Understanding Contemporary India 9781685856915

Sheds light on the paradoxical nature of the world’s largest and most diverse democracy.

227 10 3MB

English Pages 341 [357] Year 2010

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD PDF FILE

Recommend Papers

Understanding Contemporary India
 9781685856915

  • 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

00DeVotta_FM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:36 PM

Page i

UNDERSTANDING CONTEMPORARY

INDIA

00DeVotta_FM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:36 PM

Page ii

UNDERSTANDING Introductions to the States and Regions of the Contemporary World Donald L. Gordon, series editor

Understanding Contemporary Africa, 4th edition edited by April A. Gordon and Donald L. Gordon Understanding Contemporary Asia Pacific edited by Katherine Palmer Kaup Understanding the Contemporary Caribbean, 2nd edition edited by Richard S. Hillman and Thomas J. D’Agostino Understanding Contemporary China, 3rd edition edited by Robert E. Gamer Understanding Contemporary India, 2nd edition edited by Neil DeVotta Understanding Contemporary Latin America, 3rd edition edited by Richard S. Hillman Understanding the Contemporary Middle East, 3rd edition edited by Jillian Schwedler and Deborah J. Gerner Understanding Contemporary Russia edited by Michael L. Bressler

00DeVotta_FM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:36 PM

Page iii

SECOND EDITION

UNDERSTANDING CONTEMPORARY

INDIA ■

edited by

Neil DeVotta

b o u l d e r l o n d o n

00DeVotta_FM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:36 PM

Page iv

Published in the United States of America in 2010 by Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. 1800 30th Street, Boulder, Colorado 80301 www.rienner.com and in the United Kingdom by Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. 3 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8LU © 2010 by Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Understanding contemporary India / edited by Neil DeVotta. — 2nd ed. p. cm. — (Understanding : introductions to the states and regions of the contemporary world) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-58826-715-3 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. India—History—1947– 2. India—Civilization—1947– 3. India—Politics and government—1947– 4. India—Social conditions—1947– I. DeVotta, Neil. DS480.853.U54 2010 954.05—dc22 2010018936 British Cataloguing in Publication Data A Cataloguing in Publication record for this book is available from the British Library.

Printed and bound in the United States of America The paper used in this publication meets the requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials Z39.48-1992. 5 4 3 2 1

00DeVotta_FM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:36 PM

Page v

To John Adams March 7, 1938–November 26, 2008

00DeVotta_FM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:36 PM

Page vi

00DeVotta_FM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:36 PM

Page vii

Contents

xi xv

List of Illustrations Preface

1 Introduction Neil DeVotta

1

2 India: A Geographic Preface Ashok K. Dutt

23

3 The Historical Context Benjamin Cohen

31

The Indus Valley (c. 2500–1500 B.C.E.) 31 The Vedic Era (c. 1500–500 B.C.E.) 34 The Buddhist Period (500 B.C.E.–700 C.E.) 36 The Gupta Empire (320–550) 38 The Southern Dynasties 40 Islam in South Asia (700–1206) 42 The Delhi Sultanate (1206–1526) 43 The Mughals (1526–1707) 45 European Arrivals (1498–1600) 51 Company Ascendancy (1757–1857) 53 The Raj, Nationalists, and Independence (1858–1947)

4 Indian Politics Shalendra D. Sharma The Democratic Structure 68 General Elections 73 State-Society Relations and Political Change 77 State-Society Relations and Social Change 84 The Resilience of Indian Democracy 89 vii

58

67

00DeVotta_FM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:36 PM

viii

Page viii

Contents

5 International Relations Neil DeVotta

95

The Nehruvian Era 96 The Intervening Era 101 The Post–Cold War Era 105 Conclusion 117

6 India’s Economy John Adams and Jason A. Kirk

123

The Rural Economy and Agriculture 125 Commerce and Industry 131 Government and the Private Sector 139 Accomplishments and Prospects 143

7 Population, Urbanization, and the Environment Holly Sims The Population Lens 154 The Poverty Lens 164 The Technology Lens 170 India’s Environmental Activists Conclusion 176

153

175

8 Women in India Lisa Trivedi

181

Thinking About “Indian Women” 184 Women and Family 185 Women in Colonial India 185 Indian Women and the “Nation”: From Objects of Reform to Subjects 188 Women and the Franchise 191 Women and the Republic of India 193 Civil Rights 194 Employment 199 Education 202 Conclusion 203

9 Religion Ainslie T. Embree Toward a Definition of Religion 209 Pervasiveness of Religions in India 210 The Function of Religions in Indian Society 211 Pluralism and Multiplicity of Religions 213 Four Indigenous Religions 214 Two Nonindigenous Indian Religions: Islam and Christianity 224 Religions in Interaction and Reinterpretation 229

209

00DeVotta_FM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:36 PM

Page ix

ix

Contents

Communal Tensions and Secularism: The Politicization of Religion 235 Challenging Secularism 239 Conclusion 245

10 The Politics of Caste Christophe Jaffrelot From the Caste System to Caste-Based Competition Reservations in the Political Domain 253 The Lower Castes Take Power 256 The BSP’s Rise to Power: Kanshi Ram and the Bahujan Samaj 258 Voting One’s Caste While Casting One’s Vote 263 Conclusion 266

11 The Arts Ananda Lal Fine Art 271 Literature 273 Cinema 276 Television 279 Challenges for the Traditional Performing Arts Music 282 Dance 285 Theater 287

12 Trends and Prospects Neil DeVotta

249 251

269

281

293

Sociopolitical Revolutions 294 Economic Revolution 301 National Security 306

Glossary The Contributors Index About the Book

311 317 321 341

00DeVotta_FM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:36 PM

Page x

00DeVotta_FM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:36 PM

Page xi

Illustrations

■ 2.1 2.2 2.3 3.1 3.2 6.1

■ 1.1 4.1 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 10.1 10.2

Maps South Asia Major Physiographic Regions Drought-Prone Areas South Asia at the Time of the Guptas, 320–500 C.E. British Expansion in South Asia Diagrammatic Sketch of Wangala Village

24 25 29 37 55 127

Tables India’s States and Territories Results of India’s Fifteenth General Elections, April–May 2009 Foodgrains, Sugarcane, and Population, 1950/51–2007/08 Distribution of the Labor Force for India and Six States Commerce and Industry: Production and Growth, 1987/88–2000/01 Shares of Public- and Private-Sector Employment in the Organized Sector India’s Five-Year Plans, 1951/52–2007/08 Class-wise Distribution of the Scheduled Castes in the Central Government Services Percentage of Votes Polled by the BSP in Seven General Elections

xi

3 75 130 135 137 142 144 254 263

00DeVotta_FM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

xii

10.3 10.4 10.5



2:36 PM

Page xii

Illustrations

The BSP Vote by State, 2009 and 2004 The Dalit Vote for the BSP in Seven States Votes of Castes, Tribes, and Religious Communities in the 2009 General Elections

264 264 265

Photographs

Pilgrims at Hardwar Ghats along the Ganges River in Varanasi The arid landscape of Rajasthan Lush fields on the way from Chennai to Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu One of the many tombs in Lodi Gardens, Delhi Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi The Taj Mahal Mussoorie, a British hill station Gandhi and Nehru Subhas Chandra Bose Mohammed Ali Jinnah Prime Minister Nehru and Rajendra Prasad A 2008 panchayati election campaign in Uttarakhand Indira Gandhi A campaign poster for Rajiv Gandhi Crowds congregated at the Wagah border Communist Party of India (Marxist) rally protesting US-India nuclear agreement Winnowing grain A thriving book industry Ambassador automobiles Advertisements touting growth in India’s telecommunications industry Government family planning notice A crowded Delhi neighborhood Multistoried apartment buildings Congested dwellings in Mussoorie Women in Rajasthan transporting potable water Vandana Shiva Woman worker leveling a courtyard using mud Young girls obtaining a few hours of schooling A Bengali bride A magnificent temple in south India Man impersonating Hanuman

27 27 28 30 45 47 49 54 61 62 63 70 73 80 83 107 115 131 132 141 145 157 158 159 160 162 174 200 203 204 217 218

00DeVotta_FM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:36 PM

Page xiii

Illustrations

Buddhist temple at Sarnath Golden Temple at Amritsar Reading the Quran in the Jami Mosque A Hindu priest on pilgrimage at Yamunotri Sikhs in Amritsar celebrating Guru Gobind Singh’s birth anniversary Women of the Lohar caste in Madhya Pradesh A Bahujan Samaj Party campaign advertisement in Madhya Pradesh Madhubani folk art from northern Bihar Rama and Sita in a mythological serial on Indian television A female impersonator in traditional/classical Kathakali dance Actor Habib Tanvir Writer and director Badal Sircar

xiii

222 223 226 238 242 256 259 271 280 286 288 289

00DeVotta_FM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:36 PM

Page xiv

00DeVotta_FM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:36 PM

Page xv

Preface

T

he first edition of Understanding Contemporary India, published in 2003, was coedited with Sumit Ganguly. It was Sumit who recruited the book’s authors, and I came on board midway to help get the volume published on schedule. I am very pleased that most of those authors have contributed updated chapters to this edition as well. No single volume could do justice to a country as extraordinary and complex as India. Thus, each chapter in this book could easily be expanded into a hefty tome. Students interested in broadening their understanding of the issues covered in these chapters should begin by consulting the respective bibliographies in the book. This volume is designed to introduce students to India and as such follows the template of the other books in the Understanding series by providing overarching accounts dealing with India’s geography, history, politics, international relations, economy, environment, women, religion, caste, and the arts. No comparable text on India deals in a single volume with the multiplicity of issues discussed here, and from that standpoint this book, like the others in the series, fills an important niche. This second edition of Understanding Contemporary India not only builds on the previous edition but also provides several new chapters. For instance, Chapter 2 by Benjamin Cohen combines the chapters on history and the nationalist movement that appeared in the previous edition; Lisa Trivedi has introduced a new chapter on women; Christophe Jaffrelot has done likewise on caste; and I have added a chapter on international relations. In addition, the Introduction and Trends and Prospects chapters in this edition are completely new. Thus, this second edition, rather than merely updating chapters, includes six original contributions.

xv

00DeVotta_FM.qxd:Layout 1

xvi

6/22/10

10:27 AM

Page xvi

Preface

John Adams, who wrote an excellent chapter on India’s economy in the first edition, passed away suddenly in November 2008. Jason Kirk built on John’s work to provide an updated chapter. This book is dedicated to John in appreciation for all that he did over the years to further the study of India and South Asia. — Neil DeVotta

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:36 PM

Page 1

1 Introduction Neil DeVotta

I

ndia is in many ways a paradox. It is both a young state and one of the world’s oldest civilizations; it is a potential superpower, yet more than 300 million of its citizens live in abject poverty; it is the proud land of the peaceful Mohandas Gandhi, yet it brandishes nuclear weapons and hosts one of the world’s largest militaries; its rivers are revered for embodying deities, yet are among the world’s most polluted waterways; its infrastructure in many areas is abysmal, yet its information technology workers, engineers, scientists, and academics are in demand the world over; it is a country led by powerful women at various ranks, yet its women are among the most marginalized in the world; and it is a mind-boggling polyethnic society prone to secessionist movements and periodic communal violence, yet is also the world’s largest and most vibrant democracy. North Americans and Europeans look to their big cities and take pride in their cosmopolitanism. But this cosmopolitanism is recent and much of it was transplanted in the past century. India’s diversity is thousands of years old and is partly what makes its civilization unique. There are actually many Indias, given that the country’s present territorial borders represent a historical accident. British India consisted of some 600 principalities, and it was British ambitions and malpractice that gave India its current boundaries. Britain’s biggest mistake may have been to clumsily partition the subcontinent in August 1947, which led to hundreds of thousands being killed and an estimated 15 million people displaced, as it created Pakistan and, inadvertantly, Bangladesh (Talbot and Singh 2009: 2). Postindependence India’s challenge has been to try to get the variegated peoples that ended up within its borders to embrace and celebrate a common Indian identity even while nurturing their distinct cultures and traditions. This is a continuous challenge, and it is manifested in the periodic communal violence (especially between Hindus and Muslims) and secessionist 1

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

2

6/16/10

2:36 PM

Page 2

Neil DeVotta

violence the Indian state has experienced since independence. India faced so many daunting challenges at the time of independence that many believed the country was bound to disintegrate. Yet India has defied the odds and chugged along; and except for the period between June 1975 and January 1977, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed a state of emergency, it has done so democratically. It is thus with good reason that Robert Blackwill, upon completing his tenure as US ambassador to India in 2003, noted “India is a pluralist society that creates magic with democracy, rule of law and individual freedom, community relations and diversity. . . . I wouldn’t mind being born ten times to rediscover India” (Phadnis 2003). Indeed, one would need to be born at least ten times to discover India. This is why there are no “experts” on India. Notwithstanding the plethora of knowledgeable commentators on specific subjects pertaining to India, only those who are arrogant or ignorant dare claim to be an ‘“expert” on this maddeningly diverse country comprising 325 functioning languages (including twenty-two official languages), hundreds of dialects, twenty-five scripts, six major religions—Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Jainism—4,500 caste groups, hundreds of tribal groups, and their resulting traditions and cultures encompassed in twenty-eight states and seven territories (see Table 1.1). This was partly made evident when the brilliant Indian writer Salman Rushdie claimed that the best writing in India was done in the English language. Rushdie was quite rightly pilloried from various quarters with detractors asking how anyone not familiar with all of India’s languages—with some like Tamil and Sanskrit being over two and three millennia old and comprising awesome literatures—was qualified to make such a claim. India’s diversity and its consolidated democracy are the country’s greatest strengths. What we now call Hinduism has played a huge role in fostering India’s diversity. The term Hinduism is of recent origin and was popularized by the British in the nineteenth century as they sought to understand the religious traditions among India’s diverse Hindus (Hawley 1991). Given their Christian background, the British were nonplussed when confronted with the various “Hinduisms” in India that embraced numerous gods, rituals, and traditions, all of which had evolved over 4,000 years. Unlike the monotheistic (and most other) religions, Hindus do not have an official canon, stated doctrine, an overarching leader, or institution. In short, one could be a monotheist, a polytheist, or an atheist (who may merely devote himself to the study of the Upanishads— ancient, abstruse philosophical texts—yet never visit a temple) and still be considered a good Hindu. Unlike the monotheistic texts that mandate fundamental beliefs, the Hindu texts promote varied beliefs and practices and come across as contradictory. As US scholar Wendy Doniger (2009: 688) has noted, one could use these texts and argue for almost any position in contemporary India: that Hindus have been vegetarians, and that they have not; that Hindus and Muslims have gotten

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:36 PM

Page 3

3

Table 1.1 India’s States and Territories Year Created State Andhra Pradesh Arunachal Pradesh Assam Bihar Chhattisgarh Goa Gujarat Haryana Himachal Pradesh Jammu and Kashmir Jharkhand Karnataka Kerala Madhya Pradesh Maharashtra Manipur Meghalaya Mizoram Nagaland Orissa Punjab Rajasthan Sikkim Tamil Nadu Tripura Uttar Pradesh Uttarakhand West Bengal Territories Andaman and Nicobar Islands Chandigarh Dadra and Nagar Haveli Daman and Diu Delhi Lakshadweep Pondicherry

Major Language/s

1956 1987 1947 1950 2000 1987 1960 1966 1971 1947 2000 1956 1956 1956 1960 1972 1972 1987 1963 1949 1956 1956 1975 1956 1972 1947 2000 1960

Telugu and Urdu English, Miji, Honpa Assamese and Bodo Hindi and Bhojpuri Hindi Marathi and Konkani Gujarati Hindi Hindi and Pahari Kashmiri, Urdu, Dogri, Pahari, Ladakhi Hindi Kannada Malayalam Hindi Marathi Meiteilon English, Garo, Khasi English and Mizo English Oriya Punjabi Hindi and Rajastani Nepali, Bhutia, Limbu, Lepcha Tamil Bengali, Kokborok, Manipuri Hindi and Urdu Hindi, Kumaoni, Garhwali Bengali

2001

Nicobarese, English, Bengali, Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam Hindi and Punjabi Marathi and Gujarati Marathi and Gujarati Hindi, Urdu, English, Punjabi Malayalam Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, French

1953 1961 1987 1947 1956 1963

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

4

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 4

Neil DeVotta

along well together, and that they have not; that Hindus have objected to suttee [or sati, whereby widows were burned on their husband’s funeral pyres], and that they have not; that Hindus have renounced the material world, and that they have embraced it; that Hindus have oppressed women and lower castes, and that they have fought for their equality.

One can see why the British, who possessed a predilection for categorizing and cataloging the territories and peoples they conquered, got confused. Hindu extremists, however, find such pluralism threatening because they believe it weakens India. They have therefore sought to promote the Hindu god Ram as Hinduism’s central figure and his story in the Ramayana as the basic Hindu text. Part of the irony here is that the Ramayana itself is a testament to the diversity of Hinduism given that there are over 800 known versions of the book. The Hindu extremists, consisting of various groups headed by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (National Volunteers Organization, RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), have tried to get around this by promoting a particular version of the book. They also promote an ideology called Hindutva, or “Hinduness,” that argues that no matter what religion an Indian espouses, s/he should subscribe to a Hindu ethos (Hardgrave 2005). In short, these extremists not only seek to discard the pluralism inherent in Hinduism for a homogeneous identity, they also undermine the secular ideals upon which India’s democracy has been built (Aiyar 2004; Bhargava 1998). Their shrill rhetoric and combative stance toward Pakistan and the only Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, which has experienced an insurgency spanning more than two decades, also complicate India-Pakistan and Hindu-Muslim relations. Ultimately, the goals of Hindu extremists combined with the rough and tumble of democratic politics have led to Hindu-Muslim violence, especially in north India (Brass 2003; Varshney 2002; Wilkinson 2004), with the December 1992 destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, which Hindus claim was built over a temple honoring Lord Ram’s birthplace, and the February–March 2002 pogrom in Gujarat, which was sparked after Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya were attacked and killed, radicalizing the country’s already marginalized Muslims. Muslim elites like Mohammed Ali Jinnah had justified partition by promoting a “Two Nation Theory,” which claimed that Hindus and Muslims were different nations no matter how you evaluated them, and the subcontinent’s Muslims therefore qualified to have their own country. This was the basis for creating Pakistan. Indian elites like Jawaharlal Nehru were determined not to position their country as a Hindu entity in opposition to “Muslim Pakistan” and staunchly promoted India as a secular state in which all religious groups could live amicably. Notwithstanding the grotesque violence that accompanied partition, India encouraged Muslims to make the country their home; and Gandhi’s campaigns on behalf of Muslims, his assassination in January 1948 at the hands of an RSS member, and the reflection this promoted among both Hindus and Muslims also influenced many among the latter to stay on in India (Husain 1965: 134). When the Hindu ruler of Kashmir decided to join India, Nehru assured his

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 5

Introduction

5

predominantly Muslim population that they would be treated as equal citizens even as India and Pakistan battled over Kashmir. In an attempt to buy their loyalty, Kashmir was provided certain privileges that did not apply to other states (i.e., its own constitution, flag, and the provision that only Kashmiris could purchase land in Kashmir). India consequently now has the world’s third largest Muslim population after Indonesia and Pakistan. What is important to recognize is that while Nehru realized that India’s diversity required the government to compromise when dealing with minority communities, he emphasized not merely being tolerant but also being generous. His dealings with the country’s Muslim community especially signify this. Independent India also decided not to institute a uniform civil code, which meant that Muslims could utilize their own law when dealing with issues of marriage, divorce, and inheritance. The Hindutva advocates point to such policies and claim that the Congress Party has been mollycoddling the Muslims in exchange for their votes and that such preferential treatment makes a mockery of India’s claim to being a secular country. They also argue that India’s Muslims operate as a fifth column for Pakistan and hence cannot be trusted and that Muslims aspire to procreate at a faster rate and eventually become a majority in India, even though much evidence makes clear that fertility rates for both Hindus and Muslims are related to educational and economic circumstances (Jeffery and Jeffery 2006). Following partition, most prominent and accomplished Muslims migrated to Pakistan. Most among those who decided to stay in India were extremely poor, and according to the 2006 Rajindar Sachar Committee report, India’s Muslims now lag behind other communities when it comes to government employment, access to health facilities and bank credit, education, and their overall economic condition (Prime Minister’s High Level Committee 2006). Demonizing an already downtrodden population is a sure way to radicalize them, and in a region where Islamic fundamentalism is in sway and Islamic terror groups are looking to attack India, it is akin to playing with fire. Hindu extremists thrived on using such anti-Muslim themes for politicking purposes and to fan anti-Muslim violence, and such demagoguery did advantage the Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Party, BJP), which politically represents the Hindutva forces, during the 1990s especially. The BJP and its allies, however, suffered a surprise defeat in the 2004 general elections and they fared even worse in the 2009 elections. This has led many to believe that their tactics rooted in promoting anti-Muslim sentiment and a homogeneous Hinduism may have run their course. If so, it represents a clear positive for communal relations and democracy in India; for while the BJP and others that constitute the so-called saffron brigade promote a “Hindu” identity, the Congress Party, its numerous shortcomings notwithstanding, supports a pluralist “Indian” identity that is consistent with India’s civilization. India’s aspiration to become a great power in global affairs is dependent on internal cohesion. That in turn mandates camaraderie especially between its Hindus and Muslims, which is more likely to be achieved in a pluralist and secular, as opposed to “Hindu,” India.

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

6

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 6

Neil DeVotta

India’s other greatest strength is its democracy. Indeed, elections in India are akin to carnivalesque celebrations, and the Indian word tamasha (which the Oxford English Dictionary now refers to as “an entertainment, show, display, public function” and “a fuss, a commotion”) best captures the accompanying spirit and milieu of political campaigning. The closest comparable atmosphere in the United States is the tailgating revelry that takes place prior to football games. Depending on their wherewithal, candidates aspiring to political office campaign using aircrafts, helicopters, trains, tractors, automobiles, bullock carts, elephants, and camels. Details pertaining to the country’s fifteenth general elections are discussed in Chapter 4, but the following statistics highlight some aspects of the world’s largest democratic exercise held in April and May 2009: 714 million registered voters (of which 420 million actually voted); 8,070 candidates (including 3,150 independents); 1,055 parties; 1,368,430 electronic voting machines; 828,804 polling centers, of which 12,901 were set up to accommodate villages constituting less than 300 voters; 4,700,000 polling staff; and 2,100,000 security personnel. Such exercises have been the norm in India beginning with the country’s very first general election between October 1951 and February 1952 (the logistical challenges involved in conducting general elections in India mandate that they be held in stages, with different regions going to the polls at different times, although elections today last around a month). That first general election saw 176 million Indians, of which 85 percent were illiterate, qualifying to vote and provided the opportunity to exercise their franchise at 224,000 polling booths presided over by 56,000 election offices, 280,000 assistants, and 224,000 policemen (Guha 2007: 133–134). Today, a position in the Election Commission is one of the most powerful in all of India, and one can see why the chief election commissioner at the time felt qualified to advise his counterparts in the United States following the 2000 presidential election fiasco in Florida! There were dozens of countries in Africa and Asia that gained independence in the two decades following World War II, yet India is among the few that successfully nurtured and maintained its democracy even though it was considered among the most likely to fail. Why is this so? The Nobel laureate Amartya Sen (2005) has argued that Indian civilization has long tolerated, encouraged, and celebrated an argumentative tradition that has been conducive to democracy and secularism. Others suggest that there is nothing inherently democratic about India’s past, and the consolidation of democracy is mainly due to the conscious decisions made by Indian leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru who championed the idea of representative government for all citizens (Khilnani 1997). There is no gainsaying how important Nehru was in ensuring India adopted a democratic trajectory. In a real sense, Jawaharlal Nehru was India’s George Washington. Indeed, one could argue that Nehru was burdened with a more difficult responsibility than was Washington, for while Washington’s United States had its fair share of challenges, it was a relatively sleepy republic compared to the tumultuous India Nehru inherited. Nehru served three full terms as prime

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 7

Introduction

7

minister, and among his first responsibilities was helping to forge the Indian Constitution, which one scholar thinks may represent “the greatest political venture since that originated in Philadelphia in 1787” (Austin 1999: 308). Nehru also instituted important precedents like ensuring the military stayed subservient to civilian rule, India’s regional leaders were accommodated as much as possible, and religious minorities (especially the country’s Muslims) were dealt with generously. Nehru, Gandhi, and many Indian leaders believed that a united India was only possible provided the country promoted an egalitarian ethos. This was a bold decision, given that the Indian polity was—is—divided along class, caste, religious, ethnolinguistic, and regional lines. But these crosscutting cleavages also ensured that democracy was, arguably, the only way through which to ensure the country did not disintegrate. Successive Indian governments have consequently adopted a carrot-andstick approach when dealing with forces threatening to sunder the Indian union. In the latter instance, the Indian state has resorted to brute violence to put down separatist forces, and the tactics it has resorted to in places like Kashmir and Nagaland have rightly generated condemnation both within and without India. Attempts by Sikh extremists in the 1980s to create a separate state called Khalistan in the Punjab were also violently put down, and Indira Gandhi’s decision to send the Indian army into the Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine, to force out insurgents hiding within its compound culminated in her Sikh bodyguards assassinating her in October 1984. In the past few years, various Maoist groups have taken up arms against the state so that nearly 200 of India’s over 600 districts now deal with insurgencies. In most instances, the so-called Maoist violence stems from attempts to uproot tribal people especially from their land (so states and private companies can extract various natural resources), the scarcity of government services and employment among rural youth, and the impunity with which police and paramilitary forces perpetrate violence against India’s most marginalized populations. Chapter 12 discusses in some detail the causes for and consequences of the Maoist insurrection, but here it is relevant to note how the crackdown against the Maoists and the concurrent incentives the government is trying to put into place to deal with some of their grievances highlight India’s use of both force and accommodation when trying to ensure its territorial integrity. The political process in India typically unfolds amid great tumult, and students of India cannot be blamed for thinking that Indian elites are better at ruling than governing. One can rule by diktat, but governance requires compromise and tact. Nehru, who was instinctively drawn toward accommodation as opposed to confrontation, stands out with regard to the latter, and this is evident in how he dealt with regional leaders and their various demands. It is especially evident in his instructions to the Indian army regarding how to deal with the Naga tribes even after Naga rebels had ambushed homes, burnt houses, “looted shops . . . kidnapped teachers . . . raided railway stations and sniped trains” (Elwin 1961: 60).

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

8

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 8

Neil DeVotta

You must remember that all the people of the area in which you are operating are fellow-Indians. They may have a different religion, they may pursue a different way of life, but they are Indians, and the very fact that they are different and yet part of India is a reflection of India’s greatness. Some of these people are misguided and have taken to arms against their own people, and are disrupting the peace of this area. You are to protect the mass of the people from these disruptive elements. You are not there to fight the people in the area, but to protect them. You are fighting only those who threaten the people and who are a danger to the lives and properties of the people. You must, therefore, do everything possible to win their confidence and respect and to help them feel that they belong to India. (Ibid.)

This was the same tact that Nehru used with the leaders of south India when they demanded separate states and later threatened secession due to Hindi being made the official language. The demand to create states along linguistic lines first led to the creation of Andhra in 1953 (and renamed Andhra Pradesh in 1956). With Andhra’s Telugu speakers having won their state, other regions also began demanding statehood. This led to the States Reorganization Act of 1956 that created a number of states along ethnolinguistic lines. Nehru and the Indian elite were initially averse to creating such states, believing it could lead to India’s balkanization (Guha 2007: 189, 199), but by giving into the popular will of the masses, these states “consolidated the unity of India” (ibid.: 200). Since then, new states have been periodically created along regional lines (but never on religious grounds), with Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, and Jharkhand being the last three formed in 2000. The Indian Constitution, which was adopted in November 1949 and became operational in January 1950, said that Hindi would become the national language within fifteen years, until which time English could also be used for all official purposes. As the date approached to implement Hindi as the sole national language, southerners especially turned hostile. Nehru’s tendency to accommodate and cooperate was again made evident when in 1963 he passed the Official Languages Act, which said English may continue to be used for official communication even after 1965. When debates over verbiage led to the act not being implemented, violent protests erupted in Tamil Nadu leading to rioting and self-immolation. Lal Bahadur Shastri, who became prime minister following Nehru’s death in May 1964, soon thereafter declared that states will be allowed to maintain their regional languages and also continue to use English as an official language when communicating with each other and the central government. This continues to be the case in India, where the sense of being Indian is not associated with any particular language. Indeed, the popularity of Hindi and English has grown to the point where both languages now are spoken interchangeably, leading to a fusion called “Hinglish.” Indian authors today are among the best writers in English, and their literary success has led some to claim that the “empire is striking back.” The influence of these authors on the

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 9

Introduction

9

expanding middle class together with the growth of the Internet, text messaging, and satellite television have all helped with the spread of English in India. On the other hand, Hindi cinema, which is popularly referred to as Bollywood, is the craze throughout India (despite about 400 movies also being made in regional languages). One-third of Indians today speak Hindi, and Bollywood no doubt has played a major role in facilitating this. Even regions that rebelled against Hindi being imposed are now gradually accepting it, and this would not have happened if the Indian government had refused to compromise on the language issue and sought to impose Hindi on the entire population. Like Nehru, who was averse to creating linguistic states but relented in order to ensure India’s territorial integrity, Prime Minister Shastri was averse to continuing with English as an official language (ibid.: 395). But he too gave into the popular will of the south, and polyglot India is a culturally richer country thanks to it. Save for India’s south, many today do not recall how Andhra Pradesh and other ethnolinguistic states came to be created. It is worth noting because it highlights aspects of Indian democracy that outsiders especially merely equate with chaos and instability. Andhra’s case gained prominence thanks to a man called Potti Sriramulu going on a fifty-eight-day fast demanding statehood. Nehru relented following Sriramulu’s death. The same scenario was repeated in December 2009 when K. Chandrasekhara Rao, the leader of a party representing the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh, went on a fast demanding a separate state of Telangana. Rao ended his fast after eleven days when the Congress Party announced that it would grant the region statehood, with Hyderabad, one of India’s premier software centers, likely being its capital. The announcement was opposed in the rest of Andhra Pradesh with the same sorts of protests the supporters of a Telangana state had mounted, and this in turn caused the central government to waver over its decision, which predictably led to a new round of violent protests by the pro-Telangana forces. The demand for a separate Telangana state is nearly six decades old, with its proponents harboring legitimate grievances dealing with neglected development. It may take a while before a new Telangana state is added to the Indian union, but the entire episode has emboldened other regions hoping to form their own states. In 2004, the Indian government proposed creating a Second States Reorganization Committee, and one should not be at all surprised if the India of the future included states called Vidarbha, Gorkhaland, Harit Pradesh, Bhojpur, Mahakaushal, Poorvanchal, Bodoland, Marathwada, Rayalaseema, Bundelkhand, Seemanchal, Avadh, and Kongu Nadu. One author has even suggested that India should be divided into fifty or sixty states (Kashyap 1998). While this may sound excessive, it is useful to consider that as currently constituted, the United States, with about 310 million people, has fifty states, while India, with four times as many people, has just twenty-eight states. For instance, Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, has over 190 million people (which is over 60 percent of the US population), and even its chief minister now proposes that it be split into three states. Telangana,

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

10

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 10

Neil DeVotta

should it get statehood, will harbor 35 million people within its borders, and this is one argument in its favor. It is ultimately a testament to Indian democracy that it remains one of the few countries (another being Nigeria) that can continue to add to its list of states. What grates observers, however, is how popular demands get carried out in India—as when hunger strikes lead to the creation of new states or protestors block roads and railway tracks so as to publicize their demands (thereby inconveniencing millions and costing the government and businesses millions of dollars in revenue). What such observers fail to recognize is that dharnas (fasting unto death, if necessary) and hartals and bandhs (both forms of strikes, although the latter, which the Indian Supreme Court banned in 1998, typically get organized by political parties) are part of India’s vocabulary and are very much a part of the country’s DNA. Fasting, for instance, is an age-old tradition in India, and Gandhi’s genius was to take such a practice, which all in the country could identify with, and use it as a tool to further the nationalist cause and especially promote Hindu-Muslim unity at a time when Hindu-Muslim animus was at its highest. Similarly, civil disobedience is rooted in nonviolent protest. It is designed to inconvenience those who have refused or failed to develop a consciousness about your plight. It is how India gained its independence nonviolently. (As a significant aside, it is also how African Americans mobilized to bring an end to Jim Crow laws. As Martin Luther King memorably said, “Christ gave me the message. Gandhi gave me the method.”) Gandhi is said to have noted that the tactics used to gain independence from the British would not be appropriate in postindependence India, but this is not advice average Indians are aware of or care to adhere to. From their standpoint, disruptive protests are very much a part and parcel of the country’s democratic heritage. They certainly garner attention and force even the most recalcitrant and laggardly politician to respond to grievances. India’s unique democracy also upends arguments made by western scholars of democracy. For instance, scholars hold that the more educated and economically better off people are, the more likely they are to vote. In India, however, the less educated and poor vote in greater numbers (often after standing in queues for hours) than those who are better educated and economically well off. Furthermore, in western countries, minorities tend to vote in lower numbers. In India, on the contrary, minorities vote in higher numbers and may also vote strategically. This is especially true with Muslims, who not only vote to ensure their preferred candidate wins but also vote to ensure their leastpreferred candidate (usually representing the BJP) does not win. Muslims and low-caste groups have also formed alliances in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to try to defeat upper-caste groups and coalitions, and the politicking that goes on makes clear that for India’s poor the franchise is akin to a weapon. Democracies, more than any other form of government, are better at reforming and adapting. This process, however, is rarely pretty, and India proves the point. There are no perfect democracies in the world, and India, as Chapter

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 11

Introduction

11

12 will make clear, still needs to shed some troubling features before it can be considered a full-fledged liberal democracy. Yet its democratic structure is sufficiently robust that various Indian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and citizens’ groups have been able to use the country’s constitution and institutions (especially the courts) when trying to confront injustices committed against the most marginalized citizens—including the lower castes, women, and children. By some accounts these civil society organizations number over 500,000, and anyone spending sufficient time in rural and urban India can speak to their valiant efforts. One example here, which some have branded a second struggle for independence, will suffice: in June 2005, the Indian Parliament finally succumbed to fifteen years of pressure from various Indian activists and civil society groups and passed the Right to Information Act. Coming into force in October that year, the act partly mandates that citizens can request information from public authorities and stipulates time periods for the release of the soughtafter information. It has led to villagers seeking information about how monies allocated to village projects have been spent, whether materials used for development projects were of the proper quality, and whether the wages paid them matched what the government was charged for that labor. When combined with sections of the media that also go out of their way to document corruption and injustice, such measures have the potential to radically improve accountability, governance, and democracy. The reservation (or quota) system put in place so Dalits (formerly called Untouchables), Tribals, and Other Backward Castes (or Classes) could overcome discrimination and secure employment represents another significant instance of accommodation on the part of the Indian state. Whatever reasons may have justified the creation of the caste system, it morphed over the ages into an institution that oppressed and denigrated millions of Indians. The periodic violence ranging from rape and murder associated with caste represents a major blemish on Indian society. Those who continue to face the brunt of this oppression are Dalits. Forced into lives of servitude, drudgery, and humiliation, it is only in postindependence India that many Dalit communities have been able to assert themselves, and the main reason for their being able to do so is the right to vote. Chapter 10 describes the caste and reservation systems, but what needs to be noted here is that the rise of the Dalits and lower castes in India represents a social revolution. The reservation system put in place over the years now ensures that 22.5 percent of all jobs in the central government are reserved for Dalits and Tribals. Similarly, 27 percent of all jobs are reserved for caste groups that fall under the Other Backward Castes (or Classes) category. While caste is typically associated with Hindus, its influence has been around so long that even non-Hindus (Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and Sikhs) ended up with castes of their own. Even the Dalits, who fall outside of the overarching caste system, have over 1,000 subcastes, with many Dalits also being Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, and Zoroastrian (or Parsi). With

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

12

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 12

Neil DeVotta

the reservation system applying only to those classified as Hindu, Muslims and other religious minorities have not had access to the quota system for jobs at the national level (although some states with large Muslim populations have created quotas for Muslims at the state level). In December 2009, however, the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities proposed that the reservation system be extended to all minorities (including Hindus who constitute minority communities in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and the union territory of Lakshadweep) and that the entire reservation system be based on income as opposed to caste. Should its recommendations be implemented, the new policies would especially benefit Muslims who, as noted above, are among India’s poorest. India also has quotas in place for Dalits and Tribals in Parliament. Currently, out of the 543 seats in Parliament’s lower house, 79 are reserved for Dalits and 41 for Tribals. Dalits and Tribals also have seats reserved for them in the respective state legislatures. Furthermore, Dalits and Tribals have access to quotas in government educational institutions, and in August 2008 the Indian Supreme Court ordered all higher institutions funded by the central government to reserve 27 percent of seats for OBCs. The Congress Party–led government even considered imposing job quotas on the private sector to increase Dalit and low-caste representation but then backed off. The Indian government even nominates two representatives from the AngloIndian community (those of European and Indian ancestry) to serve in Parliament (as the community is relatively small and too scattered to compete for any seats). While the number of women winning elections to the Lok Sabha (lower house) of Parliament has been inching up—45 women were elected in 2004 whereas 58 were elected in 2009—there has long been a movement to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill, which would set aside 33 percent of seats in the lower house, state legislatures, and local governments for women. In March 2010, India’s upper house (Rajya Sabha) took the first step and voted on the Women’s Reservation Bill, which must now also be passed by the lower house and approved by at least half the country’s state assemblies before the legislation can take effect. In addition, 33.3 percent of seats in village councils (panchayats) are reserved for women. Consequently, at present about a million women get elected to village councils every five years. And the current Congress Party government has now proposed to increase women’s representation in village councils to 50 percent (thereby joining states like Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Uttarakhand that already reserve 50 percent of village council seats for women). This would raise women’s representation in village councils to 1.4 million. There is no electoral exercise of this magnitude designed to empower women anywhere else in the world. Separately, in December 2008 the Delhi High Court asked the central government to set aside 3 percent of jobs in the public sector for the disabled. Indeed, quotas are very much a part of the Indian political scene.

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 13

Introduction

13

Affirmative action is a controversial issue in the United States, and extending reservations in India too has caused vocal and violent protests, especially among upper-caste communities (who stand to lose the most). While decisions pertaining to the reservation system have inevitably been colored by political considerations, their main purpose has been to try to create a more egalitarian and less sexist India where historically the poor and women have been the most disempowered and oppressed. This too is part and parcel of India’s democratic process of accommodating important constituencies and ensuring that they have opportunities to thrive in the country’s growing economy. India’s vibrant and expanding economy will no doubt generate jobs for the skilled lower castes as well and thereby cause caste and the reservation system to lose their saliency over time (Das 2002). However, while development and modernization have already vitiated caste consciousness, the reservation system is bound to be a feature in India for a long time to come. Up to about the early seventeenth century, India and China were responsible for nearly 60 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. In 1700, India’s share of world income stood at 22.6 percent. The British exploited and pauperized India to such an extent that by the time they gave up colonial rule India was capable of producing very little. This no doubt partly influenced the likes of Jawaharlal Nehru into being highly suspicious of capitalism. Nehru and other Indian leaders were also thoroughly impressed with how the Soviet Union had transformed itself within a generation from a predominantly peasant society into an industrial state. The rise of the Labour Party in Britain, its support for Indian independence, and its embrace of socialist economic principles also influenced Nehru and other Congress Party leaders to eschew a capitalistic system and instead put their faith in socialism (Luce 2007: 28). But the economic policies they subsequently pursued stifled entrepreneurship, creativity, and industry so that India’s economy kept growing at an average of only 3.6 percent until the 1970s, which just about kept up with the country’s population growth and was derogatorily referred to as the “Hindu rate of growth.” The economy did grow at an average of about 5.6 percent in the 1980s, but when one looked at how Indians who had gone abroad were thriving, it was amply clear that the country’s economic structure was weighing down entrepreneurial Indians. Consecutive Indian governments were unhappy that qualified Indians were leaving the country to work abroad and bemoaned how this “brain drain” was undermining India while benefiting western countries especially, but those who left India retorted that living in socialist India was a “drain on the brain.” Today India is experiencing a “brain gain,” with many of those who left the country choosing to return, mainly because they believe that India provides better opportunities. The thousands of individual decisions associated with such reverse migration provide a powerful statement about India’s rise and its promising future. At a time when India and China are constantly compared, it is indeed a testament to the country’s plural nature and democratic culture that while Chinese

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

14

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 14

Neil DeVotta

leaders shudder at the hint of dissent, India’s leaders govern amid constant dissent. India has not been able to keep pace with China economically, partly because China’s open market reforms began twelve years before India’s and mainly because authoritarian systems operate more efficiently as they can cavalierly disregard their citizens’ preferences. For instance, when China decides to build a highway, it does so according to plan and those displaced as a result know better than to protest too loudly or violently. When India, on the other hand, builds a highway, it must often negotiate with various village heads and citizens’ groups who may protest against the planned route or over the amount villagers are compensated for sacrificing their land. Besides blocking construction, villagers and their NGO supporters may also halt progress by filing public interest lawsuits, which may thereafter take the overburdened courts years to rule on. To use a specific example, in 2004 Reliance Power, owned by one of India’s richest men, worked through the Uttar Pradesh state government and acquired 2,500 acres of land with plans to build a power station. According to Indian law, states can force farmers to sell their lands to private establishments provided they in turn develop the land in a manner that benefits the public. The state government had thus used emergency powers to buy the land and transfer it to the company. But 200 farmers owning 400 acres challenged the acquisition process in court. In December 2009 the Allahabad High Court ruled in favor of the farmers, thereby complicating the company’s plans. When combined with the red tape and rampant corruption throughout government bureaucracies, it is a miracle that postindependence India has come this far so quickly. Thus a leading Indian commentator could note: “Both the Chinese and the Indians are convinced that their prosperity will only increase in the 21st century. In China it will be induced by the state; in India’s case, it may well happen despite the state” (Das 2009). Notwithstanding such inefficiencies, India and its polity enjoy a degree of governmental stability. China, however, is still evolving politically—that is unless one believes the Chinese Communist Party can continue governing for decades to come without instituting significant political reforms. No one knows how peaceful or disruptive China’s transition from authoritarianism to a more representative form of government is going to be and what this means for disgruntled regions like Tibet and Xinjiang Province. According to one study, by 2050 China, India, and the United States will be the world’s first, second, and third largest economies (Dadush and Stancil 2010), respectively, although other projections show China surpassing the United States to take the top spot as early as 2027. A separate study claims that India even has the potential to become an advanced economy and surpass the United States to become the second largest global economy by 2039 (Asian Development Bank 2009). Yet when the imponderables associated with China’s political evolution are considered, India, its slower pace of development notwithstanding, could like the proverbial tortoise very well overtake China as well in the not too distant future.

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 15

Introduction

15

The Indian economy has certainly come a long way from where it was in 1991 when the country only had foreign currency reserves to purchase less than two weeks’ worth of imports and was forced to secretly transport its gold as collateral to the Bank of London so as to ensure assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF also forced the Indian government to institute open market policies, which ended the socialist dispensation Nehru and Indira Gandhi had championed. The gamble has paid off, with India registering under 6 percent growth during the first half of this decade and averaging close to 9 percent growth during 2005–2008. Incidentally, India ended 2009 with the fifth largest foreign reserves in the world and by buying up 200 tons of gold from the International Monetary Fund so as to shore up its reserves. India’s economic reforms have led to a rising middle class that may number over 150 million people, with some claiming it is as high as 300 million people. Either figure must be juxtaposed with the over 400 million Indians who are illiterate. This has also led to a wider gap between those who are relatively well off and the country’s poor. India still comprises about 600,000 villages, and over 70 percent of Indians continue to live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihood. The percentage living in poverty differs based on how one calculates poverty in India (i.e., calorie intake, income, goods and services utilized), and often the country’s states and central government disagree on the respective figures. Over one-half of India’s population, however, may be living in poverty or levels bordering on poverty. A recent study that gauged poverty based on goods and services consumed at the level of the household concluded that 37.2 percent of India’s population lived below the country’s poverty line. The study found that over 40 percent of Indians lived on less than Rs 15 (15 rupees; about 30 US cents) per day. A separate study claimed that if Rs 20 (about US 45 cents) per day was considered the poverty line, 77 percent of Indians would be considered poor and vulnerable (Economic and Political Weekly 2009: 5). The United Nations and World Bank poverty line is US$1.25 (around Rs 60), and by this measure the vast majority of Indians live in poverty. India’s Planning Commission, however, estimates that around 300 million Indians live in poverty (80 million in urban areas and 220 million in rural areas). While one may quibble about the various methodologies employed to conduct such studies, the fact remains that they all point to a rising economic disparity especially between rural and urban India and between the poor and middle/upper classes. The present Congress government has sought to cushion the plight of such Indians by forgiving farmers’ debts and instituting a National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), which guarantees 100 days of manual work per year at Rs 100 (approximately US$2.50) per day for adults in rural areas. During 2008–2009, nearly 45 million households benefited from some employment thanks to NREGA, and its popularity may be an important reason the Congress and its allies were reelected in May 2009. Some states in India carry out subsidized food programs whereby the poor get to purchase staple commodities at Rs

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

16

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 16

Neil DeVotta

2 per kilogram (2.2 pounds). The Indian government’s 2009 budget proposes supplying every family living below the poverty line 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of rice and wheat at Rs 3 per kilogram. This Food Security Act, if and when implemented, will no doubt help the poorest in India even as it likely expands the Congress Party’s vote base. Widespread poverty notwithstanding, India’s rise is also evident from the increased stature it now enjoys on the world stage. This is in spite of its fluctuating tensions with China and enmity with Pakistan. Indians are still to get over the humiliating military defeat their country suffered following China’s preemptive attack in 1962. While relations between the two countries have since improved drastically, to the point where they cooperate closely against the western states on issues like trade and the environment, tensions stemming from the Dalai Lama’s presence in India and a disputed border have ruffled Indo-China relations from time to time. Pakistan, on the other hand, has defined its identity in opposition to India, and the two countries have, in the main, enjoyed hostile relations since their independence. Pakistan controls one-third of Kashmir but claims the country can never be complete until all of predominantly Muslim Kashmir becomes part of Pakistan. India, however, considers Kashmir very much a part of its borders and also uses its only majority Muslim state to bolster the country’s secular status. The Pakistani military has used various extremist elements in the country to fan a proxy war within India-administered Kashmir and encourage secessionist forces within the state (Bose 2003; Ganguly 1997). Terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba that operate within Pakistan, often with the support and connivance of elements within Pakistan’s intelligence agency, have also targeted other parts of India. Thus, while for Americans September 11 signifies the day terrorists attacked the United States, for Indians December 13 and November 26 are days on which terrorists attacked India. The former refers to the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001, while the latter refers to the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai that lasted three days and killed 173 people. In many ways, the enmity with Pakistan compromises India’s international stature by complicating its relations with the Kashmiri people and foreign affairs with neighboring states. The sooner the differences between the two states are amicably settled and Pakistan becomes a stable democracy, the better it would be for India. While India has had mixed relations with its smaller South Asian neighboring states, the country enjoys much closer ties with the United States. The George W. Bush administration was reviled in most parts of the world, but Indians gave it high marks for going out of its way to foster US-India ties. This culminated in the nuclear agreement that was reached between the two countries in 2008 that allows India to purchase fuel for its nuclear reactors and also import nuclear reactors even as it maintains separately its nuclear weapons program. India is now accepted as a responsible nuclear weapons state, talked about

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 17

Introduction

17

as a possible permanent member of a reformed UN Security Council, and is an indispensable country when it comes to dealing with the challenges stemming from global warming. The multilateral foreign policies that the Barack Obama administration is advocating at a time when the United States is experiencing a period of relative decline and countries like India and China are on the rise affords India numerous opportunities to stamp its mark on global affairs. In 2001, exactly a decade after India began gradually opening up its economy, an influential US scholar wondered if “India is destined always to be ‘emerging’ but never actually arriving” (Cohen 2001: 2). Nearly ten years later, it appears that India has indeed “arrived” and is now destined to be one of the three foremost powers (together with the United States and China) to play an important role in the twenty-first century. In the topical survey of India that follows, Chapter 2 by Ashok Dutt briefly maps India’s geographical features so as to provide an overarching view of India’s topography. Dutt’s account indicates how India’s monsoons and great rivers sustain millions of people, and how for the average farmer it is the weather gods that determine doom or bloom. Chapter 3 by Benjamin Cohen provides an overview of India and South Asia’s major historical periods, events, and some themes from the Indus Valley era (c. 2500 B.C.E.) to India’s independence in 1947. Neither settled nor fixed, India’s history is constantly being added to, challenged, and revised as new discoveries are made and new theoretical insights are applied to its lengthy past. The chapter divides India’s past into a more nuanced scheme rather than the traditional tripartite ancient, medieval, and modern periods. Cohen brings to the fore the major dynasties and empires that have held sway over the subcontinent while alluding to some of the scholarly debates that have intervened in their narratives. Although far from comprehensive, this chapter provides a broad introduction and contextualization for modern India’s history. Chapter 4 by Shalendra Sharma explains the resilience of democracy in India in the face of a low-income economy, widespread poverty, illiteracy, and immense religious and ethnic diversity; how the country’s political system is structured; how it has evolved over the decades; its strengths and weaknesses; the way in which democratic governance has shaped political and socioeconomic change; and what the future holds for Indian democracy. It argues that the “deepening of democracy” in India has tended to exacerbate the problems of governance even as India’s democracy appears to be self-correcting. Chapter 5 discusses India’s international relations since independence. In it, I look at why Nehru pursued an expansive foreign policy and dominated the decisionmaking process, how and why the country’s international relations were more regionally focused between Nehru’s death and the end of the Cold War, and the opportunities and challenges facing India in the international arena in the twenty-first century.

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

18

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 18

Neil DeVotta

Chapter 6 by John Adams and Jason Kirk presents a bottom-up view of India’s economic activities to show how Indians perceive their roles and duties in the tasks of production, exchange, and consumption. The authors’ intent is twofold: to try to convey people’s aims and actions in the material or economic realm of their lives and to apply and make real concepts that are vital to understanding the operations of one of the world’s most complex and dynamic economies. The analysis suggests the enormous potential Indians have to extend the economic gains of the past sixty years and make India a much more prosperous country. Adams and Kirk note that about half of India’s families still rely on farming for their immediate livelihoods, and many others make their living by selling or processing goods produced by the farming sector. India’s agricultural sector thus remains the basis for many of its exports. While India has a long history of commercial and industrial enterprise, urban business activities have begun to move to the forefront of national economic life only recently, with the expansion of the diverse services sector outpacing growth in industry. Chapter 7 on population, urbanization, and the environment by Holly Sims notes how India is one of a very few nations whose constitution enjoins citizens to protect the environment. Yet this rapidly growing country, like the industrialized world before it, has degraded its air, land, and water in pursuit of economic development. Fortunately, leaders have joined some environmentally conscious citizens in remediation. As Sims notes, India is also a pioneer in renewable energy, which may restore a polluted Earth dependent on grimy fossil fuels that warm the planet. In Chapter 8, Lisa Trivedi looks at India’s women and identifies some of the common pitfalls in our thinking about women in modern India even as she introduces the turning points in the emergence of women as historical subjects and actors. Beginning with a discussion of the common misconceptions and paradoxes of women’s position in contemporary Indian society, Trivedi explains how colonialism, nationalism, and the family have contributed to the particular political, social, and economic position in which women live today. Her chapter also explores the roles of Indian women themselves in transforming society and their position within it over the course of more than a century. Finally, the chapter considers women’s position in society in terms of education, politics, and work in the period following independence. New opportunities in the workforce made possible by India’s liberalized and growing economy are today challenging social roles and customs that have heretofore been the single most important influence on women’s lives in India. Just how much women’s social status will be changed by women themselves and how much it will change due to forces brought to bear upon society by the economy is a question for the century ahead. Chapter 9 by Ainslie Embree highlights how many religious systems have contributed to the complex mosaic of contemporary Indian life. Four of them—

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 19

Introduction

19

Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, and Sikhism—originated in South Asia and comprise over 80 percent of India’s population. Three had their origins outside the subcontinent—Islam (by far the largest), Christianity, and Zoroastrianism. Embree offers brief surveys of the historic development of these religions in India and emphasizes their interaction with each other and their contributions to the larger society. As he notes, these interactions have, unfortunately, been characterized by hostility, especially before and after partition in 1947 and by the development of political parties stressing the dominance of Hindu culture over the religious groups that had their origins outside the subcontinent. Chapter 10 by Christophe Jaffrelot discusses the origins of the caste system and how both Dalits and the Other Backward Castes have used their numbers and the franchise to gradually organize, mobilize, and assert themselves in Indian politics. Jaffrelot discusses how Kanshi Ram gave rise to the Bahujan Samaj Party and the party’s progress and impact on Indian politics (especially in Uttar Pradesh) over the past few elections. Caste was most salient when the jajmani system (which specified services across caste groups) operated and perpetuated hereditary caste-based employment. But that is less and less the case today. As Jaffrelot notes, caste still exists and is especially important when it comes to marriage, “but the caste system is undergoing significant change, at least in urban areas.” Given India’s incredible diversity, dealing with a topic like art in a single essay is an almost impossible task, yet Ananda Lal does a superb job in Chapter 11, succinctly going over the various artistic forms and genres that have contributed to India’s rich culture. The West is well aware of Indian artists working in English or through popular Bollywood cinema, but Lal’s chapter introduces readers to a number of leading Indians who have worked through various mediums and contributed immensely to the country’s polyethnic heritage. Finally, Chapter 12 discusses the trends and prospects facing India both domestically and internationally. It makes clear that India has no business aspiring to superpower status unless it first takes care of its millions of citizens relegated to illiteracy and poverty. If this introduction has rightly touted India’s wondrous polyethnicity and democratic heritage, the trends and prospects’ chapter notes how India needs to overcome a number of challenges dealing with governance and antistatist forces on the domestic front and terrorism originating beyond its borders if the country is to become a great power. This chapter especially discusses how the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots and the country’s rampant quest for development have partly contributed to the country’s Maoist rebellion and argues that how India deals with this dissent and also its Muslim population’s legitimate grievances will, to a significant degree, determine the speed of its rise. At the end of World War II, no serious student of international affairs could afford to ignore the United States. Similarly, no serious student of international affairs today can afford to ignore India, for its actions too will increasingly affect the rest of the world for better or worse. The chapters that follow go a long

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

20

2:37 PM

Page 20

Neil DeVotta

way in helping students better comprehend the extraordinary and complex country that is India.



Bibliography

Aiyar, Mani Shankar. 2004. Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist. New Delhi: Viking. Asian Development Bank. 2009. India 2039: An Affluent Society in One Generation. Metro Manila: Asian Development Bank. Austin, Granville. 1999 [1966]. The Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of a Nation. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Bhargava, Rajeev, ed. 1998. Secularism and Its Critics. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Bose, Sumantra. 2003. Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Brass, Paul R. 2003. The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Cohen, Stephen P. 2001. India: Emerging Power. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. Dadush, Uri, and Bennet Stancil. 2010. The World Order in 2050. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Das, Gurcharan. 2002. India Unbound: From Independence to the Global Information Age. New Delhi: Penguin Books. ———. 2009. “The Next World Order.” New York Times (January 1). Doniger, Wendy. 2009. The Hindus: An Alternative History. New York: Penguin Press. Economic and Political Weekly. 2009. “Recounting India’s Poor,” vol. 44, no. 51 (December 19): 5–6. Elwin, Verrier. 1961. Nagaland. Shillong: Adviser’s Secretariat. Ganguly, Sumit. 1997. The Crisis in Kashmir: Portents of War, Hopes of Peace. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Guha, Ramachandra. 2007. India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy. London: Macmillan. Hardgrave, Robert L. 2005. “Hindu Nationalism and the BJP: Transforming Religion and Politics in India.” In Prospects for Peace in South Asia, Rafiq Dossani and Henry S. Rowen, eds. Stanford: Stanford University Press, pp. 185–214. Hawley, John Stratton. 1991. “Naming Hinduism.” Wilson Quarterly (Summer): 20–34. Husain, S. Abid. 1965. The Destiny of Indian Muslims. Bombay: Asia Publishing House. Jeffery, Patricia, and Roger Jeffery. 2006. Confronting Saffron Demography: Religion, Fertility, and Women’s Status in India. Gurgaon: Three Essays Collective. Kashyap, Subhash C. 1998. “Ethnicity and Constitutional Reforms in India.” In Ethnicity and Constitutional Reform in South Asia, Iftekharuzzaman, ed. New Delhi: Manohar, pp. 27–48. Khilnani, Sunil. 1997. The Idea of India. London: H. Hamilton. Luce, Edward. 2007. In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India. London: Abacus. Phadnis, Aditi. 2003. “I Wouldn’t Mind Being Born Ten Times to Rediscover India.” Business Standard, July 11, 2003. Prime Minister’s High Level Committee. 2006. Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India: A Report. New Delhi: Government of India.

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 21

Introduction

21

Sen, Amartya. 2005. The Argumentative India: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity. New York: Picador. Talbot, Ian, and Gurharpal Singh. 2009. The Partition of India. New York: Cambridge University Press. Varshney, Ashutosh. 2002. Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India. New Haven: Yale University Press. Wilkinson, Steven I. 2004. Votes and Violence: Electoral Competition and Communal Riots in India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

01DeVotta_1.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 22

02DeVotta_2.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 23

2 India: A Geographic Preface Ashok K. Dutt

I

ndia is a land of extraordinary diversity—and geography has been one of the principal contributors to its variety and its destiny. Its ancient civilizations have evolved into their modern forms shaped by wide coastal plains, the world’s loftiest mountain ranges, and many different—and extreme—climates. With a population of close to 1.2 billion in 2010 and an area covering 1,284,375 square miles (3,288,000 square kilometers), India shares what is called the Indian subcontinent (also known as South Asia) with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka (see Map 2.1). Its largest physiographic region is called the Deccan Plateau, at the northwestern edge of which are the oldest mountains of South Asia, the Aravalli Range, formed 600–700 million years ago (see Map 2.2). The northwestern part of the plateau is also home to an extensive area of volcanic-based soil (“black cotton soil”), making it the country’s most important cotton-producing area. The earliest cotton mills were established here, and many of the region’s cities—such as Ahmadabad, Nagpur, Mumbai (Bombay), and Sholapur—remain the country’s main cotton textile centers. The rugged terrain in the Deccan Plateau, its lack of north-south river valleys, and the east-west alignment of its Vindhya and Satpura mountain ranges were a significant barrier to conquests from the north in the historic past. On only a few occasions was the plateau entirely conquered by the powerful north Indian kings. When people think of India, they typically think of the Himalayas, home to twenty of the highest peaks of the world. This series of parallel mountain ranges extends nearly 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) across the northern edge of the country, crisscrossed by long valleys, wide plateaus, rivers, and glaciers. Though the major part of the Himalayas is located in India, a small part lies in 23

02DeVotta_2.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 24

LoC

AFGHANISTAN

Map 2.1 South Asia

Ind

us

Srinagar

Kashmir In

du

s

Islamabad Punjab

Himachal Pradesh Hardwar

Haryana

PAKISTAN

New Delhi

CHINA

Uttaranchal

NEPAL

Mathura Agra

sh

rade

Sikkim

Ga

nge

Uttar Pradesh

s

al P

Kathmandu Thimphu

BHUTAN

putra

Brahma

Rajasthan Allahabad

Patna

us

Varanasi Ind

Bihar Madhya Pradesh Jharkhand

Gujarat

Ganges

Assam Meghalaya BANGLADESH ra Dhaka ipu Tr ng es

Chhattisgarh

Nagpur

Nagaland

Manipur

Ga

West Calcutta Bengal

INDIA

Ahmadabad

Mizoram

MYANMAR (BURMA)

Orissa A r a b i a n S e a

nach

Aru

Maharashtra Mumbai (Bombay)

B a y Pune Sholapur

o f

Hyderabad

B e n g a l

Andhra Pradesh Goa Karnataka

Bangalore Madras

Mysore

ala

Ker

e i v a d c c L a

Tamil Nadu

Andaman Sea

a S e

SRI LANKA Colombo

Kashmir is disputed territory LoC Line of Control

I n d i a n

O c e a n

02DeVotta_2.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 25

Map 2.2 Major Physiographic Regions

Himalayas Eastern Hills and Mountains Indo-Gangetic and Brahmaputra Plains East Coastal Plains West Coastal Plains Deccan Plateau

02DeVotta_2.qxd:Layout 1

26

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 26

Ashok K. Dutt

Pakistan, and sections of the central and eastern parts are in Nepal and Bhutan. (Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak at 29,029 feet [8,848 meters], is in Nepal.) The Himalayas have proved a blessing in many ways. Air movements caused by the mountains bring the water-laden summer monsoon winds from the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal to the Deccan Plateau and the northern plains, and with them comes the rainfall on which Indian agriculture depends. The lofty east-west mountain system prevents the cold Central Asian winds from invading the northern plains during winter, saving India from the frigid cold fronts that plague its neighbors to the north. And the mountains have provided a barrier against foreign invasions and large population movements from the north. It is also true that the Himalayas—together with the Bay of Bengal in the southeast, the Arabian Sea in the southwest, and the thick forests and rugged terrain of the eastern Assam-Burma ranges—left only the northwestern corridor mountain passes open to continuous human migrations in the past. Nevertheless, through the centuries, trade networks linking India with China and the Mediterranean, invasions by groups of Central Asian origin, and British imperialism— to mention only a very few of many factors—resulted in a land of plurality. The story of how India developed into a country of so many political, cultural, religious, and ethnic groups is discussed in Chapters 3 and 9. * * * Three main river systems originate in the Himalayas: the Indus and its five tributaries in the northwest, the Brahmaputra in the northeast, and the Ganges (Ganga) and its tributaries in the center. The rich Indus-Ganges plain was the main area of early development on the subcontinent. The productivity of its land and its convenient east-west accessibility—it is possible to travel along the wide plain for more than 1,500 miles (2,413 kilometers) without encountering a mountain barrier—made it the seat of political power for many early rulers. Through the centuries, capitals were established in Patna (Pataliputra), Mathura, Agra, and Delhi—and New Delhi (adjacent to the original city) is the capital of modern India. The Ganges River, originating in the Great Himalayas of northern Uttar Pradesh, is the most sacred of India’s rivers, particularly for the Hindus. According to the Hindu religion, bathing in the Ganges washes away one’s sins. There are several pilgrimage places along the river, such as at Hardwar, where the river emerges from the mountains, and Allahabad, where the Ganges and the Yamuna Rivers join. In both Hardwar and Allahabad, millions congregate for the festival of Kumbha Mela. In January–February 2001, the festival of Mahakhumbha Mela, held every twelve years in Allahabad, attracted 100 million

2:37 PM

Page 27

Neil DeVotta

6/16/10

Pilgrims at Hardwar

Neil DeVotta

02DeVotta_2.qxd:Layout 1

Ghats along the Ganges River in Varanasi

02DeVotta_2.qxd:Layout 1

2:37 PM

Page 28

Ashok K. Dutt

Lynne Rienner

28

6/16/10

The arid landscape of Rajasthan

pilgrims and visitors. Farther eastward, at Varanasi, Hindus have established their most sacred place. For more than three miles along the banks of the Ganges at Varanasi, there are continuous ghats (wide steps descending to the river) with numerous temples and bathing areas. * * * Indian farmers have lived with unpredictable weather since they first cultivated the land more than 5,000 years ago, variously confronting drought and floods. Much of the country experiences a typical monsoon climate, with rainy summers and dry winters: the rains begin in May and last until October, and July and August are the rainiest months. But the average rainfall across the country varies dramatically, from 7 inches (178 millimeters) in the Rajasthan desert, to 26 inches (666 millimeters) in Pune, to 71 inches (1,805 millimeters) only 100 miles (161 kilometers) away in Mumbai, to nearly 400 inches (more than 10,000 millimeters) in Mausynram, south of the Assam Hills. Farmers await the onset of the monsoons to sow their rice, maize, and other rainy-season crops. But the rains are unpredictable. They can start early or be delayed by several weeks, and their duration is erratic: it may rain constantly for a week and then not rain again for several weeks. For instance, 2009 was a bad year for most Indian farmers because the monsoons arrived late, and while much of the country experienced conditions of drought, the southern state of Karnataka saw catastrophic flooding. Such extreme conditions frequently resulted in famines in the past. Now,

02DeVotta_2.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:37 PM

Page 29

A Geographic Preface

29

with the existence of railroad networks (first established in the mid-nineteenth century) and other modern means of transportation, grains can be moved from regions with surplus to areas of need. But the dread of drought and floods is so ingrained that an element of fatalism continues to exist: “The monsoon rains which give life as well as take it, are uncontrollable and, therefore, it is believed that fate alone ultimately decides the well-being of the people” (Dutt and Geib 1987: 15). The drought-prone areas of India are shown in Map 2.3. * * * From the alpine lakes of Kashmir to the tropical beaches of Goa, from the deserts of Rajasthan to the lush forests of Karnataka, India encompasses every landscape imaginable. Its peoples have harnessed many of its features to improve their lives—for example, some rivers have been redirected in order to prevent flooding, and others have been dammed for irrigation purposes—but the

Map 2.3 Drought-Prone Areas

Generally drought-free areas Zone 3—moderate Zone 2—severe Zone 1—extreme

Source: Based on Reddy and Singh, 1979: 42.

02DeVotta_2.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

30

2:37 PM

Page 30

Joost Kaptijn

Ashok K. Dutt

Lush fields on the way from Chennai to Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu

challenge of sustaining the environment while supporting the development of 1.2 billion people remains an enormous one. That challenge is discussed fully in Chapter 7.



Note

The author thanks Allen G. Noble, distinguished emeritus professor at the University of Akron, for reading and commenting on the manuscript for this chapter. He also thanks Mayuri Das, graduate assistant in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Akron, for help in preparing numerous versions of the manuscript.



Bibliography

Dasgupta, Shiba P. 1982. National Atlas of India. Vol. 2. Calcutta: National Atlas and Thematic Atlas Organization, Government of India. Deshpande, Chandra Shekhar. 1992. India: A Regional Interpretation. New Delhi: Indian Council of Social Research and Northern Book Center. Dutt, Ashok K., and Margaret Geib. 1987. Atlas of South Asia. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Gregory, S. 1989. “The Changing Frequency of Drought in India, 1871–1985.” Geographical Journal 55, no. 3: 322–334. Reddy, Nalagatla Bala Krishna, and V. R. Singh. 1979. “Delimitation of Drought-Prone Areas of India: A Geographical Approach.” In Drought-Prone Areas of India, Nalagatla Bala Krishna Reddy, ed. Tirupathi: Sri Venkateswara University.

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 31

3 The Historical Context Benjamin Cohen

I

ndia’s history is long, complex, and vibrant. Humans have inhabited the Indian subcontinent for at least 7,000 years and have used script for much of that time. Over the millennia, countless political and social formations have emerged, have triumphed, and then either have been dramatically vanquished or have gradually faded from power. Thus India’s history presents a complex and bewildering array of events, names, and dates. Further, far from being settled fact, much of India’s history is constantly being revisited with the addition of new discoveries, the application of new theoretical insights, and the changing winds that blow through the academy and historical writing. What follows then is a whirlwind tour of the major historical developments in India, beginning with the Indus Valley civilization c. 2500 B.C.E.—where the earliest script has been found— and ending with modern India’s independence from colonial rule in 1947. One legacy of British rule in India was that British and European historians neatly divided India’s history into three eras: ancient, medieval, and modern. Historians borrowed this template from much of Europe’s own history and applied it to India. They believed that India once had a great ancient period that saw Hinduism and Buddhism at their social, political, and artistic peaks. That era was violently ended by the arrival of Muslim conquerors, which ushered in a darker medieval period. To reinforce and justify their own rule in India, European scholarship marked the modern period with the arrival of their own rule. This triptych scheme has been dismissed by historians, and what follows is a more nuanced periodization of India’s history.



The Indus Valley (C. 2500–1500 B.C.E.)

In the early nineteenth century, British East India Company officials visited what appeared to be ancient sites at Harappa, located in the Indus River valley 31

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

32

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 32

Benjamin Cohen

system and now within modern-day Pakistan. Slowly, over the nineteenth and early twentieth century, men like Daya Ram Sahni uncovered bricks and other artifacts at Harappa that were clearly from an ancient civilization. With advances in technology and increasingly sophisticated archaeological tools, scholars have dated the Indus River Valley civilization to roughly c. 2500 B.C.E. Large urban settlements are key markers of the Indus River Valley civilization. Urban settlements at Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, and Ganweriwala each covered an area approximately 160 to 200 square acres. Each city had an outer wall that was likely used both to demarcate the urban core from the periphery, as well as for defensive purposes. Within the city, streets fanned out in a clear grid pattern with what appears to be different sectors for residential and official areas. Residential homes were often two or three stories in height and had such technological advances as indoor plumbing linked to drains and a sewer system. Within official or business areas, all three cities have a “citadel” or large raised dais, located in the center of this area, perhaps on which locals performed ritual or political functions. Unique to Mohenjo-Daro is the “Great Bath”—a structure scholars believe was filled with water for ritual purposes. Also found at the cities are large storage areas that archaeologists speculate might have been for grain storage. Many of the buildings uncovered within the Indus valley were constructed from bricks that are uniform in size. This uniformity indicates sophisticated brick-making technology, and as these bricks have been found at multiple sites, alludes to links between Indus valley cities and sites. When British officials and scholars visited Harappa in the late nineteenth century, they found that many of the bricks on the surface—that would have revealed a great deal about Harappan architecture and society—had been carted off to form the ballast for the Lahore-Karachi railway line. The clearly articulated form of Indus valley cities indicates highly developed social and political structures. First, the Indus valley inhabitants had a script. This script is comprised of geometric shapes interspersed with animals and other natural symbols. The script is likely pictographic, but has not yet been deciphered. Second, archaeologists have recovered sophisticated household items from the sites. These include jewelry, tools, ceramic pots and shards, and children’s toys. Third, several highly detailed and beautiful sculptural pieces have been unearthed. These include one sculpture of a man dubbed the “priest-king,” and another of a stylized woman dubbed the “dancing girl.” Finally, at the Indus valley sites, and discovered as far away as Mesopotamia, a large number of “seals” have been discovered. These seals, carved in soapstone or other rock types, depict script along with an animal or scenic picture. Many have one particular animal resembling a unicorn. Scholars believe that merchants of the Indus valley used the seals to identify particular families or businesses: the seal could have been pressed into soft clay or mud to identify a particular parcel with its sender. The sophistication of the Indus valley people extended to their economy as well. In addition to the seals used for marking goods, archaeologists have

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 33

The Historical Context

33

uncovered a system of standardized weights across multiple sites. This allowed trade between Indus valley sites to be carried out with some degree of uniformity. The Indus valley is rich in natural resources, and its residents incorporated this wealth into their economy. They grew rice, barley, and wheat as well as sesame and mustard seed. Cotton was also within their agricultural repertoire. The Indus valley people combined some agriculture with pastoral practice, raising goats and sheep. From their environs, copper, gold, ivory, pearls, and— crucially—timber were all available and were traded both eastward toward Rajasthan and westward to Mesopotamia. What happened to the inhabitants of the Indus valley is a hotly contested and much-debated question. By 1900 B.C.E., it is clear that the area was in decline, and somewhere between 1700 and 1600 B.C.E., much of the Indus River Valley civilization disappeared completely. The first theory of Indus valley decline posits that the area suffered a massive and hostile invasion by Aryans who came from the Central Asian steppe. This “Aryan invasion theory” rests upon references in later Vedic literature that allude to some form of invasion. (The word arya meaning “noble” does not actually appear in Sanskrit literature.) However, archaeological evidence does not support the invasion theory. What human remains that have been found show no sign of trauma, nor do local structures. A second “internal theory” suggests that domestic Indians who came from either the north (Kashmir) or from the south incorporated the Indus River Valley people into their society. However, clear linguistic differences that mark the end of the Indus Valley period, and further links to Central Asian languages do not support this theory. A third theory, accepted by most serious scholars of South Asia, suggests a combination of environmental and social changes that led to the gradual decline of the Indus Valley civilization. This theory argues that over time, Central Asian Aryans migrated into the Indus valley and intermingled with its inhabitants. Evidence suggests racial mixing as well as cultural borrowing between the Aryan and Indus peoples. Thus, migration—not invasion—is currently accepted as the most likely explanation for the arrival of Aryans in South Asia. In addition, scholars have uncovered significant evidence for a concomitant change in the environment that likely added to the demise of the Indus Valley people. The region is subject to earthquakes that have shifted the Indus River and its tributaries. These shifts led to flooding in some areas and significant water shortages in other areas. Many of the homes at Mohenjo-Daro were rebuilt and raised on the same plot, indicating a rising water table and periodic flooding. A change in the river might have also caused outbreaks of disease that would have decimated the community. Indus Valley ceramicists fired bricks using timber, and by the late Indus period, widespread deforestation likely sped the civilization’s decline. Environmental changes might also have strained the Indus Valley people’s agricultural and economic systems, forcing them to abandon their location in search of more sustainable environs.

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

34



6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 34

Benjamin Cohen

The Vedic Era (c. 1500–500 B.C.E.)

The period from 1500 to 500 B.C.E. is called the Vedic or Indo-Aryan period. As with all periodization, these dates are approximate. This Vedic age takes its name from the Rig Veda (among the world’s oldest texts) that was compiled during this time. During this era, Indo-Aryans slowly moved east into the Gangetic valley and as far as Bengal. As they moved east, these people increasingly refined their use of iron technology—as weapons, for felling the thick Gangetic forests, and later for tilling the earth for agricultural purposes. They also moved south, perhaps extending their influence all the way to the Godavari River in India’s high central plateau, the Deccan. In the early Vedic era, c. 1700–1400 B.C.E., Indo-Aryans occupied an area now concurrent with parts of Afghanistan and Iran. Scholars believe that these peoples eventually split—the Indo-Aryans moved east into India, and the second group, the Avestan, moved into Iran. Similarities in language and ritual practice between the Indo-Aryans and Avestan suggest they derived from a single people. In the centuries that followed, and certainly by c. 900, the IndoAryans began their movement east. Vedic literature was memorized and the texts were orally passed down over multiple generations. Sanskrit, the language of the Vedic period, was related to the larger Indo-Aryan linguistic family, which itself was derived from the IndoEuropean languages. Scholars have established links between Sanskrit from the Asian context, and English from the European context. Veda translates as “knowledge,” but the Rig Veda might better be thought of as a compilation of hymns, rituals, and sacrifices—or, in other words, a manual on how best to please the gods that Vedic era peoples worshipped. The Rig Veda consists of 10,600 verses, and it was likely composed along with its newer counterparts c. 1700–1500 B.C.E. but not committed to a written form until closer to 500 B.C.E. The text refers to these people’s earlier homes, including an area that best describes the Swat Valley, now in Pakistan. As a historical document, the Rig Veda is perhaps less useful than other documents as it is more concerned with the ritual side of life. The Rig Veda describes rituals to appease the gods, especially Indra, the god of war. Scholars believe that the Vedic people engaged in repeated conflicts with the inhabitants of the Gangetic plain, who are referred to as the “dark skinned” or “black” people (dasas). Three other works are part of the core Vedic literary tradition: the Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Artha Veda. The Rig Veda mentions both pastoral and agricultural practices. The IndoAryans slowly transitioned from pastoral lifestyles where horse, sheep, and cattle were highly valued, to an agricultural lifestyle—in part learned from the earlier inhabitants of the Gangetic plain who taught them to grow crops such as wheat and barley. At home, Vedic society was highly patriarchal. Fathers or grandfathers were heads of the house, and sons—even after marriage—stayed

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 35

The Historical Context

35

at home to help their fathers and families. Large families merged into clans and became subcastes. For women, life inside the home was bearable, as families honored and respected women within the home, but once outside they had little if any social power. It is during the Vedic period that the practice of widows performing self-immolation on their husband’s funeral pyres came into practice (sati), which is briefly discussed in Chapter 8. Vedic society had its lighter side. The Rig Veda mentions horse racing, dancing, music, the consumption of a power-giving drink (soma), and even warns against the vices of gambling. Over time, an increasingly agricultural society led to greater stratification within Vedic culture, giving way to ever-increasing social divisions. Early forms of social organization revolved around clans with a kind of chieftain as its head. Over time, these chieftains acquired greater power and became rulers (rajas). As rulers or kings, these men oversaw increasingly large territories, and their power grew more autocratic, marking a shift from clan-based society to state-based society. With the rise of kingship, so too did the power of the priest (Brahman). This religious adviser was an important component in the king’s authority. The king required the priest to officiate at elaborate ceremonies that invested him with the power to rule and curry favor amongst the gods. At the same time, the king granted the priest temples, lands, and other boons to secure merit. The priests oversaw elaborate sacrifices that enforced the king’s authority. Perhaps none is more colorful than the horse sacrifice (ashvameda). In this event, one of the king’s horses was set free to wander for a year. Wherever the horse went, the king’s army proclaimed that territory as part of the king’s realm. When the year was over, and the king’s realm significantly increased, priests oversaw a complex ritual whereby they sacrificed and consumed the horse. From the Rig Veda comes the earliest explanation of India’s caste system, which is discussed in detail in Chapter 10. The term caste itself comes from the Portuguese word casta, which refers to blood. Early Portuguese explorers in India believed caste to be about blood—which is correct to some extent—but it is more about birth and occupation. The Rig Veda explains that there are four caste groups. Visitors to India who inquire about caste often hear this oversimplified explanation. This idealized caste system placed individuals in their particular occupational pigeonhole. At the top of the caste hierarchy are Brahmans: priests and scholars. Beneath them are the Kshatriyas: the kings and warriors. Vaishyas follow, being the money lenders and traders. At the bottom are the Sudras: artisans, laborers, and slaves. Within caste groups are social communities (jatis) that further stratify society. Brahmans, who controlled rituals and sacrifices carried out within temples, used the concepts of duty (dharma) and merit (karma) to explain why people were poor and must not seek social advancement. Their duty was to perform their occupational tasks, thus acquiring merit so that when reborn, they might advance up the caste ladder, eventually finding deliverance (moksha) from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Woven into

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

36

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 36

Benjamin Cohen

the caste system is color (varnas), thus leading scholars to believe that early fair-skinned Indo-Aryans discriminated against darker-skinned pre-Aryan inhabitants, the dasas of the Rig Veda.



The Buddhist Period (500 B.C.E.–700 C.E.)

Before proceeding, we must take a brief tour through India’s encounter with Greeks. Early Greek conquerors pushed into Afghanistan between 550 and 330 B.C.E. and were part of the Achamenid Empire. They were followed by that best known explorer, Alexander the Great, who extended Greek authority up to the Indus River basin. In 326 B.C.E., Alexander defeated King Porus after the latter refused to bend his knee in submission. However, Alexander’s troops refused to push farther into India and he began his trek homeward. All along his path, Alexander installed generals to maintain his holdings. Descendants of these sentinels formed the Seleucid dynasty (364–312). The Seleucid kings signed a treaty with Indian ruler Chandragupta Maurya, agreeing to make the greater Hindu Kush the border between them. Later, the Bactrians, under Menander (r. 160–130), pushed into India to the Maurya capital of Pataliputra (modern-day Patna). In the last century before the common era, the remaining Greek forces found themselves attacked from the west first by the Scythians (c. 80 B.C.E.), and finally by the Shakas and Parthians. This brought a close to the last remaining Greek stronghold, Bactria, in around 50 B.C.E. Returning to central India, in the fourth century B.C.E. the Mauryan Empire emerged, rising from the Magadha Empire in the Gangetic valley. The Mauryan Empire was the first to cover nearly the entire subcontinent under one dynastic rule, from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal, and from the Vindhya mountains in the south to Kashmir in the north. During the Magadha period, as the nearly 550 smaller states that lined the Gangetic basin clashed over power and resources, two kings, Bimbisara and Ajatashatru in the fifth century B.C.E., rose to power. The latter king constructed Pataliputra (Patna) as his capital. The lush region surrounding Patna provided pre-Mauryan and Mauryan rulers with an ample supply of elephants, timber, and iron. In the year 321 B.C.E., Mauryan ruler Chandragupta Maurya defeated the last of a minor and weak Nanda regime. The Nanda kings ruled for only two decades and are notable for being from the lower Sudra caste, marking a low point in caste power in north India. As noted above, Chandragupta Maurya also engaged and defeated the Greeks who held territory west of the Mauryan base. The battle had not been a lengthy one, and Chandragupta and his Greek adversary Seleucus quickly made peace: the former marrying the latter’s daughter, and Seleucus receiving 500 elephants as a gift from Chandragupta. Aiding Chandragupta’s rise to power, and crafting one of India’s most important texts, was a Brahman courtier named Kautilya. This adviser to the king wrote the

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 37

37

The Historical Context

Map 3.1 South Asia at the Time of the Guptas, 320–500 C.E.

West Bengal

ra

ipu Tr

Core area of the Guptas, conquered by Chandra Gupta I and Samudra Gupta Border kings under Samudra Gupta; conquered by Chandra Gupta II Nominally conquered tribes Shaka Empire; conquered by Chandra Gupta II circa 400 C.E. Controlled by the Guptas in the fifth century

Source: Based on Kulke and Rothermund, 1998: 366.

Arthashastra (treatise on power), which stands today as among the world’s best texts on power, politics, statecraft, and war. Kautilya explored concepts such as “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”—a classic strategy in state building and war craft. Under Chandragupta, the Mauryan Empire devised an elegant system of ministers who held different ranks and were responsible for different functions of the empire’s life. This improved efficiency, yet political realities sometimes intervened, and Chandragupta developed an elaborate network of spies to keep him informed of his empire’s doings. Further, he built a large and powerful army, used repeatedly to expand his holdings out from the Gangetic plain. Chandragupta was followed by his son, Bindusara (r. 297–272 B.C.E.), who is best known for his use of the army in taking large portions of the Deccan. Bindusara was in turn followed by his son, Ashok (r. 268–232 B.C.E.). In the history of Indian rulers, Ashok holds a special place. Not only was he a brilliant military commander who expanded the Mauryan Empire to its greatest extent, but he also underwent a moral or spiritual awakening that resonates to this day. Early in Ashok’s reign (261 B.C.E.) he launched a massive war against the recalcitrant people of Kalinga, on India’s southeast coast. They had

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

38

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 38

Benjamin Cohen

defied and resisted earlier attempts to bring them into the Mauryan fold. A legend suggests that after winning the battle, Ashok toured the bloodied field, and was so overcome with grief and remorse at the loss of life, that he converted to Buddhism on the spot. Facts do show that after the battle of Kalinga, Ashok became an even greater patron of Buddhism, and began a plan of erecting pillars and inscriptions throughout his domain. His patronage of Buddhism, and the inscriptions with their emphasis on duty (dhamma or dharma), are considered Ashok’s greatest contributions. The building of the pillars and their edicts marked the second half of Ashok’s rule. In addition, with the support of Buddhism, vegetarianism and a new sense of ethical rule were added to the Mauryan imperial character. Nothing of Ashok’s rule would have been known without the work of a British official, James Princep, who in 1837 deciphered the language (Pali) of the rock and pillar edicts. Ashok and the Mauryan influence are recognized today in the Indian flag with its wheel of law (dharma-chakra). After Ashok’s death, the Mauryan Empire quickly faded. Theories abound as to the reasons for this rapid demise. One suggests that Ashok’s patronage of Buddhism slighted powerful Brahmans, who took their revenge by unsettling his successors. Alternatively, Ashok’s successors were weak and unable to maintain the empire’s vast holdings. Or perhaps the empire was unable to collect enough revenue to maintain itself. Finally, there is the theory that the Mauryas maintained a second capital at Taxila that divided resources away from Patna, and engendered cultural, economic, and revenue differences. Most likely, it was some combination of all of these theories that ended the Mauryan Empire. From the end of the Mauryan Empire (c. 185 B.C.E.) for nearly five centuries, an interregnum settled over north India marked by a few smaller kingdoms. The Mauryas were followed by the Shunga dynasty (185–173 B.C.E.) led by King Pushyamitra. He is known for restoring favor to Brahmanical Hinduism at court—he himself performed the ashvameda ceremony twice. In the Deccan, the Shatavahana dynasty arose (250/235 B.C.E.–225 C.E.) spanning a region from Nashik in the west to Dhanyakataka in the east. India also witnessed two “invader” states during this period, the Shaka and Kushana dynasties. The Shakas came to rule in northwest India up to c. 400. Borrowing from the earlier Greek regimes in the region, they too used local governors (satraps) to administer their territories. The Kushanas, like the Shakas, were of Central Asian descent, and came to rule an area from Kashi in the east to Sogdiana in the west. Their king, Kanishka, is remembered as a great patron of Buddhism. The Kushana Empire collapsed by 225.



The Gupta Empire (320–550)

In 320, the second great all-India–encompassing empire arose: the Guptas. The Guptas, like the Mauryas, are known for having unified almost the entire

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 39

The Historical Context

39

subcontinent under one political regime. They accomplished this both by the forceful use of their army, and by incorporating lesser rulers as their vassals— a political strategy used in India up through the British period. The Gupta period is often called the “Golden Age” of Indian culture as philosophy, art, architecture, and literature all flourished. However, recently scholars have begun rethinking the “Golden Age” idea, suggesting instead that some of the cultural boons might have occurred in the less imperial post-Gupta age. Regardless of these debates, an overview of the Gupta rulers followed by their social and political contributions leaves no doubt as to their importance. Chandragupta I (r. 318–330) expanded his empire outward from the Gangetic plain, near modern-day Uttar Pradesh. He had coins minted to mark his coronation, and later took the title “great king of kings” (maharajadhiraja), a practice not known before, but used frequently within Indian polities in the time to come. Samudragupta followed (r. 330–375), further expanding the empire south to the Deccan and east into the Naga hill area. He in turn was succeeded by Chandragupta II (r. 375–415), who after winning a brief succession struggle, took on and defeated the Shakas of northwest India. He also erected a great iron pillar, now located outside of modern Delhi. Such was the metallurgic skill of the Gupta craftsmen that the pillar has never rusted. Kumaragupta (r. 415–454) followed and was in turn succeeded by Skandagupta (r. 454–467). Under Skandagupta’s reign, Central Asian Hunas challenged the Gupta Empire on its western front in what is modern-day Afghanistan. Skandagupta also faced a series of internal revolts and dissensions. These combined to see the empire collapse by 550. Scholars have argued about the impact of the Huna battle, some believing that it was the cause of the Gupta collapse, while more recently others believe that the Gupta Empire, not unlike the Mauryas, simply collapsed under its own weight. The Gupta regime witnessed numerous cultural developments. Literature flourished, perhaps the most famous text from this period being Vatsayana’s manual on love, the Kama Sutra. Painting and sculpture also reached new artistic heights as seen in the cave paintings and carvings at Ellora and Ajanta. The Gupta Empire received income from trade between Southeast Asia, famous for its precious spices and textiles, and Central Asia and Arabia, known for its horses. Income further aided the artistic and architectural developments happening within Hindu practice. Priests were able to construct greater and more ornate temples. At this time members of the Sudra rank gained in stature as their work in land clearing became more important in an era of imperial expansion, while those beyond the caste system (Untouchables) fell further in stature— relegated to scavenging, cremation duties, and leather working. Hinduism shifted further toward a modified monotheism where a few major deities took on greater importance (for instance, Vishnu and Shiva), while a concurrent movement encouraged individuals to practice a personal devotion (bhakti) over Vedic-style sacrifices. More is known about life during the Gupta period, as two Chinese

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

40

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 40

Benjamin Cohen

pilgrims, Fa-hsien and Hsuan Tsang, visited India at this time in search of Buddhist texts.



The Southern Dynasties

Shifting momentarily back in time, we must pick up the trail of events in southern India, below the Narmada River. From about the second to fourth centuries, the Shatavahana Empire continued to expand from the Narmada River southward. The Vakatakas replaced them from the fourth to sixth centuries in the northern Deccan. Farther south, the Kadambas (in the west), Pallavas (in the east), and Ganga and Pandya Empires (in the deep south) all took hold. After the mid-sixth century and the decline of Gupta control over the Deccan, the Western and Eastern Chalukya Empires arose in the central Deccan. By this time, the three major contestants for power were the Chalukyas, Pallavas, and Pandyas. The greatest of the Chalukya rulers was Pulakeshin II (r. 610–642/643). Under his tenure, he defeated the Kadambas of the south as well as making the nearby Gangas his vassals. He further expanded Chalukyan territory by launching a naval attack up the east coast to Puri. After his death, the Chalukya Empire continued for roughly a century before finally collapsing. Its demise was typical of many Indian empires: overextension, internal dissension, and (new for the south) external Arab aggression. Farther south, the Pallavas inherited the remains of the Shatavahana dynasty in the third century. Holding the territory between the Krishna and Kaveri Rivers was Mahendravarman I (r. 600–630). This wealthy territory stood in the way of Pulakeshin II in his efforts to expand south and marked the beginning of what would be nearly three centuries of skirmishes and major assaults between the Pallava and Chalukya rulers on each other’s territories. Exhausted, the Pallava dynasty all but came to an end with the death of its last king in 912. At Madura, the Pandyas—the smallest of the three deep south empires—initially opposed Pallava expansion, but later joined them in an uneasy alliance against the more threatening Chalukyas to the north. The growing Chola dynasty largely absorbed the Pandyas early in the tenth century, but they would rise some three hundred years later to glory once more. As the Pallava and Pandyan states collapsed in the late tenth century, the Chola Empire emerged out of the ruins of both states. The Chola kings employed a common strategy for stability and expansion. Using a large army, they would attack their neighbors, which would accomplish three things. First, it kept the army busy and focused on an “enemy” rather than turning on the ruling king. Second, loot retrieved from such activities was redistributed to the army thus keeping its soldiers paid and satisfied. Finally, subdued neighbors

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 41

The Historical Context

41

were often made tributary vassals who were then woven into the larger state system and made to contribute revenue. The Cholas reached new levels of sophistication in their art and administration. Chola king Rajaraja I (r. 985–1012) beautified his capital at Tanjore by constructing a massive temple: the top stone weighed eighty tons and was hauled up a four-mile-long ramp to put it in place. For easier administration, Chola officials carefully divided land into three socioeconomic types: at the top were merchant elites, beneath them were commercial villages and towns, which in turn rested on the base tier of village agricultural units. The Cholas also conducted two “overseas” expeditions. The first was to Sri Lanka, and the second, under Rajaraja’s successor Rajendra I (r. 1012–1044), was to Southeast Asia and Srivijaya. This contact with Southeast Asia explains why even today parts of that region are influenced by Indian and Hindu language, myth, and culture. By the thirteenth century, the once-defunct Pandyas had regained considerable strength and, in 1279, all but incorporated the remains of a depleted Chola Empire. In addition, from the eleventh to fourteenth centuries, the Kakatiya Empire of the Deccan took root, thus providing a buffer between empires and ideologies developing north of the Narmada, and the feuding dynasties of the deep south. By the mid-fourteenth century, two new empires arose in south India that dominated the political scene for the next two centuries. In about 1340, two brothers, Bukka and Harihara, established the kingdom of Vijayanagar. Over time, Vijayanagar came to dominate south India in the area below the Krishna River. The empire incorporated new cavalry technology, new fort building, and overseas trade. The successive kings of Vijayanagar also further incorporated subordinate kings into their realm, rewarding them with robes of honor while at the same time requiring revenue and contributions to the army. Under Vijayanagar’s greatest king, Krishnadevaraya (r. 1509–1529), the city and empire took on a syncretic feel as Krishnadevaraya constructed a mosque for his Muslim citizens and he himself often wore Islamic-styled dress. Thus, notions of a Hindu-Muslim “clash of civilizations” in the Deccan are largely unsubstantiated. The chief rival to the Vijayanagar Empire was that of the Bahmanis. This empire began under Bahman Shah in 1347. The Bahmanis consolidated several regions north of the Krishna River. The Bahmanis and Vijyayanagar kings repeatedly fought for control of the rich agricultural lands between the Krishna River and Tungabhadra River. Eventually, in 1565, after the Bahmani regime had splintered, its renegade smaller regimes reconvened in a large-scale assault on Vijayanagar. The rulers of Bijapur, Golconda, Ahmadnagar, Bidar, and Berar joined forces and defeated the Vijayanagar forces at the town of Talikota. Vijayanagar never recovered from this defeat, and the smaller regimes of the northern Deccan left them weakened and subject to later attack by their northern neighbors.

