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Cartoon controversy July 5, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Nelson, Barbara , comments closed

Barbara Nelson

Textbooks are back in the news in India. The Republican Party of India (RPI) Athavale held a press conference in April to demand the removal of a 1949 Shankar cartoon depicting Ambedkar and Nehru from a Class 11 textbook, Indian Constitution at Work. This led to the government apologising and promising to remove the cartoon. Minister for Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal, also commissioned a review of the six textbooks in Political Science “to identify educationally inappropriate material”. The report (Report of Committee to Review NCERT Textbooks and Note of Dissent by M. S. S. Pandian) is available from the Kafila website.


History rots, history preserved June 26, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Nelson, Barbara, South Asia - General , comments closed

Barbara Nelson

A recent series of articles on the India Ink site of the New York Times highlights the woeful state of many Indian archives and libraries, but also points to some positive developments. The situation in India contrasts with the picture painted by Kevin Greenbank of the film and oral history collections of the Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge. (Reel Histories: The Film and Oral History Collections of the Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge). In both cases, digitisation is an important tool for preserving and making archive collections available. (more…)

India’s churning democracy: future directions February 27, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Doron, Assa, India, Nelson, Barbara , comments closed

Barbara Nelson and Assa Doron

This article appears in the most recent edition of the East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘Ideas from India.

Indian democracy continues to puzzle many foreign observers. But for most Indians, democracy — however imperfect — is a matter of practice, something they grow up with. Indian democracy may not be perfect — which democracy is? — but it would be safe to say that debates that raged until at least the 1980s about whether it will survive are now firmly in the rearview mirror. Millions are going to the polls this year as elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur begin this January. Most attention is focused on the Uttar Pradesh poll, India’s most populous state and the sixth largest in the world, a state so large that the logistics of ensuring security for voters affects the election; the poll must be conducted in seven distinct phases.

That India has survived as a democratic nation since independence in 1947 has, until recently, remained an anomaly to social scientists. According to the view that democracy requires economic development, a common culture and high levels of literacy, India’s claim to be democratic has rested largely on the fact that it holds elections, has universal suffrage, and transfer of power occurs without trouble. Rather than viewing India as an anomaly, democratic theory now accounts more comprehensively for the Indian case.