Issue 20.4, November 2005

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Essay Excerpt

From "Empty Citizenship: Protesting Politics in the Era of Globalization" by Ritty Lukose

During the mid-1990s, while conducting fieldwork among college students in the Indian state of Kerala, I would walk to the college daily from the nearby student hostel where I lived only to find it closed and largely empty, a situation that was to last for months. Kerala was touted to be the “education miracle.” Its nearly 100-percent rates of literacy and high mass participation of both boys and girls at all levels of education had become exemplary of the “Kerala model” of development. However, as part of a larger mobilization of students and political parties against economic liberalization policies begun in the early 1990s, student strikes had closed the college in protest over government attempts to privatize higher education by authorizing the expansion of privately funded colleges. At the end of the first day, after most of the students had left, the teachers were still hanging about, reading the newspapers or gossiping. Unlike the students, they could not leave if they wanted to be paid. Shaking her head as she watched a political procession (jatha) of mostly male students move through the corridors, shouting “Inquilab Zindabad” (Long Live the Revolution), she laughed and said cynically, “it’s not democracy, its demo-crazy.”