Region, Nation, "Heartland": Uttar Pradesh in India′s Body Politic [1 ed.] 0761935460, 9780761935469

This book interrogates Uttar Pradesh’s identity as India’s "heartland" and unravels the historical processes t

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Region, Nation, "Heartland": Uttar Pradesh in India′s Body Politic [1 ed.]
 0761935460, 9780761935469

Table of contents :
List of Maps
List of Illustrations
List of Graphs
List of Abbreviations
Series Editors’ Preface
Part I: Introduction
1 Introduction
Part II: The Colonial “Heartland”
2 The Framework of Pax Britannica in Uttar Pradesh
3 The Institutions of the Colonial “Heartland”
Part III: The Nationalist “Heartland”
4 “Civil Disobedience” and “Civil Martial Law” in Uttar Pradesh, 1930–34
5 The Congress Ministry and the Erosion of the Colonial “Heartland”, 1937–39
6 Colonial Authority, War Years and Transition
Part IV: The Postcolonial “Heartland”
7 The Making of a “Regional”Postcolonial Polity, 1947–54
8 Conclusion
Epilogue: The “Republic” of Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh: A Political Chronology
Key Political Figures—Biographical Notes
About the Author

Citation preview

Region, Nation, “Heartland”

Other Volumes in the Same Series: Volume 1:

Independence and Partition: The Erosion of Colonial Power in India by Sucheta Mahajan

Volume 2:

A Narrative of Communal Politics: Uttar Pradesh, 1937–39 by Salil Misra

Volume 3:

Imperialism, Nationalism and the Making of the Indian Capitalist Class, 1920–1947 by Aditya Mukherjee

Volume 4:

From Movement to Government: The Congress in the United Provinces, 1937–42 by Visalakshi Menon

Volume 5:

Peasants in India’s Non-Violent Revolution: Practice and Theory by Mridula Mukherjee

Volume 6:

Communalism in Bengal: From Famine to Noakhali, 1943–47 by Rakesh Batabyal

Volume 7:

Political Mobilization and Identity in Western India, 1934–47 by Shri Krishan

Volume 8:

The Garrison State: The Military, Government and Society in Colonial Punjab, 1849–1947 by Tan Tai Yong

Volume 9:

Colonializing Agriculture: The Myth of Punjab Exceptionalism by Mridula Mukherjee

Region, Nation, “Heartland” Uttar Pradesh in India’s Body Politic


Sage Series in Modern Indian History-X


Bipan Chandra Mridula Mukherjee Aditya Mukherjee

SAGE Publications New Delhi  Thousand Oaks  London

Copyright © Gyanesh Kudaisya, 2006 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. First published in 2006Kudaisya, by Copyright © Gyanesh 2006 SAGE Publications India Pvt LtdIndia Pvt Ltd Sage Publications All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized B1/I-1 Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area B-42 Panchsheel Enclave in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including Mathura Road, New Delhi 110 044, New Delhi 110India 017 photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. SAGE Publications Inc Sage Publications Inc Sage Publications Ltd First published in 2006 by 2455 Teller Road 2455 Teller Road 1 Oliver’s Yard, 55 City Road Thousand Oaks, California 91320, USA Thousand Oaks, California 91320 London Sage Publications India PvtEC1Y Ltd 1SP SAGE Publications Ltd B-42 Panchsheel Enclave 1 Oliver’s Yard, Singh 55 Cityfor Road Published by Tejeshwar Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd, typeset New Delhi 110 017 EC1Y 1SP,Compugraphics, United Kingdom in 10/12London Palatino by Star Delhi and printed at Chaman Enterprises, New Delhi. SAGE Publications Asia-Pacific Pte Ltd Sage Publications Inc Sage Publications Ltd 3 Church Street Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data available 2455 Teller 1 Oliver’s Yard, 55 City Road #10-04 Samsung HubRoad Thousand Oaks, California London EC1Y 1SP Singapore 049483 91320 Published by Tejeshwar Singh for Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd, typeset in 10/12 Palatino by Star Compugraphics, Delhi and printed at Chaman Enterprises, New Delhi. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data available ISBN: 10: 0-7619-3519-3 (Hb) 10: 81-7829-674-8 (India-Hb) 13: 0-7619-3519-3 (Hb) 13: 978:81-7829-674-6 ((India-Hb) 10: 0-7619-3546-0 (Pb) 13: 978-0-7619-3546-9 (Pb)

10: 81-7829-703-5 (India-Pb) 13: 978-81-7829-703-3 (India-Pb)

(HB) ISBN: 978-07-619-3519-3 10: 0-7619-3519-3 (Hb) 10: 81-7829-674-8 (India-Hb) Sage Production Team: Malathi Ramamoorthy, Janaki Srinivasan, 13: 0-7619-3519-3 (Hb) 13: 978:81-7829-674-6 ((India-Hb) Rajib Chatterjee and Santosh Rawat 10: 0-7619-3546-0 (Pb) 13: 978-0-7619-3546-9 (Pb)

10: 81-7829-703-5 (India-Pb) 13: 978-81-7829-703-3 (India-Pb)

Sage Production Team: Malathi Ramamoorthy, Janaki Srinivasan, Rajib Chatterjee and Santosh Rawat

In loving memory of my parents, Padma & P.B. Kudaisya

Contents List of Maps List of Illustrations List of Graphs List of Abbreviations Series Editors’ Preface Preface Acknowledgements

ix x xi xii xv xviii xxii

Part I: Introduction




The “Heartland” and its Setting; Five Constructions of the “Heartland”; Review of Literature; Structure of this Book

Part II: The Colonial “Heartland”


The Framework of Pax Britannica in Uttar Pradesh Colonial Policing; Urban Environment and Colonial Authority; Colonial Authority and Criminal Laws; Conclusion: A Colonial Framework for UP

THREE: The Institutions of the Colonial “Heartland”

Colonial Army and Public Order; Colonial Policing: “The Thin Blue Line”; Landlords as Agents of Control; Baiting the Politician; Conclusion



Part III: The Nationalist “Heartland”


“Civil Disobedience” and “Civil Martial Law” in Uttar Pradesh, 1930–34


Public Discourse, Colonial Authority; Contesting Authority: The Spatial Dimension; Colonial Responses up to March 1931; From the Gandhi–Irwin Pact to

viii Region, Nation, “Heartland”


“No-Rent”; Reasserting Authority: “Civil Martial Law”; Conclusion

The Congress Ministry and the Erosion of the Colonial “Heartland”, 1937–39


Colonial Authority, War Years and Transition


The New Institutional Context; The New Idiom of Authority; Public Discourse or “Sedition”?; Khadi or Khaki?: Police Allegiance and the Congress; The Congress and the “Steel Frame”; Contesting Colonial Authority: The Communal Divide; Tiger by the Tail


Introduction; New Instruments of Public Order; The Politics of Food Control; Political Support and the War Effort; Congress Prepares for Satyagraha; The Anti-War Campaign; Individual Civil Disobedience; Setting the Stage for Transition

Part IV: The Postcolonial “Heartland”

SEVEN: The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity, 1947–54


EIGHT: Conclusion


Epilogue: The “Republic” of Uttar Pradesh Uttar Pradesh: A Political Chronology Key Political Figures—Biographical Notes Glossary Bibliography Index About the Author

410 417 421 431 435 459 00 472

Independence Day Celebrations; Renaming the “Heartland”; Dismantling the Muslim “Heartland”; The “Hindi Heartland”; States Reorganization and UP’s Regional Identity; Conclusion

List of Maps 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6

Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal United Provinces as “Hindu Heartland”, 1930s United Provinces as “Muslim Heartland”, 1930s United Provinces: Cultural “Regions” United Provinces: British Conquest and Annexation, 1775–1856 United Provinces: Administrative Units, 1930s


Police Presence in the United Provinces, 1930s

7 8 10 14 15 17 120

List of Illustrations 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4

358 372 376

7.5 7.6

Renaming UP Kidnapping in UP Hindi in Official Lexicon Pattabhishekam: Enthroning Hindi as National Language Linguo-mania Lean Prospects

8.1 8.2

Glimpses of Eternal India Postcolonial UP: Political Élite’s Self View

402 408

379 380 396

List of Graphs 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4

Reporting of Offences, Investigations and Convictions, 1929–39 Riots as Reported in UP, 1913–42 Preventive Action by Police, Awadh, 1929–42 Offences under Special and Local Laws, Awadh, 1929–42

67 77 81 85

3.1 3.2 3.3

Police Manpower: United Provinces, 1913–39 Expenditure on Police: United Provinces Police Stations and Outposts: United Provinces

147 149 149

5.1(a) 5.1(b) 5.2(a) 5.2(b)

Violent Crime in UP, 1937–39 Crime against Property, 1937–39 Cognizable Crime in UP, 1937–39 Non-Cognizable Crime in UP, 1937–39

281 281 282 282


Wartime Expansion of Police in UP



Asom Gana Parishad All India Congress Committee Assistant Superintendent of Police British India Association Bharatiya Janata Party Bahujan Samaj Party Criminal Tribes Act Central Bureau of Investigation Criminal Investigation Department Central Intelligence Officer Collection Central Provinces Criminal Procedure Code Congress Socialist Party District Congress Committee Deputy Inspector General of Police Defence of India Rules Division District Magistrate Draft Penal Code East India Company Fortnightly Report General Army Headquarters Government of India Intelligence Bureau Indian Civil Service Inspector General of Police Infantry Battalion Indian Police/Indian Police Service

List of Abbreviations xiii


Indian Police Association Indian Penal Code Internal Security Scheme Indian Territorial Force Joint Parliamentary Committee Modern Asian Studies Member of Legislative Assembly National Archives of India National Agriculturalist Parties of Agra and Oudh Nehru Memorial Museum and Library Note on the Press North-Western Province Other Backward Castes Provincial Armed Constabulary Provincial Abstract of Intelligence Provincial Congress Committee Patiala and East Punjab States Union Prisoners of War Royal Field Artillery Rupees Round Table Conference Special Armed Constabulary Sub Divisional Officer Superintendent of Police States Reorganization Commission United Provinces (also Uttar Pradesh after 1950) UP Congress Committee UP Legislative Assembly UP Legislative Assembly Debates UP Legislative Council UP Provincial Congress Committee UP Zamindar’s Association

Series Editors’ Preface The Sage Series in Modern Indian History is intended to bring together the growing volume of historical studies that share a very broad common historiographic focus. In the 50 years since independence from colonial rule, research and writing on modern Indian history has given rise to intense debates resulting in the emergence of different schools of thought. Prominent among them are the Cambridge School and the Subaltern School. Some of us at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, along with many colleagues in other parts of the country, have tried to promote teaching and research along somewhat different lines. We have endeavoured to steer clear of colonial stereotypes, nationalist romanticization, sectarian radicalism and rigid and dogmatic approach. We have also discouraged the “flavour of the month” approach, which tries to ape whatever is currently fashionable. Of course, a good historian is fully aware of contemporary trends in historical writing and of historical work being done elsewhere, and draws heavily on the comparative approach, i.e., the historical study of other societies, states and nations, and on other disciplines, especially economics, political science, sociology and social anthropology. A historian tries to understand the past and make it relevant to the present and the future. History thus also caters to the changing needs of society and social development. A historian is a creature of his or her times, yet a good historian tries to use every tool available to the historian’s craft to avoid a conscious bias to get as near the truth as possible. The approach we have tried to evolve looks sympathetically, though critically, at the Indian national liberation struggle and

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other popular movements such as those of labour, peasants, lower castes, tribal peoples and women. It also looks at colonialism as a structure and a system, and analyses changes in economy, society and culture in the colonial context as also in the context of independent India. It focuses on communalism and casteism as major features of modern Indian development. The volumes in the series will tend to reflect this approach as also its changing and developing features. At the broadest plane our approach is committed to the Enlightenment values of rationalism, humanism, democracy and secularism. The series will consist of well-researched volumes with a wider scope which deal with a significant historiographical aspect even while devoting meticulous attention to detail. They will have a firm empirical grounding based on an exhaustive and rigorous examination of primary sources (including those available in archives in different parts of India and often abroad); collections of private and institutional papers; newspapers and journals (including those in Indian languages); oral testimony; pamphlet literature; and contemporary literary works. The books in this series, while sharing a broad historiographic approach, will invariably have considerable differences in analytical frameworks. The many problems that hinder academic pursuit in developing societies—e.g., relatively poor library facilities, forcing scholars to run from library to library and city to city and yet not being able to find many of the necessary books; inadequate institutional support within universities; a paucity of research-funding organizations; a relatively underdeveloped publishing industry, and so on—have plagued historical research and writing as well. All this had made it difficult to initiate and sustain efforts at publishing a series along the lines of the Cambridge History series or the history series of some of the best US and European universities. But the need is there because, in the absence of such an effort, a vast amount of work on Indian history being done in Delhi and other university centres in India as also in British, US, Russian, Japanese, Australian and European universities which shares a common historiographic approach remains scattered and has no “voice”. Also, many fine works published by small Indian publishers never reach the libraries and bookshops in India or abroad.

Series Editors’ Preface xvii

We are acutely aware that one swallow does not make a summer. This series will only mark the beginning of a new attempt at presenting the efforts of scholars to evolve autonomous (but not indigenist) intellectual approaches in modern Indian history.

Bipan Chandra Mridula Mukherjee Aditya Mukherjee

Preface The origins of this work lie in my Ph.D. thesis submitted to the Faculty of History of the University of Cambridge. In the following years, my interests led me to study the Partition of the Indian subcontinent and its aftermath. With aspects of that research engaging me, especially as the Partition’s half-centennial in 1997 stirred up intense academic and general interest, my work on twentieth century Uttar Pradesh (UP) hibernated. In 2001, under fortuitous circumstances, I contributed an essay to a Festschrift (subsequently published in a special issue of South Asia in 2002), which rekindled this interest. I have since re-engaged with this work and its underlying concerns in new ways. I have also substantially expanded its canvass—both chronologically and thematically—and thus situated it much more firmly in the postcolonial context. When I began this research, the field of modern South Asian history had already been invigorated by a dozen volumes of Subaltern Studies, inspired by Ranajit Guha. Environmental history and gender studies were drawing scholars to explore uncharted terrains. Studies of the “pre-colonial” and “early modern” were in vogue, influenced by the works of Christopher Bayly. My ambition, however, was to evolve as a student of contemporary history, interested in decolonization and India’s postcolonial beginnings. So, I focused on political processes and identities, on institutions and structures of power, on ways to subject them to historical narration and analysis. At Cambridge, in our first meeting, my research supervisor Professor Anthony Low enquired “where I was from”. I said I came from UP, even though I had lived there only as a child. He declared he too was a “UP-wallah”, having been born in Nainital. Insistent

Preface xix

that I anchor my work in the context of regional and local society, he encouraged me to explore primary sources relating to the province. Then on, UP provided the “regional” context of our discussions, and led to archival work and field visits. It was soon clear that I sought to map political change and delineate the political and socio-economic characteristics of a key “regional” society. I steadily expanded these concerns to also incorporate what the transformation from a colonial to postcolonial context meant for UP. As I complete this work, I must acknowledge that its linkages to my childhood in UP are far stronger than I initially admitted. At the margins of the larger narrative lurk my family’s fortunes, perhaps best illustrated through two episodes. At the end of Chapter 4 (p. 203), a statistical table provides official statistics of “Political Convictions in Uttar Pradesh between 1930 and 1933”, listing 776 political convicts from Etah district. Among these was my father’s elder brother. Behind the numbers lie buried family memories, which reveal how a protracted jail term led to my uncle contracting tuberculosis, which—in those pre-penicillin days—led to his death at a young age soon after release from prison. My father, having already lost both parents as an adolescent, was now truly orphaned. Turning his back on the joint family’s zamindari land in Patiali-on-Ganga village, he moved to Lucknow. In the face of tremendous hardships, he educated himself and his younger brother. The second episode relates to the Kumbh mela of 1954, the terminus for our narrative. By then, my father had survived his early setbacks, completed his education and had begun his career in government service in UP. Posted in Allahabad district, he was deeply committed to the ideals of “nation-building” that enthused his generation. For him abolition of zamindari, bhoodan, panchayati raj were not mere slogans but matters of everyday responsibilities to which he felt deeply committed. During his Allahabad tenure, he was entrusted with a range of duties, including working in Phulpur, Jawaharlal Nehru’s parliamentary constituency. As one of trusted aides of the late Mr J.N. Ugra, the then district magistrate, he was inevitably drawn into the bandobast for the 1954 Kumbh. On that fateful day of 3 February—a day considered particularly auspicious for the holy dip—my mother ignored my father’s warnings and went off to the Triveni with an attendant.

xx Region, Nation, “Heartland”

Just then, the great stampede took place. Although she did not witness it, she was fortunate in being saved from the commotion and had to precariously make her way through a large number of bodies. Both these episodes reveal the intimate connections I have felt with the larger historical narrative set out in this work. I often grapple with questions about my own identity as someone from UP and what this has meant to me at different times. The maverick Socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia insightfully observed that a cultural divide cuts across UP: its eastern parts adhere to the cultural ethos of Ram-bhakti, while its western areas celebrate Krishna-lila. I often wonder where my own identity lies. Patiali-on-Ganga is situated in Etah, right in the centre of territory lately made famous by the deceased “Bandit Queen” Phoolan Devi. But my father was immensely proud that his village was the birthplace of Amir Khusro (c.1253–1325), the first great Sufi philosopher born on Indian soil, an outstanding linguist and poet who composed in the folk dialect, an Islamic thinker who asserted a Hindustani identity, to whom is attributed the invention of the sitar. Yet, once the village tie was snapped, my father never looked back, moving wherever his career took him. I was born in Moradabad and raised initially in Aligarh, both Muslim strongholds. I lived in Gorakhpur in the eastern Bhojpuri-speaking region and then in western UP, close to Delhi. Even as a child I noticed the cultural and linguistic changes in the landscape. Before I turned 10, I found myself in Delhi—a permanent move, which displaced us all from UP. With time, the UP connection became tenuous, revived by visits of relatives or family friends. Yet, for me, the sense of identification with UP persisted. At Republic Day parades, I expectantly awaited UP’s tableau but no single icon could capture its diversity. In Delhi, my fluency in Hindustani (spoken at home) and shuddha Hindi (imbibed at school), set me apart from the other children. Yet, when I began academic research, the conditions that I confronted in UP disappointed me. They contrasted sharply from my childhood memories and stories of elders. Lucknow’s grand Council House, Civil Secretariat and State Archives, all betrayed signs of decay and neglect. The vicarious Babri Mosque–Ram Janmabhoomi dispute had deeply fissured UP’s social fabric. Political groups attempted to enlist support from backward castes;

Preface xxi

Dalit groups crafted political alliances and strategies. The deep socio-political ferment, which envelops present-day UP, was beginning to manifest itself in uncertain and disturbing ways. Field visits confirmed that UP as India’s “political heartland” had begun to unravel. Yet, it seemed important to understand its history, appreciate its diverse constructions, decipher what had held its framework together for so long. This work must be viewed in light of these concerns.

Acknowledgements This work would not have been possible without the support of a number of institutions and individuals. I must begin with teachers. First and foremost, I remain very much indebted to Professor D.A. Low, my research supervisor at Cambridge. He read several drafts of this work and offered critical advice which has guided me towards clarity. His encouragement, tolerance and generous support have, over the years, sustained my academic endeavours, for which I can never thank him enough. I am indebted to Professor Bipan Chandra from whose kindness and guidance I have greatly benefited. My pursuit of an academic career and my interest in historical research go back to early interactions with him as a teacher. Together with Mridula and Aditya Mukherjee, he invited me to publish this work in the Sage Series in Modern Indian History. I am thankful to all the three series editors for this opportunity and for their encouragement and advice. In Cambridge, Chris Bayly took interest in this work and served as Ph.D examiner, offering me critical suggestions which were enormously valuable. Gordon Johnson acted as the assessor to confirm its potential as a doctoral project and the late Raj Chandavarkar showed much interest in aspects of it dealing with colonial policing. James Manor as external examiner offered insightful comments. To them, my sincere thanks. My former teachers at JNU continue to inspire in professional and personal spheres. In particular, I remain indebted to Professor K.N. Panikkar and Professor Yogendra Singh for the interest they have taken in my progress. I recall with gratitude and warmth my teachers from JNU days: the late S. Gopal, S. Bhattacharya, Mridula and Aditya Mukherjee, Majid Siddiqi, Madhavan K. Palat, Neeladri Bhattacharya and Bhagwan Josh.

Acknowledgements xxiii

This work has benefited from the works of earlier scholars who have written on Uttar Pradesh and from whose insights I have gained. These include among others, Thomas Metcalf, Peter Reeves, Paul Brass, Francis Robinson, Sandria Freitag, Mushirul Hasan, Shahid Amin, and Gyanendra Pandey. How beneficial has been my engagement with their ideas would be evident from the pages which follow. For reading earlier drafts and offering valuable comments, my gratitude to Sandria Freitag, Peter Reeves, Amit Gupta and Rajeev Dhavan. It remains a matter of great regret that late Ravinder Kumar, with whom I had many insightful discussions on this work, could not see its fruition. I have had the good fortune to share aspects of this work at several recent conferences which have benefited me immensely. I am grateful to Dipesh Chakrabarty and Rochona Majumdar for inviting me to Chicago to be a part of their project, “From the Colonial to the Postcolonial: South Asia in Transition”. I am grateful to Sudha Pai for involving me in a conference on contemporary Uttar Pradesh and to Aditya and Mridula Mukherjee for including me in their workshop on “Writing Twentieth Century History: From Colony to Nation” at JNU in early 2006. Without the financial support of several institutions, this work would not have possible. I was fortunate to be selected for the Commonwealth Scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge, for which I am thankful to the Indian Ministry of Human Resources Development for its nomination and to the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the United Kingdom for its award. Financial support for travel and initial fieldwork was made available due to the generosity of the Managers of the Smuts Memorial Fund at the University of Cambridge, the British Council, and the Master and Fellows of Churchill College, Cambridge. Subsequently, I received a research grant from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore (NUS) which made possible further field travel, archival work and preparation of maps. Several institutions have also provided resources and facilities for which I am thankful. During my days as a graduate student, Churchill College in Cambridge provided a warm environment in its lodgings and library, and my college tutors, Dr Anthony Callear and Mr Henry Hurst, were always supportive. In New Delhi, the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library has served as a

xxiv Region, Nation, “Heartland”

base, beyond my years as a Fellow there, for which I remain thankful to many friends and colleagues, special Dr N. Balakrishnan. At the National University of Singapore, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has offered an institutional base and a congenial atmosphere for research and writing, for which I am grateful. I am indebted to the Asia Research Institute, specially its foundingdirector Anthony Reid, for awarding me its “Writing Fellowship” for one semester, which helped me focus on the manuscript and complete several of its critical parts. Finally, my sincere thanks are due to Brij V. Lal, Head of Pacific and Asian History at the Research School of Pacific and Asian History at the Australian National University for inviting me in 2004 as a Visiting Fellow to Canberra. A number of librarians and archivists have provided ungrudging help and advice for which I am most thankful: these are far too many to be listed here, but I would like to, in particular, mention the staff at the India Office Library and Records in London, the Churchill College Library and Archives Centre, the University Library, the Centre of South Asian Studies (especially Dr Lionel Carter), the Seeley Library, the Faculty of Oriental Studies Library (particularly Mr Alistair Anderson and Mrs Louis Gibbons), the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (Specially Rajesh Chopra for his splendid help) the UP Secretariat Library (especially its then director Shri G.N. Deengar), the UP Assembly Library (especially its erstwhile in-charge Shri Naresh Kumar), and finally the Intelligence Headquarters Record Room (especially Pathakji). In Singapore, I must acknowledge the continuing support, advice and friendship of Tim Yap of the NUS Library. A number of individuals provided much needed information and help during my early field-trips to UP. Professor Kapil Kumar offered helpful advice at the early stages. In Lucknow, the family of my friend Anil Shukla—his father late Shri G.N. Shukla and his brother Akhil—readily extended help whenever needed. Shyam Mishra provided generous hospitality, help and support for which I remain enormously indebted. I must also acknowledge the inestimable help I received from Anil Mishra, which enabled me to examine the records of the UP Intelligence Headquarter in detail. Shri Shivraj Kishore Soti provided secretarial assistance over several months, and I must place on record my appreciation of his very considerable help.

Acknowledgements xxv

A number of friends have over the years remained steadfast in their encouragement and support in innumerable ways. They are Salil Mishra, Indivar Kamtekar, Visalakshi Menon, Anthony Thomas, Hulas and Neerja Singh, Bodh Prakash, Sucheta Mahajan and Rakesh Batabyal. With Salil, Visha and Anthony I have shared an interest in UP’s twentieth century history and they have been wonderfully supportive and tolerant of my trespasses. In Cambridge many friends provided companionship and support, and these include Kamal Choudhry, K.T.S. Sarao, Sudhir Krishna, Anil Sethi, Manjiri Kamat and Syed Jaafar Ahmed. In the UK, Anita and Devendra Gupta provided familial support which I remember warmly and with gratitude. In Singapore Tai Yong and Sylvia Tan have over the years been consistent in their encouragement and the warmth of their friendship. A number friends and colleagues at NUS have provided encouragement and advice and I would like to express my gratitude to Lily Kong, Teow See Heng, Yong Mun Cheong, Tong Chee Kiong, Ernest Chew, James Sideway, Robina Mohammad and Mike Montesano. I have been extremely fortunate to have the help of a number of part-time research assistants in the collection of materials, scanning and bibliographic work. These include Bhaskar Kanungo, Taberez Neyazi and Shailen Dutta Das in New Delhi and Deepti Madhavan, Yamini Vasudevan, Bittiandra Chand Somaiah, Shobitha Vasudevan in Singapore. Most of all I must thank Shabbir Hussain Mustafa who has helped in varied ways in the last three years. As they embark upon important ventures of their own, to each of them my sincere thanks. I had the privilege to work with Mudita Chauhan-Mubayi who helped copy-edit the manuscript at short notice and was wonderfully sensitive to the nuances in the text. Her help speeded-up the completion of this work at a stage when I was greatly pressed for time for which I am enormously thankful. At Sage Publications I have benefited from the efficiency and professionalism of Mimi Choudhury, Anamika Mukharji, Janaki Srinivasan and Sunaina Dalaya. It has been a pleasure working with them. Maps used in this work were prepared with great skill and patience by Mrs Lee Li Kheng of NUS’ Geography Department for which I am thankful. Permission for the one-time use of several cartoons of the late K. Shankar Pillai was given by the Shankar’s Weekly

xxvi Region, Nation, “Heartland”

for which I am thankful to Mr Ravi Shankar of the Children’s Book Trust. I have drawn upon materials for chapters from pieces which I have published earlier and I am thankful to the editors and publishers for their courtesy. A section for Chapter 6 draws upon the essay “Foreshadowing ‘Quit India’: The Congress in Uttar Pradesh”, which appeared in Neera Chandhoke, edited, Mapping Histories, Essays Presented to Ravinder Kumar (New Delhi, 2000). Similarly, a section of Chapter 3 draws upon my article “In Aid of Civil Power: The Colonial Army in Northern India, 1919–1942”, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Vol. 32, No. 1, January 2004, pp. 41–68. Last but not the least, my family has been wonderfully supportive over the years. In particular my sister Geeta has provided encouragement, material support, books and references and editorial expertise and this work could not have been completed without her help. Medha has provided emotional support and often put her own work aside to help and if this work has any merit, she must share the credit equally with me. Vrinda, our daughter, has been wonderful in bringing cheer into our lives. I must thank her for this. Above all, this work could not have been completed without the love and blessings of Swami Vishwa Mitterji. Finally, any errors of fact, interpretation and judgement are mine alone and none of the individuals whose help I have acknowledged is responsible for the many imperfections in this work.

Gyanesh Kudaisya




Introduction The “Heartland” and its Setting In January–February 1930, Allahabad hosted the Maha Kumbh Mela, widely regarded as the largest religious event in the world. With a recorded history of at least 2,500 years, the festival celebrates Hinduism’s myth of creation. According to the myth, the demons and the gods engaged in a contest to churn the ocean with a giant snake tied around a mountain. From the ocean emerged a kumbh (urn) filled with nectar, which spilled at four geographical spots, the most sacred being Allahabad for it stands on the confluence of three holy rivers: the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati. Maha Kumbh takes place once every 12 years in Allahabad. For those six weeks then, the attention of most of India turns to this holy city.1 This dusty, chaotic, extraordinary event conveys stunning images of an eternal, unchanging India: of devotees and holy men in nirvana, of yogis resting on beds of nails, of elephants and camels and palanquins in ceremonial procession. And yet, within its ageless constancy, the Kumbh also holds prophetic signs 1

On the importance of religious fairs in northern Indian society, see Anand A. Yang, Bazaar India: Markets, Society, and the Colonial State in Bihar. Berkeley, 1998, Ch. 3. On Kumbh, see Kama Maclean, “Making the Colonial State Work for You: The Modern Beginnings of the Ancient Kumbh Mela in India”, Journal of Asian Studies, 62, 3, August 2003. Also see Katherine Prior, “The British Administration of Hinduism in North India, 1780–1900”, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge, 1990.

4 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

of momentous change. The 1930 Kumbh abounded in signs, both of a timeless and a rapidly transforming India. Let us begin with images of eternal India. The season began on 14 January 1930, with Sankranti—the first important bathing day. A hundred thousand people standing waist-deep in the water, faces turned eastward, shivering as they awaited the great moment for the first signs of dawn. As a journalist from the newspaper Leader wrote: After waiting twelve years, the moment was at hand. About them mingled the sacred waters of the Ganges and the Jamuna, grey and murky, away in the far horizon the dawn sky was brightening. Suddenly a thread of red light rose above a slateblue bar of cloud and swelled instantly into the upper rim of the sun. That was the moment. You saw the hundred thousand expectant watchers greeted the sign: “Ram Ram: Ganga Mai” and immersed their bodies in the sanctified water. There were the familiar akharas (order of holy men) marching in procession before going on to bathe at their appointed times, as according to tradition, no two sacred processions, could be in water seeking ablutions at the same time. At first passed the sect “too holy to wear any sort of garment”, chanting and occasionally bursting into ecstatic shouts. Then came the saffron-robed priests, and finally women ascetics, with heads shaved and faces smeared with ashes. Together, they presented “a colourful, if grotesque, pageantry, strikingly Eastern in every detail”. If those were acts from a timeless carnival, change was afoot too. The first sign of this was the sheer mass of people present. According to the official estimate, about 2.5 million gathered at the Sangam on the day of Mauni Amavasya. The gathering was made possible by the extensive railway network, which brought pilgrims from faraway places in India. In the peak season, the railway authorities operated 75 “specials” to Allahabad. The Government of the United Provinces (UP) organized an “Agricultural and Industrial Exhibition” to propagate new methods of farming and dairying and to showcase goods manufactured in UP. The fair’s “chief marvel was the smoothness and quiet orderliness” and “the wonderful efficiency of the police and ministering arrangements”, reflecting the workings of a well-organized structure of colonial

Introduction 5

bureaucracy. The colonial presence at the Kumbh was signified by no less than Sir Malcolm Hailey, the Governor of UP, who rode through the fair on an elephant! The fair had several sidelights. A variety of artefacts were on sale. For example, people made brisk business “sealing up the mouth of lotas filled with holy water and indenting the names of the owners on the outer surfaces of the vessels”. At many places, “Ganges mud” was being sold. The religious experience was being commodified into mementos that pilgrims could take back home. Among the countless present was “an American tourist, erstwhile a Professor at Boston University making rough calculations. ‘Three men, two yards, in two broad strips, two miles long…Over a million!’” The Kumbh had attracted its first anthropologist! Not far away from this American visitor were men and women who had gathered not just to take a dip in the river, but indeed to contemplate India’s present and how they could change it in ways they saw appropriate. For example, several important Hindu nationalist leaders who took part in the Sanatan Dharam Conference— presided over by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya—emphasized the need for organizing Sanatan Dharma Sabhas in every village, across India. There were those that organized the All India AntiUntouchability Conference—presided over by prominent Congress leader Purushottam Das Tandon—at the Mela’s Arya Samaj camp. The conference included an inter-caste dinner, partaken of by about 500 people, not less than half of whom were members of the depressed classes. In fact, it was members of the depressed classes that cooked the food, and some even served the meals to the gathering. After the dinner, Swami Ramanand Sanyasi appealed to the Hindus to reprieve without delay the stigma of untouchability. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, President of the Congress, in his speech welcomed the inter-caste dinner as the first practical step towards the attainment of Swaraj—not of the classes but of the masses—and looked forward to the day when not only members of the different Hindu communities, but all communities would dine at the same table. Away from the Kumbh, on the bank of another river, the Ravi, just 15 days earlier, at the stroke of the midnight hour on 31 December 1929, Nehru had led the Congress in taking the vow for Purna Swaraj, signifying nationalist India’s resolve to settle for nothing less than full independence. Exactly a week before this

6 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

midnight ceremony, Congress leader Mahatma Gandhi had called on the British Viceroy, Lord Irwin, in New Delhi. Their meeting did not take place in the Viceregal Palace, as finishing touches were being applied to its 340 rooms and 130 acres of garden—the world’s largest residence for a ruler. It was still some months before the British would ceremoniously move into “New Delhi”, the new Imperial Capitol which they were building on Raisina Hill. After his meeting with Lord Irwin, Gandhi retreated to his ashram on the bank of another river, the Sabarmati, near Ahmedabad, to contemplate next steps in the quest of Purna Swaraj. On 18 January 1930, Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore visited Gandhi at Sabarmati Ashram to discuss the unfolding political situation. On 26 January 1930, even as the Kumbh was in full swing, the Congress organized all over India, for the first time, the celebration of “Swaraj Day”. Within weeks of the Kumbh’s closure, even as Allahabad was still being cleaned after the mass exodus of humanity, on 12 March 1930, Gandhi set out on his march from his riverbank retreat towards the sea to make salt. India was abuzz. The Kumbh serves as a marker in both time and space for the narrative of this work. In terms of time, the 1930 Kumbh marks the chronological beginning of the story of the political transformation this book seeks to tell; and another Kumbh, held 24 years later in 1954, serves as its terminal point. In terms of space, the Kumbh marks out the centrality of the “region” of Uttar Pradesh that this book focuses upon (Map 1.1). The Kumbh’s occurrence, once every 12 years at the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna, reinforces the centrality of Allahabad (aka Prayag), not only within Hinduism’s cultural geography, but also more generally in northern Indian ethos (Map 1.2). Allahabad served as the provincial capital (till 1920), was the seat of the High Court, boasted of premier educational institutions and was seen as the political centre of UP, which itself increasingly came to be seen as India’s political “heartland”. How UP came to decisively influence India’s politics and how UP came to be constructed as a political “heartland” through much of the twentieth century—both colonial and postcolonial—is the central thematic concern of this book. A “regional” society of northern India, Uttar Pradesh occupies a large part of the fertile Indo-Gangetic plain. Uttar Pradesh (known as the “United Provinces of Agra and Oudh” before independence,

Introduction 7 Map 1.1: Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal Inset map based on Survey of India, Map no. 1607–101’92

and also abbreviated to UP) lies at the heart of northern India.2 Extending well over 294,000 sq km (including present-day Uttaranchal), it comprised several different “physiographic zones” such as (a) the Himalayan region, (b) the submontane region between the Himalayas and the plains, (c) the central plains of the Ganges river and its tributaries (part of the Indo-Gangetic Plain) and (d) the southern uplands.3 Each of these zones has distinctive 2

For a general introduction, see M.B. Mathur, Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi, 1976. George Patterson, A Geography of India: Physical, Political and Commercial, London, 1909; R.L. Singh, India: A Regional Geography, Banaras, 1971; and O.H.K. Spate and A.T.A. Learmouth, India and Pakistan: A General and Regional Geography, London, 1967, 3rd edn.


8 Region, Nation, “Heartland” Map 1.2: United Provinces as “Hindu Heartland”, 1930s

crop combinations, population densities, administrative features, and historical patterns. UP is India’s largest province in terms of population. Its population in 1931, a year after our study commences, stood at 49.6 million; the 2001 Census puts it at 166 million —ahead of nation-states like Pakistan, Russia and Japan and more than twice that of several European countries like Britain, France and Germany. UP is characterized by its well-developed cities and towns. The best known are Agra, Varanasi, Kanpur, Lucknow and Allahabad, and together they impart to UP a polycentric character. With its size, location, and demography, it is not surprising that UP’s self-identity is that of the nation’s “political heartland”. However, this work argues that this identity of UP has been a

Introduction 9

construction. Its existence as a region cannot be taken uncritically as a given, considering the complex and divergent histories and traditions of different areas that have constituted parts of UP. The robustness of its identity as a region and heartland merits reexamination, and in this direction this work considers itself significant. In unravelling UP’s identity, this book looks at certain historical processes of state formation in the colonial and postcolonial contexts that shaped it. It is well known that British colonial rule articulated UP’s existing boundaries and structure. It amalgamated various districts, areas and territories which the British had brought under their control, in a bid to carve out a single administrative entity. Before this fusion, these areas and territories had no unity of their own; their coming together yielded a somewhat unusual cartographic entity. Hindi litterateur Harivansh Rai Bachchan recalls that as a school boy (perhaps in the second decade of the twentieth century), when he saw a map of UP in his headmaster’s study, its shape reminded him of a dog, “with Jhansi and Mirzapur districts as its legs and Dehra Dun as its head!”4 In interrogating its identity as a political “heartland”, this book suggests that UP can be perceived as a “heartland” in multiple ways. It is possible to think of at least five distinct—though sometimes overlapping—“constructions” that have emerged over the last 120 years. Colonial officials were the first to invent the notion. Their views, originating in the influential “Oudh School” in the 1870s, increasingly represented UP as a “model” province that occupied a unique place in Pax Britannica.5 In the 1920s, with mass nationalism gaining a foothold in the UP countryside, the Congress came to “appropriate” UP, positioning it in the forefront of the “freedom struggle” against the Raj. By this stage there already existed a competing viewpoint, which with great articulation and by drawing upon long Islamic traditions and local history, looked


Harivansh Rai Bachchan, In the Afternoon of Time: An Autobiography, New Delhi, 2001, p. xii. Bachchan, born in Allahabad in 1907, acquired immense popularity in the 1930s and 1940s through Madhushala, a long poem inspired by Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat. 5 Thomas R. Metcalf, Land, Landlords, and the British Raj: Northern India in the Nineteenth Century, Berkeley, 1979; P.D. Reeves, Landlords and Governments in Uttar Pradesh: A Study of Their Relations until Zamindari Abolition, Bombay, 1991.

10 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

upon the state as the powerhouse of “Muslim politics” (Map 1.3).6 Unfortunately, this vision lost out due to the tragedy of the Partition and what it entailed for the Muslim culture and elites of UP.7 Then, in the late 1980s, “Hindutva” protagonists attempted to consecrate it as battleground for the embattled Babri Mosque– Ayodhya campaign which stands at the centre of envisioning India as a Hindu cultural nation-state. These political attempts reveal Map 1.3: United Provinces as “Muslim Heartland”, 1930s


See, for example, the centrality of UP in the pan-Islamic networks of learning as shown recently by Francis Robinson in his The Ulema of Farangi Mahall and Islamic Culture in South Asia, New Delhi, 2001. Also see Barbara Daly Metcalf, Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860–1900, Princeton, 1982. 7 Mushirul Hasan, Legacies of a Divided Nation, New Delhi, 1997.

Introduction 11

cultural and ideological ancestry going back to at least the early twentieth century. Since 1947, there has also been a postcolonial construction of UP as the “site” of the freedom struggle and repository of India’s “composite culture”. Many of these constructions overlap no doubt. Currently, the major shaper of UP’s identity is the dominant Congress nationalist construction that emerged triumphant after Independence and has been successively adapted and rejuvenated in the postcolonial period by the ruling elites. However, one increasingly sees ruptures in this postcolonial identity as the nation’s “heartland”, as UP’s political life is marked by mobilization based upon narrow class, caste and communal affiliations. In looking at the multiple ways in which UP’s identity has been constructed, this book attempts not to narrate UP’s political history but to underscore its critical transformations in the late colonial and postcolonial contexts. It particularly focuses on developments between 1930 and 1954—years deliberately chosen, for in the intervening period UP made the transition from the colonial to the postcolonial era. It was also the period in which different visions of UP came to be expounded and contested, resulting in the institutionalization of one dominant vision, which constructed UP in a particular way as the “political heartland” of postcolonial India. This vision then either eclipsed or simply subsumed other visualizations of UP as a regional society. For instance, the colonial construction of UP as a model province within British India—under strain due to rural agitation in the early 1920s—was still a viable one if one considers the situation in 1930. It was this view that became the foundation for long-standing colonial alliances with dominant social groups and representative institutions—the “Dyarchy” and “Provincial Autonomy” that the British strove to implement to perpetuate their vision of UP. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Congress actively undermined this dominant colonial construction in various ways, including mobilizing the masses and emerging as a parallel centre of authority during 1937–39 when it held ministerial office. In the late 1930s and 1940s, UP positioned itself at the forefront of all-India Muslim politics, reinforcing its credentials as a Muslim “heartland”. Similarly, it also witnessed strong Hindu nationalist mobilization. Yet, the coming of Independence followed by Partition distorted the situation fundamentally, essentially by consigning the colonial

12 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

vision of UP to the dustbin of history. With the evolution of a postcolonial framework, claims of UP being a Muslim “heartland” were dismissed. Similarly, the Hindu nationalist construction of UP, although not entirely defeated, had to concede to the dominant postcolonial vision put in place by the ruling Congress leadership. The year 1954, when all the elements constituting UP’s postcolonial identity were in place, marks the end of our discussion. In looking at UP’s transformation from a colonial to a postcolonial society, this book attempts to contribute to a larger understanding about the dynamics of how particular “regions” have contributed to the projects of nation- and state-building in South Asia. It also provides an in-depth study of political change in one of India’s most significant regional societies.

Five Constructions of the “Heartland” We noted that UP has been imagined as a “heartland” in multiple ways. Before we explore the distinct constructions of UP in different contexts, let us comprehend the concept’s historical lineage. It is beyond the scope of this book to trace UP’s history as a region through antiquity. Yet, it is worthwhile to recognize that the geographical space occupied by present-day UP, through the course of history, comprised multiple regions or cultural zones which today lie merged within it.8 The Buddhist text, Anguttara Nikaya, mentions the existence of 16 mahajanapadas or states, which historians date between the seventh and fifth centuries BC. Of these, seven lay in the territory formed by present-day UP: Kuru (Uttarakhand), Matsya Surasena (Braj), Kosala (Awadh), Panchala (northern Awadh), Mallas (northern Bhojpur), Vatsa (western Bhojpur), and Kashi (eastern Bhojpur). Many of these mahajanapadas were monarchies, with rulers establishing their kingdoms around focal capital cities, where religious, political, economic and military activities converged. Many such capital cities, future nucleii of regional kingdoms—Hastinapur, Kanauj, Kaushambi, Mathura, Prayag, Ayodhya, Kashi, Mirath—were located within the area 8

For an interesting discussion of the concept of “region”, see Bernard S. Cohn, “Regions Subjective and Objective: Their Relation to the Study of Modern Indian History and Society”, in B.S. Cohn, ed., An Anthropologist among the Historians and Other Essays, New Delhi, 1987.

Introduction 13

that is today UP. In AD seventh century, Harshavardhana established a vast kingdom around Kanauj, with territories extending to the greater part of northern India. Subsequently, several regional kingdoms and dynasties such as the Pratiharas were centred here.9 In the early medieval period emerged many urban centres that feature on the map of present-day UP. Many of these cities evolved as political centres, pilgrim sites or trading marts, and sometimes a combination of all three.10 Some developed into local and regional Muslim kingdoms, for example, the kingdom of Jaunpur that arose in the fourteenth century. Under the Mughals, who were able to establish pan-Indian political authority, UP and its surrounding areas were constituted into four subahs (provinces): Delhi (Haryana, Mewat, Uttarakhand, Rohilkhand), Agra (Braj, Bundelkhand), Awadh (central districts) and Allahabad (Bhojpur, Bagelkhand).11 Irfan Habib’s An Atlas of Mughal India yields detailed quantitative information on the area and revenue of each of the subahs and sarkars (districts) constituting the Mughal empire. For instance, the subah of Allahabad consisted of 34,613 square miles, and those of Awadh and Agra 26,463 square miles and 46,417 square miles, respectively.12 Here, we could pause to acknowledge the fact that, till the British arrived in the mid-eighteenth century, the territories of UP did not share a common structure or history. Different kings, rulers, governors and chieftains had, over the course of history, controlled different parts of its territories. Political or administrative unity under a single political authority was extremely rare, if not altogether 9

For this discussion of ancient UP, I have drawn upon the following works: Bimala Churn Law, Historical Geography of Ancient India (Paris: Societe Asiatique De Paris, 1954); Surendranath Majumdar Sastri, Cunnigham’s Ancient Geography of India, Calcutta, 1924; Nundo Lal Dey, The Geographical Dictionary of Ancient and Medieval India, 2nd edn, London, 1927; F. R. Allchin, The Archaeology of Early Historic South Asia: The Emergence of Cities and States, Cambridge, 1995; and Niharranjan Ray, general editor, A Sourcebook of Indian Civilization, New Delhi, 2000. 10 For an interesting discussion on the evolution of urbanism, see Narayani Gupta, “Urbanism in India”, in A. Rahman (ed.), History of Indian Science, Technology and Culture, Vol. III, Part I, New Delhi, 2000, pp. 359–79. 11 An example of a detailed regional history under the Mughals is K.K. Trivedi, Agra, Economic and Political Profile of a Mughal Suba 1580–1707, Pune, 1998. Also see for Eastern UP for a later period, Meena Bhargava, State, Society and Ecology, Gorakhpur in Transition, New Delhi, 1999. 12 Irfan Habib, An Atlas of the Mughal Empire, New Delhi, 1982.

14 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

absent. Instead, all along, distinct regions had existed: the hill areas of Uttarakhand or Uttaranchal; the distinct Braj-speaking zone around Mathura; the Bundelkhand region centred in Jhansi; Rohilkhand, comprising areas around Rampur and Moradabad; Awadh, with Lucknow as its cultural centre; and finally Poorvanchal, made up of the Bhojpuri-speaking eastern parts with Banaras and Allahabad as its main centres (Map 1.4). Different linguistic affiliations and dialects set these regions apart culturally. Incipient British interference in the affairs of UP, which they then called “Upper India”, from their location in Calcutta, changed the situation completely. It inaugurated a process of conquest and amalgamation that was to change the political geography of northern India. Map 1.4: United Provinces: Cultural “Regions”

Introduction 15

The British conquest of UP was—plain and simple—a territorial one (Map 1.5). It was imbued with political and ideological meanings only once colonial rule became institutionalized. Following the Battle of Buxar in 1764, the British made Awadh a buffer state between the East India Company territories and the Marathas.13 In 1773, they sold Kora and Allahabad to the Nawab of Awadh under the Treaty of Allahabad. In the same year, Awadh, prompted by the English East India Company and actively aided by the British military, conquered Rohilkhand. In return, the Nawab ceded Banaras, Ghazipur and Mirzapur to the British. In 1801, the Map 1.5: United Provinces: British Conquest and Annexation, 1775–1856

13 This paragraph substantially draws upon The Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol. XXIV, Oxford, 1908.

16 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

British took over 10 districts under the Nawab of Awadh (“ceded districts”) to maintain a “subsidiary force” in the region. These districts were Allahabad, Fatehpur, Kanpur, Azamgarh, Gorakhpur, Bareilly, Moradabad, Bijnaur, Badaun and Shahjahanpur. In 1801, the British annexed several central and western districts, including Etawah, Mainpuri, Etah, and parts of the north-western regions, Kumaon and Meerut. Thereafter, in 1803, following the Maratha defeat, the British brought Bundelkhand under their direct control. In 1816, Garhwal and Dehra Dun were annexed as a result of the Treaty of Sangauli with the King of Nepal. In 1840 and 1853, Jalaun, Hamirpur, and Jhansi came under British control. In 1857, the Kingdom of Awadh itself was annexed, precipitating the outbreak of the Revolt of 1857. In 1877, all annexed territories were reconstituted as the North-Western Province (NWP) and placed under a lieutenant governor. In 1902, the NWP was renamed the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh (UP). In 1920, UP was granted full status as a “Governor’s Province”. In 1937, when the Congress came to power under the terms of Provincial Autonomy, the words “Oudh” and “Agra” were dropped (Map 1.6). Following Independence, UP’s nomenclature was changed from “United Provinces” to “Uttar Pradesh”, a change we analyse in some detail in the later part of this work in Chapter 7. So, what was the British construction of UP all about? After amalgamating the different territories to create a new (large and dominant) administrative unit, the British had to implement a common framework of rule. So they went about creating this new framework, which increasingly placed people living in UP under similar conditions in matters of taxation, policing, urban life and several other spheres. Now, this new framework deeply affected the relationship between UP’s residents and the colonial state. Among the key elements of this new framework, one was the institution of the police itself. Raised in the violent aftermath of the 1857 Mutiny, the force was deeply impacted by the experience. In establishing the force, the British adopted many military attitudes and practices. It charged the new police more with the task of defending the realm, rather than preventing or investigating ordinary crime. Because the policeman’s chief priority was to maintain public order, rather than protect the common man and his property, the masses came to perceive the policeman largely as an agent of

Introduction 17 Map 1.6: United Provinces: Administrative Units, 1930s

the sarkar, rather than a guardian of law and justice.14 A second important element of Pax Britannica was the reordering and homogenizing of the physical environment of UP’s cities and towns to make them “safe, clean and loyal”. About the post-1857 “riot-proofing” of Lucknow, we know a great deal from Veena Oldenburg’s work.15 Evidently, this process was at work throughout urban UP and by the twentieth century it had affected all towns in UP. 14

This is discussed in Chapter 2 in detail. Veena Talwar Oldenburg, The Making of Colonial Lucknow, 1856–1877, Princeton, 1984.


18 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

Yet another essential component of the new framework was the codification of criminal laws, prompted by the British to reinforce their authority. The new criminal codes established a new legal relationship between state and individual, 16 setting aside indigenous methods of criminal justice based on status, caste and local identities. The codes granted the state complete monopoly over the use of force. As enshrined in the right to take life and to punish, this monopoly was central to the British notion of sovereignty. Skilful classification of offences into cognizable and noncognizable categories marked the new law. By the division into these two neat categories, the Raj ensured a proactive mobilization of the law for certain offences and a reactive mobilization for the rest. The criminal laws and the institution of policing evoked British obsession with collective activities, which they thought were directed against the Raj’s authority. Apprehensive of collective assemblies, colonial officials developed elaborate systems of first prohibiting crowds from accumulating, and then controlling them. Detailed “riot plans”, as well as systems for licensing meetings and processions, were developed for each city and town.17 The military played a vital role in the overall system of governance that the British constructed for UP. While the police maintained public order, the troops symbolized a formidable concentration of coercive power. Together, the police and the army helped the Raj carry out its minimalist agenda of maintaining public order, while letting local society run its own affairs. In terms of governance, an equally important part of the new framework was its dependence upon landlords and local elites to maintain order in rural society. Eric Stokes’ work on the Revolt of 1857 in UP generally underscores the point that landlords were central to revenue systems, because the British had implicit belief in their efficacy as agents of “order” in the countryside.18 Regarded 16 On this theme, see Radhika Singha, A Despotism of Law: Crime and Justice in Early Colonial India, New Delhi, 1998. 17 Sandria B. Freitag, Collective Action and Community: Public Arenas and the Emergence of Communalism in North India, Berkeley, 1989. 18 Ranajit Guha, A Rule of Property for Bengal: An Essay on the Idea of Permanent Settlement, Paris, 1963; and Eric Stokes, The Peasant and the Raj: Studies in Agrarian Society and Peasant Rebellion in Colonial India, Cambridge, 1978.

Introduction 19

as institutions of social control, landlords were seen as “natural leaders” of rural society. Deriving from this, the British created in UP a revenue system to harness the “influence” of the landlords to sustain stability and create a “solid buffer of support” for the Raj.19 Overall, by the beginning of the twentieth century, the British were convinced that they had “constructed” a framework of governance to establish UP as a model for directly ruled provinces of British India. Successive colonial administrators from Sir Alfred Lyall to Sir Harcourt Butler and Baron Malcolm Hailey looked upon UP as the ‘‘heartland’’ of the Raj. Sir Harcourt proudly claimed in 1906: Where... in India can be found more true happiness and ease under British rule, more solid progress, more unquestioning loyalty? Where such smooth relations between the rulers and the ruled, between the party of order and the party of change? Where a better measure of agrarian peace? Where a more effective combination of old sanctions and young aspirations?20 Yet, in less than one decade this construction of UP as a colonial “bastion” was seriously challenged. In the first decade of the twentieth century, the newly emerging professional elite—led by individuals like Motilal Nehru, Madan Mohan Malaviya and Tej Bahadur Sapru—energetically rose to the challenge of transforming UP from a loyalist stronghold into one that pioneered nationalist stirrings. They reinvigorated the tradition of public debate, extended the nebulous political organization to the muffosil and, in general, founded the political transformation of the province that actually took place after World War I.21 The subsequent Home 19

On this theme, see Thomas R. Metcalf, Land, Landlords, and the British Raj; and Peter Reeves, Landlords and Governments in Uttar Pradesh, Chapter 2. Also see Peter Reeves, Landlords and Governments in Uttar Pradesh, Chapters 2 and 3. 20 Harcourt Butler, Oudh Policy and Practice, p. 28, cited in D.A. Low, ed., “Introduction”, Soundings in Modern South Asian History, London, 1968, p. 8. 21 The late Hugh Owen’s work shows that a high degree of political organization was already in place in 1917 in those areas where Gandhi’s campaign attracted strong support. For a restatement, see “The Indian Nationalist Movement, c.1912–1922: Leadership, Organisation and Philosophy”, The Writings of Hugh Owen, New Delhi, 1990.

20 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

Rule and Khilafat campaigns marked the transition to fullscale “nationalist” politics. The stage was set for UP’s colonial construction in the succeeding decades to be challenged and eventually dismantled. How did the Indian National Congress catalyse this? It did so through successive political campaigns that targeted precisely those elements and symbols, which the British had used to construct their framework for UP.22 The UP Congress set up an organizational structure, which paralleled that of the Raj in terms of district, town and tehsil-level committees; the main provincial headquarters were located in Allahabad. Allahabad was developed as the centre of political activity; after 1920, when the British moved the provincial capital to Lucknow in a symbolic gesture to move closer to their landlord allies—the taluqdars, the Congress continued to operate out of Allahabad, confident of asserting the status of Allahabad as the locus of UP politics.23 Campaigns of the early 1920s endeavoured to erase UP’s image as a bastion of landlordbased loyalist politics and project it as a Congress stronghold. By turning the focus on the inequities of the agrarian system, the nationalists could demonstrate their enhanced capacity to mobilize the masses. Through the 1930s and the 1940s, the Congress continued to contest the British construction of UP. For instance, its boycott of “Dyarchy” challenged the landlord-based system of political representation that the British were attempting to establish. The Civil Disobedience and No-Rent campaigns of 1930–32 assailed the Raj’s authority with vigour. But the vigour was manifested as symbols, as the Congress fashioned a public discourse, anchored in a new political language and religious imagery. As this nationalist discourse represented jail-going in metaphors of pilgrimage, sacred duty and sacrifice, jail sentences lost their deterrent quality. Thus, popular attitudes towards imprisonment for political activities were no more what the British would have wanted them to be! More than these Civil Disobedience campaigns, it was the Congress control over provincial power during 1937–39 that seriously 22

For details, see Chapters 4 and 5 of this book. On the rivalry between Lucknow and Allahabad as capital cities and the reasons for the British patronage of Lucknow after 1920s, see Peter Reeves, “Lucknow Politics, 1920–1947”, in Violette Graff, ed., Lucknow: Memories of a City, New Delhi, 1997, pp. 213–26. 23

Introduction 21

eroded colonial authority. The Congress’ agrarian legislation, coming in the wake of the landlords’ humiliating electoral defeat in 1937, gravely undermined the position of the taluqdars and zamindars, which formed the bulwark of colonial authority in the countryside. Around the same time, the Congress subtly campaigned to secure the allegiance of subordinate policemen, thus placing considerable pressure on the “steel frame” of the British administration to accept local Congressmen as partners in government. Before long, the Congress emerged as a locus of authority parallel to the colonial state itself. Arguably, its tenure in office questioned the entire concept of what now constituted “government”. It succeeded in altering popular perceptions of the state, leaving a deep imprint on the Raj’s institutions, and shaking the morale and allegiance of its personnel. In late 1939, the onset of World War II abruptly terminated this Congress “take-over”. While it provided the Raj an opportunity to reassert its authority, the war effort also engaged the colonial state with new demands in terms of men and materials. The Congress mounted two further campaigns in the 1940s: the Individual Civil Disobedience campaign of 1940–41 and the Quit India movement of 1942. In both, the UP Congress was able to demonstrate its organizational capacity as well as strong popular support.24 In fact, by the 1940s, the UP Congress leadership continuously projected the province as the ‘‘heartland’’ of the emerging nation. It based its claims upon its robust track record of mobilizing the most powerful anti-colonial mass campaigns. Indeed, in the NonCooperation movement of 1920–21 and the Civil Disobedience movement of 1930–32, the largest number of jailed political volunteers hailed from UP. In the Quit India Movement—perhaps the most dramatic face-off between the Raj and nationalist India— UP’s contribution was particularly strong. The storm centres of Quit India—Ballia, Banaras, Ghazipur—lay in UP, which also yielded the largest number of political convicts. By the time Independence came in 1947, the UP Congress had successfully projected the province as the ‘‘heartland’’ of the new nation. The presence of Jawaharlal Nehru—who shared this 24

Gyanesh Kudaisya, “Foreshadowing ‘Quit India’: The Congress in Uttar Pradesh”, in Neera Chandhoke, ed., Mapping Histories, Essays Presented to Ravinder Kumar, New Delhi, 2000, pp. 225–54.

22 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

view—on the national stage boosted their confidence. In his Discovery of India, published in 1946, Nehru wrote: The United Provinces … are a curious amalgam, and in some ways an epitome of India. They are the seat of the old Hindu culture as well as of the Persian culture that came in Afghan and Mughal times, and hence the mixture of the two is most in evidence there, intermingled with the culture of the west. There is less provincialism there than in any other part of India. For long they have considered themselves, and have been looked upon by others, as the heart of India. Indeed, in popular parlance, they are often referred to as Hindustan.25 On the eve of Independence, such was the confidence of UP Congressmen that several demanded that Allahabad be made capital of India. They argued that “Delhi has been the grave of empires, Allahabad all along the seat of Hindu culture and unity”. They added that, given the leading role UP played in the freedom struggle, the city’s importance as a religious centre of Hinduism, and its equidistant location from the provinces comprising the Union, Allahabad should take precedence over Delhi as the federal capital. The argument, however, was unsuccessful.26 The late 1940s and early 1950s were critical years in the transformation in UP’s political life. To begin with, the Indian National Congress metamorphosed—from claiming to be the legitimate organizational form of the struggle for Independence into a party charged with the responsibility of governance. Its organization had to subject itself to the discipline enforced by the top leaders who were also now important state functionaries. The autonomy of party organization at the grassroots, which before Independence had provided a focus for several and sometimes divergent interests and aspirations, had to make way for a more exclusive formation that channelled access to political power and patronage. All this also involved a decisive move away for the Congress from its oppositional legacy. As expected, these changes polarized the Congress: radical Left-wingers left to join the ranks of the Opposition, 25 Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India, New Delhi, 1994 (first published in 1946), p. 334. 26 On this episode, see Tai Yong Tan and Gyanesh Kudaisya, The Aftermath of Partition in South Asia, London, 2000, pp. 195–96.

Introduction 23

either in the Communist Party or the newly-formed Praja Socialist Party. Those sections that strongly identified with the “Gandhian wing”, with its focus on constructive work without reliance upon state institutions, were marginalized within the party structure. In overall terms, in the words of Sudipta Kaviraj, a “process of demobilization” took place.27 Meanwhile, in a democratic framework based upon universal adult franchise, the Congress leadership had to gear itself to become an electoral machine. Over the years, it perfected this role so well that it delivered substantial victories, one election after another. Hardly spontaneous, this was the result of carefully crafted policies and initiatives targeting “vote banks”. For instance, after 1947, the Congress consciously tried to cultivate the substantial Muslim “minority” by incorporating its leadership. Likewise, the limited “zamindari abolition” package put in place in 1951 left the landlords largely intact in terms of their influence and resources, while promoting the interests of substantial farmers who—particularly in western UP—have emerged as rich peasant farmers. Through these measures, the Congress could win powerful allies in the countryside. The Panchayati Raj initiative of the 1950s was also designed to consolidate the party’s electoral base.

Review of Literature The keywords “region”, “nation” and “heartland” are central to this book. Perhaps we should consider some critical recent studies relating to these and the insights they provide. There are influential works in critical geography that re-examine the concepts of region and heartland. Anssi Paasi, for instance, argues that societies assume their regional shape through a “geo-historical process” marked by political struggles that involve contested social and cultural practices. He contends that regions are neither givens, nor the unintended outcomes of economic, social or political processes. In fact, they are often deliberately produced by the actions of those with power, who inscribe space with particular political and ideological constructions and, in doing so, create “places” in pursuit 27 Sudipta Kaviraj, “A Critique of the Passive Revolution”, in Partha Chatterjee, ed., State and Politics in India, New Delhi, 1997.

24 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

of their own goals. Any thinking about regions must take into account the complex geometry of power. Paasi is of the view that categories such as cities and regions are “historically constructed, culturally contested and are politically charged”, rather than “neutral and existentially given”. Place identities are not “fixed or permanent” but “subject to the continuous play of history, culture, geographical movement, transfer and political power”. Such ideas challenge the earlier academic understanding that the natural environment formed the basis for the demarcation of regions.28 Passi looks upon regions as arenas through which it is possible to view “the movements and dramas of individuals and groups in a series of economic, political and cultural contexts”. He also sketches out the stages involved in a region’s institutionalization and in advancing the intellectual pursuit and the political understanding of regional transformation.29 He considers the process of region formation as active and ongoing, a process that is “unpredictable, contested and contingent” and in which state policies, ruling elites, etc., play important roles. Another key concept—that of the “core area”—holds relevance when we consider UP’s status as a ‘‘heartland’’. In geographical literature, this concept has been influential. It suggests that states are formed around some “germinal or nuclear core-area”. They 28

Western territorial expansion led horizontal space to be divided into “natural regions” out of which states came to be constructed and eventually administrative units were formed. In this view the natural environment created an essential unity based on ethnic unity of an area. Thus regions provided the context in which “many dissimilar beings, artificially brought together, have subsequently adapted themselves to a common existence”. 29 Paasi looks upon the institutionalization of regions as arising out of “a geohistorical process”. He has identified typically four stages in this process of institutionalization. The first stage is marked by the assumption of territorial awareness and shape in which territory assumes some bounded configuration in individual and collective consciousness and becomes identified as a distinct unit in the spatial structure of society. The second stage is marked by the formation of conceptual or symbolic shape through flags, cartographies, symbols and equally by struggles over difference and identity. In the third stage institutions which formally engage in identity-framing practices through education, local politics, the media, etc., emerge. All these lead to the establishment of a region in spatial structure and popular consciousness, which may assume the shape of a territorial unit, also possibly as an administrative unit. For elaboration of these ideas, see Anssi Paasi Territories, Boundaries and Consciousness: The Changing Geographies of the Finnish– Russian Border, Chichester, 1991.

Introduction 25

are believed to have a “germinal… [a] geographic starting point” from where they grow by a process of accretion. In Politische Geographie (1897), Freidrich Ratzel proposed the idea of states beginning as small “territorial cells”.30 Since then, the concept has been fine-tuned by other geographical thinkers, who have perceived it to be characterized by “unusual fertility of soil, permitting a dense agricultural population and provided a food surplus to maintain additional numbers in non agricultural pursuits; geographic features facilitating military defence of the area; and nodal position at an interaction of major transportation routes”. In this view, coreareas support “the densest and most extended population”, have “the closest mesh of transportation lines”, include important centres of specialized industrial production, and are connected to various other hinterlands through transportation links.31 The credit for inventing the concept of the ‘‘heartland’’ goes to English geographer Halford Mackinder and American strategic thinker Alfred Mahan. Mahan emphasized the influence of sea power through the course of world history, making the case that the mobility thus provided enabled nations to exert force at a distance. He labelled the vast Asian land mass as a core inaccessible to sea power and considered it impregnable. In response, Mackinder proposed that, while sea power was important, it was railroad and land transportation that provided greater flexibility. He designated that part of Eurasia, lying within present-day Russia, as the “pivot” area that was impregnable and safe from maritime power. In 1919, Mackinder enlarged the area designated as the pivot, rechristening it the “heartland”.32 What are the key characteristics of a ‘‘heartland’’ according to the Mackinder theory? Its “indisputable interior location”, “long established core” and proximity to historic land routes, interconnecting several hinterlands. However, it is increasingly being recognized that the concept of the ‘‘heartland’’ oversimplifies


Edward F. Bergman, Modern Political Geography, Iowa, 1975; and Harm J. de Blij, Systematic Political Geography, 2nd edn, New York, 1973. 31 This discussion draws upon Ramesh Dutta Dikshit, Political Geography: A Contemporary Perspective, New Delhi, 1975. 32 Halford J. Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality: A Study in the Politics of Reconstruction, New York, 1919.

26 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

history and is too deterministic.33 Also, it is a somewhat outdated concept, for it does not acknowledge the dramatic role of technology in shaping a world where faster transportation modes and communications speeds have removed the barrier of physical distance. Further, it must be reiterated that ideas of “heartland” and “rim land” must be rooted in socio-cultural context prevalent in the regions thus categorized, rather than in imposed ways of ordering spaces and privileging particular expanses of territory.34 The study of regions has been neglected in South Asia.35 Unfortunately, the tradition of political geography pioneered by scholars like Oscar Spate and B.H. Farmer has not been sustained by the later generation of scholars. So, the study of political and cultural regions has almost been abandoned within studies on modern South Asia.36 An exception among Indian historical thinkers has been K.M. Panikkar who wrote reflective essays on the influence of geographical factors in Indian history and the role of sea power in shaping its course. Panikkar characterizes the Ganga valley as the “principal core” of India: That Hindu opinion always viewed it as such is seen from the fact that not only is Ganges the sacred river par excellence of India but the area from Gaya to Mathura, from Sangam to Hardwar, is recognized by everyone to be the holy land of 33

Mackinder’s ideas came to be used and misused by a number of strategic thinkers. In the 1920s they were used in Germany as providing a strong argument for a Russo–German alliance. They were also said to have strongly influenced Hitler’s early thinking. In the post-World War II era, influential strategic thinkers like Saul B. Cohen, drawing strongly upon the Mackinder way of thinking, presented a geopolitical argument which deployed categories like heartlands, shatterbelts, etc. Thus the heartland–rim land thesis has continued to be used as an ideological tool of US foreign policy makers as Mackinder’s ideas have provided a simple spatial structure which suited US foreign policy and provided an easy way of conceptualizing the new situation in the Cold War era. Saul B. Cohen, Geography and Politics in a World Divided, New York, 1963. 34 Peter J. Taylor, Political Geography: World-Economy, Nation-State and Locality, New York, 1985. 35 In studies of Southeast Asia, the concept of the “Mandala” is influential with geopolitical connotations as the “centre” of a polity. The concept of the Mandala, propounded by O.W. Wolters in the late 1960s is too complex in characteristics and too specific to the Southeast Asian context to be of much relevance in the context of twentieth century northern India. 36 Ann Feldhouse, Connected Places: Region, Pilgrimage, and Geographical Imagination in India, New York, 2003.

Introduction 27

Hinduism. Every dynasty, even in the middle India, once it established its authority in its homeland, dreamed of consolidating its rule by establishing itself in the area. The Satavahanas of Pratisthan, the Kings of Avanti and even the Peshwas of Poona realized that their imperial sway could be maintained only if they controlled the Gangetic valley. The British advancing from the sea came to the same conclusion.37 Bernard S. Cohn’s work presents a rather different, more critical approach to studying regions. His writings may be particularly relevant to our discussion, as UP provided the field for much of his anthropological and historical exploration. In engaging with the subject of regions and regionalism, Cohn was interested in exploring the quintessential Indian idea of “unity in diversity”. He wanted to understand the historical circumstances in which “diversity” or the “structure and cultural features of regional difference” become pronounced. This led him to examine how a region may be defined and how it could be constructed though a historical process. Cohn arrived at the view that no single definition exists of the concept of the “region”; indeed, there could be as many definitions as there are social disciplines. However, each of these in exploring the idea of the “region” attempts to establish relationships between geographical features and human adaptation to the physical environment. Underlying some definitions is the key idea of a “natural region” based upon physical features of the land, which Cohn interrogates. Cohn proposes a typology of regions. The first is the historical region, held together by sacred myths and symbols, or by significant groups within the area linking people to their past and the geographical entity they inhabit. He provides examples of the present state of Tamil Nadu and the Bundelkhand area (covering parts of UP and Madhya Pradesh) in which, for centuries, the ruling group of Bundela Rajputs has exercised authority and shaped the region’s identity. Then, there are linguistic regions in which a standard shared and recognized language provides the basis for a common identity. However, Cohn points out that, within the linguistic area, there could be differences between the linguistic standard and regional dialects, citing the example of Marathi as the former and Konkani 37

K.M. Pannikar, Geographical Factors in Indian History, Bombay, 1955, p. 25.

28 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

as the latter. His third category is of cultural regions in which there are widely shared and recognized cultural traits and patterns of behaviour, for example, the worship of Kali in Bengal. Other cultural objects like dress, headgear, jewellery, agricultural implements, house-types and so on reinforce the differentiation. Finally, according to Cohn, there is the structural region in which several associated structural variables differentiate one area from another, such as caste ranking and community structure, presence of particular ethnic groups, existence of social consensus, and need for the relative isolation of the dominant elite group. Thus, Cohn argues that regions may differ from each other in their characteristics and may not be comparable because their foundations are based on different criteria. Language alone does not necessarily create “a tightly bordered or circumscribed region” as so often there are overlapping languages. Further, regional linguistic standards often differ from dialects. Cohn emphasizes that, as regions are historically constructed, they are subject to change. As an example, he cites Bengal, which became a “central region” during 200 years of colonial rule due to a reorientation of authority and influence from land-centres to the littoral; this also brought the ports of Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata into prominence. Historical circumstances thus rapidly altered the very nature and conception of the regions. Cohn also takes into account the role of indigenous print media, new religious movements, and cultural tastes and preferences of the elite in the shaping of regional identity. In overall terms, Cohn argues that regions are “far from fixed and enduring things especially if any historical perspective is taken”. Regions are historically constructed, their identities unfixed and subject to change. Such insights are particularly valuable when juxtaposed with literature on concepts of the nation and nationalism. It is beyond the scope of this discussion to either summarize this larger corpus of works or critique them systematically. Perhaps one can highlight the convergence of constructivist approaches in which critical texts examining the concepts of nation and region are grounded. As academic writings on nation and nationalism form a large theme in modern Indian historiography, it is beyond the scope of this discussion to attempt a critique of these.38 38

Some of the key texts from which this work has benefited are: Bipan Chandra, Nationalism and Colonialism in Modern India, New Delhi, 1979 and his Communalism in

Introduction 29

We now turn to the scholarly literature on UP, the focus of this study. In reflecting upon this, Francis Robinson, the well-known scholar of Islam and historian of UP’s Muslim communities, has recently noted: In one sense the United Provinces, the most important region in the politics of modern India, has been much studied; since the late 1960s it has attracted the attention of a host of researchers from India, Europe and America. In another sense, this region, whose population is about half that of the United States, has by comparison a minute historiography.39 In this corpus of historical works on UP, certain themes stand out. Perhaps the most significant relates to agrarian studies, which generated much scholarly interest, perhaps due to the land reforms of the 1950s that UP attempted to introduce vigorously in independent India. Cohn pioneered some of these efforts through his micro-level studies of Senapur and Madhopur villages. His studies of related themes such as colonial law, British impact on Banaras, changing status of untouchables, and consequences of zamindari abolition stimulated the field in the 1950s and 1960s. The works of Walter Neale (on land tenures and reforms), Sulekh Chandra Gupta (on the evolution of agrarian relations in the early nineteenth century) and Jagdish Raj (on the changes in land settlement after the Revolt of 1857) provided a strong basis for agrarian studies relating to UP.40 The writings of Eric Stokes, Thomas Metcalf and Modern India, New Delhi, 1984; Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe, Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, New Delhi, 2001 and his Habitations of Modernity: Essays in the Wake of Subaltern Studies, Chicago, 2002; Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse?, London, 1986 and his The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Post-colonial Histories, Princeton, 1993; Sumit Sarkar, Writing Social History, New Delhi, 2002; C.A. Bayly, Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780–1870, Cambridge, 1996; and Mushirul Hasan, Nationalism and Communal Politics in India, 1885–1930, New Delhi, 1991. 39 Francis Robinson, “Book Review”, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 33, 2, 2005. 40 Walter C. Neale, Economic Change in Rural India: Land Tenure and Reforms in Uttar Pradesh 1800–1955, London, 1962; Sulekh Chandra Gupta, Agrarian Relations and Early British Rule in India: A Case Study of Ceded and Conquered Provinces (Uttar Pradesh) (1801–1833), London, 1963; and Jagdish Raj, The Mutiny and British Land Policy in North India 1856–1868, London, 1965.

30 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

Peter Reeves are later examples of this tradition.41 This interest in agrarian studies continued into the early 1970s in the works of Elizabeth Whitecombe, Asiya Siddiqui and Peter Musgrave.42 Then, in the late 1970s, an important paradigmatic shift occurred within this tradition. With the new emphasis on “history from below”, attention moved from land revenue systems and landlords to peasants and the rural poor, as reflected in the works of Majid Hayat Siddiqi and Kapil Kumar.43 This interest was continued in local studies of Basti district by sociologist Rajendra Singh, of Faizabad district by Harold Gould and of Aligarh district by political scientists Zoya Hasan and Paul Brass.44 The study of communalism, wherein UP historians have been at the forefront, is another major theme that has stimulated historywriting. This is not surprising since the province has been the breeding ground of “communal” politics for almost a century, if not more. Beginning from the late nineteenth century campaign for cow protection and “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan” to the Khilafat movement of the 1920s, from the Shia–Sunni conflict of the 1930s to the campaign for Pakistan of the 1940s, from the efforts of Madan Mohan Malaviya and Syed Ahmed Khan to establish sectarian universities, to the recent Ram Janmabhoomi–Babri Masjid conflict,


Eric Stokes, The Peasant and the Raj: Studies in Agrarian Society and Peasant Rebellion in Colonial India, Cambridge, 1978; Thomas R. Metcalf, Land, Landlords, and the British Raj: Northern India in the Nineteenth Century, Berkeley, 1979; and Peter Reeves, Landlords and Governments in Uttar Pradesh: A Study of their Relations until Zamindari Abolition, Bombay, 1991. 42 Elizabeth Whitecombe, Agrarian Conditions in North India: The United Provinces under British Rule, 1860–1900, Berkeley, 1972; Asiya Siddiqi, Agrarian Change in a Northern Indian State: Uttar Pradesh 1819–33, Oxford, 1973; and Peter Musgrave, “An Indian Rural Society: Aspects of the Structure of Rural Society in the United Provinces, 1860–1920”, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge, 1976. 43 Majid Hayat Siddiqi, Agrarian Unrest in North India: The United Provinces, 1918– 1922, New Delhi, 1978; and Kapil Kumar, Peasants in Revolt: Tenants, the Landlords and the Raj in Oudh, New Delhi, 1984. 44 Zoya Hasan, Dominance and Mobilization: Rural Politics in Western Uttar Pradesh 1930–1980, New Delhi, 1989; Rajendra Singh, Land, Power and People: Rural Elite in Transition, 1801–1970, New Delhi, 1988; Harold A. Gould, Grass Roots Politics in India: A Century of Political Evolution in Faizabad District, New Delhi, 1994; Paul R. Brass, The Production of Hindu–Muslim Violence in Contemporary India, Seattle, 2003.

Introduction 31

UP has led the vanguard in communal strife.45 Facets of this strife have been studied by Francis Robinson (who traced the origins of Muslim separatism in the orthodox religious schools of Islam); by Mushirul Hasan (who studied communal movements of the 1920s and 1930s); by Gyanendra Pandey (whose work examines the construction of communal identities); by Sandria Frietag (who has provided an altogether fresh perspective on the subject); William Gould (who has highlighted an ideological convergence between Hindu cultural nationalism and a section of UP’s Congress leadership) and Salil Misra (who has looked at the micro-politics of the critical 1937–39 years).46 Yet, another important theme that has engendered a growing body of literature relates to the nature of nationalist politics, the organization and leadership of the Congress, and its successive mass campaigns. Christopher Bayly’s work on the local roots of nationalist politics in Allahabad pioneered the tradition of microlevel studies which have since been followed in the studies of Gyanendra Pandey, Chandan Mitra, Shahid Amin, Visalakshi Menon and several other scholars. From these and many other accounts, we now know a good deal about how the Congress harnessed local grievances and incorporated them in the larger arena of all-India politics; the manner in which dominant and elite groups were alienated from the Raj and increasingly gave their allegiance to the Congress; and how the support of different strata 45 On the Ram Janmabhoomi–Babri Masjid conflict, see Peter van der Veer, Gods on Earth: The Management of Religious Experience and Identity in a North Indian Pilgrimage Centre, London, 1988; Asghar Ali Engineer, ed., Babri Masjid Ram Janmabhoomi Controversy, New Delhi, 1990; and S. Gopal, ed., Anatomy of a Confrontation: The Babri Masjid–Ramjanmabhumi Issue, New Delhi, 1991. Also see Christophe Jaffrelot, The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics, 1925 to the 1990s, New Delhi, 1996. 46 Francis Robinson, Separatism among Indian Muslims: The Politics of the United Provinces Muslims, 1860–1923, Cambridge, 1974; Mushirul Hasan, Nationalism and Communal Politics in India, 1885–1930, New Delhi, 1991; Sandria B. Frietag, Collective Action and Community: Public Arenas and the Emergence of Communalism in North India, Berkeley, 1989; and Gyanendra Pandey, The Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India, New Delhi, 1990. Also see Mukul Kesavan, “Communal Politics in the United Provinces, 1935–47”, unpublished M.Litt. dissertation, Cambridge, 1987; William Gould, Hindu Nationalism and the Language of Politics in Late Colonial India, Cambridge, New York, 2004; Salil Misra, A Narrative of Communal Politics: Uttar Pradesh 1937–1939, New Delhi, 2001.

32 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

of rural society was enlisted for the purposes of nationalist mobilization. Of particular concern to historians have been accounts of mass mobilization, especially in the countryside.47 In addition to these three overriding themes, researchers have addressed a wide range of UP-centric issues: opposition parties,48 factional politics and linguistic conflicts,49 untouchable and backward castes,50 irrigation systems,51 and particular sectors of the economy.52 More recently, researchers have grappled with a host of new concerns, such as the manner in which criminal laws were codified and struck firm roots in indigenous soil despite their alien nature;53 the way colonial officials administered Hindu pilgrims


C.A. Bayly, The Local Roots of Indian Politics: Allahabad 1880–1920, Oxford, 1975; Gyanendra Pandey, The Ascendancy of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh 1926–34: A Study in Imperfect Mobilization, New Delhi, 1978; Lance Brennan, “Political Change in Rohilkhand, 1932–1952: A Study of the Relationship between Provincial and District-Level Politicians”, unpublished D.Phil. thesis, University of Sussex, 1972; Visalakshi Menon, “The Indian National Congress and Mass Mobilisation: A Study of the UP, 1937–39”, Studies in History, II, 2, 1980 and her From Movement to Government: The Congress in the United Provinces, 1937–1942, New Delhi, 2003; Shahid Amin, “Gandhi as Mahatma: Gorakhpur District, Eastern UP, 1921–22”, in R. Guha, ed., Subaltern Studies, III, New Delhi, 1984, pp. 1–61; and Chandan Sourav Mitra, “Political Mobilization and the Nationalist Movement in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, 1937–42”, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Oxford, 1983. 48 Angela Sutherland Burger, Opposition in a Dominant-Party System: A Study of the Jan Sangh, the Praja Socialist Party and the Socialist Party in Uttar Pradesh, India, Berkeley, 1969. 49 Paul R. Brass, Factional Politics in an Indian State: The Congress Party in Uttar Pradesh, California, 1965 and his Language, Religion and Politics in North India, Cambridge, 1974. 50 Ravindra K. Khare, The Untouchable as Himself: Ideology, Identity and Pragmatism among the Lucknow Chamars, Cambridge, 1984; and Gloria Goodwin Raheja, The Poison in the Gift: Ritual, Prestation and the Dominant Caste in a North Indian Village, Chicago, 1988; Nandini Gooptu, The Politics of the Urban Poor in Early TwentiethCentury India, Cambridge, 2001. 51 Ian Stone, Canal Irrigation in British India: Perspective on Technological Change in a Peasant Economy, Cambridge, 1984. 52 Shahid Amin, Sugar and Sugarcane in Gorakhpur: An Enquiry into Peasant Production for Capitalist Enterprise in Colonial India, New Delhi, 1984. 53 Radhika Singha, A Despotism of Law: Crime and Justice in Early Colonial India, New Delhi, 1998. For an interesting study of caste, law and notions of honour, see Malavika Kasturi, Embattled Identities: Rajput Lineages and the Colonial State in Nineteenth-Century North India, New Delhi, 2002.

Introduction 33

in the nineteenth century;54 the ways in which urban middle classes engaged with challenges of modernity, drawing upon both western and indigenous ideas;55 the manner in which certain social groups ranged against colonial authority were “criminalized”;56 and the way in which the railways opened up the UP hinterland and facilitated its integration into the all-India market. 57 There have also been studies of changing land-use in nineteenth-century Banaras, of disease and mortality, of spare time and leisure amongst artisan groups, and of diverse aspects of popular culture.58 There have also been studies of print culture and the growth of newspapers and the ways these have shaped UP society;59 of the position of women in the socio-political structure of UP.60 Since the late 1980s, scholars have addressed new concerns arising from the dramatic contemporary transformations that UP has witnessed. The first relates to the issue of UP’s socio-economic performance in recent decades in relation to other Indian states. UP features prominently in works that analyse persistent regional disparities in independent India’s socio-economic fabric. The late Krishna Bharadwaj’s work on regional differentiation, published in the early 1980s, has been extended by the empirical research of Ravi Srivastava,61 who highlights that—after over half a century

54 Katherine Helen Prior, “The British Administration of Hinduism in North India, 1780–1900”, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge, 1990. 55 Sanjay Joshi, Fractured Modernity: Making of a Middle Class in Colonial North India, New Delhi, 2001. 56 Sanjay Nigam, “A Social History of a Colonial Stereotype: The ‘Criminal Tribes and Castes’ of Uttar Pradesh, 1871–1930”, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1988. 57 Ian David Derbyshire, “Opening Up the Interior: The Impact of Railways on the North Indian Economy and Society, 1860–1914”, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge, 1985. 58 See the contributions to Sandria B. Frietag, ed., Power, Performance and Culture in Banaras, Berkeley, 1988. 59 Kirti Narain, Press, Politics and Society—Uttar Pradesh, 1885–1914, New Delhi, 1998. 60 Visalakshi Menon, Indian Women and Nationalism: The UP Story, New Delhi, 2003; and Smita Tewari Jassal, Daughters of the Earth, Women and Land in Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi, 2001. 61 Krishna Bharadwaj, “Regional Differentiation in India”, Economic and Political Weekly, 17 February 1982; reproduced in T.V. Satyamurthy, ed., Industry and Agriculture in India since Independence, New Delhi, 1995, pp. 189–218.

34 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

of planned economic development—there has been a steady increase in regional disparities in terms of a number of economic indicators and UP has steadily lost its position.62 He argues that disparities between UP and other states—despite the centre’s avowed strategy of reducing them—have increased after Independence. Further, he shows that several significant socioeconomic problems—such as poverty, unemployment and low wages—have tended towards regionalization, as a result of which UP has more people who are below the poverty line and are illiterate. More recently, studies by Jean Dreze and Haris Gazdar reinforce this view of postcolonial UP’s development experience.63 The findings of such studies are ironical, as they juxtapose UP’s front rank standing as a “political heartland” against its lagging development performance. In a sense, such ironical findings challenge political analysts and historians to ask why UP—as a constituent part of India’s bodypolitic—finds itself deeply fragmented along affiliations of class, caste, religion, faction and region. Two kinds of studies have engaged with these questions. The first is focused on Hindu nationalist majoritarian mobilization, as witnessed in the wake of the Ram Janmabhoomi–Babri Masjid imbroglio, sited in UP. The second relates to the lower caste groups: their rise, their assertion of identities, their quest for power, for which UP has provided the ideological battleground.64


Ravi Srivastava, “India’s Uneven Development and its Implications for Political Processes: An Analysis of Some Recent Trends”, in T.V. Satyamurthy, ed., Industry and Agriculture in India since Independence, pp. 219–47; and Ravi Srivastava, “Planning and Regional Disparaties in India”, in T. Byres, ed., The State and Development Planning in India, New Delhi, 1994, pp. 147–219. See also Laxmi Devi, ed., Planning Development and Regional Disparities, New Delhi, 1997. 63 Jean Dreze and Haris Gazdar, “Uttar Pradesh: The Burden of Inertia”, in Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen, eds, Indian Development: Selected Regional Perspectives, New Delhi, 1997, pp. 33–128. 64 The writings of Zoya Hasan and Sudha Pai are particularly instructive on these developments, see Zoya Hasan, Quest for Power: Oppositional Movements and PostCongress in Uttar Pradesh, New York, 1998; and Sudha Pai, Dalit Assertion and the Unfinished Democratic Revolution: The Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi, 2002 and Changing Agrarian Relations in U.P.: A Study of the North-Eastern Areas, New Delhi, 1986.

Introduction 35

Structure of this Book This book looks at political change in the context of the key regional society of UP. It is divided into four parts and contains seven chapters, including this. Part I, comprising Chapter 1, attempts to set out the study’s overall context. In doing so, it attempts a critical review of existing literature relating to the “region” and “heartland”, and highlights the insights this literature offers in the context of South Asia. It reviews historical studies relating to state and society in northern India, to situate the book in the context of a larger literature relating to UP. Part II, comprising Chapters 2 and 3, discusses the construction of UP as a colonial “heartland”. Chapter 2 delineates some of the key elements of Pax Britannica, as it was established in UP from the late nineteenth century onwards. It discusses the institution of policing and the imposition of legal authority through codified criminal laws and the ways in which these operated in northern Indian society. It also provides a background to the system of control that the British established in urban as well as rural areas. Taking the story further, Chapter 3 looks at the colonial army and the ways in which it was positioned vis-à-vis indigenous society. The discussion is then enlarged to look at representative institutions and the ways in which these developed in UP till the 1920s. In overall terms, the discussion reveals that the colonial construction of UP as a “model” province was grounded in the establishment of a system of governance that incorporated elements of both coercion and consent. This system worked with an economy of resources and with a remarkable degree of efficacy until it came to be challenged from the 1920s by anti-colonial nationalists. Part III, comprising Chapters 4, 5 and 6, examines the ways in which UP was mobilized for the politics of anti-colonial nationalism. It examines political developments in UP between 1930 and 1942 onwards. In these years, the Indian National Congress built upon its organizational work and campaigns of the 1920s to initiate the Civil Disobedience movement. Chapter 4 looks at the ways in which the Congress succeeded in establishing a rural popular base for itself, and provides evidence of its organizational depth and the methods it used to continually challenge colonial authority. Chapter 5 examines a crucial episode in the ascendancy of the

36 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

Congress when it formed a popular ministry under new constitutional arrangements and before long emerged as a locus of authority parallel to the colonial state itself. The chapter details how the Congress ministry’s tenure brought into sharp focus the entire concept of what constituted “government”. Not only did it drastically change popular perceptions of state authority, it also deeply affected the Raj’s institutions, especially shaking the morale and allegiance of colonial personnel. Chapter 6 discusses UP’s transformation in the wake of World War II. The war effort that the colonial state was required to mount entailed new interventions in state and society. Part IV, comprising Chapter 7, examines UP as a postcolonial political “heartland”. It provides a detailed account of the challenges for UP in the aftermath of the Partition and the ways in which violence against the minorities tore away UP’s social fabric. It delineates the key elements used to reconstruct a regional postcolonial polity, such as its renaming in 1950 (from “United Provinces” to “Uttar Pradesh”) and the use of linguistic politics to shape its regional identity as a pan-Indian Hindi “heartland”. The chapter also looks at the strong relationship that the UP Congress forged with the central leadership by continually affirming its national policies. Through all these measures, UP could institutionalize itself as the political “heartland” within India’s body-politic. It was also empowered enough to preserve its geographical boundaries by resisting demands for its reorganization at a time when several states within the Indian federation were broken up to constitute linguistic states in the 1950s. The concluding section of this book draws together some implications for UP by critically examining the extent to which the framework of the “heartland” has worked for the well-being of state and society in contemporary India.


The Colonial “Heartland”


The Framework of Pax Britannica in Uttar Pradesh Uttar Pradesh’s creation as a “heartland” was a protracted process, for and during which several civil institutions were set up, laws were codified and public order was gradually established. The nineteenth century laid the foundations of Pax Britannica in northern India,1 as the violent events of the Revolt of 1857 radically altered British priorities and left a deep imprint on the nature of political authority that came to shape UP society. With the annexation of Awadh, direct colonial rule was established over most areas that constitute today’s UP. The new framework was characterized by the creation of the landlord-based taluqdari system, gradually strengthened by the dominant influence of the “Oudh School” of administrators. This was the Pax that structured UP as a colonial “heartland” following the Revolt of 1857. This chapter examines the developments that shaped the ideas and institutions of colonial authority in UP in the larger context of northern Indian society. Here, it would be useful to understand a term that will occur frequently in this chapter. “Public order” refers to the system of rules and regulations—manifested in the institutions of policing and criminal justice—that the British defined and imposed to regulate civic life after the Revolt of 1857. 1

For a general discussion, see John W. Cell, “Colonial Rule”, in Judith Brown and Wm. Roger Louis, eds, The Oxford History of the British Empire, The Twentieth Century, Vol. IV, New York, 1999.

40 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

Of course, it must be added that what constituted order for the state differed considerably from what was understood as order by the people or by members of a community. Further, what was perceived as order by one social group could be quite different from that perceived by another group. Public order, then, must be understood not as a universal category, but something that was specific to a context and something that was necessarily valueloaded in the context of UP. Public order was one of the two principal concerns of the Raj in UP. The other was the assessment and collection of land revenue. From the beginning of the nineteenth century, the British began to articulate a discourse of public order to legitimize their growing interference in the affairs of north Indian society, especially in Awadh. The classic exponent of this discourse was William Sleeman.2 His adventures against “thagi and dacoity” yielded the early icons to embellish this discourse, and his writings highlighted the British anxiety to impose “order” in the region.3 In fact, when the British did annex Awadh in 1856, they cited law and order as the “principal reason for its annexation”.4 The Raj delegitimized indigenous institutions and practices of maintaining public peace and deployed the new discourse of order to validate its expansionist policies. After expansion came problems of consolidation; the need to evolve civil institutions for preserving order lay at the heart of these. In the sphere of the military, with a century-long tradition already behind them, the British created a professional force with a relatively high standard of efficiency and competence.5 Yet, the army was only one component of the overall machinery. They next turned their attention towards police, law courts and prisons. Gradually, the British set the stage for an institutional and legal framework, wherein the Raj would emerge as the custodian of public order. Let us delineate its main features to 2 Gen. Francis Tucker’s The Yellow Scarf: The Story of the Life of Thuggee Sleeman, London, 1961 provides a biographical account. 3 The centrality of Sleeman to nineteenth-century British thinking on crime and law and order is recognized by several contributors to Anand A. Yang, ed., Crime and Criminality in British India, Arizona, 1985. 4 Lord Dalhousie, cited in D.B. Trivedi, “Law and Order in Oudh 1859–76”, unpublished doctoral thesis, SOAS, University of London, 1978, p. 1. 5 See Dirk Kolff’s Naukar, Rajput and Sepoy: The Ethnohistory of the Military Labour Market in Hindustan, 1450–1850, Cambridge, 1990 for a study on the creation of a professional military culture and ethos by the British in the pre-1858 period.

The Framework of Pax Britannica in Uttar Pradesh 41

understand how it managed to configure UP society within a single framework of governance.

Colonial Policing Military Legacies and the New Police A strong military legacy distinguished Awadh’s new police force. The British had used troops extensively in reconquering Awadh after the 1857 Revolt. The battalions that were instrumental in suppressing the rebellion provided the nucleus for the new police force. All officers were recruited from the army, while the rank and file belonged either to the army or enlisted for martial bearing and qualities. The organization of the police fully incorporated notions of the “martial races” as well as prejudices against lowcaste recruits. And so, military attitudes and practices came to be well entrenched in the new police. Since the policemen had to deal with a sullen, subjected population that had suffered a great many depredations during the disturbances, their military-scale training guaranteed their authoritative supremacy over the “rough and hardy” population of Awadh. This was in marked contrast to how a police force would normally behave and work. Ordinarily, the police and the army would display rather divergent aptitudes and temperaments. Policemen generally dealt with and worked among their own people, while military men were trained and conditioned to think in terms of enemy targets and a hostile population. Policemen, less martial, could more patiently address the painstaking work of routine crime prevention, while military men bluntly and unhesitatingly carried out orders. So prominent was the military temperament of the new police that a section of colonial officials denounced it for its “continuous martial element and its drill, discipline and uniform”. Critiquing it as “overarmed and over drilled”, they considered it too military to be of value as a civil police. A study of the post1857 police in Awadh concludes: “The police could not overcome the legacy of the circumstances of its creation for a long time and its military orientation distracted it from its more legitimate functions of detection and suppression of crime”.6 6

Trivedi, op. cit., p. 180.

42 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

The Fate of the Indigenous Police Before the annexation of Awadh in 1856, the taluqdars exercised extensive police-like powers in their estates. The larger taluqdars maintained private establishments of armed retainers and enjoyed certain policing and judicial powers in their territories. They considered these powers as part of their “feudal” privileges and guarded them zealously. But when, after the Revolt, the British administration appropriated these powers, the landlords had to perforce disband their private retainers. While many taluqdars lamented the loss of their powers, some looked upon the abrogation of their rights as a blessing in disguise, as they soon discovered that their notions of police methods were completely at variance with those of the British administration and those embodied in the new legal codes. By appropriating the landlords’ powers and privileges, the British attempted not only to delegitimize indigenous policing methods but also asserted their monopoly over state power and the institutions that wielded it. As Freitag remarks: “The British saw authority as exclusive; they could not share it at any level with those whom they ruled.”7 With the establishment of the new police came the pacification of the countryside. The post-Revolt campaign to disarm the population was quite a success; by August 1859, the British had managed to destroy as many as 1,569 forts and seize a sizeable weaponry, including 684 cannon, 186,177 firearms, 565,321 swords, 50,311 spears, and 636,683 arms of a “miscellaneous character”. They declared that carrying arms was a criminal offence; the Arms and Ammunition Act of 1875 formally embodied elaborate measures against it.8 The objective clearly was to deprive potential “troublemakers” of weapons they could use to challenge the state’s authority. As the armed retainers of the Nawabi regime were disbanded, not a single man from the old force was co-opted into the new police. On one hand, the British found it easy to condemn the earlier institutions for maintaining public order as tyrannical, oppressive 7

S.B. Freitag, “Collective Crime and Authority in North India”, in Yang, ed., Crime and Criminality in British India, p. 142. 8 I.T. Prischard’s The Administration of India from 1859 to 1869, London, 1869, Vol. I, p. 35, cited in Veena Talwar Oldenburg, The Making of Colonial Lucknow, 1856–1877, Princeton, 1984, p. 59.

The Framework of Pax Britannica in Uttar Pradesh 43

and inefficient, in a bid to justify their actions to claim complete monopoly over state power. On the other hand, they found it rather difficult to adequately fill the void left by the old system, for that would entail considerable expenditure and reorganization. The British response to the traditional chaukidari institution underscored their dilemma. Hereditary village servants, integral to the village community, chaukidars were the landlords’ traditional agents for exercising policing functions. Their compensation came in the form of either land assignments or grain contributions from every household. With wide-ranging duties and powers, they generally executed watch and ward functions under the landlords’ supervision. In Awadh, most chaukidars belonged to the Paasi caste—one at the lower end of the village hierarchy and, ironically, regarded as an “inherently criminogenic” community notorious for producing the largest number of thieves!9 Nonetheless, they commanded clout as the country’s “natural police”. Although the Police Commission of 1860 viewed the Paasis as “the foundation of the police superstructure” and “a vital link in the system”—labelling a typical Paasi a “man of the village”…“not enough of an official to be alien or obnoxious to the villagers, and enough of an official to be amenable to the system and reliable for duty”—it could not bring itself to repose whole-hearted faith in them.10 Because of their special skills and attributes, the chaukidars became the “eyes and ears of the government”. Yet the Raj held a poor opinion of their capabilities and credentials, and could never trust them enough to vest in them any real responsibility. Therefore, it decided to revoke the chaukidars’ watch and ward functions— they would be responsible only for reporting crime, not apprehending suspects. Futhermore, they were no longer answerable to the landlords but under the direct control of the district police. Indeed, the latter paid them out of a fund created by pooling 6 per cent of the land revenue collected by the landlords. 9

Paasis were mainly a cultivating caste but had specialized skills in the extraction and distilling of palm liquor. Though generally regarded as skilled bowmen and extremely loyal employees, they could turn expert thieves during poor harvests! Trivedi found in his study that they constituted the single largest group responsible for petty crimes against property; his findings confirm their general social perception as expert thieves, in Trivedi, op. cit., p. 200. 10 Cited by David Arnold in Police Power and Colonial Rule: Madras 1859–1947, New Delhi, 1986, p. 102.

