricide/Brahminicide and thereby to debar
154 Biswas and exclude him from the sacrificial rites and thus to ensure the total glory and power for himself alone. But the most powerful motive for his conscious choice of killing the old father is possibly retaliation for having been dislodged by Raibhya from his exclusive sexual possession over his wife Vishakha (who confirms it all so explicitly). Immediately afterwards (in the play), Paravasu directs Arvasu to cremate the body of their father and then to perform the rites of penitence, so that he himself can continue with the more important functions of the fire-sacrifice. Vishakha asks Arvasu to refuse all these duties: VISHAKHA: Refuse. He killed his father. Let him atone for it. Don’t get involved in it. ARVASU: But then – what about the sacrifice? VISHAKHA: Let it go to ruin. Does it matter? There has been enough bloodshed already. Enough tears. Live your own life. PARAVASU: (As though she hasn’t spoken.) Don’t rush through the rites. Perform them with care. Every detail has to be right. (Act 2, 35, emphasis added) But Paravasu’s voice of authority is too strong for Arvasu to disobey. Vishakha can see through her husband’s wily character and tries to save Arvasu from getting involved in the tangle of conspiracy, bloodshed and tears and advises him to live his own life. Although her advice implies a warning for Arvasu against being entangled in the politics of power, she herself has been a victim of the whole system. All her warnings come to no use, and Arvasu is caught up in the tentacles of social exclusion. The mask of power can hide the darkest crimes and secret strategies, provided the person in power maintains the balance between the private and the public selves. With this fiendish play-acting, Paravasu ruthlessly reduces Arvasu to a faceless creature condemned for life. After the completion of the funeral rites Arvasu comes home, where he does not find his sister-in-law; then he goes to the sacrificial ground and sits among the Brahmins. When Paravasu spots him there, he suddenly starts crossing him with a barrage of questions about his identity, his dead father and other details, and finally brands him as a criminal, a patricide, and orders his immediate expulsion: PARAVASU: Who are you? ARVASU: Me? I— PARAVASU: Yes. Tell us. ARVASU: I’m Arvasu, son of Raibhya. PARAVASU: And where have you come from? ARVASU: My father died. I’ve just completed his obsequies – and the expiation. PARAVASU: Why the expiation? Tell us. Why? ARVASU: He was killed— (Consternation in the assembly. Paravasu silences the crowds.)
Girish Karnad’s The Fire and the Rain 155 PARAVASU: At whose hands? (Long pause) ARVASU: At the hands of his son. (The gathering breaks out into commotion.) PARAVASU: Patricide – patricide! What is he doing in these sanctified precincts? Throw him out – out! Out! Demon! ARVASU: But – but— (Three or four Brahmins pounce on Arvasu and drag him out.) (Act 2, 37–8) Terribly puzzled and shocked by this incomprehensible act of treachery, Arvasu raises his voice repeatedly questioning: ‘But why, Brother, why? . . . why?’ Arvasu’s question is significantly addressed to his ‘Brother’, implying his total disbelief of such treachery on the part of a brother towards another. He confronts a world – a world of ruthless power politics – where basic human relations and values are betrayed, where justice of the primary form is denied, and in the silence (when nobody answers him) the individual’s fear and insecurity mount. Whereas his expulsion by Brahmins and soldiers imply the forcible imposition of social exclusion on individuals, his loud questioning voice seems to be ringing not only on and off the stage but perhaps through ages. But Paravasu ignores this protesting voice, and addresses the priests and common watchers, warning them against intrusion and disruption by Rakshasas and demons disguised as humans. He has no hesitation in condemning his own brother as one of such agents of disruption – which is the usual logic of social exclusion: PARAVASU: As the sacrifice approaches its completion, the demons come out. Rakshasa. Their sole aim is to disrupt the sacrifice. We must be on our guard. (Act 2, 38) Thus, Paravasu succeeds in ostracizing Arvasu through a clever trick of playacting, while keeping up his own mask of benignity and making Arvasu the scapegoat. Arvasu, who has suffered a complete social exclusion and in the process is reduced to complete wretchedness, is badly in need of being restored to life and dignity, which will be fulfilled through Nittilai, another victim of social exclusion. The dialectics of power and hierarchy have been best organized through the myths of divinities, demons and mortals (king or priest). The drama deals with gods, demons and humans in a way that brings these different planes together: often the macrocosmic and the microcosmic worlds are made to converge, the natural and the supernatural orders are made to merge. At the end of the play, through demythologization and through the sacrifice of the subaltern Nittilai, humanity is glorified and the supreme power of love is established.
V The story of Nittilai, the protagonist of the play The Fire and the Rain, is inextricably linked with the life of Arvasu. The Brahmin boy Arvasu is determined to marry her in the face of all opposition obviously inherent in the class- and castedivided society. Visualizing stringent opposition from his family and from other corners, Arvasu thinks of asserting his love in the very first act: ‘I can’t give up Nittilai. She is my life. I can’t live without her – I would rather be an outcaste’ (Karnad 2007: 8). When Karnad reconstructed the story of Raibhya’s younger son from his source in The Mahabharata, he presented Arvasu as a dispossessed Brahmin boy whose choice of the profession of an actor cost him his caste. This aspect of the myth is introduced by Karnad to exemplify one of the strategies of social exclusion adopted by the ruling class to deprive their subjects of their basic rights. Second, through the Arvasu–Nittilai episode of love, Karnad subverts the Brahminic (i.e. the ruling-class) dispensation as well as the dispensation of the tribal establishment. To resolve the question of Arvasu and Nittilai’s love, Arvasu is required to attend a meeting of Nittilai’s tribe on a scheduled day. But Arvasu gets enmeshed in a series of unforeseen incidents – the discovery of the Vishakha–Yavakri union, Raibhya’s killing of Yavakri, Paravasu’s sudden homecoming and killing of Raibhya and their aftermath. Arvasu thus not only misses his chance to marry Nittilai, but also meets with other disasters – betrayal by Paravasu, expulsion from the sacrificial ground, assault by soldiers and others, leading to his falling sick. Meanwhile, Nittilai is forced to marry a tribal boy chosen by the elders. But she runs away on her wedding day after she learns of Arvasu’s condition, and she chooses to stay with him outside the city gates, nursing Arvasu and looking after the famished family and children of the actor-manager. Nittilai and Arvasu have a plan to leave the city after Arvasu’s recovery, but that is to be kept in abeyance, now that the fire-sacrifice is at its last phase. As a part of the completion ceremony of the fire-sacrifice, the actor-manager commissioned for a dramatic show needs an actor, and Arvasu accepts his proposal to play the part. Arvasu is to play as Vritra and the actor-manager as Indra in their proposed drama The Triumph of Lord Indra. But meanwhile, Nittilai’s brother and husband have arrived there hunting after her. Nittilai informs Arvasu of their menacing presence. In this situation, Arvasu is worried not so much about Paravasu’s objection to his acting on stage as about Nittilai’s safety: ARVASU: Paravasu himself has ostracized me. I am an outcaste now. He can’t stop me from acting . . . but how can I sing and dance while you’re in mortal danger? (Act 3, 49) After Nittilai assures him of her security in the jungle, Arvasu still expresses his misgiving about a nightmare he has had about his facing his own reflection in a well. The reflection, he narrates,
Girish Karnad’s The Fire and the Rain 157 leaps out of the water. Gouges my eyes out. Chews up my face in its jaws. I scream, but I have no face . . . It keeps on returning, that nightmare, so that now I’m not at all sure it’s me standing here and not my reflection. (Karnad 2007: 51) This nightmarish vision may symbolize Arvasu’s lingering inhibition about his defiance of Paravasu’s interdiction against his stage-acting (Act 2, 30) – ‘If you value your Brahminhood, don’t act on stage.’ The nightmare about his face being chewed up and his inability to scream is a complex symbol of the inevitable interface between the actor’s mask and his real face, between the mask of power and authority and the common human face in the same person, and also between the mask of persons in authority and the real faces of common people. In this context, what Nittilai counsels Arvasu to do may be interpreted as a theatre of resistance (Karnad 2007: 51), a view almost identical with Karnad’s – ‘hold a mirror to the present’, to communicate the truth and reality about the present state of society and life direct to the spectators, to the people. Since this form of theatre is the only arena to subvert the strategies of the power that be, the utterances of Nittilai here, both as a direct victim of social exclusion and as Arvasu’s inspiring counsel, strike Arvasu’s educated mind as a formulation of a new kind of dramatic theory: NITTILAI: How long are you going to turn your face away from it then? Face it. Face your brother as you wanted to. (He looks at her in surprise.) Not in hate, Arvasu. In the play. Show him how good you are. I’m sure the play will wash off the fear – the anger— (He nods.) (Karnad 2007: 51, emphasis added) The power of theatre as a visual art and as a composite symbol can transform society through its representation of social evils, such as the abuses of power leading to oppression over others, suppression of dissenting voices, repression of the ‘other’. Nittilai prefers Vritra (king of the nether-world) to Indra (king of the gods), especially because Indra is immortal. Nittilai questions the very basis of an immortal god’s power of knowledge in one of her ‘argumentative moods’: NITTILAI: He is immortal. When someone doesn’t die, can’t die, what can he know about anything? He can’t change himself. He can’t – can’t create anything. I like Vritra because even when he’s triumphant, he chooses death. I always wonder – if the flowers didn’t know they were to fade and die, would they have ever blossomed? (Karnad 2007: 52, emphasis original) As a representative of the downtrodden common humanity, Nittilai appreciates knowledge of mutability, of transience, of suffering and death. Vritra as a mythical figure, derived from the Rig Veda and also from The Mahabharata, has been
