K SESHADRI, RURAL UNREST IN INDIA, Intellectual Publishing House, New Delhi, 1983, pp 192, Rs 80.
IT IS hardly necessary, especially for readers of* this journal, to underline the significance of the subject of Professor Seshadri's book, rural unrest, as,a subject of study that interest spolitical activists and social scientists alike. Given the immense variation in social formations and power strctures in different parts of India it is only to be expected that new researches into this area will provide more interesting evidence demonstrating linkage and discontinuities. All this, one hopes, will help to strengthen and take forward the struggle in which the country's rural poor are engaged.
The author of this book has not only been a distinguished teacher of political science and the author of several books but is also well known as a veteran of the, now legendary, Telengana peasants' struggle of the late 1940s. In this book he brings to bear both his academic curiosities and his, political experience. The book, therefore, gives the reader a practical feel of the whole range of issues related to the problems of the Indian countryside.
The book is divided into nine sections which are more in the nature of individual essays rather than chapters leading up to a central argument. There is, nevertheless, a unifying thread provided by the subject of rural unrest. One does wish, however, that the essays were ordered more systematically. It would have helped the reader if the book were to be broken up into, say, three parts, one containing a description of agrarian conditions and rural administration, a second containing a history of peasant movements, and a third section consisting of the author's views on the current stage of the struggle concluding with his suggestions as to the steps that ought to be taken.
These themes are already there in the book. For instance, the first article is entitled "The Quagmire of Traditional Exploitation", in which the author tells us how the agrarian system in India has remained exploitative from medieval to modern times despite land reforms and how in spite of institutional changes the more powerful have managed to benefit. The second essay goes into greater detail about the social structure of the Indian countryside and the changes that have occurred since independence. In this connection factional, caste and class cleavages are discussed and it is shown how in the micro-politics jbf the villages the poorest lose out, mainly because they are forced to get involved in faction-fights which only benefit the powerful. Thus^ from the statement in the first chapter that in independent India "feudalism took a different form and was not abolished totally, as it should have been if /the classical Marxist theory of bourgeoisie doing away with feudalism were to have occurred" (p 15) the author concludes in the