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Issn 0012-9976
Ever since the first issue in 1966,
EPW has been Indias premier journal for An Unrepentant Police Force conferred onto us by the Constitution,
comment on current affairs are intrinsic to our democracy. Crude
and research in the social sciences.
It succeeded Economic Weekly (19491965),
which was launched and shepherded
by Sachin Chaudhuri,
W e strongly condemn the ongoing
attempts by the police of Kurnool
district, Andhra Pradesh, to continuously
and mala fide attempts to curb these
rights, and silence dissent, will not go
unopposed. We will not sit by and watch
who was also the founder-editor of EPW.
As editor for 35 years (19692004) harass U G Srinivasulu, an Adoni-based as the government seeks to dismantle
Krishna Raj
gave EPW the reputation it now enjoys. advocate and the Human Rights Forum democratic norms, and tries to stymie
(HRF) secretary for Andhra Pradesh and open, critical and diverse debate.
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta Telangana States (AP&TS). The HRF will continue to hold the
EXECUTIVE Editor Over the past three years, the police government and its various instruments
Lina Mathias
have filed several criminal charges against accountable to the law and to democratic
Deputy Editor
Bernard DMello Srinivasulu, and several other activists of procedures. We shall endure in our work
SENIOR Assistant editorS Adoni town, all of which are patently false. towards safeguarding and spreading
lubna duggal He has consistently opposed the arbitrary human rights, as a culture in our society.
copy editor
and mala fide use of the law by the police, The unfortunate reality today is that
jyoti shetty and has critiqued their unlawful meth- the police are only as lawful or lawless as
Assistant editorS ods. He has also spoken out and under- the political government wishes them to
P S Leela
SANGEETA GHOSH taken campaigns against various indus- be. We, therefore, call upon the AP gov-
ANISHA GEORGE tries based in Kurnool district that are ernment to rein in this arbitrary exercise
ASSISTANT Editor (DIGITAL) endangering peoples health and the en- of power by the Kurnool police. We de-
vironment. He has opposed the fabricat- mand that all charges against Srinivasulu
Advait Rao Palepu ed charges against marginalised sections be dropped and the cases foisted upon
production and has sought the proper and effective him be withdrawn.
u raghunathan
s lesline corera implementation of the Scheduled Castes V S Krishna
suneethi nair (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) (Pre- Human Rights Forum General Secretary, AP&TS
Circulation MANAGER vention of Atrocities) Act. S Jeevan Kumar
B S Sharma Human Rights Forum President, AP&TS
However, he has been met with hostility
Advertisement Manager
Kamal G Fanibanda by the police, who have taken recourse to
General Manager plain abuse of the law and foisting false Arrival of Militant Ram
Gauraang Pradhan charges. When the HRF along with several in Bengal
K Vijayakumar organisations sought the enforcement of
environmental regulations on industries
emitting toxins into the air, ground, wa-
tercausing immense injury to the people
T he late eminent scholar, A K Ramanu-
jan, reminded us in his well-known
text, Three Hundred Ramayanas, that not
Economic and Political Weekly near Adoniinstead of invoking the law only do we have one story told by Valmiki
320321, A to Z Industrial Estate and penalising those industries, false in Sanskrit, we have a variety of Rama tales
Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel
Mumbai 400 013 charges, including those under the SCs and told by others, with radical differences
Phone: (022) 4063 8282 STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, were among them. It may be mentioned in this
EPW Research Foundation levelled against HRF functionaries. When connection that the Academic Council of
EPW Research Foundation, established in 1993, conducts
research on financial and macro-economic issues in India. the HRF questioned the indiscriminate Delhi University decided to drop this cele-
Director registration of a huge number (460 in all) brated text from the history syllabus a few
J DENNIS RAJAKUMAR of rowdy sheets against the people in Ado- years ago, despite intense opposition from
C 212, Akurli Industrial Estate
Kandivali (East), Mumbai 400 101 niand pointed out the harassment and the history department. The decision was
Phones: (022) 2887 3038/41 humiliation this would entailinstead of preceded by a militant protest by activists
taking corrective measures, the polices re- from the Bharatiya Janata Partys (BJP)
Sameeksha TrusT
(Publishers of Economic & Political Weekly) taliation was to book a rowdy sheet on student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi
Board of Trustees Srinivasulu himself! They even went to Parishad, who barged into the history
Deepak Nayyar, Chairman the extent of fabricating a case under Sec- department to protest the teaching of the
D N Ghosh, Managing Trustee
Andre Beteille, Deepak Parekh, tion 153A of the Indian Penal Code (creat- Ramanujan text and vandalised the place.
Romila Thapar, Rajeev Bhargava, ing enmity between communities) against The above episode is not an isolated
Dipankar Gupta, Shyam Menon
him. This is perhaps the first time that a one. Different parts of India are witness-
Printed by K Vijayakumar at Modern Arts and Industries,
151, A-Z Industrial Estate, Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, human rights activist has been charged ing manifestations of militant Hinduism
Lower Parel, Mumbai-400 013 and published by him on behalf under this section in AP&TS. being preached by the BJP.
of Sameeksha Trust from 320321, A-Z Industrial Estate,
Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai-400 013. We wish to remind the government Public celebration of Ram Navami was
Editor: Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.
that dissent and the various freedoms never a part of the cultural tradition of
4 april 15, 2017 vol lII no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly
Bengal. But, Kolkata and different districts highlight five interesting and philosophi- Guptas, etc, had colonised? History and
of West Bengal witnessed the unfamiliar cally-enticing dimensions of the debate, culture are like a fabric of several interknit-
sight of sword-brandishing, saffron-clad which, perhaps, have been somewhat ted strands. When one strand criss-crosses
men accompanied by women and children eclipsed by the historic tenor of the book another, fragments of history are born.
marching down the streets and chanting and the Oxford debate. When the British criss-crossed with the
slogans like Jai Shri Ram and Har Har First, the basic question that underlies Indians in the colonial context, colonial
Mahadev to celebrate Ram Navami on 5 the debate on reparations is: Should we Indian history was born. The same can be
April 2017. Reportedly, members of various atone for the sins of our ancestors? If said for the history of any country in any
outfits backed by the Vishva Hindu Pari- Britain does so, an argument can be made period. Tharoors demand for an apology is
shad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and that the present British generation is pay- tantamount to fraying the fabric of history
BJP took out over 150 rallies in West Bengal ing an undeserved penalty for the acts of by separating its interwoven strands.
to celebrate the festival. In fact, processions their ancestors. Similarly, if the present Fourth, it is interesting that Tharoor
with swords, spears, bows and arrows, and generation of Indians receives reparations opens his book by citing American philo-
bike rallies festooned with saffron flags or accepts an apology for atrocities inflict- sopherwriter Will Durants criticism of
ruled the roads in numerous pockets of ed on their ancestors, an argument can British colonialism. In a different con-
Kolkata and districts of West Bengal. The be made that the present Indian genera- text, Durant once wrote in his acclaimed
state president of the BJP, Dilip Ghosh, was tion is reaping unmerited benefits. book Pleasures of Philosophy, Morals that
seen among those holding swords in Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel has change slowly, are changing today like
Kharagpur. To put it in his own words: investigated the issue in his book Justice. He clouds before the wind. If morals are
Lord Rama carried a bow and arrow. So rejects the body of opinions descending like clouds before winds, then can moral
how can his puja be done with empty from John Locke to John Rawls, that he col- standards of the present age be the yard-
hands? When Muharram is observed there lectively calls moral individualism, which stick to judge the moral worth of actions
is no talk of polarisation But, when Ram argues that each individual is a free moral in the past? Liberal democracy and sov-
Navami is celebrated, they say it will lead agent and, therefore, not morally responsi- ereignty are the morals of the present
to polarisation. If Ram Navami does lead to ble for the actions of any other individual. just as colonialism and imperialism were,
polarisation, let it be. We will do it. Sandel argues that moral individualism more or less, accepted norms of the past.
The aggressive assertion of militant leaves little space for collective responsi- Lastly, there is the question that if India
Hinduism in West Bengal is organically bility, collective morality and solidarity, did not have had its colonial experience,
connected with the BJPs landslide victory without which societies and nations would how would have Indian history paved?
in Uttar Pradesh. Let us see how the land be torn asunder and collective group iden- Tharoor has made an appreciable effort to
of Bengal Renaissance faces the chal- tities would become meaningless. There- argue that the British colonisation of India
lenge posed by militant Hinduism. fore, Sandel may agree with Tharoor that was its age of darkness and India would
Arup Kumar Sen the British people, as a collective, bear have been much better off without it. There
Kolkata the moral burden of historic injustices are others, like Nirad C Chaudhary, who see
they have inflicted. Indias colonial encounter as a watershed
Should We Atone for Our Second, Tharoor, like Sandel, argues that transformed it into a modern nation.
Ancestors Sins? that rendering apologies for the historic in- Historians attempt to explain events of
justices is irrevocably linked to the sense of history through reason, rational argu-

S hashi Tharoors speech at the Oxford

Union debate (May 2015) on the pro-
position Britain Owes Reparations to Her
national and collective moral responsibility
and hence, to national identity. However, it
must be argued that the ideas of nation-
ments, and cause-and-effect. But, the fact
remains that these are all speculations be-
cause the laws of motion that govern the
Former Colonies garnered a lot of atten- hood and national identity are based, apart movement of history are beyond rational
tion. His argument for the motion was from a shared collective history and cul- comprehension. Irrespective of the rational
quickly followed by his recent book An Era ture, on collectively forgetting the acri- merit of these historical arguments, it is im-
of Darkness: The British Empire in India in mony and injustices of the past and the se- possible to speculate with certainty, what
which he dwells upon the issue of repara- lective elision of historic atrocities. Tha- trajectory Indian history would have taken
tions and apology in a greater detail. He roors book fails to recognise this aspect. without its colonial encounter. Historians
writes that, I, for one, dearly hope that a Third, if Britain must apologise for colo- cannot be omniscient cosmic observers.
British prime minister finds the heart, and nising India, must India apologise to large Suyash Saxena
spirit to get on his or her knees [] and parts of Asia that the historic Indian rulers, NEW DELHI
beg forgiveness from the Indians.
Tharoors book is essentially a historical Web Exclusives
narration of Indias colonial encounter,
The following article has been published in the past week in the Web Exclusives section of the EPW website.
but the question of paying reparations or (1) 100 Years of Champaran and a Forgotten FigureVenu Madhav Govindu
apologising for historic wrongs, involves Articles posted before 8 April 2017 remain available in the Web Exclusives section.
a philosophical enquiry as well. Let me
Economic & Political Weekly EPW april 15, 2017 vol lII no 15 5
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6 april 15, 2017 vol lII no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly
april 15, 2017

Americas Reckless Syria Policy

Trumps military action in Syria will further the fortunes of the Salafi jihadist forces.

mperialisms moral cloak has always been humanitarianism. Frankly, a lot of US imperialisms antiquated script seems to
So even a United States (US) President who has been openly be replayed in a closed loop. The 1991 US invasion of oil-rich
espousing militarism, racism and jingoism was able to garner Iraq was ostensibly to prevent the atrocities that the Iraqi armed
bipartisan consensus when he fell back upon the time-tested tactic forces had supposedly planned to inflict on the people of Kuwait.
of drawing US imperialisms moral red line. Never mind the use of The 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was justified on the
Agent Orange by the US military as part of Operation Ranch Hand grounds that President Slobodan Milosevic was planning an
during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. All the US presidential ethnic cleansing which had to be prevented. In 2001, the invasion
administration had to do is establish almost instantlywithout of Afghanistan was justified on the claim that the Taliban regime
waiting for the United Nations Security Council and an impartial was harbouring the perpetrators of the 11 September 2001 attacks.
investigationthat the Syrian government had engaged in a chemi- The 2003 invasion of Iraq was sought to be legitimised on the
cal weapons attack, and then, with the verdict broadcast widely plea that President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass
by corporate media, carry out the sentence as soon as possible. destruction. In 2011, NATO-led forces militarily intervened in
On 4 April, in the ongoing six-year-old civil war in Syria, there Libya and their Islamist proxies assassinated President Mua-
was a chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town of Khan mmar Gaddafi on the moral grounds that his forces were about
Sheikhoun in Idlib province. Almost immediately the White House to engage in a large-scale massacre in Benghazi.
condemned the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad There has been a long-standing pattern in Washingtons funding,
for the attack. The mass media and practically the entire political arming and mobilisation of religious fundamentalists to further
establishment denounced the Syrian government as the culprit. The its geopolitical ambitions. The American Central Intelligence
next day, US President Donald Trump expressed horror at the Agencys teaming up with the Muslim Brotherhood against Arab
images of innocent children, innocent babies choked to death by nationalists in the 1950s and the US arming of the Mujahideen
the poisonous gas and declared that an unacceptable line has been against the Soviet Union in the 1980s come to mind. The same
crossed. He convened a meeting of the National Security Council dirty tactics have been employed in the six-year-old Syrian civil
to consider the possible military options, and the following day war. In particular, it is the spread of Saudi Arabias state religion,
two US warships in the Mediterranean fired 59 Tomahawk cruise Wahhabisma sect of Sunni Islam, puritanical and ultra-
missiles at the Syrian air base at Shayrat, close to the city of Homs. conservativethat has been the theological inspiration of
Referring to the allegations that his government had engaged in a Salafi jihadist groups like Islamic State (ISIS) and Al Qaeda, and
chemical weapons attack, the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al their affiliates in Iraq and Syria. The Al Qaedas Jabhat al Nusra
Muallem categorically stated that the Syrian Arab Army did not is, for instance, the most powerful of the rebel forces backed by
and will not use such weapons even against the terrorists who are the CIA that is challenging the rule of Assad in Syria.
targeting our people, but the powers-that-be and the establish- The problem isnt just Wahhabism but the cynical funding and
ment media just ignored him. Instead, they gave wide coverage arming of such Salafi jihadist factions to serve the narrow ends of
to US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haleys statement. US imperialism. It is high time the United Nations demands that
What she said implied that Washington has the right to wage war the US, Saudi Arabia and Gulf-state governments give up their
against Syria when the international community consistently support of the various Salafi jihadist militias who are acting as
fails in its duty to act collectively against that country. Predictably, proxies of US imperialism in Syria. An honest analysis would put
the US corporate media and the political establishment applauded this phenomenon at the root of the crisis in Syria today, and also
Trump for the US militarys attack on Syria. Indeed, the host of of one of the most traumatic refugee problems of the 21st century.
CNNs flagship foreign affairs show, Fareed Zakaria, who had until Trumps action will only both boost the military fortunes of the
then been slamming the new President, now began fawning Salafi jihadist forces and in turn harden the RussianIranian
over Trumps action, declaring that with the cruise missile attack support for Assad in the Syrian civil war. The result: more atro-
on Syria, Trump became the President of the United States! cities against civilians and further refugee trauma.
Economic & Political Weekly EPW april 15, 2017 vol lII no 15 7

No Panacea for Agrarian Distress

Loan waivers do not address the deep-rooted problems of Indias farmers.

he vagaries of the monsoon and the consequent droughts, honest borrowers from repaying their loans on time. RBI Gover-
floods, or crop failures that immiserate vast sections of nor Urjit Patel added that loan waivers undermine credit disci-
farmers and agricultural labourers in India, are a matter of pline and result in higher government borrowing which, in
routine even seven decades after independence. In fact, the crisis turn, increases the costs of borrowing by others and could
has only deepened. With inadequate agrarian policies to confront eventually affect the national balance-sheet.
systemic structural issues, rural India continues to suffer. The The facts are simple. Politicians believe loan waivers enhance
evocative images of farmers from Tamil Nadu protesting in the their popularity, moral hazards be damned. Many argued that the
capital for over a month now, holding dead snakes and rats in UPA would not have been able to return to power in 2009 had it
their mouths (as that is all that is available in their fields to curb not been for the farm loan waiver scheme. Agricultural loan waivers
hunger), and skulls of their kin who died due to destitution, and subsidies do not benefit the poorest in rural India. In fact, loan
have brought home the extent of the agrarian distress. waivers do little to relieve the indebtedness of the most vulnerable
After two consecutive drought years, though the south-west farmers who are either landless or possess smallholdings. These
monsoon was normal in most parts of India, there is a severe farmers are not considered creditworthy, have no access to insti-
drought in particular parts of the country due to the failure of the tutional credit and are entirely dependent on usurious money-
north-east monsoon. The central government has declared eight lenders. Loan waivers do not alleviate agrarian crises that have
statesKerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, deep structural roots in Indias economy, including uneven access
Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradeshas drought- to subsidies, skewed landownership patterns, and a degeneration
affected. In January 2017, the Tamil Nadu government declared of government-supported agricultural extension programmes.
the state to be drought-affected and waived cooperative bank The agrarian crisis has not only persisted, but has become more
loans of small and medium farmers (who comprise around 92% acute. Climate change and extreme weather patterns have further
of all farmers in the state). Later, a high court order directed the exacerbated the insecurities of farmers. The lack of quality capital
state government to waive cooperative bank loans of all farmers assets in surface irrigation and rainwater harvesting continues to be
(30% of the total cooperative bank loans were given to larger a challenge. This has led to a growing dependence on depleting
farmers). Today, Tamil Nadu farmers are demanding further relief groundwater as the main source of irrigation. About half of the
from the central government in the form of a waiver of farm loans countrys cropped area still does not have access to assured irri-
from nationalised banks and better compensation for crop failure. gation facilities. The union governments decision to increase the
The newly-elected Uttar Pradesh government has declared a farm number of workdays under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural
loan waiver expected to cost the state government `36,359 crore. Employment Guarantee Act to 150 days a year in the eight
These measures do promise some relief to farmers, but they are drought-affected states is a welcome move. Creation of assets
no panacea for the deep-rooted agrarian crisis in general and rural that conserve water, improve irrigation and prevent drought-like
indebtedness in particular. A loan waiver is at best an immediate condition from recurring needs to be expedited.
response to an emergency situation. In 2008, the United Progres- There are a host of other factors that have adversely affected
sive Alliance (UPA) government undertook a large loan waiver the balance sheets of Indian farmers. While costs of production
programme. That experience, which cost the exchequer in excess continue to rise, returns remain low and uncertain. Markets for
of `70,000 crore, tells us that loan waivers, even if unavoidable at agricultural produce in India and the world over are imperfect
times, are a one-time relief from partial indebtedness and do and volatile. Dwindling farm incomes and rural indebtedness
nothing to stop the recurrence of widespread rural indebtedness. need to be understood in this light. Unless concerted efforts are
Not surprisingly, the otherwise-reticent governor of the made to address these systemic problems, little will be achieved
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the head of the National Bank for to break this vicious cycle. Loan waivers are band-aid solutions
Agriculture and Rural Development have spoken of the moral at best. They offer temporary relief. The more permanent solu-
hazard entailed in loan waivers that supposedly discourage tions remain to be addressed.

8 april 15, 2017 vol lII no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

Clear Message from Kashmir

The virtual boycott of the parliamentary bypoll shows us the extent of disillusionment with the Indian state.

or long, Indians were made to believe that large election were made to believe that despite being bludgeoned by brute
turnouts in the Kashmir Valley represent a true measure power, Kashmiris would still come out and vote. The abysmally
of the peoples mood. We looked at voter turnout without low turnout of 7.14% in the Srinagar parliamentary constituency
considering the number of people who boycotted elections. We on 9 April, and the violence on that day that led to the death of
8 april 15, 2017 vol lII no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

eight young protesters and injuries to around 200 others tells us and Indian Army generals. They have drawn attention to the
the real story. It is a resoundingly clear statement that Kashmiris indigenous character of militancy and advocated initiation of
are disillusioned with Indias constitutional institutions. purposeful political dialogue. Unfortunately, the government
We need to recognise that there are significant differences in Delhi continues to exhibit a singular lack of wisdom in its
in election turnout in Kashmir for local bodies, assembly and Kashmir policy.
parliamentary polls, with maximum votes recorded for local Policy and opinion-makers who find fault with Kashmiris for
bodies and the lowest for parliamentary polls. This indicates acting as proxies for Pakistan and for their assertion of their
the level of confidence Kashmiris have in these institutions and Muslimness, fail to acknowledge that the Indian state has
their political relevance. People voting in much larger numbers turned decisively against Muslims in India. Take the recent
for local bodies reflects their desire to address everyday concerns. statement of the President of the Jammu Chamber of Commerce
They vote in the assembly elections knowing that the state and Industries Rakesh Gupta, asking people to identify and
government can only mitigate the consequences of the devas- kill Rohingya and Bangladeshi Muslims. This is not an isolated
tation caused by decades-old repression without resolving the incident. It mirrors the growing and brazen anti-Muslim rhetoric
political crisis. Voting in parliamentary elections is different. For in many parts of India.
a large majority of Kashmiris, Indias Parliament lost its appeal It is also worth noting that the mood on the street in Kashmir
in 1993 when it unanimously resolved to speak of Jammu and is one of anger and defiance. While bullets and pellets have
Kashmir as an integral part of India and reiterated its claim on caused casualties to mount, they have also convinced a large
the territory held by Pakistan. At the same time, it ignored the section of the people, especially the youth, that the Government
military suppression of Kashmiris and their democratic demands. of India only understands the language of armed militancy.
Neither the present nor past Indian governments have shown The large turnout at encounter sites, while operations are on,
any appetite for serious political negotiations to resolve the to support and save their own who have picked up guns, suggests
political crisis in Kashmir. Having hollowed out constitutional that Kashmiris believe that union with India under an avowedly
autonomy, and boasted in Parliament of having done so in 1964, Hindu majoritarian dispensation is detrimental for their very
there are few takers for autonomy in Kashmir and, one might survival. Young people are not offering themselves to be killed
add, in India. or maimed for a few hundred rupees as propagandists argue.
So even within the logic of the argument advanced by the Rather they do so because they feel they have no other avenue
government, it is apparent that there has been a consistent dis- left to be heard and for the demand for azaadi to be taken
interest in parliamentary polls in the Kashmir Valley since 1998 seriously. The reasons for peoples anger and disillusionment
with 70%80% of voters boycotting them. Today this figure has are also evident when you recall the activities of gau rakshaks
climbed to 93%, rising from 74% in 2014. This shows the rapid in Jammu, the permission accorded to Rashtriya Swayamsevak
erosion in the pro-Indian constituency under the leadership of Sangh cohorts to brandish weapons in public in a Disturbed
the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government. Narendra Area, the deliberate delay in extending relief and rehabilita-
Modi may be able to charm the bigots and jingoists in India with tion to victims of the cataclysmic floods of September 2014,
his terrorism or tourism jargon, but in Kashmir this does not and the casualties suffered by civilians since the 8 July 2016
cut much ice. It is tragic when a government begins to believe killing of Burhan Wani.
its own spin that propagates that Pakistan-is-behind-all-thats- It is time Indians understood that the problem in Kashmir lies
wrong-in-Kashmir, and that the solution lies in dangling the amidst us, not in Pakistan, and in our collective refusal to accept
carrot of tourism and jobs to the youth. This premise has been the simple truth that the disenchantment and disillusionment
questioned by people with impeccable establishment credentials, of Kashmiris with India and Indian civil society has deepened.
including cabinet ministers, a former national security advisor This is the message from the 93% who boycotted the polls.

Economic & Political Weekly EPW april 15, 2017 vol lII no 15 9

From 50 Years Ago plan to have a joint US-UK base in the Indian interest. India has never accepted the basic as-
Ocean was mooted in the autumn of 1963, sumption that an Anglo-American military pres-
when leaks in the American press no doubt ence in Diego Garcia will add to her security.
inspired indicated the American desire to The bid to take over Diego Garcia means a
make its presence felt in the Indian Ocean in qualitative change in the character of the mili-
Vol II, No 15 april 15, 1967
the shape of the US Seventh Fleet. tary interest of western powers in South-East
EDITORIALS The US State Department at first tried to Asia. It is not beyond the realm of the possible
make it appear that an Anglo-American pres- that soon nuclear weaponry might be introduced
Eyes on Diego Garcia ence in the Indian Ocean was necessary to give in this area, spelling the final and irrevocable
The US State Department cannot pretend to a sense of security to Pakistan against India and defeat of the concept of a nuclear-free zone in the
be surprised by the Indian Foreign Ministers India against Pakistan, not to mention China. Indian Ocean. A relevant question in this con-
threat to protest in the United Nations against But this was not accepted by New Delhi which text is what the Soviet has up its sleeve. Should
the British plan to build a refuelling and com- felt that any American incursion in the Indian Moscow decide to accept the western challenge
munications centre on the island of Diego Garcia Ocean would only invite Soviet retaliatory action. in the Indian Ocean with a series of diplomatic
in the middle of the Indian Ocean. [Mahomme- Next came the offer of a nuclear umbrella moves in the Oceans peripheral states, we would
dali Currim] Chagla has said nothing new that from Washington. This too fell through though see an intensification of the cold war in an area
Indian spokesmen have not said earlier. The at one stage India did show some confused in which India has very important stakes.

Economic & Political Weekly EPW april 15, 2017 vol lII no 15 9

Lebenslge of present the most marginal threat to the

international financial system and are

Money Laundering powerless to respond to being listed. The

lists are political. North Korea flips on
and off the lists depending on progress
in anti-nuclear talks. And they are weap-
Avinash Persaud onised. Banks face large fines for facili-
tating financial flows with countries on

e have seen the cycle before. where company and account opening the lists, and as a result, they have with-
A money laundering ring is staff turn a blind eye to who is the drawn payments services leaving these
busted open by a British news- owner of a business or a bank account. countries stranded financially. The EU
paper following an investigation by foreign Secrecy over beneficial ownership of and OECD are in danger of pushing these
authorities. We learn that British compa- companies is the main avenue of money countries into the hands of the very people
nies and banks washed the proceeds of laundering. they listed them for helping. While the
criminal activities in London and the Over the past five years, Michael Findley, Findley study indicates that there are
United Kingdom (UK) dependencies. The Daniel Nielson, and Jason Sharman have no Caribbean countries where it is
British authorities respond the next day carried out an interesting experiment easier to set up a shell company than in
by saying that a thorough inquiry is where they adopt the usual tags of a the UK, Caribbean countries have lost
underway or at least that they are seri- money launderer, refuse to provide bene- the most correspondent relationships
ously considering one. The story then ficial ownership information and try to with international banks.
slips from the front page until the next set up a company. They made over 7,400 The British are in denial. There is a
ring is broken open. email solicitations to lawyers and corpo- word for it in GermanLebenslge
On 20 March 2017, the Guardian rate service providers across 182 coun- which means the lie you have to tell
revealed that it had received documents tries. They then compiled an index based yourself to live your life. It is hard for the
from a three-year investigation by the on the number of different providers they British to feel good about themselves if
Latvian and Moldavian authorities into had to go to on average in a single juris- they thought the success of the City of
what has been called the Global Laun- diction before they were successful at London and the London property market,
dromat. These documents purport to setting up a company without beneficial related in no small part to the worldwide
show that British-registered companies ownership information. Amongst the proceeds from crime as opposed to their
and British-based banks were heavily seven countries with the largest finan- worldly skills. It does not help that finance
involved in the moving out of at least cial centres, the UK was the easiest place and property were the two engines of eco-
$20 billion (bn) of proceeds of criminal to set up a shell company. Next came the nomic growth for the UK over the past few
activities from Russia. Last year, sepa- United States. decades. Once the British newspapers
rately, the Home Affairs Select Commit- Compliance with anti-money launder- have revealed the latest money launder-
tee of the UK Parliament published a ing rules has become a big business. ing ring, they quickly return to the nar-
report suggesting that the London hous- Banks spend a fortune on it every year rative that the threat lies outside and,
ing market was a primary avenue for the and even more the next. The UK is a oddly, in tiny places.
laundering of 90 bn of illicit money member of two organisations, the Organi- Money launderers are wise to the
every year. Some of that may have come sation for Economic Co-operation and deception. While the gaze of the inter-
from India. The year before that, Rob- Development (OECD) and the European national authorities is firmly fixed in the
erto Saviano, a leading expert on the Union (EU) that routinely publishes black Cayman Islands, Bahamas, and Seychelles,
international drugs trade was quoted in lists of countries that these bodies money launderers find it safer to flock
the Independent, saying of the global deem high risk, a danger to the inter- to London. The politicisation of the
drugs trade that Mexico is its heart and national financial system or uncooper- blacklists has enabled money launder-
London is its head. ative. London, New York, and Zurich ing in general, and London to become
London has not become the global have never featured on these lists. Instead, its centre. In the Findley, Nielson and
capital of money laundering by accident. the usual pariahs of the West, Cuba, Sharman study, after repeated efforts,
Money launderers and those financing North Korea, Iran, Yemen, and Venezuela they were never able to set up a shell
terrorist activities need two things. The populate these lists. The listings also company in Cayman Islands, Bahamas
first is a lot of financial transactions in include a spread of small states. In the or the Seychelles.
which they can quickly lose their deal- past, Antigua, Guyana, St Kitts and
ings. When it comes to international Nevis have been tarred. Avinash Persaud ( is
financial centres, giants wash more and The only thing this motley collection chairman of Elara Capital Limited and emeritus
London is a giant. The second is a place of countries has in common is that they professor of Gresham College, London.

10 APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

Party with a Difference? indeed other parties) in the times of its

current pre-eminence? Since the BJPs
victory of 2014, it has begun to resemble
the Congress in two respects. One is in
Suhas Palshikar its policy of accommodating anyone and
everyone and the other is in the cynical

From adopting winnability as the olitical parties in India have long pursuit of power at any cost. This process
displayed a tendency towards what of the BJPs Congressisation began in
core principle of nominating
some commentators have called the 1990s when leaders like Pramod
candidates to removing political Congressisation. The Bharatiya Janata Mahajan convinced the party to become
appointees of the previous Party (BJP), too, has received criticisms pragmatic in its approach to ideology and
government, and in dealing with that in the moment of its high glory and programmes and practical in its dealings
political ascendance, it is beginning to with the many non-Congress parties. It
governments of opposition behave much like the Congress (Sen 2017). could of course be said that an alliance
parties, the behaviour of the Improving upon the classical war with various parties (who did not sub-
Bharatiya Janata Party has been cry of non-Congressism, Prime Minister scribe to the BJPs ideas) constituted a
Narendra Modi aggressively campaigned tactical move. But now in power on its
so much like the Congress that
for a Congress-mukt India during the own strength, unencumbered by the
the latter would rejoice in the election campaign of 2014. While the pressures of coalition politics, is the BJP
assurance that there is no mukti aggression was a novelty, the idea itself living up to its claim of being different?
from its ways and manners. The has been basic to the existence of the BJP.
Not only has it (and the Jan Sangh earlier) Dilemma of Opening Up
crucial difference between the always aimed at replacing the Congress Starting with the Ram Janmabhoomi
BJP and other parties is that it is but it has also spoken of clearing the politi- mobilisations, the BJP began expanding its
able to instil a sense of destiny not cal ground of Congress-type politics. social base. Post 2014, the party conducted
The BJP has so self-consciously been a massive drive for membership recruit-
just among its rank and file but
different from the Congress that its politics ment and during that time again, the filters
also the general public and often amounted to a complete contempt or gatekeeping mechanisms became
convince it that the party is doing for and rejection of the ideas and practices practically non-existent. This opened up
that got identified with the Congress. the party to all kinds of political entrepre-
desh seva while others have been
This distinguishes the Jan SanghBJP from neurs. In this sense, the BJP has lived
doing only politics. other fragments of the Janata family of for a long time with the dilemma. The
parties of the 1970s and the 1980s. The dilemma is to maintain a balance between
insistence on being different from the the impulse of expansion and that of
Congress was the origin of the BJPs auda- being different. (Incidentally, following
cious slogan of party with a difference. from this same dilemma, many have
At a very broad level, this slogan captures always believed that as the BJP grows,
a critique not just of the Congress but of its Hindutva too would become moder-
the politics of the establishment, a genre ate. More on this issue later.)
of politics that was contaminated by the It would however be a mistake to
Congress. At another level, this slogan also blame the partys failure to be different
represented the middle class exasperation on the entry of new social sections into
with various forms of politicking that the the BJP. The real challenge to its claims
Of Power & Politics Congress party evolved. The difference of being different does not come from
Political commentator Suhas Palshikar will also originated in the diverse patterns of its opening up to the masses. The real
write a monthly column that will analyse and organisational structures that the BJP and Congressisation that afflicts the party
put into perspective political events and their Congress adoptedthe latter having a comes from its urge to grab formal power
consequences. It will be published in the chaotic pattern while the former, since the and prove its political smartness. So, its
second issue of the EPW every month. Jan Sangh days, always believed in a strict real challenge is to attract the same
hierarchy and chain of command. So long known (and once detested) faces from
as the BJP (and previously, the Jan Sangh) the Congress, do what the Congress used
was a party with a limited spread, narrow to do, and yet claim a moral high ground.
Suhas Palshikar ( social base and a partial cadre base, it In other words, can ex-Congresspersons
is a political commentator and former teacher could afford to retain this difference. and the Congresss ways of doing
of politics and public administration at the
The question is, can the BJP manage politics bring in mukti (freedom) from
Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune.
to be different from the Congress (and the Congress?
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 11

Thus, a critical aspect of Congressisa- so much like Congress that the latter that those with a tainted past (legal or
tion pertains to indiscriminate accom- would rejoice in the assurance that there political), actually become purified by
modation of political actors from other is no mukti from its ways and manners. joining the cause of good against the
parties, including the Congress, for imme- The BJPs crucial test came after the evil. (For a straightforward justification
diate electoral gains, and even giving recently held assembly elections in five and argument that those with a criminal
them plum positions of power. Its chief states. During the tumultuous phase of the past become ex-criminals once they
minister in Manipur was not long ago an decline of the Congress, on many occa- join the BJP and that by joining the BJP
important Congress functionary in the sions, hung legislatures emerged in a they get reformed, see Nitin Gadkaris
state. An important central minister from number of states and through them, the interview.) And he is surely not a second
Assam too has been a Congress stalwart principle that the leader of the largest rung leader (APB Majha 2017)! So, even
there. A prominent anti-BJP ex-Congress- party (or pre-election alliance), gets the in being similar, the BJP manifests some
person has got a berth in the Goa cabinet. first opportunity to be invited to form the very crucial signs of difference: it is the
Similarly, an important Congress func- government became the norm. But throw- adherence to the idea that the political
tionary in Uttar Pradesh is now a minis- ing patience and prudence to the wind, adversary constitutes evil and that
ter in the BJP government in the state. the BJP gloated about its better political aligning with the BJP is not only an act
One can make a long list of such management skills and the governors of of piety, it is also an act of expiation.
imported personalities that the party has Goa and Manipur allowed themselves to This approach is fundamentally differ-
been flaunting during the past three years. violate this norm. Not only did the party ent from what one would expect in a
Particularly in states where the BJP is not rush to violate the norm, it also frankly competitive democratic set-up.
yet very strong, prominent leaders of sought to publicise its midnight smartness
other parties are given important posi- (Times of India 2017). Sustaining Faith
tions when they join the BJP. In a state These twin beliefs that it is engaged in a
like Maharashtra, where the party has not A New Norm war against evil and that whoever joins
been traditionally very strong, the 2014 But the BJP is after all, a party with a that war becomes automatically purified,
assembly elections witnessed induction of difference and therefore, the alleged sustain and will keep on sustaining the
political actors from the two Congress violations of the norm and other accusa- inner faith of the BJP in not only its dif-
parties on a visibly large scale. Later, in tions can be countered by it by recourse to ference from others but a self-belief in
the recently concluded local body elec- the world of new norms and principles. the intrinsic necessity of its own variant
tions, the party actually went on an aggres- Thus, its haste in forming the govern- of politics. These beliefs allow the party to
sive shopping expedition for candidates ments has been defended on the ground adroitly marry a pragmatic political instinct
from any and every party with a potential of a new norm: if the leader of the larger with its claims to the moral high ground.
to get elected. This practiceboth of poli- party does not make a formal claim, then It is besides the point whether the
tical entrepreneurs hopping parties and the governor could legitimately invite architects of these argumentative manoe-
parties shopping for useful merchandise the next in line instead of invitingas a uvres are cynical or sincere; the crucial
is not necessarily new. routinethe leader of the largest party. difference (between BJP and other parties)
One more criticism of the party with The fig leaf here was the hair-splitting over is that it is able to instil a sense of destiny
a difference can arise from the conduct the difference between claiming the right not just among its rank and file but the
of formal power. When a party comes to to government formation and waiting general public and convince them that the
occupy formal institutions of government, for the governor to invite to form a gov- party is doing desh seva while others
one begins to expect that the party would ernment. When the Congress violated have been doing only politics.
impose self-restraint over its political the norms it often resulted in the norms It is this manoeuvre that informs the
anxieties. The power-holders are surely getting judicially strengthened; when dominance of the BJP in the present
not expected to be exemplars of selfless the BJP does that the same, it seeks to juncture of Indias politics.
choices, but at least need to adopt the fig redefine the existing norm to suit it
leaf of normative constraints. The BJP has and get judicial approval. References
excelled the Congress in ridding itself of Just as in the case of government forma- APB Majha (2017): Ranenni Shivsena Sodu Naye
Mhanun Shevatparyant Tyanchyajaval Basun
that fig leaf. More than morality, this is a tion the BJP hid behind the thin argument Hoto: Gadkari, 1 April, http://abpmajha.abplive.
matter of procedural probity. That the of waiting versus claiming, in the case in/mumbai/nitin-gadkari-on-majha-katta-latest-
Congress often violated the procedural of its open door policy for eager Congress- updates-387103.
Sen, Ronojoy (2017): In the New India Proclaimed by
aspects of democratic behaviour, both in persons to cross over, it is not unlikely PM Modi How, in so Many Ways, BJP Is the New
politics and governance, does not absolve that the party would soon come out with Congress, Times of India, 18 March, http://blogs.
the BJP from similar acts of commission some official justification of being different the-new-india-proclaimed-by-pm-modi-how-in-
and omission. From adopting winnabil- in spite of the similarity. In the recently so-many-ways-bjp-is-the-new-congress/.
ity as the core principle of nominating held local elections in Maharashtra, second Times of India (2017): How Amit Shah and Nitin
Gadkari Checkmated Congress to Form BJP Gov-
candidates to removing political appoin- rung leaders did justify the candidatures ernment in Goa, 16 March, http://timesofindia.
tees of the previous government, and in of many tainted persons by likening the
dealing with governments of opposition BJPs struggle to that of the Pandavas checkmated-congress-to-form-bjp-government-
parties, the behaviour of the BJP has been against the Kauravas. It was openly argued in-goa/articleshow/57673008.cms.
12 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

definitively prevented? Is the appoint-

Suppressing the Symptoms or ment of a few security guards in each
hospital department the complete solution
Treating the Malady? to this problem? (The state has around
130 larger public hospitals, not counting
municipal hospitals; 1,100 additional
Abhay Shukla guards would mean an average of about
eight more guards per hospital.) Or are

Maharashtra, which recently aharashtra has witnessed a there deeper health system issues that
witnessed several attacks on front spate of attacks by attendants must also be addressed? The Jan Arogya
of patients on front line doctors Abhiyan, a state-level coalition of civil
line doctors, has comparatively
in public hospitals across the state in society organisations working in the
very low levels of per capita public March 2017. This precipitated a major health sector, organised a press confer-
health spending, shortfalls in strike by over 4,000 resident doctors, ence in Mumbai on 22 March 2017 during
health facilities, and major which was supported by the 40,000-strong the strike period, with the participation
Indian Medical Association (IMA) in the of health activists and certain organisers
shortages of specialist public
state. The Bombay High Court intervened of junior doctors and nurses (Iyer 2017).
doctors. Dialogue mechanisms based on a public interest litigation that Here, the need to prevent violence, with
should be developed based on had been filed against the strike, and a focus on addressing such underlying
community monitoring, while ordered the resident doctors to resume health system issues was strongly under-
work. With the government having given scored, summarised by the slogan: Dont
existing legal provisions for
an assurance that 1,100 additional security target the doctors, target the system.
grievance redressal need guards will be appointed in public hos- An accompanying concern is that when
implementation. Doctorpatient pitals across the state, the strike was with- doctors go on strike, the Essential Services
communication must improve, drawn after nearly five days of turmoil. Maintenance Act, 1968 is invoked with
What was notable in this process was the argument that unlike, say, factory
and the serious ailments afflicting
that all major parties involvedthe workers, doctors are not allowed to
public health services in doctors associations, the government, and strike since they perform an essential
Maharashtra must be addressed to the courttreated these attacks purely public service. The chief justice is reported
move beyond superficial solutions. as a security issue. The chief justice of to have mentioned during the hearing
the high court termed the attacks as that if doctors go on strike like factory
madness, perhaps implying that there men, then they are unfit to be doctors.
could be no understandable rationale for Besides the implied slur on factory work-
people to be moved to such violent action. ers, there is a deeper question that arises
It appeared as if the growing popular here. When doctors are on strike, health-
dissatisfaction with the availability and care is declared an essential service,
quality of services being provided in major but does the state accord the same level
public hospitals across Maharashtra had of priority to these essential health
nothing to do with the violence that had services while allocating resources and
erupted in certain public hospitals of the human power?
state. This seemed like a situation where
a cauldron of water had been allowed to Public Health Expenditure
simmer on a flame, and yet when the pot Despite being a state with relatively
boiled over, this was sought to be con- high per capita income (fifth highest
trolled by putting a lid on the vessel, among major Indian states), Maharashtra,
rather than by putting out the fire. spending `831 per capita, figures towards
the bottom when states are ranked by
The author gratefully acknowledges inputs Not Just about Law and Order per capita public health expenditure
from Sanjay Nagral, Ravi Duggal and members All would agree that such attacks on (Figure 1, p 14).
of the SATHI team while writing this article. front line doctors, who are often over- It can be seen that per capita health
Abhay Shukla ( is a worked and provide health services in spending in Maharashtra is below the
public health professional and health activist difficult conditions, are completely inap- national average (`963), and is barely
associated with the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan and propriate and unjustified. However, the around half of the amounts for Rajasthan
Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare.
question is, how can such situations be (`1,584) and Kerala (`1,650), which have
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 13

Figure 1: Per Capita Public Health Spending 201516 (in `) all posts of Class 1 specialist doctors are
Bihar 433 vacant in the medical college-associated
Uttar Pradesh 734 hospitals in these districts. In many dis-
Maharashtra 831 trict hospitals, even the appointed senior
Odisha 868 doctors are often reported as missing in
India 963 action since they are busy in their private
Tamil Nadu 1,050 practices. It is an open secret that in many
Chhattisgarh 1,154 district hospitals, after the morning out-
Rajasthan 1,584
patient department hours, specialists are
Kerala 1,650
unavailable, leaving the running of the
Delhi 2,506
hospital to junior doctors. It is in such
Mizoram 4,006
settings that services for critical patients
Goa 4,874
might not be available in a timely manner,
0 500 1,000 1,500 2,000 2,500 3,000 3,500 4,000 4,500 5,000
Source: Calculations based on data in MoHFW (2016); population projections based on 2011 Census. leading to the front line doctors being
exposed to socially explosive situations.
lower per capita incomes as compared to 35% in the number of community health
Maharashtra. Neighbouring Goa is in a centres (rural hospitals). Compared to 550 Guidance and Redressal
separate league in this regard (`4,874), rural hospitals that are required to serve Another important factor that contributes
and even though it is a much smaller the population (estimated at 2011 levels), to the breakdown of communication and
and richer state, its per capita public only 360 are in place, which naturally trust in the context of public hospitals is
health spending is six times higher than would force a greater number of patients the lack of effective patient guidance
Maharashtras, giving some idea of the to seek care in higher level hospitals, and redressal systems. Patients and rela-
desirable levels of expenditure required to placing significant strain on them. tives from rural areas, who travel long
ensure adequate health services. Further, there are serious shortages of distances to the district hospital located
What is equally a matter of serious specialist doctors in the public hospitals in an unfamiliar setting, require system-
concern is that public health expenditure that are functioning. Compared to 1,440 atic information and support, which are
by Maharashtra has been declining as a specialist doctors required in rural hos- often lacking. When complaints do arise,
proportion of the gross state domestic pitals across the state, only 578 are in which is inevitable, effective mechanisms
product (GSDP), declining from 1% in position, indicating a shortfall of nearly need to be in place to deal with these as
198586 to 0.49% in 201718, and plac- 60% in this critical cadre of doctors who promptly as possible, while ensuring
ing Maharashtra behind most states in are essential for treating complicated accountability of the service providers.
the country. Even during the current and emergency conditions (MoHFW 2015: Here, the experience of Community
financial year, allocations for public Table 28). It is, perhaps, but expected Based Monitoring and Planning (CBMP)
health and medical education have been that out of the 360 rural hospitals in of Health Services, a process being im-
cut down by 4.4% compared to the re- Maharashtra, only 127 (35%) currently plemented since 2007 as a component of
vised budget estimates for 201617.1 Do meet Indian Public Health Standards the National Health Mission in 30 blocks
these pathetic levels of public health (MoHFW 2015: Table 37B). Shortages of across 14 districts of Maharashtra,2 pro-
spending reflect the high priority that medical staff plague district hospitals also, vides a number of positive examples
must be accorded to this so-called essen- which have a 24% shortfall of doctors about how such dialogue and grievance
tial service? (MoHFW 2015: Table 69). It should be redressal could be developed as part of
noted that massive, unregulated prolifera- accountability mechanisms. In each CBMP
Shortfall of Services tion of the private medical sector has con- block, facilitators and coordinators belon-
Public health services in Maharashtra tributed to this situation, since even ging to nodal civil society organisations
were relatively performing well until the specialist doctors graduating from public have been given the responsibility for
mid-1980s. However, given the subse- medical colleges are pulled away by the promoting community action, and fre-
quent crunch on financial resources, as magnet of private hospitals. With 50 quently receive calls from patients re-
well as declining political priority and medical colleges, Maharashtra leads the quiring support in rural and sub-district
the privatisation of healthcare, it is not country just behind Karnataka. Yet, after hospitals. These activists, who are aware
surprising that there are now serious churning out so many doctors, if over half of healthcare provisions, dialogue with
shortfalls in providing health services at of the required posts for specialist doctors the relevant health officials and doctors
various levels, forming the backdrop to remain vacant year after year, should this to ensure that required services are
rising public dissatisfaction. As per the not be regarded as a larger policy failure? made available, while also guiding the
most recent official data available (MoHFW What is even more serious is that certain patient in negotiating the health facility.
2015: Table 11), there is a shortfall of 22% district-level hospitals (such as in Akola, Since major grievances are also periodi-
in the number of sub-centres, 18% in the Latur and Nanded) are running with cally discussed in multi-stakeholder moni-
number of primary health centres, and hardly any specialist doctors, while almost toring and planning committees at block
14 APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

and district levels, and during annual public and private hospitals are likely to We are led to speculate as to why this
jan samvads (public dialogues), this pro- be qualitatively different. section of the statute has never been
cess ensures that health providers are Given this background, on demand publicised by the government and has
held accountable, while attempts are from the IMA Maharashtra State, the not been implemented so far. What might
made to address health service-related Maharashtra government enacted the have been the impact, if over the last seven
structural issues through local problem- Maharashtra Medicare Service Persons years this clause had been implemented
solving and decentralised planning. and Medicare Service Institutions (Pre- with full sincerity and political will in
It may be relevant to explore how sim- vention of Violence and Damage or Loss public and private hospitals across the
ilar dialogue, accountability and griev- to Property) Act in 2010.3 According to state? With the creation of multistake-
ance redressal mechanisms might be this act, violence against doctors, medi- holder authorities in every area to guide
developed in the context of larger public cal staff and medical establishments is a people with complaints, with prompt guid-
health facilities like district and medical non-bailable offence, which can attract ance available to address grievances,
college hospitals, which seem to be the imprisonment of up to three years, and a could some of the attacks by disgruntled
epicentre of the recent violent incidents fine of up to `50,000. Further, in case of elements have been averted? Could a
in Maharashtra, reflecting the complete damage to property, any offender would significant number of peoples genuine
breakdown of trust and communication have to pay as compensation twice the grievances related to hospitals been
between people and healthcare provid- amount of loss caused to the property. resolved? While such questions cannot be
ers. Provision for help desks in larger Though sound in principle, in practice answered definitively, there is no doubt
hospitals run by local civil society it seems that these legal forms of protec- that until now this law seems to have
groups, and widely publicised and acces- tion have not worked very well. In fact, been interpreted selectively even by the
sible grievance redressal forums could the need for stringent implementation of government, and a crucial provision to
be steps in this direction. Such mecha- this act was repeatedly invoked during support patients and healthcare users has
nisms would, of course, not be substitutes the recent doctors strike. Yet, it is a moot been ignored. Instead of bridging it, the
for much-needed health budget, human- question as to whether a mob of angry gap between hospitals and people has been
power and service-related improvements, relatives and attendants of a patient, allowed to further widen, with tragic con-
but could complement these to ensure who acutely perceive some serious griev- sequences that we are witnessing today.
that mandated services become more ance in a hospital, perhaps following the
accessible, and conflicts are minimised death of a near one, would reflect on the DoctorPatient Relationship
through dialogue for problem-solving in provisions of such an act and then quietly Another aspect that emerges, besides
various situations. go home, without their grievance (real unavailability of required care and adve-
or otherwise) being addressed. Here, we rse health outcomes in some cases, is the
Prevention of Violence might get a clue as to the reasons for the frequent lack of empathetic and sensitive
In this context, some of the legal dimen- ineffectiveness of this act until now, communication by doctors. There is no
sions also deserve attention. Resident from the final functional clause in the doubt that junior doctors are often over-
doctors (who fall in a grey zone, some- act itself. This clause seems to have been worked, stretched for time, and have
where between students, workers and inserted as an afterthought, and is not multiple responsibilities to handle. But,
professionals) are not paid a salary, but generally mentioned by public votaries especially in critical cases, rude or cal-
rather get a stipend that is not indexed for the act belonging to medical associa- lous behaviour by doctors can become the
to inflation. Hence, the Maharashtra tions. As per available information, this last straw that might break the bounds
Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) section has effectively not been imple- of patience of a group attending to the
goes on strike almost every year, dem- mented in the last seven years since the patient, who may have even witnessed
anding a rise in the stipend for resident act came into force. Implicitly admitting the death of a family member. Perhaps,
doctors, and after some negotiations that patients might have some genuine fewer armed guards might suffice if doc-
with the government, generally based grievances in hospitals, which need to tors are regularly oriented in communi-
on certain raise in stipends, the strike is be addressed through participatory mech- cation skills and management of crisis
withdrawn after a few days. What is rel- anisms, Section 7 of the said act states: situations in a sensitive manner. Once
evant here is that, during these strikes (1) The State Government shall, by notifica- again, this would not substitute the need
by junior doctors, besides the perennial tion in the Official Gazette, establish the for adequate health system resources,
demand for increase in stipends, the Authority for the area as may be specified structural improvements and upgrada-
in such notification, to hear grievances of
demand for protection against attacks victims of medical negligence or mismanage-
tion of healthcare services, but definitely
has also emerged since 2006. It is nota- ment and to aid and advise such victims for needs to be kept in mind as a supplemen-
ble that such attacks have been growing taking recourse to an appropriate forum for tary measure of some importance.
in the case of private hospitals also, with suitable relief. Finally, at a social level, there seems
(2) The Authority shall consist of experts
serious dissatisfaction relating to medical one each from the field of medical, law, con-
to be a general decline in levels of toler-
care among patients and relatives, even sumer movement and health management. ance and a greater tendency to indulge
though the causes for dissatisfaction in (emphasis added) in group violence, which is manifesting
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 15

in many forms. It is ironic that with the problem, rather they should be treated as 2 See,
3 See,
dismantling of the welfare state through wake up calls, symptoms of a deep health shtra/2010/2010MH11.pdf.
neo-liberal policies, one of the most visible system malaise, embedded in an increas-
symbols of welfare, namely, public hospi- ingly troubled social milieu. Government
tals, are emerging as targets. There is no and society must squarely recognise and
Iyer, Malathi (2017): Health Budget Cuts Leading
doubt that the wide spectrum of social address the serious ailment afflicting to Violence against Doctors, Say Experts, Times
organisations, movements and political public health services in Maharashtra to- of India, 23 March, http://timesofindia.india-
parties in Maharashtra must, on the one day. The provision of security guards eading-to-violence-against-doctors-say-exper-
hand, strongly appeal to people to desist can, at best, partially suppress the symp- ts/articleshow/57788212.cms.
MoHFW (2015): Rural Health Statistics, 201415,
from attacking doctors and healthcare toms. For a definitive cure, we must tack- Statistics Division, Ministry of Health and
staff and, on the other hand, start actively le the roots of this systemic problem. Family Welfare, Government of India, New
demanding and working for health sys- (2016): Health Sector Financing by Centre and
tem improvements and changes. notes States/UTs in India (201314 to 201516),
1 Maharashtra state budget figures for 201617 National Health Accounts Cell, Ministry of
To conclude, these unfortunate attacks and 201718 available at https://beams.maha- Health and Family Welfare, Government of
on doctors are not just a law and order India New Delhi.

16 APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

Uttar Pradesh Elections 2017 grabs and major swings are possible, for
example, the 12% nationwide swing in
favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party
Failure of Pre-electoral Coalition (BJP) in 2014 or nearly 25% swing for
the party in the assembly elections held
in March.
Adnan Farooqui, E Sridharan Third, generally speaking, parties have
a strong incentive to aggregate votes

This article examines the electoral hat can we expect about elec- through formation of alliances based on
alliance between the Samajwadi toral coalitions in India, parti- sharing out the total number of contested
cularly state-level electoral seats so as not to split but to pool votes.
Party and the Congress in the
coalitions, from theory and comparative This is because in a plurality-rule system
recently held Uttar Pradesh experience?1 India does not neatly fit a small addition of votes has the poten-
assembly elections in the context into theories of coalition politics deve- tial to hugely increase or alternatively
of Indias complex polity at the loped on the basis of the European decimate a party or coalition in terms of
experience of parliamentary democracy seats. Since electoral coalitions, unlike
national and state levels.
in mostly unitary states with less ethnic post-election coalitions, are formed under
heterogeneity than India, and using conditions of uncertainty about which
proportional representation or mixed- party will get how many votes and win
member electoral systems. how many seats, there are even greater
First, Indias polity at the national or incentives to add on partners to increase
state level is not characterised principal- chances of victory, and not take any
ly by a single leftright ideological axis chance of losing, without being too
but multiple cross-cutting axes, includ- particular about ideological and pro-
ing the leftright axisfor example, grammatic compatibility, except in con-
secular versus Hindutva, and a variety ditions of extreme incompatibility. Thus
of caste and community bloc-based axes, the first-past-the-post system would tend
varying statewise. to give incentives to politicians to form
Second, party identification in India is ideologically indiscriminate pre-election
relatively weak both among politicians coalitions, or even seat adjustments
and voters, and parties tend to be clien- for pooling of votes or avoiding splitting
telistic, lacking well-defined social bases of votes, which are only partial, not true,
compared to most Western democracies. coalitions (Laver and Schofield 1998:
Adnan Farooqui (
Defections and splits that are common in 2526, 20406; Sridharan 2002: 28081).
teaches at the Department of Political Indian parties would be unusual in most Even if a single party majority results
Science, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. European parties because of well-defined from a pre-election coalition in a first-
E Sridharan is Academic Director, University of party ideologies, policy orientations and past-the-post system, the seat majority
Pennsylvania Institute for the Advanced Study relatively stable social constituencies. of the dominant partner in a surplus
of India, New Delhi.
There is a large floating vote that is up for majority coalition depends on the vote
16 APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

transfer of the supporters of the minor four phases: 195067, 196790, 1990 The NDA won 73 seats in the 2014 parlia-
partners to the major partner in seat- 2007, and 2007 to the present. While the mentary elections, with the BJP alone
sharing, that is, vote-pooling arrange- first phase was characterised by the winning 71 seats with an impressive vote
ments, though their seats may not be dominance of the Congress, the second share of 42.6%. Its previous best in the
critical in the legislature elected, for phase heralded the advent of significant parliamentary elections from the state
example, the Communist Party of India- opposition to the party in the state, as- was in 1998, when the party had won 57
Marxist in West Bengal in all govern- sociated with the rise of a wide array of seats with a vote share of 36.5%. The SP,
ments between 1977 and 2011, and the parties claiming to represent agrarian BSP, and Congress were relegated to sec-
BJP-led National Democratic Alliance interests, and comprising primarily of ond, third, and fourth positions by vote
(NDA) in 2014. This gives an incentive Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The third share. The SP and Congress won five and
for the dominant party to accommodate phase, beginning in 1990, witnessed the two seats respectively, while the BSP
its smaller allies. ascendance of Hindu nationalism, repre- failed to win even a single seat (Table 1).
Fourth, available evidence indicates sented in the rise, consolidation and con- The BJP vote share was nearly double the
that stable and effective coalitions at the comitant decline of the BJP in the state, 22.2% that of the SP and translated into a
state level in India are based on roughly and the emergence and consolidation of massive mandate73 out of the 80 seats
proportionate sharing of seats in pre- backward caste and lower caste parties for the BJP-led alliance (Verma 2014: 90).
electoral coalitions based on a quota the SP and the Bahujan Samajwadi Party In a four-cornered fight, the BJP ran a
whereby partner parties are allocated (BSP) (Jeffrey 2014: 25). superior campaign with Prime Minister
seats which they either hold or were The fourth phase began with the con- Narendra Modi leading from the front.
runner-ups, and also when coalition solidation of the core social base of the This, along with the moving away of
governments share portfolios in a roughly two principal contendersthe BSP and substantial numbers of non-Jatav Dalits,
proportionate manner (Sridharan 2014). the SP. What followed was a carefully non-Yadav OBCs from the BSP and SP
However, the logic of pivotality, or per- crafted attempt at social engineering, respectively, consolidation of the BJPs
ceived bridging vote share can violate achieved through consolidation of their traditional support base amongst the up-
such quota-based pre-electoral coalitions core support base amongst Dalits, mainly per castes, and an alliance with the
where the smaller party that is perceived Jatavs, and OBCs, principally Yadavs, Apna Dal, helped the BJP register a for-
to hold a bridging vote share (that can shoring up vote plurality at the constitu- midable victory and decimate the oppo-
make a difference between victory and ency level with the additional support of sition (Verma 2014: 92).
defeat) is able to leverage that to extract Brahmins, Thakurs, non-Yadav OBCs and Most importantly, the BJP was the
a higher number of seats to contest in a Muslims. This resulted in single party leading party in 328 of the 403 assembly
pre-electoral coalition. We argue in the majority (SPM) governments in the state segments. The tally for the SP, BSP and
present case of Uttar Pradesh (UP) in by both BSP and SP in 2007 and 2012 Congress was 42, 15, and nine respec-
2017, that the Congress managed to con- respectively. This was the apogee of caste- tively (Table 2). In a state with a four-
test a number of seats that amounted to based political mobilisation in the state, cornered electoral contest, under a simple
93% more than its quota. While this where the multiparty system had come plurality system, the contests in the past
might have damaged the alliances pros- to be associated with the BSP and the SP. have been fairly close. To put this in
pects, it is quite likely that the alliance The two national parties, the BJP and perspective, the BSP in 2007 and the SP
might have been doomed anyway given Congress, were relegated to the sidelines. in 2012 won an absolute majority on
that the BJP had around 40% vote share It is against this backdrop that the Table 2 : Party Position by Assembly Segments in
in a three-cornered contest. It is unlikely 2014 parliamentary election results in 2014 Lok Sabha Elections for BJP, SP, BSP
to face a serious challenge except from a the state, which witnessed the BJP-led and Congress
Party Lead Runner-up
Bihar 2015-style grand alliance of the NDA registering an electoral landslide,
BJP 328 62
opposition in the 2019 parliamentary were a departure from the previous
SP 42 141
elections in the state. It is against this assembly and parliamentary elections, as
BSP 9 155
background that we explore coalition the party had been in a state of gradual
INC 15 30
formation in UP between the Samajwadi decline since the 1999 parliamentary elec- Source: Election Commission of India: Statistical Report on
Party (SP) and the Indian National Con- tions and 2002 state assembly elections. General Elections 2014.
gress (INC) (henceforth Congress) and Table 1: Seats and Vote Share in 2014 Parliamentary Elections and 2017 Assembly Elections for BJP, SP,
seek out reasons for the failure of the BSP and Congress
Party Parliamentary Elections 2014 Assembly Elections 2017
alliance in the recently held assembly SC SW VS (SC) VS PV PS Strike SC SW VS (SC) VS PV PS Strike
elections in the state. (%) (%) Rate (%) (%) (%) Rate (%)
BJP 78 71 43.7 42.6 1 1 91 384 312 41.55 39.65 1 1 81
Political System in Uttar Pradesh SP 78 5 22.8 22.3 2 2 6 311 47 28.32 21.83 2 2 15
BSP 80 0 19.8 19.8 3 5 0 403 19 22.23 22.23 3 3 5
The political history of UP since inde-
INC 67 2 9 7.5 4 3 3 114 7 22.13 6.25 4 4 6
pendence closely resembles the politics Source: Election Commission of India: Statistical Reports on General Elections to the Legislative Assembly of Uttar Pradesh
of India. We can broadly classify it into 2017 and the Parliamentary Elections 2014.

Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 17

their own with a vote share of 30% and combined vote share of the SP, BSP and Pattern of Seat Sharing
29% respectively. The BSP and SP had Congress even in the 2014 parliamentary The SP and the Congress reached a seat-
won their electoral majorities by a nar- elections was 49.6%. In the 2014 elec- sharing arrangement where the two
row average margin of 6% and 7% in tions, both the SP and BSP had lost 18 parties decided to contest 298 and 105
86% and 80% of the total seats won by seats each and the Congress lost two seats respectively, although in reality,
them in 2007 and 2012 assembly elections seats by an average margin of 11% to both contested on 311 and 114 seats as
(Table 3). the BJP. The victory margin for the BJP they were engaged in a face-to-face con-
Table 3: Assembly Constituencies Won by the BSP in these 38 seats was less than that test in 25 assembly seats.
and SP in 2007 and 2012 Assembly Elections of the vote share of the third position If we assume that the seat sharing
Year Party Seats Seats with a Percentage of Average
candidate. The BSP, SP, and the Congress was based on a quota defined as the
Won Victory Margin Seats with a Margin
Less than the Victory Margin (%) were in the third position in 18, 16, and claim for the winner and runner-up
Third Position Less than
two of the seats respectively and so was seats, then going by their performance
Candidate the Third
Position the Quami Ekta Dal (QED) in two seats in 2012 assembly elections the SP and
(Table 4). the Congress should have contested 301
2007 BSP 206 178 86 6
However, this was easier said than done seats and 59 seats respectively. There-
2012 SP 224 180 80 7
not only due to the incompatible social fore, the two parties exceeded their
Source: Election Commission of India: Statistical Reports
on General Elections to the Legislative Assembly of Uttar support base of the two principal non- quota by 10 and 55 seats each (Table 5).
Pradesh 2007 and 2012.
BJP parties, but also the history of acri- The SP staked its claim and fought in
In the 2014 parliamentary elections, monious personal relationship between 260 seats out of the 301 seats where the
the BJP had won a whopping 43.7% of the BSP leader Mayawati and the SPs party was either a winner or a runner-up
the vote share in the 78 seats contested Mulayam Singh Yadav. It dates back to in 2012. The remaining 51 seats contested
by the party and had won 52 seats with the 1995 attack on Mayawati by workers by the party comprised of constituencies
greater than 40% vote share. In 17 seats, of the SP after the BSP decided to break its where the party was uncompetitive,
the BJP had a vote share of more than 1993 alliance with the former (Jha 2015). that is, not in the top two positions in
50%. The BJPs performance in 328 This acrimony was the main reason behind the 2012 elections.
assembly segments where the party had the partys refusal to consider the SPs Table 5: Pattern of Seat Sharing between SP and
the lead was equally formidable. In 253 offer of an alliance in January 2015. The Congress in 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly
Elections Based on Their Performance in 2012
of these 328 assembly segments, BJP ruling SP government not only had to Assembly Elections
had over 40% vote share with an abso- face anti-incumbency but also had to Alliance Assembly Performance in 2012 Assembly
in 2017 Elections 2017 Elections
lute majority in 94 assembly segments deal with the family feud within the ruling Seats W R Seats Managed
(Chakravarty 2017). party. Mulayam Singh Yadav remained Contested beyond Quota

Against this backdrop, both the SP adamant in his refusal to ally with the SP 311 224 77 +10(3%)
INC 114 28 31 +55(93%)
and BSP were incapable to take on the Congress. His son and then UP chief
Source: Election Commission of India: Statistical Reports
resurgent BJP on their own. Therefore, minister Akhilesh Yadav responded posi- on General Elections to the Legislative Assembly of Uttar
the only viable option for both the SP tively to the Congresss overtures primarily Pradesh 2012 and 2017.

and BSP would have been to forge a to shore up his partys chances in the The Congress, on the other hand, con-
Bihar-like grand alliance, along with assembly elections and consolidate his tested only 32 of the 59 seats where it
the Congress in order to be in a credible position within the party in case of internal was either a winner or a runner-up. It
position to take on the BJP-led NDA in sabotage of its electoral prospects by dis- staked its claim and fought in as many
the 2017 assembly elections. This would gruntled sections within the extended as 82 constituencies where it was not
have made electoral sense too as the Yadav family. The attempt by the Rashtriya competitive (as explained above). These
Table 4: Parliamentary Constituencies in 2014
Lok Dal (RLD) to be part of an alliance included 13 seats which it had not con-
Won by the BJP Having a Victory Margin Less between the SP and the Congress was tested in the 2012 assembly elections. Its
than the Third Position Candidate scuttled primarily because of the formers then ally the RLD had contested seven of
Party Seats Won by Percentage of Average Runner- Second refusal to concede more seats than the the 13 seats. The Congress did seem to
BJP with a Seats Won by Margin up Runner-
Victory Margin the BJP with (%) up generous 105 to the Congress. The Con- have an upper hand given its performance
Less than the a Victory gress too refused to share seats with the in the 2012 assembly elections. It man-
Third Position Margin Less
Candidate than the Third RLD from its kitty of seats, though the two aged to secure 10 seats which the SP had
Position parties had contested the 2012 assembly won in the previous election and 19 seats
elections in alliance. The alliance with where the SP was a runner-up. The SP on
BJP 38 54 11
SP, which was a lifeline for the Congress, the other hand staked its claim and fought
SP 18 16
was relegated to the margins of UP poli- in 16 constituencies contested by the RLD
BSP 18 18
tics. However, the fact that the Congress in the previous assembly election and
INC 2 2
and the SP decided to join hands was not contested by the RLD ally Congress.
Source: Election Commission of India: Statistical Report on
indicative that both of them were not The number of seats contested by the
General Elections 2014. comfortable going it alone. SP where the Congress was a winner or a
18 APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

runner-up were three and two, respec- Congress would have failed to even open competitiveness of the two parties in the
tively. In the 25 seats where the two its account. In fact, the overall vote share assembly segments in 2014, that is, win-
allies fought against each other, the SP of the party declined marginally by 1%. ner or runner-up, then the SP exceeded
had won 13 seats and was a runner-up in The SP secured 11.7% seats, that is, 47 its quota by 128 seats and the Congress by
four others in the previous assembly seats with a vote share of 21.8%. The 69 seats. Therefore, in a whopping 197
election, while the Congress had won Congress managed a miniscule 1.7% of constituencies, the two parties were al-
only two of these seats in the previous the seat share, that is, seven seats, and a ready in a vulnerable position (Table 7).
assembly election in 2012; it was runner- vote share of 6.25%. Even if one were to go by their respec-
up in five seats and had not contested In the 25 seats where the alliance tive positions in the 2012 assembly elec-
two seats. Therefore, if we go by the partners contested against each other, tions, the SP and the Congress contested
logic of seat-sharing quota, then the the BJP ended up winning 21 seats, and in 51 and 72 seats in which they were un-
SP should have contested 17 seats, and its ally the Apna Dal(S) won one seat. competitive. The allies SP and Congress
the Congress seven seats. The SP was a The SP was able to register a win in two managed to win only in three and five
runner-up in one constituency, of the seats while the Congress could only seats respectively.
two not contested by the Congress in secure one. The BJP won by a convincing Table 7: Pattern of Seat Sharing between SP and
2012. In three seats the alliance decided share of more than 40% in as many as Congress in 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections
Alliance Assembly Performance in 2012 Assembly
to back independents, and two of them 12 of these 25 seats, while the SP and in 2017 Elections 2017 Elections
managed to win. Congresss combined vote share was Seats W R Seats Managed
Contested beyond Quota
more than the BJPs in only five.
SP 311 42 141 128(70%)
Electoral Performance
Congress 114 15 30 69(153%)
The electoral results were largely a repeat What Went Wrong?
Source: Election Commission of India: Statistical Reports
of the 2014 parliamentary election. The The scale of the BJPs electoral domi- on General Elections to the Legislative Assembly of Uttar
Pradesh 2017, and General Elections 2014.
BJP-led alliance registered a spectacular nance in the recently held assembly elec-
victory by winning 325 of the total 403 tions could be gauged from the fact that The alliance formation between the
seats contested. The BJP alone won 312 effective number of parties (ENP) both SP and the Congress lacked coherence
seats of the 384 seats contested with a by seat and vote share (ENPv) was the and an eye for detail where the two
vote share of 39.65%. While it was able lowest in the last 40 years. While the unequal parties were unable to reach
to hold on and consolidate its position in ENP was 1.49 the ENP v was 3.42. The an amicable seat-sharing arrangement.
the state, the opposition on the other low value of the two indicators reflects This was the result of both the internal
hand was completely decimated. The BJP how uneven the electoral contest was feud within the SP and a game of one-
with its allies managed to win 80% of both in terms of seats and vote share and upmanship between the proposed alliance
the total seats in the assembly (Table 6). how absolute was the BJP-led alliances partners as well as warring factions
Table 6: Seats and Vote Share in 2014 Parliamentary Elections and 2017 Assembly Elections for BJP, SP, within the SP. The internal feud was
BSP and Congress responsible for the release of two sepa-
Party Parliamentary Elections 2014 Assembly Elections 2017
SC SW VS(SC) VS PV PS Strike SC SW VS(SC) VS PV PS Strike rate lists by the two factions within the
(%) (%) Rate (%) (%) (%) Rate (%) SP. On the other hand, the declaration of
BJP 78 71 43.7 42.6 1 1 91 384 312 41.55 39.65 1 1 81 a list of contestants by the SP, even as an
SP 78 5 22.8 22.3 2 2 6 311 47 28.32 21.83 2 2 15
alliance was being negotiated with the
BSP 80 0 19.8 19.8 3 3 0 403 19 22.23 22.23 3 3 5
Congress was an attempt to pressurise
Congress 67 2 9 7.5 4 4 3 114 7 22.13 6.25 4 4 6
Source: Election Commission of India: Statistical Reports on General Elections to the Legislative Assembly of Uttar Pradesh
the party and present it with a fait ac-
2017, and General Elections 2014. compli. This resulted in a situation
The SP managed to retain its vote dominance (Goyal and Kaushik 2017a). where the two parties were left contest-
share from the 2014 parliamentary elec- The BJPs average margin in the seats ing against each other in 25 seats. The
tion while the Congresss vote share reg- won by the party was 15.04% (Goyal Congress managed to wrest as many as
istered a further decline, though the alli- and Kaushik 2017b). The fact that the 29 seats from the SP where the party was
ance seemed to have benefited it more BJPs vote share in 74% of the seats (232 a winner and a runner-up in 10 and 19
than the SP if one looks at the vote share seats) won by the party was over 40% seats respectively.
of the two parties in the seats contested. corroborates this and underscores the The BJP won 27 of these seats and one
When compared to the 2014 election, depth of its victory. seat was won by its ally, the Apna Dal(S).
the SP vote share in the seats contested The SP and the Congress overestimat- The SP contested in only four such seats
by the party increased by 6 percentage ed their strength during the seat distri- where the Congress was either a winner
points, from 22.8% to 28.32%. The Con- bution. This is corroborated if one looks or a runner-up and lost three of these
gress, on the other hand, registered an at the performance of the two parties in seats to the BJP while managing to se-
increase in its vote share in the seats the assembly segments in the 2014 parlia- cure one. The SP refused to ally with the
contested by 13%, from 9% to 22.13%. In mentary elections. If the benchmark for RLD and contested in 16 seats where the
the absence of an alliance, probably the seat distribution would have been the RLD had contested in 2012 assembly
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 19

elections. The BJP won in 14 of these SP and the Congress in the absence of Jha, Dhirendra K (2015): The Humiliation That
Stops Mayawati from Accepting Samajwadi
seats. Even in the 25 constituencies the BSP was severely inadequate. Partys Offer, Scroll, 22 January.
where the two parties contested against Laver, Michael and Norman Schofield (1998): Multi-
each other the joint vote share of the SP Note party Government: The Politics of Coalition in
Europe, Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of
and the Congress exceeded that of the 1 For an account of the evolution of coalition politics Michigan Press.
in India, and expectations derived for state-level
BJP-led alliance only in five seats. The coalition politics from the logic of the SMSP
Sridharan, E (1999): Principles, Power and Coali-
tion Politics in India: Lessons from Theory,
combined vote share of 29.8% of both system in a federal polity, see Sridharan (2002).
Comparison and Recent History, Principles,
the SP and Congress in the 2014 parlia- Power and Politics, D D Khanna and Gert W
References Kueck (eds), New Delhi: Macmillan.
mentary election was woefully short of
Chakravarty, Praveen (20017): Why BJP Loss (2002): The Fragmentation of the Indian Party
the BJPs vote share of 42.6%. In the 2017 Would be Only Surprise of 2017 Poll, India System 19521999: Seven Competing Explana-
assembly election, the combined vote Spend, 4 January. tions, Parties and Party Politics in India, Zoya
Goyal, Yugank and Arun K Kaushik (2017a): The Hasan (ed), New Delhi: Oxford University Press,
share of the SP-led alliance and BSP was Algebra of Uttar Pradesh Election Results, Live pp 475503.
more than the BJP and its allies in 201 Mint, 22 March. (2014): Conclusion, Coalition Politics in India:
seats. The SP, BSP and Congress were in (2017b): Mathematically Speaking, the BJP in Selected Issues at the Centre and the States,
2017 Is a Worthier Winner than the SP in E Sridharan (ed), New Delhi: Academic Foun-
the second position in 111, 58, and 33 2012, Quartz India, 29 March. dation.
seats respectively. Therefore to take on Jeffrey, R (2014): Introduction, Development Fail- Verma, A K (2014): Development and Governance
ure and Identity Politics in Uttar Pradesh, Roger Trump Caste Identities in Uttar Pradesh,
the BJP electorally and have a fighting Jeffrey, Craig Jeffrey and Jens Lerch (eds), Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 49, No 39,
chance, a simple coalition between the New Delhi: Sage. pp 8994.

20 APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

in India (Jha and Chaloupka 1999).

Taxation on Tobacco in India Tobacco-accounts for 12% to 25% of the
deaths among men in India (Gajalakshmi
Tool for Tobacco Control et al 2003; Gupta et al 2005; Jha et al
2008); one half of tobacco-related
deaths occur between the ages of 35 and
Priya Mohan, Harry A Lando, Panneer Sigamani 69 yearsthe most economically pro-
ductive period (WHO 2002).

An increased disposable income obacco is the major factor causing
non-communicable fatal diseases Tobacco Consumption in India
among Indians has expanded
in India. Tobacco consumption in India is the third largest producer of
their tobacco purchasing power
India is unique and complex with various tobacco and the second highest consumer
and tobacco consumption. In fact, forms of smoke and smokeless tobacco. of tobacco products. There is a broad
beedis and smokeless tobacco are Its use is long-standing and is ingrained spectrum of tobacco products, aimed at
increasingly being used among among Indians from varying cultural different socio-economic and demographic
backgrounds. Also its social acceptability categories. Unlike other countries, India is
women and children which
poses great challenges for the regulation unique in the use of multiple non-cigarette
portends that the present taxation of tobacco products and the enforcement preparations such as beedi (an indigenous
system does not motivate users to of tobacco legislation. However, there are form of combustible tobacco) and the
give up smoking. other barriers as well that prevent the extensive variety of oral tobacco products
cessation of this practice such as poverty, (chewing, quid, and dentifrices). Beedis
illiteracy, lack of awareness, aggressive account for 85% of smoked tobacco
marketing strategies of giant tobacco (John et al 2010), however, there has
companies targeting vulnerable groups, a been growth in the number of cigarette
growing economy and a less than optimal smokers in the past decade (Joseph 2011)
implementation of provisions for tobacco due to a rise in disposable incomes and
cessation by government agencies. This an increased affordability. Studies have
article focuses on the current state of the also shown that manufactured cigarettes
Priya Mohan ( is with the Indian population addicted to tobacco are displacing beedis (Jha et al 2011).
Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, use and the various methods used to Prevalence estimates vary, with most
Central University of Tamil Nadu, Thiruvarur.
improve cessation, with a focus primarily estimates obtained from the National
Harry A Lando ( is with
the Division of Epidemiology and Community on taxation as a crucial measure that Family Health Survey3 (NFHS3) of
Health, University of Minnesota, US. Panneer encourages abstinence. 200506.
Sigamani ( is head of Tobacco consumption is the single most Approximately 10% of the worlds
Department of Social Work, Central University important avoidable risk factor in the tobacco smokers live in India (WHO
of Tamil Nadu, Thiruvarur.
growth of non-communicable diseases 2008). Between the ages of 15 and 49
20 APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

years, 57% of males and 11% of females decreasing tobacco consumption espe- on the type of product, length and quan-
consume tobacco in a smoked or non- cially among the young and lower in- tity of tobacco. Low levels of taxation,
smoked form. Around 120 million Indians come sections in emerging economies with an inefficient tax structure contrib-
smoke, of these 115 million are males and (WHO 2008, 2014a). ute to increased tobacco consumption.
56 million are females. Fourty percent
of rural men and 10% of rural women Taxation: Taxation plays a critical role Taxation on cigarettes: A tax of 38% on
chew tobacco, 31% of urban men and in tobacco control. Tobacco taxation and top of the retail price, is far below the
5.5% of urban women chew tobacco consumption are inversely related (WHO World Bank recommended rate of 65%
(John et al 2010). Recent trends in toba- and IARC 2011); higher taxes are parti- to 80%, and also it varies with length from
cco use are not indicated with certainty. cularly effective with poorer or less edu- less than 65 mm to more than 85 mm.
However, the absolute number of male cated groups (WHO 2010). Most high- Longer cigarettes are taxed at higher
smokers is rising, with male smokers income countries have reduced their rates, so companies manufacture varying
bet ween the ages of 15 and 24 account- overall tobacco consumption, over the lengths to retain their customer base and
ing for the largest proportion of the years, through increased taxation. France consumers shift to the cheaper options.
increased consumption (Sharma 2014). reduced its tobacco consumption by 50%,
About one million deaths are attribut- in a span of just 15 years, from 1990 to Taxation on beedi: Handmade beedis
able to smoking-related diseases annu- 2005 mostly due to a sharp rise in tobacco are taxed at `12 per 1,000 sticks, machine
ally in India (John et al 2010) and on an excise taxation (Hill and Laplanche 2003). made beedis are taxed at `30 per 1,000
average, male beedi smokers die six years Even among several low and middle- sticks and an average rate of 9% is ap-
earlier and female beedi smokers die eight income countries of South-East Asia plied to the retail price. As a result, nearly
years earlier than their non-smoking Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Thailand 98% of beedis are handmade (Sunley
counterparts. Male cigarette smokers die taxes have exceeded 70% on top of the 2008) though mechanisation is available.
an average of 10 years earlier than their retail price (WHO 2014b). Also, small-scale beedi manufacturing
non-smoking counterparts. More than Unfortunately, India has the lowest has been reduced to only 50% of the
half of tobacco-related smoking deaths taxation rates on tobacco in the Asia market with a concomitant increase in
occur in illiterate sub-populations. Rou- Pacific regionwell below the recom- household beedi rolling, given that no
ghly 80% of these deaths occur in rural mendations of the World Bank and the tax is levied if production is less than
areas. The risk of death due to chewing WHO. This creates significant challenges two million beedis annually.
tobacco is 15% for males and 30% for for implementing cessation programmes.
females. Healthcare costs are a huge Tobacco taxation in India is the most Taxation on oral tobacco: There is no set
burden for a developing economy like complex tax policies in the world and tax on chewing tobaccothis is subject
India. Healthcare costs for tobacco-related there is no uniformity. Taxes are based to ad valorem taxes that are based on
illness, spent by public and private
W EPWRF India Time Series
funds, was about `30,000 crore annually
(Reddy and Gupta 2004). Households Expansion of Banking Statistics Module
with a smoker have worse child health
outcomes, including lower immunisation Banking Indicators for 653 Districts
rates in children (Rani et al 2004).
District-wise data has been added to the Banking Statistics module of the EPWRF India
Tobacco Control Measures Time Series (ITS) database.

Cessation is the only practical way to This sub-module provides data for 653 districts for the following variables:
substantially reduce the morbidity and DepositNo. of Accounts and Amount, by Population Group (rural, semi-urban,
urban and metropolitan)
mortality issues associated with tobacco
consumption, in the relatively near term. Credit (as per Sanction)Amount Outstanding, by Population Group
This requires comprehensive tobacco Credit (as per Utilisation)No. of Accounts and Amount Outstanding, by sectors
control programmesincluding both price Credit-Deposit (CD) Ratio
and non-price interventions. Although Number of Bank OfficesBy Population Group
India has ratified the WHO Framework The data series are available from December 1972; on a half-yearly basis till June 1989
Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO and on an annual basis thereafter. These data have been sourced from Reserve Bank
FCTC), implementation of its provisions of Indias publication, Basic Statistical Returns (BSR) of Scheduled Commercial Banks
in India.
has been suboptimal. According to the
This module is a comprehensive database on the progress of commercial banking in
WHO, the six policy measures included
India in terms of extending the geographical spread and functional reach.
in the MPOWER policy, if effectively
The EPWRF ITS has 16 modules covering a range of macroeconomic, financial and
implemented have the ability to reduce social sector indicators on the Indian economy.
tobacco use, however, tobacco taxes are For more details, visit or e-mail to:
by far the most effective method of
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 21

the value of tobacco products. The litera- raise and premature mortality. Raising were nearly three times more affordable
ture indicates that reducing oral tobacco taxes on beedis to `98 per 1,000 sticks in 2011 than in 1990, while cigarettes
consumption through taxes, is not as would raise tax revenue of over `36.9 were two times more affordable (Blecher
feasible as reducing smoked tobacco billion and would also prevent 15.5 million and Van Walbeek 2009). Manufactured
consumption, due to the large and infor- deaths in terms of current and future cigarettes are also displacing beedis (Jha
mal market of sub-suppliers, in the case beedi smokers (John et al 2010). Raising et al 2011) as a measure of affordability.
of oral tobacco (Jha et al 2011). This cigarette taxes to `3,691 per 1,000 sticks In the Indian scenario, high consump-
leads to its greater use, and is of particu- would raise tax revenue of over `146 tion of tobacco is due to easy availability,
lar concern in India due to the dispro- billion and also prevent 3.4 million deaths accessibility and affordability, exacerbated
portionate usage by women and youth in current and future cigarette smokers by a lack of health education and aware-
and the fact that oral tobacco is a major (John et al 2010). Uniformity in taxation ness as well as, poverty. Tobacco control
cause of oral cancer, of which India has also is indicated. The increased tax reve- requires strong political willto control
become an epicentre. It is of paediatric nue could support comprehensive tobacco tobacco production, to enforce strict regu-
concern also, because children on the control programmes, including cessa- lations as stated in the Cigarettes and
street begin consuming tobacco through tion, and other social and public health Other Tobacco Products Act 2003, to be
chewable forms that are available in programmes such as those in Australia compliant with FCTC regulations and
sachets (Priya and Lando 2014). (VicHealth) and Thailand (ThaiHealth) guidelines and to include increased and
(John et al 2010; WHO 2012). uniform taxation on smoking tobacco,
Literature on Tobacco Taxation with an equal consideration on taxing
Higher taxation of tobacco products is Economic growth: Taxation policy should smokeless tobacco.
the single most effective intervention to be in accordance to income growth, with
reduce consumption (Jha et al 2008). The annual systematic inflation-adjusted in- References
following are the consequences of an in- creases built into the policy; otherwise Blecher, E H and Corne P Van Walbeek (2009):
creased taxation on beedi and cigarette increased affordability will lead to an Cigarette Affordability Trends: An Update and
Some Methodological Comments, Tobacco
manufacturing, with respect to revenue increased consumption. In India, beedis Control, tc2008.

Openings at the EPWI

The EPW Digital Initiative
The Economic and Political Weekly will be appointing editors, writers, visualisers, designers and programmers to conceptualise different forms of text and design for
communicating social sciences and humanities content to a digital audience.
The EPW is initiating a project to revamp its digital presence by, among other things, using its archives to create platforms for debate and public engagement. Please have a
look at the positions open now:
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editorial content. He/she will work with subject experts and the design team and also collaborate with the technology and business team. We are looking for someone who:
has a strong background in the humanities and social sciences and has strong writing and editing skills
will be able to transform academic expertise into communicating research to a digital audience
has experience with online publishing
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developer will be a plus.
Interested candidates should send their applications to before 25 April 2017 with a curriculum vitae and a letter describing their interest in and plans for
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a social media strategy for the EPW Digital Initiative, working with the design and editorial team to gauge response and reach, and follow-up with interface changes on the
website. We are looking for someone who:
has strong writing and editing skills and an interest in current affairs and the social sciences
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Interested candidates should send their applications to before 25 April 2017 with a curriculum vitae, writing samples and a cover letter describing their
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Please write EPW Digital Initiative: [position you are applying for] in the subject line of your email. The interview for the shortlisted candidates will be
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backgrounds who meet our requirements.

22 APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly
Gajalakshmi, V, R Peto, T S Kanaka and Prabhat New England Journal of Medicine, Vol 358, WHO (2002): The Tobacco Atlas, Geneva: World
Jha (2003): Smoking and Mortality from Tu- pp 113747. Health Organization,
berculosis and Other Diseases in India: Retro- John, R M, R K Rao, M G Rao, J Moore, R S Deshpande, /2002/en/.
spective Study of 43,000 Adult Male Deaths J Sengupta, S Selvaraj, F J Chalouka and (2008): WHO Report on the Global Tobacco
and 35,000 Controls, Lancet, Vol 362(9383), Prabhat Jha (2010): The Economics of Tobacco Epidemic 2008, Geneva: World Health Organ-
pp 50715. and Tobacco Taxation in India, International ization,
Gupta, P C, M S Pednekar, D M Parkin and Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, /2008/en/.
R Sankaranarayanan (2005): Tobacco Associ- Paris, pp 152. (2010): WHO Technical Manual on Tobacco
ated Mortality in Mumbai (Bombay) India, Re- Joseph, R (2011): Male Smoking in India: Trend Tax Administration, Geneva: World Health
sults of the Bombay Cohort Study, Inter- Analysis from 19982010, Centre for Global Organization,
national Journal of Epidemiology, Vol 34, No 6, Health Research: Working Paper.
pp 13951402. am/10665/44316/1/9789241563994_eng.pdf.
Priya, M and Harry A Lando (2014): Tobacco (2012): Tobacco Taxation and Innovative
Hill, C and Agnes Laplanche (2003): Tobacco in Control: An Issue Twinned with Oral Cancer
France the Real Figures, Paris, France. Health-Care Financing, Regional Office for
Control, International Dental Journal, Vol 64,
South-East Asia, India.
Jha, P and Frank J Chaloupka (eds) (1999): Curbing No 5, pp 22032.
the Epidemic: Governments and the Economics (2014a): Guidelines for Implementation of
Rani, M, S Bonu, P Jha, S N Nguyen et al (2004):
of Tobacco Control, World Bank Publications. Tobacco Use in India: Prevalence and Predictors Article 6 of the WHO FCTC, Geneva: World
Jha, P, E Guindon, R A Joseph, A Nandi, R M John, of Smoking and Chewing in a National Cross Health Organization,
K Rao, F J Chaloupka, J Kaur, P C Gupta and Sectional Household Survey, Tobacco Control, /guidelines/adopted/Guidelines_article_6.pdf.
M Govind Rao (2011): A Rational Taxation Sys- Vol 12, No 4, p 4. (2014b): Taxation of Tobacco Products in the
tem of Bidis and Cigarettes to Reduce Smoking Reddy, K S and P C Gupta (2004): Tobacco Control South-East Asia Region, Geneva: World Health
Deaths in India, Economic & Political Weekly, in India, Ministry of Health and Family Wel- Organization,
Vol 46, No 42, pp 4451. fare, New Delhi: Government of India, pp 4347. cco/wntd/wntd_2014_factsheet_1.pdf.
Jha, P, B Jacob, V Gajalakshmi, P C Gupta, N Dhingra, Sharma, D C (2014): India Raises Taxes on Cigarette, WHO and IARC (2011): Effectiveness of Tax and
R Kumar R, D N Sinha, R P Dikshit, D K Parida, Lancet, Vol 384 (9941), p 392. Price Policies for Tobacco Control, WHO Press,
R Kamadod, J Boreham and Richard Peto (2008): Sunley, E M (2008): India: The Tax Treatment of Vol 14,
A Nationally Representative Case-Control Bidis, Paris: International Union against Tuber- pdfs-online/prev/handbook14/handbook14-0.
Study of Smoking and Death in India, culosis and Lung Disease. pdf.

Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 23

No Country for Afghans welcomed back in Kabul by President

Ashraf Ghani in November 2016 and given
a government apartment, but the rest of
the refugees may not be so fortunate.
Meena Menon
Mass Influx of Refugees

Afghanistan is clearly unprepared hile a record number of Afghan Afghanistan is clearly unprepared for such
for a massive influx of refugees, refugees returned home from a massive influx of refugees and human
Pakistan in 2016, there is little rights groups have raised concerns about
and human rights groups have
to celebrate. When the numbers started their future in a country ripped apart by
raised concerns about their future swelling after mid-2016, the office of the war and terrorism with a worsening se-
in a country ripped apart by war United Nations High Commissioner for curity situation. Many of the refugees,
and terrorism with a worsening Refugees (UNHCR), the refugee agency they fear, are likely to join the ranks of
of the United Nations (UN) and the Inter- close to a million internally displaced
security situation. Many of
national Organization for Migration (IOM) people (IDP) in Afghanistan and live in
the refugees are likely to join spoke of an escalating humanitarian crisis.1 inhuman conditions, by all accounts.
the ranks of close to a million The wary green eyes of Sharbat Gula, More than 3,70,000 registered Afghan
internally displaced people in perhaps the most famous Afghan refugee refugees returned homea 12-year high
we know, whose photograph was pub- in 2016, compared to just over 58,000 in
Afghanistan and live in inhuman
lished on the cover page of an issue of the 2015. On 14 October 2016 the number of
conditions by all accounts. National Geographic magazine in 1985, refugees leaving Pakistan crossed the
reflect a certain indefinable anxiety. Then two lakh mark for the year after a slow
she was simply known as the Afghan start and around 7,400 were crossing
girl till many years; later in 2002, the the border every day. The majority of
photographer Steve McCurry went back them were heading for Kabul, Nangarhar,
and found her in Tora Bora mountains Baghlan, Kunduz and Laghman provinces
and learnt more about her. In 2016, she in Afghanistan.2 However, some of these
was arrested in Pakistan and deported areas are identified as the high-risk
for possessing a forged computerised areas because of bomb blasts due to IEDs
national identity card. Much has been (improvised explosive devices), kidnap-
written about her piercing green eyes, ping and spontaneous armed clashes
Meena Menon ( is but very little of the plight of Afghan among government forces, tribal armed
an independent journalist and author based in refugees, who just like her, faced a gov- groups, and different Taliban factions.
ernment crackdown. An ailing Gula was There are some reported manifestations
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 23

of Islamic State/Daesh, especially along led to Pakistan feeling threatened, and displacement, insecurity and levels of vio-
the border areas with Pakistan (UNICEF Afghans being abused as sons of Hindus lence not seen since the fall of the Taliban
2016). (HRW 2017). In June 2016, after the in 2002 (UNHCR 2017).
Adding to the overall alarm, a new clashes on the Torkham border which Pakistan, in a statement,4 has refuted
report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) killed a Pakistani major, the police abuse the charges in the HRW report and said
has indicted the Pakistan government for increased and there were open threats that it is devoid of the larger perspec-
unlawfully coercing Afghan refugees out in the media that all Afghans would be tive and the historical context in which
of Pakistan, and the UNHCR for remaining deported by the year end. Voices in the Pakistan and its people have been gener-
silent about Pakistans large-scale refoule- media against the Afghan deportation ous and gracious hosts to millions of
ment of Afghans, not once stating that are few. Adil Zareef, a writer based in Afghans for over 37 years now. Pakistan,
many of those returning were primarily Peshawar, said the statement said, has shouldered this
fleeing police abuses and fear of depor- Facts fly in the face of state persecution of huge responsibility largely on its own,
tation and that Pakistans actions were Afghan population as well as media hype providing shelter, education, healthcare
unlawful (HRW 2017).3 against Afghan and Pukhtun population re- and livelihood opportunities despite severe
garding terrorism in Pakistan. Until state
strain on its limited resources.
policy regarding Federally Administered Tribal
Unlawful Forced Return Some 2.6 million Afghan refugees live
Areas (FATA), Baluchistan, besides Afghan
The HRW report pointed out that while policy, remains hinged to (an) India-centric in more than 70 countries around the
Pakistan hosted Afghan refugees for obsession ... things will get worse. world. An overwhelming majority, around
nearly 40 years, in the past two years, it 95% are hosted by just two countries
has turned on the Afghan community. Fear of Deportation the Islamic Republic of Iran and Paki-
The exodus amounts to the worlds A major factor influencing the return of stan.5 Pakistan has seen an influx of
largest unlawful mass forced return of Afghan refugees was the fear of deport- Afghans into their country since the
refugees in recent times. Pakistani autho- ation. Returning refugees spoke to the Soviet invasion in 1979 or a year earlier.
rities have made clear in public state- HRW about the widespread police extor- Many have not returned for fear of their
ments they want to see similar numbers tion, arbitrary detention, and deportation lives and the situation has not improved
return to Afghanistan in 2017 (HRW 2017). threats from Pakistani government offi- much even after the 2014 elections in
The HRW has also accused the UNHCR cials, police raids on refugee shelters and Afghanistan.
of doubling the cash support to return- apartments, exclusion of Afghan children The patience of Pakistanis with refu-
ing refugees from June to December from state schools and the closure of gees has long been exhausted. Most of
2016, effectively promoting their repa- Afghan refugee schools, and unlawful them fail to see the reason for the refugee
triation. While conditions in Afghani- use of force and theft and a new trend crisis and the role of Pakistan in facilitat-
stan have not improved, it blamed of nocturnal raids. The Pakistan authori- ing the armed struggle first against the
UNHCR for its failure to ensure that refu- ties announced through newspapers and Soviets and then supporting the Taliban
gees were fully informed of the condi- on television that it is illegal to rent to gain ground in a continuing military
tions to which they were returning be- houses to Afghanis. After that, landlords policy of strategic depth. Pakistan was
fore deciding to leave. Puncturing the evicted them or refused to rent them wearied of the refugee problem (host
UNHCR claims that it assisted voluntary apartments or business premises. Afghans fatigue as it is called). For the Afghan
repatriation, the HRW said those who left were advised to leave Pakistan, and one refugees, what turned the tide last year
Pakistan in the second half of 2016 did of the refugees reported that the author- was the uncertainty of life and fear of
not return voluntarily. It said that, ities were making such announcements law-enforcing agencies in their host
UNHCR therefore fundamentally abro- on loudspeakers in the refugee areas. country, which, it would seem, outdid
gated its refugee protection mandate by Responding to the HRW report, the the terror and insecurity back home.
effectively supporting Pakistans mass UNHCR said in a statement that it shared
refoulement, thereby making UNHCR concerns of the HRW regarding the pres- Views of UNHCR
complicit in these violations (HRW 2017). sures on Afghans which affected the Pakistan continues to host some 1.3 million
The HRW had documented police abuses repatriation last year, but did not agree registered refugees and according to esti-
against the Afghan refugees which began with the conclusions of its report. In an mates, approximately six lakh undocu-
after the terrorist attack on the Army earlier statement, the UNHCR agreed mented Afghans. While the HRW report
Public School in Peshawar in December that the pace of returns in 2016 far out- pinpoints clear instances of coercion forc-
2014. Pakistans new National Action Plan stripped Afghanistans capacity to help ing the Afghans to return, the UNHCR
on counterterrorism includes register- people reintegrate after yearsin most admits6 that the wider security context
ing and repatriating Afghans who are cases decadesof refuge in Pakistan. has also contributed to an increase in
perceived as a security risk despite little Many of the refugees have returned to an the numbers of registered Afghans opting
evidence in police records (Khan 2017). uncertain future in Afghanistan. Return- to return. This means the tighter border
Indias proximity to Afghanistan and ing refugees have to rebuild their lives management controls at the Torkham
trade deals between the two countries amidst increasing levels of internal border between Pakistan and Afghanistan
24 APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

on 1 June 2016. Afghans now need valid Afghan refugees by the Pakistan govern- it. Some of them sell vegetables but they
passports and visas in order to enter Pa- ment) to some 1.3 million registered are viewed with suspicion. Before the
kistan, prompting many to rejoin their Afghan refugees until the end of 2017; a Afghan election in 2014, Pakistan was
families in Afghanistan. pledge to document Afghan nationals bracing for a fresh influx of refugees,
In addition, the increase in UNHCRs who currently have no identification; a drugs and guns, as one senior politician
voluntary repatriation and reintegration commitment to adopt a national refugee put it. The strained relations between
cash grant has significantly contributed law; and a visa regime for different cate- Pakistan and Afghanistan have not helped
to the increase in number of people opt- gories of Afghan nationals in Pakistan.9 the refugees. Even in Karachi, Afghan
ing to return, according to Duniya Aslam However, the PoR card really did not refugee camps are considered to be crimi-
Khan of UNHCR, Islamabad. The cash help the refugees as, despite this card nal hotbeds. There is a real fear voiced by
grant was doubled from $200 to $400 per there is no assurance that they will not some politicians that Pashto would be-
individual in June 2016, which is $2,800 be subjected to arrest or deportation. In come the main language of the city.
for a family of seven. However, in months 2016, the UNHCR had to intervene in
of regular monitoring at UNHCR centres 5,900 reported cases of arrest and deten- Other Challenges
in Afghanistannot a single returnee tion of registered Afghans in Pakistan to Other than refugees, the IDPs also con-
out of more than 4,500 interviewed upon secure their release. stitute a challenge for Afghanistan.10
arrivalhas cited the cash grant as a The frequent bombings and high casu-
primary factor in their return.7 Life in the Camps alties due to attacks by the Taliban and
The UNHCR too had interviewed ret- In Islamabad, the only refugee camp ISIS expand the frontier of violence and
urning refugees and the answers were which I visited while I was posted there pose a new challenge. Governance con-
similar (2017). In their feedback, refugees (201314) was on the outskirts of the tinues to remain an issue apart from
spoke of the economic hardship, harass- capital and very unlike the rest of the corruption and decreasing control over
ment, fear of arrest and deportation in tree-lined, well-laid out, capital. Over the state in many provinces, something
Pakistanwith marked differences be- 3,000 Afghans crowded together in mud the Afghan government is not prepared
tween the first and second halves of 2016.8 huts and children milled around playing to concede.
The refugees mentioned the campaign cricket or riding donkey carts. There was The security situation is worsening as
of the Afghan government in Pakistan no school, just as there was no electricity the analysis of the Special Inspector
Khpal Watan, Gul Watan (home sweet or water supply. Many refugees asked me General for Afghanistan Reconstruction
home)asking Afghans to return home, if I could intervene and take them with (SIGAR)11 of the most recent data provi-
which was introduced for the first time. me to India. While their home country is ded by the US Forces in Afghanistan
Of those surveyed by telephone three in turmoil, life in the camp was not a bed (USFOR-A) suggeststhe numbers of the
months after their return to Afghanistan, of roses. Most of them dreaded the Afghan security forces are decreasing,
52% said they were able to return to police, and the PoR cards that the gov- while both casualties and the number of
their province of origin. The remaining ernment issued were often torn up by the districts under insurgent control or influ-
48% said they chose another province police, who arrested them. ence are increasing. The United Nations
due to lack of shelter, land, livelihood The camps and the Afghan homes are Assistance Mission in Afghanistan re-
opportunities or insecurity in their home searched for arms and more often than ported that 8,397 conflict-related civilian
areas. Despite the challenges, 93% of re- not, they are found. The Afghans carry casualties occurred between 1 January
spondents said they were warmly re- guns if they can afford it and that and and 30 September 2016.12
ceived by communities and 75% said their piquant situation exposes them to Since 2002, the United States Congress
that three months after their repatria- ill-treatment. Many of the families ran has appropriated more than $117 billion
tion they felt they had made the right around trying to get bail and release the for Afghanistans reconstruction, the
decision to return (UNHCR 2017). men who were arrested. Afghans in the largest expenditure to rebuild a country in
In 2017, no registered refugee has capital eke out a living by selling French the US history. The SIGAR report pointed
returned as yet as the UNHCR-facilitated fries in the posh markets or gathering out that more than half of all US recon-
return programme was halted for a garbage for a pittance and then burning struction dollars since 2002 have gone
winter break on 1 December 2016 and was
slated to only resume in the first week of Obituaries
March 2017. Meanwhile, in February, the
Pakistan government announced that it The EPW has started a section, Obituaries, which will note the passing of teachers and
will adopt a national policy relating to researchers in the social sciences and humanities, and social activists who have contributed
the management of refugees and Afghan to a just society.
nationals in Pakistan. The policy includes The announcements will be in the nature of short notices about the work and careers of those
the decision to extend the validity of the who have passed away.
Proof of Registration (POR) cards (an Readers could send brief obituaries to
identity card issued to all registered
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 25

26 APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

towards building, equipping, training, and High Peace Council was tasked with interviews with some 1,300 people who had
been back for three months.
sustaining the Afghanistan National De- mediating in the talks. However, peace 9 See note 5.
fense and Security Forces (ANDSF). was far from the minds of the Taliban 10 The Special Inspector General for Afghan
However, the ANDSF has not yet been leaders and their cohorts and the Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report draws atten-
tion to an increase in internal displacement
capable of securing all of Afghanistan Taliban head Mullah Akhtar Mansour and asylum seekers in the European Union
and has lost territory to the insurgency. was killed in Balochistan in a US drone (EU). According to the UNs Office for the Coor-
dination of Humanitarian Affairs, 5,83,000
As of 28 August 2016, USFOR-A reported strike in May 2016. He had succeeded people in Afghanistan fled their homes due to
that only 63.4% of the countrys districts Mullah Omar whose death in Quetta conflict in 2016the highest number of dis-
placements since record-keeping started in
were under Afghan government control had been kept a secret for two years. 2008. Eurostatthe statistical office of the EU
or influence, a reduction from 72% as of Pakistan continues to face flak from reported 1,47,130 first-time asylum-seekers
from Afghans in the EU during the first three
27 November 2015, a statement contest- Ghani for giving Taliban sanctuary, quarters of 2016. The number of asylum appli-
ed by the Afghan government. but it has repeatedly denied it, saying cations from July to September was 7% higher
From 1 January 2016 to 12 November that it does not allow terror strikes to be compared to the same period in 2015.
11 As per the UNHCR estimates, there is also a
2016, according to figures provided by plotted from its country and it should significant level of internal displacement in
the Afghan government to USFOR-A, 6,785 not be blamed by Afghanistan. The US Afghanistan and as of mid-October 2016, over
323,000 people have been newly displaced by
ANDSF service members were killed has been putting pressure on Pakistan fighting and ongoing conflict, adding to an
and an additional 11,777 members were to deal with the Haqqani Network for estimated protracted IDP population of 1.2 mil-
lion. Undocumented Afghan migrants are also
wounded.13 Armed clashes between the a long time, but Pakistan denies that it returning in large numbers in recent months,
Afghan security forces and the Taliban is supporting or shielding the powerful according to the SIGAR report. The Interna-
tional Organization for Migration reports that
reached their highest level since the Haqqanis.15 2,20,000 undocumented Afghan migrants have
UN reporting began in 2007, and marked In the complex web of the politics of returned from Pakistan in 2016. There is an
a 22% increase over the same period the subcontinent, relations between India increase in those seeking asylum in Europe as
well. Quarterly report of SIGAR to the United
in 2015. and Afghanistan are seen as inimical to States Congress, 30 January 2017.
Afghanistan is not only grappling with Pakistan which is out on a limb, and not 12 SIGAR report, 30 January 2017.
13 See note 12.
the refugee influx, but its transition to a about to give up its policy of strategic
14 Of the 407 districts of Afghanistans 34 prov-
democracy is plagued with poor gov- depth. Evicting Afghan refugees may not inces, 233 districts were under government
ernance, low economic growth, rising ease the security situation in Pakistan, control (83 districts) or influence (150), 41 dis-
tricts (in 15 provinces) were under insurgent
unemployment and worsening security but it will expose thousands of returning control (9) or influence (32), and 133 districts
situation. There is tension in the top Afghans to a country which despite be- were contested. According to USFOR-A, the
number of districts under insurgent control or
level of the government itself with ing their home may not be the best place influence rose 2% from August 30 to 15 Novem-
accusations of nepotism by the first vice for them. Force and false promises of ber 2016, to 10.1% of the countrys total dis-
tricts, and the number of contested districts
president Abdul Rashid Dostum against land and security have led to a refugee rose 4.2% over the same period to 32.7% of all
President Ghani and the Chief Execu- exodus from Pakistan, but in a strange districts (SIGAR report 2017).
tive Abdullah Abdullah in October and turn of events, for many Afghans who 15 On 2 December 2016, General John Nicholson, the
commander of the US and North Atlantic Treaty
controversy over Dostums kidnapping were born in Pakistan or escaped there Organization (NATO) forces in Afghanistan,
of a political rival in November 2016. as young children, it will remain probably labelled Russia, Pakistan, and Iran as malign
actors that enable insurgent or terrorist groups
There was a tussle over the dismissal of the only real home they will ever know in Afghanistan. Nicholson said that Russia
seven ministers regarding their budget for some time. lends public legitimacy to the Taliban, which
undermines the Afghan government and NATO
spending by the Parliament in Novem- efforts to stabilise Afghanistan (SIGAR report).
ber 2016. Notes
The Afghan government claims that 1 UN Warns of Humanitarian Crisis as 7,400
Cross Afghan Border Each Day, UN News Cen-
it controls all districts, but SIGAR quotes
tre, HRW (2017): Pakistan Coercion, UN Complicity:
the USFOR-A which reported that ap- NewsID=55288#.WJ8IVqLscfI, 13 October 2016. The Mass Forced Return of Afghan Refugees,
proximately 57.2% of the countrys 407 2 Personal communication with Duniya Aslam Human Rights Watch, 13 February, https://www.
Khan of UNHCR Islamabad.
districts are under the governments con- 3 HRW (2017): It contains interviews with 92 ref- -un-complicity/mass-forced-return-afghan-
trol or influence as of 15 November 2016; ugees who returned to Kabul and 23 in Pes- refugees.
hawar, Khan, Ismail (2017): KP Prosecution Data Gives
a 6.2% decrease from the 63.4% reported 13/pakistan-coercion-un-complicity/mass-for Lie to Claims against Afghan Refugees, Dawn,
last quarter in late August, and a nearly ced-return-afghan-refugees. 15 January,
15% decrease since November 2015.14 4 Issued on 14 February 2017 by the Pakistan 8486/kp-prosecution-data-gives-lie-to-claims-
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. aga inst-afghan-refugees.
The deteriorating security situation 5 Afghan Solution Strategy, UN High Commis- UNHCR (2017): Tough Choices for Afghan Refugees
points to the difficulties in engaging sioner for Refugees, Returning Home after Years in Exile, UN High
ghan-solutions-strategy.html. Commissioner for Refugees, 3 February, http://
with the Taliban on the negotiating table.
6 Email interview with Duniya Aslam Khan,,
Before the general elections in 2014, there UNHCR Islamabad. accessed on 11 February 2017.
was much talk of peace and Pakistan was 7 See note 5. UNICEF (2016): UNICEF Afghanistan Situation Re-
8 After their return, the UNHCR conducted face- port 3, UNICEF, 12 October, http://relie fweb.
asked to release some key Taliban leaders to-face interviews with 4,285 people at their int/report/afghanistan/unicef-afghanist an-huma
under arrest for that purpose. The Afghan point of arrival in Afghanistan and telephone nitarian-situation-report-3-12-october-2016.

Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 27
Burma All the Way influence its democracy should provide
in the region.

From Karmabhoomi
Ashoke Chatterjee to Matrubhoomi
Born to Christian parents, with a Karen

o be expelled from ones native book reviewS mother and a Burmese father, the book
land, or to live away by compulsion, traces U Kyaw Wins journey from war-
is the experience from which My Conscience: An Exiles Memoir of Burma by torn Burma to Woodstock, the inter-
emerge many narratives in our time. U Kyaw Win, Eugene, Oregon: Resource Publications, 2016; national school established over 150 years
pp 254, `1,886 (paperback).
Exile, immigrant, migr and refugee: ago in Mussoorie. Its culture of nations
the terms overlap their burdens of dis- and creeds, and its Himalayan-inspired
placement and violation. Narratives of play, at Indias doorstep, regional powers global network welcome a Burmese up-
loss are often of aspirations; power-mon- competing for access to the countrys bringing that harmonises Christian and
gers will not countenance, and others un- extraordinary wealth and strategic Buddhist heritage. Win takes the oppor-
derstand all too seldom or too late. Ex- advantages. Today with the opening of tunity of his Indian schooling to explore
iles from Burma have been tucked away in Myanmar to Daw Aung San Suu Kyis what is to become a surrogate homeland,
Indian society for almost five decades, participation in national affairs, trade travelling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
unseen and unheard of, as New Delhi and foreign investment, regional power After his college years in the US, a return
accommodated the reality of military plays, tourism and the slow movement to Rangoon finds little prospect of a stable
rule in what became Myanmar in 1989. away from military frameworks, this earning. Another painful uprooting fol-
This despite the ethnic cleansing of lakhs book reminds us that such cataclysmic lows: taking Win back to the US to pur-
of people of Indian origin, expelled earlier changes next door have caused scarcely sue a career as an educator and then to
as boatloads of refugees left the only a ripple in India, despite deep links of experience being an exile, living-out in
land they had known, taking with them history, faith and migration. an adopted land. For Win and his siblings
that love of soil which is the hallmark of The book describes a life that has what was meant to be a temporary sab-
every Burmese. This book is a story of spanned both the British and Japanese batical absence from Burma, is sealed by
another exiled life, rooted in Burma, rule, the end of the Raj in Burma in generals who take command of the
linked to India, and lived-out in the US 1948, and the aspirations for freedom country closing its borders in 1962. All
(United States), and across the globe. It that were shattered by the assassination who have left are suspected as traitors.
has been a life of conscience, driven by a of General Bogyoke Aung San in 1947. Commitment to the soil and country now
single unrelenting cause: Burma as a free, The horrors, that would later overtake transforms as ties of love, within a family
democratic and inclusive society. No Burma and seal its borders, reflect struggling to remain in touch. Its efforts
political correctness hereit is Burma waves of ethnic conflict (of which the are a poignant thread linking elements
all the way, the author dismissing the Karen rebellion is the most serious), of Wins story: ageing parents denied
generals claim that Myanmar correctly incompetence and corruption. Despite contact with children overseas, children
encompasses all the inhabitants of his the brutality of a complete army takeo- terrified of contact that may rebound at
polyglot country. ver in the 1960s, it took the massacres of home on the old and the vulnerable,
1988 to finally draw the worlds atten- risks that must be taken to know who is
Opportunity Cost of a Conscience tiontransfixed by repeated incarcera- alive and what succour may still be pos-
My Conscience is a modest book with a tions of Aung San Suu Kyi and all that sible, letters and crackling phone lines
major significance. For thinking Indians, followed in their wake through the be- threatened by surveillance and suspicion.
it offers an important understanding of trayals of electoral promises. There is a These heartbreaking memories are of
the dynamics of a close neighbour warning here, of complacency about visits dreamt and planned, only to be
close by geography, yet distant in terms constitutional advantages so scarce in frustrated by brutal restrictions. Family
of awareness and even logistics. (Only Indias neighbourhood and so precious despair is heightened by delusions that
Kolkata and Gaya are linked by a few in terms of Burmese lives lost in their a despotic regime will, one day, miracu-
direct flights to Rangoon/Yangon. Todays pursuit, that the world prefers not to lously reveal some benevolent purpose.
tourists find it quicker to fly to Bangkok notice. If indeed there is to be an era of Secrecy becomes a way of life in a Burma
and then backtrack to what should be less a Modi-driven look east policy, My sealed from the outside world, to which
than a couple of hours flight.) My Con- Conscience may offer useful lessons to only the privileged junta has access to.
science provides an easy yet perceptive an India often obsessed with distant Over the years that follow, Win returns
education on the forces that transformed powers at the cost of opportunities at its again and again to India, comforted by
Burma into Myanmar, and brought into borders, and all too casual about the its tantalising proximity as a secular
28 APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

karmabhoomi to a matrubhoomi trans- advocacy and to avoid a stateless fate. In Aung San Suu Kyi returns to Rangoon to
formed into an army jail. 1973 Win begins to type out his Burma look after her ailing mother. There,
My Conscience tracks the military coup Bulletin, a modest newsletter for migrs history overtakes her.
that ousted Prime Minister U Nu in 1962 and friends in the US. Initially, the
and its impact on Burmas contemporary response is limited; Burma is still a land Hopes for a Democratic Burma
history. Prime Minister U Nu is among the that only few Americans can identify by In 1988, the Burma Bulletin draws atten-
books long cast of characters, adding to name or on a map. Yet the Bulletins tion to the thousands dead in anti-govern-
it an enigmatic flavour, as he flits in and impact is measured by juntas fury at ment riots, and Wins efforts begin to rep-
out of Wins life: in Burma, in the US and this exception to its media clampdown, resent the cause of Suu Kyi wherever he
then in self-imposed exile in Bhopal, and and Win as the editor is barred from can. During her incarceration and while
besides the neglected grave of Burmas entering Burma. He helps found the under house arrest (these continued
last King in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra. His Committee for Restoration of Democracy with brief respites until 2010), Kyaw Win
exit is followed by the armys disastrous in Burma. Devious stratagems begin to was among those who carried her torch
Burmese way to socialism. By 1974 sustain contact and help the couple enter to spaces she could not reach. At the
complete power is vested in a Peoples their home territory sometimes, often Nobel Prize investiture, the Win family
Assembly headed by General Ne Win through porous borders in northern was present on her behalf. Encounters
and his military cohort. Soon, U Kyaw Win Thailand alive with insurgent camps. with the dictatorship also took place,
is a marked man. In the US, Win meets There, Win and Riri become familiar through official channels as well as clan-
and marries an Indonesian, Gandasari figures, volunteering for relief work and destine ones, in an effort to reach out to
(Riri in the book). There is further teaching. As the Burma Bulletin begins a home and a society where ties are
turmoil as her Muslim family rejects the to reach out to influential decision- bound and are held close to the heart. In
interfaith union. Turning adversity into makers, the initial response falls on deaf one chilling account, Riri travels alone
opportunity, the couple chooses a path of ears. Then, a relentless campaign begins: with her children to Rangoon. Before
conscience in their adopted land, working demonstrations in Washington DC, letters they can step out of the airport, Riri is
for Burmas freedom as well as for har- from across the globe, and links with detained and abused as the wife of a
mony, in a world fragmented by prejudice international networks on human rights; traitor. Finally, the power of a US pass-
and oppression. Win and Riri become suddenly, a friend becomes Burmas port gives her a few precious hours with
American citizens to create a context for most powerful symbol of resistance: Wins tearful parents, before she and

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Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 29

the children dutifully prostrate them- Myanmar; here they are carefully cross- opportunity. How many environments
selves and return to the safety of a de- referenced). For others, such details may in the world can enable such a productive
parting flight without breathing a word interrupt what is an extraordinary flow exile? A lifetime of separation is comforted
of their airport ordeal to the elders. In of recent history, told with the ease of a by extraordinary benefaction: churches,
2001, the unexpected intercession of a living-room conversation. My Conscience colleges, friends and networks provide a
Buddhist monk brings a Myanmar offers a perspective of Burma that is cau- half-century of support to what was once
visa for Win; his journey is protectively tiously optimistic. Win believes that much the slender hope of a few individuals. In
monitored by US diplomats. Win returns will depend on the new administrations a year that has seen such monumental
home to Yangon and to his parents, ability to deal with decades-old seces- tragedies of human displacement and
and to places he has not seen in dec- sionist movements. He has an observation such vicious anti-immigrant rhetoric, My
ades. A visit to Suu Kyi in 2003 does not that is uncomfortably appropriate to India Conscience is a reminder that for count-
go unnoticed as spooks of the junta tag in 2016: less millions of people all over the globe,
every brief moment of their reunion. The separatist aspirations of Burmas minority
despite its failings and contradictions,
Burma-watchers will find interest in peoples are man-made. They arise in large the US remains a lamp lifted by a door.
the books detailed listing of names (influ- measure due to the arrogant presumption held Without America, My Conscience could
encers and those influenced from within by the majority of Burmans that it is their not have been lived or written.
right, if not their destiny, to rule over others.
and outside Burma), dates (the book
Ashoke Chatterjee (
moves back and forth across five decades There is another story as well, be- is a former Director of the National Institute
with dizzying speed) and locations tween the lines of this book. It is the of Design and former President of the Crafts
(colonial names recklessly replaced in story of America as a place for hope and Council of India.

30 APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

Rereading a Tale of and de-casualisation of all casual rail-

waymen. The workers sense of dignity

Workers Insurgency made them defiant and propelled them

to choose the radical path of militancy,
challenging the patronclient charac-
ter of the major trade unions, which
Arup Kumar Sen claimed to represent them.
The Loco Running Staff, that is,

ndian labour history writing mostly The Crisis of 1974: Railway Strike and the Rank drivers, firemen, shunters, and engine
covers the period up to 1947, the year and File by Ranabir Samaddar; Delhi: Primus Books, cleaners acted as the main force behind
in which India got freedom from 2016; pp x+186, `850 (hardcover). the spread of the rebellious mood among
British colonial rule and emerged as a the workers. Besides the locoman, the
postcolonial state. In recent years, acti- of 196777. He reminds us that the 1974 workers in the railway workshops also
vist scholars have started documenting strike was not a sudden action, but a played a crucial role. Their mobilisation
and analysing labour protests and counter- culmination of protests and strikes by galvanised other category-wise unions
insurgency operations of the state in railway workers across the country in and gave a radical dimension to the
postcolonial India. Ranabir Samaddars 1967, 1968, 1970 and 1973 (p 12). The rank-and-file militancy. The mobilisa-
book on the 1974 railway strike in India different dimensions of the crisis and tion depended greatly on the zonal
is a valuable contribution in the domain upsurges of railway workers are explored and local union leaders, and of course,
of research with an activist orientation. in the book. Both the supporters and the rank-and-file workers. Around 1.5
The book draws our attention to the mak- foes of the 1974 strike agreed that, it million railway workers participated in
ing and unmaking of workers struggle had taken the form of a general strike. the strike and the entire railway traffic
in the Indian Railways. It should be The rank-and-file workers played a was paralysed.
mentioned in this connection that the pivotal role in the strike and they diso-
railway workers strike occurred at a beyed the rules of conciliation laid down Violent Expressions
time when labour militancy was at its in a liberal political system. The story of Samaddar explained in the book how
peak in India. workers resistance, narrated by Samad- the National Coordination Committee for
dar, enlightens us about the modalities Railwaymens Struggle (NCCRS), formed
The Crisis of 1974 of mobilisation in the strike. prior to the strike in February 1974, had
Samaddar has situated the strike in the The charter of demands of the workers achieved the unity of the mass of work-
context of the crisis of 1974. He argues included, among others, issues of bonus, ers and leaders, craft unions and large
that the crisis of the economy, the crisis working conditions, work hours, distri- unions or federations, militants and mod-
of politics, and the crisis of society, com- bution of subsidised foodgrains and other erates, and vanguard and the followers
bined to create the explosive decade essential commodities, trade union rights, (p 10). He has not underestimated the
30 APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

role of leadership. But, he reminds us then Railway Minister, L N Mishra, infor- was ousted by the Janata Party in the
that the rank-and-file workers were forc- med the Parliament that the railway min- parliamentary elections in 1977, and the
ing the tempo of confrontation, and the istry would raise the number of Railway first non-Congress central government
leaders had little freedom to choose the Protection Force to 1,00,000 from the was formed in India.
course of action. prevailing strength of 60,000 in the next The 1974 railway strike challenged
The railway workers struck work at two years. Later, open threats against the hierarchical culture of Indian trade
many places in retaliation against the the strikers were issued by the railway unionism, practised by the dominant
arrest of George Fernandes and other minister at the end of April 1974. Workers political parties. So, the top political
popular leaders of the movement. The were hounded out, caught, tortured, leaders were unhappy about the militancy
strike was to begin on 8 May 1974. But, jailed, and women and children were of the rank-and-file workers. S A Dange,
there were lightning strikes from 3 May driven out of homes (p 97). Around the most prominent leader of the Com-
onwards in Lucknow, Pathankot, Gaya, 1,00,000 employees were removed from munist Party of India, asked the work-
Bilaspur, Hubli and other places, as news service. Moreover, about 50,000 casual ers to return to work midway through
of the arrest of the leaders reached the workers were terminated without any the strike. After the strike was over,
workers. The workers had left their notice, and 30,000 employees kept under George Fernandes, the militant and most
factories, workshops, offices, stations, suspension. In various places, criminal popular leader of the strike, became an
engines, and lines, in protest. cases against common railway workers embarrassment to the All India Railway-
Numerous violent moments in the continued long after the strike. mens Federation, which gave the call for
struggle of railway workers are recorded The 20-day long (828 May) railway united general strike of railway workers,
in the book. Extensive brickbatting was strike was crushed by brutal state vio- and he was disposed of as its president.
reported from Kathgodam, Kanpur and lence. But, the spectre of the strike More than four decades have passed
Bareilly in North India. Allahabad witn- haunted the Indian state. In his speech since the brutal suppression of the 1974
essed violent and tense moments prior in the Parliament on 21 August 1974, the railway strike. Now, most of the workers
to the strike. Mughalsarai became the Railway Minister, L N Mishra, mentioned in India are leading footloose lives in
scene of pitched battles between thou- the valuable lessons learnt from the the age of neo-liberalism. The militant
sands of workers and the police and the traumatic experience of the strike. One workers struggles in contemporary India
paramilitary forces. such lesson is that the growth of mush- and elsewhere are following new forms of
At the beginning of the strike, a secret room, category-wise associations and sub- worker organisation outside the bureau-
meeting of workers in the South Eastern unions has to be discouraged. This ne- cratic structure of traditional trade unions.
Railway instructed the participants to gation of small associations by the minister We know that memories of struggle are
throw small bombs at loyal workers, reflected the fear of militant activism of carried over generations. Samaddar has
bombs and crackers at police pickets, and the rank-and-file workers. also noted that even today the memory
organise sabotage on the railway track. The Indira Gandhi-led Congress gov- of the 1974 Railway strike arouses passion
On 16 May, striking workers threw bombs ernment took other draconian measures and consternation.
on a Central Reserve Police Force patrol after the suppression of the railway strike. Ranabir Samaddars serious political
party at New Jalpaiguri in north Bengal. The government declared a national reading of the tumultuous events of the
The animosity between the militant rank- Emergency on 25 June 1975, on the 1974 railway strike in this book propels
and-file workers and the loyalists often grounds of internal threat to the secu- us to rethink the possibilities and pre-
found violent expressions. On the day of rity of India, arrested hundreds of oppo- dicaments of the southern insurgency.
the withdrawal of the strike (28 May), sition leaders and party workers, and
the strikers reportedly humiliated, dis- removed the democratic rights of the Arup Kumar Sen (
honoured, and manhandled a large people of India during the Emergency teaches at the Department of Commerce,
number of loyal officers and employees period (197577). The Congress party Serampore College, West Bengal.
at Kharagpur in West Bengal.