158 Biswas variously represented as a power that generates chaos or change. He also symbolizes creation and the cycle of change, and therefore of life. After Nittilai leaves Arvasu with the hope that Vritra’s histrionic singing and dancing will bring the much-expected rains, the play The Triumph of Lord Indra starts – with the actormanager in the role of Indra, his brother in that of Vishwarupa, the King of Men, and Arvasu masked as Vritra. Indra tells Vishwarupa about the fire-sacrifice he is conducting in honour of their dead father and invites him into the sacrificial enclosure. Since Vritra has been duty-bound to protect brother Vishwarupa from Indra, Vritra wants to be his escort. But Indra does not allow Vritra to accompany him inside on the plea of his being a demon. Vishwarupa asks Vritra to wait outside, assuring him of Indra’s promise about his security. There follows a dialogue between the two that is designed to expose the ambiguity or falsehood hidden in a god’s promise and thus subvert the basis of people’s faith in the gods in heaven as well as the earthly powers that be: VISHWARUPA: But, Vritra, you know that I have extracted from him a promise not to hurt me. VRITRA: They say gods should never be trusted. (Laughter from the audience.) Indeed, it’s said that when the gods speak to us, the meaning they attach to each word is quite different from the meaning we humans attach to it. Thus their side of their speech often denies what our side of their speech promises. (Applause) Even their silences have double meanings. Hence the saying, that the thirtythree gods occupying the heavens make for sixty-six silences. (Laughter) At least. (Thunderous applause and laughter) VISHWARUPA: But, dear Vritra, one must obey one’s brother. So let me go. (Karnad 2007: 55)9 The dialogue that generates such applause and laughter over the issue of nature of divine rulers, while obliquely referring to falsehood and hypocrisy of the secular powers that be, wonderfully exemplifies the power of theatre as an artistic medium of communication. The theatre, which empowers its actors as well as its audiencespectators through active participation, becomes a very effective instrument for the empowerment of people, since the participatory processes can induce people to question, challenge, react and judge what is right or wrong, true or false. In the play, when Vishwarupa joins Indra near the sacrificial altar, Indra suddenly takes up his thunderbolt and ‘plunges it into Vishwarupa’s back’. The impact of this spectacle with Vishwarupa screaming and Indra’s lowly treachery exposed shakes the common spectators’ faith in traditional values such as bonds between brothers, which can be easily betrayed for the sake of power or self-interest. Again, like the play-within-the-play in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which exposes the usurper-king Claudius’s crime of fratricide/regicide, in Karnad’s play too, the play-within-the-
Girish Karnad’s The Fire and the Rain 159 play exposes the villainy of Paravasu, whose defence of Indra, therefore, sounds like a guilty self-defence for betraying Arvasu. Vishwarupa’s last query and cry – ‘You, Brother? Why? I trusted you—’, ‘Brother, why this treachery?’ – clearly echo Arvasu’s screaming queries (Act 2), indicating the protests of the subdued and the excluded that reverberate through the ‘grand narratives’ of all mythical or traditional power-structures. Now Vritra attacks Indra and chases him in his rage, shouting his warning: VRITRA: Even if you fly like a falcon across ninety-nine rivers I’ll find you. I’ll destroy you. I’ll raze your befouled sacrifice to the ground. (Karnad 2007: 57) Nobody can control Vritra, who threatens to kill himself and rushes into the sacrificial pavilion with a torch. Suddenly the famine-stricken hungry villagers rush into the pavilion for food. There is chaos and stampede. The Brahmins shout helplessly: It’s the tribals – the savages – they’re desecrating the sacrifice – Oh God! This is madness. The doomsday – they are eating and drinking the food kept for the gods. They’re leveling the sacrifice to the ground— (Karnad 2007: 57) The king asks the chief priest: ‘Paravasu! What shall we do?’ – to which Paravasu answers nothing: he steps into the blazing enclosure. Vritra’s fury at Indra’s treacherous murder of Vishwarupa leads in reality to the razing and burning down of the sacrificial enclosure here. The actor-manager ascribes this outburst of fury to the actor (Arvasu) being completely identified with the mask of Vritra he is wearing. And as he shouts for help, Nittilai leaving her safety in the jungle rushes in, throws off Arvasu’s mask and tries to help Arvasu move away. Just then Nittilai’s brother and husband pounce upon them: while the brother attacks Arvasu, the husband ‘slashes her throat in one swift motion’. The two melt away. Arvasu takes Nittilai in his arms, – ‘bleeding, dying like a sacrificial animal’ (Karnad 2007: 58) – and walks into the burning pavilion to die together with her. The human drama is over, but the play which was intended to propitiate the rain god Indra is yet to be finished. The stage creates an ethereal atmosphere with melodious music and soft sunlight, bringing together gods, demons and humans, making Indra audible to them all. Indra, lord of the gods, is pleased with Arvasu and wants to grant him any boon on his asking. But unlike Yavakri and Paravasu seeking boons (power) from Indra, Arvasu does not seek Indra – he seeks only death now that his Nittilai is dead. As the crowds want Arvasu to seek rain, he prays to Indra to bring Nittilai back to life. Then, as ‘the wheel of Time starts rolling back’, others who died – Yavakri, Raibhya, Paravasu – are all being revived along with Nittilai. Suddenly the voice of the Brahma Rakshasa is heard, seeking Arvasu’s help for his release. But that will require – as the god explains on Arvasu’s appeal for the release – the reverse motion of the Wheel of Time: its
160 Biswas rolling forward (instead of rolling back). The god’s voice tells him: ‘You can’t have it both ways. Choose’ – either to have Nittilai back to life or to have the demon released. Moreover, guaranteeing a soul its ultimate release is beyond even the gods. Arvasu wants the demon to forgive him, but the Brahma Rakshasa cries out in agony: I don’t forgive. I can’t. But you are a human being. You are capable of mercy. You can understand pain and suffering as the gods can’t— (Karnad 2007: 61) He adds that if Nittilai had known that her revival would condemn the demon to eternal pain, she would have opted out. At this Arvasu decides to seek from Indra the release of the Brahma Rakshasa, as ‘Nittilai would have wanted it so’. When the Brahma Rakshasa cries out in triumph after his release and ‘the crowd of souls’ (including Nittilai) mournfully withdraw, Arvasu clutches Nittilai’s corpse. A little while after, in the midst of thunder and lightning, the rains start and people shout and dance in joy, while Arvasu says: ‘It is raining. Nittilai’. The love of Arvasu and Nittilai acquires a kind of sublimity. Thus, it is not the king, the chief priest and his Brahmins and their gorgeous rituals of fire-sacrifice, but the selfsacrifice of individuals who are ready to expand their love far beyond selfish ends, that finally succeed in bringing the rains and resolving all collective problems. Glory and true power go not to the established power blocs that thrive on exploitation and oppression of others, but to those who are morally and emotionally inspired to fight for justice and love for all.
Notes 1 In ‘Vanaparba’, the name of Paravasu’s brother is Arvavasu, which Karnad changes to ‘Arvasu’, and the name of Bharadwaj’s son is Yavakrita, which Karnad changes to Yavakri. 2 The characters – Nittilai (including the whole Nittilai–Arvasu episode), the ActorManager and his limping brother – are not mythical but invented by Karnad. Karnad projects Nittilai ostensibly as the ‘other’, as a special representation of the marginalized, in the context of a patriarchal (Brahminic or tribal) society. But, though she is a victim of social exclusion, Karnad elevates her to a higher level of moral-emotional existence. 3 The critical phrase ‘myths of power’ has been borrowed from Terry Eagleton. However, it is used here in a general sense, mainly to show how society is structured to build up hierarchies of power drawing upon popular beliefs, how the power-blocs function through exclusion of some sections/sects and promotion of others, through marginalization and elevation. 4 All textual references to the plays are from the editions in the bibliography. 5 See Karnad’s ‘Introduction To Three Plays: Naga-Mandala, Hayavadana, Tughlag’. 6 Times News Network, 26 January 2003: 4. 7 His play Hayavadana is another major illustration of his firm commitment to truth and social reality. 8 The repeated and agonized query by the dying Vishwarupa to Indra – ‘Brother, why this treachery?’ – echoes that of Arvasu to Paravasu. The themes of abuse of power,
Girish Karnad’s The Fire and the Rain 161 domination and betrayal that the play dramatizes have been reinforced in the playwithin-the-play. 9 The reference henceforth is made to the Epilogue of The Fire and the Rain.
