Kaveri Rajaraman on Economic and Social Justice Movements in India

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[Note: Every Indian word is misspelled]

Rape is placed as the one crime that is perpetrated against woman, and all the other crimes and mistreatment swept under the rug.

[first woman she was talking about, mentioned repeatedly, never caught the name enough to write it down]

She is completely uncompromising in woman having their full rights

Very radical thing in India, against arranged marriage

Movement against marriage as an institution entirely

sexual harassment in the workplace, she has brought

she's been described as a victim of rape in the media-- which is not what she should be described as.

Rape is just a part of everyday life for someone on the receiving end of all these hierarchies

the formal legal structure is [not that important/respected in india

India is a very difficult place to think about revolution -- it is so large, more than a billion people, and so complex
caste, class, religion, culture, language
very difficult to
i have no answers for most of these questions
but so far my goal has been very humble, not to create any revolutionary change
spent about 6 months traveling around
some of that was with Simon, which is the only reason i have any photographs, because i do not have a camera
now been living in Bangalore for months, and that will be my base for organizing for the next several years

millions of different

the media and the law are not institutions that have been entrenched into most of Indian society
so there is amazing creativity
but poverty is really grinding

this is a bad map of India -- most are -- includes (all?) of Kashmir

especially in the south, but in many of the periphery
each state defines an ethno-religious area

broadly speaking, two or three sets of revolutionary currents

one is the set of currents that call themselves Ghandian.
Very powerful still in India, but strongly
what unites them is commitment to peaceful, nonviolent
doesn't necessarily re
because Ghandi's original struggle was very much a nationalist struggle
Ghandi's views started out very conservative on caste
caste system in India is an amalgamation of ethnicity and class
there is a link between their family past and their
and where those
caste is as complicated as family lineages

a lot of Dalit identity is based strongly around the organizing of Dr. Ambedkar

if not class or caste, what is a Gandhian struggle? Their pull is their local autonomous focus

nutritional, calorie consumption has gone done
people are eating less but have more things-- cell phones
puzzling contradictions

While most people seem to be getting material richer and consuming lower calories

one segment of the poor getting much poorer
strongly correlates Adivasi identity
loosely correlates with term indigenous-- really, "jungle dweller"

so some narrowly define themselves as working on land and use changes

Very directly related to climate change. In Rajastan the soil has been getting drier for past ten, twenty years. Have to drill deeper, and water evaporates faster-- it is hotter. Water from so deep contaminated with [minerals and] flouride - and it turns the soil white, and people can't farm anymore. Pushes people to desperation ready to fight for anything.

Also, struggles for land. Big capitalists come to a region and they decide . Often the state acting on behalf of big capital.

And then there's struggles like in Rajahstan where they don't know whom they're struggling against

Adivasis in forest areas, like there are the police who crush opposition to land, there is the forestry service that believes the parks should be unpeopled-- and there are millions of people living in the national parks. They used to take bribes, now under influence of capital seeking access to these forests they are brutally driving Adivasi out. Adivasi have a rich tradition of resistance.

Sentiments strikingly similar to Latin America and Africa against encroachment against land.


1. Gandhian struggle -- middle class activists bringing in the concept of . Sometimes suits locals.
2. Armed communist parties. CPI-Maoist -- an underground movement. Traditional strongholds, their presence dates 30-40 years. Basically the Communist Party of India-Maoist is a revolutionary armed struggle. And then there is civil society, parliamentary efforts. CPI-Maoist arose from the communist parties.
CPI-Marxist been in power in West Bengal for 40 years, and on and off in power in Kaela
In 1960s and 1970s, CPI-Marxist-Leninist, denounced CPI-Marxist as giving up revolutionary class struggle. That
Naxaalite, an autonomous peasant uprising, joined by many students, activist
faced great state repression, fractured into many
one stream has fused the Maoist identified ones

Intensity of armed struggle are strongest in Bengal, parts of ... and Udair Pradesh. Traditionally Advasis area, and filled with minerals.
armed struggle has been successful fighting
also, a peaceful struggle requires an audience

like Gandhism imposes peacefulness
likewise the CPI-Maoist has polarized the fabric of the areas they live
for the most people
the level of violence that they are subjected to by the forest department, police, landlords, feudal elements, capitalists, that the additional violence from
but not everyone in the areas under Maoist control wanted
While the Maoists have done a militarily phenomenal job protecting the areas they fully control, the areas that are boundaries are trashed by the state, specifically to teach them a lesson.

i haven't talked much about what i have done in the course of my year there

Traveled through many of the states here going to visit different people's movements. There is very little organizing around class per se. even struggles that claim to be around class are specific union struggles, and each union belongs to a political party

The struggles that are around caste face a very strong problem of NGOisation-- organizations that receive any sort of funding, middle class gatekeepers to the expression of that struggle.

