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Could gang-rape protests mark beginning of an age of activism for India? (+video)

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They form the spine of support for the Aam Aadmi Party, launched in October by Hazare’s former deputy Arvind Kejriwal. This segment is believed to have contributed to the recent reelection of controversial right-wing leader Narendra Modi, who courted what he called the “neo-middle-class” in the state of Gujarat.

There is a “new force on the Indian political landscape,” wrote a commentator in a leading business daily. “The middle class has sensed that its period of political irrelevance is over, with its numbers growing at a phenomenal pace.”

India’s population is also disproportionately young, a feature that is associated with both increased productivity and social unrest. The median age in India is now 25, while the median age of a national politician is closer to 60 – a generational and cultural gap that has been on display in the past few weeks as political and civic leaders have blamed sexual violence on everything from English education to short skirts.

The generational shift is evident to Arjun Bali, a 42-year-old filmmaker who turned up with his toddler for a women’s rights protest in an upscale neighborhood in Mumbai on New Year’s Day. Mr. Bali said he was no stranger to protests – he had attended many as a college student. “The generation born in the 1980s, they don’t know have the baggage or the fears” from, say, the Emergency, he says, referring to the period in the early 1970s when then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended elections and suppressed civil liberties.

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