The Chapter introduces students to the various movements: Party Based & Non- Party Based. We also highlight various movements like Anti-Arrack, Bhartiya Kisan Union and their consequences.
What are Popular Movements and How Do They Work?
After three decades of freedom, the populace had grown impatient. Their dissatisfaction manifested in a variety of ways. Throughout the 1970s, several socio-economic groups, including women, students, Dalits, and farmers, considered that democratic politics fell short of meeting their needs and aspirations.
They met under the auspices of a number of social organisations to air their grievances. These declarations heralded the birth of popular movements or new social movements in Indian politics.
Political parties and non-political parties are two distinct types of movements.
Party-based movements do not vote in the traditional sense, but they maintain relations to political parties in order to ensure that the demands of various socioeconomic groups are more adequately reflected in party politics.
Popular movements can take the form of social or political movements, and frequently the two converge. For instance, the nationalist movement was largely political in nature.
Throughout the colonial period, social and economic arguments spawned distinct social movements, such as the anti-caste movement. These movements brought to light certain fundamental socio-economic difficulties.
These practices persisted throughout the post-independence period. The trade union movement was strong among industrial workers in metropolitan cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata, and Kanpur.
Peasants in Andhra Pradesh's Telangana region launched massive agitations in the early years of independence, led by Communist parties, demanding land transfer to cultivators.
In Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, and neighbouring areas, peasants and agricultural labourers continued to struggle under the leadership of the Naxalites, a Marxist-Leninist organisation.
These movements were primarily motivated by concerns about economic injustice and inequality. While they did not hold official elections, they retained linkages to political parties, as many participants in these movements, both individually and collectively, were active members of political parties.
Party politics ensured a more balanced representation of the needs of diverse social groups.
Not-for-profit organisations that are not linked with a political party
These take place independently of party politics and without the necessity of running for office. They pursue no political goals and are solely concerned with providing social services. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, many individuals lost faith in the way political parties operated.
Disillusionment was prompted by the Janata experiment's failure and the resulting political instability. Additionally, it concerned the government's economic policy.
After independence, the post-Independence paradigm of planned development was founded on the dual objectives of growth and distribution.
In the early decades, poverty and inequities persisted on a large scale in many sectors of the economy. Economic expansion did not benefit every element of society equally.
Social inequities such as caste and gender increased and exacerbated poverty. Between the urban-industrial and rural-agrarian sectors, there was a schism.
Numerous groups established an awareness of injustice and hardship. Numerous politically active groups have abandoned democratic institutions and electoral politics.
There was widespread mobilisation, with students and young political activists from all backgrounds leading the charge in organising marginalised communities such as Dalits and Adivasis.
Young middle-class activists founded service organisations and constructive programmes for the rural poor. These non-profit organisations did not run for the local or regional offices, nor did they promote any particular political party.
These organisations were referred to as 'non-party political formations.'
They believed that direct and active participation of local citizen groups in resolving local concerns would be more effective than political parties.
Numerous these organisations receive money from non-governmental organisations, particularly foreign service organisations. Because these organisations have access to such a large amount of foreign funding, the ideal of local initiatives is lost.
The campaign originated in two or three villages in Uttarakhand in the 1970s when the forest administration denied residents permission to fell ash trees for agricultural tool manufacturing.
Sundarlal Bahuguna was the movement's leader.
The forest department designated the same plot of land for commercial use to a sports manufacturer. Which infuriated the villagers, who protested the government's move.
The conflict quickly extended throughout the Uttarakhand region.
Their demands were as follows:
Outsiders should not be awarded forest-exploitation contracts, and indigenous peoples should maintain effective control over natural resources such as land, water, and forests.
Low-cost resources should be made available to small businesses and the region's development should be ensured without jeopardising the ecological balance.
Minimum pay guarantees for landless forest labourers.
Women were actively involved. Typically, the region's forest contractors served as providers of alcohol to men.
Additionally, they waged prolonged campaigns against drunkenness and expanded the movement's mission to include other social issues.
The movement won a win when the government imposed a fifteen-year moratorium on tree felling in the Himalayan highlands.
The Chipko movement became a metaphor for a number of similar popular movements that erupted in various sections of the country.
