Linguistic States

Redrawing the Map – Linguistic States (from GUHA)

 As early as 1917, the Party had committed itself to the creation of linguistic provinces in a free India. A separate Andhra circle was formed that year, a separate Sindh circle the following year.

 The rich inheritance of different languages was understood by Nehru and Gandhi. “It is axiomatic that the masses can only grow educationally and culturally through the medium of their own language.”

 In 1947, the views were differing. India had already been divided on the basis of religion – now why language? Existing states would provide examples of harmonious living.

 A committee was set up, which concluded that in the prevailing unsettled conditions, the first and last need of India was that it should be made a nation – everything which helped the growth of nationalism had to go forward, and everything which threw obstacles in the way had to be rejected, or should stand over. The test was applied to linguistic provinces also, and it was judged that they could not be supported.

 The JVP committee held that language was not only a binding force, but also a separating one, and therefore the need of the hour was that it should be discouraged.

Promptly, however, in 1948 and 1949, demands for linguistic autonomy flared up again in Karnataka and Maharashtra. This was especially true of Punjab, where Tara Singh was the principle offender. The most vigorous of movements, however, came from Andhra and the Telugu speakers. Even during colonial rule, the Andhra Mahasabha had worked hard to cultivate an Andhra identity. They undertook street marches, petitions and fasts to urge the congress to accept. One minister resigned. This was vindicated by the elections, where the congress managed to win only 43 seats. Things came to a head when former freedom fighter Sriramulu began a fast unto death, and died. There was general chaos, trains were halted and defaced, property was damaged, people were killed. Nehru was forced to bow, and Andhra Prdesh came into being on 1 October 1953.

 The creation of Andhra led to intensification of demands from other linguistic groups. A States reorganisation committee was founded, which travelled across the length and breadth of India.

The next problem happened in Maharasthra. Bombay tried desperately to keep itself out of Maharashtra, while the Samyukta Maharashtra Parishad called for Bombay to be made the capital of the Maharashtra State.

 Meanwhile, the report of the Committee was submitted in October 1955. It called for a balanced approach; Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam in the Sough; Bihar, UP, MP and Rajasthan in the North; demands for a Sikh state and for Maharashtra were rejected.

 Samyukta Maharashtra was furious; there was seething unrest, which was stoked by the politicians. The leaders of the Samyukta Maharashtra Parishad were arrested, and this was followed by a general strike. Then clashes between the police and protesters began, followed by violent riots. There was further disaffection within the Maharashtrian section of the Congress Party. Finally, when on 1 Novermber the new states came into being, the bilingual State of Bombay was one of them.

 The reorganisation of states on a linguistic basis was a victory of the popular will. Language proved to be a far greater binding force than caste and religion. Once the struggle was won, there was great patronage of the arts and architecture. (E.g, Orissa, Mysore).The struggle redefined what it means to be an Indian and, in retrospect, contributed more to unity than to disintegration. (How would you respond to this? Do you think it holds true? Can you link it to the artices you’ve read?)

Constitutional Ideals

Ideas of India – Constitutional Ideals

(—Shameless cogging again)


The members of the Constituent Assembly were chosen on the basis of the year’s provincial elections (There were eight women, and also representatives of the princely states).

 Within the Congress there were wide differences. There was hardly any shade of public opinion not represented in the Assembly. Submissions were also requested from the general public, and they were many, divided and vocal. The Constituent Assembly had to adjudicate among thousands of competing claims and demands.

 The Constituent Assembly had more than 300 members, out of which about 20 were the most influential, twelve of whom had law degrees. These included Nehru, Patel (minority rights), Rajendra Prasad (President), Ambedkar, Alladi Krishnaswami Aiyar and B.N. Rau (Advisor).

 Some people wished for a Gandhian return to the Panchayati Raj, but under Ambedkar, the individual rather than the village was chosen as the unit.

 A number of foreign models such as the American, the Swiss, the Irish and the British were considered. The Upper House was constituted with a view to act as a check upon the lower house. The President was seen as the nominal head of the State, much like the British sovereign; the Supreme Court was seen as the guardian of the social revolution and the guarantor of civil and minority rights; fiscal federalism was mandated – heavily borrowed from the Act of 1935.