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

42



6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 42

Benjamin Cohen

Islam in South Asia (700–1206)

From the seventh century onward, north India witnessed two concurrent processes. First, in the post-Gupta period the region again devolved into a series of smaller regional kingdoms. Second, these kingdoms increasingly encountered emerging Muslim rulers pushing their way east from the Arabian Peninsula both into Central Asia and through Afghanistan down to the Indus River basin. After the Guptas, the Gangetic plain came under the rule of Harsha Vardhana (606–647). Harsha’s rule is considered the last “indigenous” north Indian empire. Those that followed would be led by so-called foreigners from Afghanistan and beyond. Harsha expanded southeast toward Patna, then shifted his efforts to the Deccan, where he met with defeat at the hands of the Chalukya rulers in 633. Returning northward, his final expansion pushed from Thaneswar in north-central India to the Bay of Bengal. This was accomplished in 636. Harsha was a gifted poet and author as well as patron of Buddhism while he himself was Hindu. His tolerance of other faiths extended to his support of Hsuan Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim in India from 633–643. Unfortunately, Harsha’s empire did not last beyond his own lifetime. After his demise, north India came under the Gujara-Prathiharas between the eighth and eleventh centuries, while Bengal shifted to control by the Pala regime. Smaller regional empires replaced the Gujara-Prathiharas: Mahmud of Ghazni in Punjab, the Chauharas in Rajasthan, and the Paramaras in central India. One community in particular emerged in the post-Gupta era that would come to play a vital role both in the ensuing Muslim period and that of the British. The Rajputs established themselves in northwest India and comprised a series of royal families. Each defended itself against the other unto death, thus marking the community as noble, fierce, and talented in battle. The Chauhan branch of the larger Rajput community helped establish the city of Dhillika, modern-day Delhi. From this clan and location, Prithviraj emerged as among the most famous Rajput warrior-kings. In the year 1191, he struck a blow against Muhammad Ghuri, but suffered defeat and death against that same foe the next year. The Rajputs continued to play an increasingly important role in north Indian political formations as Muslim dynasties established themselves in northcentral India. While the initial relationship was largely hostile, the Mughals later came to count on Rajput alliances to protect their western flank. In the seventh century, the new religion of Islam caught hold in the Arabian peninsula and began a rapid expansion east and west. In the east, the first Muslim contact with India came in 710 when travelers crossed the Hindu Kush and entered into Punjab. At the same time, Arab Muslim merchants sailed the Arabian Sea and made contact along India’s west coast, establishing small Muslim outposts in port towns that they frequented. Early in the eighth century, Muhammad Bin Qasim captured Sind and Multan—now in modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan. This became a small Muslim corner of South Asia but had little

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 43

The Historical Context

43

overall impact on the rest of the subcontinent. One practice that was established, and continued in later regimes, was that of a head tax (jizya). Rulers levied this tax on non-Muslims. Its application and repeal are often markers by which particular rulers are judged. Over time, the bulk of Afghanistan came under Muslim control, and from this came Mahmud of Ghazni (998–1030). The Ghaznivid Empire began under Alptigin in 962. He and his descendants eventually took control of the area near modern-day Peshawar in Pakistan. From the city of Ghazni, Mahmud commenced a series of raids into India around the year 1000. In the process, he defeated not only local kings, but also Ismaili Muslims in Multan and Sindh. Over the next few decades, he conducted some seventeen raids. These raids occurred in the spring season when snow that blocked passes between the Afghan mountain ranges and the Indus valley region melted. The raids were concerned not with faith or territorial acquisition, but rather with an eye toward loot. Mahmud looted Hindu temples not because of their Hinduness per se, but rather because they were sites of extraordinary wealth and not heavily guarded. At the same time, as a Muslim, he took some time to deface Hindu carvings and slay resistant priests in the name of Islam. The wealth he captured he took with him back to Ghazni, where he set about beautifying that city. Mahmud’s raids illuminate two facets of this early contact between the growing Islamic world and India. First, Mahmud was not concerned with acquiring territory or religious jihad, rather he was most interested in accumulating wealth. Second, that Mahmud strode into north India with little resistance demonstrates the relatively weak position many Indian rulers were in at this time. For them, he was simply another advancing enemy that had to be met. Thus, theories of “clashing civilizations” in eighth-century India are highly overexaggerated. The Ghaznivids were followed by Muhammad Ghurid (1173–1206) of the Ghurid Empire. The Ghurids were different from Mahmud’s reign in that they sought territorial acquisition in India, or in other words, they came to India and stayed. The Ghurids laid the groundwork for the Delhi Sultanate, and the eventual Mughal dynasty in India. Muhammad Ghurid swept through the Gangetic River plain as far east as Bengal, and brought under his control parts of Punjab and the Indus River basin. In 1193, he captured the city of Delhi. Muhammad used a tactic similar to other rulers before him: he placed trusted individuals at key captured locations to defend and maintain his holdings, while he himself retreated to the cooler climes of Afghanistan.



The Delhi Sultanate (1206–1526)

The Delhi Sultanate lasted from the early thirteenth century to the sixteenth century. It consisted of five unrelated dynasties, largely centered in north India and variously expanded and contracted east, west, and south. An increasingly

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

44

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 44

Benjamin Cohen

complicated and sophisticated bureaucracy marks the sultanate period. Record systems helped track revenue, which was the prime motivator of the sultanate rulers, not religious conversion. Yet, during the sultanate period many individuals became Muslim in India. Scholars attribute some of this conversion to the work of Islamic mystics, Sufis, who traveled and preached at the edges of sultanate territorial control, especially in Bengal, where large numbers of Muslims came to exist. The first sultanate dynasty was the “slave dynasty” established by Qutb-ud-Din Aybeck (r. 1206–1210). The term slave here refers to the system whereby Muslim rulers would take a youth (slave) and train him in the arts of governance and military strategy. A ruler’s own family and courtiers were often among the first to double-cross him and seize power, yet a slave owed his life to the ruler and would—ideally—remain loyal. Further, slaves were from obscure origins and had no known relatives and could claim no royal blood. Aybeck had been a slave of Muhammad Ghuri, and when the latter died, he seized power. His territories stretched from western Punjab down to an area past Benares. Aybeck’s rule was cut short when he died from injuries sustained from a fall from his horse while playing polo. He was succeeded first by Iltu-mish, then Raziya—the only woman to rule during the Delhi Sultanate—and later Balban. Balban expanded his territories up to the Indus valley, where he was checked by Mongol forces. The second sultanate dynasty was that of the Khaljis (1290–1320). The Khaljis had six sultans in all, the greatest of them being Allauddin (1296–1316). To secure power, Allauddin killed all claimants to the throne. Once secure, he instituted administrative reforms, including a revenue collection system based on land measurement, and repealed hereditary perks given to village leaders. Four times he repulsed Mongol thrusts into India, while at the same time expanding his own territorial claims into Gujarat, Rajasthan, and the Deccan. In 1307, he sent Malik Kafur to subdue the Deccan kingdom of Devagiri, the defeated raja becoming an ally of the Khalji regime. The Khaljis were followed by the Tughluq dynasty (1320–1413). Under its second ruler, Muhammad (1325–1351), the Delhi Sultanate reached its greatest extent. Muhammad was not only a supreme military leader, but also a philosopher and intrigued by India’s Hindu faith. His liberal and curious outlook led him to go so far as to participate in the Hindu holiday Holi. For Muhammad, the Deccan continued to be an elusive prize, so much so that he shifted his capital into the Deccan to Daulatabad (c. 1326) to better manage his growing empire. However, southern expansion left the north open to revolt and internal dissensions. Further, a vast empire required greater manpower, and circumstances forced Muhammad to put local leaders in place in far-flung locations. Their loyalty was suspect and left him further open to revolt. As the Tughluq regime shrank, it was dealt another blow by the swift incursion of Timur in 1398. Timur swept all the way to Delhi, where he sacked the city before returning to his Central Asian home. The Tughluqs never recovered from Timur’s

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 45

45

Ainslie T. Embree

The Historical Context

One of the many tombs in Lodi Gardens, Delhi, of a member of the Lodi dynasty (1451–1526)

strike and left a shrinking empire to the fourth Delhi Sultanate, the Sayyids (1413–1453). The Sayyids were the weakest and smallest of the Delhi Sultanates, their territory at one point not extending much beyond Delhi city limits. The final Delhi Sultanate was that of the Lodis (1453–1526). This dynasty was Afghan in origin and once again expanded the sultanate’s territory to Punjab, Rajasthan, and what is now Uttar Pradesh. In Delhi, the Lodis created elaborate gardens (in Islam, heaven is said to be a garden), which are still in existence in the midst of contemporary New Delhi. Yet, what early Lodi rulers gained was lost by the last Lodi sultan, Ibrahim (1517–1526). In 1526, he engaged a young prince on the battlefield of Panipat. Ibrahim’s loss brought to a close the Delhi Sultanate period and allowed that victorious prince, Babur, to establish the Mughal dynasty.



The Mughals (1526–1707)

Babur inherited his father’s authority at the age of eleven. At the time, while ruler of Ferghana, he sought to extend his power to Samarqand. Unable to hold Samarqand, and in the process losing Ferghana, Babur made his way to Kabul. From Kabul, after further failed attempts to reclaim cities in his Central Asian past, Babur looked to “Hind” for his next conquest. Babur’s success in defeating

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

46

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 46

Benjamin Cohen

Ibrahim Lodi at Panipat and securing for himself the important cities of Delhi and Agra (home of the Lodi treasury) can be attributed to several factors. Babur made use of new gun technology as well as Turkish artillerymen as he moved into India. Light cannons, shielded guns, and effective cavalry all helped him carry the day. With the Lodis defeated, Babur began to secure his tentative holdings in north India. He sent his son, Humayun, to secure the treasury at Agra. There, so the legend goes, Humayun came across a stunningly large diamond that he presented to his father. Babur, bouncing the stone in his hand, realized that its wealth would feed the world for two days and demurely handed it back to Humayun for safekeeping. The stone was the famed Koi-i-noor diamond. Babur went on to defeat the Rajput king Rana Sanga in 1527, and then settled down to enjoy a relatively peaceful period of his life. Babur worked on his memoirs, later compiled by his daughter and published as the Baburnama. He was fascinated with India’s flora and fauna, and the text might be considered an early environmental account of India in the sixteenth century. Babur also designed gardens, bringing a sense of order to India’s unruly natural surroundings. In the next year, one of Babur’s nobles, Mir Baqi, constructed a mosque in honor of the emperor, the Babri Mosque at Ayodhya. This mosque would later come to haunt modern India. Just four years after establishing a foothold in north India, Babur died. He was first buried at Agra, but later his body was shifted to Kabul—its weather and climate always a source of nostalgia for the first Mughal. When Humayun assumed power, he set about making certain changes to early Mughal administration. However, being exceedingly superstitious, his changes were not entirely in line with building a strong empire. For instance, Humayun rearranged the Mughal administrative departments according to the elements: earth, water, wind, fire, and air. He further doled out punishment based on the day of the week and its astrological character, without any sense of justice, thus letting murderers go free and dismembering pickpockets. Humayun faced three sets of foes: Sultan Bahadur of Gujurat, Sher Shah of Bihar, and his own brothers. Humayun sacked Sultan Bahadur but soon thereafter restored him to power only to have him continue to menace the young ruler. Bahadur was then sacked by Portuguese forces and did not live to bother Humayun again. Sher Shah posed a much greater problem for Humayun. In 1539–1540, Sher Shah advanced against the Mughal ruler. Humayun met him in battle, and in a comical misstep, was taken by surprise and forced to retreat first to Delhi, and then pushed back to Lahore. This marked the beginning of a fifteen-year exile by Humayun out of India. His journey took him to Sind (where his wife, Hamida, gave birth to a son, Akbar), then to Persia, and finally back to Afghanistan and into India. By 1555, Humayun returned to power at Delhi. Sher Shah had built an impressive administrative system, but his weaker son, Islam Shah Sur, was unable to keep Humayun at bay and relinquished north

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 47

The Historical Context

47

Neil DeVotta

India back to the Mughal prince. Blinded, enchained, and otherwise subdued, Humayun’s brothers no longer bothered him. He lived in relative peace until the next year, 1556. In January, while spending time in his second-floor library, Humayun tripped on the stone steps as he made his way to prayer. After a brief period in a coma, he died. Humayun’s son Akbar is considered the “great” Mughal. Not only was he an able administrator—despite being illiterate—but he was also a fine military commander and, perhaps most notable, possessed a tolerant mind that translated into a more liberal style of governance. Akbar began his tenure by reorganizing the administrative system into sensible units such as finance, military, household, and religious affairs departments. Next, having conquered Gujarat, Akbar engaged several holdout Rajput kings who had refused to acknowledge Mughal suzerainty. In victory, Akbar brought much of Rajasthan into the Mughal fold, thus assuring that allies now protected his western flank. To further secure this alliance, Akbar married several Hindu Rajput princesses, allowing them to maintain their religious practices while living in his home. Akbar foremost forged a Mughal-Rajput alliance that helped him secure much of north and northwest India. Further, his administrative changes not only related to governmental departments, but also included new ways of ordering his nobility by assigning them ranks (mansab and zat) and including them in court rituals. In his own spiritual quest, he created a new faith (Din-i-Ilahi) based on the worship of light. He invited his nobles to participate in this and

Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

48

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 48

Benjamin Cohen

bound them closer to him. Akbar’s tolerance included not only interfaith marriages and spiritual curiosity, but also religious debates and dialogue between scholars of other faiths. In his policy, he repealed the head tax (jizya), thus making him popular with the Hindu majority populace. Seeking a male heir, Akbar patronized a sheik who correctly predicted that he would have three sons. To honor this miracle, Akbar constructed a new Mughal capital at Fatehpur Sikri, the home of the sheik. Masons drawn from local communities carved into red sandstone what they had formerly done with wood, thus creating a hybrid of Indic and Islamic architectural styles. However, Fatehpur Sikri did not have sufficient water and Akbar abandoned it fourteen years after it was complete. By 1580, Akbar had incorporated Gujarat, Bihar, and Bengal into the Mughal Empire. He shifted his attention to Kashmir, and took that region in 1585, beginning what would become a Mughal love affair with Kashmir. Akbar’s first son, Salim (later Jahangir) was born in 1569, and survived to succeed his father. The other sons both died of alcoholism. Akbar himself died in 1605, thus bringing to an end a reign of nearly fifty years. Akbar’s son Salim took the name Jahangir, “seizer of the world,” and began his reign on October 24, 1605. The first years were largely peaceful except for the disobedience of his eldest son, Khusrau. To keep Khusrau from intrigues against his father, Jahangir had him blinded. From this point on, a pattern emerged of contested and often bloody succession battles between Mughal fathers and sons. In 1616, Jahangir sent his third son Khurram to the Deccan to replace the elder and hapless second son, Parwiz. Khurram was successful in bringing portions of the Deccan under Mughal control, and when he returned with the spoils of victory, his father proclaimed him Shah Jahan, “emperor of the world.” Jahangir faced rebellions in the latter part of his term, first by the Mandu ruler Nasir-ud-din in Gujarat, then by Malik Ambar of Ahmednagar, and finally by Shah Abbas of Khandahar. Each of these was dealt with in turn. Further, Jahangir faced constant intrigues by his sons. Weary from battle and alcohol, Jahangir died in 1627. Jahangir’s life and legacy are better documented than his predecessors because of artistic advances and external accounts of his reign. The emperor was deeply interested in science and conducting experiments. These he not only recorded in his own diary, the Jahangirnama, but also had recorded by court painters. Painters were also used to portray special events (battles, meetings, etc.). In the paintings, Jahangir was the first Mughal to employ the nimbus to signify who in a crowded scene was the ruler. Jahangir also minted coins with his own face on them, a somewhat un-Islamic practice. This was made further repulsive to his religious advisers when the coins portrayed him drinking from a wine glass. During Jahangir’s reign, an ambassador from the British East India Company, Sir Thomas Roe, made his way to the Mughal court and left behind an important narrative of his travels. Roe arrived at Ajmer in December 1615 where

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 49

The Historical Context

49

Lynne Rienner

he met Jahangir. He had already met Jahangir’s son, Parwiz, where the latter had relieved Roe of several bottles of wine. Roe presented Jahangir with several gifts: books whose leather bindings had rotted, a mirror whose silver backing had rubbed off, and other trinkets. The Mughals were unimpressed with the shabby gifts and lone trader. Desperate to impress the Mughal ruler, Roe presented him with a miniature painting of the Virgin Mary. Fascinated by this new miniature style of art, Jahangir ordered his court painters to imitate it, thus beginning the Mughal miniature painting style. Roe, however, left unsuccessful, without further treaties between his own company and the Mughal court. Following Jahangir, his son Shah Jahan is best known for constructing the Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan married a woman who received the name Mumtaz Mahal, “chosen one of the palace.” Theirs was a love marriage and Mumtaz bore Shah Jahan fourteen children. She died in childbirth in 1631 and legend states that she asked her husband to erect a monument for her that would rival any in the world. Thus, the Taj Mahal (“Taj” being short for Mumtaz) is Mumtaz and Shah Jahan’s tomb. It remains modern India’s greatest tourist destination. The structure itself took twenty years to complete, and Shah Jahan was intricately involved with its design and construction. The building is a synthesis of several styles. From Babur’s time and his life in Kabul come the divided symmetrical gardens with water pulsing through them. (The current gardens are actually an imagined Mughal garden constructed during the British period.) From Akbar’s time comes the use of minarets (which are purely decorative at

The Taj Mahal

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

50

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 50

Benjamin Cohen

the Taj), and the use of white marble with precious stone inlay. The small “kiosks” and inverted lotuses are Indic motifs. Moreover, from Persia comes the use of the dome. The dome possesses a slight swell in its midsection that not only adds to its beauty, but the use of a “swollen dome” was a wholly Indian idea. Shah Jahan constructed several other noteworthy architectural and public works projects. Under his rule, the Grand Trunk Road was built linking Agra at the Mughal imperial core to Lahore, a gateway to Afghanistan and the west. Shah Jahan also constructed marble palaces at Agra and Lahore, and transferred the Mughal capital to Delhi where he laid the groundwork for a new capital, Shah Jahanabad. This has since become Old Delhi. Of his sons, Shah Jahan favored Dara Shukoh whom he kept close to him throughout much of his life. Aurangzeb was the less favored son and sent off to the empire’s periphery to suppress one rebellion or another. This tactical mistake allowed Aurangzeb to develop military acumen and leadership skills, while Dara Shukoh remained “soft” and largely untested. By 1657, Shah Jahan was ill and retired to Agra. He left Dara Shukoh in charge while his three other brothers all made plans to return and take power for themselves. As Aurangzeb made his way back to Delhi, he defeated Shah Shuja who had been in Bengal. Aurangzeb and Murad Bakhsh (the other brother) formed a pact and were able to defeat Dara Shukoh, who fled Delhi. Aurangzeb and Murad became increasingly wary of each other, the latter finally being tricked into capture and escorted to jail. With his father imprisoned, two brothers fleeing, and one in prison, Aurangzeb proclaimed himself emperor on July 21, 1658. Shah Shuja later died, and Aurangzeb had Dara Shukoh beheaded. The head he sent to his father on a plate. Aurangzeb is not beloved by scholars of the Mughal period as he is perceived to have been a deeply religious man and overly harsh in his rule. Several changes that he made have fueled this perception. First, Aurangzeb reimposed the jizya that Akbar had abolished nearly a century before. Second, several recently constructed Hindu temples were dismantled, and Aurangzeb forbade the construction of new temples. He ended the practice of showing himself (jharoka), or being viewed by the people of Delhi. At court he discontinued music, forbade any history writing of his reign, and insisted on more somber dress by his nobles. All of the previous practices he deemed un-Islamic. In 1666, Aurangzeb’s father Shah Jahan died at Agra fort, overlooking the Taj Mahal. The two had carried on an acrimonious relationship to the end, but Aurangzeb allowed his father to be buried next to Mumtaz Mahal in the central dome of the Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan’s sarcophagus is the only off-centered feature of the space as it was added later. Aurangzeb’s son, Prince Akbar, came to rebel against his father and fled from Rajasthan—where the two had been involved in suppressing Mewar—to the Deccan. Aurangzeb pursued him to the Deccan, never again returning to Delhi and north India. In the Deccan, Aurangzeb and the Mughal forces faced several challenges. The Maratha chief, Shivaji, constantly harassed Mughal

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 51

The Historical Context

51

forces by use of light, fast, guerrilla-style attacks. These were successful against the larger, cumbersome Mughal army. Second, the sultan of Golconda—once a part of the Bahmani Empire—refused to submit to Aurangzeb’s authority. An eight-month siege ensued, all the while Aurangzeb’s forces plundering the city of Hyderabad while the sultan remained at Golconda fort. Finally, in September 1687, a Golconda general betrayed his master and opened the fort’s gates. The Mughals incorporated Golconda into its political tapestry, and by 1689, Aurangzeb ruled without any significant challenge across most of the subcontinent. However, he and his forces were constantly harassed by smaller Deccan kings who refused to submit to Mughal authority, and Aurangzeb wasted time and finances putting out countless small fires around the Deccan. Meanwhile, with his attention taken away from north India, further rebellions began to take place there. Aurangzeb died in 1707 and was buried in a simple grave at Khuldabad. After him, a series of eight Mughal rulers held power for all of fifty-two years. Adding to the chaos, in 1738 Nadir Shah of Persia marched into north India, camped outside of Delhi, and sacked the city. A small group of Delhi’s citizens resisted his attack, and for this, some 30,000 Delhites were slaughtered in revenge. Shah carried off the famed Peacock Throne, built by Shah Jahan, and took with him 1,000 elephants and some 400 carpenters and masons back to Persia. His attack on Delhi thus mirrored that of Timur’s centuries earlier. The final Mughal, Bahadur Shah II, was deposed by the British and exiled to Burma after the events of 1857 (see “Company Ascendancy” section later in this chapter).



European Arrivals (1498–1600)

Before Babur’s arrival in India, and while the Lodi dynasty was protecting its assets, far to the south a Portuguese captain-explorer named Vasco da Gama waded ashore on May 18, 1498, at Calicut. The Portuguese were the first European powers to successfully navigate to India by sea, da Gama completing the mission that Christopher Columbus attempted six years earlier. Da Gama and subsequent Portuguese explorers established control of several port towns along India’s western coast: Cochin, Diu, and Daman. Da Gama sought spice, textiles, and reconnection with a “lost” Christian community believed to be somewhere in the east. Convinced he had set foot in a far-flung corner of Christendom, upon arrival, da Gama stopped to offer prayers at what he believed to be a church, but was instead a Hindu temple! The Portuguese were successful in establishing a bulkhead in India for several reasons. First, they arrived at a time when the Bahmani Empire was collapsing and no Indian power maintained a navy to defend itself from a sea-based attack. Second, as such, the Portuguese were able to control sea-lanes and dictate trade. Third, they used a system of “passes” required by local seamen to trade via

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

52

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 52

Benjamin Cohen

the sea, thus carefully controlling trade and establishing a monopoly in places. Fourth, they constructed fortresses in their new territories. Fifth, Portuguese sailors were encouraged to marry local women, who were excellent ambassadors to local culture and its commodity production as well as a way to propagate Roman Catholicism. Finally, the Portuguese began to drill and train local Indian infantry—a practice picked up by the French and British with great success. After da Gama, men like Afonso de Albuquerque arrived to expand Portuguese holdings, establishing in 1510 the stronghold of Goa. Goa remained a Portuguese possession until 1961, when the Indian army wrested it from their control. Albuquerque was followed by those more interested in faith than trade, such as St. Francis Xavier and Roberto de Nobili. De Nobili, who arrived in India in 1605, found converts from some lower-caste Hindu communities and through the practice of intermarriage. By the seventeenth century, Portuguese power at home and in India had waned, leaving space for Dutch, French, and British powers to fill the vacuum. The Dutch East India Company began in 1602. The Dutch were generally more interested in controlling the spice trade in Southeast Asia where they forced early British merchants out of the region and back to India. In India, the Dutch established bases at Pulicat, Masulipatam, and Surat. Unlike the Portuguese, the Dutch were not interested in pursuing religious conversion and instead concentrated on establishing monopolies over certain spices and particular textiles. However, the Dutch century in India lasted only until 1713, when the treaty of Utrecht largely ended their presence in India (they remained a force in Southeast Asia), leaving only the French and British to contend for trade and power. Under approval from Louis XIV, the French East India Company began in 1664. While this postdates the British and Dutch companies, as French power peaked early in India, we can address its history out of chronological order. The French established bases at Chandernagore, near modern-day Calcutta (now Kolkata), as well as at Pondicherry, established in 1674. From Pondicherry, the French—under the leadership of men like Joseph Dupliex—expanded their territorial possessions while at the same time trading blows with British forces established nearby. Dupliex served as governor-general of Pondicherry from 1742–1754, before being recalled under charges of ineptitude. French forces in India, however, were vibrant members of the political complexities unfolding in the eighteenth century. This “post-Mughal” period witnessed many local rulers, released from Mughal control, all vying with each other for power. For instance, the Nizam (governor) of Hyderabad proclaimed his independence and courted both French and British military support in his vast dominions. Into this mix, the French added their own interests as well as their armed forces, including Indian soldiers (sepoys) trained in European military styles. The French were not afraid to compete for Mughal titles and ranks,

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 53

The Historical Context

53

thus playing the “nawab game” alongside their Indian counterparts. However, as the eighteenth century wore on, the French faced increasing difficulties. The company was never securely backed in financial terms. The French discovered late their imperial ambitions and thus clashed with the British who were already making inroads into India. French naval forces struggled for manpower (often hiring Dutch crews) and were eventually overcome by superior British forces. Finally, the French found themselves engaged in a series of prolonged conflicts both in India and at home that drained their ability to sustain their Indian efforts. The Company war in India (1744–1748), War of the Austrian Succession (1740– 1748), and the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) all sapped their energies. Thus, by the mid-eighteenth century, French power in India was all but finished.



Company Ascendancy (1757–1857)

The eighteenth century in India’s history has been viewed as a time of Mughal decline and European—especially British—ascendancy. However, the “chaotic” eighteenth century has more recently been reappraised, and scholars now see the century as a transitional period, with European dominance by no means a foregone conclusion. Aurangzeb’s death in 1707, his weak successors, and Nadir Shah’s romp through north India were not the only factors that contributed to the Mughals’ decline. While he was in the Deccan, Aurangzeb faced a series of landlord (zamindar) revolts. These country landlords-turned-rebels both exploited the peasantry beneath them and took up arms against the overlords above them in social and military rankings. Higher up the social chain, the Mughals faced revolts by different princes, members of India’s indigenous ruling castes. For instance, the Rajputs staged a series of successful revolts against Mughal rule, causing cracks in the Mughal facade. Finally, governors of large territories who had been appointed by the Mughals also revolted, taking with them the loyalty, military, and revenue of their vast states. The Nizam of Hyderabad, who declared autonomy in 1724, is one example of this. In addition to the various revolts in the early eighteenth century, different regional rulers came to prominence, further challenging Mughal rule and asserting their autonomy. In addition to Hyderabad, in modern Maharashtra, for example, the warrior Shivaji (1630–1680) created the Maratha Empire. Shivaji’s power and that of successor Maratha rulers was based primarily on local loyalties from farmers and laborers. The Maratha rulers incorporated powerful Brahmans and a bureaucracy that they brought with them into the ruling administration. Their empire was based largely on a sense of Maratha identity carved out of shared language, territory, and cultural practice. After Shivaji, a series of Brahman prime ministers (Peshwas) oversaw the empire, allowing the empire to grow into four regional houses (Baroda, Gwalior, Indore, Nagpur) while maintaining respect for the rajas of these homes, never overstepping their bounds.

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

54

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 54

Benjamin Cohen

Neil DeVotta

The eighteenth century saw competition between the French and British companies in India, and by the century’s end, only the British would remain. The British East India Company was formed as a joint-stock company in 1600. The joint-stock company allowed several investors to each make a small investment in the company, thus spreading the risk—and rewards—among more people and making it easier to raise capital in the first place. Initially, its investors hoped that the spice islands of Southeast Asia would provide them profit from trade in pepper, indigo, saltpeter, and textiles. However, the British were forced out of the region by the Dutch and made their way back to India. They created factories—more like storehouses and forts combined into a single structure or compound—at Surat (1612), Fort St. George at Madras (1640), Bombay (1661), and Fort William at Calcutta (1690). In the early decades of the eighteenth century, as local and regional rulers vied for power, they formed relationships with members of both the French and British East India Companies. Company officials were interested in securing greater access to textiles and spices. As such, they offered to “loan” their European-trained troops to different Indian parties, in return for a share of the profits from a successful campaign. At the same time, the British and French became involved in local Indian affairs as a way to defeat each other, carrying over hostilities transplanted from conflicts far away in Europe. Through these militaryfinancial (“military fiscalism”) arrangements, European companies gained power and eventually a firm base in India.

The British used hill stations like Mussoorie to get away from India’s hot weather.

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 55

55

The Historical Context

In 1756, the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daula, became suspicious of the British factory located in his territory. The British had reinforced their fort, not in preparation to attack the nawab (as he feared), but rather to protect themselves from possible French attack. The nawab struck—capturing the British fort and placing 146 prisoners in a small room. Bengal was sweltering and the next day, 123 were dead from suffocation and dehydration. In British literature, this became the “Black Hole of Calcutta.” In response in 1757, a young company officer named Robert Clive marched from Madras to Calcutta. Through advance trickery, he defeated the nawab at the battle of Plassey. Clive placed the weak Mir Jafar on the throne, and the British East India Company thus found itself responsible for much of Bengal. This asset allowed the company to pay for all future purchases in India with the profits derived from Bengal itself. Employees of the company took the opportunity to engage in trade on the side, earning for themselves vast fortunes (while company profits plummeted), and having the title of “nabob”—a corruption of nawab.

KASHMIR

Map 3.2 British Expansion in South Asia

PUNJAB

NEPAL BHUTAN

RAJPUTANA OUDH BIHAR AJMER

SIKH

MANIPUR CHOTA NAGPUR

BERAR

NAGPUR

Bombay • HYDERABAD

Before 1770 1770–1800 MYSORE

•Madras

1800–1830 1830–1860 Princely states

CEYLON

Source: Based on Kulke and Rothermund, 1998: 371.

BENGAL

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

56

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 56

Benjamin Cohen

To clean up the company’s affairs, its board of directors sent Warren Hastings to India in 1772 as the first governor-general. Hastings believed that Hindus and Muslims had their own legal codes that, if the company better understood them, would facilitate rule and trade. He worked to create separate Hindu and Muslim legal codes, setting in motion a long chain of communal difference between the communities. Under Hastings, the company expanded the military to 100,000 strong by 1789. Further, it sought to better understand its Indian subjects through the creation of societies devoted to studying India. This led to the discovery of links between English and Sanskrit, the creation of numerous Indian language dictionaries, and the writing of India’s history by Britons. Hastings was followed by Lord Cornwallis, who served as governorgeneral from 1786 to 1793, and again briefly in 1805. Cornwallis established the Indian Civil Service (ICS), which became the “steel frame” that supported the Raj. He also instituted land reforms that in one system supported the Indian landlord class (zamindars), or in a different system favored direct relations with cultivators (ryots). The zamindari system gave these middlemen rights to collect taxes from the cultivators, and anything above the fixed amount was profit for them. This system encouraged the abuse of cultivators to maximize profits. The ryotwari system, used mainly in south India, allowed the cultivator to pay the company directly, thus eliminating the middleman. Its critics suggest that it introduced a form of private property and created a large cohort of landless laborers. In some places, the company employed both systems, which largely canceled each other out. The company acquired territory either through treaty or military force. However, about one-third of India never came under direct rule, but rather was indirectly controlled by British residents assigned to native princely courts. The residents reported to the company and were used as a check on the princes. Often, company officials placed a resident at a prince’s court through the system of subsidiary alliance. In this system, a prince—strapped for cash from warring with neighboring princes—would accept military support and protection from the company. In return, rulers had to bear the cost of troops posted in their capital and allow residents at their court. Many princes who fell into financial trouble or were generally considered unfit by the company were completely annexed. The tone and tenor of change in India shifted as different governors-general came to India. Each brought their own ideas about how far the pendulum of change should swing, if at all. William Bentinck was governor-general from 1828 to 1835 and sought greater education reform. The law member of his cabinet was Thomas Babington Macaulay. In 1835, Macaulay drafted a “minute” seeking to create a class of Indians, “in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.” This shift away from using and respecting India’s own education and linguistic riches toward English instead had

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 57

The Historical Context

57

far-reaching impact, not the least being India’s subsequent tradition of Englishspeaking authors, poets, artists, politicians, and so on. The early decades of the nineteenth century saw numerous social reforms pushed through by the company. In 1802, infanticide was outlawed. In 1829, the practice of widow immolation (sati) was outlawed. Throughout the 1830s, the ritual robbery and occasional murder of travelers (thugi) was slowly and successfully stamped out. (Our English word thug comes from this.) By 1856, widow remarriage was allowed as well as inheritance for converts to Christianity. These and other changes found both advocates and critics within the Indian community. For instance, and as noted in Chapter 8, Rammohan Roy (1774–1833) was an early advocate of British rule in India, especially as an outspoken critic of sati. From 1848–1856, the Earl of Dalhousie served as governor-general of India. Dalhousie pursued a policy of expansion vis-à-vis the princes of India. During his early tenure, he successfully concluded the second Sikh war (1846 and 1848), thus bringing the Punjab under company control. To further help consolidate the company’s holdings, Dalhousie implemented the Doctrine of Lapse. This doctrine stated that if a prince failed to have a male heir, or was in some other way unsuitable to continue his rule, his state would “lapse” to the company. The doctrine did not allow the adoption of an heir, a practice common among the princely states. Under the doctrine, several populous north Indian states were annexed: Satara (1848), Jaitpur and Sambhalpur (1849), Baghat (1850), Udaipur (1852), Jhansi (1853), Nagpur (1854), Karauli (1855), and finally Awadh (1856). Dalhousie combined political change with technological change. He believed that the railway could help improve the company’s ability to extract raw materials (for England’s growing industrial revolution) and to suppress any challenge to its rule through the speedy transport of troops. He also oversaw the expansion of the postal and telegraph systems in India. In 1857 Indian troops, first in Bengal and then spreading up the Ganges River basin, mutinied against their British officers. This event has been called “the Mutiny,” “the Rebellion,” “the First War of Independence,” and other names all indicating a particular reading of history. Several reasons led to the Mutiny, which raged for over a year across north India. First, soldiers were made to use a new kind of greased cartridge for their Lee Enfield rifles. The grease was comprised of both pig and cow tallow. When a soldier bit open the greasy bullet cartridge, they were bound to ingest some of that grease. Pig being offensive to Muslims, and beef to Hindus—the cartridge offended the entire army. Second, some British commanders used their position of authority to preach Christianity to their soldiers. Standing at attention in the hot sun while being read to from the Bible was more than these soldiers could take. Further, some soldiers were shipped overseas to help fight hot spots within the growing British Empire. For devout Hindus, crossing the ocean was ritually polluting, thus the voyage caused fears of religious decline. Dalhousie’s policy of annexation also

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

58

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 58

Benjamin Cohen

added to Indian discontent. During the Mutiny, massacres took place on both sides. At Kanpur, Nana Sahib murdered a group of British men, women, and children to whom he had promised safe passage. At Lucknow, a group of besieged Britons and Indians spent a horrific season within the residency compound watching as sniper fire, disease, and cannon shot slowly decimated their numbers. By late 1858, British forces regained control of north India. Much of India did not rise up, and many Indians fought with the British against the mutineers. Thus, 1857 remains a complex historical event that defies simple binaries.



The Raj, Nationalists, and Independence (1858–1947)

Several changes took place in light of the events of 1857. First, in the following year Queen Victoria ended the East India Company’s rule in India, and made India part of the growing British Empire. In doing so, she helped usher in an era of conservatism that saw greater respect for Indian religious practices and a new support for India’s princely states and their rulers. Second, reforms took place in the army. The ratio of Englishmen to Indians increased, and recruitments and regimental compositions were done along ethnic lines. Thus, if one part of the army were to mutiny again, a different part could be brought to suppress the trouble without fear of pitching fellow ethnic members against each other. This was an early form of “divide and rule.” Third, despite any hard evidence of their leading the revolt, Muslims were increasingly discriminated against. They found that gaining access to highly sought-after government positions was now limited. Fourth, across India and extending back to London, a new sense of racial prejudice emerged. For instance, private British social clubs opened from the 1860s to 1880s across India. In these secluded spaces, Britons could retreat from their imperial duties. Yet, as with much of India’s history, these clubs were far more complex than first blush: many were staffed by Indians, supplied by Indian business houses, and made numerous exceptions to allow Indians to attend the club. Adding to a sense of racial superiority on one side, and growing frustration among India’s educated middle classes on the other side, in 1884 the Illbert Bill passed. This bill allowed that instead of being tried solely by an Indian magistrate, an Englishman could request to have a majority European jury decide his fate. The next year, 1885, is often marked as the beginning of India’s nationalist period. In this year, a group of Indians and Britons gathered in Bombay to form the Indian National Congress (INC). This organization eventually became the Congress Party—one of modern India’s major political parties. However, the INC in its early years was created more to work with the British government than against it. Its founder was A. O. Hume, and W. C. Bonerjee was its first president. The Congress was part of India’s growing associational life. As imperial tools

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 59

The Historical Context

59

like the census (first conducted in 1871) took hold, Indians began to organize themselves in new associational forms and make greater use of public space and a growing print culture. For instance, caste groups that had been enumerated in the census now began to form clubs (sabhas) and societies (samajas) to articulate their specific concerns. The Brahmo Samaj was founded in 1828, the Arya Samaj in 1875, the INC in 1885, the Muslim League in 1906, and others were all part of this process. These were in turn coupled with pamphlets, newspapers, and other forms of print that further articulated their specific views. One result of growing associational life and categorizing devices like the census was an increased awareness, and slow divergence between the greater Hindu and Muslim communities of India. Early meetings of the INC tried to bring prominent Muslim leaders like Sayyid Ahmad Khan and Sayyid Amir Ali into the fold, but these and other leaders argued that Muslims and Hindus comprised two “distinct communities.” Other events added to this new communal tone. Riots over cows occurred in the 1880s, and in 1905 Lord Curzon partitioned Bengal, thus upsetting a balance between Hindu and Muslim districts. In 1909, the Morley-Minto Reforms created provincial legislatures that included separate Muslim electorates. The Muslim League further argued that Muslims represented a “nation within a nation.” When the Partition of Bengal was annulled in 1911, Muslims felt threatened as the further reconstituting of Bengal portended the possibility of a minority Muslim community being “drowned” in a Hindu majority India. This was the same year as the last Delhi Durbar and the creation of India’s new capital, New Delhi. In 1915, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi returned to India from two decades of work in South Africa. Gandhi was born in the princely state of Porbandar in Gujarat in 1869. He was deeply influenced by his mother’s adherence to Buddhist and Jain beliefs in nonviolence (ahimsa). The family invested in Mohandas, and he attended law school in England before taking up work in South Africa. While there, Gandhi was subject to discrimination and began developing his own style of nonviolent responses. Influenced by Leo Tolstoy, Henry David Thoreau, and the teachings of Jesus, Gandhi developed the concept of passive resistance or noncooperation, summarized in the term truth-force (satyagraha). This concept required one to stake out the moral high ground, love your opponent, and through nonviolence show the true path. Gandhi returned to India and led a campaign to aid the farmers of Champaram in 1917, and by 1920 had made the call for self-rule (swaraj). By working toward swaraj through satyagraha, Gandhi was able to erode whatever moral claim British imperialists had for remaining in India. The year before Gandhi’s call for swaraj was a bleak one. In 1919, the government passed the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, the Rowlatt Bills, and witnessed the Amritsar massacre. The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms introduced the concept of diarchy in India, allocating some responsibilities to local Indian councils while retaining the lion’s share of power and control for the central

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

60

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 60

Benjamin Cohen

government. The Rowlatt Bills allowed Indians to be arrested and detained without trial. This draconian act was in response to growing revolutionary and terrorist activities coupled with postwar uncertainties. Finally, on April 13, 1919, British General Reginald Dyer ordered his troops to open fire on an unarmed, peaceful gathering in an enclosed garden in Amritsar called the Jallianwalla Bagh. Some 370 men, women, and children were killed and over 1,000 injured. In response to increasingly stringent legislation, Gandhi launched the noncooperation movement. Indians were encouraged to stay home, thus bringing offices, factories, schools, courts, and other public entities to a close. He encouraged the boycotting of English manufactured goods. However, this movement ended after some of Gandhi’s followers turned to violence in the town of Chauri Chaura. They beat and burned to death several Indian police officers who—it was claimed—interfered with their demonstration. Gandhi was punished for the event and sentenced to six years in prison. After this, he launched the homespun cloth (khadi) movement as a way for Indians to exercise swaraj. Gandhi was a master of using symbols to make larger points. Encouraging the production of khadi was one example of this, and the 1930 Salt March was another. The British taxed salt and controlled its production. Gandhi recognized that salt—essential to human life—could be a powerful point around which to protest British rule and demand independence. He carefully orchestrated a 230mile (370-kilometer) march to the seaside where, in defiance of the law, he made salt. The event drew media attention and raised India’s independence movement to an international level. In addition, during the 1930s, Gandhi engaged in an extended debate with B. R. Ambedkar over the rights of India’s Untouchables. Ambedkar wanted Untouchables to have separate electorates, which Gandhi objected to. Gandhi fasted until Ambedkar withdrew his request. In 1935, the Government of India Act came into law. This act allowed for elections that saw Congress sweep into power in all but two predominantly Muslim areas on India’s eastern and western flanks. The outbreak of World War II marked another turning point for India’s relationship with Britain. Lord Linlithgow decided on India’s behalf that it too was at war on September 3, 1939. This infuriated the Congress leadership, who saw it as a return to high-handed imperialism. During the war, with much of the Congress Party jailed, the Muslim League passed the Pakistan resolution in 1940. This called for a separate homeland for South Asia’s Muslim community in the shape of a new nationstate, Pakistan. Britain increasingly depended on India’s financial, military, and material contributions during the war period. To recognize this, the government sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India to offer “dominion status” to India after the war’s end. The Cripps mission failed and Gandhi and the Congress Party launched the Quit India movement. The Quit India movement (also known as the August Rising) took place in August of 1942. It was led by students and peasants while much of the Congress leadership was in and out of jail. However, Quit India was not peaceful as

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 61

61

Government of India Press Information Bureau

The Historical Context

Gandhi and Nehru at the historic meeting in Bombay, August 1942, as the “Quit India” resolution was adopted

government property was attacked. Adding to the tension within the subcontinent, the next year a devastating famine struck Bengal that saw nearly two million people starve. The famine was largely manmade, and the British government came under heavy criticism for its failure to stave off the loss of human life. Not all Indian leaders sided with Gandhi. Men like Subhas C. Bose left India in 1941 to join the Japanese, and in 1942 he founded the Indian National Army, which he hoped would fight with the Japanese against the British to liberate India. At the war’s end in 1945, Lord Archibald Wavell met with Gandhi, Muhammed Ali Jinnah (leader of the Muslim League), and Jawaharlal Nehru (leader of Congress) at Simla. Wavell proposed an executive council for India with equal numbers of Hindus and Muslims. Jinnah and the Muslim League repeatedly demanded a disproportionate number of Muslim representatives in any scenario to prevent that community from becoming a permanent minority. Jinnah, however, wanted to choose all the representatives for the council, even those that should technically have been chosen by Congress. The plan failed. The next year saw the proposed Cabinet Mission. This plan suggested a threetiered government responsible to a union government at the center. Elections the previous winter had given the Muslim League a resounding victory in the east and west of the subcontinent, and the Cabinet Mission would have included these two regions, plus a largely Hindu center. While Jinnah accepted this plan,

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

62

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 62

Benjamin Cohen

Government of India Press Information Bureau

Subhas Chandra Bose

Nehru rejected it this time. With both plans rejected, some form of partitioning of the subcontinent was now all but certain. In February 1947, Lord Louis Mountbatten came to India as the last viceroy. His job was to extricate the British from the subcontinent and hand over power to newly independent India and Pakistan. Mountbatten announced that Pakistan would gain independence on August 14, 1947, and India the day after. Working on an extremely short schedule, Mountbatten, Jinnah, and Nehru painstakingly divided the appropriate assets. At the same time, a Briton named Sir Cyril Radcliffe drew the new border between the two nascent countries. With the border becoming ever clearer, a massive migration of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs began. This migration, referred to as partition, remains the world’s largest human migration. Some twelve to fifteen million people crossed the borders, leading to massive displacement and one to two million deaths due to communal violence.

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 63

The Historical Context

63

National Archives

Mohammed Ali Jinnah, president of the Muslim League and later the first president of Pakistan, August 1945

In the months leading up to independence, all but two of India’s princely states joined with either India or Pakistan. However, at independence, Hyderabad and Kashmir had still not made their decision. Hyderabad was ruled by the Nizam, a Muslim, whose vast state was predominantly Hindu. He flirted with joining Pakistan as well as becoming an independent nation-state. However, the Nizam’s state was landlocked within the south-central heartland of India, and anything short of merging would have been difficult if not impossible. After a year of protracted negotiations—including an appeal at the UN—the Nizam and Prime Minister Nehru had still not reached an agreement. The latter lost patience, and a “police action” was launched to forcibly bring Hyderabad into the Indian fold. The action lasted only three days, and Hyderabad merged with India. Kashmir was more difficult. First, the state was on the border between India and Pakistan, thus it could have been included in either new nation. Second, the state’s populace was predominantly Muslim. According to the logic that saw Pakistan’s creation, Kashmir “belonged” to Pakistan. However, third, the state’s ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, was a Hindu and was both loyal and sympathetic to Nehru and India. Finally, as Nehru embraced India’s secular status and guaranteed the protection of all religious communities—Muslim or otherwise—the inclusion of Kashmir in India with its majority Muslim population was key to “proving” India’s secularity. Nehru was also partial to keeping Kashmir because of his own ancestral connection to the region. Shortly after independence, Hari Singh faced an insurrection within his state that was aided by Pakistan. His own forces about to be overrun, Singh asked for help from Nehru. Nehru offered the Indian army, but only if Singh

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

64

2:38 PM

Page 64

Benjamin Cohen

signed an instrument of accession to bring Kashmir into the Indian fold. Singh did so (although there is some debate about the exact timing of this), and Nehru airlifted Indian soldiers into Kashmir. Here, they fought a brief war against Pakistani forces with India securing about two-thirds of the state, and Pakistan the rest. In its first peacekeeping mission, the UN brokered a cease-fire, and the two-third–one-third division of Kashmir remains much the same today. Among many reasons the conflict remains unending, Kashmir “makes” India’s claim to secularity, while it also “makes” Pakistan incomplete as the homeland for South Asia’s Muslims. Late in 1947, Gandhi announced a visit to Pakistan. On January 30, 1948, as he was walking to attend a prayer service in a New Delhi garden, he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. Godse was a Hindu and member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Singh (Association of National Volunteers). Godse and other Hindu fanatics believed that Gandhi was too “soft” on the Muslim community and were deeply opposed to his visit to Pakistan. Thus, contradicting much of Hinduism’s claim to peace, Godse resorted to the ultimate in violence. Contemporary India thus rests on a historical platform that stretches back at least 7,000 years. “History” is usually dated from the Indus Valley period when the first script emerges, yet the Indian subcontinent had been inhabited for millennia before that time. Over time, succeeding empires have added layer upon layer to India’s diverse and rich historical makeup. Far from being settled, India’s history continues to be written, rewritten, challenged, and rewritten again. Debates come and go (Aryan “invasion” or “migration”? Ryotwari or zamindari success? And so on.), but as with any civilization, the debate itself is part of India’s historical vibrancy and a critical component of greatness.



Bibliography

Asher, Catherine B., and Cynthia Talbot. 2006. India Before Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Avari, Burjor. 2007. India: The Ancient Past. London: Routledge. Basham, A. L. 1954. The Wonder That Was India. New Delhi: Rupa and Company. Benichou, Lucien D. 2000. From Autocracy to Integration. Hyderabad: Orient Longman. Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi, ed. 2007. Rethinking 1857. Hyderabad: Orient Longman. Bose, Sugata, and Ayesha Jalal. 1997. Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy. London: Routledge. Brown, Judith. 1989. Gandhi: Prisoner of Hope. New Haven: Yale University Press. Eaton, Richard. 1993. The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier. Berkeley: University of California Press. Embree, Ainslie T., ed. 1988. Sources of Indian Tradition. 2nd ed., Vol. 1. New York: Columbia University Press. Fisher, Michael H. 1991. Indirect Rule in India. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Gandhi, M. K. 1997. Hind Swaraj and Other Writings, Anthony J. Parel, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 65

The Historical Context

65

Ganguly, Sumit. 1997. The Crisis in Kashmir: Portents of War, Hopes of Peace. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gilmour, David. 2005. The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Jackson, Peter. 1999. The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Jha, D. N. 2005. Early India: A Concise History. New Delhi: Manohar. Lawson, Phillip. 1993. The East India Company: A History. London: Longman. Metcalf, Tom, and Barbara Metcalf. 2001. A Concise History of India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ramusack, Barbara. 2004. The Indian Princes and Their States. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Stein, Burton. 1993. Vijayanagara. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Thapar, Romila. 2004. Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300. Berkeley: University of California Press. Wagoner, Phillip. 1996. “‘Sultan Among Hindu Kings’: Dress, Titles, and the Islamicization of Hindu Culture at Vijayanagara.” Journal of Asian Studies 55, no. 4: 851–880. Wink, André. 1999. Al-Hind. 1999 Oxford ed., Vol. 1. New Delhi: Oxford.

03DeVotta_3.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 66

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 67

4 Indian Politics Shalendra D. Sharma

I

ndia is the world’s largest constitutional democracy with a parliamentary system of government. At the core of this system is a commitment to hold regular, free, and fair elections. Since gaining independence in 1947, India has held fifteen national elections. The last such exercise, held between April 16 and May 13, 2009, saw more than 4,500 candidates representing 300 political parties competing for seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha (the House of the People and the lower house of the Indian legislature). Unlike in the United States where all voters go to the polls on the same day, Indian elections are held in phases so as to minimize disruptions. With an estimated 714 million registered voters qualified to participate in the April–May 2009 elections, polling was conducted in five phases over a five-week period. The 2009 elections required an estimated 828,804 polling stations, 1,368,430 electronic voting machines, and over 6.5 million election workers (including a large number of police and security forces) to ensure full and fair participation. Ultimately, nearly 420 million people lined up to exercise their franchise. It is a testament to India’s democratic credentials that the elections were completed without any serious hitches and that voter turnout was an impressive 60 percent. Indeed, the very triumph of democracy in a historically improbable environment such as India is nothing short of extraordinary. India has now been a resilient constitutional democracy for six decades, and Indians justifiably consider the country’s democratic legacy as a precious national accomplishment. Today, democracy has become such an indelible part of the nation’s political consciousness that—despite the disillusionment with “politics as usual”—most Indians continue to maintain a deep philosophical commitment to democracy and embrace the fundamental idea that the state’s authority must derive solely 67

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

68

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 68

Shalendra D. Sharma

from the uncoerced consent of the majority, tested regularly through open, competitive elections. Yet, even as India has secured virtually all the requirements associated with a mature and resilient democracy, the nation’s ability to provide effective governance has hardly improved. Indeed, some believe that the problems of governability may have actually worsened. It seems that the progressive empowerment of popular sectors and the deepening of democratic practices have created new problems. Paradoxically, even as India’s citizens enjoy the right to exercise popular sovereignty and its Parliament has become ever more representative of society, this “deepening” of democracy also seems responsible for exacerbating political fragmentation. In fact, rampant corruption and violence have infected the body politic, and this is especially evident by the large numbers of elected legislators in Bihar and in Uttar Pradesh (the latter being India’s most populous state) that have criminal records or have criminal investigations pending against them. Moreover, participatory democracy has not translated into a compelling alternative to top-down development models. Instead, persistent socioeconomic inequalities continue to mock the formal political equality of democratic citizenship. What explains this paradox of democratic resilience and relatively ineffective governance in India? How is the Indian political system organized and structured? More specifically, how does Indian democracy actually work? Who have been and are currently the major political actors? How have India’s political institutions evolved over the past six decades? What are the challenges to India’s democracy, and how effectively has its political system dealt with these challenges? Is India’s democracy strong enough to meet the myriad of challenges posed by the forces of globalization? The following sections will address these questions.



The Democratic Structure

The Constitution of India, adopted in 1950 after three years of spirited debate in the Constituent Assembly (elected indirectly from the various provinces in 1946), proclaimed India as a sovereign federal democratic republic. The constitution’s 395 articles and ten appendixes (known as schedules) make it one of the longest and most detailed in the world. Following the British parliamentary pattern, the constitution embodies the citizens’ fundamental rights, similar to the US Bill of Rights. These civil rights take precedence over any other law of the land; they include the individual rights common to most liberal democracies, such as equality before the law; freedom of speech, association, assembly, and religion; the right to constitutional remedies for the protection of civil rights; and the right to own and sell property. In addition, the constitution outlaws the traditional Indian system of social stratification based on caste and prohibits

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 69

Indian Politics

69

discrimination on the grounds of religion, language, race, ethnic background, sex, or place of birth. It also gives “minorities” the right to establish and administer their own educational institutions and to preserve a distinct language, script, and culture. An interesting feature of the constitution is the directive principles of state policy, which describe the obligations of the state toward its citizens. The dictates of the directive principles are not enforceable by a court, in contrast to the fundamental rights. Rather, they are intended to guide the government in framing new legislation. They include such orders as “the state shall direct its policy towards securing . . . that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed to subserve the common good” and “the state shall promote the interests of the weaker sections of society.” The key institutions of national governance are the executive (composed of the president and the Council of Ministers), the Parliament, and the Supreme Court. It is important to note that, although executive power is formally vested in the president (who is the head of state), the president exercises these powers on the advice of the Council of Ministers, which is headed by the prime minister.1 Hence, both in theory and in practice, power is concentrated in the hands of the prime minister, the de facto head of the executive branch. It is the prime minister who determines the composition of the Council of Ministers and assigns departmental portfolios to the “inner-circle” or the cabinet, which is made up of fifteen to twenty individuals. In India, the nature and composition of the Council of Ministers and cabinet have varied, depending on the prime minister in power. The prime minister’s office is also supported by a secretariat (currently over 300 strong) and senior bureaucrats, technocrats, economists, politicians, and their assistants.2 India’s Parliament, the supreme legislative body of the country, consists of a bicameral legislature made up of the Lok Sabha (House of the People—the lower house) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of States—the upper house). In 2009 the Lok Sabha had 545 seats, including the Speaker and two nominated members.3 Except for two members who are nominated by the president to represent the Anglo-Indian community, all are popularly elected.4 Seats in the Lok Sabha are allocated among the states on the basis of population. Each state is divided into electoral districts, and each district averages about 1.9 million people (which is about four times the population represented by the average member of the US House of Representatives). The usual term is five years, and under the rules of the constitution, the Lok Sabha must meet at least twice a year, with no more than six months between sessions. However, the president may dissolve the house and call new elections if the sitting government loses its majority in Parliament. The Rajya Sabha is a permanent body that meets in continuous session. It has a maximum of 250 members, all but twelve of whom are elected by the state legislative assemblies (the Vidhan Sabhas) for six-year terms.5 The Rajya

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

2:38 PM

Page 70

Shalendra D. Sharma

Government of India Press Information Bureau

70

6/16/10

Prime Minister Nehru congratulates Dr. Rajendra Prasad, president of the Constituent Assembly, on the occasion of signing the new Constitution of India, January 14, 1950.

Sabha permits more extended debates. Home to a large number of “senior” statespersons, it is designed to provide stability and continuity to the legislative process (thus, it is not subject to dissolution as is the Lok Sabha). Nevertheless, the authority of the Rajya Sabha in the legislative process is subordinate to that of the Lok Sabha. The power to make policy decisions in India is concentrated at the highest levels of authority, with the prime minister, his or her cabinet, and high-level officials and bureaucrats (through their control of the various government ministries) taking the initiative. The government has primary responsibility to draft legislation and introduce bills into either house of Parliament, although financial bills for taxing and spending (known as money bills) can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha. The central government (or the center) is aided in its activities by some 17 million government employees (known collectively as “public services”), about 5,000 of whom are officers of the elite Indian Administrative Service (IAS).6 While most of the senior policymakers and bureaucrats who make up the IAS are well educated, professional, and competent, the vast and sprawling underbelly of the Indian bureaucracy is anything but. This explains, in part, the huge gap between well-intentioned policies made at the top of the government and bureaucracy and poor implementation below. As in other liberal democracies, an independent judiciary is an important component of the Indian legal system. The Supreme Court as the highest legal tribunal is the ultimate interpreter and guardian of the constitution and the laws

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 71

Indian Politics

71

of the land.7 Headed by a chief justice and twenty-five associate justices, the Supreme Court sees that all legislation passed by the central and state governments is in conformity with the constitution. It also has the power of judicial review, original as well as appellate, regarding the constitutionality of any other enactment.8 Although in practice the executive branch of government has often managed to limit the Supreme Court’s powers of judicial review—and although the court has not always handled cases effectively, including those dealing with religious minorities and the rights of women—it is an institution of some significance and in recent years has begun to reassert its authority. India’s federal system has vested significant legislative powers with the central government, but the constitution also specifies powers that are divided between the central government and the states. Below the central government, there are twenty-eight state governments and seven union territories, with populations ranging from around 550,000 for the northeastern state of Sikkim to over 190 million for Uttar Pradesh, the largest and most populous state. The states do not have individual constitutions; they are governed by the provisions of the federal constitution. The Indian Constitution specifies that all states must have similar governmental structures, with a popularly elected bicameral or unicameral legislature in each, headed by a chief minister who is responsible to the assemblies.9 A governor, appointed by the central government, has the power to disagree with a bill and refer it to the president of India; the governor also has the power to appoint, with the approval of the legislature, the state’s chief minister. The central government and the governors can also dismiss or dissolve any elected state government through the imposition of “President’s Rule” if they conclude that the state government is not working in the best interests of its citizenry. Of course, the central government has often used this provision to advance its own political ends. Once a state government is dissolved, it is governed by the center until a new state government is elected. The strength of the central government relative to that of the states is further apparent in the constitutional provisions (laid down in the Seventh Schedule of the constitution) for central intervention in state jurisdictions. The central government has exclusive authority over ninety-seven matters of national importance, including defense, foreign affairs, transportation, communications, interstate trade and commerce, and finances. Moreover, Article 3 of the constitution authorizes Parliament, by a simple majority vote, to establish or eliminate states and union territories and to change their boundaries or names. For instance, in December 2009 the Congress government announced its willingness to create the state of Telangana by carving out territory in Andhra Pradesh. As the introduction to this volume noted, this led to massive protests throughout the rest of Andhra Pradesh. But should this decision hold, the Republic of India will comprise twenty-nine states and seven territories. The center also exerts control over state governments through the financial resources at its command. In a real sense, it “acts as a banker and collecting agent for the state governments” (Hardgrave and Kochanek 1993: 130). Under

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

72

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 72

Shalendra D. Sharma

the rules of the constitution, financial resources flow from the central government to the states through a system of discretionary divisible taxes and grantsin-aid, making the states dependent on the center for their regular budgetary needs, as well as for their capital expenditures. The central government also allocates and distributes substantial development funds and grants through its five-year plans. The resources available under the plans are substantial, given the center’s exclusive control over taxation and foreign financial flows. India’s federal government exhibits all the features of a highly institutionalized and modern unitary state, but appearances can be deceiving. Despite the constitutional powers of the central government, the state and provincial governments are not without significant constitutional powers of their own.10 In the words of B. R. Ambedkar, chairman of the constitution-drafting committee, “the states of the union of India are as sovereign in their field which is left to them by the Constitution as the Center in the field which is assigned to it” (Palmer 1961: 97). Under the constitution, states have exclusive authority over sixty-six items, including public order, welfare, health, education, local government, industry, agriculture, and land revenue. With regard to the agricultural sector and land revenue, the constitution assigns primary responsibility to the state governments; the center is reduced to providing guidelines, leaving the actual task of legislating and implementing rural development policies to the states. In fact, Paul Appleby, who at the request of the Indian government conducted a comprehensive review of the country’s administrative system in the early 1950s, was astounded to discover how much the center was dependent on the states for the actual implementation of major national programs and how little real authority the center seemed to have in the vital areas of policy and administration. Appleby has lucidly captured this paradox: “No other large and important government . . . is so dependent as India on theoretically subordinate but actually rather distinct units responsible to a different political control, for so much of the administration of what are recognized as national programs of great importance to the nation” (Appleby 1953: 21). Below the state governments sit an array of formal and informal governance structures, known simply as local self-government and understood as the administration of a locality (a village, town, city, or any other area smaller than a state) by a body representing the local inhabitants. Those who supported the idea behind local self-government, articulated most forcefully by the 1957 Mehta Study Team Report, argued that local self-government, or “democratic decentralization,” could play a vital role in the process of political legitimation and offer a means for developing a sense of participation in the citizenry. The district is the principal formal subdivision within the state governments. There are over 600 districts in India. The district collector, a member of the Indian Administrative Service, and the district judge (who is appointed by the state government and is in no way subordinate to the collector) are the most important officials in district administration. Districts are further subdivided

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 73

Indian Politics

73

into taluqs or tehsils, comprising anywhere from 200 to 600 villages. The taluqdar or tehsildar and the occasional village patwari (accountant)—the most important state government representatives at this level—are responsible for overseeing government programs, maintaining land records, and collecting revenue. Finally, Article 40 of the constitution directs all levels of government to engage in the “democratic decentralization of Indian administration” by reviving or creating panchayati raj, “traditional village councils for self-government,” and to “endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government” (Government of India 1952: 6–7). Most states have since introduced a fairly institutionalized system of panchayati raj, and the seventy-third constitutional amendment, passed in 1992, stipulates that all panchayat members be elected for five-year terms in elections supervised by the Election Commission.11



General Elections

Neil DeVotta

It is the lively and boisterous practice of democracy by an array of competing and colorful political parties, personalities, and groups in civil society that brings out the real excitement of Indian politics. Political parties are pivotal actors in this drama, devoting substantial energy to winning elections and forming

A 2008 panchayati election campaign in Uttarakhand

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

74

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 74

Shalendra D. Sharma

governments. India has held fifteen national elections since independence in August 1947.12 India’s constitution took effect in January 1950 and independent India held its first election in 1952. At this election, nearly 107 million voters out of an estimated 176 million eligible voters went to the polls and gave the Indian National Congress (or the Congress Party) a resounding victory. The Congress Party continued its dominance even after Jawaharlal Nehru died in 1964. Nehru was succeeded by Lal Bahadur Shastri and Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi. The latter displayed an authoritarian streak that culminated in her imposing emergency rule from June 1975 to March 1977. Under emergency rule, many politicians who were part of the opposition were sent to prison or kept under house arrest. These blunders, however, caused the electorate to oust the Congress Party in March 1977 in favor of the Janata Party (comprising a coalition of anti-Congress parties). This was the first time a party other than the Congress ruled India. While Mrs. Gandhi returned to power in 1980 and her son Rajiv Gandhi won a massive victory for Congress in 1984 (after Indira Gandhi was assassinated), a precedent had been set for rule by others than Congress. This is what transpired during the 1990s when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) consolidated its power. Also at this time, parties based on caste, linguistic affiliation, or region began expanding their vote base at the expense of Congress. Thus, although Congress retained its electoral dominance from 1952 until 1989 (except for the period from 1977 to 1980) and held a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha, its share of seats has declined since then. Indeed, over the past several decades India’s party system has evolved from a “one dominant party system” led by Congress into a competitive multiparty system constituting the BJP and several regional parties. As noted, the most recent national election was held between April and May 2009, and although the Congress Party was expected to win the most seats, the extent of its victory surprised many. As broken down in Table 4.1, the eleven-party United Progressive Alliance (UPA) headed by Congress won 262 seats while the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance won only 159 seats. Since the fifteenth Lok Sabha had to be constituted by June 2, the president in quick order invited the leader of the party with the most votes to form the government. This meant that Congress leaders had to submit a list of 272 members and allies to prove it could form a government. Given its margin of victory, the Congress-led UPA coalition had the luxury of handpicking the allies needed to form the government—a far cry from its previous dependence on unpredictable and unwieldy partners made up of several political parties. Assured of the support of more than 300 members of the lower house, Manmohan Singh was sworn in as prime minister for a second five-year term on May 22. This marked a watershed of sorts as Singh is only the second prime minister after Jawaharlal Nehru to be elected for a second full term. The rank-and-file Congress Party members were disappointed when Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, the fourth-generation member of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty and widely seen as the architect of the Congress’s resurgence, magnanimously

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 75

75 Table 4.1 Results of India’s Fifteenth General Elections, April–May 2009 Party/Candidate United Progressive Alliance Indian National Congress All-India Trinamool Congress Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) Nationalist Congress Party Jammu and Kashmir National Conference Jharkhand Mukti Morcha Muslim League Kerala State Committee All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen Bodoland People’s Front Kerala Congress (Mani) Republican Party of India (Athvale) National Democratic Alliance Bharatiya Janata Party Janata Dal-United Shiv Sena Rashtriya Lok Dal Shiromani Akali Dal Telangana Rashtra Samithi Asom Gana Parishad Third Front Bahujan Samaj Party Communist Party of India–Marxist (CPI-M) Biju Janata Dal All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) Telegu Desam Party Communist Party of India (CPI) Janata Dal-Secular Forward Bloc Revolutionary Socialist Party Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) Haryana Janhit Congress Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) Fourth Front Samajwadi Party (SJ) Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) Others Independents Assam United Democratic Front Bahujan Vikas Aaghadi Swabhimani Paksha Nagaland People’s Front Sikkim Democratic Front Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK)

Votes 262 206 19 18 9 3 2 2 1 1 1 0 159 116 20 11 5 4 2 1 80 21 16 14 9 6 4 3 2 2 1 1 1 26 22 4 15 9 1 1 1 1 1 1

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

76

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 76

Shalendra D. Sharma

refused to accept a ministerial berth. But the party faithful may not have to wait long, as the thirty-eight-year old is the Congress’s heir apparent. Indeed, Rahul’s selfless act of renunciation (albeit, carefully choreographed) only added to his growing political capital. The fifteenth general election results seem to defy one of the most widely held assumptions about Indian politics: that political fragmentation and a fractured Parliament made of unwieldy alliances across a range of parties is the wave of the future. While it is too early to conclude that the election marks an important shift in the political landscape, with the Congress Party on its way to reclaiming its once-privileged “dominant party” status, what is clear is that the disproportionate power and influence exercised by several narrow caste-, regional-, and other identity-based parties have been checked—at least for now. Polls show that Indian voters are increasingly frustrated and disillusioned with identity-based parties and politics. Specifically, although the proliferation and ascendance of identity-based parties over the past two decades have opened up India’s hitherto closed, top-down political system to the country’s diverse subaltern communities, these parties’ record of delivering tangible benefits to their particular communities and constituencies has been remarkably poor. Rather, the evidence suggests that the aspiring leaders of the various caste-, regional-, and other identity-based parties have tended to use political parties as vehicles to further advance their own ambitions and power. It seems that voters have finally caught up with this hypocrisy. Although the average Indian votes are poor and illiterate, they go to the polls in proportionately larger numbers than the country’s middle and elite classes and tend to back parties that campaign on local issues and serve as reliable “vote banks” for parties that represent their particularistic interests and sectarian affiliations. However, the verdict of 2009 indicates a shift, if not actually a growing maturity, among the masses. For large sections of voters, rewarded parties seem to be providing good governance and economic opportunities. This is what explains why state-level governments (for example, in Orissa, Bihar, and Gujarat) with relatively strong economic development records were rewarded at the polls, while negligent ones (in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh) were duly punished. The 2009 elections give credence to the argument that in today’s India no political party can take its success for granted. The ruling BJP learned this the hard way in 2004. Basking in the glow of the country’s economic renaissance, the ruling BJP coalition wistfully settled on the catchy slogan “Shining India” as its campaign theme. While all the preelection polls predicted the party’s return to power with a solid majority, the results mocked the pundits, as the BJP coalition was unceremoniously ousted from office. Election postmortem revealed that the “Shining India” mantra did not play well in the countryside or in the sprawling urban chawls (slums). In fact, the new affluence has bypassed the majority of the rural populace and sharpened economic inequalities. The excluded particularly resented the fact that the urban-based new rich and those

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 77

Indian Politics

77

with high-level connections had benefited disproportionately from the economic reforms. The vote underscores the fact that the average Indian voter, like most voters in mature democracies, votes on pocketbook issues, and therefore no political party can take voters’ support for granted. Finally, the adage that good economics is good politics was underscored in the 2009 elections. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the primary beneficiary as he presided over an unprecedented economic boom. In the past five years, India’s economy has grown at an average annual rate of 8.5 percent per year, including an impressive 7 percent in the midst of a massive global economic downturn. Adding to Singh’s good fortune was that growth was broad based, in large measure, due to four good monsoons and the global commodity boom, which translated into high prices for agricultural goods. This has meant that the agricultural sector, which contributes around 20 percent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) but provides livelihood for over 70 percent of its populace, grew at a robust rate of about 4.5 percent per year over the past five years. In addition—as if not to repeat the unconscionably fatal error of his BJP predecessor whose “Shining India” mantra glorified the urban information technology sector and overlooked the vast rural sector, and cognizant of the fact that the road to New Delhi goes through the sprawling countryside—the Singh government judiciously complemented rising rural incomes by either partly or fully forgiving bank loans owed by “small farmers” (and most Indian peasants are small farmers). To mitigate the impact of the high food prices on the rural poor, Congress put in place the new National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, a massive public-works project that guaranteed up to 100 days’ work paying minimum wages. Both the central and state-level governments also raised minimum wages, thereby increasing pay faster than prices for average consumables. The urban working classes were not neglected: the government generously raised the pay of public employees and, under the banner of Singh’s “inclusive growth” policy, certain constituencies received benefits at the discretion of the government. According to the government’s own estimates, the debt write-off for some 43 million farmers in 2008 totaled some 1.6 percent of GDP. All in all, this ensured that farmers and the rural poor did not abandon the Congress Party, which partly explains the better-than-expected showing of Congress in the fifteenth general elections.



State-Society Relations and Political Change

Appreciating the patterns and nature of changes in postindependence India’s state-society relations is key to understanding the broad and complex political shifts that have taken place and their implications for the polity and society. A brief historical overview is necessary. Considering the high mortality rate of democracies in postcolonial settings, democracy in India long appeared something of an anomaly. At the time of

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

78

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 78

Shalendra D. Sharma

independence, it was widely believed that India was the least likely of the newly emergent nations to sustain democracy.13 To the skeptics, liberal democracy and the practice of representative government were too alien to survive in a country nostalgic for “imagined traditions” and compromised by irreconcilable divisions. Indian democracy, they believed, superficially imposed from the top and lacking enduring roots in society, would eventually succumb to the crushing inertia of traditionalism and parochialism. Indeed, the bloody riots that followed partition coupled with the subcontinent’s ancient enmities and entrenched inequities lent credence to the view that India lacked the conditions in which the values, norms, and institutions of liberal democracy could survive and flourish. Yet this rigidly hierarchical social order, whose population crossed the billion mark at the beginning of the new millennium, has so far defied the odds. Not only has India maintained its national and territorial integrity, but for much of the six decades since independence it has shown remarkable political stability. India stands virtually alone among the newer nations in preserving a relatively open system of parliamentary government and holding free, fair, and competitive elections. It embraces the idea that all the diverse groups and communities in the country can aspire to dignity and ultimately share in economic prosperity and political power. What explains this Indian “exceptionalism”? Perhaps the most compelling explanation has been provided by Sunil Khilnani. In his eloquent book The Idea of India (1997), Khilnani argues that democracy’s success in India is neither the result of its traditions nor the legacy of British colonial rule. Rather, it is the result of choices made by a progressive segment of the Indian nationalist elite, who nurtured democratic norms and practices and instilled a strong participatory ethos in the Congress Party. The collective wisdom of the nationalist leaders—individuals like Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Vallabhai Patel, C. Rajagopalachari, and others—not only gave life to the Indian Constitution (a document that surely enshrined the principles of parliamentary democracy) but also did much to add to and transform the rudimentary political and institutional scaffolding of late colonialism into tools for democratic reconstruction. In practice, these founding fathers remained committed to the principles of parliamentary democracy and to the rules of civility, political accountability, and respect for constitutional and judicial procedures. Their example enabled them to arouse popular passion and allegiance and assert solidarity with the masses that allowed them to reconcile differences without precipitating political-institutional collapse. In addition, they helped to forge awareness about India that did not exist earlier: that the Indian union is greater than the sum of its parts, its pluralism is the source of its strength, and its multitudinous problems are best resolved through representative institutions and mediated politics. Even during the dark days following partition, leaders like Nehru were unequivocal in their rejection of the ideology of religious exclusivity and the demands of Hindu fundamentalists for a nonsecular, theocratic Hindu state. With consummate skill

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 79

Indian Politics

79

and resolve, Nehru assuaged the anxieties of the religious minorities and the so-called weaker sections of society and constructed a tolerant secular order that gave India a distinctive place in the international community. Whereas the Nehru-era nationalist leadership planted and nurtured the seeds of democracy, the post-Nehru leadership did just the opposite. A large volume of literature documents how and why the actions of short-sighted and power-hungry political elites, in particular former prime minister Indira Gandhi (1966–1977, 1980–1984), and their loyalist apparatchiks squandered the political-institutional capital so carefully built by an earlier generation of Congress leaders. The basic argument is that a centralized, autocratic, and confrontational style of personal rule became the norm during Indira Gandhi’s sixteen-year tenure, consistently bypassing the decisionmaking institutions of government (the cabinet, Parliament, and civil service) and greatly weakening their capacity to amplify their authority and legitimacy. Even the judiciary was subordinated to the executive branch, as increased administrative discretion removed administrative actions from judicial review and new laws provided for preventive detention and arbitrary arrests without any recourse to the courts. As the bulk of the strategic positions in these institutions became rewards for palace courtiers, the consequence was predictable: the institutions and their managers lost not only their legitimacy but also their professionalism and spirit (see Baxi 1982). Lloyd Rudolph and Susanne Rudolph (1987: 84) aptly sum up the two contrasting political eras since independence, one associated with Nehru and the other with Indira Gandhi: Unlike her father, Mrs. Gandhi depleted India’s political capital by eroding the autonomy, professional standards, and procedural norms of political institutions and state agencies. She tried to make those responsible for Parliament, the courts, the civil services, and the federal system answerable to her. The effort succeeded, to varying degrees, in orienting their conduct to her personal will. A paradoxical consequence was to diminish the legitimacy and effectiveness of the state. Centralization based on personal loyalty and obedience to a monocratic executive lessened the state’s capacity to amplify itself through multiple agencies extending beyond the limited control and attention of one person. Jawaharlal Nehru was the schoolmaster of parliamentary government, Indira Gandhi its truant.

Perhaps the most egregious legacy of Gandhi’s long reign was the progressive weakening of the Congress Party. Since the 1920s, when Mohandas Gandhi transformed the party into a mass organization, the “Congress system” had dominated Indian public and political life, providing the link between the political center and the vast sprawling periphery—bringing a measure of coherence and stability to an otherwise fragmented order. Although the Congress Party never won an absolute majority of the popular vote, India’s system of plurality elections (that is, whichever candidate gets the most votes wins) in single-member districts enabled the party to win consistently large parliamentary majorities, especially

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

80

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 80

Shalendra D. Sharma

Government of India Press Information Bureau

Indira Gandhi

during the twenty-five years following independence. (These majorities have allowed the party to rule continuously at the national level and in most states for all but twelve years between August 1947 and March 2002.14) The Congress Party’s unquestioned dominance in the first decades of independence rested in part on its prestige as India’s premier anticolonial and nationalist organization and in part on the formidable administrative-organizational capacity of its committees at the local, state, and national levels. In addition, there were intricate networks of political favors and factional alliances (both within the party and between party factions and nonparty interest groups) stretching from New Delhi to tens of thousands of rural villages. The emasculation of these pillars of the venerable Congress system began imperceptibly in the mid-1960s, as a result of forces stemming from both state and society. As noted, as the head of the Indian state, Indira Gandhi was Machiavellian, obstructionist, and uncompromising, and the criminalization of politics under

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 81

Indian Politics

81

her son and apparent heir, Sanjay (who died in a 1980 plane crash), contributed greatly to the party’s organizational decline. Gandhi repeatedly demonstrated disregard for both constitutional and legal constraints, winking at the violations and transgressions of her coterie and using her position to centralize power to perpetuate her cult of personality and further her dynastic ambitions. As Rudolph and Rudolph (1987: 134) have noted, her “imperious, self-righteous,” and harsh governing style (in particular her reliance on “populist waves” to secure electoral majorities and her habit of arbitrarily reconstituting party committees) resulted in the erosion of intraparty democracy and accelerated political and institutional decline. Under this arbitrary system, members of the Congress Party no longer entered state or national politics by getting elected to local party committees and then moving up through the party ranks by distinguishing themselves in community work and service. Nor did they have to gain the confidence and support of their constituencies. Instead, they had to demonstrate their allegiance and deference to the prime minister. Similarly, the process of selecting party candidates for election to the district and state legislative assemblies and to the Lok Sabha became centralized in New Delhi and managed by the prime minister and her close circle. In many cases, individuals chosen to run on the Congress Party tickets had no grassroots base and only a loose affiliation with the party; they were selected because they could collect large sums of money for the party coffers and because they were loyal to Indira Gandhi. In fact, nepotism and corruption became such a pervasive part of the political culture that the new breed of Congress Party politicians engaged in an orgy of self-aggrandizement and manipulation of the political process. They used their power to enrich family members, participate in elaborate kickback schemes with businesses, or thwart the democratic process by enrolling bogus party members in order to fix elections—to name only a few examples. The thoroughness of the Congress Party’s degeneration was made vividly obvious in June 1975, with the imposition of a twenty-month-long authoritarian “emergency regime,” and again in 1978, when it changed its name to Congress (I) for Indira Gandhi—sadly epitomizing the transformation of one of the twentieth century’s great political organizations into a family dynasty.15 By the 1980s, India’s political structures were deeply fractured and polarized. The personalization and centralization of power had not only eroded the government’s professional and institutional autonomy but also reduced the Congress system and its intricate networks to a shell of its former self. In effect, the Congress Party came to resemble a lame leviathan; it was a party omnipresent but hardly omnipotent, one that reacted but could not effectively govern or promote economic development. Under these conditions, Indira Gandhi had to rely even more on populist appeals and demagogic manipulation to consolidate her political base and to keep the opposition at bay. But in the absence of structured and dependable institutions operating within accepted rules of political conduct

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

82

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 82

Shalendra D. Sharma

and established legal-judicial procedures, populist waves were too ephemeral and superficial to respond to the needs of a complex and variegated society. Under such conditions, politics became even more personalized and erratic, and populist slogans and hard-to-fulfill promises became a substitute for performance. Unwilling (and now lacking the political capital) to engage in meaningful conciliatory dialogue with a growing array of disaffected and restive groups, Gandhi in characteristic fashion met challenges (real and perceived) with disregard for democratic rules and procedures, substituting harsh decrees for a government of laws. She made strident appeals to pro-Hindu religious themes, which reentered the political scene with a vengeance after an absence of some three decades. She recklessly misused governmental and constitutional powers, exercising discretionary control over financial grants to the states, arbitrarily dissolving state governments and assemblies, and toppling popularly elected opposition ministers and replacing them with handpicked loyalists. These actions had the effect of aggravating factionalism within the Congress Party, widening the gulf between the party and society, and exacerbating communal and secessionist demands. Nowhere was this more visible than in the tragedies of Punjab and Kashmir. To the short-sighted political elites, the growing social unrest and violence in Assam were more evidence of antinational forces trying to destroy national unity. Quick to equate any form of popular opposition (especially by ethnoreligious and regional groups) with disloyalty and treason, they sought harsh authoritarian measures to protect the country. The deadly, self-perpetuating cycle of violence in Punjab, Kashmir, Assam, and elsewhere in India became the sad harvest of this modus vivendi. Indira Gandhi’s high-handedness, her need to shore up her political base among the Hindu majority, and her tendency to view even reasonable and legitimate minority and regional demands and aspirations with suspicion prevented her government from coming up with prudent and constructive solutions to these complex problems. The sequence of events that led to the Punjab tragedy is instructive. Starting in the late 1970s, Gandhi and her son Sanjay began to meddle in the internal affairs of Punjabi politics in an effort to impose their will over the ruling moderate Akali Dal Party. They harnessed the support of the arch “Indira loyalist” Giani Zail Singh, who used the militant Sikh fundamentalist preacher Bhindranwale to weaken the Akali Dal’s leadership by dividing Punjabi politics along religious lines. However, this strategy set off the tragic events that ended in the assault on the Golden Temple in June 1984; an increase in support for the Sikh separatist movement; the assassination of Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984; and the intensification of violence against the Sikhs. Similarly, it was Gandhi’s tactics that paved the way for the rise of murderous agitations in Assam and Mizoram. Paul Brass (1988: 212) aptly notes that “the relentless centralization and ruthless, unprincipled intervention by the center in state politics

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 83

Indian Politics

83

Philip Oldenburg

have been the primary causes of the troubles in the Punjab and elsewhere in India since Mrs. Gandhi’s rise to power.” Arguably, under Gandhi, the Indian state, once seen by society as the mediator of conflict, had become the source of conflict. When Gandhi’s son Rajiv assumed the office of prime minister in 1984, the political legacy he inherited was already greatly compromised. The entire process of intraparty democracy at the local, district, and state levels, including the All-India Congress Committee and the Congress Working Committee (two of the party’s highest organs), had ceased to function effectively or have any voice independent from that of the prime minister. Because he was heir to the Nehru family, and because of the “sympathy wave” following his mother’s assassination, Rajiv Gandhi received 48 percent of the popular vote and 77 percent (or 415 seats) of the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha in 1984. However, his five-year term (1984–1989) was characterized by numerous political blunders (largely the result of his overdependence on a small group of bungling “backroom boys”). His problems were aggravated by the Bofors scandal,16 by his widely perceived pro-rich and pro-urban economic liberalization policies (his preference for Gucci loafers and Porsche sunglasses did not help), and by his failure to fulfill his election pledge to clean up the Congress Party and “return

A campaign poster for Rajiv Gandhi, Delhi, 1984. The slogan (in Hindi) on the poster reads: “A new challenge, a new message: [when] the hand is strong, the country is unified.”

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

84

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 84

Shalendra D. Sharma

it to the people.” He squandered the initial advantages he enjoyed as the legitimate inheritor and rejuvenator of the Congress Party. India’s ninth general election (held in 1989) saw the Congress Party spin into a precipitous political freefall, dropping from 415 to 197 seats. However, the new minority Janata Dal (National Front) government, a coalition of several disparate parties led by V. P. Singh, was overwhelmed by factionalism and by irreconcilable policy differences with its coalition partner (the BJP), and it collapsed after a little more than two years. Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination by Sri Lankan Tamil separatists during the 1991 election campaign (the tenth general election) decidedly helped to tilt the electoral balance in favor of the Congress Party, now under the leadership of the veteran P. V. Narasimha Rao. The minority Rao government (1991–1996) was sustained by its alliances with an array of regional parties and introduced a long-overdue economic liberalization program. But hopes that the seventy-year-old Rao might try to revive the rules of the Nehru era and reverse the party’s organizational decline were soon dispelled. Beset by scandal after scandal, the Rao administration soon fell into disrepute. It also became apparent that competing factions within the Congress Party continued to have both a vested interest in and great devotion to the continuation of dynastic rule. The “courting” of Rajiv Gandhi’s Italian-born widow, Sonia, by various factions showed how paralyzed the Congress Party had become. Indeed, the simultaneous devotion of the Congress factions to democratic principles and dynastic monarchy is one of the great puzzles of contemporary Indian politics.



