Sticks, Stones, and the Secular Bones of Indian Democracy

  • Monamie Bhadra Haines Nanyang Technological University
  • Sreela Sarkar Santa Clara University
Keywords: India, social movements, Citizenship Amendment Act, Islamophobia


While being inspired by the compelling social protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens in India, the authors of this critical engagement argue that now, more than ever, is time to reflect on the nature of secularism that is being invoked by nonviolent protesters. What can a focus on lathi-wielding and stone-throwing, all low technologies of governance, tell us about the practices and challenges of liberal democracy in India? This piece excavates a brief history of the lathi and stone-pelting to show what kinds of "illiberal" protests are deemed aesthetically pleasing and palatable to elites in India and abroad, which ones are not, and the dangers of this kind of exclusion with respect to new forms of Islamophobia.

Author Biographies

Monamie Bhadra Haines, Nanyang Technological University

Monamie Bhadra Haines is a writer, hobby artist, and an Assistant Professor in Global Science and Technology Studies at Nanyang Technological University. As an STS scholar she is particularly interested in the intersections of activism and the politics of knowledge around energy futures in nonliberal democratic contexts. She is currently writing a book on anti-nuclear activism in India, and is turning her attention to solar energy development in refugee camps.

Sreela Sarkar, Santa Clara University

Sreela Sarkar is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Santa Clara University. Her research studies the institutional and cultural politics of technology-led modernization programs aimed at “skilling India” for marginalized communities through ethnographic work in north-east Delhi. Her work appears in several feminist and media studies journals. Her current book project critically examines the politics of philanthropy in Silicon Valley through ethnographic work on the habitus of desi, social entrepreneurs.

10 Mar 2020
Critical Engagements