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Social Movement Studies


Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest
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Princely states, peasant protests, and nation building in India: the colonial mode of historiography and subaltern studies
Hira Singh a a Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, York University, Toronto, Canada. Online Publication Date: 01 October 2003 To cite this Article: Singh, Hira (2003) 'Princely states, peasant protests, and nation building in India: the colonial mode of historiography and subaltern studies', Social Movement Studies, 2:2, 213 - 228 To link to this article: DOI: 10.1080/1474283032000139788 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1474283032000139788

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Social Movement Studies, Vol. 2, No. 2, October 2003


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Princely States, Peasant Protests, and Nation Building in India: the colonial mode of historiography and subaltern studies

Hira Singh
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, York University, Toronto, Canada

The postcolonial unity of India as a single nation state incorporating the princely states covering two-fth of the territory and a quarter of the population that remained outside the direct jurisdiction of the colonial state has not been problematized in the colonial and postcolonial historiography of India. This problematization is nonetheless essential in order to understand the internal dynamics of the colonial social formation in India, especially the agency of peasant movements in princely states in the dissolution of tbe colonial state and in preparing the ground for the postcolonial unity of the Indian state. The tendency to ignore the agency of peasant movements in princely India during the colonial rule is what I have characterized as the colonial mode of historiography. Subaltern Studies project which claims to distinguish itself for its role in restoring the agency of peasant insurgency in colonial India is indeed a continuation of the colonial mode of historiography. Keywords: Peasant movements, Princely States, colonial and postcolonial discourse, subaltern studies.

The population of India in 1931 numbered 340 millions, and of these one quarter, over eighty millions, are the subjects of princes. India contains close to two million square miles. Of these two-fths lie in the princely states. The area of Great Britain is 88,000 square miles, its population 45 millions. In these simple terms the importance of the subject lies revealed. (Sir George MacMunn 1936) You will appreciate that it is of the highest importance to us that the States should t in properly into the picture of India. It is bad enough that India has to be partitioned. It would be disastrous if this process went further and resulted in the balkanization of the country We might well have to go back one hundred years when the East India Company was consolidating its power in India (Nehru to Lord IsmayChurchills closest military advisor during the war and subsequently Lord Mountbattens Chief of Staff in 194719 June 1947, emphasis added)
ISSN 1474-2837 print/ISSN 1474-2829 online/03/020213-16 2003 Taylor & Francis Ltd DOI: 10.1080/1474283032000139788

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Introduction
If one looks at the map of India during British colonial rule, there were two colours representing two Indias, British India and Indian India. Indian India, covering onequarter of the population and two-fths of the territory of the country, remained outside the direct jurisdiction of the colonial state. It was the territory of the princely states. Following the end of colonial rule, the two Indias were integrated into a single nation-state. In the ofcial accounts of Indian historiography, the integration of princely states is presented as an act of the leadership of the post-colonial elite, the Indian National Congress and the Indian bureaucracy (cf. Menon 1956). However, it is argued here that the foundation of the post-colonial unity of India as a single nation-state was laid by the peasant movements in princely states. In their struggle against the landlords, peasants in princely states found an afnity with peasants in British India and vice versa. The basis of afnity between the peasants in the two Indias was found in their common class interests. The Indian National Congress and the political organizations on the left facilitated the development of India-wide awareness of peasant unity. Peasant unity cutting across the division between the two Indias was a serious blow to the autonomy of princely states as well as to the survival of the colonial state. The agency of peasant movements in princely states in bringing down the wall of separation between the two Indias, in addition to their role in the decline of the landed aristocracy and the end of colonial rule, has been overlooked in the mainstream historiography of colonialism. Subaltern Studies, which claims to restore the agency of peasant insurgency in colonial India, is not different from the mainstream historiography in its failure to overcome this limitation. As argued below, this failure of Subaltern Studies is not accidental. It is intrinsic to its theoretical, albeit ideological commitment. This article is divided into three sections. In Section I, I present a brief outline of the agrarian structure and the peasant movements in the princely states of Rajasthan (former Rajputana) from the 1920s to the 1940s. In Section II, I analyse the main objective of the movements. In Section III, I examine Subaltern Studies and other theories of peasant movements in the light of my ndings from the princely states discussed in the rst two sections.