State-Society Relations and Social Change

The eleventh general election, held in 1996, marked an important milestone in Indian politics. H. D. Deve Gowda, a self-proclaimed “peasant’s son” from the southern state of Karnataka, became the first Indian prime minister who could speak neither Hindi nor English. Although Deve Gowda’s United Front government (a loose agglomeration of leftist, regional, and caste-based political parties) governed India for only eighteen months, the poignancy of the moment was hard to miss. It seemed that at last power had slipped from the hands of the upper-caste westernized elites into those of the popular subaltern majorities. However, the complex processes that brought Deve Gowda and others like him to the pinnacle of power were not new. The universal right to vote instituted in 1951 had one very powerful effect: it empowered the masses by making their numbers count. And in the course of over a half-century, democracy has acquired a mass appeal as Indians from all walks of life came to understand the power and utility of their votes. The “deepening of democracy,” as reflected in the spread of democratic ideas, competitive politics, and universal suffrage, has helped spur unprecedented political activism among formerly passive groups and has served as an effective vehicle

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 85

Indian Politics

85

for the political empowerment of the country’s previously excluded and subordinate groups. A broad alliance of the lower castes and classes collectively referred to as the “Other Backward Castes” (estimated to be about 40–45 percent of the population),17 the “Scheduled Castes” or Dalits (20–25 percent of the population),18 Muslims (12–15 percent), and other groups and communities that had endured generations of neglect and oppression has gate-crashed its way into the political arena and translated the numerical preponderance of its members into political power (Frankel and Rao 1989–1990). Today their representatives occupy influential positions, including some of the highest offices in the land. Their political organizations and parties, such as the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal in the northern “Hindi belt,” and the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK) and the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (AIADMK) in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, are formidable political machines, forming governments or determining the nature and fate of governments. As the old certitudes of the Hindu order—in which the lower-caste “inferiors” were expected to show ritualized deference to their propertied upper-caste “superiors”—have crumbled, so have the days of de facto control of passive lower-caste voters by the upper castes and classes. This sharp erosion of upper-caste/upper-class political dominance is nothing short of a quiet revolution. Given this, it is instructive to keep in mind that the deinstitutionalization of the Congress Party has deeper causes than simply the centralization of power under Indira Gandhi. Rather, as readjustments in the relations between the state and society eroded the aggregative capabilities of the Congress Party, Gandhi’s political response was as much a symptom as the cause of the progressive breakdown in the consensual Congress system—which had worked well so long as the level of politicization was low, the distribution of patronage was narrowly directed, and upper-caste power brokers “above politics” were available to settle factional disputes. Yet, why has the extension of popular sovereignty and empowerment of the masses not translated into more effective governance? Part of the problem, according to some theorists, stems from the fact that Indian society—what Mohandas Gandhi once called that layer upon layer of built-in resentment, inequality, and oppression—is sorely lacking in “social capital.”19 In other words, although India is blessed with a robust civil society and a rich and vigorous associational life, the associations usually reflect the narrow caste, ethnic, regional, and religious-communal loyalties (including patriarchy, class domination, and other tyrannies) that are deeply embedded in civil society (Chhibber 1999). As a result, particularism and localism and other potentially divisive tendencies often define India’s associational life.20 These cleavages have prevented the development of ancillary networks of civic reciprocity and engagement, or what Robert Putnam (1993) calls “civic community” or “civicness” necessary for the articulation and aggregation of interests and collaboration. Not surprisingly, despite India’s resilient democratic institutions and relatively long experience

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

86

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 86

Shalendra D. Sharma

with constitutionalism, political participation (especially voting) still continues to be a largely collective behavior rather than the exercise of individual choice envisioned by liberal theory. Thus, the shallowness of social capital has prevented the representatives of the state and civil society from creating forums through which they can identify and agree on common goals. Thus, contrary to the claims of India’s “chattering classes” (the Englishspeaking elites), India has never been a paragon of genteel secularism and cosmopolitanism. Rather, its religiosity, social cleavages, and sectarian feuds based on faith, caste, and locality have always been real, volatile, and often nonnegotiable. The problem, it seems, is that secularists have come to believe their own myths. Benedict Anderson (1983) has taught that all states create founding myths and traditions that become part of their collective memories. The Indian nationalists, in particular Gandhi and Nehru, developed a distinctive narrative of India’s past that privileged commemorative histories of religious tolerance, sociocultural accommodation and assimilation, and pluralistic syncretism of faith and belief, while devaluing the more authentic and intimate folk traditions based on the vicissitudes of kith, creed, and caste. The “little traditions” spoke of recurrent partitions and pathological conflicts between Hindus and Muslims, high castes and low castes, and the uneasy coexistence between the mélange of peoples and communities that made the subcontinent their home. In India, where civic-based participation remains poorly developed—what Chhibber (1999) has lucidly described as “democracy without associations”—the democratic revolution by empowering the unlettered masses has, like never before, brought to the surface the seemingly latent hostilities and precarious tensions among religions, castes, and regions. This battle for the soul of India will continue—mostly at the ballot box and occasionally in the streets—for the foreseeable future. The social capital approach provides only part of the answer, however. It was Samuel Huntington (1968) who long ago recognized that societies with highly active and mobilized publics and low levels of political institutionalization often degenerate into instability, disorder, and violence. In India, the high levels of political mobilization in the absence of a strong and responsive state and political parties have served to fragment rather than unite society. Instead of responding to the demands of an increasingly mobilized population, the country’s weak and overburdened political institutions have reinforced, if not exacerbated, socioeconomic and political cleavages. Not surprisingly, political parties of all stripes today place partisan interests above the public good, often pathetically outbidding each other (through promises of costly state entitlements and other guarantees), to consolidate their bases and garner support. Hence, India’s democratic renaissance has a dark side. The trend is unambiguous. Members of the upper castes (20–25 percent of the population) have been gravitating toward the once-obscure Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, whose commitment to good governance, “traditional

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 87

Indian Politics

87

values,” and the transformation of India into a disciplined Hindu nation-state has struck a particular chord, especially among the propertied classes in the Hindispeaking heartland.21 The Samajwadi Party, confined mainly to Uttar Pradesh, claims to be the party of the state’s backward castes, and the Bahujan Samaj Party represents the interests of the Dalits (former “Untouchables”). Meanwhile, the secular, or “modernist,” Indians, who fear the BJP’s militant Hindu nationalism, continue to cling to the incorrigibly “top-down” Congress Party. Such an unpropitious political environment has produced a motley array of self-serving regional chieftains, political fixers (including criminal gangs, the so-called goondas and dacoits), local power brokers, and political freelancers. These typically pose as the saviors of their communities, promising to sweep away the debris of the past and usher in a new order. Yet, often unchecked by institutional constraints, they enjoy broad discretionary powers. Thus, they are often all too ready to circumvent institutional and legal procedures and, if need be, maliciously engage in political demagoguery to inflame their communities. Although it is important to repeat that social pluralism is not necessarily antithetical to the formation of an inclusive political community, weak political institutions and chauvinistic politics in contemporary India have engendered societal fragmentation and alienation rather than integration. Ironically, the Indian state became an unwitting accomplice in creating and reinforcing religious and caste-based identities at the expense of common, or national, citizenship. Burdened by the trauma of partition and to appease the most fanatical elements in the Muslim community, it failed to establish a uniform civil code for Muslims, and in its effort to correct the systematic injustices and deprivations suffered by the lower castes and other underprivileged communities, the constitution abolished “untouchability” and outlawed discrimination on the basis of caste and religion. The first amendment to the constitution (which became law in 1951) also introduced a wide array of “compensatory discrimination” programs (India’s version of affirmative action) by reserving 22.5 percent of all central government jobs for individuals belonging to Scheduled Castes and Tribes.22 Similar reservations were made for admission to educational institutions. Over time, these reservations have been extended to the Other Backward Castes (OBCs). In 1980, the report of the Backward Classes Commission (also known as the Mandal Commission), chaired by B. P. Mandal—a former chief minister of Bihar and himself a member of a backward caste—proposed an even widerranging “compensatory discrimination” program for the 52 percent of the population, including Muslims, classified as “backward.” The report recommended that 27 percent of all central and state government jobs and 27 percent of all spaces in government universities and affiliated colleges should be reserved for members of the 3,743 castes and subcastes identified as “backward.” For more than a decade, this report was shelved. Then, in 1990, the new OBC-dominated Janata Dal coalition government under then–prime minister V. P. Singh announced its intention to implement the commission’s recommendations.23 This

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

88

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 88

Shalendra D. Sharma

decision aroused strong passions, convulsed Indian society (some higher-caste students even set themselves on fire in protest), fueled caste wars, and was instrumental in causing the government’s downfall. Although implementation was stayed by the Supreme Court pending a ruling on the constitutionality of the measure, no political party has publicly opposed “reservations,” since none wants to alienate itself from the large backward-caste electorate. In 1991, the newly elected Congress Party government under Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao sought to mollify opposition to the reservations issue by adding a 10 percent reservation for the poor of the higher castes. In November 1992, the Supreme Court upheld the reservation for OBCs, with the vague provision that it be “need-based,” but struck down the additional 10 percent as constitutionally impermissible. In a classic example of how noble intentions can turn sour, such public policies and decisions have only served to sharpen caste enmities. Since the late 1980s, India has experienced renewed religious and communal discord as the so-called forward or elite classes and castes, the Scheduled Castes, the various backward castes and classes, and competing religious and regionally focused groups have all fiercely contested and sometimes violently fought over every scrap of the state’s largesse. Indian society, it seemed, had been irreversibly realigned in ways so as to strengthen caste, communal, religious, and ethnoregional identities. Therefore, even as India’s national Parliament and some two dozen state assemblies have become more pluralistic and representative of the country’s diversity, this diversity has also exacerbated the problems related to political and economic development. More than ever before, crucial decisions regarding the allocation of resources are heavily influenced by political considerations, rather than by sound technical and developmental criteria. With considerable fanfare, politicians make regular visits to their constituencies to inaugurate projects and to receive petitions for new ones. Ruling parties routinely distribute government resources and perks to reward supporters and to create new bases of support while withholding resources from opposition supporters and perceived and real “hostile” communities. Such a system has accentuated deep-seated communal and caste allegiances and antagonisms and has produced widespread graft and corruption, leaving few resources for meaningful human development. Consequently, there is gnawing concern about the “quality” of India’s democracy. Fareed Zakaria’s (2003: 3) pessimistic view that in India “while democracy is flourishing, liberty is not” is apt. Specifically, Zakaria notes that although the idea of democracy (in the sense of devolution of power to the masses) has spread rapidly, it is less clear the extent to which democratic consolidation or the institutionalization and routinization of democratic norms and values within the political system is taking place. He argues that in India (and elsewhere) the trend has been toward “illiberal democracy”—a form of governance that deliberately combines the rhetoric of liberal democracy with illiberal rule. That is, although regular and competitive multiparty elections are held

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 89

Indian Politics

89

qualifying the country as an “electoral democracy,” the everyday practices of the state are marked by arbitrariness and abuses. Similarly, political freedoms and civil rights may be formally recognized, but hardly observed in practice. The judiciary may be officially deemed independent, but it is easily compromised, and the free press is harassed in numerous ways, making them compliant. Zakaria argues that while democracy in India has meant “opening up its politics to a much broader group of people who were previously marginalized,” and the creation of new political parties has enabled greater representation and made India “more democratic,” it has also made it “less liberal.” He warns that illiberal democracy (that is, nominally democratic government shorn of constitutional liberalism and institutional checks) is potentially dangerous as it brings with it the erosion of liberty, abuse of power, ethnic divisions, and conflict.



The Resilience of Indian Democracy

For all its limitations, India remains the world’s largest constitutional democracy, with a functioning Parliament, a political regime of laws and institutions, civilian control of the military, a free press, numerous political parties, and free elections for which millions of voters turn out. The political system’s ability to hold regular, free, and fair elections has long provided a peaceful outlet for its citizens’ diverse aspirations and demands and has provided the glue that holds together this nation of over one billion people and over twenty major languages. Although a palpable sense of concern exists regarding the future of good governance in India, there is nevertheless hope. For all its challenges, India’s democratic order also has significant strengths. First, despite the fact that caste and communal loyalties are still the most significant determinant of electoral outcomes, the proliferation of political parties has also given the Indian voter a wide menu of choices. The Indian electorate (despite the fact that it is largely illiterate) is relatively informed, actively participates in the political process, and often demonstrates an uncanny wisdom and sophistication. Voter turnout in India has stabilized at around 60 percent—which by international standards is quite impressive. More important, the electorate takes its responsibilities seriously. Since 1947, only a quarter of incumbents have been returned to power. In elections since 1987 for state-level governments, less than 15 percent of incumbent administrations have been returned to power. Moreover, the Indian electorate is increasingly splitting its vote among different parties—in both state and national elections—as if to show their preference for deadlocked parliaments. If the emerging trends hold, the message is clear: the volatile voter with a strong bias against incumbents has a low threshold for ineffective or bad governments; no party can take its rule for granted; and ideologically polarized parties must shed their extremism if they are to be successful. Electoral success now depends on a party’s ability to reach

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

90

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 90

Shalendra D. Sharma

out to individuals in diverse social settings while conveying a political agenda with generalized rather than sectoral appeal. This underscores the fact that fears about the “takeover” by the Hindu nationalist BJP and its allies are greatly exaggerated. For instance, less than a quarter of the electorate voted for the BJP in 2004, and that was a smaller share of the vote than it received in the 1999 elections. In 2009, the BJP barely won 116 seats—a meteoric drop from its 138seat tally in the 2004 general elections. The BJP’s poor showing underscores that while Hindu nationalism is enough to underpin a political party, it is hardly sufficient to form strong governments in New Delhi. This is because Hindus who make up nearly 85 percent of the population do not vote as an anti-Muslim bloc. Not surprisingly, the BJP as of late has softened its chauvinism and moved increasingly to occupy the political center. Second, although Indians often bemoan the recurring instability associated with coalition governments, it is important to recognize that India’s mind-boggling diversity can be effectively reflected in a broad-based coalition government. Indeed, it is the very deepening of democracy that has made the national Parliament and state assemblies more representative of society. Contrary to the conventional view, the various coalition governments have not necessarily worsened governability. Rather, by facilitating a measure of the much-needed decentralization of power from New Delhi to the states, the various coalitional configurations have restored some vitality to regional grassroots democratic institutions. Moreover, under today’s coalition governments, politics remains highly pluralistic. Since the prime minister and cabinet are chosen by multiple political actors, their power is also constrained by multiple constituencies. Third, in recent years India’s judiciary, including the Supreme Court and the high courts in a number of states, the Election Commission, and the office of the president, have all reasserted their authority. The courts have sought to weed out corruption at all levels, pursuing civil and criminal cases involving several former ministers in the central government and in the states. Most startling, India’s once compliant Election Commission has undertaken an energetic and unprecedented campaign to make political parties and their leaders accountable. Besides demanding that political parties must file returns of their expenditures both for parties and for individual candidates, the commission has begun to clamp down on the flagrant use of money to influence voters. In the process, many of the country’s seemingly invincible rulers have been humbled. The fact that the Election Commission has used its power to deploy large numbers of security forces to polling stations has helped to prevent violence and vote fraud. Finally, while in many countries the issues revolve around democratic transition and consolidation, in India the dominant issue on the political agenda is no longer whether democracy can survive, but whether it can become a meaningful way for diverse sectors of society to exercise collective influence over public decisions that affect their lives. Indeed, there is growing recognition that

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 91

Indian Politics

91

although democracy cannot guarantee the complete fulfillment of a country’s socioeconomic and political objectives, it is nevertheless a precondition for pursuing such goals and an intrinsic value in its own right.



Notes

1. The president of India occupies the same position the Crown does in Britain. India’s presidents, with few exceptions, have been distinguished elder statesmen, who have generally performed their rather perfunctory duties with dignity. The president is elected by the members of the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha, and the Vidhan Sabhas for a five-year term and can stand for reelection. Presidents are subject to impeachment by Parliament for violation of the constitution. Pratibha Patil, India’s first woman president, was elected in July 2007. 2. Malik (1993: 86) notes that “in some ways the prime minister’s secretariat resembles the US president’s executive office. It is entrusted not only with preparation of the agenda for cabinet meetings and maintenance of the records of cabinet proceedings but also with coordination of the administration of different departments of the government headed by the members of the council of ministers.” 3. The Lok Sabha elects one of its own members as its presiding officer called the Speaker. The Speaker is assisted by the Deputy Speaker, who is also elected by the Lok Sabha. The Speaker oversees the conduct of business in the Lok Sabha. 4. Under this system, political parties can gain commanding positions in Parliament without gaining the support of a majority of the electorate. For example, the Congress Party, which has dominated Indian politics until recently, never won a majority of votes in parliamentary elections. The best-ever Congress Party performance in parliamentary elections was in 1984, when it won 48 percent of the vote but garnered 76 percent of the parliamentary seats. In the 1991 general elections, the Congress Party won 37.6 percent of the vote and 42 percent of the seats. 5. The members of the Rajya Sabha are elected indirectly, rather than by the citizens at large. The terms in the upper house are staggered so that one-third of the members stand for election every two years. 6. Officers of the IAS are an elite corps drawn primarily from the affluent and educated upper castes. In 1990, only about 150 out of a candidate pool of approximately 85,000 recruits received appointments in the IAS. 7. India has a single judicial system, with the Supreme Court at the head of the judicial hierarchy, high courts in each of the states, and district courts. According to the constitution, the Supreme Court should consist of a chief justice and not more than seven other judges (although Parliament is authorized to change the number of judges and has done so). 8. It is important to note that India has a unified judicial system. That is, there are no separate state courts, but instead each state has a high court that is subordinate to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also covers the disputes arising between the central and the state governments, as well as cases involving two or more states. Robert Hardgrave and Stanley Kochanek (1993: 101) aptly note that although “the scope of judicial review in India is not as wide as in the United States . . . the Court held more than 100 Center and state acts invalid, either in whole or in part, and most of its decisions have been unanimous.” 9. Most states have unicameral legislatures. However, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Pondicherry, and Jammu and Kashmir have bicameral

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

92

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 92

Shalendra D. Sharma

legislatures, with the lower house or legislative assembly (the Vidhan Sabha) being the real seat of power. The upper house or legislative council (the Vidhan Parishad) serves as an advisory body. The largest Vidhan Sabha is in Uttar Pradesh, with 425 members, and the smallest, with 30 members, is in Pondicherry. 10. Norman Palmer has argued that the “Indian union is not strictly a federal polity but a quasi-federal polity with some vital and important elements of unitariness” (1961: 94). 11. An independent Election Commission established in accordance with the constitution is responsible for the conduct of parliamentary, state legislature, and presidential elections. The commission prepares, maintains, and periodically updates the electoral roll, which indicates who is entitled to vote, supervises the nomination of candidates, registers political parties, monitors the election campaign (including the candidates’ funding), organizes the polling booths, and supervises the counting of votes. 12. At least one election has been held every five years at the state level since independence. With twenty-eight states and seven territories, this means that there is hardly a year in which important state elections are not being held somewhere in India. For example, statewide elections were held in October 2009 (merely five months after national elections) in Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh, and Haryana, and the coverage devoted to these elections, especially in the three states concerned, was just as intense as that devoted to the general elections. 13. The classic works on this topic include Eugene Staley’s The Future of the Underdeveloped Countries (1954) and Selig Harrison’s India: The Most Dangerous Decades (1960), in which the authors argue that “centrifugal pressures” could ultimately overwhelm the new state, resulting in chaos and balkanization. 14. The Congress Party was in power at the national level from independence in August 1947 to March 1977, from May 1980 to November 1989, and from June 1991 to May 1996. Its share of the vote declined steadily from around 47.8 percent at its peak in 1957 to 37.6 percent in 1991, barring the unusual “sympathy vote” of 48.1 percent in 1984 after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. As noted earlier, under India’s electoral system a candidate needs to obtain only the greatest plurality of votes, not necessarily a majority, to win. Hence, 40 to 50 percent of the popular vote can produce legislative majorities of 60 to 75 percent in Parliament. For example, in the years of Congress Party dominance, from 1947 to 1967, when the party held more than 70 percent of the seats in Parliament, it never received more than 50 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections. 15. Not surprisingly, from 1969 to 1977 the Congress Party had five presidents, a turnover no doubt aimed at preventing the consolidation of power by any potential challenger. 16. In 1987, Rajiv Gandhi’s government was rocked by charges that the Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors had paid an illegal commission to win an artillery contract. The government’s stonewalling on a full-scale inquiry and press exposés of illegal transactions involving the prime minister’s closest friends—including evidence that came perilously close to directly implicating the prime minister himself—contributed to the government’s defeat in 1989. 17. The term backward castes (also referred to in the 1950 constitution as “Other Backward Classes”) is used to refer to a broad range of subcastes of intermediate ritual status in the Hindu caste hierarchy. These castes fall between the elite upper castes (the forward castes) and the lower, Scheduled Castes (previously known as “Untouchables,” now often referred to as Dalits, or “oppressed ones”) and Scheduled Tribes. The Indian Constitution recognizes the backward castes and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as “disadvantaged lower castes” or “weaker sections” and has allowed them remedial solutions, such as reserving legislative seats, government posts, and places in

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 93

Indian Politics

93

educational institutions for these groups. Yet it is important to note that the low castes are not a monolithic group. Divided into literally thousands of subcastes, they, like the upper castes, are governed by strict rules and ritual taboos. 18. The Dalits, or the former “Untouchables” in the Hindu caste order, are referred to as Scheduled Castes. They represent the most exploited and the poorest sectors in society. 19. “Social capital” refers to the institutions, relationships, and standards that shape and determine a society’s social interactions. 20. Chhibber (1999) has compellingly questioned the conventional wisdom by arguing that India’s civil society is actually marginal. The dearth of civic associations has forced India’s political parties to mobilize society on the basis of caste, language, and other ascriptive identities. 21. Although the upper-caste Hindus were gradually eased out of political power in the major southern states in the 1960s and 1970s, this process did not take place in the Hindi-speaking heartland until the 1980s. Squeezed by the assertiveness of the lower castes, the upper castes, traditionally supporters of the Congress Party, have flocked to the BJP because it is widely perceived to be the true protector of their interests. It is important to note that the BJP is part of a larger “Hindu family.” The parent organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, founded in 1925, stands for the consolidation of all Hindus into a united community. The BJP’s main goal is to unite Hindus politically to achieve national power and to transform India into a Hindu nation-state. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is involved in mass-mobilization activities, while the Bajrang Dal serves as the armed wing, often using violence and intimidation against opponents. 22. Comparable reservations for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were also made by state governments. 23. Although Singh declared that the reservations were being implemented to correct social injustices, his political opponents saw it as a cynical move to shore up his support among the backward castes.



Bibliography

Anderson, Benedict. 1983. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso. Appleby, Paul. 1953. Public Administration in India: Report of a Survey. New Delhi: Government of India, Cabinet Secretariat. Baxi, Upendra. 1982. The Crisis of the Indian Legal System. New Delhi: Vikas. Brass, Paul. 1988. “The Punjab Crisis and the Unity of India.” In India’s Democracy: An Analysis of Changing State-Society Relations, Atul Kohli, ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 169–213. Chhibber, Pradeep. 1999. Democracy Without Associations: Transformation of the Party System and Social Cleavages in India. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Dasgupta, Joytindra. 1988. “Ethnicity, Democracy and Development in India.” In India’s Democracy: An Analysis of Changing State-Society Relations, Atul Kohli, ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 144–168. Frankel, Francine. 1988. “Middle Classes and Castes in India’s Politics: Prospects for Accommodation.” In India’s Democracy: An Analysis of Changing State-Society Relations, Atul Kohli, ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 225–261. Frankel, Francine, and M. S. A. Rao, eds. 1989–1990. Dominance and State Power in Modern India. 2 vols. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Government of India. 1952. First Five Year Plan, 1951–56. Planning Commission: Government of India Press.

04DeVotta_4.qxd:Layout 1

94

6/16/10

2:38 PM

Page 94

Shalendra D. Sharma

———. 1965. The Constitution of India. New Delhi: Manager of Publications. Hardgrave, Robert, and Stanley Kochanek. 1993. India: Government and Politics in a Developing Nation. 5th ed. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Harrison, Selig. 1960. India: The Most Dangerous Decades. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Huntington, Samuel. 1968. Political Order in Changing Societies. New Haven: Yale University Press. Khilnani, Sunil. 1997. The Idea of India. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kohli, Atul. 1988. India’s Democracy: An Analysis of Changing State-Society Relations. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ———. 1990. Democracy and Discontent: India’s Growing Crisis of Governability. New York: Cambridge University Press. Kothari, Rajni. 1970. Politics in India. Boston: Little, Brown. Malik, Yogendra. 1993. “India.” In Government and Politics in South Asia, Craig Baxter, Yogendra Malik, Charles Kennedy, and Robert Oberst, eds. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Palmer, Norman. 1961. The Indian Political System. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Putnam, Robert. 1993. Making Democracies Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Rudolph, Lloyd, and Susanne Rudolph. 1987. In Pursuit of Lakshmi: The Political Economy of the Indian State. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Sharma, Shalendra D. 1999. Development and Democracy in India. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers. ———. 2009. China and India in the Age of Globalization. New York: Cambridge University Press. Staley, Eugene. 1954. The Future of the Underdeveloped Countries. New York: Harper and Row. Weiner, Myron. 1967. Party Building in a New Nation: The Indian National Congress. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Zakaria, Fareed. 2003. The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. New York: W. W. Norton and Company.

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 95

5 International Relations Neil DeVotta

W

hen India gained independence in August 1947, its leaders considered the country to be Britain’s successor in ensuring South Asia’s stability and superintending the Indian Ocean. But independence was accompanied by communal violence, partition, and contested borders with both Pakistan and China. Within months, India and Pakistan fought their first war over Kashmir, thereby cementing an enmity over the disputed region that lasts to this day. The Cold War that soon followed also put pressure on India to choose sides even as Indian leaders were struggling to lift their country out of abject poverty. These leaders were not enamored of unrestrained capitalism, given how capitalism and colonialism had combined to pauperize India. At the same time, many among them were thoroughly impressed with how the Soviet Union had transformed itself from a mostly peasant society at the end of World War I into an industrial power by the end of World War II. These elites, especially Jawaharlal Nehru, also harbored strong beliefs about the sort of international order that ought to be and the role that India should play in facilitating peaceful relations among countries. Consequently, India’s development trajectory and its positions on various international issues caused it to tilt toward the Soviet Union (even as Pakistan drew closer to the United States). This dynamic colored Indian foreign policies both regionally and internationally until the end of the Cold War. The implosion of the Soviet Union upended the global order, causing the United States to become the sole superpower. This together with India’s turn to a liberal economic order has led to closer relations with the United States, even as the country continues to grapple with a destabilized Pakistan and a fast-rising China. In some ways the international relations challenges facing India today are greater, because during the Cold War the world was divided into two spheres 95

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

96

2:39 PM

Page 96

Neil DeVotta

of influence and hence fairly predictable. The world today is increasingly multipolar, less predictable, and has the potential to generate greater instability. India, like many other countries, now has to deal with the threat of terrorism as well. With the terror groups targeting India operating out of Pakistan and both countries having nuclear capability, the subcontinent now faces greater threats. It was with good reason that President Bill Clinton said the region was “the most dangerous place” on earth (Perlez 2000). The fact of the matter is that India continues to be weighed down by the border disagreement with Pakistan. India’s size and “big brother” mentality have also caused the smaller South Asian states to be suspicious of her even as instability within these states periodically spill over into India and the country has no choice but deal with the consequences. A rising India is well placed to become a great power, but that in turn is dependent on how quickly she resolves the border disputes with Pakistan and China and, especially, normalizes relations with Pakistan. This essay evaluating India’s international relations since its independence is divided into three main sections: the Nehruvian era (1947–1964), the intervening era (1964–1991), and the post–Cold War era (1989–present). Doing so highlights the major international relations issues India has had to deal with and also evidences how international politics, domestic politics, and Indian leaders’ ideological proclivities have all influenced the country’s foreign policies.



The Nehruvian Era

From independence until his death in May 1964, Jawaharlal Nehru dominated foreign policy decisionmaking in India. Postindependence India was plagued with numerous domestic challenges, including caste-based violence, communal tensions stemming from partition, corruption, widespread poverty, secessionist pressures, and problems instituting the rule of law throughout the country. Nehru had no choice but to consult with prominent Congress Party politicians and regional leaders when seeking solutions to such domestic challenges. But in the realm of foreign policy, Nehru’s preferences and authority were rarely questioned, especially after Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s death in December 1950. Sardar Patel, a leading Congress Party figure, had played a crucial role in ensuring that over 560 princely rulers acceded to India (after Britain partitioned the subcontinent). Patel was in many ways a hardheaded realist who believed in a militarily powerful India. He was also the last person left who was considered Nehru’s equal and could challenge the prime minister’s policies. Nehru, on the other hand, was more of an idealist who believed India could reason with its neighbors and settle disputes amicably. Part of this was based on Nehru’s realization that India was a weak state and that it was in her interest to cooperate and collaborate with fellow countries whenever possible. But part of it also stemmed from Nehru’s distrust of the military, given India’s colonial experience.

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 97

International Relations

97

To Nehru’s mind, the British succeeded in ruling India for so long only because thousands of Indian soldiers, imbued with a military culture that prized obedience over rectitude, had blindly followed orders to keep down their fellow Indians. In short, Nehru was by nature less predisposed to dealing with military and realpolitik issues, which explains why India under Nehru lacked any clear military doctrine. This noted, there were at least three principal reasons for Nehru dominating India’s foreign policy decisionmaking. First, most Congress Party leaders were not as familiar with the nuances of foreign policy as they had spent the better part of their lives battling the British for independence. Indeed, nearly all had spent extensive time in prison, with Nehru himself confined in prison for a total of ten years for leading India’s independence struggle. Second, India (as noted above) was faced with so many domestic challenges that these leaders were more focused on ensuring internal stability as opposed to worrying over foreign policies and international relations. Third, no Indian leader could match Nehru’s stature on the international stage. To most people in the world, Nehru was as recognizable a figure as any other leader. If the West admired Nehru for his charisma, intelligence, and independent foreign policy views, the developing world hailed him as a hero for having, together with Mohandas Gandhi, led India’s nonviolent struggle for independence. All of this led to Nehru deciding on foreign policy matters and merely sharing his thoughts and decisions with his cabinet, which, in the main, plainly went along. It was not until the Chinese invaded and humiliated India in 1962 that Nehru’s authority was questioned. Three major foreign policy issues stand out during the Nehruvian era: that of Kashmir and the poisoning of relations with Pakistan; India’s leading role in the nonaligned movement; and the 1962 Indo-China war that shattered Nehru’s sense of idealism and likely precipitated his death two years later. Kashmir

While Britain superintended India’s affairs, she only directly controlled about one-third of the country. The rest comprised over 600 principalities whose rulers were allowed autonomy provided they did not try to undermine British control over the subcontinent. When it came time to partition British India, the rulers of these principalities were told that they had to become part of the country they found themselves in and that those whose territories bordered the two countries would need to accede to one or the other. Kashmir was predominantly Muslim, although its ruler was a Hindu. With Pakistan created for the subcontinent’s Muslims, Pakistanis felt that the territory should merge with it. However, Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, adamantly refused to join either new country and instead clamored for independence. This led to Pakistani tribesmen, supported by the country’s military, invading Kashmir. When Hari Singh finally asked Nehru for help, he was told to first officially accede to India, after which India

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

98

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 98

Neil DeVotta

airlifted troops into Kashmir and pushed back the invaders some distance. India took the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations in January 1948 and the UN passed a resolution in August 1948 asking Pakistan to “vacate” Kashmir. It also called on India to reduce its troops in the region and conduct a plebiscite so the Kashmiri people could voice their opinion. Neither Pakistan nor India adhered to the resolution, and in January 1949 the UN negotiated a cease-fire that led to the Cease-fire Line (now called the Line of Control). By then Pakistan held one-third of Kashmir (called Azad or Free Kashmir) and India two-thirds. Pakistan strongly feels the country cannot be complete until Kashmir becomes a part of it. India, on the other hand, brands itself a secular republic and holds up Jammu and Kashmir, the only majority Muslim state in India, as proof. India also cannot part with Kashmir lest it emboldens other secessionist forces in the country. The two countries again went to war over the region in 1965 and in 1999 engaged in a costly battle in the mountains of Kargil as Pakistan, on both occasions, sought to infiltrate the region (Ganguly 2001). India has stationed as many as 500,000 troops in Kashmir and poured millions of dollars into the region for development and security. Yet it has, in the main, failed to gain the loyalty of the Kashmiri people. A highly compromised state election in March 1987 that saw the Congress Party and its coalition partner the National Conference emerge victorious led to violent protests that soon morphed into an insurgency that Pakistan’s intelligence forces enthusiastically supported. The subsequent violence and culture of impunity within the Indian military that the insurgency unleashed has severely damaged relations between the Kashmiri people and the Indian state. The Kashmiris would prefer independence, but with neither India nor Pakistan sanctioning this option, they have no choice but to live within the Indiaand Pakistan-controlled parts of Kashmir. The best solution may be to make the current Line of Control that divides the two sides the de jure international border, which Nehru himself proposed doing in 1956. While India has learned to live with the crisis in Kashmir, it is an issue that weighs the country down. Human rights violations committed by Indian troops in Kashmir and terrorist activities undermining the region are hardly what India wants advertised even as it tries to project a country on the rise both domestically and internationally. In short, the sooner the conflict over Kashmir is solved, the better it would be for India. Nonalignment

The nonaligned movement was born during an African and Asian conference in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955. Besides Nehru, Josip Tito of Yugoslavia, Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, and President Sukarno of Indonesia played leading roles in its formation. Nehru, however, had been seriously considering the merits of nonalignment in a bipolar world even before India gained independence (Nehru 1967: 2–3). Nehru sincerely believed that there was no reason for countries like

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 99

International Relations

99

India being forced to side with one or the other superpower and that a neutral third force in international politics could operate as an important bridge between the United States and the Soviet Union. For many Indians, Nehru’s preference for dialogue over warmongering and neutrality over superpower alliances also made the policy of nonalignment appear Gandhian. India’s leading role in the UN when campaigning for a ban on nuclear testing and its participation in UN peacekeeping missions vindicated Nehru’s stance. But with most states in the nonaligned movement leaning left and conflating imperialism with capitalism, the United States in particular and western states in general had ample reason to disapprove of the organization. India was the world’s largest democracy and proud of it. While the Indian establishment was a left-leaning one with a fair number of Communist sympathizers and would soon see Communist parties win elections in the states of West Bengal and Kerala, Indian leaders did not want India to become a Communist country. At the same time, Indian leaders were suspicious of western intentions, disapproved of the slow manner in which decolonization was taking place in Asia and Africa, and appreciated the Soviet Union’s repeated condemnation of colonialism. Thus notwithstanding the policy of nonalignment, Indian elites and most in the media were sympathetic toward the Soviet Union and relatively more hostile toward the West (Fisher 1956: 142–143). In any case, rhetoric demanding decolonization inevitably took on an antiwestern tone because the existing colonies were held by western powers. Nehru had staked his reputation in promoting the nonaligned movement as a legitimate force in international politics, yet his government’s own actions in response to two events in 1956 undermined his and India’s reputation for impartiality. In October, the United Kingdom, France, and Israel attacked Egypt in reaction to President Nasser nationalizing the Suez Canal. The attack was roundly condemned by nearly all countries (including the United States), and Nehru, too, voiced his strong disapproval. The following month, the Soviet Union invaded Hungary in response to a mass uprising that eventually caused that country’s new government to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact. Despite the brutal crackdown that followed, India abstained from voting in favor of a UN resolution that called on the Soviets to withdraw from Hungary. (It took a similar stance when the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1958 when Indira Gandhi was prime minister). Nothing could have signaled more the country’s partiality for the Soviets, and Nehru was chastised in both the local and international media. Nehru himself was forced to cast aside his policy of nonalignment when he requested US military aid following the Chinese invasion of the country in October 1962 and US soldiers in uniform delivered the weaponry (Guha 2007: 339). In August 1971, after it became clear that the budding US-China relationship put India at a strategic disadvantage, the country signed the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation, which for all practical purposes ended nonalignment (although India continued to pay lip service to it).

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

100

2:39 PM

Page 100

Neil DeVotta

Indo-China War

The principal reasons for the Indo-Chinese war of 1962 were the Chinese Communist government’s nonrecognition of the McMahon Line, which was the border separating China and India that the British negotiated with Tibet in 1914, and China’s fear that India was being duplicitous over Tibet (Garver 2001). The Chinese forcibly annexed Tibet in October 1950, and while Nehru disapproved of China’s militarism, India recognized Tibet as a part of China in April 1954. The increasing ties between the United States and Pakistan under the Eisenhower administration encouraged India to maintain friendly relations with China (Guha 2007: 171), although Nehru was predisposed to closer ties between Asia’s two most populous countries. Nehru believed that a united India and China could influence world events for the better and throughout the 1950s promoted the idea that the two countries could trust each other. The popular slogan of the day was “Hindi Chini Bai Bai” (India and China are brothers), and the two states even agreed to a joint declaration in which they advocated Five Principles of Coexistence (pancha sheela) that Chinese Prime Minister Chou Enlai had proposed: mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; nonaggression; noninterference in each other’s internal affairs; equality and mutual benefit; and peaceful coexistence. Nehru even had these five principles incorporated into the nonaligned movement. Indeed, Nehru’s trust in Chinese goodwill and camaraderie was so absolute that he often angrily dismissed colleagues (like Sardar Patel) who were suspicious of China’s intentions. By 1959, however, tensions over the border escalated, especially after India discovered that the Chinese had built a strategic road through Aksai Chin, thereby connecting Tibet with southern Xinjiang Province, and Nehru’s protestations about this intrusion were repeatedly discarded. Complicating matters was the Dalai Lama, who fled to India in March 1959. India provided him and thousands of other Tibetans with refuge, but China interpreted this as Indian support for a clique bent on seceding from China. All this led to both sides mobilizing troops that engaged in periodic skirmishes. India’s soldiers were ill equipped and less acclimatized to the Tibetan plateau and Nehru did not expect full-scale war to break out. But this is exactly what ensued in October 1962, when Chinese troops, outnumbering Indian troops by five-to-one, overran Indian detachments. The Chinese assault was swift and punishing: as per official Indian statistics, 1,383 soldiers were killed, another 1,696 had gone missing, and 3,968 were taken prisoner (Maxwell 1972: 465). In actuality, nearly 5,000 Indian soldiers may have lost their lives during this Indo-China war. The Chinese also annexed 14,670 square miles of territory, to which a further 2,000 square miles from northern Kashmir were added as part of a 1963 China-Pakistan agreement. It was Nehru’s most humiliating experience and greatest failure. While Nehru was ill served by the likes of his arrogant defense minister V. K. Krishna Menon, the prime minister was ultimately to blame for his misguided trust in the Chinese, overestimation of his capacity to persuade by dialogue, and,

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 101

International Relations

101

consequently, underappreciation of military power. Indians still bristle at the mention of China’s betrayal, and much of India’s subsequent interaction with China has, understandably, been colored by this 1962 war. Two years after the war, China ran its first nuclear test and that in turn goaded India to accelerate development of its nuclear program. In 1950, following China’s Communist revolution, the United States is said to have offered China’s permanent seat on the Security Council to India, which the People’s Republic was not utilizing at the time (Suraiya 2008: 14). It is debatable how Russia especially would have reacted to such an offer, but what is striking is that Jawaharlal Nehru turned it down because he supposedly did not want to upset China. This only further compounds Nehru’s and India’s sense of betrayal vis-à-vis China.



The Intervening Era

Nehru was succeeded by Lal Bahadur Shastri, who like Nehru faced a war with Pakistan over Kashmir soon after coming to office. India’s humiliating defeat at the hands of China, the death of Nehru in May 1964, and the sense that India was bound to only grow stronger with the passage of time and that Pakistan had to act soon if it was going to wrest Kashmir from India all influenced the Pakistani military to go to war in 1965. Pakistan was also convinced that its invasion would lead to an insurrection in Kashmir, but this did not take place. While neither side made any gains as a result of the war, India under Shastri did well considering that the Pakistani military at this point in time possessed higher quality weapons and fighter aircraft. With the United States mired in Vietnam, the Soviet Union took the lead and helped India and Pakistan negotiate the January 1966 Tashkent Declaration, in which both countries promised to retreat to previously held positions, renew diplomatic relations, and not interfere in each other’s domestic affairs. Prime Minister Shastri died from a heart attack the day after the Tashkent Declaration, and this led to the rise of Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi. India’s foreign policy under Nehru had global ramifications, especially given Nehru’s leading role in the nonaligned movement. In the intervening era, however, the most consequential foreign policy decisions were regional. Indo-Pakistan War over Bangladesh

Notwithstanding her limited political experience, there were two principal reasons for Indira Gandhi’s ascendance to the country’s highest political office: the belief, rightly, among leading Congress Party figures that her father’s legacy could be leveraged to maintain the party’s dominance; and their belief, wrongly, that they could operate as the power behind the throne. The previous chapter has

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

102

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 102

Neil DeVotta

discussed the authoritarian manner in which Indira Gandhi oversaw domestic policy, and she certainly compares less favorably to her father and other Indian prime ministers in this arena. But Indira Gandhi was also quite assertive in the foreign policy arena and much more successful in securing India’s regional predominance. Her biggest success pertains to how she handled Pakistan’s civil war and used the Indian army to create Bangladesh. When the subcontinent was partitioned, Pakistan ended up with two territories that were 1,000 miles apart: West Pakistan, which bordered Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Punjab in India, and East Pakistan, which bordered West Bengal and four other Indian states. The two sides were different in every aspect (language, physiognomy, food, dress, and culture) except religion, and it was only their common Islamic ties that caused the Bengalis in East Pakistan to join with West Pakistan. Indeed, the East Pakistani Muslim Bengalis had more in common with Hindu Bengalis (both within East Pakistan and the Indian state of West Bengal) than they did with West Pakistanis. Attempts by West Pakistan to impose Urdu as the national language (even though the Bengali-speaking East Pakistanis were a majority of Pakistan’s population) and blatant discrimination when allocating resources and employment were among the issues that soured relations between East and West Pakistan. But when the west refused to let the Awami League in East Pakistan form a government after it won an absolute majority of seats in the National Assembly in the December 1970 elections, the east sought to secede and this unleashed civil war. West Pakistani troops in East Pakistan resorted to brute force, raping thousands of women and killing between one and three million Bengalis (Maniruzzaman 1982; Nayar and Paul 2003: 177) even as India covertly supported East Pakistani fighters called the Mukti Bahini. With nearly ten million East Pakistani refugees fleeing into India and Pakistan having initiated conflict along the western flank, Indira Gandhi ordered the army to liberate East Pakistan in December 1971. The war lasted less than two weeks, led to over 90,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendering, and saw the creation of Bangladesh. India intervened despite the United States and China siding with West Pakistan and warning India to stay out of East Pakistan. The Nixon administration even encouraged China to get involved against India, but the Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation that India and the Soviet Union signed in August 1971 most likely cautioned the Chinese. With the Nixon administration enjoying strong ties to Pakistan and cozying up to China, and the Soviet Union experiencing hostile relations with China, the treaty was in both countries’ interests; but it especially benefited India in the short term by providing the country with a much-needed security guarantee in the face of Chinese, Pakistani, and US hostility. Additionally, the Soviet Union used its veto to prevent the UN Security Council from condemning India’s actions (Sisson and Rose 1990). Indira Gandhi repaid the favor after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. Returning to power the following month, she commanded her diplomats to toe the Soviet line on

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 103

International Relations

103

Afghanistan, which claimed the country had been invited in and not invaded. India was the only democratic state that openly accepted the Soviet Union’s position, and doing so most certainly hurt the country’s image internationally. Depending on the government in Bangladesh, relations between the two countries have alternated between friendly and testy. Disputes over trade, insurgent groups in eastern India using Bangladesh as a sanctuary, borders still to be demarcated and agreed upon, and the sharing of river waters have led to strained relations between the two countries, although the current Awami League government of Bangladesh enjoys good relations with the Congressled government in India and the two states have begun cooperating on various issues. Bangladesh, however, would not have achieved independence when it did if India had failed to intervene. That India did so despite pressure from the Nixon administration and China and in doing so eradicated one-half of Pakistan and removed a military threat along the eastern flank bolstered Indira Gandhi’s status both domestically and internationally. This achievement notwithstanding, the country played a relatively minimal role in international affairs during the 1970s and 1980s, partly due to the country being preoccupied by domestic and regional instability and partly due to the irrelevancy of nonalignment, which India continued to pay lip service to. The Indira Doctrine

Nehru’s India had focused on consolidating the Indian union and cementing India’s status as an important global power even as it pursued a dominant role in regional affairs. This was best exemplified by the Trade and Transit Treaty with Nepal, which emphasized India’s controlling role vis-à-vis that landlocked country. Ambitious Indian strategists had also suggested that Burma (now called Myanmar) and Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka) should join India in a federation so as to enhance all three countries’ security (Vaidya 1949: 30), but the two smaller states rebuffed such plans. India insists on being seen as the leading power in South Asia, a status that Pakistan has consistently challenged. While the other smaller states in the region are resigned to India’s regional dominance, they prefer to deal with India on a multilateral basis, as opposed to bilateral bases, since that allows them to band together and defend their common interests. This has been the case especially within the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation since the organization’s inception in 1985. While India has tolerated this outcome, its leaders have acted assertively whenever they felt the country’s security might be compromised. Indira Gandhi especially stands out in this regard, as shown by her deft handling of the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war. She acted similarly in neighboring Sri Lanka, which bedeviled India’s regional foreign policy in the 1980s. Indian civilization has greatly affected all South Asian states, and the accidental borders the British foisted on the region have complicated relations

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

104

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 104

Neil DeVotta

between India and her neighbors. For instance, most South Asian states have ethnic groups with kinship ties to groups in India. This has caused ethno-religious conflicts in neighboring states to get diffused into India, as ethnic kin across borders seek help from and provide help to each other (DeVotta 2010). India had used such cross-border ethnic ties to get involved in the affairs of neighboring countries, claiming that its security interests were “coterminous with those of the region as a whole” (Muni 1993: 13). This was most evident in the case of East Pakistan, although the stellar success in that instance no doubt influenced what in the early 1980s came to be branded the “Indira Doctrine,” which was loosely modeled on the US Monroe Doctrine and claimed that “India will not tolerate external intervention in a conflict situation in any South Asian country if the intervention has any implicit or explicit anti-Indian implications. No South Asian government should therefore ask for external assistance with an anti-Indian bias from any country” (Gupta 1983: 20). Furthermore, whenever the need for external assistance arose, India expected South Asian states to seek help from neighboring countries in the region, including India. Excluding India was to be considered “an anti-Indian move on the part of the government concerned” (ibid.). While this stance was not part of India’s official regional doctrine, it represented the mindset of India’s governing elites at the time. It was certainly a mindset influenced by the bipolar world order. Pakistan predictably scoffed at the argument, but Sri Lanka paid a heavy price for disregarding India’s position. Indeed, it appears that the so-called Indira Doctrine was mainly influenced by Sri Lanka’s pro-western government that came to power in July 1977. Eager to unshackle itself from the previous regime’s socialist policies, the new Sri Lankan regime embraced open market reforms and engaged western governments without regard to India’s security considerations (DeVotta 1998). The fact that Sri Lanka’s President J. R. Jayewardene and Prime Minister Gandhi did not much care for each other further clouded relations between the countries. Complicating matters was the island’s ethnic divisions between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils, with the latter gaining support from their ethnic cousins in India’s Tamil Nadu state when they began fighting the Sri Lankan government seeking secession. India initially used the Research and Analysis Wing—its external intelligence organization modeled after the US Central Intelligence Agency—to train, arm, and support the Sri Lankan Tamil rebels. It later sought to rein in the rebels and impose a negotiated settlement to the conflict, but by then the most prominent separatist outfit, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), had become strong enough to wage war against Sri Lanka without Indian government assistance. In July 1987, Indira Gandhi’s son, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, imposed a settlement on the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE that partly required India to station a peacekeeping force in Sri Lanka’s northeast. This Indian peacekeeping force eventually ended up battling the LTTE in what turned out to be India’s longest war (lasting from October

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 105

International Relations

105

1987 to March 1990 and killing over 1,100 Indian soldiers). Thus what came to be branded “India’s Vietnam” was not a war waged against a hostile state but against a separatist guerrilla army that was later widely proscribed as a terrorist organization. India paid a further price for its involvement in Sri Lanka when a LTTE suicide bomber killed Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991, while he was campaigning near Chennai, Tamil Nadu, to return as prime minister. The Gujral Doctrine

The so-called Gujral Doctrine stemmed from a talk India’s external affairs minister (and later prime minister) Inder Kumar Gujral delivered in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in January 1997, during which he noted India’s willingness to engage its smaller South Asian neighbors (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka) on a nonreciprocal basis while emphasizing that South Asian states should not allow their territories to be used against the interests of other countries in the region; they should not interfere in each other’s internal affairs; they should respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of fellow South Asian states; and they should resort to peaceful bilateral settlement of disputes. This was a drastic shift in approach compared to the Indira Doctrine, and it made clear India felt it ought to be generous when dealing with smaller and weaker neighbors provided they in turn were not hostile toward India. The Gujral Doctrine could be interpreted as a strategy seeking to isolate Pakistan, given that country’s support for extremist forces operating within Kashmir; but it could also be seen as an attempt to encourage Pakistan to try to normalize relations with India. Today the Gujral Doctrine is rarely mentioned in Indian foreign policy circles. But as India becomes more prosperous and militarily powerful, the Gujral Doctrine may be the best template for ensuring amicable relations with India’s smaller neighbors. With significant Indian aid and lines of credit provided to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh (partly to stem Chinese influence in those countries), a willingness to reconsider old treaties that favored India (i.e., Nepal-India Friendship Treaty of 1950), and a push to increase more trade and trade routes within South Asia even as Indian businesses are creating a greater footprint in the region, India is increasingly pursuing nonreciprocal relations with its smaller neighbors. This bodes well for the region and India’s desire to cement its status as the undisputed regional hegemon.



The Post–Cold War Era

India had relied on the Soviet Union’s friendship and support since the 1950s, with the relationship reaching its apogee in the 1970s. Thus that country’s implosion undermined a fundamental pillar of Indian foreign and defense policy even as it coincided with India’s dismal economic situation (Ollapally 2010:

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

106

2:39 PM

Page 106

Neil DeVotta

226). India entered the 1990s unwilling to acknowledge that the United States was now the world’s only superpower, although the reality was too stark to be ignored for too long. Indeed, India has succeeded in pursuing a strong relationship with the United States in the post–Cold War period, and the economic reforms that were instituted in 1991 are a big reason for this. If the era between Jawaharlal Nehru’s death in 1964 and 1991 saw India’s foreign policy relegated to more of a regional role, the post–Cold War period has seen India play a more influential global role. With threats stemming from global warming and terrorism demanding multilateral solutions and Indian consent on global trade negotiations and nuclear power/weapons issues being essential, India today exerts a more influential role than it ever did in the past. This newfound clout, however, is especially tempered by the country’s relations with Pakistan, China, and the United States. India-Pakistan Relations

In March 2004, the Indian cricket team visited Pakistan to play a series of games after a span of fifteen years. Indian fans who went to Pakistan to support their team were stunned by the hospitality extended them by unknown Pakistanis who refused to charge them taxi fares, declined to accept money for food consumed and goods purchased, and invited them to their homes for dinner. A common refrain heard when visiting India and Pakistan is that the tensions between the countries are due to elite and military shenanigans and there is hardly any difference between the two peoples, and this seemed to be the case during the Indian cricket team’s tour of the country. That noted, Pakistan’s creation was justified based on the argument that the subcontinent’s Muslims were so different from Hindus that they qualified to have their own country (i.e., the Two Nation Theory). Consequently, it is the bloody partition of the subcontinent, the enmity wrought by the Kashmir issue, Indian support for the creation of Bangladesh (which indisputably invalidated the two-nation theory), and Pakistan’s support of terror groups bent on destabilizing India that have, in the main, influenced India-Pakistan relations. This is perhaps best evidenced each evening at Wagah (in the Punjab) where people from both countries (and many tourists on the Indian side) congregate to see the ceremony that accompanies the closing of the gates along the border. The choreographed shouts of “Pakistan Zindabad” (Long Live Pakistan) and “Hindustan” coupled with the occasional insults from the crowds on both sides highlight the strong nationalisms at play as well as the rivalry that fuels such nationalisms. Many believed India and Pakistan came close to war when a military exercise the Indians carried out in late 1986 and early 1987, called Brasstacks and designed to pressure Pakistan (Cohen 2001: 277), led to a vigorous Pakistani countermobilization. India consulted both the Soviet Union and the United States and thereby ensured the crisis did not escalate into any conflict. Another

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 107

107

Neil DeVotta

International Relations

Crowds congregated on the Indian side of the Wagah border

crisis erupted in 1990, and the United States intervened again and prevented any escalation from taking place. The Kargil crisis in 1999 (see below) led to a further round of US involvement that forced Pakistani forces and Islamic radicals to vacate positions in India-controlled Kashmir. The two countries also massed troops along their borders after Pakistani militants attacked the Indian Parliament in December 2001 and India threatened to wage a limited war (Basrur 2005). Conflict was again avoided, although this once more highlighted how easily events between the nuclear rivals could get out of hand. India vociferously opposes any third-party involvement when it comes to Kashmir, but the fact remains that what was a regional rivalry stemming from the Kashmir dispute now has global ramifications given that both India and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons. Afghanistan shares a long and porous border with Pakistan, with the Taliban and Al-Qaida operating in both states; the United States and NATO have stationed troops in Afghanistan to fight these terrorist elements; and there is genuine fear that Pakistan could unravel and its nuclear weapons end up in the hands of Islamic extremists who would not be deterred from using the weapons against India or the United States. Elements within the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Pakistan have long supported extremist Islamic forces through which they sought to wage an easy and effective proxy war against India in Kashmir and ensure Pakistani influence within Afghanistan (Haqqani 2005). The latter was—is—considered insurance against

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

108

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 108

Neil DeVotta

increased Indian involvement in Afghanistan. However, Islamic militants operating mainly out of Pakistan’s tribal regions have taken to attacking the Pakistani military and civilians, to the point where many Pakistanis now believe it is Islamic extremists, and not India, that pose the biggest threat to the country. The Pakistani military has started waging bloody battle against these militants. Some in the ISI, however, continue to cultivate close ties with other militant organizations they hope to use in bolstering the country’s status along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and within Afghanistan. The India-leaning Afghanistan government, especially in contrast to the tense Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, further encourages this ISI-militant nexus. ISI officials also consider the militants a useful resource through which to hit at a rising India, which is why Pakistani intelligence officers may have been involved in the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks (Bhatt 2009). India first tested a nuclear weapon in 1974, claiming to have done so for “peaceful purposes.” Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s leader at the time, had responded that Pakistan would eat grass if need be to also acquire nuclear weapons. China supported Pakistan in its endeavors, which allowed it to acquire nuclear knowhow around the mid-1980s. With Pakistan’s technology tested and proven by the Chinese, India had little choice but to conduct its own further testing (Nayar and Paul 2003). While governments headed by the Congress Party had contemplated conducting further nuclear tests, it was a new Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) government that stunned the world by conducting five nuclear tests in May 1998. Later that month, Pakistan conducted six nuclear tests so as to get even with the total number of tests India had conducted. While the tests led to the United States imposing sanctions on both countries, they also fostered a debate about what this meant for the subcontinent. Those who believed that nuclear weapons contributed to stability (because the costs of a nuclear war were so forbidding that states with nuclear weapons deter each other from going to war) argued that the rivalry between India and Pakistan was now bound to be tamed (Waltz 2003). Such analysts were merely taking theories and explanations used to explain the “cold peace” between the United States and the Soviet Union and superimposing them on the subcontinent. Their detractors argued that with India enjoying a much larger conventional capability, Pakistan was now being enabled to rely more on nuclear weapons to match India. Worse, Pakistan was now able to use the threat of nuclear war to be more adventurous and aggressive in the conventional arena (Sagan 2003; Kapur 2008: 72; Bajpai 1999). The latter were proven to be right when in May 1999 Pakistani soldiers masquerading as civilians together with Islamic radicals crossed the Line of Control in Kashmir and took over Indian positions in Kargil before Indian troops, who had descended to lower elevations before the winter, could reoccupy these positions. The Pakistan military hoped to use the standoff to put pressure on India to negotiate on Kashmir (Talbott

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 109

International Relations

109

2004). India began slowly dislodging these forces, and this together with pressure from the Clinton administration forced the Pakistanis to withdraw. What is striking about the Kargil crisis within the context of the above debate on nuclear weapons is why Pakistan, having avoided a military encounter with India since the war over Bangladesh, chose a military option just a year after the two countries had proven their nuclear capabilities. India and Pakistan have on numerous occasions conducted high-level negotiations that appeared to promote more amicable relations, but in all instances individuals or events have stymied real progress. For instance, when Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto met at the Shimla Conference in July 1972, they apparently reached an understanding that the present Line of Control in Kashmir separating the two sides would be made the international border, although this was not included in the Shimla Agreement in order to protect Bhutto from Pakistani hardliners. Pakistan has since claimed that no such agreement took place. Similarly, in February 1999 BJP Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Lahore amid great fanfare as part of a bus service connecting that city with New Delhi. But Pakistan’s Kargil adventure undermined the goodwill created by bus diplomacy. Then in July 2001 Pakistan’s leader, General Pervez Musharraf, who was born in India and like so many others moved to Pakistan due to partition, visited Agra amid great hope that a new Pakistani leader in a new millennium could jump-start the peace process. But the talks ended in charges and countercharges as neither side could agree on how to deal with Kashmir. Ongoing discussions were discontinued after the November 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, but in October 2009 Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh signaled a willingness to restart peace talks (no doubt influenced by Pakistan’s crackdown on Islamic extremists bent on attacking the Pakistani state). Pakistan’s national identity has been developed vis-à-vis India, and Pakistan’s military establishment has used the rivalry with India stemming from the Kashmir problem to bolster its role in the country. In this regard, Pakistan’s sense that India is trying to further break up the country by supporting separatist forces in Baluchistan (Pakistan’s largest province) and increased Indian involvement in an India-leaning Afghanistan play into the military’s hands. The dynamics associated with the India-Pakistan rivalry have weighed down India, but they have at times made Pakistan akin to a failed state. Today the very extremist forces the Pakistani military coddled so as to wage a proxy war against India have turned against the Pakistani state. Some Indians who have given up on Pakistan because they believe a lasting peace with the country is simply not attainable gloat at this comeuppance, but many rightly realize that a stable Pakistan is very much in India’s national interest. A Pakistan that implodes and is taken over by extremists would only further complicate and threaten India’s security and impede the country’s progress internationally.

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

110

2:39 PM

Page 110

Neil DeVotta

India-China Relations

As already noted, the humiliating 1962 Indo-China war has colored India’s relations with China. But the biggest issue that weighs down relations at present is the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile that is located in Dharamshala. The vast majority of Indians, and indeed people the world over, consider the Dalai Lama to be a benign and peaceful leader. The Chinese government, however, believes otherwise. As per a high-ranking Chinese official in Tibet, the Dalai Lama is “a wolf in monk’s robes, a devil with a human face but the heart of a beast.” Such abhorrence is due to the Dalai Lama demanding extensive autonomy for Greater Tibet, which covers one-fourth of China, and China’s belief that he and Tibetans aspire to secede from the country. It is also why China has resorted to “ethnic flooding,” whereby Han Chinese have been encouraged to settle in Tibet so as to change the region’s demographics. India and China share a 2,600-mile-long border that wades through the Himalayan frontier, of which 2,043 miles are disputed. The countries have held thirteen rounds of talks on the border but made little progress. Today China occupies nearly 20 percent of Kashmir (territory captured during the 1962 war plus the 2,000 square miles Pakistan ceded in 1963), much of which India demands back, although few Indians believe their country is likely to regain this land. China, on the other hand, claims that much of the Indian states of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh belongs to it. In fact, China refers to Arunachal Pradesh as “Southern Tibet” and often refuses to grant the state’s residents visas to visit China, arguing that visas are unnecessary for those living on Chinese land. India has recently become concerned about China deploying forces along the Arunachal Pradesh border in ways similar to the period leading up to the 1962 invasion. China’s roads leading up to the Arunachal Pradesh border have been built solid and are well maintained, and its air force bases close to the border ensure its aircraft can reach Indian cities within minutes. India’s roads, however, are in abysmal condition in many areas close to the border, its troops consequently require twice as much time as the Chinese to travel to the border areas, and its air force lacks the same tactical advantage the Chinese air force enjoys (Joshi 2010). In the past two years, especially, soldiers from both sides have been accused of incursions along the nearly 650-mile-long, unfenced Arunachal Pradesh border with China: Indians are said to have dumped their garbage on China’s side and the Chinese have been accused of painting rocks and boulders on the Indian side using Chinese letters. China has also been accused of taking over territory at various points along the border. Indeed, in January 2010, the district administration in Leh (located in Ladakh and part of Jammu and Kashmir) reported that over the past two decades the Chinese had acquired “substantial” territory along the Line of Actual Control because Indian agencies have failed to monitor and map these territories. India and China were close to agreeing to an approach to settle the border issue in 2005, but China has taken a tougher stance since then. This again

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 111

International Relations

111

primarily has to do with its insecurity over Tibet. The Arunachal Pradesh town of Tawang has featured prominently in the dispute (Raghavan 2010; Acharya 2009). Tawang hosts a famous Tibetan monastery, and it is via Tawang that the Dalai Lama fled Tibet into India. The Chinese protested belligerently when the Dalai Lama visited Tawang in November 2009, and India ended up barring the foreign media from covering the event. China also protested forcefully when Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh went to Arunachal Pradesh in October 2009 to campaign for statewide elections. The Chinese could not have been happy when 72 percent of the state’s residents turned out to vote in the election. The worldwide Tibetan community has used the Internet and cell phones to coordinate strategy and expose Chinese atrocities in Tibet, and this has also unnerved the Chinese (Jha 2009: 26). For instance, China believes that the March 2008 riots that took place in Tibet before the Beijing Olympic Games were coordinated by the Tibetan government in exile. That this government in exile operates out of India only fuels suspicion that India seeks to undermine China’s control of Tibet. China would like to see India disband the Tibetan government in exile, and some Indian bureaucrats may favor such a policy (because they feel that the Tibetan community in India is causing unnecessary tension between India and China). But India remains divided over Tibet and the Tibetan refugees in India: the strategic community typically adopts an anti-China stance; leftist intellectuals embrace a relatively pro-China position; and Indians in general are sympathetic toward the plight of Tibetans (Puri 2008: 37). India-China relations suffered briefly after Prime Minister Vajpayee wrote to President Clinton saying that India was forced to conduct nuclear tests to counter the threat emanating from the north (i.e., China). Currently, however, China is India’s largest trading partner, and in 2008 two-way trade stood at US$52 billion. Both take the lead and coordinate strategy whenever the developing world negotiates trade and climate issues with the developed countries, as has been evident during the Doha Development Agenda and also during the Copenhagen climate talks in December 2009. But it is recent tensions between the two countries that have garnered attention. A number of issues besides the contentious border have contributed to this tension. When Chinese companies engage in business and development projects abroad, they prefer to employ Chinese workers. India recently opposed this practice, and in October 2008 nearly 25,000 Chinese workers were forced to leave the country. China protested the policy. China was also not pleased when India cited safety concerns and banned Chinese toys from the Indian market. India has also lodged a number of antidumping cases against China with the World Trade Organization, and this has not pleased the Chinese. China, on the other hand, sought to prevent the US-India nuclear agreement being implemented by voting against India in the Nuclear Supplier Group (see later), but relented due to pressure from the United States. It also opposed

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

112

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 112

Neil DeVotta

the Asian Development Bank’s plans for India because some of the monies allocated were to be spent on development projects in Arunachal Pradesh. China and Pakistan have long enjoyed close relations, with the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan recently saying that the friendship between the two countries is “higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the Arabian sea, and sweeter than honey.” Pakistan has recognized Aksai Chin, which the Chinese annexed following the Indo-China war, as Chinese territory and ceded a portion of Kashmir to the Chinese as part of a 1963 agreement between the two countries. China, on the other hand, has helped Pakistan with its nuclear program and is currently contributing to a number of infrastructure projects in Pakistancontrolled Kashmir, which India has protested. Recently China also began issuing visas to Indians in Jammu and Kashmir on a separate paper (as opposed to stamping the visas on the passports), which Indian emigration officials have refused to recognize. Even before China began to be seen as a potential superpower, Chinese foreign policy sought to project the country as a pan-Asian power (as opposed to merely an East Asian power). This clashed with India’s sense that it alone was the top dog in South Asia. In the past few years, China has embarked on major development projects in South Asia. For instance, China is helping to build ports and harbors in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Burma in a manner that has surrounded India—a strategy the US Department of Defense has branded “the string of pearls.” China has also cultivated close relations with Nepal’s Maoists. India, which has hitherto enjoyed a dominant influence over Nepal’s affairs, not only failed to anticipate the strong showing of the Maoists in Nepal’s mid-2008 elections but now has reason to be concerned that landlocked Nepal will soon be connected by road and rail to China. Some Indian strategists and government officials fear that India may find itself waging simultaneous wars with China and Pakistan, and this is a major reason why India’s army has now adopted a military doctrine that is geared to fight two wars with these countries. India has one of the largest navies in the world and hopes to add 100 more ships to its forces by 2020. India’s military enjoys close ties with the United States and Russian militaries and in the past decade has also engaged Israel in lucrative weapons deals. Like China, India too has a welldeveloped space program and is one of the world’s leaders in launching satellites. Yet, currently India is far behind China in nearly every military-related sphere, and recently some Indian military leaders have uncharacteristically spoken out saying that India is in no position to match China militarily. India spends only about US$30 billion on defense, whereas China is thought to spend between US$70 and $200 billion (the disparity is due to the Chinese resorting to official and unofficial military spending). Furthermore, the Indian army is often overstretched, called as it is to deal with various domestic disturbances (DeVotta 2003). But India’s rapid development may allow it to match China’s forces around Arunachal Pradesh within five years, and this may be a major reason why Indian

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 113

International Relations

113

leaders emphasize friendly ties with China even as many within the government harbor serious concerns about Chinese intentions. The Chinese are well aware of the disparity between the two states’ military capabilities and the extent to which it would be harder to extricate more favorable terms from an India that is much stronger. Consequently, it may be said that Indo-China relations are currently going through a pretty tenuous and rather unpredictable phase. India-US Relations

India’s relations with the United States have ranged between warm and tense. If the Kennedy administration’s friendly overtures that saw Jacqueline Kennedy visiting India in March 1962 and the shipment of US arms to the country following the Indo-China war represented a high point for Indo-US relations in the early 1960s, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s attempt to recalibrate relations between the two states represented a comparable high point in the late 1980s. The US focus on the war in Vietnam coupled with India’s poor economic performance had made the Johnson administration leery about providing India with financial aid during the late 1960s (Kux 1994: 266–268), but the low point in relations by any measure was during the Bangladesh crisis when the Nixon administration overlooked Pakistani election results, openly supported West Pakistan against East Pakistan, and warned India not to get militarily involved in the country. The United States also dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal as a show of support for Pakistan. The Nixon administration was using Pakistan to try to normalize relations with China at this time, and its policies must be gauged in this light. But dispatching the USS Enterprise especially enraged Indians, and Indira Gandhi eventually retaliated by closing down the US economic assistance mission in India, reducing the US Peace Corps from 500 to 50 volunteers, and imposing onerous restrictions on US academics seeking to research and study in India (ibid.: 307–308). For Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, especially following India’s defeat of Pakistan in 1971, Gandhi was a “witch” and a “bitch,” and IndiaUS relations did not turn fruitful until Rajiv Gandhi became prime minister in October 1984 following Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Indira Gandhi had accepted an invitation from President Ronald Reagan and visited the United States in July 1982, although the trip little benefited IndiaUS relations. Rajiv Gandhi had made clear his intention to reform India’s economy by the time he visited the United States in June 1985, and this generated interest among US businesses hoping to invest in India. The visit culminated in the signing of a memorandum of understanding, which led to certain US technologies that were hitherto barred being transferred to India. During the Gulf War the V. P. Singh government allowed US military aircraft to refuel, but overall relations between the countries were merely polite. In the main, the United States tolerated India’s periodic pontificating and self-righteousness knowing

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

114

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 114

Neil DeVotta

full well that, despite its tilt toward the Soviet Union, the country posed no direct or indirect threat. India-US relations improved dramatically during Bill Clinton’s second term as president. The Kargil crisis discussed earlier especially enabled the United States to prove its bona fides, because the United States insisted on Pakistan vacating the positions it had occupied and also adamantly refused to link this withdrawal with negotiations on Kashmir (Talbott 2004: 161–169). This was in contrast to President Clinton’s first term, when India’s refusal to sign the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty riled the administration. India had long opposed US attempts to impose international controls on the development of atomic energy, claiming that this infringed on its sovereignty (Kapur 1976). The country also consistently opposed the NPT because it believed the treaty discriminated against states without nuclear capability and because the treaty did nothing to stem nuclear proliferation among countries with nuclear weapons. Furthermore, India disallowed international inspectors from visiting nuclear sites. All this caused the Nuclear Suppliers Group (a voluntary group of forty-five countries that have the wherewithal to produce nuclear weapons) to bar sales of nuclear materials to India, which India considered unjustified because the country had been a responsible nuclear power that had not contributed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. This could not be said about the United States, which looked the other way while Israel developed its nuclear arsenal; or China, which flagrantly equipped Pakistan with nuclear know-how and technology (Garver 2001); or especially Pakistan, which under the now disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Kadir Khan sold blueprints for nuclear reactors and ran a lucrative smuggling operation dealing with nuclear hardware (Corera 2006). It is with good reason that following India’s May 1998 nuclear tests, its foreign minister Jaswant Singh condemned the US nonproliferation policy by calling it “nuclear apartheid” (Singh 1998). India’s nuclear fortunes changed thanks to the George W. Bush administration. Given his enthusiasm for democracy promotion, President Bush was clearly impressed with India. India had also pleased the new Bush administration by endorsing the “Star Wars II” missile defense program, which the administration unveiled soon after taking office in 2001, and following the 9/11 attacks on the United States, India was the first country to support the administration’s “War on Terror.” Bush agreed India had handled its nuclear capabilities responsibly and therefore qualified to benefit from the nuclear regime, and in July 2005, India and the United States signed a Civilian Nuclear Agreement in Washington, DC. In doing so, the United States for the first time recognized India as a de facto nuclear state and, more importantly, shielded India from having to sign the NPT in order to benefit from civilian nuclear cooperation. Instead, the Bush administration “conveniently moved the goalpost by replacing the traditional distinction between NPT signatories and non-signatories with one based on ‘responsible’ and ‘non-responsible’ records” (Sharma 2008: 65).

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 115

International Relations

115

Neil DeVotta

India and the Bush administration thereafter continued negotiating on how to implement the agreement, even while the Indian government sparred with its Communist allies, who strongly opposed the deal, and the Bush administration similarly countered a vocal nonproliferation lobby, which argued that allowing India, which was not a member of the NPT, to purchase nuclear materials undermined the entire NPT regime because it would permit the country to devote its existing nuclear fuel to making weapons while using the fuel it purchased for power generation. In September 2008 the Nuclear Suppliers Group relented to US lobbying and lifted the ban that had hitherto prevented India from engaging in nuclear commerce. Thereafter, the US-India Agreement for Civil Nuclear Cooperation was passed by the US House of Representatives and Senate, and in October 2008 President Bush signed the act into law. While India agreed to not conduct additional nuclear tests, to separate its military nuclear plants from civilian plants, and to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect fourteen of its twenty-two nuclear power reactors (plus all future thermal and civilian breeder reactors), the country is now able to buy much-needed nuclear fuel, negotiate to purchase dual-use technologies, continue with its nuclear weapons program, and eventually even sell its own nuclear fuel through the Nuclear Supplier Group. India is thought to have sufficient weapons-grade plutonium to manufacture 100 bombs, and by some estimates, it will soon be able to double this number thanks to the agreement with the United States. For all practical purposes, India is now recognized

A Communist Party of India (Marxist) rally in New Delhi opposing the United States–India Civil Nuclear Agreement

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

116

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 116

Neil DeVotta

as the world’s sixth nuclear power. It was with good reason that during his last visit to the Bush White House in September 2008 the typically demure Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh blurted out, “The people of India deeply love you, President Bush.” The nearly three million strong Indian diaspora in the United States has played a leading role in mobilizing opinion and lobbying Congress on India’s behalf, and groups such as the US-India Business Council and the United States India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) especially engaged members of Congress in support of the nuclear agreement (Kamdar 2007). On a per capita basis Indians are now the richest community in the United States, and many in the Indian diaspora have forged links with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), arguably the most powerful lobbying group in Washington, DC. The strong relationship now enjoyed by India and Israel and the fact that India, the United States, and Israel all face terrorist threats from radical Islamic elements have helped groups like USINPAC and AIPAC coordinate strategy. Indian Americans are also increasingly playing leading roles in US politics and the country’s administration. For instance, the governor of Louisiana is of Indian origin, as were about twenty officials who served in the Bush administration. President Barack Obama’s administration has over forty Indian Americans working for it, and this number is bound to only increase in the years ahead. Once reviled for having abandoned their country, those in the diaspora communities, especially those who have succeeded so famously in the United States, are now envied by Indians. The Indian government is even considering allowing Indians living abroad (and categorized as nonresident Indians) to vote in the next parliamentary elections. The upshot is that going into the future the links Indian Americans have forged in and between both countries should serve Indo-US relations well. India today tries to mask its disappointment with the Obama administration, given that the country’s relationship with the new White House does not compare to the closeness of the Bush years. The fiscal woes and relatively declining clout of the United States have forced President Obama to engage China as a near-equal partner in global affairs—triggering some to use the term “G2” to refer to the two countries—and this has concerned New Delhi. Furthermore, the so-called AfPak strategy that the Obama administration put in place to deal collectively with both Afghanistan and Pakistan initially sought to include Kashmir as well (because many feel that stability in the region is contingent on the Kashmir problem being solved). India made its preference clear by ensuring Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s point man on AfPak, was unwelcome in New Delhi. Some security hawks in the United States and India like to envision a USIndia alliance that counters China. For instance, one prominent security analyst has used Chinese belligerence over the India-China border to advocate for closer Indo-US ties, arguing that “China became India’s neighbour not by geography but guns—by annexing buffer Tibet” (Chellaney 2009: 13). But India has thus

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 117

International Relations

117

far been careful to avoid any alliance with the United States that would come across as anti-China. On the contrary, and in contradistinction to Nehru’s notion of nonalignment, India today appears to want to be “multialigned,” thereby pursuing good relations with all major states while especially promoting strong trade and military ties with the United States and Russia even as it expands trade relations with China. For instance, while India-Russia relations were adrift during the past decade, partly due to the rapidly improving Indo-US relations, both sides have begun to reengage on military and trade issues. Two-way trade between Russia and India stood at US$10 billion in 2010 and is projected to double to US$20 billion by 2015. In December 2009, the two countries also agreed to cooperate more fully in the area of civilian nuclear energy, with Russia set to build a number of nuclear reactors in India. Russia has also agreed to continue supplying India with nuclear technology and fuel even if India were to conduct more nuclear tests in the future, which some Indian scientists want to do but which will most certainly undermine the nuclear agreement the country has signed with the United States and also generate world condemnation. India has thus started to spread out its bets, even as it hopes the United States (1) plays a balancing role in Asia so as to not unduly upset India’s development trajectory; (2) furthers India’s relations with US allies like Japan, Australia, and Singapore; and (3) helps India’s antiterrorism efforts while staying out of Kashmir (Tellis 2009). Recently India, together with the United States, Japan, and Australia, was one of the quadrilateral powers that engaged in war games in the Bay of Bengal, and the country has developed strong economic and security ties with Japan (which appears to view India as a potential partner to counter China). This noted, relations between India and the United States have never been stronger, with Indians and Americans investing in each other’s countries in ever greater numbers; Indian students (currently around 100,000) comprising the biggest foreign student contingent in the United States; both states’ militaries frequently conducting joint military exercises; and India’s navy escorting US cargo ships passing through the Indian Ocean so as to protect them from pirates. At the same time, India has thwarted US preferences at the Doha trade talks, sided with other developing countries against the United States and western states during summits on global warming, voted most of the time against US preferences in the UN, and, in general, not been averse to disagree with the United States when necessary. This ultimately may be the most telling sign that the bilateral relationship has finally reached a mature and stable state.



Conclusion

India’s postindependence leaders envisioned their country playing a constructive and leading role in international affairs, so much so that they codified

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

118

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 118

Neil DeVotta

India’s international responsibilities in the country’s constitution. Article 51 notes that “the state shall endeavour to promote international peace and security; maintain just and honourable relations between nations; foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in the dealings of organised peoples with one another; and encourage [the] settlement of international disputes by arbitration.” That the country has not fully lived up to its constitutional obligations in this regard has to do with the contradictions of the Indian state, challenges stemming from being part of a dangerous neighborhood, and the intransigence of the major powers. India’s struggle against colonialism influenced it to pursue expansive, as opposed to parochial, foreign policies, and this was especially true in the years of Nehru, who also operated as the minister of external affairs (what in most countries would be the foreign minister, and in the United States, the secretary of state). When India received independence, it lacked the requisite qualified personnel to represent the country abroad, but this in turn allowed Nehru to stamp his authority and pick people he liked and trusted to follow through with his designs. None has dominated foreign policy as did Nehru, but Indian prime ministers, working through their cabinets, have typically exerted a major influence on foreign policy decisionmaking, as was evident when Manmohan Singh took the lead in negotiating the India-US nuclear agreement. This noted, in recent times the composition of the governing coalition has interfered with the prime minister’s and cabinet’s ability to pursue foreign policy. The prestigious Indian Foreign Service plays a leading role in carrying out the country’s foreign policies, and entry into the service is based on a rigorous national exam. Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi relied mainly on such career diplomats to staff foreign missions. The present United Progressive Alliance government has, however, been accused of cronyism in this regard (Sikri 2009: 263). With India on the rise, its international relations now impact many more areas than in the past. The country’s size, population, and rapid economic growth not only make it a preeminent state but also an indispensible one, especially when it comes to tackling issues such as global warming and global trade talks. India has also been a responsible state, as the discussion on nuclear proliferation above makes clear. In the past, Indian foreign policy practitioners have been notorious for being moralistic and difficult, but a more confident and assertive India may now be in a position to work more collaboratively with the United States and other leading powers even as it compromises on issues that were hitherto considered unacceptable. For instance, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the United States in November 2009, he hinted that India may be willing to join the NPT but seemed to link this to being recognized officially as a nuclear weapons state. India wants to be considered a member of the so-called nuclear club, but as per the NPT, that status only applies to countries that conducted nuclear tests before

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 119

International Relations

119

January 1, 1967. This means that only the United States, Russia, UK, France, and China enjoy such status. India would like to see the NPT amended so that the qualifying date for nuclear club status is shifted to May 18, 1974, which was when India conducted its first test. Of those in the nuclear club, the first four have declared that they will not manufacture new nuclear material, and China too is thought to subscribe to the same policy (Financial Times 2008: 10). This is not the case with India. India’s stance in this regard does not violate the NPT, but it is contrary to the current discourse about creating a world devoid of nuclear weapons. Thus, it is hard to see India being recognized as a member of the club in the near term. But the fact that the country’s prime minister could suggest that India may be willing to reverse its longstanding position on the NPT does indicate a new confidence on its part. India has been a leading member of the UN, and the country’s soldiers have participated in more than forty UN peacekeeping missions with great distinction. Indians believe that the country ought to be a permanent member of the Security Council, but that will not happen until the Security Council is reconstituted. The UN Security Council is an anachronistic institution (given that regions like Africa and South America are not represented and countries like France and the UK do not command the same international clout they did following World War II), and there have been calls for its reform. Yet it is hard to see how China, one of the council’s five permanent members with veto power, will allow India in. It is also hard to see how France and the UK will vote to give up the influence they currently wield in the council. Realizing this, some have suggested expanding the Security Council—from its current ten rotating members and five permanent members to fifteen rotating members and ten permanent members, but with the new permanent five not enjoying veto power. In this scenario, India would be a prime candidate to join the Security Council as a non–veto-wielding permanent member. At this stage, it is perhaps the best India can hope for, assuming that the Chinese do not object even to this. India’s unstable coalition governments in the recent past have at times complicated the country’s foreign policies. The present government, however, is set to complete a full term (2009–2014), and this should contribute to more stability in the foreign policy arena. Increasing foreign investment in the country and its upward economic trajectory should also contribute to greater influence in the international arena. India is bound to continue playing a leading role in the affairs of South Asia, but its international relations will continue to be dominated by its position vis-à-vis Pakistan, China, and the United States. As reiterated above, the conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir hampers India’s ability to contribute more robustly toward cooperative international relations in South Asia and beyond, whereas the border tensions with a better-equipped China portray India as a weak and reactive, as opposed to strong and proactive, state. Both issues have hitherto constrained India and forced it to operate within a

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

120

2:39 PM

Page 120

Neil DeVotta

“regional,” as opposed to global, ambit. But India is now beginning to consolidate its relations with the United States and other major countries in a manner befitting that of a rising power. Foreign affairs require states to negotiate constraints and take advantage of opportunities. One can argue about India’s scorecard in this regard, yet the manner in which the country transformed its economy following a humiliating crisis and simultaneously improved relations with the United States suggests that India has the wherewithal to take advantage of future opportunities as well. Today Indian policymakers fret that the Obama administration is cultivating closer relations with China at the expense of other Asian states, including India. But US-China relations are mainly predicated on economic interdependence. There are many reasons why this relationship could turn sour, and in such a scenario India may be well placed to benefit from it. As already noted, Indian leaders are averse to getting entangled in alliances that pit their country against other states (especially China). But the fact that foreign policy strategists entertain such possibilities makes clear that India now plays a more important role on the world stage than ever before. It is in everyone’s interest that India leverages such status as per Article 51 in the country’s constitution so that the world’s most populous democracy can contribute positively toward global international relations.



Bibliography

Acharya, Alka. 2009. “Whither India-China Relations?” Economic and Political Weekly 44, no. 45 (November 7): 8–12. Bajpai, Kanti. 1999. “The Fallacy of an Indian Deterrent.” In India’s Nuclear Deterrent: Pokhran II and Beyond, Amitabh Mattoo, ed. New Delhi: Har-Anand. Basrur, Rajesh M. 2005. “Coercive Diplomacy in a Nuclear Environment: The December 13 Crisis.” In Prospects for Peace in South Asia, Rafiq Dossani and Henry Rowen, eds. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Bhatt, Sheela. 2009. “Pak Army Officers Likely Involved in 26/11, FBI Tells India.” India Abroad (December 18). Chellaney, Brahma. 2009. “Obama Should Speak Up for India in Beijing.” Financial Times (November 13): 13. Cohen, Stephen P. 2001. India: Emerging Power. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. Corera, Gordon. 2006. Shopping for Bombs: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Insecurity, and the Rise and Fall of the A. Q. Khan Network. Oxford: Oxford University Press. DeVotta, Neil. 1998. “Sri Lanka’s Structural Adjustment Program and Its Impact on Indo-Lanka Relations.” Asian Survey 38, no. 5 (May): 457–473. ———. 2003. “Is India Over-extended? When Domestic Disorder Precludes Regional Intervention.” Contemporary South Asia 12, no. 3 (September): 365–380. ———. 2010. “When Individuals, States, and Systems Collide: India’s Foreign Policy Toward Sri Lanka.” In India’s Foreign Policy: Retrospect and Prospect, Sumit Ganguly, ed. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Financial Times. 2008. “An Opportunity in a Deal’s Demise.” (June 25): 10. Fisher, Louis. 1956. This Is Our World. London: Cape.

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 121

International Relations

121

Frey, Karsten. 2006. India’s Nuclear Bomb and National Security. London: Routledge. Ganguly, Sumit. 2001. Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947. New York: Columbia University Press. Garver, John W. 2001. Protracted Contest: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Twentieth Century. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Guha, Ramachandra. 2007. India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy. London: Macmillan. Gupta, Bhabani Sen. 1983. “Regional Security: The Indira Doctrine.” India Today (August 31): 20. Haqqani, Husain. 2005. Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Jha, Prem Shankar. 2009. “The Bull in China’s Shop.” Tehelka (October 31): 22–28. Joshi, Arun. 2010. “Our Army Way Behind China’s: Indian General.” Hindustan Times (January 23). Kamdar, Mira. 2007. “Forget the Israel Lobby: The Hill’s Next Big Player Is Made in India.” Washington Post (September 30). Kapur, Ashok. 1976. India’s Nuclear Option: Atomic Diplomacy and Decision Making. New York: Praeger Publishers. Kapur, S. Paul. 2008. “Ten Years of Instability in a Nuclear South Asia.” International Security 33, no. 2 (Fall): 71–94. Kundu, Apurba. 2005. “The NDA and National Security.” In Coalition Politics and Hindu Nationalism, Katharine Adeney and Lawrence Saez, eds. London: Routledge. Kux, Dennis. 1994. Estranged Democracies: India and the United States, 1941–1991. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Maniruzzaman, T. 1982. “The Future of Bangladesh.” In The States of South Asia: Problems of National Integration: Essays in Honour of W. H. Morris-Jones, A. Jeyaratnam Wilson and Dennis Dalton, eds. London: C. Hurst. Maxwell, Neville. 1972. India’s China War. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Muni, S. D. 1993. Pangs of Proximity: India’s and Sri Lanka’s Ethnic Crisis. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Nayar, Baldev Raj, and T. V. Paul. 2003. India in the World Order: Searching for MajorPower Status. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Nehru, Jawaharlal. 1967. Speeches. Vol. 1 (September 1946–May 1949). New Delhi: Government of India. Ollapally, Deepa M. 2010. “The Evolution of India’s Relations with Russia: Tried, Tested, and Searching for Balance.” In India’s Foreign Policy: Retrospect and Prospect, Sumit Ganguly, ed. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Perlez, Jane. 2000. “Clinton Begins Visit to India, but First Comes Bangladesh.” New York Times (March 20). Puri, Anjali. 2008. “His Holiness . . . The Dilemma.” Outlook (April 14): 32–38. Raghavan, Srinath. 2010. “The Chinese Puzzle.” Economic and Political Weekly 45, no. 3 (January 16): 22–25. Sagan, Scott D. 2003. “For Worse: Till Death Do Us Part.” In The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate Renewed, Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth N. Waltz, eds. New York: W. W. Norton. Sharma, Shalendra D. 2008. “The Making of the US-India Nuclear Accord.” Global Asia 3, no. 4 (Winter): 64–70. Sikri, Rajiv. 2009. Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Singh, Jaswant. 1998. “Against Nuclear Apartheid.” Foreign Affairs 77, no. 5 (SeptemberOctober): 41–52.

05DeVotta_5.qxd:Layout 1

122

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 122

Neil DeVotta

Sisson, Richard, and Leo E. Rose. 1990. War and Secession: Pakistan, India, and the Creation of Bangladesh. Berkeley: University of California Press. Suraiya, Jug. 2008. “Hindi-Chini, Hai-Hai.” Times of India (September 10): 14. Talbott, Strobe. 2004. Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy, and the Bomb. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. Tellis, Ashley J. 2009. United States and India 3.0. Policy Brief 81. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Vaidya, Keshav Balkrishna. 1949. The Naval Defense of India. Bombay: Thacker. Waltz, Kenneth N. 2003. “For Better: Nuclear Weapons Preserve an Imperfect Peace.” In The Spread of Nuclear Weapons:A Debate Renewed, Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth N. Waltz, eds. New York: W. W. Norton.

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 123

6 India’s Economy John Adams and Jason A. Kirk

E

very morning, more than one billion Indians start the ordinary routines of daily life: bathing, praying, eating, going to work, shopping for the family’s needs, and walking to school. By the time night falls, more than 200 million households are fed, provisioned, tired, and mostly in good humor. The mission of this chapter is to explain how India’s economy looks to the people who energize it by their diverse tasks in the processes of making a living, trading their products and services with each other, and sharing and enjoying the fruits of their labor. This bottom-up view of India’s economic activities shows how Indians perceive their roles and duties in the tasks of production, exchange, and consumption. The intent is twofold: to try to convey people’s aims and actions in the material or economic realm of their lives and to apply and make real concepts that are vital to understanding the operations of one of the world’s most complex and dynamic economies. Like most of the world’s peoples, Indians not only strive to meet their daily needs but also are engaged in the quest for an expanding standard of living for themselves and their children. In some ways, this is the same view that workers and families in the United States have of their economy: not something remote or “out there” but part of the habits and practices of working, providing, and “getting by.” In other ways, the average Indian family and the average US family differ sharply. For one thing, by the simplest yardstick, an American is about fortyeight times richer than his or her Indian counterpart. The total income of an economy in one year is known as its gross national income (GNI). When GNI is divided by total population (POP) the result is average income per person, or per capita income (GNI/POP). In 2007, per capita income in the United States was $46,040 but in India it was $950.1 This differential may be hard to fathom, 123

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

124

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 124

John Adams and Jason A. Kirk

but consider that when the previous edition of this book was published, in 2003, the average resident of the United States was about seventy-four times richer than the average Indian. Clearly, India has made impressive gains, but for Indians to move toward US standards of living, crucial gaps will have to be closed. Explaining how such large differences can exist and persist in the world’s comity of nations is the task of growth economics. One reason is inadequate education: 25 percent of Indian men and 46 percent of Indian women were illiterate in 2001 (the Census of India, which records the literacy rate, is conducted every ten years; the most recent was in 2001). Educated populations are much more productive and wealthy than those that do not make effective use of their potential human capacities. Another explanation is health: 44 percent of Indian children under the age of five are malnourished (World Bank 2009b: 354), so that their growth, strength, energy levels, and learning abilities are reduced. A measure of widespread technological sophistication and the use of machines is the per capita consumption of electricity: an Indian uses 503 kilowatt hours per year, compared to an American’s 13,564. Ease of transportation and communication facilitates economic activities. India is making major investments in transportation infrastructure (though progress is very uneven, both across its states and across the rural-urban dimension). Telecommunications is one area where there have been major—and mostly unforeseen—changes. A decade ago, India had 19 landline telephones for each 1,000 people, whereas the United States had 644 per 1,000 (World Bank 2000: 232, 264–267). Now, analysts look at cellular/mobile telephone access: in 2007, 21 out of every 100 Indians had a mobilecellular subscription, compared to 85 of every 100 Americans. The ready availability of jobs sharply differentiates the horizons of US workers from those of Indian workers. Until the recent recession at least, most Americans who wanted to find steady jobs could obtain them. Most Indians worry, more than anything, that if they lose their jobs, they will not find others. Managing poverty and the fear of falling off the economic and social ladder are at the heart of most Indian families’ concerns. Coping with affluence and competing in the rush to ride the US escalator of success equally dominate Americans’ lives. International opinion polls suggest that most Indians give their degree of “happiness” roughly the same crude score that Americans do. Understanding many Indians’ acceptance of their poverty equates to understanding how they can apprehend abundance in the midst of want. For the typical Indian family, even one living at the edge of the margin of poverty, the perception is of “enough,” and the wish is for “a little more.” Although there are millions of families in desperate deprivation, most couples and their children have adequate food, clothing, and shelter and have accommodated to their conditions, although their piles of possessions would be dwarfed by Americans’ piles, as modern worldwide television makes only too evident. To capture this seeming paradox—that most Indian families “get by” even when they are measurably poor—the theme of this chapter is “abundance in

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 125

India’s Economy

125

poverty.” It suggests the enormous potential Indians have to extend the economic gains of the past sixty years and make themselves a much more prosperous nation. Hope for a more bountiful future is not a delusion.



The Rural Economy and Agriculture

As in most poor countries, the heartbeat and soul of the Indian economy rests in village-based agriculture. Many Indians, even sophisticated businesspeople or educated professionals who live in giant metropolises like Mumbai (Bombay) or Delhi, retain deep and affectionate ties to their ancestral villages. They visit their remaining kinfolk, make pilgrimages to family shrines, and dream of retiring in imagined idyllic rural bliss. More than a century has passed since most Americans adjusted their lives to the cycle of the seasons and the needs of their crops and livestock, rather than to the mandates of the factory whistle or the office time clock. In India’s 550,000 villages, people are never far from the odors, sounds, and textures of plowed soil, crop production, livestock rearing, or harvested grains. Fully 72 percent of Indians live in rural areas (even though agriculture contributes only about 20 percent of national income). About half of India’s families still rely on farming for their immediate livelihoods, and many others make their living by selling or processing vegetables, fruits, milk, fibers, or grains. Industries depend on the farmers’ foodstuffs, cotton, oilseeds, and silk as inputs into hundreds of factories. India’s agriculture is the basis for many of India’s exports: cotton textiles, jute carpet backing, fruits, vegetables, and leather goods. Contrary to the conventional international perception, India exports more food and farm products than it imports and is not a food-deficit country.2 Food distribution is a different matter, however, and much of India’s food stock is wasted due to inadequate transportation infrastructure, cold storage, and processing capacity. Life in an Indian village is rich and complex, even if the typical community has no more than 500 to 2,000 inhabitants.3 By taking a close look at a single village, it is possible to learn much about the organization of India’s rural economy and to see how economic relationships are linked with landownership, the caste hierarchy, and social attitudes. Of course, no village is perfectly “typical,” but at the same time, Indian village life has common components everywhere. Wangala is a village in Karnataka state in south-central India (see Map 6.1).4 In this part of India, villages are nucleated; that is, they feature tight clusters of houses in the midst of the village fields. Wangala is served by canal irrigation, which permits the growing of sugarcane as a cash crop, along with paddy (rice) and other produce. Most farmers possess bullocks (castrated male cattle), which are used for tilling the fields and pulling wooden carts. Many own one or more milch cows, some goats and sheep, or a pair of blue-gray water

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

126

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 126

John Adams and Jason A. Kirk

buffalo, which are used for plowing and are a source of rich milk. Today, peasant families own tractors, power tillers, and other farm equipment. Wangala lies mostly northwest of a small country crossroads. To the west, which is to the left on Map 6.1, a rutted dirt road connects Wangala to Mandya, a commercial town, with sugar milling, farm supplies, and a lively shopping area or bazaar. Bengaluru (Bangalore), one of India’s largest cities and an emerging global software production nexus, is only a couple of hours distant. Buses stop at Mandya several times a day. The figure’s codes for the buildings identify shops and a café, which in this part of India is called, grandiosely, a “hotel-u.” Some people travel to Mandya each day to work. Selling sugarcane, buying fertilizer, shopping for household goods, and earning money in Mandya are activities that link the villagers to the larger Indian economy. Still, to a high degree, the families in Wangala are most closely tied to each other within the web of relationships that characterize the community’s economy. There is a strong correspondence between caste and house quality and location. The leading Peasant families have large homes lining both sides of Headman Street, and they truly form the spatial and social core of Wangala’s society. (It is customary to capitalize caste names like Peasant or Potter. We use caste to mean subcaste or jati. India’s jati groups are endogamous, meaning that people almost always marry someone from their jati, usually in an arranged marriage.) The Peasants are landowners and are divided into eleven kinship groups, or lineages, which themselves cluster together. Altogether there are 128 Peasant households, and they hold 89 percent of the village lands.5 The average family has only about four acres, some of which may be wet, or irrigated, and the remainder dry, where only rain-fed crops can be grown. The second-largest group in the village comprises the low-status Dalits, who constitute nearly 20 percent of all families, thirty-five in all, but have less than 7 percent of the land. (We use Dalit, the preferred self-identification of many members of the outcaste or low-caste communities known more commonly to many westerners as “Untouchables.” Dalit, which comes from the Marathi language in western India, translates as “crushed,” “ground down,” or “oppressed.” Its now widespread use indicates a changing consciousness for many members of these communities: their place in the social hierarchy is a human construction, not a divinely sanctioned order, though the latter view has not disappeared entirely.) Chapter 10 by Christophe Jaffrelot deals explicitly with Dalits and the major caste groups in India. Dalits and service-caste people perform what are regarded as ritually polluting tasks in the course of their daily work: cleaning latrines, handling leather products, washing dirty clothes, or cutting hair and shaving beards. In earlier times, particularly, priests and landlords, who were at the top end of the caste hierarchy, disdained work and looked down on the farming and commercial castes. Ideas asserting the “dignity of work” or that “hard work is a good thing”

6/16/10 2:39 PM

Source: Scarlet T. Epstein, Economic Development and Social Change in South India (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1962), p. 22. Notes: Castes: Lingayat Priest (L), Peasant (P), Potter (PO), Goldsmith (G), Blacksmith (B), Fisherman (F), Madras Peasant I (MPI), Madras Peasant II (MPII), Washerman (W), Muslim (M), Untouchable AK (AK), Untouchable Vodda (V). Peasant lineages: Headman (1), Mallegowda (2), Kadegowda (3), Tuparegowda (4), Kadeholade (5), Kalasegowda (6), Chaudegowda (7), Bevaregowda (8), Chamegowda (9), Hallegowda (10), Nanjegowda (11), no lineage (12).

