Director

WaterAid

Director's Message

Gujarat state was carved out of the erstwhile Bombay state in 1960. The complexities and paradoxes of the society, culture, politics, identity and modernity of Gujarat have always had important ramifications far beyond its borders. What are the key ideas that have shaped this state over the decades? What have been the dominant modes of its political mobilisation? What have been the dominant models of its development? What do these models mean for the politics, economy and culture of the state and for the rest of India? Time and again, Gujarat has posed questions that are intertwined with the larger trajectories reshaping India. Among them, the riots in 2002 - India’s first televised riots-and the rise of Narendra Modi are only the recent milestones. These questions animate us at the Centre for Culture and Development (CCD). Approaching them from a variety of perspectives, we explore and critically examine some of the defining aspects of the making of modern Gujarat.

The present document does not purport to be an exhaustive catalogue of events or a comprehensive history. Rather, it seeks to describe briefly a number of researches done by CCD, which draw upon the disciplines of history, political science, economics, anthropology and sociology, to take a fresh look at some of the major issues of the past five decades. They explore the key trends witnessed during this period with a view to shed new light on some of its obscure dimensions and to discern new meanings. CCD has concentrated its efforts on carrying our research. So far it has carried out six major and eight minor research projects. Every research project generated an idea for the next.

The researches at CCD encompass a broad sweep of events: the Navnirman movement and its legacies in the 1970s; the politics of reservation, bootlegging, corruption and public power in the early 1980s; the Narmada movement and its pervasive influence on Gujarati pride and the overall political discourse; the evolution of new religious movements like Swadhyay Parivar and Tablighi Jamaat and their impact on cultural change; the rise of Hindutva; the mass media and the trend of rioting; the evolution of what has been called the ‘Modi model of development’ and the questions it raises about notions of development; global diasporas and Gujarat’s centrality in their evolution. Together the researches provide a flavour of the course of Gujarat’s history, society and politics, an understanding of which is crucial for anyone interested in the larger story of India.

The rise of Hindutva and other communal forces at the macro level has also manifested in the emulation of such processes at several regional places in the country. Over the last two decades, Gujarat has witnessed, perhaps more than any other state, a surge of Hindutva and allied fundamentalist forces. The Godhra carnage and its aftermath evince the advent of such complex processes. To map their changing patterns in the state, CCD took up year 2002 a major study entitled, Anatomy and Geography of Riots: Gujarat. The study indicates definite patterns and directions that political processes in Gujarat took, especially during the last one and a half decade.

Gujarat is getting urbanised rapidly. At the beginning of the 20th century, its population was 9.09 million, of which 22 per cent lived in urban areas. By the turn of the current century, the share of urban population went up to 38 per cent. According to the 2001 census the urban population which was 37.4 per cent rose to 42.6 per cent in 2011. Accompanying this urbanisation was an increase in the population of the urban poor. Among the prominent features of the changing urban context is the growth of slums, the swelling labour force and its marginalisation, and the increasing pressure on urban space and infrastructure. To enquire into the plight of the urban poor and to identify the issues related to them, we conducted a study based on a macro and micro understanding of slums in Surat. The resultant volume, entitled Poor in Urban India, identifies the issues that are relevant to such habitats, and must be considered in research, policy making, and planning of urban spaces within the country.

The phenomenon of displacement, due to rapid economic growth following the globalisation of the economy and the high levels of consumerism accompanying it, threatens to be unending. This trend has been accelerated in Gujarat by the ‘Modi model’ of development. Gujarat does not have authentic district wise data on land acquired and families displaced under various development projects. This bespeaks the casual and callous mindset of the policy makers, planners and private investors towards those who are displaced. CCD took up the challenge to gather authentic data on land acquisition, displacement and resettlement for the state for the period 1947 to 2004. This study, Development Induced Displacement in Gujarat (1947-2004), made sub-regional and decadal analysis, providing rich information that could support the efforts of the Government of Gujarat to formulate a rehabilitation policy based on the newly promulgated national policy. It can be an eye-opener to the impact of development projects on the masses.

