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LETTERS

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.

New Political Culture
irst they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. These lines of M K Gandhi, the legendary leader of the non-violent struggle against the colonial political system, fit exactly the origin and evolution of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Indian electoral politics. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won the so-called semi-finals of the elections cup, but AAP took away the “Man of the Match” title. What is remarkable in this whole event is not just the entry of a new and different political party, but also the shift in the political culture and electoral behaviour of India. David Easton, the great political scientist, argued that a political system runs on an input-output model. Demand and support constitute the inputs whereas response and feedback frame the outputs. The analysis of recent political developments from this perspective provides some noteworthy patterns. In the context of AAP, the main input was the demand for a corruption-free system and the support came from all sections of society. The demand was non-traditional with reference to political culture of India, so was the response. The electoral issues in the country have generally been food, clothing and shelter, inflation, secularism, infrastructural development and social justice in the form of reservations. Corruption has been more of a bureaucratic and less of a political issue. But, this time it emerged as a political demand from citizens. The next non-traditional fact in the journey of AAP is the support that it received. It is argued that only cricket and war have the capacity to unite India beyond the identity concerns. But corruption got the same response. People from all corners of country united in the fight against corruption, ignoring all the identity issues during the first phase of the Anna Hazare movement in Delhi. The Indian tendency has been to celebrate different identities such as language, caste, ethnicity and gender. This can easily be noticed in the electoral behaviour of voters as well. Replacing the role of caste in the politics of representation was

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a difficult task, but the movement against corruption achieved this. Although, it is a fact that caste has not been that prominent in the electoral politics of the capital, yet the complete absence of the caste factor in the distribution of tickets and also in the voting behaviour are remarkable facts as far as the AAP is concerned. The set of outputs also includes two dimensions – the pre-election response from the political parties and the postelection feedback by the same. In the pre-election phase, the government and political parties responded to this demand of a corruption-free India in a very arrogant manner. The government and the ruling parties focused on the argument “you are also corrupt” instead of proving that “we are not corrupt”. But people ultimately choose the policy of “we are with the ones who are against corruption”. The post-election feedback is again very non-traditional. The leaders of national parties are repeatedly saying that we need to learn from AAP. Generally, the political parties promise to learn from their own failures, not from the success of others. Moreover, theoretically AAP is supposed to be in the learning phase, but it has got so much to teach the senior players of the game. For instance, as regards low-budget campaigns, vote without note, and of course, the rejection of identity politics. Another shift in the political culture of India is the meaning and interpretation of democracy. India follows the parliamentary model of democracy which has two aspects – representation and participation. Although both are the two sides of the same coin, yet the representation part somehow became more effective, undermining the role of continuous participation in the political system. The meaning of political rights got reduced to the right to vote. You were supposed to elect someone to represent you, for a five-year term and then just be apolitical after the elections are over. Politics was

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EPW wishes all its readers, contributors and well-wishers the very best for 2014.
vol xlviII no 52
EPW Economic & Political Weekly

