Anna Windfeldt Thorning

Inscription number: 20073237
Supervisor: Morten Brænder
Submitted: March 2014
Word Count: 22717

The Politician
Therapeutic Practice
A Study of Politicians
Victims of Torture



Department of Political Science and Government, Aarhus University













Windfeldt Thorning
Inscription number: 20073237
Supervisor: Morten Brænder
Submitted: March 2014
he Politician’s Place in
Therapeutic Practice
oliticians’ Participation in Ceremonies
Victims of Torture in Uttar Pradesh, India
aster Thesis, !"#$
Department of Political Science and Government, Aarhus University
in a
Therapeutic Practice
articipation in Ceremonies %eha&ilitatin'
Uttar Pradesh, India
Department of Political Science and Government, Aarhus University
2
The front page photo depicts an honour ceremony in Sarai Village, Varanasi District, Uttar
Pradesh, India on the 13
th
of June 2013.

All photos in this thesis were taken by Mr. Rohit Kumar, staff member of People’s Vigilance
Committee on Human Rights, and reproduced with his permission.

3

Figure 1: Map of the Indian state Uttar Pradesh, where ceremonies rehabilitating victims of torture take place.

4
Ta&le of Contents
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................ 6
THE STRUCTURE OF THE THESIS........................................................................................................................... 8
CHAPTER 2: INTRODUCING THE HONOUR CEREMONIES ................................................................... 9
CHAPTER 3: THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK AND KEY CONCEPTS .................................................. 14
WEDEEN’S PERFORMATIVE RESEARCH AGENDA ............................................................................................... 14
A Performative Understanding of Qat-chews ................................................................................................ 15
Participation in the Qat-chews ...................................................................................................................... 16
Examining Participation in the Qat-chews .................................................................................................... 16
PARTHA CHATTERJEE’S CIVIL SOCIETY ............................................................................................................. 18
Electoral Politics Defined ............................................................................................................................. 20
Chatterjee Challenged ................................................................................................................................... 22
Chatterjee’s Defence ..................................................................................................................................... 23
CHAPTER 4: THEORETICAL EXPECTATIONS ........................................................................................ 26
CHAPTER 5: RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY .................................................................... 27
AN ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY ................................................................................................................................ 27
AN INTERPRETIVE APPROACH ............................................................................................................................ 28
APPLYING THE THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK....................................................................................................... 29
GENERATING DATA ............................................................................................................................................ 29
Semi-structured Interviews ............................................................................................................................ 30
Observation Studies ....................................................................................................................................... 30
The Selection of Informants ........................................................................................................................... 31
The Selection of Observation Sites ................................................................................................................ 33
Sources of data discussed .............................................................................................................................. 37
Working in Translation.................................................................................................................................. 38
Ethical Challenges ........................................................................................................................................ 38
PROCESSING THE DATA ...................................................................................................................................... 38
CHAPTER 6: FIRST PART OF THE ANALYSIS .......................................................................................... 41
THE INVOLVEMENT OF THE POLITICIANS ........................................................................................................... 41
The Village Head ........................................................................................................................................... 41
The Village Council Member ......................................................................................................................... 42
The Political Party Member .......................................................................................................................... 42
The State Level Politician .............................................................................................................................. 44
DISCUSSING THE POLITICIANS’ INVOLVEMENT .................................................................................................. 45
CHAPTER 7: SECOND PART OF THE ANALYSIS ..................................................................................... 50
EXPLAINING THE INVOLVEMENT OF THE POLITICIANS ....................................................................................... 50
5
Community Ties ............................................................................................................................................. 50
The Village Head’s Community Ties ........................................................................................................ 50
The Village Head Lacks Community Ties ................................................................................................ 52
The Village Committee Member’s Community Ties ................................................................................ 53
Understanding the Politician’s Community Ties ....................................................................................... 54
The Self-serving Politician ............................................................................................................................ 56
The Self-serving Village Head .................................................................................................................. 56
The Self-serving Political Party Member .................................................................................................. 56
The Self-serving State Level Politician ..................................................................................................... 58
Understanding the Self-serving Politician ................................................................................................. 60
The Politician’s Mandate .............................................................................................................................. 61
The Village Head’s Mandate ..................................................................................................................... 61
The Village Head Corrupted ...................................................................................................................... 63
Understanding the Politician’s Mandate .................................................................................................... 65
EXPLAINING THE POLITICIANS’ INVOLVEMENT .................................................................................................. 66
CHAPTER 8: SUMMARIZING THE RESULTS OF THE ANALYSIS ....................................................... 68
CHAPTER 9: DISCUSSION OF THE RESEARCH ....................................................................................... 71
CHAPTER 10: CONCLUSION AND PERSPECTIVES ................................................................................. 73
BIBLIOGRAPHY ............................................................................................................................................... 75
APPENDIX 1: INTERVIEW-GUIDE ............................................................................................................... 80
APPENDIX 2: CALENDAR .............................................................................................................................. 81
ABSTRACT ......................................................................................................................................................... 82


6
Chapter 1: Introduction
Torture and ill-treatment remains an unresolved problem in India. In most cases, victims
receive neither treatment nor remedy, because there is no enforceable right to rehabilitation of
torture survivors under Indian law. People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights
(PVCHR) is one of many human rights organizations in India, which provides victims of
torture with alternate measures of relief. PVCHR is based in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous
state in India. Uttar Pradesh is marred by poverty with 59 million people living below the
poverty line (Ministry of Rural Development, 2009). Torture and abuse is most often
perpetrated against the very poor and few victims obtain legal redress. From their central
office in Varanasi, PVCHR advocate against the use of torture and offer relief to people, who
have suffered grievous hurt.

In partnership with the Danish Institute against Torture (DIGNITY), PVCHR organizes and
hosts ceremonies aimed at rehabilitating victims of torture. To participants these gatherings
are known as “honour ceremonies” and are public events, which form part of a treatment
program named testimonial therapy. Testimonial therapy is a therapeutic practice aimed at
improving the victims’ mental health. In the honour ceremonies, torture victims’ written
testimonies are presented and shared with a larger public. PVCHR views giving testimony as
an important step towards healing the torture survivors’ mental wounds.

To its practitioners, testimonial therapy is an intervention strategy with far reaching effects.
Not only does it heal individual hurt, proponents believe that it can affect political change
(Agger & Raghuvanshi, 2008). In the literature written on testimonial therapy, there are
numerous references to the political effects of giving testimony (Agger et al. 2009). Yet there
have been no studies conducted so far, which digs deeper into these claims of political effects.

Very little has been written about the honour ceremonies, which take place in Uttar Pradesh,
and even less is known about politicians’ involvement in the honour ceremonies. None of the
researchers, who have described the testimonial therapy program in India, have examined
whether PVCHR seeks to involve politicians in the ceremonies (Cruz, 2012). So far, all the
research conducted on testimonial therapy and the honour ceremonies has focused primarily
on the mental health aspects of the therapy (Agger et al. 2009).
7

The thesis seeks to amend this lack of knowledge about the honour ceremonies and provide an
answer to a fairly straight forward question. Are politicians invited to the ceremonies? The
thesis takes a first step towards finding an answer to this question by asking PVCHR, whether
they invite politicians to the ceremonies. In short, the research question of this thesis is as
follows.



The research question is descriptive, because so little is known about participation in the
ceremonies and where PVCHR stands on this issue. Though one might wish to examine the
effects of the honour ceremonies in an evaluation of the rehabilitation method, this cannot be
done before we have covered the very basics. As John Gerring notes, the descriptive work
comes before the work, which explains (Gerring, 2012: 733).

To answer the research question, the thesis draws on the writings of the Indian historian
Partha Chatterjee. In Chatterjee’s research, we find rich descriptions of Indian NGOs and their
interaction with politicians. Chatterjee observes how NGOs and politicians often are
remarkably antagonistic towards each other. Chatterjee’s theorizing on the relationship
between NGOs and politicians is included in this thesis theoretical framework, because it
contains an explanation of what guides NGOs in their interaction with politicians. By
incorporating certain elements from Chatterjee’s writings on NGO tactics, the thesis aims at
arriving at a deeper understanding of what drives PVCHR in their interaction with politicians.

However, Chatterjee’s work on NGOs is just one component of the thesis theoretical
framework. Chatterjee’s writings are rich with detail and complexity, but offer no practical
advice as to how one undertakes a study of a public event. Here, the thesis draws on the
writings of Lisa Wedeen, an American professor of political science. Lisa Wedeen has
examined qat-chews, which are public gatherings that are similar to the honour ceremonies,
but which take place in Yemen. Through ethnographic research, Wedeen examines these

What is PVCHR’s stand on politicians’ participation in the honour ceremonies?

8
public events. Wedeen’s study is relevant to this thesis, because she writes at length about
how to examine participation in the gatherings. The thesis adopts her analytical approach and
investigates the research question through one month of ethnographic research consisting of
field observations and semi-structured interviews with the staff working in PVCHR’s offices
in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

When combined in the thesis theoretical framework, Wedeen and Chatterjee supplement each
other favourably. Lisa Wedeen’s writings deal specifically with participation in public events
in a Middle Eastern context. Though she writes expertly on participation, many of her
findings are not directly transferable to the Indian context. By combining Wedeen’s analytical
approach with Chatterjee’s extensive knowledge about the work of NGOs on the Indian
subcontinent, the thesis theoretical framework stands stronger.
The Structure of the Thesis
This introductory chapter is followed by chapter 2, where the honour ceremonies are
introduced. Chapter 3 contains a presentation of the theoretical framework and the key
concepts. Chapter 4 details the theoretical expectation derived from the theoretical
framework. Chapter 5 addresses the research design alongside the research methodology. This
chapter also contains a discussion of how key terms have been operationalised and an account
of data generation and processing. The analysis falls in two parts in chapters 6 and 7. The
findings of the analysis are summarized in chapter 8 followed by a discussion of the research
design in chapter 9. The thesis comes to a close with a conclusion and perspectives in chapter
10.


9
Chapter 2: Introducing the Honour Ceremonies
In the following, testimonial therapy is briefly introduced alongside PVCHR’s work on the
honour ceremonies. The honour ceremonies are a component in testimonial therapy; a
therapeutic method aimed at rehabilitating victims of torture. Briefly explained, the Indian
testimonial therapy program consists of four steps. Initially, the mental health status of the
victim is assessed by PVCHR staff on the basis of a questionnaire (PVCHR, 2013: M&E
Questionnaire). Afterwards, the victim is asked to narrate his/her story of the violation. A staff
member assists the victim in documenting the event and a written testimony is produced. The
written statement is then presented to an audience at an honour ceremony.
1
The testimonial
therapeutic process comes to close after the victim has undergone a final mental health
evaluation (Agger et al. 2009).

Testimonial therapy as an approach to rehabilitating victims of torture originated in Chile in
the late 1970s in a response to the human rights violations, which took place under Augusto
Pinochet’s military dictatorship (Agger & Jensen, 1996). Chilean psychologists and
psychiatrists began eliciting testimonies about the violations suffered by the victims and
found that collecting testimonies functioned as a means towards rehabilitation (Cienfuegos &
Monelli, 1983).
2
Testimonial therapy was further developed by the Danish psychologist Inger
Agger in partnership with the Danish Institute against Torture and introduced to a number of
DIGNITY’s partner organizations in the Global South as a method of mental health
intervention.

In 2008, PVCHR, a partner organization to DIGNITY, expressed an interest in the
rehabilitation method. In their prior work, PVCHR had mainly been focused on providing
victims of torture in Uttar Pradesh with legal aid, but wished to expand on these activities and
introduce a program aimed at strengthening the victims’ mental health. PVCHR participated
in a series of training session on the testimonial method led by Inger Agger and shortly

1
The informants consistently name the public event, where the testimony is read aloud to an audience, an
honour ceremony. In Hindi, they term it Samanth Samaro, which directly translates to hounor ceremony. This
thesis replicates the informants’ choice of words and refers to the public presentation of the testimony as an
honour ceremony.

2
For a further introduction to testimonial therapy refer to the work of the psychologists Inger Agger and Søren
Buus Jensen, who have written extensively on the therapeutic dimension of testimonial therapy (Agger, 1988,
2004, 2009 and Agger & Jensen 1989, 1990, 1992, 1996).
10
afterwards initiated a testimonial therapy pilot program with support from DIGNITY (Agger
et al. 2009). The testimonial therapy program set in motion is still running and at present
PVCHR has expanded its scope and implemented it in the various parts of Uttar Pradesh,
where they have otherwise established a presence through their charitable programs. Figure 2
depicts the various locations, where PVCHR has put the testimonial therapy program into
practice and provides an overview of the sites, where honour ceremonies have taken place.

11
Figure 2: Map of Uttar Pradesh with an overview of the sites, where the testimonial therapy program has been
implemented (Report from PVCHR to DIGNITY, 2013).

12
In the research for this thesis, precise estimates of the number of honour ceremonies held
since 2008 were hard to come by, but it is safe to say that the figure has surpassed hundred by
now. In the years 2010-2012, PVCHR held 25 honour ceremonies, which were open to the
larger public (see table 1). PVCHR estimates that since 2012 the ceremonies have been held
with an even greater frequency. Their claim is supported by observations made during the
field work for this thesis, where PVCHR organized four larger ceremonies within the
timeframe of a single albeit busy month.

Table 1: Honour Ceremonies organized by PVCHR from 2010-2012, Uttar Pradesh India.
Site No. of ceremonies No. of people participating
Badagaon 6 honour ceremonies Missing data
Pindra 6 honour ceremonies 569
Robertsganj 5 honour ceremonies 609
Domchach 2 honour ceremonies 34
Tanda 5 honour ceremonies 554
Varanasi 1 honour ceremony 150

Total

25 honour ceremonies


Estimated 1916 people
participating

Source: Report from PVCHR to DIGNITY, 2013.