By the 1970s, the first generation Dalit graduates, particularly those living in urban slums, began asserting themselves through a variety of forums.
Namdeo Dhasal and J. V. Pawar created the militant Dalit organisation in the Indian state of Maharashtra on 29 May 1972.
Dalit organisations fought mostly against enduring caste-based inequality and material injustices.
One of their primary objectives was for the effective implementation of reservations and other social justice policies. Dalit villages continued to be isolated from the main community. There existed social discrimination.
Legal methods have proven ineffective in reversing Dalits' economic and social subjugation.
Political groups supported by Dalits, such as the Republican Party of India, have not been electorally successful. These parties have always remained minor; they have been forced to form coalitions with other parties in order to win elections, and they have faced repeated splits.
As a result, the Dalit Panthers resorted to mass action in order to establish Dalit rights.
Dalit Panthers were primarily concerned with combating rising atrocities against Dalits in various sections of the State. As a result, the government enacted a comprehensive law in 1989 that imposed severe penalties for similar offences.
The Panthers' overarching ideological goal was to abolish the caste system and to organise all oppressed groups.
The movement gave an outlet for Dalit educated youth to express themselves creatively as a form of protest. In their countless autobiographies and other creative works, Dalit writers rebelled against the caste system's brutality.
Dalit Panthers also participated in electoral concessions; they also experienced numerous splits, which contributed to their demise during the post-emergency period.
This space has been taken up by organisations such as the Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF).
Bhartiya Kisan Union
In India, the Bharatiya Kisan Union is an apolitical farmer's representative organisation.
Chaudhary Charan Singh created it from the Punjab Khetibari Union (Punjab Farming Union), which became the organisation's Punjab chapter.
Mahendra Singh Tikait created the union's western Uttar Pradesh section on 17 October 1986.
Around 20,000 farmers gathered in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, in January 1988 to protest the government's plan to hike electricity costs.
Farmers camped for almost three weeks outside the district collector's office, demanding that their requests be met. Throughout the protest, they received frequent food supplies from neighbouring villages.
The Meerut agitation was hailed as a magnificent display of rural strength by farmers and cultivators. The agitating farmers were members of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU).
It was a pivotal organisation in the 1980s farmers' movement. Additionally, farmers in Haryana, Punjab, and western Uttar Pradesh benefited from state-led 'green revolution' programmes in the late 1960s.
Since then, sugarcane and wheat have become the region's primary income crops. In the mid-1980s, the cash crop market experienced a crisis as India's economy began to liberalise.
The BKU enjoined:
Increased government-mandated minimum pricing for sugarcane and wheat.
Elimination of interstate limitations on the transfer of farm produce.
Electricity supply is guaranteed at a reasonable rate.
Farmers' loan obligations are waived, and a government pension is provided to farmers.
Other farmer organisations throughout the country made similar demands.
Maharashtra's Shetkari Sanghatana branded the farmers' movement a battle against Bharat. Rural, agrarian sector vs industrialised metropolitan sector.
The conflict between industry and agriculture has been a recurrent theme in India's growth paradigm.
The BKU used a variety of tactics to compel the state to embrace its demands, including rallies, marches, sit-ins, and jail bharo agitations.
Tens of thousands of farmers – sometimes more than a lakh – from diverse villages in western Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring regions took part in these rallies.
In the 1980s, the BKU organised enormous protests of these farmers in a number of the State's district headquarters and even in the nation's capital.
Another innovative component of these mobilizations was the exploitation of farmers' caste ties. The majority of BKU members were members of a single community.
The usage of these communities' traditional caste panchayats to bring them together over economic difficulties was evident.
The BKU remained viable for a long period of time due to its reliance on clan networks among its members.
These networks enabled BKU to mobilise funds, resources, and activities.
Until the 1990s, the BKU maintained a policy of non-alignment with all political parties. It worked as a political pressure group. The organisation, along with other farmer organisations from across the country, was successful in getting some of its economic demands met.
In this regard, the farmers' movement became one of the most successful social movements of the 1980s. Success was a result of its members' political negotiating power.
The movement was primarily active in the country's wealthy states. Members of organisations such as the BKU cultivated cash crops for the market.