Brutal State Retaliation Licensing by EPWI

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families. The armed forces of the state Contify, Factiva and Jstor.
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Instances of train drivers being shackled Gale Cengage, Acquiremedia and News Bank.
in their cabins were reported at the Factiva and Jstor have EPW content on their databases for their registered users.
height of the strike. Samaddar has viv- EPW does not have licensing arrangements with any other aggregators.
idly narrated the counter-insurgency EPW requests readers to let it know if they see material on any unlicensed aggregator.
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Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol lIi no 15 31

Beyond Territorial and Jurisdictional Confines

Farhana Ibrahim, Tanuja Kothiyal

his collection of articles on borderlands in South Asia is (Cons and Sanyal 2013). In this volume, we seek to build on the
a historical and ethnographic exploration of borders critical insights generated by these preceding works by deepen-
and frontiers in the region. Taking the contemporary ing the historical engagement with both borders and the border-
iteration of South Asian borders as a point of departure, they lands they generate. All the articles directly tackle the question
invite the reader to think beyond the territorial and jurisdic- of how geographical or territorial marginality from adminis-
tional confines of states, nations and academic disciplines, and trative centres does not preclude these spaces becoming central to
to reflect instead on how concepts like mobility, negotiated an understanding of authority, sovereignty or legitimacy. Nor
sovereignty, and affect enable us to disrupt the modern idea of does the imposition of state authority seek to constitute its out-
sovereignty as absolute and the state as sole arbiter of borders lying areas in any unilateral fashion. As some of the articles in
and frontiers. These articles offer densely textured and histori- this collection argue, the role of borderland populations is crucial
cally grounded readings of particular borders in the region. in mediatingeven directingthe relationship of the so-called
Attention to historical depth and geographical spread reveals centre and its periphery, thus enabling a reconceptualisation
the difficulty of a retrospective reading of borders from of the relationship of state and borders in terms of a centre
present-day naturalisations of territory and identity in nation periphery framework and of marginality as the only concep-
states and their borderlands. They also caution us against the tual lens through which to view borders and frontiers.
dangers of homogenising a discourse on borders, for each of
the borders under discussion here speaks with and against each Borders, Frontiers and States: Rethinking Sovereignty
other in productive ways. In the articles, borders are territori- It is now well accepted in academic discourse that even though
ally defined limits, as borderlands, but they are also relational borderlands may constitute the physical margins of the West-
entities that reach over and beyond themselves despite man- phalian state, they are at the very core of nationalist discourses
dates to contain, divide and delimit. Borders are, of course, about territorial survival and security and are also integral to
also structural conditions that can be separated from their ter- the ways in which the nation is both imagined and produced
ritorial manifestations (Piliavsky 2013). In this sense, the border (Aggarwal 2004; Bhan 2008; Gupta 2013). They may consti-
is a conceptual tool that opens up discussions on nationality, tute the physical edge but they are fairly central to the busi-
statehood, jurisdiction, identity and belonging beyond the ness of statecraft. This proposition is important to initiate a
trope of the nation state, for too long naturalised as a unit of discussion on the nature of the state and its authority. While
analysis by academic disciplines. Today, we are at a moment in modern states have increasingly come to view themselves as
history where once again there is a turn to the border ques- territorially circumscribed, absolutely sovereign units with
tion even as many have begun to acknowledge that solutions monopolistic claims over violence, this notion occludes the
cannot always be found at the level of the nation state. fact that the territorial sovereignty of states was not given a
Globally, refugees are pushing across state borders seeking priori but often wrested from competing claims to sovereignty
homes away from sites of conflict, genocide or climate disas- that were equally legitimate. States forged multiple relation-
ters, in the process creating new borderlands. In resettlement, ships with their frontier zones. The emergence of kingdoms
they once again become enmeshed in borders of other kinds, as and empires inevitably led to the creation of frontiers or bor-
fear, rumour or suspicion serve to configure their relationship derlands, zones where the authority of the state was gradually
with their new neighbours. Within India, the casting of the Muslim in dispute. These were the territories where, according to
citizen as the outsider or the internal enemy is spatially Kautilya, those likely to be won over lived. Kautilya divides
instantiated with areas within cities being referred to as mini- those likely to be won over into four categories, that is, the
Pakistans (Ghassem-Fachandi 2012: 231). The nation states angry, the greedy, the frightened, and the haughty
external political borders are thus transposed onto internal (Rangarajan 1992: 48485).
spatial, sociopolitical and cultural borders within the geographic These could be instigated against their own kings by stoking
heart of the nation. Borders are thus not about territory alone; anger, greed, fear or pride through the use of conciliation
they allow us to raise questions about internal jurisdictions (sama), gift (dana), won over through sedition (bheda) and
and about marginality, also about affect and desire. force (danda), the last to be used only if all other means failed
Recent collections on borderlands in South Asia have pro- (Rangarajan 1992: 572). Revisiting the Mauryan empire,
ceeded in dialogue with ethnographic perspectives on the state Romila Thapar (2000: 463) views the Mauryan frontiers as
(Gellner 2013) or through the conceptual lens of marginality buffer zones that were deliberately kept underdeveloped, with
32 april 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

the intention to keep them pliant rather than maintaining firm before cartography came to be extensively used to actually
control. Citing the fifth century Roman historian Priscus, draw maps and mark boundaries from the late 18th century
Owen Lattimore (1962: 481) refers to similar shifts in loyalties onwards.
among Roman traders who continued to serve the Huns on the In the Mughal empire, while attempts were made to mark
eastern frontiers of the Roman empire rather than return home external boundaries through forts, etc, the strongest fortifica-
because of the pitiless taxation in Roman cities. tions existed around towns and cities, giving us a sense of
The frontiers of premodern states were thus zones of where priorities lay in terms of exercising strict surveillance
negotiated loyalties and competing sovereignties that sus- and control. The control of vaguely defined external frontiers
tained immense possibilities for the emergence of new social was more often than not left to local rulers and chieftains,
and political formations. These were not merely neutral terri- thus ensuring little change in the conditions of local sover-
tories but political wombs where, cohesive, participatory, eignty with the expansion or contraction of frontiers (Embree
segmentary communities, endowed with great military poten- 1977: 273). In the frontier zones, it is these tribesmen who
tial existed with tremendous potentialities for supplying new formed the necessary link in governance (Singh 1998: 44445).
rulers (Gellner 1995: 164). However, did the political turmoil Tanuja Kothiyals article in this collection argues that in harsh
of these frontiers and the frequent shifts of loyalties represent and inhospitable frontiers like the Thar Desert, it was the local
the unstable nature of sovereignty in the frontiers? Andre chieftains and rulers who controlled and facilitated the flow of
Wink (1986, 2008: 27) suggests that premodern states were commodities. From the early 19th century onwards, banditry
essentially organised around conflicts and that sovereignty was and highway robbery by local chieftains that came to be
a matter of allegiances. Tracing the lineages of the word fitna viewed as threat to governance, was in fact an overt claim to
through the work of the 14th century Arab philosopher Ibn shared sovereignty that was being overridden by the marking
Khaldun, Wink points out that the term could be interpreted as of competing jurisdictions both as an idea as well as a concrete
a disruptive force only in the context of the universalist claims reality on maps. Frontiers become the sites where the state
of Islam. In the formation of various Muslim states, fitna seeks to unleash its knowledge-making apparatus to map, to
implied nothing more the use of conflict and conciliation in know and to tamethe cartographic impulse (Cons 2016) to
local disputes to forge alliances. Ernest Gellners study of the render the remote outpost at least as legible to the centre as
Berbers of the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, views the the core (if not more so).
history of Morocco as that of conflicting and conciliatory rela- With the advances in cartography by the mid-19th century,
tionships between the states of makhzen and siba, that is, the it became possible to map clearly defined and ordered territo-
pale and beyond the pale (Gellner 1969: 2). This idea has been ries amenable to governance. In doing so, the search for natu-
further developed by James Scott (2009: 5960) who views ral frontiers like mountains, rivers, marshes, deserts, etc, those
sovereignties of the core as explicit as opposed to the great obstacles of nature that could serve as frontiers of sep-
ambiguous, plural and shifting sovereignties of the frontiers. aration and defence became a primary objective (Embree
This came about as modern states began to centralise and 1977: 278). However, what were viewed as great obstacles of
monopolise territorial control, they disputed the claims of nature were in a true sense frontiers that were controlled by a
inhabitants of the frontiers who could in the past have claimed range of state and non-state actors facilitating the flow of
access to multiple notions of sovereignty. It is this access to people and commodities. The marking of boundaries as well
multiple sovereignties that converts frontiers and borderlands as the creation of new circuits of commodity flows led to shifts
into zones of creative possibilities of many kinds. in the orientation of the regions themselves, as Vasudha Pande
It is perhaps not surprising then that even modern borders demonstrates here, in the case of the IndoNepal frontier. The
are not immune to a territorial anxiety on the part of their marking of India and Nepal as two distinct national commu-
respective nation states in South Asia. This anxiety transmutes nities based on the core identities of these nations also led to a
into a sensitivity with regard to its borders where, as Jason homogenisation of community identities within groups like
Cons (2016) has recently argued in an ethnography of the en- the Gorkha and Bhotia which in the past had been quite
claves (chhitmahal) along the BangladeshIndia border, the diverse. However, neither the cartographic practices that
fragility and instability at the heart of national territory joins informed the marking of these borders in the 19th and 20th
forces with bureaucratic regulation and management to pro- centuries, nor the bureaucratic practices that went into the im-
duce a sensitive space that is prone to high degrees of sur- plementation of borders were in any way uniform, as Farhana
veillance and control precisely because it is also the site where Ibrahim argues in case of the IndiaPakistan border in Kutch.
the ideological belief in the coincidence of nationality and ter- While the 19th century delineation of borders was about juris-
ritory begins to unravel. Through the last two millennia, diction and governance, the recognition of national bounda-
South Asian frontiers have shifted several times with the crea- ries led to a far more explicit and pronounced reiteration of
tion as well as disintegration of kingdoms, empires and nation national identities, particularly in the case of Muslims along
states. With the emergence of several nation states in the last
century, it has become difficult to imagine frontiers that do not We thank Farhana Ibrahim and Tanuja Kothiyal for putting
match the current nation state boundaries. However, most together this special issue on borderlands in South Asia.
premodern states had little accurate sense of their territories
Economic & Political Weekly EPW april 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 33

the KutchSindh border. This reiteration was, however, not a borderlands of South Asian nation states suggest that, over
pregiven but the product of administrative debate and arrived centuries, these regions had been connected through religio-
at over a period of time. cultural flows as well as trade. Both Buddhism and Islam cre-
Taking on board the ethnographic disarticulation of the state, ated their own circulatory networks that connected South Asia
ethnographies of administration and the bureaucratic apparatus to both West and East Asia. While the spread of Buddhism in-
of the state (Gupta 2012; Hull 2012; Mathur 2016; Navaro-Yashin tegrated East and Central Asian networks, Islam brought
2012) critically review the bureaucracy not as a site of Weberian- about its own diaspora. Andre Wink suggests that by the
style rationality alone, but as spaces that are constituted through eighth century the area beyond the Indus river, called Al-Hind
individual interpretations that may be an effect, for instance, by the Arabs was being drawn into the Islamic world through
of class habitus (Chatterji 2013), but also through the very ma- Arab trading circuits emerging around the Indian Ocean, that
terial expressions (the paper, file, cadastral survey or map) he calls an Arabic-speaking Mediterranean (1986: 2). It is
that they presume to be driven by. The materials of bureau- through trade as well as through Ghaznavide and Ghuride
cratic production are not, then, neutral purveyors of dis- conquests, that in South Asia settled agrarian riverine societies
course, but as mediators that shape the significance of the came into close contact with traders and warriors from West
signs inscribed on them and their relations with the objects Asia, leading to shifts in both Eastern and Western frontiers of
they refer to (Hull 2012: 253). One of the themes that articles Al-Hind. In a more contemporary context, the partitions of
in this collection engage with is a critical interrogation of the 1947 and 1971 configured movements across new state borders
notion that bordersand the nationalist imaginings that they in the East and West. As indicated above, the partition was not
are supposed to engenderare consequences of bureaucratic the first catalyst of large-scale mobility in a region that has
imposition from above. Disaggregating the bureaucratic pro- been constituted through multiple patterns of cross border and
duction of borders and their everyday management, the role of cross region mobility for centuries, if we take into account pat-
borderland populations in the border question becomes an im- terns of mobility across the Indian Ocean (Amrith 2013; Ho
portant focus of attention. Swargajyoti Gohains article at- 2006, and the Thar (Kothiyal 2016). Nor did the partition sig-
tends to the multilayered construction of authority in border nal an end to mobility as people continued to cross borders for
regions significantly nuancing a position that looks only at the marriage and kinship obligations (Ghosh, this collection) or
state and its subjects as either locked into relations of submis- for work (Van Schendel 2001).
sion or antagonism. In doing so, she echoes other contributions In Sahana Ghoshs article in this collection, once again, the
to border studies that have addressed modes of allegiance to border is no abstraction, but realised through very real and
the state in complicated borders where the states performance material interactions with border guards and paperwork
of sovereignty and peoples relationship to the state is scripted (forged documentary papers, mobile sim cards, etc) on the
in a way that cannot be always-already oppositional (Gupta IndiaBangladesh border. The Bengal borderlands challenge
2013). Gohains article draws attention to the material pro- normative assumptions on border crossing across states to
duction of the border in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh, highlight how partition in the east led to a recasting of rela-
on Indias north-eastern border with China, marking a shift tions within rather than across borderlands. In Bengal, it was
away from overt preoccupations with forms of imagined com- often not displacement, but remaining in place that trans-
munity alone (Bhan 2008). Ethnographic perspectives on the formed one into a refugee (Alexander et al 2016). Drawing
state have for long meditated in the difficulties with locating attention to the gendering of cross-border mobility, a relatively
the state as a singular or embodied entity (Abrams 1988). new sub-theme in the border studies literature although it has
Trouillot (2003) argued that it was state effects that been on the agenda for much longer in feminist engagements
should be the focus of attention. Gohains argument on the with law and trafficking (Kempadoo et al 2005; Kapur 2003;
integration of the Tawang border into the Indian state de- Andrijasevic 2009), Ghosh turns to the work of kinship, an ob-
scribes a domain of overlapping jurisdictions that nonetheless ligation that emerges as quintessentially womens work as they
have shifted over time. Her attentive ethnography describes a strive to maintain family obligations across the border. Legality
triangulation of authority between the state (even as it and illegality in terms of the border are recast in this essay in
leaves open the question of what exactly is the state) and the terms of kin obligations and the family. A biography of family
Tawang monastery as it negotiates the shift from Tibetan to histories in the borderlands becomes in her article a biography
Indian jurisdiction but in no simple or linear terms. The article of the border itself, as it tracks these biographies in terms of
provides a nuanced understanding of the states so-called closures and openings, porosity and impermeability (Ghosh,
control over frontier populations, especially in the context of this collection). She suggests that it is not merely about the
jurisdictions that are shared between political and religious border oscillating between permeability and its opposite
authority (for example, Eaton 1978). across time; this depends on who is crossing when and where,
in which direction, and for what purpose.
Mobility and Affect in Borderlands Closure and a (negotiated) porosity coexist within a single
One of the ways in which the premise of borders as being temporal framework. Women are clearly the greater risk-bearing
territorial and cultural demarcators has been disrupted is through subjects in crossing borders for the affective work of main-
the notion of cross-border flows and movement. Studies of the taining familial ties, but risk is also mapped onto class and
34 april 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

lifestyle. Yet, kinship also constitutes a shared universe that images and fantasiesof the strange, wondrous and remote,
enablesindeed encouragesrisks to be taken. Kinship is sites of the unknown and the unaccountable. They are also
about risk, about building bridges and negotiating emotional zones of multiple imaginations, frontiers between the known
chasms, between the natal and the affinal home, for instance. and the unknown. Through the liminality of the known and
Then again, it is expressed in forms that are locally resonant. unknown, borderlands were thus imagined as fantasies. Wink
The Bengali border guards in Bangladesh may share culturally suggests that these fantasies were rooted in the shared experi-
evocative notions of the affective pull of the heart (moner ences of travellers. For example, Arab accounts of ajaib al-Hind
taan) that the more ethnically heterogeneous, non-Bengali- ran parallel to the medieval European imagination of Mirabilia
speaking Indian border guards do not possess. Ghoshs rich Indae that saw India as a land of wonder, dreams and legends
ethnographic vignettes break apart a rigid divide between (Wink 1986: 45). This was particularly true of the geographi-
those who are policing the border and those whom it claims to cally inaccessible, and therefore hostile frontiers that evoked
be policing. Border crossings are about negotiation, risk and both awe and revulsion. Mauryas article exemplifies this
the affective life of the family. duality of sentiment with regards to Kashmir, which emerged
However, a focus on cross-border mobility as a means of both as a sacral as well as a wondrous space through travellers
subverting or evading state control, as Scott (2009) describes accounts as well as the genre of ajaib-garaib, or the fantastic.
it, cannot be reified into a fluidity that has been at times taken The emerging Mughal state that conquered Kashmir in 1586,
to be an innate characteristic of borderlands. Borderlands are sought to constitute it through narrative and visual represen-
liminal sites only if we assume a centrifugal and singular tations, practices of governance and tactile experiences, as jan-
source of authority that weakens as it emanates away from the nat nazir, a paradisiacal space. In doing so the Mughal state,
centre. While all borders do not support the same kinds of through an itinerary of leisure and pleasure, was able to con-
cross-border flows structurally, borderland populations are vert the binary of awe and revulsion of a frontier space, into a
also invested differently in the desirability of crossing over to spatial imaginary of order.
the other side (Navaro-Yashin 2012). While the Bengal bor- Wonder and the sense of spectaclealready acknowledged
ders porosity is configured by risk and kinship through a par- as paradisiacal in the landscape of Kashmirthus became
ticular kind of gendered border crossing, the western border
that divides Kutch from Sindh is a border that seeks to divide
the two sides in a far more finite way. Despite historical trade
routes and patterns of migration that occurred across the
Thar, the contemporary iteration of the border does not sanc-
tion legal border crossing in this section. Besides, as Ibrahim
suggests in her article, residents of the border may see them-
selves central to its maintenance rather than be seeking to
subvert it. to the
Web Edition/
Borders and Subjective Lives
Digital Archives
Beyond being spaces for the expression of authority and con-
trol, borderlands have also been explored as sites of affect
(Navaro-Yashin 2012). In an ethnographic study of the Greek
Cypriot borderlands, Yael Navaro Yashin asks, how do people
who live on borderlands respond to them affectively? What
impact do borders have on the subjective lives of people?
These effects are often complicated and contradictory in
nature. Indian Muslims on the western border have to deal What do you get with a Web subscription?
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Economic & Political Weekly EPW april 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 35

harnessed by the Mughal state into its imperial designs for the anthropology, allowing us to problematise the politics of
frontier. By re-embedding the notion of wonder and spectacle knowledge in theorising nationalism?
from the unknown/unknowable, squarely into the domain of The articles included in this collection are meant to gener-
imperial design, it not only harnesses a public sense of wonder ate as many questions as they seek to answer. Our attempt in
and amazement from the natural world into the states crea- this introduction has not been to provide any complete or
tions, it also reinforces the fact that remote border areas are exhaustive literature review on the subject of borders and
often at the heart of imperial and state power. The question of frontiers but more an invitation to think through some of the
Kashmir continues to lie at the heart of the nation states diverse borderlands of South Asia across multiple time periods
claims about territoriality, control and sovereignty. Finally, and different state regimes through the key themes identified
Mallika Shakyas article, a critical reading of the 20th century above: of negotiated sovereignty, mobility and affect in order
Nepali novels of Parijat and B P Koirala, continues with the to generate new debates and conceptual articulations across
theme of affect and the border when she writes, Borders are the disciplines.
deeply subjective, populated not with pragmatic concernslet
alone considerations of political, cultural or geographic con- [The editors are grateful to all referees whose comments were extremely
useful in shaping the articles in their present form. We also extend our
structsbut with the core of the self. Shakya argues that na-
thanks to Aniket Alam, former Executive Editor, EPW, as it was his keen
tion state borders are fundamentally incompatible with struc- interest in frontiers and borderlands that initiated this collection.]
tures of intimacy and suggests that fiction may possibly provide
Farhana Ibrahim ( teaches sociology and social
the language of affect that transcends the vocabulary of both
anthropology at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences,
social science and the nation, both of which in their own ways Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, New Delhi. Tanuja Kothiyal
serve to reinstitute the violence of geographical and carto- ( teaches history at Ambedkar University Delhi,
graphic classification. She asks, Can fiction generate its own New Delhi.

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36 april 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

Of Tulips and Daffodils

Kashmir Jannat Nazir as a Political Landscape in
the Mughal Empire

Anubhuti Maurya

This article examines the emergence of the concept of or the inhabitants of the Mughal milieu, Kashmir was an
Kashmir jannat nazir as a literary and political imaginary evocative word. In the literature of the courtpoetry,
travel accounts and chroniclesit was described as
in the Mughal court. It represented a distinct
Kashmir jannat nazir (Kashmir that is paradise like) and suba i
imagination about the region and emerged as a literary dil pazir (the province close to the heart). It would seem these
imaginary in the late 16th century and over the early part terms were merely descriptive of the extraordinary nature of
of the 17th century, entering into the imperial chronicles. Kashmirs landscape.
For the Mughal empire the landscape of Kashmir was cen-
By the mid-17th century, the concept had become a part
tral to the relationship between the empire and the region. A
of the political discourse and the language of Mughal Valley in the western Himalayas, Kashmir nestled behind a
sovereignty. The literary and political imaginary of high wall of mountains. It formed the northern border of the
Kashmir in the Mughal court drew upon older textual empire, where issues of access, control and articulation of power
were an important concern. Over the 16th and 17th centuries, a
traditions like the literature and histories from Kashmir,
corpus of texts in the Mughal courtchronicles, travel acc-
corpora of Arab and Persian geographies compiled from ounts, epistles and administrative documentsdescribed and
the ninth century onwards, travel accounts, wonder tales discussed the region. Through these writings, Kashmir moved
and the chronicles of the Ghaznavid and Timurid courts. from being an uncharted region on the borders of the empire
to a province cognisable within the imperial oecumene.
Contiguously, from the late 16th century, the landscape of
Kashmir was the subject of literary compositions, especially
the poetry of the Mughal court. The concept of Kashmir jannat
nazir emerged as a literary imaginary in this poetry of the late
16th century and underwent a change over the 17th century. In
the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the poetry of the court
eulogised the lush greenery, streams, springs, lakes, abundance
of flowers and fruits, the high mountains, and the salubrity of
Kashmirs climate. By the mid-17th century, the gardens laid out
by the Mughal elitesemperors, members of the royal family
and the courtbecame marvels, sources of wonder. The land-
scape of the Valley now served as the frame for the marvels of
the Mughal gardens. These shifts in the literary imaginary of
the paradisiacal reflected the changing relationship between
the empire and landscape of Kashmir.
In this article, I examine the emergence of the concept of
Earlier versions of this article were presented at seminars in Lady Kashmir jannat nazir as a literary and political imaginary in the
Shriram College, Delhi University and St Anthonys College, Oxford Mughal court. I argue that the concept represented a distinct
University. imagination about the region. It emerged as a literary imagi-
I am grateful to the editors, the anonymous reviewer and Manan Ahmed nary in the late 16th century and over the early part of the
Asif for their comments on this article. All shortcomings remain mine. 17th century, it travelled into the imperial chronicles. By the
Anubhuti Maurya ( teaches history at mid-17th century, the concept had become a part of the politi-
Bharati College, Delhi University and is currently working towards cal discourse and the language of Mughal sovereignty. The lit-
completing her book, The Making of Mughal Kashmir: Space, History and erary and political imaginary of Kashmir in the Mughal court
Authority in Early Modern South Asia.
drew upon older textual traditions like the literature and
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 37

histories from Kashmir, corpora of Arab and Persian geographies Ghaznavid court in the 11th century. Al Beruni had travelled to
compiled from the ninth century onwards, travel accounts, Hindustan with Mahmuds armies. In his larger work on al-Hind,
wonder tales and the chronicles of the Ghaznavid and Timurid Al Beruni had significant descriptions of Kashmir. His discus-
courts. By the mid-17th century, in the Mughal court, the con- sions of Kashmir focused on two aspects of the region. One, he
cept of Kashmir jannat nazir represented an already internal- described the geography of the region, routes and passes; chief
ised set of cultural meanings, which continued to be created modes of transportation; the origin and course of the rivers
and communicated through the visual and literary medium. Jhelum (Jailam in Sachau translation) and Sindh; the city he
The historiography on Kashmir in the 16th and 17th centuries called Kashmir (Srinagar) and the surrounding regions (Al Beruni,
has divided the Mughal rule over the Valley into two distinct translated Sachau 2003: 15052). In his discussion on its topo-
partsacts of governance and acts of leisure.1 The royal journeys graphic features, Al Beruni stressed the insularity of the region.
into Kashmir and spatial practices of the Mughal elite, like the Two, he wrote of Kashmir as a significant centre of Sanskritic
construction of gardens, have been looked upon as acts of leisure. learning, with a strong indigenous and independent tradition.
Within this perspective, Kashmir is reduced to a site of aesthetic Though it was engaged in debates with other centres and schools
gratification, as the space of enactment of royal leisure. of Sanskritic education, Al Beruni suggested that the innovative
In this article, I argue that in Kashmir aesthetic and literary character of Kashmiri academy was linked to its geographic
practices, acts of leisure and pleasure were not discrete from insularity (Al Beruni, translated Sachau 2003: 87, 94, 123, 125).
the exercise of imperial authority. These practices were specific to Yazdis Zafarnama was written in the early 15th century, as
the empires interaction with Kashmir, and constituted a response the chronicle of Sahib i Qiran Timur. The Zafarnama has a
to it. They informed the performance of governance as well as brief discussion on Kashmir. It described the clime and climate
the rituals of sovereignty. of Kashmir and talked of the number of inhabited villages, the
Further, I argue that, the courtly imaginary of Kashmir jannat streams, vegetation, fruits and flowers. It mentioned the city
nazir was a discourse of power. It was constituted by narrative of Srinagar, which, like Baghdad, had a river running through
and visual representations, practices of governance and tactile it, surmounted by a number of bridgesboth permanent as
experiences. That is to say, the idea of Kashmir as a paradisiacal well as boat bridges. It identified the roads into the Valley,
space fashioned a relationship between the region and the though each, the text informed the readers, was marked by its
political world of the Mughal court. From a borderland, Kashmir own set of impossibilities.7 The Zafarnama stressed the diffi-
became central to the Mughal imagination of its sovereignty culty of access to the region hidden behind high mountains.
and self-fashioning. These textual traditions constituted Kashmir as an insular
place. Paradoxically, these discussions in the Arab geographies,
Tales of Wonder Ajaib tales, Al Berunis Kitab al Hind and in the Persianate tra-
The Kashmir Valley was discussed in a number of Arab and ditions of the Timurid court, were informed by reports of itinerant
Persianate textual traditions, like the Arab geographies and travellers and trading caravans. Kashmir appeared in these
Ajaib tales of the ninth and 10th centuries and the literature different textual imaginations because of its presence in overlap-
from the Ghaznavid and Timurid courts. In these textual tradi- ping networks of commerce, piety and politics. It was located off
tions, Kashmir was painted as a desirable but insular land, the traditional silk route and was part of trade networks that
guarded by high mountain walls. Many of these texts circulat- spanned from Central Asia to Ladakh, which were spread as far as
ed in the Mughal court and influenced how, in the mid-16th Bijapur and Golconda in the Deccan. From the late 13th century,
century, the court perceived the region. it was home to a number of Sufi orders which originated in
Between the ninth and the 15th centuries, Kashmir was dis- Central Asia and operated in the regions of the western and
cussed in a number of Arab geographies2 and, contiguously, in central Himalayas. Sufi saints moved between Balkh, Badakh-
ajaib tales.3 In Ajaib i Hind of Nakhuda Buzurg ibn Shahryar, shan, Kashmir, Kishtwar, Ladakh, Yarkand and Tibet and had
stories of Kashmir ranged from the conversion of the king to deep links with Harmin (the cities of Mecca and Medina).
Islam (Buzurg ibn Shahryar 2000: 2);4 the description of a gorge In 153940, when Humayun was besieged by Sher Shah, he
between mountains which held a large cache of diamonds of sought the advice of the Mughal collective. Mirza Haider Dughlat8
unparalleled beauty, protected by a ring of fire (Buzurg ibn suggested that the conquest of Kashmir was a possibility and
Shahryar 2000: 103); to a marketplace, invisible to the human that the Valley offered the safest of refuges possible to the em-
eye, where jinnat gathered to buy, sell and to gossip (Buzurg ibn peror on the run (translated by Elias and Ross 1973). Humayuns
Shahryar 2000: 23).5 The Arab geographies and the Ajaib tales advisors turned down the Mirzas proposal on the grounds that
formed different episteme within the larger body of the literature Kashmir was isolated and difficult of access and that Humayun
of routes and realms.6 These tales were premised upon the would be trapped there. These discussions and decisions in the
distance between Kashmir and the place of telling/reading. At Mughal court in mid-16th century drew upon the image of
the same time, they marked the region with a series of character- intransitivity constituted through the older textual traditions.
istics and made it cognisable within larger geographies. Al In 1540, while Humayun sought shelter in the Safavid court,
Berunis Kitab fi Tahqia ma lil-Hind (Book of Investigations in Mirza Haider led a small force to Kashmir. Negotiating the
Hind) and Yazdis Zafarnama were influential texts in the fractures within the ruling elites in Kashmir, the Mirza estab-
Mughal court. Al Berunis Kitab al Hind was written in the lished control over the region. In the decade he spent as the ruler
38 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

of Kashmir, Mirza Haider wrote Tarikh i Rashidi.9 While the text weather. In the act of noting details about places, Abul Fazl
dealt only briefly with the Valley, Dughlats descriptions of Kashmir recorded the local lore that laid out, in a way, the sacral geo-
challenged the older imaginations of the region. Mirza Haiders graphy of the region. The Ain gave descriptions of the houses, the
account of Kashmir looked outward from the region, establish- bazaars, food habits, clothes and fabrics and means of transporta-
ing equivalences, comparisons and contemporaneity with pro- tion of the region. Fazl commented on Kashmiri being the domi-
cesses and events in other parts of Central and South Asia. nant language of the region and the continuing use of Sanskrit
In the late 16th century, when Akbar demanded subservi- in literature. He noted that Kashmir had an old tradition of learn-
ence from the Kashmiri rulers, he referred back to the Mirzas ing. He made disparaging remarks about the music of the region.
conquest of Kashmir on behalf of Humayun, as the basis for He commented on the presence of different religious groups.
the Mughal claim on Kashmir. There was a detailed description of the city of Srinagar, its length
These discussions in the Arabic and Persianate traditions in- and breadth, the main industries and manufactures, geo-
fluenced the political actions and intellectual engagements graphical spread and location, water available in the city, etc.
with Kashmir in the courts of Akbar. In the third part of the discussion on Kashmir, Abul Fazl gave
an abridged account of the history of Kashmir. This abridgement,
Early Discussions on Kashmir in Akbars Court especially of the early history of the region, drew upon the new
In 1586, after a difficult battle, Mughal armies entered Srinagar. translation of the Rajatarangini. Fazls account of the history
Though the establishment of Mughal authority in the region of the region began from the story of the origin of the Valley as a
took much longer, imperial chronicles proclaimed the entry large lake, emergence of the institution of kingship and culmi-
into Srinagar as the moment of conquest of Kashmir (Fazl 1998: nated in conquest by Akbars army.
774; Ahmad 1992: 617). Conquest and annexation were acts of In the summary account of Kashmirs history, Abul Fazl
territorial expansion but in the case of Kashmir, the land was recounted incidents from a few, specific kings from the Raja-
not merely the site of battle. In the imperial narratives, the tarangini. These rulers were set up as exemplars of good and
very landscapethe mountainous terrain, arduous roads, and bad kingship. But more importantly, they formed the medium
adverse climateposed a challenge and had to be conquered. through which Abul Fazl outlined issues of morality and virtue
Early writings on Kashmir in Akbars court were suggestive of in the exercise of kingship. Fazls account of the history of
an imperial centre exploring a newly conquered province and Kashmir ended with the conquest of the region by the Mughal
slowly establishing authority over it. Imperial chronicles like armies. The institution of kingship, which in the originary nar-
Tarikh i Alfi by Mullah Ahmad bin Nasrullah Tattavi, Akbarnama rative had emerged from a quest for peace and justice, culmi-
and Ain-i Akbari by Abul Fazl and Tabaqat i Akbari by Nizamuddin nated in the establishment of Akbars rule over Kashmir.
Ahmad compiled descriptive, factual and statistical accounts The late 16th century chronicles of the Mughal court, were, in a
of the region. In these chronicles, especially in Abul Fazls sense, writing the empire into being. Through the discussions
Akbarnama and Ain-i Akbari, discussions on Kashmir contained in the court chronicles, Kashmir moved away from the older
ethnographic notices, synoptic history, geographic descriptions, associations of insularity and the unknown. By creating sum-
accounts of customs, lore, tales of the marvellous and the mary geographic, ethnographic and historical accounts of the
fantastic, theistic and philosophical traditions. region, Abul Fazl and other court chroniclers made Kashmir
These accounts of the newly conquered province were pro- familiar within the oecumene of the court and the empire.
duced through a multilayered process, which involved obser-
vations of and investigations into the region as well as engage- In Praise of Kashmir
ment with existing intellectual traditions. In their discussions While court chronicles were compiling information on Kashmir,
on Kashmir, the court chroniclers drew from the Arab and synchronically the region was entering the poetic and literary
Persianate traditions and the writings of the predecessors of imagination of the Mughal court. The concept of Kashmir jannat
Mughal rule, like Mirza Haiders Tarikh i Rashidi (Dughlat 1973). nazir first emerged as an imaginary in the literary productions
They drew upon regional intellectual traditions, both textual, of the court in the late 16th century.
like the Rajatarangini, and oral accounts. Urfi Shirazis qasida, Dar Wasf i Kashmir (In praise of Kashmir),
In the third daftar of the Ain-i Akbari, in An Account of began with the lines,
Twelve Provinces ((Ahwal i dawazdah subah) (Abul Fazl) edited Har Sokhteh jani ke be Kashmir dar ayad
Blochmann 1872: 56289), Abul Fazl gave a detailed account Gar Murgh kabab ast ke ba-bal wa pur ayad (Urfi Shirazi nd: 31)10
of the provinces of the empire, as they were getting formed at In this qasida, Urfi described Kashmir as the land of soul alle-
the time of writing. The discussion on Kashmir in the Ain can viating beauty, with the miraculous ability to rejuvenate and
be divided into three distinct parts. There was an ethnographic revitalise.
and geographic description of the region. The second part is In 1589, when Akbar travelled to Kashmir, Faizi, the poet
in the form of notices, organised in a tabular formlisting the laureate of the court travelled with him.11 In his qasida (poem
revenue figures, dominant castes, cavalry and infantry of each of praise), Dar Tausif i Kashmir wa Tahniyat i Fateh An wa Madah i
district. The third part gave a brief history of the region. Akbar Padshah,12 Faizi described the excellencies of the region
Abul Fazls account of Kashmir began with a simple statement and applauded its conquest by Akbars armies. He celebrated
of facts about the climate, best routes into the Valley and Kashmir as a land especially blessedboth by its soul refreshing
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 39

beauty and its good fortune that it was entering the benevo- legible for the court and within the empire. These texts were a
lent embrace of Akbar Padshah (Faizi 1342 shamsi hijri: 42). part of the exercise of establishing Mughal authority in the
In this qasida, Faizi described Kashmir as ajab karnamah i region. At the same time, these texts reflected the anxiety of
taqdir, the wondrous work of destiny (Faizi 1342 shamsi hijri: the empire in establishing authority in this distant province.
42). Tajjub (wonder) remained an important part of the response
to Kashmir, but the nature of wonder had changed. While, in the Anxieties of the Empire
Ajaib traditions of the ninth to 11th centuries, the anxieties In the 12th regnal year (1617), when he was travelling through
generated by the mountainous insularity of Kashmir were articu- Gujarat, Jahangir received two different reports from Kashmir.
lated in stories of danger lurking behind the mountain walls. In He noted these in his memoirs. The first reported the birth of
the poetry of the Mughal court in the late 16th century, the two daughters in the house of a silk merchant, born with teeth
tajjub was expressed at the beauty of the landscape of Kashmir. and joined from the back to the waist. The life of this pair of
The poetry of the court wove the high mountains, salubrious Siamese twins was brief (Jahangir AH 1349/1940: 231).
climate, springs, streams and lakes, the verdure of the Valley The other report informed the emperor about an outbreak of
into a literary imaginary of the paradisiacal beauty of Kashmir. the plague in Kashmir. The region was ravaged by an epidemic.
In the first half of the 17th century, Kashmir remained a distinct Jahangir provided details of the affliction. On the first day, a
topic of literary compositions of the court. Most major poets of the person would experience headache, fever and nose bleed. By the
court like Salim Tehrani, Mohammad Jan Qudsi (d 1646), Talib second day, the afflicted person would be dead. If one member
Amuli (d 1652), Zafar Khan Ahsan (d 1670), Mir Ilahi (d 1653), of the household fell ill, every other inhabitant of the house would
Tughra Mashhadi (d 166768) and others, had distinctive poems soon follow. Anybody who went near a sick person or a dead
on Kashmir in their oeuvre.13 These poems still spoke of the region body would be infected. The plague was deadly in its potency.
in terms of wonder. But now they expressed wonder at the gardens There was one person who had died, and they laid his body on straw to
and buildings constructed by the Mughal elite. The gardens wash it. By chance a cow ate some of the straw and died. Thereupon,
were described as paradisiacal and the landscape of the Valley several dogs ate some of the cows flesh and they all died. Thing have
appeared as a worthy background to these imperial creations. gotten so bad that neither will fathers come near their sons for fear
of death, nor will sons approach their fathers. (Thackston 1999: 254)
Majma ul Afkar was a miscellaneous collection of Mughal
Insha (Kinra 2015: 186) dated to the early 18th century (Chander The end of the epidemic came with a mysterious chain of events.
Shekhar 20092010: 11456). It offered models of laments, One morning, when the plague was at its worst, people in the city
elegies, letters of congratulation, commiseration to the sick, and its outskirts woke up to find symbols marking their doors.
letters of praise, of constructions by the patron, assemblies There were three large circles, one on top of the other, two middle
held, battles won (bazm wa razm), etc. It also contained copies sized circles and one small circle. There were also two empty circles.
of special letters, like letters from Humayun to Bairam Khan, (Thackston 1999: 254)
Jahangir to Shah Abbas and Shah Jahan to Mullah Shah.14 In Following this, the part of the city where the plague had
this collection of Insha, there was a discrete section on Kash- originated burnt down to the ground. The fire and the appear-
mir. It included excerpts from Mohammad Salih Kambohs ance of these symbols marked the diminution in the fierceness
Aml i Salih, Tabatabais Padshahnama, a long section from a ris- of the epidemic.
alah by Maulana Shaida and a letter from Mulla Tughra to Qazi In his recording of these reports from Kashmir, Jahangir
Zahid. The section from Kamboh was a safarnama (travel ac- positioned himself in a discursive terrain that was both incred-
count) and described Shah Jahans journey into Kashmir. From ulous as well as scientific (Mottahedeh 1997: 37). Jahangirs
Tabatabais Padshahnama, Majma excerpted the description record of these curious incidents was marked by a fullness of
of Srinagar. Other sections of the Majma contained a panegyr- details and created parallels with his customarily methodical
ic poem to the beauty of the region, and a satire on the dangers observations of natural and other phenomenon.15 At the same
of the mountain roads. These selections disaggregated the lit- time, Jahangir described these events as strange or tinged with
erary imaginary of Kashmir jannat nazir into a number of horror (ghraib) (Jahangir 1349/1940: 252). He ended his descrip-
themes: the journey up to the Valley, the difficulties of the tion of the plague and the fire with the words that the story does
road, the beauty of the region, and the wonders of the garden. not agree with the canons of reason, and my intellect cannot
The literary imaginary of Kashmir jannat nazir emerged in the accept it (ghaitan be qanun khirad rast na-mi ayad wa aql i
poetry of the Mughal court over the late 16th and early 17th centu- man qabul in mani na-mi kunad) (Jahangir 1349/1940: 252).
ries. In this period, the poetry and other writings of the Mughal It is striking that the two incidents recorded by Jahangir came
court were concerned with the landscape and natural features of to him as hearsay, albeit relayed to the court by the waqi nawis
the region. By the mid-17th century, the jannat naziri of Kashmir (news writer) from the region. They were heard while the em-
had shifted to the gardens laid out by the Mughal emperors. peror and the court were on a journey through the province of
The discussions across the different narrative traditions from Gujarat. These storiesthe birth of Siamese twins, the appear-
the court chronicles to the poetry of the court represented ance of strange symbols in times of catastropheinvoked ele-
multiple imaginations of Kashmir. The textual productions of ments of the fantastic and echoed the genre of Ajaib wa ghraib.16
the late 16th and early 17th centuries, mapped the region as well Ahmed has argued that the Ajaib and ghraib tales were
as produced a vocabulary by which to speak of it, making it characteristics of borderlandsareas which were liminal to
40 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

the geography of large empires but central to their imagination By the mid-17th century, Kashmir had become a spectacle.
of the self.17 The element of the fantastic in these stories rep- In the accounts of these journeys, Kashmir land was no longer
resented a distinct episteme which reinforced the distance of marked by its insularity. On the contrary, the act of visiting
the suba of Kashmir from the royal court. It measured the distance and looking was central to the imperial relationship with
not in miles and metres but by marking Kashmir as a faraway Kashmir jannat nazir. For instance, when Shah Jahan trav-
place where the inexplicable and unknowable could occur. These elled to Kashmir in the 18th regnal year (164546), he insisted
stories were in marked contrast to Jahangirs writings on Kashmir. that Nusrat Jung, who was about to begin his assignment in
In the Jahangirnama, descriptions and discussions of the region Deccan, accompany him to the Valley. Lahori wrote that
were carefully parsed through methods of investigation and Because Nusrat Jung had never visited Kashmir, order was given that
observation. Jahangirs knowledge of the region was premised he should ride with the king and should be in attendance. It was said
upon actually seeing. These stories, in contrast, were reported. that he should view the verdant valley, the blossoming trees and after
The record of these stories in the Tuzuk reflected the tension taking pleasure in the valley and enjoying its delights, he was to re-
turn to Deccan. (1868: 218)
between the multiple imaginations of Kashmir in the imperial
chronicles. While the detailed reports in the imperial chroni- This imperial directive prescribed Nusrat Jungs enjoyment
cles made the region knowable, the distance between the of Kashmir. At the same time, by riding along the emperor on his
region and the imperial court generated anxieties of control. maiden visit to the region, his enjoyment also became an object
of viewing. His enjoyment had to be visible to the emperor.
Imperial Journeys to Kashmir In 163940, on a visit to the Valley, Shah Jahan invited the
By the early 17th century, it had become an established prac- Ilchis (emissaries) from the courts of Rum and Bukhara to visit
tice for emperors, members of the royal family and the court to Kashmir (Lahori 1868: 197). These emissaries became the au-
travel to Kashmir. These royal sojourns to Kashmir were deep- dience for an enactment of Mughal grandeur. In the gardens
ly intertwined with the literary imaginary of Kashmir jannat on the shore of the Dal Lake, lamps were lit behind cascades of
nazir. Akbar visited Kashmir three times (in 1589, 1593 and water, bringing two idioms of beautywater and lightto
1597). As emperor, Jahangir journeyed to Kashmir five times create a celebratory spectacle. Lahori described it thus:
(in 1619, 1622, 1624, 1625 and 1627) and Shah Jahan did so an On the eve of 24th (Rabi ul awwal), in front of the imperial harem,
equal number of times, if not more. On their sojourns in the order was given to decorate the gardens of Farah and Faiz Bakhsh,
Valley, emperors visited spectacles, experienced the novelties the most wondrous sites in this city. From the parterres to the begin-
of the region, undertook hunting expeditions. They travelled ning of the wall to the banks, in each of the two gardens, on both
sides of Shah Nahar and on all sides of the tanks, lamps were placed.
through the Valley mostly by water, sitting in especially
After that, at small intervals, tied to the wood were colourful lanterns.
designed boats and made camp in gardens. Behind the screens/sheets of cascading water, in holders of marble,
On his three trips to Kashmir, Akbar surveyed the region and lamps were arranged, creating wonder.
identified certain sites as important. Akbar made camp and spent The emperor arrived from the north, distributing gold coins, serving
time in the environs of Dal Lake, Shihabuddinpur, Achhwal, the poor And till one pahar of the evening was spent in pleasure
giving and spreading in the garden, after which a return was made to
Virnag, Wular Lake and Pampore. In Jahangirs reign, the imperial
the imperial palace. (1868: 199200)
camp undertook longer and more extensive journeys and investi-
gated local lore and natural phenomenon. Jahangir ordered As emperors travelled across Kashmir, they altered its land-
the exploration of the deep caves at Burzahom (Chadurah Haider scape. In 1620, on the road back to Lahore, Jahangir was struck
Malik 1991: 1213) and an examination of the medicinal proper- by the beauty of a spring and a waterfall near the village of
ties of saffron (Thackston 1999: 433). In Shah Jahans reign, impe- Bahramgala (Thackston 1999: 349). He ordered the construc-
rial cavalcades followed the timetable that had been established tion of a viewing platform, a seat to watch the spectacle. An
in the previous decades. Shah Jahans first trip to Kashmir as inscription on the stone noted the date of his passage. Ebba
emperor began from Agra in February 1634. He travelled Koch has discussed Jahangirs practices of claiming nature as
across the plains of North India to Lahore. The ascent began his own by making a permanent imprint on it with artistic
from Lahore. The route into the Valley was chosen to ensure means, with architectural features, sculptures and inscrip-
arrival in the Valley in time to see the spring and the blossoming tions (Koch 2009: 16162). By taking over natural phenome-
of flowers. The emperor returned to Hindustan after all the off- non, Jahangir, she says, accentuated them with dynastic im-
erings of the regionfrom the spring blossoming of flowers to prints (Koch 2009: 168). In later periods, when Shah Jahan
the autumnal maturing of the saffron fieldshad been sampled. visited the Valley, the imperial chronicles discussed the seat
At the same time, the return journey had to be made before the built by Jahangir to view the waterfall. Bahramgala was dis-
travellers were overtaken by the cold and snow of winters. tinguished by the royal intervention at the site.
In Akbars reign, the imperial cavalcades toured the region, The emperors gave new names to places as they travelled
surveying the sights. In Jahangirs reign, construction was car- through the Valley. New names drew from an event or a spe-
ried out at a number of these sites. For instance, Jahangir par- cific person linked to the Mughal presence in the region. Inch
celled out the lands on the banks of the Dal Lake amongst was renamed Islamabad. Shah Jahan on his visit to Inch had
members of the royal family and the nobility. A series of gar- ordered the destruction of a pilgrimage (ziarat) there. Islam
dens were built along the shores of the lake. Khan Mir Bakhshi held the area in tuyul (Lahori 1868: 4748).
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 41

The name Islamabad memorialised both the person and the pilgrimage, with a natural spring (Fazl 1998: 366). Raja Pravar
incident. Machhi Bhawan was given in jagir to Yaminuddaulah Sen, remembered as the founder of the city of Srinagar, had
Asaf Khan. He had carried out extensive construction in the first laid out a garden at this site. Though the garden had long
area, building tanks, canals and gardens. Shah Jahan renamed since disappeared, the village that came up at the site retained
the place Asafabad (Lahori 1868: 50). Shah Jahan modified the the name Shalimar (Hasan I nd: 286).
garden laid out by Jahangir at Virnag. He raised pavilions While distributing the land around the Dal Lake amongst
which overlooked the garden and the canals in which the wa- the nobles of the court, Jahangir gave this piece of land to
ters from the spring of Virnag flowed. He gave this garden the Shah Jahan, with the directive to construct a garden at this site.
name of Shahabad (Lahori 1868: 5253). Shah Jahan named the garden Bagh i Faiz Bakhsh. The garden
The practice of renaming marked the land with imperial was built on the principles of mountain garden, with ter-
presence, interventions and personnel. It created new political raced gardens, organised in three distinct parts. The highest
and cultural associations between Kashmir and the Mughal part of the garden was the zenana garden, which offered open
empire. Names like Islamabad and Shahabad resonated with spaces as well as privacy to the women of the palace (Villiers
other places in the empire. The similarity of names did not Stuart 1913; Ruggles 2008). The second zone was the courtly
indicate a similarity of characteristics between these places. domain. A third and public section was laid out later (Ruggles
The meaning and relevance of these names could only be loc- 2008: 216). In the 1630s, Shah Jahan added another garden to
ated within the histories of the Mughal empire. At the same the existing one and named it Farah Bakhsh. This formed the
time, sites in Kashmir continued to carry new and old names. third part, the public part of the garden.
Locally, the story of Mughal refashioning became joined to The best of the gardens is Farah Bakhsh, which was constructed at the
older associations with these sites. command of the emperor. The flowered earth of this garden is mod-
Royal journeys to Kashmir dismantled earlier notions of in- elled on the evergreen paradise; waters of Shah Nahr flowing through
sularity of the region. Accounts of these journeys reflect the the gardens remind one of the waters of Salsabil and Kausar; the fruits
of the garden are the most delicious in the world; the buildings of pal-
reconstitution of the sense of wonder associated with Kashmir.
aces are like the faultless paradise. The architect of this marvel is the
It became the setting for imperial creations. By the mid-17th emperor, Sahib i Qiran Sani. (Lahori 1868: 24)
century, these sites of imperial action were viewed as the spac-
es of paradisiacal beauty. Lahoris description exalted this garden to an approximation
of paradise. Sahib i Qiran Sani, Shah Jahan (the second lord of
Mughal Gardens of Kashmir conjunction), designed this garden. The greenery of the gar-
Discussions on the Mughal gardens of Kashmir have focused den, the blossoming of flowers and the buildings in it were
on themes of aesthetic and visual practices of the Mughal reminiscent of the imagery of paradise. Shah Nahr, the canal
court. These gardens have been viewed as spaces distant and that channelled the water from the old spring, was compared
discrete from governance. However, I would argue that these to Salsabil and Kausar, the spring and canal through which
gardens represented spatial practices by which the authority waters flowed through paradise.
of the Mughal state was territorialised in the landscape of Although under Shah Jahans directive, this part of the Dals
Kashmir. The metaphor of paradise on earth invoked the phil- shore was refashioned into a new space, the older name of
osophical ideal of a benevolent Mughal badshahi. The gardens Shalimar persisted and became the popular name for these
became the space where this ideal was articulated in land. The gardens. Shalimar Bagh drew a line of continuity between the
layout, deployment of waterways, choice of trees and plants, King who founded the city of Srinagar and the Mughal emperor
use of symmetry as well as wilderness within these gardens who fashioned it into paradise-like gardens.
constituted a specific aesthetic vocabulary. High mountains In time, the word Shalimar itself became a synonym for the
served as the background to these gardens, waters from springs, grand Mughal gardens. When Shah Jahan laid out gardens in
streams and rivers were directed into channels running Lahore, he called them Bagh i Faiz Bakhsh and Farah Bakhsh.
through them, gushing out in fountains and pooling in tanks. They came to be popularly known as Shalimar Bagh. Similar-
Flowers like laleh (tulips) and nargis (daffodils) and trees like ly, Shalimar Bagh came up in Delhi, with the construction of
chinar (plane), aspen, poplars, apple and cherry populated Shahjahanabad. Repeated appearance of Shalimar in the
these gardens. name of Mughal gardens across North India invoked the
The patronage and commission of these constructions reflected gardens of Kashmir as well as the imagery of paradise.
the contestations within the spheres of Mughal authority. They The names given to places in Kashmir referred to events and
also represented the interventions by the Mughal state in public people linked to the Mughal presence in the region. The
spaces, popular memory and local politics. These gardens were changed appellations inserted the Mughal presence into the
employed within imperial frameworks of governance, habita- everyday imagination of these places as well as infused them
tion and leisure. In time, the gardens came to take on the sense with the histories of localities. When names like Shalimar and
of a settlement, with names like Zafarabad and Saifabad. Sahibabad travelled to other parts of the empire, they specifi-
Bagh i Faiz Bakhsh and Farah Bakhsh, known as Shalimar cally invoked the jannat naziri of Kashmir. This imaginary, by
Bagh were the most celebrated of the Mughal gardens. The the mid-17th century, had become a part of the imperial
area of Shalimar, on the bank of Dal Lake, had been a site of vocabulary of self-representation.
42 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

The Mughal gardens of Kashmir harnessed nature into care- The name inscribed her presence in a very public and urban
fully crafted spaces. In the construction of these gardens local space of the main street of the capital of the empire. The no-
geographies were significantly altered. Springs were har- menclature of her gardens in Chandni Chowk invoked the gar-
nessed, canals were dug, and small rivers were diverted. These dens in Kashmir. Like she had inscribed her claim on the gar-
gardens were also spaces of horticultural experimentation. den at Achhwal, similarly her garden in Chandni Chowk
Varieties of plants were transplanted and fruits like cherries, marked the land with her claim of authority.
guavas and apples were brought from other parts of the The aesthetic practice of laying out gardens in Kashmir was
empire. Underlying the descriptions of the fruits of Kashmir, informed by the literary imaginary of Kashmir jannat nazir. In
were careful records of the size and quality of fruits, compar- time, in the poetry of the court, the Mughal gardens became
ing them to produce of other provinces. New horticultural the sites of paradisiacal beauty. By laying out gardens, the
techniques like grafting were introduced. Mughal elite moulded the land of Kashmir and inscribed
Patronage of constructionof buildings and gardenswas Mughal authority into the landscape. They inserted Mughal
a sphere of competing authorities. In his perambulations from rule in the local memories and histories of places. I would
Agra to Lahore and then to Kashmir, Shah Jahan modified or argue that the laying out of gardens was not just a mark of im-
reconstructed a number of buildings and gardens laid out by perial control. The gardens were a part of the spatial practice
Jahangir. His reconstructions at Virnag were just one example. of the Mughal empire, by which imperial authority was territo-
Lahori explained it by noting that Jahangirs constructions rialised in the distant province of Kashmir.
were not to the taste of Shah Jahan (Lahori 1868: 1112). In the
complicated politics of lineage and inheritance and the desire Conclusions
to mark legacy, divergent aesthetics were sites of contestation. From the earliest discussions on the region, there has been a
When Asaf Khan constructed Nishat Bagh, adjoining Faiz sense of exceptionalism associated with the geography of the
and Farah Bakhsh, it competed with Shah Jahans gardens in Kashmir. The narrative traditions from Kashmir of the early
beauty. The story is that Shah Jahan coveted Asaf Khans gar- medieval and the medieval invested sacrality in the landscape.
den. But Asaf Khan steadfastly failed to offer it to him. A pee- It would seem that the idea of a sacred land segued into the
vish emperor ordered the shutting off of the water supply to metaphor of Kashmir as paradise in the Mughal traditions in
the garden (Villiers Stuart 1913: 16768). The conflict in this the early modern period (Zutshi 2014).
matter was on issues of ownershipnot just of land but of a I have argued that the invocation of the imagery of paradise
wondrous creation. in the discussions on Kashmir was not simply a descriptive de-
Zafar Khan Ahsan in his first term as governor in Kashmir vice, nor was it a continuation of the older imagination of
reconstructed the ziarat at Zadibal. Zadibal was the dargah of Kashmir as a sacred land. Kashmir jannat nazir was a distinct
the Nurbakhshi saint Mir Shams Iraqi and a site of veneration literary and political imaginary which emerged in the late 16th
for the Shias of the Valley. He laid out a garden at the site and century in the Mughal court and evolved over the 17th century.
gave it the name of Hasanabad. These constructions by Zafar It was a discourse of authority, which informed institutions of
Khan marked an intervention in the local politics of the region governance and the spatial practices of the empire. In turn,
and his garden came to carry political and religious valence. In these practices territorialised the Mughal empire in the region.
1635, when riots broke out in Srinagar as a result of sectarian Kashmir was an unusual borderland. It was neither porous
conflicts, Hasanabad was ransacked (Mattoo 1988: 15051). nor mobile. On the contrary, Kashmir jannat nazir was a closed
Jahanara Begum owned three gardens in Kashmir: The gar- border, the place where journeys came to an end. The imagi-
den of Jawahir Khan Khwaja Sara on the island in Dal Lake, nary of Kashmir jannat nazir became one of the ways in which
Bagh i Nur Afshan laid out by Nur Jahan on the banks of Jhe- the authority of empire was articulated in the borderland.
lum and the garden at Safapur which had originally been laid Kashmir remains an evocative word for us todayas the site
out by Mirza Haider Dughlat (Lahori 1868: 195). Jahanara laid of competing nationalisms, political contestations, deep suffer-
out a garden in her jagir at Achhwal and renamed it Sahiba- ing and fear. Ironically, this Kashmir sits alongside a strong visu-
bad, based on her title of Begum Sahiba. Jahanaras use of her al memory of a heavenly land (Kabir 2009).18 I would argue
title in the act of renaming the garden was a political gesture. that, while the landscape of the Valley has appeared in different
When Jahanara Begum laid out gardens in Chandni Chowk in discursive traditions, our imagination today draws its lineage
Shahjahanabad, she also gave them the name of Sahibabad. from the very specific Mughal imaginary of Kashmir jannat nazir.

Notes Kitab Nuzhat al-Mushtaq fi Khtiraq al-Afaq. See 5 Buzurg ibn Shahriyar (2000: 23). Interesting-
1 See Mattoo (1988); Kaw (2001); Bazaz the discussion in S Maqbul Ahmad (1989) and ly, this story is retold by a much later author, Al
(1967: 21); Parmu (1969: 281); Sufi (1996); S Maqbul Ahmad and Raja Bano (1984). Qalqashi (d 1418). There are modifications in the
Bamzai (1962). 3 See discussion on the body of literature classi- names of the principal actors and the region is
2 Kashmir is mentioned in a number of Arab fied as Ajaib in Manan Ahmed Asif (2016), identified as Alor or Alwar in the later story.
Geographies. Among some of these are authors Aditya Behl (2006), Travis Zadeh (2010). A story that was initially narrated as an Ajaib
like Al Baladhuri (d 892), Futuh al-Buldan, Ibn 4 This story qualifies as an ajaib because this became a credible tale in a later context. For Al
Khurdadhbih (d 912), Kitab al Masalik wal particular text is dated to the tenth century, Qalqashis narration see Zaki (2009: 5152).
Mamalik, Gardizi, Zayn-ul Akhbar; Al-Masudi which predates the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir 6 Zadeh (2010); Antrim (2012).
(d 956), Muruj al Dhahab, Al-Idrisi (d 1156), by a few centuries. 7 As quoted in Dughlat (1973: 432).

Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 43
8 Mirza Haider Dughlat was a Mughal nobleman Antrim, Zayde (2012): Routes and Realms: The Power Great Muslim Empires, Leiden, New York:
in the service of Sultan Said Khan of Kashghar. of Place in the Early Islamic World, New York: E J Brill.
In 1533, he led the Kashghari armies in a suc- Oxford University Press. (2001): Mughal Art and Imperial Ideology, New
cessful campaign in Kashmir. However, upon Asif, Manan Ahmed (2016): A Book of Conquest: The Delhi: Oxford University Press.
the plea of his armies, he returned to Kashghar. Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia, (2006): The Complete Taj Mahal and the River-
Upon the death of Sultan Said Khan, Mirza Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University front Gardens of Agra, London: Thames &
Haider lost favour at the court. He turned to Press. Hudson.
Kabul and joined his cousin Babur. On Baburs Bamzai, P N K (1962): A History of Kashmir: Political, (2007): My Garden Is Hindustan: The Mughal
death, he joined the service of Mirza Kamran. Social and Cultural, from the Earliest Times to Padshahs Realization of a Political Metaphor,
When Humayun was looking for allies, Mirza the Present Day, Delhi. Middle East Garden Traditions: Unity and Diver-
Haider joined him. In 1540, he conquered
Bates, Alan (2005): Good, Common, Regular and sity: Questions, Methods and Resources in a
Kashmir again and ruled as its proxy ruler. In
Orderly: Early Modern Classifications of Mon- Multicultural Perspective, Michael Conan (ed),
1546, he read the khutba and minted coins in
strous Births, Social History of Medicine, Vol 18, Volume 31, Dumbarton Oaks Colloquium on
Humayuns name. He died in 1551 in Kashmir.
No 2. the History of Landscape Architecture.
9 Anooshahr (2014) and Faruqui (2012) discuss
Bazaz, P N (1967): Kashmir in Crucible, Delhi. (2009): Jahangir as Francis Bacons Ideal of
the Tarikh i Rashidi within the larger context of
Behl, Aditya (2006): The Magic Doe: Desire and the King as an Observer and Investigator of
Mughal political identities.
Narrative in a Hindavi Sufi Romance, circa Nature, Journal of Royal Asiatic Society,
10 Every burnt soul that has come to Kashmr
1503, Indias Islamic Traditions, R M Eaton Series 3, 19, 3.
[is revived]/Even a chicken made into a kebab
(ed), Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp 71150. Kumboh, Muhammad Salih (1959): Shahjahannama,
becomes whole.
Bernier, Francois (1992): Travels in the Mogul Empire, also known as Amal i Salih, Lahore.
11 For a longer discussion on Faizi see Alam and
Subrahmanyam (2012) and Kinra (2015). AD 16561668, tr Archibald Constable, ed VA Lahori, Abdul Hamid (1868): Badshahnama, Maulavi
Smith, Delhi. Kabiruddin Ahmad and Maulavi Abul Rahim
12 The title of this qasida can be translated as
Bokhari, Afshan (2009): Gendered Landscapes: (eds), Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol II.
Description of Kashmir, Congratulations on Its
Victory and Praise of the Emperor Akbar. Jahanara Begums (161480) Patronage, Piety Lefevre, Corinne (2007): Recovering a Missing
and Self-Representation in 17th Century Voice from Mughal India: The Imperial Dis-
13 See the discussion in Tikku (1971: 83157).
Mughal India, unpublished PhD Dissertation, course of Jahangir (r. 16051627) in his Mem-
14 Majma ul Afkar, Khudabakhsh Oriental Library, Submitted to University of Vienna. oirs, Journal of Economic and Social History of
ms. HL 840. See Chander Shekhar (200910),
Chadurah, Haider Malik (1991): History of Kashmir, the Orient, 50, 4, Leiden.
Hadis i Kashmir dar Nuskheh e Khatti Majma
ed and tr Razia Bano, Delhi. Majma ul Afkar, Khudabakhsh Oriental Library,
ul Afkar in Qand i Parsi, Nos 4748, pp 11456.
Chander Shekhar (20092010): Hadis i Kashmir ms, HL 840.
15 See Koch (2009) and Lefebvre (2007) for dis-
cussions on Jahangirs notions of rationality. dar Nuskheh e Khatti Majma ul Afkar in Qand i Mattoo, A M (1988): Kashmir under the Mughals
Parsi, Nos 4748. 15861752, Srinagar.
16 See Travis Zadeh (2010), Alan Bates (2005) and
Touba Ghadessi (2011). Cox, Whitney (2013): Literary and Historical Con- Moin, A Afzar (2012): The Millennial Sovereign,
sciousness in Kalhana: A Hypothesis, Indian NYC: Columbia University Press.
17 See Ahmed Asif (2011).
Economic and Social History Review, April Mottahedeh, Roy P (1997): Ajaib in the Thousand
18 See Kabir (2009) for a discussion on the con- June, Vol L, No 2. and One Nights, The Thousand and One Nights
trasting yet contiguous political and popular
Diwan i Faizi, ed. A D Ashraf (1342 Hijri Shamsi), in Arabic Literature, Richard G Hovannisian
discourses which constitute Kashmir as the
Lahore: Idarah Tahqiqat Pakistan, Danishgah i and George Sabagh (eds), Cambridge: Cam-
Territory of Desire.
Punjab. bridge University Press.
Elias, N and E Denison Ross trs (1973): Tarikh-i Parmu, R K (1969): History of Muslim Rule in Kash-
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44 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

Relative Intimacies
Belonging and Difference in Transnational Families

Sahana Ghosh

Described here are stories of families within the married into India out of greed for the melas, fairs, and now
borderlands of India and Bangladesh who have kin I am stuck no jawa-asha, coming and going, for me,
Shefali Barman said with a deep sigh.1 A 26-year-old widow
relations on the other side of the border. They are about
in Putimari, a border village in Cooch Behar district of West
the continued making and maintenance of kinship ties Bengal, India, she was bemoaning her inability to cross the border
across transnational family networks over the changing to attend a nephews rice-eating ceremony, where all her natal
practices of border control. Officers and constables in family would be gathered, in the nearby Bangladeshi border
village of Boraibari.2 The circuitous route Shefali usually took
the Indian Border Security Force, tasked with preventing
between Putimari (in India) and Boraibari (Bangladesh), across
all cross-border movements, recognised with sympathy an unfenced portion of the border, had been closed at the time due
the existence and emotional power of cross-border to a newly stationed Indian Border Security Force (BSF) patrol
family ties. This article attempts to answer questions like there. She hastened to explain her reason for entering into a
marriage across an international border, lest it be thought flippant.
what normative and emotive ideas about kin obligations
In my childhood, our father or older brothers would take my sisters and
and morality prevail upon individuals and families as me to the Rash Mela in Cooch Behar and smaller melas during Durga
they decide whether or not to continue investment in Puja and Rathjatra in Dinhata.3 You see, it was no fun being Hindu in
Bangladeshbut each time we would come here [West Bengal, India],
relations across borders. How do these sit within the we would see that so many women, so many families, Hindu and Muslim,
larger political economy of the border itself? who would come to these melas, travelling to them from different places
and enjoying them till late at night The border was open in those years
[late 1980s to early 1990s], and the distance between Boraibari and
Dinhata was not very much. Jawa-asha was very easy, and when it was
necessary we occasionally stayed a night or two at relatives homes. Then
we would return to Bangladesh with toys, new dresses, and sweets.

With two paternal aunts married in the same area of

Cooch Behar district, she had also grown up witnessing the ease of
their jawa-asha with their natal home in Boraibari. Having thus
travelled these cross-border routes herself, she had been agreeable
to the proposal of marriage when it was broached, with the re-
assurance that it was close enough within the borderland for her
to visit frequently. Shefalis deep disappointment with her pre-
sentand possibly temporaryimmobility is thus made sharp-
er in contrast to the memories of these cross-border journeys of
her childhood and expectations based on those experiences.