It is worth noting that the ceremonial component of testimonial therapy is particular to the
Indian context and is a recent addition to the testimonial method.
3
It was first developed by
Inger Agger in collaboration with PVCHR in the workshops, which took place in 2008. At
present, PVCHR views the ceremony as an indispensable component of the testimonial
therapy program and emphasizes that all victims, who undergo testimonial therapy, should
present their testimonies to an audience.

Depending on the wishes of the victim, the honour ceremony, where the testimony is
presented, can take place in private setting, where only close family and friends participate.
Alternatively, the victim can opt for a more public function, where the written testimony is
presented to a larger audience and is open to the public (PVCHR, 2013: M&E Questionnaire).
According to PVCHR, most victims prefer to have their testimony presented to a larger
audience in a public setting.

3
In earlier versions of testimonial therapy implemented elsewhere, presenting the written testimony to an
audience was not an integrated part of the treatment. Only if the victim actively expressed an interest in sharing
his/her testimony with others after the treatment had come to an end, would such an event be arranged and
carried out.
13
A review of the literature written on testimonial therapy reveals that there has been some
research describing PVCHR’s testimonial therapy program. Counted among this research is a
pilot-study of the mental health benefits of the therapy. Based on a limited number of
observations, the study tentatively concludes that giving testimony leads to an improvement
in the torture survivor’s mental health (Agger et al. 2009). Recently, DIGNITY has initiated a
larger-scale quantitative research project aimed at substantiating the findings from the smaller
scale study. The purpose of this comprehensive evaluation is to validate whether testimonial
therapy leads to an improvement in the mental health of the participants. More than 800
people, who have undergone testimonial therapy, have filled out questionnaires specifying
their mental health status. The data is still being processed, but initial findings confirm that
testimonial therapy has had a positive impact on the victims’ mental health.

14
Chapter 3: Theoretical Framework and Ke Concepts
The thesis’ examination of PVCHR’s perception of politicians’ participating in the honour
ceremonies is guided by a theoretical framework, which draws on two sources. The writings
of Lisa Wedeen on the performance of citizenship in public gatherings in Yemen and Partha
Chatterjee’s account of NGO tactics in the Indian state West Bengal. The following section
provides an account of the two components of the theoretical framework.
!edeen"s #erformati$e %esearch &genda
In examining PVCHR’s take on politicians’ involvement in the honour ceremonies, the thesis
draws heavily on the work of the political scientist Lisa Wedeen and her study of democracy
in Yemen (Wedeen, 2009). In her country study of Yemen, Wedeen contributes to the debate
on whether democracy is to be understood in minimalist terms or if one should ascribe to a
more substantial definition. In examining whether Yemen might be termed democratic,
Wedeen takes a special interest in qat-chews. Briefly explained, qat-chews are public
gatherings, where people group together, chew qat and discuss current events.
4
Wedeen
examines the qat-chews in an ethnographic monograph with the purpose of determining,
whether this type of activity can be termed democratic.

Wedeen’s approach to examining the qat-chews is guided by performative principles. To
Wedeen, a performative approach is more than just a vocabulary with theatrical roots. Though
politics is populated by actors, antagonists and audiences and political scientists often use
terminology such as “scenarios, dramatic moves, climaxes, backstage” to describe it, the
performative marks a distinct research agenda (Bala, 2007: 47).

The performative approach gained prominence through the work of Judith Butler, a professor
of comparative literature and rhetoric, who has written extensively on questions of gender
identity (see Butler, 1990). Central to the performative research agenda are questions of how a
person’s identity comes into being. What Wedeen terms “the formation of selves” (Wedeen,
2009: 182). To performative theorists identity is a performance. This is captured by Butler,
who writes that “identity is performatively constituted by the very "expressions" that are said
to be its results” (Butler, 1990: 25). Thinking performatively implies accepting the conviction

4
Qat is a leafy plant, which when chewed acts as an amphetamine-like stimulant. In Yemen, qat is often
consumed in a social setting.
15
that “selves, on this account, do not exist, as if in some authentic mode, independently of the
actions by which they are constituted” (Wedeen, 2009: 87). Rather, one becomes a subject
through performing.
& #erformati$e 'nderstanding of (at)chews
Wedeen takes a performative view of the qat-chews in Yemen, when she argues that
participants in the qat-chews are engaged in a performance of Yemeni democratic citizenship.
By participating in the qat-chews, Yemeni nationals constitute themselves as democratic
citizens (Wedeen, 2009: 213). Wedeen makes the argument that democratic citizenship is not
something, which is conferred upon the individual, but rather that one becomes a democratic
citizen by acting as one. She observes how “the deliberation so evident in these meetings
represents an important aspect of democratic practice and personhood” (Wedeen, 2009: 104).

Wedeen argues that participants in the qat-chew constitute themselves as citizens by
conforming to democratic norms and she therefore identifies the qat-chews as an example of a
performative practice. Wedeen defines performative practices as “bodily and speech acts that
iterate norms in the context of everyday life” (Wedeen, 2009: 105).
5
Wedeen finds that it is a
similar set of norms, which are repeated by all participants in the qat-chews. To Wedeen, the
qat-chews are an example of a democratic performative practice, because actors reproduce
norms, which she identifies as democratic. Simply put, participants in the qat-chews iterate
norms, which are democratic and thereby they constitute themselves as democratic citizens.

Though the performative perspective “privileges actions as the mode of creating and
consolidating attitudes” (Bala, 2007: 64), Wedeen acknowledges that participants prior set of
values might have influenced their involvement in the qat-chews. Thus, Wedeen does not
dismiss the importance of values altogether. She acknowledges that attitudes held by Yemeni
nationals prior to their participation in the qat-chews influence their performance as
democratic citizens in the ceremonies. Nonetheless, Wedeen’s analytical approach favours
uncovering the norms iterated by the participants in the qat-chews. These iterated norms are
viewed as key in understanding the political identities of the participants.

5
Wedeen’s definition of a performative practice echoes Judith Butler’s use of the concept. See Højgaard &
Søndergaard for an introduction to Butler’s understanding of performative practices (Højgaard & Søndergaard,
2010: 318).
16
#articipation in the (at)chews
In Wedeen’s study, she examines four aspects of the Yemeni qat-chews. She takes an interest
in what topics make the agenda of the chews and how the topics in question are discussed.
She also examines, what kinds of people participate and the different roles played by the
individual participants in the chews (Wedeen, 2009: 126). In that participation is a central
concern in this thesis, it is worth dwelling further on Wedeen’s motivation for including
participation as an element in her analysis of the norms reproduced in the chews.

Wedeen makes the argument that if one is to fully understand the chews as an example of a
performative practice, then one has to look at, what actors are included in the proceedings and
what kind of actors are excluded from the chews.
6
Wedeen finds that examining, who is
involved in the chews or alternatively barred entry, constitutes an important step towards
determining, whether the qat-chews can be interpreted as a democratic performative practice.

In Wedeen’s analysis of participation in the gatherings, she arrives at findings, which suggest
that participation in the chews is governed by democratic norms. Wedeen observes how the
organizers of the chews emphasize that the forums are open to anyone, who wishes to
participate. None are excluded. To Wedeen, this lends supports to her conviction that the
chews are best understood as democratic practices. Wedeen finds that the organizers
reproduce democratic values, when they allow all concerned parties entry, because this
ensures that all are able to make their voices heard in the forums.
*+amining #articipation in the (at)chews
Theoretically, Wedeen unpacks participation in the qat-chews by incorporating theoretical
concepts, which originate from the work of Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin. In particular,
Austin’s analytical device, where all actions can be broken into three parts: a locutionary
component, an illocutionary component and a perlocutionary component. To Austin, this
threefold distinction provides the researcher with a more profound understanding of people’s
actions (Austin, 1975: 99). Austin finds that acts, which appear to be similar, often are
dissimilar, if one takes the speaker’s intention (the illocutionary) and the audience’s reaction
(the perlocutionary) into account. He terms these two factors context. Austin writes “that the

6
See also Birgitte Poulsen’s work on parents’ participation in Danish school boards. She makes an argument
similar to Wedeen’s about the importance of examining the norms, which govern the inclusion/exclusion of
actors (Poulsen, 2000: 162).
17
words used are to some extent to be ‘explained’ by the ‘context’” (Austin, 1975: 100). Austin
observes that to fully appreciate the meaning of an act, the context has to be taken into
account. According to Chatterjee, all actions contain these three dimensions:

The locutionary dimension: the act itself
The illocutionary dimension: the speaker’s intention with the act
The perlocutionary dimension: the effects of the act

Austin posits, that this threefold distinction should be kept in mind by anyone, who wishes to
come to terms with how an act functions (Austin, 1975: 99).

Wedeen’s inquiry into the norms, which govern participation in the qat-chews, is to some
extent guided by Austin’s threefold distinction. Firstly, Wedeen uncovers the locutionary
dimension of participation in the qat-chews. This is done by examining, who the organizers
would invite to participate in the chews. Through meticulous observations in the field and by
asking questions about participation in the interviews, Wedeen arrives at the conclusion that
to the organizers none are barred entry. Hence, Wedeen is able to conclude that in regard to
the locutionary dimension, the organizers of the chews engage in the replication of democratic
values.

Wedeen also takes the illocutionary dimension into account and examines, why the organizers
of the qat-chews work to ensure that all interested parties are allowed entry. To Wedeen,
examining the organizers’ intentions “does not presuppose grasping an inner essence or
getting into the heads of informants understood as captive minds of a system, but rather is
centred on the ways, in which people attempt to make apparent, observable sense of their
world – to themselves and to each other” (Wedeen, 2009: 17). Wedeen finds that the
intentions of the qat-chew organizers can be uncovered simply by asking them to explain their
stance on who should be allowed entry to the chews. Wedeen finds that the organizers in their
justifications, where they emphasize the importance of involving everyone, replicate
democratic values. The organizers constitute themselves as democratic citizens in their
conviction that everyone should be allowed to participate.

18
Briefly summarized, Wedeen adopts parts of Austin’s theoretical framework by paying
attention to the locutionary and illocutionary dimensions of the chews. Inspired by Austin,
Wedeen asks two kinds of questions about participation in the public forums.

1. Whom do the organizers invite to participate in the qat-chews?
2. How is participation talked about by the organizers?

Very deliberately, Wedeen refrains from dealing with the perlocutionary dimension of the qat-
chews. Wedeen does not examine how the norms which govern participation in the qat-chews
are received by Yemeni nationals (Wedeen, 2009: 216). Wedeen defends leaving out the
perlocutionary dimension, by arguing that a full account of this dimension would require
time, effort and resources, which at present lies beyond the scope of her work.
#artha Chatter,ee"s Ci$il Societ
Where Wedeen studies participation in the qat-chews with the aim of determining, whether
one can term Yemen a democratic polity, this thesis seeks to describe an NGO’s stand on the
participation of politicians in the ceremony. Therefore, Wedeen’s performative approach
needs to be integrated with a theoretical framework, which explains how politicians and
NGOs relate to each other in an Indian setting. Partha Chatterjee’s writings on civil society
centres on Indian NGOs and their relationship with political agents and is therefore thought to
be relevant for this thesis purposes. In the following, Partha Chatterjee’s work is briefly
introduced.

Chatterjee is best known as a historian and has written on the nationalist movement in India
before and after independence, on questions of secularism and numerous other topics related
to modern Indian history.
7
He gained a large following in academic circles, when he in 1982
joined a group of prolific South Asian scholars and proposed a subaltern research strategy as a
contribution to the postcolonial research agenda (Chatterjee, 1998b: 289). Briefly explained,
subaltern research is concerned with understanding the political strategies of marginalized
groups in South Asia (Lilja, 2008: 20). Chatterjee took a special interest in NGOs relationship
with state agents, when he in the 1990s conducted field work among Calcutta’s urban poor.

7
For an introduction to Partha Chatterjee’s authorship refer to “Empire and Nation: Essential Writings 1985-
2005” (Chatterjee, 2010).
19
On the basis of his involvement with this section of Indian society, Chatterjee wrote “The
Politics of the Governed” (2004) in which he introduced the idea of an Indian civil society.

Civil society is a heralded concept within the field of political science and its usages multiple.
Often civil society is named the “third sector” of society, where the other two sectors in
question are the state and the market. Chatterjee acknowledges that civil society is a deeply
contested concept and therefore goes to some lengths in an attempt to clarify, what he means
by the concept. To Chatterjee, civil society refers to the manner in which people within a
given territory relate to state agents, who govern the polity. Chatterjee defines civil society as
a sphere “where there are free associations, not under the tutelage of state power” (Chatterjee,
1990: 276).

In defining civil society as a sphere, where the state does not interfere, it is apparent that
Chatterjee draws on the political philosopher John Locke’s definition of civil society (Locke,
1689). Locke holds the view that in civil society people band together in a “pre- or apolitical
sphere” in order to protect a natural set of rights (Merkel, 2004: 45). Like other liberalist
thinkers, Locke proves wary of state power (Petersen, 2009: 216). According to Locke, there
is always the danger that state forces become tyrannical and threaten the individual’s
freedoms. Civil society is envisioned as a vanguard capable of protecting people from the
looming tyranny of the state. Its purpose is to protect its members from the arbitrary rule of
the state, thereby guaranteeing the individual’s negative freedoms (Merkel, 2004: 46).
Locke’s emphasis on civil society ensuring the individual’s right to life, liberty and estate
should be viewed as an attempt at carving out a space for the citizen outside the reach of state
agents (Petersen, 2009: 216).

In his study of the urban poor living in Calcutta, India’s third-largest metropolis, Chatterjee
detects the existence of a civil society, which closely resembles Locke’s conceptualization. A
puzzled Chatterjee looks to the past for an explanation of this phenomenon. The answer is to
be found in India’s colonial past, where administrators of the British Empire implemented
principles, which were inspired by Locke’s thoughts on the role of civil society. Chatterjee
makes the argument that the principles of civil society introduced by the British, still govern
20
certain institutions in India to this day, albeit in limited form (Chatterjee, 1990: 286,
Chatterjee, 2004: 37).

