Struggling for Democratic Future in Times of Dystopia: Case of Indian Student Activism

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:30
Oral Presentation
Shruti TAMBE, Department of Sociology, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune, India
In the first six decades of post-independence period, most of the Indian social movements could either be classified as Socialist or as Traditionalist, fundamentalist. However, more recently, on the one hand there is blurring of boundaries between these categories. On the other hand, with co-optation and appropriation of earlier vocabularies of socialism and fundamentalism, the common ground for left leaning activists is only Constitutional goals.

“In these times of dystopia, democratic values can only provide the common ethical framework for future”, said one youth leader. “Free and egalitarian society based on values enshrined in the Constitution of India.” Why Constitution? “We do not believe in any notion of morality. But democratic values in the Constitution of India can be used as the new ethical framework to pave to Democratic Socialism.” She continued. Currently to bring together voices of the marginalized on account of caste, class, gender, ethnicity and region, it is important to search for a common dream of future that is acceptable to the already divided sections within marginalized communities is the biggest challenge.

Last two years were marked by youth activism and movements across India. From Western Indian cities to Eastern Indian Universities there are campaigns and agitations for free speech, educational scholarships, and against suppression of free thinking, sexual harassment on campus, privatization closing opportunities for students. Though most of these agitations and student activism is against neoliberalism and aggressive globalisation, it is equally against conservatism and fundamentalism. These student activists are articulating a new democratic future with Constitutional values of social justice, equality and secularism as the ethical common framework.