Map 6.1 Diagrammatic Sketch of Wangala Village

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1 Page 127

127

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

128

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 128

John Adams and Jason A. Kirk

do not fit well into this set of attitudes and customs. Most Dalits are farm laborers working for the Peasants, and they are very poor. They live in thatched huts rather than mud or brick houses, and their isolation from village society is reflected in their peripheral locations on the margins of Wangala. Dalits cannot use the village’s two wells or take water from the canal and pond where uppercaste women wash their laundry and cooking pots and so must rely upon a small pond some 200 yards away.6 A third large grouping of families and castes lives in Wangala. There are Potters, Goldsmiths, Blacksmiths, Fishermen, Priests, and Washermen, as well as the two Muslim shopkeepers. Most of these families have abandoned the occupations suggested by their caste titles, if indeed they ever practiced them at all, and now own land, work for Peasants, or have found new jobs in the growing regional economy.7 A century ago, the array of services and products offered by these specialist castes made the village economy more or less self-contained and self-reliant, although there were always significant connections to the outside world, such as crop and crafts sales, tax payments, and outside work and shopping. The acceptance of the family’s inherited caste position, the availability of adequate food and services, the sheer fullness of everyday village life, the security of family and kin, and the pageantry of festivals and weddings have combined for 2,000 years or so, and still combine today, to create a pattern of living that is humanly rich and materially sufficient for most. However, this sense of abundance, albeit in the midst of poverty, should not be romanticized, because the verity of social division and economic hierarchy reinforced by sharp disparities in power is equally pervasive. An overview of the economy of an Indian village must recognize that stability and perceived abundance constitute only one aspect of rural life. Another aspect of village life is inequality sustained by inherited prerogative. The first and foremost principle is the importance of landownership in determining a family and caste’s status, power, and wealth, all of which are passed from generation to generation.8 This principle extends beyond the village to dominance of the landed castes in regional, state, and national politics. It explains why the Indian government caters to farmers with free or subsidized irrigation water, electricity, and fertilizer, at massive cost to the national and state treasuries. It explains why even very large agricultural incomes in India are not taxed (except minimally in some states). It explains why farmer castes have immense weight in most state and national political parties and preeminent standing in most incumbent governments. A second, contrasting principle hinges on the other reality of the hierarchy of village life. The marginalized Dalit and so-called Other Backward Castes are poor and numerous, characteristics that make them potentially important in democratic elections when they are angry, organized, and active. As time has passed, a fundamental cleavage between the landed castes and the agricultural workers has deepened, especially in north India; has become a strong factor in

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 129

India’s Economy

129

elections; and sometimes has been the basis for armed and murderous clashes in the most riven villages. Dalit and low-caste parties seek power as a way of obtaining better schooling, more seats in universities, greater job opportunities, and the respect and equality their members are guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. At the national level, India’s agricultural sector is the sum of all the farming activities that take place in the villages. As in Wangala, two leading Indian farm products are rice and sugarcane. Rice is the leading foodgrain, and sugarcane is the leading cash crop. The second major foodgrain is wheat. Barley, maize, sorghum, other millets, peas, and beans fall in the foodgrain category.9 In addition to sugarcane, other crucial cash and plantation crops are oilseeds, cotton, jute, tea, coffee, rubber, spices, cashews, coconuts, vegetables, and fruits. Probably the most important single indicator of economic success in India since 1950 has been the output of foodgrains, because the nation has given the highest priority to feeding itself without reliance on unpredictable foreign sources. Many families watch the prices of key foods like rice, wheat, and cooking oils. When there are shortages and prices rise, all families, and most critically poor families, suffer because food expenditures absorb anywhere from a large slice to virtually all of their budgets. The poorest will not be able to find enough work at wages high enough to cover their food bills.10 Shortfalls in food production and the accompanying high prices are blamed on the incumbent state and national governments, even though failures of the monsoon rains in large measure may be responsible. At such times, there will be discontent and unrest, and if elections are being held, there is a good chance the government in office will be voted out or at least find its majority reduced. Table 6.1 provides a synopsis of the growth of major components of India’s agricultural sector since 1950/51. (India’s accounting year runs from April to March and falls across two calendar years.) For comparison, the rising size of the population is shown. Since 1950/51, the output of rice has increased almost fivefold. The story of wheat is more impressive, with a twelvefold increase through 2007/08. Rice and wheat outputs have both benefited from the application of Green Revolution technologies. In the late 1960s, India’s farmers began planting new high-yielding varieties of wheat seeds that were the product of international and Indian research. These seeds were highly responsive to the application of fertilizers but required controlled doses of irrigation water to flourish. Conditions in northwest India, centering on the state of Punjab, known for its web of canals and its entrepreneurial farmers, were most favorable, and yields per acre soared. Gradually, the methods of the Green Revolution have spread widely in India, and now new varieties of rice are enabling farmers in India’s eastern region, its poorest, to raise their outputs and incomes. The minor grains, peas, and beans are often planted in dry areas and have not been much affected by the Green Revolution, so their growth in output has lagged far behind that of the two major foodgrains (rice and wheat).

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

130

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 130

John Adams and Jason A. Kirk

Table 6.1 Foodgrains, Sugarcane, and Population, 1950/51–2007/08 (millions of tons; millions of persons) Year

Rice

Wheat

Other Foodgrains

Sugarcane

Population

1950/51 1960/61 1970/71 1980/81 1990/91 2000/01 2007/08

20.58 34.58 42.22 53.63 74.29 84.90 96.69

6.46 11.00 23.83 36.31 55.14 68.80 78.57

50.82 82.02 108.42 129.59 176.39 195.90 230.78

57.10 110.00 126.40 154.30 241.10 299.20 348.18

361.09 439.23 548.16 683.33 846.30 1,024.02 1,124.79

Sources: Government of India, Economic Survey 1997/98, tables 8.3 and 8.6, and Economic Survey 2008/09, tables 7.4 and 7.5; for crops, Jagran, India at a Glance 1998, edited by R. K. Thukral for the Dainik Jagran (Hindi daily newspaper), Kanpur, India (1998): 21–23. Latest population figure is an estimate from World Bank 2009a.

Overall, foodgrain output has risen by 4.6 times in the sixty years since independence, but during the same span of time, the population has tripled. An implication is that Indians on average have somewhat more food per family than earlier, but a lack of work, income, and purchasing power means that many of the worst-off adults and children do not have enough to eat. As in Wangala, the marginalized castes and communities are most affected. Commercial crop production has climbed, but less dramatically than the output of foodgrains. Sugarcane harvests have increased sixfold, but overall the commercial crops, including cotton, jute, and tea, have not done particularly well. India’s agriculture will require heavy investment and continued research on better farming methods and seeds if yields per hectare are going to rise to higher levels. The increased use of chemicals and pesticides carries with it threats to wildlife and biodiversity and is yet another source of drinking-water pollution in India’s already contaminated waterways. Access to credit is a major problem for many small farmers in India. Particularly as production has come to rely ever more on the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and expensive seed technologies—such as the patented genetically modified “Bt cotton” from the multinational Monsanto Company—it is essential for farmers lacking savings to borrow in order to purchase inputs. But the formal financial sector (e.g., bank loans, crop insurance) has made very limited inroads into rural India, leaving many farmers to borrow from local moneylenders on usurious terms. At the same time, India’s integration into global agricultural trade—where its farmers have had to compete with subsidized rich-country agribusinesses—has pushed down the prices for many crops, even as the Indian government has reduced subsidies to farmers to manage its own strained finances. Heavily indebted farmers may be only one weak monsoon and failed harvest away from financial ruin and the shame, stigma, and even personal danger that can be visited upon them if they

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 131

131

John Adams

India’s Economy

Winnowing grain

cannot repay the moneylenders. Over the past decade, particularly in drought years, India has seen the gruesome spectacle of thousands of farmer suicides, often by the macabre but poignant method of ingesting poisonous pesticide. M. S. Swaminathan, a geneticist who helped launch India’s Green Revolution four decades ago, told the New York Times in 2006, “The suicides are an extreme manifestation of some deep-seated problems which are now plaguing our agriculture. They are climatic. They are economic. They are social.” They also have been a source of serious concern for India’s political leadership: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called them a sign of “acute distress,” and pledged increased investment for rural credit development.11 On the whole, though, the achievements of growing enough food and meeting industry’s needs for raw materials are strong components of India’s economic success after 1950. The (qualified) success in agriculture not only provides foodstuffs for the towns and cities and inputs for industry but raises incomes so that rural families become a larger market for the products of industry: clothing, motor scooters, fertilizers, bicycles, and television sets. Agriculture and industry’s linked growth has been a key feature of India’s expanding economy.



Commerce and Industry

Most modern, rich economies have vigorous commercial and industrial sectors. India has a long history of commercial and industrial enterprise, but only recently

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

132

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 132

John Adams and Jason A. Kirk

Michael Geelan

has agriculture diminished in proportionate size, allowing urban business activities to move to the forefront.12 In 1980, agriculture was responsible for generating 38 percent of India’s gross national product (GNP), but this proportion fell to 18 percent in 2007, not because agriculture shrank but because other activities grew much more speedily. The share of industry rose from 24 to 30 percent over the same time span. Banking, transportation, communications and information technology, and government services captured a 52 percent share of output in 2007, up from 34 percent in 1980 (World Bank 2002: 236; World Bank 2009a). As this three-sector profile shows, the expansion of the diverse services sector has far outpaced growth in industry. A fascinating feature of India’s economy, compared to that of China and the so-called East Asian miracle economies of South Korea and Taiwan, is the relative dearth of employment in labor-intensive industry and manufacturing. The reasons for this have much to do with the industrial policies India pursued for the first several decades after independence, discussed later. But the upshot has been what journalist Edward Luce, in a memorable formulation, calls a “schizophrenic economy”—simultaneously “global and medieval,” with an increasingly globalized services sector alongside the kind of rural distress epitomized by the farmer suicides issue. India’s recent growth exhibits what economists call a “capital-intensive” (as opposed to “labor-intensive”) bias. Some of the biggest challenges ahead will be to modernize agriculture along ecologically sustainable lines, while at the same time

A thriving book industry in India is still underpinned by traditional modes of delivery (Ansari Road, Delhi, February 2010).

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 133

India’s Economy

133

providing more opportunities in industry and services for the vast underemployed peasantry. As Prime Minister Singh told Luce, “Our biggest single problem is the lack of jobs for ordinary people. We need employment for the semiskilled on a large scale” (Luce 2007: 40). Some vignettes depicting representative workers will help in understanding the range of jobs and kinds of enterprises that make up India’s expanding commercial and industrial sectors.13 Ritu’s husband pushes mail carts in the main post office in Madurai, a temple city in south India. She and her family live in a one-room shack in a colony of squatters on unused public land. Rent is paid to a local mafia don, who bribes the police so that they will not evict the settlers. Her widowed mother helps care for her two young children. Ritu makes sweets every day and takes them to a spot on the sidewalk outside an office building where she and other women sit and gossip. She sells enough, usually to regular customers, to add Rs 25 per day (25 rupees per day, or about US$0.56) to the family’s income. It is not hard work, she enjoys talking to her friends, and she feels more independent than she would if she stayed at home all day. Still, when evening comes, Ritu is responsible for cooking meals, cleaning her home, caring for the children, and meeting the commands of her husband and mother. Swamy works in a cotton-spinning mill in Ahmadabad in Gujarat state in northwest India. He belongs to a union and has worked in the factory for fifteen years. He lives in the village where he was born and rides a company bus to work every morning. He has acquired some land, which his father and brother proudly farm. Swamy’s position is a comparatively high-paying and secure one, but he and other workers read newspapers and attend union discussions. They fear that they may lose their jobs as competition grows in the world economy. They know that their equipment is old and must be replaced, but they are suspicious that management is skimming profits and not investing enough in the business. Swamy and his friends support politicians who espouse job protection, high-tariff “India-first” trade policies, and government assistance to failing private businesses. Near the center of Ahmadabad, Akbar runs a small metalworking shop, which makes steel cabinets, by hand and to order. His brother works with him. Their business is on a street with many similar shops. It is typical in Indian cities for tailors, metalworkers, door makers, and auto-parts stores to cluster in the same areas. Instead of fostering cutthroat competition, such congregating helps customers find and choose dealers, makes it easier to get supplies in and products out via shared transportation, and permits potential rivals to keep an eye on each other. Akbar and his brother live in four rooms behind their shop with their wives and six children. They are hardworking and thrifty. The growth in Ahmadabad’s population and economy enables them to make a good living, and they are thinking about moving to a new industrial park set up by the state government and hiring some nonfamily workers. If they did that, though, they

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

134

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 134

John Adams and Jason A. Kirk

would have to pay taxes, which they now avoid, and could no longer tap (illegally) into power lines to obtain free electricity. Lakshman is an attorney (called an “advocate” in India) in New Delhi. He and his firm consult with multinational companies, seeking to expand their presence in India’s emerging telecommunications sector. India’s laws and regulatory practices have been slow to change, making bidding for mobile telephone contracts or seeking to enter long-distance service subject to uncertainties. Much time is taken up in dealing with government officials, few of whom seem to have a sense of urgency or to be possessed of ultimate decisionmaking authority. Lakshman was trained in India but has spent considerable time visiting law schools in England and the United States. Sometimes he feels very Indian, having tea with bureaucrats, and sometimes he feels very western over whiskey at the Sheraton. His wife, Renu, is a partner in a firm of chartered accountants. Lakshman and Renu’s family is representative of India’s professional middle class. They have a four-bedroom house in a new suburb, drive a car, and travel abroad once a year at least. Their two children are preparing for college majors in medicine and business and hope to pursue advanced study in the United States. Rekha has a bachelor of commerce degree from a rural college and has worked as a clerk in a bank in Mumbai for about a year. She lives in a small fourth-floor walk-up apartment with her father and mother and five younger brothers and sisters. Rekha must ride overcrowded buses to and from work. With transfers, she spends almost three hours a day getting to the bank and back home again. She discharges her eight hours of work time matching up and filing export-import documents. Rekha does not enjoy her position very much, and her boss makes coarse jokes and often touches her in ways she does not like. When she brings her pay home, her mother puts it all into the family money pouch. Rekha thinks that her parents should begin the search for a groom for her. She knows that her college degree and steady salary will make her attractive to a husband, but her father gambles and is in debt, so there is no money for a dowry. She is neither a girl nor a wife and sometimes wonders why her fate and security must always be dependent on the men who rule, or will rule, her existence. These sketches describe the work and lifestyles of five workers and their families. By one estimate, as of 1999, there were about 431 million full-time workers in the Indian economy. Across all India, 52 percent of males participated in the labor force, and this average did not vary much from region to region. Children and the elderly were usually not full-time workers. For women, the picture was much different. Only 22 percent of Indian women were fulltime workers, largely because they were active in their households as mothers, cooks, cleaners, and farm workers. These contributions are not measured in active labor force or GNP statistics.14 There are great variations across India’s states in women’s labor force participation rates, reflecting regional attitudes toward women.

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 135

135

India’s Economy

In Tamil Nadu, where Ritu’s family lives, 30 percent of all women have primary jobs outside the household. High participation rates are typical of parts of India with above-average female literacy and educational levels. Fertility rates and population growth rates are lower in such states, which are found mostly in the south and west-central parts of the country. In Gujarat (Swamy, Akbar) and Maharashtra (Rekha), the respective participation rates for women are 26 and 33 percent. Conversely, across the north of India, almost all women remain in the family home or compound, and there are wide gaps between male and female literacy and educational levels. In the rich Green Revolution state of Punjab, only 4 out of every 100 women hold primary employment, and in poor Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, the proportion is 12 out of 100.15 Underutilization of women’s effort and talent is one reason why India’s economy lags and is ill prepared for global competition, which depends on productivity, innovation, and overall high levels of education for women and men. Table 6.2 provides the distribution of occupations in the workforce for India and six selected states. India’s census uses ten principal categories of jobs. The first four constitute the primary sector: cultivators; agricultural laborers; livestock, fisheries, and forestry; and mining and quarrying. The secondary, or industrial, sector includes household industries; small and large industries; and construction. The tertiary sector covers all forms of services: trade and commerce; transportation and communications; and other services, which include banking and government. Thinking back to Wangala, ones sees that the persistent rural Table 6.2 Distribution of the Labor Force for India and Six States (percentage) Bihar Cultivators Agricultural laborers Livestock, fisheries, and forestry Mining and quarrying Household industry Industry Construction Trade and commerce Transportation and communications Other services

Tamil Delhi Gujarat Maharashtra Nadu

Uttar Pradesh

India

44 37

1 1

33 23

32 27

25 35

53 19

39 26

0 1 2 2 1 4

1 0 1 23 8 24

3 0 1 14 2 9

2 0 2 12 3 9

2 0 4 11 2 9

1 0 2 5 1 6

2 1 2 8 2 7

1 8

8 33

4 10

4 10

3 10

2 10

3 10

Source: Government of India, “Census of India 1991,” as reported in Jagran, India at a Glance 1998, edited by R. K. Thukral for the Dainik Jagran (Hindi daily newspaper), Kanpur, India (1998): 95–98.

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

136

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 136

John Adams and Jason A. Kirk

character of the economy remains salient. Over India as a whole, 65 percent of all workers are either cultivators (39 percent) or agricultural laborers (26 percent). In Bihar, a large, very impoverished northern state, 81 percent of the workforce is involved in agriculture. The almost equal division of cultivators (44 percent) and laborers (37 percent) foretells what is in fact the case: intense rivalries in the villages among the landed and landless caste groupings, which spill over into contentious state politics. Bihar’s acute underdevelopment is highlighted by the small shares of workers in industry, commerce, communications, and banking. Because Delhi is unique in that it is almost wholly occupied by the city of New Delhi, there is little primary-sector activity. Modern industry (23 percent), trade and commerce (24 percent), and general and governmental services (33 percent) engage most employees. Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu have strong industrial sectors, and 11–14 percent of their workers are in workshops or factories. These states have above-average levels of trade and commerce and of transportation and communications services. With Delhi, they stand out for stronger construction enterprise than is found in other states. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have some distance to advance before they replicate the income levels and transforming economic structures of India’s leader states. On average, people in the more industrialized states are more than twice as rich as those in the backward states. At the extremes, per capita GDP in the richest cluster of states (Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra, and Gujarat) is about four times that of Bihar—the archetypical “lagging state.” Increasingly, India’s worst poverty is concentrated in a north-central-east corridor, comprising the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Orissa (we consider the national poverty trend later on). Recent economic growth rates across the states have diverged sharply, with states in the west and the south generally leading. It is not uncommon to hear references to the “two Indias”—one approaching the level of a middle-income country, and the other accounting for about one-third of the world’s poor. India’s industrial firms manufacture a full spectrum of chemical, electrical, engineering, pharmaceutical, and consumer goods. An idea of the range of products Indian workers turn out is provided in Table 6.3. In addition, the table shows the rapid expansion in outputs from 1987/88 to 2000/01.16 Because the products are familiar to people living in any large country, there are parallels to the United States, subject to the realization that volumes of output are smaller in India. Indians like carbonated beverages and produce about 2.4 billion bottled drinks a year, up by 206 percent since 1987/88. This number may seem large, until one calculates that it constitutes about two bottles sold per year for each Indian. It is no wonder that Pepsi and Coca-Cola see India as a huge emerging market. (For a long time, the Indian government did not make it easy for global soft drink and fast food firms to do business in India: Coca-Cola was expelled in 1977. Indian flavors like Thums Up cola developed great competitive

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 137

137

India’s Economy

Table 6.3 Commerce and Industry: Production and Growth, 1987/88–2000/01 Product

Units

1987/88

2000/01

Percentage Increase

Soft drinks Cotton yarn Shoes Sulfuric acid Nitrogen fertilizer Toothpaste Steel Motorcycles and scooters Refrigerators Motor cars Petroleum, crude Limestone Electricity Bank offices

bottles, millions tons, thousands pairs, thousands tons, thousands tons, thousands tons tons, thousands

778 1,350 6,749 3,203 5,763 20,000 8,807

2,381 2,267 14,153 5,540 11,025 25,142 27,200a

206 68 110 73 91 26 209

units, thousands units, thousands units, thousands tons, thousands tons, thousands kWh, billions number

1,575 680 138 32,000 56,328 202 35,707

3,755 2,007 506 33,000b 127,891 448b 65,624

138 195 267 3 127 122 84

Manufacturing Services GDP Population

index index index people, millions

100 100 100 784

227 253 214 997

127 153 114 27

Sources: The two best sources of data on the Indian economy are Government of India, Ministry of Finance, Economic Survey 2001/02 (and preceding years), which appears each spring along with the minister’s annual budget speech; and Reserve Bank of India, Annual Report of the RBI for the Year Ended June 2001 (and preceding years). The Ministry of Finance’s Economic Survey may be found at www.indiabudget.nic.in/es2001-02/welcome.html. The RBI website address is www .rbi.org.in/. Notes: a. 1999/2000. b. 1998/99.

appeal, but the multinationals relaunched in India during the 1990s and Thums Up was bought by Coca-Cola. It remains more popular than the US company’s signature cola or rival Pepsi.) Production of cotton yarn, as seen in the next row of Table 6.3, has been sluggish in India, for reasons Swamy and his fellow spinners understand. Yet both the growing domestic market and overseas sales present enormous growth and profit opportunities in the decades ahead. In contrast, shoe output and exports have surged. Sulfuric acid is a vital industrial chemical, and nitrogen fertilizers are a crucial farm input. Both experienced growth of more than 70 percent. Toothpaste (“dental cream” in India) is a standard consumer product. An expansion of 26 percent shows the rising purchasing power of India’s middleincome households. Steel rods provide the framework for concrete construction,

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

138

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 138

John Adams and Jason A. Kirk

pipes are necessary for water supplies, and sheeting is used for automobiles, buses, and metal cabinets and furniture. The rise in steel output of 209 percent is a clear indication of India’s rapid industrial growth in the 1980s and 1990s. India’s burgeoning middle class, exemplified by Lakshman and Renu, has translated rising incomes into durable goods purchases, as illustrated by the 138 percent rise in motorcycle and scooter sales, the 195 percent gain in the sales of refrigerators, and the 267 percent boom in car sales.17 India produces about one-quarter of the crude petroleum it needs. To make up the other three-quarters, oil products constitute the largest item in the nation’s import bill—about one-third of the total. A fresh round of exploration may yield more strikes, but the prospects for the discovery of major oilfields are slim. Production has not kept up with surging domestic demand. The next item in the table, limestone, is an input into chemicals, cement, and construction, and its output has paced overall growth. Further down the table, expansion of the financial sector supports rapid growth, as the 84 percent expansion in the number of banks exhibits. Though, as we have seen, financial sector access is highly uneven. The power sector merits special mention. For the Indian economy to expand, electricity production has to rise more rapidly than total output because new gains require multiples of power use. The rise of 122 percent in generation is insufficient for continued expansion, and India’s state governments have engaged in numerous discussions with international investors, with the result that foreign and joint ventures are becoming more common. No longer are the central and state governments the only entities trying to raise the capital for power stations and to manage distribution systems plagued by inefficiencies, nonpayment of bills, and illegal tie-ins to power lines. But in Orissa, a state that followed a World Bank program to privatize its power sector, privatization did little to curb power losses and theft. The privatization experience of Delhi has been somewhat more successful, but still controversial (Tongia 2007). For the state governments generally, power sector problems remain a major obstacle, not only for economic growth, but also directly for the government’s finances. For a number of states, it has been politically difficult to end power subsidies to farmers—an important vote bloc—even though they impinge on the ability to invest in new capacity and to maintain existing equipment. Blackouts are not uncommon in many places. Private businesses unwilling to tolerate this situation bring in their own “captive” generating facilities, leading to the loss of what would otherwise be some of the electricity board’s largest and most reliable customers. The loss of those customers and the resulting loss of funds for improvements contribute to a vicious circle in the power sector. The final four rows of Table 6.3 furnish information on the performance of some aggregate statistics. By comparing them to the rows above, it is possible to discern with some precision which industries are leading India’s development (growing faster than average) and which are lagging (growing slower than

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 139

India’s Economy

139

average). Total manufacturing output climbed 127 percent in the period 1987/88–2000/01. Services, including banking and transportation, expanded at a fast clip. Total gross domestic product, which combines agriculture, industry, and services, rose 114 percent. Population growth of 27 percent added 213 million citizens, but because of sustained economic growth, Indians on average were much better off than they were in the late 1980s and twice as well off as they were in 1980. This dual growth of human numbers and the economy creates problems of urban sprawl, congestion, and pollution that India’s people and government have not seriously addressed so far. Current trends are not ecologically sustainable.



Government and the Private Sector

Almost every nation in the world wants to experience the benefits that arise from economic growth. In the latter part of the twentieth century, economists and policymakers accepted the notion that growth depends on balancing and coordinating the roles of government and market forces. Further, it is understood that as time passes and income rises, the functions and scope of the governmental and market sectors will change. The collapse of the autarkic Soviet Union and the actions of China and India to expand their connections to the world market economy shifted their attention from Communist or socialist policy frameworks toward governmental stances that are supportive of increased scope for the private sector in agriculture, industry, and commerce. In particular, the electricity, transportation, and telecommunications sectors are being moved into private hands. India has experienced over a half-century of economic policy formulation since independence from Britain was secured. This span may be divided into three policy epochs, each of which exhibits different approaches and has yielded varied economic growth rates and development achievements.18 The first epoch (1950–1964) was characterized by the strong hand of the central government, which sought to push forward components of the economy across a broad front. The second (1965–1979) witnessed a slowdown of growth, but the third (1980 to the present) finds India taking its place among the world’s most rapidly expanding economies. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, led the nation to independence. Nehru and the Congress Party, which he headed, were strongly committed to what became known as the “socialist pattern of society.” Nehru did not believe that the private sector was capable of quickly initiating and upgrading a number of large-scale industries, such as chemicals, fertilizers, electrical equipment, machine tools, military equipment, railways, airlines, and insurance. Nehru may have been correct, but his conviction has been debated ever since. India did not have the abundance of entrepreneurs, capitalists, investors,

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

140

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 140

John Adams and Jason A. Kirk

managers, and skilled technical workers required for the many tasks of early development: whole new industries, giant power stations, and massive irrigation works. In the view of Nehru and other Indian planners, only government could undertake the combined “big push” on all these fronts and manage the “commanding heights” of the economy in a socially responsible fashion. As a result of the Nehruvian “big push,” government ownership and management spread throughout most of large-scale industry, power, irrigation, and transportation. The private sector comprised mostly farms, agricultural marketing, and small businesses. Among the big firms, most existing large enterprises, such as those in cotton and jute textiles, continued in private hands. Nehru died in 1964, but by the early 1960s, he had seen considerable movement in the direction of the realization of his vision. From the mid-1960s until 1980, the economy did not perform well and moved unevenly through the period called “conflicting currents.” For a time, India became vulnerably dependent on foreign aid, including from both Cold War superpowers and the multilateral World Bank. Under external pressure, especially from the United States and the World Bank, India undertook the firstever devaluation of the rupee in 1966—a politically controversial and symbolically humiliating step. Thereafter, India sought to reduce its reliance on aid, and though it would require assistance again to weather subsequent crises, it evolved into one of the least aid-reliant, low-income economies in the world (on per capita terms and as a share of its total investment, though India’s great size means that it still utilizes high absolute levels of aid: it is the World Bank’s largest cumulative borrower). The Green Revolution in agriculture (beginning in the late 1960s) brought success in wheat production. Exports showed spurts of growth, and the nation’s saving rate went up, laying a basis for more investment. Droughts and wars with China and Pakistan played an unsettling role, though, and the economy was becoming more complex and harder to manage. Many government enterprises were not efficient performers and had to be subsidized. High tariffs to protect Indian firms from foreign imports rendered them unable to compete in the world marketplace, and exports could not provide an economic boost. Indian consumers were offered inferior radios, cars, and home appliances at higher prices than elsewhere in the world. Overstaffing became rife as politicians encouraged the public corporations to provide supporters with jobs, no matter how redundant and unnecessary. Government ownership and management of industries were accompanied by a maze of bureaucratic controls and regulations that handicapped private initiative and encouraged corruption. As a result, overall economic performance deteriorated, India’s party politics became more complex and unstable, and calls for new policies became louder. The case of the Ambassador automobile—long the definitive car in India— provides an interesting window into India’s controlled economy era. The car is made by Hindustan Motors, and its design is based on a late 1950s British sedan.

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 141

India’s Economy

141

Neil DeVotta

It has been in continuous production for over fifty years, with almost no design changes; it was essentially the same car in 1978 that it had been twenty years earlier (by contrast, consider how much the products of Japan’s export-oriented Toyota Motor Corporation had changed in the same period). Under the controlled economy system, Hindustan Motors was one of the only companies licensed to produce cars for the Indian market, and the absence of competition gave it essentially no incentive to innovate or increase production. Many Indians waited years for the opportunity to buy an Ambassador. The bright side was that every mechanic in India knew the Ambassador inside and out, and any driver worth his salt could improvise a repair in a roadside bind. There is an unmistakable nostalgic charm to the car. But multiply the same incentive pattern across many other products and industries, and you begin to understand why some Indians referred to their system as “a shortage economy.” (The liberalization of the auto sector in the early 1990s led to an explosion of brands on the roads, which in turn has contributed to congestion, pollution, and other problems.)19 From 1980 on, many people criticized the government for being too big and taking on too many tasks. Surprisingly, the size of government has changed only modestly since then, even though the boundaries between the public and private sectors have shifted in favor of the latter. The relative size of the public and private sectors can be measured by several yardsticks: employment shares,

The Ambassador, the definitive Indian automobile before liberalization of the economy and still the standard vehicle of choice for India’s ministers and top bureaucrats, pictured here in the mid-Himalayas

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

142

2:39 PM

Page 142

John Adams and Jason A. Kirk

investment shares, or GDP shares. Continuing the motif of looking at the Indian economy from the bottom up—from the point of view of the villages, families, and workers—Table 6.4 compares the sizes of the public- and private-sector labor forces in some benchmark years, 1991, 2001, and 2006. The public sector includes central, state, and local government employment, plus “quasi-government” workers in central and state public firms. The private-sector counts include only workers in large and small enterprises and exclude farmers, shopkeepers, and rural and urban laborers. Together, these public and private employees are said to be in the “formal,” or “organized,” sector. In fact, it is difficult to obtain good data on the true “private” employment picture in India, because so many people—perhaps more than 90 percent— work outside of the organized sector of the economy (Sakthivel and Joddar 2006). By definition, it is hard to generalize about an “unorganized” or “informal” sector that is so vast, but it includes a wide range of full-time and casual work: vegetable sellers, rickshaw pullers and taxi drivers, tea vendors, mechanics, small shopkeepers, tailors, construction labor, and farm workers. What most have in common is a lack of pensions and benefits, legal protection, and contracts. At the same time, many must pay informal rents and bribes to avoid being harassed by authorities.

Table 6.4 Shares of Public- and Private-Sector Employment in the Organized Sector (percentage)

Public sector Central government State governments Quasi-governmenta Local governments Private sector Agricultureb Manufacturingc Traded Financiale Other servicesf

1991

2001

2006

72 13 27 23 9 28 4 17 1 1 5

68 12 27 22 8 32 4 18 1 1 6

67 10 27 22 8 33 5 17 2 2 7

Sources: Reserve Bank of India, Report on Currency and Finance 1997/98, p. 20, see www.rbi .org.in/; 2001 and 2006 data from Government of India, Ministry of Finance, Economic Survey 2008/09, p. A52. Notes: Subtotals may not add up to category total due to rounding. a. “Quasi-government” includes public-sector enterprises. b. “Agriculture” includes hunting, mining, and quarrying. c. “Manufacturing” includes electricity, gas, water, and construction. d. “Trade” includes wholesale and retail trade, transport, storage, and communication. e. “Financial” includes finance, insurance, and real estate. f. “Other services” includes community, social, and personal services.

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 143

India’s Economy

143

Looking at Table 6.4, the dominance of the public sector’s administrative departments (e.g., the Ministries of Commerce, Education, and Finance) and enterprises (e.g., steel, power, gasoline, and soap) is plain. About two-thirds of all formal-sector workers are situated in offices or factories managed at central, state, or local government levels. Interestingly, under India’s federal system, there are many more employees in the state governments than in the central government in New Delhi. Following economic liberalization in 1991, the private-sector component of the labor force has been expanding, whereas the public-sector share is contracting (though remember that the data in the table do not include huge numbers of “unorganized” private employment). Despite strong growth in output in the private sector in the 1980s and 1990s, however, the share of employment in the formal private sector did not rise all that much. India’s complex and protective labor laws and the strength of industrial unions make it hard for private businesses to discharge workers as market conditions change—and the political power of labor unions makes reform in this policy area particularly difficult. As a result, formal-sector firms keep their permanent hiring to a minimum and instead rely on short-term contractual workers or substitute machines for labor (a perverse choice in labor-rich India). With the move away from a centrally planned economy, the share of central government employees in the total organized sector has been reduced somewhat. But the share of state government employees has stayed about the same, partly because the states still have a significant role to play in the decentralized market economy, and partly because many of their governments are overstaffed and inefficient.



Accomplishments and Prospects

By the 1970s, government ownership and management of two-thirds of the industrial sector and its attempts to regulate the expansion and operations of the private sector had become a drag on growth rather than an accelerator. Since 1950, the government’s strategies at the national and state levels have been spelled out in a series of five-year plans, which are detailed in Table 6.5.20 The last column of Table 6.5 gives the average per annum expansion of gross domestic product achieved during each five-year period. The Nehruvian period comprised the first three plans (1951/52–1965/66), and then the next three fiveyear plans reflected the mixed performance of the conflicting currents period. In fact, as shown, four years in the span 1966/67–1979/80 witnessed annual plans, when the five-year planning mechanism proved too inflexible to respond to the shocks of droughts, wars, political changes, or difficulties in meeting the country’s foreign payments obligations. The slowdown of the 1970s was followed by a period of rapid expansion in the 1980s, during the Sixth and Seventh Plans, which can be described as

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

144

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 144

John Adams and Jason A. Kirk

Table 6.5 India’s Five-Year Plans, 1951/52–2007/08

Plan First Second Third Annual plans Fourth Fifth Annual plan Sixth Seventh Annual plans Eighth Ninth Tenth

Years

Average per Annum Growth in GDP (%)

1951/52–1955/56 1956/57–1960/61 1961/62–1965/66 1966/67–1968/69 1969/70–1973/74 1974/75–1978/79 1979–1980 1980/81–1984/85 1985/86–1989/90 1990/91–1992/93 1992/93–1996/97 1997/98–2001/02 2001/02–2007/08

+3.5 +4.2 +2.8 +3.9 +3.2 +5.7 –5.2 +5.5 +5.6 +3.4 +6.5 +5.5 +7.7

Source: Government of India, Planning Commission, Eleventh Five Year Plan, 2007–12, vol. 1, Inclusive Growth, table 2.1, p. 25. Note: The growth rates are in terms of GDP at factor cost. Average growth rates over a short period can be misleading because of fluctuations in agricultural output due to variable monsoons.

the “golden growth path” period. There are several reasons for this dramatic improvement in Indians’ standard of living. Government spending was high after 1980 (which also led to fiscal deficits and the accumulation of debt as revenue collection lagged). Middle-class consumers were acquiring motor scooters, cars, refrigerators, and air-conditioning units. There was some improvement in the government’s handling of public-sector enterprises and a rise in coal production, rail shipments, and power generation, all state-directed activities. Importantly, monsoon rainfalls were favorable, and agriculture provided a solid, if not outstanding, contribution. Export growth was better than in the 1960s and 1970s. During the 1980s, Indians seemed to acquire a taste for growth, which took precedence over conformity to ideological guideposts of the Nehruvian variety. Public opinion and the platforms of India’s political parties, from left to right, shifted in favor of pragmatic policy adjustments. By 1990/91, rapid growth and lax management of the money supply, too much borrowing, and the inability of foreign currency reserves to pay for imports and debt repayments pushed India to the brink of financial crisis. A new government, working with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, pledged significant economic reforms. It is noteworthy that India’s move to economic reforms—such as cutting tariffs, reducing restrictions on private enterprise, and relying more on private business—followed a decade of strong growth. Indians had tasted the fruits of ten years of increasing income. There

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 145

India’s Economy

145

Prathibha Senaratne

was pressure on the government to maintain the pace, which had benefited not only the rich and middle classes but also the poor. The average annual growth rate of GDP in the Tenth Plan period was 7.7 percent, and the Eleventh Plan targets an ambitious 9.0 percent growth rate. To reach this target, the plan envisions (among other steps) a significant increase in infrastructure investment, both public and private. As India becomes more integrated into the global economy, however, it is more vulnerable to the effects of global economic shocks. The downturn that began in 2008 presents a risk to continued high growth during the Eleventh Plan, though the “go slow” approach that India has taken on financial-sector liberalization should mitigate the impact of the crisis somewhat. Since a major liberalization program was adopted in 1991, India’s national budget, five-year plans,21 and all dimensions of economic policy have been devoted to pro-growth policies. Most remarkable has been the shift of the locus for new investment from the public to the private sector in such areas as heavy manufacturing, banking, civil aviation, telecommunications, power generation and distribution, ports, and roads (World Bank 1997: xiii). A number of policy changes significantly enhanced India’s openness to foreign investors.22 After the early 1990s liberalization, direct foreign investment rose to $3.2 billion in 1997/98 and skyrocketed to$17.45 billion in 2007/08 (a preliminary estimate from the World Bank). Annual portfolio investment in India’s stock markets

Advertisements that speak to the tremendous growth in India’s telecommunications industry

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

146

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 146

John Adams and Jason A. Kirk

rose from the $2–3 billion range to $9–10 billion. These are still only fractions of the levels for China, but they certainly show why India has come to be seen as the world’s second-largest emerging market. Increases in foreign investment and mounting foreign participation in India’s power, telecommunications, and other industries are only one aspect of India’s rising involvement in the international economy. The expansion of the domestic economy since 1980 has been accompanied by an impressive expansion of foreign trade, but India’s merchandise exports still constituted just 1.1 percent of the world’s total in 2007—compared to 9 percent for China—so there is much ground to make up. India’s share of global services trade was higher, at 2.5 percent, led by its booming information technology (IT) and IT-enabled services or business process outsourcing sectors. Tariff simplifications and reductions have been important components of India’s policy reforms. Between 1986/87 and 1995/96, India’s exports more than tripled, with major gains coming in chemicals (544 percent), textiles (285 percent), polished gems (225 percent), and engineering goods (308 percent)—demonstrating the major impact of the 1991 policy reforms. The United States and the European Union are the chief markets for Indian goods and leading suppliers of India’s imports. The growth in India’s foreign sector has been based on a widening of the range of competitive exports and on diversification of India’s trading partners to Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Globalization, policy reform, and a strong popular and governmental commitment to growth have significantly raised living standards in India since 1980. This improvement in people’s well-being has been built on the foundation of Nehruvian planning. On the whole, it is fair to judge that India’s economic record is one of success, although much remains to be done. Offsetting the economic gains of the past fifty years is a poor record of advancement in social fields such as literacy, education, health, clean water, and sanitation. It is a paradox that India’s socialist pattern of society failed, not as a means of instigating economic development but in its educational and social programs. We have seen that after 1980, GDP growth accelerated, and the number of Indian families living below the poverty line (as defined by the Indian government) also has dropped steeply. The connections between growth and poverty reduction—and in particular, between the post-1991 economic reforms and poverty reduction—are vigorously debated. While high-quality official statistics, kept since the 1950s, seemingly would make the evaluation straightforward, changes in the survey design complicate comparisons in the poverty ratio over time. One economist, who has carefully weighed various studies, concludes, “As the 1980s unfolded, India began to emerge out of the slow growth that it had experienced. . . . And as the growth rate shifted upward, poverty began to decline as well. The process continued through the 1990s, with the proportion of the poor in the population cut approximately in half between the late 1970s and 2000”—or from about half of the population in the late 1970s to

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 147

India’s Economy

147

40 percent in the late 1980s, and to under 30 percent by the end of the 1990s (Panagariya 2008: 129, 138, figure 7.3). But it is worth noting that after the 1991 reforms, the rate of poverty reduction did not increase much over the 1980s experience. As noted in the Introduction, the picture of poverty in India today also looks different depending on where you draw the poverty line. In 2008, a World Bank study drew headlines when it reported that according to a new estimation technique, about 42 percent of Indians (456 million people) live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 per day—accounting for roughly one-third of the world’s poor. According to the report, fully three-quarters of Indians live on less than US$2 per day, demonstrating that a huge number of Indians may not be officially poor, but nevertheless hover just above the poverty line and remain highly vulnerable to job loss, sickness, or family crisis that could plunge them into desperation.23 The present Congress Party–led government has especially sought to counter rural poverty by introducing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), which provides rural adults 100 days of manual work per year at Rs 100 per day (about US$2.22). Pushing down population growth toward zero from its current annual rate of 1.4 percent is imperative. Changes in women’s status and health will be required. Life expectancy is now about sixty-four years for men and women, but as India’s population ages, there will be need for stronger pension and social security systems. Deforestation, erosion, and environmental deterioration, as Holly Sims discusses in Chapter 7, will have to be reversed and the caliber of air and water quality raised if India’s economic gains are not to be offset, at least partially, by negative effects on health and the quality of life. Many have predicted that the rise of China and India will be the defining global trend of the twenty-first century. Certainly, China’s rapid economic growth beginning in the 1980s has inspired and pressured India. But India’s democratic system creates a fundamentally different “political economy” than in China. For complex reasons, India’s democracy has become more regionalized in recent years, and with the decline of the once-dominant Indian National Congress Party, coalition governments have had to pursue an incremental approach to policy reforms. Some of India’s state governments have been much more enthusiastic and effective in embracing the market than others. It is an oft-repeated cliché—but nevertheless useful—that India may not be a tiger, like some of its East Asian neighbors. Rather, it is more like an elephant—slower, more deliberative, but nevertheless on the move, and its movements have a massive impact. Abundance in poverty remains a dominant theme in the lives of Wangala’s villagers and their rural compatriots, as it does in the day-to-day activities of India’s working families, who are symbolized by Ritu, Swamy, Akbar, Lakshman and Renu, and Rekha. India’s record of economic accomplishment since 1950 has been solid, but the future will demand better economic policies, a

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

148

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 148

John Adams and Jason A. Kirk

more educated workforce, and greater confidence in working with foreign investors and multinational companies. Ensuring that growth spreads into laggard states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and reaches down to incorporate the agricultural workers and other low-caste groups will not be easy. If all goes well—and it is certainly within the capacity of India’s people and leadership to ensure that it does—then the process of transforming poverty into abundance will continue its successful advance.



Notes

1. Dividing $46,040 by $950 produces a result of 48, indicating that Americans consume forty-eight times more than Indians on average. Incomes are taken from World Development Report 2009 (World Bank 2009b: 352–353). It is the best single source for numbers on the world’s nations. Each annual volume discusses an issue of thematic importance in the global economy. GNI/POP is the most direct measure of income differences, but since many nontraded goods do not cost as much in India as in the United States, many economists prefer to use a price-adjusted comparison referred to as “purchasing power parity” (PPP) GNI. This technique puts India’s per capita income at $2,740 per year. That of the United States remains almost the same, at $45,850, since it is the main base against which other nations are compared. By this calibration, US incomes are about seventeen times higher than Indian incomes. 2. According to a Reuters article from March 25, 1999: “India, bulging with foodgrain stocks and amid hopes of a record harvest, is suddenly faced with the problems of plenty. . . . [It is estimated that] by the end of June India will hold foodstocks of 36 million tons, 10 million tons more than required . . . [and] analysts said India could export wheat.” See www.cnn.com. 3. There are many readable studies of India’s village life, among the best being Bailey 1957; Epstein 1962; and Srinivas 1976. 4. Wangala is described in Economic Development and Social Change in South India by Scarlet Epstein (1962). She compared Wangala with a nearby village, Dalena, to extract powerful insights about the effects of irrigation, commercialization, and links to the wider regional economy on the economies and work patterns of these two small communities. Wangala and Dalena are fictitious names. 5. These numbers were true as of the mid-1950s, when Epstein did her initial fieldwork. John Adams visited Wangala and Dalena several times himself in more recent years, and although the villages had changed, Epstein’s original descriptions remained clear and valid. 6. We do not know if these rules about water use still prevail in Wangala in 2010, but such conventions remain all too common in most of India. 7. Traditionally, the Peasant households and the service-caste households were involved in a village exchange pattern known as the “jajmani system.” A Washerman family might, for example, wash the clothes of several Peasant families and would, in return, receive an allotment of grain at harvest. Priests, Barbers, and Potters likewise provided services in return for stable shares of the village crops. Over time, the jajmani system has broken down, more payments are made in money for services rendered, and competitive prices have replaced customary shares. As a result, relative incomes and statuses have changed; for instance, a Blacksmith might benefit from greater need for metalworking and equipment repair, whereas a Potter would lose out to modern aluminum vessels.

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 149

India’s Economy

149

One street in the village is named Muslim Street, but its former residents have long since departed Wangala for external opportunities. 8. A family can lose land through mismanagement, perhaps because of illness, gambling, or alcoholism; or the absence of male heirs may leave women (a widow or unmarried sister) vulnerable. Having a member of the family make money in a factory job or by migrating to the Middle East for a time may enable a family to purchase land. 9. Millets are not eaten much in the United States but are instantly recognizable as the round black, orange, and yellow grains found in chicken and bird feed. They and the pulses (peas and beans) are very nutritious and form an important part of the diet by offering proteins and vitamins not found in rice or wheat. 10. The connection here is that when the rains fail or floods come, then crops do not need to be harvested or may never get planted. That in turn means that landowners do not hire agricultural laborers, who then do not have sufficient income to buy food that is now going up in price. Hunger and near-starvation are more often due to the absence of work than to pure food shortages. Today, for political reasons, the national and state governments are quick to provide food-for-work and other programs to prevent the famines that used to wrack India in the latter days of British rule. At present, though, some farm worker families still prefer long-term, even lifetime, contracts with landowners as a way of insuring against the risk of hunger, even though they bind themselves to a life of poverty and dependence. Farmers like such contracts, too, because they are guaranteed that the man, wife, and older children will provide labor even when wages are high and better opportunities are available. 11. See Somini Sengupta, “On India’s Farms, a Plague of Suicides.” New York Times, September 19, 2006, www.nytimes.com/2006/09/19/world/asia/19india.html?page wanted=1&_r=1 (retrieved on August 4, 2009). The Public Broadcasting Service program Wide Angle also produced a feature on the distressing farmer suicide phenomemon, “The Dying Fields,” in 2007. It is available for viewing online at www.pbs.org/wnet/ wideangle/episodes/the-dying-fields/introduction/967/ (retrieved on August 4, 2009). For a very detailed treatment of the rural credit picture, including a discussion of microfinance models, see Basu 2006. 12. There was lively trade between India and the Roman Empire. For 2,000 years, India has had trading relations with the Middle East and Southeast Asia. A century ago, Indian and British investors had created world-class cotton and jute spinning and weaving industries. Measured by size of labor force, India has been one of the world’s largest industrial powers since the late 1800s. 13. These stories are, of course, apocryphal. At the same time, they are realistic enough that in each case, one could find a family that conforms to each tale. 14. The omission of women’s household or secondary farm work from labor force and GNP statistics is not peculiar to India but is standard practice. 15. The rate in Delhi (Lakshman and Renu) is only 7 for every 100 people. It is traditional for many Muslim women to live in purdah, which means household sequestration. Husbands do not want their wives or daughters exposed to male contact or ogling when in public view. What is interesting is that Hindu and Sikh households likewise shut women away from the outside world of jobs, education, and socializing. A further, and sad, element of the picture is that the regions that exhibit these strong inhibitions on women’s lives also have low demographic sex ratios. Normally, there should be about 102 women for every 100 men in any population, but in Punjab, for example, this ratio is 88 women for every 100 men. The case of the “missing women” is easily solved: families practice selective abortion and infanticide or simply do not value girls as highly as boys and so do not provide equal measures of food, medicine, and care to girls in the first five years of life. The outcome is a loss of approximately one out of every ten potential female adults.

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

150

2:39 PM

Page 150

John Adams and Jason A. Kirk

16. It takes over a year to gather and compile reports on the details of an economy, and India is no different in this respect. So, in 2009, most of the recent data available are reported for 2006/07 or 2007/08, although quick or provisional estimates exist for some key items. 17. The streets in India’s cities and the country’s network of highways are severely congested by automobile, bus, and truck traffic. Air pollution in the cities exceeds health standards by a large margin, causing massive health problems such as respiratory diseases and premature death. The death rate from roadway accidents is among the highest in the world. Only gradually is lead-based gasoline being phased out. Continued expansion of the automobile industry and the total consumer goods sector must be predicated on cleaner technologies and on regulations and incentives to adopt them. 18. For details on these periods, see Adams 1999: 65–88; Adams 1997: 3–19. The other chapters in this collection provide a full overview of India’s economic development aims and achievements since 1950. 19. In 2009, Tata Motors in India launched a new microcar called the Nano, aimed primarily at the Indian market and with a starting price of Rs 115,000 (about US$2,420). It is highly fuel-efficient given its tiny size, but some have reacted to the rollout of “the world’s cheapest car” with anxiety about the environmental impact of intensified massmotorization. In 2003, the Public Broadcasting Service in the United States featured an excellent miniseries on the global economy, The Commanding Heights. One segment, “India’s Permit Raj 1978–84,” profiled the Ambassador automobile. It can be watched online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/commandingheights/lo/countries/index.html. 20. Only a few university libraries in the United States have sets of India’s plans. A useful site on India is the Planning Commission. See http://planningcommission.nic.in. 21. India’s annual budget and much supporting information can be located on the Internet at http://indiabudget.nic.in/. The annual Economic Survey, which can be found at the same site, is a comprehensive review of current economic trends and discusses all aspects of India’s ongoing policy adjustments. 22. One of the most comprehensive sources of current information on India’s reforms is the annual publication from the Reserve Bank of India, Report on Currency and Finance 2008/09 (and other years), Mumbai. The Reserve Bank’s home page can be found at www.rbi.org.in/. 23. “One Third of World’s Poor in India: Survey,” Times of India, August 27, 2008.



Bibliography

Adams, John. 1997. “History and Context: 1947–1975.” In Regional Handbooks of Economic Development, Vol. 2, C. S. LaRue, ed. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn. ———. 1999. “India: Much Achieved, Much to Achieve.” In India and Pakistan: The First Fifty Years, Selig S. Harrison, Paul H. Kreisberg, and Dennis Kux, eds. New York: Cambridge University Press. Bailey, F. G. 1957. Caste and the Economic Frontier. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Basu, Priya. 2006. Improving Access to Finance for India’s Rural Poor. Washington, DC: World Bank. Chandhok, H. L., and the Policy Group. 1990. India Database: The Economy. Annual Time Series Data, Vol. 1. New Delhi: Living Media. Economic and Political Weekly Research Foundation. National Accounts Statistics of India, 1950/51–1995/96. www.economictimes.com/budget.

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 151

India’s Economy

151

Epstein, T. Scarlet. 1962. Economic Development and Social Change in South India. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Government of India. 1998. Economic Survey 1997/98. New Delhi: Government of India. ———. Ministry of Finance. Economic Survey 2008/09 (and preceding years). www.india budget.nic.in/es2001-02/welcome/html. Luce, Edward. 2007. In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India. New York: Doubleday. Jagran. 1998. India at a Glance 1998, edited by R. K. Thukral for the Dainik Jagran, India’s largest Hindi daily newspaper, Kanpur, India. Panagariya, Arvind. 2008. India: The Emerging Giant. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Reserve Bank of India. Annual Report of the RBI for the Year Ended June 2001 (and preceding years). www.rbi.org.in/. Sakthivel, S., and Pinaki Joddar. 2006. “Unorganized Sector Workforce in India: Trends, Patterns and Social Security Coverage.” Economic and Political Weekly (May 27): 2107–2114. Srinivas, M. N. 1976. The Remembered Village. Berkeley: University of California Press. Tongia, Rahul. 2007. “The Political Economy of Indian Power Sector Reforms.” In The Political Economy of Power Sector Reform, David Victor and Thomas C. Heller, eds. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 109–174. World Bank. 1997. India: Sustaining Rapid Economic Growth. Washington, DC: World Bank. ———. 2000. World Development Report 1999/00. New York: Oxford University Press. ———. 2002. World Development Report 2001/02. New York: Oxford University Press. ———. 2009a. “Key Development Data & Statistics” (Country Profiles for India and the United States). http://go.worldbank.org/1SF48T40L0 (retrieved August 4, 2009). ———. 2009b. World Development Report 2009. New York: Oxford University Press.

06DeVotta_6.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:39 PM

Page 152

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 153

7 Population, Urbanization, and the Environment Holly Sims

A

lthough India occupies just 2.4 percent of the world’s surface area, its dazzling mosaic of people and cultures, wildlife, vegetation, and landscapes make it the most diverse and complex country on the planet. India’s territory is framed by towering snow-capped mountain ranges in the north and languid emerald lagoons in the south that ultimately yield to unspoiled beaches facing the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Yet India also is home to some of the world’s most crowded and polluted cities. India is one of a very few countries whose constitution enjoins citizens to protect the environment. Yet economic growth has been the overriding priority of successive governments, and the environment has borne heavy costs. India’s annual losses from sickness and death caused by air and water pollution and the economic costs attributable to resource degradation defy precise assessments, but the 2009 State of the Environment Report (published by the Ministry of Environment and Forests) indicates that 70 percent of surface water sources like lakes and ponds are polluted; 50 million cubic meters of untreated sewage enter the rivers every year, and the frequency of floods has increased due to deforestation in catchment areas and surging urbanization. In a country troubled by water scarcity, the report predicts demand will double in the next twenty years (Ministry of Environment and Forests 2009). Despite the marked disparity between Indian constitutional designers’ hopes and disquieting indicators of actual performance, Indian commentators and activists have contributed more to the development of international consciousness and thought about humankind’s place in the universe than have citizens from any other country apart from the United States. One of India’s most famous citizens, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, called “Mahatma” (great soul), was perhaps the first world leader to publicly 153

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

154

Page 154

Holly Sims

question modern societies’ reckless pursuit of economic growth in the name of “progress.” Asked in 1947 whether newly independent India would emulate Britain’s development experience, Gandhi was reputed to have responded, “It took Britain half the resources of the planet to achieve this prosperity; how many planets would a country like India require?” In this chapter, some contemporary Indians’ impact on international environmental consciousness will be briefly considered following discussion of the main question at hand: How does one assess the state of India’s environment? A diverse group of experts would disagree both on major contributing factors to environmental degradation and on possible remedies. They would offer a variety of conceptual lenses designed to bring factors potentially responsible for environmental debasement into focus while relegating other possible causes to the background (United Nations 2008). The choice of a specific focus or lens is conditioned by a person’s values, views on the world, and perspectives on cause-and-effect relationships, which in turn may be influenced by specialized training. For many western observers, the most salient characteristic of India’s environment is the sheer size of its population. A conceptual lens trained to focus on demographics generally implies that population pressure is the major environmental problem and population control is the obvious solution. Other experts contend that poverty rather than population pressure is the most critical factor ravaging India’s environment and prescribe economic growth as a solution. Still others identify hazardous modern technology as the world’s greatest threat. During the late twentieth century, the same three factors—population growth and demographic pressure, poverty, and hazardous technology—emerged as the prime suspects in global environmental degradation. Commentators disputed which factor held overriding importance, but many later realized that they are interrelated. Gradually, serious scholars and practitioners developed a more sophisticated appreciation of the environment’s complexity and the dynamic and sometimes unpredictable interaction of its component elements. A conceptual lens is a simplified view of a more complicated reality (Hempel 1996: 89). I do not wish to “sell” any one of the conceptual lenses. The first two—population pressures and poverty—receive more attention because many Indian and western observers believe that they reflect the two key problems facing India’s environment. Proponents of each lens debate their relative significance, however.



The Population Lens

Scholarly debates are cast into the background as advocates of the population lens offer readers a particular view, in hopes of persuading them that the major

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 155

Population, Urbanization, and the Environment

155

problem facing both the world and India’s estimated 1.2 billion residents is the one proposed in 1789 by Thomas Robert Malthus, an English economist and clergyman. Malthus foresaw exponentially increasing human populations outgrowing food supplies. Ultimately, he predicted, they will succumb to starvation, disease, and war. It is easy to understand why the population lens is so often trained on the country expected to tie with and then overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030. One in every six people on the planet (approximately 1.6 billion) will live in India. Most of these newcomers are expected to settle in cities. For instance, in 1901, only 11 percent of India’s population lived in cities. Between 1901 and 2001, the total urban population increased more than ten times, from 26 million to 285 million, bringing the urban population percentage to 28 percent (Ministry of Environment and Forests 2009). Current projections claim that India’s urban population will turn the tables over village India to claim nearly 55 percent of the total population by 2050. Before considering the impact of rapidly growing cities and mounting pressures on such critical resources as water, two salient facts about India’s population dynamics deserve note. First, generalizations have limited utility. India’s diversity and complexity are reflected in striking regional variations in family size, infant mortality rates, and other key demographic variables. In some Indian states, particularly in the south, population growth is slow. The small southern state of Kerala is known for population growth rates, life expectancies, and infant mortality rates that compare favorably with those in much richer nations. The discouragingly high birth, death, and infant mortality rates visible from the population “lens” are heavily concentrated in four sprawling states in India’s Hindi-speaking belt—Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. Second, India’s birth and death rates are not static. They reflect considerable change since the beginning of the twentieth century, when birth rates were high but population growth was held in check by poor health facilities and recurrent epidemics. India’s average annual rate of population increase was below 2 percent until 1960 but then climbed higher until 1995 before falling to 1.79 percent between 1995 and 2000 (United Nations 2008). For some, India’s growth to 1.2 billion is frightening; for others, it is a heartening reflection of improved nutrition and access to health care. Today’s galloping urbanization nevertheless raises the specter of old and new health threats and severe environmental challenges for local communities, the wider society, and the world beyond. Indian Governments and Population Growth

No one could say that India’s leaders have ignored population growth. India inaugurated the world’s first national family planning program in 1952, when its population was nearly 400 million. In the years since then, India’s leaders have

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

156

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 156

Holly Sims

invested more than US$3 billion in programs to curb fertility, but the country’s population has soared. Indian officials have adopted an exhaustive list of strategies to slow population growth. They have spent more money on family planning than leaders in any other country. Each official five-year plan has stressed the urgency of family planning. Agencies have been created and ministers assigned and reshuffled at the highest level. Thousands of family planning service centers disseminate information and supplies to the country’s remotest areas. Government services are complemented by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In the early years of India’s family planning efforts, international agencies and experts provided extensive advice and financial support (Bose 1988: 33– 34). To further reduce unwanted pregnancies, officials tried particularly hard to encourage sterilization. Large numbers of clients for this procedure were sought in sterilization “camps,” which sprang up on desolate landscapes like traveling circuses. Demographic trends nevertheless remained far out of line with official goals (Sims 1992: 122–123). Officials sought new ways of reinforcing the family planning message at every international conference and seminar on population and related issues. Government leaders have tried to ensure that contraceptive supplies are adequate. Today, a plethora of Indian institutes conduct research and training on demography, family planning, communications, and reproductive biology. Young people’s sexual and reproductive health have claimed space in official outreach efforts, even if counseling on HIV/AIDs and gender imbalances is limited (Santhya and Jejeebhoy 2007). The Government and Population Control

Often observers mindful of India’s mounting numbers will wonder why India does not control its population. An answer might have at least three parts, touching on “India,” “control,” and “population.” First, India is not a unitary actor. Like the United States, it is a federal system that thwarts unilateral action by even the most determined chief executive based in New Delhi or Washington, DC. In recent years, the directive capacity of India’s central leadership has been limited by political decentralization, fragmentation, and economic liberalization. Frequent turnover of India’s recent coalition governments would deter almost any would-be leader from focusing on an issue like population limitation, which does not offer tangible short-term payoffs. There is no unitary leadership claiming to embody the national interest beyond the political lifespan of those whose tenuous hold on power is subject to challenge. Second, control is problematic in a democratic context. An authoritarian political system’s leaders can exert control over their subjects, but a democratic system is necessarily responsive and accountable to its constituents’ preferences. India’s leaders and its public learned that lesson the hard way after for-

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 157

157

Ashok K. Dutt

Population, Urbanization, and the Environment

Government family planning notices can be seen on many billboards. This one (in Hindi) advises parents to delay in arranging their children’s marriages.

mer prime minister Indira Gandhi declared an “emergency” and suspended civil liberties in 1975. Her younger son, Sanjay Gandhi, launched a frenzied drive to limit population growth through coercion rather than persuasion and incentives. The government thereby alienated millions of voters and was swept from power in elections held in 1977. The experience cast a lingering pall on India’s family planning programs and made successive leaders wary of drastic action to slow population growth (Sims 1992: 125–126). Third, looking beyond population subject to control by people with a legitimate say in public affairs, a broad consensus favoring social change led by local communities and households has displaced earlier proposed solutions that empowered external actors to exercise control (Bose 1988; Staudt 1997). Two factors often cited as critical to demographic change are the position of females vis-à-vis males in a given society and female literacy. In patriarchal societies such as India, many women have little say in such vital questions as family size. Particularly in north India, women’s lowly position in society is indicated by early marriage, the dowry system, preference for sons, and discrimination against widows. Literacy is often associated with relatively low infant mortality, high contraceptive use, and later marriage. In combination, these factors lower both mortality and fertility rates. Broader social changes could help females make critical decisions regarding family size and health care. Such changes

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

158

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 158

Holly Sims

are not easily effected through legislation, and they will not occur overnight. In countries lacking social security systems, children offer the best hope of financial security for the aged; thus many poor people view large families as a blessing rather than a curse. Perspectives on India’s Expanding Cities

Lynne Rienner

Cities in today’s industrialized countries were catalysts for economic growth and social change, for they offered jobs, higher incomes, access to health care and information, and exposure to a world more cosmopolitan than the villages where elites and traditions held sway. In modern India, the persistent lure of cities is suggested by statistics showing that the proportion of Indians living in absolute poverty in urban India may be lower than the corresponding figure for rural India, even if the health of rural Indians is better. In the twenty-first century, a majority of the world’s population will live in cities, which the International Geographic Encyclopedia and Atlas (1979: 162) defines as a “densely populated urban center, larger than a village or town, whose inhabitants are engaged primarily in commerce and industry.” This is also likely to be the case in India with, as noted above, about 55 percent of the population living in cities. The government acknowledged that many urban governments lack a modern planning framework and policy, and skimpy regulation promotes proliferating urban slums. Deteriorating cities and urban poverty signal global environmental

A crowded Delhi neighborhood

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 159

159

Prathibha Senaratne

Population, Urbanization, and the Environment

Multistoried apartment buildings like these are now a common feature of Indian cities.

stress and potential health hazards and mount a full-scale assault on the senses of visitors and residents alike. In a landmark decision on December 7, 2000, India’s Supreme Court directed the Delhi government to relocate or shut down all industrial units in the capital that do not conform to pollution norms set by civic authorities. Since then, relatively cheap diesel cars have negated some of the gains made in air quality improvement. During 1998, the court prodded city officials to ban taxis, buses, and motorized rickshaws more than fifteen years old and to replace leaded gasoline with unleaded fuel. Enforcement of these regulations is a challenge; meanwhile, cities’ expansion across the globe generates industrial wastes and fossil fuel–based pollution that produces greenhouse gas emissions linked to global climate change. Thus far, the major contributors to emerging global problems are cities in the industrialized world, not their counterparts in India and other low-income countries. The latter’s share will increase as their cities expand and fossil fuel– powered vehicles, including small, cheap cars, exacerbate traffic congestion and aggravate health threats from pollution. India has low car ownership rates— there are 7–8 cars per 1,000 people compared with 300–500 cars per 1,000 people in many western nations—but annual passenger vehicle sales are expected to double to two million units by 2010. In New Delhi alone, more than 200,000 vehicles join city streets each year to battle for space with cows, rickshaws, and motorcycles.

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

160

2:40 PM

Page 160

Holly Sims

Public Health Hazards

Environmental health threats combine the dark dregs of history with a fearsome new Technicolor world of bacteria and communicable disease (Garrett 1995). In September 1994, the highly contagious pneumonic plague, considered more devastating than the bubonic plague that ravaged medieval Europe, broke out in Surat, a city in the western state of Gujarat. By year’s end, fifty-six people had died of pneumonic plague nationwide. The pestilence cost India dearly in economic terms. Many visits to the country were canceled amid widespread anxiety linking the local congestion and poor sanitation that fosters epidemics to the global integration that facilitates travel for both people and disease vectors. Urban health problems stem from food insecurity, malnutrition, overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions, pollution, and inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation. In recent years, India has been dogged by two mosquito-borne health ailments, malaria and dengue fever. Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, and pneumonia also haunt slum settlements. A View from the Ground

Neil DeVotta

On the new frontier of human settlement on Earth, urban slums offer glimpses of humankind’s tenacity amid adversity. Consider challenges facing India’s capital city, Delhi. More than four million of its residents live in slums and jhuggi shelters, temporary structures made of mud, thatch, plastic, and other discarded objects. They are invariably small and offer dust, smoke, and noise pollution

Congested dwellings even in the hills of Mussoorie

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 161

Population, Urbanization, and the Environment

161

instead of ventilation or light. Many jhuggis are located near garbage dumps, power plants, and roads, exposing residents to chemical residues, toxic wastes, and car exhaust fumes. Congested roads and alleys thickly lined with settlers in degraded shelters concentrate the impact of vehicle and household pollution from “dirty” energy sources, including oil, wood, and coal. Shantytowns have long been a bane of political elites, and recent announcements of grandiose plans for slum clearance and resettlement have alarmed many settlers with combined business and living facilities. Some blighted neighborhoods have launched inspiring initiatives to improve community health, nutritional intake, and environmental conditions. A local nongovernmental organization based in Delhi, Action for Security Health for All (its acronym, ASHA, is the Hindi word for “hope”), offers just one example. ASHA began in 1988 as an emergency health clinic to quell a cholera epidemic in a Delhi slum. Its staff quickly concluded that community health problems were linked to poverty, pollution, and environmental degradation; thus ASHA’s approach to health care went beyond the relatively costly curative services offered by conventional health delivery systems that often are beyond poor people’s reach. Just as many population experts found that women’s active participation is critical to demographic change, ASHA’s staff concluded that women play a potentially pivotal role in community health. ASHA therefore trained local women in basic health care so that they could provide readily accessible services and environmental education, thereby helping safeguard their communities from respiratory and waterborne diseases. In its July 2009 newsletter, ASHA reported that more than 48,000 patients visited its polyclinic, slum-based health centers or mobile clinics during 2008–2009. Also during that time, nearly 23,000 vaccinations were given according to World Health Organization recommendations. The newsletter offered further encouraging demographic trends in ASHA slums, specifically on children’s births and survival.1 Pressure on Natural Resources

Many Indian cities suffer moderate to severe water shortages, due to rising urbanization, industrialization, and heavy agricultural use. Problems of resource depletion are not easily resolved in a country where rain falls mainly during four months of the year, and the glaciers that once fed India’s fabled rivers are retreating. Due to heavy demand, subsurface groundwater has fallen alarmingly in many areas. Because migrants to cities drain water and firewood from sprawling urban hinterlands, the urban poor often are blamed for enervating water shortages. The urban poor are not entirely at fault, however, since many factors involved are beyond their control. For example, farmers’ profligate use of subsurface water for irrigation has caused alarming depletion of water supplies in at least six Indian states, thereby threatening future food production and supply

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

162

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 162

Holly Sims

Neil DeVotta

within the countryside and to cities. Equitable water distribution to poor neighborhoods is thwarted by prosperous and politically powerful residents and enterprises that serve such constituencies as well as tourists. In past centuries, many Indians routinely collected and stored water. India’s landscape was dotted by lakes and tanks that served as reservoirs. Tank construction offered religious merit to indigenous rulers and security to the settlements that spread across India’s vast plains. Wetlands provided refuge for humans, animals, and plants. Along with modern watershed arrangements, restoration of the degraded land covering 30 percent of the country and restoration of traditional water-harvesting systems could ease severe pressure on existing and future water supplies. The official 2009 report on India’s environment warned of increasing competition for diminishing good-quality water resources due to accelerated population growth and climate change (Ministry of Environment and Forests 2009). British colonists shifted priority attention to resource extraction. Tanks were allowed to decay, and urban lakes that once lent calm and serenity to Indian cities became repositories of green algae and garbage. Some Indian critics charge that contemporary planners mesmerized by a chimera of development have forsaken ancient traditions that served India well for centuries in favor of imported, modern elaborate schemes to transport water across great distances at enormous cost (Chakraborty 1995: 27–31). Sadly, as experience in the United

Women, like these in Rajasthan, must sometimes travel over a mile to collect potable water.

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 163

Population, Urbanization, and the Environment

163

States and other societies suggests, extreme shortsightedness often governs water use, resulting in a need to pursue technically complex water-delivery projects, including the large dams that have displaced and antagonized so many low-income Indians. Reflections on the Population Lens

The view that population growth, particularly in such low-income countries as India, is the world’s overriding concern has drawn fire from many quarters as simplistic and ethnically biased. Proponents of the population lens often borrow the biological concept of “carrying capacity.” This concept may usefully index the number of fruit flies a petri dish can support, but do we know how many people the Earth can support? After several years of study, Joel Cohen concluded that we do not know. As Cohen observed, The Earth’s capacity to support people is determined partly by processes that the human and natural sciences have yet to understand, and partly by choices that we and our descendants have yet to make. A numerical estimate of how many people the Earth can support may be a useful index of present human activities and of present understanding of how to live on the Earth; it cannot predict the constraints or possibilities that lie in the future. (Cohen 1995: 10–11)

In short, even the rapid growth of populations in recent decades does not predict the global environment’s health. Those whose sights remain fixed on the population lens often are criticized for diverting attention from questions that may have more direct bearing on environmental carrying capacity, particularly issues of resource use. The latter concerns were raised by Mohandas Gandhi in 1947 and echoed by contemporary Indian environmental scholars, including Ramachandra Guha and Madhav Gadgil. The latter amplified a point made in 1998 by the wellknown US writer Bill McKibben, who called the United States “the most populous nation on Earth” because its 304,059,700 people consumed an average of forty-eight times the amount of resources used by India’s 1.2 billion inhabitants (McKibben 1998: 108). As Gadgil and Guha observed, the birth of one US child will have an environmental impact “equal to that of (say) several dozen Bangladeshi children . . . if there is a population problem at all, it exists in affluent consumer societies such as the United States” (2000). While McKibben (1998) urged Americans to curb their own population growth in order to slow the planet’s implosion from overconsumption, Ramachandra Guha (2006) argued that global media depictions of US consumption patterns have stoked voracious consumerism in India and other developing countries, placing the planet under unprecedented strain. It is reasonable to ask how many people the Earth can support, but the question needs qualification: Given what kinds of economics and technologies? At

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

164

2:40 PM

Page 164

Holly Sims

what levels of material well-being? Living in what physical, chemical, and biological environments? And with what cultural values, what social, political, and legal institutions? Mira Kamdar observed that India is simultaneously undergoing the three successive industrial revolutions—manufacturing, services, and digital—that Europe and the United States experienced over three centuries. An ancient agrarian society is shedding its cocoon to become a modern manufacturing hub and global services provider. As India becomes a consumer society, people lose a familiar world and encounter a new world they have yet to define (Kamdar 2007). In sum, natural constraints on population size are not well understood, but neither are people’s decisions about lifestyle and food, which in turn affect natural constraints. Such decisions are subject to change (Cohen 1995: 236–296). During the 1960s, the population lens’s stark vision of impending catastrophe led the United States to spend millions of dollars each year on population control programs in India and other poor countries. In the 1970s and 1980s, as public concern in the United States about global population growth diminished, a rival lens highlighting global problems and proposed solutions gained increasing support. Through a second conceptual lens, poor people in India and other low-income countries appear as a major cause of environmental degradation. The implied course of action centers on economic growth and its associated development rather than birth control.



The Poverty Lens

When Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi proclaimed in 1972 that poverty was the worst form of pollution, she dropped a metaphorical brick onto the burnished table facing delegates to the first international conference on the human environment, held in Stockholm by the UN. Many participants from the United States and other industrialized countries hoped that, through education, a new set of environmental ethics could emerge and transcend the “North-South divide”—the differences between capitalist democracies and less prosperous countries that were aggravated by Cold War rivalries of the United States and former Soviet Union. The Indian prime minister’s declaration resonated with residents of poor countries who were skeptical about narrowly focused strategies promising to control the demographic growth—and also, some suspected, economic growth—of nonwestern countries. Poverty’s ill effects on the global environment claimed center stage in international meetings as the Cold War sputtered to an end in the late 1980s. Our Common Future, a famous study by the World Commission on Environment and Development, which was headed by a former prime minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland, helped shift attention to a second conceptual lens and to the catchy but ambiguous term sustainable development. By the Brundtland

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 165

Population, Urbanization, and the Environment

165

Commission’s definition, sustainable development would “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987). As the commission observed, poverty compels desperate people to strive to meet their present needs. As a result, it said, the poor may deplete dwindling stocks of fish and encroach on endangered species. The world’s shrinking forest cover attests to pressures exerted by growing numbers of people too poor to afford commercial sources of energy, as do barren hillsides subject to erosion and flooding that wreak devastation on lands ravaged by rivers and streams swollen with displaced topsoil. Against a countryside drained of natural resources, the poverty lens highlights a view of city slums that collect people suddenly made surplus, just as flood-swept rivers gather soils detached from their erstwhile moorings. India has the world’s largest poor population. Why wouldn’t such hard-pressed people put the search for fuel and their families’ next meal before the long-term sustainability of the planet? The Indian Government and Poverty

As Adams and Kirk emphasize in Chapter 6, economic growth has been an overriding priority for all postindependence Indian leaders. It has proved enormously difficult to extricate India’s poor from dire poverty. Beginning in 1960, state leaders sought to do exactly that. Indian leaders’ famous official “poverty line” denoted access to a minimum amount of food and consumption items such as clothing. It helped to chart governmental goals and to measure subsequent improvements in living standards. Certainly, there have been encouraging developments. Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has increased more than twelve times since 1960, from US$206 to $2,489 in 2006. In 1960, the average person could expect to die at age 44; by 2006, average life expectancy was 64.1 years. Trends in infant mortality also showed improvement. In 1960, for every 1,000 live births, 165 infants died; by 2008, the figure had dropped to 57 (UNDP 2008). Although GDP per capita remains the gold standard for measuring economies, many development experts say such statistics may obscure more than they reveal about the overall quality of life. A newer measure developed by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has sought to assess human development with respect to longevity, literacy, and command over resources needed for a decent living standard. The Human Development Index (HDI) measures improvement in the community or country as a whole. It is supplemented by the UNDP’s Human Poverty Index (HPI), which assesses the extent of deprivation, or the proportion of people in the community who are left behind. Those measures show both India’s achievements and the persistent gaps in its population’s welfare. The 2009 Human Development Report (using data until 2007) ranked India’s HDI at 134 of 182 countries, led by Norway, whose HDI placed first,

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

166

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 166

Holly Sims

ahead of the thirteenth-ranked United States (UNDP 2009). Various UNDP reports note that despite India’s economic advances, one-half of all rural children are malnourished and underweight—roughly the same proportion as in 1992. Reflections on the Poverty Lens

The Brundtland Commission’s proposed solution for environmental degradation caused by the world’s poor was sustainable development, which it believed would permit a five- to tenfold increase in global industrial production (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987: 213). But the argument that poverty is the cause of environmental destruction, expressed by the Brundtland Commission, Indira Gandhi, and many other policymakers and mainstream economists, faces at least three major criticisms. The first questions ambiguous terms like poverty and development. A second criticism challenges the suggestion that the poor are a prime cause of environmental degradation and need to learn from the presumably environmentally conscious well-to-do. A third rejoinder focuses attention on environmental fallout from consumption associated with affluence and development. Poverty and development. What is poverty? Conventional economic statis-

tics such as GDP or gross national product (GNP) are narrow and incapable of measuring transactions or circumstances beyond the cash-based economy. GDP measures of poverty suggest that people who wear handmade clothes rather than factory-made garments are poor. By Mohandas Gandhi’s definition, however, handloomed cloth was a symbol of self-sufficiency and national pride. Some contemporary Indians used to a life enriched by social ties would agree with a view from traditional African society that poverty denotes a lack of family and friends. The United Nations developed HDI and HPI to broaden conventional understandings of poverty and human development. The concepts behind HDI reflect extensive contributions from South Asians, including India’s Nobel Prize– winning economist Amartya Sen and the late Pakistani economist Mahbub ulHaq. In sharp contrast to many mainstream economists, Sen draws attention to social circumstances affecting people’s access to such critical resources as food, instead of upholding income as a measure of poverty. His research suggests that several major famines reflected vulnerable people’s lost “social safety nets” and not simply economic poverty (Sen 1981). About 42 percent of India’s population falls below the international poverty line of US$1.25 per day, and the World Bank estimates 25 percent of Indians will live on that amount in 2015. Many recent poverty studies have abandoned an arbitrary poverty line and snapshot depictions of low-income communities in favor of such alternative criteria as access to key food staples and low-income people’s own assessment. Also, poverty is increasingly viewed in dynamic

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 167

Population, Urbanization, and the Environment

167

terms, because many people escape poverty while many others fall into deprivation (Narayan, Sen, and Hull 2009; Krishna 2007). If poverty is difficult to measure, then what is development? Some define it in terms of financial security and others in terms of consumer goods; still others place top priority on quality of life. Although scholars have debated the term and its implications for decades, often development and the equally vague sustainable development are used carelessly. That was not the problem of concern to Gadgil and Guha. In an important book, Gadgil and Guha characterize economic development as “growth of the artificial at the cost of the natural” (Gadgil and Guha 1995: 4). The conventional wisdom among Indian commentators holds that views of development imported to the Indian subcontinent by British colonialists bent on resource extraction and the establishment of private property rights over lands traditionally held in common prevailed because ancient wisdom could not compete in a world increasingly dominated by glitzy “artifacts.” Views of the poor. Leading Indian environmentalists take issue with the poverty

lens’s focus on what they believe to be symptoms, rather than on the underlying problems compelling the poor to wrest fledgling trees and grasses from land subject to erosion and then sap its remaining life through inefficient cultivation and voracious livestock. According to Gadgil, Guha, and the late Anil Agarwal, founder of the respected Centre for Science and the Environment, roughly half of India’s population maintains a precarious hold on the natural environment that provides their livelihood. These “ecosystem people” include subsistence farmers, herders, fisherfolk, artisans, and members of indigenous communities. “Ecosystem people” are aware of the meteor showers of consumer goods that have reached Indian shores since the national economy turned outward toward the global marketplace, but “for the many who earn barely enough to fill their bellies, there is little left over to acquire the new goods on the market, be they soaps or blenders, mopeds or TV sets, apples flown in from the Himalayas or flats in highrise buildings” (Gadgil and Guha 1995: 3; Gadgil and Guha 2000). A second category of poor people is even more disadvantaged. The “ecological refugees” who comprise perhaps one-third of India’s population include the Indians that tourists see near jhuggis in the shadow of high-rise buildings under construction in New Delhi and other cities and the gaunt men in search of daily wage labor perched on the rooftop of a train or bus traveling to or from prosperous farming areas such as Punjab during peak times of the agricultural cycle (Gadgil and Guha 1995: 3–4). Their transient existence is buffeted by uneven capitalist “development,” whose pace quickens when resources are used in construction of dams and mines, for example. As a result of such construction, millions of people become ecological refugees in the name of progress. Ecosystem people and ecological refugees may have few options. Environmental education delivered by people with less direct ties to the earth probably

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

168

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 168

Holly Sims

is not a priority need. No learned scholar could have made that point more effectively than the Bishnois, members of a Hindu sect that primarily live near the harsh expanses of the Thar desert in the central Indian state of Rajasthan. The Bishnois have militantly protected wildlife and plants as part of their sacred traditions for centuries. Parts of arid Rajasthan bear witness to 500 years of Bishnoi beliefs and knowledge of nature, in green oasislike dots that contrast sharply with the dusty surrounding landscape. For Salman Khan, a dashing young actor frequently featured in action-packed Hindi movies, the Bishnois’ homeland offered an ideal setting for a shooting expedition. Unfortunately, the shooting was not for a film but for endangered blackbuck deer. Khan’s party killed two of the graceful animals and was then beset by irate Bishnois. Since the poachers escaped before the Bishnois could administer their own frontierstyle justice, the Bishnois resorted to a legal system often bent to serve celebrities and the rich. Salman Khan was the first person to be arrested in the state and kept in the state forest department’s custody since the Wildlife Protection Act came into force in 1972. The previously little-known Bishnois provoked considerable thought in India about endangered wildlife and natural resources such as forests, whose sharp global decline is chronicled by such environmental organizations as the World Wildlife Federation. Whose development? For Agarwal, Guha, and Gadgil, such incidents show that the poverty lens is aimed in the wrong direction. In their view, the rich and aspiring rich are the major cause of India’s environmental degradation, not the poor who often are displaced in the name of development. The poor cannot buy vehicles whose pollution blights congested urban neighborhoods. The energyusing gadgets increasingly displayed in Indian markets are beyond their reach. Since 1991, India’s economic liberalization has accelerated growth and has greatly expanded the availability of consumer goods. Signs of the “cola wars” familiar to US consumers appear on biscuit-colored village walls throughout India, in sharp contrast to a previous era, when India was closed to multinational purveyors of fast food and beverages. Gadgil and Guha imply that for a widening sector of India’s population, aggressively advertised consumer products have the mesmerizing effect of the snake charmers who are now nearly extinct. Their calculations suggest that perhaps one-sixth of India’s people have the resources sufficient to “devour everything produced all over the earth” (Gadgil and Guha 1995: 4; Gadgil and Guha 2000). For many observers, such “omnivores” represent India’s development because they are full-fledged participants in the cash economy. Their income levels range from the “superrich,” who earn more than US$500,000 a year in purchasing power terms, to various strata of the middle class. Since Indian policymakers embraced economic liberalization, the numbers of superrich have soared. Their ranks include industrial entrepreneurs, urban professionals, and workers in the organized sector of the economy. In rural India, they are large or relatively large landowners with access

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 169

Population, Urbanization, and the Environment

169

to irrigation—the people many economists call “progressive farmers” because they can afford risks associated with innovation, such as new hybrid seeds and agrochemicals. Environmentalists express three major concerns about capitalist development and poverty. First, equitable distribution of resources has lagged behind growth. For many ecosystem people and ecological refugees, India’s increased productive capacity has not provided jobs or wages sufficient to offset inflation or unpredictable weather that toys with the lives of people whose survival largely depends on forces of nature. Second, because economic growth is a top priority for a poor country of India’s size, environmental protection and regulations have had limited impact. Their implementation has been hit-or-miss. Also, Gadgil and Guha argue, government officials are themselves omnivores. Third, although affluence itself is not inherently destructive, many environmentalists would agree that “achieving material affluence, in the context of industrial society, constitutes an inexorable assault on nature,” marked by consumption of nonrenewable energy, beef, automobiles, land, and building materials (Hempel 1996: 7). While statisticians argue over estimates of India’s annual environmental losses, few would deny that environmental degradation will intensify as India, China, and other low-income countries emulate the consumption patterns of industrial countries. The production of carbon dioxide associated with global climate change represents one of the gravest environmental threats facing the planet. It could disrupt the relatively stable climate that has prevailed since settled agriculture emerged some 10,000 years ago, thereby allowing the world’s population to increase from a few million to well over six billion. Although the industrialized world accounts for most of the emissions associated with global climate change, possible consequences threaten the entire globe. Poor people in low-income countries—such as India’s ecological refugees and ecosystem people—may be hit hardest by smaller harvests, growing water shortages, and rising seas. An early warning about a future of erratic flooding in some regions and paralyzing drought in others that was dramatically exemplified in the summer of 2009 was published in a 1988 book, Unstable Agriculture and Drought (Rao, Ray, and Rao 1988).2 As environmental commentator Sunita Narain observed,“The monsoon is the true finance minister of this country” (2009). In 2006, China produced the largest share of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide: 6,017.69 million metric tons, or 4.58 tons per person, followed by the United States, with corresponding figures of 5,902.75 million metric tons, or 19.78 tons per capita. During the same year, India ranked fourth behind Russia, with 1,293.17 million metric tons and just 1.16 tons per capita (Union of Concerned Scientists 2009). According to the minister of Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, India’s per capita emissions are predicted to rise to about 2.77 to 5 tons of carbon dioxide in 2031, below the global average. India

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

170

Page 170

Holly Sims

planned to join nearly 200 countries in Copenhagen in December 2009 to debate terms of a new accord to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions (Singh 2009). The threat of global climate change has helped focus attention on a third conceptual lens that pinpoints modern technology and its hazardous “externalities,” or side effects, as the major environmental scourge.



The Technology Lens

Nuclear tests by India and Pakistan during 1998 served to enhance the importance of arguments about technology’s capacity to harm as well as benefit humankind and its surrounding natural world. Debates on that subject and on India’s role in the world as an industrial and political heavyweight or as a modest champion of simplicity and peace have enlivened the nation’s public discourse for decades. During the 1940s, sharply contrasting views on humankind’s relationship to technology were presented by the two giant figures of India’s independence movement, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohandas Gandhi. Gandhi hoped to promote grassroots democracy and local self-reliance, based on what later writers called “appropriate technology”—tools that increase workers’ productivity but do not devalue or replace them. The two leaders’ differing priorities on the nation-state and economic prosperity versus the primacy of local communities and voluntary simplicity have echoed in countries throughout the world. Nuclear Dreams and Nightmares

Nuclear power’s critics argue that it is costly, hazardous, and potentially devastating on a massive scale. Its supporters counter that unlike conventional fossil fuels, oil and the coal that India possesses in abundance, nuclear energy is a “clean” fuel source because it emits no polluting greenhouse gases. India’s nuclear pioneers saw nuclear power as an entry point into modern technology. India was the first Asian country to launch a nuclear program. For a brief period following World War II, before US and Soviet Cold War rivalry drew nuclear research behind closely guarded doors, many Indian scientists visited the United States for training in nuclear physics. Early backers of nuclear technology dreamed of electricity “too cheap to meter” (Pacey 1993: 178). That was an appealing prospect in a country where energy was a massive stumbling block to rapid industrial growth. In many of India’s constituent states, postindependence governments made prodigious efforts to extend electricity to rural areas. Had the nuclear program succeeded in providing cheap and reliable electricity, it could have greatly enhanced the country’s prosperity. Yet nuclear power’s promise flickered to approximate the faint glow of a 20-watt lightbulb. By 1996, nuclear power provided only 2 percent of India’s electricity (Chaudhuri 1996: 126–129; Pacey

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 171

Population, Urbanization, and the Environment

171

1993: 180). An early World Bank assessment still holds true today: “as in most other countries . . . performance of nuclear power stations in India has fallen below expectation” (Pacey 1993: 180). Development of India’s nuclear potential has been slowed by managerial problems that plague many countries and by poor maintenance. Long after the 1986 explosion of a nuclear power station in the former Soviet town of Chernobyl underscored the potential impact of unleashed radioactive wastes, a decline in the industrialized world’s demand for nuclear power diminished the supply of staff qualified to work with such a complex technology. In India and most of its Asian neighbors, demand for nuclear power is growing because of problems with alternative fuel sources, but trained staff are relatively scarce (Takahashi and Lee 1995: 14). The noted US environmentalist Barry Commoner relentlessly proclaims that modern technology offers no free lunch (Commoner 1972; Commoner 1990: 57–58). The strongest reminder of the bill for a nuclear power lunch is radioactive wastes that may remain dangerous to humans for about 240,000 years (Gerstenzang 1998: 1). Storage of such wastes will tax scientists’ ingenuity in India and throughout the world. Low literacy and inadequate information available to people who live near nuclear facilities increase the likelihood of their potential contact with nuclear wastes and leakages. Farmers, for example, have unwittingly used radioactive wastes to irrigate their fields. During the spring of 1998, former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee sought to rekindle the excitement once associated with nuclear research by authorizing underground nuclear explosions that caused shock waves around the world, especially in countries that jealously guard their own potentially destructive technologies. After US president George W. Bush came into office in 2001, the administration forged a strong partnership with India that culminated in a civil nuclear cooperation deal that drew controversy in both countries. The Bush administration argued that India would boost US trade by ordering new nuclear reactors, thereby supporting the administration’s campaign to rehabilitate nuclear energy in the United States (Kamdar 2007: 271). Under pressure from the United States, a proposed bill limiting the liability of nuclear reactor suppliers in case of accident was slated for discussions in India—this despite the United States not having received orders for nuclear reactors since 1973 (Misra 2009: 9). The specific concerns of environmentalists were minor distractions on a global canvas dominated by images of war, but they nevertheless deserve attention—particularly so in a country that experienced the world’s worst industrial accident, the disaster in Bhopal. The Bhopal Tragedy

Early on the morning of December 3, 1984, methyl isocyanate, a toxic gas, leaked from a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide, a US-based multinational corporation, and billowed out into surrounding shanties and streets of the

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

172

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 172

Holly Sims

central Indian city of Bhopal. An estimated 10,000 people died following exposure to suffocating fumes; many others were severely disabled and died prematurely. In late July 2009, a Bhopal court ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to reissue an arrest warrant for the US-based former Union Carbide chairman and produce him without delay. Survivors of the tragedy celebrated in Bhopal streets, although the previous warrant issued in 1992 had yielded no results. Although the Indian government had estimated losses for the tragedy at US$3 billion, Union Carbide’s award of US$470 million represented about US$500 per victim. To date, no one has been held responsible, and the site of the leak has not been restored (Misra 2009: 9; Kamdar 2007: 173). Viewed through the poverty lens, the bleak prospects facing many of the victims, who were ecological refugees from the countryside, would hold overriding significance. Relatively few of them were plant employees; most maintained their decrepit shelters dangerously close to a chemical factory. It is a familiar problem in low-income countries. The technology lens focuses less on the affected people—many of the survivors now battle health problems and crippling poverty—and more on problems that are said to be inherent in chemical production technology. For Commoner, the Bhopal disaster vividly illustrated an inevitable clash between the “ecosphere”—the cyclical natural world—and the linear, innovative, but ecologically disharmonious processes of the technosphere fashioned by ingenious but reckless humans. It was not coincidental, Commoner observes, that the Union Carbide plant manufactured another environmentally hazardous technology, chemical pesticides (Commoner 1990: 15). Toxic Chemicals and Land Degradation

Farmers in parts of India have used chemical pesticides since the 1940s, but pesticide use soared in the mid-1960s, when national leaders launched the famous Green Revolution to make India self-sufficient in its staple food grains, wheat and rice. Officials promoted scientists’ new high-yielding varieties of seed, using incentives such as price supports and subsidies on the chemicals and energy that the seeds required. Although food production increased dramatically, this newly intensive form of agriculture involved trade-offs and risks to the environment (Sims 1988). Pesticide contamination is one of the most important. High-yielding varieties of seeds are less resistant to pests than traditional varieties, especially when farmers practice monoculture by limiting the number of plant varieties sown. Monoculture is associated with “modern” industrialized farming, but even though its efficiency may increase farmers’ profits, it also increases the risks of pest attacks and adverse environmental consequences (Shiva 1991). The targets of pesticides have shown remarkable ability to develop resistance to even the most formidable weapons in chemical manufacturers’ arsenals,

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 173

Population, Urbanization, and the Environment

173

leading farmers to use ever-increasing doses of more deadly and often more costly chemicals (Bull 1981; Dinham 1993). As discussed in Chapter 6, many farmers have ingested pesticides to commit suicide, in what the respected commentator P. Sainath has called the largest plague of farmer suicides in history (Sainath 2009). Indian farmers use far less pesticides per acre than their North American counterparts, but potential hazards are compounded in South Asia by minimal safety precautions and equipment, uninformed users, the persistence of particularly toxic pesticides that are banned in the industrialized world, and concentrated pesticide use in regions where commercial agriculture prevails. Unscrupulous dealers may sell nasty concoctions to desperate farmers who incurred debts to purchase agrochemicals, only to face hardy pests that devour their crops (Verma 1998a). Pesticide use in India and most low-income countries is linked more to such export crops as cotton, coffee, and tea than to food staples for poor domestic constituencies. Cotton is particularly vulnerable to pest outbreaks, which the agribusiness giant Monsanto has pledged to combat with its genetically modified seeds. “New and Improved” Technology?