I Agrarian Relations in Princely States: Landlords and Peasants in Rajasthan (1870s1940s)


In order to contextualize the peasant movements in the princely states of Rajasthan during the 1920s40s, it is necessary to provide an outline of the basic features of the agrarian structure that dened the relations between the landlords and peasants, the two principal classes in the countryside. The ruler of the state (the Durbar) was the pre-eminent owner of all land in the state, and the landlords (the thikanedars) had their land rights granted to them by the Durbar, mainly in return for military and non-military services. The thikanedars were granted permanent, hereditary proprietary rights in land within their respective territories. Once a grant was sanctioned, the Durbar lost his direct jurisdiction over the land and people

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in the territory covered under the grant, and the thikanedars dealt with their subjects agriculturists and non-agriculturistsdirectly without any intervention from the Durbar. It may be noted that by the 1880s, over 7580 per cent of the land in the major princely states of Rajasthan were under the control of the thikanedars (Jagir File No C/3/4, Vol. I, Jagirdars Ravenue Powers, Rajasthan State Archives, Bikaner (RSAB). The right to own land carried with it the right to rule: a landlord was a political lord and a judge. Hence, the thikanedars were the rulers and the judges within their territories. They had the right to exercise extra-economic coercion, ranging from physical torture and humiliation to the attachment and sale of the peasants movable and immovable property, in extracting the surplus from a dependent peasantry. In practice, extra-economic coercion was commonly applied (ibid.). An important feature of land tenure in the princely states was that the landlords (the Durbar and the thikanedars) did not cultivate their land, nor did they get them cultivated by non-free or free wage labourers. Instead, they leased their land to peasants (kisans) in return for rent (hasil/bigori), cess (lag-bag) and forced labour (begar). The peasants had the right to possess land and, provided they paid their dues and performed the services required of them, they could not be evicted from their tenures (Hawala File 4/4, Part I; Settlement Reports, Jodhpur (1884), RSAB). As dependent tenure holders, they were subordinate to the landlordseconomically, politically, and juridically (for details see Singh 1998).

Peasant Movements: Economic, Political, and Cultural Issues


One important source of the material on peasant movements in the princely states is found in the petitions led by the peasants, mostly from the thikana areas, to the rulers (Durbars) of the states in the 1920s1940s. These petitions provide an account of the economic, political, and cultural issues involved in the movements. The economic issues included the security of peasants tenure, the extraction of the surplus in the form of rent, cess, and forced labour, and the use of extra-economic coercion in the process of surplus extraction. In the earlier phase of the movement, the peasants were apparently prepared to accept what they described as the customary rights of the landlords with regard to rents and cess. However, as time passed, the nature of protests began to change from complaints about alleged violation of customs by the landlords to progressively more radical demands, including independent proprietorship of land under their possession. By the 1940s, the slogans were raised to: thikanedari pratha ka nash ho (end to the thikanedari system); thikanedaron ke zoolmon ka nash ho (end to the tyranny of the thikanedars) (Hawala File C 4/4, Complaints against Jagirdars, RSAB). Politically, the peasants were agitating against what they described as the irresponsible form of administration and the arbitrary system of justice in the thikanas, as well as against the autocratic and despotic form of rule in the state. Denial of freedom of expression and civil liberties was often emphasized. They were demanding the replacement of the thikana authority with a Responsible Government under the Aegis of the Durbar. They were asking for individual rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of association, that is, a system of governance representing the will and aspirations of the people (Jainarain Vyas Papers, Nehru Museum Library, New Delhi).

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In addition to the economic and political complaints, the peasants were resentful of the landlords lifestyle, characterized by conspicuous consumption, paid for by the peasants, which was in sharp contrast to the peasants own life of austerity. At the same time, they were asserting their right to cultural autonomy. In the process, they were tearing down the symbolic boundaries that separated them from the landlords and that were indicative of their inferior status (cf. Singh 1998).

The Unity of Indian India and British India


Between the late 1920s and the 1930s various local-level political organizations, led by the urban educated youth and adults, generally from a non-peasant background, came into existence in the princely states of Rajasthan. The most important of these organizations were the Praja Mandals and the Lok Parishads. These organizations claimed to represent the interests of peasants in their struggle against landlords and the Durbar. The peasants in turn accepted the support and guidance of these organizations, and extended them their full cooperation and support. Among other things, these organizations emerged as a link between the peasants at the grassroots level and other political organizations at the provincial and the national level, particularly the All-India State Peoples Conference and the Indian National Congress. The most signicant contribution of these organizations was to break the insularity of the peasant movements by linking them with one another in different princely states as well as with peasant movements in British India. This was a signicant step in creating a sense of unity of peasants as a class, cutting across the division between the two Indias. In 1928, Pt Motilal Nehru (President of the Committee to frame a Dominion Constitution for India) underlined the historical, religious, sociological, and economic afnities between the people of British India and those of the princely states. The people of the states, he remarked, have the same ambitions and aspirations as the people of British India and that the people of British India are bound by the closest ties of family, race, and religion to their brethren on the other side of an imaginary line (Menon 1956: 24, emphasis in original). It is natural for them to make common cause, that is, to ght for liberation from colonial and princely rule, he argued. The Committee was apprehensive that the Paramount Power was attempting to convert the princely states into an Indian Ulster by pressing constitutional niceties (ibid.). In 1937 the Standing Committee of the All-India States Peoples Conference (an organization coordinating the movements in princely states India-wide) passed a resolution stating that the fate of Indian States is indissolubly linked with the fate of India and the people of the States must stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of India in the struggle for freedom (Jainarain Vyas Papers, Nehru Museum Library, New Delhi). On 27 September 1937 Jawaharlal Nehru, who was actively involved with the Indian States Peoples Conference, issued a statement stating that
Indian people whether they may be of British India or Indian India, must have rights for full freedom. The sympathy of the people residing in different provinces of India goes wholly with the people of Indian states, and we consider ourselves united with the latter. Our struggle for achieving swaraj [self-rule] is certainly one with the Indian states peoples struggle to achieve liberation. (Ibid.)

