Citizens’ Activism on Urban Civic and Political Issues
Citizen engagements and activism in cities have taken various forms — citizens’ movements for rights and privileges, interventions through press, informal and formal workings of governance cutting across civil society and political society, working-class movements, movements around language and ethnicity. The evolution of the first kind of ‘civil society’ in cities like Kolkata and Mumbai is strongly embedded in the colonial context of the city.Even the most rudimentary formations of early civil society in the city were marked by an engagement with the state for certain rights. This engagement, spanning over a long period in colonial and postcolonial history, is also linked with the evolution of the discourse on citizenship, shifting power structures, class formation, formal and informal politics and various forms of engagement with the state Appadurai  notes that throughout the 20th century, and even in the 19th century, Mumbai had powerful civic traditions of philanthropy, social work, political activism, and social justice, reiterated by authors like Desai,1999. There is a clear disjuncture in the situation in the post 1990s with economic liberalization, the move towards democratic decentralization after the 74th CAA and the good governance discourse. There is a well-established discussion on the movement from service provision on the part of governments to collaborative work with the private sector and citizen movements. CSO and urban local body partnerships across sectors like housing for the poor, education, health and solid waste management, are situated within this trend where local urban governance is being redefined and reshaped both, globally and nationally. Since the 1990s, the term ‘civil society’ has been increasingly invoked by India’s urban middle classes ton describe their own expectations and aspirations for urban governance. This is reflected in the rise of government and middle class- driven civil society partnerships in Mumbai, as well as in other megacities like Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore.