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Politics and Society:

Updated on November 2, 2016

(a) Nation, Democracy and Citizenship:

Before British invasion, the concept of nation in India was parochial, popularly known as “regional nationalism.” It was loyalty and attachment to a linguistic boundary known as “Desh” and once individual crossed that linguistic boundary they called it “Pardesh.” This is the reason why India has been invaded and defeated by foreigners for thousand years and finally became a colony of British Empire.

During British Rule, following administration and political steps were taken:

1) Development of railways, post and telegraph

2) Development of roads and transportation

3) Uniform judiciary, IPC and other administration setup.

4) Development of printing press, newspapers, magazines, etc.

The above mentioned measures helped to break the notion of parochial nationalism and India as nation started emerging in Indians mind. Formation of INC in 1885 is known as “nation in the making” by historian Bipan Chandra. The concept of united nation finally led the confrontation against British rule and succeeded to get its freedom on 15 August 1947.

After independence, democracy was accepted as political institution for free state. Indian democracy is an indirect multiparty democracy which reflects in following goals and commitments:

1) Acceptance of the concept of universal adult franchise.

2) Free Judiciary

3) Free media

4) Accountability of government bureaucracy and other institutions towards public.

5) Decentralization of power, reforms of Panchayat Raj and Nagar Palikas

6) Reservation in political and public life.

7) Decentralization of wealth and acceptance of commitment of state towards common man.

8) Various articles in constitution as Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy.

The concept of citizenship in India is liberal. It can be achieved through birth or achievement in which at last an individual must have lived for more than five years alongwith other qualification. State has given certain commitments and Fundamental Rights and on the other hand it has also taken certain duties towards the state. Hence the concept of nation, democracy and citizenship are harmonious and complementary to each other. Nation and democracy on one hand give various safeguards and commitments to its citizen in their overall development whereas citizens have also been assigned towards their state and democracy that they will cause no harm to nation and democracy and will strengthen it.

Political Parties

Political parties are a group of individual organized around some principles and ideology who try to grab power through legitimate political means.

On the basis of ideology, there are three types:

1) Rightist – These parties believe in capitalism and also support “hardcore nationalism”. BJP is an example. BJP is known as a party of Baniyas and capitalists and supports cultural nationalism.

2) Leftist – This is in complete opposition of rightist ideology. They support socialism and communism and have commitments towards peasants, labourers, etc CPI, CPM, Forward Bloc, etc.

3) Centrist – They believe in mixed economy or co-existence of rightist and leftist ideology. They believe that the interest of rich and poors are not contradictory. It can be harmonized in proper manner, for example, Congress Party.

On the basis of their political dominance and presence, political parties are divided into two categories:

1) National Parties – Presently six in total - Congress, BJP, CPI, BSP, JD(U), and NCP.

2) Regional Parties – Many

The political parties in India reflects the value and diversity of Indian culture. According to Paul Brass “there are contradictory characteristics and trends in democratic politics in which bureaucracy, political system and parties are co-existing in Indian and western co-existence.” Modernization and tradition are co-exiting in India which reflects in political parties.

INC is the oldest political party of India formed in 1885 and almost had political monopoly till 1980s except a transition of Janta Party government in 1977.

Rajni Kothari in his book “Caste and Politics” wrote that the prominence of INC was evident in British India and after 1945 as independence started looking to be realized and the political equation started changing. Communist, socialists, Muslim separatists, Hindu rightists started distancing from Congress and became active separately.

After death of J.L. Nehru in 1962, political destabilization started emerging. Before 1967 Congress used to secure 75% of the seats but in 1967 it secure merely 54%. In 1967 first time ever non-Congress government was formed in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Bengal, Bihar, MP, UP, Haryana and Punjab.

In 1971, Congress won the elections with heavy majority which led the era of political centralization. In 1975 emergency was declared which was opposed by the masses of India and in general election of 1977 first time ever a non-Congress party Janta Party coalition formed the government in centre but due to their internal conflicts in 1979 Janta Party government lost the majority and in mid-term polls Congress returned to power in 1980.

In 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated which was followed by anti-Sikh riots. Due to the emotional wave, Congress party returned to power in best ever majority given to Congress party by the country. But Rajiv Gandhi government becoming unpopular because of Bofors Scandal and in 1989 election Congress party merely got 197 seats. Under V.P. Singh, a coalition government called Janta Dal formed the government at the centre. Janta Dal merely remained for one year and Mr. Chandrashekhar became Prime Minister with outside support of Congress. He remained in power for four months. This non-Congress government remained in power for only 1½ years and mid-term polls followed in which Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated.

Under leadership of P.V. Narasimha Rao, Congress won 232 and formed government with help of regional parties. In 1990, Congress Party started losing its prominence and regional parties like TDP, AGP, INDL, JD emerged as strong political force.

