India has long been dominated by the upper castes, most notably the Brahmins and the warrior castes whose influence permeates society at every level. Since the 1960s a new assertiveness has characterized this formerly silenced majority (the lower castes comprise more than two-thirds of the Indian population). Its growing political consciousness was first epitomised by Charan Singh's efforts to build a peasant movement and then by the demand for job quotas for the low castes that V.P.Singh articulated in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, many official posts are "reserved" for "Other Backward Classes", namely the lower castes. India's most populous states, Uttar Pradesh is controlled by lower caste politicians, as is Bihar, and lower caste representation in national politics is growing inexorably. The author of this text argues that this trend constitutes a genuine "democratization" of India and that the social and economic effects of this "silent revolution" are bound to mutiply in the years to come.
Christophe Jaffrelot is Director of the Centre for International Studies (CERI), Paris, and France's leading expert on modern India. His books include The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics (Hurst, 1996).
Contents: I: Congress Domination and Conservative Democracy - The Ideological Roots of Indian Democracy's Social Deficit - Discourses and Practices - Congress: Party of the Intelligentsia or of the Notables? -The Co-option of Scheduled Caste Leaders and the 'Coalition of Extremes' - Indira Gandhi and the Aborted Reform of Congress - II: The Second Age of Indian Democracy - From Reluctant to Compelling Caste-Based Affirmative Action - Two Strategies: Quota Politics and Kisan Politics - The Janata Dal and the Empowerment of the Low Castes - The BSP: Not Just a Dalit Party - The Upper Castes' Political Resilience: Congress and the BJP Coping with the Mandal Commission.