44 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

With Awadh’s merger into the North-Western Province (NWP) in 1877, the chaukidari system underwent further changes. Instead of cash compensation, the chaukidars received rent-free land assignments—quite an anachronism at a time when the cash economy was rapidly taking root in the countryside. The arrangement seemed to work well in normal circumstances, but during bad harvests, the chaukidars faced severe hardships. At such times, petty crime against property surged. By divesting them of their traditional watch and ward functions, the government virtually made them ineffectual. Yet, it could not do away with them. The chaukidars’ role was transformed from active law enforcers into mere informants; the chaukidars ended up as an anachronistic adjunct of the largely urban-based police system.

The New Police: Mission and Priorities The underlying idea behind taking over policing functions from the landlords was to consolidate the position of the new police. All policing functions—protective, preventive and detective— were concentrated in the hands of the new force, geared as it were to adhere to the basic principles of the military—concentration and centralized command. The justification was that a centralized force that executed policing functions independently of local auxiliary forces was more efficient and cost-effective.11 Such a force also had the advantage of avoiding the inevitable duplication and consequent confusion resulting from the dual policing system, wherein local functionaries and elites split responsibilities. Thus, instead of local men, it was a centralized bureaucracy—directly under the Chief Commissioner—that commanded control over the police. Thus alienated from the local communities, the force increasingly became insensitive to local needs and sensibilities. Such an arrangement was particularly handy in situations calling for stiff, decisive action. The new police’s mission was clearly to defend the state and firmly eradicate all challenges to its authority. Thus preoccupied with problems of public order, the police often neglected many routine duties of crime detection and prevention, as is quite clear from D.B. Trivedi’s detailed work on the post-1857 police in Awadh. 11

Anandswarup Gupta, Crime and Police in British India upto 1861, Agra, 1974.

The Framework of Pax Britannica in Uttar Pradesh 45

Indeed, one of the most striking features of the new police was its limited and selective response to crime. Under the new criminal codes introduced by the British, offences were classified into various categories, the most important being cognizable and noncognizable offences. This categorization and its underlying assumptions are discussed later in this chapter. Cognizable crimes included all acts regarded as breaches of public order, serious and violent crimes, and all forms of collective crime; the police enjoyed extensive powers of arrest and investigation to deal with such offences. In the case of non-cognizable offences, however, police involvement was minimal. However, even in the case of cognizable crimes between 1861 and 1876, the police investigated only 33.9 per cent of the total cases reported. It did not undertake any investigation in two-thirds of all cases, and did not mete out any punishment in 88.5 per cent of the cases. In the case of theft, only 11.5 per cent cases reached a conclusion and the police managed to recover only 19.3 per cent of the total value of goods stolen. This reflected the police’s carefully selective response in dealing with crime; it did not even investigate petty crimes against persons and property, let alone make efforts to prosecute the offenders. In fact, till 1865, the police was even prohibited from taking cognisance of theft involving property worth less than Rs 50—a sizeable sum then! What is more, all this was occurring in the context of a post1858 surge in overall crime in Awadh. In 1861, a total of 16,996 cases of cognizable offences were reported, reflecting an incidence of 1,520 cases per million people; by 1872, cognizable crime had peaked to 90,303 cases—an incidence of 8,078 offences per million.12 Crime figures fluctuated a great deal, closely interlinked as they were with poor harvests and food prices, but the overall trend was definitely on the upswing. Most cases were of theft and petty property offences. Indeed, contemporary comparisons reveal that Awadh was notorious for being home to the maximum number of


Trivedi, op. cit., p. 299. Crime figures cannot be taken strictly at face value, as they invariably present problems of camouflage and under-reporting, the latter a definite sign of lack of popular trust in the police. Nonetheless, crime statistics can be useful for understanding not so much the scale and incidence of crime, but the priorities and performance of the police.

46 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

crimes against property in all of British India.13 This undermined the legitimacy of the police. As Trivedi observes In a province where the ordinary monthly earnings of the mass of the people did not amount to very much the loss of goods even of trifling value would be great for the victims. Odd pots and pans and a few rags of clothing might be all the movable property held by the sufferer.14 In cases of violent and serious crimes against persons, the police performed better both at investigation and conviction. Between 1865 and 1876, on an average, 63 per cent of all reported cases of murder and 70 per cent cases of all reported cases of culpable homicide led to convictions, culminating in severe sentences. The police was equally zealous in its handling of robbery and dacoity, looking upon the latter with grave concern as a challenge to the state’s authority.15 In fact, anti-dacoity measures appropriately succeeded the anti-thagi campaigns spearheaded by Sleeman, and became a British statement of their role as custodians of public order. Though triumphant at keeping dacoity at bay, the police put up a mixed performance in dealing with riots and unlawful assembly. It could not curb unlawful assemblies, and riots continued to intensify— from 78 instances in 1861 to 495 in 1871. What the police could ensure was that the riots were less violent and communal disorders were under check.16 To recapitulate, however, the police’s handling of petty crime was nothing short of dismal.

Police Resources and Positioning Considering the police’s limited mission—concentrated more or less on offences concerning public order—it is hardly surprising that police resources actually declined after the Revolt. Since the 13

In Awadh, the average incidence of crime against property was 4,365 cases per million people and 2.04 offences per square mile, as compared to 1,215 cases per million and 0.22 offences per square mile (Punjab) and 2,226 cases per million and 0.24 offences per square mile (Central Provinces), Trivedi, op. cit., p. 301. 14 Trivedi, op. cit., p. 196. 15 Freitag in Yang, ed., Crime and Criminality in British India. 16 Trivedi, op. cit., p. 347.

The Framework of Pax Britannica in Uttar Pradesh 47

police was largely urban-based and responsible chiefly for maintaining public order, the government decided that it could do with a thinner police presence. On 1 May 1859, policemen in Awadh numbered 14,760; by 1870, the number had dwindled to 5,875. This figure of fewer than 6,000 men symbolized a settled, calculated estimate of the resources the British were prepared to commit to policing. Actually, even this figure does not quite reflect the true position, for it included men on prison/escort duties. Since the policemen had to carry out several non-policing chores—guard and escort duties, preparing mortuary returns, sanitary work and supervision of conservancy—the number of policemen on general duty (available for actual station work) would be a more accurate index. So, in the Awadh of 1870, there were actually only 3,858 policemen on general duty, the number ranging from 3,281 in 1868 to 4,229 in 1873. Though, subsequently, the position improved somewhat, it never improved significantly.17 What do these figures represent in actual terms? More pertinently, how do they compare with contemporary policing standards? In 1868–69, while Awadh had one policeman catering to 1,786 people, England and Wales had one for every 954 people. The Awadhi policeman covered an average area of 3.83 square miles while the English policeman’s average beat was 2.68 square miles. Even within British India, the Awadh police compared poorly with those in provinces like Madras and Punjab.18 The number of policemen in Awadh also declined after its annexation in 1856. In the capital city of Lucknow, for which we have definite evidence, the ratio of policemen to people actually declined from 1:75 during the Nawabi days to 1:333 in 1861.19 Due to this meagre strength, the police thanas and chaukis were terribly undermanned. In extreme cases, 12–16 policemen could be responsible for an area extending well over 300–500 villages.20 The force 17

Trivedi, op. cit., p. 159. The population–policemen ratio was 991:1 and 984:1 for Punjab and Madras, respectively, during 1868–69, Trivedi, op. cit., p. 163. 19 V.T. Oldenburg, The Making of Colonial Lucknow, pp. 67–68. She reckons that the urban police during Nawabi days numbered about 5,000 men, which declined to a regular civic police establishment of just 855 men in 1862–63, reflecting a manpower cut of 83 per cent. 20 Trivedi, op. cit., p. 186. 18

48 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

was organized into 102 thanas across Awadh and, on an average, each thana was responsible for an area of 236 square miles and a population of over 110,000.21 Remarkably, the thin resources of the police complemented its minimalist agenda of controlling crime and its singular priority of preserving colonial authority. Yes, a thin presence was functional to its mission of maintaining public order. But, a thin presence did not necessarily make it vulnerable. It was here that military training and superior organization compensated for small numbers.

Perceptions of the Police Deep-seated unpopularity and lack of people’s trust were unfortunate hallmarks of the police. Popular perception held that a policeman was concerned mainly with upholding the state’s authority, rather than serving the community’s interest. So, the public viewed the police constable not as a citizen in uniform but as a low-paid mercenary. In their collective perception, his lack of accountability, his rough and oppressive methods, his propensity for corruption and his evident lack of concern for the common good defined, indeed condemned, him. The contrast with the Victorian English perception of the constable is starkly ironic. In England, the policeman was respected as a local man under local control, contractually obliged to the community to apprehend law-breakers. An important study emphasizes that the Victorian Bobby “became more than simply an agent of legislative coercion but a representative of the values of the ‘centre’, an official representative of the moral order in daily lives”.22 It adds that “the Victorian Bobby may have been portrayed as a figure for ridicule but almost never as a figure of terror”.23 In view of the mandate of the police in UP, it is hardly surprising that the constable evoked fear in the common man. After all, he represented an official machinery identified with petty tyranny and zulum. He was utterly alienated from the common folk, courtesy his rough methods, inquisitorial harassment and connivance 21

Trivedi remarks that “often the calls on police were so heavy that none would be left at the station houses”, op. cit., p. 194. 22 Philip Thurmond Smith, Policing Victorian London: Political Policing, Public Order, and the London Metropolitan Police, Connecticut, 1985, p. 42. 23 Ibid., p. 202.

The Framework of Pax Britannica in Uttar Pradesh 49

with lathials (henchmen) of the zamindars. The image of the policeman was further distorted due to the enforcement of unfamiliar legal procedures and pervasive graft in the police ranks, necessitated (but never justified!) by their low pay. Trivedi concludes his study with the following finding: The greatest failure of the police was that it could not gain the confidence and co-operation of the people. The policemen adopted an overbearing attitude towards the people. They could not, and did not, identify themselves with the people and remained an instrument of the government for keeping the local population in order. They functioned by working on the fears of the people.24 In retrospect, the performance and priorities of the police in the late nineteenth century reveal a complex pattern that remained a basic feature of policing in UP during the entire colonial period. In the state’s perspective, the police achieved resounding success, as it succeeded in stamping out violent disorders and serious crimes like dacoity; keeping violent crimes against the human body under check; and effectively controlling collective crimes like riots. Yet, due to its limited mission—and the consequent manner of functioning—the police gained tremendous unpopularity as far as the common man was concerned. People felt that the police existed not to help but to control them. Indeed, it was to this basic perception to which the nationalists could later turn, and rouse popular passions to mobilize support for their cause.

Urban Environment and Colonial Authority The Landscape of Control Only recently have historians begun to realize the enormous influence of colonial regimes as agents of landscape transformation. The sheer comprehensiveness of colonial interventions in spheres such as land use, urban systems, irrigation and farming, crops and vegetation, forestry and several other areas now interests them 24

Trivedi, op. cit., p. 394.

50 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

immensely.25 Within this context, our concern is with figuring out the link between the physical environment and concerns of public order. We take up two specific, and interrelated, themes: (a) the manner in which the British altered the urbanscape to effectively prevent and control riots; and (b) the way in which cities and towns in UP acquired a dual character after the Revolt. As we shall see later, the changes in the nature of UP’s cities and towns in the second half of the nineteenth century had strong repercussions on both the nature of colonial authority and the manner in which it was subsequently challenged. Research suggests that the Raj transformed the Indian urbanscape to a great extent.26 This transformation was particularly tangible in the built environment, as the British constructed numerous bungalows, churches, offices, cantonments, cemeteries, clubs and other buildings for private and public use. In constructing these buildings, they also introduced a new style of architecture in India. Historians have been attracted to certain aspects of this genre of architecture.27

“Riot-proofing” the Cities Significant post-Revolt changes in UP’s urban design held important implications for colonial authority, as the British realized that the physical configurations of towns had a bearing on public order and policing. Most cities and major towns were recast in a different mould, and several irreplaceably lost some of their traditional character.28 Perhaps one important exception was Banaras, 25

Two examples of studies that draw attention to these issues are John Mackenzie, The Empire of Nature, Manchester, 1986; and R. Grove and D.M. Anderson, eds, Conservation in Africa, Cambridge, 1988. 26 R.F. Betts et al., eds, Colonial Cities: Essays in Urbanism, The Hague, 1985; and A.D. King, Colonial Urban Development, London, 1975 are pioneering works in the field. Also see Kenneth Ballhatchet and John Harrison, eds, The City in South Asia, London, 1980; and Robert Home, Of Planting and Planning: The Making of British Colonial Cities, London, 1977. 27 For studies exploring the relationship between culture and power as expressed in architecture, see Thomas R. Metcalf, An Imperial Vision Indian Architecture and Britain’s Raj, London, 1989. Also see G.H.R. Tillotson, The Tradition of Indian Architecture: Continuity, Controversy and Change since 1850, Yale, 1989, pp. xi, 7. 28 Veena Talwar Oldenburg confesses that she was intrigued by the “death” of Lucknow as a city after the British annexed it, and was prompted to undertake a

The Framework of Pax Britannica in Uttar Pradesh 51

which succeeded in preserving its traditional character despite experiencing changes in its landscape.29 Central to this transformation was the British determination to recreate a “safe, clean and loyal” environment.30 Lucknow provided the model for this transformation. Here the British fashioned “a system of political, economic and social control that would make future mutinies impossible”. Razing to the ground over one-fifth of Lucknow’s habitations, they laid out wide streets for quick troop movement; introduced the railways and designed stations to house “a fort, arsenal, and barracks, and extra accommodation for evacuation in the event of another outbreak in the city”. In a proactive mode, the British either destroyed or appropriated any structure that could possibly serve as a fortress (such as traditional havelis). Looking at it from a macro perspective, it is evident that the British had restructured Lucknow’s cityscape such that it would lend itself easily to military manoeuvre and operations and police control. The overall objective—to “riot-proof” Lucknow. Some other cities in UP were similarly riot-proofed. Let’s take a look. Less than 30 miles away, Kanpur was the stage for dramatic changes matching Lucknow’s in both purpose and arbitrariness. There was one striking difference however—unlike Lucknow, Kanpur, had not been a flourishing Indian city with an extensive socio-cultural tradition; it was, in fact, a “creation of the British”.31 full-length study of how Lucknow came to be transformed after 1857. For a study of the pre-1857 Lucknow, see Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, A Fatal Friendship: The Nawabs, the British, and the City of Lucknow, New Delhi, 1985. Also see her Engaging Scoundrels: True Tales of Old Lucknow, New Delhi, 2000. Also see Amaresh Misra, Lucknow: Fire of Grace, New Delhi, 1998. 29 Due to its predominantly religious character, the British regarded Banaras as a sacred space, and thought it prudent not to violate. It, therefore, retained much of its vitality and traditional character. See S.B. Freitag, ed., Power, Performance and Culture in Banaras, Berkeley, 1988; and Diana L. Eck, Banaras: City of Light, New York, 1982. Also see R.L. Singh’s study of Banaras’ spatial pattern, where he observes that the city “has been able to maintain its ancient celebrity and distinction almost uninterruptedly”, Banaras: A Study in Urban Geography, Banaras, 1955, p. vii. Perhaps the most significant change in the city’s landscape after the Revolt was the creation of a cantonment to the west of the civil lines, covering a massive area of 1,200 acres. 30 V.T. Oldenburg, The Making of Colonial Lucknow, p. xv. 31 Zoe Yalland, Traders and Nabobs: The British in Cawnpore 1765–1857, London, 1987, p. 25. Also see her Boxwallahs: The British in Cawnpore, 1857–1901, Norwich, 1994.

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It was a sleepy little village till the British converted it into an army camp in 1765; by the early nineteenth century, it had become one of their most important strategic stations. By the 1830s, Kanpur was indeed flourishing—“the Manchester of the East”—and the British had reached their “balmy days” in Kanpur.32 It seems understandable that the paroxysms of the 1857 Revolt were particularly vigorous in Kanpur—some of the fiercest encounters of 1857 took place there—precisely because it was perceived to be a British creation. Yet, what shook the city to its foundations were the changes imposed after the suppression of the Revolt. Before 1857, Kanpur was enclosed on three sides by the cantonment, but the Revolt disturbances “practically destroyed or severely damaged every building in the civil station and cantonment”.33 Having reasserted their supremacy, the British completely overhauled the city and its landscape. The civil authorities took over the old, abandoned cantonment to establish the new civil lines. A new cantonment was developed several kilometres away from the city. Between the civil lines and the cantonment lay open spaces for troop drills and exercises. Within the cantonment, the authorities segregated native battalions from British “other ranks” by laying out parade grounds, bazaars, and open spaces. Post-Revolt Kanpur ’s spatial pattern would soon become an archetype for other north Indian cities with considerable British troop presence. Within Kanpur city, buildings were demolished on a large scale, the old city condemned as a “mere congeries of houses, arranged by narrow irregular lanes”. Instead of these irregular lanes came broad streets. Among schemes to sanitize the city, the three main sewers were repaired. The coming of the railways in 1859 enhanced communications and, within 20 years, Kanpur could claim “unequalled means of communications with other parts of India”.34 The British has already repaired the old Grand Trunk Road in the 1840s to facilitate rapid movement of troops and materials; the agenda now was to keep


By 1838, the cantonment spread over 10 square miles, with barracks for 7,000 troops, and the city itself had a population of over 60,000. The active presence of 50 Indian banking houses in the city boosted trade and commerce. 33 H.R. Nevill, Cawnpore: A Gazetteer, Allahabad, 1909, p. 264. 34 Ibid., p. 261.

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it in good order.35 And thus the British went about riot-proofing Kanpur, as also other cities and towns of UP. Riot-proofing Agra—the former Mughal metropolis—presented greater difficulties; the sweep of renovation had to watch out for the city’s many old buildings and robust architectural tradition. It was a typical Mughal city, enclosed by a great wall with 16 gates. British priority was to secure the fort, which dominated the city by virtue of its commanding location and “its massive appearance, suggestive of gigantic strength with its lofty red sandstone walls”. 36 The British appointed a committee of military experts in 1860 to consider “questions of improvements”. Now, this committee recommended the demolition of a number of structures, the levelling of the ground in several areas, and the laying of broad roads, which in turn necessitated demolitions. Among the old buildings pulled down, prominent were Haveli Dara Shikoh, Jumna Bagh, Haveli Asaf Jah, and Ajmeri Gate; later, the markets of Chauk and Tripoli were destroyed to make way for a railway station in the Fort’s proximity. Deeming the Jama Masjid—Agra’s most prominent mosque—a menace to the security of the garrison in the Fort, the British appropriated it, tearing apart its main gateway and front cloisters to clear a line of fire and mining the entire structure with gunpowder, ready to be blown up if necessity arose. However, worshippers restored the Masjid some years later. With the British shifting the seat of the North-Western Province to Allahabad in 1858, and the High Court a decade later, the city’s importance declined. To what extent this move was in retribution for Agra’s prominent role in the 1857 Revolt is difficult to say.37 However, moves to riot-proof Agra continued for the greater part of the nineteenth century. In 1881, the old wall that had surrounded the city was demolished for security reasons—it presented an obstacle to troop movement and residents could possibly use it as fortification 35 Zoe Yalland gives an idea of the volume of traffic by the fact that in 1846–47, “a stretch outside Cawnpore was used by, among others, 17 regiments, 62,000 hackeris, 13,500 camels, 29,000 bullocks and 565,000 foot passengers—to say nothing of the sheep, goats, elephants and horses”, Zoe Yalland, The British in Cawnpore, p. 185. 36 Keene’s Handbook for Visitors to Agra and its Neighbourhood (revised by E.A. Duncan), Calcutta, 1909, p. 96. 37 H.R. Nevill, Agra: A Gazetteer, Allahabad, 1905.

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in the event of disturbances.38 Later, in 1897, the development of a 250-acre park between the Taj and the Fort further segregated the European quarters from the “native” city. An imposing statue of Queen Victoria assumed place of pride within this park named after Sir Anthony Macdonnell, UP’s Lieutenant-Governor. Transformation was at work in other cities and towns of UP too. In Faizabad, “the main approaches from Sultanpur and Lucknow were considerably altered, the streets widened and the houses rebuilt with some regard for uniformity”.39 In Aligarh, the military area was abandoned and granted to the newly created municipality. The old fort was repaired and new barracks built within it, while the city enjoyed a new source of water supply.40 In Mathura, a private contractor purchased the old fort—unfit for military occupation but perceived as a potential threat—tore it down to salvage building materials. The city could boast of “fine broad streets paved with stone flags brought from Bharatpur”.41 In 1861, its European parts were reconstructed such that they stood next to the barracks. Long stretches of open spaces—ideal as cavalry parade grounds and military grass farms—separated the civil lines from the city. Meerut, one of the oldest cantonment cities of north India, also benefited from new roads, improved communications, and plans to introduce waterworks primarily for the cantonment at an average daily consumption of 10 gallons per capita.42 Indeed, Meerut was among the first cities in north India to have the privilege of piped water supply, in view of its great significance as a military base. Similar transformation yielded a new spatial pattern to Bareilly, another important military centre. Though a cantonment town from as early as the introduction of British rule, it was only after the 1857 Revolt that Bareilly hosted British troops on a regular basis. The well-considered design of the cantonment pointedly 38

It was generally more challenging to riot-proof walled cities. For instance, the existence of the old wall in Delhi became a key issue that dominated military thinking about the city’s environment, as shown by Narayani Gupta in Delhi between two Empires 1803–1931: Society, Government and Urban Growth, New Delhi, 1981. 39 Nevill, op. cit., p. 215. 40 Nevill, Aligarh: A Gazetteer, Allahabad, 1909, pp. 202–5. 41 D.L. Drake-Brockman, Muttra: A Gazetteer, Allahabad, 1911, p. 302. 42 Nevill, Meerut: A Gazetteer, Allahabad, 1904.

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segregated European and Indian troops. Indian infantry lines were placed towards the eastern part of the cantonment closer to the city, British infantry lines and an Indian battalion occupied the centre, while artillery lines were stationed in the west. The vast expanse of land between the cantonment and the civil station could accommodate “two or more battalions under canvas without encroaching on the large race-course and the polo grounds”.43 In a now familiar pattern, the civil lines was interposed between the cantonment and the old city and lay close to the railway station. Broad thoroughfares provided access to the city’s main parts and connected the cantonment, the civil lines, the city and the railway station. In Moradabad—the other important Rohilkhand city—the old city and the civil lines were carefully set apart by utilizing two large open spaces. One, on the old city’s western outskirts, became a camping ground for troops passing through Moradabad; the other, a set of abandoned infantry barracks, went to the UP police and became home to one of the largest police training establishments in north India. Two features of the changes in Moradabad’s post-1857 topography stand out: one, the destruction of the old fort, which had loftily dominated the city from the banks of the Ramganga; two, the pulling down of the great wall, with its colossal Amroha and Sambhal gates, which had ensconced the city since medieval times. Among the many other changes that occurred after 1858, salient were the introduction of the railway, the usual laying out of streets, and the enforcement of conservancy measures after the 1868 Sanitary Commission criticized Moradabad as the only large city in the province without proper sanitation.44 In the British view, one of the most strategically significant cities was Allahabad, owing to its pre-eminent position from the Mughal period. It provided a vantage point for controlling two of the most vital routes of water-borne trade in the Yamuna and the Ganges, which lay at the centre of the trading corridor of the subcontinent. In view of its great military and commercial significance, Allahabad proved the natural choice for the provincial capital when the British decided to move away from Agra after the Revolt. Allahabad’s rebuilding and riot-proofing was informed by its role as the capital 43 44

H.R. Nevill, Bareilly: A Gazetteer, Allahabad, 1911, p. 209. H.R. Nevill, Moradabad: A Gazetteer, Allahabad, 1911.

56 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

city of the North-Western Provinces.45 With the old European quarters and the cantonment destroyed in the Revolt, a detailed plan was evolved to develop a new civil lines and cantonments. The civil lines were located between the newly-laid railway line in the south and the high banks of the Ganges in the north. Two new cantonments came up on either side of the civil lines; the old cantonment, originally established in the Fort overlooking the Ganges–Yamuna confluence, protected the third flank of the civil lines, named “Cannington” after the Viceroy, Lord Canning. In planning the new civil lines and cantonments, planners exploited the advantage proffered by the high banks and upland areas to pre-empt floods and secure salubrious living conditions. The European quarters thus enjoyed the natural boundary of the river in the north, and the man-made buffer of the extensive walls of the railway colony in the south. The railway station itself had two approaches: the northern for Cannington and the southern for the old city; a separate railway station, dedicated for the army, was constructed in the Fort cantonment. Wide roads interconnected the city. The military’s needs dictated this width; for instance, roads connecting the three cantonment areas and the railway station were over 100 feet wide, while others had a more modest width. The three cantonment areas dominated the old city and protected the civil lines from practically all directions. They “completely altered the cultural landscape and added a new pattern to the physical structure of the city”.46 The Fort cantonment was probably the most important, standing as it were with tremendous command over the inland waterway. Also, during the great Kumbh Mela, the fort provided a vantage point to coordinate measures of crowd control over the sprawling area covered by the fair. And so, perhaps more than its strategic significance, the fort’s real importance lay in the perception that control over this symbol of 45

In the early 1920s, Allahabad lost its status as the capital of UP to Lucknow. In an article, Peter Reeves has analysed the politics that lay behind the transfer of the capital. He has suggested that underlying the move lay the desire of the British to move away from Allahabad, which by the early 1920s had become a hotbed of Congress politics. The move was also an attempt to assuage the landlords who had traditionally been based in Lucknow and who were the centre-pieces of “dyarchy” in the early 1920s, P. Reeves, “Lucknow and Politics, 1920–1947”, in Violette Graff, ed., Lucknow: Memories of a City, New Delhi, 1997. 46 Ujagir Singh, Allahabad: A Study in Urban Geography, Varanasi, 1966, p. 53.

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authority standing at one of the holiest sites of Hinduism signified control over the city itself. The British established a new cantonment west of the civil lines and a new government house at the junction of Cannington and the three cantonments. The two functional zones of Allahabad— the civil lines and the old city—were further segregated by a 132-acre park. As a result of this landscape transformation, note historians, “each major part of the city had become a distinct cultural entity representing a particular age of historical growth”.47 Allahabad’s layout thus became “a mixture of orderliness in the Civil Lines, the Cantonments and the Railway Colony, on the one hand, and confusion in the old settlement and bazaar, on the other”.48 The scale of the changes effected in India’s urbanscape in the second half of the nineteenth century is reinforced by the fact that, by the end of the 1860s, over 175 cantonment settlements dotted the map of India. These cantonments “offered almost allegorical contrasts to the ancient, jumbled, unhygienic, complex, and often beautiful cities they were meant to keep an eye upon”.49 The cantonment had started “inescapably [as] a petrified camp” but had soon developed into a characteristic, lasting feature of UP’s large cities and towns. “What began as a British military presence on the outskirts of the captured city solidified into a permanent British incubus, different in kind, in scale, and in cartographers’ colours from the indigenous settlement.”50 Cantonment areas and police lines reflected “the military desire for regularity and order, with everything and everyone in their place”.51 They followed a spatial pattern that soon became typical for inland cities across India.52 They were generally set up 5 or 6 miles away from the city, the gap deliberate and manifested in military symbols as parade grounds and shooting ranges. Pseudo-scientific theories of hygiene, disease, and health that came into vogue in the Victorian period gave 47

Ibid., p. 27. Ibid., p. 224. 49 Jan Morris, Stones of the Raj: Buildings of the Raj, Oxford, 1986, p. 89. 50 Ibid., p. 203. 51 A.J. Christopher, The British Empire at its Zenith, London, 1988, p. 132. 52 A study of three cantonments in Poona, Ahmedabad, and Bombay by Samita Gupta in her Architecture and the Raj: Western Deccan, 1700–1900, New Delhi, 1985 confirms this view. 48

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further validation to this segregation. For example, it was widely believed that, to remain healthy, each European soldier needed 80–100 square feet of physical space and 1,000–1,500 cubic feet of air space. These “scientific” beliefs influenced spatial patterns and architectural forms. The close proximity of the cantonment to the European civil lines ensured that “collector often called on Colonel, club met club at badminton, and in Indian eyes the whole British community was an unmistakable unity, demanding from its native visitors special frames of mind, tones of voice, even modes of dress”.53

Duality and Segregation Such wholesale changes in the physical environment imparted a dual character to UP’s urbanscape. Most towns and cities developed separate European or official quarters, away from their traditional loci. In these new enclaves, British administrators, traders, clerics, and other “non-officials” attempted to recreate a “world in the image of England”.54 This inevitably led to …dualism in city form between the European and “native” quarters. Often the two had little link in terms of plan, although operating as a single functional unit.... Cities were organized on the basis of segregation and differentiation, attaining their ultimate fragmentation in India with separate indigenous, military, government, railway and commercial towns within towns. Social distances were translated wherever possible into physical distances.55 Around such enclaves grew businesses providing goods and services to cater to the exclusive needs of the residents. Such businesses flourished on the main thoroughfares of the newer parts of the cities; a typical example is, of course, Lucknow’s Hazratganj. The basic entity of these enclaves was the institution of the bungalow


Jan Morris, op. cit., p. 203. A.J. Christopher, The British Empire at its Zenith, p. x. 55 Ibid., p. 8. In Calcutta, the European quarter was separated by the sprawling maidan; in Bombay the sea provided the buffer! 54

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around which was centred the entire lifestyle of the “station”.56 The cluster of bungalows, appended to the business district—along with some educational institutions and churches—comprised the “sprawling entities” that were the new colonial towns. Their privileged residents perceived them as “our space”, so they were publicly regarded as out of bounds for Indians for collective activities of any kind. Indeed, such …dualism was based on the assumption that contact between different ethnic groups had to be reduced to a minimum to ensure the smooth running of administration and flow of trade. There was a resulting contrast between the indigenous and European quarters, built adjacent to one another but having little social contact.57 Lucknow’s lead was followed in several other cities and towns; they were “resubjugated, replanned and rebuilt”. Oldenburg concludes that after the Revolt, “the dynamics that transformed Lucknow was at work” all over UP, as the British were determined to create a similar “rebellion-proof environment”. This zeal manifested itself in various ways: in the design of houses that were permitted; in the sources from which water supply was drawn; in the way in which older bazaars and ganjs were decongested; and in the manner in which police stations were sited and constructed. Even now, urban UP bears the indelible stamp of this riot-proofing. Odd sights like the kotwali buildings at Chauk and Hazratganj in Lucknow, for instance, bear testimony to this riot-proofing, standing fortress-like, with high walls, two observation towers, an impregnable facade broken only by a narrow iron gate, and—of course—an escape route somewhere at the back! Remarkably superior civic facilities characterized these enclaves. Even the policing in towns with such enclaves was of a different character than that enforced in towns without official or European enclaves. Here too, the police’s principal task remained the maintenance of public order, though its concerns were much wider. Crime, whether serious or petty was a distinct concern; 56 For a fascinating study of linkages between architectural and culture forms, see A.D. King’s The Bungalow: The Production of a Global Culture, London, 1984. 57 King, Colonial Urban Development, p. 134.

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after all, there was a limit to which segregation could be implemented and criminals kept at bay from European quarters! Property had to be guarded and crime against humans prevented at all costs. A range of activities regarded as “anti social”—from loitering to drunkenness, from litter disposal to begging, and similar “nuisances”—also came within the jurisdictory ambit of the police. Daily police work involved keeping pavements clean, removing squatters, and keeping the urban under-class well behaved and disciplined. The police actually concerned itself with modes of behaviour and conduct in public places too. To deal with such varied “offences”, the police needed wider powers, which came in the form of municipal and special laws dealing specifically with such offences and designed to provide the police with both the necessary powers to keep such offences under check and the flexibility to enforce them with discretion.58 The enforcement of such laws was confined to municipal limits. Since the police required much greater manpower in the cities to fulfil its enlarged responsibilities, its resources were concentrated in towns and cities. The police–population ratio in major cities of the province was significantly higher than the overall provincial average.59 Similarly, the area covered by each policeman was proportionately smaller in cities. All this rendered policing there quite intensive. It was in the urban centres and towns that the Raj faced its major challenges in the arena of public order. Police force concentration in towns demonstrated the Raj’s acute awareness of where its resources were needed. Numerous such encounters centred on attempts to intrude into spaces regarded as out of bounds for collective activities by Indians.60 As challenges to its authority grew, the Raj found it increasingly difficult to prevent such trespasses. 58

The nature of these laws and the manner of their enforcement are analysed later in this chapter. 59 For instance, when we take the “KABAL” towns, we find that the police–population ratios were Kanpur 1:651; Allahabad 1:958; Banaras 1:778; Agra 1:692 and Lucknow 1:531 in 1934, as compared to the provincial averages of 1:1820 for Awadh and 1:1342 for Agra. See Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1934, Allahabad, 1935. For the entire UP, the police–population ratio came to 1:1820. 60 D.A. Low has documented one such encounter in “Holds Barred: Anatomy of a Satyagraha, Lucknow, May 1930”, in Britain and Indian Nationalism: The Imprint of Ambiguity, 1929–1942, Cambridge, 1997.

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For those seeking to subvert authority, trampling over these havenlike spaces provided the perfect method of soiling the Raj’s prestige.

Colonial Authority and Criminal Laws The Imposition of Legal Authority Not only did the British imperialize the urban landscape, but also redefined criminality to suit their needs. As is well known, the codification of criminal laws was an important instrument in the imposition of colonial authority.61 Through this codification, the British sought to establish the “rule of law” and “civil authority”. Of course, this authority was expressly British, the underlying desire being to negate indigenous forms of authority that existed earlier.62 An examination of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) reveals that both substantive and procedural laws were calculated to cater especially to the needs the British would feel in the process of enforcing their authority. At the same time, these laws were also fine-tuned to the Raj’s limited agenda of maintaining public order, rather than administering a system of criminal justice for the sake of justice. The process of codifying criminal laws commenced in 1835, as a result of what has been described as the “Age of Reform” (1828–35) in the British 61

Literature on the evolution of the colonial legal system in India is scanty and at times difficult to follow. Rajeev Dhavan ascribes this to the “black letter law” tradition entrenched in Indian legal scholarship which seeks to “interpret law as a distinct relatively autonomous reality”, divorced from its historical and social context. Dhavan’s introduction to Marc Galanter’s Law and Society in Modern India, New Delhi, 1989 is a refreshing and incisive survey of literature in the area of socio-legal studies. M.P. Jain’s Outlines of Indian Legal History, Bombay, 1971 provides an administrative account of the evolution of the legal codes and judicial institutions. Upendra Baxi’s Crisis of the Indian Legal System, New Delhi, 1977 identifies the colonial legacy of the present Indian legal system as its chief malady. 62 However, codification of laws and the evolution of judicial institutions are major areas for further research. See for instance, Jorg Fisch, Cheap Lives and Dear Limbs: The British Transformation of the Bengal Criminal Law 1769–1817, Wiesbaden, 1983; R. Singha, A Despotism of Law: Crime and Justice in Early Colonial India, New Delhi, 1998; and Kartik Kalyan Raman, “The Anglicization of Indian Law: The ‘Age of Reform’ Revisited”, unpublished M.Phil. dissertation, Faculty of Oriental Studies, Cambridge, 1991.

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discourse on India, when the East India Company appointed a law commission headed by T.B. Macaulay.63 Codification became reality in the Indian context only after a century of hesitant experimentation and reform. In the initial period of their rule, the British primarily concerned themselves with gaining control over the administration of civil justice, for the efficient collection of revenue depended upon the proper functioning of civil courts. Therefore, they first turned their attention to reforming civil justice. Yet, as they became increasingly enmeshed in local affairs, they were increasingly compelled to consider the state of criminal law. In formulating regulations for territories under their control, they borrowed little from indigenous Islamic law which already existed there. This was because the indigenous law and English law were fundamentally dissimilar. First—in the context of the notion of equality before the law—indigenous law derived much from concepts of hierarchy based on caste, status, sex and rank, whereas English law did not acknowledge such concepts, propounding instead the abstract idea of equality before the law. Such equality was inconceivable in indigenous law which, for instance, exempted Brahmins from capital punishment, prohibited women from testifying in court, and linked judicial procedure inextricably to the status of victim and accused. Second, the two legal systems diverged significantly on the question of punishments and their severity or leniency. The English found the Islamic practice of limb mutilation particularly abhorrent, even as indigenous jurors regarded the frequent sentencing of victims to capital punishment under English law as altogether far too harsh. Both legal traditions 63 The Commission submitted its report along with a Draft Penal Code (henceforth DPC) in October 1837. No further progress, however, was made for more than a decade. In 1851 a revised Penal Code was prepared by Bethuen, and in 1854 this Code was referred to a select committee. The events of the Revolt of 1857 intervened before further progress could be made, but they also provided the necessary push to the British to impose their own authority in India and propelled them towards codification of criminal law. The new Penal Code finally became law on 6 October 1860 and was due to take effect from 1 May 1861. However, the government realized that it could not introduce this substantive criminal law until the law of criminal procedure had been streamlined. As a consequence, the promulgation of the Penal Code was delayed until January 1862 to enable the government to firmly lay down the procedural law. Later, in 1896, the law of procedure was further formalized and incorporated as the Criminal Procedure Code.

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prescribed different punishments for every offence, based on their conflicting views of men rais—the motive for the criminal act. Each tradition ordered various types of “criminal” behaviour distinctly and accordingly stipulated different sets of offences. Naturally, what constituted “criminal” or “deviant” behaviour in each was conditioned by cultural factors and values. Third, the underlying philosophy behind the intention to punish culprits differed fundamentally. In Islamic law, motives of revenge and retaliation by the victim (or his/her heir) and the need to secure compensation from the culprit determined the intention to punish. In English tradition, however, the idea was to effectively deter other potential criminals from committing the offence and, of course, to ensure that the offender did not repeat it. Fourth, the two legal systems diverged on the relationship they visualized between individual rights and society’s interests. The principle of retaliation enjoyed centrality in Islamic law—private justice lay at its core. Fisch describes Islamic law as “basically a private law of retaliation”, with a punitive philosophy of life for life, limb for limb.64 On the other hand, the British codified the criminal laws of the land passionately, motivated by their desire to prevent crimes that they perceived as challenges to their own imperial authority. As Fisch observes, “The paramount force determining British criminal legislation was the desire to improve law and order.” 65 In their anxiety to enforce law and order, the British strove “to bridge the gap between the law in the strict sense and the necessities of the state.” Inevitably, this led to formalization of procedure, creation of a judicial hierarchy, imposition of greater centralized control, and adherence to a clearly defined legality as enshrined in codes of law.66 Impressing legal authority entailed classifying human behaviour according to “deviance” and “heinousness” and


Jorg Fisch, op. cit., pp. 28–29. Ibid., p. 122. Also J.E. Colebrook Report (1801), para 9f. p. 79, cited by Fisch, ibid., p. 123. 66 Fisch concludes his study with the observation: “To introduce the rule of law was also to introduce the rule of those who controlled it.... Thus, criminal legislation became one of the main instruments in the struggle for law and order, which was, at the same time, a struggle to introduce a centralized, bureaucratic British rule, not relying on informal procedure, but on a clearly defined legality”, ibid., p. 124. 65

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categorizing “deviant” behaviour into a hierarchy of offences. Further, it was important to criminalize each offence within this hierarchy and prescribe a quantum of punishment for each. Let us consider some of the different types of punishments prescribed by the IPC. The first was death, which according to the Law Commission was to be prescribed for “murder or the highest offence against the state”. Then, the IPC introduced a new form of punishment—transportation for life.67 The IPC’s objective was not simply to dispense justice but to impress on the population “a deep feeling of terror” to induce a deterrent effect as well. Imprisonment—both simple and rigorous —was the most prominent and frequently used punishment type. The Law Commissioners prescribed that the terms of imprisonment should be linked to the conditions prevailing in jails. “Where a good system of prison discipline exists”, they laid down that “a year’s confinement will generally prove as efficacious as confinement in a goal where the superintendence is lax, where the work exacted is light, and where the convicts find means of enjoying as many luxuries as if they were at liberty”.68 This further illustrates that when the Commissioners laid down punishments, they were influenced not simply by abstract notions of justice but by such practical considerations as conditions of jail and policing. The imperatives of imposing colonial authority foreshadowed all other considerations.69 For Englishmen, who were carefully segregated from the rest of the offenders, there was a different set of punishments. From substantive law to the law of criminal procedure—an examination of the law of criminal procedure provides valuable insights into the state’s purposes and priorities. Both the substantive and procedural codes of criminal law were structured on the basis of principles yielded by considerations of public order. Upon scrutinizing the law of procedure, it is clear that the criminal laws were not enforced uniformly but in a manner that they catered to the state’s needs and resources. For certain types of offences, the police showed great zeal; for routine and minor crimes, its enthusiasm was considerably weaker. This duality in law enforcement 67

DPC in Parliamentary Papers 1837–38 session, Vol. 41, pp. 534–35. DPC, p. 535. 69 Ibid. 68

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did not just derive from police discretion (which, in any case, was considerable); it was, in fact, built into the structure of the law itself. The criminal law introduced by the British was designed such that it allowed the police to deal with offences affecting public order with considerable vigour while disentangling themselves from petty crime, which dissipated resources and unnecessarily enmeshed them in indigenous conflicts. Criminal laws were finetuned in such a way that they imposed demands commensurate with the police resources; they allowed the police enormous powers of investigation, arrest and search for certain types of offences. Yet they placed minimal onus on the force in dealing with minor offences that threatened the life and property of citizens. This was achieved through a clever system of classification of offences into separate groups, each corresponding to differing police powers and responsibilities.

Classifying “Criminality” To fully comprehend this duality, we must understand the system of classifying offences. To make sense of the maze of judicial terms employed to classify offences, we must negotiate rather difficult legal terrain. The first major feature that becomes clear is the multiplicity of sources from which criminal law was derived. It was chiefly embodied in three sources—IPC (Act XVL of 1860), CrPC of 1896, and a range of special and local laws that the Raj periodically promulgated in UP. It is beyond our scope to analyse each of these laws in detail; our concern is restricted to understanding the interface between criminal law and the police and its resources, and to highlighting the duality in law enforcement. On closely analysing the judicial categories into which crime was classified, two basic ones emerge—cognizable and noncognizable offences—fundamentally dividing the law into two neat compartments. Whenever an offence was committed, it was the public’s obligation to report it to the nearest thana or chauki. The law required that all offences be reported to the police in the first instance. This suits public convenience because Police Stations are open all day and every day, while Courts are not. And there are more

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Police Stations than places where courts sit presided over by salaried Magistrates. The law very wisely encourages reports to the Police by charging no fee upon the making of them, whereas a complaint to a Court concerning a non-cognizable offence has to bear a Court-fee stamp.70 Once an offence was reported, it was the police’s duty to record it as accurately as possible. For cognizable offences, the police enjoyed “unfettered powers of prevention, investigation, arrest and search”.71 However, only those offences were made cognizable, wherein “the nature and effect of the offences are such that a speedy investigation is called for”. The police were empowered to investigate these independently of any judicial directive or authority, and the law fully provided for such initiative and autonomy. The police had further powers to restrain the movements of those subjected to such investigation; so it could arrest those suspected without a warrant. However, it was also within police powers to refuse to investigate any cognizable case; this power was vested in the officer-in-charge of a police station.72 Graph 2.1 represents the wide discretion enjoyed by the police in its powers to investigate crime and the considerable gap that remained between the reporting of offences and the successful conviction of culprits. In contrast, for non-cognizable offences, the police had no jurisdiction at all. In fact, its powers did not go beyond registering the offence. The law specifically prevented the police from investigating such offences, unless directed by a law court.73 In any case, it was extremely rare for law courts to do so. The official justification for preventing the police from interfering in non-cognizable crime was to protect the common man from the inquisitorial oppression for which the police was notorious. By directing the victims 70

A. Sabonadiere, The Trial of Criminal Cases in India: Being a Discussion of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 as Amended up to Date, Calcutta, 1926, p. 28. 71 Joseph Minattur, ed., The Indian Legal System (published under the auspices of the Indian Law Institute), New York, 1978, p. 229. 72 I was helped in making sense of criminal procedure by two former officials from UP. I am grateful to the late Mr Hugh Lane (formerly of the Indian Civil Service) of Nefyn and Mr Patrick Biggie (formerly of the Indian Police) of Chichester for answering some of my queries. (Interview with late Mr Lane and personal communication from Mr Biggie.) 73 Ratanlal Ranchhoddas and Dhirajlal Keshavlal Thakore, The Criminal Procedure Code: Act No. V of 1898, 2nd edn, Bombay, 1933.

The Framework of Pax Britannica in Uttar Pradesh 67 Graph 2.1: Reporting of Offences, Investigations and Convictions, 1929–39

Source: Based on the Report on the Administration of the Police of the UP for 1929–30.

straight to law courts, the authorities hoped to provide relief to the victims of petty crime and reduce the risk of police oppression and corruption. In part, this was due to judicial distrust of police methods (embodied in the Evidence Act which made all evidence and confessions before the police inadmissible in court) but, as we shall see, much more due to the practicality dictated by the meagreness of police resources. Let us figure out the practical but powerful implications of these legal technicalities. They implied that “criminal” activities were divided into two categories—the first engaged the police fully; from the second, the police disengaged itself completely. If the offence was of the first type, the police could act with unfettered powers and very wide discretion; if it was of the second type, the victim was knocking at the wrong door. Although he was obliged to report it to the nearest thana or chauki, he could mobilize the state only by filing a complaint in a court of law. There was nothing the police could do to provide relief or redress. What the victim needed to do was to file a complaint in a law court; if it was admitted, a lawsuit would follow, usually culminating in protracted

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private litigation. And courts were distant, charged a fee, spoke an unfamiliar language and worked through strange procedures that necessitated the hiring of a vakil. Why was such a duality built into the system of criminal law? The question can be answered by closely scrutinizing the offence categories and appreciating the rationale behind their differentiation. The IPC’s first schedule laid down the classification of offences in its basic categories.74 The crime of abetting serious offences was itself classified as a cognizable offence. Criminal conspiracy, if hatched for an offence punishable with imprisonment for two years, was made cognizable too (for less serious offences, it was non-cognizable.) All “offences against the state” such as waging war, conspiring, collecting arms, engaging in sedition and affecting the allegiance of public servants were made cognizable, each punishable with severe sentences. Offences relating to the army and the navy—such as abetting mutiny, attempting to seduce soldiers from their allegiance, desertion and insubordination— were made cognizable. Similarly, all “offences against public tranquillity”, which we will consider later in detail, became cognizable. Offences by or relating to public servants addressed the problems of authority, allegiance and subordination. They were designed to ensure good conduct, prevent corruption and graft, and tie subordinate officials to bonds of duty and allegiance. Except for those offences dealing with government servants engaged in unlawful trading and bidding/buying of property, these offences were categorized as cognizable offences. All major offences enumerated as “contempt of lawful authority of public servants”—related to processes requiring attending court, taking oath and divulging information for legal purposes—were non-cognizable. Given the volume of litigation in UP, the number of defaulters of court procedures and notices could be very high and evasion came naturally to most litigants. The police was, therefore, freed from the burden 74 Ratanlal Ranchhoddas and Dhirajlal Keshavlal Thakore, The Indian Penal Code: Act XLV of 1860, New Delhi, 1987, p. 133 (henceforth IPC). Although first published in 1896, this work remains a standard commentary even now; I have used the 27th edition, revised by Justice M. Hidayatullah and Mr R. Deb. The IPC sections to which I refer have remained unchanged in their meaning, scope and context. The interpretations, therefore, remain valid for criminal law as it operated in the 1930s in UP.

The Framework of Pax Britannica in Uttar Pradesh 69

of enforcing these complicated legal procedures. Obstructing a public servant from discharging his duty was the only one among this class of offences that was cognizable—that too only in case of assault on the public servant. Among “crimes against public justice”, offences relating to false evidence and perjury were non-cognizable. So were offences of fabricating evidence, tampering with judicial exhibits, making fraudulent claims, and screening real offenders by making false statements. This was hardly surprising, given the problems of the high volume of litigation and judicial arrears, and the overall ethos of the courts. If these offences were made cognizable—in addition to those requiring enforcement of court summons and processes— they would have engaged the police full time, leaving it with no time for anything else! So, the offences rendered cognizable were the harbouring of offenders charged with serious crimes (punishable with imprisonment for at least 10 years), recording of false evidence by public servants with malafide intentions, resisting lawful apprehension and violating conditions of parole. Coins and legal tender traditionally symbolized attributes of sovereignty in India and, predictably, all offences connected with counterfeiting of coins and government stamps were cognizable. Offences relating to weights and measures were, however, not cognizable. A mixed bag of regulations was put under the category of “offences affecting the public health, safety, convenience, decency and morals”. It is interesting to see how these were differentiated between cognizable and non-cognizable categories. On these offences, the IPC prescribes: Of the great variety of offences it will be seen that those are cognizable which involve immediate or serious danger, or injury, or obstruction to the public, or imply open contumacy, or disregard of Law, while the rest of them are non-cognizable, many of them being offences of slight neglect or omission.75 The differentiation was generally based on this broad principle. Selling adulterated drugs/preparations and toxic foods, committing public nuisance and operating a lottery office were clubbed 75 Ratanlal Ranchhoddas and Dhirajlal Keshavlal Thakore, The Criminal Procedure Code, p. 12.

70 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

as non-cognizable offences. However, acts likely to spread contagious diseases, defilement of public reservoirs, obstruction of public thoroughfares and sale of obscene literature were cognizable offences. It is clear that the British considered the offences affecting public spheres as dangerous, and labelled them as cognizable. All “offences against religion” were cognizable. The reasons are not far to find—it was believed that they always “involve danger of tumults or riots”.76 These included defiling places of religious worship, maliciously insulting a community’s religious beliefs, disturbing religious assemblies engaged in worship, trespassing onto places of worship or graveyards, and interfering with funeral processions. The only offence in this category that was not cognizable was “uttering any word or making any sound in the hearing or making any gesture or placing any object in the sight of any person, with intention to wound his religious feelings”.77 Perhaps it was considered too commonplace to be enforced with any gravity. “Of offences against Human Body the more serious ones are cognizable, and the less serious not cognizable. Where personal injury is small it is best to let sleeping dogs lie, unless the injured person wishes to have the matter taken up”, prescribed the IPC,78 reiterating the basic philosophy underlying the law. Let us first consider those offences in this category that were not cognizable. Causing miscarriage and rape by a husband were both noncognizable, the rationale being that “these kinds of cases could not be adequately investigated by the Police without such intrusions into certain private affairs as would be gravely resented by a great proportion of the population of India”.79 Voluntarily hurting someone (without using weapons)—ironically the largest violent crime in UP, as we shall see—was also non-cognizable. Similarly non-cognizable were assault or use of criminal force either with or without sudden or grave provocation, and the buying and selling of people as slaves! 76

Ibid., p. 12. Here it was deemed that “what is attacked is, not so much a religion as such but the religious feelings of some person... and it is then best to leave it to those aggrieved to take or abstain from taking action, as they may deem it.” Ibid., p. 12. 78 Ibid., emphasis added. 79 Ibid., p. 13. 77

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The IPC’s next important category was of “offences against property”, covering a range of misdeeds from extortion to theft. In spite of its perception as a petty crime, theft was made cognizable because it was felt that “offences such as petty thefts, which, if not checked at the earliest opportunity, tend to become widespread”.80 Though the code emphasized that only serious offences were cognizable, it nevertheless made several minor offences cognizable, but with good reasons. “An apparent exception to the general rule is that the somewhat unimportant offence of Criminal Trespass is cognizable, but trespass covers a wide ground, and as trespass may be, for instance, only the preliminary to riot, it is best to give the Police the right to interfere.”81 Among the chief offences labelled non-cognizable were all forms of cheating (unless they involved government securities, currency or bank notes), fraud, forgery and mischief (unless accompanied by violence). So were offences relating to criminal breach of contract of service, as “in their origin they touch only private interests”. Marital offences—adultery, polygamy, seducing a married woman and so on—were also noncognizable.82 Well, these were private arenas and woe betide those that intruded into these! Defamation in all its forms was also noncognizable, as was criminal intimidation, regarded as a borderline offence similar to “what is popularly known as ‘blackmailing’ ...or Extortion which is a charge easy to make and difficult to rebut”. Similarly non-cognizable were drunken behaviour and rumourmongering!

Legal Implications and Police Priorities So far, we have looked only at the position as embodied in the law. Let us now understand how these dualities in criminal law affected police work and law enforcement in practice. Though not without their limitations, crime returns are worth considering because they provide a morphology that can help analyse the type of offences that engaged the police’s attention, as well as the politics of laws enforcement. 80

Ibid. Ibid. 82 “It will be seen that Courts can take cognizance of them only at the instance of an aggrieved person, and, a fortiori, the Police should interfere only if directed by the Courts to do so”, ibid. 81

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Examining the crime returns for all of UP for a “typical” year such as 1934, it becomes clear that an estimated 1,37,160 cognizable offences of all descriptions were reported, as compared to 1,11,266 non-cognizable offences.83 A close scrutiny of cognizable offences provides an interesting pattern—the total figure “hides” 72,349 cases of “other offences”. These include 47,368 offences under special and local laws classified as cognizable as well as 23,015 cases of public nuisance made cognizable for speedy clearance. Cases under the notorious Criminal Tribes Act figured under this category too; “offences” reported under the Act in 1934 numbered 1,914. These “other offences” numbered 72,349 but, if discounted, the total adds up to 68,411 cognizable cases, which is probably a more accurate indication of the volume of cognizable crime. An analysis of non-cognizable crime for 1934 is also important. It included 1,466 cases of offences against public justice and 1,951 cases of false evidence and perjury. Offences against the person comprised 12 cases of causing miscarriage, 10 cases of rape by a husband, four cases of “buying and disposing of slaves”, 4,739 cases of criminal force, and a whopping 29,913 cases of voluntarily causing hurt. Among “offences against property”, there were 547 cases of extortion, 539 cases of cheating, and 3,830 cases of simple mischief. Then there were 5,922 cases of criminal breach of contract and 2,967 cases of defamation. The category of causing annoyance, insult and intimidation claimed 2,781 cases. Several offences relating to marriage figured as well—5,922 cases of polygamy, adultery, enticing married women and related offences, as well as 1,870 cases of disputes over the maintenance of wives and children. As many as 2,781 cases were classified as public nuisances under the IPC, in addition to 2,071 cases covered by the Criminal Procedure Code. Then, an enormous number of offences—as many as 81,770—were reported under special and local laws. This completed the catalogue of crimes that the police regarded as noncognizable. Freitag suggests—endorsing our earlier discussion—that the codification of laws in India was “informed by a British concern

83 The statistics in the ensuing paragraphs are from the Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1934.

The Framework of Pax Britannica in Uttar Pradesh 73

to reinforce their authority”.84 The makers of the codes prided themselves on their Utilitarian concepts and universal principles, and claimed that criminal law in India resembled the common law in its form, substance and procedure.85 However, she remarks that ironically “it is in this notion of universality that Macaulay was most English in his assumptions”. According to Macaulay himself, No other country ever stood so much in need of a Code of laws as India and I believe also that there never was a country in which the want might be so easily supplied. Our principle is simply this—uniformity when you can have it; diversity where you must have it; but in all cases certainty.86 Freitag concludes, “It is the authoritarian and not the libertarian side of Utilitarianism which reigned, codified. The code was, in Macaulay’s words, the tool of a ‘firm and impartial despotism.’”87 However, what was important was not the similarity between English and Indian colonial law in letter but in spirit, in the manner in which it was enforced. The magistrate meted out the bulk of criminal justice and was “likely to give sentences with one eye on the legal codes and the other on the political climate in his district”.88 Thus there tension existed the of being pulled in different 84 Freitag, “Collective Crime and Authority in North India”, in Yang, ed., Crime and Criminality in British India, p. 144. Also see Bernard S. Cohn, “Law and the Colonial State in India”, in June Starr and Jane F. Collier, eds, History and Power in the Study of Law: New Directions in Legal Anthropology, Cornell, 1989. 85 For an interesting comparison between the common law and the IPC, see F.G. Butler, ICS, “Some Points of Difference in the Criminal Law of England and India”, Asiatic Review, 22, 69–72, January–October 1929. 86 IPC, p. lxxii. 87 Freitag, “Collective Crime and Authority in North India”, in Yang, ed., Crime and Criminality in British India, p. 145. 88 In the perceptive words of David Anderson, who reports that such a paradoxical situation prevailed in many parts of Africa which had systems of “imposed law”, that were invariably borrowed from the Indian code. He writes: “This struggle between the ‘Administrative view’ and the ‘Judicial view’ has been characterized by other writers as being basically to do with differing conceptions of ‘substantial justice’. A less charitable interpretation might suggest it was a dialogue between the deaf between judges on the one hand who could not sacrifice the accepted principles of English law to the peculiarities of Africa and District Administrators,

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directions, for those entrusted with the dual responsibility of dispensing justice and preserving public order simultaneously.89 By catalysing the disentanglement of the police from a wide arena of “criminal” activity within society, the system of criminal law served the cause of public order remarkably. By dividing criminal law into two neat compartments, it ensured both proactive mobilization of the law for certain crimes and reactive mobilization for the rest. It permitted the police to look the other way while a scandalously large number of offences were perpetuated against the common folk. Indeed, the scale of crime we have gleaned is amazing—and, understandably, the real statistics must have been far greater that what emerges from police returns, for underreporting was common. It establishes the limits of the police’s capacity to intervene. Such a context was conducive to a great deal of violence and petty tyranny, manifested in a very wide range of forms; some of the more overt ones were criminal intimidation, hurt and extortion. Violence within domestic arenas could be unleashed against women and children and they could be abandoned without any liability for their maintenance; abortions and miscarriages could take place; reputations could be tarnished; and contracts could be criminally breached. And one could add to this catalogue the day-to-day depredations that occurred in the cities and villages. Protecting the common man’s life and property evidently figured quite low in the police’s priorities; even an illiterate village lad understood this deeply. To him, the man in the khaki with the red pagdi (constable’s headgear) represented not a guardian of law and justice, but a sarkari agent—someone upholding the government rather than the law.

on the other who were less concerned with justice than with the wider issue of law and order”, in his “Crime, Prosecution, and Protest: Notes on Policing and the Law in Colonial Kenya, c. 1905–39”, Conference on Policing the Empire, Birkbeck College, London, May 1988. Also see David M. Anderson and David Killingray, eds, Policing and Decolonisation: Politics, Nationalism, and the Police, 1917–65, Manchester, 1992; and David M. Anderson and David Killingray, eds, Policing the Empire: Government, Authority, and Control, 1830–1940, Manchester, 1991. 89 For a fictionalized, cynical account of how such tensions could work in the daily life of a colonial administrator, see Penderel Moon’s Strangers in India, London, 1944.

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“Collective Crime” and “Tumultuous Assemblages” To reiterate the premise of the foregoing discussion—the structuring of criminal law in British India was cemented by imperial considerations of, and concern for, public order and tranquillity. The dualities built into the structure of criminal law implied that, on the one hand, the police was freed of all responsibilities for noncognizable crime but, on the other hand, it signified that demands on the police were enormous for certain other types of crime. These were mainly crimes affecting public order, invariably cognizable; of these, collective crime particularly preoccupied police attention and energies. Indeed, the police was obsessed with crowds and assemblies, irrespective of the purpose for which they had gathered. And crowds were endemic to India. This was due to “the collective nature of life in India”, observes Freitag. Colonial officials were often struck by the propensity of crowds to gather, seemingly from nowhere and seemingly without apparent reason. As one recalled: “From battles to weddings the number totally unconcerned with the project in hand always outnumber the actors by at least 20 to 1.”90 Police powers to deal with crowds and assemblies were commensurately enormous. Space prohibits us from scrutinizing such powers for various types of offences. To gather an idea of police powers, we take up only four specific crimes, which together composed “offences against public tranquillity”—unlawful assembly, rioting, promoting enmity between different classes and affray. Unlawful assembly and rioting implied largely similar situations, as there could be no rioting without unlawful assembly. While prohibiting unlawful assembly, the IPC elaborated the law’s underlying philosophy: “The law discourages tumultuous assemblage of men to preserve the public peace.”91 The law was clearly designed to prevent collective assemblies that could potentially overawe the police either by actual force or its show. What constituted an unlawful assembly was defined rather loosely in 90 Thomas Holman of the Indian Police reminiscing in Martin Wynne, ed., On Honourable Terms: The Memoirs of Some Indian Police Officers 1915–1948, London, 1985, p. 17. 91 IPC, p. 133.

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the IPC—“five men animated by a common object” threatening to use any degree of force could be held guilty of the offence of unlawful assembly.92 The definition was so flexible that it could be applied to practically any collective activity. Since the essence of the law lay in its “common object” clause, it was clearly intended to discourage collective activities that the authorities considered “undesirable”.93 Even the slightest resistance was enough to attract penal provisions.94 Elements that could implicate someone in the offence of unlawful assembly were many and inevitably defined rather loosely. Further, the police had the right to declare any assembly unlawful without notice.95 What’s more every individual within an unlawful assembly was liable to be punished; it was sufficient ground that he knew that the assembly had been declared unlawful.96 Rioting, then, was distinguished from unlawful assembly by the element of use of force. According to the IPC, five persons who had begun to “execute” a “common purpose” by using just enough force to cause “alarm to at least one person of reasonable courage or firmness” could be held guilty of the offence. Anti-rioting prohibition was broad enough in scope to cover force used not only against humans but against inanimate objects too!97 So, what were the ingredients crucial for successful prosecution? These were a 92

This common object could range from overawing a public servant by criminal force, resisting execution of legal processes, committing mischief or criminal trespass, taking possession of property or right of way, or compelling anyone to do what he is not legally bound to do! 93 For the purpose of the law, it was enough that persons who composed the assembly must have a common object of which they “should be aware of and concur in it”. 94 Resistance to law could mean that, “when an order is lawfully made under the provisions of the statute, that order is law, and resistance to the execution of that law is an offence”. 95 The law laid down that an assembly need not be unlawful at its inception but “may turn unlawful all of a sudden and without previous concert among its members”. 96 Upon being declared unlawful, any person continuing in the assembly could be held guilty. 97 For example, the offence of rioting was successfully accomplished if five men were found using force trying to demolish a fence or wall and ran away on being intercepted. Use of force, even of the slightest degree, was enough for the offence of rioting to be committed. However, “sudden quarrel” without any previous intention or design was not considered rioting. Spectators attracted to the scene

The Framework of Pax Britannica in Uttar Pradesh 77

“collectivity” of five or more people, a common object, and the use of force or violence even of a slight scale.98 The punishment for rioting varied considerably from three years for those armed with “deadly weapons” to an assembly being declared unlawful either by a magistrate or even by the policeman in-charge of a thana.99 Obstructing or assaulting the police during its action against an assembly was a grave offence. So was “malignantly or wantonly giving provocation” to incite! Graph 2.2 depicts the reportage of Graph 2.2: Riots as Reported in UP, 1913–42

Source: Based on the Report on the Administration of the Police of the UP for 1913–42. of rioting by curiosity could not, however, be held guilty unless they had marched some distance with the rioters or shouted tell-tale slogans or pelted stones. It was laid down that followers deserved lenient treatment from so-called ringleaders. Even during action against the rioters a lenient treatment was prescribed: “Study the reactions of the crowd, and if they show any sign of withdrawing, hold your fire. Sometimes the front ranks of a crowd that wish to disperse, cannot do so by reasons of pressure from behind but their demeanour will show you how they feel”, as Gilbart Waddell (of the UP cadre of the Indian Police) advised young recruits at Sandhurst on crowd control tactics. “Notes of Lecture on Police Action in Riots” in Indian Police (IP) Collection, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.161/1. 98 Frequently, strict interpretation of the law could lead to troublesome situations. For instance, if a group of Hindus forcibly removed two cows from the possession of a Muslim, not for “wrongful gain” but to prevent their slaughter, they could still be held guilty of rioting! 99 “Notes of Lecture on Police Action in Riots” by G. Waddell, op. cit.

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riots in the inter-war years and the significant fluctuations in their incidence. Another major offence against public tranquillity was the promotion of disharmony between different groups or classes on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language and so on. Here, the law’s chief object was to prohibit communal propaganda, but its implications could be wide enough to cover a range of activities; and again, it was open to multiple interpretations.100 The caveat, however, was that the code section against promoting disharmony could not be employed to curb writings and speeches preaching class war or promoting a political thesis. It was to be used only to control blatant communal propaganda. Articles providing disparaging historical accounts of a community could be covered only if they showed malice or were calculated to annoy the members of that community. However, what was crucial was not what was said, but the form and overall context in which it was presented. A similar clause prevented scurrilous attacks on religious books. Another important clause in the offences against promoting disharmony prohibited “any exercise, movement, drill or other similar activity” that trained participants to “use criminal force or violence, against any religious, racial or regional group or caste or community or any activity which is likely to cause fear or alarm or a feeling of insecurity”.101 Freitag has suggested that rituals, processions, ceremonies and similar collective activities were the forums at which forms of community were expressed and played a crucial, instrumental role in the construction of wider communities. 102 Such laws provided the authorities with appropriate 100

It is interesting to see, for instance, how the Code defined “class”. In legal terms, it meant “any definite and ascertainable class of people”. Class signified “the body of persons (who) must possess a certain degree of importance numerically, and must be ascertained with certainty and distinguished from any other class”. However, it was pointed out that vague terms like capitalists or zamindars could not be given the name of a class. The ambiguities here are obvious. 101 IPC, p. 147. 102 Sandria B. Freitag, Collective Action and Community: Public Arenas and the Emergence of Communalism in North India, Berkeley, 1989. In the emergence of class, group and community identities, such collective activities provided the melting pot in which group behaviour and identities were fashioned. For instance, Rajnarayan Chandavarkar highlights the role of akharas in the formation of working class identities in his “Workers’ Politics and the Mill in Bombay Between the Wars”, Modern Asian Studies, 15, 3, 1981.

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instruments to curb the scope and format of such collective activities, necessarily circumscribing the articulation of collective identities and communities. One obvious precaution under the law was to make strictly punishable all offences committed at a place of worship or before an assembly engaged in worship or ceremonies; such offences attracted a heavy penalty—five years in jail. The offence of affray provides an example of how much the British broadened the boundaries of the law to ensure control over collective activities. An affray was defined as fighting by two or more persons in a public place. The definition of “public place” was characteristically all-embracing—“a place where public go, no matter whether they have the right to go or not”. By merely exchanging threatening words, one could not commit affray. One would need to use some force therefore, and the exchange of a few blows was enough to invoke the law. Simply because it was committed in a public place and could cause alarm and disturbance, affray was labelled an offence against public peace. In overall terms, criminal law in British India embodied an obsessive concern to prevent and control all forms of collective activities. As stated earlier, this was a defence mechanism, in response to the fact that “collective criminal actions were perceived by the British to be either directed against, or resulted in the weakening of, the authority of the state”.103 When combined with fear, this obsession helped the police develop an elaborate control system to prevent the accumulation of crowds. Over the years, the British perfected this system to such an extent that it became the civil administrators’ reply to colonial military science. Each city and town in UP had a detailed “riot plan”, formally embodied in the style of a professional military manual. While such plans derived a great deal from military tactics in the use and deployment of forces, they also benefited from an intimate knowledge of local conditions. “You should know your native city backwards!” remarked an official with a lifetime’s experience of dealing with riots in UP.104 The plans incorporated guidelines for liaison with the army if its help were needed in aid of civil


Freitag, “Collective Crime and Authority in North India”, in Yang, ed., Crime and Criminality in British India, p. 142. 104 Waddell, op. cit.

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power.105 They prescribed routes on which processions could be taken out, the places where they could halt, the spaces where assemblies could be permitted, and the drill to be used to disperse them. Alongside, an elaborate system to license meetings and processions was conceptualized. Under Section 141 of the IPC, any assembly of more than four people could be prohibited, unless it carried a magistrate’s licence. Inevitably, most collective assemblies needed such a licence, for which an advance request had to be submitted. For the licence to be granted, it was vital that those convening the assembly be “respectable” in the eyes of the authorities and the assembly’s venue and format conform to certain conditions. Over the decades, these drills and conventions became so entrenched in the system and official mindsets that they acquired the sanctity of a science for the district administrator. Graph 2.3 depicts that the Criminal Procedure Code further endowed the district administrator with powers under which securities could be demanded for “keeping the peace” and “good behaviour”.

“Within Municipal Limits”: Special and Local Offences We already have hints of how urban and rural policing could be strikingly different. Indeed, the issues and activities that engaged the attention of the police were much wider. Both the nature of law enforcement and the character of the laws themselves reflected this urban bias. Special and local offences operated largely within municipal limits and served to highlight the city–countryside divide in law enforcement. From the manner in which the divide actually worked, it is apparent that the law was urban-centred. First, it is important to understand the connotations of “special and local offences” in strict legalese. Special laws dealt with special subjects and were designed, as and when need arose, to “criminalize” activities not covered in the IPC. They “created” fresh offences, that is, laws rendered punishable certain things that were not 105

Usually, the plans were divided into three phases. Phase one was preventive, during which the city stations were reinforced and armed police patrols were dispatched to patrol the storm centres. If rioting actually erupted, then phase two was declared and the police used all its methods, including enforcement of Section 144 (which prohibited the assembly of four persons at any public area) or even curfew. Phase three was enforced only when it was necessary to call out the army.

The Framework of Pax Britannica in Uttar Pradesh 81 Graph 2.3: Preventive Action by Police, Awadh, 1929–42

Source: Extracted from the annual issue of Note on Criminal Justice in the Province of Oudh for 1929–42.

already punishable under the IPC.106 Local laws were applicable only to a particular part of India. They provided the authorities with the flexibility to enforce them in largely urban areas and to cope with problems of a localized nature. These were a mixed bag of laws and regulations: the “offences” they dealt with ranged 106

IPC, pp. 34–35.

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from enforcing civic regulations relating to garbage disposal, traffic flow, and cattle trespass to keeping “criminal tribes” under check.107 When one considers the major offence types classified under the umbrella category of special and local offences, one is struck by their predominantly urban character. In 1933, for instance, from all the districts of Awadh, 56,366 offences were reported under the category of special and local laws. Of these, Lucknow alone accounted for 36,340—about 64 per cent of the total.108 The countryside was happily saved from such legal intrusions. Acts that extended their reach to rural areas were the Cattle Trespass Act I of 1871, the Criminal Tribes Act of 1924, the Village Sanitation Act and the Canal and Drainage Act. Of these, only the Cattle Trespass Act and Criminal Tribes Act effected some prosecution. Most of the laws certainly did not have much “enforceability”; for instance, only 1,928 offences were reported under the Cattle Trespass Act in the entire province of Awadh in 1929. It does stretch one’s imagination to believe that the cattle were so disciplined that they did not stray into neighbouring fields! The Cattle Trespass Act was a relic of the past—a testimony of how colonial stereotypes influenced the Raj’s endeavour to control social groups that resisted a settled agricultural existence. Peripatetic groups, not bound to land, were considered dangerous by colonial officials who tried either to tie them to land or segregate them into “colonies” of “criminals by birth”.109 Most special and local laws had strictly urban application; it were as if European norms of civic behaviour were being localized to render the qasbas and cities of UP “safe, clean and orderly”.110 For instance, the Adulteration of 107

I am grateful to Mr Justice Kishan Narain of Lucknow for drawing my attention to the scale and importance of these laws. My main concern, however, is to highlight the interface between these laws and the limits of criminal law enforcement by the police. 108 Note on the Administration of Criminal Justice in the Province of Oudh During the Calendar Year Ending December 31, 1933, Lucknow, 1934, p. 4 (henceforth Note on Criminal Justice in Oudh). 109 Sanjay Nigam, “A Social History of a Colonial Stereotype: The ‘Criminal Tribes and Castes’ of Uttar Pradesh 1871–1930”, unpublished Ph.D. thesis SOAS, University of London, 1988; c.f. Ann Stoler, “Perceptions of Protest: Defining the Dangerous in Colonial Sumatra”, American Ethnologist, 1985, pp. 642–57. In the period under study, prosecutions under the Criminal Tribes Act declined progressively. 110 I use the apt phase of Veena Talwar Oldenburg.

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Food and Drugs (Prevention) Act and the Vaccination Act were promulgated to make the cities epidemiologically safe. The Municipalities Act (with related regulations) and the Sanitation Act of 1892 addressed problems such as littering of streets, disposal of animal and human waste, prevention of sanitary nuisances and enforcement of improved public hygiene. The Hackney Carriage Act and the Motor Vehicles Act dealt with problems of traffic movement. The Excise Act and the Opium Smoking Act took care of “illicit” consumption of liquor and other intoxicants. In addition, the Police Act addressed a wide range of activities such as vagrancy, loitering, begging, and keeping budmashes and unsavoury characters.111 Effectively deployed, these laws could keep lumpen elements and the urban under-class in control by giving the police significant flexibility in dealing with them in a manner it saw fit. In certain towns, especially Kanpur, the problems of budmashes proved particularly serious. Usually, the rough and ready methods of the police would subdue these men but whenever police control weakened, these anti-social elements could cause havoc, as demonstrated in the Kanpur riots of 1931. In the cities, it was thus the lot of the police to keep the drains and the traffic flowing, to check hooch-making and gambling, to discipline loiterers, and—most importantly—to ensure that the European quarters were not violated by the “undesirable activities” of “undesirable elements”.112 Special and local laws came in handy to the Raj; through these, it intruded into the daily lives of city folk in a quiet, routine manner. Veena Talwar Oldenburg reports that in Lucknow even the citizens’ customary ways of defecating, associating with courtesans, drinking, burying their dead, or building 111

These men came to be known in police jargon as BCs (short for bad characters) or dus numbari (“No. 10s,” because their activities were recorded in Register No. 10 of each thana/chauki). 112 Such laws proved so successful in maintaining social control that they came to be used in colonial cities elsewhere. Albert Grundlingh reports that in South Africa, “many of the municipal regulations, which proliferated in the post-war period and ensnared many Africans were designed to maintain the ‘White character’ of the towns by not allowing Africans permanent residence and acting against ‘loiterers’”. Albert Grundlingh, “‘Protectors and Friends of the People’? The South African Constabulary in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony 1900–1908”, in Conference on Policing the Empire, London, 1989.

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houses were not left untouched. A profound social revolution had begun to sweep the cities of India—a revolution manufactured in town halls and disseminated through the innocuous medium of municipal by-laws.113

Enforceability and Discretion The enforcement of special and local laws hinged on the police– public order interface at any given time. Most laws were enforced largely on the basis of police discretion. Incorporating specific acts to cope with specific situations, special and local laws reflected quite accurately the new interventions of the Raj. For instance, all the ordinances enacted as part of the “civil martial law” package came under special and local laws, as did enactments under the Defence of India Acts during World War II. Such draconian laws were enacted to deal with explicit challenges during political campaigns. Other interventions were quieter but equally significant. During World War II these proved crucial, as new enactments were made to procure food items, restrict grains movement, regulate commodity prices and prevent hoarding, and enforce a host of regulations necessary to tighten controls and administer a successful war effort. Thus, prosecutions under these laws rose dramatically—by about 30 per cent—after 1939 with the onset of the Section 93 regime. However, the police could not enforce these laws uniformly. Enforcement varied, depending on how busy the police was with offences of public order; Graph 2.4 reflects this dynamic. In 1930, prosecution under these offences registered a fall of 17.7 per cent in Awadh; the explanation provided was that the “energy and keenness hitherto displayed by the police in their ordinary duties had to be diverted towards more serious matters due to political activities in the province”.114 By 1931, however, prosecutions had regained their former level. It was promptly clarified that “this does not signify any increase in the actual number of offences but only means that more have been detected and prosecuted”. This was further attributed to the fact that the police was in a commanding position to deal with public order offences and had not 113 114

Oldenburg, The Making of Colonial Lucknow, p. 144. Note on Criminal Justice in Oudh 1930, Lucknow, 1931, p. 2.

The Framework of Pax Britannica in Uttar Pradesh 85 Graph 2.4: Offences under Special and Local Laws, Awadh, 1929–42

Source: Extracted from the annual issues of Note on Criminal Justice in the Province of Oudh for 1929–42.

been overwhelmed, as in the previous year.115 In 1933, prosecutions reached an all-time high; again they were explained as not representing a “proportionate increase in the number of crimes” but simply “increased vigilance” by the enforcement agencies. The trend continued till 1938, when the number of prosecutions under special and local laws registered a sharp decline of 24.8 per cent; this, of course, was “due to the preoccupation of the police in matters connected with communal and agrarian unrest”.116 Yes, during the years of the Congress ministry of 1937–39 too, the police was preoccupied with several more serious issues. One important reason was the increasing difficulties of the police in law enforcement, especially when it came to petty, routine offences. A serious erosion in police authority itself was at the core of this. In 1939, however, the decline was arrested and these offences increased by about 6 per cent over the previous year, though still far lower than their usual levels. The desire of the Congress ministry to strictly enforce prohibition laws was a major reason for the increase and, understandably, prosecutions under the Excise Act swelled 115 116

Note on Criminal Justice in Oudh 1931, Lucknow, 1932, p. 3. Note on Criminal Justice in Oudh 1938, Lucknow, 1939, pp. 6–7.

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the overall figure. With the initiation of the Section 93 regime, prosecutions increased again, reflecting the widening net of government interventions as the Raj prepared to mount its war effort in the provinces.

Conclusion: A Colonial Framework for UP In this chapter, we examined the nature of Pax Britannica, as it attempted to structure UP into a coherent administrative framework by transforming and realigning some of its essential components. We understood that the police force in UP was constituted in its modern form after the Revolt of 1857. Deeply impacted by the experiences of the Revolt, the new police created by the British had a new priority: defence of the realm, rather than prevention and investigation of ordinary crime. Its chief concern remained the maintenance of public order, rather than the protection of the common man and his property. The common man thus perceived the policeman largely as an agent of the sarkar, rather than as a guardian of law and justice. The mould in which the police came to be cast in the late nineteenth century remained much the same during the rest of the colonial period. The strong and persistent institutional continuities are discussed in Chapter 3, which also examines the role of the police in upholding colonial authority. Another important process this chapter examined was the transformation of the physical environment of cities and towns to make them “safe, clean and loyal”. We saw how cities and towns were riot-proofed after the Revolt. The imposition of order by appropriating and controlling space was central to colonial authority as it existed in UP. We also saw that an essential component of the Pax was the codification of criminal law and the establishment of a system of criminal justice. We made the case that behind codification lay the British desire to impose their own authority. Criminal codes that established a new legal relationship between the state and the individual helped achieve this. The new codes superseded indigenous methods of criminal justice based on status, caste and local identities. They claimed complete state monopoly over the use of force. This monopoly, as enshrined in the right to take life and to

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punish, was central to the notion of sovereignty which the British imposed. Further, we noted how criminal laws were designed to splendidly serve the cause of public order. The very inception and, of course, structure of criminal codes lay in considerations of public order. The codes were designed to give the police enormous powers to deal with offences that affected public order adversely. Yet, the codes placed minimal demands on the police to deal with petty offences that threatened the property and welfare of citizens. To achieve this balance, offences were skilfully classified into cognizable and non-cognizable categories. As a result of this neat division, the law could be proactively mobilized to contend with certain offences, and reactively mobilized for dealing with the rest. The criminal codes took particular note of collective activities, which were perceived as anti-establishment, anti-authority symbols. Criminal laws gave the police enormous powers to deal with crowds and assemblies. In fact, the phobia of collective assemblies— a concept culturally intrinsic and familiar to India’s public— led the Raj to develop an elaborate system of control that prohibited crowds from congregating. Each city and town evolved a detailed “riot plan”. An elaborate licensing system was also developed for meetings and processions. Further, the criminal law bestowed upon the police wide-ranging preventive powers to demand security for “good behaviour” and “keeping the peace”. As these essential components of the Pax evolved, they effectively served the needs of the Raj. They provided the foundations upon which the Raj could structure UP as a colonial province central to the Pax. Much of the power and authority of the Raj was maintained by the internal security garrison and the police, and it is to these two institutions that we now turn our attention.


The Institutions of the Colonial “Heartland” From the origins of Pax Britannica this chapter looks at how the institutions responsible for maintaining colonial authority operated in the colonial “heartland”. The two most important institutions of colonial control in terms of UP as a colonial “heartland” were the army (especially in the context of its internal security duties) and the police. These two were the principal institutions through which the Raj preserved its authority in the cities as well as the countryside of the state. Considerations of space prohibit us from enlarging our focus to reflect on the other institutional components that made up the overall machinery of state power— prisons and law courts.1 The focus here is on delineating the structural features of the two institutions, taking stock of the changes brought about in them by the political transformation, and appraising their overall performance in preserving the authority of the Raj.

Colonial Army and Public Order Of all the methods the Raj deployed to maintain and consolidate its power, the deployment of the army occupied a pivotal position. 1

The themes of prisons and law courts are too large to be taken up in a study of this nature. I am also mindful of some of the inherent complexities that are involved in a study of prisons as instruments of colonial control; such a study, unless it is located in a broader context, can present an over-drawn picture of the coercive elements that existed in colonial regimes.

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Colonial officials perceived the “internal security” functions of the army as absolutely vital; whether and to what degree the Raj could uphold its authority depended on how well the army performed these tasks.2 Indeed, the Indian army committed as much as one-third of its resources and manpower almost exclusively to these functions.3 The vast institution of the British Indian army—with its massive size and resources—swallowed up large sums of public money. In the wake of World War I, with the growth of legislative assemblies, the British had to constantly legitimize the army’s role and counter the increasingly critical demeanour of nationalist public opinion. The army’s role in maintaining public order and tranquillity was, therefore, a recurrent


Gyanesh Kudaisya, “In Aid of Civil Power: The Colonial Army in Northern India, 1919–1942”, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 32, 1, January 2004, pp. 41–68. 3 Historical literature on the colonial army is extensive. Noteworthy are Stephen Cohen, The Indian Army: Its Contribution to the Development of a Nation, Berkeley, 1971 (also see the substantially revised edition published by Oxford University Press, Bombay, 1990); Philip Mason, A Matter of Honour, London, 1974; Victor Longer, From Red Coats to Olive Green, Bombay, 1974; R. Beaumont, Sword of the Raj: The British Army in India 1747–1947, New York, 1977; B. Farewell, Armies of the Raj: From the Mutiny to Independence, 1858–1947, New York, 1989; J. Gaylor, Sons of John Company: Indian and Pakistan Armies 1903–1991, New Delhi, 1992; S.L. Menezes, Fidelity and Honour: The Indian Army from the Seventeenth to the Twentyfirst Century, New Delhi, 1993; D. Kolff, Naukar, Rajput and Sepoy: The Ethnohistory of the Military Labour Market in Hindustan, 1450–1850, Cambridge, 1990; T. Moremon, The Army in India and the Development of Frontier Warfare, 1849–1947, New York, 1998; Jos J.L. Gommans, The Rise of the Indo–Afghan Empire, c. 1710– 1780, Leiden, 1995; S. Alavi, The Sepoys and the Company: Tradition and Transition in Northern India, 1770–1830, New Delhi, 1995; D.M. Peers, Between Mars and Mammon: Colonial Armies and the Garrison State in Consensus, London, 1998; D. Omissi, The Sepoy and the Raj, London, 1994; P.S. Gupta and A. Deshpande, eds, The British Raj and the Indian Armed Forces, 1857–1939, New Delhi, 2002. However, none of these works focus on this vital aspect. The only work focusing on the internal security functions of the army is Maj. Gen. C. Gwynne’s Imperial Policing, London, 1939; it discusses certain specific episodes in India such as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919, the Moplah revolts and the Peshawar disturbances of 1930. Although the treatment is very general, the book manages to highlight this crucial role of the army. Omissi’s overview of colonial military history, The Sepoy and the Raj, explores the relationship between military power and colonial rule. However, it does not provide an adequate discussion of the internal security system as it functioned in late colonial India, or the manner in which this system worked in dealing with challenges to colonial rule.

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theme in official colonial discourse, which accorded much prominence to threats to public peace and continually highlighted the danger of communal jealousies flaring up into violent disorders.4 The British glorified the army’s role as a custodian of public order ceaselessly, never missing an opportunity to point out its absolute indispensability. “The danger of disorder in India is ever present”, cautioned the Simon Report. There are inflammable elements in the population and jealousy and ill-feeling between important communities which from time to time cause riot and disturbances ... Nowhere in the world is there such frequent need for courageous and prompt action as in India, and nowhere is the penalty for hesitation and weakness greater.5 In view of the grave dangers to public tranquillity that always existed in India, it recommended that the army “must be adequate in its higher command, staff, and organisation, sufficient in numbers, suitable in composition, and efficient in equipment and training”. It forecast—quite realistically—that “at least for a very long time to come, it will be impossible for the Army... to dispense with a very considerable British element”. Indeed, it was only the British soldier who could act impartially in keeping the so-called hatefilled religious communities of India from going for each other’s throats. For the Simon Commission, the challenge of internal security in India was “unique”, quite “without parallel elsewhere in the Empire”.6 It also noted that the “use of the Army for the purpose of maintaining or restoring internal order was increasing 4

For instance, the Military Report on the Meerut District, prepared in 1928, observed: “It must, however, be remembered that the less educated classes are very impressionable and easily led astray by a ready tongue, especially when an empty stomach makes them discontented, or some imaginary threat to their religious liberty arouses their anger. Serious trouble may occur in the future, as it has done in the past for the most trivial causes, and when dealing with excitable Oriental races, it must always be borne in mind that the unexpected frequently happens.”, Military Report on the Meerut District, General Staff: 1928 in India Office—Military (IOL/L/Mil)/17/12/34. 5 Report of the Indian Statutory Commission, New Delhi, 1929 (henceforth Simon Report), pp. 21–22. 6 Simon Report, pp. 95–96, emphasis added.

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rather than decreasing”.7 That the army played a vital role in preserving public order and upholding British authority was deeply imprinted on the mission perception of army officials at the highest levels. “His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief... contends that it is the armed forces alone that stand between order and anarchy”— a refrain typical of contemporary military reports.8 When the army was reorganized by Kitchener at the turn of the century, the priority list was understandably topped by considerations of internal security. The 60,000 British troops and 150,000 Indian troops (as well as 34,000 reservists) that constituted the Indian army in the late 1920s were organized into (a) the field army for overseas operations; (b) the covering troops for guarding the frontiers and (c) the internal security garrison.9 In the 1920s, just the internal security forces comprised 22 of the 100 Indian infantry battalions, and as many as 28 battalions of British infantry.10 It is revealing to analyse the careful composition of the internal security garrison. In the units of the field army and the covering 7

Ibid., p. 96. “Expert Investigation into the Strength, Composition and Functions of the Army in India”, Deputation by GHQ to Secretary of State dated 2 June 1932 in IOL/L/ Mil/3/1124. 9 Simon Report, Part 1, Chapter 10, p. 94. The overall strength of the Indian army in 1932 was as follows: British troops consisted of 69 batteries of artillery, five cavalry regiments, 45 infantry battalions and eight armoured car companies, with a total strength of some 60,000 British officers and “other ranks”, including staff and auxiliary services. The Indian element comprised 19½ mountain batteries of artillery, 21 cavalry regiments, 100 active and 18 infantry training battalions, and seven battalions of Indian Pioneers. The total manpower, including staff and auxiliary services, was about 3,200 commissioned officers (predominantly British) and 160,000 other ranks. In addition, the Royal Air Force consisted of eight army cooperation and bomber squadrons. The Royal Indian Marine was a small force of four sloops and auxiliary craft, with 1,200 commissioned officers. The Auxiliary Forces were composed of two volunteer formations: the Auxiliary Force, India, drawn from Europeans and Anglo-Indians with a strength of 35,000 and the Indian Territorial Force, composed exclusively of Indians, with a strength of 20,000 men. “Note on the Conclusions of the Federal Structure Sub-Committee With Regard to Reservation of Defence” in IOL/L/MIL/5/886. On the eve of World War II, on 1 October 1939, the total strength of the Indian land forces was 352,213 in India and overseas—S.N. Prasad, Expansion of the Armed Forces and Defence Organisation 1939–45, New Delhi, 1952, p. xx. 10 D.A. Low, ed., “Introduction”, Congress and the Raj: Facets of the Indian Struggle 1914–47, New Delhi, 2004, 2nd edn, p. 3. 8

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troops, the British “other ranks” were in a minority, at a ratio of 1:2½. In the troops earmarked for internal security, however, this ratio was reversed, and the proportion stood at eight British soldiers for seven Indians sepoys.11 This positioning was significant. The concentration of British troops in the internal security garrison— despite the prohibitive costs that such an arrangement involved— reflected the military priorities of command and control.12 Military strategists determined the overall strength of the internal security garrison by estimating the total number of troops that would be able to maintain order within the country in case of a contingency, such as the field army being deployed outside of India. It was clearer than ever to colonial officials that the “maintenance of tranquillity and the safety of the British Government in India depended ultimately on the existence of the military forces with a sufficient proportion of British troops and guns”. 13 “The function of the army”, pronounced the Government of India’s Home Department, “is to suppress rebellion, and to resist invasion and disorders of the nature of a rising against Government which the civil authorities cannot cope with through the agency of the police”.14 Even so, this recognition of the army’s vital role was tempered by the consideration that the army should be deployed only in exceptional contingencies; the police force was there to handle the routine responsibilities of preserving public order, protecting property and combating crime. Accordingly, the authorities expected local governments to think twice before requesting reinforcements in times of need; they were not to make any “improper demand... upon the military authorities for assistance in a disturbance which could well have been quelled by the employment of the police force”. Practical constraints on comprehensive army deployment to counter civil disorders necessitated this. One, it was expensive to deploy the army given the high 11

Simon Report, p. 94. The contrast in positioning of British vis-à-vis Indian troops in the internal security garrison is better illustrated by the following figures: the proportion in the field army was 6 to 13; in the covering troops 6 to 33; and in the internal security garrison, 12 to 11. “Note on the Conclusions of the Federal Structure Committee…” in IOL/L/Mil/5/886. 12 One British “other rank” cost approximately three to four times as much as an Indian soldier. 13 Home Department Police, 41, November 1920, cited in A. Gupta, The Police in British India 1861–1947, New Delhi, 1979, p. 384. 14 Ibid., p. 384.

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operational costs involved. Two, it was believed that uninterrupted, unbroken deployment would adversely affect the cohesion, effectiveness and morale of what was regarded essentially as a fighting force.15 Further, the army was considered ill-suited to deal with localized, scattered challenges to authority—not only would responses to such un-warlike situations dilute the basic military principle of concentration of numbers, they would also hinder flexibility. Harnessing the army would be too blunt a method to deal with what were regarded essentially as “civil and public disorders”. Civil officials thus had strong reservations about calling in the army. Indeed, many thought “it was a confession of failure or at least weakness in the police force, to have the Army out before every other expedient was tried and failed”.16 But, above all, the reasons prohibiting frequent and large-scale deployment of the army were political: the effects of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 had been disastrous, and the Raj had been more than willing to absorb the lessons well.17

“Routinizing” Internal Security: Lessons and Drills Lessons learnt from the Amritsar tragedy affected the manner and mode of the army’s deployment in internal security situations. The Government was determined to prevent a repetition of the Bagh, and so a strict drill was laid out for troops called out in aid of the civil power, to ensure that they would use only minimum force and not be carried away by the heat of the moment.18 15 Note on “Use of Troops in Aid of Civil Power” by Lt. Gen. G.N. Molesworth (undated) in IP Collection: IOL/Mss.Eur/F. 161/4. Molesworth retired as deputy chief of the Indian army. 16 “Notes of Lecture on Police Action in Riots’ by G. Waddell (of the UP cadre of the Indian Police) in IP Collection, IOL/Mss.Eur/F. 161/1. 17 The effect of the tragedy on military thinking and policy-making was profound as far as future deployment in situations of civil unrest was concerned, as Maj. Gen. (Retd) Ajit Rudra recalled during an interview in Dehra Dun in May 1990. Gen. Rudra had enrolled as a volunteer in 1914 to fight in World War I and was among the handful of Indians (along with Gen. Cariappa) who were given the King’s Commission in 1920; he retired in 1948. For a recent study of his career, see D.K. Palit, Major General A.A. Rudra: His Service in Three Armies and Two World Wars, New Delhi, 2000. 18 Brig. R.C.B. Bristow in his Memoirs of the Raj: A Soldier in India, London, 1974, p. 28. The author describes the “drill” in great detail. Similarly, Charles Chenevix

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The Raj wanted these lessons to be imbibed so earnestly by all concerned that it set about “routinizing” the task of internal insecurity. It took several methods, manuals guidelines, dos and don’ts to achieve this;19 the British had to clarify their legal position; establish accountability and transparency; develop mechanisms for civil and military liaison (and detailed procedures) in the localities; and formulate tactical drills. By the late 1920s, this routinization had gone so far that army unit heads had to carry printed orders when called in “aid of civil power” to ensure that civil magistrates would certify actions taken by their troops as authorized and in conformity with the drill!20 Despite rising constraints and deepening political risks, the army was deployed in internal security situations, though in a more careful and restrained manner. For the civil authorities, the army’s professionalism was a potent and reassuring back-up, on call to defend “essential communications, protect scattered European communities, and overawe turbulent cities and towns”.21 They believed sincerely that “frequent displays of armed might” had “a beneficial or moral effect” on public order.22 In fact, they thought the periodic display of armed might—more so than its actual deployment—was enough to deter miscreants and other anti-social Trench describes the “Code of Practice” that emerged after 1919 in his The Indian Army and the King’s Enemies 1900–1947, London, 1988, p. 120. 19 Two of these are particularly important: Notes on Policing, 1934 and Duties in Aid of the Civil Power 1937. “The two manuals together represent the military doctrines of imperial control at their fullest pre-1939 development”, according to Anthony Clayton, The British Empire as a Super Power 1919–39, London, 1986, pp. 382–86. The latter set out the aim of the military as the restoration of civil authority and the protection of life and property. It emphasized preventive action and prohibited coercive measures as far as possible, instead laying stress on “good temper” and improved tactics. Notes on Imperial Policing offered more tactical advice, with detailed sections such as “Methods of Clearing up a Disturbed Area”. Both the manuals emphasized the doctrine of minimum force: Clayton remarks that they “clearly stipulated that only the minimum fire necessary to disperse the crowd was to be used, and fire never (was to be) prolonged to create an impression—a clear lesson from Amritsar”. 20 Of these, the most important was Indian Military Form No. 449. The businesslike, “all in a day’s work” kind of attitude comes across rather strikingly in a “typical” account provided by Field Marshal Sir William Slim in “Aid to the Civil” (Chapter IV) of his Unofficial History, Cassell & Co: London, 1959, pp. 75–98. 21 D.A. Low, ed., Congress and the Raj, p. 3. 22 David Arnold, Police Power and Colonial Rule: Madras 1859–1947, p. 210.

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elements! “The mere existence of a cantonment has a very sobering effect on the population of a big town or a turbulent district.”23 The Government of India fully endorsed this perception. When attempting to quell the non-cooperation movement, it observed that “the presence and not necessarily the employment of military force is the best possible preventive”.24

The Internal Security Garrison in Uttar Pradesh Let us delve into the organization and positioning of internal security troops in UP between the wars. We must start by examining the changes that took place in the internal security arrangements after World War I. The UP government presented these changes and their causes in a memorandum to the military authorities in September 1919. Concerned in the aftermath of the Punjab debacle, it demanded a significant increase in internal security forces, in light of the fact that there were a number of vulnerable spots in the province where the numbers of internal security troops were not robust enough. For instance, it demanded a permanent garrison of one British infantry battalion for Faizabad. Labelling this demand essential “from the political point of view”, the authorities justified it on the basis of the city’s historical importance and potential inflammability, as well as the British “commitment” to protect its Hindu shrines.25 Allahabad, then the provincial capital, was considered similarly “under-garrisoned”, with just one British battalion. Emphasizing its significance as “a political centre of much activity”, the government demanded the stationing of an additional battalion of British infantry and a battery of artillery. Kanpur too, “being the commercial capital of the province” deserved, in 23 The view of the Madras Inspector-General, 4 June 1908, GO 1027–28, TNA, cited by Arnold, ibid., p. 120. 24 Home Department memo, 25 June 1921 Home (Pol) 49, 1921, NAI, cited by Arnold, ibid., p. 120. 25 The historic nature of the British “commitment” was explained in these terms: “It was the intervention of the Resident at Lucknow to protect the sacred Hindu temple (Hanumangarhi) at Ayodhya which predisposed the Taluqdars of Oudh, mostly Hindu, to support the British Government on the outbreak of the mutiny and enabled Sir Henry Lawrence to stock the Residency with supplies.” Letter from the Chief Secretary to Government, UP, to Secretary to Government of India, Army Dept, 20 September 1919, IOL/L/Mil/3/11.