Chatterjee counts NGOs among the institutions, which reproduce the values of civil society in
present day India (Chatterjee, 2012: 320). Chatterjee arrives at this conclusion based on
observations of Indian NGOs navigation within the field of electoral politics.

“NGO activism is premised on a separation from the electoral forms of
representation; it is accountable to its constituents not through electoral practices.
Indeed, the dominant ideology that has guided such idealistic middle-class
activism is precisely the distance from the world of the politicians” (Chatterjee,
2012: 320).

The quote captures Chatterjee’s motivation for characterizing NGOs as civil society actors.
NGOs can be termed civil society actors, because they view their independence from electoral
politics as a fundamental premise for their work (Harrison, 2007: 3). Though Chatterjee notes
that NGOs shy away from political interferences, he acknowledges that NGOs do operate
within a legal framework put in place by the legislators of electoral politics. It follows that
NGOs are not completely autonomous. Yet, Chatterjee maintains that NGOs are not under the
direct control of state agents (Held, 2006: 274).
*lectoral #olitics -efined
It is worth pointing out that Chatterjee in his study of NGO tactics only examines how NGOs
interact with actors involved in electoral politics. Chatterjee refrains from specifying what he
means by ‘electoral politics’, because he assumes that his readers are familiar with the
political structures, which govern India. For the sake of analytical clarity, what ‘electoral
politics’ refers to in an Indian setting is briefly recounted. The actors of electoral politics are
the people who compete for votes in order to obtain political offices (Gallagher & Mitchell,
2005: 3).

Seeing that India is a federal polity consisting of 25 states and 7 territories, the actors of
electoral politics struggle to obtain votes at central, state and local level. At central level, the
actors involved in electoral politics seek to be representatives in the Indian Parliament. India
21
Government
of India
State
Government
Division
District
Block
Village
Municipal
Corporation
Municipality
Ward
City Council
is a Westminster parliamentary democracy with a lower and an upper house. Members of the
lower house (Lok Sabha) are directly elected by the people, whereas the members of the
upper house (Rajya Sabha) are elected by members from the state legislatures. In India’s
federal system, the state legislative assemblies are granted substantial legislative powers
(Gallagher & Mitchell, 2005: 141). In Uttar Pradesh, actors involved in electoral politics seek
to be represented in the state legislature, which consists of two houses: a legislative assembly
(Vidhan Sabha) and a legislative council (Vidhan Parishad). A chief minister is the head of
the Uttar Pradeshi state government and presides over 18 divisions containing 75
administrative districts. There are also electoral politics at local level in the administrative
districts. In rural areas, actors strive for seats in the village governments (Gram Panchayat).
The village government is headed by a village head (Pradhan), who is democratically elected
by the inhabitants of the village. In urban areas, people seek influence in the municipal
governments. Figure 3 provides an overview of the three levels of electoral politics in India.

Figure 3: The three levels of electoral politics in India.

Central level








State level













Local level




22
Chatter,ee Challenged
Chatterjee’s writings on civil society have sparked a lively debate among scholars of South
Asian politics. In particular, Chatterjee’s characterization of NGOs, as acting in accordance
with civil society tactics, has been debated in a number of empirical studies, which deals with
NGO activism in India. In a study of village clubs and small NGOs in West Bengal, Tom
Harrison draws on Chatterjee’s civil society concept, but critiques Chatterjee’s definition of
an NGO. Harrison finds that when Chatterjee refers to NGOs he evokes an image of “large
and formalized organizations” (Harrison, 2012: 240). By defining NGOs in reference to their
size and organizational set-up, Chatterjee fails to pay attention to the activities undertaken by
the NGOs.

Chatterjee “does not differentiate between when associations are mobilizing in
order to protect specific interests (...) and when they are involved in the delivery
of services. He is able to lump very different practices together in this way
because he tells us so little about the technicalities of how these processes of
mediation actually take place” (Harrison, 2012: 239).

Harrison challenges Chatterjee, when he argues that an adequate definition of an NGO should
contain a specification of the type of activities undertaken by the NGO (Harrison, 2012: 239).
According to Harrison, the universe of NGOs can be divided into two groups:

a) NGOs performing distributive and consultative functions for the government
b) NGOs engaged in mobilization and lobbying

NGOs that perform distributive and consultative functions for the government draw on the
civil society tactics enumerated by Chatterjee (Harrison, 2012: 240). Where Harrison findings
contradict Chatterjee’s are in the cases where NGOs engage in mobilization and advocacy.
Harrison argues that these types of NGOs show no hesitancy in engaging with electoral
politics. Harrison’s study of NGO tactics in West Bengal challenges Chatterjee’s relegation of
NGOs to the sphere of civil society. Harrison faults Chatterjee’s definition of NGOs. If
Chatterjee paid greater attention to the NGOs mandates and adopted a more finely grained
definition, then he would refrain from relegating all NGOs to the realm of civil society.
23
Two additional studies lend support to Harrison’s critique of Chatterjee’s placement of NGOs
within the realm of civil society. In a critical review of Chatterjee’s writings, Ajai Gudavarthy
confirms that some NGOs do take on the role of mediators – speaking on behalf of the poorest
and negotiation with politicians about entitlements and benefits (Gudavarthy, 2012: 11-12). In
a study of state agents and the rural poor in the Indian states of West Bengal and Bihar, Stuart
Corbridge also arrives at findings, which lend support to Harrison’s criticism of Chatterjee’s
understanding of NGO tactics. Corbridge reports that there have been instances where NGOs
have engaged with electoral politics, rather than shied away from it (Corbridge et al. 2005:
191). Though Gudavarthy and Corbridge refrain from replicating Harrison’s distinction
between NGOs that perform government services and NGOs that advocate and lobby, they do
find that Chatterjee’s classifications of NGO tactics would benefit from paying closer
attention to the type of tasks undertaken by the NGOs.
Chatter,ee"s -efence
Chatterjee has responded to the criticism levelled at his categorization of NGOs as civil
society actors. Chatterjee admits that there have been instances, where NGOs have “crossed
the line separating the civil from the political” (Chatterjee, 2012: 320) and engaged with
electoral politics. He acknowledges that in certain cases “NGOs born within the spaces of
civil society can effectively give voice to demands hitherto unrepresented groups and even
force political parties to take notice” (Chatterjee, 2012: 319). He has also acknowledged that
there are NGOs, which perform consultative and distributive tasks and NGOs, which are
involved in advocacy and mobilization (Chatterjee, 2012: 329). Yet, Chatterjee maintains that
regardless of their mandate, NGOs would rather not be involved in electoral politics.
Although, he accepts that there have been cases, where NGOs have been involved with
electoral politics, he maintains that NGOs in large part remain loyal to the principles of civil
society. Instances where NGOs have engaged with electoral politics remain the exception
rather than the norm (Chatterjee, 2012: 315).

Chatterjee faults his critics for not paying close enough attention to the reasoning, which
guides the few NGOs, who engage with electoral politics. If his critics had taken these NGOs
justifications for engaging with electoral actors into account, then they would discover that
their collaboration with politicians comes fraught with tension. Chatterjee observes that
NGOs, who engage in electoral politics, feel the need to defend their actions. If prompted,
24
these NGOs admit that their interaction with electoral politics sits uncomfortably with them.
Chatterjee observes how NGOs “are quite aware of the conceptual distinction, even though
they don’t respect it in practice” (Chatterjee, 2012: 321). NGOs are well aware of the fact that
their collaboration with electoral actors constitutes a transgression. To Chatterjee, their
defensive behaviour confirms that NGOs in general prefer keeping their distance from
electoral politics.

Chatterjee further criticizes Harrison, Gudavarthy and Corbridge’s studies for failing to
distinguish between NGOs and more informal organizations. Chatterjee mentions the
leadership of squatter settlements as an example of an informal organization. Village clubs
would be another example. In particular, Chatterjee finds fault with the empirical work done
by Harrison. Chatterjee argues that Harrison fails to make a distinction between informal
organizations and NGOs. In failing to so, Harrison overlooks the fact that the two types of
organizations interact with electoral politics in distinct ways. According to Chatterjee,
informal organizations do not shy away from engaging with electoral politics. Chatterjee
found this to be the case in his work on squatter settlements in Calcutta, were he encountered
informal groups, who managed to make their voice heard in a manner, which defied the
values of civil society.
8
As a theoretical framework, the Lockean civil society was not able to
capture how these disenfranchised groups living in Calcutta’s slums levelled influence. In an
attempt to explain how these informal organizations interact with the state, Chatterjee
introduces the concept of political society tactics.

Political society tactics are the actions of informal groups, who wrestle entitlements and
benefits from electoral agents by negotiating with them (Chatterjee, 1998: 61). Members of
political society do not shy away from engagement in electoral politics. In fact, “one of the
key instruments of political society in India is the instrumental use of a right of formal
citizenship, namely the vote. That is what keeps the activities of political society in constant
play with the formal procedures of electoral democracy” (Chatterjee, 2012: 310). For informal
groups, electoral politics is viewed as a means to level influence.

8
In this case, the informal group in question were a squatter settlement, which occupied a stretch of railroad land
illegally. The squatters’ demanded better living conditions and were able to wrangle benefits from the municipal
office (Mannathukkaren, 2010: 297).

25

Chatterjee argues that it is necessary to distinguish between NGOs and more informal
organizations. The two types of organizations do not engage with state agents in a similar
manner. The more informal groups interact with state agents, whereas NGOs view electoral
politics as an unwelcome disturbance. NGOs and informal groups are not to be conflated into
the same category. “The conceptual distinction between NGO-led movements and political
society needs to be maintained” (Chatterjee, 2012: 320). When Harrison concludes that NGOs
engage with politicians, he fails to distinguish between NGOs and informal organizations. If
Harrison had drawn this distinction, then he would have noticed that it is informal
organizations, who engage with electoral actors, whereas the more formalized NGOs prefer
not to.





26
Chapter .: Theoretical *+pectations
Having accounted for Wedeen’s writings on Yemeni qat-chews as an example of a
performative practice and Chatterjee’s categorization of NGOs as civil society actors, what
follows is a brief outline of how the two theorists’ concepts will be applied to this thesis
examination of PVCHR’s stand on politicians’ participation in the honour ceremonies.
Wedeen’s performative approach is integrated with Chatterjee’s observations of how NGOs
relate to political actors in an Indian setting. The theoretical expectation of this thesis is as
follows.



We expect that Chatterjee’s observations of NGO tactics also applies to PVCHR. We
anticipate that PVCHR will constitute themselves as civil society actors and prefer that
politicians are not involved in the ceremonies. If PVCHR in any way engages with politicians
in the ceremonies, they will adamantly defend their actions, because they know that this
interaction constitutes a transgression.


PVCHR will prefer that politicians are not involved in the honour ceremonies

27
Chapter /: %esearch -esign and 0ethodolog
In what follows, the thesis research design and methodology is recounted. The thesis is an
“intensive study of a single unit” (Gerring, 2007). By limiting the thesis scope to an in-depth
examination of PVCHR’s perception of politicians’ participation in the honour ceremonies,
within-case variation takes centre stage. Within-case variation is central to this thesis, because
of the simple maxim, which dictates that organizations do not understand themselves,
individuals do. By maintaining a narrow focus on the staff at PVCHR, the thesis is better able
to determine, whether the informants’ perception of politicians’ participation in the honour
ceremonies are in alignment or differ from each other.

Though a comparative study, where PVCHR’s take on participation is compared with the
victims or even the politicians’ perception, would undoubtedly prove interesting, limited time
and resources are obvious limitations. At the time of research, next to nothing was known
about participation in the honour ceremonies and therefore an examination of the organizers’
experience with participation seemed as good a place to start as any.
&n *thnographic Stud
Answers to the research question were sought through a one month stay in PVCHR’s offices
in Varanasi, India. The field research was planned and executed in accordance with
principles, which guide Wedeen in her ethnographic research of the Yemeni qat-chews.
Wedeen’s study of the qat-chews is an example of a study concerned with “typical” political
science questions, but which makes use of research methods more familiar to the field of
anthropology and ethnography. Though an ethnographic approach to data collection is no
longer limited to studies of culture, ethnographic studies within political science are still
relatively rare (Schatz b, 2009: 305, see also Cerwonka & Malkki, 2008). Therefore, it is
necessary to briefly introduce the central components of Wedeen’s fieldwork.

To Wedeen, ethnographic research entails “immersion in the place and lives of people under
study” (Wedeen, 2010: 257). The thesis adopts Wedeen’s ethnographic approach, which
entails spending copious hours in the offices of PVCHR, observing how PVCHR organizes
the ceremonies and participating in honour ceremonies in various parts of Uttar Pradesh. In
addition to the observational work, data is also generated through semi-structured interviews
with PVCHR staff working on the testimonial therapy program.
28
The research question of this thesis deals with PVCHR’s perception and therefore the
extensive ethnographic field work is deemed the most suitable method of collecting data,
because it allows for “close, person-to-person contact that is attuned to the worldviews of the
people we study” (Schatz, 2009: 4). The time spent in the field “does enable one to take a
concept or phenomenon and understand it in deep rich ways” (Cerwonka & Malkki, 2005:
74).
&n Interpreti$e &pproach
In addition to replicating Wedeen’s ethnographic research design, the thesis also accepts
Wedeen’s interpretive premise.
9
To Wedeen, language not only mirrors the world, it also
shapes it. In arguing that language is fundamental to our ‘being in the world’, Wedeen rejects
the idea of an external reality independent of language. In doing so, Wedeen does away with
the claim that a statement can be either true or false. One can only determine the truth value of
an utterance if the statement is made in reference to an external reality, which can be
observed.

Wedeen disbands with the idea that there are some informants, who are more reliable than
others. Instead, she dictates that “each voice can be interpreted for what perspectives,
practices and assumptions it reveals” (Schatz, 2009: 13). Wedeen finds that making a
distinction between accurate and inaccurate information would require that all statements
were viewed in reference to some Archimedean point. To Wedeen, the idea of an objective
reality is null and void.

