South Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Contesting Governmental Facts: Investigative Fact-Finding in Civil Rights Activism 1975-1980

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Juniper, New Building

In order to make rights claims or claim redress, movement groups first document and establish their violation by generating records, documents, and information about governmental misuse of power. Such contestation is an integral part of social movement politics since movements recognize how crucially predicated the exercise of power is on the production of knowledge. This paper looks at the practice of non-official, fact-finding investigations that civil rights groups undertook in India. Such fact-finding exercises multiplied in the aftermath of the Naxalite movement (1967-72) and after the imposition of the Internal Emergency (1975-77) in India. Today, fact-finding is a frequent mode of opposition undertaken by various social movements and human rights groups. The chapter seeks to examine the practice of fact-finding as a strategy in the tactical repertoire of this activism. It examines five significant fact-finding reports in this period and argues that the practice of fact-finding was a unique strategy that engaged with the law while retaining an affinity with non-legalistic initiatives and movements on the left. Activists negotiated their relationship with the opposed worlds of revolutionary left movements and liberal constitutionalism, fact-finding both mimicked and opposed liberal legalism.

Ankita Pandey

Oxford University, United Kingdom

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