South Asia: Table of Contents
Organizer: Ashutosh Varshney, Harvard University
Chair: Francine R. Frankel, University of Pennsylvania
Discussants: Paul Brass, University of Washington, Seattle; Ashutosh Varshney, Harvard University
Of late, three historically disadvantaged groupsthe Scheduled Castes (SCs), the Other Backward Castes (OBCs), and the Scheduled Tribes (STs)have been mobilized by political parties in much of North India. By and large, these groups had previously voted for parties that believed in "vertical mobilization" and put together coalitions of upper and lower castes. The Congress party, of course, was the classic example of such a party, but it was not the only one. Since the 1980s, these groups have increasingly been mobilized by parties, which appear to have substantially undermined the vertical model. These parties concentrate, instead, on mobilizing the lower castes against the upper castes (or the tribals against their patrons), attacking the vertical hierarchy of Hindu social order and demanding a greater share of political power. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and the Janata or Janata-like parties are the best examples of this newer, "horizontal mobilization." Such mobilization first emerged in South India in this century. By now, it has clearly spread to the North and may also soon have repercussions in the West. The key questions addressed by this panel are: What accounts for the rising political mobilization of these groups? How are these groups being accommodated in the power structure? How is the North Indian mobilization different from its Southern counterpart earlier in the century? And what implications does the new mobilization have for Indian democracy?
Stuart Corbridge, Cambridge University
Have tribal identities become weaker as a result of participation in state institutions? Based on interviews with 236 individuals (STs) who have gained access to reserved jobs, this paper takes issue with Ronald Indens critique of "transcendental/Nehruvian" development in India (his anti-development, anti-state perspective), as also with Crispin Bates work on the plasticity of tribal identities in India.
Kanchan Chandra, Harvard University
After nearly fifty years of affirmative action policies, the Scheduled Castes are emerging as an increasingly educated, increasingly assertive set of groups in search of political power. This paper draws upon fieldwork in three Indian states: U.P., Punjab, and Karnataka. The party has been successful in the north, especially in Uttar Pradesh, where it now heads a coalition government, but not in the south, where it has not been able to establish a foothold despite two decades of effort. The BSP draws primarily upon a psychological appeal, constructing itself as a party of all those humiliated by the caste-ridden Hindu society, and describing political power not merely as a way of redressing material grievances but as the means through which to acquire self-respect and recognition. This psychological appeal, however, has not worked uniformly. Why?
Christophe Jaffrelot, Center dEtudes et de Recherches Internationales, Paris
The rise of the OBCs is the most significant development which took place in North Indian politics over the last ten years, along with the growth of Hindu nationalism. The OBCs seem largely, though not wholly, emancipated from the clientelistic networks promoted by the Congress party. Most OBCs now vote for lower caste parties, and simply cannot be ignored by any political party. Why has this happened? Is this development necessarily democratic, given that an OBC elite benefits more from affirmative action than the masses?