The sharpest critics of pesticides that are easily misused when farmers lack information and manufacturers and dealers operate under lax regulation would advocate a version of cold-turkey withdrawal. In traditional agriculture, most farmers practiced what today is called “integrated pest management,” whereby farmers outwit pests with strategies to attract predators—for example, birds— that thrive on the pest in question. Integrated pest management would please those who view the industrialization of agriculture with alarm. Observers who celebrate modern technology for its efficiency often favor genetic engineering to insert mechanisms into seeds to deter potential threats. Such techniques have become commonplace in the US food industry, but environmentalists in India and some European countries worry that as traditional, time-tested plant varieties are replaced, dwindling biodiversity will promote a monoculture that is vulnerable to diseases and pests. In some parts of south India, particularly in the late 1990s, farmers have staged dramatic protests to head off a perceived threat to their traditional farming practices, which they say would force them to purchase seeds each year from multinational corporations such as Monsanto. Today, more farmers pursue individual rather than collective solutions to indebtedness, which Vandana Shiva and other critics say is aggravated by debtors’ failure to realize that genetically modified varieties require assured irrigation and higher fertilizer applications. Reflections on the Technology Lens

The technology lens draws attention to the need to consider the risks and possible costs of technological innovation. Yet its analytical utility is affected by a

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

174

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 174

Holly Sims

Courtesy of Navdanya

Vandana Shiva, renowned environmentalist and founder of Navdanya, which promotes organic farming, community seed banks, and sustainable agriculture

society’s level of economic and technological development, the ambiguous nature of technology, and the lack of clear alternatives to technological society. The technology lens is more compelling in a society such as the United States than in India because the generally literate US population has considerable access to information, including specifics on products’ ingredients. Science is drawn into the public and political arenas, and litigation is prevalent. Such conditions do not apply in most poor countries. Instead, economic growth holds overriding priority, and often technology is accepted as a vital catalyst for change. In India, science is less politicized than in the United States, the regulatory system is far weaker, and prospects for citizens’ redress through the judicial system are limited. In addition, the pervasiveness of technology and the demand for it that is magnified by advertising make it difficult to maintain a clear focus on technology as the prime cause of environmental degradation. Damage from modern

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 175

Population, Urbanization, and the Environment

175

technology may be tallied in the twenty-first century in terms of costs of climate change. Meanwhile, the technology lens is blurry. Some technologies minimize humankind’s toll upon the Earth. For example, India has the largest wind park in Asia, and in the summer of 2009, it announced the world’s most ambitious solar power generation plant. If successful, it would produce three-fourths of the world’s solar energy by 2020. Finally, now that Gandhi’s once-influential voice is still, a viable largescale alternative to modern society is hard to visualize. India offers an array of small-scale, environmentally conscious experiments, but their wholesale replication would be fraught with difficulties.



India’s Environmental Activists

To some extent, the gathering shroud of pollution is pierced by dedicated Indian citizens who tirelessly promote public awareness of the environment and mobilize initiatives for its protection. India has about 25,000 nongovernmental organizations and grassroots movements involved in environmental and social reform, so only a voluminous work could touch on the many ways in which Indian citizens have promoted environmental protection. Just four names are mentioned here: the late Anil Agarwal, Sunderlal Bahuguna, Medha Patkar, and Vandana Shiva (Sampat 1998: 31–38). Anil Agarwal’s campaigns against environmental degradation went far beyond the famous maxim, “Think globally; act locally.” Agarwal thought and acted on international, national, state, regional, and local levels; in addition, he battled blood cancer, which he attributed to environmental pollution. Agarwal shaped dialogue in the international arena as a member of the World Commission on Water and as coauthor of Global Warming in an Unequal World, which enlivened global debates on climate change (Agarwal and Narain 1991). As founder and director of the New Delhi–based Centre for Science and the Environment and editor of its biweekly journal, Down to Earth, Agarwal is credited with promoting Indian environmentalism’s scientific legitimacy (Kumar and Arora 1998: 28). He also founded a lively youth-oriented publication, the Gobar Times (gobar is the Hindi word for cowdung, a traditional fuel source). Agarwal died at fifty-four in 2002 and was succeeded by the dynamic Sunita Narain. Sunderlal Bahuguna is associated with a grassroots movement known to environmental activists and scholars throughout the world: the Chipko movement. The movement grew from protests led by village women in the central Himalayas in 1973 against tree felling by urban industrial interests that was sanctioned by India’s Forest Department. Since colonial days, the department saw its mission as protecting trees against local people and as transferring forest resources at throwaway prices to entrepreneurs. Bahuguna’s involvement

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

176

2:40 PM

Page 176

Holly Sims

in the campaign helped provoke a reassessment of official policy and influenced international thinking about the nature of development. Medha Patkar is another grassroots activist who has shaped both domestic and international environmental policy. Like Bahuguna, she has championed the interests of people whose livelihood is threatened by massive construction projects or external appropriation of forest resources. The slight social worker from Mumbai became a revered leader of tens of thousands of subsistence farmers and tribal people threatened with displacement by the controversial Sardar Sarovar dam in the Narmada valley of western and central India. Their nonviolent protests attested to a democratic political system’s capacity to represent divergent perspectives. They also encouraged the World Bank to consider the projects’ costs and benefits beyond economic and engineering criteria (Caulfield 1996). Vandana Shiva, like Anil Agarwal, is well known to environmentalists in the industrialized world as an articulate commentator offering a perspective that does not reflect immersion in Washington, DC, the headquarters of most USbased environmental organizations. Trained as a physicist, Shiva’s ideas about practical action were shaped by the Chipko movement. She is a long-standing critic of a narrowly based reductionist science that has promoted monoculture and stifled cultural diversity and of efforts to control genetic resources by multinational pharmaceutical and agribusiness enterprises. The four activists illustrate that environmentalism is not simply the preserve of upper-middle-class people in rich countries, as some western scholars have claimed. Poor and socially disadvantaged people have actively participated in Indian environmental movements. Their leaders have shown great creativity in mobilizing support and media attention. Yet their impact is blunted by limited public awareness and by the failure of most political leaders to address environmental degradation (Gadgil and Guha 1995: 99). Indeed, it was only in August 2009 that an Indian environmental activist, Subhas Dutta, announced plans to establish a Green party in India by 2010.



Conclusion

In this chapter, I highlighted alternative perspectives on India’s environment to draw attention to the multiple aspects of environmental degradation. A second objective was to illustrate the way in which proposed “solutions” to environmental problems often flow directly from the observer’s own view of the problem, which reflects his or her values, worldview, and perhaps disciplinary training. Any conceptual lens oversimplifies reality. Factors linked to environmental degradation—population pressure, resource use, affluence, and harmful technology—are interrelated, but their interaction and dynamics are not well understood. The critical challenge is to understand their relationship rather than to focus narrowly upon specific component parts.

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 177

Population, Urbanization, and the Environment

177

Mohandas Gandhi’s question—how many planets would a country like India require?—draws attention to the larger context. India may be the world’s most populous nation in terms of numbers of people, but the United States, as McKibben observed, is the most populous country on the planet in terms of resource use (McKibben 1998: 108). If India adopts a North American lifestyle and replaces all its bicycles, rickshaws, and bullock carts with sports utility vehicles, and its grain and vegetable–based diet with meat, the outlook for the twenty-first century is grim. Gandhi’s question still begs for an answer. The only possible response is that it depends partly on processes that human and natural sciences have yet to understand and partly on decisions we and our descendants have yet to make (Cohen 1995: 10–11).



Notes

1. ASHA, News for Friends of ASHA, 43 (July 2009), www.asha-india.org. 2. Their book was released the same year that US scientist James Hansen warned Congress about climate change—long before it became a public concern.



Bibliography

Agarwal, Anil, and Sunita Narain. 1991. Global Warming in an Unequal World: A Case of Environmental Colonialism. New Delhi: Centre for Science and the Environment. Bose, Ashish. 1988. From Population to People. 2 vols. New Delhi: B. R. Publishing. Bull, David. 1981. A Growing Problem: Pesticides and the Third World Poor. London: Oxfam. Caulfield, Catherine. 1996. Masters of Illusion. New York: Henry Holt. Chakraborty, Sujit. 1995. “Criminal Waste.” Down to Earth 4, no. 11: 27–31. Chaudhuri, Basudeb. 1996. “India’s Energy Future May See Rise of Nuclear Power.” Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy 11: 126–129. Cohen, Joel. 1995. How Many People Can the Earth Support? New York: W. W. Norton. Commoner, Barry. 1972. Closing Circle. New York: Bantam Books. ———. 1990. Making Peace with the Planet. New York: Pantheon. Dinham, Barbara. 1993. The Pesticide Hazard. London: Zed. Gadgil, Madhav, and Ramachandra Guha. 1995. Ecology and Equity. New York: Routledge. ———. 2000. Use and Abuse of Nature. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Garrett, Laurie. 1995. The Coming Plague: Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance. New York: Penguin. Gerstenzang, James. 1998. “US Approves First Permanent Tomb for Atomic Waste.” Los Angeles Times (May 14): 1, 8. Guha, Ramachandra. 2006. How Much Should a Person Consume? Berkeley: University of California Press. Hempel, Lamont. 1996. Environmental Governance: The Global Challenge. Washington, DC: Island Press.

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

178

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 178

Holly Sims

International Geographic Encyclopedia and Atlas. 1979. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, p. 162. Kamdar, Mira. 2007. Planet India. New York: Scribner. Krishna, Anirudh. 2007. “For Reducing Poverty Faster: Target Reasons Before People.” World Development 35, no. 11: 1947–1960. Kumar, Amit, and Vassantha Arora. 1998. “Green Activist Carries on Crusade Despite Ailment.” India Abroad (August 28): 28. McKibben, Bill. 1998. Maybe One. New York: Simon and Schuster. Meyerson, Allen. 1998. “US Splurging on Energy After Falling Off Its Diet.” New York Times (October 22): 1, C6. Ministry of Environment and Forests. 2009. State of the Environment Report India 2008. New Delhi: Government of India. Misra, Savvy Soumya. 2009. “Minimum Nuclear Liability.” Down to Earth 7 (August 16-31): 9. Narain, Sunita. 2009. “It’s Raining GDP.” Down to Earth 7 (August 16-31): 3. Narayan, Deepa, Binayak Sen, and Katy Hull. 2009. Moving Out of Poverty in India: An Overview. www.worldbank.org.in. Pacey, Arnold. 1993. Technology in World Civilization. Cambridge: MIT Press. Pollan, Michael. 1998. “Playing God in the Garden.” New York Times Magazine (October 25): 44–51, 62–63, 82, 92–93. Rao, Hanumantha, S. K. Ray, and Subba Rao. 1988. Unstable Agriculture and Drought. New Delhi: Vikas. Sainath, P. 2009. “The Largest Wave of Suicides in History.” CounterPunch (February 13). www.countercurrents.org/sainath130209.htm. Sampat, Payal. 1998. “What Does India Want?” Worldwatch 11, no. 4: 31–38. Santhya, K. G., and Shireen Jejeebhoy. 2007. Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Health in India: Policies, Programmes and Realities. New Delhi: Population Council. Sen, Amartya. 1981. Poverty and Famines. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Shiva, Vandana. 1991. Violence of the Green Revolution. London: Zed. Sims, Holly. 1988. Political Regimes, Public Policies, and Economic Development. New Delhi: Sage Publications. ———. 1992. “Malthusian Nightmare or Richest in Human Resources?” In India Briefing 1992, Leonard Gordon and Philip Oldenburg, eds. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 103–136. ———. 2000. “States, Markets, and Energy Use in China and India.” In The United Nations and the Global Environment in the 21st Century, Pamela Chasek, ed. Tokyo: United Nations University Press, pp. 140–160. Singh, Gaurav. 2009. “India Says Per-Capita Emissions to Stay Below World Average.” Bloomberg News 9, no. 2. www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=2060109&sid= aOpKN3dUPWF8. Staudt, Kathleen, ed. 1997. Women, International Development and Politics. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Takahashi, T., and M. K. Lee. 1995. “The Present and Prospective Situation of Nuclear Energy in Asia.” Nuclear Energy Agency Newsletter 2: 11–17. Union of Concerned Scientists. 2009. “Each Country’s Share of CO2 Emissions” (May 13). www.ucusa.org./globalwarming/scienceandimpacts/science/each-countrys-share. United Nations. 2008. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division Homepage, World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision. http://esa.un.org/ unnpp/p2kodata.asp.

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 179

Population, Urbanization, and the Environment

179

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 1998, 2007, 2008, 2009. Human Development Report. New York: Oxford University Press. Verma, Jitendra. 1998. “Escape to Defeat.” Down to Earth 6, no. 19 (February 28): 29–36. World Commission on Environment and Development. 1987. Our Common Future. New York: Oxford University Press.

07DeVotta_7.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:40 PM

Page 180

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 181

8 Women in India Lisa Trivedi

U

nderstanding the status of women in contemporary India may at first seem quite straightforward. Most international press coverage of Indian women appears when “traditional” social practices, including dowry, dowry death, enforced widowhood, and widow immolation (sati), are featured: all of which are portrayed with little explanation and rendered emblematic of India’s “traditional” society and unchanging culture (Manji 2009; Shrine 2009; Schott 2009). More recently, another form of press coverage has emphasized women’s inequitable access to education and economic opportunities without considering the constraints under which women labor or the extent to which multinational corporations have reinforced historic economic and social inequities that have disadvantaged women. The conclusions most often drawn from the media are that Indian women are exploited, helpless, and submissive. In short, women in India are understood to be in need of humanitarian intervention and international relief. Such conclusions come as no surprise given the manner in which the western press covers women in India. Taken together, what these accounts do is underplay the specific circumstances in which women in India struggle today against the forces of both “tradition” and “modernity.” There is no denying that the lives of Indian women can be improved. Today India ranks only 134th among 182 nations in the United Nation’s Human Development Index (UNDP 2009), although it has the twelfth largest economy and ranks fourth in terms of purchasing power parity (Raju 2006; UN Development Programme 2009; UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific 1997). Given the size of India’s economy and the relative strength of its consumers, one might expect greater equity in improvements across its population. But even with the second fastest growing economy in the world for over a decade, it is hard to reconcile that an estimated 80 percent of Indian 181

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

182

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 182

Lisa Trivedi

women live near or below the poverty line, earning no more than Rs 100 (100 rupees, or US$2) per day. Part of the disproportionate poverty of India’s women reflects their marginal place within India’s economy, a situation that has not been reversed significantly since India’s independence. In the past few years, gross domestic product (GDP) has grown at a rate between 8 and 9 percent annually, yet most of India’s new wealth has gone to those working in the service sector, from which women are disproportionately excluded (Bhatt 2006; International Labour Organization 2002). With the vast majority of Indian women employed in the agricultural and unorganized sectors of the economy, women have hardly benefited from India’s recent impressive economic gains. Almost every study of women’s status—be it focused on economic conditions, educational levels, or mortality—produces a grim picture. How much of this is attributable to “traditional” social norms and how much to the globalized, “modern” economy deserves careful attention. Women’s place within Indian society amounts to far more than these unsettling glimpses suggest. One need only do a quick Internet search to discover that the status of women in India has undergone tremendous change over the course of the past two centuries, even if that change has produced a number of conflicting results. In terms of political representation, India was among the first countries to elect a woman prime minister, currently has a woman as president, and also fields a number of strong female leaders heading prominent political parties—including the Congress Party. Women today also occupy 33 percent of the seats in panchayats, or village councils, nationwide. Furthermore, between 1952 and 1998, women’s representation in the Lok Sabha grew from 4.4 to 7.9 percent (Menon-Sen and Shiva Kumar 2001: 66; Rai 1998). Today, over sixty years after independence, women hold more than two times the number of seats in the Lok Sabha: fifty-eight in 2009 compared to twentytwo after independence (Singh 2009; Raju 2006: 90–91; Sen 2008). In March 2010, a new bill to reserve 33 percent of seats in the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) and state assemblies passed the Rajya Sabha (upper house of Parliament). The bill will also need to pass the Lok Sabha and at least one-half of the country’s state legislative assemblies before becoming law. When that happens, Indian women will occupy a unique position: 181 out of 543 seats in the lower house of Parliament and 1,370 out of 4,109 seats in the country’s twenty-eight state assemblies will have been reserved for them. As impressive as these political gains may be, the record is mixed when it comes to education and literacy. While women’s literacy was estimated at only 8 percent in 1947 and is now estimated at roughly 47.8 percent, rates for women’s literacy remain roughly half those of men in their communities (CIA World Fact Book: India 2009; Raju 2006: 83; UN Development Programme 2009; Government of India 2009a). More troubling is the fact that this literacy gap has been widening gradually since independence, particularly among urban dwellers, whose population has exploded over the past sixty years. The widening

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 183

Women in India

183

gap in literacy among India’s urban population is further compounded when parents provide daughters a qualitatively lower education compared to their sons. For instance, as English medium education gains a greater foothold among India’s upwardly mobile middle classes, families are much more likely to use their limited resources to give their sons an English education and provide daughters a vernacular education. While the final effects of such disparities in the medium of instruction are not yet understood, the double-gap in literacy and language education is cause for concern. Looking at women’s place in the globalized economy, Forbes Magazine tells us that Indian women today are leaders in banking and business, and we can also identify women as national leaders in the fields of education, science, and medicine (Bahree 2006). Furthermore, Indian women are the backbone of a world-renowned microcredit system (Bhatt 2006: 12). At the other end of the economic spectrum, women’s disproportionate participation in the informal sector of the economy has ensured their earning capacity remains limited. Whereas one can point to successful women in India’s economy, such success stories nevertheless remain few and far between. There exists an enormous gap between those women who have access to education that enable them to succeed professionally and the overwhelming majority of Indian women who lack basic educational opportunities and the means of acquiring marketable skills. As a result, women find fewer formal-sector jobs, are paid less than men, work in poor conditions, and have worse health. How do we reconcile these conflicting realities when assessing women’s status in contemporary India? As noted in previous chapters, contemporary India is a dynamic and rapidly changing society. Indeed, in the period since India’s independence, opportunities for women have changed substantially, as have official and social views on the place of women in India. These changes are especially evident when one considers civil rights, workplace opportunities, and rising education and literacy. This chapter begins by considering the constitutional framework that has provided the structure for women’s improving status in independent India. After a brief discussion of constitutional provisions pertaining to women, the chapter offers a couple of pointers helpful in evaluating the status of women in contemporary India. It thereafter goes on to discuss women and the family in colonial India. Turning to women in postindependence India, the chapter addresses women’s status in terms of political rights, civil rights, and employment. The Indian Constitution ratified in 1949 has been central to significant changes that have been realized by women in the last sixty years. In the United States, an amendment to the constitution guaranteeing equal rights regardless of sex has been introduced unsuccessfully in every Congress since 1923; meanwhile, the constitution of the Republic of India provides explicitly for a progressive and prowomen structure. The Indian Constitution, which provides the legal framework upon which a variety of political, social, and economic policies have been built, is remarkable in its attention to women. Among many constitutional

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

184

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 184

Lisa Trivedi

measures for women is a provision that guarantees equality (Article 14) and another that restricts the state from any provision that would discriminate on the basis of sex (Article 15.1). Further, the Indian Constitution guarantees equality of opportunity (Article 16) and equal pay for equal work (Article 39.d) for all its citizens. Raised within this context, it is hardly surprising that Indian women have acted as heads of state, lead major political parties, and hold key bureaucratic positions. Thus, to view women in contemporary India as victims of a “traditional society” who have not and cannot exercise power over their lives belies the significant changes Indian women have sought and won over time despite the constraints of entrenched social interests often glossed as “tradition.”



Thinking About “Indian Women”

There are two points of caution to observe when exploring the status of women in India. First, while some struggles Indian women have embarked upon are familiar to us because they resemble those of women in the United States and other western countries, one should not assume that the concerns and priorities of Indian women are the same as ours (Mohanty 1988). Unlike women in the West, whose feminist struggles aimed at winning constitutional parity after modern constitutions had already been drafted, Indian women had achieved a favorable constitutional status—including enfranchisement—prior to independence and the ratification of the Indian Constitution. This difference in women’s legal status has had implications for the way in which women’s politics and organizations have mobilized over the past sixty years. For more than half a century before independence and the drafting of the constitution, Indian women had articulated and pursued a set of priorities that reflected their own particular circumstances. It is only by understanding the context in which Indian women lived and the possibilities they wished to create that one can adequately assess women’s status in contemporary India. As noted, to appreciate the status of women in contemporary India, it is important not only to chart their challenges and accomplishments but also to understand how Indian women have arrived at their current position. Since the status of Indian women over the past two centuries has largely been determined by their relationship to the family, the colonial project, and the nation, this chapter focuses on the key issues that have shaped women’s lives during this period and on the particular reforms women themselves have driven since independence. The second point of caution is that while it may seem natural to think and write about “Indian women,” this term and the identities that it presupposes are quite recent. Indeed, both—“Indian” and “women”—identities are products of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, during which colonialism and the rise of nationalism shaped how the state identified peoples and the ways in which individuals located themselves vis-à-vis others. The history of Indian women in

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 185

Women in India

185

this regard runs parallel to that of women in other societies worldwide. While families in South Asia have historically associated particular roles and responsibilities with one sex or the other, the female members of an Indian family did not subscribe to an identity as “women,” as assumed by the Indian Constitution, until quite recently. Instead, women thought of themselves largely through their relationships to those in their family—be it their parents, in-laws, children, or husbands—and other social groups. Scholars of women in colonial India associate the rise of an identity as women with the early nineteenth century, when British reformers and administrators, as well as native modernizers and orthodox religious leaders, debated the condition of women and defined what has become “Indian” culture (Sangari and Vaid 1989).



Women and Family

For women, as well as men, in India the family unit has significantly shaped opportunity and status. Before the nineteenth century little emphasis was placed on the rights of individuals in India; the emphasis rested instead upon how an individual contributed to the position and status of the family. In this respect women’s relationships to their families were not so different from men’s in that family decisions typically demanded conformity. Thus, it is family custom that largely determined women’s health, education, and marriage. Some Muslim communities in India, for example, idealized marriages that replicated the constitution of the Prophet Muhammad’s family. In such instances, marriages for daughters, as well as sons, were arranged so as to enact the prophet’s family relations. Likewise, some Hindu jatis (caste groups) have historically restricted the marriage of sons and daughters in order to maintain the purity and wealth of a particular lineage vis-à-vis other jatis, while simultaneously avoiding intralineage (gotra) reproduction, which was customarily discouraged. Ultimately, notwithstanding religious, ethnic, and/or regional origins, family beliefs and customs almost exclusively determined how a child matured to adulthood, the type of education received, and who the child married.



Women in Colonial India

The nineteenth century, as Radha Kumar has written, could be considered the “age of women” (Kumar 1993: 7). What marked this period apart from others, whether one was in India or any part of the western world, was that the status of women emerged as a central subject of political and social debate. In the case of India, discussions about women also occurred within a peculiar colonial context, which shaped the particular forms it took. The British East India Company (EIC) had been doing business in India for more than a century before

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

186

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 186

Lisa Trivedi

transitioning from a trading company to revenue collector to administrator of large sections of northern India. By the early nineteenth century, a companystate had emerged as a powerful military, economic, and administrative force (Metcalf and Metcalf 2008). As the EIC’s trade interests grew, so too did the need to protect its preferences. This saw the EIC increasingly intervening in native lives, extending and deepening its authority over a foreign population. Scholars of early nineteenth-century India locate the emergence of debates about the condition of Indian women in this specific context (Sangari and Vaid 1989). The examination was in part motivated by the humanitarian initiatives of evangelical Christians that were popular in Britain and among EIC officials during this period. The poor status of Indian women conveniently served to legitimize the EIC’s project of modernizing Indian society, even while the EIC also claimed to be protecting “true” native customs that had been distorted over time. British religious reformers at home and administrators in India considered it their responsibility to protect Indian women from perverted social customs. In pursuing this self-proclaimed duty toward its foreign subjects, the EIC defined particular social customs as inferior to their own and simultaneously rendered them emblematic of the inferiority of Indian society in general. British reformers and officials of the East India Company were not the only ones to engage in discussions over the status of Indian women. By focusing upon debates over the practice of social customs, it is possible to explore the ways in which Indian women’s condition emerged as an important point of contestation between British and Indian elites, who asserted their own authority vis-à-vis one another, while debating over who would define Indian “tradition.” For instance, the British abolition of sati, or widow immolation, in 1829 demonstrates how women first emerged as the focus of debate (Mani 1989; Yang 1989: 8–33). As Lata Mani has explained, two kinds of native responses emerged from debates over the practice of sati (Mani 1989). On the one hand, there were those natives, often connected with the EIC’s activities, who sought to modernize their society and viewed sati as an impediment to doing so. Rammohan Roy (1772–1833) was representative of this group. Roy was a Brahman religious social reformer best known for his attack on the contemporary practice of sati, and his Brahmo movement sought to reform Hinduism by adopting a new interpretation of scriptures. Like other nineteenth-century modernizers, Roy accepted that the status of Indian women was poor and needed to improve if society was to progress. The reform of Hindu practices, by which he meant consistency between scriptural and everyday practice, was critical to Roy’s approach of returning India to her former glory and strengthening her ability to stave off foreign domination. Demonstrating that the contemporary practice of sati was illegitimate in scriptural terms—although there was a scriptural basis for sati if practiced in a different manner—Roy supported British efforts to outlaw its practice in 1829 while claiming to preserve a sense of spiritual authority for Hinduism.

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 187

Women in India

187

Traditional religious elites also agreed that women’s status was the key to a vigorous and moral society, although they argued it was a departure from Hindu customs like sati, which had scriptural legitimacy and significance, that led to India’s subjugation (Mani 1989). Like British officials and native modernizers, the orthodox religious officials who protested the proposed abolition of sati made their case through a close examination of “Hindu scriptures.” No matter which side of the sati debate one examines, it is clear that native reformers and religious elites both sought to enhance their own authority through a debate ostensibly about women. Such debates over women’s status and native custom also provided a convenient ideological justification for transforming Britain’s economic and military roles into elaborate administrative and governing roles. British missionaries and administrators observed that Indian women under the control of Indian men were subject to unspeakable violence and abhorrent social practices and believed that this was because Hindu customs degraded women. This sorry plight of Indian women offered the British a compelling argument to justify their control over a subject population. From this perspective, practices of particular communities in India were not only removed from their specific contexts, they were also rendered emblematic of “Indian” culture at large. The reformist debates and the policies that followed eventually produced a particular view of “Indian tradition” and “Indian women” that was static, underdeveloped, and immoral. British decency, British law, and British civilization were all defined in contrast to this view, and they were further represented as the best means through which to protect Indian women and reform Indian society. From this standpoint, Indian women’s poor status justified Britain’s tutelage of India. As critical as we may be today about the ideological justifications for British imperialism, it is important to keep in mind that this process also produced women as the topics of debate for both Europeans and, critically, native communities in India. Debates over child marriage, widow immolation, enforced widowhood, to mention only a few nineteenth-century social reform causes, were important not only because they were used to establish Indian society as inferior, even barbaric, in relation to British society specifically, but also because they raised the significance of “women” and “Indian tradition” in Indian society. Both the new elites who developed in the colonial context and traditional elites of Indian society vied for the authority to speak on behalf of women, and by extension to define Indian tradition. Although historians have pointed out that neither the British nor the new or traditional native elites were interested in the plight of women per se, most agree that debates over tradition and culture that centered upon women opened up a distinct place for women in contemporary India. As debates between social reformers and EIC officials developed, Indian women emerged as a sociopolitical category to be defended by government and by Indian women themselves.

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

188



6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 188

Lisa Trivedi

Indian Women and the “Nation”: From Objects of Reform to Subjects

By the second half of the nineteenth century, two significant changes with regard to the status of Indian women emerged. The first was the use of women to serve nationalism. Drawing upon the early nineteenth-century view that women’s status was a sign of a nation’s position vis-à-vis other nations, women were subsequently regarded as vital to the moral upliftment and progress of the nation as a whole. As Partha Chatterjee has demonstrated, Indian nationalism focused on preserving the spiritual authority of Indian women, as well as protecting them from the potentially degrading effects of the western public (Chatterjee 1993). The “nationalist resolution to the women’s question,” according to Chatterjee, was to claim that Indian women were superior to their British counterparts and thus reverse an argument about power popularized earlier in the century. While nationalists did not deny the scientific and technological superiority of the West, they argued instead that these particular attributes were inferior to the spiritual superiority of Indian women and, ultimately, the Indian nation. Not only did this argument wrestle from the British some of the force of their ideological argument for domination, it also transformed Indian women from being the ground upon which power was negotiated to being objects of nationalist, reformist activity. These nationalists, however, delayed seriously discussing the status of Indian women so as to maintain a focus on their critique of foreign, colonial rule and also to avoid jeopardizing a fragile unity that might well have been undermined by a substantial debate over the place of women in modern India. The second major development with regard to the status of Indian women was that women themselves became participants in the major social reform debates about women. Once transformed into the objects of reform, it was not long before Indian women made themselves the subjects of a new society. By the late nineteenth century, Indian women themselves, including Pandita Ramabai (1865–1922), publicly participated in movements to reform women’s educational opportunities. As Uma Chakravarti has shown, Ramabai’s remarkable contributions to social reform and women’s education were made possible in large part by the exemplary education she received from her learned father (Kosambi 1988; Kosambi 1993; Chakravarti 2005). It was these elite women whose families had educated them or who received missionary education that became advocates for new educational opportunities for women, founding schools as well as carrying on campaigns within their communities for girls’ education. One should recognize that notwithstanding their conspicuous advocacy for reforms, such women were still subject to the community’s standards for women. Ramabai’s life could not have been more fortunate. Born to a Brahman family in western India in 1858, when India witnessed the end of a mutiny against

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 189

Women in India

189

EIC rule and the British consequently established colonial rule, both Ramabai’s father and mother were educated and ardently supported women’s education. Ramabai learned at her father’s knee, as was the case for most literate and educated girls of her era. There were no facilities for girls’ education. After the death of their parents, Ramabai and her brother continued to work to reform education, a cause valued by both their parents. Ramabai lost her only remaining male guardian when her brother died suddenly. Orphaned and without family, Ramabai sought a like-minded husband, which she found in a Bengali lawyer who hailed from a lower caste but was similarly well educated and interested in starting a school for child widows. When her husband also passed away, Ramabai left Bengal and returned to western India, where she became a prominent social reformer recognized by the government, which sought her testimony on women’s education. Ramabai’s life demonstrates just how important the family was—is—in shaping women’s lives. Despite the fact that she came from a privileged background both in terms of caste and class, her life was constrained by her sex. Ramabai was exceptionally well educated in large part because both her parents were willing and able to provide her with an education. Without her parents, Ramabai relied on her brother and later her husband to provide her with legitimacy, because she could otherwise not assume an active, public role. In short, it was challenging both to live on one’s own and to pursue one’s work outside of a family context. Ramabai used her unusual position to advocate not only for girls’ education but also for women’s admission to medical schools. Reasoning that the prevalence of purdah (female seclusion) meant Indian women could only be examined and treated properly by women, Ramabai forged a path for women to become physicians. Although Ramabai became an authority on women’s education, recognized in both reformist and official circles, she nonetheless struggled within the constraints of her caste, religion, and sex. Seeking to free herself from the conventions of Hindu customary law and practice, she eventually converted to Christianity. Ramabai’s life, according to Chakravarti (2005), demonstrates not that British authority or native reform substantially improved the status of women, but rather that a new form of patriarchy was reinstituted through debate over women’s education, as had been the case through the debates over sati. The critical difference between the first half of the nineteenth century and the second half was that elite, educated women participated in public debates about the needs of women and the nation, even if their authority was circumscribed by their status as women. No longer simply the ground of the debate or objects of reform, women increasingly spoke for themselves and sought to chart a course for their fellow women. A number of women stand out in this regard, including Kaikhusrau Jahan Begum, who between 1901 and 1926 ruled a small, but significant, princely state in north India and was among those who patronized

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

190

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 190

Lisa Trivedi

women’s education and advocated single-sex education. Kaikhusrau Jahan Begum served as the president of the All India Education Conference and chancellor of the Aligharh Muslim University. By the turn of the twentieth century, elite Indian women joined political organizations, including the Indian National Congress, voicing their opinions for national regeneration and self-rule. To the extent that their voices were welcomed, women participated in public dialogue because they had already been defined in the nineteenth century as possessing a special role in the nation as mothers of a modern community. What was understood as women’s particular role and status in Indian society by the early twentieth century was further transformed by the development of ideas on public health and maternal and child mortality. If women were producers of the nation’s children and the nation required healthy women, then the state of Indian women’s health was worthy of concern and attention. Mithulakshmi Reddi (1886–1986), a physician and activist, was among those who were convinced that the health of mother, child, and nation depended upon ending the practice of child marriage and especially the marriage of girls (Forbes 1996). Reddi was in many ways a product of the success of Ramabai’s nineteenth-century advocacy of women’s medical education. Reddi attended the Madras Medical College, graduating in 1912 as one of India’s first women physicians. Although she expressed her discomfort with being labeled a feminist, which she found both western and alien to Indian women, Reddi used her professional status as a physician to advocate for women’s improved health, as well as reform of other social practices. Changing the age of consent for marriage, however, meant that the colonial state would effectively intervene into native customary practices and the rights of fathers over their children. This amounted to a level of social intervention in native society that the colonial state had purposefully avoided since the Mutiny (1857–1858). In the aftermath of the revolt, the British had come to understand the Mutiny, in part, as the result of overzealous social intervention on the part of the East India Company. British government officials were skeptical that such a change, even if warranted from a medical standpoint, was prudent in terms of maintaining order over their subject population. Moreover, it was not at all clear that the government of India could enforce a new statute. Legal restrictions on the age of marriage, in other words, could expose weaknesses of the colonial state. Reddi’s work on behalf of Indian women was successful in part because she drew strength from newly forming women’s organizations. Starting with the Women’s Indian Association in 1917 and the All India Women’s Conference in 1926, Indian women created all-India organizations, albeit elite in membership, that were aimed to better the lives of women (Basu and Ray 1990). When women found little sympathy among government officials for their causes or among their local communities, they turned to these new, national organizations to publish articles, file petitions, hold lectures, and convene conferences. The

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 191

Women in India

191

creation of these organizations enabled them to effectively identify problems for public debate and communicate their proposed solutions to others. Women’s organizations eventually exerted influence upon governmental provincial bodies, which had been granted greater authority over local matters under the Government of India Act (1919). Thus, slowly but steadily, women’s groups turned provincial attention to the issue of child marriage. Their efforts were eventually rewarded with the passage of the Child Marriage Restraint (Sarda) Act in 1929, which increased the minimum age of marriage for girls to fourteen years.



Women and the Franchise

Women were also involved in advocating for their political rights. The struggle for enfranchisement is arguably Indian women’s single most important accomplishment in the colonial period. Indian women’s rights to enfranchisement were recognized in the Government of India Act (1935), more than a decade before independence and sixteen years before the ratification of the Indian Constitution. But this accomplishment did not happen overnight. Following the announcement by British authorities in 1917 that their policy was to bring “responsible government” to India, the so-called Southborough Committee— led by the viceroy of India Lord Chelmsford and the secretary of state for India Edwin Montagu—was established and charged with identifying the desires of their Indian subjects and recommending reforms that would be passed in 1919. Over the course of a year, the committee interviewed thousands of people, including mill owners and workers, peasants and landlords, princes and religious leaders. Sarladevi Chaudhurani, the founder of India’s oldest women’s organization, the Bharat Stri Mahamandal, applied to discuss education for women with the committee. Members of the newly formed Women’s Indian Association led by a founding member, Margaret Cousins, also applied for an appointment. In both cases, the committee rejected the requests, stating that it would only meet with groups that had political subjects to discuss. Now organized and more sure of their cause than ever before, reformers and activists for women’s issues regrouped, reformulating their concerns in political terms. Eventually a prominent Congress worker and poet, Sarojini Naidu, led a delegation of leading women to meet with Chelmsford and Montagu on December 17, 1917 (Forbes 1996: 92).1 In their meeting, the women’s delegation made a case for women to have both political and civil rights within the reformed colonial state Chelmsford and Montagu were charged to create (Forbes 1996: 92). So began the struggle for the enfranchisement of Indian women. Elite Indian women and their European allies demanded enfranchisement on the same terms as men. In its final report, the committee did not recommend that forthcoming reforms include the extension of political rights to women. It was assumed that Indian men would never stand for the extension of suffrage to

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

192

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 192

Lisa Trivedi

women. The women’s delegation that had addressed the committee was understandably disappointed, but it was no less determined to secure women’s political rights. As would be the case when changing the age of marriage for girls in the decade that followed, women turned to allied political organizations, including the Indian National Congress. It was through the very provincial bodies that were empowered in the Government of India Act (1919) that women built the momentum for their enfranchisement sixteen years later. Having failed to persuade the Southborough Committee of their perspective, women turned to a new figure on the national political landscape, Mohandas Gandhi (1868–1948). Gandhi drew the interest of these women in part because he envisioned an important and distinct role for them in nationalist politics. He viewed women as morally superior to men, and women’s morality key to the reform of national community. While Gandhi became a champion for women’s inclusion in nationalist politics, he did not advocate that they participate in the struggle as men did (Kishwar 1985; Patel 1988). Women nonetheless took Gandhi’s advice to take their future into their own hands (Forbes 1996: 101). Again, they engaged in public discussion of women’s political rights at local meetings, held conferences, and wrote countless articles for newspapers. Eventually, these efforts paid off, for their demands reached provincial governments. As Geraldine Forbes explains, “Bombay and Madras were the first provinces to extend the franchise to women in 1921; the United Provinces followed in 1923; Punjab and Bengal in 1926; and finally, Assam, the Central Provinces, and Bihar and Orissa in 1930” (Forbes 1996: 101). Even with these victories in provincial bodies, women’s enfranchisement under the government of India remained elusive. The cause of women’s political rights was entangled in both nationalist politics in general and the question of minority rights in particular during the Round Table talks.2 The government opted to see women’s political rights just as the major nationalist parties did; that is, women’s political rights were subordinated to their identities as members of a particular religious community. While female leaders never perceived themselves as comparable to minority groups, they nonetheless found themselves cornered into accepting the structure designed for the political representation of minority communities in order to win their voting rights in 1935. As Reddy explained following the announcement of the outcome of official negotiations, “We cannot but accept the qualifications decided on by our men and accepted by them” (Forbes 1996: 110). The enfranchisement of women extended in 1935 was built upon the much earlier provincial victories that women had won in the previous decade. Women’s organizations would have preferred the adoption of universal adult franchise rather than a system that secured enfranchisement based upon religious community, but ultimately they settled upon parity for men and women in the qualifications for voting, as well as a ratio of 1:5 seats for women to men that was laid out in the Government of India Act (1935). Parity in enfranchisement was

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 193

Women in India

193

not due to the British colonial state or British suffragettes, who might be expected to champion the extension of women’s democratic political rights (Ramusack 1992; Sinha 1992). Quite to the contrary, Indian women’s political equality in enfranchisement followed nearly two decades of concerted and unrelenting organization and agitation among Indian women and men (Forbes 1996: 92–120). With the advent of mass nationalist politics, some women were drawn away from women’s issues toward the cause of national independence. Others continued to work specifically for the causes of women’s health and education. Although few women became leaders of nationalist bodies before independence, many women gained important political experience that prepared them to assume new roles in public life after independence. In serving within the Indian National Congress or the Socialist Party, for example, women gained experience that enabled them to fill the void created when male leaders were imprisoned. Experience as leaders prepared women not only to advocate for issues that were of concern to them, but more important, to assume public leadership roles that would have been hard to imagine in the previous generation. Not only were Indian women capable of leading women, they also proved capable of leading men. Because much of nationalist, urban, educated India recognized women as individuals endowed with the same political rights as men and possessing a particular role in the nation, it was not a stretch for women to assume leading positions in independent India. Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1864), India’s first prime minister, appointed Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, a Congress and Socialist leader, to be the first head of the Ministry of Culture. He appointed his sister, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, to be India’s first ambassador to the United Nations. And he tapped Mridula Sarabhai, the daughter of a prominent industrialist and niece of a labor leader, who had earned her place in nationalist circles during the independence struggle by organizing and being imprisoned, to oversee the process of repatriating women and children from Pakistan following the partition of the subcontinent. Thus women’s current prominent positions in India’s political landscape, whether as heads of major political parties, members of Parliament, president, or prime minister, owe much to the changes that occurred in the status and position of Indian women over the course of a century.



Women and the Republic of India

Since India’s independence in 1947, women have assumed responsibilities as political figures and public servants. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (1917–1984), who succeeded her father as India’s prime minister between 1967 and 1977 and served again as prime minister from 1980 to 1984, remains one of India’s most important national figures and one of the world’s most recognizable female

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

194

2:41 PM

Page 194

Lisa Trivedi

leaders. It is noteworthy that female leadership in the office of the prime minister did not produce policies that significantly closed the gap between the opportunities available to women and those available to men. Although Prime Minister Gandhi continued social welfare policies that were initiated by her father and introduced aggressive reproductive policies aimed at lowering the size of India’s families, her leadership is known more for the authoritative exercise of power than for the tangible, positive effects it had on the lives of ordinary Indian women (see Chapter 4 in this volume). Even if the Parliament under Gandhi’s leadership did not produce policy changes that significantly improved women’s lives, women’s regular and sustained participation in public debate and policy reform continued to increase during her tenure as prime minister. Since independence Indian women have organized around a wide range of issues, including the abolition of dowry and bride-price, the establishment of effective laws against rape and sexual harassment, and the preservation of the rights to livelihood in the face of a liberalized economy (Basu 2008; Krishnan 2008; Lateef 2008; Palit 2008). Women have organized to improve working and living conditions, affordability of fuel, and access to clean water. Indian women have also been at the forefront of various environmental movements, including those that seek to protect the forests and jungles, protect access to water, and protect communities from industrial disaster. While the most recognizable Indian women activists hail from elite women’s organizations, most women participants do not. A much larger number of women activists participate without the benefit of elementary education or even literacy. They are not associated with either a particular kind of feminism, a national women’s organization, or even a specific political party. Still, they have been successful organizing in defense of their communities. In other words, the activism and political engagement of Indian women is far from confined to issues merely labeled “women’s issues.” Indian women are focused first on solving problems that impact their community, which tend to reinforce their unequal status in society. While it is impossible to cover the range of issues today’s Indian women grapple with, this chapter turns now to addressing briefly a few key topics that women have taken up since independence: civil rights, employment, and education.



Civil Rights

As discussed earlier in this chapter, women’s lives are largely shaped by the context of the family and the structure of India’s civil laws, which are organized around the personal laws of India’s various religious communities. The result is that there exists no single civil rights framework for Indians: women’s particular civil rights status depends, as does that of men, on a body of customary practices that are treated as law and are connected directly to their religious community, be it Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, and so forth. Although the

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 195

Women in India

195

framers of the Indian Constitution assumed that a unified civil code would eventually come into being, this particular issue has never been resolved (Vatuk 2009: 353). Indeed, the passage of time and communal politicking has intensified the debate and discord concerning the idea of a unified civil code. The precise relationship between customary law and the principles enshrined in the constitution remain opaque. Because the circumstances of marriage, divorce, and inheritance remain central to women’s poverty and marginality in society, this subject has remained at the center of women’s activism in India. However, the issue is also one that has divided women’s organizations and different communities of women. Some have vigorously supported efforts to fulfill the intention of the framers of the constitution by providing a universal legal structure for all of India’s citizens, while others have sought to ensure that the constitution continues to preserve the rights of women within religious communities. Tensions erupted in the 1980s when the Indian Supreme Court ruled on a dispute over maintenance for a divorced Muslim woman, Shah Bano, who had sued for support following her divorce in 1978 (Agnes 2001; Carroll 1988; Engineer 1987; Hasan 1999; Khory 2005; Kishwar 1986; Parashar 1992: 173–189, 149– 165; Pathak and Rajan 1989: 558–582; Vatuk 2009). What made this particular case so significant was both what it exposed about Muslim women’s position under existing customary law related to divorce and how the courts interjected and claimed authority to arbitrate between customary law and the constitution.

The Shah Bano Case

Shah Bano was sixty-two-years old when her husband, Mohammed Ahmed Khan, divorced her. Under Muslim customary law in India, a husband may divorce his wife without explanation, and this is what Khan did. Without any means of supporting herself, Shah Bano sought the maximum maintenance from her husband allowed under law, which amounted to Rs 500 (just over US$10) per month. Shah Bano’s claim did not place an undue burden on Khan, given that he was a successful lawyer whose monthly income was estimated at Rs 5,000 per month (Vatuk 2009: 355). Under customary law, a divorced wife is entitled to maintenance for only three months following her divorce, as well as the payment of the mahr, or a fixed sum agreed upon at the time of the marriage. The local Indore court ruled in favor of Shah Bano, but granted maintenance of only Rs 25 (or a little more than 50 US cents) per month. Khan approached the court to reconsider its ruling on the grounds that under customary law he was not required to pay maintenance beyond the three-month period. In the meantime, Shah Bano’s lawyer successfully persuaded the Madhya Pradesh High Court to raise her maintenance to Rs 179.20 per month. The Supreme Court of India then received a petition from Khan, whose appeal took four-and-a-half years to be resolved. Khan’s petition requested that the court preserve Muslim personal law by reversing the rulings of both lower

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

196

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 196

Lisa Trivedi

courts. The petition sought the court’s ruling on three critical issues. First, to reaffirm that Muslims in India are bound primarily to live in accordance with their religious law, in this case Muslim personal law. Second, that a husband’s maintenance for his wife was a matter of marriage and divorce, which fall within the purview of Muslim customary law. And, third, that India’s criminal law code, under which Shah Bano’s petition was originally filed, was an inappropriate legal framework for ruling on matters of marriage, divorce, and maintenance (Kumar 1993: 161). Ultimately, when the Supreme Court gave its ruling, it upheld Shah Bano’s right to maintenance under the vagrancy provision of the Criminal Procedure Code. The Supreme Court’s ruling did not favorably reaffirm the authority of religious customary law without qualification. The opinion, authored by Chief Justice Yeshwant Vishnu Chandrachud on April 23, 1985, disagreed with Khan’s claim that a husband under Indian law is not obligated to maintain his former wife. Although Chandrachud acknowledged that Muslim customary law required a husband to pay maintenance for three months following a divorce, he pointed out that customary law did not restrict maintenance from being paid for a longer period. Chandrachud’s reading of the Quran may have been questionable, but there was recent precedent to support Shah Bano’s claim to additional maintenance if the mahr (wedding gift) agreed upon at the time of marriage and the iddat (maintenance granted for a period of three months following divorce) was not sufficient to sustain her survival. Moreover, Chandrachud argued that Shah Bano could not be denied further provision from her husband because under the Criminal Procedure Code of India, men, regardless of community, were required to keep their wives, including divorced wives, from becoming vagrants. Chandrachud also cited two legal cases from the previous decade involving Muslim women who had been granted additional maintenance beyond what was required under Muslim customary law. The legal distinction between maintenance payment because of potential destitution and maintenance owed because of change in marital status was thus blurred. Some in the Muslim community voiced outrage over the Supreme Court ruling, which they saw as violating their religious beliefs, practices, and rights under the Indian Constitution. Particularly irate were the orthodox elite and the ulema (clerics). They were deeply troubled by a ruling they felt significantly chipped away at personal law in India. They were just as troubled that a Hindu judge would dare interpret the holy Quran. Eventually, public agitation by the All India Muslim League Personal Law Board led to calls for new legislation. Liberals, conservative Hindus, and some feminists were no less angry about the emerging controversy. They denounced the Muslim community for their treatment of women and argued that Muslim women should not be excluded from the same civil rights as other Indian women. An unusual coalition of these groups reasserted their support for a unified civil code in India. For her part, Shah Bano found herself in an untenable position. She eventually apologized to

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 197

Women in India

197

her community for having contributed to a situation in which their laws were called into question. In a stunning move, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s government challenged the controversial Supreme Court ruling by supporting the passage of the Muslim Women’s (Protection of Rights in Divorce) Act (1986). Contrary to the bill’s name, the legislation outlined the specific provisions to which Muslim women were entitled in the case of divorce. In other words, the legislation sought to remove the ambiguity under which the case had been brought and upon which Justice Chandachud had ruled. The law reaffirmed the right of a divorced Muslim woman to her mahr and a reasonable maintenance during the iddat period. It also included a provision for the care of children from the marriage until they reached two years of age. Should a divorced woman be in need of further maintenance due to destitution, a magistrate would be given the option of appealing to adult children or natal relatives to support the divorced woman. The legislation also explicitly denied Muslim women any future redress under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Kishwar 1986: 4–13). Many women’s groups protested against the bill. One Indian feminist active in the controversy at the time, Zoya Hasan, explained the government’s position by claiming the Congress Party’s electoral position was unstable and it needed to satisfy the concerns of the Muslim community in order to secure Muslim votes during the next election (Hasan 1993: 9–10). Even if electoral considerations drove the government’s action, feminist groups found themselves in the uncomfortable position of allying themselves with the Hindu right, which applauded the Supreme Court’s decision. Panchayats and Reservation for Women

In addition to trying to better their position in the complex balance between the rights of individuals and the rights of religious communities in contemporary India, women’s groups have also sought to increase women’s formal participation in government bodies. Perhaps the most important constitutional change since India’s independence relating to women’s political status was the passage of Amendments 73 (1991) and 75 (1993) to the Indian Constitution, guaranteeing that 33 percent of all seats in village councils, or panchayats, be reserved for female candidates. The question of legislating seats for women’s representation was first raised as early as 1957, only ten years after independence. This early discussion was set aside, however, and it was not until 1974 that the issue emerged again for public debate in India. Many officials and civil society questioned whether women, because of their low literacy rates and poor education, were capable of assuming the responsibilities of panchayat membership. One outcome of the debate in 1974 was the creation of a structure to facilitate women’s representation in the province of Maharashtra as an experiment. Although the experiment in Maharashtra was met with skepticism, it eventually demonstrated that even illiterate women, when trusted with panchayat funds,

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

198

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 198

Lisa Trivedi

led their communities responsibly, bringing water taps, biogas plants, schools, and other improvements to their communities (Omvedt 1990). With the issue of illiteracy discounted as an argument against women’s political participation, women’s groups organized to gain reservations for women. The direct catalyst for the constitutional amendments in the early 1990s, however, appears to have been the World Conference on Women held in Nairobi in 1985, which ceremonially concluded the UN’s Decade of Women. After that international meeting, India established the National Perspective Plan for women, which eventually recommended 33 percent reservation for women in 1988. Soon thereafter, the Indian Parliament adopted the measure during the premiership of P. V. Narasimha Rao (Sengupta 2005). Thus, Indian women— like Dalits, tribal, and low-caste groups (see Chapter 10 in this volume)—became the beneficiaries of special electorates at the local level. The reservation of 33 percent of panchayat council seats over the last fifteen years is viewed today with substantial ambivalence. There were a number of studies done in the years immediately following the adoption of Rao’s measures that suggested women panchayats acted primarily as proxies for their husbands. But by 2002–2003, one study conducted by Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Women’s Studies program demonstrated that women’s status as proxy voters diminished over time. Moreover, according to a recent editorial in the Economic and Political Weekly, by 2007–2008 four-fifths of all women were elected to panchayats through reserved seats. While reelection of women is limited by the rotation of seats reserved for women, political experience seems to have changed women’s relationship to those in their local communities. As one woman elected to her panchayat explained, “I was the one who was elected. But I was not allowed to go out, never to speak. I have learnt to speak, to use the microphone. Now that the mike has come into my hand, it will remain with me for my entire life—nobody can take it away” (Sengupta 2005). Largely illiterate, nonelite women have found a new voice and confidence in their communities, even if that voice remains limited to the parameters set by the state. While there has been mixed reaction to women’s increased power at the local level, the effects of the changes that have accompanied the greater participation of women is not in dispute (Patel 1993). India’s experiment with reservations as a means of empowering women’s leadership has been so successful that in November 2009 the new government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh introduced a bill to amend the constitution and reserve 50 percent of seats in panchayats for women. Some have noted that the substantial support for the Congress Party among women has steadily eroded over the past decade as women have showed an interest in other parties. The attempt at increasing women’s representation in panchayats consequently led one former bureaucrat to wonder whether Singh’s new policy wasn’t just “a sop [bribe] in disguise” (Buch 2009). Many village women, however, note that the reform agenda would be most meaningful if women not only had a larger presence but also were able to

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 199

Women in India

199

generate support when contesting nonreserved seats. Given the entrenched nature of gender inequality in India, legislative reform has become an important precondition for ensuring that women too command a degree of political power and have formal political means of redressing the inequities that shape their lives.



Employment

In recent years, women’s groups have also advocated for improved employment opportunities, albeit with mixed results. Indian women are not new to the workforce. Indeed, Indian women made up approximately one-quarter of the labor in India’s textile factories in the early twentieth century. Women’s opportunities in the industrial factory plummeted in the face of worldwide financial crisis in the 1920s and 1930s and the imposition of maternity benefits that limited women’s employment. Indians have been told that the economic reforms introduced in 1991 will significantly improve economic conditions for everyone. While new wealth has most certainly been created, the majority of growth has taken place in the service sectors of the economy, where India’s Englishspeaking workforce has found new employment. Urban and college-educated young women have also seen new opportunities emerge. According to Irshad Manji (2009), in the last fifteen years the number of women working in India in service-sector jobs has more than doubled. The development of call centers has certainly contributed to this jump in women’s employment (Jaya Prakash Pradhan 2005). The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates that some 1.1 million workers, mainly women, are likely being employed in call centers in India, making this one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy. While such opportunities may suggest that India’s new economy is also empowering women, the realities are quite mixed. For instance, while young women employed in call centers may be able to leverage their incomes for greater autonomy, this in turn threatens gender roles in an Indian society that continues to see itself, and particularly its women, through a “traditional” prism. On the one hand, there is no denying that these women employed in the service sector are redefining the role of Indian women in urban India. Newspapers, for instance, regularly carry stories about how women employed in call centers prefer to delay marriage, live independently of their in-laws, and have purchasing power independent of their husbands. On the other hand, the increased financial autonomy that women in the new service industries enjoy has been linked to marital discord and is commonly portrayed as a threat to the “traditional” Indian joint family. Thus, even as young, urban, English-educated women find new employment opportunities, economic autonomy comes with a cost.

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

2:41 PM

Page 200

Lisa Trivedi

Neil DeVotta

200

6/16/10

Woman worker leveling a courtyard using mud

New employment options in call centers has led to calls for women to stop working night shifts, even though this is when international corporations require their labor. Consequently, some call centers are increasingly becoming gender-segregated workplaces even as women’s financial independence is being associated with low respectability—given the sense that their female workers may be sexually involved and hence “impure.” The Indian women who have most directly benefited from jobs in the globalized economy have been criticized for working both outside the family and in places and at times that signal questions about their mortality. There has even been an increase in violence against women who work in the service sector. Thus protecting primarily young, urban women who often travel to and from work at odd hours has become both a thriving business in cities like New Bombay, Noida, Gurgaon, and Bangalore as well as the subject of public concern (as reflected in fiction like The White Tiger, which won the 2008 Booker Prize for literature). Although legislation has been enacted to require employers to provide safe and reliable transportation for female workers who often leave for work in the early hours of the morning, many women have been victimized. Between 2003 and 2007, the Indian government reported a 30 percent rise in the reported cases of rape. While it is unclear if these statistics reflect an absolute rise in the incidence of rape, they at the very least demonstrate that women are increasingly willing to lodge formal complaints—a sign

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 201

Women in India

201

that they are seeking redress through legal structures, and doing so in a manner that raises the issues for public debate. There is also an alarming 50 percent rise in cases dealing with abduction, kidnapping, and molestation of women (Manji 2009). It is clear that notwithstanding Indian women employed in the service sector represent a small proportion of women working in India, their physical mobility and financial independence fly in the face of “traditional” notions of women’s mobility and has led to a backlash among certain segments of society. Outside India’s major metropolitan areas and their satellites, the new opportunities associated with liberalization have not become available to Indian workers in general and women in particular. The fact is that the new wealth that has been created with economic liberalization has hardly reached the vast majority of Indian women. One of the bright spots for most Indian women in terms of their economic condition has come from organizations like the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) of Ahmadabad, founded by Ela Bhatt and Arvind Buch (Bhatt 2006; Jhabwala 1980).3 Both Bhatt and Buch came to this union having served in one of India’s oldest and most influential trade organizations, the Textile Labour Association (TLA), or Majoor Mahajan, which organized textile workers in the city of Ahmadabad after 1920. When Bhatt and Buch realized that the structure of the TLA could not adequately represent women workers in the industry and its related trades, they formed SEWA in 1972. It is a trade union composed of poor, self-employed female workers. The organization has grown dramatically in its nearly four decades of existence and is internationally recognized today as a model for grassroots women’s organization. SEWA estimates that roughly 94 percent of women in India work in the informal sectors of the economy. Bhatt and Buch started the union to draw national attention to the plight of millions of India’s unorganized laborers, mainly women, who were otherwise invisible to the public and to state policy. Perhaps most important, SEWA programs have taught its members how to identify and achieve their goals so that they can transform the conditions of their lives as well as those of their children. SEWA’s main focus has been to organize women so as to attain full employment and thus have the resources necessary to realize goals for themselves and their families. Over the years, the organization has developed an increasingly wider set of programs in order to meet the needs of its members, including programs to improve literacy, health care, childcare, housing, and to promote self-reliance and leadership for women. Its first program organized workers into cooperatives and provided all who joined the union steady employment. There are now over eighty cooperatives organized through SEWA, including those for dairy workers, artisans, traders and vendors, agricultural laborers, and service-sector workers. The single largest cooperative is the SEWA bank, which has more than 125,000 investors. SEWA also provides social services to those women who join the union or one of its cooperatives and member benefits include access to a health-care cooperative, day care, and child health services.

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

202

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 202

Lisa Trivedi

Finally, SEWA provides savings and credit groups. These groups have produced some of SEWA’s most significant and well-known successes. Women, in both urban and rural settings, learn how to manage their limited resources and to save, as well as to capitalize small-scale businesses. By giving women greater control over their financial resources, SEWA has promoted women’s increased financial independence. As the government of India begins to address the status of women and those working in the informal sector of the economy, it has turned increasingly to local organizations and nongovernmental organizations like SEWA for programs that have proven records of success in bringing about significant change for women (Bhatt 2006: 99–102).



Education

In addition to transforming working women’s lives, India is finally recognizing that women’s low literacy rates also negatively impact society. As India’s economic growth rates have surged and funding for education has increased, both the scale of educational expenditure as a percentage of the budget and in terms of where that funding has been allocated have produced only limited effects on women’s literacy. Since the colonial period, educational policy in India has been aimed at university education. The elites who find their way to the doors of India’s universities reap the greatest rewards in securing employment. More than a decade after the constitution was amended to make education a right of all citizens, the Manmohan Singh government voiced its intention to make education free, as required in the original amendment. Yet little has been achieved because resources continue to be diverted primarily to India’s universities, most notably the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) system that now numbers fifteen campuses. These institutions are certainly important for India’s economic future; they have produced engineers and technologists who are driving India’s modern economy.4 Yet investment in elite university education alone will not solve the economic plight of India’s women (or the majority of India’s men, for that matter). Recognizing that university-level educational investment had limited effects upon the broader population, Prime Minister Singh went beyond his September 2008 speech and announced that it was his party’s intention to make universal female literacy a cornerstone of India’s educational endeavor. Significantly, this decision follows the policies of many women’s organizations, including SEWA, which have for some time identified increased women’s literacy as one of their chief goals. Recognizing that the average Indian needs not just a free education, but rather a quality primary education, Prime Minister Singh has opted to fund primary education in particular in his future budgets. In the summer of 2009, the newly elected government made good on Singh’s election promise with the introduction of legislation that would grant citizens the right to free and compulsory education by more than doubling the resources available

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 203

203

Neil DeVotta

Women in India

After completing their work in the fields, young girls obtain a few hours’ schooling as part of a program sponsored by a nongovernmental organization. For the vast majority, this may be the only schooling they receive in their lives.

for primary education. The current Indian government sees closing the gap between male and female literacy as key to addressing a number of social development goals, including lowering the birthrate, ameliorating poverty, improving infant mortality rates, and raising life expectancy. It sees women’s literacy as an integral component of creating an economy that in years to come will continue to support India’s economic development and keep India competitive with other regional economic challengers, particularly China. The degree to which the government succeeds will certainly determine the trajectory of India’s women.



Conclusion

It is difficult to overstate the extent to which a woman’s status in India has been shaped historically by her family and how much that remains the case today. As Kalpana Mehta, a thirty-year veteran of India’s women’s movement explains, “The last few decades have witnessed substantial economic and political changes in India. Yet women remain controlled by families, communities, the state and increasing corporate power. Our labour is controlled through strict sexual division of labour at home and the workplace” (Mehta 2008).

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

204

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 204

Lisa Trivedi

More so than any other single factor, the family continues to define the contexts into which women are born, grow up, marry, work, and die. Even today, a woman, whether she lives in a village or in one of India’s megacities, grows up expecting that her marriage will be arranged by her family. While greater numbers of young people are experiencing “love marriages,” in that they select their life partner, this number remains comparatively low and is an urban, middle-class phenomenon that is statistically insignificant. For most young women, including middle- and upper-class women, the family continues to be the most important factor in determining the conditions of their lives. Even with Internet dating, greater mobility, and newfound financial independence, young Indian women have not organized their lives according to notions of western individualism. On the contrary, Indian women appear to seek their own mode of being modern women.5 India’s constitution provides one of the most favorable legal frameworks for improving women’s status, yet the enforcement of the principles of equality

© India Unveiled by Robert Arnett

A Bengali bride arriving for her wedding ceremony, Tamil Nadu

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 205

Women in India

205

as articulated in the constitution have been limited in practice by the maintenance of customary law. How do we understand why Indian women have not been successful in pursuing the issue of a unified civil code and rights? Is this evidence that women’s interests remain fractured by their various communities? Is it possible that when it comes to issues pertaining to marriage, children, divorce, and inheritance, most Indian women continue to value the customary laws of their religious community? As has been discussed, these customary laws are not just the product of sacred texts or centuries of uninterrupted practice; nor are they the misunderstood codes of a foreign ruler. Women’s peculiar civil rights status in India today is the product of a new patriarchy that developed in the last century in a colonial and nationalist context. There may very well come a day when Indian women demand a different civil rights status in their society, but this will require a departure from the patriarchy that came hand in hand with independence and that persists today despite India’s progressive constitution. Aside from the legal status of women under religious customary law, women’s poor economic position in India today remains a target of women’s political efforts. Partly as a result of being excluded from the sectors that have generated recent economic growth, women have been unable to realize the promises of India’s constitution. While new areas of employment have opened up in urban India for middle-class, educated women, changes to women’s broader status can only be achieved by addressing the needs of those who, with only rudimentary education, continue to labor in the context of family and rural communities. In short, key to improving women’s status in India is the expansion of educational opportunities that are consistent with the needs of most women whose labor continues to be shaped and constrained by the demands of their families. For the majority of women in India, organizations like SEWA offer great promise because they provide women with skills, if not a particular trade, to help them manage their financial lives with greater security and new hope. SEWA succeeds within the context of women’s lives, as they currently exist. With better education, women might find more employment in new sectors of the economy or create new opportunities for themselves. While India rightly boasts of the many women who have achieved political prominence, ordinary Indian women have a long way to travel before they could be said to be on an equal footing with men. Considering how the status of Indian women has been transformed over the past two centuries and the crucial role that women themselves have played in that process makes it possible to assess the status of women in contemporary India. That India’s women do not currently enjoy civil equality in their society, as is the case for women in societies around the globe, is undeniable. But this does not mean that the status of Indian women is unchanged or that women are powerless to transform their lives. Although Indian women remain at a distance from assuming their rights as equal citizens, their aspirations seem well within their reach. Having established themselves as a significant voice in a wide range of issues of public concern, women in contemporary India can

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

206

2:41 PM

Page 206

Lisa Trivedi

be counted upon to maintain, if not exceed, the momentum they have built and to chart their own course in the decades to come.



Notes

1. Sarojini Naidu was a prominent poet and member of the Indian National Congress, a body she eventually led as president. She was the only Indian woman to lead the Congress prior to independence. She was among the Indian women (and their western allies) who offered testimony before the Southborough Committee on behalf of women, discussing the progress they had made and their aspirations. 2. Having recognized that the Government of India Act (1919) had not satisfied Indian desires for representation, and seeking to develop further experience with “responsible government” within the British Empire, the Round Table conferences were a series of discussions initiated by the British to set the parameters for further reform of British government in India. 3. For details on SEWA, see www.sewa.org. 4. The IIT campuses were founded shortly after independence in 1947 to provide Indians with the technical education needed to build a strong and competitive economy. The tremendous success of these institutions led to more IITs being built, although many have expressed concerns about the quality of the new facilities. 5. To get a sense of the range of particular concerns facing women today in India, see the April 2008 special issue of Seminar, titled “Unequal Status.” The web-edition can be accessed at www.india-seminar.com/semframe.html.



Bibliography

Agnes, Flavia. 2001. Judgement Call: An Insight into Muslim Women’s Right to Maintenance. Mumbai: Majlis. Bahree, Megha. 2006. “The World’s Most Powerful Women. India’s Most Powerful Businesswomen.” Forbes.com (September 1). www.forbes.com/2006/08/30/powerwomen-india (accessed August 26, 2009). Basu, Aparna, and Bharati Ray. 1990. Women’s Struggle: A History of the All India Women’s Conference, 1927–2002. Delhi: Manmohar. Basu, Asmita. 2008. “Legislation on Domestic Violence.” Seminar 583 (March). www .india-seminar.com/semframe.html (accessed April 24, 2008). Bhatt, Ela. 2006. We Are Poor But So Many: The Story of Self-Employed Women in India. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Buch, Nirmala. 2009. “Reservations for Women in Panchayats: A Sop in Disguise?” Economic and Political Weekly 44, no. 40 (October 3, 2009): 8–10. Carroll, Lucy, ed. 1988. Shah Bano and the Muslim Women Act a Decade On: The Right of Divorced Muslim Women to Mataa. Bombay: Women’s Research Action Group. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). 2009. World Fact Book: India. www.cia.gov/library/ publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html (accessed November 22, 2009). Chakravarti, Uma. 2005. Rewriting History: The Life and Times of Pandita Ramabai. New Delhi: Kali for Women. Chatterjee, Partha. 1993. The Nation and Its Fragments. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Engineer, Asghar Ali. 1987. Shah Bano Controversy. Bombay: Sangam Books.

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 207

Women in India

207

Forbes, Geraldine. 1996. Women in Modern India. Cambridge and London: Cambridge University Press. Government of India. 2009a. Union Budget and Economic Survey, 2008–2009. New Delhi: Ministry of Finance. http://indiabudget.nic.in/es2008-09/esmain.htm (accessed September 15, 2009). ———. 2009b. Economic Survey, 2008–2009. Chapters 1 and 10. http://indiabudget .nic.in (accessed August 26, 2009). Hasan, Zoya. 1993. “Communalism, State Policy, and the Question of Women’s Rights in Contemporary India.” Bulletin of Concerned Scholars 25, no. 4 (October– December): 9–10. ———. 1999. “Gender Politics, Legal Reform, and the Muslim Community in India.” In Resisting the Sacred and the Secular: Women’s Activism and Politicized Religion in South Asia, Patricia Jeffrey and Amrita Basu, eds. New Delhi: Kali for Women. International Labour Organization. 2002. Women and Men in the Informal Economy: A Statistical Picture. Geneva: International Labour Organization. Jaya Prakash Pradhan, and Vinoj Abraham. 2005. “Social and Cultural Impact of Outsourcing: Emerging Issues from Indian Call Centers.” Harvard Asia Quarterly 9, no. 3. Jhabwala, Renana. 1980. “Self-Employed Women’s Association: Organising Women by Struggle and Development.” Paper presented at Empowering Women in the Casualised Trades, July 24–August 1, hosted by the World Institute for Development Economics Research, Helsinki. Khory, Kavita R. 2005. “The Shah Bano Case: Some Political Implications.” In Religion and Law in Independent India, Robert D. Baird, ed. Delhi: Manmohar Publishers. Kishwar, Madhu. 1985. “Women and Gandhi.” Economic and Political Weekly 20, no. 40: 1691–1702. ———. 1986. “Pro-Women or Anti-Muslim? The Shah Bano Controversy.” Manushi 32 (January–February). Kosambi, Meera. 1988. “Women, Emancipation and Equality: Pandita Ramabai’s Contribution to Women’s Cause.” Economic and Political Weekly 24, no. 44 (October): 1857–1868. ———. 1993. “An Indian Response to Christianity, Church and Colonialism: The Case of Pandita Ramabai.” Unpublished paper. Bombay: Research Center for Women’s Studies, SNDT University. Krishnan, Maitrey. 2008. “Sexual Harassment and Law.” Seminar 583 (March). www .india-seminar.com/semframe.html (accessed April 24, 2008). Kumar, Radha. 1993. The History of Doing: An Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800–1990. Delhi: Kali for Women. Lateef, Shahida. 2008. “From Shahbano to Sachar.” Seminar 583 (March). www.indiaseminar.com/semframe.html (accessed April 24, 2008). Mani, Lata. 1989. “Contentious Traditions: The Debates over Sati in Colonial India.” In Recasting Women, Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid, eds. Delhi: Kali for Women. Manji, Irshad. 2009. “Changing Lives.” New York Times (September 17). http://www .nytimes.com/2009/09/20/books/review/Manji-t.html (accessed April 8, 2010). Mehta, Kalpana. 2008. “Women’s Movements in India.” Seminar 583 (March). www .india-seminar.com/cd8899/cd_frame8899.html (accessed April 24, 2008). Menon-Sen, Kalyani, and A. K. Shiva Kumar. 2001. Women in India: How Free? How Equal? New Delhi: United Nations Office of the Resident Coordinator in India. Metcalf, Barbara, and Thomas Metcalf, eds. 2008. A Concise History of India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mohanty, Chandra. 1988. “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses.” Feminist Review 30 (Autumn).

08DeVotta_8.qxd:Layout 1

208

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 208

Lisa Trivedi

Omvedt, Gail. 1990. “Women Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Raj, Chandwad to Vinter.” Economic and Political Weekly (August 4). Palit, Chittaroopa. 2008. “Combatting Displacement.” Seminar 583 (March). www.indiaseminar.com/semframe.html (accessed April 24, 2008). Parashar, Archana. 1992. Women and Family Law Reform in India: Uniform Civil Code and Gender Equality. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Patel, Sujata. 1988. “The Construction and Reconstruction of Women in Gandhi.” Economic and Political Weekly 33, no. 8: 377–387. ———. 1993. “Women’s Participation in the Anti-reservation Agitation in Ahmedabad, 1985; Some Issues.” In Women’s Participation in Politics, Kaushik Susheela, ed. Delhi: Vikas. Pathak, Zakia, and Rajeshwari Sunder Rajan. 1989. “Shahbano.” Signs 14, no. 3: 558– 582. Rai, Shirin. 1998. “Class, Caste, and Gender: Women in Parliament in India.” In Women in Parliament: Beyond Numbers. Stockholm: International IDEA. Raju, Saraswati. 2006. “Locating Women in Social Development.” In India: Social Development Report, Council for Social Development, ed. Delhi: Oxford. Ramusack, Barbara. 1992. “Cultural Missionaries, Maternal Imperialists, Feminist Allies: British Women Activists in India, 1865–1945.” In Western Women and Imperialism: Complicity and Resistance, Margaret Strobel and Nirad Chaudhuri, eds. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Sangari, Kumkum, and Sudesh Vaid, eds. 1989. Recasting Women: Essays in Colonial Indian History. New Brunswick: Rutgers. Schott, Ben. 2009. “Chikan and Eve Teasing.” New York Times (September 21). http:// schott.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/21/chikan-and-eve-teasing/ (accessed April 10, 2010). Sen, Ilina. 2008. “The Livelihood Crisis for Women.” Seminar 583 (March). www.indiaseminar.com/semframe.html (accessed April 24, 2008). Sengupta, Debjani. 2005. “Civil Society and Women in Panchayat.” Viewpoint (August– December). http://webspace.webring.com/people/gh/husociology1/women7.htm (accessed April 2, 2010). Shrine, Harikkumar. 2009. “Indian Women Find New Peace in Rail Commute.” New York Times (September 15). Sinha, Mrinalini. 1992. “Chathams, Pitts, and Gladstones in Petticoats.” In Western Women and Imperialism: Complicity and Resistance, Margaret Strobel and Nirad Chaudhuri, eds. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. United Nations Development Programme. 1997. Human Development Report Profile: India. New York: Oxford University Press. ———. 2009. Human Development Report: India. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. 1997. Women in India: An Accounting. New York: United Nations. Vatuk, Sylvia. 2009. “A Rallying Cry for Muslim Personal Law.” In Islam in South Asia in Practice, Barbara Metcalf, ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Yang, Anand. 1989. “Whose Sati? Widow Burning in Early-Nineteenth-Century India.” Journal of Women’s History 1, no. 2: 8–33.

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 209

9 Religion Ainslie T. Embree

A

s Mark Twain entered Bombay harbor on his round-the-world trip in the 1890s, he was aware, he wrote, that he had come at last to India, the land that everyone desires to see “and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give up that glimpse for all the shows of the world combined.” India was so exciting, he wrote, because it was “the home of a thousand religions and two million gods”(Twain 1989: 347–348). Twain saw no need to go beyond amused irony, but the title of this chapter commits us to attempt a definition of what it means when we use the word religion in the context of contemporary India.



Toward a Definition of Religion

Endless attempts at a definition of religion have been made in many disciplines, but all have been contested, so much so that some scholars have argued that the term should be dropped as no longer useful for meaningful discourse because of the complexity and variety of phenomena it is made to encompass (W. C. Smith 1963). This is not really feasible, however, since the word is now firmly lodged in our ways of thinking about the world. This being the case, a definition is suggested for centering comments on religion in contemporary India that draws on many sources. Religion will be understood here as a fusing of memories and experiences around symbols that are regarded as possessing powers that transcend ordinary life, and these shared experiences unite people into a community. Such a definition says nothing about the truth or falsity of religion, only that religious beliefs give, in the words of the anthropologist Clifford Geertz, “an aura of factuality” to moods and motivations so that they seem uniquely realistic (Banton 1968: 4). Religion is seen as a part of culture, that is, all those patterns of behavior and 209

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

210

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 210

Ainslie T. Embree

thought that are transmitted from one generation to another. Religion is not a self-sufficient entity but is embedded in the historical processes that shape and respond to all human creativity. The attempt to explain religion in contemporary India in line with this definition is a daunting task, but it is greatly helped by being able to assume a background reading of the chapters that precede and follow it because, as will be frequently stressed in this chapter, those aspects of Indian experience we call religion cannot be separated from the past and present patterns of the fabric of Indian society. While all the other chapters are relevant to our concern with the role of religion, perhaps the ones that may be most useful are those that outline the historical context, the nationalist movement, Indian politics, the status of women, and caste. Having privileged these chapters, however, one immediately thinks of the one on art and realizes how impoverished religion in India—or in the West—would be without the arts (music, painting, sculpture, dancing, drama), and how much through them the cultures of all the countries of South Asia are linked with Indic civilization. Perhaps not so immediately obvious is how significant religious factors are in India’s relations with its neighbors, especially Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Reference to these and other aspects of life in modern India that could have been stressed in this chapter are left out because they occur, explicitly or implicitly, in the other chapters in this book.



Pervasiveness of Religions in India

Twain’s amused tolerance for India’s religions and deities in modern India was not shared by all foreign visitors; many found its varieties of religious experiences, as did one British official, not a proper expression of religion at all, but “a tangled jungle of disorderly superstitions” (Lyall 1889, vol. 1: 2). A very different evaluation of Indian religions was made, however, by other western writers, notably by the influential German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860), who contrasted what he believed was the absence of wars of religion and religious persecution in India with the European experience. “The fanatic crimes perpetrated in the name of religion,” he wrote, “are in reality attributable only to the adherence of monotheistic religions, that is to say, to Judaism and its two branches, Christianity and Islam. There is no question of anything resembling it among the Hindus and Buddhists” (Embree 1990: 20– 21). Schopenhauer’s statement is of dubious historicity, but it underlies the thinking of many in the West who are sympathetic with Indian religions; more significantly for our purpose in this chapter, it was accepted by many Indian intellectuals in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This became a crucial factor in the nostalgia for the Hindu past that is an important component in the development of Indian nationalism and for understanding the role of religion in contemporary India life. As this chapter notes, Indian intellectuals in the nineteenth century gained their knowledge of Indian history very largely from

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 211

Religion

211

foreign interpretations, and within that history, as the famous India historian R. C. Majumdar claims, was unmistakable evidence of deep-seated prejudices against Hindu culture and civilization (1961: 416). Prejudice against Islam was also a characteristic feature of interpretations of its role in Indian society, as expressed in a multivolume collection of selections from Muslim historians of India by British officials called The History of India as Told by Its Own Historians (Elliot and Dowson 1867–1877, vol. 1: xx–xxv). Its stated purpose was to show the cruelty and barbarous nature of the Muslim rulers in contrast to the just and progressive rule of the British. This reading of Islamic rule unfortunately has fitted into present-day political discourse in India as well as in the United States and Europe. The pervasiveness and multiplicity of religiosity of India has been frequently commented on by Indians themselves, sometimes with approval, sometimes with biting denigration. For Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), an orator of impressive power, the greatness of India as a nation was to be found in the splendor of its religion. He melded religion and nationalism in a way that was especially appealing to the Indian nationalist movement that was then finding its voice, as noted in Chapter 4. India, he declared, was “the land to which every soul that is finding its way Godward must come to attain its last home, the land where humanity has attained its highest towards gentleness, towards generosity, towards purity, towards calmness, above all the land of introspection and spirituality” (Embree 1989: 159). It was Vivekananda who first introduced many Americans to Indian religion when he spoke at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, expounding the theme that India stood for spirituality and the West for materialism. Mohandas Gandhi gave this idea more vigorous expression when he wrote that the tendency of Indian civilization is to elevate the moral being, but that of western civilization is to promote immorality. “The latter is godless, the former is based on the belief in God” (Dalton 1993: 20). But there were also critical comments on religions from within the Indian tradition. Basavanna, a poet who lived in south India in the twelfth century, complained that the people made gods out of everything, stone, wood, metal, rivers: “Gods, gods, there are so many, there’s no place left for a foot.” He was not, however, content to end on a note mocking faith and he ends, “There is only one God. He is the Lord of the Meeting Rivers”(Ramanujan 1973: 84). In the fifteenth century, the poet Kabir made a comment that is often echoed in India at the beginning of the twenty-first century: “The Hindu says Ram is the Beloved, the Turk [the Muslim] says Rahim is. Then they kill each other”(Kabir 1983: 4).



The Function of Religions in Indian Society

At work behind these contradictory statements on religious phenomena in India are attempts to locate their functions and their truth in a complex multicultural

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

212

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 212

Ainslie T. Embree

society. Such attempts are especially important in looking at religion in contemporary India, because of numerous attempts to bring about social change and to modify religious beliefs and practices, usually referred to as social and religious reform movements, which claim to be restoring religion to its pure and original essence. From the end of the eighteenth century, as the British through the East India Company established their power in India, writings on the nature of the society that had come under their control multiplied, and regrettably that society was painted in dark colors. Indian society was characterized by brutal and cruel rulers, poverty, famine, illiteracy, disease, unjust treatment of women, the caste system, idolatry, and sectarian violence. The point of this depressing catalog of social ills was to show that the weaknesses and corruption of India were not due to anything inherent in the Indian people but to the malevolent influence of the great religions of India, Hinduism and Islam. All through the nineteenth century, and still today to a considerable extent, religious beliefs and practices became the standard explanation for almost all aspects of Indian society that social critics found strange or deplorable. This understanding of the role of religion in Indian society was not, however, confined to westerners. It was shared by many secular Indian nationalists, notably by Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the towering figures in the Indian independence struggle who guided India as prime minister in the crucial years after 1947. He saw religion in contemporary India as characterized by obscurantism and bigotry, a reactionary force preventing needed change. Religion in India, he wrote, “has not only broken our backs but stifled and killed all originality of thought and mind” (Akbar 1988: 183). His thinking was influenced by British history texts about India he had read in school and college in England but even more by Marxist interpretations of the function of religion as the enemy of social change and progress. When he watched the bloody riots between Hindus and Muslims during the independence movement, he longed for the demise of religion. Nehru and other Indian secular intellectuals do not appear to have made any attempts to appeal to religious groups for support for social betterment; all they asked of them was not to hinder progress by encouraging superstition. This is one of the areas of striking differences between Nehru and Gandhi, for Gandhi sought the support of religious groups of all kinds—Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and Zoroastrian (Parsi). That Nehru wanted to show, however, that criticism of religious beliefs and practices was not alien to the Indian cultural tradition is shown in an unusual emphasis in his Discovery of India on what he refers to as “the materialists,” thinkers who flourished in ancient India but have often been ignored in discussions of religion in India. Surely reflecting his own beliefs, Nehru said that for these ancient Indian thinkers, only this world existed, no soul, no heaven or hell, and moral rules were manmade conventions (Nehru 1946: 86–89).

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 213

Religion

213

The point that Nehru is making, although somewhat obliquely, is that contrary to the widely accepted idea, India is not a peculiarly religious society, but in fact within the tradition there was a pungent criticism of religion. Romila Thapar, who is not only one of India’s leading historians of ancient India but also deeply concerned with the role of religion in present-day India’s social and political life, has argued that, given the structures of caste and class in Indian society, dissent and protest took the form, not of radical attacks on the existing structures of society, but of dissenting groups converting themselves into caste groups that fit into existing patterns of society. Thapar does not mention it, but protest groups in Europe also organized as religious sects that then mounted a successful frontal attack on the Roman Catholic Church and other forms of institutionalized religion. In India, religious groups could not spearhead radical change because, as Thapar puts it, they remained at best “conciliating alternatives” (Thapar 1979: 16–17). During the nationalist movement, the tradition of protest and dissent was downplayed by “a nationalistic over-simplification of Indian society as a vision of harmonious social relationships in a land of plenty” (Thapar 1979: 2). Social dissent linked with religious dissent had to wait until the independence movement turned from a focus simply on freedom from the British to restructuring society. Mohandas Gandhi’s movement was a great protest against contemporary society in the name of religion, but its use of the vocabulary of religion was fiercely criticized by M. N. Roy (1887–1954), who began as a Communist leader but was expelled from the party for his opposition to Stalin. He saw the social basis of Gandhi’s message in religion as “cultural backwardness; its intellectual mainstay, superstition” (Hay 1988: 301).



Pluralism and Multiplicity of Religions

Since 1871, a census has been taken every ten years, and these decennial operations confirm that India is a religiously pluralistic society, not just in terms of the many religious communities represented, which is true of most large modern nations, but in the very large numbers of people in the different religious groups. While the current Indian census does not collect as detailed information of religions and castes as did the preindependence ones, the information is reasonably accurate and estimates can be made for comparative purposes (Census of India 2001). According to projections based on the last census, India is likely to have about 1.2 billion people when the decennial census is taken in 2011. On the basis of self-identification given to the census-takers, of this enormous population, 80.5 percent are Hindu; 13.4 percent are Muslims; 2.3 percent are Christians; 1.95 percent are Sikhs; 0.8 percent are Buddhists; 0.4 percent are Jains; and a very small percentage, but significant in terms of influence, are Zoroastrians, Baha’is, and Jews. Without any claim for accuracy, 1.5 percent identified as practicing “tribal or animistic religions.” All of these figures, however,

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

214

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 214

Ainslie T. Embree

suggest too precise a categorization, when in fact boundaries are fluid and uncertain. Many members identified as tribal were anxious to deny that they were Hindus. Although each of these smaller groups is interesting in terms of its beliefs, location within Indian history, and contemporary status, Hinduism and Islam will command the most attention in this essay, as they do in social and political discourse in contemporary India, because of the number of their adherents and the role of individuals who claimed to speak for them and were acknowledged in that role because of their ability to articulate their hopes and fears. This was to lead, as Pratap Mehta points out, to deep divisions in the Indian nationalist movement on religious lines as “the situation generated new vulnerabilities and called for new adjustments” as both Hindus and Muslims “engaged in a process of self-reflection and debate about their future” (2003: 52). What adds bitterness to that debate in contemporary India is that one of the religiously defined groups, the Hindus, is spoken of as belonging to the Indian religions in contrast to the Muslims and the Christians who are referred to as belonging to foreign religions and, furthermore, as belonging to the religion of invaders. The term Indian religions is frequently used to refer to those myriad systems of beliefs and practices whose development through the centuries has taken place within the Indian subcontinent—Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism—in contrast to those systems that have been brought to India from other areas. This use of “Indian” religion is seen, however, as pejorative to the “non-Indian” religions— Islam and Christianity being the main ones—in denying their adherents a place within the Indian national culture. A very forceful statement on this point was made by M. S. Gowalkar, leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and one of the chief spokespeople of what has become known as “Hindu nationalism.” “All of these communities which are staying in this land . . . for so many centuries, do not believe in its philosophy, in its national heroes . . . and are, to put it briefly, foreign to our national life. And the only real, abiding and glorious national life in this holy land of [India] has been of the Hindu people” (Gowalkar 1980: 203). The systems castigated by Hindu nationalists like Gowalkar as nonIndian—principally Islam and Christianity—have, however, roots in India that go back at least 1,000 years, so they are in no sense “new” or “un-Indian.” The Indian religions characterized as indigenous, originating within the Indian subcontinent, are Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, and Sikhism.



Four Indigenous Religions

The four indigenous groups of religions are composed of many sects and factions, with their adherents asserting possession of distinctive truths. To outsiders, however, they share, despite the many variations, certain common assumptions

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 215

Religion

215

or aspects of a worldview, or “axioms of a system of meaning,” to use a term favored by some modern scholars (Keyes and Daniel 1983: 3). These assumptions, which are usually taken as distinguishing them from the nonindigenous groups, developed and took shape over very long periods of time, and it is misleading to speak of them in terms of dates of origin. One of these assumptions is an acceptance of the idea of reincarnation, or samsara: that is, the idea that all living things will die but will be reborn again in some form. A second is a belief in karma, a word for which there is no real translation. It conveys the idea that all actions—mental, emotional, and physical—have consequences that lead to continuation of life in new forms of rebirth. A third assumption is embodied in another word for which there is no ready equivalent, dharma, which refers to the moral obligations that come with birth and that are not imposed by any deity but result from one’s own actions in previous lives. Dharma is often used by Indians for what westerners would call religion, meaning the duties, obligations, and beliefs that life imposes on one. It is both the way things are and the way they should be. Good people, then, are those who fulfill their dharma. A fourth assumption is moksha, sometimes translated as “salvation,” but “liberation” is better, carrying the sense of being freed from the cycle of birth and rebirth. These concepts are, it must be stressed, not at all religious beliefs in the sense of being creedal statements—found, for example, in most versions of Christianity—that an adherent accepts for inclusion within the group. The Indian concepts are part of a worldview that seems, from very ancient times, to have pervaded the consciousness of many of the inhabitants of the subcontinent and that gives depth and meaning, not only to the adherents of the indigenous religions but often to members of all religions imbued with the Indian ethos. Hinduism

Westerners and some Indians often argue that Hinduism is not a religion but many forms of belief and practice loosely linked together. Hinduism has no single authoritative scripture but rather a multitude of sacred texts; it has no identifiable historical figure as a founder, no creedal statements to summarize its beliefs, and no institutional structure to guarantee conformity; and instead of insistence on one God, it permits belief in the existence of many or none. In contemporary discourse in India, however, Hindu and Hinduism are used by Hindus themselves, not only in English but also in Indian languages, to differentiate themselves from adherents of other religions. Hindu is used in the Indian Constitution to refer not only to Hindus but also to Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs, although this usage was later rejected by the Sikhs and Buddhist groups. Many cultural streams contributed to the complex mosaic of the indigenous religious systems of contemporary India, as distinct from those, like Islam and Christianity, that originated outside. All of these streams are readily identifiable

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

216

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 216

Ainslie T. Embree

in contemporary India and are in no sense merely historical artifacts. One is the Dravidian, relating to the culture and languages of south India; the other, the one best known and most studied as well as the most controversial, is the IndoAryan element. In recent years, much emphasis has been placed on the Dravidian element in Indian religion, partly because of scholarly interpretations based on textual and archaeological evidence, but also because of strong political movements in modern times that have stressed the cultural autonomy of the linguistic areas of south India. Languages belonging to the Dravidian language branch are distinct from and perhaps predate the Indo-Aryan languages of north India. The Dravidian languages are concentrated in the four states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala, and scholarly research quite convincingly indicates patterns of religious practices and beliefs deeply rooted in these regions that have contributed greatly to Indian religions. The indigenous, or Dravidian, religions of south India seem not to have been so much concerned with extraterrestrial deities as with “the sacramental character of life: anything associated with the production or ending of life was felt to contain a potentially dangerous power” (Deshpande and Hook 1979: 11–13). Three agents are especially associated with this power: women, a source and symbol of fertility and life; lowcaste persons in contact with death or dead substances; and the king or ruler, who controls the prosperity of the kingdom and who possesses the power of life and death. But power was not only dangerous; it was also beneficent and life affirming. Relations to both aspects are managed through rituals, sacrifices, and gifts. Scholars also place great emphasis on south Indian religion in the development of bhakti, which, as noted later, means complete devotion to a particular deity. The god is identified as king, lord, ruler, to whom utter obedience and loyalty are given as his due. Female deities received the same devotion, with the added characteristics of power associated with the title of mother. These aspects of religion have become part of an all-Indian religious inheritance. The other cultural stream, the Indo-Aryan, was long regarded as the central component of Indian religions, but this view is now deeply enmeshed in controversy over the nature and origin of the Indian tradition. In the nineteenth century, as the result of philological research in the most ancient Indian texts, it was widely accepted that around 2000 B.C.E., a people known as Aryans and speaking an Indo-European language invaded north India through the western hills, conquered the areas now known as the Punjab, and gradually extended their control over the whole subcontinent. Their language and their religion, enshrined in the great texts the Vedas, were believed to have become the foundation of Indian culture, including the Hindu religion. Current scholarship has modified the Aryan myth, as it has come to be known, and Romila Thapar has summed up the view of most modern scholars by saying that the idea of conquest should be replaced by considering “the possibility of migrations and technological changes being

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 217

217

Ainslie T. Embree

Religion

The magnificent temples of south India had pools for bathing, emphasizing the importance of ritual cleansing in Hindu worship.

responsible for the arrival and dominance of the Aryan speakers” (Thapar 1994: 3). The languages and religious concepts associated with the migrant tribal people from outside the Indian subcontinent were fused through the centuries with indigenous languages, religious ideas, and practices. Out of this fusion, in the period from roughly 2000 to 600 B.C.E., a vast literature was produced that became the charter documents of Hinduism, the oldest of which was the Rig Veda. In this literature, the priests, or Brahmans, have a vital role as religious specialists, because they alone have the knowledge for the correct performance of the rituals that maintain the cosmic order through sacrifices to the gods. In the Upanishads, the last category of Vedic literature, a remarkable change is seen in religious and philosophical ideas. There is great attention to release from the unending cycle of birth and death, with liberation, or moksha, coming through knowledge, which is understood as a realization of the unity of all reality. In this abstruse speculation, the gods play little role; the emphasis is on the seeker after spiritual truths and their discovery. Scholars use the term Brahmanical Hinduism for the developments that place an emphasis on the religious and legal importance in society of the role and ideas of the Brahmans, centering on the “mythic vision and ritual ideologies presented by the Vedas” (Heesterman 1987, vol. 15: 217). Their ideas and social values remain normative for many people in Indian society.