 To the unprejudiced eye, the Constitution was an adaptation of Western principles to Indian ends. The Constitution sought to facilitate national unity and to promote progressive social change. (E.g. freedom of religion v. uniform civil code).

There was a bias towards the centre – the three lists. This was because of the existing system, the prevailing chaos, and the need for economic reform and equalisation among states.

 As far as rights of the minorities went, the demand for separate electorates was rejected. In the end, even the Muslims came around. The women also did not ask for separate electorates, asking instead for social justice. However, reservation for the Untouchables was there. (Throwing open of temples etc.) Jaipal, the tribal leader, also wanted reservations for tribals. This was acceded to.

 The language question was very contentious. It was vociferously argued that the national language should be Hindustani and that the Constitution should be in Hindi. (Hindustani was an amalgam of Hindi and Urdu). The politicians of the North wanted Hindi, those of the South wanted English. Nehru thought Hindustani could be a uniting factor. Partition killed the case for Hindustani. The move to Sanskritise Hindi grew in pace, and became fanatical. This led to furious debates on the floor of the house. In the end, a compromise was reached: the official language was designated Hindi, but for fifteen years the English language would be used for all official purposes.

 The three warnings of Ambedkar:

1)      The place of popular protest in a democracy – no more civil disobedience.

2)      Unthinking submission to a charismatic leader.

3)      Not to be content with merely a political democracy.

 Chew on these:

Have the objectives remained the same?

What kind of changes have our constitutional ideas gone through?

What did they represent then and what to they represent now?

What is the genesis of these things that become our ideals?

 Are they the product of colonialism (in what manner?) Do you think the constitution is a shared ideal?

What is its role in the imagination of india?

How has the changing imagination of india affected our ideals?

Peasant UpriSingh

Peasant Uprisings

In a span of 117 years it has been estimated that there were around 110 uprisings. The first accounts of peasant uprisings thus came to be written up as administrative documents – dispatches on counter-insurgency operations, investigations etc. (Were these reports were used for understanding subsequent uprisings?)

 Was the fact that the recording of these uprisings were done in adinstrative documents the reason behind the peasant being denied his position as a subject of history?  Did it convert what could have been, in a sense, history, into an element of administrative concern? Can we.  therefore, say that peasant insurgency was assimilated as an element in the career of colonialism, and the peasant was denied recognition as a subject of history in his own right ?

 What about the argument of the peasant as the maker of his own rebellion and the attribution of a consciousness to him (and the consequential rejection of the idea that these uprisings were purely spontaneous)? Is there merit in such claims?  How does one view these peasant movements in light of the nationalist ideas that charismatic leaders were indispensable, and the Marxist view that these were in some ways pre-political movements?

 Can we argue that Hobsbawm’s pre-political societies is a European concept which does not translate well into the “Indian” context because the relationship between landlord and peasant was one of dominance and subordination, of extraction of surplus by pre-determined means and therefore, it was a political relationship of a feudal type which derived its material sustenance from pre-capitalist conditions of production and its legitimacy from a traditional culture still paramount in the superstructure? (Phew!)

 What is the role of  administrative and revenue collection changes brought about by the likes of the Permanent Revenue Settlement? Can we argue that under the British, landlordism was revitalised, and the local landed gentry gained in power and therefore, as a direct result of this, peasant indebtedness grew? Furthermore, is it feasible to say that due to lack of rent laws, enforceable ceilings, and co-ordination between the harvest and the fiscal calendars, and with the development of a market economy, the landlords turned into moneylenders?

 Is this an effective rejoinder? The relationship became deeply political in nature, and there was no way for the peasant to launch himself into grievance redressal projects in a fit of absent-mindedness. Subversion had immense risks inherent – hence, no uprising could take place without proper temporising (not spontaneous). Armed rebellion was undertaken only as a last resort, after deputations and peaceful demonstrations had failed. There was consultation, meetings of clan elders, conventions, gatherings etc. – only when consensus among the entire community was reached did the actual uprising take place (attributes consciousness).