The thesis accepts Wedeen’s interpretive premise and does not seek to question the truth
value of the informants’ statements. Instead focus is on examining, what certain utterances
tell us about the perspective of the informants and the context in which they are situated. Here
the ethnographic approach is a suitable approach to data collection, because by being
immersed in the daily activities of PVCHR, it is easier to discover how PVCHR makes sense
of their context and what meanings they contribute to politicians’ participation in the
ceremonies.

9
It should be noted that an ethnographic approach does not necessarily entail an interpretive sensibility. Several
ethnographic studies rest on positivist foundations.
29
&ppling the Theoretical Framework
The thesis is guided by the theoretical expectations derived from Chatterjee’s theoretical
framework, but is not purely deductive. The absence of research into PVCHR’s perception of
participation in the ceremonies calls for a more explorative approach, which foregrounds data.
The thesis attempts to strike a balance between a deductive and an inductive approach by
using Chatterjee’s concepts as a frame of reference, while remaining open to whatever
PVCHR deems important in their explanations of politicians’ involvement in the ceremonies.
Chatterjee’s concepts are used in so far as they inform and deepen our understanding of
participation in the ceremonies. Edward Schatz has termed this a “yes, and…” approach,
which “builds on what people, texts, or the field site bring up (often unexpectedly), rather
than negate or refuse these offers” (Schatz, 2006: 12).

In applying Chatterjee’s theoretical concepts, it should be kept in mind that Chatterjee’s work
on NGO tactics is informed by his involvement in the political landscape of West Bengal.
This thesis describes the activities of an NGO based in Varanasi that organizes ceremonies in
very rural parts of Uttar Pradesh. It is safe to assume that some of the insights from
Chatterjee’s analysis of NGOs interaction with electoral politics cannot be directly applied to
the Uttar Pradeshi context. In an introduction to a critical anthology on Chatterjee’s
theorizing, the Indian scholar Nivedita Menon comments on attempts at applying Chatterjee’s
insights to other cases. She cautions against the “purity of empty universalist categories and
(…) their claims to speak about everywhere from nowhere” (Menon, 2010: 3). Instead, what
is needed is an approach, which displays “sensitivity to location” (Menon, 2010: 3).
1enerating -ata
The data used in the thesis was generated by conducting interviews and through observations.
In that the thesis is interpretive, it follows that data is not out there to be found. Instead “we
speak here of accessing sources that might enable the generation of data” (Yanow &
Schwartz-Shea, 2006: 115). Raw data is not collected, but generated in interplay between the
researcher and the informants. Thus, the interpretive work starts at the level of data
generation. Therefore, it is necessary to precisely describe how the data was generated with
the purpose of ensuring that the research design can replicated (Wedeen, 2010: 265).
30
Semi)structured Inter$iews
Data was generated through semi-structured interviews. Though interviews are by no means
the only way to generate ethnographic data (Hastrup, 2009: 18), this method of data
generation was chosen, because it allows for “a more nuanced understanding of the world
from the informants perspectives rather than simply from the researcher’s” (Pader, 2006:
163). Inspired by Wedeen’s method of conducting interviews, the interview-guide consisted
of two kinds of questions (appendix 2: interview-guide). Open-ended questions, where the
informant was encouraged to describe politicians’ participation in the ceremonies and more
probing why-questions aimed at eliciting answers, which pertained to the motivations, which
guided PVCHR in their stand on politicians’ participation. The more descriptive questions
were posed with the purpose of determining whether PVCHR thought that politicians had any
role to play in the ceremonies (the locutionary dimension), whereas the why-questions sought
to uncover PVCHR’s justifications (the illocutionary dimension).

Though the interviews were conducted in reference to an interview-guide, they remained
exploratory. Rather than run through a preconceived list of politicians involved in electoral
politics and ask the informant to confirm, whether the listed politician had a role to play in the
ceremonies, I asked open-ended questions, which encouraged the informants to describe
participation in the ceremonies with special focus on the role of politicians. The exploratory
approach was chosen, because I wanted to avoid imposing any theoretical preconceptions on
the informants. In this thesis, interviews were conducted with the purpose of gaining more of
a sense of the context in which PVCHR operates and what drives PVCHR in their interaction
with the politicians.
23ser$ation Studies
In addition to the interviews, data was also generated through observation studies of four
honour ceremonies and by observing PVHCR’s daily work with organizing the ceremonies,
which mainly took place at the Varanasi office. As Pader puts it, doing observations “is the
fine art of hanging out – with a difference. The difference is that an ethnographer doing
participant-observation attempts to interpret observations and experiences systematically”
(Pader, 2006: 163). As far as possible, I attempted to join “the participants in the rhythm of
their life, in their space and their time” (Buroway, 1998: 17). All the data generated through
31
observations was meticulously noted down in field notes, which were compiled and edited at
the end of each day.

Observations were chosen as the second method of generating data, because it is a “good way
to gain insight into actors’ lived political experiences, to observe how people make sense of
their world, to chart how they ground their ideas in everyday practices and administrative
routines” (Wedeen, 2009: 85). Through observations, I aspired to arrive at a deeper
understanding of PVCHR’s take on politicians’ involvement in the ceremonies. By doing
observations I was able to include data, which arose in more casual conversations in response
to shared experiences. As Allaine Cerwonka has noted, this form of data is brimming with
valuable insight, because “it is often easier for people to talk to ethnographers if they are
talking about something they see together, instead of just asking questions narrowly directed
at them” (Cerwonka & Malkki, 2005: 149). A further advantage to doing observational work
was that it made for better interviews. In the interviews, informants often made mention of
shared experience and used it as a common frame of reference.

In the literature on observation-studies, much has been said about the role of the observer and
opinions are divided as to how one should navigate while in the field. For this research, I took
on the role of a participant observer, serving both as an “actor and a spectator” (Wedeen,
2010: 257). A participant observer is not a fly on the wall and this marks a “break with the
positivist idea of the non-interfering researcher” (Wedeen, 2010: 257). But in view of the
thesis interpretive approach, this is not viewed as a major complication, but just another layer
of interpretation, which is taken into account in the analysis.
The Selection of Informants
What follows is a brief account of how the informants were selected. As mentioned, the thesis
is a single-case study of PVCHR’s take on participation. Due to this, only PVCHR staff
members were chosen as informants. The universe of informants was further narrowed down
to include only staff members, who were directly involved in the implementation of the
testimonial therapy program. Though most of the staff at PVCHR is familiar with the
testimonial therapy program, they were not asked to be informants due to the limited time and
resources of the research. Limiting the pool of informants even further, only staff members,
who had a hand in organizing the ceremonies, were chosen. Figure 4 provides an overview of
32
the organizational set-up of the testimonial therapy program. The informants, who have
contributed to this thesis, are shaded green.

Figure 4: Organizational set-up of the testimonial therapy program, 2013.

Source: PVCHR report to DIGNITY, 2013.
10


All of the management staff involved in the testimonial therapy program contributed to the
thesis as informers. These were Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi (Project Director), Mrs. Shruti
Nagvanshi (Managing Trustee) and Ms. Shirin Shabana Khan (Program Manager). The
management holds the overall responsibility for the implementation of the honour
ceremonies, while field staff takes care of the practical arrangements and is in direct contact
with the communities, where the ceremonies are held.
11
There are two kinds of field staff,
model-block coordinators and psycho-social community worker. Psycho-social community
workers are required to spend more hours in the field, whereas model-block coordinators
solve the more administrative task of organizing the ceremonies (PVCHR, 2013: Contract of
employment for field staff). Of the model-block coordinators, five agreed to be informants for
the thesis. These were Mr. Manoj Singh, Mr. Shiv Pratap Chaubey, Ms. Chhaya Kumari, Mr.

10
Note that at present no one holds the position of the model-block manager. Instead, the programme manager
has taken on the tasks of the model-block manager.

11
For more information on the division of duties between management and field staff, refer to the contracts for
office staff and the contracts for field staff, where the tasks are further enumerated.
Proect director
!inance
manager
"dministrative
assistant
Program
manager
Model #lock
manager
Coordinator
detention $atc%
Data entry
operator
Model #lock
coordinators
Psyc%o&social
community
$orkers
Coordinator
advocacy
Legal
coordinator
33
Onkar Viswakarma and Mr. Pintu Gupta. One model-block worker was out of office during
the field work and did therefore note participate. Of the psycho-social community workers,
only three of the five were able to participate as informants. These were Mr. Digvijay Singh,
Mr. Prabhakar and Mr. Dinesh Kumar Anal. The remaining two were not in office at the time
of research.
The Selection of 23ser$ation Sites
Most of the observations were made in PVCHR’s office in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. During
the one month field visit, I sat in on staff meetings, a three-day training session of field staff
and was able to follow the organizational and administrative work with arranging the
ceremonies. In addition to being present in PVCHR offices, I was able to participate in a total
of four honour ceremonies in various parts of Uttar Pradesh. I observed a smaller honour
ceremony in Babhnauli village in the southern of Uttar Pradesh, where a little less than 100
people participated. Following this ceremony, I travelled to the northern parts of Uttar
Pradesh an observed a large honour ceremony in Chintauara village, where more than 150
people participated. At the end of my field visit, I participated in two honour ceremonies in
the vicinity of Varanasi, one in Badagaon village, where more than 200 people showed up and
one in Sarai village, where approximately 100 people were in the audience. Figure 5 depicts
the placement of the five observation sites in Uttar Pradesh. The photos serve as an
illustration of the various ways the honour ceremonies were organized.
34
Figure 5: Map of Uttar Pradesh depicting the five observation sites.



35

Photo 1: PVCHR’s offices in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.


Photo 2: Honour ceremony in Babhnauli village, Robertganj, Uttar Pradesh, 30.05.2013.

36

Photo 3: Honour ceremony in Chintaura village, Tanda, Uttar Pradesh, 08.06.2013.


Photo 4: Honour ceremony in Sarai village, Pindra, Uttar Pradesh, 13.06.2013.


37

Photo 5: Honour ceremony in Badagaon village, Uttar Pradesh, 15.06.2013.
Sources of data discussed
In the following, the choice of informants and observation sites is evaluated in reference the
ethnographic idea of immersion. In ethnographic research, immersion refers to the duration
and intensity of a field visit and is an important research criterion (Schatz, 2009: 17). Only if
the researcher is in the field “long enough to discern the social processes that give integrity to
the site” (Buroway, 2009: 17) can one speak of immersion. It should be noted that it is
difficult to determine, what amounts to the ideal duration and intensity of a field study.
Measuring immersion objectively is next to impossible. Nevertheless, the Danish
anthropologist Kirsten Hastrup notes that immersion happens, when the data gathered in the
field work no longer presents any surprises, but falls into consistent patterns (Hastrup, 2009:
301).

In what follows is a brief discussion of whether the field study of this thesis lives up to the
immersion-research criterion. As mentioned earlier, the duration of the field work was a
month. I arrived in Varanasi in late May and left at the end of June. The summer months in
northern India are viciously hot and all activity slows down to a halt. People are active in the
early mornings and evenings, when the temperature drops, but take breaks during the hottest
hours of the day. Luckily, PVCHR had a very busy schedule, despite the heat (see appendix
2). The schedule for June did not differ vastly from any other months and I was therefore able
38
to conduct interviews with almost all the relevant staff and participate in a handful of
ceremonies. Therefore, the timing of the field research had no adverse effect on the intensity
of the field research.
!orking in Translation
The generation of data was complicated by the fact that most of my informants spoke mainly
Hindi. Though I have a basic understanding of Hindi, the somewhat sensitive topic of the
thesis required attention to nuances and details and I therefore solicited the help of a
translator. The academic researcher and professional translator Ajay Pandey did the bulk of
the translation work for the interviews. Ajay Pandey’s high proficiency in both English and
Hindi ensured that only minor details were lost in translation. However, in a few of the
interviews Ajay Pandey was not available and I had to ask English speaking staff members to
translate. Staff members also functioned as translators during my observations of the honour
ceremonies. In the interviews where staff members functioned as translators, I made it a point
to repeat or rephrase questions in order to avoid misunderstandings and weed out ambiguous
answers. In addition, I ensured the quality of the translations by having Ajay Pandey listen to
the recorded interviews and confirm the accuracy of the translations.
*thical Challenges
The generation of data was somewhat complicated by the manner in which I came into
contact with PVCHR. Initially, I contacted PVCHR’s Danish partner organization DIGNITY
with questions about the testimonial therapy program. DIGNITY took an interest in my
research and put me in touch with PVCHR. In an attempt to counter the “asymmetrical power
relationship” (Agger & Jensen, 1996: 9) that inadvertently arose due to my affiliation with
DIGNITY, I emphasized that I had come to learn about PVCHR’s experiences with the
honour ceremonies and that I did not seek to evaluate their efforts. I also made sure to
mention that my study was not funded by DIGNITY.
#rocessing the -ata
Having generated data about PVCHR’s perception of politicians’ participating through
interviews and observations, the data was further processed. All interviews were recorded and
transcribed. Field notes detailing the observations were written in the immediate aftermath of
field visits in order to prevent inaccuracy in terms of recollecting events and conversations. In
the process of transcription, a few of the interviews were edited for clarity. In the editing
39
process, certain fragmented passages from the interviews were omitted, if they were difficult
to make sense of. This was done, to avoid making “too much of ambiguous data” (Miles &
Huberman, 1994: 114).

The qualitative data recorded in the interviews and through the observations was further
systematized by being arranged in displays. By creating displays I was able to compare and
contrast the data generated through interviews and from the observations. Seeing that the
creation of displays is part of the analytical process, it is therefore necessary to briefly
recount, how the data was summarized. This ensures that the thesis research design can be
replicated (Lofland et al., 2006: 212).

In creating the displays, I closely followed the guidelines of Peter Dahler-Larsen, who has
written extensively on how to present qualitative data (Dahler-Larsen, 2002). The raw data
was arranged in large working-displays. From these working-displays, smaller displays were
created by condensing the raw data. Only the condensed displays are included in the analysis,
but the working-displays are available upon request.

