ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dialogical Dreams

Debating India: Essays on Indian Political Discourse by Bhikhu Parekh; New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015; pp 374, ₹895.

Paltry Vanities of Intolerance

The terms "tolerance" and "intolerance" that dominate our public discourse today are bandied about as if they were self-explanatory. Matters have come to such a pass that intellectuals are accused of subjecting the Prime Minister to a barrage of intolerance since 2002. At this precise moment of our political history it might be worthwhile to revisit the debate on toleration in political theory, and raise once again a core question: why is toleration a political virtue; indeed, why is it an essential asset of a good society?

Repairing Complex Historical Injustice

Political theorists no doubt have to take the history of injustice, for example, untouchability, seriously. But, the beginning point of repair of historical injustice is the "here" and the "now," the democratic context that shapes collective lives and aspirations. Comprehension of how deep the roots of injustice are, is important. But, it is also important not to get trapped too much in the past and in the politics of recrimination and resentment that divides society irremediably, and prevents the consolidation of a consensus on the need to battle discrimination.

Jawaharlal Nehru's Radical Cosmopolitanism

Nehruviannon-alignment is finished, South-South solidarity remains a dream, and anti-imperialism appears today as a quaint remnant of a past, even though imperialism is alive and kicking. In the process we have lost out on something that is rather important, teaching our children that our imaginations and our energies have to be harnessed to the cause of the oppressed all over the world, that closed-in societies lead to stagnation if not to certain death, and that societies that turn their back on Nehru's radical cosmopolitanism circumscribe imaginings and truncate visions of their members. We have, perhaps, become lesser human beings.

Manifesto of a Moderate Indian

Drawing on the Mahabharata, a common source of our cultural heritage, this article points out that the epic enunciates what raj dharma, or a ruler's duties, should be. There is nothing esoteric or mystic about them; they are things that we all know. The rules of dharma serve as rules of the limits of power. The rules of dharma are also the rights of the ruled, the right to expect that the State will treat them without fear or favour. Transgressing them leads to tragedy. One hopes our new government is aware of this truism.

Can Civil Society Reorder Priorities in India?

The Indian state has responded to demands made by civil society campaigns that are sometimes supported and sometimes initiated by the Supreme Court. But we are definitely not in the midst of a social revolution. This, in large measure, is due to the nature of civil society interventions.

Modi's Gujarat and Its Little Illusions

On the assumption that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is going to be re-elected in this month's assembly election, he is being touted by many in the Bharatiya Janata Party as the party's prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Gujarat is assumed to have benefi ted from Modi's administrative acumen and its economic performance is much praised. However, on a number of social and human development indicators, the performance of Gujarat is abysmal, especially where tribals, children, women and minorities are concerned. Civil society in the state also seems to be struck by a kind of paralysis in the face of state violence against the minorities. What then does such "growth" mean?

Whatever Has Happened to Civil Society?

Compared to the grand revolutionary imaginaries of an earlier era, the demands of civil society campaigns in India today are practically tame, limited as they are by the boundaries of what is politically permissible and feasible. They do not demand ruptures in the system, all that they urge is that social issues be regarded as of some import and something be done about them. Perhaps campaigns for the effi cient delivery of social goods belong to a post-ideological era: an era where the State is no longer seen as the object of political contestation, but as a provider of social goods. And the citizen is seen as the consumer of agendas formed elsewhere, not as the maker of his or her own history.

Why People Should Not Be Poor

Though much intellectual energy has been expended on the "poverty problem" in India, the debate simply does not take into account the highly unequal social context in which poverty is produced and reproduced. Can we reflect on the right not to be poor without taking on these background inequalities? Arguably, the right not to be poor is best articulated as a subset of the generic right to equality. The concept of equality is, however, not self-explanatory. In many circles, redistributive justice has replaced equality. It is therefore time to ask the question - equality for what? Is equality only about the provision of minimal resources, or is it about enabling a sense of self-worth so that people can participate in the multiple transactions of society with a degree of confidence? Unless we are careful about the way we approach the poverty debate, we will land up not with equality, but with "sufficientarianism".

Recontextualising Liberalism

Debating Difference: Group Rights and Liberal Democracy in India by Rochana Bajpai (Ne

Our Latest Democratic Predicament

It is time holders of state power understand that mobilisation in civil society against, or for policies, is an integral part of democratic politics, particularly when representatives have betrayed us time and again. The State enacts, implements, and adjudicates policies in our name, and governs in our name. We therefore have the right to ask why we should accept unjust and arbitrary policies, and above all corruption. But this does not mean that we uncritically accept civil society initiatives as wholly good and entirely democratic; these initiatives should also be subjected to public scrutiny and engaged with.

When Is Secession Justified? The Context of Kashmir

Given the turmoil in Kashmir today, a number of right-thinking people have come to defend the right of the people of Kashmir to a state of their own; or more simply that the Kashmiri people possess the right of secession via the right of self-determination. But if self-determination has proved to be the veritable will-o'-the-wisp in recent history - since it begs the question of which entity possesses this right, and by virtue of what do the people of a region possess this right - secession is one of the most difficult of concepts that political theorists have had to take on board after the "ethnic explosion" that shook the world at the turn of the 1990s. Do people have the right to establish their own state quite in the same manner as they have the right to elect their own government? How do we justify secession? What are the moral considerations that we need to weigh the right of secession against? This essay seeks to negotiate these very questions in the context of Kashmir.


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