Educational Regimes in Contemporary India 0761933484, 9780761933489

The commonsense understanding of 'education' rests on the assumption that it has a straightforward positive va

441 22 4MB

English Pages 346 [347] Year 2005

Report DMCA / Copyright


Table of contents :
List of Tables
List of Figures
Introduction: Hearts, Minds and Pockets • Patricia Jeffery
Part 1: Changing Contexts of Education and the State
1. Social Inequalities and the Privatisation of Secondary Schooling in North India • Roger Jeffery, Patricia Jeffery and Craig Jeffrey
2. Education Exclusion and the Developmental State • Ramya Subrahmanian
3. An Ideal School and the Schooled Ideal: Education at the Margins • Sarada Balagopalan
4. Plural Society and Schooling: Urdu-medium Schools in Delhi • Anne Vaugier-Chatterjee
Part 2: Teaching and Learning Regimes
5. Doon School Aesthetics • David MacDougall
6. Serving the Nation: Gender and Family Values in Military Schools • Véronique Bénéï
7. Everyday Life in aGirls’ Madrasah in Delhi • Mareike Jule Winkelmann
8. Negotiation and Compromise: Gender and Government Elementary Education • Elspeth Page
9. Learning Processes within the Usta-d–Sha-gird Relationship • Rumman Hameed
10. Cultures of Adolescence: Educationally Disadvantaged Young Women in an Urban Slum • Meenakshi Thapan
Part 3: Different Transitions, Different Adulthoods
11. ‘Revaluing’ Education • Anita Rampal
12. Broken Trajectories: Dalit Young Men and Formal Education • Craig Jeffrey, Roger Jeffery and Patricia Jeffery
13. Changing Childhoods in Industrial Chhattisgarh • Jonathan Parry
14. Sisters and Brothers: Schooling, Family and Migration • Radhika Chopra
About the Editors and Contributors
Recommend Papers

Educational Regimes in Contemporary India
 0761933484, 9780761933489

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview













Copyright © Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2005 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilised in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Copyright © Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2005 First published in 2005 by All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilised in any SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, B1/I-1 MohanSage Cooperative Industrial Area Publications India Pvt Ltd recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permisMathura Road, New Delhi 110 044, India B-42, Panchsheel Enclave sion in writing from the publisher. New Delhi 110 017 First published 2005 by SAGEinPublications Inc 2455 Teller Road Sage Publications Inc. Sage Publications Ltd Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd Thousand2455 Oaks, California Teller Road 91320, USA 1 Oliver’s Yard, 55 City Road B-42, Panchsheel Enclave Thousand Oaks, California 91320 EC1Y 1SP SAGE Publications Ltd Delhi 110London New 017 1 Oliver’s Yard, 55 City Road London EC1Y 1SP, United Kingdom Published by Tejeshwar Singh for Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd, Sage Publications Inc. Sage Publications Ltd SAGE10/12 Publications Asia-Pacific Pte Ltd phototypeset Aldine401BT by C&M Digital Pvt Ltd, Chennai and printed 2455 Teller Road 1 Oliver’s Yard, 55 City Road 3 Church Street New Delhi. at Chaman Enterprises, Thousand Oaks, California 91320 London EC1Y 1SP #10-04 Samsung Hub 049483 LibrarySingapore of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Published by Tejeshwar Singh for Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd, phototypeset 10/12 Aldine401BT by C&M Digital Pvt Ltd, Chennai and printed Educational regimes in contemporary India / edited by Radhika Chopra and at Chaman Enterprises, New Delhi. Patricia Jeffery. p. cm. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Education—India. 2. Education and state—India. I. Chopra, Radhika. II. Jeffery, Patricia, 1947– Educational regimes in contemporary India / edited by Radhika Chopra and Patricia Jeffery. LA1151.E367 370′. 954—dc22 2005 2005001290 p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Education—India. 2. Education and state—India. I. Chopra, Radhika. ISBN: 0–7619–3348–4 (HB) 81–7829–485–0 (India-HB) II. Jeffery, Patricia, 1947– ISBN: 0–7619–3349–2 (PB) 81–7829–486–9 (India-PB) LA1151.E367

370′. 954—dc22



Sage Production Team: Malathi Ramamoorthy, Shweta Vachani, Radha (Hb) ISBN: 978-07-619-3348-9 0–7619–3348–4 (HB) 81–7829–485–0 (India-HB) Dev Raj and Santosh Rawat ISBN: 0–7619–3349–2 (PB) 81–7829–486–9 (India-PB)

Sage Production Team: Malathi Ramamoorthy, Shweta Vachani, Radha Dev Raj and Santosh Rawat


List of Tables


List of Figures




Patricia Jeffery: Introduction: Hearts, Minds and Pockets




1. Roger Jeffery, Patricia Jeffery and Craig Jeffrey: Social Inequalities and the Privatisation of Secondary Schooling in North India 2. Ramya Subrahmanian: Education Exclusion and the Developmental State 3. Sarada Balagopalan: An Ideal School and the Schooled Ideal: Education at the Margins 4. Anne Vaugier-Chatterjee: Plural Society and Schooling: Urdu-medium Schools in Delhi PART 2: TEACHING AND LEARNING REGIMES 5. David MacDougall: Doon School Aesthetics 6. Véronique Bénéï: Serving the Nation: Gender and Family Values in Military Schools 7. Mareike Jule Winkelmann: Everyday Life in a Girls’ Madrasah in Delhi 8. Elspeth Page: Negotiation and Compromise: Gender and Government Elementary Education 9. Rumman Hameed: Learning Processes within the Usta-d–Sha-gird Relationship

41 62 83 99 119 121 141 160 178 197


Educational Regimes in Contemporary India


Meenakshi Thapan: Cultures of Adolescence: Educationally Disadvantaged Young Women in an Urban Slum


13. 14.

Anita Rampal: ‘Revaluing’ Education Craig Jeffrey, Roger Jeffery and Patricia Jeffery: Broken Trajectories: Dalit Young Men and Formal Education Jonathan Parry: Changing Childhoods in Industrial Chhattisgarh Radhika Chopra: Sisters and Brothers: Schooling, Family and Migration

216 235 237

256 276 299



About the Editors and Contributors






TABLE 1.1:

TABLE 1.2:

TABLE 1.3:

TABLE 1.4: TABLE 1.5:

TABLE 1.6:

TABLES Students registered for UP Board examinations in class 10 and class 12, Bijnor town and neighbouring development blocks, 1991 and 2002 Distribution of secondary pupils by sex, by level of schooling and kind of school, Bijnor town, 2001–02 Odds ratios for girls attending different types of schools in Bijnor town compared to distribution of boys




Distribution of pupils by caste/community and school year in Bijnor town, by type of school Odds ratios for Muslim children attending different types of schools in Bijnor town compared to distribution of Hindu (general plus other backward caste) children


Odds ratios for scheduled caste children attending different types of schools in Bijnor town compared to distribution of Hindu (general plus other backward caste) children


TABLE 12.1: Schooling status of 8–12-year-old boys, Nangal Jat, 1990 and 2001 TABLE 12.2: Schooling status of 13–17-year-old boys, Nangal Jat, 1990 and 2001 TABLE 12.3: Occupations of 25–34-year-old Chamar and Jat males by schooling, Nangal, 1990 TABLE 12.4: Occupations of 25–34-year-old Chamar and Jat males by schooling, Nangal, 2001 TABLE 12.5: Schooling status of 18–22-year-old men, Nangal Jat, 1990 and 2001


262 263 267 267 273




FIGURE 5.1: Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visiting Doon School in 1957


FIGURE 5.2: The blue and grey shirt of the Doon School games uniform


FIGURE 5.3: Students near the Doon School’s Main Building, which dates from the time of the Forest Research Institute


FIGURE 5.4: Measuring a student at Doon School


FIGURE 5.5: ‘Toyes’ at Doon School


FIGURE 5.6: Stainless steel tableware at Doon School


FIGURE 5.7: A group of first-year boys in Foot House, Doon School



Debates about the needs and demands for reform in all areas of education have become more and more internationalised. At the same time, these debates, wherever they occur, raise similar core questions about the value of education, its purpose and its main aims. This seems to be so not only because of possible competition, but mainly because most of the demands for a qualified young generation are very similar worldwide. National differences apart, many reform proposals in developed as well as in developing countries focus, it seems, on similar key issues. At least four of these can be traced everywhere, even though they might also be regarded as contested everywhere. The first is the frequent demand that educational reforms and institutions become more practically relevant, that they meet the requirements of labour markets and that they provide, at all levels, the knowledge that enables young people to earn their living in a rapidly changing world. There are many different opinions, of course, about which sorts of knowledge are considered essential, but ultimately the main focus is on living languages, modern technologies and communication systems, and especially the need for people’s minds to be kept constantly open to learning something new. Although some critics still question the labour market approach in general, it cannot be denied that vocational training and the ability to enter labour markets are important. More specific criticisms, however, indicate that global labour markets are weighted in favour of the developed world and that the skilled and educated labour of the third world is more and more becoming a mere recipient of structural changes effected elsewhere. A second debate, directly related to this, is about the need to have a differentiated system of education that covers a wide range of different kinds of educational aspirations. Different kinds of schools are required to meet different potentials. Different systems of support might help to develop different capacities. Competition must be allowed and, therefore, private institutions need to be given a fair chance. One


Educational Regimes in Contemporary India

has to keep in mind, however, that differentiation of this kind is likely to disadvantage further the already underprivileged. A third related demand for reform is the increasing internationalisation of education. This not only requires bi-lingual education beginning at an early age, options to undertake parts of advanced education abroad and the international compatibility of exams. The knowledge society that is spreading rapidly all over the world also has to provide new options of access to education, which equally include the marginalised groups in different societies. It needs to be taken into account that the Western domination of knowledge and the educated brain drain that it provokes lead to a further weakening of the position of third world countries who, in the end, have to foot the bill. Whilst it is vital not to fall into parochial or narrow ideological positions with regard to language teaching, it is equally important to understand why and how the problems of other peoples differ and to learn about the experiences others have made in their attempts to solve social, ethnic or religious conflicts. Again related to this is a fourth demand for educational reform, discussed in many different facets: that all education be value-oriented. Of course, there is no need to agree on the contents of values, but different values need to be reflected and it must be kept in mind that all judgements in this regard have a political component and are usually formulated from a Western perspective. Above all, there has to be respect for humanity, for nature and for the values of others. The legitimacy of different values can be understood without their being shared. Tolerance and solidarity, freedom and justice, pluralism and fairness can be taught across regional, religious or social differences. With these considerations in mind, the German Konrad Adenauer Foundation launched and developed a series of workshops under a programme called ‘dialogue on values’. The chapters of this volume emanated from one of these workshops, which was held at the Neemrana Fort, Rajasthan, between 6 and 9 April 2003. The opinions and judgements expressed are those of individual authors and their chapters were written with the idea of promoting and carrying forward the spirit of dialogue. The success of this endeavour is due to many, in the process of preparation as well as of publication. The initial idea of organising this workshop jointly came from Patricia Jeffery, from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Together with Radhika Chopra from the University of Delhi the project was then outlined, structured and finally implemented. Their patient and reliable collaboration, their profound knowledge about both sides—the



European as well as the South Asian—and their firm but friendly way of incorporating new ideas into the programme from time to time were indispensable for the outcome. Therefore, it is the two of them who deserve our main and wholehearted thanks. In addition, we are also particularly grateful to all those who presented a paper, participated in the discussion, and made the effort to revise their work afterwards. All their efforts are reflected in this book. Thanks are also due to Dagmar Bernstorff for her comments at this as well as former workshops within this programme. For the implementation of the workshop, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation is particularly grateful to the Economic and Social Research Council (UK), which contributed the airfares for five participants, and the Australian National University, which contributed another one. The responsibility for organisation and administration was mainly in the hands of Manu Emmanuel, whilst Mohita Bhansali did all the paperwork before and after the workshop. Radhika Rao, Priyanka Trehan and Subashim Goswami acted as scribes in the workshop, which greatly facilitated the editors’ tasks afterwards. Thanks are also due to Justine Leach for editorial help. Last, but certainly not least, we would like to thank Omita Goyal, Mimi Choudhury and the team from Sage for the friendly and cooperative way they handled this publication. Without the help, imagination and friendship of all mentioned this book would never have come out. Helmut Reifeld Berlin and New Delhi, July 2004





The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman. (Jawaharlal Nehru, Speech on the occasion of Indian independence, 14 August 1947) Nehru’s aspirations were repeatedly endorsed in the policy rhetoric of independent India’s developmental state, and the sphere of education has been one of several in which state interventions have been legitimised in terms of democracy, equity, inclusion, justice or progress— development in its broadest sense. But, as numerous commentators have pointed out, the gulf between values and policy implementation has been persistent. Moreover, recent years have seen increasingly strident challenges to the values on which the Nehruvian project was premised. This was the context of ‘Values in Contemporary Education’, the workshop in the Konrad Adenauer Foundation series on ‘Values in Contemporary India’ at which the chapters in this volume were originally presented.1 Commonsense understanding of ‘education’ rests on the assumption that it has a straightforwardly positive value. In various ways, however, the contributors to this volume indicate that education and schooling are not necessarily or unambiguously life enhancing or passports to success. Education as it is practised is profoundly ambiguous in its effects, and a focus on values in isolation would be insufficient to accommodate the complexities of the contemporary Indian scene. By using the term ‘educational regimes’ we want to locate values in a broad political terrain that encompasses the global, national and local contexts. This is not simply


Patricia Jeffery

about debating educational priorities: it is also about decisions to allocate or not to allocate resources to achieve these ends and about the institutional arrangements that emerge from these decisions. This political terrain includes the involvement of international donor agencies in specifying educational priorities and their implementation, the different levels and sectors of the state, and political parties and interest groups or stakeholders—all with their own views on the purposes of education (whether ideological, intellectual or human development) and their particular ways of struggling to have their specific agendas implemented. Furthermore, pupils and their families, despite their obvious importance, are often an inconspicuous set of stakeholders in educational processes. Educational politics continues at the chalk-face, in the day-to-day activities in the wide range of educational institutions operating in contemporary India. Whilst teachers’ formal procedures and the informal and hidden curricula (more or less consciously) transmit values, they only do so within this wider political framework. How do educational regimes relate to other facets of contemporary Indian society? Do they facilitate (or perhaps obstruct) the attainment of the values and ideals enshrined in the Constitution and in policy goals? What are the implications of the differential impact of educational regimes on different groups in Indian society? Do they tend to reproduce (or undermine) entrenched social, cultural and economic inequalities? How do pupils and their families perceive the value of education for them, as they move through various educational regimes and make their transitions to the diverse adulthoods that characterise contemporary Indian society? Towards the end of March 2003, shortly before the ‘Values in Contemporary Education’ workshop, the Ministry for Human Resource Development, Government of India, placed full-page advertisements in the English language dailies extolling its achievements in the sphere of education over the previous 5 years. These boiled down to the following claims: that it was dealing with illiteracy by providing pre-school and compulsory, universal and free primary education; that it was providing more technical education, especially at higher levels; that it was responding to the new information technologies by offering TV channels devoted to education; that it was promoting the development of national languages—not just Sanskrit but also Urdu, Arabic and Farsi; and that it was extending democracy by encouraging popular participation in the management of schools.

Introduction: Hearts, Minds and Pockets


These assertions, of course, were an excessively rose-tinted account of the government’s achievements—yet such bland and apparently uncontroversial claims echo the commonplace assumption that education is unproblematic and intrinsically positive, and that more of it will bring more benefits to more people and to society at large. Such hopes often seem to transcend social differences, whether between different groups within India or between India and other societies. Indian villagers, for instance, almost immediately raise schooling in any discussion of ‘development’. Discourses of human development, whether narrowly economic (the inculcation of technical or entrepreneurial skills) or political and social (nation building and citizenship, and the creation of people with a ‘modern’ orientation to the world) also manifest such presumptions about the inherently transformative capacity of education. We do not deny the possibility of these effects. These days, however, education (and especially girls’ schooling) is freighted with many expectations, more than it can realistically be expected to fulfil ( Jeffery and Jeffery 1998). Historically, education has performed a range of tasks, some of them a good deal more ambiguous and less benign than its advocates would have us believe. Indeed, as social scientists, we should include education among the social institutions that we examine critically, in order to unsettle the complacencies that often surround how it is discussed. There are substantial gulfs between the educational goals of (say) enhancing equality, widening access and broadening minds, and the everyday realities of educational regimes that may negate rather than implement such ideals. Claims about social transformation through education have ideological and other functions. Michel Foucault would have us look at the power/knowledge nexus and explore how educational regimes may function as means of surveillance and social control (Foucault 1991). Pierre Bourdieu has drawn attention to how schools provide pupils and their parents with different forms of social and cultural capital, and are intrinsically about distinction and difference rather than equality and common attributes. Rather than transforming the social world, education may mainly buttress and reflect social and economic inequalities (Bourdieu 1984; Bourdieu and Passeron 1990). In similar vein, K.N. Pannikar critiques the emerging Indian educational system: he argues that in meeting the ideological needs and entrepreneurial interests of the Indian ruling classes, it will cause increasing educational diversity and create a generation who cannot critically interrogate societal problems (Pannikar 2002: 85–86).


Patricia Jeffery

Stances such as these underscore the importance of exercising our critical faculties when faced with dissimulating assertions about education such as those contained in the government advertisement outlined above. In various ways, then, the chapters in this volume examine aspects of the educational regimes operating in contemporary India. They are organised into three sections: changing contexts of education and the state; teaching and learning regimes; different transitions, different adulthoods.



India has a long history of formal educational institutions, in the preand early colonial period mostly established under the aegis of religious institutions, or caste and traders associations (for instance, the madrasah, gurukul or pa- thsha-la- ). Indians also have a long history of travelling to distant parts of the world to obtain education and bring new knowledge back home, although such experiences directly touched only a tiny minority of Indian people. Historically, Indian society has been characterised by multiple systems for communicating valued knowledge: the bulk of the populace acquired knowledge and skills in the home, the workshop or the field and never experienced the arcane intellectual activities of teachers and students in formal educational institutions. Further, this diversity was not simply a matter of a rich mosaic of educational regimes: it was difference closely entwined with hierarchy, for some educational regimes were explicitly closed to some sectors (for instance, females, members of the ‘Untouchable’ and other lower castes, or religious minorities) and children’s educational options were often limited to learning caste-based occupational skills (see, for example, Crook 1996; Kumar 2000). During the colonial period, educational issues became increasingly coloured by dialogues specifically with the west, about the kind of knowledge that was valued and the kinds of people who were entitled to access it. The introduction of missionary schools on Indian soil and the changing employment opportunities provided by the colonial regime fuelled these debates. Educational inequalities acquired new layers, with English-medium instruction increasingly favoured by

Introduction: Hearts, Minds and Pockets


local élites, who also established exclusive educational establishments that enabled them to retain a hold on their positions, and with the masses continuing to be marginalised from the fruits of learning the language of the colonial power.2 By the end of the colonial period, the projected role of ‘education’ in independent India was one of many issues addressed by Indian political leaders. What role should the state play in the educational sector? What role would the educational sector play in the state’s modernising project? Could education help to develop a sense of Indian nationhood and national unity? Could it draw excluded sectors— women, religious minorities, Scheduled Castes—into the national project? Could education enhance ‘development’ by improving the skills base of the Indian population? What should be taught? Should all children study the same syllabus? Or did different sectors of the population—rural and urban, rich and poor, girls and boys—need different kinds of education with different contents? Jawaharlal Nehru was influenced by these debates, as well as by his personal experiences of being educated in Britain. When he set up the National Planning Committee in 1938, he included a sub-committee that looked at the role of education in independent India’s planning process. It rejected a Gandhian vision of replacing the existing system of elementary education by ‘basic education’, which would have stressed the teaching of productive skills appropriate to a village-based economy. As Krishna Kumar notes, the sub-committee instead supported a broad liberal curriculum for compulsory primary schooling, to be funded by the state (Kumar 1991).3 Nevertheless, Nehru did not pay as much attention to education as to the ‘commanding heights’ of the economy. As Kumar comments, ‘In the case of a leader like Nehru, it was pointless to look for his thoughts concerning the specific issues of education, for he rarely spoke or wrote on education in this narrow sense’ (ibid.: 16). Nehru’s writings, however, do suggest a vision of education’s role in the agenda for ‘development’ and nation building. Education was to inculcate scientific rationality and modernisation, improve India’s human capital and enhance the lives of individual citizens by promoting social and economic equality through expanding access to the historically excluded sectors of the population. But schooling should not be linked only to employment, and Nehru was concerned about the deleterious effects of examinations (Nehru 1986; 1988b). Nevertheless, the maintenance of educational standards was important in order


Patricia Jeffery

to prevent poor ‘discipline’ and declining cultural and moral standards more generally (Nehru 1985: 334–35; 1986: 618; 1988a: 449–50; 1988b). Schools, moreover, were to ‘promote communal understanding’ and secularism: failure would create ‘backward and little-minded people lacking the culture that makes a nation grow and prosper’ (Nehru 1986: 83). He acknowledged, though, that a secular state risked being compromised unless a ‘moral or ethical tone’ were imparted to education ‘without reference to any particular religion’ (Nehru 1988b: 29). Nowadays, it has become almost customary to criticise Nehru and his vision for India. Indeed, some commentators suggest that there is an ‘élite revolt’ against the Nehruvian goals of state socialism, egalitarianism and secularism (Corbridge and Harriss 2000). For some people, the fatal flaws in Nehru’s vision were obvious by the end of the 1950s, when the first corruption scandals hit his government. For others, the moment of awakening came when his non-alignment policies foundered on the need to import grain from the US in the mid-1960s. There is little that Nehru stood for that has not been subject to searching criticism, and found wanting—whether his version of secularism (regarded by the right as ‘pseudo-secularism’ and by the left as being inadequately robust) or his reliance on the public sector to lead India into a social democratic future of reduced inequality combined with economic growth. Certainly, with hindsight, we can appreciate the extent to which Nehru’s optimistic ideals have failed to be fully met in practice in independent India. Within an overall framework that presumed that government intervention was an important vehicle for modernisation, the education sector under Nehru and his Congress successors saw increasing public sector involvement. State governments were required to allocate funds to providing schools under their aegis. The informal processes that had typified most people’s educational experiences increasingly became devalued when compared with dedicated educational institutions following routines and formal curricula. Many more children gained access to formal education, and girls and lower castes are now far more likely to attend school, at least to some level. Yet the failures are also legion—even though they have often been obscured by lofty rhetorical commitments to equity and inclusion, or to enhancing schooling for the mass of the Indian population. State inputs into the education sector have failed to provide education and literacy for all. In large measure, the deeply embedded processes that had produced an

Introduction: Hearts, Minds and Pockets


Indian élite during the 19th and early 20th centuries have continued throughout the period since 1947. English remains a language of power that is not equally accessible to all, and English-speaking élites remain privileged, both internally and internationally. Developments since the late 1980s may have positioned India at a crossroads or processes already in place may merely have been accelerated and/or become more transparent. In either case, what is salient is that India’s recent expanded entanglements with the global context and some aspects of the contemporary Indian body politic accentuate the need to see educational provision within as broad a context as possible. International players have often been key in terms of policy rhetoric and implementation, yet some Indian interest groups have also been well served by changes on the global scene and have been actively involved in trying to promote them. Three aspects are worth commenting on here. First, education is prominent on the agendas of international donor agencies. To the extent that India has been in hock to such agencies, the direction of educational policy and investment has been—in some measure—responsive to their demands. In international perceptions, education is taken as a sign of ‘modernity’, even of civilisation. Schooling delivers ‘human capital’: technical skills that allow for increased economic activity in ‘modern’ economies. Thus it benefits society at large as well as the skilled individuals themselves. In development-speak, education empowers. The eradication of illiteracy has been stressed as a policy priority at numerous international conferences, for instance those concerned with Education for All at Jomtien in 1990 and Dakar in 2000. Providing equality of access and removing systemic social exclusion have dominated policy agendas through the 1990s. Girls’ education, in particular, has come to be regarded as a priority, not only because it supposedly empowers girls themselves but because it also facilitates political and human development (such as enhanced democracy, and lowered fertility and mortality rates) and provides the context for economic development. At the level of rhetoric, Indian governments have located their educational priorities within this terrain. Many activists and commentators have put considerable effort into putting these aims into practice—as well as into chiding successive governments for their failings (Drèze and Sen 1997; Govinda 2002; Sen 2000b; Subrahmanian et al. 2003). Second, despite strong messages about the importance of education in providing civilisation and modernity, international agencies such as the


Patricia Jeffery

World Bank have been emitting other messages that arguably hamper the widening of educational access. The Indian fiscal crisis of the early 1990s, the ‘liberalisation’ of the Indian economy and the increasing valorisation of the ‘market’ have all had an impact on the education sector (Chandrasekhar and Ghosh 2002; Corbridge and Harriss 2002; Jenkins 1999). Non-state institutions have been significant education providers since well before independence. But reducing state expenditures makes even more remote the possibility that universal literacy will be provided through the good offices of the state. Indeed, whether this is even the state’s responsibility is more debated than ever before. At the same time, the market has increasingly come to be seen as the most efficient means through which goods and services can be allocated. Even the ‘commanding heights’ of the economy have undergone privatisation. And the idea that education should be seen as a commodity that can and should be bought and sold on the market is spreading. In this perspective, parents have the right to look to their own children’s educational needs, rather than the responsibility to contribute to those of the nation’s children as a whole. Individual ‘choice’ holds sway—although ‘choice’ is offered without acknowledgement of the mundane reality that people are unequally placed, socially, economically and politically, to implement the choices they desire. Third, at the same time as the sites of educational production are being more and more commoditised, so too are their educated ‘products’, who are, of course, not equally marketable. People attach new values to education. They see new opportunities and expect or hope that education will enable them to ‘sell’ themselves better. The opening of the Indian economy to foreign investors and the changing employment opportunities in the global market are linked to the scramble to ensure the ‘marketability’ of the pupils who graduate from educational institutions. Recently, for instance, some exclusive schools in the larger cities have considered switching to the International Baccalaureate so that their pupils’ credentials will be recognised abroad. Schools, colleges and universities overseas peddle their wares at the mushrooming education fairs and in the education section in the English-language dailies. In numerous articles about employment opportunities abroad, the importance of having IT skills and fluency in English is stressed. Systems of grading and assessment, however, create failures as well as successes. Failure and achievement alike are individualised—although the profiles of the successful and the unsuccessful largely reflect the fracture lines of previous privilege, of wealth, language facility and social contacts.

Introduction: Hearts, Minds and Pockets


This, of course, is nothing new: throughout the period since 1947, wealthy and well-connected parents could purchase prestigious and exclusive education for their children. But the dynamism of the present situation make the processes that reproduce inequalities much more transparent than before. These international factors do not exhaust the pressures for change in Indian educational provisions. There are also powerful cross-cutting local forces (some with powerful international supporters of different kinds). These domestic political interests are drawn from different parts of India’s social and political diversity, often on the basis of caste or community membership. Such political groupings, of course, are also not new—their roots lie in the 19th and 20th centuries—and education has often been central to social mobilisation on these bases (for instance, Bhattacharya 2002; Mendelsohn and Vicziany 1998; Omvedt 2003; Shah 2001). But since the mid-1980s and especially from the early 1990s, Indian politics has been transformed by the decline of the centre–right Congress Party over much of India, and the fluctuating prominence of competing parties appealing to religious, regional or caste identities, which have made their own claims on education. Three kinds of domestic political pressures have had major impacts on educational policy. First, there are those claiming larger shares of the educational cake. In 1980, a Backward Classes Commission headed by B.P. Mandal recommended a major increase in the scale and significance of affirmative action (in higher education and in state employment) to cover not only the Scheduled Castes (SCs) but the so-called Other Backward Classes (OBCs), who were also historically disadvantaged. Perhaps reflecting the weak political support for this inevitably controversial proposal, nothing was done for 10 years, but in August 1990 the then Prime Minister V.P. Singh decided to implement the Mandal recommendations. In response, many young members of the castes excluded from these reservations (the so-called Forward Castes) rioted in the streets, with a few setting themselves alight as symbols of their opposition (Engineer 1991). Brahmans and others who still dominate higher education and the higher reaches of the public administration felt that their children had lost any chance of employment that was commensurate with their educational achievements. Whatever the rights or virtues of the new policies (Béteille 1992), the political parties representing the OBCs (e.g., the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh) have joined forces with representatives of the SCs (such as the Bahujan


Patricia Jeffery

Samaj Party) to demand reservations as a major means of ensuring access and social inclusion—to education, and through that to the wider society—for the castes they claim to represent. Second, and at least partly in response to these moves (which tend to set Hindu against Hindu, but certainly do not benefit non-Hindus), the BJP and the Sangh Parivar (or Hindu Right) responded with a series of political initiatives designed to stress the common interests of Hindus against outsiders, particularly Muslims (and to a lesser extent, Christians). Among these were efforts to promote a Hinduised national identity that would marginalise ethnic and religious minorities—‘ekta’ (unity), a ‘unity in uniformity’. Again, this is not new: the Hindi movement in north India was concerned with re-writing Indian history to glorify Hindu elements (Orsini 2002), and this theme was taken up in postIndependence disputes over textbooks, especially history (Powell 1996). But the coming of the BJP to national power in 1998 extended these pressures for schooling to provide ‘saffronised’ visions of India and what it means to be Indian, under the direct stimulus of Murli Manohar Joshi, Minister for Human Resource Development and originally a physics teacher from Uttar Pradesh. These moves had their own international supporters—especially non-resident Indians in north America—ready and willing to pour money into education within India if it represented their views of history and society—the so-called ‘value education’ that, in the eyes of many members of the Sangh Parivar, is to be found in its most advanced form within the schools run by the RSS (Sarkar 1996; Sundar 2004). For those who value Indian society’s culturally diversity, ‘unity in diversity’ would be a more appealing scenario, and these initiatives have been highly contentious (Delhi Historians Group 2001; Lele 1996; SAHMAT 2001, 2002a; 2002b; 2002c; 2003). The third pressure focuses on fears of being swamped by ‘modernising’ Western ideas and values, through the globalised media in particular—concerns that are expressed to some degree by the Hindu Right, many Indian Muslims, and many low caste movements. Advertisements on Indian TV and in glossy magazines represent affluent, godless, selfish hedonistic lifestyles—and suggest, implicitly or otherwise, that English is the language that is the key for accessing these riches. Powerful narratives can be formed from the tropes of consumerism and greed, the loss of moral values, rampant individualism and the decline of family life, and so forth. Those who advocate ‘value education’ see reformed or purified schooling as a means to stem the

Introduction: Hearts, Minds and Pockets


tide of westernising modernity by removing the Western values that they regard as having already permeated contemporary school curricula. For some, children can become morally upright citizens only if they are steeped in local ideas—such as Vedic science—and moral exemplars expressed in vernacular or religious languages (Sanskrit, Arabic, Punjabi). None of these issues is without its internal contradictions or ambivalences, however. For instance, school-based education is irredeemably ‘modern’ in many respects, shifting learning out of the home and into dedicated institutions with daily routines and timetabling, standardised curricula and centralised examination boards, uniforms and so forth. Certain values have acquired hegemonic status, even amongst those otherwise hostile to westernisation—for instance, punctuality and discipline (in the formal and informal curricula). Moreover, most educators devalue indigenous knowledge as superstition and consider Western science to be superior. Generally, English is considered a positive force or at least value-neutral—speaking a global language and obtaining access to scientific education is not incompatible with being a good Hindu or a good Muslim—although some commentators object to English-medium schooling not because of its westernising tendencies but because its cost excludes the poor and marginalised. Education in contemporary India, then, is entangled in wider political projects, internal as well as global, that are often controversial or contradictory. Contemporary debates about education reflect struggles over the normative domains of citizenship and identity. They raise questions about what equity of treatment means for people of different religious communities, castes, classes and genders, about the terms on which different communities should live together and whether India is ‘Hindu’ or secular and multi-cultural, about the role of the state and the market. Formal education is one arena in which these hotly contested issues are potentially played out on the bodies and minds of children. Educational institutions have become vehicles through which to promote modernity, equality of opportunity and a caste-less society—as well as spaces that offer opportunities for cultural revival and the assertion of newly (re)invented national, religious, caste or regional identities. With this vital backdrop in mind, the chapters in the first section of this volume address aspects of the contemporary educational scene in post-liberalisation India. As with most of the chapters in this book,


Patricia Jeffery

they focus on relatively formal educational institutions whose pupils are small children and teenagers, rather than on colleges, universities or adult learning programmes or some of the wide range of informal institutions that also play important educational roles. In chapter 1, Roger Jeffery et al. focus on the changing provision of secondary schooling in western Uttar Pradesh. During the 1990s, UP’s fiscal crisis resulted in reduced state expenditure on education, whilst educational entrepreneurship has flourished and various forms of de facto privatisation of the education sector have taken place, despite the absence of clear policy statements favouring privatisation. Educational provision has become increasingly fragmented, plural and commercialised. This gives wide scope for ‘parental choice’, but the capacity to exercise choice is skewed against the poor, girls, lower castes and religious minorities. The implications for children’s access to schooling and thus for the reproduction of social equality are complex. Ramya Subrahmanian explores the long-standing ‘education exclusion’ of Dalit (Scheduled Caste) and Adivasi (Scheduled Tribe) children in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in chapter 2. Literacy rates among Dalits and Adivasis are increasing, but, despite improving enrolment and state encouragement of community-based governance, the ‘ethos’ of schooling has not enhanced the children’s experiences of ‘inclusion’. Schools fail to be inclusive environments for various reasons: resource constraints; teachers’ discretion at the chalk-face; their views of such children’s ineducability; their pedagogical techniques and their focus on examination performance. Thoroughgoing systemic reform is needed—but unlikely to occur—rather than the limited enabling policies that have hitherto characterised the state’s efforts to promote constitutionally endorsed ideals of equality. Sarada Balagopalan is concerned with educational programmes for out-of-school children (street children and child labourers). In chapter 3, she examines a Kolkata project aimed at drawing them into the ambit of the schooling system. These ‘club-schools’ are staffed by ‘community’ teachers and have limited facilities. But the child labourers she interviewed did not consider them to be ‘real schools’: they did not believe that they would become ‘schooled ideals’ or that their futures would be transformed. They expected to attain basic literacy—and then follow in their parents’ footsteps. The state’s endorsement of such schools has legally institutionalised a two-tier schooling system that promises to do little to reduce the marginality of the children whom they are intended to help.

Introduction: Hearts, Minds and Pockets


In chapter 4, Anne Vaugier-Chatterjee tackles another dimension of these issues: language policies in education. Urdu used to be prominent in public life, but has been marginalised in independent India despite constitutional guarantees—such as ‘mother tongue’ instruction— apparently intended to value and preserve India’s linguistic diversity. State governments are responsible for the promotion of Urdu. In Delhi, however, it is rarely taught at all in non-Urdu-medium schools. Moreover, Urdu-medium schools suffer from shortages of staff trained to teach in Urdu and teaching resources are generally of poor quality. Increasingly, Urdu is associated with madrasahs, a process of ghettoisation that strengthens widely held perceptions of the links between language and religion. Together, the chapters in this section question the capacity of the educational system and educational programmes in contemporary India to combat entrenched social and economic inequalities. The marginalised cannot become empowered and included simply by government schemes to widen educational access or by expanding the market’s role in educational provision—at least not when the developmental state makes second rate provision or is required to practise fiscal responsibility, or when people have to pay for ‘access’ or when access is conditional on ‘assimilating’ to hegemonic worldviews.




The complex processes included in the term ‘education’ are oriented around integrating children (as well as adult misfits and immigrants) into society. Schools and various informal and non-formal institutions try to inculcate the verbal and bodily languages essential for people’s future social positions and to pass on the technical and intellectual skills they will need to perform adequately in the work roles they will adopt. But these processes are subject to conflict and contestation because different social segments may value different forms of behaviour and skills, or may be differentially able to put valued behaviour into practice. Actors with diverse agendas carry out educational activities in various ways. There are different voices, numerous interest groups and a cacophony of opinions about educational priorities and what education should aim to achieve and how.


Patricia Jeffery

Education also takes place in many arenas and children may be bombarded by competing and contradictory messages. Families, schools and the mass media play their roles in introducing children to the world around them—to ‘general knowledge’ about other places, to desires for consumer goods or to values such as religiosity as well as secularism, individualistic competitiveness as well as human rights and the virtues of cooperation. Education may entail informal learning by watching and imitating (for instance, within the family or peer group), as well as more or less formal instruction, learning from an instructor’s words or reading books that follow a syllabus (for instance, in a school). It may require detailed rote learning of texts, or the development of manual dexterity that enables the neophyte to copy craft techniques or calligraphy accurately, or there may be room for experimentation, interpretation and creative departures from the teacher’s instructions. Moreover, children do not always straightforwardly and obediently imbibe what adults think they should, even when that is clear-cut. Children are not simply sponges, passively accepting the values and skills their education requires them to internalise. They may deploy ‘weapons of the weak’ (Scott 1985) and display their will by disengaging in the classroom, refusing to learn what their teachers think they should, or insisting on adopting language and behaviour that is devalued in the educational domain. In the course of addressing issues of diversity and inequality and the impact of wider social and political processes on the educational regimes in India, some of the chapters in the first section also touch on the micro-level processes that take place within educational institutions. For the chapters in the second section, however, these topics are centre stage and they suggest the diversity of educational regimes in contemporary India. How do educational institutions operate on a daily basis? What are the implications of their different teaching and learning regimes?

Institutional Settings Some writers have argued that globalisation (in its economic sense) is inherently homogenising, and results in the creation of mass consumers of CNN, Coca-Cola or McDonald’s hamburgers (Ritzer 1996). Others suggest that the social and cultural impacts of globalisation are often differentiating, leading to ‘glocalisation’ or a combination of diverse local responses to the apparently homogenising pressures of globalisation

Introduction: Hearts, Minds and Pockets


(Appadurai and Breckenridge 1996; Robertson 1994). The chapters here seem to point in this latter direction. Educational institutions in India have long displayed diversities and these are not being reduced in the present economic climate. Indeed, they may even be increasing, although without any adequate baseline it is impossible to be sure. Perhaps, though, declining state funding in the education sector has meant the ‘residualisation’ of public sector schooling in many parts of the country—in other words, state schools are accommodating a shrinking proportion of the school-going population, and the children who continue to attend them are increasingly those from families who cannot access non-state institutions, whether for reasons of cash, geographical inaccessibility, caste or community exclusionism, or gender bias. Non-state institutions in India may admit pupils on the basis of merit, ability to pay, social connections or community membership. They may be single-sex or coeducational. Some follow the curricula laid out by state or national examination boards. Others pay greater (or even exclusive) attention to religious and moral teaching—for instance, madrasahs or courses on Vedic astrology. This diversity shows no signs of abating. The examples in this section can give only a small vista on the wide range of ‘choices’ apparently open to parents in contemporary India for their children’s education. As they indicate, choices in the educational marketplace are skewed. Diversity and difference may imply inequalities of access and of educational outcomes. Issues of money, gender, community and caste inequalities are often intertwined (as chapters in the other sections of this volume also indicate). Moreover, formal educational institutions do not operate in isolation from other sites in which ‘education’ takes place. Non-textbook and non-classroom forms of learning also provide children with the skills and cultural capital that will serve them in the wider world. There are, for instance, the workshops where apprentices receive a rather more hands-on education than that provided in the typical school (Hameed, in this volume). The peer group and the home (Balagopalan; Bénéï; Page; Thapan; Craig Jeffrey et al., in this volume) are more informal arenas where ‘education’ also takes place—but they should not be treated as less important for all that. Sometimes they teach things that more formal institutions do not include in their curricula. Sometimes their ‘education’ amplifies and supports the priorities and values of the more formal institutions. Sometimes it runs counter to them.


Patricia Jeffery

Authoritative Knowledge and Creativity Formal educational institutions have more or less routinised procedures for trying to convey ‘knowledge’ to the pupils in their charge, whether knowledge derived from bookish learning or from manual skills. Policy makers and educators alike emphasise the role of formal education in providing children with access to the literacy and numeracy skills that will enable them to gain the knowledge they need about the wider world. In many parts of the world, India included, hoary traditions of rote learning require children to commit texts to memory (Carruthers 1990). Conventional forms of teaching in religious institutions in India, for instance, have generally respected and rewarded those who can memorise religious texts (Fuller 1997; see also Eickelman 1978). Authoritative knowledge in a text must become embodied, be lodged in the brain or the heart and become readily available for displaying one’s virtuosity in public debate or in leading public worship. Many aspects of Western educational practices have also seeped into the educational system in India, practices that similarly valorise the imbibing of ‘facts’. Knowledge as memorised facts comes in various guises. One is the obsession with quizzes and ‘GK’ (general knowledge), increasingly now being plugged into global knowledge and displayed in new sites—such as TV and radio. Another is cramming for examinations. The formal Indian examination systems, through which pupils try to obtain the credentials that will serve them in later life, provide examination certificates as the material proof of the facts and knowledge that a person supposedly embodies, the measure of an individual’s worth. Some educational institutions are remarkably successful in putting their pupils through examination hoops and their reputations enable them to command a high price for the educational regime that they are marketing. Many children are excluded from even competing on this credentialising bandwagon because they do not attend school. But most school-going children cannot access the ‘best’ institutions and so cannot be guaranteed a successful outcome. The scaling and grading procedures inherent in examination systems ration children’s access to credentials: the profligate issuing of certificates would destroy the distinction achieved by success. Government educational statistics and the publication of examination results in newspapers all serve to reify and give value to the ‘number’ as a measure of a child’s educational

Introduction: Hearts, Minds and Pockets


success (or failure). Critics argue that such educational regimes lead to an excessive concern with credentials as ends in themselves, rather than with ‘education’ as a means to acquire skills and competencies and mind-broadening experiences. Nevertheless, examination certificates are valuable tokens in increasingly tight labour and marriage markets and they are an important priority—if not the be-all and end-all—of the consumers of education. It is what they demand of educational institutions—and what such institutions try to supply, with differing degrees of success. Educational regimes that focus on filling children’s brains with rotelearned knowledge also suggest that creativity has a problematic role to play in contemporary Indian education. Certainly, committing large bodies of knowledge to memory is a necessary precursor to creative excellence in some traditions—medicine and music, for instance. But many children’s experiences of education are so densely packed with what is sometimes called ‘passive learning’ and the acquisition of ‘facts’ that there is little time or energy left for ‘active learning’, for the development of transferable skills, for learning to read texts critically, or for taking initiative. Even in craft apprenticeships, replicating designs is highly valued and adventurousness is discouraged, at least until the apprentice has become extremely competent (Hameed, in this volume). The chapters in this volume provide little evidence that knowledge acquisition through active and creative learning is widely favoured by teachers and adults in India, possibly even less so than in other parts of the world—perhaps because it seems to undermine textual authority and teachers’ expertise or threatens to produce a wayward and uncontrollable learning environment in which ‘proper’ hierarchies are overturned.

Respect and Discipline Valued knowledge is generally conveyed to children through the formal didactic activities of teachers. Teachers, school managers and principals, governments and NGOs, however, often portray themselves as engaged not just in communicating knowledge but as trying to instil important social and moral ‘values’ such as honesty and civic responsibility. To some extent, they may aim to achieve this through routine didactic practices, for example, through the civics curriculum or through the formal study of religious texts. But more subtle means are


Patricia Jeffery

also in evidence in the ‘hidden curriculum’ and in the activities that take place outside formal teaching contexts. Respect for authority—for teachers and parents, for instance—may be a focus for verbal instruction. But children also learn about ‘respect’ through the daily rehearsals of pupils’ classroom etiquette: attentiveness to the teacher, responding clearly and correctly to questions, perhaps asking the teacher questions—but not questioning the teacher. Children also learn about the power of authoritative adults through the punishment regimes meted out to pupils who are insufficiently respectful, as well as through the drills that feature in most morning routines in Indian schools (MacDougall; Bénéï; Hameed, this volume). Similarly, spaces that are somewhat beyond adult surveillance can attune children to hierarchy and inequality, through playground bullying or fagging within the student body. Discipline and self-discipline are also important. Restraint may be repeatedly inscribed in children’s speech, appearance and behaviour, until it becomes the second-nature cultural marker of the civilised educated person, whose social graces and polish make them presentable in the wider world. Classroom seating arrangements, school assemblies, rules and uniforms emphasise order, regimentation, obedience, punctuality, cleanliness and tidiness (MacDougall; Bénéï; Winkelmann, this volume). Activities such as drama, sports and debating societies simultaneously sponsor different measures of co-operative teamwork and competitive individualism. Classroom activities may flag children’s differences, maybe endorsing conventional ideas about girls’ demureness (Winkelmann; Page, this volume), encouraging particular forms of masculinity (MacDougall; Bénéï, this volume), or highlighting community or caste differences. But they may also emphasise children’s commonalities as Indian citizens or undercut conventional notions of the educational potential of lower caste children or of girls (Winkelmann; Page; see also Craig Jeffrey et al., this volume). Clearly, children are not being exposed to a coherent set of values but to diverse values that may well also be contradictory. Little is known about how children respond to such learning regimes or how these discourses relate to children’s behaviour in school, let alone in adulthood. Research among school children by adults is perhaps not the most effective way of uncovering the extent to which educational institutions unsettle or reinforce conventional ideas about the social

Introduction: Hearts, Minds and Pockets


order, about hierarchy and power, about gender, caste and community. Nevertheless, there are some indications in the chapters here that children are not passive learners, simply imbibing what their surroundings present to them. Where there is discipline and hierarchy, there is also indiscipline and resistance, albeit often minor and covert (Bénéï; Hameed, this volume).

Educational Institutions and Their Pupils’ Families The institutional settings typical of formal education do not exhaust the contexts in which children learn. The family is also an important arena, and seems to pose particular questions for the operation of formal institutions. Educators in India often regard children’s home backgrounds as something of a hindrance to their work—a consideration that seems to lie behind the practice of interviewing parents before their children are admitted to competitive-entry schools, including to some kindergarten or nursery classes. Aside from those sectors of the population that have a long history of ‘modern’ education and employment, the family is liable to be seen as a domain in which different values and priorities prevail from those that educational institutions are trying to purvey. Indeed, the family is likely to be regarded as an inferior and even backward educational arena, dominated by women whose worldviews contrast sharply with the inclinations of educators and whose own lack of education renders them incapable of acting as support staff in the educational enterprise. Similar concerns also surface in the madrasah sector (Jeffery et al. 2004; 2005). Residential institutions can provide a way for educators to reduce parental influences, at least on a day-to-day basis (MacDougall; Hameed, this volume). In some cases—most explicitly, here, in Bénéï’s chapter—a boy’s natal family is a domain from which he needs to be detached as fully as possible, while the school itself valorises the idealised ‘Family’ by creating proxy families within its own walls. In similar fashion, Hameed indicates that fathers are not always regarded as the best instructors and discipliners of their sons. In other cases, educators do not even attempt such a radical transformation of their pupils. Rather than confronting parental views on women’s education and employment and on the threats to domestic harmony and gender hierarchies supposedly imported by educated girls, they may go along with families’ aspirations simply for their daughters to be married well (Page, this volume; see also Moller 2003).


Patricia Jeffery

Based on ethnographic work in various kinds of educational institutions, the chapters in this section address these themes. David MacDougall’s account in chapter 5 explores how the social and cultural landscape of an élite boarding school for boys in Dehra Doon shapes pupils’ notions of order, authority and individual agency. MacDougall’s key research tool was the video camera—and participants at the workshop that generated this volume were able to see, rather than merely read about, the social aesthetics of daily life in the school. The school buildings and grounds, pupils’ clothing and communal eating, morning assemblies and sports, dormitory routines and ringing bells all combine into a complex that enacts the importance for the school’s ethos of egalitarianism, secularism, scientific rationalism, precision and self-discipline, and bodily fitness—as well as the age hierarchy among pupils that enables older boys to exert power over their juniors. Véronique Bénéï’s subject is a boys’ military boarding school in Maharashtra. Chapter 6 indicates how pupils’ bonds with their families (and especially their mothers) are marginalised, whilst the school’s masculine space recreates a ‘home atmosphere’ that stresses respect for the principal as father figure. Building the ‘masculinity’ of the modern gendered subject and loyal Indian citizen entails considerable parental sacrifice. It is also a complex process, blending tight daily schedules, self-restraint and bodily regimentation through a special dietary and hygiene regimen with aspects of conventional femininity, such as washing clothes and other domestic chores. Yet some boys resent the feminine tasks or refuse to pursue military careers—indicating that even such an apparently overpowering educational regime cannot guarantee to succeed in all its aims. Mareike Winkelmann addresses some similar issues in chapter 7. The curriculum in a secondary level girls’ madrasah in Delhi emphasises Islamic reform, conveyed in part didactically through religious texts and stories and through the girls’ participation in a weekly programme of speeches, recitations and songs. Morality, though, permeates the madrasah environment, through rules about respecting the madrasah authorities, or about parda and demure body language. But the girls’ theological assertiveness acquired through their studies, and the hopes that many entertain of becoming madrasah teachers themselves do not always rest easily with this framework—whilst the girls’ frequent use of Hindi film music in the weekly programme hints at the possibilities for subverting the madrasah regime.

Introduction: Hearts, Minds and Pockets


In chapter 8, Elspeth Page reports on her research in elementary schools in Madhya Pradesh. Contemporary Indian policy discourse emphasises gender equity, but many factors—including institutional indifference and inadequate resourcing—frustrate the attainment of this goal and seriously limit educational quality. The enhancement of girls’ educational experiences is overly reliant on individual teachers. Schooling has an ambiguous status for many parents, especially in relation to their overriding ambition to ensure ‘good’ marriages for their daughters. Moreover, few parents can provide an educational environment at home. Yet, despite the poor quality of schooling on offer, girls themselves are often keen to continue attending school as a means of increasing their time away from home environments that are usually more gendered than the school. As Rumman Hameed makes clear in chapter 9, formal classroom instruction is not the only way that children learn. In the maledominated arenas of butchery, carpentry and handcrafted jewellery in Old Delhi, apprentices gradually become part of the community of practitioners through observation, participation and imitation. Work and learning are intricately related, and daily workshop routines include not only developing technical skills or caring for tools, but also moral learning though religious practice and listening to the master’s talk. The curriculum and pace of learning are flexible but the apprentice’s creativity tends to be limited until he is independent. Power and punishment are important—and resistance and contestation sometimes intrude into the reproduction of an educational regime increasingly threatened by formal bookish learning. Meenakshi Thapan (chapter 10) deals with educationally disadvantaged young women in a Delhi slum, for whom cultures of adolescence are largely constructed outside school. Early marriage entails learning on the job and ensures that embodiment (menstruation, sex, motherhood), domestic labour and managing relationships are central in their experiences of adolescence. Lack of schooling is experienced as disempowering, even though formal education is not regarded as essential for their identities. Yet the power of the conjugal family is also experienced as a loss of freedom. Same-sex peer groups provide a crucial space that enable young women to adjust to their gender destinies—to value the auspicious status that marriage gives them, develop the resilience to endure difficult relationships, and provide the ability to manoeuvre within the constraints of married life.


Patricia Jeffery

As the chapters in this section indicate, contemporary India is blessed (or cursed?) with a wide range of educational regimes that transmit different kinds of knowledge, which are not equally valued in the wider society or equally valuable (‘marketable’) in the labour market. Moreover, children are also diverse and they do not have equal access to these educational regimes. Some children have lengthy educational careers during which they are largely removed from the influences of their homes, while others have very little exposure to formal education yet acquire complex skills. The graduates of India’s diverse educational regimes are themselves diverse—and this has far-reaching implications for the kinds of transitions that can be made to adulthood.

PART 3: DIFFERENT TRANSITIONS, DIFFERENT ADULTHOODS The final section of this volume turns to another kind of issue: the value of education to its consumers, which, in a highly differentiated society such as India, will not be uniform. India’s varied educational regimes— different kinds of formal schooling, apprenticeships, informal and nonformal schooling—take in children already differentiated by caste, class, community and gender. And children’s differing educational experiences contribute to the production of young adults of distinctive kinds and with diverse opportunities. Children achieve different transitions to different adulthoods, to differentiated insertions into the employment and marriage markets, to differing degrees and kinds of social and cultural capital. The benefits that can be extracted from education, then, are largely—though not wholly—pre-determined by people’s locations in systems of social and economic inequality. Educational regimes, then, are not the only relevant focus. Families cannot be treated as just so much nuisance value that hampers the march of modernity and the eradication of ignorance. Parents’ ambitions for their children have also been crucial in fuelling the commoditisation of education. Education (in a wide sense) and schooling (in a narrow sense) are both normally seen as unequivocally ‘good’ in and of themselves, something that will be sought out by all rightminded parents for their children. Yet what policy-makers and educators are trying to achieve through the schooling systems they create

Introduction: Hearts, Minds and Pockets


and manage may be very different from what parents and children are looking to schools to provide. The futures to which people imagine schooling can provide a passport, the values towards which they orient and their capacities to achieve them may be very diverse. How, then, do families perceive the role of education in their children’s transitions to adulthood? How do they accommodate their actions and aspirations to the possibilities open to them? Many parents are optimistic about the benefits that will accrue to their children through education—enhanced employment and marriage opportunities, improved social competences and cultural capital—and they may be prepared to make considerable sacrifices to see these ambitions fulfilled (Bénéï, this volume). Parents may hope that schooling will achieve certain ends for their families as a whole, and expose different children to differing quantities and qualities of schooling to meet these ends (Chopra, this volume). Pupils themselves may welcome the expertise and authority that their newly acquired knowledge gives them or the personal transformation that results from the ‘civilising’ influence of schooling (Rampal; Craig Jeffrey et al.; also Winkelmann, this volume). But there is also a rather more sombre tale to tell—of disappointed hopes and disillusionment when educational careers end in examination failure, or when hard-won educational credentials fail to translate into secure employment. Education may provide valued knowledge, personal transformation and refinements—but educated young men may also feel entrapped by the dignity and self-worth they have acquired, which is incompatible with the heavy or dirty manual work that is available to them (Craig Jeffrey et al.; Parry, this volume). Sometimes, parents and children look pessimistically towards a future in which educational investments fail to pay off—and they may make fine calculations about how much to spend on their children’s schooling (Page, this volume). The transformations and transitions that ‘education’ permits, then, are extremely varied. In chapter 11, Anita Rampal reports on a literacy campaign in Begusarai, Bihar. Beyond imparting literacy, the campaign’s ‘revaluing’ of education focuses on empowerment as a means of challenging entrenched inequalities. Local people value education primarily in terms of personal development and social esteem that the campaign has provided effectively, despite its reliance on volunteer teachers—mainly local school pupils and newly literate women. Moreover, these women activists displayed confidence, commitment and energy, running public


Patricia Jeffery

meetings, organising touring cultural troupes and even contesting and winning local and state elections. This refreshingly positive account of what a literacy programme can achieve provides a striking foil to local pessimism about the lack of job opportunities for young men and the growth of criminal mafias. Chapters 12 and 13 are both concerned with the relationship between formal education and adult prospects. In chapter 12, Craig Jeffrey et al. focus on how young educated Dalit men in rural western Uttar Pradesh perceive formal education, how they seek to use educational credentials to obtain ‘respectable’ jobs, and how they react when this strategy fails. They have gained a sense of dignity and confidence, but their increasing inability to convert this ‘cultural capital’ into secure employment is becoming manifest in an emerging culture of masculine Dalit resentment. Without a substantial redistribution of material assets within society, formal education has only a limited capacity to raise the social standing and economic position of disadvantaged groups or to undermine established processes of caste and class reproduction. In chapter 13, Jonathan Parry explores how ‘childhood’ in Bhilai (Chhattisgarh) has both changed and become increasingly differentiated along class fraction lines. The workforce of the public sector steel plant enjoyed job security and other perks. Among the permanent workers’ families, the age of marriage increased, fewer women were employed, and divorce rates and fertility declined. These parents pressurised their children to succeed at school and to remain aloof from children from informal labour force families. But access to ‘good’ schools is very competitive—and it is now increasingly hard to convert ‘gradgrind drudgery’ into secure employment. Even in their late 1920s, young men may remain in education or economically inactive and with time on their hands, whereas boys lower down the industrial hierarchy generally find (insecure) employment more rapidly. Finally, Radhika Chopra explores how evaluations of education are influenced by the wider economic context in the Punjab, particularly the long history of international migration to avert land fragmentation and poverty. Her chapter points to the importance of micro-level studies in subverting commonsense generalisations about gender biases in education. Women and land alike are crucial resources for family reproduction, and formal schooling plays an important but complex role in a household’s strategies. Exploring the decisions made in one family, she shows that the older brother learned about farm management

Introduction: Hearts, Minds and Pockets


through a prolonged initiation into manhood without much formal schooling. By contrast, an expensive boarding school provided his sister with the cultural capital that facilitated her marriage overseas—an investment that enabled her younger brother to migrate in her wake. His schooling was more modest than hers: just enough to become a successful migrant, but not so much as to constitute a waste of money. Educational regimes, then, can have a transformative potential at a personal level, in providing the credentials that are the passports to good employment (or marriage) and the cultural capital necessary to be counted as a civilised and educated person. But education can also instil a sense of personal inadequacy. It may produce and legitimise inclusion and success for some people—but exclusion and failure for others. It opens up opportunities for some, whilst closing them off for others. Education, in other words, does not have a uniform value to its ‘products’: India’s differentiating and fragmenting educational regimes do not enable students to extract equal benefits for their transition to adulthood.

IN PROSPECT In India’s general election in the spring of 2004 the BJP-led government was ousted and Murli Manohar Joshi, Minister for Human Resource development, lost his seat in the Lok Sabha. What impact will the new Congress-led coalition have on India’s educational regimes? According to its Common Minimum Programme, the new government ‘will take immediate steps to reverse the trend of communalisation of education that had set in in the past five years.’ It also has an ‘abiding commitment to economic reforms with a human face’ in order to provide ‘public services to bring about a visible and tangible difference in the quality of life of ordinary citizens of our country’. It will increase government spending on education to at least 6 per cent of GDP and introduce a cess on central taxes to ‘universalise access to quality basic education’ (United Progressive Alliance 2004). Already, commentators are questioning how much impact the new government will have. Sumanta Banerjee, for instance, argues that ‘detoxifying’ the administration and educational institutions is just a first step in removing the pernicious effects of the Hindu Right. Without a complete overhaul of government primary schools, though, the RSS and Sangh Parivar could continue to insert


Patricia Jeffery

themselves into the educational vacuum, Banerjee asserts, and he asks if the Congress-led UPA government will act courageously against Hindutva—or if the ‘soft Hindutva’ compromises of the 1980s and 1990s will persist (Banerjee 2004). But this seems to sidestep a crucial issue: the extent to which the new government can legitimately claim that the ‘communalisation’ of education was the BJP’s creation after the electoral victory in 1998. Saffronisation is not just about contested textbooks, nor is it found only in RSS schools. Communalisation has long been pervasive in India’s schools, whether state funded or not—as have prejudice and discrimination against Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe children. Replacing textbooks and reducing the impact of the Hindu Right on education are undoubtedly vital—but will be insufficient to deal with endemic inequalities of access and outcome. Perhaps more seriously, the preoccupation with saffronisation diverts attention from economic liberalisation. The new prime minister, Manmohan Singh, was finance minister in Narasimha Rao’s Congress government in 1991–96 that embraced the policies that reduced state financing of social sectors and gave free rein to the market during the 1990s—policies that have valorised parental choice in a commercialised education sector. It is hard, then, to be sanguine about the new government’s commitment to revitalising the public sector in ways that would guarantee substantive equality for India’s schoolchildren. The target for ‘Education for All’ stretches into the future—originally set for 2000, it is now unlikely to be achieved even by 2015. As India becomes increasingly involved in the globalised economy of the 21st century, we can be sure that education will remain a crucial resource in the transition to adulthood—and one that will become even more contentious and competitive over time.

Notes 1. I should like to thank Radhika Chopra and Roger Jeffery for their helpful comments on this introduction. 2. There is now a sizeable literature on the history of education in India: see for instance Acharya 1998, Bhattacharya 1998, Crook 1996, Hasan 1998, Kumar 2000, Metcalf 1982, Rudolph and Rudolph 1972, Viswanathan 1989. 3. But Kumar assumes, without direct evidence, that Nehru agreed with Mulk Raj Anand, who dismissed ‘basic education’ because it would condemn rural children to stagnation in villages that were being overwhelmed by foreign goods (cited in Kumar 1991: 177–79).






Discussions of education in independent India have often focused on the gap between Nehru’s vision to ‘fight and end’ ignorance, and the abysmal performance of most state governments in India in failing to attain this goal. The 2001 Census indicates that India still has over 300 million citizens over the age of 6 who cannot read or write. Current debates have turned to consider alternative means of delivering schooling. In India (as elsewhere) we can no longer assume that the state has the sole or even prime responsibility for providing educational services, with some ardently advocating a role for the private sector (e.g. Tooley 2001). International donors, led by the World Bank, have attempted to improve government primary schools, especially since the early 1980s. Despite these efforts, several surveys of conditions in Indian primary schools in the late 1990s, especially those in north India, drew attention to the continuing low levels of financial and political commitment to primary schooling (De et al. 2002; The Probe Team 1999; World Bank 1997). The World Bank claims that the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) has played a major part in increasing enrolments and the quality of schooling, but critics remain to be convinced (Kumar et al. 2001). Secondary schooling confronts similar issues, and is increasingly significant as the reproduction of inequalities, especially in rural India, is less a result of direct reproduction (based on inherited wealth and incomes) and more to do with mediated patterns (e.g., access to wellpaid employment and via marriage) ( Jeffrey 2001, drawing on Bourdieu 1996). In order to understand the reproduction or transformation of patterns of inequality, then, secondary schooling deserves more


Roger Jeffery, Patricia Jeffery and Craig Jeffrey

attention than it has received so far. Secondary schooling in Uttar Pradesh (UP) is complex, and is changing in very significant ways. Using the western UP district headquarters town of Bijnor as a case study, we describe how secondary schooling spread under India’s development regime in UP before 1990; how, under pressures of globalisation, liberalisation and fiscal crisis, that vision has been eroded since the early 1990s; and what the implications of these changes are for social inequality and exclusion.

BIJNOR Data used in this chapter are available for three nested areas: some for Bijnor district; some for the town of Bijnor and the two development blocks that surround it; and some for the town itself. The 2001 Census recorded a population in Bijnor district of 3.1 million, 76 per cent rural, with a male (aged 7 and up) literacy rate of 70 per cent and a female rate of 47 per cent. The district population is approximately 41 per cent Muslim, 22 per cent Scheduled Caste, and 36 per cent other Hindu, with the dominant landowners being Jats (recently classified as ‘Other Backward Classes’). The two blocks surrounding Bijnor town have about 350,000 people and approximately the same population distribution, with perhaps a slightly smaller proportion of Scheduled Castes. The Bijnor urban area had a population of around 100,000 in 2001. In 1971, its population was roughly evenly divided between Hindus and Muslims, though in the district as a whole the urban population is roughly 67 per cent Muslim and 32 per cent Hindu.2 Bijnor town’s pre-colonial core is a maze of narrow streets, with muhalla-s bearing names suggesting caste or community origins (Khatria-n, Jata-n, Bhata-n, Qa-zipa-ra). Like other western UP towns, Bijnor was a qasba (dominated by a Muslim service élite), but during the 20th century increasingly took on the characteristics of a ganj (one dominated by Hindu merchants, with close relationships to a predominantly Hindu civil service) (Bayly 1983; Freitag 1989: 102–3). The colonial town includes the Civil Lines, and post-Independence colonies and suburbs surround these two areas. Education is at the heart of Bijnor’s emerging economy. In 2001–02, according to our survey, 15,000 pupils attended secondary schools in Bijnor town; a further 10,000 or so studied in the primary schools, and

Social Inequalities and the Privatisation of Secondary Schooling


about 2,000 in the degree colleges. With an average pupil: teacher ratio of about 60:1 this suggests that at least 400 teachers are employed in Bijnor town, with others working as tutors, suppliers of educational books, etc. We collected raw data on schools teaching at least classes 6–8 (children approximately 11–14 years old), many of which teach up to class 12. Although we draw on some data from the whole district, we shall mostly discuss the Bijnor urban agglomeration, which is served by 32 secondary schools—some located as far as 3 km from the boundary of the built-up area: 1. Government schools, all single-sex and all Hindi-medium: (a) Three junior high schools, one for boys and two for girls, teaching only classes 6–8, established between 1969 and 1975, with three, five and six teachers respectively, and between 120 and 135 pupils each.3 (b) Two intermediate colleges, one for boys (established in 1881) and one for girls (in 1944), both teaching classes 6–12, with 2,150 and 2,600 pupils, and 46 and 42 teachers, respectively. Admission is competitive, by examination in class 6 or on transfer at class 9 or class 11 from schools that do not offer these levels.4 2. Government Aided Schools, also Hindi-medium and single sex:5 (a) Four girls’ aided schools, the oldest (a Methodist girls’ school with 360 pupils) founded in 1880 and the most recent (a girls’ intermediate college with 1,150 pupils) founded in 1972. The latter started teaching beyond class 8 around 1980; the others opened classes 9 and 10 in the late 1990s. All are aided for classes 6–8 only. (b) Three boys’ aided schools, the oldest (the Bijnor Intermediate College, with nearly 1,500 pupils) founded in 1931, and the newest (an Arya Samaj Intermediate College with 285 pupils) founded in 1954. All are aided up to class 12. 3. Unaided Schools, all co-educational: (a) Fourteen Hindi-medium schools, all founded since 1978; most of these began with primary classes, and have slowly expanded into secondary schooling. The largest has 220 secondary pupils, and the smallest 24. One has a small English-medium stream.


Roger Jeffery, Patricia Jeffery and Craig Jeffrey

(b) Six English-medium schools, all founded since 1987. These offer primary schooling as well, and have only recently started teaching the higher secondary classes. Three are medium-sized schools, with between 400 and 700 secondary pupils, and three have between 40 and 135 pupils.6 Government schools are mostly in the muhalla-s or in Civil Lines. Non-state secondary schools either operate out of a large house, adapted for the purpose, or are in purpose-built structures on the main roads leading out of town or on the makeshift ring-road. This reflects the relatively recent growth of secondary schooling in UP in general, and in Bijnor in particular. Twenty-three of the 32 secondary schools serving Bijnor were founded after 1972. New institutions cannot afford land in the middle of Bijnor, and are established on cheaper land on the outskirts. These vantage points also allow them to attract students from the rural hinterland. Two significant examples of overlapping managements of aided and unaided institutions should be noted. One involves Muslim professionals and landowners who run the Bijnor Intermediate College (aided to class 12), a Muslim girls’ middle school (aided to class 8) and an unaided school with both Hindi- and English-medium streams. The other is a Hindu family trust that runs three secondary schools (two of them aided, one English-medium) and two degree colleges in Bijnor town, and a further six educational institutions elsewhere in Bijnor and in Muzaffarnagar district.



The Hindu trust and the Muslim professionals alike talk in the language of the ‘state culture of bourgeois socialism’ (Ludden 1992: 277). There were very close links between Jawaharlal Nehru and his immediate family and the Hindu family trust, whose guiding spirit, until his death in 2000, was a senior civil servant who had served as Nehru’s cabinet secretary before filling various public roles after retirement. His younger brother, senior manager of the trust until his death in 2003, was known to Kamla Nehru and to Indira Gandhi (until the

Social Inequalities and the Privatisation of Secondary Schooling


Emergency of 1975–77). But apart from hostility to communalism and favouritism in schooling, there are few obvious ways in which either set of managers can now be said to be following the Nehruvian vision closely. The managing committees are themselves large landowners, privately educated, and well established in the north Indian urban élite, with connections to the rest of the country as well as abroad. These links do not, however, seem to be directly reflected in the day-to-day running of the schools under their control. Until about 1980, school managers like these operated within Congress-led governmental schooling policies that had strong continuities with colonial attempts to use schooling to mould young people as part of a state-building project. From the mid-19th century onwards, schools were established by local dignitaries, and then provided with financial support by the state, if and when the schools reached certain minimum standards. The colonial state preferred this system, since it was not obliged to supply school buildings or to recruit or employ large numbers of teachers and other junior staff. Local dignitaries liked to retain control of significant local political resources, yet did not face the full burden of raising the necessary finances. But teachers were left on low pay and with insecure employment. After independence, Congress politicians (often also school managers) maintained the system, but also came under increasing pressure from teachers. In the 1970s and 1980s the patterns of funding and management of secondary schools in UP underwent several changes, well described elsewhere (Kingdon and Muzammil 2001). UP developed probably the most politicised educational system in India (see also Gould 1972).7 After strikes and agitations in the 1970s and 1980s, the UP Government conceded most of the claims made by the Madhyamik Shikshak Sangh (Secondary Teachers’ Union, or MSS). A major demand was for the ‘nationalisation of education’, or the take-over of all secondary schools by the state. Subsidiary demands included: to remove the rights of private managements to appoint teachers; to regularise the position of teachers on temporary appointments; to bring the schools directly under the UP Government and not under district boards; to pay UP Government salary scales directly to all teachers in aided schools; and to aid more schools. Fees in private schools dropped dramatically once they were aided, and once the government paid all the teachers’ salaries. By acceding to these claims, the UP Government’s policies were ‘perverse from the point of view of equity in the distribution of state subsidy because relatively well-off students who previously chose a


Roger Jeffery, Patricia Jeffery and Craig Jeffrey

fee-paying school are targeted for subsidy’ (Kingdon and Muzammil 2001: 3180) From the 1960s onwards, teachers used their influence in the UP Legislative Council (upper house, where between 13 and 22 per cent were teachers) and in the Legislative Assembly (lower house, where between 5 and 10 per cent were teachers). Non-teacher politicians often supported them, perhaps in part because politicians gained a greater hand in appointments, transfers, promotions or sacking if teachers became direct employees of the state. The Ministry of Education, for long (like Health) a backwater in New Delhi, is an important ministry in the state governments, since it often has the largest number of employees, with concomitant scope for patronage and illegal rental incomes. The extension of the state into secondary schooling at the behest of teachers who have ‘campaigned singularly for their own financial betterment and not for the improvement of school facilities, etc., more generally’ had significant results (ibid.: 3183). By 1990, 22 per cent of total UP state budgetary expenditure was on schooling (6.6 per cent on secondary schooling alone) and 90 per cent of secondary school expenditures in UP were on salaries (ibid.: 3059, 3182). But the number of children being schooled in this way was small, and grew only slowly in relation to the total number of children in the relevant age-groups who had passed out of the expanding primary sector. In 1993 the estimated age-specific (11–14) enrolment ratios in UP were around 53 per cent for boys but only 30 per cent for girls (all-India figures were 65 per cent and 48 per cent respectively) (National Council of Educational Research and Training 1998: 304).



Since 1990 (and increasingly rapidly after 2000), the trends have reversed, reflecting the growing fiscal crisis of the Indian state in general, a crisis magnified several times over in UP. Propertied classes, well represented in successive UP Governments, have ensured that the rural rich have not faced taxation of their income or wealth, and that considerable subsidies

Social Inequalities and the Privatisation of Secondary Schooling


are channelled towards the industrial and agricultural élites, who have also benefited from other social and economic investments. The UP State Government’s huge deficits during the 1990s added an additional justification for not spending more on schooling, in a state that had rarely shown much interest in implementing either national educational schemes (see Drèze and Sen 1997: 88), or its own educational programmes. During the 1990s, amounts allocated for the social sectors have declined and actual implementation has lagged even further behind allocations (Mooij and Dev 2002). At the same time, the newly prosperous landlords and rich peasant farmers, professionals and government servants (able to earn rental ‘over-incomes’) have used their disposable incomes to buy privilege through private schooling for their children. The futures they imagine for their children are largely urban, preferably metropolitan or abroad; they favour English-medium schools, and the school subjects (science streams, especially computing) that will lead to their sons’ admission into prestigious English-medium engineering or medical colleges, or into IT careers; and for their daughters, marriage to a man who has broken out of small-town life. For many parents, the prospect of secure government employment is sufficient reason to pay for higher levels of education. For others, merely getting their children into good secondary schools meets their desire to give them the social graces and connections that they lack themselves. The inadequacy of government schools in meeting these demands has helped to fuel a rapid transformation of secondary schooling, in Bijnor as elsewhere. Government and aided schools are undergoing creeping privatisation, as measured by the declining proportion of teachers paid by the government, and by the increasing significance of the fees charged by these schools. Second, the children attending all schools, government, aided or unaided, are spending more time with private tutors. Third, since the late 1980s, unaided schools have grown rapidly in number and in the proportion of children they teach.

Privatisation within Government and Aided Schools The UP Government has opened only three schools teaching to classes 10 or 12 in Bijnor district since 1975.8 One is a Navodya school, supposed to act as an exemplar for higher standards, and the other two are girls’ schools opened under a programme to fill in gaps where there


Roger Jeffery, Patricia Jeffery and Craig Jeffrey

was not at least one government or aided girls’ school serving classes 6–12 in a development block. Furthermore, schools aided for a certain number of teachers (for example, for classes 6–8) have not been assisted for any other classes they may have opened. Very few schools in Bijnor were added to those receiving government aid after 1975.9 Not only has there been little or no increase in the number of government and aided institutions, but the number of government-funded teachers in these schools has also declined in absolute terms. Between 1991 and 2002, increasing numbers of posts were left unfilled as teachers retired, were transferred or promoted. The appointment of replacement teachers is increasingly slow, and many posts, especially in positions of school principal, are vacant. According to the Bijnor District Statistical Bulletin, 1,915 teachers were paid by the government in government and aided high schools and inter-colleges in 1995–96 (apparently the highest ever); by 2001–02 there were 1,646, a drop of 14 per cent. In Bijnor district as a whole, 53 per cent of posts of principal, head teacher or vice-principal in government and aided junior high schools, high schools and inter-colleges, and at least 17 per cent of the posts of lecturers and assistant teachers, were vacant in 2002 (data supplied by the district inspector of schools). Growth in the number of pupils attending government and aided schools, as a result of population growth and through rising ageparticipation rates, has been achieved by increasing class and section sizes in existing institutions.10 In 2001–02 several of the larger government and aided schools had class 6 sections with over 100 pupils; at class 9 the section sizes are between 70 and 90. Schools with smaller sections are unpopular with parents, rather than being seen as providing better quality education. Yet in popular schools, with sections of 100 or more, teachers say that they are hardly able to take an attendance register or find space for pupils to sit, leave aside find the time to teach or to correct their pupils’ work. In Bijnor, the failure of the government to invest in secondary schooling has left the government junior high schools in a parlous state (see also Kingdon 1994). In the rural areas, most have only one or two teachers and very few pupils; in the towns, they have section sizes of 30–40. In general, however, government junior high schools match the dismal picture drawn by several recent studies of primary schools in the large north Indian states (The Probe Team 1999). By contrast, the government intermediate colleges and many aided schools, whether junior high schools or inter-colleges, have responded to declining government support since 1991 by charging pupils illegal

Social Inequalities and the Privatisation of Secondary Schooling


fees (between Rs 200 and Rs 800 per annum for boys, and between Rs 50 and Rs 1,150 per annum for girls) and appointing teachers on temporary contracts and low rates of pay. In the 16 government and aided inter-colleges and high schools in Bijnor town and the two adjoining development blocks, about 408 teachers are employed, of whom 279 are on government salaries of Rs15,000 or more per month, and on permanent full-year contracts. At least 112 (27 per cent) are paid by the management committee or by the school PTA (Parent–Teacher Association), on salaries of less than Rs 2,000 per month and on temporary 9- or 10-month contracts. Seventeen vi-shay vi-sheshgya (subject specialists) were appointed in July 2000 to augment the teaching staff in aided schools. Like the shiksha- mitr (teacher’s friend) introduced in government primary schools under the World Bank supported programmes of reform, they are paid a fixed salary (Rs 5,000 per month for 11 months a year, compared with the Rs 1,500 paid to their primary school equivalents). But they are, as yet at least, an insignificant part of the picture, comprising only 4 per cent of the teachers in Bijnor town and the two neighbouring development blocks (see also Kingdon 1994: ch. 7; 1996).11

Private Interests within the Public System In addition to the private appointment of PTA teachers in government and aided schools, there are further forms of privatisation within these schools. The UP Government has sub-contracted the publication of textbooks to private publishers, and parents perceive pressures on them to buy new course material every year. Increasing teacher neglect also encourages pupils to purchase sample answer books, which may contain leaked examination questions. Computing, the major new provision within government and aided secondary schools, is often charged for separately, and sometimes provided by private training companies on school premises. In the absence of government support, parents sometimes have to fund the basic elements of schooling: at the Afzalgarh government inter-college, for example, parents gave up waiting for the government to supply buildings, and raised the funds themselves. More radical effects, however, follow from the rise in tuition. Tuition is a highly politicised issue. According to the Bijnor district inspector of schools, teachers in government and aided schools may, with the permission of the principal, give some additional tuition to 2 or 3 pupils (Interview, 1 April 2002). In practice, some teachers are


Roger Jeffery, Patricia Jeffery and Craig Jeffrey

specialists in subjects for which there is no demand for tuition, because they are regarded as easy or unimportant, and other teachers have incompatible domestic responsibilities. But many government teachers hold 2–3 daily classes for 15–20 pupils at a time, generating an additional monthly income of between Rs 4,000 and Rs 12,000. Tuition is relatively uncommon for pupils in classes 6–8, but most pupils who can afford to do so take regular tuition in science, English and maths for the class 10 exams, paying out a total of around Rs 500–700 per month. In classes 11 and 12, pupils in the science streams may pay out up to Rs 1,000 for tuition in biology, physics and chemistry, possibly continuing also with maths and English. Most tuitions take place with individual schoolteachers at their homes, outside formal school hours, in the early morning or the early evening, and the numbers involved increase rapidly in January as the UP Board examinations loom. Smaller, but growing, numbers of children attend coaching institutes which prepare students mainly for competitive admission tests for medical and engineering colleges. Some critics of tuition describe it as a fashion or a craze, in which parents demand tuition for their children whether or not there are any objective indicators of need. According to stories in the local newspapers, some teachers will not pass pupils through their annual exams unless the pupils take tuition from them. In the government inter-college in Bijnor, the principal appointed in 1999 introduced anonymised marking in the grading of the annual internal examinations in an attempt to prevent this. At the most extreme, the growth in tuition has led to the almost complete privatisation of some pupils’ schooling experience. Teachers complain that their pupils hardly attend school, preferring to go to coaching institutes run by non-teachers who keep them open throughout the day. Some teachers may also attend school irregularly, preferring to give tuition. Others are alleged to teach poorly in school in order to increase the incentive for pupils to take tuition with them privately. Teachers with heavy tuition loads are also alleged to sleep during their school classes to reserve their energy for tuition. At a local degree college, very little teaching is said to take place: many professors do little more than hand out the syllabi and their home addresses, offering private tuition for those who want it. In villages, graduates might tutor no more than three or four batches of 4–5 students a time, and only with difficulty earn a monthly income of Rs 1,500. In towns, successful tutors may take as many as five batches of 20 pupils or more each, earning Rs 20,000 per month (with

Social Inequalities and the Privatisation of Secondary Schooling


cases of Rs 30,000 or Rs 40,000 also claimed), financial rewards higher than the salaries of most permanent government teachers. Not surprisingly, the union of government teachers strongly favours being allowed to continue to give tuition. Teachers’ main form of private appropriation of benefits from government office comes through the tuition system, but other income sources include land, other businesses or part-time employment as correspondents for the Hindi press.12

The Rise of Non-State Schools Until 1991, the state only allowed the registration and recognition of new schools that it was, itself, willing in principle to aid. Since the state allocated little money to schooling, educational entrepreneurs faced great difficulty in getting recognition for new schools. As a result, where new, unrecognised schools were started, their students may have been registered with a government or an aided school for classes 10 and 12 examinations, or entered as private (rather than regular) students.13 In 1991 the rule was reversed: schools were only recognised if they gave a specific undertaking not to apply for grant-aid from the government. In Bijnor, schools established under the new dispensation were usually attached to existing primary schools, beginning with classes 6–8 and in some cases building up to the higher classes when resources and student numbers permitted. In 1993 private schools were much more significant in UP than in India as a whole (National Council of Educational Research and Training, 1998).14 Since then the contrast has probably increased, because the 1991 Government Order has (if Bijnor’s experience is typical) led to a rapid growth in unaided schools entering pupils in classes 10 and 12 examinations. Table 1.1 shows these numbers in 1991 and 2002 for Bijnor urban area and its surrounding development blocks. The fastest period of growth was from 1999 (when roughly 12 per cent of the children appearing for the UP Board 10th class exams were at unaided schools) to 2002 (when the figure was 37 per cent). In addition, small numbers of pupils are in unaided schools that follow the curricula of either the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE, either English- or Hindi-medium) or the Indian Council for Secondary Education (ICSE, English-medium). If these are included, the percentage of unaided school pupils in class 10 rises to nearly 40 per cent. High failure rates at class 10 have reduced the growth of classes 11 and 12, but many unaided schools have ambitions


Roger Jeffery, Patricia Jeffery and Craig Jeffrey

Table 1.1: Students registered for UP board examinations in class 10 and class 12, Bijnor town and neighbouring development blocks, 1991 and 2002 1991

2002 as per cent of 1991


Class 10







Government Schools Aided Schools Unaided Schools Total

214 1,410 55 1,679

200 527 79 806

293 1,613 984 2,890

509 792 909 2,210

137% 114% 1,789% 172%

255% 150% 1,151% 274%

225 847 30 1,102

223 291 0 507

199 1,056 271 1,526

394 481 166 1,041

88% 125% 903% 142%

177% 165%

Class 12 Government Schools Aided Schools Unaided Schools Total


Source: Data collected by the District Inspector of Schools, Bijnor.

for large 11th and 12th classes, and the share of unaided schools in the entrants for class 12 examinations will probably rise rapidly. Most of the new unaided schools, where a commercial motive is mixed with a generalised rhetoric claiming a social uplift purpose, have much smaller intakes than the government and aided schools.15 At the end of 2001, our survey of schools found 20 unaided institutions providing secondary-level schooling in or within 5 km of Bijnor town.16 Some of these, especially those sited outside the town, provided their own transport to bring pupils from Bijnor and from up to 15 km away.17 Unlike the older schools, they are all co-educational. Twelve of these schools follow the UP Board curriculum, charging between Rs 540 and Rs 2,500 per annum. Five follow the English-medium CBSE curriculum, charging between Rs 2,250 and Rs 6,200 per annum. One school (the Sarasvatñ- Vidya- Mandir) follows the CBSE Hindi-medium curriculum, charging Rs 2,170 per annum, and one is affiliated to the ICSE, and charges Rs 3,260 per year.18 The impact of the partial withdrawal of the state from secondary schooling on the distribution of pupils by sex, school class and school type is set out briefly in Table 1.2. The ideological orientations of these unaided schools are varied. We classified them by the names of the schools, and by the religion and caste membership of the teachers, managers and principals. Nine have a definite Hindu orientation, in that they are founded, managed and run by upper-caste Hindus (Brahmans and Banias), and often include Vidya-




Girls 53.8% 51.2% 34.1% 41.4% 47.8%

Source: Authors’ survey, November–December 2001. Note: N = number.

