AAS Annual Meeting

South Asia Session 405

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Session 405: Social Movements in Postcolonial India I

Organizer: Kenta Funahashi, Kyoto University, Japan

Chair: Kazuya Nakamizo, Kyoto University, Japan

Recently there has been a new trend in the scholarship on Indian societies of looking at post-independent India as “postcolonial India” so as to gain a better understanding of the continuity/discontinuity in social features between colonial and postcolonial India. This attempt has opened up a new arena for interdisciplinary dialogue, which has overcome the age-old academic division of labor: History dealing with social phenomena in pre-independence India and Political Science, Sociology or Anthropology taking social facts or events in the post-independence era as their objects of inquiry. However, there have been very few such interdisciplinary efforts so far in the area of social movements studies in India. Against this background, this panel (in collaboration with Panel II) brings together specialists in history, anthropology, sociology and political science to explore the characteristics of social movements and other related movements (such as political or religious movements) in postcolonial India by focusing on the following questions: What features in movements are continuous from the colonial era? What are the new characteristics in movements, which were not seen in the colonial setting? How have social movements in postcolonial India been changing? Through these investigations, this panel also aims to make a theoretical contribution to social movements studies in general, which often fails to grasp the significance of social movements (e.g., anti-colonial movements) in countries outside America, Europe or Japan. We will have at least 30 minutes for joint panel discussion. This panel, Panel I, deals with Dalit, Women’s, Peasant, and Subaltern movements.

From Birth Control Movements to Family Planning Projects: When ‘Social’ becomes ‘National’
Mizuho Matsuo-Gogate, Niigata University, Japan

This paper examines birth control movements led by various actors in colonial India and shows its continuity of family planning projects in post colonial India. I regard birth control movements as social movements which made an impact on thoughts and practices of mass people at that time. Indian government started the world’s first national family planning in 1952, but the birth control movements regulate fertility of the population themselves occurred all over the India by the early 20th century. However there were no outstanding ‘leaders’ in those movements. Instead, activists can be classified into three main categories: British medical and governmental officials such as IMS officers and Census commissioners, well known female birth control advocates such as Margaret Sanger and Indian male social reformers. Even though the colonial government had interests in grasping and controlling native populations, they did not take the strong initiatives in birth control movements till 1940s. They kept themselves away from that issue and were reluctant to spare their financial and human resources to that. Rather western feminists and their Indian elite counterparts who were influenced by Neo-Malthusianism and eugenics actively engaged in those movements. However regardless of their commitments, birth control movements could not gain popularities and created big controversies in colonial India. By focuses on the interactions between western advocates and Indian elite activists and their activities in Bombay presidency, this paper discusses the relations of various actors in social movements and how small scale social movements became national projects in post colonial India.

Are We Non-Brahmins, Dravidians, or Dalit?: Non-Brahmin Movement and Its Effects on “Untouchables”
Miwako Shiga, Ryukoku University, Japan

Non-Brahmin Movement in South India was an outcome of colonialism. It started as a cultural response from South Indian people to Western Indology, i.e., discovery of the Indo-Aryan Languages and of the Dravidian languages, theory on the origin of caste system related to the conquest of the Dravidians by the Aryans. Later on, it was transformed to social and political movement by those who had antipathy against Brahmins’ dominance and were conscious of their political right under the colonial rule. Non-Brahmin or Dravidian identity contributed to the unity of “the depressed majority”, which resulted in the institutionalization of the movement through the establishment of the political party and its participation in the local election in 1919. This process stimulated the emergence of “the more depressed” untouchables. Self-Respect Movement, a radical form of Non-Brahmin Movement, helped them to develop self-respect as “Adi-Dravidas (original Dravidians).” However, the unity of Non-Brahmins or Dravidians and the institutionalization of the Movement, according to some research works, have impeded untouchables’ separate own activities and movement as a community. This paper will examine the history of Non-Brahmin Movement focusing three points. 1. The process of a new identity/community formation as “Non-Brahmins/Dravidians”, and of its institutionalization utilizing the existing (colonial and postcolonial) institutions. 2. Its effects on the lives of “untouchables.” 3. Dynamism of “untouchables” in postcolonial India.