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On 15 May 1941 the Standing Committee of the Conference issued the following statement:
It is manifest that the fate of the states is indissolubly linked with the fate of India and the peril of India is equally the peril of the states. Danger and peril have thus demonstrated afresh the unity of India and the comradeship of the people of the states with their brethren in the rest of India. This imminent danger makes the establishment of freedom in the states all the more imperative. The time has come when people of the states should have full Responsible Government with the princes and the people owing allegiance to the free India Government. (Ibid., emphasis added)

The Indian National Congress


There is a popular misconception that the Indian National Congress maintained a policy of non-interference or neutrality with regard to the peasant movements in the princely states, treating them as the internal matter of the states concerned. It is true that, from time to time, the Indian National CongressMahatma Gandhi in particularissued statements to the effect that the Congress believed in a policy of neutrality with regard to the affairs concerning the princely states. At the Nagpur Session of the Indian National Congress (December 1920), Gandhi emphasized the policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of the states. Again in 1925, he reiterated that the Congress did not want to ght on two fronts, British India and the Indian States. It had no organization worth mentioning in the Indian States, he reminded all concerned (Menon 1956: 21). At the same time, he was sending out contrary signals regarding his partys stand on popular movements in the Indian States. Thus, in a statement issued to the Hindustan Times, he maintained that the Congress was never wedded to the policy of rigid and absolute non-intervention under all circumstances and all times: At a time when the awakening in Indian states is unprecedented, and the people are prepared to ght and suffer for their rights, how could the Congress stand aside and be a passive witness to their sufferings (Jainarain Vyas Papers, Nehru Museum Library, New Delhi). Congress leaders were stressing that the connection between the people in the princely states and British India was organic, vital and indissoluble. On the other hand, they were emphasizing an identity of interests between the Paramount Power and the landed aristocracy (the rulers and the landlords) in the Indian States. At the same time, Gandhi was suggesting that the Congress should have direct contact with the rulers of the princely states without any interference from the Paramount Power. The response from the Viceroy to Gandhis suggestion regarding free access to princely rulers was: This is another sign of the piano note which the Congress High Command are now playing regarding agitation in states Gandhi is the last man in the world to make the tactical error of pitching his demands too low (File L/P&S/13/813/, Indian States: Mr. Gandhis Policy, India Ofce Library & Records, London). It may be noted in this context that in the 1930s there was a rift between the left and the right within the Congress Party. This rift grew progressively more serious, giving rise to the speculation of a possible split in the party, especially following the election of Subhas Chandra Bose as the President of the Congress at the Haripura Session of the party in 1938 against the wishes of Mahatma Gandhi. At this juncture, Gandhi, in a

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tactical move to recover the ground which he apparently lost to his rivals on the left, turned his attention to the question of the peasant unrest in Indian States. In a resolution passed at this Session, the Congress reiterated its objective of standing for the same political, social, and economic freedom in the states as in British India. It considered the states as integral parts of India. In order to experiment with his new line of action, Gandhi chose the princely state of Rajkot (Bombay), where his father had been Dewan (Prime Minister), as the site of his direct involvement. At the same time, he kept a close watch on the events unfolding in the states of Rajasthan. In January 1938, when Jamnalal Bajaj, one of Gandhis close associates, was arrested in Jaipur, Gandhi declared that the Congress would be neglecting its duty if it allowed the spirit of the people of states to be crushed for want of support from the party. In fact, the neutrality of the Congress Party towards the popular movements in princely states was merely a tactical device that should not be confused with its strategy. It is true that the peasant movements in princely states were not directly organized by the Congress, and the local organizations actively involved in the movements were formally independent of the Congress. However, the independence of these political organizations was only an appearance. The All-India States Peoples Conference, coordinating the Praja Mandals and Lok Parishads in the princely states, was virtually a subsidiary of the Indian National Congress. On the eve of negotiations with Mountbatten regarding the fate of the princely states in post-colonial India, the President of Conference was none other than Jawahar Lal Nehru (who was later to become the Congresss choice for the rst Prime Minister of India). Many of the other eminent Congress leaders were actively involved in popular movements in the princely states in different parts of India: Vallabh Bhai Patel in Baroda, Kasturba Gandhi in Rajkot, Panikkars in Travancore (the Panikkar family had served the state for over 100 years), C. Rajgopalachari and Pattabhi Sitaramayya in Madras, Sarojini Naidu in Hyderabad, Madan Mohan Malviya (whose son occupied an eminent position the state bureaucracy of Mewar), Birla, Bajaj and Surana in Rajasthan, to mention a few. The connection between the peasant movements in the princely states and the Indian National Congress was, however, far more serious: ideologically, tactically and strategically there was an organic link between the peasant movements against landlords in the princely states and the anti-colonial, anti-landlord struggles in British India led by the Congress (cf. Singh 1998). As argued below, these links were instrumental in bringing removing the boundaries between British India and Indian India, paving the way for the unity of India as a single nation-state.

