The rationale for the NRCI-I Indo-Canadian project of which I was a team member was based on Mithu Alur’s thesis described earlier. In this chapter, I provide my own reading of the thesis as it was an important guide for me to play my part in SSI’s transition to its third phase of development. As part of the Canadian team, I arrived in Bombay late one evening in January 2000, my fi rst visit to India, full of anticipation and excitement about joining the NRCI-I project. I had read travel books about the city (offi cially ‘Mumbai’ of course, but to friends and colleagues who have lived in India all their lives it is Bombay, and so I follow their lead). Reading had piqued my curiosity but would help little in comprehending the teeming city I was about to encounter and its peoples of sixteen or seventeen million and counting. Popular history about India’s struggle for independence like Lapierre and Collins’ (1975) Freedom at Midnight gave me fast-paced dramatic accounts, Richard Attenborough’s epic fi lm Gandhi included. As enthralling as they were, my eyes were about to be opened to the much more complicated landscapes than even these richly woven accounts could evoke. (I was soon to become extremely impressed by Mithu’s openness to “western” infl uencesmaybe hers was in the spirit of Ghandi’s own vision of India as a house with open windows welcoming ideas from all over the world.)

Before my journey, I also dove into contemporary studies of the political and social forces shaping this democracy in India of over one billion people. I had been particularly inspired by the work of one of India’s leading political scientists Neera Chandhoke in her (1995) State and Civil Society: Explorations in Political Theory as well as her Beyond Secularism: the rights of religious minorities (1999). These studies demonstrate a deep understanding of how individual rights to equality might be negotiated and respected in the incredibly diverse society of India with strong communitarian forces, and an array of ethnic, religious, linguistic, and social identities shaped through a vast realm of civil society. They were to give me some tools to think through the question about what kind of relationship should be struck between the state and civil society, whether in the case of SSI and the movement it was helping to build in India, in Canada, or at the international level with transnational social movements. Fortunately,

I have been able to do some of this thinking in years hence with Mithu Alur and members of the NRCI-I team, in particular a few years later at a conference on ‘Barriers to Citizenship’ in the Indian context, organized by Mithu’s daughter Malini Chib, who by that time was completing her Masters Degree in women’s studies and education.