My deepest gratitude and respect to all the families in the Indian and Jawa-ashar majhe across the Bengal Border
Bangladeshi borderlands who welcomed me into the histories and Stories like Shefalis, of divided families and arrested routes,
rhythms of their transnational lives and for the many security force
have become recognisable to us in the context of the subconti-
personnel whose critical reflections and sympathies exceed their
duties. Thanks to Farhana Ibrahim, Tanuja Kothiyal, Martin Mattsson, nents partitioned borders through film, literature, and scholar-
and Tariq Thachil for comments that helped to make some arguments ship; especially a recent series of excellent work on partitions
sharper. The fieldwork from which this article draws was funded by legacies.4 However, what distinctly sets apart stories like hers
grants from the Wenner Gren Foundation, the Social Science Research is that rather than rupture, they are about the continued making
Council, Macmillan Centre, and the National Science Foundation.
and maintenance of kinship ties across transnational family
Sahana Ghosh ( is a doctoral candidate in networks over the changing practices of border control. Villages
Anthropology, and Womens, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale such as Putimari and Boraibari across the region in northern
Bengal were all part of the Cooch Behar princely state, typically
Economic & Political Weekly EPW april 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 45

knit together by a dense web of kinship relations and a great political-economic formations, have largely overlooked the
deal of migration. Practically every family in this agrarian everyday life of the family and kinship, in its peculiarly short-
region, that has come to be reconstituted as borderlands in/of distance transnational form in the borderlands.8 Shefalis aborted
India and Bangladesh, with a Muslim majority demographic, journey and personal history of border-crossings demand that
has kin relations who are now on the other side of the border.5 attention be paid to these two aspects together: the trials of
The formation of the border between India and then-Pakistan, transnational kinship across changing practices of border control.
now-Bangladesh, meant that, within the borderlands, relations This article presents familial spatial practices serving kinship
were recast. Even today there are cross-border marriages, along and across the border in north Bengal, looking not only
although their number has greatly decreased since the steadily at moments of historical crisis at and since 1947, but also at or-
militarised control of the border on the Indian side from the dinary times and the connections between them. It aims to
mid-1990s onward. In conversations, officers and constables in connect the discussions of a long partition (Zamindar 2007) to
the Indian BSF, tasked with preventing all cross-border move- the lively scholarship on the contemporary life and politics in
ments, recognised with sympathy the existence and emotional the IndiaBangladesh borderlands, deepening both in turn. In
power of cross-border family ties. However, as they encoun- doing so it seeks to make three contributions. First, it shows that
tered these particular kinds of border-crossers, and considered such histories of family networks across the borderlands com-
differentiating them from others who were transporting petty plicates our understanding of how the partition of the subconti-
goods across the border (for example, cumin from India to nent remains a lived reality for those who, marginal to deltaic
Bangladesh) or crossing the border in search of work (for and metropolitan Bengali identity, were most affected not by
example, labourers from Bangladesh into India), I found them displacement, but by remaining in place, in areas which have
puzzling over questions.6 Why do border crossings for kinship come to be produced as borderlands in subsequent decades.
persist despite the risks and impediments to safe and fearless Second, in tracing these family histories and networks of kin
border crossings in the borderlands? While one can understand over generations, roughly from the 1950s to present times, it
their existence for the partition generation, how do we under- suggests that a particular biography of the border itself emerg-
stand cross-border marriages in a context where the border es, one which destabilises the linear account of the Bengal bor-
has been in visible existence with its growing security apparatus der from porosity towards closure. And finally, it argues that
for several decades? In taking these questions seriously as an the transnational family straddling the borderlands, despite its
empirical invitation, related questions arose. What normative sticky affective life, has become a site on which national differ-
and emotive ideas about kin obligations and morality prevail ences and stereotypes take root, are cultivated and deployed.
upon individuals and families as they decide whether or not to In this article I draw on 24 months of ethnographic research
continue investment in relations across borders? How do these conducted in the Indian and Bangladeshi borderlands in
sit within the larger political economy of the border itself? northern Bengal between 2012 and 2015 with residents and
Running over 4,096 km, the IndiaBangladesh border has border security forces. As I travelled back and forth across the
16 official land ports through which the cross-border move- IndiaBangladesh border through the northern land port of
ment of goods is facilitated, though not all of these accommo- Changrabandha/Burimari, my own movement facilitated the
date the movement of people, which is tied to the possession of exchange of photographs, gifts, and messages between relatives.
passports and appropriate visas.7 Residents of agrarian border- Family charts grew denser with details of little known offshoots
lands such as these can hardly afford the cost and hassle of in between my own comings and goings with 11 sets of trans-
fulfilling these bureaucratic-legal standards in either country. national families whose histories and experiences I traced.
Left to their own paths, illegal border crossings are thus un- They had varying degrees and forms of contact, and I draw on
dertaken for a variety of reasons in everyday life: to visit fami- that range in this article to show the intertwining of mobility
ly, for religious and medical purposes, to transport goods and and immobility between unequal state powers and the diffi-
trade, or in search of work (Ghosh 2011). Questions of violence, cult nature of cross-border kinship ties, often involving prickly
marginality, and belonging have been at the heart of the decisions, in moral and material terms. The ethnographic fo-
empirically rich, flourishing scholarship on borders and bor- cus will be on journeysimagined, completed, aborted, and
derlands in South Asia (van Schendel and de Maaker 2014; van refusedand their narrative representations.
Schendel 2005; Gellner 2013; Cons and Sanyal 2013; Banerjee
2010). These have been explored in the contestations of Pulled by Heartstrings: Ambivalences of Kinship,
national sovereign power (for example, Shneiderman 2013; Asymmetries of Border Control
Aggarwal and Bhan 2009; Jones 2011; Cons 2014), cross-border It was the morning after Shahida Bibis youngest brothers
economic networks or enterprises (for example, Harris 2013; wedding in Madhupur (BD), and at the grooms house an
Sur 2013; Hussain 2013), cultural and religious connections and enormous vat of steaming khichudi was at hand to feed all the
belonging (Ibrahim 2009; Jalais 2013; Bal 2007). Although relatives in the winter cold. I never imagined that you would
central to the earlier feminist scholarship on gender, community, see me here, in my fathers house, said Shahida chachi to me,
and violence in partition and its aftermath (for example, Butalia as we devoured the spicy khichudi, washed down with sweet
2000; Bhasin and Menon 2000; Das 2007) scholars working milky tea. I was sure I would not come, she says, listing all
on contemporary borders and borderlands, taken up by their the work and responsibilities she had in Kathalbari (India) and
46 april 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

referring to the physically arduous walk across the dry sand curry, as well as a mutton curry made in my honour. When I
banks of the river Jay that is a characteristic of the landscape remarked on this elaborate menu, where meat and fish were
in the winter months. Then I cameshudhumatro moner taaney clear signs of wealth and material abundance in rural north
(pulled only by the strings of my heart). Bengal, Shahida chachi pointed out that she found her sons
By this point I had known Shahida chachi for a few years. In family here in Bangladesh ate very well, often better than she
the border gram panchayat of Kathalbari, Cooch Behar district, did in India.9 Just imagine, as a mother I am not able to live out
she had been introduced to me as a local leader and organiser of my elder sons salaried success and status, she says woefully,
the government-aided womens self-help groups. In her late 50s, staring into the bubbling mutton gravy, shaking her head in
she is an activist for womens and child rights, and had been a regret. Ashadul used to go to his parents house in Kathalbari
community worker for numerous non-governmental organisation two or three times a year earlier. Smiling sheepishly he said,
projects. She was clearly embarrassed that she had been dont you understand, I am not a boy any more. I am a respon-
caught in the position of what the Government of India would sible grown person, also (looking down at his tucked in shirt
classify her: an illegal border-crosser. This embarrassment and jeans) I dont look like a village labourer any more, it is
tempered her delight at being able to share the joy and pride hard to sneak past the BSF. Indicating that this is a contentious
of her fathers home and local influence with someone from matter between them, his mother whispered out of his earshot,
India. It was important to her that I understood what had his sense of pride and dignity is very important now, more
driven her to take such a risk, and that it was in fact a substantial than the moner taan, affective pull for his parents. He has
risk to her. I am always worried before I come. You know people become obstinate against coming these days.
like us have nothing to do with the BSF. I start trembling just at
the thought of being stopped and questioned by them. Ashadul Kinship as a Moral Force
Hossain, her elder son, who lives in Madhupur with his wife Such a call to duty, entangled with deep affective attachments,
and children, interjected, an exasperated smile on his face. with women largely bearing the burden of these duties towards
I am always telling her there is nothing to be scared of. She just has to both natal and affinal families, to ones son, father, and brother
be normal and cross the BSF checkpoint and the river. Once on this is the driving force of Shahida Bibis decisions to undertake
side, I go to pick her up from the [unfenced] zero line myself. Once
illegal travels across the border over the years. Anthropological
when I was bringing her from the zero line on my bike, the BGB [Border
Guards Bangladesh] saw and stopped us. I told them the truth and literature on kinship has explored its inherent ambivalences
they let us go. It was no problem! We are respected in society, people (for example, Peletz 1995), the politics of normative demands
know us, there is nothing to worry about. of kinship (for example, Carsten 2007), often serving as sources
I visited her in her younger brothers home after most of the of anxiety in the face of inability to fulfil those demands. For
wedding guests had left and the chaos of celebrations had numerous borderland residents, like Shahida Bibi and her son or
calmed down. She returned to the subject of why she had Shefali Barman, kinship obligations were not a moral compulsion
come, this time, and all the other times; moner taan, she that they related to as an undesirable burden. Duty and affective
repeated over and over again. attachment were the two arcs along which kinship as a moral
I have given up everything here But when I hear that my father is force animated their lives. Their great desire to be a part of family
unwell or my niece or nephew will get married, I have to come. That is rituals and occasions, to perform kin roles of a daughter, brother,
my duty! Do you know what breaks my heart every day? Knowing
sister, underscored an understanding of kinship as a form of
that when I die my brothers and my elder son will not be there to lay
me to rest. I live in fearsuppose I get news that something has hap- relatedness that could not be taken for granted but had to be
pened to my aged father and mother. What if the BSF on duty are not constantly performed in order for its promised moral fulfilments,
good? What if I am not able to manage and come? of which reciprocity was a key part, to accrue. Shahida Bibi
I have notes of almost the same words uttered by Shahida wanted to perform her roles as much as she wanted reciprocal
chachi again, half a year later. Do you know what breaks my kin roles to be performed towards her, imagined most poign-
heart every day? Anguished tears rolled down her cheeks antly at times of birth and death.
on to her nine-year-old grandson sitting close to her. This time The ambivalences of kinship are also manifest in terms of
she was on a brief visit to see her newborn granddaughter. I emotional well-being and the realisation of life-course specific
have to do my duty, dont I? she said, rocking the week-old expectations. Transnational separation had the potential to
baby in the cradle of her arms. What will people say if none of threaten the social reproduction of gender and kinship roles
us (referring to herself, her husband, and Ashaduls siblings (Charsley 2005). For Shahida Bibi being denied the fruits of
who live in Kathalbari, India) came to see Asahduls child, to her sons success raised questions over the credibility of her
give it love and blessings? own sacrifices as a good mother; after all, the ideal life-course
It was a Friday and Ashadul, employed in the district govern- of a mothers journey culminates in being taken care of by
ments agriculture department, was at home from work, busy her son (elder son in particular) and partaking of that kin
with prayers and meetings at their neighbourhood mosque. We exchange testifies to the moral uprightness of his character and
chatted in the kitchen of his house as Shahida chachi finished upbringing to his mothers credit. As Kapur and Cossman
preparing the lunchtime meal we would eat together once he (1996) note, the tremendous discursive power of the familial
returned. In addition to lentils, greens, aloo bhorta (spiced mashed ideology is to naturalise it, make these roles of dutiful daughter
potatoes), there was a fish preparation with vegetables, an egg and self-sacrificing mother inevitable. Here, the ubiquity of
Economic & Political Weekly EPW april 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 47

these structural expectations of gendered life-cycle exchanges family, is framed, prohibitively (Kapur 2005). The Indian states
and performances provide a counter-narrative of valuealbeit inability to provide a measure for these legitimate citizens
within the bounds of a normative patriarchal discourseto needs, to the contrary, harassing and belittling them for these
the legal regime of Indias unilateral border control architec- needs, was perceived as a great failing and heartless, in con-
ture, subtly critiquing its validity from such a moral standpoint. tradistinction to the Bangladeshi state characterised as more
Shefalis comments, with which I began, disarmingly straight- humane in the form of the compassionate Border Guards
forward, remind us that marriages mean movement, and once Bangladesh (BGB).
formed, marital alliances and kinship ties require movement for
their upkeep. Impediments to these, in this case in the form of Transnational Separation, National Stereotypes
BSF checks and controls, associated issues of social status, and While certainly, what the map cuts up the story cuts across
real risk of arrests or physical injury (the latter, in the form of (Certeau 1984: 129), the existence of national borders, however
beatings, typically directed towards men caught by the BSF) can they may be overcome or enforced, has its own material and
seriously jeopardise the present and rule out the future for such affective effects. The Indian states investment in an increasingly
relationships. What these statements do not reveal is the gendered militarised border security apparatus, from numerically higher
nature of these movements: marriage is always migration for boots on the ground, durable fencing, floodlights, night vision
women, a necessary corrective to dominant paradigms in migra- equipment and arms, surveillance cameras12 is in stark contrast
tion studies.10 And in the case of this borderland, if the marrying to the Bangladeshi states material presence on their side of border
woman finds herself on a different side of the border from her security (fewer troops, no surveillance equipment, and no fence).
family, it also creates a particular kind of gendered border-crosser, New historiography on the partition has shown us postcolonial
with its own politics of suspicion and sympathy in relation to regimes of citizenship were produced through elaborate bureau-
border control practices, as the comparison forced between cratic controls on mobility (Zamindar 2007) and the management
Shahida Bibi and her son makes painfully clear. Such a border- of refugees (Datta 2012). If citizen-subjects do imagine their
crosser is distinct from those crossing for economic reasons polities in contradistinction to proximate others through objects,
a distance doubly asserted by Shahida Bibi and her sonand such as the map (Ramaswamy 2002) for example, we must
that distinction is vital to the real and perceived social accept- consider the material and affective effects of unequal sovereign
ability of her movements, but nevertheless enmeshed in the powers thus displayed at their shared border. How do close kin
larger border economy of everyday mobility. As the BSF offic- come to live as national neighbours? In other words, to pose
ers and troops acknowledged the moral rightness of transna- the question of difference a little differently, when there are
tional relative intimacies and harboured sympathies for the numerous and deep continuities across the borders of national
tribulations of those separated by the legal regime of this bor- maps, how is difference learned and imagined?
ders control, residents mirrored this in their expectations of al- Master narratives of nation and national character are woven
lowances from those law-enforcers. It was such individual recog- into the weft and warp of transnational family life that bear out
nitions and sympathies that Shahida Bibi counted on, for the BSF the bitter reality of unequal neighbourly relations. Separate
to be good as she anticipated to manage her future visits. reflections on the visit of a fake Indian voter-identity card-
Unlike Toba Tek Singhs incomprehension and epistemological bearing Bangladeshi kin to her relatives home in Kathalbari
denial of the border, the artifice of statist divisions, it becomes (India) contrasted makes this point poignantly clear. Majidul
clear that the lived experiences of kin relations in this border- Hoque, a pharmacist in Kathalbari, is quite a contrast to Shahida
land take that artifice of state-making into account, embodying Bibi in his preferences for observing transnational kin obliga-
its inhumanity, staging a critique of its values in complicated tions. His wife is from an erstwhile Bangladeshi enclave in
ways. If they can make arrangements for the enclave-dwellers, central Cooch Behar; her sister, Fatima, is married into an old
why not for us? questioned Shefali, about the Indian state, amid tobacco-growing centre, Bibiganj, now a Bangladeshi border
the travel and citizenship arrangements being made for the village. As the dulha bhai, brother-in-law, he has received
enclave-exchange process between India and Bangladesh in this numerous invitations from Fatima, his sister-in-law, and niece
same region, ongoing at that time.11 A mother visiting her son, a to simply cross the unfenced border and the BSF checkpoint
daughter visiting her mother: the moral power of these subject and visit them, especially since in their perception, as an Indian
positions excluded them from the infamy of illegality in broader citizen he may be able to do that more easily than them. In his
social eyes, even though Shefali, Shahida, Ashadul, each of them little room in the Kathalbari bazaar, stacked with medicines,
wrestled with concerns for social status being diminished through he confessed that he was uncomfortable with breaking the law
association with the illegal border economy and questioning that comes with such border-crossings.
by the Indian BSF. Their fearsas well as strategies employed It is very difficult, they always put pressure on me to visit whenever we
indicate that there is a hierarchy of exception for people like us, talk on the phone.13 As it is they [his niece and his sister-in-law] come
visibly marked through, for example, dress in terms of class status, abaidya bhabe, illegally. Bangladeshis have more courage than us In-
whose compulsions to undertake such activities are sympatheti- dians, they can be desperate. I am afraid to take them around on my
bike, even though they have cards.
cally considered by the border security forces. This is remarka-
bly different from the moral discourses within which womens Fatima of Bibiganj (Bangladesh) has three children; her
mobility for work, unprotected by the shared ideology of the eldest, Jui, is a young college-going woman, who with her
48 april 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

fake Indian voter identity card had crossed the border and positioned as a desperate Bangladeshi, a threat to Indian
the BSF checkpoints passing through as an Indian citizen to border security.
visit her khala, maternal aunt, several times in Kathalbari
and was keen to return. One evening I was seated in the We Have Been Here, the Border Happened
courtyard of their modest tin-walled house in Bibiganj and Close attention to these tensions in transnational kinship offer
being hosted with steaming cups of spiced black tea, plates of insights into the fraught relationship between subjectivity,
sliced apple, Nutty biscuits, fried noodles, and sweets. An ap- national affinities, and grounded narratives of historical
preciative comment from me about the spread of snacks to change. Nation states, with their ordering of histories and re-
accompany tea drew an indignant response from Jui, on her gimes of power, have been central in controlling and ruptur-
experience of difference in hospitality between this side and ing processes of movement and settlement. They seek to effec-
that side. tively control the power of legitimacy of historical narratives
When someone comes to our house, whoever it may be, the very least
itself. Thus, as Alexander, Chatterji and Jalais have argued,
we will do, however poor we might be is to put some tea on the hearth. The movement of brides thus calls to be placed in the context
Biskut, fruit, chanachur, if we have made some nashta (snacks) at of national borders and practices, not just in the regulation of
home, at least two or three types of things. But I have seen what they who can enter and stay within a countrys borders, but in the
are like on that side (referring to her visits)they will ask if you want broader sense of who belongs and who does not (2015: 149).
tea, if you should say no then thats the end! You wont even get tea! If
Cross-border marriages, a particular aspect of transnational
you get tea, maybe they will give some biskut with it. Nobody bothers
with anything else. People think too highly of themselves on that side. kinship, are still being brokered for entirely pragmatic purpos-
es that take the violent lessons of history, of territorial state-
While Majidul Hoque was quick to separate differences in making, and communal polarisation seriously. To look no fur-
attitudes towards border control by deploying stereotypes ther than Shahida Bibi, her predicament is the product of a
about national character as Indian and Bangladeshi among complicated life history, one in which the upheavals of wars,
his own kin, his niece Jui too read the differences she noticed its displacements and survivals are explicit themes, although it
in the hospitality practices among her family in the light of is not an uncommon story in the borderlands. She was born in
larger national differences and inequalities in bilateral relations. Kathalbari and was a little girl when she moved to Madhupur,
Wielding a common joke contrasting the miserly West Benga- then in East Pakistan, with her family as her father (still
lis with the generous East Bengalis, the placement of us and remembered in Kathalbari bazaar as Taleb Ali Mahajan) ex-
them along national lines was enabled by a cultural intimacy changed his house, shop, and four acres of land with a Ray
(Herzfeld 1997) that came from intimate knowledge circulat- family of Madhupur in 1965 in the threatening lead up to the
ing in a family and affirmation of cultural difference among IndiaPakistan war. Then less than a decade later they all moved
proximate others. Ashaduls assertion of his self-respecting back to Kathalbari for nine months to wait out the bloody war
and proud national identity was jostling against such prevail- of 1971, putting up at the house of her fathers old friend. That
ing stereotypes of a desperate, law-breaking Bangladeshi, is where her fate was sealed, as she sees it today. After the war,
widely articulated by BSF personnel and residents in the Indi- her father married her to the son of the family that had shel-
an borderlands. At what point would one cease to be a familial tered them during the war. It was a way of staying connected
relative (atmiya sajan), and appear as embodying these national to his beloved Kathalbari, of infusing deeper meaning into the
types, was an unresolved source of tension in cross-border bonds that had kept them alive in that trying year of 1971.
family networks; in whispers, jokes, and declined invitations, Who knew then that the border would be closed? For so many years it
they erupted in intimate relations. was not a problem to cross the border, these checks and hassles17 are
As we saw with Shahida Bibi and Ashadul, neither mother very recent. After all, India freed Bangladesh, who knew it would
come to this?
nor son wished to relocate, devoted as they are to the national
identities with which they characterise themselves and their Remarkable too are the silences about cross-border kin and
worlds today.14 The resentment they share is directed at the keeping contact with them in the space of everyday life in
inequality in neighbourly relations, deeply felt among trans- India, whether through regular phone calls or irregular visits.
national kin. While Indian kin in Bangladesh are not stopped In the course of my ethnographic research I found that it
by the BGB (as Ashadul testified and Shefali does not fear in would be months after knowing someone that I would discover
her calculations), Bangladeshi kin found it practically impos- his or her family connections in Bangladesh. Unless you were
sible to visit in the other direction.15 The toll this takes within someone who was also known to be in the same position, people
families is not negligible and puts a further strain on the ine- on the heavily surveilled Indian sidemostly Muslimdid
qualities of exchange and reciprocity that are integral to kin- not feel they could trust you with these confidences, which
ship. This is evident as what makes it dangerous for Ashadul had transformed from being commonplace facts to sensitive
as a young male Bangladeshi Muslim to cross the BSF16 com- information. It was the reverse case in Bangladesh, where my
pared to Shahida Bibi as an elderly Indian Muslim woman to own Indian Bengali identity attracted unsolicited accounts
cross the BSF is elided, and instead the matter tersely settled, of familial connections from Muslim residents; the Hindu
within the family, in terms of affective attachments thereby minority was less forthcoming in similar fashion to their
flattening the imbalances of risk and humiliations of being minority counterpart in India. The state is, as Carsten notes,
Economic & Political Weekly EPW april 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 49

heavily implicated in the transmission of kinship memories families in the long years after partition. It demonstrates that,
(2007: 21). So it was by chance that I came upon the now trans- although resembling the affective and familial strategies with
national details of Afzal Hossains family network. A talkative which people coped with the new borders that slashed through
septuagenarian, I had been summoned for sessions at dawn, the subcontinent, the strategies that continued in the several
after he read his first prayers of the day, to record his life his- decades after, rooted within the borderlands, were anchored in
tory. The Bengali postcolonial trinity of Bose, Gandhi, and particular political economies. For so many years, it was no
Nehru hung on his wall alongside framed award certificates problem to cross the border does not mean an even porosity
received for contribution to education. Afzal master was giv- along its length and breadth. As Shefali is faced with a new pa-
ing an account of the high politics of the nationalist move- trol stationed along the route she had been employing, we real-
ment through which HindoostanPakistan happened. His ise that the openness and closures of the border change, over
kindly wife had brought us tea and breakfast, a distraction I time and with local specificity. As do the strategies that residents
seized as a break from the school textbook history lecture. employ in order to successfully overcome the presence of border
Where is your baper bari (natal home), dadi? I asked her, a security, in whatever material form, on whichever side.
standard question with which I began conversations with mar-
ried women of different generations, alert for patterns among/ Parallel Biographies
across generations. A long silence fell upon us as the elderly These family histories, spread over generations, mark a paral-
couple looked at each other uncomfortably. Its not close by, lel biography: that of the border itself. Starting with its birth
said Afzal master, grey brows furrowed. in 1947, the biography unfolds in terms of closures and open-
You wont report this will you? Her baper bari is in Bangladesh; it is my
ings, porosity and impermeability, belying the modernist nar-
mamar bari, maternal uncles family. When we got married it had just rative of linear temporal progression from open to porous to
become HindoostanPakistan, you wouldnt think there was a border increasing control and now approaching closure that we are
for many years, everything continued as usual. Even trains used to familiar with for this particular border, and for porous borders
run across the bridge here as before. Then it was only around the
more generally. This contradiction works at multiple levels.
6 September war that everything stopped.18 The train that went from
Kathalbari was stopped in Pakistan and war broke out. Our jawa-asha
One, people marked clear moments of openness and closure,
stopped completely too. Pakistan kept kora, strict vigil at the border; permissibility and porosity; in fact it was the absolute open-
you could not get past the Khan-sena. I was in a sarkari chakri, govern- ness at the time of the 1971 war that came after the experience
ment job, our children had grown up what if they called us Pakistani? of strict enforcement and closure of the border on the Paki-
Then came the ekattorer juddho [war of 1971], border-torder every-
stani side in the years leading up to the war of 1965, that gen-
thing disappeared.19 Pil-pil kore (in huge crowds) people came here
from Pakistan. My in-laws family came and took shelter in this house
erated an understanding of border security as unstable and
my brothers-in-law and their families. Indira Gandhi gave them all capable of radical change. A progression from porous to closed
rations in the camps! They all went back after Bangladesh became in- was not taken for granted, as closed to open had been seen to
dependent but the border was open for many years. We never went happen before, and so residents with several generations-old ties
that way of course, abaidya bhabe, illegally.
remain hopeful. Two, cross-border marriages reoccurred across
Clearly not trusting his unworldly wife to narrate their generations despite the border, not unaware of it, but taking
family history, Afzal master presented one to me that was its openings and closures, its indeterminacies into account. In
carefully constructed in reference to official national historical fact we find, through glimpses in the accounts here, that there
events. His narrative emphasis on the righteous observance of were dense accretions of investment in cross-border ties as
lawembodied in his familys giving up the upkeep of kin safety nets in times of crisis. My research finds that through
relations by not crossing to East Pakistan/Bangladeshwas marriages, among other things, cross-kinship was validated
integral to his public and self-image as a good citizen, and in and strengthened in times of political violence and communal
these times, a good Muslim. Despite being a respected and tension. Residents, even when thwarted in travel plans at a
well-known community elder, he feared being reportedfor given moment and in a given place, believed that it could not
being married for over 50 years now to someone who may be permanent; it had never been before. And, finally, the view
today be labelled Bangladeshi.20 from within these transnational kinship networks suggests
Bengals borders remained largely porous after partition and that closure and a negotiated porosity exists simultaneously in
uneven attempts by the state to control them were thus unsuc- single temporal periods, becoming visible depending on which
cessful (Chatterji 2009; van Schendel 2005). From mainstream side you approach the border from and in what perceptible
media to statist security statements, from governmental reports social position, as marked by religion, gender, and class.21
to scholarly analyses, this porosity has been the defining charac- It was six months after this interview that Afzal master
teristic in descriptions of the IndiaBangladesh border. Shahida announced to me that he had applied for a passport through
Bibis lamentwho knew it would come to thisvoices an agent and had to travel to Kolkata for the appointment to
sentiments held by many others. This affective narration of deposit his biometric data. He and his wife were mightily
history, before the what happened has been entirely sub- excited; it was only in that conversation that I learned that one
sumed into the that which is said to have happened, to follow of their daughters was married across the border and lived in
Trouillots (1995: 113) important semantic distinction, bears Hatibandha (subdivision in Lalmonirhat district). She had
strong resemblances to the responses of divided and displaced been married at the end of the 1971 war to the son of her
50 april 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

maternal uncles brother-in-law, whose family had also stayed generated by labour migrations, which have been the primary
with them during the war. There had been about a decade of basis of theorisation of transnationalism from below (Smith
jawa-asha on their part after 1971, and then the son-in-law and Guarnizo 1998). I have shown that close attention to the
who held a salaried job had refused to take the risk once the spatial practices employed by borderland residents opens up
Bangali Khedao andolan started in nearby Assam.22 Afzal masters a world of negotiation with multiple contingent factors: the
life history, highly organised and full of precise details, was ambivalent pressures inherent in kinship, an unequal pair of
dotted with ellipses. It was only with the passport application border control regimes that demands certain performances of
that he could proudly share his plans to visit his daughter in citizenship especially of its religious minorities, the discourses
Bangladesh, indeed even acknowledge his daughter and her of national stereotypes that seep into familial tensions. Spatial
family across the border. The silences and hesitations I recorded practices range from individuals who undertake border-crossings
among Indian borderland residents regarding their kinship and risk the indignity of encounters with border security forces,
ties across the border are as illuminating as the emotional and worse still arrest, to those who in refusing to engage in
words and actions shared vocally by several others. As Trouillot such risky illegal travels, perform citizenship in towing the
reminds us, mentions and silences are thus active, dialectical line of their sovereign states. I have stressed that existing rela-
counterparts of which history is the synthesis (1995: 48). To tions did not end, they were recast and renewed and called
recover the messy character of history as process, as it was upon for new roles as people had to learn how to sustain not
lived through, attending to the narrative pulls of chronology, only kinship ties but broader livelihoods and sociopolitical
the transformation of what happened into that which is said pressures, especially as religious minorities in their respective
to have happened (1995: 113). new nation states. Marriage and kinship obligations function
as social insurances in times of displacement. Furthermore
Conclusions when there are no formal mechanisms for dispute resolution
As I drew old-fashioned kinship diagrams in notebooks for the in networks and transactions that spread across the border, being
presently transnational families of Shahida Bibi, Shefali Barman, embedded in kin obligations provide social protections, as is evi-
Afzal Hoque, and numerous others, moving up or down the dent time and again through the often communally charged
generations (depending on whom I started with), I was noting violent displacements and wars of 1947, 1965, 1971, the tense
the place-name where each spouse was from. For the partition years of the Assam agitation in India, and more recently in the
generation, Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Moynaguri, years under the Bangladesh Nationalist Party in Bangladesh.
Rangpur, Kaliganj, Phulbari, Nageswari, Bhurungamari, Dhubri, This paper has resituated kinship, gender, family, and inter-
Gaibandha, these names plotted out the contours of a kinship generational dynamics firmly in relation to the issues of move-
geography that stretched across united northern Bengal and ment, trade, and livelihood that dominate borderland studies
lower Assam, through the length and breadth of the Cooch Behar (including accounts of security forces and their excessive violence
princely state and greater Rangpur district. As several elderly or unsympathetic demeanour). It has argued that the border-
residents put it, they have not started doing anything new or land transnational family transgresses the public/private divide
different by way of marriage practices or observance of by becoming a site of and for public matters of legality and
kinship relations. It is the border that happened to them and national difference. This foregrounds the politics of affective
turned their lives into transnational ones. Practices such as relations and moral thresholds between border villagers and
residence and giving birth in ones baper bari, routinely prac- the border security forces marking a significant departure from
tised without much interference in the form of border control literature on borders and migration that has largely studied
roughly in the years between 1947 and 1965 and then again womens labour migrations, and in the frames of trafficking and
from 1971 up to the late 1980s, suddenly took on new significance. sexual exploitation at the border (Ghosh 2015). I have argued
For those who had records of these births in the form of birth instead that female border-crossers are protected from stigma
certificates in India, a documentary practice rarely seen before as the moral discourses of the family ideology sanction their
the 1980s, they formed the basis for the acquisition of other desires and mobility unlike other women who cross for work
documents marking residence and eventually citizenship without the cover of this legitimising discourse of the family.
ration cards, voter cards. For those born in Bangladesh, with The moral righteousness inherent in the task of observance of
childhoods spent in their nana (maternal grandfather) or kin relations firmly separates border-crossings for familial rea-
mamar bari (house of maternal uncle), figured as places of sons from border-crossings for economic reasons beyond these
generosity and care, these experiences provided a vantage gendered roles. Even though there are those who choose to
point to speak of the neighbouring nation, its people and places, abstain from illegal mobility, a desire for it leads them to seek
with deep affective attachments. Even if such individuals had out other means, such as Afzal masters passport acquisition
resolutely decided not to undertake travel without a passport and stealthy phone calls for almost all others. Many expressed
in their adult lives. what Shahid Bibi articulated clearly. I wish there was some
These produced, without intentional design as the lives of way for us to come and go in a good way (bhalo bhabe). Cant
Afzal masters family testify, transnational ties and social the government do something about it? The hope for change
spaces. This is markedly different from the transnational net- in border security architectures remains, despite the tensions
works and social spaces between places geographically distant, and differences in relative intimacies.
Economic & Political Weekly EPW april 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 51
Notes movement of residents and visitors is closely Datta, Antara (2012): Refugees and Borders in South
1 All names have been changed to protect the monitored through the checking of identity cards, Asia: The Great Exodus of 1971, Routledge.
identities of the individuals. Words in Bengali unwarned questioning, and bodily searches. Gellner, David (ed) (2013): Borderland Lives in
have been italicised and their translation pro- This insistence monitoring has been dated by Northern South Asia: Non-State Perspectives,
vided alongside. English words that were used all accounts to the mid-1990s in this region. Durham: Duke University Press Books.
in Bengali sentences have been italicised to in- 18 I consistently found that in oral accounts of Ghosh, Sahana (2011): Cross-Border Activities in
dicate original usage. political and regional history, the 1965 India Everyday Life: The Bengal Borderland, Con-
2 All names of villages, gram panchayats, and Pakistan war was referred to as chhoy Septem- temporary South Asia, 19, No 1: 4960
union parishads are fictitious although there berer juddho, referring to the date on which (2015): Anti-trafficking and Its Discontents:
may be villages of these names in the districts hostilities formally broke out between the two Womens Migrations and Work in an Indian
of Cooch Behar and Lalmonirhat as I have tried countries. Borderland, Gender, Place & Culture, 22:9,
to use common names. 19 It is noteworthy that he uses ekattorer juddho, pp 122035.
3 Rash Mela in Cooch Behar is the second largest the war of 1971, a term commonly used by the
Gupta, Radhika (2014): Poetics and Politics of Bor-
fair in West Bengal. It is a significant annual lettered Bengali elite instead of gondogol, as
derland Dwelling: Baltis in Kargil, South Asia
feature on the cultural calendar of north Bengal, the peasant masses used to describe it. This
Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, 10.
an event dating back to the days of the Cooch same use of terms is noticed and remarked
upon by Nayanika Mookherjee (2015). Harris, Tina (2013): Geographical Diversions: Tibet-
Behar princely state. As a religious minority in an Trade, Global Transactions, Athens: Univer-
Bangladesh, the scale and number of various 20 This has to be read in the context of ongoing
political violence in neighbouring Assam over sity of Georgia Press.
fairs organised by Hindus are drastically small-
the indiscriminate branding and violent intimi- Herzfeld, Michael (1997): Cultural Intimacy: Social
er, and while in the past there have been com-
dation of Bengali Muslims as Bangladeshi Poetics in the Nation-State, Routledge.
munal tensions around these events, the pre-
sent Awami League government has been par- infiltrators. For insights into the increasing Hussain, Delwar (2013): Boundaries Undermined:
ticularly mindful of protecting such minority religious polarisation between previously co- The Ruins of Progress on the Bangladesh-India
religious celebrations. existing Hindu and Muslim communities in the Border, London: Hurst.
4 For example, see Suvir Kaul (2011) and Urvashi Bengal borderlands, see Annu Jalais (2013). Ibrahim, Farhana (2009): Settlers, Saints, and Sov-
Butalia (2015). 21 Thanks to Farhana Ibrahim for pushing me to ereigns: An Ethnography of State Formation in
5 Joya Chatterji (2009) has demonstrated the de- make this point. Western India, New Delhi: Routledge.
mographic reconfiguration of border-lying tha- 22 For an overview of the Assam Agitation see Jalais, Annu (2013): Geographies and Identities:
nas in West Bengal as Muslim majority through Sanjib Baruah (1999). Subaltern Partition Stories along Bengals
distinct processes of migration, displacement Southern Frontier, Borderland Lives in Northern
and resettlement in the communally tense dec- South Asia, Durham: Duke University Press.
ades after partition. References Jones, Reece (2011): Spaces of Refusal: Rethink-
6 The attitudes of the BSF on the Indian side and Aggarwal, Ravina and Mona Bhan (2009): Dis- ing Sovereign Power and Resistance at the Bor-
Bangladesh Border Guards and police on the arming Violence: Development, Democracy, der, Annals of the Association of American Ge-
Bangladeshi side are completely different when and Security on the Borders of India, The Journal ographers, 102.3, pp 68599.
it comes to more large-scale organised net- of Asian Studies, 68, No 2: 51942. Kapur, Ratna (2005): Cross-Border Movements
works of cross-border activities such as dealing Alexander, Claire, Joya Chatterji and Annu Jalais and the Law: Renegotiating the Boundaries of
with cattle and drugs (ganja, Phensedyl). (2015): The Bengal Diaspora: Muslim Migrants Difference, Trafficking and Prostitution Recon-
7, in Britain, India and Bangladesh, New York/ sidered, edited by K Kempadoo, B Pattanaik
last accessed on 12 March 2016. London: Routledge. and J Sanghera, London: Paradigm.
8 A notable exception to this is the recent book Bal, Ellen (2007): They Ask if We Eat Frogs: Garo Kapur, Ratna and B Cossman (1996): Subversive
by C Alexander, J Chatterji and A Jalais (2015). Ethnicity in Bangladesh, Institute of Southeast Sites: Feminist Engagements with Law in India,
9 I use quotation marks here to indicate that these Asian Studies. New Delhi: Sage Publications.
proper names were used as such by Shahida Banerjee, Paula (2010): Borders, Histories, Exist- Kaul, Suvir (ed) (2011): The Partitions of Memory:
Bibi in our conversation. ences: Gender and Beyond, New Delhi: Sage The afterlife of the Division of India, Ranikhet:
10 A point most persuasively argued by Ibrahim Publications. Permanent Black.
(2009) and Alexander, Chatterji and Jalais (2015). Baruah, Sanjib (1999): India against Itself: Assam Mookherjee, Nayanika (2015): The Spectral Wound:
11 See this for an overview of this exchange process and the Politics of Nationality, Philadelphia: Sexual Violence, Public Memories, and the Bang-
that unfolded in 201415: http://www.migration- University of Pennsylvania Press. ladesh War of 1971, Durham: Duke University Bhasin, Ritu and Kamala Menon (2000): Borders Press.
territory-citizens-landmark-enclave-exchange. and Boundaries: Women in Indias Partition. Peletz, Michael G (1995): Kinship Studies in Late
12 2nd edition, New Delhi: Kali for Women. Twentieth-Century Anthropology, Annual
mhahindi/files/pdf/BM_Fence(E).pdf. Butalia, Urvashi (2000): The Other Side of Silence: Review of Anthropology, 24, No 1: 34372.
13 Residents on the Bangladeshi side use Indian Voices from the Partition of India, Duke Univer- Ramaswamy, Sumathi (2002): Visualising Indias
SIM cards within the range of Indian mobile sity Press Books. Geo-Body Globes, Maps, Bodyscapes, Contri-
networks whose coverage extends for some butions to Indian Sociology, 36, Nos 12: 15189
(2015): Partition: The Long Shadow, Delhi:
distance into the Bangladeshi borderlands, and Shneiderman, Sara (2013): Himalayan Border Citi-
vice versa on the Indian side with Bangladeshi zens: Sovereignty and Mobility in the Nepal
mobile networks. This enables residents to Carsten, J (ed) (2007): Ghosts of Memory, Oxford:
Blackwell Publishing Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) of China
make calls at local rates rather than exorbitant Border Zone, Political Geography, 35: 2536.
international call rates. Certeau, Michel de (2011): The Practice of Everyday
Life, translated by Steven F Rendall, third edi- Smith, Michael Peter and Luis Eduardo Guarnizo
14 Radhika Gupta (2014) has written about simi- (1998): Transnationalism from Below, New
lar sentiments of longing in the Kargili border- tion, University of California Press.
Charsley, Katharine (2005): Vulnerable Brides Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.
lands and their unstable location with the con-
fines of the geo-body of the nation. and Transnational Ghar Damads: Gender, Risk Sur, Malini (2013): Through Metal Fences: Mate-
and Adjustment among Pakistani Marriage rial Mobility and the Politics of Transnationali-
15 Visiting Bangladeshi kin are not only stopped
Migrants to Britain, Indian Journal of Gender ty at Borders, Mobilities, 8.1, pp 7089.
but also arrested by the BSF under the Foreigners
Act. According to the officer-in-charge at the Studies, 12: 381. Trouillot, Michel-Rolph (1995): Silencing the Past:
Dinhata Correctional Home, several of his Chatterji, Joya (2009): New Directions in Parti- Power and the Production of History, Boston:
Bangladeshi under trials belonged to that un- tion Studies, History Workshop Journal, No 67, Beacon Press.
fortunate categoryvisiting kin. I write more pp 21320. Van Schendel, Willem (2005): The Bengal Border-
extensively about this asymmetry in border Cons, Jason and Romola Sanyal (2013): Geogra- land: Beyond State and Nation in South Asia,
control elsewhere (Ghosh 2011). phies at the Margins: Borders in South Asia Anthem Press.
16 The cover story of Outlook magazine in Septem- An Introduction, Political Geography, 35: 513. Van Schendel, Willem and Erik de Maaker (2014):
ber 2012 explicitly suggested that the Bangladeshi Cons, Jason (2014): Impasse and Opportunity: Asian Borderlands: Introducing Their Perme-
Muslim man was The new enemy in a series Reframing Postcolonial Territory at the India ability, Strategic Uses and Meanings, Journal
of stories on the threat of illegal migration to Bangladesh Border, South Asia Multidiscipli- of Borderlands Studies, 29, No 1: 39.
national security, nary Academic Journal, 10. Zamindar, Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali (2007): The
magazine/issue/10897. Das, Veena (2007): Life and Words: Violence and Long Partition and the Making of Modern South
17 Here she is referring to the checkpoints and the Descent into the Ordinary, San Francisco: Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories, New
patrols in the Indian borderland where the local University of California Press. York: Columbia University Press.

52 april 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

Reading Parijat and B P Koirala

Belonging and Borders in 20th Century Nepali Novels

Mallika Shakya

This article suggests a feminist reading of borders and orders may be political constructs representing frontiers
nation in investigating the poetics of transborder of contiguous territorial power but they also often become
vehicles for cultural homogenisation projects key to
humanism scattered in the popular genre of Nepali
modern nationalisms (Gellner 1983). Nationalist imagination
fiction and poetry. While border-crossing is often has its borders sealed by either means of mythological
predominantly associated with suffering and despair as memories or the executive cartography of violence. Although
well as hope and relief, it may also allude to opportunism territories (and societies) bounded by state borders may appear
unbroken, in reality borders permit both discontinuous and
and betrayal. My argument is that borders are not only
overlapping spaces which allow corporeal and subjective
corporeal and political, but also introspective and crossings. The contact and transcendence of such crossings
personal. I reflect on the works of Parijat and B P Koirala may lead to more deliberate and self-conscious forms of public
whose lives criss-crossed the NepalIndia border on and personal imaginations, which span a vast range from gen-
dered concerns for intimacy (Baldassar and Gabaccia 2011),
more than one level. I argue that the conundrum of their
selfother dichotomy (Macey 2012), or universal humanism
political and personal engagements might have (Hart 2015).
triggered a new poetic discourse on an individuals In this article, I try to understand borders and their national
relationship with society, state and the world. This genre manifestations through a critical reading of popular literature
from Nepal. In expanding social science categories by embrac-
of writing speaks to an earlier South Asian discourse
ing literary imaginations, I take the viewas Shiv Visvanathan
dating back to Tagore but more recently, revisited in its (2003) didthat the vocabulary of the social sciences in its
psychoanalytic interpretations by Ashis Nandy which current form is inadequate to understand the pain, evil and
interpret borders and nationalism more flexibly to offer suffering that are attendant on the fixity of national boundaries.
The uncompromising versions of nationalism and national
an alternative that is different from its more mainstream,
borders, in Ashis Nandys (2013) view, spread around the
Westphalian theorisations. world by piggybacking on colonialism, and then anti-colonial
struggle. It can further be added that the social science litera-
ture on nationalism continues to romanticise nations as public
imaginational projects without acknowledging the coercive
elements within them (Anderson 1991). One outcome of such
focus on the fixity of the nation and its borders is what Willem
van Schendel (2007) called the Wagah Syndrome, after the
daily choreographed display of aggressive masculinity at the
border between India and Pakistan at Wagah; he suggests that
this generates a psyche that influences the behaviour of the
state in other less densely militarised borders such as the one
The author would like to thank several colleagues and friends for their between India and Bangladesh. I bring to this discussion a
generous feedback on earlier drafts of this article, including Smadar
feminist interpretation of borders which invokes the possibilities
Lavie for introducing her to the anthropological movement among the
women of colour, Michael Hutt for feedback on her reading of Nepali of cross-border flow of ideas and imaginations (Saldivar-Hull
literature, and two anonymous reviewers of this journal for detailed 2000; Talpade Mohanty 2003).
comments and meaningful suggestions. Part of the work for this article I begin with a broad overview of Nepali poetry and fiction,
was funded by the South Asian Universitys Institute of South Asian but my corpus for investigating the notions of belonging and
Studies through a research grant on The Poetic Imagining(s) of
borders specifically consists of the novels penned by two leg-
South Asia.
endary Nepali writersParijat and B P Koiralawhose trans-
Mallika Shakya ( teaches at the Department of border lives offered Nepal a cosmopolitan vision of the nation.
Sociology, South Asian University, New Delhi.
I choose their works specifically for the deep concerns they
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 53

show for the incompatibility of nation state borders with con- for equalising knowledgeare central to my own reading of
cerns of universal humanity at one level, and structures of inti- the poetics of belonging and border.1
macy on the other. Is rigid nationalism the Ulyssean one-eyed
Cyclop that needs slaying for humanism and reason to prevail Border Crossing in Nepali Literature
(Hyslop 2008)? Can an ultrarationalist interpretation of the There is a rich body of Nepali literature on border crossing,
nation muffle the emotionality of belonging (Abu-Lughod 2000)? ranging from minstrel (gin) songs and personal love letters
A cursory review of literature shows that most frameworks which circulate in and around remote villages at one end, to
theorising transborder humanism in Africa, Asia and elsewhere published fiction and poetry penned by intellectual writers
have originated from poetics of one kind or the other (Mbembe which circulate in urban literary circles at the other. Collec-
2001), and at times, feminine agencies are invoked to express tively, as Michael Hutt (2012) points out in his comprehensive
the problems of belonging amidst coercive bureaucracies rooted review of Nepali fiction and poetry on emigration, they speak
in masculine pursuits of muscle power and social dominance of both the pride and woes of lhurs (mercenary soldiers) and
(Spivak 1990). My paper explores ways of engaging with popu- muglns (economic migrants), often criticising the poverty,
lar fiction and poetry to look for alternative views on nations political instability and exploitative social organisation at home,
and borders. My aim in proposing a critical reading of a literary but also of the grudges of those who remained home towards
corpus of this kind is to question the exclusionary corporeality their compatriots who chose to enlist in foreign armies or take
of borders and to explore alternative views on the self and the jobs outside the homeland.
world. In doing so, I join a conversation between Visvanathan Hutt (2012) has attributed Nepali poets and fiction writers
(2003) and Nandy (2013) that draws attention to the violence laments about their compatriots border crossing, to their
that is inherent in the very idea of the nation state as we have Marxist inclinations. He also pointed to the class, ethnic and
come to understand it in its Westphalian avatar following the other heuristic conditions of Nepali writers, making way for a
experiences of (anti)-colonialism. kind of literary nationalism that considered emigration unpat-
My writing approach is not to ethnographise B P Koirala or riotic. On mercenary service, a renowned Marxist poet from
his work into its sociopolitical contexts as several anthropolo- Kathmandu, Bhupi Sherchan, compares Nepali lhurs with
gists of poetics have done (Ali 2012; Langah 2012; Gupta 2014). I sacrificial buffaloes and puns Gorkhli (the warrior status of
acknowledge that literature and build on it, but I proceed further Nepali soldiers) with goru khli (mere oxen).2 The military
to ask a related question: can fiction generate its own anthro- awards and decorations earned are tainted:
pology, allowing us to problematise the politics of knowledge It is lovely as it adorns your breast,
in theorising nationalism? This is where I differentiate the This decoration, this Victoria Cross,
second section of my paper from the succeeding sections. The But does it not emit sometimes
former reads the sociopolitical contexts of the fictional plot, The rising stench of the corpse of your kin?
Sherchan 1984 [1969]: 63; translation by Hutt (2012: 21).
while the latter sections read the fictive power of imagination
of two selected novels to decode their anthropological merits Stench and taint constitute a regularly invoked trope of pol-
in a way that expresses their concerns for universal humanism. lution when depicting lhurs. Mohan Himanshu Thapa (1973)
My engagement with the concept of universal humanism inter- says a returning mercenary soldier is carrying a speck of poison
prets anthropology in a Kantian sense rather than to mean in the food [he] is bringing, some noxious gas in the cool breaths
ethnography per se. For Kant, humanity had to find the orders [he] breathes.3 Another poet from Darjeeling in India, Agam
of morality allowing us new ways of living together. He was Singh Giri, too urges the lhurs to shed their memories of
particularly concerned with how everyday particulars can be war before entering homes, for they are bloody and polluted.4
reordered to allow us to develop new human associations that Although this may reflect a pacifist belief that war is in itself
are most inclusive. In referring to anthropology to mean polluting, or that a war fought for someone elses cause is tainted,
human teleology in this sensea concept I borrow from the idea of pollution may hark back to the rituals of cleansing
Hart (2015)I build on the tradition founded by anthropolo- imposed by the Nepali state on migrants returning home from
gists such as Faye Harrison (1995) and Smadar Lavie (1995) in alien lands. Upon unification (or conquest) of the Nepali kingdom,
their feminist responses to an earlier anthropological classic, for example, King Prithvi Narayan Shah imposed such stringent
Writing Culture (Clifford and Marcus 1986). conditions of cleansing on the Newars of Kathmandu Valley
This particular genre of writing which inserted women into that the traders returning from Tibet, almost all of them
the project of writing culture, built on an earlier movement Buddhist, had to spend months with a Hindu priest undergoing
among the women of colour as articulated in literary volumes pti (cleansing) of theirallegedconsumption of yak meat
such as This Bridge Called My Back (Moraga and Anzaldua (the yak was held to be of sufficiently close kinship with the
1983), insisting on coalitions of diverse kinds in looking for ways Hindu-revered cows that purification rituals were considered
to meaningfully reshape the politics of knowledge in ant- necessary) (Shakya 2013: 61).5
hropological meditations (Behar and Gordon 1995). These two Literary narratives on migrants lives before leaving muluk
anthropological movementsa Kantian understanding of ant- (home) to seek opportunities mugaln (abroad) speak of deso-
hropology as a discipline with concern for universal humanity, lation and despair, and have given rise to a left-leaning literary
and the Bridge projects insistence that poetics be the platform genre of socialist realism,6 which is replete with imageries of
54 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

dukha (suffering) and bs metinu (homes wiped out) within the there is no kipat (ancestral land) in mugaln. The story then
homeland. It is not that the grass is greener on the other side of the proceeds to show a certain psychotic disability in his character
border, where narratives of bijog (despair) and dhokh (trickery) which overpowers him from time to timesomething that can
continue to mark Nepalis lives abroad. The centrality of this only hark back to the violence and self-harm involved in the very
theme may derive from a classic epic Mun-Madan7 penned by the act of emigration and border crossing.8 The story culminates
great poet Laxmi Prasad Devkota (1936) and often considered the by exposing the unfathomable darkness inside his hearthe
greatest literary epic in Nepali literature. The feelings of despair runs away and eventually commits suicide in remorse after he
among those economically forced to abandon homes and murders his beloved wife in a fit of momentary rage.
emigrate echo in a large body of contemporary fiction and poetry, This last story about the fatally destructive psyche imping-
including Tana Sharmas Mero Kath (1966; My Story), Sharad ing on migratory experience points us to consider borders as
Poudels Simn Wripri (2004; On the Two Sides of the Border), multilayered constructions of human psychology in addition
Bakhat Bahadur Thapas Paradesh (2007; Foreign Nation), to their corporeal and spatial manifestations. This is where I
Krishna Dharavasis Sharanrthi (1999; The Refugee), etc. propose that the notion of poetics may offer the tropes neces-
On the other hand, Nepali writers on the other side of the sary to understand the human psyche, in the making of borders
border it shares with India did not deny the treachery of migrant rather than merely offering an ethnographic context. We are
or diasporic life even as they saw hope in their existence out- to be reminded that borders are often drawn as contiguous
side Nepal. Even if life was not ideal in their newly assumed lines demarcating the separation of political and geographic
homes in pravs (foreign lands), they depicted that people held entities, but borders may also represent boundaries of personal
on to the memories of deeper suffering back home. Lil Bahadur hope and despair just as they may represent boundaries of
Chettri is a renowned Nepali novelist hailing from the diasporic national identities and constructions. The real and perceived
community in North East India. Dhan, the protagonist of sufferings of mugaln have offered Nepali writers literary
Kshetris well-known novel Basi (1955; Residence), is a hard- tropes of despair and withdrawal, while giving rise to a cross-
working young man from the Nepali hills who has his house border imagination verging on ethnographic realism. Alongside
and cattle usurped by a duping moneylender, while his sister the border of materiality is the border of emotions, addressing
Jhuma is impregnated and then abandoned in a state of emo- a lived space of inner doubts and convictions being reworked
tional and social limbo by her foreign lover. The two siblings, into a complex self as a result of having crossed political and
ostracised by societyone cheated in wealth, the other in social boundaries. What emerges is a multilocal way of life
chastitythus, have no other option but to leave home and cross that may construct a subjective site that absorbs sensibilities
the border. The grass on the other side is not much greener. that are deeply transnational in their syncretic viewpoints. It
Govinda Raj Bhattarais (1988) novel Mugaln, for instance, is to clarify this latter point that I discuss the life and work of
speaks of the humiliation hill migrants face in the lowlands for Parijat, arguably the most important left-leaning Nepali writer,
not possessing modern city skills such as navigating intercity who lived a life that may well be called binational and who
rail systems. The trope of suffering comes full circle with Indra nurtured transborder humanism, while leaving behind a rich
Bahadur Rais (1972) short story Hmi Jastai Mainki m literary legacy that dealt with profound questions about our
(Mainas Mother Is Just Like Us) which concludes with a scene subjective selves. Her literary contribution derives from Freudian
where a Nepali hill woman grabs her meagre belongings and visangativd (absurdism) which Parijat introduced to Nepali
reorders her tiny vegetable stall for the next days business, after literature, which boldly confronted aspects of shunyat (void)
being disrupted by the chaos of an uprising calling for a recog- and nissrt (nothingness) of life.
nition of Nepali identity in the Indian territory Darjeeling. A wise
head among the diaspora Nepali writers Rai speaks of the Border between the Self and Others: Parijat
home and the world as the mountains and the rivers in much Parijat was born on the Lingiya tea estate of Darjeeling in April
the same way as Ravina Aggarwal (2001) differentiates yul 1937, the daughter of the estates medical doctor who later quit his
(home and origin) from thang (plain land and residence), con- job after his relationship with the British colonial owners soured.
trasting those who remain with those who leave, but also stress- He introduced his young children to the philosophies of Marx,
ing that a connection lingers between the two, that mountains Engels and Gandhia privilege sometimes lacking in those
are always washed along by rivers (Rai 1993: 63). brought up in self-isolated Nepal under the Rana regime which
Amid these ethnographically situated literary portrayals of exercised an iron fist to suppress both political and intellectual
everyday suffering, a select few works in Nepali literature consciousness. While preaching liberalism, her father main-
stand out for their bolder and deeper exploration of the intro- tained an elitist way of life which distanced the children from
spective meanings of border crossing for individual psyches. their working class surroundings. Parijat lost her mother at an
For example, Lainsingh Bangdels novel Muluk Bhira (2008; early age and suffered from a chronic illness for most of her life.
Outside the Country) begins with a Nepali emigrant in Darjeeling She then migrated to Kathmandu as a teenager although she
recalling how he had entered mugaln in torn clothes with returned to India several times, initially to campaign for a revolu-
nothing but a khukuri (Nepali sword) in his waistband and a tionary leftist cultural movement Rlph and later, for medical
ghm (bamboo mat to keep off the rain) on his head, and how treatment. Although it is common for Darjeeling Nepalis to
he now has enough to feed him and his family even though visit, work and even live in Nepal, Parijats transborder living
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 55

seems to have given rise to a unique kind of transborder sensi- apathy keeps one immune to the consequences of inaction
bility as is reflected in her literary writings and political activism, (Stovling 1994). It is the lack of love and ones inability to con-
which, ironically needs to be juxtaposed against the deep fess love that finally kills everyone, including the killer. In
demarcation of the border she draws between herself and her Parijats universe, borders are deeply subjective, populated not
surroundings. I elaborate this paradox in the following way. with pragmatic concernslet alone considerations of political,
Rlph was a radical creative movement of the 1960s and cultural or geographic constructsbut with the core of the self.
1970s that sought to generate a political consciousness expressed The threshold of a home is possibly the only material repre-
through popular culture. A group of young singers, musicians and sentation of border allowed in Parijats depiction of self and
poets, they travelled throughout the Himalayan foothills, criss- othersa boundary that sets apart the lives of its characters
crossing its political borders between Nepal and India. They sang, but connects their materiality with inner souls. Sakambaris
wrote, and debated social inequality invoking neo-Marxist views, house is a homey one, populated by three unmarried sisters
at times travelling with no financial support other than spontane- and a seemingly spouseless maid. The house is full of feminine
ous sponsorship of bus tickets, meals and beds (Manjul 1988a). manifestations of different kinds: the youngest who seeks the
For a self-styled Marxist group, Rlph embraced the rhetoric of pleasures of love and elopes, and the eldest whose renuncia-
individualistic anarchism. It is on this point that Rlph needs tion of sexual pleasures has turned her into a soft-hearted,
to be differentiated from several other leftist cultural movements conventional woman of contemporary Nepali society. It is the
that Nepal saw during the Maoist movement several decades middle one, Sakambari, who defies all female stereotypes, who is
later. Even if some Rlphlis such as Ninu emphasised a Marxist sharp-mouthed, smokes endlessly and, using the imagery of
rationality of political resistance on class (Chapagain 2010), mimosa and bees, demands protectionself-destructive as it
others, including Manjul and Parijat, were inspired by a certain may befrom all external influences. She says,
creative energy rebelling against the social norms of sexuality, One buds for oneself, blossoms for oneself. If one must fall, why jostle
rationality and morality. Especially for Parijat, it may even be with a bee? If one must fall, why tolerate the assault of a bee? One falls
said that her borders were more about emotive self-ostracisation within, with ones own will. (p 12)
than about Marxist class, let alone the borders of nationality. It is in the company of these four women that their bachelor
She thought she stood out from everybody else because: brother basks in love, to the extent that Suyogbir the homeless,
I demand more freedom, and I despair The philosophy that my life is loveless old soldier confesses, I am jealous of a man for the first
mine alone and nobody elses shall claim any rights in it is something time in my life (p 31). Suyogbirs fateful kiss on the threshold
that has taken very, very deep roots in my heart. under the mimosa blossom is one fleeting moment when the
quoted in Bhandari (1994: 3334)
border between Sakambaris self and the world collapses. The
Parijats masterpiece Shirishko Phl (1965; The Blue Mimosa) intensity of the transcendent moment does not last, and the
is an absurdist expression9 of deep anguish, expressed in magic vanishes (p 51). As Suyogbir later reflects, his intense
terms of an unconquerable border demarcating self from the attraction to Sakambari had triggered memories of his violent
surroundings. The plot of this novel revolves around a retired wartime past when he raped a woman in the jungles of Assam
mercenary soldier traumatised by his violent experiences in and betrayed another. These brutalities he inflected on others
World War II, who develops an attraction for a young but have their roots in the brutalities he suffered himself as a
unfemininely strong-minded woman. The trauma of war has mercenary soldier fighting someone elses imperial war. The
turned Suyog Bir Singhs life into a meaningless void that dis- irony is starkest when he recalls telling the woman he was about
tances him from society, while Sakambari has a chronic illness to rape, why construct this wall of ideology with the dying lot like
and she lives a life fiercely guarded against everything and us? Come, let me rob you, you rob me too (p 39). Caught in this
everyone. One fateful evening, Suyogbir impulsively kisses vicious cycle of violence, what separates Sakambaris threshold
Sakambari just once on the mouth while she is enjoying the blue from Suyogbirs world, thus, is not the street adjacent, nor the
mimosas on the threshold of her home. The kiss shocks her and village nor nation; instead the demarcation is between a
she walks away. They never meet again. In the following days, Tagorean home and the world, love and wastea concept I
weeks and months, Suyogbir hears first that Sakambari is sick; elaborate further in the following sections of this paper. After
then that she is worse, and eventually, that she has died. The an intense saga of introspection, Suyogbir does approach
novel ends with a wasting Suyogbir lamenting over Sakambari: Sakambaris threshold one more time, gathering all his courage
Within the glass I see two deep dark eyes. I see a shorn head. I drink and
to confess his love for her. But it is too late and death has built
I quench my thirst. My own fingers have become yellow with nicotine. its own border and asserted its power to transcend all other
I often look at them and I console myself. (Sakam)Bari does not exist and borders as Aggarwal (2001) shows us in her ethnography of a
I recall that here, love does not exist either. I am living in an absurd faraway border village on the IndoPak border in the Himalayas.
world and, I always acknowledge, I am living in a great void. (p 66)

Suyogbir suffers inconsolably. He cannot overcome the Transcending Borders: Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala
boundary he has set for himself, as if the void he has inherited While Parijats writing and being shows how national, political,
from the far away war zone is a contagious one which he cannot and social borders seep into personal psyche that ultimately
help but transmit. This void is not about hatred but apathy. separates the self from the world, Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala
Hatred stirs action and may eventually lead to an outlet while transcends the hard-edged definitions of democratic, national,
56 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

and social propriety when dealing with the ironies of individual reiterate his call for national and regional reconciliations. His
life. In common with Parijat, his fiction avoids local colour and health further deteriorated and he died the year after, in Nepal.
weaves plots that could easily be universally enacted. The pre- B P Koirala was consistent in his liberal vision of democracy,
dicaments of human conditions for him are not about the pains nation and region, even though that put him in an awkward posi-
of political or social borders; rather, they represent negotiations tion at times with the activists of his own party. For example, he
with liminal spaces that are intensely personal. It is not sur- argued ardently in the late 1940s, when anti-Rana sentiment
prising that the literary positions B P Koirala took in his fiction was at its height among the opposition camp, that Nepals
at times offended the political pieties of the national bourgeo- democracy could coexist with dignity with a king, or two kings
isie that looked up to him as a political leader representing from the Rana and Shah families, if needed, as he put it. His view
their nation. I will discuss some such instances later in this arti- remained more or less the same when he chose to return to
cle. Here I look at some aspects of B P Koiralas life and ideology Nepal in 1976, arguing that politics in Nepal demanded more
in an attempt to clarify his universalist stance on humanism. than an electioneering strategy but a vision of nation that
B P Koirala was a leading politician and literary writer from respected the complexity, depth and idiosyncrasy of human
Nepal whose dealings with India were both political and personal. lifea process he claimed that was initiated in the subcontinent
He was born in Banaras (Varanasi) in 1914, after his father a century ago and elsewhere even earlier (Giri 2066/2009).
opposed the Rana regime and was forced to seek political asylum It cannot be sheer serendipity that B P Koirala left behind no
in India. What politically connected Nepal with India at the time grand political documents but chose to pen seven extraordi-
was a shared context of (crypto)-colonialism. B P Koirala was nary novels during his long incarceration in jail. In fact, he saw
active in the Indian independence struggle from an early age: his novels as his legacy, as he clearly stated in one of the last
at the age of eight, he individually boycotted his school in res- interviews he gave before his death. Although B P Koirala
ponse to Gandhis public appeal. Later, he joined and organ- maintained that his novels were altogether different from his
ised civil protests in Banaras, Patna and Calcutta, for which political career, it is hard to overlook the fact that B P Koiralas
he was arrested several times and jailed for four years in 1942. fiction seemed to resonate his political conversations. His liter-
When he was released from Indias Hazaribagh jail in 1946, it ary characters, like B P Koirala himself, resist hard-edged defi-
was clear that national independence was not far off for India. nitions of nation, society and self. They insist that boundaries
Realising this, B P Koirala called on the Nepali diaspora in India are neither objective nor cast in stone. They adamantly call for
to form a political party for Nepal (Koirala 1946). This led to an existentialist space that would redesign alternative codes
the founding of the National Congress, which later merged with on national and social propriety in such a way as to do justice
two other political parties to become a formidable political force to inner souls rather than outer structures (Pandey 2005).
in 1950the Nepali Congress. This party led a popular movement
in Nepal ousting the Rana regime in 1951. Following a tripartite B P Koiralas Teen Ghumt (Three Turns)
agreement signed in Delhi between King Tribhuvan Shah, Prime Here I read one of his novels, Teen Ghumt (1968; Three Turns),
Minister Mohan Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana and the Nepali to engage with the poetics of feminist nationhood that Koirala
Congress, B P Koirala joined the coalition cabinet as Minister of offered Nepal, one possibly influenced by what Tagore had
Home Affairs. After winning the first ever democratic election envisioned about anti-colonial India and arguably, even one
held in Nepal in 1959, B P Koirala became Prime Minister. Within comparable with what Mahashweta Devi lamented about
less than two years, however, the new King Mahendra dissolved postcolonial India (Nandy 2013; Spivak 1990). The story of Teen
Parliament, and had B P Koirala publicly arrested at a mass meet- Ghumt is told as a flashback of a middle-aged woman. Not only
ing he was addressing. His health suffered in jail, and after eight its layout but also the common content about a protagonist
years of imprisonment, he was released and exiled to India. womans views on different episodes of the national political
B P Koirala spoke candidly about the 1970s being a decade of struggle she underwent, make Teen Ghumt a literary cousin of
uncertainty and turmoil for all of South Asia. He believed that Rabindranath Tagores Ghare-Bire (1919 and 2003; The Home
the American departure from Vietnam had turned South Asia and the World). However, there are also significant differences.
into a new frontier of the Cold War. He called on the political Unlike Tagores Bimal, B P Koiralas Indramy is not repent-
analysts in Nepal and South Asia to acknowledge the growing ant about her past: [Indramy] does not feel bitter, only soft,
Westphalian aggression throughout the region rooted in seem- but the memory of a slight touch of sadness makes her heart
ingly random incidents, such as Indias annexation of Sikkim, compassionate (pp 12). BP writes about Indramy as being
Sheikh Mujibs assassination and the coup in Bangladesh, in a situation, when a woman probably feels that she has
emergency rule in India, and the growing distrust between reached her destination, from where she need not travel any
Nepali King Mahendra and the Indian establishment. B P Koirala further, as if life sheds its loads and gains the peace of rest (p 2).
considered the South Asia region at threat under pressure In this flashback, Indramy is honest about her feelings as a
from the charged nationalisms brewing in the region, and on fiercely independent young woman brought up in a well-to-do
this ground, he chose to repatriate and reconcile with King family, politically aligned with the monarchy. She is fond of a
Mahendra. He flew to Kathmandu on 31 December 1976, but classmate, Ptmbar, but not yet aware that this would cause her
was arrested at the airport and once again imprisoned. Upon so dramatic a turn that would eventually make her into a drop of
his release five years later, he addressed the public only once, to water in a faraway ocean (p 8). It is only when marriage
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 57

proposals begin to arrive, and her mother rejects her casual Ramesh nor in her emotional expectations of Ptmbar. What
hint about Ptmbar being a potential suitor, that she becomes Ptmbar calls his kartabya (cultural duty) towards a wife and
aware of the depth of her love for him. Subsequently, she de- child, Indramy calls lokcr (pretense). When Ptmbar accuses
serts her maternal home and knocks on Ptmbars door with- Indramy of disloyalty, she replies,
out ever having consulted Ptmbar earlier. This was done in a I might not have kept up with what society would call my duty towards
solitary state of mind that B P Koirala calls not under illusion; you, but by nourishing the fundamentals of life, I have kept my internal
just that her inner conscience was too clear for her outer reali- dignity and matrimonial loyalty intact. As soon as I conceived, I did not
ty (p 8). When she finally sees Ptmbar, the tension between let myself be touched by regrets; I waited for your return more ardently
than ever before. That is why I could never be touched by feelings of im-
her inner and outer realities vanishes, as if to come together
purity (apavitrat), shame (lajj) or inferiority within me (kunth). (p 61)
in their common focus on Ptmbar. She then easily morphs
into her new role as Ptmbars wife (p 8). As differences between the two intensify, Ptmbar urges
Ptmbar is a member of a political party fighting for a national Indramy to send the child to an orphanage. An outraged
regime change. His friends discuss armed resistance, which Indramy leaves Ptmbars home instead. Later, we hear
Indramy does not approve of. But as the only woman, almost brief snippets of how everybodys lives develop thereafter
like queen bee Bimala in Tagores Ghare-Bire, Indramy is Ptmbar soon married a political comrade and went on to
popular in this male circle where she is treated as a sister, daughter become an established political leader of the new nation; Ramesh,
and friend. This results in some tension between the couple, a parliamentarian and a householder. Only Indramy was
which becomes worse as Indramy pines for a child at a time pushed out of the political and social boundaries of that na-
when Ptmbar is preoccupied with the world outside their tion, for her two essential feminine rolesthat of a lover and a
home. One ominous night when Ptmbar goes to bed even as mothercould not be accommodated there. She continues to
Indramy stays awake sexually and emotionally snubbed, the love Ptmbar as she always did even as she mumbles to her-
military raids the house. Ptmbar is arrested and sent to jail. self towards the end of the novel with a resigned sense of
Ptmbars best friend Ramesh, who is also Indramys equanimity, this is what life is (p 73). The novel ends with a
favourite, is released from jail early while the rest of their scene where Indramys child has grown into a lively young
political circle is still behind bars. Ramesh is attracted to woman who brings her boyfriend home to meet her mother.
Indramy and eventually they develop a relationship, which Indramy eagerly greets the young man, and says to herself,
is contrasted with her marriage: he is extrovert in nature, just like Ramesh (p 74).
it was Indramy who had taken the first step to enter Ptmbars
world. It was her who had reached out to Ptmbar, so if that was a Localised, Subjective and Transcendent Borders
mistake she was the first to be blamed, Ptmbar only second. Maybe this Borders demarcate lived geographies but also an intimate self.
was the reason why she was the first owner of the joy, happiness, glory,
As the sociopolitical contexts of fiction and poetry emerging
dignity of that relationship; Ptmbar only had the second share in it.
In relationship with Ramesh, however, it felt to Indramy, that the from Nepal that speak about Nepal illustrate, borders can con-
situation was just the opposite. She did not take the first step there, she trast a neighbourly mugaln where the poor and the down-
only let herself be found. But isnt waiting to be reached audacious in trodden take refuge when flushed out of their native land, against
itself? If yes, Indramy considered herself a culprit of that much. (p 25) a nationalistic love for pristine pahd (hills) that need protection
The novel states almost factually that Indramy never from the worldly pollutions of warmongering. When poetics
stopped loving Ptmbar. The day she slept with Ramesh, she copulates with the ethnography of contextualisation, the out-
renewed her faith in religion and began her worship of the come may be what Michael Hutt called socialist realism which
national deity Pashupatinath in Ptmbars name. The day she resists the evils of global capitalism. Put another way, the shifting
felt her pregnancy was also the day she regained her hope for dynamics of the poetic imagination about borders and home-
Ptmbars release from jail, and the day she broke up with lands, which is lodged in the dialectic of suffering here and hope
Ramesh. While many other Nepali women, both fictional and elsewhere, or vice versa, constructs a sociopolitical geography
real, like Indramy in the early pages of Teen Ghumt, have left of identity and belonging. This sociopolitical agenda of border
maternal homes to join lovers of their choice, this new avatar literature is the taxonomy of the collective, often verging on
of Indramy who takes a new man with pride and dignity is an essentialised ethics of equity, justice and subversion.
not a Nepali Indramy at all. Her character pushes cultural Hutt (2012) is right to point out that the lhur- and
borders even further as she feels her love renewed for Ptmbar mugaln-bashing voices of socialist realism sit somewhat un-
while pregnant with another mans child. easily with the unproletariat lives and work of Nepali poets
Ptmbar is released from jail the day that Indramy goes and fiction writers who never left home. Living this paradox
into labour. Against her uncultural hopes that this might be has generated its own tropes which Shamsher (1998) called
the beginning of a happy family life for all three of them, kavitm nr (slogans in poetry) and nrvdi kavit (poetic
Ptmbar fulfils all cultural duties of matrimony and father- sloganism), dating as far back to the legendary poet Laxmi
hood but shuts himself off emotionally. He does not explain his Prasad Devkota (Sangraula 1970; Vikal 1983). Through this
actions, assuming that cultural norms are so well established stream emerged Rlph, discussed earlier in this paper, a
that these should be obvious to Indramy. Indramy is any- movement that championed sociopolitical consciousness
thing but a cultural creatureneither in her sexual affair with through individual anarchism. Manjul, one of the Rlphlis,
58 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

went on to turn the consciousness-aesthetics paradox on its head Semiotic Borders

by writing anarchic poetry about a sloganist poet, Siddhicharan My reading of Nepali literature is informed by Rabindranath
Shrestha. Siddhicharan becomes Siddhicharans, and takes out a Tagore who sets the pattern for the diagnostic use of poetry
procession (p 53), and the weight of this anomaly tires him so and fiction while critiquing the boundaries set on nation, local
much that, [he] eventually picks up both his legs and rests them and selfa trajectory that has since appealed to numerous
on his shoulders even as he keeps walking (Manjul 1998b: 25). literary writers within and around South Asia.10 This genre of
Manjuls contemporary Parijat, who lived a paradox of class writing speaks to the discourse on semiotics in the Saussurean
and borders, once clarified, just as she entered what is known tradition in thinking about borders. Physical lines may demar-
as the third (and final) phase of her writing, that I have now cate localities and communities but the semiotic borders also
made the jump ... I will from now on write as a Marxist (p 11). highlight emotional relationships between self and the other
She wrote two collections of short stories, some memoirs, essays (the other being community, society and state), just as they
and poems during this phase. But this is not the phase that establish proximal zones or transcend them. This is not alto-
eventually defined her. It remained overshadowed by her earlier, gether different from the Freudian (191415) comment about
introspective and absurdist writings, including Shirisko Phl the relationship between the individual and the state, that
which I discussed at length in this paper. the state had forbidden to the individual the practice of
The novels eponymous blue mimosas blossom on the thresh- wrong-doing not because of a desire to abolish it but of a de-
old of Sakambaris house, the location of the kissa momen- sire to monopolize it, like salt and tobacco (p 279). This mode
tary violence collapsing the boundary between her home and of introspection calls for renewed interest from those studying
its surroundings but also connecting the anguish of the past with borders and the national psyches that are, at times, strategi-
hope for the future. Borders are not localised herethey do not cally bolstered through shows of aggressive territoriality and
demarcate one culture or imagination from the other, let alone the misplaced Westphalian legacy of executive cartography
nations. They speak of self and others, by taking up the metaphors which trample proto-humanity.
of the home and the world. Sakambari combines a lived psyche I invoke B P Koirala and Parijat along with other novelists
with the public imagination of cross-border trajectory. This com- and poets writing on borders to bring back the focus on indi-
bined genre also defines B P Koiralas work, even though his vidual concerns of belonging and freedom. I join Shiv Vis-
borders are not divisive or protective like Parijats literary charac- vanathan in suggesting that the social science of the nation
ters but transcendental. His own life was spent equally on the two must seek to escape its current obsession with bureaucratic
sides of the NepalIndia border involving arduous political strug- order to capture the violence inherent in construction of bor-
gles for both Indian and Nepali nationalisms. His vision for a hu- ders. Poetry and novels have consistently shown borders and
man nation found more ardent expression in his fiction than in nation as a genre of violence, at all levels, localised and sub-
his political prose. Teen Ghumts protagonist Indramy is almost jective. The second subversive possibility here has to do with
B P Koiralas inner self, calling on the political and social systems gender: Women are the primary victims of border-aggression
around her to make room for proto humanity. Her love for the two (like Sakambari) and border-policing (like Indramy). Pari-
men and her daughter who consecutively enter her life tran- jat has sometimes been called a genderless revolutionary
scends the boundaries of social and political structures. With an while B P Koirala is almost an honorary female in writing his
ease uncharacteristic of a contemporary Nepali woman, she calls literary characters. It is in the engendering of the subversion
on her husband to see the superiority of her honest acts over of border-related violence that these novels offer new ways of
outer constructions and borders of lokcr. She is not under- looking at bordered nations and their relationships with the
stood. Hence, she detaches herself from his borders. She is not world beyond the border. Suyogbir rejected by Sakambari
bitter about the way her life unfolded. She is above all borders comes closest to empathising with the victims of his
created by others but at ease with herself. In their death and violent aggression in the imperial battlefields. Indramy
departure, Indramy and Sakambari embody Mahasweta Devis rejected by national patriarchy carves out a space where
Douloti the Bountiful, she is defeated by a masculine practice her daughter can freely live as she chooses. The challenge
of nationhood but on death her corpse overfills the map of India now is to see if we can apply these categories of pain and gain
such that men are effectively barred from delivering a sermon within the social science typologies on borders, belonging
about nationalism on an Indian independence day (Spivak 1990). and nation.

