The agitation against the Koodankulam nuclear plant is being undermined by the Union Government by resorting to methods of humiliation inflicted on the leaders of the movement, Partha Chatterjee, Honorary Professor of Political Science and former Director of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata and Professor of Anthropology at Colombia University, has said.

He added that the Prime Minister’s statements were not against the NGOs in general, but they were intended to target some specific groups in order to ensure the speedy implementation of the nuclear project to which his government is fully committed. However, he said that the forms of attack on the people’s movements today have changed and new methods of breaking up such resistances are in the practices of selective and personalised attacks, rather than by resorting to police action and violence.

Prof. Chatterjee was delivering the second Erudite Lecture organised by the School of Social Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University on Saturday as part of the Scholar-In-Residence programme.

Speaking on the political democracy in India, Prof. Chatterjee said that the political practices at the ground level since independence indicate a distinctly different experience that is different from the democratic practices of the western liberal democracies. Here what has come to stay, over years, is a “structure of exception”, wherein the ground level practices always demand exception from the rule, thereby every law or regulation itself should provide room for ‘exception’ without making a reference to the original aim of the concept or norm in question. Thus, every democratic norm or regulation is subject to the ‘structure of exception’ to take care of the heterogeneity of the local or regional conditions and this has been manifested in a variety of practices concerning like from federalism to caste reservation and from taxation to the mobility of people.

Prof. Chatterjee noted that the idea of ‘governmentality’ is larger than the government itself. Over the years, ‘governmentality’ has come to occupy the centre-stage of political and administrative practices whereupon the activities of the government are not just the business of the government alone, but of a variety of non-governmental institutions, organisations and groups etc. He pointed out that in real terms, ‘governmentality’ did not apply to citizenship, but only to target population whose local empirical conditions are always kept in perspective from the policy angle. He said that even political responses of the people generally follow the form of ‘governmentality’ and movements increasingly adapt themselves to the forms of governmental activity by raising demands within this mode.

Sanal Mohan, Director of the Inter-University Centre for Social sciences chaired the session. University Vice-Chancellor Rajan Gurukkal, K.M. Seethi, A.M. Thomas, M.V. Bijulal, Madhu, and Mathew Kurian were among those who participated in the session.

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