Ear to the Ground

Balagopal’s writings, from the early 1980s till he died in 2009, offer us a rare insight into the making of modern India. Civil rights work provided Balagopal the cause and context to engage with history, the public sphere and political change. He wrote through nearly three tumultuous decades: on encounter deaths; struggles of agricultural labourers; the shifting dynamics of class and caste in the 1980s and thereafter in Andhra Pradesh; the venality and tyranny of the Indian state; on the importance of re-figuring the caste order as one that denied the right of civil existence to vast numbers of its constituents; the centrality one ought to grant patriarchy in considerations of social injustice; and on the destructive logic of development that emerged in the India of the 1990s, dishonouring its citizens’ right to life, liberty and livelihood. This volume comprises essays—largely drawn from the Economic & Political Weekly—that deal with representations and practices of class power as they exist in tandem with state authority and caste identities.

 

Inspired by naxalism in the late 1970s, intellectually indebted to D.D. Kosambi’s writings on Indian history and society, and politically and ethically attentive to the politics of feminist and dalit assertion in the 1990s, Balagopal refused dogma and shrill polemics just as he refused theory that did not heed the mess of history and practice.

 

A mathematician by training, Kandala Balagopal (1952–2009) was associated with the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee for two decades. In 1998, he became one of the founder-members of Human Rights Forum in which he was active till his death.

 

‘As a human rights worker active since 1981, and slightly older than Balagopal, I remember him as a magical figure. The writings in this volume help interpret the often chaotic developments in Andhra Pradesh, and provide a model tool for understanding other regional realities of India’—Binayak Sen

 

‘For students and activists of three generations, Balagopal’s voice was an ethical and political compass’ Biblio: A Review of Books

 

‘Every article shines with the originality of his insight and the fury of his concern’—Wall Street Journal–Mint