Civil Society and Social Movements

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Political Science
Professor Kanta Murali

Week 15 – Civil Society and Social Movements in India January 21, 2013 Agenda -Contentious politics from below -General Concepts -Links to democratic politics -Types of social movements in India General Concepts -contentious politics -“occurs when ordinary people, often in league with more influential citizens, join forces in confrontations with elites, authorities and opponents” (Tarrow 1998: 3) -includes social movements, protests and revolutions -link is contentious collective action -collective action can be brief or sustained, institutionalized or less structured, violent or non- violent -contentious when used by people with lack of access to institutions, who act in regard to new or unaccepted claims and behave in ways that challenge authorities or others -social movements as a sub-category -what are social movements? -“collective challenges, based on common purposes and social solidarities, in sustained interactions with elites, opponents, and authorities” (Tarrow 1998 : 4) Features of Social Movements -collective challenge -common purpose -social solidarity -key role played by activists and other political entrepreneurs in this area -usage of symbols and of collective participatory activities (Such as music) -sustained interaction -most imp aspect -what distinguishes social movements from other forms of collective action such as street riots or protests -social movements from both the political left and the political right Cross-national trends: social movements and democratic politics -pre WW2 - sporadic, if recurring feature, to perpetual element of democratic politics -post WW2 (esp after the 1950s and 60s) - greater frequency, employed by more diverse groups and represent a wider range of claims -a central aspect of democratic politics anywhere in the world -professionalization and institutionalization -transnational networks in some cases -esp in the case of human rights or environmental movements Types of social movements in India -identity based movements -eg. lower case, linguistic, religious and ethnic movements -tended to be v. common in early stages of India’s independence (linguistic claims) -identity politics has dominated electoral politics 1 Week 15 – Civil Society and Social Movements in India January 21, 2013 -issue-based movements -eg. environmental movements, women’s movements, middle class movements against corruption -often cut across identity -not mutually exclusive -particularly the case in India b/c caste was historically based on an occupational structure -farmer’s movements linked to caste/class -environmental movements linked to tribal politics Movements and democratic politics in India -these two types of social movements have tended to operate in separate political realms over time -prevalence of identity-based movements in early post-independence period -electoral politics vs. bureaucratic and judicial realms -identity-movements tend to dominate electoral politics -caste is still the primary basis for mobilization in India -many identity-based movements have become political parties over time -issue-based movements and regional limitations -very few national-level issue based movements -don’t necessarily imply class politics (although they are often linked to the political left) -transnational networks in some cases -particularly in the case of environmental movements (even though they’re geographically limited within India, they’ve managed to forge transnational links) -issue based movements focus activities on the courts or the bureaucracy -don’t target the electoral sphere -public-interest litigation – allows external actors to represent particular aggrieved groups (eg. an activist could represent tribals and take their issues to court) -growing institutionalization and professionalization -expansion of civil discourse -even though movements might not achieve substantive gains – they still expand the space for civic discourse in India (Eg. the Narmada Andolan Bachao movement) Issue-based movements -environmental movements -based on forest resources and water -farmer’s movements -50s-80s – farmer’s movements very active and often had considerable power in certain states -however over time became much smaller and more sporadic -the result of changes to the Indian economy (shift to a neoliberal framework) -anti-corruption movements -very popular a year ago but has since fizzled out -MKSS in Rajasthan – led to the Right to Information act -women’s movements Environmental Movements -competing claims over natural resources -water and forest-based claims -links to tribal politics 2 Week 15 – Civil Society and Social Movements in India January 21, 2013 -traced back to opposition to colonial forestry -Chipko movement (1973) -first major environmental movement in India -started by a small group of rural women at the foothills of the Himalayas -tribal groups had a communal management of forest resources -Indian state started to introduced commercial logging -so the women started the movement against commercial logging -“Hug the trees” -any time commercial loggers came into their village, they would encircle the trees and prevent commercial logging -raised awareness – the tribal ppl viewed commercial logging as a violation of their customary rights -triggered a decade of protests -grassroots, bottom-up movement -used Gandhian methods (nonviolence) -ultimately led to a revaluation of the forest policies -very symbolic for the environmental movement in India (the powerful symbol of illiterate village women being able to trigger such a mass wave of protests and awareness for their cause) -Forest conflicts tend to be related to tribal politics -key part of the tribal-based movement that led to the creation of Jharkhand state (2000) -focus on two issues of forest management -customary rights and communal management of resources -subsistence orientation vs. commercial interests of the state Environmental movements: dams (more prevalent in India than forest-based claims) -A second set of environmental conflicts over water -building of large-scale dams -by the 1970s and the 1980s – protests start against the dams (eg. Narmada Bachao Andolan) -environmental consequences but main focus on social and human rights implications -large-scale displacement (and weak rehabilitation policies – end up in urban slums) -destruction of livelihoods -deprivation of displaced populations -shift in international consensus on large-scale dams – recognition of all negative implications -World Bank no longer funds large-scale dam projects Environmental movements: Narmada Bachao Andolan -Narmada a major river in Northern and Western India (Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh) -the most contentious issue of the dam project – the Sardar Sarovar in Gujarat -Gujarat is the driest state – dam the narmada for drinking water, agriculture and electricity -led to the displacement of several hundred thousand people -rehabilitation policies v. weak – less than 20% of families that got rehabilitated (And those who did get rehabilitated ended up having a much lower standard of living) -formation of the Narmada Bachao Andolan movement over the dam construction (1985 – became a much more sustained social movement) -over the last 25 years, protesting a whole series of proposed dams along the Narmada (not just Sardar Sarovar)
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