Just as I am working on editing a book that I purport to name as the Sociology of Displacement, I wonder why displacement which is now an ever growing anomaly to our model of economic development not find a voice in our politics. Democratic politics, says Prof Sen, is the most certain panacea against famines and democracy is the sole reason why India has been relatively free of famines while China has fallen to famines and often harboured chronic food insecurity. But the very same democracy that saved India from acute food shortages in the 1960’s and the 1970’s seems helpless in the face of displacement of populations that everyday seems to grow in numbers; of these the tribals form a definite majority. Development therefore goes against tribals the most, which live in isolated and self contained economies and find it difficult to organize the same self sustenance when their ecologies are taken away. With political parties wooing minorities, one wonders why politics of displacement has not yet been a part of the mainstream political discourse.
Were displacement to become a part of politics, then such politics would challenge the very foundation of development and when that happens, the foundations of the system upon which our democratic politics rests are invariably shaken. What is the foundation of democracy in India? It is neither cultural pluralism, nor multi lingual universalism, nor a unity that absorbs and transcends diversities; but it is capitalism which creates and sustains a middle class in such a manner that the rest of the society races to occupy this narrow space. India’s democracy is successful because all of us agree to participate in the same race. All our diversities assume significance and lives of their own only because of a strong unity in all our purpose, which is to occupy this narrow band of life style called the middle class. Before economic liberalization the Indian state was the largest capitalist; through the public sector and the bureaucracy it was the largest employer; it decimated smaller capitalists by taking over units and allowing only those units to thrive as were required to serve its cause as ancillaries.
The Indian state created a middle class based upon competition; always the aspirants were larger in number than the incumbents. The game was well defined and universally accepted and everyone knew that there was one game, modern education, competitive examinations, and salaried employment to grab that refrigerator, dining table, sofa set, and later the television and the Maruti car. The well known sociologist and our teacher Professor T.K.Oommen term this phenomenon as the Marutization of the Indian nation. The Marutization tells us of a certain one-dimensionality that manifested because of a universally accepted model of competition through which one acceded to the middle class and remained there. The universality of the rules of the game to attain the universally accepted modes of existence is the real reason why we have a model of economic development which cannot tolerate any other modes of economic production and hence displaces. Thus while we are tolerant of cultural multitudes and linguistic diversities we are absolutely intolerant of economic diversities.
The competitive model to belong to the middle class makes all of us not only pursue the same goals and play the same game but also makes us accept the singular source of that game, namely the model of economic development which fewer winners and more losers.
However, this model of one dimensional development can collapse when some people stand up to it and say that they do not believe in playing the game. They do not wish to be middle class, do not wish for the model of the car, and do not wish to own the latest gadgets in their kitchens. All they wish is to introduce some other kinds of games with other kinds of goals, and so what? This was exactly what happened in Bengal. Suddenly we all seemed to want to change but change towards what? We wanted not to be drawn into this mindless game of industrialization, visionless of resorts and parks and projects with golf courses and swimming pools. We wanted just to be ourselves, amake amaar moto thaakte dao, to pursue culture, sing, play the guitar, write poetry again. We did unexpectedly not want to grab a seat in the newest restaurant; we were surprisingly not interested in buying gold. The persona of Mamata expressed this disinterestedness towards things that matter for everyone else; simple clothes, unadorned body, undecorated demeanour, no heir to accumulate for, no one to go back home to, only to retire into rest by reading books and listening to music. This image of hers which is now also that of Bengal and this is Bengal’s Poriborton, the change of essence and the discovery of an immanence that scares the world. Hillary Clinton belongs to that ruling class which in America for three centuries now has scuttled the most promising labour movement anywhere in the world by using the Church, the media and the public schooling system. This is why they have crushed Communism everywhere else in the world should a strain waft unexpectedly into America and ignites minds with the possibilities of revolution. The Poriborton, for America, is one such a regime that dangerously challenges that game that has made humans run relentlessly towards singularly defined goals for ages now. The Poriborton’s real promise is amake amaar moto thaakte dao; please spare me from running in that mindless competition. When such a mentality becomes a will to power, it spells disaster for that development which displaces. So Hillary comes after Mamata, what is your vision she asks. Apparently the former says the visit is all about FDI, Mamata says it is not. All these are eyewashes, the real issue is the game change.