The displays were made in accordance with Dahler-Larsen’s inclusion-principle, which
dictates that all relevant data is to be included in the displays (Dahler-Larsen, 2002: 37-42).
Noteworthy gaps in the data have also been incorporated into the displays. By including all of
the available data, I have ensured that the outliers and contradictory findings are taken into
account in the analysis, thereby minimizing the risk that data serves “merely as apt
illustrations” of the theoretical concepts (Velsen, 1967: 140, see also Dahler-Larsen, 2002:
42).

The creation of working-displays, which are then condensed to smaller displays, also ensures
the transparency of the analysis. The findings of the analysis can all be traced back to the raw
data of the working displays (Dahler-Larsen, 2002: 43).

Additionally, presenting data in displays ensures that the findings of the analysis actually
build on existing data. Dahler-Larsen terms this the authenticity principle (Dahler-Larsen,
2002: 42). Dahler-Larsen finds that much qualitative research suffers from a tendency to draw
40
conclusion on the basis of little data (Dahler-Larsen, 2002: 39). By respecting the authenticity
principle and use displays build from condensed data, one is safeguarded against drawing
conclusions that have no basis in the available data (Miles & Huberman, 1994: 144)

41
Chapter 4: First #art of the &nalsis
Having described the research design and methodology, what follows is the first part of the
analysis. The first part of the analysis seeks to answer the question of which politicians
PVCHR would invite to participate in the ceremonies.
The In$ol$ement of the #oliticians
The following is an overview of which politicians the informants mention in response to
questions about politicians’ involvement in the honour ceremonies. All of the informants
mention the village head, while fewer informants identify the village council members.
Political party members, who operate at village level, are also named alongside politicians,
who operate at state level. Table 2 provides an overview of the politicians mentioned and
tallies how many informants made mention of them. It also summarizes the terminology used
to describe the politicians.

Table 2: Politicians mentioned.
Politician mentioned Mentioned by Terminology used
Village head 11 informants Village head
Panchayat leader
Village council member 4 informants Gram Panchayat
Panchayat member
Political party member 5 informants Local party members
State level politician 5 informants Political leader
Member of State Assembly
Higher level political leader
Highly political leaders
Big leaders
The higher politician
The 5illage Head
Though all of the informants make mention of the village head, only five argue that the
village head should participate in the ceremony (interviews with Onkar, Pintu, Digvijay,
Manoj and Chaubey). Onkar’s description of the village head’s involvement in the ceremony
is a good example of the general tenor among the other four informants. Onkar reports that
“we try the village head to honour that person and if the village head does it, he thinks the
village head is with me, so he feels less scared of the police” (interview with Onkar).

For the remaining six informants the village head’s involvement in the ceremonies is less
straightforward. They all note that there have been cases where the village head has
42
attended, but they also caution against inviting certain village heads (interviews with
Prabhakar, Shabana, Dinesh, Chhaya, Lenin and Shruti).
The 5illage Council 0em3er
Whereas the informants in their stand on the village head’s involvement in the ceremonies are
somewhat divided, they present a unified front in terms of the village council members’
involvement. All five informants, who mention the village council members, are in favour of
their involvement in the ceremonies (interviews with Onkar, Lenin, Shruti and Digvijay). To
illustrate, Lenin remarks that “panchayat members will come [to the ceremony]. They will
come, they will support” (interview with Lenin 01.06.2013).
The #olitical #art 0em3er
Five of the informants are equally unified in their conviction that members of political parties,
who operate at village level, are best left out of the ceremonies (interviews with Chaubey,
Digvijay, Chhaya and observations of Lenin and Shabana). Chaubey is one informant, who
with great emphasis explains that members of the political parties are not encouraged to
participate. “We never allow the political party to enter in the program” (interview with
Chaubey). Neither Chaubey nor any of the other informants make any reference to the party
affiliation of the party members. They are all targeted with a blanket-exclusion. The
informants’ exclusion of party members was not only limited to the interviews, but also
apparent in the observations made in the field. During an honour ceremony in Chintaura
Village in Northern Uttar Pradesh, a party member from Congress was in the audience. What
follows is a short excerpt from my field notes.

“As I was walking towards the entrance of the tent a short man in a red shirt
walked up to me and handed me his business card. I was a little surprised in that
this was the first business card I’d been handed while in the field. None of the
PVCHR staff has one. Puzzled, I took the card from him. On the business card
was his name alongside the pictures and names of Sonja Gandhi and Rahul
Gandhi. He told me that he was a member of the Congress Party (…) Later; I
showed the business card to Lenin and Shabana. They explained that he was a
party member from the Congress Party, but clearly didn’t think much of him and
dismissed his importance” (Field note, 08.06.2013: Chintaura Honour Ceremony).

43
Photo 6: Ibrahim Ansari, member of the Congress service group, Chintaura village 08.06.2013.

Figure 6: Ibrahim Ansari’s business card.
12



12
Translated from Hindi, the business card reads “Long live Sonia Gandhi, long live Rahul [Gandhi], long live
the Congress Party. The Congress Service Group. Mr. Ibrahim Ansari from Tanda Nagar Constituency.
Neighbourhood Talwapar, Tanda, Ambedkhar Nagar.

44
The picture in the above captures the Congress member overlooking the members of the
audience before the start of the ceremony. Though he is standing by the microphone, he did
not address the people gathered. Figure 6 is his business card and confirms his identity as a
member of the Congress Party.

Lenin and Shabana neither desired the Congress member’s participation, nor promoted his
presence. They found that this particular party member had no role to play in the ceremony.
Lenin and Shabana’s reaction to the party member’s presence in the audience falls perfectly in
line with the statements of the other three informants’, who also reported that political party
members had no role to play in the ceremonies.
The State 6e$el #olitician
Four of the informants, who mention the politician at state level, agree that state level
politicians’ have no role to play in the honour ceremonies (interview with Lenin, Onkar,
Manoj and Shruti). One of these informants is Lenin, who explains how “we are never giving
any space, we are never calling to any political leaders at all (…) They wanted to, but we
never promote them to come into our ceremony (interview with Lenin). Lenin posits that
PVCHR does not give “space” to political leaders, nor promote their participation in the
ceremonies. Manoj is equally forthright in his exclusion of the state level politician from the
ceremony and explains how “we are very careful with inviting highly political leaders (…) we
have not invited that type of very big leaders” (interview with Manoj).

However, not all informants are in alignment. One informant sees no problems with state
level politicians’ presence in the ceremonies and argues in favour of their inclusion (interview
with Pintu). In the following, Pintu describes how state level politicians are invited to the
ceremonies. “In the ceremonies we invite politicians. And they come and they honour these
people (…) Sometimes we get them honoured by people from other communities – by the
higher politician” (interview with Pintu). Pintu description marks a break with other four
informants’ consensus.

To fully appreciate Pintu as an outlier, it is worth mentioning that Pintu’s inclusion of state
level politicians is apparently a bone of contention within the organization. Without being
prompted, Lenin comments on Pintu’s inclusion of the state level politician.
45
“Once upon a time we brought a Member of State Assembly. It was not our
decision to do that. And he came, he talk crazy, crazy, because they are not going
to support anti-torture. I told Pintu, you look, we give the freedom to you. We do
(…) We gave the freedom. What you want to do, you’ll do. He came. And he
spoke against us” (interview with Lenin).

Lenin describes an honour ceremony, which took place in a village, where Pintu had the
responsibility for inviting participants. Lenin notes that Pintu invited a Member from the State
Assembly of Uttar Pradesh. Clearly, Lenin questioned Pintu in his decision to include the
state level politician in the ceremony, but nonetheless decided to leave the decision in Pintu’s
hands. Lenin describes how he reprimanded Pintu in the wake of the ceremony by
highlighting the negative repercussions of Pintu’s decision. According to Lenin, involving the
State Assembly Member in the ceremony was problematic, because the politician in question
was not in support of the anti-torture agenda set by PVCHR. Lenin’s story reads like a moral
tale. Pintu is given free reins to invite whomever he pleases. He invites a state level politician.
The state level politician’s participation proves problematic, which reinforces Lenin in his
argument that state level politicians are better left out.

Briefly summarized, Pintu is the only informant, who is in favour of involving state level
politicians in the ceremonies. The other four informants find that politicians, who operate at
state level, are better left out.
-iscussing the #oliticians" In$ol$ement
The analysis of the informants’ view of politicians’ involvement in the ceremonies reveal a
number of interesting things. Firstly, the informants do not view actors involved in electoral
politics as a uniform category, but distinguish between different groups. The informants’
mention three types of politicians, who operate at the level of the village: Village heads,
members of the village committees and party members, who hold no office. The informants
further make mention of state level politicians. Figure 7 illustrates at what level of electoral
politics the mentioned politicians’ operate. It is worth mentioning that none of the informants
mention politicians, who operate at central level.

46
Government
of India
State
Government
Division
District
Block
Village
Municipal
Corporation
Municipality
Ward
City Council
Figure 7: The three levels of electoral politics in India.

Central level









State level




































Local level



















Secondly, PVCHR does not seek to involve all the aforementioned politicians in the
ceremonies. Of the informants, who mention the village head, some find that his participation
is warranted, whereas others find that only in some cases should he be involved. When it
comes to the members of the village committees’, all those who mention this type of
politician argue in favour of inviting him/her to the ceremonies. In contrast, none of the
informants, who mention members of political parties or state level politicians, find reason to
include these two groups in the ceremonies. Table 3 summarizes the informants stand on the
various politicians’ participation in the ceremony. The display captures how the informants
view the inclusion of village heads as complicated. Members of the village councils are
uniformly included, whereas members of political parties and state level politicians are
excluded by the informants, who have mentioned their presence in the field.

47
Table 3: Politicians’ involvement in the honour ceremonies.
Village head Village council
member
Political party
member
State level
politician
Lenin Some invited Invited Not invited Not invited
Shruti Some invited Invited Not invited
Shabana Some invited Not invited
Manoj Invited Not invited
Chaubey Invited Not invited
Onkar Invited Invited Not invited
Chhaya Some invited Not invited
Pintu Invited Invited
Digvijay Invited Invited Not invited
Prabhakar Some invited
Dinesh Some invited

Table 3 provides an overview of the informants stand on politicians’ involvement in the
honour ceremonies and allows us to examine if the informants answers are in some way
informed by their placement in the organization. The dotted lines in the table mark the three
different job designations of PVCHR staff involved in the testimonial therapy program. The
table is divided into three sections with the first section containing the three informants, who
work in management. The section below consists of model-block coordinators of which there
are five. The last part of the table lists the three psycho-social community workers. The
information on which role the informant performs in the organization is included in order to
prevent skewed data. In table 3, there is no apparent pattern in the responses and the
informants’ placement in the organization seems to have no role to play.

Theoretically, the informants’ description of politicians’ involvement in the ceremonies
presents a somewhat complicated picture. When the informants argue in favour of excluding
members of the political parties and state level politicians from the proceedings of the
ceremonies, then it reads like a clear reproduction of civil society norms. In excluding these
two groups, the informants constitute themselves as civil society actors with no interest in
interacting with political agents. When the informants exclude politicians from the ceremony,
they demarcate the ceremony as a space in which electoral actors have no role to play. This
confirms the theoretical expectations derived from Chatterjee’s framework, wherein it was
expected that the informants would politicians from entering, thereby clearly replication of the
values of civil society.

48
Yet, the informants’ straightforward inclusion of members from the village committees and
the more hesitant inclusion of the village heads are not in line with what we would expect
from PVCHR as a civil society actor. By including both the village head and the village
committee member in the ceremony, the informants break with the norms of civil society by
engaging with political actors.

One might interpret this somewhat confused picture in view of the context, wherein PVCHR
operates. In their daily work, it is to be expected that PVCHR will come into contact with the
village heads and members of the village committees. It therefore makes sense that they
would include these in the ceremony even though it breaks with the expectations derived from
Chatterjee’s theoretical framework. This interpretation finds further confirmation in the
exclusion of state level politicians. In that PVCHR operates in very rural areas, we would
expect that PVCHR rarely encounters politicians, who operate at state level in the capital of
Lucknow. Yet, the informants’ steadfast exclusion of political party members, who are active
at the level of the village, casts this interpretation into doubt. Political party members are
present in the field and we would therefore expect PVCHR to encounter them in an extent
which is equal to the encounters with the village heads and the members of the village
committees. Viewed in this light, the exclusion of political party members, who operate at
village level, lend support to Chatterjee’s argument about NGOs shying away from dealing
with politicians.

In light of the inconclusive findings in the first part of the analysis, it is not possible to either
confirm or deny that PVCHR constitutes themselves as civil society actors and thereby
exclude politicians from participating in the ceremony. The findings of the analysis suggest
that the picture is far more complicated than one would expect. PVCHR identifies different
political actors and depending on the actor, they either invite them to participate or exclude
them from the ceremonies.

In order to understand why PVCHR includes some and excludes others, we turn to PVCHR’s
justifications for involving the politicians or excluding the politicians. The findings of the
following section of the analysis hopefully will provide us with a more thorough
49
understanding on where PVCHR stands in terms of inviting or excluding the politicians from
the ceremonies.

50
Chapter 7: Second #art of the &nalsis
*+plaining the In$ol$ement of the #oliticians
Having accounted for the informants’ stand on politicians involvement in the honour
ceremonies, the second part of the analysis provides a recount of the explanations, which the
informants resort to, when they justify the inclusion or exclusion of politicians’ in the
ceremonies. The data in this analysis draws on eight of the informants’ thoughts on why
politicians sometimes are invited, while in other cases left out (interviews with Chaubey,
Manoj, Shruti, Chhaya, Digvijay, Dinesh, Lenin and Onkar).

This second part of the analysis falls in three sections. The first section describes the
informants’ emphasis on the politician’s community ties. The second section deals with the
informants’ description of the politician as a self-serving actor. The final section tackles the
informant’s mention of the politician’s mandate.
Communit Ties
The Village Head’s Community Ties
The village head’s ties to his constituents are mentioned by three informants as a valid reason
to include the politician in question in the ceremonies (interviews with Chhaya, Chaubey and
Manoj). In the following the three informants’ justifications concerning the village head’s
community ties are accounted for.