Bibliography Eagleton, Terry. (1976) Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of the Brontes, London: Macmillan. —— (1993) ‘Passion, Social Rebellion, Capitalist Villainy: Contradiction Incarnate in Heathcliff’, in M. Allott (ed.), Casebook: Wuthering Heights: Modern Approaches, London: Macmillan. Karnad, Girish. (1988). Hayavadana, Calcutta: Oxford University Press. —— (1999) ‘Introduction to Three Plays’, in J. Dodiya (ed.), The Plays of Girish Karnad: Critical Perspectives, New Delhi: Prestige Books. —— (2007) The Fire and the Rain, New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Conclusion Democracy at the crossroads Harihar Bhattacharyya, Partha Sarkar and Angshuman Kar
Long ago Alexis de Tocqueville writing about democracy in America in his book of the same title (1963/1835–40) was quite optimistic. He considered that political democracy centring around the principle of equality was likely to bring about desirable social transformation in a society bound by traditions, hierarchies and inequalities. Democracy, he argues, performs this job, among others, by ‘the continuous and gradual questioning and subversion of traditional social hierarchies, accepted norms and established practices, leading to a fundamentally different order’ (quoted in Pai 2002: 6). Tom Bottomore has, however, noted elements of pessimism in Tocqueville’s understanding of the social consequences of democracy: the ‘insatiable passion’ for the pursuit of social equality might come into conflict, he argued, with the liberty of individuals (1979: 10; for further critical comments, see pp. 21–2). Tocqueville’s approach,1 as distinguished from the Marxists, who advocate a revolutionary and often violent path to social transformation, is democratic and gradual. Nonetheless, he believes, it ushers in the birth of a completely new social order, say, a modern one replacing the traditional, or from one based on the principle of inequalities and hierarchies to one based on equality, and the recognition of the equal dignity of all human beings irrespective of caste, sex, colour, creed or any other group identity. There are two, or now perhaps three, reasons why Tocqueville’s political democratic approach assumes special importance for us. First, at India’s independence (1947) and with the inauguration of a republican and democratic constitution in 1950, made, incidentally, by the Indians themselves, a political revolution à la Tocqueville (or rather more than Tocquevillean since in the Indian case universal suffrage did not exclude women and other disadvantaged sections) seemed to have taken place in India. This institutionalized itself most profoundly in extending universal suffrage to citizens alike irrespective of caste, class, colour or creed, and declaring the principle of equality of all individuals before the law to be universal in the land of hierarchies, discrimination and inequalities. The overall consensus was that a political revolution, as above, at the departure of British colonial rule from India, would prepare the basis for social transformation towards a more egalitarian society. Second, the concept of political democracy à la Tocqueville offers a more effective answer to problematize the democracy–
Conclusion 163 discrimination dichotomy. The underlying assumption here is that a functioning democracy would ensure some rights for the individuals and groups, and allow a greater degree of mobilization and organization among the people, who in turn use democracy to fight against discrimination and for equality. Third, after the demise of socialist alternatives, if not so much in theory but more in practice, the democratic path to social transformation in favour of more equality, if not full equality, now seems more legitimized and widely accepted as the path to remove social discrimination, marginalization and deprivation, when of course coupled with the effective popular pressures from below for such a change. Robert Dahl (2001: 8) informs us that since the 1980s there has been an increase in the number of countries that have adopted democracy on the basis of either male or universal suffrage. The central theoretical issue involved here is democracy’s relation with social exclusion, which is multifaceted. As we have seen throughout this volume, it comprises discrimination, deprivation and marginalization. Does democracy lessen social exclusion and work for a more inclusive society, or increase social exclusion and then fall victim to it eventually? A quick glance at the history of democracy suggests of course that in its long journey (very chequered and hazardous) democracy has had its ups and downs.2 Robert Dahl argues that, although in the olden days some form of primitive democracy existed governed by the logic of equality, and necessitated by the requirements of time, as time wore on, those ‘natural popular governments’ (marked by ‘group identity, little outside interference and assumption of equality’) came to be replaced by forms of hierarchies and domination, which claimed to be ‘natural’. As Dahl puts it: As a result, popular governments vanished among settled people for thousands of years. They were replaced by monarchies, despotisms, aristocracies, or oligarchies, all based on some form of ranking or hierarchy. (2001: 10–11) The above passage is one important indication that ranks or hierarchies were anathema to popular governments in the olden days, and indeed subversive of the same. Also, whereas the above shows how challenging inequalities and hierarchies could be to democracies, causing in fact the latter’s downfall, the democratic challenge to discrimination, rank, hierarchies and so on is also historically proven. All of history’s great popular revolutionary upheavals, democratic in content, were but attempts to undo discrimination, marginalization and deprivation in favour of a more egalitarian society. A discriminatory society is the most inhospitable condition for democracy. Whether the so-called ‘honour killing’ in Turkey,3 based as it is on a hardened gender divide that denies women the most fundamental human right – the right to live – or in India the Hindu–Muslim intermarriages by choice of the parties involved, which are socially disapproved and often require police protection for the spouses’ lives,4 the story remains the same: discrimination, marginalization and deprivation rebel against democracy! Democracy seems the most effective way, given time and space, to lessen, if not remove,
164 Bhattacharyya, Sarkar and Kar discrimination. However, the whole onus of creating an inclusive society out of the existing exclusionary one should not fall on democracy alone, since democracy itself has had to co-exist with varied forms of exclusion, and to progress nonetheless towards more and more inclusion. Robert Dahl calls ‘inclusion’ the ‘fifth democratic standard’ (2001: 76–8), yet the inclusion–exclusion dilemma and tensions are critically woven into the very script of democracy itself. At any rate, the complex dialectics between democracy and social exclusion is far from complete because many hurdles remain to be overcome, as social exclusions are so deeply rooted, and new forms of exclusion, discrimination and inequalities are born (e.g. as a result of a certain kind of globalization). To be sure, at Independence India chose pre-eminently the democratic path to social change. Robert Dahl (2001: 162) says that democracy was ‘the national ideology of India’, and that ‘There is no other.’5 Indian democracy’s ability not simply to govern, but more importantly to initiate social change, and that too, in favour of creation of equal opportunities for all, that is, to deliver, has naturally received important academic attention.6 Mitra and Singh in their well-argued and empirically rich study of Democracy and Social Change in India record many successes of India’s democracy, particularly in respect of electoral politics and mass participation, but lament that India’s democratic success ‘has had to contend with persistent mass poverty and illiteracy, communal conflagrations and political insurgency’ (1999: 19). They also recognize that India is a country ‘where traditional values of hierarchy and primordial identity still prevail’ (1999: 24). Why is this so? Where are the positive effects of development that accompanied India’s democracy since independence? Sadly enough, while some sections of society, very limited in number, have favourably benefited out of the path of development, people at large, the disadvantaged sections, the overwhelming majority, have not been as lucky. Mitra and Singh have noted ‘a growing skepticism of the cultural assumptions on which some of these earlier models of development, economic growth and modernization were based’ (1999: 25). Rudolph and Rudolph (1987: 742) made the oft-quoted remark about the difficulties of ‘rationally’ understanding societies such as India ‘where gods have not died yet’. We do not blame either the gods or the people since the fault lay in the particular mode of development and social change that had failed to take into account the larger interest of the society. It left out most of a society marked by high incidence of poverty due to centuries-old social, cultural, economic and political exclusions. No wonder the people at large have searched for their own, new terms of political discourse that reflect more the reality than the imaginary world of development experts and academics. To quote Mitra and Singh again: The new interest in indigenous values, identity, and culture closely parallel developments in the real world of politics. Today, in India . . . the appeal of ethnicity and religion has overtaken the post-war emphasis on economic development and class conflict as the dominant models of political perception. (1999: 26)
Conclusion 165 Many scholars have documented how the changes since Independence have significantly affected the castes and caste-based exclusion and hierarchies (see, for instance, Gupta 2004 for some recent examples). Gupta would have us believe that caste identity has overtaken the hierarchy. He argues that nowadays ‘assertive caste identities articulate alternative hierarchies’, that ‘caste identities are present everywhere’, and also that the ‘identity expression of poorer, subaltern castes remain suppressed under the condition of a closed village economy’ (2004: ix, x, xi). What this suggests is that, although democracy has allowed the space for mobilization, the result has been more equality not for the individuals but for castes, although the situation of the lower castes, as Gupta himself has admitted above, has not much improved. Any student of democracy knows that the equality consciousness that is associated with democracy, and which is supposed to be one of its offshoots, is individualist and secular in character. Caste identity assertions in India are yet to transcend that limit. S. K. Thorat (2007: 10) has explained that it is ‘caste, untouchability and ethnicity’ that stand in the way of achievement by individuals and groups.7 As the various chapters in this volume suggest, however, social exclusion is multidimensional. A deeply rooted discriminatory society (based on caste, religion, tribal affiliation, race, language and so on) acts as the foundation of deprivation and marginalization, and other kinds of exclusion, such as economic, cultural and political.8 Deprived people cling to identity to demand justice, or to redress their grievances. The consequences of such identity politics, nowadays refashioned as ‘politics of identity’ or ‘the politics of recognition’ in the most recent political theory, are not always conducive to those whose interests are at stake; such identity terms are often used for political mileage by politicians with vested interests. As a result, identity markers turn out to be negative markers, always seeking to give expression to dissent and difference. Critics of the politics of identity have argued that such ‘group-specific justice claims as an assertion of group identity . . . endanger democratic communication because they only divide the polity into selfish interest groups’.9 When a specific identity is the basis of discrimination and exclusion, then it must be fought out. But elite manipulation of the embedded justice claims in such discrimination is doubly dangerous: it endangers both the excluded sections and the democratic space (the public sphere, or civil societal space). A glaring example is how the cause of the Dalits (Scheduled Castes and former untouchables in India’s caste social order) in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, has been diluted in the electoral power game by the party of the Dalits, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), as Sudha Pai (2002) has shown. Therefore, removal of forms of discrimination is the most important task to be performed before an inclusive society is reconstructed. This is also the most democratic task of all since it is a call to establish a society based on equality: social, political and perhaps economic too. If discrimination is a problem for democracy, which it is indeed, democracy could also be a destabilizing factor for a society based on discrimination. Democracy for a discriminatory society is a great challenge since it upholds the principle of equality, and therefore proposes radical changes in the existing patterns of
166 Bhattacharyya, Sarkar and Kar distribution of social and economic powers. Democracy’s task is not finished with the simple declaration of the principle of equality. In fact, the job of democracy begins there, and the whole of its journey10 involves, inter alia, various rights of the citizens in various fields of activity (social, economic, political, cultural and so on), and hence entitlement to the same without discrimination, irrespective of colour, creed, sex, religion and so on. Sudipta Kaviraj (1998: 148) has argued that democracy as a formal political principle of equality is capable of ‘several subsidiary forms, depending on which particular sphere of social life it is being applied’. Kaviraj has further argued that the ‘historical and moral consequences of their application to a hierarchical society are bound to be significantly different’ (ibid.). Alexis de Tocqueville believed that the democratic principle of equality has an ‘innate tendency’ to spread from the political public sphere (where it originated) to all others, producing ‘far-reaching consequences for social stratification and cultural practices’.11 The protagonists of discrimination would in such a situation engage themselves in resistance against the spread of democracy in defence of what is very often styled the ancien régime. History is replete with many such examples of anti-democratic movements. In this sense the relation between discrimination and democracy is dialectical. But the most problematic part of their relation is that the actually existing and formally and constitutionally recognized democracies the world over are based on many forms of social and cultural discrimination, which legally, however, are condemned and untenable. One could argue that that was precisely why democracy was accepted as a form of government, as a political principle of equality, and an institutional arrangement to fight out forms of discrimination.
