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Category archive for: Indian subcontinent

The 2012 Delhi protests: towards a scalar analysis

Written by Srila Roy.

The brutal gang rape and murder of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandey in Delhi in December 2012 has come to constitute a ‘critical event’ in contemporary India. This is largely ascribable to the unprecedented public protests that the event propelled. The protests are one critical and representative moment in a changing landscape of mobilisation in the name of women with significant global currency, insofar as they travelled farther than other events of a similar nature. Operating on a national as well as a global scale and drawing in new actors like middle-class youth and men, such a landscape demands an analysis that is able to capture the spatial and scalar expansion of feminist politics. Continue reading The 2012 Delhi protests: towards a scalar analysis

India has never had a single dominant nationalism – and it won’t any time soon

Written by Amalendu Misra.

Ever since Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party came to power, plenty of ink and pixels have been spent trying to explain the ascendancy of Hindu nationalism in India. But while the BJP’s concept of “Hindutva” has sparked angry protests across the country, most recently at Jawaharlal Nehru University, there are plenty of other Indian nationalisms out there – and none has ever had a monopoly on national identity.

Bengali poet and thinker Rabindranath Tagore once said that “India has never had a real sense of nationalism”. True, there was a very successful anti-colonial movement, but it didn’t necessarily create a unifying sense of nationalism amongst its citizenry. Continue reading India has never had a single dominant nationalism – and it won’t any time soon

Dangerous Freedoms: Some thoughts on Gender, Caste and Development in India

Written by Kalpana Karunakaran.

Gender violence cannot exist on the scale it does in India unless there is endorsement and social sanction for it or at least for the conditions that breed violence against women. To understand better the idea of social sanction, I suggest we see gender violence, not only as the horrific acts of sexual assault, rape and torture that seize public attention and evoke visible protests and outrage, but as a spectrum, a continuum of everyday practices that are part of the ‘normal’, the ‘routine’ and the ‘taken-for-granted’ as we experience it. Take, for instance, the pervasive tolerance for street sexual harassment or ‘eve teasing’, its rationalization or indulgence as a form of masculine sport associated with the young, an upsurge of ‘young hot blood’ or a legitimate exercise of manhood. Or take the condoning of ‘domestic’ violence or violence within households. In a Tamil movie released in 1959, a popular song ‘adikkira kai thaan anaikkum’ (the hand that hits also embraces) has a drunkard alternatively beat and embrace his wife who weeps her way through the song even as she supports her staggering husband! The notion that women are fully human autonomous actors is a radical idea that still does not find purchase in many parts of India. But how do we account for the failure of this idea to take root and flourish in India more than sixty years into the life of the Indian republic? Perhaps some of the answers might be sought in the nature of development and capitalist modernity in India and the paradoxes and contradictions they have spawned for Indian women. Continue reading Dangerous Freedoms: Some thoughts on Gender, Caste and Development in India

Caste protests in Delhi spring from deep economic distress

Written by Diego Maiorano.

After days of stalemate, the Indian army has taken control of the water supply to the capital New Delhi. The canal had been damaged by protesters from the Jat caste, who are demanding they be added to the list of castes eligible for reserved government jobs.

So far, 19 people are confirmed to have died in the protests. Freight trains and buses were set on fire, as were at least seven railway stations, and hundreds of people had to flee their homes.

These shocking protests have come from a seemingly unlikely source. The Jats of north India are traditionally a farming community. In the state of Haryana, where the protests are concentrated, Jats are the dominant landowning caste. Since independence, they have been able to use their dominance over the ownership of land to wield influence in politics and other sectors of the economy; today, they are without doubt the single most powerful community in the state. Continue reading Caste protests in Delhi spring from deep economic distress

The cost of caste in India’s universities

Written by Diego Maiorano.

Last week I was supposed to give a couple of lectures at the University of Hyderabad, India. However, the students there – some of whom are on ‘indefinite’ hunger strike – had locked most university buildings and were not in the mood to let normal academic activity to be restored.

A few days before, on 17 January 2016, Rohith Vemula, a Ph.D. student, had hanged himself to the ceiling of one of his friends’ room, sparking off the students’ protest. In India, between 2007 and 2013, 25 students ended their lives on campus; 23 of them were Dalits (former untouchable castes) like Rohith himself. Indeed, his caste identity – which relegated him at the very bottom of India’s social order – is what brought him to kill himself. “The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity”, Rohith wrote in a very poetic suicide note. A few weeks before, in a letter to the Vice Chancellor, Prof. P. Appa Rao, Rohith had suggested to equip all Dalits students’ rooms with “a nice rope” and to provide them with poison “at the time of admission itself”. Continue reading The cost of caste in India’s universities

Cow Protection, Hindu Revivalism, and Constitutional Politics in India and Nepal

Written by Mara Malagodi.