Fight for resources:
1. Sell-out NGO, parliamentary route
2. Gandhian -- falls to middle class supporters to bring visibility
3. Basically militant caste class organizing in various areas

Difficult to figure out where should i position myself

Have to work everywhere and with everyone.

In India there is always one issue-- the set of problems everyone is facing -- the bundle of
question is who has taken leadership in the struggle and why
ones personal position
had to make decisions around money, personal practices of gender and class

went to Rajahstan, Upra pradesh [the north] and most of the south, and also to -- the pitched intensity of the struggle of Maoists against the state.

Shocking facts about India-- More malnourished kids in India than in several countries combined.

India has largest occupation in the world: 700,000 soldiers in Kashmir.

Kashmiri people in the valley do not want either India or Pakistan

People very possessive about Kashmir -- and they know nothing about it.

National Alliance of People's Movements -- largely Gandhian
NFFVFW (?) - National Forum for forest - very militant in their work. Near the Nepal border. And some Dalit groups in south, inc. Bangladore

While i was staying in Delhi for a while, did some organizing for justice
state slaughtering people in villages [without?] Maoist presence
work around the evictions that happen in the city, for metros to be built, shopping malls to be built. Huge amount of urban displacement.

Idea that in India that there are up to 40 million people displaced in India by their lands being taken over, the largest

union work, both
and displacement, rural and agricultural

groups i've already been worked with

At one point i also went to Nepal, that's where i celebrated May Day. Amazing to be in a city that started a general strike, with about 1/10th the countries population in capitol. Here a Maoist party waged an armed struggle against a monarchy, which enabled them to use public resentment of that single power for a long time
one of the problems in India is that it *is* a democracy
Formal democracy is a very good way to make people pretend everything is OK. As long as you keep cycling people, very hard for resentment to build up

DOW chemical has changed the names it gives its factories over and over
very hard to have your struggles feel like you are fighting against something concrete.

while they are moving toward

Maoist party in Nepal has done a phenomenal job
rural people
ethnic minorities

Internet use in these movements?

Does the hierarchy have Internet?

Internet very much middle class phenomenon -- so struggles with . weather or not your story being up on the internet means who tells their story better than anyone else gets - a big land use struggle had success with this strategy


Charlie of Techschange has provided computers

Sri Lanka Tamil struggle against mostly Sinhalese dominated state. Armed resistance movement, waged struggle against the state. Recently the Sri Lankan state crushed the LTTE. Huge number of Tamil civilians brutally slaughtered. LTTE was very much funded and nurtured by the diaspora, in US and UK, and in [the state nearest in India]. Fundamentally not well ordanized by
a lot of Tamil activists of other ideological stripes

the opposition to the

Similarity between punjab in India and Pakistan is absolute-- traveling across India, you see much more differences. While people have been influenced by media to back the existence of a given conflict, the actual creation of a conflict is entirely due to the actions of the governments, we have no control.

Organizing in the northeast
not just Kashmir
narrative in northeast is not straightforward
many statehood struggles
government of India has treated the Northeast like crap for many many years
reason for this is multifold. Geographically, there is just this tenuous link
administratively the Indian state has neglected the entire area
also racist component -- they are ethnically more East Asian looking, many derogetory words, migrants put down. Struggles of groups there wanting
Indian state has been uncomfortable [not because they care about the region
set of draconian laws, in Manipur, state where there was traditionally a hindu monarchy, which was just in the valley, has been able to take over administration. They wanted to unite for a long time with another state.
Indian state used excuse to militarize the region, draconian laws, very similar / solidarity to Kashmir

biggest migration is rural to urban, which is overwhelmingly male (workforce) which has two effects:
- as everywhere, when demographic shifts to more women have given women more power, the situation of women has improved

Things that happened in Middle East, can we do that here? Mostly answer is no.-- partly because

many people ask me to write a lot more about it, talk about it on shows
i don't want to contribute to the trend of middle class people talking about and being seen as responsible
i'm talking to all of you here, informally, to say very clearly that these struggles are not ones that i can claim to be any way credited with.