Discrimination and democratic practices Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen (2002: 347–79) have well distinguished between democratic ideals, democratic institutions and democratic practice. Democratic ideals are pretty well known: ‘government of the people, for the people, and by the people’. Democratic institutions refer to institutional arrangements of democracy such as constitutional rights, effective courts, responsive electoral systems, functioning parliaments and assemblies, free and open media, and participatory institutions of local governance. According Dreze and Sen, democratic institutions provide opportunities for achieving democratic ideals. It is democratic practices that help in this respect. This is precisely where discrimination acts to deprive people, especially the socially underprivileged, of the scope for participation and for taking full advantage of democracy. Political inclusion thus assumes added importance. In searching for the means of deepening democracy as a means of political inclusion, Young lamented, though: Even the supposedly most democratic societies in the world most of the time are largely ‘plebiscite’ democracies: candidates take vague stands on a few
Conclusion 167 issues; citizens endorse one or another, and then have little relation to the policy process until the next election. (Young 2002: 5) She, however, believes that it is through democratic practices that democracy can be deepened. In other words, political inclusion, which arises from ‘experiences of exclusion’, ‘from opportunities to participate, from the hegemonic terms of debate’ (Young 2002: 6) can be a means of overcoming the ill effects of social exclusion on democracy. The issue she raises is path-breaking and useful because it points our attention to the political resources available within democracies (means of political inclusion) to use them against all obstacles that seek to narrow democracy down to serve the vested interests. The various limitations (rooted in gender divide, political party control, social hierarchies and so on) that are routinely imposed on popular participation in representative and grassroots democratic institutions in India are glaring examples of the deficit in democracy, or a narrowed democracy. In this context, her charge that ‘Democratic theory has not sufficiently thematized’ (Young 2002: 11) the problem of political inclusion is well justified and needs to be taken further in empirical probing in different ‘democratic contexts’. The chapters in this volume have sensitized us about the exclusionary processes at play in various sectors of Indian society, in the wage labour market, gender divisions, intercommunity relations and so on, accentuated of late by the processes of globalization, which has served to create new forms of social and economic inequalities and hence exclusion. Since the notion of popular sovereignty is the most crucial one in democracy, theoretically speaking, any critical understanding of democracy in relation to social exclusion/inclusion can hardly avoid serious reference to ongoing debates in contemporary political theory. In other words, political theoretic debates have serious implications for democracy. S. Datta Gupta (Chapter 1) has shown in this context the limits of liberal political theory including the most recent versions of it, caught, as it were, in the twin blind paths of ‘overarching universalism and a cloistered notion of exclusion’, to accommodate inclusion, and hence pleads for a reformulation in the problematic of the notion of popular sovereignty. He has drawn our attention in particular to the embedded jeopardization of the democratic aspirations of the Indian polity due to ‘negative aspirations of difference and expression of dissent vis-à-vis the discourse of the inclusive zone’. T. K. Oommen’s (Chapter 2) discussion also highlighted the issue of empowerment vis-à-vis social exclusion, and argued that identity as such is not democratic because a hegemonic identity perpetuates domination whereas an emancipatory one encourages participation and offers security to groups and community. He has also cautioned against perpetuating identity politics, which often linked to ‘votebank politics’ becomes a basis for sacrificing equality and identity. He pleads for a policy of inclusion of identity groups only if that brings about equity, which is the road to empowerment.
168 Bhattacharyya, Sarkar and Kar Gender inequality and consequent exclusion of women in India are the recurring themes in all the three literary articles in the book written by three women scholars. The other two forms of social exclusion that these writers show their concern for are exclusions due to caste and class. It becomes evident that in the case of the aboriginal people of India all these forms of exclusion operate to push them to the fringe of society. Perceptive analyses of different literary representations of exclusion further bear testimony to the fact that construction and perpetuation of ideologies and different internalized and self-imposed cultural prejudices have heavily contributed to the sustenance of exclusion at different levels and in different forms even 62 years after Independence. An examination of various social and state measures and policies of inclusion and their effectiveness shows that some of these measures, such as those taken for the empowerment of women, lack sustainability. Differential acceptance of such measures by different groups cuts into the wider legitimacy basis of such inclusionary measures. In the face of the official claims of the success of the strategies of inclusion and empowerment, literary representations show indeed the gap between statistical claims and lived experiences. A very interesting fact that this volume hints at is that the politics of exclusion/ inclusion has not been able to divide India on the basis of a simple binary of the excluded and the included or the ‘Hegemon’ and the ‘Other’. A multiethnic, multireligious and multicultural country such as India by its very pluralistic fabric of composition defies such a simplistic binary division of its socio-politicaleconomic space. A community or an individual that seems to be disempowered and on the periphery, if seen from one perspective of exclusion, could appear empowered and at the centre if seen from other perspectives. The interaction among these people, who in accordance with the change of the parameters of exclusion change their subject positions and sometimes appear as ‘excluded’ and at other times ‘included’, further complicates the issue of exclusion/inclusion in Indian democracy. Such an interaction, it has to be admitted, is also heavily mediated by money power and the conventional parliamentary practices of democracy. In this context, it must be mentioned that the literary representations of social exclusion further raise the question of the relationship between the nation-state, one the one hand, and the socially excluded groups, on the other. Democracy intrinsically encourages the demands for inclusion, which, when they fail, tend to take extreme forms of separatism. This calls for making democracy more inclusive, and indicates a need to strike a balance between the regional and the national, between the particular and the universal, and between what Jain, referring to Tagore, has called the self inside and the self outside. The real strength of the literary representations of the different forms of social exclusion lies in the fact that by appealing to both the head and the heart they make us think about and perhaps convince us of the need for a paradigm shift and attitudinal changes at the levels of polity, society, culture and economy as regards the problems of exclusion. The economic connotation of social exclusion, to see it again from an economic point of view, is multifaceted and entails for its redress not only governmental
Conclusion 169 intervention with a set of social welfare measures, but also the market, the latter being so prominent in this age of globalization. It is not enough on the part of the government to announce a set of ‘strategic’ statements to remove social exclusion while increasingly leaving things to the realm of the market. The issue of social exclusion may be addressed by the business/corporate sector today not just through the so-called ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR), but more importantly for reasons of their ‘survival strategy’. In this context, the specific roles of the business/corporate sector to address the various forms of exclusions (including the more recent coinage of the term ‘financial exclusion’) from which the disadvantaged groups suffer assumes importance. The lack of adequate income and access to assets, to education and finally to information needs to be clearly defined. The latter form of exclusion is today receiving increasing attention in India thanks to the Right to Information Act (RTI), 2003. Despite India’s globalization and faster rates of growth over the last decade and a half, nearly half of the country’s population are financially excluded on account of not having any access to loans and insurance. Dreze and Sen (2002: 4) found an ‘extraordinarily high level of absolute deprivation’ in India. They also found a very low ratio of females to males in India so that the rates of ‘missing women’ in India are worse than in sub-Saharan Africa (Dreze and Sen 2002: 229–74)! Does not that speak volumes about the so-called success of India’s democracy? The other related aspect to consider, from the point of view of social policy, is that the paradigm that acts to remove social exclusion do not per se guarantee social inclusion, because the causal factors are fundamentally different in nature in each case. In other words, ‘no social exclusion’ is not synonymous with ‘social inclusion’. However, any interventionist measures for social inclusion must settle scores with the factors that sustain social exclusion, as the first step towards inclusion. To end on an optimistic note, although there are manifold social exclusions in India, social exclusions have also been condemned in no uncertain terms by India’s modern social philosophers and writers, opinion-makers and agents of various progressive social and political movements. The nationhood space, the widest possible space for social inclusion and integration, has thus been variously defined, cleared and defended by such very eminent social thinkers as Rabindra Nath Tagore as well as by the otherwise conservative Bhudev Mukhopadhyay. The space is liberally inclusionary, and immensely democratic in content. Such social theoretic accounts of inclusionary nationhood have prepared the cultural backdrop of accommodation of difference as well as of the disadvantaged in the dynamics of India’s nation-building. Indian democracy needs to rebuild itself on the country’s rich tradition of thought on social inclusion if it is to widen its bases and to sustain itself in the twenty-first century and beyond.