In 1996, NDA under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee formed the government which remained for 13 days. In 1998, BJP projected itself on the ideology of Hinduism and also strengthened its base in NDA and first time ever a non-Congress coalition completed its 5 years term at centre.

Present era is coalition era. Presently UPA under the leadership of Congress is in centre and NDA is main opposition headed by BJP.

Pressure Groups

Pressure Group is a special interest group which is formed around some specific interest that tries to pressurize political party and the government to meet their demands and interests. It is a non-political organization who do not participate in election, rather very active in democracy to realize their own goals. For example, FICCI, CII, BKU, NSUI, Trade Union etc.

In India there are various pressure groups formed on the basis of region, religion, occupation, language, etc. They try to achieve their goals through legitimate and illegitimate means in democracy. In 1964, due to some labour problems trade unions went on strike and later the trade unions like AIUC, INTUC, CITU, HMS went on strike many a times for protection and promotion of that demands. Railway strike of 1974 is the longest strike ever by Trade Unions.

In Western U.P., Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) under the leadership of late Mahendra Singh Tikait keeps on going on strikes, road blocks and other forms of protest for support price of sugarcane, free electricity, water for the farmers. Due to their protest, many a times public property and economy got damaged.

Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Associated Chambers Of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) are the two most powerful pressure groups of the capitalist. It is said that the Finance Minister of India cannot be chosen without the consent of FICCI.

Pressure Groups on the one hand strengthen democracy by establishing dialogue between different interest groups and government and also ensures political participation for or against government which strengthens democracy but on the other hand they also hijack democracy for their own benefit.

Andre Beteille believes that Pressure Groups of caste is one of the example through which political system and democracy have been hijacked for reservation and other demands. Pressure Groups are reality of democratic politics. Paul Brass said caste organization was the first pressure group of India but as democracy and party system developed various other Pressure Groups developed in it.

Pressure Groups in India represent the contradictory co-existence of tradition and modernity which reflects in goals, means and organization of pressure groups in Indian democracy.

Social and Political Elite

Elites are a group of minorities who stand on the top of any field and capable of influencing the respective field on their will and action.

Emergence of elite in India is a very old phenomena Max Muller, a German Indologist, said that ‘Brahmins are the most powerful I have ever seen in the world who controls all aspects of life in Indian society”. Since India is caste-based hence Brahmins were the traditional elites in Indian society.

During medieval period the foreigner Muslims like Sayyed, Sheikh, Mughals and Pathan became new urban elites who controlled the socio-political and economic aspects of urban India.

But the dimension of elites broadened during British period. In this period, various administrations, economy, social reforms were brought which led to emergence of socio-economic elites in modern India. For example -

1) Land reforms and the Permanent settlement systems like Zamindari and Mahalwari system gave birth to new class of Zamindars, Talukdars in rural India which were easily the elites who represented the colonial goals.

2) Macaulay education system - 1831 gave birth to new professionals like advocates, judges, government officials, clerks and other modern occupational who were the new elites of India who later gave the leadership to socio-religious revivalist movement and national movement.

3) Industrialization led to the emergence of new crop of industrialists, investors and businessmen who were also new elites.

4) All other royals and kings who were able to retain their power in British India, especially in Rajasthan.

Due to the above mentioned reasons, a new class of elite independent from caste system emerged in British India. These new elites were secular in their outlook and mostly economy and power oriented.

After independence, various factors like democracy, modernization, modern education, technical education, emergence of new occupations, expansion of service sector etc. further added to the dimension of socio-economic elites and especially in rural society a new dominant case emerged who benefitted from agrarian reforms and agriculture. Jats, Ahirs, Patels, Kushwahas, Okkaligas, Kammas, Reddys, Lingayats were main elite caste or neo-elites that emerged due to democracy and agrarian reforms.

Reservation and democracy helped SC/ST to emerge as new socio-economic elite and as Sachidanand called that a new middle class has emerged among them who can be called as ‘Harijan elites and Scheduled Caste elites”.

After 1990, dimension of socio-economic elites further broadened because of globalization. IT industry helped new IT professionals in Indian society to become influential and over the period IT Czar like Azim Premji, Narayana Murthy, Sabir Bhatia etc. emerged in society.

Hence it can be concluded that the emergence and orientation of socio-economic elites in Indian society has been wide dimensional phenomena. Before British rule, Brahmins were the socio-political elites but as Modernization, Westernization and other developmental measures reached to grassroots, a new crop of elites emerged, especial in 1970s and 1980s. They were rural, traditional and belonged to the intermediary and lower caste but as globalization followed again the base of elites shifted from the rural and traditional elites to modern elites. As M.S.A. Rao said the elites after 1990 are largely under the influence of globalization and Western society and want to take India in 21st century.