 Such insurgency affirmed its political character by its negative and inversive procedure, attempting to force a mutual substitution of the dominant and the dominated in the power structure. It did not lack in leadership, aim, or even a programme, although these were not sophisticated.

You may find this useful-

Some Notes on Peasant Uprisings (thanks due to Gautam!) Peasant Uprisings (some Notes on) (click to download)

Rudolph/ Chew on This V

What is The Myth of Procedural Certainty that he is talking about? [Can you link it to what Skuy says?]

What is the difference in the conception of justice for the British and for Indians? Is there a clash between universalism and particularism in that context? Can you site instances – how do you explain this difference?


How does the Indian Community differ from the British adversarial system in its approach to resolving disputes ? The main problems that accompanied the rise of the British system were expense and delay in the administration of justice, a rise in litigation and the prevalence of false witnesses. In this context how do we look at the established system prevailing in India then, and the move to replace/marginalise them?


 What is the so-called Renaissance of Brahmanic Law all about? What was the problem giving Hindus the Hindu law and Muslims the law of the Koran? Can we say that it caused the emergence of a dual system of law – customary and high culture?


How do you reconcile the fact that the Pundits, who were aware of customary laws, attempted to bridge the gap by interpreting customs with a view to the Shastras, which,   however, was often not accepted by the English judges, who believed in strict textual interpretations?


What is the significance of the fact that lower level judges were often drawn from the higher castes? Can we say that their “sanskritic” orientation and perspectives coloured legal practice and therefore, Brahmanic law satisfied the requirements of the British for a uniform and predictable system? How would you respond to such a claim? Can you link it up to anything you’ve read in the other articles?


What about the Legal Standing of the Individual? Did traditional “Indian” law clash with British law over the issue of the primacy of the kin over the individual? Is it true to say that the characteristic form of assets in India was collective and fixed – under British law it became individual and mobile? How do you see this in the context of the argument that Indian law was also parochial, varying from region to region – something antithetical to the British concept of uniformity?

Is Skuy’s central aim the contestation of the assumption that the British legal system was itself modernised or superior to the Indian?

What were the reason sgiven by Macaulay for codification? What role did the pundits and maulvis play? Was it desirable to curb their role (from what/whose perspective are you going to answer this?)?

Though the Courts were created in 1726, for a long time the british did not interfere in our legal system. Why? What were the problems facing the penal systems in the presidencies?

What was Macaulay’s background – what kind of impact did it have on his perception of codification of criminal law? Was the codification a consequence of the backwardness of the law in India or are there other factors that you are equally/more relevant?

What do the Bloody Code and Peels Act tell us about the reform going on in England then? Is Skuy’s argument – that the Acts did not meet the standard clarification and simplification as there was inconsistency and logical incoherence which was why Bentham & Co. argued for complete codification and this affected what was happening in India – valid?
Was there was a general push for precision, streamlining and proportionality (can you demonstrate through an example?) Why is this so and how does it relate back to what iss happening in India?

What was the position of the development of English law when the IPC was passed? Had it been successfully updated? Can we say that, therefore, the Code’s substantive and procedural provisions were motivated by shortcomings in England, and designed to fit England’s needs rather than India’s? In other words: was the Indian Penal Code actually the transplanting of English law in India, not because Indian law was primitive, but because English law needed reform? How does Skuy deal with this?

What are the reasons that compel Skuy to take such a stance? Were the structure and organisation of the IPC was very similar to the draft codes prepared by the Royal Commission? Can you think of the main distinction was that the English codes and the IPC?

Can we say that Macaulay’s claims to uniqueness and originality were flawed in that although there were obviously some differences with respect to issues such as caste and religion, these were slight?

What is Mines thesis? What is he trying to say? Is he trying to say that 18th century madras was weakly administered, the society was highly personalised, antagonisms were rife, and relationships constantly in flux, a product of personal competition and opportunistic alliances between individuals rather than of any company hegemony or even of local social hierarchy? Is that all of what he is trying to say?

