Battling for India : A Citizen’s Reader
“We can’t look back. We are moving forward. They can’t stop us and we won’t be able to stop ourselves either. We have a long way to go; we are fighting for the rights of the generations to come.”
For well over a decade, there has been a battle going on in India, as old divisions and inequalities have become deeper. Since 2014, this battle has reached a feverish pitch with the combined onslaught of majoritarian politics and market-driven policies. There are now, as the editors of this anthology argue, two signposts as we enter the Indian nation—one reads: Battling India, and points to a domain of coercion and plunder; the other says: Battling for India, and invites us to spaces where many brave, indomitable people demand their share of dignity and lay claim to citizenship.
This necessary collection brings us the voices and experiences of those who are battling for India through their private struggles and public activism: Alivelamma, a woman farmer. Huchangi, Rohith, Ravan—poet, scholar, activist; all dalit. Sukalo, Rajkishor, Leelabati—activist, poet, singer; adivasis. Eighteen-year-old Muddu Thirthahalli and ninety-one-year-old Nayantara, both writers; Amarjeet, Sonia and 2000 others gathered at a workers’ rally. Salima, Hafiz, Aslah, who refuse to be second-class citizens. Among them, and with them, are the voices of journalists, artists, teachers and students. Together, they speak to us of the many ways in which state and extra-state forces have been excluding more and more citizens from India. Together, they show us ways to re-make the nation envisioned by our Constitution—a nation whose people can, without exception, live as free and equal citizens.
“Once in a while a book comes along that makes one rethink the boundaries defining the world of publishing. Battling for India is a book of that genre-bending kind… This is because the rather weighty theme — the rise of sectarianism and an exclusionary hyper-nationalism in India and the nationwide resistance to these — is treated in an altogether unconventional manner by the editors. Instead of prioritising rhetoric or intellectual discussion it adopts an illustrative, empirical methodology that emphasises lived experience over proselytism or debate. It is an approach that shows us both the corrosive effects of the reigning ultra-Rightist ideology upon the lives and liberty of the Indian people and the diverse ways in which citizens, nationwide, have been resisting the oppressive, divisive regime… In all, Battling for India is a soul-stirring read…”
“(The book) examines the majoritarian forces suppressing dissent and spreading violence in India.”
“(The book) also has voices of many little-known Indians, farmers, activists and students, who are leading quiet struggles to secure a space for the marginalised and disadvantaged, to ensure that the constitutional guarantees are not granted selectively… What distinguishes most of these voices is their unfailing optimism. They are cognisant that their fight is against a mighty force, but they have not lost hope… They are the torchbearers of democracy, conscience-keepers of the nation who place the public good before personal interests.”
“Timely… a must-read book for those who want to understand the underbelly of our democracy.”