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Title: Agitations, riots and the transitional state in Calcutta, 1945-50
Author: Mukherjee, Ishan
ISNI:       0000 0004 7231 9811
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2017
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The thesis examines the agitations and riots that broke out in Calcutta in the aftermath of the Second World War. Through a close analysis of local outbreaks of urban violence, it hopes to contribute to the understanding of decolonization in the subcontinent. It interrogates existing chronological and conceptual frameworks through which decolonization has been understood in the historiography of the region. At the same time, the study analyses the continuities and changes in the practices of the local state apparatus, especially the police, through the transition ‘from the colonial to the post-colonial’ regime in South Asia. The scope of the study is limited to incidents and experiences in Calcutta, although it attempts to take into account relevant issues at the regional and all-India level wherever possible. The historiography of popular politics in South Asia is fairly unanimous in concluding that the immediate aftermath of the Second World War saw widespread ‘anti-imperialist’ ‘cross-communal’ protests throughout the subcontinent. In this period, many argue, people of all religions came together for the last time to fight the colonial regime. However, this moment of communal unity was quickly lost as the subcontinent plunged into communal violence on an unprecedented scale. Incidents in Calcutta are believed to exhibit this pattern very clearly. In February 1946 the city witnessed large-scale protests against the conviction of Captain Rashid Ali of the Indian National Army. However, just six months later, Calcutta witnessed massive communal riots. The Great Calcutta Killing of August 1946 set off the chain of communal violence across the subcontinent that ultimately precipitated the partition of British India into two mutually hostile post-colonial states of India and Pakistan. This thesis hopes to challenge some of these assumptions in the historiography of decolonization. It seeks to complicate this linear narrative by questioning the ‘cross-communal’ dimension of the anti-colonial protests. It also argues that the outbreak of communal violence was not as sudden as has been assumed. Rather, communal tension often co-existed with periods of united anti-colonial agitations. The thesis will also examine inter-community relations in the city in the very first years after independence. It will study how new minorities produced by the Indian nation state grappled with, and were affected by, the changed circumstances in Calcutta.
Supervisor: Chatterji, Joya Sponsor: Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation ; New York
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Calcutta ; communalism ; Bengal ; decolonization ; agitation