Issn 0012-9976
Ever since the first issue in 1966, EPW has been India’s premier journal for comment on current affairs and research in the social sciences. It succeeded Economic Weekly (1949-1965), which was launched and shepherded by Sachin Chaudhuri, who was also the founder-editor of EPW. As editor for thirty-five years (1969-2004) K rishna R aj gave EPW the reputation it now enjoys.

Can the Subaltern Speak?
ntervention, Identity and Marginality: An Ethnographic Account of the Musahars” by Shilp Shikha Singh (EPW, 18 May 2013) is fascinating to read but it also has some structural problems. The first one is the absence of information about the relationship between the author and the project (ActionAid) about which she wrote uncritically. There are some problems with her claim about the success of the project, but let me first correct some factual information she has provided. It seems that the author is claiming that the majority of Musahars live in Uttar Pradesh (UP), while in Bihar they “have (only) a noticeable presence” (p 53, fourth paragraph). If this is really her claim, then she is factually incorrect because the Musahar population in UP is only one-tenth of their population in Bihar. Secondly, I disagree with her interpretation of the word upwas, as the use of this term is not limited to the Musahars. Every community in this region uses the term upwas for a state of being on an empty stomach, no matter if it is because of hunger or spirituality, or for reasons of health. But my most important problem with the article is that the author seems to be putting her, or her organisation’s, words into the mouth of the community and trying to convince the readers that this truly represents what the community itself says. When she talks about the community’s testimony about their past, she cites the interviews of 2005, but the project of Musahar assertion had already started in 2002. There is the possibility that whatever the Musahars were stating in 2005 about their colonial history may have been influenced by the project’s propaganda. The author’s claim that the Musahars’ “own understanding of marginality lies in their declining control over the forest-land, which had been taken over by more informed outsiders” seems to be ActionAid’s version of “understanding”. Finally, let us see the terms used in all the slogans and songs, which the author claims are organic and represent the voice of the Musahars themselves. Almost all the slogans used in this article, such as “Abhi to ye angraii hai, aage aur ladai hai”, are

may 25, 2013



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popular in university student politics and among intellectual and social activists in metropolitan cities. It is obvious that it is from this metropolitan middle class that these slogans are transferring to rural India. Even the jagriti geet (awareness songs), which unlike other slogans, are composed in the local dialects, use lots of sophisticated terms which are not part of the Musahars’ normal speech. Words like Nirdhan, Nirdosh, Farzi, Punjipati, “secretary”, etc, are not from the Musahar repertoire. Similarly, there are terms like dhan-dhurra instead of the local dhan aur dharatiya, used in these songs which are not used in local dialects. The song used sattu in the sense of food for the poorest but the Musahars never see sattu as a symbol for food, instead they use the terms paani-bhat or roti-pyaj or namak-roti to mean food. My intention behind writing this letter is not to question the empowerment of the Musahars or to question the success story of ActionAid’s programme but to make the limited point that some of their claims seem questionable and dent the credibility of their success story. Here I am in partial agreement with Gayatri Spivak’s claim that the subaltern cannot speak for themselves. I would rather critique Spivak and suggest that though the subalterns can speak, modernity cannot understand their language.
Sanjeev Kumar
New Delhi



The Lion in Gujarat

Economic and Political Weekly
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he editorial “The Lion in Gujarat” (EPW, 18 May 2013) was most apt and expressed a common sense which is rare. It was essentially a question of Gujarati pride and had little to do with the poor Asiatic lion now squeezed into a tiny corner of the planet called “Gir”. Yes, some good legislation to stop pompous local satraps claiming exclusive ownership over wildlife species would be in order, provided of course that it is enforced. But, on the larger question of wildlife conservation there seems little hope with states (and their leaders) having little to offer for wildlife except lip service during the annual Wildlife Week. Wildlife conservation in the country is almost
vol xlviII no 21
EPW Economic & Political Weekly


