Understanding Democratization in Postcolonial Societies
Mohammad Sajjad
Democracy Against Development: Lower-Caste Politics and Political Modernity in Postcolonial India by Jeffrey Witsoe Primus, Delhi, 2021, 243 pp., ₹ 1395.00
February 2023, volume 47, No 2

First published in 2013 from the University of Chicago Press, this book is one of the most important interventions into comprehending Bihar, an eastern Indian province. With reference to post-1947 Bihar, among the western scholars, Francine R Frankel’s essay (1989), many long essays of Harry W Blair, and Paul Brass, too, in his book, Language, Religion and Politics in North India, and also his essay, ‘Political Uses of Crisis: The Famine of 1966-67’ (Asian Survey, 1986), are useful explorations. Atul Kohli’s chapter on Bihar, in his book (1991), Democracy and Discontent: India’s Growing Crisis of Governability, attempted to demonstrate that Bihar’s economic backwardness is more due to lack of political will, and less because of other factors. Kohli’s focus was more on the 1980s.

When it comes to studying Bihar, subsequent to the 1980s (post-Mandal and post economic liberalization), Witsoe’s book is perhaps the only significant work, thus far. Though, Walter Hauser’s essays are also there, on some specific aspects of Bihar politics and administration, viz., ‘General Elections 1996 in Bihar-Politics, Administrative Atrophy and Anarchy’ (Economic & Political Weekly, October 11, 1997), and ‘Violence, Agrarian Radicalism, and the Audibility of Dissent: Electoral Politics and the Indian People’s Front’ (Journal of Peasant Studies, 1993).  

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