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

Missed call drive for VVPAT verification follows online plea to "pressure" poll panel

By Our Representative
Several political activists have begun a new campaign, asking concerned citizens to give a missed call on 9667655855 to “support the demand that 2019 Loksabha elections must be declared only after verification of 50% electronic voting machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) receipts.” The effort, supported by civil society networks across India, is meant to "further pressure" India's election machinery to ensure that the poll outcome becomes more transparent.

Now, top Gujarat "litterateur" close to Modi says: Godse was patriot, so was Gandhi

By Rajiv Shah
A little over a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized BJP candidate from Bhopal Pragya Thakur for calling Nathuram Godse a patriot saying he would never forgive her for the remark, a top Sangh Parivar ideologue, known to close to Modi in Gujarat, has supported her, saying her statement should be seen “within a context.” Thakur won from Bhopal by more than 3.5 lakh votes defeating her nearest rival, veteran Congressman and ex-Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh.

Opposition refuses to legally challenge EVMs amidst plans of "back to ballot" protest

Counterview Desk
Even as opposition to the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) allegedly to rig polls is growing, a group of prominent citizens who have come together to form the EVM Virodhi Rashtriya Jan Andolan has controversially called for a national protest against EVMs on May 30, demanding future elections should be held only on ballot paper.

When a Pak scribe said Modi has 'proved' Jinnah’s two nation theory right...

By Zafar Agha*
It was around nine in the morning on May 24, 2019, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi stormed the Lok Sabha with 300-plus MPs. It was a call from a journalist friend, Muzamal Suhrawardy, from Lahore, Pakistan. I ignored the call. We liberals had a depressing day the previous evening as the opposition to Modi and BJP collapsed. The results belied reports from the ground and even assessments made by colleagues.

It's now official: Akshay Kumar has not been conferred honorary Canadian citizenship

By Our Representative
It is now official. Super-star Akshay Kumar has not been conferred any honorary citizenship by Canadian authorities, as claimed by him ahead of the 2019 elections. In reply to a query by Roshan Shah, who is a Canadian citizen living in Waterloo, Ontario, and belongs to Ahmedabad, the country’s authorities dealing with issues related with immigration, refugees and citizenship in Canada have said that only six persons have so far been granted honorary citizenship.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad "declared support" to two-nation theory in 1937, followed by Jinnah three 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.

If EC's credibility is under question, shouldn't one "assume" EVMs might be tampered?

Counterview Desk
Gauhar Raza, scientist, documentary film maker and poet; senior human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi of the Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD); military veteran Major Priyadarshi Chowdhury (retd); and Sucheta De and Sandeep Saurav of the All India Students' Association (AISA), have asked “individuals, organisations and people's movements” to send their endorsement to an appeal they have prepared on Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).

Common thread of Modi, political Hinduism, nationalism? 'Contest' of ideas isn't over

By Salman Khurshid*
Losing the 2019 election and that too in a somewhat extreme manner has confronted us with unexpected challenges: Our leadership has naturally taken it very hard and to heart but with suggested options that we cannot imagine or contemplate. Hopefully the emotions will settle soon and give us the direction to pick up the pieces and march again.

Govt of India overestimated GDP by 2.5%, must restore reputational damage: Ex-CEA

By Rajiv Shah
Top economist Arvind Subramanian has said that changes brought about by the Government of India in data sources and methodology for estimating the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) since 2011-12 “has led to a significant overestimation of growth”. While official estimates place annual average GDP growth between 2011-12 and 2016-17 at about 7 percent, the actual growth may have been 4½ percent, ranging from 3 ½ to 5 ½ percent during the period, he adds.

Will minorities in India be 2nd class citizens? Wake up call: Be a 'communicating' Church

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
India today is at a defining moment of her history. There is so much that has taken place in the past five years (and particularly in the last ten days)- that several citizens of the country are genuinely concerned about the future of the country! Will democracy survive? Will key elements of the Constitution be changed?