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the UP government’s view, at least two companies of British infantry, to safeguard the large European commercial interests in the city! The government made it quite clear in a memorandum it drew up in 1919 that it desired a considerable expansion in the internal security troops for the province. It categorically stated: “His Honour (the Lieutenant Governor) fully realises… the demands that are made upon the military authorities and is reluctant to add to them; but he cannot place his demands lower.”26 The 1919 memorandum only illuminates further how the civil administration relied on the army as the ultimate instrument for maintaining public order. Colonial officials put up these demands owing to a sense of post-War vulnerability. Once these demands were met, however, a more settled picture emerged of the internal security needs of the province. The arrangements made remained essentially the same during the inter-War years, though detailed positioning of troops was continually fine-tuned to army requirements. From the rich Military and War Staff records at the India Office, we can accurately reconstruct UP’s inter-war internal security map and how it was transformed.27 Several valuable insights into colonial perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of the Raj’s authority emerge from a survey of internal security scenarios for the inter-war years; troop positioning, for instance, reveals the areas where the Raj felt most vulnerable. We can reconstruct the essentials of the all-India Internal Security Scheme (ISS) operational in UP at the beginning of the 1930s.28 The ISS was developed by the army in close consultation with UP’s civil administration and based on a “worst case” scenario. It placed the province under the jurisdiction of two separate military districts —Meerut and Lucknow. It envisaged a scenario of complete withdrawal of the field army. It calculated the strength required— both in terms of men and materials—to maintain order in the province in the face of widespread internal trouble. It divided the 26

Ibid. Anthony Farrington testifies to the wealth of information contained in the Military and War Staff records in his Guide to the Records of the Military Department of the India Office, London, 1982. 28 The following few paragraphs are based on Letter from the Chief Secretary, UP, to the General Officer Commanding in Chief, Eastern Command, dated 26 February 1927, IOL/L/Mil/3/1122. 27

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internal security troops stationed within the province into (a) “garrison units” or troops required to hold on to “vital points” and (b) “movable columns”, the mobile force necessary for operational use.29 Garrisons were army units positioned permanently at a designated cantonment area. In military planning, garrisons signified that certain areas, in view of strategic importance, were not to be abandoned under any circumstances. In contrast, movable columns could be deployed to aid civil power anywhere away from their usual base and at short notice. Central to the ISS were the cantonment areas where troops were concentrated. Chapter 2 has shown how crucial these cantonments were for the maintenance of Pax Britannica.30 Full-fledged cantonments existed in Allahabad, Banaras, Kanpur, Fatehgarh, Lucknow, Bareilly, Dehra Dun, Meerut and Agra. Lucknow, the provincial capital after 1921, housed the most important cantonment with the maximum concentration of troops. The garrison at Lucknow consisted of two companies of British infantry, while the movable column was made up of two British infantry battalions, one British cavalry regiment, two sections of the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) and one armoured train. Adjoining Kanpur was also a strategically important city, where one British infantry company was positioned as a garrison, while one Indian infantry company dealt with railway security. The movable columns in Kanpur comprised two companies of British infantry, one section of RFA and one armoured car company. Further, there was an army motor training centre at Sitapur, two companies of British infantry, one battalion of Indian Territorial Force (ITF), and a single section of RFA at Faizabad; and one company of Indian infantry in Shahjahanpur. In eastern UP, Allahabad and Banaras were, in order, the most important army cantonments. The Fort cantonment in Allahabad, enabling the “only wireless installation between Calcutta and Delhi” was the most important wireless installation in northern India. Two battalions of British infantry garrisoned the city while three companies of Indian infantry guarded the railways. Further, two British infantry companies, one squadron of Indian cavalry and one section of RFA made up the movable columns positioned 29

IOL/L/Mil/5/886. For a recent study on cantonments, see T. Jacob, Cantonments in India, Evolution and Growth, New Delhi, 1993.


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in the cantonment areas. In Banaras, one company of British infantry garrisoned the city, another company of Indian infantry protected the railways, and one Indian infantry training battalion and one company of Indian garrison troops provided movable columns. In Gorakhpur, one armoured train was positioned to facilitate rapid troops movement across several eastern districts, which did not have any internal security troops at all. The “key station of Bareilly” lay in the Rohilkhand region in western UP. Though only one company of British infantry garrisoned there, its movable column was sizeable: it consisted of another company of British infantry, one battalion of Indian infantry, a further training battalion of Indian infantry and a section of RFA. Elsewhere, in the western districts the position was much stronger. In Mathura, a section of a medium-range battery was positioned. Two cantonments almost equidistant from Bareilly were Agra in the southwest and Meerut in the west. At Agra, a company of British infantry garrisoned the city while almost an entire battalion of British infantry, together with one training battalion of Indian infantry and one battalion of the Indian Territorial Force, constituted its movable columns. Meerut was home to a comparable number of army units, both for the garrison and the movable columns. In fact, the movable columns in both Meerut and Agra were the largest army units positioned anywhere in the entire province. It is interesting to observe that almost three battalions of infantry each were positioned in both Agra and Meerut to provide ready movable columns to ensure adequate security cover from two directions to the imperial capital of New Delhi. Army strength was also concentrated in UP’s hill districts. Almora had one battalion of Indian infantry and one Gurkha depot as garrisons; Landsdowne, in the army recruitment district of Garhwal, had a training battalion of Indian infantry; and Dehra Dun had four Gurkha depots as well as the Viceroy’s Bodyguards camping there in the hot weather. Despite such elaborate and meticulous strategization, the government felt insecure about the protection of certain cities and districts. In early 1927, it submitted a detailed memorandum to military authorities, demanding the fortification of garrisons in several cities.31 Kanpur, “with its large 31

Chief Secretary, UP Government, to General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Command, dated 26 February 1927 in IOL/L/Mil/3/1122.

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commercial interests and potentially turbulent population of mill hands”, was considered considerably under-garrisoned; the government demanded a doubling of the garrison. It also declared Banaras “clearly under-garrisoned”.32 Another company of British infantry was demanded to “garrison Faizabad which should be made a keep” (a fortified area designated safe for European women and children in the contingency of an evacuation). The UP government still felt that the stationing of another company of British infantry as a movable column in Gorakhpur would adequately buffer the internal security mechanism in the three districts of Gorakhpur, Basti and Azamgarh—the most densely populated in the entire province. “As was seen in 1922, the population is easily stirred by agitation and some reserve of force in this area is essential”, observed the governor in his memorandum to the military authorities.33 In western UP, the government demanded an additional company of British infantry at Bareilly. The governor considered Rampur, lying at the core of Rohilkhand, to be a “restless area”. Moradabad too was a trouble spot, in need of garrisoning by yet another company. Similarly, the north-western district of Saharanpur was “large and troublesome”, needing garrisoning by a company of British infantry. The UP government was not confident about the defence of communication and railway lines either. It did not consider the movable columns assigned to several cities very valuable as they usually comprised Indian infantry or auxiliary battalions, which were often regarded as second-rate. These movable columns would be vital in the event of the mobilization of the field army elsewhere, as the security of the interior depended on them; in any case, “the armed police will have their hands full and cannot provide reinforcements for the military units in such a scenario”.34 In overall terms, the governor pointed out to the army authorities 32 It observed that “Banaras is a centre of revolutionary activity and is the chief link in these provinces with dangerous associations in Bengal”, and demanded at least two companies of British infantry to garrison the city. 33 Ibid. 34 “No portion of the armed police can be withdrawn from their ordinary duties for service with military units as movable columns. The armed police will be fully occupied in guarding government buildings and property, and in suppressing minor disturbances. The civil administration must, if possible, be carried on; and as crime is likely to increase, the armed police will have their hands full and cannot provide reinforcements.” Ibid.

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that “the resources provided by the internal security scheme are very slender”. He was particularly concerned about the fact that the Raj faced a growing threat to its authority from two possible dangers: “Hindu–Muslim animosity may find vent in outbreaks on a large-scale; or a persistent anti-British agitation, especially if it coincides with a time of economic distress, may produce widespread and dangerous disorder”.35 However, the UP government’s strong case did not achieve much; its demands for additional troops were not met and it had to remain content with the ISS provisions. Clearly, the internal security troops were concentrated more in the western part of the province. As we surmised, this was because the troops at Meerut and Agra cantonments were oriented towards protecting the seat of the Government of India at New Delhi in a crisis. Such a concentration may well have resulted from the experience of the Revolt of 1857, which chiefly inflamed the western parts of the province and Awadh, not so much the eastern districts. From a study of the secret internal security schemes of these military districts, one is struck by the careful planning and meticulous attention to detail.36 The plans were replete with details on the characteristics of each civil district in terms of the number of villages and towns, their geography and their populations. These military reports even included details of the number of arms licence holders for different types of guns and pistols.37 Profiles of “vital points”, such as prisons, were described in terms of the number of inmates and security arrangements. “Keeps” and observation points for helio and pigeon signalling were identified. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of military plans of the late colonial period was the deep imprint of events of almost 70 years earlier. The Revolt of 1857 seemed to have left an indelible 35

Ibid. The following reports contain the detailed internal security plans for the entire UP: “Military Report on the United Provinces Districts, General Staff 1923” in IOL/L/Mil/17/12/52; “Military Report on the Delhi Independent Brigade Area 1929” in IOL/L/Mil/17/12/17; “Military Report on the Lucknow District 1928” in IOL/L/Mil/17/12/27/1 and “Military Report on the Meerut District 1928” in IOL/L/Mil/17/12/34. 37 The figures for arms licences showed an interesting pattern: the largest number of guns and revolvers were in districts where police presence was thin and crime incidence. Urban centres like Lucknow also had a high ratio, probably due to the high number of Europeans. In cities considered prone to communal rioting gun licences tended to be above average. 36

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mark on British military thinking on internal security. So deep was this impress that military planning, as it existed even in the late 1920s through the 1940s, hinged entirely on the premise of a widespread revolt, envisaging full-scale subversion of British authority which would necessitate the army’s intervention to restore authority in the face of a hostile population. The military reports draw very 1857-like scenarios. For instance, they provide a detailed topography of the area covered, and the Lucknow Report even goes to the extreme limit of identifying villages where food supplies and even drinking water could be procured. One encounters descriptions like “Village X can provide 60 kilos of meat and 5 maunds of flour at 24 hours’ notice”!38 This thinking greatly influenced the pattern of positioning and deployment of the internal security garrison, and was fundamentally significant in 1942 in moulding British responses to the Quit India movement. The Raj could suppress the challenge of the Quit India movement very rapidly and effectively because its internal security plans for the preceding eight decades had been geared towards precisely dealing with a revolt of the nature and scale of the Quit India movement.

Deployment: Visible and Hidden After this detailed consideration of internal security plans, let us turn to patterns of troop deployment. In his classic work on military policing, Gwynne recounted in detail the types of situations in which the army was deployed to aid civil power or perform policing duties. He categorized the army’s pro-civil involvement into three classic situations: In the first category are small wars: deliberate campaigns with a definite military objective, but undertaken with the ultimate object of establishing civil control ... the second category includes cases when the normal civil control does not exist, or has broken down to such an extent that the Army becomes the main agent for the maintenance of or for the restoration of order.

38 “Military Report on the Lucknow District 1928”, General Staff in IOL/L/Mil/ 17/12/27/1.

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In such cases civil authority abdicates its position temporarily; martial law is proclaimed. In the third category belong those occasions when the civil power continues to exercise undivided control but finds the police forces on which it normally relies insufficient. In such cases the Army is required in aid of civil power.39 It is tempting to follow Gwynne’s categorization to discern patterns in troop deployment for civil assistance in the inter-war years.40 The first and second types of deployment were rare in UP, the exception being 1942 when, during the Quit India movement, civil authority was rendered completely ineffectual in eastern UP. But then, this was the only time that such a situation arose in UP between 1917 and 1947. Occasions for the army to deal with Gwynne’s first situation type were rare; a handful of cases— culminating in the Quit India movement—fell under the second type. It was the third type of deployment, where the army was called in to reinforce a police force with stretched resources, that corresponded to a great many situations in which the army was used in UP. Never, apart from 1942, was public order subverted to lead to the complete or even partial breakdown of civil control. Here, let us pause to consider some dramatic instances of the army’s use elsewhere, to highlight how the situation in UP contrasted from that in some other provinces that witnessed intensive use of troops for the reinstatement and maintenance of colonial authority. Perhaps the most dramatic and notorious instance was staged at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar in 1919.41 The British, of 39

Gwynne, Imperial Policing, Chapter 1. One of the most intensive uses of internal security troops had been made during the Moplah revolt in Malabar. The scale of the military operations launched against the Moplahs is evident in the very large number of casualties. It is reckoned that about 2,300 persons were killed, 1,650 wounded, 5,700 captured and 39,000 forced to surrender in the suppression of the revolt, and that a campaign on this scale amounted almost to a “small war” and, therefore, naturally fell under the first category described by Gwynne. These are official figures cited by Gwynne himself, Imperial Policing, p. 109. For a study of the Malabar revolt, see K.N. Panikkar, Against Lord and State: Religion and Peasant Uprisings in Malabar, 1836–1921, New Delhi, 1990. The second type of example of the use of troops in aid of civil power is provided by the Peshawar disorders of 1930 when the civil authorities lost control over the city and the army had to be called out to restore order. 41 Clayton provides a good account of this incident, pp. 154–59; also see Gwynne, Imperial Policing, pp. 34–64. 40

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course, came to regard such a catastrophic use of troops as a terrible mistake, never to be repeated, not at any cost. Soon, in 1920, on the eve of the Prince of Wales’ visit to Bombay, the city went out of civil control for three days due to mass disturbances; the British could regain control only by calling in the troops. Eight years later, when the Simon Commission visited Bombay, the city again staged violent protests and trouble continued for almost a fortnight. The army came in and restored order but only after a large number of casualties—about 150 dead, 739 injured. Then, air bombardment was frequently carried out against defiant tribesmen in the North West Frontier Province, especially Waziristan.42 In 1930, British authority was completely undermined in Sholapur; only the imposition of martial law could bring the turbulent city back to order. Futhermore, it is now well known that during the Quit India movement 57½ troop battalions were used to re-establish the authority of the Raj.43 Remember that troop deployment in aid of civil power in UP was nowhere as dramatic as these instances. On the contrary, it was uncontroversial, quiet, almost routine.

“Showing the Flag” Within Gwynne’s third category, troop deployment in UP can be subdivided into two types: in the first type, troops were brought into play to uphold the prestige and authority of the Raj in the 42 Admittedly, the most extensive operation was the one carried out in 1919–20 at the height of Khilafat. In spite of the fact that it was restricted to only one area, the “operation required trans-Indus 340,000 men and 158,000 animals and cost 18 million sterling”: the casualty list was enormous—56,000 in hospital due to cholera, 5,000 killed, and 10,000 wounded or missing, L/PO/358. Also see “Committee on Indian Unrest Papers: NWFP Situation” in L/PO/5/29. The RAF undertook regular “air actions” against specific tribes moving in groups or lashkars openly in rebellion against the British. It was admitted that such sorties essentially constituted “offensive action” undertaken to “strike at once at any sign of a sectional disorder at its start before it has a chance to spread”. “Note by the Air Staff on the Regulation of Air Control in Underdeveloped Countries”, 12 May 1930 L/PO/ 358; also see “Air Bombing in NWFP” L/PO/5/31 and L/PO/5/29. The evidence suggests that such air actions were taken on a very frequent and wide scale. Also see David E. Omissi, Air Power and Colonial Control: The Royal Air Force 1919–39, Manchester, 1990. 43 Home Pol (I) 3/26/42(2), cited in D.A. Low, ed., Congress and the Raj, p. 9.

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face of nationalist agitations; in the second type, they helped restore order during and after communal disturbances. During the Khilafat movement in 1920, troops often reinforced the efforts of the Aligarh police.44 Similarly, when rioting erupted in Allahabad in 1923 soon after the Non-Cooperation movement ended, the Ist Worcester Regiment had to be deployed to assist the police. As indicated earlier, actual troop deployment to restore order was often a stray case; the display of troops to “show the flag” to the population and to boost the morale of the worn-out local police assumed place of pride in the overall strategy of colonial officials. Exhibitionist garrison marches became a common motif of British superiority during the course of the Non-Cooperation agitation. Such marches were held particularly frequently in 1922 in the western districts of Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur and Deoband, the seat of Muslim theology. A military report noted: Very extensive demonstrations in the form of lorries of soldiers loaded with troops and sent to all corners of the Meerut Division and parts of the United Provinces were made by the General Officer Commanding. These had an excellent effect and undoubtedly saved a big outbreak in the United Provinces.45 There is evidence to suggest that similar displays of military might were organized in many other places across the province to deter other possible breaches of authority. With the onset of the Civil Disobedience movement in 1930, the army’s internal security function acquired even greater prominence. As the campaign unfolded, London panicked. The Secretary of State telegraphed the Viceroy offering immediate military reinforcements for internal security. “Three cruisers at Colombo... and four warships with one thousand men in all could reach you in seven days from Malta”, and “two squadrons of aircraft could reach Peshawar in about a week from Iraq”, he wired.46 Irwin’s sober response, meanwhile, was closer to reality. “There is no reason at present”, he telegraphed back, “to anticipate that force 44

Clayton, The British Empire as a Super Power, p. 180. “Military Report on the Meerut District, General Staff, 1928” in IOL/L/Mil/ 17/12/34. 46 Secretary of State to Viceroy 30 April 1930: IOL/L/PO/4/18A. 45

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available will not suffice”.47 He foresaw a “very remote possibility” of the Civil Disobedience campaign catalysing a situation that would necessitate such extensive military deployment that reinforcements might be necessary from outside India.48 Irwin wanted to avoid, as far as possible, using the army to deal with the campaign. The Government of India nonetheless emphasized the need for greater army–civil liaison at the local level to preempt serious breaches of public order. Following upon this policy, “full precautionary measures were taken with the Military authorities” all over India when Gandhi was arrested after his Dandi March in April 1930.49 In considering the overall manner in which troops were used to deal with the Civil Disobedience movements of 1930–32, certain interesting patterns emerge. Between April 1930 and March 1931, a period broadly corresponding to the peak of the first Civil Disobedience campaign, 118 requests were made to army authorities across India to “aid civil power” to deal with agitating crowds.50 These, of course, excluded flag marches and garrison displays. However, of the 118, only in 77 instances did the troops actually leave their barracks and “stood to” in readiness close to the scene of action. On 24 occasions. they took up positions but were not used. It was only on 17 occasions that “troops were actually used to disperse unlawful assemblies, to round up villages and to assist the police”.51 Later in 1931, the same dynamic was at work again. Between April and December 1931, civil authorities requested help from troops 71 times. Even in early 1932, when the government was enforcing its draconian “civil martial law” package, troops were used minimally.52 Between January and March 1932, troops were 47

Viceroy to Secretary of State 1 May 1930: IOL/L/PO/4/18A. Viceroy to Secretary of State 26 April 1930: IOL/L/PO/4/18A. 49 Fortnightly Report (henceforth FR) April 1930 Second Half and May 1930 First Half in IOL/L/P&J/12/22. 50 Unfortunately, no separate figures for UP are available; the UP situation should broadly conform to the all-India picture sketched by these figures. 51 “Annual General Dispatch on Important Events in the Military, Air Force, and Marine Administration in India During the Period 1st April 1930 to 31 March 1931” in IOL/L/Mil/3/1124. 52 On the overall context and nature of the policies enforced against the Civil Disobedience campaign, see D.A. Low, “’Civil Martial Law’: The Government of India and the Civil Disobedience Movements 1930–1934”, in Low, ed., Congress and the Raj. 48

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requested to help civil authorities only on 15 occasions.53 It was the police, not the army, that primarily enforced the “civil martial law”. During the early phase of the Civil Disobedience campaign in UP, troops and auxiliary forces were deployed in Lucknow. In May 1930, when satyagraha by the Congress Committee over a local issue escalated into a violent confrontation between the police and Congress sympathizers, the government called out the 1st East Yorkshire Regiment to prevent serious breaches of public order.54 In Kanpur too, men from the Indian auxiliary infantry helped maintain law and order. As discussed earlier briefly, the real weapon in the civil armoury was not so much the deployment of troops, as their ability to “show the flag”! District officials were confident that a display of military power through garrison marches in cities and towns, which were considered particularly vulnerable to Congress agitation, would make a strong impression on the population and prove effective in upholding the prestige of the Raj. Not surprisingly, in the later part of 1930, district officers very frequently sent requests for troop marches in their areas. “Troops have been marched with good results through a number of districts and have been well received everywhere”, noted an intelligence report.55 The experience of the Civil Disobedience campaign confirmed to colonial officials the effectiveness of troop display. To recapitulate, the British considered “showing the flag” a particularly effective method to uphold their authority, especially when their police resources were rather thin on the ground (as we shall see later ). Second, communal rioting. The most important challenge of this type for UP troops came from Kanpur in April 1931. The local administration was completely overwhelmed by the transmogrification of communal unrest and tentative nervousness into blatantly defiant rioting. The rioting continued for three days, killing almost 600 people and injuring very many more. “The 2nd Highland Light Infantry, reinforced by two companies of 53

“Annual General Dispatch on Important Events in the Military, Air Force, and Marine Administration in India During the Period 1st April 1931 to 31 March 1932” in IOL/L/Mil/3/1124. 54 D.A. Low’s “Holds Barred: The Anatomy of a Satyagraha, Lucknow, May 1930”, in D.A. Low, Britain and Indian Nationalism: The Imprint of Ambiguity, 1929–1942, Cambridge, 1997, provides the details. 55 FR, November 1930 First Half.

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the 1st East Yorkshire Regiment, moved from Lucknow and an armoured car company had virtually to take control of the city from the police.”56 Kanpur’s may be a rather dramatic instance but, in 1934 alone, troops worked intensively to quell communal riots in Meerut, Banaras, Ghazipur, Kanpur and Agra.57 In Meerut, a squadron of Indian cavalry had to disperse an angry crowd of Hindu inhabitants who turned violent after evacuating a village in protest against a cow sacrifice.58 In Banaras, two platoons of British troops dealt with Muslim residents enraged by administrative changes in the routes of tazia processions.59 Troop deployment to deal with communal trouble then was indeed endemic in UP during the 1930s. In the late 1930s, when the Congress formed the provincial ministry and gained control of the machinery of law and order, demands on internal security troops to aid civil power during communal disorders increased. In any case, since the Congress tenure saw a resurgence of communal unrest, precipitating into a series of violent riots.60 One of the most serious of these riots occurred in March 1938 in Banaras, with an estimated 42 dead and several hundreds injured. Around the same time, Allahabad witnessed violent communal disturbances; it took the 2nd Royal Berkshire Regiment five days of strenuous efforts to restore tranquillity.61 Kanpur was once again a major trouble spot. Throughout its tenure in office, the Congress ministry kept troops on stand-by on several occasions, as both communal and labour unrest simmered on in Kanpur. In February 1939, the 2nd Battalion of the South Straffordshire Regiment was called out to deal with communal rioting. In February and March 1939, troops were requisitioned several times. Though they were called out often, on most occasions, they were asked only to “stand to”.62 56 Clayton, The British Empire as a Super Power, p. 404. For a fuller account of the Kanpur riots, see N.G. Barrier, ed., Roots of Communal Politics, New Delhi, 1976. 57 Ibid., p. 408. 58 FR, March 1934 Second Half. 59 FR, April 1934 Second Half. 60 Mukul Kesavan, “Communal Politics in the United Provinces, 1935–47”, unpublished M.Litt. dissertation, Cambridge, 1987 provides the overall context of this resurgence. 61 Clayton, The British Empire as a Super Power, p. 408. 62 Military Intelligence Summaries for January to June 1939 in IOL/L/Mil/17/5/ 4274.

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Lucknow also saw communal trouble in the late 1930s, in the context of its Shia–Sunni divide. On several occasions, the district authorities enlisted the army’s help to guard certain “dangerous” neighbourhoods in the city, thus relieving the police.63 Here too, troop display was strategically valuable. Colonial officials frequently resorted to bluff to inflate the power of the Raj when it could actually be quite thin on the ground. Troop marches imparted an aura of invincibility, even though unreal at times. A policeman’s recollections about how he prevented an explosive communal situation by exaggerating the resources available to him in Kanpur during 1946 illustrates the point: There had been sporadic rioting going on for weeks and the municipal elections were due and they added to the tense situation. Rioting by Communists and the Muslims against the Congress majority appeared inevitable. I was able to concentrate some 2000 police force from other districts on the eve of the Election, but the omens for the next day were bad, and we had none too many men. Tin hats had been on issue for the police since the war but had not been used, and a policeman wearing a tin hat would not be recognised as a policeman. The 4th Indian Div. was due back from service about the same time. So we put all our reinforcements into tin hats, and picketed the City with them, and spread a rumour that the 4th Indian Div. had arrived to hold Kanpur down. There was not an incident throughout the day.64 Communal disturbances tended to flare up rather unexpectedly and could spread very quickly within a city, compelling colonial officials to respond promptly and decisively by showing that they possessed adequate resources to suppress the violence before it engulfed more than just the people that initiated it. In such situations, “showing the flag” in the affected areas was a consistently effective counter-manoeuvre.


Military Intelligence Summary Nos 5–6 for April–May 1939 in IOL/L/Mil/ 17/5/4274. 64 “Notes of Lecture on Police Action in Riots” by G. Waddell (of the UP cadre of the IP) in Indian Police Collection, IOL/Mss.Eur/F. 161/1.

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Now, to curb communal strife, colonial officials further believed that it would be more strategic to deploy British “other ranks”, who could act impartially or neutrally in what were obviously sensitive situations of religious conflict. This was in striking contrast to the district administration, which seldom found its record unblemished by allegations of communal bias after a riot. The view of the colonial officials seemed justifiable to a certain extent; one does not come across many allegations of “excesses” by troops in suppressing communal riots. Indeed, there is evidence that residents of conflict-torn areas often demanded the protection that European troops afforded (though it is difficult to correlate such expressions of “confidence” in the army with a manifestation of distrust in the civil police). So, frequent deployment of troops to counter communal disturbances was a trademark of the Raj’s style of maintaining public order, following on from the prestige it attached to preventing or else effectively suppressing communal disorders, and generally keeping the peace. Its legitimacy as a state depended, radically, on its ability to perform these functions. Quite naturally, then, it attached enormous significance to its internal security troops. In retrospect, it is striking how rare it was for the British to actually use troops to disperse crowds or assemblies. After the Jallianwala Bagh debacle, particularly, there was considerable hesitation and a great deal of caution in employing them against nationalist forces. In situations of communal rioting, where the same compunctions did not exist, troops were much more in currency. They were, however, of great value in lending support to hard-pressed district administrators facing rising nationalist challenges and absolutely essential for reinforcing the civil police in situations where they might be in danger of being overwhelmed by rioters. Circumstances prevailing in the 1930s provided several occasions for civil authorities to request troops to aid civil power, since both cases, whether of nationalist agitation or of communal confrontation, had a built-in and severe risk of violent conflicts getting out of hand. Consequently, the British ensured that troops were readily available in UP’s major cities and towns to expeditiously deal with any violent or widespread disturbances that might threaten the Raj’s authority. In both instances, the centrality of the internal security scheme to the overall framework of imperial control is quite apparent. Even so, troops were almost invariably

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employed only as a weapon of last resort—that is indeed remarkable. Given the practised systems of “stand to” and garrison marches, the army succeeded in inflating the power of the Raj, often out of nothing at all!

Calculating Risks and Apportioning Resources Changes in the army’s internal security functions may be classified into two types: the first related to its “Indianization” and the second entailing the frequent reassessment of the army’s role in aid of civil power by high-level military review committees. Indianization primarily meant the development of an officer cadre of Indians at the command and control level.65 Despite nationalist demands for swifter Indianization, the intake of Indians as officers remained abysmally low till the outbreak of World War II in 1939.66 British thinking was characterized by extreme caution on the question of a larger role for Indians in the army’s affairs.67 So slow was the process of Indianization that, in institutional terms, the army remained largely unaltered at least in relation to its internal security functions. The second type of changes effected by the military review committees had more far-reaching impact. They periodically attempted to update military planning to keep pace with the changing context of imperial defence. They also reviewed likely threats to the army’s internal security garrison. These reviews yielded a succession of internal security plans that continually balanced arrangements to maximize the security of the Raj with other demands on the army. We have already reviewed the kind of protection that the Internal 65

On these issues see B.P.N. Sinha and S. Chandra, Valour and Wisdom: Genesis and Growth of the Indian Military Academy, New Delhi, 1992. An analysis of Indianization in the context of the Indian army is provided in Stephen Cohen, The Indian Army: Its Contribution to the Development of a Nation, Berkeley, 1971. 66 P.S. Gupta, “The Debate on Indianization 1918–1939”, in Gupta and Deshpande, eds, The British Raj and the Indian Armed Forces, New Delhi, 2002, pp. 228–70. Also see Deshpande, “Contested Identities and Military Indianization in Colonial India (1900–1939)”, Contemporary India, 1.1, January–March 2002, pp. 99–131. 67 Interview with Maj. Gen. (Retd) Ajit Rudra in May 1990 at Dehra Dun. Gen. Rudra, one of the handful of Indians who were given the King’s Commission soon after World War I, recounted several experiences of the prejudice he faced within the mess and in more formal situations from many of his Sandhurst-trained colleagues.

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Security Scheme of 1927 afforded to UP. This was followed by the “Pink Plan” of April 1931,68 superseded in turn by the “Internal Security Instructions, India, 1937”,69 which was operational for just a year and replaced by the “Plan of Operations of 1938”. The outbreak of World War II in 1939 fundamentally altered the Indian army’s internal security scenario and made all these plans, well, obsolete.70 In the late 1930s, the official thinking on internal security saw a near-paradigmatic shift. The Pownall Committee, reporting in 1938, reiterated that the role of the Internal Security Troops includes not only assistance to the civil power in the maintenance of law and order within India, but also the preservation of the security of internal strategic communications, and the protection of lives and property in times of serious disorder.71 Among its various tasks, it reported specifically on the changes in the prevalent politico-strategic environment. It observed that, in view of the constitutional and political changes following the Government of India Act of 1935, “calls on troops for the preservation of law and order may increase” and forewarned that the Congress “would take advantage of any war in which India is 68 This plan originated from the deliberations of the Chetwode Committee which noted in 1931 that India’s internal security situation was plagued by the “ever present dangers arising from Congress activities, from communal dissensions, and from subversive organisations.” It feared that the effect of “extremist agitation on what may be described as the under-world of the Indian population, particularly in the large towns,” could be disastrous. In view of these threats the Committee ruled out any reductions in the provision of troops for internal security. Instead, the Committee felt it prudent to earmark additional troops for internal security “until such time as provincial autonomy has been fully established and the provinces have proved themselves capable of maintaining law and order.” “Report of the Expert Investigation into the Strength, Composition and Functions of the Army in India, 1931” (Chetwode Committee), in IOL/L/Mil/17/5/1793. 69 “Internal Security Instructions, India, 1937”, in IOL/L/Mil/17/5/4252. 70 Bisheshwar Prasad, “Defence of India: Policy and Ideas”, part of the series Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War, 1939–45, New Delhi, 1963, pp. 47–48. 71 “Report of the Sub Committee headed by Maj. Gen. H.R. Pownall on the Defence Problems of India and the Composition and Organisation of the Army and the RAF in India”, in IOL/L/Mil/5/886.

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directly or indirectly involved to further by revolutionary methods their aim of driving the British out of India”. Even so, it recommended a 30 per cent reduction in the number of British troops allocated to internal security.72 It proposed the reduction of British troops earmarked for internal security from 24,000 to 17,000; the disbanding of the British cavalry, artillery and tank units; and the allocation of only 22 British infantry battalions to internal security. These 22 battalions would be “spread over the whole of India, an area of 11½ million square miles, with a population of more than 350 million, that is to say, one British soldier to every 20,000 inhabitants and to every 88 square miles”.73 The Pownall Committee based its recommendations on two considerations: (a) the greater mobility of the internal security garrison as a result of enhanced means of transport and communication and (b) the reduced threat from the North-West Frontier due to changes in the strategic environment. Expectedly, the Army headquarters in New Delhi strongly contested this cutback. “The safety of the European and AngloIndian lives and interests in India is ultimately dependent on the British element in the Internal Security forces”, it stated. “Under existing proposals”, it furthered declared, “the British element will be reduced by 30 per cent at a time when the internal situation in India contains more potential danger that it has since 1857”.74 The protests, however, fell on deaf ears. The reductions were carried out. The numbers of the internal security troops dwindled tangibly only in 1939, however, when the recommendations of the Chatfield Committee came into force. Appointed in September 1938 specifically to report on the modernization of the “pony and screw gun” army, the Chatfield Committee reduced the resources for internal security even further.75 It noted changes in the political environment and their implications for apportioning available resources 72

It recommended the withdrawal of one British cavalry regiment and four British battalions from internal security duties and their transfer to the field army. IOL/ L/Mil/5/886 and 1068. 73 “Note on Internal Security by GHQ” in Pownall Report 1938, IOL/L/Mil/5/ 886. 74 Ibid. 75 The financial implications of the Committee’s recommendations were staggering. It reported that “India’s resources were insufficient to meet the capital cost involved, which amounted to roughly pounds 35,000,000 and after the outbreak

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between internal security and “imperial” purposes,76 and also took into account the stand of the Army headquarters, which vociferously opposed any further cuts in internal security provisions. The Committee envisaged two scenarios. In the “best case scenario”, the Indian army’s external defence forces would be available to reinforce the internal security garrison, if required; in such a situation the forces would be “fully adequate” and, in fact, “contain a considerable margin over the minimum requirement”. In the “worst case scenario”, it visualized conditions of a “world war accompanied by hostilities on the Frontier and widespread civil unrest” and remarked that “it is under conditions such as these that the problem would assume the most acute and exacting shape”.77 It recommended the reorganization of the army’s internal security function in tune with its new priorities: first, the “protection of the strategic railway which is essential to safeguard... the armed forces”; then the “maintenance of law and order in the principle centres of government and the protection of military arsenals, workshops, depots and kindred establishments”; and thereafter, the “maintenance of law and order and the protection, in the event of widespread disaffection, of loyal elements of the civil population in outlying areas”.78 The Chatfield Committee’s overall reductions were substantial. Its major cuts related to British infantry battalions, which were of the war it was decided that India should receive three quarter of this amount as a free gift, the remainder being a loan without interest.” “India’s War Effort” (1941) in IOL/L/Mil/17/5/426. 76 The Committee observed: “It is generally held that Indian defence expenditure is altogether disproportionate to the resources of the country. It is thought, in particular, that the cost of maintaining British troops in India is a burden of which India should be wholly or largely relieved. The claim is made that the British troops constitute nothing but an army of occupation, which is not needed for the protection of India, but is rather maintained to hold her in subjugation.... The critics... claim that India should be made as far as possible completely self sufficient in the matter of war material, so that the money spent on it should circulate in the country, and so help to promote its prosperity.... The forces maintained and paid for by India should not be available for use in what are regarded as Imperial as distinct from Indian interests... that Indians must disclaim all concern with defence problems with which any element of Imperial intent is held to enter.” Chatfield Committee Report in IOL/L/Mil/5/886. 77 “Papers on the Reservation of Defence (Indian RTC) and the Expert Committee on Defence of India, 1931–39”, IOL/L/Mil/5/886. 78 Prasad, op. cit., p. 49.

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reduced from the pre-war strength of 26 to 21 (a 19 per cent reduction), and to Indian infantry battalions, which were cut from 20 to 11 (a 45 per cent reduction). Still, the Committee felt confident that these diminished forces would be adequate even for the worstcase scenario. Their recommendations derived from an important assumption, which was not totally unjustified. 79 “We feel bound to assume we can rely”, they observed, “on the continued loyalty of the Indian Army itself and need not contemplate any widespread disaffection among the police.”80 Three years later, in 1942, their predictions were put to the test—and proved robust. The Raj was thus remarkably successful in calculating the challenges it would face and in apportioning necessary resources to cope with these. There is little evidence to suggest that the British responded with knee-jerk reactions or tended to augment internal security troops unnecessarily, even in the face of mounting nationalist agitations, which increasingly threatened to acquire subcontinental dimensions. From the 1920s, military resources were not expanded; rather troops on internal security duties were eventually reduced, and substantially so. Several factors were at work here. First, the army was squeezed financially as the defence outlay of the Indian government came under increasing attack in the legislative arena and had to be reduced; allocations for the internal security garrison could not be totally insulated from the cutbacks. Then, as the clouds of a European war loomed large on the horizon, “imperial” defence interests assumed priority over strictly Indian security considerations; the Committee of Imperial Defence in London reduced the importance of the Army Headquarters in New Delhi. When the war began in late 1939, the colonial policymakers concerned themselves with making only minimal demands on the army for internal security purposes. Perhaps the most important reason for cuts in the internal security garrison was that colonial policy-makers believed that any challenge to the Raj’s authority was unlikely to originate in the realm of public order. After the experiences of the NonCooperation and Civil Disobedience movements, military and civil 79

For an analysis of the continued loyalty of the Indian army in the inter-war years, see Tan Tai Yong, The Garrison State: The Military, Government and Society in Colonial Punjab 1849–1947, New Delhi, 2005. 80 “Expert Committee on Defence of India”, IOL/L/Mil/5/886.

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officials felt sheltered, at least till 1939, in the knowledge that the Raj’s instruments of enforcing its power were adequate.81 They knew that the enemies of the Raj challenged, not the power of the colonial state, but its authority. But the Indian government was taking no risks. Even as the Chatfield Committee’s recommendations took effect, it decided to substantially expand the armed police forces in the provinces, to take over several vital internal security tasks from the army. Accordingly, there was a manifold expansion of the UP armed police after 1939. This was a more cost-effective move, as armed police provided a cheaper alternative to the continued use of internal security troops; we have already seen that these troops very often consisted mainly of better-paid British other ranks. With British troops no longer generally available for countering communal tensions, colonial officials knew they had to rely on the newly expanded armed police in maintaining public order. To this issue and its implications for colonial power and authority, we shall return in Chapter 6. 81 Colonial traditions of deploying the army continue to haunt the Indian army today. Ironically, its role in maintaining internal security has greatly expanded in post-colonial India; in neighbouring Pakistan its indispensability in holding together state and society is widely recognized. In India the need to employ the military to maintain public order and to defend the state has expanded a great deal, especially since the late 1960s. The army has come to be used to deal with a number of situations—ranging from insurgency to communal riots and civil disorders, from industrial action to terrorist and secessionist movements. At times such deployments have dramatically shaped the course of events; the prime example of such an action is “Operation Blue Star” at Amritsar in 1984. The enlarged role is reflected by the number of situations in which the army has been called in aid of the civil power; it is reckoned that between 1951 and 1970, the army was called out to suppress domestic violence on approximately 476 occasions. Since 1970, its use has been much more extensive; between June 1979 and December 1980 alone, it was called out in 64 instances. Stephen Cohen observes that, while the Indian army has not sought an interventionist role, “one can observe the slow expansion of military influence within the Indian political system... one can also observe the militarisation of Indian political discourse and the growth of an enormous military-industrial political complex.” He further makes the shocking revelation that, “in 1984 there were at least 40 million Indians living under military rule, if not military law, making India one of the world’s largest military-dominated states—while it was simultaneously the world’s largest democracy.” One of the ways in which the postcolonial Indian state has tried to solve the problem is by “improvization”; the central government has carefully

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Colonial Policing: “The Thin Blue Line” Although the army was the Raj’s ultimate bulwark, colonial officials only used it as a last resort. They called upon the police forces to perform varied functions in maintaining colonial regimes. The police strengthened colonial regimes and their collaborators, preserved public order, and defended public and private property. In addition to these primary duties, it executed numerous para-and non-police tasks, ranging from the surveillance, proscription, and incarceration of suspects to the collection of taxes and the enforcement of municipal regulations.82 The institution of policing, as the British developed it in India, proved to be the empire’s most elaborate and robust. Complemented by the legal codes formulated in the second half of the nineteenth century, it became a model for police forces in several African and Asian colonies.83 An analysis created and expanded large para-military formations like the Central Industrial Security Force/Border Security Force and the Central Reserve Police Force. This allows the centre to effectively intervene in the affairs of the states, while avoiding the unpleasant and drastic option of actually calling out the army. Such a strategy has paid off; it has allowed the Centre to carry out effective “crisis management” using its own machinery and resources, to handle regional breakdowns, thereby giving “teeth” to the unique Indian device of president’s rule. For a discussion of the army’s role in post-1947 India, see Raju G.C. Thomas, Indian Security Policy, Princeton, 1980, Chapter 3; and Stephen P. Cohen, “The Military and Indian Democracy”, in Atul Kohli, ed., India’s Democracy: An Analysis of Changing State–Society Relations, Princeton, 1988, pp. 99–143. Maj Gen. A. Krishna’s Indias Armed Forces: Fifty Years of War and Peace, New Delhi, 1998 identifies “four essential principles” inherited from the colonial period in the context of the army’s domestic role: the use of “minimum force”; civilian control in situations of deployment; the importance of civil and military intelligence to guide the army’s efforts; and finally the principle of tactical flexibility in dealing with crowds. Ironically, in postcolonial India the army’s role was expanded in order to maintain public order and to defend the state especially in the 1960s. 82 The state of the art of colonial policing is reflected in David Anderson and David Killingray, eds, Policing the Empire: Government, Authority, and Control, 1830– 1940, Manchester, 1991. 83 Policing has lately, received the attention it deserves from historians of South Asia. In all this the lead has been provided by David Arnold; his contributions are “The Armed Police and Colonial Rule in South India, 1914–1947”, Modern Asian Studies, 11, 1977; “The Congress and the Police”, in Colin Simons and C.P. Sheppperdson, eds, Congress and the Political Economy of India, London, 1988; and Police Power and Colonial Rule: Madras 1859–1947. Also see Peter Robb’s

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of how the police was positioned in UP society, the impact of political pressures upon the police, and finally what was happening to it in terms of its resources and performance during the 1930s is important to delineate the nature of the “colonial heartland”.84 One of the most striking features of policing in UP was the thinness of the force in terms of its manpower resources. Police resources were extremely meagre throughout the province and they were positioned unevenly. Further, they were centred mostly in urban areas. In Chapter 2 we have seen how the police in UP had a minimalist agenda of maintaining public order. The mission of the police was largely geared to serving the needs of public order rather than carrying out the routine work of preventing and prosecuting petty crime. This minimalist agenda of the police, as has been shown in Chapter 2, correlated with the system of criminal law which laid down that the police could deal only with cognizable offences. This limited mission of the police inevitably left its stamp on the organization and resources of the force. A thin police presence was functional to the minimalist “law and order” agenda of the Raj. Let us now consider just how thin these resources were.

“The Ordering of Rural India: The Policing of Nineteenth Century Bengal and Bihar”, in Anderson and Killingray, eds, Policing the Empire; John D. Rogers, Crime, Justice and Society in Colonial Sri Lanka, London, 1987 provides an interesting account of crime and law and order in another South Asian colonial context. 84 The literature on the police in the UP is surprisingly large. Unfortunately, most books fall in the category of what may be described as “cop books”. Written by former policemen, such books show little awareness of the wider context of policing and public order, and devote excessive attention to the adventure of the outdoors and the solving of colourful crime. In this genre may be included Percival Griffiths, To Guard My People: The Story of the Indian Police, London, 1971; M.C. Clerici and G.E.D. Walker, eds, Duties and Diversions: Vignettes of Policing in the United Provinces and Elsewhere in India, London, 1987; S.T. Hollins, No Ten Commandments, London, 1954; B.N. Lahiri, Leaves from a Policeman’s Diary, Meerut, n.d.; and also his Before and After, Allahabad, 1974; Patrick Biggie, Eleven Indian Summers, Torquay, n.d.; and Leslie Robbins, Policing the Raj, London, 1985. Although also based on former policemen’s memoirs, Martin Wynne’s On Honourable Terms, is much more sensitive to the wider context of colonial policing. Anandswarup Gupta’s The Police in British India 1861–1947, remains by far the best administrative history.

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The total strength of the police force in UP in 1930 was 32,402 men.85 These men were posted across 759 police stations and 634 outposts scattered across 55 districts covering a massive area of about 106,300 square miles. They were supposed to be the “guardians” of a population of 45 million. The proportion of police manpower to total area and population was an average of one police constable for an area of 3.3 square miles and a population of about 1,490 persons. It is interesting to examine these statistics in greater detail to see what they meant in terms of the size and structure of the police at the district level. Here we may take two examples that provide some idea of the nature of the resources available to the Raj at the district level. This will enable us to illustrate the wide disparities in police presence that existed between the countryside and the cities within the province. The first example comes from Azamgarh in eastern UP, a district with an area of 2,213 square miles, and a population of over 1.5 million in 1931. Azamgarh district was predominantly rural, as only about 73,000 people lived in urban centres, concentrated mainly in Azamgarh city and the qasbas of Mau and Lalganj.86 The district as a whole had 21 police stations and eight police outposts manned by 599 policemen.87 In overall terms each policeman was responsible on an average for an area of 3.7 square miles and a population of 2,552 persons.88 The sanctioned strength of the Azamgarh force was 545 men and 50 officers. The officers consisted of one superintendent of police (SP), one assistant superintendent of police (ASP), five inspectors and 48 sub-inspectors. Since there were no Europeans below the rank of ASP, one can assume that the number of Europeans in the Azamgarh police would have been one, at best two.89 These men 85

The data relating to the structure and strength of the police is based on a survey of annual issues for the years 1930–42 of Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces. 86 For a profile of Azamgarh district, see R.H. Niblett, The Congress Rebellion in Azamgarh: August–September 1942, Allahabad, 1957. 87 Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1931, Allahabad, 1932. 88 Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1930, Allahabad, 1931. 89 Ibid.

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had eight .22 bore and 29.303 bore rifles and 46 revolvers.90 This total of 599 men were responsible for a range of functions. Since the 21 odd thanas and eight chaukis in Azamgarh district had to be manned at all hours and because policework involved continuous, round-the-clock functioning, the number of men on effective duty, in practical terms, could not have been more than half. Here we are discounting cuts in strength due to leave and sickness, and assuming that a constable worked, on an average, for 12 hours a day. Based on this rather optimistic estimate one can calculate that no more than 300 men would have been available at any given time. These 300 constables manned thanas and chaukis, guarded official buildings and the treasury, provided escorts for prisoners, regulated traffic, investigated cases of serious crime, made arrests, kept surveillance over “bad characters”, and were, in overall terms, responsible for preserving public order, and defending public and private property. They functioned with limited communications; wireless was first used by the police in 1931 and did not come to be used on a wide scale till 1941. Their main mode of transport, where roads existed at all, was the bicycle; otherwise they had to rely on bullock carts. And here it may be remembered that the sphere of duty of these 300 men extended to 2,213 square miles, with over a population of 1.5 million people. Azamgarh represented the typical position that existed for police forces in predominantly rural districts in UP. In urban areas it was a rather different story: here policing was more intensive. This brings us to our second example—that of a typical urban police set-up—from Lucknow. Lucknow district covered an area of 967 square miles and had a population of about 800,000 in 1931, almost one-third of which lived in urban areas. The district had 14 thanas and 48 chaukis which were manned by 1,422 men. The ratio of population and area per constable in the district was thus 0.7 square miles and 509 persons per constable. Out of the 1,422 policemen, 47 were supervisory officers and the rest belonged to the constabulary. In terms of armament, these policemen were equipped with 233 rifles. In addition, they had 53 revolvers. Here the police had an extended mission which included, besides maintaining public order, a range of other duties like enforcing municipal 90


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regulations and by-laws, preserving the exclusiveness of the civil lines and the cantonment, and generally dealing with communal and nationalist demonstrations that took place in the city. These two examples of Lucknow and Azamgarh highlight the striking differences that existed in the modes of policing in the countryside and the cities. Police resources were very unevenly dispersed across the province, as is illustrated by Map 3.1. Further, within rural areas certain parts of the province had a greater concentration of police resources than others. Similarly between cities and towns police resources varied even further. In overall terms the police presence in the province of Agra was stronger than in Awadh: in Agra the proportion of police to area and population Map 3.1: Police Presence in the United Provinces, 1930s

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stood at 3.2 square miles and 1,394 persons whereas in Awadh the average was 3.5 square miles and 1,867 persons respectively.91 Yet, in spite of the wide variations across the province in the positioning of the police, and notwithstanding the urban-centred nature of the force, it can be argued that in overall terms the police in UP constituted a “thin blue line” that was functional to the needs and priorities of the colonial state. Thin police resources were a precise reflection of the “law and order” priorities of the state. Discussions on colonial policing must, therefore, be set in this larger context which profoundly affected day to day police work. But these statistics reveal only half the story. What they show are the overall district level strength, without highlighting the great disparity between the city and countryside. The police functioned very largely as an urban-based force. Let us now consider in some detail the patterns of policing that prevailed in the countryside and in urban areas.

Policing the Countryside: Chaukidars and Mukhias The Azamgarh example underscores the slenderness of police presence in the villages. With the police as an institution concentrated mainly in the cities and qasbas, formal agencies of control and law enforcement were weakest in rural areas and the positioning of policemen minimal, if not entirely absent. In the villages, the state too was a “remote presence as far as maintenance of order was concerned”.92 In such a scenario, the Raj depended on a range of informal methods and local functionaries, such as taluqdars and zamindars, to bolster its influence. It also utilized the information network of its local functionaries—the headman (mukhia) and the watchman (chaukidar)—to assist the police. Indeed, informal control was key to policing the countryside, more than any formal structure of control. 91 Uneven police presence had a significant bearing on the patterns of the challenges to the authority of the Raj. There is, for instance, evidence to suggest that during the Quit India movement in 1942 most defiant and violent challenges to authority took place in those districts where the police presence was minimal. Attacks on police and railway stations and post offices occurred in precisely those areas with the weaker police presence. 92 Andre Beteille, “The Indian Village: Past and Present”, in E.J. Hobsbawm et al., eds, Peasants in History: Essays in Honour of Daniel Thorner, Calcutta, 1980, pp. 107–20, cited in Arnold, Police Power and Colonial Rule, p. 99.

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The mukhia and chaukidar were the two principal functionaries of rural policing. In the event of a crime, the mukhia was responsible for despatching the chaukidar to the nearest police station to report it. The mukhia was usually a “notable” with substantial local power and prestige, typically belonging to a dominant peasant group and caste. His range of functions related mostly to revenue collection, but he also helped maintain law and order and settle disputes.93 Together, the mukhia and the chaukidar provided the basic link between the largely urban-based police system and rural society. “In much of rural British India, where the writ of the civil servant ended the regime of the village officer began.”94 They were the state’s principal agents of at the village level: Yang describes them as representing “the undergirdings of Pax Britannica”. We have already noted in Chapter 2 that before the British era, chaukidars were hereditary village servants and traditional agents through which landlords exercised their policing functions. Some landlords appointed chaukidars primarily to protect life and property in the village, although zamindars frequently took them on as labourers on their estates. We have also seen that most chaukidars in Awadh belonged to the Paasi caste, which not only belonged to the rear end of the village hierarchy but was also notorious for engendering the highest number of thieves. Yet, they gained currency as the country’s “natural police”; indeed, the people sustained them through remunerations either in land or grain. The 1857 Revolt and the creation of a new police force in its wake altered the status of the chaukidars irrevocably. The Police Commission of 1860 recognized them as “the foundation of the police superstructure” but could not trust them implicitly. “As the responsibilities of zamindars for prevention of crime and settlement of disputes diminished and ultimately ceased, the chaukidars became less and less the servants of the zamindars and more and


In some areas the headmen were particularly important: in Madras, for instance, in a single year village headmen disposed of 10,735 criminal cases involving 17,047 persons, Anandswarup Gupta, The Police in British India, p. 181. 94 Christopher Baker, “Madras Headman”, in K.N. Chaudhury and Clive J. Dewey, eds, Economy and Society: Essays in Indian Economic and Social History, New Delhi, 1979, p. 26.

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more the servants of the state.”95 Weaning away the chaukidars from the landlords and bringing them within the web of the state was an uncertain process, but accomplished gradually. The Local Rates Act of 1871 and the Oudh Laws Act of 1876 formally transferred control over the chaukidars from the landlords to the district police. The chaukidars no longer carried out watch and ward functions; they only reported crime and could not apprehend suspects. Alteration in their compensation mode proved most effective in changing the position of the chaukidars. In pre-British times, they were remunerated either from land grants or grain contributions from village households; the landlord was chiefly responsible for ensuring their subsistence. In the 1870s, the district police establishment stopped this arrangement and introduced cash payments. The chaukidars were paid by the district police out of a fund created by pooling 6 per cent of the land revenue collected from landlords. The chaukidars were no longer tied to the landlords. Instead, they depended directly on the district police for their pay. Their monthly salary was fixed at of Rs 3 in the 1880s, and remained unchanged for the next six decades till 1947! When control over the chaukidars was transferred to the district police, they were not administered under the Police Act and Regulations and so not considered part and parcel of the police force any longer. Thus flung outside the formal government structure, their position became almost anomalous. Even the ordinary police constable regarded a chaukidar as an underclass. Once the “eyes and ears of the government”, they were now divested of all their traditional functions and rendered virtually ineffectual. What the chaukidars did after 1857 was broadly this: (a) surveillance over “bad characters”; (b) reportage of crime and other occurrences to the police; (c) assistance to the police in investigation, arrest and apprehension of absconders; (d) support to the police during fairs and festivals and (e) reportage of births, deaths and outbreaks of infectious diseases. Though they were expected to carry out these multifarious duties, they were not empowered with any special authority under the law. The fact that the position of the chaukidars was eroded quite considerably by making them subservient to the district police is more than evident. This is reflected most strikingly in the sharp 95

Report of the Police Reorganisation Committee 1947–48, p. 65.

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decline in their numbers. When police gained control over chaukidars in 1871, it was decided that there should be one chaukidar for every 100 houses (or every 500–600 people). This norm could never be enforced. Over the decades, the number of chaukidars reduced significantly. In 1890, there were 113,979 chaukidars; by 1900, they had dwindled to about 88,000. A further reduction took place in 1916 with the disbanding of 3,128 “road” chaukidars, assigned to patrol the highways to prevent robbery and thugee. Between 1890 and 1921, the decline was gradual, in sharp contrast to the later period. After 1922 the cuts were dramatic. In 1923, a year after the Non-Cooperation movement, the number of chaukidars was cut by over 40 per cent; their strength reduced from 87,908 in 1922 to 51,949 in 1924. The process was relentless: by 1930, their numbers had come down further to 47,797. In 1930–31, at the height of the Civil Disobedience movement, their numbers were further reduced to 39,426 in 1931.96 After 1931, the number hovered around 40,000. There seem to have been three main phases during which cuts were effected: between 1890 and 1900, the retrenchment was in the region of 22.7 per cent but gradual; after 1922, the cut was of the order of 40.9 per cent and quite dramatic; after 1930 too, it was significant at 17.5 per cent. Thus in the four decades after 1890, the strength of chaukidars was eroded by over two-thirds. Perceptions of colonial officers in UP who obviously held the chaukidars in poor esteem are clear in their reports: The Village chaukidar [lamented the Inspector General of Police in 1931] is a relic of the old panchayat system.... The village chaukidar was our rural intelligence agency and on his regular visits to the police station he reported all that transpired in the village. The station officer was thus always up to date in his information about every village in his circle. The position now has completely altered. There is one chaukidar to every five villages and it is impossible to expect the chaukidar to know everything that takes place in each of these villages. Our intelligence system has broken down and we are no longer in a position to anticipate communal disturbances and breaches of the peace in rural areas.97 96

Ibid., p. 66. S.T. Hollins in Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1931, pp. 36–37, emphasis added. 97

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Similarly, the 1932 Police Annual Report observed: “District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police are unanimous in their opinion that surveillance (in the villages) is now only perfunctory.” It further took note of the public’s loud and frequent protests about reductions in the number of chaukidars: “The village chaukidar may be old and decrepit but he is the sole representative of Government in the average village and as such he conveys some sense of security to the village.”98 In 1936, it was reported that the “post of chaukidar is becoming less attractive and in several districts only men of inferior type and character are forthcoming to fill it”. In fact, a district police chief dismissed the chaukidari system as a “complete anachronism”.99 By 1937, the British authorities were seriously contemplating “whether the system is not obsolete and whether village chaukidars should not be replaced by regular police.... A large number of District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police are of the opinion that village chaukidars should be replaced by constabulary”.100 Year after year, the Police Administration Reports for the 1930s and 1940s voice these views. The mukhia, who worked closely with the chaukidar, also became the target of official criticism. The number of mukhias in UP was substantial; in 1930, these were 96,658 headmen in the province.101 After the 1920s, their relationship with the Raj too began to erode. The Police Report for 1930 observed: Mukhias are public characters, though few of them have yet developed much public spirit. As a class they were never so highly tried as during the year 1930. On the one hand they owed allegiance to Government whilst on the other their inclinations in many cases were towards Congress. Many resigned and a large number took a prominent part in Congress activities.102 Concluding on an optimistic note, the report observes that though several mukhias were quite sympathetic to the Congress, “on the whole they came through the ordeal to which they were subjected better than expected”. 98

Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1932, p. 35. Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1936, pp. 16–17. 100 Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1937, pp. 17–18. 101 Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1930, p. 20. 102 Ibid., p. 43. 99

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The Police Administration Report for 1931 regretted that “little has been done to develop a public spirit” among the mukhias. It also called upon district officers to hold durbars of mukhias in every tehsil “to instruct them in their duties and to impress on them their obligations in the matter of supporting Government and opposing the enemies of law and order”.103 The Police Administration Report for 1932 was even more forthright in its criticism of the mukhias: “The reports of most district officers as to the utility of village headmen are depressing and the general opinion is that they are more of a hindrance than a help.”104 The report also encouraged frequent durbars by district officials, because “mukhias carry little weight as we have done nothing to recognise their position and to emphasise their importance”. In a similar strain, the 1935 report lamented that the office of mukhia continues to be a rather vague and unsatisfactory unit of the district administration... many Superintendents report that the police have received little assistance from mukhias, and such opinions are for the most part endorsed by District Magistrates. 105 Such frequent official criticism and ridicule reflected how the relationship between the Raj and its local functionaries was steadily souring. For Madras, Baker reports that by the 1920s, “the village establishment had become an awkward and embarrassing institution”.106 Although some traditional authority of these men had been eroded, “they still possessed enough formal power to be able to coerce their neighbours and thus be a political threat to the government”.107 He observes that in them the Raj had created what was to become “a fifth column”. Similar processes were at 103

Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1931, p. 37. Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1932, p. 35. 105 Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1935, p. 22. 106 Baker, “Madras Headman”, Economy and Society, p. 42. 107 Ibid. The implications of these processes were spelt out most dramatically in the Bombay presidency where about 30,000 patels (as the headmen were known in some parts of the presidency) resigned en masse in response to the call of Gandhi during 1929–30. Perhaps such open defiance could not taken place in UP because the taluqdars were more firmly entrenched in the countryside and acted as a restraining factor. 104

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work in UP as well. In the substantial archival evidence available on peasant unrest and the Congress rural activities, the chaukidars and mukhias hardly figure as effective local-level instruments of authority. It is safe to conclude that, owing to a range of factors, the Raj could no longer rely on its local functionaries to establish order on its behalf and uphold its authority.

Landlords as Agents of Control Instead of chaukidars and mukhias, the local elites and landlords became the principal conduits for the Raj to inject a semblance of “order” in rural society. From this arose the colonial perception that one influential zamindar was equivalent to at least one thana. The British developed a complex system of control for the UP countryside, marked by several salient features. Here, it is pertinent to note that the landed elites or aristocracy were not formally incorporated into the British Indian bureaucracy and not involved in day-to-day administration in areas like policing and law enforcement. (Yes, several important landlords were granted honorary magisterial positions to try cases involving petty crime, this was done on grounds of financial stringency; their contribution to work remained low.) Unlike in several other colonies, the British did not enlist zamindars formally to maintain law and order.108 Paradoxically, the British held tremendous expectations that the landlords could be the principal instruments on which they could base an informal system of control in the countryside. Even though they excluded the landlords from formal administrative structures, they designed a revenue system wherein landlords would from the pivot of rural society.109 108

This was in sharp contrast to the situation that existed in many colonies in Africa where the traditional elites were involved much more closely in administration. See D.A. Low, Lion Rampant: Essays in the Study of British Imperialism, London, 1973, Chapters 1 and 3. An interesting comparative discussion of this aspect is also provided by C. Fasseur and Dirk Kolff in “Some Remarks on the Development of Colonial Bureaucracy in India and Indonesia”, Itinerario, X, 1, 1986. 109 Similar expectations led the British to direct the evolution of political institutions before and after World War I in such a manner that landlords would be centrestage, as has been shown by Peter Reeves in Landlords and Governments in Uttar Pradesh: A Study of their Relations until Zamindari Abolition, Bombay, 1991.

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Several influential studies of agrarian systems establish the underlying British philosophy that the landlord would act as the fulcrum of rural stability. The works of Ranajit Guha on the Permanent Settlement in Bengal, Eric Stokes on nineteenth-century rural economy and UP society, and Dietmar Rothermund’s survey of agrarian systems in British India underscore the point that the landlords’ centrality in revenue systems derived from the British belief in their efficacy as agents of order in the countryside. 110 In UP, these beliefs were manifested, quite extensively, in the unique entrenchment of taluqdars, as has been shown by Thomas Metcalf and Peter Reeves.111 According to Metcalf’s study of the nineteenth century, colonial officials were quite convinced that taluqdars held the key to order or disorder in the countryside, because during the Revolt of 1857, entire villages generally followed taluqdars who chose to rise against the British. This urged them, on the one hand, to completely undermine the power of the landlords by divesting them of policing duties and their private militia and, on the other hand, to create a revenue system that harnessed the “influence” of the landlords to maintain stability for the Raj. The taluqdars thus became the “barons and yeomen” of Awadh.112 Post-1857 British policies firmly implanted the taluqdars “as intermediaries, or brokers of power between state and village”.113 “Bulwarked by a traditionalist ideology, the taluqdars were proclaimed an ‘ancient, indigenous, and cherished’ aristocracy”, observes Metcalf.114 From here, Peter Reeves continues the story, showing how the taluqdars were further empowered when Harcourt Butler canonized the pro-landlord official policies into an ideology of 110

Ranajit Guha, A Rule of Property for Bengal: An Essay on the Idea of Permanent Settlement, Paris, 1963; Eric Stokes, The Peasant and the Raj: Studies in Agrarian Society and Peasant Rebellion in Colonial India, Cambridge, 1978; and Dietmar Rothermund, Government, Landlord and Peasant in India: Agrarian Relations Under British Rule, Wiesbadan, 1978. 111 Thomas R. Metcalf, Land, Landlords, and the British Raj: Northern India in the Nineteenth Century, Berkeley, 1979; and Reeves in Landlords and Governments. 112 Rothermund, Government, Landlord and Peasant, pp. 126–45. 113 Metcalf, Land, Landlords and the British Raj, p. xi. Also see Jagdish Raj, The Mutiny and British Land Policy in North India 1856–1868, London, 1965. 114 Metcalf, op. cit., p. 380.

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sorts for the British. “The Oudh School”, of which Butler was the great protagonist, advocated an even greater role for the taluqdars whom he saw as a “solid buffer of support” for the Raj.115 The cow protection movements of the 1890s, during which taluqdars actively helped the district authorities in maintaining public order, strongly influenced Butler’s views. Apprehensive of the dangers of “premature reform” and of the discontent simmering in UP’s educated classes, he (and his successors later) endeavoured to mould the emerging political institutions in UP such that they would be dominated by its landlords. This picture is clarified by studies describing the actual processes through which the Raj exercised local control in the countryside. We know now how the Raj’s authority was sustained where no formal agencies of control existed.116 Peter Musgrave described the role of landed estates as institutions of social control.117 We also know about how the Raj’s authority penetrated the countryside and was refracted through local institutions and allies. Anand Yang has uncovered “the deep extensions of the colonial state into the countryside” by looking at the powerful alliances that the government forged with dominant landlords to evolve a “Limited Raj”—“the level of society where the power of the colonial state tapered off and the landholders’ system of control took over”.118 Yang demonstrates, in the case of neighbouring Bihar, that the Raj’s


For this story, see Peter Reeves, Landlords and Governments, Chapters 2 and 3. The problem of local control in the countryside has engaged researchers for several years. D.A. Low first highlighted it when he observed in his 1973 survey of British imperialism that “we still remain abysmally ignorant about how the Raj’s political domination was articulated beneath the British district officer through various networks of locally prominent families, subordinate Indian bureaucracies and rural dominant castes.” Low, Lion Rampant, p. 9. Since then the works of Metcalf and Reeves, and Hennigham and Yang have, to some extent, filled the gap for UP and Bihar, respectively. A good deal is now also known about local control in the Punjab from Imran Ali, The Punjab Under Imperialism, 1885–1947, Princeton, 1988. 117 P.J. Musgrave, “Landlords and Lords of the Land: Estate Management and Social Control in Uttar Pradesh 1860–1920”, Modern Asian Studies, 6, 3, 1972, pp. 257–75. 118 Anand A. Yang, The Limited Raj: Agrarian Relations in Colonial India, Saran District, 1793–1920, Berkeley, 1989, p. 6. 116

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relationship with its collaborators was the “fulcrum of British rule in local society”.119 He also points out that “the lack of penetrating state institutions at the local level restricted British presence to … towns and urban centres” and observes that “in this system of rule, partly by design and partly by benign neglect much of the countryside was abandoned, thus placing the overwhelming majority of the rural population in the grip of devices fashioned by zamindari networks”.120 These devices ranged from routine methods of estate management to those “beyond the pale of the law… centring on the manipulation of rent and illegal cesses as well as credit networks”; all these expedients “were juggled to be in force and tightened the grip of local systems of control”.121 Yang concludes: Because the main concern of the colonial regime was to maintain and exercise its superior authority—to provide a semblance of law and order to facilitate its economic interests—it allowed vast areas of power and control to devolve on its local allies. A Limited Raj, in short, was not only sufficient to guarantee the interests of the colonial state, but also crucial in accommodating its collaborative arrangements.122 With this backdrop, we can visualize what it took to maintain colonial authority and policing in the countryside. The Raj’s authority depended not on the uniformed constable but on the ineffective chaukidar–mukhia duo, and on the support, wherever possible, of the dominant landholders in the village. 123 The mainly urban-centred police had limited reach and effectiveness in dealing with serious public disorders. The Raj thus relied, in practical terms, almost entirely on zamindars and taluqdars, with the 119

Yang observes: “Efforts to develop a local control infrastructure even while the larger framework of rule rested on a system of collaboration between the British and their local allies. British efforts to forge direct links with local society, therefore, were defined by that system of collaboration, leading, in effect, to a Limited Raj system.” Ibid., p. 90. 120 Ibid., p. 6. 121 Ibid., p. 235. 122 Ibid., p. 230. 123 On the centrality of dominant landholders in nationalist politics immediately after World War I, see Low, “Introduction” to Congress and the Raj.

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exaggerated expectation that they would hold the different strata of rural society away from challenging the authority of the Raj. Such expectations were, in a sense, unjustified as the landlords’ traditional functions of enforcing customary law, preserving public peace, and settling disputes within the village had for a long time been further appropriated by the Raj. Over the decades, their traditional position in the countryside was almost completely eroded and, after World War I, their claims to be the “natural leaders” of rural society was increasingly contested by nationalist politicians. In the realm of high politics, the British designed a political system which allowed landlords to hold sway within legislative institutions of the state, but at the grassroots their influence was fundamentally challenged. Faced with such a crisis, the Raj had practically no alternative but to turn to assuagement. Deeply apprehensive of the outbreak of rural disorders, the Raj showed a ready propensity to put together conciliatory packages in the form of rent remissions and concessions to peasant demands to keep serious trouble at bay as we shall see in Chapter 4. 124

Urban Policing, “Natural Leaders” Unlike in the countryside, policing in cities and qasbas was more intensive, more formalized. As we have seen in Chapter 1, riotproofing of cities and towns was one of the most important components of the post-1857 Pax. The authorities zealously created cantonment areas and evolved civil–military liaison for internal security. Simultaneously, they expanded the responsibilities of the city police to empower it to impose certain modes of behaviour and sustain the segregationist character of official enclaves. The police also enforced municipal regulations and by-laws relating to hygiene, sanitation, public health, and the use of public spaces. Concentrated police strength in the cities made for reduced dependence on informal methods of control. In Chapter 2, we have talked about how the government focused on formalized methods of control by making arrangements for comprehensive riot plans for cities and towns, in the style of military manuals. 124

The argument relating to the politics of assuagement is elaborated in Chapter 4 of the present volume. The overall context of landlord–government relations is provided in Peter Reeves, Landlords and Governments.

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With methods of control getting increasingly formalized from the late nineteenth century on, particularly vis-à-vis collective activities, officials documented entire routes of religious processions and the customs that religious groups observed during festivals and fairs. In 1914, the UP government ordered its officers to maintain these detailed records for each community. It also asked the district authorities to maintain lists of “influential men” of the area.125 We also know that by this time each thana maintained updated records of “bad characters” in Register No. 10! The government was confident that these formalized methods would maintain public order adequately. Sandria Freitag observes that these methods were elaborated to such an extent that: ... official approval was required for virtually every facet of corporate religious life—from the shape, height, and the use of a building to the format of a religious procession. In the case of the latter, all routes had to pass government scrutiny and receive prior approval. The timing of an observance—the date chosen, the time of day, and the duration of the exercises—was also administratively controlled. Much attention was paid to the size and nature of the festivities: what kinds of music, chants, and shouts would be permitted, and where; how many groups would be allowed to participate; what size floats might be used; and so on.126 Chris Bayly has suggested that local control in towns was exercised through “urban notables”—people who had for long possessed land or commercial resources and commanded immense influence by controlling credit networks, panchayats, and religion/ caste-based organizations.127 Freitag extends128 Bayly’s analysis by observing that the reliance on natural leaders for control during communal violence was “the linchpin of administrative policy 125

For details, see S. Freitag, Collective Action and Community, Chapter 3. Ibid., p. 54. 127 C.A. Bayly, “Local Control in Indian Towns: The Case of Allahabad 1880–1920”, Modern Asian Studies, 5, 4, 1971, pp. 289–311. 128 Freitag, “’Natural Leaders’, Administrators and Social Control: Communal Riots In the United Provinces, 1870–1925”, South Asia, 1, 2, 1978, pp. 27–41. 126

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before the turn of the century”. 129 “The cornerstone of this policy”, she points out, was to “compel the people to control each other”. And, indeed, these natural leaders proved to be quite effective and exercised a great deal of social control in the nineteenth century. However, between 1910 and 1920, this system experienced internal tensions as newer, more energetic incumbents emerged to compete with and often displace these “natural leaders”. The situation changed fundamentally after 1920, by when “British use of intermediaries had been nullified because the locus of political activity had shifted”. The new claimants to community leadership had little interest in maintaining the Raj’s authority. Indeed, after 1930, the strategy of indirect control no longer worked; the government “saw itself as outside north Indian society, this time not as an arbiter but as armed guard”.130 Though urban notables were convenient instruments of local administration during public disorder situations, it would be incorrect to suggest that the colonial system of control in cities and towns depended critically upon them. In fact, it would be too tenuous, too risky to depend upon natural leaders in such inflammable situations. As a strategic move, consultation helped legitimize the force that the Raj often used to restore peace. Colonial control was mainly manifested in more formal, institutionalized methods, encompassing intensive urban policing, deployment of punitive police, skilful display of military power and strict control over group activities.

Policing and Indigenous Control Those then were patterns of rural and urban policing. The overall changes in the police structure from the 1920s fell under two categories: one addressing the complex issue of Indianization, the other the logistics of the police force. Indianization—encompassing not only rapid recruitment of Indians at the superior and middle levels of the force, but also the vesting of control over the force in Indian ministers responsible to a popularly elected legislature— was vitally important for the police in the 1920s and 1930s. The 129 130

Freitag, Collective Action and Community, p. 56. Ibid., p. 81.

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demand for Indian control over law and order underpinned nationalist attempts to wrest the Raj’s authority from within. It threw into sharp relief the extremely sensitive issue of police allegiance to the Raj against the Congress’ mounting prestige in UP. Two distinct phases marked the process of Indianization. Phase I commenced when the system of “Dyarchy” was introduced in UP after World War I. Though Indian ministers acquired certain areas of responsibility, the governor still held control over the police. Indian control over law and order was thus a most contentious issue for the Raj in the Dyarchy years. So strong was the consensus among Indian politicians that the British realized that further constitutional progress would be doomed until they resolved the issue. This realization paved the way for Phase II in 1937—a popularly-elected Congress ministry gained formal charge over the police. With the inauguration of Dyarchy in 1919–21, the police faced a growing onslaught of political pressure.131 At the end of World War I, the UP police was “discontented, dispirited and weary”.132 Colonial officials attributed this lethargy to “economic distress due to high prices”, “loss of some of its best material owing to the war” and “weakening of discipline”. To top it all, in the wake of the NonCooperation movement, the police was thrown into face-to-face confrontation with nationalist supporters.133 The general unrest also precipitated the extreme situation of the Chauri Chaura riot, in which an enraged mob attacked a remote thana in Gorakhpur district and burnt alive 23 police personnel. Notwithstanding these “overwhelming” difficulties, colonial officials believed that the police force generally stood the test. 134 Indeed, praise for the 131

For a detailed account of political developments in this period, see Sir A. Rumbold, Watershed in India, 1911–22, London, 1979. 132 Report on the Working of the System of Government of UP 1921–28. 133 In the view of the Commissioner of Agra, the campaign subjected the policemen to an “agitation from which there was a constant risk of extensive disorders and they had to withstand direct attempts to undermine their loyalty backed up by insidious attempts to their religious feelings. Their patience was very strongly tried on numerous occasions and for long periods they had to perform the very difficult task of tolerating abuse and more or less open defiance without asserting themselves.” Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1921, p. 54. 134 See Shahid Amin, Event, Metaphor, Memory: Chauri Chura, 1922–1992, Berkeley, 1995.

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police’s role during the Non-Cooperation movement was forthcoming from influential quarters.135 Such was the context for the inauguration of Dyarchy in UP. While “nation-building” activities such as street-lighting and drainage were transferred to local authorities, Indian control did not extend over land revenue and law and order, traditionally regarded in north India as the state’s two core functions. The exclusion of law and order from Indian control soon became the most resented feature of Dyarchy. For nationalist politicians, the issue of Indian control over the police became top priority. However, continuous public demands to bring the police under Indian control did not alter in any essential way the working of the police as an institution. In a review in 1929, the UP government observed that the “day-to-day administration of the department has gone on much as in the pre-reform days. In the districts the effects of the new system are comparatively little felt”.136 “Much has been done with successful results to foster esprit de corps and to lead all ranks to take a greater pride in their work.”137 It concluded that the police had made a “distinct advance” in several directions, primarily morale, intimately linked as it was to the remuneration to the lower ranks. The British timed the pay increase near perfectly. Although it had long been under contemplation by a government committee— no action forthcoming—a substantial pay rise was sanctioned in great haste, almost on the very day that the Calcutta Congress adopted the crucial Non-Cooperation resolution. This was the first 135

The Commissioner of Rohilkhand, for instance, expressed “unstinted praise for the officers and rank and file of the force for their steadiness, staunchness and devotion to duty”, ibid., p. 55. Similar accolades were forthcoming from the Commissioner of Faizabad who complimented the police for being “very patient” under extreme provocation. “They have been overwhelmed with abuse by the party of Non-Cooperation and received only lukewarm support from those from whom they might reasonably have expected assistance. Through out they have shown an unfailing loyalty and a cheerful willingness to take any orders... only those who were in close touch with and saw the forces at work could appreciate how easily anarchy and a general attack on the propertied classes might come about from agrarian discontent combined with a violent and reckless political agitation. It was only the prompt action of the police that saved the situation and prevented the serious loss of life and property,” ibid., p. 55. 136 Report on the Working of the System of Government 1921–28, p. 143. 137 Ibid., p. 141.

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substantial pay rise that all ranks of the police received in almost two decades.138 On an average, it swelled their pay packets by as much as 25–40 per cent, depending on length of service.139 This hike, officials claimed, “did much to hearten the police and help them through the very difficult years 1921 and 1922 when Non Cooperation ... placed a tremendous strain on the force”.140 Despite official attempts to insulate it from political pressures, the police came under regular criticism and attack after 1919. The vernacular and Indian-controlled English press was replete with references to the police’s “oppressive” methods, “inefficiency”, “corruption”, and “high-handedness”. Within the legislative arena, lambasting of the police was nearly incessant and particularly trenchant—after all, the department had been excluded from legislative control!141 In Council debates, legislators found frequent avenues to criticize the police, propose token reductions in allocations made for the police,142 and demand specific reforms in police functioning.143 138

The last pay revisions had taken place in 1902; ironically, the 1920 pay hike was to be the last one policemen received in the next two-and-a-half decades. 139 The salaries of head constables were raised by Rs 10 in each of the three grades of Rs 15, 20 and 25; for constables the increase amounted to Rs 4 on the existing grades of Rs 9, 10, 11 and 12. Anandswarup Gupta, The Police in British India 1861– 1947, p. 376. 140 Report on the Working of the System of Government 1921–28, p. 140. 141 Colonial officials frankly admitted that “the council generally has been inclined to regard the police as a necessary evil”, ibid., p. 144. 142 In 1921 it proposed a reduction of Rs 20,000 in the grant to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). This was resisted by the government. In the following year, it proposed another cut in CID expenditure; the CID had come to be regarded with great suspicion as an instrument of political surveillance. In 1923, several cuts were proposed which the government found prudent to accept on grounds of economy. In 1925–26, two token cuts of Rs 100 were made. The following year, the government was able to carry through the police budget successfully. Only in 1928, a motion was moved to omit the entire demand of the police department which, of course, was prevented by the Governor under his powers. 143 Between 1921 and 1928, the UP Council moved no less than 17 resolutions specifically relating to the police. Out of the eight resolutions that had been adopted by the Council, the government took no action on four. The rest nine were regarded as too controversial by the official bloc and unsuccessful. Some of these were considered serious challenges to the exclusiveness and insularity of the police. They demanded, inter alia (a) an enquiry into the 1921 agrarian riots and the proprietary of government’s actions, (b) at least 59 per cent reservation for Indians in the Indian Police Service (IPS), (c) a ban on punitive policing, and (d) an enquiry into

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The Council’s censure of the police had wider repercussions outside its chamber. The press reported them ad nauseam, creating an imagery of the police force as inefficient, corrupt, oppressive. In overall terms, however, because of the restrictions Dyarchy imposed, the Council’s sway over police administration was inevitably weakened and rendered ineffective.144 Three features then are striking about the police’s performance during Dyarchy. The first, of course, was that the police remained insulated from any political control. All decision-making about the force was monopolized by the “steel frame”, which vehemently resisted any attempt to make the police accountable to an elected legislature. Second, whatever limited opportunity the UP Legislative Council obtained to discuss police affairs was extensively exploited by politicians to criticize the force and its overall lack of accountability. Instead of bringing the police to heel, these recurring attacks in the legislature and press only hardened attitudes on both sides and gave the police a foretaste of what could happen, were law and order transferred into popular control. The Dyarchy thus crystallized the fears of the police. The writing on the wall was clear to the top echelons of the police. The significant number of European officials who sought premature retirement from the force during these years—no less than 28 per cent of the European officers of the force in UP, between 1921 and 1928—is proof enough. What was worse, they undermined the most significant manpower component of the superior police service, as they were officers of at least 15 years’ standing. Most applied for retirement “in the years 1921 and 1922 when the future was obscure, prices high and pay inadequate, and the conditions of life and work extremely uncomfortable”.145 In the the conduct of corrupt officials, ibid., pp. 153–54. Also, the demand of legislators to appoint a “standing police committee” of Council members to act as a legislative watchdog was persistently resisted by the government. 144 There were several checks on the Council’s powers. There existed the official bloc within the Council to bail out the government during drastic cuts and motions. Then the governor enjoyed ample powers of restoration and certification. Moreover, the overall political character of the Council remained fairly conservative, which restricted the possibility of anti-police measures being adopted. The government noted with satisfaction that, while “the Council has been unsparing in criticism (it) has had a sufficient sense of responsibility not to use its powers to cripple the police administration”, ibid., p. 148. 145 Ibid., p. 152.

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late 1920s, therefore, the prospect of a police force under Congress control was quite unacceptable to several senior police officers. Their minds were clouded by visions of victimization, political interference, enforced retirement, terrorism threats and a general collapse of law and order. Within a few years, this precise prospect was under intense deliberation in the higher echelons of the Raj.

Baiting the Politician Even as the police force acclimatized to an increasingly meddlesome legislature in the 1920s, New Delhi and London were making moves to transfer law and order fully into Indian control.146 The British would use the police as a bait to wean the Indian politician away from the path of agitation, to institutional arenas. The Simon Commission first faced the challenge of formulating the essentials of provincial autonomy. With the appointment of the Commission, headed by Sir John Simon, in 1928, several policemen experienced speculative anxiety about their future roles.147 Indeed, they were propelled into a flurry of activity to lobby with the government against the proposed transfer. The subsequent remarkable debate— on the fate of the police in the new political arrangements— monopolized the attention of senior police officials and policy for several years. Upon the outcome of this debate hinged the government’s ability to maintain public order. The Simon Commission, which had opened up the issue, found the problem of the transfer of law and order to popular control to be of “overwhelming importance” and devoted considerable energy to it.148 When it called for evidence from various quarters, the Indian Police Association submitted a memorandum and several senior UP policemen appeared before the Commission to present 146

Indeed, the police regarded interference by the Council as nothing more than a nuisance, so much so that an Inspector-General used the Annual Administration Report of the Police to criticize the Council’s interference as irritating and intolerable. This created a huge uproar leading of charges of contempt of the Council and demands of punishment. 147 “Law and order” was the generic term used to describe a range of government functions. The Simon Commission took it to mean the police, prisons, and administration of justice, including the subsidiary judiciary, see Simon Report, Volume I— (Survey London): 1930: Cmd. 3568. p. 125. 148 Ibid., p. 43.

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their views.149 They rested their cases basically on two grounds. First, the transfer of law and order, they argued, would destroy the impartial character of the police during communal disturbances, and make the force open to sectarian “clamour and intrigue” as it was liable to be “exposed to political pressure”.150 Second, they argued that “abandoning” the police to Indian political control would fundamentally destroy the Raj’s ability to preserve public order. They affirmed that “it is the prestige of the security services which is the chief element in preserving order”. By subordinating the police to Indian control, this prestige would be shattered. Further, an “insidious and steady deterioration” in efficiency and morale would lead to “sudden and widespread consequences of the gravest kind upon the general peace”.151 The Commission found the policemen’s case difficult to contest and noted that it would be a “great injustice to dismiss this view as mere bureaucratic prejudice”.152 But then, it was no less compelled by the argument in favour of handing over control of the police to Indian hands! As Sir Simon admitted, “If the Police continues to be a reserved subject, this necessarily means that Dyarchy continues”. Here lay the nub of the problem. If the Raj were to get out of the muddle of dyarchy, it had to sacrifice control over the police. Simon and his colleagues realized that, without Indian control over the police, provincial autonomy would be a sham—nothing more than dyarchy reincarnated.153 They concluded that “the bolder course is the wiser course” and that the transfer of control was the “path in which true statesmanship lies”. The Commission was certain that transfer of police control was indispensable to the desired turnaround in the fortunes of the Raj. 149

The IPS claimed that it represented all IPS officers, both European and Indian, and had constituent bodies in every province and with an overall membership extending to 600 police officers. 150 Ibid., p. 45. 151 Ibid., p. 45. 152 Ibid., p. 44. 153 They also realized that, if all other departments were transferred except the police, “it would concentrate ... the hostility of all parties” towards the police. The Commission was forthright in declaring that “the time has come when it ought to be no longer possible to represent, or to misrepresent, the agents of authority who are so faithfully supplying this first need of civilised existence as the minions of an alien bureaucracy”, ibid., p. 47.

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Naturally, the incumbents were disappointed that the Simon Commission, generally regarded as very conservative in its philosophy and motives, could commend a view opposed to that of so many police officers. To their horror they realized that the argument was coloured not by their anxieties, but by political exigencies. Thankfully for them, the Simon recommendations did not take effect; they then braced themselves for crucial negotiations first at the Round Table Conferences (RTC) in 1930–33 and then before the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) in 1933–34. Much lobbying ensued in the corridors of the India Office and Westminster. The policemen’s arguments were formally embodied in a set of memoranda presented on their behalf by the Indian (Imperial) Police Association (IPA),154 magnanimous in stating that they were concerned less with their own service interests than “with problems peculiar to the police that arise out of the proposal to transfer Law and Order to Indian popular control”.155 They claimed that the subordinate policemen would identify with their representations.156 “The policy for transferring Law and Order”, they declared, “even under safeguards involves the gravest risks to ourselves, to our men, and to all that we and they stand for”.157 The policemen advanced their case with the claim to the JPC that “the successful working of almost every proposal in the White Paper (published by the British Government in 1933) will depend on the efficiency, contentment and impartiality of the police”.158 154

“Memorandum 3 Joint Representation of Services Associations” in Joint Parliamentary Committee Proceedings 13 June 1933, in Parliamentary Papers, 1933 (henceforth JPC). 155 “Representation from the Indian Imperial Police Force” in JPC, 20 June 1933, p. 140. 156 It further declared out that the question was of “great personal concern to the police... and vital to the 187,000 officers and men of the Provincial and Subordinate Police Services, who have no means of making their own voices heard in this country, and who look to us to protect their interests to the best of our ability.” in JPC, p. 140. 157 They regretted that as serving officers they could not express their positions on political controversies; they hoped that in view of their “specialised experience and the fact that we and our men will be ‘the toads beneath the harrow’”, their views would find favour, ibid., p. 141. 158 They then highlighted the extreme danger of sectarian and communal strife and the serious menace it could pose to public order. In such a situation, the policemen feared, the police force itself ran the risk of becoming inflicted with the communal virus or have their strength cut down below the margin of safety to be able to prevent mischief.

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Their real fears were revealed in the observation that political trends of the past decade tended to endanger the well-being of the police. They were forthright in expressing their apprehension. “The police are treated not as the servants of the law and of the public interest, but as the hired bullies of the Government in power.” They further pointed out that even the most moderate legislator considered it legitimate “to harry the Government in power by starving the police and trying to break their spirit”.159 They regretted taking the brunt of attacks on the government in carrying out its unpopular policies; “the strongest pressure is habitually brought on the Government to lessen their responsibilities by throwing the police to the wolves”.160 They also highlighted the difficulties in securing adequate finances for the department. 161 The IPA feared that “the police may be starved by small degrees and still seem to be adequate to ordinary needs until some slight extra strain causes a sudden but general collapse”. Other tendencies they highlighted included those of the “uninformed politician to plunge into technical questions”, to apply political pressure in matters of police discipline, and to arouse communal and caste consciousness in the force. They observed also that political forces “committed to destroy the police as a preliminary to social revolution” were gaining in strength. Their real fear, however, was that a general collapse would be precipitated “simply by an insidious process of neglect and injudicious interference”, coupled with the sinking of police morale below its critical level. They damned the inadequacy of the safeguards built in the new constitutional arrangements concerning the transfer of law and order, and set out a series of conditions they believed would be absolutely essential if control over the police were finally to be given up.162 159

JPC, pp. 141–42. JPC, p. 142. 161 “Police estimates are bitterly attacked. So strong is usually the political opposition to any new expenditure on the police that even present provincial Governments hesitate to ask for funds for improvements in equipment, the replacement of ruined police stations, the increases of staff necessitated by changes in population”. As a result all measures towards “expansion and development are impossible”, JPC, p. 142. 162 These were, inter alia (a) no legislation to be allowed to diminish the existing powers of the police; (b) pay and conditions of service of policeman to be protected; (c) hostile enquiries into the conduct of the police not to be allowed and (d) victimization of police officers not to take place. The policemen also identified some 160

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Several other groups and bodies strongly supported the policemen’s case.163 These groups demanded assurances that the government would “safeguard the interests and allay the deep and widespread apprehensions of the services in India”. They called for “all necessary, proper and reasonable protection” for them in view of the “very far reaching constitutional and administrative changes” proposed. Particularly notable, from the policemen’s perspective, was their demand for immunity against claims for damages in respect of acts the policemen committed in official capacity.164 Not only were civil servants and policemen pleading against the transfer but also non-official Europeans in India. Organized spiritedly under the European Association, they sent a representative to the JPC, emphasizing the thin control exercised by “the district magistrates and the Superintendent of Police who with a mere handful of policemen control areas as large and populous as specific safeguards which demanded that: (a) the Inspector General should be made an ex-officio Secretary to the government with direct access to the governor; (b) a Federal Inspector of police should be constituted with powers of general superintendence and inspection of grants and aids; (c) military aid to civil power must continue in situations of civil disorders and (d) the option of premature retirement must be given to all officers, both European and Indian. They justified these on the ground that the “hostility of the party most violently opposed to the present system of Government is concentrated on the police and because there are many individual police officers who may have cause to fear victimisation when the new constitution comes into force.” They hoped that “expert consideration” would be given to questions like terrorist and revolutionary activity, as these may witness resurgence. In conclusion, they reiterated that they were guided in expressing their views not by their narrow service interests, but by the desire to ensure that “the Government in India is able to maintain public order.” 163 For instance, the All India Association of European Government Servants and the All India Civil Engineers Association joined hands with the IPA in submitting a joint representation opposing transfer of law and order and seeking protection of service interests. The All India Association of European Government Servants claimed provincial chapters in all provinces of British India and a membership of over 1,000 confined to members of the superior service, including large numbers of ICS men. The All India Civil Engineers Association had a membership of 360. Memorandum 3, Joint Representation from Associations in JPC, 1 June 1933, p. 49. 164 An entire section (Appendix 4 of Memo 3) was devoted to this aspect in the joint memorandum. It was claimed that the existing provisions and safeguards, which gave the government the discretion to decide whether the police officer concerned should be defended at state expense or not, were not enough: it called for almost total immunity from litigation for policemen.

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British Counties”.165 They attempted to indicate that the shift would irreparably damage the prestige, the very foundation of the Raj.166 Indians, they declared, “have no natural respect for law and order which cannot be maintained if the ruling class are not strong enough to enforce it”. Several other important individuals also presented evidence before the JPC on this subject. Sir Lewis Stewart, former chief judge of Awadh, highlighted the implications of the transfer, not only for the police but also for law courts and criminal administration. He declared that the issue was of overwhelming importance as “criminal law enters into the lives of the people in India to an extent which it is difficult for an Englishman to realise”.167 Warris Ameer Ali, a former district and sessions judge in UP, asserted that law enforcement agencies cemented society together: “The twin supports upholding the elementary decencies of civil Government in India are the Law Courts and the Police.”168 What’s 165

“Memo 29 on Law and Order submitted by the European Association” in JPC, 13 July 1933, pp. 707–8. The non-official British in India outnumbered those in government employment by 8:1. Raymond K. Renford has highlighted their crucial role in his pioneering study The Non-Official British in India, New Delhi, 1988, which provides details on the background and politics of the European Association. 166 “The administration is upheld by prestige and personal touch, a delicate organisation which cannot and must not be tampered with,” in JPC, p. 708. 167 “Memo 18 by Sir Lewis Stewart” in JPC, 29 June 1933, p. 426. He feared that trial of revolutionary offences would be difficult to undertake as it may be difficult to launch special prosecutions and that day-to-day judicial work would be marred by the “political pull of the convict”. He also feared that the impartiality of the judiciary would be destroyed due to communal and political considerations and that “the solidarity which has been achieved by a hundred years of British rule by having common notions about civil and criminal law” would be destroyed as different provincial legislatures would have powers to pass different laws. 168 His memo provides a typical example of the paternalistic legal discourse characteristic of some colonial officials: “The elementary needs of the average rural India are the just, reasonable and speedy settlement of disputes; protection from extortion or oppression by petty office holders, landlords, usurers and others; protection from personal enemies, from the activities of local bullies (cutters of other peoples crops and grazers therein, etc.) and from violent criminals. For a period varying from 75 to 150 years, the British Indian peasant has been accustomed to expect standards of British justice in the Courts and the actions of a police force which ... compares favourable with those of many Western countries.” He made the important point that “administration of justice and the maintenance of public order have for thousands of years in the East been considered the peculiar

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more, he prophesied that if the law courts and the police “even partially break down, the social order will collapse”.169 Several other influential quarters also joined in the protest— from important former officials of the Raj such as Sir Michael O’Dwyer and Sir Verney Lovett to politicians and members of Parliament like Sir Reginald Craddock and Lord Sydenham to former soldiers like Gen. George Barrow, Gen. Philip Chetwode, Field Marshal Claude Jacob and Field Marshal Allenby to, most importantly, members of Churchill’s India Defence League. These men used several methods within and outside the JPC to highlight their fears, even orchestrating a sustained press campaign to pressurize the government. Gen. Sir George MacMunn, for instance, wrote in the press on the pressures on the police and the army since 1919,170 while a former policeman suggested that the fundamental issue of law and order had gotten mixed up with what was mistakenly regarded as political progress, and British politicians

duty of the Sovereign”. He argued that these two functions represented the attributes of sovereignty within the Raj and must not be diluted, if the government was to maintain its prestige and authority. “Memo 81 by Warris Ameer Ali” in JPC, 6 October 1933, p. 1698. 169 He foresaw “the danger of a rapid paralysis” with far reaching and disastrous effects—“a repetition of a tithe of the horrors which beset India a century ago, and which are now driving China to distraction.” He believed that it was specially important to maintain “the magnificent discipline and espirit de corps of the police force” and to prevent the “collapse of the twin props of the social order... with widespread and disastrous consequences to the Empire.” The views and memorials presented before the JPC were subjected to close scrutiny and crossexamination by members of the Committee. This provided a forum to those opposed to the transfer of law and order to further expound their views. At the same time, it also provided an opportunity to some members of the Committee who cross-examined the police witnesses to highlight the inefficiency and unpopularity of the force. They argued that precisely because of its unpopular character, the police should be brought under popular control, so that it could be made amenable to systematic reform. For example Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, M.R. Jayakar and Clement Attlee specifically directed their questions in such a manner as to suggest that the transfer of police to Indian control may lead to an overall turnaround in the image, efficiency and popularity of the police. 170 He complained that the Indian politician now wants “the whole box of Imperial bricks and toys to play with” and his target very obviously now was the police and the army. “Changes since 1919: The Indian Army”, Indian Empire Review, 1, 10, October 1932, p. 15.

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had come to look upon the transfer of the police as “the inexorable march of circumstances”.171

Safeguards and Precautions The policemen lost out, despite these strong arguments and hectic lobbying by conservative die-hards. The decision embodied in the Government of India Act of 1935 to transfer the police was largely political. The issue was far too significant, too interwoven with the Raj’s political fortunes for the policemen to be allowed the last word. Colonial policy-makers realized that without transferring law and order functions to Indian control, the provincial autonomy they were trying to introduce would be quite meaningless.172 Thus, those that stood for the conciliation and assuagement of the Indian politician won the day. The policemen still did ensure that before the force was transferred to Indian control, sufficient safeguards were built into the new arrangements to minimize, indeed eliminate, any risks the new dispensation might spring on policemen’s collective safety. The primary safeguards related to the governor’s special responsibilities for the maintenance of law and order. The governor was entitled to extensive powers of intervention in cases of serious deterioration in public order—to the extent of taking over the entire provincial administration under Section 93.173 Though some of 171

O.C.G. Hayter, “Probable Need for an All India Gendarmerie”, Indian Empire Review, 8, 1, June 1939, p. 20. He claimed that it was one thing to give up control over matters such as sanitation and lighting of street lamps and quite another to give up control of vital functions like law and order: “The Government has failed to see the difference between an Indian policeman and an Indian lamp lighter.” In a similar vein he argued that transfer of law and order was quite different from the earlier experience of dyarchy and was of infinite consequence for the Raj. “When dyarchy threw dispensaries, roads and trains into the hands of squabbling party politicians, they were inconveniences but not disaster.” Hayter, “Service in India”, Indian Empire Review, 1, 7, July 1932, p. 374. 172 Carl Bridge, Holding India to the Empire: British Conservative Party and the 1935 Constitution, New Delhi, 1986, Chapter 4. 173 Section 93 of the Government of India Act of 1935 laid down: “If at any time the Governor of a Province is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the Province cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Act, he may by Proclamation (a) declare that his functions shall, to such extent as may be specified in the Proclamation, be exercised by him in his discretion;

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these powers were rather wide-ranging, they were to be used only as exceptions. In day-to-day administration, the governor relied upon his persuasive skills with ministers to render unnecessary any “undesirable” measures. Among several other safeguards incorporated into the new constitution, an important one related to the pay, pension and service conditions of the superiors, the key men controlling the levers of power within the Raj. The provisions ensured that these men could not be punished or dismissed by a hostile Congress ministry. Of course, the provincial and subordinate police officials remained vulnerable to pay cuts and possible victimization.174 An even more imperative provision barred provincial legislatures from discussing the behaviour of troops acting in aid of civil power; this derived from the fear that provincial assemblies might try to “politicize” this most sensitive function of the army and demand commissions of enquiry into actions taken by the army during civil disorders. Governors were clearly instructed by the Government of India to prevent and disallow any and all such speculations.175 In retrospect, political pressures fundamentally altered the position of the police in the late 1930s. The demand for placing the force under Indian control opened up the question of the allegiance of policemen at the middle and subordinate levels. In UP, the force (b) assume to himself all or any of the powers vested in or exercisable by any Provincial body or authority.” 174 The government fully realized that it was vital to continue to make available troops to provincial governments for the prevention and suppression of civil disorders. But it felt that it was imperative that the overall control in such situations must not be diluted. A new set of conditions were, therefore, enforced in which the right of the central government to “employ military forces in a province on their own initiative” was reiterated; provincial governments could continue to apply for troops but could not interfere in the actual operations undertaken by the army; they were expected to contribute to the costs of such deployment and were responsible for all compensation and damages arising out of the troops” action; the privilege of justifying the action of the troops lay only with the central government; as far as possible the overall direction and control of such actions was to be retained by the army. “Use of Military Forces in Aid of Civil Power Under the New Constitution” dated 16 April 1937 in S.S. Majithia, Papers cited in P.N. Chopra, ed., Towards Freedom, Volume 1, 1937, New Delhi, 1987 (henceforth TOFE), Document No. 198. 175 Linlithgow to Provincial Governors, dated 25 March 1937, in Linlithgow Papers cited in TOFE, Document No. 131.