Notes Chokt Bdal (A Chunk of Cloud above a 6 The narratives of exploitation and alienation
1 Within South Asia, Nosheen Ali (2016) has dis- Khukuri [Nepali Sword]). under smjik/samjvdi yathrthavd (socialist
4 See discussion by Subedi (1978) on Agam Singh realism) include Ramesh Vikals Aviral Bagda-
cussed the notion of mannkahat among the
Giris poem Yuddha ra Yoddh (War and the chha Indrvati (Indravati Flows Undisrupted,
Punjabis in Pakistan to mean the epistemic
Warrior), p 39. 1983), Jagadish Ghimires Llm (The Auction,
place poetics holds in the Seraiki landscape. 1970), etc. A step further left is Marxist realism
5 The ritual was even stricter earlier for Newar trad-
2 See Titara, Battai ra Bhakkuko Ragoka Dantan- ers who returned from southern districts under the which includes Khagendra Sangraulas
haruprati (To the Offspring of Partridges, Quails Mughal realms, who supposedly had to undergo Chetanko Pahilo Dk (First Call of Conscience,
and Sacrificial Buffaloes) by Bhupi Sherchan purifications by bathing for 40 days in cows urine, 1970), Parijats Toribri, Bt Ra Sapanharu
(1984/1969). drinking it, and eating cow dung occasionally, ac- (Mustard Fields, Paths and Dreams, 1976) and
3 English translation by Hutt (2012: 20) of Mohan cording to records kept by Father Ippolito Desideri Anindo Pahdsangai (With the Insomniac Hills,
Himanshu Thapas (1973: 28) Khukurimthi Ek in the early 18th century (Burghart 1984: 104). 1982).

Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 59
7 In this classic Nepali khanda kvya (short epic), Clifford, James and George Marcus (1986): Writing in Bishweshar Prasad Koiralas Novels], Kath-
the protagonist Madan leaves home to travel to Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnogra- mandu: Nepali Akhyan Samaj.
Tibet for work despite his wifes protestations phy. Berkeley: University of California Press. Parijat (2022/1965): Shirisko Phl [The Blue Mimo-
that loving company is more important than Devkota, Laxmi Prasad (1936): Mun-Madan, sa], Kathmandu: Self.
wealth. Madan is successful in Tibet but on his Kathmandu: Sajha Prakashan. (2033/1976): Toribri, Bt Ra Sapanharu
way home he falls ill. A Tibetan eventually takes Dharavasi, Krishna (2056/1999): Sharanrthi [The [Mustard Fields, Paths and Dreams], Kathman-
pity on him and nurses him back to health. Refugee], Kathmandu: Pairavee Prakashan. du: Nepal Rashtriya Pragya Pratishthan.
However, upon his return home with his bags Freud, Sigmund (1915): Thoughts for the Times on (2039/1982): Anindo Pahadsangai [With the
of hard-earned gold, he finds that his wife has War and Death, On the History of the Psycho- Insomniac Hills], Varanasi: Nath Publishing
committed suicide and his mother has died of a Analytic Movement Papers on Metapsychology and House.
broken heart. Other Works, translated by James Strachey, Anna Poudel, Sharad (2016/2004): Simn Wripri
8 See the autobiographical documentary film Freud et al (1957), London: The Hogarth Press. [On the Two Sides of the Border], Kathmandu:
My Mother India directed by Safina Uberoi Gellner, Ernest (1983): Nations and Nationalism, Ratna Pustak Bhandar.
(2001) in which her mother, Patricia, a leading London: Blackwell Publishing. Rai, Indra Bahadur (1972): Hmi Jastai Mainki
sociologist, talks about the trauma brought on Ghimire, Jagadish (2027/1970): Llam [The auc- m? [Mainas Mother Is Just Like Us] in
by her surrendering of her Australian passport tion], Kathmandu: Ratna Pustak Bhandar. Kathsth. Darjeeling: Shyam Brothers.
to take Indian citizenship for which she was Giri, Pradeep (ed) (2066/2009): Bishweshar Prasad (2021/1964): ja Ramit Chha [There Is a Spec-
forced to seek professional counselling. Koirala: Rajntik Abhilekh [Bishweshar Prasad tacle Today], Darjeeling: Nepali Sahitya Parishad.
9 See Luintels (2012) argument that while Indra Koirala: Political Records], Kathmandu: Vidh- (1993): Pahd ra Khol [The Hill and the Riv-
Bahadur Rai introduced absurdism in Nepali yarthi Pustak Bhandar. er], Darjeeling: Darjeeling Granthakar Saha-
literature through his novel ja Ramit Chha Gupta, Radhika (2014): Poetics and Politics of kari Samiti.
(There Is a Spectacle Today, 1964) but Parijat Borderland Dwelling: Baltis in Kargil, South Saldivar-Hull, Sonia (2000): Feminism on the Border,
perfected it in her novel Shirisko Phul (The Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, Vol 10, Berkeley: California University Press.
Blue Mimosa, 1965). pp 118. Sangraula, Khagendra (2027/1970): Chetanko
10 See the corpus of poetry written by Faiz Ahmed Harrison, Faye (1995): Writing Against the Grain: Pahilo Dk [First Call of Conscience], Kath-
Faiz on the anguish and disillusionment caused Cultural Politics of Difference in the Work of mandu: Bhanu Prakashan.
by newly created borders between India and Alice Walker, Women Writing Culture, Behar, Shakya, Mallika (2013): Nepali Economic History
Pakistan and then, between East and West Ruth and Deborah Gordon (eds), Berkeley: through the Ethnic Lens: Changing Stata Alli-
Pakistan. University of California Press, pp 23348. ances with Business Elites, Nationalism and
Hart, Keith (2015): Gandhi as a Global Thinker: An- Ethnic Conflict in Nepal: Identities and Mobili-
thropological Legacies of the Anti-Colonial Revo- zation after 1990, Mahendra Lawoti and Susan
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60 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

Frontiers, State and Banditry in the Thar Desert in

the 19th Century

Tanuja Kothiyal

Through the instances of banditry in the ThurParkar his study explores the British engagement with banditry
region of the Thar Desert in the mid-19th century, this on the frontiers of the Thar Desert in the mid-19th century.
The extension of direct and indirect British rule over
article explores the intersections between the categories
various parts of the Thar Desert made them encounter a range
of bandit, rebel and state. In the context of the phrases of groups engaged in banditry, highway robbery and plunder
like pacification and tranquilisation of frontiers used along the ill-defined frontiers of princely states and the British
as mentioned in the British reports, which suggest a territories. These encounters highlighted arguments about
criminality, jurisdiction, legality, nomadism, settlement and
state of constant turmoil, this study finds answers to the
governance in the Thar, which was viewed as a harsh and ad-
questions such as: (i) Could banditry in the arid Thar versarial geography peopled by refractory nomadic groups.
merely be understood through a criminal context, or The British records of early- and mid-19th century view ban-
was it located in a political context of power? (ii) Were ditry through the lens of criminality, as a law and order prob-
lem that could be resolved through better administration,
the native rulers incapable of suppressing banditry or
mapping, policing as well as through a criminal justice system
were their negotiations with bandits a part of historical focused on retribution. However, in their encounters with
system of exchange? (iii) Did banditry and the criminality the British administrators were often faced with
rebelliousness that it was inextricably located in, rather complex histories of bandits and their complicated
relationships with polity in the desert.
challenge the ideas about Rajputhood and warriorhood,
In contrast to the colonial view, recent approaches to ban-
as they had emerged in the Rajput courts? (iv) Did ditry view it as a social and political response to exploitation.
banditry constitute dissidence, as a number of bandits Banditry, as pointed out by Eric Hobsbawm (2000: 13) in his
were outlaws? classic, cannot be understood except as part of history of
political power. Stewart Gordon (1969: 41629) argues that a
structured plunder ethic centred around the accumulation
of economic resources remained central to 18th century state
formation in Malwa. In her study of dakaiti in Bundelkhand,
Malavika Kasturi (2002: 203) views banditry as a multilayered
response by biradaris to the British attack on their territory,
power, honour, means of subsistence, and military masculine
culture. Norbert Peabodys (1991: 2956) exploration of Rajput
kingship in Kota, views rebellion as a defining feature of the
Hindu kingship, which allowed Rajput jagirdars to assert their
authority, in the circle of kings which was the Rajput kingdom.
Shail Mayarams (2006: 181) understanding of Meo banditry
views it as a resistance to state formation, one that forms a part
of a dialectic between the state and the anti-state. While being
different representations of rebellion, what these examples do
underline is a seamless intermingling of categories of the bandit
and the rebel, and their locations on the margins of dominant
An early version of this paper was presented at the Annual Conference state formations. Rather than being an act of criminality,
of Association of Asian Studies in Asia in Taipei in 2014. I thank my banditry and plunder almost appear as part of a moral claim,
co-panelists Farhana Ibrahim and Aparna Kapadia, as well as the
whereby bandits locate themselves in hostile geographical and
anonymous referee for their comments that helped me shape the paper.
political frontiers and posit challenges to the state.
Tanuja Kothiyal ( teaches history at the In attempting to understand the relationship between geo-
School of Liberal Studies, Ambedkar University, New Delhi.
graphy and moral claim to resistance, I refer to the 14th century
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 61

Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun, who points out that the basis of forts, urban and rural settlements. While being agriculturally
dialectic of desert and city life was rooted in the harsh desert deficient, the Thar provides excellent fodder and forage to pas-
conditions, that engendered courage and fortitude in the toralists, as well as passage to mercantile caravans. In 1947,
Bedouins (Arabic-speaking nomadic people from West Asian the Thar Desert was divided by the Radcliffe Line, an inter-
deserts). The desert was the basis of all civilisation and the national boundary between the new nation states of India and
nomadic dwellers of the desert were prior to, courageous and Pakistan. Before the partition, the Thar Desert was a part of
superior to the sedentary people. several states that fringed it, like Sind, Multan, Bikaner, Jais-
Unlike the Bedouins, Khaldun writes, the sedentary people, almer, Jodhpur, Umarkot, Kathiawar and Kutch. However, the
settle in fertile plains and amass luxuries and become accus- arid Thar, while claimed by powerful chiefships, was only
tomed to a life of abundance and refinement, their bravery nominally controlled by any of these. By the 15th century,
decreases (Dawood 2015: 95107). While the city, where the emerging Rajput lineages had expanded their kingships
state was based, formulated the law, the desert people escaped through extension of land grants in lieu of military services
further into the desert for fear of being meted out justice. In this and established their fortress capitals like Jaisalmer, Bikaner,
sense the Bedouins were always in a state of dissidence against Jodhpur, etc, on the fringes of the desert, or in areas where
the city-dwellers, or the state. Ernest Gellner in his early work water was available (Kothiyal 2016: 6483).
on tribes of the Central High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, The political elitisation of ruling clans was accompanied by
employs the idea of institutionalised dissidence or siba that social elitisation, which resulted in marginalisation of groups
existed in opposition to makhazen, which can be translated into of warriors who either could not be accommodated or resisted
the state. If bled el-makhazen was the land of pale, then bled el- being accommodated in the emerging aristocratic structures.
siba was the land beyond the pale, each constituting a menace This resulted in the pushing of older ruling groups into the
to the other. The internal structures of the tribes that existed in heart of the desert, reducing them to being petty chiefs or
state of siba or makhazen being the same, there existed always thikanadars. These thikanas or chiefships like Pokhran,
a possibility of movement from the former into the latter. Yet, a Chohtan, Barmer, Pugal, Nuggur, Veravow, Bhoyotra, Bakasir,
number of people chose to remain self-consciously dissident, etc, while claimed by their powerful neighbours paid nominal
beyond the pale in the state of siba (Dawood 2015: 13). James obeisance in the form of irregular tribute that often had to be
Scott (2009: 3031) takes the argument further in proposing extracted by force.
that rather than being ungoverned, the people opting for the A number of these thikanas were located too far into the
state of siba were self-governing people (emphasis mine). desert to ever be controlled either by Rajput kings or by the
Through the instances of banditry in the ThurParkar region Mughal empire into which they were theoretically assimilated.
of the Thar Desert in the mid-19th century, this article explores Their distant locations, often on important trade routes, allo-
the intersections between the categories of bandit, rebel and wed them to exercise significant control on movements on
state. Could banditry in the arid Thar merely be understood these routes, which they did by way of both, pillage or levying
through a criminal context, or was it located in a political con- of protection taxes, as the 18th century records of Jodhpur
text of power? Were the native rulers incapable of suppressing state reveal.2 These instances of banditry were not new to the
banditry or were their negotiations with bandits a part of his- region, but had been an integral part of medieval state forma-
torical system of exchange? Did banditry and the rebelliousness tion in the region. Munhata Nainsi Ri Khyat, a 17th century
that it was inextricably located in, challenge the ideas about comprehensive source to the histories of clans ruling in the
Rajputhood and warriorhood, as they had emerged in the Thar, mentions several instances where local chiefs engaged
Rajput courts? Did banditry constitute dissidence, as a number in brigandage and pillage, looting caravans, horses, camels,
of bandits were outlaws or barwutteas,1 exiles from their own etc, that crossed the desert (Kothiyal 2016: 81).
states? Were the British, while understanding banditry through Dhads or cattle raids had been an accepted form of warfare
a criminal context, able to deal with it only as a question of engaged in by most Rajput chiefs, before their emergence as
lawlessness? These questions become important in the con- settled aristocracies. While the medieval Rajput state forma-
text of the phrases like pacification and tranquilisation of tion fostered sedentarisation, in the arid infertile desert, con-
frontiers used in the British reports, which suggest a state of trol over routes determined the access to power. This required
constant turmoil. The efforts to induce tranquility, industry Rajput states to enter into a range of formal and informal
and order in the frontiers by encouraging settlement of agri- arrangements with thikanadars and other warriors, terms of
culturalists, were rooted in the premise that social hostility which could include warfare, extraction of tribute, payment
was ingrained in the adversarial geography of the region, and of protection taxes as well as occasional overlooking of brig-
hence, could be ordered. andage and pillage, in order to ensure safe passage of cara-
vans through the desert. Most thikanadars levied taxes like
Bandit, Rebel and State bolawo or rukhwali ri bhachh on commercial traffic, that un-
The Thar Desert is a vast sandy plain located between the ambiguously were protection taxes. A similar tax called bolai
Aravali mountains in the East and the Eastern bank of Indus in was levied by Bhil chiefs in Mewar (Jain 1993: 49). The British
the West as well as the Punjab basin in the North and the Rann officials also found these systems necessary even in the 19th
of Kutch in the South, dotted with dry scrubland, grasslands, century for affording a ready system of local protection to
62 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

travellers, merchandise and property in the cause of ensuring Bharatpur and Kota states as well. These operations and expe-
safe transit to person through tracts where both stand in need ditions invariably resulted in disbanding of the kin-based
of armed escort.3 military support that the Rajput chiefs had traditionally relied
Following subsidiary alliances with the Rajput states bet- upon, as fugitive bandits often received shelter and support
ween 1812 and 1818, and the conquest of Sind in 1843, entire from the very chiefs who were expected to suppress them. A
Thar came under direct or indirect British control. With this number of non-Rajput martial groups like Bhils and Mers that
began a long process of settlement of Thar, with demarcation themselves had at times been involved in banditry, were org-
of boundaries, that were to clearly define jurisdiction between anised into irregular corps to deal with incidents of banditry
the British and native territories. This appeared to have been on the frontiers of princely states. Efforts were made to include
of particular necessity in the ThurParkar region, West and Khosas into the Parkar Field Force and Bidawats, Larkhanis
South West of Marwar, where frontiers of a number of states and Sulhedis into the Shekhawati Brigade. Reasons for such
like Sind, Multan, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Marwar, Umarkot, inclusions were not merely the channelisation of the criminal
Kathiawar and Kutch met. This frontier region with shifting tendencies of these groups, but very clearly recognition of the
and contested boundaries came to be seen as a disturbed and fact of their intimate knowledge of the frontiers, besides being
disorganised frontier, frequented by barwutteas, roving bands a tacit acceptance of their martiality. The ability to commit
of robbers, bandits and highway men. It was viewed as a den banditry and to control it was closely linked. The British too
of thieves where they found a safe asylum and preyed upon were entering into agreements with the people who controlled
neighbouring states.4 Belonging to groups of locally powerful the frontiers, except that they were far more powerful than the
recalcitrant Rajput thikanadars, Sindi chiefs, criminal tribes erstwhile Rajput rulers, and were able to impose terms. This,
like Bhils, Mers and Minas or mercenary warrior groups like however, did not necessarily mean that pacified bandits and
Khosas, Baluches, Sehraes, Larkhanis or Kuzzaks, these bands outlaws, always gave up their claims.
with their intimate knowledge of the difficult geography of the The bandits in the Thar did not belong to any one parti-
desert traversed across the desert with ease, preying upon cular group. They were Rajputs, Baluches, Minas, Bhils, who
travellers, merchants and herders alike. either independently or in alliance with other groups carried
In one of the early descriptions of the region, James Tod out plunder and pillage in the villages and on the highways,
(2005: 236) highlights its solitude, desolation as well as its often accosting caravans. While grain, money, precious metals,
hostility through imageries of anxious toil of caravans that arms were usually the aim of these raids, camels and horses
could come across, lying in ambush, a band of Sehraes, the were also prized commodities. Camels laden with or without
Bedouins of our desert, on the watch to despoil the caravan. merchandise were waylaid and taken into a safe territory
This sense was further highlighted in the Administrative Re- from where they could not be recovered without use of force.
port of Mallani district (present-day Barmer) 1868, that Often, the return of camels or merchandise was negotiated by
underlined the absence of jurisdiction as the cause of lawless- paying ransoms.8
ness of the region, which was
the common ground of plundering Scindees, Beloochees, and Rajputs. In
Entangled Networks of Kinship Ties and Interstate Rivalries
these wilds they sought an easy refuge, and lived with their camels and Early British campaigns against bandits and freebooters in the
herds, a nomad and predatory life; thence they sallied into Scinde, Mar- desert revealed the entangled networks of kinship ties and
war and Guzerat, and were the pest of the country far and wide 5
interstate rivalries that allowed banditry to thrive. In the Thar
The British intervention in the affairs of Rajput states in the Desert, people accused of banditry were usually local chief-
Thar often began with military action against recalcitrant tains, barwutteas or outlaws and mercenary warriors em-
chiefs or fugitives. For instance, in 1824, the Jodhpur maharaja ployed by the chieftains. Some of the early operations under-
was forced to give away 21 villages in KotKirana and Chang taken in the ThurParkar region from 1832 onwards by the
paraganas, for the suppression of Khosas, a Baluch mercenary Parkar Field Force, constituted to deal with lawlessness were
group operating in the Thar (Shah 1982: 19). In 1832, Parkar against barwutteas from Kutch and Kathiawar who had taken
Field Force, constituted to deal with banditry in the Thur refuge in the Parkar region and had taken to banditry. The
Parkar carried out major offensive against Khosas and Rajput Parkur freebooters, as they were called, included Rajput bar-
barwutteas from Kutch.6 Another region that required tran- wutteas from Kutch and Kathiawar, as well as Meena and
quilisation was Mallani, which was held by old families, Bagri barwutteas.9 In one instance, the intelligence reports
descendants of Mallinath Rathor, who styled themselves Rawuls, from Jaisalmer conveyed that about a hundred men, accused
and posed threat to the authority of their Jodhpur clansmen. of murder and robbery in Gujarat had taken refuge in Chohtan
They were known to support freebooters of many kinds. With and Mallani.10 These fugitives, sheltered by Mallani chiefs,
a view of establishing a strong centrical post in Balmeer, an ventured into Jodhpur territory and engaged in banditry.
offensive into the Mallani was carried out in 1836.7 After prolonged negotiations, the Parkar Field Force man-
Similarly, in the Shekhawati region that was the frontier aged to secure aid from both Jaisalmer and Jodhpur states, as
between Jaipur, Jodhpur and Bikaner, an expedition was put well as employ Khosas to carry out the operations.11 However,
together in 1834, to supress the Bidawat, Larkhani and Sulhedi more than being hampered by lack of military aid, the
chiefs (Shah 1982: 77). Similar operations were undertaken in operations became difficult because of internecine networks
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 63

of kinship and loyalties. Most men who were supposed to be Dera Ghazi Khan began even before they conquered Sind in
aiding the Parkar Field Force were found to be colluding with February 1843. Khosas had been the followers of the Kaloras, a
barwutteas, having helped their entry into Mallani and even religious sect that ruled Sind till 1783. As the Talpur Wazirs
plotting their escape to Punjab. The level of collusion was ousted Kaloras, Khosas refused to serve the new rulers and
such that Captain Cavafe of the Parkar Field Force reported escaped into the desert in the NuggurParkar districts, seek-
that, between the Khosas, Barwutteas and the authorities ing shelter with Rajput chiefs in Nuggur and Palanpur. They
whoever is stationed near the Junnah kills a good number made a living out of plunder, highway robbery, extraction, be-
and that they secure a portion of the plunder from the sides lending their military services to petty Rajput chiefs of
marauders.12 A similar situation was reported from the frontiers Mallani which was viewed as a country with few scattered
of Marwar and Bikaner in 1837 when an assembly of Kuzzak villages, which for ages had been a grazing ground for camels,
warriors, employed by the Thakur of Mundea, was reported kine goats and sheep, an anarchic region as it was totally
to be on the lookout for camels being taken to the Mundwa devoid of cultivation, and inhabited by Khosas.20
fair in Nagaur.13 Khosas often waylaid a large number of camels from the
Similarly, subjects of Marwar, Mewar and Sirohi who had Sind and Kutch frontiers, to the extent that Lumsden, the
carried out a spate of robberies in Palanpur, were found to Political Agent in Kutch, reported that the entire frontier of
have sought refuge in Sirohi.14 Thus, frontiers of Thar were Sind was infested with the plundering Khosas.21 They were
ideal spaces for collusions between chieftains with old claims said to locate themselves wherever it may best suit their
to authority, outlaws, and mercenary warriors, who formed convenience, with no other permission than that conferred
parts of old supply lines of military labour in the region. These by their swords, and upon the principle that might is
arrangements allowed for articulations of old claims to sover- right.22 Based on their ability of plunder and pillage, they
eignty on part of local chieftains, subsumed by the Rajput state collected protection taxes from the pastoralists who visited
formation as the following discussion on cases of banditry in the grazing grounds, cultivators as well as traders who
ThurParkar in 1858 reveals. crossed the desert.
In 1858, a series of cases of cattle theft and robberies were In September 1843, after the conquest of Sind, Captain
reported from the JodhpurSind frontier involving a Rajput Jackson, the Political Agent, Mallani, had managed to negotiate
thikanadar Khushaal Singh Chauhan of Bakasir, his brother the surrender of four Khosa chiefs, who by their own admis-
Anar Singh, and a Khosa bandit called Kapree Khan.15 Of these sion had led a life of plunder.23 Among the terms of surrender
banditries, most involved waylaying of cattle and camels, were absorption of Khosa chiefs into Jodhpur service, finan-
which were often traced to the village of Khushaal Singh. In one cial settlement and their organisation into some kind of
of the cases a camel contractor of the commissariat depart- irregular corps dedicated to eradication of banditry in the
ment was audaciously robbed of `10,500.16 Khushaal Singhs Thar. In the new emerging territorial arrangements after the
villages lay on the frontiers of Jodhpur, Mallani, Palanpur conquest of Sind, a new role was being envisaged for Khosas
and Kutch, and after conducting raids in Sind, he and his men which was to safeguard the British frontiers as part of the
often sought shelter in these territories where they were Parkar Field Force. This was in accordance with the settle-
reported to have several kinsmen. Even when Khushaal Singhs ment policies carried out with Bhils in Deccan and Khandesh,
men were captured, he managed to free them by use of force. where they had been organised into irregular corps (Brown
Not only did Khushaal Singh plunder neighbouring territories, 2014: 7275). The argument was that as a migratory and
he levied grazing taxes, and imprisoned people who did not predatory group located on the frontiers of Sind, Gujarat
pay the taxes. and Jodhpur, the Khosas with their knowledge of the desert
It was reported that the property stolen from Sind even could provide invaluable assistance in settling the region by
when traced to villages of these Thakurs could not be recov- being reinvented as militia for the protection of the frontier.24
ered as they had forcibly removed the thanas of Jodhpur state Captain Jackson viewed them as, fierce and independent
in 1857 and refused to allow thanas to be set up in these villages.17 children of despotism who have hitherto never dreamt of
These thanas had been set up in 1853, and the Thakurs of Bakasir any law but that of their swords, and defied effectually the
had repeatedly requested for the removal of these thanas that Rulers of Sind, Joudpore and Jessulmere. From their cradles
they saw as infringement.18 In fact, Khushaal Singh was reported they had been taught, that to yield their weapons without a
to have refused to allow Jodhpur Durbars authority to ever be strike, disgraced them forever amongst their brethren.25
exercised in his districts, in a sense declaring himself free of However, the Jodhpur state was less than willing to employ
the authority of the Jodhpur state.19 Khosas whom they did not trust, and strongly protested any
move towards such accommodation.26 Some Khosas were
Khushaal Singh and Kapree Khan Cases eventually included into the Parkar Field Force. Some of these
In his predatory pursuits, Khushaal Singh allied with a Khosa like Kapree Khan continued their plundering and eventually
bandit Kapree Khan, who belonged to a group of Baluch war- either deserted or were discharged for misconduct.
riors, and had been discharged from the ThurParkar police After being discharged from the Parkar Police Force, Kapree
force on charges of gross misconduct in 1852. The British Khan joined forces with Khushaal Singh and continued pillage.
interaction with Khosas, who traced their origins to Sira and From the reports, it is clear that, after being joined by Kapree
64 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

Khan, Khushaal Singh did not merely continue to venture The British administrators had attempted to pacify and eradicate
beyond his villages, but managed to dispossess a camel the Khosa plundering from the 1840s onwards, as the flow of
contractor of the commissariat department of `10,500, bring- Baluch and Afghan military labour through Sind and Thar
ing him into direct conflict with the British.27 On applying to threatened to extend the Afghan frontier to Sind. Despite their
the Jodhpur Darbar, the British authorities were informed depredations, Khosas were viewed though a lens of obvious
that the Bakasir Thakur Khushaal Singh had been in a state of martiality, which was at the same time fearsome as well as
rebellion since 1857, and the Jodhpur Darbar was in no state to honourable.
provide any kind of assistance, as they no longer had thanas in However, for British administrators the depredations like
Bakasir. In fact, the British reports about the region suggest those of Khushaal Singh and Kapree Khan, also fed into the
that the thanadars employed in the villages of Bakasir had larger picture of lawlessness that they faced in the Thar. The
themselves been in league with the robbers and demanded frontiers of Rajput states, Sind, states in Kathiawar and Kutch
shares of the plunder.28 In the face of the inability on the part were all ill-defined. Mobility across frontiers was easy, and so
of the Jodhpur Darbar to prevent pillage by what were seen as was escape. Often after committing robberies, bandits could
its subjects, the British officials were left with little choice but escape into areas of rival jurisdiction. In such cases it was
to intervene into the Jodhpur frontier and help reinstate the impossible either to seek surrender or recover the loot. In this
thanas in Bakasir.29 light, several military operations like one in Barmer, Mallani
Khushaal Singhs activities were seen to constitute a striking in 1836 were carried out. The British administrators particu-
proof of growing disorder along the eastern frontier of Sind, larly saw Barmer as the key of the desert, a point which
that by this time was a British territory. The deputy magistrate would give the most extended command and influence over
in Meerpur Khas, Sind, reported that Khushaal Singh and his the population of the surrounding region.31 Barmer was to
men kept the frontier between Jodhpur and Sind in a perpet- become the point from where several military campaigns into
ual state of excitement and disgust at the same time for their ThurParkar, Sind, Kutch and Kathiawar were undertaken.
cattle are carried off into Bakasar or Boyotra districts nothing Khushaal Singh and Kapree Khans banditry also provided the
can be done.30 He further reported that despite close linkages British officials grounds for intervention with or without the
of marriage and commerce the people of ThurParkar found it permission of Jodhpur state. Frere, the Commissioner of Sind
difficult to travel to Jodhpur on account of fear of plunder and proposed that
pillage unleashed by Khushaal Singh. if Joudpore Durbar objects to our interference let it control its own
subjects and afford us redress But if Joudpore Durbar is either un-
Assertion of Sovereignty able or unwilling to keep its own subjects in order, I would solicit per-
The cases of Khushaal Singh and Kapree Khan, who are both mission for our Frontier Officers to deal with these petty plundering
Thakoors without reference to Joudpore.32
recorded as notorious bandits, raise interesting questions
about crime as assertion of sovereignty. Khushaal Singh belon- By questioning unwillingness and the inability of the Jodhpur
ged to an old Chauhan lineage, whose claims to his ancestral state to intervene, the British clearly underlined the linkages
villages went further back than the Rathor clan that ruled over between the bandits and Jodhpur state, as well as its failures
Jodhpur. However, he was not an important thikanadar, unlike at governance in the frontiers. In fact, Frere believed that dis-
the Pokhran Thakurs, who held important positions in the play of firmness on the part of the British had managed to pla-
Jodhpur court. The thikanadars of Bakasir, in return for irregular cate a number of miscreants in Sind, and even Khushaal Singh,
tribute had maintained their own control, by way of levying on being threatened with armed action had agreed to surren-
grazing taxes, etc. Banditry and highway robbery were obvi- der his portion of the loot.33 On examination, the claims of
ous displays of control over routes of movement. Till 1853 there sovereignty made by Khushaal Singh were found to be incor-
was no evidence of Jodhpur thana in Bakasir. The thana which rect, and the only way of keeping the British territories free of
became the symbol of extension of Jodhpur sovereignty in incursions from his depredations was by strengthening the
Bakasir, was uprooted in 1857 and not allowed to be set up Jodhpur position by reinstating the Jodhpur thanas. Paradoxi-
again till 1861. While marginal to Jodhpur politics, Bakasirs cally, it was also proposed to raise a force, on Jodhpur expens-
location at the frontiers of Jodhpur, Sind, Kutch and Kathiawar es that could enter Bakasir at any point of time to investigate
made it an important point of access as well as escape. Histories cases of robbery.34 By 1861, depredations of Khushaal Singh
of Rajput states have always been studied in the context of and Kapree Khan had been brought under control, though
their contact with the Mughal empire. However, for places there are no records of their arrest.
like Bakasir, NuggurParkar, Veravow greater associations
existed with the western frontiers in Sind, rather than the Borders, Governance and Jurisdiction
eastern Rajputana. These towns and villages also lay on the Banditry, thus, raised several questions about borders, gov-
migratory routes connecting Sind and Baluchistan to Kutch ernance and jurisdiction. One of the most common problems
and Kathiawar, which is why they became the refuge of Kho- faced in the region was the absence of mutually recognised
sas after the decline of their patrons, the Kaloras in 1783. boundaries, and therefore lack of clarity in matters of juris-
The collusion between Khushaal Singh and Kapree Khan diction, which allowed people to move between the states
was a continuation of old networks of military associations. with ease, particularly if they wished to escape jurisdiction
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 65

for any reason. What was also interesting was not only the ab- Conclusions
sence of clear boundaries, but the presence of zones where a My engagement with banditry, robbery and theft in the Thar
third party, usually a powerful and often recalcitrant thika- indicates that these were multiple representations of claims to
nadar exercised influence. Pokhran at the borders of Jodhpur authority often predicated upon control over mobility through
and Jaisalmer, Pugal at the borders of Bikaner and Jaisalmer, the desert. In the dry arid Thar, control over circulation of
ThurParkar between Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Sind, Kathiawar and mobile wealth, like cattle or merchandise in transit, epito-
Kutch, Shekhawati located on the frontiers of Jodhpur, Bikaner mised authority more than anything else. Located away from
and Jaipur, forests of Aravali between Jodhpur, Udaipur and agro-centric polities of northern India, Rajput brotherhoods in
Sirohi were all zones of contested jurisdiction, where refuge far western desert, in association with other warrior groups,
could be sought. These were also zones through which trade forced Rajput kingships to negotiate passage, and thus, share
routes passed, and therefore, making them zones not merely authority. Such power-sharing arrangements, on the one
of refuge and escape, but ones where immense control could hand, served the purpose of extending the authority of the
be exercised on circulation, particularly one that was commer- states in areas that were practically out of bounds for them. On
cial in nature.35 the other hand, for the bandits, who were often also local
While all states undertook measures to safeguard routes chieftains, these arrangements allowed the perpetuation of a
as well as the caravan traffic, there were often localities bandit economy, based on protection and extortion in agricul-
close to the routes where states did not exercise enough turally-deficient arid desert.
influence, and had to negotiate either by overlooking illegal Besides being claims to authority by way of control over
exactions and protection taxes, or negotiate ransom after mobile wealth, banditry and plunder were also resistances
thefts had been carried out. All examples above indicate that emanating out of certain moral claims to true Rajputhood,
cattle lifting and camel thefts were most common forms of one that thrived in difficult and hostile desert circumstances,
thefts. With the scale of theft, it is also clear that stolen cattle, as against the one located in the courts. While the citadel
horses and camels would have been diverted to markets capitals or the durbars were located in fertile agrarian
through middlemen, or would have been returned after zones, the recalcitrant chiefs were all located in the desert,
ransom was received. mountains or forests, spaces that were geographically hostile.
In all such cases, the durbars were aware of their inability A survey of Rajput ruling dynasties of the Thar like Rathors
beyond a certain point, whereas the British officials not only and Bhatis indicates that their initial power struggles were
insisted on defining boundaries and jurisdictions, but also fix- located in the heart of desert from where they moved and
ing responsibility for loss of property, particularly if it was sto- settled in fertile zones, building their citadel capitals
len from the British territories. In keeping with the intent to (Kothiyal 2016).38
suppress crime as well as to the tradition of granting asylum to The Thar desert represented a geographical opposition to
criminals, by 1870, the British made the princely states sign the agrarian zones where Rajput power centres were located.
Extradition Treaties that made it essential for people charged The claims of the recalcitrant thikanadars in the frontiers
with crimes like dacoity, robbery, cattle theft, burglary, arson, were based on survival in harsh terrains that rendered them
etc, to be extradited. The princely states also agreed to refuse morally superior to the ruling clans. Thar was a zone of inter-
sarna or asylum which was seen as akin to abutting of offences action between core areas which represent the explicit sover-
(Aitchison 1909: 173). eignty of the Rajput courts, and ambiguous, plural and shift-
Apart from military solutions, the British also encouraged ing sovereignty of the frontiers (Scott 2009: 61). For the dur-
agrarian settlements in areas like Mallani. This meant intro- bars, the assertions of recalcitrant thikanadars and jagirdars
ducing Jat peasantry to supplement the roving class of were rooted in an older history of moral claims of entitle-
graziers and hamlets with their rain crops of millet and ments, that were both acceded and contested.
pulse spring up to relieve these deserts.36 Between 1865 and Often the claims of the recalcitrant chiefs went further
1868, 70 villages had been founded in Mallani and the British back than the ruling families or at least were contiguous.
appeared to complement themselves on reclaiming people Rajput brotherhoods, as well as other groups, with intimate
from their predatory pursuits and encouraging cultivation, knowledge of the desert, managed to enforce their terms on
trade and peaceful sources of income.37 However, new settle- the Rajput courts by holding the key to safe passage across
ments brought new rivalries, and therefore, boundary settle- the desert. In this contract between the core and the
ments were undertaken to decide upon exact jurisdiction. frontier, banditry emerged as a system of exchange. More-
But mapping was necessary not only to settle disputes, but over, depredations carried out by the outlaw fugitive or
to know the region better in order to administer it. Though barwuttea attracted a respectful acceptance and can be
initial travellers like Captain Boileau, James Tod, Archibald seen to represent a kind of institutionalised dissidence. The
Adams had all drawn geographical sketches as well as British administrators, finding it difficult to come to terms
maps of the region, between 1870 and 1886, several topo- with this rather diffused model of flow of authority, focused
graphical surveys of western frontiers of Jodhpur state on centralisation of authority in the courts of princely
along Barmer, Sindree and Palanpur were undertaken and states, while ascribing criminality to older power-sharing
accurate maps drawn. arrangements.
66 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

Notes 14 Foreign Political, 8 September 1849, Nos 29, NAI. 31 FP, 7 October, 1843 (199200), NAI. Mallani was
15 In 1857 and 1858, several instances of rebel- transferred to Bombay Government in 1836, and
1 Barwutteas were generally Rajput fugitives, Later to AGG, Rajputana in 1839, and to Political
lions by jagirdars were reported in Rajputana.
but could also be Bhils, Minas or Mers. Outlawry Agent in 1843. It was restored to Marwar in 1898.
A number of them were actually directed to-
was an institutionalised practice of dissidence, However, Barmer remained a British Military Post.
wards Rajput rulers rather than the British, in
by which a fugitive could be banished from the 32 Frere to Elphinstone, 8 February 1859, Dis-
particular Takhat Singh of Jodhpur who had
territory of a chieftain, or chosen to become a turbed State of Joudpore Frontier, f 85, NAI.
highly vexed relationships with his nobles.
barwuttea or an outlaw. In the past, this had 33 Frere to Elphinstone, 8 February 1859, Dis-
often meant that warriors who became fugi- 16 H B E Frere, Commissioner Sind to AGG Rajpu-
tana, 15 January 1859, f 33, Disturbed State of turbed State of Joudpore Frontier: 86.
tives as a result of feuding went through a pe-
Jodhpur Frontier Bordering on Sind File 85, 34 Deputy Collector and Magistrate, Meerpur Khas
riod of wandering or vikhau, in which they
Jodhpur Old Vol II, Rajputana Agency, NAI. to Frere, Commissioner of Sind, No 113 of
amassed resources or re-established them- 26 January 1859, Disturbed State of Joudpore
selves in some other territory. This system also 17 H B E Frere Commissioner Sind to Lord Elphin-
stone, Governor and President, Bombay, 1 May Frontier, ff 9496.
entailed a provision of shelter or sarna to bar-
1858, Letter 191 of 1858, ff 68, Disturbed State 35 A quantum of opium transferred from Malwa to
wutteas or outlaws who carried out their raids
of Jodhpur Frontier Bordering on Sind File 85, Karachi bunder, travelled on desert routes through
outside of the territory of the host state or Kathiawar, Jaisalmer and Sind. Amar Farooqui
chief. A barwuttea could be provided shelter by Jodhpur Old Vol II, Rajputana Agency, NAI.
suggests that in opium producing and trading
a rival chieftain, but could also choose to live a 18 Deputy Magistrate Meerpur Khas and ThurParkar zones of western India, several gangs of ban-
life of predation and banditry. The British trea- to Political Agent, Jodhpur, 106 of 1858, dated 12 ditti mushroomed that included Pindarris, Bhils,
ties with Rajput states invariably included November 1858, ff 100101, Disturbed State of Gonds, Ramoshis, Kolis and Minas, who had been
clauses that required the Rajput states to not Jodhpur Frontier Bordering on Sind File 85, previously employed by the Marathas. These
offer shelter to barwutteas from other states. Jodhpur Old Vol II, Rajputana Agency, NAI. gangs could not have operated without the sup-
2 For example, in 1766, the thikanadar of village 19 Deputy Collector, Meerpur Khas and Parkar to port of local chieftains. Farooqui (2005: 187).
Chohtan, Barmer, Sadul Bhimsi was reported Political Agent, Jodhpur, 513 of 1858, dated 25 36 FP, October 1868 (6980), NAI.
to have waylaid camels travelling from Dhadh- October 1858, ff 9798, Disturbed State of 37 Same as note 36.
mala in Kutch. Ashadh Sudi 15, Jama Khrach ro Jodhpur Frontier Bordering on Sind File 85, 38 Rathors were initially located in the dry Mahewa
Navo, Kotda, Sanad Parwana Bahi No 5, VS Jodhpur Old Vol II, Rajputana Agency, NAI. belt before moving to Mondor in 1395 CE, around
1823/1766 CE. In 1773, the merchants travelling 20 FP, October 1868, 6980, NAI. present-day Barmer. Bhatis had a long migra-
to Sind through Bikampur requested the creation 21 I G Lumsden, Political Agent in Kutch to Maj tory history through the desert, with Tanot and
of a new route as they were harassed by the Lewis Brown, Political Agent Palanpur, No 44 Lodrovo being older power centres.
thikanadars at Bikampur. Ashwin Sudi 14, Bud- of 1843, Dated 17 February 1843, ff 3233,
hwar, Phalodi Sayer, SP Bahi No 13, VS 1830/1773 Plundering Expeditions of Khosa Chiefs on the
CE. A charge of levying a new bulawo was made borders of Cutch (Kutch) and Mallani, 32, References
against the thikanadar of Pokhran by Sahu Roop Jodhpur, Boundary, Rajputana Agency, 1843. Aitchison, C U (1909): A Collection of Treaties, Engage-
Chand of Umarkot in 1783, when the merchant 22 Captain C F Jackson, Officiating Superintendent, ments and Sanads Relating to India and Neigh-
was already paying rahadari and dan to the Mullanee to Col J Sutherland, AGG Rajputana, bouring Countries Vol III (The Treaties, etc,
Jodhpur state. Miti Ashwin Sudi 6, Somvar, Balmeer, 20 May 1843, ff 9697, Plundering Relating to States in Rajputana), Calcutta:
Jodhpur, SP Bahi, No 29, VS 1840/1783 CE. Excursions of Khosa Chiefs on Lands of Cutch Government Printing Press.
Vikrami Samwat (VS) begins 57 years prior to and Mullanee, 32, Jodhpur, Boundary, Rajpu- Brown, Mark (2014): Penal Power and Colonial
the Common Era and was in usage in Jodhpur tana Agency, 1843. Rule, London: Routledge.
documents till 1868.
23 Depositions of Ullah Buksh, son of Kamal Khan Dawood, N J (ed) (2015): The Muqaddimah: An In-
3 Foreign Political (FP), 17 December 1838, 3749, and Shobhdar, son of Shera Baloch were taken troduction to History: The Classic Islamic Histo-
National Archives of India. Henceforth, FP at Jodhpur Political Agency on 5 August 1843, ry of the World, Ibn Khaldun, translated and
and NAI. Surrender of Khosa chiefs, 32, Jodhpur, Bound- introduced by Franz Rosenthal, New Jersey:
4 FP, 12 February 1830, (67), NAI. ary, Rajputana Agency, 1843, ff 16067. Princeton University Press.
5 Administrative Report of the district of Mullani, 24 Political Commissioner for Gujarat and Resident Farooqui, Amar (2005): Smuggling as Subversion:
1868, 9, NAI. at Baroda to Secretary to Government of Bombay, Colonialism, Indian Merchants, and the Politics
6 Military Operations against Parkur Freebooters, 28 April 1843, ff 8485, Plundering Expeditions of Opium, 17901843, London: Lexington Books.
JodhpurJaisalmer Military, Rajputana Agency, of Khosa Chiefs on the Borders of Cutch and Gellner, Ernest (1969): Saints of the Atlas, London:
1832, NAI. Mallani, 32, Jodhpur, Boundary, Rajputana ACLS History e-Book.
7 FP, 26 November 1832 (8), NAI. Agency, 1843, NAI. Gilmartin, David (2003): Cattle, Crime and Colo-
8 FP, 12 February, 1830 (67). David Gilmartins 25 Report on the state of people and country on nialism: Property as Negotiation in North
work on colonial Punjab also indicates the the frontier of Sindh, Joudhpore and Jessulmere, India, IESHR, 40 (1), pp 3356.
presence of networks constituted of cattle lifters, File 32, Jodhpur, Boundary, Rajputana Agency Gordon, S (1969): Scarf and Sword: Thugs, Mar-
village headmen and rassagirs, that either dis- Office, 1843, 102, NAI. auders and State Formation in Eighteenth
posed of the stolen cattle or negotiated their Century Malwa, Indian Economic and Social
26 Translation of a Note addressed by the Jodhpur
return for ransom (Gilmartin 2003: 3356). History Review, Vol 6, No 4, December.
Vakeel on 28 September 1843 to the Political
9 Lt Col Litchfield of Parkar Field Force to Col Hobsbawm, Eric (2000): Bandits, London: Abacus.
Agent, Jodhpur, ff 16062, Plundering Expedi-
Lockett, Political Agent, 16 November 1832, tions of Khosa Chiefs on the Borders of Cutch Jain, M S (1993): Concise History of Modern Rajasthan,
Military Operations against Parkur Freebooters, and Mallani, 32, Jodhpur, Boundary, Rajputana New Delhi: Vishwa Prakashan.
JodhpurJaisalmer Military, Rajputana Agency, Agency, 1843, NAI. Kasturi, Malavika (2002): Embattled Identities:
1832, f 45, NAI. Rajput Lineages and the Colonial State in Nine-
27 Telegram dated 4 January 1859, Disturbed State
teenth-Century North India, New Delhi: OUP.
10 Intelligence report of news writer in Jaisalmer, of Jodhpur Frontier Bordering on Sind, File 85,
Military Operations against Parkar Freebooters, Kothiyal, Tanuja (2016): Nomadic Narratives: A His-
Jodhpur Old Vol II, Rajputana Agency, NAI.
Rajputana Agency, Political Branch, File No 4 tory of Mobility and Identity in the Great Indian
28 Captain J B Brooke, Officiating Political Agent, Desert, New Delhi: CUP.
Jodhpur 1832 II, f 36, NAI. Joudhpoor to Captain G B Tyrwhitt, Deputy Mayaram, Shail (2006): Against History, Against
11 Lt Col Litchfield of Parkur Field Force to Col Magistrate of Meerpoor and ThurParkar, No 359 State: Counterperspectives from the Margins,
Lockett, Political Agent, 16 November 1832, of 1858, 28 November 1858, ff 10405, Disturbed New Delhi: Permanent Black.
Military Operations against Parkur Freebooters, State of Jodhpur Frontier Bordering on Sind, Peabody, Norbert (1991) Kota Mahajagat or the
JodhpurJaisalmer Military, Rajputana Agency, File 85, Jodhpur Old Vol II, Rajputana Agency, Great Universe of Kota: Sovereignty and Terri-
1832, ff 3738, NAI. NAI. tory in 18th Century Rajasthan, CIS, 25, 1,
12 Captain Cavafe to Henry Pottinger, 10 Decem- 29 H B E Frere, Commissioner, Sind to Lord Elphin- January to June, pp 2956.
ber 1838, Military Operations against Parkur stone, Governer and President in Council, Bombay, Scott, James (2009): The Art of Not Being Governed:
Freebooters, JodhpurJaisalmer Military, Raj- 8 February 1859, Disturbed State of Joudpore An Anarchist History of Upland South East Asia,
putana Agency, fl 129, NAI. Frontier along Sind, 85-Jodhpur old, Boundary, New Haven: Yale University Press.
13 Copies of Arzees from Vakil Jeypore Durbar, Jodhpur, Rajputana Agency, ff 8589, NAI. Shah, P R (1982): Raj Marwar During Paramountcy:
16 December 1837; Bikaner Vakil, 18 December 30 From the Deputy Magistrate of Meerpoor Khas A Study in Problems and Policies up to 1923,
1837; and Jhunhjunu Hakim, 24 December ThurParkar to the Magistrate of Hyderabad, Jodhpur: Sharda Publishing House.
1837; Disturbed State of Marwar on the Bikaner No 105 of 1858, dated 12 November 1858, ff 1838, Tod, James (2005): Annals and Antiquities of
and Shekhawati Frontiers, Jodhpur, Jagirdars Disturbed State of Jodhpur Frontier Bordering Rajasthan or the Central and Western Rajpoot
Disturbances and Riots, 14AJodhpur, Rajputana on Sind File 85, Jodhpur Old Vol II, Rajputana States of India, two volumes, edited by Douglas
Agency, 183637, ff 5459, NAI. Agency, NAI. Sladen, New Delhi: Rupa and Co.

Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 67

Borderlands, Empires and Nations

Himalayan and Trans-Himalayan Borderlands (c 18151930)

Vasudha Pande

In the first decade of the 19th century, Kumaun was part n the 19th century, empires and emergent nation states
of the Gorkha Empire connected to Kathmandu by a divided the world into polities with well-defined borders.
By the mid-20th century, nation states were regarded as
well-serviced eastwest road. Trade in grain and salt by
the only legitimate political formations in the world system.
shepherding communities linked it to Western Tibet. In Borders were marked on maps, defended by legal experts, militia
1815, when Kumaun became a part of the East India and military, by state rituals and peoples imaginations. This
Companys territories, this orientation changed. increasingly made states and their boundaries sacrosanct.
From the perspective of centres of authority, the border is
Gradually, a network of roads and railways transformed
clear and distinct, it divides and separates. Borders affirm the
the hitherto impenetrable Tarai, to the south of Kumaun. states control and jurisdiction, however, attempts to establish
As the Kumaun economy integrated with the British control over territory and people are not always effective.
Empire, via the Tarai, the commodity composition of its Though borders mark territorial distinctions, inevitably they
also create borderlands where people from both sides deal with
trade with Western Nepal (Nepal borderland) and
everyday accommodation. Borders produce borderlands as sites
Western Tibet (Tibet borderland) was modified. The that engender repeated negotiations of state identities mediated
subsequent mapping of these territories by the British through local exchanges. Baud and Van Schendel note,
created not only new geographies but also engendered Borders create political, social, and cultural distinctions, but simulta-
neously imply the existence of (new) networks and systems of interac-
new ways of knowing. The interaction of imperial
tion across them. The existence of a border is our point of departure,
administrators with the people of the borderlands but at the same time we draw attention to the social networks that
reach across that border. (1997: 216)
produced narratives, which ignored earlier cultural
identities and generated new histories of groups like the Local people also modify state policies and borders through
their responses to marking and maintaining boundaries.
Gorkha and Bhotia.
Marking borders often redirects trade and resource flow
along contiguous territories, but marking boundaries also
generates new histories and ethnographies, which produce
difference and othering. Comparative borderland studies
highlight this aspect as they try to understand how borders
restructure and reconfigure interactions between communi-
ties and state systems.
This paper problematises and traces the cross-cutting histories
of the contiguous Himalayan regions of Tarai, Kumaun, West-
ern Tibet, and Far-Western Region of Nepal in a single narrative,
not premised on nationalisms or imperial controls, but on
interactions and flow of resources (Figure 1, p 69). It studies
19th century demarcation of borders, after the Treaty of Sug-
auli between the East India Company (EIC) and Gorkhas
(agreed to in December 1815, ratified in March 1816), and the
resultant borderlands in the Himalayas and trans-Himalayas.
It explores the interactions in the borderlands that emerged
with the marking of borders by the EICs state (later the British
Empire) in the Central Himalayas and trans-Himalayas. It
focuses on how various governmentalities affected and were
Vasudha Pande ( teaches history at Lady affected by flows across this honeycomb of borderlands. It
Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi, New Delhi.
also suggests that a historical narrative that links these marginal
68 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly
Figure 1: The Three BorderlandsKumaun, Western Tibet and Western Nepal

Source: Sherring (1906).

locations may actually create a geography and ethnography of permitted. Even as the British conquered Kumaun, their att-
a form of knowing (Schendel 2002: 64768). empts to map the region faced resistance from local communi-
The Treaty of Sugauli brought the Gorkha Imperium, con- ties, and mapping could only be carried out through many
sisting of a string of 60 principalities stretching from the Tista surreptitious journeys and much British strategy (Pathak
in the east to the Sutlej in the west to an abrupt end (Regmi 2008: 5575; Sherring 1906: 26364).
1999). The treaty created an independent kingdom of Nepal, This paper demonstrates that in the 19th century all these
which lost its territories between the rivers Kali and Sutlej borderlands were rendered marginal and peripheral within
(the western divisions of Kangra, Garhwal and Kumaun) and their respective states. The Kumaun region was far from the
its Far-Western Tarai to the EICs state. Following the treaty, imperial centre at Calcutta (later at Delhi). Also, as the King-
Kumaun was attached to the EICs territories. The Kali River dom of Nepal with its capital at Kathmandu found its feet,
marked the new boundary between Western Nepal and Eastern Far-Western Nepal lost its importance as the epicentre of Kha-
Kumaun (Aitchison 1892). After the treaty, the Far-Western sa culture and the Gorkha state became an outpost of the state.
Tarai or plains was controlled by the British till 1860, when it Likewise, Western Tibet also became a border province of
was restored to the Rana rulers of Nepal. On the northern fringe Tibet rule from Lhasa.
of British India (Kumaun) lay Tibet or the trans-Himalaya.
These regionsKumaun, Western Tibet, and Western Nepal Background: Gorkha Empire 17681815
shared a long history of exchange and interaction from the From the 16th to the 18th centuries, the many kingdoms of the
pre-historic period through the Tibetan Empire (7th9th century) Central Himalaya and Tibet were closely connected to each
to the Gorkha Empire (early 17th and 19th century). This inter- other and to North India through a network of trade routes1
linkage was based upon an agro-pastoral system which in- (Figure 2, p 70).
volved movement of different groups during one calendar year During this period, Central Himalayan polities were affected
through different ecological niches of the trans-Himalayas, by two major developmentsan increase in population subse-
Upper Himalayas, middle mountains, Bhabar and Tarai. This quent to the introduction of maize, and the piecemeal coloni-
sharing of different habitats over the seasons meant fluid sation of the Tarai (Regmi 1999: 72; Whelpton 2005: 16). The
boundaries. Given the nature of the terrain, this required con- region was divided into a large number of kingdoms, broadly,
trolling the passes into the trans-Himalaya and into the mid- known as the Baisi (22) organised around the Karnali River
dle mountains. To maintain these networks, trading and pas- and the Chaubaisi (24) organised around the Gandaki River.
toralist communities followed a well-regulated framework of The ascendance of the youngest and smallest member of the
customary and ritual practices to demarcate boundaries. Chaubaisi kingdomsthe Gorkhato overlordship is an
These were zealously implemented and no infringements were inspiring story, fuelled by vision, innovation and enterprise.
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 69

Figure 2: Trade Routes Connecting Himalayas and Trans-Himalaya

Source: Digital Himalaya.