Endnotes 1 It must, however, be stressed here that there is a serious exclusionary limitation in Tocqueville’s democracy thinking. He affirmed the State of Maryland in the US, which
170 Bhattacharyya, Sarkar and Kar
4 5 6 7
8 9 10
had declared ‘universal suffrage’ but excluded women and most African Americans. Tocqueville assumed, according to Dahl, that ‘universal did not include women’. See Dahl (2001: 89) for further details. Dahl also points out that in the twentieth century democracy failed frequently. He says that democracy collapsed on more than 70 occasions, giving way to authoritarian regimes (2001: 145). See also Dunn (1992) and Shapiro and Hacker-Gordon (1999). Read the horrific story of All Elif, an 18-year-girl Turkish girl (from Batman) who was told by her family to kill herself since she had dishonoured her family (immediate and extended) by refusing to marry an elderly man chosen by her family (The Statesman, New Delhi, 28 March 2009, reproducing the report from The Independent, London). This has reference to the reported case of marriage of a Hindu man, Khenraj (24), and Anjum (19), a Muslim woman (who converted to Hinduism), both from Jammu and Kashmir, in late March 2009 (The Statesman, New Delhi, 27–8 March 2009). He states: ‘Weak as India’s sense of nationhood may be, it is so intimately bound up with democratic ideas and beliefs that few Indians advocate a non democratic alternative’ (p. 162). On democracy in India studies see Hanson and Douglas (1972), Mitra and Singh (1999), Kohli (1990) and Kothari (2009). Thorat informs us that in India caste exclusion has formed the basis for various antidiscriminatory policies (2007: 9), which is suggestive of deep-rooted social exclusion. See also his (2009) Dalits in India: Search for a Common Destiny, in which he argues that, despite noticeable improvements among the SCs, STs and other disadvantaged groups, the disparity remains between them and the other sections of Indian society, in terms of development-related indices. For instance, in 1999–2000 there was more poverty among the SCs (36 per cent) than among the non-SCs/STs (21 per cent) (quoted in Venkatesan 2009: 71). See Young (2000) on problematizing the notions of political exclusion and inclusion on the basis of the US experience. See Young (2000: 83). For further details, see pp. 83–7, the section ‘Critique of a Politics of Differences’, in which she has examined the various strands of criticism of the ‘politics of difference’ or ‘identity’ vis-à-vis inclusive democracy. See Dunn (1992) as one authoritative account of the diverse forms of and obstacles to the journey of democracy in history. See also Shapiro and Hacker-Gordon (1999) for newer assessment of democracy after the collapse of the communist systems in East Europe. Democracy’s new-found value in managing cultural diversity is also an important part of the ongoing democracy debates today. For instance, see O’Neill and Austin (2000). Quoted in Kaviraj (1998: 148). For further details, see Tocqueville (1963/1835–40).
Bibliography Bottomore, T. (1979) Political Sociology, London: Hutchinson. Dahl, R. (2001) On Democracy, New Delhi: East–West Press. Dreze, J. and Sen, A. (2002) India: Development and Participation, Delhi: Oxford University Press. Dunn, J. (ed.) (1992) Democracy: An Unfinished Journey (508 bc to ad 1993), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gupta, D. (ed.) (2004) Caste in Question, New Delhi: Sage Publications. Hanson, A. H. and Douglas, J. (1972) India’s Democracy, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Kaviraj, S. (1998) ‘The Culture of Representative Democracy’, in P. Chatterjee (ed.), Wages of Freedom: Fifty-Years of the Indian Nation-State, Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Conclusion 171 Kohli, A. (1990) Democracy and Discontent: India’s Growing Crisis of Governability, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kothari, R (2009) Rethinking Indian Democracy, New Delhi: Orient Black Swan. Mitra, S. K. and Singh, V. B. (1999) Democracy and Social Change in Modern India: A Cross-National of the National Electorate, New Delhi: Sage Publications. O’Neill, M. and Austin, D. (eds) (2000) Democracy and Cultural Diversity, New York: Oxford University Press. Pai, S. (2002) Dalit Assertions and the Unfinished Democratic Revolution: The Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi: Sage Publications. Rudolph, L. and Rudolph, S. (1987) In Pursuit of Lakshmi: The Political Economy of Development in India, Chicago: Chicago University Press. Shapiro, I. and Hacker-Gordon, C. (eds) (1999) Democracy’s Values, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Thorat, S. K. (2007) ‘Human Poverty and Socially Disadvantaged Groups in India’, HDRC Discussion Paper No. 18, January, New Delhi. —— (2009) Dalits in India: Search for a Common Destiny, New Delhi: Sage Publications. Tocqueville, Alexis de. (1963/1835–40) Democracy in America (edited by P. Bradley), New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Venkatesan, V. (2009) Review of Thorat 2009 in The Frontline, 10 April. Young, M. Iris (2000) Inclusion and Democracy, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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absentee landlords 119 abused children 2 accountability 86, 88, 98, 116 Advani, L. K. 80 affirmative action 2 affirmative approach 97 affirmative process 7 agrarian movements in North-East India 34 agnostic democracy (Connolly’s concept of) 17 Ahom State (separate) 39 Algeria 77 Ali, I. 100 All Assam Adivasi Students’ Association 40 All Assam Deuri Students Union 40 All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad 38 All Assam Students’ Union 38 All Assam Tribal Students Union 40 alternative vision 48 Ambedkar, B. R. 83 Anand, M. R. 126, 134b ancient Greeks 5, 22 ancient Indian civilization 5 Anderson, B. 59 Andhra Pradesh 8, 10, 107; High Court 117 anthropological studies 125 anti-development 10, 115 anti-foreigner mass uprising (1979–85) 38 anti-infiltration 38 Aranganayagam, C. 133 ‘Aranyer Adhikar’ (of Mahesweta) 142 Arunachal Pradesh 40 ‘Arvasi’ as victim of social exclusion 159–60 Aryan myth 23 Asabarna (heterogeneous) 72
Ashcroft, Bill 140, 145, n146 Asian 13, 19, 23, 76, 77, 78, 100 Asiatic religions 16 asocial person 2 Asom Sahitya Sabha 38 Assam Accord 38 Assamese linguistic–cultural domination 34 assertion of rights 18 asylum seekers 18 Atatürk, Kamal 73 authentic self in liberalism 17 Autonomous District Council (of Tripura) 37 Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC) 39 autonomy 6, 18, 19, 33, 36, 37, 39, 41, 43, 88; demand for 6, 33, 40, 43 Awasthi 134 Babylon 16 Bahujan Samaj Party(BSP) 19, 60, 84, 125, 165, 171 Balibar, E. 21 Bama 129, 134 Banerjea, S. 10, 114 Banerjee, B. 112 Bangiya Sahitya Sammelan 70 Bangladesh war 38 Basu, B. 12, 138, 140, 141 Barak valley 35, 45 Bardhan, P. 100 Bartolome, L. J. 122 basti 130 Basu, B. 12, 138, 140, 141 battle for equality 124 Baviskar and Mathew 2 Beall, J. 101, 112
