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Frontiers, State and Banditry in the Thar Desert in the 19th Century

Tanuja Kothiyal (tanuja.kothiyal@gmail.com) teaches history at the School of Liberal Studies, Ambedkar University, New Delhi.

Through the instances of banditry in the Thur–Parkar region of the Thar Desert in the mid-19th century, this article explores the intersections between the categories of bandit, rebel and state. In the context of the phrases like “pacification” and “tranquilisation” of frontiers used as mentioned in the British reports, which suggest a state of constant turmoil, this study finds answers to the questions such as: (i) Could banditry in the arid Thar merely be understood through a criminal context, or was it located in a political context of power? (ii) Were the native rulers incapable of suppressing banditry or were their negotiations with bandits a part of historical system of exchange? (iii) Did banditry and the rebelliousness that it was inextricably located in, challenge the ideas about Rajputhood and warriorhood, as they had emerged in the Rajput courts? (iv) Did banditry constitute dissidence, as a number of bandits were outlaws?

An early version of this paper was presented at the Annual Conference of Association of Asian Studies in Asia in Taipei in 2014. I thank my co-panelists Farhana Ibrahim and Aparna Kapadia, as well as the anonymous referee for their comments that helped me shape the paper.

Updated On : 18th Apr, 2017

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