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Of Ideological Contours


Jawaid Alam

COMMUNALISM & THE INTELLIGENTSIA IN BIHAR, 1870-1930: SHAPING CASTE, COMMUNITY AND NATIONHOOD
By Hitendra Patel
Orient BlackSwan, 2011, pp. 253, Rs. 645.00

VOLUME XXXVII NUMBER 12 December 2013

The growth of community-oriented consciousness and articulation of antagonism between Hindus and Muslims in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and in the early twentieth century have attracted considerable scholarly attention in recent times. There are also some historians who have emphasized the Hindi-Urdu controversy in their writing, the cow protection movement and the Suddhi and Sangathan movements as part of an effort to construct a ‘United Hindu Community’ on a larger front in northern India. In the case of Bihar, however, scholars have written in their works only briefly on the theme while discussing nationalist politics at large. Hitendra Patel’s book from its title seems to be a specific one on communalism although it deals only ‘with Hindu communalism and the Muslim side of the story is rarely alluded to’ (p. 1). But a close reading of the book suggests that the title is often misleading as it has less to do with how the Hindi intelligentsia in Bihar played a major part in uniting the Hindus on separate community lines and defined their relationship with nationalist forces. And so does the choice of period as 1870 or even 1870s was not the time when polarization of politics on communal lines started in Bihar. It was, indeed, since the late 1880s that communitarian consciousness began to emerge in Bihar. Prior to the late 1880s concentrated efforts to champion the cause of Hinduism and to define the Hindu Community in a Hindu manner had been limited to the Punjab and Bombay Presidency.1   The introduction is subtitled ‘Nationalism and Communalism in Bihar’ wherein the author has discussed at some length the historiography of nationalism and communalism but not the emergence and growth of nationalist and communal activities in Bihar. Even his discussion on historiography has some major lacunae. He has not mentioned perhaps the finest work on the theme by Mushirul Hasan.2 Based on painstaking research it offers an important corrective to our understanding of Indian nationalism and communal politics. Besides, he has not taken into consideration a monumental work on communalism by G. R. Thursby3 which emphasizes the Hindu side of communalism. Since Patel also concentrates on Hindu communalism, Thursby‘s work could have helped in enriching his text.   Patel frequently mentions the emergence of ‘Hindi intelligentsia’ as a powerful voice in Bihar who defined their political identities both in religious and nationalistic terms. But he does not elaborate who ...


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