II The Agency of Peasant Movements


My main objective in this section is to show that the peasant movements in the princely states of Rajasthan were transformative. As discussed above, the movements started with modest economic demands for the reduction of rents (hasil/bigori) and cess (lag(-)bag), and limits on forced labour (begar). Later, the scope of the demands grew wider, involving the abolition of all cess and forced labour in any and every form. As time passed, the economic demands were raised still higher, involving a redenition of the

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entire notion of land ownership. In the later stage of the movements, the peasants were demanding independent proprietorship of land under their possession and an end to the thikanedari system per se. It is true that only rarely did the peasants or the outside leadership of the Praja Mandals, Lok Parishads, the Indian National Congress, or even the political parties on the left directly challenge the economic rights of the ruler (Durbar). In fact, most of the time the Durbar was the nal court of appeal for the rebellious peasants and their leaders. So, apparently, the main targets of the movements were the thikanedars. However, the economic demands of the peasants were, in the nal analysis, as much against the interests of the Durbars as those of the thikanedars. This was so since the thikanedars and the Durbars shared a common basis of economic power, namely monopoly of land ownership. As noted above, the Durbar and the thikanedars together controlled all land, and the Durbar, after parcelling out land to the thikanedars, still remained the biggest landlord in the state. The dependence of peasants on landlords (the Durbar and the thikanedars) for landtheir means of subsistencein return for rents, cesses and forced labour was the essence of the existing production relations. In challenging the economic rights of the thikanedars to extract rents, cesses and free labour and in claiming independent proprietorship of land in their possession, the peasants were challenging the very foundation of these relationslandlords monopoly of landownershipwhich, in the nal analysis, was as much against the interests of the Durbar as those of the thikanedars. Peasants political demands were as radical as their economic demands. In the early stages of the movements, their political demands, like their economic demands, were simple and limited in scope, urging the Durbar to curb the excesses committed by the thikanedars in the course of the extraction of surplus and in the exercise of their administrative and judicial powers. However, as the movements progressed, the scope of political demands was enlarged to a Responsible Government under the Aegis of the Durbars, that is, the abolition of the politicaljuridical authority of the thikanedars. In this way it was a demand challenging the authority of the thikanedars but not that of the Durbars. Its implications were, however, radical, affecting the very basis of the authority of the Durbars as much as that of the thikanedars. As discussed above, the right to land ownership carried with it the political right to rule and juridical authority to judge. This organic unity of economy and polity (Anderson 1978) was a historical necessity of the feudal mode of production in which extra-economic coercion was necessary for the extraction of the surplus from the direct producers. That being so, a challenge to the thikanedars politicaljuridical authority meant a challenge to the Durbars authority as well, in so far as the basis of the Durbars authority to rule was the same as that of the thikanedars. There was yet another element of the existing power structure that was under attack. Politics in the existing system was the exclusive preserve of the landlords, members of the warrior Rajput caste. The peasants and other groups were not allowed to be warriors, and hence not entitled to participate in the exercise of politicaljuridical power. In demanding a Responsible Government under the Aegis of the Durbar, the peasants were essentially demanding a restructuring of power relations on a democratic basis in which they and other subaltern groups could participate in political processes, irrespective of their class and caste.

