Even as a debate rages over whether in fact the anti-nuclear agitation at the Kudankulam plant is fuelled by foreign NGOs in India, environmental researcher adds another ingredient to the controversy - a link in his view between certain environmental movements and right-wing Hindu ideology. Speaking with , Sharma explains why he thinks green and saffron politics blend in India, why the Left is visibly absent from this mix - and how amongst others, Anna Hazare's ecological projects may reflect a 'feudal' attitude towards imposing moral codes: Mukul Sharma Monobina Gupta
Please elaborate on your research concept of a possible convergence between green and saffron ideologies in India?
This essentially means that environmentalism and Hindu nationalism are not always discrete and autonomous. In the recent past, environmental issues have often been constructed and defined in new ways by Hindu nationalism. Complementing this, certain environmental movements and discourses, consciously or unconsciously, have expressed themselves in ways articulating revivalist and nationalist Hinduism - certain core components of Hindutva's ideology have become these movements' crucial rallying points. This explains how a particular political ideology is invested with multiple visions of nature, culture and nation.
Let's discuss specifics - while analysing Anna Hazare's Ralegan Siddhi projects, you see a certain moral authori-tarianism connecting with the environmental movement. If you're right, do you think this is a wider tendency in India's green movements?
Indian environmental politics is extremely heterogeneous. This heterogeneity offers hope. However, authoritarian environmentalism and its politics are found in various movements, in different forms. At least five principal inference points can be identified: ultra-nationalism, a yearning for Brahmanical Hindu religion and culture, emphasis on authority, social order and discipline, implicit hostility towards Muslims, dalits and Christians, and a pragmatic politics entailing communalism.
In different regional and organisational locations, from Anna Hazare's Ralegan Siddhi to conservation in Vrindavan, we find environmentalism allying with feudal attitudes to instil moral codes, rules and a discipline justified as central to the nation - this kind of environmentalism has made huge inroads into popular consciousness and gained a far wider acceptance in India.
But since it's so political in your view, how would you explain the absence of Left influence in environmental movements - quite unlike what we see abroad?
The Left has several problemsa¦the weight of inherited political ideology and institutions means its leaders are still speaking about the redistribu-tion of wealth rather than its redefinition. They long to get their hands on the levers of the capitalist wealth machine, rather than redesign it. Further, perceiving electoral politics as the be-all and end-all of things, Left parties have shifted to the centre where subordinate traditions like green, feminist and social movements rarely gather political momentuma¦
The Left should have heeded environmentalists sooner - but that would have meant accepting there can be no socialist economy without responding to ecological imperatives as wella¦Alongside, many environmental groups think domi-nant left ideology and politics are part of the problem.
Considering its growing complexities, what kinds of studies of ecology are needed in India now?
India's environmental paradigms often render caste and dalit questions invisible. It needs to be recognised that caste is one of the central categories framing environment politics. In the past and present, dalit thinkers have had a wider critique of environmental articulationsa¦new ecological studies should also bring forth not just fresh dimensions about environment and people but also help in redefining their inter-relationships with polity, demo-cracy, justice and modernity.