Boys 46.2% 48.8% 65.9% 58.6% 52.2%

Government schools Aided schools Unaided Hindi-medium Unaided English-medium All Schools (N)

Classes 6–8 All (N) 2,340 2,864 1,086 1,383 7,673 2,511

Boys 45.8% 54.2% 30.0% 63.7% 52.2% 2,299

Girls 54.2% 45.8% 70.0% 36.3% 47.8%

Classes 9–10 All (N) 1,647 2,594 40 529 4,810

Table 1.2: Distribution of secondary pupils by sex, by level of schooling and kind of school, Bijnor town, 2001–02


Boys 36.8% 73.3% – 64.2% 57.0%


Girls 63.2% 26.7% – 35.8% 43.0%

Classes 11–12 All (N) 1,202 1,412 0 173 2,787


Roger Jeffery, Patricia Jeffery and Craig Jeffrey

Mandir (‘knowledge temple’), or a Hindu god in their names. One, the Sarasvatñ- Vidya- Mandir, is affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Four are Muslim foundations: one on the same site as a madrasah (see note 16), and one financed by the Muslim Fund Bank. Eight schools appeal to a ‘modern’ constituency by including ‘Public School’ in their names, including a convent school, run by Catholics. The final school mainly recruits Scheduled Caste (SC) children. At least four of these schools have been established by families, partly to provide employment and business opportunities for an educated wife or daughterin-law. The managers of these schools all claim to be fulfilling social obligations and carrying out a social service. In part, this is because profit-making from schooling is forbidden by the Constitution; school managers are also highly sensitive to accusations that, nonetheless, they pocket substantial sums from admission fees, etc. No manager admitted trying to serve a particular section of the population, either girls or boys, or any specific religious or caste group. Nonetheless, the social mix of many schools is very restricted, and this may have some relationship to the preferences of managers and staff in encouraging some and discouraging other pupils. The most obvious examples are the Sarasvatñ- VidyaMandir, which has only two Muslim pupils (of whom it makes great play), and a Muslim-run school with only Muslim pupils. More generally, however, the more obviously ‘Hindu’ schools have very few Muslim or SC pupils, and the schools run by Muslims have Muslim majority and substantial numbers of SC pupils, but very few upper-caste Hindus. In the apparently secular schools, Muslims and SCs are represented less than in proportion to their numbers in the general population. In private schools, then, the social mix of the pupil population is much more restricted than in government and aided intermediate colleges.

THE IMPLICATIONS OF THESE CHANGES FOR SOCIAL INEQUALITIES Assessing the social impact of the fiscal crisis, the rising costs of government and aided schooling and the increasing role of unaided schooling is not straightforward. We draw on two sets of data to indicate how changes in the organisation and costs of schooling have affected different social categories. The most reliable data pertain to differentials by gender, and, to a lesser extent, by ‘community’. We

Social Inequalities and the Privatisation of Secondary Schooling


Table 1.3: Odds ratios for girls attending different types of schools in Bijnor town compared to distribution of boys Odds ratios for girls vs. boys Government schools Aided schools Unaided Hindi-medium Unaided English-medium All Schools

6 to 8

9 to 10

11 to 12

1.20 1.09 0.74 0.74 0.97

1.29 0.92 2.55 0.62 0.92

2.28 0.48 n.a. 0.74 0.76

Source: Surveys conducted by authors, October 2001–March 2002.

have data on numbers of girls and boys entered for classes 10 and 12 UP Board Hindi-medium examinations for Bijnor town and the neighbouring development blocks in 1991 and in 2002, and we have data for Bijnor town for 2001–02 showing the distribution of girls and boys by schooling type (including English-medium schools), by ‘community’ and by school class (Table 1.2 and Tables 1.3–1.6).

Table 1.4: Distribution of pupils by caste/community and school year in Bijnor Town, by type of school Type of School Classes 6–8 Government junior high schools Government intermediate colleges Aided Schools *Private Hindi-medium Classes 9–10 Government intermediate colleges aided schools Classes 11–12 Government intermediate colleges aided schools

Hindu per cent

Scheduled Caste per cent

Muslim per cent

19 54 46 51

6 21 17 19

75 25 37 30

60 63

18 17

23 20

63 67

13 18

24 15

Source: Surveys conducted by authors, October 2001–March 2002. *Pupil data by caste/religion were only supplied by 10 of the 14 private Hindi-medium schools, and the data in this row relate to only 79 per cent of the total number of pupils in this category. No data on the number of Scheduled Caste pupils were supplied by any of the private English-medium schools, but two supplied the proportions of Muslim children: 27.8 per cent of 580 children in classes 6–8, and 29.6 per cent of 115 children in classes 9–10.


Roger Jeffery, Patricia Jeffery and Craig Jeffrey

Table 1.5: Odds ratios for Muslim children attending different types of schools in Bijnor town compared to distribution of Hindu (general plus other backward caste) children Boys


Odds ratios for Muslims

Classes 6 to 8

Classes 9 to 10

Classes 11 to 12

Classes 6 to 8

Classes 9 to 10

Classes 11 to 12

Government schools Aided schools Unaided Hindi-medium

0.90 1.06 0.88

0.54 1.35 0.21

0.42 1.35 –

1.01 1.09 0.47

0.76 1.17 –

1.44 0.35 –

Source: Surveys conducted by authors, October 2001–March 2002. Note: Numbers of pupils reported by community by unaided English-medium schools are very low and they have been excluded from this table. Table 1.6: Odds ratios for scheduled caste children attending different types of schools in Bijnor town compared to distribution of Hindu (general plus other backward caste) children Boys Odds ratios for Scheduled Castes Government schools Aided schools Unaided Hindi-medium


Classes 6 to 8

Classes 9 to 10

Classes 11 to 12

Classes 6 to 8

Classes 9 to 10

Classes 11 to 12

1.01 1.07 0.80

0.71 1.23 0.26

0.63 1.22 –

1.22 0.93 0.65

1.00 0.99 2.09

1.09 0.86 –

Source: Surveys conducted by authors, October 2001–March 2002. Note: Numbers of pupils reported by community by unaided English-medium schools are very low and they have been excluded from this table.

Over the 1990s, the sole area of expansion in government secondary schooling was in schooling for girls. Recruitment of girls in government secondary schools in Bijnor town and its neighbouring development blocks increased sharply. Table 1.1 shows that the number of girls entered for UP Board examinations from government and aided schools has risen faster than that of boys, but not in unaided schools. In government schools, more girls than boys are now entered for these examinations, though girls are a smaller proportion of examination entrants in the other two types of schools, and girls are still only 43 per cent of class 10 entrants and 41 per cent of class 12 entrants overall. Recalculating the data in Table 1.2 shows that in the 32 schools of all kinds in Bijnor town, the role of government and aided schools increases from about 68 per cent of all pupils in classes 6–8, to about

Social Inequalities and the Privatisation of Secondary Schooling


89 per cent for classes 9–10 and to about 94 per cent for classes 11–12. Unaided Hindi-medium schools provide about 11 per cent of school places in classes 6–8 but very few pupils stay on into classes 9 and 10, and none at all in classes 11–12. Unaided English-medium schools teach about 18 per cent of pupils in classes 6–8, but only 6 per cent of those in classes 11–12: this figure seems certain to grow over the next few years. Moreover, in general, the proportion of boys in secondary schooling increases with age and by fees charged (i.e., as the role of government in the school decreases). There is one exception: in unaided Hindi-medium schools in class 9 and above there are more girls (28) than boys (12). In these schools, very small classes and limited educational facilities make them unattractive for boys but acceptable ways for a small number of academically weaker middle-class girls to continue in schooling in a safe environment. Two processes are causing the numbers of girls in secondary schooling to rise. On the supply side, government resources have been successfully targeted towards girls. On the demand side, the urban middle classes, for whom the proportion of girls attending schools is now almost as high as that of boys from the same social class backgrounds, have taken advantage of this expansion. The caste and community data (see Table 1.4) show the very different caste/community profiles for the government junior high schools and the government and aided intermediate colleges. The sector showing the fastest expansion for girls—the government and aided intermediate colleges—has the smallest share of Scheduled Caste girls. We have to infer the effects of class from the likely effects of fees in limiting access by lower class children to the English-medium schools, and (increasingly) to the rest of the secondary schools in town. The outcome of all these changes is complex, because the effect on government schools is very different for the junior high schools and for the intermediate colleges. The junior high schools, urban and rural, have been almost completely abandoned by the middle classes. Admission is from the surrounding neighbourhoods only, and costs Rs 6 per month. In Bijnor town, all three are dominated by Muslim children (70 per cent, 100 per cent, and 52 per cent), and the third, in the midst of police housing, also has a sizeable SC representation (17 per cent). They cater largely for the urban poor.19 On the other hand, the competitive-entry government intermediate colleges are still used by the children of urban shopkeepers, traders, petty professionals, class 2 and class 3 government servants and the like, as well as students from the landholding rural middle and upper classes. Their fees are rising steadily. In Bijnor


Roger Jeffery, Patricia Jeffery and Craig Jeffrey

town, the numbers of pupils admitted to the government intermediate colleges have fluctuated, in part according to the willingness of the principals to withstand pressures from parents and politicians at the time of admissions. Nonetheless, the class and community mix of pupils seems to have become increasingly restricted. Table 1.4 shows the much more limited representation of Muslims and SC children in these more expensive and better equipped schools (only 42 per cent of government intermediate colleges and 36 per cent of the aided colleges). Tables 1.5 and 1.6 give odds ratios for SC and Muslim children attending different kinds of schools in Bijnor urban area, by school class: unfortunately, several unaided Hindi- and English-medium schools either did not maintain or would not provide pupil data by caste and religion. Despite these gaps, however, the tables confirm the general picture, that the schooling sectors that have, historically, been most ‘friendly’ to Muslim and SC children, especially girls, are those that have suffered most in the past 10 years. The tables also suggest that the extent of social diversity within the secondary school system is not high and is declining. Even in aided schools, Muslims are going to Muslim-dominated schools, and Hindus to Hindu-dominated schools; these tendencies are exacerbated in unaided schools. SC children currently go to either, but this may not continue for long. If we want to see reduced difference and hostility between communities, this is a highly undesirable trend. It should also be noted, however, that education is increasingly detached from schooling (through the enhanced roles of tutorials and coaching institutes, for example) and we do not know enough about how far these represent new forms of social segregation or of social mixing.

CONCLUSION The Nehruvian vision has not failed completely. Between about 1950 and 1990, although the scale of secondary schooling was smaller than it might have been, and dominated by middle class, urban, upper-caste Hindu boys, some benefits spread beyond these relatively advantaged sectors. Others who benefited were some girls (mostly also urban, middle-class Hindus, but also some Muslims and SCs). Even after 1990, the efforts to increase the schooling of girls in general have reduced educational inequities somewhat. But poor, rural, lower-caste Hindu and Muslim girls had hardly begun to access decent subsidised schooling

Social Inequalities and the Privatisation of Secondary Schooling


before government and aided schooling began to decline in quality and rise in cost. Their partial achievements are fast being eroded. In the 1970s and 1980s inequalities of opportunity and outcome may have reduced slightly, in so far as they allowed access to secure government employment. They were also years when agricultural real wages were probably rising. Following the liberalisation of the Indian economy, however, the urban and the rising rural middle classes have been able to return inequalities of opportunity and outcome to the kind of levels they were at in the 1970s or before. As parents in government and aided intermediate colleges, and as parents, entrepreneurs, financiers and managers in unaided institutions, they have watched the decline of the average government and aided secondary school with indifference, reserving their efforts for élite government and unaided schools. As the aided schools have declined, the middle classes have withdrawn their children and used their rising incomes to pay for their own children’s schooling and to invest in schooling the children of others as the educational market has exploded. Whereas the government and aided schools offered some opportunities to the poor and marginalised up to 1990, they are increasingly now offering only ‘cooling out’ functions, and ghettoisation. Our focus on Bijnor, however, underplays how far the children of these small-town professionals and rich peasants are themselves unable to compete with graduates from the much more sophisticated and expensive English-medium schools in Meerut, Dehra Dun or Delhi. It is also true that some parents regard the more socially homogeneous schools (like madrasahs or Ambedkar schools) as more desirable than the more socially-mixed schooling of the mainstream, in that their children would not experience harassment from the teachers or other pupils, nor would they find their religious or cultural beliefs and identities being devalued by aspects of the informal curriculum. Agricultural and urban surpluses have been invested in educational credentialism rather than agriculture or manufacturing in the 1990s and 2000s. English-medium schools, pressures to roll back the state, and the inability of the UP state both to raise new resources and to spend them on secondary schooling, have all played their part in the privatisation that has taken place despite the absence of any clear policy decision to ‘privatise’ education. As state provision has stood still (or retreated) in the face of growing demand, the state has permitted the growth of private schools to take up the slack and has turned a blind eye to the eating away from the inside of the ‘state socialist’ principle of schooling being free (or almost free) at the point of contact.


Roger Jeffery, Patricia Jeffery and Craig Jeffrey

Although the class, gender and community implications of these changes are only slowly emerging, equity and efficiency seem even further from being achievable. Without any attempts to reverse these processes, the current distribution of pupils among these institutions, by caste/community, and by gender, by school class and by kind of school, suggests that inequalities are likely to increase rapidly. The UP state, with its extreme fiscal crisis and its low historic valuation of education, seems unlikely to make any difference to this situation in the foreseeable future. Other possible sources of change—the central government, international donors, or community activism—may be no more successful. Certainly, if the experience of primary schooling is relevant, the situation of western UP is not propitious for any changes of this kind to emerge. In a society with extreme differentials of wealth and income, the state’s steady withdrawal from secondary schooling and relegation of the secondary schooling market largely to the private sector will tend to entrench these inequalities. The schooling system and the credentials it provides might seem to pose a challenge to the direct reproduction of social and economic inequalities heavily dependent on parental economic assets—but social reproduction is still largely ‘direct’ in practice. Extreme inequalities are only very imperfectly masked by the apparent equality of opportunities provided by publicly-subsidised schooling systems. Whether the poor and excluded will see through these masks has yet to be seen.

Notes 1. The Economic and Social Research Council (grant R000238495), Ford Foundation, and the Royal Geographical Society funded the research on which this chapter is based, and the Institute of Economic Growth, New Delhi, provided an attachment there in 2000–02. None bears any responsibility for this chapter. We are grateful to our research assistants, Swaleha Begum, Shaila Rais, Chhaya Sharma and Manjula Sharma, and all those who so readily answered our questions in Bijnor during October–April 2000–01 and October–April 2001–02. 2. Population data by religion by urban area since 1971 are not available. In Bijnor’s urban agglomeration, Hindus (government servants, professionals and wealthy farmers) dominate the new suburbs, though Muslims probably still dominate the urban core. 3. Over 200 such schools in the rural areas and small towns of the district form the bulk of the government provision for secondary schooling. Seven government upper middle schools teach to class 10. 4. Five more government intermediate colleges exist in Bijnor district, one co-educational, two girls’ and two boys’. 5. In all these colleges, some teachers are paid directly by the government, and the management committees are limited in the fees they can charge. In Bijnor district there were 74 government aided secondary schools in 2001–02, many co-educational.

Social Inequalities and the Privatisation of Secondary Schooling


6. Bijnor district has fewer (and less expensive) English-medium schools than more affluent and industrialised districts like Meerut, Muzaffarnagar and Ghaziabad; but most other districts in UP have fewer than Bijnor’s five schools registered with the Central Board of Secondary Education in 1999. There are very few central government employees in Bijnor and no special schools for their children. 7. See also Shukla (1992), a novel set in the 1960s in eastern UP, in which control over the Intermediate College forms a central part of local political manoeuvring. 8. Some aided schools were transferred to government ownership and management because of factional fights in their management committees. 9. The increase in aided secondary schools in Bijnor is because some schools that were the responsibility of the Elementary Schools Office were transferred to the District Inspectorate of Schools as they gained secondary classes. In UP as a whole, between 1978 and 1993 government secondary schools rose from 724 to 1558; aided secondary schools rose from 3847 to 4446; and unaided secondary schools rose from 298 to 840 (Kingdon and Muzammil 2001). 10. By ‘class size’ we mean the number of pupils in a particular school year. ‘Section’ refers to the divisions of that class into separate groups for teaching purposes. 11. The government denies that these positions will be made permanent. Unlike shiksha– mitrs appointed to primary schools, management of the vi-shay vi-sheshgya has not been decentralised to local education committees. 12. Non-government teachers also take tuition, but government teachers (including those on PTA or vi-shay vi-sheshgya contracts) can usually charge higher rates. 13. For primary schools a substantial proportion of the students registered as attending government schools, especially in class 5, probably attend unrecognised schools, and collect a ‘Transfer Certificate’ (TC) from the government school in order to enter a recognised secondary school. 14. The All-India Educational Survey (National Council for Educational Research and Training 1998) probably underestimates the proportion of rural children who are attending private primary schools, especially in UP, and, to a lesser extent, the proportion of children (whether urban or rural) attending private secondary schools. 15. According to a 1993 survey, 25 per cent of rural children aged 11–14 in Bijnor were attending unaided schools (Geeta Kingdon, personal communication). 16. We exclude a large madrasah preparing boys for higher Islamic education according to the curriculum of the Deoband Daru’l `Ulu– m. Most of these boys are boarders from outside Bijnor town. We include the junior high school on the same site under the same management. For more on madrasah education in Bijnor, see Jeffery et al. (2004). 17. A few schools may have opened and already closed. For six schools we have incomplete data on the caste and religious breakdown of students in classes 6–8 in 2001–02. In one school, classes are co-educational to class 5 but only for girls in classes 6–8; in another, classes are co-educational until class 8 but only for girls in classes 9 and 10. 18. In each case, the fees cited are for pupils in class 6 during 2000–01, and include admission fees and ‘donations’, where these could be ascertained. One school offers both English-medium and Hindi-medium classes, charging higher fees for the Englishmedium sections. From 1991 to 1999, students appearing in the CBSE 10th and 12th class exams from UP, MP and Orissa rose nearly seven-fold, much more than elsewhere (Central Board of Secondary Education 2000). In 2002, 14 per cent of the 15,296 secondary school students we identified in Bijnor town were in English-medium schools. 19. In Bijnor town and the two adjacent development blocks as a whole, 65 per cent of the student body is SC or Muslim.




CONTEXTUALISING EDUCATION EXCLUSION The 1990s saw significant policy and resource inputs aimed at achieving universal elementary education in India, and substantial progress was made towards universalising enrolment. Nevertheless, wider concerns remain about the nature and adequacy of current policy responses to the ‘exclusion’ of children from deprived groups such as Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). This chapter reports on research in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh that focused on the implications of access to formal school for first-generation learners, particularly Dalit (SC) and Adivasi (ST) children. Following Sen (2000b), I take ‘social exclusion’ to refer to how exclusion from social relationships can exacerbate people’s experiences of inequality, poverty and capability deprivation. I am concerned with forms of exclusion with constitutive relevance (caste-based exclusion from social relations) as well as those with instrumental relevance (education deprivation that has further impacts on other entitlements). Education offers an interesting site to assess projects for social inclusion or integration, given its powerful role as a medium of socialisation, social reproduction and material production (Kumar 2000). Kumar notes the increasing dominance of the state as manager of education and arbiter of what is valued in social reproduction, what constitutes knowledge, and how it should be transmitted—a process paralleled in other

Education Exclusion and the Developmental State


social arenas. Historically, this has resulted in the gradual decimation of local knowledge systems as recognised discursive structures and the marginalisation of subaltern identities (Talib 2003). Hegemonic understandings of society as internally differentiated and unequal were reflected in the state’s preoccupation with defining the ‘appropriate’ educational provision for different segments of the population (Balagopalan 2003; Sharma 2000; see also Acharya 1998)—élite English language education, vernacular language education for (some of) the masses. But the state’s dominance over education has not been unchallenged, because nationalist élites and other groups tried to maintain their own educational projects and forms of social reproduction, which resulted in ‘hydra-headed’ confrontation and spawned multiple resistances (Kumar 2000: 24). Sharma (2000) argues, however, that these represented struggles over ideas of knowledge, not over institutional form, educational standards and outcomes, or the ‘technology of education’ (Kumar 2000). The result has been weakly developed educational systems, and a history of exclusions arising from policy neglect. In recent years, the increasing role of the state in education has been accompanied by discourses of the ‘public’ and ‘universal’ good in which the institutions of the developmental state are considered crucial for promoting ‘modernity’. But to what extent are ‘modern’ principles—such as those of equality and equity enshrined in the Indian Constitution—encountered in state institutions such as schools? Do schools uphold them in the face of community-based norms of hierarchy and difference? The developmental state’s record in current attempts to achieve ‘inclusion’ is mixed. Moreover, new forms of educational provisioning construct different and often unequal opportunities for different citizen groups.



Despite improvements in Dalit and Adivasi literacy levels in independent India, they remain among the most educationally deprived sections of Indian society and their literacy rates still lag behind the general population. For SCs, the gap in 1981 was 18 percentage points and 15 in 1991. For STs, the gaps were 27 and 22 percentage points,


Ramya Subrahmanian

respectively (Nambissan and Sedwal 2002; see also Shariff 1999 for figures based on a NCAER survey conducted in 1994). The reasons for these continuing educational gaps and lags are still debated but broadly relate to the overlap between economic disadvantage and caste/tribe status and the disempowerment of Dalits and Adivasis in their relations with other social groups. By and large, commentators agree that the institution of caste has undergone significant transformation (Gupta 2000; Mendelsohn and Vicziany 1998; Weiner 2001). Some consider that this heralds the demise of caste, others that it reflects merely mutations and metamorphoses in the course of adapting to new social, economic and political events. Weiner (2001: 195), for instance, considers that caste ideology has been successfully challenged yet the lived social reality is one of persistent caste-based discrimination. This gap suggests that caste—albeit understood in a new way—remains a valid focus in social analysis in India and that caste is an important axis of inequality. For instance, in relation to social development, districts with high proportions of Scheduled Castes and Tribes (as well as Muslims) receive significantly fewer ‘desirable’ public goods, such as health care and education (Keefer and Khemani 2003; see also Banerjee and Somanathan 2001; Betancourt and Gleason 2000). While Dalits and Adivasis are still overwhelmingly represented in out-of-school populations, however, their rising literacy rates confirm the empirically observed increasing presence of Dalit and Adivasi children in school ( Jha and Jhingran 2002). How is the schooling system structured to accommodate the entry of large numbers of children from historically disadvantaged groups—especially Dalit and Adivasi children? And how do teachers, as ‘street-level bureaucrats’ (Lipsky 1980), engage with the new demands made of them? Understanding Dalit and Adivasi children’s educational prospects requires us to examine the dynamics of education exclusion and inclusion today and the impact of such children’s participation on social relationships within the school (as well as beyond). This I do by exploring Dalit and Adivasi students’ experiences of school though the lens of schooling ‘ethos’ and through pupils’ encounters with their teachers within the school setting. Whilst the developmental state has scored some successes in the project to bring Dalit and Adivasi and other marginalised children into the schooling system in large number, the conclusion points to some limitations and problems. In essence, I argue that these reflect a separation between enabling policies, on the one hand, and systemic policies, on the other, in the state’s response to education exclusion. I trace this

Education Exclusion and the Developmental State


distinction to a broader but implicit distinction in policy approach and analysis between economic explanations for exclusion and the cultural and relational dimensions that underpin it—rather than seeing these as inextricably interlinked.

POLICY DISCOURSES AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF INCLUSIVE SCHOOLING As Weiner notes, the constitutional vision of equality required the Indian government to be ‘broadly understood as an activist state that would do what the elite believed the market could not do in a developing country—accelerate investment and growth that would ultimately benefit all social classes’ (2001: 195). This symbolic terrain committed the state to a programme of redistribution and equity that included protecting citizens’ individual rights irrespective of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, and state intervention on behalf of some disadvantaged classes of citizens—the ‘socially or educationally backward’ (especially girls) and ‘scheduled castes and scheduled tribes’—to facilitate the achievement of wider goals of equality. Equality of opportunity through education, in particular, was seen as a vehicle for progress towards a casteless society. Subsequent education policies have developed within the broad parameters of this non-discriminatory and affirmative action philosophy, more explicitly since the National Policy on Education of 1986. It is, however, debatable how far this vision has endured the rejection of socialist planning and the policy shift towards a liberalised market economy, especially given the continuing (and widening) option for people to buy themselves out of the public system. Nevertheless, the state still develops affirmative action provisions—such as quotas for admission into secondary schools, colleges, medical and engineering schools—and has evolved policies to promote the educational access of targeted marginalised groups. Arguably, the state has the greater burden for translating policy into practice. Indian policy documents and schemes contain numerous references to the education of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and to the language of community ownership and decentralisation. In keeping with this discourse, the ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ (SSA) or ‘Schooling for All’ policy (Government of India 2000) defines itself as ‘an effort to


Ramya Subrahmanian

universalise elementary education by community-ownership of the school system. It is a response to the demand for quality basic education all over the country’. The SSA allows for wide-ranging interventions, including institutional reform (management and delivery), sustainable financing, community ownership and capacity building. In order to enhance quality and social change through education, the mobilisation of ‘disadvantaged groups in the planning process’ is emphasised and decentralised educational planning and community-based monitoring are promoted. The document proposes task forces to ‘monitor the participation of girls, SCs and STs’ and calls for improved resource targeting (hostels, incentives or special facilities, alternative schooling facilities in un-served habitations etc.) (Government of India n.d.). The SSA has been built upon by other innovative approaches of the 1990s, including the Madhya Pradesh Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS), launched in 1997. The EGS recognises that out-of-school children are overwhelmingly located in poor, un-served hamlets, and on the receiving end of unequal resource distribution. The EGS is thus premised on the view that deficiencies in public supply—rather than insufficient parental demand—are the main cause of educational deprivation.2 Inclusive schooling in contemporary education policy is thus structured around the broader trend towards decentralised governance, which itself functions highly variably in different states and districts (Raina 2002). This is the context in which I assess the ‘inclusive’ scope of current policy frameworks, in the light of Dalit and Adivasi children’s experiences in school today.

RESEARCHING THE ‘ETHOS’ OF SCHOOLING The research was carried out in 12 schools in two districts each of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. We wished to include reasonable cohorts of Dalit and Adivasi children. Thus, the schools were predominantly government schools, although the sample also included one private school, and two alternative or EGS schools, one each in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Cohorts were drawn from grades 3, 6 and 9 of different schools and matched with out-of-school children of the same

Education Exclusion and the Developmental State


ages. Because of constraints of space, however, this chapter reports only on some aspects of the in-school research. We developed the idea of ‘ethos’ as a conceptual tool to explore children’s schooling experiences and how these may contribute to, and be shaped by, life outside the school. I use the term for the ‘character’ or ‘spirit’, particularly the morality or ethics, of the customary behaviour that occurs in school—including the routine practices through which processes and patterns of inclusion and exclusion become ‘normalised’ and accepted. Bourdieu and Passeron (1990) use the term in their analysis of the interplay between schools and social relations of class, where they view schools as systems whose traits or predispositions are central to ‘the retranslation and relaying of the primary determinisms linked to social origin’, especially social class, as evident in patterns of examination results (1990: 87–88). Thus, ‘ethos’ enables the examination of how different types of social actors and relations interact with different types of institutions. Here, I identify three sites at whose intersections we can discern the ‘ethos’ of schooling: the community (particularly, caste), the institution (the school, education system), and the policy environment, within each of which I consider how their underlying processes and discourses bear on the inclusion of marginalised social groups into formal education.

Access Recent years have seen an increasing ‘demand’ for education because of changing aspirations and the recognition that education facilitates access to new opportunities. The Dalit and Adivasi parents we interviewed, whether in urban or rural locations, mostly said they were sending their children—boys and girls alike—to school so that they would gain the literacy and numeracy skills needed to function these days. Parents often commented that the time for illiterates like them had long gone. For some, it was crucial for their children to acquire the culturally dominant state and market language so that they could speak to officials properly. Others wanted their children to become employable and to achieve a sense of dignity. State policies that improved access were thus appreciated for promoting alternatives and opportunities for children, even if the schooling they received was modest. Employment prospects were uppermost in the minds of Dalit and Adivasi parents— but parental aspirations were often strongly gendered, and, predictably,


Ramya Subrahmanian

favoured males. Dalit and Adivasi girls in rural and urban schools alike usually dropped out of school by the end of middle school, if not earlier. Thereafter they mostly confined themselves to household chores. Parents did not face problems in gaining admission to the government primary schools for their children. Most enrolled their children at the start of the school year, generally paying a small fee ranging from Rs 2–Rs 5 and signing a form or having it signed by the teacher. Some children had enrolled themselves without their parents’ help. In most schools, children were subjected only to an informal test of age before admission. Gaining admission at middle and high schools was, however, less straightforward because school fees, caste certificates and other documents (transfer certificates, grade attainment certificates or mark sheets, residential certificates) came into play. Obtaining a caste certificate ( ja-tñ- prama-n-patr) was a formidable challenge. The applicant had to supply proof of residence in the area for 50 years (or a certificate from their original place of residence), obtain the signatures of five local people attesting to the applicant’s caste, the countersignatures of the Janpratinidhi or the local Parshad, and the patwari’s (registrar) affirmation of the applicant’s residential address—and then await the issue of a permanent caste certificate some six months later. Sometimes, these requirements were overlain with demands for higher school fees—school development fees, monthly fees and examination fees. Donations were also solicited from parents in many cases. In one high school, the School Development Committee (Shala Vikas Committee) decided the fees and donations annually. Rural Dalit and Adivasi parents considered the sums quite steep. They also complained about the apparently arbitrary variations from year to year, and claimed that they never saw the improvements on which their donations were supposedly spent. Not surprisingly, the direct and indirect costs associated with schooling continue to be a major reason why children drop out of school. Despite policy attempts to mitigate access difficulties, many schools appeared unable to retain their pupils in school. This situation is rendered more complex in urban areas, in particular, where there has been growth in the private school sector. In many cases this meant that parents and children could ‘choose’ between poor quality state schools and private schools of perceived better quality at higher cost. In Ujjain, however, government teachers had adjusted to the high drop-out by allowing children to move between government and private schools at will. Thus, children were often double enrolled, coming back to government schools when inability to

Education Exclusion and the Developmental State


pay fees at the private school threatened their education. This also enabled government teachers to claim high enrolment figures in their school and demonstrate the case for keeping their schools open. Two factors that condition the alignment of supply and demand are important for understanding the relational dimensions of education participation. The first is the influence that the culturally hegemonic language around the failure of government schools has on lower-castes’ perceptions of the public school system. Almost invariably, private schools are considered preferable to government schools. Appreciative as most Dalits were of the government’s commitment to education, they generally considered that private schools serve children’s interests more satisfactorily than public ones—a view derived from upper-caste parents’ views on the relative merits of public and private schools. Few lower-caste parents with children studying in government schools had either visited private schools or had any clear view of how private schools were superior—yet they spoke wistfully of what they imagined to be the better quality of the private school. It is worth noting that, in upper-caste circles, government schools are widely believed to have declined because of the influx of Dalit and Adivasi students. One Brahmin parent said, (t)his school is garbage. There are no studies in this school and the school does not even start on time. And amongst these there are very few Adivasi students who can really study. But what can we do? We work here, and there is only this school and so our children will have to go to school here. A second point that also emerged consistently was how aspirations for education are conditioned by lower caste parents’ self-perceptions about their place in the world. Dalit histories and present experiences of labour dominated the aspirations that parents articulated for their children. In Ujjain, for example, the Valmiki community engaged in its ‘traditional’ inherited practice within the modern state institution of the Nagar Palika (Municipal Corporation). Their cleaning work carried the stigma of an ‘untouchable’ past—and Valmiki parents did not want their children to continue with this form of livelihood. By contrast, the Bairwas had successfully broken away from their stigmatised traditional livelihood of curing leather: they had a history of formal employment in the textile mills, which was subsequently lost because of mill closures. Whilst education for their children was valued as representing a rupture from a


Ramya Subrahmanian

stigmatised past, Valmikis and Bairwas were positioned differently in terms of their ability to achieve their educational aspirations, and often this reflected inequalities in other forms of social and economic mobility. Also written into these constructions of mobility were the parents’ current economic conditions, which generally made it difficult for them to continue educating their children. Most of the marginalised rural Dalit and Adivasi communities depended on subsistence agricultural wages or cultivated their own small units of land. Their dependence on their children’s work in the fields and grazing animals was linked to an experiential recognition that formal schooling inferiorised manual labour. Thus, their children’s further insertion into schooling would have dire consequences, given their increasing impoverishment and the crucial importance of power and financial networks in gaining a formal sector job (Balagopalan and Subrahmanian 2003). This does not affect Dalit or Adivasi parents’ interest and keenness in sending their children to school—but their children’s ‘failure’ to learn and to secure jobs even when they manage to finish schooling requires many families to preserve their children’s abilities and inclinations towards manual labour. As a Korku parent explained, I make my son do both his school work as well as work in the fields and look after the cattle. What if he does not do anything with his schoolwork? Then I will be stuck with a son who does not know how to work in the fields. So I teach him both. I cannot help him with his homework but I do sit with him and ask him to count until 100 and point out his mistakes to him. These two aspects point to the complexity of the social relations of caste, shaped by relations of dependence either on the state or on upper castes for access to opportunities and to ways of defining ‘selfhood’. The way schooling is provided offers little to counter these forms of dependence, even where access to school, in line with parental aspiration, is improved. These are issues to which the next sections turn.

Governance as an Arena of Policy and Practice Wider structures of community-based governance, such as decentralisation, include school governance. The institutionalisation of governance in schools has become central in education policy discourse, yet

Education Exclusion and the Developmental State


it is generally weakly elaborated. In practice, the school and village education committees intended to draw parents into school governance were ineffective. Most schools had no lists of school education committee members, in others parents’ names had been included without their consent. Where school and village education committees existed, teachers disregarded them and voiced no sense of accountability towards their decisions. Committees seldom met and teachers did not promote them. Significantly, teachers blamed the committees’ failures on parental disinterest. In Madhya Pradesh, for example, the Jan Shiksha Adhiniyam (Peoples Education Act), 2002 addresses teachers’ accountability to the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and the Education Committee. Ensuring teacher and student attendance and the monitoring of learners’ achievements is the PTA’s responsibility—yet the PTA has no fiscal or disciplinary mechanisms for controlling the teachers. The Education Committee can withhold the salaries of teachers who fail to attend regularly, but it has no control over school finances, which might have given some real power over decision-making. At the primary level, the responsibilities of School Education Committees are limited to ‘access’, here defined as entry. Moreover, the historic burden of backwardness and untouchability that frames dominant upper-caste constructions of Dalit and Adivasi identities has not been addressed and education committees have no power to intervene when difficulties arise between upper-caste teachers and Dalit and Adivasi parents. In a few cases, Dalit and Adivasi parents complained to their local pancha-yat (local governance structure at village level) about the ineffective functioning of the school or the teachers’ late arrival in school, bypassing the education committee altogether. Barring one case, where Valmiki parents regularly scolded the teacher for excessive punishment, no communities had challenged the excessive penalisation of students. EGS schools offered a valuable counterpoint to the weak inclusivity of formal school governance structures, as their entire rationale rested on their supposed potential for promoting community ownership. In general, parents did seem much more comfortable in their interactions with EGS teachers, often dropping in to check on students, and the boundaries between the school and the community were far more porous than in regular state schools. This porosity was not always based on egalitarian foundations, however. In one Adivasi village, the parents of the students were mostly located higher in the social hierarchy and the teacher complained of his mistreatment at their hands.


Ramya Subrahmanian

Curriculum, ‘Hidden’ and Formal As Lipksy comments, ‘determining the nature, amount, and quality of benefits and sanctions’ provided by schools is a significant aspect of teacher discretion as a front-line or ‘street-level’ bureaucrat (Lipsky 1980: 13). What sort of world do teachers informally construct in their relationships with children? How do they treat them in school? And what kind of social environment do they create? Clearly the discretionary practices of teachers constitute ongoing transformations to the minimum everyday requirements of making a school function. Whilst I do not suggest that there is just one ‘system’, there are some common features that merit our attention. Teachers’ constructions of students’ ascribed learning potential (or ‘educability’) are integral to classroom transaction processes. In the schools studied, the notion of ‘educability’ was crucial to how the mindset of meritocracy and the phenomenon of caste come together to define the child’s very right to be in school. Almost all the schools exhibited serious forms of stereotyping with respect to Dalit and Adivasi children’s educability. The ‘polluting’ everyday lives of Dalit children in particular rendered their children less suited to the world of letters—they were uniformly regarded as academically weak simply because of who they were. The primary school teachers were almost all upper-caste, and they almost habitually invoked the notion of ‘educability’ to explain Dalit children’s academic performance. Teachers never explicitly referred to the innate inability of Dalit and Adivasi students to learn. Nonetheless, they mobilised all the connotations of ineducability to describe the children they taught—‘these children’s homes’ and ‘muhalla-’ (locality), they would say. Teachers often portrayed children’s home environment as an impossible one for children to study in and blamed parents for a lack of interest in their children’s education. One Brahmin woman teacher said: (t)hese Mehtars are illiterate or have very little education and because of this there is no ‘ma-haul’ (atmosphere, environment) in the house for studies. The parents drink and fight and are unable to help their children with homework. This school now has children of poor parents who do not care about their children.

Education Exclusion and the Developmental State


Another Brahmin teacher’s comments about Adivasi children’s ineducability took on congenital tones: Korkus will never improve. They will never learn to wear good clothes, oil their hair and have a bath before coming to school. I should cut their names and drive them out of here. Korkus are dirty, their parents are filthy and they will never change. I am tired of teaching Korku children because no matter how many times I explain and how many times I hit them nothing seems to go into their heads. I give them homework, which they can never do, and then they do not show up in school the following day. A rural middle school teacher remarked: (t)he children need an adequate environment at home in which to study. Most of the parents are illiterate and are not able to help the children with anything while at home. Forget help, they don’t even tell their children to study while at home. Here, instead of giving children books in their hand, Adivasi parents give their children animals to graze. Negative constructions on Adivasi children’s educability persisted even at the EGS-school specifically established to address the educational needs of Adivasi and Dalit students. The Dalit teacher spoke of the lack of potential of his Adivasi pupils, which he linked to the large parts of the day the children spent grazing animals: (t)he Adivasi child’s learning and comprehension abilities are quite low. There is no ma-haul for these children to study since they are all working. I teach them but their minds are on the animals they graze. They don’t understand the lessons. Their parents, instead of asking them to learn, ask them to graze animals. Teachers in another Adivasi dominated village disparaged parents with the widespread image of the Adivasi being ‘from the jungle’ and they linked this to an innate inability of Adivasi parents to take an interest in their children’s learning. In another school, teachers invariably framed children in terms of their caste identity, even on the rare occasions that they discussed a Dalit child’s good performance. There was


Ramya Subrahmanian

fairly consistent slippage in their narrative between the individual child and the ‘characteristics’ of the caste group to which the child belonged. They described Valmiki children in terms of particular characteristics— they ate meat, drank alcohol and came from families where gambling was accepted as an appropriate pastime. Only one school—a rural middle school where upper-caste and Dalit pupils studied together—managed to mitigate some of the more egregious effects of caste-discrimination. Teachers talked of children as weak or strong students, and did not allude to children’s abilities in terms of their caste-attributes. In an urban high school, teachers attributed the academic performance of ‘poor’ children to their need to combine schooling and work. Relationships between teachers and their students in this school were also relatively relaxed and they all drank water from the same matka- (earthenware pot). Teachers’ constructions of the Dalit child’s ‘identity’ were reflected in teacher behaviour that routinely ritualised differences between caste groups. Thus, it was almost inevitable that Dalit children would internalise a sense of low self-worth. In one striking example, the teacher asked the children to stand up in turn. He asked their name and father’s name. Does your father drink? Does your father gamble? Children who replied ‘no’ were asked the same questions in an increasingly loud voice, until they said ‘yes’, especially if they were from the Valmiki community. Moreover, corporal punishment was a normal and daily occurrence in most of the schools. Dalit and Adivasi children often said they were punished more than their upper-caste counterparts, sometimes being told why only after the punishment. Students were punished for not doing homework, disrupting the class, not learning a lesson by rote, arriving late for school, and even for not bathing and keeping their nails and hair too long. Individually, parents voiced reservations about the frequency and severity with which teachers hit and humiliated the children. Most parents would withdraw the child from school, or children would drop out rather than face what they regarded as unnecessarily severe corporal punishment. One Adivasi boy who had dropped out of a middle school, reported. I would get beaten every day. The teacher would say this is the ‘prasa-d’ [blessing] to help you memorise the lesson better. I remember once a boy had not done his homework and the teacher coloured his face white with chalk and then made him parade 400 yards from the school to the bus stop and back.

Education Exclusion and the Developmental State


One parent of a child in the same school said, ‘[o]ur children prefer to be grazing animals because there is no fear of physical punishment in this.’ In one Rajasthan school, a girl did not tell her family what happened in school for fear that they would withdraw her from school. This picture would be enormously depressing, were it not that children often did rise above their environment and strike bonds of friendship across caste. Children in most schools played and ate together, and implicitly supported each other—often even if they could not visit one another’s homes after school. Most children knew their families’ ‘rules’ about with whom they could eat. In one rural primary school in a predominantly tribal belt, however, children socialised with one another in school only in terms of a clear distinction between tribal and non-tribal children. In primary schools in particular, discrimination against Dalit and Adivasi children was systemic. None of the schools met the ideals of an inclusive institution with respect to educability, in the sense of systematically and deliberately engaging with what was needed to promote lower-caste and other disadvantaged children’s learning. Children’s resilience to caste stereotyping needs more probing—for we cannot assume that children internalise and deal with their responses to such regimes without emotional ‘costs’.

Teachers as Mediators of Learning and Learning Experiences Teachers’ conduct in their professional capacities—in their transactions with students during teaching—is also crucial to children’s experiences of learning. High quality pedagogical practices would go a long way towards eliminating the exclusionary practices we found in schools— although in themselves they would not guarantee that teachers remain free of discriminatory views about their pupils. Almost all the primary school teachers were much more vocal about the ‘ineducability’ of Dalit and Adivasi students than middle and high school teachers, perhaps an indication of the greater academic burden that they perceive in their duties, in which the boundaries between their roles as teachers and as local agents of the state are blurred. Liaison with the community, teachers’ bureaucratic duties in census data collection and in government literacy drives (particularly in rural areas) and so on, condition their attitudes to parents and students.


Ramya Subrahmanian

High school teachers drew stronger boundaries around their teaching and tended to see their role in more narrowly ‘professional’ terms, perhaps because of pressures to achieve results in examinations and because Dalit and Adivasi children have lower levels of transition to postprimary schooling. ‘Inclusivity’ in schools is affected by teachers’ strategies to manage the challenge of being ‘successful’ teachers: for instance, fear of falling standards often resulted in screening high school applicants to exclude those thought likely to bring down the school’s overall academic performance. Invoking academic merit often disguised embedded discriminatory attitudes—such as the view that Dalit students with no history of education would damage the school’s overall performance in examinations. High school teachers appeared to feel more accountable to students—but they generally considered community liaison work to fall outside their professional duties and sometimes resented parents’ demands for teachers’ attention. Teachers rarely had relationships with Dalit and Adivasi children outside the classroom or school. Teachers and students did not share food across castes. Few schools had extra-curricular activities that might have provided a formal space outside the classroom for relationships to develop—and few Dalits and Adivasis participated in schools that provided extra-curricular activities. Generally, classroom relationships were formal, with authoritarian teachers and (for the most part) quiet and obedient pupils. None of the teachers used innovatively inclusive teaching methods. At one high school, teachers simply read aloud from study guides and required students to write down what they said. Most of the students merely pretended to do so, as they had the same guides themselves. Few teachers tried to draw parallels between children’s everyday lives and the social science course, even when they seemed glaringly obvious—unless to disparage their pupils by highlighting their knowledge of caste-specific occupations. Moreover, teachers made no effort to organise the seating arrangements in the classroom to ensure that children who could not cope well academically could sit at the front. On the whole, children themselves chose where to sit. Sometimes a gender split was more conspicuous than one along caste lines, sometimes Adivasi and non-Adivasi children sat separately, sometimes the division was between local children and those coming from a distance. Sometimes, teachers themselves also made decisions that had an exclusionary impact. In one high school, formal classes were held only for two periods each day and students relied on after-school tuitions. Students

Education Exclusion and the Developmental State


were often encouraged—or even pressured—to take private tuition with their teachers to boost their performance. In one school, students who took extra tuitions reported being treated better by their teachers. Parents often believed their children would not pass without tuition. But rural children were usually at a disadvantage here: they could least afford the money to pay their tutor or the time away from helping their family with agricultural tasks. At best, then, most schools practised weakly inclusive pedagogies; at worst, strongly exclusionary ones.

Resources and Capacities as Explanatory Factors Resource scarcities, such as staff shortages, also affect children’s learning experiences. One rural middle school English teacher had been unable to attend the school regularly after becoming the Jan Shikshak Adhikari (Education Officer). His four colleagues would not take on his teaching load, and, consequently, less than 60 per cent of the annual syllabus was taught in class. In a government primary school, staff shortage resulted in the classes 3 and 5 pupils being taught by one teacher, who focused on class 5 because of board examinations, and deputed the brightest child in class 3 to read the lesson aloud to classmates. The teacher later wrote questions and answers on a small, shiny blackboard for the children to copy. Adivasi children had particular difficulty because they could not pronounce the Hindi well and were prohibited from speaking their mother tongue in school. High school teachers were often assigned— sometimes for many years—to subjects for which they had no training. A biology graduate taught class 9 social science on one school, while a laboratory assistant often taught language and social science. Teachers complained of having difficulty explaining concepts to the students and often preferred to avoid their teaching tasks by spending time outside the class.



Even if policy texts seem to signify ‘neutrality’ and non-discrimination, institutional and social practices may continue to obstruct their implementation. As Kohli (2001) notes, much of the rhetoric shaping the


Ramya Subrahmanian

symbolic frame of India’s developmental state has been radical in tone—yet practice has been conservative, with varied outcomes for different social groups. Despite an apparent commitment to expanding access to schooling, the policy philosophy and central and state government commitment to substantive equality and inclusion need to be questioned. An overly political orientation of policy implementation is apparent. Redistributive schemes have layered disprivilege within the disadvantaged by benefiting those with some political and economic capital already, rather than the truly marginalised. In the context of education, it is clear that the most marginalised remain those Dalit groups that continue to carry out stigmatised occupations. Further, affirmative action requires marginalised groups to retain their (stigmatised) group identities in order to access new resources and opportunities, which will tend to entrench and reproduce discrimination. Moreover, resource constraints have compromised the provision of equitable educational opportunity envisioned in the Constitution. Public resources have increased the range of schools available—but the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA, Schooling for All) policy has fragmented educational provision and diversified quality. These schisms are interpreted in different ways. On the one hand, internationally, the lower unit costs of the EGS model have been hailed as a model for fiscallychallenged developing nations. On the other, the Madhya Pradesh Government couches the scheme in a language of ‘rights’ and the building of deprived communities’ ‘ownership’ of their schools. By contrast, the nationally emerging debate revolves around the long-term equity implications of providing lower-quality resources to Dalit and Adivasi children. EGS schools have poorer infrastructure, less trained and qualified teachers, and tend to be dominated by only the poorest and most marginal children, which does little to promote social inclusion. Many critics object that meeting India’s fiscal challenge in this way has entailed using community ownership as a convenient ‘fig-leaf ’ to mask the entrenchment of social disadvantage (see for example Kumar et al. 2001). In the 1990s in particular, Dalit and Adivasi children’s access to school has expanded rapidly—yet their identities as Dalits or Adivasis still profoundly structure the quality of their experiences of school. Outside school, their caste status and their history of dependence constantly affect their ability to navigate the caste system. Successful individuals struggle to reproduce the advantage they have achieved. Inside school, despite the occasional triumphs of lower-caste principals or children

Education Exclusion and the Developmental State


with friendships across caste boundaries, caste largely prescribes how far children’s school careers might go, as well as their life choices thereafter. The teacher’s role in managing inclusion is crucial here. There are no coherent policy frameworks mandating schools to be inclusive environments or focusing on the content and quality of processes within schooling. Teachers are not required to view inclusion as a part of their mandate as educators and there is no common minimum set of values reinforcing wider commitments to inclusion. Moreover, the separation of schools as institutional sites of governance from community-based processes of governance has underemphasised the teacher’s role in managing processes of inclusion. Teachers bring their own particular and often ‘local’ set of social filters—caste, community, gender—to the classroom. But there are no normative standards for judging teachers’ performance or incentives for individual teachers that might moderate the impact of their identity ‘positionalities’. The underlying discourse at ‘street level’ is about addressing the ‘backwardness’ of Dalit and Adivasi children and that—rather than equality and equity—becomes the dominant idiom by which inclusion is rationalised. To cease to be backward by succeeding in school, the subordinate must assimilate to the school’s normative order by accepting the rules defined in the script of the dominant groups. There is no concession to—leave aside affirmation of—the world that Dalit and Adivasi children bring to school. Their languages are seldom recognised. The reference point for their own status is that of upper-caste groups. Assimilation defines their relationship with authority and their place in the dominant order—and moving from ‘assimilation’ to ‘inclusion’ is likely to be enormously challenging. In addition, current teaching practice is geared towards learners with the requisite ‘social capital’ (following Coleman 1988)—the support and resources that inhere in families and communities that enable children to function successfully at school. Most Dalit and Adivasi pupils are the ‘newly included’ learners. Teachers consider that most first generation learners the lack of ‘social capital’ that enables families to navigate the world of learning, engage with teachers and support the child’s learning process. Teachers often rely on homework to supplement their (often poor) teaching within the classroom, but homework is not feasible for children who cannot marshal the resources to complete their homework within the home. Teachers consider the link between school and home to be fundamental to the performance of their role—but the link is seen as dysfunctional for first-generation


Ramya Subrahmanian

learners, who are often considered ‘ineducable’ or unfit for classroom learning. Teachers’ encounters with ‘inclusion’ largely entail managing schemes (like midday meals) and participating in or conducting Village Education Committee meetings. Consequently, they consider that they are being asked to oversee a welfare project in what they understand to be a ‘meritocratic’ space. Teachers’ reading of these conflicting messages about their role with respect to inclusion results in professional demotivation. Further, forms of change in educational provision—alternative ‘EGS’ type schools, private schools—also undermine the incentives to provide good quality inclusive schooling within the state sector (if indeed they ever existed). Formal sector teachers are seeing an erosion of their status as professional educators, and increasingly believe that formal government schools are being treated as ‘fallback’ options, viable only for those who cannot afford to study elsewhere.

EDUCATION ‘FOR ALL’: THE POLICY CHALLENGE Despite an apparently strong commitment to Dalit and Adivasi children’s education, policy frameworks have tended not to articulate clearly what bases of exclusion the policies are to address. Implicitly, the participation of Dalit and Adivasi children is thought to be constrained by their ability to attend school (for example excessive distance from home or location in upper-caste areas, high costs) and by their lesser ability to be effective social actors (for instance in determining schooling matters). Thus, most measures targeted at Dalits and Adivasis have been ‘enabling policies’ that create environments for inclusion by facilitating children’s entry to school and by promoting community-based decision-making. Systemic policies, by contrast, would focus on the structuring, resourcing and management of educational systems from the vantage point of inclusion—but most schemes explicitly targeting excluded groups bypass systemic reforms. Moreover, policy frameworks provide no measures of progress (beyond narrow educational indicators such as attendance, transition rates and achievement scores), because the terms

Education Exclusion and the Developmental State


of ‘inclusion’ are not specified. Indian education policy is practically silent on the need for reforms in management, curriculum, teaching practice, and teacher education in order to address the operation of differentiation based on caste and ethnicity in the wider social context. Teacher training in India is not well adapted to enhance ‘inclusion’ by encouraging teachers to value and respect the local knowledge their pupils bring into school. Dyer et al. argue that teacher training in India reflects the international dominance of the ‘skills- and knowledge-based paradigm’ that leads to the imposition of ‘training devised by external and decontextualised “experts”’ (Dyer et al. 2004: 40). But teachers’ knowledge and skills and their application are ‘embedded in and shaped by teachers’ attitudes and beliefs, and those attitudes and beliefs themselves reflect contexts in which teachers have grown up, taken their professional training, and now practise’ (ibid.: 41). Thus, teachers deploy their own lenses and parameters for interpreting and reflecting the social world to their learners. Until teachers’ beliefs and the way they play out in local contexts are ‘recognised, explored, and their implications taken on board, current modes of teacher training through in-service training is highly unlikely to fulfil the explicit premise (and promise) of decentralisation—responsiveness to those local contexts’ (ibid.: 41). On curriculum reform, the SSA avoids making a specific commitment by saying that curriculum development will be decentralised to reflect local needs. The implications of distinctive languages for textbooks and teacher training are noted only with respect to Adivasis. The lack of systemic policies for inclusion also means that no connections are drawn between enabling and systemic policy measures that would link the school, teachers, and teaching–learning practices to the wider principles of equality that the Constitution, for example, envisions. Decades of successive administrative and policy approaches have built on weak foundations (Sharma 2000) and ‘root and branch’ reform will not be forthcoming. Questions need to be raised about what policy choices—for instance compensatory discrimination—tell us about the broader political economy within which they are embedded. Mendelsohn and Vicziany (1998) argue that these measures have functioned well precisely because they were bureaucratic and not controversial. Similarly, Keefer and Khemani (2003) suggest that access reform is more visible and easy to publicise, and possibly more attractive to political leaders than quality reforms. Jenkins argues that welfare


Ramya Subrahmanian

schemes often have more to do with enhancing the pro-poor credentials of newly elected governments than with welfare concerns: in a bid to defuse opposition to economic reform, governments introduce welfare schemes intended to ‘benefit groups whose clout might pose a serious threat to reform’ (Jenkins 1999: 185). Political expediency continues to delimit the space for meaningful social policy reform. Target groups appreciate many of the enabling policies put in place for their benefit. But we also need to address the qualitative effects of policies for inclusion, for instance, the changes in social status that might accompany welfare gains. Moving quality reform from the realm of the political management of social difference towards an egalitarian political philosophy is the biggest challenge facing social policy in India. Mendelsohn and Vicziany (1998) suggest that pragmatism rather than egalitarianism has altered civic cultures—particularly in urban areas—away from overt casteism. If so, what is the appropriate role for policy? What is the ‘symbolic’ thrust and value of particular policy choices aimed at promoting the educational participation of Dalit and Adivasi children? The role of the developmental state is at once crucial and a barrier to promoting inclusion within schools.

Notes 1. This chapter draws on research funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), UK that examined processes of education exclusion and inclusion on the basis of race and caste, in South Africa and India, respectively. The views expressed in the wider research project, and in this chapter, do not reflect that of DFID, but build on the work of a large team of researchers. They cannot all be acknowledged here, but I should particularly like to acknowledge Sarada Balagopalan and Crain Soudien. While the contributions of the entire team are gratefully acknowledged, responsibility for this chapter lies solely with the author. 2. A community without a primary schooling facility within one kilometre can demand a school (provided there are at least 25 learners in tribal areas and 40 learners in nontribal areas) and the state must respond within 90 days. The community must provide the start-up space for the school and the gra-m pancha-yat is empowered to appoint a local resident as teacher, provided their qualifications are adequate. The district administration organises training for EGS teachers, pays their salaries (which are much lower than the salaries of teachers appointed to formal schools), and provides teaching-learning materials. Many states have utilised this approach, including Rajasthan, and the EGS model is widely adopted under the latest policy framework for universal education.


It’s 8 a.m. and Hasmat has arrived in school a couple of minutes earlier. The walk from his house takes less than two minutes: he is seldom late because he knows that the teacher will send for him if she does not see him there. He watches as his teachers arrange cards showing the letters of the Urdu alphabet and hang them from a clothesline that cuts across the room diagonally. They then take out other materials from a steel trunk: broken slates, chalk, some notebooks, some storybooks. Taking advantage of having arrived early, Hasmat keeps one of the better slates and a storybook under his arm. Slowly the other children trickle in and Hasmat takes his place among them on the floor. Crammed for space in this 3m by 4m room the children make themselves as comfortable as they can. If they stretch their legs through the next four hours they risk kicking the person sitting next to them and if they raise their hands spontaneously to answer the teacher they might accidentally hurt the person in front. When this ‘school’ began in 2001, the inaugural munificence of this citywide initiative ensured that all new students received a jute bag, and some of these bags in various states of disrepair can be seen lying around on the floor. All of the sounds of this narrow neighbourhood lane packed with houses, people and animals seep into the school despite its closed doors. The sound of men in the workshop 2m away reaches them and interrupts the flow of the teacher’s instructions. Three hours later Hasmat rushes out of school and accompanies his uncle to the sandal workshop (chappal ka-rkha-na- ) where he will work for the next nine hours. A few miles down the road at the corner of the UNICEF office in Kolkata hangs the sign, ‘Let all children be school goers and there will


Sarada Balagopalan

be no child labourers’. Newspaper reports on programmes to enrol children in school eulogise the success of these efforts within the same school/labour binary that the signpost extols. Of late, the sentiment in the poster has become the rallying cry around the rehabilitation of marginal children. The ‘child-at risk’—the street child or the child labourer—is presently a pervasive presence in Indian cities, not in the obvious sense of their numerical proliferation but in terms of their appearing as a new subject of a moral discourse of ‘saving childhoods’. Such a discourse unfailingly mobilises both the neo-liberal state and the various actors of civil society: media, middle class private citizens, NGOs, Bretton-Woods institutions, donor agencies and corporate houses. The immense international, national and citizen support that campaigns to enrol marginal children in formal schools have received in recent times can be traced to the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. The Convention helped naturalise a modern bourgeois childhood as the norm against which all the everyday, discrete lives of children in various societies have now come to be measured and evaluated (Balagopalan 2002; Boyden 1997; Niewenhuys 1998). This has provided a new visibility—in the image of an aberration—to its implicit other, namely poor third world children who are viewed as having lost their childhood. These discourses produced images of reform aimed at normalising these poor third world children through locating them within the spaces of a bourgeois childhood. And one of the most significant of such spaces is the school.2 This space seems, in this imagination, to promise the magic of delivering full citizens out of the shadowy figure of the ‘child-at-risk’. Discourses of citizenship, the need for these children to exercise their rights and the language of entitlements provided these actions around education with their legitimacy and their common appeal. In Kolkata, this urgency to enrol all children in school and provide them with ‘access’ to education resulted in a citywide survey in 1999 that included interviews with parents as well as an assessment of the number of spaces available in existing government educational institutions (government schools and non-formal education centres). In the 141 wards surveyed there were 44,646 out-of-school children in the 5–9 age range. Among other things, parents were asked to give their reasons for not sending their children to school: their responses commonly focused on their inability to meet school related expenses (books, uniforms, etc.) and that school was ‘boring’, but they rarely said that schooling is irrelevant.

Education at the Margins


The survey was the first stage to setting up the Shikshalaya Prakalpa (SPK) programme, which is promoted as the country’s first unique partnership between government and civil society and the biggest and most comprehensive primary education project for Kolkata’s deprived urban children. SPK’s slogan is, ‘a school for every child, every child in school’. The urgency underlying the survey and the ensuing plan of action was to provide out-of-school children their right to education by transforming existing local community clubs into schools for a couple of hours during the day. The community club is a very common phenomenon in Kolkata and not necessarily restricted to poor neighbourhoods in the city. Young men usually set them up as spaces to hang out, celebrate festivals and provide themselves and the neighbourhood with a sense of identity. The SPK programme is managed by an ‘academic’ and an ‘administrative’ unit. The former provides intensive training for the teachers and develops teaching–learning materials. The latter liaises with the various NGOs throughout the city who are involved in setting up the club-schools and it takes care of the programme finances. Both units carry out once a month surprise visits in the club-school, with the ‘academic’ unit monitoring the quality of teaching and the ‘administrative’ unit checking the student and teacher attendance registers. Ward Number 28—where this ethnographic study was carried out—consists of 5,152 families and 5,480 children (3–14 years of age) of whom 2,103 are not in school. Twelve SPK schools and one bridge course centre needed to be established in the Ward. In the immediate vicinity of the club-school researched, 100 children aged 5–9 were out of school and the survey authorises the setting up of two new schools. There are already two Urdu-medium CMC (Calcutta Municipal Corporation) schools in the vicinity of these two proposed clubschools, but their enrolment rates are so high that no more children can be accommodated. Community clubs were to provide spaces for SPK schools in the very neighbourhoods (muhalla-s) where the out-ofschool children resided. The new schools would have ‘community’ teachers and be managed by local non-profits organisations. Thus they produced an ideal citywide intervention that appeared particularly effective because of its ‘community’ involvement and efficient because of the minimal costs with which vast numbers of children could be reached. The media lauded this combination of effectiveness and efficiency and several street children’s non-profit organisations in the city took the lead in setting up these schools locally.


Sarada Balagopalan

The transformation of these neighbourhood clubs into schools symbolises a particular historical moment in which the discursive dominance of a particular binary construction of children’s lives, produced by an international charter, becomes a shared image. The transformation of a child labourer into a school-going child allows for the production of an image of the child in school as a child with no history, only a future. Paradoxically, the affective production of this schooled future denies the child’s particular history, while simultaneously reifying this history in the empty sign of ‘child labourer’ to produce the desired effect. The higher moral good that this desired effect contains allows state and civil society to unite, with their earlier ontological animosity being temporarily displaced.

UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN’S EXPERIENCES IN SCHOOL The neighbourhood club-school in question was located in a narrow lane, less than a metre wide and with one-room concrete homes boxed next to each other in choking succession. Clothes drying on clotheslines tied across the lane were secured high enough to avoid them being eaten by the goats that families were fattening-up for Baqr Id. Some of the homes, like the one across from the club-school, served during the day as small workshops (ka-rkha-na- ) for making paper boxes and sandals (chappals). Here the domestic and the industrial merged, spaces were transformed depending on the clock and adults and children alike went about their day with a beguiling precision. The lane was always crowded with people, animals, occasional bicycles, and the more regular cycle-vans that carried the finished sandals and the paper boxes away from the neighbourhood. Even though one of the main streets connecting the north and south ends of the city plied its course less than 50 m away, the lane seemed impervious to the noise and the anonymity of the city. The men worked in the local small ka-rkha-na- s, with their assembling process spilling out into the alley where the glue was kept hot over a kerosene stove and the finished boxes were piled high, each box revealing its final destination through the label that dressed its front. The sandal workshop spilt out less because it employed fewer individuals—there

Education at the Margins


was usually one master and a couple of children sitting inside a room where the leather was laid out on the floor and painted over with ‘milk’ (a white-gluey solution that cured the leather), after which it was dried and cut. Most of the older boys at the club-school worked at these sandal ka-rkha-na- s after school. Sahib, an 11-year-old regular student, had begun this job two months earlier and was still learning to put solution on the leather: he had been introduced to this particular ka-rkha-naby his maternal uncle, who worked there as well. His parents lived an hour outside the city and Sahib had been sent to live with his grandmother and uncle in the hope that he would learn a vocation as well as attend school. Rashid, another 11-year-old student at the school, had been working at another sandal ka-rkha-na- for about a year, putting solution and ‘milk’ on the leather as well as writing the sandal’s size on the leather. Rashid’s father was also involved in making sandals and had introduced Rashid to the ka-rkha-na- . Gabbar, also an 11-year-old student, also appeared to be doing well at his ka-rkha-na- : within the span of three months he had already learnt to attach the heel to the shoe. The money the children earned was important, but not significant enough to determine the jobs these children took up. Naushad— another 11-year-old—earned the highest weekly salary of all the boys at the club-school cleaning plates in a hotel and working the same hours as his peers in the workshops. He was, however, neither proud of his income nor his job, and nor did his peers envy him, even though he earned much more than they did. All the children were aware that cleaning plates was a menial dead-end job in which no prospective marketable skill was to be gained. What appeared more crucial for these children was whether a job ensured the gradual learning of a particular skill. Working in a sandal workshop, with the accretion of skills through the gradation of tasks, was considered the best of possible job opportunities for boys within the neighbourhood economy. Moreover, the paper-based industries required paper-cutting machines, but the sandal workshop mostly functioned as an assembling warehouse where tasks were completed manually and dexterity was at a premium, and there was no requirement to invest in machinery. Getting a job in the sandal workshop relied on contacts that epitomised the trust that the family had gained over the years through working in a particular establishment. This is the symbolic capital that the young child inherits when introduced to a particular place of work.


Sarada Balagopalan

The girls who attended the club-school were most often part of the gendered informal economy of the household, where they helped their mothers earn a livelihood through piece-rate work, in addition to doing multiple household chores. Three sisters in the school—ranging from nine to 11 years—regularly helped their mother make bñ- dñ- s (cigarettes) at home and roll them into bundles. Some older girls helped their families by folding paper into books and sewing them. Two girls were domestic servants and resided in the houses where they were employed. Girls said they usually worked the entire afternoon and into the evenings. Moreover since they mostly worked at home, girls began informal work at a much younger age than did the boys, who began working in the ka-rkha-na- s at around 10 years of age. Contrary to popular myth, however, the survey revealed that the gender difference in school enrolment rates in this predominantly Muslim area is marginal. For the boys and girls alike, long working hours did not appear to compromise their unflinching enthusiasm for attending the club-school on a daily basis. Of the 50 children in its attendance register, about half have been with the school from its start and have no prior history of schooling elsewhere, although they are roughly between 10 to 12 years of age. The rest of the children are significantly younger and are often accompanying their siblings to school. From the outside, the club-school looked like any other concrete one-room home, though its unfurnished interior looked larger than the neighbouring houses. The space was the children’s from 8 a.m. till noon. Soon after this, they were ushered out by the Integrated Child Development Services programme (ICDS) staff, who began setting up the space to cook khichrñ- (rice–lentil dish) for the younger children of the neighbourhood. During the day, a giant carom board was leant against one wall—but the school children knew not to use it. During evenings, weekends and holidays, the older men to whom the club ‘belonged’ set up the carom board and passionately played for hours on end, with numerous onlookers—including some of the young school boys—cheering their shots. Not all the children arrive at 8 a.m. and the teachers often spent the first hour of the school day sending older children to call the younger ones from their homes. A steel trunk in the corner of the room houses the less than elaborate equipment in the school. The children who arrive early, like Hasmat, help the teachers with the daily unpacking and setting up of the school space. The room has a stationary, though largely worn out, blackboard that is still used by the teachers, as is a

Education at the Margins


clothesline on which teaching aids are strung. The younger children work on slates while the older students have notebooks and pencils, all of which are provided by SPK. The club-school also has textbooks for classes 1–5. The children seated on the floor jostle with each other for space and often the playful beginning to such elbowing slowly turns into contentious loud arguments that tend to disrupt the regular flow of teaching. After most of the children have arrived, the school day begins with a prayer from the Qur’a-n Sharñ-f, that the teacher recites and the students repeat after her. After this the day is divided up into half hour periods until 11 a.m. This routine is fairly consistent except for the one day of the week when the children have a drama period. The children often plead with the teacher to extend this beyond the half hour allotted so that they can make up their own skits and act them out along with the movie songs and accompanying dances that they have recently added to their repertoire. On most days, however, the half hour periods are distributed between the learning of the Urdu alphabet, learning basic maths and reciting various nursery rhymes. The teachers are also mandated to include one hour of playtime after three hours of learning in the school day. This takes place in the same space through board games, most of which, however, have been used several times and have ceased to retain the students’ interest. Instead, on a daily basis, they vie with each other for a game of carom to be played on a board that is diminutive when compared to the large one leaning against the wall. The ‘academic’ unit of the SPK generates and distributes teaching– learning materials and runs a mobile library for the club-schools across the city. It has a prior reputation of having done excellent work with poor children through a variety of pedagogic techniques. A conversation with members of this ‘academic’ unit reveals the ambitious and innovative pedagogic practices that govern their approach and it utilises this expertise in the training of SPK teachers. The two female teachers in the club-school live in the neighbourhood, one since she was a child, and the other since her marriage in the mid-1990s. The former had studied until class 8 and the latter has a class 10 certificate from a local government high school. Both have participated in a 30-day intensive training for ‘community’ teachers offered by the ‘academic’ unit of the SPK. The pedagogic practices instilled during the teachers’ training aim to make classroom learning child-centred and child-friendly and community teachers are trained in a variety of techniques (including group


Sarada Balagopalan

work), and provided with materials that would allow each group to work at its own pace, based on skill level. Despite the best efforts of the teachers, however, they cannot meet the aim of transforming the club space because innovative pedagogic techniques cannot be utilised in a confined space when 50 students of differing age groups and differing academic skill levels have to be managed simultaneously. The clubschool is structurally unable to accommodate the pedagogic desires of the SPK programme. However well simulated within the space of the training, the pedagogic techniques fail to have the desired effect within the club-school. According to the teachers, children are too distracted and often too young for self-instructional materials. These child-friendly materials are used instead during whole class instruction and further reinforced when the teachers attend to students individually through setting and correcting class work exercises either on their slates or in their notebooks. The teachers commented on the training as a space in which it was difficult to bring up the reality of their teaching environments because they were discursively positioned within it as individuals without adequate academic and teaching skills. The training programme constructed their primary identity as members of the ‘community’ rather than as teachers and, unsurprisingly, the transformation that the training programme comprised placed all intellectual agency in the hands of the trainers. While the ‘academic’ unit conceptualised the pedagogic techniques and materials aimed at retaining the poor child in school, they concomitantly valorised the ‘community’ identities of the teachers as the best way of ensuring full enrolment and regular attendance. The teachers were well aware that their primacy lay in guaranteeing the presence of children in the school—and the unannounced monthly inspections and the surveillance exercised by the attendance register only reinforced this aspect of their functions. The teachers’ authority was proportionate to the number of children present in class and a full house during an inspection gave them the liberty of incongruous responses and an opportunity to invert temporarily the hierarchy intrinsic to inspections. This did not in any way mean that the teachers did not teach in the school. Their improvised teaching routines, their accommodation of children’s tiredness during Ramza-n, their awareness of each child’s skill level and trepidation or lack of it when made to recite in front of the class, their ability to factor in an emotional disturbance in a child’s family life while instructing the child—they integrated all of this into

Education at the Margins


their classroom techniques. In effect, this could happen only because the teachers’ relationship with the students had existed prior to the school. Ties of kinship extended into the classroom, with students referring to the teachers as ‘pa- ji’ (aunty) instead of the more often used ‘Miss’, although these terms were formalised into teacher–student identities during the monthly inspections. On a daily basis, however, it was hard to maintain a strict demarcation between school/home/ neighbourhood in the club-school. The teachers’ and students’ constant awareness of this made the disciplinary instrumentality inherent in pedagogic techniques like group teaching appear alien, rather than allowing for an alternative pedagogy to emerge.3 As a result, even though everyday instruction in the club-school appeared random and chaotic, children did learn—but teachers and students alike knew to reserve the performance of their roles as authority-bearing teachers and docile (though alert) students for the surveillance of the monthly inspections. When the older children were asked how they found out about the school, they spoke of the teachers coming to their homes and telling them that a ‘garñ- b bacche ka- school’ (a school for poor children) was going to created in the neighbourhood club and that they should enrol. Needless to say, these teachers were not trained to use the term ‘garñ- b bacche ka- school’ to interest local people in the new school. Both teachers were clearly aware that this citywide programme had state backing (and was therefore not an NGO effort, although they had been appointed by the local NGO). The state and civil society institutions involved in the programme believed that adequate focus on the quality teaching of the standardised state curriculum would bring about the necessary metamorphosis of the club-school. So what lay behind the teachers’ reluctance to call it a school? The teachers were made responsible for ensuring enrolment into this new space of the club-school. They had possibly felt a certain sense of discomfort in calling the space a ‘school’ without qualifying the term when they met with parents and children, because they recognised that for the community the myth of ‘school’ exceeded the SPK initiative’s capacity to implement a uniform curriculum. Paradoxically, whilst believing that hiring ‘community teachers’ would add greater legitimacy to the schooling initiative, the state did not anticipate that the teachers’ reciprocal relationships with the community might complicate their impersonal loyalty to the state. The teachers’ prior relationships with and within the community in which they were required to teach did not allow them to advocate this new


Sarada Balagopalan

school through discourses of academic opportunity and promising futures, as the state desired. The SPK initiative had visualised that ‘community teachers’ would provide the desired authenticity and legitimacy to its citywide efforts. In all likelihood, it had not anticipated such mediated announcements of the new school by these teachers. When I tried informally to gauge these children’s thoughts about their school experience, they usually responded that the teachers taught well and that they were learning but that this was not ‘a real school’. Not completely sure of the politics of my daily presence at the school, they were on their guard while responding to my casual asking. Their cautiousness, however, extended only to the teachers and not the space of the school. They made sure that I did not mistakenly conflate the two. ‘The teachers are strict here and because of this we learn regularly—but this is not a real school’ was the almost script-like response I received. This protectiveness was most in evidence one afternoon when the children decided to accompany me to a non-formal education initiative between the police and an NGO reputed for its innovative pedagogic work with the poor. It is another example of the potency that the idea of educating poor children has gained in the past decade. In the normal course of events, the police detest and are detested by these poor communities but here they are seeking to establish a benign presence by educating the community’s children in a school adjacent to the police station. And the innocence symbolised by the children’s tender age allows this programme to be named ‘Nabo Disha’ (New Direction)— with the history of police brutality and the community’s criminalisation elided within this space of ‘education’ that held out the promise of creating a citizen–subject and his/her concomitant deference to the law. The children were surprised by the size of this permanent, though recent, school space that allowed the room to be divided into three separate classes. Each class was equipped with a blackboard and an almost embarrassing excess of teaching–learning materials hanging on the walls. After our brief visit, I broached the topic of how this school compared with their own club-school. They responded, ‘We have not got a sense of how the students learn there. Our teachers are strict and teach well and they make sure that all of us learn.’ An obvious reading of the children’s idealised ‘real school’ would be that they desire to inhabit a space whose appeal is enhanced by the fact of their exclusion from it. The children portrayed this absence through their drawings and descriptions of what an ideal school should be.

Education at the Margins


They drew tall buildings neatly divided up into various floors each of which had separate classrooms with a fan, a light, desks, and a blackboard with the teacher standing next to it. Najo divided the page into half and on one side drew a playground outside the school with children playing football and on the other a classroom that had a cupboard, a clock, a teacher’s desk and a blackboard with the Roman alphabet written on it. Nagma’s drawing had the teacher pointing to the board on which the Roman alphabet was written and the students sitting attentively behind their desks. In addition she drew, as if compiling a list, all that she thought a school child required: a tiffin-box, a schoolbag, shoes, ribbons, socks and a uniform. Rehan drew a school with a vendor (chattpatti wallah) outside the building. Nahid drew a spectacular building, something between a palace and a prison, with several types of windows and gates and its interiors remaining hidden from view. Murshid said it was imperative that a strict discipline be maintained in the school and that students could be promoted from one class to another only after writing an annual examination. Their drawings and descriptions matched the most ubiquitous description of ‘school’ and their never having been part of such a space did not preclude their strong sense of it. When I asked if they had had any interaction with this space of their ‘real school’, the girls responded that they often stood outside the windows of a private school in the neighbourhood and watched the teacher instruct students sitting at desks. The danger of being caught by the school’s gatekeeper gave their gawking the added pleasure of risk and they spoke of incidents when they had to flee as fast as they could. The students in the private school were the more well-to-do children from the neighbourhood, who could be seen every morning walking to school with their backpacks and water bottles. The 8-year-old son of one of the club-school teachers attended one such private school and came to the neighbourhood club every day dressed in his uniformed best to drop off the house keys for his mother. The aura of the disciplinary architecture and the ‘schooled other’ with uniforms, bags and ribbons signifies a ‘real school’. This hegemonic understanding is intrinsically linked to physical structure and accoutrements and it precedes, and thereby precludes, the pedagogic transformation of the familiar space of the neighbourhood club—despite the best intentions—into the disembodied real school. The individual child’s understanding of the abstract space of the real school is accomplished socially and the club-school is unable to live up to the image that


Sarada Balagopalan

‘school’ invokes. The neighbourhood club’s organic relationship to their own lives, their intimate knowledge of its interiors, the space’s lack of a certain disciplinary sacredness and the teachers’ prior lives as housewives in the neighbourhood—all of this failed to give the new ‘school’ its necessary authority. Had the school been a dedicated building, its separateness would have served as the marker for its neighbouring spaces as well as for the students who walked the narrow lanes to its doors everyday. Instead, the club-school played multiple roles depending on the time of day, and this multiplicity prevented it from assuming certain permanent characteristics. Although the club-school failed to take shape as a ‘realschool’, its students asserted that they learn there. They appeared happy to be in this space, happy with the teachers, happy for the opportunity to play with their friends whom they otherwise would have met only on Sunday when the workshop is closed. They understand this schooling experience as the learning of only basic literacy skills, however, and not something in which they visualise a transformed future. Contrary to what the poster hanging outside the UNICEF office would have us believe, the club-school has not successfully transformed these working children’s identities into schooled subjects. This transformation appears intricately tied to the influence of the materiality of the school space on the students’ self-formations and this has been intrinsic to how schools have been used as sites to create specific types of schooled subjects.4 This failure to convert the working child into the schooled ideal only aids in reinforcing the necessity of the familiar: the child’s further absorption in the world of labour as the only possible training for a future occupation. For the neighbourhood’s working children, the workshop appeared to provide a more tangible possibility within which to imagine their futures. In Learning to Labour, Willis (1977) argues that the culture of the working class lads contributes to their taking on manual jobs and that this culture is experienced as affirmation and true learning. By analysing the formation of subjectivities within the frame of the lads’ school and work experiences, Willis documents how the counter culture of these working class lads mimics the culture of the shop floor. While the community I studied in Kolkata desired formal schooling for their children, the children’s subjective dispositions were formed by the objective realities that defined their sense of the everyday. By interpreting their schooling experiences as learning basic literacy skills, these children effectively foreclosed their transformation into the ‘schooled ideal’ and began to assert themselves through their workshop identities and the

Education at the Margins


futures that these made available. This was demonstrated in the boys’ response to the standard question of what they wished to become when they grew up: most said they wanted to work in the workshops like their fathers. A poor child’s insertion into a regular school space often results in alienation from the family and from the labourrelated tasks undertaken by them and this symbolic violence has been adequately documented (Balagopalan 2003; Talib 2003). Despite their 2-year insertion into this ‘regular’ (in terms of the statewide curriculum taught) school space, however, these children’s subjectivities have not been transformed into the schooled ideal and this failure allows their work in the workshop to become increasingly naturalised as the realm of objective possibilities. These children, just like the ‘lads’ in Willis’ narrative, can relate to the workshop as a self-affirming space.