The village head’s involvement with the community is mentioned by three of the informants
(interviews with Chhaya, Chaubey and Manoj). Chhaya describes how PVCHR invites the
village head to participate in the ceremony. “We invite the other village head, who are in
support of this cause. And even with the support of the most marginalized people. So we
invite this type of village head” (interview with Chhaya). Chhaya mentions that PVCHR
invites village heads that enjoy “the support of the most marginalized”. Chhaya interposes the
“even” in the sentence, thereby suggesting that being loyal towards the most marginalized
people is something out of the ordinary. By including the “even” as an intensifier, she implies
that it is not a common that the village head is on good terms with the “marginalized people”.

51
It is apparent from the quote, that Chhaya does not invite all village heads. Only the village
head, who enjoys the support of the community. Chhaya’s inclusion of the village head reads
like a conditional inclusion. Only if the village head enjoys the support of the community,
then he is invited to participate in the ceremony.

Chhaya further describes the kind of village head, she would invite. Again she emphasizes
that the village head’s relationship with the community is an entry condition. In the quote,
Chhaya describes the village head from Sarai village and talks about his participation in the
honour ceremonies.

“The village head of Sarai, where we went. That village head is supporting this
community. When they are not having any food, he is providing them food.
Anything they ever needed. And the village head is happy [with the ceremony],
because he also wants these people to be aware. And when they [the community]
call the village head to participate in the ceremony, they feel very good. This
community is now changing, breaking the silence” (interview with Chhaya)

In the first part of the quote, Chhaya describes the relationship between the people who live in
Sarai village and their village head. She mentions that the village head is sympathetic towards
the community and provides them with welfare benefits and other forms of support. Chhaya
restates the idea of a conditional entry, when she describes how the village head’s
participation in the ceremony is uncomplicated. It is apparent, that Chhaya invites the village
head to participate in the ceremony, because he is loyal towards the community to a fault.
Thus, the village head from Sarai village fulfils Chhaya’s entry condition and is therefore
allowed to participate in the ceremonies.

Chaubey also reports that only village heads, which are in touch with their constituents, are
invited to the ceremonies. In the following, Chaubey describes a village head, who
participated in a ceremony. He explains why this particular village head was invited.

52
“So when they are organizing the community meeting, there is problem related to
the village head. They immediately call village head, come, because you are
already elected by these people” (interview with Chaubey).

To Chaubey, the village head’s presence in the ceremony was justified, because the village
head attempts to solve his constituents’ problems. Manoj likewise, justifies involving the
village head in the ceremony in reference to his ties to the community (interview with Manoj).
The Village Head Lacks Community Ties
Where the informants find that a village head’s community ties provides PVCHR with a
reason to include the village head in the ceremony, to two of the informants a village head’s
lack of community ties is reason to exclude him (interviews with Shruti and Manoj).

Shruti remarks that a village head is excluded from participating in the ceremony, if the
village head’s loyalties lie with someone else than the community. In the following, she
describes a village head that did not share an attachment with the community and was
therefore left out of the ceremony.

“We have for example in Belmar, we have a Gram Panchayat president the last 27
years. He is always saying; “I am the ruler. And you are like animals” (…) this
type of habit, this type of nature (…) we ignore (…) that type of biased person.
We invite the local community person, who understands and feels the problems of
the community” (interview with Shruti).

Shruti describes a village president from Belmar District and explains how he treated his
electorate as inferiors. She argues that the village head’s condescending behaviour towards his
electorate was the reason he was excluded from the ceremony. She emphasizes that a village
head, who thinks less of his constituents, is not invited to the ceremony.

Manoj also finds that village heads, which lack community ties, are not invited to the
ceremony. In the quote in the below, Manoj describes why certain village heads are not
invited to the ceremonies.

53
“We have not invited that type of very big leaders, because that person is like the
king of their community (…) Without them, the community is nothing. So they
feel like they hold the power. And they also, their behaviour is also not
community participation wise” (interview with Manoj).

Manoj mentions that certain village heads act as “the king of their community”. According to
Manoj, these village heads are in an unequal relationship with their constituents. Manoj finds
that these village heads do not take an interest in the community. The village heads’ status as
“big leaders” results in behaviour which is “not community participation wise”. The politician
is vested with powers, which outstrip those of the community, and because of this asymmetry,
he fails to take an interest in his electorate. Manoj reports that when the village head fails to
take an interest in the community, then he should not be involved in the ceremonies.
The Village Committee Member’s Community Ties
Two informants justify involving village committee members’ in the ceremonies in reference
to their community ties (interviews with Manoj and Shruti). Manoj is one of the informants,
who touch on the village committee member’s attachment to the community.

“We focus on the Gram Panchayat, because they are attached with the community
(…) the village person belongs to their community. So that’s why we are in touch
with the village person and village president” (interview with Manoj).

Manoj explains how village committee members are invited, because they are attached with
the community Manoj finds that Gram Panchayat members are embedded in the community
and therefore can be included in the ceremony.

Shruti also grounds her inclusion of village committee members in reference to their
attachment to the community. In the following, Shruti explains what kinds of politicians,
PVCHR would invite to the ceremonies.

“PVCHR invites political leaders, who belong to the community. Who are
attached with the community (…) we invite them, because they understand, when
they come and they participate in our process. They listen to all types of problems.
54
They see the survivor. They understand the status of the survivor. They
understand the problems of the survivor (…) So they understand the real situation
of the community” (interview with Shruti).

Shruti echoes Manoj, when she notes that PVCHR invites village committee members, who
are “attached with the community”. To Shruti only village committee members, who “belong
to the community”, are included. In emphasizing this, Shruti implies that there are members
of the village committees, who do not belong to the community. Though she does not state it
outright, it is apparent that her inclusion only covers the village committee members, who are
members of the community.
Understanding the Politician’s Community Ties
To summarize, four informants state that village level politicians’ community ties are one of
the reasons, why they are invited to the ceremonies. Two informants mention that village
heads’ that lack community ties are excluded from the ceremonial proceedings.

The informants’ justifications for involving the village heads’ and the village committee
members’ provide us with important insight as to how they understand their interaction with
these particular politicians. Though the informants inclusion of the village heads’ and the
village committee members’ does not constitute a replication of civil society norms, their
justification for involving these politicians suggest that civil society norms might nonetheless
play a role.

When the informants justify involving local level politicians in reference to their community
ties, their argumentation reads like a defence. The informants all emphasize that sharing ties
with the community is an entry condition, which needs to be met if the politician is to
participate in the ceremonies. The informants all emphasize that when the village head or
village committee member is attached to the community in question, then it justifies their
involvement in the ceremonies. This falls in line with Chatterjee’s observation that even
though NGOs in certain instances interact with politicians, they are aware that these acts
constitute a transgression. Here we interpret the informants’ emphasis on community ties as
an example of PVCHR defending their decision to include politicians in the ceremonies. The
mention of community ties reads like an entry condition and indicates that the inclusion of the
55
village level politician is fraught with complications. The conditional entry signals that not all
village level politicians are included in the ceremonies. The informants acknowledge that the
inclusion of village level politicians might prove problematic and therefore set the bar higher
for the kind of village level politician included in the ceremony. Not all village heads and
village committee members are welcome in the ceremony, only the ones who share
community ties. Though the informants’ mention of community ties does not read like a
reproduction of civil society values, they still orient themselves in relation to the norms of
civil society. PVCHR acknowledges that inviting politicians constitutes a break with civil
society norms and therefore they defend their actions.

56
The Self)ser$ing #olitician
The Self-sering Village Head
Chhaya is one of the informants, who touch on self-serving politicians being excluded from
the ceremonies. She describes how PVCHR refrains from inviting village heads, who if
included would end up using the ceremony for their own purposes. “We are not inviting or
engaging with any type of village head, who is very much politically influenced or is having
his own benefit” (interview with Chhaya). Chhaya continues her explanation and further
describes, what would happen if the village head was invited. She recounts a scenario, where
the village head attends a ceremony, but uses the occasion to promote his own agenda
(interview with Chhaya). It is apparent that to Chhaya, self-serving village heads are better
left out of the ceremonies.
The Self-sering Political Party Member
Two other informants also make mention of politicians, who use the ceremony to serve their
own ends. In these two cases, the informants find that political party members are kept off the
guest list for the ceremonies, because they only work for their own benefit (interviews with
Chaubey and Digvijay).

Chaubey touches on this issue, when he describes, what happens if political party members
are invited to participate in the ceremony. “So it is a problem for us, because if we involve
with one party, the other party will be aiming for us. So that is why” (interview with
Chaubey). Chaubey describes a hypothetical situation, where PVCHR has invited members
from one party to participate in the ceremony. He argues that the political parties view the
ceremony as a platform through which they can gain support. Thus, the inclusion of one party
and its members leads to jealousy from other parties, who find that they are missing out on
access to parts of their electorate. Chaubey justifies the exclusion by arguing that the political
party members would use the ceremony instrumentally to pursue own ends and this would
lead to jealousy from other parties. Chaubey rules out involving political party members, in
order to avoid the ceremony being used instrumentally.

Digvijay is equally hesitant, when it comes to inviting political party members to the
ceremonies. “The political parties also use PVCHR as an instrument. To convert the crowd
into their vote bank” (interview with Digvijay). Digvijay describes what would happen if
57
political parties where invited to the ceremony. He argues that the political party member
would use the ceremony as a forum to promote themselves and secure the votes of the
community. Thus, he argues for an exclusion of the political party members from the
ceremony, because he fears that the political parties would use the ceremony instrumentally to
garner votes. Digvijay views the political parties’ preference for votes as detrimental to the
express purposes of the ceremony. If political parties were to be invited, they would use the
ceremony instrumentally to secure votes.

This fear of the ceremony being used instrumentally by the village level politician is
something, which Digvijay pursues further.

“We never invite the BSP, Congress and other types of political parties. Because
the message is going to the community. Because they are coming as a mass. They
are coming to our honour ceremony program as a survivor, as a victim. And
divided into different sections, like BSP, SP, Congress, BJP” (interview with
Digvijay).

Digvijay argues that political party members are excluded, because their participation would
be misconstrued by the community in question. If PVCHR were to invite them, the
community would interpret their participation as an indication of PVCHR’s support of the
political party in question. Thus, Digvijay justifies the exclusion by arguing that the ceremony
should not be used instrumentally to serve the purposes of the political party members.

Digvijay extends his argument about the political parties using the ceremony instrumentally in
pursuit of own ends and means, when he describes what would happen if the political parties
were to participate.

“If you want to invite BSP party members, political leaders, the community
understands they [PVCHR] are supporting the Mayawati ideology. BSP party
ideology. And PVCHR supports that groups and that party. So other groups like
OBCs, like Muslims and other groups: ‘Oh, this group is focusing on the Dalit
issue only. They are not working on our issues’” (interview with Digvijay).
58
Digvijay again justifies hindering political party members from participating in the ceremony,
when he describes how the community will be unable to distinguish between the values of
PVCHR and the values of the invited party members. Thus, the community will equate the
work of PVCHR with that of the political party. Digvijay illustrates this by referring to the
political party Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which previously was in power in Uttar Pradesh,
led by the influential Dalit politician Mayawati. Digvijay argues that if PVCHR invites
political party members from BSP, then PVCHR will be written off as supporters of “the
Mayawati ideology”. BSP is known for their campaigning to secure influence for the lower
castes. Digvijay envisions a situation, where the political party members from BSP would be
able to use the ceremony to promote their own pro-dalit agenda.
The Self-sering State Leel Politician
Four of the informants, who argued that state level politicians had no role to play in the
ceremonies, justify this exclusion by arguing that state level politicians are self-serving
(interviews with Manoj, Shruti, Onkar and Lenin). What follows is an account of the
justifications to which the informants resort, when they argue that state level politicians
should not participate in the ceremony.

Manoj finds that the state level politician’s lack of interest in his constituents impacts how he
would behave if he was to participate in the ceremony. Manoj describes a scenario, where a
state level politician participates in a ceremony. He fixates on how the state level politician
would conduct himself during the ceremony. “They want to take the benefit from that
program. That type of person takes the attention on their political issue” (interview with
Manoj). To Manoj, the state level politician’s lack of interest in the community would impact
his behaviour in the ceremony. The state level politician would use the ceremony to serve his
own purposes. To Manoj the unequal relationship and the resultant lack of interest taken by
the state level politician in his constituents would come to the fore if the state level politician
were to be involved in the ceremony. Accordingly, the state level politician is not invited,
because he would use of the ceremony to serve his own purposes.

Further explaining, why the state level politician’s involvement is problematic, Manoj details
what would happen if the state level politician set the agenda for the ceremony. “It is the
politics. So we are very careful on that politics. We are working on the grass root level to
59
strengthen the community” (interview with Manoj). If state level politicians were to
participate, they would politicize the ceremony. It follows that Manoj’s exclusion of the state
level politicians rests on the assumption that state level politicians participation inevitably
would result in “politics” entering the ceremony. Though he does not specify what ‘bringing
politics to the ceremony’ entails, he does state that state level politicians are left out, because
PVHCR is “very careful on that politics”.

Shruti also justifies excluding state level politicians in reference to expectations as to how
they would behave in the ceremony. Equally disillusioned with the state level politicians’ lack
of interest in their constituents, Shruti explains what would happen if higher level politicians
were invited to participate in the ceremonies. “[W]hen we invite some higher level political
leaders, those make a political issue in favour of themselves” (interview with Shruti). Shruti
argues that if these types of politicians participated in the ceremonies, they would promote
their own agenda. Shruti’s reasoning closely follows Manoj’s, when she finds that state level
politicians have no qualms with using the ceremony to promote themselves and therefore
should not be invited (interview with Shruti).

Onkar continues in a similar vein, when he describes what would happen if the politician who
operates at state level participated in a ceremony.