At both these places the government has used undue force against unarmed citizens to satisfy corporate interests. Navanita Sinha (EPW. One of the Chinese claims is that the border was “imposed” on China. who wrote “What Is Behind the Chinese ‘Incursion’ at Daulat Beg Oldie”? (EPW. PUDR has earlier demanded the withdrawal of security forces and the adoption of a democratic process for the acquisition of land. is but an attempt to criminalise dissent. PUDR is also deeply concerned and appalled at the brazen way in which the Government of Odisha is trying to push the dam project on the lower Suktel river as well as the mining of the Niyamgiri hills by Vedanta. They have not been published in the print edition. N Menon Canberra. Criminalising Dissent P eoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) unequivocally condemns the undemocratic ways of the Odisha government in trying to further corporate interests under the rhetoric of development. then Chinese prime minister. the Government of Odisha should focus on an investigation into the bomb explosion and book the actual culprits. Arresting him this time. when he is leading EPW the movement in opposition to the project. Dichotomies. PUDR demands the unconditional release of Abhay Sahu. Vol XLVIII. displacement and a threat to survival.in (1) “From Democratic Autonomy to Authoritarian Sovereignty” – Pradip Kumar Datta. Udaya Kumar (2) “Pakistan Elections: Democracy. The error is regretted. The use of police and paramilitary forces has become a norm and it is a dangerous practice in a democracy. Foisting false cases against citizens with limited means and suppression of dissent has become a common practice by the Biju Janata Dal government in Odisha after the death of Biju Patnaik. Take those away and most states would be unable (or unwilling) to feed animals in their zoos. What we need though. D Manjit PUDR The border between Myanmar (Burma) and China has been ratified by both the Chinese and the Myanmar governments in the 1950s. Since February 2012 the Government of Odisha.LETTERS exclusively funded through central and centrally-sponsored schemes. Contrary to that. 2013 vol xlviII no 21 5 . the government has flaunted it as the biggest instance of foreign direct investment in India and the prime minister’s office has taken keen interest in forcing this project on the locals despite their unrelenting opposition. Henry McMahon. Looking at what China is doing today it seems that history is repeating itself. The undemocratic land acquisition in Odisha must be stopped immediately and the police and paramilitary forces must be withdrawn from the area. is to bring Wildlife as a central subject and concurrently create an Indian Wildlife Service as an all India service because the Indian Forest Service is neither structurally suited nor professionally geared to conserve the country’s wildlife. Yamini Mishra. We urge the government to take the democratic path to acknowledge and accommodate dissent. N Web Exclusives The following articles have been uploaded in the past week in the Web Exclusives section of the EPW website. 1972 and the Forest Conservation Act. What is forgotten is that the border was also “imposed” on India which had no say where the boundaries were drawn by the British civilian. 1980 have brought a modicum of momentum to wildlife and forest conservation. Was the Chinese government distorting facts or was it telling the truth when he said so? From September 1993 to January 2012 there have been a series of agreements and memoranda of understanding signed between India and China on the border issues confronting them. Economic & Political Weekly may 25. the budgetary allocations for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment show a decline. Asish Gupta. leader of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) from Bhubaneshwar airport on 11 May in connection with a bomb blast case at POSCO’s proposed steel plant site in Jagatsinghpur district is symptomatic of the government’s attempt to eliminate all voices of opposition. Vinay Tandon Online comment. No 20) misrepresents the argument in the article. Not only has the magnitude of gender budget as reported in the Gender Budget Statement decreased (as a percentage of Total Expenditure of the Union Budget) but the projected Gross Budgetary Support for Women and Child Development sector for the Twelfth Five-Year Plan period also shows a decline from the Eleventh Five-Year Plan if the allocations for ICDS are not factored in. has a history of being the chief public relations officer for the Chinese government on the India-China border issues. 18 May 2013). Instead of being on the hot trail of Abhay Sahu. who in the 1950s said that the maps showing parts of Indian territory as part of China were a mistake and that they were old maps. who also demarcated the boundary between British Burma and China. has been forcibly evicting people and acquiring land for the POSCO project. 18 May 2013. subjecting the locals to repression. and urgently. The correct blurb is as follows: “Despite the steps towards gender responsive budgeting. How is it that China can accept an “imposed boundary” with Myanmar but not with India? It was Chou En Lai. The only difference is that a naïve Krishna Menon has been replaced by an equally naïve A K Antony in the position of India’s defence minister. Indira Gandhi wisely brought forests (and wildlife) on to the concurrent list and since then laws like the Wildlife Protection Act. The arrest of Abhay Sahu. with the approval of the central government. Read them at http://epw. Will this affect its ambitious gender agenda?” The necessary change has been made in the web edition. Australia Corrigendum The blurb published with “The Paradox of Gender Responsive Budgeting” by Bhumika Jhamb. and Shades of Grey” – Beena Sarwar (3) “Refashioning the Breast: Modern Medicine and Dispensable Female Body Parts” – G Arunima Articles posted before 18 May 2013 remain available in the Web Exclusives section. – Editor China’s PR eville Maxwell. Abhay Sahu was arrested earlier and had obtained bail from the High Court of Orissa.

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