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Debating Difference: Group Rights and Liberal Democracy in India

Bajpai, Rochana (2011) Debating Difference: Group Rights and Liberal Democracy in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, reprinted 2012.

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Abstract

How can inequalities between groups be addressed, while at the same time sustaining common citizenship? Debating Difference offers a new approach to this key question for liberal democracies across the world, demonstrating that argument and debate is crucial for reconciling the demands of group equality and civic unity. India offers a unique experiment in group-differentiated rights, with wide-ranging policies of special treatment for religious minorities and lower castes. Using landmark constitutional and legislative debates on minority rights and quotas (Constituent Assembly Debates 1946–9, Shah Bano 1986, and Mandal 1990, 2006), Bajpai develops a model for interpreting post-independence group rights that hinges on the interplay between five principal normative concepts: secularism, democracy, social justice, national unity, and development. Liberal and democratic values in India are shown to be more sophisticated and widely shared than is commonly believed, a conclusion convincingly drawn by tracing the shifting meanings of critical issues such as the separation state and religion, equality and democratic representation, in Indian policy debates. Yet in spite of these shifts, the ideational framework fashioned by the Indian Constitution-makers in the 1950s largely endures, although subject to constant reinterpretation. At a theoretical level, the author demonstrates that Western-centric accounts of multiculturalism do not adequately address normative issues of national unity and economic development, which are essential for global assessments of group rights. Methodologically, this book establishes that the principles professed by politicians do in fact matter for explanations of shifts in state policy and in political power. Emphasizing routine practices of political debate that are traced through legislative records, Bajpai demonstrates that public reasoning is not limited to the thought of exceptional individuals such as Nehru or Ambedkar, but rests in the complex give and take of arguments. Challenging popular perceptions about India, liberal democracy and political rhetoric, this book is essential reading for specialists in Indian politics, multiculturalism, and the study of ideology. It will also be of interest to scholars and students of political theory, political science, history, sociology and law, as well as policy-makers and general readers seeking to understand the complexities of contemporary India.

Item Type: Authored Books
Additional Information: Reprinted 2012
Keywords: liberalism, democracy, secularism, social justice, multiculturalism, India, minority rights, reservations, affirmative action, Muslims, Dalits, Constituent Assembly debates, Shah Bano, Mandal
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Law and Social Sciences > Department of Politics and International Studies
Regional Centres > SOAS South Asian Institute
Faculty of Law and Social Sciences > Department of Politics and International Studies > Centre for the International Politics of Conflict, Rights and Justice
ISBN: 9780198067504
Depositing User: Rochana Bajpai
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2012 14:35
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/14076

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