Citizen activism that is missing from the wrestling ring

Source– The post is based on the article “Citizen activism that is missing from the wrestling ring” published in “The Hindu” on 5th June 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Development Processes and the Development Industry

Relevance– Issues related to civil society

News- A few nationally acclaimed wrestlers have been protesting against their federation chief, allegedly for sexual harassment.

There is a lack of citizen activism seen during Nirbhaya protests and the Anna Andolan.

What have been the characteristics of civil society activism in India?

Middle-class activism was at its peak in the colonial period. This was not completely free of social conservatism and caste-based fractures. But it had a pluralistic and egalitarian dimension.

It revolved around socio-economic initiatives undertaken by urban elites of the upper castes, lower-middle and middle classes. It was directed towards individuals of lower social status.

The middle classes were not active in civil society participation from the Nehruvian era onwards. They were part of power structures within the state-centred political economy.

As per some scholars, there has been dominance of caste/community-based organisations. The country lacked a modern civil society. Others have appreciated the role of these organisations in aiding democratisation.

Some scholars say that in India, religion, caste, ethnicity and language have been effectively mobilised in articulating and representing group identities and interests.

During the United Progressive Alliance, there was a resurgence of urban, middle-class activism around issues of political corruption.

There was rising discontent among middle classes. It was due to corrupting influences of mass-based politics and vote banks and suspicions” towards unions, subordinate castes and Muslims.

This middle-class equated technocratic governance and entrepreneurialism with progress. For them, politics represented social division and ‘barriers to development’.

How has the nature of civil society activism changed after 2014?

Post-2014, the ideology of the ruling Party has influenced this middle-class. It reflects the changing Indian sensibility, especially among India’s professional and middle classes.

Thus, the middle classes now represent a kind of a civil society base of the ruling party. It can explain a weakening attachment towards independent social actors, as the wrestlers.

The weakness of personality-driven Anna Andolan is evident. The Narmada Bachao Andolan ultimately ended in failure.

NBA was disinterested in mobilising peasants and workers in rural Gujarat. Ecological concerns privileged urban middle class perspectives.

However, there still exists space for popular mobilisation. In Tamil Nadu, labour rights organisations compelled the M.K. Stalin government to stall the implementation of a new labour law.

The farmers’ agitation demonstrates the continuing influence of these organisations in parts of northern India. Some of these groups have now given their support in favour of the protesting wrestlers.

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