Contesting development, reinventing democracy: grassroots social movements in India


The history of grassroots movements reveals their power to shape the discourse of development to make it democratic in its form, practice and outcome. In this sense ‘development’ questions become questions about democracy. It is argued in this chapter that contestations over development are also contestations over democratic politics, for they raise the questions of equity, equality and inclusion. The movements have brought the old questions of democratic distribution of the material benefits of development back to the surface, but also infuse them with new meanings by emphasizing the democratic principles and practices that development has undermined. The movements have filled the spaces left vacant in a formal democracy where neither the local governance spaces created by the state for participation nor the political parties have represented the interests of the poor and the marginalized. The movements have thus both rejected the spaces and emerged as depoliticized sites of alternative grassroots democratic politics. As such, the resistance movements can be looked upon as acts of deepening democracy.

Owing to copyright restrictions, only the first 3 pages are attached, together with a link to the book at Zed Books.


Mohanty, R. Contesting development, reinventing democracy: grassroots social movements in India. In: Citizenship and Social Movements: Perspectives from the Global South.. Zed Books, London, UK (2010) ISBN 9781848133884

Published 1 January 2010