Social Scientist. v 21, no. 242-43 (July-Aug 1993) p. 49.

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Democracy and Rights in India in the Wake of Ayodhya

Starting with the anti-Mandal agitation and culminating in the demolition of the Babri Masjid, what we lost is the sense of being a moral community. A moral community being taken here as one in which the rights and claims of others are recognised without much fuss; in other words, different sections of the society accept what others need. Recognition of what people need is, of course, historically relative; for example, necessity or fate in face of disease may become a claim on the resources of society with advances in the medical sciences. In a modem society certain needs like those of a feudal order to be protected and taken care of by the superiors fall into disuse. What others require has to be constantly negotiated in the public sphere by dialogue. But a society with linguistic-cultural and religious diversities in bourgeois conditions cannot function without a consensus about how to rework on a regular basis this mutual recognition of needs and claims in which the equal worth of all groups is ensured. This is what has it seems to me, been dealt an almost terminal blow with the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

The anti-Mandal agitation took two forms. The first and direct manifestation was the upper caste vandalism holding society to ransom. It created a new discourse in favour of the privileged. In doing so the themes it took recourse to were merit, castelessness, class as the basis for deciding issues of social justice/ pampering of well to do castes and so on. In a surprising move a whole school of sociology which had always argued against the relevance of class as the basis for understanding or transforming Indian society took cudgels in favour of class as the way towards achieving equity; caste in one go became a dirty word while volumes had been written on its suitability for figuring out the complexity and uniqueness of India. Indian society had entered the phase of shifting stands and public deceptions and this is going to stay on as a feature of politics since then.

* Department of Political Science, H.P. University, Shimla.

Social Scientist, Vol. 21, Nos. 7-8, July-August, 1993

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