Debating Difference


  • Author: Rochana Bajpai
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • ISBN-13: 9780199453375
  • Pages: 338
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Year of Pub / Reprint Year: 2016


About The Book

This ground-breaking study addresses a key question for contemporary liberal democracies—how can inequalities between groups be addressed, while sustaining common citizenship? It provides the first systematic analysis of the Indian Constituent Assembly debates (1946–9). Through a reconstruction of arguments in key legislative debates over minority rights and quotas, Bajpai develops a model for interpreting post-independence group rights, based on the interplay between a set of normative concepts—secularism, democracy, social justice, national unity, and development. This book also identifies the limits of Western-centric accounts of multiculturalism, and shows that liberal and democratic values have been more sophisticated and widely shared in the Indian polity than is commonly believed.

Table Of Contents


  1. Introduction

Part One – The Moment of Containment: The Constituent Assembly Debates, 1946–9

  1. Minority Rights in Colonial India and the Constituent Assembly – A Historical Background
  2. Nationalist Discourse and Group Rights – A Conceptual Approach
  3. From Minority to Backward – The Nationalist Resolution of the ‘Minorities Question’

Part Two – The Moment of Crisis: Preferential Policies—1986, 1990

  1. Secularism and Muslim Personal Law – The Shah Bano Case, 1986
  2. Social Justice and Quotas in Government Jobs for Other Backward Classes – The Mandal Debate, 1990


About The Author

Rochana Bajpai, Senior Lecturer in Politics, Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS South Asia Institute, London

Rochana Bajpai is Lecturer, Department of Politics, SOAS, University of London.


  • Offers a new approach towards understanding the creation of common citizenship while addressing group inequities


  • Identifies the limits of Western-centric accounts of multiculturalism
  • Develops a model for interpreting group rights in India around secularism, democracy, social justice, national unity, and development.