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Prehistory of a Colonial Middle Class

Ashraf into Middle Classes: Muslims in Nineteenth-Century Delhi by Margrit Pernau (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), 2013; pp xxxvi + 504, Rs 995.

On 1 May 1807, Archibald Seton, the recently-appointed Resident in Delhi, received an unpleasant piece of intelligence as he accompanied the Mughal emperor Akbar Shah to the tomb of Bakhtiar Kaki, some miles south of Shahjahanabad. In his absence, heard Seton, “the green flag of Islam” had been raised at the Jama Masjid, and a number of the city’s Muslim inhabitants were protesting violently against the planned procession of the image of a Jain Tirthankara through the city. So serious was the matter that it took the deployment of the East India Company’s forces and the expulsion of a refractory cleric to quieten affairs in the city.

Prehistory of Communalism?

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