Structurally the centuries old village with all its rigidity and unequal power relations is live and kicking, at least in south India. The book under review captures this reality in one of such Indian villages. The age old draconian social structure in the village becomes alive with the lucid and effective description by the author of the book.
This book comes at an opportune moment for our understanding of caste in India, and particularly of the experience of belonging to an intermediate caste. The last year has been marked by debates, protests and court rulings on the issue of a central government reservation for ‘Other Backward Classes’ – a category of intermediate castes ranked above the Scheduled Castes.
In the aftermath of the furore created by the implementation of the Mandal Commission Report in the early 1990s, V P Singh had commented somewhere that Indian society was extraordinary in the way it stigmatised those very social groups who created a large part of the material wealth on whose basis we all survived: agricultural workers, artisans and the peasantry.
As the author puts it at the outset, the unifying theme of the twelve essays included in The Republic of Hunger is “the impact on the third world of the new imperialism in the present era, which takes the form of deflationary neo-liberal ‘economic reforms’ and a thrust towards free trade”.
Almost four decades ago John Rawls presented liberal egalitarianism as a philosophical justification for liberal democratic states. The theoretical premises underlying a general conception of justice consisted of the distribution of all social primary goods – liberty and opportunity,
For our own sake—for the sake of humanity today and tomorrow—let us have more Gandhi. More of the living spirit, life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. Near the end of his life he said, ‘…I shall be alive in the grave and, what is more, speaking from it…’ (Oxford Gandhi, 649). Let us hope so.