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

Colonial HistorySubscribe to Colonial History

An Indian Critique of Indian Nationalism

The Truths and Lies of Nationalism: As Narrated by Charvak edited and with annotations by Partha Chatterjee, Delhi: Permanent Black, 2021; pp 358, `695 (paperback).

To Flog an Elephant

South Asian Governmentalities: Michel Foucault and the Question of Postcolonial Orderings edited by Stephen Legg and Deana Heath, New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2018; pp 269, ₹595.

A Micro-history of a Forgotten Disaster

An Imperial Disaster: The Bengal Cyclone of 1876 by Benjamin Kingsbury, New Delhi: Speaking Tiger Books, 2019; pp xviii + 210, 399.


Colonial Knowledge in Precolonial History

State Formation and the Establishment of Non-Muslim Hegemony: Post-Mughal 19th-century Punjab by Rishi Singh, New Delhi: Sage, 2015; pp ix+232, ₹895.

The Historical and the Literary Rani

The Rani of Jhansi: Gender, History, and Fable in India by Harleen Singh, Cambridge University Press, 2014; pp 199 hardcover, Rs 548.

Birth of a Goddess

In the current controversy about the national song, the general assumption seems to be that the song 'Vande Mataram' reflect nothing more than an uncomplicated love for the motherland, and that it is unreasonable of Muslims, if not actually unpatriotic, to object to it. The present essay looks at some of the older debates about the song and also about the novel Anandamath which frames the song. In the light of its novelistic context, the article argues, the song acquires different and darker meanings. Moreover, the verses that are not usually sung compose a vision of a militaristic patriotism that gradually replaces the more nurturing resonances of the earlier parts. The gradual movements of the song are replicated in the design of the novel. The article explores these shifts in the song and in the novel, while it simultaneously assesses the different readings of both - political and literary. It concludes with an attempt to seek out hidden subtexts in the novel which sometime disturb and deconstruct its dominant and obvious meanings.

General Dyer and Jallianwala Bagh

Jallianwala Bagh The Butcher of Amritsar: General Reginald Dyer by Nigel Collett; Humbeldon and London, 2005.

'White Woman's 'Burden'

Florence Nightingale and the Health of the Raj by Jharna Gourlay; Ashgate Publishing Company, Hampshire, UK, 2003; pp xi + 305, hardbound, price not mentioned.

Human Rights Movement in India

The civil and democratic rights movement in India, with its very obvious influences drawn from western democracies, had rather fortuitous beginnings in India. From a largely limited activist base from the emergency period of the 1970s, it has since moved into newer areas, with newer sources of support especially among more marginalised sections. But the movement, unlike its counterpart in the west, remains constantly challenged by prevailing complexities of the political process. The emergence of newer identities and shifting quality of these identities shaped by the very nature of politics and electoral processes in India coupled with the paucity of similar experiences in western liberal democracies, ensures that civil and democratic rights movement has to often formulate its own responses, make its own theoretical and conceptual innovations to meet such challenges.

Misreading Partition Road Signs

History does not retrace its steps. It is no longer useful to ask if the partition could have been avoided. The question is no longer important. The different perceptions of the shared history of India and Pakistan have, perhaps, contributed in some measure to create barriers of prejudice between the two nations. However, there are issues of history that need to be looked at again. This article attempts to highlight some of those contentious and often ill-understood issues. Offered here is an attempt by a sociologist-cum-social anthropologist to highlight some issues. It is not an alternative history.

Forests, People and State

This paper focuses on the differences between pre-colonial and colonial constructions of nature and how the two interacted with and absorbed one another, with reference to the forests of the Gorakhpur region. The East India Company, while continuing the Mughal framework and institutions in the management of the forests, also embarked upon reinvention of traditions and recreation of customs. Its commercial and strategic interests always remained prominent as it sought to reinforce its notions of power and authority.

Muslims of Hyderabad

When the state of Hyderabad was trifurcated, the Muslims of the Marathwada region joined the Bombay state, where they counted for little. The Muslims of the Karnataka region had to contend with the sophisticated Muslims elite of Bangalore. On the other hand, the Muslims of Hyderabad remained in Hyderabad, the seat of their previous rule and culture. They however remained concentrated in the Old City in a ghetto environment and complex. Their strength in the capital city, and marginal significance elsewhere in the state, made them convenient pawns in the games politicians played. As a result a Muslim leadership arose whose concern was that they alone should be able to move this pawn. Meanwhile, a Cyberabad, based on English, was being developed for modern young persons. Young Muslim boys and girls of the Old City were eager to have English education so that they could get good jobs. The wheel had come full circle. The Muslims of the Old City had to choose once again between pride in their history and hopes for their future.


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