“Some of the victims don’t want that their case should be highly politicized, so in
that case we do not involve [the politicians]. And when we invite the people [the
politicians], so they, they, they convert everything into politics and they look at
things through political eyes. So therefore we kind of keep, we kind of avoid the
higher politicians” (interview with Onkar).

Onkar justifies the state level politicians’ exclusion by arguing that some of the victims, who
have undergone testimonial therapy, wish to keep them out from the ceremony. He explains
how the ceremony would become “highly politicized” if state level politicians were to
participate. Similar to Manoj, he refrains from specifying what politics entails. He simply
states that politicians at state level are barred entry, because “they convert everything into
politics”. The politician is defined by his involvement in politics and excluded in reference to
60
this involvement. If the state level politician were invited, then he would make use of the
ceremony to promote his own agenda.

Lenin also defends his exclusion of state level politicians by drawing attention to the fact that
state level politicians are involved in politics. In the following, Lenin defines the state level
politician as an actor, who practices politics and is therefore to be excluded from the
ceremony.

“People know that politician, Member of Parliament, they have, they have very
strong roles and we have also different roles. And they knew our relevance, so due
to that, we choose that path” (interview with Lenin 01.06.2013).

In the quote, Lenin describes why the state level politician is not invited to the ceremonies. He
justifies his exclusion of the state level politician by arguing that the politician would practice
politics if he was invited. Like the other informants, Lenin refrains from specifying precisely
what politics entails. He merely insists that this trademark is reason enough to exclude the
state level politician from the ceremony. There is no middle ground in Lenin’s exclusion. The
politician at state level is synonymous with his work and due to his political involvement he is
excluded from the ceremony. The state level politician is not invited, because he would use
the occasion to do politics, which would serve his own purpose.
Understanding the Self-sering Politician
To briefly summarize, seven of the informants ground their exclusion of the politicians in
references to the politician being self-serving. The exclusion of the politician in reference to
their self-serving behaviour falls in line with the theoretical expectation that PVCHR will
replicate the norms of civil society. The informants are wary of politicians’ involvement,
because they fear that their presence in the ceremonies will results in a take-over. Politicians
are best kept out, because they pose a threat to the ceremony. This falls in line with
Chatterjee’s prediction that PVCHR as an NGO would replicate the norms of civil society and
actively exclude politicians involved in electoral politics.
61
The #olitician"s 0andate
The Village Head’s Mandate
Three of the informants mention that village heads are included in the ceremony, because they
are able to affect change (interview with Manoj, Dinesh and Chaubey). Due to their ability to
level influence they are included in the ceremony.

Manoj explains that village heads are invited, because they are vested with certain powers,
which enables them to affect change.

“We focus on the Gram Panchayat, because they are attached with the
community. (…) And the villagers also sometimes go the village president with
this ration card problem, this sanitation problem (…) So we invite them [to the
honour ceremonies. Because they are the most important component in
strengthening the community” (interview with Manoj).

Manoj describes how PVCHR invites village heads to participate in the ceremonies. He
motivates this inclusion by referring to the village heads’ powers. The village president is
included in the ceremony, because he presents a means of recourse in terms of problem
solving. When the villagers face problems, they approach the village president and ask him to
solve the problems on their behalf. Manoj motivates his inclusion of the village head by
referring to the village head’s ability to solve problems for the community. The village
president enjoys power and is therefore included in the ceremony, because this power can be
used to improve the welfare of the community. Thus, by including the village president in the
ceremonies, the community benefits from the village head’s clout.

Dinesh also justifies his inclusion of the village head in reference to the village head’s
mandate. In the following he describes his motivation for inviting the village head to the
ceremony.

“To make it [the ceremony] more attractive, sometimes we invite the head of the
village. Because most of the things have to go through the head of village in terms
of policies and so on” (interview with Dinesh).
62
Dinesh describes his motivation for inviting the village head to the ceremony. He mentions
that the village head acts as a representative for the state authorities. If the community wants
to make changes, they have to approach the village head. The village head’s status as the first
order of recourse is reason enough to include him in the ceremony. The village head is vested
with an authority, which allows him to get things done and therefore it makes sense to include
him in the ceremony.

In the following, Dinesh further details his motivation for including the village level politician
in the ceremonies.

“And also the community, they themselves go to inform the Pradhan, that we are
organizing such a program. “Please come”. The whole idea is to develop the
relations between the Pradhan and the community” (interview with Dinesh).

Dinesh repeats his justification for including the village head, when he emphasizes that the
purposes of involving the village head is to “develop the relations between the Pradhan and
the community”. He finds that the village head is an actor vested with power, which can be
used to improve the conditions under which the community lives. The village head is invited
to the ceremony in order to ensure that the village head is sympathetic towards the wishes of
the community.

Chaubey also touches on the village head’s ability to get things done as a reason to include
him. In the following, Chaubey describes why the village head is invited to the ceremony.

“But due to the pressure they come and participate in the program, because all the
things related to the Musharas; ration card, land, water (…) It is linked with the
village head” (interview with Chaubey).

Chaubey provides an account of why the village head is invited to the honour ceremonies.
Chaubey mentions that the village head is included, because he is responsible for the welfare
of a poor sub-caste called Musharas. The village head is vested with the power to improve the
welfare of his constituents (ration card, land issues and access to water). Chaubey finds that
63
the village head’s inclusion in the ceremony is warranted, because of his mandate. The village
head is included, because he holds an office, which enables him to better the lives of the
community.
The Village Head Corru!ted
Yet, several of the informants touch on the complications, which arise due to the village
head’s mandate (interviews with Chaubey, Manoj and Lenin). These informants observe that
the village head is sometimes corrupted by his mandate and caution against inviting corrupt
village heads to the ceremonies.

Chaubey is one of the informants, who notes that the village head’s mandate sometimes
warrant an exclusion from the ceremonies. Chaubey finds that the inclusion of the village
head in the ceremony is complicated by the fact that the village head through his work is
embroiled in local power structures. Chaubey touches on this complication, when he describes
what happens when a village head participates in a ceremony and listens to the victims’
testimonies.

“When they hear the testimony, the village head feels not good, because every
time the testimony is against the police, against the government officials. And
they have linkages with the police and the officials, so they do not feel good (...)
they also have a different understanding and they have connections with the police
and the government officials” (interview with Chaubey)

In this quote, Chaubey provides us with an account of what happens, when a village head
participates in an honour ceremony. Chaubey mentions that the village head participates in a
ceremony, but does so with a certain amount of unease. The unease is caused by the village
head’s connections to the perpetrators, who are exposed in the ceremonies. The village head
shares a bond with the local power structures (the police, the officials). These agents are the
ones held accountable for the plight suffered. The village head’s participation is complicated
by his close association with the perpetrators.

64
Chaubey is not the only informant, who views the village level politicians’ access to power as
problematic in relation to his involvement in the ceremonies. Manoj mentions how the village
head’s involvement is complicated by the village heads association with the perpetrators.

“this person [village head] does not like our ideology. First, they know that
PVCHR is working for the marginalized and sometimes they do not come to our
programs. But sometime he came in our program. So he listened and felt not very
good. Because these initiatives are against them. So that’s why they do not like
our program” (interview with Manoj.

Manoj describes what happens when an unspecified village head participates in the ceremony.
He mentions that the village head in question does not agree with the “ideology” of PVCHR
and takes particular offence at PVCHR’s work with “the marginalized”. Manoj describes,
what happens when this person attends the ceremony, despite his aversion Manoj records that
the village head experiences unease, because the ceremony is “against them”. To Manoj, the
village head’s sympathies rest with the perpetrators of the violations and not with the victims.
Therefore, the village head’s involvement in the ceremony is uncomfortable, because his
loyalties lie with the perpetrators. Manoj questions whether inviting the village head to the
ceremonies is a good idea.

Lenin also mentions the tension which arises from the village head’s mandate. In a
conversation following the honour ceremony, which took place in Chintaura village, Lenin
explained why the village head had been absent from the ceremony. What follows is a short
excerpt from my field notes.

“Lenin mentioned that the village chief didn’t participate in the ceremony in
Chintaura village and in general was at odds with PVCHR. Lenin framed it like
the village chief was ashamed of the work by PVCHR in that they highlighted
cases, where he had failed at his task. Therefore, he would not support PVCHR’s
work. This was the first instance, where Lenin hinted at e conflicts at village level
and that PVCHR’s presence was not always welcomed by the people they were
working with” (Field note, 08.06.2013: Lenin, Chintaura honour ceremony).
65
In the conversation Lenin describes how the ceremony sits uncomfortably with Chintaura
village head, because the testimonies highlight where the village head is at fault. Thus, Lenin
places the village head alongside the other perpetrators held accountable in the ceremony. He
makes the argument that the village head does not participate, because the ceremony brings
attention to the tasks at which he has failed. Lenin justifies leaving the village head out,
because his loyalties lie with the perpetrators and not the victims.
Understanding the Politician’s Mandate
Briefly summarized, three informants mention the village head’s mandate as reason to invite
the village head to participate in the ceremonies, while these same informants also note that
not all village heads are invited in that some have been corrupted by the power they hold. The
informants, who touch on the village head’s mandate, appear to be engaged in a balancing act.
On the one hand they view the village head as a relevant participant in the ceremonies,
because of the village head’s ability to affect change. On the other hand, the village head is
entrenched in local power structures, which complicates his involvement in the ceremonies.

The informants references to the village head’s mandate serves as an explanation as to why
they would include the village head in the ceremonies. When the informants motivate the
village head’s inclusion in the ceremony by arguing that his involvement causes political
changes, then it reads like a defence for allowing the village head to participate. The inclusion
of the village head breaks with the theoretical expectations derived from Chatterjee. But when
the informants’ mention the village head’s mandate to justify his involvement, then the
informants still orient themselves in relation to the norms of civil society. As Chatterjee
observed there are cases, where NGOs cross over and engage with electoral politics, but these
are exceptions to the rule. Most NGOs will go to some lengths in order to defend their
interaction with electoral actors. If we view the informants’ mention of the village head’s
mandate in light of this theoretical insight, then the informants’ explanation reads like a
defence for including the village head in the ceremonies. We find support for this
interpretation in the informants’ willingness to admit that the village head’s mandate in some
cases is reason to exclude the village head from participating in the ceremonies. When the
informants justify excluding the village head in reference to the village head’s involvement in
local power structures, they clearly constitute themselves as civil society actors, who prefer to
keep electoral actors at a distance.
66
*+plaining the #oliticians" In$ol$ement
Having described the informants’ view of politicians’ involvement in the honour ceremonies,
the second part of the analysis provided an account of three kinds of arguments made by the
informants in justifying the role of the politicians in the ceremonies.

A politician’s tie to his community was mentioned by four informants as a reason to involve
the politician in the ceremony. The informants, who touched on the politician’s community
ties, emphasized that being involved in the community served as an entry condition. When the
informants include the politician in reference to his relationship to the community, it reads
like a defence. Theoretically, this falls in line with what Chatterjee expects from NGOs who
interact with politicians. They acknowledge that they are breaking a norm and therefore go to
certain lengths in an attempt to justify their behaviour.

Seven of the informants described politicians as actors, who serve their own interests. To all
of these seven informants, the politicians were excluded from participating in the ceremonies
precisely, because they served their own interest. If the politicians were to be involved in the
ceremonies it would have negative repercussions, because they would use the ceremony
instrumentally to promote their own agenda. This reads as a confirmation of the theoretical
expectation. The informants constitute themselves as civil society actors by distancing
themselves from the electoral actors in reference to the negative impact the politicians would
have on the ceremonies.

To four of the informants, the politician’s mandate presents somewhat of a challenge. The
politician’s clout is both a reason to include the politician in the ceremonies, but also a reason
to exclude the politician from the proceedings. The complication in involving a politician due
to his mandate fall in line with what Chatterjee would expect of PVCHR as a civil society
actor. The informants defend including the politicians in reference to the politician’s mandate,
which from Chatterjee’s perspective reads like a defence of the inclusion. To Chatterjee this
signals that the informants do orient themselves within the civil society frame of reference,
because they feel the need to defend their interaction with the politicians. This is further
underscored by the informants’ mention of the negative repercussions of the politician’s
67
influential status, which is used to justify their exclusion. Here the informants engage in a
clear reproduction of civil society values.

Table 4 provides an overview of the different justifications evokes by the informants when
they either argue in favour of inviting politicians to the ceremonies or warn against it.

Table 4: Explaining the politicians’ involvement
Inclusion Exclusion
Community ties Lack of community ties
Vested with Power Corrupted by power
Self-serving


68
Chapter 8: Summari9ing the results of the analsis
Having examined PVCHR’s stand on politicians’ participation in the honour ceremonies, the
findings of the analysis are summarized in the following. In the first part of the analysis, the
thesis examined where PVCHR stood on the question of involving politicians in the
ceremonies. The informants did not treat politicians as a homogenous group, but identified
four groups of politicians, which were worth mentioning in regard to participation in the
ceremonies. The informants mentioned village heads, village committee members, political
party members operating at village level and state level politicians. Though the informants’
distinction between different political actors was to be expected, it adds further nuance to
Chatterjee’s theoretical framework. In Chatterjee’s writings on NGOs relationship with
politicians, he treats politicians as a homogenous group, which is defined by being in an
antagonistic relationship with NGOs. The findings of this thesis suggest that in understanding,
how PVCHR interacts with politicians, politicians are not to be treated as a homogenous
group. Rather it makes sense to differentiate between different groups of politicians.

Summarizing the informants’ view of politicians’ involvement, 11 informants mention the
participation of village heads. Five actively want to include the village heads in the
proceedings, while six informants argue that only in certain cases should the village head be
included. Four informants mention the participation of village council members and all four
are in favour of including the village council member in the ceremonies. Five informants find
that political party members operating at village level are not invited. Finally, four informants
argue that state level politicians are not invited to the ceremonies, whereas one informant
finds no problems with involving state level politicians. The results of the first part of the
analysis are summarized in table 5 in the below.