The club-school is similar to several other attempts throughout India to set up one-room schools for marginal children. In Kolkata itself, in addition to the planned 600 SPK schools, there are an additional 100 Shishu Shiksha Kendras (SSKs) in the process of being set up as well. In several ways, SSKs are very similar to the SPK schools and are managed by the pancha- yat department (with help from UNICEF). To meet the need for primary schools in the state, the department is in the midst of setting up 11,000 SSK’s in West Bengal. The declining standards of government schools in the country have assumed mythic proportions. What is interesting, in this particular historical moment, is how the neo-liberal state has ingeniously distanced itself from this decline through discursively shifting the blame onto tenured teachers. As with discourses on public sector inefficiency and sloth, contemporary popular opinion is vocal about the pathology of government schoolteachers and their lack of commitment. Government teachers have come to embody the non-functioning of an entire system, thereby making self-evident the need for a new set of disciplinary mechanisms to secure the commitment of new teachers. This ‘talk’ of the pathology of tenured teachers, juxtaposed with the neo-liberal state’s


Sarada Balagopalan

very public efforts to educate all children, morally justifies the state’s establishment of alternative schools with less qualified, low paid and untenured teachers. In 1999, Amartya Sen established the Pratichi (India) Trust with the aim of working towards ending illiteracy and improving health care, with a focus on women and girls. The Pratichi Education Report (Rana et al. 2002) focused on 18 primary schools and 17 Shishu Shiksha Kendras in the three districts of Birbhum, Medinipur and Puruliya in West Bengal. In his introduction to the report, Amartya Sen includes among the ‘positive features’ of the study (on primary education in West Bengal) the ‘dedication’ of the SSK teachers. Sen compares this with the lack of performance of primary school teachers, and he highlights their high remuneration when compared with the SSK teacher’s salary of Rs 1,000 a month. He points out how SSKs have been able to attract ‘able’ teachers and adds that ‘there is clear evidence that this innovation has opened up an important new possibility’ (ibid.: 5). The report’s focus on tabulating percentages to represent the empirical realities of schooling in the villages studied, skilfully evades any discussion on the novelty of the SSKs as a factor that probably contributes to its perceived success. The scheme had been in existence for only three years and was located within a regime that has largely ignored government primary schools as a site for pedagogical innovations. Instead this ‘new possibility’ has, with the much-needed endorsement of prominent individuals like Sen, gained enough legitimacy for it to be included in the draft Free and Compulsory Education Bill 2004, which attempts to provide legal teeth to the 93rd Amendment that made elementary education a fundamental right (Department of Education 2004). No other country in the world, including poor developing countries, has legally institutionalised a two-tier system to guarantee a child’s right to education. Yet in India, these ‘transitional’ schools, along with ‘regular’ schools, form part of the ‘approved’ schools in this draft Bill. Section 27 states that these transitional schools will exist only for three years, but it also includes another provision that the life of these schools can be extended—on an annual basis—with special permission. Within the present politics of schooling the marginal child, then, these one-room schools are legitimised. Moreover, ironically, the idea of ‘community’ is both valorised and vilified. The draft Bill allows for decentralised planning in which the community is represented at every

Education at the Margins


level (valorisation of community), but it also contains a provision (Sections 33–34) that any person who violates the child’s right to attend school has to pay a fine of Rs 1,000, while protracted violation of this right can lead to trial by the district magistrate under the criminal law (vilification of community). Although the draft Bill also recognises the child’s right to earn a living, it quite ingeniously manages simultaneously to read the child’s non-attendance at school as primarily due to child labour—which provides grounds for filing criminal charges. This compulsory provision in the draft Bill leaves very little room for the ‘community’ to contest the state’s inequitable provision of these school spaces for the poor. Instead, the community’s role in the decentralised committees becomes largely one of policing teachers. In effect, community participation helps operate and maintain this two-tier system. In other words, while the ‘empowered community’ exercising this surveillance function ends up legitimising the space of the school, members of that same ‘community’ who do not send their children to this compromised school space are liable to be fined and tried under criminal law. The prevailing representational economy of an ‘ideal’ childhood, sustained and validated as it is by its material absence in the life of poor children, inevitably frames all efforts at educating poor children with a certain nobility. At least something is being done to alleviate the ‘brutality’ of their lives. To criticise would therefore be tantamount to wanting these children to continue to suffer. This new visibility around children’s right to education not only relies on the hegemonic understanding of schooling as an unproblematic good, but skilfully utilises the current urgency underlying this commonsense view to legitimise a two-tier system of schooling. The draft Bill, with its compulsory attendance clause, would require all children to attend these less than equal schools, irrespective of how they relate affectively to this space and variously interpret the ‘quality’ of education being provided. The persistent image of the ‘real school’ will no doubt cause difficulties in their abiding by the compulsory attendance law. It will be interesting to keep an eye on how these future infringements of the law are articulated and analysed, for these infringements will provide the spaces within which to insert issues of affect into future debates on educational equity—thereby, perhaps, adequately complicating the reductive labour/schooling binary that dominates current discourse.


Sarada Balagopalan

Notes 1. I would like to thank Patricia Jeffery and Radhika Chopra for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper. 2. The current self-evident existence of this child labour/school binary masks the protracted history of making it a reality in the West in the 19th century (McCann 1977; Simon 1965). In the Indian context, as recently as 1986, the National Education Policy stated that, given the impossibility of enrolling these children in school, non-formal education programmes were more desirable (Government of India 1992). Non-formal education was viewed as more flexible than formal schools, and therefore could structure itself around these children’s lives and interests. The childhoods of these marginal children were understood as irretrievably lost, and therefore well-esteemed civil society initiatives, up until the early 1990s, wove a realm of possibilities around socialising these marginal children into normal, self-sufficient and industrious adults. 3. In India, the success of NGO efforts at setting up alternate schools in which community teachers are involved usually arises from their ability to train teachers to innovate based on their own classroom practices and to react to the specificities of the local cultural ways of knowing that children bring into the classroom. The innovative pedagogic techniques devised for the SPK, however, did not base their innovativeness on the specificity of the neighbourhood but rather on a homogenous understanding of techniques through which poor children might more easily learn. Therefore, whilst the ‘techniques’ that SPK teachers employ appear innovative when compared to a standard school, these ‘techniques’ lack a situated cultural understanding of the specific locale and also indirectly disempower teachers from devising their own ‘techniques’. 4. The particular utilisation of space can be seen in the work of educators like Tagore, Gandhi, Pestalozzi and Rousseau. Their pedagogical practices, linked to the production of a whole person, did depend on a particular utilisation of space in its broadest sense. Needless to say, the utilisation of particular spaces and/or space in a particular way in their work is intrinsically opposed (and is a reaction) to these children’s ideas of a ‘real school’. The utilisation of a particular spatiality is also evident in the factory schools set up for working children in India in the early 20th century. For example the school for working children set up by the Buckingham and Carnatic Mills in Perambore, Madras in 1904 was located in the vicinity of the factory and had classroom spaces fitted with various machines used in different parts of the mill, with their English names printed on the foot of the machines to familiarise children with their names and the work associated with them.


For the preservation and promotion of ‘values in education’, it goes without saying that the form assumes as much significance as the content—that is to say, the language in which a particular set of values is communicated is of comparable importance to the matter being conveyed. The issue is made more complex because no language is intrinsically neutral: as a vehicle for education, it adds to the content of its subject all its cultural, historical and—less overtly—ideological weight. As a marker of identity and pillar of a distinctive culture, a language is both a vehicle of tradition and of change. Moreover, the choice of a particular language as a medium of instruction is fundamentally articulated both at the general level of a specific political context and social environment, and at the individual level as a reflection of personal preferences. That is why the language issue remains a favoured object of enquiry for socio-linguists, historians and political scientists. Who speaks a language, with whom, for what purpose and in what environment are some of their core questions (Blanchet 2000). Furthermore, in a country like India, with its billion people and its thousand tongues, its substantial illiteracy and its complex history, its bewildering social stratification and its poverty, the problem of the promotion of the ‘correct’ values in education is magnified a hundredfold. Almost any of the major Indian languages could serve as an illustration of this argument. In choosing Urdu, my purpose is to indicate the major forces that in general affect language policies in education and to show how these forces constrain policies and public discussion of policy alternatives. In the process, this chapter will illustrate how state authorities use educational language policies to manipulate access to language rights


Anne Vaugier-Chatterjee

and language education and misuse language policy for the purposes of political and cultural governance—in short, how language policies in education help to create, sustain or reduce political conflicts among different linguistic groups. Another dimension of this argument relates to the link between local policies and programmes in language education on the one hand and global processes such as the colonisation/decolonisation process and the seemingly inexorable spread of English on the other. Or, to put it differently, how can indigenous peoples and other language minorities develop educational policies and programmes that serve their social and linguistic needs in the face of significant pressures exerted by more powerful social and ethno-linguistic groups?1 India has always been a multilingual state in which a subtle but distinct hierarchy of languages provides space for a diversity of competing tongues and dialects. India has often been described as a Tower of Babel and with reason, since out of the thousands of languages and dialects spoken in the country, the 1991 census gives details of 114 recognised languages and no less than 216 mother tongues (Language in India 2001) The Constitution itself recognises 22 languages (Constitution of India 2002). Nevertheless, linguistic policy as practised and a sequence of historical circumstances have significantly affected the position of some of them. Urdu, with speakers in all the states of India (according to the 1991 Census, 43.3 million), shares with Sindhi the peculiarity of being largely ‘de-territorialised’, for it does not have a single state of its own to promote its development, with the exception of Jammu and Kashmir. After independence, the issue of language and identity led to the re-drawing of boundaries in both south and north India. Promoting the cause of Urdu, Zakir Husain had launched in 1952 a nationwide mobilisation in favour of the carving of a territorial space in northern India, where Urdu could become the state language. In 1955, the States Linguistic Reorganisation Commission published a report charged with political overtones. It recommended further amendments to the Constitution to accommodate the needs of linguistic minorities and the reorganisation of state boundaries on the basis of language. At that point, the minorities were particularly concerned about the use of their languages and scripts as media of instruction for their children. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra were the first states to come into existence on linguistic grounds in south India, followed by the Punjab, whose boundaries were re-carved in 1966.

Urdu-Medium Schools in Delhi


Urdu, however, as the most spatially dispersed language in India, could not be territorialised. It forms the second largest linguistic group in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, as well as in some parts of West Bengal. In any case, Urdu is the mother tongue of less than 50 per cent of India’s Muslims. Except for regions of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra formerly under the rule of the Nizam of Hyderabad, the mother tongue of most of the Muslims in non-Hindi regions of India is the regional or state language. Even in the Hindi-speaking regions, the mother tongue of most Muslims is likely to be the local language—Bhojpuri, Awadhi, Chhattisgarhi—and not Urdu. Further, after partition, Urdu has been even more stigmatised by being generally associated with neighbouring Pakistan, another multilingual state of which it was declared the national language (Rahman 1996). To quote Paul Brass, After Partition, however, there was no question any longer of making significant concessions to the Muslims on the language issue and the status of Urdu and the Persian–Arabic script became quite incidental to other matters concerning the official language or languages in the country (Brass 1990: 136).2 Thus historical, political and social factors have contributed to the peculiar situation in which Urdu finds itself in contemporary India.




Urdu—literally the ‘language of the camp’—was paradoxically for a long time the language of the élite and the vehicle of literature and culture in northern India. Urdu evolved in Delhi and its surrounding areas in the 11th and 12th centuries. It derived its vocabulary from a variety of sources—Hindi dialects, Persian, Arabic and Turkish and its ability to absorb a variety of elements contributed to its richness. Towards the end of the 18th century, it functioned as a link language of India and had produced a vast body of literature that was never restricted to the discussion of Islam. On the contrary, Urdu is distinguished from other languages in India by having an early literature that made room for secular themes (Faruqi 2001).


Anne Vaugier-Chatterjee

Since the 1920s, however, Urdu has been subjected to a steady and progressive decline within India. The passage of Urdu ‘from the mainstream to the margins’ (Misra 2002) has drawn attention both to the structural causes at the root of its decline and to the mental framework of its students that has led to their disaffection with it. Historians, sociologists and linguists have all observed that Urdu has been increasingly shunned since independence by the children of Urdu-speaking families of even the so-called Hindi belt of northern India. The reason may be its ‘conflation’ with Muslims in India, who are disproportionately poor, and inadequately represented in education, professions and government (Metcalf 2003). There is no linkage between Urdu education and the market economy. Urdu is not a permitted medium for all competitive examinations. Urdu is not integrated into the world of information technology. In the south, Urdu seems to have been a victim of the sustained anti-Hindi agitation that bloomed in the 1950s and has not fully abated even yet. As has been noted, fierce linguistic battles— and the intense politicisation of the language issue in a multilingual culture—have marked the significant phases of both the country’s struggle for independence and its development as a whole. For these reasons, Urdu—though a lingua franca across the sub-continent, then and now—was not accorded the status it would have deserved in India. Francesca Orsini has recently analysed how the politics of language started way before independence in 1947 by establishing a new hierarchy of languages. She argues that at the turn of the [20th] century … Hindi activists … used the ostensibly neutral pragmatic and scientific arguments in favour of Hindi and of the Devanagari script to discursively delegitimise other claims and to deny the reality of Hindi’s subordinate status in its own region—subordinate to English and, in the minds of the IndoMuslim elite, to Urdu as well (Orsini 1999: 410). The differences that had developed in the colonial period came to the fore and were strengthened by partition. Furthermore, despite conscious political efforts at the centre not to equate language with religion, it cannot be denied that there are—and have always been— more Muslim than Hindu speakers of Urdu. Muslims have also been identified as independent India’s most educationally disadvantaged religious community. A very large number of them tend to lag behind economically as well. From the very first, a social stigma was added to

Urdu-Medium Schools in Delhi


the religious stigma. Thus, Urdu came to be increasingly identified in north India with Muslims and the newly created state of Pakistan. Urdu in short became ‘a victim of Indian history’ on the sub-continent. Nevertheless, the preservation of the plural languages and cultures of India was centre stage at the time of India’s independence. The framers of India’s Constitution in the late 1940s recognised the intrinsic ‘value’ of each constituent of the country’s composite culture. Thus both the access to and the preservation of a language were considered a fundamental right. Article 29 of the Constitution provided guarantees in which ‘culture’, though not precisely defined, could generally be understood to include language, religion, traditions and customs. In addition, according to Article 350-A, it shall be the endeavour of every state and every local authority within the state to provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother-tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minority groups and the President may issue such directions to any state as he considers necessary or proper for securing the provisions of such facilities. According to Article 350-B, there shall be a special officer for linguistic minorities to be appointed by the President. It shall be the duty of the special officer to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for linguistic minorities under the Constitution and report to the President upon those matters at such intervals as the President may direct and the President shall cause all such reports to be laid before each house of Parliament and sent to the governments of the State concerned. In order to provide facilities for teaching a minority language or mother tongue, the state education ministers evolved a scheme as early as 1949. Subsequently, the Union Education Ministry, in consultation with the states, formulated the much talked about ‘three language formula’. As enunciated in the National Policy Resolution of 1968 and reiterated in the National Policy on Education in 1986 (Ministry of Human Resource Development 1998), this formula provides for the teaching of the mother tongue, of Hindi and a third Indian language. In practice, however, it becomes the teaching of the regional language, Hindi and English. The formula unrealistically recommends the teaching of one


Anne Vaugier-Chatterjee

modern Indian language (preferably one of the southern languages) in the Hindi-speaking states. This clause simply has not worked for Urdu speakers. The major grievance of the Urdu-speaking linguistic minority is that their children have been de facto denied the facility of mother tongue instruction since independence. As a result, many children from Urdu-speaking families learn the regional language instead of the mother tongue as the first language at school. The question here is whether this reflects a deliberate neglect motivated by political compulsions, or whether this is the inevitable consequence of the structural malfunctioning of one component of the educational system. The state at the central level has tried to address the doubts of linguistic minorities arising from their awareness of the inadequacies of the ‘three language formula’. Accordingly, the Centre set up a Committee for the Promotion of Urdu, that reported in 1975 (Gujral 1975). It recommended a modified form of the three language formula. In Hindi-speaking states, it proposed (a) Hindi (with Sanskrit as part of the composite course); (b) Urdu or any other modern Indian language except Hindi and (c) English or any other modern European language. In non-Hindi-speaking states, it proposed (a) the regional language; (b) Hindi; (c) Urdu or any other modern Indian language excluding (a) and (b); and (d) English or any other modern European language. The Gujral Committee also proposed, as an alternative for the Urdu-speaking population in the non-Hindi-speaking states, the version of the three language formula that was being implemented in Andhra Pradesh: (a) Urdu and Hindi (a composite course); (b) regional language; (c) English or any other modern European language. The Gujral Committee felt that no matter which formula was worked out, it was the state’s responsibility to ensure that students were able to study their mother tongue as well as the official language of the state. It has been argued that there is so much commonality in the vocabulary and linguistic characteristics of Hindi and Urdu that it would be easy to teach both languages in the same classroom despite their different scripts. The common cultural history and literary traditions shared by Hindi and Urdu as well as their differences could permit the exploration of India’s composite cultural heritage (Jafari 1990). This view is not uncontroversial, however, for the issue of the Nastaliq script for Urdu and Devanagri for Hindi remains central in the debate on the future of Urdu. Some believe that the transcription of Urdu into Devanagri could be a way to preserve the rich heritage of Urdu literature—but others are strongly opposed to this. Matthews, for

Urdu-Medium Schools in Delhi


instance, asserts that ‘Urdu and its script are really one and the same thing and cannot be divorced from one another’ (Matthews 2003: 65). As early as 1949, a Muslim member from the Constituent Assembly had raised an outcry against the imposition of Hindi—in effect against the recommendation that proposed teaching in the mother tongue, which was defined as the regional language and not as the ‘real’ mother tongue (Constituent Assembly Debates 1949: 881–83 ). Despite such protests, Hindi was declared the official language in Uttar Pradesh— the cradle of Urdu—under the Official Languages Act 1951. The UP Education Board declared Hindi as the sole medium of instruction and examination at the high school level. In the same breath, the state government decided to stop aid to Urdu-medium schools. At the time, Nehru made a plea in favour of ‘Hindustani’ as the expression of Hindu–Muslim syncretism and he pointed out that the acceptance of Urdu as a second language would not hinder the growth of Hindi— but he could not overcome the resistance of the leaders of UP (King 1997; Rani 2004). In 1964, the year of Nehru’s death, a government publication emphasised the specificity of Urdu as a ‘link language’ (Noorani 2003: 288) between the Muslims of the various states of India, who in addition to their mother tongue or regional language also learn Urdu. It further argued that non-Muslims also enriched Urdu literature and that Urdu was strong because, instead of having a firm but limited hold in any special corner of India (as is the case with the other Indian languages), it wields a pervasive influence throughout the country. Ironically, the publication merely echoed the arguments used earlier in defence of Hindi. This official view was not received enthusiastically, as can be seen from a contemporary study of Muslims (Husain 1965) that argues that the economic depression in which Muslims of the higher and middle classes found themselves also cramped their cultural and educational life. An additional difficulty that they had to face in the Hindi-speaking states—one that made their cultural crisis even more acute—was that Urdu was not only being pushed out of courts and offices but also being banished from schools: ‘in the 18th and 19th century, Urdu had been the common cultural language of Hindus and Muslims … but now in the Hindi states, especially in Uttar Pradesh, it looked as if the teaching of Urdu to children would be stopped because generally in government schools, Urdu was jettisoned from the syllabus’ (ibid.: 132–33). The process of marginalising Urdu had been launched. This was


Anne Vaugier-Chatterjee

confirmed a quarter of a century later. Two other factors may be added to the lack of support from the government and the politicisation of the issue of recognition of Urdu as a second language in UP after independence: the indifference of the post-independence generation of Urdu speakers in north India and the impact of market forces on the future development of the language. Urdu teaching in schools has been under scrutiny since independence, and more so in the 1990s. This is a fallout of its downfall from a lingua franca to a minority language. Keeping in view the larger debate on educational values, this chapter explores these general observations by using Delhi as an illustration and paying particular attention to the factors that have led to the ghettoisation of Urdu in a linguistic as well as a social sense. The choice of Delhi is all the more legitimate because it has been one of the historical centres of Urdu culture. Further, Urdu is one of the three official languages of the government of Delhi, and Delhi hosts many institutions promoting the cause of Urdu. As the country’s capital, Delhi reflects in microcosm the state of both the times and the nation.




In Delhi, the declared Urdu-speaking community was estimated at approximately half a million people (512,990 in the 1991 census). This represents about 5.4 per cent of the population, roughly proportionate to the number of Urdu speakers at the national level. The recommendation of the mother tongue (and, thereby, of Urdu for some) as the medium of instruction is part of the 1973 Delhi School Education Act. It formally echoes the recommendations of the National Policy on Education (1968) that stipulates that ‘at the primary stage teaching in a school shall, as far as practicable, be in the mother tongue of the child unless the parents or guardian of the child requests otherwise in writing’ (Ministry of Human Resource Development 1998). Certainly, as for Hindi or any other Indian language, it is difficult to achieve the ideal of teaching in the mother tongue. The literary Persianised ‘highbrow’ Urdu taught in schools would not always be understood by the children whose mother tongue would be a more colloquial Urdu closer to Hindi in its vocabulary. But the reality, in any case, differs substantially from the official guidelines. In the schools of the capital,

Urdu-Medium Schools in Delhi


the three language formula in practice becomes Hindi as first language, English as second and Sanskrit or any minority language as third. In the third category would also fall Punjabi, Sindhi, Bengali, Malayalam, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Persian, Kannada, Arabic and Marathi as well as Urdu—all languages of the linguistic minorities in the capital. In schools run by minority managements, where the medium of instruction is also the minority language of that community, the first language taught is the minority language. One of the complaints made by Urdu representatives about the implementation of the three language formula is that the facility for learning Urdu is generally provided only to students whose mother tongue is Urdu. There are very few non-Urdu medium schools where Urdu is being taught as a modern Indian language under the three language formula. Articles in periodicals such as Islamic Voice, the Economic and Political Weekly and the now defunct Muslim India have discussed the issue, but they are no substitute for surveys. According to a recent survey by the Government of India, the number of primary schoolchildren with Urdu as their mother tongue has been estimated at around 60,000 in Delhi (this estimate was based on the all-India average of 11.7 per cent in the age group of 5–9 years) (National Council for the Promotion of Urdu Language 2002). The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has only 76 primary schools (classes 1–5) that provide education to 22,857 children through the Urdu medium, implying thereby that, at most, only 40 per cent of school-age children with Urdu as their mother tongue are attending Urdu-medium primary schools. This contravenes the proviso that the government should provide facilities for teaching in the mother tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to a linguistic minority. Regarding the intermediary stage of education (classes 6–8), the Act of 1973 stipulates that for children studying in the middle stage, the administrator shall, as far as practicable, make suitable arrangements for imparting education through the mother tongue of such children and for this purpose may open or cause to be opened new sections or classes in any school and if this is not feasible open or cause to be opened one or more new schools so that arrangements may be made for teaching through the mother tongue of such children (Ministry of Law Justice and Company Affairs 1973: 82–98).


Anne Vaugier-Chatterjee

The situation is worse at the elementary and secondary levels. In Delhi, there are 15 schools under the Delhi Administration, 7 aided schools and 3 schools of the NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Corporation), which officially have Urdu as the medium of instruction at the elementary level. Only 13 out of these 25 schools go up to the secondary level. These schools have an intake capacity of 3,932 students at the level of class 6. Actually, many of the primary schools that have Urdu as the medium of instruction are feeders for Hindimedium secondary or senior secondary schools. This means that a student who has studied in the Urdu-medium school till class 5 has suddenly to switch to Hindi-medium instruction thereafter (National Council for the Promotion of Urdu Language 2002). The number of pupils in the above category is estimated at 10,920, or about half (47.7 per cent) of the 22, 857 children who are educated in their mother tongue in the 76 MCD schools. Of the 76 MCD and nine NDMC schools, 37 do not offer Urdu as a medium at all. For the children, the shift to another language at the age of 10 is not easy and may explain the rise in the drop- out numbers after the primary level. The infrastructural problem is evident. Out of a total of 2,387 primary schools, only 85 under the NDMC are Urdu-medium. This represents a little over 3.5 per cent of the total number. The number of schools at the middle, secondary and senior secondary levels is officially numbered at 2,201, of which only 25 are Urdu-medium (1.13 per cent). The total enrolment in Urdu-medium schools is 20,897 (15,135 in government schools and 5,762 in aided schools) at the secondary and senior secondary levels, while the number of children in the eligible age group (12–14 years) who have Urdu as their mother tongue can roughly be estimated at 33,000. MCD schools are spread over 12 zones, and in seven zones there is not a single Urdu-medium school. Uttamnagar, Mongolpuri, Mustafabad, and Chandbagh, for instance, are all Urdu majority areas without Urdu-medium schools. At the senior secondary stage, the Delhi School Education Act stipulates that: ‘Hindi shall be the medium of instruction at the senior secondary stage, provided that in the case of a senior secondary class in a school run by a linguistic minority, education may be imparted in such class through the medium of the language of that linguistic minority’ (Ministry of Law Justice and Company Affairs 1973: 82–96). ‘Where the Administrator is satisfied that by reason of the number of students having a mother tongue other than Hindi, it is necessary to do so, he may open one or more sections or classes in an existing school for

Urdu-Medium Schools in Delhi


imparting education to such children through the medium of their mother tongue and where the opening of such new sections or classes is not feasible, he may open or cause to be opened one or more new schools for imparting education to such children through the medium of their mother tongue’ (ibid.: 82–96). When we look for Urdu-medium schools amongst the sarvodaya vidyalayas, the figures are revealing: of the 316 sarvodaya vidyalayas in Delhi only four are Urdu-medium (1.26 per cent): Sarvodaya School (boys), Noornagar, Okhla; Sarvodaya Girls’ School, No. 2, Zeenat Mahal, 1st shift, (district north); Sarvodaya Boys School No. 1, Jama Masjid (district central); and Sarvodaya Boys School, Pataudi House (district central).

INFRASTRUCTURAL INADEQUACIES The absence of a comprehensive state policy for the recruitment and in-service training of Urdu teachers is crucial to the devalued image of the type of education imparted in Urdu-medium schools. Teacher recruitment is done by the general Staff Selection Board and therefore is not made on the basis of different media of instruction. In any case, it is hard to find suitably trained Urdu-medium teachers these days. It has been noted in government surveys that some Urdu-medium schools have a very limited number of teachers—and sometimes even teachers who do not know Urdu—to teach subjects like science and mathematics. Zeenat Mahal Secondary School, Lal Kuan, for instance, does not have any science and mathematics teachers for classes 6–10. The number of primary school teachers to teach 22,857 students is only 492, which places the teacher/pupil ratio at 1/47. That ratio, more or less true for all government-run schools, bodes ill for quality education. Another crucial factor for the quality of education in Urdu is teacher training. Although five seats are reserved for Urdu-medium students in the B.Ed. courses of the central universities of Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia, no special training for teachers in Urdu as a medium of instruction is available.3 The State Council for Educational Research and Training (SCERT) does provide in-service training to teachers of the schools under the government of Delhi, but it is simply not enough. According to a report of the National Council for the Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL), one school had 24 and another had


Anne Vaugier-Chatterjee

15 posts of Urdu teachers that had remained vacant for several years (National Council for the Promotion of Urdu Language 2002: 9). There is a shortage of at least 150 teachers in 27 secondary and senior secondary schools (ibid.: 9). As the level of proficiency in Urdu of some of the Urdu teachers in Delhi’s government schools is also questionable, most Urdu-speaking students opt for Hindi-medium at a later stage of their secondary education (Interviews, Delhi Teachers Association, August 2002). Another general complaint is that most of the inspecting staff of Urdu-medium schools in the states, including Delhi, does not know Urdu. How such staff could appreciate the problems of Urdu teaching or of teachers and students, and how they could provide proper guidance are obvious and disturbing questions. In view of such complaints made by Urdu speakers, the Gujral Committee had made a few recommendations that have not yet been implemented. Among them, it had suggested that an Urdu-speaking joint director (Urdu) be appointed in states with sizeable Urdu-speaking populations like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and the (then) union territory of Delhi to look after the educational problems of the linguistic minority of Urdu speakers. In states other than those mentioned above, an ‘Urdu-speaking officer of appropriate status should be entrusted with the job’ (Gujral 1975: 68). The issue of inspection, however, has not yet been addressed with any of the seriousness the Committee had specified. For instance, in 20 years of his career, the general secretary of the Delhi State Teachers’ Association and the Urdu Subject Teachers’ Association, Delhi (coincidentally the same person) has not seen any inspector for Urdu schools. General inspections are conducted once a year, but these are general inspections and not meant exclusively for Urdu-medium government schools. Another major stumbling block in the promotion of Urdu is the insufficiency of Teaching and Learning Material (TLM). Only officially does the existing set-up provide for the required TLM, for official reassurances are belied by reality. In December 2001, while inaugurating an All-India Urdu Conference organised by NCPUL, the union minister for Human Resource Development, Murli Manohar Joshi, pointed out that the budget for the promotion of Urdu had been increased eightfold within three years (Press Information Bureau, 2001).4 Recalling the importance of Urdu in India’s history, he asserted that Urdu would be further developed, along with India’s other major languages. As an

Urdu-Medium Schools in Delhi


illustration of the government’s commitment to the development of the Urdu language, he added that all NCERT textbooks were already available in Urdu. In this context, it is not really surprising that government officials also assert that there is no dearth of Urdu textbooks. The principals of most government and aided Urdu-medium schools do not share this view, however (the principal of Sarvodaya Vidyalaya No. 1, Jama Masjid was one exception). Most principals say that the supply of books is erratic and that books are made available very late, almost six months after the beginning of the academic year. Most of these textbooks, translated from English, are not up to standard. The Urdu terminology for the social and physical sciences is also an irritant brought to the fore by the Committee of Experts on Urdu consulted by the government. The lack of textbooks and the shortage of Urdu-medium teachers inevitably have an adverse affect on the performance of the students. For example, in Zeenat Mahal School, 78 girls of class 10 failed in mathematics and science examinations for which textbooks in Urdu are not available. This situation was repeatedly denounced in the press after investigations reported by the Forum for Friends of Education, a platform for the uplift of Urdu-medium schools. Their devastating though controversial survey—under the supervision of Firoz Ahmed Bakht, Atyab Siddiqui and Iqbal Malik—argued that the debate on Urdumedium schools needs to be placed in the broader framework of the general situation of education in Delhi (Bakht et al. 2002).5 Urdumedium schools are at the bottom of the scale of ill-reputed government and government-aided educational institutions: ‘Let alone furniture and decent buildings, the shameful paucity of textbooks in Urdu tends to render farcical all discussion on the subject for the improvement of these schools’ (Rajan 2002). The lack of coordination amongst the managing bodies, teachers and parents is also recurrently denounced. This brings us to the fundamental issue here: namely is anybody genuinely concerned today for the survival of Urdu?




As the state seems to have abdicated its responsibility for preserving and promoting Urdu, the only way out seems to transfer this responsibility to the community concerned. This, however, begs the question: who in


Anne Vaugier-Chatterjee

the Urdu-speaking community wants to fight for the survival of its endangered language? This vexed issue brings centre stage a recent controversy amongst Muslims on the stereotyped image of the Muslim community as backward and out of tune with the rest of society. A widely-publicised article denounced Urdu school textbooks, published for the maktabs of Jamia, for usually depicting either lower middle-class or utterly poor Muslim households. The head of the family is at best a white-collar peon or clerk, and others tend to be tonga-va-la-s, grass-cutters, labourers and workers. The living environment is simple and rural with animals, chickens and goats (Alavi 2002). The premium is on high moral training—on inculcating the values of honesty, friendship and secularism. But why do only Muslim lives constitute the focus of the entire series of Urdu learning books? Why is only a lower middle-class lifestyle chosen as representative of Muslim lives in India? Of course, the majority of Indian Muslims do lead lower middle-class lives, so even if these textbooks seem completely out of tune with the representation of contemporary India, they do reflect the state to which Muslim society has been reduced in post-independence India. But this negative image of the backward Muslim is now largely confined to the textbooks for maktabs (ibid.). Fortunately, it has disappeared from the NCERT textbooks provided to Urdu-medium primary schools, although stereotyped images of Muslims are still conveyed in films, stories and, of course, the ideologically motivated press such as Organiser, the organ of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). This ‘image d’Epinal’, a naive and distorted depiction of reality, can be a consequence of the disinterest of an educated élite for its cultural heritage. Certainly, the Indian Muslim community has its share of prominent civil servants, academics, businessmen, writers, politicians who could project a different perspective on their own community by giving it a rejuvenated positive visibility emphasising its rich cultural heritage and its own values. Such is not, however, the objective of this ‘liberal’ Muslim élite. Indeed, it has become difficult to dissociate language from religion, for the major receptacle of Urdu education today has become the madrasah, the traditional religious educational institution of Muslims— that further cuts Urdu off from non-Muslim speakers. As Imtiaz Ahmad has observed, a consequence of the Urdu-speaking élite’s linguistic shift to English at the time of independence has been that the social world of Urdu became confined to those who came out of

Urdu-Medium Schools in Delhi


madrasahs (Ahmad 2002). One conclusion that can be drawn from this is that the Urdu-speaking secular élite did not make enough effort to incorporate the language into the mainstream syllabus. The attempts made later to redress this situation were simply not adequate. Despite its wish to project a truly secular image, the Urdu-speaking élite’s defence of Urdu repeatedly claimed that it was the language of Muslims. By effectively accepting the dichotomy of the Hindu extremist view, this position led eventually to the evaporation of non-Muslim support for the Urdu cause and further weakened the case of those who advocated the retention of Urdu as part of the syllabus of mainstream education. Once Urdu retreated from the secular educational fold, madrasahs inevitably became the main centres for its teaching. That situation created new problems. For one, most madrasahs are supposed to dispense religious education—often through the regional language and Arabic, and not through Urdu alone. Second, it weakened the case for demanding state patronage for Urdu. There are, however, other facets to be considered as well. For instance, in today’s India, those who enter the madrasah are in general fluent in Urdu, whilst at the other end of the education cycle, the largest numbers of Urdu speakers are those who come out of madrasahs. Contrary to the general opinion, however, a large number of these pupils do not represent those who insist on their religious identity. Given a choice, they would have opted for a secular, mainstream brand of education. The language issue, however, did not leave them with any another option. Further, new trends have been observed in madrasah education itself. While it still predominantly imparts theological learning, it sometimes also teaches secular subjects like science, mathematics and social studies, thus helping, in theory at least, to prepare students to join mainstream secular education.




What solutions have been proposed for the above problems? Do they argue in favour of the protection of a language or of a community? The National Policy on Education has expressed the state’s concern for the education of linguistic and religious minorities: ‘some minority groups are educationally deprived or backward. Greater attention will be paid to the education of these groups in the interest of equality and social


Anne Vaugier-Chatterjee

justice’. Without a concrete plan of action or guidelines or directions for implementation, how greater attention will be paid to the education of these linguistic minorities is to be debated (Ministry of Human Resource Development 1996: 9). Above all, it is the responsibility of the state to adopt a noncommunal approach. Urdu, it has to be argued, should be protected not only as part of the cultural right of minorities but also as part of the country’s secular heritage (Venkatachalaiah 1999). It should not be forgotten that nearly 50 per cent of the Muslim population of India is Urdu-speaking, that Urdu’s cultural and literary heritage is pan-Indian and that it cuts right across religious lines. It thus becomes the responsibility of the centre as well as the various states to devise ways of fighting its decline. For historical, social and cultural reasons, as well as the pedagogical and technical constraints discussed above, Urdu-speakers remain educationally backward on the whole. In some respects, the community suffers from a lack of motivation, but we must also not forget that it is very heterogeneous. At one end of the spectrum are the well-off, public school-educated English-speaking Muslim élite and at the other, the disadvantaged maktab or madrasah product and those who are unschooled in any fashion. Post 9/11, madrasah graduates are being viewed in some quarters as fundamentalists of the future, while another school of thought believes that the future of Urdu lies in the madrasahs. To my mind, this type of oversimplified solution should be avoided because it just underscores the ghettoisation process and strengthens the links between religion and language. Needless to say, these issues have been sustained keeping the Muslim vote in mind. The quality of research on these topics is appalling, however. The Institute of Objective Studies (in Jamia Nagar, Delhi) is a magnificent example of the type of incomplete data available on this issue (Qadri et al. 1997). All multi-lingual set-ups have had to face the issue of the blurred borderline between community and language. The European Linguistic Charter, for instance, has set up one framework to protect languages and another to protect its minorities, thus making clear its intention to keep the two sensitive issues apart (Jensdottir 2002: 167–77). Similarly, it has been repeatedly emphasised that Urdu should be perceived as a part of the country’s common cultural heritage and measures for the protection of the language should be taken accordingly. The politicisation of the subject of Urdu is obvious. Successive governments have taken up the issue

Urdu-Medium Schools in Delhi


since independence and formed numerous committees. In 1972, clearly moved by political compulsions—the wish to woo the Muslim electorate—the Congress leader Indira Gandhi appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Inder Kumar Gujral to assess the situation of Urdu (Gujral 1975). Almost none of the Gujral Committee’s 187 recommendations were implemented—a fact to which a second committee, the Ali Ahmed Suroor Committee, appointed in 1979 testified a decade later (Suroor 1983). A third assessment was made by yet another subcommittee headed by Ali Sardar Jafari (Jafari 1990), which submitted its views to the then Janata Dal government headed by V.P. Singh. The Janata Dal even included the cause of Urdu in its Lok Sabha manifesto in 1989. The notion that language is a significant label of social identification finds particular relevance in the context of Urdu. A recurrent argument put forward by Urdu speakers who chose either English or Hindi as a medium of education is that a linguistic heritage in a developing country that is not regarded as directly useful in the modern, global world does not need to be protected. Paradoxically, this is the publicly expressed view of Hamidullah Bhat, head of the National Council for the Promotion of Urdu Language. Amongst the reasons put forward for this position, poor employment prospects are prominent, thus begging the question: can education in the Urdu medium itself be detrimental to career prospects? This may explain why the Indian social and political élite has literally abandoned Urdu when it actually should be playing a leading role in the preservation of the language. Thus, even Congressman Salman Khurshid, stalwart of the movement for the preservation of Urdu, has said: ‘There is of course a consensus among Urdu-speaking masses on not advocating education through Urdu medium at any level. This is perhaps an objective and sound opinion.’ (Khurshid 1998). Concurrently, though, and more in keeping with his role, he has argued in favour of conscious efforts to preserve Urdu, in a circle of linguists, historians, politicians and bureaucrats exchanging their diagnoses on the current illness of Urdu. It is undeniable that the responsibility for the promotion of Urdu lies with the state governments. The directives of the Programme of Action 1992 (1996) are clear. The safeguards guaranteed in the Constitution to linguistic and religious minorities in respect of education at the primary stage are to be implemented effectively. A centrally sponsored scheme was launched in areas that have a significant Muslim population to ensure the availability of Urdu-knowing teachers in schools. The provisions for


Anne Vaugier-Chatterjee

instruction through the medium of Urdu at the primary stage need to be implemented effectively, however. Urdu-medium sections need to be opened in the existing secondary schools. The number of students belonging to the educationally backward community should be the criterion for the appointment of Urdu teachers in each class/school and for starting Urdu-medium schools and Urdu as a subject in existing schools. One may express some reservations here on the achievements in the promotion of Urdu in various states, including those where it has been declared the second language. Several questions may be asked of the numerous bodies established in different states and at the all-India level to promote the cause of Urdu. It is not clear, first of all, why so many different agencies have been set up to implement the same policy. Their work and their output do not seem to be monitored with any rigour, although the quality of their implementation leaves much to be desired. The appalling quality of teaching in Urdu-medium schools has often been denounced—and with justification. The situation of Urdu-medium schools, which are either funded through community resources or supported by grants-in-aid from the government, is only akin to that of government schools and not significantly worse, however. Nevertheless, an Urdu-medium education is a bigger disadvantage in the Indian job market than a Hindi-medium education, which itself compares unfavourably with one in the English medium (Sheth 1995: 202–5). The proliferation of English-medium schools is partly the consequence of the failure of state governments to provide decent facilities and viable futures for mother-tongue education, coupled with their failure to promote the regional languages in administration, industry and business in a meaningful way (Krishnamurti 1998: 247). Other suggestions include the restoration of the most viable version of the three language formula (mother tongue, principal language of the state or any other national language widely spoken in the state, English). For Urdu-speaking children, as for all those whose mother tongue is a language other than the principal language of the state, the mother tongue should be their second language. To conclude, one may say that finding a solution to the gradual decline of Urdu—and, by implication, to the value that a language imparts to education—needs the combined efforts of both government and civil society. Needless to say, the feebler the sense of the language imparted, the less sustainable the values conveyed to the community would be. The solution thus would have to grapple with the following

Urdu-Medium Schools in Delhi


issues. In the case of Urdu, the issue has been politicised, and it would be impossible—indeed utopian—not to politicise it. But political responsibility must follow politicisation. Responsible political action would prevent the rise of extremist, marginalised voices. Second, should the struggle for the preservation of Urdu come under the umbrella of a cultural policy? Would its educational value thereby be strengthened? The defenders of Urdu have attacked the ‘cultural heritage approach’ for being a form of laissez-faire. When languages are excluded from social life, from the spheres of economics, justice, politics and the media and are restricted to a small arena—a sort of shrine of culture— they are inevitably marginalised. The cultural approach is thus akin to political manoeuvring. Article 347 of the Constitution (special provision relating to the language spoken by a section of the population of a state) reads as follows: On a demand being made in that behalf, the President may if he is satisfied that a substantial proportion of the population of a state desire the use of any language spoken by that state, direct that such language shall also be officially recognised throughout that state or any part thereof for such purpose as he may specify (Basu 1991: 97). Of late, a few concrete measures have been suggested to re-establish Urdu-medium schools in accordance with national norms (population/schools) in all Urdu-concentration wards and villages. The emphasis on the demand of the community corresponds to the slogan of an increased participation from below in development issues. The adjective ‘substantial’ in Article 347 of the Constitution should be defined as 5 per cent of the local population and official recognition should not depend on public demand alone. But can a language be saved in the face of the disinterest of its people? In the case of Urdu, what is puzzling is that the Urdu-speaking minority has not mobilised itself to create its networks of schools, as have other minority languages. Governments’ intentions have been laudable but implementation is poor, partly because of the lack of enthusiasm of the community. This can be even more clearly seen when the case of Urdu is compared with those languages for which the central government does practically nothing, such as Marathi, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Bengali, Tamil and Malayalam. What values, then, can a language impart to a community too apathetic to receive them?


Anne Vaugier-Chatterjee

Notes 1. This chapter is part of a larger study on language policies in Indian education undertaken under the auspices of the Centre de Sciences Humaines (New Delhi). The author wishes to express her gratitude to the National Council for the Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) for sharing its very useful surveys and other information that form the basis of this paper. She also wishes to thank the Zakir Husain Study Circle for its help. 2. For an interesting comparative perspective, see World Congress on Language Policies (2002). 3. There is no such reservation in basic school training centres. 4. He also mentioned an Advisory Council for the Promotion of Urdu, headed by the prime minister—which apparently is non-existent. 5. The inaccuracy of the data provided by this forum has, however, led to a public debate in the correspondence published in The Annual of Urdu Studies in 2003. See also Bakht (2003).






However much schools may differ from one another, there is a certain inevitability about their routines. From the most traditional schools to the most progressive, one finds many common elements: the morning assembly, the mid-morning break, the study hall, the games period. Students must also eat and, in boarding schools, sleep. Still more routines develop around these events. Each school works variations on the basic patterns and in doing so stamps them with its own special character. The resulting design and ethos of the school plays an important part in shaping the students’ concepts of order, authority, and individual agency. Such routines are but one aspect of the broader ‘social aesthetics’ of schools. ‘Aesthetics’ in this context has little to do with beauty or art, but rather with a much wider range of culturally patterned sensory experience. It is closer to what the Greeks originally meant by aisthesis, or ‘sense experience.’ Alexander Baumgarten, who first used the term to designate a separate branch of study in philosophy, called aesthetics ‘the science of sensory cognition’. In my study of the Doon School, my interest was therefore not in ‘beauty-aesthetics’ in the Kantian sense. Nor does my use of the term imply the valuation of sensory experience, except insofar as this bears upon the ability of people to determine what is familiar or unfamiliar. Rather, it includes much that derives from nature rather than culture, such as the geographical setting of a community, and even much in the life of its members that is onerous but to which they become habituated. The social aesthetic field, composed of objects and actions, is in some respects the physical manifestation of the largely internalised and invisible ‘embodied history’ that Bourdieu calls habitus (Bourdieu 1990: 56). Bourdieu comes closest to identifying habitus in physical


David MacDougall

terms when he speaks metaphorically of the ‘physiognomy’ of a ‘social environment’ (ibid.: 60). But this physiognomy is more than metaphorical, more than ‘a system of structured, structuring dispositions’ (ibid.: 52). It is not only an attribute of the self (of whatever class, whatever society) but exists all around us concretely, in the disposition of time, space, material objects, other people, and social activities. It is a social and cultural landscape. Defining this landscape is not only, or even principally, a matter of making a cultural inventory of the senses—exploring what Walter J. Ong has called the ‘ratio or balance between the senses’ of different cultural groups (Ong 1991: 29). Nor does it lie only in describing the aesthetic preoccupations and preferences of certain societies (as has been done, for example, of cattle-keeping Nilotes of the southern Sudan: Coote 1992; Dyson-Hudson 1966: 96–103; Evans-Pritchard 1940: 16–50) nor even in acknowledging the embodied and performative dimensions of rituals and other community events (Bloch 1974; Jackson 1989). These play an important part in the individual’s consciousness, but gaining a fuller understanding of the relation of individuals to their societies would seem to require further analysis of the societies themselves as complex sensory and aesthetic environments. So far this task has largely slipped through the gaps between anthropology, art history, and cultural studies. Anthropology remains largely concerned with aesthetics as it pertains to particular art objects and practices, and the discourses surrounding them, especially those associated with ritual or myth; art history with artistic production more generally as an institution; and cultural studies with the aesthetics of popular culture, as seen in advertising, mass media and consumerism. Aesthetics as it relates to everything else in life apart from art or conscious design has received comparatively little attention.2 As Morphy notes, ‘in failing to consider the aesthetics of cultures, anthropologists ignore a body of evidence that allows them a unique access to the sensual aspect of human experience: to how people feel in, and respond to, the world’ (Morphy 1996: 255).

THE PROJECT In 1997 I began a study of The Doon School, an élite boys’ boarding school in Dehra Dun in the state of Uttaranchal, some five hours drive

Doon School Aesthetics


or train journey north of New Delhi. One of my objectives was to analyse and record the rituals and other patterns of daily life of the school, using a video camera as my primary research tool. I wanted to examine the design and sensory environment created by the school, and its effects upon students, as part of an effort to determine the importance of aesthetic considerations in the lives of people in a small, closed community. My hypothesis was that the principles involved might have wider application to society at large. Over a period of three years, I spent almost a full year at the school, recording about one hundred hours of material. This might be thought to constitute a kind of visual ethnography of school life, but because I was pursuing particular issues rather than attempting to be encyclopaedic, it falls short of that in many respects. There is little about the teachers, and the footage is disproportionately about younger and middle students rather than older ones. Within the youngest group, a few individuals receive a great deal of attention. In selecting them, I was more concerned that they were expressive of their condition than representative in any statistical sense. As we know, fieldworkers often select their informants from those who stand out in a crowd, but this is perhaps even more the case in visual anthropology, where one looks for people who are particularly eloquent in their relations with others, either verbally or in their behaviour. I was fortunate to have the trust of the new headmaster, who gave me the run of the school. I was allowed to live there, take my meals with the students, and film where and what I wanted. There was never an attempt to direct or censor my work. The teachers were somewhat more guarded, but perhaps because I rarely filmed them, I was able to establish good relations with most of them and friendships with several. It was understood that I was engaged in a long-term research project, but the headmaster also saw my presence as an opportunity to create a greater awareness of visual media at the school. As one way of contributing to this I trained a small group of students to produce their own video journal. In the end, the project resulted in five full-length films. These become progressively more narrowly focused, the first, Doon School Chronicles (2000, 140 minutes) providing a broad view of the school’s structure and ideology, and the last, The Age of Reason (2004, 87 minutes) a portrait of a single student. The other three films are With Morning Hearts (2001, 110 minutes), Karam in Jaipur (2001, 54 minutes), and The New Boys (2003, 100 minutes).


David MacDougall

THE DOON SCHOOL Dehra Dun, the town in which the Doon School is situated, lies in the valley of the Doon, between the Siwalik Hills and the foothills of the Himalayas. It enjoys a comfortable climate for most of the year and, along with the nearby hill station of Mussoorie, is the location of a large number of other schools and national institutions, such as the Survey of India and the Indian Military Academy. Of the schools, Doon School is certainly the most famous, and perhaps the most famous in all of India. It owes its fame to a number of factors, but most obviously to the part its graduates have played in the ruling élites of India since independence, particularly in government and industry. The school counts among its alumni former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, several cabinet ministers, a long list of members of parliament, and major business leaders. The role of its graduates in the professions, the military, the media, and the arts has been less pronounced but is still considerable. An Air Chief Marshall, a number of army generals, and the writers Vikram Seth and Amitav Ghosh are all former students of the school. The school’s impact on public affairs has been enhanced by a powerful network of ‘old boys’ who display great loyalty to the school.3 Doon School is also notable for spreading a particular style of education to other schools: a self-consciously egalitarian, secular approach based upon a commitment to public service and a belief in westernstyle scientific rationalism. This is succinctly expressed in the 1948 Founder’s Day speech at Doon School by the governor general of the United Provinces, Shri Rajagopalachari: ‘It is wrong to think that science teaches only science. Science brings about a change in the whole attitude of boys. It brings about correct judgment, alertness and obedience to laws’ (The Doon School Weekly, 30 October 1948). But despite its professed egalitarianism in matters of caste, religion and wealth, the school is structured around a hierarchy of age in which older students have power over younger ones. Within this regime, the school aims to produce leaders and ‘all-rounders’ with equal proficiency (if not brilliance) in studies, games, and social skills. There is an official emphasis on setting one’s own goals and competing against oneself rather than others. Although Doon School and Mayo College (in Rajasthan) have both been called ‘the Eton of India,’ in the case of Doon School this is something of a misnomer. It was always a school

Doon School Aesthetics


for the reasonably well off, but it was never the preserve of the upper classes (this was rather the role of Mayo College), and in fact it attracted the sons of the new technocracy that was developing in the Punjab and the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh) at about the time the school was founded. Over the years, many other schools in India have gradually adopted aspects of Doon School’s style of education and have, in effect, been ‘Doon-ised,’ partly through appointing teachers and headmasters who have taught at the school. Moreover, as the first school for Indians specifically modelled on the British ‘public school’, Doon School has made the philosophy and structures that it embraced more acceptable to Indian schools generally. Compared to many boarding schools in India, such as La Martiniere in Calcutta (founded in 1836) and Lawrence School in Sanawar (founded in 1847), Doon School is a comparative newcomer. It was opened in 1935 on the grounds of the former Forest Research Institute. It was the creation of a group of moderate Indian nationalists led by a Calcutta lawyer, Satish Ranjan Das who, although he died before the school actually opened, had lobbied for it assiduously during the 1920s. Das envisaged an Indian school patterned on such schools as Harrow, Eton and Winchester, which he felt had effectively trained young men to become responsible and resourceful administrators throughout the British Empire. But in contrast to British schools, he wanted an Indian school to be non-sectarian and responsive to Indian aspirations. He and the school’s other founders saw Doon as the training ground for a new generation of Indian leaders who would take over the reins of administration and government following independence. By copying the model of the British public school, the founders were attempting to show that Indians could compete with the British on their own terms without relinquishing their national or cultural identity. This reflected the views of many Indian leaders and intellectuals of the time, but certainly not all. Characteristically, Nehru welcomed the creation of the school but Gandhi would have nothing to do with it (Figure 5.1). Doon School’s distinctive character is made up of many elements, and consists not so much in a list of ingredients as in a complex, whose interrelations as a totality (as in gastronomy) are as important as their individual effects. These elements include such things as the design of buildings and grounds, the use of clothing and colours, the rules of dormitory life, the organisation of students’ time, particular styles of speech and gesture, and the many rituals of everyday life that accompany such activities as eating, school gatherings, and sport (itself already a highly ritualised activity).


David MacDougall

Figure 5.1: Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visiting Doon School in 1957

Games and physical fitness have an important place in the school. The colonial discourses of imperial Britain celebrated the ideal of strong physical manliness in contrast to the stereotyped image of the ineffectual, even feminised male subject. One of the objectives of Doon School was apparently to counter this colonial view (even as it interiorised it), which in the Indian context had taken on an exaggerated form in the image of the effete Bengali man (Rosselli 1980; Sinha 1995). The image of the new, masculine Indian was to be built upon a regime of bodily practices borrowed from British schools, not only on the playing field but in the dormitory, classroom, assembly hall, and dining hall. Early morning physical exercises became a permanent fixture of the Doon School’s daily timetable. In 1937, Sir Jagdish Prasad, a member of the school’s Board of Governors, told the assembled boys: The aim of this school might well be to give you the physique of the savage and the cultivated brain of the civilized man. My advice to you is to take pride in the development of your body no whit less than in the improvement of your intellect. Let this school be noted for the fine physique of its students. We in this country have not paid sufficient attention to the proper care of our bodies and have

Doon School Aesthetics


paid the penalty of premature decline in energy and mental vigour (The Doon School Weekly, 13 November 1937: 3). In some respects the physical regime at Doon proved less spartan and authoritarian than in many British schools, partly due to the fact that the British masters and headmasters who first came to Doon saw it as an opportunity to establish a more benign version of the schools they had left behind. The focus, moreover, was to be upon selfregulation rather than external discipline. The school took the radical step at the time of forbidding corporal punishment. The official doctrines of the school, enunciated by the first headmaster, Arthur Edward Foot, stressed self-control and self-monitoring, exemplifying Foucault’s contention that institutions tend to turn their inmates into their own surveillants. ‘Boys who have apparently been well brought up at home,’ wrote Foot, ‘behave well in order to please their parents, or in order to please their school-masters. This is not a sound foundation for conduct. They must behave well and work well to satisfy their own self-respect and sense of personal responsibility’ (The Doon School Book, 1949, reprinted in Chopra 1996: 40). Vision was to play an important part in this process, through its confirmation of the boys’ physical development and their patterns of gesture, posture, and visible social behaviour. Boys were taught to speak and act boldly, and to return the gaze of others steadily and fearlessly, even if that gaze came from the highest in the land. Foot wrote: By 14 he should have learnt all the ordinary principles of social behaviour. He should know how to stand up and speak to a variety of different types of people—to his own mother, to someone else’s mother, to his father, to his schoolmasters, to servants, to Mahatma Gandhi or to the Viceroy, and to do this without any self-consciousness (‘Fourteen,’ Doon School Magazine, 1938). The boys’ disciplined character was to be seen in their dress, their orderly formations at assembly, physical training and games, and in the tireless energy with which they followed the crowded school schedule. Foot, who could never resist an instructive metaphor, however oblique or (in this case) sexually allusive, likened the growth of a boy to the root of a plant observed through a magnifying glass: Each tiny shoot on the root is covered with little hair[s] through which it takes food and drink from the soil. But the thing I especially


David MacDougall

Figure 5.2: The blue and grey shirt of the Doon School games uniform

noticed was that the tip of the shoot was free from the root hair. That is to say the part which was leading the way was quite clear from anything which would hinder it. This made me think how many of us are handicapped in the things we want to do by some little habit of self-indulgence which gets in our way … Don’t make excuses to yourselves, and don’t be handicapped by habits (The Doon School Weekly, 13 March 1937: 1). The school’s emphasis on the body reflects a set of deeper assumptions about the effects of the physical world on the individual. It also emphasises individuality itself—the student set apart in body and personality from the mass of his classmates. ‘You can think of yourselves,’ Foot said at the end of the first year, ‘as a pack of cards all with the same pattern of blue and grey on your backs; on the other side is each boy’s special character’ (The Doon School Weekly, 20 June 1936: 1) (Figure 5.2). But each boy’s character was also to be reshaped by his surroundings at the school. What lay outside the boy’s body, down to the very clothes on his back, was to determine the inside. Sharing equal facilities, such

Doon School Aesthetics


Figure 5.3: Students near the Doon School’s Main Building, which dates from the time of the Forest Research Institute

as minimally-furnished dormitories, or equal responsibilities, such as leading physical exercises or serving at table, would of itself, and without further intervention, be conducive to an egalitarian outlook. As Foot himself put it, the individual is not best shaped by precept but by environment: ‘We believe that character-training is more a matter of organisation than instruction. … The purpose is achieved not by precept or instruction, but by creating an environment in which a boy is led to do things for himself ’ (The Doon School Book, 1949, reprinted in Chopra 1996: 40). The school’s very buildings, with their functional, undecorated architecture, and its grounds with their botanical tags on every other tree, would instil a sense of proportion and orderly thought. Since both were originally designed for the scientific purposes of the Forest Research Institute, the founders saw the site as eminently suitable for this (Figure 5.3). The school was eventually furnished with its own workshops, paper recycling centre, ‘boys’ bank,’ store, and hospital. This emphasis on the creation of a setting has the flavour of missionaries establishing a place of order in a heathen land. The scientific attitude of the school’s founders is perhaps more apparent today in a kind of brisk efficiency than in appeals to speculative thinking (for more on this, see Srivastava 1998, especially chapters 3 and 5). In part this takes the form of measurement and labelling. The boys’


David MacDougall

Figure 5.4: Measuring a student at Doon School

heights and weights are recorded twice a year, and at one time the names of the largest and smallest boys in each house were published in The Doon School Weekly (Figure 5.4). Those boys who are overweight are systematically slimmed down by physical exercise and the school diet. Upon joining the school, each boy is given a number that he keeps throughout his school career. At the start of the year, these numbers appear on beds and desks. They are used on school documents and in announcements at assembly or after meals when boys are called to meetings or other duties. They are also essential for the management of school clothing, with a number tape carefully sewn into each item by the school tailors. The school day is punctuated by a succession of bells, some rung in the houses, some at the dining hall, and most importantly on top of the Main Building, signalling the beginning and end of each class. The timing of the assembly is so precise that this bell usually rings just as the headmaster strides on to the stage in his black gown. This enactment of precision is rehearsed in a hundred smaller ways—in the correct making of beds, arrangement of clothing, and shining of shoes—although it must be said that one of the more attractive aspects of the school is a certain perfunctory attitude toward such matters.

Doon School Aesthetics


More reminiscent of the Forest Research Institute’s interests is the school’s own natural history museum, stocked with specimens donated in the early years, ranging from stuffed mammals, birds, and reptiles to a human foetus preserved in a jar of formalin. Scientific apparatus figures prominently at Founder’s Day exhibitions, when parents look with bemusement at miniature volcanoes erupting, gasfilled tubes lighting up in different colours, and sparks leaping from one copper ball to another. The school particularly prides itself on the success of its more daring expeditions into the high Himalayas. These occur during the two annual mid-term breaks, which are almost sacramental occasions when the entire student body ventures out on trips of varying difficulty into the surrounding countryside. That groups of schoolboys, led by a few teachers, regularly climb to altitudes of over 20,000 feet not only proves astonishing to other schools but provides a sentimental link to the past prowess of Empire.

THE SCHOOL-WORLD When I first went to Doon School it struck me as a kind of theatre. There was a performance going on. A bell would ring and everyone would rush on to the stage, dressed in the same costume. Then they would depart. An hour or two later another bell would ring and they would rush on again in a different costume. It was at this point that I began thinking it might be possible to view a small community such as a school much as one would view a play or other creative work. But who in this case were the creators, the players and the viewers? Clearly the boys themselves were the raw material of this creation, upon whose bodies the aesthetics of the school was imprinted. But at the same time these same boys were also its foremost audience. When speaking of the school’s aesthetics, I should stress that I do not mean a system of signs and meanings encoded in school life, but rather the creation of an aesthetic space or sensory structure. I am not proposing the exegesis of a cultural text, or a hermeneutic anthropology. Signs and meanings there clearly are at the school, for a great deal of history and ideology underlies its aesthetic choices, but these qualities both exceed and are experienced differently from any interpretation that might be placed on them. Nor would the boys themselves necessarily understand such meanings—either upon first arriving at the school, or


David MacDougall

indeed ever. What does speak to them is a particular structure of sense impressions, social relations and ways of behaving physically. This must be assimilated and acted upon—and therefore be ‘understood’—in quite a different manner. Having one’s life regulated by the ringing of bells, or adopting one’s house colour as one’s own, carries with it sensory associations that speak to a different part of one’s consciousness than concepts of punctuality or authority or social segmentation. In a sense, it is a code without a message. As Bourdieu puts it, for them, the acts they learn ‘may have, strictly speaking, neither meaning nor function, other than the function implied in their very existence’ (Bourdieu 1990: 18).4 When I first came to the school I was not thinking of such distinctions. And as must frequently happen to others, the ideas with which I began were gradually overtaken by ideas that assumed greater importance. Through the viewfinder of the camera I found myself drawn into a matrix of life that I felt exerted a powerful influence on all around me. I began to realise that the boys in the school lived neither in a homogeneous society nor in a multiply-fragmented global one, but in both. Like many of us, they moved between ‘little worlds’ of family and school and a larger world that they encountered in the streets, during their travels, and on television. And like many of us, they learned to accept and adapt to a state of more or less permanent cultural confusion. Perhaps all the more reason, then, for them to bind themselves closely to the islands of relative coherence in their lives. At Doon School I began asking myself whether it was possible to film something as implicit and all pervasive as social aesthetics. Could it in any sense be isolated as a subject? I concluded it could not, or at least not directly. One might be able to focus upon certain features of life in which aesthetic concerns seemed paramount, but this atomised the subject and caused it to disintegrate. Its reality lay elsewhere, in a wider aggregation of features. There was no single, dominating locus of aesthetic interest. Something as visible as the patterns and colours of clothing might be singled out for attention, but this was to risk giving these features an excessive symbolic importance, divorced from the actual contexts in which such meanings were submerged or overwritten by other, more immediate, kinds of experience. In the case of school uniforms, these contexts included the obvious ones, such as the practical requirements of different activities, the division of the school into manageable groups, and the student hierarchy, but also less obvious ones such as academic achievement. In 1969 the school began awarding students a

Doon School Aesthetics


black blazer for high academic achievement as a counterbalance to the blue blazer, awarded since 1940 for achievement in sports. Clothing is also a feature of school punishments, such as the ‘change-in-break’ described in the next section. It was important to see how these links produced new and complex associations, often naturalising or justifying apparent incongruities, much as chemical compounds exhibit properties quite different from their constituent elements. I concluded that social aesthetics, as both the backdrop and product of everyday life, could only be approached obliquely, through the events and material objects in which it played a variety of roles. The events might be small and incidental or ordinary, or large and extraordinary. In the end, they included everything from simple gestures and bodily postures to the school’s annual Founder’s Day extravaganza, the torchlight tattoo.




The aesthetics of a society might very well be regarded as an aesthetics of management: an ordering of the elements of life for the balancing of physical needs, comfort, time, space, power relations and sexuality. The aesthetic sense could then be seen as a regulatory feature of our consciousness, telling us when to be pleased and content or, on the contrary, anxious, disgusted, distressed or fearful. It could be accepted as one among the many regulatory systems of society, although considerably less specific than, for example, kinship or customary law. Despite this generally more diffused role, there is one manifestation of social aesthetics of which one becomes very conscious at a school like Doon: the aesthetics of power. The exercise of power can rarely be distinguished from its aesthetic expression, however, even when one or the other is clearly marked. There is nothing very edifying about a senior boy bullying a junior one, but there is nevertheless a pattern and protocol to it. The boy is made to feel inadequate for having failed in some duty, but at the same time is made to carry out the duty in such a way as to stress his inadequacy. A similar pattern governs teasing. The victim is repeatedly induced to display some unacceptable aspect of his character (such as anger or a special sensitivity or weakness) and is then criticised for displaying it. He is thus placed in the classic double bind of mutually frustrated impulses. There is generally an artful and


David MacDougall

well-timed collusion among those doing the teasing. The system of school punishments, as we shall see, shows a similar formal ingenuity. In the many instances of explicit aesthetic display that I witnessed at the school (such as the lining up and grouping of boys at assembly, the ritualised cheering at sports events, morning physical exercises, and special events such as the annual Physical Training Competition) a lesson was being inscribed in the bodies of the participants, much as a repertoire of movements is gradually inscribed in the body of a classical dancer. These were not, in fact, symbolic expressions of power relations but their result. When boys cheered for their side at a house hockey match, the sense of power over their rivals—the power of their house— was part of a larger regime of power in which older boys of the house felt it their duty to order younger boys to cheer. The aesthetics of power is thus as much an enactment of power as a representation of it, and is co-determinate with a wider range of activities and social relationships, each with its own aesthetic manifestations. Power cannot be abstracted from such agencies as self-preservation and desire, which form part of the substratum upon which it rests. It would be difficult to determine which of the designs and rituals of a school such as Doon were created with clear objectives and which are part of a more unconscious adaptive and evolutionary process. Certainly the school has borrowed heavily from other, older schools, which have in turn taken much from religious and military institutions. The combination desk-lockers at which the boys study—called ‘toyes’ at Doon—were an importation from Winchester College but have all the hallmarks of the monastery (Figure 5.5). In some cases the school’s procedures seem to be clear applications of principles developed elsewhere. The school’s use of house captains and prefects mirrors the British colonial policy of ‘indirect rule,’ in that senior boys control many matters that in other schools, in other countries, would be directly controlled by teachers. But it is also plausible that indirect rule is itself a product of the British public school system. Again, the design and management of school clothing, which is highly elaborated at Doon, cannot be ascribed to simple motives, although functional and utilitarian explanations abound. Pure cotton cloth of Indian origin was chosen for summer uniforms by the first headmaster on the grounds of simplicity, hygiene and support for local industries, but this rougher material also framed the growing bodies of the boys in an appealing way that may have been more pleasing to the masters than to the boys themselves. An item by a master in the school

Doon School Aesthetics


Figure 5.5: ‘Toyes’ at Doon School

newspaper in 1985 runs as follows: ‘The boys standing on the lovely green turf, in their blue shorts and singlets; with the leaders in white ducks and singlets presents a refreshing sight’ (Dar 1985: 5). Here the line between aesthetics and erotics is unclear. School uniforms become not only indicative of social relationships but also a way of controlling, concealing, and exhibiting the human body, reflecting correspondingly complex motives in those who institute them. Differences in uniform for juniors and seniors, or ordinary boys and prefects, mark intersections of visual pleasure and power, as well as conceptions of discipline, disorder, childhood, adulthood, innocence and experience. Another, more ironic, school newspaper item reads: Lo and behold. Not a pair of white shorts in sight. The whole school lined up properly in games clothes! … Here was symbolism at its subtlest. The School dressed in the blue and greys of Sin while the angelic prefects flitted around … in radiant white (‘The Moving Finger Writes, and Having Writ, Moves On,’ The Doon School Weekly, 6 April 1985: 20).


David MacDougall

Perhaps the most curious example of the school’s preoccupation with clothing is to be found in its system of punishments. The most commonly given of the school’s punishments (and considered among the least severe) is called a ‘change-in-break.’ It is given for minor infractions, such as making one’s bed badly or having unpolished shoes. Boys can often be seen before assembly polishing their shoes with leaves or bits of paper to avoid the notice of beady-eyed prefects. If caught, the boy is given a chit and must run back to his house during the mid-morning break and change into his P.T. (physical training) uniform. He must then run back to the Main Building to have the chit signed, return to the house, change into his school clothes again, and return to have the chit signed a second time. If he lives in a nearby house he may have to change into his games clothes as well, and run again, with one further signing. Another punishment, more common in the past than now, was to be required to put on all one’s uniforms, one on top of the other, and then report to the prefect or house captain. If one was lucky that was the end of it, but sometimes a boy was made to do exercises or run ‘rounds’ of the playing field dressed in these many layers of clothing. The ‘change-in-break’ seems designed to make one aware of one’s clothing in the most acute and immediate way. Its various gradations and sensory qualities are intensified and become ever more keenly experienced as they are impressed upon one’s consciousness. Here, as in everything else around one at the school, the social aesthetic field is never neutral or random: its patterning creates forces and polarities with strong emotional effects. Ordinary objects with which one comes in daily contact take on a particular aura, and this aura is augmented by repetition and multiplication. Both occur in the case of the stainless steel tableware used at the school. Every piece—the hundreds of plates, cups, porridge bowls, serving dishes, pitchers, knives, forks, and spoons—is made of the same bright, hard steel, which produces its own distinctive gong-like tones and clashing sounds. Its surfaces are unyielding and reflect back the bluish colours of the boys’ uniforms and the overhead tube-lights, meal after meal. The strength and obduracy of this material cannot but be communicated as a direct physical sensation to the boys and they inform the whole process of eating with an unrelenting, utilitarian urgency. Stainless steel tableware is of course ubiquitous in India, but here it is elevated to a fetish of modernity (Figure 5.6).

Doon School Aesthetics


Figure 5.6: Stainless steel tableware at Doon School

STUDYING SCHOOL LIFE During the first months of my stay at the school I observed these complexities and began to consider my approach to them. I gradually adopted a three-pronged filming strategy. I first identified a set of themes that seemed to provide conceptual keys to the school’s aesthetic structures and their importance in the lives of the students. These included abstract concepts such as hierarchy and threats to personal identity, but also more immediate topics of school life such as clothing, eating, informal games and organised sports. I found another conceptual key in the phenomenon of homesickness, which was succeeded among older students by what they themselves called ‘school-sickness.’ I next focused on certain classes of objects that seemed to be focal points in the aesthetics of everyday life. These included uniforms, the stainless steel utensils, trophies and prizes of various kinds, beds and bedcovers, and semi-illicit dormitory foods


David MacDougall

Figure 5.7: A group of first-year boys in Foot House, Doon School

(or ‘tuck’). Last, I decided to follow the activities of first-year students in an attempt to discover the school through their own discovery of it. In one instance, I spent three months filming a group of these students from their first day at the school (Figure 5.7). Here I concentrated upon certain individuals, trying to see how they learned the rules and became sensitised to the school as a complex environment. At the beginning I identified certain boys who were expressive or distinctive in some way. This eventually led me to a group of four 14-year olds who shared a room. I had noticed at least three of them already, so to find them sharing a room was a welcome discovery. In a similar way, I was led to two others who were to figure prominently in the first film. The older of these, a 16-year-old, was already an important figure around the school, noted for his self-assurance and skill as an actor in school plays. In the film he became the exception who tended to prove the rules about peer pressure and conformity. He had successfully made a name for himself by being different from others and going his own way as a forceful but sensitive person. He was never good at sport, the surest avenue to success and power at the school. But his view differed from that of Vikram Seth, the writer, who had been unhappy at the school in the 1960s and who felt it was not a good place for a sensitive person (Vikram Seth, Founder’s Day Speech, The Doon School, 1992). Referring to Seth’s experience, this boy said:

Doon School Aesthetics


I found myself thinking: Is this true that if you don’t play a sport you can’t survive? So very early on I took the attitude that, ‘I’m not going to play a sport, but I’m definitely going to survive.’ And—you can. It’s all about being at rhythm with yourself, being at peace with yourself, not really caring if you’re popular amongst 90 per cent of your classmates or not. I mean, it’s very important to have your friends, and your soul mates, and the people you can really talk to, which you sometimes desperately need in school. But no, I don’t think it’s a hard and fast rule that if you’re sensitive you can’t survive in school (Personal communication, 14 November 1997). A younger boy whom I noticed at an early stage also became a prominent figure in one of the films. I began filming him on my first brief visit, perhaps because he seemed to regard everything around him with the same mixture of trepidation and curiosity that I also felt toward the school, but with an eagerness to adapt himself to it. He radiated a nervous sort of courage. In the film he was to become a different type of survivor: one who accepts the school at face value, but who delights in it, who tries everything, and takes as much from the school as the school has to offer.

CONCLUSION The Doon School project, like many similar studies, can be seen as part of a larger effort in many countries to apply visual media to fields such as anthropology, sociology, and history that have traditionally developed as disciplines of words. They are intended partly to explore alternative approaches to these disciplines, both as methods of research and as a means of professional publication. But to a greater degree, their purpose is to find out whether the use of visual media will in fact transform these disciplines, leading to forms of knowledge that were not envisaged before. The present project provides one more test of these possibilities. I can say at least that it was through the use of the video camera that I discovered new interests and was directed away from more naïvely preconceived ones. If the study of social aesthetics sometimes seems quixotic, this is not, I believe, because it is an obscure or illusory part of human experience but because, on the contrary, it is both very obvious and yet highly


David MacDougall

dispersed through a wide range of cultural phenomena, many of which have already been closely studied in other contexts such as the anthropology of art and cultural history. Perhaps for that very reason, the broader aesthetic aspects of social life, and aesthetic experience itself, appear to many scholars to have been adequately accounted for as aspects of something else. To a certain extent this is the logical consequence of the fragmentation of academic fields, but it also has to do with the constraints of expression. Most description in the human sciences is beholden to the writing skills of scholars. To describe the social role of aesthetics properly (its phenomenological reality) we may need a ‘language’ closer to the multidimensionality of the subject itself—that is, a language operating in visual, aural, verbal, temporal and even (through synaesthetic association) tactile domains. To me, this suggests a new line of approach to what has long been inadequately called ‘visual’ anthropology. It is an approach that has the potential to restore to anthropology the material world within which culture takes its forms.

Notes 1. This chapter has been adapted from ‘Social Aesthetics and The Doon School’ first published in Visual Anthropology Review, 1999, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 3–20. Relevant portions are reprinted with the permission of the American Anthropological Association, copyright 2000 American Anthropological Association. 2. It is of course possible to argue that these other aspects of life often function as works of art, as Gell (1995) argues in his response to Coote (1992) on the aesthetic role of cattle in African pastoralist societies, but in the end this is perhaps a category dispute. For another view, see Kupfer (1983). 3. I owe much of my understanding of the Doon school to the observations and insights of Sanjay Srivastava (1998). It was Srivastava who first interested me in Doon School, although I already knew something about it and was acquainted with several other schools in nearby Mussoorie. Srivastava’s study focuses on how the school has both reflected and shaped concepts of the modern Indian citizen and nation in the 20th century. My interest has been more in how the school, as a small society, has developed a particular aesthetic design in its informal daily life and its more formal rituals and institutions. 4. Bourdieu also refers to this form of understanding, which need never rise to the level of consciousness, as ‘learned ignorance’ (1990: 19). Anthony Forge (1970: 289) makes a related observation in the case of Abelam iconography, which he believes is meant to produce an effect upon its viewers ‘directly’ rather than through its symbolic meanings—a view quite opposed to the ‘cryptological paradigm’ of cultural description, to use Chris Pinney’s phrase (1995: 94).


Anthropologists have documented male initiation rituals across the globe; few, however, have paid attention to the formal schooling environment in which many forms of modern socialisation and initiation take place today.2 Schooling has yet to be considered a worthy object of anthropological scrutiny. Beyond a difficulty in grappling with new objects of enquiry linked to modern forms of the nation state, of which contemporary educational systems are products, one of the reasons for this neglect by anthropologists may also lie in the anticipated obviousness of the findings: whether in mixed schools or in same sex schools, gender must be reinforced in a variety of ways with which we are all too familiar. Yet, schools arguably are privileged sites for studying the processes of gender construction at play in the making of social persons in a modern nation state. The study of a most extreme form of same-sex institution such as a military (sainik) school may reveal processes of gender construction to be more complex than expected, particularly in relation to modernity and its many localised versions and narratives. Examining these processes illuminates some aspects of Maharashtrian and Indian modernity as both an ideal and a reality in the making. By taking you to the military school of Warna Nagar Sainik Academy, I want to ask the question of the gendered production and sustenance of Indian Maharashtrian modernity. How the advent of a new, modern gendered ‘subject’3 can be at all envisaged and made possible in a postcolonial context is interrogated in the present discussion.4


Véronique Bénéï

MILITARY SCHOOLS IN MAHARASHTRA: MEDIATING BETWEEN THE LOCAL AND THE NATIONAL Military schools in Maharashtra are popular for at least two reasons: first, this type of school encapsulates historical connections with locality and region. These historical relations are largely premised by Maharashtrians on identification with the Maratha warrior past, emblematised by the character of Shivaji, 17th century warrior hero and founder of the ‘Maratha nation’. Second, in keeping with the prominent place occupied by Shivaji Maharaj in the construction of a ‘Maratha nation’, the idea of military schools articulates with a national ideal. Maharashtrians customarily view their martial historical heritage as having a bearing on the Indian nation. Indeed, the ‘Maratha nation’ is deemed prototypical for the modern Indian nation.5 Consequently, the Maratha/Maharashtrian heritage should be put at the service of the Indian nation. Military schools contribute to such an ideal by producing ‘loving citizens’ and ‘loyal servants’ of the nation, such as future soldiers and administrators. From a sociological perspective, the military schools’ appeal in this part of Maharashtra cuts across occupation, caste, class, age, political affiliation, religion and gender. It is not confined to teachers or educational officers alone; it found favour among families belonging to highly diverse socio-economic backgrounds in Kolhapur. Nor are such optimistic voices the preserve of Hindus, whether Brahmins, Marathas or allied castes. Ex-Untouchables and Muslims—even those bent on nurturing a distinct non-Maharashtrian Muslim identity and embracing Urdu-medium instruction—support the idea, if only out of love of the Indian nation. Combined with love of nation, the notion of discipline (shista) is prominent in the discussion of military schools by ordinary social agents. Whether they have sent their own boys to military schools or not, many parents value this notion highly. Here again, the value attributed to discipline cuts across all kinds of backgrounds. Such valuing may not always have to do with martial heritage as much as with ‘good common sense’: discipline makes for better education and docile people, something that ordinary schools in Maharashtra are seen as notoriously lacking. Such a notion of discipline is at the root of the making of a social person at the military school and articulates the modalities of gender construction.

Gender and Family Values in Military Schools


The military school I shall take you to is situated in Warna Nagar in Kolhapur district. It was created in 1998 by the local educational society under the auspices of the then right-wing Hindu ‘sons-of-the-soil’ government of the Maharashtra state. When I visited the school, in the academic year 2000–01, it was still incomplete and for the fourth year approximately 40 students had been admitted to class 5, after sitting the state class 4 scholarship exams. The highest level was class 8 with a total roll of 189 male pupils aged 10 to 13. The aim was to open one new class each year, up to class 12.




