ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gestures of Cultural Justice: Narrative Justice for Phoolan Devi in Epic Recounting

The epic tale of Phoolan Devi has inspired several studies and artistic works around her life and struggle. This includes her representation in the works of literature, cinema, painting and other genres. They brought complex discourses around the politics of representations and the question of genre and medium itself. None of these studies, however, examines how Mallah, the caste Phoolan Devi belonged or the local subaltern communities want to project Devi in their narrative discourses. Thinking through the epic and ballads on the life of Phoolan Devi, created by her own community in particular and Bahujan community in general, this article reads the representation of Devi as a case of narrative justice. From Devi’s image as a revengeful figure and the Bandit Queen of popular culture, Phoolan Devi has slowly emerged as the queen of justice for the local subaltern communities. Contrary to the sensational approach of popular and the voice to the voiceless approach of the scholarly writings, the epic narratives around Phoolan are more steady and up to the mark to engage with the contemporary discourse of caste, gender and intersectional representation. Though there are many ballad singers and performers who sing the story of Phoolan Devi in birha and alha style, I discuss the alha of Phoolan Devi by Ajay Sahni, a singer from Mallah community. I situate their representations or recounting of Phoolan’s life as part of cultural justice that involves the battle over the relations of representation and “correcting” the discourse of narrative injustices. This article also raises the question of genre—which is a genre more capable of bringing the agency and struggle of a particular community. As the epic performance brings the question of morality and recognition in strong ways, the forms become explicitly political, unlike the other genres. Both the epic forms alha and birha situate the discourses of what is to be human. The form is specially very popular in Bundelkhand region from where Phoolan belonged to. This makes the genre very special to discuss the question of representation.

Bahujan Representation on the Big Screen: A Reading List

With the release of films like Sairat (2016) and Kaala (2018), Indian cinema is taking a step towards acknowledging stories from the margins. However, what does it mean in terms of representation and forging a path towards equality?

​The Borrowed Gaze in Street Photography

As photography is increasingly democratised, how do we shake off the colonial gaze?

Directly Elected Mayors

The introduction of directly elected mayors has the potential to completely change not only the landscape of urban local body governance, but also the nature of citizens’ participation in the management of their cities. The benefits of the directly elected mayoral system and its influence on the dynamics of the existing political system are explored.

How Does the Delimitation of Constituencies Influence Elections in Manipur?

Manipur has two parliamentary seats in the Lok Sabha, out of which the Outer Manipur constituency is reserved for a tribal candidate. However, in 1954, the Delimitation Commission of India clubbed the electorates of the erstwhile Thoubal subdivision (excluding Bishenpur tehsil) with the Outer Manipur constituency to "balance" the number of voters in the two constituencies, thereby increasing the number of non-tribal voters in Outer Manipur. This arrangement denies non-tribal people the right to contest elections and makes ST candidates dependent on non-tribal votes for electoral success.

Dominant or Backward?

Using data from the India Human Development Survey, this paper examines the demands of Jats (Haryana), Patels (Gujarat), and Marathas (Maharashtra) to be classified as Other Backward Classes to access reservations. Compared to the major caste groups (Brahmins, other forward castes, existing OBCs, and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) in their respective states, based on several socio-economic factors, they are closer to dominant than disadvantaged groups. Their claim to backwardness is empirically unjustified. The paper examines the material basis of their anxieties in the context of structural changes in the Indian agricultural economy. It investigates networks and political connections that explain their success in mobilising.

Ambedkar as a Political Philosopher

Existing studies on B R Ambedkar largely focus on his substantive religious, sociological, political and constitutional concerns, and not on the concepts he deployed for the purpose or modes of his argumentation. His body of work demonstrates that he formulated a number of concepts to take stock of the social reality that he confronted, and/or reformulated existing concepts by critically engaging with the body of scholarship available to him. With regard to the conception of the political, he advanced a comprehensive and consistent design of what it means to live as a public and how best to do so in a setting very different from the West.

'Representation' of OBCs in Higher Education

This article is a response to Jaya Goyal and D P Singh's "Academic Performance of OBC Students in Universities: Findings from Three States" (EPW, 1 February 2014). It challenges the claim that the Other Backward Classes are not under-represented in education and also the attempt to redefine representation as understood within the context of reservation policies. The author was also a part of the study on which Goyal and Singh based their article.

The Politics of Reservation Categories in Uttar Pradesh

Some of the Other Backward Classes in Uttar Pradesh want to be classified as scheduled castes, while some of the latter want to be reclassified as scheduled tribes. Despite the politics behind these demands, most of the castes demanding reclassification have good reason to feel that the benefits of reservation have passed them by. It is the invisibility of the numerically small castes with little education and no voice that has to be ended before the fruits of development can reach them.

Reservations within Reservations: A Solution

What is the solution to the problem of reservations for the scheduled castes where these are disproportionately cornered by a single sub-caste in every state?

Reservations for Marathas in Maharashtra

The Marathas, who have traditionally positioned themselves as a warrioragriculturist caste, have a stranglehold on Maharashtra's political leadership and have always opposed reservations. But the declining returns from agriculture, the desire to take advantage of the postglobalisation boom in the services and knowledge-based sector and apprehension at the perceived rise of the other backward castes on the political ladder have led the community to demand inclusion in the Other Backward Classes category.

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