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In addition, the peasants were emphasizing unity of their cause with that of the peasants in British India. The division of territory and populations into two Indias was a necessary condition for the survival of the colonial state as much as it was a condition for the survival of the princely states themselves (cf. Singh 1998). This division was, however, an anachronism. Identifying their interests with those of the peasants in British India, the peasants in the princely states were preparing the ground for an end to that anachronism. The demand for an end to the system of dual sovereignty of British India and Indian India was simultaneously a challenge to the sovereignty of the princely states as much as to the survival of the Paramount Power, the colonial state. The future of the Indian States was a matter of serious concern to the colonial state, the Rulers of the States, and the Indian National Congress. In October 1929, the Simon Commission communicated to the British Prime Minister that in considering the direction of the future development of India, it was of immense importance to bear in mind the relations which might develop between British India and the Indian states (Menon 1956: 26). Later, reacting to the recommendation of the Commission, the British Government of India noted that there was an essential unity embracing the whole of India, which had to be accommodated in future political institutions. In 1935, the Joint Select Committee (of the British House of Commons) deliberated over the future relations between the Indian States, which in its opinion were wholly different in status and character from the Provinces of British India. Unlike the Provinces in British India, Indian States were sovereign, and they were not prepared to federate on the same terms as the Provinces (Menon 1956: 34). In September 1948, Nehru acknowledged the historic importance of the integration of the princely states with the rest of India: The historian who looks back will no doubt consider the integration of the States into India as one of the dominant phases of Indias history (Menon 1956: 489, emphasis added). By the time the Constitution of India came into force (26 January 1950), all the Indian States were integrated into Indian union as part of a single nation-state under one constitution. Patel (the rst Home Minister of India) described the integration of Indian States as a bloodless revolution which has affected the destinies of millions of our people (Menon 1956: 488, emphasis added). In August 1947, when the transfer of power took place, very few could have conceived as possible the revolutionary change that was to come over the States within such a short time, wrote V. P. Menon, a senior Indian bureaucrat involved in the negotiations between the Indian National Congress, princely states, and the colonial bureaucracy. Menon mistakenly attributes the integration to the events between 1947 and 1950. In reality, however, the ground for the integration was prepared from below by the peasant movements of the 1920s1940s, which had already transcended the boundaries between the two Indias. The post-colonial state only institutionalized it.

III Peasant Movements and Subaltern Studies: The Colonial Mode of Historiography and Elite Ideology
I want now to discuss some of the implications of my ndings for a theory of peasant

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movements, with particular reference to the Subaltern Studies Project (SSP), which has rightly emphasized the critical importance of peasant insurgency in the historiography of colonial India. Among its other accomplishments, the Project made an effective contribution to dispel the notion, popularized in particular by Moore (1966), that Indian peasantry was passive. Ranjit Guhas account of the various forms of peasant insurgency (Guha 1983), preceded by Kathleen Goughs earlier response (Gough 196869, 1974) (unfortunately, ignored by the SSP), is a convincing refutation of Moores rather ctitious account of peasant passivity in India. While recognizing the valuable contribution of Subaltern Studies to the study of peasant insurgency, it must be underlined that the Project fails to accomplish its own objective, that is, to restore the agency of peasants and peasant movements in colonial India. As argued below, this failure is intrinsic to the theoretical, albeit ideological, predilections of the Project.

The Colonial Mode of Historiography


Notwithstanding its claim to distinguish itself from the nationalist, liberal, and Marxist historiography of colonial India (all of which are characterized by it as elite historiography), the SSP shares with them the limitations of what I have elsewhere called the colonial mode of historiography (see Singh 1993a, 1998). There are two main aspects to this concept. First, it refers to a tendency to privilege the metropolis in the study of colonial social formations. Second, it refers to another tendency, common to historians of all persuasions, that is, to marginalize the princely states (Indian India) in the historiography of colonial India. I want briey to discuss both these aspects in relation to Subaltern Studies.

Privileging the Metropolis


As I have discussed at length in another context (Singh 1998), the political economy theories (the Dependency TheoryFrank 1967, 1978), the World System Theory (Wallerstein 1974), the theory of the Articulation of Modes of Production (Meillassouux 1972), and the theory of the Colonial Mode of Production (Alavi 1975, 1981) argue that metropolitan capital and the colonial state dissolved all forms of economicpolitical structures in the colony and transformed them into capitalist, albeit colonial capitalist, structures that were different from their metropolitan counterparts. Apart from being empirically incorrect, these theories, I have argued, suffer from a major aw; that is, they eschew the resistance to colonial-capitalist penetration by pre-colonial, pre-capitalist socio-cultural forces. They mistakenly attribute the agency of change, or continuity for that matter, of pre-capitalist structures entirely to metropolitan capital and the colonial state, treating colonial subjects as passive objects, mere recipients of change or continuity externally thrust upon them. I have called this approach the colonial mode of historiography (Singh 1998). Since I have already dealt with the political economy theories in regard to this question, I want to conne myself here to the SSP. The colonial mode of historiography, as dened above, is very much part of Subaltern Studies. Thus, Guha, the chief architect of the Project, writes: Political economy which