174 Index Belgium 17, 36 Bengal Renaissance 48, 49, 50, 52 Bhaduri, A. 100 Bhalla, S. S. 122 Bharati 65, 74, 80 Bharatiya Janata Party 80 Bharti, D. 131, 134 Bhasha literature 11 Bhattacharya, S. 12, 141 Bhattacharyya, H. 1, 7, 48, n59 Bhattacharyya, J. 7, 61 Bhattacharyya, K. 50, 51, n58 Bhaumik, S. 37, 38, n 44 Bhowmik, T. 145 Bhudev, M. 7, 48–60, 169 Bhudev’s notion of inclusion in nationhood 48–61: aboriginal people 55; Christians 54; critique of the West 51–2; Hindu– Muslim relations 7, 48, 50, 53–4 67; liberal nature of Hindu society 55–7; material basis of Hindu–Muslim unity identified 68, 70 big dams 10, 115, 116 birth control movement 71 Biswas, K. 142, 145 Bitter Soil 142, 146 black 23, 24, 25, 64, 100, 134, 171 Bodo Accord 39, 41 Bodo Sahitya Sabha (1952) 35, 39 Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC) 39 Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) 40 Borooah, V. K. 112 Bottomore, T. 162, 170 Brahmin 22, 49, 50, 53, 54, 56, 84, 126, 128; Brahminic 50, 147, 150, 160; Brahminic Hinduism 147, 156, n160 Brahminicide 149, 150, 153 Brahmo Samaj 132 Brass, P. R. 59 breast stories 142 Bronte, C. 148 Bronte, E. 148 Buddha 127 Buddhists 28, 49, 54, 55, 78 Bush, George W. 77 Bushman 68 Calvinist 16 capability deprivation 2 caste xi, 1, 2, 4, 5 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 19, 20, 22, 23, 28, 30, 48, 53, 54, 57, 62, 64, 67, 70, 76, 78, 79, 80, 82, 83, 84, 87, 90, 96, 98, 101, 103-6, 124-35, 139,
142, 143, 147, 148, 156, 162, 165, 168, 170; assigned duty to Dalits 127; debates on caste 125–26; dilemmas 130–2; discrimination 1–6, 8-9, 10–2, 13, 18, 19, 25, 27–8, 65-66, 30–31, 55– 56, 62, 65, 86, 102, 112, 113, 124, 126, 129, 162–3, 165; as division and social exclusion xi, 121, 124–36; egalitarism 128; empowerment 126; hierarchy 6, 24, 29, 30, 64, 70, 76, 126, 143, 152, 157, 163, 164, 165; oppression 11, 12, 24, 124, 138, 141–3, 145, 157, 160; political power 30, 39, 57, 79, 81, 127; violence 18–21, 28, 37, 43–4, 77, 80 caste system 4, 6, 22, 23, 29, 53, 57, 61; higher 6, 9, 12; lower 4, 78, 115, 125, 128, 165; regulation 11, 62, 71, 165 caste-based exclusion 62, 71 caste-dislodgement 12, 147 caste-status 148 Catholic community in England 53 Central Water 116 commission 34, 80, 81, 116, 117, 122, 123, 124, 126, 156 Cernea, M. 122 Chakma 40 Chakravarti, U. 134 Chamar caste 131 Chandalika 126 Chatterjee, P. 59, 60. 134, 170; on outcastes, 125 Chaujar, P. 100 Chhatisgarh 116, 122 child labour 9, 90, 93, 94, 100, 103 China 16 Chinnamasta 141 Chinta 140, 142, 143, 146 Choma’s Drum 134 Chowdhury D. P. 94, 100 Christians 7, 28, 29, 30, 49, 50, 51, 54, 55, 56, 63, 78, 79, 82, 124, 129 ‘Chuni Kotal’, suicide of 140, 143 citizenship 2, 16, 18, 29, 32, 40 civic elements of nationhood 58 civic liberalism 20 civil society 6, 24, 25, 33, 43, 61, 88, 143 civilization, modern 67 Chakrabarti, R. n74 class struggles 22, 73 clash of civilizations (S. P. Huntington) 19, n59 cloistered exclusion 20, 67 Cold War 22, 24
Index 175 colonial construction of caste (N. Dirks) 125 colonial impact 33 colonial interface Colonial Leviathan 125 colonial regime 34 colonialism and exclusion 22–24 colour 1, 23, 27, 125, 144, 162, 165 communal clash 2, 8 communal riots/violence in India 80, 85 communalism 4, 44, 65 composite nation 7, 72, 85 conceptual history of social exclusion 1–2, 22–24 Connolly, M. 17, 21 Constitution of India 43, 79, 117, 122 constitutional framework 43 contractual jobs 9, 114 Corporate Social Responsibility 169 cosmopolitanism 20 countries, metropolitan 76, 77 court judgment on caste discrimination 127 critical traditionalism 58 critique of the West 7 cultural domination 34; Assamese linguistic 34 cultural exclusion 1, 3, 77, 86 cultural representation 144 culture 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 20, 27 culturocide 27 Dahl, R. 170 Dalit 11, 12, 13, 17, 134, 144, 165, 170: Dalit basti 130; Dalits and tribals of India 6, 10, 19, 142, 144, 159; dilution of Dalits’ cause 84, 165; resistance 165–6 Dangle, A. 130, 134 Das, N. K., 44 Das, S. K. 74, 126, 134 Dasgupta, S. 136, 146 defence of tradition 51 democracy 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 16–17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 49, 59, 60, 77, 96–7, 121–2, 128, 130, 162–71; caste compromises in 128; democratic participation 167–8; democratic society 162, 167; democratization of the excluded 166–8; democratization 162–6; defeat of 121; and discrimination 162–5, 166–7 Democracy in America, impact of 171 Deppe, F. 17, 21 deprived people and justice 10, 104, 115 Derrida, J. 16
Dev Sen N. 11, 138, 139, 141 development 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13; development-induced displacement 114, 115 Devi, Ashapurna 11, 138 Devi, Mahesweta 140, 141–3, 146 De Wet, C. J. 122 Dharma 29, 34, 128, 132, 133 dialects of Hindi 27 dialogue 19, 41, 58, 126, 132, 158 differently abled 25 Dimasa Students Federation 40, 44 Dimasas National Security Force (DNSF) 41, 45 Dirks, N. 134 disabled 25, 88 disadvantaged groups in India 2, 13, 171 discourse of democracy 12 discriminatory practices and democracy 124 discriminatory society 126, 163, 165 displacement 5, 9, 10, 12, 25, 114, 115, 116, 118, 119, 122, 144 distributive justice 6, 33, 43 diversity 5, 6, 15, 33, 49, 51, 57, 58, 61, 72, 120, 170, 171; cultural 6, 33, n170 DMK 125 documentation 11, 141, 142, 144 domestication, 139 Dravidsthan 125 Dreze, J. 12, 115, 116, 123, 136, 139, 146, 166, 169, 170 Dunlop, J. E. 102, 112 Dunn, J. 170 Duraisamy, M. 102, 112 Duraisamy, P. 102, 112 Durkheimian notion of exclusion 22 Eagleton, T. 148, 160, 161 economic and political exclusion 164 economic inequality 136 economic stratification 128 education, higher 30, 62, 70 egalitarian philosophy 127 Egypt 16 emancipation of women 139 empowerment 5, 11, 22, 30, 31, 32, 99, 126, 132, 136, 152, 158, 167–8 enfranchisement 3 Engineer, A. A. 8, 76, 85 English education, nationalist attitude to 52 equal dignity 162
176 Index equal rights 4, 66, 77 equality 3, 9, 11, 23, 29–32, 54, 56, 70, 71, 73, 86, n98, 104, 124, 125, 131, 134, 162–3, 165–7; of condition 30, 31 Esteve-Volart, B. 102, 112 ethnic conflicts 34 ethnic pogroms xi, 4 ethnic politics 6, 33; early consciousness 33; inter-ethnic contacts 33 ethnic representation 34 ethnic riots 2 ethnic struggles 34 ethnic unrest 34, 42 ethnicity 20, 32, 34, 35, 36, 42, 46, 74, 164, 165 ethnicity-based exclusion 2 ethnonationalism 15, 34 European Buddhist 63 European Christian 56 Enlightenment 4 exclusion: as difference and discrimination 27; partial or total 24, 29, 30; strategy of, Indian illustrations 3, 22–23; of women 11, 12, 22, 26, 65, 66, 136, 168 exclusionary process 62 exclusive development 86 extra-territorial loyalty of Muslims 53 feminization 139 feudal societies 3 feudalism 67 fifth standard of inclusion 164 First World War 73, n74 Flemish Support for Indigenous People 36 forms of discrimination 86, 165, 166 Foucaldian paradigm of resistance 137 Foucault, M. 17, 141, 146 France 17, 25, 76, 77 fratricide 149, 158 fundamental rights 124 Garo 34, 41, 120, 137 gender and power 136 to 146 gender inclusion 70 gender inequality 26, 66, 136, 145, 168; discrimination 95, 98; resistance 137, 138, 142; triple colonization as 139 gender marginalization of tribals 141 gender perspectives 139 Gerald, M. 146 Germany 17, 73, 76, 77 Ghosh, A. K. 59, 123 Ghosh, G. 133
