India Briefing, 1993
India Briefing, 1993
On December 7, 1992, the pile of rubble of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, and the makeshift temple to the god Ram-as-child placed in its midst, represented to many a profound change in the political and social landscape of India. The razing of the mosque the day before by a frenzied mob of Hindu holy men and young men committed to Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) seemed to symbolize an eruption of forces welling up from deep within the polity.
Yet had 1992 ended a month early, "before Ayodhya," it would have been called a year of slow but substantial progress on economic and political fronts. Some months later, despite several weeks of rioting and political uncertainty, India seemed to have regained its stability, paradoxically best seen in the reaction to the terrible bomb explosions in Bombay in March 1993, which did not provoke riots, but rather allowed Bombay residents to demonstrate their dedication to a civil society and a vigorous economy and polity. Perhaps the events at Ayodhya are better seen--less threateningly--as part of a political process deeply constrained by decades of democracy and a flexible and resilient net of social relationships among the myriad religious and other communities of India.
Analysts differ in evaluating the meaning of the turbulence that seems ever-present in India. Some see evidence of crisis-producing fault lines in the underlying economic and social structure of the country; others find the evidence for those deep divisions unpersuasive. At the same time, there are competing assessments of the role and strength of the Indian state. Some see the state as weakened to the point that it can no longer handle the seething social and economic forces of the country; others suggest that the limits of state capacity are yet to be tested and that recent events underline its continuing strength.
Do those forces arise from cleavages within the economy, in the interplay of classes? Is the basic problem the decay of a previously institutionalized state? Or should we turn to explanations derived from . . .