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had developed in Europe as a critique of feudalism was made to promote a neo-feudal landlordism in India (1988: 26). One may ask: why did European political economy have one role in Europe, another in India? The main problem with Guha is the assumption that the agency of doing, or not doing, anything in India (in this case, promoting feudalism or neo-feudalism) was entirely a prerogative of European political economy. Indians or pre-colonial Indian society and culture had nothing to contribute. This is an attribute of the colonial mode of historiography. However, the central argument of my study (1998) is that pre-capitalist (feudal) structures and values survived, as they did during British colonial rule, not because European political economy wanted them to but because of resistance by the landed gentry. The encounter between European political economy and the pre-colonial Indian economic, political, cultural system was a two-way process in which both sides affected and modied each other. In other words, it is not only European political economy that modied pre-colonial (pre-capitalist) Indian structures and cultures; it was also modied by the latter not only in the colony but also at home in Europe (cf. Anderson 1966; Kiernan 1972). The colonial mode of historiography is even more pronounced in Partha Chatterjees (another eminent gure in the SSP) argument that colonialism was an intrusion of new extractive mechanisms into the agrarian economy, resulting in a
differentiated impact on pre-capitalist structuressometimes destroying them, sometimes modifying them to t in with the new demands of surplus extraction and other times keeping intact, perhaps bolstering, pre-existing productive systems and local organizations of power while merely establishing a suitable extractive mechanism. (Chatterjee 1988: 388, emphasis added)

It is this one-sided view of the colonial encounter, in which India and Indians appear as mere objects of manipulation by colonial-capitalist forces to meet the functional requirements of the latter, which typically characterizes the colonial mode of historiography. This feature is equally evident in Dirks (an acknowledged member of the SSP, cf. Prakash 1992) ethnohistory of a princely state in South India. He writes: Ultimately, colonialism must be seen as a hegemonic structure, which articulated its own particular impact and inuence through a variety of institutional and ideological forms. He continues:
Colonialism purposefully preserved many of the forms of the old regime, nowhere more conspicuously than in the indirectly ruled princely state(s). Under British rule (little) kings in India were constructed as colonial objects and given special colonial scripts. They were maintained, altered, and managed as part of a systematic set of colonial purposes and understandings The Raja was reconstructed andultimately deconstructedas an object of colonialism. (1987: 282, emphasis mine)

The tendency to see the rajas (princes) and ranis (queens) as merely creations of colonial architecture, and not as contributors to that architecture, is looking at the edice of colonialism one-sidedly. The princes were not only being deconstructed and reconstructed by the colonial state, they were also shaping the structures and the processes of colonialism. It was a two-way process of give and take in which the colonial state and rajas were constantly engaged in constructing and deconstructing each other. Colonial

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hegemony was not totalizing (a point well made by Guha (1997) himself). Colonial penetration was not a one-way process. The counter-penetration of colony into metropolis was the other side of the coin. The colonial tamasha (farce) of Imperial Durbars was a stance par excellence of the colonial state borrowing from the Indian tradition. The paraphernalia that accompanied the Durbars was Indian, as was the meaning behind it. The British were simply imitating the Indian rulerscasting the British queen/king into the model of the Great Moghaland making Indians pay for it (cf. Singh 1998).

Marginalizing Princely India


The colonial state had to accept the division between British India and Indian India, mainly due to its inability to overcome the resistance of the landed aristocracy in Indian States against metropolitan capitals encroachment on its traditional privileges economic, political, and cultural. As a result, Indian India, consisting of the two-fths of the territory and a quarter of the population of the entire country, remained under the control of the Indian States. The agrarian relations, power structure, and values of the princely states were beyond the direct jurisdiction of the colonial state, and deserve to be studied in their own right. However, princely India is practically ignored in the historical discourse on colonial India, and the inferences drawn from British India are applied to all of India. Colonial rule gave colonizers the power to set the pattern of Indian historiography. Expediency, ethnocentrism, lack of understanding of an alien and complex society on the part of the colonizers, simplistic models of evolutionary and functionalist anthropology, along with the ideology of orientalism, all made their contribution to the development of a conceptual framework in which British India came to represent the whole of India. This is another attribute of what I have called the colonial mode of historiography (cf. Singh 1993a). Subaltern Studies, like the mainstream historiography, identies British India with the whole of India, ignoring princely India. Bringing princely India into the mainstream is, however, a necessary step towards de-colonizing the historiography of colonial India.

Indirect Rule or Resistance?


The historiography of colonial India must face a key question: why did the colonial state, an instrument of metropolitan capital, allow pre-capitalist relations of production, power structure, and ideology in two-fths of the country? The stock answer in the mainstream historiography, including Subaltern Studies (cf. Dirks 1987), is indirect rule. The notion of indirect rule is, however, a tool of the colonial mode of historiography. According to the notion of indirect rule, Indian States were preserved by the colonial state for their instrumental value to the functional needs of metropolitan capital and the colonial state. However, as I have argued elsewhere (Singh 1998), the historic alliance between the colonial state and landed aristocracy (the ruling class in the princely states) in India was a compromise which the colonial state, given its vulnerabilities, was forced to accept in the face of resistance by the latter. The notion of indirect rule eschews the element of resistance. While privileging the metropolis, it denies the colonized subjects (here the

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landed aristocracy) any agency, excepting as the instruments or puppets of the colonial state. Repudiation of the notion of indirect rule is therefore a necessary step towards de-colonizing the historiography of colonial India. It would also be useful to have a closer look at this concept in analysing the colonial history of the African countries under colonial rule, as the notion of indirect rule is frequently applied to them.

