Groups and Multiple Demands on the System
THE SEGMENTED NATURE of Indian society tends to stimulate diverse group activity. Before India came under British control, traditional and ascriptive ties based on kinship and community provided easy avenues for people to organize to protect their common interests. Then, with the advent of British rule, competition for jobs and the need to obtain economic and business concessions encouraged Indians to organize themselves. It was not surprising, therefore, that in the early stages of British rule in India, "in every province, at every level and inside every category, political associations were formed as the expression of claims and counter-claims, of group and counter-group, of competitors vying for the favor of the Raj by playing politics and couched in its own formulae." 1 The subsequent introduction of representative institutions and electoral politics after independence provided the incentive to politically ambitious people to organize all kinds of groups and associations.
Group activity was encouraged by the leadership of the Indian National Congress, which led the nationalist movement. With the blessing of such nationally known leaders as Nehru and Patel, peasants' organizations, trade unions, women's associations, student unions, youth organizations, associations promoting the spread of literacy in native languages, and various other nonascriptive associations sprang up all over the country. 2 These groups became important links between the Western-educated, English-speaking elites and the illiterate or semiliterate masses. They became, in effect, vital tools of mass mobilization. The group leaders, in turn, gradually became aware of the potential of group activity. They often used their group strength to promote their own interests and organizations by influencing first the policies of the Indian National Congress and subsequently the decisions of the state and national governments.