If discipline is one of the buzzwords in schools in Maharashtra (teachers and parents alike constantly refer to it as an ideal to be attained through schooling, and education more generally), its practical translation is pervasive in the military school. Discipline was buttressed by the establishment of a daily routine strictly followed by pupils. Through such a daily routine, both individual self-discipline and collective order were effectively taught and learnt (regardless of the students’ future prospects as military officers). It is doubtful that all students would become the well-trained and disciplined citizens that such a pedagogical project sought to construct. Yet, following a (relatively) tight schedule every hour of the day together with almost 200 other people, which so greatly contributed to the school’s outlook and ambience, would undoubtedly be part of the memory pupils would retain from this collective experience (MacDougall 1999; and this volume). Lack of space prevents me from going into the details of the routine. Suffice it to say that the boys’ day was sliced throughout into precise temporal slots from the time of rising, around 5.15 a.m., to that of going to bed, at 9.30 p.m. Apart from a few moments of respite provided by bathing and cleaning activities, the rest of the day was firmly marked by halfhour periods of occupation, whether of studying or of ‘recreational games’ where their energies were channelled into developing physical skills. Congruent with a military and political project, the body was the focal form through which discipline was taught and learnt. The pupils’ bodies were submitted to a regimentation process through a variety of


Véronique Bénéï

bodily techniques ranging from developing a ‘proper sense of time’ to others less attuned to a military project, as will be seen later. All activities strictly followed the set timetable. Whilst most of them involved bodily practices related to sports and hygiene, class teaching was also an occasion where students were taught particular behaviour practices (marching to and fro instead of walking to the teacher’s desk, sitting upright and paying attention to the teacher, raising their hands before being allowed to speak and so on) whilst wearing a military uniform. The various uniforms that a pupil learnt to wear according to the activities and the different moments of the day served to mark a sense of the daily passage of time. Schoolboys learnt not only that there is a time for everything, but that there are clothes for everything and every moment: thus, as they got up, they were expected to report to the morning roll call wearing their tracksuit; then a couple of hours later, after having had a wash they were wearing khakhi shorts and shirts, black socks and shoes at breakfast. Back from school to the hostel around 12.40 p.m., they changed clothes yet again: full pyjamas, white and yellow stripes, which they were to wear at lunchtime, during afternoon rest, and at dinner and night-time. After rest, they changed back into their shorts and shirts to go back to the teaching hall for the supervised study period. Then at 5 p.m. the pupils changed clothes for playing games, before donning their pyjamas after bathing. All in all, the pupils changed clothes 6 times on an average day. The day is marked by this sartorial timing that registers itself on the pupils’ minds and bodies alike. When compared with other, ordinary schools, the extent to which pupils had internalised discipline and order was unique. Even when left without a teacher, the pupils would continue working on their assignment and there would be very little agitation outside and inside the classroom, unlike ordinary schools. It was as though the pupils at the Warna military school were bridled; as if discipline and order so pervaded the minutiae of daily routine and all the interstices of social and collective life, that it had almost become second nature to them. The best exemplification I ever witnessed took place one afternoon as I was visiting the hostel with the principal (Pal). As we got to the mess, the Pal knocked twice on the barred door. The silence behind it was total. After a few seconds, the door opened and revealed an assembly of young boys all sitting at tables and doing their homework without a word, with no noise, although some of them were fast asleep—an amazing sight and vision, almost eerie in the heat of this late February

Gender and Family Values in Military Schools


afternoon. For anybody who has seen a boys’ school anywhere and particularly in India, this was a surreal sight indeed—as if these children were already old men, wearing a seemingly grave and sad air on their faces. In any other school with pupils of that age, the exuberant vitality of young boys could not have been similarly contained. Such mastery, such muzzling of liveliness was both impressive and frightening. Whether or not such a second nature was lasting did not matter; this schooling experiment first and foremost demonstrated behavioural and situational plasticity that also built gendered persons, in a predominantly male space.




At first sight, the military school is an ideal space of masculinity. This space is concretely gender-ordered, underpinned by a hierarchical principle in which male-to-male relationships are particularly cultivated at the expense of male-to-female ones, whether inside the school or outside. Such emphasis on male character was particularly prominent on special occasions. The school’s annual gathering (sama-rambh) where the pupils’ parents are invited is one such occasion. At the gathering that took place in March 2000, the women and children were seated together—though in separate groups—crouching or sitting cross-legged on ground covered with a plastic sheet. But whilst children occupied the main central space, women were relegated to the periphery of the scene. Meanwhile, the men occupied the rest of the centre, seated behind the children on proper seats, whether plastic or folding metal chairs. The ritual and rhetorical space during the ceremony was prominently male, with an emphasis on father–son relationships. After a puja- to the sainik school’s founders and the usual garlanding of (all but one male) VIPs, an opening speech was made by the principal and a welcome song (swa-gatam) sung by a group of pupils. The military instructor thanked the parents and children for their presence on the occasion, and praised the virtues of military education before distributing sports prizes in each class. A speech by the director of the Kolhapur District Secondary Education Board followed, in which he welcomed and supported the sainik-school, expressing his hope for more of these to be set up in the district and the state. It was then the


Véronique Bénéï

turn of an army Major to express his wish to see all the boys becoming army men. Next a boy’s father spoke for longer than the first three speakers together: he marvelled at and extolled the achievements and the good qualities of the Warna military school for a ‘necessary national preparation’ for war against Pakistan. His speech was loudly applauded, in keeping with the then prevailing sense of insecurity expressed by many informants at a time of heightened diplomatic crisis between the two countries. It was, however, the emphasis on the father–son relationship that was the most salient aspect in some of the shows. For instance, besides a song in honour of the country, the only other song sung at the time was the Hindi one called ‘Mere Pappa’ (‘My Daddy’), from the Hindi movie Pappa the Great (2000). The song, in praise of fathers, tallied a list of their almost god-like qualities.6 The choice of a song meant for fathers was particularly noteworthy as it stood in stark contrast with the constant rhetoric of the love for the mother and the motherland embedded in the deshbhakt-ñ (devotion to the nation or ‘patriotism’) performed in schools. Congruently, women’s absence from both the rhetorical contents and the speaking scene was particularly striking throughout the ceremony, especially given that they constituted a good two-thirds of the parental audience. No women made a speech, despite their greater numbers. Contrary to standard interpretations of male initiation rituals (Godelier 1986), women were not praised for producing and giving up their sons for the nation, as is often done in public speeches. It was as if all of these processes— including the sports prize distribution ceremony—had as their main purpose not so much the stripping off of the feminine dimension in the boys as its appropriation, as well as that of the power of mothers over their sons. The obvious emphasis laid on fathers expressed something of a different order, no longer so much an acknowledgement of habitual gender relations as the recognition of fathers as embodiments of the family, as I explain below.




More than anywhere else, the aim of the military school is to fortify a dedication to the school that overrides all other possible sources of allegiance as a means of turning young boys into proper men who will serve their country dutifully. Such an aim involves a shift from family-oriented

Gender and Family Values in Military Schools


to nation-oriented allegiance. In ordinary primary schools, this shift assumes the form of a daily back and forth movement along a continuum of spheres (from domestic space to the mixed one of school through to the nation) where women play a prominent and visible part (see Benéï 2002). Here, the schooling space becomes an all male-invested space mediating the nation as well as the family. Links with individual families are made infrequent (even severed) and the schoolboys are expected to shed their attachments to parents and siblings. Parents’ visits were no longer encouraged. From an average of a monthly one until November 2000, they were later simply banned, ‘unless exceptional circumstances demanded it and except at the time of the annual gathering and of the holidays’ (three weeks at Diwali and one-and-a-half months in the summer). The reason given by the Pal for enforcing such a ban was one of disruption of routine and its bearing upon the children. Thus, he explained, when these monthly visits used to take place, three days before, ‘only the children’s bodies (sharñ- r) were there, but their minds (man) would already be over there, at home’. Upon returning to school, the children would be sick for the next two days, complaining of ‘cold, heat, tummy-ache, and so on’.7 Interestingly, the Pal’s explanation was radically—and perhaps deliberately—down-to-earth: ‘their mother, their father, or maybe an aunt, etc. will have fed them too many sweets …’ The disruption was therefore not attributed to military school life and its difficult emotional implications of severed ties from the natal surroundings, but to the inadequacy of the ‘other world’ of the domestic space, which must be made alien. Even during the holidays, military school life did not fade: its memory was kept vibrant in the pupils’ minds and bodies in various ways. These ranged from teachers’ recommendations regarding a daily schedule to be followed—getting up at 5 a.m., cold bath, self cleaning of one’s clothes and cleaning of the house, eating the full tha-lñ- (tray of food) and so on— to set homework and assigned ‘projects’, the latter acting as a constant link to and reminder of the school in the child’s family sphere. The projects were of three sorts: parisar vidnya-n (environmental science), exemplars of which were to be brought back; newspaper cuttings and photos related to any outing made; learning how to draw rangolñ- , sanctioned by a competition upon their return (on which more later). Yet, acknowledged the Pal wistfully, only 10 per cent of the parents actually followed the instructions. The remaining 90 per cent were not interested: they argued that the teachers were already imposing so many constraints on their children that they themselves did not wish to be harsh to them. So, added


Véronique Bénéï

the Pal, parents tended to indulge their progeny with hot baths and mothers’ washing children’s clothes—with the net result, the Pal bemoaned, that when they came back, the pupils fell ill as they had to get used to cold water again! Such a structural divide between school and home life characterised, respectively, by coldness, strict prophylaxis and household chores, and by warmth, domestic leniency and dietary sweetness, was conceptualised as essential to the school’s pedagogic project. The Pal always took great care to accentuate the contrast in his speech. At the same time, because the school was to become the dominant, overriding space for the construction of male personhood and citizenship, it also strove to appropriate some of these home-ascribed features in order to recreate a family atmosphere within the school environment.






If home was kept separate from school, a ‘home atmosphere’ was sought to be recreated in the school through a network of ties formed with other schoolchildren (pseudo-siblings) as well as with teachers (pseudoparents and adult relatives). The Pal played a prominent part in this reconstruction, together with his wife who, in the process, drew upon the children’s experiences of home and family. Thus, aided by three or four other women, she would bake puranpolya- (a sweet wheaten pancake traditionally stuffed with raw sugarcane) on particular occasions for the pupils. In Maharashtra, puranpolñ- is a treat that children are usually very fond of. Most of all, puranpolñ- is associated with many festivals (evoking Ganapati in particular) and special occasions (guests, school success, and so on) when it is prepared at home. Its association with family atmosphere and rejoicing is very powerful and the fact that the Principal’s wife should choose to prepare such a sweet further strengthens the idea of a family atmosphere (re)created at the military school. The Pal had also instituted a birthday ritual, whereby each pupil’s birthday was acknowledged, if only briefly: it was announced in the evening by the respective pramukh (literally ‘chief ’, the pupil in each class who had come first in the previous term’s examinations), after which the birthday boy would stand up and be given an ovation by his fellow pupils. By the same token, the Pal incarnated the figure of the benevolent yet strict parental substitute testified by his interaction with students. He prided himself on a personal and individualised relationship with

Gender and Family Values in Military Schools


all the boys, claiming to know the name of each of the pupils, their father and their family. This, incidentally, was confirmed to me by a student. During evening study time, the Pal was often surrounded by children showing him their notebooks, poems and so on in his office. To him, this was evidence of the trust-built relationship that he had developed with the pupils. He would console a child if the latter were hurt. For instance, during a horse-riding session that I attended, one of the boys fell off his horse. His back was scarred and he was rigid with retrospective fright; the Pal sat him under the shade of a nearby tree and massaged his back gently. Such close interaction between pupils and teachers did not, however, sacrifice hierarchy; on the contrary, it enabled a strong sense of respect for superiors to be instilled in pupils, premised on the respect shown to fathers. The staff did not build on fear or awe—possibly because no member of staff had been trained in a military school—but developed a relationship based on trust and respect. Arguably, this was far more efficient in creating a sense of loyalty and devotion on the part of the pupils than any outrageously authoritarian behaviour.8 As proof of his closeness and ability to deal with children’s emotional needs, the Pal had many stories to tell, many of which were— interestingly—confirmed by the concerned pupils. Thus he explained how Anil, the best student in the entire school, ‘was very clever but used to cry every night in his first year because he missed his mother so much’. The Pal slept next to him once and since then the boy had settled in. This was confirmed to me by Anil one day. Anil explained that after the extreme happiness at the prospect of joining the school after much hard work put into preparing for the entrance exams, he had cried a lot when his parents left him and had missed them tremendously for a long time. Then he made friends and ‘now I do not mind so much’. Similar stories were told by other pupils, such as Kishor, also in class 8, the first to have ever been enrolled in the military school in 1997. Like many of his fellow pupils, Kishor had found it really difficult to adjust to boarding-school life. Initially, he cried his heart out, but, encouraged by the Pal, he had made friends and got reassured about seeing his sisters during his holiday visits. If the young narrators made it a point to appear brave and settled in their schooling environment, they often acknowledged difficulty in juggling with the two irreconcilable worlds of school and family. Thus, added Kishor, upon his return to school, there were always ‘two or three days’ when he missed his family very hard before things settled in again. (In many


Véronique Bénéï

cases, these ‘two or three days’ tended to translate into weeks.) In contrast, the Pal’s were all unconditional success stories. Apart from those stories that relate to the pupils’ transformation and successful integration into the school after their arrival, another type specifically narrates the Pal’s handling of difficult students’ families. Rather unsurprisingly, none of these stories describe failure or low achievement on the part of the staff.9 Yet, the very same stories may offer different readings from those for whom they were purposefully narrated. Some of them reveal the difficulty for families and children to accept the disciplining involved in having a child sent to a military boarding school. These stories point to the disturbing experience of children living through prolonged separation from their familiar surroundings at a young age, and the ensuing negotiation on both sides. The stories also indicate the acute parental emotional investment both in the child and in his education, revealing the tension between despair at the consequent ‘loss’ of the child, and resolve to sever the connection for the purpose of the child’s education and fulfilment of a family ideal. Let me illustrate this with two examples. The very first year when the school opened, recalls the Pal, the staff and the pupils were all new; parents used to come and visit their children ‘too often’, in spite of being forbidden to do so. Once when ‘a father’ came for the umpteenth time, the Pal got so exasperated that he called the peon and told him to get the child’s mattress, pillow and belongings and bring the boy down with him. Then the Pal told the father: ‘Look, this is your son, this is your stuff, now you take both back and leave. If you don’t trust us, then there is no point. You just go with your son and this is the end of it. We don’t mind—it is OK by us.’ The father apologised and pledged that the Pal would never see him on the premises again unless called for. Word spread, and from then on, parents gradually stopped dropping by unannounced. At about the same time, ‘a father’ who lived relatively close by would ride past the school every day on his motorbike on his way home. Each time he saw his son watching from a distance, both of them would cry. This went on for several days. One day, the boy was standing on the front ground; when he saw his father ride by he escaped through a hole in the fence and ran home behind his father. The Pal was alerted; he immediately left for the boy’s home. There, the boy’s mother and grandmother held on to the child tightly; nobody would let him go back to the school. He was an only child. At last, the father agreed to have him sent back. The Pal carried the child back with him, holding

Gender and Family Values in Military Schools


him tight. He also recommended to the father that he should make a four miles detour to go home, for the psychological benefit of both father and son. The father agreed, and at the time of my visit three years later, the boy was still at the military school. As can be seen from these stories, the relationship between families and sons was predominantly mediated through fathers. Mothers were often absent or powerless; the relationship nurtured in the intimacy of family—in which women undoubtedly play a central role—was projected onto a masculine public sphere that left women as invisible traces of the child’s earlier life. To a certain extent, these emotional displays, primarily between father and son, were given more value as a worthier indication of the ‘sacrifice’ and devotion the parents and families agreed to by giving their sons up for the nation. That a mother should be depicted as devastated by the ‘loss’ of her son might seem too predictable; by contrast, that men should be portrayed as soft and tender with their sons indicated the value and praiseworthiness attached to their sacrifice. In this temporal and social gender role division, therefore, emotions between fathers and sons were publicly expressed both in the name of the larger family bond, and as a personal testimony of masculine recognition, making men the central pillars of the child’s present and future life. The military school perhaps offers a very pronounced yet subtle example of male socialisation.






Cultivation of masculinity may be a definite part of the pedagogic process at the military school. Yet, several elements in this process suggest that the ingraining of masculinity and shedding of female elements are not done as systematically as might be expected from the literature on male socialisation and initiation rituals across the globe (Economou n.d.; Godelier 1986; Hockey 1986; La Fontaine 1985; Read 1952). Rather, there seems to be a tension operating between traditionally ascribed gender roles. If young boys were encouraged to develop their physical and masculine abilities through physical exercise and sports, they were also invited to share in some kind of femininity through performance of femaleascribed roles usually not found among boys their age. For instance, the students would be made to do the daily chores usually reserved to women and little girls. These included washing one’s own personal


Véronique Bénéï

items of clothing, cleaning and sweeping rooms and corridors, clearing cupboards, polishing shoes, washing up plates and so on. All the boys would be expected to perform these activities, either daily (clothes washing, shoe polishing and cupboard clearing) or every four days, in rotation (sweeping floors). In addition to performing most of the daily chores, the pupils learnt an activity usually the preserve of girls and women: rangolñdrawing. Rangolñ- refers to the coloured powders used for drawing motifs on floors and in front of houses, either daily or on special occasions. It is an activity in which little girls often revel, and is considered part of the social apparatus every woman should master, thereby demonstrating her aesthetic domestic skills. At the military school, boys not only learnt it from (female) staff, but they were even seriously encouraged to learn further motifs back home.10 The organising of a competition judged by outside guests and sanctioned by prizes also testified to the seriousness in which this activity was held. These elements contributed not so much to blurring a usually sharp gender differentiation, as to enabling appropriation of the feminine. It may be that as the school expands, the daily chores will tend to be confined to the younger classes, thereby marking a sharper differentiation between gender roles and progressively reinforcing maleness (as defined by male social activities). At the time of my visits, such daily chores were expected to be performed by all pupils. To be sure, some pupils had developed all kinds of strategies for shirking the daily ‘female duties’. Clothes washing, in particular, was one sphere of activity where, away from the teachers’ gaze, the most reluctant of them could find a way out by ‘forgetting’ to use soap and contenting themselves with a perfunctory soak of garments. Others did not seem to mind so much. Incidentally, Ashok, who at the time of the annual gathering had performed the female member of the couple travelling across the world capitals and unfailingly coming back to praise Delhi and India (see note 6), was one of them. To be fair, so was his male counterpart in the show. There is another element that unexpectedly brings the schoolboys closer to women’s experiences: that of having to leave their family homes, even though in this case, unlike newly married women, for a limited number of years. The fact that, even today, the usual and widespread pattern of marital residence is a patrilocal one in Maharashtra (as in most of India) means that only women go through this experience of heart-breaking suffering at leaving their familiar environment, coupled with anxious apprehension at the prospect of the unknown.11 Yet, their rendition of their first experience of married life with in-laws

Gender and Family Values in Military Schools


and the adjustment their own natal families tell them they have to make, followed by their resignedly doing so, is strikingly similar to the boys’ experience. Such an analogy struck me whilst listening to the schoolboys’ stories, as well as some of their parents’. The very first one among the latter was that of Kesharbai, the mother of 11-year-old Pramod. It was highly reminiscent of the stories I had heard so often, many years ago, whilst conducting fieldwork on marriage and dowry in (mostly) rural Maharashtra. Pramod, just like most young girls to be married, had had no say in the matter and although he did not want to go to the military school and hoped not to be selected, his mother had made sure he would.12 It took him almost two years to come to terms with the idea that his family would not take him back home; finally resigned to his fate, he stopped crying and adjusted willy-nilly. Although the Pal laughed at the analogy with the distinction between maternal and conjugal homes (ma-her and sa-ser, respectively), he did not altogether reject its possible relevance. Yet, he gave an unexpected twist to the binary ideology. Those who are happy here, he said emphatically, and whose parents do not make them happy—for instance because they fight with each other or because they have divorced—for these ones, the ma-her is here. Those who prefer their family home, he briefly contended, this is sa-ser to them. The Pal’s response was interesting in that it tried to engage with the notions of residence that are so crucial to a woman, yet so difficult to relate to for a man. What it seemed to miss out, however, was precisely the point that a successful—or resigned—transition from ma-her to sa-ser may be expressed precisely in those very terms by a woman, often adding: ‘now, I’ve got used to it’ (‘a-tta- savay jha-lñ- ’), without it necessarily indicating contentment or happiness. Be that as it may, contrary to what might be expected, this military school at least at the primary and secondary levels played much more subtly on a gender dialectics than ordinary schools in Maharashtra, where gender-ascribed roles are much more strictly enforced and adhered to (Bénéï 2002).




Lack of space has not allowed discussion of the prophylactic, health and dietary aspects of the military school’s pedagogy, which also occupied a


Véronique Bénéï

crucial dimension in the constitution of a future, apt citizen. Suffice it to say that in this school, too, the idea of striving towards inner purity that lay at the convergence of colonial pedagogy and Gandhian education, stood at the fulcrum of personal development conducive to national development (Alter 2000: 55–112; Srivastava 1998: 200–202). Students’ bodies played a central part, both as objects to be disciplined along the lines of a Foucauldian bio-power project, and as the very means by which the nation could be reconstituted and regenerated. The gendered dimension of this modern political project has been the focus of this article. It now needs to be situated within a wider discussion of schools and modernity. As seen above, the military school at Warna is a predominantly male space where a highly gendered person is being constructed. Military schools for boys in Maharashtra could first be considered as playing the classical part of socialisation and initiation sites where young boys are initiated into the constraints and expectations of masculinity. The missing link so far has been sexuality. It was hardly possible for me, as a female anthropologist, to broach the subject so frontally with the Pal and his staff, let alone the students themselves. Yet, many indirect elements hinted at a particular sexual construction of the gendered body, at great variance with those in ordinary schools. Prophylactic, dietary and bodily practices certainly played a central part in such a construction: daily consumption of milk at repeated intervals and bathing in cold water (famously known to ‘cool’ the senses), yoga and breathing practices, physical exercise, environmental concerns, and so on. These practices and activities were geared towards fulfilling an ideal of internal disciplining of the mind, soul and body, premised on the overarching rule of self-restraint. In keeping with such self-restraint, the students’ respectful behaviour towards the ladies around (including one member of staff and the anthropologist) was both noticeable and impressive. It appeared far removed from the behaviour so ordinarily encountered among ordinary schoolboys of that age, particularly with respect to the usual concupiscent glances that most ladies passing their way are subject to. Such apparently contrasting behaviours on the part of military school students, together with the special dietary and hygienic regimen they were submitted to, suggests a parallel with Alter’s thesis on celibacy and nationalism. In an earlier work (1993), Alter had explored how physical fitness and nationalism were embodied in the heroically masculine physique of the Indian wrestler. To Alter, this masculine physique was an embodied statement of masculinity aimed at countering a British

Gender and Family Values in Military Schools


colonial and postcolonial argument of Indian effeteness.13 Subsequently focusing on the ideal of brahma-cha-rya (or celibacy) usually associated with wrestling, Alter (1994) claims that it has become re-endowed in the postcolonial period with a particular value: that of counter-westernisation. The brahma-cha-rñ- has become the political alternative to the ‘postcolonial libertine’, for whom masculinity is understood as an ideology of domination, self-gratification and control of others. Contrary to such an ‘almost pathologically individualistic’ ideology (ibid.: 58) that emphasises waste of bodily fluids, the brahma-cha-rñ- offers a model in which ‘gender identity derives from a regimen of self-control, balance, integration of self with natural truth’. Alter sees in this bodily self-restraint the beaconing of celibacy as a ‘persuasive form of embodied opposition to the legacy of colonial sexuality’ (ibid.: 58). The military school arguably encapsulates this brahma-cha-rñ- ideal within its various and competing visions of postcolonial citizenship as embodied within the future élite citizens of the region and the nation. Yet, as has also been seen, the process whereby male persons were constituted at this new military school was a lengthy one that also involved cultivating ‘femaleness’ at more than one stage. Such appropriation of feminine roles may appear rather ironic, inasmuch as it does not correspond with the expectations of ordinary parents in Maharashtra. To a majority of those interviewed, the purpose of military schools is to develop strong boys and prepare them to play a significant role in the destiny of the nation, whether by embracing a military career or by becoming high officials in various central and regional administrations. In such a scheme of ‘traditionally’ male prospects and possibilities, femininity has, in principle, no place, at least from the dominant ideological perspective obtaining in this part of the globe as in many others (Ehrenreich 1987). To most parents, the deliberate nurturing of a feminine dimension would appear as a paradoxical statement of masculine modernity, potentially endangering the sustenance in their imaginaries of military schools as utopian projects encapsulating the cherished values of (masculine) discipline, rigour and bravery. These values, it should be further remembered, also connect with regional and local, social memories and historical narratives revolving around the figure of Shivaji, crucial in the constitution of Maharashtrian/Indian political modernity. In view of the tensions between parents’ aspirations for their sons’ careers and the temptation to indulge them as proof of their affection towards them, however, parents themselves unwittingly thwarted the


Véronique Bénéï

implementation of this political and pedagogical project. Consequently, no more than ordinary schools can these military schools ever be anything else but tentative projects of modernity, steeped in fantasy dreams of an ideal community of citizens whilst at the same time shot through by irreconcilable realities of parental love and predilection for discipline. To be sure, these schools undoubtedly came closest to the fulfilment of such a quest for modernity. Yet, just as the nation can never be but an incomplete reality, so the project of modernity inscribed in the very existence of these schools may never reach completion. Despite this and even though such femininity might eventually be shed at a later stage, as the school develops into a fully-fledged secondary and junior high school, pondering over it at this moment in history allows one to reflect further on the meaning of gender role construction in relation to modernity and the nation state. At present, the military school is not only functioning as a site where prolonged male socialisation and ritual initiation is taking place. It is also one where the males who are constructed in the process are given an opportunity to ‘transcend the feminine dimension’ within them by performing ‘traditionally’ feminine-ascribed roles whilst developing as full male social agents. It might therefore be suggested that this military school is presently attempting to construct a fuller, more complete social person than is usually allowed by either formal or informal institutions within Maharashtra, Indian society and most other societies (Gilmore 1990). Such a project of gender construction thus stands in stark contrast with those known to have occupied prominent places within the Indian public sphere over the last two centuries. In the latter projects, even when the attributes of Indian femaleness and maleness have been deployed towards a common goal, whether reforming society and building a regenerated Indian/Hindu nation or constructing a secular Indian nation, these attributes have been characteristically dichotomised. Take, for instance, the Hindu middle class polemicists of the United Provinces (today’s Uttar Pradesh) who in the late 19th and early 20th centuries sought to fashion a new social and moral ethos: some of them founded a collective Hindu nationalist and reformed identity on disciplined masculinity on the one hand and virtuous femininity on the other (Gupta 2001). By the same token, the study of the modalities of gender construction in ordinary mixed schools in Maharashtra today reveals very sharply defined roles. There, masculine and feminine attributes are learnt, practised, appropriated, constructed and enacted time and again

Gender and Family Values in Military Schools


in an infinity of ways—ranging from the most minute, petty and trivial to the most powerfully expressed and ritualised ones.14 In contradistinction to such dichotomous constructions, the military school’s project offers a synthesis—perhaps even an encompassment—of the two gendered qualities of discipline and virtue. Such a synthesis is tentatively effected into a single new social person, the archetype of a new modern— almost godlike—citizen.15 The military school, then, comes across as the site of a modern utopia where gender values may also eventually be reconciled, transcended even.16 Nevertheless, in spite of female qualities being overtly nurtured within the military schoolboys and notwithstanding the pride derived by some pupils from being lauded for their rangolñ- drawings, many of them seemed rather impervious to such ‘female roles’, which they tended to perceive as subaltern. As Sanjay Srivastava (1998) cogently argued against Erving Goffman’s notion of ‘total institution’ (1961) as extended to the schooling context, whether ordinary institutions or military boarding ones, schools cannot be seen as isolated, watertight institutions independent of the wider society. On the contrary, they are part and parcel of society at large, operating as so many key sites where dominant (and other conflicting) sets of values may be appropriated. Given the enduring predominance of a hierarchical male orientation in Indian society and the ambivalence towards the mother caused by fear of both abandonment and absorption (Kakar 1981), the dominant reluctance found among the boys as unproblematically embracing feminine qualities is rather unsurprising. In the final instance, however, the differential transcending of femininity by the pupils also testifies to a degree of agency greater than that usually conceded to individuals, and children in particular. Such degree of agency and autonomy of thinking was also evident in the students’ reflections on their future careers. Interviews conducted in the absence of any staff revealed a wider diversity of aims, ambitions, hopes, desires as well as utter refusals, than might have been expected judging from the apparent overall uniformity of behaviours. These ambitions and hopes did not only reflect those of the families who had sent the boys to the military school in the first place, or those of the teachers and other adults (most of them army or government officials) who visited them regularly and lectured them on inspiring topics of various sorts. They also testified to these children’s active appropriation, choosing— or refusing—to make others’ expectations about them their own. They further demonstrated their relative autonomy as subjects. For instance,


Véronique Bénéï

in spite of the many efforts made at instilling in them a sense of national duty and a taste for the military, not even a quarter of the pupils actually showed an interest in preparing for the National Defence Academy. Among the most favoured professions were those of aeronautics engineer, doctor and civil engineer. Children take an active part in the process of gender construction and their active engagement is important on two counts: it emphasises the necessity to look at children as full participants in the life and sustenance of a given social group rather than as passive agents upon whom some form of power would be blindly exerted.17 It also highlights the fact that rather than a given in a social group, gender is a process crucial in the making of social persons. This process is neither a wholly straightforward nor a culturally determined one and may reveal a variety of possibilities even within a given society, allowing individuals some leeway in negotiating it. Further evidence of this was provided in the spring of 2003 by the ‘gay’ parade in Kolkata, the first ever in the South Asian sub-continent.

Notes 1. This article is based on fieldwork material collected over a period of three years from January 1998 to December 2000 and made possible by a generous ESRC grant (R000237530). The present chapter is part of a larger work in progress, which is looking at schooling and nationalism in Maharashtra (India). 2. This is apart from the works of scholars such as Allison James, who is more of a psychologist than an anthropologist (see especially James 1993: 134–66). 3. I use the word in inverted commas as I am aware of its also being part of a dialectics of ‘citizen’/‘subject’, which is being addressed at length in a book in preparation. 4. In keeping with the issue of a modern gendered subject, that of her/his autonomy has become prominent in the last two or three decades thanks to the converging influences of feminist and subalternist scholarship, and to the so-called ‘cultural turn’ (Grossberg et al. 1992; Hutchinson 1996; Steinmetz 1999). Yet, such influences have not radically reshaped the theoretical focus of studies of (initiation) rituals. The implicit assumption has often remained that subjects have no real agency of their own. The making of a new social person was unanimously supposed to involve culturally determined transformations, an ideological description of which was either provided by some native informants, or resulted from the anthropologist’s understanding—or ‘reading’—of it (see Bateson 1936 for a remarkably early exception). 5. Cf. Bayly 1998, who looks at the Maharashtrian case for an elaboration of ‘protonationalism’ in India. 6. Another show deserves particular mention, although for an altogether different nationalistic slant: it is one where a ‘couple’ played by two (male) students travels across the world capitals and each time comes back to India. The refrain celebrates the couple’s attachment to India and Delhi and praises their superiority over the rest of the world.

Gender and Family Values in Military Schools


The student performing the female part was dressed in a fake sari and wore make up and jewellery. ‘She’ conspicuously displayed her subservience to her husband on their travels by running behind. 7. Note that the site of harm was the stomach, which in Marathi is often used metaphorically. It can even refer to the national shaming incurred by the loss of a battle that goes ‘undigested’ (apacavlel-ñ ). Furthermore, it is often a primary site mediating children’s pains of various sorts, regardless of their etiology (physiological, organic cause, psychological and so on). 8. The only member of staff who might have verged towards more classical authoritarian behaviour, however, was the military instructor. 9. Obviously, no institution would gladly admit to failure. Consequently, even if cases of outright failure to handle a difficult pupil or a disruptive family do exist, they are not part of the institutional narrative. 10. Interestingly, the designs (flowers, rifle, Ganesh and so on) were comparable with those found in ordinary schools at the time. 11. Of course, the exceptions are many to this rule of hardship: many young women, particularly of rural Maratha background, are married close to their natal homes. Yet, even among these communities, the popular feeling—expressed through numerous songs, sayings, proverbs and poems—is that once marriage has taken place, the sweet days of childhood are gone and a hard toiling life awaits the newly wed in her new home. Furthermore, even though the young woman may go back home on a number of occasions, the ideologically dominant view is one of severed, or at least much loosened, ties. See Bénéï (1996). 12. She coached him relentlessly for the written exams, so that he eventually was among the 40 admitted. 13. In my view, such a statement was more the product of—rather than a reaction to— a dialogue with colonial culture. Indeed, as Alter himself acknowledges, the image of effeteness was only one among others pertaining to ‘the Indian’ and competing in the colonisers’ psyche. Alongside this image, the category of ‘martial race’ or ‘martial caste’ played as crucial a part, if only for practical reasons: martial castes such as those of the Rajputs or the Marathas were not only praised for their warrior qualities, but also largely recruited from to form the battalions of a British Indian army. In Maharashtra, for instance, the long-standing tradition of wrestling was revived through engaging with colonial power. Although it came to embody a regenerated national virility, it was not necessarily a ‘counter-effeminate’ one. 14. This aspect is examined at length in a book in preparation. 15. See Gilmore (1990) for a discussion of androgyny in Hindu mythology and its relation to the concept of pure manhood. 16. One might object that this is still a masculine project since the synthesis is effected through a male person. A comparison with the military school for girls created at about the same time in Pune would obviously be interesting. Discussions with its headmistress, the wife of a former army officer, suggest a comparable development among female pupils. 17. See also Robert Coles’ work for an application of such a pro-active approach (Coles 1977; 1986).







Contemporary media discourse on madrasahs generally fails to acknowledge how diverse madrasah education is in India. The term madrasah is often prefixed by the word dñ- nñ- (‘religious’) to demarcate madrasahs from other kinds of educational institution, implying that, in contrast to any other type of school, the madrasah is an Islamic school, often referred to as ‘Islamic seminary’ in the literature. Madrasahs can, however, be distinguished in the following way: •

Madrasahs that call themselves ‘madrasahs’, but have nothing to do with Islamic teaching, or with the standardised Islamic curriculum (the dars-e-niza-mi): in this case, the madrasah is usually simply an Urdu-medium school. Madrasahs whose curricula are based on the dars-e-niza-mi, and which offer exclusively religious education to either boys or girls at the secondary level, that is to students from roughly 12 to 17 years of age. These madrasahs are different from Islamic primary education in the maktab (where co-education prior to puberty is generally not considered problematic for girls) and from the ja-mia, which follows the madrasah for post-graduate education at the college or university level. This type of madrasah often includes a minimum set of secular subjects, such as mathematics, English or Hindi, bridging the long-standing division between dñ-nñ- (religious) and duniya-vi (worldly) knowledge. Madrasahs that combine the state curriculum for secondary education and religious education. The Islamic component may range from an Islamic dress code, gender segregation and regular dñ-nñ- ta`lñ- m (religious education) classes, to a quite elaborate

Everyday Life in a Girls’ Madrasah in Delhi


degree of integration of even Arabic classes, set prayer times, Urdu literature, Islamic history, etc. This school type I refer to as the ‘dual’, or ‘cross-over type’ madrasah. My study focuses on girls’ madrasahs of the second kind: secondarylevel madrasahs providing education for young women between roughly 12 and 17 years of age. The full-time madrasah generally requires some kind of formal training prior to enrolment, which could be in the maktab, in a secular public school or in Islamic educational centres that offer free education for young girls.



In India, where Islamic education in madrasahs has a long-standing history, public madrasahs for girls only began to mushroom roughly over the last two decades (Grandin and Gaborieau 1997). Up to partition, Muslim girls were predominantly taught at home in Islamic matters (Minault 1998). Noble or sharñ-f families, in particular, patronised Islamic learning for neighbourhood girls in their houses, an informal way of teaching that did not conflict with parda requirements as girls were taught by female teachers in the women’s quarters of the house (zena-na). Accounts of such ‘home teaching’ for girls in Delhi have been preserved in oral histories of women who still remember the times prior to partition. Moreover, the late 19th century ‘advice literature’ for women by authors such as Ashraf Ali Thanawi, Nazeer Ahmad and Altaf Husain Hali later functioned as a model when the first girls’ madrasahs were established shortly after partition (Pernau 2002). Many of the noble or sharñ- f families who used to patronise Islamic home teaching for girls migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and a gap in Muslims girls’ Islamic education emerged. Some informants argued that girls’ madrasahs were established in the early 1950s because the earlier patrons of learning were no longer present. Others, however, emphasised that the Muslim minority in independent India had to find new ways of preserving their Islamic legacy. The saying that ‘the mother’s lap is the first madrasah’ reflects the pivotal role that women played at the discursive level. But if concepts such as this provided a rationale for the establishment of girls’ public madrasahs, madrasahs for girls—rather than home teaching—raised a


Mareike Jule Winkelmann

new range of questions and problems. How could attending a public school be combined with the requirements of parda—a term denoting both the veiling of the female body and the physical segregation of women from male spaces? If commuting were necessary, how would girls travel safely without depending on their guardians every day? How would suitable and sufficiently trained female teachers be found to teach the girls? How would the founders of girls’ madrasahs (almost all of whom were men) be able to supervise classroom activities without infringing parda? Recent reports suggest that there are approximately 35,000 Islamic seminaries in India (Qamaruddin 1997). Due to their more or less exclusively religious nature and their generally independent status, madrasahs have evolved into complex, rather opaque and separate networks along the lines of different schools of thought. My initial contacts at the organisational level corresponded with network structures revolving around a number of Islamic schools of thought, for example the Deobandis, the Jamaat-e-islami-e-Hind, the Ahl-e-hadith, the Barelwis and the Nadwatul Ulama—all five representing large Muslim organisations that emerged between the late 19th and the mid-20th centuries. The lack of a central overarching organisation contributes to the overall impression of opacity of madrasah network structures, but this opacity also reflects the estrangement resulting from the gap between mainstream and Islamic forms of education. In post-partition India, madrasahs have largely remained outside the scope of both state intervention and state (financial) support. In the aftermath of 9/11, however, the Delhi government and Muslim spokespersons alike voiced the need for a central Madrasah Board, which up to now only exists at the state level in Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal.2 This was a controversial suggestion, because many Muslims involved in madrasah education felt that a central Madrasah Board would jeopardise the independent status of their madrasah and allow for too much state control. For the researcher, on the other hand, the lack of such an institution is an obstacle in obtaining information on madrasahs in contemporary India—an even greater problem for girls’ madrasahs, which have proved to be yet more elusive. The study carried out by the Delhi based Hamdard Education Society suggested that 8–10 per cent of the estimated 35,000 Indian madrasahs are girls’ madrasahs (ibid.). Many Muslims to whom I talked about my research seemed unaware of or even surprised at my suggestion that girls’ madrasahs exist, however.

Everyday Life in a Girls’ Madrasah in Delhi


The oldest and largest girls’ madrasah in post-partition India is in Malegaon (Maharashtra): Deobandis established the Jamiatus Salehat in the early 1950s. Today, the madrasah hosts around 1,500 students, of whom roughly 50 per cent are foreign students from Southeast Asia and children of NRIs from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. Transnational madrasah networks seem to play an important role, including bringing in funding. In addition, Jamiatus Salehat graduates from abroad return to their respective countries of origin and establish similar madrasahs for girls there, which suggests a potential to shape Muslim communities in the diaspora. Within India, too, the Jamiatus Salehat is highly significant, as its graduates teach in similar girls’ madrasahs around the country. This intellectual migration connects the Jamiatus Salehat with two other girls’ madrasahs: the Jamia Noorul Islam in Lucknow, and the Jamiatul Banaath in Delhi. All three implement the same curriculum, based on the standardised dars-e-niza-mi with slight modifications especially with regard to fiqh (Islamic law) to fit the shorter five-year course offered in these three madrasahs.

THE JAMIATUL BANAATH MADRASAH The Jamiatul Banaath madrasah in Delhi was the entry point for my ethnographic fieldwork. The madrasah was established in 1996 and is accommodated in a small school building of some 50 sq. yards, where the students study and live. The premises have been adapted to fit the basic needs of running a madrasah with limited means. The large kitchen is outside the main building, and the small rooms inside are used in multiple ways. There are mobile wall structures, large shelves covered with curtains where the girls keep their belongings, and no furniture to block the passage from one room to the other. As one can imagine, under these circumstances discipline is of utmost importance to maintain order and to ensure the safety and well-being of the girls. Not even the rooftop terrace allows for any physical exercise, as it is covered with sheets, in order to serve as yet another classroom or as a drying space for clothes after classes. Hopes to expand in the near future have started to materialise, as a larger compound has been acquired in Okhla. Once the new school building has been completed, the madrasah will eventually host around 1,000 students. Every year so far, 300–400 requests for enrolment have


Mareike Jule Winkelmann

been received, but only about 45 requests could be processed successfully. Recently a total stop to applications has been implemented, as the school building can no longer meet the daily needs of its students. The Jamiatul Banaath madrasah offers a five-year Fa-zila- degree course in Islamic studies for girls between 12 and 17 years of age. By and large, it follows the standardised madrasah curriculum known as the dars-e-niza-mi, with slight modifications as they also teach mathematics, English and Hindi. By a simple sum, according to the timetable, the 15 teachers in the Jamiatul Banaath teach nine periods a day, during six days a week, as only Friday is a holiday. This makes for 135 hours of teaching a day, or 810 hours of teaching a week. All in all, the amount of activity inside this small madrasah is impressive, and there is a constant hustle and bustle of students and teachers switching spaces, all coated by a continuous noise level of various classes reciting the Qur’a-n Sharñ- f, reading Arabic texts, singing Urdu poems, or working their way through the NCERT English Readers—all simultaneously. There are manifold contact points between Jamiatul Banaath and both the Malegaon and the Lucknow madrasahs, since the same (Nadwa oriented) curriculum is implemented and there is an active exchange of students and teachers between these three madrasahs. Teachers in the Jamiatul Banaath are either recruited from one of the two affiliated girls’ madrasahs or from among the first two batches of its own graduates since 2001. The founder’s family originates from Barabanki district close to Lucknow and claims Ansari background.3 The founder, his son-in-law—who is the madrasah manager—and the fathers of two other teachers from the same background, are all closely affiliated with the lay preachers’ movement known as the Tabligh-ñ Jama`at, whose headquarters are in the direct vicinity of the madrasah. These `ulamastudied in the Tabligh-ñ boys’ madrasah known as the Kashful Uloom, where two of them continue to teach. Most of the 175 students are local girls from a lower to lower middleclass background, but the founder’s and manager’s tabligh activities take them to various parts of the country regularly, and this also enables them to recruit students from outside Delhi too. Students from more distant places told me they had learnt about this particular madrasah by word of mouth. The women’s programmes on Thursday afternoons are another connection between the Jamiatul Banaath madrasah and the Tabligh-ñ headquarters. The madrasah programme, however, is intended for and carried out by the students and attended by only a few local women, whilst, in the Tabligh-ñ headquarters, the lecture (baya-n) is given by a man

Everyday Life in a Girls’ Madrasah in Delhi


from behind a curtain. Most of the Jamiatul Banaath teachers attend these lectures in the Tabligh-ñ headquarters regularly. Moreover, the Faza-’il-ea`ma-l, the Tabligh-ñ manual about the virtues of everyday actions for the hereafter, is incorporated in the curriculum of the Jamiatul Banaath for daily reading.




In girls’ madrasahs, the tensions between the public sphere and parda requirements are tackled and solved in varying ways. For instance, in the initial phase of my study, I visited a large girls’ madrasah without boarding facilities in Hyderabad. The students were picked up from home every day by school buses with dark curtains on the windows, and special arrangements had also been made at the school entrance, so that the girls could enter the school building without being seen by outsiders. At the Jamiatul Banaath, the strict requirements for parda are laid out in the admission papers, which are handed to the parents either in Urdu or in Hindi. These state the following:4 1. Rules and regulations: (…) If the student has to go out, permission of the head teacher and the hostel warden must be asked. Students must always wear the school uniform during class hours. The students must remember that the Ja-mia is a centre of morality (akhla-q). The aim of the Ja-mia is the reform (isla-h) of morality (akhla-q) and actions (a-ma-l). The students’ behaviour should be in accordance with Islamic law (shari’at). The students’ clothes should be in accordance with Islam. Parda is to be observed at all times. 2. Holidays: (…) Students who go to melas, cinemas, or other places of entertainment (lahwo-la‘b) will be expelled from the Ja-mia. Students are strictly prohibited from wearing jewellery (zewar) or decoration (a-ra-ish). Students must observe the obligatory Islamic rituals (‘iba-dat). Students have to attend the daily gathering (majlis) of the virtues (faza-’il).5 Students must fully respect the teachers, founders, and Islamic scholars (`ulama-) behind the Ja-mia. Students must stay away from fitna (mischief, quarrels) at all times.


Mareike Jule Winkelmann

3. Student’s pledge: I promise that I shall observe these rules and regulations, that I shall study with great dedication, that I shall stay away from those things that are a waste of time and that I shall never display any immoral behaviour. I promise that I shall dedicate 24 hours a day to studies in accordance with the timetable of the Ja-mia, that I shall obey the command of those in charge of the Ja-mia and accept any punishment if I break any of the rules and regulations. 4. Contact with parents: During set timings, parents are allowed and encouraged to call the Ja-mia to enquire about the student’s progress. The student is allowed to speak on the phone for 3 minutes. On the first Thursday of every month, students can go home to visit their parents. When they are picked up from the Ja-mia, students must be accompanied by a mahrem (a man forbidden to a girl for marriage), whose photograph is with the Jamia. A woman cannot fulfil that function. A student cannot meet a ghair mahrem (a man other than those forbidden to a girl for marriage), even if it is a close relative of hers. One can come and meet the students on Thursdays after 12 p.m. and on Fridays from 9–12 a.m. Parents are expected to check with the Ja-mia regularly about the student’s advancement and regarding possible problems [this presupposes quite a high level of education and reflection]. After every round of exams, there is a meeting for the parents/guardians, during which the students display their aptitude. Vreede-de Stuers daringly raises the question whether parda actually secludes women from male spaces, or excludes men from female spaces (Vreede-de Stuers 1968; see Lughod 1987 for a similar argument). In the Jamiatul Banaath, there is a clear distinction between male and female spaces. There is a small front room for the founder, the manager and their guests to meet. What goes on behind the literal parda (curtain) is largely inaccessible for them, although the school building is so small that men sitting in the front room are bound to hear what is happening inside the classrooms. Even though the girls and women ‘observe parda’, it could perhaps be argued, then, that the men are excluded from the women’s domain. Yet, the mobility of women outside these female spaces is clearly more restricted than the mobility of men, who are excluded only from a relatively small portion of the girls’ madrasah. Related to these thoughts about female spaces is the question of whether and under what conditions Jamiatul Banaath

Everyday Life in a Girls’ Madrasah in Delhi


students leave this segregated space to perform tabligh or missionary duties, like the men in this Tabligh-ñ -oriented community, or to perform other ritual obligations outside the madrasah. As the admission papers indicate, the girls are allowed home for the first weekend of every month and for the school holidays following Ramza-n and during summer. The girls have to be picked up from the madrasah, escorted home and brought back to the madrasah on time by their ‘guardians’, that is, the male relative designated for this task, be it the father, brother, uncle or husband. Otherwise the family will be fined, or the student may even be prevented from continuing her studies. Apart from the set holidays, monthly weekends off and visits to the doctor if required, the students mainly stay inside the madrasah—although students occasionally pretend to be sick in order to leave the madrasah and go to the nearby market accompanied by one or two teachers. A teacher-cum-student—a graduate from the affiliated Jamia Noorul Islam in Lucknow a few years ago—provides an example of the restraints that students face. Born in Lucknow and raised in Jeddah, she was married to a Delhi-based engineer. He used to take her to the Jamiatul Banaath every week, where she usually spent two or three days studying subjects such as tafsñ- r (Qur’a-nic exegesis) and fiqh (Islamic law). Toward the weekend, he usually came to pick her up, as the distance from their apartment in south Delhi to the madrasah was too far for daily commuting. This, however, meant that the young woman’s studies depended entirely on her husband. Often, she could not come to the madrasah when she intended to, or she could not be picked up on the day she meant to return home, because of her husband’s schedule. For the many students and teachers who are not Delhi residents, the issues of male guardianship and mobility are even more complicated. Apart from girls who come from remote areas in and around the capital, the Jamiatul Banaath also hosts students from places as diverse as Lucknow, Bahraich, Bijnor, Saharanpur, and even Mumbai, to name but a few. Generally, these girls can go home only during the longer vacations following Ramza-n and during summer, when the madrasah remains closed for five to six weeks. In other words, male guardianship is central to the girls’ mobility outside the madrasah and most students literally remain inside the Jamiatul Banaath for most of the year, where the overall impression is that their lives are very austere. The girls invest five years to complete their Alimaand Fa-zila- courses, with very few possibilities for distractions, leisure or even physical exercise while staying in the madrasah.


Mareike Jule Winkelmann

A RITUAL NICHE A number of smaller girls’ madrasahs in Old Delhi and Okhla hold meetings for women organised by women, either on Thursdays or Fridays. In the Jamiatul Banaath, the Thursday programme forms a ritual niche for the girls to practise their skills in a segregated space. Every Thursday, between roughly 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., teachers and students organise this weekly programme, which a few local women also attend, including the female relatives of students and teachers from the neighbourhood. The programme is held in the largest section of the building, the ground floor, where approximately 200 girls and women can be seated on the floor and in the upstairs gallery in orderly rows supervised by senior students. Every week, the teachers who organised the programme come in once everyone is seated, taking their places right in front of everyone else in a slightly elevated section of the hall. With the handwritten programme for the day in front of them in their notebooks, they take turns announcing the students’ contributions through the microphone. The technical equipment is in the front room, where the manager sits with his guests and listens to what is going on behind the door separating them from the girls. The programme is in Urdu and Arabic, the latter accessible only to the students and teachers of the madrasah. At the teacher’s word, the students come to the front and recite some verses from the Qur’a-n Sharñ- f, give the interpretation of a Qur’a-nic text in Urdu (tafsñ- r), recount hadiths, tell an Islamic story or sing a tara-na, or Urdu na-th. Simultaneously, the other teachers may call other students to the fore and reprimand them for performing poorly during the past week. When the girls recite the Qur’a-n Sharñ- f in Arabic, their voices tend to change to a higher pitch, and the recitation appears almost automatic. While the initial bismillah is uttered in a voice that one could describe as ‘her own’, the actual recitation seems formulaic, as the intonation follows its own pattern and rules. This observation is underpinned by the often restlessly wandering eyes of the young girl reciting the text, while uttering the words so quickly that one wonders whether she is aware of what she is saying, or if she just follows the method of recitation, thereby displaying her aptitude. On the other hand, tafs-ñ r (exegesis of a Qur’a-nic text) takes place in Urdu: the tone is familiar and contains numerous moral appeals to the audience fashioned in the style of the adab (etiquette) literature.

Everyday Life in a Girls’ Madrasah in Delhi


The weekly programme provides students with an opportunity to practise speaking in public. This enables them to overcome the shyness that has been instilled in most of them from their earliest childhood, as part of a girl’s traditional preparation for marriage and being valued as a ‘shy bride’. Moreover, the students’ dependence on their (male) guardians for venturing out of their homes or the madrasah contrasts with the relative freedom the programme provides for them to develop confidence based on their aptitude and knowledge, which the students build up gradually.




While adab or ‘value education’ only takes up a relatively small portion of the formal timetable, namely eight hours a week from the first year onwards, observations confirm that adab permeates the everyday actions and overall atmosphere in the Jamiatul Banaath. Moreover, introducing the students to and grooming them in the rules laid out by the community’s understanding of adab appears to be pivotal for the madrasah’s explicit aim of bringing about ‘isla-h (reform) of akhla-q (morality) and a`ma-l (actions)’, as stated in the admission papers. Finally, the admission papers also state that ‘… the students must fully respect the teachers, founders, and `ulama- behind the Jamia’. How are these aims brought about and put into practice? Apart from the formally scheduled classes, in which texts such as Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi’s well-known and much discussed Bihishti Zewar (see Metcalf 1990) and the Arabic Qirat-ur-Rashida are carefully studied from the first year onwards, adab is transmitted, practised and reproduced through the ‘informal’ or ‘hidden’ curriculum— rules, discipline, body control and behavioural expectations, especially vis-à-vis those considered to be in authority in the madrasah. Hence, the overall aim of bringing about a sense of adab in the students is not limited to the formal didactic activities taking place in the classroom. As the teachers are barely older than their students, the students in turn often seem to feel free to interact less formally with them than they would towards a more senior person. Using the first name would have been thinkable, since some of the teachers only graduated from the Jamiatul Banaath very recently and the girls used to interact with them as fellow students. Nevertheless, the students address the teachers


Mareike Jule Winkelmann

using the formal ap or appa. There is one exception to the plain use of ap or appa, namely in the case of the manager’s wife, who is also the madrasah’s founder’s daughter. Being in her late 20s, this young woman is by far the most senior teacher in the madrasah, and hence everyone respectfully refers to her as badñ- appa or ‘big elder sister’. In her case, the fictive kinship relation expressed in the omnipresent reference to bad ñappa suggests that respect is not gained through kin relations or ascribed status alone, but also through kindness and knowledge, as she is also considered the most learned young woman. Bad ñ- appa received her secondary education in the Jamiatus Salehat in Malegaon. She learned Farsi and is fluent in Arabic, which is considered a marker of knowledge and status in the Jamiatul Banaath: great emphasis is laid on the acquisition of an outstanding language proficiency in Arabic, entirely in line with the madrasah’s Nadwa patronage. The very first lesson the students learn about adab is that they have to show respect for the teacher, books, authors and finally the madrasah. For example, the Qirat-ur-Rashida provides stories on eating and drinking the proper way, attending and organising marriages, running a household with a view to pleasing God, etc. These stories are backed up by historical precedents of the Prophet, his Companions and the first Caliphs. The teachers ensure that the students not only understand the texts at the semantic level, but also encourage them to find parallel examples in their own lives, which is a didactic method also employed in the Thursday programme. The all-pervading ‘hidden’ impact of adab becomes evident in the case of a girl who initially worked in the Jamiatul Banaath as a cleaner. This maid was in her early teens and stood out in her appearance, as her shalwa-r qamñ- z tended to be very colourful, contrasting strikingly with the sober white school uniforms of the students. Moreover, her head was generally uncovered and her hair was sloppily tied back. Once the teachers began to pay more attention to her, a gradual change set in as she lingered around in the staff room more and more. From that point of time onwards, the cleaner was taught to read and write Urdu and Arabic properly. Apart from her ongoing chores, she was often found in a corner of the small staff room, her head covered by a clean white dupatta- (headscarf), reciting texts from her Urdu and Arabic primers. She no longer left her head uncovered—though she still seemed rather new to the habit of covering it and her dupatta- often slipped off her head—and she had also started using hair oil, which made her hair more shiny, and tying her hair back more mindfully. Her

Everyday Life in a Girls’ Madrasah in Delhi


new favourite pastime seemed to be observing and listening to the teachers’ conversations in the staff room, while dedicating herself more or less fully to her own studies. She seemed to take pride in her newly acquired and visibly more demure appearance, as she spoke in a muted voice, tended to lower her eyes when addressing someone, and walked about in a much more ‘lady-like’ manner than before. Even though she must have been roughly the same age as the students, she did not socialise with them, nor did there seem to be a place for her among them. Nevertheless, her status in the Jamiatul Banaath had certainly changed, as she gained respectability through her interest in Islamic education. Alongside her willingness to adjust to the codes of dressing and behaving, the teachers began to pay more attention to her, instead of just ordering for her to fetch hot milk tea, clean up the floor or put away the dishes they had used for their breakfast. A second example is of twin girls, around 6 years of age, who started to come to the Jamiatul Banaath daily for their first lessons in reading and memorising the Qur’a-n Sharñ- f. Initially, the girls appeared above all anxious and scared. The girls were rather shabbily dressed with their make-do dupatta-s loosely covering their heads, and they looked quite unhealthy, as if they hardly got to go outside the house. Over the months, however, things changed. First of all, due to the daily walks to the madrasah, the girls began to look much healthier, with a new blush on their otherwise pale cheeks, their hair neatly brushed and oiled, and their dupatta-s tied around their heads properly. At first the girls had carried their Qur’a-n Shar-ñ f wrapped in plain pieces of cloth, but after a while they proudly put the Qur’a-n Shar-ñ f in beautiful green silken covers with matching buttons. Soon the girls were no longer seen with the Qur’a-n Shar-ñ f lying on a cushion or a pile of books in front of them, as both possessed ornamentally carved wooden stands, which they folded up once the lesson was over, carrying them under their arms together with the copies of the Qur’a-n Sharñ- f. After a while, they had visibly eased into the new environment, even though they hardly spoke to anyone. They studied very seriously and in a strikingly disciplined fashion for girls their age, considering they were left to their own devices most of the time. These examples show how much adab is central to the madrasah’s wider mission of bringing about reform in Muslims’ morality and actions through educating young girls and women. These ideals, however, may or may not tally with the lives the girls lead outside the madrasah, be it in their natal homes or once they marry. The girls’ status,


Mareike Jule Winkelmann

gained both through the acquisition of Islamic knowledge and through the internalisation of the adab lessons, is both affirmed and negated in the stories told by the students. In line with Margot Badran’s findings, one could argue that the students and teachers promote a Qur’a-ncentred Islamic feminism, which emphasises the equality of men and women before God (Badran 2002), rather than focusing on differences. This may also explain why I have not come across any gendered interpretations or critique of the prevailing interpretations of texts the girls study so far. For example, being so well informed in Islamic matters, the girls enforce their right to acquire knowledge or the right not to help with certain household chores at home, if according to the girls these are not in line with Islam. Some students gave the example of serving unrelated male guests (ghair mahrem). By the same token, the intriguing dynamics of Islamic traditionalism on the one hand and the exposure to Western influences on the other hand also gives rise to tensions in the domestic field. One teacher, for example, became aware of being overweight, as she married into a family of very slim people. Adding to her misery was the fact that all the younger female family members of her new family were either teaching or studying in the Jamiatul Banaath as well, though the young women were clearly taking her side by saying that they wished to be more like her, admiring her voluptuous curves. She was under tremendous pressure to lose weight, however: her husband liked slim women and threatened to divorce her if she gained any more weight. Hence, she put herself on a strict dietary regime and started exercising as well—successfully. When I asked her whether her bodily ideal of becoming slimmer had anything to do with Islam, she said that this was not at all the case. Her ‘people’ (ham log), she said, believed human beings were good the way God created them, and they were strictly against any manipulations of the body, including removing women’s body hair and cutting their hair. But she also considered that her primary duty according to Islam was to please her husband—and hence she had to lose weight. It seems that this teacher was trying hard to negotiate two conflicting Islamic notions. In this particular Muslim community’s worldview, non-Islamic music, films and television are considered un-Islamic and hence forbidden, but reality appears to be much more complex than that. For example, when I asked the students what they had done at home during their vacation following Ramza-n, they said that they had rested and

Everyday Life in a Girls’ Madrasah in Delhi


studied, a reply that suggested a continuation of the sober lifestyle observed in the madrasah. An amusing situation in the staff room sparked spontaneous references to television advertisements. The other teachers immediately recognised the reference and it became obvious that the young women do watch television—a revelation about which they became very self-conscious once the initial laughs had faded. Moreover, male family members are generally more exposed to what are regarded forbidden ‘western influences’, including media and film. This is often under the pretext of knowing one’s ‘enemies’ in order to find the best strategies possible to win them over—a prominent approach among the Tablighñ- s and employed efficiently in their reformist work. Thus, students are indirectly exposed to ‘things forbidden’ through male family members active in the Tablighñ- Jama’at or through those simply less adherent to this particular world view that condemns non-Islamic music, films and television outright. Apart from that, it is hardly possible to avoid exposure to these ‘evils’ in a plural environment where, for example, Hindi filmi music is played in the bazaars. This in turn resonates in the songs called tara-nas or Urdu na-th, which the students write and sing for their own entertainment as well as for the weekly Thursday programme. Strikingly, the tara-nas and Urdu na-th are often sung to popular Hindi filmi tunes. Moreover, there is also the occasional rejection of the lifestyle and worldview the madrasah seeks to promote. For example, a 4th year student told me that she liked driving cars—her father is a car salesman, so this is possible for her—and that she also loved listening to music by Madonna. This open ‘rebellion’ on her part met with strong disapproval on the part of her classmates, but this young woman considered her fellow students to be ‘backward’, their only excuse being that they would not know better. On the one hand, there is a clear rejection of perceived Western influences. On the other, there is also awareness that one cannot entirely avoid confronting certain aspects of Western culture. Hardly anyone in the Jamiatul Banaath had been in contact with mainstream education prior to enrolment in the madrasah, as most of the students and teachers received their primary education either in a maktab or in Islamic centres offering primary education programmes for girls. It is worth noting the case of bad-ñ appa, however. Both her daughters attend the prestigious Delhi Public School for its free classes held in Hindi every afternoon. More than once, badñ- appa expressed her wish to see her children enrol in an English-medium school, adding, however,


Mareike Jule Winkelmann

that she deemed this unrealistic, as ‘these schools are only for rich people, not for poor people like us’.

WHAT MAKES THE JAMIATUL BANAATH DIFFERENT FROM OTHER MADRASAHS? In order to understand better if the Jamiatul Banaath is different from other girls’ madrasahs, my fieldwork has also taken me to a ‘dual type’ girls’ madrasah in Okhla. The Jamiatul Banaath and the Khadijatul Kubra both charge only nominal fees from the parents, which makes them attractive alternatives to other forms of schooling. In both madrasahs, it is emphasised that the students’ parents are from ‘poor backgrounds’, that is, from a lower to lower middle-class background. The Khadijatul Kubra, however, is a day-time-only madrasah and caters only to local students, while the Jamiatul Banaath has boarding facilities and recruits students from all over India as well as locally. All the teachers in Khadijatul Kubra are female. Yet, in general, the strict observance of parda appears to be less of an issue in the Khadijatul Kubra that in the Jamiatul Banaath. The Khadijatul Kubra has a front room similar to that of the Jamiatul Banaath, but the parda (curtain) is just nominal and the aged male receptionist and janitor move about the school building freely. A dupatta- (headscarf) is part of the prescribed school uniform and older girls are expected to cover their heads—but they are not obliged to wear a burqa‘ when leaving the madrasah. Only the dñ- nñ- ta`lñ- m teacher covers her head at all times. The other teachers only do so when the call to prayer or adha-n is heard from the nearby mosque. Further, the Khadijatul Kubra offers co-educational facilities at the nursery, kindergarten, and primary levels and gender segregation only takes place at the secondary level, where the girls follow the regular state curriculum, with time set apart for nama-z or prayer, Urdu, Arabic, dñ- nñta`l ñ- m classes and Islamic history alongside their regular subjects. The Jamiatul Banaath largely follows the standardised madrasah curriculum supplemented with maths, English and Hindi. Both madrasahs, though, are in the process of striving for government recognition. Currently, the Khadijatul Kubra encourages its graduates to appear as private candidates for the Secondary Board Exams at the nearby Jamia Millia College, where graduates of two batches now continue to study in

Everyday Life in a Girls’ Madrasah in Delhi


classes 11 and 12. As the principal of the Khadijatul Kubra told me, her students were known to do extremely well in the Board Exams. Indeed, the Khadijatul Kubra appears to be a very stimulating environment. The school building looks very inviting to the visitor’s eye: there is a large play-room for the younger students and a spacious open courtyard for various sports and other activities; there are tables and chairs in all the classrooms; the girls wear neat green and white school uniforms; the long galleries of the multi-storeyed building are plastered with cheerful drawings the students made; and one can find numerous quotes of important national figures, such as Gandhi and Nehru, tallying with the school brochure’s statement that their aim is to see the students develop into good ‘Indian citizens’. In the Khadijatul Kubra madrasah, then, Muslim identity appears to be integrated or even subordinated to the national ideal of being good Indian citizens. On the other hand, the community identity generated and reproduced in the Jamiatul Banaath appears to be much more closed and exclusive. These contrasts are reflected in the brochures provided by the two madrasahs. The most essential points of the brochure of the Jamiatul Banaath, namely those dealing with the madrasah’s outlook and curriculum, are written in Arabic and hence are inaccessible to parents who have not been trained in the mastery of that language. The Khadijatul Kubra brochure is written in English and also invites non-Muslims—who are then exempted from the specifically Islamic subjects—to attend the madrasah. Moreover, the Khadijatul Kubra brochure advertises with pictures of the school building, the classrooms, and also the happy faces of the students— whereas the Jamiatul Banaath worldview forbids them to take or display pictures of human beings.




When I asked final year students in the Jamiatul Banaath what they wanted to do after graduation, the first reply was that they wanted to get married and the second was the wish to teach either in this madrasah or elsewhere. Less often, girls mentioned doing tabligh (missionary work) and leading jama’at (women’s gatherings). The desire to teach ‘elsewhere’ touches upon ‘intellectual migration’, by which I mean the female madrasah graduate who migrates in order to take up a teaching position in a girls’ madrasah other than the


Mareike Jule Winkelmann

one from which she graduated and which is also situated far away from her paternal or affinal home. Such a scenario has provided an opportunity for a professional career for a number of (unmarried) teachers in the Jamiatul Banaath, whose ‘migration’ depended on their parents’ ija-za (permission). When I asked the teachers in question if their parents had no problem with their living and working so far away from home, they replied without fail that their families considered it a religious merit to have a daughter who teaches in a madrasah. Several Muslim universities, such as the Osmania University in Hyderabad, Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh, the Jamia Millia Islamia and the Jamia Hamdard in Delhi, recognise the Fa-zila- degrees issued in a number of well established girls’ madrasahs as equal to the 10+2 graduation, or at times as equal to a BA in subjects like Arabic, Urdu, Persian, Islamic studies or in Unani medicine. The differences in the recognition of madrasah degrees hinge on the standards and requirements of the respective government institutions in various Indian states. As yet, the Jamiatul Banaath has not received such recognition, and its ongoing struggles for recognition, for funding, and for possibilities to expand, characterise its everyday life. These struggles seem common in most Indian girls’ madrasahs, but the evident demand for larger and more girls’ madrasahs also indicates the shape of possible future trajectories for madrasah graduates in the employment sector. At present, madrasah education for girls seems to be a very dynamic sector in a transitional stage. Madrasahs for girls between 12 and 17 years of age provide an Islamic alternative form of education that may persuade many parents to send their daughters to school instead of keeping them at home once they reach puberty, as some girls told me had happened to their sisters. Moreover, girls’ madrasahs open up a range of future trajectories in the professional sector for girls from families in which they may be the first female family members to take up a paid job, as is the case for a number of teachers in the Jamiatul Banaath. This is bound to have an impact on the community, on the community’s relatively closed boundaries, and finally also on the image of the ‘Muslim working woman’. However, there remains a tension between the demure behaviour acquired and internalised through the central adab lessons learned in the girls’ madrasah and the nexus between ‘power and knowledge’ (to borrow from Foucault)—between the distinctly feminine role models laid out by this Muslim community’s interpretation of Islam and the assertiveness and authority the girls acquire through their studies.

Everyday Life in a Girls’ Madrasah in Delhi


Notes 1. This chapter is part of the author’s ongoing PhD project on girls’ madrasahs in India, funded by The International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM), based in Leiden, The Netherlands. 2. See for example the Milli Gazette archives at: Archives/15072002/1507200259.htm. 3. It is interesting to note here that the claim to an Ansari background can mean two things: (a) the initial association I made was with the caste of the weavers in northern India referred to as Ansaris; and (b) there is a claim to non-Indian decent, as the Ansaris were a tribe at the time of the Prophet. 4. The translation of the following sections is the author’s. 5. Again, there is an allusion to the above-mentioned Faza-’il-e-a′m-ñ l, the ‘manual’ central to the reformist work of the Tabligh-ñ Jama`at.




Indian policy discourse presents schools as sites of modernisation, as institutions that enhance participation in economic, political and social processes, necessary to overcome aspects of gender-, caste- and ethnicity-based discrimination. This chapter discusses ethnographic research conducted in two elementary government schools in Madhya Pradesh, which demonstrated that although schools could be sites of such transformation for provincial girls, many factors intervened in the space between policy discourse and outcome, negotiating and recontextualising the discourse and frustrating policy goals. There was some progress towards policy goals, but far more could have been done to transform aspirations into reality. The primary factor responsible for the frustration of policy goals was lack of local enthusiasm for the vision of enhanced female public sphere participation, compounded by a lack of conviction about the possibilities for the enhanced participation of excluded groups. Equity goals were further frustrated by the superior status, management and accountability of middle schools and teachers, leading to higher teacher motivation and better learning conditions at a stage when large numbers of pupils had already been forced out of school. Although parental indifference is regularly cited for the poor enrolment and achievement of girls, this chapter outlines the virtuous cycle of appealing provision and enhanced demand that can result from the practice and attitudes of conscientious and concerned teachers—a cycle that can be enhanced by the efficient management, training and accountability of all teachers.

Gender and Government Elementary Education


POLICY DISCOURSE AND STATE EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITY Education will be used as an agent of basic change in the status of women. In order to neutralise the accumulated distortions of the past, there will be a well-conceived edge in favour of women. The National Education System will play a positive, interventionist role in the empowerment of women. It will foster the development of new values through redesigned curricula, textbooks, the training and orientation of teachers, decision-makers and administrators, and the active involvement of educational institutions. This will be an act of faith and social engineering (Government of India 1992: 10, paragraph 4.2). In Indian government policy discourse, women’s empowerment is presented as a national priority (Government of India 2002: 217, paragraph 2.11.1). A strong relationship is perceived between elementary education and socio-economic development (ibid.: 23, paragraph 2.2.1) and education is valorised as a tool for the elimination of inequalities based on gender, caste or ethnicity (Government of India 1992: 10, paragraph 4.2; Government of India 1997: 4, paragraph 1.1.5: iv; Government of India 2000: 4). In Madhya Pradesh policy discourse, human development is presented as the goal of state development endeavours (Government of Madhya Pradesh 1998: 1). Strategies to achieve the goal are framed within notions of political decentralisation and the enhancement of opportunities and capabilities for democratic participation (Government of Madhya Pradesh 2002c: 1). Correcting deprivations faced by Dalit and Adivasi communities is presented as an urgent priority (Government of Madhya Pradesh 2002d: 9), as is women’s empowerment (Government of Madhya Pradesh 2002d).2 Education is valued for its intrinsic contribution in enabling the realisation of human potential and its instrumental contribution in making political democracy ‘full-blooded’ (Government of Madhya Pradesh, 2002c: 3). Initiatives to eradicate adult illiteracy began in Madhya Pradesh in the early 1990s with the Total Literacy Campaign and were revitalised from 1999 through the Padhna Badhna Andolan. By 2001, the 1991 female illiteracy rate of 71 per cent had reduced to 50 per cent (Government of Madhya Pradesh 2002e). State effort towards the universalisation of


Elspeth Page

elementary education began with the launching of the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) under the Rajiv Gandhi Shiksha Mission (RGSM) in 1994. The success of the Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) enabled the declaration of universal access to primary education in 1998. Independent data collected from 1998–99 underlined the need to improve primary performance and to address middle school education and social and gender equity at both stages.3 Of the boys between 15 and 19 years of age, 14.8 per cent were illiterate, 67.8 per cent were literate but had dropped out of school by the end of class 8, whilst only 17.4 per cent had studied beyond. Of girls of the same age, 37 per cent were illiterate, 49 per cent were literate but had dropped out of school by the end of class 8, whilst only 13 per cent had studied beyond (IIPS and ORC Macro, 2001: 22). From 1999 effort was extended to include the remaining 12 districts (of the redefined Madhya Pradesh) and to elementary provision under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). In 2002, after eight years of state initiative, the government launched the People’s Education Act, committing itself to the provision of quality elementary education as the right of every child.

DISTRICT BACKGROUND The study was located in Bina district.4 Striking features of the local environment were considerable religious observance and conservatism, and a strong sense of group identity, although the difference between social norms in provincial towns and even villages within walking distance were stark: the latter were even more conservative. The district population was predominantly Hindu, with a small percentage of Muslims, and considerably fewer Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians. In 1991, Dalits and Adivasis comprised 41 per cent of the population: 17 per cent and 24 per cent, respectively (Government of Madhya Pradesh 2002c). Whilst caste discrimination and exclusion were major issues, both decreased in relation to improvement in a family’s economic, educational and employment status. In the fieldwork area, however, the poorest and most excluded groups were disproportionately comprised of Dalit, Adivasi and Muslim families, so theirs were invariably the hurdles and disrespect faced by the poorest. The district had achieved relative prosperity through agriculture, but caste Hindus and OBCs were the main beneficiaries.

Gender and Government Elementary Education


Caste and kin affiliation structured many dimensions of life, from social gatherings and religious ceremonies to self-help initiatives, business endeavours and marriages. This both reflected and resulted in a deep sense of difference, regularly voiced through discriminatory attitudes towards other groups. Public spaces were male-dominated, a pattern interrupted only by labouring women from poverty-line families, some teachers and very few medical staff. Although deeply rooted values of middle-class, general caste, patriarchal Hinduism seemed to frame dominant discourses, other distinctive (but contradictory) features of the social environment challenged these values. The first was an increasingly tangible generation gap in terms of the values and aspirations of all social groups. This contributed to a sharp sense of dissatisfaction with social progress and the agents and mechanisms of democracy, which was weighted against a sense of development, change and agency and of a strong governmental enabling role in this process. Bina district had a history of government-led adult literacy activity but had not experienced much school-level intervention beyond the establishment of EGS schools. Various school-based programmes of a non-government organisation that had been running in the district for over 15 years were closed in 2002. Based partly on a decision not to overburden teachers with inputs, the district had not been included in either phase of DPEP and, although included in SSA, initiatives linked to this remained in the foundational phase for the duration of the fieldwork.5 Government data collected between 2000 and 2002 revealed the baseline upon which the SSA would have to build: inferior performance of girls in every social group; poor enrolment of Adivasis at the primary level magnified at the middle level; gains made by Dalits at primary level reversed at the middle level; and the ‘over-enrolment’ of OBC children in both levels.6 Of the district child population between 11 and 14 years, only 34 per cent of Dalit girls (and 43 per cent of boys) and 20 per cent of Adivasi girls (and 27 per cent of boys) were enrolled in middle schools (Government of Madhya Pradesh 2002b). The ethnography was based in and around two co-educational (non-EGS) elementary school classes, Vidya Primary School in Nakuur town (the district headquarters) and Sagar Middle School in a nearby village. Ethnographic data were collected over two six-month periods in the town, village, schools and tuition classes from 2001 to 2003. This was supplemented through more structured data sets collected in 2002–03. This consisted of classroom observations for


Elspeth Page

class 5 and class 8, background data on and interviews with 100 pupils and their parents, and with 19 teachers.7 Much of the ethnographic and most of the more structured interaction in the final phase was with Hindu teachers and pupils: at this time none of the teachers and only four of the pupils were Muslim.8 Data collection, processing and analysis formed an iterative cycle throughout the fieldwork. Data were triangulated and analysed to explore the different values attached to schools by teachers, parents and pupils.




