ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Purusharthi Refugee

Sindhi Migrants in Jaipur’s Walled City

The post-partition reconfiguration of the walled city of Jaipur that had originally been dominated by Hindu and Jain merchants is explored. Sindhi refugee retailers and traders were given space during the 1950s and 1970s by creating new markets. The spatial and physical mapping of competing communities, like the Sindhis, Muslims and Bania Hindus, in the walled city was also undergirded by contending claims to the city’s past defined as “heritage.” In the case of the refugees, this was articulated through the trope of purushartha.


(Photographs of Purusharthi Park and maps of the walled city of Jaipur accompanying this article are available on the EPW website.) Click here to view the images.

Earlier versions of this article were presented at the conference of the British Association for South Asian Studies (BASAS), Cambridge in 2016 and Critical Studies Workshop, Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, Kolkata in 2017. I acknowledge the comments and suggestions received during the discussion of this article, which has enabled me to revise it. Detailed inputs by Himadri Chatterjee and discussions with Rajarshi Dasgupta, Iman Mitra and Ritajyoti Bandopadhyay have been immensely helpful.

This article seeks to understand the spatial arrangement of refugee groups within the walled city of Jaipur in the period after 1947, marked by the braided histories of partition and the merger of princely territories with the newly formed state of India. It focuses on the Hindu Sindhi refugees who had come to Jaipur, traversing the urban centres around the Rajasthan border, in the late 1940s and early 1970s.1 The process of incorporating the Sindhi community, mainly comprising trading groups, in the narrative of urban regeneration of the new provincial capital of Jaipur, was carried out through the trope of purushartha, which roughly translates to “hard work” with Hindu cultural undertones. However, this did not ensure their absolute inclusion in the representational matrix of the city, which is dominated by the image of Rajput royalty or Jain and Bania traders.

This makes the Sindhi purusharthi a specific category for the purposes of governance, but not a legitimate enough identity within the burgeoning discourse of heritage in Jaipur. The city wall also played a metaphorical role in this “inclusive exclusion” (Agamben 1998: 12) of the community. While the “walled city” absorbed them in the retail economy and benefited from their entrepreneurial practices, the recent resignification of the wall as “heritage” by the state authorities has also made the position of Sindhi retailers rather precarious in the new regime of valuation of urban infrastructure. The subsequent sections would further delve into these dimensions of the spatial arrangement of the “walled” enclave of Jaipur in relation to the Sindhi refugees through an ethnographic exploration of Indira Bazar, one of the market spaces created in the 1970s for rehabilitating this group.

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Updated On : 25th Jan, 2018
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