India and Nepal are the only two countries in the world where the overwhelming majority of the population are followers of Hinduism. In India, according to the 2011 Census, 79.8 per cent of the total population is Hindu, while in Nepal the 2011 Census records 81.3 per cent. Both countries, however, present also a startling level of socio-cultural diversity in terms of religion, caste, ethnicity, language, region, etc. As a result, the position of Hinduism as the majority religion in the constitutional frameworks of India and Nepal and its relation to competing visions of the nation have been the object of intense political and legal struggle for decades in both countries. However, the electoral success of the Hindu Right at the centre in India in the 2014 general elections together with a disquieting rise in communal violence, and the promulgation of Nepal’s long-awaited but extremely embattled new Constitution in September 2015 have reignited debates about the place of Hinduism in their constitutional systems. The recent waves of Hindu revivalism in India and Nepal call for profound reflections on the intimate relationship between the role of religion in constitutional documents and the treatment of minorities in both jurisdictions. In this respect, the thorny issue of cow protection is a useful prism to analyse legal responses to the surge in ethno-cultural majoritarian demands in both jurisdictions and increasingly violent attempts to erase difference. Continue reading Cow Protection, Hindu Revivalism, and Constitutional Politics in India and Nepal

Hindu nationalism is rising under the BJP and Modi

Written by Sajeda Momin.

When I returned to India at the beginning of October after my last visit to London, two very dear friends asked me why I had come back when I had the option to live abroad. “If I could live anywhere but here, like you, I would leave right away,” said one friend who was totally disgusted with the way the Narendra Modi-led, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government was trying to change the India she so clearly loved. The other was just as disappointed and said “we had expected in May 2014 when Modi won that the Hindu-right will try to implement its Hindu Nationalist or Hindutva agenda, but we didn’t expect it to happen so quickly and so nastily”. Neither want me to identify them because of the barrage of abuse from BJP trolls or as writer Salman Rushdie calls them “Modi’s toadies” , that they will receive, describing the sense of fear and oppression they feel. Continue reading Hindu nationalism is rising under the BJP and Modi

The Burden of Majoritarianism

Written by Gurpreet Mahajan.

India has never been a completely neutral state. So what has changed in the last 18 months? The BJP led NDA government insists that nothing has changed. However, neither its supporters nor its detractors accept this. The opposition, and sections of the intelligentsia, maintain that a culture of intolerance is growing; others, supporting the BJP, proclaim that pseudo-secularism and minority appeasement have ended. Both sides miss the wood for the trees. They fail to note the currents that are pushing for a shift – from the politics of ambiguous accommodation to the politics of unambiguous majoritarianism.

Congress governments were not, contrary to what the BJP claims and what they themselves project, anti-majority. Shortly after independence, several Congress governments legislated to ban cow slaughter; others placed restrictions upon conversions. By enacting the Freedom of Religion Act, they subjected conversions to the scrutiny of the District Magistrate. These were all concessions to the majority sentiment. Continue reading The Burden of Majoritarianism

A regional election in India ends in a damning verdict on prime minister Modi

Written by Bhaskar Vira.

An election in the Indian state of Bihar, has delivered a resounding and unambiguous verdict on prime minister Narendra Modi’s leadership. And it’s not a positive one.

The electorate in the eastern state has supported a grand alliance of political parties, which coalesced against the ruling National Democratic Alliance (BJP-NDA) – led by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party.

The alliance is led by chief minister Nitish Kumar, who has already served two terms as head of Bihar’s state government. Made up of three parties – Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), Laloo Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, and the Indian Congress Party – it has now delivered a massive mandate for him to remain. Together, the coalition has secured 178 seats in the 243-member local assembly. Modi’s BJP-NDA has just 58. Continue reading A regional election in India ends in a damning verdict on prime minister Modi

Selling India, Imagining Bharat

Written by James Chiriyankandath.

As Narendra Modi completes an year and a half as India’s prime minister with more globetrotting (this time to the UK and then on to Turkey, Malaysia and France for the G20, ASEAN and Global Climate Change summits), one wonders if behind the bravado and public relations glitz, doubts are beginning to creep in. How far can aggressive salesmanship and slick image promotion go in providing effective national and international leadership and changing ground realities both abroad and at home?

It remains to be seen if the unexpectedly crushing defeat suffered by Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the crucial state elections in Bihar serves as a chastening reality check for a leader unused to electoral defeat. The defeat in Bihar came at the hands of the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) of the Janata Dal (United) of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (who only ended a decade and a half of alliance with the BJP in 2013 because of his opposition to the rise of Modi), the Rashtriya Janata Dal of ex-chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nitish’s long-time rival, and the Indian National Congress (INC), that may have led India’s government for 54 of the 68 years since independence but had been relegated to the margins in Bihar for 20 years. By combining forces, the parties belonging to the notoriously fractious erstwhile Janata socialist tradition in Indian politics consolidated support among the historically underprivileged but numerically strong Backward Class and Dalit (or ‘untouchable’) castes and Muslims to successfully prevent the BJP, allied to three splinter Backward Class and Dalit parties, from winning power in Patna. Continue reading Selling India, Imagining Bharat