The messages of the school experiences of girls of both classes often did not encapsulate the policy vision of schools as places that would enable their equal participation in economic, political and social processes. The fundamental reason for this was that few people were captivated by the relevance of the vision for girls, due to the dominant gender order (Connell 1987) which, traversing divisions of class, caste, religion and ethnicity, reinforced the superiority of woman’s role as private-sphere wife, mother and carer (Agarwal 2000; Bhogle 1999; Dhruvarajan 1999; Palriwala 1999; Saraswathi 1999). Although poverty-line families were unable to afford the luxury of such domestic arrangements, Adivasi communities traditionally subscribed to less patriarchal ones and some women were challenging the representation through professional employment. Nevertheless, assumptions about the ‘naturalness’ of the male/female, public/private dichotomy remained entrenched (Connell 2002) and most adults visualised that the main purpose of a girl’s education (of whatever level) was to enhance her marriage prospects, and possibly her life once married (Drèze and Sen 2002; Subrahmanian 2002). The contested and sometimes contradictory cosmopolitan visions that had inspired policy emphasis on women’s empowerment and gender equity had caught only a fraction of local imagination, a fraction that was inevitably marginalised. Many women and some men were quick to recognise, describe or bemoan gender-based discrimination and injustices, and some worked to counter their worst practical manifestations. But few adults questioned the social norms defining unjust gender roles and behaviours. Of those who felt uncomfortable with them, many felt guilty about it, and few could imagine alternatives in their conservative area or articulate the reasons for their discomfort. The reflective few

Gender and Government Elementary Education


who took a considered position challenging gender injustice trod a sensitive, demanding path marked by varying degrees of personal and professional opposition. A second reason for the lack of enthusiasm for the participatory policy vision for girls from labouring or low-income families was the recognition of the huge gap between the vision and the chance of realising it. Although nearly all teachers and education officials enjoyed greater economic, social and cultural capital than their pupils, they also felt considerable insecurity with regard to their own and their children’s futures and highly pessimistic about the economic returns to their own educational investment, even for their sons. Most of the energies and creativity of all but a few involved in the research were consumed with ensuring the comfort and security of their own and their families’ lives. Most teachers and officials, even if influential in their immediate environments, also presented themselves as individuals disempowered by a highly hierarchical and patriarchal society, which was characterised by a failure of democratic processes (even to the village and school level) and run by corrupt politicians. Most teachers and head-teachers presented themselves in school as pawns of those in authority with all their initiative drained by a badly managed system.9 Although the accuracy of these assessments was questionable, their felt social disempowerment and insecurity combined with their awareness of the multiple exclusions facing pupils’ families and their negative assessment of education provided in government schools. They had little optimism or even concern for the prospects of families of weaker socio-economic position—especially of the daughters, widely acknowledged as the last recipients of family assets, material or otherwise. Few officials, head-teachers or teachers were enthused or driven by a vision of an education that would usher in the radical transformation in gender values anticipated in the 1986/1992 National Policy on Education (Government of India 1992: 10, paragraph 4.2). Many administrators interpreted their various jobs in terms of satisfying superiors and meeting their targets, possibly not even considering the policy goals or questioning the relation between their targets and progress towards greater goals. Many teachers focused on the most technically effective ways to transmit a given body of knowledge and deliver the best examination results. Others simply focused on ensuring satisfactory results. No teachers in either school reported any training to sensitise them to government gender and equity aims, or to the specific problems of girls in patriarchal India. District elementary


Elspeth Page

head-teachers, often class-teachers on temporary, unremunerated placements, did not seem to have the mandate to unite or guide staff. The dual consequences of this for the case-study schools were an absence of energising vision and direction, and teachers’ work being focused on the immediate and the achievable: increasingly, the testable. There was a desire to help children master the basics and benefit in some way from being educated, but few great participative aspirations. Of the two school environments, Vidya Primary School was marked by a deeper sense of alienation, division and aimlessness. Some improvement became evident as SSA environment-building initiatives started to have an impact, but much remained to be addressed by the end of the fieldwork. Teachers were obviously not simply passive victims of their environment, but also very influential in shaping it, both negatively and positively. Given the centrality of teacher motivation and attitude to the entire school endeavour, the unchecked pessimism of some Vidya teachers and the lack of group spirit had a deep impact. Without effective management and strong leadership, the negative influences seemed to overpower the positive. In this environment, teachers were undermined, felt overwhelmed by the challenges facing them in the classroom and emphasised the inadequacy of their pupils’ homes. This exonerated teacher failure and heightened the barriers between teachers and learners. There was a strong undercurrent of caste- and class-based negativity, although blatant acts of caste discrimination were rare: denied by the teachers and reported by 6 per cent of class 5 pupils. Although 60 per cent of all pupils were OBC and ‘other’ pupils, however, the almost constant refrain of explanation for the indifferent atmosphere, poor academic performance and irregular attendance was that parents were ‘poor and low caste, only interested in drinking, smoking and gambling’. Dalit and Adivasi teachers also engaged in this refrain, but they were generally more optimistic about the facilitating potential of education and restricted their references to poverty. The overriding sense of pessimism shaped most aspects of the school environment. At the beginning of the research, Vidya infrastructure was neglected, there were virtually no resources, teacher presence was unpredictable and teaching even more so. Textbooks and annual exams shaped curriculum content, and knowledge was conceptualised as fixed and external, to be transmitted to passive student recipients. Even in the classes of the best teachers, teaching was usually formal, didactic and based on rote learning, and testing emphasised the reproduction of textbook information. Teaching and learning materials reflected

Gender and Government Elementary Education


affluent, urban lifestyles and male-dominated public spaces whilst segregated seating, separate tasks and different disciplinary approaches emphasised gender differences. These messages combined with staff power dynamics that reinforced the private sphere role of women, or at most their subordinate position vis-à-vis male colleagues. Staff power relations also reinforced the greater efficacy of status and networks than of conscientiousness. Pedagogic links were rarely made with boys’ experience, much less with girls’ experience. Fear of punishment, generally perceived as illegitimate victimisation, resulted in lack of engagement in the learning process: many girls with no home educational support did not engage at all, girls and boys alike resisted asking or answering questions, and many boys reported sustained truancy. Pupils repeated classes, dropped out or were promoted without requisite competency, leading to greater importance becoming attached to certification than to mastery. There were teachers who wanted to believe in the policy vision for their pupils, and this had a recognisable impact on student motivation. But power structures and interests (mostly gendered, but not exclusively) contributed to processes that undermined their effort and initiative. In many cases, the foundational concern and potential of such teachers was also not developed, leading to inadequate professional practice, which both frustrated them and failed their pupils. Regardless of atmospheric realities and of teacher competence, however, the environment was not totally negative. Some teachers were able to create spaces in which school could be envisioned as a site to challenge societal inequality and to lay foundations for pupils’ greater participation in economic, political and social processes than would have been possible for their parents. The presence of women teachers made the possibility of alternative, public sphere female futures real for girls, although the practice of visionary ones would have made it much more so. The mere presence of teachers whose behaviour demonstrated a concern for pupils (almost 40 per cent of the staff) was highly appreciated and motivational, even if they had never been a child’s class teacher, or had been so years previously. Pupils’ appreciation of and loyalty to teachers who combined care with diligence and competence was almost extravagant. One such teacher was Deepak Patodia, a Dalit para-teacher from a professional family, driven to give his best in whatever he did. He was committed to equal opportunities and the value of education for everyone, although he did not acknowledge much reflection on gender or


Elspeth Page

social issues and was reluctant to articulate any critique of colleagues or the system. His classroom was a space free from gender or caste-based service demands and he encouraged girls and boys equally, regardless of religion or caste. His behaviour and practice articulated his belief in the intrinsic importance of education, that it could enhance every life and that it should be pursued with stubborn determination. Pupil success and thus motivation was much more apparent in the first phase of the fieldwork than the second, when his absence due to government duty for a third of the year had disastrous effects on pupils’ attendance, competence and exam results. He had taught the previous year’s cohort largely undisturbed for three consecutive years, and their impressive and equitable enrolment, attendance and exam results demonstrated what positive results a single committed teacher could bring, even in such a demoralised environment. The environment of the middle school was entirely different from that of the primary one. It seemed owned by the village: it functioned, was well maintained, had an atmosphere of learning, and teachers appeared more professional, engaged and effective. The divisions between teaching and learning communities were also less marked. There was considerable teacher/pupil interaction outside the classroom, with pupils entrusted with different responsibilities. In the first phase of observation, science and social science were taught according to curricula developed by a local NGO. Pupils were encouraged to question knowledge and develop their thinking and problem-solving skills, and lessons were explorative, based more on developing skills and understanding than on cramming and reproducing information for exams. The text and illustrations attempted to avoid privileging or attaching essentialised and demeaning identities to certain social groups. In the final phase of observation, the NGO textbooks were replaced with state ones, reintroducing a more formal paradigm in which knowledge was conceptualised as something fixed and to be transmitted, not questioned. The content of the new textbooks, although more engaging than those of primary level, was abstract, information-based and dense, making it necessary for teachers to revert to more formal, didactic rote-based approaches. Classroom interaction was disciplined and although often not particularly inspiring, remarkable for its humanity. Despite the lack of teacher training on gender issues, the practice of all teachers appeared to have a positive impact on girls’ enrolment, aspirations and achievement. Teachers’ work-place attitudes and aspirations,

Gender and Government Elementary Education


although not revolutionary, appeared less gendered than those of pupils’ families. No teacher encouraged girls to aim for unrealistic goals, and none challenged parental marriage aspirations, but they placed them in context rather than giving them overriding priority. All teachers felt that girls who did well at school should be encouraged to aim for any job, and worry about household objections only if they arose. All resisted the traditions of denying girls equal educational opportunities and of making them subservient to the needs of boys. The school ethos was that education was as important for girls as it was for boys, and that all could improve their lives by studying. School and tuition were spaces where girls could escape from their continual subjection to the demands of domestic work and from being told to do things for boys. Although there was a marked gender pattern in the behaviour of all but the mostachieving girls, school and tuition were also places of apparently nongendered academic expectation and achievement, which encouraged the participative aspirations of all but the most failing pupils. The character and gender success of the four-teacher school seemed shaped in large part by Rounak Tiwari, not the head-teacher but a dedicated professional for whom teaching was a vocation and to whom challenging unjust gender regimes came almost as naturally as breathing. She was the only staff member who reflected deeply on gender issues and who was able to engage in sustained discussions; the only one aware of the radical laws on women’s equality and of the education policy statements claiming that education should be an agent of change in women’s status. She had taught in the school since the mid-1980s and had been highly involved with NGO and women’s literacy activities. Her dedication and commitment to her pupils provided a constant source of encouragement for them and their parents alike. Her commitment to gender equality combined with an extrovert and outspoken personality meant that there were almost daily opportunities to challenge repressive gender attitudes and behaviour. Due to the non-segregated school environment, when this happened in school it usually happened in front of the pupils, who registered every occurrence. Given her commitments to teaching, pupils and equality, any situation could be, and many were, exploited to encourage pupils, irrespective of gender, to rethink their attitudes and aspirations. Most pupils valued all teachers for different qualities, but they were virtually unanimous in expressing the respect, inspiration and gratitude the senior female teacher generated.


Elspeth Page

THE FAMILIES With a few exceptions, the home environment of all girls was much more gendered than that of the schools or classrooms. Most parental aspirations for their daughters centred on a ‘good’ marriage, and most home experiences were a preparation for this future. Homes were sites of endless gendered service demands and domestic work that increased with age. Intense concern with reputation created severe restrictions on movement and association, restrictions that increased with the luxury of economic security. The social networks of non-school-going girls were restricted to their families and immediate neighbours. Even labouring girls had few opportunities for positive interaction with others: their behaviour was strictly monitored and they were warned against any interaction. Families wanted their daughters to be obedient, unquestioningly compliant with parental demands and always putting family interests before their own. This included denying all romantic feelings, keeping away from boys and mutely accepting the marriage partner chosen for her. Little frank discussion took place between parents and children, no guidance was offered and the majority of girls had no one with whom they could share their dilemmas. Girls were encouraged to be quiet, obedient and tentative, and to aspire to a future of self-effacing domesticity, serving in-laws and husbands. A few enjoyed familial support for further studies and some received a subtle message that they should do well at school to secure a better husband and to provide a lifeline in case of future difficulties. For all, however, the overriding message was that their future priority should be marriage and that educational aspirations should in no way jeopardise marriage prospects. As girls progressed through school, peer circles grew along with exposure to an ever-increasing variety of attitudes and aspirations. Parents were suspicious of school environments, not because they feared the effects of an efficient modernising curriculum and or of teachers inspired by progressive gender aspirations, but because of the opportunities co-educational schooling offers to mix with boys. Of the three categories of participants in the research (the families of the primary students, the middle school students and the teachers), the families and homes of all but a few class 5 pupils stood out as the poorest in terms of economic, social, and cultural capital.10 The average annual income of class 5 families was Rs 25,995, roughly half of that of the class 8 families and one third of the average teaching-earned

Gender and Government Elementary Education


income.11 Most fathers and one third of mothers worked as daily wage labourers. Two girls and three boys came from Adivasi families, 12 girls and 15 boys were Dalit, seven girls and 12 boys OBC and four girls (a Muslim, a Sikh and two Rajputs) and five boys were ‘others’. Fathers averaged 4.9 years of education and mothers (of whom 40 per cent were illiterate) only 1.8 years. Some families did try to support their children’s education, but, in the majority of homes, there was no environment for education, especially families with single parents or where both laboured, where all time and energy was drained by daily survival. Even where mothers were at home, most felt shamed into disinterest by their own lack of education: very few families reported any interest or motivational strategies essential to bolster children’s determination, and only five pupils got support from tuition. In some families, wives or daughters hinted at tension and violence resulting from husbands’ prioritising of drink and bñ- dñ- s (rolled leaf cigarettes) over books or tuition fees, but they were the minority. Class 5 parents perhaps dreamt of schools as sites of modernisation that would enhance their daughter’s marriage prospects and their son’s opportunities for participation in economic, political and social processes. But most knew that this would remain a dream. They were acutely aware of the inferior education offered to their children and of the vast inequalities of resources, power and even respect between their communities and those of the teachers and educational administrators. If the teachers felt alienated and overwhelmed by societal inequalities, these parents, especially mothers, felt so much more keenly. Like the teachers, they did not have much faith that the combination of what was offered by the school and home environments could produce much transformation for their children. Despite this lack of confidence in any great participative returns to education, however, they persisted in enrolling and trying to make their children attend and achieve at school. The status of being educated, of having passed incremental board exams or at least being able to read, write and calculate effectively was something these families wanted for their children. They adjusted their aspirations in line with the vision of the more committed Vidya teachers: that their children master the basics and benefit in some way from being educated, as opposed to remaining uneducated. The superior enrolment and attendance of boys in Vidya school was related more to systemic inefficiency and the lack of school appeal than to the discriminatory educational investment priorities of class 5 families.


Elspeth Page

Children’s education was increasingly seen as a marker of social status and most parents wanted their daughters to complete primary school. The gendered aspirations of these ‘just above poverty-line’ families would not have been compromised by primary education had it been effective and completed by the target age of 11 years. Whilst all girls did more daily domestic work than boys, most girls of this age were still considered children, and over half spent hours each day playing. As the demands of domestic work were relatively minimal, parents were happy for them to go to school and even do homework (although this rarely happened). But this changed radically as the girls got older, repeating classes and remaining in primary school as domestic demands, their grooming as ‘good wives’ and pressure to marry intensified. Regardless of growing tension between school and domestic demands, interest in girls’ educational success was rising in direct relation to increases in boys’ failure, a phenomenon emerging from the combination of inadequate provision, boys’ relative autonomy and certain formations of masculinity. Boys were less socialised than girls to accept situations they did not like. They were able to wander, loiter and even travel undiscovered, and were easily exposed to, and incorporated in, the ‘time-passing’ behaviour of disaffected, unemployed men. Many class 5 boys were so disaffected with school that they had ceased to engage, frequently played truant and relied increasingly on cheating to ensure progression. Daughters were more serious and never appeared even to dream of playing truant away from home, knowing that it would result in immediate withdrawal from school and perhaps marriage. Families wanted at least one family member educated, so giving up faith in their unruly and disrespectful sons, they relied on the most ‘gifted’ of their daughters (who was often the youngest with the least domestic demands). Had the quality of education been better, however, boys’ success would not necessarily have resulted in decreased parental enthusiasm for their daughters’ education. Although parents regarded failure as more indicative of fate in relation to their daughters than sons, mothers and fathers could not conceal their considerable pride when discussing high-achieving daughters. If the quality and efficiency of accessible education were to improve, girls’ retention to higher levels might also. The families of the village class 8 pupils were (with a few exceptions) more comfortable, ‘village lower-middle-class’, often with minimal education but set apart from the primary pupils’ families by their significant aspirations for their offspring, especially their sons. Four

Gender and Government Elementary Education


girls and six boys came from Dalit families, 14 girls and 17 boys from OBC and two girls and seven boys were ‘others’: all but one Muslim boy general caste Hindus. The poorest families from castes with few cases of successful escape from poverty or traditional sanitation work were the least aspirational of the group (Annamalai 2002; Prashad 2001). Even allowing for these families, the average annual class 8 family income was Rs 44,234 and 19 families cultivated their own land, averaging 8 acres. Only five fathers and three mothers worked for daily wages. Fathers averaged 6.2 years of education and mothers (of whom 40 per cent, the same percentage as primary mothers, were illiterate) 3.3 years. There was considerable atmosphere for education in many of these families, with the exception of the poorest. These were not necessarily Dalit households, however, as families from these communities with children enrolled in class 8 were the least poor of their group. Although Dalits and Adivasis comprised 36 per cent and 15 per cent respectively of Sagar catchment area, only 56 per cent of Dalit girls between 11 and 14 (and 70 per cent of boys) and only 6.2 per cent of Adivasi girls (and not a single boy) were enrolled in the middle school, compared to over 100 per cent enrolment for OBC and ‘other’ children (Government of Madhya Pradesh 2002a). Despite their relative economic security, however, the educational environment in all but two of the Dalit (girls’) homes was still less robust than that in the majority of non-Dalit ones. Most families supported and took a greater interest in their children’s educational endeavours than those of the primary school pupils, and 44 out of the 50 pupils attended tuition. In contrast to the 1999 Madhya Pradesh class 8 completion ratio of 1.95 boys to every girl (IIPS and ORC Macro 2001: 22), the middle school gender ratio was 1.29 boys to every girl, the class 8 2002 ratio 1.27 boys for every girl and the 2003 ratio 1.5 boys. Most Sagar families were keen to insist that they did value education, and that they would educate their daughters up to at least class 12 or even graduation if there were facilities nearby. This position seemed genuine for many families, as did the willingness of some for their daughters to enter employment either before or after marriage. These were families where the father, mother or some respected relative was educated beyond the basic level. A few mothers had had negative experiences that demonstrated how compliance with societal gender norms does not always bring the promised benefits; and they did question the primacy of marriage over education for girls. Many mothers and grandmothers expressed deep sorrow that their daughters would have to


Elspeth Page

leave them and be transferred to their marital homes. They explained educational investments as the best gift they could give their daughter, whilst she was still in their care, to prepare her for the time when they could no longer intervene for her well being. Without a single exception, however, the overriding aspiration of every household was that their daughters marry well. Given the highly gendered and exclusive employment market, most parents felt that the best future a daughter could hope for was to be married into a good family—and the primary requirement for this was perceived as a femininity based on subservience, domesticity and dependence, rather than intelligence or education. These mothers were happy to send their daughters to the local school, but the distance between the village and post-elementary provision presented a huge obstacle for them. Families felt that exposing their daughters to the risk entailed in cycling 5 km to the local town would almost be tantamount to irresponsibility and indifference. Yet many parents purchased bicycles for their girls and allowed them to cycle the distance together, an indication of girls’ enthusiasm and the increasing environment for girls’ education in Sagar. Both phenomena seemed closely linked to the diligent and respectful efforts of Rounak Tiwari over the years, and the confidence and trust that she inspired in girls and their parents alike.

THE GIRLS The girls of both classes were the most positive and optimistic of all the participants. Although most of the youngest ones in each class made no link between education and increased earning opportunities, some were, conversely, the most confident about the possibility of such rewards. The primary girls were more optimistic than their middle school counterparts about the chance of economic return if they could finish their education, but few believed that they could. But neither set of girls primarily conceptualised schooling in terms of market returns, whether employment or marriage. Rather, they conceptualised schooling in terms of their interpretation of wider participation and inclusion: they wanted to be in school and staying at home was exclusion of the greatest order. Given the obstacles they had to face to get to school and the tedium they often had to contend with once there, their determination was amazing.

Gender and Government Elementary Education


Most of the class 5 girls recognised the poor standards of their school, that it served only the poorest communities and that their education was neither a priority for their families (especially those with brothers in private schools) nor for many of their teachers. But most felt grateful to be in school and determined to stay there, although some knew their parents would not allow them to study past class 5, and few thought they would be allowed to study after middle school, despite provision in the town. For most, going to school was their only legitimate opportunity to be away from the vicinity of their homes without family members or relatives. For a significant number of the older girls, school time was the only prolonged period free of domestic work and gendered service demands. The girls appreciated school for the freedom it gave them to meet and play with friends, both before and after school, during break and in the classroom during teacher absence. The long hours in regimented lessons that they might not understand was a price they were willing to pay for this freedom. They appreciated a space where they could be themselves and where they were not related to in terms of their relation with others. In addition, however, some primary girls simply enjoyed the act of learning, of coming to know or gaining mastery, and they were deeply grateful to teachers who did care and who attempted to teach in ways that helped, rather than hindered, their comprehension. Due to their erratic school careers, however, and to prolonged teacher absence in their last year, the final academic performance of the class 5 was very poor. In the second phase of fieldwork, most of the girls recognised their academic failure, and, in contrast to girls in the first phase, few cherished dreams of progressing to middle school, much less of futures made brighter by education. Four girls did, however, remain stubbornly optimistic in the face of a highly negative reality: they had potential, but none of their parents supported their dreams and they had no interaction with adults who could have provided encouragement and advice on how to proceed. Three may have been among the lucky ones who were promoted and allowed to go to middle school: one had already been married and withdrawn before the class 5 board exam at the end of the fieldwork. Observation over both phases of data collection demonstrated the inspiration of a humane, competent and regular teacher. The attitude and practice of Deepak Patodia shifted girls’ enthusiasm for school attendance from its emphasis on getting away from home and meeting friends to enjoying learning and success. Sadly, his insufficient para-teacher salary forced him to seek alternative employment.


Elspeth Page

In contrast to the primary school pupils, the middle school girls appreciated their school for many reasons, academic and personal. The atmosphere was generally appealing and friendly; the school was well maintained and inviting; interaction with teachers was encouraging and inclusive; most teachers made an effort to teach competently, and pupils were respected. Pupils reported greater enjoyment of the learning processes in the first phase of observation. Although they had different subject preferences, all were saddened by the closure of the NGO syllabi. The changes in the two new subjects added a heaviness to the school day, whereas before there had been some relief from the constant demands of cramming. Pupils’ perception that the textbooks had been changed in the face of their own and teacher resistance, combined with their awareness of teacher dedication, prevented them from becoming disaffected with their teachers and the new books before their final class 8 board exams. Girls enjoyed the non-gendered academic expectations and the chance to excel without constant interruptions to assist others. School and tuition were the only spaces where this happened, to the extent that they had to attend tuition to do any schoolwork outside school. Some girls, academically able and with some influence over their parents, were determined to study as far as they could and enter some form of contractual employment. Teaching was the most popular option, although girls also wanted to enter the police and the military. Just like the Vidya girls, all the Sagar girls valued school for the opportunity it gave them to get away from their homes, to meet friends and to play. Although the school had very little space, an odd assortment of sports equipment was made available by rota to each class. All pupils loved the chance to play with this equipment, and groups were sometimes mixed. Family abhorrence of teenage relationships was constantly questioned through television serials, films and music that posed a sustained and growing threat to what were perceived as traditional notions of self-denying femininity. School was a perfect setting for teenage curiosity, attraction and flirtation, although boys as well as girls maintained a polished façade of total indifference. Some girls appreciated school for the opportunity it gave them to meet their ‘boyfriends’, in relationships more like friendships that remained lowkey and undetected. Others rejected all involvement and encouraged their friends to do likewise. In contrast to family environments, the senior female teacher acknowledged these tensions, tried to remove the sense of shame surrounding attraction and to help the pupils think about

Gender and Government Elementary Education


them rationally. As relationships could jeopardise a girl’s reputation, further educational opportunities and freedom, and might result in immediate marriage, she discouraged them and helped boys and girls alike to weigh up the situation, stressing the unequal consequences for girls. She tried to help boys and girls interact like brothers and sisters, so that they may be armed to fend off future disaster. The girls also appreciated the opportunity to discuss anything with Rounak Tiwari, especially sensitive adolescent issues that were deemed taboo subjects in their homes.

CONCLUSIONS Indian policy discourse presents schools as sites that enable equitable increases in participative freedoms. Although the policy vision had not captured widespread imagination in the fieldwork area, schools did enable some small increases in participative freedoms for girls: increases for which they were grateful and to which they were determined to cling. Given the strong determination of the girls and the inspiring effects of respectful, effective education on them and on parental willingness to educate their daughters, much more could have been done. The study demonstrated the importance of concerted efforts from all involved in the provision of education, but emphasised the central role and impact of professional and engaged teachers who have an understanding of gender injustice and a commitment to its elimination. The creation of a body of such teachers will be a demanding and long-term commitment, but one that is necessary for the pursuit of educational gender equity targets.

Notes 1. I am grateful to the Economic and Social Research Council (UK) for funding my doctoral studentship that enabled me to do the research on which this chapter is based. I should like to thank everyone who helped make the research not only possible, but also such a positive experience: the families, children, teachers and officials of Nakuur and countless other people in India and the UK. Finally, thanks are due to the organisers and participants of the 2003 Neemrana seminar, for helping me to start making sense of the data one week after finishing the fieldwork. 2. The concern with women’s empowerment does not have as high a profile in the widely accessible state Human Development Reports as in the less accessible policies of the


Elspeth Page

Rajiv Gandhi Shiksha Mission, or those of the Department of Women and Child Development. 3. This is from the Madhya Pradesh data of the second National Family Health Survey, a sample of 5,112 rural and 1,829 urban women from 15 to 49 and their households. 4. All individual and place names have been changed. One of the Hindu teachers chose a Muslim name as her pseudonym. 5. Planning, data-collection, environment-, capacity- and infrastructure-building. 6. This results from the retention of children over the appropriate age for the level. 7. Of the 28 teachers included in the observations, nine were not interviewed. 8. There was one Muslim teacher and more Muslim students in the 2001–02 second phase of the data collection. 9. Some teachers in other schools were radically different, as was the non-school face of some teachers in this school. 10. They were, however, far from the poorest in the town, as the children of the poorest families did not attend school. 11. The exchange rate was Rs 74 to £1 on 1.03.03.





Education and learning are not always a result of formal classroom teaching. A substantial number of people in different vocations still acquire most of their knowledge outside school (Illich 1973). Nonschool systems of learning are also designed for the production of knowledge not only required by society but for the production and reproduction of cultural, social and technical knowledge as well. The usta-d–sha-gird tradition (dastu-r) as it is practised today in Old Delhi is one such example.1 Usta-d is a title that literally means master of a profession, and it also refers to a teacher. The sha-gird is a student or apprentice. This oral tradition remains a unique testament to the capacity of the human mind to absorb, remember and reproduce structures of great complexity and sophistication without a system of written notation. I look at apprenticeship in the usta-d–sha-gird relationship as an alternative educational form and present it as a critique of school, which is widely considered to be an institution specialising in imparting all-round education. Education, learning and knowledge, however, cannot be equated only with the institution of school, for it takes place equally in non-formal or ‘out-of-school’ systems. There is a distinction between teaching through organised, planned and conscious instruction, which is a characteristic of schools, and learning. I argue that learning through participation takes place irrespective of which educational form provides a context for learning, that intentional instruction is not the root of learning and that learning can take place in other systems of teaching as well.


Rumman Hameed

I studied the usta-d–sha-gird relationship in the historical professions of carpentry (barha-ñ-), butchery (qasa-ñ-) and makers of handcraftedjewellery (sa-deka-rñ-).2 These crafts are graded and ranked according to the nature of work and also the clientele they serve. Sa-deka-ri ranks highest in the hierarchy and butchery the lowest. The word sa-deka-r-ñ is derived from two words—‘sad’ meaning hundred per cent, and ‘ka-r’ meaning hand: the sa-deka-r makes hand-made jewellery in precious metals like platinum, gold and silver. Although machines are used for certain operations nowadays, most of the work is still being done by hand. The sa-deka-r has an exclusive clientele and uses expensive and rare raw materials, whereas a barha-ñ- and qasa-ñ- come in contact with general people as almost everyone buys meat and or gets woodwork done in their houses. Yet carpentry occupies a place higher than butchery as butchery is considered menial work with no aesthetic values. While all three are manual skills, a sense of aestheticism is attached to sa-deka-rñ- and also to carpentry to some extent. This is what makes them equivalent to mental work, even in these days when mental labour is ascribed a greater value than manual labour. Many of the variations in the different models of apprenticeship that I discuss arise from these social differentiations. For instance, both butchery and sa-deka-rñ- are kinbased and closed professions. The former is closed because of the stigma attached to it and outsiders do not wish to take it up as a profession, whereas the latter is closed because of the unwillingness of families to recruit outsiders. Work and learning in the usta-d–sha-gird relationship are intricately related. The sha-gird learns the skills through participation in the adult social world. This implies that learning resources and knowledge are located in the community itself and children absorb the essence of the trade and acquire rudimentary skills in the process of growing up. They inevitably participate in communities of practitioners and engage in a pattern of learning experiences as part of ordinary, daily life. Children remain on the sidelines and gradually become incorporated in the trade and the community of practice. Lave and Wenger define this process as ‘legitimate peripheral participation’, which provides a way to speak about the relations between masters and apprentices, and about the activities, identities, artefacts, and communities of knowledge and practice. The process of becoming a full participant in a socio-cultural practice subsumes the learning of knowledgeable skills. Participation suggests an opening, a way of gaining access to resources in the community and to sources for understanding through increasing involvement. It is way to

Learning Processes within the Usta-d–Sha-gird Relationship


connect with the history of the practice and to participate more directly in its cultural life (Lave and Wenger 1991). The ‘traditional’ usta-d–sha-gird relationship developed over centuries and was practised up to 40–45 years ago. Now, however, many changes have entered the usta-d–sha-gird relationship. Traditionally, the usta-d– sha-gird relationship embodied the ‘living and learning’ relationship between the master and the apprentice (Illich 1973). The usta-d was looked upon as the repository of knowledge (Kumar 1988). To the sha-gird, the usta-d symbolised the ‘art’ itself, in the sense not only of typically artistic things or craftwork but creativity and skill in general, even in non-artistic trades like carpentry, butchery and sa-deka-ri. For the usta-d, the sha-gird signified the continuity of the art. The usta-d–sha-gird relationship, therefore, heightened the opportunity for the sha-gird to transform each moment of his living into one of learning. Conversations and stories about problematic and difficult situations in the past and about the usta-d’s own experiences constitute an important part of learning. Learning to become a full participant in the community of practice involves not only learning how to talk or be silent in the manner of usta-ds but also learning from their talk. Language thus fulfils the function of engaging and focusing attention as well as supporting communal forms of memory and reflection, and as indicating membership (Lave and Wenger 1991). Traditionally there was also a marked emphasis on religion in the usta-d–sha-gird relationship. Often the usta-d doubled as the one who taught the sha-girds the Qur’a-n Sharñ-f and the nama-z (the prayers that are offered five times a day at specific times). He insisted, scolded and even punished if the sha-girds did not learn the Qur’a-n Sharñ-f and offer their prayers regularly. He frequently recited small verses from the Qur’a-n Sharñ-f along with their meaning. The usta-d, therefore, initiated the child’s journey of understanding in every sphere of life. The usta-d’s teaching was characterised more by sharing than by the giving or receiving of something. The institution of usta-d–sha-gird was not meant for the indoctrination of sha-girds but for the preparation of a future generation of practitioners. The psychological development of the sha-gird was considered as important as acquiring skills and knowledge about the work. It was about cultivating total human beings. This demanded excellence behaviour, action and relationships in order to bring about excellence of spirit. It entailed teaching not only a vocation but also an understanding of the complexity of life. Thus, the emphasis was more on comprehensive understanding involving the whole


Rumman Hameed

person than on ‘receiving’ a body of factual knowledge about the world, on activity in and with the world; and on the view that the agent, activity and the world mutually constitute each other (Lave and Wenger 1991).3 Apprentices do not pay anything to come under the tutelage of an usta-d. Rather, the principle of ‘usta-d ki khidmat’ (service of the usta-d) is stressed. It includes serving the usta-d by running errands for him not only in the workshop but also for the usta-d’s family, such as buying and delivering groceries, a light bulb, medicines or the newspaper for the usta-d’s house. The value highlighted is not of attentiveness alone but the relational one of attending to the master (Sarangapani 1999: 91). Sha-girds are paid an allowance of a few hundred rupees, known as kharchaor cha-i-pa-nñ-, which is barely sufficient to take care of their most basic needs, such as those for tea, snacks or the cycle-rickshaw fare if they come from afar. Among butchers, however, the sha-gird is also required to work for a few months in the usta-d’s shop for a nominal stipend after the apprenticeship is complete. The position of the sha-gird is put into relief by the ka-rigars (craftsmen). The involvement of ka-rigars is more prominent in sa-deka-rñ- than in butchery or carpentry. Most ka-rigars come from outside Delhi, mainly from West Bengal in sa-deka-rñ- workshops, from Uttar Pradesh in butchery and carpentry, and very occasionally from Rajasthan and Bihar in the case of carpentry. Ka-rigars are paid a salary and they are not asked to run errands for the usta-d, because getting up to do small chores would result in loss of productive time. Nevertheless, ka-rigars are considered lower in the workshop hierarchy, even though they are more talented or knowledgeable than sha-girds. An important reason is that, besides the low class of ka-rigars, sha-girds are mostly the relatives of usta-ds or close known persons. Sha-girds generally live in the same neighbourhood and therefore do not require board and lodging, although those relatives who come from outside the city are provided accommodation by the usta-d. Accommodation is also sometimes provided for ka-rigars. Sha-girds are fed mostly by the usta-d in the workshop during the day, although they often bring food from their houses and eat together with fellow sha-girds in the workshop. The relationship between an usta-d and a sha-gird begins with the ritual of ‘sha-girdñ- mein ja-na’ (going into studentship), which marks the initiation of the sha-gird into the workshop. This ritual traditionally involved the parents of the child or the elders in/of the family going to the usta-d with a box of sweets and the request of ‘bachhe ke sar par ha-th

Learning Processes within the Usta-d–Sha-gird Relationship


rakhna’ (the usta-d putting his hand on the child’s head).4 This signified that the parents acknowledge and accept the usta-d as an elder of the child and also of the family. The family conveyed that it was surrendering the child to the supervision of the usta-d by saying ‘haddñhama-rñ-, botñ- tumha-rñ-’ (the bones of the child belong to the family and flesh to the usta-d). This message had multiple meanings—that the usta-d had the right to make the child work so hard that the child may lose his ‘botñ-’ (signifying weight or health); and that the usta-d had the right to be strict, to scold and to punish the child, which may again affect his health. After the completion of sha-girdñ-, the parents would expect the usta-d to return a skilful and knowledgeable person—even if in bad health, which could be regained later. The emphasis is on the pursuit of knowledge, learning, and education as supreme and on the child becoming a responsible, functional and intelligent member of society in future. This ritual thus prepared him for entry into the realm of the sacred and initiated the process of transmitting and imbibing knowledge and consequently the conversion of the child into a sha-gird. The ritual of ‘sha-girdñ- mein ja-na’ has changed considerably in the way it is practised today. Parents do not give complete freedom to the usta-d to punish or to employ any means that he thinks appropriate to teach and educate their child. Parents’ unquestioning faith in the usta-d is disappearing. Instances of parents seeking an explanation from the usta-d if he punishes the sha-gird severely are increasing. Sha-girdñ- ends with a small ceremony. Sa-deka-rs traditionally performed rasm-e-pagdñ- that involved the parents of the child tying a turban (white or golden to signify happiness) on the usta-d’s head and presenting a shawl to him. This has been replaced by presenting the fabric for a suit along with a box of sweets, which is also followed among butchers and carpenters. During sha-girdñ-, a sha-gird never sits next to his usta-d: this ceremony marks an acceptance of the sha-gird as being able and as capable of sitting next to the usta-d. The usta-d then introduces and recommends his sha-gird to other traders and practitioners. The usta-d is generally committed to his sha-gird’s success and to enabling him to become independent, primarily because the sha-gird’s success enhances the usta-d’s own reputation and credibility as a teacher and as a businessman. For an usta-d, what is at stake is not only the sincerity of his own intention but also the outcome of the training, that of moulding the sha-gird into a good human being and a perfect craftsman (Kumar 2000). Only in rare instances do usta-ds look at sha-girds as cheap help in the business or compete with their sha-girds once the latter enter the market as practitioners, making their


Rumman Hameed

access to and acceptance in the community of practice extremely difficult. The usta-d–sha-gird institution thus performs the function of transmitting to a new generation a culture whose roots lie in a remote past. Apprenticeship is not organised in the same way in different usta-d–sha-gird relationships, however. The forms of recruitment, the relationships between the usta-ds and sha-girds and the technologies employed differ.




The workshop, the site for conducting training and imparting knowledge, holds a place of significance in the usta-d–sha-gird institution. The entire relationship revolves around this space, which is known as ka-rkha-na, kamra- or duka-n (these terms are henceforth referred to as ‘workshop’), depending on the profession one is pursuing. A carpenter has a ka-rkha-na (factory), a jeweller has a kamra- (room) and a butcher has a duka-n (shop). A workshop usually comprises a single room— whether in the house of the usta-d or in a separate building, generally nearby—containing the machinery, raw material and other things required for work. Saying ‘woh workshop par gaye hain’ (they have gone to the workshop, when it is away from the house) or ‘woh workshop mein hain’ (they are in the workshop, when it is established in the house) imply that the men (usta-d or sha-gird) have gone for work. The terms kamra-, ka-rkha-na or duka-n have a deeper meaning, however. They symbolise a sacred space set apart for work. Professional guests and customers are entertained in the workshop. Whether or not any place or object becomes sacred does not depend on its intrinsic properties. The most commonplace object may become sacred if it is infused with charisma. For instance, apparently ordinary things like a saw or a piece of sandpaper achieve sanctity when inside the workshop, and the sha-gird who submits to the sacred space and the objects sanctifies himself. Therefore, ‘sacred’ gets translated into work—and while the workshop is sacred for work, it consequently becomes sacred for learning too. The character of the sacred is manifest in the ritual prescriptions and prohibitions that surround it. In the present context, although there is not much overt emphasis on religion, there certainly is a visible presence. For instance a typical day in the workshop begins with the sha-girds reciting a small verse from Qur’a-n Sharñ-f ‘bismilla-h-hir-rahma-n-nir-raheem’ (‘[I begin] in the name of God,

Learning Processes within the Usta-d–Sha-gird Relationship


the most beneficent and merciful’). This implies complete submission to God and is also a way of invoking the blessings of God by referring to His qualities of being ‘Rahma-n’ (beneficent) and ‘Raheem’ (merciful). It is believed that the recitation of Bismilla-h brings the grace of God and it also signifies that the usta-d is subordinate to God, even though he is supreme in the workshop. Special emphasis is given to the aza-n (call to prayer) and the times of nama-z during the working day, when work pauses for a few minutes. The older usta-ds also ask the sha-girds to offer nama-z regularly, while younger usta-ds are not insistent. Sometimes, the usta-d and the sha-girds offer nama-z together in the workshop itself. Otherwise they go to the masjid (mosque). There are, however, instances where the religious community is considered secondary to the professional community in choosing usta-ds and sha-girds, such as among the sa-deka-rs, where a Muslim usta-d and Hindu sha-gird (and vice versa) are not uncommon. In such cases, though, religion remains dominant: while Muslim usta-ds encourage their Hindu sha-girds to begin the day with a small puja-, the Hindu usta-ds relieve their Muslim sha-girds for nama-z. After recitation of Bismilla-h (or performance of the puja- in some cases), work commences with cleaning, dusting and sweeping the place of work, followed by cleaning the auza-r (instruments and tools). The usta-ds talk about auza-r with reverence. The new sha-girds are made to run around and do trivial tasks like fetching tea or soft drinks from the market for the customers or lunch from the usta-d’s house, dropping the usta-d’s children to their grandparents’ place and so on. Assigning these insignificant tasks to new sha-girds is to inculcate respect for work, to emphasise that no work is lowly and that persons engaged in these types of unspecialised work should not be looked down upon. As the children rise within the hierarchy of sha-girds, they are assigned tasks pertaining to work, which also include supervising younger sha-girds. The day ends by thoroughly cleaning the tools again, with a strong focus on sharpening them, which is a daily exercise. This also constitutes preparation for the next day.




Becoming a Qasa-ñIn butchery, only the immediate or extended family members are taken as sha-girds, as the bira-darñ- or clan is prominent in their social organisation.


Rumman Hameed

Usually, the father acts as usta-d at some point in the apprenticeship, as these are family businesses pursued by families over generations. Mohammad Aarefeen’s family, for instance, has been involved in butchery, which he refers to as ‘art’, for at least four generations. The initiation and orientation of sha-girds starts within the family itself and they later move on to other masters in the profession. Sending the child to other usta-ds in the trade is considered important because it is believed that the father may succumb to love and affection for his sons, which may compromise the process of learning and the performance of the sha-gird. Nevertheless, apprenticeship in butchery does not have a formally organised structure as specialised knowledge and practice is almost always passed down within the family. The children are learning a profession, a skill within their own family, but one not markedly separated from the ordinary activities of everyday life. Children in such families absorb the essence of the practice as well as specific knowledge about the profession simply in the process of growing up. Indeed, most of the procedures involved in the practice of butchery may not be recognised as teaching efforts at all. There is an absence of a clear distinction between work and play in the initial stages before their formal entry in the workshop. Tools of work often become toys for children. Boys in butcher families play with the muddi (wooden chopping block) and with the hooks on which slaughtered animals are hung long before they learn to how to perform the slaughter (Hameed 2002: 47). Ziba-h is slaughter performed according to rules prescribed in Islam. The ziba-h entails a rudimentary knowledge of the Qur’a-n Sharñ-f, and if the relevant Qur’a-nic verses are not recited properly and at the right time, the meat will not be considered hala-l (permitted), as distinct from jhatka- (jerk slaughter). Butchers emphasise that the principle underlying hala-l is to allow the blood to drain out of the animal’s body as it is considered healthier to consume. Before ziba-h is performed, Bismilla-h and Alla-h-hu-akbar (God is great) are recited. But butchery entails a great deal more than this. Children are exposed to the feeding of goats and choosing the fodder depending on the season. They accompany their fathers or male relatives to buy goats and observe the ways to estimate the age, weight and health of the goat. They witness the ziba-h of animals from the age of 4 or 5. The boys may just be sitting quietly and hearing their father talking to another butcher about the way he dealt with the complications his goats developed during the last winter. They hear stories about

Learning Processes within the Usta-d–Sha-gird Relationship


difficult animals or the problems encountered while slaughtering a bigger animal like a camel, indicating that stories form an important part of learning. As they grow older, children start sharpening the knives and cleaning the unusable parts of flesh so that they get accustomed to handling knives. They are introduced to abattoirs. The shagirds spend the initial part of their training performing supportive functions like holding the legs of the goat and assisting in hanging the slaughtered animal to skin it. Skinning is accompanied by cleaning the insides of the slaughtered animal. Gradually the apprentice takes over more and more work, starting with the routine and graduating to significant tasks, such as slaughtering. Cutting the slaughtered animal into small pieces for consumption is the last step in the training, since it is believed to require great skill. Different parts of the animal are cut differently, and require different strokes of the chopping knife. Before being taught how to make botñ- (small pieces of meat), sha-girds are taught to mince meat by hand as this is a less skilful job. It is at this stage that the apprentice perfects the grip and the fall and stroke of the chopper. Slaughter is always performed in the abattoir, because slaughtering in shops is prohibited by law. A butcher’s day starts at four in the morning when he takes his sha-girds along to the abattoir where the older sha-girds assist the usta-d in various operations while the younger ones just watch. Slaughtered and skinned animals are brought to the shop where the rest of the procedures take place. Every butcher is required to have a license for opening a shop (for slaughtering) and even for the tools used in the shop. The occasion of Eid-ul-Zuha, a festival involving the sacrifice of animals, is an exception to this routine. Generally the usta-d himself performs the ziba-h on Eid-ul-Zuha because it assumes such special significance. Thereafter he leaves the older sha-girds to do the rest of the work. Normally, the direction the animal faces is not important. On Eid-ul-Zuha, however, the animal should be facing in the direction of Mecca before ziba-h. Eid-ul-Zuha thus offers sha-girds an opportunity to observe the usta-ds and older practitioners performing the same operations many times a day, and also to participate in the practice of butchery. The new sha-girds generally carry the tools and instruments and watch the usta-d or older sha-girds at work. For the sha-girds, then, the occasion provides the opportunity to apply the knowledge learnt so far. For the usta-d, though, it means a delegation of work that enables him to attend to more ziba-hs in the neighbourhood.


Rumman Hameed

Learning to Do Sa-deka-r-ñ Like butchers, sa-deka-rs hardly ever consider non-family members for imparting training. In those rare cases when outsiders become sha-girds, people from other sa-deka-rñ- families, irrespective of religion, are generally considered. The reason for this is that the profession involves dealing with precious stones and metals. Therefore closeness of family members, or otherwise of fellow traders in business, is crucial because of the element of trust and faith. In sa-deka-rñ-, the usta-d–sha-gird system performs the function of selecting and training those to whom it entrusts the task of perpetuating it. Thus, who becomes a sha-gird and who does not is well-defined.5 For instance, Sheikh Hameedullah, whose family has been involved in sa-deka-rñ- for approximately 400 years, tutored only one person who was neither from his own family nor from the same profession, in his entire career spanning more than 55 years. Sheikh Hameedullah had a workshop in his house, and his children always wandered into the workshop as toddlers. Children’s initiation begins at the age of 4 or 5 by being exposed to the gems and tools used in manufacturing jewellery and by observing their father working, washing and polishing different pieces of jewellery, and by seeing him set precious stones in gold. Sheikh Hameedullah’s nephew came under his tutelage around the age of 8–9 years, his elder son (who now has his own workshop in Paharganj, some distance away from his house) much later by the age of 13–14 years. His younger son is in the sha-girdñ- of Sheikh Hameedullah’s earlier sha-girds, his nephew and his elder son. By contrast, Farhan came into sa-deka-rñ- through a link on his mother’s side of the family. No one in Farhan’s paternal family works in sa-deka-rñ-. His father, Azeez Khan, had a general store when Farhan went into sha-girdñ-. Azeez Khan’s wife’s brother and his wife’s sister’s husband both had sa-deka-rñ- workshops. A busy and flourishing workshop is an important criterion and Azeez Khan chose the more distant relative, his wife’s sister’s husband as the usta-d for Farhan, who became a sha-gird at the age of 10. He worked under him for nine years, after which Farhan opened his own workshop in 1996. Today he himself has two sha-girds at his workshop. Generally, though, sa-dekarñ- is similar to butchery in that recruitment is typically through the immediate family, and small children experience little division between work and play. From an early age, boys in

Learning Processes within the Usta-d–Sha-gird Relationship


sa-deka-r families were playing with gems and precious stones before they knew anything about making jewellery, and with tools like hammers, soan (metal file) and the bhattñ- (furnace). Once the apprenticeship formally starts, however, the transformation of family members takes place, and the usta-d turns into a tough taskmaster for his sha-gird. The sha-gird is only allowed to sit quietly in the workshop. Initially he is given the role of a messenger, passing messages to ka-rigars and other traders. He is not allowed to touch the tools for the first few months, since mishandling or careless handling of tools may lead to serious injuries. This enables acquaintanceship with the tools and the workshop, as well as with the people who come in the workshop, ka-rigars and other sha-girds already working there. After the initial three–four months, training expands to include handling instruments like soan or retñ- (files) and a-rñ- (saw blades), the correct way of holding particular tools, and their regular maintenance in terms of sharpening and cleaning them with diluted sulphuric acid. Gradually the sha-gird is assigned rudimentary tasks like ta-r-patra (wireplate), which involves drawing wires and/or plates out from metal nuggets or bars, nowadays with the help of a machine but earlier with the help of a hammer and other tools. The sha-gird learns kandair, the procedure of transferring the design of jewellery from paper to the metal plate with a sharp tool. He must also learn bindha-ñ- (piercing or drilling holes in the metal plate), kata-ñ-/khula-ñ- (cutting with the help of a saw blade), soanka-ri (filing), and then the slightly more difficult jhala-ñ(soldering). Learning these procedures generally takes more than one year. The sha-gird also learns about the properties of different metals. A newcomer is not introduced to gold in the early stages of training— the opportunity to work on gold is given only after two to three years in sha-gird ñ- because the wastage of metal is more with an untrained hand than a trained one. Therefore, the sha-gird is first taught on copper—the least precious of the metals used in this trade—and later on silver. Usta-ds in sa-deka-rñ- almost always work individually, assisted by their apprentices and supported by a few ka-rigars. Sha-girds do not always acquire the details of the trade merely by ‘observing and imitating’ but equally by participating. The apprentice’s ‘observational lookout post’ enables him both to absorb and be absorbed into the culture of practice. From a peripheral perspective, apprentices get a general idea about who is included in the community of practice and what they do. They learn what everyday life is like and the way masters talk, work and conduct their lives. They see how people who are not part of the community of


Rumman Hameed

practice interact with it. And they watch what other learners are doing and what they will need to learn to become full practitioners. They gain an increased understanding of how, when and about what old-timers collaborate, collude and collide, and what they dislike, respect and admire (Lave and Wenger 1991).

Becoming a Barha-ñFamily businesses such as butchery and sa-deka-rñ- expose children to the tools they will use from early childhood. In carpentry, though, the master is not always a relative of the apprentice and apprenticeship is more open to outsiders. Rather than involving the family’s own children in the business, other relatives and even complete outsiders are included, and production takes place separately from the household. Waqaruddin Siddiqui, for instance, belongs to a family where no one else is in this profession and his relatives are in diverse occupations. His father was a clerk in an advocate’s office, his maternal uncle is a lawyer and his brother is an engineer. He has four sons, one a doctor in Delhi, the second a supervisor in a company in China, the third a computer engineer in Saudi Arabia, and the fourth is doing his graduation from University of Delhi. Waqar left high school in 1956 and immediately jumped into carpentry in 1957, as it was his childhood dream.6 A government-recognised institute in Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh, ran a vocational course in carpentry, where he took admission in a diploma course. Waqar’s example indicates that apprentices recruiting usta-ds for themselves is not uncommon: he sought an usta-d in Bijnor to acquire hunar (skill) and other intricacies of work. He was keen on being a part of a workshop and working under an usta-d, as such an arrangement provides the opportunity to develop a comprehensive view of the whole process and to observe frequently the entire process of producing a piece of furniture. It also provides the chance of observing regularly the usta-d and other apprentices at work and to learn from them. Waqar emphasises that the subject of art and crafts in his school helped him tremendously. From the outset, his excellence in drawing enabled him to design well and to translate the customer’s desire into a piece of furniture. After completing the apprenticeship, Waqar worked in Dubai for a few years. He himself has taken only one sha-gird under his tutelage in a career of more than 45 years—he said that he did not see any sincerity to learn this trade in anyone else.

Learning Processes within the Usta-d–Sha-gird Relationship


Like butchery and sa-deka-rñ-, training in carpentry also commences with knowing the correct way to hold particular instruments and with sharpening the tools of work like randa- (plane), retñ- (file) and a-rñ- (saw blades). Special emphasis is placed on ‘auza-r par dha-r rakhne ka- tareeqa’ (the proper ‘way’ of sharpening a specific tool) as well as the basic differences in the manner these tools are sharpened. For instance, the plane blade is sharpened on a sa-n (grindstone) and the a-rñ- is sharpened with a retñ-, taking care of the angle at which the retñ- is moved on the grooves. Considerable time is spent on learning and understanding the different kinds of wood, their characteristics and properties, and the procedure of measuring it in cubic feet. Knowing the difference between the cubic foot and the square foot constitutes an important aspect of apprenticeship. Initially the usta-d gives the sha-gird a ‘rough’ piece of wood with pencil marks on it for him to practise working with various instruments. The new sha-gird is then put under the older sha-girds who supervise him for the next few weeks. Then he goes back to the usta-d, and after his evaluation, is given a ‘fair’ piece of wood to work on. Once the usta-d is satisfied with the sha-gird’s performance and is confident about his potential, he is sent to the ‘site’ to assist in the usta-d’s projects and assignments. There are, then, important differences in the forms of recruitment to apprenticeships in different crafts. Nevertheless, there are points in common, notably the male domination of the usta-d–sha-gird tradition, the flexible pace and curriculum of the training, the question of creativity, issues of discipline, power and resistance, and signs of tension and change.




Women occupy an equally important place in usta-d–sha-gird systems in creative fields like music and dance, where women are not only sha-girds but also become usta-ds. There is a conspicuous absence of women in the usta-d–sha-gird institution in the professional trades of butchery, jewellery making and carpentry, however. The usta-d–sha-gird relationship in these trades remains a predominantly male space and a site for not only constructing a male identity but also for reinforcing gendered identities. The workshop becomes a space where the sha-girds are taught not


Rumman Hameed

only technical skills, religious knowledge and morality, but also a place where they are taught to ‘be men’ and where they are socialised to be responsible ‘like men’. This absence of women relates to the character of the family in a patriarchal society where women retain the major responsibility for household chores and for bearing and raising children, and where children internalise separate male and female domains. Like the usta-d– sha-gird relationship, learning in the mother–daughter relationship takes place through a pattern of ‘peripheral participation’, but it is not recognised as an usta-d–sha-gird relationship. Domestic labour and household skills, though considered essential, are not considered ‘art’, ‘craft’, ‘occupation’ or, more importantly, ‘productive activity’ that brings financial stability and is necessary to run a household. A different value is placed on women’s work in the house and on a butcher’s, jeweller’s or carpenter’s work.




Apprenticeship is not strictly time-bound as it keeps pace with the rhythm of the sha-gird. The usta-d adjusts the learning process according to the talent of the individual sha-gird. He imparts to his sha-girds the skills according to a self-devised and sequenced teaching schedule. The learning processes in apprenticeships do not always follow the sequence of the production process, but rather the order of increasing difficulty and complexity. The less skilled tasks are taught first and the sha-gird gradually builds up his skills from lower to higher levels of complexity and significance. In butchery, there is an almost completely backward progression of work; the first task (ziba-h), which is also the most significant, is taught in the end. In carpentry and sa-deka-rñ-, though, the learning processes almost reproduce the sequence of work; the least difficult task is also the first one in producing a piece of furniture or jewellery. Each stage and operation in these three trades is divided into phases, which provides the sha-gird with the opportunity to understand how the previous step has contributed to the present one. This minimises instances of failure and leads to efficiency in performing a task. Failures in the beginning of an operation are common, however, because usta-ds often withhold advice and instruction until the sha-gird becomes ready for the next step. The sha-gird is allowed to

Learning Processes within the Usta-d–Sha-gird Relationship


falter, encouraged to use his judgement and experiment on a procedure, which frequently results in failure or maybe partial success.



Only when a sha-gird becomes a problem-solver and an innovator is he seen to have graduated to the status of ‘being an usta-d’—someone proficient in his trade—and capable of ‘becoming an usta-d’—capable of becoming a ‘teacher’ of young children as sha-girds. This corresponds to a conceptual development where the master can visualise modifications in the tools, equipment or processes for meeting either the demands of the market, handling issues like cost reduction or speeding up job-work (known colloquially as juga-r). This is not to imply that every sha-gird becomes an usta-d. Those who do not nevertheless become part of the community of practitioners, establish their own workshop and continue to work independently. For the sha-gird, the freedom to experiment is limited, however. First, the usta-d bears all the losses incurred during an apprenticeship, such as damage to expensive wood, loss of precious stones or an animal rendered unfit for consumption (there have been instances of a few sha-girds even turning out to be thieves). Second, the usta-d has his own distinctive style of working and manufacturing the items for which he is famous. His sha-gird’s creativity is sometimes stifled and only accommodated when it does not interfere with the usta-d’s style. The sha-gird’s creativity is unleashed without inhibitions or restrictions only when he becomes independent.




Learning within the usta-d–sha-gird relationship cannot be viewed only as the transmission or internalisation of knowledge that is located in the community, or as experience gained through interaction with others. The relationship is broadly described by the famous Urdu saying: ‘usta-d ho ka-mil, sha-gird ho a-mil aur Khuda ho sha-mil’ (the teacher should be able, the student should be capable of following his instructions and God must be part of the proceedings). Yet this is also extremely simplistic,


Rumman Hameed

since it obscures the elements of power and authority, conflict, control and resistance inherent in a shared cultural system. Sha-girds are expected to be self-disciplined in the workshop. Discipline includes punctuality, maintaining silence in the workshop by not talking or laughing loudly, executing the required work to the usta-d’s satisfaction, taking care of tools, and docile behaviour. Special emphasis is placed on obedience. These also constitute the qualities and qualifications of an ideal sha-gird. Playing pranks is strictly forbidden because of lack of space and the presence of potentially dangerous instruments and substances, and also because it diverts attention away from work. Most sha-girds are obedient and follow the rules and regulations laid down by the usta-d. Despite the sacred character of the workshop, the emphasis on discipline and the uncompromising authority of the usta-d in the workshop, however, there are instances of rebellious behaviour by defiant sha-girds. Making fun of usta-ds, mocking them behind their backs and calling them names is common. There is also a general opposition to authority (cf. Willis 1977). Some sha-girds resist the rules and there are various ways in which sha-girds react to the power of the usta-d in order to create delays in his work. When a sha-gird is sent to fetch something, he deliberately takes a long time in returning. He may stop at a video-game parlour for a couple of games, sneak in a few shots of cricket being played in the street, or go to a friend’s place to fly kites. He may stand in some shop and watch television, or simply huddle with friends in the street. Spending time in a cyber-café or playing a game of pool is also becoming common. Sometimes sha-girds even damage tools in their desire to get even with the usta-d. In some workshops, there is also a strained relationship between the new and old sha-girds. There are frequent instances of bullying and teasing by the older sha-girds. The new sha-girds, on the other hand, sometimes retaliate by playing pranks in the workshop and putting the blame on their seniors. Sha-girds are not submissive and passive. Such actions are often reactions to punishment meted out by the usta-d—and then become the cause of further punishment. There are various reasons for imparting punishment, such as dishonesty, indiscipline and imperfection in work. In butchery, corporal punishment is common. In carpentry, punishment is severe, because (unlike metal) wood cannot be melted and re-moulded if it is spoiled so the usta-d faces a greater monetary loss. Initially, the sha-gird is warned a few times and corporal punishment is resorted to if he continues committing

Learning Processes within the Usta-d–Sha-gird Relationship


mistakes. Often the sha-gird’s stipend is also withheld or cut. As a last resort, his sha-girdi is discontinued and he is sent back home. The trade does not always run in the family and the sha-gird is rarely the close relative of the master. Punishment for lack of perfection is also very strong in sa-deka-rñ-, although corporal punishment is rare. Rather it involves the outright destruction of an imperfect piece by the usta-d, conveying that there should be ‘either perfection or nothing’ in the work. The usta-d also narrates stories of how his usta-d would place imperfect pieces of jewellery on a niha-ñ-—a block of iron on which metal is beaten—and break them or flatten them with a hammer. The sha-gird may be made to repeat a particular procedure innumerable times and sha-girds are often detained in the workshop after the workday is over.




Contestation is central to reproduction (Apple 1979). There is persistent conflict within the usta-d–sha-gird relationship mainly because of ideological differences between generations of usta-ds and sha-girds. When the older usta-ds were sha-girds themselves, they saw themselves as part of a traditional system that they still consider ideal and according to which they try to mould the young sha-girds. Some of the sha-girds of the older usta-ds who have now become usta-ds themselves try to strike a balance between the ‘traditional’ system and the evolving new system of apprenticeship. Crucially, the usta-d–sha-gird relationship now runs parallel to school education. This is significantly different from the ‘traditional’ system when apprenticeship was the daily life of sha-girds. On the one hand, some young sha-girds refuse to follow that ‘traditional’ system as most of them go to school and are influenced, to an extent, by western education. An average sha-gird typically spends a significant portion of the day in school (in morning or afternoon). School-related activities, such as doing homework and preparing for tests, encroach on the time spent in the workshop. Nevertheless, school is looked upon by most as a necessary evil because it is believed that bookish knowledge alone will take children nowhere. Thus, not all children attend school, and most parents seek usta-ds to arm their children with the necessary skills to enable them to carve a future for themselves.


Rumman Hameed

The case studies highlight the multiplicity of actors in any usta-d–sha-gird relationship. It encompasses older usta-ds, some of whose sha-girds have themselves become usta-ds, young usta-ds with sha-girds, new sha-girds, older sha-girds and ka-rigars. A hierarchy among usta-ds and a similar hierarchy among sha-girds become evident. On the one hand, this diversity of actors emphasises the dynamic nature of the relationship. On the other, it points to the conflictual relations between different actors. It implies the replacement of old-timers by newcomers. Membership in communities of practice keeps changing. The sustained participation of newcomers results in altering their identity, from a newcomer to an old-timer, with a few becoming usta-ds themselves. Sometimes competitive relations of production intensify tensions among different actors. And, although the usta-d treats all his sha-girds equally, he often shares the family secrets only with his own children or close kin, ensuring the hereditary transmission of the cultural capital. It is also important to note that the oral character of the usta-d–sha-gird relationship is undergoing transformation. A formalisation and institutionalisation of the oral tradition is taking place. Sheikh Hameedullah’s elder son, himself a trained gemmologist, refers his sha-gird to books on gems and to journals documenting newer advances in machinery for jewellery manufacturing. And Waqar pursued carpentry in an institute before coming under an usta-d. In some cases, then, the usta-d–sha-gird relationship is slowly losing its significance and formal institutions are gaining in importance. What makes the usta-d–sha-gird relationship unique and interesting is a co-existence of commercial mentality with sacredness and a lack of an economic–cultural division in everyday lived experience. It includes the acquisition not only of skills and technical knowledge but also the imbibing of a work ethic and the mores and values of society. Through a community of practice, children develop certain physical, intellectual and moral states, which are demanded for them to become effectively functioning members of society, both the political society as a whole and the special milieu of the institution of usta-d–sha-gird and the relationships of learning within it. Learning through and within a community of practice preserves and perpetuates the culture inherited from the past and prepares within children the essential conditions of its very existence (Bock and Papagiannis 1983).

Learning Processes within the Usta-d–Sha-gird Relationship


Notes 1. I conducted most of the fieldwork for this study in Old Delhi during five months in 2002, while a Research Fellow on the University of Delhi–UNIFEM project ‘From Violence to Supportive Practice: Family, Gender and Masculinities in India.’ I am thankful to the respondents for permitting me to enter their workshops, for letting me accompany them to meet other traders and for allowing me to talk to their ka-rigars and sha-girds. I should also like to thank Patricia Jeffery for her comments and suggestions on my chapter. 2. Whilst there are terms in Urdu for butcher and carpenter, there are no terms for butchery and carpentry. 3. This is very similar to the views of J. Krishnamurti, of the Krishnamurthi Foundation of India, as quoted in Thapan 1991: 19. 4. An elder ‘of ’ the family (ghar ke bade) is significantly different from an elder ‘in’ the family (ghar mein bade). The latter is always a member of the family, generally the eldest in the extended family, who may be the child’s grandfather or his father’s elder brother/s, who exercises an over-arching authority in family affairs. An elder ‘of ’ the family is an outsider, not related by blood, but who is always consulted for decisions regarding the family. S/he may be an elderly figure in the neighbourhood or an usta-d. 5. This is also significantly different from the school system where, theoretically, education is available to everyone. 6. It is worth noting that Waqar became offended when I addressed him as barha--ñ. He insisted that he should be called a ‘carpenter’ and not a barha-ñ-, since he feels that he is educated and also a specialist in his field who must be distinguished from ordinary barha--ñ s.


In this chapter, I examine cultures of adolescence in the context of embodiment and the peer group, mainly with reference to uneducated girls.1 In an attempt to bring in the multiple voices of active social agents, representing multiple subjectivities, my focus is on the lived and communicative body and on lived experience as constitutive of the embodied self. ‘Lived experience’, it is suggested, ‘designates the whole of a person’s subjectivity. More particularly, the term describes the way an individual makes sense of her situation and actions’ (Moi 1999: 63). My concern with the experience of embodiment focuses on how young women articulate this experience in their everyday lives. I argue that the experience of an embodied and gendered self lies at the intersection of multiple subjectivities and at multiple points of political consciousness and location. Embodiment as being-in-the-body or behaviour is about experience, subjectivity, political consciousness, agency and will. Cultures of adolescence are complex in a heterogeneous, pluralist and changing society like India where they are shaped by class, gender and educational status and mediated by the peer group, marriage and childbearing. There is no well-defined age period within which young women in Indian urban and rural society experience adolescence as a marked transition period between childhood and adulthood. The differences between urban and rural experiences of adolescence are further differentiated according to social class and educational backgrounds. Kumar (2002), for example, divides the period of adolescence in a

Educationally Disadvantaged Young Women in an Urban Slum


Rajasthani community into three phases: early adolescence characterised by residence with parents with some physiological changes, midadolescence with the onset of menstruation and residence with the husband, and late adolescence when young women become mothers. The term adolescence is Latin in origin and derives from adolescere, which means ‘to grow into adulthood’ and clearly there is ‘no single event or boundary line that denotes the end of childhood or the beginning of adolescence’ (Steinberg 1984). Steinberg suggests that adolescence comprises a ‘set of transitions’ that unfold gradually in the context of an individual’s behaviour, development and relationships. Saraswathi (1999: 214) suggests that although there is a period of transition between childhood and adulthood marked by the onset of puberty, adolescence itself is ‘a matter of cultural construction’. She argues that ‘the greater the continuity between childhood and adulthood, and greater the similarity in life course and continuity in expectations from childhood to adulthood, the greater the possibility of the absence of a distinct phase or life stage called adolescence’. Referring to a large number of cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of Indian children, she concludes that child–adult continuity is clearly marked among young women cutting across social class except in the highest socio-economic groups. In a recent article, Verma and Saraswathi (2002: 106) examine the influence of ‘tradition and modernity in sociopolitical and cultural factors’ in shaping adolescence in India. Women in all social classes in India are groomed, in one way or another, for marriage and motherhood. Only among the élite and highest income groups do young women have the opportunity to pursue their interests and self-defined career goals. In very poor and low working class families there appears to be an absence of adolescence as a distinct stage in the life cycle, especially among those who are betrothed in childhood and married before the onset of puberty. It is therefore difficult to fix any age at which young women may be perceived as experiencing adolescence: is it when they attain puberty, or when they have sexual intercourse for the first time, or when they bear children?

EDUCATIONALLY DISADVANTAGED YOUNG WOMEN Data were collected from interviews with adolescent girls in a slum in north-western Delhi. These girls mainly belonged to the Gujarati


Meenakshi Thapan

community and were the daughters of migrants who had come to Delhi in search of better employment opportunities. The parents worked as labourers in the vegetable and fruit wholesale market and did other odd jobs to earn a livelihood. The young women had either never been to school or only for a very short periods (three to five years). They were asked questions about their familial and kin relationships, their marital relationships, their everyday life practices, their aspirations, goals and desires. Here, I seek to understand the complexities in the articulation and constitution of gender identity as part of the cultures of adolescence among poor, educationally disadvantaged adolescent women in urban India. The term ‘educationally advantaged’ refers to that category of individuals who not only have access to the education of their choice (for example, private as opposed to state-funded schooling) but also have the privilege of pursuing their educational goals to fruition. Girls in this category are simultaneously part of tradition, ritual and customary practices and the contemporary world through the education they receive, the diverse images and texts presented by visual and print media and peer group culture. This is not common across India, but is a distinct part of the lives of girls who belong to the middle and uppermiddle class in urban Indian society. By contrast, an educationally disadvantaged young woman, due to the absence of schooling except in her very early years, lacks a similar exposure. In addition, early marriage, childbearing, her preoccupation with her marital home and its attendant tasks, and her relationships with her husband and his family, ensure that she remains more or less excluded from this world and the meanings and values that emerge from it. Her experience of adolescence is therefore in terms of the dominant defining features of her life in the family and community. For this group of young women, cultures of adolescence are constructed largely outside school in the domain of the family. Moreover, the experience of adolescence is not fixed but moves across a larger age span that includes a range of bodily changes and psychological adjustments: when they experience menstruation for the first time, when they are married but are waiting for the ‘gauna-’ (a ritual when they are sent to their husbands’ homes for the first time), are living with their husbands, bearing children, and coping with work and survival in their husbands’ homes. All (except one in the sample) are married and are in the liminal stage between marriage and gauna- or are visiting their parents’ homes. In general, their experience of adolescence focuses on

Educationally Disadvantaged Young Women in an Urban Slum


their embodiment, the family and relationships, primarily with the marriage partner and their affines. Young women in this category have no visible communication with their fathers (who tend to be somewhat authoritarian) and their relationships with their mothers are also restrained. The natal family, however, is an important source of comfort and well-being as well as the site for the reproduction of patriarchy and of values ensuring compliance and submission on their part. Peer group cultures in the school context are absent, but the samesex peer group in the community is crucial for this group’s shared articulation of their sexual experience and marital relations. In this sense, the peer group represents that collectivity of married and unmarried young women in whose presence they all find a common and legitimate space for the articulation and expression of their experience. The peer group is the psychological, and yet public, space within which identities are expressed, constituted and affirmed. This group provides a crucial forum for discussion and communication, for the display and performance of identities through an expression of feelings and experience, for providing energy and vitality to an otherwise perhaps silent world of young women who are unable to express themselves uninhibitedly with their parents and husbands. Educationally disadvantaged young women critically engage with the world in distinctive ways. They give voice to their powerlessness through elaborate descriptions of the acts of power that can and are exercised over them and their own experience of powerlessness. The ‘act’ of giving voice to their experience of powerlessness through description both enables a recognition and acknowledgement of their particular position and enables them to manoeuvre, strategise and survive in the face of very difficult circumstances and disempowering situations. The agential voice is recovered in the critical engagement with their ‘being-in-theworld’. It is a record of this agential voice that forms the body of this chapter. Significant components of this group’s experience of adolescent gender identity are their experience of marriage and the relationships it entails, and their definition of ‘work’ and its impact on their self-esteem and identity, especially in relation to their location in their husbands’ homes. They experience their lack of schooling as disempowering, since they are reduced to housework or ‘washing the dishes’ as well as restricted in terms of the spaces and worlds they are allowed to inhabit. At the same time, formal education is not overly valued, because there is an acceptance of their destinies as wives and mothers that they seek to


Meenakshi Thapan

turn to their advantage through their engagement with work of different kinds. Thus, for this category of young women, cultures of adolescence are largely characterised by the dominant influence of the conjugal family over the natal family and the patriarchal norm of the in-law family’s dominance over the life of the young married girl. Together they serve to reproduce habitus in its generative state wherein familial norms are affirmed and strengthened within the larger contexts of marriage and control of feminine sexuality. For Bourdieu, the generative habitus is an ‘open system of dispositions that is constantly subject to experiences, and therefore constantly affected by them in a way that either reinforces or modifies structures’ (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992: 133). The complexity characteristic of recolonisation is apparent in the dual-edged manner in which it manifests itself within the urban Indian family. In India, the primary modality through which recolonisation is manifest is postcolonial habitus, the dominant modality for the exercise of multiple subjectivities shaped by social class, age and region. I use the conceptual category of ‘postcolonial habitus’ to specify the context in which habitus is created and reproduced. I therefore take recourse to ‘postcolonial’ as a historical and social condition that shapes habitus in diverse and particular ways through familial relations, schooling (or the absence of schooling) practices, peer group relations and other modalities of the social and public domain. I do not thereby preclude the possibilities of resistance or transformation, as these are embedded in the nature of the habitus itself. Kalpagam (2000: 177) reiterates that ‘the ties that bind women to their lives provide both securities that impact positively on their personhood, as well as liabilities that are often very oppressive’. The family is undoubtedly the single most important of such ties; others include those of the sphere of intimacy and sexuality, of practical kinship relations, of friendship, and other social ties (ibid:. 2000). Both within and outside the family, women engage in the twin process of compliance and resistance, submission and rebellion, silence and speech, to assert their identities as women in what they clearly and assertively recognise as oppressive contexts and situations.

Staying Out of School These young women’s experience of any kind of formal education and of the institutional setting of the school is very limited:

Educationally Disadvantaged Young Women in an Urban Slum


I used to study in a small school. I used to study at a tutor’s house. His son and daughter-in-law always fought. He too used to hit us, pull our hair, etc. He was very physical in his hitting and I couldn’t study with him. Then I went to a government school, there they used to inoculate us and I hated injections. So, I used to avoid [going to school] and later my name was struck off. I used to be unwell a lot and I stopped going to school. Then I stopped studying altogether… I have studied till class 5. I can read slowly but cannot write. I can keep accounts till about Rs 2000. I studied only Hindi in a government school. Education is important only for the purpose of taking care of the expenses at home or to be able to get fair wages for the work done. My parents did not enrol me in school. My mother used to go to the vegetable market, do dishes, sweeping, etc. My father died when I was very small. I have one older and one younger brother. Earlier my mother used to cook; I started cooking from the age of 10–12 years. For the past three years I have been peeling ‘green gram’ for which I get Rs 5 per pack. I can only write my name. I have not studied at all. Sometimes, there is an expression of regret about the lack of formal education—but they are also quick to assert that there is no point in being educated as ultimately a woman has to wash dishes whether or not she works outside the home. It is good to study these days. If one is educated then at least one can be independent. I could not study further because the elders in my family did not allow me after the death of my father. When we were children, we would spend a lot of time at the guava orchard. But I never attended school sincerely at that time. At 10–12 years of age, I really wanted to go to school, but there was no chance. Now I really regret it, as I cannot even write a letter to my parents. I can recognise the alphabets separately but cannot connect them and read. If I were educated I would have taken tuitions at home. Now I have to work at other people’s houses. If someone scolds me, it feels very bad. Nobody in my family has done this work; relatives would


Meenakshi Thapan

ridicule the work I’m doing [cleaning dishes at other people’s houses]. One young woman had been asking her father to send her to school, but he always refused. He asked her to find out if other girls were studying, as he could not possibly send her to school with boys. She can read and write due to her own efforts. She reads the Hindi newspaper very well and can write a little bit. She says, Nobody has taught me, I try myself. I am very fond of studying. There was no one to work at home so I could not study. I always desired to study whenever I saw girls going to school. I think it is important to go to school to have a better understanding about issues like health, hygiene, etc. She said that in her community, girls are not sent to school because it is understood that they have only to cook and clean all through their life. When probed further, she indicated that some girls did study, but by and large it was the norm to discontinue studies after marriage. Another young woman told us that she was taught at home and knew how to write names and house numbers. She said, ‘With difficulty, I can count up to 100’. She studied in the Gujarati medium, but had learnt Hindi from her brother, so she could read the newspaper in Hindi. She said that she could only do housework—she could not even sign a form. Her brother studied till class 7, so he used to sign various forms on her behalf. Nonetheless, she felt happy that she knew something. She said that she would like to study but was unable to do so as she had grown older. She wondered who would teach her now that she was past the school-going age. She added that her parents did not send her to school and that whatever she had learnt has been learnt at home. She said that young girls were not allowed to go out, but boys could go out. She added that girls did not like to be caged up. ‘If we were boys we could have roamed about. Why weren’t we born boys?’ she lamented, and she added that their parents scolded them, but not their brothers, if they spent too much time in front of the mirror. The agential voice yearns for some kind of education, as education and gender in this case appear to be linked to notions of independence and freedom. By and large, however, there is a devaluation of formal education primarily because social expectations focus on domestic tasks such as ‘cooking, cleaning, washing dishes’ as well as the compelling circumstances

Educationally Disadvantaged Young Women in an Urban Slum


that force them to drop out of school. Gold’s study of uneducated herd girls in rural Rajasthan echoes the voices of the young women in this study. Gold (2002: 91) presents girls’ ‘practical’ perspective on school education as one in which grazing the family’s sheep is valued more highly than schooling because income can be obtained from selling lambs and dung.

Domesticity and Marriage The family is a crucial site for the development of gender identities in relation both to familial perceptions and to those emerging from the social and public domain. The experience of young women may be articulated at one level in the register of the directly experiential and at another level through the subtext of voices and the nature of the relation with the other. The emergence of multiple selves is evident in their construction of their self in relation to the family as well as the peer group, in their diverse and varying images of self and other in their constructions of identities. The cohesive and all-encompassing nature of the Indian family and the reproduction of existing patriarchal norms and values through learning domestic work and the ‘ways of the family’ appears to be central to the experiences of these young women. Young women seek to acknowledge and affirm this experiential component of their relations with the family. Simultaneously we may ascertain certain complexities in their articulation vis-à-vis the family. Further, gender identity is firmly entrenched as a social and cultural construction through the process of socialisation in the family and community. In other words, the ‘constancy of habitus’ reproduces the structures and values of the patriarchal society in which it is embedded, thereby reproducing the ‘relative constancy of the structure of the sexual division of labour’ (Bourdieu 2001: 95). As Bourdieu explains Through the experience of a ‘sexually’ ordered social order and the explicit reminders addressed to them by their parents, teachers and peers themselves endowed with principles of vision acquired in similar experiences of the world, girls internalise, in the form of schemes of perception and appreciation not readily accessible to consciousness, the principles of the dominant vision which leads them to find the social order, such as it is, normal or even natural and in a sense to anticipate their destiny, refusing the courses or


Meenakshi Thapan

careers from which they are excluded and rushing towards those for which they are in any case destined (ibid.). Adolescence includes the period when women are trained in domestic tasks to ensure their adaptation to married life. A young woman told us she was married at the age of 13. Her gauna- took place when she was 15-years-old and she had her first child at the age of 16. She said that she had never worked at her mother’s place. Her grandmother never allowed her to work. Only when she was 13-years-old, was married and her gaunawas due did she start learning some household chores. She learnt to knead the dough, make vegetables, and so on, and thus entered the preparatory stage for marriage. Ideal images of young men were formed and valorised in the peer group culture. The focus was clearly on men as marriage partners rather than on their possible role as friends or companions. The images were based largely on boys’ physical attributes and social skills and the emphasis on skin colour is unmistakable: ‘A boy who is fair and has blue eyes is good looking. Fair, slim, nice build and a good heart. Should be good from inside and outside. He should speak nicely and not think evil for anyone.’ Expectations of the marriage partner were clearly entrenched and influenced young women’s perceptions of young men: He should be good looking, should be of my age, should be doing good work and earning well. He should leave the house on time and return on time. He should have good behaviour with everyone. Whenever I see a drunken man, I wish to have one who is not. It is better if he is educated. Only if he understands, will he be able to explain things to me. Some young women could view men only in terms of their marriage partner: My husband is five years older than me. Otherwise he is fine. I have a habit of laughing. But I cannot share everything with him. He can hit me if I make a mistake. He might explain to me once or twice, but later may also hit. Don’t ask about my husband. I like my husband very much. I like him when he works. He is older than me, but I like him. I like the way he

Educationally Disadvantaged Young Women in an Urban Slum


speaks. He did not allow me to consume Mala–D [a contraceptive pill]. Nobody tells us anything in our community. He says that once we have six to seven children randomly then I can have an operation. Bodily changes overshadowed other events so that the experience of menstruation constituted a crucial event in their lives. They asserted that their mothers did not adequately prepare them for the experience: My older friend used to talk about periods. I never used to listen to her. I thought it happened only to her. Only when it happened to me did I realise that it happens to all. Even when my periods started, I did not feel that I had grown up. Before my grandmother died, I had to start working at home, since my mother was busy nursing her. When I started working, I didn’t realise when I grew up. But, at 17, when I got engaged, I realised that I had grown up. On the day of suha-g ra-t (first night after marriage) also, I did not allow him to touch me much. Young women’s experience of adolescence included early sexual encounters that might not be consensual or pleasurable. The ‘first night’ and the strangeness associated with it was freely expressed by the young women. There was, however, an unquestioning acceptance of how things are meant to be and a denial of their own sexual desires and pleasures. The larger kin network ensured submission and compliance. One young woman narrated the events of her first night and stated that she was told that if one’s first night went well then one’s entire life was destined to be happy. Her elder sister-in-law had explained that she should agree to whatever her husband asked during that night. She said that her husband asked her to ‘take out’ her clothes, so she started to pull out a suitcase from under the bed till she realised what he had asked for. She started shaking vigorously and was scared. She explained that she was very innocent—only 15-years-old—and did not realise the intimacy of sex on the first night. She did not understand or feel anything. When she got up in the morning, she felt as if something had happened to her. When she asked her sisters-in-law, they told her that this was the way that it happened and she was not to speak or think about it. This was the way men were. In this manner, she was being advised by other women in the family not to acknowledge her sexuality, and even (in a sense) erase it and view it merely as another aspect of marriage. Her husband used to have sex with her


Meenakshi Thapan

every day and, if she refused, he used to force himself on her. She did not want it every day, and said ‘I used to feel repelled and used to ask everyone if their men did the same.’ The importance of the peer group at this stage is unmistakable and immeasurable. It was the peer group that provided information about the sexual intimacy they were to encounter with their husbands: My mother’s brother’s daughter told me about the happenings after marriage but my husband does not force me for sex. One comes to know by sitting with and listening to older girls. I was informed a little bit by my cousin sister. A lot of it was told to me by my elder sister-in-law and some by my husband. My cousin told me that these things don’t have to be discussed with one’s mother. One refrains from it for a couple of days as a custom. It usually happens at the in-laws’ place, but it did not happen with me because I refused. He started arguing and a fight ensued. In the peer group, it was considered more appropriate to indicate an aversion to sex rather than emphasise its pleasures. With great hesitation, a young woman stated that she did like sexual intercourse but only once in the day, while her husband wanted it at least four times in the day. She felt dirty doing it all the time. She tried talking to him during the night, so that time went by and she could avoid sex. One young woman courageously wanted to talk about her sexual experience with her husband but was unable to. She wanted to be sent to her husband’s place sooner rather than later so that she could enjoy sex without tensions. She did not like the idea of these interim sexual encounters. She added that her husband’s happiness was more important to her than her own and that she enjoyed sex with her husband soon after marriage. The loss of childhood, a yearning for childhood friendships and games, was part of the experience of adolescence. A 19-year-old woman said, ‘Sex happens only when a man wants it. Ever since the birth of my children, I don’t even enjoy it. I also feel very tired.’ She added that sex was a man’s interest, not a woman’s and that she was totally involved with her children: ‘I did not even realise when my teenage years came and went. I’ve been staying with my husband since the age of fifteen. I therefore did not perhaps feel the urges that most of the girls my age do. When it was the age to gossip among friends, I was already married.’

