Sunday, April 6, 2014

Are not Social Movements and AAP Complementary !

Mohini Mullick
Dear Sunil,
A few thoughts in response to your post dealing with the AAP. in no particular order. You say:

Also these movements, although rising often in the name of democracy, have allied with the armed forces with ease. No wonder that the peasants, artisans and adivasis are by and large absent from the discourses started by AAP.
It was Prashant Bhushan of AAP who raised the issue of AFSPA some time ago, suggesting that at least for civilian area deployment, the people of Kashmir be consulted. There was a huge outcry and Kejriwal distanced himself from the Bhushan statement, but mostly because as a party it had not been discussed, no policy had been formulated which is of course true for a number of other important political issues.
Recently I heard a debate in which Bhushan again was arguing for raising the price of crops to farmers. A BJP spokesman countered this with the point that such a move would be inflationary ; then what concern was Bhushan showing towards the 'aam admi'. To which came the prompt reply:'Is the farmer not an aam admi?'
Whereas it is true that AAP  primarily addressed  (during its stint at Delhi) the problems of the urban poor, it is not quite correct to say that the discourse started by AAP finds no place for artisans and the rural poor. There was a forceful move to abolish daily wage work except for small short termed projects. This would directly impact  the income of artisans working in cities. These are  most often a migratory population from the rural areas. 
You are right to say that they have declared that they are not against capitalism--but only crony capitalism which they see as corrupt. Nor are they against corporates per se
But one of the first steps that their government took was to ban FDI in retail in the state of Delhi. This cannot be seen as a defense of capitalism or of the corporate structure. You say about these educated persons of AAP: this class is less connected with the people than any other ruling classes so far.
But you have noticed they have at least succeeded in changing some aspects of the political culture already. Almost all candidates are now going on foot to make contact with the people. no lal battis are seen in the footage telecast by tv channels. Even 'chai pe charcha' is the result of the kind of contact that AAP made 'fashionable', if nothing else.
But let me come to my major point/suggestion for you to ponder over..
If there are values and some goals that are compatible if not overlapping with those of LJA, then you could explore the possibility that this movement is complementary rather than antagonistic to what you are trying in your own way, to achieve. I am not wanting to prejudge the outcome of such an effort. It is just that I feel a very strong peoples' movement could be the result of mutual support rather than antagonism. Each movement has its own history: it draws on a particular section of society whose concerns it feels most strongly for. Also its approach and method is limited by these concerns. So focus on vidya is one, and I do feel that lok vidya is a very foundational concept for all peoples movements. But as Amit Basaole(spelling?) said, let us also look at lok , Then we will find a multiplicity of loks and their vidyas ( about which I have written earlier).
Medha Patkar initially worked  with the urban poor--I could be wrong about that : she worked in Bombay. But she did not hesitate to take on the settlers --adivasis-- of the Narmada valley. And now has joined AAP. Of course so has Sanyal--Meera I think. But why? Even corporates need cleaning up--not just governments. In any case she has probably left the corporate world. Should we hold her background against her?
In conclusion, Let me repeat that there could emerge an important complementarity in the efforts of SMs and AAP whixh is also one. To see this as a process of co-option without exploring all possibilities, I see as unfortunate for all concerned, which is all of us who are concerned --in our own limited way.
Warmest wishes to you and Chitra in your life's work,
Mohini Mullick


  1. For a dialogue

    I would like to share your discussion the meaning of the emergence of Aam Admi Party (AAP) and the future of social movements (SM) with my friends, and also, I am mostly in agreement with your introduction on the nature of AAP. I suggest you to continue the dialogue with the activists of various social movements as well as with the people who like to imbue the social movements with richer inputs like lokvidya.

    I am adding my input (a few points) to carry forward the said dialogue:
    1. I share the point of Jaideep Hardikar that the present media and politics have a huge and serious disconnect with the people and the actual social processes. So, we should get rid of our mediatized existence. If we want to participate and intervene the present political situation, our role must be political and we shall have to create a third space or Lokvidya Parimondal. Social movements are the products of actual social processes. If any protest/demonstration of us was ignored by the mainstream media, it is not our task to complain for that, but to build up an independent unsponsored network for us (Lok-sampark).
    2. Social or peoples movements are generated socially and organically from within the society. We can not build it up (or erect it on a new base), rather we can imbue it with our experience and knowledge.
    3. Power is most accurately delivered from the political power in our country, although it is vastly compromised now due to the rise of corporate power and media power. The crisis of social movements has one important facet in this respect : How to deal with the power.
    Awaiting your valuable opinion and suggestions to circulate this discussion into a larger dialogue.

    Jiten Nandi and Shamik Sarkar

  2. Ever since the launch of LJA in Nov 2011 we have been making attempts to set up a medium Lokavidya Tana Bana (Lok sampark as you termed it) so that reportage and analysis which truly reflect the concerns of Lokavidyadhar Samaj are shared and looked forward to by the Samaj. I think this may be an opportune time to give some organizational shape to this idea.