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Nationalism in Indian Cities

S. Gopal

By A.D.D. Gordon
Manohar Publication, New Delhi, 1978, pp. 316 index, Rs. 50.00

By Rajat K. Ray
Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 1979, pp. 233 index, Rs. 60.00

VOLUME IV NUMBER 4 January-February 1980

A national movement requires organi­zation, funds, leadership and popular support. If one or the other is lacking or weak, the movement becomes not only lop-sided but ineffective. It was Gandhi's great achievement in India that he ensured all four basic elements, even though he left to others the reconciling of the contradiction in the manner in which he provided these essential ingredients. The two well-researched studies of politics in Bombay and Calcutta during the years of the freedom movement throw light on both the spread of nationalism as well as on the contradictions of the Gandhian phase. It is worth taking these two books together, so as to draw attention to the similarities as well as the contrasts bet­ween Bombay and Calcutta. They were the key cities of the raj, with vast econo­mic and communal interests. But then the differences start. In Calcutta the European businessman was predominant and the non-official British communities exercised a powerful influence. While the Permanent Settlement gave the Indian landlords a position in society, there was no Indian commercial class carrying much weight for a long time, and it was the educated Bengali who made his voice heard. The situation was further complicated by the Muslim section of the population, which was numerically strong but whose leader­ship, especially in business, was drawn to a large extent from outside the State. In Bombay on the other hand, the mills were owned by Indians and the nonofficial British community enjoyed far less influence than in Bengal. So, while there were differences between the mill-owners, the merchants who worked the markets and whom Gordon terms ‘marketeers’, the agents, the city landlords, the nationalists and the government and the relations bet­ween these various elements were con­stantly overlapping and fluctuating yet the atmosphere was healthier in Bombay than in Calcutta. The commercial tension was less marked and Indian opinion was more homogeneous. Ray tells us a little more than Gordon about the industrial worker and growth of trade unionism; but in both books these remain on the margin. Gordon places developments in Bombay in the wider context of Indian nationalism than Ray, who concentrates on conflicts in the municipal arena. But this is part of the pattern; the businessmen of Bombay had broader horizons than the politicians of Calcutta. For Ray to argue that the politics of Calcutta Corporation is central to the explanation ...

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