Educationally Disadvantaged Young Women in an Urban Slum


Childbearing is the next significant experience in the adolescent stage of these young women. Difficult childbirth and the trauma of miscarriage often occurs during adolescence. One young woman, after her second miscarriage, always looked very pale and tired and was very quiet. On one occasion, she was eating khichdñ- (a rice and lentil preparation) when her husband entered the room. She immediately covered her head and stopped eating. She was completely indifferent to herself and relaxed only after her husband left the room. Clearly, she had not only accepted all that she has been socialised into but also appeared to concur with behaviour that reproduces social norms of submission and acceptance. She also had a physical condition that caused her discomfort and pain and which she stoically bore not only with forbearance but also a sense of complete surrender, as it were, to the certainties and vicissitudes of adulthood that had so quickly arrived. There was, however, an understanding among the young women of the powerlessness this entails and therefore an awareness of doing better for their children: I consider myself smart but I was not even clever enough to control the birth of four girls. When my first daughter was 4-years-old, my mother-in-law started cribbing. Three-four months after delivery I did not realise that I was pregnant again. I got my periods a year after my marriage. My parents did not speak to me about anything and got me married. My marriage was negotiated at a public function when I was seven. I grew tall and people thought that I was old enough to be married. My gauna- happened when I was only 14-years-old. When my husband used to approach me, I used to fear him and shout that he was beating me. My desires were not fulfilled after marriage. Work was the major determinant in my life. I would like to do better for my children. My eldest daughter studied till class 5, the younger one is studying in class 5. The eldest one works as a domestic help. I will support my children. My parents were very simple and married us too soon. They did not have a mind of their own and were easily influenced by other people’s viewpoints. Adolescence, among these young women, entailed being engaged to be married, marriage itself, housework, and keeping fasts on various days of the week for different reasons—for getting a good husband, for having one and keeping him. The body remained enmeshed in the practices of conjugal life, whether these entailed displeasing sexual intercourse, childbearing and working for survival. Young women said their mother’s


Meenakshi Thapan

generation did not use make-up—no bindñ- or lipstick—but now they wore everything and felt their face looked good. One young woman was glad that she was not short but just right in terms of her height, weight, and so on. The body was accepted as it was and make-up can be used only to add to or complement what already was given. Jewellery and make-up were also used as an embellishment of marriage and not so much for purposes of changing or perfecting the body. They were allowed to wear both only after reaching 12–13 years of age and after a ceremony associated with marriage (god bhara-ñ-) or gauna-. Among married young adolescent women, however, the body acquired a symbolic status of auspiciousness and fulfilment that also had to be visible and in a sense flaunted in the community. Using lipstick and filling vermilion in the central parting of the hair (lipstick laga-na- aur ma-ng bharna-) are the two most important activities of daily adornment symbolising the coalescing of tradition and modernity in the lives of these women: My mother says that I keep looking in the mirror the whole day. I like to do make-up while looking in the mirror. I like putting lipstick and sindu-r (vermilion). I get a lot of pimples on my face. They don’t let me live. My husband likes me with make-up. The rest of my body is O.K., nothing good, but I like the fact that I’m not short. I’m tall enough. I feel I’m very fat. To the extent that married adolescent women commented that ‘breasts look nice’ and that ‘flat-chested women look like eunuchs’, they were not only celebrating their femininity—which was accentuated by their use of some cosmetics and their acknowledgement of their husbands’ appreciation of make-up—but also demonstrating an awareness of their sexuality, since eunuchs are socially considered sexless. More importantly, though, these women also observed that it was ultimately not just looks that mattered but one’s ability to work: My lips are very thick. I don’t like them. I like hanging earrings and using bindiya- and sindu-r. It is very difficult to work with one’s face covered [with a veil or sa-r-ñ ) and then my in-laws complain that I do not know the work. Early marriage, however, resulted in the experience of loss of freedom and curtailment of desires—and there was simultaneously a desire for independence and to be self-sufficient and ‘free’:

Educationally Disadvantaged Young Women in an Urban Slum


We have five fields. I would like to work there with my husband. I feel like standing on my own feet. But I don’t get the chance. If tomorrow my in-laws are no more and my husband does not work, if I have practical knowledge, I will be able to feed my children. I did not think like this before marriage. I used to feel free, now I feel caged. I don’t know why I feel like that. Even when my periods started, I did not feel grown up. Only when my mother had me engaged did I feel that perhaps I have grown up. … When my chest was just developing, it used to ache. My mother explained: that’s the way it happens. My engagement was broken off once. My mother liked the boy, but many people had broken the engagement with that boy and so we did too. We decided then that I would not be married to a boy from Delhi and that I should only marry a villager. Young women emphasised their abilities to work and also to endure bad marriages with great strength—but their agency was clearly restricted by the family, social norms and practices. One young woman wanted to take over as a vegetable vendor from her mother-in-law but: ‘I can join her only after I’ve had children. People would talk about it if I go before that. Even my elder sister-in-law does not work yet; I can do it only when she starts.’ On the other hand, marriage—and the long hours of tiring, domestic work it entails—was resented, especially if young women feel their husbands’ families were treating them unfairly: I find marriage destruction. I cannot live without buffalo milk. At least food should be good and family members should behave well, even if they do not give food. It is more troublesome to keep shifting between my in-laws’ place and my house. I am woken up at 3 a.m. I’m expected to sweep six houses and by then it is 5 a.m. I warm the water then, and cook chapa-ttñ- s (unleavened bread) for each cow. Then I warm milk and make tea. I wash dishes thereafter and have to keep the food ready by 10 a.m. All the women from the house work in the field. Then again food has to be prepared in the evening. It was only after the wedding was completed that my brother’s wife told me that I was supposed to conduct myself according to my affinal family’s expectations. It is painful…how can they throw me out? I’ll throw them out instead. Finally, however, it was through work that they acquired an identity and held their own in their marital homes. A young woman, who had


Meenakshi Thapan

been married for three years, emphasised the importance of work in a woman’s life: In my in-laws’ home, everyone respects me a great deal. I do all the work. I never give them a chance to say anything. I like living in the village very much: plenty of milk, clarified butter, buttermilk, and the greenery. But the most important thing that I like in my life is work and earning my livelihood. More than any physical features of beauty or adornment, it was work alone that defined her embodied identity. The refrain, ‘a woman must be beautiful to look at but also excellent in the work she is able to do’, emphasised the significance of work in the lives of these young women, especially in their husbands’ homes: We do not have an identity. Had we done something, we would have had one. I just wish not to make any mistake at my in-laws’ place that would make my elders at home feel ashamed. Whatever I have got is fine. At home, mummy used to stop me from roaming even with my friends. I used to feel bad then, but not any more. Now, I can justify that. My mother used to prompt me to work. She used to scold me. I used to feel bad then, but now I understand. My father used to help me understand that actually my mother loves me. Now if I am able to do anything new I am reminded of her strictness, which has enabled me to do things in my life now. The young women emphasised the traumatic aspects of marriage: sexual intercourse at a very young age, their apprehension about it and about a demanding husband, and their fear of domestic violence. But they concluded that marriage was inevitable and therefore had to be endured. For them, adolescence was a process of growing up too fast. Marriage can make or break someone—but mostly it is bad. If we didn’t marry, we would have to depend on our brothers’ wives after our parents’ death. The sister-in-law of today would never keep us. Rather, we would have to work for her and keep her children. At our husband’s place, everything would be ours. We would have a right there. If we tolerate some pain, we might also get some happiness.

Educationally Disadvantaged Young Women in an Urban Slum


Simultaneously, they affirmed a faith in their strength and self-determination, as they were quite sure they could make their marriages work, sometimes with a little bit of help from the partner. They also clearly asserted their understanding of their position in the marriage as being the one in control: I feel my life is good, if I can run it well. If my husband supports me, it’ll be good, otherwise not. If my husband listens to me, then I would do the same. Otherwise not. If I leave my throne, then it will be shaken. My heart says something and conscience something else. My heart says something, mind something else and conscience says nothing. Gilligan’s work on young and adolescent girls is a landmark in adolescent studies. She focuses on the importance of ethics, values and justice in the moral development of young women (Gilligan 1982; 1988; 1995; Gilligan et al. 1990)—something that is present in the reflective, agential voice in these ruminations about self, and in the clear distinctions between emotion (heart), rationality (mind), and the moral, ethical self. Marriage was not only sometimes ‘bad’ but also gave them status and standing in the social and public domain. It was through their embodiment that they asserted themselves, in terms of utilitarian considerations as workers or as bearers of progeny. Abstinence from food in the innumerable fasts kept by young women again reflected the use of the body for personal gain (a good husband) and familial or social good (parents’ peace of mind and happiness). Bourdieu’s notion of ‘generative habitus’ alerts us to the ‘creative, active, and inventive capacities of habitus and of agent’. He emphasises that habitus ‘is not the fate that some people read into it. … It is an open system of dispositions that is constantly subjected to experiences, and therefore constantly affected by them in a way that either reinforces or modifies its structures. It is durable but not eternal! …’ (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992: 133, italics in the original). For these young married women, the generative habitus of their married life reproduced forms of engagement with the marital space and sexual encounters, while simultaneously providing a consciousness of the will and agency that lay in


Meenakshi Thapan

their strategic manoeuvring, for instance, in not wanting to give up ‘the throne’ on which they have been installed through the act of marriage.

Conclusion Adolescence, as a marked and well-defined stage, appears to be absent among educationally disadvantaged young women in a Delhi slum. But the peer group, as a physical entity and as an emotional and psychological space in the community, where a woman shares not only her discovery of her most intimate embodied experiences but also her marital fears, anxieties and joys, was crucial in ensuring the experience of adolescence in their lives. In so far as habitus is a lived category, we can argue that there is an element of creativity, struggle and perhaps surprise even in the most routine reproduction of gender identity. Young women no doubt struggle with the social and familial definitions and expectations, and experience conflict and dilemmas as they redefine and shape their identities in different contexts and situations. The defining moments of their gender identity occurred in the very early years, when they were compelled to view marriage as the only viable option or trajectory available to them for seeking fulfilment of their desires and aspirations. Young women’s experience of embodied and gendered selves lay at the intersection of multiple subjectivities: they were simultaneously embedded in a vibrant peer group culture, in the marital home with multiple relations with different members of their husband’s family, in their experience of work as defined by themselves, the family, and the community, and in their embodied experience of sexuality, adornment and bodily display. This multiplicity of experience was also marked by an awareness and cognition of their condition and privileges as married, and thereby respectable, women in the family and the community. At the same time, there was a critical recognition of their disadvantaged status due to their lack of education and opportunity in the public world of success and freedom. This provided them with a perspective through which they were able to recognise their advantages as married women and focus on the benefits that accrued to them. Nevertheless, the generative habitus—with enduring dispositions of conformity and submission—also allowed space for struggle and contradiction, compliance and resistance occurring simultaneously in the adolescent lives of these young women. The space for resistance, and its benefits, was opened up in the marital home where

Educationally Disadvantaged Young Women in an Urban Slum


young women could voice their discomfort, agony and displeasure to the peer group and sometimes to a sympathetic husband who might help them to overcome their predicaments. Moreover, as married women, they had a higher status in their parents’ home when they visited them and were therefore able to assert themselves. Marriage, and its benefits, remained of greater value than single status in the lives of educationally disadvantaged young women, whose embodied gender identity, changing and complex as it may be, rested on this overwhelmingly cultural and social experience.

Notes 1. I am grateful to Radhika Chopra and Patricia Jeffery for inviting me to participate in a fascinating workshop on Values and Education in 2003. I also thank Radhika for her stoic patience and friendly pushing that was so valuable in the finalisation of this chapter.




Begusarai—a district in Bihar—has seen some things change quite perceptibly in the last few years that it had not in the earlier decades. In 2002, they had the largest ever school enrolment with over 68,000 children—roughly 33,000 girls and 35,000 boys—coming into primary school. The male-female enrolment ratio of 52 to 48 per cent was also unprecedented. Educational records show that in the 25 years from 1972 to 1997 the male-female enrolment ratio had stayed at 62 to 38 per cent respectively. In 1997 the gap had first begun to shrink, with the enrolment of 55 per cent boys and 45 per cent girls, and it gradually improved with each year. According to a participatory research study conducted to understand the impact of the literacy campaign that has been running in the district, the tacit demand and aspiration of people for education was articulated through the process of community mobilisation.1 ‘We can at least see that there have been children wanting (and waiting) to study. … The literacy activists have not only helped bridge the gap between schools and these children, but also between girls and boys’ (Rampal and Manimala 2002: 137). We strongly felt, however, that there was still a lot to be done to improve the quality of education, so that it would not alienate these children and could help change the lives of the most disadvantaged in these communities. Stark gaps in access have been reduced and a demand for education perceptibly articulated in the last decade, especially among the disadvantaged, adults and children, who have sought to be educated against all odds. This value ascribed to education may be seen as one expression of the ‘agency’ of people struggling to fight deprivation and powerlessness arising out of poverty. Voices from across the world show


Anita Rampal

how poor people who can access schooling view it as one chance for their children to aspire for a ‘better life’. Despite humiliation and discrimination at school, or the burden of the meaninglessness and irrelevance of the curriculum, children continue tenaciously, as far as they can go. These words of Josphinah ring true universally: If you are a victim of poverty you always solve endless problems of how to get money to pay fees and buy uniforms.… Yes, I sometimes feel I do wanna [drop out of school], but because I know where I am from and where I am going, I’m never gonna let my dream go away just like that.2 She says she had been abandoned by her father who had left the village, and she is looked after by her mother, a domestic worker, and her grandmother, a pensioner. She vividly voices the values she hopes her education will help empower her to achieve: To tell you the truth, I am going to be a successful somebody when I grow up. I wanna be a police officer. I also wanna get married to a faithful and responsible guy with three children, obeying children, and I will also take care of my mom and grandma. I wanna [be a police officer to] arrest ‘dogs’ like my so-called father who doesn’t know that the word ‘family’ does exist. Besides that I just feel heartbroken when I hear someone complaining about thieves who stole his/her expensive thing that he worked so hard for. These few poignant sentences reveal how she values ‘success’ in life, not measured materially, but in terms of being able to access relationships that are faithful, responsible, caring and obedient, in a world that would respect the honesty and dignity of ‘hard work’. There is a growing consensus that narrow economic definitions of poverty need to be expanded to include its various other dimensions, both economic and non-economic, which affect the quality of people’s lives and circumscribe their access to basic entitlements. These could be entitlements at the level of the individual—such as food, drinking water, clothing, or shelter—as well as those such as the right to education, health, work, etc. that are defined by various institutions of society (including the state and its legal systems, and other non-formal arbiters of entitlements, such as markets, or community institutions controlled by caste, gender or religion). Some of the dimensions of

‘Revaluing’ Education


poverty that are included in the discourse of a ‘rights and solidarity based approach’ are inequality, powerlessness, insecurity, vulnerability, injustice, discrimination and social exclusion (Parasuram and ActionAid 2003). Such a discourse acknowledges the need to change the institutional processes that create and sustain poverty, while actively supporting the agency of the poor and the deprived to break free from it. This chapter takes cognisance of such human agency, articulated through the literacy campaign that mobilised communities for the education of the disadvantaged, of Dalit children or rural women. It draws upon my work for a participatory study of Begusarai (Rampal and Manimala 2002) and a film on women’s participation in local governance (NLRC and People’s TV 2002). Moreover, the campaign sought to define ‘literacy’ not in the narrow sense of an ‘autonomous’ variable that un-problematically ensures ‘progress’ or social mobility, but more as an enabling process of cultural and social mobilisation against the present disempowering political and feudal conditions, in an endeavour towards greater participation in development. In the Probe study, we highlighted that ‘the myth of parental indifference to their children’s education remains astonishingly widespread’ (The Probe Team 1999: 14), especially in the northern states we had covered. In contrast, we found that most parents, even the poorest, were keen that their children should receive a ‘good’ education, but did not always have faith in the ability of the educational system to impart such education. The poor often voice their aspirations in terms of values of human development and social esteem—not simply in terms of the ‘economic’ value of education, as is normally expected from the middle classes, who relate it to the boy’s employment or the girl’s chances in the marital market. For instance, people often say ‘padhkar achhe insa-n banenge’ [will become better humans after being educated] or ‘sama-j mein padhe-likhe logon ko h-ñ izzat mil pa-tñ- hai’ [society only respects those who are educated]. The Probe study stressed that communities were expressing much more concern for education today than they were even in the mid-1980s, and that several interventions were attempting to give voice to that demand. ‘Parental motivation is likely to continue to rise in the future, perhaps more rapidly than most observers expect today. It is natural to ask whether this trend can be accelerated through public intervention. Our answer is yes’ (ibid.: 25). The report mentioned how, in districts where the literacy campaign had received popular support, it had ‘ushered in a consensus for greater learning and societal change’ (ibid.: 25). Begusarai is one such district and the


Anita Rampal

consensus to ‘revalue’ education is revealed and explicated in several nuanced ways.

‘WE SHALL BE CHIEF’: WOMEN, EDUCATION -YATS AND PANCHA In the film Mukhya ham banbe, translated as ‘We shall be chief ’ (NLRC and People’s TV 2002), we documented one aspect of this struggle to redefine the value of education, where women activists who have fought and won the pancha-yat elections briefly recall their life stories. Each of these women has waged a struggle in her own life to get through school and, in some cases, even college—like Kamini who continues to study for a Bachelor’s degree even today, despite a traumatic marriage to a much older man (whose first wife is known to have been killed by his family), a small baby in her arms, and the hectic schedule of the literacy work. In fact, she says that each of her engagements, on the personal and the social front, actually reinforce each other, and give her strength to derive greater meaning and fulfilment in life. As she puts it, the literacy network of volunteers gave her ‘familial’ support to fight the oppression at home, and she continues to study while coordinating the campaign because ‘one cannot help others to learn without continuing to learn’, through one’s own study and ‘also from the learners’. Radha, elected as a member of the zila parishad (district council), has had more support from home, but breaks into tears even now when she recounts how guns were placed at each of her temples by political goons attempting to dissuade her from contesting, or when more recently she was hit by a man who pulled her necklace chain while she travelled alone in a train. This insecurity continues to loom large but does not deter her, even though her husband often gets angry out of sheer anxiety when she comes back late from her tours of the area. In the film, Radha poignantly voices her personal motivation to continue the struggle and to redefine the educational agenda of her pancha-yat. ‘I came to this position only through my work in the campaign for education; now I feel I must repay the labour of those children who made this possible, who made my slates and pencils, allowing me to study in school’. These women are attempting, individually and collectively, to use education to wage a struggle not just

‘Revaluing’ Education


against social and feudal forces but also against the criminal warlords that dominate the local politics of Begusarai. Begusarai is one district of Bihar that, despite its history of social movements, has witnessed a high rate of crime and political violence. The pancha-yat elections (held in 2001, after a gap of almost a quarter century) were unusual in some respects, however: for the first time several women actively participated in the electoral process and even got elected with huge margins (despite their austere canvassing and paltry funds, in sharp contrast to the conduct of their political opponents). In addition, the lack of killing and poll-related violence in the 2001 pancha-yat election is considered to be causally connected with the participation of women candidates. The district magistrate, a woman who herself actively supported the women activists to contest elections, confessed that this was unprecedented in the recent history of the district, where smugglers and criminals continued to hold sway over the processes of local politics. People’s high expectations and wholehearted support for these women in the pancha-yats have been made explicit again by the dramatic victory of Usha Sahni (the state coordinator of Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti [BGVS] and member of the Begusarai Zila Saksharta Samiti), who was elected as a member of the state legislative council from the Begusarai and Khagaria constituency. Usha, who was earlier elected to the important position of the vice-chairperson of the zila parishad of Begusarai, has created a flutter in the political arena of the state. She was elected to the state legislative council with the highest number of votes, having contested against the son of a current minister, who wielded and displayed tremendous muscle and money power during the polls. She now enjoys the status of a minister, with all the usual trappings of power—government accommodation in Patna, telephones, free passes for train travel, and a bodyguard (whom she reluctantly agrees to take along, on strong advice to do so since she now has a higher chance of being attacked). She now addresses large audiences of a couple of thousands on each occasion, of people who say they feel empowered through her, a woman of low caste who worked selflessly for their cause, and whom they will wholeheartedly support in order to challenge the hegemony of corrupt criminals. In addition, many government officials of these districts have also given her full support and acknowledged her honesty of purpose and ability to lead with humility. One cannot but recall how, a few years before our study, this same Usha’s legs shook with nervousness when she had to get up and say two lines about a play to a public gathering.


Anita Rampal

The film Mukhya ham banbe tries to trace the trajectory of these women, as they came into the fold of the campaign to serve as volunteer teachers (VTs) and first stepped into public space through the performances of the women’s Kala Jatha. The Kala Jatha was a travelling cultural troupe that performed street plays and songs choreographed using the local folk traditions of music and theatre to highlight social and local issues. This was a means of mobilisation used effectively by literacy campaigns across the country, and attempted to motivate learners and volunteers alike to participate in the endeavour. When these rural women first came on the dais to act and sing, they had to brace themselves to face their elders—including their parents-in-law, who had never allowed their own daughters to perform, and would certainly be more wary of their daughters-in-law performing in public. Usha smiles as she recalls her first public appearance, and says she felt the trepidation and momentous uncertainty of ‘do or die’—either she managed to break the barrier once and for all, or she would never again be allowed to move out of her house. Although she did manage to break free then and has since been consistently supported by her parents-in-law, she continues to face serious problems at home from her husband. Both the ‘liberatory’ character of the themes of the performances— which advocated the need for women to be educated and self-reliant— and the social zeal of their work gave them tremendous legitimacy and public support. Over the years these women continued to use the Kala Jatha as a dual medium of self-expression and mobilisation, helping them gain confidence in expressing their own agendas while also addressing and bringing together other women. These themes touched upon several issues broadly related to education and development, including health, violence, science, livelihoods and even the need to participate actively in the pancha-yats. In fact, well before the pancha-yat elections held in 2001, these women had composed street corner plays on the electoral process, and were even enacting the whole polling scene, with detailed instructions about the ballot paper, on how not to render it invalid by marking it incorrectly, all through humorous incidents and interesting folk songs in their own dialect. Mukhya ham banbe was one such popular song that had evolved through this process and which they all sang with great gusto. When the pancha-yat elections arrived, they confidently re-enacted a live performance with the same songs and slogans, going from house to house, harnessing support from the women at all levels, for the village, the

‘Revaluing’ Education


block and the district pancha-yat positions. At the district level the area to be covered was large and their candidates could traverse it only on foot. Each activist personally identified with her candidate to such an extent that she enthusiastically served as proxy, claiming ‘I am Usha, vote for me!’ Now that Usha has become more than a pancha-yat mukhya and has been inducted into the state assembly, they feel elated that the refrains of their songs rang true. The process of ‘revaluing’ education to encompass a wide gamut of issues such as literacy, women’s empowerment, health, entrepreneurship and local governance has been an interesting—though difficult and at times even tumultuous—journey for this campaign. Interestingly, the engagement of these women in the campaign and subsequently in the pancha-yats seems to inch forward from often ostensibly opposite ends of educational ‘value positions’. The purposes of education are often posited in terms of the different value positions of the actors or objectives concerned. For instance, one such formulation posits three dimensions for all value positions, along continua where any given purpose of education may be located (Eisner and Vallance 1974; Pollard 2002): • individual–society: whether education should be geared to meet individuals’ needs and demands, rather than being planned to meet the needs of society; • values–skills: whether education should focus on developing individuals’ sense of values in an ethical context or on developing skills and competencies; • adaptive–reconstructive: whether education should prepare individuals to fit into the present society, or should equip them to change and develop it. The women who figure in the Begusarai campaign seem to be refiguring education from both ends of the first value position by striving to meet the needs of the individual and also of society. As we shall see later, each individual learner, even an adolescent, is seen as an agent for educating the community, by continuously extending the ‘circle of learning’. The learner soon steps in as an educator, and is gradually encouraged to move on, as an educator of other educators, a coordinator of the village, block or district programme, and so on. In addition, the women have been using the educational intervention to resolve issues at the individual as well as the societal level. Similarly, these


Anita Rampal

women can be seen to be scaling the third dimension from both ends—using education for both adaptive and reconstructive purposes. Many of them have chosen to adapt to their roles as mothers, wives or daughters-in-law, often quietly resolving conflicts at home to continue to reconstruct relationships outside. Kamini has accepted her older unemployed husband and decided to earn a living for both of them, while deliberately moving out of her husband’s family home to resist being physically harassed by them. Similarly, Usha continues to contend, physically and emotionally, with a husband who refuses to accept her success and popularity as member of the state legislative council, while successfully negotiating support from the other members of his and her own family. All of these women, however, forge new relationships in the world outside, with their pancha-yat male colleagues, the criminal ‘adhyaksha’ (chairperson of the district council), the district bureaucracy and the villagers, while also catalysing change in several other social processes. Moreover, as far as the ‘value-skills’ dimension is concerned, the education they impart to other women through their Literacy and Continuing Education Programme, attempts to articulate both: their sense of values—more critical and democratic rather than purely ethical—and their skills, to enhance their self-confidence, leadership abilities and entrepreneurship.




Begusarai has been actively engaged in a participatory literacy campaign since it first initiated district-wide Kala Jathas in October 1992. The first phase of the Total Literacy Campaign (TLC) was begun in 1993 through the effective mobilisation of people’s committees at the district, block and village levels, with the active involvement of the BGVS in collaboration with the district administration. The literacy classes were conducted by the voluntary effort of more than 25,000 young VTs, of whom almost 60 per cent were school students, who taught more than 330,000 adult learners (mostly in the age group of 15–35 years) without any remuneration. There was a network of more than 1,600 literacy coordinators at all four levels—the village, pancha-yat, block and the district—and at the village level there were 650 women out of a total of a 1,000 coordinators (Centre for Media Studies 1999). In addition, there were several cultural troupes or Kala

‘Revaluing’ Education


Jathas formed at different times, in each of the 17 blocks, with even separate troupes of women and children. During one Jatha in November 1995 alone, programmes were organised at over 700 locations. Between 1992 and 2000 at least 4,000 cultural programmes had been conducted that were watched by several hundred thousand people (Rampal and Manimala 2002). Over the years, the Zila Saksharta Samiti (ZSS or District Literacy Committee) has been fortunate to obtain continuous support from the district magistrates and administrators, and has managed to involve its network of volunteers in a continuous series of programmes, even when funds have not been available. The National Literacy Mission that provided the funds to the district has designed a continuing education programme to help sustain and institutionalise the campaign, through the establishment of libraries and centres. The continuing education programme in Begusarai has facilitated the creation of 750 continuing education centres (CECs) and 85 nodal CECs across the district. Each CEC has two full-time workers, with the provision of an honorarium of Rs 700 and Rs 500 per month (and slightly higher for the nodal CEC). Although there were no funds for the workers after the initial four-month period, the CECs continued to function regularly. In some other places, the availability of regular ‘salaries’ to volunteers has tended to erode the spirit of the campaign, often bringing in the ‘wrong’ people through bureaucratic and political pressures. Begusarai, however, has managed to maintain the autonomy of its ZSS by laying down demanding criteria of selection. The programme strives to sustain the spirit of voluntarism even after so many years, and people still continue to contribute their own funds, time and effort to conduct various activities. Ironically, in the current CE phase there are no funds for the meetings and other organisational tasks that are essential to keep up the motivation of the workers and also to evolve new strategies to prevent the programme from degenerating. When in 2002 we attended one meeting of all the block coordinators, for instance, we were amazed to see how all those who came to that village—often taking up to several hours on foot and by boat across the flooded Ganga to come from far-flung regions of the block—were paid no travel allowance and spent from their own pockets or through collections made in the village. They had also not been paid the honorarium for running the CEC for over a year. It was late evening when we finished and it was raining heavily. About seven people, including three women from the furthest CECs, decided to stay in the village and said


Anita Rampal

they would be looked after by the villagers. The village was by no means affluent, but its people had participated in the campaign through the years and were happy to feed the volunteers who had worked for them. Similarly, at a seminar for 125 women preraks (animators or instructors) held the next day at the district headquarters, each woman came alone, by bus, boat or train, from across the district, paying for her own travel, and staying for six hours without even a cup of tea served as refreshment. Along with the inspiring lectures some of them gave and the discussions they conducted, they also saw for the first time the film ‘Mukhiya ham banbe’, about their own work and their participation in the pancha-yats. Since 2002, the ZSS has been working systematically to set up its CECs, which have been supplied with a collection of books, musical instruments, games (including chess, carom, volley ball, etc), exercise equipment, essential furniture, etc. The nodal CECs are also running a comprehensive immunisation programme on two fixed days each month, and maintain detailed records about each child, given to the mother and also recorded in the office register. When we happened to be there on one such day, we saw how efficiently the volunteers mobilised mothers to bring their children, and how all the data were collated at every block and reported to the ZSS office and the district administration that same evening.

BACK TO SCHOOL: THEY VALUE EDUCATION THAT VALUES THEM One of the CECs’ innovative programmes is the Gyan Vigyan Kendra (GVK), which runs for two hours every morning, usually from 7–9 a.m., for out-of-school children up to the age of 14–15 years. Younger children are taught from the regular school textbook and encouraged to join the formal school after a year or two, while the older ones are taught from the literacy primers prepared by the district. Those older than 14 years are normally encouraged to come to the night schools that run from 6–8 p.m. We met several students (aged 10–20 years) from these centres, who said that they came regularly and were keen to study further, even higher than the ‘matric’ (class 10) examination. Neeraj and Rajeev Kumar, both 12-years-old, say they never went to school as they had to take care of their goats, but now they enjoy coming to the GVK, where

‘Revaluing’ Education


they have many friends, and they want to study to become teachers or policemen. Many children said they were unable to attend school because their parents could not afford the cost of books and uniforms. Fourteen-year-old Ratna recounted her unpleasant experience of schooling: ‘Main bahot chhotñ- thñ- tab. Man nahin lagta- tha-. Teacher padha-tñnahin thñ-—kursñ- par baithe baithe so ja-tñ- thñ-!’ (I was very small then. I did not like it. The teacher did not teach—she often slept while sitting on her chair!) Vishwanath, now a ZSS full-time worker at the district office, was an 18-year-old when he first got involved with the literacy campaign in 1992. He is the main organiser for the ZSS programme for Universalisation of Elementary Education and says that Bal Melas (Children’s Fairs) in villages and pancha-yats are a very effective means of getting out-of-school children interested in educational activities. It also helps demonstrate to their parents and teachers that they are capable of doing mental mathematics or science experiments if given the opportunity. The CEC preraks we met seemed very involved in their work and spoke of each child caringly, taking personal interest in her family situation and problems. Most children who had previously stayed out of formal schools now came regularly to the centres, which also provided them with books and slates. The children said they liked to play games and sing songs, and that the instructors encouraged them to study. This only shows how children do value education that values them. We met some young volunteers who had first studied at the GVK and were now studying in the formal school while they continued to teach others. Rundan and Asha had studied at the GVK and were now in school in class 3 and 5 respectively. Asha teaches a group of 10–12 adult learners at the night school, while Rundan teaches 6–7 children. Babli (18 years), too, had attended literacy classes herself and went on to become a volunteer teacher (VT): she was trained in 2001 for a few days and now teaches 25 women in the night school. This ‘circle of learning’ is a significant feature of the campaign. Most learners are encouraged to contribute simultaneously to the programme and thus to the education of their own community by becoming teachers, and this also nurtures the spirit of voluntarism. We were told that the marriage age of girls had gone up in this district over the last few years, since the campaign had started. Girls from poorer families were now married at around 15–17 years of age but those from better-off or urban homes continued to study (for the


Anita Rampal

intermediate course or beyond) and married later, after 20–21 years of age. At the Matihani Block meeting we conducted, a prerak of Maniyappa pancha-yat confidently got up in front of about 100 people and said that she was 30-years-old and still unmarried. Smiling, she added that she was in no hurry to get married until she found a suitable partner. She said that there were at least 25 unmarried women in the block who were over what was considered the ‘marriageable age’ but who were either studying or working as literacy volunteers. At a CEC in Panhas, situated in a very poor habitation a few kilometres outside the town and connected to the road by a muddy path, we noticed how both female preraks, Roopam Chaudhary and Goutam Devi, made a special effort to identify and reach out to all the children. We saw them try to keep Ganga (12-years-old) engaged in different games and tasks to ensure that she came regularly, even though she could not yet read. Earlier, Ganga had told us enthusiastically that she came here despite the work at home (cutting grass with her mother and feeding the cows) because she ‘loved reading’—she was so keen to be able to study, that we had not guessed that she could not read at all. She said she came here when she saw all the other children coming to study. We saw a couple of older boys busy playing chess, quietly sitting in the veranda outside. According to Goutam Devi, despite their efforts there are still some boys (15–20-years-old) in that area who do not come to the centre and who seek wage labour, even though they ‘want to study’. Roopam and Goutam Devi mentioned that the pancha-yat mukhya (chief) was happy with their work and had promised that he would get a proper path constructed to the village and the centre, as soon as the rains were over. Village women came out to complain to us about the difficult situation they lived in and confessed that they themselves could never accost the mukhya, and hoped that he would listen to the preraks. They said they were so poor that they could not meet the cost of their children’s education and they wanted the CEC to provide free books and slates, even to those who did go to school. From what we saw in Begusarai, it was clear that bringing older children, especially from poor and disadvantaged households, into the fold of an educational experience is not merely a matter of conducting ‘enrolment drives’. It requires very special effort and care, and also continuous mobilisation within the community so that, to some extent, their faith in their own ability and that of the providers is restored. The ZSS is also hoping to start a Jan Shikshan Sansthan (People’s Education Institute), with new vocational courses designed for rural

‘Revaluing’ Education


learners, whether neo-literates or out-of-school youth. It feels the need, however, for more academic and creative support to design a suitable curriculum, in order not to fall into the routine pattern of most other such vocational institutions by offering only second-rate courses.



After completing her class 10 examination, Roopam, the prerak of the Continuing Education Centre at Panhas, undertook a two-year ‘wireman’s’ course (1992–94) at the nearby Industrial Training Institute for a total fee of Rs 50. Even 10 years later, her ‘practical file’ remains one of her few prized possessions. She was one among only 3 girls with 450 boys at the institute that year, and even now the number of girls is low. Her file contained detailed drawings and descriptions of several implements, with different types of wires, fuses, transformers, etc. Even though her books were no better than those in the formal school, she said she found this course more satisfying because of its high ‘practical’ component. Her eyes sparkled with pride and excitement as she spoke to us—perhaps because, after many years of a stressed and difficult existence, she was sharing with someone her desire and satisfaction at being able to perform such ‘technical’ tasks. She confessed that she often leafs through these files so that she remains in practice (riya-z to karna- padta- hai na-!) and can remember her craft. In 1996, she was married to someone who had done his ITI course only after she had completed it—but his family refused to take her home until they were given a dowry of Rs 1,00,000. From what her co-workers told us, she had initially been very depressed but her involvement with the literacy work helped her recognise her selfworth and brought her emotional support from the network of volunteers. They also said that a case had been filed in the family court and that her husband’s family was now under pressure to accept her. She was from a very poor family and earned Rs 400–500 a month by giving tuitions at home. She was very keen to take the advanced ‘apprentice’ training for one year, from ‘anywhere—Munger, Katihar, or even Kolkata—wherever possible’, so that she could then get a job


Anita Rampal

as a trained wireman. ‘Padhna- hai, to du-r kya- aur pa-s kya-’ (if one has to study, no distance is too far). Roopam’s case highlights the aspirations of young women to undertake more vocational and ‘practical’ courses, but also points to the utter lack of academic and creative effort in designing relevant curricula for such courses. Moreover, this particular Industrial Training Institute was housed in an extremely dilapidated and neglected building, typically reflecting its low value in the hierarchy of ‘educational’ institutions. In fact, they are not even considered ‘educational’ and fall within the purview of the labour department. Vocational education urgently needs revaluing and restructuring and it needs to incorporate people’s own indigenous and folk knowledge and their oral traditions and methods of learning, in order to bring education closer to their life and world of work.

CONFLICTING VALUES: ‘SCHOOL OPENS AND CLOSES AT THE SAME TIME’ The district activists have been struggling to bring education upfront on the developmental and political agenda, but, even as they achieve heartening results, there are several conflicting pressures with which they constantly contend. High levels of enrolment in primary schools have been achieved in Begusarai district, more in the towns than in rural areas—but the school system is not able to address the aspirations and needs of all children. The demand for education has grown, but the gradual erosion of government schools has led to a high growth of low-quality private schools and tuition classes, even in the villages. It is estimated that there are now over 1,000 private schools in the district where teachers get salaries as low as Rs 300–500 a month. A dialectical relationship between education and society lends itself to a dual dynamic of change so that, on the one hand, education is invoked to transform social values, while simultaneous social action is needed to transform the values of education itself. Thus the ‘revaluing’ agenda is also called upon to address several urgent issues of quality and equity in education, as well as of difference and disadvantage. The present system of education reproduces social conformity and inequality, through learning regimes and values that valorise authority,

‘Revaluing’ Education


competition and mindless memorisation of meaningless information (Ministry of Human Resource Development 1993; Rampal 2002). The dilemma and despair of today’s students in school is aptly described by this candid appeal for transformative action, published originally in Hindi in ‘Chakmak’ (Rampal and Biswas 1996): Tell me why I should not cheat? From a pupil to parents and teachers I now study in class 12. Just the mention of an examination gives me the shivers. When I try to think of the reasons for this, I recall my entire experience of school, from class 1 to this day. From class 1 to 4 I had no examination. In class 5 our teacher wrote the examination answers on the blackboard and declared that that was the ‘board examination’! In classes 6–7 there was no problem since I got tuition (from my teacher) and in the class 8 board exam my father paid some extra money to my teacher. In class 9 I benefited from the ‘general promotion’, and managed to pass the 10th board by memorising some answers from the Question Bank printed by the same board. Class 11 was a local school exam so I passed. Now I am faced with the 12th board exam. I have never studied seriously. The school did not bother to teach me properly and no one at home paid much attention. Now I feel sad and annoyed towards my school and also my parents. The foundation of my studies is so weak that even when I try I cannot understand anything. Now you tell me, what can I do if I do not cheat? There are thousands of students in our city in a similar situation. Who is responsible for this state of affairs? Teachers, parents, the education system, or the present social structure? Teachers blame parents, parents hold teachers to be responsible. And children continue to suffer. Please come forward, let us think and act together, now. Several women pancha-yat members in Begusarai pointed out that the older children from poor families are affected most by the growing economic constraints, and they are forced to undertake wage labour in the fields, especially during the sowing or harvesting season, when school attendance drops sharply. Irregularity in school and the irrelevance of what they are taught by untrained, and often too few, teachers seriously hampers their ability to cope with their studies. Moreover, poverty and


Anita Rampal

growing levels of migration in search of employment outside the state also affect the older boys. For instance, Radha—the elected zila parishad member (district councillor) from the rural Bachhwara Zila Panchayat— estimates that at least 500 boys have migrated out to other states in search of work in the 1990s, from a total population of roughly 60,000. Adolescent girls work at home, or with their mothers in the fields, or sell vegetables in the market. They are paid less than Rs 20 per day (or get a share of one out of every 12 bundles of wheat). Shahana, the elected pancha-yat member from Mansurchak, said that the predominantly Dalit and Muslim families in her area depend on making bñ-dñ-s (locally rolled cigarettes), and are controlled by a company in Kolkata, through very oppressive middlemen who hold them almost as bonded labour and pay very low wages. Even 6-year-old children help their parents in tying or packing the bñ-dñ-s, working in unhealthy conditions, and getting less than Rs 10 per day. Shahana (who seemed to be in her late 20s or early 30s) said she was enrolled in the first year of BA and had herself been engaged in bñ-dñ- making. She felt there seemed to be no way out of this misery, as people had no other skills or opportunities for a livelihood. This seriously hampered their children’s chances of going to school, despite all their aspirations. In the urban areas, many poor out-of-school girls work as domestic helps, or as rag pickers collecting polythene from the garbage, while boys work in tea-stalls or sell wares at the railway junction or bus stand. One thing everyone clearly highlighted, however, was that girls who get a chance to study are consistently doing better in every competitive examination and are more regular than boys at school or college. Another conflicting aspiration the activists face is the luring of older children into employment for good money by the contractors’ (‘rangda-ron ka- giroh’) and smugglers’ mafia, which deliberately attracts adolescents into their net. The literacy activists are worried to see how criminals in Bihar now have increasingly acquired high social and political legitimacy and are serving as role models for the youth, especially in the capital city of Patna. A college teacher, who is also a resource person of the ZSS, vividly described the perceptible hopelessness and anarchy among the youth, even those who joined high school or college. He said these students, many from middle-class families, saw no future possibilities of employment. They wondered what they would do with a degree, especially after the closure of major public sector organisations (such as the Hindustan Fertiliser Corporation), or when they found that there

‘Revaluing’ Education


had been no recruitment of government schoolteachers for many years. He has noticed that his students, a quarter of them children of employees of the railways, the Barauni Dairy or other government and public sector units, suffer from a strange restlessness he had not witnessed earlier, and that they often damage college property or abuse teachers for no ostensible reason. Teachers are scared of them, especially when the examination results are declared, and may even find some students spitting on them from the roof of a passing bus. This hopelessness is eloquently reminiscent of the ‘inert violence’ and social despair of students from a different context, described by Bourdieu in his seminal work on the ‘weight’ of social suffering. I did not have to force myself to share in the feeling, inscribed in every word, every sentence, and more especially in the tone of their voices, their facial expressions or body language, of the obviousness of this form of collective bad luck that attaches itself, like a fate, to all those that have been put together in those sites of social relegation, where the personal suffering of each is augmented by all the suffering that comes from coexisting and living with so many suffering people together (Bourdieu et al. 1999: 64). He points to the conflicting values to which education ascribes and the aspirations that the ‘school opens and closes at one and the same time’ for this ‘sub-proletariat’, who are destined by their lack of cultural capital to an almost certain academic failure, while at the same time being alienated from productive activities and the world of work. No doubt descriptions all agree on what is at the heart of these adolescents’ experience: the feeling of being tied to a degrading place by lack of money and transportation, and doomed to degradations that weigh on them like a curse, or more simply, a stigmata that blocks access to work, to leisure activities, and to consumer goods, etc.; and, more profoundly, the inexorably repeated experience of failure, first in school, then in the labour market, which prevents or discourages any reasonable hope for the future (ibid.: 185). In addition, concerns about issues of diversity and multiculturalism in education have recently been sharpened by more conservative


Anita Rampal

attempts, across the world and also in India, to restructure education in conformity with the values of what is called the ‘national culture’. It may well be illuminating to reiterate the sentiment captured by the Committee on Emotional Integration (Ministry of Education 1962: 3), which, in the crucial early decades of independence, stated that ‘integration’ was not meant to forge uniformity, but to promote sectional loyalties that could help unite the diversity in our people. No-one is asked to give up his faith in the religion of his fathers, his love for the language which the poets—who have inspired his life and the thousands like him—chose as the medium of expression for the sense of truth and beauty.… Such loyalties do not detract from loyalty to the nation: rather these add depth to it and, in turn derive meaning and significance from that over-all loyalty which is the nation’s due (ibid.: 3). Standardised educational regimes, on the other hand, resist diversity and criticality and strive to manufacture consent, in an ambience more suited for a globalised market economy. Moreover, the present context of the Iraq war, with its monopolistic designs, push us further from values of peace and justice, reminding us of the almost prophetic words of H.G. Wells: History is coming more and more to be a race between education and catastrophe. Our internal policies and our economic and social ideas are profoundly vitiated at present by wrong and fantastic ideas of origin and historical relationship of social classes. A sense of history as common adventure of all mankind is as necessary for peace within as it is for peace between nations (quoted in Robinson 2003: 164). Indeed, in such a scenario, the challenge of revaluing education is rendered even more daunting.

Notes 1. The participatory study on the impact of the literacy campaigns was conducted under the aegis of the National Literacy Resource Centre, National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, between 1999–2001. Local teams of teachers and literacy activists, who had been involved with the campaign in three districts, namely Begusarai

‘Revaluing’ Education


(Bihar), Mandi (Himachal Pradesh) and Durg (Chhattisgarh), undertook a detailed qualitative study, with the academic support of a team of voluntary resource persons, and wrote their chapters in Hindi but retaining the flavour of their respective dialects. The three district studies were edited in the form a book (Rampal and Manimala 2002). 2. Josphinah, aged 17 years, was interviewed by Nyiko, aged 18 years, at Siyandhani village, Limpopo province, South Africa. This quotation is an excerpt from Nyiko’s unpublished ‘Youth Research Journal’, dated 4 June 2003, facilitated by the Education Policy Consortium for the Rural Schools Project.




There is considerable disagreement over how far oppressed groups are able to use formal education to undermine iniquitous processes of social reproduction and challenge established structures of power. Some scholars claim that education substantially improves the position of previously disadvantaged social actors by increasing their skills base, knowledge, confidence and freedoms (Drèze and Sen 1995; Sen 2000b). Others, however, imagine formal education as a ‘contradictory resource’, opening up certain opportunities but also drawing disadvantaged groups more tightly into systems of social inequality (Levinson and Holland 1996). This chapter considers the effects of increased formal education on educated young Dalit men in Bijnor district, western Uttar Pradesh (UP), how they perceive education, how they seek to utilise educational credentials to obtain white-collar jobs, and how they react when they join the ranks of the ‘educated underemployed’.2






In most parts of north India, rural households are increasingly investing in formal education to prepare children for employment and marriage markets. Since the mid-1980s, however, the liberalisation of the Indian economy has contributed to a contraction in the number of public-sector jobs available. Furthermore, poor government planning,

Dalit Young Men and Formal Education


a widespread absence of institutional credit, inadequate infrastructure and high levels of bureaucratic corruption have resulted in sluggish growth in white-collar employment opportunities in the private sector (Hasan 1998). These conditions—high rates of growth in educational credentialism and low rates of growth in ‘educated’ employment—have led to a socio-economic crisis for large sections of agrarian society, perhaps especially profound for Dalits in north India. Located at the base of the Indian caste hierarchy and historically identified with ‘polluting’ occupations, Dalits were socially marginalised on the edge of villages and denied access to formal education. The 1950 Indian Constitution offered Dalits legal equality and reserved places in public-sector employment, educational institutions and government representative bodies (Galanter 1991). In most of rural north India, however, Dalit households remain confined to manual wage labour and largely dependent on richer higher castes for work (Mendelsohn and Vicziany 1998). Dalits continue to suffer deprivations stemming from their low ritual status, economic impoverishment and social isolation. Nevertheless, Nambissan and Sedwal (2002) show that, while Dalits continue to lag behind the general population, school attendance amongst 5–14-year-old Dalit children rose faster than within the general population between 1987–88 and 1993–94. Modest improvements in the economic position of many Dalit households in north India, at least until the early 1990s (Sen 1997), and positive discrimination in government employment appear to have encouraged Dalits to increase their expenditure on schooling. Moreover, the emergence of pro-Dalit political parties (particularly the Bahujan Samaj Party or BSP which held power in UP three times in the 1990s) has promoted a ‘petit-bourgeois’ vision of Dalit upward mobility through school education and entry into service employment (Chandra 2000; Lerche 1999), a message akin to Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar’s vigorous encouragement of Dalits to enter formal education (Gore 1993). One strand of writing on the impact of formal education on rural Dalit households in UP emphasises the capacity of school education to empower Dalits. Scholars place particular emphasis on Chamars, who are the most numerous Dalit caste in UP (Hasan 1989) and the prime beneficiaries of the BSP’s political programme. Most notably, this literature includes work on rural Chamar political identities in peri-urban Meerut district, western UP (Pai 2000; 2002). Pai (2000) argued that


Craig Jeffrey, Roger Jeffery and Patricia Jeffery

Chamar young men have used formal education to obtain urban service jobs and thereby escape former relationships of economic exploitation. According to Pai, formal education created a new generation of confident Chamar young men, who communicated BSP ideology to the wider Chamar community and organised fund-raising, rallies and agitations (Pai 2002). It is difficult to generalise from this work, however, because Pai’s research was conducted in villages where dominant castes do not monopolise landownership, and which are accessible to a major city in a relatively prosperous area (Jeffery et al. 2001). A second approach focuses on educational institutions and is more pessimistic about the empowering capacity of formal education. These studies stress that education may further entrench social exclusion by exposing Dalits to discriminatory attitudes or processes within the formal, informal or hidden curricula.3 This scholarship includes work documenting caste discrimination in school textbooks (Kumar 1988), bullying and exclusion by teachers or peers (Drèze and Gazdar 1996), and higher failure and drop-out rates amongst Dalit students (Mendelsohn and Vicziany 1998: 142–43). Other research has uncovered relegation of Dalits into less prestigious schools and courses (Singh 1995) and biases built into the iconography of educational institutions (Jeffery et al. forthcoming). A third line of argument is that increased formal education may increase Dalits’ confidence without substantially changing patterns of asset ownership or relationships of dominance (Dube 1998; Lieten and Srivastava 1999). Dube (1998) showed that formal education in eastern UP had opened up some opportunities to obtain secure government employment, but that upper castes’ continued control over land and access to political contacts outside the village had limited the positive effects of schooling for Dalits. In particular, educated Dalit young men were increasingly being excluded from secure white-collar employment because they lacked the bribes required to obtain these posts. Taken together, these two positions suggest that formal education may improve Dalit men’s lives but that it has a limited capacity to release people from caste and class oppression. Few studies, however, have explored how rural Dalits away from urban centres in UP perceive the potential of formal education to change their lives. Drawing on research undertaken in 2000–02 amongst Chamars in Nangal Jat, a village in Bijnor district, we argue that increased formal education was leading to modest emancipation from caste oppression. The most recent generation of educated Chamar young men had

Dalit Young Men and Formal Education


developed a sense of individual dignity and confidence in the face of upper castes. They had been unable to convert their educated status into secure employment, however, and there was a marked disjuncture between their aspirations and their attainments. Chamars remained disadvantaged within local class and caste hierarchies, continued to lack access to agricultural land and social networking opportunities, and generally remained dependent on the locally dominant Jats for paid employment. Moreover, the Jats’ strategies to dominate the education and employment fields had effectively countered the social threat posed by Chamars. Crucially, in the face of increasing educatedunemployment, Chamar parents were beginning to withdraw from investing in young men’s higher secondary and tertiary-level education. In the context of a rapid rise in formal education amongst Chamars, but comparatively little ethnographic research on the ‘products’ of the education system, we focus primarily on educated young men, defined as those with at least eight years of schooling. Our account draws inspiration from the multi-capital theory of Pierre Bourdieu. Bourdieu (1986) identified three forms of capital that confer advantage in people’s quest to increase their wealth and social standing: economic, cultural and social. Economic capital refers to material assets and income. Cultural capital consists of embodied capital, such as tastes and refinement, and institutionalised cultural capital, such as schooling qualifications. He defined social capital as those resources associated with possessing a network of useful social contacts (Bourdieu 1992: 63, cited and translated by Gorter 1996: 15–16). For Bourdieu, individuals or small groups consciously and deliberately construct social capital by seeking the benefits of sociability.4 Bourdieu stressed the fungibility of different types of capital and the relationships between economic wealth, the capacity to engage in social association and the symbolic basis of networking: ‘social capital relations only exist on the foundation of material and/or symbolic relations of exchange which they help to perpetuate’ (Bourdieu 1992: 63, cited and translated by Gorter 1996: 15–16). Social, economic and cultural transactions occur in fields that are reproduced by the capital investment strategies of individual agents competing for position within them— but each field is also shaped by structural forces, such as state institutions, that are not immediately connected to actors’ strategies yet shape their lives. A person’s habitus—a disposition ‘that generates meaningful practices and meaning-given perceptions’ (Bourdieu 1984: 170)— is crucial in determining people’s success within different fields. This


Craig Jeffrey, Roger Jeffery and Patricia Jeffery

directs attention to forms of human behaviour—clothing, speech and deportment—that act as ‘trump cards’ in the ‘game’ of social interaction (Harker et al.1990: 9). People’s judgements about the demeanour and tastes of others are important in determining access to resources. Habitus is a product of a person’s primary social experiences and history of negotiation within different fields. Individuals usually exhibit the hallmarks of the ‘class habitus’ to which they belong—although individuals may succeed in rising within a social hierarchy by developing a habitus associated with a higher class. Bourdieu’s insights inform our analysis of Chamar educational strategies, and the social construction of education amongst educated Chamar young men.




Bijnor district is about 150 km northeast of New Delhi, east of the river Ganges. According to the 1991 Census, about 42 per cent of the district is Muslim, 35 per cent caste Hindu, 21 per cent Dalit (about 16 per cent Chamar) and there are a few Christians and Sikhs. Bijnor district’s economy is based on the intensive cultivation of sugarcane, wheat and rice. Between 1960 and 1990, modest land reforms, improved agricultural technology and high government agricultural support prices increased agricultural profits and bolstered the position of a locally dominant class of rich farmers, many of them of the middleranking Jat caste. As elsewhere in western UP, Jats used their increased agricultural wealth to improve the political links, social standing and educational level of their families (Jeffrey 2001). The Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s also improved agricultural wage rates somewhat in Bijnor district (Jeffery and Jeffery 1997) and landless as well as poor peasant household incomes may have risen in real terms, at least between the 1970s and early 1990s (cf. Sharma and Poleman 1993). The completion in 1984 of the Madhya Ganga barrage and road across the Ganges opened up direct links between Bijnor and Delhi and accelerated the growth of service-based industries in the district. Bijnor district lacks a substantial industrial manufacturing base, however. In addition, the liberalisation of the Indian economy since 1991 is accentuating regional inequalities in industrial development and may have reversed any improvements in rural livelihoods in the 1970s and 1980s (Sen 1997). As a result, opportunities for service

Dalit Young Men and Formal Education


employment continue to be concentrated in the public sector, in areas such as education, health, policing and agricultural development. Our research was concentrated in two villages, Qaziwala (a Muslimdominated village) and Nangal Jat. In each village we carried out village surveys to update those carried out in 1990.5 We conducted semi-structured interviews with parents and their children in households with young people aged between 15 and 34, covering inter alia: perceptions of school education; schooling, employment and marriage strategies; child rearing; and political affiliations and activity. We supplemented these interviews with discussions with school and madrasah (Islamic school) teachers and managers, politicians and state officials. This chapter refers to Nangal Jat, a large village about 15 km southeast of Bijnor town. In 1990, Nangal Jat’s population was 4,160, of which 45 per cent were Dalits, 28 per cent Jats and 19 per cent Other Backward Classes (OBCs—economically ‘backward’ castes that are nevertheless ‘above’ the Dalits in the caste hierarchy). In 2001, the total village population was 5,300. The Dalit share had risen to about 50 per cent (Chamars being 48 per cent) and the proportion of Jats and OBCs was 26 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively.6 Jats dominated landownership in Nangal Jat, owning 83 per cent of the village agricultural land in 2001. Of the 216 Jat households, 88 per cent owned more than 0.5 hectare and 59 per cent owned more than 1 hectare in 2001. Jats had successfully reinvested agricultural surplus in small business ventures such as wood yards, sugar-cane processing units, shops and schools. Nevertheless, the rapid subdivision of agricultural land had increased economic differentiation amongst the Jats. The Chamars, traditionally leatherworkers (Mandelbaum 1970: 48), worked mainly as local manual wage labourers, though a few had entered service occupations since 1960. In 2001, the Chamars owned only 8 per cent of the agricultural land in Nangal Jat. Of the 457 Chamar households, 77 per cent were landless, 18 per cent possessed less than 0.5 hectare of land and only 5 per cent owned more than 0.5 hectare. Social inequalities in landownership were reflected in the broader asset profiles of Chamars and Jats: 56 per cent of Chamars lived in brick-built houses compared to 89 per cent of Jats; only 19 per cent of Chamar households had televisions compared to 70 per cent of the Jat households. There was a close but not perfect fit between caste and class in Nangal Jat. The UP state’s failure to provide adequate schooling facilities has led to the increasing privatisation of educational facilities in western UP


Craig Jeffrey, Roger Jeffery and Patricia Jeffery

(see Jeffery et al., this volume). Nangal Jat had two government primary schools, three private primary schools, and two private secondary schools. Jats dominated the management committee of the larger secondary school (Nangal Jat Junior High School) whilst an educated Chamar from Nangal Jat established the Ambedkar Junior High School (catering mainly for Dalits up to class 8) in 1978. Compared with privately run English-medium and most Hindi-medium schools in Bijnor, all these schools were poorly maintained and equipped: children sat on the ground in the open air during lessons, there were very few teaching materials and inadequate amenities.7




Ambedkar promoted awareness amongst Chamars of the potential for school education to transform social and political structures and create individual confidence and prosperity. In Nangal Jat, most Chamar parents and young men perceived schooling, and the qualifications, skills and credentials that it provides, as crucial for improving a household’s economic and cultural capital.

Table 12.1: Schooling status of 8–12-year-old boys, Nangal Jat, 1990 and 2001

Govt. primary schools Non-state primary schools Madrasahs Govt. secondary schools Non-state secondary schools Not in school N


1990 Jats











45% 139

8% 75

40% 92


2001 Jats


42% 36% 0% 0%

13% 39% 0% 3%

41% 17% 12% 1%




14% 193

1% 72

15% 93

Source: Village censuses conducted by authors, September–October 1990 and February 2001. Notes: N = number. Totals do not all add to 100 per cent because of rounding. ‘Others’ includes Hindu Brahmans, Barhis (carpenters) and Kumhars (potters); other Harijans include Balmikis (sweepers), most of whom continue their caste occupations, and Muslim Telis (oil-pressers) Sheikhs and Dhobis (clothes-washers).

Dalit Young Men and Formal Education


Table 12.2: Schooling status of 13–17-year-old boys, Nangal Jat, 1990 and 2001 Chamars

1990 Jats


Govt. primary schools Non-state primary schools Madrasahs Govt. secondary schools Non-state secondary schools Higher education Not in school N










0% 62% 95

0% 31% 95

0% 69% 65


2001 Jats





5% 0% 0%

2% 0% 6%

3% 6% 3%

47% 0% 45% 155

84% 2% 6% 63

46% 1% 33% 95

Source: Village censuses conducted by authors, September–October 1990 and February 2001. Note: N = number. See notes to Table 12.1.

Tables 12.1 and 12.2 show a marked increase in the numbers of Chamar boys of upper primary and secondary school age in formal school education in Nangal between 1990 and 2001. But Jats retained their advantage over Chamars—indeed, the gap in enrolments widened between 1990 and 2001. Jat boys were much more likely to be enrolled in private primary schools, to move into secondary school earlier than Chamar boys and remain in formal education for longer. Many Jat parents could pay for private tutors and, partly as a consequence, their children were less likely to drop out of school. Jat parents were also generally more educated than Chamar parents and therefore better able to supervise their children’s schooling careers. In addition, the richest Jat families increasingly enrolled their children in secondary schools outside the village, such as English-medium schools in nearby cities. In these cases, Jat children were often placed with urban relatives who assumed responsibility for children’s schooling. The Jats’ capacity to invest in education was linked to their smaller family sizes (see Jeffery and Jeffery 1997). Jats began to use modern forms of contraception much earlier than other caste groups in the area, leading to a decline in the number of Jat boys aged between 8–12 and 13–17 between 1990 and 2001 (Tables 12.1 and 12.2). Jat reproductive strategies increasingly focused on investing greater resources in a smaller number of children (ibid.). By contrast, Chamars (like most groups in rural UP) had been slower to reduce their fertility. Combined with mortality declines since


Craig Jeffrey, Roger Jeffery and Patricia Jeffery

the 1960s, this led to population growth in the 1980s and early 1990s and greater numbers of Chamar boys aged 8–12 and 13–17 between 1990 and 2001. With larger numbers of living children, it was harder for Chamar households than for Jat households to invest in their sons’ schooling. Chamars lacked the requisite money and social connections to send their children to private schools outside Nangal Jat, and Chamar parents cited poverty as the single most important reason for withdrawing boys from school, especially at secondary level. Schooling costs rose markedly after class 8 due to higher fees, the need to pay transport costs to schools outside the village, and greater pressure to arrange expensive private tuition. Because of corruption amongst teachers and bureaucrats, Chamar pupils rarely received the full amount of government scholarships to which they were entitled. In addition, parents cited family illnesses and boys’ lack of interest in school as common reasons for removing boys from formal education. Most Chamar young men believed that local schooling regimes were capable of providing confidence and cultural capital. Chamar parents and young men usually criticised schools and colleges for an insufficient quantity of teaching rather than for the quality of the formal, informal and hidden curriculum.8 They complained about teachers’ poor attendance record and lack of commitment to teaching rather than about systematic biases that excluded lower castes. Chamars who spoke of caste discrimination complained that teachers occasionally singled out Chamars for punishment or made remarks about pupils’ caste backgrounds. There was near universal agreement that acts of exclusion based on notions of ‘Untouchability’ had disappeared within schools and colleges in the 1960s or 1970s. The views of Chamar parents were similar to those of Jats. Many Chamars argued, for instance, that the principal benefit of school education was providing formal qualifications that enhanced opportunities to obtain service employment (naukrñ-). They maintained a three-fold distinction between scarce, lucrative, secure and comfortable government employment, insecure and poorly paid private service, and demeaning and irregular manual labour. They considered that even a low-ranking government job offered a regular salary, a large ‘over-income’ (from illegal rents), financial security (job security and a pension), prestige and enhanced social networking opportunities. A high school pass was a minimum qualification for many types of low-ranking government employment, and many Chamars believed that further qualifications would increase opportunities to obtain secure white-collar jobs. In addition,

Dalit Young Men and Formal Education


Chamar parents maintained that schooling provided embodied skills (reading, writing and arithmetic) that are important in establishing useful social contacts, competing for government employment, building confidence and defining civilised adulthood. They contrasted the educated with illiterates (anparh log), who were depicted as savages (ba-rba-r) or animals. Jat parents also maintained that education provided key skills, useful knowledge and ‘humanity’—but they often believed that only schools outside the village could deliver ‘civilisation’. Educated Chamar young men emphasised schooling as a source of individual dignity and masculine prowess. They maintained that the educated Chamar man was bold, knowledgeable and independent in his interactions in modern urban spaces, while illiterates were typically helpless and awkward. A popular joke—about illiterate men picking up a telephone in a public call box and shouting loudly into the ear piece, ‘why can’t you hear me you fool!’—concisely symbolised the uneducated person’s purported incompetence and embarrassment in various modern settings. Young Chamar men’s sense of acquired dignity was also rooted in notions of the distinctiveness of educated consumption (Miller 1995). They contrasted films that attracted ‘educated’ audiences—usually devoid of violence or explicit sexual content, focusing instead on wellrehearsed popular dance and song routines—and those watched by the uneducated—violent, crude and badly acted dramas starring ‘wild man’ actors. They also compared educated and uneducated consumption practices—clothing, hairstyles, room decoration, magazines, alcohol, drugs—and the myriad ways in which the dress, speech and bodily demeanour of the ‘educated’ marked them out as superior. One young man distinguished ‘educated’ and ‘uneducated’ speech: ‘the uneducated say ‘a-be oo ka ja-ra?’ [‘Oi! Where yer goin’?’ (impolite, ungrammatical)] and the educated say ‘a-p kaha-n ja- rahe hain?’ [‘Where are you going?’ (polite, grammatical)].’ The key importance of demeanour emerged during discussions of leisure time. Young Chamar men claimed that the educated were better at ‘hanging out’ in street settings: they knew how to wear modern clothes and avoid bad habits. By contrast, they argued that illiterates exhibited bad taste: they tucked in their modern shirts, wore ostentatious charms around their neck and harassed young women. In this narrative, educated people were said to have internalised acts of good taste so that they became good habits (achchhñ- a-dat). Educated Chamar young men believed that education manifested itself in unconscious traits and orientations to action formed through repeated contact with such icons of modernity as the telephone, cinema and the western-style shirt.


Craig Jeffrey, Roger Jeffery and Patricia Jeffery

Chamar parents and young men considered an educated habitus to be an essential qualification for marriage, for only educated parents could create a good environment (ma-haul) for bringing up children in future. These views are crucial to understanding the educated Chamar young men’s sense of confidence within public space and vis-à-vis upper castes. They considered ideals of educated behaviour a much more acceptable basis for establishing a person’s social value than caste. Craig asked Amarpal, a Chamar in his late 20s with a Master of Commerce degree, about caste discrimination in Nangal Jat. Amarpal responded by ridiculing two Jat brothers who had become addicted to narcotics, wore torn clothes and slept in the sugar-cane fields surrounding the village. In Amarpal’s view, these men’s demeanour completely undermined the notion that caste determines a person’s social worth. Similarly, other Chamar young men regarded themselves as superior to higher caste men whose behaviour signalled a lack of educated cultural distinction. They pointed especially to those aspects of the habitus historically identified as characteristic of Chamar ritual pollution, chastised uneducated Brahmins for their uncleanness and celebrated the meticulous hygiene and good manners of local educated Chamars. Their visions of social worth, then, argued for a new order of distinction based on achieved rather than ascribed status, not for an end to hierarchy. Their limited critique of the caste system did not reject ‘impurity’ and ‘baseness’, but the attachment of such stigma and subordination to them as educated people (compare with Gooptu 1993: 291). Educated Jat young men also contrasted the ‘educated’ and the ‘uneducated’—but they also sought to legitimise their privilege by distinguishing between those educated within the village and those, generally from richer Jat families, who had experienced private schooling outside the local area. Such perceptions broadly support the view that education increases an individual’s skill-base, dignity and sense of available opportunities (Drèze and Sen 1995) and also lend weight to Pai’s (2000) thesis that rising investment in school education, in combination with political representation at the State level, has improved Chamar young men’s confidence.




The most recent generation of educated Chamar young men had failed to convert this cultural capital into secure employment, however. In

Dalit Young Men and Formal Education


Table 12.3 Occupations of 25–34-year-old Chamar and Jat males by schooling, Nangal, 1990 Up to 8 years schooling Occupational types Farming Labour: in Bijnor migrant Business or semi-skilled Service Student, unemployed N

Chamar 1% 88% 2% 9% 0% 0% 98

Jat 85% 7.5% 2.5% 2.5% 0% 2.5% 40

More than 8 years of schooling Chamar 8% 50% 0% 13% 29% 0% 24

Jat 66% 0% 5% 16% 7% 7% 61

All schooling Chamar 3% 80% 2% 10% 6% 0% 122

Jat 74% 3% 4% 11% 4% 5% 101

Source: Village censuses conducted by authors, September–October 1990 and February 2001. Note: N = number.

October 1990, 10 Chamar young men from Nangal Jat were studying for a degree. In February 2001, six of them worked as daily wage labourers in Nangal Jat; one had a small cigarette business; one made and sold glass bangles from a wooden cart in the village; one described himself simply as kha-lñ- (‘empty’ or ‘free’); and only one had obtained a government job as an office worker in a local land reorganisation office. Between 1990 and 2001 there was a sharp increase in the number of Chamar young men in the 25–34 age group (Tables 12.3 and 12.4) whilst the number who had eight or more years of schooling more than doubled. At the same time, there was public sector retrenchment Table 12.4: Occupations of 25–34-year-old Chamar and Jat males by schooling, Nangal, 2001 Up to 8 years schooling Occupational types Farming Labour: in Bijnor migrant Business or semi-skilled Service Student, unemployed, other N

Chamar 1% 89% 3% 5% 2% 1% 149

Jat 67% 16% 8% 8% 0% 1% 67

More than 8 years of schooling Chamar 3% 49% 7% 18% 9% 14% 57

Jat 57% 3% 2% 17% 16% 6% 106

All schooling Chamar 2% 78% 4% 9% 3% 5% 216

Source: Village censuses conducted by authors, September–October 1990 and February 2001. Note: N = number.

Jat 61% 8% 4% 13% 10% 4% 173


Craig Jeffrey, Roger Jeffery and Patricia Jeffery

and few emerging white-collar opportunities in the private sector. Census surveys provide only a snapshot of a highly dynamic scenario, for young men’s employment changes rapidly over time and seasonally. Nevertheless, our data highlight a rapid decline in the proportion of educated Chamar young men in service employment between 1990 and 2001. By contrast, the Jats improved their sons’ access to service jobs in the 1990s by investing agricultural profits in education, exploiting close social links with local government officials and paying bribes in employment competitions. Applying for a single government post, registering, taking an exam, seeking out relevant social contacts, researching possibilities to bribe key officials and attending an interview often stretched over several years and required extensive travel. During this period, young educated Chamar men tried to avoid manual wage labour, which would compromise their social standing and sense of self-worth. They moved between insecure and poorly paid clerical employment in the informal sector, jobs that approximated to their image as ‘educated’ men. These fallback occupations were characteristically ‘semi-bourgeois’ (Bourdieu 1984) and concentrated in newer areas of employment—car repair, phone booths—where it was easier to invent ‘respectable’ jobs. Young educated Jat men, with better access to credit and superior social contacts outside the village, tended to find more remunerative, secure and socially valued ‘fallback occupations’ than Chamars. Very few Chamars had migrated outside Bijnor district for labouring work and most Chamars in business or self-employment remained in Nangal Jat (Tables 12.3 and 12.4). In this, they differed from the Muslim Sheikhs of Qaziwala who had a tradition of moving to urban centres for artisanal work and a developed set of social networks in nearby cities. Chamar young men said they felt socially isolated in major urban centres. Moreover, manual labour in the village was slightly more lucrative and regular than most non-manual work within the urban informal economy, when transport costs were taken into account. Thus, often under financial pressure from their families, many educated young Chamar men who had been in irregular ‘semibourgeois’ employment were forced into exploitative and demeaning manual wage labour in Nangal Jat. And the continued tight grip exercised by rich Jats over local labouring opportunities exacerbated this humiliation. Chamars explained their exclusion from government employment with reference to the sheer numbers of applicants. We often heard of

Dalit Young Men and Formal Education


over 100,000 young people arriving at written examinations for fewer than five government posts. Chamars pointed to the crucial importance of money, social contacts and knowledge (ja-nka-r ñ-) in determining access to government jobs, and to the comparative irrelevance of positive discrimination, aptitude and educational qualifications. Chamars of all ages distinguished between the 1960s and 1970s— when educated Chamars could fairly easily obtain government employment by taking advantage of reservations—and the 1980s and 1990s, when recruitment to government service had become corrupt (brusht) (Jeffrey and Lerche 2000). Many educated Chamars maintained that bribery was so widespread that there was a ‘price list’ for government posts: Rs 40,000 for a low-ranking job and up to Rs 4,00,000 for a prestigious post, even within the reserved quota. Such sums were beyond the means of most Chamar households in Nangal Jat. Nevertheless, Chamars considered their exclusion from government employment to be mainly attributable to their relative social isolation and lack of acquired social capital. To obtain a government job one needed to have relationships of trust inside a government institution with a source, who supplied information about employment opportunities, provided a recommendation (sifa-rish) for an applicant and acted as a facilitator in the payment of a bribe. The source who took money in return for assistance was often termed a broker (dala-l). Chamar young men emphasised the relative advantage of urban Chamars and Jats within this competition. Chamars had been largely unsuccessful in fostering social networks that might be effective in employment competitions. Even within the few local schools with a good mix of pupils from different backgrounds, schools were not ‘melting pots’ where Chamar boys could compensate for their household’s low social capital by building lasting relationships with friends from more powerful households. Moreover, educated Chamar young men’s efforts to obtain social influence by paying employment brokers had largely failed. Chamars, and some of the poorer Jats, reported angrily that brokers had tricked them into giving money by falsely promising that a government job would be forthcoming. Chamars said that they lacked the knowledge to make an informed judgement about whom to trust and the finance for prolonged periods building a network of reliable contacts. Nor had caste-based social capital been effective in capturing jobs for Chamars in Nangal Jat. The few Chamars in government jobs were unable to assist more than a very few others to secure similar posts— Chamars low in government bureaucracies had little influence and feared


Craig Jeffrey, Roger Jeffery and Patricia Jeffery

losing favour with their superiors. The small government-employed Chamar élite tended to assist only very close relatives in obtaining government service. With respect to recruitment to government employment, then, formal education had not compensated for Chamars’ lack of money and social capital. Further, the efforts of urban Chamars and dominant Jats to obtain better qualifications, usually in private institutions, had devalued rural Chamars’ educational credentials. Young Chamar men in Nangal Jat complained about the worthlessness of their degrees: ‘educated’ behaviour that provided cultural capital in the village failed to signal distinction to key officials outside the village, such as interviewers, in competitions for secure white-collar jobs. In particular, educated Chamar men said that they lacked the competence in English characteristic of people schooled in private English-medium institutions. Some referred to corruption in the allocation of reserved posts or to overt efforts by upper-caste Hindus to exclude Chamars from government employment. More commonly, however, educated Chamar young men attributed their failure in employment competitions to their lack of social connections, money and performative skill borne of entrenched class privilege. Thus, education combined with reserved employment had not led to a virtuous circle of Chamar development through access to secure jobs. Structural factors, particularly class, were preventing Chamars from converting educational credentials into economic security.




Chamar young men’s experience of competing for secure white-collar employment was so negative that it undermined their sense of the confidence and capabilities that education can provide. Chamar parents identified young men’s dissatisfaction as an important factor in the perceived rise in alcoholism, suicide and criminal activity in the local area, including murder, assault, sexual harassment, rape, bullying and vandalism. It is important, though, not to caricature the ‘protest masculinities’ (Connell 1987) and social role of educated Chamar young men. Many educated young men distanced themselves from aggressive and criminal behaviour and sought to project an urbane, educated image. Some educated young men channelled their frustration into political work and local community improvement initiatives. Semi-humorously

Dalit Young Men and Formal Education


known in the village as ‘politicians’ (neta-), these ‘organic intellectuals’ (Gramsci 1971) were important in mobilising opinion and circulating political ideology. Although not always formal BSP members, they often derived their local standing from an assumed link with BSP politicians and their narratives often provided optimistic assessments of the BSP’s capacity to improve the lot of Chamars. They disseminated political discourses that mixed heroic tales of the achievements of Dalit ‘great men’ with contemporary social critique that exposed the discriminatory attitudes and practices of village élites. Very few educated Chamar young men styled themselves as local politicians-in-the-making, however. Most were resolutely pessimistic about the BSP’s capacity to improve their access to secure employment. Outside a small circle of young neta-, Chamars argued that genuine and sustained improvements in access to government employment would require a more radical redistribution of resources than any political party could achieve. Rather than venting their frustration through established political channels and in the language of Ambedkar, educated Chamar young men tended to protest about their predicament informally—reflecting their need to conceal resistance from higher castes (Scott 1985) and to protect a core of self-esteem by maintaining the decorum associated with educated cultural distinction. They frequently emphasised the gap between their sense of self-worth based on school education and the reality of their social and economic position. Occasionally, this manifested itself in explicit attacks on the vision of social progress through education: The educated are useless. Educated people are trapped. They are restricted in the work that they can do. Uneducated men are free; they can do whatever they like: labour, farming...whatever. So I think that in today’s world, given the nature of unemployment, it is right to be illiterate … In India there is hopelessness (nira-sha-). As a result of unemployment, people have lost the desire to live (j ñ-ne ki tamanna-). This educated Chamar young man, who runs a small transport business, also referred to the opportunity costs of spending long periods in school education: the skills and habits that he had failed to learn at school. Several other young men said schooling sapped people’s strength, encouraged laziness and reduced a person’s capacity to perform agricultural tasks requiring dexterity or physical strength.


Craig Jeffrey, Roger Jeffery and Patricia Jeffery

Such discourses suggest separation from a rural world of physical violence and an association instead with modern forms of disenchantment, in which wasted potential was the guiding idea. Educated Chamar young men expressed the tragedy of their position with energy and inventiveness. They frequently said they were useless (beka-r), - rahe hain) and unemployed (berozga-r). empty (kha-lñ-), wandering (ghum They were not claiming that they were incapable of performing useful work, or that they lacked employment. Indeed, many referred to themselves as ‘unemployed’ while engaged in wage labour. Rather, these terms signalled the disjuncture between their present occupational status and their ‘real’ social value (see Heuzé 1996), and their sense that ‘something better must be just round the corner.’ These statements often emerged during angry and heartfelt outbursts about poverty. Discourses of ‘uselessness’ were often linked to a notion of lost time. ‘Unemployed’ Chamar young men—like Jat young men who had failed to find work consonant with their ambitions—occasionally referred to their activity, work and leisure, as forms of ‘timepass’. The term highlighted young men’s sense of the provisional status of their current work as well as their frustration at the many years wasted in applying for white-collar employment. ‘Timepass’ expressed both resentment and pain, and also suggested young men’s acquaintance with English and with urban college life. Yet humour and horseplay were also important elements of young men’s reaction to a sense of personal crisis, and educated Chamars sometimes joked about their -le). predicament and referred to themselves as wanderers (ghumnewa The conspicuous failure of most educated Chamar young men to convert their educated ‘cultural capital’ into economic wealth and social capital appeared to be influencing parental perceptions of education. Several Chamar parents said that they now believed it best to educate boys up to class 8 (junior high school) and then send them for vocational training or an apprenticeship. They saw little point in investing money in formal education beyond class 8, given the virtual impossibility of obtaining government employment. This shift in thinking was reflected in Chamar educational strategies. Between 1990 and 2001, school education amongst Chamars boys in the 8–12 and 13–17 age cohorts increased markedly. Yet the proportion of Chamar young men aged 18–22 in formal education declined (Table 12.5) as did the total number of all ages in higher education. This might reflect increasing pressures on the household economy— but this hardly squares with the large increase in school education in the

Dalit Young Men and Formal Education


Table 12.5: Schooling status of 18–22-year-old men, Nangal Jat, 1990 and 2001

Govt. secondary schools Non-state secondary schools Higher education Not in school N


1990 Jats





6% 77% 135

8% 70% 88

0% 86% 71


2001 Jats





10% 1% 89% 146

21% 16% 58% 76

9% 11% 78% 85

Source: Village censuses conducted by authors, September–October 1990 and February 2001. Note: N = number.

younger cohorts of Chamar boys and amongst girls. Rather, our interview data suggest that the widespread failure of Chamars to obtain service employment in the 1990s had encouraged a re-evaluation of formal education of boys. In the same period, enrolment in formal education amongst 18–22-year-old men had risen amongst Jats and other castes—and, significantly, Jats had been more successful in obtaining service employment during the 1990s. By contrast, the new Chamar strategy entailed concentrating resources in primary and early secondary schooling to obtain key skills and some measure of cultural capital for their sons.

CONCLUSIONS School education may have enhanced the capacity of Chamar young men to question upper caste dominance. Through attaining literacy and acquiring new notions of their individual dignity distinct from caste, they may have become more confident about advancing arguments against caste discrimination and claiming entitlement to equal treatment. This did not constitute a broad, Chamar-wide redefinition of the caste’s position in the ritual hierarchy akin to caste-based ‘sanskritisation’ (Srinivas 1987). Rather, some Chamar young men sought to change their social position through fragmented ‘family-centred’ strategies. This conclusion broadly supports Pai’s work on Dalit social empowerment in western UP. It also points to strong local discourses linking education to social capabilities (Drèze and Sen 1995; Sen 2000b). We depart from Pai


Craig Jeffrey, Roger Jeffery and Patricia Jeffery

(2000; 2002), however, in focusing on the failure of educated Chamar men to obtain secure work. Social domination in rural Bijnor district rested on landownership and access to social networking opportunities. Without them, educated Chamar young men in Nangal Jat were outmanoeuvred in the search for secure government jobs. Many had been forced to resort to exploitative manual labour in the village—which had caused some Chamar parents to rethink their educational strategies. Two broader conclusions follow. First, the failure of formal education to alter the economic position of most Chamar young men in rural Bijnor district highlights the durability of social and economic inequalities based on class and caste. A development strategy focused solely on improving access to formal education will not solve the entrenched, varied and acute problems of Chamars in many parts of western UP. Genuine ‘social opportunity’, in Drèze and Sen’s (1995) sense, is a contingent not a necessary outcome of prolonged participation in formal education. Drèze and Sen appreciate this, but their emphasis on education as a basis for emancipation risks drawing attention away from the equally pressing need to challenge firmly established local privileges directly, for example through land reform or improved agricultural taxation. Without sustained broad-based economic growth, or a substantial redistribution in material assets and social networking opportunities, educational initiatives and institutional reform will not significantly improve the social standing and economic security of Chamars and other disadvantaged groups. This rather pessimistic conclusion is not to deny the numerous ways in which educated skills and credentials improve Chamar young men’s lives, even if they fail to obtain salaried employment. Rather, we consider that development efforts must grapple with the persistence of pernicious social and economic inequalities, the multiple means through which power is expressed (Bourdieu 1977), and the energy with which upper castes/classes ‘revolt against’ (Corbridge and Harriss 2000) or ‘counter-resist’ (Lynch 1990) social threats. Second, in highly unequal societies with scarce job opportunities, the educational strategies of oppressed and disadvantaged social groups may not follow a simple upward trajectory towards increasing investment and participation in formal education. Instead, there may be reassessment and reversal when the expected gains from formal education fail to materialise. Evidence from other areas of the global South (e.g. Demerath 1999; Oni 1988) suggests that rural people may rapidly withdraw from investing in formal schooling when educated young

Dalit Young Men and Formal Education


men fail to obtain secure jobs. Chamars in rural Bijnor district had not abandoned formal education as a vehicle for improving their social position: they were keenly aware of the continuing value of educated credentials and skills. But nor were they being duped into ‘overvaluing their qualifications, and banking on possible futures which do not really exist for them’ (Bourdieu 1984: 155). As awareness of formal education has spread, and educated Chamars become parents, a more cautious evaluation of formal education has developed.

Notes 1. We are grateful to the Economic and Social Research Council [grant number R000238495], Ford Foundation and Royal Geographical Society for funding aspects of our research, and to the Institute of Economic Growth, New Delhi for our attachment there in 2000–02. None bears any responsibility for what we have written here. We are also grateful to our research assistants, Swaleha Begum, Shaila Rais, Chhaya Sharma and Manjula Sharma, and to the people of Nangal for their friendship, hospitality and time. This chapter is a revised version of a paper in Development and Change (Jeffrey et. al., 2004). 2. Dalit means ‘broken and oppressed’ in the Marathi language and is now widely used to refer to ex-Untouchables. 3. For summaries of research in India as a whole see Nambissan (1996). 4. Bourdieu’s (1986) notion of social capital pre-dates the popular approaches advocated by Coleman (1990) and Putnam et al. (1993) and offers a more refined and coherent basis for critical social enquiry (see also Fine 1999; Harriss 2001). Bourdieu’s definition of social capital anticipates recent social scientific critiques of the term in several ways: it avoids circularity, pays attention to the role of the state and other forces in shaping social capital formation and avoids putting a positive or negative valuation on the possession of social capital. 5. Roger Jeffery and Patricia Jeffery conducted research in these villages in 1990–91, funded by the Overseas Development Administration. 6. In 2000 the Jats in UP were included in the OBC category. We have continued to list them separately from the OBCs for reasons of clarity. 7. Similarly, the government degree college in Bijnor is poorly provisioned relative to private institutions in larger cities within western UP. The college lacks basic teaching materials, civic amenities and adequate assessment procedures. It is widely said to be easy to pass college examinations by hiring private tutors and cramming from ‘cheat books’ that can be bought in local markets. 8. We cannot read too much into this virtual silence on questions of caste discrimination. We have not done research inside local schools to assess processes of social exclusion within these institutions. It is also possible, though unlikely given discussions about caste in other spheres, that Chamar informants were unwilling to discuss caste discrimination in school.




