Prof. Ujjawal Kumar Singh
Prof. Ujjawal Kumar Singh (left), Head, Department of Political Science, Delhi University, speaking on the topic: “Reclaiming Democracy: Political Fasts as Mode of Resistance,” at the Dept. of Political Science, JMI; Sept. 2, 2014 (Photo: Khalid Jaleel / Jamia Journal)

Prof. Ujjawal Singh Speaks on “Political Fasts as Mode of Resistance”

The Department of Political Science organized a talk by Prof. Ujjawal Kumar Singh, Head, Department of Political Science, Delhi University, on the topic: “Reclaiming Democracy: Political Fasts as Mode of Resistance,” on Sept. 2, 2014. [Link to Audio]

Prof. Singh started his talk by clearly stating that his talk is going to focus on “hunger fasts” for political end, and not deal with the religious traditions these political fasts take inspiration from because he did not think he was equipped to speak on the religious aspect of these political fasts.

Further defining the scope of the talk he said, when he talks about democracy he is mainly talking in terms of rights, duty and justice; above all, the citizen’s right to be heard.

The first example of political fast he discussed was of Irom Sharmila, who has been on a fast for 14 years demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur. So this is a good example of people using hunger fast as a mode of resistance, he said.

But then, he went on to say, people do not go on a hunger fast as a form of political resistance. People have used hunger fast for other purposes, he said. He cited the example of Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, sitting on a hunger fast in 2011 to spiritually cleanse himself of allegations against him.

And therein you will see the contradiction; a tool of resistance against the powerful by the powerless, can also be appropriated by the powerful for their own selfish ends, he said. And they do this because hunger fast is a powerful tactic. Therefore, a tactic used for political resistance can also be used as a tactic for political legitimacy.

The talk was followed by a Q&A session.


Listen to the complete lecture here:

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