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december 28, 2013

Dipali Sharma. Political parties would become more responsible and would address the demands of people in a logical way. and concern for the security of adolescent girls. ICCE-AP. Aam aadmi has emerged as a new political identity. World Vision. a global resolution was moved in the United Nations General Assembly. The patterns of demand and support have changed. We strongly condemn the government for not co-sponsoring the resolution. But this idea has witnessed a shift during the evolution of AAP. Freelance Consultant. which legalises sexual intercourse within child marriage between 15 and 18 years. Child marriage denies the child his/her basic right to good health. violence and exploitation as compared to boys. Against this context. Jarjum Ete. Independent Thought. that the “early marriage” clause mentioned in the resolution was not acceptable to it. especially of girls in states such as West Bengal and the southern states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Researcher. which shows the lack of ownership by the government on this serious issue. 2013 would definitely be remembered as a year of experiment in the political history of India. demanding the declaration of the above IPC provision as unconstitutional in the light of POCSO and the larger state policy. Jawaharlal Nehru University. the members of civil society organisations met in New Delhi on 26 October and discussed the issue at length. Nikhil Verma. and that too. However. lawyers along with the auto-drivers and class-IV employees joined the movement. Surprisingly. A young IITian and a former Indian revenue service officer led the political campaign. before the honourable Supreme Court (Independent Thought vs Union of India – Civil Writ Petition 382 of 2013). Ajay Kumar Sinha. Md Salam Khan. 2013 vol xlviII no 52 5 . It is estimated that there are more than 23 million child brides in India. Shashi Obeid. Jasleen Klu. Sameet Panda. and it is expected that the response and feedback would also change soon. In the last 15 years the decline in child marriage is 11%. Recently. Nafees Ahmad. Delhi did not only vote for change but also for new dimensions of democracy. The National Strategy Document on Prevention of Child Marriage 2013 highlights these statistics of child marriage prominently. (1) Indian Migrant Workers Rioting in Singapore: Revisiting Acculturation Paradigms – Rajiv Aricat (2) A Nicobarese Tribal Leader Who Lived Two Lives – Ajay Saini Articles posted before 21 December 2013 remain available in the Web Exclusives section. civil society organisations have noticed that there is an emerging trend of child marriage. Arvind Singh. Despite the fact that a legislation prohibiting child marriage has been in place in the country since 1929. Thus the stance taken by the government contradicts its own position and sends confusing signals of ownership and commitment of the government in preventing child marriages. Sindhu Nambiath. corporate professionals. according to the District Level Household and Facility Survey-3 (DLHS-3) data brought out in 2010. SPYM. Kumud Prabha. They have not been published in the print edition. New Delhi Child Marriage T he Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA). education. which is less than 1% per year. School of International Studies. Vikram Srivastav. Aakansha Natani Research Scholar. Most of the evidence points out that child marriage makes girls more vulnerable to abuse. 43% of women in India aged 20-24 were married before 18 years. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children Act) (2006) and the exception of Section 375 Indian Penal Code (IPC). The major reasons reported for the same have been the shrinking of living spaces. The very slow decline in the incidence of child marriage shows that the legislation which was brought in by the state and initiatives of the civil society has not led to the desired results in changing attitudes and norms. Given all these facts. EPW nutrition and freedom and has an adverse impact on the physical. 2006 is apparently aimed at prohibiting marriage of any girl below 18 years of age and any boy below 21 years of age. which is 40% of the child brides globally. FLAIR Foundation. though the Government of India signed the resolution. civilised people should stay away from it. All India Institute of Local Self Government. The popular argument was that politics is a dirty game. Resmi Bhaskaran. university professors. Matrisudha.LETTERS neither your duty nor your right after that. Neera Arora. it refused to co-sponsor the resolution in spite of the fact that India already has a declared position against marriages of girls less than 18 years and a law preventing it. Politics is not a dirty game anymore. Thus the AAP has opened the doors again for participatory democracy. which was co-sponsored by 107 countries. It is necessary to address the issue of child marriage in an integrated manner in connection with the other related legislations such as: Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) (2012). Avinash Singh. Bachpan Bachao Andolan. Manish Kumar. Along with the northern Indian states where the rate of child marriage has always been high. Co-sponsoring a United Nations resolution amounts to the government agreeing to it completely in letter and spirit rather than just signing it. YWCA. which is a noteworthy shift in the political culture of India. as it was of the opinion that it could be very “contextual” to different countries. ActionAid India Web Exclusives The following articles have been uploaded in the past week in the Web Exclusives section of the EPW website. Alex George. and college students. of their own political will. even in urban areas though not strictly restricted to these areas. The government said in its defence on not co-sponsoring. child marriage has been an accepted cultural norm in different parts of India in varying degrees. which is restricting household sizes. Economic & Political Weekly december 28. emotional and psychological development of children. There is an ongoing public interest litigation.

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