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came under Congress jurisdiction in July 1937, but the issue of control remained unresolved.

The Logistics of the Police Political pressures alone were not the catalysts for structural changes in the police force. Considerations of logistics were equally important, since resources available for policing and maintaining public order were constantly fluctuating, much in the same way as for the internal security troops. When we consider the overall manpower of the police, we find that the total number of permanent policemen in UP in the inter-war years did not experience any significant expansion. Police manpower remained, as Graph 3.1 depicts, more or less static. During 1921–22, and again in 1935–36, armed police registered temporary decreases, but retained their strength overall. Paradoxical perhaps, in view of the fact that this was the period in which the police faced the onslaught of major nationalist campaigns. How did the police cope with the widespread Congress campaigns? During the Non-Cooperation movement during 1921–22 Graph 3.1: Police Manpower: United Provinces, 1913–39

Excludes temporary use of 2,190 men for four months in 1921–21 and temporary deployment of 1,253 men for part of 1930 and 1,622 men 1931. Source: Extracted from Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces for the Years 1913–39.

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the police temporarily recruited 2,190 additional men as unarmed constables. After four months, their services were dispensed with; the regular police establishment was sufficient to deal with the situation. Similarly, when the Civil Disobedience movement was launched in 1930, 1,253 additional men were hired for a few months. In early 1931 again, 1,622 men were recruited briefly, and soon retrenched. The temporary increases represented less than 5 per cent of the total permanent manpower of the police in the province. In terms of finance, however, the provincial police budget registered considerable fluctuations. Before 1919, it stood in the region of Rs 9.5 million per annum; by 1939, it had touched Rs 14 million. The major increase occurred in 1920 when police expenditure rose by over 20 per cent in a single year. That’s when, as we have seen, all police ranks were granted substantial pay hikes on the eve of the Non-Cooperation movement. Between 1920 and 1929, the budget increase was marginal. After 1929, it actually declined, reflecting the fall in real prices due to the depression. Policemen’s salaries were not, however, subjected to cuts (unlike those of other government servants, which were cut by 10 per cent as part of the government’s austerity drive) in an effort to keep their morale high and their allegiance steadfast.176 If we recapitulate, between 1921 and 1939, police expenditure increased by less than 10 per cent, well below the rate of inflation (Graph 3.2). During 1921–22 and 1930–31, the expenditure registered slight, not substantial, increases due to the additional wage bill of temporary recruits. In the absence of corresponding increases in either police expenditure or manpower, it is improbable that the number of police establishments would have expanded. Instead, the number of thanas and chaukis actually declined (Graph 3.3). The timing of the decline—which occurred principally in the number of chaukis— was particularly significant. Chaukis were reduced from 825 in 1922 to about 550 in 1923, in the wake of the 1922 Chauri Chaura tragedy. It was decided that outlying chaukis, which were too vulnerable to being overwhelmed by crowds, should be closed, following the 176

Home Department Files F 121/30 and F 102/30, cited in Gupta, The Police in British India, p. 459.

The Institutions of the Colonial “Heartland” 149 Graph 3.2: Expenditure on Police: United Provinces

Excludes cost of 2,190 men employed for four months in 1921–22 and 1,253 and 1,622 men deployed for part of 1930 and 1931. Source: Extracted from Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces for the Years 1913–39.

Graph 3.3: Police Stations and Outposts: United Provinces

Source: Extracted from Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces for the Years 1914–38.

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time-tested principle that “police should always be stationed in fairly large parties and should not be frittered away in small bands”.177 From these indices, we can conclude that police resources in the inter-war years did not undergo any significant expansion in UP.178 Police manpower did not increase between the late nineteenth century and World War II, while population increased significantly, railways added to the complexity of crime, and the Raj faced mounting challenges of agrarian and nationalist movements. The permanent police manpower remained the same; police armaments did not increase; the number of police outposts declined; and the money available to the department remained largely at the same level. Perhaps the Raj found the resources at its disposal adequate to preserve public order. With its minimalist agenda of maintaining public order in a macro sense, the police did not find any serious need to expand its resources. Reinforced by the relatively small number of temporary hands enlisted in 1921 and 1930–31, the Raj could cope quite effectively with nationalist and agrarian agitations and, as we shall see in Chapter 4 even with the Civil Disobedience movement.

Conclusion This chapter has drawn a profile of the two principal institutions that were responsible for maintaining Pax Britannica in UP: the internal security garrison of the army and the police. It has shown that the army played a vital role in the overall machinery that was created by the Raj for the maintainance of public order. Considerations of internal security were paramount in the organizing principles of the army, and one-third of its total manpower was committed to internal security functions. The internal security garrison was composed carefully and had a high concentration of British infantry battalions. The internal security functions of the army were moreover characterized by a great degree of caution, especially following the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy which made the 177

Report of the Police Reorganisation Committee 1946–47, p. 5. In the war years, however, the police saw considerable expansion, especially in the armed police. The context of this expansion and its characteristics are discussed fully in Chapter 6, of this volume. 178

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government extremely keen to prevent any repetition of an episode of this nature. The army was, therefore, instructed to routinize its internal security functions through training, and establish strict procedures for its deployment. In the inter-war years the internal security garrison in UP was concentrated in the major cities of the province. There its positioning revealed considerable strategic planning to provide the maximum possible security cover to those cities and towns which were regarded as important to the Raj. The troops positioned across the major cities were divided into garrisons, movable columns and units for the defence of railways and communications. The Internal Security Scheme for the province took into account the detailed characteristics of villages and towns, their topography, past history of disorders and similar details. One of the most striking features of the military plans was the deep imprint they bore of the Revolt of 1857. Military plans were predicated on a 1857-like scenario which envisaged a complete subversion of British authority amidst a hostile population. This aspect was of fundamental significance in 1942 when the Raj was very rapidly and effectively able to suppress the challenge of the Quit India movement. That was made possible precisely because the internal security plans of the last seven decades had long been geared towards dealing with a revolt of this nature and upon this scale. The internal security troops were basically used in two types of situations. In the first, troops were used to uphold the prestige and authority of the Raj in the face of nationalist agitations. In the second troops were continually called in to restore order during communal riots. It has been argued that much of the deployment of troops to deal with nationalist agitations was restricted to garrison marches and to displays of military power rather than their actual use to break up crowds or to disperse meetings. However, in the case of communal rioting troops were used on a regular basis. The use of the British other ranks was found to be particularly valuable as they were considered “impartial” and “neutral” in situations of communal strife. At the same time we have seen that in spite of the centrality of the army in the overall machinery for the maintenance of public order, the number of troops allocated to the internal security garrison was reduced in the late 1930s. This was principally done to meet the demands created by the changing context of imperial defence. It had the effect of requiring increased

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reliance on the armed police rather than the army as the ultimate resort for the maintenance of public order. It has also been argued that it was the police, and not the army, that maintained the authority of the Raj in its day-to-day functioning. One of the most striking features of the police in UP was, however, the thinness of its manpower resources. Police resources were extremely meagre. In Chapter 2 we have seen how the police had a minimalist agenda of maintaining public order, rather than protecting the life and property of the common people. The meagre resources of the police reflected the fine-tuning of policing as an institution required to fulfil the limited agenda of the state. Another important feature of policing in UP was its uneven positioning. Police forces were concentrated in the cities and qasbas and did not really penetrate the countryside. The Raj, therefore, had to depend upon a range of informal methods to maintain its authority in the countryside. Two of the principal functionaries of the Raj in the villages were the chaukidar and the mukhia. These two institutions however, came to be eroded in the late nineteenth century from the point of view of the Raj and had largely become dysfunctional by the 1930s. This forced colonial officials to depend mainly upon the influence of landlords and rural elites to maintain a semblance of order in rural society. In the context of UP the landlords were particularly important. They were regarded as the “bulwark of the Raj,” and the principal agents of authority in the countryside where no formal agencies of control existed. This dependence on the landlords created a serious situation for the Raj, since after World War I the landlords’ claims to be the “natural leaders” of rural society were increasingly contested by nationalist politicians. No-rent agitations and Congress propaganda amongst the peasantry served to erode the position of the landlords further. Faced with such a challenge, the Raj had practically no alternative but to turn to assuagement. Deeply apprehensive of the outbreak of rural disorder it showed a propensity, as Chapter 4 will show, to conciliate peasant grievances to keep serious trouble at bay in the countryside. The Raj’s modes of policing in the cities and qasbas were, however, characterized by different patterns. Here policing was more intensive and formalized. There was a much greater concentration of police forces, buttressed by the presence of internal security

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garrisons. Formal “riot plans” existed to deal with serious disorders and an elaborate system of licensing of meetings and processions and a general control over collective activities was in place. These methods and techniques were deployed with considerable effectiveness by the Raj for the maintenance of public order in the cities throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The Raj came under considerable political pressure however in these years to hand over the police to public control. Such a move was strongly resisted by senior policemen who believed that the effectiveness of the police and its morale would be seriously undermined if the force was placed under Indian control. Yet, in its attempt to appease Indian political opinion, the Raj transferred control over the police to an elected legislature under the system of provincial autonomy introduced in 1937. This had serious implications for the morale and allegiance of the police, as Chapter 5 will show. Overall however, the police as an institution remained an effective instrument of the Raj until at least 1937. It felt that it could effectively maintain public order and uphold its authority without any significant increase in the resources of the police. The manpower, armaments, outposts and budget allocations to the police were, therefore, not expanded significantly during the inter-war period. This lack of expansion of the police and the army was a reflection of the confidence which colonial officials felt in their ability to maintain public order during the inter-war years. Given the minimalist agenda of maintaining public order only in a macro sense, the Raj felt secure in its carefully balanced system of control that was institutionalized in the police and the army. Although the resources of the police were extremely thin on the ground, colonial officials knew that garrison marches and the ready availability of internal security troops could always bring situations of serious public disorder under control. The slim presence of the police was carefully buttressed by the formidable power of the internal security troops positioned all over the province. Together, the police and the army placed at the disposal of the Raj formidable powers which were extremely difficult to subvert.


The Nationalist “Heartland”


“Civil Disobedience” and “Civil Martial Law” in Uttar Pradesh, 1930–34 In the early 1930s, the Civil Disobedience and no-rent campaigns of the Uttar Pradesh Congress threw a serious challenge to the authority of the colonial state. To counter the range of powerful symbols and rituals that the campaigns adopted to contest colonial authority, and to uphold its power and prestige, the Raj put into play various formal and informal methods. In this chapter, let us study the nature of this engagement. Let us be clear, however, that this discussion will not focus upon Congress mobilization, accounts of which are readily available elsewhere;1 nor will it concern itself with British policy towards the Congress. Instead, it will elucidate the theme of colonial power and authority, in a bid to figure out what it underwent in the context of the civil unrest. Also, instead of presenting a chronological account of the unrest, it will draw attention to the landmark challenges it posed to colonial authority. The basic context is generally well known through several works. Briefly, Indian nationalists initiated moves towards Civil Disobedience in December 1929 at the Lahore Congress, which also adopted the Purna Swaraj resolution and gave Gandhi the 1 For UP, see Gyanendra Pandey, The Ascendancy of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, 1926–34: A Study in Imperfect Mobilization, New Delhi, 1978—for the all-India story, see Judith M. Brown, Gandhi and Civil Disobedience: The Mahatma in Indian Politics 1928–34, Cambridge, 1977.

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mandate to launch a campaign against the Raj.2 In early March 1930, Gandhi commenced his celebrated Dandi march; by the end of the month, the Civil Disobedience movement was in full swing in UP and elsewhere. It peaked in the summer of 1930, coinciding with an unsuccessful attempt at conciliation by Sapru and Jayakar, the liberal politicians. It continued well into February 1931 when negotiations between Gandhi and the viceroy, Lord Irwin, led to the Gandhi–Irwin Pact. Under this agreement, the government unconditionally released all political prisoners and abolished the salt tax, while Gandhi called off his campaign and agreed to attend the next Round Table Conference (RTC) in London to discuss prospective constitutional arrangements. With the sealing of the Gandhi–Irwin pact commenced a new phase in the Congress’ engagement with the Raj. In terms of colonial authority, it created an exceptional situation, compelling several colonial officials to think that the government’s post-pact position was becoming increasingly unsustainable. Meanwhile, the Congressmen too were getting restive, and coming up with allegations of “breaches” of the settlement. Further, with the worsening of the agrarian situation in sync with the global economic depression, they were quite tempted to make calls for rent non-payment by tenants. The formal campaign, however, gained in vigour only when a disappointed Gandhi returned from the London RTC in January 1932. As soon as the Congress issued a fresh call for Civil Disobedience, the government retaliated by enforcing its package of “Civil Martial Law” and suppressed the movement very effectively.3 Within this overall context—generally all too well known to require any further elaboration—our discussion will explore the manner in which Indians contested colonial authority and the devices that the British used to reinforce it. Arguably, the Civil Disobedience campaigns engendered forms of protest that challenged the Raj in a symbolic manner, silently eroding its authority but steering clear of a head-on confrontation with its power. 2 For a discussion of Bombay Presidency in this context, see Shri Krishan, Political Mobilization and Identity in Western India, 1934–47, New Delhi, 2005. (Sage Series in Modern Indian History—7) 3 D.A. Low, “‘Civil Martial Law’: The Government of India and the Civil Disobedience Movements 1930–34", in Low, ed., Congress and the Raj.

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Due to the peculiar nature of this engagement, the Raj had to be guarded in its responses. Eventually, to restore its prestige, it was compelled to make widespread use of force. Though this regime of might succeeded in reinforcing the power of the Raj, it did so only at considerable expense to its authority.

Public Discourse, Colonial Authority Perhaps the formal Civil Disobedience movement was engendered by the sustained public discourse, which was David-like in its persistence to challenge the Goliathesque colonial authority every day, day after day. This discourse took varied forms: public speeches, news and views published in newspapers, propaganda disseminated by pamphlets and newsletters, and powerful images of the government popularized by folk forms like Ramlila performances, public devotional singing, even popular theatre. The themes and motifs thus collectively generated, and imprinted on the consciousness of the informed and lay public alike, undermined the Raj’s authority perniciously and significantly boosted nationalist mobilization.4 Indeed, even when such mobilization was not the express motive, the images created by this public discourse left a lasting impression on people’s ideas of state power and authority. There exists a case, therefore, for looking at public discourse not just in propagandist terms, but also in the wider context of colonial authority and its popular perception. In fact, the manner in which this discourse contested colonial authority is a field of enquiry in its own right. This discussion can, therefore, merely highlight the primacy of this theme and integrate, in the context of UP, some findings of recent, initial work in this arena. Newspapers and journals were among the most important components of this public discourse. In the 1920s and 1930s, newspapers were extremely influential in guiding the trend of nationalist politics and played energetic roles in political mobilization. Realizing that newspaper contents affected the authority and prestige of the government, colonial officials devised means to 4

G. Pandey, “Mobilisation in a Mass Movement: Congress ‘Propaganda’ in the United Provinces (India), 1930–34", Modern Asian Studies, 9, 2, 1975, pp. 205–26.

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monitor “native” newspapers. They initiated the “Native Newspaper Reports” to keep officialdom informed of the “tone” of the vernacular press. Although UP of the 1930s was a society with abysmally low literacy levels,5 the significance of the printed word was high and newspapers enjoyed a pre-eminent position. Pandey argues that the influence of newspapers in this period cannot be gauged by their circulation figures. He observes that “in the 1920s and 1930s many vernacular newspapers and journals bore such slogans as: ‘Read this yourself, Read it to others, and give it to the peasant.’” He further remarks that “only some kind of geometric progression, then would give us an idea of the number of buyers, readers and listeners reached by the press”. He shows how, by adopting the simple technique of reiteration, newspapers and journals created “continuous and persistent” propaganda, thus greatly aiding Congress mobilization during the Civil Disobedience campaign.6 Another important component of public discourse in the 1930s was vernacular non-periodical literature—nationalist pamphlets, leaflets, Congress news-sheets, books and posters—much of it produced by underground printing presses and distributed through clandestine channels to avoid proscription. Indeed, such literature flourished particularly under censorship and press control. The stringent control that the authorities tried to exercise over its circulation shows that it was generally regarded as “subversive” by the government. No less than 264 titles in Hindi alone were proscribed by the UP government in 1930, and another 73 in 1931. During the two years of the Civil Disobedience campaign, the total number of banned titles stood just under 400, if one includes the 60 prohibited by the authorities in 1932. 7 Understandably, the spoken word, more so than the written, provided the most familiar yet potent form of defiance of colonial authority. Ranging from formal rallies in cities to chaupal meetings


In 1928, the combined circulation of all daily newspapers stood at 400,000 only for a population in excess of 45 million. 6 Pandey, ibid., and The Ascendancy of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, Chapter 4. 7 Starred question by Pandit Yagna Narain Upadhyaya on 28 January 1938, UP Legislative Assembly Debates (henceforth UPLAD), Vol. 10, pp. 1220–31, IOL/V/9/ 1868. Also see N.G. Barrier, Banned: Controversial Literature and Political Control in British India 1907–47, Columbia, 1974.

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in villages, public speaking (including word-of-mouth communication) was perhaps the single most efficacious mode of challenge to the Raj in the 1930s. Overwhelming evidence available in the government’s weekly intelligence reports as well as a number of other sources bears this out, by testifying to the very large number of meetings attended by massive audiences. The collective audiences at these meetings could run into several hundred thousand people every day during the first phase of Civil Disobedience and into millions on special occasions such as Independence Day. During the week from 14 to 20 April 1930, for instance, UP hosted 29 large meetings, with audiences ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 people. In addition, 148 medium-sized meetings with 500 to 1,000 participants and 222 smaller meetings of audiences under 500 were also reported.8 Considering that these figures were provided by the provincial Criminal Investigation Department (CID), notorious for under-reporting, we can safely assume that the audiences must have run into several hundred thousands. Participation on this scale was by no means atypical; it was sustained for months upon months during the course of the movement. Even when the Congress campaign took a downturn, the size of the audiences did not seem to register any significant decrease. Those were the numbers; what of the effects? What was the nature of this extensive public discourse and how exactly did it challenge colonial authority? In a study of public culture in colonial Surat, Douglas Haynes has offered valuable insights into the nature of the nationalist discourse. 9 He observes that Gandhian nationalists created a new language of politics, which powerfully challenged the Raj’s authority, even legitimacy. Haynes writes that the Gandhian discourse effectively drew upon “the potent terminology of devotional Hinduism and mercantile prestige”. He identifies several core metaphors in this discourse. The first was of duty (dharma), which carried “a sacred and inescapable set of ethical obligations” that exhorted people to “participate in the national cause if they were to remain morally upstanding persons”.10 The second was one that invoked the vocabulary of “stigmatization 8

Provincial Abstract of Intelligence (henceforth PAI), 26 April 1930. Douglas E. Haynes, Rhetoric and Ritual in Colonial India: The Shaping of a Public Culture in Surat City, 1852–1928, Berkeley, 1991. 10 Ibid., p. 223. 9

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and social ostracism”, relating this to honour and shame (maan, pratishta, sharam). Using this, the nationalists linked up family honour and shame with participation in the Congress campaign. The themes of renunciation (tyaag), sacrifice (balidaan) and purification (atma-shuddhi) were other essential and recurrent ones. The “renunciatory rhetoric”, Haynes observes, “contributed mightily to undermining imperial authority and to promoting a willingness to confront government”.11 Themes of purity and pollution, he writes, informed this larger attack 12 and several mythological motifs embellished its themes. The invocation of mythological motifs from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata created particularly powerful images, considering that colonial rule was represented as Ravanaraj (satanic or demonic rule) and Swaraj as Ramrajya (divine kingdom on earth).13 Such metaphors “provided the nation with a sense of involvement in a privileged, sacred and magical moment on a historical scale that reached back into mythological time”.14 There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that similar themes and motifs informed the nationalist discourse in UP in the 1930s. The “potent indigenous vocabulary” thus created interfaced with colonial authority continuously and compellingly.

Metaphors and Symbols of Defiance The themes of exploitation and struggle informed nationalist symbols for civil disobedience and yielded opportunities for the public to ritually defy authority through ceremonial acts such as bonfires of foreign cloth and manufacture of “illicit” salt. For lack of space, we shall consider only two of these symbols: swadeshi and salt.


Ibid., p. 227. “Use of the purity motifs suggested a whole series of political conclusions; that the continued acceptance of British rule polluted India and its people, that wearing foreign clothes or continued participation in legislative councils and government funded schools was a worldly attachment that perpetuated impurity and that undoing India’s condition of impurity requires acts of penance.” Ibid., p. 228. 13 For an example of how these metaphors were successfully used for peasant mobilization, see Kapil Kumar, “The Ramcharitmanas as a Radical Text: Baba Ram Chandra in Oudh, 1920–50", in Sudhir Chandra, ed., Social Transformation and Creative Imagination, New Delhi, 1984. 14 Haynes, Rhetoric and Ritual, p. 229. 12

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Swadeshi had long been regarded as a symbol of nationalist aspirations and its use greatly invigorated the Congress campaign, in the early 1930s; salt, meanwhile, was only a recent invention of Gandhi’s. “It was Gandhi’s genius”, observes Chris Bayly “that notwithstanding the incoherence of his formal economic and political thought, he was able to enlist around a single issue (swadeshi) a huge range of beliefs, aspirations and popular symbols”.15 “Cloth stood alongside the symbols of mother cow and freely-prepared salt at the heart of the national movement” and “provided a symbol more powerful than any single call for political representation or independence”.16 Gandhi was able to restore to homespun cloth its “transformative” qualities of “neighbourliness, patriotism, purity, and sacrifice” which had been lost due to the commodification of cloth during the colonial period. Indeed, Gandhi believed that the consumerist value attached to cloth had divested it of its “inherent and magical” values. The cloth metaphor challenged colonial authority quite robustly, most visibly through the ritual of the public burning of foreign cloth and articles. During the Civil Disobedience movement, these bonfires were held at prominent places in almost all major cities and towns, providing perfect occasions for the dramatic display of popular sentiment. Equally visible was the picketing of shops trading in foreign cloth. Local Congress committees organized systematic picketing drives to pressurize traders into stopping their dealings in foreign cloth. Large groups of volunteers sat on dharna outside the shops of those that refused to comply. Congress committees persuaded traders not to place fresh orders, even confiscated and sealed their existing stocks. Traders who broke these seals or indulged in clandestine trade were forced to pay fines to Congress volunteers. In several instances, the Congress enforced social boycott by drawing upon traditional institutions of social authority, such as caste and trade panchayats. So widespread was this campaign that in early June 1930, 25 districts reported regular picketing of shops.17 By July, this had 15 C.A. Bayly, “The Origins of Swadeshi (Home Industry): Cloth and Indian Society 1700–1930", in Arjun Appadurai, ed., The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge, 1986, p. 312. 16 Ibid., p. 285. 17 PAI, 7 June 1930.

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spread to 36 districts. An intelligence report observed, “Outwardly at any rate the movement will appear in a number of districts to have achieved its objective. In most places picketing has led to a sealing of foreign cloth stocks and has made it possible for Congress to extend the boycott to more remote towns and villages”.18 So effective indeed was the campaign that in July 1930, the government promulgated the “Intimidation Ordinance” to curb the Congress’ anti-trader activities. Notwithstanding this ordinance, cloth boycott remained an important part of the Congress programme throughout the 1930s. It was remarkable how successful the Congress was in imposing its own informal regime over a very large section of the mercantile community. Salt too provided a powerful symbol, which the Congress invoked to contest colonial authority. When Gandhi decided to take on the iniquitous salt law and commence his Dandi march in March 1930, he not only unravelled the powerful thematic interweaving of exploitation and loyalty but also invented a ritual in which thousands could participate. Historians marvel at Gandhi’s genius in selecting this particular issue. Sumit Sarkar observes that “salt linked up in a flash the ideal of Swaraj with the most concrete and universal rural grievance”.19 It elevated Gandhi’s “case to a higher moral plane and sharpened Indians’ awareness of the conflict between their own material interest and those of Great Britain”, remarks Robin Moore.20 Gandhi successfully invested an item of daily use with an extraordinary range of meanings, drawing upon the strong salt symbolism in several religious traditions. A study suggests “an extremely varied use of salt in religious practice and a richness of symbolism that is truly surprising”.21 In both Hindu and Islamic traditions, salt creates a powerful allegory for fidelity and allegiance, evoking the imagery of solemn oaths and sealed covenants. In Hindu ritual sacrifice, salt thrown into a fire represents seed and cattle, thus symbolizing fertility. Perhaps even more powerful is its connotation of permanence. The importance of “salt as something that prevents corruption and, therefore, symbolises


PAI, 12 July 1930. Sumit Sarkar, Modern India 1885–1947, New Delhi, 1983, p. 286. 20 R.J. Moore, The Crisis of Indian Unity, 1917–47, Oxford, 1974, p. 168. 21 James E. Latham, The Religious Symbolism of Salt, Paris, 1982, p. 23. 19

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permanence” was a “universal and abiding” theme in the salt symbolisms associated with all religious traditions.22 Moreover, as a condiment of daily consumption, its universal use cut across boundaries of class, caste and religion, and symbolized fellowship based on common dining. And so the salt satyagraha proved to be a particularly potent form of challenge, as Gandhi could conjure up in the mind of the most illiterate Indian the imagery of an exploitative, satanic state. The refrain was: There is no article like salt, outside water, by taxing which the State can reach even the starving millions, the sick, the maimed and the utterly helpless. The tax constitutes therefore, the most inhuman poll-tax the ingenuity of man can devise. 23 UP, being a land-locked province, did not provide a natural terrain for the salt satyagraha. Yet, the breach of the salt law posed a serious challenge to colonial authority in almost all major UP cities and towns, as borne out by contemporary intelligence reports.24 The ritual usually entailed the convergence, in huge numbers, of spectators and Congress volunteers in prominent public places. By its very presence in the absence of a licence, such an assembly dared the local administration. Further, the act of defying the salt law consisted of boiling water in a receptacle over a fire, usually surrounded by concentric rings of Congress volunteers, arms linked together, phalanx-like. Often several such rings, ranging from three to six and depending on the demeanour of the police, were formed so that the police could not break through and confiscate the contraband salt. These street-side ceremonies usually concluded with much speech-making, collective singing, and eventually an auction of the freshly made salt to raise funds. The scale of these rituals was widespread, and the police was quite exasperated in dealing with them.25 Salt was the perfect medium for a large-scale defiance of the law. Before long, the realization dawned upon colonial officials 22

Ibid., p. 67. Gandhi, cited in D.G. Tendulkar, Mahatma: Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Vol. 3, Bombay, 1952, p. 60. 24 See PAI for April–July 1930. 25 For a police officer’s account of the salt satyagraha, see B.N. Lahiri, Before and After, Allahabad, 1974, p. 64. 23

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that “what Mr Gandhi has been trying to manufacture is not salt but civil disobedience”.26 For over three months between April and June 1930, district authorities were stumped by the scale of this confrontation. Within the first week of salt-manufacture, over two dozen districts reported instances. In Lucknow and Allahabad, huge crowds reportedly participated in these rituals.27 The campaign spread, quite like wildfire, to several other districts in the following weeks; by late April, Congressmen were organizing daily ceremonies in at least 21 districts! What’s more, the salt-making was now rampant in the moffusil towns and qasbas as well.28 By early May 1930, 27 districts had joined in and by end May, 29 districts were reporting salt-making events almost daily.29 It was only in early June that the enthusiasm of Congressmen shifted to other forms of activities, such as the picketing of liquor shops. Precisely because the authorities found it difficult to control them, symbols of swadeshi and salt proved to be particularly powerful acts of rebelling against and resisting colonial authority. Dramatic they were indeed, what with the mock funeral-like atmosphere created by the bonfires. The participation of a very large number of people made it practically impossible for the police (which in any case was not present in adequate strength) to prevent or disperse them. In trying to control the protestors, the police needed to arrest certain volunteers, who obviously resisted arrested, compelling the police to “lathi charge” them. These police– Congress encounters stirred the deepest nationalist emotions of the large crowds. And, on the other hand, to such symbolic challenges to authority, the authorities too could respond only bluntly and violently. A similar pattern characterized the government’s response to the picketing of cloth shops, since Congressmen used subtle, indirect and informal tactics to coerce traders. The authorities could intervene only when the traders complained, or the Congressmen obstructed traffic or disrupted business during hartals. The situation did not change much, even after the police was given extraordinary powers under the Intimidation Ordinance (July 1930). 26 David Petrie, chief of the CBI, to the Home Member 17 April 1930, NAI Home Political 15/4/30. 27 PAI, 19 April 1930. 28 PAI, 26 April 1930. 29 PAI, 24 May 1930.

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The ordinance proved ineffectual, as it could only be used against more overt forms of picketing.

“Weeks and Days”: Protest Turns into Ritual Given the symbolic nature of anti-imperialist activities during the Civil Disobedience movement, the Congress could ritualize them to confront the Raj. In fact, the Congress created a distinct calendar of special days and weeks, designated as special “occasions” on which ritualized protests would be undertaken on a wide scale across the province. A close analysis of weekly intelligence reports for 1930 helps reconstruct the story accurately. Between January and December 1930, the Congress “celebrated” 62 such days, investing each with a particular political significance to focus attention towards specific issues. In keeping with the religious ethos of the province, the Congress calendar had a festival-like quality, and certain days were considered more important than others. Perhaps the most important was “Independence Day”, celebrated for the first time on 26 January 1930. Other highlights included “National Week” in April, Gandhi’s birthday in October, “Charkha Day”, “Flag Day” and “Khadi Week”. Permanent fixtures on the calendar, these were celebrated year after year with much enthusiasm. Then there were days to commemorate events associated with the nationalist struggle. Three were particularly important: “Mutiny Day”, “Jallianwala Bagh Day” and “Martyrs’ Day”. These permanent landmarks apart, the rest of the calendar was quite flexible. Local Congress committees could choose days spontaneously to highlight specific issues. In 1930, for instance, the arrests of Motilal and Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and Govind Ballabh Pant provided occasion for “Jawahar Day” and so on. Also, events where British authorities acted harshly were represented as “outrages”, and solidarity was expressed by designating particular days as “Sholapur Day”, “Peshawar Day”, “Garhwal Day” and so on. Events of a purely provincial character also had their special days. The violence following the Congress satyagraha in May 1930 in Lucknow became an occasion for expressions of solidarity and was designated as “Lucknow Day”.30 Further, 30

PAI, 1 and 7 June 1930.

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local Congress committees designated days such as “Political Prisoners’ Day”, “Kisan Day”, “Students’ Day” and “Labour Day”. As and when local Congressmen desired, the calendar could be expanded to commemorate nationalist leaders on “Tilak Day”, “Rana Pratap Day” and “Rani Jhansi Day”, while other days could be devoted to khadi, Hindu–Muslim unity, participation of women or even plain and simple satyagraha. Though Congressmen consciously endeavoured that the calendar retained a secular character, we must recognize that the inspiration underlying it was derived from both Islamic and Hindu religious calendars, which designate days of festivity and mourning. Even so, the Congress was careful not to link its calendar with either the Islamic or the Hindu calendars,31 and far-sightedly, avoid any overlap with religious festivals like Diwali, Muharram, Holi or Id.32 Let us take the example of the “Independence Day” celebrated on 26 January 1930. In a typical city, the day began early for Congressmen with prabhat pheris (singing of patriotic songs) at dawn in the major mohallas and bazaars. This was followed by a flag-hoisting ceremony at a prominent public place, accompanied by drills and exercises by uniformed volunteers. Thereafter, small bands of volunteers went through the main bazaars to canvass for support and gather subscriptions. In the afternoon, it was usual to take out a procession, in which the Congress flag was displayed prominently along anti-British posters. Uniformed volunteers played a prominently visible part in regulating traffic, distributing leaflets, and generally keeping crowds under control. Traders often shut their shops in solidarity. The procession usually ended in a meeting, addressed by visiting Congress leaders of provincial or national fame. They generally opened with a recitation of the “Independence Day Pledge”, which the audience repeated, word for word. Speeches by various Congressmen then followed, and the meeting ended with enthusiastic slogan shouting. Within this 31 Robert Sewell and Sankara Balkrishna Dikshit, The Indian Calendar, London, 1896. 32 In contrast, the contents of rituals performed during religious festivals were frequently injected with nationalist symbols. For instance, the immolation of Holika performed during Holi was used for the public burning of foreign cloth. Similarly, in the performance of Ramlila during Dussehra, the actor enacting the Hindu God Ram, sometimes dressed in khadi. Interview with Shri Ram Kishore Rastogi, veteran city Congressman and publicist, Lucknow, May 1989.

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format, there were of course local variations depending upon the motivations and circumstances of local Congressmen, but the broad pattern was common to most cities and towns. One can visualize the scale of celebration of these occasions from the fact that in 1930 over a dozen towns celebrated “Independence Day” with considerable popular participation. In Agra, the Congress procession was joined by over 5,000 people and the public meeting attended by over 7,000. In Kanpur, over 3,000 people joined the procession and over 6,000 attended the meeting, while in Lucknow over 800 joined the procession and more than 7,000 attended the meting. Large processions were also reported from Banaras, Meerut and Fatehpur.33 Smaller demonstrations marked almost every district of the province; Meerut and Allahabad alone reported 18 demonstrations each; Fatehpur, 13; and Basti 12.34 The scale of such activities is further illustrated by the proceedings of the “National Week”, celebrated from 9 April 1930. In Agra, large meetings were organized on 10, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 17 April and attended by 4,000, 6,000, 9,000, 1,500, 3,000 and 7,000 people, respectively. In Allahabad, the highlights were a large meeting on 10 April attended by 6,000 people, followed two days later by another meeting attended by 9,000. These were followed by meetings on 14, 15 and 16 April attended by 8,000, 6,000 and 10,000 people.35 Among the districts, Meerut reported 10 large and 18 small meetings, Allahabad eight large, Saharanpur 11 meetings large and small, Gorakhpur eight, Etawah 12, Bijnor 14 and so on.36


PAI, 1 February 1930. Ibid. 35 In Kanpur, five meetings were organized on 9, 10, 12, 13 and 14 April, attended by 6,000, 10,000, 20,000, 8,000 and 5,000 people respectively. In Lucknow, the celebrations commenced only on 15 April with a meeting of 7,000 people. On the following two days, meetings were attended by 7,000 and 1,500 persons people respectively and finally on 19 April by 6,000. 36 This account is based on PAI, 19 and 30 April 1930. The scale of these activities is further illustrated by the events of Jawahar Day, celebrated on an all-India basis on 16 November 1930 to mark the re-arrest of Nehru. S. Gopal reports that on this day “about 20 million people had participated in 384 cities and villages; the police opened fire in one place and carried out lathi charges in 26 others; one person was killed, about 1,500 were wounded and 1679 were arrested”, Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography, Vol. I, London, 1975, p. 147. 34

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The Congress calendar soon secured a resilience of its own, as seen in the manner in which these days and weeks were celebrated year after year. “Independence Day” in 1931 was celebrated through 207 large meetings across UP, of which Kanpur reported 10; Allahabad, six; Lucknow, five; Gorakhpur, eight; Rae Bareli, six; and Banaras, nine. 37 Smaller meetings were held elsewhere. Gyanendra Pandey notes that in Agra in 1931 over 200 villages celebrated “Independence Day” and 68 villages claimed an attendance of more than 200 people at their celebrations. Large meetings were also reported from at least half a dozen villages.38 Indeed, such rituals continually contested colonial authority on an enormous scale.

Contesting Authority: The Spatial Dimension The urban geographical arena in which colonial authority was provoked deeply affected the nature of these challenges. In Chapter 2, we saw the manner in which UP’s cities and towns were riotproofed in the second half of the nineteenth century. Such riotproofing entailed the segregation of the “native” city from the European or official enclave, and the division of the urban landscape into what Jim Masselos labels “social templates”.39 This segregation, manifested in the physical transformation of space, was maintained and reinforced by laws and municipal regulations, which set out an elaborate urban control system based on a strict supervision of collective assemblies. However, it was this very attempt to impose what the British regarded as “urban order” that Congressmen turned to their advantage during the Civil Disobedience movement, by challenging its segregationist character. Most major confrontations between the Congress and the authorities in cities and towns centred on this contentious issue. The compartmentalization of cities and towns enabled Congressmen to entrench themselves in certain localities. By concentrating their activities there, they demarcated a “sacred geography” 37

PAI, 7 February 1931. Pandey, Congress Ascendancy in Uttar Pradesh, 172. 39 Jim Massellos, “Appropriating Urban Space: Social constructs of Bombay in the Time of the Raj”, South Asia, IV, I, 1991, pp. 33–63. 38

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within the city.40 At the centre of this usually stood a public park or meeting ground, which was associated with Congress activities. Lucknow’s Amin-ud-daula Park is an ideal example. Strategically located in the old city’s main business centre, with the headquarters of the Lucknow Congress standing on its edge, the park was always festooned with Congress flags and bunting, around a prominent flag post upon which the “national flag” was hoisted every day without fail, with much ceremony. Since the commercial centre would always bustle with activity, the local Congress could gather an audience in no time at all. Understandably, all Congress processions invariably started from or terminated at the park. And, as a corollary almost, it was almost crucial for visiting Congress dignitaries to hold a meeting in Amin-ud-daula Park.41 Over the years, Congressmen in most cities and towns in UP appropriated at least one such strategic public space, where they could concentrate rituals like picketing, flag-hoisting, salt-making and drills. In Banaras, it was the Town Hall grounds; in Allahabad, Purushottam Das Park.42 Alongside these spaces, lay the traditional bazaars and ganjs with their mohallas—just perfect for Congressmen to get entrenched in. In these intricate lanes and by-lanes flourished the Congress’ revolutionary networks, using the residences of important Congressmen as informal offices. While the Congress was based in these mohallas, it shifted its activities to these official enclaves when it intended to directly confront colonial authority. In Lucknow, for instance, when the local Congress wanted to confront the authorities symbolically, they concentrated their activities on either the Council Chamber or Hazratganj, which the Raj regarded as out-of-bounds for collective activities by Indians. In adding this spatial dimension to their challenges to colonial authority, local authorities had to deal with a wide range of situations. The most frequent response of the British was to impose prohibitionary orders under Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). As explained in Chapter 2, criminal law gave colonial 40 On this concept, see Douglas Haynes, “Imperial Ritual in a Local Setting: The Ceremonial Order in Surat, 1890–1939", Modern Asian Studies, 24, 3, 1990. 41 Interview with Shri Ram Kishore Rastogi, Lucknow, May 1989. 42 On the centrality of Purushottam Das Park to public activities in Allahabad, see Ujagir Singh, Allahabad: A Urban Geography.

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officials extraordinary powers to control all forms of collective activity in any particular area for a certain period, if they perceived that such activities could “disturb public tranquillity”. These orders were usually preventive, and promulgated whenever the authorities felt threatened by any meeting or procession. If the organizers held a meeting or procession in violation of such an order, the police quickly dispersed them either by lathi-charging or arresting the ringleaders. A more sustained method of control was the imposition of a curfew, usually done after some degree of force had already been used. Several informal methods were also deployed, and with remarkable success. One was to disperse such assemblies by encircling the active participants and physically removing them from the scene! This is perhaps best described in the words of Arthur Barlow, a young subdivisional officer in Agra, who narrates how the police dealt with such a situation in early 1930 when Congress volunteers lay in front of the city’s kotwali: …just across the entrance... and refused to move! What they wanted of course was to be arrested. What could one do to them? Of course a huge crowd collected to see the spectacle. What the Police Superintendent did do was... quite inspired .... First of all the police charged and dispersed the crowds. Then these creatures were caught hold of and dragged into the middle of the road in the sun. They were surrounded by the police and no one was allowed to come and watch them, and no food and water could be brought to them. But any time they liked they could get up and go. In the evening they were put on to a lorry, driven out into the country and dumped forty miles out of Agra—to make their way home as best as they could!43 Colonial officials used such methods on a very wide scale during the Civil Disobedience campaign. B.N. Lahiri, then posted as superintendent of police at Mirzapur, recalls how he dealt as such with satyagrahis, day after day. When confronted with meetings and processions organized in violation of the ban, he had the leading 43

The account of Arthur Barlow of the Indian Civil Service (UP cadre), at that time a young subdivisional officer in Agra, in a letter to his parents dated 27 April 1930, H.A.N. Barlow Papers, Cambridge South Asian Archives.

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participants “removed post haste to the police lines close by”. “To detain so many persons for trial would mean over-crowding of the jail and was not desirable”, he writes. These men were then “sent away by motor vehicles to a place outside the city and released to avoid any demonstration”.44 By physically removing those who challenged their urban order, the authorities succeeded in preserving the segregationist character of UP’s cities and towns. However, at times, the Congress’ challenges led to much more serious confrontations with the authorities. This was witnessed in Lucknow in May 1930 when Congressmen insisted on their “right” to offer satyagraha in Hazratganj, which the British regarded as forbidden territory for collective activities by Indians.45

Colonial Responses up to March 1931 The colonial state responded to these symbolic challenges gradually, and in a manner influenced by the nature of the challenges. In urban areas, judicious enforcement of criminal law was seen as the key to maintaining authority. In the countryside, in addition to law enforcement, the encouragement of loyalist propaganda was regarded as the essential strategy to prevent the spread of the Civil Disobedience campaign.46 The strategies adopted by the Raj for enforcing criminal law to deal with civil disobedience held significant implications for colonial authority itself. In spite of a legal system whose underlying philosophy subordinated abstract notions of justice to the pragmatic requirements of the state (as seen in Chapter 2), the Raj faced serious difficulties in enforcing the law and “criminalizing” political protest. Gandhi’s arrest, for instance, proved to be “an extremely tricky problem”. Lord Irwin had qualms about criminalizing Gandhi; he feared that the British would be regarded as extremely “clumsy-footed” if they “thought that the law could successfully


B.N. Lahiri, Leaves from a Policeman’s Diary, pp. 81–82. D.A. Low, “‘Holds Barred’: Anatomy of A Satyagraha”, Lucknow, May 1930. 46 Although these two elements were fundamental to the reassertion of authority by the Raj during the first Civil Disobedience campaign, they formed part of a larger strategy. Considerations of space prohibit a detailed analysis. 45

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treat him as it treats any other mundane and immoral lawbreaker”.47 On one hand, not arresting Gandhi even as he preached a general defiance of authority hinted at the government’s lack of strength.48 On the other, arresting him had its own drawbacks. “The halo of martyrdom is obviously what he is after, and I hope it will be possible to avoid adorning him with it”, observed Irwin.49 While the Viceroy faced this “desperate dilemma”, Gandhi himself seemed to enjoy the Raj’s predicament. “The Government’s plight is that of the serpent which has swallowed a rat”, he remarked, “and would find it hard to resort to either course of action— allowing me to remain out or putting me behind the bars”. 50 Judith Brown has described in detail the imperatives that forced Irwin in May 1930 to incarcerate Gandhi. Underlying the government’s hesitation was the unresolved dilemma over the criminalization of political protest. This dilemma further manifested itself when the government hesitated in arresting Congressmen on a large scale during the early stages of the Civil Disobedience campaign.51 Initially exercising restraint, the authorities instructed its officials “to avoid opportunities for confrontation and misrepresentation but where confrontation proved inevitable prompt and disorganizing action against leaders was preferable to wholesale arrests”. 52 They emphasized the imprisonment, with the minimum fuss, of the ringleaders—activists who ran local Congress committees and executed the instructions of higher committees. Gandhi aptly described this policy as “cutting the heads of the tall poppies”. Following this policy, district officials avoided large-scale arrests, 47

Cited in Brown, Gandhi and Civil Disobedience 1928–34, p. 107. On the government’s policy towards Gandhi during the Non-Cooperation movement, see D.A. Low, “The Government of India and the first Non-Cooperation Movement”, in R. Kumar, ed., Essays on Gandhian Politics, Oxford, 1971, pp. 298–324. 49 Ibid., p. 107. 50 Navjivan, 6 April 1930, Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XLIII, p. 188, cited in Brown, ibid., p. 108. 51 This was set out in its circular to local governments on 26 March 1930, which emphasized the need to show restraint. 52 Brown, Gandhi and Civil Disobedience 1928–34, p. 107. “Confidential instructions have been issued to district officers as to how they should deal with local offenders. The main point emphasised is that the Government does not desire to precipitate action pending further experience of the course of events but when action is taken it should be directed against the leaders and not the followers.” Fortnightly Report (henceforth FR) for March 1930 Second Half. 48

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confining their actions only to prominent Congressmen.53 They hoped that a few arrests within their district would deprive the campaign of its organizers and thwart serious breaches of authority.54 Many believed that, for most Congressmen, “a brief sojourn in prison is an easy form of cheap martyrdom”.55 The number of arrests in the first three weeks of the campaign was, therefore, remarkably low, and only 456 people were arrested in the entire province before 31 May 1930. These arrests were made mostly in cities where the Congress was well entrenched. Prosecutions were made either under the law of sedition or the Salt Act.56 That the arrests were restricted to prominent Congressmen is clear from the fact that more than 28 per cent of those arrested were categorized in jails as superior class prisoners. A deeper dilemma troubled the British, perhaps best exemplified by the attitudes of colonial officials towards the law of sedition. The government was reluctant to enforce this law against political activists on a large scale because its use over the decades had thrown up a few lessons. Although its use had secured prosecutions, the political costs involved were often too high. Prosecution for sedition conferred the status of “martyrdom” on the “accused” and the trial frequently brought great publicity, with the courtroom transforming into a propaganda platform. This dramatic state of affairs provided incentives to political activists to attempt further breaches of law. Officials also believed that 53 “In the initial stages Government endeavoured to avoid making arrests on a large scale; but as the tide of bloodshed and disorder extended over the country this policy had to be abandoned, and by the second week of May a large number of the most prominent Congressmen were in jail. The gradual removal of the leaders from the scene of action... undoubtedly proved a serious handicap to the development of the Congress plan of campaign.” John Coatman, India in 1930–31, Calcutta, 1932, p. 74. 54 B.N. Lahiri, an Indian member of the IP, recalls that “much discrimination was used in making the arrests” when “batches of Satyagrahis daily offered themselves for arrest and the local jail population went on increasing at an alarming rate”. Lahiri, Before and After, p. 64. 55 Irwin to Wedgwood Benn, 19 January 1931, Halifax Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.C.152 Vol. 6. 56 For instance, 71 were from Rae Bareli; 37 from Lucknow; 36 from Meerut; 23 from Banaras and 20 from Allahabad. In some areas, the number of arrests was abysmally low: Etah, Basti and Bahraich reported just two arrests each; Mirzapur and Gorakhpur just three; and Farukkhabad, Fatehpur, Ballia, and Gonda just four persons each.

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prosecution for sedition did not have a deterrent effect. Instead, the government ended up looking harsh and vindictive. In 1930, Wedgwood Benn, the Secretary of State for India, expressed strong reservations against employing the law of sedition. He advised Irwin that his officials should “drop this weapon and concentrate entirely upon prevention of preparation for violence”. He was convinced that “instead of a general campaign ... the right course would be to restrict the field, hit less often, but more certainly”. His alternative would avoid evoking “feelings of resentment among people whose chief fault lies in their inability to keep their language within bounds”. He further believed that the law of sedition, which aimed at “the general prosecution for statements is apt to clutch at nobodies—even though well known nobodies—and ignore doers”.57 Malcolm Hailey, the governor of UP, shared Irwin’s reservations. They realized that the law could only be used selectively, especially in a campaign where very large numbers of people collectively defied authority. And so, the law was indeed used rather sparingly.58 Only 86 people were prosecuted for sedition in the first phase of Civil Disobedience; in the second phase, the law was hardly used.59 It was not just about the law of sedition. Criminal law, in general, proved to be a thorn in the Raj’s side. Colonial officials were concerned that in dealing with the Civil Disobedience movement, the system of criminal law might itself degenerate into an antiCongress political weapon. This larger apprehension lay behind the reluctance to extensively employ not just the law of sedition but the Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act of 1911 and other similar provisions. Benn articulated this overall concern when he insisted to Irwin that, in punishing political offenders, ... the character of the charge should emphasize the real nature of the offence; that is to say that Mr G., if he breaks the Salt Laws, should be tried for that crime ... and not tried really for 57

Benn to Irwin, 21 November 1929, Halifax Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.C.152 Vol. 5. Hailey reported to Irwin that “we have avoided as far as possible prosecutions under Section 124A, though there have been one or two extreme cases in which newspaper editors and others have so openly advocated violence, or written in such outrageous terms of government, that we have been forced to take action”. Hailey to Irwin, 13 May 1930, Halifax Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.C.152 Vol. 6. 59 Calculated on the basis of a survey of Fortnightly Reports for 1930 and 1931. 58

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the Lahore Resolutions. If we had intended to punish the Lahore Resolutions, it would have been possible by a straightforward attack, for example, on Kitchlew.60 He emphasized that the government should ensure “an efficient and neutral use of the forces of the law” in dealing with the Civil Disobedience movement.61 However, such a position was difficult to hold on to in practice. Pleading guilty to having “offended against the prescription”, Hailey confessed that “we have undoubtedly utilized breaches of the Salt Law as an opportunity for arresting a number of people on the ground that they were leaders in the campaign of Civil Disobedience”. “The offence against the Salt Law”, he recognized, “was technical; indeed, since it is not really possible to manufacture salt on any economic scale in northern India, it could not well be otherwise than technical”.62 He further observed: …where large numbers of ignorant people are persuaded to commit a technical offence, the Magistrate can only impose nominal sentences, and Government will gain all the odium of prosecuting more or less innocent people, without being able to reap the advantage of deterrent sentences. Nor could we, on the other hand, stand by and allow a wholesale disobedience of the law. And here lay the nub of the problem. The government fully realized that since it could only selectively use the law of sedition, it had to use the powers available under the IPC and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to deal with acts of defiance. Although these laws by themselves gave enormous powers to the government, they could deal only with the forms of political protest, rather than its content. As Hailey pointed out, they addressed the “technical” aspect of the offence. In other words, they did not address the important question of men rais (motive of the offender). If a political activist was arrested by the police for offering satyagraha at a public space under prohibitory orders, he could be punished 60

Benn to Irwin, 20 March 1930, Halifax Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.C.152 Vol. 6. Ibid., emphasis added. 62 Irwin to Benn, 13 May 1930 enclosing Hailey’s letter to the Viceroy in Halifax Papers. Emphasis added. IOL/Mss.Eur.C.152 Vol. 6. 61

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under Section 144 (and several others). But the application of Section 144 did not adequately meet the requirements of the situation since it did not address the question of motivation, and so a sentence under this could only be regarded as a “nominal” punishment. In a context of widespread breaches of authority, “nominal” punishments diminished the “respect for law” and undermined the essential quality of “deterrence” inherent in it. With large-scale “defiance” of law involving thousands of people, it became impossible to uphold colonial authority merely by arresting some prominent Congressmen and sentencing them under ordinary law. To apprehend larger numbers, it was essential to expand the reach of the law. Both the magistracy and the police were tired of the business of trying them under the ordinary provisions of the criminal law while avoiding the law of sedition. The idea that sentencing a few people would have a deterrent effect on others proved to be merely wishful thinking. Benn regretted that “the great disadvantage is that, on account of the character of the people, who are leading the movement, the ordinary penalty of law does not carry the usual sanction of universal public assent”. 63 He emphasized the need to “reharness public opinion to the chariot of law and order”.64 Eventually forced to equip itself with extraordinary powers to maintain its authority, the Raj evolved a new punitive framework to prosecute political activists by promulgating ordinances. As a consequence, it used the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908, to ban the Congress and its associated bodies.65 Then it introduced special powers of preventive detention and trial in the form of ordinances. The Prevention of Intimidation Ordinance and the Unlawful Instigation Ordinance were promulgated on 30 May 1930. A Press Ordinance had been promulgated in April 1930 and the Unauthorised News-sheets and Newspapers Ordinance followed in July 1930. Since the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908 did not empower the authorities to seize buildings, funds 63

Benn to Irwin, 5 June 1930, Halifax Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.C.152 Vol. 6. Benn to Irwin, 1 May 1930, Halifax Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.C.152 Vol. 6. 65 The purpose of this law was “to provide for more speedy trial to curtail offences and the prohibition of associations dangerous to the public peace”. It defined an “unlawful association” as one which “encourages and aids acts of violence or intimidation”. 64

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and movable properties of associations declared illegal, district officials were reinforced with additional powers under the Unlawful Association Ordinance instituted in October 1930. By autumn 1930, a new penal framework emerged, targeted specifically towards Congress activities that undermined colonial authority. The essentials of a “package” to deal effectively with the Congress outside the framework of ordinary criminal law were fully in position. It was these ordinances that the Raj used extensively after May 1930 to prosecute “political offenders”. It arrested a very large number of people and sentenced for their political activities. It is estimated that between January 1930 and March 1931, 10,736 people (including 99 women) were convicted in UP for “political offences” (of these 99 were women). Most were apprehended after May 1930, when colonial officials had at their disposal ordinances against those who came to be known as the “politicals”.66

Aman Sabhas While the ordinances were targeted at political activists based largely in the cities, the Raj’s priorities in the countryside were different. It was concerned that the Congress campaign should not spread to the villages. By forming aman sabhas, it hoped to avert this.67 Aman sabhas were rural gatherings that landlords organized in close association with local officials to disseminate loyalist propaganda against the Civil Disobedience campaign. They felt these provided the best method to “counter the insidious poison of Congress agitation” in the villages.68 The British wanted to rally loyalist support, hoping that by reasserting their lost traditional authority, zamindars and taluqdars would exercise social

66 This was an almost four-fold increase from the earlier Non-Cooperation Movement of 1920–21, in which the total number of convictions in UP was 2,778, of the all-India figure of about 30,000. Judith M. Brown, Gandhi’s Rise to Power 1920–22, Cambridge, 1974, p. 318. 67 Peter Reeves has shown how aman sabhas represented an important part of the overall colonial strategy to retain control in the countryside in his “The Politics of Order: ‘Anti-Non-Cooperation’ in the United Provinces 1921", Journal of Asian Studies, XXV, 2, 1966, pp. 261–74. 68 PAI, 28 June 1930.

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control to a degree. Besides providing a check on village headmen and chaukidars, such control would ensure that tenants were successfully restrained from supporting pro-Congress activities. The chief practical value of aman sabhas lay in the opportunities they provided for colonial counter-propaganda and for the show of solidarity between zamindars and subordinate officials. Ironically, they soon came to belie their nomenclature—”aman” signifies public peace! In the main, the zeal of local officials dictated the success of aman sabhas. They depended too on the resourcefulness of the landlords entrusted with mobilizing them; indeed, local officials used various tactics to persuade, even bully, prominent landlords into supporting the local aman sabha.69 For instance at Itmadpur in Agra, a loyalist meeting was organized on the occasion of the King Emperor’s birthday; at Baraut in Meerut, an attempt was made to rally low caste villagers, particularly chamars, by taking advantage of their traditional rift with the Jats who were credited with proCongress leanings. 70 Such examples could be multiplied. In Moradabad, an association named “Ittihad-i-Tarraqqi” (welfare league) was formed to “counteract seditious propaganda”,71 while in Ghazipur the services of the district soldiers’ board were enlisted to mobilize loyalist elements. 69

For instance local officials pressurized Lala Murlidhar, a zamindar of Jansath tehsil in Muzaffarnagar, into taking up the vice-presidentship of the aman sabha. Murlidhar was also an honorary magistrate. He explained that he had “no faith in the Civil Disobedience campaign of the Congress and that I would do my level best to check its progress in my own way without joining the Welfare League which is being sponsored by the officials. My past experience of 1921 of such leagues was that instead of counteracting the effect of the Congress they give additional impetus to its activities. Persons that joined the League instead of commanding an influence with the people cease to have their influence and are regarded as opposed to public interests”. The officials were not convinced and Murlidhar had to resign his honorary magistracy, as he felt that there was “no other course open to a self-respecting man but to resign”. Letter of Lala Murlidhar to District Magistrate, Muzaffarnagar, 10 June 1930, cited in 14 July 1930, UP Legislative Council (henceforth UPLC), Vol. 49, p. 318, IOL/V/9/1781. Instances of pressure on landlords were numerous, as can be seen by the very large number of instances cited in the report of the Agrarian Enquiry Committee appointed by the UP Congress, Agrarian Distress in the UP, Allahabad, 1931. 70 PAI, 14 June 1930. 71 PAI, 12 July 1930.

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Yet, despite the pervasive promotion of aman sabhas, strong resistance from Congressmen hindered their effectiveness. Congress campaigns inevitably incorporated measures to urge villagers to boycott aman sabhas. Ganga Prasad Mast, an itinerant Congressmen from Lucknow, addressed meetings in Gonda telling people not to attend aman sabhas, for they were “gatherings of the weak and the impotent”.72 Such appeals proved to be quite effective, and not infrequently so. Landlords encountered considerable difficulties in organizing aman sabhas. Counter-propaganda was most intense in Agra district, where the Congress resorted to forceful methods to sabotage aman sabhas. Moving bands of volunteers were formed to “raid” any village where an aman sabha was being organized.73 Strikingly, numerous aman sabhas saw disruptions. Congressmen invariably tried to guarantee their boycott or, at least, disruption. If the local police was at hand, prompt arrests usually prevented further trouble; otherwise interruptions or hostile demonstrations frequently led to rioting. The most serious riot of this nature took place in Etah district: 250 Congress volunteers, backed by a gathering of about 4,000, attacked an aman sabha being addressed by the district officer. They could be dispersed only through the use of firearms, which left five people dead and 15 injured.74 Unable to match the Congressmen’s organizational and polemical skills, landlords often resorted to violent means. The more strident of them could rally their karindas (henchmen) to disturb Congress meetings in villages within their estates; some did not hesitate to do so.75


Speech at Balrampur, PAI, 1 March 1930. PAI, 7 June 1930. 74 PAI, 19 July 1930. Report on the Administration of the Police in UP 1930, p. 8. A similar clash was reported from Bulandshahr where Congress volunteers, attempting to disrupt an aman sabha, clashed with the policemen deputed to ensure its safe proceeding. Ten policemen were injured and several arrests were made, FR, June 1930 Second Half. In Farrukhabad, Congress volunteers attacked, with brickbats, an aman sabha in progress outside a tehsil. The presiding subdivisional magistrate had to order the police to fire several rounds of buckshot to disperse the mob. The situation could be controlled only when the Criminal Law Amendment Act was promulgated. FR, December 1930 First Half. 75 For example, at Mohammadabad in Agra, the local zamindar equipped his men with lathis to prevent Congressmen from holding a meeting. Though the police 73

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The aman sabha campaign imprinted the vital role of propaganda on the mindsets of the government and its landlord sympathizers. They felt particularly constrained by the fact that they had no worthy newspaper to effectively project their perspective in countering the Congress’ highly successful propaganda campaign. Hailey, therefore, encouraged J.P. Srivastava, Kanpur business magnate and loyalist politician, to acquire the Pioneer. This was done, but only in April 1932.76 As it happened, the countryside started to highly resent aman sabhas, perceiving them as intrusions by the Raj and its “lackeys” into the political arena over which the Congress claimed a monopoly. Organized to show solidarity with the sarkar, they acquired a sense of illegitimacy in nationalist discourse. This perception severely restricted their effectiveness. In the second phase of civil disobedience, the government realized that mere propaganda could not prevent serious erosion of its authority in rural areas. And so, it turned to other methods.

arrived in time, it intervened on the side of the landlord and arrested seven Congressmen, including the Agra Congress leader Jagan Prasad Rawat. See PAI, 24 May 1930, for details. A similar clash was reported from the estate of the Nawab of Chhatari when 100 Congress volunteers were challenged by the Chhatari karindas and forced to abandon their meeting. Two days later, when they returned to resume their efforts, the police was present to disperse them by force. See PAI, 31 May 1930. 76 For details, see Peter Reeves, Landlords and Governments in UP, Chapter V. In April 1932, Srivastava took over the daily newspaper and drew up a management scheme in close association with the two main landlord associations—the BIA (British India Association) and the UPZA (UP Zamindar Association)—which made large contributions to the paper. Such was the concern of the government that it directed Court of Wards officials to make subscriptions to the capital of the paper on behalf of the estates temporarily under their charge. And several estates did contribute large amounts; for instance, the Balrampur estate in Gonda contributed Rs 20,000. Questions were raised in the Legislative Council on whether the government was sure that these contributions “would prove to be a sound investment”. The officials responded that “the Court of Wards after consulting government decided that it was desirable for such estates to support a paper, one of the objects of which was to resist any encroachment on the rights and privileges of property holders”. The government claimed that “the contributions made by the estates was an investment for the general benefits of the class to which the Wards belong”. Statement by the Finance Member on 15 February 1934, UPLC 1934, Vol. 61, pp. 27–28, 80, IOL/V/9/1793.

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From the Gandhi–Irwin Pact to “No Rent” The Gandhi–Irwin Pact of 6 March 1931 marked the end of the first phase of the Civil Disobedience campaign. It did not, however, mark an end to challenges to colonial authority. Instead it provided an unprecedented avenue to Congressmen for attempts to seriously undermine the authority and prestige of the Raj by condemning the Pact merely as a “truce” and by taking up the cause of the worsening economic situation in the countryside. Indeed, the Pact led to a serious crisis of authority for the Raj, as it faced the threat of a widespread no-rent campaign, one that could potentially precipitate grave rural disorder.

Release of Prisoners: “Titles and Sanads” Under the terms of the Gandhi–Irwin Pact, the UP government granted general amnesty to political prisoners and released many Congressmen. The swiftness of these releases emphasized the government’s desire to honour the settlement. Within two weeks, more than 90 per cent prisoners were out of jail; by 23 March 1931, of the total 5,119 convicts, 4,644 had already been released. Some time was taken to examine the cases of the remaining 475 prisoners and under-trials but, in the following weeks, all but 37 prisoners were freed. Those still in jail were there because they were considered “unsuitable for release”, as they had allegedly indulged in acts of violence.77 In all, the government released 5,082 people from jail. The released prisoners came home to a hero’s welcome. 78 Local Congress committees garlanded them, took them out in processions, and feted them at large gatherings. In Meerut, several bazaars and ganjs were decorated with lights and buntings. A victory procession of the released prisoners through these areas culminated 77

Reply by the Home Member on 25 July 1931, UPLC 1931, Vol. 51, p. 490, IOL/ V/9/1783. 78 On the basis of extensive oral history interviews, Bipan Chandra writes that “the thousands who flocked out of the jails as a result of the Pact were treated as soldiers returning from a victorious battle”, in his India’s Struggle for Freedom, New Delhi, 1987, p. 282. For an opposing view, see Sumit Sarkar, “The Logic of Gandhian Nationalism: Civil Disobedience and the Gandhi–Irwin Pact, 1930–31”, Indian Historical Review, July 1976.

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in a public meeting, which proclaimed that Gandhi’s rule had now begun!79 In Mirzapur, at a meeting of over 8,000 peasants, Pandit Shyamlal Nehru awarded badges to the released prisoners for their “bravery”.80 In Jhansi, local Congressmen conferred the title of “Raja” on Sumer Singh, a Civil Disobedience convict.81 At the Kheri District Political Conference, Mrs Uma Nehru presented certificates to the released prisoners.82 In Agra, the Congress Seva Dal collected subscriptions to prepare sanads to honour the political prisoners. 83 In several other districts too, political prisoners received shawls, sanads, badges and certificates—mementoes of an indebted public. All this held profound implications for colonial authority. First, it demonstrated how ineffective colonial law had become in criminalizing political protest. Indeed, those it prosecuted as criminals were being publicly feted as heroes! Second, it endorsed the Congress’ skill at creating a civic ritual that could effectively turn colonial authority on its head.84 It also conveyed the powerful message that the Gandhi–Irwin Pact signified a “complete victory for the Congress and a surrender by the Raj”—an example almost of how the powerful Raj could be brought to its knees. Further, amid these troublesome perceptions, the Raj confronted another crisis of authority in the countryside. 85

Rent Remissions and the Politics of Assuagement The slump in agricultural prices during the global economic depression engendered a deep crisis that engulfed the UP countryside.86 The situation deteriorated to such an extent that it posed 79

PAI, 21 March 1931. PAI, 25 April 1931. 81 PAI, 21 March 1931. 82 PAI, 9 May 1931. 83 PAI, 20 June 1931. 84 B.S. Cohen, “Representing Authority in Victorian India”, in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds, The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge, 1983. 85 On this very widespread perception, see PAI, 14 March 1931 through 29 August 1931. For an account of the tensions between the Congress and the government after the Gandhi–Irwin Pact, see D.A. Low, “Peace with Conflict: The Gandhi– Emerson Talks, March–August 1931”, in The Imprint of Ambiguity: India and Britain in the 1930s. 86 On the overall context of the depression, see Dietmar Rothermund, India and the World Economic Depression, New Delhi, 1992. 80

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a threat to public order.87 This economic distress provided an opportunity for the Congress to initiate a no-rent campaign, yet again challenging colonial authority. The overall context of the agrarian crisis is now well documented.88 As the crisis hit the countryside, it closely tied in with fluctuations in agricultural prices and tenants’ ability to pay rents, which in turn affected the landlords’ ability to pay revenue. In 1928–29, when prices started to slide, the government allowed a remission of Rs 6 million—apart from other relief—to keep at bay serious rural unrest. Even so, the agrarian situation was under control till mid-1930, though prices continued to slide.89 Only in late 1930 did the real impact of falling prices hit the peasants. The resultant widespread rural distress attracted the sympathy of Congressmen. So, after focusing attention on the Gandhi–Irwin Pact, they started to agitate for large-scale remissions of rent.90 By late April 1931, the situation had gained serious proportions.91 Faced with relentless difficulties in collecting land revenue from landlords, district authorities were forced to employ coercive processes. It is reckoned that between January and July 1931, the government issued 3,452 writs of demand and 97,331 citations for revenue recovery; as many as 12,063 arrest warrants were issued against defaulters and 2,577 people 87

The Annual Administration Report of the Police for 1930 remarks that “... the instigation of the non payment of rent was fraught with the most dangerous possibilities as it enlisted the sympathy of the rural masses .... This was but to be expected when a large number of illiterate persons were enrolled for the express purpose of defying constituted authority...”, pp. 3–4. 88 See Peter Reeves, Landlords and Governments, Chapter 4. 89 Even in October 1930, the UP government noted that “revenue collections have been very satisfactory throughout the provinces, except in parts of the Meerut division...”. It, however, observed that “the continued low price of agricultural produce is a disquieting feature and may lead to difficulty in realising rents ...”, FR, October 1930 First Half. 90 It was reported that “tenants are being asked in a large number of districts to pay what they can and to ask Government to remit the balance... daily number of applications for remission before the DM of Farukkhabad has risen from 10 to 200 since Delhi settlement.” FR, April 1931 First Half. 91 “Reports from some districts show a disquieting and even alarming state of affairs. Landlords are finding it almost impossible to recover rents ... some districts report that it is becoming difficult to execute ordinary revenue processes. The trouble is not universal, and it is most strongly marked in districts where rentals are high and where accordingly Congress agitators have found the most promising field for their efforts ...”, FR, April 1931 Second Half.

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were actually arrested. The government also initiated processes against movable property: it issued 29,978 warrants of attachment; it actually attached 14,403 properties; and it undertook 383 sales of movable property. Sales, of course, were carried out in extreme cases; even so, for this purpose 230 warrants of attachment were issued and 203 actual attachments were made.92 These figures amply demonstrate the scale of the economic distress that stood poised to jeopardize the relationship between the Raj and its landlord collaborators. Taking the single instance of Gorakhpur district, the authorities used as many as 19,764 coercive processes to collect land revenue from zamindars. These included 292 writs, 16,168 citations, 474 arrest warrants and 2,830 attachment warrants. 93 Considering the seriousness of the position on the collection of land revenue from landlords, you can well imagine the gravity of the zamindars’ predicament in rent realization from tenants. Serious riots that ensued hint at the scale of the problem: between January and July 1931 alone, more than 75 “serious breaches of peace” were reported from UP.94 These occurred when the government was most anxious, in view of the recently concluded Gandhi–Irwin Pact, to exercise restraint and not placing the police freely at the landlords’ disposal for rent realization. Nonetheless, landlords made enormous demands for police assistance on the district authorities.95 The Raj was thus on the brink of acute rural disorder, which could embroil it endlessly in head-on encounters with impoverished peasants who had nothing to lose, as well as disgruntled landlords who begrudged lack of support in maintaining the land revenue system—the very foundation of the government. 92

Reply to starred question by C.Y. Chintamani on 15 December 1931 UPLC 1931, Vol. 52, pp. 109 and 218–21, IOL/V/9/1784. 93 Reply to starred question by Rai Rajeshwari Prasad on 6 December 1933, UPLC 1933, Vol. 60, p. 78, IOL/V/9/1792. 94 The largest breaches of peace took place in Allahabad (10) and Unnao (9), followed by Rae Bareli (8). 95 Such demands put local authorities in a dilemma. On the one hand, they could not refuse the landlords; on the other hand, generous police assistance to coerce tenants into paying rent could lead to serious breaches of the peace at a time when refusal to pay was widespread and Congress volunteers were keeping a close vigil on events. The Gandhi–Irwin Pact further complicated the situation. It emboldened Congress propaganda against non payment and conveyed the signal to tenants that it was unwise to pay as further remissions could be expected. Further, it tied the hands of local officials from taking a tough line, lest they be accused of a breach of the settlement.

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Rent realization in the aftermath of the Gandhi–Irwin Pact witnessed large-scale resistance. For instance, in an Allahabad village, tenants clashed with the policemen assisting zamindars in rent collection; they pursued and engaged in a firing combat with a sub-inspector, seven constables, the zamindar and his karindas.96 In Pratapgarh district, tenants assaulted Court of Ward officials when they tried to enforce revenue processes. In Gonda, three cases of assaults on zamindars were reported. In Balrampur, a large crowd attacked estate officials when they went to collect rent; the tenants proclaimed that they would not pay as this was Gandhi’s order.97 In Bara Banki, there were frequent “armed gatherings of tenants to overawe landlords or their agents”. In Rae Bareli, “revenue officials were threatened with opposition while executing legal processes”.98 These are just some of the several such examples. In overall terms, landlords regarded the situation as dangerous and sought police assistance regularly. In Etah district alone, in 1931, the police assisted rent realization in 686 cases. Similarly in Bara Banki, police assistance was given (under Section 12A of the Oudh Rent Act) in as many as 298 villages.99 In Mainpuri, in over 160 villages, the police assisted local zamindars to realize rents. Similar instances were reported in abundance from Bahraich, Gonda, Sultanpur, Allahabad and Meerut.100 To the government, it was “clear that the administration will, for some time to come, be faced with a most difficult problem if it is to be successful in preventing grave agrarian trouble”.101 It feared that the “danger of the present situation does not lie merely in the growing disinclination of tenants to pay rent, based on the admittedly unfavourable economic situation; there is every chance that 96 FR, April 1931 Second Half. Similarly in Bara Banki a Muslim zamindar “reported to have been a very harsh landlord” was murdered when he went out to collect rents from his paasi tenants. 97 FR, May 1931 Second Half. 98 FR, August 1931 First Half. In Gorakhpur a zamindar, who had made a complaint against some tenants for intimidation, was attacked when he was escorting the police party investigating the case. 99 Similar measures were reported in 43 villages in Pratapgarh and 24 villages in Rae Bareli. 100 Reply to starred question by C.Y. Chintamani on 15 December 1931, UPLC 1931, pp. 109 and 208–21, IOL/V/9/1784. 101 FR, April 1931 Second Half.

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it may develop into class warfare of an open and violent kind”.102 The real danger was that the government could be drawn into endless situations of public disorder and rioting while assisting zamindars in rent realization. Moreover, the Congress could use these instances to base its allegations of British oppression, as shown by the Congress enquiry report entitled Agrarian Distress in the UP. Published in September 1931, the report was replete with instances of local police assistance to zamindars precipitating violent clashes. Two such major situations were the Garhi Shahja riot in Agra and the Simaria clashes in Gonda.103 However, the government could not simply turn its back on the zamindars’ plight. If it did not adequately support the landlords in realizing rents, the consequent undermining of their position would directly affect official prestige itself. It simply could not contemplate a situation in which it would need to deal with widespread rural disorder. Recall how, in Chapter 2, we saw that the resources available to the Raj for maintaining public order in the countryside were rather limited; in the absence of a permanent police establishment in villages, the chaukidar and mukhia performed watch and ward functions but they could hardly act as buffers against serious disorder. Constrained structurally by these limitations, the Raj had limited alternatives to deal with the situation.104 The way out for the Raj was assuagement—the cornerstone being liberal rent remission—coupled with minimal force. Colonial officials realized that they could not resort to coercive methods, even on a minimal scale, without first making these.105 The ideologue here was Malcolm Hailey who was convinced, despite his prolandlord reputation, that rent remissions were the only way to defuse the agrarian crisis and break the nexus between the norent campaign and the Civil Disobedience movement. Hailey


FR, June 1931 Second Half. For details see, Agrarian Distress in the UP, pp. 206–25. 104 For the centrality of informal methods of control by landlords, see Anand A. Yang, The Limited Raj. 105 An official report observed: “It is clear that government can not proceed with confidence to apply pressure on tenants, or to combat this type of agitation, until it is satisfied that such reduction had been made in rentals as will justify the application of coercive methods.” FR, April 1931 Second Half. 103

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deployed all his resources to influence, coax, even browbeat the landlords into agreeing to generous rent remissions. In fasli 1338, corresponding to year 1930, Rs 7.54 million worth of rent remissions were granted. In addition, taccavi loans of Rs 6.8 million were advanced to tenants across UP.106 However, the major instalment of remissions was yet to come. In late April 1931, land revenue of Rs 6.8 million (over 18 per cent of the rabi revenue demand) was remitted, and the overall remission exceeded Rs 20 million. Certain districts, like Agra, Meerut and Allahabad that had recently been centres of intense Congress agitation, enjoyed special relief. The Congress, however, denounced these remissions too, as not far-reaching enough to really alleviate agrarian distress. Gandhi himself intervened and met Hailey to press for further remissions. Criticizing the UP government, he suggested a joint enquiry of officials and Congressmen in each district to determine the extent of rent remissions. Hailey, anxious not to share power with the Congress, avoided anything that could now have been represented as a “Gandhi–Hailey Pact” and rejected Gandhi’s demands on the ground that such enquiries would cause delays and administrative complications. Gandhi followed this up by issuing a “Manifesto to the Kisans of UP”, asking statutory tenants to pay no more than half, and occupancy tenants not more than three-fourths, of the rent, that too only on the condition that the landlord gave a receipt for the entire amount.107 Gandhi’s intervention gave the situation a whole new twist. Congress workers projected the proportions he set out as the maximum rent to be paid by tenants. The overall effect: large-scale attempts by tenants to withhold rent, in the expectation of further imminent remissions. The government’s desperate dilemma was articulated thus: If Government exerts pressure on behalf of landlords in collecting rent, we may have to face a general combination of tenants against landlords, with grave consequences not only to the peace of the province but to landlords themselves. If on the other hand support is not given to landlords, we may encourage a mentality on the part of tenants which may result in a spirit

106 107

UP Annual Administration Report for 1929–1930. Gandhi’s manifesto is reproduced in Agrarian Distress in the UP, pp. 226–32.

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of resistance against payment of rent which may persist even when prices improve.108 Not disheartened yet, Hailey pressed ahead with his assuagement policy and set up a “Rent and Revenue Committee” of members of the Legislative Council. Based on its findings, the government granted a further remission of Rs 42.6 million of rent and Rs 11.1 million for revenue for fasli 1339 in November 1931. Hailey was heartened by reports that “these generous remissions have had good effect and in many districts collection of the reduced rent and revenue have been made without difficulty or use of coercive process”.109 To counter Hailey’s measures to take the wind out of the sails of the no-rent slogan, the UP Congress resolved to launch a norent campaign in Rae Bareli, Unnao, Kanpur and Etawah. They concentrated efforts in Allahabad, followed by Rae Bareli where local Congressmen were already in a confrontationist mode.110 Intelligence reports warned of Congress plans of extending the movement to another 10 districts.111 To these moves, Hailey responded with the Big Stick! Within four weeks of the generous rent remissions came custom-made ordinances to effectively stamp out the no-rent agitation.112 Hailey was convinced that the time was ripe for strong measures. On 14 December 1931, the government took on the UP Emergency Powers’ Ordinance XII of 1931, empowering officials to “provide against instigation to the illegal refusal of the payment of certain liabilities”. As to be expected, these measures were criticized in the Legislative Council and elsewhere. Liberal leader C.Y. Chintamani denounced them as “tantamount to the introduction in the UP of 108

FR, June 1931 First Half. UP Annual Administration Report for 1931–32, p. xiv. 110 The course of the no-rent campaign has already been studied in detail by Pandey in Congress Ascendancy in Uttar Pradesh; our concern is limited to the methods used by the Raj in dealing with it. 111 The chief secretary summed up the mood in the province: “Almost everywhere there is a feeling of expectancy and a desire on the tenants’ part till it is known for certain whether anymore remissions are to be given and whether Congress will really start a successful no rent campaign.” 112 The nature and effects of these ordinances are discussed elsewhere in this chapter. 109

“Civil Disobedience” and “Civil Martial Law” in Uttar Pradesh 191

martial law sans name”. Characterizing the ordinances as a “naked sword in the hands of local authorities”, he accused the government of precipitating matters by trying to “create extraordinary conditions by the application of extraordinary laws”. Defending the government, E.A.H. Blunt, the finance member, declared that “the position of the tenantry (sic) at present is as inflammable as petrol, and those preachers of the no-rent campaign, most of whom are irresponsible people are igniting this inflammable stuff”. Under such conditions, ordinary law was quite inadequate. “Trying to stop the no-rent campaign by means of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code”, declared Blunt, “was like trying to put out a burning house with a bottle of soda water”.113 Ordinances were first proclaimed in nine districts—Farrukhabad, Etawah, Kanpur, Allahabad, Unnao, Rae Bareli, Pratapgarh, Sultanpur and Bara Banki—but applied intensively only in Allahabad and Kanpur. In Allahabad, tehsildars had orders to collect rents directly from tenants if zamindars reported difficulties in doing so. To ensure peaceful collections, the district magistrate demanded “a considerable force of additional police to support the subordinate revenue officials in order to carry through the collection of rent and revenue”.114 District Congress leaders found their movements restricted. Nehru was served with an order confining him to the municipal limits of Allahabad to prevent him from visiting rural areas. When Nehru defied this order, he was sentenced to two years’ rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 500.115 Congress offices in Allahabad were searched and any propaganda material seized. Bus owners were warned against carrying Congress emissaries out. Zamindars, lambardars and mukhias were directed to take strong measures against tenants refusing to pay. In Kanpur, detachments of police units prevented meetings, curbed the dissemination of leaflets, and stopped millworkers from returning to their villages outside Kanpur, where


“Debate on motion on UP Emergency Powers Ordinance”, 15 December 1931, UPLC 1931, Vol. 52, pp. 202–12, IOL/V/9/1784. 114 FR, December 1931 Second Half. 115 Other prominent Allahabad Congressmen also rounded up under the no-rent ordinance were Purshotamdas Tandon, Krishna Kant Malaviya, T.A.K. Sherwani, R.S. Pandit and Venkatesh Narayan Tiwari.

192 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

they could potentially foster agrarian discontent.116 In the other districts, preventive action mainly comprised arrests of local Congress agitators. By early January 1932, satisfied that the no-rent ordinance had worked well,117 the government claimed that the ordinance had “strengthened the hands of local authorities and given heart to the more proud ones among the zamindars”.118 Indeed, the ordinance’s effect was mainly psychological. Its promulgation bolstered the morale of local officials, and reassured zamindars that they would be supported in realizing rents. The Raj wanted them to realize that it meant business. Also, while it would remove Congress agitators from the scene, the onus for collecting rents was on the zamindars. The idea was not to confront tenants directly, but mobilize zamindars to defend their “rights” and preserve the land revenue system upon which the Raj and its rural allies depended. District magistrates were instructed to hold meetings in all the towns and bazaars in their area and encourage zamindars to unite against the no-rent campaign. The results were to the government’s satisfaction, what with rent and revenue collections improving considerably in nearly all districts—except Allahabad and Fatehpur—by end-1931; three tehsils in Allahabad and one in Fatehpur were reportedly still Congress’ hold. By late February 1932, these districts also reported a marked improvement.119 By late April 1932, when the government analysed the results of its seasonal collections, it found that collections had been more than satisfactory, given the adverse agrarian conditions. In about three-fourths of the province over 95 per cent of the demand was collected before March 31st and since that date a 116

FR, December 1931 Second Half. An official report observed: “The early promulgation of the Ordinance seems to have taken the Congress leaders by surprise. Apparently they expected several weeks of grace in which to mature their plans and to extend their organisation. The results of the no rent campaign to them have been disappointing.” FR, January 1932 First Half. 118 Ibid. 119 It was observed that “it has been possible for the district magistrate of Allahabad to report that he believes that they have turned a corner in that district too”, FR, February 1932 Second Half. 117

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good deal more has come in. It is noteworthy that in most of the districts specially marked down by the Congress for action in the no-rent campaign particularly good results have been obtained, which is perhaps the best proof of the failure of the no-rent campaign.120 So, within three months, Hailey was quite successful in stamping out all serious threats to public order in the countryside. Yet, despite this remarkable success, he sustained the policy of remissions, though with a shift in emphasis. While negotiating rent remissions, he had driven hard bargains with the Raj’s traditional landlord supporters, and some of them were rather perturbed by his firm position.121 When he felt confident about the situation, he decided to assuage landlord sentiments too. In granting remissions for fasli 1340, he reduced the scale by about Rs 2.3–3.4 million, while continuing remission of land revenue on the same level as fasli 1339. Earlier in the year, he had rejected two resolutions in the Legislative Council demanding that remission of land revenue be proportionate to that of rents. Had these resolutions been implemented, the remission would have stood at Rs 17.2 million, not Rs 11.3 million! As far as Hailey was concerned, the worst was over. Prices were recovering, the threat of no-rent had been dealt with, the Congress campaign had been contained, and all was quiet on the public order front. He still pressed forward with remissions on the same scale. For the next year, fasli 1341, he ensured that remissions of both rent and revenue continued on the same scale as in the past two years—at Rs 40.7 million and Rs 11.3 million, respectively. His adroit understanding of UP’s complex agrarian society convinced Hailey that “there are two elements in the contentment of tenants; legal stability of tenures, and suitability of rental conditions”.122 It was “clear that prices will not recover with any rapidity, 120

FR, April 1832 Second Half. Peter Reeves writes that so strong were the landlords’ feelings on this issue that they were prepared to go to any extent against the government; this was demonstrated in late 1932 when landlords in the Legislative Council defeated the motion extending emergency ordinances and the measure had to be certified by the governor; see Reeves, Landlords and Governments, Chapter 4. 122 “Note by W.M. Hailey dated 1 August 1932 on a memo prepared by the Nawab of Chhatari (Home Member) on 24 June 1932”, in British Indian Association Papers, NMML. 121

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and we shall have to continue to repeat the process (of remissions) year by year”. His problem in recent months had been precisely that “rents had risen by over 50 per cent in the last 30 years and when there was a sudden and catastrophic fall, there was no machinery to adjust them”. He spotted a remedy in the “early creation of local machinery by which rents can be rapidly adjusted ... to meet wide variations of prices” on a permanent basis.123 He also ensured that several new acts were drafted: UP Court of Wards Amendments Acts, UP Agriculturists Relief Bill, UP Land Alienation Bill, and UP Encumbered Estates bill. These attempts sought a solution to the hopelessly complicated land revenue system of the province, and aimed at preventing the recurrence of a situation where the Raj could be threatened with serious agrarian disorder. At this stage, it may be appropriate to analyse the concrete results of Hailey’s policy of assuagement. In 1930–31, coercive processes instituted by landlords against tenants had increased from 219,481 in 1928–29 to 256,284 in 1931–31. By 1932–33, they began to decline, going down to 243,000 but returning to their usual level of 217,000 by the following year. Applications for relinquishment of holdings had increased by 199 per cent between 1928–29 and 1932–33; suits for rent arrears had risen by 31.5 per cent between 1928–29 and 1930–31; and applications for ejections had gone up by 34.29 per cent between 1929–30 and 1931–32. By 1932–33, all these coercive processes had returned to their usual levels.124 However, the most serious problem that threatened to erupt into agrarian riots was the issue of ejectment of tenants by landlords. These could disrupt landlord–tenant relations on an enormous scale, leading inevitably to serious agrarian riots. The scale can be illustrated through examples from a few districts; in just three years between 1929 and 1932, Allahabad saw as many as 9,403 ejectments; Gorakhpur, 4,601; Unnao, 8,573; Etawah 8,127 and Kanpur, 8,120.125 Pandey observes that “the attempt to force the collection of dues from men who were in no position to pay,


Ibid. Based on statistics from UP Annual Administration Reports for 1928–34. 125 Reply to starred question by Thakur Ram Pal Singh on 28 June 1933, UPLC 1933, Vol. 59, pp. 78–83 and 146, IOL/V/9/1791. 124

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and eject them from their lands as the penalty for non payment, created almost an insurrectionary situation in the Rae Bareilley countryside”.126 Through his effective policy of rent remissions, Hailey succeeded in spiking the guns of Congressmen who championed the cause of the no-rent campaign. His objective had been “to prevent the whole agrarian edifice from being lit in a conflagration”. This had been more than met.

Reasserting Authority: “Civil Martial Law” While rent remissions prevented the no-rent campaign from gaining ground, they did little to reassert the Raj’s authority, which had been seriously maligned through 1930–31. Low suggests that by autumn 1931, colonial officials had mutually agreed that, in the event of renewed Civil Disobedience, they needed a package to pre-empt, indeed thwart, another Congress campaign.127 The series of measures thus put together has been aptly described as a regime of “Civil Martial Law”. The regime introduced by the ordinances of this Civil Martial Law package was extraordinary. It declared the Congress and its associated bodies unlawful on the ground that they encouraged “acts of violence and intimidation”. Anybody who became “a member, took part in its meetings, made or received contributions for it or assisted its activities in any way was liable to six months’ punishment with a fine.” Those found guilty of managing or promoting its activities were liable to a three-year sentence. A Special Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1932 further reinforced these powers; the government could take possession of premises used for Congress activities and confiscate movable property and funds.128 Moreover, the 1932 ordinances addressed specific challenges of the type witnessed in the recent past, such as boycott of


Pandey, Congress Ascendancy in Uttar Pradesh, p. 180. Low, “Civil Martial Law”. 128 One of the limitations of the 1908 law of unlawful associations had been that, while it gave powers to ban the association and prosecute its members, it did not permit the authorities to seize buildings, property and funds. The 1932 amendment was designed to rectify this. 127

196 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

public servants and intimidation.129 The ordinances also imparted wide powers of preventive detention to the authorities.130 Ordinance No. 2 of 1932 empowered the police to arrest people “about to act in a manner prejudicial to the public safety or peace”. People could be arrested without warrant, confined to particular areas, kept out of certain localities, ordered to conduct themselves in a certain fashion or asked to abstain from certain activities— whatever the local officials desired. Not only this, the ordinance allowed for taking control over buildings, limiting access to places or public buildings, prohibiting or regulating traffic, controlling the supply of commodities of daily use, seizing movable property, confiscating arms and ammunition, deploying additional police and making it binding on landlords and village officials to aid the “restoration and maintenance of law and order and in the protection of property in the possession or control of Government”. This ordinance set up special judicial machinery for speedy trials and imposed penalties for tampering with the loyalty of public servants, dissuading candidates from entering police or military service, and disseminating false rumours or contents of proscribed books. It allowed the police to impose collective fines on residents of areas where turbulences occurred. Designed primarily to deal with the no-rent campaign, Ordinance 3 conferred powers against “instigation to the illegal refusal of the payment of certain liabilities”. Ordinance 4 reinforced the provisions of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908, conferring powers to confiscate movable and immovable property and funds of associations declared illegal. And finally, the “Prevention 129

A Collection of the Acts of the Indian Legislature and of the Governor General for the Year 1932, Calcutta, 1933. 130 Preventive detention as a feature of Indian jurisprudence evolved mainly due to the British need to short-circuit legal procedures during moments of “crisis” such as World War I, followed by the 1930–32 Congress campaign and finally World War II. According to S.K. Ghosh, preventive detention implies “detention of a person by executive order with a view to preventing him from endangering security of the state, disturbing maintenance of public order or essential supplies and services, or adversely affecting other, specified objects of public interest. Such detention is generally without a regular trial in a court of law either initially or on appeal”. S.K. Ghosh, The Law of Preventive Detention in India, Bombay, 1969 p. vii. David Bayley defines preventive detention in the Indian context simply as “detention without trial and upon the subjective satisfaction of the government”. David H. Bayley, Preventive Detention in India: A Case Study in Democratic SelfControl, Calcutta, 1962.

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of Molesting and Boycotting Ordinance 1932” (Ordinance 5) gave comprehensive powers for dealing with the weapon of boycott— both of people and commodities. It went into specific features of boycotts noticed in the recent campaign; among other things, it prohibited mock funeral ceremonies,131 popularly known as siapas, which had proved to be effective weapons of social ostracism against traders who refused to follow the Congress diktat of boycotting foreign cloth.132 In late 1931, armed with this package of laws and quasi-laws, the government was ready to deal with the twin challenges it faced: the no-rent campaign and the Civil Disobedience campaign. Its foremost priority was to deal with the no-rent campaign; between January 1932 and May 1933, it convicted 3,441 people under the newly enacted UP Emergency Powers Ordinance. These arrests successfully pre-empted the spread of the no-rent campaign. Largescale arrests and convictions also helped stamp out the challenge of civil disobedience. Within the first six weeks of the campaign’s renewal, as many as 6,960 people were arrested. Contrast this to the minimal action taken during the 1930 campaign, when the number of arrests in the first six weeks was less than 5 per cent of the convictions made in the entire campaign. This time around, arrests in the corresponding six weeks exceeded almost 47 per cent of the total. Pre-emptive action indeed became the government’s watchword.133 There was no let-up by the authorities despite the large number of pre-emptive arrests. They kept up the pressure and, by 15 May 1932, the number had reached 8,250. 134 Between May and 131

“East India (Emergency Measures) Action taken to counteract the Civil Disobedience Movement” Parliamentary Papers 1932 Cmd. 4147. 132 They were a particularly effective way of bringing those reluctant to obey under the control of the larger community. A typical siapa involved a team of volunteers going to the house of the person being boycotted and vulgarly howling outside his house and “performing” mock Hindus death rituals. This instantly led to a spectacle, bringing social pressure upon the person; at the same time it outraged the women of the household who regarded such acts as extremely inauspicious. 133 Of those sentenced to jail in early 1932, 2,502 were convicted under the Emergency Powers Ordinances and 4,458 under the ordinary law. Reply to starred ques-tion by C.Y. Chintamani, on 15 March 1932, UPLC 1932, Vol. 54, p. 441, IOL/ V/9/1786. 134 Reply to starred question by K.B. Hafiz Hidayat Hussain on 15 June 1932, UPLC 1932, Vol. 55, p.184, IOL/V/9/1787.

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September 1932, relentless apprehension of “political prisoners” was averaging 607 people every month. The policy was relaxed only in the last quarter of 1932. Overall, between January 1932 and May 1933, the total number of convictions in UP for “political offences” under both ordinary and special laws had reached the staggeringly high figure of 14,787 people. Convictions on such a scale could only be carried out within the new punitive framework that the colonial state had created especially to quash challenges to its authority. This was almost essential, as ordinary law was hardly effective against the loaded symbolism of the Civil Disobedience campaign. Unable to criminalize political protest under ordinary law, the government was forced to rely increasingly on extraordinary legal powers. Even during the later phase of the first Civil Disobedience campaign, it enacted special ordinances. When Civil Disobedience threatened a re-run, the authorities relied heavily upon the extraordinary powers that the ordinances made available. Conviction statistics bear this out. Between January 1932 and December 1933, 15,134 people were prosecuted across UP. Of these, only 22 per cent were prosecuted under the ordinary sections of the Indian Penal Code and the CrPC. As many as 46.6 per cent were prosecuted under the provisions of the Criminal Law Amendment Acts of 1908 and 1932. In addition, 28.3 per cent of the prosecutions took place under the ordinances.135 The fact that such a high number of prosecutions was made under these special provisions demonstrates that the law could not be used in an “efficient and neutral way” (as Benn had intended) but had indeed become a weapon in the campaign against the Congress. So, arrests of political opponents constituted the most important element of the Civil Martial Law package. Let us consider the other elements too. One of the most tangible symbols of the Raj’s reassertion of power was the seizing of public spaces traditionally associated with the Congress. In 1932, one of the main symbolic acts of the local authorities was to occupy these spaces physically, by positioning either a military detachment or a temporary police outpost. Towns that did not have public Congress activities had come to be associated with particular symbolic spaces, which too 135

Based on calculations from Fortnightly Reports for January 1932 to December 1933.

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were taken over by the police. In several places, these comprised Congress offices or chhaonis (camps). For instance, in Khurja and Bulandshahr, the Congress’ offices were not only seized but converted into temporary police outposts for three months. What’s more, the government levied a punitive tax on particular localities or villages to pay for the additional police deployed there! Between 1930 and 1933, additional policemen were posted at 46 places in UP to deal with the Civil Disobedience campaign; to defray the cost, a punitive tax of Rs 107,309 was imposed.136 The locals particularly resented this imposition. Those liable found it particularly objectionable for being singled out for this special treatment and, moreover, having to put up with a temporary police outpost for several months. Another important element in the overall strategy of colonial control was the dispersal of collective assemblies through force. Local authorities frequently used the enormous powers available to them under criminal law. Between 1930 and 1932, these powers were used extensively to prohibit and disperse collective assemblies. According to official statistics, 537 specific meetings and processions were banned between April 1930 and March 1933 under Section 144 of the CrPC in connection with the Civil Disobedience campaign.137 Over 40 orders of a “general nature” prohibiting all assemblies and processions for varying periods were promulgated. Of the 537 occasions, the government acknowledged using force on at least on 219 assemblies, processions, or meetings. On 16 occasions, the police or the army had to open fire, killing 25 people and injuring at least 98.138 Firing was an extreme method; the more common was lathi charge. Though the number of such lathi charges must have been fairly large, unfortunately, no statistics are available. 136

Some of the statistics presented here cover the entire period of 1930–33 rather than specific phases of the Civil Disobedience campaign. This is due to the manner in which official statistics were compiled. From other accounts we are able to get a differentiated picture of the changing nature of the campaign, as also official responses to it. 137 Reply to starred question by Thakur Rampal Singh on 28 June 1933, UPLC 1933, Vol. 59, pp. 149–50, IOL/V/9/1791. 138 Five of these firings took place in Allahabad alone and one each in Lucknow and Banaras cities, in addition to one each in Partabgarh, Hardoi, Etawah, Farukkhabad, Etah, Mainpuri, Bulandshahr, Budaun and Meerut districts.

