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A Study on Bondage


Sujata Patel

PATRONAGE & EXPLOITATION CHANGING AGRARIAN RELATIONS IN SOUTH GUJARAT
By Jan Breman
Manohar Publishers, Delhi, 1979, pp. 287, Rs. 80.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 3 November/December 1980

When Jan Breman's book was first published in 1974, Rural Sociology and Anthropology was going through an in­trospection: community development and Panchayat Raj had failed to bring about the peaceful revolution which would end .­inequality and' poverty. Nor did the ana­lytical scheme of 'dominant caste' and 'Sanskritization' help in understanding why the requisite change had not taken place. Sociologists and anthropologists of rural studies had thus begun to examine their own theoretical and methodological assumptions which had failed to grasp the reality in its entirety. The late sixties showed a definite shift in the theoretical perspective in the field of rural studies. Rural studies increasingly adopted a Marxist perspective. The focus shifted from caste studies to the studies of peasant movements, from ‘Sanskritiza­tion' and 'westernization' to studies of class antagonisms and class domination. This led the discipline to widen its para­meters and scope. An appreciable num­ber of sociologists and anthropolo­gists turned to economics, history and politics to find new concepts to tackle the Indian rural scene. Jan Breman's book came as a breath of fresh air in rural studies. The book dealt with the relationship between the landlord and labourer; explored the bondage relationship between two caste groups—Anavil Brahmins and Dublas in two villages in South Gujarat; and made possible a marriage of social anthropology and history to indicate how bondage relations were forged during pre-colonial period and how they broke up during the late colonial period due to the impact of the market. In a country where more than 6.1 per cent of individuals were in bondage of one kind or other an analysis of the historical origin was much needed Breman's book was appreciated as a seminal work. A reprint in an Indian edition though late, is much welcome for it will make a wider audience argue the issues he has so lucidly set down. The book is divided into two parts. The first part elucidates the nature of bondage in south Gujarat which is called Halipratha. It explores the manner in which services were extracted from the bonded labours called Hali by the land­lord Dhaniamo. The halipratha tradition was supported economically and poli­tically through the Jajmani system, ‘the mechanism not only for distribution of goods and the exchange of labour but also the allocation of power and pres­tige’ which indicated ‘an expression of the character of the caste structure’. ...


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