A tendency to wince each time this phrase is heard has now turned into a full-blown case of shuddering unease, with the events of the last week. Does this universally mean what it represents in India today? A cursory web search is evasive on the answer, but it appears to principally (and ironically) serve as a label for anyone excluded out of formal social or political dialogue.
So what makes this particular collection 'civil society'? Can it only be defined by what one is not? For instance, anyone in the military is not 'civil society' (and serve us indisciplined civilians right). Anyone in politics (i.e. not in a position to rule today or tomorrow) is not 'civil society', perhaps because it is hard to be 'civil' in that society.
I don't know what it is about 'civil society' that riles me. Perhaps 'civic society' might work for me. Given the strength of this class of people is in their ordinariness, perhaps "ordinary people" is good enough. Or "Rest of India".
The God of News Channels
There is a God of News Channels, who looks and protects them. Realizing the inevitable hollowness of soul that would succeed the euphoria of an Indian World Cup win, He provides with an event that would allow them to remain on the side of the masses. Something you could cover all day, and whose result was going to take more than a few days to emerge. There were clear heroes and villains too. Essentially, something like a gripping Test match between India and Australia. This makes a good change from the usual battles, once in a while.
It also meant that reporters could continue to interview the ordinary citizen, while keeping the experts talking. Words like "Victory" and "standoff" could still remain relevant to headlines. And there were scenes of street celebrations to round it all off.
I actually heard some interesting and thoughtful comments by ordinary people. The politicians sound so out of touch, and so unwilling to engage in meaningful debate. Any young politician could easily have seized the day by simply talking to and with ordinary people, in many of the hundreds of gatherings around the country. There were no reports of any major 'young' political leader doing that. It was both an opportunity lost for the established lot and the briefest of sparks for the Rest of India.