Introduction: A Political Theory of Indian Democracy
Compiling this collection of articles has been a challenging and rewarding exercise, both personally and professionally. What began as a simple practical task of selecting from DLS’s extensive and diverse writings a representative set of papers that could be made available to students and researchers of Indian politics, an apparently straightforward objective, soon developed into a tutorial on his ideas and his political philosophy. As editor, I quickly realized that I had to engage with his arguments and interpretations of events and to reflect on his readings of personalities, processes, institutions and histories. The intellectual universe he inhabited emerged as more complex and layered than I had anticipated and, as a result, I had to make a mid-course correction. The pragmatic exercise of ‘just compiling’ was, it now seemed, not possible. I found myself beginning a conversation with the writings, one that spanned many issues starting with his epistemic location within the social sciences community in a developing society to his personal and his own community history, to the role of persistent knowledge asymmetries in India and even to trying to map his multifaceted political disposition. I had to walk back and forth from his understandings to mine in a continuous process of signification. The last had a cubist character to it. To do justice to DLS’s work required me to acknowledge the range of resources from which he drew and with which he interacted. Added to these factors was the influence of the academic institution in which he was based and to whose intellectual life he contributed, the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, an institution that had developed a public identity as a community of activist-scholars and intellectual iconoclasts. Locating Dhirubhai, a project in itself, helped me to understand and appreciate his deep commitment to democracy as the maker of a new and egalitarian India.