Structural Split: A Problematic Notion


Thematization of the structural split of power is the central concern of Subaltern Studies, and its main distinction, argues Guha (1982: 1, 4, 56, 1997: xv). The SSP is critical of what it calls elite historiography for the latters omission of subaltern politics, the politics of the people, which, Guha argues, existed as an autonomous domain, parallel to that of elite politics. The main actors in this domain were not the dominant groupsindigenous or colonialbut the subaltern groups themselves. Recognition of subaltern domain of politics as not determined by, or entirely dependent on, elite politics is well taken. However, the notion of a structural split suffers from serious limitations of its own. To begin with, it is an oversimplication of the complexity of the social hierarchy and power structure during colonial rule in India. Broadly speaking, there were two forms of hierarchy during this period, namely those of class and caste. While there was a connection between these two broad forms, they were not the same. The convergence and divergence between class and caste hierarchies in Indian society is a serious sociological issue, a challenge that Indian historiography, including the SSP, has thus far refused to face. I cannot deal with this question at length here, mainly due to the limitations of the scope of this article. It must, however, be noted that the notion of structural split misconstrues the structural complexity of power structure in the countryside, determined by the dual hierarchy of class and caste. As discussed below, Subaltern Studies failure to deal with the classcaste hierarchy by the SSP seriously limits its understanding of peasants and peasant insurgency in colonial India. The notion of a structural split is conceptually awed. Elite and subaltern do not inhabit two separate, parallel domains. Rather, they are relational categories; that is, elite and subaltern are dened in relation to one another. Peasants (subaltern) and landlords (elite) in Rajasthan were part of a single power structure, economically, politically, and culturally. Emphasizing the structural split, while ignoring the structural connectedness of elite and subaltern domains of power, is one-sided and unrealistic. If the subalterns domain of power is parallel to that of the elite, how then can one explain the subordination and marginalization of the subaltern? The basis of the peasants subaltern position, as discussed above, was found in their dependence on landlords for land the source of their subsistence and survival. The notion of a structural split and autonomy masks the basis of social relations that bound the elite and subaltern, which is also the basis of the latters exploitation and marginalization. Thus, while the notion of a structural split is radical in appearance, in essence, it masks the basis of exploitation and subordination of subaltern by elite, which is essentially a function of elite ideology.

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Questions of Class and Class Struggle


Subaltern Studies refuses to recognize the reality of class, class contradictions, and class struggle in the study of peasant insurgency in colonial India. The protagonists of the SSP have used various arguments to justify their rejection of class analysis. Disaffection with the base-superstructure scheme (Chakrabarty 1984; Chatterjee 1988), autonomy of the political domain (Guha 1982, 1983; Chatterjee 1989; Chakrabarty 1984), and a refusal to see an economic motive behind colonialism (Guha 1982, 1983; Chatterjee 1989; Prakash 1992) are among some of the familiar arguments against the use of a class framework by the SSP. It has also been argued that the concept of class is central to the mode-ofproduction discourse, which is a form of European master narrative, while the SSPs main objective is to develop an alternative, Indian/indigenous narrative (Prakash 1992). Curiously enough, Foucault and Derrida, in addition to Dumont, Durkheim, Weber, and a host of structural-functional anthropologists from the West have a prominent place in the SSPs scheme of alternative narrative. Indeed, the SSP has one feature in common with these Western narratives, namely their opposition to class analysis. Weber, Durkheim, Dumont, Derrida, Foucault, and structural-functional anthropologists rejected the notion of class. However, they did not claim to look at society from the subaltern point of view, and most of them did not dwell on the structural split of power, nor did they have much interest in subaltern resistance (except perhaps Foucault, whose discourse on resistance needs a separate treatment). On the contrary, recognition of a structural split of power is a sine qua non of Subaltern Studies epistemology, and the restoration of subaltern insurgency and agency its principal objective. Hence, there is a disconnection between the SSPs ultimate objective and the conceptual/theoretical framework it uses, or refuses to use, to achieve that objective. In the theoretical/ ideological scheme of Subaltern Studies, insurgency is a matter of consciousness independent of class interests (Guha 1983; Chakarbarty 1985). The tendency to see popular movements as a product of consciousness independent of class interests is a characteristic feature of revisionist historiography (cf. Kaplan 1995: 1005). The SSPs refusal to recognize class and class interests in subaltern politics is not accidental. It is a matter of its ideological commitment, which it shares in common with liberal, bourgeois social sciences in the West and East. The refusal to recognize the reality of class in a society that is divided along class lines only masks the exploitation and marginalization of labouring classes (subaltern) by the dominant class (elite); that is, non-recognition of class in a class society is elite ideology. A further problem with the SSPs notion of a structural split and an autonomous domain of subaltern politics is its empirical validity. Thus, for instance, the main parties to the struggle discussed here were the two principal classes in the countryside, peasants (subaltern) and landlords (elite), whose interests were antagonistic. The industrialists/ merchants and the leaders of the political organizations were elite. The question is: why did the merchants/industrialists, and leaders of the various political organizations (the elite) join hands with a section of subaltern groups (the peasants) against another elite (the landlords)? On the other hand, peasants were not the only subaltern group, nor were they the lowest or the most marginalized among the subaltern groups in rural Rajasthan. As I have discussed elsewhere (Singh 1998), there was a substantial section of the subaltern population in the countryside, occupying a position much lower than that of