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Official statistics as these are, they must be treated with a degree of caution; encounters between collective assemblies and the police were far more numerous than was officially acknowledged. Smaller meetings and processions were endemic, usually organized spontaneously by enthusiastic volunteers in villages and towns where police presence was either negligible or absent. Without the system of licensing/prohibition of collective assemblies in rural areas, only armed police could exercise any control. Collective assemblies in villages thus lay outside the system of crowd control and “riot-proofing” which characterized the urban environment. Another element of Civil Martial Law was the police’s power to seize Congress property and funds. During the first Civil Disobedience campaign, the law constrained the Raj from doing so. However, in 1932, the government’s assault on the Congress was particularly potent; now it could attack the Congress’ movable and immovable properties. In Meerut, seven Congress buildings were seized; in Rae Bareli, 18 Congress offices along with property were confiscated and three “Congress platforms” were demolished; in Agra, eight buildings were acquired; and in Sitapur, 15 offices were seized. Even in far-flung villages like Khudaganj and Ibrahimpur in Shahjahanpur, Congress “offices” were taken over. In major cities such as Kanpur, Lucknow, Banaras and Allahabad, all Congress offices and relevant buildings were seized, along with movable properties. In all, the government acknowledged that it had taken possession of 179 buildings in the province because they functioned as offices for the Congress and its local committees. 139 The authorities also attacked the properties of several “paraCongress” organizations, such as Prem Mahavidyalaya in Bulandshahr.140 In January 1932, local authorities seized its large estate, because the government hoped in this way to nip in the bud a major Congress cadre-building centre in western UP. Several other 139

Statement by the Finance Member, E.A.H. Blunt, on 28 June 1933, UPLC 1933, Vol. 59, p. 78, IOL/V/9/1791. 140 It had ostensibly been set up to promote primary and technical education but was reportedly used as a training ground for Congress cadres. The authorities alleged that since 1929 the school had been used largely for “political purposes and for disseminating objectionable propaganda”. In 1930 its principal and a number of students were convicted for participating in the Civil Disobedience campaign, but the institution itself had not been suppressed. However, in 1932 the government was determined to suppress it.

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institutions, suspected of aiding and abetting Congress activities, faced similar action. In Kashipur, the local Prem Sabha Library was seized on the suspicion that the town Congress committee used its premises and that the Library’s holdings included many “seditious” books.141 Similar was the fate of the Tilak Library in Sidhauli, which the tehsil Congress committee did use as an office.142 On a seizure rampage almost, authorities took over a dharamshala and one ashram in Etawah, two ashrams in Mathura, the khadi bhandar and Bhartiya Vidyalaya in Kanpur, the Gandhi Sewa Ashram in Bijnore, and two ashrams in Faizabad, three in Etah and one in Hamirpur . On a final count, the government conceded that it had seized 11 ashrams, two hospitals and three bhandars on the suspicion that they had aided the Congress’ anti-colonial efforts. However, in several instances, the police did not need to actually seize a building to prevent the Congress using it. It could resort to informal control alternatives, such as exerting pressure on the owners not to let out their premises to Congressmen.143 Such methods worked very often, given the enormous powers the authorities had to persuade (or bully!) local residents. As a result, it became extremely tough for Congressmen to find suitable accommodation in most cities and towns, which is why homes of local Congressmen usually provided office spaces too. Logically then, house searches of Congressmen and sympathizers constituted another important element of the civil martial law package. Although they were part of regular anti-Congress police methods, only during 1932 were they conducted on such a wide scale. As many as 1,265 premises were searched; only in 633 did the police recover any “objectionable matter”. 144 Often all that they yielded were some “seditious” books, stray Congress flags 141

Congressmen complained that the police seized 1,525 books and all the furniture and forcibly closed down the library. 142 In Tanakpur the local authorities took into possession the Rashtriya Aushadhalaya which, local Congressmen claimed, was the only dispensary in the area. Its stocks of medicine were seized. 143 In Allahabad, for instance, local authorities pressured house-owners to evict their tenants if their premises were being used for Congress activities and in future not to take persons who might “misuse” their premises for Congress work. 144 Reply to starred question by Thakur Rampal Singh on 28 June 1933, UPLC 1933, Vol. 59, pp. 78–79, IOL/V/9/1791.

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and Gandhi caps but then that was not what the authorities were looking for anyway. Their main aim was to pressurize the family elders into “restraining” the young in the house. Indeed, such searches caused much harassment to family members of the “suspect”.145 In several cases, houses where seizures had been made were locked up, and the residents evicted during the ensuing, often lengthy, investigations.146 The ordinances were not particularly effective in the seizure of Congress funds. Since 1930, the government had anxiously attempted to deprive the Congress of funds, which it suspected, were channelled into the Civil Disobedience campaign and the maintenance of a cadre of “hired” volunteers. So, the ordinances were fleshed out with provisions designed to confiscate party funds. These were not quite as effective, for Congressmen had perfected a system of transferring funds to evade seizure. Funds in each district were probably managed by a small coterie, working closely with one or two sympathizers within the mercantile community. In most cases, funds were deposited with leading traders for safekeeping via the traditional parta system of bookkeeping; this rendered it near impossible for the police to attribute the money to the Congress. Often bereft of definite evidence, the police mounted futile searches at shops of traders and banias; in the process, it frequently exposed itself to allegations of high-handedness. 147 Here it may help to return to the overall number of people convicted in connection with the Civil Disobedience campaigns during 1930–32. The UP government acknowledged that between 1930 and March 1933, it convicted 25,523 people (Table 4.1).148 145

Often searches were conducted at midnight; entry of policemen into the household was regarded as a matter of shame by elders, specially since it involved trespass by the police into the inner quarters occupied by the women folk. 146 For instance, in Nainital district many houses at Manjhera, Nainital and Haldwani were locked up by the police. 147 A large number of complaints came from Banaras and Kanpur about inquisitorial harassment of traders by the police. It was alleged, for instance, that police removed Rs 1,166 from the shop of Lala Battoo Lal of Ramnagar and another Rs 400 from that of Lala Bhagga Mal Babu Ram of Haldwani on the grounds that the money belonged to the Congress. 148 There were wide variations within the province in the number of convictions. In the first phase of the campaign between March and May 1930, the leading districts were Rae Bareli, Lucknow, Meerut, Banaras, Bijnore, Allahabad and Agra. Some of these districts maintained their lead, but as the campaign unfolded a

“Civil Disobedience” and “Civil Martial Law” in Uttar Pradesh 203 Table 4.1 Political Convictions in Uttar Pradesh between 1930 to March 1933 MEERUT Dehra Dun Saharanpur Muzaffarnagar Meerut Bulandshahr

169 527 398 1,199 413

AGRA Aligarh Mathura Agra Mainpuri Etah

884 600 1,039 259 776

ROHILKHAND Barelli Bijnor Budaun Moradabad Shahjahanpur Pilibhit ALLAHABAD Farukkhabad Etawah Kanpur Fatehpur Allahabad JHANSI Jhansi Jalaun Hamirpur Banda

140 315 233 491 110 180 1,066 346 3,034 711 2,488 266 54 587 187

BANARAS Banaras Mirzapur Jaunpur Ghazipur Ballia

1,309 173 130 632 321

GORAKHPUR Gorakhpur Basti Azamgarh

903 75 91

KUMAON Naini Tal Almora Garhwal

473 177 155



LUCKNOW Lucknow Unnao Rae Bareli Sitapur Hardoi Kheri

1,498 389 733 287 384 119

FAIZABAD Faizabad Gonda Bahraich Sultanpur Partabgarh Bara Banki

180 188 190 94 353 195





Source: Reply to starred question by Thakur Ramapal Singh on 28 June 1933 in UPLC 1933, Vol. 59, IOL/V/9/l791. number of new districts, which had been quiet in the initial stages, contributed to prison-going. For instance, Unnao which had been quiet during the first campaign saw a large number of convictions in 1932. So did Gorakhpur, Fatehpur and Pratapgarh. Between January 1932 and March 1933, the number of prisoners convicted from Gorakhpur district alone was 816. In the second Civil Disobedience campaign, the districts which saw the largest number of convictions were Kanpur at 3,034, followed by 2,488 from Allahabad, and then Lucknow and Banaras at 1,498 and 1,309 respectively. Meerut sent 1,199 volunteers, closely followed by

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Remember that this statistic relates only to those arrested, tried and convicted to a jail sentence (mostly coupled with a fine). The number of actual arrests was much larger. We know from a range of sources that during the first campaign in 1930–31, the government’s policy had been not to convict Congress volunteers on a large scale. Most district officials arrested only the “trouble makers”, physically removing the rest of those who were apprehended. It sent for trial only those regarded as “incendiaries”.149 There is evidence to suggest that the number of people who were arrested (or who “volunteered”) during the 1930–31 campaign was much higher than is revealed by official figures. Thus, it may perhaps be fair estimate that, for every single person sent for trial, at least one was released without trial in the first phase of the campaign between April 1930 and March 1931. In late 1931, this policy was reversed; those arrested were invariably tried. Once the police took the decision to commit a person to trial, the magistrates usually followed suit. The notoriously high rate of conviction (96.5 per cent) illustrates this; of the 25,523 people convicted between 1930 and 1933, only 907 were acquitted.150 Those convicted usually paid a fine in addition to serving a jail sentence. The total fines imposed on political convicts amounted to Rs 687,554 during 1930–32. However, the number of people who were made to pay this is not known. Evidence suggests that these numbers were quite high, as illustrated by the example of Gorakhpur district where over 190 people were fined amounts exceeding Rs 200 each.151 Many more people were made to pay

Agra at 1,039. The districts where the least number of political prosecutions took place were Etawah, Jalaun, Basti and Badaun. In overall terms, out of the 25,523 persons jailed in UP between January 1930 and March 1933, 20,913 came from the province of Agra and 2,488 came from Awadh. Table 4.1 shows the considerable variation in Congress support in various parts of the province, Reply to starred question by Thakur Ramapal Singh on 28 June 1933, UPLC 1933, 59, pp. 144–45, IOL/V/9/1791. 149 The government claimed that it did not have the statistics of the total number of persons arrested and the number of those released without trial. 150 Calculated from statistics provided by the Finance Member on 26 June 1933, UPLC 1933, Vol. 59, pp. 78–83, IOL/V/9/1791. 151 Reply to starred question by Rai Rajeshwar Bali on 5 November 1932, UPLC 1932, Vol. 56, pp. 308–9, IOL/V/9/1788.

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smaller amounts, but precise figures are not available.152 Of the total fines imposed, however, only Rs 189,396 (27.5 per cent) could be realized. This low level of realization is not surprising, since many of those sentenced to pay were poor and unable to pay. Moreover, it was the Congress’ declared policy that those convicted should not pay any fines; instead, they should undergo an additional term in prison in lieu of their fine.153 In many instances, the police encountered resistance to fine realization. In 6,865 cases, fines could be realized only after the attachment of movable property.154 There were more beyond jail sentences and fines. Several young “civil disobedients” were sentenced to whipping. In fact, outmoded as a punishment by the 1930s, whipping was reserved for young offenders accused of immoral conduct. Some officials thought it a particularly effective method of dealing with “juvenile offenders”; it was a “lenient” way of dealing with young boys and certainly a better alternative to sending them to jail where they would get “hardened” in the company of older inmates. In any case, there weren’t enough reformatories to send them to. Reportedly 96 boys under 16 years were sentenced to whipping. In addition, 402 boys under 16 were also sentenced to prison terms. According to official statistics, 180 people were sentenced to whipping, ranging from five to 30 stripes. The government justified the action of its officials on the ground that the victims were “all persons of ordinary position, most of them being illiterate”.155 Within the four walls of the prison, prison authorities could whip “troublesome” prisoners. Jail authorities acknowledged that 89 “political prisoners” were whipped for flouting “jail discipline”. Note that this was a small fraction of the 25,000-plus people jailed in this period. Whipping illustrated the harshness of jail regimes for the overwhelming majority of prisoners categorized into “B” and “C” classes. But it was an extreme method, and those that 152

From the names of those upon whom these fines were imposed, it is clear that most belonged to poor, low caste groups for whom the fines must have represented large sums of money. The highest amount imposed on a single individual in the entire provinces was Rs 3,210. 153 All front-rank Congress leaders followed this guideline by spending extra time in jail. 154 In eight cases, houses or properties had to be attached to realise fines and 45 persons had to be declared absconders for evading payment. 155 Statement by E.A.H. Blunt, the Finance Member, on 28 June 1933, UPLC 1933, Vol. 59, IOL/V/9/1791.

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resisted the harsh jail regimes were otherwise punished with methods including extra labour, solitary confinement and ration curtailment. The scale of resistance put up by political prisoners is evident from the high number of hunger strikes in jails; as many as 2,144 were reported between 1932 and March 1933 alone in jails across UP. While jail terms steeled many enthusiastic young men into becoming committed Congress volunteers, it also broke the nerves of many other political prisoners. Owing to scarcity of prison accommodation, the authorities willingly offered the option of release to the convicts if they “apologized” and prayed for a pardon. Leading Congressmen in jails took it upon themselves to boost the morale of Congress inmates and ensure that no black sheep appeared within their ranks to apply for such a pardon. There were some, however, who could not tolerate prison conditions or were forced by pressing personal circumstances to apply for early release. As such, 1,638 political prisoners tendered “apologies” and attained freedom before their sentences expired. But this was barely 6.4 per cent of the total number jailed between 1930 and March 1933. Congress leaders were obviously successful in ensuring discipline in their ranks even within jail. Through these several methods, the Raj succeeded in effectively stamping out the challenges of the no-rent campaign particularly, and Civil Disobedience generally. By late 1932, it was confident that it had reasserted its sway. In fact, it started to release some political prisoners.

Conclusion By end 1932, the colonial state had successfully reasserted its power by effectively dealing with what many officials regarded as the greatest challenge to the Raj since 1857. Its policy of assuagement manifested in generous rent remissions was effective in preventing serious agrarian unrest. Large-scale arrests and convictions, clamping down on the press, attacks on Congress properties, police assistance to zamindars for rent realization—all reaffirmed the strength of the Raj and its institutions. However, the Raj could reassert its sway only by taking recourse to extraordinary, even draconian, measures. When faced with symbolic challenges, its

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responses were quite blunt indeed. It could not cope with widespread, ritualized forms of protest that struck not at its power but at its authority. As the Civil Disobedience campaign unfolded, the government was increasingly forced to depend upon extraordinary measures provided by the ordinances to restore its authority. Liberal hopes of containing the campaign through ordinary law soon vanished; indeed, the law could no longer remain a neutral arena when dealing with the Congress. The government’s attempts to criminalize political prisoners were rendered ineffective, for those it designated “criminals”, the public feted as heroes! In such a scenario, continued use of criminal law could undermine respect for the legal system itself. So, colonial officials instead acquired special powers through ordinances to contain the mass movement. Evolving a new punitive framework to deal with the political agitation, however, entailed certain costs. Trials and prosecutions against Congress volunteers were no longer seen as attempts to maintain law and order but as part of a larger, pernicious attempt to uphold the power of the Raj in a coercive manner. Similarly, popular attitudes to jail-going for political activities were altered. Before World War I, going to jail or even to the police station was regarded as an act of shame beyond the sensibilities of decent people, akin almost to the loss of caste for Hindus. This view was not just a middle-class perception, but also held in the countryside where village elders regarded inquisitorial police visits as a collective embarrassment. By the 1930s, these attitudes were changing. Nationalist discourse now represented jail-going in metaphors of pilgrimage, sacred duty, indeed sacrifice. That these metaphors powerfully influenced popular attitudes is clear from the fact that over 25,000 convictions took place between 1930 and 1933. Clearly, jail-going as a form of punishment was no more a deterrent. That these attitudes gained further strength in the 1930s is confirmed by the even higher numbers of conviction during the “Individual Civil Disobedience” campaign in 1940–41.156 The Raj’s triumph in reasserting its power had come at a considerable cost— the erosion of its authority. 156

The view that “Individual satyagrah” was a damp squib needs to be revised. Evidence suggests that in UP the number of convictions during the satyagraha were an all-time high, more than the persons arrested during the Civil Disobedience campaign, as Chapter 6 in this volume, shows.


The Congress Ministry and the Erosion of the Colonial “Heartland”, 1937–39 The New Institutional Context In the late 1930s, the Raj reworked the institutional arrangements of state power. The new arrangements were formally embodied in the Government of India Act of 1935. Historiographical discussions of this Act have largely focused on British intentions: how far was the Act designed to take India further on the path of selfgovernment? Carl Bridge suggests that the Act represented a new framework that the British evolved in the changed circumstances to preserve the essentials of imperial control—a clever device to give up the “pawns” to be able to hold on to the “citadel”.1 Suggesting that the Act was designed to “hold India to the Empire” through a 1

Carl Bridge, Holding India to the Empire: British Conservative Party and the 1935 Constitution, New Delhi, 1986. This view is in conformity with some of the earlier wisdom on the subject. Jack Gallagher had suggested in his Ford lectures that the Act was “meant to revise the workings but not to weaken the realities of British power in India” and was actually a rather complicated arrangement of retaining the “keys of the political kingdom” which consisted of, as the British always knew, centralized control over defence, foreign policy, finance and internal security, John Gallagher, The Decline, Revival and Fall of the British Empire: The Ford Lectures and other Essays, Cambridge, 1982, p. 121. Along similar lines, another imperial historian has pointed out that, all that the Act signified was “simply changes in the methods by which the British pursued their essential aims.” Anil Seal, “Imperialism and Nationalism in India”, in J. Gallagher, G. Johnson and A. Seal, eds, Locality, Province and Nation: Essays on Indian Politics 1870 to 1940, Cambridge, 1973, p. 11.

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complex reorganization of British control, he argues that Federation was a “blocking” device meant to indefinitely delay the transfer of controls at the centre. Thus, the Act would “lock” Congress advance into the provinces; the Conservative framers of the Act knew that the princes would never federate, and this would be the perfect excuse to delay handing over controls at the centre.2 In the interim, safeguards and special powers would ensure that imperial control was not diluted. Safeguards taken in the area of intelligence prove this.3 Bridge suggests that the Act was the Raj’s 2

British strategy was to design a single act with two stages; in the first stage provincial autonomy was to be implemented and federation was to be reserved for a later stage—to remain unconsummated till the princes consented. Control over the political citadel (defence, finance and external relations) would remain vested in the viceroy. The structure of the legislature was to be such that it would prevent the Congress from gaining a majority at the centre. The Reforms Office reported after the 1937 provincial elections that, if the provincial election results were to be projected into the federal lower house as proposed by indirect election in the Act, the Congress would have won only 100 out the total 346 seats, in spite of its overwhelming provincial majorities. 3 One of the key areas in which safeguards proved most successful was intelligence and surveillance. With the onset of provincial autonomy, there was a real risk of all meaningful intelligence drying up if the intelligence and surveillance functions were to be placed under Indian control, and the Raj was extremely worried of being faced with an “intelligence atrophy”. For sometime it was, therefore, debated whether the provincial Criminal Investigation Department (CID) should at all be handed over to the new ministers. D.C. Potter’s “Political Change and Confidential Government Files in India: 1937, 1947, 1967”, Journal of Commonwealth Politics, 8, 2, 1970, first drew attention to this interesting debate; his conclusions, however, are not confirmed by the fresh evidence which has since emerged. In retrospect, it was decided to hand over control over the provincial CID, as it was felt that the new ministers would be handicapped, in the absence of intelligence, in the discharge of their law and order functions in combating terrorist and communist activities. This did not reflect any measure of trust in the new ministers. Instead, alternate and more reliable channels were sought, and it was decided to expand the Central Intelligence Bureau to create an intelligence network reporting direct to New Delhi in close consultation with the provincial governor. “Note by H. Williamson, Director, Intelligence Bureau,” 2 November 1933 in IP Collection IOL/Mss.Eur.F. 161/5. The key features of the new intelligence system were dyarchic: the provincial CID was left alone to carry out its old functions and to provide whatever intelligence it could to the ministers. Reliance was, however, placed in the Central Intelligence Bureau which now created its own network in the province, headed by a Central Intelligence Officer (CIO). The CIO compiled his reports independently and kept in direct contact with the governor, with the ministers having no knowledge of his activities. The memoirs of F.W. Kidd

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attempt to strengthen itself by rallying its so-called collaborators (“Muslims and Princes”), by centralizing control and renewing consent with an enlarged electorate, so that it could appear more accountable to a larger arena of Indian society. Though many British politicians wanted it to be merely an exercise in window/dressing, the 1935 Act changed the working of the Raj substantially. It devolved power in the provinces to popularly illustrate the work of the CIO during provincial autonomy, IP Coll., Box 5. It was considered vital that “both intelligence as well as its sources remained independent of the local Government.” “Operation of the Central Intelligence Officer System 1937–47” by P.E.S. Finney in IP Coll., Box 5. Setting up of these alternative intelligence networks took its time as care had to be taken to select and train the staff. It was felt that the ideal intelligence set-up must be “polyglot, multi-racial and ecumenical.” “Intelligence Work: Madras” by E.H. Colebrook in IP Coll. F. 161/6/8, Box 6. The headquarters staff of the CBI at New Delhi consisted largely of AngloIndians, with a predominance of Muslims who were considered more reliable. Specialization was encouraged and one officer was deputed “chiefly with what would appear to come under the heading of Politico-Criminal field, i.e., communism, civil disobedience and illegal movements generally.” “A Few Notes on the Intelligence Bureau—Government of India” by F.W. Kidd in IP Coll. F.161/5. In the province the intelligence network went down to each of the 48 districts, with additional concentration of staff at industrial centres and university towns. It is significant that the headquarters of the UP CID continued to be located, not at Lucknow, the provincial capital, but at Allahabad. As one police official recalled: “Allahabad, being the residence of Pandit Motilal Nehru and of his son Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, became an important political centre, so it was as well that the Provincial Headquarters of the CID was located here.” “UP CID”, note by H.C. Mitchell in IP Coll. F.161/6/8. The new system of intelligence came into effect soon after the Congress victory in the elections of 1937. Since the prospect of a Congress ministry in the province now looked imminent, Linlithgow ordered that it was no longer possible to “depend so fully as in the past on Provincial Criminal Investigation Departments.” Linlithgow to Provincial Governors dated 10 February 1937 in P.N. Chopra, ed., Towards Freedom (henceforth TOFE), New Delhi, 1986, Document Number 57. He advised the governor to rely more on the CIO. To protect the secrecy of the intelligence generated by the CIO, he suggested that the reports sent to the governor not be shown to anyone, including the provincial police chief. Linlithgow to Erskine (with copy to all governors), 5 March 1937, in TOFE, Document Number 94. “By and large the system worked very well and Governors as a whole made full use of the services which the CIO could offer.” “Operation of the Central Intelligence Officer System 1937–47.”, note by Finney in IP Coll. F.161/5. In spite of their rather clumsy and rudimentary methods, intelligence men were remarkably successful in their functions of political surveillance. In retrospect one of the senior policeman was to recall: “I have heard our Indian CID work described as being, in the political field, unmatched by any

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elected ministries (in spite of the restricted franchise),4 But such devolution did not automatically resolve the problem of control and authority. Thus ensued, during 1937–39, an extraordinary struggle between the Congress and the Raj over political authority. In this chapter, we scrutinize the nature of this struggle, the diverse forms it took, and the arenas in which it was played out. Let us first consider the historic elections of February 1937, and then ask: what did the Congress do when it found its hands on the levers of state power? other organisation in the world. Moreover, I can remember reading brochures and studies written by officers of our service as far as the early 1920s describing and pin-pointing the techniques and objectives of the Communists with an accuracy and thoroughness unrivalled until some of the smart University professors started catching up with us twenty years later.” E.M. Edwards to G. Waddell, n. d., IP Coll. F. 161/3. This success, one ex-police official recalls, was mainly because of “the natural flair and enjoyment of intelligence work which many Indian officers displayed, ensuring that early and accurate coverage of political activities and developments was nearly always capably achieved.” “Memoirs of G.R. Savage” in IP Coll. F. 161/6/8. The quality and range of intelligence which continued to be made available to the viceroy and the governor was extraordinary: the best testimony of this is to be found in the files of the Home Department itself. Detailed accounts and profiles of ministers and parliamentary secretaries, including those in-charge of “law and order” themselves, are available. Some of the intelligence men proved to be so resourceful that they could procure minutes of cabinet meetings; Linlithgow himself marvelled that “the existence and availability of so complete an account of the meeting at which the Governor was not presiding is of interest”, suggesting the presence of a “deep throat” within the Congress cabinet. Linlithgow’s comment dated 5 August 1937 on an intelligence report in Chopra (ed.), TOFE Document 385. The report referred to one of the cabinet meetings of the CP Congress ministry. It was a remarkable testimony that formal intelligence agencies continued to be effective from the British point of view and there never occurred any serious “intelligence failure” which cost colonial regimes elsewhere a great deal in terms of loss of control and authority. In many other colonies failure on the part of intelligence agencies sometimes led to enormous costs, as the British learnt after the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, see Randall Heather, “A Silent and Unspectacular Battle: The Organisation of the Special Branch in Kenya 1945–57,” in Proceedings of Conference on Policing the Empire (unpublished), Birkbeck College, London, 1989. 4 As Irwin observed: “I don’t believe... that it is impossible to present the problem in such a form as would make the shop window look respectable from an Indian point of view, which is really what they care about, while keeping your hands firmly on the things that matter.” Irwin to Stonehaven, 12 November 1928, Halifax Collection, C152/18 cited by Bridge, Holding India to the Empire, p. 18.

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The 1937 Elections: A Landmark The 1937 elections afforded a unique opportunity to the Congress: it could mount a campaign that negotiated colonial authority at several levels.5 The Congress showed remarkable organizational energy to ensure that the latent support built up by the party over the years was now translated into votes.6 Sir Harry Haig, the Governor, reported the Congress campaign to be “extremely effective” and making “a very considerable impression on the electorate”. 7 Authorities were alarmed by the vigour of the campaign. “Speeches delivered by Congress supporters and the pamphlets issued”, it was reported, “are often on the border line of sedition”.8 So serious was its overall effect that “the idea came to be widely propagated that ‘Congress Raj’ was coming”.9 The government instructed its district officers to ensure that “the election campaign does not degenerate into the preaching of sedition among the masses and the fostering of a revolutionary mentality in preparation for a fresh campaign for direct action”.10 5

For detailed studies of UP in this period, see Visalakshi Menon, From Movement to Government: The Congress in the United Provinces, 1937–1942, New Delhi, 2003; and Salil Misra, A Narrative of Communal Politics: Uttar Pradesh 1937–1939, New Delhi, 2001. 6 The 1935 Act had enlarged the electorate from about 150,000 to over 4,600,000. A large section of the rural population was enfranchised as property qualifications were reduced. In the dyarchy years, landlords paying Rs 25 per annum as revenue and tenants with a burden of Rs 50 as rent had the privilege of voting. This was reduced to Rs 5 per annum for revenue and Rs 10 for rent; see P.D. Reeves, B.D. Graham and J.M. Goodman, A Handbook to Elections in the Uttar Pradesh 1920– 1952, Delhi, 1975. See Report on the First Elections to the Uttar Pradesh Legislature, Allahabad, 1937, p. 6. 7 Haig to Linlithgow L/PO/6/(i) in Chopra, ed., TOFE Document 46. 8 Fortnightly Report (henceforth FR), January 1937 First Half. 9 “The Congress are preaching everywhere that in two months the British Government will disappear and that it is to be replaced by Congress Raj”. Haig to Linlithgow, 26 January 1937, in Chopra, ed., TOFE Document 40. 10 C.W. Gwynne, Chief Secretary, to all District Officers 26 January 1937 in Home Pol/18/1937, FR January 1937 Second Half. Officials were told to be watchful, as “sedition is being widely preached with impunity and that an impression is being created which may before long seriously affect the tranquillity of the province”. They were instructed to launch prosecutions for sedition under Section 108 of Criminal Procedure Code “on a scale sufficient to make some impression on the situation and to ensure that the foundations of respect for Government and the

The Congress Ministry and the Erosion of the Colonial “Heartland” 213

The Congress campaign was focused up on the countryside. 11 Official accounts testify to the “wild promises made by Congress candidates and supporters that rents would be abolished or reduced, that debts would be cancelled, and that a golden age was in sight”.12 Haig observed that “volunteers are going about with notebooks and asking tenants what their present rent is. The tenant says perhaps Rs 2 a bigha. The Congress volunteer says, ‘That’s all right. If you vote for the Congress, that will be put down to 4 annas’.”13 Relentlessly reiterated promises of reduced rents created such an effect that the tenants started to perceive the vote itself as an end to all their troubles!14 Later, Haig recalled: As the time for the elections approached, they [Congressmen] developed their activities not spasmodically but continuously, administration are not weakened”. They also demanded to ban the “Independence Day Pledge”. This was done to prevent large scale activities on 26 January when Congressmen ritually celebrated their “Independence day.” Haig was convinced that “it is decidedly a good thing that we have taken action against the Congress”, though initially he was doubtful about the wisdom of the ban. But as the Congress campaign unfolded, he realised that “we may have to consider stiffening up the attitude of the administration in regard to Congress attacks”. Haig to Linlithgow, 26 January 1937, in Chopra, ed., TOFE Document 40. 11 The strong agrarian focus of the Congress in UP is shown by the fact that the UP Provincial Congress (UPCC) appointed a committee in May 1931 to enquire into the agrarian situation of the province, see Congress Agrarian Enquiry Committee Report 1936, New Delhi, n.d. (reprint). 12 FR, February 1937 First Half. 13 Haig to Linlithgow, 26 January 1937, in TOFE Document 40. 14 The Deputy Commissioner of Partabgarh gave one example of the effect created by this propaganda. He reported that “on election day a very large number of voters had brought with them pieces of dried cow dung to the various polling stations where these were lighted and, according to tenants “bedakhalis”, i.e., ejectment orders, were burnt once for all”, FR, February 1937 Second Half. An India Office report on the elections submitted to the British cabinet highlighted some of these perceptions which had come to be associated with the vote. It observed that “villagers... were informed that all ballot papers dropped into the Congress box would go straight to Mahatma Gandhi, and that persons who voted in this way would secure large reductions in rent, while persons who voted against the Congress would loose their lands altogether.... These stories were so implicitly believed that many voters came to look upon the Congress box as invested with super-natural qualities. In some instances prayers were made to the box, and letters and petitions to Mr Gandhi, and, even sums of money, were found in the box”. “Memorandum by Government of India on Indian Provincial Elections,” May 1937 in Cabinet Papers cited in Chopra, ed., TOFE Document 261.

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through their resident workers in every village. Meetings and processions, slogans and flags, the exploitation of grievances, promises which held out the vision of a new heaven and a new earth, stirred the countryside into ferment such as it had never before experienced. The sense of impending change awakened the villagers. The Government, which had in past agitations opposed the Congress with the weight of its authority, now stood inactive. It was too much to expect that the villagers would understand the constitutional necessity for this attitude. He felt that the British Raj was weakening, that the Congress Raj was coming, and, as so often happens, threw himself definitely on what seemed to be the winning side.15 The Congress campaign quite clearly targeted the landlords, whose National Agriculturists Parties of Agra and Oudh (NAP) contested most seats after the Congress.16 With the main contest between the Congress and the NAP, the role of UP’s landlords itself became a central issue. To most Congressmen, the landlords represented an anachronistic social class, surviving solely because of its alliance with the British. Indeed, the Congress increasingly portrayed the NAP as the Raj’s proxy in the electoral arena. The British had fervently hoped that the landlords would succeed at the polls and retain provincial power under the new constitution, as they had earlier done under the system of Dyarchy.17 However, the landlords were slow to rise to the challenge of organizing themselves effectively into a political party.18 Peter Reeves has closely 15 Sir Harry Haig, “The United Provinces and the New Constitution”, Asiatic Review, July 1940, pp. 424–25. 16 It put up a candidate against the Congress in practically every constituency by making electoral adjustments with the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League. In all the NAP and its allies put up 152 candidates as against 168 of the Congress. 17 On the landlords’ “capacity to organise and win support for their policies rested British hopes of checking Congress and their own hopes of retaining power. On both scores they proved ineffective”, Peter Reeves, Landlords and Governments, p. 214. 18 Half-hearted attempts to invigorate the NAP were marred by conflicting notions of organization and leadership. Personal jealousy, excessive concern with personal status and rank, and lack of clarity regarding the relationship among the British India Association (BIA) and the two NAPs of Agra and Awadh made the situation worse. Personality clashes and factionalism further disrupted the party. Dual membership in sectarian organizations like the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim

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analysed this failure as well as the personal jealousies and dissensions within their ranks and the communal fissures that undermined the NAP.19 He observes that the “traditional indifference and lethargy” of the landlords, their lack of organization and their outdated methods of campaigning, based on their earlier position as “influential controllers of votes” and the concept of “natural leadership” all provided the recipe for electoral defeat.20 The election results clearly took all the parties by surprise. The Congress secured 133 seats in the UP Legislative Assembly (UPLA); the NAP, 25; the Muslim League, 28; and the Liberals just one; the remaining 41 were won by independent candidates. The Congress commanded an overwhelming majority with about 60 per cent of the seats, as opposed to the 9 per cent legislative strength of the NAP and 12 per cent of the Muslim League. A close analysis of the results reveals the depths of the NAP’s defeat. Of the total general seats, the Congress secured 124 (89 per cent), while the NAP could barely manage eight (5.7 per cent). As a party of landlords, its failure to make headway in rural seats was particularly striking. It could only win eight out of the 123 general rural seats, whereas the Congress obtained 108. In Muslim and special constituencies, the NAP’s performance was marginally better. Of the 64 Muslim seats, the NAP secured 11 and in the special constituencies, six out of 26.21 Not only did the NAP win League and the resulting conflict of allegiance among its top leaders worsened its prospects. Clashes between leaders like the Nawab of Chhatari and J.P. Srivastava, desertion by important landlords like Raja Rampal Singh, Jehangirabad, Salempur and Mahmudabad among others pushed the sinking fortunes of the NAP to new depths. Absence of a clear cut agrarian programme and its image of a party representing loyalist and vested interests made the NAP unattractive to the predominantly peasant electorate. It was reckoned that, for each landholder voter, there were five tenant voters in UP. Indian Franchise Commission Vol. II, Memoranda Submitted by Local Governments, London, 1932, p. 380, cited by Reeves in Landlords and Governments, p. 224. 19 Ibid., specially Chapter 5. 20 Raja Syed Sajid Hussain of Kotwara, a candidate for an Assembly seat in Sitapur in 1937, recalled that his campaign largely consisted of purchasing a dozen motor cars and hiring paid agents for canvassing the “notables” in the constituency. He observed that so strong was the anti-landlord sentiment that he could win only with a very narrow margin, in spite of spending a lot of money. Interview with Raja Syed Sajid Hussain, Lucknow, August 1989. 21 These results are based on the data contained in P.D. Reeves, B.D. Graham and J.M. Goodwin, A Handbook to Elections in the Uttar Pradesh 1920–1952, New Delhi, 1975.

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only a few seats, its percentage of the vote was also abysmally low. Most of its candidates suffered humiliating defeats at the hands of Congress candidates.22 The Muslim seats provided a stark situational contrast, providing proof of the pudding—Congress’ inability to garner support there. Of the 64 Muslim seats, the Congress could not secure even one; the Muslim League won 27, the NAP, 11 and the independents the rest.23 In popular perception, the 1937 elections marked a perceptible shift in the locus of political authority in UP. An official report on the election expressed this as follows: The Congress has been at pains to show that in this election there are but two parties, the Congress and the Government. This fits in entirely with the villager’s view of the position, since he has come to look upon Congress as synonymous with sedition. It passed his comprehension that Government should not interfere against the Congress unless Government were afraid of that party. Congress were not slow to take advantage of this belief, meetings were held near Government offices and 22

The system of delimitation of constituencies was extremely complicated, with as many as 17 different types of constituencies forming the electorate. David Taylor has highlighted the problems involved in the psephological analysis of the election data in “The Reconstruction and the Use of the Statistics of the Provincial Elections of 1937”, Bulletin of Qualitative and Computer Methods in South Asian Studies, 2, March 1974. Due to the complexity of the data, it is not possible to give aggregate partywise percentage of the vote. Certain figures may, however, be presented to give an idea of the trends. In the General Urban (Single) and (Double) constituencies, the percentage vote secured by the NAP was 4.83 per cent and 1.61 per cent, as compared to 81.18 per cent and 77.41 per cent by the Congress. In the General Rural (Single) and (Double) constituencies, the position of the NAP was 17.25 per cent and 17.2 per cent, as compared to 68.58 per cent and 63.17 per cent of the Congress. 23 Not only was the Congress unable to win a single seat, its share of the Muslim vote was also abysmally low; the party secured about 25 per cent of the Muslim vote in urban areas and just over 7 per cent in rural areas. In contrast, the position of the Muslim League was impressive, though much of its influence was confined to urban voters. In urban Muslim constituencies, the League secured as much as 48 per cent votes but in rural areas its percentage share came to only 28 per cent. The NAP’s position among Muslim voters was better than that in general constituencies, but was certainly not enviable. It secured 3.7 per cent of the Muslim urban vote and 18.7 per cent of the Muslim rural vote. See Reeves, Graham and Goodman, Handbook to Elections, pp. 245–53.

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police stations; speeches were as seditious as they could be without incurring the certainty of prosecution, and every effort was made to show that power had passed or was about to pass from the Government to the Congress.24 Positioning the 1937 elections as “a turning point in the political development of the United Provinces”, Reeves writes that the election involved “a conflict about the very nature of the political system of the province” and its results signified “the eclipse of the landlords and the end of the structure of the informal, consultative politics in which they had enjoyed so much power”.25

The Eclipse of the Landlords’ Authority In the aftermath of the elections, the landlords’ fortunes were in disarray. Refusing to form a ministry, the Congress demanded the governor’s assurance of non-interference, especially in relation to his use of “special powers”. In the ensuing constitutional crisis, Haig was compelled to persuade NAP legislators to form an interim ministry,26 the formation of which was plagued with difficulties 24 “Memorandum by Government of India on Indian Provincial Elections” May 1937 in Cabinet papers cited in Chopra, ed., TOFE Document 261. The government acknowledged that “the Congress majorities reflect the real opinion of the electorate on the issue of independence and the wrecking of the new Constitution, the declared aim of the Congress Party”. It conceded that “there can be no doubt that the name of the Congress, with its historical record of patriotic effort and the all-India reputation of many of its leaders, has a wide appeal to Hindus, if not indeed to Indians as a whole. The strength of this appeal should not be underestimated, and must largely account for the total of votes cast in favour of Congress candidates”. On the long-term effects of the election results, it noted: “There has been a stirring of political consciousness. Discontent has been roused, hatred of Government and the landlords widely preached, and hopes raised of a golden age.... Reports received immediately after the elections, in particular (from) the United Provinces, seemed to indicate that there had been a marked deterioration in the attitude of the people towards Government.... The prestige of the Congress has been greatly enhanced, but mainly at the expense of the landlords, whose influence may have been permanently impaired”. 25 P.D. Reeves, “Landlords and Party Politics in the United Provinces, 1934–37”, in D.A. Low, ed., Soundings in Modern South Asian History, London, 1968, p. 261. 26 When the Congress, in spite of its overwhelming majority in the legislature, refused to form a ministry, Haig asked the NAP as the single largest party to form an interim ministry to continue the administration of the province under the newly introduced system of provincial autonomy.

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from the very outset.27 The Nawab of Chhatari and other British India Association (BIA) luminaries made it quite clear to Haig that “zamindars feel that there would be no reality about it (the ministry), and that they would merely be used as a temporary convenience by Government”. On being pressed, Chhatari agreed to form a government only “as a matter of loyalty but not conviction”.28 With considerable difficulty, he managed to formulate a six-member cabinet. Reeves alludes to this exercise as “a sad pantomime of the cabinet that was to have been.... It was all makeshift: nobody was more aware than the ministers themselves that they waited on the pleasure of the Congress”.29 The interim ministry functioned till July 1937 when Chhatari, realizing how untenable his ministry was, implored with Haig to relieve him of the burden by giving “the Congress another opportunity of taking office”.30 The Congress ministry assumed office in July 1937 after protracted negotiations with the governor vis-à-vis his special powers. One of the first issues that the Congress ministry confronted related to a crisis of rent realization. Not only was this a complex administrative dilemma but convoluted further in the context of the Congress’ ambitious promises to the electorate. However, yet again, the Congress dealt with the challenge with admirable skill. It exploited the crisis to further weaken the position of the landlords and pressurize them into agreeing to its proposals for agrarian reform. To begin with, the Congress stopped ejection proceedings against tenants for the recovery of outstanding rent. The strong accompanying propaganda created a widespread impression that 27

Haig’s choice for the premiership was Chhatari whom he found in “a defeatist mood”. Chhatari’s efforts to obtain the support of the Muslim League and individuals like Khaliq-ul-zaman proved fruitless, as the latter refused to join on the ground that “the new Ministry could not last more than four months and that anyone who joined it would be politically discredited”. 28 Haig to Linlithgow, 31 March 1937 and 1 April 1937 in Haig Papers, IOL/ Mss.Eur.F.115/1. Such was the disarray among landlord ranks that Chhatari found “insuperable difficulties” in putting a team of ministers together. His efforts to enlist important pro-landlord politicians like C.Y. Chintamani, Sir Maharaj Singh and Sir Sita Ram failed. Haig to Linlithgow, 7 April 1937, Chopra, ed., TOFE Document 175. 29 Reeves, Landlords and Governments p. 230. 30 Chhatari to Haig, 7 July 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/1.

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it was no longer necessary to pay rents! Landlords and revenue officials filed complaint after complaint about difficulties in rent realization. Haig feared that there existed “a very serious danger” of this, as rent realization now depended not on the influence of the zamindar but on “what ordinary Congressmen in the villages are doing”.31 Still the Congress premier Govind Ballabh Pant assured him that “the whole resources of the Congress organisations were being deployed to make it clear to the villagers that current rents must be paid”. The landlords “are now realising”, Haig observed, that “if they want to survive, they must fight for themselves”.32 Landlords were apprehensive on a number of other scores as well. There were sporadic reports of “a tendency on the part of tenants who had been ejected from their holdings to reoccupy them forcibly” in the expectation that statutory tenants would be granted hereditary rights. 33 The Raja of Jehangirabad, BIA’s president, formally conveyed to Haig the sense of vulnerability that the taluqdars experienced.34 It was a crisis of survival: the future of 31 To allay these fears Govind Ballabh Pant, the new premier, took conciliatory steps. Haig was reassured by the Congress ministry that, “in their tenancy legislation they would much rather get 12 annas by agreement than 16 annas by force.” Haig to Linlithgow, 23 August 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17A. 32 Haig to Linlithgow, 22 September 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17B. In the months following the assumption of office by the Congress, the rent situation remained extremely tense. Many districts reported that “large classes of tenants (who) are still disposed to think that Congress government means a golden age of no rents.... Reports from all quarters agree that the collection of rent has come to a standstill.” It was feared that rent realization was likely to be particularly difficult in the Eastern districts, while the situation in the Western part of the province was easier. In certain districts, particularly Gorakhpur, conditions were regarded as “potentially dangerous” as “there is a large depressed population which has been stirred up by the agitation of the last nine months.” In Allahabad too official expectations regarding rent realization were reported to be “gloomy”. 33 Haig to Linlithgow, 8 November 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17B. Alarming reports came from many districts: for instance, it was reported that “in Meerut many of the zamindars are employing private chaukidars of the bad character bully-type and are becoming apprehensive of the future”. Haig to Linlithgow, 20 October 1937, in Haig Papers, Mss.Eur.F.115/17B. 34 He declared that they were “nervous that an attack will be made on the Act under which contributions are levied from all Taluqdars and collected with the land revenue, to finance the British India Association.” The decision of the Congress ministry to end the system of appointing honorary magistrates and honorary

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the landlords hinged on the goodwill of the Congress ministry. The BIA leadership, therefore, focused on responding to the Congress challenge. First, landlords needed to oppose the ministry’s tenancy proposals in the legislative arena. Then, they had to counter “the irresponsible and insidious propaganda aiming at a class-war” being spread against them in the countryside. 35 They decided to undertake “vigorous propaganda” themselves, revive district and tehsil committees, and launch a strong campaign to bolster the landlords’ position to meet the Congress on its own ground. However, the Pant ministry was keen to take a pragmatic view of the agrarian situation. Land revenue was, after all, the foundation of provincial finance and “if the zamindars are driven too far there may be disorder”. It also realized that adopting a confrontationist attitude would only delay its tenancy proposals in the upper house, the UP Legislative Council (UPLC), where the landlords enjoyed a majority. And so, the ministry took administrative measures along with deploying its network of village-level Congress volunteers to ensure rent payment, just as Pant had reassured Haig.36 Haig was soon satisfied that Congressmen were indeed facilitating rent collections and was pleased about their “exhortations to the villagers to pay their rents, which are in such marked contrast with the election promises of the Congress”. By early 1938, it seemed that the rent situation would resolve itself.37 assistant collectors was regarded as an attack on the judicial and administrative privileges enjoyed by the landlords, and was felt to be “a great further cause of depression to the old fashioned loyalists, and the landlords.” Haig to Linlithgow, 9 December 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17B. Similar anxiety was expressed about the proposal of some Congressmen to impose a kind of supertax on landlords who paid Rs 5,000 per annum or more as revenue. 35 “Minutes of Extra-ordinary Executive Committee of the BIA, 19 September 1937” in British India Association (BIA) Papers File 278. At this meeting the Raja of Tiloi, one of the vice presidents, proposed that “the general idea prevailing among the public that the zamindars are the sole cause of the poverty of the country should be eradicated by propaganda”. 36 Instructions were issued to commissioners that “tehsildars were expected to realise revenue rigorously and to give any assistance in collecting rent and also to report the names of persons suspected to be engaging in no-rent propaganda.” Haig to Linlithgow, 10 January 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17B. 37 “The continuous extortions to the tenants from the Congress side to pay their rents are having effect, and rents and revenue are coming in much better.... The situation seems to be settling itself as a result of the persistent pressure exercised by the Congress organisation in favour of payment of rent.” Haig to Linlithgow, 22 February 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17B.

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Officials reported exultantly that “the ministers are most anxious to establish a rent-paying mentality among the tenants” and “the danger has now passed”.38 Interestingly, this crisis consolidated the Congress’ popular image: it was crystal clear to the landlords and colonial officials that the Raj’s ability to collect revenue now critically depended on the Congress organization, rather than on official machinery. Indeed, the elaborate network of government revenue staff, landlords and their karindas was quite powerless until local Congressmen cooperated. The crisis of rent realization soon passed, but a greater crisis loomed large on the landlords’ horizon. Over the coming months, it manifested itself in two significant ways: (a) the attitudes of the landlords towards Congress proposals for agrarian reforms and (b) the great divide among the landlords over the strategy to meet this political challenge. The landlords looked upon the Congress’ tenancy proposals with great apprehension, their fears aggravated by the strident anti-zamindar attitudes of the Kisan Sabha and Leftwing Congress activists. Having become the target of relentless propaganda both by “irresponsible” Congressmen and a section of the vernacular press, the landlords were convinced that this propaganda was at the root of the strained tenant–zamindar relations that had recently turned violent in areas like Gorakhpur and Allahabad. By April 1938, the ministry’s proposals for agrarian reform were formally embodied in a bill,39 which the landlords regarded as an attack on their hereditary rights and privileges. The BIA demanded that the governor disallow the bill’s introduction in the legislature, for it constituted “arbitrary and tyrannical interference with their rights” and was a breach of their sanads with the British.40 Haig rejected their demand, expressing regret that “the Taluqdars have a 38

Haig to Linlithgow, 23 March 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17B. The tenancy bill was introduced on 20 April 1938; its ambitious and wide-ranging nature can be seen from the fact that it contained over 300 clauses. 40 “Memorial to His Excellency Sir Harry Haig Regarding the UP Tenancy Bill by the BIA” in BIA Papers File 274. The BIA pleaded: “Your Memorialists submit that if the Crown Sanads can be allowed to be treated as mere scraps of paper capable of being torn up at the will of a numerical majority, constituting a Government which is still carried out in the name of His Majesty, the confidence of His Majesty’s loyal subjects in the sanctity of the Crown’s pledged word will be seriously undermined”. 39

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pathetic faith in their sanads”.41 He advised the landlords “to concentrate on political opposition... and to ensure that their case was put before the public in a convincing way”.42 However, it took some time for the landlords’ campaign against the tenancy bill to gather momentum because “the hope lingered—especially among the taluqdars—that traditional forms of influence might still prevail”.43 British refusal to intervene forced the landlords to refocus their thinking.44 They planned to meet the Congress on its own ground by starting “civil disobedience” and setting up “volunteer defence corps”45 but it was all big words, and little action. What it managed to do however was intensify the confusion and drive the landlords’ divided ranks further still. The debate divided the landlords into two camps, one favouring confrontation, the other hoping to effect a compromise by approaching the Congress central “High Command” for arbitration between the UP ministry and the landlords.46 Haig advised the landlords not to follow obstructionist tactics but work out a compromise with the Congress.47


Haig to Linlithgow, 3 April 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/13E. Haig to Linlithgow, 13 May 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/13E. 43 Reeves, Landlords and Governments, p. 234. As late as November 1938, Jehangirabad told Haig that “the Taluqdars were still hoping for intervention by the British Government”, only to be told “quite definitely there was no possibility... (of) intervening in connection with the Tenancy Bill to save the Taluqudars from making sacrifices which are after all not very unreasonable”. Haig sympathized with their plight: “these are men who are so anxious to believe that some miracle may save them that they snatch at any chance word of politeness that may be used by anyone in authority and construct on it a complete edifice of illusion.” But there was little he could do to protect them, Haig to Linlithgow, 8 November 1938, in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.125/101. 44 The overall context of landlord politics in this period is provided by Peter Reeves in his Landlords and Governments, Chapter 5, specially pp. 231–47. 45 Ibid., p. 235. 46 So entrenched was the polarization that even elections to the BIA presidency took place along the lines of this division. In the 1938 elections the contest was between the Rajas of Tiloi and Salempur, with Tiloi, who favoured arbitration by the Congress, winning the election narrowly. Haig to Linlithgow, 23 December 1938 in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.125/101. 47 Haig actively encouraged Chhatari and others working for arbitration. On Chhatari’s attempts for arbitration by the Congress Parliamentary Subcommittee, see Chhatari to Vallabhbhai Patel dated 28 November 1938 and draft of a later letter (n.d.) in Chhatari Papers. He reasoned with Chhatari that, although the landlords could delay the Tenancy Bill because they enjoyed a majority in the 42

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Not an easy course to follow, especially with the Congress “High Command” declaring that it would interfere only when “the landlords would put themselves in a position of subservience to Congress authority”!48 Yet, Haig persisted: In my opinion their (the landlords) interests demand that they should reach a settlement now. On this point I have not the slightest doubt. To fight the measure further would greatly embitter the situation, would lead I am afraid to dangerous agitation in the villages, would greatly increase the power of the left-wing and would in the end achieve nothing for the landlords.... The form of settlement is, of course, galling to their pride, and constitutionally no doubt it is open to criticism. But from the practical point of view I see no alternative.49 Since this advice could not be implemented in any case, it provided little comfort to the landlords.50 The ministry was determined to implement its agrarian proposals and took little cognizance of the landlords’ objections to the Tenancy Bill. The Raja of Jehangirabad complained: … the Premier (Pant) had reproached the Taluqdars for their past attitudes of loyalty to the British, and had made it clear that they were being punished for having sided with the British. He said that the Premier had now thrown off the mask, and had revealed his real feelings. He might speak in a moderate way, but his true desire was to destroy the landlord class.51 Council, “such action would lead to dangerous agitation throughout the villages ... the landlords might find their own positions ... weakened, if not destroyed”. Haig to Linlithgow, 26 September 1938, in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.125/101. 48 Haig to Linlithgow, 10 October 1938, in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur. F.125/101. 49 Haig to Linlithgow, 23 October 1938, describing his meeting with the BIA delegation, in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.125/101. 50 Lack of solidarity among the landlords, coupled with the fact that the Pant ministry resisted the central leadership’s attempt to interfere in its affairs, ensured that such moves were ineffectual. 51 Haig to Linlithgow, 10 October 1938, in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur. F.125/101. 52 Haig to Linlithgow, 24 January 1939, in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur. F.125/102.

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The landlords’ position was very vulnerable, but there was little Haig or other British officials could do other than offer sympathy. Haig recognized quite clearly that … their present position is very unenviable, and quite apart from their attitude towards such a measure as the tenancy bill, they feel that the whole foundation of their position is swaying beneath them. It would be more than one could expect from human nature if they did not feel that we are in large measure responsible for this change, and that their loyalty in the past has been ill requited.52 In retrospect, there was little difference the landlords could make either to the specific proposals of the agrarian legislation or its time frame. They did put forth a detailed critique of the bill but could not obtain much sympathy.53 The BIA leadership regretted that “not the slightest consideration on even a minor point has been shown by the Government to the wishes or feelings of the zamindars”. Tiloi, BIA president in 1939, accused the Congress ministry of having “ridden rough-shod over the legitimate interest” of the landlords.54 The All-India Landholders’ Conference that assembled in April 1939 at Lucknow resounded with such


They criticized the bill for the manner of its introduction which, they said, was devoid of consultation. They accused the ministry of aggravating agrarian tensions; “the object of the present Government seems to be to foster, for reasons of party politics, a feeling of hostility and distrust between the landlord and the tenants”. They alleged that the Congress was “penalising the Taluqdars”, denying the special status enjoyed by them in Awadh and treating them as “mere rent receivers”. They predicted that the bill would increase litigation, and declared that, “if it is allowed to be passed in its present form, it means the practical expropriation without compensation of the entire land-owning body, even the smallest landlords”. The BIA took up specific aspects of the bill like sir rights, grant of hereditary rights to tenants, ejectments and the level of rent, and a number of other issues. “Criticism of the BIA of the Tenancy Bill,” BIA Papers File No 186/1922–46 Misc Matters. 54 He declared that the Congress was in sympathy with “the philosophy of class warfare” and believed in “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. Speech by Raja Bahadur Tiloi to the BIA on 25 March 1939 in BIA Papers File No 278.

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sentiments,55 with speaker after speaker denouncing the Congress for its anti-landlord policies. The Raja of Salempur saw in the provisions of the Tenancy Bill “an unwarranted invasion of proprietary rights... aimed at crippling their resources and undermining their power, influence, prestige, and social position—thus paving the way for the eventual abolition of the Zamindari system”.56 This failure of the landlords over harnessing their energies to counter the tenancy bill underscored the political eclipse of a class that had, for decades, been the centrepiece of UP politics. This could not have been more obvious to those who cared to listen to the lament in these words.

The New Idiom of Authority The eclipse of the landlords was only one of the several ways in which colonial authority was eroded. A more visible erosion was evident in the sphere of colonial ceremonial order. Ceremonies and rituals were “crucial arenas of politics in which authority was generated, confirmed and contested”.57 On assuming office, and now anxious to impose their own authority, Congressmen renewed their attacks on symbols of colonial authority and attempted ritual substitution on an unprecedented scale. Soon after Congress’ triumph, challenges to colonial authority resurfaced, seeking to delegitimize imperial ceremonial order though boycott, subversion or ritual substitution. To begin with, on the occasion of the coronation of George VI in April 1937, Chhatari’s interim ministry planned elaborate durbars in every district—in line with established loyalist traditions. The NAP ministry believed that after its humiliating electoral defeat, such durbars would provide an occasion to rally loyalist support. 58 This 55 “Every speaker at the Conference condemned the Congress Government for its proposed tenancy legislation, which, it was contended, practically amounts to expropriation and sounds the death-knell of the Zamindari System”, Proceedings of the All-India Landholders Conferencem, 8–9 April 1939, Lucknow, in BIA Papers File No 297. 56 Ibid. 57 Douglas Haynes, “Imperial Ritual in a Local Setting: The Ceremonial Order in Surat 1890–1920”, Modern Asian Studies, 24, 3, 1990, pp. 493–527. 58 Haig to Linlithgow, 7 April 1937 in IOL/L/P&J/5/264.

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provoked the Congress to call for the boycott of such celebrations, and it told local committees that “it is derogatory to our dignity and against the policy of the Congress to take part in coronation functions”.59 This boycott was a huge success, with coronation celebrations confined to minor official functions and the illumination of a few public buildings in Lucknow. This was how vulnerable colonial ceremonial order had become to subversion by the Congress. When boycott of an established colonial ritual did not seem potent enough, Congress strategy was to articulate an alternative ritual. After the Congress victory, it celebrated “Independence Day” with great fervour on 26 January 1937.60 As it happened, this coincided with the eve of polling. Colonial officials feared that large-scale demonstrations on this day might swing the vote in favour of the Congress, and decided to take firm preventive action.61 Their measures, however, did not affect the extent of these Independence Day celebrations; as many as 583 meetings were reported from all 45 districts of UP. Reports of major celebrations came from Lucknow, Allahabad, Banaras, Faizabad, Rae Bareli and Sitapur.62 On 1 April 1937, the Congress performed a similar ritual on an even grander scale—it celebrated “Anti-Constitution Day”, mobilizing a near-complete hartal in almost all districts. 63 Pant 59

“Nehru’s circular on Boycott of Coronation Celebrations,” 2 May 1937, AICC/ F No P-1/1937 in Chopra (ed.), TOFE Document 226. 60 As we have seen in Chapter 3, on this day Congressmen enthusiastically went out on prabhat pheris at dawn, took out processions through the main streets of the towns and villages, and held meetings at which the “Independence Day pledge” was recited. 61 The publication and recitation of the pledge was, banned under the Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act of 1931, Pioneer, 26 January 1937. Prosecutions were carried out against the Sainik of Agra for printing the pledge and a security of Rs 3,000 was demanded. Local officials were directed to prevent the holding of meetings. 62 Provincial Abstract of Intelligence (henceforth PAI), 6 February 1937. 63 Processions were taken out with an effigy or a coffin representing the new constitution which was ritually burnt. This was usually followed by a flag-hoisting ceremony and speeches. Schools throughout the province were closed and students appearing for examinations were allowed to take them only upon wearing black badges. Shops and factories which refused to join the hartal were overwhelmed by crowds; for instance, in Kanpur thousands assembled outside the Elgin mill to enforce the hartal. In some districts large processions intruded into spaces prohibited for collective activities, such as in Gorakhpur where a procession of 8,000 insisted on entering the civil lines and the district courts. PAI, 10 April 1937.

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reported on the success of these “celebrations”: “The directions of the Congress seem to have been carefully observed even in the remotest parts of the province.”64 Particularly dramatic were events in Lucknow where zealous Congressmen hauled down the Union Jack from the roof of the Council House!65 Following this hartal, the Congress celebrated a “National Week” from 6 April 1937, with a profusion of prabhat pheris, flag ceremonies, meetings to commemorate the Jallianwala Bagh martyrs, khadi hawking and volunteer enrolment. In a flag-hoisting ceremony organized by the Lucknow municipality, Pant took the salute. In Kanpur, processions were taken out for three days successively and most mills remained closed.66 There is considerable evidence to suggest that such political rituals came to be deeply entrenched during the ministry’s tenure, reflecting the growing authority of the Congress. The success of these rituals is shown by the proceedings of the Congress’ “Kisan Day” celebrations of 15 October 1939. As many as 1,739 meetings were reported from across the province with an estimated total attendance of over 3.6 million people.67 The Congress was indeed quite adept at using political ritual to demonstrate its authority. Central to the Congress’ ritual was the hoisting of the “national flag” over public buildings.68 The Government of India, rightly anticipating large-scale attempts in this direction, tried to devise a policy response to this challenge. Linlithgow instructed all governors that “the Union Jack which is the Imperial flag proper, must 64 Pant to Nehru, 2 April 1937, in Nehru Papers in Chopra, ed., TOFE Document 163. 65 Linlithgow to Haig, 25 October 1937, in ibid., Document 511. 66 PAI, 17 April and 24 April 1937. 67 AICC Papers, File P-20 KW 1 of 1939 cited by Chandan Sourav Mitra in “Political Mobilization in the Nationalist Movement in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, 1937–1947,” unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Oxford, 1983. 68 The inauguration of the newly-constituted Legislative Assembly also provided a grand occasion for the dramatic display of nationalist rituals. Chandan Mitra observes: “The new era was aptly inaugurated when Tandon (the newly elected speaker) led the chorus in singing Bande Matram.... The imposing Council House of Lucknow, built in the heyday of Butlerism, was invaded by ‘rustics’ who knew little of parliamentary or any other Anglo-Saxon etiquette, a far cry from the days when impeccably dressed Taluqdars held forth in Victorian English in its hallowed chambers while the Union Jack flew proudly atop.” Mitra, ibid., p. 39. Also see Raja of Mahmudabad, “Some Memories”, in C.H. Phillips and M.D. Wainwright, eds, The Partition of India Policies and Perspectives 1935–1947, London, 1970, pp. 381–89.

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be regarded as the only emblem of authority”, and urged them to take firm action to stop subversions of its dignity.69 Instructions and appeals, however, were not enough. Congressmen substituted the British flag by their own “national flag” on several occasions—and god help any official who made a move to stop them. Indeed, any attempt to pull down the Congress flag could jeopardize the officials’ careers, as the kotwal of Mainpuri realized first-hand. He arrested two Congressmen who attempted to hoist the Congress flag on the roof of a chauki, charging them with criminal trespass and rioting, handcuffing them and taking them in a public procession to court to set an example for other miscreants. For this “misdemeanour”, the ministry transferred the kotwal, asking him to give up his post within 24 hours and released the two triumphant Congressmen.70 What’s more, flag hoisting by Congressmen over public buildings became so regular that the


He wanted no compromise on this issue and made it clear that a governor could even dismiss a ministry if it insisted on hoisting its own flag on official buildings, see Linlithgow to Provincial Governors, 27 March 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/ Mss.Eur.F.115/3A. Such precautions could hardly work as colonial ceremonial order was overwhelmed by Congress ritual. Even before the Congress ministry was formed, several instances were reported of the hauling down of the Union Jack and its substitution by the Congress flag. Once the ministry assumed office, the lead was given by Pant himself who unfurled the Congress flag over his official residence. On Haig’s protest Pant took the line that his residence, although provided by the government, was a private dwelling and he could do what he liked in it. This opened the flood-gates. Schools and public buildings under the control of municipal and district boards were the first targets. But the enthusiasm of Congress workers did not stop there; some of the bolder spirits sought the masts of thanas and chaukis. Whether these attempts represented “signs of increasing lawlessness or little more than a temporary effervescence of spirit” depended upon the tolerance of individual officials. FR, for April 1937 First Half. 70 Question by Pandit Vishambar Dayal Tripathi and reply by G.B. Pant dated 5 October 1937 in Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly Debates (henceforth UPLAD) Vol. II, pp. 1709–10, IOL/V/9/1869. Then on another occasion a Congress flag was pulled down by a British subaltern when he found it hoisted on a district board rest house in Jhansi where he had gone to stay. This upset the local Congressmen who protested to the district official, who intervened and asked the subaltern to apologize. Rather than apologize, the subaltern decided to leave the place and stay at the railway station. As he left after dark, he was violently assaulted by a crowd. FR, for November 1937 First Half.

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ministry even issued a formal circular sanctioning money to local bodies for the purpose.71 Another tricky problem should be, well, flagged here. British officials resented the fact that Congress flags were ceremoniously unfurled and hoisted at public functions where they often had to wait upon Congress ministers. So concerned were they that Haig protested to Pant that “it is quite inappropriate that they (officials) should be present at any flag hoisting ceremony”.72 Though Pant assured him that his ministers would not insist on British officials accompanying them to public functions, Haig’s personal authority was threatened as such more than once.73 In late 1937, invited to preside over Allahabad University’s Silver Jubilee celebrations, Haig demanded that no Congress flag be hoisted on the university buildings. However, the students were quite adamant and would not heed the advice of either the university authorities or senior city Congressmen like K.N. Katju. Finally, Nehru had to intervene; he effected the compromise that the flag would be hoisted permanently on university buildings but would be taken down during the governor’s visit.74 The issue was important enough to attract attention from Linlithgow, who was quite sceptical about the enforceability of this compromise. He warned that “there should not be any room for uncertainty, and the arrangements must be made for flag staffs &c. to be properly guarded for the last minute substitution of the Congress flag for the Union Jack”.75 The proceedings 71 Rs 50 was sanctioned for all district boards and municipalities for towns with a population of over 50,000, and Rs 25 was sanctioned for municipalities with a population of less than 50,000. On being asked why did the Congress issue such a circular, the reply was: “In the interests of the nation.” Questions 33 and 34 by Maulana Munfait Ali dated 23 January 1939 in UPLAD 1939, Vol. XII, pp. 1939 pp. 288–89, IOL/V/9/1879. 72 Haig to Pant, 10 November 1937 and Pant to Haig, 20 November 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/13E. 73 Official guidelines laid down that “neither the Viceroy nor a Governor can in any circumstances allow themselves ... to appear in public at a ceremony at which a party emblem is the principle emblem flown.” It was clearly laid down that “when a representative of the Crown in India appears in public in circumstances in which it is physically appropriate that a flag be flown, that flag must be the Union Jack.” Haig to Linlithgow, 25 October 1937, in Chopra, ed., TOFE Document 511. 74 See Haig to Linlithgow, 8, 9 and 28 November 1937, in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/ Mss.Eur.F.125/113. 75 Linlithgow to Haig, 25 October 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/3A.

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did go off satisfactorily for Haig, but it was clear to one and all that British prestige and authority in the arena of civil ritual was quite vulnerable indeed.76 It is not surprising then that colonial ritual increasingly became less visible and more susceptible to subversion. In the autumn of 1937, when the issue of a Royal Visit to India came up, Linlithgow enquired of provincial governors whether a durbar by the new King in the winter of 1938 would be appropriate. Apprehensive that the Congress ministries might boycott the durbar, he was “anxious to ensure that the King is kept entirely out of politics”. 77 Characteristically forthright, Haig advised against the visit. He was convinced that a Royal Durbar in 1938 would be “an unjustifiable risk as it would undoubtedly be boycotted by the Congress”. He was quite emphatic in fact: “A Royal Visit would do an immense amount of harm and would tend to shake the position of the Crown in India and the traditionally loyal attitude of the masses.” And quite convinced too that “the ill effect of Congress absentation would be considerably greater than the good effect of loyal demonstrations”.78 With such influential opinion 76

A similar and somewhat more serious situation arose at the Lucknow University convocation in late 1938. On this occasion both Haig and Pant were present and Haig had been reassured that there would be “no hint of trouble or unpleasantness.” Pant delivered the convocation address and Haig was “sorry to find that he had introduced so much politics into it... (and) that at the end of the address he spoke of an independent India in a way which was not very suitable to the occasion.” But there were other problems too as Haig himself reported: “Half an hour or so before the Convocation was due to start some of the students proceeded to hoist a Congress flag on one of the domes at the far side of the quadrangle... facing me as I sat on the dais. It appears that, as soon as this was noted the Vice Chancellor sent up some chaprasis with orders to pull the flag down. But this move was observed and loud cries of protest were raised. The Vice Chancellor fearing that there might be something of a tumult decided to leave things alone. Actually, when our procession marched in there were some cries of Inquilab Zindabad going on, but these died down as soon as we had taken our seats.... At Lucknow the practice is that the students as their names are read, file up in front of the Chancellor, bow and pass on. Two or three of the students rather ostentatiously did not bow when they came before me.” Haig to Linlithgow, 23 December 1938, in Haig Papers, cf. Charles W. Nuckolls, “The Durbar Incident”, Modern Asian Studies, 24, 3, 1990. 77 Linlithgow to Haig, 17 September 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/3A. 78 He warned that “ordinary public opinion in India would regard non attendance as a public affront to His Majesty... and would be a great blow to the authority of the Crown in India.” Haig to Linlithgow, 25 September 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/

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strongly opposed to the proposal of a durbar, Linlithgow had no choice but to politely advise the King to call off his visit. To those in whose minds memories of the Delhi Durbar of 1911 lingered, the tremendous transformation in colonial ceremonial order could not have been more remarkable.79 Another aspect of the Congress ministry’s tenure was its boycott of all social contact with colonial officials. The only mode of contact permitted between Congressmen and local officials was when they took grievances or complaints to them. Party discipline barred them from attending parties and receptions, accepting any hospitality, and joining in durbars.80 They were particularly prohibited from attending functions hosted by British officials, and were especially enjoined to boycott all functions attended by the governor. This guideline was strictly enforced, and Haig complained that “the Services resented the attitudes of the Ministers in... severing themselves from any social contact”. 81 The underlying idea was to enforce a complete boycott of representatives of British authority. Congressmen also took a number of measures to discontinue colonial ritual, particularly durbars held by commissioners and district officers. In the Assembly, they demanded the discontinuation of the annual durbar at Etawah as the public resented its reactionary character.82 They made allegations that officials allotted seats at the durbar according to rank “supposed or imaginary” and that the collector would later humiliate the absentees, asking them to account for their absence. Although the ministry did not Mss.Eur.F.115/9. A similar response came from Emerson, the Governor of the Punjab, who warned that “the new political regime in seven provinces would be almost entirely unrepresented. This would rob the Durbar of its representative character and would make it a very easy target for the jeers and criticisms of hostile elements.” Emerson to Linlithgow, 22 September 1937 in Chopra, ed., TOFE Document 466. 79 See Alan Trevithick, “Civil Ritual in India” and “Some Structural and Sequential Aspects of the British Imperial Assemblies at Delhi: 1877–1911”, Modern Asian Studies, 24, 3, 1990. 80 This dictat by the Central Congress “High Command” had a two fold objective: to boycott colonial ceremonies and rituals and to keep the local Congressmen under discipline by prohibiting their interaction with officials. 81 Haig to Linlithgow, 9 February 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17B. 82 Starred question by Mr Hoti Lal Agarwal on 2 March 1938, in UPLAD, Vol. IV, pp. 80–81, IOL/V/9/1871.

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officially prohibit such durbars, Congressmen openly disapproved of them, and district officials came to be rather wary of holding them. Another measure concerning the behaviour of colonial officials related to the controversial Manual of Indian Etiquette, prepared in 1910 to guide young European officers coming to India for the first time.83 It laid down detailed guidelines for British civilian officers on conducting themselves during interviews with Indians. Further, it classified Indian visitors (mulaqatis) into several categories and offered detailed suggestions on dealing with each. It laid down the protocol of where visitors could be received, which class of visitors could ride into the officer’s residence, where and how they were to be seated and a great deal more besides. It prescribed, for instance, that Indians who did not wear Western dress should be asked to take off their shoes and headgear before entering the officer’s presence. By the 1930s, most British officers had begun to disregard such rigidity of protocol and started to follow a less authoritarian, more relaxed manner. Even so, a minority belonging to the diehard school still vouched for its wisdom. During the Congress’s tenure, when complaints were received against the Manual, the ministry promptly ordered its withdrawal.84 Yet another aspect of the challenge to colonial ceremonial order lay in the Congress’ attempt to discontinue the British practice of conferring titles and decorations upon Indians. The issue came up in the UPLA when a Congress legislator moved a resolution demanding the abolition of titles and decorations.85 He alleged that such titles were awarded not for public service but for loyalty and subservience to the British; the recipients had either helped the British in their “repression” of nationalism or legitimized 83

Manual of Indian Etiquette for the Use of European Officials Coming to India, Superintendent Government Press, Allahabad, 1910. 84 Reply by Premier to starred question by Pandit Bhagwat Narain Bhargava on 15 September 1937, UPLAD 1937, Vol. II, pp. 332–33, IOL/V/9/1869. 85 The resolution passed on 19 January 1938 by the Assembly was as follows: “This Assembly recommends to the Government to convey to the authorities concerned the considered opinion of this House that the practice of conferring titles and decorations in this country be abolished and urges upon the ministers to intimate to His Majesty the King that they do not propose to recommend names for titles and decorations”, UPLAD 1938, Vol. III, pp. 323–96, IOL/V/9/1870.

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official actions.86 The Congress denounced these titles as “writs of slavery” bestowed upon those who effectively posed obstacles in the progress towards freedom. They declared that the British possessed no authority to bestow these titles on Indians. Instead, the “real” titles were those conferred by the public upon leaders, such as “Mahatma” for Gandhi, “Lokmanya” for Tilak and “Deshbandhu” for C.R. Das.87 Pant’s position was that titles conferred by the Raj had “a bad taste about them” and served as “reminders of our servility and our helplessness”. Describing the whole concept as a “vulgar anachronism”, he in fact accused the British of “prostituting them”!88 So, the Congress ministry’s tenure saw a marked erosion in the colonial ceremonial order. Symbols of the Raj’s authority were undermined as Congressmen attempted to impose their own ritual idiom upon UP’s public life. This greatly demoralized the subordinate ranks of the state and loyalist groups like the taluqdars. Indeed, it was they who contributed significantly to a shift in the collective perception of the locus of political authority.

Public Discourse or “Sedition”? The nature of public discourse and the limits of freedom allowed to it under the new regime formed another sphere of confrontation between the Congress ministry and the Raj.89 The Congress 86 Speech by Pandit Bhagwat Narayan Bhargava 19 January 1938, UPLAD 1938, Vol. III, p. 330, IOL/V 9/1870. 87 The idea of infusing the titles with new meaning was forcefully suggested by Kunwar Sir Maharaj Singh. He argued that the principle of conferring titles was a valid one, but the government’s record had not been good. He suggested that the Congress should not demand the abolition of titles: instead it could confer its own titles such as “Lokmanya” and “Deshbandhu”. Speech by Kunwar Maharaj Singh on 19 January 1938 in UPLAD 1938, Vol. III, pp. 347–49, IOL/V/9/1870. A similar suggestion was made by Muhammad Ishaq Khan who went to the extent of suggesting that the Congress should institute an “Order of Gandhi” after the “Order of Lenin” in Russia. 88 Speech by Premier on 19 January 1938, UPLAD 1938, Vol. III, pp. 392–94, IOL/V. 89 The Congress had expressed its commitment to the principle freedom of speech in its 1936 election manifesto. Earlier it had adopted the “Resolution on Civil Liberties” at its Lucknow session. The activities of the newly-formed Civil Liberties Union, which enjoyed the support of Nehru and the Congress Socialist Party (CSP), further moved the Congress to work for greater freedom of speech and writing.

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was firmly committed to freedom of expression because it realized that its own tremendous success as a political movement derived from the vitality of its carefully structured public discourse.90 In Chapter 4 we dwelt upon some elements of this discourse, suggesting that in the 1930s it powerfully contested colonial authority in a day-to-day manner. Given such efficacy, it was natural for the Congress ministry to enlarge the arena of this discourse. Soon after assuming office, the Congress ministry asserted its right to uphold free speech. Pant decided to “discontinue the practice of reporting political speeches”; accordingly, district officials were instructed that “speeches at ordinary political meetings need no longer be reported”.91 This had a far-reaching effect. By a single administrative act and without getting entangled in the legal intricacies of the law of sedition, the ministry effectively expanded the boundaries of public discourse.92 The issue of political prisoners was closely linked to this. One of the first acts of the ministry was to demand the release of “political prisoners”. The released prisoners were fêted in extensive tours; during these, of course, they made several “seditious” speeches, which colonial officials considered objectionable.93 From almost all districts came reports 90

In Chapter 3 we have taken into account the nature of this discourse. The forms of this discourse were extremely flexible and included newspapers, pamphlets, posters, notices, leaflets, fictional literature and poetry, street-side discussions and gatherings in village chaupals, besides formal political meetings. 91 Reporting was to be permitted only when there existed “good reasons to suppose that speeches would be made calculated to arouse feelings likely to lead to acts of violence or dangerous communal excitement”. A clear procedure was laid down under which the district officer was required to seek the prior approval of the government. In case he was pressed for time he could himself order such reporting but only after recording his reasons and forwarding the papers to Lucknow. Similarly the CID was also required to seek prior permission. Gwynne (Chief Secretary) to Phillips (IGP), 15 September 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/12. 92 The ministry’s directive undermined the basic method that was used by the Raj to curtail the circulation of “seditious” ideas. This method entailed the attendance of short-hand reporters from the district CID staff at political meetings. These men sat prominently facing the dais and made detailed notes of speeches. Their notes were analysed at police headquarters and, if found to be “objectionable”, were sent to public prosecutors for action under the law of sedition. The mere presence of police reporters had a sobering effect on public speakers and effectively kept them in check. 93 For instance, it was reported that “the recently released revolutionary prisoners visited Gonda, Partabgarh, Jaunpur, Azamgarh, Sultanpur, Gorakhpur and Basti in the course of the week. The meeting in Gorakhpur attracted about 2,000 persons.

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of “intemperate” speeches; the Home Department officials in Lucknow and the Criminal Investigation Department in Allahabad soon pressed Pant to revoke the order about police reporting of speeches.94 Speeches by Congressmen in army cantonments caused particular difficulties to officials. For instance, authorities at Landsdowne in Garhwal reacted strongly to allegedly “objectionable” speeches made at Congress meetings there. Particularly unacceptable to them were references to actions of Garhwali soldiers in the 1930 Peshawar troubles.95 They further resented that important Congressmen, including the local MLA, participated in such “pernicious speeches”.96 When reports of these speeches reached the viceroy, he reacted with alarm.97 Haig promptly took the matter Full reports of the proceedings have not yet been received, but it is evident that some very objectionable speeches have been made”. “Report on Political Situation in UP No 42 for week ending 23 October 1937 from UP Special Branch”, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/12. 94 Haig told Pant: “I am well aware of the general reluctance of the Cabinet to set the law in motion in respect of speeches and writings. Nevertheless, I am sure they would agree that there must be some limit to this policy of tolerance and that when speeches are really producing dangerous effects the Government may be forced by the essential nature of its responsibilities to take action.” Haig to Pant, 3 November 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/15. 95 R.M. Saner, Comd. 8th Inf. Bn. to Philip Mason, 25 September 1937, Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/15. The military commander of Landsdowne complained that “there are no means of preventing various speakers from entering Cantonments” and strongly protested against what he saw “as sign of weakness on our part to allow seditious utterances and insulting references to the Peshawar mishap to go unheeded and unpunished, specially as various important speakers appear to imagine that they may say what they wish with impunity, notwithstanding the fact that this is a Military Cantonment”. A.E. Clarkes, Lt. Col., Commanding Landsdowne to 8th Inf. Bn., 27 October 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur. F.115/15. 96 A.K. Hay, Brigadier Commanding 8 Inf. Bn. to HQ Meerut Dist, dated 2 November 1937; the military commander found the “speeches by Thakur Jagmohan Singh, MLA, to be direct incitement to troops to disobey lawful military command, and as such are undoubtedly intended to undermine discipline”. Also Maj. Gen. R.T. Collins to Eastern Command Bareilly, 6 November 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/ Mss.Eur.F.115/15. 97 Linlithgow wrote to Haig, “I regard the reports as of the gravest possible significance, both as affecting the loyalty of the troops and on the grounds of their possible effect in inciting racial feeling against Europeans .... I must ask you to raise the matter immediately with Pant”. Linlithgow to Haig, 15 November 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/15.

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up with Pant but found him “decidedly difficult to deal with and extremely lacking in appreciation of obvious military considerations”. “I think”, he reported to the viceroy, “the fact is that he himself some years ago took rather a prominent part in these activities”.98 Having said that, he managed to persuade Pant to restrict the scope of the ban order. The ministry issued a fresh circular to police superintendents explaining that the earlier order was “not intended to restrict the liberty of members of the Police Force to attend such meetings, in mufti, as ordinary spectators or for the purpose of observing the general tenor of the speeches made”.99 The unresolved conflict soon assumed crisis proportions, precipitated by the activities of an ex-political prisoner, Pandit Parmanand.100 Released after a prolonged jail sentence, Parmanand extensively toured the eastern districts, where local Congressmen fêted him and thousands of people attended his meetings. His “seditious” speeches at these meetings alarmed the CID. With reports of similar speeches by other released prisoners, especially those convicted in the Kakori case, also coming in at the same time, colonial officials pressed for Parmanand’s prosecution. The issue became a test case for Haig to gauge how far the Pant ministry would cooperate with the bureaucracy in the sphere of “law and order”. He insisted on prosecuting Parmanand for a “particularly disturbing speech” delivered at Dehra Dun, declaring that the limit of tolerance had been reached and the issue now demanded his intervention under the governor’s special responsibility for law and order.101 Despite strong disapproval by Pant and his colleagues,102 Haig stood firm. He was supported by both Linlithgow 98

Haig to Linlithgow 23 March 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/15. DIG–CID UP, Special Branch, to all SPs, 25 October 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/ Mss.Eur.F.115/22A. However, the earlier order was not cancelled; nos. was the procedure it lay for reporting of speeches in special cases modified. 100 Parmanand had been transported for life for taking part in 1915 in a revolutionary conspiracy in Punjab in which he was allegedly “involved in tampering with the loyalty of the troops”. He was released by the Punjab government in August 1937 and returned to UP, his home state where he resumed his political activities. 101 Haig to Linlithgow, 29 November 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/15. 102 “We are not prepared to share the responsibility of your decision. We are anxious not to precipitate a crisis or embarrass you, but your decision gives rise to issues of 99

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and Zetland, the secretary of state, who agreed that the prosecution would have a “salutary” effect.103 Meanwhile, the situation was complicated further when Parmanand was arrested in Delhi for a speech he made during a visit there. Haig said that the arrest in Delhi was not enough—it was important for the UP government to prosecute Parmanand. Pant took up the logical legal angle: since a prosecution was already under way in Delhi, there was no need for the UP government to proceed further.104 Haig was adamant, and Pant responded with an equally inflexible stance: if a prosecution were to be launched, his ministry would disassociate itself from the decision, resign even. Several weeks of tedious negotiations followed, and Haig realized that Pant’s resignation threat was “not bluff”. In fact, at one stage a breakdown seemed imminent and Haig had to make elaborate contingency arrangements for a changeover to direct rule under Section 93 of the Government of India Act of 1935, which empowered the governor to take over the administration in the event of a constitutional breakdown.105 A compromise finally emerged after much discussion back and forth.106 It was agreed that a communiqué would be issued declaring that though the UP government had ordered Parmanand’s prosecution, in view of his arrest in Delhi it did not propose to proceed with it so long as this were seen as a public warning that

a far reaching character”, Pant to Haig, 28 November 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/ Mss.Eur.F.115/15. 103 Linlithgow to Haig, 30 November and 6 December 1937; also Zetland to Haig, 30 November 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/15. 104 Haig to Linlithgow, 7 December 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/15. 105 Haig to Linlithgow, 14 December 1937, containing a detailed plan of action in the case of a constitutional breakdown. Haig realized that the ministry would not acquiesce in the prosecution because “the Congress would regard it as damning to their position to have to admit that a Governor had used his special powers and that they had accepted the situation”. Haig to Linlithgow, 13 December 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/15. Section 93 of the Government of India Act of 1935 laid down that, in case of a constitutional crisis, provincial autonomy could be suspended and the governor could take over the administration. 106 The details are in Haig to Linlithgow, 13, 14, 15 December 1937 and Linlithgow to Haig, 15 and 16 December 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/15.

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future intemperate speeches would automatically invite prosecution.107 And so, Parmanand’s prosecution in UP was withdrawn.108 From this episode, the Pant ministry learnt that there had to be limit to the freedom of speech it could permit. Soon “liberty not licence” became its buzzword. It was prepared to restrain its followers, but such “disciplining” was always done through informal party channels. Nonetheless, over the months, the relationship between public speakers and colonial officialdom remained on edge. The ministry continued to resist pressures by officials to prosecute people for political speeches.109 To use state power to restrain public discourse was repugnant to Pant as a matter of principle, as demonstrated on several occasions. When the communist leader Batliwala visited Kanpur, for instance, Haig asked Pant to take action but to no end-result. Similarly, when the Kisan Sabha leader 107

Haig to Pant, 10 December 1937; Linlithgow to Haig, 10 December 1937 and Secretary of State to Haig, 11 December 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/15. In these negotiations Pant’s “primary objection had been that this would be the first time that Section 124A would be used by the Congress ministry in this province”. Haig to Linlithgow, 23 December 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss. Eur.F.115/15. 108 The Pant ministry was generally lauded by the press for its skilful handling of the situation. The Leader congratulated the ministry for showing that “it had not abdicated its function of maintaining law and order,” and for demonstrating that “it is not prepared to allow liberty to degenerate into license”. Leader, 30 December 1937. It commented in an editorial that the warning “should not be regarded as an interference by it with the legitimate freedom of speech. The Congress stands for full civil liberty. It has valiantly fought for it. It cannot suffer any curtailment of it. But it should be clearly understood that civil liberty does not mean criminal liberty”. Leader, 3 January 1938. The Pioneer also complimented Pant for having acted “with a judicious mixture of conciliation and firmness. With the Congress ministry in power more latitude in the expression of opinion was inevitable and, indeed desirable. It was also inevitable that some speakers, in their exuberance, would overstep the line that separates liberty and licence”. Pioneer, 29 December 1937. 109 For instance in September 1938, Haig reported to Linlithgow that “Pant is always reluctant to take action under the criminal law against public speakers and dislikes Section 124A almost as much as he did when he was in opposition”. He, was however quick to add that “Pant does a great deal behind the scenes to control speeches (Gwynne who has recently come back as Chief Secretary confirms me in this view). He is against any open advocacy of violence and thoroughly dislikes Section 108 of the CrPC, but has encouraged officers to take proceedings under Section 107”. Haig to Brabourne (acting Viceroy), 15 September 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/ Mss.Eur.F.115/2A.

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Sahajanand Saraswati made “objectionable speeches” during his tour of the eastern districts in late 1938, Pant refused to sanction his prosecution.110 When Haig insisted, Pant retorted that police reporting of proceedings of meetings present “a misleading impression and exaggerate the nature of the speech”.111 Unsatisfied and unconvinced, in January 1939 Haig commissioned a special CID report on revolutionary activity. When, based on the report’s considerable evidence of “irresponsible” public speaking, Haig confronted Pant, the latter showed a “reluctance practically amounting to refusal to agree to any prosecution of violent speeches”. 112 In thus firmly resisting colonial attempts to prosecute “seditious” speakers, the Pant ministry steadily enlarged the domain of public discourse in UP. By taking a strong position against such prosecutions, and also by threatening resignation, the ministry could consolidate this significant expansion. Its refusal to permit prosecutions made it quite clear that it was not prepared to let colonial officials continue to “criminalize” public speaking under the law of sedition.

Felicitating “Criminals” The Congress ministry also faced the problem of the Raj’s “criminalizing” of political protest when it took up the issue of the release of political prisoners. The Congress’ election manifesto declared that “in the political field its first objective was the repeal of all repressive laws and regulations, and the release of political prisoners and the establishment of full civil liberty”.113 Not surprising then that upon assuming office, Congress ministers turned their attention promptly to the release of political prisoners.114 However, anticipating that an “effort may be made in the opening days of the new ministers to rush governors into a general release of 110

Haig to Linlithgow, 22 November 1938, in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/ Mss.Eur.F.125/101. 111 Haig to Linlithgow, 6 December 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/2A. 112 Haig to Linlithgow, 24 June 1939, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/6. 113 R. Coupland, Indian Politics 1936–1942: Report on the Constitutional Problem in India Part II, Oxford, 1943, p. 13. 114 Haig had expected that “one of the first issues with which I am likely to be confronted is the release of political prisoners”, Haig to Linlithgow, 15 July 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/22A.

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political prisoners”, the Government of India had put in place a broad policy framework laying down that the Congress must be made to “accept responsibility for any breaches of peace and tranquillity which may result from release”.115 Its forward thinking was thwarted, however, as in the face of popular pressures for the release of prisoners, it proved difficult to enforce this policy. To begin with, enthusiasm about the impending releases was so highpitched that rumours were rife when Congress accepted office. People expected the Congress to immediately legalize all banned organizations, return newspaper securities, withdraw proscription orders and throw open the prison gates. Newspapers proclaimed that over 10,000 convicts (and not just political prisoners) would be released to mark the “new dawn”.116 It was this symbolism in the proposal for mass jail delivery that jumped out at and alarmed 115

Linlithgow to Haig, 18 July 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/22A. Linlithgow had warned that the “first battle over Governors’ special responsibilities” would be fought over the release of political prisoners. It had been agreed between Haig and Linlithgow that an individual review of each prisoner must be insisted upon; good behaviour securities must be secured from those released; a general jail delivery must be avoided; and prisoners should be released in batches; no one convicted of a “violent” or “heinous” crime should be released; “public demonstrations in honour of released prisoners were to be discouraged by ministers”; and finally ministers must be urged to consider “the effect on the judiciary and subordinate magistracy, and its possible detrimental effect on the administration of justice and law in the Province as a whole”. Haig to Linlithgow, 16 July 1937, and Linlithgow to Haig, 18 July 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss. Eur.F.115/22A. 116 Not all the stories were rumours; some had a ring of truth about them. The report about a general jail delivery of about 10,000 prisoners was based on a proposal by the Congress ministry which had a strong element of symbolism. In indigenous traditions of political authority whenever a new king ascended the throne, he released prisoners from jail. Some other symbolic acts on these occasions were: striking coins in the name of the new sovereign; bestowing titles; getting the “khutba” read at prayers in the mosque (in the case of Muslims); and most significantly the release of prisoners. Such acts had been of considerable significance during Mughal wars of succession as they showed not only the clemency of the new ruler, but also his absolute authority to grant freedom. This tradition of the release of prisoners had been re-invented by the British when they had revived elements of Mughal political ritual to legitimize their own authority. This was illustrated in 1889, for instance, when Queen Victoria was declared Empress of India. Thousands of prisoners were released to mark the occasion. Similar jail deliveries also took place on the occasion of viceregal durbars. B.S. Cohn, “Representing Authority in Victorian India”, in E.J. Hobsbawn and T. Ranger, eds, The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge, 1983.

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colonial officials. Linlithgow was “disturbed by the very large numbers involved”. Haig protested that the publicity accompanying the ministry’s proposal had “given rise to somewhat serious misunderstandings and apprehensions”.117 The original proposal was to release only 2,500 to 3,000 prisoners ostensibly “to secure economy”.118 Haig insisted on following certain guidelines before agreeing to any such general release.119 The Congress ministry readily agreed and a mass release of non-political prisoners was effected. Releasing political prisoners however proved to be extremely contentious. What the ministry essentially wanted was to (a) cancel securities of newspapers; (b) lift the ban on associations; (c) release prisoners held under Section 124A and cancel their bonds under Section 108 and (d) withdraw pending cases and release the undertrials held under these sections. The Pant ministry soon drew up specific proposals . When Haig objected to some, Pant took the position that release “under Sec. 124A and Sec. 108 seems to me to be almost innocuous and I could not conceive that there could be any possible objection from any quarter as regards these cases”. Haig had his reservations. He wanted the police, for instance, to confirm that the release of individual political prisoners would not endanger public peace. He also opposed the release of prisoners accused of violent offences and wanted “good behaviour” undertakings secured from them. The ministry resisted,120


Linlithgow to Haig, 12 October 1937 and Haig to Pant, 16 October 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/22A. 118 The ministry skilfully cited the precedents created by the British of jail deliveries in 1922, 1930 and 1931, which had been made to create additional prison accommodation. 119 For instance, he wanted those convicted under the Arms and Explosive Substances Acts not to be released. Similarly, he wished dacoits to be excluded, although persons convicted for grievous hurt could be released. In addition, he wanted to obtain the opinion of each district officer for individual prisoners but this was resisted by Pant who argued that no dangerous class of prisoners was being released. Haig to Linlithgow, 24 October 1937; “Secretariat Note on Jail Delivery”; Pant to Haig, 21 October 1937; “UP Government Communique on Prisoners’ Release” in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/22A. 120 It argued that, since the prisoners had been in jail for many years the “police would not know their present mentality or the probability of their resuming dangerous activities”. Pant to Haig, 5 August 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur. F.115/22A.

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demanding that the decision to release be based not on the “criminality” or “heinousness” of the offence, but the altruism or otherwise of its motive.121 But Haig feared that the indiscriminate release of political prisoners would create the impression that “the Government are not out of sympathy with the party of political violence on which these men had embarked, or any rate they are not prepared to combat it”.122 Even as this tug-of-war continued between the governor and the Congress ministry, a hunger strike by transported prisoners in the Andamans complicated the situation further.123 The UP ministry feared that the UP prisoners might go on a hunger strike as well to protest the delay in their release. Realizing that the ministry might just resign rather than face such a situation, Haig agreed to release the first batch of Kakori prisoners without obtaining good behaviour undertakings and in the absence of a police review.124 The first round, then, went to the ministry. Congressmen organized huge demonstrations to publicly felicitate the Kakori prisoners, starting off in Kanpur. An analysis of the nature of these demonstrations reveals the manner in which they challenged colonial authority. Alarmed, the District Magistrate of Kanpur, L. Owen, described the proceedings of the “reception given for the Kakori dacoits”, and protested to the government that: … a procession was formed at the Central Dharmshala at about 2 PM and consisted of about 8000 persons. It was headed by a 121

Pant insisted that obtaining good behaviour assurances would be “of little practical value” and “take away the grace of the act... this is a political gesture and they do not want it to be accompanied by an indication of distrust”. Further, the prisoners “will perhaps refuse to purchase their freedom by giving a formal undertaking of future good behaviour”. Pant reported that they were in a “chastened mood” and he “personally did not apprehend any danger from their release nor any misapprehension on the part of the public from their release.” 122 Haig to Linlithgow, 9 August 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/22A. 123 Linlithgow telegraphed Haig on the gravity of the situation: “Jail discipline throughout India would be imperilled if it were demonstrated that a body of prisoners by resorting to a concerted hunger strike could dictate the place of their incarceration and conditions under which they are to be detained”, Linlithgow to Haig, 11 August 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/22A. 124 “I had not before realised quite how serious the case was. It was a dangerous conspiracy, the definite object of which was the overthrow of Government by force, and in pursuit of their objective, the conspirators committed a number of

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number of Congress flags and red flags with the hammer and sickle. About 25 notices were held up with various revolutionary and labour slogans…. In Harbans Mohalla Bakht Narain Vakil had constructed a Jail Cage in which a boy was placed grinding grain while a servant of the Vakil took the part of the jail warder threatening him with a whip. On the arrival of the procession, Dr Murarilal opened the gate of the cage and ordered the warder to let the prisoner free. In Generalganj a poster was exposed with pictures of the Kakori prisoners aiming revolvers at the guard. At the Calcutta Swadeshi Store a scaffold had been erected on which Raj Guru, Sukhdeo and Bhagat Singh were shown hanging. At the gate of Lathi Mohal the life size painting of Chandra Sekhar Azad was exhibited. In Naryal Bazar a painting of the Rani of Jhansi riding on a horse directing her sword assailing the British was exhibited…. At the place where the picture of Azad was shown, puja was done by the released prisoners and by the crowd…. A meeting was held at the Parade Ground when the released prisoners were extolled as patriots of the highest order. This procession was, I regret to say, organised by members of the Congress party in Cawnpore… it was revolutionary in character and intended to enflame the minds of the people against Europeans in this country and to extol as patriots men who had been hanged for murder.125 Owen followed this up with a detailed report about how “the release of these prisoners implied a return to goonda raj”. He declared that conditions of “growing contempt of authority” and “genuine apprehension” existed due to “the general collapse of discipline, by the feeling of unrest and uncertainity in labour... by the break-down of discipline in schools and colleges”.126 This severe exceedingly callous murders of unoffending people”, Haig complained to Pant in a letter dated 11 August 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/22A. 125 L. Owen to Panna Lal, Commissioner, Allahabad Division, 27 August 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/22A. 126 The “cumulative” effect, he concluded, was “to draw a further distinction between Congress and the Government and to confirm the feeling that the Congress as such was still in opposition and that the public servants are not servants of the Congress Government but of a nebulous body still known as Government”. L. Owen to Gwynne, chief secretary, 2 September 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/ Mss.Eur.F.115/22A.

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indictment by a district official set alarm bells ringing at the highest level. Haig protested to Pant that. ... the whole situation has been profoundly and seriously affected by these demonstrations, and there seem ... to be some grounds for apprehension that the work of years of keeping in check the movement of political violence has been undone in a few days.127 Notwithstanding these complaints, the ministry continued to press for further releases, beginning with the remaining prisoners from Kakori. It disregarded Haig’s position that “it would be most damaging to repeat an experiment that had clearly failed”.128 Its persistence compelled Haig to agree to the release of the remaining Kakori prisoners in early October 1937. Then, of the remaining 13 (non-Kakori) political prisoners serving sentences for violent crimes, he agreed to release seven without delay. The rest he pronounced to be too “dangerous” to be let off.129 The ministry, however, kept up the pressure for further releases, and Linlithgow had to warn Haig that “we should not let ourselves be pushed beyond a point and... be carried off our feet”.130


Pant defended the Kakori prisoners on the ground that “they were in fact rather broken men and that they had no intention at all of running the risk of getting into trouble with the police again”. But Haig suspected that Kidwai, the influential minister for revenue, and two parliamentary secretaries were in sympathy with the demonstrations; in fact the latter two had been present at the prisoners’ reception in Lucknow. Haig to Linlithgow, 4 September 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/ Mss.Eur.F.115/22A. 128 Pant declared that his ministry was committed to releasing the Kakori prisoners and predicted that, in case of delay, “there would be a continuous and growing agitation.” He persisted on the ground that left-wing pressures and the threat of hunger-strike by the prisoners would seriously weaken the ministry’s position and it was, therefore, wiser to agree to an early release rather than succumb to pressure. 129 Haig to Linlithgow, 5 October 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/22A. In the case of the remaining Kakori prisoner, V.S. Dublis who was at the Andamans, Pant suggested an unexpected release to put plans for his reception in UP in a disarray. For the remaining prisoners he took the line that “these prisoners were hardly more than youths when they committed the offences... and deserved consideration”. 130 Linlithgow to Haig, 25 and 28 October 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/ 22A.