Table 5: Summary of the informants’ view of politicians’ involvement.
Politician Form of Involvement
Village head Involvement contested
Village council member Clearly included
Political party member Clearly excluded
State level politician Excluded

The table provides an overview of where PVCHR stands on politicians’ involvement in the
ceremonies. It is apparent that involving politicians in the ceremonies is less than
straightforward. Only the informants, who touch on village council members’ participation,
69
find that their inclusion is unproblematic. These are the only findings in the first part of the
analysis, which goes against the theoretical expectations. For the three other groups of
politicians, PVCHR finds that their participation is complicated and they are therefore better
left out. This falls in line with what Chatterjee has written on NGOs interaction with
politicians in India. Chatterjee observes that Indian NGOs pride themselves in being distanced
from the actors of electoral politics. PVCHR’s exclusion of the three groups of politicians
reads like a replication of Chatterjee’s observations.

The second part of the analysis identifies three kinds of explanations, which the informants
resort to, when they have to explain the politicians’ involvement. The informants mention:

a) The politician’s community ties
b) The self-serving politician
c) The politicians’ mandate

Four informants find that if a village head or village committee member shares strong ties to
his community, then he can be invited to the ceremonies. The informants, who emphasize the
politician’s community ties, view it as an entry condition, which has to be fulfilled. This
indicates that PVCHR operates in reference to the norms of civil society, even if they do not
actively replicate them. They acknowledge that their inclusion of the village head and the
village committee members constitute a transgression. Therefore, they justify the village head
and village committee member’s involvement in reference to their community ties.

Seven of the informants describe the village head, the political party member and the state
level politician as actors that are self-serving. The informants argue that this self-serving
behaviour is one of the reasons, why the politicians are excluded from the ceremonies. The
informants, who explain, why politicians are excluded in reference to their self-serving
behaviour, constitute themselves as civil society actors, who prefer to keep a distance from
electoral politics.

Three informants report that the village head’s mandate in some cases are a strong reason to
include the politicians in the ceremonies. However, the same informants observe that in other
70
cases the politician’s clout is a reason not to invite him to the ceremonies. When the
informants emphasize that the village head is corrupted by his power and therefore excluded
from the ceremonies, then they constitute themselves as civil society actors distant from the
affairs of electoral politics. However, when the informants mention the village head’s
mandate as a reason to include the head in the ceremonies, this does not read like a replication
of civil society norms. Yet, once again Chatterjee would observe that the informants mention
of the village head’s mandate reads like a defence. Even if the informants do not replicate the
values of civil society, when they include the village head in the ceremony in reference to his
mandate, they still orient themselves within a civil society framework. The informants’
emphasis on the village head’s mandate reads like a defence for an action. From Chatterjee’s
perspective, this is interpreted as a means of justifying a transgression.

To summarize the findings of the second part of the analysis, we find further confirmation of
Chatterjee’s theoretical expectations. PVCHR does to a large degree replicate the values of
civil society, when they explain the involvement of politicians in the honour ceremonies. To
PVCHR involving politicians in the ceremonies is a complicated business and in most cases,
they prefer not to invite the participants to the honour ceremonies.

71
Chapter :: -iscussion of the %esearch
Before drawing any conclusions based on the findings of the analysis, it is necessary to
discuss some of the limitations pertaining to the thesis research design. The thesis questions
only, where the informants stand in regard to politicians’ participation in the ceremonies.
Though keeping the focus relatively narrow has allowed for a certain rigor in answering the
research question, it also means that the conclusions drawn inevitable will be somewhat
limited in scope (Yanow, 2006: 72).

If we compare this thesis scope with Lisa Wedeen’s comprehensive study of the qat-chews,
the thesis falls short. In Wedeen research, she tackles both questions of participation and how
the participants carry themselves in the ceremonies. She also looks at what topics make the
agenda in the qat-chews and how these topics are broached. In that this thesis only deals with
participation, we only have partial knowledge about how PVCHR constitute themselves as
subjects. Though the thesis findings give us some idea about PVCHR’s stand on politicians’
participation, we do not know what PVCHR thinks about the politicians that are permitted
entry into the ceremonies. Would PVCHR prefer that the invited politicians take centre stage
in the ceremony or should they keep to the back? Does PVCHR talk about politicians in the
ceremonies and if so, how are the politicians talked about? These are questions for further
research and an examination of these dimensions would provide us with a more thorough
understanding of PVCHR’s interactions with politicians.

The findings of the analysis are furthermore limited by the thesis’ exploratory approach. Had I
known about PVCHR’s interaction with different groups of politicians beforehand, then I
could have carried out a far more rigorous examination of what each informant thought about
each particular politician. Instead, what we are left with are more initial impressions about,
which politicians the informants encounter in their daily work and how they view their
involvement in the ceremonies. Clearly further research is required in order to arrive at
conclusions that are more robust.

Another issue, which this thesis fails to pay much attention to, is the internal division of work
among the informants. There are informants, who operate mainly in office and solve tasks of a
more administrative character. Other informants operate in the field and are involved in the
72
practical execution of the ceremonies such as taking care of the logistics and handling the
communication with the local communities. The analysis has not examined, whether the
informants stand on politicians’ involvement in the ceremonies is in some way influenced by
the informants’ placement either in field or office. It would make sense to further interrogate
the informants in order to determine if their involvement in organizing the ceremonies had
any impact on their view of politicians’ participation. However, once again I was not aware of
this possible causation when I entered the field and therefore did not take it into account in the
interviews or during the field observations.

Furthermore, I would not have been able to present a balanced picture, because my
observations in the field were complicated by limited access to the informants, who worked
out of office. Though I conducted interview with the field staff and interacted with them
during the training program and in the honour ceremonies, most of my interactions were with
informants at the management level. In the analysis, this imbalance was corrected by
attempting to use an equal amount of data generated by both field staff and the PVCHR staff
in office. For an even more balanced and in-depth account of PVCHR’s stand on politicians’
involvement in the ceremonies, the informants’ tasks would have to be taken into
consideration and a less skewed data generation would have to be undertaken.

Despite the limitations of the research design, the data missing from the analysis and a
somewhat skewed data generation, the thesis findings opens up to a number of interesting
perspectives, which are outlined in further detail in the following chapter, concluding the
thesis.

73
Chapter 1;: Conclusion and #erspecti$es
To PVCHR, involving politicians in the honour ceremonies is a complicated business.
Though the informants willingly invite village heads and members of the village committees
to participate in the ceremonies, they also find their involvement less than straightforward.
Only the village heads and committee members that already enjoy close relationships with
their constituents are invited. Equally troubling to the informants, are the village heads’
mandate. On the one hand, the informants view the village heads’ power as one reason to
invite them to the ceremonies. Yet, on the other hand there are cases, where the village heads
are too embroiled in local power structures and therefore best left out from the ceremonies.

PVCHR views political party members, who operate at village level, and politicians, who
navigate state level politics, with even more disdain. The informants find that none of the
members of these two groups has any role to play in the ceremonies. At length, PVCHR
explains what would happen if they were allowed entry to the ceremonies. If involved, these
politicians would use the ceremony to serve their own purposes.

The findings of the analysis suggest that, when it comes to PVCHR stand on politicians’
involvement in the honour ceremonies, PVCHR to a large extent conforms to the expectations
derived from Chatterjee’s theorizing. PVCHR prefers to not have politicians involved in the
honour ceremonies. From Chatterjee’s perspective, PVCHR constitute themselves as civil
society actors, defined by their distance from the world of electoral politics. Though PVCHR
involve certain members of the village level democracy in the ceremonies, the inclusion is
tenuous. In addition to this, political party members and state level politicians are not
considered likely participants in the ceremonies, but ruled out from the very get go.

The findings of this thesis lend support to Chatterjee’s characterization of NGOs as actors that
define themselves in opposition to the dealings of electoral politics. Chatterjee fails to
distinguish between different electoral actors, instead treating them as one homogenous entity,
yet his observations find resonance in the examination of PVCHR’s view of politicians’
involvement in the ceremonies. Though there is a need to further refine Chatterjee’s
theorizing on NGO tactics, the general tenor of his argument appears to be applicable to the
Indian case.
74

Though PVCHR seems unwilling to engage politicians in the ceremonies, this does not rule
out the possibility that there are other ways in which the honour ceremonies can affect
change. Perhaps the honour ceremonies raise awareness about the plight of the torture
survivor in the community, but whether raising awareness will curb the use of torture and ill-
treatment remains to be seen.

The thesis does not claim that doing testimonial therapy and arranging honour ceremonies has
no intrinsic therapeutic value. The honour ceremonies, which form part of the testimonial
therapy program, hold great promises for Indian torture survivors as a method of treatment. In
places where few have access to mental health facilities, it is an ideal method of intervention,
because it requires few resources and little staff. It empowers NGOs with the ability to soothe
the pain of the tortured individual in the face of government inaction. Hopefully, this thesis
will lay the groundwork for a larger scale research project aimed at further validating the
findings of the analysis with a view towards determining the political effects of organizing the
honour ceremonies. This in turn would strengthen the preventive work on torture and ill-
treatment in the Global South.

75
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79
#5CH% 0aterials

PVHCR (2013): “Contract of employment for field staff”

PVCHR (2013): “Contract of employment for office staff”

PVCHR (2013): “M&E Questionnaire used in the Testimonial Therapy Project”.

PVCHR (2013): “Report on PVCHR and DIGNITY Partnership Project: Promoting Psycho-
Legal Framework in Reducing TOV in India, 2010-2012”.

6ist of Inter$iews

Management Model-block coordinator Psycho-social community
worker
Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi
01.06.2013

Mr. Shiv Pratap Chaubey
18.06.2013

Mr. Digvijay Singh
08.06.2013

Mrs. Shruti Nagvanshi
27.05.2013

Ms. Chhaya Kumari
18.06.2013

Mr. Prabhakar
05.06.2013

Ms. Shirin Shabana Khan
01.06.2013
Mr. Onkar Viswakarma
02.06.2013
Mr. Dinesh Kumar Anal
05.06.2013

Mr. Pintu Gupta
02.06.2013


Mr. Manoj Singh
08.06.2013





80
&ppendi+ 1: Inter$iew)guide

Interview-guide used in semi-structured interviews
Topics Theoretical concepts Questions
Introduction Selecting relevant
informants
Before coming to PVCHR, what did you do?
Tell me about you work at PVCHR
Where do you work?
Testimonial therapy
work
Involvement in the
program
Tell me about your work on testimonial
therapy
Did you participate in the workshops held by
Inger Agger?
Role in the
ceremonies
Involvement in
planning the ceremony

Tell me about your work with the
ceremonies
Are you in charge of inviting people?

Politicians
involvement
Civil society actors





Tell me about the people who are invited to
the ceremonies

Are politicians involved?
- What kind of politicians? (Party
affiliation, elected into office/seeking
office, at what level
Why are the politicians invited/not invited
- What happens when they are
invited/not invited?

81
&ppendi+ 2: Calendar

Calendar for June month Engagements
Date Program Place Person
2 – 5 June, 2013 Training Kamesh Hut DIGNITY, CRY and
GFC project team
3 – 6 June, 2013 Meeting Mahoba Lenin and Rohit
7 – 8 June, 2013 Honour ceremony Tanda Lenin, Rohit, Rajeev,
Irshad and Shabana
9 – 11 June, 2013 Visit Allahabad Lenin and Rajeev
11 – 12 June, 2013 CRY field area visit Varanasi Shruti
13 June, 2013 Hounor ceremony Pindra Management, trustee
and DIGNITY project
staff
15 June, 2013 Hounor ceremony Badagaon Management, trustee
and DIGNITY project
staff
17 June, 2013 EU visit PVCHR office and
Kudi
Management, trustee
and DIGNITY project
staff
Going to Aligarh Shruti, Anup, Irshad
and Silvia
18 June, 2013 Aligarh Visit Irshad and Silvia with
other EU team
19 June, 2013 Moradabad Irshad and Silvia with
other EU team
20 June, 2013 Meeting New Delhi Anup, Shruti, Lenin
and Mohan
23 June, 2013 Lucknow Ajay, Jai and Ajeet
24 June, 2013 Lucknow All staff
26

June, 2013 Anti-torture day
program
Lucknow All PVCHR team
26 June, 2013 Returning from
Lucknow
All staff
27 June, 2013 Returning from
Lucknow
Anup, Shruti, Lenin
and Mohan, Irshad,
Ilwoo park, Rohit,
Shabana and Rajeev,
Ajay, Jai and Ajeet



82
&3stract
The #olitician"s #lace in a Therapeutic #ractice
The thesis is a study of politician’s participation in ceremonies rehabilitating victims of
torture in Uttar Pradesh, India. The ceremonies are known as “honour ceremonies” and are
public events, which form part of a treatment program named testimonial therapy. The
ceremonies are organized by People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, an NGO based
in Varanasi, India.

Very little has been written about the honour ceremonies, which take place in Uttar Pradesh,
and even less is known about politicians’ involvement in the honour ceremonies. The thesis
seeks to address this lack of knowledge about the ceremonies. It examines, where PVCHR’s
stands on politicians’ participation in the honour ceremonies. Theoretically, the thesis draws
on the Indian historian Partha Chatterjee’s writings on the relationship between NGOs and
politicians. Furthermore, the thesis includes the work of Lisa Wedeen, who has examined
public gatherings that are similar to the honour ceremonies. Wedeen’s study is relevant,
because she writes at length about how to examine participation in the gatherings. The thesis
adopts Wedeen’s analytical approach and investigates the research question through one
month of ethnographic research consisting of field observations and semi-structured
interviews with the staff working in PVCHR’s offices in Varanasi.

The thesis finds that to PVCHR, involving politicians in the honour ceremonies is a
complicated business. The informants only invite village level politicians that enjoy a close
relationship with their constituents and are not corrupted by their mandate. No political party
members or state level politicians are allowed entry, because PVCHR view them as self-
serving actors, who operate solely for their own benefit. The thesis concludes that PVCHR
prefers not having politicians involved in the ceremonies.

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