In post-independence democratic India several measures have been initiated in order to bring the marginalised and depressed sections of its population into the mainstream of development. While some of these measures have yielded positive results, several others have failed miserably to achieve the desired goals. This has kept the equity issue alive as a hot topic right up to the present day, leading to a great deal of dissatisfaction among the vast majority of India's population. Given the close affinity between caste and class in India, it is not surprising that the bulk of the population who still remain outside the purview of development happen to be the lower castes of the country.
The other side of the same coin is the near total manipulation of the instruments of state policy by the higher caste and the elite, thus creating a chasm between the aspirations of different sections of the country's population. This has resulted in fractured verdicts in electoral politics and in the growth of regionalism, casteism and religious fundamentalism. The growing difference in class character between policymakers and the recipients of various policy measures has not remained unchallenged and at times manifests itself in violence. Continued inequity in the distribution of landed property in areas of intense agricultural activity, particularly in the rural setting, exacerbates the intensity of such conflicts. The age of liberalisation has introduced a new complexity into the whole picture. The presence of a state, which in several areas never did penetrate very far in the pre-liberalisation phase and thus left the population to fend for itself and seek sources of authority in the informal sector, finds its reach even more constricted in the new setting, with most of its energy and resources being devoured by the ever growing sector of the urban middle class. While the dominant section in the rural setting relies on the age-old instruments of hegemony in the informal arena to perpetuate its authority, the instruments of retaliation forged by the depressed and the subaltern section of the population have now acquired a history of infamy in the legal discourse of the state. This paper focuses on such instruments of hegemony and retaliation in the informal arena of authority in the two Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, and in particular seeks to trace how capable, or incapacitated, are the lower echelons of society in coping with these new situations.
Chaubey, R. Dominance and Retaliation in the Informal Structure of Authority: a comparative study of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, Working Paper No.81 (Series I), 2006, London, UK; Crisis States Research Centre, 24 pp.