I will try to

Middle class co-option of struggles enrage me, and much of that is due to English being the language.

people who have

legal structure of India is so messed up, you can be put in jail for having maoist tendencies. All someone has to do is throw a copy of __ into your luggage
others thrown into jail when they are Maoists but have done nothing
and some who have been thrown into jail for being armed revolutionaries
i try not to play good

that is why militant class politics has been shut down
so that is why Gandhian

1/5 of India, police cannot enter, the state ignored for so long
reason Gandhian movements
if they get too militant, then well-known Gandians are thrown in prison for being maoists

so the non-militant union activism is carved up by political parties, inc. farmers unions, in Hindu nat'list party

much is good intentions

i try to stay far away from the NGOs with bad intentions

some of the most famous activist, some of the people
with all good intentions, are seen to spak for struggles where they barely participate

she as with most other people will say she is not one who is forming the core part of any of the struggles

the middle class involved in core of struggles may also not be well known, but relative

truckload of money from internationl
spend 80-90% on overhead, which means air conditioning
there's a wall, and there's

the classes are so entrenched, people don't see this at all

poverty is so grinding, everyone can recognize there is a problem, people don't question why you are an activist, you are doing social work, social charity, that's a good thing
but people who do any kind of contribution to [alleviating poverty's worst] feel they have done their bit

extracts from one part of the world, brings to another part of the world, keeps that part relatively comfortable. People compost and feel they have done enough.

there are bad intentions and good intentions, but the fundamental notion of dignity and speaking for oneself is missing from too many movements

I have not personally not encountered who are bearing arms for the armed struggle.

Any armed movement has a lot of other structures around it. CPI-Maoist armed in a certain belt, and they have a lot of unarmed union and farmer struggles in other parts of the country.

best to talk about Nepal: there you will see portraits of Marx, Engles, Stalin, Lenin, Mao

the actual political program derives big inspiration from many sources, not hardwired to Stalin or Maoist or anything. Local interpretations.

And in Nepal, Maoists now in parliament, very unclear

Lots of public dissent within CPI-Maoist about how to interpret.

The thing about corporate media is it controls the media much less than here, people do not have TVs, and when they do have TVs, they watch trash on it, not news. Which is useful.

But the growing influence of corporate media is seen, especially in attitude of Indians and Pakistanis on Kashmir -- schools also have done this-- 'it's our possession'

The link to Mao is strongest; but their connection is how to come to power--- [not what to do once there]
the successes of Maoism in China compared to Indian democracy are unbelievable-- more people killed due to Indian state neglect than in China, even when you include the Great Leap Forward and bad state planning.

ingredients for both ways for CPI-Maoist exists-- parties that can be very easily co-opted, or can decentralize power
party has shown itself to be responsive to pressure from civil societies groups that have worked to justify the Maoist position

In some places armed struggle is necessary. Some places,

My opinion: One can't be wedded to one form of struggle.

Have to be able to take on the state by the state by surprise.

I believe in simple ideologies: organizing should be done around class. organizing should be done around gender

urban struggle faced a lot of violent repression. Militant unions
CPI-Maoist, a good thing, much less elitism in their groups-- partly because at one point CPI-Maoist took a stand of not admitting more middle class students and activists

NFW - strong groups

also not to fair to decide who you work with depending on whose leadership they have been colonized by
but, do you want to spend your time

work with the groups that have a good sense of class dynamics
that helps narrow down the huge range of movements
then find about other movements that need logistical help

there is a role for middle class movements, i don't think they should stay away
but it is basic common sense to me, middle class should just pass on resources, allow their skills to be deployed, and direction should come from the movement
middle class people can provide logistical help

BSP (?)
some degree militant Dalid power

NSFW - mainstream press lambasts BSP for spending money raising statues to Daled - come down on the right side of a land struggle and you have loyalties for years
but popular for same reason feudal struggles are powerful

around caste and gender, not a sense of caste militancy in Gandhian struggle

rural movements, good gender dynamics because more women in them, more women in villiages.

also, more of middle-class women going as organizers to this areas-- because find this respect, because of

many are very humble, don't want to use class status-- part of the respect they have comes from class background

gender is still messed up in many of these

cases of sexual harassment

because Gandhian movements rely on good publicity, so everything is swept under the carpet

gender dynamics in Maoist interesting-- proud that much of armed cadre are women
many are kickass women

sitnig down in a sea of people in katmandu protest, bunch of boys from youth communist league, very
clapped hands and yelled at the men, there are ten of you
they stopped, and after that she was very quite again
that kind of militance in women i do not see that often
and Maoists quite proud
but representation of women in leadership is terrible. 3 in politboro in its history

and nepotism problems, women raising

mixed-gender squads, risk of sexual assault high
very strict rules around assault and rape

but people have left party who allege assault not taken seriously
hard to assess truth, because police coach
but tend to not have nuance: 'i was raped'
and some complaints of messed-up dynamics are about nepotism,