Prithvi Narayan Shahs (c 172375) success in subjugating KumaunRampur/Moradabad Borderlands within

Kathmandu was significant (RRS 1973: 2127). After securing British India
his capital, he decided to pay attention to trade with Tibet. His The first issue that the British faced after the takeover of
concern was the control of Tibetan passes with the desire to con- Kumaun was of access from the south. At the base of the Central
trol silver bullion and coinage of Tibet (RRS 1973: 101; Burghart Himalayan region lay a strip of landBhabarknown for its
1984: 10125). However, attempts to control the Northern trans- porous soil where most of the streams and water courses
Himalayan trade floundered. Subsequently, in 1791 a joint disappeared into the gravel. It was not uniform in breadth and
force of the Tibetans and the Chinese defeated the Gorkhas varied from 0.5 kilometres (km) to 6 km. The Tarai below the
(Bahadur Shah), and Tibet was closed to outsiders in 1792. Bhabar was a long and narrow strip of low-lying plain, the
While obstructed by these developments in the north, the zone of seepage where the water resurfaced, and where the
Gorkha state found that expansion southwards was also ham- fine sand silt and clay were deposited by the emerging streams.
pered by other contenders, primarily, the EIC (Stiller 1973: The level and fertile soil with a high water table rendered it
248). The movement westwards, however, continued and the into wet and swampy country known for its malarial fevers,
Gorkha Empire eventually stretched from the rivers Tista habitable primarily in the winter. Traditionally, the Kumaun
in the east to the Sutlej in the west. This had significant rulers considered both Bhabar and Tarai integral parts of their
impact on the highland trade network shared by Saukas or kingdom. More significantly, Tarai formed the upper limit of
Bhotias,2 Gosains and other peripatetic groups. The British the Ganga plain, which was increasingly controlled by Rohilla
were also keen to establish their presence in this trade. They Afghans since the mid-17th century (Gommans 1995: 115;
were, however, obstructed by the Gorkhali state as they tried Husain 1994: 71). From this period till 1815, control of the
to get information by sending their men through Kumaun, Kumaun Tarai was hotly contested and the northsouth con-
who were arrested by Gorkha administrators (Regmi 1999: nection between the Bhotia traders and the Banjaras suffered
14859, 16771). In these circumstances, the AngloNepal disruption till 1815, when British control led to closure of
war of 1815 was significant for marking British territorial multiple claimants.
control on the AngloGorkha frontier in the Tarai and In the initial phase of British rule, the Bhabar and Tarai
therefore for control of flows and resources within the Hima- were not part of Kumaun division. The Upper Bhabar was
layas and trans-Himalaya. Also, the increased intervention of under the control of Kumaun, but Bhabar proper and Tarai
both the emergent Gorkha elite as well as the EIC led to in- were not. The first commissioner of Kumaun, Traill, argued for
creasing monetisation and impacted trading practices in the a clear demarcation of boundaries. He found British adminis-
region (Whelpton 2005a). tration had been able to reclaim only 50 villages in Kota and
70 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

Chakhata Bhabar of Kumaun, in eight years (181723) because British military activity in the region led to the development
of insecurity created by bandits. In 1826, a joint report with of roads on the eastern front, through the foothill passes of
administrators from neighbouring divisions was adopted, Bamouri and Birmdeo (on the Nepal side). One road linked
which sorted out boundary disputes (Atkinson 1981: Vol III, Bamouri with Almora via Bhimtal and Peura, and the other
part I, p 58). Grazing and forest produce taxes were farmed out road connected Birmdeo with Pithoragarh via Lohaghat.
in three leases and cultivation was encouraged. In 1838, the Almora was also connected with Lohaghat. The fording of
transfer of magisterial jurisdiction to the plains districts under rivers by building three bridges began around 1830, and by
British control created fresh problems. Kumaun authorities, 1840, six more suspension bridges were constructed over the
now attributed the falling off of cultivation in the older clear- Ramganga near Rameshwar, Kosilla near Hawalbagh over
ings and of the new ground in the Bhabar to such administra- Bulleea River, over Saryu, Senril on the Almora Lohaghat road,
tive issues (Whalley 1991: 7172). The lieutenant governor was and over Ramganga on the Pithoragarh road (Tolia 1994: 91).
persuaded, and the Bhabar tracts were transferred to Kumaun The commercial road in the early years of the 19th century was
in 1842, but the Tarai was destined to follow a much more along the Dhikuli pass from Chilkia Mandi to Tibet. Bishop
tortuous course (Tolia 1996: 62). Heber in his journey to Almora in the second decade of the
The Tarai (contiguous with Kumaun) presented a different 19th century travelled from Rudrapur to Bamouri via Tanda
picture. Both cultivation and trade were deeply affected by the and then returned to Meerut via Dhikuli and Chilkia. He found
uncertain conditions of the 18th century. The leaders of the that Chilkia was the principal mart of trade, both into Kumaun,
dacoits or marauding groups, like the Heris and Mewatis, col- and through that country into Tibet (Heber 1873: 21223).
lected chowkidari duties on merchandise in transit. Besides,
theft of cattle was another major problem. The Gorkha state New Routes
had tried to curb these groups but was not successful. In 1823, Gradually as the EIC consolidated its dominion, and as the
the boundary between Tarai and hill provinces was defined threat from Nepal receded, the focus shifted from eastern
and the Tarai was attached to Rohilkhand division. Heris and Kumaun (contiguous with Nepal) towards Nainital. The dis-
Mewatis were granted jagirs by the British with the view to covery of Nainital and its development led to the construction
settle them. However, in 1832, Bouldersons Settlement Report of a new route (Pilgrim 1990). In 1845, the government as-
of the Pergunnahs of Gadarpur and Rudrapur noted not only a signed the building of a road from Nainital to Khairna and
breakdown of the revenue arrangements but also the complete sanctioned money for the establishment of a mandi or mart at
collapse of the police system. The problem of policing generat- Kaladhungi.3 By 1848, a new line from Kaladhungi for passage
ed a lot of discussion (Whalley 1991: 149). Halhed was deputed to Almora and Nainital was sanctioned.4 In 1855, a new road
as joint magistrate of Moradabad to bring the Heris and the was built which aligned Kaladhungi to Nainital.5
Mewatis under control. Jagirs granted to Heris and Mewatis From this period till 1875, Kaladhungi was important
were abolished, as was the chowkidari system (Atkinson 1981: because it was on the route from Moradabad to Nainital. By
vol III, part II, pp 51416). Gradually, the entire Tarai, with the 1873, there were cart roads from Ramnagar to Ranikhet and
exception of the settled portion of Nanakmatta, became an Almora, and from Haldwani to Nainital. Second-class roads
estate under the direct management of the government, to were developed from Baramdeo, Haldwani, Ramnagar to
which Kashipur was added in 1870. In 1891, Bhabar estate and Lohaghat, Pithoragarh, Almora, Berinag, Bageshwar and
Tarai estate were brought together under the deputy commis- Garhwal, and these bridle roads could be used by mules and
sioner of Nainital. Their amalgamation was proposed in 1894 horses. Roads also connected Pindari, Milam, Askot, Darma
and ratified in 1895. The pacification and inclusion of the Tarai and Byans, the inaccessible upper Himalayas to the rest of the
gave Kumaun division a secure southern boundary. region.6 Road construction increased during the commissioner-
During the 19th century, not only were the southern borders ship of Ramsay from 1856 to 1884. The growing importance of
of Kumaun restored, but British control also facilitated the the forest department also necessitated the building of roads
growth of internal networks. Initially, the British found them- to facilitate the commercialisation of the forests of the hills.
selves handicapped not only by the nature of the terrain in the By the early 1880s, communications had improved, with 470
upper Himalayas but also by the very limited nature of the miles of imperial road and 375 miles of road in the Bhotia region
roads in the middle mountains. Throughout the 19th century, of Milam Marchula, Kapkot, Pindar, Munsyari, Thal, Askot,
the British government worked hard to link Kumaun through Tejam, Darma, Byans, Chaudans, Berinag and Chaukor (At-
roads and railways to the rest of North India. The Gorkhas in kinson 1981, Vol III, part II, pp 41415). The late 19th century
their quarter-century rule had focused on the Doti, Baitadi, witnessed a spurt in the construction of roads, not only by the
Almora, Srinagar to Kangra route (RRS 1998: 103) which lay public works department, but also by the district boards of
on an eastwest axis and these were also not of high quality. Almora and Nainital, as well as the forest department. The
Constrained by this, Traill noted, formation of Nainital district in 1891 probably catalysed the
construction of roads.7 The arrival of the railway line up to
the roads of communication throughout the province consist merely of
narrow footpaths, which are only partially practicable for laden cat-
Kathgodam on 29 October 1884 linked the region to the rest of
tle, while rocky precipices frequently present themselves, which are north India. In 1907, a railway line to Ramnagar from Moradabad
scarcely permissible for cattle in any state. (1828: 137234) accelerated the process of integration (Sankrityayan Vikram
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 71

Samvat 2015: 191). The railway line led to the increasing im- Kumaun from the jurisdiction of the Scheduled Districts Act.11
portance of Haldwani, established in 1834 as a mart. Kumaun was eventually removed from the purview of the
Gradually, Kumaun was accessible to travellers who were nei- Scheduled Districts Act in 1926, after an agitation organised
ther adventurers nor explorers. Pathak notes that the post-Mutiny by the Kumaun Parishad.12 This, however, did not make it less
period saw a phenomenal increase in the number of tourists to peripheral, it still remained on the fringes of both the Empire
the region (1987: 24752). The establishment of Nainital in 1846, and the Nation.
and the development of a cantonment in Ranikhet in 1869, prob-
ably aided this change. By 1901, a visit to the hills was a pleasant The Western Borderlands of Nepal
affair and the author of Almoriana said, come to Almora, then, The AngloGorkha war of 1815 changed many linkages bet-
O reader in search of summer residence (1991: 5). ween borderlands. The British acquired Kumaun and thereby
The improvement in roads led to the increasing use of ponies gained access to Tibet from Kumaun. They also controlled the
and pack animals. Enterprising hillmen with some capital Kumaun Tarai along with the Kumaun hills. The Gorkhas lost
used their mules for carrying surplus produce of the village to not only Kumaun and Kangra, but also the Far-Western Tarai.
local marts and bringing back salt, gur, cloth, bangles, pins, Consequently, now the Far-Western Nepali hill trade and the
torches, etc, in exchange (Pant 1935: 112). Part of the grain TibetNepal trade was inhibited by the problem of access to
trade continued to be in the hands of the Banjaras who had the plains. This had an adverse effect on the trade of Darma,
been carrying on business in the region from an early period. Byans and Jumla, which lost all their trade outlets in the Nepal
The itinerant tradesmen were usually Muslims and Kumbers Tarai (Pandey 1997: 45558).
from the neighbouring plains districts. They kept packs of The 19th century was therefore a period of retrogression for
ponies, mules and asses which brought bales of cloth and grain the Far-Western Region of Nepal. The restructuring of the
from the Bhabar and took back bags of turmeric, chillies and Nepal kingdom reduced the Far-Western Region to an outpost
potatoes (Matiyani 1990: 204). located on the western border (Ojha Kathmandu Vikram Samvat
The early decades of the 20th century even saw the develop- 2049: 84102). A government concerned about safety and
ment of wheeled traffic in areas where there were fairly service- security placed restrictions on trade, and access became diffi-
able roads. Cart roads between Almora, Ranikhet, Baijnath, cult for Indians and Europeans. In pursuance of this policy
Ramnagar, and Kathgodam allowed for the use of small bull- trade routes were closed and the few that remained open were
ock carts.8 By the second decade of the 20th century, vehicular regularly policed (Stiller 1976: 123). An order after Sagauli cat-
traffic had started plying along the major routes, though the egorically stated, close all tracks in the area and render them
price of vehicular traffic was prohibitive.9 In 1920, Munshi H P unusable by planting bamboo, cane and thorny bushes as be-
Tamata started the Hill Motor Transport Company, followed fore (RRS 1981: 99). H A Oldfield, an English observer wrote,
by many others. Lorries ran from Haldwani and Kathgodam to The Nipalese are averse to the clearing of these forests as they look
Almora and Ranikhet. Since all companies faced a shortage of upon the malarios jungle at the foot of the hills as the safest and surest
drivers, Tamata opened the Hill Motor Training School in 1921. barrier. (1974: 47)
Consequently, by 1930, the major routes were well supplied. The government believed forests provide security and did
We find that even though British dominion was successful in not encourage the building of roads and bridges for the facili-
connecting Kumaun with the plains and the Indian subconti- tation of trade. The arterial route between Kathmandu and
nent, yet Kumaun remained peripheral in many ways. Mountain Baitadi critical for the expanding Gorkha Empire now lost its
folks and societies were treated as backward groups, which importance and Dotee became a provincial centre. The con-
required a paternalistic administration, different from that of nection between Dotee and Kathmandu was well established,
the core provinces of the empire. Through the 19th century, but provincial centres were not linked to each other. L F Stiller
Kumaun was administered differently from the United Prov- finds the tedious pace of growth disturbing (1976: 134). The
inces (of which it was an administrative unit). It was a non- process of monetisation which had begun in the 18th century
regulation province, where standard rules and procedures did was now obstructed and as B Bishop notes,
not apply, and the commissioner was king (Whalley 1991: 6). in the central and western hills there was no development of
The additional powers vested in the administrators made the inter-regional trade of the type that could have led to the growth
system patrimonial and it is for this reason that the first of a system of hat bazars because high rents denied the farmer the
administrative history of the region by Whalley divides the agricultural surplus necessary for such trade and government fiscal
policies drained off what little cash he had without recirculating it.
19th century naturally into three periods under three commis-
(1970: 11)
sionersTraill, Batten and Ramsay.
By the second decade of the 20th century, the emerging Yet, in spite of these obstacles, the trade of Western Nepal
modern intelligentsia of Kumaun found the system derogatory with India and Tibet continued. The Gorkhas and the post-1815
and launched a movement against this special dispensation. In Nepal state may have wanted to close Nepal to the EIC but were
1893, it started with a campaign for legal redress at the high keen to continue and promote trade with trans-Himalaya. The
court,10 then also submitted a memorial and raised the matter Nepalese government was clearly aware of the importance of this
in the Uttar Pradesh Council. The Kumaun Parishad established trade for its own economic well-being. In the mid-19th century,
in 1916, had a five-point agenda, one of which was to remove a road was built on the Western Himalayas to facilitate the
72 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

trade (Hodgson 1874: 97). Given the importance of this trade whereas the trade of neighbouring and prosperous Johar (fur-
for the Baisi region, local administrators also supported traders ther west) increased only two-and-a-quarter times (Atkinson
and helped the traders of Darma, Byans and Jumla to find new 1981: Vol III, part II, p 538). As a consequence, the Bhotias
outlets for the import and export of their goods with Tibet. dominated the trade in Shor or Pithoragarh.
In the west, two important trade points developed, the mart The increase in trade probably facilitated the development
near Jhulaghat in the middle mountains, which connected of the Jauljibi fair, which was held at the confluence of the Kali
Kumaun to western Nepal across the Kali from November to and the Gori rivers. It was instituted by the Rajbar of Askot in
June, and at Birmadeo in the Tarai, which connected western India in 1914. The importance of Jauljibi was that it lay at the
Nepal to Tanakpur in India (Batten: 1851). In the initial years, junction of four important routes leading from Nepal, Askot,
the Far-Western Tarai was under the control of Awadh, but it Johar and Darma respectively. S D Pant notes,
was returned to Nepal in 1858. The restoration of the Far-Western the celebration of the fair coincides with the opening of the pass and
Tarai to Nepal marked a new era and a change of policy vis-- the bridge to Nepal. During the rains the river Kali sweeps away its
vis British India. The British encouraged the Ranas to open bridge and it becomes very formidable. But during November a tempo-
Nepal to informal control. Landlocked Nepal was gradually rary bridge, which lasts until July, is constructed by some of the villag-
ers from Dotee who are exempted from the import and export duties
integrated with the Empire without acquiring formal control.
levied by the Nepal government. (1935: 198)
The process of the demarcation of the new borders was com-
pleted by 1860, and the Western Tarai became a part of the He reported that the trade in Nepali ghee, grains and fruit
Nepal kingdom now called Naya Mulk. Jang Bahadur ordered formed an important aspect of the transactions. In the first few
local administrators to reopen existing irrigation channels decades of the 20th century, ponies from Tibet Bhot and Jumla
and to build new ones. The Muluki-Ain of 1856 encouraged were also important merchandise.
agricultural enterprise and provided that any peasant who Prithvi Narayan Shah was aware of several dozen types of
brought land under the plough would be granted tax exemp- cloth of cotton goods produced in the Kathmandu valley and
tion for five years and anyone bringing virgin land under culti- the scope for expansion (Stiller 1976: 124). He elaborates on
vation would be able to retain one-tenth of that land under this in Dibya Updesh where he recommends homespun cloth
birta. Tarai cultivation remained precarious because of the and refuses entry to Indian and Company merchants (Stiller
nature of the terrain, which often debilitated the farmer with 1989: 6970). In keeping with this policy, the Gorkhas were wary
malaria. A single epidemic could easily lead to the contraction of transactions with the EIC and the government charged high
of agriculture. In spite of this, because the soil was fertile and customs duties on goods coming into Nepal till the 1840s (Old-
the Rana state supported irrigation, cultivators were willing to field 1974: 301). Brian Hodgson, the resident, resented this, but
shift from the northern hills to the Tarai region (RRS 1982: till Bhim Sen Thapa was in charge he could not intervene.
181). Trade was carried on at the marts of Tulsipur, Bairampur However, during the second half of the 19th century, Nepal,
and Nanpari in India. Jang Bahadur persuaded Indian under the Rana dispensation, emerged as an importer of cot-
merchants to cross the frontier and start trading at Gola ton products, raw cotton, yarn (European and Indian) and
Mandi. Regmi suggests that the success of Nepalganj may also cotton-piece goods (European and Indian).
be attributed to the coming of railways to the Indian side of the Gradually, over the second half of the 19th century, the
border (RRS 1983: 72). Eventually, some Indian traders took up commodity composition of Nepals trade with British India
residence at Nepalganj, and gradually, Nepalganj forests were underwent a major transformation. Western Nepal witnessed
cleared under the supervision of the government and the town a decline of its iron and copper manufactures during this period
of Nepalganj developed on the south-western border of India and it gradually started importing metal goods. By the last
and Nepal. By the early years of the 20th century, other market years of the 19th century, its imports of iron and other metal
towns like Birgunj and Golaghat had also come up in the Tarai products far exceeded its dwindling exports. By the last years
with the active support of the Nepali state (RRS 1986: 76). of the 19th century, Nepal was importing iron, copper, other
As regards the trade with Tibet we find that the boundaries metals, sugar refined and unrefined, petroleum, provisions,
between Nepal and India were porous and a shared sense of woollen-piece goods and even salt. Its exports consisted of timber,
identity and history on both sides of the Kali helped. E T Atkin- livestock, turmeric, fibrous products, rice, pulse, wheat, spring
son noted, crops, hides and skins, sheep and goats, ghee, wax, etc.13
the Byans (Upper Himalayas) people can easily evade any order that they Reports from 190818 also indicate an export surplus with
think vexatious by migrating to Nepal, and they have no respect for law, British India. An increase in import of sambhar salt also indi-
except so far as it makes itself felt by them. (1981: Vol III, part II, pp 83151) cates an integration with the southern imperial economy, as
between 1833 and 1898 the quantity of salt imported increased
Trade with Nepal 42 times.14 The change in the commodity composition of trade
It is apparent that by the second half of the 19th century, Nepal indicates that Nepal was getting integrated into the imperial
trade with Tibet was being rerouted through Jhulaghat and economic system of British India.
Birmdeo in Kumaun. The Nepal government levied taxes on its This change was also accompanied by increasing problems
side of the Kali in Jhulaghat and Birmdeo. The trade of Darma of agriculture in the middle Himalayan region of Far-Western
(Kumaun) increased elevenfold (between 1841 and 1900) Nepal. This meant that while agricultural productivity did not
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 73

increase, the petty peasant was under a dual system of control that the Nayar River was crossed by canoes made from the
of the state and the jagirdar. Besides, slavery continued to be bark of trees (Hardwicke 1801: 30947). Other visitors like
recognised. Migration from the hill region in search of employment Colebrooke and Moorcroft were appalled by the difficulty
started during the 19th century (Regmi 1978: 134). During the encountered in negotiating the route (Colebrooke 1812: 429
slack season, migration was not a permanent affair; it was linked 45, Moorcroft 1816: 37535).
to the agrarian cycle, and the migrants tended to return home KumaunWestern Tibet trade was linked to the exigencies
for the labour-intensive season (Dahal et al 1977: 1). Shreshtha of nomadism in the upper Himalayas and was in the hands of
studied the northern region of Jumla and noted that, the Bhotias (a term applied to traders of Upper Himalayas
expanded seasonal and long-term migrations and extended extra-re- conducting trade with the trans-Himalayan regions) who com-
gional trading became increasingly indispensable components of the bined the role of shepherds with merchants. Tibet was accessi-
subsistence system for a majority of the local population. (1993: 98) ble through the mountain passes, which were open for about
British administrators of Kumaun noted the migration to six months of the year. Trade was carried on by migration from
British territories. As early as 1821, an official noted that Shor one set of summer dwellings situated in high cold valleys
(Pithoragarh) on the eastern border of Kumaun formed till a towards the Tibetan frontier. These summer habitations at
late period a part of the principality of Dotee, on the western Milam, Martoli, Burfu, Go, Garbyang, Kuti and Nabi served as
border of Kumaun. Within the last three years a considerable bases for the Tibetan trade, and as depots and stores for the
influx of cultivators from adjoining Gorkha province of Dotee exports to Tibet (Pant 1935: 4860). The summer residences
has taken place in Shor.15 By the early years of the 20th century, were close to the bugyal/payar (meadows) where the Bhoti-
Shor was the most densely populated pargana of Kumaun, as would take their flock for summer pasturing. Usually two
with a density of 540 persons per square mile (Pant 1935: 76). trips to Tibet were undertaken during the summer and the raw
By the early 20th century, the drain of manpower from the wool from Tibet was spun and woven by the women while
hills of Nepal ceased to be primarily a seasonal phenomenon residing in the summer camps. By late September and early
(Kansakar 1984: 4969). A factor responsible for increasing October, the shift to the winter residences in the warmer
migration from Western Nepal to Kumaun was the underde- localities such as Tejam, Dharchula, Sobla, Thal, Galanti,
velopment of the Far-Western Tarai, which was yet to be Nigalpani and Askot would begin. The major transactions
reclaimed. The actual development of the Tarai would have to were carried on at the various fairs.
wait for the malaria eradication programme, of the World The Bhotia traders were not a homogeneous undifferenti-
Health Organization, which only arrived in 1965. ated community. The difference between the Johari and those
Another fallout of British control was the recruitment of of Darma and Byans can be traced back to the 17th century
Gurkhas16 into the British Army. Initially it was a covert when the Joharis were able to extract special concessions from
arrangement because the Nepal government did not approve Tibetan authorities.17 This obviously gave them an edge over
clandestine operations for recruitment and took punitive the other Bhotias. The difficulties faced by this trade neces-
measures. This did not result in compliance. The British then sitated the elaboration of a rigorous system to regulate trade
encouraged migration and Gurkha establishments came up practices. New entrants to the trade were discouraged by the
in Dharamshala, Darjeeling, Shillong and Dehradun. The Rana practice of mitras/designated partner, which sanctioned trade
regime, which came to power in 1846, realised the futility of and was initiated by a religious ceremony. Even the amount of
the embargo. It even established an office in Baitadi Jhulaghat exchange was controlled and decided beforehand to prevent
to recruit soldiers for the British Army (RRS 1982: 61). By 1904, an increase in the supply of particular goods. Traders were
three Gurkha battalions of 1816 had swelled into 16, and by restricted to trade with their partners, and traders of a certain
1908, the Gurkha Brigade had reached its permanent estab- region were required to trade with a particular region in Tibet.
lishment of 20 battalions organised in 10 rifle regiments. It is This also prevented a glut in the market and provided a system
estimated that 2,00,000 Nepalese participated in World War I of monitoring and regulating the volume of trade along the
with casualties amounting to 2,00,000 (Kansakar 1984: 52). passes. The difficulties of the terrain, were overcome by the
The emergence of Gurkhas as a race with exceptional mar- use of sheep and goats as carriers. Sheep could carry up to
tial qualities is also a product of a new dispensation (Caplan 1528 seers and goats from 810 seers. The routes traversed
2006: 22545). The internal differentiation between the vari- took many days and yaks were often used in the most difficult
ous cultural groups of Nepal that is Magar, Gurung, Limbu, parts, and sometimes hybrid yaks known as Jibus were also
Rai were brought under a single etonym of Gurkha. used. The exchange was carried on by barter and the exchange
rate varied from three to four of wheat or rice for one of salt
KumaunWestern Tibet Borderlands (Traill 1992: 13334).
Regular trade between Kumaun and Western Tibet may be While Europeans had attempted to find routes into the
traced back to the ninth century. The routes were difficult and trans-Himalaya from the 17th century onwards, it was the
Kumauni folklore is replete with adventures on these journeys. British who were able to establish important trade links. The
Early travellers to Kumaun and Garhwal also noted the inno- EICs interest in the Himalayan and trans-Himalayan trade
vative nature of the communication system in the hills. For was part of its search for new commodities for exchange bet-
example, Hardwicke who travelled to Srinagar in 1796 found ween Asia and Europe. With the acquisition of Bengal, the
74 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

English realised the significance of commercial intercourse be- entry into Tibet brought tensions with the Sikhs to the fore. An
tween Bengal and Tibet and were keen to expand their net- aspect of the AngloSikh war of the 1840s was the desire to
work and to participate in this trade. Warren Hastings sent break the monopoly of Ladakh and Kashmir merchants over
George Bogle to Tibet in 1774 by way of Bhutan. The British the wool trade (Dutta 1970: 1628; Brown 1992: 14672). After
traders were interested in the Tibetan trade, because they the Treaty of Amritsar in 1846, the British border was extend-
hoped to enter the Central Asian and Chinese trade via Tibet. ed, and gradually Tibetan trade was integrated into the British
They felt that Tibet could be accessed through Kumaun in spite imperial system. British presence at the borders gradually led
of the closure of Nepal to British trade (RRS 1973: 14859, 16771). to the restructuring of the wool trade.
John Pemble suggests that the EICs interest in Tibet and the By the 1870s, there was an increase in the imports of raw
trans-Himalayan trade was determined by various factors. wool, and a consequent decline in the imports of manufac-
Tibet was known as a source of precious metals, which would tured woollen goods (Atkinson 1981: Vol III, part II, p 139).
have helped to rectify the drain of silver from Britain to India. This was linked to the development of the woollen mills at
Tibet could also provide a market for English cloth and woollens, Kanpur (Pant 1935: 62). The growing demand for raw wool
and Tibet could grant the British access to shawls, a commodity led to an increase in the import of raw wool from Tibet, and
which could replace Indian cotton goods (Pemble 1971: 5486). the upper Himalayas of Kumaun. By the 1890s, the amount of
By 1815, however, it appears that the calculation may have wool brought down to Tanakpur, in the east, had increased,
changed because the flow of treasure from Britain was not re- and the Bhotias were being paid advances by the Kanpur
quired because investment came from the revenues of Bengal. mills for its supply. The demand for raw wool generated
Eagerness to open new markets for English woollens also was through the advances given by the Kanpur mills also led to
not easy to implement and though interest in shawl wool did the diversification of wool from Kulu to Almora. Over the 19th
persist, it was constrained by considerations of good relations century, local handloom industry declined, and raw wool was
with the Sikhs, who controlled flow of wool from Kashmir. diverted to Kanpur. By the 20th century, this had restruc-
tured the wool trade and brought the Kumaun and Tibet
The Bhotia Traders economies into the ambit of the British Empire (Brown 1994:
The takeover of Kumaun by the EIC affected the IndoTibetan 21558; Pant 1935: 16671).
trade, which was in flux during the turbulent period of the British state policy continued attempts to break the monop-
18th century. Increasing monetisation created a problem for the oly of Bhotia trade. For example, the British Chambers of
Bhotia traders who needed to invest large amounts of capital Commerce welcomed the 1886 Convention because it opened
in non-barter trade. Bhotia traders had suffered from heavy up Tibet to British trade (Brown 1992: 14672). Yet the difficulty
exactions by the Gorkha government when the revenues of of penetrating Tibetan commerce remained and British pres-
Bhot were farmed out to local moneylenders and financiers.18 sure was mounted on Tibet by the expedition of Colonel Youn-
Many Bhotias were thus indebted to the Sahukars of ghusband, which yielded three trade agencies in Tibet, that is,
Almora. The trend towards monetisation was clearly evident Yatung, Gyantse and Gartok in 1904 (McKay 1997: xxvi). The
in the Bhabar (south) trade circuit. By the 1930s, the Bhabar assault on monopolistic trade, eventually led to the Treaty of
trade was conducted in cash (Pant 1935: 16671). Like the Lhasa in 1904, which introduced free trade and changed the
Gorkhas before them, the British also resented the monopoly old order of things (Sherring 1906: 118). Thakur Jai Chand
of the Bhotias over the IndoTibetan trade. The Gorkhas had was appointed agent, and the district commissioner of Almora
encouraged the residents of Nagpur, Dasauli and other parga- made the first official visit in 1905.
nas to enter the trade but they made little impact (Atkinson Over the 19th century, the Bhotias faced not only a major
1981: Vol III, part II, p 140). In 1815, Rutherford who was in decline in trade in borax but as a result of better linkages with
charge of the Companys investment in Moradabad proposed a the south, the Bhotia trader suffered decline in (barter trade)
deputation to Tibet with a view to open up the trade between demand for salt. Sambhar salt from the plains was cheaper
the company and the natives of that country. He noticed that than Tibetan salt and made inroads into Kumaun. The rising
the Almora merchants who came to Kashipur for purchase of prices of grain, and frequent grain shortages in the last years
English cloths and manufactures went back to Almora and of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century
sold them to the Bhotias. From there, the Bhotia trade carried probably facilitated the shift to plains salt in the monetised
it to Gartok and other places in Tibet, thus four sets of profits regions of Kumaun. By the 1930s, trade in salt and borax had
were made on the goods and this so enhanced the price (Atkin- diminished enormously owing to Italian borax and salt from
son 1981, Vol III, part II, p 138). Yet attempts at direct inter- the plains (Pant 1935: 120).
course of the company with Tibet were soon abandoned. The commodity structure of IndoTibetan exporimport
By the middle of the 19th century, interest in borax from trade by the last years of the 19th century indicates a transforma-
Tibet had fallen because of the discovery of mines in Tuscany tion as indicated by the Administration Reports of the North
and manufacture from boric acid. Though trade in borax con- Western Provinces 1897, 1898, 1899. Earlier, grain was one of
tinued, it was no longer a commodity in great demand. The the major commodities for export from Kumaun to Tibet. The
British were primarily interested in the wool trade. The Sikh decline in grain exports around the 1890s can be linked to the
interest in wool, with the campaign of Zorawar Singh and his increase in agricultural prices and to grain shortages. This can
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 75

also be linked to the increase in export of European cloth to the IndoTibetan trade occurred. Towards the early years of
Tibet over the 19th century. the 20th century, the Bhotias faced a new situation. The
The close and intimate relationship between the Himalaya relationship between the trans-Himalaya and the Himalaya
and the trans-Himalaya was eroded, and the monopolistic was eroded by the advent of new modes of transport and com-
structure, which regulated the trade declined. Imperial munication. The commodity composition of trade was modi-
markets penetrated not only the Kumaun Himalaya but also fied, and the Bhotias lost their monopoly. The colonisation of
Western Tibet highlands. Local industries based on woollen the Kumaun economy changed the structure of its trade; the
production declined, because of an increase in the exports of trans-Himalaya lost its significance, and Kumaun looked
raw wool, and the local industries of Kashipur and Jaspur southwards, beyond the Tarai.
which had provided locally manufactured cotton cloth were A significant aspect of the mapping of the IndoTibetan
overtaken by European cloth, and Indian yarn.19 trade from Kumaun was the emergence of the term Bhotia
The Kumaun intelligentsia attributed the impoverishment which has consistently been marked with double inverted
of Kumaun to the decline of trade in borax, salt, and local wool commas, because it was contested by the people for whom the
industry.20 The system of free trade through the agency system term was used. This contestation may be read in different
did not simplify the trade situation, and Bhotia complaints ways. Brown in a paper entitled What We Call Bhotias Are in
against the system multiplied. In 1905, Sherrings visit to Tibet Reality Not Bhotias, suggests that the Bhotias claim to be
and his negotiations with the Jongpons did not result in any part of the Himalayan region and do not identify with Tibet
major benefits for the Bhotias or other traders, and the Brit- (Brown 1992: 14772). Nawa (2000: 3657) and Bergmann et
ish agent remained ineffective (Sherring 1906: 157). In 1919, al (2008: 12229) also refer to the point that the term has
the Bhotias complained that they were being denied access pejorative connotations. A problem with the term is that it
to a mart beyond Gartok, and the Shakti of 1925 also noted obscures the specific identities of different groups identified by
that the new trade policy was creating a fresh set of problems separate valleys, but the major concern is a refusal to be identi-
for the Bhotia traders. fied with Tibetan cultural traditions (Pande 2015: 1828). This
The Johari group was the most articulate of the Bhotia points to a southward orientation.
groups. Its visibility was also an aspect of its linkage with the
intelligentsia of the Kumaun region. In 1920, the Johar branch Conclusions
of the Kumaun Parishad was inaugurated. The Johar traders To the imperial order, the Himalayas and the trans-Himalaya
functioned as a group and established the Johar Himalaya held out the promise of trade with China and Central Asia, but
Company with an initial capital of `20,000. It had five direc- it took almost a century to establish control. An infrastructure
tors and was engaged in the wool trade. It advertised regularly
in the local newspaper and booked orders by value payable
post (VPP).21 The innovativeness of the Johar traders helped
them to adapt to the changing demands of trade caused by the
integration of Kumaun with the British economic system. Subscribe to the Print edition
The Bhotias found themselves under pressure because of
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Bhotias.23 By the 1930s, the Bhotias were no longer in
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t And a host of other
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IndoTibetan trade, therefore, appears to have been sub-
jected to three phases of change. The first can be seen from
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76 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

of roads and communications was required along with knowl- historian, who brought to light the shared connection with
edge about the region. Over the 19th century, the British Western Tibet of the Malla kings of Jumla from as early as the
marked their dominion through a network of roads and also 12th century (1956). Over the 19th and 20th centuries, the
through a massive cartographic exercise, mapping the Hima- term Gurkha acquired global recognition because of its use
layas and the trans-Himalayas (Burrard and Hayden 1907). by the British Army. The identification of Gurkhas as a martial
Gradually, the Tibetan blockade crumbled, and the British race by Hamilton (1819: 19) and later by Hodgson (1874: part II,
were able to enter the trans-Himalayan trade and break into pp 3744) produced a persistent discourse on martial races
the various trade circuits that spanned the Himalaya and (Caplan 2006: 26081).
trans-Himalaya. In the process, they affected and transformed As for Western Tibet, the Forbidden Land attracted the ad-
an intricate patchwork of agro-pastoral regimes that knit venturer, the explorer, the seeker, and the pilgrim. By the early
together a variety of ecological niches vertically and laterally. decades of the 20th century, European adventurers and ex-
This paper provides a tiny window into the extensive disar- plorers enchanted by the landscapes of the trans-Himalayas
ticulation and reconfiguration that resulted from the British created the myth of Shangri-La. In contrast to Central Tibet,
demarcation of borders in the highlands of Asia. We also need Western Tibet proved more accessible, but Tibet emerged from
to reflect on the impact of this process on cultural affiliations this exercise as an extraordinary cultural formation nurtured
and identity formations. The integration of the Kumaun in rugged isolation, shorn of its long historical connections with
borderland into the British Empire altered its coordinates in the entire gamut of Himalayan cultures (from East to West). In
several ways. Linkage with the Indian subcontinent, via the this representation, the Western Tibet borderland was reduced
Tarai, foregrounded a sensibility premised on caste and Brah- to a region best known for the Kailash Mansarovar dyad, a place
minical traditions (Pande 2013). The northward orientation for pilgrimage. For example, Kumauni elites redefined the
towards Tibet was eroded, and most histories of Kumaun writ- Tibet connection primarily as a Hindu pilgrimage to Kailash
ten in the colonial period make only a fleeting reference to Manasarovar in Manaskhand, a text full of Puranic allusions
Western Tibet (in spite of a large number of references to Tibet with no historical resonance (Pande 1989). This process ob-
in folk legends as pointed out by Pande 1990/1937). As noted scured the long historical links, dating to prehistory and the
earlier, even the Far-Western Region of Nepal was brought into period of the Tibetan Empire.
the ambit of the Empire, but in an indirect manner. British marking of dominion through roads and trade networks
In the Far-Western Nepal borderlands, we find a muted but also created a new understanding of the region, and conse-
nevertheless caste-based Hindu social system, developing in quently, its history and culture. This new knowledge empha-
consonance with the legal code, Muluki-Ain of 1856. This sised racial difference. Two terms used by the British to describe
obscured the historical dominance of the Khasa of Jumla, and Himalayan peoplesGurkha (Caplan 2006: 26081) and
the word Khasa acquired pejorative connotations in both Bhotia (Brown 1992; Bergman 2016) have clear racial over-
Kumaun and Western Nepal. In Nepal, it was replaced by the tones and have generated a fair amount of discussion. Tibetan cul-
term Chettri, in Kumaun it was replaced by Rajput. Even the ture was marked as Mongoloid, the other of the IndoAryan.
famous Nepalese anthropologist Dor Bahadur Bista did not Central Himalayan cultures were recognised primarily as Indo
include the Khasa in the first edition of his ethnography Aryan with the TibetoBurman traditions confined to the north-
of Nepal (1996). It was G Tucci, the Italian explorer and ern fringe. This understanding was also a product of British rule.

notes 13 Administration Reports of the North Western Bishop, B (1970): A Cultural and Ecological Analyses
Provinces, 1897, 1898, 1899. of the Karnali Zone, US AID.
ns/maps/iah/54-traderoute_color.pdf. 14 Administration Report North Western Provinces, Bista, D B (1996): People of Nepal, sixth edition,
18991900. Kathmandu: Ratna Pustak Bhandar.
2 A significant aspect of the mapping of the Indo-
Tibetan trade from Kumaun was the emer- 15 Pre-Mutiny Records, RLI, Vol 17. Baud, Michiel and Willem Van Schendel (1997):
gence of the term Bhotia which I consistently 16 Nepali people in military service with the British Towards a Comparative History of Borderlands,
mark with double inverted commas, because it were referred to as Gurkha, though in Nepal, Journal of World History, Vol 8, No 2, pp 21142.
was contested by the people for whom the term no group would respond to Gurkha. Bergman, Christoph (2016): The Himalayan Border
was used. 17 Pre-Mutiny Records, RLI Vol 7, 1821. Region: Trade, Identity and Mobility in Kumaon,
3 Pre-Mutiny Records, Revenue Letters Issued 18 Private Papers, Jugal Rais, Almora. India, Switzerland: Springer International.
(RLI), 31 March 1845. 19 Administration Reports of North Western Bergmann, C et al (2008): Living in a High Moun-
4 Pre-Mutiny Records, RLI, 17 November 1848. Provinces, 1899: 13652. tain Region: The Case of the Bhotiyas of the
20 Almora Akhbar, 21 August 1900. IndoChinese Border Region, Journal of Moun-
5 Pre-Mutiny Records, RLI, 22 April 1855.
tain Science, Vol 5, pp 12229.
6 Beckett Settlement Report, appendix 38 D. 21 Shakti, 25 February 1921.
Brown, C W (1992): What We Call Bhotias, Are in
7 Almora District Gazetteer Supplementary Notes 22 Shakti, 24 February 1925.
Reality Not Bhotias, Himalaya Past and Present,
and Statistics, Vol XXXV, p 11. 23 Shakti, 8 December 1923. Volume II , M P Joshi, A C Fanger and C W Brown
8 Vernacular Newspaper Reports, 9 June 1890, (eds), Almora: Shree Almora Book Depot,
p 213. pp 14772.
9 Shakti, 4 February 1919. References
(1994): Salt, Barley,Pashmina and Tincal-con-
10 Almora Akhbar, 25 October 1893, cited in Aitchison, C U (1892): A Collection of Treaties En- texts of being Bhotiya in Traills Kumaon,
Vernacular Newspaper Reports, 4 October 1893. gagements and Sanads Relating to India and Himalaya Past and Present, Vol III, M P Joshi,
11 Almora Akhbar, 21 August 1916. Neighbouring Countries, Calcutta, pp 17375. A C Fanger and C W Brown (eds), Almora:
12 Resolution re Bringing Kumaun under the Civil Atkinson, E T (1981): The Himalayan Gazetteer, 6 Almora Book Depot, pp 21558.
Jurisdiction of the High Court, UP Legislative Volumes, 1882, Delhi: Cosmo. Burghart, Richard (1984): The Formation of the
Council Proceedings, Vol XX, 1924, Allahabad Batten, J H (1851): Official Reports on the Province Concept of Nation-State in Nepal, Journal of
1925: 18698. of Kumaon, Agra Secundra: Orphan Press. Asian Studies, Vol 44, No 1, pp 10125.

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Burrard, S G and H H Hayden (1907): A Sketch of in Byans Far Western Nepal, European Bulletin Shreshtha, B K (1993): A Himalayan Enclave in
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sistence of a British Military Discourse on Race, Press. Borderland: The Sacred Country of Hindus and
War and Society in Colonial India, Kaushik Roy Oldfield, H A (1974): Sketches From Nipal Historical Buddhists, London: Edward Arnold.
(ed), second edition, Delhi: Oxford University and Descriptive, 1880, two volumes, London: Schendel, W Van (2002): Geographies of Know-
Press. Allen and Company. ing, Geographies of Ignorance: Jumping Scale
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Far Western Nepal, Kathmandu T U: Institute of Nityanand Smarak Samiti. Kathmandu: Ratna Pustak Bhandar.
Nepal and Asian Studies. Pande, Vasudha (2013): Stratification in Kumaun (1976): The Silent Cry, Kathmandu: Ratna Pustak
Dutta, K K (1970): Significance of Shawl Wool 18151930, Delhi: Nehru Memorial Museum & Bhandar.
Trade in Himalayan Politics, Bengal Past and Library. (1989): Prithvinarayan Shah in the Light of the
Present, Vol 89, No 1, pp 1628. Dibya Updesh, Kathmandu: Himalayan Book
(2015): Making Kumaun Modern: Family and
Gommans Jos J L (1995): The Rise of the Indo- Custom c 18151930, Delhi: Nehru Memorial Centre.
Afghan Empire c 17101780, Brill: Leiden. Museum & Library. Tolia, R S (1994): British Kumaun Garhwal, Almora:
Hamilton, Francis (1819): An Account of the Kingdom Pandey, R N (1997): The Making of Modern Nepal, Almora Book Depot.
of Nepal and the Territories Annexed to the Delhi: Nirala Publications. (1996): British KumaunGarhwal: An Adminis-
dominion of the House of Gorkha, Edinburgh trative History of a Non-regulation Province,
Pant, S D (1935): Social Economy of the Himalyans,
Archibald Constable and Company. Vol 2, Almora: Almora Book Depot.
London: Allen & Unwin.
Hardwicke, Captain T (1801): Narrative of a Journey Traill, G W (1828): Statistical Sketch of Kumaun,
to Srinagar, Asiatic Researches, Vol 6, pp 30947. Pathak, S (1987): Uttarakhand Mein Coolie Begar
Pratha, Delhi. Asiatic Researches, Vol XVI, pp 137234.
Heber, Reginald (1873): Narrative of a Journey (1992): Statistical Sketch of Kumaun, Himalaya:
Through the Upper Provinces of India 182425, Pathak, Shekhar (2008): Asia ki Peeth Par, Pahar,
Nainital. Past and Present, Vol II, M P Joshi, A C Fanger
London: John Murray, pp 21223. and C P Brown (eds), 1828, Almora: Almora
Hodgson, B H (1874): Essays on the Languages, Pemble, John (1971): The Invasion of Nepal, John
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Literature and Religion of Nepal and Tibet, Company at War, Clarendon Oxford.
Tucci G (1956): Preliminary Report on Two Scientific
Trubner: London. Pilgrim (1990): Wanderings in the Himmala, 1844, Expeditions in Nepal, ISMEO Roma.
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V (1991): Almoriana: Travel Account of Kumaun
The Rise and Fall of Ruhela Power in North India Regmi, M C (1978): Thatched Huts and Stucco Himalayan Ranges/Leaves From a Hill Journal,
in the Eighteenth Century, Delhi: Oxford Uni- Palaces: Peasants and Landlords in 19th Century 1901, Nainital: Gyanodaya.
versity Press. Nepal, Delhi: Vikas Pubishing House.
Whelpton, John (2005): A History of Nepal, Cam-
Kansakar, V B S (1984): IndoNepal Migration: (1995): Kings and Political Leaders of the bridge: Cambridge University Press.
Problems and Prospects, Contribution to Gorkhali Empire 17681846, Delhi: Orient
(2005a): A Reading Guide to Nepalese History,
Nepalese Studies, Vol 11, No 2, pp 4969. Longman. Himalaya, the Journal of the Association for
Matiyani, S (1990): Gopuli Gafuran, Allahabad: (1999): Imperial Gorkha: An Account of Gorkha- Nepal and Himalayan Studies, Vol 25, No 1,
Vibha Prakashan. li Rule in Kumaun 17911815, Delhi: Adroit. Article 5, viewed on 26 October 2016, http://
McKay, A (1997): Tibet and the British Raj, the RRS (various years): Regmi Research Series, Dig-
Frontier Cadre, 19041947, Curzon: Surrey. ital Himalaya, http://www.digitalhimalaya. tent.cgi?article=1286&context=himalaya.
Moorcroft, W (1816): A Journey to Mansarover in com/collections/journals/regmi/. Whalley, Peter (1991): The Law of the Extra-Regula-
Huindes, Asiatic Researches, Vol 12, pp 375535. Sankrityayan, R (Vikram Samvat 2015): Kumaun, tion Tracts, Varanasi: Vishwavidyalaya Praka-
Nawa, K (2000): Ethnic Categories and Their Usages Varanasi: Gyanmandal. shan Varanasi.

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78 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

Bureaucracy and Border Control

Crime, Police Reform and National Security in Kutch, 194852

Farhana Ibrahim

Studies on militarisation and borders in South Asia have nthropologists have written extensively on nationalism
often remained focused on zones of spectacular conflict (Handler 1988; Munasinghe 2002; Verdery 1991;
Williams 1989). Borderlands are conceptual sites at
such as Kashmir, or Punjab during the partition. This
which the relationship between the state and nation has been
article tracks the production of a discourse on borders by productively interrogated and historicised (Bhan 2008; Cons
those charged with border security such as the police 2016; Gupta 2013; Ibrahim 2009; Van Schendel 2004). I con-
and other senior bureaucracy in the decades following tend here that the anthropological literature on borderlands
must also take seriously the mundane and banal ways in
the partition. It suggests that the border question
which a bureaucratic discourse on borders is produced. I argue
evolved gradually out of a series of everyday concerns that this discourse often precedesbut is also influenced by
over local criminality that finally coalesced into the more the collective imagination of the national community, and its
abstract category of national security. It examines attendant rules for sanctioning legitimate claims on citizen-
ship, identity and belonging, even as it delegitimises other
bureaucratic debates on police reorganisation in Kutch
ways of being as anti or not properly national. Due to con-
between 1948 and 1952 to suggest that contemporary straints of access to contemporary official paperwork pertain-
discourses on nation and borders were arrived at ing to aspects of national security that are deemedthough
through intra-bureaucratic negotiations with the far less not always consistentlysensitive, an ethnography of the
bureaucracy with regards to borderlands must necessarily
abstract categories of village, locality and region.
turn towards an earlier period wherethrough cracks in the
officially constituted archivessome sort of narrative may be
crafted.1 Thus in this article, I take an ethnographic excursion
into the first few years after partition, a period that provides a
fascinating sense of how freshly drawn up territorial borders
were translated into practice on the ground.
Bureaucratic letter writing at the time provides a glimpse
into the following kinds of questions: what did the new border
mean to law enforcement agents and to borderland residents?
How were village disputes, thefts of cattle and sacred idols,
and cross-border incursions reported? How were transgres-
sions of the border viewed? What were some of the concerns
around reorganising police and paramilitary forces in the
region? Far from being self-evident, I argue here that the new
border had to be produced on a fairly continuous basis through
letters, paperwork and administrative action. As the substance
of the article will demonstrate, neither the border as a physical
entity nor the territorial anxietythat typically marks the
postcolonial borders of South Asiawere necessarily uni-
formly or ubiquitously manifested.

Early Discourse on Borderlands and Belonging

An ethnographic reading of bureaucratic writing, during the
Farhana Ibrahim ( is with the Department late 1940s, suggests that the newly established postcolonial
of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology state did not have a clear or unambiguous understanding of
Delhi, New Delhi.
the how the border was to be managed. Muslims, constituting
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 79

a majority of the borders resident citizens, exacerbate the sufficient to continue with pre-existing arrangements? What
postcolonial states position on national belongingwhere the was to be the policy governing the movements of those who
self-professed Muslim states of Pakistan and Bangladesh are lived in border villages, many of whom were Muslim and had
countered by ideas of a predominantly Hindu Indiaeven family or friends on the other side?
as they become poster children for Indias so-called policy of Far from being taken for granted at the time of partition,
tolerance towards its minorities; therefore, allowing the border management was actively produced through a series of
state to craft a nationalist narrative in contradistinction to its written exchanges that shuttled back and forth between the
immediate neighbours. administrative headquarters of Kutch, at Bhuj, and the Gov-
Given what we know to be the communally divisive atmos- ernment of India (GoI) in New Delhi. A close reading of the
phere during partition, including contemporary nationalist correspondence with regards to law enforcement and police
discourses that seek to craft a predominantly Hindu nationalist reorganisation in Kutch before 1965, allows one to trace a
narrative, it is possible to trace the roots of present-day practices gradualbut by no means linearcrystallisation of a regime
of exclusionary citizenship back to the early postcolonial of citizenship and nationality over the border question. In the
years. As Niraja Gopal Jayal argues in Citizenship and Its following sections I will examine the administrative debates
Discontents (2013), current debates on citizenship in India that on police reorganisation in Kutch between 1948when the
seek to exclude the Muslim immigrants from their claims to former princely state acceded to the Indian union of states
nationality, are informed by the early Constituent Assembly and 1952, to show that contemporary concerns around nation-
debates on the subject thereby, retaining the shadow of the al security in border regions were eventually arrived at
partition. I have suggested elsewhere that these debates can be through moments of non-linear negotiation, with the far less
traced even beyond partition, so that the partition of 1947 is abstract categories of village, locality and region. Letters and
not seen as a singular ideological rupture in the Constitution bureaucratic memoranda also provide a glimpse into the con-
of debates around citizenship and belonging.2 However, the stitution of the nation via various publics that were seen as
material addressed in this article suggests that, even during the rationale for firm border management practices. The initial
the political upheavals of 1947 and its immediate aftermath threat of an unprotected border was posited to a secular and a
neither did the state machinery nor the borderland residents far more locally grounded public; for example, rich regional
act in any predictable or preordained manner. merchants who suffered losses of property at the hands of
By tracking the bureaucratic production of border manage- bandits and thieves. Over a period of time, by the 1950s, this
ment practices along Indias western border, specifically the threat was couched in a more specific and abstract vein: the
borderlands that divided Kutchnow a district in the Western nation is threatened by both an unprotected border as well as
Indian state of Gujarat but at the time it was a state directly by potentially treacherous Muslims who reside within the
administered by New Delhiand Pakistans southern prov- border. Finally, the role played by borderland people in the
ince of Sindh, I will suggest first, that subsequent to the production of a bureaucratic discourse is neither passive nor
announcement of a formal partition, functionaries of the state is it that of a predetermined opposition. Through a dialogic
did not uniformly grasp the border in the abstract terms of the engagement with the bureaucracy, they are far more central to
nation state and concomitantly, of national security. Second, the process of state formation than is usually assumed of the
belonging was discussed in terms of village and region instead subaltern citizen.
of the nation at large. Border security was often posited in The article is also an ethnographic illustration of the docu-
local termsthe safety of village property and personsrath- mentary practices of the newly postcolonial state, which belie
er than in terms of the nation. Third, the material examined the coherence of an ideal-typical, Weberian rational bureau-
here challenges the assumption that it is the prerogative of the cratic regime. Taking on the observation that archival work
state to speak in terms of abstract national interest, which is often remains extractive rather than ethnographic (Stoler
then further challenged by subaltern narratives of resistance 2002), it looks not just at the content of bureaucratic docu-
by those on its territorial margins. It will become evident here, ments located in archives or government offices, but also pays
that rather than being constituted by the states discourse, attention to the conditions of their production (Tarlo 2001).
which was uneven, contradictory and often mired in the Bureaucrats in service of the newly minted nation state were
language of locality, subaltern citizens on the states border- not necessarily rationalist automatons executing their tasks in
lands often articulated nationalist concerns with clarity and favour of a predefined nationalist goal. Not only were these
prescience thus, transcending the discourse of locality. goalposts not always very clearly defined, but these bureau-
crats also exercised their own judgment as the bearers of
History of Border Management specific structures of feeling (Stoler 2002: 10102). Veena Das
Until 1965when the first cross-border armed conflict took (2007) observation, that bureaucratic modes of inscription are
place on this bordera border management regime gradually not only amenable to mimetic reproduction by others but that
emerged, but it did not always have a clearly defined direction. they are also malleable in their interpretation by state func-
Some key questions included: how was the KutchSindh tionaries, becomes crucial for this article as will become
border to be policed? Should it be subject to a specially-crafted evident in subsequent sections. Also fluid, are the subjectivities
security regime now that it was a national boundary, or was it of those who are charged with the production of bureaucratic
80 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

orders. By remaining attentive to the production of a bureau- was not taken over by the state, the assumption being that the
cratic discourse around borders, the article also contributes to refugees headed eastward might return to take possession of
ethnographic studies of the state, bureaucracy and adminis- their homes (Chatterji 2007). Similar assumptions configured
tration, where paperwork is a core ethnographic object (Gupta the refugee regime in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir,
2012; Mathur 2016; Navaro-Yashin 2012). Rather than examin- whose displaced were not considered to be partition refugees
ing the effects of bureaucratic paperwork on the people who at all (Robinson 2012). Moreover, at the first inter-Dominion
encounter it or who are sought to be constituted through it conference held in Calcutta between India and Pakistan in
(Navaro-Yashin 2012), I maintain that the paperwork consti- April 1948, both states agreed to take the necessary steps to
tutes a dialogic encounter between state and citizen. Between prevent a large-scale population exodus along the lines of
the movement of administrative files and secret memoranda what had occurred in the Punjab (Chatterji 2013).
within the bureaucracy, and the circulation of petitions sub- While the partition of Punjab and Bengal are sometimes
mitted by citizens to the state, we get a glimpse into the consti- contrasted to represent two types of partition experiences
tution of the border, as a particular kind of jurisdictional with regards to state policy and migration patternsthis article
space, by both state and citizen. suggests that state policy regarding borders is the result of
complex and uneven debates at various levels of administration
Partition and the Bureaucracy: Making New Borders even within a single borderland. This follows the identification
There is an abundance of emerging scholarship on the parti- of bureaucracies as sites of affect and personalisation, which
tion that discusses how each new border was experienced is somewhat removed from the Weberian ideal of the bureau-
through various temporalities in different regions. Recent cratic rationality. While there is no doubt that bureaucratic
studies have focused on the fallout, of how partitions borders documents produce an affect among citizens (Navaro-Yashin
affected migration, citizenship and refugee status for instance 2012), they are also written by people who have particular views
in Kashmir (Robinson 2012), Kargil (Gupta 2013), Bengal in on the subject matter under discussion. Zamindar (2007: 9091)
1947 (Chatterji 2007) and in 1971 (Kabir 2013; Alexander et al draws attention to the marginal notes in official files that
2016), and in Sindh (Kothari 2007). Each of them adds new demonstrate that state policy was often directly influenced by
ways of thinking about partitions in South Asia. The emergent the ideas and prejudices of those individuals whose notations
relationship between religion, region, and state along these appeared on files. Similarly, Joya Chatterji (2013) has argued
distinct but also quite malleable borders is far from stable; that the political elites of India and Pakistan met at the Cal-
challenging not only the notion of a clear-cut territorial or cutta Conference of 1948 and cooperated to produce a secular
emotional boundary but also of 1947 as the moment of language to deal with the disorder and chaos that had ensued
partition. An important body of work has highlighted the from the partition. She suggests that even within an overall
political and bureaucratic machinations that unravel the atmosphere of communal violence, administrators on either
notion either of a spontaneous surge of people across the side were able to secure peace in terms that were based on a
border, fuelled by a desire to relocate to the right side, shared class habitus of the governing elite, who were more
or even of a surgical partition of territories and people concerned with the containment of disorder from the lower
(Chatterji 2007; Das 1995; Zamindar 2007). ranks; The idea that it was lowly functionaries at the bottom
Vazira Zamindar makes a compelling argument for the of the food chain who spread the contagion of communalism,
bureaucratic stakes at play during partition. In The Long Parti- while their enlightened superiors looked on in horror
tion and the Making of Modern South Asia (2007), she writes of (Chatterji 2013: 46).
how a Hindu rehabilitation in India could only be premised on a This produced an overlapping consensus (Chatterji 2013:
Muslim evacuation to Pakistan. The so-called Muslim exodus 47) between the two otherwise hostile states, over the man-
from Delhi in the immediate aftermath of 1947, was not only a agement of the social mayhem in the wake of partition. Chat-
flight from a state that was increasingly unwilling to protect terji suggests that this language eventually permeated the dis-
Muslims who also wanted to stay on in India (Kidwai 2011), but course of crime and border management in the West, where there
it was also the product of a bureaucratic discourse that used a was a corresponding shift in the reporting of cross-border raids
subjective evaluation of intention to migrate, rather than the and incursions away from terms, that were unequivocally
desire to return as a key determinant of Indian citizenship for communal and increasingly as secular crimes against per-
Muslims (Zamindar 2007: 84). As early as 1948, a significant tide sons and property (Chatterji 2013: 4748).
of Muslim evacuees chose to return to their Indian homes but In Kutch, class-conflict, rural disaffection and other non-
the Indian state would not accept them, creating in effect the communal motives were attributed to crime and cross-border
introduction of citizenship provisions ahead of the constitu- incursions, but these reports also coexisted with a far more
tion itself (Zamindar 2007: 79; Jayal 2013). In contrast to this broadly understood communal discourse that was attributed
are those Hindu women whom the Indian state classified as to Muslim criminals and more specifically of anti-national
abducted by Muslims and then sought to recover, regard- intent. While the latter view was more prevalent among the
less of the formers own desires (Das 1995). In the east, on the Kutch police department, senior bureaucrats especially in
other hand, the movement of refugees in 1947 was not treated their missives to New Delhi were more likely to read the crime
with the same finality as it was in Punjab; evacuee property and border question in the more secular categories of law
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 81

enforcement and the maintenance of local public order. The also a cause for concern. He observed, a majority of the men
making of a political discourse around borders is therefore a are illiterate and Muslims, and urged that a firm overhaul in
far cry from a homogeneous or linear process; key differences standards of recruitment was required. Kutch, he added, is
in perception between the local and national administration more vulnerable to Pakistan activities, and therefore a strong,
belie notions of a singular discourse on nation and borders. well-trained armed strength and intelligent LIB (Local Intelli-
The bureaucracy is itself the site of multiple discursive strands, gence Bureau) are fundamentally needed. A month later, he
which contest and compete with each other in the production wrote again to the chief commissioner underscoring the need
of official policy. Attention to the intra-bureaucratic domain for a strong police force, well trained in intelligence gathering,
becomes a crucial step in moving away from the tendency in to check the ingress into the province from Pakistan side (sic)
academic work to reify state institutions into overtly purpose- or on the suspected smuggling activities.6
ful, unitary, and motivated actors (Gupta 2012: 187). This letter contained a detailed proposal for the reconstitution
of Kutchs police force, touching on almost all aspects of organisa-
Police Reorganisation and Cross-border Crime tion: dress, recruitment, training, housing, salary, mounted
In 1948, S R Chaudhri, the inspector general of police (IGP) of constabulary, intelligence, and the institution of village police.
Delhi and AjmerMerwara, toured Kutch prior to submitting Since police stations on the northern border were facing
his recommendations on police reorganisation for the region. Pakistan and were inaccessible during the monsoons, he recom-
He was quite categorical in his recommendations, noting that mended the installation of a wireless transmitting station at
there was no need for the commission of a separate border each of these police stations. In contrast to the visiting IGPs
police force in the region. In his report on the reorganisation of assessment, the police commissioner in Kutch was of the firm
Kutch police dated 2 February 1949, he wrote: view that the border required specific attention from a security
As Kutch touches the boundary of Pakistan, the question of providing point of view. He wrote, The Northern Boundary of Kutch fac-
police for the border was carefully considered. The physical features es Pakistan and intensified police patrolling is essential on this
of the country are, fortunately, helpful that way. There is a waste land border. Acknowledging the increased vulnerability of Kutch to
(Rann) to the depth of between 40 to 60 miles, all along the border Pakistan activities, he felt that a strong mounted patrol on
where there is no population or habitation. That is sufficient deter-
the border line is all the more necessary for security purposes.
ment for any raider from Pakistan area to visit any of the villages in
Kutch State near the border for purposes of loot only. I was also told Based on these firm and unequivocal recommendations,
that the people on both sides of the border are interrelated and are chief commissioner C K Desai forwarded a scheme for police
mostly Muslims; so there can be very little communal motive behind a reorganisation to the Ministry of States (MoS) at the GoI in
raid. There have been a few incidents near the border, but they related New Delhi on 11 December 1948. In April of the following year,
mostly to the satisfaction of private grudges against each other by the
he had still not received a reply from the MoS, by which time
men from the other side. There have been no border raids of the type
that is the case on the borders of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepur Chaudhri had already circulated his note dismissing the need
districts in the East Punjab. It would not, therefore, be necessary to for special border security. On 15 April 1949, on being prodded
have a special police force for the purpose of protecting the border yet again by an impatient police commissioner, chief commis-
only.3 (emphasis added) sioner Desai followed up with a gentle reminder to the MoS,
Chaudhri proposed that the existing police stations at border stating that he was still awaiting a final order on police reor-
outposts were sufficient to tackle smuggling activities through ganisation from the ministry.7 It is worth noting that this letter
known routes. Muslims on either side of the border were not neither carried a reference to the undefended frontiers of
perceived to be a threat to the Indian nation per se, so in this Kutch, nor to the vulnerabilities of the Kutch frontier to
view, cross-border raids from Pakistan could only have a local Pakistan activity; so deeply underscored in the letters he had
and not a communal or even anti-national motive. In his reck- received from the police commissioner, who had urged him to
oning, cross-border ties of kinship did not threaten the stability forward his case to the MoS. In his communication with New
of the nation. In fact, they created a joint local community that Delhi, Desai chose instead to highlight the threat to public
was invested in maintaining peace in the neighbourhood. order from the recent increase in dacoities that caused
Chaudhris views, however, differed sharply from the sugges- nuisance to the local public mind:
tions on police reorganisation made by the local commissioner Only a couple of days back a serious dacoity8 [sic] took place at the
of police in Kutch, H R Thakkar. Some months earlier, in a village Dumara where property worth `70,000 was looted. The fam-
letter dated 10 November 1948, Thakkar had written to the ine conditions also have led to discontented people committing crimes.
Most of the rich Kutchees live in Bombay and have fairly large estates
chief commissioner, who was the highest administrative of-
in the villages in Kutch. Naturally when there are dacoities in the vil-
ficer in Kutch,4 broaching the subject of police reorganisation.5 lages, these rich merchants in Bombay get nervous and the accounts
Describing his inspection of the Bhuj police headquarters and of dacoities are published in the newspapers, owned or sponsored by
the city police station, Thakkar expressed deep shock. The them, in glowing colours. This in turn leads to an amount of insecu-
constables were shabbily turned out, he wrote; they hardly rity and agitation in the local public mind. I therefore consider that it
is absolutely necessary that the police reorganisation scheme is sanc-
appeared to have any rudimentary knowledge of drill. Such
tioned at an early date, as otherwise it is not possible to recruit suitable
deplorable conditions were never seen or heard of even in men in the police department. I hope you will give this matter your
the most backward units of Kathiawar or any backward native personal attention, and have the orders issued at an early date.9 (em-
state. The predominantly Muslim composition of the force was phasis added)

82 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

In his argument submitted to New Delhi, the chief commis- mark from his predecessors descriptions to the extent of ac-
sioner did not imply that the increase in criminal activity in counting for theft of village property, except that Pakistan (in-
Kutch had anything to do either with its proximity to the bor- stead of the Muslim) was now much more clearly identified as
der, nor to the fact that the perpetrators may have come from the instigator of these raids against persons and property in
Pakistan. On the contrary, he makes a clear and unambiguous Kutch. On the subject of dacoities in Kutch, Ghatge wrote to a
connection between famine and economic discontent that joint secretary in the MoS, New Delhi on 7 December 1952:
leads to criminal activity in the countryside. The local public The month of November 1952 was in a way very depressing for the
mind is a secular, classed category comprised of rich mer- State of Kutch. In this month two serious dacoities took place, having
chants, who were worried about thefts on their large estates. been committed by Pakistani Kutchis taking shelter in the southern
We do not know what religion the dacoits profess, nor where part of Sind. The first dacoity took place in a village which may be
they came from. The threat to public order comes from dis- regarded as a bordering one but the second one was much in the inte-
rior. The first dacoity took place (on 1 November 1952 at 6:30 pm) at a
contented people who are of the lower classes and who
village called Ratadia in the Lakhpat taluka. Four dacoits dressed like
threaten the social and economic stability of the mercantile Sindhis and talking Kutchi and Sindhiall between 25 to 30 years of
elite, which in Kutch are both Hindu and Muslim. We have no ageentered Kutch through the Rann. Three of them had guns and
specific information in this communication about the suitable one had a stick and an axe. They belaboured some of the Kanbis of the
men that the Kutch police want to recruit urgently, even place, fired gun shots in the air, entered houses and looted property
though in another letter addressed to the chief commissioner, valued at `3,750. They took away a camel also from the village. They
left the same evening back for Pakistan through the Rann [] The
the police chief urged his senior officer to remind New Delhi
next dacoity took place on (17 November) at about 5:30 pm at a village
to expedite the required sanction without which I experience called Tumbdi in the Mundra taluka. Here too the dacoits numbering
great difficulty in working out the police administration effi- [seven] entered the village, fired gun shots and took away property
ciently. Here, he also sheds more light on suitable recruits: reported to be worth about `25,000. The dacoits also took away orna-
Since late the well known decoit [sic] Silu has again appeared in Kutch ments of an idol in a Jain temple. Here the dacoity was indeed very
limits and started his depredations, he committed two robberies one bold, since Tumbdi is in the southern side of Kutch. As the facts have
at Khanay and the other at Dumra, and as we are short of hands with been ascertained now, five dacoits came from Pakistan. Two joined
majority of Muslim strength I get no reliable officers and men in re- them from Kutch.11 (emphasis added)
serve to put them after the gang. The whole frontier of Kutch Province
is open which sometimes require [sic] to be guarded efficiently to pre- If a secularisation of the discourse of peacemaking, in the
vent such criminals coming in.10 (emphasis added) immediate aftermath of th partition, meant that crimes were
less often attributed to members of religious communities and
Border and Identity Discourses more to their citizenship, for example: a religiously neutral
It is clear that the police commissioners reading of crime in Pakistani intruder rather than a specifically Muslim one
Kutch is not couched in the same, relatively secular, terms of (Chatterji 2013: 48). It is also true that the signifier Pakistani,
class and rural discontent that his superior officer chose to un- increasingly implied Muslim even if one was Indian. Zamindar
derline when he wrote to the MoS. Thakkar assumes that the (2007) describes how an entire network of passes, permits and
known criminal, Silu, appeared in Kutch limits from the out- passports were devised to control the identity and mobility of
side, presumably from across a frontier that needs to be effi- people in the aftermath of partition. At times, Muslims were
ciently policed. Unlike in his earlier letters, Pakistan is not deemed to be Pakistani even if they had not moved out of
mentioned directly, but he does comment on the communal India. In the letter cited above, Ghatge identified the criminals
composition of the police force. Muslims of the force do not as Pakistani Kutchis, a remarkable phrase which manages to
constitute reliability. It would appear then, that such criminals convey the impression of their being Muslim without quite
were best fought off by non-Muslims, either because the crimi- saying so in communal terms.12 Finally, while this letter
nals were Muslim, or because they came from Pakistan, which implies an association between criminality and Pakistan and/or
amounted to much the same thing. The local public mind in Muslims, it also indicates crimes of local economic intent.
this rendition seems to exclude the Muslim (Zamindar 2007), Criminals from across the border had accomplices in Kutch
unlike the letter written by Desai to the MoS which argued in and their activities were oriented towards loot alone.
favour of its class-based exclusivity. The upshot of these two audacious raids was, however, as
Muslims in Kutch were presumed locally to be less reliable Ghatge wrote, that it became clear that the Pakistan govern-
in securing the border and therefore were of limited use in the ment has been harbouring dacoits wanted by Kutch who are
police forces. This certainty is absentor at least not the basis also able to get arms and ammunition in Pakistan and are
of argumentin the higher administrative echelons of the even able to move out openly in Pakistan and are not arrested
chief commissioner and the IGP from Delhi, who chose not to there in spite of the fact that intimation about such dacoits is
read cross-border criminality in terms that were anything other communicated to the police officers in Pakistan. Implying
than locally driven, that is for economic gain, and even when some complicity in Kutch, he admitted, I feel that some per-
from Pakistan, such crime was driven by a desire for loot sons in our bordering villages do come to know about their
rather than communal or anti-national intent. By 1952, the movements but our police department has failed to create that
new chief commissioner, S A Ghatge, accounted for criminality trust and confidence in them required for securing timely
and cross-border activity in terms that were not that far off the information.
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 83