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

218

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 218

Ainslie T. Embree

Neil DeVotta

The central place of this Vedic literature and the peculiar role of the Brahmans is one aspect of thought that differentiates Brahmanical Hinduism from the other great movements, Buddhism and Jainism, and it is very much part of “lived religion” in contemporary India. The two great epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, both of which center on dharma and the Brahmanical understanding of the good life, are still immensely influential. One evidence of this is that a section of the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita, has achieved a popularity during the last two centuries that it seems not to have had before. It is partly due to the printing press, which has made millions of copies available in modern Indian languages, and also because it has been translated many times into English, making it readily accessible as a compendium of Hindu teachings. All things to all people, it was read by the great social reformer Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856–1920) early in the twentieth century as a call to action, violent if necessary, against the foreign oppressor, and by Mohandas Gandhi as the gospel of nonviolent love. In recent years, both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana have been modernized into immensely popular television serials. Two kinds of religious specialists are integral to Brahmanical Hinduism. One is the priest, who in the most ancient level of the tradition knew the sacred formulas used for approaching the deities in the great Vedic ceremonies. In everyday life, he was the individual with the special qualifications required to perform temple rituals as well as the rites of passage, such as birth, initiation,

Hanuman, the monkey god, is a prominent character in the Ramayana. In Pushkar, a man dressed as Hanuman poses with a college student from the United States.

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 219

Religion

219

marriage, and death. A description of a modern Hindu priest by a US scholar is probably fairly accurate for other times and places: [They] may find themselves jacks-of-all-trades, called upon to recite mantras, perform or advise on life-cycle rites, inaugurate a new house, provide horoscopes, sanction marital arrangements, advise on illness, counteract the evil eye, arbitrate disputes, perform accounting, or administer the age old ritual attention to the images of the household shrine. (Knipe 1987, vol. 11: 541)

The other type of religious specialist is the searcher after truth, the teacher, the mediator, the guru. He or she—for the guru can be either man or woman—is one of the most characteristic features of the Brahmanical tradition. The emphasis is on knowledge and on the recognition of the need for a spiritual guide, one who has found the way to truth and is able to help others. Spiritual guides are numerous throughout all levels of Indian society, ministering to the spiritual needs of ordinary folk in their own localities or at pilgrimage sites. In modern India, the appeal to return to “Hindu values” usually refers to the way of life that was articulated by Brahmanical Hinduism. The ideal of the good society that emerges in the literature can be summarized under two grand concepts. The first of these is of society divided into four great divisions, or varnas, with each class being bound to the others by reciprocal duties, creating a harmonious society. There is no historical evidence that such a society ever existed in reality, but the idea has had immense appeal through the ages, with Mohandas Gandhi being an influential exponent of a modernized version. The other, closely related, is that the good person is one who finds the meaning of life in following his or her dharma. One of the most distinctive features of modern India is the development of the languages associated with particular regions. Many of these languages are now closely identified with modern Indian states: Tamil in Tamil Nadu, Marathi in Maharashtra, Bengali in West Bengal, Punjabi in Punjab, with only the most widespread, Hindi, not having a single homeland but remaining dominant in the great belt of northern states. It was in these languages that many of the most distinctive religious movements found expression, adding to the great richness of the Indian literary tradition. Of special significance for the history of religion was the emergence of many sects and cults, often regionally based and expressing themselves in regional languages, not Sanskrit, the language of classical Brahmanical Hinduism. These various forces worked together to create quite distinct regional characteristics, which provide much of the social and political structure of modern India. Two developments within Hinduism, however, cut across geographical, linguistic, and cultural boundaries. One was what has been called Puranic religion, in reference to the Puranas, the texts that tell in great detail of the lives of the gods. The other development was bhakti, the devotion to a particular deity, which became the most widespread expression of religion in India.

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

220

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 220

Ainslie T. Embree

The Puranas are woven into the everyday life of India, for although they were written in Sanskrit, the myths and legends they contain are known everywhere in all languages. In the words of a great Hindu scholar, the Puranas remind us “the Almighty is alone worth seeking” as they “expatiated on the glories and exploits of different forms of divinity, set forth the types of worship, and described the sacred shrines in the different holy places to which pilgrimages were made” (Raghavan 1988: 321). Three major forms of deity are celebrated in the Puranic literature—Vishnu, Shiva, and the Goddess—but all have many manifestations—the feminine power alone is given 1,008 names in one of the Puranas. Vishnu is worshiped through his avatars or incarnations, of which the most widely known and worshiped are Rama and Krishna, who has been especially celebrated in poetry and painting. Rama, as noted later and in other chapters, has assumed enormous political importance in contemporary India. Shiva is worshiped in various forms, but most commonly in the form of the lingam, an ancient phallic symbol of fertility that possibly dates back to the Indus culture or tribal beliefs. The third form of the deity widely worshiped throughout India is some form of the Goddess, the Great Mother. Although goddesses only become prominent in the Puranic literature, the worship of the divine feminine principle is surely part of the most ancient level of human existence in India. Puranic religion permitted the growth of many of the cults and sects of modern Hinduism. Bhakti—intense, emotional devotion to a particular deity that is characterized as a relationship of love—is what many Hindus, both now and in the past, understand to be true religion. Although the word is used in many ancient texts, particularly in the Bhagavad Gita, the forms in which it was most widely expressed appear to have originated in south India. It found its most notable expression in the songs of poets in regional languages, those spoken by the masses, celebrating the deity they loved and worshiped, and from whom they received the joy of personal communion (Hawley and Juergensmeyer 1988). It is an essential feature of what can be thought of as everyday lived religion. Many of these poet-saints, as they are often called, were women, one of whom, Mirabai, lived in Rajasthan in the sixteenth century. Her poetry exemplifies an important function of the bhakti tradition: through a devotion to one’s lord that renounced all other loyalties, one could inwardly defy many of the conventions of caste, class, and gender while outwardly conforming to them. Some of the poet-saints were from the lowest castes, suggesting that bhakti provided a safety valve for the frustrations and restrictions society imposed. The Ramcaritmanas, the story of Rama’s life, composed in the sixteenth century in Hindi by Tulsidas (ca. 1532–1623), is perhaps the most influential of all the bhakti works. Mohandas Gandhi called it “the greatest book of all devotional literature,” and western scholars have characterized it as the best and most trustworthy guide to the popular living faith of the ordinary people (Lutgendorf

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 221

Religion

221

1994: 1). In north India every year, thousands of performances are given of plays celebrating Rama’s story as told by Tulsidas. Bhakti by its very nature is constantly changing, and new forms of devotion appear continually. Rama has become extraordinarily important in recent times through his use as a potent symbol of Hindu unity against Muslims, as demonstrated by the fervor aroused in the 1990s by events leading to the destruction of the mosque known as the Babri Masjid (see “Challenging Secularism” section). New gurus emerge and gather followers, giving Hindu religious life an appearance of spontaneity. To the outsider observing Hinduism in contemporary India, it appears to be, as one writer puts it, “a sea of ever-shifting eddies and vortices that catch up individual believers in various aspects of their devotional lives” (Hawley 1988). Because of the nature of bhakti, new gods and goddesses can appear to answer new human needs in new circumstances, or old ones can take on new functions. A fascinating example of this is the goddess Shitala Mata, who protected against smallpox. With the disappearance of that disease, she has become the deity to appeal to against the current spread of HIV/AIDS in India. Jainism and Buddhism

Throughout history, the religious and social dominance of Brahmanical Hinduism was challenged by other systems, of which Jainism and Buddhism were the most influential. Both played significant roles in Indian history, with Buddhism becoming one of the three great world religions, along with Christianity and Islam, as it spread throughout Asia and then into many other parts of the world, although it virtually disappeared from India itself. Buddhism and Jainism shared general assumptions regarding karma, samsara, and dharma, although they differed on their interpretations of the human condition and the methods for obtaining moksha, or liberation. They both differed from Brahmanical Hinduism on three important points: they rejected the authority of the Vedas; they allowed Brahmans no preordained hierarchical spiritual role; and they denied the importance of social obligations that separated groups or castes within society, arguing that they were not relevant to liberation. Jainism stresses nonviolence and the refusal to take life in any form as the absolute requirements for beginning the process of liberation from the cycle of rebirth. Although believing in great spiritual leaders who offer guidance and inspiration, it rejects belief in deities. Perhaps because of its rejection of any occupations that required the taking of life, in modern India the Jains became bankers and merchants. Scholars regard Jainism as very influential for Mohandas Gandhi’s beliefs and practices (Dalton 1993: 14). Buddhism’s disappearance from India itself can probably be explained by its absorption into the mainstream of Hindu culture as well as by the aggressive counterattacks by Brahmanical Hinduism. A curious reversal has taken place in

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

2:41 PM

Page 222

Ainslie T. Embree

Neil DeVotta

222

6/16/10

Buddhist temple at Sarnath

modern India, however: since 1954, the census figures show a thousandfold increase in the number of Buddhists in India. This is due to the social reform movement initiated in the 1930s by Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, who was called “Babasaheb” by his followers and was the leader of the Untouchables or Dalits, the most socially oppressed of all classes in India. Believing that Hinduism was the cause of their condition, he decided to convert his followers to Buddhism, a religion that he regarded as older than Hinduism and free, in his view, from the degrading oppression of caste. These new Buddhists now number over four million and are a very important element in the increasing refusal of the lowest groups to follow the political leadership of the upper castes and classes. Sikhism

Sikhism developed in the fifteenth century. Older books often suggest that Sikhism was a synthesis of Islam and Hinduism, but current western scholarship tends to argue that there is little evidence of this and that the origins of Sikhism can be found within the Indian tradition of bhakti as transformed by Guru Nanak (1469–1539), whom his followers regard as the founder of the new religious community (McLeod 1995). Out of his teachings came one of the most distinctive of religious communities. Although relatively small in number, Sikhs have had a memorable impact on India, as well as on other countries to which they have migrated, including Great Britain, the United States, and Canada.

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 223

223

Neil DeVotta

Religion

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest site for Sikhs

Three elements define Sikhism as a faith and a community. One is the teachings of Guru Nanak, as preserved in the Sikh scripture, the Adi Granth. Another is the institution of the guru, or teacher, who is in some sense the voice of God; there were ten gurus, with Nanak being the first and Gobind Singh (1675–1708) the last. The third distinctive element of Sikhism is the khalsa, which according to Sikh tradition was formed by Gobind Singh into a militant community to defend the faith and was given visible symbols, of which the most obvious is the uncut hair and beards of the men. Insofar as the core of a faith can be stated, for Sikhs the summary of their faith is found in the Mul Mantra, a composition by Guru Nanak at the beginning of the Adi Granth. It echoes the texture of much Indian devotion: True Name Person who creates Beyond fear and opposition A form beyond time Unborn, Self born, The guru’s grace. Repeat this. The ancient truth, ageless truth, Is also, now truth. And Nanak says, It will always be truth. (Hawley and Juergensmeyer 1988: 78; McLeod 1995: 143–144)

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

224



6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 224

Ainslie T. Embree

Two Nonindigenous Indian Religions: Islam and Christianity

This heading asserts the theme of this section: that Islam and Christianity are firmly rooted in Indian civilization, despite the frequent assertion by Hindu nationalists, as noted later, that they are alien to Indian society. Three major interpretations have distorted the history of Islam in India. One that often finds expression in popular writing by both Indians and foreigners is that there is a legacy of 1,000 years of hatred between Hinduism and Islam. Hatred does not endure for 1,000 years; it must be nurtured in specific contexts—and that is what one sees in modern India. Another error, egregiously common even in scholarly writing, is that the Muslim conquerors offered the defeated peoples the choice of conversion or the sword. There is little evidence for large-scale forced conversions, and the continuing presence of an immense Hindu population suggests that such a policy was never systematic: the Muslim rulers were interested in collecting revenue from the people, not alienating them. Another frequent assertion is that there was widespread destruction of Hindu temples by the Muslim rulers. Certainly there was some such destruction, but it was not wholesale, as witnessed by the many Hindu temples that survived the Turkish conquests. One has to bear in mind that conquerors frequently destroy the symbols of the power of conquered rulers, and temples and churches and religious sanctuaries are very often statements of political power. This was seen when temples to the Roman gods were converted into Christian churches, which in turn were changed into mosques by the Ottoman Turks. The reading of history that sees Hindus and Muslims in a state of enmity throughout history assumes that “Hindu” and “Muslim” were dominant forms of self-identity, with the two groups self-conscious of themselves in broad religious categories. Until the late eighteenth century, however, it seems clear that the signs or symbols by which groups identified themselves had to do with castes; religious sects, whether Hindu or Muslim; geographic regions; and, above all, the possession of political and economic power. What seems indisputable is that two great cultures and religious systems, the Hindu and the Islamic, while borrowing much from each other along the social margins of their existence, retained their separate core identities for 1,000 years. Coexistence, not assimilation, was the characteristic behavior of both communities, and it was made possible by the nature of Hindu society as well as the political policies of the Muslim rulers. In north India, from the eighth century on, the political landscape was dominated by numerous small kingdoms, and it was their rulers who faced the intrusion of foreign elements, first in Sind by Arabs in the early eighth century and then in Punjab by Turkic groups from Central Asia beginning in the eleventh century. Since these invaders were adherents of Islam, it is tempting, in the light of modern understanding of religion, social identity, and Muslim-Hindu relations in contemporary India, to view these incursions as clashes between religions, but

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 225

Religion

225

that view is surely an anachronism. The Arabs came to Sind as traders and then, as so often has happened in history, sought to improve their position by military conquest. The conquest of Sind, part of modern Pakistan, began in 711, and the Muslim rulers apparently gave their Hindu and Buddhist subjects the status of dhimmis (non-Muslims under the protection of Muslim law), as they did elsewhere to Christians and Jews on payment of the special tax known as jizya. This seemed a sensible accommodation to rulers primarily interested in realizing revenue from their subjects, not in forcing them to convert to Islam. This practice was generally followed during later conquests by Muslim rulers in India proper, although the ulema (Islamic religious scholars) often denounced it as a failure of the ruler to enforce Islamic law. As noted in Chapter 3, the major thrust of Islam into the Indian heartland came not from the traditional homelands of Islam in the Middle East but from the Afghan plateau, where Turks from Central Asia had established themselves. In 1192, the ruler of the principality of Ghor defeated the ruler of Delhi, which marked the beginning of the long process of subjugation of the rest of India. Since the new rulers took the title of sultan, the period from the beginning of the thirteenth century to 1526, when a new conqueror appeared, is referred to as the Delhi Sultanate. During these three centuries, much of Indian life was unchanged; the majority of the people remained Hindu, agricultural life went on as before, and patterns of trade seemed not to have changed very much. But something new had certainly been added: the ruling power that came into India, with Islam as the well-defined, articulate creed within its political and social culture, henceforth was a profoundly important element in Indian social and cultural life. The political problem that the Muslim rulers faced in India, stated in the broadest terms, was how to have cultures and religions coexist when the rulers are in a small cultural and religious minority. That the adherents of the two great religions coexisted for more than 600 years when the rulers were Muslims says much about the nature of Islam in India, as well as of Hinduism. There are no reliable statistics, but by the middle of the eighteenth century, about one-fifth of the people of the subcontinent were probably Muslims. Little is known with certainty about how this large Muslim population came into existence. The process is often spoken of as “conversion to Islam,” but the word “conversion” is misleading because of its usage in Christian history, especially in modern times, of an individual’s intellectual or emotional acceptance of a religion as “true,” often experienced as a sudden revelation. The growth of the immense Muslim population in India cannot be explained by such imagery, and its composition reflects its complex history. As noted above, there is no real evidence of forced conversions, of Hindus being offered the choice of Islam or death. As a US historian has succinctly noted, the small elite of warriors who invaded north India “were too few to change the institutions, loyalties and faith of the myriad communities over which they lightly ruled.” Nor did they want

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

226

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 226

Ainslie T. Embree

© India Unveiled by Robert Arnett

Reading the Quran in the Jami Mosque, built in 1424, in Ahmadabad

to: What they wanted was the compliant acceptance of their rule and the payment of taxes (Stein 1998: 137). Pretty much the same can be said of the attitude of the British toward Indian religion in the nineteenth century. The Muslim population of South Asia has, then, composite origins. Members of the upper classes proudly claim descent from immigrants from the older Islamic regions—Central Asia, Iran, Iraq, Arabia—who came as soldiers, scholars, and refugees seeking opportunities under the new Muslim rulers. In the urban areas, traders, artisans, officials, and service providers in the lower castes might have seen advantages in adopting the religion of the rulers, and the same was probably true in the rural areas, where most Muslims lived, in relation to landlords. It is often said that the lower castes saw Islam as a religion of equality, but we do not really have much evidence that social equality was much more highly regarded in Islamic than in Hindu society. Another very important reason for the attraction to Islam was the the work of Sufis, the members of orders of mystics who migrated to India in sizable

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 227

Religion

227

numbers. The Sufis in their teaching attracted followers to Islam by making it accessible to the people of India by using the regional languages for the fervency of their devotional poetry, which had much in common with Hindu bhakti devotion. Also important is the fact that the largest concentration of Muslims are on the western and eastern margins of the main centers of Hindu culture—in what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh, among the largest of Muslim nations in the world. This suggests that possibly the populations of these areas had not really come under the strong influences of Brahmanical Hinduism, with its emphasis on maintaining family and caste solidarity. One thing is certain: everywhere, the shift to Islam was very gradual—a movement for which the western Christian term conversion is inappropriate. Within this Muslim population were found all the schools and sects of Islam, including the two great divisions of Sunni and Shia. The Turks who came to north India from the northwest were Sunni, and their learned men, the ulema, brought with them the rich cultures of Iran and the rest of the Islamic world, so that Delhi became one of the great centers of Islam as well as a military power. In other areas, rulers with Iranian connections had established their rule, and they gave their patronage to Shia scholars. The result was that all the many divergent schools of Islam flourished in India. Orthodox Muslim scholars were always aware of the dangers stemming from the tendency toward syncretism, or accommodation with Hinduism, and one of their abiding concerns was to work for a purified Islam. Almost inevitably, this emphasis on ridding Islam of any accretions from without led to drawing a line between Muslims and non-Muslims and seeking to use political power to defend Islam. One of the causes of conflict in modern times between the two communities is almost certainly the attempts by religious leaders of both Hindus and Muslims to “purify” their respective religions. By the end of the eighteenth century, Islam in India had undergone a dramatic change, for everywhere the Muslim rulers were being replaced by nonMuslims. In addition to the indigenous powers, the Marathas and the Sikhs, the British East India Company was rapidly becoming the major actor on the Indian scene, bringing with it elements of a new and threatening civilization. To come to terms with it would be one of the great tasks of Indian Islam in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Islam had always been a minority religion in India, but now the rulers were of an alien religion that was historically unsympathetic to Islam. Although Muslims were a minority, they were a very large one, and their adjustment to their changed social and political situation is henceforth an essential element in the history of the Indian subcontinent, now usually referred to as South Asia. Although Christians remained a small minority in comparison with Hindus and Muslims, they had a special role in relating India to the new rulers and to western society and culture. There are three quite distinct phases of the history of Christianity in India. The first one dates from very ancient times, for

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

228

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 228

Ainslie T. Embree

according to the traditions of the Thomas or Syrian churches of south India, Saint Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, came to India and founded the church before he was martyred in 72 C.E. near what is now Chennai. Although historical evidence for this tradition is lacking, it is fairly certain that there were churches in the fourth century, making Christianity in India older than Christianity in part of northern Europe. Cut off from western Christianity but in contact with the churches of the Middle East, the Christians in south India, principally in Kerala, were integrated into the wider Indian society. They seem to have made no attempt to seek converts outside their own community, and there is little indication of interaction on a religious or philosophical level with either Hindus or Muslims. The second phase of Christian history began with the establishment of Portuguese power at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The splendors of the great churches at Goa, the capital of the Portuguese Empire in the East, bear witness to the Portuguese activity in spreading Christianity, often by force and compulsion. The large Roman Catholic population in Goa and elsewhere is also the result, however, of the work of missionaries, the most famous of whom was Saint Francis Xavier (1506–1552). The Roman Catholic missionaries traveled throughout India and were active in the Mughal courts, but they seem to have made little lasting impression there, although their letters to their superiors in Europe provide valuable information about Indian conditions. The third phase of Christianity in India, which began with the establishment of British power by the British East India Company at the end of the eighteenth century, was marked by contradictions and ambiguities. In contrast to the Portuguese, the British East India Company forbade missionary activity in the territories it acquired in India until 1813, on the grounds that Christian proselytizing would cause resentment among the people and threaten British power. This attitude remained quite widespread among British officials throughout the modern period, although some of them in both civil and military branches felt compelled by their faith to support missionary activity (Embree 1992: 151–165). By the middle of the nineteenth century, representatives of the major European and North American churches became active in the founding of westernstyle institutions such as schools, colleges, hospitals, orphanages, and printing presses without government support. The story of the missionary enterprise in India in the period of British rule is complicated, however, by the inevitable association of Christian missionaries, because of race, color, and special privileges, with the imperial ruling power. The relationship was double-edged, because Indians saw the missionaries as sharing in the power and the prestige of the ruling class, while many missionaries, captive of their time and place, adopted the attitudes of the rulers toward the ruled. It is fair to note that the number of converts made was small in proportion to the expenditure of human and material resources, but Christian activity was important in spreading western ideas, especially in higher education. Some facets of the work of the Christian

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 229

Religion

229

churches from Europe and North America will be noted in the following section in terms of interaction with other religious communities in India.



Religions in Interaction and Reinterpretation

Émile Durkheim’s famous thesis that virtually all the great social institutions have been born of religions because the idea of society is the soul of religion—with religion attaching the individual to society—receives considerable support from the history of modern India (Durkheim 1995). Obviously, no date can be set for the beginning of modern India, but it is conventional to assign to it the period toward the middle of the eighteenth century, when the Mughal Empire, based in north India, lost effective control over the subcontinent to various contenders for power. Partly because of these political changes but more importantly because of internal forces long present in Indian religion itself, momentous changes can be traced in religious activities and their relation to the social and political order. Some of the most socially significant of these changes can be conveniently categorized as interactions between religious communities and reinterpretations of the essential meaning of the teachings and belief systems of the different communities. The broad historical context of these changes is the slow military and political conquest of Indian powers by the British, beginning in the middle of the eighteenth century but not really coming to a conclusion until the middle of the nineteenth century. In this period, we see the intrusion of those institutions we have come to associate with modernity: the bureaucratic organization of the modern state, with its control of all military power; capitalism; industrialization; a world trading system; and western scientific explanations of nature. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the new forms of communication that were the product of science and technology—steamships, railways, telegraphs, postal systems, and the printing press—profoundly affected Indian life, not because they were forced on an unwilling conquered people but because Indian elites appropriated them for their own advantage. The British were fond of saying that these artifacts of modernity were their gift to India, but of course they would have found their way to India without the British, just as they reached China and Japan, and the changes they brought about would have happened in some fashion in any case. Most of these aspects of modernity, it should be kept in mind, were not only new to India but were new to the rest of the world, and in a very real sense Britain itself was modernizing as it took control of India. What is problematic and has been the subject of vigorous if inconclusive debate since the very beginning of British control is how many of the changes that took place in the nineteenth century were due to western intrusion. This argument is particularly vehement in the religious sphere, but the argument made here is that there were indeed changes in Indian religion and habits of thought, but the causes and consequences were embedded in patterns of thought and

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

230

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 230

Ainslie T. Embree

behavior that far preceded the coming of the West. The contribution of the West was probably to give new directions or a new vocabulary, literally in the case of the English language but also in terms of intellectual conceptual structures, and to speed the process of change. In this chapter’s brief surveys of earlier periods, it was emphasized that change and development have taken place at all times in religious beliefs and practices in India. Furthermore, throughout history there have been protests of many kinds—against idolatry, caste, and the domination of temple priests. New groups have also formed, many of them associated with bhakti, or devotional, movements, of which the origin and growth of Sikhism is the most dramatic example. The vital forces that made possible the changes in habits of thought and religious ideas came from within both Hinduism and Islam, and it was because of the ability of these religions to reinterpret themselves that religion was able to play the role it has in modern India. It is hard to think of any other country where religion was as intimately related to the acceptance and encouragement of the forces of nationalism, social reform, democracy, and the findings of modern science as India. That this is so is surely because religious reform movements did not go against the grain of Indian culture. Western Criticism of Indian Religions

In these reform movements, Christianity, one of the non-Indian religions mentioned above, contributed to the movements of interaction and reinterpretation within the major religious communities. For good or ill, one of the significant features of Christian activity in India was a bitter and forceful denunciation of Hinduism and Islam that has become part of the historical imaginations of both India and the West. It must be remembered, however, that the harsh criticism did not come only from Christian sources but from the West in general. Karl Marx, for example, made many of the same criticisms of Hinduism as Christian leaders, getting some of his opinions from the irreligious James Mill who, without having seen India, declared Hinduism to be all “disorder, caprice, passion, contest, portents, prodigies, violence, and deformity” (Mill 1826, vol. 1: 330). The reaction of both Hindu and Muslim leaders and intellectuals to the verbal assaults from the West is an essential element in the intellectual history of India. Long lists were compiled of what were regarded as the barbarous and degrading superstitions of Hinduism: idolatry, animals worshiped as deities, scandalous stories of the private lives of the gods, human sacrifice, polygamy, female infanticide, and child marriage. Islam was especially excoriated for its treatment of women, the cruelty of Muslim rulers, and their commitment to waging holy war against non-Muslims. From within both Hinduism and Islam, these charges were rebutted in a variety of ways, but there can be no doubt that these criticisms, harsh and wrongheaded as they were, constituted a major element in preventing religious dialogue.

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 231

Religion

231

Another challenge from the forces of Christianity was somewhat different: Christian mission societies introduced institutional patterns that were part of nineteenth-century western society. They included educational institutions of all kinds, orphanages, hospitals, and social service centers. The churches in the West were persuaded to support these institutions on the grounds that they could be the means for conversion through example and precept. They were, at the same time, expressions of the humanitarian and philanthropic movements characteristic of the nineteenth-century western world, particularly of Great Britain and North America. Colleges for women were a special innovation and were largely the work of US churches. There were remarkably few conversions in any of the many colleges and schools founded by the western churches, no more than a half dozen in any one of them over a 100-year period. If, as their critics charge, they were instruments of conversion to Christianity, the church colleges in India must be counted the least cost-effective mechanisms for religious propaganda in history. There were, however, many conversions to western science, philosophy, and literature. As one well-known Indian Communist leader put it in his farewell to a missionary teacher in a Christian college, it was in his philosophy classes that he had realized that all religions were fraudulent superstitions and that dialectical materialism was true. Both Christians and non-Christians have often lauded the contribution that the missionary schools, colleges, and hospitals made to India, but it is only fair to note an overall assessment of the effect of these institutions on Indian life made by a knowledgeable, if very hostile critic, Arun Shourie, a prominent Hindu nationalist politician. He acknowledges that generations of young men and women, including himself and his family, received modern education at the Christian educational institutions and that hundreds of thousands of people had received medical treatment at the hospitals, but he concludes: “While they introduced us to a smattering of western learning, they led us to completely forget and—with no knowledge of it at all—feel ashamed of our tradition. . . . Where they established modern hospitals . . . they made us completely oblivious of the vast medical knowledge that had been accumulated over the centuries here” (Shourie 1994: 6–7). Shourie could have gone to an institution in India, of which there are many, where he would have received teaching only in Indian science, but it is a part of modernity that he chose not to do so. Although Shourie’s view is an exaggeration, it undoubtedly represents an important aspect of the interaction of religions in their cultural manifestations. Movements Within Hinduism

Commentators on religion in modern India sometimes give the name “neoHinduism,” or new Hinduism, to the interpretations of the traditional faith that emerged in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and there is some justification in that, but it tends to obscure how much of core beliefs and practices remained

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

232

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 232

Ainslie T. Embree

even in the most radical innovations. Most of the leaders noted here helped define what it meant to be a Hindu Indian. Interaction and reinterpretation as modes of change are represented at the beginning of the nineteenth century in the career of Rammohun Roy (ca. 1772– 1833), for he enunciated positions in regard to religion that have become part of the intellectual inheritance of India. Personal experience had made him bitterly critical of certain aspects of his society, especially idol worship, child marriage, and the treatment of women, made famous by the practice known as sati, in which widows in certain areas of Bengal and Rajasthan immolated themselves on their husbands’ funeral pyres (and which Lisa Trivedi discusses in Chapter 8). While there was little scriptural basis for the practice, it was regarded as the special mark of a virtuous woman—sati can be translated as “the true one.” Roy’s criticism of this and other social practices was sharpened by the beginning of the outpouring of western criticism of Indian society. Roy’s method was not to deny the existence of such practices nor to defend them, but to formulate a new apologetic. None of these things were, he insisted, derived from the foundation texts of Hinduism. Idolatry, for example, was found not in the Vedic literature but in the much later Puranic texts. They were corruptions that had crept in through ignorance of the original texts of Hinduism, the Vedas. If they were swept away, he insisted, what was left was a pure monotheism. This was true, he argued, for all religions, including Christianity and Islam. True religion, he insisted, was belief in the “almighty superintendent of the universe” (Jones 1989: 31). This conclusion led Roy to what was perhaps his most influential argument: because there was one common truth for all humankind, then Indians should be willing to adopt whatever was useful to them in western civilization, ending what he said was the age-old habit of Indian religion turning in on itself and refusing to learn from others. On this ground, he made a passionate plea for the introduction of education in English into India so that Indians could learn “mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry and anatomy and other useful sciences” (Roy 1988, vol. 2: 33). Roy’s reading of the ancient texts caught the imagination of a generation of young Indians, particularly those in Bengal, who were anxious to come to terms with the West without denying the validity of their own culture. To a quite remarkable degree, Indians have proved their ability to accept whatever they found valuable in the West while maintaining their standing in their own religion and culture. One important aid in doing so was the remarkable society Roy helped to found, the Brahmo Samaj, which was strengthened by the famous Tagore family. Although frowned upon by the orthodox, the Brahmo Samaj provided a spiritual center for many Bengali Hindu intellectuals, and from its membership came an astonishing galaxy of scholars, scientists, artists, and writers. Interaction and reinterpretation could take varied forms, as was shown in the work of another remarkable religious reformer, Dayananda Sarasvati (1824– 1883). His condemnation of many Hindu practices, such as idolatry, child

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 233

Religion

233

marriage, and the treatment of women, was similar to Roy’s, but his conclusions about interaction and reinterpretation were radically different. After a long spiritual pilgrimage in search of truth, he believed he had found it in the Vedas. Hinduism had been corrupted by the Puranas and bhakti, and all truth, he insisted, was to be found in the Vedic texts. There was no need, then, to accept anything from the West. He mounted a very strenuous attack on false religions, in which he included much of the Hinduism of his day, as well as Sikhism, Christianity, and Islam. He founded an organization, the Arya Samaj, which won a wide following, probably partly because its declaration that India did not need to look outside itself for truth was appealing to nationalist sentiment but also because of his vigorous counterattacks on Christian and Muslim critics of Hinduism. The Arya Samaj undoubtedly contributed to the increasing tension between Hindus and Muslims, especially in Punjab, but at the same time it instilled a new sense of pride in being Indian, and many of the best-known leaders in the nationalist movement in Punjab came from its ranks. Whereas the Brahmo Samaj had appealed to upper-class intellectuals, especially Brahmans, the Arya Samaj attracted many of its members from the urban middle classes and castes. Its great emphasis on education, especially on the education of girls as necessary for building a strong nation, gave it a firm base for leadership in postindependence India. Another religious movement that made a strong appeal to many intellectuals involved in the nationalist movement is associated with Shri Ramakrishna (1836–1886), a Hindu mystic firmly in the traditional mold, and his disciple, Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902). Ramakrishna’s special devotion was to the Divine Mother, and his devotees saw in him one who had achieved the ancient ideal of unity with the divine. This was the kind of religious expression that the Arya Samaj criticized, a reminder of the many currents in Indian religion. His mingling of what has been called “the complexity of the secret and the dialectic of the erotic” brought into prominence elements of Indian religion that had been played down in the other reform movements (Kripal 1994: xv). His disciple, Vivekananda, translated his message to mean that God is in everyone and everything, which led him to his distinctive conclusion that all religions are true. This meant that reformers like Rammohun Roy and Dayananda who denounced idol worship were wrong: one should worship the form of the divine that answers one’s own personal needs. Furthermore, western materialism had conquered India, but India’s spirituality would conquer the world. It could only be done, however, if India had a vigorous, robust national life. He was a great orator in both English and Bengali, and it is not surprising that this message caught the imagination of the college students whom he frequently addressed. Making use of modern means of communication and a modern vocabulary, Vivekananda carried his message throughout India, Europe, and the United States. Through these reformers, religion in various forms was being fused with

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

234

2:41 PM

Page 234

Ainslie T. Embree

nationalism to create pride in Indian culture and religion in a way that was a determining factor in the struggle for independence from the British. To a remarkable degree, the understanding of Hinduism or neo-Hinduism by contemporary Indians, perhaps even when they are not aware of it, draws heavily upon the reinterpretations of Roy, Dayananda, Ramakrishna, and Vivekananda and their multitude of followers. That is also true to a considerable extent of a far more famous thinker and activist, Mohandas Gandhi (1869– 1948), who brought religion to the center of Indian political and social discourse. A political leader of consummate skill who personified the Indian national movement from 1920 to 1947, Gandhi always insisted that his religion informed his political activities, and although admittedly reinterpreting many aspects of traditional Hinduism in somewhat novel ways, he insisted that his beliefs were consonant with true Hinduism. He summarized his religious and political philosophy in such words as ahimsa and satyagraha, which he translated as love, truth, nonviolence, and God. Gandhi was fond of referring to Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, John Ruskin, and the New Testament, but the appeal he made to the people of India was successful because it touched deep religious beliefs from their own traditions. In practical action, such religious appeals could be baffling to those who did not share them, but Gandhi’s religious commitment shaped Indian political developments. Although some Indians, both Hindu and Muslim, regretted Gandhi giving religion a central role in defining Indian nationalism, it is possible that there was no other way to appeal to the Hindu masses. Movements Within Islam

The interactions and reinterpretations within Hinduism throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries had counterparts within Islam, but the social and political position of the Islamic communities during that time gave very different impetus to reform movements in Islam. Within the Hindu community, leaders quickly saw the possibility of using the British conquest to reassert a place in society that had long been denied them, whereas Muslim leaders saw a drastic decline in Islamic society after 700 years of Muslim rule. They were also aware of the threat to their own positions from the newly assertive spirit within Hinduism. Some Muslim leaders talked of a jihad, a holy war against the British, but they lacked the resources and the following for such a move. Other leaders, notably those associated with the theological seminary at Deoband in north India, took the course of withdrawal from contact with the social and political changes that were taking place, seeking to preserve the traditional teachings and institutions of Islam. Through a network of schools, they sought, as a scholar of their movement put it, “self-conscious reassessment of what was deemed authentic religion,” but unlike some Hindu movements, it did not involve acculturation to western patterns (Metcalf 1982: 348).

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 235

Religion

235

There were, however, Muslim spokesmen for accommodation with western learning and science, the most effective of whom was Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817–1898). He insisted that the Quran was the authority for belief and practices, not the customs that had accumulated through the years. He argued that the findings of modern science could be accepted, and where they seemed to conflict with the Quran, the quranic passages must be interpreted allegorically, since science, founded on the law of nature, was also God’s word, and therefore there could be no conflict between the two. The teaching of the Quran is validated, he argued, not by miracles but by its inherent truth as shown by reason, which he insisted was a fundamental attribute of Islamic theology and philosophy. The college he founded at Aligarh in north India, now Aligarh Muslim University, became the great center for Muslims wanting to come to terms with British power and western learning. Ahmad Khan opposed the Indian nationalist movement on the grounds that India needed British rule to keep peace between Hindus and Muslims (Lelyveld 1977). In contrast to the modernism of Sayyid Ahmad Khan and his followers, the most powerful defenders of traditional Islam in India came from two movements, the Jama’at-i-Islami and the Tablighi Jama’at, whose leaders went to the masses, calling for a revival of Islam. The founder of the Jama’at-i-Islami was Maulana Maududi (1903–1979). For Maududi, there could be no distinction between Islam as a religious faith and politics, and more than anyone else, he gave Islam in India and later in Pakistan a political vocabulary. Terms and phrases first used by Maududi, such as the Islamic system of life, the Islamic constitution, the economic system of Islam, and the political system of Islam, have now become accepted usage for Muslim writers and political activists throughout South Asia, especially in Pakistan and Bangladesh (Ahmed 1991: 464). The Tablighi Jama’at does not, by way of contrast, seek political power but stresses the necessity of the individual’s acceptance of the basic teachings and practices of Islam. It works by isolating individuals from their family and everyday life, forming them into small temporary communities for religious teaching and devotions, and then sending them out to win over others.



Communal Tensions and Secularism: The Politicization of Religion

No discussion of Islam and Hinduism in the modern period can avoid consideration of the growth of tensions between Muslims and Hindus from the 1920s, which led to frequent riots with much loss of life and culminated in the partition of the Indian subcontinent into two states, India and Pakistan, in 1947. Some commentators argue that religion was not the cause of violence or of partition, but rather social and economic causes that expressed themselves in religious

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

236

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 236

Ainslie T. Embree

terms. It is true that partition in 1947 had to do, in the end, with complex quarrels over a unitary state versus a loose federation, but religion was used in India, as it has been used elsewhere, to define differences, legitimize hostility, and appeal to people who were not moved by arguments about constitutional niceties. Communalism became the widely used term in India to denote an emphasis on group identity and group behavior, rather than on the individual, with behavior—social, economic, and political—attributed to adherence to a particular religion. Real differences in behavior may not in fact exist, or they may belong to individuals, but as with anti-Semitism in the West, the attribution of group identity smothers individuality. Among the most common causes of riots were such incidents as Hindus organizing processions and marching through streets, playing music in front of mosques, or, on the other side, Muslims killing cows. The communal riots that were such a common feature of Indian life in the 1920s and 1930s, that marked the partition of India in 1947, and that have continued to take their toll in human lives have, of course, more complex causes than music before mosques. One was the rise of modern politics, when opportunities to gain political power through voting became possible and politicians appealed to communal identities for votes. As a Hindu politician said in 1926, “Unless I call the other community names and damn them before my electorate, I have absolutely no chance of being elected” (Thursby 1975: 76). Muslim politicians made the same sorts of appeals. The other great actor in the communal antagonisms was the British, and a frequent charge was that they had created the antagonism between the two communities in following a policy of “divide and rule.” This crudely put, the statement is implausible, but many British politicians were convinced, as one of them put it, that “between the two communities lies a chasm which cannot be crossed by the resources of modern political engineering,” so that the increasing hostility and violence made the continuance of their rule necessary and possible. In India itself, however, the governor-general was aware how dangerous the HinduMuslim divide was for both India and Great Britain (Thursby 1975: 173). The revivalist and reform movements were also very important factors in making religious identity a primary component of social and political life, thus leading to communal tension. Within Hinduism, there were many such movements, but three were especially significant in creating a sense of Hindu identity and a corresponding unease in Muslims. One was the shuddhi (purification) movement led by a dynamic Arya Samaj figure, Swami Shraddhanand (1856–1926), which aimed to reconvert Muslims to Hinduism on the grounds that they had once been Hindus. This activity aroused intense opposition among Muslims, especially from the Tablighi Jama’at movement. The bitterness caused by the shuddhi movement culminated in the murder of Shraddhanand in 1926 by a Muslim. Two other movements that date from the 1920s illustrate the difficulty in separating religion from politics. One was the Hindu Mahasabha, which although a political party, had as a central concern the strengthening of Hindu

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 237

Religion

237

self-confidence. It always denied that it was anti-Muslim, but its definition of who was a Hindu was significant: “A Hindu is one who regards India as his motherland and the most sacred spot on earth” (Thursby 1975: 168). The Mahasabha did not attract a large formal membership, but statements like this one became well known and were widely accepted, even by many leaders of the Indian National Congress party. Muslim leaders read them as exclusionary, that being Indian was synonymous with being Hindu. Nationalism was being equated with Hinduism and Hinduism with communalism. One of the most perplexing issues of modern democratic politics, the role of religious allegiances in electoral politics, was being made part of political discourse. Another organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), founded in 1925, made an even more vociferous claim for the recognition that India was a Hindu nation. In doing so, the RSS denied that it was either a religious or political organization, arguing it was only a cultural one. Its stated function was defining and defending the Hindu nation, a role summed up later in its constitution, which indicates how thin the dividing line is between religion, culture, and politics: “To eradicate difference among Hindus; to make them realize the greatness of their past; to inculcate in them a spirit of self-sacrifice and selfless devotion to Hindu society as a whole; to build up an organized and welldisciplined corporate life; and to bring about the regeneration of Hindu society” (Embree 1994: 619). The RSS since independence has emerged as the most vocal opponent of the idea, enshrined in the constitution, that India is a secular state, one where all religions have equality before the law and none have any special legal standing. The electoral successes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),with its leadership drawn from RSS cadres, exemplifies the depth of the appeal of Hindu nationalism, as noted in the discussion on Indian electoral politics in Chapter 3. While this politicalization of religion was of very great significance in electoral politics in terms of elections, it is very difficult to show that this signified any very perceptible change in the inward religious life of the people. What is undoubtedly true is that religious identity became a distinctly important factor in the mundane political activity of seeking votes and in political patronage. All the variegated forms of faith and practice that for so long had been integral to the culture, continued their immemorial functions of providing meanings for existence and structures for daily life, with worship at a family shrine, observances of religious holidays, participation in rites of passage, and pilgrimages to holy places. As in the past, new expressions of the divine in the form of charismatic leaders continued to draw followers. Some have achieved more fame outside India, like Rajneesh, whereas others have great followings in India as well as in the West. Of these, perhaps Satya Sai Baba is the best known among Indians themselves, with many followers among prominent politicians, judges, and businesspeople. Two hundred thousand devotees attended his seventy-fifth birthday

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

2:41 PM

Page 238

Ainslie T. Embree

Neil DeVotta

238

6/16/10

Hindu priest, cell phone around his neck, on a pilgrimage to the shrine at Yamunotri

celebrations in December 2000 in the small south Indian town, Puttaparthi, where his main center is located (“Test of Faith” 2000: 26–31). Satya Sai Baba has been called “a jet-age holy man” because of his following among the rich and influential in India, but at a deeper level, he is a familiar charismatic religious figure through the ages. As one scholar put it, “He does the things a deity should: he receives the homage and the devotion of his devotees, and he reciprocates with love and boons. And, above all, he performs miracles” (Babb 1986: 160–161). A revered female guru, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi, or “Amma,” made a touching plea for peace and social justice at the Millennium World Peace Summit at the United Nations in September 2000, and she frequently visits her large overseas following. A feature of her teaching that appeals to many, both in India and abroad, is the insistence that it is harmful to think of religions as having different understandings of truth (New India Times 2000: 15). Although this religious activity does not seem to have much social content, it undoubtedly gives to many of the Hindu population a sense of being masters in their own house, of having access to what is most profound in their religious tradition, the means of liberation. For Indian Muslims, independence from the British brought new problems. Many of the best-known Islamic leaders, both in politics and religion, had gone to Pakistan, leaving Muslims in India in a vulnerable position. The majority who stayed were among the poorest people in India and also the least educated,

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 239

Religion

239

carrying the stigma of belonging to the community whose leaders had divided India. Hindu nationalists were quick to charge them with sympathy for Pakistan. Perhaps the underlying problem for Indian Muslims, however, was as Rasheeduddin Khan, a well-known scholar, suggests, “the fear of being swept away by the massive Hindu majority” (Khan 1994: 67). Despite such fears and the strident anti-Muslim campaigns of organizations like the RSS, the constitution’s guarantees of religious freedom and the legal system have protected Muslims in India in expressions of their religious faith and practices. There were no legal restraints on religious practices in the hundreds of mosques throughout the country, and Muslim personal law governing marriage, inheritance, divorce, and adoption, as codified by the British in the nineteenth century, was retained by the new Indian government. Preindependence movements, such as the Jama’at-i-Islami and Tablighi Jama’at, continued but served different purposes. The Jama’at-i-Islami as well as prominent Muslim leaders have, however, stressed attempts by Hindu communalists to weaken Muslims by withdrawing the special provisions of Muslim personal law and by discriminating against them in public employment. The Tablighi Jama’at movement, however, does not encourage political involvement, for they want not to remake the world but “to remake individual lives, to create faithful Muslims who undertake action in this life only because of the hope and promise of sure reward in the next” (Metcalf 1994: 710). Although much continuity exists within the religious communities, a new political role became possible for them in the new liberal democratic society. The issue in broad terms was familiar in many countries, both now and in the past: What role should religion have in society, and what should be the relationship of the state to religion? Before independence, there had been persistent demands from groups like Mahasabha and the RSS for recognition of a special place for Hindu culture as representing the birthright of the majority of the citizens. Coupled with this demand was criticism of Islam and Christianity as alien ideologies that weakened Hindu society. Such attitudes had been rigorously denounced by the leaders of the Indian National Congress party, most notably by Jawaharlal Nehru.



Challenging Secularism

The answer that Nehru and almost all the leaders of India gave to the question of how the different religions could live in harmony was that India should be a secular state. In 1947 the majority of opinion-makers in India—journalists, academics, politicians, and businesspeople—would probably have given assent to Nehru’s proposition that “the cardinal doctrine of modern democratic practice is the separation of the state from religion” and that the idea of a religious state “has no place in the mind of the modern man” (D. E. Smith 1963: 155). This

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

240

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 240

Ainslie T. Embree

emphatic rejection of religion as a determining factor in the life of the state contrasts with the widespread view, noted at the beginning of the chapter, that the people of India are peculiarly religious, but Nehru and those who agreed with him would have answered that it was precisely the religiosity of Indians that made the secular state necessary. It seemed to be the only barrier against the violence so often associated with religious communities seeking at times to safeguard themselves from what they perceive as threats, or, at other times, to rid the world of evil personified by other religious groups. The term secularism as used in India differs from its usage in the West, for it does not imply any hostility to religion or a denial of its importance. Nor does it have quite the meaning of the US phrase “separation of church and state,” which arose in the context of denying that there should be an established church as in most European countries, notably England. Presumably the Founding Fathers were thinking of a multichurch society, not a multireligious society of the kind that exists in India. Although India was not defined as a “secular state” until a constitutional amendment was passed in 1976, the concept was at the forefront of discussion after 1947. Perhaps the most succinct definition of what was meant comes from a US scholar, Donald Smith, who, after an exhaustive study of the issue, concluded: “The secular state is a state which guarantees individual and corporate freedom of religion, deals with the individual as a citizen irrespective of religion, is not constitutionally connected to a particular religion nor does it seek to promote or interfere with religion” (D. E. Smith 1963: 4). Years before, in 1926, Nehru had written of his hope that the passage of time would “scotch our so-called religion and secularize our own intelligentsia” and that, just as in Europe, where mass education had weakened the power of religion, so the process “was bound to be repeated in India.” Sixty-five years later, surveying what had happened in between, a commentator wryly observed, “Noble thought, yes, but quite out of tune with the realities of Indian social and political life” (Hasan 1991: 285). An indication of what some of those realities were in the relationship of religion to the state and society came in the constitutional debates in 1948–1949. The advocates of a secular state found themselves in a dilemma that has remained central for India. As a secular state, the government could not in any way favor Hinduism, but as a nation-state, it had the right and duty to promote Indian culture. This culture, however—its art, literature, music—is saturated and colored by Hinduism, as the European Middle Ages were by Christianity. What was to be the place of other religions with different and, at times, conflicting cultures? In a study whose title indicates its thesis, The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State, Mark Juergensmeyer argues that what we are witnessing in India, as elsewhere, is a challenge by indigenous religious forces to modern liberal democracy that attempts to ignore religion. The religious

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 241

Religion

241

forces at times see violence as necessary in defense of religion, and, in Juergensmeyer’s words, the “great encounter between cosmic forces—an ultimate good and evil, a divine truth and falsehood—is a war that worldly forces only mimic” (Juergensmeyer 1993: 155). Four incidents can illustrate such a confrontation. One, the Babri Masjid incident, represented Hindu nationalism, whose standard-bearer is the RSS and whose ideology had gained considerable support in the general population. Another is the violence created by a group of Sikhs in Punjab in what they regarded as the defense of their religion. A third is the uprising by Muslims in Kashmir, and a fourth is the violence against Christians that erupted in various parts of India after 1998. All are very complex issues and can be mentioned here only in briefest outline. It was suggested above that the most pervasive expression of Hinduism in contemporary India is bhakti, the way of devotion to a deity, but this form of piety does not seem to receive much emphasis in Hindu nationalism, being replaced by a more ancient path, karmayoga, a discipline that emphasizes the central Hindu construct, dharma, the path of duty and right action. Such a path of action was the demand in the 1980s for the destruction of the Babri Masjid, a mosque in Ayodhya supposedly built after the Mughal emperor Babur had destroyed a temple that Hindus believed marked the birthplace of the god Rama. Eminent Indian historians, many of them Hindus, pointed out that there was no real evidence for any of this story and that, in any case, Rama was a mythical character. But as one of their number remarked, it is not possible to dispose so easily of religious belief. “We cannot counterpoise history to myth as truth to falsehood. These are different modes of knowledge, varying ways of understanding the world, ordering one’s life and defining one’s actions” (Gopal 1991: 122). Demand for destruction of the mosque built up, summarized in the slogan popular at the time, “God must be liberated.” For many Hindus, the mosque became a symbol of the defeat of Hindu India by Muslim Turks; for Muslims, the agitation was a reminder of how precarious their position would be in modern India if militant Hindus should gain power. In December 1992, thousands of young men destroyed the mosque, cheered on by a woman orator who said that Hindu men who would not shed their blood for Hindu India had water, not blood, in their veins. As the 400-year-old building collapsed, a holy man exclaimed, “The sun sets on Babur at last. The taint has been removed forever” (Embree 1994: 647–648). In the next few days after the destruction of the mosque, a wave of violence swept north India, with at least 1,000 people killed, mainly Muslims. Many supporters of the concept of the secular state were in despair, feeling that the religious violence had signaled a shift away from their vision of a religiously neutral state toward a Hindu nation, which was the vision of the RSS and like-minded groups. The secularists may have been too pessimistic, but there is no doubt that at the end of the twentieth century, the demand for a defining role for Hinduism in national life had been placed on the

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

242

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 242

Ainslie T. Embree

Neil DeVotta

national agenda, and it is most unlikely that it will be removed in the near future. The violent confrontation in Punjab in the 1980s dramatized another position: the demand for autonomy by leaders of a regional nationalism defined largely in religious terms. This demand brought a religious group, the Sikhs, into conflict with both the secular state and Hindu nationalism. According to the government, the violence was due to terrorist groups, who were motivated by the desire to create a separate Sikh state and were funded by India’s enemy, Pakistan. The militant Sikhs argued that they were driven to violence in defense of their religion against the violence of the state, which in their eyes was controlled by the Hindu majority that denied their rights. In Sikhism, martyrdom does not just mean dying for the faith but fighting to the death against its enemies. When asked why they fought so bitterly and with such violence, the young Sikhs would answer that they fought for the truth as embodied in their religion. When one leader was asked why he mixed religion and politics, he answered, “Religion and politics go together in Sikhism and cannot be separated” (Embree 1989: 129). It is possible to argue that the frustrations of the young men who took to violence were rooted in economics and social problems, but it was the vision of the good society that they saw in Sikhism that offered them a solution “by legitimizing the violence that is born of hatred and despair” (Embree 1989: 132). The government of India succeeded in crushing the uprising that cost many hundreds of lives, but it left a residue of

Sikhs in Amritsar celebrating Guru Gobind Singh’s birth anniversary

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 243

Religion

243

distrust and suspicion between the Hindus and the Sikhs that will not be easily healed. Kashmir, famous for the beauty of its towering mountain ranges surrounding a fertile valley of lakes and streams, was the cause of two wars between India and Pakistan between 1947 and 1965 over conflicting territorial claims. After 1989, however, the situation changed from just rivalry between the two nations to what amounts to a civil war of militant insurgents in Kashmir against Indian rule. Police documents report that 33,854 people were killed between 1989 and 2000, of whom 19,781 were civilians, 11,757 were militants, and 2,316 were members of the Indian security forces (Bearak 2000). These tabulations are, however, too precisely bureaucratic to be readily accepted by peace groups in either India or Kashmir, who believe that probably twice as many were killed and that many of those listed as “militants” were often innocent people killed by the security forces. In addition to the killing, thousands of refugees have fled from their homes for fear of the militant groups, who are referred to as terrorists by the Indian government but as freedom fighters by their partisans. The uprising has led to a breakdown of much of the normal civil structures of the area, including educational institutions, medical services, and the legal system. How does religion enter this depressing picture? Unhappily, it informs all the three major components of the Kashmir situation. One of the components is, on the surface, the political rivalries of the two neighboring states, India and Pakistan, that were created from the decolonization process of Great Britain’s Indian empire. Three wars and the rancor that has continued since they gained independence in 1947 can be understood as the rivalries engendered by national interests, but underlying the political factors is the second component, religious antagonism. For Hindu nationalists, Pakistan represents, in the rhetoric they often use, the vivisection of the Motherland, and Pakistan’s support of the militants in Kashmir is a continuation of this process. Pakistan’s claim for involvement in the bitter, brutal war in Kashmir is that as an Islamic nation, it is helping its Muslim brethren win their freedom. The militants in Kashmir are seen as engaged in a jihad, a holy war, in defense of Muslims who are oppressed by Hindu India. For Muslims, force is a god-given gift to be used against unbelievers, and it is a deadly sin to yield to a tyrant without fighting (Qureshi 1989: 162). The fourth incident, the attacks on Christians that began to be reported with startling frequency in 1998, illustrates how violent confrontations can be seen from within a religion as a defense of truth. Churches were burned, clergy were murdered, nuns were allegedly raped, and Christian schools attacked, mainly in isolated communities where the Christians were poor and few in number (Chenoy 1999). These attacks were new and puzzling phenomena, distressing to many Hindus as well as to Christians in India and abroad. The basic explanation for the attacks, which appear to have come from Hindu nationalist groups

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

244

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 244

Ainslie T. Embree

affiliated with the RSS, was that the Christians were an alien element, detrimental to Hindu civilization because of their proselytizing activity. This charge that Christians seek to convert people from their ancestral faith to Christianity is a position held not just by hard-line Hindu nationalists but also by many Indians who would normally support secular, liberal positions. To westerners, who have grown accustomed to people changing their religion in much the same way as they do their political allegiances, this attitude may seem in contradiction to secularism, but it is congruent with deeply embedded cultural values. In effect, it asserts the primacy of the family over the individual, of the obligations rooted in the pervasive concept of dharma, and the sense that India, although permitting full freedom of worship, is ultimately a nation where Hindu culture—of which religion is an important component—is dominant. Gaining acceptance of the idea that religious adherence is a matter of individual preference was a long and bitter battle in the West, and the idea has not by any means become part of the way of thinking of even many modern Indian intellectuals. Article 25:1 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees individual religious freedom, states that “all persons are equally entitled to the freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.” There was little objection to guaranteeing freedom of worship, but there was very strenuous objection from many Hindu groups and individuals to the right to propagate religion, and it was inserted after much argument. Christians and Muslims just as strenuously demanded such a right, arguing that propagation of their faiths was essential to the very nature of their religion. From a secular point of view, a well-known Indian historian has supported this right by arguing that the freedom of conscience guaranteed by the constitution “surely includes the right to change one’s religion, and a curbing of that right can lead to restrictions on freedom of choice in general” (Sarkar 1999). The opposition by many Hindus to conversion has three main strands. One is that the idea of conversion to another faith through proselytization is repellent; Hinduism is, as it were, genetically acquired through birth, and one should remain in the religion in which one is born. Closely related to this is another strand: that conversion to another religion is socially destructive, breaking the bonds of social relationships, the cement that holds society together. Islam and Christianity, it is alleged, introduce alien customs, beliefs, and practices that corrupt Indian civilization. That this criticism was widespread is suggested by Mohandas Gandhi’s allegation that Christian converts tended to become denationalized, giving up not only their ancestral faith but also their national culture (D. E. Smith 1963: 165). Although this assertion would be challenged by Christians, it points to the almost ineradicable link between religion and culture in modern India. Through the years, this argument has become a potent weapon for the RSS and other Hindu nationalist groups against the place of Islam and Christianity in India and against Indian Muslims and Christians, introducing

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 245

Religion

245

bitterness and fear into their lives. Ultimately, the real target of Hindu nationalist groups, however, is not just the other religious groups but the secular state as enshrined in the Indian Constitution, for it is the secular state, they argue, that by giving equal status to all religions denies the legitimate place of Hinduism as the expression of Indian culture in India. The third strand of Hindu opposition to conversion involves that most difficult of modern social and political concepts, the belief in toleration. Hindus correctly stress that Hindu society is remarkably tolerant of a wide variety of belief patterns and practices. There is, however, an aspect of this emphasis on Hindu toleration that is deeply divisive, and that is the insistence by Hindu intellectuals and spiritual leaders that all religions are true. This understanding of truth in modern Hinduism has been well summed up by Arvind Sharma: “All the various religious forms represent diverse paths to the one Truth, paths that are all in some degree valid” (Johnston and Sampson 1994: 270). Although this conciliatory reading is intended to be a meeting place with the other religious traditions that constitute India’s diversity, in fact it is working out very differently at the present time. The declaration that all religions are true has become a dogmatic statement that condemns as bigots those religions of India, notably Islam and Christianity, that make universal claims for what they regard as their core truth. Clearly, much hard thinking must be done on the meaning of toleration before any meaningful dialogue can take place between religions in the Indian context.



Conclusion

To conclude a survey of “lived religion” in India on a note of violence and confrontation may seem perverse, but it is done deliberately as a reminder that religion, as it was defined at the beginning of this chapter, is woven inextricably into the tapestry of Indian history. Mohandas Gandhi used to say that when people argued that religion should be kept out of politics, this only showed that they knew nothing of either religion or politics. That is true, for good or ill, because of what historians call “historical consciousness,” that is, those memories of the past that a civilization preserves to provide guidelines for behavior, to tell us who we are and where we came from. Historical consciousness does not refer simply to knowledge of the past but, as one historian expressed it, “hearing the past,” listening to “the distilled memories of others, the stories of things we never experienced first hand. It means learning to make these things our own, learning to look at the world through their filter, learning to feel the living presence of the past inhering in the seeming inertness of the world as given to us” (National Council for History Education 1996). Jawaharlal Nehru has often been quoted for his harsh judgments of the role of religion in India, yet few have spoken more movingly of the enduring gift of

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

246

2:41 PM

Page 246

Ainslie T. Embree

religion to India’s historical consciousness. Brought up in a family of wealth and educated in England’s most famous schools, he traveled throughout India as a young man and was depressed by the poverty and misery of the people. Then he discovered that India had a deep well of strength that gave the country the vitality to renew itself throughout the ages: “She was like some ancient palimpsest on which layer upon layer of thought and reverie had been inscribed. . . . All these existed in our conscious or subconscious self . . . and they have gone to build up the complex and mysterious personality of India. [Her] essential unity had been so powerful that no political division, no disaster or catastrophe, had been able to overcome it” (Nehru 1946: 42–47). Nehru refused to give the name of religion to that source of vitality, and yet at the end, it is hard to escape the claim of religion as the vitalizing force, for good or ill, in contemporary India as it has been in the past.



Bibliography

Ahmed, Rafiuddin. 1991. “Islamic Fundamentalism in South Asia.” In Fundamentalisms Observed, Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, eds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Akbar, M. J. 1988. Nehru: The Making of India. New York: Viking. Babb, Lawrence E. 1986. Redemptive Encounters: Three Modern Styles in the Hindu Tradition. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Banton, Michael P. 1968. Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion. London: Tavistock. Bearak, Barry. 2000. “Kashmir: Lethal Decade.” New York Times, September 7. Census of India. 2001: Census Data 2001: India at a Glance—Religious Composition. New Delhi: Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner. Chenoy, Kamal Mitra, ed. 1999. Violence in Gujarat: Test Case for a Fundamentalist Agenda. Private circulation. New Delhi: National Alliance of Women. Dalton, Dennis. 1993. Gandhi: Nonviolent Power in Action. New York: Columbia University Press. Deshpande, Madhav, and Peter Edwin Hook, eds. 1979. Aryan and Non-Aryan in India. Ann Arbor: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan. Durkheim, Émile. 1995. The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life: A Study in Religious Sociology. Karen E. Fields, trans. New York: Free Press. Elliot, H. M., and J. Dowson. 1963–1964 [1867–1877]. The History of India as Told by Its Own Historians: The Muhammadan Period. 8 vols. Allahabad: Kitab Mahal. Embree, Ainslie T. 1989. Imagining India: Essays in Indian History. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 1990 [1962]. Charles Grant and British Rule in India. London: Allen and Unwin. ———. 1990. Utopias in Conflict: Religion and Nationalism in India. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 1992. “Christianity and the State in Victorian India.” In Religion and Irreligion in Victorian Society, R. W. Davis and R. J. Helmstadter, eds. London: Routledge. ———. 1994. “The Function of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: To Define the Hindu Nation.” In Accounting for Fundamentalisms, Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, eds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 247

Religion

247

Gandhi, M. K. 1927. Hind Swaraj. Ahmadabad: Navajivan. Gopal, S., ed. 1991. Anatomy of a Confrontation: The Babri Masjid–Ramjanmabhumi Issue. Delhi: Penguin. Gowalkar, M. S. 1980. Bunch of Thoughts. Bangalore: Jagarana Prakashana. Hasan, Mushirul. 1991. Nationalism and Communal Politics in India, 1885–1930. New Delhi: Manohar. Hawley, John Stratton. 1988. “Bhakti.” In Encyclopedia of Asian History, Ainslie T. Embree, ed. New York: Scribner’s. Hawley, John Stratton, and Mark Juergensmeyer, trans. 1988. Songs of the Saints of India. New York: Oxford University Press. Hay, Stephen, ed. 1988. Sources of Indian Tradition, Vol. 2. New York: Columbia University Press. Heesterman, Jan C. 1987. “Vedism and Brahmanism.” In Encyclopedia of Religion, Mircea Eliade, ed. New York: Macmillan. Johnston, Douglas, and Cynthia Sampson, eds. 1994. Religion: The Missing Dimension of Statecraft. New York: Oxford University Press. Jones, Kenneth W. 1989. Socio-religious Reform Movements in British India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Juergensmeyer, Mark. 1993. The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State. Berkeley: University of California Press. Kabir. 1983. The Bijak of Kabir. Linda Hess and Shukdev Singh, trans. Berkeley: North Point Press. Keyes, Charles F., and E. Valentine Daniel, eds. 1983. Karma: An Anthropological Inquiry. Berkeley: University of California Press. Khan, Rasheeduddin. 1994. Bewildered India: Identity, Plurality, Discord. New Delhi: Har-Anand Press. Knipe, David. 1987. “Hindu Priesthood.” In Encyclopedia of Religion, Mircea Eliade, ed. New York: Macmillan. Kripal, Jeffrey J. 1994. Kali’s Child: The Mystical and Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Lelyveld, David. 1977. Aligarh’s First Generation: Muslim Solidarity and British Education in Northern India. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Lutgendorf, Philip. 1994. The Life of a Text: Performing the Ramacaritmanasa of Tulsidas. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Lyall, Sir Alfred. 1889. Asiatic Studies: Religious and Social. London: John Murray. McLeod, W. H. 1995. Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. Majumdar, R. C. 1961. “Nationalist Historians.” In Historians of India, Pakistan and Ceylon, C. H. Philips, ed. London: Oxford University Press. Marty, Martin E., and R. Scott Appleby, eds. 1991. Fundamentalisms Observed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ———. 1994. Accounting for Fundamentalisms. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Mehta, Phatap Bhanu. 2003. “The Nationalist Movement.” In Understanding Contemporary India, 1st ed., Sumit Ganguly and Neil DeVotta, eds. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers. Metcalf, Barbara Daly. 1982. Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860–1900. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ———. 1994. “Remaking Ourselves: Islamic Self-Fashioning in a Global Movement of Spiritual Renewal.” In Accounting for Fundamentalisms, Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, eds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Mill, James. 1826. The History of British India. London: Baldwin. National Council for History Education. 1996. “The Mystic Chords of Memory.” Ideas, Notes, and News About History 9, no. 2.

09DeVotta_9.qxd:Layout 1

248

6/16/10

2:41 PM

Page 248

Ainslie T. Embree

Nehru, Jawaharlal. 1946. The Discovery of India. New York: John Day. New India Times. 2000. “Destroy the Mind’s Nuclear Weapons” (August 29). Qureshi, Ishtiaq Husain. 1989. The Religion of Peace. Karachi: Royal Book Company. Raghavan, V. 1988. “Puranic Theism: The Way of Devotion.” In Sources of Indian Tradition, Vol. 1, Ainslie T. Embree, ed. New York: Columbia University Press. Ramanujan, A. K. 1973. Speaking of Shiva. Baltimore: Penguin. Roy, Rammohun. 1988. “A Letter on Education.” In Sources of Indian Tradition, Vol. 2, Stephen Hay, ed. New York: Columbia University Press. Sarkar, Sumit. 1999. “Conversion and the Sangh Parivar.” The Hindu (November 9). Shourie, Arun. 1994. Missionaries in India: Continuities, Changes, and Dilemmas. New Delhi: West End. Smith, Donald E. 1963. India as a Secular State. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. 1963. The Meaning and End of Religion. New York: Macmillan. Stein, Burton. 1998. A History of India. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. “Test of Faith.” 2000. India Today (December 4): 26–31. Thapar, Romila. 1979. Dissent in the Early Indian Tradition. Dehra Dun: Indian Renaissance Institute. ———. 1994. Interpreting Early India. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Thursby, G. R. 1975. Hindu-Muslim Relations in British India: A Study of Controversy, Conflict, and Communal Movements in Northern India, 1923–1928. Leiden: E. J. Brill. Twain, Mark. 1989. Following the Equator. New York: Dover.

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 249

10 The Politics of Caste Christophe Jaffrelot

T

he caste system is inseparable from Hinduism, although it is not limited to this religion; its logic is also present in Sikhism, Islam, and Christianity. The first indication of this social system appears in the Rig Veda—the oldest text among Sanskrit literature—that dates back to approximately 2000 B.C.E. One of the stanzas in this text (90.X) relates a myth of origin in which the world is said to derive from the sacrificial dismemberment of a primordial man—the Virat Purush—whose mouth gave rise to the Brahmans; his arms, the Kshatriyas; his hands, the Vaishyas; and his feet, the Shudras. This fourfold division of society is hierarchical: the mouth is naturally higher than the arms, which in turn are higher than the hands and the feet. Similarly, under the Shudras is a group called the Untouchables that is not mentioned in the Vedas but noted in the Dharmashastra—which also dates back to Indian antiquity. The very name of this fifth category reflects a cardinal principle of caste hierarchy, which is the relationship between the pure and the impure (Dumont 1966; Gould 1987). The Brahman personifies purity par excellence, while the Untouchable embodies impurity and causes repulsion, as contact with him is polluting (Sarukkai 2009). Between these two, there is a whole range of “grades” of relative (im)purity divided by two thresholds: Brahmans, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas form a higher group, the “twice-born” or dvijas; Shudras are clearly lower, but still well above Untouchables, and these two categories cannot be bracketed together. In an Indian village, this social segmentation traditionally results in a separation of spaces, with each caste living in a distinct neighborhood, and the Untouchables sometimes even confined to a separate hamlet, with their own temple and well (lest they should pollute the water of the rest of the village). The castes are not only defined by their relative purity, but also by socioeconomic functions, which go hand in hand with status. Brahmans specialize in 249

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

250

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 250

Christophe Jaffrelot

the work of the spirit, as priests who serve in temples (although priests are far from being the most prestigious among the Brahmans), astrologers, or literati serving the state administration (Brahmans more or less monopolized higher public office in Hindu kingdoms over centuries). The Kshatriya is the quintessential warrior. His avocation is to defend society and to conquer territories. Kings were drawn from the Kshatriya class and depended on local chieftains also derived from the same caste. Their descendants—whether maharajahs or minor landowning village leaders—developed their fiefs to become regional satraps or local notables, and then landowners after the British introduced the concept of land as private property. Among the Kshatriyas, the Rajputs are the most famous all over north India. The Vaishyas were originally craftsmen and tradesmen, but over time this first function passed over to the Shudras, and they retained only the second occupation. These merchants handle money without any inhibition. The emergence of India as a capitalist power, following colonization, caused many Vaishyas, such as the Marwaris, to go into industry, and even today a significant number of companies listed in the Bombay Stock Exchange are in the hands of members of castes belonging to this category. The Shudras are therefore the craftsmen—ranging from blacksmith to jeweler to weaver—but more of them are farmers and stockbreeders. This is the caste whose demographic weight is by far the most important. When Shudras possess more land and are more numerous than any other subcastes, they form what M. N. Srinivas called a “dominant caste.” In that case they, in fact, exert local authority—including over the upper castes in some respects. The Jats of Rajasthan, Haryana, and Punjab; the Marathas of Maharashtra; the Lingayats and Vokkaligas of Karnataka; and the Reddys and Kammas of Andhra Pradesh represent major examples of jatis. As for the Untouchables, who call themselves Dalits, their economic functions are even more closely related to their status. They are, therefore, in charge of the most degrading tasks, such as scavenging, meat-cutting, tanning, and shoe-making, as leatherworking is particularly stigmatized in Hindu society, which reveres the cow as the preeminent sacred animal. In addition to (im)purity and occupation, there is a third structuring principle of caste to consider, and that is endogamy, which logically completes this social system as the mixing of castes must naturally be banned for this pattern of inequality to be perpetuated. The boundaries of endogamy define the perimeters of castes, which are routinely called jatis, a word that, significantly, derives from the verb jana, meaning “to be born.” While Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras form what is known as the varna system, these varnas are subdivided into jatis, which are in many ways the “real” castes. Jatis are usually defined by their occupation—as evident from the references made before to Rajputs, Marwaris, or dominant castes—and by endogamous rules. Traditionally, one gets married within one’s jati. Matrimonial unions are arranged by the parents who generally commit their children, while very young, to socially legitimate weddings, taking into account their astrological birth charts. To this day endogamy remains the rule in villages and, in a looser form, in the city, except

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 251

The Politics of Caste

251

among a small cosmopolitan elite, which is evident from the structure of the “matrimonials” section of most newspapers. Indeed, every daily publishes a supplement on Sundays where brides and grooms are classified by caste (and increasingly by region and occupation), and websites are doing likewise on an even larger scale.



From the Caste System to Caste-Based Competition

This social hierarchy forms a caste system because the dominant—Brahmanical—values are regarded by the whole society as providing universal references and role models. Hence the notion of Sanskritization, which M. N. Srinivas defined as “the process in which a ‘low’ Hindu caste, or tribal or other group, changes its customs, ritual, ideology and way of life in the direction of a high, and frequently, ‘twice-born caste’ that is the Brahmans, but also the Kshatriyas or even the Vaishyas” (1995: 6). Low castes may, for instance, adopt the most prestigious features of the Brahmans’ diet and emulate vegetarianism. Such a process reflects a special coherence in society, with all groups admitting the values of the upper castes as the legitimate value system. For Srinivas, “the mobility associated with Sanskritization results only in positional changes in the system and does not lead to any structural change. That is, a caste moves up above its neighbours and another comes down, but all this takes place in an essentially stable hierarchical order. The system itself does not change” (ibid). Indeed, the values sustaining the social system remain the same. Members of low castes adopted, for example, the most prestigious features of the Brahman food regimen and thus became vegetarians. Such a process highlighted the enactment of social coherence, since all groups looked upon the values of the high castes—and especially of the Brahman—as the legitimate values of society. Still, coherence did not equal cohesion. In fact, Sanskritization in itself testified to the aspiration of low castes to rise socially, but for centuries they did not have any alternative choices available—except conversion to Islam or Christianity, a strategy that did not make much of a difference since both religions had developed their own caste system. Among the Muslims, the key element is not so much purity and impurity as geographical origin. The Muslim upper castes, the Ashrafs, claim that they descend from outsiders who came from Saudi Arabia, Central Asia, and the Turkish world. In contrast, the Ashlafs are Indians who converted to Islam from the eighth century onward and who often were Hindu Shudras by caste— weavers, for instance. In their case, conversion to a supposedly equalitarian religion made little difference because while they could more or less mix with others in the mosque during prayer, the rest of their lives hardly changed. This was also the case for the Dalits who converted to Islam and became Arzals. Similarly, those who converted to Christianity—mostly Dalits—were kept at arm’s length even in the church by so-called old Christians who claimed that

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

252

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 252

Christophe Jaffrelot

they had come from the Middle East (hence their name “Syro-Malabar Christians”) with Saint Thomas or that they had been converted by him before his death in India in 52 C.E. Alternative, egalitarian repertoires crystallized during the British Raj when individualistic values were taught to lower-caste children who were allowed to go to school for the first time (Rao 2009). The British also suggested that the lower-caste people may well be from a different non-Aryan ethnic stock—like Dravidians, for instance—and even be “sons of the Indian soil.” Lower-caste leaders built up a reformatory, even revolutionary, zeal based on these ideas, as illustrated by E. W. Ramaswami Naicker, popularly know as Periyar (in Tamil Nadu), and Jotirao Phule and Bhimrao Ambedkar (in Maharashtra). The latter was the first leader of Untouchables, whom he preferred to call Dalits (“broken men”) for the first time within a pan-Indian context. While the caste system began to change significantly under the British thanks to the spread of more egalitarian ideas, it was also affected by more concrete transformations. The modernization of the bureaucracy implied the making of a new class of functionaries, the industrialization process relied on a new working class, and the development of new means of transportation resulted in the building of national railways. These three phenomena transformed castes (Bayly 1999: 263), which until then were confined to reduced territories and delimited by matrimonial relations. Geographical mobility due to the changing job market—and made possible by the new means of transportation—fostered the territorial extension of the frontiers of caste and the emergence of horizontal solidarities. This mobility not only generated feelings of anomie, but also made locating suitable matches for endogamous marriages more complicated— hence, the idea to create associations that could link members of the same caste. However, these associations were also stirred up by the census, which from 1871 onward was a key element in the formation of the colonial state. The census raised among several castes the sentiment of having common interests, since the British, not content merely with enumerating people, also classified them. Caste associations were therefore also created as pressure groups whose aim was to improve their rank in the census tables. This process was especially prominent among the lower castes, but it was also obvious among not so low castes such as the Kayasths, the scribes who had been so prominent in the administration of most of the princely states, be they Hindus or Muslims, though they were Shudras by caste. Each census provided castes with an opportunity to petition the government for getting a higher place in the order of precedence and for being recorded under new, Sanskritized names. Caste associations were transforming themselves into interest groups and lobbying not only for symbolic concessions, such as their ranking in the census, but also for more concrete conquests. They gradually acquired features of mutual aid structures. They founded cooperative movements and schools for children in their caste groups. In that sense, they were modern institutions (Rudolph and Rudolph 1966: 448).

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 253

The Politics of Caste

253

Quota Policies and Quota Politics

During the colonial era, the British initiated a policy of positive discrimination favoring the Untouchables, who gradually came to be known as the Scheduled Castes. As early as 1892, a network of schools reserved for the Untouchables was established. The British policy was not that precocious so far as the state bureaucracy was concerned, but it became more and more ambitious. In 1934, the government decided to reserve 25 percent of vacancies in the administration for Muslims and 8.3 percent for other minorities, including the Scheduled Castes who at the time represented 12.5 percent of the population. In June 1946, the quota for Scheduled Castes was increased to 12.5 percent, which means that the notion of proportionality was introduced under the British. Quotas in the Bureaucracy

This measure was extended by the first government of independent India, and the proportionality principle has continued to apply since then. When the 1951 census indicated that the Scheduled Castes were 15 percent of the population, the quota for the Scheduled Castes was increased to 15 percent and this same quota was implemented in educational institutions. However, most of these quotas remained unfulfilled, allegedly because of a lack of good candidates, but also because of a lack of goodwill among those in charge of recruiting them (Galanter 1991: 94). For instance, in 1961 the Untouchables represented between 1 and 2 percent of the graduates of one age class (ibid.: 61) and only 6 percent of them really benefited from the redistribution effect of quotas (ibid.: 108). In fact, the quotas were only fulfilled in the lower categories of the administration, which meant that the Scheduled Castes continued to accomplish some of their traditional tasks, but with a uniform! For instance, sweepers come mostly from the Untouchable Bhangi caste. This is evident from Table 10.1, which shows the proportion of the Scheduled Caste employees in the central government services. In 1967, twenty years after independence, the Indian state was far from satisfactorily implementing the positive discrimination programs. By contrast, the quotas in the assemblies were strictly implemented, although they contributed to the Scheduled Castes being dependent on an upper-caste–dominated Congress, something Ambedkar, following years of conflict with Gandhi, had unsuccessfully tried to avoid.



Reservations in the Political Domain

The 1932 conflict between Gandhi and Dalit leader Bhimrao Ambedkar was eventually settled by the Poona Pact, which favored Gandhi’s position. In contrast to separate electorates, the new reservation system disallowed the Scheduled Castes’ designating their representatives. The Poona Pact did establish a

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

254

2:42 PM

Page 254

Christophe Jaffrelot

Table 10.1 Class-wise Distribution of the Scheduled Castes in the Central Government Services (percentage) Class of the Indian Administration Class 1 Class 2 Class 3 Class 4

1953

1961

0.53 1.29 4.52 20.52

1.2 2.5 7.2 17.2

1963

1967

1974

1980

1987

1.78 2.98 9.24 17.15

2.08 3.1 9.33 18.18

3.2 4.6 10.3 18.6

4.95 8.54 13.44 19.46

8.23 10.47 14.46 20.09

Sources: The Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Report, Vol. 1 (New Delhi: Udyogshala, 1969), cited in S. N. Dubey and Usha Mathur, “Welfare Programmes for Scheduled Castes: Content and Administration”; Economic and Political Weekly (January 22, 1972): 167 (for 1961 and 1967); and O. Mendelsohn and M. Vicziany, The Untouchables: Subordination, Poverty and the State in Modern India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 135 (for all the other years).

Scheduled Castes electoral college that designated in each constituency the four Scheduled Caste candidates who were then allowed to contest the elections. But the Scheduled Castes exerted an exclusive influence during the primary elections only. Thereafter, they were not in a majority in any constituency, and it was the other castes that, in the main, elected the successful Scheduled Caste candidate. The system based on the Poona Pact not only ruled out Ambedkar’s demand regarding separate electorates, it also disallowed the Scheduled Castes from gaining representation proportional to their number. The 1935 Government of India Act gave them only 7 seats out of 156 in the Council of State, 19 out of 250 in the Central Assembly, and 151 out of 1,585 in the different provincial legislative assemblies. Naturally, the Constituent Assembly examined closely this question—especially after Ambedkar, Nehru’s law minister, was appointed chairman of the Drafting Committee. The Congress leaders wanted to continue the reservation system, but in a diluted fashion. One of Ambedkar’s disciples, S. Nagappa, proposed an alternative to it. According to this schema, in the constituencies reserved for Scheduled Castes, the candidates winning more than 35 percent of the Untouchables’ votes could be declared victorious. But the Congress Party opposed this and eventually the constitution established a system of reserved seats on a population basis for ten years. It was extended ten years later, and has continued to be extended to this day. The primary elections system was abolished, which deprived the Scheduled Castes of a crucial leverage. Article 330 (2) simply established quotas for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in proportion to their population, through double constituencies that were located in the places where the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) people resided in large numbers. There, two members of the legislative assembly,

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 255

The Politics of Caste

255

or members of Parliament, were returned: one from the non-SC/non-ST candidates, the other from the SC/ST candidates. Thus as far as the Scheduled Castes were concerned, in 15 percent of the constituencies, in areas where they were in large numbers, two seats were contested (in a very small number of constituencies, a third seat was reserved for Tribals), and each voter was provided two ballots (exceptionally, three). Even if none of the Scheduled Caste candidates received the largest or the second largest number of votes, the one who came first among them won the reserved seat. However, if two Scheduled Castes (or Scheduled Tribes) candidates came first, they both won seats. That’s what happened in 1957 in a constituency of Andhra Pradesh where one of the seats was reserved for the Scheduled Tribes. Two tribal candidates came first and were elected, whereas the third was V. V. Giri, an influential— Brahman—Congress Party leader who became president of India in 1969. He brought the case before the Supreme Court, which upheld the election results as pronounced by the Election Commission. But the system was modified before the 1962 elections, allegedly because the double constituencies were too big, but obviously because the defeat of Giri had shown that Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes candidates could win both seats. This means that only single constituencies have been in place since 1961. In 15 percent of them, where the Scheduled Castes are in the largest numbers, the candidates can only be from their community. But the Scheduled Castes are everywhere in a minority. Under the 1961 delimitation of parliamentary constituencies, 75 seats were reserved for representation by the Scheduled Castes. The proportion of the population made up by these castes in these constituencies varied considerably, but they were never in a majority—in 13 out of 75 they were more than 30 percent of the voters. Besides, 75 percent of the Scheduled Castes were in nonreserved constituencies (Galanter 1979: 438–439). A coalition of high and intermediate castes could very well have their Scheduled Caste candidate returned, even if the Scheduled Castes did not vote for him. Congress thus became adept at co-opting Scheduled Caste leaders by mobilizing non–Scheduled Caste voters (Galanter 1991: 549). One of the Scheduled Caste leaders co-opted by the Congress, Jagjivan Ram, admitted that “since one had to depend on the non–Scheduled Caste vote, one went along with the fortunes of the party” (quoted in Frankel 1989: 83). What Party for the Scheduled Castes?

Ambedkar launched his first political party, the Independent Labour Party (ILP), in 1936. As evident from its name, this party did not confine its appeal to the Scheduled Castes. The ILP focused on labor laws for protecting factory workers and obtaining better educational facilities in technical institutions. The party even tried to project itself as a virtual spokesperson for the “lower middle class,” which contained few Untouchables. These efforts notwithstanding, the party

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

2:42 PM

Page 256

Christophe Jaffrelot

Christophe Jaffrelot

256

6/16/10

Women of the Lohar caste (itinerant blacksmiths) in Madhya Pradesh

remained a marginal force, and this led to the formation of the Scheduled Castes Federation (SCF, or Dalit Federation in Marathi) in July 1942. Ambedkar had given up the idea of broadening his base to encompass the working class and put stress, instead, on the need to unify the Scheduled Castes on a pan-Indian scale. The party enjoyed little success, and just prior to his death in December 1956, Ambedkar suggested that the SCF should be dissolved and a new party formed instead. He invited party workers to join hands with leaders from nonDalit communities. Thus the Republican Party of India (RPI) was launched in October 1957 with the goal of representing all of India’s poor. But the RPI was badly affected by factionalism and only enjoyed meager success in the state of Maharashtra. It was not until the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was formed that a Dalit party was able to command clout in the Indian political scene, but it is first necessary to discuss the rise of the lower castes before noting the success of the BSP.



The Lower Castes Take Power

When Nehru moved the Objectives Resolution before the Constituent Assembly on December 13, 1946, he used the term “Other Backward Classes” (OBCs) and announced that special measures were to be taken to favor “minorities, backward and tribal areas and depressed and other backward classes.” He, however,

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 257

The Politics of Caste

257

did not elaborate further. Clarifying the definition of OBCs thus became the first task of the Backward Classes Commission, which was appointed on January 29, 1953, under the chairmanship of Kakasaheb Kalelkar. Caste was not the only criterion that the commission identified, but it was a key element; and the commission, therefore, established a list of 2,399 castes representing about 32 percent of the Indian population as forming the bulk of the “socially and educationally backward classes.” In order to redress the backwardness of the OBCs, the commission recommended that quotas should be reserved for these castes in central and state administrations: 40 percent of the vacancies in classes III and IV, 33.3 percent in class II, and 25 percent in class I. The Nehru government refused, officially because it was dedicated to a socialist system in which caste differences would be dissolved, and semi-officially because the higher-caste elites feared being dislodged from power by peasants who were already politically significant because of their economic and demographic importance. Some states in the south of the country had early on applied social programs favoring groups described as Other Backward Classes, but they had to wait until 1990 to know whether the federal government would implement the recommendations of a commission that dated back to 1978. This was the Mandal Commission (named after its president), which had identified 3,743 castes as OBCs, accounting for 52 percent of the national population. Their report noted that these OBCs occupied only 12.5 percent of civil service posts, and it recommended that this figure be raised to 27 percent. When this quota was announced in 1990, members of higher castes, especially students, protested vehemently about the reduction of their job prospects, and this calling into question of the sociopolitical order that they still dominated. The Supreme Court suspended its decision before validating the recommendations of the Mandal Commission in 1992 with a slight twist: the children of the OBC elite (the socalled creamy layer) could not profit from the quotas. Still, higher-caste resistance had provoked an OBCs’ countermovement to defend against the higher castes depriving them of the quota. New political parties claiming large OBCs membership turned the tide and nominated greater numbers of candidates from lower castes starting in the elections of 1991 (Jaffrelot 2003). This was an increasingly successful strategy, because the OBCs—who constitute at least a relative majority throughout India—voted more from that point on for candidates from their own castes, rather than from higher castes. They thus seized power in the large states of northern India, such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The most recent episode in the OBCs’ rise to power occurred in April 2008 in the domain of higher education. The lower-caste leaders desired to extend the quota policy for OBCs to universities, in their eyes a necessary measure to prepare these castes for the responsibilities that awaited them in the civil service. The Congress Party–led government had agreed to this demand in 2007, but the Supreme Court had immediately suspended this decision under the pretext that no statistics supported the theory that OBCs were underrepresented in

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

258

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 258

Christophe Jaffrelot

higher education. It cleared the 27 percent reservation for the OBCs in the universities and other public higher education institutions the following year, but kept to its argument specifying that the OBCs’ elites could not benefit from quotas and that the establishments concerned should increase their capacity by 54 percent so as not to reduce the number of places open to those without positive discrimination support.



