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Title: 'Escape' and 'struggle' : routes to women's liberation in Bihar
Author: Sinha, Indu B.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2666 9968
Awarding Body: University of Bath
Current Institution: University of Bath
Date of Award: 2002
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The new technology instilled new 'forces of production' into an agrarian setting, which was yet to undergo substantial institutional change that could have subsequently led to change the 'relations of production' as well. This setting was the countryside of the state of Bihar. While, the first process went apace since 1970s, the second remained vitiated. This led to serious conflicts between the twin processes of the 'forces of production' and the 'relations of production'. This conflict has remained one of the root causes of ongoing socioeconomic conflicts expressed in militant social movements in Bihar. In the north, the antifeudal radical mobilisation (contemporary to the technological intrusion) by the poor threatened the feudal forces and the state machinery to the extent to take up partial implementation of the land-reform laws, yet it could not sustain so strong as to significantly dislodge the feudal system and radically alter the production relations. The poor gained very little in return and in absence of a sustained struggle for getting more they were left with no option but to 'escape' from their roots for a livelihood. To them, out migration to distant labour markets emerged as the rescue point. In central Bihar, the feudal stronghold was structurally weaker. The mobilisation continued to target the weaker feudal order. The poor gained substantially and not in economic terms alone. Here, 'struggle' offered an option to survive with dignity. Amidst this conflicting interaction between the modem productive forces and the traditional production relations, there emerged two dominant actors - 'market' and 'mobilisation' in north and central Bihar regions, respectively. And, this conflicting interaction offered two distinct avenues for survival for the poor - 'escape' and 'struggle'. Women directly and/or indirectly experienced and shared this whole conflicting situation in both the regions. This study is about how powerful have these dominant 'actors', i.e. market and mobilisation acted in creating 'space' for women in north and central Bihar, respectively over last three decades. The enquiry is about how far have these twin catalysts succeeded in relaxing patriarchal constraints and in bringing about changes in traditional relationships between the genders. The exploration is about how and in what forms these changes lead towards women liberation. Women liberation is the keyhole, the focus, the viewfinder - the central theme of the thesis; Market and Mobilisation are the twin catalysts, the agents for gender-relational change. Gender relation is the framework. Structural change is the setting. North and central regions of Bihar are the sites for this research. It is encouraging that the study, in the end, speaks much more than what is assumed at the beginning. The study of market forces, as a powerful catalyst for change in gender relations, leads to argue for a feminine route to liberation in north Bihar. The emergence of a 'feminine sector of production' provides the material basis for this argument. In central Bihar, the study of mobilization, as the other catalyst, leads to argue for a 'feminisation of the strategy' of mobilisation itself. In north Bihar, 'escape' by male migrants has allowed their women to act more assertively and decisively. Though left alone and often vulnerable, this opportunity allows them discover their own strength in the process of coping with a difficult situation. This process is painful yet liberating. This is 'escape' route to women's liberation. In central Bihar, poor women (and men) resort to struggle against class and gender oppression. This struggle keeps poor women's lives on the verge of perpetual hardships of all kinds and also exposes rich women to different kind of challenges. Poor women have nothing to lose but their chains! This is 'struggle' route to women's liberation. The twin catalysts of market and moblisation are examined as the accelerators to the processes that create material conditions for women to emerge as stronger (than before) actors. The market-infused development has given way to a feminine regime of production (in food sector) vis-a-vis a masculine one (in cash sector) in north Bihar. This phenomenon provides strong basis for arguing in favour of feminisation of productive regime in food sector. In central Bihar, mobilisation has given passage to a fair degree of gender-relational changes and liberating opportunities for women thereby over last decades. This is most visible in growth of gender consciousness that not only has emerged out of the womb of class-consciousness but has also made its presence felt in the processes of shaping of the strategies and fixing up of the priorities for mobilisation. This is reflected in growing concern of the radical mobilisation with the issue of development. This indicates a shift in the strategy of the radical left politics for change, because the radical mobilisation basing on the Marxist ideology believes in overthrowing of the state power and aims at reconstituting of the society according to a radical set of principles. The particular engagement of the radical women's organisations (WOs) with the question of development and mobilisation of poor women (and men) against 'detrimental' of development, i.e. the 'Bureaucratic feudalism' may be explained as an indication towards a feminisation of the process of mobilisation itself. This study argues for an alternative feminine vision for development, which assigns central place to reproduction. This argues for a reversal of the development paradigm that assigns central place to production. This vision for development would encourage and strengthen the feminine productive regime in north Bihar. The present situation in central Bihar too is ripe for arguing in favour of strong mobilisation aimed at development in a region where movement, strategically, had no truce with development before. An alternative feminine vision can transform mobilisation into the 'input' for development. This alternative 'feminine vision' offers powerful insights for developing a distinct feminist perspective, which I term as the 'Women's Worldview' (WWV). The reflections of this feminine vision may be found in the 'feminine regime of production' in north Bihar and in the process of 'feminising of mobilisation strategy' in central Bihar. An expanded feminine vision emerging from the ground would provide conceptual basis for building up this fresh holistic, humanistic and inclusive feminist perspective. This perspective (WWV) may lead towards a 'feminine route' to human liberation. This study finally provides evidence to the main argument that women liberation has strong potential to culminate into an alternative process to human liberation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available