While Ghatge, like his predecessor, treated these crimes as they had passed written in Gujarati script.14 Referring to false
disruptions to public life and property, he received applica- propaganda [] carried on by and in Pakistan regarding the
tions from Jains in Bombay (Mumbai), Kutch, and other places harassment of Muslims in India, this delegation wished to go
urging him to take action against the temple looters. He was on record to state that their sentiments are hurt by such prop-
also burdened with the prospect of how to secure the border aganda as it is false. This was followed by a firm declaration
with Pakistan in order to prevent any future recurrence of of loyalty, We declare that we are loyal to the Government of
such crimes. Pakistan was identified as the instigator of crimi- India, and if Pakistan government attacks the Indian govern-
nal activity against villages in Kutch, even against those that ment we will sacrifice our lives for the security of India, as did
lay some distance away from the border; compounding their our forefathers in the past (emphasis added).
(Pakistans) audacity according to Ghatge. Unlike previous The declaration begins, interestingly, with the statement
occasions when such crimes were read purely as a result of We, the Muslims of Banni and Khawda, the northern part
social and economic discontent within Kutch, Ghatge was of Kutch resolve as under. The northern border of Kutch
aware of the fact that security on the borders of Kutch also is populated by Muslims, primarily pastoralists of various
meant building confidence among Muslims that lived on subgroups and denominations, but also by other communities,
the border. locally referred to as Harijans and Adivasis. The latter two
Even as the dominant bureaucratic discourse of the time groups were well outside the Hindu fold, at least until rela-
which was couched in the secularised language of economic tively recent attempts were made to Hinduise them. For the
crime, loot and dacoityprevented Ghatge from referring to most part, these border communities have shared cultural
the perpetrators of crimes using communal categories. Muslim traits such as dress, marriage practices, consumption of meat,
residents of the border had no such compunctions and used and mortuary practices that render it difficult to distinguish
their religious identity as Muslims (homogenising a vast set Harijans and Adivasis from their Muslim neighbours (Ibrahim
of differences between the various Muslim groups that live 2012). The declaration purports to represent a collective
along the Sindh border in Kutch) when addressing the state. Muslim sentiment rather than the collective sentiment of
Even as the state was engaged in writing about the border, its border dwellers. By 1951, there appeared to be a semblance of
residents also chose to engage with the state using the same suspicion that would begin to accrue more firmly against
medium. While the states overt bureaucratic memos displayed Muslims on the Indian side of the border, after the armed
restraint in communal matters, its citizens took a far more conflicts with Pakistan.
pragmatic and direct view of the matter. It is around this time, There is no doubt about the fact that this is a staunchly
that it was possible to identify a gradual shift in the perception political deputation. The other noteworthy point about the
of border dwelling Muslims as potentially anti-national ele- declaration is its language, which we have access to only
ments, with the putative interests of the nation becoming more through a translation, presumably by the chief commissioners
closely aligned with the Hindu majority, even among the more office in Bhuj. In this translation, the Muslim delegation
elite bureaucratic class. underscores its loyalty to the state as government. If Pakistan
How closely were borderland Muslims aligned to the nation were to attack India (note, not an attack on Kutch from across
was now open to debate, while the question of belonging was the border as the letter-writing bureaucrats tended to affirm),
no longer tied to the immediate locality, that is, the border- they assert that they are willing to lay down their lives for the
lands of KutchSindh. However, the administrative discus- nation, as they have always done in the past. This memoran-
sions around this were still tentative and were only conducted dum is couched within terms of national security that we are
through the marginalia of secret memos and communiqus more familiar within the context of contemporary inter-
within the corridors of power in New Delhi, as the following national relationswhether this is more accurately reflected
section reveals. in the concerns of its authors or translators. This is likely a concern
of the Muslims on the border too, for we hear from Ghatges
Nationalism and Citizenship on the Border: letter to the MoS that the Khawda delegation which consisted
Voices from the Margins of more experienced people handed him three copies of this
Even as letters and memoranda on the question of border secu- note with the request that two copies be forwarded to the
rity flew back and forth between Bhuj and New Delhi without prime ministers of India and Pakistan, respectively, and that
generating any broad consensus on the subject, citizens on the one copy be retained by him. Even as senior officials were de-
border had their own interests in the matter. Tucked away bating the contours of border security and the need for main-
inside some of these bureaucratic missives is evidence of Mus- tenance of public order, border-dwelling Muslims seem to have
lims living on the border who tackled the question of identity, had a far more prescient understanding of the security of India,
citizenship and security quite directly, leading to further the institutional apparatus and parameters within which it
debate within the administration. In 1951, a group of Muslims was maintained, and how they would need to position them-
from the border areas of Banni and Khawda presented Ghatge selves within it. While there are certainly valid questions to be
with a resolution.13 Writing to the MoS in New Delhi, Ghatge posed regarding how widely representative this declaration
reported that while on a tour of these regions, he met some of loyalty was, the language it espoused was unequivocal
leading Muslims of the area who formally gave him a resolution about what it meant to be living along this border and an
84 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

equally clear understanding of the need to perform loyalty to nationality were often enunciated with greater clarity on the
the nation using the universalist terms of state and nation margins than at the political centres of state authority. Arguing
rather than local identity. against the view that borderlands had to be enfolded into a
Ghatges correspondence with the ministry consequent to nationalist discourse that flowed outward from the centre, he
this declaration is also noteworthy, indicating the lack of a suggested that not only do ideas of the nation coexist with a
clear and well-defined policy on the social contours of border local sense of identity, but also that in some cases the nation
management at this stage. In the same letter where he reports appeared on the periphery before it was built by the centre
on this memorandum of loyalty, Ghatge oscillates between (Sahlins 1988: 237). He also provided evidence of how local
dismissing it outright even as he hints at it being a disingenu- communities in the borderlands of France and Spain petitioned
ous ploy by Muslims to divert attention from their possibly their states about village disputes in the 18th and 19th centuries,
illegal activities. On the one hand, he argued that such a increasingly using the emergent language of the nation. As
declaration was superfluous, there being no cause to cast the memorandum of loyalty passed by Muslims of Banni
doubt upon certified citizens of the country, this is their and Khawda reveals, the residents of these border villages
home and they have a right to live (sic). No such fresh alle- were all too conscious of their precarious position bet ween
giance is required. This indicates that their presence in India the two rival states. Their choice of language and format of
(as opposed to flight to Pakistan) constitutes their allegiance. engagement with the statethrough a written resolution
He continues, I cannot see why it should be sent to the mimics the states own documentary practices even as it
Prime Minister of Pakistan, out of all. As I look at it, we are pushes the state to clarify its own stand on the matter, which
not going to prove to Pakistan that we have been treating our as we can see was far from univocal.
people well. They owe nothing to Pakistan. The idea itself is
mischievous. And on the other, he also implies that the dec- Conclusions
laration has no meaning, merely being the work of some Intra-bureaucratic debates on police reorganisation in Kutch
ingenious brain following the usual faade of shouting ones between 1948 and 1952, enable two important insights: first,
loyalty. He concluded, I would not believe a word of it. What that what we deem as contemporary concerns around border
I will be looking to will be their conduct. As a consequence of security that are posited in the universalist terms of the nation
the mixed conclusions drawn by himin principle an overt and national security, were enabled through moments of non-
secular nationalist but unwilling to rule out surveillance on linear negotiation with the far less abstract categories of
border dwelling Muslims eitherGhatge concludes that he village, locality and region; and second, that bureaucratic
does not believe any action is needed and if GoI were to agree, letter-writing reveals a number of ways in which the so-called
he should kindly be informed so that I will tell the people so unitary discourse of the state, even on sensitive issues such as
in my own way. national security, are filled with internal debates, inconsist-
The response to Ghatges letter arrived in the form of a encies and assumptions that are far from agreed-upon. This
secret memo issued by the MoS15 indicating that there was noth- article has argued that in the discussions on police reorgani-
ing remarkable or objectionable about Muslims re-affirming sation there were two views on the subject of borderland
loyalty to the GoI. Stating that similar resolutions have been Muslims. One view is the fact that since people on either
passed elsewhere in India, the memo suggested that the chief side of the border were related to one another, this ruled
commissioner was free not to attach much importance to the out cross-border criminality directed at the nation at large,
resolution and to keep any suspicious persons under watch for and only remained confined to the level of family disputes or
anti-national activities (emphasis added). It also expressed personal grudges. The border in this sense was an acknow-
no discomfort with allowing the group to directly forward a ledgement of separate jurisdictions, but did not yet bear a
copy of their resolution to the prime ministers of the two coun- nationalist rhetoric. At the same time, however, the police de-
tries, if they so desired. It is in the marginal handwritten notes partment in Bhuj took a far more communally-driven view of
on this memo, made by three officials of the ministry in police reorganisation.
advancing order of seniority, that we get a sense of the range This article has sought to trace the early emergence of a dis-
of opinions between them. While the under secretary advo- course around borders and border Muslims in Kutch, to argue
cated complete agreement with the chief commissioner, that in the borderlands of Kutch and Sindh, an understanding
the joint secretarys note indicated that he should tell the del- of the border in abstract terms of religion or nation was not a
egation that their resolution has been forwarded to GoI but pre-given in the moment of the partition, but was the product
also that he must of course watch the behaviour of all of administrative debates, that was arrived at over a period of
sections. The secretary on the other hand notes, I think the time. Furthermore, residents of the border had key stakes in
CC (chief commissioner) is unnecessarily suspicious in this this debate, in which they were active participants rather than
case. The Muslims have tried to help us in counteracting Pak mere bystanders. In contemporary times, a deep distrust of
(sic) propaganda and for this they have to be commended Muslims and their loyalty to the nation has been firmly en-
rather than censured. trenched within nationalist rhetoric; this is more pronounced
In his classic study of the French borderlands in the 18th and along the borders with the neighbouring Muslim-dominated
19th centuries, Peter Sahlins (1988) noted that discourses of states of Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 85

Notes References Kidwai, Anis (2011): In Freedoms Shade (translated

by Ayesha Kidwai), New Delhi: Penguin.
1 Out of 104 File Requisition Slips pertaining to Alexander, Claire, Joya Chatterji and Annu Jalais
this period Submitted to the National Archives Kothari, Rita (2007): The Burden of Refuge: The Sindhi
(2016): The Bengal Diaspora: Rethinking Muslim
of India (NAI) in New Delhi, during spells of Hindus of Gujarat, Hyderabad: Orient Longman.
Migration, London and New York: Routledge.
Research in 2003 and 2004, the Number Returned Mathur, Nayanika (2016): Paper Tiger: Law, Bureau-
Bhan, Mona (2008): Border Practices: Labour and
with the following Notations were: 48 NT cracy and The Developmental State in Himalayan
Nationalism among Brogpas of Ladakh, Con-
(Not Transferred), six Closed, three Secret, India. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press.
temporary South Asia, 16, No 2, pp 13957.
six Under Search and three Sent for Micro- Munasinghe, Viranjini (2002): Nationalism in
Chatterji, Joya (2007): The Spoils of Partition: Bengal
filming. On the Production of Sensitivity on Hybrid Spaces: The Production of Impurity Out
and India, 194767, Cambridge: Cambridge
a Borderland, see Cons (2016: 3436). of Purity, American Ethnologist, Vol 29 (3),
University Press.
2 Farhana Ibrahim, Cross-border Intimacies: pp 66392.
(2013): Secularisation and Partition Emergen-
Marriage, Migration and Citizenship in Western NavaroYashin, Yael (2012): The Make-Believe
cies: Deep Diplomacy in South Asia, Economic
India, forthcoming in Modern Asian Studies. Space: Affective Geography in a Postwar Polity,
& Political Weekly, Vol XLVIII, No 50, pp 4250.
3 Report of Inspector General of Police (Delhi Durham: Duke University Press.
and AjmerMerwara) on Reorganisation of Cons, Jason (2016): Sensitive Space: Fragmented
Robinson, Cabeiri deBergh (2012): Too Much Nation-
Kutch Police, National Archives of India (NAI)/ Territory at the IndiaBangladesh Border, Seattle:
ality: Kashmiri Refugees, the South Asian
Ministry of States (MoS)/31(15)E, 1948. University of Washington Press. Refugee Regime and a Refugee State, 194774,
4 Kutch state was administered by the central Das, Veena (1995): National Honour and Practical Journal of Refugee Studies, pp 122.
government through a chief commissioner dur- Kinship: Of Unwanted Women and Children, Sahlins, Peter (1988): The Nation in the Village:
ing the period 194856 when it was merged Critical Events, Delhi: Oxford University Press, State-Building and Communal Struggles in the
into the bi-lingual Bombay Province. In 1960, it pp 5583. Catalan Borderland during the Eighteenth and
became the largest district in the newly consti- (2007): The Signature of the State: The Paradox Nineteenth Centuries, The Journal of Modern
tuted state of Gujarat. of Illegibility, Life and Words: Violence and the History, Vol 60, No 2, pp 23463.
5 Commissioner of Police (CP) H R Thakkar to Descent into the Ordinary, New Delhi: Oxford Stoler, Ann Laura (2002): Colonial Archives and
Chief Commissioner (CC), Kutch, dated 10 No- University Press, pp 16283. the Arts of Governance, Archival Science,
vember, 1948, NAI/MoS/31(15)E, 1948. Gupta, Akhil (2012): Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Struc- Vol 2, pp 87109.
6 CP to CC, Kutch, dated 3 December 1948, NAI/ tural Violence, and Poverty in India, New Delhi: Tarlo, Emma (2001): Paper Truths: The Emergency
MoS/31(15)E, 1948. Permanent Black. and Slum Clearance through Forgotten Files,
7 CC, Kutch to Joint Secretary (JS), MoS, dated (2013): Allegiance and Alienation: Border The Everyday State and Society in Modern India,
15 April 1949, NAI/MoS/31(15)E, 1948. Dynamics in Kargil, Borderland Lives in Northern Chris Fuller and Veronique Benei (eds), London:
8 Crime, from the Hindi term dakaiti with perpe- South Asia, David Gellner (ed), Durham: Duke Hurst and Company, pp 6890.
trators referred to as daku (dacoit) University Press, pp 4771. Van Schendel, Willem (2004): The Bengal Border-
9 CC, Kutch to JS, MoS, dated 15 April 1949, NAI/ Handler, Richard (1988): Nationalism and the Poli- land: Beyond State and Nation in South Asia,
MoS/31(15)E, 1948. tics of Culture in Quebec, Madison: University London: Anthem Press.
10 CP to CC, Kutch, dated 16 April 1949, NAI/ of Wisconsin Press. Verdery, Katherine (1991): National Ideology Under
MoS/31(15)E, 1948. Ibrahim, Farhana (2009): Settlers, Saints, and Sov- Socialism: Identity and Cultural Politics in
11 CC, Kutch to JS, MoS, dated 7 December 1952, ereigns: An Ethnography of State Formation in Ceausescus Romania, Berkeley: University of
NAI/MoS/22(157)PA/52, 1952. Western India, New Delhi: Routledge. California Press.
12 Kutch and Sindh have always been entirely dis- (2012): Representing the Minority, Minority Williams, Brackette (1989): A Class Act: Anthro-
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Money, Banking & Finance

March 25, 2017
Introduction Saibal Ghosh, Partha Ray
Reflections on Analytical Issues in Monetary Policy: The Indian Economic Realities A Vasudevan
Negative Interest Rates: Symptom of Crisis or Instrument for Recovery C P Chandrasekhar
Vulnerability of Emerging Market Economies to Exogenous Shocks Bhupal Singh, Rajeev Jain
Indian Banking: Perception and Reality Ashima Goyal
Non-performing Assets in Indian Banks: This Time It Is Different Rajeswari Sengupta, Harsh Vardhan
Were Public Sector Banks Victimised through AQR? A Strategic Orientation Perspective Shubhabrata Basu, Moovendhan V
Did MGNREGS Improve Financial Inclusion? Saibal Ghosh
How Efficient Are Indias Cooperative Banks? Evidence from DCCBs Sarthak Gaurav, Jisha Krishnan
Role of Fintech in Financial Inclusion and New Business Models Ajit Ranade
Determinants of Bid-ask Spread in the Indian Government Securities Market Golaka C Nath, Sahana Rajaram,
Priyanka Shiraly, Manoj Dalvi
Long-run Performance of Seasoned Equity Offerings: New Evidence from India Soumya G Deb
For copies write to: Circulation Manager,
Economic and Political Weekly,
320-321, A to Z Industrial Estate, Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400 013.

86 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

Embattled Frontiers and Emerging Spaces

Transformation of the Tawang Border

Swargajyoti Gohain

In the years following the IndiaChina War (1962), n 1964, in the aftermath of the IndiaChina War of 1962,
Tawang underwent a significant makeover. In 1964, the the Indian government sanctioned the construction of the
Nehru Gompa (Tib Dgon Pa) monastery to commemorate
Indian government sanctioned the construction of the
the visit of Indias first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru,
Nehru Gompa monastery to commemorate Jawaharlal to Tawang, a far-flung border in north-east India. Locals
Nehrus visit to Tawang. Nehru Gompa is a symbol of the narrate how stones and bricks from an older kakaling, a
new relations between the Indian state and the Tibetan square arch that served as an entryway to the area, were used
as the foundation for the new monastery. The Nehru Gompa,
Buddhist institutions that were forged in the early
originally built as a kakaling, was later rebuilt as a monastery,
postcolonial period in Indias North East Frontier. This and the charge of its maintenance was given over to Tawang
paper looks at the changing dynamics between the Monastery, which controls the other monasteries in the area.
Tawang Monastery, the local population, and the state in Nehru Gompa or Nehru Dolma Lakhang now stands in
Tawangs Nehru Market area as a symbol of the new relations
this context, and focuses on how the Tawang Monastery
between the Indian state and the Tibetan Buddhist institutions
negotiated with the local administration through the that were forged in the early postcolonial period in Indias
medium of official correspondence. North East Frontier Agency (NEFA).
In the postcolonial history of Tawang, 1962 was a watershed
year. Having more or less continued the policy of loose ad-
ministration begun by the British colonial government in fron-
tier areas till the early 1950s, the Indian government rethought
its administrative strategies from a security perspective as
boundary-related disputes with China intensified. This meant
establishing political offices and agents in untouched frontier
regions, and the first paramilitary post was set up in Tawang
in 1951. Tawang was of particular strategic importance, as it
was coveted by the Chinese state which saw it as an extension
of Tibet; it had been under Tibetan rule for more than three
centuries. When border tensions blew up during the SinoIn-
dian War, offices, residences, and monasteries were temporar-
ily evacuated as Chinese troops overran Tawang for two
months (from October to December in 1962).
The war hastened the process of state consolidation in Tawang.
As the Indian government set up military bases and adminis-
trative quarters in Tawang, cooperatives, retail stores, and other
I carried out the research for this paper in Tawang in May 2013. This
civic infrastructure also followed in a state-enabled urbanisa-
was a field visit to Tawang following extended visits in 2008, 2009, and
2010. An initial draft was presented at the Asian Borderlands Research tion process; the aim was to cater to the needs of the military
Network conference in Hong Kong (810 December 2014). population and to the new administrative, business, and pro-
I am grateful to the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, Indian fessional classes who started trickling in from the early 1970s.
Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and the North East India Studies So, how did the people of Tawang respond to the new govern-
Programme, in Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, for supporting this ment and to the politico-economic and demographic changes
paper at different stages of writing and revision. I am grateful to Kerstin it initiated?
Grothmann from Humboldt University, Germany, for her valuable
This paper looks at the changing dynamics between the
comments on the first draft.
Tawang Monastery, the local lay population, and the state in this
Swargajyoti Gohain ( is Assistant Professor of changing context, and focuses on how the Tawang Monastery
Sociology at IIT Kanpur and is currently teaching in Ashoka University.
negotiated with the local administration through the medium
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 87

of official correspondence. This, in turn, contributed to Tawangs From Monastery Space to Administrative Base
integration. I use the term integration to refer to the inclusion Tawang is a town in the Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh
of Tawang in Indian political and economic institutions and its in North East India, traditionally inhabited by the Monpa
eventual cultural integration (Watson 2000).1 communities who are of the Tibetan Buddhist faith.4 Located
While scholars have written about the role and agency of on the borders between Indian, Tibetan, and Bhutanese terri-
the state in fashioning border subjects (for example, Aggarwal tories, Tawang is famous for the Tawang Monastery which was
2004; Van Schendel 2005), I argue that the incorporation of established by Mera Lama in 1680 as a Gelugpa outpost in the
Tawang into Indian political networks was caused not only to 17th century sectarian wars between Tibet and Bhutan, at the
the deeds of an assertive state, but also by the recognition initiative of the fifth Dalai Lama (Aris 1980). By decree of the
given to the Indian administration by the local elitethat is, Dalai Lamas office, and with an administration linked to the
high-ranking monks and the lay population. Tibetan government (Tib bodgzhung), the Tawang Monastery
Historicising the concept of recognition, Charles Taylor was authorised to collect taxes from Monpa villages in and
(1994) wrote that individual and group identities rest on recogni- around Tawang. Tawang and its adjacent district, West Kameng
tion and are always formed in dialogue with others. Ideally, (together known as Monyul), were divided into administrative
equal recognition means that all individuals and groups are centres or dzongs (Tib rdzong, meaning fort or district), which
entitled to a uniform set of rights and immunities in the public were in charge of jurisdiction and tax collection. The present
sphere in modern democratic states. However, in most societies, town of Tawang is located one kilometre away from the mon-
some individuals or groups with historical disadvantages are astery. Monyul had three major dzongs, from south to north
denied proper recognition or are not recognised. Hence, Taylor Talung Dzong, Dirang Dzong, and Tawang Dzong or Gyanghar
argues that equal recognition should coexist with the politics Dzongwhere grains collected as taxes were stored and car-
of difference, so that historically marginalised communities ried by compulsory or corve labourers u-la (Tib u lag) from
are ensured protection by the state. villages in a relay until they finally reached Tsona in Tibet,
I apply recognition in reverse, in the sense that communi- which served as the administrative headquarters of Monyul.
ties should be able to recognise the state as a legitimate Tawang Monastery deputed senior monks as dzongpons (offic-
presence in their political lives. The state also needs to earn ers) to the dzongs to oversee the collection of agricultural lev-
recognition from the communities to which it extends its juris- ies and to settle local disputes (Sarkar 1996). While people in
diction, and it attempts to do so through iterative (restating other parts of what is now Arunachal Pradesh also paid taxes
its goals) and performative (active staging of its presence to some Tibetan private families (Grothmann 2012; Huber 2011),
by propagating cultural symbols, development goods, etc) it was only in Monyuland mainly through the Tawang Mon-
means. I look at one process which enabled the communities asterythat the Tibetan state established systematic control.
of newly merged Tawang to recognise the Indian state. During British officer Captain Bailey, who, along with Captain
the period of political transition, highly placed monk officials Morsehead, was deputed to map the boundary between Tibet
and village leaders in Tawang wrote petitions to the local and India in 1913, gave an account of the relation between
administration with a variety of requests. The image of the Monyul and Tibet (Bailey and Morsehead 1914; compare with
Indian sovereign power acting through the local Tawang Approach Paper nd; Sarkar 1996):
administration became entrenched in the minds of Tawangs Mnyul is the comparatively low-lying district of Tibet[,] which is gov-
public as the volume of official correspondence and govern- erned by the lamas of Tawang. The district is governed by a council of
ment circulars grew. six[,] named Trukdri. They are the Kenpo, or Abbot of Tawang Gompa,
Of course, the state presence in Tawang was not just enforced another lama in a high position, two monks known as Nyetsangs
and two Tsna [district in Tibet] Dzongpns. In this way, the Tsna
through official documents and bureaucratic outreach. Overt
Dzongpns have a hand in the Government of Mnyul. In the summer
state-building measures such as militarisation, and more covert when the Dzongpns are at Tsna they keep agents at Tawang to act
means such as the introduction of mainstream education and for them but from November to April they themselves live at Tawang
development programmes in the post-war period, helped the and send their agents to live in the cold climate of Tsna. Under the
state to penetrate border regions (Gohain 2013).2 In this paper, Trukdri are the two Dzongs, Dirang and Taklung, each of which is held
by two monks sent from Tawang who act together. The Dzongpns of
however, I highlight two aspects of the material basis for state
Taklung live at Amratala on the Assam border in grass huts during the
formation in Tawang. First, on the one hand, material concerns trading season. (pp 4142)
forged (or forced) alliances amidst an expanding state appara-
tus, and on the other, the border population was driven by Tawang Monastery was the spiritual centre for all the
instrumental concerns to recognise the former state; second, adjoining areas of Tawang; it allotted specific roles to local
the participation of border populations in the material tech- people. Although traditionally located at the outskirts of
nologies of governanceofficial documents and bureaucratic settlements, monasteries were never self-enclosed units; they
correspondencefacilitated local recognition of the new were bound to villages with organic ties (Goldstein 1989;
administration. This article draws on documents retrieved from Sarkar 1996). Shyo Basti (Tib Shyo/Zhol meaning lower part or
the deputy commissioners office in Tawang and, in particular, that which is below in location), a village located just below
on archives of petitions for government grants addressed to Tawang Monasteryand still in existence todaywas estab-
the local administration.3 lished during the construction of the monastery. As part of the
88 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

monastic tradition, a group of people settled down near the the boundary agreement, the British were reluctant to actively
monastery premises to maintain it. The monastery, in turn, engage in boundary demarcation. Thus, the Tibetan represent-
looked after the needs and problems of the people from Shyo atives of Tawang Monastery from Tibet continued to collect taxes
Basti; the village and the monastery were engaged in what from the Monpas.
may be seen as a patronclient relationship. Other villagers For several years, Tawang had no dealings with the Indian
also actively participated in the construction and maintenance government except for occasional encounters with the odd
of the monastery, provided food supplies, and supplied labour expedition of British officersCaptain Neville in 1914, Ludlow
for services such as porterage or u-la. and Sherriff in 193435 and 1938, and Frank Kingdon-Ward in
The affairs of Tawang Monastery wereand still are the 1930s, to name a few. Tawang remained de facto a part of
managed by a governing council, Lhangye Khang, headed Tibet. In February 1951 (almost four years after Indias inde-
by the abbot. The office of lopon is next in the hierarchy after pendence and in the context of an impending Tibetan defeat
the abbot, and the lopon manages the monastery affairs in the by Chinese forces),8 a paramilitary expedition to Tawang led
abbots absence. Indeed, when I interviewed Tawang Monasterys by Major Bob Khating of the Indian Frontier Administration
Lopon Acharya Ngawang Norbu in May 2013, my intermediary Services put an end to Tibetan tax collection and established
Gelong Sangey Leta introduced him as the second abbot. the first Indian administrative post in the region.
Other important office-bearers in the monastery administration In October 1962, Chinese troops attacked several posts on
are the changzey (the abbots secretary), dratsangbuk (who the western and eastern sectors of the SinoIndian border
looks after the properties of the monastery), and the nyertsang (Lamb 1966).9 After the war ended, the Indian government
(who is responsible for collecting contributions from villagers sealed all border passages between Tawang and Tibet. Tawang
and issuing provisions to monks based on their entitlement).5 was co-opted into the NEFA, a frontier tract that was initially
Tawang Monastery has 13 subsidiary monasteries as well as composed of five divisions: Kameng, Subansiri, Siang, Lohit
two nunneries in the Tawang region.6 Nehru Gompa was later and Tirap. The office of the political officer, later renamed the
added to the list of the original 12 branches. The abbot of Tawang deputy commissioner, governed each division. Tawang was
Monastery appoints monks to each branch for a three-year period. made a subdivision of the Kameng Frontier Division, and the
The deputed monks have to take care of the monasterys affairs highest political post in Tawang was that of additional political
and, in return, the monastery supplies their provisions. Tradi- officer, later renamed additional deputy commissioner. The
tionally, villagers contributed foodgrains and other articles to Ministry of External Affairs administrated the NEFA with the
sustain the monks (Sarkar 1996).7 governor of Assam acting as an agent to the President of
In those pre-independence days, it was compulsory for each India. In 1972, NEFA became a union territory and was named
family in the surrounding villages of Tawang, which had three Arunachal Pradesh. In 1987, Arunachal Pradesh was con-
sons or more, to send their second or middle son, bu sum ferred full statehood; at present, it has 16 districts. Tawang
barma (Tib bugsum barpa), to become a monk. Breach of this became an independent district with its own deputy commis-
custom resulted in community fines. Traditionally, each family sioner on 16 October 1984.10
had to contribute foodgrains to the Tawang Monastery twice a
yearonce in summer and once in autumn (Approach Paper nd). Tawangs Makeover
People who paid taxes in the form of grains were khreipas (Tib In the years following the IndiaChina War, Tawang under-
khralpa). During the time of the monasterys founder, Mera went a significant makeover. The construction of new admin-
Lama, each taxpaying familys landed property was measured istrative quarters, the movement and settlement of Indian
in terms of khreikang, a local unit of land measurement. Each Army troops, and their occupation of local residential, forest,
householder had to pay a given amount of wheat, millet, or and grazing lands for use as housing, cantonment areas, and
barley per khreikang, which varied according to the year or firing ranges reinvented Tawang as a military base. Earlier,
area. When the landed property of a householder was divided Tawang Monastery and its networks constituted the dominant
among heirs, the khrei was also proportionately shared. Fami- spaces of Tawang by defining duties, roles, tenancy, and tax.
lies also had to provide firewood to the monastery in rotation However, with the co-option of the monastery into Indian
and cultivate land belonging to the monastery, retaining a per- politico-economic circuits, new networks replaced old ones. At
centage of the produce (Approach Paper nd; Sarkar 1996). present, the abbot of Tawang Monastery holds the highest
This system continued until the early 20th century. When office; this position was previously appointed by Tibet, but is
the Chinese Manchu general, Chao Ehr-feng, conducted some now appointed by the Dalai Lama from Dharamsala, in direct
exploratory forays south of Tibet towards the NEFA in 191011, consultation with the Government of India (Approach Paper
the British were alerted to the vulnerability of this border. As a nd, emphasis mine).
result, officers Bailey and Morsehead were deputed to map the During this phase of political transition, the monastery ad-
boundary between Tibet and British India in 1913. In 1914, ministration negotiated with the Indian administration for
British and Tibetan representatives met at the Shimla Conven- material assistance. While it had previously funded its reli-
tion to delineate the IndoTibetan boundary, the McMahon gious and commercial supplies needs primarily through taxes
Line. According to this delineation, Tawang was included in and partly from Tibets treasuries, Tawang Monastery now
India. However, as the Chinese representative refused to sign had to rely on grants from the Indian administration to meet
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 89

the basic needs of its inmates and to conduct rituals. In 1996, grants. This was not simply a way of carrying out patrimonial
Sarkar wrote about the changed economic situation of the responsibilities towards its marginal frontier inhabitants,
monastery: With the establishment of the [Indian] adminis- but Indian administrators also understood that promoting
tration, these dzongs had ceased to function and the loss of the local cultural institutions was key to holding onto a still
tax is made up nowadays from other sources and internal slippery border.
adjustments (1996: 15).
In this respect, writing petitions was an important means of Custom, Conflict, and Change
gaining access to the state. It was not as if official correspond- At the turn of the 21st century, weighed down by the pressure
ence came into existence through the dealings with the Indian to keep up with the changing times, Tawang Monastery under-
state. Writing, not speech, characterised earlier official inter- went major renovations and a rehaul of its functioning system
actions between the Tibetan government and Tawang. As in 2003. The Approach Paper for the Workshop on Traditional
Lopon Acharya said, Till 1951, the Tibetan Dzongpon used System and Functioning of Tawang Monastery brought out by
to be based at Gyanghar. All orders sent from Tibet would Tawang Monastery during this time focused on the challenges
come in two copies, one to Tawang Monastery and the other to that the monastery had faced since its political control shifted
the Dzongpon at Gyanghar. Tawang Monastery had many from Tibetan to Indian hands. Among other issues such as
branches up to Udalguri in Assam. Copies of all the orders greater disciplining of the monk population, the approach
that came to Tawang Monastery from Tibet were sent to these paper discusses the need to open new channels of communi-
branches. The lama in charge of the branches would commu- cation with the district administration. This included proposals
nicate the order to those working in the gompa under him. to have a member of the monastery regularly attend meetings
Officers at Gyanghar Dzong would also send copies of the convened by the district administration, which centre on seek-
orders to the villages. All such circulars were sent from ing financial help from the Government of India to construct a
Tawang Monastery (personal interview with Lopon Acharya, museum and preserve the monasterys antique treasures.
27 May 2013). There were also proposals to improve the link between the
In postcolonial India, however, petition writing in the lan- monastery and the laity by involving villagers in the running
guage of modern bureaucracy was a technology of govern- of the monasteryby appointing and training people from
mentality (Gupta 2012) through which the communication the surrounding villages to be caretakers of some branches
and interaction between populations and the state were regu- of Tawang Monastery. The problems addressed and the
lated by standardised rules. The monastery elite as well as solutions provided in the approach paper were not new; they
local populations discovered that they could now take recourse had originated in the 1950sin the period of Tawangs political
to writing in English, the official language, and adopt the transition. With the loss of Tibetan networks, former equations
bureaucratic format of government forms and applications between the monastery and the laity also shifted. Tawang
to reach out to the state. As village councils (mangmas) and Monastery lost its authority over former taxpaying subjects
village heads discovered that they could directly communicate who were freed from previous compulsory levies and subse-
with state offices, they also drafted appeals to the Tawang quently became lax in performing traditional duties and ser-
administration for infrastructural support for their local vices to the monastery.
cultural institutions. While doing my doctoral fieldwork (conducted in different
It was not writing per se, but official documentation that phases from 2008 to 2013), elderly Monpa villagers told me
was an issuethe legacy of British colonial rule. Scholars have that the local people were glad when Indian forces got rid of
pointed out how bureaucratic documents have a generative the Tibetan tax officials in 1951. The Tibetan tax collector is
capacity; statistics, data, and reports act as originators (Gupta remembered as a cruel master in Tawangs collective memory.
2012; Hull 2012; Mathur 2012). But documents are also central Older people in their 80s recalled the dread that the Tibetan
to how the state is imagined and encountered by subject popu- tax collectors would arouse in them when they arrived for col-
lations, and how state presence materialises (Sharma and lection. Punishments ranged from beatings, starvation, and
Gupta 2006). As people participate in the culture of official jail time for even the most trivial follies such as a failure to
documentationfile culture, paperwork, proforma filling, feed the horses on time.
and so onthey allow themselves to be part of a shared identity A locally published biography of Pema Gombu, an influential
that is created, coordinated, and controlled by the exchange, man from one of the aristocratic clans of the Lhou administra-
routing, and circulation of documents (Hull 2012). Thus, by tive subdivision and former head of the Lhou village in
engaging with the document culture of the Indian state, the Tawang, presents a description of how the people of Tawang
people of Tawang made themselves its subjects. supported Major Bob Khatings expedition to Tawang.11 Pema
Writing petitions for grants had another material out- Gombu, who was 89 years old when I interviewed him and has
comepetitions were oriented towards material objectives since passed away, mentioned that he had guided the Indian
for securing financial aid for monastic sustenance and for new forces through Tawang when they had first arrived. A common
cultural projects, such as the building of monastery schools local narrative is that the Monpas had requested the Indian
and cultural committees. The Indian state responded by giving state to occupy their lands because they wanted to be free of
due consideration to these applications and supplications for Tibetan rule. While I am not completely sure whether the
90 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

discursive element of requestwhereby the Monpas wishes They appealed to the Indian state to bring to account villagers
are supposedly taken into accountis a later addition to local who did not fulfil their duties as monastery subjects.
legend mediated by official representations, it hints at the In a letter to the additional deputy commissioner of Tawang,
fissures that existed between the local lay people and an monastery authorities protested that the people of Kharteng
extractive monastic system. village were violating their traditional duties by not carrying
As the SinoIndian War raged in the mountainous terrain grains to Kharteng Gompa (an affiliate of Tawang Monastery),
of Tawang in the winter months of 1962, an incident took as was expected of them, and were instead diverting them to
place that revealed the extent to which the breach between another village. The Tawang district administration responded
the monastery and the laity had widened. On 24 October 1962, by holding a meeting with the villagers of Kharteng to remind
taking advantage of the wartime disorder, some local villagers them of their traditional duties. The monastery also turned to
looted Tawang Monastery of many valuable items, including the Indian administration to settle or negotiate private disputes
sacred gifts to deities comprising priceless gems, silk robes, and to enforce discipline among monks by sending Central
gold, and diamonds. As the government had evacuated the Reserve Police Forces to the monastery.14
monastery, looters seized the opportunity to pilfer even the Conversely, villagers also turned to the state as a medium
personal property of many monks. When confronted later, through which to negotiate with the monastery. Official corre-
many of these villagers refused to return the items they had spondence addressed to the additional deputy commissioner
stolen (Arunachal Pradesh State Archives 1962).12 The incident in 197374 shows how in the changed social context, villages
weakened the monasterys position in local society, both spir- (Kharman, Gispu and Mago-Thingbu) tried to bargain for
itually and financially, while exposing the declining hold that greater leeway in discharging traditional services by offering
the monastery had on the local people. cash in lieu of construction labour in the monastery.15
A government official, Shri Chakma, touring Tawang in Besides calling on the state to adjudicate conflicts, monas-
1972, noted the changing relations between monasteries and tery authorities also requested financial aid from the state to
the lay people: carry out cultural activities. For example, during the previous
It was pointed out by the Rinpoche [abbot] that the gompa [monas- Tibetan regime, public funds and levies were used to finance
tery] is finding difficulties in maintaining the day to day activities of the annual monastic festival, Torgya. Expenses for the Dungyur
the monastery because of lacking interest on the part of the villagers in festival, celebrated every third year, were met with taxes levied
the Tawang area. In the past [there was] material assistance by way of
from the Talung Dzong area; the first two days of the Monlam
foodgrains, firewood, etc, to maintain the livelihood of the inmates of
the monastery. With the advent of our administration and the expan- Chenmoh ceremony, performed in the monastery in the first
sion of schools, agriculture, and other obligations such as provision of Monpa lunar month (Dawa Dangpo), were funded by taxes from
porters for carrying loads, provision of labo[u]rers for construction of Dirang (Sarkar 1996). When this source was extinguished as a
roads, buildings, and various other government purposes, the religious result of political change, Tawang Monastery appealed to the
life of the people are gradually disturbed and traditional pattern of ac-
tivities seriously eroded. This is a very serious problem for the people local administration. In 1974, the monastery asked the adminis-
of Tawang region, and I thought it worth bringing to the notice of the tration for extra security forces and continuous electricity
Administration and the members of Pradesh Council/Zilla Parishad.13 supply as well as costumes for cham (Tib religious ceremonial
dances held in the monastery).
Weakening Influence of Buddhist Institutions
The original cham dress (dress for lama dance) was provided to Ta-
As the Indian administration grew in prominence, ideas of wang gomba by [the] Tibet govt. [sic] when this region was under Ti-
democratic citizenship rather than that of a theocratic order betan region ... after that few items had been replaced by our admin.
came to define social roles and membership. Previous hierar- [sic] In general, the dance dresses now used by the lamas during the
chies loosened as lay people observed high-ranking monks, Tarja [Torgya] are really tattered and miserable and require replace-
ment to keep the prestige of the gomba and admin. [sic] because this
whom they held in awe, submit to the local administration. As
gomba is now more or less maintained by this administration.16
more and more non-Buddhist people moved into the area to
fulfil functions of security, governance, trade, and education, Deprived of their earlier sources of sustenance, high-rank-
local Monpas began interacting on a much wider cultural canvas, ing monks had to rely on the new government to maintain
and the overarching influence of local Buddhist institutions their existing lifestyles. An official letter (1973) shows how the
slowly began to unravel. abbot of Tawang Monastery, Rigya Rinpoche, sought govern-
During Tibetan rule, law and order situations under the ment funds for transportation for his pilgrimage and a private
jurisdiction of Tawang Monastery were addressed by high-rank- house that he could use as a meditation retreat:
ing lamas, and disputes in Tawang were either settled by Tibetan [A]t present, I am staying in the monastery itself. But sometime[s] I
dzongpons or, if the disagreements were larger, they were taken have to stay away from [the] population for meditation I decided to
to the Lhasa courts. In cases of failure to perform duties or deliv- construct a house of my own which can be used for meditation mandir
er taxes, errant villagers were disciplined with straightforward cum residence I will be grateful if administration can help me in
this respect.17
measures such as caning or imprisonment. With the declining
influence of Tawang Monastery in the politico-economic do- The monastery administration was not the only entity that
main, civil disobedience mounted, and monastery authorities used formal grant applications to generate funding. As a letter
turned to the new sovereign power to resolve these problems. from a village council attests, rural people were also quick to
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 91

recognise this new and democratic source of income. With the government. When a political officer in Tawang observed that
establishment of village councils and panchayati raj institutions people preferred to send their children to the newly set up gov-
in 1965, prominent villagers and village heads could directly ernment schools instead of to the monastery, he conferred
negotiate with state authorities in their capacities as resource with the abbot of Tawang Monastery to discuss solutions. Both
people to get grants to renovate village or local gompas. As parties recognised that the monastery would have to reform
awareness about the states interest in keeping cultural institu- its traditional curriculum by invigorating it with modern sub-
tions alive grew, many of these men requested and were granted jects to attract students. In 198081, the monastery adminis-
funds for community activities. tration obtained government funds to construct a school and a
Most requests from lay people for financial help were either hostel for students.20
to revive dying customs or renovate decaying cultural struc-
tures. One of the first proposals of this kind, which was sub- Bartering Border Loyalties
mitted under the cultural grant category in 197576, was in The postcolonial transformations of Tawang call to mind Peter
support of the Choekor festival (Tib Chosskor meaning cycle Sahlins (1991) classic study on the formation of the France
of teachings, texts). During the festival, lamas and lay repre- Spain border in Cerdanya, a border region in the Pyrenees
sentatives from every village carried sacred Buddhist scrip- ranges. Sahlins shifts his focus between the state/centre and
tures from Tawang Monastery in procession around all the the local Catalan rural society to show how the border was not
villages to ensure good fortune and plentiful crops. Each village only the result of state manoeuvres, but was also actively shaped
provided the procession participants with food and drink in by local elites and rural peasants, who alternated between
temporary shelters; the money to buy food rations and con- Catalan and French national identities at different moments
struct shelters was requested from the local administration. to further their own interests. Thus, the construction of a
There were also several petitions for grants to rebuild village national identity among the border people was not a simple
gompas. In response to such requests, in 1978, the local admin- imposition from the centre or a top-down Frenchification
istration sanctioned a total of `93,938 to renovate 10 gompas process. Rather, it was a dialogical process, wherein local
that came under Lumla, an administrative section in Tawang. inhabitants actively participated in fashioning their identities
As the relations between the monastery, state, and laity as Frenchmen as opposed to Spaniards.
evolved, civil society organisations arose to mediate the relations The integration of Tawang into the Indian state cannot
between the state and the monastery, and formed the basis of entirely be captured through relations of dominance and
an emerging public sphere (Habermas 1991).18 In Tawang, the resistance between the centre and the areas at the periphery.
monastery was initially an all-enveloping entity, functioning The reorientation of Tawang from the Tibetan to Indian
within the theocratic organisation of the Tibetan state. Public government was not a completely state-directed process. It is
and private interests fused with regard to the operation of clear that deliberate calculations were involved, based on the
monasteries under the religious government of Tibet. Tawang responses from the local elite and lay people; they were not
Monastery claimed absolute rights over its subjects and there was passive recipients of the policy, but worked to gain leverage
no civil society force to question these claims. But with the dilu- in the form of material aid from the new administration in
tion of the monasterys powers, and its absorption into the new exchange for recognising Indian sovereignty.
democratic administration, the situation was reversedthe The state acknowledged these appeals for material assistance
monastery was now on the side of civil society in the statecivil as a tactical measure. Michael De Certeau (1984) treats tactics
society divide, and it required its own mediating organisations. and strategies as opposites. He states that strategies are the
A new civil body, the Tawang Monpa Cultural Society, was forthright, forceful, and well-formed ways of ruling that the
inaugurated on 27 July 1974. Fifty prominent Monpa elders at- strong employ to have their way; on the other hand, tactics are
tended the inauguration, including representatives of differ- weapons of the weak, a kind of dissimulation where domi-
ent subdivisions of Tawang, the abbot of Tawang Monastery, nated people momentarily inhabit the spaces of the dominant
lamas, panchayat members, and gaonburas (village heads). It in a fragmentary merging to win temporary gains. Here, I
was agreed that the Tawang Monpa Cultural Society will make extend De Certeaus conceptualisation to define tactics as not
a joint decision with monastery authorities regarding any dis- just the weapons of the weak, but as the tools utilised by the
ciplinary action to be taken against monastery employees. dominant to manufacture a hegemonic consensus. In manag-
While the pattern of monastic discipline would continue as ing subject populations, states frequently combine strategy
was custom, if the need for change arose, senior monks, with tactical measures to build a consensus.
panchayat members, and gaonburas would discuss the matter. I have discussed previously how state strategies for incorpo-
This civil society organisation initially worked as the public rating Tawang into India have included the physical settle-
relations unit of the monastery,19 but gradually widened its ment of military personnel and the construction of canton-
focus to include other activities. ments. Additionally, symbolic forms of occupation have in-
The various forms of collaboration between the monastery, cluded changing Tibetan area names to Hindi names. Hindi
civil society, and state were especially visible in the building names, mostly given by the military, co-opt Tawang into the
and operation of Tawang Monastery School, which came into HindiIndian cultural universe (Gohain 2013).21 On the other
being in 197778 thanks to grants from the Arunachal Pradesh hand, state tactics in Tawang comprise embracing symbols
92 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

and institutions of Tibetan Buddhism; in doing so, the state of Buddhist pilgrimage sites, and providing support to the tra-
manoeuvres an eventual integration through the temporary ditional Bhoti language and Sowa Rigpa medicine system.23
adoption of others symbols and spaces. Thus, the Tawang War The first chairperson of DoKAA, the 13th Tsona Gontse Rimpoche
Memorial, which is dedicated to the 2,420 Indian servicemen (the monk and former minister), was very active in ensuring
who died in the 1962 SinoIndian War, is a large white Buddhist Buddhist cultural preservation and founded the movement
stupa, complete with prayer wheels adorned with the Pali for a Mon Autonomous Region in 2003, before his untimely
script. The tribute to local culture in the architecture is a way death in 2014. In 2012, the three-day Tawang Festival to cele-
to garner local sympathy for the national military by appro- brate Mahayana Buddhism was first held. Since then, it has
priating Tibetan Buddhist cultural symbols. In using tactics, been celebrated annually in April. The current chairperson of
the state does not blatantly advertise dominant cultural DoKAA continues to organise activities to preserve and restore
symbols in the public sphere; its approach to secure hegemonic Buddhist sites and monuments in Tawang and West Kameng
consent is subtler. with the active support of the state government.
In other border areas, the state has occasionally attempted The current state sponsorship of Tibetan Buddhist cultural
soft cultural imperialism to propagate national or dominant preservation is not simply an avenue for cultural domination,
symbols. Aggarwal (2004) describes how the Sindhu Darshan nor is the revival of the Tibetan Buddhist cultural toolkit a
Festival was inaugurated in Ladakh in 1997 at the specially show of cultural resistance by the marginalised. Rather, these
constructed Sindhu Ghat on the banks of the river Indus. Since are the results of collaborations between the Indian adminis-
its inauguration, there has been a yatra (pilgrimage) to this tration and the local political and religious elite. The willing-
location every year in June. During this festival, the river Indus ness of the state to entertain pleas for grants-in-aid in the im-
is worshipped, flags hoisted, and hymns chanted to Mother mediate post-Independence period was a similar tactic.24 Alert
India. I had not observed festivals of this kind or scale in to the fact that the loyalty of the border peoples has always to
Tawang in the course of my fieldwork. However, state patron- be earned (Nanda 1982: 8),25 the state dispensed cultural
age of local Buddhist institutions and cultural programmes is grants in return for loyalty. Then, as now, the state did not
becoming increasingly more visible. One may perceive the invent the idea of bartering aid for loyalty, but developed it as
Indian states promotion of activities and organisations that a tactical response to local appeals.
preserve Tibetan Buddhist culture in Tawang as a tactical move In the period after the SinoIndian War, the Indian state
to earn loyalty in a region with border disputes. Further, some asserted its presence in Tawang through the recognition that
nationalist narratives argue that Buddhism is an indigenous the border people gave it. The monastery elite and local people
offshoot of Hinduism, even though many scholars disagree not only recognised the new sovereign power, but also sub-
(for example, Omvedt 2003). This view of Buddhism has been mitted to it to secure material benefits. The state fashioned
used to mobilise nationalist pride amongst marginal commu- new spaces that symbolically built a symbiotic relationship
nities in India. The mushrooming of Vivekananda Kendra between itself and the Tawang frontier; the Nehru Gompa,
schools in Arunachal Pradesh, which adopt a culture-based with which I began this paper, was such a space. While the in-
curriculum that emphasises a blend of Buddhist cultural pres- terior of the monastery is like any otherwith Buddhist stat-
ervation, nationalism, and patriotism, is just one instance of ues, the Dalai Lamas portrait, and mandalasthe entrance
the attempt to seamlessly assimilate Hinduism, Buddhism, has a portrait of Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter, the for-
and Indian nationalism.22 mer Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, on its walls. In addition,
In 2009, the Department of Karmik and Adhyatmik Affairs there are marble busts of Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and her son
(DoKAA) (Tib Chos-rig) was created by the Arunachal Pradesh and political successor, Rajiv Gandhi, installed on the left side
government to look after the religious and cultural affairs of the of the courtyard. The Nehru Gompa remains a symbol of the
communities of Tawang and West Kameng. Its objectives included emerging relations between the border people and the Indian
the maintenance and construction of monasteries, renovation state in Tawang.

Notes national goal over their ethnic and religious mostly relating to petitions for grants between
1 Watson (2000) uses integration instead of allegiances. monks, lay people, and the local administra-
assimilation to speak of nationalist co-option, 2 I have dealt with state and military practices in tion from 1960 to 1989.
because unlike assimilation, which brinks on the Tawang frontier in my PhD dissertation, 4 The Monpas are not a homogeneous group; they
the denial of distinct cultural identities, inte- currently under revision as Himalaya Bound: consist of different communities that are split
gration accepts differences between the Culture, Politics, and Imagined Geographies in based on language, custom, and traditions. On
parts but as included in the national Indias North East Frontier (University of Wash- the basis of language alone, four main (oral)
whole. In Indias case, while integration ington Press, forthcoming). language groups can be identified: Tawang
with a multicultural spirit portrays India as a 3 The archive consisted of several faded blue Monpa, Dirang Monpa, Brokeh, and Lish.
composite culturewhere diversity is not government files in unsystematic piles on the 5 Sonam Tsering, my friend from Tawang who
annihilated, but unified through fusionsuch floor against the walls of a small dusty room in was social cultural officer (SCO) in the Tawang
integration is impaired by the clause of alle- the deputy commissioners office in Tawang. I deputy commissioners office in 2007 when I
giance to a national concept, primarily defined am grateful to the deputy commissioner, Ab- visited, gave me the Approach Paper for the
by the majority culture. Integration, although hishek Deb, for granting me permission to ac- Workshop on Traditional System and Function-
more nuanced than assimilation, also eventu- cess these files. Many government files were ing of Tawang Monastery (nd). He told me that
ally makes demands for subordinate existence either destroyed in the 1962 war or were moved it was published around the time that Tawang
in minority cultures and assumes that the to safer central locations, but those that were Monastery was being renovated in 2003. How-
latter would prioritise a commitment to the allowed to remain included correspondence, ever, there is no date on the approach paper,

Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 93
and although it was probably published in public sphere also signalled the formal recog- De Certeau, Michel (1984): The Practice of Every-
200304, I have listed it as nd (no date). My nition of the state as an entity separate from day Life, Berkeley: University of California
account of Tawang Monasterys administrative civil society. Press.
set up and present challenges are based on the 19 A letter from the chairman of the Tawang Dutta, Sujit (2008): Revisiting Chinas Territorial
approach paper, interviews with Lopon Acharya Cultural Society to All India Radio requesting a Claims on Arunachal, Strategic Analysis,
(27 May 2013), and Sarkars (1996) work. broadcast of the minutes of a meeting between Vol 32, No 4, pp 549581.
6 The 12 monasteries affiliated to Tawang Monastery civil society representatives and state adminis- Gohain, Swargajyoti (2013): Imagined Places:
were Sakti, Mormang, Manjing, and Khartung in tration demonstrates the public relations role Politics and Narratives in a Disputed Indo-
the Lumla subdivision of Tawang; Urgyelling, that this organisation plays (31 July 1974). Tibetan Borderland, PhD Dissertation, Emory
Changbu, Shormang, Khromten, Ariadung, Brakar 20 Annexure III to Order No SO-13/76/PI (24 Novem- University. [This is being revised for publica-
and Kimnash in Tawang area; and Namchu in ber 1980) contains the following announcement: tion as Himalaya Bound: Culture, Politics, and
Dirang. See Tawang Monastery (Sarkar 1996) for Know all men by these presents that we Imagined Geographies in Indias Northeast
interviews with Lopon Acharya Ngawang Norbu, Tawang Monastery School Committee, Tawang Frontier, University of Washington Press.]
the second abbot of Tawang Monastery (27 May (society registered under Societies Registra- Gohain, Swargajyoti and Kerstin Grothmann (2015):
2013), and Lama Thuptan Tashi, Tawang Monas- tion Act, 1960), and having its office at Tawang Renaming as Integration, IIAS Newsletter,
tery (22 May 2013). in the state of Arunachal Pradesh [herein after Vol 71, Summer 2015, pp 3234.
7 See Tawang Monastery (2007), http://tawang- called the obligors] are held and firmly bond Goldstein, Melvyn C (1989): A History of Modern to the President of India [herein after called Tibet, 19131951, Berkeley: University of Cali-
8 On 25 October 1950, China announced its the government] in the sum of [`]65,100 only, fornia Press.
intention to militarily occupy Tibet: Peoples well and truly to be paid to the government on Grothmann, Kerstin (2012): Migration Narratives,
Army units have been ordered to advance into demand and without a demur for which pay- Official Classifications, and Local Identities:
Tibet to free three million Tibetans from the ment we formally find ourselves and succes- The Memba of the Hidden Land of Pachakshiri,
imperialist oppression and to consolidate sors and assigns by these presents. Origins and Migrations in the Extended Eastern
national defen[c]e on the western borders of Signed this eighth day of January nineteen Himalaya, T Huber and S Blackburn (eds),
China (Bhargava 1964: 23). eighty one, whereas on the obligors request, Leiden: Brill, pp 12552.
9 In the eastern sector, which included the entire the government has as per AP govt. order no. Gupta, Akhil (2012): Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Struc-
state of Arunachal Pradesh, the boundary SO-13/76/PI dated 24.11.80,agreed to make tural Violence, and Poverty in India, Durham:
dispute between India and China centred on in favour of the obligors a grant of [`]65,100. Duke University Press.
the alignment of the McMahon Line. While the
Signed by Chanzo Tashi, Secretary, Tawang Habermas, Jurgen (1991): The Structural Transfor-
Indian government stuck to the colonially
Gompa Monastery School Committee mation of the Public Sphere, Massachusetts:
demarcated boundary, the Chinese govern-
ment claimed almost 33,000 square miles A similar bond was presented on 28 January MIT Press.
south of the McMahon Line. There has been 1980, where the Tawang Gompa Monastery Huber, Toni (2011): Pushing South: Tibetan Eco-
much debate in scholarly circles regarding the School Committee acknowledged the receipt nomic and Political Activities in the Far Eastern
causes of the IndiaChina War; while some of `92,425. Himalaya, ca. 19001950, Buddhist Himalaya:
attribute the war to Chinese expansionist and 21 See also Gohain and Grothmann (2015). Studies in Religion, History and Culture, A McKay
irredentist aims, others cite the aggressive 22 Interview with principal, Vivekanda Kendra and A Balicki-Denjongpa (eds), Namgyal Insti-
attitude of Indian nationalist leaders. For School, Kitpi, Tawang (20 May 2013). tute of Tibetology, pp 25976.
more on this debate, see the writings of Neville 23 See Hull, Mathew (2012): Documents and Bureaucracy,
Maxwell (1970), T S Murty (1971), and Sujit 2/, accessed on 9 September 2016. Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol 41, pp 25167.
Dutta (2008). 24 In 1979, the additional deputy commissioner of Kameng District Brochure (1972): Miscellaneous
10 From the website of the Tawang Deputy Com- Tawang proposed the opening of a new office File (A), BDL No 1, 140, 19701979, Tawang:
missioners office: of social and cultural affairs because In a sensi- Deputy Commissioners Office.
html. tive border area like [the] Tawang Sub-division Lamb, Alastair (1966): The McMahon Line, London:
11 A Brief Biography of Shri Pema Gombu (nd) from this steadfast adherence of theirs to religion Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh. I acquired a copy has during the past years effectively withstood Mathur, Nayanika (2012): Transparent-Making
from Pema Gombus son, Urgen Tsering, the the onslaught of marauders from across the Documents and the Crisis of Implementation:
chairperson of Lhou Secondary School, Tawang. centuries thus symbolising their integrated A Rural Employment Law and Development
12 Tawang Monastery, Kameng Frontier Division nationality and religion. Bureaucracy in India, PoLAR: Political and
(1962): External Affairs Commissioner, NEFA, 25 Neeru Nanda joined as the first woman addi- Legal Anthropology Review, Vol 35, No 2,
No PCT 73/63, Arunachal Pradesh State Archives. tional deputy commissioner of Tawang in 1974 pp 16785.
13 An Extract Copy of Tour Notes of Shri U Chakma and wrote this book based on her experiences Maxwell, Neville (1970): China and India: The
(for the period 1422 October 1972): IFAS Security in Tawang. She was a beloved administrator Un-negotiated Dispute, The China Quarterly,
Commissioner, Tezpur, Arunachal Pradesh. and people speak of her with great adoration, Vol 43, pp 4780.
14 On 25 October 1950, China announced its inten- even today. Murty, T S (1971): Tawang and The Un-negotiated
tion to militarily occupy Tibet: Peoples Army Dispute, The China Quarterly, Vol 46,
units have been ordered to advance into Tibet pp 35762.
to free three million Tibetans from the imperi- References Nanda, Neeru (1982): Tawang: The Land of Mon,
alist oppression and to consolidate national Delhi: Vikas Publishing.
defen[c]e on the western borders of China Aggarwal, Ravina (2004): Beyond Lines of Control:
Performance and Politics on the Disputed Omvedt, Gail (2003): Buddhism in India: Challeng-
(Bhargava 1964: 23). ing Brahminism and Caste, New Delhi: Sage
15 File No 46 (1972): BDL No 3, Development Borders of Ladakh, Durham: Duke University
Press. Publications.
Branch, 197079, pp 4478.
Approach Paper for the Workshop on Traditional Sahlins, Peter (1991): Boundaries: The Making of
16 Dress for Tarjacham, Miscellaneous File (B), France and Spain in the Pyrenees, Berkeley:
BDL No 2, 19701979, pp 4765. System and Functioning of Tawang Monastery
(nd): Tawang Monastery, Tawang, Arunachal University of California Press.
17 Extract of a letter from Rigya Rinpoche, Tawang Sarkar, Niranjan (1996): Tawang Monastery, Itanagar,
Pradesh, India: Centre for Buddhist Cultural
Monastery abbot, to the Chief Secretary of India: Directorate of Research, Government of
Arunachal Pradesh, Shillong (24 October 1973). Studies.
Aris, Michael (1980): Notes on the History of the Arunachal Pradesh.
18 Public sphere, as defined by Jrgen Habermas Scott, James (1998): Seeing Like a State, New Haven:
(1991), is the collective public opinion formed Monyul Corridor, Tibetan Studies in Honor of
Hugh Richardson: Proceedings of the Interna- Yale University Press.
through rational and critical debate between
tional Seminar on Tibetan Studies, M Aris and Sharma, Aradhana and Akhil Gupta (2006): The
civil society members, which then influences
Aung San Suu Kyi (eds), Warminster, UK: Aris Anthropology of the State: A Reader, Malden,
the workings of the state. The public sphere
and Phillips, pp 920. MA: Blackwell.
arose in Europe in 18th century bourgeois
society when the private split from the public, Bailey, F M and H T Morsehead (1914): Report on an Taylor, Charles (1994): Multiculturalism, Princeton
unlike in the medieval period, when private Exploration of the Northeast Frontier, Foreign University Press.
life and public affairs overlapped in the life of and Political, Secret E, Nos 7683, October 1916, Van Schendel, Willem (2005): The Bengal Border-
the feudal lord. With the coming together of Delhi: National Archives. land, Anthem Press.
private individuals as a public force to articu- Bhargava, G S (1964): The Battle of NEFA: The Watson, C W (2000): Multiculturalism, Buckingham,
late the needs of society against the state, the Undeclared War, New Delhi: Allied Publishers. London: Open University Press.