Farmers' organisations around the United States sought members from the communities that dominated area electoral politics. As in Maharashtra's Shetkari Sanghatana and Karnataka's Rayata Sangha.
The Chipko Revolution
The campaign originated in two or three villages in Uttarakhand in the 1970s when the forest authorities denied the peasants permission to fell ash trees for agricultural tool manufacturing.
Sundarlal Bahuguna was the leader of this movement.
The forest service granted commercial use rights to the same plot of land to a sports manufacturer. This infuriated the villagers, who protested the government's action.
The conflict quickly extended throughout Uttarakhand's various districts.
They made the following demands:
Outsiders should not be awarded forest-exploitation contracts, and indigenous peoples should have effective control over natural resources such as land, water, and forests.
Low-cost resources should be made available to small businesses and the region's development should be ensured without compromising the ecological balance.
Ensures that landless forest labourers receive a minimum salary.
Women took an active role in the process. Typically, the region's forest contractors served as men's alcohol suppliers.
Additionally, they waged prolonged campaigns against drunkenness and expanded the movement's agenda to include other social concerns.
The movement won a win when the government announced a fifteen-year moratorium on tree felling in the Himalayan region.
The Chipko movement became a metaphor for the emergence of other similar populist movements throughout the country.
By the 1970s, Dalit graduates of the first generation, particularly those living in urban slums, began asserting themselves through a variety of forums.
Namdeo Dhasal and J. V. Pawar created the militant dalit organisation in Maharashtra on 29 May 1972.
Dalit organisations fought mostly against enduring caste-based abuses and material injustices.
One of their most notable demands was for the effective implementation of reservations and other social justice policies.
Dalit colonies within villages remained isolated from the main community. Discrimination against people on the basis of their social status was evident.
Legal mechanisms have been found to be ineffective in reversing Dalits' economic and social oppression.
Dalit-led political parties, such as the Republican Party of India, have been electorally unsuccessful.
These parties have always been marginal; they have been forced to form coalitions with other parties in order to win elections; and they have been subject to constant splits.
As a result, the Dalit Panthers took to mass action in order to establish Dalits' rights.
Dalit Panthers' primary objective was to combat growing atrocities against Dalits throughout the State. As a result, the government enacted a thorough law punishing such conduct severely in 1989.
The Panthers' overarching ideological goal was to abolish caste and to organise all oppressed groups.
The movement gave Dalit educated young an outlet for their creativity as a means of resistance. In their countless autobiographies and other literary works, Dalit writers expressed their opposition to the caste system's brutality.
Dalit Panthers also participated in electoral concessions; it also experienced numerous splits, which contributed to the organization's demise during the post-emergency period.
This sector has been taken up by organisations such as the Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF).
Bhartiya Kisan Union
In India, the Bharatiya Kisan Union is a non-partisan organisation that represents farmers. Chaudhary Charan Singh created it from the Punjab Khetibari Union (Punjab Farming Union), which became the Punjab branch.
Mahendra Singh Tikait formed the union's western Uttar Pradesh division on 17 October 1986.
Around 20,000 farmers gathered in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, in January 1988 to protest the government's plan to raise energy costs.
Farmers camped outside the district collector's office for almost three weeks, until their demands were met. During the protest, they were supplied with food on a consistent basis by neighbouring villages.
The Meerut agitation was hailed as a magnificent demonstration of rural strength by farmers cultivators. These agitated farmers were members of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU).
It was a pivotal force in the 1980s farmers' movement. Additionally, in the late 1960s, farmers in Haryana, Punjab, and western Uttar Pradesh profited from state-led 'green revolution' programmes.
Since that time, sugarcane and wheat have been the region's primary revenue crops. In the mid-eighties, the cash crop market experienced a crisis as the Indian economy began to liberalise.
The BKU spelled down the following requirements:
Increased sugarcane and wheat government floor prices.
Elimination of interstate prohibitions on agricultural product transit.
Electricity supply is guaranteed at competitive rates.
Farmers' loan obligations are waived, and the government provides farmers with a pension.
Other farmer organisations throughout the country made comparable demands.
Maharashtra's Shetkari Sanghatana branded the farmers' uprising a war against India. Rural, agrarian sector against industrialised urban sector
The conflict between industry and agriculture has long been a defining feature of India's growth strategy.