My fieldwork in Chhattisgarh has focused on the rapid industrialisation of a previously ‘backward’ rural area.1 Though I paid specific attention to children only as an afterthought, what I was alert to throughout is the way in which middle-aged adults talk about their own childhood, about children today and about how childhood has changed in the interim. A former—and from this perspective fairly undifferentiated— peasantry has been significantly proletarianised. But the new working class is deeply divided between—at the extremes—an aristocracy of organised public sector labour and workers in the informal economy. Though there is a significant social space in between, I focus here on these poles to highlight the way in which childhood has acquired a very different tenor and trajectory in different ‘fractions’ of the working class. This differentiation is predictable, but some of its manifestations less so. Until the mid-1950s, Bhilai was another small village in the backwater district of Durg. It now gives its name to a large company township, the site of one of the biggest steel plants in Asia. The Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP), a public sector undertaking constructed with Soviet aid and technology, produced its first steel in 1959 and had nearly 65,000 workers on its direct pay-roll by the mid-1980s. Though the economic wind has shifted since, that figure still stands at nearly 40,000; and the plant workforce remains a local aristocracy of labour enjoying pay, perks and benefits far superior to those enjoyed by workers in any of the hundreds of smaller-scale private sector factories that have grown up around it. Immediately fringing its perimeter walls is its spacious

Changing Childhoods in Industrial Chhattisgarh


and orderly township. Elsewhere the perimeter wall abuts onto what still look like rural villages, whilst at other points the plant and the township are surrounded by a sea of unregulated urban sprawl that envelops old villages like Girvi and Patripar in which much of my fieldwork was done. When construction started, Girvi had a multi-caste population of around 1,000 and Patripar of around 500. Caste notwithstanding, the socialisation of most village children was in most ways similar. Patripar had its own primary school (that also served 11 other villages), but many of its children did not attend it; and only a handful were studying in the one middle school within walking distance, some five miles away in Durg. About 30 Girvi children walked three or four miles to another primary school, but few went on to the more distant Durg Middle School. From the age of about 10, even those who went to school worked in the fields. In previous generations, almost all village boys were destined to become marginal subsistence farmers. Even amongst the lowest castes few households were landless. So great, however, was the concentration of land in the hands of the often absentee ma-lguza-r (the village’s erstwhile revenue collector) that—in a region where years of dearth, drought and famine were a regular occurrence—only a very small minority had holdings large enough to guarantee their subsistence throughout the year (Parry 1999b). The majority relied on a supplementary income from casual labour (often for the ma-lguza-r or for government relief programmes). Most families who lived in these villages in the 1950s are still there; fortunate households have a BSP income. To construct the complex, land was compulsorily purchased from 96 villages, and a BSP job was guaranteed to one able-bodied representative of each household whose fields were acquired. While one brother wound up with privileged plant employment, others were often condemned to informal sector work. Consequently, members of these two class fractions commonly have close genealogical ties. Initially, however, the local Chhattisgarhis were reluctant recruits to the industrial labour force (Parry 1999a; forthcoming). As a result, BSP was largely built and manned by migrant labour from other Indian states. Many stayed on, brought their families to join them and were provided with company quarters in the township. Others constructed homes outside it—large numbers latterly in one of the many new colonies, the ambience of which is predominantly middle class.


Jonathan Parry

Some settled in ex-villages like Girvi and Patripar, where their now sometimes quite substantial pakka- mansions are scattered amongst the old mud-brick village houses and the shanties of the ‘multiplier’ workforce of coolies, rickshaw-va-la-s, scavengers and other representatives of the urban underclass. Both neighbourhoods currently have a regionally heterogeneous population of approximately three thousand squeezed within the now invisible boundaries of the village aba-dñ(settlement area). The distinction between ‘the sons-of-the-Chhattisgarh-soil’ (on whom this chapter focuses) and the ‘outsiders’ is still significantly freighted, even though today most ‘outsiders’ are Bhilai-born. So, too, is that between the mul-niva-sñ-s of the village (its ‘native inhabitants’) and Chhattisgarhi settlers from elsewhere. Socially and spatially, villages in this region are, moreover, sharply divided between the ‘Untouchable’ Satnamis and the so-called ‘Hindu’ castes (almost all others in the old village hierarchy). In places like Girvi and Patripar, the Satnami Pa-ra- (quarter) is still clearly distinguished from the rest of the ‘village’, its ‘Hindu’ Pa-ra-. Though gone are the days when this part of the village was visibly poorer, by no means gone are the barriers to social interaction; and though there is no no-man’s land to mark the physical boundary all know where it is. In Girvi, unemployed youths from the Hindu Pa-ra- sit—like underemployed frontier police—at the border-crossing on the main street playing chess, cards or carom. Though their Satnami equivalents pass without let, it would be unthinkable for them to join the game, and their sisters endure jibes about the ‘goods’ (ma-l) available on the other side. Though such ‘eveteasing’ might seem a comparatively trivial pursuit, it has a threatening edge. I heard about the rape of several pre-pubescent girls.




In pre-BSP days, crop failure was frequent. Many men of the senior generation bear names—like Ankalu, Ankalaha and Ankal—that mark their birth in a famine year (aka-l). As the poorest, the Satnamis suffered worst, and whole families left as migrant labourers for the Assam teagardens, the Bihar coal-fields, the Bengal jute mills and the Jamshedpur steel town. Hunger is for many an enduring childhood memory. Bhushan,2 a Girvi Satnami with a BSP job who was born in the early

Changing Childhoods in Industrial Chhattisgarh


1950s, speaks feelingly of those impoverished times, principally as an indictment of a present lack of neighbourly concern. There was often no food in the house, but never did he or his siblings sleep hungry. The neighbours would see no smoke from their hearth and would call them over to eat, or at least to drink ma-d (the water in which rice has been boiled). Mangal scoffs. What he remembers is how people would close their doors at night lest the neighbours see them cooking and importune them for something to quieten the children’s whimpering. Mangal’s lack of nostalgia is more characteristic. Older informants rarely represent their childhood days as the best of their life; the peasant past is seldom golden. Bhilai has illuminated the darkness of centuries with the torch of Nehruvian progress. The world they grew up in was ‘illiterate’, ‘ignorant’ and ‘uncivilised’. In the industrial area today an able-bodied worker (of either sex) can generally fill the children’s bellies from casual labour. New agricultural inputs in the surrounding countryside have brought crop yields three to five times greater than in pre-BSP days. Not only are children better fed, but—partly for that reason—more likely to survive into adulthood. Epidemic disease is less threatening too. Smallpox has been eradicated. Cholera outbreaks are quickly contained. As many informants see it, this last has as much to do with the aversion of witches to urban living as it has with modern medicine. Witchcraft is a preoccupation and epidemic cholera widely attributed to it. Witches need secret spaces to congregate. That explains their retreat from towns and hence the decline of cholera. Since small children are their favoured victims, it also explains as much about the decline in infant morbidity as the Sector 9 hospital in which most BSP babies are now born. Though child mortality has fallen sharply, this is significantly more true of the township than of the slum-like bastñ-s that surround it (cf. Crook and Malaker 1992). Wherever they live, however, the children of BSP workers are entitled to free treatment in one of the best hospitals in central India. Mangal has a son—the child of one of his secondary and therefore technically ‘bigamous’ unions—who was born with a hole in his heart. At that time the plant’s policy was less rigid, and many workers had children by two or three ‘wives’ on their medical cards. BSP paid for the boy to have a series of operations at a large south Indian mission hospital, and granted Mangal a year’s paid leave to look after him. He is now a strapping young man. Non-BSP workers are charged—at increasingly commercial rates—for treatment in the BSP hospital. In the past (and with the collusion of its staff) some found a


Jonathan Parry

BSP friend or kinsman to get their child admitted as one of his own, but economic liberalisation has forced BSP management to consider its welfare costs and cut down on such ‘abuses’. Now only the offspring of a BSP worker’s primary marriage can be sure of free treatment. The rest pay. But hardly any working class family—save one with a BSP income—can afford to do so. The alternative is the government hospital in Durg, by comparison little better than a charnel-house. In sum, children today are far less likely to go hungry or suffer the malign attention of witches than in previous generations. They are far more likely to survive into adulthood, but their chances of doing so if they get seriously ill are greatly improved if they come from a BSP household. Time budget evidence showing the number of days when the children were sick suggests the same disparity for less threatening conditions.

THE CHANGING HOUSEHOLD CONTEXT3 The composition of the households in which the two kinds of children grow up is also increasingly different. Regardless of caste, many born in pre-BSP days were married as very young children. After marriage (sha-dñ-), the child-bride would remain in her natal home until at least puberty. She was then given over to her husband at the ritual of gauna(Chhattisgarhi, pathaunñ-) and their union consummated. Child marriage was intended to ensure that a girl’s sha-dñ- was celebrated before she became sexually active; and sha-dñ- is said to ‘lift the weight of virginity’ from her parents who are answerable for it until then. In the interval up to gauna- there was, however, considerable scope for secret liaisons. These were almost expected and it was common for a spouse to abscond before gauna-. Divorce and remarriage are tolerated in almost all castes, and were frequent. The primary marriages of around 60 per cent of my Satnami informants aged 45 or over had been terminated by divorce. The comparative figure for the ‘Hindu’ castes is about one-third. In theory, children are the product of their father’s seed, which gives him the right to keep them when the marriage ends. In practice, small children would often accompany their mother to her parents. When she remarried, as she almost invariably would, they might either be left with them or go with their mother to be brought up in the house of a stepfather. While

Changing Childhoods in Industrial Chhattisgarh


girls were often written-off by their own fathers, boys were likely to return eventually for their inheritance. But much depended on individual circumstance, and children often lost contact with one parent. In the industrial area today, the marriage of pre-pubescent children is all but extinct. Most boys are between 20 and 30 when they marry; most girls between 14 and 25. A boy who aspires to a BSP job, and a girl who aspires to a groom who has one, will be near the top of the age range. Ambitious parents wait years to see if the boy is selected. Such boys, moreover, want ‘educated’ girls—not least to help their subsequent children with schoolwork. ‘Educated’ girls are older. The lower down the working class hierarchy one descends, the lower the age of marriage. Near the bottom of the hierarchy, a girl’s first menstruation concentrates the parental mind. The ideological stress in the past was on the sexual purity of the bride at the time of sha-dñ-, and her subsequent affairs were regarded with resignation. Now sha-dñ- and gauna- are usually combined. Husbands expect virgins to join them; parents bear ‘the weight of virginity’ for longer and find it increasingly heavy. It is one thing to guarantee the chastity of a toddler; another that of a young woman of 25. This was brought home to me when Bhushan daughter’s engagement nearly foundered. The prospective groom’s uncle proposed a medical test of virginity. ‘When’, as he put it, ‘the arhar [da-l] grows big, the cow will sometimes mount the embankment. The girl has been big for some time’. Amongst this labour aristocracy, a new pattern of conjugality is emerging. Wives are unlikely to work outside the home (at least in manual jobs). Women have lost much of their autonomy and the marriages of the younger generation of BSP workers are more stable. The divorce rate has more than halved. In the past many marriages broke down within one or two years if the wife did not conceive, or bore a girl. Infidelity was often condoned, and a man’s ‘ritual friend’ (mita-n) might have licensed sexual access to his wife. ‘If ’, as the Satnamis would rhetorically ask, ‘my cow wanders and comes home again, will I not let her into the stall?’ (Russell 1916: 422). Young BSP couples today may consciously delay starting a family, and failure to conceive immediately is unlikely to precipitate divorce. When they get the opportunity, many move into a company quarter in the township, where they are thrown on each other’s society and develop a new sense of intimacy that is hard to nurture in the more oppressive atmosphere of the parental home in Girvi or Patripar. But even amongst those who


Jonathan Parry

remain there, the emotional and psychological investment in the conjugal bond is much heavier, and the attitude to adultery far less relaxed. The decline in divorce means that children in this stratum are increasingly unlikely to be brought up by a step-parent and with stepand half-siblings; and by comparison with their informal sector peers less likely—as we shall see—to have close kin of different caste. Given their desperation to reproduce their privilege through education and their commitment to ‘modern’ values, such families tend to be limited in size. Children now require unprecedented investments of time and money—and smaller numbers of them allow a concentration of resources. As a result, BSP children probably have fewer full-siblings as well, but will more rarely experience their death. In the lower echelons of the working class, by contrast, divorce is almost as frequent as formerly. With regard to remarriage there has, however, been a significant shift. While primary marriages are arranged and caste endogamous, secondary unions are a matter of individual choice. As the saying goes, ‘the virgin daughter belongs to the caste pancha-yat [and must do as she is told]; the deserted (or deserting) daughter follows her own disposition’. Ideally, that will be for a man of her own caste, but even in the past there were not infrequent cases in which it was not. In that event, the couple were boycotted, but—provided the difference in caste status was not too wide—the couple and their children would eventually be accepted into the caste of the husband after appropriate penance. In the industrial area today, however, the caste pancha-yats are increasingly impotent, and a growing number of secondary marriages cross caste boundaries. I estimate that 1:5 or 1:6 of them do so, with the result that 10 to 15 per cent of all households have a present or previous member who has contracted a union outside their own caste. The corollary is that children in this ‘class fraction’ are more likely to lose contact with one of their parents as a result of divorce; and more likely to grow up with half- and step-siblings in the house of a stepfather—who, however well-disposed, will rarely treat them with the indulgence he shows to his own. Though the dogma is that it is the seed that counts, it is often the ‘milk’ relationship that matters in the politics of sibling rivalry. Even if they have different fathers, the children of one mother (dudh bha-ñ-/bahin) tend to stick together against the children of another. The ideological pre-eminence of the seed is, however, manifest in the matter of caste affiliation. Given that, and the incidence of secondary unions that now cross caste boundaries, an increasing number of children have maternal half-siblings and cousins

Changing Childhoods in Industrial Chhattisgarh


who belong to different castes than their own. When the caste pancha-yats could effectively sanction contact between them, that probably posed no significant threat to the separation of castes and thus to their reproduction. But that is no longer the case today. Household composition is, of course, also affected by more immediate constraints. Amongst those reliant on informal sector employment, many women have labouring jobs, and most contractors object to their children on site. Out of their paltry earnings, some of the female construction workers with whom I spent time paid a neighbour to mind them. Elder children (especially but not exclusively girls) drop out of school, or are never sent, in order to look after the younger ones; and from a very young age a significant number are left alone. Dukhalin’s 4-year-old roams all day. Jamuna Bai was reduced to tethering her toddler with roped together saris. What else could she do? There is a canal close by. Others solved the problem by taking in a female rural relative (often a child herself); but many more were billeting at least some of their children on kin in the countryside. As a result, sibling groups are often split up and many children see their parents only a couple of times a year.

THE GAMES CHILDREN PLAY The impact of the more straight-laced sexual mores of the new aristocracy of labour on their offspring is hard to assess. Judging by gossip, it is less than they would like. Romances are common; and the private upstairs cubicles of the dosa--idlñ- ‘hotel’ I frequent in a crowded part of town are often occupied by canoodling college student couples. A supervisory job on a construction site has for some young men the allure of potential adventure with one of the reja-s (female labourers). Much as their parents may try to restrict their contacts, in Girvi and Patripar the younger children of BSP families are inevitably exposed to the more knowing children of their less genteel neighbours. My limited evidence suggests that from well before puberty many of these are sexually aware, and even experienced. In the cramped conditions in which they live they inevitably see, and sometimes spy on, the adults. A couple of shocked ‘outsider’ adults told me about surprising children of 10 or 11 in flagrante delicto. But my most telling evidence comes from a group of neighbourhood children—mediated by a young married woman who was briefly my


Jonathan Parry

research assistant and who established with them a remarkable rapport. I had heard banter about ‘husband-wife’ couples amongst them, but had not understood it. One day, however, we discussed the games they enjoy and went through the gamut from cricket and kites to the earthenware bullocks on wheels that the Potters make for the Pola- festival, and the gudda--guddñ- (male and females dolls) whose marriages the girls celebrate. Then, with much giggling, they said they also play a ‘secret game’ of which they would not speak ‘because you would not like it’. Later, Santoshi and Anita (sisters aged around 11 and 9) explained it to my assistant—but never a word should she breathe to their mother. The game is sha-rñ-rik sambandh (‘bodily relations’), and it was clear they meant intercourse. Nearly all neighbourhood children play it, they claimed; and the partnerships they form are stable and recognised. Santoshi’s ‘husband’ is Roshan, and when they are alone Anita refers to him as ‘sister’s husband’. Anita’s ‘husband’ is the younger brother of a boy who had formerly partnered their elder sister, Rekha. Though the ‘husbands’ of all three sisters were Satnamis like themselves, the ‘wife’ of their brother Mahesh was Uma, a girl of Ravat (Herdsman) caste. This last relationship had recently been terminated, as had Rekha’s. Both girls had started to menstruate. Since the adults are often out all day, and the children not in school, the opportunities for secret games are less limited than the crowded conditions of the bastñ- might suggest. It is, however, unlikely that parents are oblivious to them. Anita once told tales to her da-dñ- (father’s mother) about what, through a crack in the window, she had seen Santoshi and Roshan doing together. Da-dñ- had gone to the boy’s house (where he was home alone) and threatened to break his bones if he did that again. Once their mother caught Rekha’s ‘husband’ lying on top of her, beat her badly and warned that she would get pregnant if she behaved like that when she started to menstruate. The children are clear that at that point their ‘play’ must stop or a baby might start. After her first period, Uma’s demeanour was transformed. A bright, vivacious and somewhat mischievous girl, it was only a few days before that her mother had been complaining about her playing cards with the boys and losing the money provided for cooking oil. She had earned it herself as a part-time domestic, Uma protested. Wasn’t she entitled to some entertainment? And why is it wrong for girls, but not boys, to play cards? But now she was visibly downcast. ‘My childhood is finished’, she explained, and she could no longer ‘play’ with boys. ‘Why not?’ I blunderingly asked, having failed

Changing Childhoods in Industrial Chhattisgarh


to catch on. ‘I do not know the reason’, she lied. ‘But mother told me not to.’ Uma’s mother was at work when she started to menstruate, but Uma knew from a friend what would happen and that she should not do pu-ja- during her periods because ‘her head would be dirty’. She sat calmly with Mariam, the Tamil ‘press-va-la-’s wife next door; and when she got home that evening it was in Mariam’s presence that her mother told her ‘everything’ (which was, I infer, little that she did not know already). Mariam was impressed. Had her own mother been so open, she would have known better than to ‘play’ with Harish who had made her pregnant (and to whom she was now stormily married). Over the following month, Uma started to preen her appearance, bought new bangles and earrings and put on make-up. She stayed, rather restlessly, with the women, who teased her when anybody remarked on her ‘style’ or asked why she wasn’t running around with the other children. Mahesh was sullen for a time; and when Uma was given a ‘love letter’ by another Satnami boy she passed it on to her mother. Since neither can read, Harish helped. Her outraged mother then stormed off to confront the boy’s mother, who provocatively laughed it off with the suggestion that if her son liked Uma (a Ravat, remember), they ought to arrange their marriage. Uma’s mother subsequently complained to a classificatory brother, a vegetable-vendor in the market, who sent three burly sons to rough the boy up. But her mother took much of her fury out on Uma who was told that she must have a husband within the year. Her mother’s own experience with husbands was dispiriting. ‘The caste of women has no value or respect’, says Uma, echoing her mother’s words. ‘Women endure the misery, and when a child is born the man makes another wife’. Her father had abandoned them when her younger sister was born, and they live with their maternal grandfather who works on the trucks that ferry sand and gravel to building sites. Though now Uma’s mother sweeps and washes for BSP households, after her husband left her, she also worked on the trucks and took a driver as her lover. Three boys were born. The driver then disappeared. Neither of the girls went to school because they had to look after their obstreperously demanding half-brothers whom Uma transparently resents. And now she had started to menstruate, her mother was saying that it was no longer proper for Uma to do domestic service, and that she herself must return to better paid work on the trucks. Trucks and pregnancy go together in Uma’s mind, and she anxiously foresaw another child to blight their lives. ‘Playing’ with boys had


Jonathan Parry

become risky; marriage to a husband of whom she could expect little was imminent, and her mother seemed blind to the occupational hazards of shovelling sand. It is not surprising that Uma was now subdued.




Many older informants have no accurate idea of their age. From their names—Somvaru, Mangtu, Buddharu (Monday’s child, Tuesday’s child, Wednesday’s child)—they often know on which day of the week they were born, but not the month or the year. If they go to school, children today know their ages; and for those who aspire to BSP employment a good deal hangs on it. Date of birth, as certified by your school certificates, now determines the point at which you can join the queue—10 to 12 years long for the lowliest post of plant attendant— for an interview ‘call’. It determines how long you must wait before being finally forced to recognise that now you will never get one (your 30th birthday if you are a ‘general caste’ candidate; 32nd if you belong to the Other Backward Classes, and thirty-fifth if you are of Scheduled Caste or Tribe). And if you are fortunate enough to be selected, from your very first day in the plant you will instantly recall the precise date of your retirement at the age of 58. Chronological time now punctuates the life cycle with a precision and inflexibility unknown to previous generations; and childhood is increasingly governed by parental anxieties about the ticking of the clock. An exam failed is a year lost; a year lost feels like watching some of your son’s small fist of lottery tickets for the prize of a permanent job in the plant blow away on the wind. Not surprisingly, some fathers find ways of tampering with the record so that their boy ‘loses’ a couple of years and can better compete at school. This new preoccupation with age is associated with what, in Girvi and Patripar, is a new ritual—the child’s birthday party. Most birthdays still go unmarked; and in Patripar it was Visvanath—a BSP timekeeper appropriately—who pioneered the form. It was his son’s ninth birthday, and its celebration was orchestrated by a friend of his eldest daughter—a Sector-va-lñ- sophisticate who lives on the right side of the railway tracks in the township. There were streamers and balloons, and a cake with candles. The birthday boy was given a tika- of turmeric rice, did a-ratñ- to the cake with an agarbattñ- that was then stuck in one corner

Changing Childhoods in Industrial Chhattisgarh


of it and subsequently used to burst balloons. After cutting the cake the child fed morsels into the mouths of senior members of the family, who in turn fed him. The evening ended with a Rama-yana recitation. The ritual has taken root and I have subsequently seen identical celebrations in other BSP households.




In this ‘creamy layer’ of working class society, the domestic labour of children is—in relation to the exploitative possibilities—generally underutilised. Unless, that is, they are country bumpkins billeted on urban relatives to study in town—in which case they are liable to suffer the common fate of ‘poor relations’ and be treated as domestic drudges. Much of course depends on household composition and gender. Predictably, girls do more than boys, who are socialised early to regard housework as a female activity. One 10-year-old Patripar boy is tormented by his peers who call him a eunuch (napunsak) because he sweeps and washes dishes. In many families, however, even girls get off lightly. Mothers and daughters-in-law do the chores, though the latter may mutter about pampered husband’s sisters. Urmila’s first year of marriage was hard. At home she had never learned to cook or had to work in what were left of Somvaru’s fields on the edge of the town. One year, when I had just got back to Bhilai and went to call, I found Somvaru alone with a younger daughter. He suggested she make us tea. Kavita told him to make it himself. She had homework to do. In the peasant past of these neighbourhoods, and in rural Chhattisgarh today, children were and are productively engaged from an early age. Of BSP households that is no longer true. Many villagers invested their compensation money for requisitioned fields in land further out. When I began my research, Girvi was still on the edge of the town and land was still cultivated on one side of the settlement. But even unemployed youngsters from BSP households refuse to so much as supervise day-labourers who work their fields, let alone do so themselves (Parry 1999a). Agriculture is seen as much harder labour than a factory job, and as emblematic of the boorishly rustic world of their ‘thumb-impression’ elders. The latter growl about effete modern youth who care more for the creases in their trousers than for grains in the household’s storage bins; but patriarchal authority often


Jonathan Parry

seems circumscribed. In the world of modern urban employment, sons are less dependent on their patrimony to reproduce their own labour; and unmarried girls in BSP households hardly ever work in the fields. Even with boys, many fathers make a virtue of necessity by appealing to the widespread notion that, until the bones have ‘cooked’ and hardened, carrying heavy loads would stunt their growth. Lower down the working class ladder, children do a significant share of domestic chores and often care for younger siblings. Some work in extra-domestic settings. With the exception of a few small workshops, like the paintbrush ‘factory’ in which Komal passed his childhood, child labour in manufacturing industry is negligible. Though I would sometimes see children in the plant, these were babes-in-arms brought by their breast-feeding contract labourer mothers, and girls of seven and upwards employed (for about Rs 60 per month, food twice a day and a new set of clothes once a year) to mind them while their mothers worked. On the private sector industrial estate, children are all but invisible. Bhilai’s major industries—re-rolling mills, heavy engineering and the like—have little use for their labour.4 ‘Nimble finger’ enterprises—like carpet weaving—hardly exist; and most work available is too heavy or skilled for children. Nor are they seen as strong enough for day-labouring jobs for which there is consistent demand— construction site work, or loading and unloading trucks. Some girls, however, do putting-out work making bñ-dñ-s or agarbattñ-; more are domestic servants. Boys wash-up in ‘hotels’, tea-shops and liquor stalls; work as ‘helpers’ in garages, or in scooter and cycle repair shops, shine shoes and hawk goods. Children of both sexes work as scavengers, scouring waste ground and rubbish dumps for plastic, polythene, glass and other products for re-cycling. Often to their humiliation, some must combine work with school. Sunita squirms at being called ‘the bag girl’ by her classmates because she sells in the market the shopping bags that her mother sews from cement sacks. Many BSP workers run moonlighting enterprises that employ informal sector workers and sometimes children. Komal’s paintbrush ‘factory’ is one example. While much has been made of the fact that households from different working class fractions are often united by kinship and neighbourhood ties (e.g. Holmström 1984: chapter 6), less note is taken of the fact that they are frequently opposed as employers and workers. On impressionistic evidence, I had earlier supposed that by Indian standards the incidence of child labour in Bhilai is quite low. A rapid survey in 2003 of Patripar’s Oriya Pa-ra- (inhabited largely by visibly

Changing Childhoods in Industrial Chhattisgarh


impoverished rickshaw-va-le) yielded 39 children in the 5–14 age group: 31 were in school; one boy worked in a cycle repair shop; six girls were domestics, and one girl was neither in school nor working. But this sample is very small, and the credibility of more ambitious surveys—like those conducted by the National Child Labour Eradication Programme—is questionable. This programme is run by the Government of India (GOI) in cooperation with UNESCO and the ILO, whose objective is to persuade developing countries to ratify and implement ILO conventions on child labour. It targets children with ‘hazardous occupations’ in areas of high prevalence. The carrot is financial support for palliative programmes; the stick is the threat of some Western nations to impose trade sanctions on countries that flout the conventions (Castle et al. 2002). The GOI has responded by setting up schools in several states for child labourers at special risk. Preliminary surveys identify such children, and funds are allocated to provide them with a midday meal and a stipend of Rs 100 per month. The aim is to bring them up to primary school leaving standard in three years and then filter them into mainstream education. I know of nine such schools in, and around, Bhilai. Each of the four I visited has an official enrolment of 50–70 children. Actual attendance reflects the fact that stipends and staff salaries run months in arrears. The teachers—whose positions are temporary and who were mostly hired for the survey—insist that only the tip of the iceberg is touched. When I enquired what jobs their pupils had done, the best drilled were asked to stand up in class and tell me. Very few met the bureaucratic definition of ‘hazardous work’, the teachers admitted—crass though that is when it excludes scavenging along the GE road. And when I later conducted a small survey of my own, it was clear that many of them had never been child labourers at all. Of the 43 children interviewed (drawn from two different schools), 17 said so plainly and at least another five gave such unconvincing accounts of the work they had done that I can only suppose that they were loyally sticking to the script devised for the records. Only seven were never in school before. Most had been in the state government system; the commonest explanation for dropping out was that they were the children of newly arrived migrants, or had returned to Bhilai after an extended absence to find their names deleted from the register. Others cited their dislike of their former school, the cost of uniforms, books and fees, terrible teaching and their fear of beatings. But there was also one neighbourhood


Jonathan Parry

group who said that they had left their last school when a teacher from this one promised free meals and a stipend. Most of these pupils were indeed from impoverished homes, and the schools do serve a function— though the objective of returning children to a system that had already failed them dismally is ironical, and that function is not the one intended. But then global forces often conjure creative local responses. The children are probably better off in school (even if some would have been there anyway), and their teachers (often members of BSP households who would be otherwise unemployed) are certainly better off with a job. The incidence of child labour at the bottom of the working class ladder thus remains hard to assess. But even in this stratum it is striking how much latitude many teenage boys who have dropped out of school are given to mooch and loaf. Though they are likely to enter the labour market sooner than their BSP peers, their transition to the adult world of work is still often gradual.




Not that children are considered as lilies of the field who neither toil nor spin—not by BSP parents at least. To be arrayed like Solomon, they must think to the future. Homework must come before play. Though some parents deplore the educational treadmill, they are nonetheless chained to it. It is often as though their child’s life chances hang by the slenderest thread, if not on tomorrow’s test, then at least on the yearly exams. And most hope to crow over young Sanjay’s score in maths—Sanjay’s more than Priya’s, though the girls are not immune. A BSP groom will certainly demand that his bride be ‘educated’ up to a standard not far short of his own. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that in get-ahead BSP households in the township, childhood is not just a preparation for a career—it is a career in itself. Even time out from textbooks is no longer ‘play’, but a purposeful and disciplined activity—a ‘hobby’ (like stamp-collecting), or a competitive sport supervised by BSP’s Sports and Recreation Department. Though my evidence is impressionistic, parental ambition in the aristocracy of labour seems responsible for significant violence against children. Many workers taken on in the early days had little or no schooling. Out of their depth with their children’s homework, some

Changing Childhoods in Industrial Chhattisgarh


‘encourage’ them with it by beatings that border on brutal. One boy I know is chastised if he slips to third place in his class. ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ is folk wisdom; and even if parents are irresponsibly indulgent, many teachers are not. The staff at Patripar’s middle and high school unanimously admit to beating their own offspring. They ‘have to’. Teachers who beat other people’s children as well are one common reason that children drop out of school (and are occasionally seriously injured or killed5). Domestic violence is also associated with chronic alcoholism—in its most virulent form a BSP problem. Though you do not have to work for BSP to get aggressively drunk, it is only a BSP worker who can afford to remain in that state for a fortnight; and only in the public sector that he can get away with the prolonged periods of absenteeism that these binges entail (Parry 1999a). In Bhilai it is the children of this stratum who appear most susceptible to violent abuse. Many not at all prosperous households devote enormous resources to their children’s education. In the general vicinity of Patripar there must be a dozen private ‘English-medium’ nursery and primary schools. Their names—‘Little Flower’, ‘Yellow Daffodil’, ‘Angels’ Playground’—are probably as much English as most pupils will learn in them. But of that very few of the parents can judge; and what they think they are laying is the ground on which their child might one day stand as a god-like plant engineer. The future, many now know, lies with computers, and computers speak English. Some computer courses offer English tuition for free; but it is obviously better if the foundations are laid early. Boys get priority. Parents who struggle to send a son to a private school often have daughters in a state one. And if he is going to keep up, they must pay for extra tuition. Then there are the books, bag, uniform, even socks that are marked with the school logo, and of which it is the sole supplier. Next year the logo changes. I know several cases in which a child had to drop out—and was then de-schooled for months—because these expenses could not be sustained. To the extent that such investments bear fruit, they contribute to the growing generation gap and encourage youngsters to disdain their parents as ‘illiterate yokels’ (anparh gava-r). BSP runs its own school system, which has significantly higher standards than that of the state government and of much private education.6 Some BSP schools are English-medium, and several Hindimedium ones are earmarked as centres of excellence and follow the prestigious Central Board (as opposed to State Board) curriculum.


Jonathan Parry

Places in these are a patronage source for the union bosses, but there are also fierce entrance tests. Children rising five are expected to have learnt the answers to 800 possible questions, of which 40 will be asked. ‘What is Colgate?’ ‘What is the only part of the body which is white?’ Some parents take time off work to drill their children for these tests; some send them to a coaching centre. From the best of these BSP schools the results are impressive, and 28 of their students in 2002–03 won places in the high-achiever’s heaven of an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). They are, that is to say, a significant avenue for social mobility: 75 per cent of the students in the most prestigious English-medium school in the system are the children of BSP employees; and currently 77 per cent of these BSP pupils are the children of employees in worker grades. The highly able present principal is himself the son of a man who was a worker for most of his career, and is a product of the school. A Coke Oven worker friend has a boy who played chess in Spain for the Indian youth team and is now at an IIT. But to put this in perspective, a child who is going to do reasonably well in this élite tier will require extra tuition that will cost per month more than twice the earnings of a female construction-site worker. Whilst those with BSP fathers may attend a BSP School, the vast majority of children from Girvi and Patripar study in their government neighbourhood one, where their prospects are dismal. Of those who reach class 8 or class 10 (with the help of tuition) most fail their exams, and a large proportion drop out earlier. But schooling is not the only reason why young couples from Girvi and Patripar often move into a BSP quarter in the township when they get the chance. It is as much a matter of the ambience in which their children will grow up, of the company they will keep, and of the da-da-gñ-rñ- (‘gangsterism’), la-phu-tgñ-rñ- (‘trouble-making’), cha-kuba-jñ- (‘knifings’), jua-ba-jñ- (‘gambling’), randñ-ba-jñ- (‘prostitution’) and da-ruba-jñ(‘drinking’) to which they will inevitably be exposed in such bastñ-s. Parents who are condemned to live in these bastis try to confine their children as much as possible to home—though this is hard to enforce on the elder boys—which is one reason they are so tolerant of television. ‘English-medium children’, their mothers complain, should have ‘English-medium’ playmates, but with all these ‘labour class’ children in the neighbourhood it is difficult to maintain one’s ‘standard’. Significantly, several such mothers are of Scheduled Caste; and significantly I have never heard an upper-caste woman from the ‘labour

Changing Childhoods in Industrial Chhattisgarh


class’ object to her children associating with theirs. As a consequence of such concerns, in get-ahead segments of the labour aristocracy the physical space that children inhabit is more circumscribed than that of other neighbourhood children, who have more license to play in the streets and roam. So long has the queue of job-seekers now become that in 1997, BSP were still interviewing ‘general caste’ candidates for the lowest manual grades who had registered with the Employment Exchange in 1984 when they had just passed their class 8 exams, the minimum qualification at that time. Of the 54 pupils from Girvi’s middle school who sat this exam in 1984, nine passed. Ten years later, three of the 45 boys were in regular salaried employment (naukrñ-)—one in BSP, one as a land records clerk (patva-rñ-) and one as an army clerk.7 Of the others, 27 had intermittent informal sector work (ka-m, not naukrñ-). One had committed suicide, two were notional students and the remaining 12 had yet to dip even a toe into the employment market and were kha-lñ-— without any occupation at all. Most of these latter had BSP fathers to keep them. The odds on making it into a secure job in the plant, or even a regular job in a private sector factory, are continually lengthening as BSP downsizes its labour force in response to new economic stringencies, and recruitment dries to a trickle. Recently, the number of new recruits each year from Girvi or Patripar could be counted on the fingers of one hand. The situation is exacerbated by inflation of the qualifications required to compete. Though the minimum is now the successful completion of the class 10 exams, the largest number of recruits over the past few years have been technician-cum-operative trainees, for whom the preferred qualification is a certificate from a recognised Industrial Training Institute (ITI). In the past, almost all of these institutes were government-run and admission to them was on the strict basis of the number of marks obtained in the class 10 examinations. But in the 1990s, there has been a phenomenal mushrooming of accredited private ITIs to which admission is on the strict basis of the ability to pay a large ‘donation’. The technical training they provide is rudimentary, and is often irrelevant to the job assigned: the young man who trained for two years as a turner winding up as a gas man in the Coke Ovens. But the real significance of the certificate is not that it certifies skill, but only a certain level of family financial standing—a level that no working class household, except one which already enjoys a BSP salary, is likely to attain.


Jonathan Parry

Combined with other trends (Parry 2000), the result is that it is now increasingly difficult for the ‘parvenu’ son of a peasant or private sector industrial worker to infiltrate the aristocracy of labour. The citadel walls surrounding public sector employment are being reinforced. As a consequence, the children of families lower down the industrial hierarchy see their chances of social mobility through the education system dwindle, and see less and less point in staying in school. In short, and to put it very crudely, working class lives are increasingly divided between, on the one hand, those who must endure a childhood of gradgrind drudgery in the (increasingly forlorn) hope of enjoying a relatively leisurely and remunerative working life; and—on the other hand—those who enjoy an academically relatively unpressured childhood in the realistic expectation that, however hard they strive, the best they can anyway hope for as adults is a life of unremunerative and fairly unremitting toil. Though the gradgrind drudgery is reminiscent of Field’s account of the Japanese educational system, I doubt that many seriously suppose that it ‘will produce adults tolerant of joyless, repetitive tasks—in other words, disciplined workers’ (Field 1995: 54). In Bhilai, a major reason for enduring it is a job that is unexacting.

CHILDHOOD EXTENDED Although Uma announced that her childhood had ended on the day that she started to menstruate, when I asked my informants in the abstract about the point at which children become adults, they said much as I would—that it depends, that some never do. But what can be safely (if tautologously) asserted is that progress towards adulthood involves assuming adult roles and responsibilities, and that in contemporary industrial Chhattisgarh (as in many other societies) the most crucial of these are marriage, parenthood and a serious engagement in work. From this perspective, the childhoods of most children today are not only very different from the childhoods of those who grew up in preBSP times, but they also last longer. And that is especially so of the labour aristocracy who both marry and join the workforce later than others. A major reason for this last disparity is that unemployment in India is a status that the truly disadvantaged can least afford, and their sons are much sooner condemned to accept whatever work they can get as day labourers, rag-pickers, rickshaw-va-le and the like

Changing Childhoods in Industrial Chhattisgarh


(Holmström 1976: 51). Mangalu’s son, Rajiv, baldly told me that he saw no point in working while his father still had a BSP job, and that his turn would come when Mangalu retired. That was in 1994. In 2003, when his father had just had a cancer operation and had taken voluntary retirement, and when Rajiv himself had reached 30, we resumed the conversation. During the past nine years, he had had a total of two months employment (as a contract labourer in the plant), but was still in no hurry. Mangalu would shortly receive a provident fund pay-out amounting to several lakh rupees. As we have seen, it is a long wait for a BSP interview call. Some improve the shining hour by continuing their education, and may wind up with a BSc or an MA—in which case they will probably aspire to work with a computer in a comfortable office and will disdain the ‘nutbolt’ work to which they are actually assigned if they are lucky enough to get selected. But the vast majority have time on their hands. Acres of it are consumed by cards; many play satta- (a numbers racket) with passionate addiction. Some occasionally rent penny romances from the shops, or go to a movie when they have money. But more prefer to spend it on drink; and from their father’s pay-packet, the proceeds of petty larceny, a small deal here and there, and a day or two’s work, there is generally enough to indulge. The consequences are sometimes more serious than some rowdyism and the occasional brawl. Two Girvi lads who had bought what they believed was ‘Bagpiper’ whisky at an unbelievable price were dead within hours from what proved to be a poisonous illicit brew, and a third was gravely ill in the Sector 9 hospital. On another occasion, another group from Girvi had gone to buy drink at the civic centre and sat in a quiet open space nearby to consume it. There was a quarrel, and one of them crushed in the skull of another with a boulder. This is just one of several recent neighbourhood murders, and the perpetrators of most of the violence are young un- and underemployed men—many from BSP households. In Patripar, much of it has recently revolved around two street corner gangs of mixed caste, regional ethnicity and communal identity. Their rivalry came to a head in 1999 in a pitched battle fought with knives, swords and stones in which one of the Dada Chauk lads was hacked to death. But in the lanes I know best, the conflict has been between local Satnami youths and a coalition of boys from migrant families—mainly (‘Untouchable’) Maharashtrian Mahars and northerner Brahmans. It began with the suicide of an unmarried Mahar girl who was allegedly carrying a


Jonathan Parry

Satnami child, was exacerbated by the elopement of a Sikh girl from the neighbourhood with another Satnami, and culminated in a series of skirmishes between the two factions in which one of the Brahmans was stabbed. In Girvi it is Satnamis versus their peers from the ‘Hindu’ Pa-ra-, and the trouble again supposedly stems from advances to young ‘Hindu’ women by Satnamis (a reversal of the ‘traditional’ pattern). Skirmishing broke out when a Kurmi girl was discovered with letters from a Satnami admirer. A few years before, her father’s brother’s daughter had committed suicide when her affair with a Satnami became public; and the elder brother of the letter-writer had notoriously eloped with, and married, a Coppersmith (Tamrakar) girl from the ‘village’. Even more striking than the violence that young men direct at each other is the violence that they (and their sisters) inflict on themselves. I know of a combined total of around 50 suicides from these neighbourhoods since BSP started, the overwhelming majority of them concentrated in the last decade. Most involved males, many of them aged between 15 and 30 and from BSP households. The ostensible reasons are largely predictable: failed exams, the exposure of shameful sexual entanglements across the ‘Hindu’/Satnami divide, thwarted romances and despondency over employment and marriage prospects. The bleakness is not, however, unmitigated. Young men also cooperate. In Girvi, a group of predominantly unemployed Satnami youngsters organise and fund-raise for the celebration of their Guru’s jayantñ- on 18 December. A comparable group from the ‘Hindu’ Pa-ra- would plan and orchestrate the ‘village’s’ annual fair (until this was recently suspended on account of the violence it provoked). In Patripar, my friend Krishna—an Izhava migrant from Kerala—established in the late 1980s a local branch of the Youth Federation of India (affiliated to the CPI). About 30 neighbourhood lads belonging to different castes and of different regional origins joined; and they had their own uniform, played chess and provided a much-needed audience for Party dignitaries. Though it had an after-life in a blood donor group Krishna organised, its effective existence was ephemeral. The solidarity of its members could not withstand the differentiation that their eventual employment brought about. Some got BSP jobs, while others wound up as scooter mechanics or house painters. More recently, however, a similar group from the next generation has formed around the leadership of a Brahman ‘journalist’ with Congress Party ambitions, a scion of the family of the old village ‘Maharaj’. In early 2000, they were planning to clean out and beautify the old village tank.

Changing Childhoods in Industrial Chhattisgarh





That childhood has changed in significant ways in the years since BSP started should be clear. More importantly, what I have endeavoured to document here is the way in which the experience of childhood has become increasingly differentiated. Fathers who belong to the aristocracy of BSP labour live in hope that their sons will somehow reproduce their position in the employment hierarchy, and realise with increasing urgency that to do so they must get the right qualifications. The lives of their children are subordinated to that ‘educational’ end. And now children from the bottom of the working class ladder have sooner rather than later begun to realise that naukrñ- is beyond their reach, come to terms with reproducing their parents’ status, and trade an inevitably harsh future for as hedonistic a present as is possible in the circumstances. There are, of course, gradations between these poles, but in the current economic climate and with the inflation of paper qualifications, they are ever more sharply defined. What I want to emphasise in conclusion, however, is that— notwithstanding the deep and antagonistic divide between ‘Hindus’ and Satnamis—the most powerful influence on the kind of childhood one has is class (or class ‘fraction’) rather than caste. It is true that even in the neighbourhoods studied the Satnamis are still subject to real discrimination—although this is certainly much less oppressive than it was in the past, and school is a relatively caste-free zone. But, as a result of job reservations and as I have documented in detail elsewhere (Parry 1999b), many Satnami families have done well out of steel plant employment, and their children have aspirations and expectations that are not discernibly different from their ‘Hindu’ counterparts. In terms of childhood experience, the children of Satnami BSP workers have much more in common with the children of other labour aristocrats than either category has with those who grow up in contract labourer households.

Notes 1. This has extended over approximately 22 months between September 1993 and December 2003. I gratefully acknowledge support from the Nuffield Foundation, Economic and Social Research Council and London School of Economics. I am deeply indebted to Ajay T.G. for research assistance, and to Shobha Rani Tale for recent help


Jonathan Parry

with children. André Béteille, Peggy Froerer, Chris Fuller and Patricia Jeffery made helpful comments on an earlier draft. 2. I use pseudonyms throughout. 3. This section summarises a number of points elaborated in Parry 2001. For a detailed case history, see Parry 2004. 4. A newspaper report from 1981 alleges, however, that contractors were employing children in the BSP Nandini mines (Deshbandhu, 24/9/81). 5. See, for example, Hitvada for 24 December 2003, 2 January 2004 and 3 January 2004. 6. In 2002–03, it had 53 schools with a total enrolment of 43,612 pupils. Twelve of these schools (accounting for 26.7 per cent of the total enrolment) are English-medium. 7. The nine girls were all married shortly after leaving school and none had had paid employment.


Studies of education and schooling consider the family pivotal in decisions taken about schooling choices for different family members. Increasingly, it is recognised that sisters and brothers will not have the same kinds of schooling (Seymour 2002; Sharma and Retherford 1993). This differentiation appears in some form across all social and income categories. Families with higher incomes are able to provide better education for longer time spans to all their children, but whether they actually do so is neither necessary nor obvious. Differences exist between sisters and brothers in the kind of schooling their parents think appropriate and this has as much to do with the cultural location of the family (urban professional or agrarian landowning, for example) as it has with income brackets. The number of daughters and sons in the family also influences decisions about different children’s schooling. Although schooling generates class distinctions, to think of schooling only in terms of class differentiation among siblings would be too limited a view. There is no denying that sons are more advantaged than daughters in parental provisioning. But families orient the transition from childhood to adulthood of all children and schooling is only one aspect. Along with gender, other factors like age, birth order influence decision-making. For example, younger and elder children are differently treated within the family, making age, as well as gender, significant for the kind of education children ultimately receive. Since differentiation has a social, demographic aspect (age, order of birth, gender) apart from an economic or income aspect, we need to uncover the social reasoning of schooling choices. People evaluate


Radhika Chopra

education in different ways, and this has as much to do with the kind of schools that are available as with a family’s cultural location. Many studies of girls’ education point to its significance in the marriage market, not just the job market (an issue addressed here as well). Education is valued because it makes girls valuable brides and ‘better mothers’. A national survey on Muslim women in India found that education for girls was valued ‘for itself ’, but employment prospects were intrinsic to schooling choices made for and by Muslim boys and the opportunity costs were calculated when making schooling choices for them (Hasan and Menon 2004). How do social and economic considerations contribute to a family’s understanding of what education can achieve for children? When people evaluate any aspect of their lives, they also make decisions on how to deal with it. It is often thought that Indians have a ‘fatalistic’ view of the world, governed by cultural and religious philosophy. What remains unacknowledged, however is that fatalism is also a public discourse and a style of presentation in the world that can be a façade for evaluation and fairly purposive action. ‘Fatalistic’ performances may be a way to present the family to public view to accomplish something. In this chapter I argue that evaluation, assessment and understandings of situations are intrinsic to ‘planning’ for the family that is taking decisions. The planning process is constrained or enabled by social reasoning in which gender, age and status play a vital role. Giddens (1994) and Beck-Gernsheim (2002) have argued that ‘life as a planning project’ marks modernity, especially in contexts with new, risky options and choices appearing on personal landscapes. While they both write about modern individualism in the West, Beck-Gernsheim recognises that individualisation does not mean ‘unrestricted juggling in almost free space…in fact the space within which modern subjects move with their options for action is anything but a space outside society’ (ibid.: 43). The question is whether the logic of life-as-a-plan exists in contemporary non-Western societies too, and, if so, how this logic translates into personal lives? Do evaluation and balancing options imitate ‘rational choice’ models of decision-making? In documenting social life, social groups and collectivities have had a privileged place. Biographies of a single family or ethnographies of single narrative events have not been widely used, yet an edited volume on life histories and biographies demonstrates that life histories are a historically persistent and socially pervasive form of cultural

Schooling, Family and Migration


expression in south Asia, as they are in many part of the world. In their introduction, the editors Arnold and Blackburn argue that life histories, in whatever form, can provide valuable insights not simply into the experience and attitudes of the individuals concerned, but also into the wider society or segment of society to which they belong (Arnold and Blackburn 2004). While life histories are primarily stories of the ‘self ’, different forms such as ballads are cultural narratives about families and lineages, often recited at significant life cycle moments like weddings or funerals, or at the ceremonial investiture of a new king. Life histories of individuals, families and groups are also constructed by anthropologists who gather material from stray snippets of conversation, more structured and self-conscious interviews, participant observation and enquiry (both discreet and deliberate) and gossip. Life history is therefore an interesting source for understanding society (ibid.; Chamberlain and Thompson 1998; Rapport and Dawson 1998). Using the ethnography of one family and their wider kin, I limit myself to one village in the north Indian state of Punjab to make explicit how education is understood as a value. The social and cultural location of this Panjabi family gives us a way of understanding their assessment of education in general and, in particular, schooling as a strategy deployed for the reproduction of the family. Their evaluation of what constitute appropriate strategies, however, needs to be placed within larger political economies of decision-making in which schooling is one strand. Panjabi villagers think of schooling as part of the broader category of learning or gya-n. While schooling is not regarded as substitutable by any other form of gya-n, it needs to be placed within the overall conception of gya-n. All formal knowledge is not treated identically. Learning Sikh scriptures is considered appropriate, but schooling is not judged in the same benign light. Panjabi parents have quite articulate and emotive ways of talking about schooling and knowledge. They value schooling— but also think it possesses an actively transformative potential that, like magic, can be benevolent and dangerous. Gold (in her study of Rajasthan) and Seymour (in eastern India) have discussed similar anxieties about schooling, especially for girls (Gold 2002; Seymour 2002). Within Panjabi village communities, then, schooling is something that needs to be thought about with care. Formal education, including schooling, is sought—but it is also evaluated along a sliding scale of ‘sufficient’ or ‘too much’. Schooling is seen as something that might improve or spoil a person. Metaphor and analogy are quite commonly


Radhika Chopra

used in Panjabi and schooling is linked with friendship or food through these speech genres. Just as a person can go wrong or spoil (bigar ja-na-) with too much food or unregulated friendships, so it is with school education. Like crops, schooling yields results in the future and, like any investment in the future, schooling is a risk ( jokham). Within this version of schooling as risk is a discourse about what is at risk and who can be risked. Middle and younger sons are more readily risked to the transformative potential of family experiments in education, migration, employment and so on. Conversely, great efforts are made to offset the risk that education might present to daughters. The judgment of what is adequate or excessive varies with the circumstances in which a family finds itself at various moments of time and at different stages of its domestic cycle. Families try to minimise the risks both that too much education might make a daughter unmarriageable and that not enough schooling might leave a son out of the loop for the labour market. This balance is not a decision arrived at individually. Rather, it forms part of discursive formations within which ideas of ‘sufficient’ and ‘too much’ are located.

THE SETTING The village on which this ethnography draws lies off a highway that connects the bustling city of Jullundur and its army cantonment with the tehsil (administrative subdivision) town of Nakodar.1 The village was resettled after 1947, and again after land consolidation in the 1950s. The development of technology-laden Green Revolution agriculture from the 1960s on meant an intensive cropping calendar with scarcely a moment when the fields are fallow. Newer crops are constantly experimented with and bands of migrant labour from eastern India arrive through successive harvests. Itinerant traders move in and out of the village, selling everything from milk, traditional rugs (durries/khes) to the more utilitarian commodities of the contemporary world like plastic buckets and toys. Gujjar herdsmen from snowbound areas of Himachal and Kashmir settle along the peripheries of the village during the winter, selling milk and labour in the village. The outside world has a large presence in the villagers’ everyday lives. Significant social developments have contoured the political and cultural landscape of Panjab. Through the1980s, assertive social movements

Schooling, Family and Migration


that took the form of separatism and militancy transformed the political landscape of the state. The increasing imbalance in the demographic profile of contemporary Panjab and a sex ratio weighted against female survival is also significant. Added to this is the long history of international and internal migration in districts such as Jullundur. All these developments influence household strategies of reproduction. Here, I concentrate on the interconnections between agricultural modernisation, migration and education. Whilst migration and movements influence household choices, the commodification of agriculture is fundamental. Every landholder, large and small, feels the pressure of rising costs of innovation and experimentation. Newer technologies and increasing investments mean that landholding cultivators need to be market savvy in order to survive. Economic, social and cultural resources need to be harnessed in new ways to keep from going under. Various strategies are marshalled to overcome the limitation of landholding size, including renting in land, taking loans from banks, grain merchants and moneylenders, and deploying family labour in non-agricultural occupations like truck driving. Modern agriculture and globalised markets have unleashed an anxiety and insecurity about the future and about the family’s potential inability to reproduce itself in known and trusted ways. Within this scenario of bustling change and the uncertainty of flux, formal education and schooling take on a resonance as a possible means of ensuring the future. To quote Beck-Gernsheim again, modern social guidelines are no longer set by class, religion and tradition, but rather by the labour market … the educational system, the judicial system, and so on. The crucial feature of these modern guidelines is that individuals must to some extent produce them through action of their own and incorporate them into their own life history (Beck-Gernsheim 2002: 44).




This chapter is the story of three siblings, the daughter and two sons of Sardar Paramjit Singh and his wife, Joginder Kaur.2 It is not a life history in the strict sense of the word, since it focuses on a brief span


Radhika Chopra

of the family’s biography. When I first met them, their household included Paramjit Singh’s bedridden father, his energetic, spry mother, Biji, and the three children, Baby, the eldest child and only daughter, Sonu the son and heir and Goga their teenage son. At the time, Baby was 19 and had finished school. She mainly lived sequestered at home, helping her mother with the housework in the well-established and extensively documented practice of young unmarried adult women. Towards her family, she maintained a slight air of aloofness that intrigued me but (unusually) did not seem to disturb them. In comparison to her mother and most other village women, Baby was exceptionally meticulous in matters of personal hygiene and beauty care, carefully cleansing her skin with raw milk and shaping her eyebrows. This beauty care regime was familiar to my convent-educated eyes but, truth be told, I never expected to find these practices in the village. Fairly early in my fieldwork, though, I learnt that Baby had been withdrawn from the local school and sent to a very prestigious and well-known convent hill school to complete the last three years of high school. Paramjit Singh was a substantial landholder by village standards and could meet the costs of such an education. St. Bede’s in Simla (in the northern hill-state of Himachal Pradesh, and the erstwhile summer capital of the colonial state) is part of a chain of convent schools and colleges administered by a Christian mission. As a convent run by nuns, it is considered ‘safe’ for girls, in addition to providing the significant language resource of correctly spoken and properly accented English. This is its cachet. St. Bede’s is also regarded as a sort of finishing school for girls who are groomed for marriage. Its students are drawn from middle or aspiring middle class backgrounds, not necessarily urban. I was viewed as a companion for Baby to continue her English where school left off. By contrast, Baby’s brother Sonu was a virtual illiterate. He had dropped out of the local village school after completing middle school. His mother, in the customary style of many Panjabi parents, professed an inability to force him to continue. A young adult at the time of fieldwork, he rarely spent time at home and was out in the fields all day and sometimes late into the evening. From the comments of Biji and others, I learnt that he spent his days engaged in various activities. One day, I was told that he had acquired a horse and was breaking it in. On another occasion, he was reported to have been in a fight with a labourer. My early impressions of him were of a young man with little to do and under very cursory parental supervision.

Schooling, Family and Migration


The younger son, Goga was a school-going teenager. He attended an English-medium boarding school in a nearby small town and returned home during short vacations. This was a puzzle, since the family was by no means badly off: it would have seemed more logical to send Goga to a colonial hill school and keep Baby at home. Baby spoke to me only in English, but Goga rarely spoke English at home—and when he did, there was a strong Panjabi flavour to his accent and grammar. I never visited Goga’s school, but I gathered that it was privately run and catered to the sons of landowning upper and middle peasantry. The school calendar’s acknowledgement of agrarian rhythms enabled Goga to come and go frequently and help with the harvests at home. For him, the work was seen as useful, not vital, knowledge. The divergent schooling choices the parents made for their children can be understood by locating them within both the cultural context of the village and the way the village oriented itself to the wider world. Sonu—as the elder son of a landowning family—was a key player within the family, but this centrality limited some of his options. He was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps, harnessing the resources of the jaddñ- jamñ-n (ancestral property) to reproduce the family. The chronicle of his life was already foretold, as it were, and schooling played only a small part in it. Very little of this chronicle is reported by Sonu—much of it is reconstructed from other people’s ‘tellings’ of his life story, partly because our interactions were characterised by the formalities of avoidance behaviour.3 Of course, not all forms of learning were absent in Sonu’s life. He was expected to acquire elaborate forms of knowledge to play his role successfully and encouraged to spend all his time in the fields getting to know the nuanced rhythms of agriculture. Successful ways to manage the labour, the cure of sick animals, transactions involved in fixing a price for cash crops with grain agents were essential gya-n for the son and heir of a landowning family. I learnt all this from overhearing Sonu talk about his role in a collective harvest ritual and a fight he had with a labourer. This was a prolonged initiation process into manhood— becoming a Sardar (the polite form of address for those who own ancestral property) and maintaining a sarda-rñ- lifestyle. While all Jat landholders subscribe to the sarda-rñ- worldview, small landowners in danger of losing their jaddñ- lands are also the most vociferous and articulate about the norms that constitute sarda-rñ-. Jat Sarda-rs think of themselves as distinct from other cultivators because sarda-rñ- is not available to everyone. The over-emphatic rhetorical statement ‘people like us


Radhika Chopra

don’t work as labourers on other peoples fields’ conveys what is befitting for sarda-rñ-. Work as a performance of status is constructed as more than a livelihood: it is understood as an art, a presentation of the self, the lineage, and status to public gaze (Chopra 2003: 43–44). This art cannot be acquired through the homogenising knowledge of schooling. Sonu’s mother’s expression of helplessness that enabled him to stay out of school was also a construction of him as a decision-maker in his own life, especially in matters like schooling. Her seeming apathy towards schooling and towards his decision to drop out after middle school was in fact an active expression of his parents’ expectations of him: that he would place family above all else, while learning to be selfreliant. The possibility of breaking out of this life story always existed— but his continuous mocking of his younger brother’s books and inadequate knowledge of farm and field suggest that he accepted, at least in part, that continued schooling was ‘too much’ and beyond the family’s needs and his own destined obligations. The life stories of the two children who were sent away—Baby and Goga—fall outside the pattern of brothers privileged over sisters (Seymour 2002; Sharma and Retherford 1993). The contrast, however, is part of a single logic that links both choices—that the futures of Baby and Goga were tied to one another. Choosing an expensive and distant boarding school run by Englishspeaking nuns, a school that undermined the entire normative structure of Panjabi village culture (and was known to do so) could not have been easily resorted to, especially for a daughter. It was clearly not a mechanical or unreflective choice. Nor could it have been made without prior discussions and negotiations. Paramjit Singh and Joginder Kaur could not have sent their daughter away without the consent and the legitimisation of a wider set of persons who could stand ‘social surety’ for them. The extreme act of sending Baby away was clearly framed by more than the issue of ‘good’ schooling, given the worldview that schooling could spoil as well as benefit a person. The decision needs to be placed within a larger set of family plans and in this sense was an illocutionary act that produced another series of acts and events (Ricouer 1981). People judged to be better versed in the ways of the larger world than either of Baby’s parents made the choices for her. Paramjit’s mother was crucial at this point and acted as the sanctioning elder as well as a bridge between other powerful and well-connected kin. Paramjit’s sister, Sardarni-ji, was married into one of the foremost political families of Panjab: her husband was a substantial landowner

Schooling, Family and Migration


and a senior office bearer of a political party. More to the point, all their children were in well-known residential hill schools (including St. Bede’s). This schooling was intended to enable them to move seamlessly into the diaspora of well-established Sardar families. In fact, their eldest daughter-in-law had grown up in Southall, UK.4 She came once on a matchmaking visit to her in-laws to arrange her husband’s younger brother’s marriage: I witnessed the negotiations between this young man and Julie, a Panjabi girl from California, whose parents had sent her with the Southall daughter-in-law to ‘view’ the eligible boys of the family. The Southall woman was clearly going to be the conduit for her husband’s sisters’ marriages too. Biji had appealed to her daughter Sardarni-ji to explore the possibilities of St. Bede’s and to convince Baby’s parents to send her there. In time, Baby narrated all of this to me and I presumed that Baby was being groomed and finished for a successful marriage with an NRI Sardar just like her cousins. And, indeed, this was part of the story. Well after I left the field, Baby was married into a family in the USA. Anthropological tracts often seem to be timeless. But a great deal of anthropological knowledge is acquired through seemingly unrelated events and acts that are not necessarily part of the anthropological present. We sometimes witness consequences of a past that produce a trace in the present. In deciphering these traces, we perceive a configuration of a future from which we are absent. This peculiar position of looking backward and forward enables anthropologists to comment on social relations not only as they appear in the present but also on what possibly produced them and how they might unfold.5 Baby had already finished school when I knew her and the discussions about schooling choices never happened before me—so I am speaking through traces in my present. Baby’s insistence on speaking English with me and her slightly obsessive attention to beauty care created for her the patterns of a world elsewhere, with its past and its possible future expectations (Jansen 1998: 103; Rapport 1998: 79–80). Her schooling was certainly seen as a form of self-improvement and transformation. At the same time, beauty practices (plucking eyebrows and cleansing skin) brought home the peculiar hybrid nature of her existence, simultaneously capturing past movement to the convent and envisaging future migration for marriage. Her aloofness towards her family perhaps expressed an identity that encapsulated movements away from her present location in the village. Her reserve was respected as proof of having


Radhika Chopra

successfully acquired ways of a ‘foreign’ world towards which she was being oriented.




The literature on migration and schooling typically examines the question of migrant parents and children from the perspective and location of the host culture (Ballard and Vellins 1985; Fordham and Ogbu 1987; Gibson 1988; Hall 2002). The literature is rich on the manner in which migrant parents express great ambition for their children. Studies on the performance of migrant children in schools substantiate this: Asian migrant communities perform relatively well in schools in the UK and the US (Ballard and Vellins 1985; Gibson and Bhachu 1986; Gibson 1988). The Indian diaspora is internally differentiated between unskilled workers and educated professional middle class migrants, yet high achievement and good school performance remain similar across class (US Bureau of the Census 1983; US Commission on Civil Rights 1980, cited in Gibson 1988). Rarely does this literature address how migration as a process might sway choices within the country of emigration. Some work has examined the emigration-immigration locales simultaneously (Mitchell 1969; Watson 1977). The networks that migrants maintain in the city receive attention but how migration affects choices within the sending locales is not addressed. Analyses of push and pull factors that govern migratory movements pay attention to the stream of migration rather than to individual choice or family strategy. As Bottomley comments, however, ‘international migration creates international people … and the continuing interaction between homelands and countries of emigration’ (Bottomley 1992: 4). This continuing interaction shapes sending and receiving cultures alike in terms of tastes, household economies, networks and marriage patterns. Different classes of migrants adapt to host cultures in distinctive ways. Middle class professional migrants with greater social and cultural capital reconfigure their Indian versus migrant identities from positions of power. This may not be the case for migrant groups that have strong peasant worldviews. Nevertheless, values of both cultures are assimilated or accommodated into a social hybrid that has a visible and articulate presence in the host country’s cultural landscape (Baumann 1992; Bottomley 1992; Willis

Schooling, Family and Migration


et al. 1990). How these influences travel back ‘home’ is the question being posed here. Nowadays, migration is more often being seen from the perspective of more than one site since ‘… an increasing number of migrants experience successive movements to second, third, fourth countries of settlement …’ (Amit-Talai 1998: 45; Bhachu 1996). Understanding the multi-sited experience of migration enables us to re-examine migration from the perspective of the sending culture as one of the ‘sites’ within which migration and choice can be addressed. And multiple sites and the global–local interactions of migration have a particular resonance for schooling choices in the sending societies. Rural Panjab has a long history of migration to Canada, Africa, the UK and the US and more recently to the Middle East, and migration is experienced as multi-sited, or at the very least, doubly-located. In districts such as Jullundur, migration is part of every family’s biography and is incorporated into the lifecycle of the domestic group. In the village context migration is not simply a single event. Migration is an event-in-process that is experienced both in the place of emigration and of immigration and might be viewed as a before and after event, or as a process of becoming migrant and being migrant. The sense of movement intrinsic to migration is apparent in social lives. The incorporation of everyday objects like ‘western’ kitchen equipment into the home conveys a sense of spatial and temporal orientation to a world elsewhere (Auge 1995; Bottomley 1992; Jansen 1998). French chiffon chunnñ-s worn by women in landowning households, new bathrooms constructed along the western model within rural homes, the constant stream of visiting uncles and aunties who periodically return to their villages and address the children as ‘luv’ or ‘ducks’, or the cousins who are conversant with the lingo of American city streets, all stand testimony to constant movement. One of Baby’s aunts continued to use a sickle to cut spinach and green vegetables in her English kitchen—evoking her sense of transnational, hybrid identity through everyday practice. And an older woman who returned from Southall after her husband’s death resettled in the village with two kitchens—one on the Panjabi ‘village model’ with an open hearth and floor seating, and the other equipped with all the mod-cons of a ‘western’ kitchen in which she received important visitors. From the perspective of rural Panjabi families, migration is a very real possibility envisaged not as a distant dream but an event that is actively sought, talked about and planned for—an event-in-process. Property, and the pressure to keep it intact, is reason enough to migrate.


Radhika Chopra

Property provides more than economic security, for it is a key resource in the creation of cultural capital. For landowners, undivided ancestral property is the cornerstone of a family’s survival and of its social belonging to the community of Sardars. Keeping property intact has its own logic and its own harsh imperatives. Wholeness requires sending away some of the entitled members. To reproduce the group and family in the future, movement away is a fundamental strategy. But who will migrate? Entire families rarely do so (Chopra 1995; Friedl 1976). Individual members, usually single young men, are charged with the responsibility to migrate. Studies note the higher number of men than women who migrate (Brettell 1986; Brettell and Hollifield 2000; Hammar et al. 1997). Official statistics—such as the US Census and Department of Justice statistics—record the country of origin, the gender, age and educational profile of incoming migrants (cited in Gibson 1988). But the kinship position (or birth order) of incoming migrants is not reflected in demographic profiles. Oral narratives of household histories from the village, however, position younger or middle sons as the most likely choice for internal and international migration, as well as for a whole series of risks undertaken for the sake of the family—although I have no statistics to support the claim. For example, younger sons are the ones sent to work outside the village economy and make their way in the world. Male domestic workers in urban households are often younger sons who are sent away (see also Strathern 1992). In rural Panjab, the reason for choosing younger sons is twofold. Ancestral land is supposed to be divided equally among all of a man’s children (including daughters, who are entitled to claim a share under joint property laws), but the pressure to keep a landholding intact is quite intense. The rising costs of agricultural production and the inability of holdings to remain viable intensify the urgency of finding additional and alternative means to generate a cash flow and sustain the family. Daughters are the first coparceners encouraged to forgo their claims to ancestral property. Sons do not follow suit in quite the same way, but the realities of unsustainable holdings and the consequent inability of families to retain their sarda-rñ- lifestyle from a restricted production base are well known and highly visible.6 Sons and daughters alike are privy to discussions about the family’s future reproduction and the anxieties of adults. Younger children learn that the place of the elder brother is to bear the burden of carrying on the family tradition and their own role is to enable him to do so.

Schooling, Family and Migration


Migration, as a potential and possible means to sustain sarda-rñ-, falls squarely on younger sons. Going away is an uncertain process that single young migrant men negotiate in the course of reaching their destinations. Many try to overcome border restrictions by migrating illegally or with the help of ‘agents’ who are a cross between labour contractors and travel agents, and who are not always reliable. Stories circulate of young men who were duped by fly-by-night agents who abscond with all the payments made by trustful migrants, or of young men who managed to get out (nikal gaya-) in the boots of cars or non-pressurised luggage holds of airplanes. The predicament of precarious employment in the informal economies of global cities in the West has been commented on, especially for unskilled workers (Sassen 1988; 1991). Labour mobility associated with the economic restructuring of modern global economies is ‘… conducted without an institutional safety net … [and] reduced corporate and state responsibilities toward labour …’ (Amit-Talai 1998: 52). The restrictions and uncertainties associated with migration are well known within the village. And, in the face of such insecurity, relatives who can sponsor a young man are the preferred option. Families actively cultivate foreign relatives who can smooth the trail: the closer the relative, the greater the claim that can be exerted and the assurance that the obligation will be met. From this standpoint, families begin thinking about producing a relative who can enable the migration of younger sons. Baby was clearly the chosen one. Baby’s father’s sister Sardarni-ji had been expected to help her own brother, especially by looking out for his children—she was Baby’s sponsor at St. Bede’s, for instance. In like manner, Baby was seen as the person who would and could look out for her own brother. By becoming his sponsor, she would discharge her responsibility towards her family. Her education was an investment in Goga’s future as much as in her own. Goga needed ‘just enough’ education to enable him to migrate and make his way. Sonu needed even less formal schooling. Anything more than he actually received would have been considered wasteful of family resources and therefore ‘too much’.7 In a sense, Baby was a security blanket for her brother, and her schooling was an essential resource in the reproduction of the family, a means to keep the ancestral property intact. Women and ancestral property alike are generally seen as symbolic resources for maintaining family honour. It is not often recognised, however, that women and ancestral property reinforce each other in jointly reproducing it. This mutuality is loaded with expectation and forethought.


Radhika Chopra

Is ‘life as a plan’ exclusively a mark of Western modernity, as outlined by Giddens and Beck-Gernsheim? Is it possible to see contours of the plan in non-Western societies? What forms might such a ‘planning project’ take? Through the ethnographic discussion in this chapter, I have attempted to show that forethought and planning are indeed part of survival and is reproductive strategies of rural households in Panjab. A family with a plan is considered best able to withstand the vagaries of the world outside and is valorised for having the capacity to maintain sarda-rñstatus and lifestyle. Forethought and planning are marks of the proper Sardar, who must be able to deploy his family resources to the best advantage and not be buffeted by the fickle inconsistencies of life.8 Foresight is valued as a form of knowledge and constitutes the possibility of reproducing sarda-rñ-. Constructing choices within the ‘life-as-a-plan’ concept, we need to distinguish between rational choice models and strategies for family reproduction. Rational models draw causal links between choices. By contrast, the family plan as it appears in household reproductive strategies does not present itself in an overt or visible way. Strategies are part of a cultural context, a habitus peopled by actors whose social reasoning often flies in the face of ‘rational’ choice. Apart from being opportune, choices are underwritten by notions of cultural correctness. Decisions about how a family should proceed with its plan may be the primary responsibility of one person—the male household head (whose knowledge and decision-making power have a socially acknowledged value). At various moments, however, the plan and the decisions are opened out to others (Paramjit’s sister for example). Moreover, plans do not necessarily remain static: the same sense of movement that marks social life also configures changes in the plan. A choice that seemed rationally constituted in the eyes of one person at one point in time may be modified, even overturned, by what others think and do subsequently. Individual actors have their own versions of what the plan is. The links between one act and another are differently drawn, depending on the standpoint of individual actors. From her family’s point of view, Baby’s schooling was to benefit her brother. In her eyes, being sent away produced a different world altogether. Her parents were clearly unaware that she and her school friends sometimes escaped the confines of the convent and hitched rides on mo-bikes to go for a weekend to Patiala. Her family approved of her beauty regime as a habit that conformed to a global worldview of beauty care. In their reading, her convent-inculcated habits meshed her into a given future and would

Schooling, Family and Migration


make her a good bride. But for her, the use of raw milk was a simulation of the branded cleansing milk that she had used through her years in school, a world and a liberty she evoked through her daily practice to distance herself from the women who surrounded her in her village. Individual actors may also disrupt their family’s plan. For instance, Sonu, the son who was meant to stay behind, tried to migrate illegally, but was unsuccessful. Biji later told me that he did not have the nerve. His cousin (a younger son as it happens) was part of the illegally migrating pair, and managed to make it from Germany to Mexico and onward in the boot of a car. Sonu’s take on his own future interrupted the family plan—although he failed to make the break towards migrating. Thus, life as a plan shifts and changes by the choices, acts and agencies of those who are part of it and may themselves disrupt it. On the face of it, Paramjit’s family plan might be viewed as an aberration. The schooling choice that made their daughter more privileged than their son is clearly not typical of patterns that connect gender and schooling. But aberrations bring particular worldviews to the surface and enable ethnographers to see connections that are otherwise veiled. Nevertheless, this family’s schooling strategies were not a complete oddity, for Baby’s schooling fits the larger gender pattern in a particularly individualistic way. Her schooling is harnessed for the sake of her brother and is not seen as something that is solely ‘for’ her. In this sense, her schooling is still underwritten by socially constituted gender divisions in which girls are not thought of as repositories of value unless they can be geared toward particular felt needs of others. In some senses, Baby’s life also fits Dasgupta’s contention that not all girls in a family are undervalued. Demographically speaking, it is not the firstborn daughter but the later ones who face the greatest challenges to provisioning and survival in Panjab (Dasgupta 1987). Telling a life story of any single individual or family in its completeness would require a different time span to be addressed and certainly a greater attention to ‘voice’. Nevertheless, drawing out one single strand—schooling choice—from a family’s biography and the matrix of family strategies of reproduction does allow us to see how this thread is braided with seemingly unrelated social patterns and choices. It enables a view of how a single act of choice becomes the mirror for other choices that might not be visible in the same way—in this case the connection between Baby’s schooling and the larger story of migration. Moments of uncertainty produce an imperative for strategising that always exists but remains unnoticed. Movement as an intrinsic part of


Radhika Chopra

social life also has a special resonance at particular moments of a society’s or a community’s history. In Panjab, the 1980s and 1990s were fraught with the uncertainties of militancy and terror.9 Young Sikh men increasingly became the targets of state terror or were influenced by militancy. These threats had a direct bearing on how marriages were arranged. NRI grooms were preferred because they were seen as less ‘tainted’ targets. Throughout this period, discussions about diaspora kin circulated with some intensity. The evocation of different worlds and people’s orientation towards them need to be interpreted within this context as well. This was acutely felt within this family, since Sardarni-ji’s husband was increasingly associated with the ‘separatist’ elements within the Akali party. The move to marry a son to Julie might be seen as a way of getting the young man away to safer shores. Equally, an NRI groom for Baby was seen as prudent. In the face of fatalism as a worldview that accompanies uncertainty, strategies that are important for survival find a telling. The encounter between event and interpretation also presents the possibility of making connections between different sets of literatures or distinct fields. Studies of migrant communities and schooling have primarily been done once the migrant community or family is already constituted as ‘migrant’, and therefore restrict themselves to the family or community located in the host society. From the perspective of this already constituted community, schooling choices find a discursive place in terms of gender, learning and performance. The details of a ‘moment’ in a life history that I have narrated enable me to displace the location of the migrant community. In Panjabi peasant communities, long histories of migration weave into the biographies of individuals and families in distinctive ways. Migration is a process that ‘begins’ before any member of the family actually leaves the village. Imaging the movement towards a diaspora produces a resonance in the way families strategise for their own sake while simultaneously producing members who will constitute the diaspora of Sardars. The idea that the formation of diaspora begins at home is a way of understanding the choices that govern how migration becomes part of life histories.

Notes 1. I did the fieldwork as part of my PhD in 1982–84 and then in a shorter spell in 1989. I am grateful to everyone in the village who looked after me throughout the period of

Schooling, Family and Migration


my fieldwork. The work was funded by a Junior Research Fellowship, under the Centre of Advanced Studies, University of Delhi. 2. The name of the village has been deliberately obscured. I use pseudonyms throughout. 3. Villagers generally treated me as a family member of my host’s household. However, within the home I was liminal—a stranger, and a woman on her own. Codes of gendered interactions were therefore extremely elaborate. 4. In the well-established pattern of migrant communities who settle in urban enclaves and create distinctive cultural landscapes within cities, Panjabi migrants to the UK have made Southall a virtual ‘little Panjab’. 5. Modern anthropologists imagine themselves as travellers and storytellers of a kind, and understand anthropological narratives as derived from movement (Clifford 1992). Approaches that conceive of narrative itself as a form of movement, recognising movement as intrinsic to social life (Chambers 1994; Robertson et al. 1994), also shape anthropological writing (Geertz 1988). 6. Two Jat families from another district had settled in the village and worked as labourers. I was told how children would query their mothers ‘eh Ja-t kidden da-h? Eh ta-h mazdurñ- karda-!’ (What kind of Jat is this? He’s a wage labourer). 7. Despite the gains of agricultural prosperity, rural Panjabis have very articulate notions of wasteful expenditure and they embrace frugality as a virtue. Money is usually kept in the innermost pockets of undergarments and dispensed with care. The first thing to be queried about any new acquisition is the cost, more exclaimed over and commented on than anything else. Cash is not readily disbursed and heated arguments ensue over the price of everything from a bucket to a bus ticket. 8. Knowledge of a family’s labour power rests with the household head. At harvests, for example, decisions about deploying labour are taken by the household head. Harvests are a time when the whole village labours in the fields and the planning, knowledge and decisions of the head of a family are judged and evaluated by everyone. The assumption that this is ‘male’ knowledge is clear. In the numerous instances of women-headed households in the village, however, women (like sons) are thought able to assume this knowledge, though they may choose to surrender this ability to a male collateral. 9. This period coincided with the start of my fieldwork. The two years I spent in the field were not marked by incidents of militant violence in the village (which did occur later), but the increase in political aggression and the discourse of grievance and separatism was certainly developing during that time. Militancy meant that I could not go back to attend the pancha-yat elections that followed closely on ‘Operation Bluestar’ in 1984 and the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. My subsequent visits in the peace that followed were brief. This certainly has a bearing on the brevity of the life stories that I can present.


Acharya, Poromesh. 1998. ‘Bengali Bhadralok and Educational Development in Nineteenth Century Bengal’, in Sureshchandra Shukla and Rekha Kaul (eds) Education, Development and Underdevelopment, pp. 25–38. New Delhi and London: Sage Publications. Agarwal, Bina. 2000. ‘The Idea of Gender Inequality: From Legislative Visions to Everyday Family Practice’, in Romila Thapar (ed.) India: Another Millennium? pp. 36–65. New Delhi: Penguin Books. Ahmad, Imtiaz. 2002. ‘Urdu and Madrasa Education’. Economic and Political Weekly 37, 24: 2285–87. Alavi, Seema. 2002. ‘The Story Urdu Textbooks Tell Us’. The Indian Express, 22 July. Alter, Joseph S. 1993. ‘The Body of One Color: Indian Wrestling, the Indian State and Utopian Somatics’. Cultural Anthropology 8, 1: 49–72. ———. 1994. ‘Celibacy, Sexuality and the Transformation of Gender into Nationalism in North India’. Journal of Asian Studies 53, 1: 46–66. ———. 2000. Gandhi’s Body: Sex, Diet and the Politics of Nationalism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Amit-Talai, Vered. 1998. ‘Risky Hiatuses and the Limits of Social Imagination: Expatriacy in the Cayman Islands’, in Nigel Rapport and Andrew Dawson (eds) Migrants of Identity: Perceptions of Home in a World of Movement, pp. 39–59. Oxford: Berg. Annamalai, M. 2002. ‘Dalit Rights and Issues’. Accessed on 5 July 2003. Appadurai, Arjun and Carol A. Breckenridge. 1996. ‘Public Modernity in India’, in Carol Breckenridge (ed.) Consuming Modernity: Public Culture in Contemporary India, pp. 1–20. Delhi: Oxford University Press. The Annual of Urdu Studies. 2003. University of Wisconsin, Madison. Online version: Apple, Michael W. 1979. Ideology and the Curriculum. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Arnold, David and Stuart Blackburn. 2004. ‘Life Histories in South Asia: An Introduction’, in David Arnold and Stuart Blackburn (eds) Telling Lives: Biography, Autobiography and Life History in India, pp. 1–28. New Delhi: Permanent Black. Auge, Michel. 1995. Non-places. London: Verso. Badran, Margot. 2002. ‘Islamic Feminism: What’s in a Name?’ 2002/569/cu1.htm. Accessed on 23 January 2002. Bakht, Firoz Ahmed. 2003. Urdu Taleem aur School. New Delhi: National Council for the Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL). Bakht, Firoz Ahmed, Atyab Siddiqui and Iqbal Malik. 2002. Languishing Urdu Medium Schools of Delhi: Educational Survey Report. Delhi: Forum for Friends of Education. Balagopalan, Sarada. 2002. ‘Constructing Indigenous Childhoods: Colonialism, Vocational Education and the Working Child’. Childhood 9, 1: 19–34.



