Imagining an India that is more just and sustainable, Kothari and Joy’s book ‘Alternative Futures: India Unshackled’ is a collection of visions that defy the bounds of what is real or feasible.
Latin American writer Eduardo Galeano had famously said that “Utopia lies at the horizon”, that no matter how hard we try, we will never make it there. Perhaps that’s the whole point, believed Galeano, that though we will never make it there, we will at least make a move forward if we try. And each move counts a lot in the big picture. Quoting Galeano, environmentalist Ashish Kothari launched his anthology of essays, Alternative Futures: India Unshackled on 6th March at Gujarat Sahitya Parishad Hall in Ahmedabad.
The book Alternative Futures discusses those very predictions, dreams and imaginations that may be considered utopic, and far from feasible. It gives hope, direction and belief that we can defiantly reach closer to idealism. As a passage from the book reads, “Envisioning the future is a perilous task. However good one’s understanding of history and strong one’s faith in lessons it teaches us, however robust our system of modelling using the best methodologies and techniques available to us, we could still be horribly and embarrassingly wrong.”
Put together by Ashish Kothari and activist-researcher KJ Joy, the book has been published by the self-publishing platform AuthorsUpFront. It is a collection of 35 thought-provoking essays containing idealistic pathways to reaching a more just and sustainable India. The curators’ idea was to gather viewpoints of different people – researchers, practitioners, activists and even laymen – so as to bring together scenarios of an India that is “politically and socially egalitarian, radically democratic, ecologically sustainable, economically equitable and socio-culturally diverse and harmonious.”The essays are organized under the sections – Ecological Futures, Political Futures, Economic Futures and Socio-Cultural Futures.
Calling the book a “magnum opus, a huge panorama of thoughts.” panelist Gagan Sethi, co-founder of the Centre for Social Justice, said that the book is a mega junction; it deals with a variety of subjects like media, sexuality, gender, language, education, democracy, law, ideology and more. Drawing out the significance of law in achieving a better India, he added, “Law is not limited to only legal jurisprudence. On a larger thematic scenario, a balance between access to law and right to justice can create authentic democracy.” Sethi was joined by a panel comprising former Vice Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapeeth Sudarshan Iyengar, researcher Leela Visaria, politician Jignesh Mevani and Dalit human rights activist Martin Macwan.
IIM-A professor George Kandathil, who was also present in the panel, expressed that thinking about alternatives has become very difficult in a neoliberal society. In an age of increasing intolerance, any alternative idea without a tangible map is most likely to be ignored. But the history of humankind provokes us to think about alternatives. Futuristic ideas must be presented in ways that persuade people that there is nothing to lose but the shackles of their own preconceived notions. Kandathil vouched for self-governance.
Living without the possibility of a better future is no less than being dead. All of us know that there will never be a world free of discrimination. But by drawing from historical evidence, the present scenario and futuristic initiatives, we can demonstrate the possibility of having such a future. The essays address a future where social, economic and ecological sustainability and wisdom are found to be worthy. Kothari says that the book possesses a variety of ideologies – from Gandhi to Marx to Ambedkar – ranging from provocative essays to gently persuasive arguments. This is surely a brave thing to do.
It has so often happened in the world of science that the boundary between science fiction and reality has blurred. Perhaps this may be the case with the seemingly implausible ideologies presented in this book too! For those who dream of a better tomorrow for the nation and the world, this book is for you.
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