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Of the remaining prisoners to be released, the principal category was of those convicted for the Chauri Chaura killings in 1921.131 Fifteen years after the incident, six such prisoners were still in jail. In the 1920s, the government had erected a memorial in honour of the Chauri Chaura “martyrs” to boost police morale.132 And here was the prospect of those responsible for the deaths of these policemen being released and fêted as heroes! Not unexpectedly, Haig was distressed.133 He warned that the release, “indicating the sympathy of the Government with the Chauri Chaura prisoners, would create a feeling of considerable unease in the police”.134 Linlithgow was outraged by the proposal.135 Haig took the position that the larger issue of order must be kept in view by the ministry, and eventually persuaded Pant to drop the proposal.136 131

The Chauri Chaura prisoners had been sentenced to long sentences for setting fire and lynching 26 policemen to death. An interesting account of the trial of these men is provided by Shahid Amin “Approver’s Testimony, Judicial Discourse: The Case of Chauri Chaura”, in R. Guha, ed., Subaltern Studies, V, New Delhi, 1988. His “Gandhi as Mahatma: Gorakhpur 1920–21”, in Guha, ed., Subaltern Studies, II, New Delhi, 1984, provides details about the build-up to Chauri Chaura. Also see his Event, Memory, Metaphor: Chauri Chaura, 1922–1992, Berkeley, 1995. 132 Sir Percival Griffiths, To Guard My People: The History of the Indian Police, London, 1971, which is the official history of the IPS, provides a rather interesting picture of arms being presented before a huge column draped in the Union Jack at the Chauri Chaura memorial. 133 Writing an interesting minute on the proposal, he recalled the words of Sir William Marris at the time of inauguration of the police memorial at Chauri Chaura. “This very peaceful looking place suddenly became invested throughout India, indeed beyond India, with a hideous notoriety... Chauri Chaura showed us all, as in a flash of lighting, what may happen if once the foundations of law and order are sufficiently loosened.” Haig argued how, in recent speeches, specially by the released prisoners, and in the campaign against the police, repeated references to Chauri Chaura had been made. 134 “Note by Sir Harry Haig dated 11 January 1938,” in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur. F.115/22B. 135 He wrote to Haig: “The Chauri Chaura prisoners are so notorious that I am surprised that Dr Katju (the Congress minister) had the temerity to suggest their release. It goes without saying that, given the extremely objectionable nature of their offences, there would be an outcry if there were any question of release.” Linlithgow to Haig, 26 January 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/22B. 136 The ministry realized what was good political sense; when quizzed in the Assembly over non-release of Chauri Chaura convicts, it declared that the culprits were not political prisoners as “they did not commit these crimes as a result of their political convictions”. When the government was reminded that they were part of the meeting organized by the Congress, the rather weak reply which came

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Despite such strong resistance from the bureaucracy, the ministry continued to press for further releases of all political prisoners.137 Linlithgow advised Haig to resist such pressures: “I can only ask you to stone wall with your Prime Minister.”138 Even this policy could not buy much time and Pant delivered a warning in February 1938 that “the question has assumed very great importance, and if the release is delayed grave consequences may follow”.139 Inevitably, a breakdown ensued; Haig insisted that he was unable to accept the ministers’ advice and must refer the issue to the governor general who, under his special powers, disallowed further releases. In protest, the ministry resigned in February 1938,140 denouncing Linlithgow’s interference as “utter abuse” of special powers exposing the “insubstantial character of the autonomy which the provinces are supposed to enjoy”.141 At this stage, several mediators intervened both in New Delhi and Lucknow to resolve the crisis. Gandhi was personally involved in the negotiations, and a number of emissaries put pressure on both sides to retract. Eventually, the ministry resumed office on 25 February and the remaining prisoners were released immediately. So, this round went to the ministry too. A lasting achievement of its efforts was that it could ensure that political prisoners were was that “they were arrested not for being members of a public meeting but they were arrested for attacking the police, burning the thana, looting Government and private property and murdering seventeen police constables and six chaukidars.” Question by H.C. Bajpai in UPLAD, Vol. III, pp. 1177–78, IOL/V/9/ 1870. 137 Pant made it clear that “the demand for release of political prisoners was by no means confined to the left wing, but was supported by all classes of Congress opinion”. He declared that non-release was leading to “disappointment of legitimate expectations and was exercising an embittering effect”. In the ministry’s view the release “did not involve any danger to the peace of the Province, that conditions in the Province were remarkably peaceful at present”. Haig’s note, 28 January 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/22B. 138 Linlithgow to Haig, 3 February 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/8. 139 Note by Pant, 9 February 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/8. 140 Pant’s resignation letter to Haig dated 15 February 1938 and Communique by the governor dated 15 February 1938 in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/8. 141 Linlithgow, on his part, defended his action: “To acquiesce in the immediate and indiscriminate release of prisoners with records of violent crime would have been to strike a blow at the root of law and order in India, dangerously to threaten the peace and good government of every province and to run the grave risk to peace and tranquillity”. “Note by Linlithgow, n.d.”, Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur. F.115/8.

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recognized under a special category in colonial penology, no longer lumped together with ordinary criminals. And, above all, the release of the political prisoners demonstrated that the Congress had succeeded in undermining the Raj’s practice of criminalizing political protest. Congressmen turned colonial penology on its head by lauding those who had been criminalized by the Raj as patriots and heroes.

Khadi or Khaki?: Police Allegiance and the Congress Yet another fascinating aspect of the Congress ministry’s experience in office was its relations with the police—the principal instrument of colonial authority. The ministry tried to grapple with the force by playing up the issue of the allegiance of policemen under the new regime. It also attempted to “reform” the police. Indeed, the ministry’s attitude and Congressmen’s activities in the districts came together to undermine the police’s authority. As Congress electioneering gathered tempo, a subtle yet significant change was perceived. Most Congress meetings now took place outside police thanas and chaukis or buildings representing official authority.142 Perhaps understandably so, “reports of uneasiness among the rank and file of the police as to their position” came in after the Congress’ election victory.143 This sense of apprehension was particularly marked among members of the provincial and subordinate police services.144 When the Congress accepted office in July 1937, popular expectations of what it should do to 142

For instance, it was reported that it was Congress tactics to “hold meetings as near as possible to the police stations, tehsil offices and the camps of government officials, with the double object of annoying Government officials and increasing the prestige of Congress in the eyes of the cultivators that if the Congress can attack Government and all its doings in this way with impunity under the nose of Government servants, Government must be afraid of it.” FR, January 1937 First Half. 143 FR, dated 18 March 1937. 144 In Chapter 3 we considered the nature of safeguards that were incorporated in the 1935 Act. While these secured the pay and conditions of service of European officers and Indian members of the IPS, the prospects of provincial and subordinate policemen were gloomy as they were now at the mercy of the new government. Congress ministers could, if they desired, punish them departmentally, and reduce their pay and alter conditions of service. But more serious was the risk of unfair transfers and punishments.

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the police gathered momentum, focusing largely on the need to stop corruption and high-handedness rife in the police, and inculcate a sense of public duty.145 Indeed policemen had it tough in the early months of the Congress tenure, what with their authority seriously threatened by Congressmen’s intensive and very enthusiastic attempts to hoist the “national” flag on public and official buildings.146 Such large-scale subversion of ceremonial order seriously demoralized them,147 signifying their loss of control most visibly. Some early measures of the ministry, which directly impacted on their sphere of functioning, alarmed the policemen still further. In cancelling securities from newspapers, lifting bans on political organizations, and releasing prisoners arrested for sedition,148 the ministry did not consult senior police officers.149 145 The press took the lead in taking up the campaign. For instance, the Aaj demanded that “bribery and corruption in the public services particularly in the police and law courts should be tackled.” The Daily Uday called upon Congress ministers to tour villages and hold conferences of police and other government officials to impress upon them the need to reform themselves. It warned that some “officials have become so depraved that it is not possible to correct them through warning alone.” Note on the Press (henceforth NOP), 14 July 1937. The Medina urged that officials should be “warned against insolence” towards ministers and other Congress functionaries and should alter their behaviour, NOP, 24 July 1937. The Prabhat expressed the hope that the Congress would “take steps to stop bribery of subordinate officials and the excesses of patwaris and the police.” NOP, 31 July 1937. The Haqiqat urged the Congress ministry to increase the pay of the police ranks and “thus stop the prevailing corruption in the Police Department for which it is notorious”, NOP, 7 August 1937. 146 We have already seen some of the more dramatic manifestations of this such as the attempt to hoist the Congress flag over the Council House, and the insistence of Pant to fly the Congress tri-colour over the Premier’s residence. 147 When some of them resisted, as we have seen in the case of the kotwal of Mainpuri, the consequences were unpleasant. Local Congressmen used their clout with the ministers to have such policemen punished by transfers or reprimands. This undermined morale and instilled a sense of apprehension among police ranks about the future. 148 Haig to Linlithgow, 21 July 1937, cited in Chopra, ed., TOFE Document 377; Pant to Nehru 19 July 1937 and “Statement of Government Policy by Premier” in NAI: Home Pol 1/18//1937. 149 The Congress ministry wanted all prisoners who had been convicted or were under trial for “political offences” to be released immediately. This proposal was resisted by Haig who wanted that “each case should come under individual consideration and that ministers should understand what these men have been convicted for and should hear the views of the police about the affects of release.” Haig to Linlithgow, 16 July 1937, cited in Chopra, ed., TOFE Document 364.

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Pant flatly refused to accept Haig’s advice that the police be consulted on the issue of the release of prisoners. In fact, he declared that the police possessed neither authority nor legitimacy to sit in judgement on the fate of the political prisoners! In such a context rife with mutual suspicion, if not indeed antagonism, Haig’s priority was to sustain the flagging morale of the police.150 Tours by senior officials were especially important to maintain contact with policemen in the field. “It is of the utmost importance in present conditions”, Linlithgow stressed to Haig, “to show the flag when we regard the situation from the point of view of the Services.”151 Anxious to avoid a constitutional breakdown, there was little that Haig could do except “play for time” and hope fervently that the ministry would realize “the vital importance both of the maintenance of order and of the existence of a police force which is not only well disciplined and competent, but which knows that it can rely on the support and the confidence of the ministers in the discharge of its very responsible duties”. Linlithgow, however, believed that there were “many awkward fences” before such an ideal state could be attained. Meanwhile, the public demand for police reform gathered momentum too; the press kept the issue high on the ministry’s agenda.152 Within the UPLA, Congress legislators posed an inordinately large number of questions about the police, giving the 150

Linlithgow stressed the importance of senior officers keeping in touch with subordinate policemen as an “authoritative corrective” to the “depressing effect of such a state of things on the morale.” Linlithgow to Erskine, 16 April 1937 (with copies to all governors) cited in ibid. 151 So anxious did Linlithgow become that he directed Haig to report specifically in his secret despatches on the morale of the services. Linlithgow to Haig, 16 and 23 September 1937, Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/12. 152 For instance, the Vartman complained that, in spite of the new Congress ministry, the attitude of the police had not changed. It urged Congressmen to “keep an eye on the doings of the police” and even suggested “a conference for finding out methods for reforming the police department.” NOP, 4 September 1937. The strength of anti-police feelings can be gauged if we just sample one week’s news reports about the police. For instance, the Agra Punch highlighted police complicity in running gambling rackets in Agra. The Vartman alleged that police helped landlords to coerce tenants in Kanpur while the Aaj complained that it had been “flooded with complaints about police corruption and high handiness” and advised its readers to approach local Congress Committees for redressal. The Oudh Akhbar deplored that “the two very departments, viz the police and law courts which should be the repository of public confidence are today the hotbeds of

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impression that the press campaign and the activities of Congress legislators were being orchestrated. Bordering on tirades153 almost, the questions seemed designed not so much to elicit information but to provide occasions for further publicity against the police.154 Questions to elicit information and focus attention on particular issues are routine legislative methods widely used the world over but in the specific context of the Congress’ tenure, such tactics corruption and bribery and that the officials of these departments make no distinction between right and wrong, violate the principles of justice and are responsible for the ruin of thousands of innocent persons and families.” NOP, 18 September 1937. 153 For example, Mohanlal Gautam, a Congress legislator, enquired whether the ministry was aware that money was charged as a rule by police station staff to register a report? 18 September 1937, UPLAD 1937, Vol. II, pp. 157, IOL/V/9/1869. Similarly another MLA wanted to know if the government knew that the police as a rule exhorted “fixed rates of bribe from lorrywalas and tongawalas?” Question dated 13 September 1937, UPLAD 1937, Vol. II, pp. 163, IOL/V/9/1869. Yet another legislator wished to enquire whether it was in the knowledge of the ministry that people were afraid to report against police officers for fear of persecution? Question dated 20 September 1937, UPLAD 1937, Vol. II, pp. 197, IOL/V/9/1869. 154 Some examples may be considered: “Question: (Professor Krishna Chandra): Will the Government be pleased to state whether it is aware that there is a great deal of corruption in police and in the courts. Answer: (The Honourable Premier): Yes. Question: (Babu Das Gopal): Is the Government aware that corruption is prevailing among the subordinate police officers of the province especially in connection with the investigating of cases? Answer: (The Honourable Premier): Government are finding effective means to remedy the evil where it exists. Q: Is the Government aware that the public of this province does not look upon the police as the custodian of their life and property but is always afraid of and overawed by them? Ans (The Honourable Premier): Government do not think this is universally the case but would be prepared to enquire if instances are brought to its notice. Q: Does the Government contemplate taking some steps by which the public might repose greater faith and confidence in the police force? Ans (The Honourable Premier): Government will not neglect to do anything to ensure that the police work in such a manner as to win the confidence of the people”. 14 September 1937, UPLAD 1937, Vol. II, pp. 257–58, IOL/V/9/1869.

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were quite extraordinary for the questions were raised not by legislators from the opposition but by members of the ruling party! Further, the ministers’ answers did not seem to be intended to protect the police so much as to expose it further to public criticism, thus coercing it to accept the new government’s authority. The resultant publicity further tarnished the image of the police; senior policemen found the reluctance of the ministers to defend the force particularly distressing.155 The Congressmen’s favourite target was the CID, which came under bitter attack for its role in political surveillance. Indeed, Congressmen had always resented the fact that the CID reported on public speeches, intercepted mail and shadowed political workers. At an early stage, Pant prohibited the CID from undertaking political surveillance.156 Nevertheless suspicions about the CID’s role continued to agitate Congressmen,157 who forced Pant repeatedly to reassure the Assembly that the CID’s old practices had finally been discontinued. 158 Several Congressmen proved themselves to be zealous protagonists of police reform. Among these was Raghubir Sahay, a 155

Allegations of corruption, high-handedness or misbehaviour were seldom denied by the ministers; instead the public were invited to submit specific grievances. 156 Letter from chief secretary to I.G.P. dated 15 September 1937. The police was directed that the practice of sending short-hand reporters to meetings be stopped. In special cases reporting of speeches “calculated to arouse feelings likely to lead to acts of violence or danger of communal excitement” was permitted. However, prior permission of the government was necessary before this could be done. 157 The ministry was flooded with questions about the role of the CID: see for examples the questions by I.S. Varun and Ch. Vijaypal Singh dated 28 September 1937, UPLAD 1937, Vol. II, pp. 1275 and 1279, IOL/V/9/1869. 158 Nonetheless, attacks on the CID continued in several other forms. In the annual discussion of demands and grants for the police department a cut of Re 1 in the grant of CID was proposed and it was suggested that the post of DIG-CID be abolished. Motion by Maulvi Fasih-ud-din, 16 September 1937, UPLAD 1937, Vol. II, p. 505, IOL/V/9/1869 who reminded Pant that he himself had stood for this demand for many years. When it was pointed out that the issue was nonvoteable as it involved a person appointed by the Secretary of State, Pant himself forced a discussion on the subject. The CID was lambasted for its past role and the need to reform it was urged. Finally, Pant himself intervened saying that while he supported the motion, he would not like to go begging to the Secretary of State for this.

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leading criminal lawyer and Congress legislator from Badaun.159 He enjoyed direct access to Pant and wrote a paper on the subject. “The most pressing and by no means to be delayed is the problem of the reform of the police”, he declared,160 complaining that the police, “instead of being an instrument of public weal has turned itself into one of oppression, injustice and torture”. He carried on; “There is no other Government department which is more unpopular than the police.” He deplored the fact that under the British the police took pride in the fact that “the public remains subservient to it and cannot shape its policy in any shape or form”. Further, he accused the police of fomenting communal tensions, and of “high handedness and excesses” in dealing with the Congress. Identifying “obstinacy and haughtiness as the two outstanding characteristics of the Indian police”, he went on to propose a series of measures for its reform.161 Such Congressmen not only publicly expounded their views on police reform, but also took interest in the day-to-day affairs of the police in their constituencies. Sahay regularly reported to Pant about police functioning in Badaun. Indeed his letters often contained advice about the suitability of individual officers.162 159

As a lawyer Sahay came in daily contact with law courts and the police, and quite naturally, he felt he could speak on the subject of police reform with expertise. His passion, however, was for prison reforms, as he had already spent two sentences in jail. In 1936 he authored a book on the question of prison reform, the preface of which was contributed by Nehru. For more details on Sahay’s career, see Lance Brennan, “Political Change in Rohilkhand, 1932–52: A Study of the Relationship between Provincial and District Level Politicians”, unpublished D.Phil. thesis, University of Sussex, 1972. 160 “Note on Police Reform” in Raghubir Sahay Papers at NMML. 161 Some of these measures were the replacement of all elements who have brought disrepute to the police by men imbued with a desire to serve the public; commissions of enquiry to lay the responsibility for “indiscriminate and unnecessary firings and lathi charges during the civil disobedience movement” and above all, ensuring that the police is “guided by public opinion and makes itself responsive to public needs should be another desideratum.” 162 For instance his letters to Pant dated 25 July 1938, 12 April 1938 and 28 March 1939 in Raghubir Sahay Papers. Another protagonist of police reform was Pandit Govind Malaviya, the Congress legislator from Banaras. Malaviya felt that it was justified to expect that the police should undergo a radical change, if not transformation, since they were now under popular control. He wanted the ministry to convene a conference of all police officers in the province “to enable the police to understand the new angle of vision or the new policy of the popular

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Colonial officials suspected that Pant himself sympathized with these ideas for police reform.163 Haig found Pant’s overall attitude towards the police “most disturbing” as shown by his positions on issues such as the release of prisoners and political surveillance and his reluctance to defend the police during legislative debates. Pant, on his part, expressed his ideas freely and publicly: It is my view [he proclaimed] that unless there is a new orientation in policy or unless we introduce and secure that psychological background in which the police are made to feel that public workers are not the foes of the state but they are the very pivots on whom rests the entire fabric of the Government and public machine which works for the uplift of the nation, there can be no improvement in the Police Department... I hope it will be realised by the police that they have to serve the public and the public are their masters, that the system of bureaucracy has given place to democracy and that it is absolutely necessary that the police should lose its unpopularity and should win the goodwill of the people.164 He went to the extent of announcing that his ministry would spare no effort to reform the police, as “we have no patience with Government.” Such a conference, he felt, would provide the opportunity to explain “the new circumstances and the new policy, so that the police might try more to serve the people than to rule over them and to so conduct themselves in the interests of law and order that they cause the least amount of irritation and annoyance and inconvenience to the people.” Speech on 16 September 1937, UPLAD 1937, Vol. II, pp. 507–8, IOL/V/9/1869. 163 Like Sahay, Pant too had the advantage of observing the methods and functioning of the police; he had been a leading lawyer first at Naini Tal and then at Lucknow. He had undergone long prison sentences and had provided his legal expertise to defend a number of “political” workers from prosecution: the most notable instance was his defence of the sensational Kakori conspiracy case. And he had himself experienced “police brutality” when, along with Nehru, he led a demonstration to protest against the Simon Commission and was belaboured by police lathis, leaving him with a physical handicap—minor but painful enough to remind him of the unpleasant experience for the rest of his life. 164 Pant’s speech dated 16 September 1937, UPLAD 1937, Vol. II, pp. 516–17, IOL/ V/9/1869. Pant also asked the public to be more tolerant of the police: “I hope the public will realise that when the people come to their own, when they become masters, then their attitude towards their servants has to be one of generosity and of even magnanimity.”

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evil”. Deep within, however, Pant knew that the reform process would not be simple, as there were limits to the pressure he could exert upon the police. So he took several symbolic measures to bring the police to heel, appointing, for instance, a high-powered legislative committee to enquire into the prevention of corruption in public services.165 By widely publicizing this measure, the ministry reiterated its belief that corruption was indeed rampant among policemen and made a political statement about its intentions. Not only was this move generally welcomed but so strong were popular feelings against police corruption that the public demanded more.166 Corruption proved to be a thorn in side of the police, as public pressure mounted on the ministry to deal with it sternly.167 Congressmen within and outside the legislature relentlessly kept the issue in full public view.168 Within the UPLA, Congressmen introduced several measures to threaten the police symbolically. They adopted a resolution


The committee was headed by Kumar Sir Maharaj Singh and reported in May 1938. 166 The Samaya observed that the government “should form an anti-corruption committee in every district with a branch in every tahsil”. The Vartman demanded that “there should also be official or semi-official committees in every district to bring cases of bribery and other popular complaints to the notice of the anticorruption officer and, if required by him, also to assist him in his enquiries,” NOP, 20 November 1937. 167 Interest in the work of the new “anti-corruption department” continued as before with the press commenting frequently on its activities. It was felt by the Asad that the department was not doing enough in “checking the evil practice of bribery and the Government should take greater pain in their efforts.” The Oudh Akhbar pleaded that the department should be considerably strengthened to make it more effective. NOP, 30 July 1938. The Sudharak demanded that non-officials must be involved in crime prevention: it suggested that “inquiries by non officials should be held when there are three complaints of bribery against any official and courts should be more practical and less cumbersome in their work.” NOP, 6 August 1938. 168 For example, B.N. Bhargava wanted to know how many police officers had strictures passed against them during the previous year and was promptly supplied a long inventory of cases. He also wanted to know how many policemen were punished for corruption, ill-treatment and extortion during the last five years. The government happily laid the information on the table of the house, UPLAD, Vol. II, pp. 331 and 419, IOL/V/9/1869.

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demanding a stop to European recruitment to the IPS.169 Another resolution, symbolic in nature but considerably significant in terms of police morale, proposed that the practice of conferring titles and decorations on government servants be halted.170 A more serious resolution proposed a change in the uniform of policemen from khaki to khadi and in their headgear from the red pagdi to the Gandhi cap. Congress legislator Bans Gopal moved this latter resolution, cautioning the ministry from falling into the trap of reformism and urging it to attempt fundamental changes. He explained the purpose of his resolution and its symbolic import as follows: When the public sees Khadi uniforms on the bodies of policemen [he affirmed] their entire psychology will be revolutionized. They will understand that the transformation of the police has taken place due to Congress raj.... It is my firm conviction that when policemen wear Khadi it will lead to a change of heart... they will realise that they are the servants of the public. At present the policemen do not regard themselves as servants of the public. They are regarded as the oppressors of the public and, I am convinced, that a change in uniform will also cause a change in heart.... In brief, I want that policemen should not don the bloody red coloured caps but should cover their heads with Gandhi caps so that the cause of nationalism imbues their spirit.171 169

It was argued that police work “can better be done by a person who has been recruited in India than by a man who comes fresh from England and takes about half a dozen years in order to learn his business.” Maulvi Fasih-ud-din’s speech dated 16 September 1937, UPLAD 1937, Vol. II, p. 504, IOL/V/9/1869. Pant lent his wholehearted support to this resolution and declared that “nothing could be more preposterous than the continued European domination of the police cadres.” He regretted that no practical action was possible by his ministry in view of the limitations imposed upon it by the 1935 Act. He denounced this as “something intolerable and altogether incompatible with any notions of provincial autonomy.” 170 Several legislators like H.P. Bajpai, Ramchandra Paliwal and Bhagwan Din Vaid criticized these titles which they alleged were given for services of dubious merit to policemen and magistrates who had been in the forefront in wielding “repressive laws” during the two Civil Disobedience Movements, 19 January 1938, UPLAD 1938, Vol. III, IOL/V/9/1870. 171 Speech by Bans Gopal on 24 September 1937, UPLAD 1937, Vol. II, pp. 1061–62, IOL/V/9/1869 (translated from Hindi).

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This resolution, needless to say, electrified the UPLA. B.M. Bhargava, also a Congress member, rose in support. “The police”, he said, “is seen in a terrible light by the public because of its oppressive behaviour but once it wears Khadi, the magic of Khadi will transform the policeman and his heart will be filled with feelings of patriotism. Public attitude will also change and they will begin to regard the policeman as a friend”.172 Several non-Congress members, of course, raised serious objections. The most prominent was the Nawab of Chhatari, who described the Gandhi cap as “a symbol of a certain political party” and objected to its imposition on the police. “Services are and should be above any political party”, he argued.173 The resolution complicated matters in the Congress perspective too, for Congressmen realized that if the resolution were to be adopted, the public would find it difficult to distinguish between a policeman and a Congress volunteer! During communal disturbances, this could prove damaging since any strong police action could be misrepresented as Congress aggression. K.D. Malaviya pointed out that policemen with Gandhi caps would confuse the public, so it would be prudent to drop that proposal and insist upon khadi uniforms for all government servants. Moderate elements within the Congress managed to tone down the resolution. Finally, it was moved that the ministry would try, as far as possible, to ensure that all public servants wore uniforms of handspun or handwoven khadi but would not use force to enforce this directive. On Haig’s insistence, the ministry later agreed to drop the Gandhi cap clause though it did insist upon khadi uniforms.174 Haig and his senior officials were troubled by the Congress ministers’ overall lack of sympathy towards the police. When the ministry was installed, Linlithgow had anticipated that the police and the services would be faced with “a very trying time”, but he had 172

Speech dated 24 September 1937, ibid., p. 1070: emphasis added. For a discussion on the “magical and transformative” qualities of khadi, see C.A. Bayly, “The Origins of Swadeshi (Home Industry): Cloth and Indian Society”, in A. Appadorai, ed., The Social Life of Things, Cambridge, 1983. 173 Ibid., p. 1072 174 Haig to Linlithgow, 7 October 1937, also Linlithgow to Haig, 4 October 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/ Mss.Eur.F.115/17B. Eventually, the uniforms were not adopted as senior police officials strongly resisted the proposal.

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also hoped that “if we can hold the situation for a few months we need not apprehend any really lasting or continuing difficulty”.175 His hopes were belied as tension continued to vitiate the Congressmen–police relationship. Pant himself did not think much of the police and tended to believe all kinds of complaints against it. Linlithgow found Pant’s “general attitude towards the Police... definitely disturbing” and felt that if the police were “subjected to continual irritations or made the target of unfounded or unreasonable suspicions”, its morale would be greatly undermined.176 The Pant ministry did nothing to dispel his apprehensions. For instance, it reduced the grant available to policemen for travel, and asked them to restrict travelling to the strictest possible limit. 177 It transferred kotwals on a large scale, thus striking fear in the hearts of middle-level and subordinate policemen.178 However, what was most disturbing for policemen was the desire of Congressmen to play the role of ombudsmen. Pant too seemed well-disposed to the Congress legislators’ proposal to enlist the help of local Congress committees for “obtaining the assistance of non-official organisations in getting information about bribery”. In several places, local Congressmen took to keeping vigils on the police, aggravating the tensions. In Kanpur, for instance, it was alleged that “the City Congress Committee is collecting evidence of police corruption and oppression and the day is not distant when it will have to make a colossal demonstration against it”. 179 Indeed, the 175

Linlithgow to Haig, 28 August 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17A. Linlithgow to Haig, 30 September 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/12. 177 Linlithgow to Haig, 15 October 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/12. 178 On the institution of the kotwal as the pivot of policing, see a detailed description from the Ain-i-Akbari, 2, Ain 4, p. 41 cited in Griffiths, To Guard My Honour, pp. 15–16. In Haig’s words “our larger cities were to a great extent kept in order by the personality and authority of the Kotwal. They were often men of no great scruple and of no great honesty but, they were indubitably effective and they knew how to keep turbulent characters in order. When the present ministry came in, Pant said it was necessary to get a new type of kotwal for the large cities and he insisted on a policy of posting as Kotwal young well-educated men who had been recruited directly.” Haig to Linlithgow, 12 July 1939, Haig Papers, IOL/Mss. Eur.F.115/6. 179 The Daily Uday in NOP, 2 October 1937, p. 2. The city had been gripped for sometime with communal and industrial strife. Soon after the Congress came into office, riots erupted and the police resorted to firing to control the situation which further fuelled anti-police sentiments. 176

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Kanpur Congress Committee observed 24 October 1937 as an “antipolice day” to protest against “no change for the better in the attitude of the police”.180 In the massive demonstration and public meeting that was organized, “even responsible Congressmen took part”,181 prompting Haig to protest to Pant about “the outrageous campaign against the police in Cawnpore”. He perceived it as part of a wider bid by Congressmen of “interfering with police work and establishing a regular system of complaints against whatever the police do”. He was very alarmed at the “attempt of Congress workers to establish parallel institutions of their own in rivalry to Government institutions in the nature of courts and machinery for enquiring into criminal cases”. He complained that these activities were already producing a “deterioration in the role of the police force” and were “beginning to affect their authority and are to be reflected in some weakening of control over crime”. Pant was unmoved, and refused to act against or restrain the local Congressmen. The relentless anti-police campaign that had built up by 1938 eroded the authority of the force further, seriously undermining its standing in the public eye. Indeed, the public was increasingly hostile towards the police. At the great Kumbh Mela held at Haridwar in April 1938, for instance, anti-police sentiments emerged most unexpectedly. Although the fair passed off peacefully due to the extensive crowd control arrangement made by the police and the army, the public’s anti-police feelings were manifested in a riot. When a fire broke out in a section of the fair, damaging numerous temporary shops, rumours spread among pilgrims that policemen were looting property. This provoked a spontaneous attack upon the police by the pilgrims. “The situation looked quite threatening”, reported Haig, “but eventually the fight was stopped without any loss of life”.182 The incident showed quite dramatically how easily anti-police sentiments fostered through a powerful propaganda campaign could erupt into violence. 180

The Vartman in NOP, 30 October 1937. FR, November 1937 First Half. The Kanpur Congress was widely acclaimed by the local press: the Daily Pratap observed that office acceptance by the Congress will “prove to be useless” unless police excesses were stopped and the Daily Uday repeated the charge that police attitudes had not changed, in spite of the new government. 182 Haig to Linlithgow, 23 April 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/13E. 181

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The irony for the policemen was that while the public could express its sentiments so uninhibitedly, they were quite constrained, in that they could only voice their grievances through official channels. The misfortune for them was that their new masters were quite unsympathetic to their viewpoint, indeed quite unconcerned about their dipping morale. In such a situation, police resentment often took insidious forms. For instance, the UP Police Non-Gazetted Officers Association gave a call for a protest day on 8 September 1938, asking its Kanpur members to observe fasts to protest “oppression and distress”. The call was a success with the entire subordinate police force in Kanpur complying; they too were particularly anxious about the anti-corruption campaign, as they felt it was directed against them in a rather vindictive manner.183 News of police unrest alarmed officials in Lucknow, who took immediate disciplinary measures to ensure that the unrest did not spread elsewhere. The Congress ministry regarded this protest as gross indiscipline and insubordination and demanded an overall review of the force. “Pant is very indignant”, reported Haig, “and seems to want to hold an inquisition into the conduct of every single constable”. 184 He lamented: “There have been times when I have felt as very unsatisfactory the attitude of suspicion and distrust which the Premier showed towards the police.” A more typical response of policemen to the attacks on their morale and allegiance was to slacken their daily work. There was little they could do to counter the powerful campaign that threatened their authority, except, as Haig said, to “take the line of least resistance”. This laxity, in turn, led to a surge in crime as we shall see, and that was an index of the erosion of police authority. Eventually, however, the police did survive the campaign directed against its authority. This was because in late 1938 and 1939 the deteriorating communal situation and a series of communal riots forced Congressmen to curb it. The ministry realized that it needed the police to deal with these riots and maintain public peace. As riots increased in intensity and extent, spreading to 183

There was also a feeling among Muslim policemen that they were being singled out for charges of corruption. 184 Haig to Linlithgow, 26 September 1938, in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/Mss. Eur.F.125/101.

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Banaras, Allahabad and Kanpur among many other places—with violent Shia–Sunni conflicts in Lucknow as well—the ministry understood the need for an efficient police force with high morale and robust authority. In fact, after the Lucknow riots in mid-1938, Haig observed with some degree of satisfaction that ... the Premier was very well impressed by the active measures taken by the police in Lucknow to bring the disturbances under control and I think that this personal experience has made him more appreciative of the work done by the police elsewhere.185 Pant sent a personal letter of appreciation to the Inspector-General of Police for the effective measures taken by the police in controlling communal disorders in Lucknow, Allahabad and Banaras. With communal turmoil overshadowing all other concerns of the ministry, it increasingly relied upon the police. By late 1938, it was not only willing to back up the police fully but also to sanction extra manpower and money to augment its overstretched resources.

The Congress and the “Steel Frame” The police was not alone in its tribulations under the Congress ministry. Members of the “steel frame” underwent similar trials. Although the 1935 Act (as we saw in Chapter 2) incorporated several safeguards to protect the interests of European officials in superior services, colonial officials still felt vulnerable when the Congress ministry assumed office in July 1937.186 In April 1937, Haig reported “traces of uneasiness in the Services... that the Congress Raj was coming”.187 After the Congress ministry was formed, 185

Haig to Linlithgow, 13 May 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/13E. Members of the provincial and subordinate services were particularly apprehensive about an attack on their pay and conditions of service as they had not been covered by the safeguards. 187 Haig to Linlithgow, 7 April 1937. The refusal of the Congress at first to form a ministry further complicated the situation; district officials were addressed especially to clarify the Raj’s stand so that officers may be “in possession of a clear statement” at a time when the situation was “so unusual and public opinion so confused and uncertain”, chief secretary to all district officers 22 April 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/2. 186

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attacks on official authority became more open and frequently took the form of setting up of institutions of authority parallel to the state such as Congress courts, thanas and chaukis,188 and it was not long before signs of parallel forms of authority became really ubiquitous. “Verbal attacks by irresponsible agents professing to be agents of the Congress Party are reported from most districts upon Government servants and the public are encouraged to make complaints direct to the local Congress office”—so recorded a government report in August 1937.189 Such attempts to create a parallel locus of authority soon became very widespread. Reports stated that “in Aligarh it is intended to organise Congress police stations and outposts and in Gorakhpur and Mirzapur there are Congress courts. In several districts advice has been given to audiences not to go to the Police”.190 These activities seriously undermined the authority of the district administration. Initial encounters between Congressmen and officials of the steel frame were generally hostile, as district authorities resisted the interference of local Congress leaders in their work.191 Linlithgow directed Haig to make it clear to the ministry that his officials could not be “pressed and bullied” by local Congressmen.192 He simultaneously hoped: “Once Pant realises that the 188

After the Congress’ election victory, officials had anticipated the “danger of the development of a parallel executive”. It was apprehended that “Congress workers and members of the Legislature will take upon themselves the task of enquiring into grievances and of reporting them to their headquarters.” FR, for March 1937 First Half. 189 FR, for August 1937 Second Half. 190 Linlithgow to Haig, 16 September, 7 and 15 October 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/ Mss.Eur.F.115/12. 191 For example, in Faizabad a person was arrested for allegedly making a false complaint on some Congressmen’s instigation against a chaukidar. He was freed by a mob and could be rearrested with great difficulty. Policemen when, they went to the “Congress” village to arrest him, had dogs set after them and had to resort to firing to confront the mob, FR, for April 1937 Second Half. Similarly, in Agra a man was released forcibly by a mob from the police on the ground that he was a Congressman, FR, for August 1937 Second Half. 192 Linlithgow to Haig, 17 October 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/12. He warned Haig of the need to take all steps to dispel the impression that “the local Congress organisation may be recognised as in any form or sense discharging or competent to discharge, any of the functions that are properly the functions of Government, such as the holding of enquiries, the setting up of Congress Courts, calling for reports from subordinate authorities, the summoning of individuals before them to account for their actions and the like.” Linlithgow to Haig, 15 October 1937 in Chopra, ed., TOFE Document 496

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machine is now for practical purposes in his hands, that the Services are at his disposal, and that he can rely upon your sympathy and your advice, things will go smoothly.”193 However, the position was far from resolved. Commissioners reported “incidents and tendencies which are undoubtedly unpleasant and which, if they were to continue to develop, might affect the administrative machinery seriously”.194 Haig was thus increasingly concerned about maintaining official morale. He toured extensively to “reassure officers about our intentions and conditions in general”. But the situation was gloomy indeed; he feared that his own position was at risk! Worried that “owing to the fact that the Governor does his main work in the background and unobtrusively... he should come to be regarded by the public and the services as something of a cipher”, he resolved “that such an impression should not prevail”.195 So then, the colonial officials’ basic grouse was that local Congressmen and legislators were usurping official authority by functioning as parallel centres of power to settle disputes, hold inquisitions against petty officials, and threaten landlords and other loyalist elements—generally “interfering” in day-to-day administration. The ministers’ reluctance to heed official pleas for restraining local Congressmen aggravated the problem. Distrusting official channels, Pant relied heavily upon his own party men for information on district-level developments.196 A particular 193

Linlithgow to Haig, 25 July 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/3A. The Commissioner of Agra, for instance, reported that “it is to be hoped that the spirit of lawlessness will soon subside. Some officers apprehend that if it does not, the authority of officials in the district will be undermined and demoralisation set in amongst the rank and file.” Haig to Linlithgow, 23 August 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17A. 195 Haig to Linlithgow, 22 September 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/ 17B. 196 Haig lamented that “though the Premier is always willing to make enquiries,... the results of these enquiries seem to confirm him in his general attitude that the complaints (against local Congressmen) are unfounded and he frequently expresses the view that a great deal of information which comes up to Government either through the Commissioner’s Fortnightly Reports or CID reports have no solid basis in fact.... It is evident that Pant’s attitude towards the police is so prejudiced that he refuses to accept conclusions even when established by a careful and impartial enquiry.” Haig to Linlithgow, 22 September 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17B. 194

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area of tension related to the transfer of officials by the ministry on the basis of recommendations by district Congressmen. In many areas, local Congressmen provided direct feedback to ministers on the suitability of individual officers. In Gorakhpur, for instance, Baba Raghavdas influenced Pant to transfer the district officer.197 Haig sensed “a serious danger of demoralisation of the Services” if “transfers could be made owing to the favour or disfavour of politicians”.198 Pant too soon realized the deleterious consequences that distrust between local Congressmen and district officials may have. Meanwhile, it became increasingly clear to Haig that district administration could not continue as earlier, under the changed circumstances, and called for consultation with local Congressmen and legislators. Indeed, he was sure that it was because they were not consulted that Congress committees started subverting authority by functioning as parallel centres. It was not long before he and Haig groped towards a working relationship at the district level. As an experiment, they set up joint enquiries of Congress leaders and district officials to ease tension in certain areas. The first such enquiry took place in Jhansi where long-standing tensions had almost paralysed the administration. When the Congress ministry assumed office, the situation in Jhansi seemed “as if a dam had given way and the accumulated volume of discontent and grievances spread over the whole area”. A.G. Kher, a parliamentary secretary who represented the constituency, and the district magistrate (DM) conducted the joint enquiry. Haig was satisfied that “the enquiry seems to have had a very salutary effect”, and was suitably encouraged to innovate methods of consultation between Congressmen and district authorities. 199


Pant’s official note on the subject constituted, in Haig’s view, “a direct and even vehement attack on the authorities in the Gorakhpur districts and contradicts flatly most of their assertions of facts.” Haig to Linlithgow, 22 September 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17B. 198 He observed that “I intend to keep a fairly close control over postings of district officers and superintendents of police—a matter which I regard as of the first importance in order to prevent demoralisation of the most essential services and I should not agree to political jobs.” 199 Haig to Linlithgow, 7 October 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17B.

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In fact, Haig took the initiative to work out a longer lasting solution to the problem. He emphasized to Pant the need to ensure that “party organisations and machinery... should not appear to be usurping the functions of the Government services, and should not be worked in such a way as to impair the authority of Government machinery”. “We have to remember”, explained he to Congress ministers, “that the foundation of order is respect for authority.” He continued: “If that is destroyed, and there seems to be clear indication that it is being weakened, no Government can in the long run expect to preserve order.”200 Conceding that relations between local Congress committees and authorities had indeed been vitiated by antagonism and suspicion, Pant agreed to the need for a new framework and a better state of affairs. This led to the drafting of what came to be known as the “Gwynne circular”. Signed by Chief Secretary C.W. Gwynne, it addressed all district officers and police superintendents in the province. It took into account the large number of complaints and countercomplaints made by local officials against Congressmen and vice versa and observed that these “only tend to engender and crystallise an attitude of mutual suspicion”. It stated: … the time has come when determined efforts should be made by the officers of Government to establish relations of mutual confidence with the district leaders of the Congress organisation.... Government officials, whether revenue or police, are the executive of Government.... They are the agents through whom the orders of the policy of Government are given concrete shape and there is no question of substituting any other agency for the purpose. The Congress on the other hand represents a large body of public opinion and is the party on which the present Government rests. The Congress is naturally anxious to secure the maximum benefit for the members of the public out of the public institutions and functionaries. It is also interested in seeking all relevant information and bringing to the notice of the authorities appropriate cases and facts for redressal and relief and in seeing that malpractices and neglect of duty on the part of public servants should be enquired into and corrected. It is the duty of the Government servants concerned to 200

Haig to Pant, 3 November 1937, in Chopra, ed., TOFE.

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deal with complaints of this nature.... The object of the Government and of the Congress alike must be that the official agency functions with the maximum efficiency and with the full confidence of the public, and this result will be facilitated if relations of mutual confidence and harmony are established between the district authorities and the leaders, the Congress organisation in the districts. How best to set about establishing more friendly and cooperative relations in each district is a matter primarily for the district officers themselves to consider, but I am to point out that any successful method in this direction presupposes tact, sympathy, accessibility and impartiality, and that it is important that the district authorities should be in touch with the representatives of the Congress organisation in their respective areas.201 The UP Provincial Congress Committee’s secretary, Damodar Swarup Seth, issued a similar circular to all its district and subordinate committees. It acknowledged that “a large number of complaints have been reaching the office from districts about the acts and omissions of Government servants.... Similar complaints by private individuals and reports from Government servants about Congress workers are received by the Government.” It added, “Congress organisations and Government have to work as allies so long as the representatives of the Congress form the Government.” It continued: The Congress must devote its attention and energy to the objective it has got before itself. It must primarily look to the building up and strengthening of its organisations. It must develop mass action to achieve freedom. This is its main task. But along with this it also has in the present circumstances to secure redress and relief for wrongs whenever done and also to see that malpractices and neglect of duty on the part of public servants should receive proper attention. Congressmen in different places have been trying to do this. But better results can be obtained without loss of time if 201

Chief Secretary to all District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police, United Provinces, 10 November 1937 in Nawab of Chhatari Papers.

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Government officers and Congress leaders act in co-operation. We have reasons to believe that the Government share this view and are trying their best to promote friendly and co-operative relations between the two so that the official agency may function with the full confidence of the public. Congressmen are, therefore, requested to endeavour as far as possible that complaints and petitions are, in the first instance, dealt with locally.... It is the duty of Congress workers to report appropriate cases of misdemeanour and dishonesty and to secure redress for the sufferers but it may be useful to exercise one’s discretion in these matters so as to leave out petty cases. While it will be necessary for Congress workers to make enquiries as to the genuineness of the complaints received before forwarding them to the proper authorities whose function is to hold such enquiries honestly and efficiently. In case Congressmen are not satisfied with the result of such an investigation, they may make suitable representations to the district authorities and where necessary to the Provincial Congress Committees.202 Haig’s hopes were high. He hoped his arrangements would discourage the Congress from supporting institutions parallel to district authorities, so local grievances could be settled by the latter, not Congress ministers in Lucknow. He also hoped that with the initiative thus staying in the hands of the district officer, unofficial enquiries into local matters by Congress legislators would come to an end, thus enhancing public acceptance of official agencies. All in all, he was confident then that the two circulars would secure the position of the services, keep the administrative machinery intact, and discourage the evolutions of parallel centres of authority. However, the Government of India did not see the arrangement in this light. Linlithgow was quite anxious about the UP situation.203 “I think I made it clear in the past,” he told Haig, “that in my judgement the United Provinces situation is the key point, the handling of which is of crucial importance in relation to the all-India 202

Circular by Damodar Swarup Seth, Secretary UPPCC, to all district and subordinate Congress committees, Pioneer, 9 December 1937. 203 Linlithgow to Haig, 15 November 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/12.

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position.” Now, he expressed his anxieties about “tendencies... fraught with danger to the morale of the services and to the maintenance of law and order in the province”. On the widespread signs of parallel authority, he warned against the “very grave character of the danger involved in the situation... surely [he said] it is exceedingly significant that in the capital of the province there should be suggestions for the establishment of a Congress thana where reports should be made before people go to the regular Police Station.”204 He described as “most disgusting” the reports that the police have been “slackening in their day-to-day administration and that they have lost authority with the public and consequently have lost some confidence in themselves”. He warned: “In no circumstances shall we be prepared to agree to any endeavours of this type to establish parallel organisations or to tolerate deliberate attempts to undermine the authority of the District Officer or of the other legitimate authorities of the Government.”205 These apprehensions were articulated, way before Linlithgow had an inkling, in the Gwynne circular. On learning about it, he summoned Haig to Delhi and quite frankly told him of his “grave misgivings”:206 To speak quite frankly if I were a district officer [he wrote] I would regard the whole circular as an uncalled for and rather offensive lecture.... The circular would give a privileged position to the party organisation of the Congress in the districts, including not only a right to supervise the conduct of public servants but a claim to decide which complaints or other matters shall receive their special consideration.... Its underlying assumption is that no Government servant can be trusted to do his duty unless he is told to do it by Congress busy bodies, to 204

“I see no objection to endeavours to settle cases of adultery or cases of defamation or the like through Panchayats. But I see the strongest objection to independent enquiries under sections 148 and 324 of the IPC.” 205 Linlithgow directed Haig to “bring pointedly and in the sharpest language to the notice of the Ministers” the danger of the situation. So alarmed was he at the situation, that he summoned Haig to Delhi for consultations. 206 He told Haig: “Officers are told that the time has come when they should make determined efforts to establish relations of mutual confidence with the district leaders of the Congress organisation.”

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whom he is enjoined to show special deference because they happen to be the adherents of the political party in power. Apart from the false perspective in which the circular presents the relationship between the public services and the party in power, there is the one other tendency which it signifies, the dangerous import of which will I know be familiar to your own experience of the methods used in past civil disobedience movements, and that is the tendency to impress on the public that the Congress are their sole intermediaries in securing fair treatment or redress of grievances from the officers of Government. Congressmen, as you know, have always aimed at establishing themselves in this position and thus discouraging direct access of the public to district officers and there is no doubt that this method is one of the devices intended to prepare the way for parallel institutions.207 Having voiced these serious reservations, Linlithgow hoped that Haig could either withdraw or modify the Gwynne circular and take suitable measures to reassure his district officials. But Haig found it difficult to retract from his position, and local Congressmen were soon exploiting the circular to negotiate with the district officers and enhance their power and prestige exactly as Gandhi had done vis-à-vis Irwin in March 1931. In Meerut, for instance, the Superintendent of Police issued a circular to all subordinate policemen “in amplification of the UP Government circular”, ordering them to cooperate with local Congressmen. Linlithgow’s worst fears had come true: “Prima facie”, he protested to Haig, “I can hardly conceive a circular more likely to have a depressing effect upon the local police. Its general tone is such as to place all police officers in the dock and to inform them that their only hope lies in submitting themselves to the methods adopted by the local Congress committees ‘to convert them from their evil ways’.” The Meerut circular, he said, “appears to give an official status to the Congress party organisation in the district and to place local police under its disciplinary supervision”.208 207

Linlithgow to Haig, 24 December 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/12. Linlithgow to Haig, 1 February 1938 in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/12. Even the Muslim League took up the issue of the circular on the floor of the Assembly. It complained that the Gwynne circular conferred a special status on 208

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Haig defended his position by arguing that the Gwynne circular enhanced, not impaired, the district officer’s authority. At least, “the Congress organisations have to approach the district authorities instead of going over their heads.” He added that the circular clearly established that “redress and relief of wrongs must be secured through Government agencies”. This he interpreted as “a definite negation of the principle of parallel Government”. He told Linlithgow flatly: “It would be a mistake to embark on a controversy with my ministers about the circular... and we should now leave the matter alone.”209 By mid-1938, tensions between district authorities and local Congressmen gradually eased, even though several colonial officials continued to complain that they had to face undue interference from Congressmen. The latter, for their part, claimed enhanced authority and prestige and could represent to their constituents that it was they who now held the key to real power.210 The Raj was still beset by the issue of dipping official morale. Some disturbing elements in the situation were the ministry’s proposal in late 1937 to abolish commissionerships as a measure of economy, its decision to not move to Nainital for the summer, and its resolution in the UPLA to call for the abolition of superior services. In April 1938, Haig decided to report specifically to the Government of India on the morale issue. He agreed to a large increase in the administrative burden of the Secretariat as a result of “an enormous flood [of work] from all over the province on the Congress and the ministry was running the administration along party lines. It demanded that either the circular be withdrawn or a similar circular be issued calling on district officers to maintain cordial relations with other parties also, especially the Muslim League. Debate in response to a starred question by Mr Mohammad Ishaq Khan on 2 February 1938, UPLAD 1938, Vol. III, IOL/V/9/ 1870. 209 Haig to Linlithgow, 12 February 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/12. 210 Though the problem of parallel authority was somewhat eased, Congress panchayats in the villages continued to mushroom. Officials regarded them under the circumstances as inevitable. Haig observed that the activities of such panchayats “appeared to be beyond the reach of the law and in so far as they attempt to settle small disputes and complaints, which would never be taken up by the police, they do meet a real want in district administration.” But he acknowledged that they were a disturbing feature; “the right course undoubtedly is to multiply our official panchayats and not to allow these unofficial panchayats to establish themselves on a large scale.” Haig to Linlithgow, 8 April 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/13E.

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every conceivable petty and personal matter”. In an attempt to introduce “far reaching changes in the Government”, the Congress ministers were “driving the secretariat machine at an excessive speed”.211 In the districts, officials were suffering from “the immense flood of applications” and were “greatly plagued by every kind of Congress busy-body, and were faced by innumerable administrative difficulties, great and small arising from the new conditions and new policies”. To exacerbate matters, the communal situation put “appreciable strain on district officers throughout the province, and in some places a very severe strain”.212 Certain other aspects of Congress–services relations also engendered tensions. Consider, for instance, the ministry’s increasing preference for Indian officials in key positions. At an early stage, the ministry had demanded that an Indian official, Kunwar Jasbir Singh, be posted as Lucknow’s DM. This move was to be symbolic of increasing Indian control and was altogether unprecedented as no Indian had ever held this prestigious post before.213 Haig observed that “with the rank and file there is no attempt to conceal the demand that Indians should be put into all positions of authority quite regardless of considerations of equity or efficiency”.214 He also noted that although Pant appreciated the value of the work of the ICS, he was very keen to Indianize it, showing indeed “a strong desire to be rid of us”.215 In line with this policy, Pannalal, an Indian member of the ICS succeeded as chief secretary after Gwynne, who died prematurely of a heart attack, reportedly caused by overstrain and anxiety.


For instance, during 1937–38 officials had to prepare three budgets instead of one. 212 He reported that the administration was on the brink of a considerable manpower shortage and feared that if conditions did not improve “after a year or two we may be faced with a considerable drain from officers retiring earlier than they would have normally or taking proportionate pensions.” Haig to Linlithgow, 23 April 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/13E. 213 Interview with Hugh Lane in December 1989, at Rugby in “Yesterday’s Witness” (oral history video). Lane was an ICS probationer at Lucknow in this period. 214 Haig to Linlithgow, 9 August 1939, in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur. F.125/102. 215 Haig to Linlithgow, 22 November 1938, in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur. F.125/102.

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The Congress ministry also pressed for a greater role for local Congressmen in district administration. Its anti-corruption committee proposed the formation of a committee of MLAs in each district to advise the DM on dealing with corruption.216 Later, the ministry proposed the formation of district advisory committees to act in consultation with district officials. This was regarded as one more attack on the services. 217 In retrospect, it seems that the district officers and other ICS members survived the Congress ministry’s tenure only once they realized that they had to accept its authority. From the experience of the Congress ministry, they drew the lesson that, in future, superior services would only be able to function effectively as the public’s servants, not its masters. Several Indian ICS officers were no longer wary of publicly demonstrating on which side their sympathies lay. One of them, Y.D. Gundevia, even started to wear khadi. British officers too eventually reconciled to the new administrative framework, wherein the Congress was an equal, if not stronger, partner.

Contesting Congress Authority: The Communal Divide The Congress’ bid to undermine the Raj received a setback, however, when the resurgence of communalism challenged its own authority. Communal bitterness culminating in riots became almost integral to the Congress ministry’s tenure. Indeed, historians and political analysts alike regard its tenure as a landmark in the growth of Muslim separatist politics. They also recognize that UP provided fertile ground for this, with local Muslim politicians making the bulk of the vanguard of the Pakistan movement.218 The UP Congress’ refusal to form a coalition ministry with 216

Haig regarded this proposal as “mischievous and dangerous and, if adopted, likely to undermine the confidence of the Services generally.” Haig to Linlithgow, 23 October 1938, in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.125/101. 217 Haig observed that “it should be seen in relation to the cumulative effect in shaking and weakening the administrative structure.” Haig to Linlithgow, 4 December 1938, in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.125/101. 218 This point has recently been made with some force by D.A. Low in his “Introduction” to Low, ed. The Political Inheritance of Pakistan, London, 1991. Also see

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the Muslim League gave an impetus to Muslim separatism, setting Jinnah on the collision course that culminated in the subcontinent’s partition.219 There is some truth in this argument. It does explain the paradigmatic shift in Muslim League politics. But it does not explain why the League was able to rally large sections of Muslims behind its cause. This question can only be answered when our discussion shifts a bit to look at what was happening to colonial authority. Clearly, during 1937–39, popular perception about who controlled state power shifted, quite definitely. It can be argued that Muslim middle and lower classes were stirred as a direct consequence of the shift in the locus of political clout. In those years, the Muslim League slogan was one of Muslim self-defence, and this found many takers among the Muslim masses who had already had a foretaste of what their community leaders described as “Hindu Raj”. All this was, of course, a matter of perception. But then, perceptions powerfully shaped the course of events. Soon after the Congress ministry assumed office, several districts reported that “the undercurrent between the two communities is far from good”. With the collapse of negotiations for a coalition ministry, there were reports of communal relations “becoming markedly more strained”.220 The Muslim League’s propaganda was directed at popularizing the notion that the Congress ministry symbolized a Hindu Raj. In a way, Congressmen’s activities justified this propaganda; their attempts to establish parallel institutions of state reinforced the imagery on cue! In towns and cities, Congressmen acted as figures of authority—

C.H. Philips and M.D. Wainright, eds, The Partition of India Policies and Perspectives 1935–37, London, 1970; and Ayesha Jalal, The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan, Cambridge, 1985. 219 A.K. Azad in his India Wins Freedom: An Autobiographical Narrative, Calcutta, 1959, first revived this controversy. For a counter-view, see S. Gopal, Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography, Vol. I, London, 1975. 220 One district officer reported that “the general mass of Hindus consider that they have now got a Hindu Raj and are inclined to be less accommodating to Muslims than they used to be. The Muslims have the same impression and naturally resent it strongly.” Haig to Linlithgow, 8 November 1937, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17B.

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carrying out inquisitions, listening to grievances, arbitrating in local matters.221 In the countryside, they established Congress panchayats to settle petty disputes and arbitrate in village affairs. The Congress campaign to undermine police authority and win over the allegiance of subordinate ranks further alienated the Muslims. Allegedly, Muslim policemen were particularly targeted by Congressmen in their anti-corruption campaign.222 The ministry’s measures to help establish friendly relations between local Congressmen and district authorities, as exemplified in the Gwynne circular, estranged the Muslims even more. They believed that the writ of Congressmen, not the collector, held sway in local affairs. In any case, Congress leaders spared no efforts in overtly demonstrating their authority to interfere in local affairs, and thus extend their spheres of influence.223 Muslim suspicions were also primed by the Congress’ campaign against landlords, who alleged that trouble was directed only against estates of Muslim landlords.224 They particularly resented Congress activities in the sphere of civil ritual. Indeed, Muslim leaders considered flag-hoisting ceremonies, recitation of Vande Matram in schools and at public functions, attempts to impose khadi on government servants, and the introduction of a new education scheme not as challenges to colonial authority but as sectarian attempts by the Congress to inflict its authority over the minority community. In such an overall context, the Congress ministry found itself head-to-head with serious communal disturbances. 221

Congress legislators often played an active role in pressurizing local officials and in case of resistance using their influence with the ministers to have such officers transferred. Interview with Hugh Lane regarding his experiences as the sub divisional officer of Mohanlalganj in Lucknow and the activities of C.B. Gupta, then a Congress legislator, in “Yesterday’s Witness”. 222 Traditionally, Muslims had been over-represented in middle and subordinate ranks of the police, especially the armed police. 223 Such interference frequently led to resentment, as seen from the example of the Rural Development Scheme and the partisan manner in which it was implemented. Lance Brennan, “Political Change in Rohilkhand, 1932–35”, especially pp. 207–88. 224 Such propaganda was encouraged by the Muslim League leadership which was dominated by landed interests and had close links with the BIA. The trouble over the realization of rents, the vilification of landlords by left-wing Congress activists, and the efforts of the ministry to push through anti-landlord legislation were all represented by the League as a concerted attack by the Congress on Muslim property holders and Muslim interests.

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Communal violence had long been endemic in UP but in these years it took on a new character. “The quarrelling”, observes Coupland, “was less spontaneous, more persistent, more deliberate. It was as if the two communities were lining up for a coming battle.”225 In 1937, 18 districts experienced serious communal trouble, and as many as 32 major communal riots rocked the province.226 The communal violence intensified in 1938,227 the bitterness demonstrated in an early-1938 assault on Congress minister Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim by Muslim League activists in Kanpur. The League disliked Ibrahim, the only Muslim minister in the Pant ministry, as he had left them after being elected to the UPLA. The assault was seen as a serious affront to the ministry’s prestige, and Pant was “very indignant” with the Kanpur police for its inability to prevent the attack.228 With both the Congress and the Muslim League recruiting volunteers in large numbers, and training them along para-military lines,229 tensions inevitably deteriorated into violent clashes.230 225

An early instance of such communal violence was provided by the riot in Ballia in November 1937. It was reported that communal passions had been worked up to such a pitch that, at a cattle fair a number of Muslims were attacked by Hindus who suspected them to be butchers procuring cows for slaughter. Two Muslims were killed and a number of cows taken away forcibly. FR December 1937 First Half. 226 Annual Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1937, p. 4. 227 Haig reported that “Muslim League feeling against the Congress is very bitter, and if nothing is done to allay this feeling it will become increasingly difficult to prevent communal clashes.” Haig to Linlithgow, 22 February 1938, Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17B. 228 Haig to Linlithgow, 5 January 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17B. 229 It was reckoned that by 1938 there were two strong bodies of Muslim paramilitary volunteers each equipped with flag and uniform. The first was the Muslim League Volunteer Corps which claimed a membership of 11,000 in UP and the second was the National Muslims Guard with a membership of 3,000 in UP. Coupland, pp. 195–96. 230 The recruitment of these volunteers took place in an overall context in which both the parties enrolled a large number of members. It was reckoned that Muslim League was able to establish 90 branches all over UP soon after its 1937 Lucknow session and by 1938 had a membership of more than 100,000 in the province, Coupland, Indian Politics 1936–42: Report on the Constitutional Problem in India Part II, p. 183 The Raja of Mahmudabad recalls that “the League’s all India membership jumped from a little more than half a million in 1937 to over a million in 1941.” Raja of Mahmudabad “Some Memories” in Phillips and Wainright, eds, The Partition of India Policies and Perspectives, p. 388. Likewise, the membership of the

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These volunteers were then the shock troops for the two communities during communal riots. During 1938, “every major communal festival became a signal for widespread communal rioting resulting in considerable loss of property and life”.231 Official analysis of the causes of rioting blamed both communities. Reportedly Hindu attitudes towards long-standing communal issues relating to cow slaughter, music near a mosque, and processions had become particularly aggressive. “The Hindus have undoubtedly been elated”, noted an official report, “by the establishment of Congress Government.... There is a good deal of popular feeling that this is a Hindu Raj.” Such a perception, in Haig’s view, made the Muslims “inevitably redress the weakness of their parliamentary position by rousing religious feelings and emphasizing the importance of the community outside the legislature”.232 During 1938, as many as 113 serious communal riots engulfed the province and major trouble occurred in Faizabad, Banda, Badaun, Sitapur, Pilibhit, Banaras and Allahabad.233 Such widespread communal disorders forced the Congress ministry to take strict measures to prevent further trouble. It took preventive action on 2,974 occasions, a jump of 932 from 1937.234 We have already noted how in late 1938 Congressmen suspended their anti-police campaign when they realized that the cooperation of the police was vital for preserving public peace. Thus enlightened, the ministry restrained Congressmen from usurping the authority of local officials. It now showed greater sympathy for and understanding of the difficulties which the district officers Congress reportedly jumped from 65,733 members in 1936 to 1,360,914 in 1938 in UP. Chandan Mitra, “Political Mobilization in the Nationalist Movement in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, 1937–1947”, pp. 64–67. 231 Annual Administration Report 1937–38, p. V. The year saw the coincidence of Holi with Muharram, major riots erupted in Banaras and Allahabad. Considerable panic prevailed in Allahabad and the tension was prolonged. But the district authorities drafted the assistance of the army to prevent serious trouble. In Banaras also, troops were employed freely throughout the city to keep trouble at bay. FR, March 1938 First Half. According to official estimates, about 10 persons were killed in each city, but the numbers of casualties were much larger as assaults and stabbing continued for several days. 232 Haig to Linlithgow, 23 March 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/17B. 233 Annual Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1938, p. 7. 234 Ibid., p. 7.

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faced.235 Its attitude towards public speeches also changed. In its early months, the ministry had permitted complete freedom of speech and discontinued police reportage of speeches. In 1938, finding itself overwhelmed by communal propaganda, the ministry reversed this policy. It instructed district officers to arrange for reporting of communal speeches, prosecute offenders for communal writings and speeches, and take firm action in dealing with communal trouble by liberally using the preventive powers available to them under Sections 107 and 108 of the CrPC.236 Congressmen’s activities in the arena of civil ritual were restrained as well, as came to be reflected in the back-tracking on the hoisting of Congress flags on public buildings.237 A similar change occurred with regard to the recitation of Vande Matram and the introduction of the Devnagari script in place of Urdu in schools.238 Yet, despite the Congress’ more cautionary attitude, communal tensions continued to escalate, and it eventually fell victim to the Muslim League’s horror propaganda, aimed at creating and popularizing the notion that Muslims were being suppressed under a Hindu Raj. The League published a series of enquiry committee reports wherein “every instance of communal trouble was scrutinised, written up, repeated, italicised and put on record and published as a formal indictment of Congress ministries”.239 The first of these, known as the Pirpur Report, attacked the UP ministry and declared that it was destroying the civic and cultural rights of Muslims. Another report by Fazlul Haq, entitled Muslim Sufferings Under Congress Rule, followed with a description of 33 incidents in UP illustrating Muslim grievances and sufferings. Though this was bogus propaganda, the Congress ministry found it extremely difficult to refute it. Haig, for his part willing to swear by the fairness 235

After the Banaras and Allahabad riots and the labour unrest in Kanpur, the ministry learnt that the erosion of the district officers’ authority could lead to a dangerous situation. 236 Haig to Linlithgow, 23 October 1938 and 6 December 1938, in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.125/101. 237 As we observed earlier, in its early months the ministry ran a regular campaign of hoisting Congress flags and ministers frequently participated in functions. This policy was reversed in the face of Muslim League opposition, as several local bodies under the League’s control also insisted on flying their own flags. 238 Haig to Linlithgow, 9 March 1939, in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.125/ 102. 239 Coupland, Indian Politics 1936–1942, p. 185.

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of the Congress, observed that “the ministry has done its best to be impartial in communal matters”.240 Yet he understood the League’s predicament when he noted that “the opposition [to the Congress ministry] is a permanent communal minority and, faced with this position of permanent political inferiority it stresses more and more its communal unity, and the religious claim which gives it the enthusiastic support of the masses”.241 In the face of increasingly serious communal conflict, in late 1938 and early 1939, the ministry intensified its efforts to curb communal propaganda. Early in 1939, it initiated prosecutions against six newspapers and, for the first time, deployed the Press Act to prevent communal writings. It directed district officers to deal vigorously with communal propaganda and violence. It sanctioned the “immediate enlistment” of 1,000 army reservists to augment the police’s over-stretched resources, and frequently called upon the army to restore order during serious riots. Notwithstanding these measures, communal violence engulfed the province, with serious riots erupting in Kanpur (“the most dangerous and difficult city in the entire province”) and Banaras in early 1939; where riots continued for several days and claimed over 45 lives.242 When serious riots erupted in Banaras in April 1939, the ministry went out of its way to prove its pro-Muslim credentials. It took severe measures against the Hindu population and imposed a 24-hour curfew in Hindu localities for three successive days. 240

He believed that the charge that agrarian trouble had been created in the estates of Muslim landlords was untrue, as Hindu landlords had suffered as much as their Muslim counter-parts because of the activities of the Kisan Sabha and leftwing Congressmen. During communal riots Muslims, he believed, had been as much aggressors as victims, and in this regard they were no different from Hindus. He conceded that there was some truth in the charge that Muslim policemen had sometimes been the victims of unfair enquiries on charges of corruption. He observed that “those who were selected for attack were usually those who had made themselves obnoxious to the Congress and these tended to be to a considerable extent Muslims.” Haig to Linlithgow, 19 May 1939 in Haig Papers, IOL/ Mss.Eur.F.115/6. He also reported as untrue the allegation that Muslims did not get a fair share in public appointments or that the ministry was imposing Hindu culture on Muslims. “Summary of the Reply of the Governors of CP, UP and Bihar”, n.d. in IOL/L/P&J/8/686. 241 Haig to Linlithgow, 19 May 1939, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/6. 242 Haig to Linlithgow, 25 February 1939, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/5. Also see Louis Stewart, “Recent Riots in Kanpur”, Indian Empire Review, October 1939, pp. 152–54.

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“The whole life of the city was interrupted”, wrote Haig, “… great hardship was caused to thousands of people... the curfew order seems to have created great resentment... and to have inflicted humiliation on the entire Hindu population.”243 The Congress’ appeasement of Muslim sentiments did not, however, succeed in containing communal violence. Serious riots occurred in 1939 in Kanpur, Allahabad, Banaras, Meerut and Bareilly. Communal trouble was also reported, for the first time, from rural areas in Badaun, Bareilly, Etah and Hardoi districts. During 1939, the police registered 3,293 cases of rioting in the province, of which 1,123 were of a communal origin.244

Tiger by the Tail The Congress ministry’s tenure had serious and enduring implications for colonial authority. Congressmen’s activities within and outside the legislature seriously undermined the Raj and its structures. Anti-landlord political activity witnessed after 1936, coupled with the tenancy legislation, confirmed the eclipse of the political authority of the landlords. With the Congress assuming power in the province, British hopes of the continued viability of their landlord collaborators were dashed to the ground. The landlords’ prestige was impaired and their hold over the countryside irrevocably shaken, as the demand for the abolition of zamindari was steadily amplified. Although zamindari was finally abolished only in 1951, the Congress positioned the issue firmly on the political agenda during 1937–39. The expanded public discourse and the release of political prisoners significantly altered popular perceptions about the Raj’s ability to criminalize protest and control the circulation of “seditious” ideas. In the realm of ceremonial order, the erosion of colonial authority was particularly


Haig to Linlithgow, 26 April 1939, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/5. Stung by allegations of causing hardships to Muslims, the ministry indeed went so far as to “put out a very foolish piece of propaganda for the Muslims, enumerating the cases in which they had taken restrictive action against Hindus, and this was seized upon by the Hindus that the Government were not treating the Hindus fairly.” Haig to Linlithgow, 9 May 1939, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/5. 244 Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1939, p. 5.

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notable. By its elaboration of an alternative ritual idiom, the Congress now enjoyed prime authority over very many public arenas. The most remarkable feature of the situation perhaps was that the Congress was successful, for the first time, in undermining the Raj’s authority in institutional terms. Its earlier civil disobedience campaigns had challenged the Raj mainly symbolically by subverting colonial ceremonial order, confronting the police, sustaining a discourse against the British, and sometimes threatening non-payment of rent. Although these campaigns had eroded colonial authority, the Raj’s institutions had remained largely intact. However, in 1937–39 it were the foundations of these very seemingly solid institutions that the Congress ministry was able to shake. For the first time, the entire structure of the Raj—from the Secretariat in Lucknow to the patwari in the village—experienced serious attrition of its authority. The steel frame was put to considerable strain, and the authority of the district officer was seriously challenged. Perhaps the worst affected were the policemen who found their position considerably diminished. This loss of authority resulted in the policemen’s under-preparedness to perform their primary function—dealing with serious crime. Several indices reveal this. For instance, 1937–39 saw a dramatic 30.9 per cent increase in the incidence of riots, from 1,809 cases in 1936 to 2,369 in 1937. In 1938, they reached the figure of 3,180, marking an increase of 34.2 per cent over the previous year and a whopping 75.7 per cent over 1936. The number peaked in 1939 with 3,293 cases. Once the ministry resigned, the incidence of rioting decreased, settling at 2,619 cases in 1940 and 2,490 in 1941. The overall increase between 1936 and 1939 was thus 82.3 per cent. The police attributed this increase to “unsettled conditions and agrarian unrest”. It noted that “political events appear to have given rise to communal suspicion which in turn produced a situation in which communities tended to act hastily in defence of religious rights and customs”.245 The official explanation for the increase in the 1938 riots concluded that ... one of the major reasons was agrarian tension 245

Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1937, p. 4. Kanpur, in particular, witnessed a significant number of industrial and communal riots.

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caused by reason of the pending legislation over land tenure which caused increased disputes and ill-feeling between landlords and tenants and which encouraged tenants to resolve disputes and quarrels over land and water rights by the use of force in order to establish possession.246 Communal tension was also blamed. In 1939, numerous riots— as many as 1,127 cases—were attributed to communal and sectarian strife. However, if riots increased substantially, so did the ministry’s resolve to counter them; the police took preventive action under Section 107 of the CrPC on 2,974 occasions in 1938, as many as 932 occasions more than in 1937. Determined to suppress the riots, the ministry sanctioned the imposition of an additional force of, as many as 918 policemen in eight districts. In 1938, it allowed preventive action under Section 107 of the CrPC on 3,179 occasions. “A general feeling of weakness of the administration owing to political pressures appears to have been the main case of the great increase.”247 In addition, “bitterness engendered in rural areas through the new Tenancy Act and the growing communal tension may also have contributed”. Forms of serious crime also reflected the serious erosion of authority and the increasing difficulties of the police. Dacoity increased by 206.5 per cent between 1936 and 1939 and murder by 69.8 per cent. Similarly, robbery increased by 53.7 per cent and incidents of grievous hurt increased by 14.6 per cent. The most notable increase, however, was in crimes against property (Graphes 5.1[a] and 5.1[b]). Burglary increased from 31,488 cases in 1936 to 40,943 cases in 1939, reflecting a rise of 30.2 per cent. Similarly, theft increased from 16,907 cases in 1936 to 25,825 cases in 1939, a hike of 52.7 per cent. The overall situation was reflected moreover in the number of total cognizable crimes, which rose sharply from 71,056 cases in 1936 to 97,965 cases in 1939—an alarming increase of 37.8 per cent (Graphes 5.2[a] and 5.2[b]).

246 247

Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1938, p. 7. Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1939, p. 6.

The Congress Ministry and the Erosion of the Colonial “Heartland” 281 Graph 5.1(a): Violent Crime in UP, 1937–39

Graph 5.1(b): Crime against Property, 1937–39

Source: Based on the Report on the Administration of the Police of the UP for the years 1936–41.

282 Region, Nation, “Heartland” Graph 5.2(a): Cognizable Crime in UP, 1937–39

Graph 5.2(b): Non-Cognizable Crime in UP, 1937–39

Source: Based on the Report on the Administration of the Police of the UP for the years 1936–41.

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Explaining this increase in crime, the police report for 1938 said that the police staff was “overburdened with enquiries of all kinds”. It attributed burglary to the ... economic distress which prevailed, to the increased spirit of lawlessness which was abroad, and to the depletion of the watch and ward staff which had to be made to supply men to meet the abnormal conditions of the year in particular areas. 248 Thieves flourished because of the “disastrous floods in the East, the increased spirit of lawlessness and the tendency on the part of the villager to report petty losses which he would not before have mentioned”.249 “Professional dacoits” and “criminal classes” were encouraged by a number of new factors too: … the continuous depletion of police station and district staffs necessitated by the various major incidents and disturbances of the year rendered adequate investigation of crime and surveillance of criminals impossible. The abuse of those in authority and the vilification of the police in public speeches made in rural areas by irresponsible persons emboldened the criminal classes. The ease with which bail is now available in both bailable and non-bailable offences was another encouragement.250 Overall, the picture was of increased “lawlessness and lack of respect for authority”. It was a time of “alarms and excursions for the UP Police, one which tested their physical stamina and mental discipline to the limit”. The agrarian population “showed itself in a tendency to disregard the law of the land and to discountenance the right of private property”. The result, by and large, was an increase in crime which provided “an idea of the degree of lawlessness”; the high increases, the police conceded, “do reflect a 248

Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1938, p. 9. Ibid., p. 10. 250 Ibid., p. 12. 249

284 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

lowered respect by the masses for law and order”.251 Throughout 1939, the police and the authorities blamed this very lawlessness for the upsurge in crime. The campaign to undermine the prestige of the police by inflammatory speeches and “malicious vilification had its effect on the more lawless sections of the population which emboldened by the extreme shorthandedness (sic!) of the rural police showed an inclination to take the law into its own hands with a consequent increase in crimes of violence and crimes against property.”252 This increase in crime caused considerable anxiety to the government. The Congress ministers, of course, claimed that it was not crime but merely its reporting that had increased! Pant claimed that crime statistics had shot up because the public now did not have to bribe the police to file a complaint.253 Moreover, he was convinced that “the police are deliberately relaxing their efforts because they are opposed to his Government”. Haig admitted that the increase in crime indicated a “relaxation of police authority” and a loss of morale, but he added that “if men are uneasy and depressed, they naturally will not do their best work and will tend to take the line of least resistance in dealing with crime”.254 Meanwhile, popular view held that the police was deliberately sabotaging the success of the Congress ministry.255 The most interesting feature of the crime situation was that while there was an all-round upsurge in crime between 1937 and 1939, non-cognizable crimes actually decreased by 23.9 per cent from 155,599 cases in 1937 to 125,511 cases in 1939 (Graph 5.2). Such a significant fall was unprecedented, especially in the context of a general upsurge in crime and lawlessness. The police said this decline was “a result of villagers adopting the advice of Congress workers and settling petty disputes amongst themselves without recourse to law”.256 Clear proof of the efficacy of Congressmen’s attempts to take over state functions at the local levels. They 251

Ibid., p. 26 Ibid., p. 3. 253 Pant reply to Question No. 84 dated 1 August 1938, UPLAD 1938, Vol. VII, p. 24, IOL/V/9/1874. 254 Haig to Linlithgow, 26 September 1938, in Linlithgow Papers, IOL/Mss. Eur.F.125/102. 255 For example, press reports in Vijaya and Aaj in NOP, 11 December 1938. 256 Report on Administration of the Police of the United Provinces 1938, p. 5. 252

The Congress Ministry and the Erosion of the Colonial “Heartland” 285

knew that the most effective way of doing this was to settle petty disputes and crimes without referring them to the police. That this was happening on a wide scale is amply clear from the government’s own crime statistics. The erosion of colonial authority is borne out, moreover, by Haig’s analysis in December 1938 of the effects of 18 months of Congress rule. He reported “growing dissatisfaction among the propertied classes and moderate men of all kinds, the increase in crime, the loss of respect for authority” as the salient features of the Congress regime. He conceded that although ... the administrative machinery is still intact, the authority of the administrative services is not what it was. There is a general feeling that if a government officer does anything displeasing to members of the public, it is always possible to appeal either direct or through the intervention of some local Congress authority It seemed to him that the ministry was pursuing “a deliberate policy of weakening the administrative machinery by changes in its organisation”, and observed that “the police have probably suffered more than any other part of the machine in loss of authority... and they have also lost confidence to some extent”. Noting that the provincial and subordinate services resented the Congress ministry, he conceded that “some of them already identify themselves with the Congress”. At the same time, he recognized that … we have to place the immense prestige that Congress have won in the Province since the general election, and particularly since they took office, the authority they possess and fully exploit by virtue of being the government, and the nationalist sentiment which extends probably to a much larger proportion of the population than one might suppose. 257 A year later, after the Congress ministry had resigned and a Section 93 regime had been introduced in UP, Haig retired. In his


“Appreciation of Existing Position” Secret Memorandum by Sir H.G. Haig, 19 December 1938, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/5.

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last letter as governor, he offered to Linlithgow the wisdom gained in his experience of over three decades of service in India: For many years [he said] I have regarded our position and policy in India as that of fighting a rear-guard action. We are deliberately surrendering our power and we ought to do it with goodwill; but we must not let the rear-guard turn into a rout. There are times when we have to stand and fight, even though at the end of it we continue to retire; and I think we may perhaps before long reach such a stage.258 These words encapsulate the shifting sands of authority in the Raj’s position by the late 1930s. The Congress was extremely successful in undermining its authority, the entire range of its activities serving to bring into question the very concept of what now constituted “the Government”. Once the Raj devolved the functions of provincial government to popularly elected ministries, the Congress successfully captured the state’s institutions and undermined colonial authority, not by mobilization, but in a subtle manner—by catching the tiger by the tail!


Haig to Linlithgow, 4 December 1939, in Haig Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.F.115/2B.


Colonial Authority, War Years and Transition Introduction With World War II breaking out in September 1939, the context of the public order in UP changed fundamentally.1 With India getting increasingly embroiled in the war effort as a military base, the colonial government’s priorities changed too. Indeed, through the war the British were determined to preserve the efficacy of the colonial “heartland”, give politics a holiday and concentrate solely on the war effort. It would not be unreasonable to say that at the height of the war, if the Congress gave the slogan of “Quit India!” in August 1942, the message of the British was “Quiet India!” Underlying such conflicting slogans lay a deeper, long-standing conflict over the exercise of political authority. This chapter is concerned with what was happening to UP as a “heartland” during the war years and in the transition which followed. It does not attempt a chronological narrative of the years 1939 and 1946; its purpose is to highlight critical developments in relation to what the experience of war and resistance to war meant in the context of UP as these provided the stage for the large transition which took place in 1947. At the outset some of the limitations of our narrative may be pointed out. For example, an account is not provided of the 1

On the larger context of World War II in Asia, see C.A. Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941–1945, Cambridge, 2005.

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Quit India movement of 1942, as it has been the subject of several monographs.2 Yet, an attempt is made here to examine the context in which the Quit India movement took place. In far too many studies it has been seen in rather dramatic terms as a violent explosion which suddenly confronted the Raj when the fortunes of the Empire were at a low ebb.3 Here we do not look at the nature of mobilization in this most violent movement against the Raj since the Revolt of 1857. Rather, our effort has been to focus upon the larger context of colonial order in UP in the early 1940s. This has been done by highlighting the institutional changes which took place in the colonial “heartland” as a result of the impact of the war effort. The context of what constituted public order changed considerably, as reflected, for instance, in the new priorities of the police and the new interventions of the colonial state to mobilize resources within the province for the war effort. All these embroiled the Raj in entirely new arenas, such as compulsory grain procurement and food rationing. As the war gathered momentum, there also developed a powerful, but muted public campaign in UP seeking to condemn the war effort as a whole. Finally, another aspect which lies outside the focus of our discussion relates to the activities of the UP Muslim League and the separatist campaign it mounted within the province for the Pakistan campaign. Rather, our focus is on the conditions which existed within UP and paved the way for its postcolonial transition.


In particular three may be mentioned; Francis G. Hutchins, Spontaneous Revolution: The Quit India Movement, New Delhi, 1971, provides an overall narative; Chandan Mitra’s unpublished Oxford Ph.D. thesis provides an account focused upon eastern UP and Bihar; and the symposium edited by Gyanendra Pandey, The Indian Nation in 1942: Essays on the Quit India Movement, Calcutta, 1988, makes available regional case studies. Also see Biswamoy Pati, ed., Turbulent Times: India 1940–44, Mumbai, 1998. 3 A notable exception is Indivar Kamtekar’s work in which Quit India is accounted for largely in terms of a “crisis of the Colonial State”. However, Kamtekar sees this crisis largely as war-induced, without locating it in the long-term context of an erosion of colonial authority. Notwithstanding this, his writings provide illuminating insights into the India of the 1940s; see Indivar Kamtekar, “A Different War Dance: State and Class in India 1939–1945,” Past and Present, 176, August 2002 and “The Shiver of 1942”, Studies in History, 18, 1, 2002.

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New Instruments of Public Order After World War II, there were major changes in the institutions responsible for maintaining the Raj’s authority. The army’s function of aiding civil power and maintaining internal security was now accorded a lower priority. Instead military planners, both in London and New Delhi, were keen to delegate the army’s internal security duties to provincial police forces, so that it might be free to participate comprehensively in Britain’s war effort. Both the Pownall Committee (1938) and Chatfield Committee (1939), entrusted with the task of reviewing the Indian army’s preparedness for war, had recommended a major scaling down of the army’s commitment to internal security. As a consequence, the very large resources of the army that had been committed to internal security duties (to give an idea, as many as one-third of the army personnel were involved in this) were redeployed for war purposes. 4 This drastic reduction presented several problems. First, the reduction had to be gradual and selective, since only police units with requisite military training and discipline could be entrusted with internal security duties in a military role. Military officials were concerned that UP’s provincial armed police was not adequately equipped and that special police battalions would have to be raised and trained to take over some of the army’s functions. Further, they believed that the army could not entirely abdicate its internal security responsibility; it had to carry on with essential duties, while delegating less serious tasks to the police. A conference of provincial police chiefs met in Delhi in March 1940 to formulate an overall policy for dealing with the contingency of the war and the tremendous impact it was likely to have on public order. The agenda was topped by two subjects: the additional burdens imposed on the police due to the war effort and the challenge posed by the Congress’ impending Civil Disobedience movement. More particularly, the conference was convened to make “concerted preparations” to deal with the Civil Disobedience movement; Viceroy Linlithgow was anxious for the conference to meet before the Congress’ Ramgarh session to ensure 4

See Chapter 3 of this volume, for the nature of changes made in the army’s internal security functions in the 1930s.

290 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

that police forces across India were fully prepared for another round of satyagraha.5 Other subjects under discussion were: best measures to take against the Civil Disobedience campaign, expansion of manpower, surveillance of enemy subjects, verification of army recruits, need for improved communications using wireless and motor transport, etc. Conferences such as these provided the basis of “a pooling of police and army resources” to maintain public order during the war.6 Sir Maurice Hallett, the UP Governor, was determined that no demands would be made on the army “in aid of civil power” during the war. “We will be ready,” he stated, “to hold the fort to ourselves with our own police forces.” This thinking led to a largescale expansion of police manpower and the creation of specialized police units. Before the war broke out in 1939, the total strength of the UP police stood at 32,821 men, including an armed force of 8,821. In late 1939, when the war loomed up, the government decided to enlist another 1,000 former army reservists and 400 former soldiers.7 In 1940, though there was no major expansion in manpower, the trend towards the militarization of the police was unmistakable. By end 1940, a new military police unit was raised and 1,250 of its men placed for operational training under the army’s supervision.8 In 1941, this militarization was consolidated; the military police had completed its training and was now fully functional. Though raised as a temporary force, to respond to the enormous war-time demands on the police, it was now made permanent. More significant, however, was the formation of three battalions of the Special Armed Constabulary (SAC),9 which had an initial strength of 2,500 men. Commanded by a European IP (Indian Police) official, with an Indian Deputy Superintendent second in command, each battalion had men armed with rifles captured from Italian prisoners of war (POWs) in Abbysinia.10 5

Linlithgow to Hallett, 19 February 1940, in Hallett Papers, IOL/Mss.Eur.E. 251, Vol. II. 6 Memoirs of Sir Richard Tottenham, Additional Secretary in Home Department, Government of India in Cambridge Centre for South Asian Studies (CSAS). 7 Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1939, pp. 17–18. 8 Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1940, pp. 18–19. 9 Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1941, p. 16. 10 Anandswarup Gupta, The Police in British India 1861–1947, New Delhi, 1979, p. 527.

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Placed under military command, the SAC battalions’ “main function was to provide armed guards at key points such as railway bridges, war factories, electric supply stations and the like”.11 They underwent an “intensive course of training in drill, musketry, field craft, riot drill and physical training.”12 The fact that these battalions were part of the UP police only in name and that everything about them was militarized is borne out by E.S. Thomson, an IP official. Thomson, who had been entrusted with the task of finding men for these SAC battalions, recalls how he visited over a dozen districts as part of a recruitment drive.13 He found recruits in large numbers and quite eager to enrol. On joining the force, however, the “men discovered that they were in an infantry battalion for all practical purposes.”14 This caused a wave of desertions; within the first month, Thomson’s own battalion was depleted by 90 desertions. So worried was Thomson by this “daily trickle of desertions” that he held a special durbar to reassure his men that “we were not going overseas.”15 Since the battalions had been raised to take over the army’s internal security tasks, their operational control was vested in the Defence Department. Hallett even asked the Government of India (GOI) to contribute to their costs. 16 As soon as they finished training at Sitapur, where an old military establishment had been made over for this purpose, the SAC and the military police were immediately deployed on internal security duties. Initially, four SAC battalions were placed under the Military Area Commander and positioned at Lucknow, Allahabad, Agra and Kanpur. Their main duties were to relieve the army of guarding communications, war installations and supply lines.17 Later, under a more elaborate positioning strategy, companies of military police were dispersed across major towns 11

Percival Griffiths, To Guard My People: The History of the Indian Police, London, 1971, p. 370. 12 Report on the UP Police Reorganisation Committee 1947–48, Vol. I, p. 73. 13 “Though all supplies of trained men were for the moment depleted, the bottom of the barrel had not been completely scraped.” E.S. Thomson “Reminiscences of the Special Military Constabulary” in Indian Police Collection IOL/Mss.Eur. F. 161/6/5. 14 Ibid. 15 Ibid. 16 Hallett to Linlithgow, 9 August 1941, Hallett Papers, Vol. II. 17 Recollections of Sir George Pearce, who was overall in charge of these battalions, in Indian Police Collection IOL/F.161/6/5.

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of UP.18 As the war effort gathered momentum, these units and the SAC increasingly began to take on the army’s responsibilities. In consultation with the Eastern Command, the UP police devised a detailed scheme for taking over from it almost all the functions relating to the day-to-day protection of railway lines and other communications infrastructure.19 This growing dependence on the police for internal security can be seen in the consequent and considerable expansion of the force. By 1942, the strength of the military police stood at 1,540 while the SAC’s strength was increased from three to eight battalions; in addition, a number of additional companies were raised for special guard duties. The SAC’s total strength eventually reached 5,945 men. By the autumn of 1942, it had a significantly increased number of armed police at its disposal. By end 1942, the total strength of civil police stood at 35,119, including the district police and about 8,800 men of the regular armed police. The Raj also had at its disposal 1,540 men of the military police and eight battalions of SAC, comprising 5,945 men. To reinforce its armed might, the state employed 2,240 constables on a temporary basis and recalled 560 retired police officers and men. Further, district police forces were buttressed by the newly raised civic guards, whose strength stood at 4,125 men.20 It was with the aid of all these newly created armed units that the Quit India movement could be suppressed, swiftly and decisively. It is reckoned that during the war years, the total strength of the UP police increased from 35,078 in 1939 to 47,924 in 1943. However, it was in the strength of the armed police that the increase was the most dramatic—from about 8,000 in 1939 to 18,948 in 1943, representing a 136 per cent increase (Graph 6.1)! Quite striking indeed was also the SAC’s further growth—it had proved so successful during the August rebellion in maintaining public order that it was expanded continuously. By 1946, its strength already stood at 13 companies. However, its really massive expansion took place during 1946–48. On the eve of Independence, the SACs had been expanded to 86 companies; in the following year, it was 18

One company of Military Police was positioned at Meerut, one mobile company at Agra, one each in Lucknow, Barelli; two in reserve at Sitapur, one at Jhansi, two in Cawnpore, one mobile at Allahabad, one at Banaras and Gorakhpur each, see for details Hallett to Linlithgow, 27 September 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. I. 19 Hallett to Linlithgow 28 June 1941, Hallett Papers, Vol. I. 20 Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1942, pp. 11–12.

Colonial Authority, War Years and Transition 293 Graph 6.1: Wartime Expansion of Police in UP

Source: Extracted from Report on the Administration of the Police of the United Provinces for the years 1939–43. *Includes revolvers, rifles and smooth bores.

decided to permanently reorganize them by amalgamating them into the newly found Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC). This force has, in fact, proved to be the mainstay of the government’s police power since Independence.21 A corresponding increase took place in the armaments of the police, which increased from 18,552 (including revolvers, rifles and muskets) in 1939 to 25,251 in 1943.22 This included 1,400 Italian rifles captured from POWs. Wanting to go further, Hallett called for the old .410 muskets issued to the police to be replaced by .303 rifles. Now, as a matter of policy, all procurement of police armaments was approved and supervised by the army. The commander-in-chief rejected Hallett’s demand, declaring that the new army battalions must have priority in getting the .303 rifles. He also refused Hallett’s request for the issue of a few dozen

21 22

Report on the Police Reorganisation Committee 1947–48, pp. 17–19. A. Gupta, op. cit., p. 547.

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machine guns on the ground that issue of “automatic weapons was not suitable for police forces and for internal security work”.23 In the wake of this amplification came substantial internal reorganization of the police to develop its specialized functions. Intelligence units were the first to be reorganized to deal with wartime crises. The authorities perceived an urgent need for close coordination between the army and the police in the area of intelligence, and deputed a military intelligence officer to the UP CID to liaison on a “daily basis”.24 The CID (Criminal Investigation Department) itself was reorganized; in early 1940, its General Branch was converted into the Aliens and Security Branch to control the movement of foreigners and to keep a close vigil on “fifth column activities”.25 Then, the district intelligence staff was enlarged and CID police officers seconded to military intelligence for advanced training. As the war gathered momentum, there was a massive influx of refugees from the Far East. The CID found itself having to interrogate thousands of men to flush out “enemy agents”.26 During 1942, there was a “very large expansion” in the CID’s overall strength and functions. The government was satisfied that, despite the “quite extraordinary strain placed on its personnel”, the CID was by then providing the government “with a very complete intelligence organization, with a remarkably successful investigating cadre”.27 Two examples illustrate the nature of the expansion in the CID’s functions. According to guidelines drawn up by the defence department, measures for the successful prosecution of the war effort entailed strict censorship of all telegraph and postal items. The government assumed the power to stop telegrams if it considered them “calculated to rouse political feelings, or to create disaffection, disorder, or unrest in any part of His Majesty’s dominions”28 Such censorship had two aspects: its preventive aspect was to stop all postal communications that could impede the war 23

Linlithgow to Hallett, 7 October 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. II. Note by R F Mudie dated 21 May 1940 and Hallett to Gen Broad, G-O-C, Eastern Command, 22 May 1940, in Hallett Papers, Vol. I. 25 Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1940, pp. 28, 34. 26 Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1941, p. 2. 27 Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1942, p. 9. 28 “Handbook for the use of Telegraphic Censors” India General Headquarters in IOL (Military Department) L/MIL/175/2149. 24

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effort; its informative aspect was to collect information that might assist Allied military planning.29 It is not difficult to imagine the enormous burden such enforcement imposed on the police intelligence staff, who had to monitor the flow of telegrams, keep track of the large number of suspects identified by postal censors, and provide reports on the enormous volume of “suspect” mail. Simultaneously, the CID got deeply involved with increased intelligence work related to German radio broadcasts. In 1938, there were over 60,000 licensed broadcast receivers in India. 30 Throughout the war, the police had a tough time controlling the reception of enemy broadcasts to audiences within India. It meant identifying households in practically every neighbourhood where people might gather to hear German propaganda. Activities related to wireless communications also reflect the war-related expansion in police functioning. On the eve of the war, police communications in UP were primitive: officials mostly depended upon the telegraph; several districts were not even connected by telephone. In 1938, Edward Hunt, an IP official and radio enthusiast, experimented with the use of wireless at the Kumbh Mela. In a bizarre blend of the ancient and the cutting edge, mobile wireless sets were placed on elephants to coordinate police arrangements and control crowds. From the police’s perspective, the experiment was successful, yet no serious expansion in wireless use was contemplated. The war changed that. Hunt suddenly found himself charged with the responsibility of developing a police wireless grid to connect all the major cities of UP. The army provided the equipment and personnel were soon identified for training. Initially, Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad, Banaras and Gorakhpur were linked to create the main grid, which Hunt was able to operationalize just on the eve of the Quit India movement.31 Police reports suggest that the availability of this wireless grid altered the course of the Quit India movement in eastern UP. When all telegraph lines and railway tracks connecting the eastern districts were sabotaged, the wireless network remained active. “It was thus possible to obtain news of the 29

“Censorship Regulations, India, 1939” in IOL/L/MIL/17/5/4258. “Regulation for the Control of Broadcasting in War”, 1938 in L/MIL/17/5/4257. 31 E.W. Hunt, IP, “Note on the Development of Radio Communications”, Indian Police (IP) Collection IOL/F.161/6. 30

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disturbances over the basic network in the absence of any contact by telegraph or telephone and with many railway lines sabotaged.”32 After the movement was quelled, the wireless grid was expanded on an urgent basis.33 First, the districts where challenges to authority had been the most violent were covered: Azamgarh, Ballia and Ghazipur. The increasingly vital role of wireless in helping the police maintain public order is illustrated by increased grid utilization: a mind-boggling 820 per cent between 1944 and 1947.34 After the Congress ministry resigned, the morale of the ordinary police reportedly improved. Agitations against subordinate policemen—a near-permanent feature of Congress rule—now subsided and there was marked improvement in the communal situation as well. The Police Administration Report for 1939 observed that “the outbreak of the War had a sobering effect upon the population and organized agitation decreased considerably and the strain on the police was considerably lessened.” 35 Consequently, there was all-round improvement in the police’s functioning.36 Certainly, the crime figures for the war years reflect a steady decline in all major forms of crime: between 1939 and 1941, the total cognizable crimes reported to the police decreased by 21.8 per cent. The Police Administration Report for 1940 explained this steep decline thus: “With the return of less harassing conditions, the Police were able to investigate more thoroughly and, 32 Martin Wynne, ed., On Honourable Terms: The Memoirs of Some Indian Police Officers 1915–48, p. 194, London, 1985. 33 From just 13 operatives in 1941, the unit was expanded to 247 trained personnel by 1947. Ibid., p. 204. 34 The following figures illustrate the scale of expansion of the police wireless:


Messages Transmitted

1944 1945 1946 1947

20,680 42,523 102,412 190,317

Source: E.W. Hunt “Development of Radio Communications: India Police” in IP Collection IOL/F.161/6. 35

Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1939, p. 3. Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1940, p. 1. 37 Ibid., p. 2. 36

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therefore, with better results.”37 However, to what extent this reflected a decline in crime reporting, rather than in the actual volume of crime, is a tough ask. Even among official circles, doubts were rife about the decline in crime. The Commissioner of Gorakhpur attributed it partly due to a decrease in the number of “baseless complaints” and in the “volume of vilification” which, he claimed, was prevalent in the Congress’ tenure.38 Almost all forms of serious crime abated. Dacoity decreased by about 21 per cent between 1939 and 1941, although the increased use of arms in dacoities was alarming. Some justified that, because several people were withdrawing money and jewellery from post offices and banks and hoarding it at home, dacoity had become more lucrative and dacoits were tempted to use arms. Others explained that due to large-scale recruitment, “villages were being denuded of considerable number of able bodied men”, rendering the women easy prey for dacoits.39 Further, according to police reports, firearms were increasingly being manufactured in homes. Similarly, there was a 30.8 per cent decrease in the incidence of robbery, about 11 per cent in murder and 7 per cent in cases of grievous hurt. Perhaps the most significant decrease was in the incidence of rioting. Between 1939 and 1941, reported cases of rioting reduced over 20 per cent. In 1940 itself, no major communal riot was reported; of the 86 riots witnessed in the year, as many as 18 related to Shia–Sunni conflict in Lucknow, a rather recent cause of trouble.40 Bareilly division, during 1940, continued to report the highest number of riots, while Meerut, Agra and Jhansi divisions saw large-scale fall in rioting. In 1941, no serious riot was reported within the province, although there was a short-lived communal disturbance in Kanpur. This sharp decrease in rioting was officially accounted for by the “wearing off” of the law and order situation in 1937, 1938 and 1939 due to political and administrative experiments.41 At the time of a failed monsoon, followed by severe inflation, grain shortage and hoarding of essential commodities, such sharp decreases in crime were rather unexpected yet evidenced by statistics. 38

Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1941, p. 2. Ibid., p. 3. 40 Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1940, p. 8. 41 Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1941, p. 2. 39

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Numerous war-related burdens imposed on the police disrupted its normal functioning. For instance, it was directed to exercise greater vigilance over holders of firearms licences issued under the Arms Act—about 31,000 in all, in UP.42 Considering that the Congress had issued as many as 2,000 new licences within its short stint at the helm, government officials were justifiably concerned that many of these new licences had been allotted in lieu of political loyalty, which could spell trouble in the context of a renewed threat of Civil Disobedience. These fears were aggravated by the tendency of political parties to raise volunteer organizations during the war years.43 The police was ordered to verify the antecedents of all the new license-holders; a general review of the enforcement of the Arms Act was in order. The Police Administration Report for 1940 provides an insight into the scale of the police’s war-time responsibilities: … the war created new problems and made new demands on the Police such as the supervision of foreigners and “fifth column” activists, provision of guards for vulnerable points, the creation of trained reserves against possible emergencies, verification of the character of military recruits and many other new duties.44 The unsettled economic conditions also engendered unprecedented forms of crime. For instance, the reason behind the rise in the pilferage of telegraph wires was the demand for raw copper! The police struggled to combat this crime but “investigations were disappointingly unsuccessful”.45 The number of “habitual offenders” on the rolls of Register No. 10 for police surveillance increased from 42,234 people in 1939 to 46,553 in 1941.46 Similarly, preventive action under Sections 109 and 110 of the Criminal Procedure Code regarding securities for “good behaviour” and for “keeping the peace” continued to be quite high, eliciting the official 42

Of these 19,110 were in the western range, while 11,828 were in the eastern range. Report on the Administration of Police in UP for 1940, p. 4. 43 Memorandum of Volunteer Movement, 13 August 1940, in Home Poll. (I) 4/40. 44 Resolution, 9 September 1941, by R.F. Mudie in the Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1940. 45 Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1940, p. 10. 46 Reports on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1939–41.