Ghoshal, S. 146 Global Age 25 global phenomenon 26, 67 globalization xi, 2, 5, 8, 9, 24, 25, 32, 80, 87, 96, 97, 102, 108, 111, 114, 143, 164; and displacement 5; and social exclusion in India xi, 2, 5, 8, 87, 111; sub-proletariat 144 Godavari 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 123 Godavari river 117, 119 Gohain, H. 38, 39, 44 Gooptu, N. 129, 134 Gopal Singh Commission Report 80, 81 Gora 132, 133, 135 Gore, C. 112 governance and poverty 88, 90, 98 Government of India 8, 13, 31, 32, 36, 40, 49, 60, 80, 85, 87, 98, 100 Government of India Act 1935 36 Gram Sabha 122 Gray, J. 15, n20, 21 Gujjar-Meena (Caste) conflict 125 Gupta, D. on ‘caste in question’ 130 Haan, A. De 113 Habermas, J. 16, 20, 21; notion of dialogue 19 Hacker-Gordon, C. n170, 171 Hajong 34, 40 Harijans 129, 133 hegemon and the Other 168 hierarchies and domination 163 Hindu Age 64 Hindu doctrine of creation 29 Hindu Right 80 Hindu society 6, 54, 56, 57, 62, 63, 133 Hinduism 23, 27, 28, 33, 50, 58, 59, 64, 65, 128, 170 Hindu–Muslim relations 61, 64 Hindu–Muslim unity 68, 70; obstacle to 69 Hindus 6, 7, 8, 22, 27, 28, 48, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 61, 64, 65, 68, 69, 70, 72, 74, 78, 79, 80, 82, 124, 127, 133 Hindus and Muslims 7, 64 historicity of tradition 51 Holland 76 honour killing (in Turkey) 163 human deprivation 96 human rights 18, 20, 86, 87, 88, 115, 116, 23, 45 Hutton, J. H. 34 Hutus (Burundi) 4
Index 177 ‘I’ and ‘other’ 33 identity 28, 29, 30, 31–33, 48; and purity 124–135 identity politics 5, 6, 15, 16, 18, 31, 33, 34–47, 165, 167; various brands 5, 6, 15, 33 Illaiah, K. 59 ill-being of women 11, 137, 141 illegal émigré 38 Illegal Migrants 40 (Determination of Tribunal) Act 1993, 41 Imchen, C. L. 33, 44 immigrant workers 18 immigrants 18, 37 inclusion: and identity 31, 32; identity, dignity and equity 29, 30; nation state and inclusion (India) 7, 31, 51; meaning 2; forms 1; political inclusion 61, 72, 73, 102, 166 inclusionary nation’s space 8, 49, 169 inclusive development 2, 5, 88, 89, 96, 97; and globalization 5; paradigm 9; relation with distributive growth 88 income disparity 25, 29, 31, 86 Indian democracy 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 49, 164, 168, 169, 171; celebratory accounts of Indian democracy 3, 49 Indian poverty: among socially excluded 91; livelihood disparity among socially excluded 91 Indian state and religious minorities 28 Indian wage labour market: 5, 9, 101, 167; earnings 8, 9, 103, 111, 112; employment opportunities 103–4, 111; impact of globalization 108; occupational structure 108; regional disparities 106; social exclusion in 101, 102, 103, 108, 111 Indian womanhood 139 indigenous values 164 indiscriminate imitation of the West 50 inequality 3, 26, 31, 56, 66, 67, 89, 90, 91, 102, 104, 136, 145, 168 infant mortality 90 in-group/out-group 34 Inner Line (1878 in North-East) 34 insecure subjectivity 58 insurgent groups 37 inter-ethnic contact 33; secessionism 4, 33 internationalism 73 Islam 24, 50, 54, 55, 56, 64, 65, 74, 79, 85, 138 isolation 33, 65, 86
Jagirdars 78 Jain, J. 11, 124 Jains 49, 54, 55, 78 Jami’at-ul-Ulama-i-Himd (JUH) 79 Jat-Brahmin 128 jati 124, 125, 131, 133, 134 Jews 28 Joan of Arc 137 job market and social exclusion 103, 108, 112 Joint-Lambert, M. 102, 113 ‘Journey for Peace’ 42 justice 6, 9, 13, 33, 43, 54, 83, 121, 136, 142, 143, 145, 155, 160, 165 justification of varna (Gandhiji) 124 Juzhong, Z. 100 Kabir 54, 127 Kachari 41 Kachin Independence Army (KIA) 38 Kafan 126 Kantian notion of cosmopolitanism 20 Karanth, S. 126, 134 Karbi Anglong 39 Karbi National Council 39 Karbi Students Association 39 Karma 29, 74, 128, 133; theory of 29 Karnad, G. 134, 147–9, 152, 156–60 Karukku 129, 131, 34 Katzenstein, M. 3 Kaviraj, S. 48, 50, 51, 58, 166, 170 Khalif of Turkey 53 Khammam District 117 Khasi, religion 36; adopted Christianity 36; ‘Khasi-Khasis’ 36; Seng Khasi 36 Khilafat 69, 74 Kinvall, C. 58 Knight, J. B. 102, 112 knowledge-blocs 148 Kohli, A. 171 Kok–Borok 38 Kshatriya 23, 57, 67 Kumar, A. 113 Kumar, M. D. 123 Kuri, P. 8, 86 labour process 67; alienation of 67; power 67 land records of tribals 118 land reforms 26, 30, 68, 117 Landry, D. 142, 143, 146 language, Assamese as compulsory from class 8, 35
178 Index layers of social exclusion 7 Lenoir, R. 1 liberal political theory 5, 167 liberalism 5, 15–21, 60; and difference and exclusion 5–6; as ideology 15; as philosophy 15–18 liberalization 9, 80, 87, 100, 102, 114; and economic inequalities 9, 90, 102 Limbale, S. K. 127, 128, 134 linguistic and religious revivalism 35 linguistic variation 33; Tibeto-Burman languages 33 linked to 50, 167 livelihood 2, 9, 91, 102, 114, 127, 145 local folkways 62; mores 72 local/outsider 6 localism 62 logic of equality 163 Lok Sabha 81 Lomash 148, 150 Love, J. 21 LPG syndrome 114 Maan-Tai Students Union 40 machoism 129 Madani, Shaykat, M. H. A. 85 Madheswaran, S. 102, 113 Mahajan, G. 3, 13 Maine, H. 24 majoritarianism 4 majority 4, 10, 26, 33, 35, 36, 67, 76, 77, 111, 115, 164 majority/minority 33 Majumdar, R. 9, 101 Malashri Lal 141 mali caste 126 malnutrition 9, 90 Mandal Commission (on caste) 124, 126 Mandals 117, 119 Mani, L. 127 marginalization and deprivation 1, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 114, 115, 163 market and inclusive development 88 Marwari 38 Marx, K. 18, 24, 67 masculinist ideologies masculinity 128 Mathur, A. 105, 113 Maulana Abul Kalam Azad 79 Maulana Husain Ahmad 79 McNay, L. 141 Mech-Bodos 39 ‘Meeteilon’, Manipuri language renamed 35
Meitei 34, 35 Member of Parliament (MP) 80 Mendonca, A. 149 Menon, D. K. 125, 134 mentally and physically handicapped 2 midday meals at schools and caste prejudices 124 Middle Ages 62, 63 Middle Orient 23 militant groups 37, 43 militant outfits 37, 41–43 Millennium Declaration 87 minorities 1, 3, 4, 27 ‘minority consciousness’ 34 Mishing (introduction in primary schools) 35 Mishing Agom Kebang (Mishing Sahitya Sabha) (1972) 35 Mishing Literary Association (1972) 35 Miss Mayavati UP 84 Mitra, A. 50, n58, 59 Mitra, J. 139, 140, 141 Mitra, S. K. xii, 164, n170 Mizo National Front (MNF) 38 modernity 4, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 24, 59, 125, 126 Mohan, K. 128, 134 Mongoloid ethnic origin 33 moral inequalities 96 Mukherjee, D. 105, 111 Mukhopadhyay, P. K., 74 Muivah, I. 36 multicultural 76, 78, 168 multireligious 168 multitude of reforms (of caste) 124 Muslims: alienation in India 7; in All India Civil Service 83; employees in government sector 82; identity 48, 54, 70, 76, 78; lack of political participation 79; manifold discriminations 8; need for reservation for Muslims 30, 80, 84; not homogenous 8; share of employment 82; vote bank 84 Mutatkar, R. 113 Muttahida Qaumiyyat aur Islam (Composite Nationalism and Islam) 79 ‘myths of power’ 147, 148, n160 Naga 34, 36; middle class 36;movement 36, 44; Naga Club (1918) 36; origin of 36 Naga Hills District Tribal Council (1945) 36
Index 179 Naga National Council (1946) (NNC) 36; delegation to the UN Conference of ‘Indigenous Peoples’ (1994) 36 Nagaland 33, 36, 41–43, 46, 94, 107; long Naga struggle (1953) 36; Phizo, A. Z. 36 Nagalim, greater 36, 40, 42 Nandy, A. 74 Nano Small Car Project (in Singur) 114 narcissist self-awareness (among tribes of North-East) 6, 33, 43 Narmada Dam Project 12 nativism 144, 146 nation 7, 71–73, 125, 144, 169 nation-state 6, 51, 57, 59, 168 national identity 7, 51, 54, 57–59, 61, 83 National Water Development Agency 121, 123 nationalism 6, 11, 15, 33, 34, 36, 38, 44, 49, 57, 59, 61, 71–73, 144; as powerful anaesthetic 71–2; Western 71 Nationalist Social Council of Nagalism (Isak – Muivah) 36, 42 nationhood: alternative vision of 48; statecentric notion 7, 49 nation-state vs. social exclusion 6 nation-states, Paranjape on 6, 24 natural citizens 144 naxalism 38 Nayak, P. 113 Nietzsche, F. 17 Nishant 133 Nittilai, as tribal girl 147, 150 no social exclusion vs. social inclusion 169 unemployment 102, 105, 113 North Cachar Hills 39, 41 North-East India 33, 36, 37, 41, 42, 44; colonial impact 33; identity politics for exclusion and inclusion 6, 15, 16, 18; movements for exclusion and inclusion 35; self-rule and autonomy 36, 37, 41 North East Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Forum 40 North East Students Organization (NESO) 40 notion of difference 18, 19 OBCs (Other Backward Castes) 6, 9, 30, 31, 79, 84, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 109, 111, 130 Oommen, T. K. 5, 6, 22, 23, 25, 26, 31, 32, 167 opportunities 1, 4, 27, 61, 77, 78, 88, 89, 97, 98, 103, 106, 108, 111, 164, 166