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peasantsthe functionaries of the jajmani system, landless labourers, members of the various caste groups engaged in occupations that were considered polluting, and the various tribal groups. These groups either remained inactive or were excluded from the movements, which raises two important questions. First, why did a section of the subaltern group (peasants) engage in insurgency, while others (non-peasant groups) did not? Second, why did peasants (subaltern) engaged in rebellion against landlords (elite) join hands with another section of the elite (merchants, leaders of the political parties), while excluding other subaltern groups (non-peasant populations)? The notion of a structural split, with an autonomous domain of subaltern politics, does not even raise these questions, let alone answer them. These questions are nevertheless important for an understanding of the real struggles and lives of the real people not only in colonial India but also in post-colonial India. And the answer is class interests. The interests of the rich and middle peasants were opposed to those of the landlords above as well as to those of the other subaltern groups below. The Indian National Congress, wedded to bourgeois liberal ideology, supported the alliance of the rich, middle peasants and the merchants. The rich and middle peasants, who were active in the movements, became part of the dominant group, while the subaltern groups who were not included, or were excluded, from the movements are excluded from the dominant power structure in post-colonial India. Instead of seeing it for what it is, namely a logic of class struggle, the SSP calls it betrayal by the elite (Guha 1982, 1997; Sarkar 1983). Betrayal may be a noble sentiment, not an explanation.

Opposition to Organized Movements


Finally, one more feature of Subaltern Studies deserves consideration, that is, its exclusion of peasant movements from 1917 onwards. The main reason for the SSPs exclusion of the post-1917 peasant movements is its opposition to any social movement led by a political organization with a conscious purpose to change the existing power relations (cf. Guha 1983: 45). It may be noted here that before the emergence of Subaltern Studies, the moral economy approach (Scott 1976, 1985, 1990) and liberal sociology (Skocpol 1979) had expressed serious reservations about movements led by political organizations, guided by conscious ideology. While Scott emphasized the importance of daily forms of struggle (weapons of the weak), with no involvement of political organizations, Skocpol questioned the relevance of conscious ideology in movements. Following Hobsbawm, she declared: movements come; they are not made. Both Scott and Skocpol focus on Marxism (class, class struggle and the role of the vanguard party) as their main target of criticism. Elsewhere I have discussed at length the limitations of Scotts moral economy and Skocpols liberal sociology in this regard (Singh 1998). What I want to reiterate here is that the peasant movements in Rajasthan did not come: they were made. These movements were an organized political act by a subaltern group, working in alliance with a section of the elite, aided by political organizations, with conscious ideology. What should be underlined is that the SSPs preoccupation with a structural split and an autonomous domain of subaltern politics shares a common theoretical, albeit ideological, premise with Scotts moral economy and Skocpols liberal sociology; that is, opposition to organized movements for social transformation. The SSP

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is opposed to the transition theme in Indian historiography of colonialism on the grounds that the transition model is mimetic of European historiography and subordinate to it (Chakrabarty 1997: 284). If we accept this premise of Subaltern Studies, we have to exclude the peasant movements in the princely states between the 1920s and 1940s, which, as discussed above, were aided by political organizations and conscious ideologies seeking to change the existing economicpolitical structure. However, to exclude these movements is to deny their agency in the decline of the landed aristocracy in the princely states, which contributed to the end of colonial rule, preparing the ground for the post-colonial unity of India as a nation-state. This is rather ironic, considering that the main claim of Subaltern Studies is to restore the agency of subaltern politics, particularly peasant insurgency, in the historiography of colonial India (cf. Guha 1983). While claiming to draw attention to subaltern politics as its distinguishing feature (Guha 1997: xvi), Subaltern Studies ends up doing the opposite; that is, it drowns subaltern politics to t its ideological commitment, which it has in common with bourgeois liberal social science in the West and the East.

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Appendix Glossary
Lag-bag Swaraj Cess. Self-rule.

Acronyms
RSABRajasthan State Archives, Bikaner. SSPSubaltern Studies Project. The Author Hira Singh is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at York University and is currently working on a paper titled The Coolie and the Raj: Indian Indentured Labor in South Africa. Other works include Colonial Hegemony and Popular Resistance: Princes, Peasants, and Paramount Power and Caste, Class, and Peasant Agency in Subaltern Studies Discourse: Elite Ideology, Revisionist Historiography.