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In this paper, we focus on the work of a single organization of public interest lawyers in

India: the Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore (“ALF”). The focus on a single institution seeks
to tease out some of the challenges and socio-legal strategies adopted to give content to the
constitutional idea of India. We recognise that even though our focus is on the work of ALF,
this in itself represents only a tiny fragment of a much larger effort by a range of peoples
movements and struggles at defining and sustaining a grassroots vision of democracy. Our
second purpose is to obtain insights, through a contextual understanding of ALF’s work, into
the process by which a public interest law practice can contribute towards a larger democratic
vision. In short, can alternative lawyering contribute towards deepening democracy?

The scheme of this paper is as follows: we focus in Part II on the origins and methods of
ALF. This is followed in Part III by a discussion of three specific case studies from ALF’s
work. The case studies address three persisting fault lines - of caste, religion and sexuality -
in contemporary Indian society. Through a detailed examination of these cases, we seek to
highlight the strategies adopted by ALF lawyers, the dilemmas which confronted them, and
the reasoning behind the choices ultimately made by them. In Part IV, we draw insights from
the case studies to address broader debates in Indian and comparative public interest law.