The BSP’s Rise to Power: Kanshi Ram and the Bahujan Samaj

Kanshi Ram was born in 1932 into a Sikh Dalit family in rural Punjab.1 His family, like Ambedkar’s, had benefited from the military jobs that the British reserved for Untouchables. He was consequently able to study until he graduated with a bachelor of science degree, after which he went to work for a laboratory as an assistant chemist. The laboratory was associated with the Ministry of Defense and the job in turn was thanks to the reservation system. He resigned from his job in 1971, however, to devote time to social work among Dalits and others. Kanshi Ram strongly felt that the RPI had betrayed Ambedkar by focusing too much on Dalits. He wanted to promote the cause of the bahujan samaj—the great numbers—and he included in this group religious minorities as well. In 1971, Kanshi Ram created the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Minority Communities Employees Association, since he believed that the most urgent need of the bahujan samaj was to organize its elite, which in the case of the Dalits was thanks to the reservations mandated in the education system and administration. But Kanshi Ram wanted to include other components of the bahujan samaj, namely, lower castes and religious minorities. In 1974, he transformed his organization into a new one, called the Backward (SC, ST, OBC) and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF), which was officially launched on December 6, 1978, the anniversary of Ambedkar’s death. The organization made rapid headway and reached a degree of critical mass because of the growing number of educated Scheduled Caste civil servants. BAMCEF reached 200,000 members and included 500 Ph.D. recipients, 15,000 scientists, 3,000 MBBS (medical) graduates (Omvedt 1994: 163), and 7,000 other graduate and postgraduate degree holders—most from Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. After BAMCEF endowed Kanshi Ram with a core group of followers, he shifted to party politics in 1981 and launched the Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti (DS-4 Committee for fighting for the community of the Dalits and the oppressed). The terms used in the name of this organization departed from the official euphemisms (backward classes, Scheduled Castes, etc.). Today Dalit and Shoshit are the words that politicized Untouchables use more frequently when referring to themselves. However, Dalit does not refer here to the Untouchables

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 259

The Politics of Caste

259

Christophe Jaffrelot

only, but also to lower castes. In addition, the DS-4 also tried to attract Muslims, especially in Uttar Pradesh. In 1984, the DS-4 was replaced by the Bahujan Samaj Party, whose name reflected the sociopolitical ambitions of Kanshi. The BSP made rapid progress on the electoral front. During the general elections of 1984, it received more than one million votes. This number was multiplied by six in 1989 when the party got 6,215,093 votes, or 2.07 percent of the recorded votes, and obtained three seats in the Lok Sabha. In 1991, the party won only two seats, capturing 1.61 percent of the votes, but five years later it gained eleven seats with 3.64 percent of the votes. The growth of the BSP following the 1996 elections allowed the Elections Commission to grant it national party status. This growth chiefly resulted from Kanshi Ram’s continuous efforts since the 1960s to get the bahujan samaj organized. However, the rise of the BSP has also much to do with the party’s implantation and mobilization techniques and his actions while in office. Kanshi Ram tried to emerge as a spokesman for the bahujan samaj by advocating the interests of all its components against the upper castes, including the OBCs. Even before the Mandal affair, when the debate (in the Lok Sabha and outside) on the Mandal Commission Report pertaining to reservations for OBCs was gaining momentum, Kanshi Ram emphasized the claims of the

A Bahujan Samaj Party campaign advertisement with its party symbol (the elephant) and the name of its local candidate in Shivpuri District, Madhya Pradesh

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

260

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 260

Christophe Jaffrelot

OBCs. Kanshi Ram thus admitted that in some respects the conditions of the Scheduled Castes were better than those of the OBCs. He thus recognized that thanks to reservation, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes had a larger presence in the bureaucracy than the OBCs. Similarly, he noted in 1994 that of some 500 IAS officers in Uttar Pradesh, 137 were from the Scheduled Castes whereas only 7 were OBCs, 6 of whom were from the prominent Yadav caste (Mendelsohn and Vicziany 1998: 224). Kanshi Ram was very much in favor of reservations that could help the OBCs, which he regarded as unprivileged. One of the BSP’s slogans has been mandal ayog lâgû karo, kursî khâli karo (implement Mandal Commission [Report] or vacate the seat [of power]). This was part of his strategy of constituting the bahujan samaj into a political force. The BSP undoubtedly benefited from the atmosphere created by the “Mandal affair” and tried to tap the OBC vote at the time of elections. While the BSP has done well in the Punjab, Uttar Pradesh is the only state where it has made real inroads in the last twenty years. From the 1980s onward, Kanshi Ram considered capturing power to be his chief priority, and hence his strategy of coalition-making. The ground for his alliance with Mulayam Singh Yadav in 1993 was certainly prepared by the so-called Mandal affair. The mobilization of the upper castes against the implementation of the Mandal Commission Report had triggered a countermobilization cutting across the (lower) caste cleavages. At this point, the OBCs and Dalits discovered the need for more solidarity and increased activism, especially when some uppercaste movements began to question the validity of reservations—including reservation for the Scheduled Castes. The BSP was clearly a potential ally of the OBCs since Kanshi Ram had advocated the need for OBC quotas in the administration. The context created by the Mandal affair was therefore conducive to the alliance between the BSP and the Samajwadi Party (or Socialist Party), which was the legatee of the strong Uttar Pradesh socialist movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and enjoyed solid support among Yadavs (a caste of cattle breeders) from among whom came its leader, Mulayam Singh Yadav. However, this alliance responded primarily to tactical considerations. In the 1993 Assembly Elections, the Samajwadi Party won 109 seats out of 425 and the BSP won 67. Both parties formed the government thanks to the Congress Party’s support. Mulayam Singh Yadav became chief minister and the BSP obtained 11 ministerial portfolios in a government of 27. During the first month of this coalition, the BSP and the SP showed great solidarity, standing firm against the Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) and some members of the Congress who protested vehemently against the implementation of quotas for OBCs in Uttarakhand (at the time a subregion of Uttar Pradesh, where the OBCs represented only 2 percent of the population). Relations between the two partners, however, soon deteriorated. First, the BSP was getting worried about the “yadavization” of the state with the appointment of a large number of Yadavs in the state apparatus. Second, the backward castes,

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 261

The Politics of Caste

261

who were anxious to improve their social status and keep the Untouchables in their place, reacted violently to the Dalits’ efforts to achieve social mobility. The OBCs’ and the Dalits’ class interests are clearly antagonistic in some regions of Uttar Pradesh where Untouchables are often landless laborers. Conflicts about the wages of agricultural laborers and disputes regarding land ownership have always been acute but became more frequent since both groups—the Dalits and the OBCs—had become more assertive after the 1993 elections.2 But the dominance of the Samajwadi Party in the 1995 panchayat elections and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s willingness to accommodate BSP dissidents in his party also influenced the demise of the coalition. This led to the BSP becoming actively involved in an alliance with the BJP, which led to Kumari Mayawati becoming chief minister of the Uttar Pradesh government on June 3, 1995. This alliance was even more tactical than the one with the SP. It was primarily directed against Mulayam Singh Yadav, whom the BSP and the BJP wanted to keep in check because of his increasing political influence, which was reflected in the growing assertiveness of the OBCs (and especially the Yadavs). The alliance of the BSP with the BJP epitomized the convergence between Dalit and upper-caste leaders against the OBCs; but it was also directed against the Yadavs, who were now posing a threat to the Scheduled Castes and elite landowners and civil servants as well, thanks to the new OBC reservation policy. Mayawati is a Chamar from Uttar Pradesh (her native village, Badalpur, is located in the district of Ghaziabad). At the time of her birth in 1956, her father was employed in the telephone department. Mayawati was successful in her studies in Meerut, where her family settled when she was two years old. She became a school teacher in 1977. She was preparing herself for the Indian Administrative Services examination in 1980 when she met Kanshi Ram, who persuaded her to enter politics. In 1984, she left her job to devote herself to the BSP. Apparently Kanshi Ram had been impressed by her rhetorical skills, and indeed Mayawati made a name for herself through deliberately aggressive and even provocative speeches. With Kumari Mayawati as chief minister, Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, was for the first time governed by a member of the Scheduled Castes who forcefully advocated the cause of the bahujan samaj.3 For most Dalits, she became a source of pride. Mayawati’s accession to the top post in Uttar Pradesh therefore played a major part in the consolidation of the BSP’s Dalit vote bank. Such a consolidation also resulted from the special treatment Mayawati granted to members of the lower castes. The Dalits were the first to benefit from it. The Ambedkar Villages Scheme, which had been started by Mulayam Singh Yadav for allotting special funds for socioeconomic development for two years for villages with 50 percent Scheduled Caste populations, was revised so as to enable villages with more than 30 percent (and even 22 percent in certain areas) Scheduled Caste members to qualify.

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

262

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 262

Christophe Jaffrelot

The BSP decided to contest alone during the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, and the party doubled its share of valid votes in Uttar Pradesh—going from about 10 percent during the 1989, 1991, and 1993 elections to 20.6 percent. The BSP was especially successful in consolidating the Scheduled Castes behind its candidates. The electoral dividends the BSP drew from the Mayawati government confirmed Kanshi Ram’s belief that any coalition was worth considering provided it allowed the BSP to come to power. When the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections approached in September 1996, several parties sought to tie up with the BSP. The party eventually reached an agreement with Congress. On June 25, at a highly symbolic press conference, P. V. Narasimha Rao, as Congress president, and Kanshi Ram presented the details of their agreement: for the first time, the Congress accepted the role of a junior partner in a coalition, and in this case with a party representing the bahujan samaj. The BSP repeated its score of the Lok Sabha elections (with about 20 percent of the votes; the alliance winning 27.8 percent) and obtained the same number of members of the legislative assembly (67) as in 1993 (when it was associated with a stronger partner, the SP). None of the political parties captured a majority of seats and New Delhi imposed President’s Rule once more upon the state. The BSP leaders announced straightaway that they would form a coalition with any political force willing and able to allocate the chief ministership to Mayawati. After six months of President’s Rule, the BJP accepted their conditions. This decision could be once again explained by the apprehensions that Mulayam Singh Yadav generated in the BJP and the BSP. According to the BJPBSP agreement, Mayawati would be chief minister for six months, followed by a BJP leader, and they would then function in rotation. As for the government, it was to be made up with equal numbers of BJP and BSP ministers. The BSP thus returned to power thanks to a new reversal of alliances. The Ambedkar Villages Scheme was revived in a big way to cover 11,000 villages under the direct supervision of the chief minister, who admitted that she was focusing her attention on the Dalits. After six months in office, she left the post of chief minister to the BJP’s Kalyan Singh. But the BSP soon thereafter criticized the Kalyan Singh government for questioning the need of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (1989), which is supposed to protect the Dalits and tribals, and withdrew its support. Indeed, Mayawati had implemented this act in more drastic ways than any of her predecessors, so the complaint and withdrawal of support from the government was clearly opportunistic. The BSP contested the 1998 Lok Sabha elections on its own in Uttar Pradesh, and it polled almost the same number of votes as in 1996. It continued its steady growth during the following years, as can be seen in Table 10.2. The 2009 elections may be a turning point in the history of the BSP and Indian politics at large, not only because the party has dislodged the Communist

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 263

263

The Politics of Caste

Table 10.2 Percentage of Votes Polled by the BSP in Seven General Elections Year 1989 1991 1996 1998 1999 2004 2009

Winning Candidates 246 231 117 251 n.a. 435 500

Percentage of Candidates 3 2 11 5 14 19 21

Valid Votes 2.07 1.61 3.64 4.7 4.2 5.33 6.17

Note: n.a. indicates data not available.

Party of India (Marxist) from the third position, but because it has also acquired a national standing. For the first time, the BSP has crossed the 5 percent mark in about half a dozen states (see Table 10.3). The BSP also made significant inroads among Dalits in almost all states (see Table 10.4). Uttar Pradesh remains the party’s stronghold, where it continues to make progress (going from capturing 24.6 percent of the valid votes in 2004 to 27.4 percent in 2009). For a long time the Scheduled Castes had been suppressed in the political arena. Their leaders were not able to attract support beyond their own milieu, did not fight united, and allowed themselves to be co-opted by others. Thus, the Ambedkar-inspired RPI was undermined by factional fighting and co-option by the Congress Party. The BSP is still plagued by such diseases, albeit to a lesser extent, and it has certainly enabled Dalit politics to achieve a qualitative change, so much so that the Congress—which has retained only 27 percent of the SC vote in 2009, as against 21 percent to the BSP—is now trying hard to recover its former vote bank. This is evident from the fact that Congress has appointed ten Dalits in the Union government, and Meira Kumar, a Dalit, is now the speaker of the Lok Sabha. The future will tell the extent to which such strategies and socioeconomic programs designed to favor Dalits will enable the Congress to regain its previous popularity among the Scheduled Castes.



Voting One’s Caste While Casting One’s Vote

If caste has lost the kind of importance it had in terms of ritual hierarchy, it remains a key institution so far as the matrimonial market and electoral politics are concerned. Many citizens of India vote their caste while casting their vote, because they feel a natural inclination toward the candidates who belong to the same group and because they want to have their people in the corridors of power, if not at the helm. Beyond primordial ties, the transformation of castes

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

264

2:42 PM

Page 264

Christophe Jaffrelot

Table 10.3 The BSP Vote by State, 2009 and 2004 Percentage of Valid Votes States

2009

2004

Uttarakhand Uttar Pradesh Punjab Haryana Delhi Maharashtra Madhya Pradesh

15.3 27.4 5.75 15.7 5.3 4.8 5.85

6.8 24.6 7.67 4.9 2.4 3.1 4.75

Table 10.4 The Dalit Vote for the BSP in Seven States States Chhattisgarh Delhi Haryana Madhya Pradesh Maharashtra

Punjab Uttar Pradesh

Percentage of Dalit Votes 27 23 57 Jatavs: 27 Other Dalits: 6 Mahars: 15 Buddhist Dalits: 37 Other Dalits: 9 21 Jatavs: 85 Pasis: 64 Other Dalits: 61

into interest groups plays a major role. This brand of realpolitik has much to do with reservation policies, since these positive discrimination programs are castebased. As a result, political parties have had to articulate caste-oriented discourses, either because they were in favor of reservations for Dalits and then OBCs or against. In fact, no party could afford to be openly against schemes that concern almost 50 percent of society. But the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have traditionally tried to dilute the impact of caste-based reservations by suggesting class-based reservations, which would have benefited the poor from the upper castes. Narasimha Rao, when he became prime minister of India after the 1991 general elections, tried to introduce a 10 percent quota for these poor people in the public sector. But the Supreme Court ruled it out in its 1992 decision, which sanctioned the implementation of the Mandal Commission Report, claiming for the first time that castes could be considered as classes—something the judiciary had refused to do for decades. The Congress

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 265

265

The Politics of Caste

has been able to remain a rather convincing “catch-all party” in terms of castes (see Table 10.5), whereas the BJP has tended to become the refuge of the upper castes (partly having to do with its opposition to the Mandal reforms). Ethnic voting is especially obvious at the state level given the regional dimension of castes—most of them (especially the dominant castes) do not expand beyond a linguistic area, which is often coterminous with one state. A few examples will suffice to make this point, given the fact that when more than 50 percent of a caste group, tribe, or religious community vote for one party, we can speak of “ethnic voting,” all the more so as a rival party will nominate candidates of the same caste in order to cut into its vote. In Andhra Pradesh, each of the three most important parties continue to identify themselves with one of the three dominant castes. According to the Center for the Study of Developing Societies’ exit poll, 65.9 percent of the Reddys have voted for the Congress, 63.7 percent of the Kammas have voted for the Telugu Desam Party and its allies, and 53.1 percent of the Kapus have voted for the Praja Rajyam Party. In Uttar Pradesh, 53 percent of the Brahmans, 53 percent of the Rajputs, and 54 percent of the other upper castes have voted for the BJP, whereas 84 percent of the Jatavs—the most important Dalit caste—and 64 percent of the other Dalits have voted for the BSP. So far as the Muslims are concerned, 58 percent of them have voted for the Congress-Trinamool Congress alliance in West Bengal, and 69 percent of them have supported the Congress in Maharashtra. Such figures do not mean that the Congress is not a catch-all party, because it does attract

Table 10.5 Votes of Castes, Tribes, and Religious Communities in the 2009 General Elections (percentage) Parties Upper castes Peasant proprietors Upper OBC Lower OBC SC ST Muslims Christians Sikhs Others Total

Congress

Congress Allies

BJP

BJP Allies

Left

BSP

Others

26 25 22 27 27 39 38 38 41 26 29

7 13 9 4 7 8 9 9 2 10 8

38 15 22 22 12 23 4 6 10 21 19

6 9 5 7 3 3 2 4 36 5 5

10 3 2 9 11 7 12 11 2 12 8

3 2 3 4 21 1 6 1 3 9 6

12 33 37 27 20 19 29 32 7 21 26

Source: Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palshikar, “Between Fortuna and Virtu: Explaining the Congress’Ambiguous Victory in 2009,” Economic and Political Weekly 44, no. 39 (September 26– October 2, 2009): 41.

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

266

2:42 PM

Page 266

Christophe Jaffrelot

voters from different segments, but it shows that many groups continue to vote en bloc.



Conclusion

Caste in India is now much transformed from what it was 150 years ago. No longer merely the component of a hierarchical social system, caste today operates as an interest group that is sometimes identified with a political party. Caste still exists, but the caste system is undergoing significant change, at least in urban areas where the lower orders refuse to accept that the upper castes embody superior values. This kind of hierarchical mindset, however, continues to remain strongly internalized in rural areas, but things are changing there too, as is evident from the impact of Mayawati’s decision to strictly enforce the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Actrocities) Act of 1989. The upper castes are not in a position to exploit and humiliate the Dalits with the same kind of impunity as before—especially because the government of Uttar Pradesh has also appointed many Dalits in police stations at the local level. Despite such changes, caste continues to be one of the basic units of Indian life, as evidenced by the importance that some families still attach to endogamy within the jati group.



Notes

1. Author interview with Kanshi Ram, November 12, 1996, New Delhi. 2. Ambedkar statues became a bone of contention between Dalits and Yadavs in this context. In March 1994, in Meerut, Dalits demonstrated against the removal of one of these statues from a public park. The police dispersed them and killed two demonstrators. In Fatehullapur (Barabanki district), Yadavs protested against the installation of a bust of Ambedkar on a plot they had been occupying for a long time. Over a period of four months, about sixty incidents linked with the installation of Ambedkar statues caused twenty-one casualties among the Dalits. The BSP insisted that Mulayam Singh Yadav should take all necessary measures to ensure the Yadavs halted their protests, and he may have tried his best but without great success. For Kanshi Ram, the rising graph of atrocities was the main reason for the divorce between the BSP and the Samajwadi Party. 3. Before Mayawati, there had been only three Dalit chief ministers, none of them being a woman: D. Sanjiviah in Andhra Pradesh, Ram Sunder Das in Bihar, and Jagannath Pahadiya in Rajasthan.



Bibliography

Bayly, S. 1999. “Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age.” In The New Cambridge History of India, Vol. 4. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 267

The Politics of Caste

267

Dubey, S. N., and Usha Mathur. 1972. “Welfare Programmes for Scheduled Castes: Content and Administration.” Economic and Political Weekly 7, no. 4 (January 22): 165–176. Dumont, Louis. 1966. Homo Hierarchicus. Paris: Gallimard. Frankel, Francine R. 1989. “Caste, Land and Dominance in Bihar: Breakdown of the Brahmanical Social Order.” In Dominance and State Power in Modern India: Decline of a Social Order, Vol. 1, Francine R. Frankel and M. S. A. Roa, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Galanter, Marc. 1979. “Compensatory Discrimination in Political Representation: A Preliminary Assessment of India’s Thirty-Year Experience with Reserved Seats in Legislatures.” Economic and Political Weekly 14, no. 7–8 (February 1979): 437–454. ———. 1991 [1984]. Competing Equalities: Law and the Backward Classes in India. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Gould, Harold. 1987. The Hindu Caste System: The Sacralization of a Social Order, Vol. 1. Delhi: Chanakya Publications. Jaffrelot, Christophe. 2003. India’s Silent Revolution. The Rise of the Lower Castes in North Indian Politics. New York: Columbia University Press. Mendelsohn, O., and M. Vicziany. 1998. The Untouchables: Subordination, Poverty and the State in Modern India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Omvedt, Gail. 1994. “Kanshi Ram and the Bahujan Party.” In Caste and Class in India, K. L. Sharma, ed. New Delhi: Rawat. Rao, Anupama. 2009. The Caste Question: Dalits and the Politics of Modern India. Los Angeles: University of California Press. Rudolph, L. I., and S. Hoeber Rudolph. 1966. “The Political Role of India’s Caste Associations.” In Social Change: The Colonial Situation, I. Wallerstein, ed. New York: J. Wiley. Sarukkai, Sundar. 2009. “Phenomenology of Untouchability.” Economic and Political Weekly 44, no. 37 (September 12–18): 39–48. Srinivas, M. N. 1995. Social Change in Modern India. New Delhi: Orient Longman. Yadav, Yogendra, and Suhas Palshikar. 2009. “Between Fortuna and Virtu: Explaining the Congress’Ambiguous Victory in 2009.” Economic and Political Weekly 44, no. 39 (September 26–October 2): 33–47.

10DeVotta_10.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 268

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 269

11 The Arts Ananda Lal

S

ince the breakup of the Soviet Union, India is the country with the largest number of ethnic, linguistic, and cultural groups in the world. In an area roughly one-third the size of the United States, it cradles more than three times the population of the United States, or one-fifth of the human race. Unlike the US “melting pot,” however, where a certain homogenization has occurred, India’s diverse communities change markedly from state to state based on a number of factors, the most important being language. The Sahitya Akademi, or national academy of letters, recognizes and awards prizes to authors in twenty-four languages—nearly as many as the number of states. Most of these major literary languages count more than 20 million speakers each, and the country embraces hundreds of other languages and dialects.1 To put it in the simplest terms, an Indian may not even be able to converse with a fellow Indian from the state adjoining his or her own. The situation is made more complicated by the fact that within the same linguistic region, cultures may differ. Scattered across the country lie pockets— but not reservations—inhabited by about 300 mainly Australoid and Mongoloid tribes, who speak aboriginal tongues unrelated to the dominant languages in the states where they live. Furthermore, even in the same linguistic community, different religions have created distinctive cultural traditions: for example, there are Hindus, Muslims, and Christians who speak Malayalam or Bengali; Hindu and Sikh Punjabis; Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist Kashmiris; Hindu and Jain Rajasthanis; and Hindu and Parsi (Zoroastrian) Gujaratis. Naturally, the variety of art forms in such a land multiplied exponentially. Westernization in the nineteenth century brought with it new theories, ideologies, and practices, including the development of an artist’s identity into a concept of far-reaching import. In contrast, the traditional Indian artist underplays 269

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

270

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 270

Ananda Lal

ego and even signature by effacing his or her primary position as creator of an artwork. I use the present tense because in villages the artists still follow this selfless habit of erasing their names. Even now, thousands of their peers all over India make handicrafts or act, sing, or dance professionally and with dedication but go unheralded and unknown in books such as this one because commentators focus on modernist trends and fashionable stars instead. These big names usually have very little to do with the rural and semirural areas where three-fourths of Indians live. Virtually all the great painters, authors, musicians, dancers, directors, and filmmakers mentioned in this chapter come from towns and cities, went through formal higher education, and (except classical performers) won appreciation from western-oriented critics and audiences. The rural, often illiterate, nonwesternized majority may have difficulty comprehending their works and their aesthetics. I do not mean to say that the average village artist is backward or primitive, only that he or she has not received enough research attention. Things may not improve drastically in the twenty-first century because of the increasingly powerful media’s constant itch for novelty and the money available to hype urban artists beyond their true worth. We can only hope that the Internet and other electronic media will help document the artists languishing in India’s villages. Of course, one can argue that the urban-rural schism has always existed, with city artists perennially commanding greater exposure, whether in Renaissance Europe or in “Golden Age” India under the Guptas (300–450 C.E.). The richly patronized classical works invariably have been recorded more fully through the ages than the ill-preserved folk styles. The point is, it need no longer remain this way. The methodology for documentation only requires determination and concerted effort to do equal justice to India’s folk masters. One final general remark: despite the modernization that can be seen in every art form, at a very basic level the Indian aesthetic experience continues to honor the ancient theory of rasa, in that the mood or emotion of an artwork remains the central expressive concern of most artists. Western readers, listeners, and viewers may feel that Indians overdo the sentiments in their creations. They should bear in mind that this feature is part of a 2,000-year history of giving rasa (variously translated as “taste,” “flavor,” or “essence” but commonly understood as “feeling”) preeminence in art. The various arts that I discuss in this chapter fall into two broad categories, the fixed and the fluid. By “fixed” I refer to those four disciplines—fine art (painting, sculpture), literature, cinema, and television—whose products we can return to repeatedly to view or read because their creators have eternalized them on canvas, page, film, or video. I classify the live performing arts—music, dance, theater—as “fluid” since these fleeting forms exist temporarily from performance to performance; try as we might, we cannot capture them on discs or tapes because the aesthetic experience remains incomplete within those limits. This distinction between fixed and fluid genres is important to recognize in contemporary

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 271

The Arts

271

India for reasons that I raise later. One crucial difference, however, I must point out here: under western influence, the modern Indian fixed forms (in this case, literature and fine art) have departed radically from their classical forebears (such as religious verse, temple architecture, and miniature paintings), which have petered out, whereas in the fluid forms, classicism and modernism still coexist.



Fine Art

Ashok K. Dutt

In many traditional Indian communities, fine art is part of daily life, not a selfconsciously intellectual activity. In the eastern state of Manipur, for instance, the very acts of ritualistically eating a family meal, weaving handloom saris and cane basketry, and worshiping in the local temple incorporate elements of design, symbol, or motif that can only fall under the rubric of art. The cosmopolitan separation of art from life, as something to be exhibited and appreciated but unnecessary to day-to-day work, is an alien concept. Indeed, one wonders how many Indian villagers would understand the purpose or meaning of a framed painting on a gallery wall, especially since almost all contemporary Indian painters draw their inspiration from European artists.2 Relatively few native forms of painting, such as Madhubani in Bihar state or Patachitra in Orissa state, exist in the Indian countryside.3

Madhubani folk art from northern Bihar: a painting depicting a newly married bride and groom carried in a palanquin

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

272

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 272

Ananda Lal

Prior to independence in 1947, although imitation of international movements had become firmly entrenched in the cities, some trailbreakers in Calcutta and Bombay pioneered a revival of native styles. The Bengal school of art— originally nurtured by the Tagores and eventually finding a home at VisvaBharati, the university set up by Rabindranath Tagore—attempted to reconcile East and West.4 Nandalal Bose looked to the classical Buddhist frescoes at Ajanta for ideas; Jamini Roy was the first Indian modernist to owe a debt to folk and tribal art—in his case, the art of the Santals in Bengal. The dominance of the Bombay and Bengal schools continued after 1947, the latter producing such acknowledged masters as the sculptor Ramkinker Baij and the painters Gopal Ghosh, Paritosh Sen, Nirode Mazumdar, and now Jogen Chowdhury. In Bombay, the Progressive Artists Group led by F. N. Souza and M. F. Husain openly pledged allegiance to late European expressionism (which “expressed” the artist’s inner world rather than external reality), whereas the simple joy of Indian landscapes and nature appealed to apparently less radical artists, such as Akbar Padamsee and K. K. Hebbar. The debate over the derivative quality of Indian art persists. As art institutions sprouted elsewhere in India during the 1950s, the Baroda Group, centered around the newly founded M. S. University at Baroda in Gujarat state, and the Group 1890 of Delhi, under its spokesman J. Swaminathan, both faced allegations of excessive abstraction influenced by western models. In the midst of these polemical disputes about the nature of original creativity, the figure of K. G. Subramanyan gradually rose to a powerful position of pan-Indian magnitude—as artist and educator, he worked at various times in Kerala (his home state), Santiniketan (the site of Visva-Bharati), Delhi, Baroda, Bombay, and London. Deeply interested in indigenous folk art and crafts, he borrowed techniques freely from all over India, such as the popular Kalighat patuya paintings of Calcutta or terra-cotta reliefs on temples.5 Perhaps the first full-scale excursion into native artistic traditions came from south India, in the 1960s. K. C. S. Paniker established the Cholamandal Artists’ Village in the state of Tamil Nadu because of his realization of a pervasive Eurocentric impulse among urban Indian painters and their consequent lack of Indianness. Paniker visualized a commune influenced specifically by south Indian traditional handicrafts and by individual pathfinders like Jamini Roy. Largely unknown in its heyday, Cholamandal now receives due respect as a historic and farsighted enterprise. Although painting has remained by far the most-practiced genre of fine art in India, there are a few leading artists in other media. Printmaking received a stimulus from the Graphics Department of Delhi College of Art under the leadership of Somnath Hore from 1958 to 1965 and the techniques invented by Krishna Reddy, who soon went abroad. Sculpture attracted some brilliant talent, like Meera Mukherjee of Calcutta and, at present, K. S. Radhakrishnan of Delhi. Prabhakar Barwe’s experimentation with enamel paint in Bombay made fine use of an unusual medium.

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 273

The Arts

273

By the 1970s, Indian art had moved into new directions. A growing circle of nativist painters began to study the representation and philosophy of Tantra (an esoteric branch of Hinduism and Buddhism dealing with ritualistic meditation and sexuality), resulting in a relatively large corpus of neo-Tantric works. The number of women artists achieving individual fame, like Anjolie Ela Menon and Arpana Caur, reached the point at which some scholars could consider them for analysis as a movement. The Marxist ideology of many artists, often assumed, now evolved into a more explicit statement of social conscience among the younger generation, such as Sudhir Patwardhan and Vivan Sundaram. A sea change occurred in the following decade. Suddenly, the upper class learned that artworks made excellent investments. Thus began the present upper-crust fad of collecting, which made the lives of proverbial starving artists much plusher but also automatically pushed prices beyond the reach of ordinary—often more discerning—buyers. Galleries and exhibitions arose to exploit the demand, and international interest in contemporary Indian art grew. It is difficult to tell how long this vogue will last. As for content and method, the Indian-versus-western conflict still rages. Seniors like Ganesh Haloi in Calcutta continue to paint distinctive Indian landscapes without direct reference to foreign modes. However, hip celebrities like Vivan Sundaram of Delhi have shifted to site-specific installation art (exhibits constructed in galleries or “found spaces”), currently the “in” thing—masterfully conceived and executed, no doubt, but conforming to international fashions. Commercialization and cosmopolitanism are the significant problems plaguing Indian art today.



Literature

At least art, theoretically, can be said to have a universal language. Not so with literature, whose readership is determined by the language of the text. Despite the national slogan that Indian literature is unified, though it is written in many tongues, over the years, by admitting more and more languages into the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, successive governments have only succeeded in proving Indians’ plurality and dissimilarity. Even so, the number of languages in the Eighth Schedule (twenty-two now, from fourteen in 1947) falls short of the twenty-four recognized by the Sahitya Akademi. Regardless of such quibbles, India can boast of as many major living literatures as Europe. And, since nobody in his or her right mind would write a history of European literature in this day and age, it is equally futile for anyone to attempt a survey of contemporary Indian literature, for the simple reason that no person alive understands all the main Indian languages.6 Yet because of geopolitical factors, I must talk of “Indian literature”— though, funnily enough, there is not even any language called “Indian.” I may mention the names of famous Indian painters, musicians, or dancers, but I do

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

274

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 274

Ananda Lal

not dare give names of writers in this chapter. I would need to think of the best authors writing since 1947 in more than twenty languages: not only a tall order but also a long-winded list. Rather, I propose to maintain perfect fairness by not naming anyone at all and, instead, discussing the broad sweep of currents in the Indian literatures during this period.7 Let us also not forget, as India’s latest individual Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen, never tires of reminding us, the subject of literacy in the second most populous country on earth. Even at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the majority of Indians remain functionally illiterate (the 2001 census gives the literacy rate as 65 percent, but one wonders how many actually read in the course of their day). Therefore, whose literature am I discussing, anyway? Evidently, that of university-trained, predominantly city-based authors. Whether anti-urban or pro-urban in their themes, they cannot be heard by their underprivileged fellow citizens deprived of primary education. There lies strength in sheer numbers, for the chief linguistic phenomenon after independence has been the regional literatures’ quest for identity and equal rights. The continuing reorganization of states along linguistic boundaries satisfies these aspirations, and resistance against the perceived tyranny of a “superior” or dominant language has fired many literary rebellions. Among the latest, the creation of Jharkhand state went hand in hand with the addition of its main tribal language, Santhali, to the Eighth Schedule in 2003. Of the states that refused to accept the central government’s imposition of Hindi as the official national language, Tamil Nadu (formerly Madras) had the most volatile reaction, which was reflected in a pro-Dravida movement in Tamil literature of the 1960s that rejected words from Sanskrit in favor of pure Dravidian vocabulary.8 A different example comes from Manipur, where the Manipuris, increasingly proud of their ethnic roots since the 1980s, banished the Bengali script in which they used to write and revived their ancient Tibeto-Burman characters in its place. They regarded the Bengali script as alien “Indian” cultural colonialism and their old alphabet as their “true” ancestral heritage. Popular protests against language policy have often caused riots. To generalize, one may distinguish three broad periods of post-1947 Indian literature. For the first fifteen years or so, the unprecedented violence that accompanied the partition of the country, culminating in Mohandas Gandhi’s assassination in 1948, found expression in the works of many a writer shattered by the sudden outburst of communal hatred and devastation. What became known as “partition literature” emerged, its compass covering the riots, retaliation, the refugee exodus, resettlement, and even a darkly sardonic angle presenting the patent ridiculousness of the situation in which India and Pakistan, who should have celebrated their twin birth as free nations, fought a war with each other instead. Four communities were particularly affected by their position along the new nations’ shared borders: Kashmiris, Punjabis, Sindhis, and Bengalis. The

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 275

The Arts

275

transfer of Sind to Pakistan left Indian Sindhis without a homeland—a loss reflected in their literature by an intense nostalgia. However, the divided lands of Punjab and Bengal, the two provinces dissected by partition, felt the brunt of Hindu-Muslim enmity as millions following their religion and escaping persecution migrated across both sides, leaving everything behind, often without anything awaiting them in their new homes. Contrasted to the Sindhi experience, the broken promises and ruthless killings of hundreds of thousands left Punjabi and Bengali literatures wounded by a deep sense of bitterness. And as a result of the Indo-Pakistani war in 1948, Kashmir became partitioned too, and it is still separated by the Line of Control demarcating the cease-fire. Not surprisingly, three of these states later went through insurrections caused by resentment of government treatment—the Naxalite uprising in Bengal, Sikh militancy in Punjab, and Kashmiri separatism—all leaving marks on their respective literatures. Sind in Pakistan faced a civil war recently; the contemporary histories of these four states may not be coincidental. A general disenchantment among authors succeeded this period of literary trauma. Disillusionment with independence, observation of corruption in politics, criticism of administrative bureaucracy, and descriptions of declining morality became the new issues during the 1960s. Left-wing writing had existed prior to independence, but now it became a concerted movement. Leading literatures such as Bengali, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, and Telugu all passed through phases named by their literary historians as progressive, socialist, or Marxist. Emulating the modernist and realist styles and methods of the West, Indian authors abandoned their age-old mysticism and romanticism and turned contemptuous of “reactionary” native traditions. In the 1970s, for instance, the Bengali intelligentsia and ruling Communist Party denigrated the achievements of Rabindranath Tagore—showing a disdain for his themes and class background that is still cultivated by “postmodern” Indians from different quarters, though Bengalis have wisely withdrawn their earlier objections. Along with dwindling idealism came a noticeable preoccupation with material matters, including greater frankness about sexuality. Today, the third stage of Indian literature since independence may reflect a shift in focus from city and country to grassroots activism and a concern about people without a voice. Across languages, the deterioration in conditions of rural life has taken precedence over the romanticization of villagers so common in previous writing. Whether inspired by western, Marxist, or Gandhian thought, contemporary Indian literatures privilege women (not only as subjects but as battlegrounds for feminism and gender studies); lower castes, or Dalits (Dalit literature is now an important nationwide phenomenon); tribals; and the poor (whose unjust suffering forms another significant topic of recent times). One troublesome aspect of modern Indian literatures is their international presence and representation. The paucity of translations in general and the erratic quality of available translations make the awareness and reputation of

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

276

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 276

Ananda Lal

Indian authors negligible outside India. Conversely, the easier accessibility of original Indian writing in English has given this particular literary tradition disproportionate visibility abroad, compared to its actual audience at home. Of late, the foreign and national press have lionized Indian-English novelists because they now command hefty advances from British and US publishing houses; in turn, the good publicity has led them to negotiate even larger deals with publishers. The multinational backing that this group enjoys obscures not only the best writers in the regional tongues but also equally good Indian-English poets and translators published by smaller Indian imprints whose books do not reach the global market, or are assumed to be less significant because they are not published internationally. Often, we can even question the Indianness of some contemporary IndianEnglish authors, who are nominally Indians by birth but expatriates by choice, maintaining hardly any physical link with India today apart from hasty trips back to recharge their batteries for further inspiration. Although they continue to write about (and thus exploit the exotic appeal of) their former homeland, we can justifiably interrogate the authenticity of their “Indian” works. Sometimes a renowned figure like Salman Rushdie may even abuse his fame, pontificating about the stagnation of regional Indian literatures as opposed to the innovative strides taken by Indian English—although he is in no position to judge since he cannot read books in any of the regional languages (Rushdie 1997). Foreigners interested in Indian literatures must not confine themselves to the shop windows of the West but undertake expeditions into the less glamorous alleys of Indian publications where the real treasures lie.



Cinema

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Indians flocked to the theater for their evening’s entertainment. Since the 1940s, until the very recent television boom, the cinema replaced theater as the object of popular audience attention. India is the world’s largest producer of films with truly massive appeal and, next to Hollywood, has the most influential and independent movie industry. The export of Indian films is big business, too, not just to foreign nations with sizeable Indian populations but also to African, Middle Eastern, and former Soviet countries, where cinemagoers are avid fans of Hindi films. Curiously enough, many of these viewers believe that the form’s depiction of India is real, just as Hollywood’s picture of the United States continues to be mistaken as accurate by naïve non-Americans. The term Hindi film needs definition, for we must qualify the language and clientele of the “Indian” movie. As in the case of literature, Indian cinema exists in virtually every regional language, but unlike literature, it has come to be dominated by Hindi films. Yet this Hindi medium is really a curious patois liberally

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 277

The Arts

277

garnished with Urdu. In fact, although the official policy of national integration through propagation of Hindi as a common language has largely failed, this national cinema has succeeded in establishing a kind of mongrel Hindi as a common language of communication by the sheer popularity of the genre all over India. Moreover, regional film industries copied the mode, so that one can even argue that the genre turned into a national art form. However, in the past decade, many regional cinemas have faded, some becoming extinct under the monopolistic tyranny of the Bombay blockbuster. Essentially, the commercial Hindi movie is escapist in purpose, catering to the fantasies of mainly the rootless unemployed and the mainstream middle class, both of whom want to be transported out of their depressing mundane reality to never-never land, where upper-class love stories occur in exotic landscapes and good vanquishes evil. True, its attraction cuts across class barriers, and the elite get drawn to its glitter too, but they are not crucial to its existence. Keeping in mind the morality of its customers and despite its obligatory erotic titillation, the Hindi film has conservative values and does not question the majority’s social or community patterns. Although unconventional themes have emerged (extramarital affairs, a women’s hockey team signifying empowerment), closures remain true to type. Critics suggest that these features are firmly based in the status quo, but this defense appears to come from those kindly disposed toward the genre.9 Methodologically, these films make use of traditional performance techniques, featuring antirealistic songs and dances, and follow indigenous professional theater, which has always relied on melodrama for emotional impact. The trouble is, Hindi cinema corrupted even those methods. Producers composed song-and-dance sequences first and stitched an apology for a plot round them. Previously, Indian classical and folk music and dance used to supply films with inexhaustible noncopyrighted sources for soundtrack and choreography. Then, after a period of “borrowing” uncredited tunes, such as Tagore’s, the producers began lifting western pop hits and music-video routines without any reference to their original context. Shameless plagiarism runs rampant in songs and dances as well as storylines; many new Hindi movies rip off Hollywood hits with no trace of acknowledgment, though some increasingly face legal action. The popular nickname Bollywood (“B” for Bombay) unwittingly indicates the derivative nature of the business. As for the melodramatic impulse, it has degenerated into a mere formula, whose simplistic narrative and stereotypical characters have become completely predictable. Yet, the commercial film was not always so bad. Immediately after independence, classics like Raj Kapoor’s Awara (1951) and Shri 420 (1955), Guru Dutt’s Pyasa (1957), and Mehboob Khan’s Mother India (1957) showed creativity and individualism, often spotlighting the rebel or outsider as hero. It helped that accomplished writers like K. A. Abbas, a leftist, scripted movies like Awara and Shri 420. The offbeat protagonist stayed on but underwent a transformation with Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay (1975), for a long time the industry’s

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

278

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 278

Ananda Lal

biggest box-office smash. In this vigilante vendetta, the renegades take justice into their own hands because the law no longer does (no doubt reflecting deteriorating administrative conditions). The evolution of male leads from the lovable romantic Rajesh Khanna in the 1960s to the angry young man Amitabh Bachchan in the 1970s and the comparatively malevolent Shah Rukh Khan in the 1990s tells its own tale of the growing violence gratuitously used by Hindi directors. Crude handling of sex and bloodshed—the formula contains mandatory rape scenes—the typecasting of female roles into wife and vamp, and the objectification of women form disturbing trends in contemporary Hindi films.10 Fortunately, stars like Aamir Khan have supported more intelligent, socially conscious filmmaking in the past ten years, while young love and family values have staged a comeback. The art cinema in India arose unheralded in the 1950s and, since then, has managed to survive alongside the commercial industry. Historians usually credit Satyajit Ray for starting this movement with Pather Panchali (1955), a Bengali film. It is an international classic that has been much analyzed and that, it is said, is screened somewhere in the world every day. Ray and his successors in different languages modeled their low-budget work consciously on European directors, as opposed to the US school of spectacular extravaganzas followed by Bombay’s Hindi filmmakers. Although Ray justly gained widespread foreign exposure, not merely on the festival circuit but thanks also to his appearance on university film studies’ syllabi as the token Indian, other Bengali directors of his generation, such as Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak, made several excellent movies as well. On the whole, the practitioners of art film, whether in Bengali or other Indian languages, jointly constitute the respectable face of Indian cinema. The movement received impetus in the 1960s through the founding of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) at Pune (symbolically located outside yet close to Bombay) and government funding for new independent cinema. Many students of the FTII made a name with their nonconformist approach on projects supported by official grants: Mani Kaul’s formalist Uski Roti (1969), Kumar Shahani’s provocative Maya Darpan (1972), and Ketan Mehta’s folklike Bhavni Bhavai (1980). Meanwhile, Shyam Benegal in Hindi and G. Aravindan and Adoor Gopalakrishnan in Malayalam forged ahead on the trail blazed by the Bengali pioneers. Art cinema typically deals with rural narratives, often political in tone, and its themes treat India’s social problems, destitution, and superstition realistically. It met with passionate opposition from the commercial industry, which accused it of cornering international prestige and winning awards by selling India’s poverty to the West. South Indian popular cinema—specifically in the Tamil and Telugu languages—offers one unique interface of dream factory with political reality. The states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have a relatively long history of electorates voting film stars into power because they have evidently been persuaded that the matinee idols they swoon over in “reel life” will repeat those heroics in

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 279

The Arts

279

real life. The reality that these screen saviors inevitably turned corrupt in office never led to much loss of faith among the populace. The most famous superstarpoliticians include M. G. Ramachandran, J. Jayalalithaa, and N. T. Rama Rao, all of whom became chief ministers. The star system exists, of course, in other regional cinemas—some notable icons with lengthy careers were Dilip Kumar, Nargis and Dev Anand (Hindi), Prem Nazir (Malayalam), and the romantic pairs of Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen (Bengali) and Rajkumar and Kalpana (Kannada)—but somehow their fans wisely refrained from encouraging them to run for office. Commentators suggest that the art film and Indian cinema in general have been harmed by television’s popularity. However, it is theater that has received the greatest battering from the TV-channel expansion. Admittedly, the sprouting of portable video shows across the country, often playing pirated copies of movies, has eaten into the film industry’s legitimate receipts. In turn, the decline in audiences and fall in revenues has led to poor hall maintenance, so that the filmgoing experience is not the luxury it used to be, except in multiplexes. This has led to some niche cinema (for instance in Indian English) or films without songs. Nevertheless, hit commercial movies continue to break records, and in the art circuit, the arrival of the film festival as cultural event and the growth of about 250 film societies indicate that Indian cinema is flourishing—and may even get better through healthy competition with television.



Television

Leaving aside the relatively expensive computer and broadband technology, the latest vehicle for popular entertainment in India has the greatest potential for mass communication, owing to its convenience. Besides the book, television is the one artistic medium that common people can access and afford in the comfort of their homes. True, they can play a music CD on their personal stereos or a DVD of a film on their living-room players, but connoisseurs consider these incomplete experiences compared to a live concert or a movie-hall screening. Television, like literature, does away with the social formalities of attendance. Its added advantage over the book is that it does not require literacy. Until the advent of cable TV in the 1990s in India, it did not even demand money, apart from the initial investment of purchasing a set and the costs of running it on electricity. It was virtually free, in contrast to the transportation expenses and price of a ticket incurred to go to a performance of any kind or the cost of buying each individual book or disc. No wonder it caught on so fast in impoverished India. Compared to most nations, though, television entered India rather late. For many years after its introduction in 1959, it remained a preserve of the capital, New Delhi. Only in 1972 did stations start operating elsewhere, all under the

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

280

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 280

Ananda Lal

Rama and Sita in one of the many mythological serials on Indian television

control of Doordarshan, the official state-owned network. Color programming and commercial advertising arrived as late as 1982. But by 1984, the government claimed that two-thirds of India’s population could watch Doordarshan. Policy dictated that rural education form the bulk of programs, but soon the need to generate more income forced the sale of half-hour slots to independent producers of serials sponsored by advertisers. The first such soap opera was telecast in 1984. The most successful, in terms of viewer ratings but not critical appreciation, were the kitschy megaserials based on the ancient classical epics Ramayana (1986–1988) and Mahabharata (1988–1990).11 The late 1980s was Doordarshan’s peak period of popularity as well as financial revenue. In 1992, its monopoly was broken by Hong Kong’s STAR network, which began beaming its satellite signals at the subcontinent, and satellite dishes mushroomed all over the country. Now nearly 200 channels, international and regional, are available on cable to subscribers. Caught by surprise, Doordarshan has yet to design a suitable programming strategy to fight back. Aesthetically, the art of Indian television, whether private or public in funding, is at an abysmal low. Derivative soaps and sentimental tearjerkers, each nearly identical to the next; grossly vulgar sitcoms dependent on physical slapstick rather than wit; and technically ludicrous (because so literal) prime-time mythological serials that mark an academically interesting return to the days of mythological theater productions and clearly fill a demand for devotional

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 281

The Arts

281

material comprise the staple of “creative” scheduling. Of late, “inspiration” has come from abroad: singing contests (Indian Idol sourced from American Idol), quiz jackpots (Kaun Banega Crorepati from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire), reality shows (Bigg Boss from Big Brother). Equally troubling is the ad-generated consumerism imposed by multinational companies on India’s villagers—noticed as far back as 1984 by a government-appointed committee on television software—and a tendency toward lowbrow homogeneity in cultural matters, conforming to a fashionably “modern” western image or a Hindi-centric “Indianness,” respectively. Indian television is at present the spoiled brat among the arts—possessing all the money, utterly undisciplined, and lacking any of the finer graces that make a child endearing. Not enough research has been conducted to study exhaustively the impact of TV on all layers of Indian society. Nevertheless, it is clear that both the medium and its viewers need to mature. One hopes, as happened in the United States after the initial fascination with cable was satiated or in other parts of the world after the proliferation of satellite channels stabilized, that Indians’ present fixation on television as the art form of choice will falter and their minds turn back to more edifying means of entertainment. Of course, should TV programming actually improve, nothing could be better.



Challenges for the Traditional Performing Arts

As a body, the performing arts suffer the most in contemporary India, since their audiences have deserted them for the allure and convenience of television. This phenomenon has particularly hurt the traditional village performer, who used to hold his or her community spellbound until the razzle-dazzle of the tube lured it away with magic from afar brought near. Now, many of these musicians, dancers, and actors, whose professional knowledge and experience was handed down from generation to generation, confront the death of their old learning.12 The idealists among them bemoan the sorry state of affairs, and the pragmatists encourage their juniors to seek employment in more promising occupations. Most traditional Indian performance genres are endangered species, threatened with oblivion as lifestyles change rapidly in the countryside. The unique dimension of Indian performing arts in the present time may well be their continuing link with religion. Ever since the European Renaissance, western arts became secularized, losing their historical connection with propitiatory ritual and ceremony. In Asia, however, art’s connection to devotion survived. Whether classical or folk, traditional Indian musicians, dancers, and actors still dedicate their performances as offerings to their personal deities or as an act of general faith. Often this takes the simple shape of touching the musical instrument and raising one’s hands to God before starting a concert or touching the stage floor and literally placing the dust of the platform on one’s

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

282

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 282

Ananda Lal

forehead in obeisance. The community participates in this spiritual act as well by just being present. The sacredness of traditional Indian performance makes it a much more “serious” object of study, even though many modern artists have dispensed with these formalities as meaningless convention. In the cities, the classical genres found fewer and fewer followers, as first cinema and then television seduced spectators. The cornering of the market for popular entertainment by film and TV, the literate readership’s continuing support of literature, and the interest in art as an investment mean that these “fixed” forms retain a widespread and committed clientele, whereas live music, dance, and theater have become niche arts, patronized by progressively smaller, if dedicated, segments of the urban population. The situation may appear different if one thinks of packed stadiums for divas like Lata Mangeshkar or young pop singers, but let me emphasize that this fame is connected either to cinema (songs sell through their presence on soundtracks) or television (music videos promote the latest releases). Indigenous genres not connected to these media do not stand much chance of either commercial success or uncommonly large audiences. I also believe that some of this new neglect of the performing arts is due to their essence as fluid forms, for modern society seems to prefer its art fixed—preserved in cold storage and ready at any time in definite viewable or readable shape.



Music

Indian music ranges from the rarefied reaches and acquired taste of northern Hindustani and southern Karnatak (previous spelling, Carnatic) classical heritages, to diverse folk idioms in every local dialect, to contemporary styles encompassing both film hits and western-influenced homegrown rap or rock. Music’s finest achievements, however, remain within the classical mainstream, which traces an unbroken lineage from ancient times, mingled, in the case of the Hindustani and folk currents, with Islamic Sufi music during the Mughal period of medieval history. Indian music presents a paradigm of communal harmony and integration where the Muslim minority has made and still makes significant contributions to the development of the form. Since independence, classical music has passed through many changes at an unprecedented rate. Conventionally dependent on royal courts for patronage, the musicians faced a bleak future when the republic of India did away with the princely states. Forced to earn their livings as professionals, only gradually did they gain some respite through corporate sponsorship of music festivals—and although these sponsorships may have brought back funding to classical music, they have also encouraged the star system, whereby luminaries demand and receive very high appearance fees regardless of their actual form. The dissolution of durbars (royal courts) also meant the disbanding of the

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 283

The Arts

283

age-old gharanas, stylistic schools centered around places that were famous for specific classical idioms. Instead, one saw more mixing and individualism of style, though one can still recognize the different gharanas if one wishes. Meanwhile, the limited audiences grew, as classical musicians began performing for a ticket-buying public and music education became more democratized. The leading stars played in newly built halls across urban India, gaining visibility and also resulting in some degree of interregional exchange not possible before. For example, musicians from Madras (now Chennai) were heard in cities like Delhi, Calcutta (now Kolkata), and Bombay (now Mumbai), leading to greater understanding of Karnatak music in the north. From the 1960s onward, Indian music caught on in Europe and North America as well, after initial foreign visits by maestros, much publicized in such high-profile encounters as Ravi Shankar’s influence on the Beatles and George Harrison’s decision to learn sitar as his disciple. India had considerable impact on British and US rock and jazz, philosophically and instrumentally. The desire to reach out to the western market combined with other factors to alter the performance conditions too. Orthodox expositions of single ragas can go on for hours, and overnight concerts used to be the norm, traditionally concluding with the dawn raga, Bhairavi, as the sun rose. (A raga is a musical mode of notes in a fixed sequence on which the musician improvises, and associated with specific emotional, temporal, or seasonal qualities.) The custom of going to concerts after work in the evenings, in accordance with modern metropolitan habits, required that ragas intended for performance during the day or late at night had to be either dropped or accommodated within the audience’s after-hours leisure period, both procedures violating the time-honored theory and practice of the repertoire. The listener’s need to go home by 10 P.M. also meant the curtailment of lengthy recitals and the fabrication of truncated “designer music,” as some critics have called it.13 Purists decried the compromises made by classical musicians in utilizing twentieth-century technology. At first, the invention of 78-rpm records allowed the preservation of three-minute snatches of ragas—obviously inadequate capsule renditions. Although the invention of long-playing records and compact discs gave more elbow room for recordings of forty-five minutes to over one hour, the capacity remained far short of ideal raga parameters. Meanwhile, as radio wilted under the onslaught of TV, classical masters had to condense their ragas to cope with the progressively shorter attention spans for and format of TV. It is always unkind to others to single out some personalities for special mention, but any list of the classical maestros in recent decades should include the following, renowned for new directions or experimentation in improvisation—the test of Indian musical creativity: Begum Akhtar, Amir Khan, Bhimsen Joshi, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Mallikarjun Mansoor, Hirabai Barodekar, and the Dagar brothers (all Hindustani vocalists); Zia Mohiuddin Dagar (on rudravina, a much older, larger, and deeper-sounding progenitor of the sitar);

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

284

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 284

Ananda Lal

Annapurna Devi (surbahar, a more resonant cousin of the sitar); Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan, and Nikhil Banerjee (sitar); Ali Akbar Khan and Amjad Ali Khan (sarod); Shakoor Khan (sarangi, a short-bowed instrument); G. Joshi (violin); Bismillah Khan (shehnai, an Indian version of the oboe); Pannalal Ghosh and Hari Prasad Chaurasia (flute); Ayodhya Prasad (pakhawaj, an elongated doubleheaded drum played with the hands); Ahmed Jan Thirakwa and Alla Rakha and his son Zakir Hussain (tablas, the accompanying percussion instruments that have enjoyed a tremendous rise in popular appeal over the past few decades); and Shivkumar Sharma (santoor, a folk zither that he raised to classical status). Among musicians of the Karnatak system from south India, one must cite M. S. Subbalakshmi, S. R. Srinivasa Iyer, D. K. Pattammal, and K. V. Narayanaswamy (vocalists); S. Balachander and Chitti Babu (vina); B. Krishnamurthi Sastri (gottuvadyam, an ancient fretless vina played with a slide); M. S. Gopalakrishnan and Lalgudi Jayaraman (violin); T. R. Mahalingam (flute); A. K. C. Natarajan (clarinet); S. Chinna Moulana (nagaswaram, a very large and elongated double-reed horn); Palghat Mani Iyer (mridangam, a double-faced tuned drum like the pakhawaj); V. Shanmugasundaram Pillai (thavil, a double-ended barrel-shaped drum played with hand and stick); and T. H. Vinayakram (ghatam, or claypot).14 Semiclassical song has a devoted following too, for such genres as the Urdu ghazal, the Hindi thumri, the religious kirtan and bhajan, or the Bengali lyrics of Tagore, called Rabindrasangit. Large audiences listen to regional folk music, and some artists became critical successes, like Purna Das Baul from Bengal (whose concerts brought to international stages the mystic devotional songs of the mendicant Baul minstrels) or commercial chart-toppers like Sachin Deb Burman from Tripura (whose versions of east Indian folk tunes won national attention via film soundtracks). Hindi cinema itself has hugely encouraged the music industry: prolific playback singers (whose songs are lip-synched onscreen by the actors) like Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, Kishore Kumar, and Mohammad Rafi have broken all kinds of records, topped by Mangeshkar’s attainment of having recorded the most number of songs (30,000) by anyone in the world. Of late, however, instead of plumbing Indian traditions, film-music composers (with the notable exception of A. R. Rahman) resort to profligate borrowing—or, more legally speaking, plagiarism—from western pop music. Pop in regional languages may now contain rap vocals, funky disco rhythms, and western instrumentation, without any indigenous content whatsoever, apart from the lyrics. The largest cities and, partly through Christian influence, Goa and the far eastern states, also boast a tiny but knowledgeable coterie of rock and jazz bands and buffs, as well as loyal but even fewer aficionados of European classical music. Conductors like Zubin Mehta, rockers like Freddie Mercury, and jazzmen like Trilok Gurtu were born in India; Norah Jones is Ravi Shankar’s daughter. It may be worth mentioning that many Indian classical musicians have collaborated with

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 285

The Arts

285

jazz greats since the 1960s. Much of this Indo-jazz fusion succeeded aesthetically because of the premium placed by both systems on improvisation.15 Younger bands have become increasingly interested in fusing rock with traditional Indian forms and instruments.



Dance

As in the West, dance in India commands arguably the smallest sector of arts audiences, even though, as with Indian music and theater, it includes many varieties within classical, folk, and modern styles. Besides, owing to the common ancient roots of Indian theater and dance, their shared connection to Bharata’s classical theoretical treatise, the Natya-sastra, and their constant practical overlap, theater lays equal claim to some traditional genres of dance-drama, whether folk like Chhau from Orissa or classical like Kathakali from Kerala. The history of Indian dance in the twentieth century provides an example of repeated reclamation of different genres from obscurity and social ostracization to classical levels. A hundred years ago, female dancers bore the stigma of immorality from their occupation as devadasis (“maidservants of God,” the sacred but exploitative tradition of women serving gods and priests as temple dancers) or their association with prostitution (the profane tradition of dancing entertainers or nautch girls [from na¯ch, “dance”] having to satisfy their customers). The renaissance of their art before independence gained support from public eminences like Tagore, who “discovered” the little-known “tribal” form of Manipuri and raised it to classical respectability; Rukmini Arundale, crusader for the ancient form of Bharatanatyam in south India; the poet Vallathol Menon, patron of Kathakali; and Uday Shankar, who popularized dance via his choreography in cinema. Academic study of the Natya-sastra and scholarly excursions into rasa theory, as in V. Raghavan’s essays, helped dance’s resurrection in venerable incarnations.16 Consequently, by 1947, the four genres of Bharatanatyam, Manipuri, Kathakali, and Kathak (in north India) had established themselves as classical. They received additional incentives from government aid and popular approval as dances worthy of practice, plus the efforts of institutions like Kalakshetra (Madras), Manipur Dance Academy, Kerala Kalamandalam, and Kathak Kendra (Delhi), respectively. Bharatanatyam, in particular, under such noted teacher-exponents as T. Balasaraswati, managed to emerge from its southern birthplace and become truly Bharatiya (Indian), with schools and disciples all over the country. Since 1947, other genres have won the classical tag: Kuchipudi from Andhra Pradesh (the Siddhendra Kalakshetra institute in the village of Kuchipudi contributing much to its present status), Odissi from Orissa, Mohiniattam from Kerala, and Sattriya from Assam (the most recent inductee for the Sangeet Natak Akademi awards).

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

286

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 286

Ananda Lal

Pronab Basu

A female impersonator in traditional/classical Kathakali dance

Individual dancer-gurus have also left their mark on the development of their specific genres in the past fifty years. One must mention the contributions of K. Krishnan Nair to Kathakali, Birju Maharaj to Kathak, Kelucharan Mohapatra to Odissi, Yamini Krishnamurthy to Bharatanatyam, Bipin Singh to Manipuri, and V. Satyanarayana Sarma to Kuchipudi. The return of Kalanidhi Narayanan to the stage after a self-imposed layoff restored the art of subtle abhinaya (acting) to Bharatanatyam: as in music, many dances now present the problem of too much technical virtuosity, which spoils the emotional nuances that lie at the heart of Indian aesthetics. Experimentation of various kinds has taken place, too. Kathak has incorporated group choreography; Kuchipudi has seen male roles played by women. A few progressives have introduced Hindustani (northern) music to Bharatanatyam or created compositions with radical concepts such as the deaths of wives from nonpayment of dowry. Indeed, the lack of obvious social relevance in classical dance and the preponderance of mythological characters with whom many performers cannot

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 287

The Arts

287

identify caused the evolution of modern and contemporary dance in India. Uday Shankar is generally credited with the invention of modern dance before independence. Afterward, women such as Mrinalini Sarabhai, Chandralekha, Maya Rao, Kumudini Lakhia, and Manjusri Chaki-Sircar—all with a strong classical foundation—used contemporary techniques for productions on feminist, political, and environmental issues. Others, like the Odissi specialist Sanjukta Panigrahi, actively collaborated with western performers (in her case, the theater company of Eugenio Barba, who was born in Italy but is based in Denmark), and yet others like Uttara Asha Coorlawalla settled abroad and concentrated exclusively on modern dance. One must not forget India’s folk dances of myriad varieties (for instance, Bhangra in Punjab, Garba in Gujarat), still performed to celebrate harvesting and festive events in every rural district yet largely unresearched and undocumented. Nor should one ignore the subgenre of film dance, however hybridized it may be, with influences as far-ranging as Indian classical dance and the Hollywood musical, and as modern as hip-hop break dancing and crude pelvic thrusts. Yet one should warn students, some of whom mistakenly think that Indians actually practice film dance, that in real life it exists only as mimicry, imitating the latest “item number” for fun occasions like a sideshow at weddings. If one leaves these populist inheritances out of the discussion, “art dance” faces serious difficulties nowadays, among them a severe paucity of male dancers and a dwindling of interest in the young generation. Fortunately, a few concerned bodies like the Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth have taken it upon themselves to inculcate the young crowd with appreciation of the classical arts through lecture-demonstrations by renowned performers.



Theater

The complex linguistic circumstances of Indian literature obviously obtain for drama as well, so that no general survey of Indian theater can presume to speak for all parts of the country.17 In addition, unlike printed literature but like performed music and dance, theater envelops countless traditional genres in Indian villages that have existed for several centuries but now—as explained earlier in this chapter—face the threat of extinction from increased competition with film and television. Most are open-air, stylized, lengthy performances with substantial musical and dance input. Theater historians have documented a few major forms among these, but many remain little known and unrecorded. One example is the various puppet traditions in India, which contain some of the oldest shadow puppetry in the world and were progenitors of the better-publicized forms from Indonesia. They fight a losing battle for rural audiences and have been virtually forgotten in urban India.18

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

288

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 288

Ananda Lal

Pronab Basu

Habib Tanvir (standing) in one of the biggest successes in contemporary Indian theater, Charandas Chor, which he wrote and directed

I distinguish four broad periods in the development of urban Indian drama since 1947, one of which involved appropriating the folk theater in a back-tothe-roots movement stemming from a desire to be more Indian. Although Tagore had incorporated such techniques in his plays in the early decades of the twentieth century, and the legendary Gujarati female impersonator Jaishankar Sundari had incorporated local folk conventions in the 1950s, the folkinfluenced city theater I refer to arose around 1970. The pioneers of this revival included the Kannada actor-dramatists Chandrasekhar Kambar and Girish Karnad; the Malayalam dramatist and director in Sanskrit K. N. Panikkar; and the director B. V. Karanth, who worked in several Indian languages. The trouble began later, when folk theater turned into a fad. Practitioners bent over backward to create “folk-based” plays in a self-conscious search for native idioms that merely betrayed their own poverty of imagination. More unethically, pseudo-rural productions cashed in on government-sponsored promotions of culture and did well abroad because of their colorful, exotic otherness. Many

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 289

The Arts

289

critics justifiably questioned the “Indianness” of these spectacles, compared to their village antecedents that, for a lack of money, now lie in their death throes. Prior to the resurgence in folk theater, however, two urban dramatic trends have become distinctly visible since the 1950s: the poetical and the political. Both emerged in Bengal and subsequently influenced theater workers everywhere. The poetical theater, once again, drew inspiration from Tagore, as the actor-director Sombhu Mitra and his group Bohurupee proved the stageworthiness of Tagore’s plays in one production after another, which toured the rest of the country to widespread acclaim. Heavily dependent on symbols and mythmaking, they established the theatrical possibilities of modern antirealism. Important followers of this mode included Mohan Rakesh, who wrote symbolic plays in Hindi; Mohit Chattopadhyay, a Bengali dramatist among a host of Indians who emulated European absurdist models; and Mahesh Elkunchwar, perhaps the most literary yet subtextual of Marathi playwrights. In contrast, the political theater was exclusively Marxist in agenda, idolizing if not imitating Bertolt Brecht and reflecting the abject conditions of India’s low society realistically. The senior actor-manager-authors of this vanguard were Utpal Dutt in Bengali and Habib Tanvir in Urdu and Chhattisgarhi Hindi. The eclectic Marathi playwright Vijay Tendulkar also had political messages to convey, even if not in an ideologically partisan manner. A significant offshoot of political theater consists of the “Third Theatre,” a term coined by Bengali dramatist-director Badal Sircar. Rejecting the bourgeois auditorium, Third Theatre troupes perform at street corners and in the villages with no sets, minimal props, and everyday costumes. They do not charge any fee but solicit voluntary donations at the end of every show to keep their movement alive. That way, they argue, theater ceases to be a capitalistic commodity that one buys or sells. Many such small, dedicated, if sadly short-lived groups began operating in Sircar’s footsteps throughout India in the 1970s. In Manipur, Heisnam Kanhailal

Arun Chattopadhyay

Writer and director Badal Sircar

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

290

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 290

Ananda Lal

continues to write and direct plays of subtle political protest against Indian hegemony. The main problem besetting urban art theater has been a lack of professionalism. The commercial companies that until recently used to flourish in the cities catered to crowds wanting entertainment; once these viewers left for the glitter offered by cinema and television, the companies disappeared. In any case, more often than not, they pandered to popular tastes. The “serious” groups, however, could never make enough money from theater alone. Members earn their living in other professions during the day. Unlike most developed nations, but curiously like the United States, India has never granted much official subsidy to theater. With the defection of even their audiences to film and TV in recent years, the groups are also in bad shape. The other aspect of unprofessionalism is the paucity of theater education: only the National School of Drama in Delhi (which became a major institution under Ebrahim Alkazi) and a handful of universities impart training in theater; as a result, many of these financially amateur troupes look amateur on stage in terms of production values too, even though they possess great enthusiasm. The paradox right now is that although much theater plays to near-empty halls after the TV boom, corporate sponsorship has boosted big-name actors and directors, so that the gap between the theatrical haves and have-nots has grown. Since 1980, festivals have multiplied both inside and outside India. Positively speaking, this trend has given considerable exposure to regional theaters elsewhere. Negatively, however, it seems that more or less the same faces and companies receive the benefits of such festival largesse. Industry funding has its own ironies, as when a multinational corporation hosts an avowedly leftwing theater outfit, which appears not to understand the built-in contradiction. Besides, the fact that mercantile patrons need guaranteed advertising mileage translates into support for big-name extravaganzas once again: a vicious circle. Small-group theater, Third Theatre, or folk and traditional genres continue to barely survive on the fringe, inadequately visible on the cultural stage. On the other hand, because they have little to lose, they can afford to rebel more. One notices a growing return to theater by spectators possibly fed up with the predictable formulae on TV and film, as more experimentation takes place (including in English) with unconventional material, often in smaller alternative venues. As with Indian music, Indian theater has had a profound impact on world theater in contemporary times. Directors of the stature of Jerzy Grotowski and Peter Brook and many lesser mortals turned to India for both themes and techniques. Grotowski, for instance, applied Kathakali in his actor-training methods and interpreted the classical Sanskrit masterwork, Sakuntala. Brook uses yoga and dramatized the ancient epic Mahabharata, which some commentators have termed the theater event of the twentieth century. Apart from foreign artists interfacing with Indian theater, interculturalism has other features too: some Indian groups have toured internationally (sometimes playing to the large Indian

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:42 PM

Page 291

The Arts

291

diaspora), and directors stage Indian texts abroad with foreign casts. The globalization of the Indian artist has come to stay.



Notes

1. Sahitya Akademi has published the standard reference work on Indian literatures, Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature (Datta 1987–1994). 2. For a fairly exhaustive and copiously illustrated catalogue, see Tuli 1997. 3. Walls of village huts serve as “canvas” in Madhubani, and cloth or paper scrolls fill the same function in Patachitra. 4. Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941), India’s foremost twentieth-century artistic personality, was a poet, novelist, dramatist, philosopher, educator, painter, composer, choreographer, and actor. The extended Tagore family in Calcutta occupied a central position in Indian culture for its significant contributions in every sphere. 5. Patuya means “pat-maker,” a pat being a painting on paper. 6. Apart from the Sahitya Akademi encyclopedia already cited, the reader interested in Indian literatures can look up George (1984–1985), Comparative Indian Literature. 7. Das (1995), A History of Indian Literature: 1911–1956, is relevant to postindependence literature. 8. Hindi belongs to the Indo-Aryan family of languages, mothered by Sanskrit, and Tamil is part of the unrelated Dravidian family. Santhali comes from the Austro-Asiatic family, which had no representation on the Eighth Schedule previously. Manipuri represents the fourth family of languages in India, the Tibeto-Burman, on the schedule. 9. See Rajadhyaksha and Willemen (1998), Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema, the most detailed compendium on the subject. 10. One best-selling movie song from 1993, “Choli ke pichhe kya hai?,” means “What’s behind the blouse?” and created a huge controversy. 11. The centrality of the Mahabharata in Indian cultural discourse even now, for instance, forms the theme of Vyasa’s “Mahabharata,” edited by P. Lal (1992). This compilation contains analyses of the teleserial and excerpts from its screenplay, discussions of Peter Brook’s stage and film versions, and literary pieces inspired by the epic. For the full screenplay in English translation, see Reza 1991; in the context of prevailing HinduMuslim tensions, I might mention here that Rahi Masoom Reza, the scenarist, was Muslim, but wrote the entire TV script of this Hindu epic. 12. The list of fellows and awardees honored by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s national academy of performing arts (www.sangeetnatak.org), gives an indication of eminent individuals in different fields of music, dance, and theater over the past fifty years. 13. For a collection of critical essays on current debates in Indian music and dance, see Mukherjee and Kothari 1995. 14. The most reliable and readable guide in English to Karnatak music is Pesch 2009. 15. For an account of the influence of Indian music on and its interaction with rock and jazz, see Lavezzoli 2006, and my chapter, “Rock and Raga: The Indo-West Music Interface,” in Mukherjee and Kothari 1995. 16. See Vatsyayan 1968 and Raghavan 1975. 17. The first comprehensive reference work in any language on Indian theater is Lal 2004, updated with a focus on folk and traditional theater in Lal 2009. 18. For example, despite the title of Jacob’s 1989 collection, Contemporary Indian Theatre, all the dramatists and directors included in it are urban. Nevertheless, this book, mainly comprising interviews, contains valuable primary material.

11DeVotta_11.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

292



2:42 PM

Page 292

Ananda Lal

Bibliography

Das, Sisir Kumar. 1995. A History of Indian Literature: 1911–1956. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. Datta, Amaresh, ed. 1987–1994. Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature. 6 vols. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. George, K. M., ed. 1984–1985. Comparative Indian Literature. 2 vols. Madras: Macmillan. Jacob, Paul, ed. 1989. Contemporary Indian Theatre. New Delhi: Sangeet Natak Akademi. Lal, Ananda. 2004. The Oxford Companion to Indian Theatre. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 2009. Theatres of India: A Concise Companion. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Lal, P., ed. 1992. Vyasa’s “Mahabharata”: Creative Insights. Calcutta: Writers Workshop. Lavezzoli, Peter. 2006. The Dawn of Indian Music in the West: Bhairavi. New York: Continuum. Mukherjee, Bimal, and Sunil Kothari, eds. 1995. Rasa: The Indian Performing Arts in the Last Twenty-five Years, Vol. 1, Music and Dance. Calcutta: Anamika Kala Sangam. Pesch, Ludwig. 2009. The Oxford Illustrated Companion to South Indian Classical Music. 2nd ed. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Raghavan, V. 1975. The Number of Rasas. 3rd ed. Madras: Adyar Library. Rajadhyaksha, Ashish, and Paul Willemen. 1998. Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema. 2nd ed. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Reza, Rahi Masoom. 1991. The Mahabharata TV Film Script. 10 vols. Trans. by Satish Bhatnagar and Shashi Magan. Calcutta: Writers Workshop. Rushdie, Salman. 1997. “Damn, This Is the Oriental Scene for You!” New Yorker (June 23–30): 50–61. Tuli, Neville. 1997. The Flamed-Mosaic: Indian Contemporary Painting. Ahmadabad: Heart-Mapin. Vatsyayan, Kapila. 1968. Classical Indian Dance in Literature and the Arts. New Delhi: Sangeet Natak Akademi.

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 293

12 Trends and Prospects Neil DeVotta

I

t is said that Asia is the new Europe. This is due to Europe’s relatively declining clout in matters political and military and the leading role various Asian states currently play in international affairs. Soon after World War II, the United States produced more than 50 percent of the world’s goods and services. That figure has dropped to about 22 percent and will continue declining further as other states in the world develop. Today, Asia accounts for about 21 percent of global output, and by 2050, that figure could well rise to over half of global economic activity (Asian Development Bank 2009: 5). Japan is the world’s second largest economy, but soon China will overtake Japan and sometime thereafter India will also overtake Japan. Current projections claim that by 2050 the United States, China, and India will be the world’s three largest economies, although in some studies China is shown overtaking the United States by 2027 to become the world’s largest economy. As noted in the introduction, no one is certain what radical change China may experience when it shifts to a more representative form of government. India, on the other hand, has been a democracy for over six decades, and democracy is so entrenched it is hard to envision it being governed any other way. Within the context of democracy studies, China is still to transition to democracy while India is now a consolidated democracy (i.e., a situation obtained when all stakeholders in the country—political elites, military leaders, labor unions, civil society, and clergy—agree that governments can only be changed via free and fair elections and governance conducted via democratic institutions). The Indian union is more robust today than at any time in its past. For years after independence, many—especially in the country’s south and east—identified more with their regional identities than an Indian identity. Jawaharlal Nehru’s willingness to accommodate regional demands helped New Delhi to 293

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

294

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 294

Neil DeVotta

slowly but surely draw most of India’s regions toward a pan-Indian milieu. Hindi cinema also helped bridge the divide between and among regions, as did cricket, which is akin to a religion in India. The Indian cricket team is currently ranked number one in the world, and its players hail from across India and comprise a Sikh, Muslims, and Hindus. Their camaraderie while competing for India has certainly highlighted the power of unity, and the team is cheered on by all communities in India. The Kargil crisis discussed in Chapter 5 turned out to be India’s first war featured live on television, and it also helped foster pan-Indian solidarity (Verma 2002). Indeed, from a television standpoint, the Kargil War was to India what the Vietnam War was to the United States. The difference was that while the accounts from Vietnam beamed into US living rooms helped build opposition to the war, the accounts about troops from across India fighting and dying together to reclaim a portion of India that was captured by a foreign entity caused Indians to take immense pride in the army and their country. The open market reforms that were introduced in 1991 not only expanded economic interaction with the rest of the world, but also led to increased trade among Indians and migration within states. This too has helped Indians cultivate a national consciousness even while taking pride in their regional identities. In recent times, the terror attacks that have originated mainly in Pakistan and targeted major Indian cities have further contributed to a sense of Indian solidarity, partly because Indian cities today are full of people from across the country, and they think of these adopted cities as their new homes. This noted, India continues to be a country of progress and distress, and this chapter seeks to identify the trends and prospects facing India. It does so by arguing that India is currently dealing with three concurrent and interlinked revolutions that generate both opportunities and challenges. These sociopolitical, economic, and national security–related revolutions must be dealt with simultaneously and would specifically require the country to expand its culture of democracy and institute better governance, put down attempts by antistatist forces seeking to secede or topple the state even while accommodating the lower castes and tribal groups, reduce the economic disparity between its growing middle class and rich and those stuck in poverty, prevent serious terrorist threats to its population and infrastructure, and resort to deft diplomacy both regionally and globally so as to position India as a leading power of the twenty-first century.



Sociopolitical Revolutions

A number of issues can be conflated under this category, but here only the radical changes pertaining to the rise of the lower castes, governance, and the socalled Maoist or Naxalite movement are discussed.

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 295

Trends and Prospects

295

Rise of the Lower Castes

India’s constitution made untouchability a crime. This combined with urbanization and reservation policies have helped weaken the rigidities of the caste system and improve the plight of many Dalits. But in recent years, Dalit leaders have organized their own parties and mobilized by appealing to the group’s lowly socioeconomic status, and some have succeeded spectacularly. For instance, and as detailed in Chapter 10, the feisty chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state with over 190 million people, is a Dalit. Kumari Mayawati sometimes threatens to punish the upper castes. Hardly enamored by the likes of Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi, she recently proposed naming half a million toilets after the Nehru-Gandhis. Notwithstanding the politicking at play, her boldness evidences the extents to which the franchise and democracy have empowered India’s most marginalized people. In the past, India’s lower castes hoped for justice, consoled themselves by believing their sorry plight was destined, and prayed for a better afterlife. Not so today. With their own political leaders, parties, and the vote to command the attention of national elites, Dalits and others among the lower castes now demand justice. The caste system is rooted in interdependence, but within the context of upper-caste domination and lower-caste subordination. Inevitably, it was the latter that was exploited. With the lower castes increasingly rebelling against subordination and using democracy and the franchise to demand justice against discrimination, the caste system is slowly but surely being undermined. In India the term identity politics is used to refer to the mobilization of groups to vote along the lines of language, region, religion, and caste, with the latter two categories being most salient. The rise of caste-based and regional parties is due to the success of identity politics. It is also the principal reason for national parties commanding a smaller national vote base and governments now being forced to depend on coalitions. This means that religion and caste will continue to play a major role in Indian politics even though there now exists more political stability at the center. The rise of the Dalits and the lower castes has radically changed the electoral dynamics in India, because politicians have no choice but to take into consideration the preferences of these people who vote in large numbers. It also represents a social revolution, if only because what we are now seeing is the upending of an all-encompassing social, political, and economic system that has held sway for more than 2,000 years. Governance

The Congress Party under Nehru was sufficiently popular not to have to rely on other entities to govern. But when identity politics and poor management caused its dominance to wane, India entered an era of coalition governments, with the Congress and the Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) leading such coalitions. Coalition

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

296

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 296

Neil DeVotta

governments comprising many political parties can be unstable, because parties have various ideologies and hence coming up with a common platform is usually difficult. Parties with few seats can also make unjustifiable demands (such as important ministerial portfolios) in order to join the government. Such a situation during the 1990s led to one BJP government lasting just thirteen days. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government that came to power in 1999, however, served a full term despite comprising twenty-four parties. In that instance, some in the coalition opposed the BJP’s Hindutva stance, and the BJP had little choice but to cast aside its Hindutva agenda and operate in a moderate fashion. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government that came to power in 2004 comprised twelve parties, and the Communist parties in the coalition especially turned troublesome when it came to issues like the India–United States nuclear agreement and deregulating certain sectors of the economy. Following the May 2009 elections and the Congress Party’s betterthan-expected performance, the UPA coalition now comprises a unified body with a healthy majority (and does not include any Communist parties). This means that the current government is bound to serve its full term in a stable fashion and make policy decisions without too much internal opposition. India thus seems set to have its first strong and stable coalition government until the next general elections (due by May 2014). That said, there is much about the country’s governance that needs to be rectified if India is going to live up to its potential. As Chapter 4 trenchantly noted, one striking paradox of India is the incongruous relationship between democracy and governance. On the one hand, the country is rightly touted for its awe-inspiring democracy. On the other hand, the haphazard and unaccountable governance signals dysfunction and abuse of power. Indeed, for millions of Indians there appear to be two systems of governance in the country: one for those who are affluent or connected to the corridors of power and another for those who are poor and marginalized. Oftentimes, politicians, judicial authorities, and the police collude to cover each other’s criminal activity, which especially hampers India’s poor from seeking justice. The situation is so rotten that in many instances the police simply refuse to take down a complaint if it happens to be against fellow police officers, politicians, or well-known individuals. Such dysfunction may be branded “political decay,” which refers to a situation in which the individuals and institutions representing the state function in a corrupt, partial, and violent manner, whereby they jettison the norms, values, and practices that ensure liberal democracy, operate with impunity, engender anomie, and undermine citizens’ confidence in the state. The reports in newspapers about the miscarriage of justice prove the point when it comes to the utterly corrupt police forces. But the case for political decay is also bolstered when one looks at certain aspects of India’s Parliament and judiciary.

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 297

Trends and Prospects

297

India’s government has many well-educated, able, and talented parliamentarians and ministers. The current prime minister Manmohan Singh is especially highly respected for his probity and incorruptibility. Yet increasingly, persons with substandard qualifications and criminal records have been getting elected to Parliament. Many are uninterested in governing and merely seek office to benefit from the power, perks, and kickbacks a parliamentary office affords. Thus Indian members of Parliament are known to get rich in a hurry, and it is quite common for parliamentarians of little means to become multimillionaires within a single term in Parliament. The ability of these misfits to get elected is primarily due to the rise of identity politics discussed earlier. Identity politics, no doubt, has provided India’s diverse peoples a sense of empowerment, but it has also ended up downgrading good character, honesty, and competence in favor of parochial identities. The consequences are an utter embarrassment to the world’s largest and most vibrant democracy: of the 543 members in India’s fourteenth Parliament (2004–2009), 128 had a total of 333 serious criminal charges filed against them, including 83 charged with murder, and India’s fifteenth (current) Parliament has 150 members with criminal records. As documented by the Association of Democratic Reforms, the current Parliament has “twenty [who] are accused of murder, 24 of attempt to murder, 7 of dacoity [gang robbery], 3 of robbery, 2 of simple kidnapping but 5 of kidnapping in order to murder. Believe it or not, we even have an MP accused of assaulting the President or Governor with intent to compel or restrain the exercise of power. And we call this lot law-makers” (Thapar 2009). The criminal members of Parliament represent nearly all major parties. With many having entered Parliament merely to enrich themselves, it is hardly surprising that legislators today are less informed about the bills being debated, and Parliament itself meets less often than in the past. For instance, India’s first Lok Sabha averaged 150 days per year. In 2008, the fourteenth Lok Sabha sat for less than 50 days (Economic and Political Weekly 2009: 6), whereas in 2009 the body sat for 64 days. This is certainly not the sort of record one expects in the world’s largest democracy. Many within India’s polity have called for reform, but it does not appear the necessary changes will be made anytime soon. If anything, the rise of dynastic politics suggests that democracy and governance stand to become even more compromised in the future. A career in politics is now also viewed as a path to wealth, and this has led to a new wave of dynastic politics. South Asia has long been famous for political dynasties, with Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka fielding prominent families where women especially used the legacies of their husbands and fathers to capture power. India, however, stands out because the so-called Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has outdone even the Kennedys and Bushes in the United States. Jawaharlal Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi, and her son Rajiv Gandhi ruled India as prime ministers for a total of thirty-three years. Rajiv’s son Rahul Gandhi is touted as a future prime minister and following the most recent elections could

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

298

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 298

Neil DeVotta

have easily taken the place of Manmohan Singh had he chosen to. Many prominent politicians in India seem to now want to emulate the Nehru-Gandhis, for increasingly their sons and daughters are being put forward as parliamentary candidates at the expense of loyal and seasoned party members. For instance, 25 of the new members of Parliament elected in May 2009 were part of highly connected political families. Of the 543 members in India’s current Parliament, 58 are women, but what stands out is that 36 of these women are also the sisters, wives, daughters, and widows of politicians. One can argue that insofar as these persons are elected, there should be no reasons for complaints. However, given the role identity politics plays in India (so that many vote on the basis of their caste or linguistic standing), most people nominated to these seats and having the full support of the major parties usually win office. In this context, certain political families, by nominating relatives, are merely monopolizing power. Indeed, in many instances, the main reason such families seek representation in Parliament is to ensure they continue to be well connected so as to protect and expand their business interests. The upshot is that none of this bodes well for democracy and the promotion of good governance. It is not just Parliament that is facing a crisis. The judiciary too often comes across as paralyzed and dysfunctional due to the large backlog of cases it has to deal with. Indira Gandhi sought to politicize many of India’s institutions and ended up undermining them. The courts were one such entity. India’s Supreme Court especially has overcome the assault by Indira Gandhi and her cronies and is today an extremely assertive branch of the government. That noted, the courts are deluged with so many cases that the system is impeding expeditious justice from being delivered, especially to India’s poor. For instance, as of January 2010, there were around 52,000 cases pending before the Indian Supreme Court, with another approximately 4,000,000 and 25,000,000 cases pending before the various High Courts and lower courts, respectively. Even if the judicial vacancies on these courts are filled, it may well take years for this backlog to be dealt with. Lower-court judges are also all too often accused of corruption, and from time to time there are accusations made against some in the higher judiciary as well. Recently a former chief justice of India claimed that 15 percent of the judges in the country were corrupt. Part of the problem is that judges who are part of the higher judiciary cannot be investigated for corruption unless permission is first obtained from the chief justice of India. With the chief justice inclined to protect his peers and judges being paid relatively low salaries, there is ample incentive under the current system for even honest judges to be tempted to become crooked. Thus, judicial reform in India needs to go beyond merely dealing with the extant case backlog if the country is to be more effectively governed. When combined with the rampant corruption among police and bureaucrats, what all this means is that thousands of Indians are denied basic justice on a daily basis, and this is a major reason for the sense of anger one sees among India’s poor and the rise in insurgencies such as the Naxalite movement.

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 299

Trends and Prospects

299

The Naxalite Movement

There are many areas in India whose populations feel alienated from the Indian state, but these are also areas that are mired in poverty, corruption, and the absence of the rule of law, or regions like Kashmir and Assam that have experienced a high degree of violence due to their unique circumstances. Securing the allegiance of the populations in these areas through development and good governance is among the challenges the Indian state must deal with to further strengthen the Indian union. At present, however, the biggest domestic threat facing India is the so-called Maoist or Naxalite movement. The Communist revolution Karl Marx predicted required the working class to rise against the bourgeoisie, but Chinese leader Mao Zedong claimed peasants would do just as well. This notion of peasants creating revolution against the state or an entity upholding the state is a fundamental feature of Maoism. The Maoists in India are Communists who broke away from the Communist Party of India (Marxist). According to Indian intelligence, the group has about 20,000 hard-core cadres and perhaps another 50,000 foot soldiers. Most ominously, they have attracted millions of sympathizers among India’s marginalized tribal and peasant communities, thanks to the gross malpractices of state authorities. The Maoists are also referred to as Naxalites, and the term stems from a West Bengal village called Naxalbari where divisions within the Communist Party of India (Marxist) influenced an uprising against landlords in 1967. Naxalites (or Maoists) claim that India is ruled by the upper classes, which are merely interested in exploiting the lower classes, and that the state therefore needs to be overthrown. They are thus engaged in a revolution, and how Indian authorities handle this crisis will have serious consequences for democracy and development in India. Many consider the Maoist or Naxalite threat to be as dangerous a security crisis as that which India faced when militant Sikhs conducted their insurgency to create a separate state in Punjab in the 1980s. The ideologically committed Maoists operate ruthlessly and have built up a murderous record. Since 2005, the Maoists have been responsible for over 7,000 violent incidents that have killed about 5,000 civilians and police personnel. Nearly 1,000 people were killed in Maoist-related violence in 2009 and, with the Indian government now engaged in a battle to defeat them, more are expected to perish in 2010 and the years ahead. In April 2010, the Maoists ambushed an Indian police convoy, killing 76 personnel in what is considered the worst attack on government troops in their over four-decades-long struggle. This noted, the so-called Naxalite movement is undergirded by the disregard with which successive Indian governments have treated India’s peasants and tribal groups. For often those who are accused of being Maoists and Naxalites are also among India’s poorest living in areas with no schools, few jobs, and little health care. These regions are among the most inaccessible and neglected, with around 300,000 villages in the so-called Red Corridor or Sickle Corridor having no road access. Feudalism and

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

300

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 300

Neil DeVotta

corruption are rampant, and law and order in these areas hardly exist, so that many among the police, military, and paramilitary forces operate with impunity by extorting, beating, raping, disappearing, and murdering civilians. Those killed are often conveniently branded Naxalites who had engaged the police in an “encounter.” In India the term encounter typically refers to instances where the police assassinate someone in self-defense. Many are the encounters associated with Naxalites or Maoists, and the numerous bogus incidents have merely radicalized innocent peasants and prompted many to join with the Maoists. It is no coincidence that thousands of rural women have begun to support the Maoists and have taken to defending themselves with scythes, axes, bows and arrows, and staves. Most of India’s tribal and rural communities were content to live off the forests and whatever irrigable land they had access to and began challenging the state only when they were driven off their lands. Millions of people in tribal areas were forced to relocate as India built massive dams—Nehru called them “the temples of modern India”—for power generation and agricultural purposes. But increasingly, peasants and tribals are also being driven off the land as India seeks to extract metals, minerals, gas, and oil reserves located on territories providing peasants and tribals sustenance. As India’s development has gained pace over the past two decades, the quest to build roads, dams, and power stations and extract scarce resources has also picked up. Furthermore, various corporations have begun collaborating with state authorities to construct aluminum smelters and steel and automobile plants in these same rural areas. Oftentimes this is done with utter disregard for those living on the land, with the inhabitants of these areas branded “primitives” and considered impediments to India’s growth. Those who saw James Cameron’s Avatar should identify with this subtext. In the movie, a race called the Na’vi live on the planet Pandora and must fight against a corporation determined to evict them from their habitat and exploit their mineral rights. Many among India’s peasants and tribals, should they have a chance to see the movie, may be excused for thinking it was based on their plight. In the movie, the avatars are two humans who have taken on the shapes of Na’vi and infiltrated their community with the intention of ultimately betraying them. But over time the humans begin to respect and sympathize with the Na’vi and switch sides. India’s upwardly mobile millions who look down on its most destitute could also use a switch in attitude; for should India’s developmental gains come at the expense of its most destitute, they would not be worth celebrating. India has about 85 million people categorized as tribal (or Adivasis), and Jawaharlal Nehru’s comments show the extent to which he was sensitive to their concerns. In one instance Nehru noted that, “The problem of the tribal areas is to make the people feel that they have perfect freedom to live their own lives and to develop according to their wishes and genius. India to them should signify not only a protecting force but a liberating one. Any conception that

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 301

Trends and Prospects

301

India is ruling them and that they are the ruled, or that customs and habits [with] which they are unfamiliar are going to be imposed upon them, will alienate them.” With this in mind he suggested five principles to deal with the tribal peoples of India: not imposing any alien influences on them but promoting their culture instead; respecting their rights to land and the forest; utilizing tribal personnel to develop the land and avoiding involving too many outsiders; ensuring that development takes place without supplanting tribal sociocultural institutions; and gauging success based on how human character evolved in tribal regions. What has transpired in the tribal areas is a far cry from this Nehruvian vision. By some estimates, nearly 50 million people (mostly tribal) have been dislocated due to development policies pursued by the Indian state since independence. The Naxalite movement in India deals primarily with people of this ilk, and how India manages their grievances will determine the future relationship between millions of its citizens and the government. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has repeatedly said that the Maoist insurgency is the biggest threat directed at India’s security, and in late 2009, the Indian government began a counterinsurgency operation to take and hold territories controlled by the Maoists. The Maoists, however, are spread across nearly 200 of India’s over 600 districts and operate in 20 out of 28 Indian states with Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand especially affected. The areas concerned are home to around 450 million people. Many analysts doubt the Maoists can be eliminated. The government is fully aware of the root causes for the rise in Maoist violence. A government report, titled State Agrarian Relations and the Unfinished Task of Land Reforms, bluntly notes that the country’s developmental agenda is directly related to the poverty and violence in Maoist areas (Government of India 2009). The government thus plans on developing Maoist areas by building schools, community centers, health clinics, and roads and creating employment-generating ventures, but unless such development takes place in tune with Nehru’s above five principles, it is unlikely to assuage the Maoists. If the Maoists now represent a security threat, it is because the socioeconomic needs of millions of tribals and peasants were long disregarded. It is imperative that India deal with the fundamental rights of these particular citizens, even as it seeks to develop. Failure to do so would not only take the shine off its achievements, but also likely weigh down the country’s domestic and international prospects.



