ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Maoist Movement

Class-Culture Entanglement and Beyond

This is a rejoinder to "Class Struggle, the Maoists and the Indigenous Question in Nepal and India" by Alpa Shah and Feyzi Ismail (EPW, 29 August 2015).

In “Class Struggle, the Maoists and the Indigenous Question in Nepal and India” (EPW, 29 August 2015), Alpa Shah and Feyzi Ismail make a serious theoretical intervention in understanding the much-discussed problem of the Maoist movement. They raise five “points of tension” or, let us say, analytical grey areas in the progression of the Maoist movement towards “a different politics of communism,” both in India and Nepal, and its (un)avoidable entanglements with the politics of indigeneity, identity and culture. In their attempt to critically estimate the indigenous question, they show how Janajati aspirations fall prey to the cultural politics of protecting the rights pampered and propagated by the state in the guise of “inclusive politics.” All these undoubtedly contribute to sidelining the class question, which they locate in the experience of the Maoist movement in both India and Nepal. Undoubtedly, there is much strength—empirical and analytical—in the way Ismail and Shah problematise the Maoist movement, pitting it against questions of class struggle in relation to the politics of indigeneity.

They make a significant point by showing how the Janajati movement, despite having an older legacy, was appropriated by the Maoists, principally through invoking a reformulated Leninist version of the “right to self-determination.” They argue at length on the conflation of the class and cultural questions seen in the Maoist movement. They seem to be aware of the problems of considering isolated tribes, or even Janajatis as the “natural vessels of revolution” because it is populism (read, interferences of capital) and not the passion of ideology that in most cases brings youth to the struggle. Shah and Pettigrew (2012) earlier pointed to how Maoist enthusiasm in Nepal has fused the aspirations of the youth with modernity, gender roles, and caste principles.

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