The BKU used rallies, protests, sit-ins, and jail bharo agitations to pressurise the state into supporting its demands.
Tens of thousands of farmers – sometimes more than a lakh – participated in these rallies from diverse villages in western Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring regions.
In the 1980s, the BKU organised enormous protests of these farmers in a number of the State's district offices and also in the capital.
Another unusual feature of these mobilizations was the exploitation of farmers' caste connections. The majority of members of the BKU were associated with a single community.
Economic difficulties were resolved through the usage of these societies' customary caste panchayats.
The BKU was able to survive for a lengthy period of time due to its members' clan networks.
These networks were used to mobilise BKU's funds, resources, and activities.
Until the 1990s, the BKU maintained a policy of non-aligned politics.
It functioned in politics as a lobbying group. The organisation, along with other farmer organisations from around the country, was successful in obtaining acceptance for some of their economic demands.
In this regard, the farmers' movement established itself as one of the decade's most effective social movements. Success was achieved as a result of its members' political negotiating power.
The movement was primarily concentrated in the country's wealthy states. Cash crops were grown for the market by members of organisations such as the BKU.
Farmers' organisations throughout the country attracted members from the communities that dominated regional electoral politics. As an example, Maharashtra's Shetkari Sanghatana and Karnataka's Rayata Sangha
It was a spontaneous mobilisation of women in Andhra Pradesh who demanded a ban on the selling of alcohol.
In the early 1990s, women in a village in the interior of Dubagunta, Nellore district, Andhra Pradesh, enrolled in huge numbers in the Adult Literacy Drive.
Alcoholism had taken root among the village residents and was harming their physical and mental health, according to women who complained of increased drinking of a locally borrowed wine called aarak by men in their families.
It had a significant impact on the region's rural economy. With increasing levels of alcohol consumption, indebtedness grew, men remained absent from work, and alcohol contractors turned to crime to maintain their monopoly on the arrack trade.
Women were the worst victims of alcohol's bad effects since it caused the family economy to collapse and forced women to bear the brunt of aggression from male family members, notably the husband.
• Women in Nellore banded together in ad hoc protests against arrack and the forced closing of the wine business.
• The storey spread quickly, and women from over 5000 villages were motivated to hold meetings, pass prohibition resolutions, and send them to the District Collector.
• The Nellore district arrack auctions have been postponed 17 times. This movement began in Nellore District and gradually spread throughout the state.
• The anti-arrack movement's slogan was a simple restriction on the selling of arrack. However, this modest demand alluded to wider regional social, economic, and political challenges that impacted women's lives.
• The business of arrack built a close relationship between crime and politics.
• Because the state government made a lot of money from the sale of arrack, it wasn't inclined to put a ban on it.
• In their activism against arrack, local women's groups attempted to address these complex concerns, as well as other issues such as domestic abuse.
• The anti-arrack movement merged with the feminist movement.
• Women's groups working on domestic violence, dowry, and sexual assault at work and in public areas were mostly active among the urban middle class.
• It led to the realisation that issues of gender inequity and injustice against women were complex in nature.
• These organisations waged a campaign against dowry and demanded personal and property laws based on gender equality principles.
• During the 1990s, the movement also demanded equal representation for women in politics.
• Women have been allowed reservations in municipal political posts under the 73rd and 74th amendments. There have also been calls for similar reservations to be extended in state and federal legislatures.
Aandolan Narmada Bachao
• The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) is an Indian social movement led by indigenous peoples (adivasis), farmers, environmentalists, and human rights activists who are protesting a series of huge dam projects along the Narmada River, which flows through Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra.
Project Sardar Sarovar
• In the 1980s, a large-scale development project was begun in central India's Narmada valley.
• The Narmada and its tributaries travel through three states: Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Maharashtra, and the project called for the construction of 30 large dams, 135 medium-sized dams, and about 3,000 small dams.
• Gujarat's Sardar Sarovar Project and Madhya Pradesh's Narmada Sagar Project were two of the project's most important and largest multi-purpose dams.
• Narmada Bachao Aandolan was a campaign to safeguard the Narmada River, which opposed the dams' construction and questioned the nature of the country's current development programmes.