Gujarat is one of the states where malaria is endemic. The environmental conditions determine the intensity of transmission of the disease. Changes in rainfall and in seasons owing, to global warming and also intensive industrialisation, aggravate its incidence. Considering these and many other factors, CCD compiled the data that I generated while at CSS, and prepared a report for publication. This study, Malaria in the Social Context, was designed to address the role of social and cultural factors in relation to health and disease in urban and rural areas. Members of the medical profession may ask what social anthropology has to do with malaria. They may argue that malaria is a medical problem, and only medical scientists can deal with it. In fact, however, concern with malaria is one of the increasing number of medical and health problems that sociologists and social anthropologists have been studying for more than 50 years now. The list includes medical pluralism; doctor–patient relationship; impact of diet, hygiene, and lifestyle on health; organisation of institutes of medical education and research; and the role of the state vis-à-vis medicine and health.

CCD took up a landmark study on Changing Character of Forest and Tribal Livelihood in Gujarat: 1947-2007. Nearly 15 per cent of Gujarat’s population is tribal. This study was conducted in the hilly region of eastern Gujarat, home to tribal communities and forests. The area has distinct geographical characteristics extending from the hilly tracts of North Gujarat, through the eastern hilly areas, to the Dangs district in the south. CCD used satellite imageries for different time periods to detect the changing character of forests in this area. We bought the raw imageries from National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA), Hyderabad and had technical experts to process it. Our findings have questioned many assumptions and beliefs prevalent among the grassroots level activists working for the betterment of the tribal communities.

As CCD’s caravan of research rolls on, its scholars are ever alert to various global trends. We have now embarked upon unique work in the field of religion. Religion is taking a dangerous form nowadays, but social scientists have ignored it. In India, we lack studies on its different aspects by historians, economists, sociologists, anthropologists, geographers and psychologists. There is also a large vacuum in almost every religion, because f withdrawal from serious study by its own traditional centres of learning. This vacuum has been filled by fundamentalists and extremists who have taken it upon themselves to redefine their respective religions, whether Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity or any other. Extremists and fundamentalists use religious cover to capture political power. After a series of meetings with experts and scholars, CCD has undertaken a study to understand the changing scenario of religiosity and communal identity in Gujarat, particularly the cultural, social and political aspects of various religions, and the phenomenon of aggressively displaying and flaunting religiosity in various ways. The study entitled, Changing Character of Religiosity and Communal Consciousness (1980-2010), is in progress.

CCD seeks integral, inclusive and sustainable development of the people, especially the weaker sections. It seems to us that what is Gujarat today may be India tomorrow. To generate opinions and views, we are organising seminars and workshops on these issues. Our minor initiatives also include projects on need and impact assessment for NGOs.

CCD is inspired by the Society of Jesus (commonly known as the Jesuits). They are a global male religious order allied with the Roman Catholic Church, having a five hundred year history. They are known for their contribution to education, scholarship, research and intellectual life wherever they are. Their presence in Gujarat goes back to around a hundred years. There are 275 Jesuits working in Gujarat (excluding Saurashtra and Kachchh) engaged in a variety of fields such as schools, colleges, technical education, social work, developmental work and human rights. The Jesuits in Gujarat have been supportive of CCD and expect intellectual inputs from it for their activities. The Jesuit community at XTI Sevasi also has been very cooperative.

At the end of a decade, I wish to acknowledge all the individual donors, donor agencies and funding agencies. Some persons have shown extraordinary interest in shaping CCD: Professor A. M. Shah, Biswaroop Das, J. S. Bandukwala and Jayesh Shah and Fr. Aubrey D’Souza. Without their help CCD could not have achieved what it has.

I gratefully acknowledge the support I have received from the scholars and the excellent staff at CCD.

Lancy Lobo
7.5.2011