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Punjab Politics: Narratives of State and Stutters

Rohit Wanchoo

Edited by Lionel Carter
2006, pp. 392, Rs. 950.00


The history of Punjab over the last century and a half has attracted the attention of both scholars and political activists. The heavy military recruitment from the Punjab, the role of state investment in irrigation, the rural-urban divide in politics during the first half of the twentieth century, the Punjab tradition of administration have been the subject of several scholarly studies. The works of Imran Ali, Ian Talbot, David Gilmartin, Mufakharul Islam, Mridula Mukherjee, Niladri Bhattacharya, Tan Tai Yong, Sucheta Mahajan and Rajit Majumdar come to mind. Lionel Carter, a former Secretary and Librarian of the Centre for South Asian Studies at Cambridge University, has collected documents from the archives dealing with political and constitutional developments between 1944 and 1947. Punjab Politics is the third volume of a set dealing primarily with the Reports of the Governors of the Punjab and other key documents published by Manohar in 2006. In a field where the publications of numerous scholars are now available it would be unreasonable to expect that a collection of documents from the colonial archives for a few years would be able to make a significant impact. This volume can equally profitably be assessed in terms of the works of the Punjab historians. It can also be used to initiate graduate students in the use of primary sources in the study of political and constitutional history.   In ‘The Nation and Its Pasts’, Gyanendra Pandey has argued that the narratives preserved by the state in archives and public institutions ‘originate for the most part with the ruling classes and owe their existence largely to a ruling class’s need for security and control’. He argues that even in such records fragments and traces of lost and irrecoverable perspectives can be found. (G. Pandey, Routine Violence: Nations, Fragments, Histories, Delhi 2006 Quote p. 60.) We get evidence of how ‘communities’ perceive national leaders although we have no way of knowing how representative the views are and how the social background of the members of different communities influenced their perceptions. In August 1944 Glancy, the Governor of the Punjab, wrote to the Viceroy that ‘amongst Sikhs Congress advances to the Muslim League have tended to meet with general disapproval’. Inspite of his promises Gandhi had ignored the Sikh community (p. 94). It was reported that the Punjab Muslims regarded both Nehru and Patel as ‘dangerous’ (p. 192). Some Ahrar party Muslims felt that Jayaprakash Narayan together with the provincial government ...

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