The literature on social movements in India is diverse, interdisciplinary and exegetical.
The subject of social movements have for long been of interest to historians, sociologists and political scientists, among other disciplinarians. As mentioned in the chapter, a number of historians have addressed the issue of social reform in India, particularly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (though they were not strictly labelled as social movements). Some of these works are extremely valuable and are a rich resource for a historical understanding of social movements in India. For a bibliographical survey of social reform movements in eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, see Sumit Sarkar, Bibliographical Survey of Social Reforms Movements in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi: 1975). Rosalind O’Hanlon’s Caste, Conflict, and Ideology: Mahatma Jotirao Phule and Low Caste Protest in Nineteenth-Century Western India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985) was a systematic attempt to foreground the movement of the ‘lower castes’ in Maharashtra, which provided an alternative perspective to the elite character of the Indian national movement. In 1989, Kenneth Jones published Socio-Religious Reform Movements in British India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), an excellent analytical survey of the major socio-religious reform movements in nineteenth and twentieth centuries in India. For a different emphasis of the same time period, one has to look at Sumit and Tanika Sarkar’s brilliant edited collection, Women and Social Reform in Modern India (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008). Amiya P. Sen’s edited collection, Social and Religious Reform: The Hindus of British India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003) contains excerpts of writings by some of the major social reformers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries along with a fine introduction on some of the conceptual challenges of writing about social movements during that period.
For historical works that links issues of social reform in late colonial and early post-colonial India with nationalism, see Charles Heimsath, Indian Nationalism and Hindu Social Reform (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1964). Works by Bipan Chandra such as Nationalism and Colonialism in Modern India (New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1979), Indian National Movement: The Long-term Dynamics (New Delhi: Vikas Pub. House, 1988), In the Name of Democracy: JP Movement and the Emergency (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2003) are useful. Since much of the nationalist movement was simultaneously a social movement, books on Indian nationalism would be good a reference as well. Since there are so many books around the theme of nationalism, I will limit myself to more recent works: Partha Sarathi Gupta, Power, Politics and the people: Studies in British Imperialism and Indian Nationalism (London: Anthem Press, 2002), Visalakshi Menon, Indian Women and Nationalism, the U.P. Story (New Delhi: Shakti Books, 2003), William Gould, Hindu Nationalism and the Language of Politics in Late Colonial India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), Shabnum Tejani, Indian Secularism: A Social and Intellectual History, 1890–1950 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008).
For social movements in post-colonial and contemporary India, the work of sociologists, political scientists and historians are outstanding. Among many of Ghanshyam Shah’s work on social movements his survey volumes are very useful. These are Social Movements and the State (New Delhi: Sage, 2002) and Social Movements in India: A Review of Literature (New Delhi: Sage 2004). The latter, in particular is the most comprehensive survey of literature on social movements in India. Shah analyses social movements around different social groups, such as peasants, tribals, Dalits and industrial working class to review the literature of social movements around each of these groups. Accompanied with a detailed bibliography on these movements, this is an excellent source for exploring social movements in India. Gail Omvedt’s Reinventing Revolution: New Social Movements and the Socialist Tradition in India (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1993) is one of the finest works on new social movements with acute theoretical insights. Omvedt also discusses the relationship between the Indian left movement and social movements, which is very valuable. The edited collection of Raka Ray and Mary Fainsod Katzenstein (eds), Social Movements in India: Poverty, Power, and Politics (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005) brings together authors, including Omvedt and Shah to discuss why the discourse on social movements has departed from a discourse on poverty, which is a critical point of departure for several scholars. The sociologist, T.K. Oommen’s lifelong work on social change, transformation and movements are very helpful as well. Among his works, see Protest and Changes: Studies in Social Movements (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1990), State and Society in India: Studies in Nation-Building (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1990), and Nation, Civil Society and Social Movements: Essays in Political Sociology (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2004). The edited collection of Manoranjan Mohanty, Class, Caste, Gender (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2004) provides a summary account on these themes. Anupama Rao’s, The Caste Question: Dalits and the Politics of Modern India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009) is a brilliant conceptual and empirical analysis of caste and caste politics in modern India. Hugo Gorringe’s Untouchable Citizens: Dalit Movements and Democratisation in Tamil Nadu (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2005) provides a critical overview and analysis of caste politics in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Rupa Viswanath’s work on a historical account of caste discrimination is noteworthy as well; see, The Pariah Problem: Caste, Religion and the Social in Modern India (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014). S. M. Michael’s Dalits in Modern India: Vision and Values (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2007) contains historical and analytical accounts of the anti-caste thought and movement in colonial and post-colonial India. For an introduction to women’s movements in India, see Raka Ray, Fields of Protest: Women’s Movements in India (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999). For a conceptual understanding see, Vina Mazumdar, Political Ideology of the Women’s Engagement With Law (New Delhi: Centre for Women’s Development Studies, 2000), Susanne Kranz, Between Rhetoric and Activism: Marxism and Feminism in the Indian Women’s Movement (Zurich: Lit Verlag, 2015), and Nivedita Menon’s, Recovering Subversion: Feminist Politics Beyond the Law (Urbana: Permanent Black/University of Illinois Press, 2004).
More recently, scholars have produced exciting new scholarship on social movements. Rochona Majumdar’s essay, ‘Subaltern Studies as a History of Social Movements in India’, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 1 (2015), pp. 50–68; draws attention to how we might consider the various subaltern movements in the colonial period as a history of social movements. Of course, this also opens us to viewing the entire gamut of subaltern studies literature as a way of thinking about social movements in India. Some of the prominent examples are Ranajit Guha, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983), Dipesh Chakrabarty, Rethinking Working Class History: Bengal, 1890–1940 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989, 2000), Shahid Amin, Event, Metaphor, Memory: Chauri Chaura, 1922–1992 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995). In the wake of a critical review of Subaltern Studies, Uday Chandra’s recent publications are important to note. See his introduction to a special issue in Journal of Contemporary Asia 4 (2015), pp. 563–573. The articles in this special section rethink resistance, which was a hallmark of Subaltern Studies. Also see Uday Chandra’s ‘Flaming Fields and Forest Fires: Agrarian Transformations and the Making of Birsa Munda’s Rebellion’, Indian Economic Social History Review 1 (2016), pp. 69–98, for an innovative reading of both the concept ‘tribal’ and the meanings of rebellions as movements.