Perspectives on the “Past”: The Development and Features of Dalit Movements in Colonial and Postcolonial India
Kenta Funahashi, Kyoto University, Japan

In this presentation, I will discuss the historical development and features of Dalit movements in colonial and postcolonial India. I will focus on the Buddhist Conversion Movement in contemporary Uttar Pradesh in particular; then I will consider its specific features by comparing it to others. Although there were many “Untouchable” liberation movements in colonial India, these were basically Hindu reform movements; in these movements “enlightened” caste-Hindus led the “poor” Untouchables. This trend has been changing since B. R. Ambedkar. In the postcolonial era, from the 1980s onward in particular, “Untouchables” have been asserting their identity as “Dalit”, and there have been many types of movements under this banner, e.g., the Dalit Panthers in Maharashtra and BSP in Uttar Pradesh. In these Dalit movements, elite Dalits have been leading mass Dalits, and their scope has not been limited to political-economic fields but widening to cultural-religious spheres. They have been emphasizing their own “past”, sometimes a mythological past, to assert their identity, rights and legitimacy. In social movements, to attain a better present and future, people usually emphasize their rights. However, in these Dalit movements, for a better present and future, they are stressing their past, and many Dalits are attracted to this “past discourse”. I will explore this feature through the case of the Buddhist Conversion Movement and suggest that the factor of “Buddhism”, which teaches “egalitarianism”, has been bridging caste differences.

Retreat from “Inclusive Politics”: Decline of Peasant Movement in Bihar, c. 1940s
Nobuyoshi Kojima, Meiji University, Japan

The vast agricultural tracts of Gangetic core area, Bihar, saw an unprecedented upheaval of peasant movement in 1930s. In this movement, people from various backgrounds came under a banner of Kisan (peasant) and waged struggle “against powers which are pushing them into utter poverty day by day”. But the “united front”, which consisted of from petty landholders to agricultural labourers and from upper-castes to backward castes, collapsed and the movement declined toward the freedom of the nation. This paper, with focusing on the period of late 1930s to early 50s, tries to reconsider some factors behind the retreat from the “inclusive politics”. “Institutionalization” of the movement under the Congress provincial ministries of 1937-9 and from 1946 onwards was one of the major factors. The ministries made variety of legislations concerning legal rights of cultivators and landholders, the most significant of which was the Bihar Land Reform Act (1950). These legislations, though ostensibly intended to improve the conditions of Kisan as a whole, were to benefit a particular section and caused disintegration among them. Caste-based mobilization which originated since 19th century and did not disappear even in the midst of the movement was also one of the important factors. In this sense, the working of Triveni Sangh in Shahabad was very symbolic. It threw down an immense challenge against the inclusive strategy of the peasant movement and consequently became a prelude to the politics of postcolonial Bihar.

Violent Revolution and Parliamentary Democracy: The Development of Naxalite Movements in Post-colonial India
Kazuya Nakamizo, Kyoto University, Japan

Under which conditions would violent revolutionary movements participate in Parliamentary Democracy? To explore this question of “institutionalization,” my paper focuses on radical violent revolutionary movements in India, that is, the Naxalite movements, comparing the developments of two Indian states: Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. In Bihar, one of the most influential Naxalite groups, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, changed their tactics from an “annihilation of class enemies” strategy to a “fighting election” strategy. In Andhra Pradesh, however, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which vigorously pursues armed struggle, has a powerful influence, while other Naxalite groups which have joined the democratic process don’t have as strong a base as in Bihar. Why is such a sharp difference observed? My argument is that the difference in political processes in these two states affects the credibility of democracy which promises the realization of “Liberation and Equality.” The level of credibility of democracy, in turn, determines the direction of Naxalite movements in both states. In Bihar, the process of “democratization” has developed gradually, in which backward castes have grabbed political power from upper castes. This has caused a significant portion of Naxalite members to believe that political and social equalization is possible under a democratic institution. In contrast to Bihar, “democratization” has not taken place in Andhra Pradesh. The upper castes still dominate politics and society under both the Congress and the TDP regime. This significant contrast explains the different development of the Naxalite movements, which suggests fundamental changes in post-colonial India.