The language of popular heterodoxy is symbolism. In Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, farmers stood in knee-deep water for days, protesting dams that threaten to submerge their fields; this ‘jal satyagraha’ is symbolic of the desperation felt by rural India where poverty forces thousands of farmers to commit suicide.
The cult film Rang De Basanti immortalised candlelight vigils to show the power of the Indian middle class developing a conscience. Both in India and the West, the popular villains are governments and big business. Says social scientist Ashish Nandy. “Mobilisation is crucial in a democracy; to win the elections or to demand action from the ruling dispensation which is otherwise unwilling to act. Therefore, one can see a desperation in what is taking place now.”