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Evolution of Bihar's Identity


Mohammad Sajjad

THE MAKING OF BIHAR AND BIHARIS: COLONIALISM, POLITICS AND CULTURE IN MODERN INDIA, 1870-1912
By Narendra Jha
Manohar Publications, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 284, Rs. 795.00

VOLUME XXXVII NUMBER 4 April 2013

  Arguably not many works of history on modern Bihar were published earlier with the exception of Arvind N. Das’s Agrarian Unrest (Delhi: Manohar, 1983) and Vinita Damodaran’s Broken Promises (Delhi: OUP, 1992), the well-researched three-volume work of K.K. Datta, Freedom Movement in Bihar (1957), and the multi-volume compilation of essays in the Comprehensive History of Bihar (1976). Subsequently many more works came up, notably from the K.P. Jaiswal Research Institute, housed in the Patna Museum, which also, for long, brought out the empirically rich and very rigorously refereed Journal of Bihar Research Society. Recently however, there are new arrivals from various influential publishing houses. The good work of Papiya Ghosh (1953-2006) on late-colonial (and postcolonial/Independence) Bihar, have been posthumously published by Routledge, whereas Oxford University Press has collected some of the best of her essays. Hitendra Patel’s Communalism and Intelligentsia: Shaping Caste, Community and Nationhood in Bihar, 1870-1930 (Hyderabad: Orient BlackSwan, 2011) and Lata Singh’s Popular Translations of Nationalism in Bihar, 1920-22 (Delhi: Primus, 2012) have made significant additions to our knowledge on colonialism, nationalism, and communalism in this part of India; a chapter by Lata Singh has demonstrated how the lower bureaucracy (the police constables) was also contributing to the freedom struggle, rather than defending the Raj.   The book under review is the latest entrant in this genre. This book explores regional sub-nationalism in colonial Bihar and its ‘emergence’ as a distinct regional-political entity (which had administratively found itself merged into a vast multi-lingual tract long before it was colonized by the British), claiming to become a separate province. By the author’s admission, this work was started in the late 1970s when he was pursuing his research in JNU under the able supervision of K.N. Panikkar. From a relatively obscure publishing house of Patna/Darbhanga, V.C.P. Chaudhary’s Creation of Modern Bihar (1964) had already come out. By the time Jha worked further on his thesis, while teaching in a college in Darbhanga, two more works came out, viz., Md Muzaffar Imam’s Role of Muslims in the National Movement, Bihar, 1912-1930 (Delhi: Mittal, 1987), and Kamta Chaubey’s Muslims and Freedom Movement in India, Bihar, 1905-1928 (Allahabad: Chugh, 1990).   The question therefore arises: what is new that the book under review offers?   There has been a view held not wrongly, that the movement for a separate province of Bihar was confined to the educated urban elite. ...


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