Orient 19, 23, 24, 64 Orissa 27, 106, 107, 116, 119, 122 outsider and insider 19, 20, 126 overarching universalism 20, 167 Pai, S. 60 Pakem, B. 44 Panchayats 117, 122, 125 Pandian, M. S. S. 48, 60 Papola, T. S. 87, 100, 102, 113 Paranjape, M. 144, 146 Parikh, K. S. 99, 100 parochialism 20, 62 Parry, N. E. 34 participative representation in North-East 34 Partition of India 36, 42, 43, 78, 79 patriarchal society 66, 133 patriarchal space 138 patriarchal system 137, 142 patriarchy 12, 26, 29, 137, 139, 141 patricians 6, 22 patricide 147, 153, 154, 15 Patwardhan, J. 119 Pawle, K. 127, 134 Periyar, P. 125 Phule, J. 134 Pillai, T. S. 135 Plains Tribes Council of Assam (PTCA) (1972) 35, 36 plebeians 6, 22 plebiscite democracy 166 Polavaram Dam Project (Andhra Pradesh) 10, 114–123; agents (government and NGOs) involved 12, 136, 155, 169; areas covered 117; areas to be submerged 117, 118; location 36, 145; origin xi, 28, 30, 33 public hearings 118, 122; rehabilitation and resettlement in 118; tribal protest 118 political democracy 162 political inclusion 61, 72, 73, 102, 166, 167; and deepening democracy 166 political public sphere 166 political revolution 162 political secessionism 4, 33 politics of difference 17, 170 pollution (related to caste) 22, 29, 69, 130 Poona Pact 1932 83 popular governments 163; decline of 15, 91 popular integration 69 popular sovereignty 167, 20
180 Index positive discrimination 3, 13 post-colonial countries xi, 1, 3, 7, 51; paradigm 9, 12, 13, 51, 86, 88, 137, 141, 144, 168, 169 poverty 2; concept of 86; discrimination and ignorance 132; as exclusion 67; among socially disadvantaged 2, 171 power 65, 66, 67, 72, 136, 138, 148 power/knowledge 151 primordial identity 77, 164 principle of equality 165, 166, 3, 11, 54, 56, 162 Protection of Customary Laws and Social Practices Bill 1994 40 Protestantism 16 public hearings 118, 122 public policies 11, 96 purity 124 purity, exclusion, race 4, 144, 165 racial discrimination 4 Raja Rao 131 Rajagopal, B. 116, 123 Rajan 146 Rajputs 133 Rajya Sabha 81, 117 Ramayana 139 Rani of Jhansi 140 ‘Rani of Jhansi’ (Mahesweta) 142 Rashtratantra 72 Rashtrik Mahajati 72 Rashtrik mahasan 72 Rathyatra 80 Ray, S. 126 Ray Chaudhiri, T. 50, 58, 60 Rayalaseema 118 Reangs 37 refugees 18, 26, 38 regional disparities 106 regional imbalances 115 regionalism 6, 33, 36, 44 rehabilitation and resettlement 118 religion 8, 16, 36, 52, 54, 57, 62, 69, 73, 86, 87, 101, 112, 133, 165 Religion of Man 66, 70, 73 religious beliefs 1 religious discrimination in the West 4 religious practice of the Muslims (in the West) 19 reservation 120, 30, 38, 49; upward graph of 124 Reserved Forest Areas 120 resistance as power 138 reverse discrimination 3
revivalist leaders 35 right to information 169 rights 3, 4, 16, 18, 19, 20, 28, 29, 32, 37, 38, 61, 66, 76, 77, 86, 87, 88, 98, 102, 103, 115, 116, 120, 122, 123, 124, 142, 145, 156, 163, 166; and development 123 Rigveda 149 riots xi, 2, 4 Rituparna Ghosh, R. 137 RJD (Bihar) 84 Rodgers, G. 97, 100 romanticism 16 Roy, A. n12, 13, 123 Rudolph, L. 171 Rudolph, S. 171 rural–urban divide 10, 115 Russia, letters from 67 Sabala 71 Sabarna (homogenous) 72 Sachar Committee Report (2006) 79–85 sado-masochistic 138 sage 147–50 Samabai Niti Samadukhosukhota 52 Samajtantra 72 Samajvadi Party (SP in UP) 19 Sangh Parivar 80 Santiniketan 67 SAP 112 SC 91 Scheduled Castes 2, 3, 28, 30, 79, 101, 102, 117, 119, 165 Scheduled Castes and Tribes 3, 79, 101 Scheduled Tribes 28, 30, 40, 117, 119 script: Assamese 35; Devangari 35; Miris, Bodos (rejection of Assamese script) 35; Roman 35 secessionism 4, 33 second sex 11, 141 Second World War 24, 76, 78 self, Cartesian 16 self-esteem and dignity 34, 78 Sen, A. 13, 146; on gender inequality 145 Sen, Aparna 137 Seng–Krak (Clenched Fist) 38 Seng Khasi 36 SEZ (special economic zone) 10, 115 Shah, Z. 123 Shapiro, I. n170 Sharma, A. 102, 113 Sheikhs, Pathans, Christians, of local origin 78
Index 181 shudra (or sudra) 125, 133 Sikh religion 28, 124, 128 silent subaltern 144 Singh, G. 135 Singh, N. 135 Singh, V. P. 81, 126 Sixth Schedule (of the Indian Constitution) 37, 39, 43 slavery 4, 65, 67 social consequences of democracy 162 social discrimination in wage earnings (in states) 104–6 social exclusion xii, 13, 155; meaning and traits of xi, 1–2, 22–3, 61; methods of 3–4, 25–6, 62–7; philosophical roots in liberalism 17–20, 49; reasons of 2, 3, 33, 43, 49, 61–5, 76–81; solutions of (recognition of difference) 22–5; ugly manifestations of 2, 4, 11 social exclusion, Sen’s expanded concept of: excluded people xii, 2; in history 170; its relation to poverty and deprivation 90–4 social exclusion–inclusion complex 76 social integration 1 social misfits 2 social ostracism 137 social othering 4 social outcastes 11 social policy 31, 169 socialist alternatives 163; demise of 163 society-centric nation 71–3 sons of the soil 6, 27, 33 Sonwaal Kachaari Students Union 38, 40 sovereignty 16 Soviet Russia 70, 73 Spivak, G. C. 140, 142, 143, 144 spread of nationalism 59 Srinivasan, T. N. 87 state formation in North-East 33 Statutory Commission 34 struggle against social exclusion 147. STs (Scheduled Tribes) 82, 103, 104, n170 subaltern 148, 11, 16; women 11, 142, 144 sub-nationalism 16, 33, 38 subversion of the Hindu social hierarchies 162; Karnad, G. 134, 161; multidimensional nature xi, 2, 4, 61, 62 Sudras 70, 125, n133 Sundar, R. 146 Sundaram, R. 100 Supreme Court of India 117, 118, 120 Swadeshi samaj 49, 52, 55 Swadeshi, movement 69, n74
Sweden 76 Syeds 78 Tagore, Rabindranath 7, 48, 61, 74; critique of manifold exclusions: 61–7; harmonization of differences 68; Hindu–Muslim unity 68, 70; inclusion in gender 70; Mahajati 7, 72; view of inclusive nation 68 Tai-Ahom Land Committee 39 Takahior, I. 102 Takam Miashing Porin Kebang 40 Taliban 138 Tamil Nadu 29, 80, 94, 107 taxes, imposition of 34 Taylor, C. 17, 21 Telengana 118, 119 Telengana Rashtraraksha Samity 118, 119 Tendulkar, S. 100 Thorat, S. K. 165, 171 Tibeto-Burman languages 33, 27, 38, 55, 59. Tilak, J. B. G. 95, 98 Tocqueville, Alex de 162, 166, 169 tribal self-rule 37 Tribal Students Federation (TSF) . 40 tribals 6, 10, 19, 37, 40, 41, 48, 55, 78, 115, 118, 119, 120, 121, 142, 144, 159 triple colonization 140 Turkey 53, 73, 74, 163 Tutsi (Burundi) 4 Two Nation Theory 48, 79, 84 Udayachal 39 Ulama 78, 79 UNDP’s priorities 87 UNESCO 23 unity in diversity 55, 61 universalism 17, 20 universalistic vision 17 ‘Untouchable’ (M. R. Anand) 126 untouchables 22, 29, 125, 133, 165 upper-caste Christians 129 uprisings 34, 38, 77 Urdu as national language 70 Uttar Pradesh (UP) 19, 60, 84, 94, 106, 124, 165 Vaisyarajaktantra 67 Vanaparba (Mahabharata) 147 varna 133; discrimination 56; and jati 124 Vedas 22 village community 127
182 Index vocal subaltern 144 voice of the other 17 Weber, M 16 Weiner, M. 13 welfare state 2 well-being and ill-being of women 136, 141 Western impact 65 Western man 15 Western notion of nationhood 7, 49
Willis, M. 102 women, by nature 65 workers, migrant 18, 77, 120 World Commission on Dams 122, 123 Young, M. I. 167 Yudhisthira 147 Zamindar 63, 68, 69 Zomi Council 37 Zoroastrianism 28
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