The other thing about Gandhian movements, link to sexuality, women in these movements have to be in the role of being respectable women-- either married, or have to be asexual

i was worried about, being queer

i have been open to Gandhian organizers who do not want to talk about sex at all. and it somehow seems to matter when you are not

auto driver named [tilicka] - Dalet woman who drives a auto
male-dominated, and
men have beaten up Telicka and her auto like ten times
when we take megaphone and talk about it
surrounded by throngs of men, 40 to 50, and yell at us
and in many ways the gender dynamics are better here, so they
"you do not know w
she is a bad woman. she drinks and she smokes. and that was the extent of the

the speeches women gave would start with "we are all bad women"

visible transgender women -- sometimes stigmatized, sometimes
visibility of that community always gave people with different gender identity a place to go

large working class gay and lesbian and transgender workers
also aided by NGOs doing work. Including where i live now

identity more constructed along transgender lines than gay lines

there are people who identify as non-medically transitioning trans people, so...

variosu gay identified who have not come out
some who have come out and faced

In Nepal, things are very different, because the queer movement made a solid political move to make themselves visible in the anti-monarchy movement
because they faced so much police repression, they identified it with
now Nepal is one of the best places to be gay in the world
protected in new constitution

onec you have third gender male female marriage breaks down

Maoists in Nepal no longer make transphobic comments, even in passing, gay rights on all their agendas

one thing joyful with me, armed with my gadar, i meet obviously gay and trans people all over the place

Language is a problem.

Once you have a foothold into the northern indian languages, they are all in one family. In the south, the families of languages are not related at all, and then the Adivisi languages are

then gender plays into language-- women are positioned as repositories of cultural [consistency] more likely to speak only local language. Also, more likely for men to have some west. Good side that they are doing this amazing work preserving culture and language

How do you feel about the role of the diaspora
many cases, such as funding the LTTE and the violent repression against it, diaspora has not had to face the negative consequences of their involvement

but if Indians and others
really important for diaspora to have a sense of responsibility of its involvement, and have close communication with the people who have to live with the consequences of diaspora involvement

It is really important for immigrant diaspora to send money back
many pralyzed because don't know which groups -- and shouldn't send money to groups that throw it away, but even that is better than throwing it away yoruself

I make a distinction between diaspora where you have to buy a plane ticket, those have money to send back-- if you express interest send money.

Suren: that distinction does not fly, people coming from China and
despite outward appearances, i'm from South Africa
the way capitalism and societies work, people's ability to do things gets chopped up-- and along with it the ability to imagine
how do you develop ethic with middle class involvement?
cultural hegemony well beyond its borders-- Bollywood
capacity to imagine, and enact, alternatives, to what extent

are you asking how deep is the infiltration of capitalism in people's ability to

Suren: For Maoists struggles, for instance, to scale, to what extent do they have the capacity to imagine an alternative to appeal to a large number of Indians?

Kaveri: one thing that is always striking comparing
words like exciting, imagination just don't apply
strong sense of spartanism in the movements in India
sense is that people are having a difficult time so they are struggling
so movement not so well equipped to deal with people who are seeing enough increase in their consumption that words like imagination and exciting begin to apply
so it is a problem for middle class engagement especially
but party [Maoists] have made changes before that really changed their actions-- adding a cultural wing, organizing Adivasi cultural events, their success organizing boomed, and they recognized this

does have to be a change in the way that the Left thinks about notions of political excitement

one doesn't necessary compare poverties, but one gets the sense in Latin America that the cultural sense of we don't have anything is not as strong as in India-- even though India has strong local music movement

Q: Any signs of hip-hop?

Kaveri: Efforts in South Asian community in UK to merge radical music traditions, beats, spoken word-- but not making back to India, but there is long tradition of ballads
there have been

me: You have talked about the many axis of struggle, class, caste, gender. Where do you see as places where combining struggles can make all more powerful -- not theoretically, but practically -- like with the queer move in the Nepal anti-monarchy movement

Any minority struggle has to build its own militancy and base to the point that majority struggles find them indespensible

half the peop/e ant protest are LGBT-- they are indespensible--- so their ideas and interests are

militant and determined outreach by the minority politics necessary to

other then the resource access struggles [?]

Nuclear program?
The only question that matters to people of India is if there will be a disaster. So, nuclear safety bill matter of contention among the public.
Other question is if money Indian state
and third, how should we be generating electricity-- nuclear
but most of these debates far removed from working people's struggles
some specific land struggles against taking of land by nuclear plants

[South-central Indian girl in university, George Mason in Virginia, who helped me cook and is up here to visit her boyfriend

Adivasi have fought some of the most successful anti-colonial, anti-capitalist struggles

this is a bit personal
so i am here as part of one and a half months of research here

ASDS - works with peolpe who have fled Uda Pradesh -- where there has been the maximum state repression against Adivasi, faces most nutritional deprivation

for many people there is grain for one meal a day

[wow-- seemed in Uidapur and Kolkata that food was one thing people did not lack]

anyone who wants to contribute to ASDS should
Tata has pictures -- met him!