Regionalism

Region is a geographical phenomenon which is defined as natural area having common atmosphere, climate, vegetation, etc. and this way plateau, mountains, coastal, etc. are regions.

A particular geographical region helps to develop a common lifestyle i.e. food, languages, dress and other sharings and sufferings. Hence, it is obvious that a common region will develop a sense of camaraderie or belongingness among its natives. When this loyalty and belongingness surpasses every other interest even the country is known as regionalism.

Before British rule, regionalism was so high in India that the concept of nation was attached to a particular region known as ‘regional nationalism.’ Due to the regional nationalism India was invaded and plundered by foreigners for centuries and no united confrontation against foreign invasion ever developed. The advantage of regional nationalism was taken by Britishers and because of this divided regional nationalism, they managed to rule India for 150 years.

During British rule, various educational, administrative and other measures were taken like development of railways and transportation. Unified administrative setup, development of post and telegraph, newspaper and printing press and other measures. These measures helped India to identity itself as a single political and cultural territory which reflected in socio-religious movements and during freedom struggle, especially, under INC a strong pan-Indian freedom struggle was launched and India managed to get back its freedom in 1947. But the diverse climatic and topographical structure led the re-emergence of regionalism after independence.

Salig Harrison believed that casteism and regionalism are two major challenges in front of India after independence.

Regionalism in India reflected after independence in following forms:

1) For the formation of new provinces or states on the basis of language and the geographical characteristic. AP, Haryana, HP are some of the examples, whereas Gorkhaland, Bundelkhand, Vidarbha, Telanga are in the pipeline.

2) Demand for separate country like Khalistan, Kashmir, Nagaland, Asom etc.

3) Conflict between various linguistic groups, like Marathi Vs. Madrasis, Marathi Vs. Hindi, etc.

4) Protest against outsiders in a particular region like Manipur, Maharashtra etc.

5) Separate political and economical identity for a particular region in terms of extra development, packages etc.

Due to these regional problems various committees and panels have been setup so that a pan-Indian nationalism can be developed but as regional parties are becoming powerful and in the era of coalition government the issue of regional issues and regionalism are entertained because of compulsion of decentralized politics but as transportation, modern education, occupational diversity, spread of Hindi cinema etc, are increasing, regionalism is getting weakened but many a times regionalism becomes a big problem when it takes as separatist movement and violence against other regions.

Decentralization of Power

Evaluation of Panchayati Raj in India Society

The genuine decentralization of power took place in 1992 through 73rd and 74th constitution amendment. It is almost going to be two decades of Panchayati Raj and hence it is the right time to evaluate its socio-economic and political impact on Indian society.

The impact of Panchayati Raj can be examined on following dimensions:

1) Whether it has been able to empower SC/ST and women or not.

2) Whether it has strengthened democracy or not at the grassroot level

3) Whether it has paced up rural development or not.

4) Whether it is providing or nourishing the rural leadership for the future or not?

In Panchayati Raj, reservation of SC/ST is 23% and for women in some states 50% and other 33%. This reservation in Panchayati Raj has practically taken power to the doorstep of grassroots people who were really marginalized for countries.

Sisodia and Billimoria in their study of Madhya Pradesh villages in their book “Panchayati Raj and the Empowerment of Dalits” wrote that:

1) Upper caste and influential people are coming to these representative for their respective works.

2) The lower caste are more confident against the upper caste dominance because the representative belongs to lower caste.

3) They are capable of transferring the priorities and funds to common man.

4) They are more confident and feeling protective against the upper caste atrocities and exploitations.

Undoubtedly, because of Panchayati Raj, empowerment of SC/ST and woman has been realized and becoming stronger.

After independence, Indian society was largely illiterate and unaware of the democratic values though because of casteism participating in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections without being aware of their consequences but after Panchayati Raj first time a representative emerged within them who was able to listen and solve the problem and the doorstep. They are the representatives within which has strengthened the concept of decentralization of power.

A. Aslam believed that Panchayati Raj has empowered the grassroot masses because they can easily identity with the representative who is capable enough to solve their problem. Hence Panchayati Raj has been successful in empowering grass root people.

Under Panchayati Raj there are 30-40 areas identified which varies from state to state, which has been put under the jurisdiction of Panchayati Raj like primary education, basic health, family welfare, old age pension, sanitation, forestry, rural roads, drinking water development of ghats, etc. These areas are related to day-to-day life of villages since legally and economically Panchayati Raj representatives are capable to solve this problem and directly monitory the developments has given fast pace to rural development.

Now, the bureaucratic insensitivity, unnecessary delays and other hazards in development have successfully checked. The pace of rural development is faster than ever. As Right to Information (RTI) and other social auditing are improving, it is believed that more transparency is going to come in this institution and it will further boost rural development.