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explanation that “an overworked executive is seeking a short cut to disciplinary control of the public”.47 As the skirmishes intensified in Europe, UP’s economic situation was increasingly impacted by war news; frequent shortages, even panic, resulted. After the collapse of France, there was a run on the banks in the cities, precipitating panic withdrawals and wild market speculation. The police was often forced to intervene to control the situation, its help often enlisted by various local official bodies to curb profiteering and hoarding. War-time measures, including the rationing of petrol, placed considerable demands on the police, because it had to be, willy-nilly, closely involved in enforcement . When rising inflation wiped out food supplies from the market and hoarding of grain and other food items became rampant, the government had to fix prices and control grain movement from one district to another. The burden of enforcing such new measures fell largely on the police.48 Distracted by these new responsibilities during the war effort, the police scarcely had time to devote to its regular duties. Fresh registrations of criminal tribes, for instance, dropped from 1,386 in 1938 to 144 in 1941.49 Correspondingly, prosecutions under the Criminal Tribes Act also declined sharply. The manner in which special and local laws were enforced also reflects the changed priorities. Cognizable offences under special and local laws classified as “public nuisance” fell from 82,681 in 1941 to 58,006 in 1942. The overall volume of non-cognizable crime also declined from 165,043 cases in 1941 to 148,946 in 1942.50 To recapitulate, the new public order situation manifested by the war affected both the police and the army in their internal security functions. With the police being increasingly called upon to take on the army’s responsibilities, its armed battalions were expanded manifold. The war also thrust on the police several additional responsibilities, further distracting it from its routine duties of crime detection and greatly redefining its priorities. These factors altered the Raj’s notion of what constituted public order itself. When juxtaposed with larger, deeper, more far-reaching 47

Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1940, p. 15. Ibid., p. 1. 49 Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1941, p. 14. 50 Report on the Administration of the Police in UP for 1942, p. 2. 48

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problems, the usual suspects—dacoits, Congress agitators, et al.— paled into insignificance.

The Politics of Food Control Perhaps the area of food policy best represents the many and varied ways in which the onset of the war placed the Raj at the crossroads of a changing, problematic public order regime. That the unprecedented economic situation could potentially threaten the Raj’s authority compelled the UP government into intervening in food procurement, price control and rationing measures. After taking over as governor in early December 1939, Hallett’s first official act was to promulgate price control measures.51 As he reported to Linlithgow: “Reports from the districts showed that there was a danger of shops and markets being looted and there was little doubt that the sudden rise in prices, to whatever causes it may be due, was causing very serious difficulties.”52 These difficulties soon subsided and the initial price surge was not followed by any spectacular increases in the prices of essential commodities, still the general inflationary trend caused considerable nervousness about the overall economic prospects. One of the first reactions of the GOI to the war had been the promulgation of emergency powers under the Defence of India Rules (DIR) of 1939. The DIR gave the government widespread powers to intervene in markets to ensure supplies.53 Rule 81 of the DIR, for instance, provided for (a) regulating the production, treatment, storage, movement, transport, distribution, disposal or use of articles or things of any description whatsoever and (b) controlling the rate at which articles or things of any description might be sold. 54 The GOI delegated these powers to the provincial 51

Aftab Ahmad, “Administration of United Provinces under Sir Maurice Hallett 1939–1945,” unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Lucknow, 1984. I am grateful to Dr Ahmad for permitting me to consult his work. 52 Hallett to Linlithgow, 1 January 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. III. 53 For instance, the Act empowered the Raj to make rules for “the control of any trade or industry for the purpose of regulating or increasing the supply of and obtaining of information with regard to, articles or things of any description whatsoever which can be used in connection with the conduct of war or for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community.” 54 Henry Knight, Food Administration in India 1939–47, Stanford, 1954, pp. 10–11.

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governments; later, they were reinforced by the Foodgrains Control Order of May 1942. Although the government had been quick at equipping itself with emergency powers, it was reluctant to use these to enforce prices. Early on in the war, official thinking held that UP would be spared much of the war-induced economic misery. In terms of food production, UP was a “surplus province”— producing more than it needed itself. It was not only India’s second largest wheat producing province but also, as a rule, provided over a quarter of India’s total wheat crop. Before 1943 UP’s annual food exports averaged 69,000 tonnes of wheat, jowar, bajra and gram. Although it imported some rice, it was much lesser than what it exported. Provincial administrators found this vision of plentiful food supply reassuring and were not perturbed by the initial rise in prices, which was as much as 20–25 per cent in certain cities within the first six weeks of the war. Many believed that the price rise was not necessarily disadvantageous; indeed, it could well restore to prosperity those agriculturists who had suffered throughout the 1930s from the depression. Because a satisfied peasantry was indispensable to the success of the war effort, there was no initial inclination to interfere. Other provincial governments seconded the policy of non-intervention at the First Price Control Conference, convened by the GOI in October 1939. This laissez faire policy was continued when the Second Price Control Conference met in January 1940 and decided that, if prices rose steeply in the wholesale market, “it might be left to adjust itself”. It also agreed that price control was a provincial issue and if it ever came to be introduced, it should be administered on the basis of prevailing wholesale prices. Although prices increased somewhat from their pre-war levels, the UP government continued to be content. Important war landmarks—such as the fall of France or the evacuation of British forces from Dunkirk in May 1940—had little effect on prices. However, prices began to rise more markedly from late 1940; by early 1941, the situation was getting serious. By the time the Third Price Control Conference met in October 1941, inflation had reached an alarming mark. At this conference, the UP representative reported “a spectacular rise in prices” during July–August—rather unusual as prices ordinarily rose only in January–February, during harvest season. He reported “a general outcry” among the public and said that the situation had become serious enough to cause food riots

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in Lucknow and Kanpur.55 Hallett noted that prices had now risen in almost all districts by at least 25 per cent from pre-war levels. He was unclear, however, about what remedial measures to take. He blamed much of the price escalation on “speculation and profiteering” and “bazaar rumours”. Nonetheless, he recognized that “a more general control of prices is becoming essential”.56 By late 1941, wheat prices had more than doubled, forcing government intervention in the form of attempts to regulate wholesale markets. The wholesale all-India price of wheat was fixed on the basis of the prevailing price at Lyallpur (Pakistan) and Hapur (Meerut). The GOI thus fixed the maximum wholesale price of wheat at Rs 4 anna 6 per maund and authorized local governments to fix parity prices for local markets. Linlithgow hoped that a maximum price would be satisfactory and that the UP government would do its best to enforce it “in the interests of law and order”.57 District officers in UP were directed to regulate prices in their areas accordingly. For the first time, the government found itself intervening in the food market. Hallett realized that such intervention had great inflammable potential from the public order perspective; several of his senior officers confirmed this view. A commissioner feared that price controls could cause “more widespread and dangerous discontent than any Congress or political campaign”.58 Crop failures in Meerut and Agra divisions further compounded the difficulties, provoking Percy Marsh, the governor’s advisor, to remark: “God has adopted the scorched earth policy in the West of the province.” Now anxious to grant large-scale rent remissions, Hallett reported to Linlithgow: “The situation is troublesome, if as a result of the release of the satyagrahis, Congressmen may allege that we are failing to meet the criticism.”59 Administratively speaking, enforcing the wholesale price fixed in December 1941 proved nightmarish. Individual district officers often fixed prices without consulting their neighbouring counterparts, causing widespread disparities across adjacent districts. This 55

Ibid., p. 42. Hallett to Linlithgow, 21 September 1941, Hallett Papers, Vol. II. 57 Linlithgow to Hallett, 7 December 1941, Hallett Papers, Vol. II. 58 Hallett to Linlithgow, 8 December 1941, Hallett Papers, Vol. II. 59 Hallett to Linlithgow, 10 December 1941, Hallett Papers, Vol. II. 56

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gave rise to much speculation and inter-district movement of stocks, now prohibited as “smuggling”.60 Given the sparse administrative resources, control over such movements could only be very limited. As a result, local scarcities developed in districts with low prices, forcing the local administration to increase its own controlled prices. The spiralling effect of this phenomenon and the hardship and confusion it caused to the public—both buyers and sellers of grain—can well be imagined. 61 From January 1942 on, many important wheat consuming areas suddenly experienced acute local scarcities. People in many urban and industrial centres, especially Kanpur, were badly impacted. This was the result of the grain market’s response to the government’s intervention. Rumours were rife that much of the scarcity was because food was being exported for the war effort! The people believed that the army was buying food far in excess of its actual needs. They also conjectured that because the army paid ridiculously low prices to primary producers, the ordinary public they had to bear the brunt of the cost. It was then not much of a stretch of imagination for several people to be convinced that the army had hoarded vast quantities of food that were lying unused when they could actually be used for civilian consumption during paucity. “Such rumours were used as a political weapon to discredit the Raj and hamper war effort”, observed Henry Knight, author of an impressive monograph on the war-time food situation and himself closely involved in food administration.62 These scarcities coincided with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and news of allied reverses in the East along with the loss of Burma which had always provided a substantial quantity of rice. By April–May, scarcities had grown to alarming proportions. In May 1942, the government was forced to promulgate the Foodgrains Control Order, aimed at segregating the “legitimate” 60 Hallett reported that “control of prices and stocks is troublesome and most of the recent reports from district officers refer to this problem.” Hallett to Linlithgow, 29 December 1941, Hallett Papers, Vol. II. 61 Script of Radio broadcast “Food shortage and Rationing” by J.D. Banks in Banks Papers IOL/MSS.Eur.D.919. 62 Knight, op. cit., pp. 228–29. However, in actual fact there was not much substance in these rumours, as the army’s need at the height of the scarcity in 1943 was 650,000 tons of wheat and 150,00 tons of rice. This was rather small when compared to the fact that India’s total cereal production was in excess of 51 million tons.

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trader from the “speculator”, and securing information on wholesale stocks and its movement. It provided little relief, however, to urban consumers already reeling under severe price inflation. Consider the acuteness of the situation: the price of wheat had risen from Rs 2 anna 15 per maund in 1938–39 to Rs 10 anna 11 in 1942, while rice had jumped from Rs 4 anna 3 to Rs 10.63 Michael Brown, a contemporary American observer, remarked: Mysterious shortages of wheat developed. In the larger towns food queues became a regular feature of life, with people returning day after day in the hope of being able to buy their quota before the shop’s limited supply ran out… a new profession threatened to grow up: that of standing in queues outside controlled price shops to buy for the black market.64 Indivar Kamtekar’s work explores the nexus between the conditions of scarcity, the hardships and anxieties experienced by the people, and the rise of the Quit India movement. At the height of the disturbances in August 1942, the government promulgated a further order under Rule 81D of DIR, to control shops trading in essential commodities “which might be deemed essential to the life of the community” and to take over any business it deemed necessary for the maintenance of supplies. It was only when the government realized the enormous scale to which colonial authority had been subverted that it changed its food policy decisively. In September 1942, the Sixth Price Control Conference formulated a basic plan for the provision of essential commodities all over India. Its chief features were: (a) centralized procurement by the GOI, (b) allocation of food quotas to deficit provinces by the central government and (c) introduction of rationing in cities. A Food Department with a large establishment was created at the centre to implement this plan. Within UP too, an elaborate administrative machinery evolved almost overnight to enforce procurement and introduce rationing. The entire province was divided into five regions, each headed by a Regional Food Controller, aided by a large staff of deputy controllers, transport officers and so on. These 63 64

Ibid., p. 305. Michael Brown, India Need Not Starve!, Bombay, 1944, p. 50.

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officials procured through purchasing agents in the main assembling markets at prices fixed by the government. The government gradually enforced strict control over wholesale markets where cultivators were obliged, by law, to sell only to official procurement agencies. Geoffrey Haig, Secretary of the Food Department in Lucknow, recalls that “there was this compulsion on the cultivator to sell his grain to the big markets. But there was no compulsion on him to bring his grain to the big markets and this system worked fairly well for a time.”65 Detailed plans were also formulated for introducing rationing in urban areas, particularly Kanpur. There were already considerable fears that food riots would break out in the city, which had over 55,000 workers in its organized sector alone. North India’s largest industrial centre, Kanpur, was recognized as vital to the war effort, for it produced important war materials, such as textiles and army boots. Increases in the cost of living there were high—the working class cost of living index had multiplied from its pre-war base of 100 points in August 1939 to 349 in 1943, pushed mostly by the spiralling food prices. The price of wheat in Kanpur increased from Rs 3 anna 5 per maund in 1938–39 to Rs 7 anna 5 per maund in 1942–43, and then doubled to Rs 14 in 1943–44. Similarly, the price of rice increased from Rs 4 anna 12 to Rs 10 anna 1 in 1942–43, peaking at Rs 18 anna 12 in 1943–44.66 No wonder then that officials and millowners were uneasy about the likelihood of food riots breaking out.67 Kanpur was thus given high priority in the introduction of food rationing.68 The guidelines evolved for enforcement of rationing covered all major food grains and extended rationing to all classes and sections of the population in urban areas. Rationing was to be based on a notional quota of 1 pound per day per adult. It was stated that, while efforts would be made to cater to regional tastes 65

Geoffrey Haig, ICS (1931–47), memoirs “The Compulsory Procurement Exercise”, CSAS. 66 Knight, op. cit., pp. 307–8. 67 As early as in 1940, such anxiety had led millowners to explore the possibility of opening cheap grain stores for the mill workers. Hallett to Linlithgow, 1 January 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. III. 68 Yesterday’s Witness: Interview with Mr H T Lane (ICS), Rugby, December 1989. Lane, who had recently spent a hectic time restoring order in the worst affected district of Ballia in eastern UP, was suddenly drafted to man the newly-created position of Regional Food Controller-Western region.

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and habits, no guarantee would be given to ensure that food preferred by particular groups would be provided.69 Further, rationing would be introduced only in towns and cities—not rural areas. Although rationing was introduced in UP in July 1943, it was fully extended only during 1944. In February 1944, in India as a whole, 103 cities and towns were under rationing. By November 1944, rationing had been extended to 460 cities and towns, covering 42 million people. By February 1945, 516 cities and towns were rationed, covering over 50 million people. This included 52 towns and cities in UP. Rationing was not restricted to food items but covered clothes and kerosene oil as well. The stringency of war-time government controls is illustrated by the positioning of Patrick Biggie, a police officer, as Deputy Textile Controller and Enforcement Officer. Biggie’s job was to enforce the system of cloth control and distribution, and check hoarding and profiteering.70 Unlike food grains, the considerable shortage of textiles that prevailed in the province was a direct consequence of war consumption. In 1943, the government purchased one-third of India’s textile output for the war effort, creating a steep fall in annual supply from 17 yards to 12 yards per head. The considerable hardship that this caused was succinctly paraphrased by Hallett: “At one time in UP, for example, it became impossible to get cloth even for shrouds.”71 It was because of war-time controls, compulsory procurement of food grains and complete control over their distribution that the Raj survived a great economic crisis. Extraordinary, even draconian, methods were used to deal with what was certainly an extraordinary situation. Yet, underlying all these economic interventions, was the Raj’s consistent anxiety to maintain “law and order”.72 It was this obsessive concern with preserving public order 69

The disaster of the Bengal famine is well documented in the works of Paul Greenough and Amartya Sen. Paul Greenough Prosperity and Misery in Modern Bengal: The Famine of 1943–44, New York, 1982; and Amartya Sen Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, Oxford, 1981. Attempts by the government to distribute wheat to Bengalis whose staple was rice were a disaster and failed to contain the rising toll of starvation deaths. 70 Memoirs of Patrick Biggie in the IP Collection and Wynne, op. cit., p. 171. 71 Hallett to Wavell, 16 March 1945, in L/P&J/5274. 72 See for instance, Hallett to Linlithgow, 8 December 1941, and Linlithgow to Hallett, 7 December 1941, Hallett Papers, Vol. II.

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that hindered the Raj from going all out to intervene in the areas of price control, food procurement, and public distribution and rationing; indeed, the British intervention was piecemeal. In any case, these interventions caused sizeable economic hardships to various social groups, who resented it all the more because these measures were associated with the war effort with which few Indians identified. Popular perception could not identify with these interventions, because they were seen as the workings of an alien bureaucracy. Ironically, later when the Congress introduced similar measures to deal with the food situation, it not only achieved success but also popular support. In 1946, due to a poor monsoon and postwar inflation, there was a shortfall of 1.5 million tonnes of food grains in UP’s procurement plan. Haig, in charge of food administration in UP, worked out a scheme in early 1946, which involved the imposition of a compulsory grain levy. By the time the scheme was finalized, elections to the provincial assembly had been announced; by April 1946, a Congress ministry was in office with Pant in overall command as also in charge of the food portfolio. The ministry was in a dilemma: should it scrap the scheme or not? Pant fully realized that there was no choice but to accept it, if rationing were to continue. Haig Jr. recalls that the ministry’s first act was “to inaugurate an entirely new form of coercion which would affect most of the cultivators in the province”. He found Pant willing to enforce this scheme, but “continually trying to make the square corners round and the fixed lines flexible”. In Haig’s view, the scheme’s success hinged on Congress backbenchers and party men in the districts. Eventually, the scheme was a great success. Rationing, under a popular ministry, increasingly came to be regarded not only as palatable, but absolutely vital to hold the price line. In July 1947, when the Pant ministry decided to experiment with “de-rationing” in 15 towns, there was such a public outcry that the idea had to be—quite like a hot potato!—dropped.

Political Support and the War Effort After focusing on how the war effort altered the state’s institutions and, to some extent, its priorities, let us see how much support existed for the war effort among political groups. The transition

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to the Section 93 regime had been smooth from the administrative point of view, but beset with much political intricacy. Upon the Congress ministry’s resignation, Haig had announced that, in view of the breakdown of constitutional arrangements, he had no choice but to introduce governor’s rule. He then appointed three advisors belonging to the ICS, and turned his energies to organizing the war effort in the province. The Congress ministers had parted on a note of personal goodwill, with Haig even posing in a group picture with them and articulating the hope that they would soon resume office. Soon after, Haig retired, to be succeeded by Sir Maurice Hallett. At this time, it was believed that a Section 93 regime could only be a temporary expedient and that a popular Congress-led ministry would—sooner or later—return to office. Linlithgow, often portrayed as unyielding and unimaginative in his negotiations with the Congress over enlisting its support for the war effort, wrote to Hallett: It would be regarded the greatest possible mistake for any of us to imagine that it (a Section 93 regime) could be regarded as a position which we could accept with equanimity and which we could be expected to endure for any considerable period of time.73 A widely shared perception indeed, in official circles, it was not uncommon to hear—in jest, of course—that provincial governments in “Congress” provinces had been “widowed” with the resignation of their popular ministries.74 Himself a subscriber to this view, Hallett was keen to implement the Tenancy Bill prepared by the Congress in the preceding period. He could have, as indeed the zamindars and the BIA (British India Association) would have liked him to, withheld his assent and relegated the bill to cold storage. But, in his early months as Governor, Hallett displayed considerable sensitivity to the views of the Congress leadership. Many of his public gestures, such as paying an unexpected visit to Anand Bhavan in Allahabad, were perceived as tidings of a 73

See for instance, Hallett to Linlithgow, 8 December 1941 and Linlithgow to Hallett, 7 December 1941, Hallett Papers, Vol. II. 74 Henry Knight, op. cit., p. 9.

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forthcoming agreement with the Congress. Genuinely convinced that the return to a popular ministry was imminent, indeed inevitable, Hallett did not want to do anything to jeopardize this prospect. He was extremely sensitive to critiques by former ministers that his regime was “undoing the good work” done by the Congress. It was only at the peak of the Individual Civil Disobedience movement that Hallett was moved to the position that “the time for talking and thinking of Congress as entitled to ask us not to undo their work but to act as constables is passing.”75 Accounts of the lengthy and fruitless negotiations between the Congress and the Viceroy in late 1939 and early 1940 are available elsewhere and need not detain us here.76 Most of these negotiations took place in New Delhi, conducted by the Viceroy himself; Hallett was not personally involved. His responsibility lay in mobilizing political support for the war effort within UP. He consulted a spectrum of political opinion, ranging from the Khaksars and the Muslim League to the Hindu Mahasabha and the BIA. Persuading the Indian political parties to support the war effort was, he found, a difficult proposition. Political parties were interested in supporting the government only when they were offered political concessions. For instance, the Khaksar offer of support was accompanied by a number of conditions, prompting Linlithgow to dismiss them as “a dangerous organization of a communal character close to a well organised private army”.77 Hallett78 had been reassured by veteran Liberal leader Sapru: “You should recognise that if you have got enemies in this country, you have also got a very much larger number of friends.”79 But men of Sapru’s ilk, who genuinely believed in the British need for aid in their war effort, were only a handful among the UP politicians. As a result, Hallett’s efforts at enlisting support did not get very far. He organized a Provincial War Committee to which he was able to draft Sapru, Chintamani, J.P. Srivastava and a few others but the Muslim 75

Ibid. See Gowhar Rizvi, Linlithgow and India, London, 1976; and John Glendevon, The Viceroy at Bay: Lord Linlithgow in India 1936–43, London, 1971. Also see Johannes H. Voight, India in the Second World War, New Delhi, 1987. 77 Linlithgow to Hallett, 8 December 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. II. 78 See Sapru to Raja Maheshwar Dayal Seth, 4 October 1940, advising the Mahasabha to offer unconditional support, Hallett Papers, Vol. I. 79 Sapru to Hallett, 18 June 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. I. 76

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League refused to participate, despite Chhatari’s best efforts to persuade Khaliq-ul-zaman. The BIA, upset at the government’s refusal to scrap the Tenancy Bill, was not at all supportive either. Hallett’s Committee was nowhere close to representative of popular political opinion.80 Even the government’s traditional supporters were critical of the Section 93 regime. A joint delegation of the BIA and some UP Legislative Council (UPLC) members was forthright in criticizing the regime to Hallett’s face: “The present autocratic rule which puts back the hand of the clock to the days when the British rule was established in this country is fraught with the greatest consequences to the evolution of a stable order.”81 Meanwhile, the GOI was overly concerned that the essentials of the Section 93 regime should not be diluted by the creation of consultative bodies, which by getting politicized might defeat the war-time agenda of giving politics a rest. The danger here was most clearly shown when the chairman of the UPLC took the initiative to convene an informal meeting of its members in August 1941 to provide a forum for legislators of the Council, which had not met since 1939. Of the 60 members, 32 (eight were in jail), managed to attend and called for support for the war effort, release of political prisoners and various other conciliatory measures. Though unanimous in supporting the war effort, they were also critical of the bureaucratic regime and suspension of legislative activity. The meeting could have provided Hallett an excellent opportunity to mobilize them and associate public opinion with his administration. Yet Linlithgow’s instructions to him provide an insight into how entrenched official thinking was upon these issues. Hallett was directed not only to scotch the legislators’ proposals but to ensure that “no iota of the legal and constitutional authority be held to devolve upon the gathering”.82

Congress Prepares for Satyagraha Attempts at negotiation and enlisting the support of political parties conveyed the impression that the government was seeking a compromise. This helped delay the time frame of the next 80

Their position was reported by Hallett to Linlithgow, 10 June 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. I. 81 See Hallett to Linlithgow, 6 November 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. I. 82 Linlithgow to Hallett, 17 September 1941, Hallett Papers, Vol. II.

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Congress campaign. Much of Congress activity after its resignation centred on organizational control and discipline. In January 1940 when the grand annual ritual of “Independence Day” was celebrated, directives to subordinate Congress committees clearly emphasized the need to maintain discipline. Nehru, UPCC (UP Congress Committee) president, told Congressmen that “no effort should be made by Congressmen anywhere to organise a strike for any purpose on that day”. Activities were to be confined to prabhat pheris, flag hoisting ceremonies, and peaceful meetings. The highlight of the celebrations were Congress meetings in the larger towns and a hectic, dozen-city, well-received tour by Subhas Chandra Bose. Expectedly, Kanpur hosted the largest meeting; according to intelligence reports, Congressmen led a procession of over 30,000 people. While there was considerable enthusiasm in the larger towns—particularly on the part of students—celebrations in smaller towns and rural areas were poorly attended. 83 Once Independence Day was celebrated, Congressmen directed their energies into organizing district-level political conferences: the Sitapur Political Conference was at Mahmudabad and the Sultanpur District Conference at Kadipur, both in early February. In Sitapur, a throng of uniformed Congress volunteers took conference president Acharya Narendra Deva in a large procession through the town. MLA Sri Prakasa presided over the Sultanpur Conference. The main speaker at both places was Rafi Ahmed Kidwai.84 The latter part of February 1940 was dominated by the proceedings of the Ramgarh Congress session where a sizeable section of the UP delegates voted for M.N. Roy in the presidential contest.85 Elections also took place for the UPCC office bearers and the voting, as expected, took place along the lines of the Left– Right divide.86 After Ramgarh, Congressmen stepped up organizational activity. In late February 1940, well-attended district 83

Provincial Abstract of Intelligence (Weekly) (henceforth PAI), 3 February and 10 February 1940. 84 PAI, 17 February 1940. 85 The UP delegates proved to be the second largest bloc of support for Roy after Congressmen from Bengal. The considerable support for Roy showed a continuation of the UP delegates’ left-wing tendency, which had earlier manifested itself strongly at Tripuri when a large number of UP delegates had voted for Bose. 86 Shri Krishna Dutt Paliwal, a right-wing Congressman from Agra, was voted President of the UPPCC, defeating Damodar Swaroop Seth by 212 to 174 votes. PAI, 24 February 1940.

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political conferences in Gorakhpur and Ballia87 featured Nehru and Pant, and Kidwai and Sampuranand, respectively. This reinvigoration of district-level organizations through political conferences carried on in the weeks to come, with conferences organized at Rae Barelli, Kanpur, Hamirpur, Jhansi and Kheri districts in late February and at Bahraich, Bareilly, Mirzapur and Unnao in early March. Intelligence reports testified that these were well attended and usually distinguished by much organizational activity and vigour. At Bareilly, Purshottamdas Tandon was taken out in a large procession from the railway station to the pandal, with over 100 uniformed Congress volunteers regulating the crowds.88 In early March, Bose paid UP another visit, which was marked by considerable Forward Bloc activity.89 Though the activity was not sustained in organizational terms, Bose was received enthusiastically wherever he went.90 By early April 1940, Congressmen were preparing intensively for another round of civil disobedience. The UPCC was converted into a “satyagraha council”. A series of circulars issued to the DCCs (District Congress Committees) directed them about enlisting volunteers and asking subordinate committees to send bands of activists into rural areas to explain the Congress agenda. The formal “satyagraha pledge”, to be taken by all volunteers offering civil disobedience, was transmitted to the DCCs. All subordinate committees were instructed to convert themselves into “satyagraha committees” and submit fortnightly reports of “active” and “passive” satyagrahis.91 Energy levels displayed by the provincial Congress organization were quite high. Between March and May 1940, 222 Congressmen from other provinces visited or toured UP; nearly 900 large meetings were held; and the Provincial Congress Committee (PCC) issued over 75,000 notices and pamphlets. The plan to hold at least one meeting in every village was being implemented; spinning 87

PAI, 2 March 1940. PAI, 9 March 1940. 89 For instance, see PAI, 9 March and 16 March 1940. 90 For instance, in Dehra Dun and Saharanpur, he addressed audiences of about 7,000; in Mirzapur and Banaras the sizes of audiences were above 4,000, whereas in Allahabad, Muttra and Badaun they were said to be over 3,000. PAI, 16 March 1940. 91 PAI, 13 April 1940. 88

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centres functioned satisfactorily in 10 districts.92 The PCC headquarters, reputed to be the largest and best organized provincial Congress committee in India with a paid staff of 97, coordinated much of this activity. Under the PCC were 48 well-organized DCCs and over 2,000 subordinate (town and mofussil) committees. The entire organization was now mobilized to “prepare” for another campaign by enlisting volunteers willing to offer satyagraha at a time and in a manner that Gandhi would prescribe. Active enlistment of satyagrahis began when the Congress “National Week” was celebrated in April 1940. By end-April, all district-level committees had transformed into “satyagraha committees” and, according to intelligence reports, more than 5,000 satyagrahis had been enrolled.93 In its instructions to the UPCC, the AICC (All India Congress Committee) directed that “in recording the names of satyagrahis, there need be no anxiety to add to numbers”.94 Quality over quantity then, for the Congress authorities wanted an emphasis on the moral quality of the satyagrahis, rather than sheer numbers. So well prepared, however, was the UPCC that it could report that, the number of “pledged satyagrahis”—those that had signed the satyagraha pledge—had well exceeded 15,000 by end-May 1940.95 At the same time, each DCC was asked to develop its own elaborate plan for the imminent satyagraha. Meerut district was thus divided by its DCC into 50 circles, each comprising 30 villages, each of which was placed under the charge of a trained organizer. The city itself was organized into six wards, each headed by a “satyagraha supervisor”.96 Similarly, the Aligarh DCC divided its district into 16 kendras, each containing five or six Congress mandals. Each kendra was put in the charge of a sardar, leading a team of 20–25 satyagrahis. Their duties during the campaign were to be maintenance of “order”, supervision of Congress work, and 92 UPPCC report in AICC-G-28 (Pt 2) 1940, p. 57 cited in Bhupen Qanungo, “Preparations for Civil Disobedience January–September 1940”, in B.N. Pandey, ed., A Centenary History of the Indian National Congress, New Delhi, 1985, p. 335. 93 PAI, 4 May 1940. 94 AICC, G-28 (pt 2)/1940, p. 59 cited in Bhupen Qanungo, op. cit., p. 336. 95 This was far ahead of the other PCCs: the figures of some of the other provinces were Bihar, 1991; Gujarat, 1,771; Tamil Nadu, 2,765; Andhra, 1,370 and NWFP 600. 96 PAI, 18 May 1940 and PAI, 1 June 1940. 97 PAI, 3 August 1940.

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collection of subscriptions to Congress funds.97 During May 1940, several districts—including Aligarh, Pilibhit, Bareilly and Unnao— held their political conferences. By June–July 1940, the Congress provincial organization, even in remote districts, was fully geared to the project of anotnher Civil Disobedience campaign against the Raj. Other important developments supported this activity. After resigning, the Congress had begun enlisting volunteers. Distinct from satyagrahis, these volunteers were uniformed members of Congress organizations like the Seva Dal and their main duty was to help control during meetings and processions and train young recruits for roles within the Congress hierarchy. Intelligence sources claimed that, in its December 1937 deliberations, the PCC had decided that at least 100,000 volunteers would be enlisted in UP by March 1940.98 Accordingly, it organized training camps in several districts. At the Ramgarh camp at Allahabad, B.N. Pande claimed that 28,000 volunteers had already been enrolled.99 At the Maharajganj camp in Gorakhpur district, it was reported that efforts were being made to raise 10,000 volunteers in the district. At Sandila in Hardoi district, a “Congress Sardars’ Training Camp” was organized, replete with courses in drill and crowd control; each participant paid a fee of Rs 12.100 In Allahabad, local Congressmen decided to revive the “Kesari Dal” with the object of mobilizing various Hindu communities and depressed classes. Similarly, in Bulandshahr, the local Congress organized a branch of the Mahabir Dal and enlisted about 150 volunteers.101 By March 1940, training camps were functioning in Ballia, Dehra Dun and Ghazipur. Most of the volunteer activity was started by the Congressmen, but local initiative was also evident in a number of instances. An example came from village Mendhapatti in district Fatehpur, where about 200 youths organized themselves into the “Lal Fauj”. They adopted a uniform of red shirts, shorts and caps, raised their red flag and declared that they would work towards protecting the kisans from the tyrannies of policemen, patwaris, zamindars and canal patrols.102 The momentum of organizing training camps for volunteers continued well into early 1940. By the first week of March 1940 98

PAI, 13 January 1940. Ibid. 100 Ibid. 101 PAI, 27 June 1940. 102 PAI, 30 March 1940. 99

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itself, three training camps were in progress in remote villages of Agra, Ballia and Bara Banki districts—training Congress volunteers not only in lathi drills and methods of crowd control, but also spinning, first aid and fire fighting.103 A key theme featured increasingly in public speeches by Congress speakers: Congress volunteers should be prepared to maintain order, because British authority was weakening by the day. At the Muttra District Political Conference, UPCC president Krishna Dutt Paliwal condemned the official scheme of enlisting civic guards and, instead, urged the audience to enlist as Congress volunteers to prepare for the disorder resulting from the impending British collapse. A resolution was passed, asking that a force of 5,000 volunteers be raised to safeguard the district’s internal security. 104 Similarly, in Gonda, Kunwar Raghavendra Pratap Singh set up a training camp to provide a defence force for the “suppression of lawlessness”; its volunteers wore colourful uniforms.105 Intelligence reports of the deliberations of the Provincial Congress Volunteers Board confirmed this tendency to organize volunteer bodies for civil defence. Reportedly, the Board had resolved to organize a national defence force in every town and village for protection in the event of internal disorders. Further, the target was reportedly of 100,000 volunteers.106 Soon after came reports of Congressmen’s attempts to form branches of such volunteer armies right across the province. In Allahabad even “responsible” Congressmen, such as Pandit Krishna Kant Malaviya and Tandon, delivered speeches calling for the institution of para-military volunteers. Tandon alleged that the British had invariably hindered Indian attempts to obtain military training, fearing that this would advance the cause of Swaraj further. Malaviya called upon those volunteers who were unable to procure arms, and asked them to train themselves with wooden guns and swords!107 Such vigorous volunteer recruitment caused anxiety to the authorities, both in the districts and in Lucknow. Official statistics revealed that the number of Congress Seva Dal Volunteers in 103

PAI, 4 May 1940, also 29 June 1940. PAI, 22 June 1940. 105 PAI, 13 July 1940. 106 Ibid. 107 PAI, 20 July 1940. 104

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June 1940 already stood at 30,178. What was particularly alarming was the rapid rate of recruitment. Between January and October 1939, when the Congress ministry was in office, the monthly average rate of recruitment of Congress volunteers was 762. However, after the Ministry resigned, this average doubled, reaching, 1606 per month during November 1939–February 1940.108 There was also a growing tendency towards training volunteers along military lines. “A truculent spirit is growing”, observed an intelligence report, “among volunteers of all classes as a result of the aggressive propaganda... and of training along military lines which is being vigorously imparted everywhere.” 109 By the summer of 1940, the situation had deteriorated so much that the government was forced to order (in August 1940) a ban on volunteer organizations and parties that either engaged in military drill or wore distinctive uniforms. The UP Seva Dal, the best organized in the country, strongly resented this order. So agitated was Nehru over it that he sought the permission of the Congress “High Command” to launch a satyagraha in UP on the issue. Initially, the ban order was ignored, and the volunteer training camps continued their activities undisturbed. In Kanpur and Allahabad, volunteers regularly organized public rallies or drills.110 However, the Congress “High Command” refused to allow a satyagraha on this issue. It permitted the passing of resolutions protesting against the ban that “would prevent and hamper normal activities of non-violent volunteers for social work”. As a result, most training camps were disbanded and volunteer activities like drilling and parades were mainly stopped. However, Seva Dal volunteers in Allahabad and Kanpur continued to defy the ban 111 and were arrested in large numbers. Only after the “High Command” ordered a complete halt, did the Allahabad volunteers restrain themselves. In the following months, several reports were received from volunteers trying to seek outlets in other activities such as shouting slogans and singing patriotic songs. In Dehra Dun, 108

“Note on Volunteer Movement” by Chief Secretary, UP, in Hallett Papers, Vol. III. “IB Memorandum dated 2 January 1940: Home Pol. (I) 4/1/40, pp. 6–13, cited by B. Qanungo, “Preparations for Civil Disobedience Movement January– September 1940,” in Pandey, ed., A Centenary History of the Indian National Congress p. 339. 110 PAI, 31 August 1940. 111 PAI, 21 September 1940. 109

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for instance, Seva Dal volunteers were reported to be “very active in making regular visits to mohallas and villages, singing national songs and seeking funds for the Congress”.112

The Anti-War Campaign Not only was the Congress steeling itself for another confrontation with the Raj, but it was also building up a powerful campaign in UP against the war effort.113 Signs of this were evident as soon as the Congress resigned in October 1939. Congress activists set the tone of the public attitude to the war effort by criticizing Linlithgow’s arbitrary declaration, of making India a party to the European war. However, at that stage, the speeches did not develop into a full-fledged campaign. The Congress leadership in Lucknow took care to restrain its local adherents and the UP government on its part directed its district officers not to prosecute Congressmen indulging in anti-war propaganda while negotiations between the Viceroy and the Congress over support for the war effort were still under way. The mutual moderation was, however, short-lived. As 1940 set in, local Congressmen took to criticizing the war effort more vociferously. Their initial focus was on recruitment. In Farrukhabad, for instance, Ram Sarup Pande and Ambika Prasad warned villagers that, owing to the changed conditions of modern warfare, anyone who enlisted in the army would be killed; in fact, they urged their audiences to drive out the recruiting agents.114 In Azamgarh, audiences were advised not to enlist for the police or the army, but instead join the “Congress army”.115 At more than half a dozen well-attended meetings in the district in February 1940, Jogesh Chatterjee and Jai Prakash Narain urged their audiences not to abet Britain in its war effort at all, neither through men nor money.116 Chatterjee declared instead that advantage


PAI, 15 November 1940. Gyanesh Kudaisya, “Foreshadowing ‘Quit India’: The Congress in Uttar Pradesh”, in Neera Chandhoke, ed., Mapping Histories, Essays Presented to Ravinder Kumar, New Delhi, 2000. 114 PAI, 6 January 1940. 115 PAI, 27 January 1940. 116 PAI, 1 February 1940. 113

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should be taken of “the present opportunity” to press for immediate independence. At a separate rural meeting, MLA Sita Ram Ashtana urged his audience to exploit the opportunity af-forded by the war to drive the British out of India! The idea that British power would inevitably be weakened due to the war and that this must be used as an opportunity for action against them by the people of India soon became a ubiquitous theme in public discourse.117 In Sultanpur district, in at least seven meetings in a single week, Swami Narain Deo, Baba Bhagwan Das and Ram Narain stressed on this point. In Gorakhpur, Shyama Charan Shastri declared that the British deserved no help, for they had broken their promise to grant India freedom after the last Great War. Purshottamdas Tandon took up this theme when he declared to audiences of 8,000–9,000 people in Etawah that, for India’s services in the last war, it had been rewarded with the Rowlatt Act and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre!118 In Allahabad, Damodar Swarup Seth also invoked the Jallianwala Bagh imagery to urge his audience not to contribute to the war effort. In a rural meeting in Rae Barelli, Seth declared to an audience of 2,000 people that they could not expect an improvement in their conditions until the British had been annihilated.119 In Azamgarh district, MLA Pandit Algu Rai Shastri declared before 4,000 kisans that anyone who helped the British either by getting recruited or supplying funds was an enemy of the country’s freedom.120 At the Ballia District Political Conference in March 1940, Kidwai predicted that Britain was terrified of Germany’s ever-growing power and that, if the British were to win, India’s slavery would continue quite indefinitely. In Aligarh, Congressmen conducted house-to-house propaganda against army recruitment.121 In Rae Barelli, Tandon extolled the example of Japanese bravery and asked the youth to follow it, while in Sultanpur Mahendra Pratap Shastri and Chandra Bali Tewari declared that it was shameful that India’s huge population should remain quiet, while the people of Poland, Hungary and China were fighting for their freedoms. 117

PAI, 3 February 1940. Ibid. Later in the week Tandon declared at Allahabad that, without India’s help, England would have lost the last war. 119 PAI, 17 February 1940. 120 PAI, 2 March 1940. 121 PAI, 9 March 1940. 118

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By 1940, the celebration of Independence Day in late January, the organization of district conferences by local Congressmen, and two hectic tours by Bose galvanized public speaking against the war effort into a concerted campaign. Bose’s main message to his large audiences in about a dozen towns was loud and clear: the odds against the British were rising rapidly and the time was ripe to deliver a decisive blow to the Raj’s authority.122 The increasing difficulties of the British were highlighted by almost all speakers in some form or other. Many also took the opportunity to highlight the growing influence of the Congress. In Sultanpur, Chandrika Prasad and Nazim Ali pointed out that the Congress had 10,000 volunteers at its command compared to only 200 official policemen. Similarly, in Fatehpur district, one Swami Bhagwan pointed out the very small number of constables in the local police station as compared to the population of the circle and urged his audience not to fear the police. 123 Algu Rai Shastri also often contrasted the small numbers of the British in India with the indigenous population.124 In Hardoi, Pandit Ram Swarup boasted that if every Indian threw a little dust, all the British in India would be buried.125 The public speakers took to metaphorically describing the position of the British Raj as a “sinking ship”; the exact words were used by Ram Adhar and MLA Harish Chandra Bajpai in village Asiwan in Unnao district.126 In Kheri, Pandit Ram Asre declared that the end of British rule was near, very near. Massive kisan meetings were reported from Kheri district, especially Purwa tehsil, to protest against proposed rent increases. Speakers alleged that the government was collecting the extra money on account of the war, and so strong were feelings on this count that over 15,000 kisans paraded the town to demonstrate before the officials.127 From Dehra Dun, there were reports of Congress volunteers carrying out vigorous anti-recruitment propaganda. Never at a 122

PAI, 16 March 1940. Ibid. 124 For example, speeches in Fatehpur and Nawalia in Azamgarh in late February, see PAI, 24 February 1940. 125 More forthright in his expression was Raghunanda Sharma, who boasted that “if all the Congress volunteers in the district were to urinate, the 200 policemen in the district would be washed away”, PAI, 13 April 1940. 126 PAI, 23 March 1940. 127 Ibid. 123

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loss for timing, they would organize meetings in villages shortly before the recruiting officers arrived, and warn prospective candidates of the dangers of enlistment.128 In Ballia, Congress activists persisted in disturbing the work of a recruiting party by shouting slogans and distributing anti-war leaflets. In April 1940, the Congress’ “National Week” celebrations gave further impetus to the anti-war mood. This was particularly marked in Allahabad, where as many as 46 arrests were made. Anti-war speeches were reported from several districts, and there was considerable circulation of anti-war literature along with posters and graffiti. Reports of antiwar activity were received from Bulandshahr, Meerut, Mathura, Hardoi and Gorakhpur districts.129 Of particular concern to British officials were the statements that enlistment in the army at Rs 16 a month was not worth anybody’s while, and that those who decided to join would only become cannon fodder in the British war machine.130 In some places, anti-war sentiments were not confined merely to speeches but expressed in symbolic gestures of defiance. At Balrampur in Gonda district, Nand Lal and Gomti Prasad burnt a Union Jack in front of a large gathering. At a large meeting the next day, they urged their audience to refuse all help to the British in the war, to travel without tickets on railways, to burn foreign cloth, to besiege police stations and to fill jails in the cause of independence. On the third day, they repeated this performance and led a procession to the main thana in Balrampur, demanding that the Congress flag be hoisted. Both were arrested under the DIR.131 Interspersed with this anti-war discourse were rapidly spreading rumours about the war situation, particularly rife in the eastern districts. These rumours frequently led to considerable unease and speculation among the public. Rumours in Banda in May 1940 led to large withdrawals of savings from post offices and banks. In Lucknow, perturbed by rumours, arms license holders went ahead to buy large quantities of ammunition.132 In fact, so strong were some rumours that there was a run on the banks during May– June 1940. The panic to convert paper currency into silver was so 128

Ibid. See PAI, 27 April 1940 for details. 130 For example. speeches by Ram Narain and A.P. Bajpai at village Chausana in district Muzzaffarnagar, PAI, 4 May 1940. 131 See PAI, 11 May 1940 for details of their activities. 132 PAI, 1 June 1940. 129

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widespread that scenes of disorder were witnessed outside banks and post offices in several districts. Traders refused to accept paper currency for goods sold, and were persecuted for this in Aligarh, Bijnore, Dehra Dun and Moradabad. Special arrangements had to be made in Muthura and Agra for changing money to allay public fears.133 Despite strict measures by the authorities, the panicmongering continued throughout June. In the eastern districts— particularly Gonda, Jhansi and Rae Bareli—people withdrew currency in a significant quantum. Traders who refused to accept legal tender in Rae Bareli and Gorakhpur had to be prosecuted. Even though the general sense of panic abated by July 1940, confidence remained low in certain districts. In Gonda, withdrawals from post offices were still high, amounting to well over Rs 100,000 in a single week.134 Large purchases of ammunition were reported from Badaun, Meerut, Moradabad, Muzaffarnagar, Agra and Kanpur. At Bara Banki, considerably alarmed by the state of public excitement, the local zamindars arranged for a rallying post, in case trouble broke out.135 In Badaun, rumours and uncertainty led tenants to withhold rent payments on a large scale.136 The anti-war campaign took another form too. Public speakers sketched out a scenario in which British authority would be completely subverted, much in the manner in which events took place in August 1942. What is significant is that, much before the Quit India movement actually occurred, public speakers across UP were anticipating such a situation. As early as February 1940, Rajendra Dutt Nigam incited his 500-strong audience in Kanpur to indulge in open rebellion, including the destruction of roads and railways, the cutting of telegraph wires and attacking of police stations.137 Was he a soothsayer, able to look into the future? Or was he a maverick public figure, simply speculating about potential political developments? Evidence reveals that public speakers were increasingly contemplating such scenarios. For example, Shanti Swarup, speaking in village Dari in Kheri district, asked his audience to be prepared 133

PAI, 15 June 1940. PAI, 27 July 1940. 135 PAI, 22 June 1940. 136 Ibid. 137 PAI, 10 February 1940. 134

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to destroy railways to prevent the passage of military trains, to destroy roads, to hold up military lorries and to mount large-scale attacks on the British.138 In a similar strain, Ram Deo Singh urged the young men in his audience at Powai in Azamgarh district to be prepared to sacrifice themselves, saying that their duty would be to take possession of jails, magazines, treasuries, the bungalows of the district magistrate (DM) and the Superintendent of Police, and disarm the constables.139 In a Sultanpur village, Ram Pratap declared that, but for Mahatma Gandhi’s orders, treasuries would already have been looted, telegraph lines cut and the railways smashed.140 In Kanpur, a widely circulated Urdu leaflet impressed upon people the necessity for armed rebellion, accompanied by the looting of all police thanas, chaukis and maalkhanas and the setting on fire of jails, telegraph offices and railway stations.141 Weekly intelligence reports from the period constantly highlight this “undertone” in public speeches, engendering an imagery of an imminent collapse of the Raj’s authority. When the Raj’s authority was indeed dramatically challenged in August 1942, it had already been foreshadowed by the creation of a popular mentality of revolt. It can be argued that the forms of challenges to authority, such as attacks on government buildings, cutting of telegraph lines and destruction of railways were similar— spontaneous and uncoordinated as they were—precisely because these events were foreshadowed by a continual and powerful public discourse, assiduously calling upon the people to act in the manner in which they eventually did in August 1942. Another important aspect of the anti-war campaign was the propagation of the idea that subscriptions should not be made to war charities or government loans. Public speakers frequently harped upon allegations of coercion by government servants to take steps to promote war subscriptions. The slogan of “No help in the war effort” (“Na ek pai, na ek bhai!”) was a key message that all public speakers sought to convey. By the summer of 1940, the theme of coercion by officials in war fund collection was a powerful component of public speeches. In July, the UPCC office in Lucknow 138

PAI, 13 April 1940. PAI, 4 May 1940. 140 PAI, 18 May 1940. 141 PAI, 15 June 1940. 139

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declared that it had received such a large volume of complaints from almost all the districts against the forcible realization of funds, and that it contemplated a massive campaign to expose the government over this. It circulated 100,000 leaflets alleging forcible collection of funds, giving examples of “official excesses”.142 For many weeks during July–August 1940, this remained the focus of Congress propaganda. In the second week of August 1940 alone, Aligarh, Allahabad, Bahraich, Kanpur, Farukhabad, Ghaziabad, Kheri, Pratapgarh, Pilibhit, Saharanpur and Sultanpur hosted speeches alleging the use of coercive methods.143 In Kanpur, Shri Ram declared it a sin to contribute to war funds. 144 Local Congress committees in Bara Banki, Moradabad, Kumaon and Bijnore developed and disseminated pamphlets, posters and leaflets against subscription to war funds.145 Reports from Gorakhpur vouched for the success of such propaganda; it was adversely affecting local subscriptions to war funds. In Muthura, K.N. Katju reminded his audience that the daily cost of the war in Europe was so staggering that India’s contribution could only be very insignificant, in which case it need not contribute at all!146 Similarly, at a meeting in Kheri district, a Congressman claimed that subscriptions were futile, as the cost of the war was so enormous that the contribution of the entire district could buy, at the most, one or two bombs. In Ghaziabad, the police battled night after night with cyclostyled posters condemning the war funds, which kept reappearing on the town’s walls.147 In Barelli, Congress volunteers used the Janamashtami procession for propaganda. In Saharanpur, itinerant speakers implored train passengers not to subscribe to war funds.148 The Congress leadership itself took up the allegations of official coercion in the realization of subscriptions. Gandhi complained to Linlithgow about this, furnishing evidence of the highhandedness of officials in Aligarh in extracting war subscriptions. 142

PAI, 27 July 1940. PAI, 17 August 1940. 144 Ibid. 145 PAI, 24 August 1940. 146 PAI, 7 September 1940. 147 Ibid. 148 PAI, 10 September 1940. 143

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Gandhi specifically took up the case of Babu Yadram Gupta, honorary magistrate, who complained that he had been forced by district officials—from the tehsildar to the DM—to not only contribute money personally to the district war committee but also to deploy his official influence in the sale of war bonds.149 Gupta alleged that when he refused to be a party to these methods, the SDO threatened him with prosecution under the DIR for “obstructing lawful collections for war purposes”. When he protested to the DM against this “excessive official zeal”, he was told either to cooperate or to resign! This particular case came to light because an official functionary refused to cooperate on grounds of conscience and decided, at his own peril, to complain to a Congress leader. Evidence suggests, however, that the “excessive official zeal” alleged by Gupta was indeed quite rampant among petty officials responsible for collecting war funds. This is amply illustrated by the work of just one local functionary of the Raj— the supervisory kanungo. In 1941, about 27,500 patwaris in UP worked directly under 885 supervisory kanungos. At their annual conference, Percy Marsh extolled the kanungos as “the Regimental Officers of the Great Army of Land Records” and told them that “your weapons and munitions are the records of the registers”.150 These men were now deployed by their district superiors to mobilize support for the war effort. In Bulandshahr, the subscriptions they raised exceeded Rs 100,000. In Azamgarh, they collected Rs 35,000 by selling theatre, dangal and cinema tickets, and flags and posters; they also supplied over 106 recruits to the army. In Banda, they raised Rs 100,000 for war funds and an equal amount for war loans schemes. In Rae Barelli, they raised Rs 12,000 for subscriptions and Rs 20,000 for investment in war loans, and also produced nearly 200 recruits. In Etah, supervisory kanungos raised Rs 40,000. In Gorakhpur, official zeal went to such an extent that kanungos collected Rs 114,778 from the public, donated Rs 6,822 from their own pockets, and raised a further Rs 60,215 for war loans. In addition, they produced 202 recruits for the army. 149

Letter for Babu Yadram Gupta, Hon Magistrate, to Dr K.N. Katju, 5 August 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. I. 150 Proceedings of the 14th Conference of the UP Supervisor Kanungo Association, (4–5 April 1942, Lucknow), Bulandshahr, 1942.

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The sums of money yielded by such methods may have been considerable from the point of view of the people who subscribed to them, but were negligible in terms of the overall cost of the war. Based on figures compiled from Annual Reports on the Administration of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, and overall idea of the scale of war-time contributions obtained between 1940 and 1945 is possible. The total contribution to the Red Cross Society and Ambulance Association during the five-year period stood at Rs 7.7 million; to the King George’s Fund for Sailors at Rs 16,759; to the St Dunstan’s Fund for the blind at about Rs 170,000; and finally to the Governor’s War Purposes Fund at well over Rs 35.3 million. In overall terms, the total contribution made by the UP public to war funds exceeded Rs 43 million. 151 Considerable efforts were also made to realize subscriptions to war loans, promoted by local state functionaries, and special drives were frequently launched to set targets that the district staff had to meet.152 Between 1940 and 1945, about Rs 480 million were raised from various war savings and investment schemes from UP.153 If one takes into account figures for both voluntary subscriptions to war charities and investments in war loans, the total amount of money raised in the UP over five years added up to no more than two days of expenditure on the war! It was reckoned that the cost of the war was over Rs 200 million per day. But the sum of Rs 480 million was considerable in the context of provincial finance. The total annual revenue of the UP government was in the region of Rs 200 million. During 1943 alone, an estimated Rs 13.8 million was raised as subscription and Rs 108 million as investment in war funds. In 1944, this trend was continued with Rs 13.5 million as donations to war charities and Rs 108 million to war loans. In 1945, while donations declined to about Rs 8.7 million, loans went up to Rs 155.8 million. This shows that over half the government’s 151

Based upon figures from Annual Administration Reports 1940–45. A number of special fund collection drives were launched regularly to mobilize funds. For instance, “War Week” was organized in March 1941, in March 1942 a “National Defence and Savings Scheme Week” was observed, and in 1943 a “Special Defence Savings Drive” was launched. These drives were organized at the harvest season to tap the surplus funds available with the cultivating classes. 153 The most important of the schemes were: the Three Percent Appreciation Scheme, the Defence Savings Certificate and the Defence Savings Bank. 152

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revenue during peace time was being realized by the Raj during 1943–45 from the people as subscriptions and investment for the war effort. Realization of money on this scale meant that thousands of state functionaries must have exerted their “influence” to obtain money from the people. Since contributions involved only petty sums, the number of people who must have subscribed would have been extremely large. To what extent this gave rise to a “sullen resentment” against the Raj is anybody’s guess. One thing is quite clear. Although it was claimed that all contributions were voluntary, it was common knowledge that people paid up only when arm-twisted into it. There was a close linkage between the willingness to subscribe to war funds and popular perceptions of the Raj’s authority. This is demonstrated quite strikingly in the timing of the subscriptions. For instance, subscriptions to the Red Cross swelled from Rs 40,000 in 1942 to Rs 3.9 million in 1943. Similarly subscriptions to the Governor’s War Funds rose dramatically from Rs 3.8 million in 1942 to almost Rs 9.9 million in 1943. Similarly, deposits in war loans and savings schemes increased remarkably from Rs 22.1 million in 1942 to Rs 108.8 million in 1943. R.H. Niblett, Azamgarh’s collector during the Quit India movement, recorded in his diary that subscriptions to the War Purposes Fund increased 12-fold after August 1942, and also that when the governor visited the district in January 1943, purses of Rs 30,000 and Rs 150,000 were presented to him in Madhuban and Azamgarh cities respectively—cities that just five months ago had raised the most violent-ever challenges to the Raj’s authority.154

Individual Civil Disobedience Gandhi launched his Individual Civil Disobedience movement in the milieu and with the momentum created by the anti-war campaign. The ban on the volunteer movement in August 1940 precipitated the moves towards the inauguration of the Civil Disobedience campaign. By this time, both the Congress leadership and the Raj were headed towards an inescapable confrontation. 154

R.H. Niblett, The Congress Rebellion in Azamgarh: August–September 1942, Allahabad, 1957.

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At the Ramgarh session in March 1940, the Congress High Command had resolved that it would unhesitatingly resort to Civil Disobedience as soon as it was confident about the Congress organization’s state of readiness. As we have already seen, between April and August 1940, the Congressmen had energetically devoted themselves to organizational preparations such as recruitment of volunteers, anti-war propaganda, and enlistment of satyagrahis. The party organization was galvanized at the lowest level and Congress committees were converted into satyagraha committees. In the Congress’ chequered history, it was to be the launch of a campaign after the longest-ever period of preparation; for over a year, Congressmen had been bracing themselves to begin what the Official History of the Congress describes as “a model satyagraha unsurpassed in discipline and glorious assertion of non-violence by Gandhi and Congressmen.”155 The Official History further observes that “the Congress never organised a movement more glorious in Gandhian terms than the Individual satyagraha... no civil disobedience movement was more civil, more distinguished by disassociation from indiscipline and violence than this campaign.” Even as Congressmen prepared themselves for another agitationfraught campaign, the Raj too was making preparations to preempt the grave challenge to its authority. As soon as Linlithgow had committed India to the war, the GOI had equipped itself with emergency powers under the Defence of India Ordinance, to facilitate the war effort. The Ordinance was soon replaced by the Defence of India Act XXXV of 1939, enacted for the purpose of “securing the defence of British India, the public safety, the maintenance of public order, the efficient prosecution of war, and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community.” 156 Under these emergency powers, as many as 35 entries under Chapter II of the Act were available, empowering the government to prohibit, regulate, control and restrain various activities relating to industry, explosives and vessels. The government thus enjoyed extensive powers of search, seizure, and preventive detention—arrest of a person by executive order in the 155

Bhupen Qanungo, “Preparation for Civil Disobedience Movement January– September 1940,” p. 306. 156 S.K. Ghosh, The Law of Preventive Detention in India, Bombay, 1969.

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absence of a regular trial in a court of law, and without any further right of appeal or habeas corpus. After the Congress ministry’s resignation, district officials had been instructed “to exercise powers vigorously and without hesitating” against those participating in “anti-war and subversive activities”.157 Initially, the directive was that prosecutions should be made under the preventive sections of the criminal law rather than the extraordinary powers available through the DIR, and that important UP Congressmen such as former ministers and legislators could not be arrested without prior approval. In February 1940, these restrictions too were lifted, empowering district authorities to prosecute any person indulging in “anti-recruitment speeches including speeches designed to bring about attitude of defeatism”.158 Although the government now permitted the use of special powers under the DIR, district officials were still hesitant to do so to curb anti-government activities, until they specifically related to anti-recruitment propaganda. Prosecutions were, therefore, not initiated on any large scale and several district authorities still preferred to use the ordinary criminal law rather than the emergency powers of the DIR. In April 1940, fresh orders to district authorities catalysed full-scale initiation of the DIR regime against anti-war protests. Authorities had specific orders to use the DIR to curb anti-war activities. Officials were made to understand the powers of detention by executive order available to them, and advised to use them in special cases. The authorities also recommended the use of powers of externment of people by removing them from the spheres of their influence. District officers were reminded that arrests under the DIR could be made by any policemen above the rank of head constable, simply on the basis of an executive order.159 By April 1940, the broad parameters of policy within which the Raj would deal with another agitation had been agreed upon. Though district officers enjoyed extensive powers of arrest and prosecution, they did not use these powers on a large scale till autumn 1940. Some arrests were made under the DIR to curtail 157

Circular to district officers by R.F. Mudie, Chief Secretary, 4 November 1939, Hallett Papers, Vol. III, pp. 69–74. 158 R.F. Mudie to all district officers 23 February 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. III. 159 R.F. Mudie, Chief Secretary, to all district officers, 12 April 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. III.

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the increasing anti-war activities reported during the “National Week” in late April 1940. Initially, prosecutions were launched against speakers who made “extreme” and “intemperate” speeches, but important Congressmen were carefully avoided. However, as the anti-war propaganda gathered momentum and prospects of successful negotiations between the Viceroy and the Congress leadership receded, the arrests, convictions, and internments steadily mounted. Several important Congressmen were arrested in the early summer of 1940: Raghubar Dayal (president, Ballia DCC), Algu Rai Shastri (MLA), B. Sanyal and Kedarnath Agra (both AICC members) and Rajendra Nigam (DCC president). The police also raided Congress offices in Jhansi and searched several premises in Kashi Vidyapith. Earlier, two Congress MLAs in Gorakhpur were meted out substantial sentences on charges of inciting kisans and rioting.160 On earlier occasions, Hallett had contemplated prosecution under DIR against former ministers for antiwar speeches, but refrained from action due to wider political considerations.161 By the summer of 1940, both the Congress leadership and the Raj were so entrenched in their respective positions that a confrontation seemed inevitable. Such a confrontation almost occurred in early August 1940 when Nehru and his colleagues from the UP Congress contemplated defying the ban on volunteer activities. Nehru personally took the lead in a huge procession organized by Congress volunteers in Kanpur to defy the ban, and himself took to wearing the uniform of a Seva Dal volunteer.162 Uniformed volunteers marched and drilled in hundreds through the city’s main streets. Important Congress leaders like Kidwai and Balkrishna Sharma, openly declared that the ban would be resisted.163 These activities moved Hallett to contemplate arresting Nehru, but action was deferred in view 160

Hallett to Linlithgow, 26 April 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. III. For instance, see Hallett to Linlithgow, 15 March 1940 expressing concern over Kidwai’s activities. 162 S. Gopal, Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography, Vol. I, p. 267, London, 1975. 163 Nehru took a prominent role in the Kanpur proceedings. As he wrote to his daughter: “There was a procession, a march past and speech by me to a huge crowd of about 50,000. For an hour during the procession I stood at the back of the car. Then I stood saluting while nearly 1,000 volunteers marched past, and then I held forth for an hour and forty minutes.” Nehru to Indira Nehru, 11 August 1940, JNSW, Vol. XI, pp. 476–77. 161

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of Linlithgow’s “August offer” of making a final attempt to secure the Congress’ support for the war effort.164 However, Congress president Azad declined a meeting with Linlithgow to discuss the offer, without even consulting his Working Committee. The die was cast. The confrontation was around the corner. However, it was not before October 1940 that Gandhi finally made up his mind about the actual timing and format of his campaign. His proposed campaign was unique in several respects. Gandhi’s obsessive desire to completely control the course of the movement was reflected in the very nature of the movement. Gandhi declared that only those who were designated by him could offer satyagraha; self-appointed agitators had no role in his campaign. He was keen to launch a symbolic movement with a gradual tempo sustained by a slow-rising tide of popular antiwar feelings. “Gandhi was in no hurry to claim success for the Congress in the enterprise for purna swaraj.”165 He was also intent on highlighting the element of self-sacrifice on the part of Congressmen which, he believed, would sustain popular sympathy and admiration for the Congress cause without embarrassing the British by creating situations of public disorder or seriously disrupting the war effort. Each volunteer selected for offering satyagraha had to go to his (or her) own Congress committee area, home or village and formally notify the local magistrate of his intention to break the law. He was required to indicate the time and venue of his satyagraha. He was not expected to organize a demonstration or hartal on the occasion. While offering satyagraha, he was expected to shout: “Do not give money to the war effort!”, “Do not give men for the war!”, “Do not give materials for the war!” and so on. If the satyagrahi was arrested and imprisoned, he was required to repeat the act of offering satyagraha over and over again. If the local police decided not to arrest him, he was expected to become an itinerant preacher of the Congress programme, proceeding on foot towards Delhi in easy stages, “keeping body and soul together by whatever food and shelter people might offer him on the way”. 164

Hallett to Linlithgow, 12 August 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. I. Bhupen Qanungo “Individual Civil Disobedience October 1940 to December 1941”, in B.N. Pandey, op. cit., p. 396. 165

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Gandhi’s rigid prescription of the form of the satyagraha rendered the campaign completely controlled and symbolic. He prohibited all activities that involved putting pressure on the authorities: hartals, demonstrations, picketing, dharnas, gheraoes, and flag-hoisting rituals. While launching the movement, the Gandhian leadership declared: … the Congress has no desire whatever to surround ammunition factories or barracks and prevent people from doing what they like. We want to tell the people that if they will win Swaraj through non violent means they may not cooperate militarily with Britain in the prosecution of the war. This right of preaching against participation in war is being denied to us and we have to fight against this denial.166 Gandhi was anxious to restrict his satyagraha to the realm of symbols , rather than stampede the Raj with the tangible pressure of mass agitation. He was strict about selecting only disciplined Congressmen for offering satyagraha; minors, unemployed, and dependent persons were not permitted. It was to be a “top–down satyagraha”. The government was relieved at having to deal with a satyagraha “which does not favour any picketing, or coercive methods, or aggressive mass movement”. The UP campaign started with Nehru’s arrest in Gorakhpur on 31 October 1940 for anti-war speeches; he was punished with a severe four-year sentence. This came about a week after Vinoba Bhave was chosen by Gandhi to inaugurate the movement. Before Nehru’s arrest, the UP Congress had been fully prepared for any contingency, fearing that Congress offices and funds would be seized; all office papers and money were to be removed for safe keeping with selected individuals. According to intelligence sources, contingency plans were ready for setting up a satyagraha ashram in each district. Congressmen were to avoid postal communications; a courier system was set up to send orders and propaganda material to subordinate committees. Nehru’s arrest sparked off widespread protests in most major cities, notably Allahabad and Kanpur. Particularly large meetings were reported from 166

Cited, ibid., p. 406.

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Lucknow, Gorakhpur and Meerut.167 Nehru’s arrest for fomenting agrarian agitation and trying to impede the war effort reportedly led to hartals in practically every district on 2 and 3 November 1940. “The closing of Muslims shops for Id”, observed an intelligence report, “gave a spurious air of completeness to these hartals.”168 It galvanized UP’s Congressmen into supporting the satyagraha campaign. Next to court arrest was UPCC president Krishna Dutt Paliwal. The UP Congress had been very keen to make a worthy contribution to Gandhi’s campaign, and Kidwai had visited Wardha to consult Gandhi for finalizing the list of UP satyagrahis. In the first instance, 510 volunteers were selected, including almost all central and provincial MLAs, former ministers and AICC members, and 243 members of the UPCC.169 Various district committees showed enthusiasm in submitting their own lists to the PCC. The Lucknow DCC sought approval for 265 volunteers to offer satyagraha across 21 mandals. By end-November 1940, provincial Congress leaders like Pant, Katju, Sampurnanand and R.S. Pandit had been arrested. Vijaylakshmi Pandit and Mohanlal Saxena, among other important Congress leaders, followd suit. With the campaign in full swing, Congressmen were quite agitated by the fact that the government had censored all news regarding arrests of their leaders. Gandhi, however, asked Congressmen not to be disheartened by this “news blackout” and declared that, under such circumstances, each satyagrahi should function like a “walking newspaper”. He directed the provincial committees to organize a news service to disseminate information and instructions. The PCC had already made plans to set up an alternative news service to circumvent the ban; it planned to issue a periodic newsletter containing news and instructions for Congressmen. Intelligence sources reported that the PCC had directed subordinate committees to remit funds to help set up a regular courier service for circulation of news and propaganda. District committees had also been directed to obtain cyclostyling equipment for bulk reproduction of newsletters and propaganda literature. In Lucknow itself, several underground presses and printing 167

PAI, 24 October and 8 November 1940. PAI, 8 November 1940. 169 PAI, 22 November 1940. 168

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establishments were in operation. One such operation was carried out by Ram Kishore Rastogi, a young city Congressman. During an interview, Rastogi recalled how, one evening, he was called by city Congress boss Chandra Bhanu Gupta and given possession of an underground printing press with instructions to disseminate propaganda. Rastogi operated the press with the help of a few friends, doing everything from writing to printing to distribution. He recalled that most of what he wrote in his “weekly newspapers” (which had various names) was the work of his own imagination, rather than based upon Congress committee circulars. He conceded that most of the stories he wrote, particularly those relating to Allied reverses in the war, were highly exaggerated. He believed that his newspapers helped keep the Congress spirit alive during the war years. He was able to continue the operation despite police suspicions for almost two years. Once, he moved his entire press overnight in a palanquin after a sympathetic policeman tipped him off about an impending raid on his temporary lodgings.170 Evidence suggests that such underground literature greatly assisted the Congress cause, even though much of what it communicated went beyond the “official” Congress discourse. By early 1941, the top leaders of the UP Congress had been arrested. According to intelligence sources, the total number of satyagrahis in the list prepared by the PCC stood at 230,058.171 Although Gandhi had suspended the movement over Christmas, by early January 1941, over 1,000 arrests had already taken place. By the end of March 1941, as many as 6,328 people had courted arrest. These arrests, had, however failed to cause any serious anxiety to the Raj. As early as December 1940, Hallett had reported that Congress activities were “not causing any undue excitement in rural areas and rather less than at first even in urban areas.”172 A month later, he reported that “the satyagraha continues its uneventful course and still creates no sensation anywhere.” 173 By March 1941, a typical official report from UP observed that “satyagraha goes on with pathetic listlessness.”174 In May 1941, 170

Interview with Shri Ram Kishore Rastogi, Congressman and publicist; Lucknow, May 1989. 171 PAI, 6 December 1940. 172 Hallett to Linlithgow, 23 December 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. I. 173 Hallett to Linlithgow, 26 January 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. I. 174 Hallett to Linlithgow, 23 March 1941, Hallett Papers, Vol. I.

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Hallett reported that the “satyagraha does not worry us seriously; it is a nuisance, but on the whole our policy for dealing with it is proving successful.”175 A month later too, the refrain was similar: “The satyagraha movement continues in its sluggish and unpopular way.”176 Hallett and his officials in the UP had reacted to the Congress satyagraha confidently yet cautiously. Hallett maintained that Congress volunteers should be arrested under the DIR because the nature of the Congress campaign was primarily anti-war.177 He believed that although the Congress satyagraha was symbolic, the sentences imposed on those arrested should be “rigorous rather than symbolic”. He had directed his officials thus: … care should be taken to ensure that nothing is done either by undue leniency or by excessive severity to enhance the prestige of Congress or provoke indignation against government. In other words, the object should be to keep the popular temperature as low as possible and to give the impression the Government are merely carrying out their duty in circumstances which leave them no alternative but to do so.... Shortly, the policy is to enforce the ordinary law dispassionately in the ordinary way. 178 Neither the law that Hallett was imposing nor the circumstances under which it was being enforced were ordinary. By carrying out this “dispassionate policy”, Hallett and his men were successful in maintaining public order within UP by arresting one satyagrahi after another. As the number of arrested Congress satyagrahis mounted, the Raj resorted to prematurely releasing over 2,000 “unimportant prisoners” lodged in jails for petty crimes to provide accommodation for Congressmen. By May 1941, such was the confidence of Hallett and his officials that they not only ignored volunteers offering satyagraha, but also began releasing Congressmen before the expiry of their sentences! In June 1941, Hallett reported to Linlithgow that “ignored satyagrahis give no trouble 175

Hallett to Linlithgow, 18 May 1941, Hallett Papers, Vol. I. Hallett to Linlithgow, 24 June 1941, Hallett Papers, Vol. I. 177 Hallett to Linlithgow, 7 December 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. I. 178 Hallett to Linlithgow, 15 February 1941, Hallett Papers, Vol. I. 176

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nor have any bad results occurred since we adopted the policy of releasing prematurely harmless satyagrahis. I have not figures available but I think our releases now exceed our admissions to jail.”179 Colonial officials found the manner in which the Congress had challenged the Raj and the methods which the government had adopted in meeting this challenge rather characteristic. They adopted a routine, business-as-usual approach to the Congress campaign. The following poem, composed by Fredrick Graham Cracknell (ICS), then posted as District and Sessions Judge of Shahjahanpur, indicates their attitude: Song of the Satyagrahis Back to jail again, boys, Back to jail we go. Pandit this and Srijut that, And Babu so and so. Sing it loud and sing it well, Beat the drum and ring the bell. Back to the old familiar cell, Back to jail we go. Back in the jail we’ll be happier far, For now we don’t know where we are. We don’t like peace and we don’t like war, And we don’t know what one’s fighting for. We don’t care a button, we don’t care a pin, And we don’t want either side to win. We don’t know why and we don’t know who, And we really don’t know what to do. But why should we worry? Why should we fuss? In jail we’ll have things done for us. We shan’t have to trouble, we shan’t have to think, We’ll just have to read and eat and drink. So back to the jail, where we’re clothed and fed, And a reading lamp is over our bed. There we’ll dream throughout the live long day, Of the glorious time (not far away). 179

Hallett to Linlithgow, 24 June 1941, Hallett Papers, Vol. II.

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When the people of India shall be free, (Except, of course, the minority!). Back to the jail again, boys, Back to jail we go. Pandit this and Srijut that, And Babu so and so. With a hearty cheer and a hip-hooray! For Pandit Boojum, MLA! Who can fast to death, three times a day, Back to jail we go! 180

Setting the Stage for Transition By the early 1940s the stage had been set for the colonial ‘‘heartland’’ to experience a dramatic political transformation. Political conditions were such that UP showed much resistance to the running of the colonial war effort. By late 1941 as many as 12,618 satyagrahi Congressmen had been convicted in connection with the Individual Civil Disobedience movement both under the ordinary law and the emergency provisions of the DIR. The total number of persons convicted for political or anti-war activities by then stood at 14,499.181 UP took the pride of place among all the provinces in India by providing the largest number of satyagrahis. The number of arrests made during 1940–41 were to be an all-time high—the number of convictions made during the NonCo-operation movement in 1920–22 and the Civil Disobedience movements of 1930–32 had been much less and this record was not surpassed even during 1942 when the Quit India movement erupted. However, in spite of the all-time high arrests and the considerable organizational preparations by the Congress, the Individual Civil Disobedience campaign has been was regarded by historians and colonial officials alike as something of a damp squib. During the course of the campaign, no rioting took place, no scenes of public disorder were witnessed, no attacks upon government 180

Papers of Fredrick Graham Cracknell ICS (UP) 1932–1947 in Cambridge Centre of South Asian Studies. 181 Fortnightly Reports for first half of January 1942.

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servants were reported, no sabotage of government property occurred, no meetings or processions had to be broken, no firings took place and at no time did colonial officials feel seriously threatened by the campaign. How could a movement in which over 14,000 persons were arrested take place without a serious threat to public order? The answer to this riddle is to be found in the fact that colonial notions of what constituted a challenge to authority were based upon collective activity. Only collective activities were perceived as constituting a threat to the colonial order, rather than individual acts of protest which Gandhi had prescribed before 1942 to his followers. By prohibiting collective forms of activity like hartal, rallies, meetings, processions, dharnas, flaghoisting ceremonies, Gandhi had effectively pre-empted a situation in which his movement could be suppressed by the Raj. Even Hallett who, with the liberal use of DIR, conceded that, while it was possible to suppress the Congress temporarily, what we must face is that we cannot destroy Congress as a political party.... We cannot treat Congress as a purely revolutionary organisation; it is not: though possibly at times it may adopt revolutionary methods; it represents a national movement and has a vast amount of support form the educated classes.182 In April 1941 in a detailed analysis of the campaign, Hallett reported that the Congress possessed a very large number of supporters whom the party could mobilize, if it so desired, to fill the jails. “Jail”, he wrote, “still has a less deterrent effect since the late Government and the Congress Party made it clear that no stigma attached to going to jail for ‘political offences’ but rather that the persons acquired merit.” Reflecting on the overall nature of political resistance, Hallett wrote: Gandhi is trying to blackmail Government into conceding the Congress demand. If there are any major reverses or if and when the war is over and we are all war weary and there are the inevitable post war difficulties then he will intensify his effort. To use a homely metaphor, he is by this movement keeping his


Hallett to Linlithgow, 7 December 1940, Hallett Papers, Vol. I.

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revolutionary movement simmering in the hope that a favourable opportunity will come when he can allow it to boil over.183 These words were to prove prophetic sooner than Hallett had expected. In August 1942 when the Congress leadership, under Gandhi, launched the Quit India campaign with the message “Do or Die!”, it evoked one of the strongest responses from UP. As is well known, the epicentres of some of most violent encounters between the Raj and its opponents lay in UP, particularly in its eastern districts like Banaras, Azamgarh and Ballia. Official statistics of causalities, attacks on police stations, damage to communications infrastructure, political arrests and convictions revealed that UP stood in the forefront in this movement of anticolonial resistance. For those who looked upon UP as a colonial “heartland”, the writing on the wall was unmistakable.

183 Note on the Satyagraha movement in UP by Hallett, 23 April 1941 in Hallett Papers, Vol. I.


The Postcolonial “Heartland”


The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity, 1947–54 With the arrival of Independence in August 1947, UP as a “region” underwent a significant transformation. Though, unlike Punjab and Bengal, it did not endure a division of its territories or suffer the horrific violence that many other parts of northern India experienced, its metamorphosis in the late 1940s and early 1950s was profound nonetheless. Aware and apprehensive of the chaos that had afflicted the adjoining East Punjab region and the national capital Delhi, the Congress government in UP, led by Govind Ballabh Pant, took vigorous initiatives against any threat of violence. UP’s head start was that, because the Pant government had been in power since August 1946, it enjoyed both administrative continuity and a resolute political leadership to handle the challenges—two aspects often lacking in other states. That may have been UP’s particular advantage. But UP had its own challenges as well—challenges that were far more complex than in other states and went way beyond the relatively simple need to maintain law and order. These related to the need for creating a new framework for UP as a postcolonial society. As part of this challenge, the political leadership had to deal with communal polarization that had torn UP’s social fabric asunder. Some other key developments, which have shaped UP’s postcolonial “regional” identity also came into place in the years after 1947: its new name, the redefinition of its “official” linguistic identity, and its new territorial boundaries. Instead of attempting a political

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history of these years, we look here at the critical elements that went into the making of UP’s regional persona. Our case is that, by 1954, a postcolonial framework had emerged to reconfigure UP quite distinctly as a “region” and “heartland” within India.

Independence Day Celebrations The end of colonial rule in UP were signposted by the momentous events of 14–15 August 1947.1 How did common people across UP perceive this historic occasion? Let us look at how the ceremonies and rituals for Independence were planned and then explore the notion of “celebration”, for evidence suggests that different communities and social groups attached widely different meanings to the approaching event.2 Let us also look at examples of several cities and towns to get a sense of the prevalent moods and sentiments. Indeed, popular visions of Independence, of nationhood, of citizenship were not quite synchronized across the state. Top political leaders and officials in Lucknow planned and finalized the state ceremonies.3 With the details in circulation, provincial and local Congressmen were galvanized into action. The UP Congress sent out an important circular to all its subordinate bodies, with detailed instructions as well as dos and don’ts for Congress cadres.4 It also elaborated the form that the key ceremonies were to take. On the appointed day, the ceremonies would begin at 7.30 a.m. when, at a designated place fixed by district or local authorities, a minister, parliamentary secretary, legislator or district official would hoist the “national flag”; this would be followed by a police parade to salute the flag. Then, at 10.30 a.m. flag-hoisting functions would take place at prominent public or private buildings. At such gatherings, Congress volunteers were urged to

1 For a study of the larger context, see Sucheta Mahajan, Independence and Partition: The Erosion of Colonial Power in India, New Delhi, 2000. 2 For the all-India context of the celebrations, see Tan Tai Yong and Gyanesh Kudaisya, The Aftermath of Partition in South Asia, Chapter 2, London, 2000. 3 Hindustan Times, 30 July 1947. 4 Mangla Prasad, Secretary, UPPCC, Lucknow, to all district, city and town CCs, 30 July 1947. All India Congress Committee Papers, G-19, 1947–48.

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mobilize as many people as possible, even asking to stop work and perform jhanda-abhivadan (saluting the flag). They were to explicitly convey the message that “the flag under which they struggled and suffered has emerged victorious and has become the flag of the State and now onwards will be hoisted over courts, district offices, police stations and tehsils”. At 4.30 p.m., route marches or processions would be organized, wherein all Congress cadres would mobilize large crowds. People would be encouraged to don the Gandhi cap and, as far as possible, wear khadi. The marches would conclude at 6 p.m., in a public meeting attended by government servants. At night, public buildings would be illuminated and people encouraged to decorate their dwellings as well. This was a “minimum programme” and local organizations had the flexibility to “extend it and go beyond it”. However, it was made very clear that “official” and “party” functions could not clash. Instructions for local cadres were crystal clear: to work closely with the district and local authorities to ensure that events went off in an “orderly and punctual” manner. Another sentiment was at work then, that of boycotting the Independence Day celebrations, in the light of the unfortunate events related to the Partition. The provincial Muslim League leadership was ambivalent; after all despite their instrumental role in building momentum for a separate Muslim homeland, they were not going to be a part of it territorially. The Muslims were also acutely concerned about their status as citizens of, and in, Independent India. In Lucknow, the influential Begum Aizaz Rasul, then affiliated to the Muslim League, summed it up thus: There can be no peace in this vast subcontinent unless minorities are safeguarded in both dominions.… I feel that no assurances, whatsoever, are forthcoming for the Muslims of the Indian Union, though they have a legitimate and reasonable claim for the safeguard and protection of their cultural, social, political, religious and other rights.… This state of affairs will lead to insecurity and frustration, resulting in an anarchic situation for millions of people inhabiting the two Dominions who want to be good citizens of the new States.5 5

Interview with Begum Aizaz Rasul, Lucknow, 1989. Also see her statement in Star of India, 12 August 1947.

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The Hindu Mahasabha put up more vehement opposition, by strongly questioning the very idea of celebration. Savarkar, the supreme leader of the Hindu right-wing, openly declared that celebrations of any form were not called for; 15 August symbolized not Independence but the nation’s vivisection. The territorial integrity of Akhand Bharat (indivisible India)—“undivided from times immemorial”—was now being destroyed! He urged his supporters never to accept Partition, or to recognize Pakistan.6 Growing in numbers due to disillusionment with the Congress over its “appeasement” of the Muslims by “conceding” the demand for Pakistan, supporters of the Hindu right echoed Savarkar ’s call for boycott. Vishwa Nath Singh, lawyer from Lakhimpur Kheri in UP, wrote “on behalf of the Hindu public of this Town” to Congress president J.B. Kriplani, enquiring why the Congress was making plans for celebrations. “It is announced that 15th August is to be celebrated as a day of great national rejoicing”, said he. “For what should be celebrate. The mother is cut into two and we are asked to rejoice over it!” His view was that instead, it “should be celebrated as a day of great mourning by the Hindus for it was a day of great shame and humiliation”.7 The Congress authorities condemned such moves “to vitiate the atmosphere”. It is a matter of pity that when real responsibility is coming into our hands, some short-sighted people are misleading the public and creating obstacles precisely at the moment when the permanent foundations of the nation and nationhood are being laid.8 They regretted the fact that people were being “excited by communal propaganda and sentiments” when enormous challenges lay ahead. For them, in light of this, it was even more important to celebrate the birth of the “nation” in a befitting manner: We have to celebrate 15th August in such a way that people’s psychology is metamorphosed into that befitting the citizens 6

D. Keer, Veer Savarkar, Bombay, 1966. Vishwa Nath Singh to J.B. Kriplani, 16 July 1947, All India Congress Committee Papers, G-19, 1947–48. 8 Ibid., emphasis added. 7

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of an independent nation. We have to explain to them that with the departure of the British our destiny now lies in our own hands. We now have to build a strong and prosperous nation. We have to establish a democratic polity. We have to bestow the means for an abundant livelihood on peasants and working peoples. We have to remove the gross inequities which can be seen in our society and eliminate poverty and unemployment. We have to empower the people. We have to work according to a plan to augment income, provide work, impart universal education and to bring development to the villages. All these aspirations and expectations cannot be fulfilled overnight.9 To meet these challenges, people needed to conduct themselves with dignity and honour. In particular, they were warned that “anyone unwilling to join in this occasion or programme must not be coerced or commented upon” as “with the coming of freedom our responsibility goes up and we should remember this even more”. At a press conference in Lucknow, Pant elaborated upon the significance of the celebrations. He explained that the ceremonies would “centre on the National Flag” and “everything will be dwarfed before the Flag”. He hoped that “there will be no house in the province on which our National Flag—the Tricolour around which memories of sacrifice and martyrdom have gathered during the last three decades—does not fly on that day”.10 He warned the groups that were planning to boycott the celebrations—Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League supporters—to beware. “Those who fly black flags on the dawn of freedom shall be traitors and shall have no place in the Union”, he declared to a mammoth public meeting in Meerut. “In the same way, those who do not bow to the National Flag will not be citizens of the free country”, he added.11 On the eve of the great day, Pant commented on its significance in a radio broadcast: Sovereignty will be vested in the people, and their representatives will control and regulate the affairs of the state and all 9

Ibid. Ibid. 11 Ibid., 7 August 1947.


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its branches. We will realize Swaraj, and Government of the people, by the people, for the people… will be not a mere theoretical maxim but will be in active operation in the fullest sense hereafter. … today we are observing the dawn of a new era. Everything should change now and the change should be for the better. The old order must yield place to a new one and to a better one. We, in this province, have a stupendous task before us. We have to liquidate the accumulated arrears of ages and overcome the apathy and to stimulate dynamic energy all round. We lag behind many other provinces in many matters that matter. We have to carry the torch of light to every home and hamlet and to ensure the fullest opportunity for the social, economic and cultural progress of all who reside in this land. The interests of the masses must necessarily receive the foremost consideration in every plan of reconstruction. No sound edifice can be constructed otherwise. 12 In his Independence Day message, published prominently by newspapers in Lucknow, along with reports of the midnight transfer-of-ceremonies in Delhi, Pant expressed hope: All will work for the reconstruction of a new social order based on justice, fair play, understanding, goodwill and equality of opportunity for one and all so that our Union may be great not only materially but also morally and spiritually and the light of wisdom emanating from it may illuminate and remove the gloom from every dark spot in the world.13 Celebrations at many places blended official ceremonies and popular elements, often producing remarkable scenes. In Banaras, one of the holiest cities in India, this was more than evident. According to reports, “flag-bedecked Banaras went riotous with colour and gaiety as India shook off the shackles of slavery at 12 G.B. Pant: “Broadcast speech on Independence Day”, B.R. Nanda, ed., Selected Works of Govind Ballabh Pant, Vol. 12, New Delhi, 2001, pp. 5–8. 13 G.B. Pant, “Independence Day message”, National Herald, 15 August 1947; B.R. Nanda, ed., Selected Works of Govind Ballabh Pant, Vol. 12, pp. 3–5.

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midnight”. Residents of Banaras greeted the final countdown to midnight by enthusiastically blowing on conch shells and incessantly ringing the bells in the hundreds of temples in the city. In the morning of 15 August, official ceremonies commenced at the Police Lines where Nisar Ahmad Sherwani, a cabinet minister, inspected the Guard of Honour. Later, at another large gathering including the district officials, he hoisted the tricolour over the district court. The City Congress organized its own celebrations at the Town Hall where men from the Special Armed Constabulary presented a Guard of Honour to the national flag. Away from the city, students of the Banaras Hindu University—a storm-centre in the Quit India movement of 1942—held their own ceremony, where prominent Congress leader Sampurnanand unfurled the flag. In the afternoon, the focus shifted to the unique Bharat Mata temple where a highly symbolic ceremony marked the coming of independence. The temple, dedicated to Bharat Mata (Mother India), is extraordinary in that its inner sanctum contains not a single deity from the Hindu pantheon, but a large iconic representation of Bharat Mata, depicting the “bounties of nature bestowed upon the land”.14 A large relief map shows the key physical features of Mother India, rimmed by the Himalayas and watered by the Ganges and “other holy rivers of heaven”. The “sacred geography” of Bharat Mata is demarcated by the dhams (abodes of gods) located in the four directions, a comprehensive visit to which is known as mahaparikrama (the great pilgrimage). Visitors to the Temple first circumambulate the relief map, then climb to the second-floor balcony for a darshan (glimpse) of the whole world.15 In a ceremony marked by enthusiasm, Muslim Congressman N.A. Sherwani unfurled the national flag over the Bharat Mata temple in the presence of a huge crowd. In the evening, the spotlight was on Dashashwamedh Ghat, the most popular of the bathing ghats along the Ganges. Legend has it that Brahma the Creator performed an ashwamedh yagna 14 For an insightful study of the powerful “mother” symbolism in the context of Indian nationalism, see Sugata Bose, “Nation as Mother: Representations and Contestations of ‘India’ in Bengali Literature and Culture”, in Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, eds, Nationalism, Democracy and Development: State and Politics in India, New Delhi, 1997. 15 Diana Eck in her study testifies to the popularity of the Bharat Mata temple among pilgrims to Banaras, see her Banaras: City of Light, New York, 1982.

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(sacrifice of 10 horses) there, marking the earliest consecration in Hindu myth. From this spot—among the holiest in Hindu religion, because a dip in the Ganges there purges the sins of a lifetime for a believer—commenced a massive torchlight procession, “the biggest in living memory”. It marched through Chowk and the main thoroughfares and terminated at Town Hall, where the local Congress leaders held a public meeting around the Martyrs’ Memorial.16 A similar pattern emerged in Agra. Here the highlight was the hoisting of the Tricolour on the Mughal Fort by the military commandant. A flag-hoisting ceremony was also held at the Ram Lila grounds, with over 300,000 people present. At the Police Lines, Jagan Prasad Rawat, a parliamentary secretary in the UP cabinet, inspected a parade and unfurled the flag. At the municipal office, the programme included recitations from the Vedas and the Bhagwad Gita. A police parade marched through the city at the head of a two-mile long procession led by local Congress leaders. It terminated at the Ram Lila grounds in a public meeting addressed by Seth Achal Singh, president of the city Congress.17 In Kanpur, the occasion was marked by “illuminations on an unprecedented scale in every mohalla”, sounding of hooters of all mills and factories and whistles of all railway engines, blowing of conch shells in Hindu temples, and ringing of bells in churches. At prominent places, “Freedom Arches”—decorated with silver ribbons and flowers were erected, and free iced water was distributed. The National Flag was hoisted over the palace of Nana Saheb, hero of the 1857 Revolt. A special train plied from Kanpur to Bithur, Nana’s hometown. Premier Pant addressed a meeting at Phoolbagh. However, the day was not unmarred: about half-a-dozen people were injured in a minor clash involving Congressmen and members of the Scheduled Castes Federation who wanted to hoist the Federation flag along with the Tricolour, much to the Congress workers’ objection. 18 From Jhansi came reports of enthusiastic plans to unfurl the flag at Rani Laxmibai’s fort, with a military parade replete with 16

Leader, 16 August 1947. Hindustan Times, 16 August 1947. 18 Hindustan Times, 19 August 1947. 17

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 349

cannon fire. Bareilly was decorated with 15 ceremonial arches. In Aligarh, an inter-community dinner for 5,000 people featured a kavi sammelan and a mushaira. In Lucknow, to mark the occasion, the UP Jails Department released over 5,000 of the 22,000 prisoners then in custody. In another development in the capital, “Nawab” Yusuf Mirza, claiming to be the “grandson and heir-apparent” of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, Awadh’s last ruler before the British deposed him in 1856, made a dramatic entry into Lucknow, led ceremonially from the railway station by his Shia followers. It was announced that an investiture ceremony would take place upon the lapse of British rule at which the “Nawab” would proclaim himself “King of Oudh”. 19 News from Almora was that the good tidings of the midnight transfer of power were relayed to over 10,000 villages in the Almora and Nainital hills by the lighting of bonfires on all hilltops. The last occasion when this had been done was over 100 years ago to mark the Raja of Kumaon’s victory in a battle. Such enthusiasm was not unexpected, for a son of the hills—Govind Ballabh Pant— was assuming the mantle of political power in Lucknow. From across UP came reports of enthusiastic celebrations of Independence Day. Muzaffarnagar had been “profusely decorated” for the occasion; sweets and festivities were in abundance. In Aligarh, Shankarrao Deo, secretary of the AICC, addressed the main public meeting to mark the occasion. Before a mammoth audience of nearly 200,000, he expressed “full faith in the ultimate Union of India” and assured the minorities of “full protection and privileges if they remained faithful citizens of India”. On behalf of the administration, the DM, Govind Narain, ICS, declared that it was his duty “to protect every single Muslim who wanted to live with full loyalty to the Indian Union” and pledged that he would ensure that “not a drop of blood was shed of any such loyal citizen whether he was a Hindu or a Muslim”.20 In Kasganj town of Etah district, the DM unfurled the national flag before a large gathering and read out a message from the premier. In Jhansi, A.G. Kher, UP’s minister for local self-government 19

Hindustan Times, 14 August 1947. Govind Narain, Oral History Transcript, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, p. 102. 20

350 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

and health, hoisted the flag and urged the people to protect the minorities. He counselled “patience to the people and warned them that they should not expect miracles from the Congress Government”. In Fatehpur, a mile-long procession, reportedly comprising over 50,000 people, marched through the city, led by local officials mounted on elephants. In Dehra Dun, for two whole minutes of rejoicing, all church and temple bells pealed, all railway engines whistled, all sirens of the Imperial Bank and the Ordnance Factory hooted, and all telephones rang! The DM took the salute in dhoti and Gandhi cap, while the City Congress Committee president led a midnight procession across town. In Hapur—the scene of horrific communal violence in March 1947—as many as “62 arches were erected and the whole town wore a festive appearance”. In Bareilly, UP’s minister for public works, Hafiz Mohammad Ibrahim, unfurled the Tricolour before an audience of 50,000 people. Armed police and troopers from the Jat Regiment marched past and 385 prisoners were released. In Nainital, the highlight of the events was a torchlight procession of 6,000 people and the hoisting of the national flag at the Government House. At the famed shrine of Badrinath, situated at an altitude of 10,390 feet in the Himalayas, a long procession of traditionally attired people from the Bhutia, Dimri and Duriyal communities arrived to pay special prayers. 21 In retrospect, it can be safely said that celebrations of Independence in UP displayed a convergence of state rituals and popular rejoicing. While state rituals marked the end of the colonial order and the inauguration of a new postcolonial government through symbols like the flag and the anthem, popular commemorations attached a host of meanings to the event. Indeed, popular meanings, hopes, and expectations were quite at variance with messages embedded in state rituals. Further, it must be remembered that the consecration rituals, staged with much fanfare, conveyed different meanings to different groups. As we shall see, the Muslim communities perceived the coming of Independence with profound uncertainty.


Hindustan Times, 20 August 1947.

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 351

Renaming the “Heartland” Place names can be deeply symbolic and ideological devices to imprint a culturally constructed identity on a given physical space. They provide an intersection between hegemonic ideological structures and spatial practices of everyday life. They connect physical territory to a history, to a commemorative past. In postcolonial UP, place names became an important aspect of the postcolonial. Two aspects of naming came into the spotlight after Independence. The first concerned “authentic” spellings and pronunciations for place names in the province, and the need for purging colonial misspelling and mispronunciation. This may be described as the shuddhikaran of names by giving them authentic transliterations. The Congress government declared that as place names occupy “a prominent place in the cultural life of the people of these provinces”, it was important that they be amended so that the “transliteration of names in accordance with the way they are mispronounced by foreigners” is given up: It is vital to the preservation of our cultural integrity and also a question of national honour, that India’s proper names of towns, rivers, etc. should be correctly spelt and pronounced according to the only way which those well conversant with the language can recognize. A national Government must take a broad national view of the matter and cannot recognize misspelling due to foreign influence arising from political subjection. The two most prominent names amended were “Ganga” for the Ganges and “Mathura” for Muttra. A government notification produced a list of “authentic” spellings rectifying the names of rivers and cities. So, Jumna became “Yamuna” and Gumti became “Gomti”. Similarly, Ayodhya, Kanpur, Faizabad and Unnao were new the spellings of prominent cities, following what the National Herald called “Indianization or nationalization” of place names.22 22 For a critical discussion of the concept of the “region”, see B.S. Cohn, “Regions Subjective and Objective: Their Relation to the Study of Modern Indian History and Society”, in B.S. Cohn, ed., An Anthropologist among the Historians and Other Essays, New Delhi, 1987. 22 National Herald, 6 August 1947.