What was the impact of the Pitt Act – can we say that relationships became increasingly disentangled and that senses of self were expressed within the fabric of law rather than through interpersonal relationships in the sense that social relations were no longer internal, but external?

How would you respond to his example of the “big man” society?

What were the sources of authority according to him and how did they play out vis-à-vis personal relationships? Does he deal with the changing ways in which people represented themselves?

Case Studies

Case 1: Chitteramah Chittee. – How do you link the usage of phrases such as “men of good repute” and the existing hierarchical relations of mutual benefit? What kind of system of homours and obligations were in place? What is the effect of the decision?

Case 2: Kistnama Chittee, What has happening, politically, around that time? Did society mirror those changes? What was the defence like? Was it a “legal” or a “socio-cultural” defence?
Case 3: Somosoonthurum Chetty

Three Stages of Colonialism:

1) Monopoly Trade and Revenue Appropriation: What was the approach of the EIC during this time period? If it was a trading company, why did it have to fight wars? How influential was the strong “navy” it command? Who funded the amount of money required for raising armies, navies and maintaining forts and trading posts? How do you link expansion to this – was it imperative in order to be able to gain more taxes?

How do we trace the Impact of British Capitalism in India? Can we say that British capitalism was developing, and in order to invest in industries, trade and agriculture, plunder from the colonies was required? Is it correct to say that this was fulfilled when the East India Company acquired direct control over the state revenues of the conquered areas, and was in a position to grab the accumulated wealth of the local rulers? How was such wealth utilised?

• What kind of link can you draw between its growing political power and its acquisition of monopolistic control over Indian trade and production?
• What kind of changes were made in the administration, the judicial system, transport, roduction, and in the educational and intellectual fields, if any?
• Was there a change in the traditional machinery of revenue collection (can you link it to the success with which economic surplus was appropriated then)?

2) Is there a link between the industrial revolution in Britain and the acquisition of territorial power by the EIC in terms of change in aspirations? What were the changes that were taking place in England at that time? Was there an increase in production – what happened to the markets? What was the net effect of all these?

Did this capitalist class require foreign outlets for the ever-increasing output of manufactured goods? How do you balance this with the fact that those same industries needed raw materials in order to produce? Can we therefore, justifiably, say that India fulfilled the role of a subordinate trading partner, a market to be exploited, and a dependent colony to produce and supply the raw materials?

What kind of export was happening at that time in both Britain and India? Did this lead to any kind of economic, political and cultural change?
Answering the previous question in brief:
a) Economic – British capitalists were given free entry into India. Free trade was introduced and tariffs for incoming goods were abolished. Administration was expanded, reaching the smaller villages so that the British goods could reach there, and the raw materials could be drawn out.
b) Legal – The sanctity of contract had to be introduced, and laws had to be made more certain. Hence, codification took place.
c) Education – Due to the expansion of the administration and the judiciary, there was a shortage of manpower. Hence, modern education was introduced to train the Indians.
d) Transport – The large scale imports and exports needed transport of bulky raw materials. Hence, riverways and railways were developed, as were the postal and telegraph systems.
e) Political – Due to the emergence of the liberal imperialist political ideology in the metropolis, it was believed that Britain could carry on exploitation equally well with independent nations as long as free trade prevailed. Therefore, talk of training Indians for self-government was heard.

Who all were affected by such changes? Were the changes successful? What kind of repercussions did it cause in society?

3) Foreign Investment and International Competition for Colonies: Is it justifiable to say that due to industrialisation in the rest of Europe and a consequent competition for markets, technological developments such as electricity, steel production etc. and a consequent acceleration of industrial production as well as need for greater raw materials and population expansion, and accumulation of capital in the metropolis, British policy underwent a change? How would you respond to it?

How do we contextualise Britain’s continuing interest in India in the light of the race for colonies? Can we say that India served as an important base for further expansion, and the “Indian” army was the chief instrument to achieve that end? Is it in keeping with the above to say that the aim, therefore, changed from “training Indians for self-government” to “benevolent despotism”, and “permanent trusteeship.”?