Skip to main content

Instead of Gandhi, Sardar, Modi, Gujarat should reflect aspirations of social groups, inequalities: Scholar

Wetland off Nirma cement plant
By Rajiv Shah
A just-released book by senior Gujarat-based scholar Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly, who has served as professor at a top Indian IAS training institute, seeks to make a controversial suggestion: About the need to look at Gujarat not as a land of “Gandhi, Sardar Patel, and, of late, Narendra Modi”.
Insisting instead to look at Gujarat in the context of aspirations of different “social groups, communities and nature of inequalities among them”, the book, “Protest Movements and Citizens’ Rights in Gujarat (1970-2010)”, seeks to analyze five major protest movements that rocked the state between 1970 and 2010.
These movements are – Navnirman movement of 1973-74, which proved to be precursor to the JP movement; the two anti-reservation movements of 1981 and 1986; the pro-Narmada dam Ferkuva movement of early 1990s; and the 2009-10 Mahuva movement against the Nirma Cement Plant in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat.
The book has been published by the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS), Shimla, where Bhagat-Ganguly was fellow before taking up as professor at the Centre for Rural Studies, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, the institute that “trains” IAS babus in administrative skills.
Even as providing a complete account of each of these movements, the 300-page book seeks to look into what Ganguly-Bhagat says, “Hegemony of elites, nature of subjugation of the backward or disadvantaged sections of the society, historical injustices and grievances in the region.”
“The earlier studies on social movements and protests have largely been state-centric, and focused on political structures and processes”, the scholar complains, adding her effort, instead, is to bring in “contentious issues in the open” in order to highlight “a cycle of collective action that reflects citizens’ views in public domain.”
The scholar notes that three of the five movements -- the two anti-reservation movements and the pro-Narmada dam Ferkuva movement – were led by “relatively privileged groups” which became “the forerunners in exercising rights”, and succeeded in opening up “debates on citizens’ rights” in such a way that they “subverted the norm of rights.”
In fact, these movements, according to her, subverted the “right to reservations, right to resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R), right to development of the tribal oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Dam.”
Especially referring to the Ferkuva movement, she says, it “spoke of Narmada as a lifeline of Gujarat”, which increasingly became “an act of Gujarati identification with all denominations: religion, sub-sect, class, gender, occupation, regions and simultaneously viewed those who opposed the dam as the radical ‘Other’ of the state.”
The Navnirman movement, on the other hand, says the scholar, made the “distinct contribution” of “articulating democratic rights, including civil liberties, right to development, addressing corruption as ethical-political issue.”
Even if it lacked “theoretical understanding of societal problems” and talked of “reconstruction in simplistic, uncertain terms”, the scholar believes, there is much truth in what its leader Manishi Jani said, “For the first time in history of India, the students of Gujarat entered the Andolan with social commitment, where they felt that they had duties towards the nation and they participated to curb the corruption…”
As for the Mahuva movement, the scholar says, despite it being a largely “legal action” and fought more in the High Court of Gujarat, the Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal, the protesting farmers and agriculture dependents “fought for conservation of a water body meant for prevention of salinity ingress and storage of sweet water for irrigation and potable water.”
While the legal battle got bogged down mainly on two technical queries – whether this is government waste, pastureland or wet land, and whether there existed a water body – the scholar says, the movement significantly helped raise a ‘development debate’.
The debate, according to the scholar, was round the importance of “agricultural development versus industrial development; role of administrative institutions in maintaining land records, supporting democratic processes like public hearing, etc.; protection of the environment through prevention of salinity ingress, conservation ”; and “land use for livelihood instead of mining for cement plant.”

Comments

TRENDING

Mystery around Gujarat PSU 'transfer' of Rs 250 crore to Canadian firm Karnalyte

By AK Luke, IAS (Retd)*
While returning from a Board meeting of the Oil India Limited (OIL) in Ahmedabad some time in 2012, two officers of the Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Nanavaty and Patel,  saw me off at the airport. They said they were proceeding to Canada in connection with a project GSFC had entered into with a company there. As we were running late, I hastily wished them the best.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

J&K continues to be haunted, as parts of India 'degenerate' into quasi-Kashmir situation

By Rajendran Narayanan*, Sandeep Pandey**
“Jab har saans mein bandook dikhe toh baccha kaise bekhauf rahe?” (How can a child be fearless when she sees a gun in every breath?) remarked Anwar, a gardener from Srinagar, when asked about the situation in Kashmir. On November 30, 2019, a walk through an iron gate in a quiet neighbourhood of Srinagar took us inside a public school. It was 11 am when typically every school is abuzz with activity. Not here though.

Indians have made 119 nations their ‘karma bhumi’: US-based Hindu NGO tells Rupani

Counterview Desk
In a stinging letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, the US-based Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), referring to the report citing his justification for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – that “while Muslims can choose any one of the 150 Islamic countries in the world (for residence), India is the only country for Hindus" – has said, he should remember, Hindus have made several countries, including USA, their home.

Tata Mundra's possible closure? Power ministry's 'pressure tactic' on consumer states

By Bharat Patel*
Tata power has announced to the Union Ministry of Power that Tata Power may be forced to stop operating  its imported coal-based Mundra Ultra-Mega Power Project (UMPP) after February, 2020. It is not only unfortunate but also criminal that irreversible damage has been caused to the fragile ecosystem of Mundra coast for a project that will have a running life of only seven years.

Population control? 10% Indian couples want to delay next pregnancy, but fail

Counterview Desk
Shireen Jejeebhoy, director at Aksha Centre for Equity and Wellbeing, previously senior associate at the Population Council, India, argues that the debate on the country's population was fuelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address to the nation, where he drew attention to “concern” about the challenges posed by this ‘exploding’ population growth, needs to centre around the promotion of rights and education, instead of the language of explosion and the threat of coercion that this term implies.

Upendra Baxi on foolish excellence, Indian judges and Consitutional cockroaches

By Rajiv Shah
In a controversial assertion, top legal expert Upendra Baxi has sought to question India's Constitution makers for neglecting human rights and social justice. Addressing an elite audience in Ahmedabad, Prof Baxi said, the constitutional idea of India enunciated by the Constituent Assembly tried to resolve four key conflicting concepts: governance, development, rights and justice.

What about religious persecution of Dalits, Adivasis, asks anti-CAA meet off Ahmedabad

By Rajiv Shah
A well-attended Dalit rights meet under the banner “14 Pe Charcha” (discussion on Article 14 of the Indian Constitution), alluding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi well-known campaign phrase of the 2014 Parliamentary elections, “chai pe charcha” (discussion over cup of tea), organized off Ahmedabad, has resolved on Wednesday to hold a 14 kilometres-long rally on April 14 to oppose the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), enacted on December 10-11.

Kerala governor turned History Congress into political arena, 'insulted' Prof Irfan Habib

Counterview Desk
In a signed statement, office bearers of the Aligarh Society of History and Archaeology (ASHA), Prof Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi (president), Prof Jabir Raza (vice-president), Prof Manvendra Kumar Pundhir (secretary) and Prof Farhat Hasan (joint secretary), have said that Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan had sought to insult veteran historian Prof Irfan Habib, 88, at the 80th session of the Indian History Congress, even as turning it into his “political arena”.