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The second issue addressed a deeper and more substantial question: what should be the name of the province itself? Since 1902, the province had been known as the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh; in 1937, this extended nomenclature was shortened to the United Provinces or UP. A few days after Independence, a debate started in the UP Legislature over the question of a “suitable name” for the province. In the debate on 11 September 1947, Chandra Bhal, a Congress MLC, rose to move a motion for changing UP’s name. We are witnessing a new birth. I think we should have a new and suitable name. After the birth, the most important ceremony is the Nam Karan everywhere and I think we should signalize this birth of a new age and a new life in our people by having a really good name for our province.23 Thunderous applause showed that the overwhelming sentiment in the House supported the view. Chandra Bhal continued: We must try to make our province the best in the whole country as it can certainly be. Our geographical position is strong, and the fact that this particular tract has been the centre of civilization all through the century, all these facts point to our great future. We ought to take legitimate pride in being where we are and we certainly can be the most important province in the whole country. Chandra Bhal put forth several suggestions. The first example he proposed was Oudh: The name of Oudh can be extended to the whole Province. Oudh is an old name, the kingdom of Rama, which would be acceptable to all communities, all parties and it is true that today the


Speech by Chandra Bhal in support of the Resolution Recommending to Government to Take early Steps to Give to Province a Suitable Name, 11 September 1947, UP Legislative Council Proceedings, Volume XIV, pp. 366–79.

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 353

name is confined to only two divisions comparing 12 districts. But in history expansions have taken place. However, it was soon clear that though there was strong agreement over the need to change the name, there was no consensus on what the new name should be. Education minister Sampurnanand pointed out difficulties in adopting Oudh as the new name. “Braj Basi (the residents of Braj) cannot accept Oudh as our Province and the people at Kashi and Mathura also cannot accept Oudh as its name.” In doing so, he highlighted the distinct cultural regions existing within the province. Chandra Bhal clarified that Oudh was merely an example. Other possible names could be “Aryavart”, even “Hindustan”. Speaking in favour of Hindustan, he continued: I think that name is quite suitable. As a matter of fact, if you ask a Bengalee “what will you call me?” he will say “I would call you Hindustani”. If I were to answer that question myself “what are you”, I would call myself Hindustani for lack of anything better. And Sir, Hindustan is a good name. I think it gives us certain amount of importance and will give us I think greater importance than other names. I would like to have Hindustan particularly at this juncture because the word “Hindustani” is being given a very sinister meaning by some people as being the land of the Hindus as against Pakistan. I think this would be a good answer to that also. The usual objection to the word “Hindustan” is that the word is used with reference to the whole country. But we have a better name “Hind” is already in current use for the whole country. The word “Hind” is really the synonym for “Ind” or rather the original word “India” which has been accepted as the name of the whole country by the Union Government, so that the whole country need not have two names…. Finally, it was decided that the government should appoint a committee to consider various proposals for renaming UP, and that this committee should complete its task urgently and report within a month.

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Ram Chandra Gupta, another Congress legislator, rose in support of the motion, and dwelt upon the unattractiveness of the existing name, “United Provinces”.24 There is no other Province which has a long name which is very difficult to pronounce. The proper names are never translated in other languages. This is the quality of proper names. I have never seen, Sir, the name of a particular individual being translated into English or vice versa. Here … our Province has got one name in Hindi, another in Urdu and a third in English. So this Province is always treated according to the choice of the speaker.25 Chandra Bhal had earlier made the point that the term “United Provinces” could be rendered in any language according to the speaker’s choice. It could be Samyukta Prant in Hindi, or Mumalik Mutahdda in Urdu, or United Provinces in English. Speaker after speaker rose to argue that United Provinces as a colonial appellation was unsuitable, as the people of the province simply did not identify with it. They could not be expected to feel patriotic about such a name, for it simply did not reflect their local identity. Soon the debate seemed to settle over “Aryavarta”. Speaking in support of this, legislator Pandit Bandri Datt Pande said: When Aryans came here, they called it Aryavarta or the abode of Aryas. I think this is the original name. The Aryas came here and settled and they wrote these wonderful books, the Vedas, the Darshans and other systems of philosophy. In this Province they were written. There were important dissenting voices too. Sheikh Masoodul-Zaman, a Muslim legislator, shot down the very idea of renaming the province. “We know that UP was called United Provinces because the two provinces of Agra and Awadh were united.… 24

Ram Chandra Gupta strongly supported the adoption of Aryavarta, appealing to “everyone… that this name should not be objected to by my Muslim friends also because the word Aryavarta is a big name and it does include every community inhabiting this part of the land”. 25 Ibid., p. 371. Also see Swatantra Bharat, 12 September 1947.

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 355

that it was the center of the culture of Hindus and Mussalmans both. Therefore it was called the United Provinces, because here the two cultures unite together.” Criticizing the Aryavarta proposal, he declared that it would not appeal to many people, especially from the minorities. “Suppose we name the province Aryavarta, are we in that case going to be known as Arya Samajist” asked he, rhetorically. Another dissenter was Abdul Hamid of the Muslim League: United Province is such a lovely name which reflected strong bond of unity and today we are being told that it no more seems lovely.… This province elevated its name United. We are proud that none of other provinces in India can compare with us. We respect the word “United”, and the unity we displayed and have been displaying among us, we should not reduce it at this stage. In future we would like to name the provinces after the name of those leaders that have contributed in the freedom struggle of India. For example, if we name our province “Jawaharnagar”, Jawaharlal Nehru’s name will be written in the history of the world, and our nation would think that we have acknowledged his service to the nation. Similarly, if we name it “Azadnagar”, we can acknowledge the service of Mulana Abul Kalam Azad. Radhe Raman and Ram Narayan Garg were among the others who rose in support of the Aryavarta proposal. At this point, Communications Minister Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim intervened to say that the term “Hindustan” would be wrong as with it were associations of a much larger country. As the only Muslim member of the Pant cabinet, he pleaded for a consultative approach. As the discussion became more strident, the official benches had to intervene to diffuse the situation. Finance Minister Sri Krishna Dutt Paliwal chided members for the Hindu “supremacist” spirit in which they had made the case for Aryavarta. Sensing that the mood in the Council was overwhelmingly in favour of adopting that name, he shrewdly argued that an immediate decision based upon a majority resolution was likely to be hasty and that it should be left to the Pant cabinet to consider and resolve the matter in due course. 26 26

National Herald, 13 September 1947; Swatantra Bharat, 12 September 1947.

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Once the issue entered the public arena, a lively debate ensued and many more suggestions surfaced. Nandkishore Upadhayaya from Almora suggested in a letter to Swatantra Bharat that “from the geographical point of view, it would be most appropriate to call this state ‘Himalaya Pradesh’”. He argued that the life of the province was shaped by the Himalayas: the Yamuna and the Ganges arising from their sources in the Himlayas brought with them fertility that made the land prosperous. “Every single inhabitant of this land is animated by the spirit of the Himalayas”, he claimed. If there had been no Himalaya, UP would have been desert-like like China or Siberia and its history would have been different.27 By June 1948, the UP cabinet had as many as 20 names, suggested by several local bodies and individuals: Aryavarta, Aryavarta Pradesh, Avadh, Bharat Khand, Brij Kaushal or Brij Koshal, Brahmavarta, Prant Bhagirath Pradesh, Bhramadesh, Brahmadesh, Hindustan, Himalay Koshlam, Krishna Kushal Province, Madhayadesh, Naimisharanya Pradesh, Nava Hindu, Ram Krishna Prant, Ram Krishna Pradesh and Uttara Khand.28 However, the Pant cabinet did not press ahead with a decision on this issue and the matter lingered on due to a lack of consensus. The matter resurfaced, with some urgency, in October 1949 for the Constituent Assembly was finalizing the draft Constitution in New Delhi. The new Constitution was to feature names of the provinces in the union. With the Constitution drafting in a fairly advanced stage and with the third reading of the draft Constitution in progress, members from UP in the Constituent Assembly reopened the issue. Mahavir Tyagi, a prominent Congress leader from western UP, raised the issue but the ensuing discussion revealed that there was still no consensus on the matter.29 Under the circumstances, the President of the Assembly, Dr Rajendra Prasad, ruled that he could not allow a debate on the subject as it would seriously distract and delay the work of the Constituent Assembly. He suggested that the question of nomenclature be left to respective provincial governments; the Constituent Assembly 27

Letter to the editor, Swatantra Bharat, 23 September 1947. Pioneer, 5 June 1948. 29 Pioneer, 16 October 1949; Constituent Assembly of India Debates, pp. 306–22. 28

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 357

could later obtain their views and incorporate them into the draft Constitution.30 This ruling placed the matter higher up on the agenda of the UP government. On 1 November 1949, at the initiative of Education Minister Sampurnanand, the UP cabinet considered the issue. Reports indicated that within the Cabinet, an overwhelming majority favoured the proposal for Aryavarta.31 However, a final decision was not taken, as it was felt that the matter should be placed before the Provincial Congress Committee. Later that month, the UP Provincial Congress Committee met at Banaras. In a two-hour long debate, an overwhelming majority of 106 members supported the motion in favour of Aryavarta. The only other proposal considered worthy of discussion and voting was Markandey Singh’s “Hind”, which secured 22 votes.32 Prominent Congress figures present at this meeting included Purushottam Das Tandon, Govind Ballabh Pant, Sampurnanand, A.G. Kher, Govind Sahai and Charan Singh. Armed with this verdict, Pant conveyed the decision to the Constituent Assembly on 15 November 1949.33 However, the Aryavarta proposal was stalled within days. In a “heated discussion” at a meeting of Congress members of the Constituent Assembly in New Delhi, the central leadership repeatedly intervened in the matter and the entire issue was dropped. The Congress leadership in New Delhi disregarded the fact that the proposal enjoyed the support of the UP cabinet and the UPCC. On 17 November 1949, Pant retracted publicly from the debate. He informed the Assembly that the Aryavarta proposal was being given up as “this was not found acceptable to other parts of the country”. Earlier during the debate, R.K. Sidhwa, a member from CP–Berar, had insinuated that “the United Provinces was anxious 30 S.N. Mukherjee, Joint Secretary, CA, in his letter of 18 October requested Pant to express his opinion on the proposal of some members of the CA that the UP be named as Aryavarta. GBP, SW, Vol. 13, p. 292. 31 Swatantra Bharat, 2 November 1949. 32 Leader, 10 November 1949; Swatantra Bharat, 10 November 1949; National Herald, 10 November 1949. 33 “The Chief Secretary has already sent you a telegraphic communication about the new name of our province. The Government considered it advisable to consult the Provincial Congress Committee and agreeing with their recommendation I support the proposal for naming UP as Aryavarta.” Ibid.

358 Region, Nation, “Heartland” Illustration 7.1: Renaming UP

Source: Shankar’s Weekly, II, 27–52, 1949.

to monopolize the name of India”. Further, he had expressed the fear that though the Aryavrat proposal may be given up, the UP government might still put forward the name Hindustan “instead”. “Names of that kind”, Sidhwa charged, “signified not merely UP but the whole of India.” He was concerned that UP looked upon itself as the “super-most province of India”.34 To address such concerns, Law Minister Dr B.R. Ambedkar moved a bill, which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 25 November 1949, empowering the governor general to alter 34

National Herald, 26 November 1949.

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 359

names of provinces constituting the Union. Pant promised that names like Aryavarta or Hindustan “would not be suggested again”. 35 Thus, the push for renaming UP as Aryavarta was stopped in its track by the timely intervention of the central leadership. Following this, a meeting of Congress members of the Constituent Assembly from UP was convened to work out a compromise upon the name “Uttar Pradesh”.

Dismantling the Muslim “Heartland” In the last week of December 1947, the Indian Union Muslim Conference was convened in Lucknow. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad presided and prominent Muslim political leaders and activists from across India attended. Among the participants were Dr Syed Mahmud, Hussainbhoy Laljee, Dr Syed Hussain, Shah Nawaz, Fakhruddin, Humaun Kabir, Ashrafuddin Chaudhary, Nausher Ali, Allah Pichai, Khwaja Abdul Majid, Nawab of Chattari, Yasin Nuri and Faridul Haq Ansari. In his address, Maulana Azad gave a “clarion call” to Muslims in India to shun communal politics in all its forms. To a gathering of 60,000 Muslims, he declared: All communal organizations must be liquidated. The Muslim League must cease to exist. Communalism in political life must be buried forever…. It has no place in the Indian Dominion. If it has any place or purpose that is harmful, poisonous and destructive and detrimental to the interest of the country.36


National Herald, 18 November 1949. Mohan Lal Gautam condemned the controversy as “petty”. He said that it was after all the fault of UP that it did not change its name two years ago. If it had done so, the House would have “swallowed” the new name. National Herald, 26 November 1949. 36 Leader, 28 December 1947. The resolution advising the Muslims to dissolve communal organizations was moved by S.A. Brelvi and seconded by Maulana Ahmed Said, Vice President of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema. It stated “The time has come when Muslims of all shades of opinion must take a united decision to abjure communal politics which far from serving the real interest of the masses and affording them necessary protection and security have tended to encourage social and political reactions and injured the national life by encouraging false and unnatural divisions and fostering hatred and suspicion among different communities.”

360 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

At the gathering, which many remarked was reminiscent of the 1936 Congress session held there, Maulana Azad—till recently estranged from mainstream Muslim “separatist” politics almost for a decade and often the butt of ridicule and abuse by prominent politicians of the community—was “heard in pin drop silence and lustily applauded”. His three-fold advice to the Muslims of India was: (a) the Muslim League and other communal organizations, functioning in the political field should be wound up in India; (b) Muslims should join the Indian National Congress, which was the only non-communal organization; and (c) a committee of a “non-communal character” should be formed to deal with immediate concerns of Indian Muslims. He declared: … after August 15th every community’s hands are besmeared with blood—Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs. So all these doors through which communalism has entered into our country must be closed. One of the doors was opened by the Muslim League. Since the last ten years, if you recount its history, you will find that it is full of hatred and communalism. He urged Muslim leaders to have “cultural, religious and literary organizations” but enjoined upon them to strictly “do away with all communal organizations from the political field”. Several other speakers spoke in a similar vein. Maulana Ahmed Said of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema declared that Muslims had harmed themselves by following the Muslim League’s disastrous politics. As a result: … the lives of Muslims from Amritsar to Calcutta are now in danger as a consequence… and the erstwhile preachers of communal disunity have now disappeared from the scene and have left in the lurch the entire Muslim community.... Today the Muslims were not only living in unsatisfactory conditions but were facing death…. The Muslims should pause and think if they proposed to pursue the same path of communal hatred and disunity with suicidal results to themselves. Hafiz Mohammed Ibrahim, a minister in the UP cabinet and chairman of the Conference’s Reception Committee, called upon the Muslims “to join the Congress and strengthen it by all possible

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 361

means”. Referring to the conditions of the Muslims after Partition, he said that “they have become victims of fear and panic and show signs of cowardice”, as “their morale and spirit of self reliance has been destroyed by the poisonous propaganda of the last ten years”. Ibrahim assured them that “there is no reason for them to get frightened or become panicky. They must maintain their courage and morale and must understand that these bloody and heart-rending spectacles are the direct result of the activities of communally-minded and reactionary elements”. Dr Syed Mahmud, Bihar’s Minister for Development, conceded that joining the Congress was not a “panacea for all the ills the community is suffering today”. In his view, the Congress alone could help establish a secular and democratic state “in the Indian union”, which he believed was the best safeguard for Muslims. S.A. Brelvi, prominent Muslim journalist and intellectual from Bombay, commended the Congress for providing a “common platform for all communities to work together and eschew communalism”. Moreover, the Congress offered a “constructive programme” to banish poverty and the Muslims stood to gain “if they joined the Congress and took proper share in the development of the country”. Dr Z.A. Ahmad, Communist leader from UP, regretted that the Muslims were being dubbed “fifth columnists and were the targets of attack from all quarters, advice was being tendered that they should be turned out of India.’’ He declared that here was an opportunity to make a clear break from the past by joining the Congress. He, however, urged that “we should not join it in sheer panic or fear of extinction. We must come into it with certain ideals, policy and programme”. The Raja of Salempur declared that the Muslims “wanted to live here as brothers with all non-Muslims but they also wanted to live with honour”. He hoped that following “the dissolution of all political communal organizations of the Muslims, a new atmosphere would be created in the country”. Maulana Habibul Ansari, a delegate from Bijnor, said that “if Muslims joined the Congress in very large numbers, they could reduce the preponderance of other communities and defend their interest in a spirit of inter-communal harmony”. An outcome of the conference was the formation of “a powerful 100-men committee”, assigned the responsibility to “launch a mass contact of Muslims” to give effect to the decision of ridding Muslim politics of the “communal”

362 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

virus.37 When it concluded, Maulana Azad described the Muslim Conference as a “memorable event”.38 The Lucknow convention yielded several practical measures to implement its proposals to evolve a new framework in which the Muslim minority could feel secure in the dramatically altered political circumstances following Partition. On 18 March 1948, Mufti Fakhrul Islam, a prominent Muslim League leader, announced in the UP Legislative Assembly (UPLA) that the UP Muslim League stood dissolved. He explained that, following the liquidation of the UP League Legislative Party on 27 February 1948, no new members of the League had been enrolled. He also declared: “The membership of those who enrolled in the previous year had expired in the end of 1947.”39 This, in effect, meant that the Muslim League organization in UP’s districts and towns stood liquidated. As the Mufti explained: We are now opening a new chapter after August 15 and forgetting what each of us—you and we both—did in the past. We assure the House that we are children of the soil and we shall resist Pakistan or any other power that invades India to the last drop of our blood. Nawab Aizaz Rasul, secretary of the Provincial Muslim League, declared that it was the prerogative of UP Muslim League leaders to decide the future of the All India Muslim League: It was the U.P. League leaders and legislators who formed the vanguard of the Muslim league in India. Many of the organization’s leading agitators and protagonists came from the United Provinces. One is now Prime Minister of Pakistan and another is Pakistan League’s Chief… if anything, it is the U.P. Muslims constituting nearly one-fourth of the entire Muslim population in the Indian Union, who are now entitled to decide the future of the League organization in the country…. The U.P. had been the cradle of the League, and by a curious coincidence, it is the U.P. again that has proved to be its grave.40 37

Leader, 29 December 1947. Ibid. 39 Leader, 22 March 1948. 40 Ibid. 38

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 363

This was followed up when the Council of the UP Muslim League met in Lucknow in late May 1948, under Z.H. Lari’s presidency, to formally abolish the Muslim League Parliamentary Board. Over 50 members of the UP Muslim League Parliamentary Board present at this critical meeting endorsed the decision. The Council called for the formation of a single organization to “promote and safeguard religious, cultural, educational and other rights of the Muslims as embodied in the Constitution”.41 However, the Congress leadership was opposed to the very existence of the Muslim League in the province and wanted to hit out hard against “communal” political elements. Pant declared in the UPLA that formal dissolution of organizations alone would serve “no purpose if its tendencies and drawbacks continue to exist”. Rather provocatively, he asked: “What is the use of a rope being burnt if its twists remain intact?”42 He urged former Muslim League leaders to “work among the Muslim electorate” to effect a change in their outlook. Home Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, addressing the “Muslim bloc” among the legislators, was forthright: I want to be very frank. You have changed your attitude towards the Government by dropping the communal label, but not so very much your workers and supporters. Go out and work amongst them and fill them with the spirit of nationalism and patriotism… a powerful propaganda campaign is needed among the Muslims so that they may change their attitude. We expect the same quality of loyalty from the Indian Muslims to his country as that of a Chinese Muslim to China or a Soviet Muslim to the Soviet Union. That quality or nationalism, I am sorry to say on evidence and reports is still lacking in your followers.43 Of the Congress’ post-1947 policy, one aspect was to pressurize “communal” organizations such as the Muslim League to dissolve their identities; the other was to co-opt and draw within its fold 41

Leader, 1 June 1948. Speech in UPLA, 28 February 1948, B.R. Nanda, ed., Selected Works of Govind Ballabh Pant, Vol. 12, p. 73 (henceforth GBP, SW). 43 Leader, 19 March 1948. 42

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important Muslim leaders. Almost 10 years earlier, in 1937, the UP Congress had used this strategy successfully by inducting Hafiz Ahmed Ibrahim, who went on to become Pant’s valued Cabinet colleague and an important Congress leader from among the Muslims. Prominent examples of others who were co-opted after 1947—indeed encouraged by the central Congress leadership to join the party—were Nawab Aizaz Rasul and Begum Aizaz Rasul, the latter a leader of Muslim League’s Women’s Wing and a member of the UPLC and the Constituent Assembly. Later, in the 1952 general elections, Pant personally offered a party nomination to Nawab Rasul for the Shahabad assembly constituency and a “ticket” for the Rajya Sabha to Begum Rasul.44 Another aspect of the new political framework for dealing with Muslim minorities related to the issue of separate electorates in the new Constitution being drafted in New Delhi. The Congress leaders’ antipathy to separate representation for the minorities was well known. On several occasions, Pant had denounced communal electorates as having no place in a secular state: “The separatists have no place here. If there are any separatists here, they are welcome to go to Pakistan. There is no place for them in India.”45 Muslim leaders increasingly realized that they could not cling to separate electorates—public opinion was overwhelmingly against them. Sensing the mood, Z.H. Lari himself announced in the UPLA that he vigorously opposed the reservation of seats for minorities.46 The matter was handed over to an Advisory Committee on Minorities of the Constituent Assembly, headed by Sardar Patel. The Committee examined the question of abolition of reserved seats for religious monitories (other than the “Scheduled Castes” who were to be given reservations for 10 years in the first instance). Patel mobilized Muslim members of the Constituent Assembly, especially from UP, as he felt that the initiative must originate from them. As a member of this Advisory Committee, Begum Aizaz Rasul was responsible for securing consensus. She found it a very 44

See Begum Aizaz Rasul, June 1979, Lucknow. Also see Begum Aiazaz Rasul, From Purdah to Parliament, New Delhi, 2001, p. 185. 45 Public speech at Muzaffarnagar, 3 September 1947, in Nanda, ed., GBP, SW, Vol. 12, p. 51. 46 Leader, 7 March 1948.

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 365

“ticklish issue”.47 Important Muslim leaders such as Muhammad Ismail Khan felt that, without separate representation, there could be no justice for the Muslims in India; they would be subjected to the tyranny of the majority under a system of universal adult franchise. Some favoured a system of proportionate representation.48 Begum Aizaz Rasul recalls: Christians and Parsis had already given up the right of reservation, the Sikhs also followed suit. It now remained for the Muslims to decide… I consulted Nawab Ismail Khan, leader of our party, and we decided to call a meeting of the Muslim members of the UP Assembly and the Council to discuss the matter. We went to Lucknow and had discussions with them. They all agreed that in the changed circumstances and with joint electorates, reservation of seats was meaningless. 49 Having secured this mandate from the UP Muslim legislators, Patel pressed ahead with the abolition of separate electorates in the new Constitution. Finally, he moved a resolution in the Constituent Assembly. In support, Begum Aizaz Rasul declared: To my mind reservation is a self-destructive weapon which separates the minorities from the majority all the time. It gives no chance to the minorities to win the good-will of the majority. It keeps the spirit of separateness and communalism alive which should be done away with once and for all … I feel that it is in the interests of the minority to try and merge themselves into the majority community. It is not going to be harmful to the minorities.… To my mind it is very necessary that the Muslims living in this country should throw themselves entirely upon the goodwill of the majority community, should give up separatist tendencies and throw their full weight in building up a truly secular state.50


Begum Aizaz Rasul, From Purdah to Parliament, p. 125. On these issues see G.B. Pant to Patel, 28 May 1949, in Nanda, ed., GBP, SW, Vol. 13, p. 119. 49 From Purdah to Parliament, p. 125. 50 Ibid., pp. 126–29. 48

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Claiming that she represented the sentiments of most Muslims on this subject, she went on: I come from the United Provinces where the Muslims are largest in numbers in one province in India today. Having worked amongst the Muslim masses, men and women now I can claim to know something of the working of their minds. Muslims are backward educationally and economically, but as far as political consciousness is concerned they are very much alive today and have been so for some time. I can say that the Muslims in the United Provinces understand the state of affairs very well. They have realized that the changed conditions demand a change in attitude on their part… I know that the majority of Muslims of the United Provinces are behind me in this matter.51 With the support of the UP Muslim leadership assured, the Constituent Assembly resolved the matter. Patel hailed this as “a historic occasion”, and as a development which “will open the way for the real consolidation and cohesion of all sections of our population”.52 Pant was confident that the new arrangement augured well, once the “poison which had corroded our body politics and had entered deep in its vitals had been eradicated”.53 He was quite confident that one of the building blocks for putting together the framework of secularism was in place.

The “Hindi Heartland” UP’s linguistic identity too was intensely debated after Independence. A key element of UP’s postcolonial framework related to “the expansion and institutionalization” of Hindi as the region’s dominant language. In the words of Francesca Orsini, “The NorthWestern Provinces of Agra and Oudh (later renamed the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh), and especially the cities of Allahabad and Banaras, were at the centre of the ‘Hindi heartland’.” Orsini shows in her study of the three decades prior to Independence 51

Ibid., p. 129. Pant to Patel, 28 May 1949, in Nanda, ed., GBP, SW, Vol. 13, p. 119. 53 Ibid. 52

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 367

that the Hindi political and literary spheres “both underwent similar processes of expansion and institutionalization”. Much of the impetus for the Nagari campaign, aimed at “enthroning” Hindi as Rashtra Bhasha and Devanagari as Rashtra Lipi, came from wellestablished Hindi institutions and several important political figures. Both became prominent in UP’s public life in terms of literary production and circulation of ideas. The Nagari Pracharini Sabha of Banaras, established in 1893, and the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, founded in 1910, played important roles in shaping not only the literary sensibilities of UP’s expanding Hindi readership, but also their political attitudes. Several leading political figures of UP, who considered themselves “Hindi sevaks” (servants of Hindi), got associated with these institutions. Orsini aptly calls them “Hindi politicians”—those “nationalist leaders who were active in the Hindi public sphere”.54 Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (1861–1946), Purushottam Das Tandon (1882–1962), Ganesh Sankar Vidyarthi (1890–1931), Acharya Narendra Deva (1889–1956) and Sampurnanand (1891– 1969) were prominent among these. Besides them, Hindi protagonists could bank on the commitment of several other important political leaders: Sri Krisna Dutt Paliwal, prominent Congress legislator from Agra; Pandit Sundarlal, historian and freedom fighter; Kamlapati Tripathi, emerging Congress “strong-man” from Banaras; Lal Bahadur Shastri, prominent figure in Allahabad politics and Nehru’s confidante; and, finally, Ram Manohar Lohia, a leading light among the Congress Socialists. On the characteristics of the “Hindi politicians”, Orsini points out that what made this configuration of political figures so formidable was not so much the weight of the individuals but the fact that they stood at the centre of “three different axes: a political axis between right and left, and two cultural axes, one between Hindi and English, which


Francesca Orsini, The Hindi Public Sphere 1920–1940: Language and Literature in the Age of Nationalism, New Delhi, 2002. “The parallel and conflicting agendas of agitation and rule, of political bilingualism and populist rhetoric, of provincial and national aspirations, and finally of Hindu-Hindu cultural affiliation and nationalist openness made ‘Hindi politicians’ very peculiar animals. By Hindi politicians I mean those nationalist leaders who were active in the Hindi public sphere” (p. 342).

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partly overlaps with, but is also distinguished from, another axis between popular and elite”.55 She observes: … politically, they literally spanned the political spectrum, from Malaviya’s Hindu right to Narendra Dev’s socialism… despite ideological differences and different roles in the political spheres, all… shared a certain cultural commonality. It is this cultural commonality that makes the category “Hindi politician” tenable at an important level—that of shared cultural identity. They embraced Hindi as a culturally loaded language, felt a personal affiliation to the “harmony” of Indian culture, held ancient India and its alleged homogeneous cultural tradition in high regard, and finally (barring G.S. Vidyarthi) subscribed to a moral view of literature…. This showed in their pursuit of Hindi: while upholding Hindi as the political language of the common people, they also viewed it as the daughter of Sanskrit and the vehicle of “Bhartiya samskriti”, Indian culture.56 Following Independence, this formidable line-up of political leaders reached the forefront of the promotion of Hindi. Among them, some like Tandon, Sampurnanand, Paliwal and Shastri, now occupied important portfolios in the government and did not hesitate in using their authority to consolidate a hegemonic position for Hindi in postcolonial India—unfortunately at the expense of Urdu.57 Within weeks of Independence, on 11 September 1947, the UPLC witnessed a debate about the adoption of Hindi in Devanagari script as “the state language of this province”. In moving this resolution, Thakur Parmatma Nand Singh of the Congress declared


Ibid., p. 342. Ibid., p. 354. 57 Orsini characterizes Sampurnanand as “perhaps the best example of the successful ‘double-track’ of Congress politicians and of the cultural make-up of Hindi politicians. He was as comfortable in the politics of the street as in the local constitutional arena of Banaras and in the provincial halls of power; he switched easily between English, Hindi and Urdu but considered Hindi the expression of his cultural identity, and he combined a modern, pragmatic outlook with a deepseated belief in the classical roots of ‘Indian tradition’’’. 56

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 369

that his objective was “to create unity within the province”. He declared: So far our trouble have been caused by two paths: separate elections and separate languages. Both these separate paths led to the bifurcation of the country. Now the path of separate elections is going to be closed, so we should give up the other too so that there is only one way ahead and no scope for contention? Brushing aside objections raised by Muslim leaders such as Begum Aizaz Rasul and Alhaj Sheikh Masood-uz-Zaman, the UPLC recommended that Hindi and Devanagari be adopted as, respectively, the “state language and the script of the province”. On 8 October 1947, the UP government took steps, through a government order, to initiate the use of Hindi as the official language. Rajeshwar Dayal, an ICS officer then serving as UP’s home secretary, recalls, Ministers began noting in Hindi, to the dismay of permanent officials, big and low. In my case, Lal Bahadur Shastri, suddenly began noting in Hindi and expected me to do the same. But when I explained that I was quite incapable of doing so, he was considerate enough merely to ask me to sign my name in Hindi or Urdu!58 The usage of Hindi in Devanagari script for official business came up for discussion in the UPLA. The Pant ministry simply ignored the objections raised by some legislators. Z.H. Zari, a prominent Muslim leader, staged a walkout on this issue. Chaudhary Khaliquzzaman, leader of the UP Muslim League, used it as a pretext to resign his membership of the UPLA before leaving for Pakistan.59 In defence, Pant took the stance in debates that Hindi and Urdu were the same language and the “people of the state speak only one language”. He asserted that official business of the house had to be carried out in a language understood by all.60 58

Rajeshwar Dayal, A Life of Our Times, New Delhi 1998, p. 96. On this episode, see Mushirul Hasan, Legacy of a Divided Nation, pp. 156–65. 60 Nanda, ed., GBP, SW, Vol. 12, pp. 239–42. Speech in UPLA, 4 November 1947. 59

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Unfortunately, along with the vigorous promotion of Hindi came acerbic attacks upon Urdu and its status as a language of the people of Uttar Pradesh. Protagonists of Urdu tried, in vain, to garner recognition for it as a regional language of UP under Article 574 of the Constitution. In 1949, Education Minister Sampuranand declared to the UP Sahitya Sammelan in Lucknow that Urdu did not deserve the status of a state language. In his view, the Urdu style was “unnatural, if not anti-national”.61 Similarly, the Sahityakar Sansad, “at a largely attended meeting of Hindi-lovers, litterateurs and citizens of Allahabad”, under the presidency of MLC Mahadevi Verma, condemned the campaign to secure for Urdu the status of a regional language as “antinational”. MLA Shiva Nath Katju declared that such “sectarian tendencies that raised their head in the state before the Partition” could not be tolerated.62 Likewise, the UP Sahitya Sammelan declared that such a move was “detrimental to the interest of the state as well as the country and was a symbol of ‘anti-national tendencies’”. The Sammelan was emphatic in stating that this move was fuelled by the desire for “disruption of the state” and “creation of separatist feelings”.63 Unfortunately, most Urdu protagonists happened to be Muslim political leaders. For example, in the UP Assembly, Z.H. Lari sought protection from Clause 3 of Article 23 of the draft Constitution which guaranteed to the minorities that their language, culture and script would be protected in every way. Lari provided evidence that Muslim children, his own son included, were being denied instruction in Urdu, and wanted the UP Legislature to adopt an amendment so that primary education could be imparted to children of any section through their language. Pant took a hostile view of the demand, painting it with a communal brush, and provocatively declaring: Now the boys are taught in primary schools in their mother tongue, and the mother tongue of Hindus and Muslims and all boys is more or less the same. There is no difference whatsoever. Those who, in the olden days, were obsessed with the idea of 61

M. Hasan, Legacy of a Divided Nation, pp. 157–58. Leader, 7 October 1952. 63 Leader, 15 October 1952. 62

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 371

separatism have not been able to shed it off even now and the ghost of “two nations” seems to be lingering somewhere even within the precincts of this very august chamber.64 There was great hostility to the idea of accommodating Urdu as a second language. In the words of Mushirul Hasan, Urdu was looked upon “as a ‘Muslim language’ and identified with the Pakistan movement”.65 Meanwhile, the campaign for Nagari gathered momentum and became a high profile one. On 3 December 1947, addressing the annual session of the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, the first after Independence, Purushottam Das Tandon declared: “If you want to become national (rastriya) you have to forsake all attraction (moh) to other useless ideas and groups and stand under the banner of one nation, one language, one script, one culture.”66 The Sammelan became a regular platform for sounding the bugle of the Nagari. In April 1949, at the historic Kaisarbagh Baradari in Lucknow, Pant, Purushottam Das Tandon and several other Hindi politicians gathered to lend support to the claim of “making Hindi in Devanagari script as the lingua franca of India”. Pant declared that “after the achievement of freedom it was the duty of Indian people to develop our culture and to make Hindi a virile language”.67 He said that the UP government had already declared Hindi as the “state language of the province”. If the entire work of the administration could not be conducted through the medium of Hindi, he explained, it was because terms of administrative usage were still not available in Hindi, and also Hindi 64

Nanda, ed., GBP, SW, Vol. 12, p. 363. M. Hasan, op. cit., pp. 156–65. 66 Francesca Orsini, The Hindi Public Sphere, pp. 380–81. 67 Clearly, there existed a popular constituency for such sentiments, and the proHindi Congress leaders realized that their championing of the cause could yield political dividends. Govind Ballabh Pant, in the midst of campaigning for a byeelection to the Ayodhya-Faizabad constituency in 1948, where replying to an address of welcome by the mahants of Ayodhya, said, “We are proud to be the sons of Bharat which has given light to the world in the ancient past. Now it is our duty to regain that position and restore our ancient culture.” He declared that, while “the Congress stood for Hindi and had already introduced it in the administration, the Socialists wanted Hindustani in Nagari and Urdu scripts.” He said that “it was for the people to decide how far the language based on the Urdu script could protect their culture.” Leader, 21 June 1948. 65

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typewriters were in great scarcity. He promised that these obstacles would soon be removed.68 Sampurnanand made a frontal attack upon Urdu’s credentials, declaring that any move to “to give Urdu the status of state language would be a great injustice to the common people. By calling that language Hindustani, [the] injustice was not removed, but a fraud was perpetuated on the people.” Having campaigned for Hindi for long, he had definite views on the subject. His wellstated position was that “in no country in the world can the language of the bazaar serve as the official language of the nation.”69 Kamlapati Tripathi, also refusing to recognize the existence of Hindustani, affirmed: “There were two languages which were spoken in northern India, namely Hindi and Urdu. There was no such language as Hindustani.” 70 He threw an open challenge to “those who wanted to make Urdu, under the garb of Hindustani the national language of Independent India, should summon Illustration 7.2: Kidnapping in UP

The U.P. Congress Committee has refused to recognize Urdu as a regional language. Source: Shankar’s Weekly, 3 July 1954. 68

This account of the proceedings of the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan’s session draws upon reports in Leader of 17–18 April 1949. 69 Sampurnanand, Memories and Reflections, Bombay, 1962, p. 89. His critical views on this issue are expounded in his essay, “Our National Language” which forms a part of his memoirs. 70 Leader, 18 April 1949.

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 373

courage and declare it openly that they wanted Urdu to become the national language of India”. He further declared that “dangerous, wrong and meaningless discussion has been started which had led to utter confusion and the whole question had been left in the lurch.” He was convinced that Hindustani, whether written in the Nagari or Urdu scripts, could not be a solution, but merely an act of appeasement for “separatist sentiments.” In what could be construed as an attack upon national leaders (such as Nehru and Azad), Tripathi declared that “the saddest part of the whole affair was that those very national leaders who had to complete the sacred work of reconstruction of the country had become the foundation source of this dangerous debate.” He regretted that “the Central Government unfortunately, not only had no sympathy for Hindi but it was averse to it and ignored it”. Sampurnanand also deplored the Central Education Ministry’s “harmful” policy of supporting regional languages and demanded that Hindi be made the language “for the inter-provincial exchange of thoughts, for use in High Courts, and Universities.”71 Tripathi refuted the charge of “Hindi Imperialism” and “denied the question of any rivalry with any other language and refused to accept that any other language can be suppressed or liquidated”. Another important Hindi politician, Acharya Narendra Dev, sounded a more sober note when he noted that “now the efforts of making Hindi the national language had more or less succeeded. The agitational phase in Hindi language was over, and they had to direct their energy towards the constructive phase of making Hindi a virile language.” He urged the UP government to “enrich [Hindi] by translating the knowledge, contained in other languages, particularly foreign languages.” That the Sammelan’s work enjoyed considerable political clout is evident from the fact that all its annual sessions were addressed by top political leaders. In November 1952, no less than Rajendra Prasad, President of the


A similar view was put forward by the Bhartiya Hindi Parishad, Prayag, at its annual session held in April 1949, held under the presidentship of Dr Babu Ram Saxena. The Parishad stressed the need for the recognition of Devanagari script, and while expressing its appreciation that all universities in the Hindi-speaking region had recognized it as a medium of examination, called upon them to vigorously implement this and to develop suitable text-books. Leader, 26 April 1949.

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Republic, declared his wish that Hindi would attain quicker progress and acceptance as a national language.72 In the same week as the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan session in April 1949, the annual session of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Hind took place in Lucknow. Pant addressed the gathering, pleading that “the Hindi–Urdu question should not be given a communal colour.” He assured the meeting that anyone who wished to study Urdu, Persian or Arabic would have complete freedom to do so. He also urged Muslims to learn Devanagari, a plea endorsed by Maulana Hifzur Rahman, the Jamait’s general secretary. However, Dr Syed Mahmud, a cabinet minister from Bihar, sounded a discordant note by providing a strong defence of Urdu. He wondered why, though “for 800 years [Urdu] had been the common language of both Hindus and Muslims”, attacks were being launched upon it now. He drew attention to the fact that “while it contained 45,000 Hindi words, the number of words of Persian or Arabic origin was only 13,000.” He pointed out also that, “the very word, Urdu, was drawn from Sanskrit, and not Turkish, as was commonly supposed.”73 However, the battle cry raised by numerous institutions rallying for the Nagari cause effectively drowned such voices of protest. The Bharatiya Hindi Parishad, Prayag, in its annual session held in April 1949, stressed the need for the recognition of Devanagari. While expressing its appreciation that all universities in the Hindispeaking region had recognized it as a medium of examination, the Parishad exhorted them to implement this vigorously and develop suitable textbooks. 74 Public support was also expressed by the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, and by Dr Kalidas Nag, on behalf of the Greater India Society, Calcutta, which called for classics from Western and Indian regional literature as well as music notations to be published in Hindi.75 In early 1950, the UPLA passed a law: bills tabled in the House could only be articulated in Hindi and written in Devanagari. It rejected the amendments made by Mufti Fakhrul Islam and three other Muslim members for the inclusion of Urdu. Pant led the 72

Leader, 12 November 1952. Leader, 23 April 1949. 74 Leader, 26 April 1949. 75 Leader, 27 April 1949. 73

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 375

debate, expressing his support for Hindi in the strongest terms. He said he could not fathom the continued opposition to the proposal even after the enactment of Article 99 of the draft Constitution, making Hindi the official language. He declared that “Hindi will draw freely form other Indian languages. Primarily, it will draw from Sanskrit”. He dismissed allegations that the legislation was an attempt to “suppress Urdu” as having “no basis.”76 However, Hasrat Mohani lodged a strong protest: “The language of the people of the U.P. is Urdu, or if you call it Hindustani. So long as I am alive, you cannot thrust it (Devanagari) on the U.P.” The declaration only evoked derisive laughter from the ruling benches. The Maulana, however, declared that he would approach the Supreme Court and even seek United Nations intervention on this issue!77 In March 1950, the UP government proudly claimed that it was “leading the rest of India in the implementation of Hindi in official work.” It unveiled the first volume of an official lexicon containing Hindi equivalents of English terminology used in official business. The 330-page volume comprised 18,000 words to cater to the needs of 19 departments of the government of UP, while a second volume of another 12,000 words was due to be released later in the year. Its compiler, Hindi expert Dr Dharam Vir, claimed that he had “to cull words from Kautilya’s Arthashastra, Manu Smriti and other Sanskrit texts.”78 In September 1951, on the occasion of the adoption of the UP Official Language Bill, Urdu protagonists made another determined effort to seek for it the status of a regional language in UP. Jamshed Ali Khan moved an amendment that, as the Constitution allowed the state to declare a regional language, Urdu could be made an official language in UP along with Hindi. Pant announced in the Assembly: “It has been said that since Hindi has been recognized as the national language, Urdu should be declared a regional language. But, as I said, Urdu is already included in Hindi. There 76

Leader, 9 February 1950. Maulana Hasrat Mohani (1877–1951) poet, politician and journalist; joined the Congress in 1903; elected president of the All India Muslim League, 1921; resigned from the Congress in 1928; served as member, UP Legislative Assembly, 1946 and the Constituent Assembly. 78 Leader, 15 March 1950. 77

376 Region, Nation, “Heartland” Illustration 7.3: Hindi in Official Lexican

Source: Shankar’s Weekly, 3 July 1949.

is no difference between the two.” He added that Urdu was not specific to UP but indeed spoken very widely. I have great admiration for Urdu and it would distress me if anything was done to harm it. It is my earnest wish that Urdu should make steady progress, great books should be written in Urdu, more and more poetry should be composed in Urdu and all Urdu lovers should be encouraged to work for the enrichment of their language. The Bill only lays down that Hindi written in the Devanagiri script will be our official language, that is, all the work of the

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 377

Government will be done in Hindi. This can in no way affect the growth of Urdu literature and poetry.79 Notice the several subtle, unspoken assumptions here. Hindi was to be the language of governance and statecraft, while Urdu could continue to be the language of poetry and leisure. Hindi would be the language of national awakening, with poets writing paeans to the Motherland and exhorting the youth to sacrifice for the national endeavour. Urdu, however, could devote itself to courtly life, love and romance. Salil Misra observes that, as the Nagari movement gathered momentum, Hindi and Urdu protagonists not only grew further apart but started to stereotype each other: In their polemics multiple such qualities, sometimes linguistic but often purely non-linguistic, were attributed to each other. And so Hindi was pure, Urdu was impure; Hindi was national and indigenous, Urdu was foreign; Hindi was like an austere housewife, Urdu was like a prostitute. The Urdu protagonists claimed Urdu to be refined, pure, legible and also a language representing aristocratic taste and elegance whereas Hindi was found to be just the opposite—crude, impure, illegible, slow to write and a language of the rustics.80 By 1952, the battle to secure a status for Urdu had been largely lost. In the UP government’s corridors, the implementation of Hindi was proceeding at breakneck pace. In September 1952, Pant made it mandatory for all work in the UP secretariat and districts to be conducted only in Hindi. He gave officers a one-year grace period to learn the language well enough to transact official business, and warned them that no further extension would be given.81 In broadcasting and education too, the dominance of Hindi was 79

Speech by Pant in UPLA, 26 September 1951, GBP, SW, Vol. 14, pp. 231–37 Salil Misra, “From the Mainstream to the Margins: Urdu in Modern India” (mimeo), 2004. 81 Leader, 5 September 1952. Exceptions were to be allowed only if no Hindi typewriters were available. However, Pant admitted that the “language [used in] Government Gazette was far from simple and may initially lead to difficulties.” 80

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increasingly felt. B.V. Keskar, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, announced during a visit to Lucknow that Hindi would be compulsory for all people working in northern India in All India Radio.82 A year later, the UP Board for Secondary Education made Hindi the sole medium for high school examinations in the state. In April 1954, the Congress Working Committee resolved that Hindi must become a compulsory subject at schools.83 Hindi protagonists and litterateurs were obviously pleased. The Sahityakar Sansad of Allahabad felicitated Rashtrakavi (Poet Laureate) Maithali Saran Gupta at a function in May 1952. Gupta predicted that Hindi would continue to progress through its inherent strength. Saying that he was “proud of the fact that Hindi had been reorganized and enthroned as the national language”, he nonetheless hoped that the “authorities would take prompt measures to fulfill the promise of enriching and expanding the national language.”84 His hopes were not belied. UP’s Hindi politicians took the lead in spearheading efforts to promote Hindi at the pan-Indian level. Pant and Sampurnanand pioneered Devanagari script reform, so that it could be adapted for use in non-Hindi speaking areas. They organized a conference in Lucknow in November 1953 to which all chief ministers were invited. Pant invited philosopher–educationist S. Radhakrishnan to chair it and Maulana Azad, Union Minister for Education, to inaugurate it. Its objective was to: evolve a uniform Devanagari script which could look at common standardization, find a suitable pattern that would be acceptable to all shades of opinion obtaining in the country and at the same time satisfy the exacting technical requirements needed for modern printing and teleprinting techniques.85 As Pant explained: “We have to discharge the obligation of seeing our national language installed in Devanagri character within fifteen years of the adoption of the Constitution. A common 82

Leader, 29 August 1952. Mushirul Hasan, op. cit., pp. 156–65. 84 Leader, 10 May 1952. 85 Pant to Azad, dated 28 June 1953; Pant to Haribhau Upadhyaya, 29 August 1953, Nanda, ed., GBP, SW, Vol. 15, p. XX . 83

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 379 Illustration 7.4: Pattabhishekam: Enthroning Hindi as National Language

Source: Shankar’s Weekly, 4 September 1949.

policy for the whole country has to be chalked.”86 The UP government had already done the groundwork, having set up a committee in 1947 under the chairmanship of Acharya Narendra Dev to address the question of script reform for Devanagari. Pant was convinced that “with the adoption of a common script the 86


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progress of linguistic integration of India can be greatly accelerated leading the country to be welded into a physically and culturally invincible organism.”87 No wonder then that in the years following Independence, UP led the campaign to institutionalize the dominance of Hindi within the Republic. Its many leaders, including P.D. Tandon and Sampurnanand, led the Hindi zealots, in the process also successfully marking UP’s primacy as the Hindi heartland of India. In doing so, they were also instrumental in displacing Urdu as a language that could lay a claim over a substantial population of UP’s inhabitants.

States Reorganization and UP’s Regional Identity Let us now turn to the story of the reorganization of states in the 1950s and examine it from the perspective of UP.88 In a recent study Illustration 7.5: Linguo-mania

Source: Shankar’s Weekly, 13 July 1952.


Address to the UP Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, 6 November 1954, Nanda, ed., GBP, SW, Vol. 15, p. 263. 88 Robin Jeffrey, “’Slicing India’: New Perspectives on India since 1947”, Himal, June 2002, pp. 48–55.

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of language politics and linguistic states under the first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, Robert King has shown how language controversies almost threatened to push newly-Independent India to the brink of instability. He writes that, if Nehru had not delayed the reorganization of states till 1955, the division of India into linguistic states in 1947 would have seriously destabilized the country, indeed crippled it at birth. He observes that Nehru “stalled, contrived dodges, sought to avoid decisive action, pleaded for time”89 and, in doing so, “laid the foundation for an all-India that is far less language-plagued and language-divided than anyone could have predicted during the worst of the linguistic battles of the 1950 and 1960s”.90 While King’s general point about Nehru’s sensitive handling of the issue and efficacious strategizing to politically stabilize the country is well taken, we also need to recognize the limitations that marked this process of internal boundarymaking. Overwhelming evidence suggests that Nehru used the Hindi-speaking states of northern India as a buffer to contain the linguistic principle as the basis for statehood, even to resist the “centrifugal” demands for the creation of new states. This is amply illustrated by the manner in which proposals and demands for the reorganization of UP were dealt with during state reorganization in the 1950s.91 For example, there had existed a demand, at least since 1948, for the hill districts of UP to be separated— a demand that eventually culminated in the creation of Uttaranchal in November 2000, over half-a-century later. The history of UP’s hill region is distinct and has received scholarly attention; let us not take that up here.92 Let us consider other demands and proposals raised within UP as the bases for political identity and 89

Robert D. King, Nehru and the Language Politics of India, New Delhi, 1996, p. xiii. Ibid., p. xv. 91 As is well known, a States Reorganization Commission (SRC) had been appointed in December 1953, consisting of three members who were Saiyid Fazl Ali (Governor of Orissa, also chairman of the Commission), Hriday Nath Kunzru (Member, Council of States) and Kavalam Madhava Panikkar (Indian Ambassador in Egypt). The SRC was mandated to submit its recommendations by 30 June 1955, which were finally submitted on 30 September 1955. 92 See, for example, J.C. Aggarwal and S.P. Agrawal, Uttarakhand: Past, Present and Future, New Delhi, 1995. For an analysis of regional politics in the context of the demand for Uttaranchal, see John Robinson, “Regionalising India: Uttarakhand and the Politics of Creating States”, South Asia, XXIV, 2, 2001, pp. 189–212. 90

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statehood. One specific proposal that challenged UP’s political structure and projected alternative boundaries originated from the Delhi state government, which sought contiguity of its territory with the western districts of UP. On 29 October 1953, the Delhi Legislative Assembly passed a resolution “recommending to the Government of India that the boundaries of Delhi State be enlarged by including the contiguous Districts of Punjab and UP, so that a unit administratively and economically sound is created.” 93 It subsequently also made the case before the States Reorganization Commission (SRC) that these areas had historically been part of Delhi but were split after 1857 as both a punishment for taking part in the so-called “Mutiny” as well as a device to break down their morale and to crush their spirit. Nevertheless, these artificial Provincial boundaries could not sunder the hearts of the people. They have been clamouring for re-union.94 It was declared: The people of this area have historic, cultural and economic ties. They have common language, dress, marriage rites, laws of succession, system of land tenure and customs. They are identical in their mode of living and outlook on life. Their culture is peculiar and marks them out from the people of other States. But the matter goes beyond that. Their culture is a happy and harmonious blend of the diversities for which the country is noted. They have evolved a synthesis of the same. That is why the tract is known as “Hindustan”—”India in miniature” and the people and language as “Hindustani”. In more than one sense it constitutes the heart of the country.95 The territories proposed for inclusion in the new state were to include the following parts of UP: Agra divisions (Aligarh, Mathura, Agra, Mainpuri and Etah districts); Meerut division 93

Case for Greater Delhi, Memorandum Submitted to the States Reorganisation Commission on behalf of the Delhi State Government, New Delhi, May 1954, p. 1. 94 Ibid., p. 2. 95 Ibid.

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 383

(Dehra Dun, Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut and Bulandshahr districts) and Rohilkhand division (Bareilly, Bijnor, Badaun, Shahjahanpur, Pilibhit and Rampur districts). Besides, the proposed state—with Delhi as its centre—was to consist of Ambala division (minus Simla district and Rupar and Kharar tehsils), two tehsils from PEPSU [Patiala and East Punjab States Union] (Jind and Narwana), and Alwar and Bharatpur districts from Rajasthan. It was to have an overall area of 53,472 square miles and a population of 29,153,604 people. Finalized and submitted to the SRC in May 1954, this proposal did not find a favourable response from the central leadership, nor support from politicians in UP. As the Delhi government’s proposal arose from an external source, it is possible that, for that reason alone, it did not stir up any support from politicians within UP. Yet, there is substantial evidence to suggest that the basic need for UP’s reorganization was felt far and wide, particularly in a political context. Yet another move—this time far more substantial as it originated from within UP’s political circles—was made to voice this demand, when 97 MLAs representing 16 western districts of UP signed a memorandum to the SRC.96 They made the case—quite identical to the demand raised earlier by the Delhi Legislative Assembly— that UP’s western and hill districts be separated and merged with Delhi and its surrounding areas to form a new state. News reports suggested that the prime mover behind the proposal was Paliwal, a prominent Congress leader from Agra and former revenue minister in UP.97 They further said that there existed widespread support within ruling party legislators for the scheme. It was claimed that, of a total of 127 MLAs representing the western districts, as many as 97 had affixed their signatures to the memorandum. While 13 MLAs were absent and could not be contacted by the petitioners (which is why their responses were awaited), 17 had refused outright to support the proposal. Of these 127, 12 were represented either as ministers or deputy ministers in Pant’s cabinet.98 The proposal had enormous implications. It challenged the foundation on which UP’s political life was organized—its special 96

Leader, 1 April 1954. Aaj, 5 April 1954. 98 Ibid. 97

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status as the nation’s “heartland”. It showed not only the legislators’ desire to break away from UP’s political framework, but also their aspiration to merge with Delhi in order to form a more dynamic political entity, genuinely representative of their political interests. In specific terms, the MLAs demanded that the districts— Rohilkhand, Meerut and Agra divisions in the western part, TehriGarhwal and Garhwal districts in the hills—should be merged to constitute a new state with Delhi as its centre. The new state, regarded by many as a “novel idea”, would have an overall area of 30,159 square miles and a population of 22,944,072 people.99 The initiators of the proposal spelt out principally five reasons for seeking separation from UP: (a) the state’s unwieldy size leading to a neglect of its western districts; (b) a lesser amount of developmental expenditure on western districts, even though they contributed more revenue; (c) their need for greater industrial development as they were already well advanced in agriculture; (d) the geographical proximity to Delhi and their deep linguistic and cultural links; and finally (e) the fact that the new state would not need a new capital city as Delhi could serve that function suitably.100 This bold move for separation by such a substantial body of legislators from the state caught the top Congress leadership in Lucknow unawares. Dr Ishwari Prasad, a member of the UPLC and Allahabad-based historian observed:101 That more than a hundred members of the Legislative Assembly should have moved in the manner and submitted a memorandum to the Commission in a secret manner without consulting their leader is a matter which causes not only surprise but alarm. The scheme’s originators had publicly declared that they planned to convene a meeting of MPs and MLAs to mobilize support for their cause and “to form an action committee to further the movement”.102 Ruling political circles were extremely worried at the 99

Kailas, “Should Uttar Pradesh be Split Up?, The Cry for a New State”, Leader, 2 April 1954. 100 Aaj, 2 April 1954. 101 Dr Ishwari Prasad, MLC, “The Warning of History”, Leader, 7 May 1954. 102 Pioneer, 2 April 1954.

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 385

turn of events and the deep dissensions a move like this could expose, ruining the façade of solidarity and internal democracy within the ruling party.103 While some analysts blamed dissenting Congress factions and the unprincipled ambitions of certain individuals (hinting at the connivance of some discontented ministers), top Congress leaders like Pant and Tandon were clearly anxious to contain this campaign. An early setback to the campaign for separation was when several legislators from Bareilly issued a press statement that their signatures to the memorandum had been obtained fraudulently. They claimed that they affixed their signatures as “we were told by the sponsors of the move that the memorandum was a representation to the Government for opening a new development scheme.” They declared: We refuse to believe that we are in any way different from our brethren living in eastern districts or from the rest of the country. We have suffered enough on account of fissiparous tendencies which have resulted in the division of the country. We are racially, culturally and economically knit together and any vivisection of our state could result in misery, disintegration and chaos, especially at a time when we are required urgently to pull our resources together.104 Newspapers condemned the perpetrators of the scheme for the “confidence-trick” played upon unsuspecting colleagues, who had now rightly “expressed their holy horror at the fissiparous tendencies underlying this sinister move.”105 Within days of this public denial by the Bareilly legislators, another 14 MLAs—who had been signatories to the memorandum—retracted from their stand. In a joint press statement, they declared that they were disassociating themselves from the demand for the reorganization of UP “after


The recently published memoirs of Chandra Bhanu Gupta, a veteran Congress politician from UP, provide, an engrossing account of the rampant factionalism which was the hallmark of Congress politics in the province. While the prevalence of factionalism post-1947 is well known, Gupta takes the story back into the 1930s. Chandra Bhanu Gupta, Safar Kahi Ruka Nahin Jhuka Nahin, New Delhi, 2000. 104 Leader, 1 April 1954. 105 Letter to the editor by Parma Nanda Sinha, MLA, Pioneer, 4 April 1954.

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positive thinking and mature consideration.”106 They claimed that, while they believed that the western districts needed more developmental funds and economic planning and this grievance had caused some frustration, they were “suffocated and anguished by the very idea of separation of UP as they had been bound by common cultural and linguistic ties.”107 At the national level, they condemned “demands for carving out linguistic provinces” as having “encouraged fissiparous and disruptive tendencies which threaten the unity of the country.”108 The responses of other political parties and groups to the proposal for UP’s division were mixed. The Praja Socialist Party condemned the move as “dangerous, mischievous and unpatriotic.” At a convention in Allahabad under the presidency of Saligram Jaiswal, the party adopted a resolution—proposed by MLA K.C. Mohiley and seconded by T.N. Sapru—to clarify its stand on this issue.109 The UP Bharatiya Jan Sangh adopted a similar position; in a meeting held in Lucknow, its working committee strongly damned the move for the “partition of UP” and urged its constituent branches across the state to “mobilize public opinion” to prevent UP’s territorial break-up.110 However, the All India Hindu Mahasabha supported the principle of linguistic reorganization of states. Nonetheless, in a 16-page memorandum submitted to the SRC, the Mahasabha proferred the view that the existing size of UP was “too unwieldy” and suggested its “bifurcation into two units”.111 As expected, the issue was discussed openly at public forums and generated intense controversy, especially in the western districts. At a meeting of Agra’s “leading citizens”, chaired by veteran Congress politician Seth Achal Singh, a resolution was passed against the move for UP’s reorganization, declaring it “harmful”.112 Similarly, in a public meeting in Meerut, Union Home 106

Pioneer, 8 April 1954. Aaj, 8 April 1954. 108 Leader, 7 April 1954. The signatories included Kishan Swarup Bhatnagar, Kewal Singh and Shugan Singh of the UP Legislative Assembly and Relu Ram and Deep Chandra from the UP Legislative Council. 109 Leader, 5 April 1954. 110 Pioneer, 20 April 1954. 111 Leader, 1 June 1954. 112 Leader, 30 April 1954. 107

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 387

Minister and prominent UP politician, Dr K.N. Katju openly criticized the attempt to divide the state.113 In Aligarh, the District Congress Committee held a special meeting, chaired by Thakur Nawab Singh, MLA. Several Congress legislators and activists, including MP Shri Chandra Singhal, attended this meeting, which viewed the move for separation “with great suspicion” and called it “highly detrimental” to the state’s future.114 Ruling party circles in Delhi and Lucknow witnessed intense political lobbying. On 14 April 1954, 32 Congress MPs representing UP’s different regions met in Delhi: P.D. Tandon, Munishwar Dutt Upadhyaya, Raghubir Sahai, K.C. Sharma, Singhasan Singh, Seth Achal Singh, Lotan Ram, T.N. Singh, Uma Nehru, Maulana Hafizur Rahman and Dhulekar. They denounced the move for UP’s reorganization as “suicidal and one calculated to affect the national solidarity” and urged Chief Minister Pant to ensure that the move was repudiated by those MLAs who had signed the memorandum to the SRC. Also present on the occasion were UP Food Minister C.B. Gupta and his parliamentary secretary, Banarasi Das, who vigorously canvassed against the move. 115 Hectic activity was also reported from the “separatist” camp. The UP legislators, led by Shri Chandra, Ram Chandra Vikal and Sardar Teja Singh, held a series of joint meetings with their Delhi counterparts (represented by Deputy Speaker Nuruddin of the Delhi State Assembly, and Dharm Vir Vashistha) to formulate a strategy for mobilizing support within top political circles. By this time, UP’s proposed break-up undoubtedly occupied political centre-stage. It was the subject of a heated public debate, as writings and polemics through the press as well as public campaign meetings further stirred up the controversy. The prominent “provincial” newspapers, Pioneer and Leader, set the tone of this public debate by opposing the demand for the state’s reorganization. The Leader dismissed the move as the product of a “fevered and fertile imagination”. In particular, it took on the argument that separation was justified as the western districts contributed 38 per cent of the revenue while constituting 27 per cent of the


Leader, 20 April 1954. Pioneer, 16 April 1954. 115 Pioneer, 20 and 23 April 1954. 114

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area and, in return, received only about 7 per cent of the budget for development. Such logic was intrinsically flawed. “It is like the hands saying to the stomach, ‘Well how unfair of you, we do all the work and you do all the eating!’”116 The Pioneer took a similar editorial stand: That Uttar Pradesh, the biggest unit in the Indian Union, should invite envious glances from its neighbours is understandable. The jibe is familiar in Delhi: “India that is Bharat that is Uttar Pradesh”. The top-ranking leaders in the Union Government are from Uttar Pradesh. They are big men—big enough to be free from the taint of provincialism and to be impervious both to the ridicule and the envy of the lesser breed…. Uttar Pradesh, despite what detractors may say, is a homogenous State inhabited by people knit together by indissoluble ties. To break up this State will be a major misfortune not only for UP but for the whole of India. There is merit in bigness. The resources of a big State when pooled together can bring to fruition development projects over a wide area. It is a mistake to think that bigness impairs administrative efficiency.117 The arguments intensified as several prominent political figures and public intellectuals joined in. Those against the separation proposal based their opposition on three grounds. First, they denounced it as “a clever move by some top-leaders of West UP who have in mind the ministerial gaddis of Delhi and not the welfare and advancement of West UP.”118 They warned the public “to take care against playing into the hands of those whose ambition of dominating the State of Haryana if and when formed have led them to feed the movement for the dismemberment of UP.”119 Second, the reorganization proposal was criticized on the ground that it would unleash centrifugal, even anti-national, forces. For example, MLA Shiva Nath Katju argued: There are some elements in the country who look upon the state of Uttar Pradesh as a colossus which had better be truncated. 116

Leader, 2 April 1954. Pioneer, 21 April 1954. 118 Letter to the editor by S.S. Jha, Aligarh, Hindustan Times, 23 April 1954. 119 Letter to the editor by Brahma Prakash Sharma, Pioneer, 6 May 1954. 117

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 389

Of course it is not pointed out how would it serve the interests of the country better if the size of Uttar Pradesh is shortened. It is not realized that if the process of disintegration of Uttar Pradesh is not firmly checked and the mischief nipped in the bud the forces of separatism and provincialism would be accelerated.120 Two MLAs from Bareilly, who had initially signed the memorandum, sounded a forewarning. Terming the move “suicidal”, they warned that “the day our State is dismembered, we will lose all that we have gained till now.”121 Historian Ishwari Prasad in a signed article, “The Warning of History”, published in Leader, declared: No people can wholly unwrite the past and if the chequered annals of our country have a lesson to teach us it is that disunity is fatal to our plans and policies. It may even jeopardize freedom and break the country into pieces. The centrifugal tendencies of history have manifested themselves in the memorandum of the UP legislators. The blame does not lie wholly with them. The historic spirit asserts itself in various forms. He urged that “it behoves patriotic men to curb it and seek the path of progress and peace.”122 An even stronger plea came from Braj Bihari Lal of Azamgarh: [The proposal] cannot but be viewed with the gravest misgiving and suspicion—At a time when freedom is yet to be consolidated into something tangibly and perceptively good for the common man, and when the thoughts and the energies of very single individual amongst us should be devoted to presenting the world with a determined and united India, so that forces of evil may not engulf us it would be rank sedition


Shiva Nath Katju, MLA, “Dismemberment of Uttar Pradesh”, Pioneer, 11 April 1954. 121 Letter to the editor by Keshav Gupta and Nawal Kishore, MLAs, Bareilly, Hindustan Times, 22 April 1954. 122 Dr Ishwari Prasad, MLC, “The Warning of History”, Leader, 7 May 1954.

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to try and distract the nation’s thoughts with such puerile and anti-national moves.123 Many argued that UP’s break-up would lead to the country’s “Balkanization”. However, such arguments were sought to be countered by those who had initiated the memorandum. For example, Shri Chandra responded to such criticism by pointing out that political conditions in India were entirely different. “To compare the redistribution of States in Bharat with the Balkanization of Eastern Europe clearly shows that those opposing the move have not studied the Constitution of India carefully”, declared he. He further argued that: In our case the distribution of India into natural, stable and self-contained States, subordinate to the Central Government in all important subjects, will strengthen India more than the present hybrid unwieldy growth of the British days. The Subas of our National Congress themselves prove that Congress never accepted the British Provinces in toto.… We are only regularizing more or less the old Congress Subas… the reversion of the old United Provinces of Avadh and Agra into its proposed natural divisions of Delhi and Avadh States will be a source of strength to the Central Government and to the country as a whole.124 He believed that there existed “no justification for not reverting to the pre-British sensible arrangement of manageable States under the full control of a strong central Government.”125 Yet another underlying and highly contentious issue was UP’s cultural homogeneity. Were the state’s different constituent parts characterized by “quintessential unity”? Many argued that the western districts had more in common with the rest of UP than those seeking separation cared to admit. For example, S.S. Jha from Aligarh argued that “the plea that culturally and linguistically too, 123

Letter by Braj Bihari Lal, Azamgarh, to the editor, Pioneer, 14 April 1954. Letter by Shri Chandra, MLA, Muzaffarnagar, to the editor, Pioneer, 4 May 1954. 125 Letter by Shri Chandra, MLA, Muzaffarnagar, to the editor, Pioneer, 27 April 1954. 124

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 391

the western districts look towards Delhi rather than Oudh is absolutely baseless.” In his view: The Brij-wasi can be better compared to Dilli-ram who leans more on Punjab for his culture and language than Brij-mandal. The language of Meerut and Saharanpur districts has no doubt a colour from Punjab. But the Brij districts of Mathura, Agra and Aligarh are different from Delhi, both linguistically and culturally. Delhi might draw some inspiration from Brij, but not vice versa. Brij culture and language is perfection in itself and others get inspired from it.126 Many denied or downplayed the east–west difference within UP’s cultural identities. Devendra Singh, writing in the Leader, made a case for “a deeper, vaster, more abiding culture of UP”. In his view, this “culture [is] broad-based on the age-long work and activity of goodly men, thinkers, poets and saints—Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Sur, Tulsi, Kabir and Jaisi—which has built up, shaped, and moulded the deeper cultural life of people all over northern India, well beyond the current borders of UP.” “To suggest that there is any manner of arguable difference in the basic cultural structure of the west and the east in UP”, in his view “is a heresy which has no legs to stand on.”127 A similar elucidation of east– west unity was made by Bhawani Prasad Vakil of Sanskrit Prachar Samiti, Azamgarh, who declared: “Culturally and even religiously the integrity of the State is unbreakable. That is why Shri Sampurnanand, the Home Minister of UP, once suggested that the state should be named Braja-Kashi. Rama and Krishna are inseparable from each other and so are their birth places.”128 Even when cultural differences were acknowledged, it was argued that the element of unity was far more overpowering than the difference. Shiva Nath Katju, for instance, took the view that for over 80 years UP had been “woven into a single unit by


Letter to the editor by S.S. Jha, Aligarh, Hindustan Times, 23 April 1954. Devendra Singh, “The East–West Episode”, Leader Weekly, 17 May 1954. 128 Letter to the editor by Bhawani Prasad Vakil, secretary, Sanskrit Prachar Samiti, Azamgarh, Leader, 21 April 1954. 127

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administrative processes”. This unity, he emphasized, was “by no means artificial” but it: … merely clothed a region that was well knit linguistically, geographically and by diverse other ties into a single administrative unit. What is more, the state of Uttar Pradesh is truly the heart of India. It is notably free from prejudice of provincialism and sectarian tendencies. Herein are located the pilgrim cities of Mathura, Vrindaban, Hardwar, Ayodhya, Kashi and Prayag which have been attracting people from the farthest corners of the land. None need emphasize the pull that people from Kashmir to Comorin and from Bombay to Assam have for the sages and legends woven round these places by poets, saints and savants which quicken the heart beats of the Indians wherever they may be and make them think of Uttar Pradesh. 129 Almost everyone who opposed the proposal for UP’s restructuring harped upon this. Ishwari Prasad provided a classic statement: The state is an organism like the human body. It consists of large and small limbs but they must all function harmoniously in order to produce good results. The legislature has equal regard for all parts of UP.… The cultural and regional ties bind us together. The holy cities of Ayodhya, Mathura, Brindaban, Kashi, Hardwar, and Prayag are the repositories of those spiritual influences which lead to homogeneity and oneness on the higher plane. The state of Uttar Pradesh is the heart of Aryavarta. It played a great part in history and exercised a profound influence over the whole of Hindustan.… Our freedom has been won after a glorious struggle by the unity of command. Can we hope to preserve it by disunity? Our dangers are more internal than external. Let us not turn fads into causes and invest them with 129

Shiva Nath Katju, MLA, “Dismemberment of Uttar Pradesh”, Pioneer, 11 April 1954.

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 393

the halo of national importance. What we need is purity of spirit and the fusion of interests.130 This idea of the “heartland” ran deep in the mindset of the political elites. The Leader expressed this sentiment thus: When the British were building up their empire in India in a fit of “absence of mind” they knew nothing better than to coin names like the North-Western Provinces and the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh as they progressed with the plunder of Rohilkhand or the spoliation of Avadh. The new name Uttar Pradesh does nothing to mitigate the colourlessness of the nomenclature perpetuated by the British for the Aryavarta is not just a territory in the north. It is a name to conjure up with. It is a microcosm of the culture and spirit of India. The synthesis of ideas, the assimilation of various strains of culture, the desire to seek unity in the midst of apparent diversities which are the essence of the Indian outlook have been the warp and woof of the pattern of life in UP. This composite culture is not going to be upset because at a particular moment we are unable to meet the economic aspirations of a few districts. 131 Such ideas and sentiments decisively influenced the manner in which the political elite attempted to resolve the controversy. This was evident, when on the night of 22 April 1954, at a special meeting of the UP Congress Legislative Party, Pant declared that the party leadership was opposed to the demand for UP’s reorganization. Having mobilized support within the party, especially in New Delhi, he read out a memorandum submitted by 30 Congress MPs from UP to the SRC, asking them to preserve the state’s unity. He openly declared: “The move for the division of UP is sure to retard the development of the state by creating uncertainties. It will be a disservice to India if UP is disintegrated and its western districts are separated from it.” Dismissing the argument about UP’s unwieldy size he provocatively asked: “If we become smaller men how are we going to help our country become greater? Is it a crime to be big? Should we not be proud 130 131

Dr Ishwari Prasad, MLC, “The Warning of History”, Leader, 7 May 1954. Devendra Singh, “The East–West Episode”, Leader Weekly, 17 May 1954.

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that we are the biggest unit of the Indian Union?” He regretted that “a reactionary move is afoot for the disruption of old and well-established states.” Pant argued that size also had certain advantages. A large state like UP needed to spend only 5 per cent of its revenue on administrative services as compared to some smaller states, which had to expand up to 50 per cent on this count. He disputed the complaint that long distances across the state were a hindrance, exemplifying Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Our ancestors did not mind trudging to Allahabad where the High Court and the Board of Revenue were located. Today when distance has been annihilated, it is paradoxical to divide our ancient state on the plea that centers of administration are distant from its far-flung areas. He then came to the well-worn heartland theme: No power on earth can cut up the land of Rama and Krishna, of Ganga and Yamuna, which has been shaped by nature to be indissoluble. Our culture dates back to the times of the Vedas. We have been the soul of Aryavarta. Our culture and language envelop Bharat. Inside the state we have no differences of language which were responsible for the division of Madras.… In other states cultural or linguistic differences have led to demands for boundary changes in the name of homogeneity. But UP has no such problems to solve. The state has existed almost in its present shape for the last 150 years. Of course, there are minor differences of dialect in the state. There are also differences in economic conditions between cities and the surrounding villages. But these are not enough to support a movement for separation…. If UP is respected throughout the length and breadth of the country it is not because of its size or its large population, but its greatness lies in its people’s sense of oneness with other parts of India, overriding local and state considerations.… UP is hospitable to all—Biharis, Bengalis, Punjabis or those from the South. I appeal to all of you to forget your differences and be torch-bearers of unity. You should create unity of hearts and

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 395

not merely conditions of an uneasy truce. The qualities of our heart should be equal to the size of our state. 132 Two days after this meeting, it was reported that “the move seemed to have rapidly disintegrated today following the personal initiative taken by Chief Minister Pant to counter it”. A delegation of 10 MLAs had already called upon Pant to assure him that they no longer wished to pursue the proposal and a letter to this effect had been given on their behalf by Vishnu Saran Dublish. Reports indicated that only a small core of the original 97 signatories now persisted with the demand. However, the “separatist” camp charged that Chief Minister Pant had “tried to play on the sentiments of the people” and “on rational grounds the opposition to the move was not convincing.” This core group of MLAs was said to comprise Shri Chandra, Ram Chandra Vikal, Khwaja Athar Hussain and Har Khyal Singh.133 Having intervened decisively against the Congress backbenchers who had sponsored the move for separation, the top leadership now decided to secure its position formally within the organization. At a special meeting in Lucknow, the Executive Council of the UP Congress “unanimously adopted a resolution disapproving the demand” and resolving that “the present territory of UP should remain intact.” At this meeting, UP Congress President, Algurai Shastri, spoke on the need for discipline among party legislators. He was severe in his criticism against “the highly objectionable manner in which certain Congress legislators hatched the conspiracy for the dismemberment of UP.” Chief Minister Pant also spoke, endorsing the official party line.134 Not unexpectedly, all these moves by the top Congress leaders in UP ensured that no further support was forthcoming for the proposal for UP’s reorganization. By the first week of May 1954, Banarasi Das, Secretary of the Congress party in the UP Legislature, claimed that 70 of the 97 MLAs had retracted and had now appealed to the SRC “not to disturb the unity and integrity of Uttar Pradesh”.135 132 Leader, 23 April 1954; Pioneer, 23 April 1954 and Aaj, 24 April 1954. Also see Nanda, ed., GBP, SW, Vol. 15, pp. 193–94. 133 Aaj, 25 April 1954. 134 Leader, 28 April 1954 and Pioneer, 28 April 1954. 135 Pioneer, 3 May 1954.

396 Region, Nation, “Heartland” Illustration 7.6: Lean Prospects

Ninety-seven M.L.As from the Western districts of U.P. have urged creation of a new state with old Delhi as its capital in their memorandum submitted to the States Reorganisation Commission. Source: Shankar’s Weekly, 25 April 1954.

A few months after this episode, in December 1954, Pant left UP after eight continuous years as chief minister to join Nehru’s cabinet as union home minister. On the eve of his departure, Pant was buoyant about UP’s prospects. UP was “calm, stable and sufficiently advanced to hold out the promise of a brighter and greater future”, he declared.136 At the centre in his role as union home minister, Pant came to bear direct responsibility for the SRC’s work. According to historian B.R. Nanda, “It fell to Pant to handle the explosive situation created by, what he called ‘lingualism or linguistic fanaticism’”. Nehru, it seems, handled the crisis with “great patience and consummate skill”.137 Pant openly warned against “making a fetish of language” and publicly declared that he did not believe in “the fiction of sub-nationality”. In retrospect, this episode of UP’s reorganization and Pant’s approach towards the issue proved to be decisive in the manner in which the SRC settled the state’s future. It began on the premise 136 137

Nanda, ed., GBP, SW, Vol. 15, p. ix. Ibid., p. xviii.

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 397

that “no strong case” existed for altering UP’s territorial boundaries.138 However, it considered whether the state itself should be divided into two or more parts. It noted that a memorandum for the division of UP had been presented by what it called “an ad hoc body described as the Western UP MLAs Central Committee for the Reorganization of Uttar Pradesh”. It observed that while, it had been “originally signed by 97 members of the local legislative assembly representing sixteen western districts,” “about seventy members subsequently dissociated themselves from this memorandum.” It also noted: “The State Government moreover has strongly expressed the view that a division of the State will be both unwarranted and undesirable.”139 The SRC went on to evaluate several arguments posed for dividing the state, taking note of principally four. The first was its “unwieldy size” which could adversely affect the “efficiency of the administration”. The second was the lack of commonality in physical and geographic terms. The third was the disparity among the different zones within UP and the backwardness of its eastern districts. Finally, there was the argument that UP, given its size and representation in the national parliament, would exercise a dominant influence in all-India affairs and create an “imbalance within the federal structure”. The Commission’s Official Report then went on to dismiss each of these arguments. For example, it observed that “there is in fact no clear or necessary connection between the size of a State and the quality of its administration.” It also dismissed the view that “the present commanding position of Uttar Pradesh, with its representation in both Houses of parliament broadly reflecting its numerical strength, violates this important principle” that “a fair balance between its constituent units is an essential condition for the working of a federal system”. It reached the conclusion by majority vote that “it is not possible … to recommend that the dislocation and disturbance which will inevitably be caused by the division of Uttar Pradesh must be faced”.140


Report of the States Reorganization Commission 1955, New Delhi, 1955, p. 162. Ibid. 140 Ibid., p. 167. 139

398 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

Within the Commission, however, Sardar K.M. Panikkar raised his dissenting voice and appended a Minority Report published as a separate “Note of Dissent” to the main Official Report.141 He challenged the dominant view and fought a lone but valiant battle, arguing the case for the reorganization of UP. He pointed out that UP, accounting at that time for one-sixth of India’s population, was equal to the population of Andhra, Telengana, Karnataka and Kerala put together, or larger than the combined population of Punjab, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. He argued that, given its gigantic size, UP was likely to create an imbalance in the Indian federal system. Accounting for 85 members of the Lok Sabha (out of 499) and 34 in the Rajya Sabha (out of 216), UP was bound to lead to a “feeling of distrust and resentment in other states.” Due to its size and political influence, UP was likely to seek a “dominant role”. He argued that units in a federation must be fairly and evenly balanced and “care should be taken to limit the influence and authority of larger states”. Panikkar strongly refuted the argument by UP’s leaders that “the existence of a large, powerful and well-organized state in the Gangetic Valley was a guarantee for India’s unity; that such a state would be able to correct the disruptive tendencies of other states, and to ensure the ordered progress of India.” He challenged the view that “Uttar Pradesh is the ‘backbone of India’, the centre from which all other states derive their ideas and their culture, etc.” Panikkar also drew attention to the fact that the state’s administrative unity was less than 100 years old. He declared that “the claim of homogeneity and the desire of the different areas of the Uttar Pradesh to remain together” had been “over-stated”. He pointedly referred to the existence of “a considerable body of opinion” desiring a separate state in the western part of UP. He also raised the question of backwardness and highlighted depressing facts about the state’s low literacy rates, its poor educational standards, its meagre per capita expenditure on social services and so on. All these marked out UP as one of the most backward states of India in several indices of human development, he pointed out. 141

Ibid., pp. 244–52. This and the subsequent two paragraphs draw upon Panikkar’s note (see footnote 138).

The Making of a “Regional” Postcolonial Polity 399

As an alternative, Panikkar proposed UP’s bifurcation by carving out a new state. Its territories could consist of Meerut, Agra, Rohilkhand and Jhansi divisions (minus Dehra Dun and Pilibhit) and the district of Datia (from the then Vindhya Pradesh) and four districts from Madhya Pradesh (Bhind, Morena, Gwalior and Shivpuri). Proposing Agra as its capital city, he suggested that the new formation could be called the “State of Agra”, with a total area of 51,346 square miles and a population of 24,365,931. As is well known, this proposal too was consigned to the dustbin of history!

Conclusion That then was how UP metamorphosed into postcolonial polity between 1947 and 1954. These years were critical to the dismantling of the construction of UP as a Muslim “heartland”. The Muslim League was dissolved in the very area that it had been most securely entrenched. Muslim elites emigrated to Pakistan in large numbers; those that remained were either marginalized or coopted into the framework of the Congress, which had no place for separate electorates. Urdu was attacked as sectarian and antinational in its home ground. UP’s new elite took pride in declaring the state as the Hindi “heartland,” aggressively promoting the use of Hindi in offices, law courts, schools and official media. Furthermore, political elements that looked upon UP as a Hindu “heartland” found themselves depleted in organizational terms and marginalized in the electoral arena. Yet many of their key ideas were incorporated in the Congress’ construction of UP as a postcolonial “heartland”. The push for Devanagiri and the name “Aryavrat” are just two examples. The postcolonial construction of UP institutionalized the “region” as a political “heartland” where the electoral battle for the control of India would be fought.


Conclusion In the early hours of 14 January 1954, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, the first of the ablution ceremonies marked the commencement of the 42-day-long Maha Kumbh Mela. It was a special Kumbh that year. Not only did it coincide with a unique planetary alignment, said to occur once in 144 years, but it was also the first Kumbh being held in independent India. Before the mela began, Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, the Chief Minister of UP, addressed an assembly of pragwals (local priests in-charge of ceremonies). Pant called upon them and “the millions of pilgrims who would be visiting Prayag” to “take a vow on an occasion like the Kumbh to serve their country”.1 He referred to the sacred Sangam as the “symbol of unity—the confluence of the holy Ganga and Jamuna— and it was in the fitness of things that the devotees coming to the Kumbh realized that the good of the country and the entire nation lay in the establishment of peace and harmony and fellow feelings in every section of the people”. Pant also proudly referred to the fair’s efficient, elaborate arrangements where “all the modern amenities of water supply, electricity, hospitals and first aid posts, motorable roads etc. have 1

At the Kumbh, Robin Jeffrey observes, “newly elected politicians and legislatures sought to uplift the masses, revive Indian culture, expunge the stains of colonialism, make a mark on world affairs, reward themselves for years of suffering in the freedom movement—in short, to create a new India. There were various road maps and plans of how this might be done, but all were charts of unknown country.” See Robin Jeffrey, “’Slicing India’: New Perspectives on India since 1947”, Himal, June 2002.

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been provided”. Earlier, the Kumbh had been officially declared open in front of a distinguished gathering by Lt General Sant Singh, GOC-in-C, Eastern Command—he simply pressed an electric switch. The entire “Kumbh township” had been electrified with 1,000 light poles, providing for about 2,500 light points and 64 floodlights situated at the ghats, pontoon bridges, and the Bund. At night, the entire township presented “a lively sight”. A 1,500 bathing stretch below Akbar’s historic fort had been floodlit for the convenience of pilgrims who, notwithstanding the winter winds and water temperatures as low as 43°F, often plunged into the holy waters at 3 a.m. To help those who could not make the journey relive the atmosphere of the Kumbh, All India Radio had made elaborate arrangements to broadcast live commentaries. In New Delhi, at the annual Republic Day parade, the UP tableau showed a mythological scene relating to the Kumbh, depicting the Hindu epicscene of Harshavardhan and his sister Rajyasri giving away all their wealth and belongings in charity.2 Hinduism’s religious leaders, including the fours Shankaracharyas, Ma Anandamayee, mahantas (high priests) of the Dasnami, Udasi and Vaishnav orders, monks from the Ramakrishna Mission, and sadhus from the Naga sect had gathered in large numbers. If spiritual leaders were in full attendance, so were the new nation’s political leaders; indeed, both seemed to have engaged in some kind of a dialogue. Following Pant’s symbolic imagery, Swami Bhaskaranand, a Vedantist, urged Jawaharlal Nehru to “seize the Magazine of Spiritual Might” to rebuild India. Describing the Kumbh as “a unique institution conceived and organized in the dawn of history as a socio-spiritual Parliament”, he claimed that the “Government, after all, are also an agent, like the Sadhus, for social welfare. The former take their authority to rule and enforce decrees, through the power of the state, whereas the Sadhus derive their strength through disinterested service”. Visualizing Nehru in the “role of an evangelist, demolishing barriers raised on spurious dogmas and rituals”, the Swami said: “Let him be the standard bearer of spiritual justice, equality and fraternity, the role and goal of Sadhuhood, the panacea for peace.”3 2 3

Leader, 26 January 1954. Leader, 14 January 1954.

402 Region, Nation, “Heartland” Illustration 8.1: Glimpses of Eternal India

Source: Leader, 3 February 1954.

However, on the morning of 3 February 1954—the day of Mauni Amavasya, considered most auspicious for the holy dip—a huge commotion at the Mela marred this proposed communion between spirituality and politics. At the centre of this commotion, which

Conclusion 403

soon transmogrified into a stampede, were armed Naga sadhus, asserting their traditional right to bathe at their appointed hour. What followed was indiscriminate jostling, the crushing of hundreds of hapless pilgrims—utter chaos. When authorities cleared the area near the Bund, about 200 square yards of the Ganga’s sandy banks were strewn with the dead and the injured. According to official figures, 316 people were killed and several thousand treated for injuries. The tragedy stirred a wave of public criticism of both the UP government and the central government, dominating political debates and newspaper headlines for several weeks. Yet, once the political heat had subsided, it was unmistakably evident that India had changed dramatically since the Kumbh Mela of 1930, the starting point of our book. In UP, a Congress-led government, headed by Pant, had completed six years at the helm. In New Delhi, Nehru now held the national centre-stage, having led the Congress to outstanding success in the 1952 parliamentary and state legislature elections. Across India, change was afoot. The year saw the first Indian Institute of Technology launched in Kharagpur, at the refurbished site of the notorious Hijli Detention Camp. The first Indian Institute of Management was established with American aid in Kolkata. A monumental new temple at Somnath—built at the site of the original one of AD 1169—was inaugurated in the erstwhile princely state of Junagarh by the then President Dr Rajendra Prasad. Down south, the campaign for establishing linguistic states was gathering momentum, following the martyrdom of Potti Sriramulu in a fast-unto-death to demand a separate Andhra state for Telugu speakers. Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary had conquered Mt Everest. Vijayalakshmi Pandit had been elected as president of the United Nations General Assembly, the first Indian and the first woman to occupy the exalted position. By 1954, independent India had overcome the colossal challenges that it faced at the time of its birth amidst division and bitterness. Its leadership had persevered. With political stability in position and institutions in the process of consolidation, the leadership could now turn to the social and cultural aspects of nation-building. Even as the Kumbh was under way in 1954, on Republic Day the first Padma awards—civic decorations for

404 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

achievements by Indians—were instituted. Among its first recipients were C. Rajagoplachari, veteran political leader; Sarvapelli Radhakrishnan, philosopher and president-in-waiting; and C.V. Raman, the sole living Indian Nobel laureate. That very year, the Lalit Kala and Sangeet Natak Academies were established and the National Film Awards instituted. On 8 July 1954, Nehru formally declared open the world’s largest canal, part of the gigantic Bhakra-Nangal Hydroelectric Project. When the Bhakra dam was completed some years later, he was to describe it as a “modern temple of resurgent India”. Indeed, he later reiterated that for him it was Bhakra-Nangal, rather than the Kumbh in Allahabad, which was to be a place of worship. Signs were aplenty that, as a new nation, independent India was taking confident strides. UP’s political leadership too shared the sense of confidence that characterized the early years of Independence. This confidence arose from a constructed self-identity of being the nation’s “political heartland”. That was the transformation that UP had undergone in a little over two decades since the Kumbh of 1930, the starting point of our story. In 1930, as described in Chapter 1, Nehru had just taken over as Congress president, signalling his arrival on the political stage of India. Madan Mohan Malaviya, the tallest Hindu nationalist leader from UP, had practically retired from active politics to devote himself to his mission of developing the Banaras Hindu University. Pant was still nursing injuries received in the antiSimon Commission demonstrations he had led in Lucknow. Despite the Congress organization gaining in strength, the landlords still held sway in the UP countryside as colonial allies. The Congress’ rural base was yet to see the consolidation, which occurred during the economic depression of the 1930s, allowing the UP Congress leadership to mount its effective “no-rent” campaigns. From then on, peasant politics coalesced with anti-colonial nationalism, giving the Congress a strong rural foundation. Based on this, it could increasingly dominate UP’s political life. In 1930, UP’s Muslim political leadership—drawn largely from the landed aristocracy, traditional ulema, and urban intellectuals— still felt reasonably secure, owing to a system of separate electorates. With its sedate taluqdari lifestyle, Lucknow remained pretty much the centre of pan-Indian Muslim politics, just as

Conclusion 405

Aligarh boasted of being its intellectual powerhouse. UP’s Muslim leaders were confident that under colonial rule, future constitutional changes would safeguard their minority status through the perpetuation of separate electorates and the preservation of the agrarian system on which the fortunes of the Muslim aristocracy hinged. On their part, in the beginning of 1930, the British were certain that in UP, the foundations of the Pax— notwithstanding the Congress’ anti-colonial stance—remained unshaken. They cherished and deepened their close ties with taluqdars and zamindars, hoping that, as “natural leaders”, the landed classes would actively participate in, even monopolize, representative politics and lead politics away from agitation towards collaboration. The British were also proud of the loyalty and efficiency of the civil police and bureaucracy and the wellordered urban systems in UP’s large cities. In 1930, their efficient organization of the Kumbh bore testimony to the efficacy of their vision of UP. Yet, 24 years on, by the time the Maha Kumbh Mela took place in early 1954, all this had changed. The fortunes of the different actors in the story illustrated this in many ways. From being a victim of police brutality, Pant as UP’s chief minister, now dominated party and government. Traditional Hindu nationalism, as represented by Malaviya, had failed to sustain a party organization. Adherents of Hindu nationalism within the ruling Congress—most notably Purushottam Das Tandon—stood marginalized within the party, even though many of their ideas were accepted in framing party policies. The notion of UP as a Muslim “heartland” had been totally eclipsed, following the catastrophic Partition of 1947 and its deleterious effects upon UP’s substantial Muslim communities. With the abolition of separate electorates, Muslim politicians found themselves dispossessed of their power bases. In 1948, the All-India Muslim League symbolically chose Lucknow for holding its annual session for the urgent business of dissolving itself! Further, Muslim landlords— particularly in Awadh—saw the UP government’s zamindari abolition law as an attack upon them. Not surprisingly, Muslim elites left UP’s towns and qasbas in large numbers for Pakistan. In Karachi and Hyderabad in Sindh, many settled down to rebuild their lives, clinging to their muhajir identity. For many generations of them, UP as a Muslim “heartland” came to exist only in the realm of social memory.

406 Region, Nation, “Heartland”

By 1954, the divergent colonial, Hindu nationalist and Muslim visions of UP as “heartland” came to be eclipsed. Nevertheless, its ruling elites envisioned it as independent India’s political “heartland”. Nothing signified this more visibly than Nehru’s towering presence on the all-India stage, buttressed by a solid bloc of 85 MPs that UP sent to the 524-strong national parliament. However, it must be recognized that the bases of UP’s identity as a postcolonial “heartland” were different. The postcolonial vision subsumed the nationalist construction of UP—a province at the forefront of the “freedom struggle”, and the repository of its “legacies”. Further, it drew strength from the grassroots vitality of the Congress organization, built from the 1920s and reinforced by the carefully crafted post-Independence policies designed to win the electoral support of low-caste groups and the substantial Muslim communities anxious to identify with the “mainstream” and bury their “separatist” image. UP also prided itself for being at the forefront of the Nagari movement, staking its claim as the “cultural homeland” of Hindi, now enthroned as India’s national language. In looking at the historical processes of state formation involved in the different constructions of UP as “heartland”, it is pertinent to take a broader view of how political space was organized at the subcontinental level in the colonial and postcolonial eras. Literature relating to “heartlands” and “core areas”, considered in some detail in Chapter 1, suggests that states have geographical starting points (often a core/nuclear area) and evolve over a long period through a process of accretion. Now this has been an influential idea in the European context (not without its critics though), but its validity in the case of modern India remains questionable. As is well known, the origins of India as a territorially bounded, “modern” state lay in colonial rule whose geographical starting points were the littoral—around the sea ports of Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata—which the British developed. Not surprisingly, it was at Fort Williams in Kolkata that they first established their capital. However, in 1911, in a bold move they decided to shift the imperial capital to “New Delhi”. This denoted a larger repositioning of imperial rule—from the littoral to the “centre”, indicating that ports of penetration were no more important to the way the Raj was envisioned. It also signalled the British attempt to harmonize alien rule with indigenous imperial traditions. Thus the British

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were compelled by force of historic tradition to identify New Delhi, their new capital, with the tradition of empire.4 This capital shift held implications for UP’s status within British India. Given its proximity to Delhi and aided by its fertile soil, its dense population, its ability to sustain non-agricultural pursuits, and its linkages with major transportation routes by river, road and rail, UP’s prominence escalated. This reorientation of colonial rule catalysed a reconfiguration of political space, which privileged UP. This reconfiguration had been preceded by an earlier one in the late nineteenth century, as Part I of this book has demonstrated. The epicentres of the 1857 Revolt, which had posed a fundamental challenge to colonial rule, largely lay within territories comprising UP. Once the British had suppressed the Revolt, they had to make new beginnings in terms of establishing their authority across northern India. Much like Punjab, UP provided a “social laboratory” where they could begin with a clean slate and establish a common framework of rule in matters of urban life, taxation, policing, land systems and agrarian relationships.5 By the late nineteenth century, the British were convinced that they had established through their social engineering a “model” province within Pax Britannica, courtesy their social engineering. Successive colonial administrators—from Alfred Lyall to Harcourt Butler and Malcolm Hailey—looked upon UP as the Raj’s “heartland”. European civilians joining the “heaven-born” Indian Civil Service in the twentieth century consistently placed UP after Punjab as the province of their choice for service in the British Indian Empire. A third reconfiguration affecting UP took place in the transition from the colonial to the postcolonial. After 1947, Independence and Partition led to a political remapping of the subcontinent. Two of the most substantial regional societies within South Asia— Punjab and Bengal—were splintered and incorporated into two different nation-states. The princely state of Jammu and Kashmir underwent an “unintended partition”, leading to bitter and continuing bilateral conflict. India’s new rulers also faced the enormous challenge of the “integration” of almost 562 princely 4 On these issues, the writings of Barnard S. Cohn on the imperial durbars seem so pertinent. Also see R.E. Frykenberg, Delhi through the Ages, New Delhi, 1986. 5 On the Punjab story, see Tan Tai Yong, The Garrison State: The Military, Government and Society in Colonial Punjab, 1849–1947, New Delhi, 2005.

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states to assert their sovereignty, end dualism in governance systems and—not the least—imprint a semblance of cartographic unity upon the new nation’s body-politic.6 These challenges for the political leadership were exacerbated by mounting demands for the creation of “linguistic states”, especially in southern and western India.7 The colonial Madras Presidency was broken up to Illustration 8.2: Postcolonial UP: Political Élite’s Self View

Source: Shankar’s Weekly, 31 May 1953. 6

For a comprehensive account, see Ian Copland, The Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire, 1917–1947, Cambridge, 1997, especially Chapters 6 and 7. 7 On the politics of language as the basis for statehood, see Jyotirindra Das Gupta, Language Conflict and National Development, Berkeley, 1970. On the larger context of India in the 1950s, see Selig S. Harrison, India, The Most Dangerous Decade, New Jersey, 1960.

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form the linguistic states of Andhra Pradesh, Madras (renamed Tamil Nadu in 1967) and Kerala. Bombay Presidency was divided into the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. With the break-up of the old Presidencies, it was inevitable that UP now occupied a dominant position on India’s political map. In conclusion, in looking at political change in the context of UP, a key “regional” society of South Asia, this book has analysed the transformation that UP experienced as a “region” within India and as its “political heartland” in the late colonial and postcolonial contexts. In mapping this transformation, this book has attempted to explore the complex relationship between “region” and “nation” in the context of modern South Asia. The book has strongly interrogated the idea of UP as a “heartland” by showing that there was no agreement on its constructed self-identity and by demonstrating that the concept has had different meanings for different social groups over the twentieth century. Elaborating this argument, this book has suggested that there have existed at least five distinct, though sometimes overlapping, “constructions” in the last 120 years. It also reaffirms that, in the end, only one of these vision came to be dominant.

Epilogue: The “Republic” of Uttar Pradesh In a 1968 essay, “Provinces, Elites and UP’s Husk Culture”, D.A. Low, a distinguished scholar of Commonwealth and South Asian history, characterized the state of Uttar Pradesh at the beginning of the twentieth century in the following terms: UP is after all the Hindu heartland. Here to the north are the Himalayas. Here are the Shivaliks, the home of Shiva. Here at Ayodhya was Rama’s capital; at Mathura Krishna’s. Here is the mighty Ganga; at Allahahbad its sacred junction with the Jamuna and with the mythical Saraswati, and the site of the Kumbh Mela. Farther downstream lies Hinduism’s holiest city, Benaras, with its great centres of Sanskritic learning. Centuries of Buddhism, and then of Islam, did not destroy the cohesiveness of Hindu society in this area. It seems to have been maintained by the manner in which it was structure