94 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

Ethics in Ambedkars Critique of Gandhi

Gopal Guru

Among the political thinkers of modern India, Gandhi mong the political thinkers of modern India, Gandhi1 and
and Ambedkar have elicited an intellectual enthusiasm Ambedkar have elicited an intellectual enthusiasm
among scholars who have been increasingly drawn in
among scholars who remain arrested in debates on the
the vortex of debate between these two thinkers. Some of
pre-eminence of one thinker over the other. The these GandhiAmbedkar scholars are newcomers to the
Ambedkarite critique of Gandhi is centred on the latters debate, and have provided compelling interpretations owing
fast unto death in opposition to the MacDonald Award to their skill of presenting complex arguments in what could
be seen as a new language (Kumar 2015).
of separate electorates for Dalits. Formalistic readings of
Such scholarly efforts, however, seem to be inconsequential
Gandhi are not in the interest of the robust, associative to Ambedkars adherents who continue to be critical, in fact
and inclusive intellectual tradition at the core of dismissive, of Gandhi. To criticise Gandhi has not only become
Ambedkars emancipatory project. Ambedkar was a customary for some Ambedkarites, but has been treated as the
only premise to establish Ambedkar as the pre-eminent thinker.
pathfinder who chose critique as a method of ethical
The intensification of the critique of Gandhi across time and
persuasion to gently pull in and retain members of caste space foils any effort that seeks respite from and in this
society in the interlocutory framework of conversation. embattled relationship between Gandhi and Ambedkar. For
example, young Dalits have been active in opposing the efforts
of leading Dalit scholars of literature who seek to locate some
affirmative energy in Gandhi.2 The Ambedkarite critique of
Gandhi is centred on the latters fast unto death in opposition
to the MacDonald Award of separate electorates for Dalits. The
critique leads to two opposing conceptions. The male Ambed-
karite looks at Gandhis fast as an act of utter unfairness in as
much as it coerces Ambedkar into accepting the Poona Pact.
Conversely, female Ambedkarites positively assess the role of
Ambedkar who, in their judgment, acted fairly in saving the
life of Gandhi by signing the Poona Pact.3
While Ambedkar too has been a victim of unfair criticism
from Gandhian scholars (Shah 1977), it is Gandhi who suffers
worse cognitive injustice. The rejection of Gandhi as an anti-
Dalit thinker by Ambedkars adherents is unreflective; finding
faults with Gandhi (dismissive criticism) without a reflexive
acknowledgement of that which is affirmative in Ambedkars
reading of Gandhi (redemptive and enabling critique). These
adherents hold the view that Ambedkar had developed a
determinatively, and justifiably so, bitter attitude towards
This article is a revised version of the first Sabarmati lecture titled
Gandhi. It is true that the language employed by Ambedkar for
Dr Ambedkars Gandhi: A Step Forward delivered at Ahmedabad on
26 November 2016. I have since changed the title in lieu of Ramchandra Gandhi, is inhospitable and appears dismissive, interrogatory
Guhas essay titled Gandhis Ambedkar (2001) while retaining the and accusatory (Ambedkar 1948). Arguably, one finds this
essence that is essential to the ethical bond between Gandhi and linguistic turn in Ambedkar particularly after the Round
Ambedkar. Table Conferences in the early 1930s.
The author thanks Tridip Suhrud, Director and Chief Editor, Sabarmati The questions that arise are: did Ambedkar never adopt a
Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust, Ahmedabad for permitting thin ethical vocabulary, such as persuasion, while approach-
the publication of this article, and Gopal Krishna Gandhi and Gurpreet
ing Gandhi? That is, did he never find Gandhi to be a conscien-
Mahajan for their inputs in writing it.
tious interlocutor with affirmative energy? Did Ambedkar
Gopal Guru ( teaches at the Centre for follow a single, salutary path of finding fault with Gandhi by
Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
mounting constant criticism against the latter? Was Ambedkar
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 95

a path finder or a fault finder? If he was a path finder, did he genuinely interested in creating a world in which caste and
not choose critique as the method of ethical persuasion to gen- untouchability mattered less to ones social identification.
tly pull in and retain members of caste society in the interlocu- Ambedkars thought has been reduced to a ghosh vakya (emp-
tory framework of conversation? Did his idea of critique form ty slogan), a rhetoric that is repeatedly reproduced by the for-
an enabling condition which, in a moral sense, aids a thinker mers adherents to refute any efforts of conciliation between
to create an associative tradition of emancipation? These are the two thinkers under reference. Formalism prevents adher-
some of the core questions this essay seeks to address. ents from developing cognitive generosity, essential to locate
an expansive thrust in Ambedkars thought.
Formalistic Critique of Gandhi Selective reading of Ambedkar by his adherents is another
Post-Ambedkar, the Dalit critique of Gandhi has been purely impediment in approaching Gandhi with emancipatory promise.
rhetorical and lacking substance. This limitation derives from a While selective reading has become a part of common sense
formalistic reading of Ambedkar. It is formalistic because it imagination, it is all the more disturbing when we come
does not put a moral and, more importantly, intellectual bur- across instances of it among one of Ambedkars biographers.
den on Ambedkars adherents. Thus, the latter do not consider C B Khairmode, who is considered perhaps the most reliable
it necessary to reflectively endorse the principles of equality, biographer of Babasaheb, fails to objectively present Ambed-
liberty, justice and fraternity, as championed by Ambedkar. The kars feelings over the assassination of Gandhi. Khairmode
logic of formalism encourages these adherents to rhetorically (1983: 192) observes, Babasaheb neither participated in the
assert such principles. To put it differently, mere assertion tends funeral nor did he make any public statement on the assassina-
to create among these adherents, a belief that treats such prin- tion of Gandhi. One, however, gets an opposite account from
ciples as given. Formalism seeks to reduce the impact of robust the correspondence of Ambedkar of his feelings on Gandhis
theoretical efforts, such as argumentation and ethical persua- assassination. Ambedkar strongly condemns the assassination
sion to mere assertion. Such assertions seek the ultimate origin saying,
of normative principles, exclusively, in Ambedkar; this, in turn, that Gandhi should have met his death at the hands of a Maharash-
becomes a criterion to deliver a judgment against Gandhi. In trian. Nay! it would have been wrong for anybody to have com-
fact, such adherents treat the mere assertion of Ambedkars mitted such a foul deed I owe nothing to Mr. Gandhi and he has
contributed nothing to my spiritual, social and moral makeup. Not-
principles as a sufficient condition for them to believe that these
withstanding his antipathy to me I went to the Birla House on Satur-
principles were absent in Gandhi. A formalistic commitment to day morning ... I was very much moved on seeing his dead body. I went
universal principles may serve the immediate political agendas with the funeral procession for a short distance as I was unable to walk
of some, but how can such formalism be in the interest of the and then returned home and again went to Rajghat on the bank of the
robust, associative and inclusive intellectual tradition, that was river Jamuna (Yamuna) but could not get to the Burning Place being
unable to break the ring formed by the crowd. (Rattu 1995: 63)
at the core of Ambedkars emancipatory project? Such a project
demands from its adherents, ethically and intellectually, a far As the letter under reference indicates, Ambedkars emotions
more serious treatment necessary for the full appreciation of concerning Gandhi do not seem to be consistent and uncondi-
Ambedkar inclusive discourse of emancipation. tional. In fact, his criticism of Gandhi has not only been harsh,
The exercise of persuasion requires a certain flexibility and but quite regular during 193248 (Ambedkar 1943, 1948).
capaciousness that can be found in Ambedkars conception of However, Ambedkars criticism of Gandhi is ethical/moral in
what should constitute a decent society, within which we nature, and the bitterness polemical if not outrightly, superficial.
define the self in affirmative relation to others. In Ambedkars
conception, to be open to persuasion necessarily requires an Ambedkar and/ or Gandhi
ethical ability to imagine our self as an extension of the sen- At the formal/rational level, the adherents of both Gandhi
tient other. Hence, it becomes absolutely necessary to avoid (Shah 1978) and Ambedkar continue to intensify the tension
formalism as it leads to a widening of the gap between the between the two thinkers, by inserting authorial as well as
universal and the particular, or the real and the ideal. Ambed- combative words such as or.4 The use of such barricading
kar and Gandhi were both committed to overcome (the) reality words underlies a modernist claim in as much as it indicates
(of untouchability) to achieve their conceptions of the ideal, the limits in one particular thought and a claim of complete-
which converged on the unity of the equal worth of every ness in another. Most Dalits, in their attempt to approach Gan-
human being. The search for such an ideal, which forms the dhi and Ambedkar, insert the word or between these two
normative basis of Dalit emancipation, makes it almost ethi- thinkers. They seem to assert that there are limits in Gandhian
cally mandatory for Ambedkars adherents to (re-)consider the thought while Ambedkars thoughts are perfect for them. This
extent to which a new reading of Ambedkar can lead us to find perfection is envisioned in terms of taking their struggle for
affirmative energy in Gandhi. emancipation to its logical end. For them Ambedkars thought
The need for a new reading of Gandhi can be envisaged is not only adequate, but is the only alternative as far as the
from the realisation that a formalistic approach to Ambedkar Dalit question of emancipation is concerned.
results in compromising the impact of the ever-expanding Or is a kind of claim for achieving pre-eminence for a
power of Ambedkars thought. Thus, Ambedkars adherents thought. The route to this pre-eminence is through the
should correspondingly reassess Gandhi as a thinker who was transcendence of the emancipatory limits of earlier thought. Or
96 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

suggests a paradigmatic shift from earlier thought; a com- took positive responsibility which required him to flow freely
pletely new conceptual vocabulary of understanding emanci- in the social sphere and embark along with others, including
pation. We have reached a situation where it has become diffi- Gandhi, on the path of seeking truth. This path did not reside
cult to distinguish whose pre-eminence are we talking about: in the real, immediate existence but in the ideal, for example,
Gandhis or Ambedkars? Or are we talking about those who of Buddhism. It is for this reason that he did not get stuck with
are participating in the debate with the purpose to achieve the historical truth of Poona Pact, 1932, as he knew that the
pre-eminence for themselves? It is important to note that the consequences of electoral dynamism would produce a differ-
question of pre-eminence of thought does not become so imp- ent, possibly bitter truth. The realisation of this truth is evi-
ortant for some perceptive scholars. For instance, D R Nagaraj, dent in observations made by some important leaders6 accord-
an outstanding scholar on Gandhi and Ambedkar, observes that ing to whom, political representation, either through separate
the two thinkers had transformed each other through creative or joint electorates, is not going to necessarily throw up auton-
confrontation; and that Gandhi had taken over economics from omous Dalit representatives and leaders. It is due to the inher-
Ambedkar, whereas the latter had internalised the importance ent limits of liberal power, internal to both the Communal
of religion as prescribed by Gandhi (1993: 24). However, Nagaraj Award as well as the Poona Pact, that Ambedkars main focus
acknowledges that there are fundamental difficulties that remained on the search for truth in the ideal.
Ambedkar had with Gandhi, and that the latter cannot be sub- Those who continue to blame Gandhi for the Poona Pact do
sumed in such an act of balancing (1993: 16). have a point, but that point cannot be overstretched or over-
There have been efforts by some scholars to insert the con- used against the latter; Ambedkars notion of truth does not
joining word and in order to make both Gandhi and Ambed- allow the same. Ambedkars ability to comprehend truth be-
kar commensurable.5 The word and, unlike or, does not yond the temporal (conception of plural, liberal power) into
erase the earlier line; on the contrary, it draws a parallel line. the transcendental realm, did not allow him to remain entan-
And necessarily indicates similarity between two thoughts gled in the historical memory of the Poona Pact; in fact, he
and helps draw parallels between them. transitioned freely through constitution-making, and ulti-
Ambedkars emancipatory projects, however, go beyond the mately, the conversion to Neo-Buddhism. Normative values
limits of or and and, in as much as he draws a broad line acco- such as karuna (compassion) and maitri (friendship) that con-
mmodating the critical impulses of Gandhi therein. But Ambed- stitute the core ethical principle of Ambedkars Buddhism
kar finds the political sphere a fundamental impediment in make him flow freely with an adequate sense of freedom. It is
drawing such a broad line. Whenever Gandhi appeared stub- these principles that provide the common moral ground for
born over the political rights of untouchables; or the Congress Ambedkar to find in Gandhi affirmative energies. As we shall
party appeared indifferent, if not totally hypocritical, about the see in the last section of this essay, Ambedkar sees in Gandhi
caste question; or members of high caste Hindus acted recalci- the tradition of association and affirmation, an integral part
trantly; Ambedkar never felt frustrated nor became cynical. In of Buddhism.
fact, Ambedkars patience to reason and debate based on an ethics Ambedkars ethic of persuasion, which finds its creative
of persuasion with Gandhi, the Congress party and ultimately, expression in the critique of Gandhi, could be better understood
high caste Hindus is quite evident in his entire body of work. in terms of a reaching mode that entails reflective judgment.
This is in contrast to the rushing mode which involves rash
Ambedkars Ethics of Persuasion judgment, such as a verdict delivered by a Gandhian scholar
A fundamental question pertains to why Ambedkar is morally stating Ambedkar had parochial interests of his community
qualified to take the ethical route of persuasion, as opposed to (Shah 1977: 78), or a judgement delivered by the adherents of
the legal route. Essentially, Ambedkar was a path finder, and Ambedkar7 suggesting that Gandhi was anti-Dalit. Rash
the ethic of persuasion was an integral mode to his path find- judgment, which is necessarily accompanied by a certain kind
ing. Put differently, he was not a fault finder and hence, had no of cynicism, would ultimately impair the process of persua-
use for paralytic cynicism or dismissive criticism that neces- sion. Conversely, reflective judgment, in order to succeed, has
sarily arrests a person or a particular social group in the alien- to necessarily suspend, in fact, consciously avoid making or
ating image of a victim or a difficult person. Ambedkar did not rushing to rash judgment. The ethics of persuasion in Ambed-
allow cynicism to ontologically fold him into his own existen- kar operates through the redemptive forms of critique. This
tial struggle. Since such a struggle is with the self, it tends to redemption of the recalcitrant high caste Hindus cannot be
lead a person to either take responsibility for being the cause achieved by mere appeal to some abstract moral principle; it
of his/her own victimhood, or he/she affixes responsibility has to be achieved by making them conscious of the ethical
onto others for having pushed the former, along with his/her inconsistencies that form a part of their recalcitrant self
social group, into a state of victimhood. Ambedkar never (Ambedkar 2005: 129).8 Ambedkar does take recourse to the
engaged in such existential encounters, for it would have principle of moral responsibility and uses it in order to keep
either meant blaming himself for his own helplessness against rash judgment at bay while approaching Gandhi. This princi-
the authority of caste, or inducing a sense of guilt in Gandhi ple is evident in his readiness to cooperate with those who do
for the latters problematic positions, particularly on the not force him to compromise with his normative principles
questions of caste and separate electorates. Instead, Ambedkar (Ambedkar 2005: 152). In other words, Ambedkar uses the
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 97

force of reflective judgment to create a space of connecting actual practice is much more important than expressing oneself
Gandhi with his emancipatory project. in the truth by developing a metaphysical understanding of the
Ambedkar demonstrates the ability to imagine himself as caste (of mind). Thus, Ambedkar would appreciate anyone being
different from his untouchable self. His ethics of persuasion is truthful in terms of standing against untouchability, wherein
aimed at making others rise above themselves, the touchable untouchability uses its power of live performance to cause
selves. It, thus, plays a normative function to demobilise the moral injury to Dalits on an everyday basis. For Ambedkar, un-
self from his/her particular caste/gender location, and mobi- touchability, in its performative aspect, contains a lived truth
lise such an abstracted self to the universal horizon where this which has to be acknowledged without providing any evidence.
self can meet other selves on a universal ground of dignity. Gandhi does acknowledge this truth that is being performed
Ambedkars Buddhism, thus, becomes such a universal ground in the practice of untouchability. He neither asks Ambedkar
for assimilation of the abstracted self. Ambedkar seeks to for any evidence nor engages him in debate to accept/arrive at
approach Gandhi outside the political through the ethical/ the truth of untouchability. For Gandhi, untouchability is self-
moral for the ultimate assimilation into Buddhism. It is no evident, among other things through its morally corrosive im-
doubt against the grain to suggest that Ambedkar invests in pact on Ambedkar. For Gandhis truthfulness lies in his ethical
Gandhi for the realisation of such a project; which is why he stamina to see truth in Ambedkars social suffering; truth that
finds in Gandhi, the virtue of truthfulness. results from the curse of untouchability. In short, Gandhis
truthfulness lies in his accepting the truth of untouchability at
Truthfulness in Gandhi face value. Put differently, economising on deliberative truth is
One would like to state at the outset that acknowledging truth- being truthful.9 Here, being truthful is defending dignity under
fulness in Gandhi is a function of Ambedkars capacity for re- attack by untouchability that too without waiting for others
flective judgment, arising from an ethical need to do so. To put initiative. Ambedkar notes this truthfulness as a political virtue
it differently, Ambedkars ethics necessitate the discovery of in Gandhi in one of his letters written to a colleague in London.
truthfulness in Gandhi, and not individual duty to behave Ambedkar writes,
truthfully in conformation with moral principles that exist at I read Gandhis letters published from Yerwada Jail, I have read in
the abstract universal level. Let me clarify this point by draw- Daily Harold that Gandhi fasted for Ratnagiris Appasaheb Patward-
ing on the conception of truthfulness as discussed by a pio- han.10 Gandhis stand was correct whereas British authorities were
neering scholar Raghavan Iyer. According to Iyer (1986), wrong. How can they perpetuate hereditary occupation in one caste?
(Khairmode 2002: 76)
truthfulness is internal to Gandhian ethics, and embodied in
confession. Such confession, in the Gandhian sense, would Not asking for the evidence of untouchability from Ambed-
demand the declaration of ones deception to those who one kar is neither a matter of Gandhis epistemic generosity, which
has deceived (Iyer 1986: 201). Truthfulness in Gandhi has would suggest the employment of arguments provided by
another meaning, which suggests restraining ones emotions is already available categories; nor is it the result of dialogue
being truthful (Iyer 1986: 203). This conception has moral which demands evidence from its participants. None of the
strength. However, the conception of truthfulness in this essay above modes fits into Gandhis method of achieving congru-
is different from the Gandhian sense. Ambedkar finds truth- ence with others position. As we know, every concept of dia-
fulness in Gandhis moral and ethical consciousness, his ability logue presupposes a form of argumentation that is typically
to take initiative in favour of the untouchables, and his effort modern in nature. Gandhis truthfulness does not necessitate
to create moral reason among the caste Hindus. him to adopt a dialogical method to argue out with Ambedkar
For Ambedkar, being truthful is being ethical and not only the question of untouchability. Although in his response to
morally conscious but also accepting of the truth. Ambedkar Ambedkars published speech on the annihilation of caste, he
(2005) finds this ethical stamina in Gandhi who according to does argue with the latter about the question of caste.
the former does not only tell the truth, but accepts it. In Conversely, Gandhis truthfulness is also evident from the
Ambedkars conception, being truthful means an ethical action fact that he asks the high caste Brahmins for evidence of un-
has to be such that it ultimately leads to the emergence of an touchability in the Hindu shastras (Raimon 2006: 105). Gan-
ethically/morally stable social order; a social order that would dhi takes recourse to the method of debate and argumenta-
be permeated by a collective moral good such as maitri or un- tion, to reason with the leaders of orthodox Hinduism. This
conditional friendship. Truthfulness, as Ambedkar would see happened during the Vaikom Satyagraha in 1924. Gandhi,
it, is nothing but truth performance. For him, grasping the though ironically so, also adopts parliamentary methods to
truth through action is more important than approaching it turn public opinion in favour of the eradication of untouchabil-
through theoretical operation. Truth performs through action ity. On one occasion, when the upper caste in South India did
and autonomous initiative. How does one understand the not agree with his anti-untouchbaility campaign, he along
performative dimension that makes truthfulness much more with Rajagopalachari suggested a plebiscite on the question of
important than the truth itself? Why should Ambedkar de- temple entry for untouchables in Calicut, which went in their
mand truthfulness from the Hindus and Gandhi? Why did he favour (Tendulkar 1951: 188). But Gandhi did not have the
put a premium on truthfulness rather than on truth? This is same luck in his own home state, Gujarat. When an upper
because for him, the ethical need to be treated with dignity in caste Gandhian invited him to address a public meeting held
98 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

on the question of untouchability, he refused to speak from the the touchables, and internalised by those who have been at the
stage. This was a protest against the local committees act of receiving end of such a social evil. They portended that this
segregating and marginalising the untouchables at the meet- truth needed to be transcended within history. In this sense,
ing. He suggested a show of hands on his contention in favour pushing the untouchable into the Harijan category would
of the inclusion of untouchables in the main meeting space. amount to pushing them outside history. Gandhi tests the lim-
However, the majority went against his proposal. Accepting the its of caste Hindus but also rescues them from direct political
verdict of the upper castes, Gandhi joined the untouchables and confrontation with the untouchables. In this context, one is
addressed them only (Tendulkar 1951: 209). Gandhis truthful- reminded of Nagarajs assertion that both Gandhi and Ambed-
ness is quite evident from the fact that on the question of un- kar plunge in historical action to cure each other (Nagaraj
touchability he did not suggest to Ambedkar either for plebi- 1993: 16). Here, it must be acknowledged that Gandhi has
scite or for voting. Gandhi treated these options as redundant, shown the moral stamina to deliver a normative judgment
as he accepted the truth of untouchability embodied in the experi- against the history of untouchability, in his interrogation of
ences of Ambedkar and his community, except for a brief argu- peoples practices as well as examination of Hindu texts at a
ment that Gandhi holds out to Ambedkars annihilation of caste. number of places.
What matters in being truthful is not the epistemic calibre It is also important to acknowledge that Gandhis historical
of the thinker but the demonstration of moral stamina to stand judgment against untouchability has a moral faculty; unlike
against untouchability as a reality, without hiding behind the Ambedkar, Gandhi is not socially positioned at the receiving
faade of intellectualism. Being truthful in Gandhi also means end of the humiliating practices of untouchability and yet he
developing moral capacity to become humble in front of the feels morally tormented by it. He realises that untouchability
experience of Ambedkar. Both these virtues have been well has a morally corrosive impact that does not allow Ambedkar
described by Joseph Lelyveld (2011), who reproduces the fol- to remain a morally integrated self. The moral faculty of
lowing quote of Gandhi, Ambedkar has a right even to spit Gandhis historical judgment against untouchability is also
upon me, as every untouchable has, and I would keep on smil- discernible in his ability to individually own up to the crime of
ing if they did so. Lelyveld asserts that this resolutely smiling untouchability that is collectively committed by the touchables
face was not a mask but a measure of the man (2011: 214). against the untouchables through the social history of India.
Gandhis moral capacity to subordinate is being truthful to Moral faculty, from the Ambedkarite perspective, becomes
oneself. It is an exceptional generosity to the extent that more important when we review it in the context of other
Gandhi learns how to see oneself. In subordinating oneself, he nationalist thinkers who were Gandhis contemporaries. These
was not showcasing sacrifice but being more truthful to thinkers tend to assign positive roles to the caste system and
himself. This is what it means to grow from truth to truth. untouchability or take sceptical positions on the same (Raju
There is an incremental movement in the growth of truth 2013: 97). In the genealogical mode, Gandhi stands out among
and this process is internal to the genealogy present in Ambed- his contemporaries, including B G Tilak and Jawaharlal Nehru.
kars project of engendering the transformative tradition of Ambedkar argues that Gandhis conception of peaceful resis-
emancipatory thought. tance is far superior to Tilaks active resistance because it has
its origins in Buddhism and its moral means of non-violence
Genealogically Gandhi Belongs to Ambedkar (Kamble 1992: 167). Ambedkar defines Buddhas conception of
I argue that the principles of pluralism/relativism do not help moral means by drawing on his teachings which implore that
us in conceiving the sense in which Gandhi belongs to Ambed- we must conquer hatred or rage by means of peace; we must
kar. A close and careful reading of Ambedkars work makes it detect untruth with the force of truth (Kamble 1992: 167).
plausible for us to adopt a genealogical approach, which in my Although Ambedkar finds Gandhi, rather than Tilak, closer to
considered opinion, is the most appropriate approach to gain him, he also expresses his disagreement with Gandhi. Ambed-
an ethical insight into Ambedkars efforts to interiorise Gandhi kar argues that Gandhi fails to follow higher levels of Buddhist
in an emancipatory tradition. Following Murphy (2003), I further teaching and this failure has to be understood in terms of Gan-
argue that the genealogist is a historical relativist, who in his/ dhis insistence on converting the principle of non-violence
her attempt to create critical thought chooses from historically into a rule (Kamble 1992: 168). However, this does not discour-
available thought a relatively more promising option available to age Ambedkar from genealogically internalising Gandhi in
the protagonist. A thought becomes promising to a protago- the critical tradition, for which Ambedkar offers the instance
nist, such as Ambedkar, not because it is a priori intellectually, of Jawaharlal Nehru. According to Ambedkar, Nehru seeks to
idealistically attractive but because it has an element of social subsume the question of untouchability into a larger universal
truth ingrained in the practice of such thought. It is this ethical category of workers (Ambedkar 2002: 379). Gandhi acknowl-
expression of the thought principle that makes a particular edges the question of untouchability as a deeply social question.
thought more promising. Ambedkar in his cognitive capacity Ambedkar while noting the stark difference between Gandhi
sees a relative truth ingrained in Gandhis commitment to the and Nehru particularly on the question of untouchability
interrogation of the dehumanising practice of untouchability. further observes that Nehru like Gandhi did not consider un-
Both Gandhi and Ambedkar conceived the truth of untouch- touchability a blot on Hinduism (Ambedkar 2002: 379). Thus,
ability as historically produced through the social practices of Ambedkar finds Gandhi, not Nehru, closer to his social vision.
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 99

Conclusions in persuasion and conversion he, in a lose sense, is a realist

While I have a long-standing interest in writing and speaking and not a sceptic.
about Ambedkar and Gandhi, this interest is neither purely In Ambedkars emancipatory project, there are answers to
epistemic nor is it aimed at producing any degree of fascina- moral questions; questions as to why the caste Hindus do not
tion by writing on GandhiAmbedkar. In fact, it is deeply onto- detoxify themselves of the vicious conviction that projects caste
logical in the sense that it is related to changing the fate com- as a social good worth cherishing. Ambedkar believes that the
mon to me, Gandhi and Ambedkar. All three of our futures are caste system, which has created a pathological distance be-
linked up with the transformation of social relations in the tween the touchables and untouchables in Indian society, thus,
Indian context. Gandhis historical efforts to be a dependable dividing it both vertically and horizontally, can be transformed
part of the vision to annihilate untouchability, if not caste, with force of the ethics of persuasion. In this context, I feel hon-
forms the larger project of social transformation. This project estly persuaded by the suggestion made by Gopal Krishna Gan-
is further intensified by Ambedkar at a much deeper level by dhi (personal communication). Keeping in view his suggestion,
attacking the essence of the caste system and not just un- let me then pose the following question and also offer a tenta-
touchability, which is a derivative of the former. Changing tive answer: What was the collective project of Gandhi and
fate, thus, makes the efforts of Gandhi and Ambedkar Ambedkar: Freeing India from different configurations of pow-
indispensable. Ambedkars project, both intellectual as well er, or redeeming India with its affirmative energy which, for
as political, to reason out with members of caste society example, is internal to Buddhism? If it was the project of re-
makes it historically important to acknowledge the affirma- deeming, then what was at the core of its realisationthe need
tive energy in Gandhi. Ambedkars critique of Gandhi re- for practical ethics or the push of conceptual politics? Arguably,
volves around the hope that he would succeed in reasoning in both the thinkers it was ultimately the ethical that was im-
out with caste infected Hindus first through persuasion and portant for redemption, wherein conceptual politics was only
finally, through conversion to Buddhism. Since he poses hope the initial condition to realise the redemption of India.

Notes 8 This is evident from the Chavdar water tank Iyer, Raghavan N (1986): The Moral and Political
1 Authors such as Terchek (1998) seem to have movement in 1927, where Ambedkar exposes Thought of Mahatma Gandhi, Oxford: Claren-
compared Gandhi with some of the leading the moral inconsistency within caste Hindus by don Press.
thinkers from the West. However, he did not questioning the provision of access to water for Kamble, Arun (1992): Dr B R Ambedkar: Janata
relate Gandhi with Ambedkar possibly on the animals and not fellow humans. In the Parvati Patratil Lekh, Mumbai: Popular Prakashan &
assumption that Ambedkar only operates in temple entry movement in Poona, 1929, Ambed-
Department of Marathi, Mumbai University.
the sensible world of politics. However, there kar exposed the Hindus failure to see reason in
a movement that did not intend to destroy the Khairmode, C B (1983): Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambed-
are scholars who have rescued Ambedkar from kar: Charitra, Vol 9, Mumbai: Maharashtra Ra-
idol, but establish Dalits right to equality (Ambed-
what may be seen as, in the Kantian sense, the jya Sahitya & Sanskruti Mandal.
kar 2005: 129). He pushes the ethical limits of
realm of the sensible and placing him in the in-
the high caste Hindus further by asking them (2002): Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar: Charitra,
telligible, by making Ambedkar a global figure.
how they can oppose a movement supported by Vol 5, Pune: Sugawa.
This includes Eleanor Zelliot, Raosaheb Kasbe,
Mahatma Gandhi (Ambedkar 2005: 129). Kumar, Aishwary (2015): Radical Equality: Ambed-
Sharad Patil, Gail Omvedt, D R Nagaraj, Anand
Teltumbde, Upendra Baxi, Bhikhu Parekh, 9 Ambedkar has a different conception of the kar, Gandhi and the Risk of Democracy, Stan-
Meera Nanda, Aishwary Kumar, Saumyabrata economy of truth which he uses to question ford: Stanford University Press.
Choudhury, Manash Bhattacharjee, and sever- Gandhi. Ambedkar (1989: 317) saw in Gandhis Lelyveld, Joseph (2011): Great Soul: Mahatma Gan-
al others. attempt to pass a resolution on untouchability,
dhi and His Struggle with India, New Delhi:
the act of questioning a definite discursive (em-
2 A leading Dalit poet and intellectual Siddalin- phasis added) move to economise truth to its Harper Collins.
gaiah from Karnataka had to face his doctoral vanishing point. Murphy, Mark C (2003): Alisdair MacIntyre. Cam-
students discontent when the former made an bridge: Cambridge University Press.
10 Gandhi fasted against the governments deci-
affirmative connection between Gandhi and Nagaraj, D R (1993): The Flaming Fleet: A Study of
sion that did not allow Appasaheb Patward-
Ambedkar. During a public discussion on the Dalit Movement in India, Bangalore: South
han, a Brahmin to undertake scavenging work
Anand Patwardhans movie Jai Bhim Comrade
in Ratnagiri jail. Forum Press.
in 2014 at Jawaharlal Nehru University, a Dalit
student argued that the use of the superlative Raimon, S (2006): Selected Documents on Vaikom
adjective of Mahatma for Ambedkar, by an im- Satyagraha, Trivandrum: Kerala State Archives
portant Dalit leader in the movie, is a stigmati- References Department, Government of Kerala.
sation of Ambedkar. However, the student Ambedkar, B R (1943): Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah, Raju, A Raghuram (2013): Philosophy and India,
would have perhaps approved the attribution Bombay: Thacker & Co Ltd. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
of Mahatma to Jotirao Phule. (1948): What Congress and Gandhi Have Done Rattu, Nanak Chand (1995): Reminiscences and
3 These conceptions may be evidenced in Bhimgeet to the Untouchables, Bombay: Thacker & Co Remembrances of Dr B R Ambedkar, New Delhi:
such as a popular number, Aika ho Gandhi, lagu Ltd. Falcon Books.
naka naadi (Listen up Gandhi, do not provoke us (1989): Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Shah, K J (1978): Consensus and Conflict: Some
Ambedkarites) sung by Dalit male singers, and Speeches, Vol 5, Mumbai: Government of Considerations, Indian Philosophical Quarter-
Sahikarun upkar kele Gandhiwar, sarvana urun Maharashtra. ly, Vol 6, No 1, pp 10108.
purale Ambedkar (By signing the Poona Pact, (2002): Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and
Ambedkar did a great favour to Gandhi) per- (1977): Dissent, Protest and Reform: Some
Speeches, Vol 18, Part III, Mumbai: Government Conceptual Clarifications, Dissent, Protest
formed by a Dalit female singer in Maharashtra. of Maharashtra.
4 The use of the word or is not original; it has and Reform in Indian Civilisation, by S C Malik,
(2005): Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Simla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study,
been used by Arindam Chakrabarti previously. Speeches, Vol 20, Mumbai: Government of
5 These include Bhikhu Parekh, Thomas Pan- pp 7080.
tham and Ramachandra Guha. Bilgrami, Akeel (2003): Gandhi, the Philosopher, Tendulkar, D G (1951): Mahatma, Vol 2, Delhi:
6 This has been articulated by Prakash Ambed- Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 38, No 39, Publications Division, Government of India.
kar, a leading Dalit political leader with a re- pp 415965. (1951): Mahatma, Vol 3, Delhi: Publications
flective mind. Guha, Ramachandra (2001): An Anthropologist Division, Government of India.
7 This is almost part of common sense among the among the Marxists and Other Essays, New Terchek, Ronald J (1998): Gandhi: Struggling for
adherents of Ambedkar. Delhi: Permanent Black. Autonomy, New Delhi: Vistaar.

100 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

Ambedkar as a Political Philosopher

Valerian Rodrigues

Existing studies on B R Ambedkar largely focus on his here is much in Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkars writings
substantive religious, sociological, political and and social practices to consider him a philosopher in the
traditional sense. His association with certain philoso-
constitutional concerns, and not on the concepts he
phers such as John Dewey is well known and in his later years,
deployed for the purpose or modes of his he closely followed the teachings of the Buddha and philo-
argumentation. His body of work demonstrates that he sophical schools that claimed to be inheritors of Buddhas
formulated a number of concepts to take stock of the teachings. He was familiar with the debates around socialism,
particularly revolving around the critique of capitalism that
social reality that he confronted, and/or reformulated
informed the Fabian school. He followed the works of the
existing concepts by critically engaging with the body of British idealists very closely, including their interface with
scholarship available to him. With regard to the German philosophy, and classical Greek thought. He demon-
conception of the political, he advanced a strates critical readings of certain philosophical texts of
Indiathe major Upanishads and the six systems of philosophy,1
comprehensive and consistent design of what it means
particularly Samkhya and Badarayanas Uttara Mimansha. He
to live as a public and how best to do so in a setting very wrote a small treatise on the Bhagavad Gita. Among his
different from the West. contemporaries, he closely followed the work of M K Gandhi,2
Sakhya Buddhism (wrote an introduction to the second edition
of Narasus What Is Buddhism), the Theosophical School, and
strands of Buddhist thought in Ceylon and Burma. Further, his
work is replete with familiarity with the major currents of Eu-
ropean enlightenment thought.
His philosophical interest revolved around (i) metaphysical
questions such as the nature of the self and being human; rela-
tionship of the self with the other; nature and consciousness;
causality; human telos; human action and its consequences,
etc; (ii) epistemological questions such as modes of and
approaches to knowledge; the problem of subject and object;
intersubjectivity and communication; truth, interpretation and
social practices; the nature of scientific method; and (iii) ethical
questions, particularly the relationship between morality and
regimes of rights on the one hand, and societal values and
human freedom on the other. Certain concerns of political philo-
sophy such as justice, liberty, equality, community, democracy,
authority, legitimacy and recognition were his lifelong pursuits.
While he approached and formulated the above-mentioned
metaphysical, epistemic and moral questions in his own distinct
way, the focus of this paper is limited to highlighting certain
central concerns of his political philosophy.

Political Philosophy
The term political philosophy has no single connotation;
although we do not call everyone who comments on public life
a political philosopher. We think that Plato was a political phi-
losopher and in recent years, John Rawls. In modern-day
Valerian Rodrigues ( is a National Fellow India, some of the thinkers who came closest to being political
of the Indian Council of Social Science Research based at Mangalore philosophers were M K Gandhi (Parekh 1989; Parel 2006),
Aurobindo Ghose (Singh 2014), Rabindranath Tagore in his
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 101

work Nationalism (Tagore 1917: 1996) and The Religion of Man among concepts such as swaraj, justice, freedom, etc, and
(Tagore 1931: 1996), and Allama Iqbal in The Reconstruction of advancing reasons for the same.
Religious Thought in Islam (Iqbal 1930: 2003). Gandhi ad- In recent years, several political philosophers have raised
vanced a foundational critique of modernity and proposed a doubts concerning the universality of political philosophy.
distinct conception of freedom as swaraj. Aurobindo Ghosh While scholars from the non-Christian world have charged
attempted to reconnect man to his inner self as well as to a political philosophy for being close to the Judeo-Christian
distinct conception of nation and the cosmos. Tagore closely frame, others have seen it as upholding an imperialism of
associated nationalism with the inexorable march of positivist categories. Scholars from the global South and postcolonial
modernity and saw in it a threat to our sense of belonging, hu- societies have rallied together to explore an alternative/
manity and cross-fertilisation of cultures. Iqbal critiqued different conception of the political which can speak closely to
Western modernity for its one-sidedness and saw in Islam the the experiences or the cultural repertoire of the people of
possibility of recasting modernity on new foundations. these societies.
Political philosophers consider the basic categories or con-
cepts around which we envisage our public life, relate them to Ambedkars Political Queries
one another, and advance arguments defending/refuting a In this paper, I wish to suggest that Ambedkar either formu-
concept(s) on one hand and its relation to other concepts on lated or revisited many a concept and relations across them,
the other. The evidence for the arguments might be drawn with regard to the conception of the political that advances a
from the mundane, empirical and philosophical stances that relatively comprehensive and consistent design of what it
encompass a concept. An exercise of this kind lends itself to means to live as a public, and how best to do so in a setting
scrutiny and contestation of the existing positions on an issue, very different from the West. The questions that he asked
including the modes and processes of undertaking such an were: What does it mean to be human and a citizen? How does
exercise. Reasoning of this kind may suggest the desirable and one live a tradition? If the modern public is an autonomous
the feasible, or the significant and commendable in public life sphere made of free and equal members, how to ensure its con-
and policy as well as the preconditions and processes for their tinuity over time and inter-generationally? Is there a place for
realisation. It is important to point out that a robust public life religion in our public life and if so, what is the nature of such
can contribute much for the thriving of political philosophy, religion? What is the basis of social cooperation in societies
although wherever public life thrives there need not necessar- where there are multiple forms and levels of inequalities
ily be an engaged political philosophy. In the latter case, public founded not merely on exploitation but complex modes of
life might be held together through other ways such as cus- oppression? How can diversities founded on distinct concep-
toms, authority or power. Political philosophy, of course, tions of ultimate ideals and reflected in ways of life as well as
draws attention to such realities as the nature of public power, specific institutions cohabit a shared public? How do we en-
its extent and limitations, modes of its constitution, relation gage with a sufficiently large group which makes a claim to
between the rulers and the ruled on one hand and among the pursue its distinct ways and conceptions of life? What is the
rulers themselves on the other, the entitlements of citizens role and limits of power? Some of the central concepts of the
and persons, and what would be a good life to live in common. political such as power, representation, legitimacy, citizen,
Specifically, an exercise in political philosophy may draw democracy, freedom, equality, rights and justice are deeply
our attention to an aspect of public life which we may have bound with these questions. While all political philosophers
been relatively inattentive to and build its interconnections to ask these questions or at least some of them, they also ask
the basic units constituting our political understanding. Anto- them in specific philosophical and social contexts. Ambedkar
nio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist philosopher, for instance, did the same. His philosophical context was the one inaugu-
draws attention to the concept of civil society or hegemony, rated by the enlightenment and his social context was the
which was not hitherto central in socialist political discourse, Indian society in its colonial encounter and postcolonial tra-
with profound implications for our understanding of the state, vails. Much of the attention hitherto has been confined to the
power and political legitimacy (Gramsci 2009: 21076); or for context, such as existence of untouchability, decolonisation or
that matter, John Rawls draws attention to the limitations of plurality of religious belonging, rather than the central politi-
utilitarianism and why the pursuit of net aggregate satis- cal philosophical issues that Ambedkar raised. Often the lim-
factions of the members of a political community is morally ited attention extended to Ambedkar as the icon of a social
indefensible (Rawls 1972: 2233 and 18490). Political philo- group does not invite attention to the conceptual frame that
sophy may also propose concepts which throw light on a fac- justifies and orders his concerns on a scale of priority.
et of political reality in very different ways than we are hith- There are some methodological problems that we need to
erto accustomed to see. Sometimes, it may dwell on com- attend to while regarding Ambedkar as a political philoso-
monsense and suggest which elements of it are defensible pher: He is caught in far too many concerns that a political
and reasons for the same. At times, political philosophy philosopher would not be generally involved in. Often his
might just reconstruct an argument or revisit a concept modes of presentation, disputation and argumentation are not
because the existing versions are simply inadequate. Exer- philosophical but sociological, legal, moral, public policy-driv-
tions of this kind involve reordering priorities in the relation en and even rhetorical. Further, in the national movement in
102 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

India several political philosophical questions, such as freedom, struggle against dominance, and advances a level-playing field
human equality and representation, became issues of interro- to all against social prejudices (Rodrigues 2005). Ontologically,
gation on a day-to-day basis making it difficult to distinguish all human beings, irrespective of race, gender and culture,
his contribution from those of others. At the same time, it is share certain foundational attributes in commonfeelings
important to emphasise that while Ambedkar did not engage and sentiments, love and compassion, reason and reflection,
in a systematic pursuit of political philosophy his writings and solidarity and bonding, and assuming responsibility for their
practices were informed by it. The concepts that he employed actionsalthough domination and social codes may tie them
and the relations that he proposed across them demonstrated down to modes of action that are subservient and acceptable
a remarkable consistency and coherence. Further, while he to a social order. Interestingly, none of these arguments and
shared many ideas in common with the anti-colonial thinkers, assumptions that he makes, appeal to any divine element as
there is much that distinguishes him from others. foundational to the human. They all appeal to a set of lexically
While within the scope of this paper I cannot dwell on an prior values and assumptions grounded, as far as Ambedkar
analytical scrutiny of all the themes and concepts that he was concerned, in reason. The significance of equality justifies
engaged in, I will deliberate only on two issues: (i) provide an certain modes of political action: struggle against untoucha-
outline of the major concepts that he proposed, and (ii) test bility, the caste system, colonialism and class domination, and
the mode of his argumentation by dwelling on an aspect of his for recognition, dignity and culture. Equality, therefore, is not
theory of social justice. a unilinear pursuit but an overladen consideration and is clearly
tilted towards the worst-off. It is also an encompassing value:
Central Concepts the majority are not justified in pursuing a course of action in
the name of equality that subjects the rest to unequal consid-
Critical review of texts and historiography: Like many other eration. Every consideration extended to people has to justify
DalitBahujan thinkers, such as Jotirao Phule and Iyothee itself against the benchmark of equality. Ambedkar is very
Thass before him, Ambedkar thought that it is important to critical of liberal democracy for its inability to institute equali-
reopen the question of interpreting texts and approaches to ty in any meaningful sense, and sometimes thinks that the rise
history. Texts and historiography too are sites of reproduction of fascism has much to do with the yawning inequalities in
and contestation of power relations as other domains of social societies subscribing to this political perspective (Ambedkar
life are. Many of the hallowed texts were replete with selective 1990: BAWS, Vol 9, pp 18588). He finds notions such as
deployment of evidence, displacement, silence, contradictions, equality before law and equality of treatment inadequate to
exaggeration, interpolations and heteronomy. They could sub- encompass equality, and suggests that equality means treating
serve partisan ends. In spite of such flaws they confidently people as equals by factoring in the entire gamut of social
engaged with causeeffect relations and assumed normative relations they are subject to. He also feels that much of
stances. Often the authority of such texts was seldom chal- inequality is scripted by assigning people to stigmatised
lenged. He thought that many a time uncritical reading of such groups, and the voices of such groups and their demands are
texts and their endorsement upheld existing social relations, then made integral to considerations of equality. Natural and
sustained dominance, and denied people reflective probings social circumstances can also make the lot of many people
into such texts. While this is generally true, in the Indian con- deeply unequal to that of others, in spite of their efforts. Equa-
text, texts have been very efficaciously employed to sustain a lity as a level playing field cannot leave people to the whims of
ranked social order and uphold the principle of graded inequality. such circumstances.
Further, the injunctions with regard to reading and study ex-
plicitly excluded large sections of people from any access to State and democracy: State as an organised power that
the texts, depriving them even of the possibility of participat- claims for itself sovereignty can be envisaged as an instrument
ing in public reason.3 At the same time, even hallowed texts of dominance but also as a collective resolve for the further-
contained accounts and reasoning that could be deeply sub- ance of a set of objectives. In the latter sense, Ambedkar
versive.4 Besides there are texts and traditions such as those of thought that the state can be a civilising agency and a resource
Buddhism, which not merely expose the sanctity and truth of to undermine dominance. Since all resolutions could prove
dominant texts and traditions but propose alternatives to them tentative, state as the collective power and resolve of the soci-
as well. A critical reading of tika and interpretative engage- ety need to be in place to ensure that the collective resolve is in
ment with vyakhyana texts and traditions was central to place. It makes Ambedkar inveigh strongly against such prop-
Ambedkars political perspective.5 He rejected, in no uncertain ositions as the withering away of the state. The principle that
terms, a positivist rendering of texts. should guard over the state is democracy. Democracy as a way
of life charts a course independent of the state, redefining the
Human equality: For Ambedkar, human equality is an over- scope and place of the latter. But democracy also contends
riding principle and his writings advance some of the most against the pervasive presence of power in everyday life and
complex arguments in defence of this principle: The ethical transforms it into self-regulation. Ambedkar attempted to
norm of human equality makes place for worth rather than reformulate the idea of democracy, by trying to rescue it from
birth; does not assign people to fixed slots in advance; enables the economistic binary of liberal and social democracy, and
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 103

proposing it as the only defensible mode of public life While Ambedkar generally used the case of Brahminical
appropriate for human dignity and equality. Democracy is not Hinduism to highlight what a true religion should not be, his
merely an institutionalised arrangement, which of course it is, understanding on this issue was not merely limited to it. For
but the only way of life befitting human fulfilment. It makes him, a true religion cannot be a set of fixed beliefs laid down
people reach out to others, and lets others reach out to them, for all times but that which remains open for contestation and
thereby, bringing collective resources to bear on ones striving. renewal. Eventually, he came around to suggest that only
As a way of life it invariably demands that we treat people with Buddhism or more correctly, a reformed version of the same
respect. Mutual communication and fonts of bonding that are measures up to the criterion of being a true religion.
constantly renewed and revisited form the nerve centres of
any democracy. While democracy has to be institutionalised, Cultural question and social relations: Ambedkar did not
in order to endure, particularly in deeply complex and plural endorse a position that there are two opposed cultures pitted
societies such as India, he saw it as an open-ended system against each other in India or elsewhere, although culture is
which defines and redefines itself in the indefinite future widely employed as a mode of dominance and to sustain
(Ambedkar 1982: BAWS, Vol 1, pp 5777 and 9496). servility of large masses. Cultures are not seamless entities out
there, but ways of life, beliefs, values and institutions that
Need for religion: How does one sustain a social order made need to be revisited by foregrounding the human and the prin-
of equal and free citizens who elect themselves as a people ciples of equality, liberty, democracy and morality. Cultures,
continuously? What is it that makes them bond together? like nations, are available for interrogation and are subject to
Rights and constitutional morality are important but in spite daily plebiscite and any attempt to arrest them or lay down
of them conflicts might erupt, and they may not provide bonds its contours could beget institutionalisation of dominance.
of solidarity in cases of pervasive social control, or social power Therefore, the domain of culture is caught in a distinct order
concentrated in a few hands. Therefore, a people need to of struggle. Ambedkar thought that power is dispersed across
acknowledge themselves as welded together almost in a per- the entire ensemble of social relations. It is manifest in every-
manent sense and feel a sense of common belonging, although day relations either in the way of directing a course of action
nothing prevents them from revisiting those bonds afresh. For or simply in the complex structures of everyday life, division of
Ambedkar, the name of such a permanent substratum is reli- labour, access to resources and opportunities, linguistic usag-
gion. He, therefore, affirmed strongly the necessity for a reli- es, signs and symbols. Religion, social status and property are
gion and quoted Edmund Burke, to say, True religion is the all sources of power and authority (Ambedkar 1982: Annihi-
foundation of society, the basis on which all true civil govern- lation of Caste, BAWS, Vol 1, p 45). In the context of India,
ment rests, and both their sanction (Ambedkar 1982: BAWS, caste, for instance, is not merely a matter of status but more
Vol 1, p 76). He rejected the liberal idea that religion is a private importantly, power. Given the differences in social relations
affair, but saw it as the anchor that holds a society together. He across societies, particularly regulative norms and modes of
felt that religious ideals, in general, have a hold on mankind, social control, the diffusion of power assumes different forms
irrespective of an earthly gain, that secular ideas never have in them. Any attempt to radically transform power relations
(Ambedkar 1987: Philosophy of Hinduism, BAWS, 1987, Vol 3, has to grapple not merely with the diffusion of power across
p 23). It never fails to work so long as there is faith in that ide- the different levels of society but has to take the specific con-
al. To ignore religion is to ignore a live wire (Ambedkar 1987: text of its articulation into account.
Philosophy of Hinduism, BAWS, 1987, Vol 3, p 23). At the
same time he distinguished between true religion and a The self and human agency: Implicit in all this is a concep-
false one. The former is based on principles while the latter tion of self, which in many ways is new to modern political
appeals to rules and rituals. The former is centred on society philosophising, woven around the concept of self as subject.
and appeals to morality, while the latter is centred on the Ambedkar, taking a cue from Dewey initially and Buddha later,
individual and makes morality an instrument of ones purpose denied any essentialised conception of the self. We constitute
(Ambedkar 1982: Annihilation of Caste, BAWS, Vol 1, p 47; ourselves, in a way, in and through the social world that we
Ambedkar 1987: Philosophy of Hinduism, BAWS, Vol 3, inhabit, through all the stimulations that we are exposed to
pp 6771). A true religion cannot come in the way of mans and responding to them in turn. A society can enhance or mar
search for himself, dwarfing him against a transcendental the prospects of human realisation. It can condemn people to
benchmark (Ambedkar 2003: Buddha and the Future of His the netherworld of untouchability or slavery, or open up the
Religion, BAWS, Vol 17, part two, pp 97108). At the same prospects of human fulfilment by letting people access its
time, a true religion cultivates responsibility for ones actions. resources as equals and extending support in this endeavour
He thought that through supports. Above all, there is a celebration of human
A religious act may not be a correct act but must at least be a respon- agency and its transformative potentiality in Ambedkars writ-
sible act. To permit of this responsibility, religion must mainly be a ings.6 While social relations of oppression subdue and even
matter of principles only. It cannot be a matter of rules. The moment it
deny human agency there are familial and community rela-
degenerates into rules it ceases to be religion as it kills responsibility
which is the essence of a truly religious act. (Ambedkar 1982: Annihi- tions, protest traditions such as those inspired by the Buddha,
lation of Caste, BAWS, Vol 1, p 75) Kabir or Phule, and even negative sociality that can prove a
104 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

trigger not merely to inspire a person to act but precipitate col- would not otherwise mix together in the legislative council
lective transformative action. In this context, it is important to (Ambedkar 1982: BAWS, Vol 1, p 266) and by creating condi-
recall his advice to Dalit activismeducate, agitate, organise. tions to beget new forms of associated life. Such associations
can threaten fossilised ways of life and help dissolve set
Mode of Argumentation attitudes (Ambedkar 1982: BAWS, Vol 1, p 266).
Doing philosophy, and particularly political philosophy, inv-
olves constructing arguments that could sustain themselves Adequate representation for minorities: He argued that a
across all possible attempts to refute them. We can test the way minority7 should find not numerical but adequate representa-
Ambedkar went about forging his arguments by studying the tion. But it should not be so preponderant as to dictate terms to
way he makes a case for his distinct conception of representa- the majority. In the context of the Simon Commission and his
tion. Instead of analytically dwelling on this idea, I will try to plea for joint electorate with reservation for Scheduled Castes,
demonstrate the way he tried to construct an argument with Ambedkar argued that minority representation should be of
regard to representation as integral to his theory of social justice. such a magnitude as would make it worth the while of many a
party from the majority to seek an alliance with the minority. If
Inadequacy of virtual representation: Quite early on, in his the party is compelled to seek an alliance with a minority, the
statement to the Southborough Committee in 1919, Ambedkar minority is undoubtedly in a position to dictate. If it is drawn
argued that virtual representation, that is, representation for the alliance, then it is adequately represented (Ambedkar
through a general electorate is inadequate to meet the con- 1982: BAWS, Vol 2, p 362). While giving due consideration to
cerns of the marginalised and the disadvantaged (Ambedkar the educational and economic status of minorities, he felt that
1982: BAWS, Vol 1, pp 24378). In such a mode of representa- the actual figure be the ratio of its population to the total seats
tion, the voice of these communities and social groups may be multiplied by some factor which is greater than one and less
subdued or even ignored. According to him, the first purpose than two (Ambedkar 1982: BAWS, Vol 2, p 363). The lower is the
of representation is to transmit the force of individual opinion standing of the community, the greater should be its electoral
and preference into public action (Ambedkar 1982: BAWS, advantage over the rest. If a minority is not protected with
Vol 1, p 247). When a group or community is denied represen- weightage and adequacy, it will be entirely submerged.
tation, or denied it in fair measure, then its beliefs and prefer- Weightage, he felt, could be determined by employing fourfold
ences have little bearing in shaping public policy. In India, the criteria: numbers, social standing, education and economic
untouchables formed such a group. There was an impassable strength. While keeping the demographic composition in view,
barrier between the touchables and untouchables, and bet- those who are economically and socially backward with low
ween them there were no shared bonds of aims, beliefs, aspi- educational accomplishments deserve additional consideration.
rations, knowledge and common understanding (Ambedkar
1982: BAWS, Vol 1, p 255). Therefore, virtual representation can Separate electorate for untouchables: For Ambedkar, joint
present the case of the untouchables very little. Besides the electorate or separate electorate8 as modes of representation
disadvantaged, and among them particularly the untoucha- are not a matter of principle but mechanisms to achieve cer-
bles, have much to gain or lose depending on the kind and ex- tain ends. Separate electorates guarantee that a representative
tent of representation available to them. The untouchables, for enjoys the confidence of the electorate who are his special con-
instance, may not have large property to protect from confis- cern. It is justified in the context when social identities closed
cation. But they have their very person confiscated (Ambed- on themselves hold on to their particular interests with few
kar 1982: BAWS, Vol 1, p 255). Representation can help them to prospects of forging stable common interests. If there is homo-
seek rights and resources to pursue their aims and objectives. geneity of interests, then joint electorates with reservation for
affected groups seems to be, in his opinion, a better option
Fair representation for new associations: The idea of fair (Ambedkar 1982: BAWS, Vol 1, p 374).9 Far from the argument
representation is closely bound up with a concrete context and that separate electorate for untouchables, whom he clearly rec-
the social relations in which it is embedded. It is the context ognised as the bearers of a set of particular interests, will lead
which specifies the appropriate modes and extent of represen- to fissures within Hinduism, Ambedkar felt, social considera-
tation. There are no ideal-typical models holding good every- tions and not religious affiliation is the basis of the acceptance
where. The progress of franchise in any society does not lay of the electorate.10 He considered the argument that separate
down a model for other societies to follow. Britain in this electorates will reinforce anti-national spirit baseless, as every
regard, Ambedkar felt, cannot be a model for India. There is no group that demands separate electorate was not anti-national.
guarantee that a limited franchise produces a better govern- The demand need not necessarily have religious or communal
ment either. Narrow franchise aimed at elite representation considerations. However, a majority, according to him, cannot
may bolster the importance of some communities to the detri- have separate electorate as it would be a permanent domina-
ment of others (Ambedkar 1982: BAWS, Vol 2, p 262). Unlike tion of the majority over the minorities. When political units
generally believed, communal representation need not neces- are primarily communal, majority-rule based on a community
sarily harden social divisions: it could be a way of dissolving is unjustifiable as it could perpetuate its rule confining other
them by bringing together men from diverse castes who communities to its tutelage.
Economic & Political Weekly EPW APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 105

Social inclusion and public presence: Ambedkars second ar- made of specific social, religious and ethnic cleavages and
gument for preferential representation is based on social inclu- looked down upon by the majority.
sion and the significance of public presence. Preferential treat-
ment provides an opportunity to persons and groups who have Necessity of self-representation: Ambedkar also felt that there
been hitherto denied social presence and are excluded, to be were some constituencies such as untouchables who could be
reckoned in public life. Presence in public life affords an represented by representatives from those groups and communi-
opportunity to actively participate in the process of govern- ties only (Ambedkar 1982: BAWS, Vol 1, p 256). Illustrating the
ment (Ambedkar 1982: BAWS, Vol 1, p 247) and other walks of case with regard to the untouchables, he felt that others did not
life. Besides, participation in associated life begets social bonds understand their situation of dehumanisation, subjugation,
and stakes. This makes a big difference in certain societies such denial of respect which one man owes to another as a human
as India where, he felt, there were no shared bonds of aims, being and the denial of rights of citizenship that ensues from
beliefs, aspirations, knowledge and common understanding such a disposition. In such instances, representatives should
and therefore, little endosmosis across social groups. As a not merely hail from the concerned group or community but be
consequence, given two candidates belonging to different groups able to effectively highlight its concerns, monitor them across
but purporting to represent the same interest, the voters will contending interests and pursue their implementation. Fur-
mark their votes on the person belonging to the same community ther, such representation should be in such numbers as will
(Ambedkar 1982: BAWS, Vol 1, 251) or someone they regard as constitute a force sufficient to claim redress. But such cases of
their man or woman. It may result in an entire group or exclusive representation, he felt, should be rare and minimum,
community from being counted out. He felt, untouchable com- and need to be given up once inclusive considerations prevail.
munities suffered the baneful effects of such exclusion the most.
Healthy and confident self: Ambedkars third argument for
Personal representation: Representation of opinions and appropriate representation appeals to the requisites of consti-
preferences alone is not an adequate measure for democracy. tuting a human self, sure of itself: opportunities for social in-
It requires personal representation as well. The latter involves teraction afforded through presence are indispensible for the
representation of opinions as well as representation of per- constitution of a healthy and confident self. In interaction with
sons. A government for the people, but not by the people, is others, a person becomes who he or she is. Valued or degraded
sure to educate some into masters and others into subjects; understanding of oneself has to do with ones location in such
because it is by reflex effects of association that one can feel interactions to a great extent. What one is as a person is what
and measure the growth of personality (Ambedkar 1982: one is as associated with others (Ambedkar 1982: BAWS,
BAWS, Vol 1, p 251). It requires that adequate representatives Vol 2, p 54). Social exclusion can greatly impair the growth of
are drawn from the concerned groups. Territorial representa- the human person and communities as has been the case with
tion fails to provide adequate and effective representation to untouchables in India. Untouchables have been denied their
minority groups. Such a situation gets further exasperated if very personhood and consequently the basis of their treatment
the majority and minorities in that area are relatively stable as equals. They have their very persona confiscated. The

Uttar PradeshVortex of Change

December 31, 2016
Uttar Pradesh, circa 2017 Ravi Srivastava
Deciphering Growth and Development: Past and Present Ravi Srivastava, Rahul Ranjan
Third Democratic Upsurge in Uttar Pradesh A K Verma
RSS, BJP and Communal Polarisation in Uttar Pradesh Polls Radhika Ramaseshan
Understanding the Potentialities: Ethnographic Study of Rural Dalit Women Leaders Archana Singh
The Weavers of Banaras Nita Kumar
The Time of Youth: Joblessness, Politics and Neo-religiosity in Uttar Pradesh Satendra Kumar
Facts and Fiction about How Muslims Vote in India: Evidence from Uttar Pradesh Rahul Verma, Pranav Gupta
Identity Equations and Electoral Politics: Investigating Political Economy of Land, Employment and Education Prashant K Trivedi, Surinder Kumar,
Srinivas Goli, Fahimuddin
The Demand for Division of Uttar Pradesh and Its Implications Ajit Kumar Singh
For copies write to: Circulation Manager,
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320-321, A to Z Industrial Estate, Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400 013.

106 APRIL 15, 2017 vol liI no 15 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

socio-religious disabilities have dehumanised the untouchables regard to public life. Taken together, these concepts propose
and their interests at stake are, therefore, the interests of a distinct ordering of political life that at the same time
humanity. What they have been deprived of is something ba- responds to the cultural context of ones belonging. Unlike
sic that is incomparably of greater interest than interests of the popular perception, Ambedkar does not subscribe to a
property (Ambedkar 1982: BAWS, Vol 2, p 54). Social interac- disembodied modernity11 but proposes a critical interpreta-
tions treat untouchables as despicable and others try to con- tive method to read culture and traditions. He argues for a
struct superior selves of themselves on that basis. The former, critical retrieval of culture rather than commit oneself to a
he says, are like Platos slaves who accept from another the partisan other. Interactive social relations are the agency that
purposes which control their conduct. They are denied their makes us the human that we are, and they set the precondi-
ability to make their choices and consequently, their agency. tions for what we can be. The human is humanly engendered
They are socialised never to complain or expect improvement rather than by a superhuman being. Invariably, democracy is
in their lot or to expect common respect which one man the essential condition for the fullest development of the
owes to another (Ambedkar 1982: BAWS, Vol 2, p 54). The human self in such contexts. Democracy demands that equal
consequence of social dispositions as expressed in untoucha- consideration be extended to everyone and afford them equal
bility is to deprive its victims from claiming the right of citi- opportunity to participate in public affairs. Extending equal
zenship embodying such claims as personal liberty, equality consideration may require meting out unequal treatment to
before laws, liberty of conscience, freedom of opinion and people and the latter has to take the concrete context into
speech, right of assembly, right of representation in countrys account. Ambedkar sees religion as the anchor for such a
government and right to hold office. pursuit, but in the process redefines religion truly as this-
worldly affair. The test of a true religion is its capacity to
Conclusions enable human self-realisation. Emancipation is a this-worldly
I have tried to demonstrate in this paper how Ambedkar affair and the responsibility for the same lies on every man
went about forging concepts, and setting up arguments with and woman.

Notes 8 This distinction evoked much controversy in Kapoor, Kapil (2005): Text and Interpretation: The
1 The six systems of philosophy are Mimansa, the Indian national struggle, particularly Indian Tradition, New Delhi, DK.
around the conjuncture of the Poona Pact. For Kumar, Ravindra (1987): Gandhi, Ambedkar and
Vedanta, Samkhya, Yoga, Vaisesika and Nyaya.
the Poona Pact, see Pyarelal (1958); and Ravin- the Poona Pact, 1932, Struggling and Ruling,
All of them accept the primacy of the Vedas
dra Kumar (1987). Jim Masselos (ed), New Delhi: Sterling.
unlike the Sramanik (Buddhist, Jain, etc) and
9 Ambedkar, however, favoured joint electorate Narasu, Lakshmi P (1946): What Is Buddhism,
Lokayata modes of thought.
only during certain phasesin his deputation Colombo: Mahabodhi Society.
2 Ambedkars major work What Congress and before the Simon Commission; during the Poona
Gandhi Have Done to the Untouchables is one of Parekh, Bhikhu (1989): Gandhis Political Philo-
Pact and in its immediate aftermath; and
the best illustrations of his close monitoring of sophy: A Critical Examination, London: The
during the phase of constitution-making for
the life and work of M K Gandhi (Ambedkar Macmillan Press.
free India. At other times, he demanded sepa-
1948). rate electorate in an emphatic way. In the Parel, Anthony J (2006): Gandhis Philosophy and
3 This theme runs through the writings of former instances, he saw greater openness the Quest for Harmony, New Delhi: Cambridge.
Ambedkar throughout (see, The Annihilation between communities with a disposition to Pyarelal (1958): The Epic Fast, Ahmedabad: Navjivan.
of Caste, BAWS, Vol 1, pp 2399; Philosophy reach out to others. Queen, Christopher S (1994): Ambedkar, Modernity
of Hinduism, BAWS, Vol 3, pp 394; and The 10 For Ambedkar, a policy measure is justified by and the Hermeneutics of Buddhist Liberation,
Buddha and His Dhamma, BAWS, Vol 11, 1992). its social bearing and not religious implications. Dr Ambedkar, Buddhism and Social Change,
Supportive evidence can be found in secondary 11 This is one such representative comment: A K Narain and D C Ahir (eds), Delhi,
literature (Queen 1994 and Rodrigues 1993). Ambedkar was an unalloyed modernist. He B R Publishing, pp 99122.
4 Ambedkars work on the Shudras is an excellent believed in science, history, rationality and Rao, Anupama (2010): The Caste Question, Ranikhet:
illustration for reading a subversive lineage in above all, in the modern state for the actualisa- Permanent Black.
the hallowed tradition. See Who Were the tion of human reason (Chatterjee 2006: 77). Rathore, A S and Ajay Verma (eds) (2011): Intro-
Shudras? How They Came to Be the Fourth duction, The Buddha and His Dhamma: A
Varna in the IndoAryan Society (BAWS, Vol 7, Critical Edition by B R Ambedkar, New Delhi:
1990, pp 1238). Similarly, the contest between References Oxford.
Vashista, the high-priest of the Brahmin esta- Ambedkar, B R (1948): What Congress and Gandhi Rawls, John (1972): A Theory of Justice, Oxford:
blishment, and Vishwamitra, the Kshatriya, Have Done to the Untouchables, Bombay: Oxford University Press.
who strove to be a high priest through rigorous Thacker & Co. Rodrigues, Valerian (1993): Making a Tradition
tapasya, recurs in many of his writings. (19822003): Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings Critical: Ambedkars Reading of Buddhism,
5 Kapil Kapoors Text and Interpretation: The and Speeches (BAWS), Vols 117, Bombay: Dalit Movements and the Meanings of Labour in
Indian Tradition provides a useful, although Government of Maharastra, Department of India, Peter Robb (ed), Delhi: Oxford University
contested, outline in this regard. There are Education. Press, pp 299338.
scholars who have located Ambedkar in this Chatterjee, Partha (2006): B R Ambedkar and (2005): Ambedkar on Preferential Treat-
interpretative tradition (Gokhale 2008). Troubled Times of Citizenship, Political Ideas ment, Seminar, 549, pp 5561.
6 One of his reflective stances in this regard goes in Modern India, V R Mehta and Thomas Singh, Vijendra (2014): The Secular and Spiritual
as follows: If time, nature, necessity and so Pantham (eds), New Delhi: Sage, pp 7390. Domains: A Study of the Ideas on Self, Nation
on, be the sole cause of the occurrence of an Gokhale, Pradeep P (ed) (2008): The Philosophy of and Cosmos in Aurobindo Ghose, PhD disser-
event, then who are we? Is man merely a pup- B R Ambedkar, Pune: Sugava. tation, New Delhi, Centre for Political Studies,
pet in the hands of time, nature, cha