Social Scientist. v 19, no. 221-22 (Oct-Nov 1991) p. 19.

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Complicity and Struggle : Theory and Society


When I look around trying to make sense of myself and a traumatically changeful India, I am puzzled and pained by a sense of intellectual diaspora. All of us in this Seminar are, I believe, socially engaged theoretical labourers. Most of us are stretched too thin, moving from one agonized arena of action and concern to another. Most of us are bloodied and scarred by practices of politics, if not directly in the lived imagination of what power does to groups and individuals we work for and with.

Even if we do not say it aloud, we must share Mohandas Gandhi's feeling; he said, memorably

... If I seem to take part in politics it is only because politics encircles us today like the coil of a snake from which one cannot get out, no matter how much one tries, I wish therefore to wrestle with the snake. . . (Gandhi, 1986: 42)

But we must also recall that the same Gandhi burst uncontrollably in tears (according to Rajendra Prasad's account) after Champaran. Bapuji said, in an uncharacteristic gesture of diffidence:

. . . What indeed am I doing?—Hardly do I accomplish one task when I get involved with the second; while the second is unfinished, I get involved in the third. This (Sabarmati) Ashram I had created with great enthusiasm and expectation. It was my wish to live here and make this Ashram an ideal one and make Ashramwasis into ideal workers. But even before this talk can properly begin, I had to go to Champaran. . . Sure, in some ways the task of ameliorating the conditions of peasants was attained but did the peasants really gam anything out of this? The basic task of living with them, to improve their life-style, to make them fearless, and to provide them Kelavani an untranslatable notion, impoverished by its usual rendering as' education'; per-

Delhi University, Delhi.

Social Scientist, Vol. 19, Nos. 9-10, October-November, 1991

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