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Dipankar Gupta

Gandhi before Habermas: The Democratic Consequences of Ahimsa

Without Gandhi India may well have become independent, perhaps even earlier, but would we have been a liberal, democratic nation state? This question should give us pause before we make little of Gandhi's legacy. Uncertain and imperfect though our democracy may be, it is still the world's largest, and it functions for the most part. All of us who value this form of governance ought to remember that we owe it to Gandhi, more than to anyone else, for giving us a start in the right direction. If Gandhi is to be measured in terms of charkhas, frugality and prayer meetings then certainly he is of little consequence today. But a sociological appreciation of Gandhi would take us beyond these emblematic acts to the unintended consequences of what he did and stood for. It is only then we realise the gravitas of Gandhi's living legacy.

When the Caste Calculus Fails: Analysing BSP's Victory in UP

The triumph of the Bahujan Samaj Party in the 2007 UP assembly elections has incorrectly been explained in terms of caste. The BSP did use caste but only as a metaphor to build innovative grassroot alliances, which demonstrated that the concerns of other communities mattered as much as those of the dalits. A disaggregated analysis, by assembly seats and by region, shows no simple correlations between caste and outcome. The electorates are too large and the social interests too diverse for any simplistic caste calculations to hold. Caste is an important factor, but only one of many; to explain everything in terms of caste robs voters of their secular credentials.

Whither the Indian Village

The village in India, where life was once portrayed as 'unchanging' and 'idyllic', has in recent decades seen profound changes. The twin shackles that once decided matters for India's villagers, caste and agriculture, no longer exercise their vigorous hold. While a break in caste rigidities has fostered greater fluidity in occupational choices, agricultural stagnation has ensured the constant march, in increasing numbers, of employable people in the villages towards urban areas. At the same time, vote bank politics means that parties and politicians continue to pay lip-service to the cause of villages, chiefly the poor farmer. It is in the light of these changes that the 'culture' surrounding agriculture and the village needs to be understood. While this culture is not altogether a stable one, its state of pronounced flux does hold out certain portents, whether these are understood by policy-makers and the vast majority of Indians, remains open to question.

Limits of Tolerance

A modern democracy cannot tolerate matters of faith trumping over matters of citizenship rights. There can be no question of tolerance when citizens are denied their status as equal citizens. With an intolerant secularism that insists on the inalienable rights of citizens and on the due process of the law, it is easier to mount public pressure against minority hunters and sectarian killers. Here we cannot make exemptions, or look for mitigating circumstances, on grounds of being a minority or impoverished and unemployed.

Identity Formation

Identity Formation Forming an Identity: A Social History of the Jats by Nonica Datta; Oxford University Press, New Delhi, pp viii+228, index and bibliography,