Economic Revolution

The economic reforms that were introduced in 1991 have created a trajectory that could very well make India a middle-income country within the next thirty years. Achieving such status, however, would require India to be doing many things right simultaneously, and going by past performance, there is no reason

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

302

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 302

Neil DeVotta

to assume that success is guaranteed. Besides contributing to a widening disparity between the so-called haves and have-nots, the economic reforms have also evidenced the gap between successive governments’ accomplishments and people’s aspirations, which is not healthy in a country where the median age is a mere twenty-five years. A recent issue of India Today (October 19, 2009) noted that India now ranks as “the fifth-largest producer of electricity in the world. It has the second-largest road network in the world, the second-largest rail network under a single management, and a civil aviation market that will” service 100 million passengers by 2010. But the magazine also rightly pointed out that overall “the Indian infrastructure story is usually one of shortages, blockages, and leakages.” Besides this challenge to upgrade infrastructure, India will also need to overcome some daunting challenges pertaining to population and the environment if it is to develop sustainably. India today is teeming with ambitious and bright people who are eager to build up their country just as Indians have helped build gleaming cities in the Middle East and created hundreds of companies in Silicon Valley and the world over. From this vantage point the problem is not a scarcity of skill, ambition, or financing, but red tape, burdensome laws, and corruption. For instance, it is hard to believe that India still has on its books the Industrial Disputes Act, which prevents any Indian company that has over 100 employees to dismiss anyone without government approval. It is with good reason that Indians joke that their country’s economy grows when the government is asleep. But in the past decade successive governments have acted more assertively to ensure development moves apace. Thus, the government stunned Indians by building the initial sections of Delhi Metro ahead of schedule, and this transportation system is now the pride of the city. Similarly, the Golden Quadrilateral highway that connects Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai built 3,600 miles of roads in 2007 when only 300 miles of new roads had been built in the fifty years before that (Leahy 2008: 7). But whether such development efforts can be sustained over the next few decades even as India sufficiently accommodates the basic aspirations of its people is an open question. Part of the dilemma facing India is its large and rising population, which provides immense opportunities but can also contribute to potential problems. Development and education is the antidote to increased fertility. This is true throughout the world, and studies done comparing the low fertility rates in south India with the relatively high fertility rates in north India also bear this out. Current demographic projections suggest that at some point “between 2020 and 2050 the world’s fertility rate will fall below the global replacement rate” (The Economist 2009: 15). India, however, is due to add approximately 310 million people (that is the current population in the United States) in the next ten years! Whether the country’s fertility rate too would thereafter stabilize is dependent on the extent to which India educates and generates employment for its people.

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 303

Trends and Prospects

303

In the 1970s, Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay sought to push through a sterilization policy hoping to reduce India’s population growth. It led to forced sterilization, with many poor Muslims getting caught in the dragnet. The coercive tactics (plus the abuse of power that accompanied the period of emergency rule) were one reason Indira Gandhi was defeated in the 1977 elections. Since then, all politicians have discussed and implemented family planning programs with the greatest sensitivity, notwithstanding the country’s relatively high fertility rate leading to a rising population and a youth bulge. Today there are 550 million Indians below age twenty-five, which is also the country’s median age; and the rising population is causing this median age to fall even as countries like China are dealing with a median age that rises every year. Economists and demographers use the term dependency ratio to refer to this difference between workers and retirees. In India’s case, this means that going into the future the country will have more workers than retirees (a low dependency ratio), which in turn will allow India to be more productive, increase savings, and thus have the capacity to fund everything from welfare programs to defense at an easier rate than countries that will have more retirees than workers (a high dependency ratio). A youth bulge, however, provides both opportunities and dangers. Countries that have experienced a youth bulge and failed to accommodate the aspirations of their youth have seen insurgencies and other violent movements. In India’s case, such an outcome can easily undermine the country’s democratic gains made since independence. Disenchanted youth are fodder for radical organizations, and this is already evident in some parts of India. Recently in Mangalore (in the state of Karnataka), some young men belonging to a radical Hindu group attacked women in a bar because they objected to women consuming alcohol. Such attacks, especially against young women working in the information technology sector and other service sectors, have become common in some Indian cities. While the attackers typically claim an ideological basis for their actions, what stands out is that usually they are all young and jobless. The attacks may be motivated by a sense of deprivation and jealousy as much as anything else. Thus, how India leverages its youth bulge is going to be very important to the country’s future success. Countries that create opportunities for employment and growth, however, can take advantage of this youth bulge. India has, for instance, done so in offshore business and information technology services that now employ 1.6 million mostly English-speaking youth, and that number is set to double in the next five years (Lamont 2009: 5). India today is also a leading location for multinational corporations setting up research and development hubs outside their countries of origin, with 200 such R&D operations in cities like Bangalore. But nearly 40 percent of the country is still illiterate, and the impressive gains in offshoring and informational technology services notwithstanding, India is far from accommodating its burgeoning youth population. This means that India needs to create more effective schools so its teeming youth can be endowed

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

304

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 304

Neil DeVotta

with skills and their energy and talents leveraged to build up the country. In 2009, India’s Parliament passed the Right to Education Bill, based on the premise that education is a fundamental right and all children between six and fourteen are entitled to free and compulsory schooling. Concerns over funding, however, have prevented the legislation being carried out. On the one hand, India has some world-class institutions, with the country’s Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) standing out in this regard. Competition to enter the institutes is so stiff that every year 400,000 students sit for a grueling examination to qualify for just 4,000 available spots. The Indian government pours a lot of money into higher education, and India currently has over 350 universities and 16,000 colleges (although the quality of education among these institutions varies widely). On the other hand, India does not spend as much as it should on primary education, and what is spent is wasted due to rampant corruption at the local level. Some claim India would need at least 1,500 new universities to accommodate its youth. Making such investments, however, at the expense of quality primary education would only further contribute to the extant disparity between the haves and have-nots. Population growth amid scarce resources has also contributed to povertyrelated maladies. For instance, malnutrition among children in India is said to be worse than that in sub-Saharan countries, and in New Delhi alone 42.2 percent of children are stunted (Sengupta 2009: 1[A]). The Health Ministry, on the other hand, has reported that nearly 50 percent of children in India are stunted. A recent United Nations World Food Program report claims that of the world’s undernourished population, 27 percent live in India, and that 43 percent of the country’s children under the age of five are underweight. The extent to which the Indian government improves the lot of these unfortunate children will dictate to a large degree whether India’s youth bulge contributes to or constrains the country’s economic trajectory. A rising population coupled with dire rural conditions has led to poor people moving into cities lacking adequate resources to accommodate newcomers, and the subsequent population pressures have influenced anti-immigrant violence. The most vicious violence has been in Mumbai against migrants from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Here, local politicians trying to build up their parties have made migration from the north an issue, claiming it undermines Maharashtra state’s Marathi culture, and such politicking is the principal reason for the violence. But the lack of jobs and the inevitable environmental degradation that ensues when millions move into a city that does not have the infrastructure to accommodate them are also reasons that make such politicking appealing. Mumbai, for instance, was planned to accommodate 7 million people. Today over 20 million live in it, and the city is now as famous for its slums (as portrayed in the Academy Award–winning movie Slumdog Millionaire) as it is for Bollywood and its trend-setting social scene. This is true for other big

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 305

Trends and Prospects

305

cities as well, with Delhi (17 million) and Kolkata (over 15 million) also experiencing tensions over scarce land and immigrants. Over 65 percent of those currently living in Bangalore, one of India’s major software hubs, are from other parts of the country, and this too has led to resentment among people in the city and the state of Karnataka. Sikhs in the Punjab have also reacted negatively against poor migrants from the north. In the case of China, the Communist government has often sought to control rural-to-urban migration to avoid such conflicts. India, however, is a democracy, and no government would dare try to prevent people from moving about (unless it is for a security reason). Current projections claim that 55 percent of Indians—compared with under 30 percent today—will live in urban areas by 2050 (Goldstone 2010: 38). This mandates that the government set up effective programs that deal with the scarcity of infrastructure, population, environmental degradation, and poverty, as they are all interconnected. The enormity of the challenges facing India becomes evident when one realizes that besides maintaining its development trajectory and ensuring better education at all levels, the country also needs to provide its citizens with basic services ranging from better health care, sanitation facilities, and potable water even as it deals with environmental degradation. Nearly 80 percent of Indian households in rural areas have no indoor toilets, and over half of India’s population does not have access to a toilet. And according to the Asian Development Bank, India currently has 14 percent of the global population but has access to only 4 percent of the world’s water supply. What this means is that in twenty years India’s large population and growing middle class will require twice the water that is currently available in the country. The southern states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have long engaged in a water dispute concerning the Kaveri River, and in the future such conflicts are likely to become more and more common among other states as well. India’s farmers and the vast majority of Indians do not pay for water, and by some accounts, this causes about 40 percent of the country’s water to be wasted. India will need to adopt programs that avoid such wastage, even as it resorts to water harvesting and other preservation methods to avert severe shortages (and clashes) over water. When Jairam Ramesh, India’s outspoken minister for the environment, released a report titled Green India 2047 in November 2009, he noted that 45 percent of Indians had no access to safe drinking water; unclean air and water alone could likely kill 800,000 people every year; and Indian cities were so dirty “if there is a Nobel Prize for dirt and filth, India will win it, no doubt” (Times of India 2009). Such challenges notwithstanding, those fortunate to be among India’s growing upwardly mobile population understandably crave a more prosperous lifestyle, and nothing signifies this more than owning an automobile. The world average for automobile ownership is 111 vehicles per 1,000 people. In the United States, the average stands at 760 automobiles per 1,000 people. In India, the average currently is 12 vehicles per 1,000 people. What would it mean for

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

306

2:43 PM

Page 306

Neil DeVotta

India’s and the world’s environment if Indians (and Chinese, too) eventually began owning more and more cars and living like Americans? India’s Tata Motors now sells the world’s cheapest car, which is called the Nano and costs around US$2,200, and it is one reason why the country’s emissions are slated to increase fourfold over the next twenty years. The West, having developed irresponsibly and contributed the most to global warming, lacks the moral standing to tell Indians how to live their lives. India’s development, however, will inevitably have a bearing on both India and the world that all will need to deal with sooner rather than later. In 2004, a cocky BJP contested the general elections convinced that its National Democratic Alliance coalition would be returned to power. The Congress Party was as stunned as the BJP when it captured more parliamentary seats and was asked by the country’s president to form a government. The BJP had run a brash campaign under the slogan “India Shining.” What it failed to recognize (or acknowledge) was that in rural areas especially there was an “India Suffering.” This is part of the paradox of India’s ongoing economic revolution: an India Shining juxtaposed with an India Suffering. Both constituencies need to be assuaged if India is to succeed as a global power. But, as noted above, India has many challenges that can stall its hitherto impressive rise.



National Security

Going forward, two types of security issues will especially impact India. The first pertains to the international security environment and the role India stands to play in strengthening its position on the global stage. The second pertains to terrorism, with radical elements like the Lashkar-e-Taiba operating from Pakistan determined to infiltrate and destabilize India, and how such groups stand to recruit Indian Muslims unless the Indian state deals appropriately with the legitimate grievances of this population. During the Cold War, international relations mainly revolved around the preferences and actions of the United States and the Soviet Union. While meetings of the G-7 states predated the end of the Cold War, these industrialized countries commanded even greater status following the Soviet Union’s implosion. The diffusion of economic clout since then is evident by the attention now being devoted to the so-called G-20 states, which incorporate five Asian states (including China and India). Today much attention is also paid to the RIC (Russia, India, and China) countries, the BRIC powers (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), and the so-called BASIC states (Brazil, South Africa, India, and China) not merely because of their growing economies but also because of how they, more often than not, corral the world’s developing countries and coordinate strategy when dealing with western states. China is the de facto leader of the developing countries, which operate as part of the G-77 group, but India too plays

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 307

Trends and Prospects

307

a leading role formulating opinion and strategy for this body. For instance, during the Copenhagen climate summit that took place in December 2009, all these countries stood firm against attempts by western countries to impose emission targets on the developing world. The fact is that any agreement on the environment or most other major global issues that does not take into consideration the positions of China and India especially is bound to fail. India’s input and stance will only weigh more as the country’s economy continues growing and its global clout expands. As noted in Chapter 5, India-China tensions over the border have recently led to Chinese belligerence, and it is in both countries’ interest to settle this particular dispute. Indian elites understandably worry about Chinese intentions, although a war would likely prove disastrous for both states. While Sri Lanka’s civil war ended violently in May 2009 (DeVotta 2009) and thereby prevents India from having to worry about refugee flows and terrorist activities in the country’s south, four other states bordering India—Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Nepal—face serious internal crises, and India has the potential to be adversely impacted depending on how events in these countries turn (Asian Development Bank 2009: 4). An unstable Pakistan is what worries India most, for at this stage it is only Islamic extremists that stand to gain from such instability. Some of the terrorist groups based in Pakistan not only want to see India-administered Kashmir divested from the Indian union, but they also consider Hindus, Christians, and Jews to represent an anti-Islamic triumvirate. India’s growing links with the United States and Israel have encouraged such thinking, and many of these groups’ cadres have crossed into India and committed numerous terrorist acts in the past two decades. The attack on Mumbai in November 2008 especially showed how vulnerable India is to such crossborder terrorism. Poor intelligence sharing among various central government and state agencies (a situation that also contributed to the 9/11 attacks on the United States), lax enforcement in security, and low morale stemming from internal divisions within the research and analysis wing have all contributed to India’s vulnerability. This notwithstanding, in 2009 alone India intelligence agencies are said to have averted nearly a dozen major terrorist attacks against the country, and it is hoped that the newly created National Center for Counter Terrorism will operate more effectively against future threats. What is clear is that India is going to have to deal with cross-border terrorism into the foreseeable future, and the more unstable Pakistan and Afghanistan are, the more terror attacks India is likely to face. How effectively the country deals with this will also impact India’s development trajectory and its relations with its own Muslim community. Thanks to the Kashmir imbroglio, India began dealing with external terrorism long before the United States. While Pakistan-based terror groups initially targeted Indian troops in the Kashmir valley, as of late they have sought to terrorize Indian cities as well. It appears some Indian Muslims have collaborated

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

308

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 308

Neil DeVotta

in these attempts, and it is highly likely that feeling discriminated against for being Muslim and the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat may have radicalized some among them. The dangers associated with the youth bulge discussed earlier especially pertain to Muslims, since the community’s youth have ample reason to feel that their socioeconomic plight is due to their being Muslim. Soon after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, many Indians and Americans noted that not a single Indian Muslim was associated with these attacks, and they attributed India’s democracy as the main reason for this. The driving logic here was that there was no reason for Indian Muslims to turn radical since they could use the franchise to obtain their preferences. Five months later, the Gujarat pogrom took place and Muslims—especially Muslim women—were subjected to the most barbaric violence. The Indian Constitution allows the government to impose President’s Rule on any state, which basically leads to the central government sacking the state government and overtaking all governance until a new state government can be installed. This is typically expected to happen during periods of great instability and crisis (although Indira Gandhi abused this prerogative for petty political purposes). If there ever was a moment in postindependence Indian history when President’s Rule should have been instituted in a state, it was during the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. The BJP-led coalition government at the time failed to do so, and that decision, perhaps more than even the anti-Muslim violence, signaled that Muslims could not depend on the institutions of the Indian state for justice. The subsequent bomb explosions in a number of Indian cities too may have been the work of Muslims who were radicalized directly as a result of the Gujarat pogrom. While Muslims constitute around 14 percent of India’s population, they typically occupy between 6 and 9 percent of seats in Parliament. Not only are Muslims politically underrepresented at the national level, a recent government study claims that their overall socioeconomic standing is now second to the country’s Dalits (Prime Minister’s High Level Committee 2006). As noted in this volume’s introduction, the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities has proposed that reservations (or quotas) be set aside based on income and that all minorities be included for eligibility. This would include the Muslims, and this may be the first obvious way to signal to the community that the state is eager to improve their lot as well. Much else would need to be done to ensure that Muslims feel they too are stakeholders in a rising India. This includes ensuring that communal violence is not tolerated. India’s Muslims may number around 150 million, and there is just no way for the country to develop with the vast majority of this community being consigned to the margins of society. India is most certainly on the rise, both domestically and globally, and it has caused hyperenthusiastic Indians to get carried away and talk about India becoming a superpower. A country that is still a long way from providing its citizens basic services in education, health, sanitation, and the environment has no

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 309

Trends and Prospects

309

business pursuing such status. In any case, it is not in India’s interest or its postindependence ethos to aspire to superpower status. The country’s main interest lies in pursuing a development trajectory that improves the living conditions of its teeming population even while ensuring its territorial integrity. India at present is well positioned to become a great power in a twenty-first-century multipolar world. How its political leaders deal with the challenges noted here will determine how soon it gets there.



Bibliography

Asian Development Bank. 2009. India 2039: An Affluent Society in One Generation. Metro Manila: Asian Development Bank. DeVotta, Neil. 2009. “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Lost Quest for Separatism in Sri Lanka.” Asian Survey 49, no. 6 (November/December 2009): 1021–1051. Economic and Political Weekly. 2009. “Decline or Death of Parliament?” (January 10): 6. The Economist. 2009. “Falling Fertility.” (October 31): 15. Goldstone, Jack A. 2010. “The New Population Bomb: The Four Megatrends That Will Change the World.” Foreign Affairs (January-February): 31–43. Government of India. 2009. Committee on State Agrarian Relations and the Unfinished Task of Land Reforms. Vol. 1. Delhi: Ministry of Rural Development. Lamont, James. 2009. “India Taps into Riches as the West’s Back Office.” Financial Times (December 30): 5. Leahy, Joe. 2008. “A Passage Through India.” Financial Times (June 30): 7. Prime Minister’s High Level Committee. 2006. Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India: A Report. New Delhi: Government of India. Sengupta, Somini. 2009. “As Indian Growth Soars, Child Hunger Persists.” New York Times (March 13): A1, A10. Thapar, Karan. 2009. “Crime and Grime.” Hindustan Times (May 30). Times of India. 2009. “India Can Win Nobel for Filth, Says Jairam Ramesh” (November 21). Verma, Ashok Kalyan. 2002. Kargil, Blood on the Snow: Tactical Victory, Strategic Failure: A Critical Analysis of the War. New Delhi: Manohar.

12DeVotta_12.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 310

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 311

Glossary

Adivasi: person belonging to a Scheduled Tribe in India ahimsa: nonviolence arya: “noble,” related to the ancient Aryan migrants into India ashvameda: horse sacrifice ceremony bandh: a strike, usually organized by a political party but declared illegal by the Indian Supreme Court in 1998 bhakti: Hindu mysticism; complete devotion to a particular deity Brahmans: those at the top of the caste hierarchy who are priests and scholars caste: an endogamous status group, usually associated with an occupational category, occupying a specific position in a social hierarchy communalism: creation of exclusionary communities based on ethnicity or religion Dalits: members of the lowest caste (formerly known as Harijan or Untouchables) dasa: slave

311

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

312

Page 312

Glossary

Delhi Sultanate: 1206–1526 C.E. dharma: duty dharma-chakra: wheel of law dharna: fasting unto death doctrine of lapse: a policy under which the British assumed direct control over native territory if local rulers were guilty of “misrule” or if they had no legitimate heir dvijas: “twice born”; refers to those of the first three varnas (Brahman, Kshatriya, and Vaishya) dyarchy: an arrangement in which areas such as education, health, and agriculture became the responsibility of provincial legislatures, in which Indians had greater participation, while such important issues as revenue and law enforcement were reserved for the central British authority gotra: lineage/clan identification derived from patrilineal descent. Marriage between those within a gotra is strictly prohibited by many Hindus because individuals are seen as brothers and sisters when related via patrilineal descent. gross domestic product: the total dollar value of all goods and services produced in a country gross national product: the total dollar value of all goods and services produced by a country’s population within and without its borders. The measure was used for US production between 1941 and 1991 until it was replaced by gross domestic product. Gupta Empire: 320 C.E. to ca. 497 C.E. Harijan: literally, “children of God”; Mohandas Gandhi’s term for Untouchables hartal: a strike Hinduism: Hindu was the term used by Persians for the people of the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism later came to be used by outsiders for the varied religious beliefs of the majority of the people.

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 313

Glossary

313

Hindutva: literally “Hinduness” and typically advocated by extremist Hindu groups as part of an ideology that claims all Indians, irrespective of their religion, should subscribe to a Hindu ethos. Hyderabadi Treaty: laid the standards for all future agreements between the British and other South Asian rulers. The 1768 treaty stated that (1) Hyderabad would finance British-controlled military force for internal and external security purposes; (2) failure to make payments would result in lapse of territory to Britain; (3) all foreign affairs would be handled by the East India Company. iddat: maintenance granted for a period of three months following a divorce for Muslim women Islam: literally, “submission” (to God) in Arabic. Refers to the religion founded by the prophet Muhammad. Jain: an adherent of a very ancient Indian religious sect dating from at least the sixth century B.C.E. that stresses extreme nonviolence and asceticism. Jains became famous as bankers and merchants because these professions were regarded as nonviolent. jajmani relations: relations of groups within the caste system jati: subcaste jharoka: viewing of a king, used by the Mughal rulers jhuggi: temporary structures made of mud, thatch, plastic, and other discarded objects jizya: a tax levied on non-Muslims karma: religious merit khadi: homespun cloth khalsa: “the pure”; the order instituted for Sikhs by their guru, Gobind Singh, about 1699, that requires its members to identify themselves to both friends and enemies as true Sikhs, devoted to the protection of the faith, by always having five symbols. These were leaving their beards and hair uncut, carrying a comb, wearing a sword, wearing a steel bracelet, and wearing knee-length shorts. Originally, the khalsa was a military group, under strict discipline.

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

314

Page 314

Glossary

Kshatriyas: those beneath Brahmans in the caste hierarchy who are kings and warriors Lok Sahba: “House of the People”; the popularly elected lower house of the Indian Parliament maharajadhiraja: king of kings; king upon kings mahr: a fixed sum agreed upon at the time of the marriage Maratha Empire: 1600s–1818 Mauryan Empire: last decades of the 300s B.C.E. to 185 B.C.E. moksha: release Mukti Bahini: East Pakistani guerrilla fighters that India supported in the lead-up to the 1971 war with Pakistan that led to the creation of Bangladesh nawab: provincial governor from Mughal Empire; later, corrupted to nabob, meaning a person (usually British) who became wealthy in India Naxalites: another term for Maoist forces in India that seek to overthrow the state Other Backward Castes: an open-ended category of affirmative action to accommodate those belonging to the Shudra varna, or lowest caste panch sheela: five principles panchayat: “council of five” village elders responsible for village governance panchayati raj: a three-tiered model of local government instituted by the central government in 1959 partition: the division of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947 Peshwa: a Brahman prime minister within the Maratha Empire President’s Rule: when the central government invokes Article 356 of the Indian Constitution and dissolves state legislatures

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 315

Glossary

315

purdah: female seclusion Raj: period of British rule in India raja: prince or chief Rajya Sabha: “Council of the States”; the upper house of the Indian Parliament, whose members are mostly elected by state legislatures, or Vidhan Sabhas rasa: taste, flavor, or essence in an artistic tradition Rig Veda: the oldest Vedic text, a core source of Hinduism Rowlatt Acts: legislation that allowed the British to hold Indians without trial, 1919 ryot: a farmer; laborer sabha: a community; association; organization samaja: society samsara: the idea that all living things will die but will be reborn again in some form sati: the burning of widows on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands satrap: a regional governor deployed by Greeks in India satyagraha: truth-force; passive resistance or noncooperation practiced by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi Scheduled Castes: term used to denote Dalits after untouchability was abolished by Indian Constitution sepoy: an Indian soldier shuddhi: a movement aimed at reclaiming Hindus who had converted to Islam Sikh: an adherent of the religious community that originated with Nanak

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

316

Page 316

Glossary

(1469–1539) in Punjab, India, who preached a message of devotion to the divine name and of obedience to his teaching and his successors, known as “gurus.” Their followers became famous as warriors, farmers, and entrepreneurs. soma: a drink consumed by Vedic society, likely a form of mushroom Sudras: those at the bottom of the caste hierarchy who are artisans, laborers, and slaves Sufi: a Muslim mystic swadeshi: a boycott of goods manufactured in Britain and an emphasis on indigenous production swaraj: self-rule taluqs or tehsils: divisions of states, run by taluqdar or tehsildar thugi: a criminal ulema: the Muslim religious scholarly community Untouchables: a term previously used for Dalits, members of the lowest caste Vaishyas: those below the Kshatriyas in the caste hierarchy who are money lenders and traders varnas: color; but refers to the four-tiered caste system Vedas: the most ancient and most sacred collection of India’s religious texts regarded as fundamental truth. In its narrower sense, Veda refers to the four collections, some of which may date from 1800 B.C.E. (the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda), but the term Vedic literature is used for an immense body of writings that trace their origin to one of these texts. Vidhan Sabhas: state legislatures zamindar: a landholder; landlord

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 317

The Contributors

John Adams was a visiting scholar at the University of Virginia and a consultant to the Asian Development Bank at the time of his death in November 2008. He was the chair of economics and professor emeritus at the University of Maryland and Northeastern University. He wrote extensively on economic development policies in South Asia. His books include Corporate Governance in Nepal; India: The Search for Unity, Democracy, and Progress; and Pakistan: Exports, Politics, and Economic Development. Benjamin Cohen is associate professor of history at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City. He has published several articles as well as Kingship and Colonialism in India’s Deccan (2007), which explores Hyderabad State in the nineteenth century. His current research is on colonial India’s social clubs and the formation of associational life in South Asia. Neil DeVotta is associate professor of political science at Wake Forest University. He is the author of numerous publications, including Blowback: Linguistic Nationalism, Institutional Decay, and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka (2004). His current research examines the links between nationalist ideologies and communal violence in South Asia. Ashok K. Dutt is emeritus professor of geography, planning, and urban studies at the University of Akron. He has published in numerous major journals and has written several books, including The Asian City and Atlas of South Asia: Cultural Patterns of India. Ainslie T. Embree is professor emeritus of history, Columbia University. Pre-

viously, he was president of the American Institute of Indian Studies, president

317

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

318

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 318

The Contributors

of the Association of Asian Studies , counselor for Cultural Affairs at the American Embassy in Delhi from 1978 to 1980, and special consultant to the US ambassador from 1994 to 1995. His books include India’s Search for National Identity, Imagining India, and Religion and Nationalism in India. He is also editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Asian History, and editor of the revised edition of Sources of Indian Tradition. Christophe Jaffrelot was director of the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales (CERI) at Sciences Po (Paris) between 2000 and 2008. He is currently the research director at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and teaches South Asian politics and history at Sciences Po. His most significant publications are The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics, 1925 to the 1990s (1996 and 1999), India’s Silent Revolution: The Rise of the Low Castes in North India (2003), and Dr. Ambedkar and Untouchability. Analysing and Fighting Caste (2005). He has also edited Pakistan, Nationalism Without a Nation? (2002) and coedited, with P. Van der Veer, Patterns of Middle Class Consumption in China and India (2008), as well as, with L. Gayer, Militias of South Asia (2010). Jason A. Kirk is assistant professor of political science at Elon University in

Elon, North Carolina. Previously, he taught at Virginia Military Institute and the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of India and the World Bank: The Politics of Aid and Influence (2010). His research and teaching interests encompass India’s democratic politics, political economy, and international relations. His publications have appeared in the journals Foreign Policy Analysis and India Review. He is the reviews editor for Asian Security. Ananda Lal is professor of English at Jadavpur University, Calcutta, and a theater director. His works include the edited collection Oxford Companion to Indian Theatre, Rabindranath Tagore: Three Plays, The Voice of Rabindranath Tagore (on CD), and Shakespeare on the Calcutta Stage. Shalendra D. Sharma is professor in the Department of Politics at the Uni-

versity of San Francisco. He is the author of a number of books, including The Asian Financial Crisis: Meltdown, Reform and Recovery (2003), Achieving Economic Development in the Era of Globalization (2007), and China and India in the Age of Globalization (2009). Holly Sims is associate professor of public administration and policy at the

University at Albany, State University of New York. She studies governments and societies in comparative perspective, and is one of a very few scholars with extensive research experience in both India and Pakistan. Her work includes a comparative study of Indian and Chinese energy policy, and her current research

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 319

The Contributors

319

is on renewable energy policy. She is a former North America editor of Public Administration and Development. Lisa Trivedi is associate professor of history and director of Asian studies at Hamilton College, New York. Her scholarly interests include the history of nationalism and colonialism, as well as gender history and women’s history. Her first monograph, Clothing Gandhi’s Nation: Homespun and Modern India, was published in 2007. She is currently working on a comparative history project, tentatively titled Bound by Cloth: Women Industrial Textile Workers in Bombay and Lancashire.

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 320

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 321

Index

Abbas, K. A., 277–278 Abortion, 149(n15) Abundance in poverty, 124–125, 128, 148 Accession of Kashmir, 97–98 Achamenid Empire, 36 Action for Security Health for All (ASHA), 161 Adi Granth, 223 Affirmative action, 13 Afghanistan: Greek conquest, 36; IndiaPakistan relations, 107–108; Islamic expansion into Southeast Asia, 42; Soviet invasion, 102–103; US-India relations, 116; Vedic era, 34 AfPak strategy, 116 Agarwal, Anil, 175 Agra talks, 109 Agreement for Civil Nuclear Cooperation, 15, 118 Agriculture: British zamindari and ryotwari systems, 56; commerce and industry overtaking, 132–133; distribution of labor force for India and six states, 135(tab); drought-prone areas, 29(fig); early development, 26; economic growth, 18, 77; famine, 28– 29, 61, 149(n10); foodstock excess, 148(n2); Indus River valley, 33; monsoon winds, 26, 28–29; National Rural Employment Guarantee Act,

15–16, 77, 147; Naxalite movement, 299–301; pressure on natural resources, 161–162; progressive farmers, 169; public dissent controlling land use, 14; rural economy and, 125–131; state authority over, 72; toxic chemicals and land degradation, 172–173; Vedic era, 34; women’s status, 182; workforce distribution, 136 Akali Dal Party, 82 Akbar, 46–48 Akbar, Prince, 50–51 Aksai Chin, 112 Albuquerque, Alfonso de, 52 All India Muslim League Personal Law Board, 196 All India Women’s Conference, 190 Allahabad, 26, 28 Allauddin, 44 All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (AIADMK), 85 Alptigin, 43 Al-Qaida, 107 Ambassador automobile, 140–141 Ambedkar, Bhimrao Ramji, 60, 72, 222, 253–254, 255–256, 266(n2) Ambedkar Villages Scheme, 262 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), 116 Amritsar massacre, 59

321

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

322

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 322

Index

Ancient civilizations: Buddhist period, 36–38; caste, 249; geographical influence on, 26; Gupta Empire, 38– 40; Indus River valley, 31–33; Roman Empire, 149(n12); southern dynasties, 40–42; Vedic era, 34–36 Ancient era, 31 Andaman and Nicobar Islands, 3(tab) Andhra Pradesh (formerly Andhra), 3(tab); bicameral legislature, 91(n9); caste representation, 255; ethnic and caste-based voting, 265; ethnolinguistic states, 8; federalism, 71; Kuchipudi dance, 285–286; language groups, 216 Anglo-Indian community, 12 Animistic religions, 213–214 Appleby, Paul, 72 Archeology, 31–36 Art, 19; Chola Empire, 41; Gupta period, 39; Mughal Empire, 48; religion and, 210; traditional-modern divide, 269– 270. See also Cinema; Fixed art; Fluid art; Literature Arthashastra (treatise on power), 37 Arunchal Pradesh (state), 3(tab), 110–111 Arya Samaj, 232–233 Aryan invasion theory, 33 Aryan myth, 216 Arzals: caste and geographical origin, 251 Ashlaf caste, 251 Ashok, 37–38 Ashraf caste, 251 Assam (state), 3(tab), 192 Assassinations, 7, 84 August Rising. See Quit India movement Aurangzeb, 50–51 Authoritarianism, 14, 79 Automobiles, 140–141, 150(n19), 159, 305–306 Avatar (film), 300 Awami League, 103 Babri Masjid, 46, 241–242 Babur, 45–46 Baburnama, 46 Backward Classes Commission, 257 Backward (SC, ST, OBC) and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF), 258 Bactrians, 36

Bahadur, Sultan, 46 Bahadur Shah II, 51 Baha’is, 213 Bahmani Empire, 41, 51 Bahuguna, Sunderlal, 175 Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP): Ambedkar statue disputes, 266(n2); caste-based voting, 87; Dalit vote, 264(tab); democratic deepening, 85; lower castes’ rise to power, 256, 258–263, 263(tab); vote by state, 264(tab) Bangladesh, 1, 101–103, 113 Banking sector: women’s cooperatives, 201–202 Baroda Group, 272 Barter system, 148(n7) Basavanna, 211 Basic services, 305 Battle of Plassey, 55 Baul minstrels, 284 Bay of Bengal, 113 Begum, Kaikhusrau Jahan, 189–190 Bengal, 59, 192, 232, 275, 289 Bengal script, 274 Bentinck, William, 56 Bhagavad Gita, 218, 220 Bhakti, 39, 219–222, 233, 241 Bharatanatyam dance, 285–286 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): caste-based voting, 74, 86–87, 90, 93(n21); economic revolution and increasing poverty, 306; election results, April–May 2009, 75(tab); Gujarat pogrom, 308; Hindu-Muslim tensions benefiting, 5; lower castes’ rise to power, 262, 264–265; nuclear tests, 108; political participation, 10; politicization of religion, 237; Shining India slogan, 76–77, 306; sociopolitical revolution, 295–296 Bhatt, Ela, 201 Bhopal tragedy, 171–172 Bhutan, 26 Bhutton, Zulfikar Ali, 108, 109 Bihar (state), 3(tab); bicameral legislature, 91(n9); birth, death, and infant mortality rates, 155; democratic resilience and ineffective governance, 68; economy, 136; enfranchisement of women, 192; state-level government, 76

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 323

Index

Bindusara, 37 Bishnois, 168 Black Hole of Calcutta, 55 Blackwill, Robert, 2 Bofors scandal, 83, 92(n16) Bohurupee, 289 Bollywood, 9, 277 Bombay province, 192 Bonerjee, W. C., 58 Border disputes. See Territorial disputes Bose, Nandalal, 272 Bose, Subhas C., 61, 62(fig) Brahmanical Hinduism, 217–219 Brahmans: Brahmanical Hinduism, 217– 219; British Company bureaucracy, 53; electoral politics, 255; hierarchy of caste, 249–250; increasing power of, 35; Mauryan Empire, 38 Brahmo Samaj, 232–233 Brain drain/brain gain, 13 Brasstacks, 106 Brick-making technology, 32 Britain: annexation of India, 58; caste system changes, 252; divide and rule policy, 236; expansion in South Asia, 55(fig); Hinduism and, 2–4; historians’ divisions of India’s history, 31; IndoChina War, 100; Indus River valley, 32; pauperizing India, 13; quota policies and politics, 253; Western criticism of Indian religions, 230–231. See also Colonialism British East India Company, 31–32, 54, 58, 185–186, 190, 227, 228 Brook, Peter, 290, 291(n11) Brundtland, Gro Harlem, 164–165 Brundtland Commission report, 164–165 Buch, Arvind, 201 Buddhism, 221–222; Ashok’s conversion and patronage, 38; Brahmanic Hinduism, 218; Buddhist period, 36– 38; Hinduism and, 215; religious persecution and conflict, 210–211; religious pluralism, 213–214; Tantric fine art, 273 Budgetary control, 71–72 Bureaucracy: caste system transformation under British rule, 252; class-wise distribution of Scheduled Castes in central government, 254(tab); Delhi Sultanate, 44;

323 institutions of governance, 69–70; lower castes’ rise to power, 260; quota system, 253; religious and social change through, 229–230 Burma (Myanmar), 103 Bus diplomacy, 109 Bush administration, 16–17, 114–115, 171 Cabinet, 69 Cabinet Mission proposal, 61–62 Call centers, 199–201 Cameron, James, 300 Carbon emissions, 169–170 Carrying capacity, 163–164 Caste: agricultural economies, 128–129; Ambedkar statue disputes, 266(n2); backward castes, 92(n17); BJP appeal to upper castes, 93(n21); BSP’s rise to power, 258–263; caste-based competition, 251–253; constitutional approach to, 68–69; diversity, 2; electoral politics, 84–85, 263–266; Gupta Empire, 39; history and hierarchy, 249–251; identity-based parties, 76; jajmani exchange system, 148(n7); lower castes’ rise to power, 256–258, 295; Nanda kings, 36; political domain, 10, 253–256; protest and dissent, 213; quota policies and politics, 253; Rig Veda on, 35; rural villages, 126; social groups under British rule, 59; system transformation, 266; women and family, 185. See also Reservation system Cellular/mobile phones, 124 Census: caste system changes under British rule, 252; literacy, 274; quota policies and politics, 253; religious pluralism, 213; standard of living, 124 Central government, 70, 71, 257 Centralization of power under Indira Gandhi, 79–81 Ceylon. See Sri Lanka Chalukya Empires, 40, 42 Chandigarh (territory), 3(tab) Chandrachud, Yeshwant Vishnu, 196 Chandragupta I, 39 Chandragupta II, 39 Charat Stri Mahamandal, 191 Chattopadhyay, Kamaladevi, 193

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

324

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 324

Index

Chattopadhyay, Mohit, 289 Chaudhurani, Sarladevi, 191 Chelmsford, Frederic Thesiger, Lord, 191 Chemical use, agricultural, 130, 171–173 Chhattisgarh (state), 3(tab) Child marriage, 190, 191 Child Marriage Restraint (Sarda) Act (1929), 191 Children, 134, 149(n15), 197, 304 China: carbon emissions, 169–170; foreign trade, 146; global economic strength, 14; increasing economic importance, 293; India-China relations, 97, 110–113; Indo-China War, 100–101; international security and politics, 306–307; Nehru’s foreign policy, 97; 1962 invasion of India, 99; nuclear programs, 119; Pakistan’s nuclear program, 114; political dissent, 13–14; political economy, 147; UN Security Council membership, 119; US-India relations, 116–117 Chipko movement, 175–176 Chola Empire, 40–41 Cholamandal Artists’ Village, 272 Chou Enlai, 100 Christianity/Christian population: Babri Masjid incident, 241–242; caste system, 251–252; conquest and conversion, 224–229; “the Mutiny,” 57–58; phases of Christian history, 227–229; Portuguese traders, 51–52; Ramabai’s conversion to, 189; religious persecution, 243–244; religious pluralism, 213–214; Western criticism of Indian religions, 230–231; women’s issues in colonial India, 186–187 Church-state separation, 240 Cinema, 9, 19, 168, 276–279, 282, 284– 285, 287, 291(n10), 300 Civil code, 5, 87, 195, 196–197, 205 Civil disobedience, 10 Civil rights, 68–69, 191–192, 194–199, 205 Civil society: caste associations, 252; hindering effective governance, 85– 86; marginal nature of, 93(n20); marginalized groups, 11; women’s organizations, 190–191

Civilian Nuclear Agreement (2005), 114–115 Class system: caste as, 264–265; Hindi film, 277; Naxalite movement, 299–301 Classical dance, 285–286 Classical music, 282–285 Climate, 17, 26 Climate change, 17, 169, 175 Clinton, Bill, 111, 114–115 Clive, Robert, 55 Coca-Cola company, 136–137 Coins, 48 Cola wars, 168 Cold War, 95–96, 98–99, 306 Colonialism: Bengal script, 274; boundaries, 1; caste system changes under British rule, 252; civil disobedience achieving statehood, 10; educational reform by women, 189– 190; enfranchisement of women, 191; foreign policy, 118; military role in supporting, 97; religious and social change, 229–230; resource extraction, 162–163; women’s status and identity, 184–187. See also Britain Commerce, 131–135, 135(tab) Commoner, Barry, 171, 172 Communalism, 236 Communism: nonaligned movement, 99 Communist Party of India (Marxist), 275, 299 Conflicting currents period, 140 Congress Party, 5, 264–266; British persecution of, 60; caste representation, 255; decline in, 92(n14); economic policy, 139–140; election results, April–May 2009, 75(tab); emergency rule under Indira Gandhi, 74; lower castes’ electoral success, 85; Nehru’s foreign policy, 96–97; participatory ethos contributing to democratic stability, 78; political dominance after Nehru, 74; poverty reduction, 147; Rajiv Gandhi’s failure to clean up, 83–84; reservation system, 12; sociopolitical revolution, 295–296; turnover, 92(n15); weakening under Indira Gandhi, 79–83; women’s status in, 198

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 325

Index

Constitution of India: backward castes, 92(n17); Congress Party’s participatory ethos contributing to democratic stability, 78; criminalization of untouchability, 295; democratic structure, 68–73; divorce and maintenance, 196; environmental protection, 18, 153; foreign policy provision, 117–118; judicial system, 91(n7); Nehru forging, 7; religious freedom, 244; reservation, caste-based, 87; reservation for women, 197–199; secularism, 240–241; women’s provisions, 183–184, 205 Consumerism, 163–164, 167, 169–170, 281 Controlled economy, 140–141 Conversion, religious, 224–225, 231, 244–245 Cooperatives, labor, 201–202 Copenhagen climate talks, 111 Cornwallis, Charles Lord, 56 Corruption: Bofors scandal, 92(n16); economic downturn and, 140; education system, 304; governancedemocracy paradox, 296; under Indira Gandhi, 81; judicial system, 298–299; Naxalite movement addressing, 299– 300; Parliamentary decay, 297; political fragmentation, 68 Cotton production, 23, 33, 130, 133, 137 Council of Ministers, 69 Cousins, Margaret, 191 “Creamy layer” children, 257 Credit access, 130 Cricket, 106 Crime, 57, 201 Criminalization of politics, 80–81, 297 Cripps, Stafford, 60 Crops, 129–130 Culture: Chola Empire, 41; defining religion through, 210. See also Art; Cinema; Fixed art; Fluid art; Literature Currency devaluation, 140 Curzon, Lord, 59 Customary law, 194–195, 205 Czechoslovakia, 99 da Gama, Vasco, 51 Dadra and Nagar Haveli (territory), 3(tab)

325 Dalai Lama, 16, 100, 110, 111 Dalhousie, James Broun-Ramsay, Lord, 56–58 Dalit Federation, 256 Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti (DS-4 Committee), 258–259 Dalits, 92(n17); Ambedkar statues, 266(n2); BSP rise to power, 258–260; BSP vote in seven states, 264(tab); caste and geographical origin, 251; caste system changes under British rule, 252; economic function, 250; ethnic and caste-based voting, 265; Gupta Empire, 39; hierarchy of caste, 249–250; increasing political power, 85; Mandal implementation for social mobilization, 260; Prevention of Atrocities Act, 266; reservation system, 11–13, 253; rise of the lower castes, 258–260, 295; rural village economy, 126; Scheduled Castes, 93(n18); social reform movement, 222 Daman and Diu (territory), 3(tab) Dance, 277, 285–287 Darak Shukoh, 50 Dayananda, 233 Deccan Plateau, 23, 38, 41, 42, 44–45, 48, 53 Deepening of democracy, 84–85 Defense spending, 112 Deforestation, 175 Deities, Puranic, 219–220 Delhi Sultanate, 43–45, 225 Delhi (territory), 3(tab), 136 Democracy: anomalous nature of India’s, 77–78; China and India, 293; citizens’ commitment to, 67–68; concerns over “illiberal democracy,” 88–89; Constitution of India, 68–73; governance-democracy paradox, 296; Hindu extremists threatening, 5; mass appeal and power, 84–85; population control, 156–157; as protection against terrorism, 308; reforming and adopting, 10–11; resilience and strength of, 5–7, 89–91; statehood divisions, 7–10. See also Elections Development, economic: Chinese projects in South Asia, 112; defining, 167; economic reform, 302–304;

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

326

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 326

Index

poverty and environment, 166–167, 168–170; sustainable, 164–165 Dharma, 35–36, 215, 218, 219, 221 Dhimmis (non-Muslims under Muslim law), 225 Diarchy, 59–60 Diaspora population, 116 Din-i-Ilahi, 47–48 Direct foreign investment, 145–146 Directive principles of state policy, 69 Disabled individuals: reservation system, 12 Discrimination: racism under British rule, 58. See also Reservation system Disease, 33, 160, 175, 221 Dissent, 13–14, 39, 290. See also Nationalism District government, 72–73 Diversity: demographical and statistical paradox, 1; exacerbating economic and political development, 88; geography shaping, 23, 26; Hinduism fostering, 2–4; as source of democratic strength, 78–79; 2009 general election results, 74–76 Divide and rule policy, 236 Divorce, 195–197 Doctrine of Lapse, 57 Doha Development Agenda, 111 Doordarshan (state-owned television network), 280 Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK), 85 Dravidians, 216, 252, 274 Drought, 28–29, 29(fig), 149(n10) Dupliex, Joseph, 52 Dutch East India Company, 52 Dyer, Reginald, 60 Dynastic politics. See Gandhi, Indira; Gandhi, Rajiv; Nehru, Jawaharlal Earthquakes, 33 East Pakistan, 102, 104 Ecological refugees, 167–168, 169 Economic and Political Weekly, 198 Economic growth, 77, 165 Economic reform, 113, 301–306 Economy, 18; Asia’s increasing importance, 293; commerce and industry, 131–139; five-year plans, 143–148; Gupta period, 39; historical

development, 13–15; Indus River valley, 32–33; jajmani exchange system, 148(n7); omnivorous consumption of resources, 169; per capita income, 148(n1); policy epochs, 139; politics of, 77; rural economy and agriculture, 125–131; standard of living, 123–124; women in the workforce, 182, 183, 199, 201 Ecosystem people, 167–168, 169 Education: British reform, 56–57; caste system and, 252, 253; economic reform, 302–304; environmental degradation and, 167–168; Indian Institutes of Technology, 202, 206(n3), 304; literacy and literature, 274; political participation and, 10; television, 280; theater arts, 290; women, 182–183, 188–190, 202–203, 205; women in the workforce, 199 Education, higher, 304; artists, 270; Christian influence, 228–229; lower castes’ representation, 257–258; missionary influence, 231; women, 189, 202 Egalitarian ethos, 7, 11–13 Egypt, 99 Election Commission, 6, 73, 90, 92(n11), 259 Election fraud, 81 Elections: BSP percentage of votes, 263(tab); BSP victory, 259–260; BSP vote by state, 264(tab); Cabinet Mission proposal, 61–62; carnivalesque quality of, 5–6; caste-, tribal-, and religious-based voting, 263–266, 265(tab); caste quotas, 253– 255; Congress Party’s decline under Indira Gandhi, 79–83; Dalits’ importance for agricultural economies, 128–129; film stars’ candidacy, 278– 279; Government of India Act, 60; Kashmir insurgency, 98; mechanics and importance of, 67–68, 92(n12); National Front coalition, 84; Rajiv Gandhi victory, 83; results of April–May 2009 elections, 75(tab); United Progressive Alliance, 296; voters’ increasing political maturity, 73–77. See also Democracy Electricity, 138, 170–171

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 327

327

Index

Elkunchwar, Mahesh, 289 Emergency rule, 2, 74, 81 Employment. See Jobs Encounters, 300 Endogamy, caste and, 126, 250–252 Energy industry, 14, 138, 146, 170–171 Enfranchisement of women, 191–193 English language, 183, 276 USS Enterprise, 113 Entrepreneurialism, 13 Environmental issues: activism, 175– 176; agricultural use of chemicals, 130, 171–173; automobile availability and, 305–306; automobile use, 150(n19); Bhopal tragedy, 171–172; carrying capacity, 163–164; concerns and potential solutions, 18; constitutional provision for protection, 153; economic growth and, 147; genetic engineering, 173; global summit, 307; government and, 165– 166; nuclear technology and, 170–171; pollution statistics, 153; population lens, 154–164; poverty lens, 164–170; pressure on natural resources, 161– 163; public health hazards, 160; technology lens, 170–175; urban pollution, 150(n17), 159, 160–161 Equal rights for women, 183–184 Espionage, 37 Ethics: Ashok’s conversion to and patronage of Buddhism, 38; Hinduism, 4 Ethnic flooding, 110 Ethnicity: cross-border ethno-religious conflict, 104; ethnic and caste-based voting, 265; literature and, 274; religious and ethnic tension, 1–2; statehood based on, 8 Ethnolinguistic states, 7–9 European influence: protest and dissent through religion, 213; religious persecution and conflict, 210–211; trading company ascendancy, 53–58. See also Britain; Colonialism; Westernization/modernization Executive power: constitutional provision, 69; Indira Gandhi’s autocracy, 79; president, 91(n1); President’s Rule, 71, 308; prime minister, 91(n2)

Extremism, 16, 108–109 Extremism, religious and ethnic, 4 Fa-hsien, 40 Family: family and tradition governing marriage, 204; population control, 157–158; Vedic era, 34–35; women’s employment threatening tradition, 199; women’s status and identity, 185, 189 Family planning programs, 155–156 Famine, 28–29, 61, 149(n10) Farmer suicide, 131, 173 Fasting, 9, 10, 60 Fertility rates, 5, 302 Fertility symbols, 220 Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), 278 Financial crisis, 144 Fine art, 271–273, 291(n4) Five Principles of Coexistence, 100 Five-year plans, 143–148, 156 Fixed art: fine art, 271–273; fluid arts and, 270–271; literature, 2, 8–9, 34, 39, 56, 200–201, 217–218, 269, 273– 276; television, 279–281, 282, 283, 291(n11) Flooding, 28–29, 149(n10) Fluid art: challenges for, 281–282; cinema, 9, 19, 168, 276–279, 282, 284–285, 287, 291(n10), 300; dance, 277, 285–287; fixed arts and, 270– 271; music, 220, 277, 282–285, 291(n10); theater, 220–221, 276, 279, 287–291 Food production and distribution, 125. See also Agriculture Food Security Act, 16 Foodgrain production, 129–130, 130(tab), 140, 148(n2), 149(n9) Foreign aid, 140 Foreign investment, 119, 145–146 Foreign policy: China-India relations, 110–113; codification of, 117–118; Cold War stance, 95–96; Gujral Doctrine, 105; Indira Gandhi, 103– 105; Indo-China War, 100–101; Indo-Pakistani war over Bangladesh, 101–103; Kashmir, 97–98; Nehruvian era, 96–101; nonaligned movement, 98–99; Pakistan-India relations, 106– 109; political instability and, 119;

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

328

Page 328

Index

Shastri’s, 101–105; United States, 113–117 Fragmentation, political, 68, 76 France, 52–53, 54, 99 Francis Xavier, 52 French East India Company, 52, 54 Funeral pyre. See Sati Gadgil, Madhav, 163, 167 Gandhi, Indira: assassination of, 7; Congress Party decline under, 79–83, 92(n14); emergency rule, 2, 74, 81; foreign policy, 103–105, 118; IndiaPakistan relations, 101–103, 109; Indo-Pakistani war over Bangladesh, 101–103; population control through coercion, 157; sterilization policy, 303; US-India relations under, 113; women’s increasing political participation, 193–194 Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand “Mahatma”: assassination, 64; Brahmanic Hinduism, 219; civil disobedience, 10; environmental issues, 153–154, 163, 177; HinduMuslim divide, 4; Jainism and, 221–222; partition literature, 274; Poona Pact, 253–254; proselytization, 244–245; Ramcaritmanas, 220–221; religion and nationalism, 234; on religion and spirituality, 211; return from South Africa, 59–60; spiritualism and materialism, 212–213; Vedic literature, 218 Gandhi, Rahul, 74, 76, 297–298 Gandhi, Rajiv: Bofors scandal, 92(n16); electoral and political decline, 83; foreign policy, 118; LTTE unrest, 104– 105; multipartyism challenging Congress Party, 74; Muslim Women’s Act, 197; political future, 297–298; US-India relations, 113 Gandhi, Sanjay, 81, 82, 303 Ganges River, 26, 28, 36 Ganweriwala, 32 Gardens, 46, 49–50 Genetically modified crops, 130, 173 Geography, 23, 26, 29 Ghaznivid Empire, 43 Ghurid Empire, 43 Giri, V. V., 255

Global climate change, 17, 169, 175 Global services trade, 146 Global Warming in an Unequal World, 175 Goa (state), 3(tab), 52 Goddess, 220 Godse, Nathuram, 64 Golden Age, 39 Golden growth path period, 144 Golden Quadrilateral highway, 302 Golden Temple assault, 82 Governance/government institutions, 68; challenging secularism, 239–245; decline under Rajiv Gandhi, 83; economic and job reform, 302; government sector jobs, 139–143; government system, 67; lack of social capital, 85–86; population control, 156–158; population growth, 155–156; poverty and pollution, 165–166; sociopolitical revolution, 295–298; women’s participation, 197–199 Government of India Act (1935), 60, 191, 192, 193, 254 Gowda, H. D. Deve, 84 Grand Trunk Road, 50 Greece, ancient, 36 Green India 2047 report, 305 Green Revolution, 129, 131, 140 Gross domestic product (GDP), 139, 146, 165–166 Gross national income (GNI) index, 123– 124, 148(n1) Gross national product (GNP), 166 Grotowski, Jerzy, 290 Group 1890, 272 Guha, Ramachandra, 163, 167 Gujarat (state), 3(tab), 76, 135, 136, 308 Gujral, Inder Kumar, 105 Gujral Doctrine, 105 Gulf War, 113 Gupta Empire, 38–40, 42, 270 Gurtu, Trilok, 284 Gurus, 219, 221, 223 ul-Haq, Mahbub, 166 Harappa, 31–32 Hardwar, 26, 28 Hari Singh, 63–64, 97–98 Harsha Vardhana, 42 Haryana (state), 3(tab)

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 329

Index

Hasan, Zoya, 197 Hastings, Warren, 56 Head tax, 43, 50, 225 Health issues: Bhopal tragedy, 172; economic growth and, 147; reproductive health, 157–158; urban pollution, 150(n17); women’s health, 190 Himachal Pradesh (state), 3(tab) Himalayas, 23, 25, 110 Hindi language, 8–9, 274, 276–278, 291(n8) Hindu Kush, 36, 42 Hindu-Muslim tensions: Arya Samaj’s contribution to, 233; Babri Masjid incident, 46, 241–242; diversity contributing to, 1–2; Hindu extremism leading to violence, 4–5; Indira Gandhi’s contribution to, 82; origins of, 224–225; Pakistan partition, 106; politicization of religion, 235–239; Rama symbolism, 221 Hindus/Hinduism, 215–221; Akbar’s alliance with, 47; associational life under British rule, 59; British legal code, 56; British partition, 62–63; caste, 249; Deccan dynasties, 41; Delhi Sultanate, 44; environmental education, 168; fostering diversity, 2– 4; Ganges River’s importance to, 26, 28; Gupta Empire, 39; Indira Gandhi’s appeals to, 82; Islamic syncretism, 227; Jainism, Buddhism, and, 221– 222; lower castes’ electoral success, 85; movements within Hinduism, 231–234; “the Mutiny,” 57–58, 190; proselytization, 244–245; religious persecution and conflict, 210–211; religious pluralism, 213–214; sati reforms, 186–187; secular state, 240– 244; sequestering women, 149(n15); social cleavages and political instability, 86–87; Tantric fine art, 273; television and cinema, 291(n11); Western criticism of, 230. See also Caste Hindutva, 4, 5 “Hinglish,” 8 Historical consciousness, 245–246 Historical context: anomalous nature of India’s democracy, 77–78; Buddhist

329 period, 36–38; Constitution of India, 68–69; Delhi Sultanate, 43–45; Gupta Empire, 38–40; Indus River valley, 31–33; Mughal dynasty, 45–51; southern dynasties, 40–42; Vedic era, 34–36 Holbrooke, Richard, 116 Homespun cloth (khadi) movement, 60 Horse sacrifice (ashvameda), 35 Hospitals, 231 Hsuan Tsang, 40 Human habitation, 31 Human Poverty Index (HPI), 165–166 Humayun, 46 Hume, A. O., 58 Hungary, 99 Husain, M. F., 272 Ibrahim Lodi, 45, 46 The Idea of India (Khilnani), 78 Identity and identity politics, 295; diversity and, 1–2; group identity and individuality, 236; Hindu extremism, 5; identity-based parties, 76, 87; Pakistan, 109; regional identity, 293– 294; seals depicting, 32; women’s, 184–185 Idolatry, 232 Illbert Bill (1884), 58 Illiberal democracy, 88–89 Immolation. See Sati Impurity. See Caste Income, per capita, 123–124, 148(n1) Independence: Bangladesh, 102–103; Kashmir’s bid for, 97–98; politicization of religion, 238–239; Quit India movement, 60–61; skepticism of democratic success, 6, 78; social dissent linked to religious dissent, 213; violence and instability, 95. See also Nationalism Independent Labour Party (ILP), 255–256 Indian Administrative Service (IAS), 70, 91(n6) Indian Civil Service (ICS), 56 Indian Foreign Service, 118 Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), 202, 206(n3), 304 Indian National Army, 61 Indian National Congress (later Congress Party), 58, 190

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

330

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 330

Index

Indira Doctrine, 104 Indo-Aryans, 34–36, 216 Indo-China War, 100–101 Indo-Pakistani War (1948), 275 Indus River Valley, 31–33, 36; political structures, 32 Indus-Ganges plain, 26 Industrial Disputes Act, 302 Industrial sector: caste system transformation under British rule, 252; distribution of labor force for India and six states, 135(tab); economic status, 136–138; environmental degradation, 159, 169; five-year plans, 143; production and growth, 137(tab); women in the workforce, 199 Inequality, socioeconomic, 68 Infant mortality, 155 Infanticide, 149(n15) Informal sector jobs, 142–143, 182, 183 Information technology (IT) services, 146, 303 Infrastructure, 302 Institutions, governmental, 69 Insurgencies, policy regarding, 7–8 Integrated pest management, 173 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 115 International Monetary Fund (IMF), 15, 144–145 International relations. See Foreign policy International security, 306–309 Iran: Vedic era, 34 Israel: nuclear technology, 114; Suez crisis, 99; US and Indian relations with, 116 Jahangir (formerly Salim), 48–49 Jains/Jainism, 213–214, 215, 221–222 Jajmani exchange system, 148(n7) Jama’at-i-Islami, 235 Jammu and Kashmir (state), 3(tab), 4–5, 91(n9). See also Kashmir Janata Dal coalition, 87–88 Japan: increasing economic importance, 293 Jatav, 265 Jati (caste designation), 126, 250 Jayewardene, J. R., 104 Jazz music, 284 Jews, 213, 225

Jharkhand (state), 3(tab), 136 Jhuggi (temporary shelters), 160–161, 167 Jinnah, Mohammed Ali, 4, 62, 63(fig) Jizya (head tax), 43, 50, 225 Jobs: agriculture boom, 77; caste hierarchy and, 250; categorization of, 135–136; Chinese labor, 111; Dalits and service-caste individuals, 126, 128; distribution of labor force for India and six states, 135(tab); economic reform, 302; government sector, 139–143; higher education and, 202; industry and manufacturing, 132– 133; National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 15–16, 77, 147; publicand private-sector employment in the organized sector, 142(tab); reservation system, 11–13, 253; Roman Empire trade, 149(n12); shortage of, 124; women in the workforce, 134–135, 183, 199–202, 205. See also Economy Johnson administration, 113 Judicial review, 71, 91(n8) Judicial system, 70–71, 79, 90, 91(n7), 296–299 Juergensmeyer, Mark, 240–241 Kabir, 211 Kakatiya Empire, 41 Kalelkar, Kakasaheb, 257 Kalinga, 37–38 Kama Sutra, 39 Kanishka, 38 Kargil crisis (1999), 107, 108–109, 114– 115 Karma, 35–36, 215, 221 Karmayoga, 241 Karnatak music, 282–285 Karnataka (state), 3(tab), 125–129, 216 Kashmir, 3(tab); Babri Masjid incident, 46, 241–242; British partition, 62–64; China’s relations with, 112; Chinese occupation, 110; India-Pakistan relations, 109, 119–120; Indira Gandhi’s contribution to violence, 82– 83; Kargil crisis, 107, 114–115; Mughal Empire, 48; Nehru’s foreign policy, 97–98; ongoing tension and violence, 16; partition experience and literature, 275; postindependence

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 331

331

Index

violence, 95; religious-secular conflict, 243; terrorist faction, 307; US-India relations, 116. See also Jammu and Kashmir Kathak dance, 285–286 Kathakali dance, 285–286, 286(fig) Kautilya, 36–37 Kayasth caste, 252 Kennedy administration, 113 Kerala (state), 3(tab), 216 Khadi movement, 60 Khalistan, 7 Khaljis, 44 Khalsa, 223 Khan, Aamir, 278 Khan, Abdul Kadir, 114–115 Khan, Mohammed Ahmed, 195–196 Khan, Rasheeduddin, 239 Khan, Salman, 168 Khan, Sayyid Ahmad, 235 Khilnani, Sunil, 78 Khurram, 48 Kingdoms, 224–225 Koi-noor diamond, 46 Krishna, 220 Krishnadevaraya, 41 Ksandagupta, 39 Kshatriya caste, 35, 249–250, 251 Kuchipudi dance, 285–286 Kumaragupta, 39 Kumbha Mela, festival of, 26, 28 Kushana Empire, 38 Labor market. See Jobs Lakshadweep (territory), 3(tab) Land use: British East India Company, 56; BSP-Samajwadi coalition, 261; farmer’s lack of land, 149(n8); inherited prerogative in rural economies, 128; land reforms, 56; public dissent controlling energy industry, 14; state authority over, 72; toxic chemicals and land degradation, 172–173. See also Agriculture Landlord revolts, 53, 299 Language: British control of, 56–57; Chola Empire, 41; cultural and ethnic diversity, 269, 291(n8); Dravidian and Indo-Aryan elements, 216; Hindi films, 276–278; Indus River valley script, 32; literature and, 273;

partitioned territory, 102; religious movements connected to, 219–220; statehood based on, 8; of states and territories, 3(tab); in theater, 287; women’s education, 183 Lashkar-e-Taiba, 16, 306 Legal system, 56; Hindu-Muslim divide, 5; Illbert Bill, 58. See also Judicial system Legislature, 71; directive principles of state policy, 69; gender parity, 193; reservation system, 12; state government, 91(n9). See also Lok Sabha (House of the People); Rajya Sabha (Council of States) Liberalization, economic, 143, 145, 168–169 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), 104–105 Life expectancy, 147 Limestone, 138 Lingam, 220 Linlithgow, Lord, 60 Literacy: economic reform and, 15; growth economics and, 124; literature and, 274; political participation and, 197–199; population control, 157–158; women, 182–183; youth bulge and, 303. See also Education Literature: British exploration of, 56; Gupta period, 39; history and diversity, 273–276; linguistic diversity, 2, 8–9, 269; Vedic era, 34, 217–218; women in the service sector, 200–201 Lived religion, 245 Livestock. See Pastoral practice Local self-government, 72 Localism, 85–86 Lodi sultanate, 45 Lok Sabha (House of the People), 67, 74, 81, 91(n3), 182 Love marriages, 204 Luce, Edward, 132–133 Macaulay, Thomas Babington, 56–57 Madhubani folk art, 271, 271(fig), 291(n3) Madhya Pradesh (state), 3(tab), 155 Madras province, 192 Mahabharata, 218, 290, 291(n11)

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

332

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 332

Index

Maharashtra (state), 3(tab), 91(n9), 136, 197–198, 304 Mahasabha, 236–237 Mahendravarman I, 40 Mahmud of Ghazni, 43 Maintenance payments, 195–196 Majumdar, R. C., 211 Malnutrition, 124, 304 Mandal, B. P., 87–88 Mandal Commission report, 87–88, 257, 259–260 Manipur (state), 3(tab), 285–286 Manufacturing industry, 139; distribution of labor force for India and six states, 135(tab); production and growth, 137(tab) Maoist insurgents, 7, 299–301 Maratha Empire, 53 Marginalized groups. See Caste; Dalits; Minorities and marginalized groups; Other Backward Classes (OBCs); Women Marriage: Akbar’s interfaith alliances, 47–48; child marriage, 190, 191; divorce and maintenance, 195–197; endogamy and caste, 126, 250–251, 252; family and tradition governing, 134, 204; fine art depiction, 271(fig); intermarriage with Portuguese traders, 52; population control, 157–158; women’s employment threatening tradition, 199; women’s role and identity, 185 Martyrdom, 242 Marxist ideology, 212, 230, 273, 275 Mata Amritanandamayi (“Amma”), 238 Maternal mortality, 190 Maududi, Maulana, 235 Maurya, Chandragupta, 36 Mauryan Empire, 36–38 Mayawati, Kumari, 261, 295 McKibben, Bill, 163 Medieval era, 31 Meghalaya (state), 3(tab) Mehta, Kalpana, 203–204 Mehta, Zubin, 284 Menander, 36 Menon, V. K. Krishna, 100 Metro, Delhi, 302 Microcars, 150(n19) Middle class, 15, 133–134

Migration: Indo-Aryans, 216–217; Indus River valley decline, 33; international security, 307; Pakistani and Indian independence, 62; plurality from, 26; Sikhs, 222; Vedic era, 34 Military: army reform under British rule, 58; Chandragupta’s Mauryan Empire, 37; China and Pakistan as potential threat, 112; Chola expansion, 40–41; defeat by China, 16; geography affecting activities, 23; India as military power, 96–97; Indo-Chinese border, 110; “the Mutiny,” 57–58, 190; Pakistan, 109; subservience to civil rule, 7 Military fiscalism, 54 Mill, James, 230 Minorities and marginalized groups: constitutional provision for, 69; literature as voice of, 275; political participation and, 10; rise of the lower castes, 295. See also Caste; Dalits; Other Backward Classes (OBCs); Women Mirabai, 220 Missionaries, 228, 231 Mitra, Sombhu, 289 Mizoram (state), 3(tab) Modern era, 31 Modernity, 229–230 Mohenjo-Daro, 32, 33 Mohiniattam dance, 285–286 Moksha (salvation or liberation), 215, 217, 221 Money bills, 70 Monotheism, 232 Monsanto Company, 130 Monsoon winds, 26, 28–29, 169 Montagu, Edwin, 191 Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms (1919), 59–60 Morals and values, 215 Morley-Minto Reforms (1909), 59 Mountbatten, Louis, 62 Mount Everest, 26 Movies. See Cinema Mughal dynasty, 45–51, 52, 53, 229 Muhammad Bin Qasim, 42 Muhammad Ghuri, 42, 43, 44 Muhammad (military leader), 44 Mukti Bahini, 102

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 333

Index

Multipartyism, 74 Mumbai attacks, 16, 304–305 Mumtaz Mahal, 49–50 Murad Bakhsh, 50 Musharraf, Pervez, 109 Music, 220, 277, 282–285, 291(n10); influence on Western music, 283, 284 Muslim League, 59, 60 Muslim Women’s (Protection of Rights in Divorce) Act (1986), 197 Muslims. See Hindu-Muslim tensions Muslims/Islam: associational life under British rule, 59; British legal code, 56; British partition, 62–63; caste and, 251; conquest and conversion, 224– 229; Deccan dynasties, 41; Delhi Sultanate, 44; DS-4, 259; increasing political power, 85; lack of uniform civil code, 87; movements within Islam, 234–235; “the Mutiny,” 57–58, 190; Pakistan resolution, 60; Pakistan’s Islamic militants, 108–109; political participation and, 10; proselytization, 244–245; religious persecution and conflict, 210–211; religious pluralism, 213–214; reservation system, 11–12; Sikhism and, 222–223; Southeast Asian arrival, 42–43; television and cinema, 291(n11); terrorist faction, 307–308; Western criticism of, 230; women’s civil rights, 195–197. See also HinduMuslim tensions “the Mutiny,” 57–58, 190 Mystics, 226–227 Nadir Shah of Persia, 51 Nagaland (state), 3(tab), 7–8 Nagappa, S., 254 Naidu, Sarojini, 191, 206(n1) Nanak, 222, 223 Nanda kings, 36 Nano automobile, 150(n19), 306 Narayanan, Kalanidhi, 286 National Conference, 98 National Democratic Alliance, 74, 296, 306 National Perspective Plan, 198 National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), 15–16, 77, 147

333 Nationalism: emergence under British rule, 58–59; Hindu secular state, 241; Hindu-Muslim conflict influencing India-Pakistan relations, 106; religious role, 211, 213, 214, 233–234; women’s role in, 188, 193 Natural resources, 169; carrying capacity, 163–164; human pressure on, 161– 163. See also Environmental issues; Water resources Natya-sastra, 285 Nawab, 54–55 Naxalite movement, 299–301 Nehru, Jawaharlal: capitalism and, 13; Cold War policy, 95; constitution signing, 70(fig); criticism of religion, 212–213; death and succession, 74; democratic trajectory, 6–8; economic policy, 139–140; ethnolinguistic statehood, 9; five-year plans, 143; foreign policy, 118; Hindu-Muslim divide, 4; historical consciousness, 245–246; Indo-China War, 100–101; international relations, 96–101; Kashmir policy, 97–98; lower castes’ rise to power, 256–257; nonaligned movement, 98–99; Pakistani and Indian independence, 62; on tribal peoples, 300–301; Wavell’s representation proposal, 61–64; women’s appointments, 193 Neo-Hinduism, 234 Nepal, 26, 103, 112 Nixon administration, 102–103, 113 Nizam of Hyderabad, 53, 63 de Nobili, Roberto, 52 Nonaligned movement, 98–99, 100 Noncooperation concept, 59–60 Nonindigenous religions. See Christianity/Christian population; Muslims/Islam Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), 114–115, 118–119 Nuclear capability: environmental degradation and, 170–171; IndiaChina relations, 111; India-Pakistan relations, 107, 108; Singh’s foreign policy, 118–119; US-India relations, 16–17, 114–116, 118 Nuclear Supplier Group, 111–112, 114–115

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

334

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 334

Index

Obama administration, 17, 116, 120 Odissi dance, 285–286, 287 Official Languages Act (1963), 8 Oil production, 138 Olympic Games, Beijing (2008), 111 Open market policies, 15 Origin myths, 249 Orissa (state), 3(tab), 76, 136, 138, 192 Other Backward Classes (OBCs), 84–85, 92(n17), 128–129, 256–258 Pakistan: China’s relations with, 112; conquest of Sind, 225; foreign relations, 106–109; Gandhi assassination, 64; geography of, 26; Gujral Doctrine, 105; Indo-Pakistani war over Bangladesh, 101–103, 113; Indus River valley, 32; Islamic expansion, 42–43; Kashmir conflict hampering foreign relations, 119–120; Kashmiri accession dispute, 97–98; nuclear program, 114; ongoing tension and violence, 16; partition, 1, 4–5, 62– 64, 106; partition literature, 274–275; terrorist faction, 307–308; US foreign policy, 95; US-India relations, 116; Vedic era, 34 Pakistan resolution, 60 Pallava state, 40 Panchayati raj, 73, 197–199 Pandit, Vijayalakshmi, 193 Pandyan state, 40 Panigrahi, Sanjukta, 287 Paniker, K. C. S., 272 Parliament, 69, 70, 198; Muslim presence, 308; political decay, 296– 298; reservation system, 12 Parliament of Religions (1893), 211 Particularism, 85–86 Partition, 1, 4–5, 62–64, 106; HinduMuslim conflict influencing IndiaPakistan relations, 106; politicization of religion, 235–236; territorial distribution, 102; women’s role, 193 Partition literature, 274–275 Partition of Bengal, 59 Partition plan, 4 Parwiz, 49 Passive resistance, 59–60 Pastoral practice, 33, 34, 125–126, 135(tab)

Patel, Sardar Vallabhai, 96–97 Pather Panchali (film), 278 Patil, Pratibha, 91(n1) Patiliputra (Patna), 36–37 Patkar, Medha, 175, 176 Peace negotiations, Indo-Pakistani, 109 Performing arts. See Fluid art Personality cult, Indira Gandhi’s, 79–81 Pesticide use, 130, 171–173 Physiographic regions, 25 Pictographic script, 32 Pilgrimages, 26, 28 Plague, pneumonic, 160 Pluralism, 5–6, 78–79. See also Diversity Poachers, 168 Poetical theater, 289–290 Poet-saints, 220 Policymaking power, 70, 139 Political fixers, 87 Political participation and representation: enfranchisement of women, 191–193; lack of social capital, 85–86; politicization of religion, 235–239; reservation system, 11–13; women’s priorities and status, 182, 184, 192, 194 Political theater, 289–290 Pollution. See Environmental issues Polo, 44 Pondicherry (territory), 3(tab), 91(n9) Poona Pact, 253–254 Popular rule, 10 Population statistics and population growth, 9, 269; carrying capacity, 163–164; census, 213; economic growth, 139; environmental degradation, 154–164; foodgrain and sugarcane production, 130(tab); government and population control, 156–158; growth of Muslim community, 225–226; growth rate reduction, 147; Indian governments and population growth, 155–156; Lok Sabha distribution, 69; as obstacle to economic growth, 302–303; per capita income, 123–124; rural areas, 125; urban expansion, 158–159 Populism, 82 Portugal, 51–52 Positive discrimination. See Reservation system

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 335

335

Index

Poverty, 19; abundance in, 124–125, 128, 148; Bhopal tragedy, 172; defining, 166; development and, 166–167; economic growth and, 146–147; education and, 203; environmental degradation, 154, 164–170; geographic concentration, 136; government and, 165–166; HinduMuslim divide, 5; judicial reform, 298–299; maladies related to, 304; reservation system, 11–13; statistics on, 15–16; women’s status, 182 Power sector, 138, 146 Prasad, Rajendra, 70(fig) Precious stones and metals, 33 Prehistory, 31–33 Presidential office, 91(n1). See also Executive power President’s Rule, 71, 308 Prevention of Atrocities Act (1989), 262 Priests. See Brahmans Primary-sector jobs, 136 Prime minister, 69, 91(n2). See also Executive power Princep, James, 38 Principalities, 97–98 Printmaking, 272 Prithviraj, 42 Private-sector jobs, 139–143, 142(tab) Privatization, 138 Progressive farmers, 169 Proportional representation, 253–255 Proselytization, 236, 244–245 Provincial governments, 72 Public health hazards, 160, 190 Public-sector jobs, 140–142, 142(tab) Public services, 70 Pulakeshin II, 40 Punjab (state), 3(tab); British company control, 57; demographic sex ratios, 149(n15); enfranchisement of women, 192; Hindu-Muslim conflict influencing India-Pakistan relations, 106; Indira Gandhi’s contribution to violence, 82–83; Islamic expansion into, 42; Muslim conquest, 224–225; partition literature, 275; secularreligious state controversy, 241–243; separatists, 7; women in the workforce, 135 Puranic religion, 219–220, 232–233

Purdah, 149(n15), 189 Purity. See Caste Pushyamitra, 38 Quit India movement, 60–61 Quotas. See Reservation system Qutb-ud-Din Aybeck, 44 Racism, 58 Radcliffe, Cyril, 62 Raga, 283 Rahman, A. R., 284 Railroads, 29, 57, 252 Rain. See Monsoon winds Rajas, 35 Rajasthan (state), 3(tab), 28(fig), 155 Rajindar Sachar Committee report, 5 Rajput community, 42, 47–48, 53 Rajya Sabha (Council of States), 12, 69–70, 91(n5), 182 Rakesh, Mohan, 289 Ram, Jagjivan, 255 Ram, Kanshi, 258–260, 261, 262 Rama (deity), 241 Ramabai, Pandita, 188–189, 220–221 Ramakrishna, 233 Ramayana, 4, 218 Ramcaritmanas, 220–221 Ramesh, Jairam, 169, 305 Rao, K. Chandrasekhara, 9 Rao, P. V. Narasimha, 88, 198, 264 Rape, 200–201 Rasa (feeling in art), 270 Rashtriya Janata Dal, 85 Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteers Organization; RSS), 4, 93(n21), 237–239, 241–242, 244–245 Ray, Satyajit, 278 Reagan, Ronald, 113 Reddi, Mithulakshmi, 190 Reddy, Krishna, 272 Reform: economic, 15; movements, 236 Refugees, 102, 110–111 Regional identity, 293–294 Reincarnation, 35–36, 215 Reliance Power, 14 Religion: Akbar’s religious tolerance, 47–48; caste-, tribal-, and religiousbased voting, 265(tab); caste systems, 11–12, 251–252; challenging secularism, 239–245; Congress

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

336

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 336

Index

Party’s pluralism for political stability and strength, 78–79; cross-border ethno-religious conflict, 104; defining, 209–210; as fine art, 271; function of, 211–213; Ganges River’s importance, 26, 28; Hindu movements, 231–234; historical consciousness, 245–246; historical development, 19, 31; indigenous and nonindigenous, 214– 223, 224–229; interaction and reinterpretation, 229–235; linguistic diversity, 269; partition, 102; performing arts, 281–282; pervasiveness of, 210–211; pluralism and multiplicity of, 213–214; politicization of, 235–239; religious and ethnic tension, 1–2; Sikhism, 222–223; Vedic era, 34–35; Western criticism of Indian religions, 230–231; women’s civil rights, 194–195, 205. See also Buddhism; Christianity/ Christian population; Hindu-Muslim tensions; Hindus/Hinduism; Jains/Jainism; Muslims/Islam; Sikhs/Sikhism; Zoroastrianism Religious reform movements, 212–213 Republican Party of India (RPI), 256 Research and development hubs, 303 Reservation system, 253–255; accommodation, 11–12; Backward Classes Commission, 257; electoral politics, 264; Mandal Commission countermobilization, 260; social cleavages resulting from, 87–88; for women, 197–199 Revivalist movement, 236 Rice production, 129–130 Rig Veda, 34, 217, 249 Right to Education bill, 304 Right to Information Act, 11 Ritual. See Religion River systems, 26, 29–30, 31–33 Road building, 302 Rock music, 284 Roe, Thomas, 48–49 Roman Empire, 149(n12) Rowlatt Bills, 59–60 Roy, Jamini, 272 Roy, M. N., 213 Roy, Rammohan, 57, 186, 232–233

Rural populations: BJP’s electoral decline, 76–77; caste system transformation, 266; Naxalite movement, 299–301; poverty statistics, 15; rural economy and agriculture, 125–131. See also Agriculture Rushdie, Salman, 2, 276 Russia, 112, 117, 169–170 Ryotwari (company fiscal system), 56 Sacred sites, 28 Saffron brigade, 5 Sakuntala, 290 Salim (later Jahangir), 48–49 Salt March (1930), 60 Samajwadi Party (Socialist Party), 85, 87, 260, 266(n2) Samsara (reincarnation), 35–36, 215, 221 Samudragupta, 39 Sanskrit language, 56, 219–220 Sarabhai, Mridula, 193 Sarasvati, Dayananda, 232–233 Sardar Sarovar dam, 176 Satellite television, 280 Sati (widows’ self-immolation), 2–3, 35, 57, 186–187, 232 Sattriya dance, 285–286 Satya Sai Baba, 237–238 Sayyid sultanate, 45 Scheduled Castes, 85, 92(n17) Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Minority Communities Employees Association, 258 Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (1989), 262, 266 Scheduled Castes Federation (SCF) or Dalit Federation, 256 Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, 92(n17); BSP’s rise to power, 258– 263; class-wise distribution of in central government, 254(tab); Independent Labour Party, 255–256; Poona Pact, 253–254 Schopenhauer, Arthur, 210 Sculpture, 272 Sea trade, 51–52 Seals, 32

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 337

Index

Secessionist movements, 2; Kashmir, 16; Sri Lanka, 104; tactics for dealing with, 7–8; Tibet, 100, 110 Secondary-sector jobs, 135–136 Secularism: challenging, 239–245; Hindu extremism, 4–5; politicization of religion, 235–239; religion and, 212; social cleavages, 85–86 Security: China’s South Asia development, 112; cross-border ethno-religious conflict, 104; national, 306–309; Naxalite threat, 299–301; US-India alliance countering China, 116–117 Seleucid dynasty, 36 Seleucus, 36 Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), 201–202, 205 Self-immolation. See Sati Self-rule (swaraj), 59–60 Semiclassical song, 284 Sen, Amartya, 6, 166, 274 Sepoys, 52–53 Service-sector jobs, 132, 135(tab), 139, 182, 199–202 Sex, 278, 285 Shah Bano case, 195–198 Shah Jahan, 49–50 Shah Shuja, 50 Shankar, Ravi, 283, 284; daughter Norah Jones, 284 Shankar, Uday, 287 Shastri, Lal Bahadur, 8, 9, 74, 101–105 Sher Shah, 46–47 Shia Islam, 227 Shimla Conference (1972), 109 Shining India slogan, 76–77, 306 Shitala Mata, 221 Shiva, Vandana, 174(fig), 175, 176 Shiva (deity), 220 Shivaji, 53 Shoshits, 258–259 Shourie, Arun, 231 Shraddhanand, 236 Shuddhi (purification) movement, 236 Shudra caste, 249–250, 252 Shunga dynasty, 38 Sikh war (1846 and 1848), 57 Sikhs/Sikhism, 222–223; caste, 249; extremists, 7; Hinduism and, 215; Indira Gandhi’s divisiveness in

337 Punjab, 82–83; religious pluralism, 213–214; secular-religious state controversy, 241–243; sequestering women, 149(n15); Western criticism of, 233 Sikkim, 3(tab), 71, 110 Sindhi population, 224–225, 275 Singh, Giani Zail, 82 Singh, Jaswant, 114–115 Singh, Manmohan: agricultural woes, 131; China-India relations, 111; economic boom and electoral success, 77; female literacy, 202–203; IndiaPakistan relations, 109; India-US nuclear agreement, 118; integrity of, 297; national security, 301; second term, 74; skilled and semiskilled labor, 133; US relations with, 116; women’s political participation, 198 Singh, V. P., 87–88, 93(n23), 113 Siraj-ud-Daula, 55 Sircar, Badal, 289, 289(fig) Sitar, 283 Skin color, 35–36 Slavery: Delhi Sultanate, 44 Smallpox, 221 Smith, Donald, 240 Social capital, 85–86, 93(n19) Social cleavages, 85–86 Social customs: women, 181, 186–187 Social divisions: Vedic era, 35 Social institutions, religious and social change through, 229–230 Social issues in dance, 286–287 Social reform movements, 186–187, 188–191, 212–213, 222 Social stratification. See Caste Social systems: Indus River valley, 32. See also Caste Social welfare, 194 Socialism, 13–15, 260 Socioeconomic status, caste and, 249–251 Sociopolitical revolutions, 294–301 South Asia, 24(fig), 37(fig) South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, 103 Southborough Committee, 191–192 Southeast Asia, 41, 42–43 Southern dynasties, 40–42 Souza, F. N., 272 Soviet Union, 95, 105–106

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

338

Page 338

Index

Spice trade, 52 Spirituality, women and, 188 Sri Lanka, 41, 103–105, 307 Sriramulu, Potti, 9 Stability, governmental, 14, 78, 85–86 Standard of living, 123, 146, 165 State government, 71–72, 76, 93(n22), 138, 257 State-based society, 35 Statecraft, 37 Statehood, 8 States, 3(tab) States Reorganization Act (1956), 8 State-society relations, 77–84 Sterilization policy, 156, 303 Strikes, labor, 10 Subramanyan, K. G., 272 Succession: Doctrine of Lapse, 57 Sudra caste, 35, 36–37 Suez Canal, 99 Suffrage, 6, 11, 84–85, 184, 191–193 Sufis, 44, 226–227 Sugarcane production, 129, 130(tab) Suicide, farmers, 131, 173 Sundari, Jaishankar, 288 Sunni Islam, 227 Superpower, India as, 19, 96, 308–309 Supreme Court, 69, 70–71, 88, 91(nn7,8), 159, 195–196 Sustainable development, 164–165 Swaminathan, J., 272 Swaminathan, M. S., 131 Swaraj (self-rule), 59–60 Syncretism, 227 Syrian churches, 228 Tablighi Jama’at, 235 Tagore, Rabindranath, 285, 288, 289, 291(n4) Taj Mahal, 49–50 Taliban, 107 Tamil literature, 274 Tamil Nadu (state), 3(tab), 85, 91(n9), 104–105, 135, 136, 216 Tamil rebels, 104 Tantra, 273 Tanvir, Habib, 288(fig) Tata Motors, 150(n19), 306 Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, 111 Taxation and revenue: British zamindari system, 56; farmers’ exemptions from

taxes, 128; governmental responsibility for, 70; head tax, 43, 50, 225; nonMuslim protection, 225; Salt March, 60 Technology: Babur’s use of gun technology, 46; Chola Empire, 41; Dalhousie’s industrialization, 57; decline of classical music, 283; environmental degradation, 154, 170– 175; genetic engineering, 173; global services sector, 146; Green Revolution, 129; Indus River valley civilization, 32; metallurgy of Gupta period, 39; technical sophistication of India’s populace, 124; urban pollution, 150(n17); Vedic era, 34. See also Nuclear capability Telangana state, 9–10, 71 Telecommunications industry, 124, 134, 145(fig), 146, 199–201 Television, 279–281, 282, 283, 291(n11) Temples, Hindu, 224 Tendulkar, Vijay, 289 Term limits, 69 Territorial disputes: China-India relations, 110–111, 307; constitutional provision for state establishment, 71; extent of Mauryan Empire, 36; Kashmir, 98; partition, 62; religious nature of, 243; threatening regional security, 96 Territories, 3(tab), 71–72 Terrorism, 16; India-Pakistan relations, 107–108; Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), 105; national and international security, 306–309; Rowlatt Bills, 60; US-India cooperation over, 114–115, 116 Textile Labour Association (TLA), 201 Textiles, 23, 33, 54, 130, 133, 137, 199, 201 Thapar, Romila, 213, 216 Theater, 220–221, 276, 279, 287–291 Third Theatre, 289 Thomas churches, 228 Thugi (crimes against travelers), 57 Thums Up Cola, 136–137 Tibet, 100, 110–111 Tilak, Bal Gangadhar, 218 Timur, 44–45 Tolerance, Nehru’s role in fostering, 7–8 Topography. See Geography

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 339

Index

Trade, 26; company ascendancy, 53–58; distribution of labor force for India and six states, 135(tab); Dutch traders, 52; foreign trade expansion, 146; Gupta period, 39; history of, 149(n12); Indian-Chinese, 111; Indo-Russian, 117; Indus River valley, 33; Islamic expansion into Southeast Asia, 42–43; Portuguese traders, 51–52 Trade and Transit Treaty, 103 Traditional-modern divide for women, 199 Transportation industry, 124, 135(tab). See also Railroads Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation, 99, 102 Tribal divisions and loyalties: animistic religions, 213–214; caste-, tribal-, and religious-based voting, 265, 265(tab); diversity of, 2; linguistic diversity, 269; Nehru’s comments on tribal peoples, 300–301; statehood based on, 8 Tripura (state), 3(tab) Truth-force (satyagraha), 59–60 Tughluq dynasty, 44–45 Turkic groups, 224–225 Twain, Mark, 209 Twice-born caste. See Brahmans Two Nation Theory, 4, 106 Unified civil code, 5, 87, 195, 196–197, 205 Union Carbide, 171–172 Union labor, 133, 143, 201 United Kingdom, 99. See also Britain United Nations: Kashmiri independence, 98; UN Decade of Women, 198; UN Development Programme (UNDP), 165–166; UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 199; UN Security Council membership, 17, 101, 102, 119 United Nations Human Development Index, 165–166, 181 United Nations Human Development Report, 165–166 United Progressive Alliance (UPA), 74, 75(tab), 296 United States: China-US relations, 120; civil disobedience, 10; economic activity, 293; equal rights amendment,

339 183–184; foreign aid, 140; global economic strength, 14; India-China relations, 111–112; India-Pakistan relations, 106–108; India’s foreign policy, 113–117; India’s nuclear technology, 118–119; India-US relations, 16–17; industrial sector, 136–137; international security, 306; military relations, 112; nonaligned movement, 99; nuclear technology, 170, 171; per capita income, 148(n1); post–Cold War relations, 106; resource consumption, 163, 177; standard of living, 124; 2000 election, 6 United States India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), 116 Unorganized employment, 143 Untouchables. See Dalits; Scheduled Castes Upanishads, 217 Urban population: artistic expression, 270; environmental degradation, 150(n17), 155, 160–161; increasing migration, 304; Indus River valley, 32; population demographics, 158–159; poverty statistics, 15, 167; pressure on natural resources, 161–163; women, 182–183, 199–201 Urdu language, 102, 277 US-India Agreement for Civil Nuclear Cooperation, 111–112, 115, 118 Uttar Pradesh (state), 3(tab); bicameral legislature, 91(n9); birth, death, and infant mortality rates, 155; BSP gains, 260, 261–262; caste-based voting, 87; Delhi Sultanates, 45; democratic resilience and ineffective governance, 68; ethnolinguistic states, 9; federalism, 71; lower castes’ rise to political power, 295; public dissent over energy industry, 14; state-level government, 76; women in the workforce, 135 Uttarakhand (state), 3(tab) Vagrancy, 196 Vaishya caste, 35, 251 Vajpayee, Atal Bihari, 109, 111, 171 Values and morals, 219; caste-based, 251; cinema, 291(n10); dance, 285; Hindi film, 277–278

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

340

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 340

Index

Varanasi, 28 Varna system, 219, 250 Vedic era, 34–36, 221–222, 232 Vedic literature, 33 Vegetarianism, 38, 251 Viashya caste, 249–250 Vietnam War, 113 Vijayanagar, kingdom of, 41 Village councils, 12, 72 Village economies, 125–131 Violence: Ambedkar statue disputes, 266(n2); Babri Masjid incident, 241– 242; in Hindi films, 278; Naxalite movement, 299–301; political fragmentation, 68; urban migration, 304; women in the service sector, 200– 201 Vishnu (deity), 220 Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), 4, 93(n21) Vivekananda, 211, 233–234 Voter turnout, 67, 89, 111 Wangala, Karnataka, 125–129, 147–148, 148(nn4,5) War, 37 Water resources, 128, 161–163, 305 Wavell, Archibald, 61 Weapons technology, 46, 112, 113. See also Nuclear capability Weather, 17, 149(n10) West Bengal (state), 3(tab), 76 West Pakistan, 102 Westernization/modernization: art, 269–270, 272–273; music, 283; television, 281; Western criticism of Indian religions, 230–231. See also Colonialism; European influence Wheat production, 129, 140, 148(n2) Widows, self-immolation of. See Sati

Wildlife, 168 Women: civil rights, 194–199; colonial India, 185–187; dance, 285, 287; Delhi Sultanate, 44; education of, 202–203; educational reform, 188–190; enfranchisement, 191–193; environmental activism, 175–176; family and, 185; feminine deities, 220; fine art, 273; gender selection, 149(n15); in Hindi films, 278; historical context of women’s position in society, 18; increasing political role, 193–194; Mayawati’s political gains, 261; nationalist role, 188; Naxalite movement, 300; panchayats and reservation, 12–13, 197–199; poetsaints, 220; political and social priorities, 184–185; politicization of religion, 238; population control, 157–158; president, 91(n1); Rig Veda on, 35; sati, 2–3, 35, 57, 186–187, 232; Shah Bano case, 195–197; tradition-modernity tension, 181– 184; in the workforce, 134–135, 199–202 Women’s Reservation Bill, 12 World Bank, 140, 144–145, 147, 166, 171, 176 World Commission on Environment and Development, 164–165 World Conference on Women, 198 World War II, 60 Yadav, Mulayam Singh, 260–261, 262 Yadav caste, 260, 266(n2) Youth bulge, 303–304 Zamindari system, 53, 56 Zoroastrianism: religious pluralism, 213–214

13DeVotta_BM.qxd:Layout 1

6/16/10

2:43 PM

Page 341

About the Book

E

xplaining the paradoxical nature of the world’s largest and most diverse democracy, this new edition of Understanding Contemporary India has been thoroughly revised to reflect nearly a decade of change. The book includes entirely new chapters on history, international relations, caste, and the role of women, as well as extensively updated material on politics, the economy, environmental issues, religion, and the arts. The result is an indispensable introduction, both descriptive and analytical, to the complexities of contemporary India.

Neil DeVotta is associate professor of political science at Wake Forest University. He is the author of Blowback: Linguistic Nationalism, Institutional Decay, and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka.

341