Rediff Logo freedom BANNER ADS Find/Feedback/Site Index


A New Beginning

Meanwhile, the 'System' itself was found to go back on its commitments of removing poverty, unemployment, social exclusion and growing atrocities on vulnerable sections, especially women and children. Indeed, there developed in the elite a peculiar amnesia on these issues.

Meanwhile, thanks to the widening gap between the small minority that operated the system and the large majority that was left out of it, there grew a generation of middle and lower middle class youth that could not care less about basic values, and which was instead almost wholly consumed by the new economic logic of money, the yuppie culture of consumerism and a free for all.

And of course, reinforcing all these pathologies affecting the democratic enterprise has been the mass media and advertising agencies, the most subtle manipulation of all ideas and institutions coming from the very bearers of 'freedom of expression,' both the electronic and the print media.

And yet, there is already emerging a whole variety of counterforces to this degenerate and derailed system, based on the very premises and assumptions of the democratic polity. Tired and demoralised by the continuous slide-down of the system and its institutions and operators, no longer willing to leave things to existing parties and agencies of governance, there has been under way, for some time now but particularly reflected in the 1996 election, an emergent new politics of mass aspirations and assertions, in effect rejecting the system as it operated, especially the political parties and the party system as also the long held preoccupations with 'national' goals, issues and slogans.

Six major parameters of this shift to a new set of actors insisting on their rights as laid out in the very concept of democracy, and seeking a new political order that could uphold these rights can be identified. First, there has taken place a considerable awakening, mobilsation and political and ideological assertions of what can be called the 'dalit' movement in politics.

The concept of dalit being conceived as a broad, encompassing, set of castes and classes, producing a new form of radicalism than has been represented by either the Liberal or the Marxist or the 'new social movements' perspectives, most of which were found to lack of social agenda and failed to concede to the dalits their rightful claims, and a clearly defined role in running the affairs of the state through direct access to political power.

Second, there has taken place a large-scale politicisation of caste groups and minority communities at the lower reaches of the social hierarchy, resulting in a challenge to existing structures and hegemonies despite efforts (which are inevitable) at sowing seeds of discord among them by existing parties and governing structures.

Third, thanks to a series of progressive legislative enactments, a large variety of hitherto disempowered social strata have been empowered through reservations and other forms of affirmative action (building further upon the rights assigned to the SCs and STs through acceptance of the report the Mandal Commission by the National Front government) which have now been accepted, at least in principle, by all parties and governments at different levels and which, in consequence, has put quite a number of individuals from these strata into positions of power.

Back Continued