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Many Makings of a 'Heartland'

Salil Misra

By Gyanesh Kudaisya
Sage Series in Modern Indian History, New Delhi, 2006, pp. xxvi 471, Rs. 595.00


Any historical account of modern UP has to inevitably confront the question: Is there still a need for yet another work on UP? Haven’t all the things worth saying already been said about the polity, economy and society of UP in the 20th century? For an exhaustive answer to the question readers are advised to go through Region, Nation “Heartland”… to get some idea of the many gaps that exist in our conventional understanding of modern UP. We for instance took UP’s regional identity for granted as something that had continued from pre-modern times into the 20th century, and therefore forgot to ask the question: How and when exactly did UP as a region come to be constituted? The book under review proceeds to answer that question for us.   Region, Nation, “Heartland”, through its 471 pages, engages with two principal concerns in an interrelated manner: One, what was/were the process/es through which colonial authority in UP was structured and then eroded? Two, how did UP come to acquire such an important place in both colonial and independent India? As the book engages with the two questions, it narrates the story of UP’s colonial and nationalist experiences and of the transformation of UP’s society and polity in the 20th century.   To take up the first question. UP, in comparison with the presidencies, was late in being colonized and was not captured in one single step. British authority was established not just with the help of colonial ideology but also by the establishment of institutions of control, like the army and the police, and by creating local support systems (landlords and local elites). By the beginning of the 20th century the British control appeared to have spread out evenly throughout the province. Such was the extent of colonial penetration (or so the British fondly believed) that the UP administrators triumphantly declared it to be the heartland of the Raj. UP was seen by its colonial rulers as the land of happiness, solid progress, unquestioning loyalty of the people, with perfect compatibility between the rulers and the ruled, and a land blessed with agrarian peace. All was well. British authority was accepted and respected. UP was the ideal, model colony for the British rulers.   Yet it was UP that emerged as the principal site where the colonial authority was challenged, shaken and eventually overthrown by the Congress. A ...

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