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

Articles by Neera ChandhokeSubscribe to Neera Chandhoke

Civil Society in Conflict Cities

A vibrant civil society is one of the essential preconditions of democracy, but it can fulfil its mandate only when the preconditions for its existence have been met. This demands shared engagement in political struggle and social interaction in shared neighbourhoods. This paper seeks explanations for the failure of civil society in Ahmedabad, which has experienced many riots in the past, to raise a collective voice of protest against deliberate acts of violence by the State, and also in battling undemocratic groups within its own sphere. A historical exploration of the segmentation of residential spaces in the city and its subsequent intensification has led to a weakening of the scope of civil society engagement. However, the translation of prejudice, discrimination and communal sentiments into brutal acts of violence demanded a trigger - provided by the Sangh parivar, which came to command state politics since the mid-1990s, and has rendered the civil society helpless.

Putting Civil Society in Its Place

The civil society argument about representing people and their needs has now been around for about 25 years. The problems of the world remain as intractable, even as the numbers of agents who seek to negotiate the ills of the human condition have expanded exponentially. In popular imagination, it is still the State that seems to occupy a central position. And it is clear that there are certain problems that only the State can resolve, and should be resolving. Is it time that we begin to reconsider the role of civil society? Is it time to once again put civil society in its place?

Quest for Justice: The Gandhian Perspective

Dialogue appears particularly appropriate for plural societies, which are marked by a variety of perspectives, beliefs, commitments and values. But plural societies tend to be stamped by deep disagreements on the basic norms that should govern the polity. For this reason alone, these societies can prove deeply divided and fractious. How do defenders of dialogue establish the preconditions for dialogue among participants? How do agents who wish to put forth a particular point of view establish their credibility: that their reflection and their proposed courses of action are in the public interest, and not in the pursuit of some selfish private gain? How can communication among agents be enabled at all insofar as these agents can be persuaded to modify or moderate their original position in and through the process of dialogue? Perhaps the Gandhian philosophy of satyagraha provides us with some answers to these vexing questions.

The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future

A Disappointing Exploration Neera Chandhoke Nussbaum employs her study of India to modify the much celebrated Huntingtonian thesis of a

The Displaced of Ahmedabad

Elections draw near in Gujarat but the survivors of the 2002 pogrom continue to live a miserable life, belying the claims of a "Vibrant Gujarat" by chief minister Narendra Modi who has embarked upon a re-election campaign emphasising the future over the shameful past. The plight of the riot victims raises questions about the state of democracy in Gujarat.

Centrality of the Political Once Again

India after Gandhi:The History of the World's Largest Democracy by Ramachandra Guha

Global Civil Society and Global Justice

Global civil society organisations in their quest to ensure global justice for the deprived, the marginalised, and, especially, the victims of globalisation, have succeeded in drawing the world's attention to an impressive extent. However, the imperatives of global justice must configure the presence of the other essential factor that can ensure a just world: democracy. In their endeavour to seek justice and to "speak for" the victims, civil society organisations must also extend to their subjects, the voice to express and shape their own agenda.

Three Myths about Reservations

Reasoned argument has taken a backseat in the current imbroglio over reservations for the other backward classes. The acrimonious debate has failed to distinguish between egalitarianism and humanitarianism; it has also confused protective discrimination with affirmative action and has erroneously held that reservations bring about a respect for diversity. Protective discrimination policy is being defended for the wrong reasons.

Electoral Politics in Post-Conflict Societies: Case of Punjab

The Akali Dal and the Congress followed different agendas to recapture legitimacy in Punjab after the violence of the 1980s. The aftermath of militancy and the generalised discontent with the Akali Dal and the Congress provided both the parties with an opportunity to reinvent their agendas. But both continued with their usual politics, putting critical economic issues on the back burner. Return to peace, elimination of corruption and need for a religious Punjab governed by religious parties were their usual themes. In all, the impending agrarian crisis was put aside, secondary to assuming office. This only says that the nature of politics in a post-conflict society like Punjab remains indeterminate, confined to the making and unmaking of governments.

'Seeing' the State in India

Since the early 1990s, civil society organisations have been involved with governments in an effort to 'mobilise and organise the poor with a view to empowering them', converting them from 'passive recipients of doles to active participants in planned development'. But what does this partnering of the state by civil society in crucial areas of collective life imply for the autonomy of the latter? And does the involvement of civil society mean that the state, instead of strengthening its own institutions for the delivery of basic services, has actually liberated itself from obligation to its citizens? A contrary view, however, emerges from a survey undertaken in a few residential areas of Delhi. Responses across the board indicated that citizens had high expectations from the state in spite of the fact that the state has begun to delegate more and more of its responsibilities to civil society organisations. As this article argues, such political preferences are the outcome of historical processes and how the development state came into being in post-independent India.

Governance and the Pluralisation of the State

The state has been pluralised and now shares power with sub-national governments, proliferating forms of network and partnership organisations, a variety of quasi-public and private organisations, NGOs and international agencies and other forms of supranational governance. What remains of the significance or meaning of the liberal democratic notion of the state as the undisputed centre of political aspirations and its task of pursuing the collective interest when it has been itself enmeshed in a number of organisations? How do we democratise bodies that are out of the reach of representation? How do we ensure that democratic procedures take into account background inequalities? Governance in other words has thrown up major challenges for the liberal democratic project and we need to think this through. Or should we raise new questions for the project of governance itself?

A Nation Searching for a Narrative in Times of Globalisation

As India's position in the world has receded, as Indians are seeing other countries of Asia, and increasingly China, outstrip their country, as Indian society is mired in caste and religious wars, as the state has to devote more and more of its energy to these cases as well as to cases where people demand self-determination, as integration into the world marked through globalisation underscores India's underdevelopment and powerlessness in the global arena, the response of large sections of the Indian middle class has taken the form of aggressive intolerance. This intolerance that puts the blame on readily identifiable scapegoats - the religious minorities for instance - provides fertile ground for the seeds of communalism and majoritarianism. The net result is that the nation has been narrated in a new model - that of majoritarianism that serves to exclude rather than include, marginalise rather than integrate, and keep out rather than embody large sections of its own inhabitants.


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