Balagopalan, Sarada. 2003. ‘Neither Suited for the Home Nor for the Fields’: Inclusion, Formal Schooling and the Adivasi Child’. IDS Bulletin 34, 1: 55–62. Balagopalan, Sarada and Ramya Subrahmanian. 2003. ‘Dalit and Adivasi Children in Schools: Some Preliminary Research Themes and Findings’. IDS Bulletin 34, 1: 43–54. Ballard, Roger and Selma Vellins. 1985. ‘South Asian Entrants to British Universities: A Comparative Note’. New Community 12, 2: 260–65. Banerjee, Abhijit and Rohini Somanathan. 2001. Caste, Community and Collective Action: The Political Economy of Public Good Provision in India. Cambridge MA and Ann Arbor: MIT and University of Michigan Press. Banerjee, Sumanta. 2004. ‘Need of the Hour: Beyond “Detoxification”’. Economic and Political Weekly 39, 23: 2342–44. Basu, Durga Das. 1991. A Shorter Constitution of India. New Delhi: Prentice Hall of India. Bateson, Gregory. 1936. Naven. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press. Baumann, Gerd. 1992. ‘Ritual Implicates Others’, in David de Coppet (ed.) Understanding Ritual, pp. 97–116. London: Routledge. Bayly, Christopher A. 1983. Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1998. Origins of Nationality in South Asia: Patriotism and Ethical Government in the Making of Modern India. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Beck-Gernsheim, Elisabeth. 2002. Reinventing the Family: In Search of New Lifestyles. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bénéï, Véronique. 1996. La dot en Inde: un Fléau Social? Socio-anthropologie du Mariage au Maharashtra. Paris and Pondicherry: Karthala and French Institute of Pondicherry. ——— . 2002. ‘Mother-India at School: Nation, Family and Gender in Marathi-speaking Schools’. Unpublished manuscript. Edinburgh: South Asia Anthropology Group. Betancourt, Roger R. and Suzanne Gleason. 2000. ‘The Allocation of Publicly-provided Goods to Rural Households in India: On Some Consequences of Caste, Religion and Democracy’. World Development 28, 12: 2169–82. Béteille, André. 1992. The Backward Classes in Contemporary India. Delhi and Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bhachu, Parminder. 1996. ‘The Multiple Landscapes of Transnational Asian Women in the Diaspora’, in Vered Amit-Talai and Caroline Knowles (eds) Resituating Identities: The Politics of Race, Ethnicity and Culture, pp. 283–303. Peterborough: Broadview Press. Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi (ed.). 1998. The Contested Terrain. New Delhi: Orient Longman. ———. 2002. Education and the Disprivileged: Nineteenth and Twentieth Century India. New Delhi: Orient Longman. Bhogle, Sudha. 1999. ‘Gender Roles: The Construct in the Indian Context’, in T.S. Saraswathi (ed.) Culture, Socialisation and Human Development: Theory, Research and Applications in India, pp. 278–300. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Blanchet, Philippe. 2000. Linguistique de Terrain, Méthode et Théorie, une Approche Ethnosociolinguistique. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes. Bloch, Maurice. 1974. ‘Symbols, Song, Dance and Features of Articulation: Or is Religion an Extreme Form of Traditional Authority?’ Archives Européenes de Sociologie 15, 55–81. Bock, John C. and George J. Papagiannis (eds). 1983. Non-Formal Education and National Development: A Critical Assessment of Policy, Research and Practice. New York: Praeger Publishers.


Educational Regimes in Contemporary India

Bottomley, Gillian. 1992. From Another Place: Migration and the Politics of Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice (trans.) Richard Nice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. ———. 1986. ‘The Forms of Capital’, in John G. Richardson (ed.) Handbook of Theory and Research in the Sociology of Education, pp. 241–58. New York: Greenwood Press. ———. 1990. The Logic of Practice. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ———. 1992. ‘Okonomisches Kapital-Kulturelles Kapital-Soziales Kapital’, in Margarita Steinrucke (ed.) Die Verbigene Mechanismen der Macht, pp. 49–80. Hamburg: VSA. ———. 1996. The State of Nobility: Elite Schools in the Field of Power. Cambridge: Polity Press. ———. 2001. Masculine Domination (trans.) Richard Nice. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bourdieu, Pierre, Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson, Susan Emanuel, Joe Johnson, Shoggy T. Waryn and Alain Accardo. 1999. The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bourdieu, Pierre and Jean-Claude Passeron. 1990. Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture. London: Sage Publications. Bourdieu, Pierre and Lois Wacquant. 1992. An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Boyden, J. 1997. ‘Childhood and Policy Makers: A Comparative Perspective on the Globalization of Childhood’, in Allison James and Alan Prout (eds) Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood, pp. 190–229. London: Falmer Press. Brass, Paul R. 1990. The Politics of India since Independence. The New Cambridge History of India, Vol. IV, Part 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Brettell, Caroline. 1986. Men Who Migrate, Women Who Wait: Population and History in a Portuguese Parish. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Brettell, Caroline and James Hollifield. 2000. Migration Theory: Talking Across Disciplines. New York: Routledge. Carruthers, Mary. 1990. The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Castle, Rob, D.P. Chaudhuri and Chris Nyland. 2002. ‘Child Labour in South Asia: Domestic and International Initiatives including ILO and WTO.’ The Indian Journal of Labour Economics 45, 3: 497–516. Central Board of Secondary Education. 2000. Annual Report. New Delhi: Central Board of Secondary Education. Centre for Media Studies. 1999. External Evaluation Report of the Begusarai Total Literacy Campaign. New Delhi: Centre for Media Studies. Chamberlain, Mary and Paul Thompson (eds). 1998. Narrative and Genre. London: Routledge. Chambers, Iain. 1994. Migrancy, Culture, Identity. London: Routledge. Chandra, Kanchan. 2000. ‘The Transformation of Ethnic Politics in India: The Decline of the Congress and Rise of the Bahujan Samaj Party in Hoshiapur.’ Journal of Asian Studies 59, 1: 39–61. Chandrasekhar, C.P. and Jayanti Ghosh. 2002. The Market that Failed. New Delhi: LeftWord Books.



Chopra, Pushpindar Singh (ed.). 1996. The Doon School Sixty Years On. Dehra Dun: The Doon School Old Boys Society. Chopra, Radhika. 1995. ‘Maps of Experience: Narratives of Migration in an Indian Village’. Economic and Political Weekly 30, 49: 3156–62. ———. 2003. ‘Encountering Masculinity: An Ethnographer’s Dilemma’, in Radhika Chopra, Caroline Osella and Filipo Osella (eds) South Asian Masculinities: Context of Change, Sites of Continuity, pp. 36–59. New Delhi: Kali for Women and Women Unlimited. Clifford, James. 1992. ‘Travelling Cultures’, in Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson and Paula A. Treichler (eds) Cultural Studies, pp. 96–116. London: Routledge. Coleman, James. 1988. ‘Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital’. American Journal of Sociology 94, Supplement: S95–S120. ———. 1990. Foundations of Social Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Coles, Robert. 1977. Children of Crisis: Eskimos, Chicanos, Indians. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press. ———. 1986. The Political Life of Children. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. Connell, Robert W. 1987. Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics. Cambridge: Polity Press. ———. 2002. Gender. Cambridge: Polity Press. Constituent Assembly Debates. 1949. vol9p24a.htm. Accessed on 22 January 2005. Constitution of India. 2002. ‘Provisions Relating to Languages: Language in India’. Accessed on 2 April 2002. Coote, Jeremy. 1992. ‘Marvels of Everyday Vision: The Anthropology of Aesthetics and the Cattle-Keeping Nilotes’, in Jeremy Coote and Anthony Shelton (eds) Anthropology, Art and Aesthetics, pp. 245–73. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Corbridge, Stuart and John Harriss. 2000. Reinventing India: Liberalization, Hindu Nationalism and Popular Democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press. ———. 2002. ‘The Shock of Reform: The Political Economy of Liberalisation in India’, in Robert Bradnock and Glyn Williams (eds) South Asia in a Globalising World, pp. 103–21. Harlow: Prentice Hall. Crook, Nigel (ed.). 1996. The Transmission of Knowledge in South Asia: Essays on Education, Religion, History and Politics (SOAS Studies on South Asia). Delhi: Oxford University Press. Crook, Nigel and C.R. Malaker. 1992. ‘Child Mortality in New Industrial Localities and Opportunities for Change: A Survey in an Indian Steel Town.’ Health Transition Review 2, 2: 165–75. Dar, A.N. 1985. ‘The Ethos of Sport in Doon School.’ The Doon School Weekly. Dasgupta, Monica. 1987. ‘Selective Discrimination against Female Children in Rural Punjab, India’. Population and Development Review 13, 1: 77–100. De, Anuradha, Manabi Majumdar, Meera Samson and Claire Noronha. 2002. ‘Private Schools and Universal Elementary Education’, in R. Govinda (ed.) India Education Report: A Profile of Basic Education, pp. 131–50. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Delhi Historians’ Group. 2001. Communalisation of Education: The History Textbooks Controversy. New Delhi: Delhi Historians’ Group.


Educational Regimes in Contemporary India

Demerath, Paul. 1999. ‘The Cultural Production of Educational Utility in Pere Village, Papua New Guinea’. Comparative Education Review 43, 2: 162–92. Department of Education. 2004. ‘Free and Compulsory Education Bill 2004 [Revised]’. htm. Accessed on 28 March 2004. Dhruvarajan, V. 1999. ‘Hinduism and the Empowerment of Women’, in R. Indira and D.K. Behera (eds) Gender and Society in India, pp. 33–49. New Delhi: Manak Publications. Drèze, Jean and Haris Gazdar. 1996. ‘Uttar Pradesh: The Burden of Inertia’, in Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen (eds) Indian Development: Selected Regional Perspectives, pp. 33–128. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Drèze, Jean and Amartya Sen. 1995. Economic Development and Social Opportunity. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 1997. Indian Development: Selected Regional Perspectives. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 2002. India: Development and Participation. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Dube, Saurabh. 1998. In the Land of Poverty: Memoirs of an Indian Family, 1947–1997. London: Zed Books. Dyer, Caroline, Archana Choksi, Vinita Awasty, Uma Iyer, Renu Moyade, Neerja Nigam, Neetu Purohit, Swati Shah and Swati Sheth. 2004. ‘Knowledge for Teacher Development in India: The Importance of “Local Knowledge” for In-service Education’. International Journal of Educational Development 24, 39–52. Dyson-Hudson, Neville. 1966. Karimojong Politics. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Economou, Leonidas. n.d. The Period of Basic Army Training. Athens: Panteios University. Ehrenreich, Barbara. 1987. ‘Foreword’, in Klaus Theweleit (ed.) Male Fantasies: Women, Floods, Bodies, History, pp. ix–xvii. Cambridge and Oxford: Polity Press/Blackwell and University of Minnesota. Eickelman, Dale F. 1978. ‘The Art of Memory: Islamic Education and its Social Reproduction’. Comparative Studies in Society and History 20, 3: 485–516. Eisner, Elliot W. and Elizabeth Vallance (eds). 1974. Competing Conceptions of Curriculum. Berkeley: McCutchan Pub. Corp. Engineer, Asghar Ali (ed.). 1991. Mandal Commission Controversy. Delhi: Ajanta Publications. Evans-Pritchard, Edward E. 1940. The Nuer. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Faruqi, Shamsur Rahman. 2001. Early Urdu Literary Culture and History. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Field, Norma. 1995. ‘The Child as Laborer and Consumer: The Disappearance of Childhood in Contemporary Japan,’ in Sharon Stephens (ed.) Children and the Politics of Culture, pp. 51–78. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Fine, Ben. 1999. ‘The Developmental State is Dead—Long Live Social Capital’. Development and Change 30, 1: 1–19. Fordham, Singnithia and John Ogbu. 1987. ‘Black Students’ Success: Coping with the “Burden of Acting White”’. Urban Review 18, 3: 1–31. Forge, Anthony. 1970. ‘Learning to See in New Guinea’, in Philip Mayer (ed.) Socialisation: The Approach from Social Anthropology, pp. 269–92. New York: Tavistock. Foucault, Michel. 1991. ‘Governmentality’, in G. Burchell, C. Gordon and P. Miller (eds) The Foucault Effect, pp. 87–194. Brighton: Harvester Wheatsheaf.



Freitag, Sandria. 1989. Collective Action and Community: Public Arenas and the Emergence of Communalism in North India. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press. Friedl, Erika. 1976. ‘Kinship, Class and Selective Migration’, in John G. Peristiany (ed.) Mediterranean Family Structure, pp. 363–87. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Fuller, Christopher J. 1997. ‘Religious Texts, Priestly Education and its Social Reproduction’. Contributions to Indian Sociology 31, 1: 3–25. Galanter, Marc. 1991. Competing Equalities: Law and the Backward Classes in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Geertz, Clifford. 1988. Works and Lives. Cambridge: Polity Press. Gell, Alfred. 1995. ‘On Coote’s “Marvels of Everyday Vision”.’ Social Analysis 38, 18–31. Gibson, Margaret. 1988. Accommodation without Assimilation: Sikh Immigrants in an American High School. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Gibson, Margaret and Parminder Bhachu. 1986. ‘Community Forces and School Performance: Punjabi Sikhs in Rural California and Urban Britain’. New Community 13, 1: 124–48. Giddens, Anthony. 1994. ‘Living in a Post-traditionals Society’, in Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens and Scott Lash (eds) Reflexive Modernization, pp. 56–109. Cambridge: Polity Press. Gilligan, Carol. 1982. In a Different Voice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ———. 1988. ‘Prologue: Adolescent Development Reconsidered’, in Carol Gilligan, Janie W. Ward and Jill M. Taylor (eds) Mapping the Moral Domain: A Contribution of Women’s Thinking to Psychological Theory and Education, pp. vii–xxxvii. Harvard: Center for the Study of Gender, Education and Human Development. ———. 1995. ‘The Centrality of Relationship in Psychological Development: A Puzzle, Some Evidence and a Theory’, in Maud Blair, Janet Holland and Sue Sheldon (eds) Identity and Diversity: Gender and the Experience of Education, pp. 194–208. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd. in association with the Open University. Gilligan, Carol, Nona P. Lyons and Trudy J. Hanmer (eds). 1990. Making Connections: The Relational Worlds of Adolescent Girls at Emma Willard School. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Gilmore, David D. 1990. Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Godelier, Maurice. 1986. The Making of Great Men: Male Domination and Power Among the New Guinea Baruya. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Goffman, Erving. 1961. Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Gold, Ann G. 2002. ‘New Light in the House: Schooling Girls in Rural North India,’ in Diane P. Mines and Sarah Lamb (eds) Everyday Life in South Asia, pp. 86–99. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Gooptu, Nandini. 1993. ‘Caste, Deprivation and Politics: The Untouchables in U.P. Towns in the Early Twentieth Century’, in Peter Robb (ed.) Dalit Movements and the Meaning of Labour in India, pp. 277–98. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gore, M.S. 1993. The Social Context of an Ideology: Ambedkar’s Social and Political Thought. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Gorter, Pieter. 1996. Small Industrialists, Big Ambitions: Economic and Political Networks on a Large Industrial Estate in Western India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.


Educational Regimes in Contemporary India

Gould, Harold. 1972. ‘Educational Structures and Political Processes in Faizabad District, Uttar Pradesh’, in Susanne H. Rudolph and Lloyd I. Rudolph (eds) Education and Politics in India: Studies in Organization, Society and Policy, pp. 94–120. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. Government of India. 1992. National Policy on Education 1986 (With Modifications Undertaken in 1992). New Delhi: Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development. ———. 1997. DPEP Guidelines. New Delhi: Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development. ———. 2000. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan: A People’s Movement for Elementary Education of Satisfactory Quality (Draft for Discussion). New Delhi: Department of Elementary Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development. ———. 2002. Tenth Five Year Plan: 2002–2007. New Delhi: Planning Commission. ———. n.d. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. New Delhi: Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development. Government of Madhya Pradesh. 1998. The Madhya Pradesh Human Development Report 1998. Bhopal: Directorate of Institutional Finance. ———. 2002a. Lok Sampack Abhiyan Village Education Register: Sagar and Amba 2000–2002. Sagar: Sagar School Jan Shiksha Kendre. ———. 2002b. Lok Sampack Abhiyan District Data Extracts: Bina District. Unpublished. Bhopal: Rajiv Gandhi Shiksha Mission. ———. 2002c. The Madhya Pradesh Human Development Report 2002. Bhopal: Directorate of Institutional Finance. ———. 2002d. Policy for Women 2003–2007. Bhopal: Department of Women and Child Welfare. ———. 2002e. Rajiv Gandhi Shiksha Mission. Bhopal. Retrieved from on 21 May 2003. Govinda, R. (ed.). 2002. India Education Report. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Gramsci, Antonio. 1971. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Grandin, Nicole and Marc Gaborieau (eds) 1997. Madrasa: La Transmission du Savoir dans le Monde Musulman. Paris: Arguments. Grossberg, Lawrence, Cary Nelson and Paula A. Treichler (eds). 1992. Cultural Studies. New York: Routledge. Gujral, Inder Kumar. 1975. Report of the Committee for the Promotion of Urdu. New Delhi: Government of India. Gupta, Charu. 2001. Sexuality, Obscenity, Community: Women, Muslims, and the Hindu Public in Colonial India. Delhi: Permanent Black. Gupta, Dipanker. 2000. Interrogating Caste: Understanding Hierarchy and Difference in Indian Society. New Delhi: Penguin Books. Hall, Kathleen. 2002. ‘British Sikh Lives, lived in Translation’, in Diane P. Mines and Sarah Lamb (eds) Everyday Life in South Asia, pp. 412–24. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Hameed, Rumman. 2002. ‘Father and Sons: The Family Business’, in Radhika Chopra (ed.) From Violence to Supportive Practice: Family, Gender and Masculinities in India, pp. 23–60. New Delhi: UNIFEM. Hammar, Tomas, Greta Brochmann, Kristof Tamas and Thomas Faist (eds). 1997. International Migration, Immobility and Development: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. Oxford: Berg.



Harker, Richard, Cheleen Mahar and Chris Wilkes. 1990. ‘The Basic Theoretical Position’, in Richard Harker, Cheleen Mahar and Chris Wilkes (eds) An Introduction to the Work of Pierre Bourdieu: The Practice of Theory, pp. 1–26. London: Macmillan. Harriss, John. 2001. Depoliticizing Development: The World Bank and Social Capital. New Delhi: LeftWord. Hasan, Mushirul (ed.). 1998. Knowledge, Power and Politics: Educational Institutions in India. New Delhi: Roli. Hasan, Zoya. 1989. ‘Power and Mobilization: Patterns of Resilience and Change in Uttar Pradesh Politics’, in Francine Frankel and M.S.A. Rao (eds) Dominance and State Power in Modern India: Decline of a Social Order, pp. 133–203. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 1998. Quest for Power: Oppositional Movements and Post-Congress Politics in Uttar Pradesh. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Hasan, Zoya and Ritu Menon. 2004. Unequal Citizens: A Study of Muslim Women in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Heuzé, Gerard. 1996. Workers of Another World: Miners, the Countryside and Coalfields in Dhanbad. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Hockey, John. 1986. Squaddies: Portrait of a Subculture. Exeter: Exeter University Publications. Holmström, Mark. 1976. South Indian Factory Workers: Their Life and their World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1984. Industry and Inequality: The Social Anthropology of Indian Labour. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Husain, Abid. 1965. The Destiny of Indian Muslims. Bombay: Asia Publishing House. Hutchinson, Sharon. 1996. Nuer Dilemmas. Berkeley: University of California Press. IIPS and ORC Macro. 2001. National Family Health Survey (NFHS-2), 1998–99: Madhya Pradesh. Mumbai: International Institute for Population Sciences. Illich, Ivan. 1973. Deschooling Society. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Jackson, Michael. 1989. Paths Toward a Clearing: Radical Empiricism and Ethnographic Inquiry. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Jafari, Ali Sardar. 1990. Committee on the Implementation of the Gujral Committee Report on Promotion of Urdu. New Delhi: Government of India. James, Allison. 1993. Childhood Identities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Jansen, Stef. 1998. ‘Homeless at Home: Narrations of Post-Yugoslav Identities’, in Nigel Rapport and Andrew Dawson (eds) Migrants of Identity: Perceptions of Home in a World of Movement, pp. 85–109. Oxford: Berg. Jeffery, Patricia and Roger Jeffery. 1998. ‘Silver Bullet or Passing Fancy? Girls’ Schooling and Population Policy’, in Cecile Jackson and Ruth Pearson (eds) Feminist Visions of Development: Gender Analysis and Policy, pp. 239–58. London and New York: Routledge. Jeffery, Patricia, Roger Jeffery and Craig Jeffrey. 2004. ‘Islamisation, Gentrification and Domestication: An “Islamic Course for Girls” and Rural Muslims in Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh’. Modern Asian Studies 34, 1: 1–53. ———. 2005. ‘The Mother’s Lap and the Civilising Mission: Madrasah Education and Rural Muslim girls in Western Uttar Pradesh’, in Zoya Hasan and Ritu Menon (eds) In a Minority: Essays on Muslim Women in India, pp. 108–48. New Delhi and New Jersey: Oxford University Press and Rutgers University Press. Jeffery, Roger and Patricia Jeffery. 1997. Population, Gender and Politics: Demographic Change in Rural North India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Educational Regimes in Contemporary India

Jeffery, Roger, Patricia Jeffery and Craig Jeffrey. 2001. ‘Social and Political Dominance in Western UP: A Response to Sudha Pai’. Contributions to Indian Sociology 35, 2: 213–36. ———. Forthcoming. ‘Parha’i ka Mahaul? An Educational Environment in Bijnor, UP’, in Geert De Neve and Henrike Donner (eds) Urban Localities in India. Jeffrey, Craig. 2001. ‘“A Fist is Stronger than Five Fingers”: Caste and Dominance in Rural North India’. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 26, 2: 217–36. Jeffrey, Craig and Jens Lerche. 2000. ‘Stating the Difference: State, Discourse and Class Reproduction in Uttar Pradesh, India’. Development and Change 31, 4: 857–78. Jeffrey, Craig, Roger Jeffery and Patricia Jeffery. 2004. ‘Degrees without Freedom: Assessing the Social and Economic Impact of Formal Education on Dalit Young Men in North India’. Development and Change 35, 5: 963–86. Jenkins, Rob. 1999. Democratic Politics and Economic Reform in India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Jensdottir, Regina. 2002. ‘“Qu’est-ce que la Charte des Langues Régionales ou Minoritaires ?”: Langues et Territoires’. Hérodote 2, 105: 169–77. Jha, J. and D. Jhingran. 2002. Elementary Education for the Poor and Other Deprived Groups. New Delhi: Centre for Policy Research. Kakar, Sudhir. 1981. The Inner World: A Psycho-analytic Study of Childhood and Society in India. 2nd edition. New Delhi and New York: Oxford University Press. Kalpagam, U. 2000. ‘Life Experiences, Resistance and Feminist Consciousness’. Indian Journal of Gender Studies 7, 2: 167–84. Keefer, Peter and Stuti Khemani. 2003. Democracy, Public Expenditures and the Poor. The World Bank. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3164. Khurshid, Salman. 1998. ‘Urdu: Mind the Language, Please’. The Nation, 13 May. King, Robert D. 1997. Nehru and the Language Politics of India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Kingdon, Geeta. 1994. ‘An Economic Evaluation of School Management Types in Urban India: A Case Study of Uttar Pradesh’. D.Phil: University of Oxford. Kingdon, Geeta and Mohammed Muzammil. 2001. ‘A Political Economy of Education in India’. Economic and Political Weekly 36, 32 and 33: 3052–62 and 3178–85. Kohli, Atul. 2001. ‘Introduction’, in Atul Kohli (ed.) The Success of India’s Democracy, pp. 1–19. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju. 1998. Language, Education and Society, Language Development and Society. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Kumar, Anuradha. 2002. ‘Adolescence and Sexuality in the Rajasthani Context’, in Lenore Manderson and Pranee Liamputtong (eds) Youth, Courtship and Sexuality: Coming of Age in South and Southeast Asia, pp. 58–74. Richmond: Curzon. Kumar, Krishna. 1991. Political Agenda of Education: A Study of Colonialist and Nationalist Ideas. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Kumar, Krishna, Manisha Priyam and Sadhna Saxena. 2001. ‘Beyond the Smokescreen: DPEP and Primary Education in India’. Economic and Political Weekly 36, 7: 560–68. Kumar, Nita. 1988. The Artisans of Banaras: Popular Culture and Identity, 1880–1986. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ———. 2000. Lessons from Schools: The History of Education in Banaras. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Kupfer, Joseph. 1983. Experience as Art: Aesthetics in Everyday Life. Albany: State University of New York.



La Fontaine, Jean. 1985. Initiation. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Language in India. 2001. ‘Languages of India According to the 1991 Census.’ Accessed on 7 November 2002. Lave, Jean and Etienne Wenger. 1991. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lele, Jayant. 1996. ‘Hindutva as Pedagogic Violence’, in Nigel Crook (ed.) The Transmission of Knowledge in South Asia, pp. 316–36. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Lerche, Jens. 1999. ‘Politics of the Poor: Agricultural Labourers and Political Transformations in Uttar Pradesh’, in Terence J. Byres, Karin Kapadia and Jens Lerche (eds) Rural Labour Relations in India, pp. 182–243. London: Frank Cass. Levinson, Bradley A. and Dorothy C. Holland. 1996. ‘The Cultural Production of the Educated Person: An Introduction’, in Bradley A. Levinson, Douglas E. Foley and Dorothy C. Holland (eds) The Cultural Production of the Educated Person: Critical Ethnographies of Schooling and Local Practice, pp. 1–56. Albany: State University of New York Press. Lieten, G. Kristoffel and Ravi Srivastava. 1999. Unequal Partners: Power Relations, Devolution and Development in Uttar Pradesh. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Lipsky, Michael. 1980. Street-Level Bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. Ludden, David. 1992. ‘India’s Development Regime’, in Nicholas Dirks (ed.) Colonialism and Culture, pp. 247–87. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Lughod, Lila Abu. 1987. Veiled Sentiments. Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press. Lynch, Kathleen. 1990. ‘Reproduction: The Role of Cultural Factors and Educational Mediators’, British Journal of Sociology of Education 11, 1: 3–20. MacDougall, David. 1999. ‘Social Aesthetics and the Doon School’, Visual Anthropology Review 15, 1: 3–20. Mandelbaum, David G. 1970. Society in India. Berkeley: University of California Press. Matthews, David. 2003. ‘Urdu Language and Education in India’, Social Scientist 31, 5–6: 57–72. McCann, Philip (ed.). 1977. Popular Education and Socialization in the Nineteenth Century. London: Methuen and Co. Ltd. Mendelsohn, Oliver and Marike Vicziany. 1998. The Untouchables: Subordination, Poverty and the State in Modern India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Metcalf, Barbara D. 1982. Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, l860–1900. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ———. 1990. Perfecting Women: Maulana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi’s Bihishti Zewar. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. ———. 2003. ‘Urdu in India in the 21st Century, A Historian’s Perspective’. Social Scientist 31, 5–6: 29–37. Minault, Gail. 1998. Secluded Scholars: Women’s Education and Muslim Social Reform in Colonial India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Ministry of Education. 1962. Report of the Committee on Emotional Integration. New Delhi: Government of India. Ministry of Education. 1986. National Policy on Education. New Delhi: Government of India.


Educational Regimes in Contemporary India

Ministry of Human Resource Development. 1993. Learning Without Burden. New Delhi: Government of India. ———. 1996. Programme of Action 1992. Faridabad: Government of India, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Education. ———. 1998. National Policy on Education 1986 (as modified in 1992) with National Policy on Education 1968. New Delhi: Government of India, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Education. Ministry of Law Justice and Company Affairs. 1973. Delhi School Education Act, Delhi. Misra, Salil. 2002. ‘From the Mainstream to the Margins: Urdu in North India’. Contemporary India 1, 2: 115–49. Mitchell, Clyde. 1969. ‘Urbanization, De-tribalization, Stabilization and Urban Commitment in South Africa’, in Paul Meadows and Ephraim Mizruchi (eds) Urbanism, Urbanization and Change, pp. 446–69. Reading: Addison Wesley. Moi, Toril. 1999. What is a Woman? And Other Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Moller, Joanne. 2003. ‘Responses to Modernity: Female Education, Gender Relations and Regional Identity in the Hills of Uttar Pradesh’, in Roger Jeffery and Jens Lerche (eds) Social and Political Change in Uttar Pradesh: European Perspectives, pp. 103–27. New Delhi: Manohar. Mooij, Jos and S. Mahendra Dev. 2002. Social Sector Priorities: An Analysis of Budgets and Expenditures. Institute of Development Studies: IDS Working Paper 164. Morphy, Howard. 1996. ‘1993 Debate: Aesthetics is a Cross-Cultural Category: For the Motion’, in Tim Ingold (ed.) Key Debates in Anthropology, pp. 249–93. London and New York: Routledge. Nambissan, Geetha. 1996. ‘Equity in Education? Schooling of Dalit Children in India’. Economic and Political Weekly, 31, 16: 1011–19. Nambissan, Geetha and Mona Sedwal. 2002. ‘Education for All: The Situation of Dalit Children in India’, in R. Govinda (ed.) India Education Report: A Profile of Basic Education, pp. 72–86. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. National Council for the Promotion of Urdu Language. 2002. ‘Urdu Medium Schools: A Survey’. Urdu Duniya, July: 8–11. National Council of Educational Research and Training. 1998. Sixth All-India Educational Survey: Main Report. New Delhi: National Council of Educational Research and Training. Nehru, Jawaharlal. 1985. Letters to Chief Ministers 1947–1964 Vol. 1, 1947–49. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, for the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund. ———. 1986. Letters to Chief Ministers 1947–1964 Vol. 2, 1950–52. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, for the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund. ———. 1988a. Letters to Chief Ministers 1947–1964 Vol. 3, 1952–54. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, for the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund. ———. 1988b. Letters to Chief Ministers 1947–1964 Vol. 4, 1954–57. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, for the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund. Niewenhuys, Oscar. 1998. ‘Global Childhood and the Politics of Contempt’, Alternatives 23, 3: 267–89. NLRC and People’s TV. 2002. Mukhya ham banbe. New Delhi and Mussoorie: National Literacy Resource Centre. Noorani, Abdul Ghafoor. 2003. The Muslims of India: A Documentary Record. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.



Omvedt, Gail. 2003. ‘The Struggle for Social Justice and the Expansion of the Public Sphere’, in Gurpreet Mahajan and Helmut Reifeld (eds) The Public and the Private: Issues of Democratic Citizenship, pp. 130–45. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Ong, Walter J. 1991. ‘The Shifting Sensorium’, in David Howes (ed.) The Varieties of Sensory Experience: A Sourcebook in the Anthropology of the Senses, pp. 25–30. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Oni, B. 1988. ‘Education and Alternative Avenues of Mobility: A Nigerian Study’. Comparative Education Review 32, 1: 87–99. Orsini, Francesca. 1999. ‘What do they Mean by “Public”? Language, Literature and the Politics of Nationalism’. Economic and Political Weekly 34, 7: 409–16. ———. 2002. The Hindi Public Sphere 1920–1940: Language and Literature in the Age of Nationalism. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Pai, Sudha. 2000. ‘New Social and Political Movements of Dalits: A Study of Meerut District’. Contributions to Indian Sociology 34, 2: 189–220. ———. 2002. Dalit Assertion and the Unfinished Democratic Revolution: The Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Palriwala, Rajni. 1999. ‘Beyond Myths: The Social and Political Dynamics of Gender’, in Naila Kabeer and Ramya Subrahmanian (eds) Institutions, Relations and Outcomes, pp. 49–79. New Delhi: Kali for Women. Pannikar, K.N. 2002. ‘Whither Indian Education?’ in K.N. Pannikar (ed.) An Agenda for Cultural Action and Other Essays, pp. 71–86. New Delhi: Three Essays Press. Parasuraman, S. and ActionAid. 2003. Listening to People Living in Poverty. Bangalore: Books for Change. Parry, Jonathan P. 1999a. ‘Lords of Labour: Working and Shirking in Bhilai’. Contributions to Indian Sociology 33, 1&2: 107–40. ———. 1999b. ‘Two Cheers for Reservation: The Satnamis and the Steel Plant’, in Ramachandra Guha and Jonathan Parry (eds) Institutions and Inequalities: Essays in Honour of André Béteille, pp. 128–69. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 2000. ‘The “Crisis of Corruption” and “The Idea of India”: A Worm’s Eye View’, in I. Pardo (ed.) Morals and Legitimacy: Between Agency and System, pp. 27–55. Oxford: Berghahn Books. ———. 2001. ‘Ankalu’s Errant Wife: Sex, Marriage and Industry in Contemporary Chhattisgarh’, Modern Asian Studies 35, 4: 783–820. ———. 2004. ‘The Marital History of “A Thumb-Impression Man”’, in David Arnold and Stuart Blackburn (eds) Telling Lives: South Asian Life Histories, pp. 281–317. Delhi: Permanent Black. ———. Forthcoming. The Sacrifices of Modernity in a Soviet-built Steel Town in Central India. Pernau, Margrit. 2002. ‘Motherhood and Female Identity: Religious Advice Literature for Women in German Catholicism and Indian Islam’, in Margrit Pernau, Imtiaz Ahmad and Helmut Reifeld (eds) Family and Gender: Changing Values in Germany and India, pp. 140–61. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Pinney, Chris. 1995. ‘An Authentic Indian “Kitsch”: The Aesthetics, Discriminations and Hybridity of Popular Indian Art’. Social Analysis 38, 88–105. Pollard, Andrew. 2002. Reflective Teaching. London: Continuum. Powell, Avril. 1996. ‘Perceptions of the South Asian Past: Ideology, Nationalism and School History Textbooks’, in Nigel Crook (ed.) The Transmission of Knowledge in South


Educational Regimes in Contemporary India

Asia: Essays on Education, Religion, History and Politics, pp. 190–228. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Prashad, Vijay. 2001. Untouchable Freedom: A Social History of the Dalit Community. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Press Information Bureau. 2001. Press Release. 19 December, New Delhi: Government of India. Programme of Action. 1992. 1996. Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Faridabad. Putnam, Robert D., Robert Leonardi and Raffaela Y. Nanetti. 1993. Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Qadri, A.W.B., Riaz Shakir Khan and Mohammad Akhtar Siddiqi. 1997. Education in Dini Madrasas. Delhi: Institute of Objective Studies and Qazi Publishers. Qamaruddin. 1997. Hindustan Ki Deeni Darsgahen. New Delhi: Hamdard Education Society. Rahman, Tariq. 1996. Language-teaching and Power in Pakistan. Karachi: Oxford University Press. Raina, Vinod K. 2002. ‘Decentralisation of Education’, in R. Govinda (ed.) India Education Report: A Profile of Basic Education, pp. 111–20. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Rampal, Anita. 2002. ‘Texts in Context: Development of Curricula, Textbooks and Teaching Learning Materials’, in R. Govinda (ed.) India Education Report, pp. 151–66. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Rampal, Anita and Tultul Biswas. 1996. ‘Children Voice Concern’. Seminar, 443: 21–9. Rampal, Anita and Manimala. 2002. Nav Vikas Le Sabjan Padbo. Mussoorie/New Delhi: National Literacy Resource Centre/Books For Change. Rana, K., Abdur Rafique and Amrita Sengupta. 2002. The Pratichi Education Report. Delhi: Pratichi (India) Trust. Rani, Asha. 2004. ‘Languages as a Marker of Religious Difference’, in Imtiaz Ahmad and Helmut Reifeld (eds) Lived Islam in South Asia: Adaptation, Accommodation and Conflict, pp. 149–65. New Delhi: Social Science Press. Rajan, Anjana. 2002. ‘The Long Road to School’. The Hindu 4 July. Rapport, Nigel. 1998. ‘Coming Home to a Dream: A Study of Immigrant Discourse of “Anglo-Saxons” in Israel’, in Nigel Rapport and Andrew Dawson (eds) Migrants of Identity: Perceptions of Home in a World of Movement, pp. 61–83. Oxford: Berg. Rapport, Nigel and Andrew Dawson. 1998. ‘Home and Movement: A Polemic’, in Nigel Rapport and Andrew Dawson (eds) Migrants of Identity: Perceptions of Home in a World of Movement, pp. 19–38. Oxford: Berg. Read, Kenneth E. 1952. ‘Nama Cult of the Central Highlands New Guinea’. Oceania 23, 1: 1–25. Ricoeur, Paul. 1981. Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ritzer, George. 1996. The McDonaldization of Society: An Investigation into the Changing Character of Contemporary Social Life. Thousand Oaks, Calif. and London: Pine Forge Press. Robertson, George, Melinda Mash, Lisa Tickner, Jon Bird, Barry Curtis and Tim Putnam (eds). 1994. Travellers’ Tales: Narratives of Home and Displacement. London: Routledge.



Robertson, Roland. 1994. ‘Globalisation or Glocalisation?’ Journal of International Communication 1, 1: 33–52. Robinson, James H. 2003. The Mind in the Making. New Delhi: Rupa and Company. Rosselli, John. 1980. ‘The Self-Image of Effeteness: Physical Education and Rationalism in Nineteenth Century Bengal’. Past and Present 86, 121–48. Rudolph, Susanne H. and Lloyd I. Rudolph (eds). 1972. Education and Politics in India: Studies in Organization, Society and Policy. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. Russell, Robert V. 1916. The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India. London: Macmillan. SAHMAT. 2001. The Saffron Agenda in Education: An Exposé. New Delhi: Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust. ———. 2002a. Against Communalisation of Education. New Delhi: Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust. ———. 2002b. Communalisation of Education: The Assault on History. New Delhi: Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust. ———. 2002c. Saffronised and Substandard: A Critique of the New NCERT Textbooks. New Delhi: Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust. ———. 2003. Plagiarised and Communalised: More on the NCERT Textbooks. New Delhi: Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust. Sarangapani, Padma M. 1999. ‘The Child’s Construction of Knowledge’, in T.S. Saraswathi (ed.) Culture, Socialization and Human Development: Theory, Research and Applications in India, pp. 85–122. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Saraswathi, T.S. 1999. ‘Adult–Child Continuity in India: Is Adolescence a Myth or an Emerging Reality?’ in T.S. Saraswathi (ed.) Culture, Socialization and Human Development: Theory, Research and Applications in India, pp. 213–32. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Sarkar, Tanika. 1996. ‘Educating the Children of the Hindu Rashtra: Notes on RSS Schools’, in Praful Bidwai, Harbans Mukhia and Achin Vanaik (eds) Religion, Religiosity and Communalism, pp. 237–47. Delhi: Manohar. Sassen, Saskia. 1988. The Mobility of Labour and Capital: A Study in International Investment and Labour Flow. New York: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1991. The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Scott, James. 1985. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Sen, Abhijit. 1997. ‘Structural Adjustment and Rural Poverty: Variables that Really Matter’, in G.K. Chadha and A.N. Sharma (eds) Growth, Employment and Poverty: Change and Continuity in Rural India, New Delhi: Vikas. Sen, Amartya. 2000a. Development as Freedom. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 2000b. Social Exclusion: Concept, Application, and Scrutiny. Asian Development Bank: Social Development Papers 1. Seymour, Susan. 2002. ‘Family and Gender Systems in Transition: A Thirty-five Year Perspective’, in Diane P. Mines and Sarah Lamb (eds) Everyday Life in South Asia, pp. 100–15. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Shah, Ghanshyam (ed.). 2001. Dalit Identity and Politics (Cultural Subordination and the Dalit Challenge, Vol. 2). New Delhi and Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Shariff, Abusaleh. 1999. India Human Development Report: A Profile of Indian States in the 1990s. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.


Educational Regimes in Contemporary India

Sharma, O.P. and Robert Retherford. 1993. Literacy Trends in the 1980s in India. Faridabad: Government of India Press. Sharma, R. 2000. ‘Decentralisation, Professionalism and the School System in India’, Economic and Political Weekly 35, 42: 3765–74. Sharma, Rita and Thomas Poleman. 1993. The New Economics of India’s Green Revolution: Income and Employment Diffusion in Uttar Pradesh. Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press. Sheth, Dhirubhai L. 1995. ‘The Great Language Debate’, in Bhikhu Parekh and Upendra Baxi (eds) Crisis and Change in Contemporary India, pp. 187–215. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Shukla, Shrilal. 1992. Raag Durbari (trans.) Gillian Wright. New Delhi: Penguin Books. Simon, Brian. 1965. Education and the Labour Movement 1870–1920. London: Lawrence and Wishart. Singh, Jagpal. 1995. Political Economy of Unaided and Unrecognised Schools: A Study of Meerut District of Western Uttar Pradesh. New Delhi: National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration. Sinha, Mrinalini. 1995. Colonial Masculinity: The ‘Manly Englishman’ and the ‘Effeminate Bengali’ in the Late Nineteenth Century. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Srinivas, M.N. 1987. The Dominant Caste and Other Essays. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Srivastava, Sanjay. 1998. Constructing Post-Colonial India: National Character and the Doon School. London and New York: Routledge. Steinberg, Laurence. 1984. ‘Adolescence’. The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. Accessed on 16 July 2003. Steinmetz, George. 1999. State/Culture: New Approaches to the State after the Cultural Turn. Durham: Duke University Press. Strathern, Marilyn. 1992. After Nature: English Kinship in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Subrahmanian, Ramya. 2002. ‘Engendering Education: Prospects for a Rights-Based Approach to Female Education Deprivation in India’, in Maxine Molyneux and Shahra Razawi (eds) Gender Justice, Development and Rights, pp. 204–36. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Subrahmanian, Ramya, Yusuf Sayed, Sarada Balagopalan and Crain Soudien (eds) 2003. Education Inclusion and Exclusion (IDS Bulletin, Vol. 34, No. 1). Brighton: Institute of Development Studies. Sundar, Nandini. 2004. Teaching to Hate: RSS’ Pedagogical Programme. Economic and Political Weekly 39, 16: 1605–12. Suroor, Ali. 1983. Committee on the Gujral Committee’s Recommendations on Urdu. New Delhi: Government of India. Talib, Mohammed. 2003. ‘Modes of Learning–Labour Relations: Educational Strategies and Child Labour’, in Naila Kabeer, Geetha Nambissan and Ramya Subrahmanian (eds) Child Labour and the Right to Education in South Asia: Needs versus Rights?, pp. 143–63. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Thapan, Meenakshi. 1991. Life at School: An Ethnographic Study. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. The Probe Team. 1999. Public Report on Basic Education in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.



Tooley, James. 2001. The Enterprise of Education: Opportunities and Challenges for India. Liberty Institute Occasional Papers 6. United Progressive Alliance. 2004. ‘UPA Government to Adhere to Six Basic Principles of Governance: Text of the Common Minimum Programme released by the United Progressive Alliance in New Delhi on Thursday’. The Hindu 28 May. Venkatachalaiah, M.N. 1999. ‘Language and Politics: Status of Urdu in India’. Economic and Political Weekly 34, 26: 1659–60. Verma, Suman and T.S. Saraswathi. 2002. ‘Adolescence in India: Street Urchins or Silicon Valley Millionaires?’, in B. Bradford Brown, Reed W. Larson and T.S. Saraswathi (eds) The World’s Youth: Adolescence in Eight Regions of the World, pp. 105–40. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Viswanathan, Gauri. 1989. Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India. New York: Columbia University Press. Vreede-de Stuers, Cora. 1968. Parda: A Study of Women’s Life in Northern India. Assen: Van Gorcum. Watson, James (ed.). 1977. Between Two Cultures. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Weiner, Myron. 2001. ‘The Struggle for Equality: Caste in Indian Politics’, in Atul Kohli (ed.) The Success of India’s Democracy, pp. 193–225. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Willis, Paul. 1977. Learning to Labour: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs. Farnborough: Saxon House, Teakfield Ltd. Willis, Paul, Simon Jones, Joyce Canaan and Geoff Hurd. 1990. Common Culture: Symbolic Work at Play in the Everyday Cultures of the Young. Buckingham: Open University Press. World Bank. 1997. Primary Education in India. Development in Practice. Washington DC: World Bank. World Congress on Language Policies. 2002. indexang.html. Accessed on 17 July 2004.






THE EDITORS RADHIKA CHOPRA is Reader, Department of Sociology, University of Delhi. Her research focus is on gender and masculinity. She was co-chair of the UN Expert Group which prepared the document ‘Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality’, adopted at the Commission for the Status of Women in March 2004. Her previous publications include From Violence to Supportive Practice: Family, Gender and Masculinities in India (edited, 2002), and South Asian Masculinities: Context of Change, Sites of Continuity (co-edited with Caroline Osella and Filippo Osella, 2004). PATRICIA JEFFERY is Professor of Sociology, Edinburgh University. Her research focuses on gender and communal politics among Hindus and Muslims in South Asia. Her publications include Resisting the Sacred and Secular: Women’s Activism and Politicized Religion in South Asia (co-edited with Amrita Basu, 1999), and Confronting Saffron Demography: Religion, Fertility and Women’s Status in India (co-edited with Roger Jeffery, forthcoming).

THE CONTRIBUTORS SARADA BALAGOPALAN is at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). Her research interests include schooling, children’s rights and marginal childhoods. She is currently working on a manuscript on street children, education and the construction of an ‘ideal’ childhood.

About the Editors and Contributors


VÉRONIQUE BÉNÉÏ is Senior Research Fellow in Anthropology at the London School of Economics and at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Maison Française, Oxford. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in India. She has authored La dot en Inde: un fléau social? Socio-anthropologie du mariage au Maharashtra (1996) and her co-edited volumes include The Everyday State and Society in Modern India (2000) and At Home in Diaspora: South Asian Scholars and the West (2003). Her latest edited volume, Manufacturing Citizenship: Education and Nationalism in Europe, South Asia, China, is due to appear this year. RUMMAN HAMEED is studying the Lahori community in India, Pakistan and Iran. She is Country Coordinator for South Asians for Human Rights and has been a Research Fellow at Sarai, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, and a Consultant to the Planning Commission, Government of India. Her interests include gender, masculinity and forest dependant communities. She has published ‘Fathers and Sons: The Family Business’ (in From Violence to Supportive Practice: Family, Gender and Masculinities in India, Radhika Chopra [ed.], 2002). ROGER JEFFERY is Professor of Sociology of South Asia at Edinburgh University. His interests include social demography, agrarian change and education in post-liberalisation India. His recent publications include Social and Political Change in Uttar Pradesh: European Perspectives (co-edited with Jens Lerche, 2003) and ‘Patterns and Discourses of the Privatisation of Secondary Schooling in Bijnor, UP’ (with Patricia Jeffery and Craig Jeffrey, in The Politics of Education in South Asia, Joachim Österheld and Krishna Kumar [eds], 2004). CRAIG JEFFREY is lecturer in Geography at Edinburgh University. His interests include state/society relations and the politics of agrarian change in contemporary India. Forthcoming publications include ‘“A Useless Thing” or “Nectar of the Gods”? The Cultural Production of Education and Young Men’s Struggles for Respect in Liberalizing North India’ (Annals of the Association of American Geographers) and ‘Karate, Computers and the Qur’a-n: Zamir’ (in Muslim Portraits, Mukulika Banerjee [ed.]).


Educational Regimes in Contemporary India

DAVID MACDOUGALL is a Professorial Fellow at the Centre for CrossCultural Research, Australian National University. He is an ethnographic and documentary filmmaker and a writer on cinema. His films include the Turkana Conversations trilogy (1976–79), Photo Wallahs (1991), Tempus de Baristas (1993) and Doon School Quintet (2000–2003). His publications include a book of essays entitled Transcultural Cinema (1998). ELSPETH PAGE is completing her Ph.D. at the University of London Institute of Education. She has been a primary teacher, an in-service teacher trainer and development education volunteer in the UK. She has also been a VSO primary teacher trainer in Gambia, and an assistant education adviser with DFID in London and India. She has published ‘Unsettling Caste-Bound Gender Orders: The Convergence of Teacher Commitment and Pupil Aspiration in Two Schools in Madhya Pradesh, India’ (Educate, 2003, 3: 35–52). JONATHAN PARRY is Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His publications include Caste and Kinship in Kangra (1979); Death in Banaras (1994); Death and the Regeneration of Life (co-edited with Maurice Bloch, 1989); The World of Indian Industrial Labour (co-edited with Jan Breman and Karin Kapadia, 1999); and Institutions and Inequalities (co-edited with Ramachandra Guha, 1999). ANITA RAMPAL is Professor of Elementary and Social Education at Delhi University. She has been involved in the All India People’s Science Network, the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, the Hoshangabad Science Teaching Programme and mass literacy campaigns. Her academic interests include curriculum restructuring, teacher education and the assessment of children’s learning, the language of science, understanding indigenous knowledge systems, and cross-cultural studies of orality and literacy. HELMUT REIFELD is presently head of division ‘planning and concepts’ at Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Berlin. He was representative of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in India from 1997 to 2003. He has recently co-edited Pluralism and Equality: Values in Indian Society and Politics; Peace as Process: Reconciliation and Conflict Resolution in South Asia; Family and Gender: Changing Values in Germany and India;

About the Editors and Contributors


The Public and the Private: Issues of Democratic Citizenship; The Value of Nature: Ecological Politics in India; and Lived Islam in South Asia: Accommodation, Adaptation and Conflict. RAMYA SUBRAHMANIAN is a Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex. Her research interests focus on gender and social development, education exclusion, child labour and social policy. She has co-edited Child Labour and the Right to Education in South Asia: Needs versus Rights? (with Naila Kabeer and Geetha Nambissan, 2003) and Institutions, Relations and Outcomes: A Framework and Case Studies for Gender-Aware Planning (with Naila Kabeer, 1999, 2000). MEENAKSHI THAPAN is Professor of Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics. She has earlier taught at the Department of Education, University of Delhi and has published Life at School. An Ethnographic Study (Delhi, 1991). She has also edited Embodiment. Essays on Gender and Identity (Delhi, 1997) and Anthropological Journeys: Reflections on Fieldwork (Delhi, 1998). ANNE VAUGIER-CHATTERJEE is Adviser-Political Affairs in the European Commission Delegation to India. She was previously Head of the Department of Political Science at the Centre de Sciences Humaines, New Delhi. She has also authored several articles on Indian social and political affairs and a book on the political history of Punjab. Her edited volume includes Education and Democracy in India (2004). MAREIKE JULE WINKELMANN is a Ph.D. Candidate with the ISIM in Leiden, The Netherlands and her research project deals with girls’ madrasahs in India. Her other academic interests relate to the question of female religious authority in Islam and female Muslim activists in India.


absenteeism, 291 academic performance, 76 access to education, schooling, 20, 37, 67–70, 78, 84, 190, 237–38 accountability of schools and teachers, 178 active learning, 29 Adivasis. See Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes adolescence, rural and urban, 216–17 adult illiteracy, 179 adulthood, 16, 30, 34–38, 135, 216–17, 227, 265, 299 affirmative action, 21, 65, 78 agriculture, 287; commodification, 303 Ahl-e-hadith, 162 aided schools, 55–57, 59; privatisation, 47–49 Ali Ahmed Suroor Committee, 115 All-India Urdu Conference, 110 alternative schools, 96 Ambedkar, B.R., 257, 262 Ambedkar schools, 59 apprenticeship, 34, 202, 204, 211, 213; men’s world, 209–10 authoritative knowledge and creativity, 28 authority, 32, 35, 79, 121, 183, 212, 250 autonomy, 157, 190 Backward Classes Commission, 21 backwardness, 71, 79 Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), 257, 270 Bairwas, 69–70 Bakht, Feroz Ahmed, 111 Barelwis, 162 barha-ñ-. See carpentery

basic education, 17 Baumgarten, Alexander, 121 Begusarai, Bihar, 239; campaign to continuing education, 244–46; politics, 241; school enrolment, 237, 250; women, education and panchayat, 240–44; Zila Saksharta Samiti (ZSS), 245–48, 252 behavioural and situational plasticity, 145 Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS), 241, 244 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), 22, 37–38 Bhat, Hamidullah, 115 Bhilai, Madhya Pradesh, child labour, 288–89 Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP), 276–96 Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh, dalit young men and formal education, 256–75; demographic features, 260; gender differentials in schooling, 55–56; literacy rate, 42; population, 42; schooling and cultural capital, 262–66; secondary schooling, 43–44, 47–52; social inequalities, 54–58 Bina district, Madhya Pradesh, 180; adult literacy, 181 bookish knowledge, 213 bourgeois, 44, 84, 257 brahma-cha-rya, 155 Brahmans, 21, 52, 72, 142, 295–96 Bretton-Woods institutions, 84 British public school system, 134 bullying, 30 bureaucracy, 264, 269 butchery (qasa-ñ-), 198, 199, 200, 203–5, 210

Index Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), 85 capability deprivation, 62 capacity building, 66 carpentery (barha-ñ-), 198, 199, 200, 208–9, 210 caste issue, caste system, discrimination, hierarchy, 16, 21–23, 27, 31, 34, 36, 52, 57, 58, 62, 64–65, 67, 70–71, 73–76, 78–79, 81–82, 124, 142, 178–79, 181–82, 184, 238, 257, 258–59, 264, 266, 275 n8, 277–78, 282, 293; class and childhood, 297 Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), 51–52 certification, 185 Chamars, 257–61; awareness, 262; failure to secure employment, 270–74; schooling and cultural capital, 262–66; search for secure employment, 266–70 change-in-break, 136 character training, 129 cheating, 251 child labour, 83–84, 86, 87–88, 94, 97, 288–90 child marriage, 280 child-adult continuity, 217 child-at-risk, 84 child-centered learning, 89 childhood, 216–17, 286–87, 297; to adulthood, transition, 299; as a career, 290–94; extended, 294–96 children, children’s, domestic labour, 287; experiences in school, 86–95; physical relationships with playmates, 283–86 Christians, 22 citizenship, 23, 84, 148, 155 civic responsibility, 29 civil society, 84, 91, 116 civilisation, 19, 265 clan (bira-darñ-), 203


class issue, differentiation, hierarchies, 23, 34, 60, 142, 182, 184, 216, 259, 260, 270, 282, 297, 299, 303 classroom, 79, 188, 197; etiquettes, 30; interaction, 186; relationships, 76; seating arrangements, 30; size, 48 clothing, 135–36, 137 club schools, 24, 85–86 co-educational schooling, 188 colonial policy, 134 colonisation process, 100 commercial mentality with sacredness, 214 commercialisation, commoditisation of education, 34, 38 commitment, 35, 79, 81, 187, 195 Committee on National and Emotional Integration, 254 Common Minimum Programme (CMP), 37 communalism in education, communalisation of education, 18, 37–38, 45 community, community institutions, 27, 30–31, 34, 54–55, 57–58, 60, 67, 96–97, 117, 176, 198, 232, 238, 239, 243, 314; based decision-making, 80; geographical setting, 121; governance, 24; involvement, 79, 85, 89–92; and language link, 114; liaison work, 76; ownership of schools, 65–66, 78; resources, 116 compensation, 287 competition, 251 competitive admission tests, 50 competitive individualism, 30 concsiousness, 132, 133, 136, 223 confidence, 35, 36, 189, 242, 266 conflicting values, conflicts, 212, 250–54 Congress, 18, 21, 37, 38, 45, 115 consciousness, conscientious, 178, 231 Constitution, 14, 81, 100, 103, 115, 117, 257; 93rd Amendment, 96 consumerism, 22, 26


Educational Regimes in Contemporary India

contestation, 213 continuing education centres (CECs), 245–47 Convention on the Rights of Child, 84 cooperation, 26 corporal punishment. See punishment corruption, 18, 183, 241, 257, 264 costs of schooling, 54 craft apprenticeships, 29 craftwork, usta-d–sha-gird relationship, 198–214 cramming, 28 creativity and initiative, 28, 183, 199, 209, 211, 232 credentialism, 59, 257 cultural, culture, 18, 121, 212, 217, 308; beliefs, 59; dimensions, 65; diversity, 22; heritage, 112, 116; identity, 125; landscape, 308; and moral standards, decline, 18; revival, 23; turn, 158 n4 cultural capital, 36, 37, 183, 188, 214, 253, 262–66, 272–73 curriculum, 81, 264; irrelevance, 238 dalits and adivasis. See Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes dars-e-niza-mi, 160, 163, 164 Das, Satish Ranjan, 125 decentralisation, 65, 81 decision-making, 71, 300–301 degrees, worthlessness, 270 Delhi School Education Act, 1973, 106, 108 Delhi State Council For Educational Research And Training, (SCERT), 109 democracy, 13–14, 19, 179 Deobandis, 162, 163 deprivation, 66, 237, 257 Devanagari script, 104 development issue, 15, 17, 42, 117 developmental state, 82; teachers and management of inclusion, 77–80 diaspora, 308, 314 dignity, 35, 36, 67, 238, 266 dñ-nñ- (religious) knowledge, 160

disciplinary mechanisms, 71 discipline, 18, 23, 29, 30, 135, 142–45, 154, 155–57, 209; power and resistance, 211–13 discrimination, 38, 75–76, 78, 81, 181, 189, 238, 258, 270 disempowerment, 33 District Primary Education Programme (DPEP), 41 diversity issues in education, 15–16, 26–27, 100, 253–54 domestic, harmony, 31; political pressures, 21; violence, 291 domesticity, 188, 192; and marriage, 223–32 domination, ideology of, 155 Doon School aesthetics, 121–40 duniya-vi (worldly) knowledge, 160 Durg Middle School, Bhilai, Chhattisgarh, 277 early marriage, 33 economic aspect of education, 18–20, 70, 82, 214, 239, 270, 274, 299–300 education, educational, 13; as a commodity, 20; policy, 19, 21; politics, 14; priorities, 14, 19; quality, 33; roles, 24; and society, dialectical relationship, 250; standards, 17; and the state, changing context, 16–25 Education Committee, 71; status, 216; systems, 63 Education for All, 19, 38; the policy challenge, 80–82 Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS), 180, 181 egalitarianism, 18, 32, 82, 124 electoral process, 241 elementary education, schools, 17, 33, 247; and socio-economic development, 179 embodiment, 21, 216, 232 Emergency (1975–77), 45 emigration, 308 emotional and psychological space, 136, 231, 232

Index employment opportunities and education, 17, 20–21, 34–36, 67, 256–59, 261, 264–65, 266–73, 297 English language education, 19, 20, 63, 100, 104, 107, 116, 291 English medium schools, institutions, 47, 57, 269, 292, 305–6 enrolment ratio, enrolments, 41, 46 entrepreneurship, 24 environmental concerns, 154 equal proficiency, 124 equality, 15, 24, 63, 65, 78, 79, 81, 113, 172, 187; of access, 19; of opportunity, 65 equity, 13, 23, 45, 60, 63, 78, 79, 178, 183, 250 erotics, 135 ethics, 231 ethnic discrimination, inequality, ethnicity, 81, 178, 179, 182 ethnography, 301–2 ethos of schooling, 24, 32, 66–67, 121, 156, 187 evaluation system, 251 examination, examination system, 27–29, 50, 183, 251; failure, 33; performance, 24 exclusion, 24, 42 exclusionary impact, practices, 75–76 experimentation, 26 fagging, 30 fallback occupations, 268 family, familial, cultural location, 299; norms, 220; perceptions, 223; relations, ties, 218–20;— military school and, 146–48; reproduction, 312–13; role in education, 31–34; space, reconstructing at school, 149–51; strategies and education, 303–8 family abhorrence, 194; atmosphere, 148; life, decline, 22 fatalism, 300 father-son relationship, 145, 146 favouritism, 45


Fa-zila-, 167, 176 female public sphere participation, 178 femaleness, 155, 156 femininity, 32, 156–57, 192, 194, 228; roles and experiences, 151–53 fertility, 19, 36, 263 fiqh (Islamic law), 163, 167 fiscal crisis , 20, 42, 46–47, 54 fiscal mechanism, 71 Foot, Arthur Edward, 127 Forest Research Institute, Dehra Dun, 125 formal education, failure to alter economic position, 270–74; schooling, 33, 36, 141 Forum For Friends of Education, 111 Foucault, Michel, 15 Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2004, 96 freedom, 13, 33 funding and management patterns of secondary schools, 45 games, children play, 283–86; and physical fitness, 126 Gandhi, Indira, 44, 115 Gandhi, M.K., 125, 127 Gandhi, Rajiv, 38, 124 gangsterism, 292 gender, gender issues, discrimination, inequality, 23, 27, 31, 34, 36, 54–56, 60, 67, 76, 79, 88, 145–46, 152–53, 155, 160, 178, 179, 182–83, 185, 187, 209, 216, 223, 232–33, 238, 291, 299, 300, 314; construction, 141, 142, 156, 158; equality, equity, 33, 187, 195; nation-state and the making of new citizen, 153–58 gendered aspirations, 190 geographical inaccessibility, 27 ghettoisation process, 59, 114 Ghosh, Amitav, 124 girls, girls’, education, schooling, 30, 57, 281, 300; non-participation, 182; participation, 32, 66, 187, 192; performance, 181 Girvi, Chhattisgarh, 278


Educational Regimes in Contemporary India

globalisation, 26, 38, 42 governance as an arena of policy and practice, 70–71 government intervention, 18; and civil society partnership, 85 government aided schools, 43, 47 government intermediate colleges, 57–58 government schools, 43, 44, 47, 55–57, 59, 68–69, 84; declining standards, 95; erosion, 250; privatisation, 47–49 grading and assessment systems, 20, 50 group identities, 78, 180 Gujral, Inder Kumar, 115 Gurukul, 16 Gyan Vigyan Kendra (GVK), 246–47 habitus, 121, 259 Hali, Hussain, 161 Hamdard Education Society, Delhi, 162 harassment, 59 hard work, 238 hegemony, 63, 241 hereditary transmission, 214 hidden curriculum, 30 hierarchical male orientation, 157 hierarchy, hierarchies, 16, 29, 30–31, 90, 137, 183, 198, 200, 266 Hindi, 101–7, 116; and Urdu, commonality, 104–5 Hindi-medium schools, 57, 291 Hindus, Hinduism, 22, 23, 38, 42, 44, 52, 54, 142, 180–81, 278, 280, 296, 297; dominated schools, 58; and Muslim syncretism, 105 Hindustani, 105 home environment, gendered, 188–89 homesickness, 137, 147 homework, 79, 290 household, context, change, 280–83; gendered economy, 88 human, humanity, 19, 186, 265; behaviour, 260; capital, 19; development, 14, 239; rights, 26 hunger and health, 278–80

iconography, 258 identities, identity, 21, 22, 23, 33, 73–74, 85, 137, 219 ideological, differences, 213; orientations, 14, 52; stress, 281 illiteracy, 14, 19, 96, 99 impoverishment, 70, 257 inclusion, 13, 20, 24, 63, 77–82 inclusive schooling, policy discourses, 65–66, 76 Indian Council of Secondary Education (ICSE), 51–52 individualistic competitiveness, 26 individuality, individual agency, 121, 128, 300 industrial hierarchy, 36 industrialisation, 276 ineducability, 24, 72–73, 75 inequalities, inequality, 18, 21, 26, 30, 34, 35, 38, 62, 189, 239, 250; of access, 27; of opportunity, 59 inequities, 58 informal learning, 26 informal processes, 18 information technology, 14, 102 infrastructure, inadequacy, 109–11, 257 initiation, 154, 211 institutional, institutions, 23–24, 27–30; indifference, 33; and their pupil’s families, 31–34; response and responsibility, 113–17; settings, 26 Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) integration, 150, 254 international baccalaureate, 20 international donor agencies, 18, 41 International Labour Organisation (ILO), 289 international migration, 36 international perceptions, 19 Islam, Islamic, 172, 176; feminism, 172; traditionalism, 172; primary education, 160–61; reforms, 32; schools of thought, 162 Jafari, Ali Sardar, 115 Jagdish Prasad, 126

Index Jamaat-e-Islami-e-Hind, 162 Jamia Millia Islamia, 109 Jamia Noorul Islam, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, 163, 167 Jamiatul Banaath Madrasah, Delhi, 163–65, 174–75; adab (value education), 169–74; parda and the body, 165–67; struggle for recognition, 176 Jamiatus Salehat, Malegaon, Maharashtra, 163, 170 Jan Shikshan Sansthan (People’s Education Institute), 248 Janata Dal, 115 Jats, 42, 262, 266; employment, 273; schooling, 263–65; search for secure employment, 268–69 job security, 36, 264 job-work, 211 Joshi, Murli Manohar, 22, 37, 110 junior high schools, 57 Kala Jatha, 242–45 ka-rigars, 200 Khadijatul Kubra, Delhi, 174–75 Khurshid, Salman, 115 kinship, 91, 133, 218, 220 knowledge, 16, 34, 35, 183, 186, 199–201, 204, 269, 301, 306; acquisition, 29, 310; outside school, 197 Kolhapur District Secondary Education Board, 145 Kolkata, community club schools, 84–95 Korkus, 73 La Martiniere, Calcutta, 125 labour class, labour market, 34, 198, 283, 292–93, 303, 311; sexual division, 223 language, language issue, 99–117; hierarchy, 100, 102; politicisation, 102, 104, 106, 114, 117; the vehicle of tradition and change, 99


learning, learning process, 33, 79, 185, 194, 199, 201, 204, 214, 314; non-school system, 197; through participation, 197–98; regimens, 16 liberalisation, 38, 42, 59, 65, 256 linguistic heritage, 115 linguistic minority, 107–9, 113–15 literacy, 18, 20, 24, 28, 35, 36, 67, 94, 243 literacy campaign, 239 living and learning relationship, 199 local knowledge system, decimation, 63 Madhya Pradesh, dalits and Adivasis, 180; District Primary Education Programme (DPEP), 180–81; Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS), 66, 71, 78, 80; female illiteracy rate, 179; gender and government elementary education, 178–95; Jan Shiksha Adhiniyam (Peoples Education Act), 2002, 71, 180, 202; policy discourse, 179; School Education Committees, 71; schooling, 65–66; —access to, 67–70 Madhyamik Shikshak Sangh (Secondary Teachers’ Union), 45 madrasah, 16, 31, 32, 54, 59, 111–14, 261 Maharashtra, military schools, 142–43 Mahars, 295 male, maleness, 156; domination, 209, 181, 185; female dichotomy, 182; guardianship, 167; identity, 209; initiation rituals, 141; knowledge, 315 n8; to-male relationships, 145; personhood, 148; prospects, 155; socialisation, 151, 156. See also masculinity Malegaon, Maharashtra, girls’ madrasah, 163 ma-lguza-r, 277 Malik, Iqbal, 111


Educational Regimes in Contemporary India

management of educational system, 80–81, 178, 184 Mandal, B.P. 21 manual labour, 70, 264 Marathas, 142 marginal children, marginality, 17, 24, 84 market economy, 65; valorisation, 20 marketability, 20 marriage, marriage market, 33–35, 217–20, 256, 261, 300 marriage age and education, 36, 247–48 masculine, masculinity, 30, 32, 145, 151, 154–56, 190; modernity, 155; physique, 154; recognition, 150 masters and apprentices, relationship, 198–99 Mayo College, 124–25 media, 22, 84, 85, 117 Mehtars, 72 memorisation, 251 meritocratic space, 80 migrant labour, 277–78 migration, 252, 268; internal and international, 303; and schooling, 308–14 mobilisation, 66, 242, 244 modernity, modernisation, 17–19, 23, 63, 136, 154, 156, 178, 189, 217, 228, 265, 282; gendered production and sustenance, 141 moral discourse of saving childhoods, 84 moral values, loss, 22 morality (akhla-q), moral development, 19, 32, 67, 165, 171, 210, 231, 263 mother tongue, 103–6, 106, 108–9, 116 mother-daughter relationship, 210 motherhood, 33, 217 Mukhya ham banbe, 240, 242, 246 multiculturalism, 253 Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), 107–8 Muslim Fund Bank, 54

Muslim Sheikhs, 268 Muslims, 22, 23, 42, 44, 64, 101–3, 105, 112, 114, 142, 162, 180; dominance, 57–58; girls’ education in India, 161–63, 300 Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, secondary schooling, 44 Nabo Disha (New Direction) programme, 92 Nadwatul Ulama, 162 Nagar Palika (Municipal Corporation), 69 Nangal Jat, Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh, dalits schooling and cultural capital, 261, 262–66; search for employment, 267–70, 274 Nastaliq script, 104 National Child Labour Eradication Programme, 289 National Council for the Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL), 109–10, 115 National Defence Academy (NDA), 158 National Education System, 179 national educational schemes, 47 National Literacy Mission (NLM), 245 National Planning Committee (1938), 17 National Policy on Education (NPE), 1968, 65, 103, 106; 1986, 103; 1992, 183 nationalisation of education, 45 Navodaya schools, 47 Nehru, Jawaharlal, 13, 17, 18, 41, 44, 58, 105, 125 Nehru, Kamla, 44 New Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), 108 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), 29, 84, 85, 91, 92, 186, 187, 194 non-state schools, institutions, 20, 51–54 numeracy, 28, 67 obedience to laws, 124 obedience, 30

Index observation, 33, 207 occupational skills, caste-based, 16, 142 official language, 105 Official Languages Act, 1951, 105 ontological animosity, 86 Operation Bluestar, 315 n9 oral tradition, 197 order, notion of, 32, 121, 143–45 other backward classes (OBCs), 21, 42, 286 out-of-school children, 24, 66, 84–85, 246 out-of-school systems, 197, 249 over-enrolment, 181 pace and rhythm, 210–11 Padhna Badhna Andolan, 179 panchayat, 95, 240–44 Panjab, Panjabi, migration and schooling, 308–14; social and cultural landscape, 302–3; and schooling, 301–2 paper qualification, 297 parda, 32; and the body, 165–67 Parent Teacher Association (PTA), 49, 71 parents, parents’, parental, 31, 34; aspirations, 67, 70;—for daughters, 188–92, 195; choice, 24; illiteracy habits, 72–74; indifference, 178; motivation, 239; faith in usta-d, 201 Partition of India, 101–2 passive learning, 29, 31 pa-thsha-la-, 16 patriarchy, patriarchal norms and values, 182, 183, 210, 219, 220, 287 Patripar, Chhattisgarh, 278 pedagogy, pedagogic process, 24, 75, 77, 89–91, 93, 96, 151, 153–54, 185 peer group cultures, 219 peripheral participation, 210 personal development, 35, 154 physical development, 126–30; entity, 232; manifestation, 121; regime, 126–27; skills, 143–44


planning process, 17, 300 policy discourse, 195; and outcome, 178; and state educational activity, 179–80 policy goals, vision, 14, 24, 178, 182, 183, 185; implementation, 13, 78 political, politics, politicisation of education, 117; affiliation, 142; compulsions, 104, 115; consciousness, 216; development, 19; economy, 81; of educational system, 45; orientation, 78; of schooling the marginal child, 95–97 positive discrimination, 257, 269 poverty, 13, 36, 62, 99, 184, 191, 237–39, 264 power, power relations, structure, 31, 133–34, 185, 209, 211–13, 256; and knowledge, 15, 176; and punishment, 33 powerlessness, 219, 227, 237, 239 practice, 204, 207–8, 214 Pratichi (India) Trust, 96 preraks, 247–49 primary schools, schooling, 17, 41, 51 private interests within public system, 49–51 private schools, 68–69, 250 private sector, role in education, 41 privatisation of education, 20, 24, 50, 59, 261; within government and aided schools, 47–49 problem-solving skills, 186 professional demotivation, 80 propertied classes, 46 proxy families, 31 pseudo–secularism, 18 psychological development of sha-gird, 199 public, administration, 21; school system, 54, 69, 125; sector, 27, 276; —inefficiency, 95; services, 37; private dichotomy, 182 punctuality, 23, 30, 132 punishment, 71, 74–75, 127, 133–34, 136, 185, 213


Educational Regimes in Contemporary India

pupil, pupils’, homes, inadequacy, 184; participation, 185, 194; teacher ratio, 43 qasa-ñ-. See butchery Qirat-ur-Rashida, 170 quality of life, 238 quality of education, 66, 81, 97, 190; decline, 59 Rajagopalachari, C, 124 Rajasthan, schools, physical punishment, 75 Rajiv Gandhi Shikhsa Mission (RGSM), 180 Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), 22, 37–38, 54, 112 rationality, rationalism, 124, 231 recruitment and learning, 203–9 redistributive schemes, 78 reform (isla-h), 165, 169 regimentation process, 30, 143 relational dimension of education participation, 69 religion, religious, 18, 26, 58, 59, 65, 124, 142, 199, 203, 206, 238, 303; division, 182; identity, 113; institutions, 16; knowledge, 210; and language link, 23, 114; membership of teachers, 52; minorities, 17, 115; observance, 180 reservations, 21, 269 residential institutions, 31 resistance, 31, 62, 209, 211–13, 220, 232 resource allocation, 14 resources and capacities as explanatory factors, 77 resourcing of educational system, 80 respect and discipline, 29–31 ritual and customary practices, 218 ritual initiation, 156 rote learning, 29, 74, 184, 186 rudimentary skills, 198

sa-deka-ri, 198, 199, 200, 201, 206–8 Sagar Middle School, Bina, Madhya Pradesh, 181, 192, 194 Sahni, Usha, 241, 242–44 Samajwadi Party, 21–22 Sangh Parivar, 22, 37 Sanskrit, 107 Sarasvatñ- Vidya- Mandir, 52, 54 Sardars, 310–11 Sarva Shikha Abhiyan (SSA), 65–66, 78, 81, 180, 181, 184 Satnamis, 278, 280, 284, 295–96, 297 scaling and grading, 28 Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), 17, 21, 24, 38, 42, 54, 57–58, 62, 182; access to schooling, 66, 67–70; deprivation, 179; disempowerment, 64; education exclusion, 63–65; educability, 72–73, 75, 80; girls, 57; and education in North India, 256–60; literacy rates, 63; resentment, 36 school, schools, assemblies, 30; and community boundaries, 71; and home, link, 79; management, 14; rationalism, 32; and social relations, interplay, 67 School Development Committee, 68 schooled ideals, 24 schooling, 33, 34, 41, 49, 219, 261, 292; choices, 305–14;—social reasoning, 299–300; and cultural capital, 262–66; ethos, 64 policies, 45; quality, 33, 35, 41, 79, 80; as a strategy deployed for reproduction of family, 301–2 Schooling for All. See Sarva Shikhsa Abhiyan (SSA) scientific rationality, 17 secularism, 18, 26, 32, 112–13 Sen, Amartya, 96 sensory qualities, cognition, 121, 136 Seth, Vikram, 124, 138 shari’at, 165 shiksha- mitr, 49

Index Shikshalaya Prakalpa (SPK) programme, 85, 89–92, 95 Shishu Shiksha Kendras (SSKs), 95, 96 Shivaji, 142, 155 Siddiqui, Atyab, 111 Singh, Manmohan, 38 Singh, V.P., 21, 115 skills and competencies, 199, 210, 213–14, 243, 265, 273 sociability, 259 social, action, 250; aesthetics, 32, 121; and cultural aspects, landscape, 32, 34; and political processes, 26; behaviour, 127; capital, 79, 259, 269; change, 66, 239; class, 216–17, 254; competence, 35; conformity, 250; contacts, 20, 269; control, 15; development, 64; differences, 15; disempowerment, 183; diversity, 58; equality, 17, 24; esteem, 35, 239; exclusion, 19, 62; grace, 30; groups, 78, 181, 217; hierarchy, 71; identification, 115; inclusion, 22; inequalities, 14, 54–58, 185, 256, 261, 274; integration, 62; interaction, 260; isolation, 257; issues, 15, 186, 242; justice, 113–14; mobility, 21, 70, 239; movements, 241, 302; networking, 264, 269, 274; norms and practices, 77, 182, 227, 229; obligations, 54; opportunity, 274; order,—organisation, 203, 223; policy, 82; processes, 178, 185, 189; relationships, 62, 64, 70, 132, 134, 135; reproduction, 62, 63, 256; segmentation, segregation, 58, 132; skills, 124; stratification, 99 socialisation process, 62, 141, 154, 223, 277 societal gender norms, 191 state, intervention, role in education, 13, 41, 63, 65; and the language issue, 99–100 States Linguistic Reorganisation Commission, 100 stigma, 69, 78, 266; social and religious, 102–3


structural factors, 270; malfunctioning, 104 structuring of educational system, 80 student, students’, motivation, 185–86; participative aspirations, 184; social despair, 253. See also child, children, teacher subaltern identities, marginalisation, 63 subisidised schooling, 58–59, 60 submission and acceptance, 227 submission, 220, 232 subsidies, 45–47 sustainable financing, 66 Tabligh-ñ , 164–65, 173 teacher, teacher’s, bureaucratic duties, 75; caste membership, 52; and community, reciprocal relationship, 91–92; competence, 185; commitment, 186, 194, 264; concern, 183–84; construction of dalit child’s identity, 74; discretion, 92; education, 81; and learners, barriers, 184; as mediators of learning and learning experiences, 75–77; motivation, 178, 184; neglect, 49; pupil relationship, 74, 76, 91, 185; pupil ratio, 48–49; role, 77–80; training, 90; vision, 189; workplace attitudes and aspirations, 81, 186 teaching and learning material (TLM), 85, 89–90,110, 184 teaching practices, 16, 81 teaching-learning practices, 81 teenage relationships, 194 textbooks, 194 Thanawi, Ashraf Ali, 161 theological assertiveness, 32 third world, 84 three language formula, 104, 107, 116 Tiwari, Rounak, 187, 192, 195 total institution, 157 Total Literacy Campaign (TLC), 179, 244 traditions, 217–18, 228, 303


Educational Regimes in Contemporary India

transformation, 15, 31, 35, 41, 47, 86, 150, 178, 183, 220 transformative capacity of education, 15, 37 transitional schools, 96 transitions, 34–38, 80 transparency, 19, 21 trust, trust-built relationship, 149, 269 tuitions, 49–51, 76–77, 250 two–tier schooling system, 24, 96–97 Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, access to schooling, 68 ulama-, 165, 169 unaided schools, 43, 52, 54, 59 unemployment, 259, 271–72, 294 UNESCO, 289 United Progressive Alliance (UPA), 37–38 untouchability, untouchables, 69, 71, 264 Urdu, cultural and literary heritage, 114; in Delhi, 106–9; and the madrasah, 111–13; medium schools, 160; politicisation, 117; state patronage, 113; a victim of history, 101–6 Uttar Pradesh, fiscal crisis, 24, 42, 46–47, 60; language issue, 105; secondary schooling, 42–44;—in 1947–90, 44–46; —in the era of liberalisation, 46–47; rise of non-state schools, 51–54 Valmiki community, 69–70, 71, 74 value education, 22, 169–74, 246–49

valued knowledge, 29 values, 14, 23, 26, 27, 29–31, 79, 99, 179, 214, 218, 231, 238, 240, 250, 254, 266, 282 verbal instruction, 30 vernacular education, 63 Vidya Primary School, Nakuur, Bina, Madhya Pradesh, 181, 184, 189–94 Village Education Committee, 80 virtues (faza-’il), 165 vi-shay vi-sheshgya (subject specialists), 49 vocational education, 250 volunteer teachers (VTs), voluntarism, 242, 244–45, 247 Warna Nagar Sainik Academy, 141, 143, 146, 154 Westernisation, 23, 155 white-collar jobs, 264, 272 wire-woman, 249–50 women, education, 31;—and panchayat, 240–44; empowerment, 179, 243; household work, 210; identity, 220; out-of school, 221–23; participation in local governance, 239; role in private sphere, 182 work and learning, 33 working class, 276, 287–90, 297 workshop and the working day, 202–3 World Bank, 20, 41, 49 Zakir Hussain, 100 Zeenat Mahal School, 109–10 Ziba-h, 204–5, 210