Panchayati Raj system has emerged as an institution of political anticipatory socialization. Since it is giving a chance to nurture rural leadership in forms of ward members, Gram Pradhans, Block Pramukh, BDCs, members of Zila Parishad, etc. these people are really understanding the democratic values at the grassroot and looking forward to play a greater roles as MLAs, MPs, etc.

Hence Panchayati Raj institution is nurturing the future political leaders and providing many option of leadership in democracy. Hence, Panchayati Raj institution is successfully socializing the future leaders.

But there are certain criticisms beings faced by Panchayati Raj-

1) M.N. Srinivas believed that Panchayati Raj system has increased caste tensions and groupism in villages and has diminished integrity and interdependence in the villages. Elections happen once in five years but the tension remains for next five years. He did not support this institution.

2) Vivek Rai studies various villages of Eastern UP and found that still power has not reached to SC/ST and women. It is largely used by their patrons like husband, upper caste landlord, etc.

3) Panchayati Raj has increased moral and economic corruption in villages. Earlier villages were far from it but now even the common man is indulged in economic corruption. It is degrading the moral value of Indian villages.

Though above mentioned criticism cannot be denied but overall evolution of Panchayati Raj is more than positive. After 1947 though democracy was surviving but it has strengthened the roots of Panchayati Raj. It has not merely empowered SC/ST and women but also given a new dimension to rural development and political decentralization. As Jaiprakash Narayan said it is not the question whether Panchayati Raj Institution is working or not rather it is the responsibility of every Indian to make it successful because failure of Panchayati Raj will be a failure of democracy. This institution is helping to realize the goals of Mahatma Gandhi of “Gram Swaraj.”

Secularization

The literal meaning of secularization is a process of becoming secular. The values of secularization lies in ancient philosophy of “Sarva Dharma Sambhava” i.e. equal attitude towards all the religions.

This is the reason why various religious groups came to India in different periods and finally assimilated or accommodated in Indian society. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Islam co-existed in Indian society without any discrimination or hatred against each other. Though during medieval period some incidents like forceful conversions, demolition of religious places and symbols took place but largely Indian society stick to its secular values.

But genuine secularization, that is, freedom from the religious influence took place during British rule due to following reasons:

1) Introduction of modern, scientific and pragmatic education.

2) Industrialization and urbanization

3) Secular education and values in forms of westernization.

During British rule, the control of religion over the individual and society started getting weakened because religion was no more considered as a very important institution and instead economic and political values became stronger.

Secularization in India can be observed on following grounds:

1) The religious figures, temples and other denomination are losing their influence on common man for example, except Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, Vaishno Devi, Ajmer Sharif, Shirdi, other temples and places are no more considered as economically and religiously very powerful.

2) Various institutions practices and beliefs are becoming more and more popular which is prohibited and considered as sinful in Indian society, for example, prenatal and extramarital relations, alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce, abortions, etc.

3) Various other values which are prohibited by the religions are also increasing secular profession, civil marriages etc.

Number of religious devotees is decreasing and significance of festivals, participations etc. are losing prominence.

After independence, because of these progresses India was declared as secular state though partition took place on religious grounds. But partition was not because of religious emotions rather it was on the basis of cultural politics.

After independence, as the impact of constitution, law, media, cinema and other modem aspects increased, it directly weakened religious dominance of Indian mind.Though according to Pugh & Perry, India is fourth most religious country in world where 85% individual accept that religion plays important role in their life but this does not mean the secular credentials of India can be questioned. Religion in India is a personal aspect which follows the principles of “Sarva Dharma Sambhava.”

An NGO named “Organization for Community Harmony” conducted its study in UP and MP in 2008 and found that:

1) Various religious castes like Brahmins, Jains have left their religious occupations and have taken up those occupations like wine shop, footwear shops, etc. which is religiously prohibited for them.

2) In rural society, the importance of festivals, rituals, ceremonies are losing its important or reflecting in secular needs and purposes.

3) The question of existence of God has also arisen in rural society or called as atheism is developing under communist or Marxist ideology.

4) The importance of religion in politics has also decreased and issues of Mandir-Masjid is no more appealing the youth of this country.

Hence, it can be concluded that the role of religion in India has started losing its significance during British rule under the influence of westernization, modernization, and modern education. Though religion and tradition have always been of great important in Indian society but during British rule and after independent modernization became a very strong force which not only neutralized religion but also strengthened secularization of the mind. Though, communal tensions issues of Mandir-Masjid, communal organization keeps on trying to get strong ground but only able to succeed occasionally. Many theorists believe that secularization has always been of weak ideology in India because of repeated communal tensions and riots but in reality it is every strong ideology because more it is hit stronger it bounces back.

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