• The Sardar Sarovar Project is a multipurpose mega-scale project that will benefit vast swaths of Gujarat and the three neighbouring states in terms of drinking water, irrigation water, electricity generation, and increased agricultural production.
• The success of this dam was related to several secondary benefits, such as good flood and drought control in the region.
• During the dam's construction, 245 villages from these states were scheduled to be flooded. Around two and a half lakh people had to be relocated from these communities.
Struggles and debates
• It sought a cost-benefit study of the country's key development projects done to date.
• The movement contended that in such an examination, the greater societal costs of development programmes must be considered.
• The social consequences included forced resettlement of project-affected people, a significant loss of their livelihood and culture, and ecological resource depletion.
• Initially, the campaign requested that all persons who were directly or indirectly affected by the project be properly and fairly rehabilitated.
• The movement also called into question the nature of the decision-making procedures that go into mega-development projects.
• According to the NBA, local communities should have a vote in such choices and should have effective control over natural resources such as water, land, and forests.
• The movement's arguments and agitations were met with vehement hostility in the states that benefited from the project, particularly in Gujarat.
• The government's formation of a comprehensive National Rehabilitation Policy in 2003 can be considered as a result of movements like the NBA.
• Its desire to halt dam construction was harshly criticised by many as hindering the development process.
• The Supreme Court affirmed the government's decision to proceed with dam building while also directing that proper rehabilitation be carried out.
• The Narmada Bachao Aandolan has been agitating for more than two decades.
• It employed every democratic method at its disposal to forward its demands. Mobilization of international support, similar to petitions to the judiciary.
• The movement was unable to gain widespread support among established political parties, including opposition parties.
• In Indian politics, the Narmada Bachao Aandolan's path portrayed a progressive disjunction between political parties and popular movements.
• By the end of the 1990s, many local groups and movements had formed to question the logic of large-scale development initiatives in their communities.
• The NBA became a part of a bigger coalition of people's movements fighting for similar causes in other parts of the country.
What lessons did these populist movements impart?
• These popular movements assist us in better understanding democratic politics.
• These non-party movements aren't sporadic, and they're not an issue. They were created to address some issues with the functioning of party politics, and they should be considered an important part of our democratic politics.
• They represented new social groups whose economic and social complaints had gone unresolved by political politics.
• Popular movements ensured that varied groups and their demands were well represented. As a result, the risk of severe social conflict and disaffection among these groups from democracy was lowered.
• Popular movements proposed new kinds of active engagement, broadening the definition of democracy in India.
• Opponents of these movements frequently claim that collective actions such as strikes, sit-ins, and demonstrations disrupt government functions, delay decision-making, and destabilise democratic processes.
Why do these movements use such confrontational tactics?
• Because popular movements have raised legitimate people's demands and enlisted widespread citizen engagement.
• The poor, socially and economically disadvantaged elements of society from marginal social groups are mobilised by these movements.
• The voices of these social groups were not given enough space in the normal functioning of democracy.
• It's possible that this is why these groups have resorted to large activities and mobilizations outside of the political process. The recent case of new economic policy exemplifies this.
• There is also a growing consensus across political parties on how these policies should be implemented.
• Any meaningful resistance against these practises necessitates assertive forms of action by public movements operating outside of political parties.
• They also entail a gradual process of people with comparable concerns, wants, and expectations coming together.
• For a long time, social movements in India have been active in these educational duties, and as a result, rather than generating disruptions, they have helped to the spread of democracy.
• Take, for example, the fight for the right to information.
• The impact of these movements on the nature of public policies appears to be minimal in practise. This is partly due to the fact that the majority of current movements are focused on a specific subject and reflect the interests of a single social group.
• As a result, it is possible to disregard their fair expectations.
• Democratic politics necessitates a broad coalition of disenfranchised social groups. Under the leadership of these movements, such an alliance does not appear to be forming.
• Political parties are expected to bring disparate sections of society together, but they appear to be unable to do so.
• Parties do not appear to be concerned about concerns affecting marginalised social groups. The movements that take up these concerns are quite constrained.
• The link between popular movements and political parties has deteriorated over time, resulting in a political vacuum.
Right to Information Campaign
• The pro-choice movement