Readings for Class on Gandhi, Nonviolence, and the Struggle for Independence

Here are the readings for what is currently class #3. (Obituary of Gandhi)

India’s Theater of Independence

The economics of decolonization in India

India’s Independence in International Perspective

Decolonization in India- The Statement of Febraury 20, 1947


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84 Responses to Readings for Class on Gandhi, Nonviolence, and the Struggle for Independence

  1. Andrea says:

    I found the obituary to be very interesting. One of the most interesting aspects of the article was the opening line, “The assassin was a Hindu who disagreed with Gandhi’s ideology.” It seems as though the religion of the assailant was more important than his name because the assailant’s name was never mentioned in this piece. Since this was such a high profile crime, I wonder why the author did not name the assassin.
    Another point I found interesting was the major “bifurcation point” in Ghandi’s life; him being attacked in Durban, South Africa. It is very ironic that such a tragic incident led Ghandi down a path of nonviolence. He had worked with marginalized Indians in South Africa for years, but it was not until this personal attack that he changed his approach to tackle oppression. After reading this article, I realized that comfort may lead to complacency. I am not sure if Ghandi would be Ghandi if this uncomfortable event had not occurred in his life.
    Through this reading, I also learned more about the complexity of Ghandi’s life. He was a political leader, advocate, attorney, and nationalist among other titles. Frankly, he was a very well rounded leader. He was eloquent and charismatic, but he did not solely rely on these characteristics. He sacrificed his body, health, and freedom for his cause. His role as a leader was not a straight path, but rather a journey full of unexpected experiences, roadblocks, and successes.
    Lastly, I learned the importance of World War II as a major player in the journey to India’s independence. It is so ironic that Ghandi used nonviolence as a tool, but the war was a major leverage point for Indian independence. I wonder how India would be different if it were not for a war.
    This piece was the most interesting obituary I have ever read.

    • Dylan P. says:

      I agree with Andrea; it was very interesting that the religion of the assassin was important. It was not, however, surprising to me that the name was not given. I think that if it had been a Muslim or a British man who had killed the Mahatma a name would have been given. We know the names of the Jordanian who killed Bobby Kennedy, the segregationist that killed Martin Luther King, Jr. and the confederate that killed Lincoln because it is not surprising that the opposition assassinated these men—so more is needed to add details to a presupposed conclusion. It is telling (in the converse) that a name is not given, as it indicates the surprise of a Hindu murdering a great Hindu leader. Indeed, this sentiment mirrored my own surprise on learning this fact. I doubt I would have remembered the name over the surprise and my attempt to make sense of this new information over the course of the article.
      The event bares many similarities to the assassination of Malcolm X. Both were killed by those who either were or should have been their followers, and both were killed for preaching peace and tolerance of a group that their own ethnic or religious group was perceived to be in conflict with—Gandhi for including Muslims and Malcolm X for renouncing the violence of the Nation of Islam, embracing the peace of Islam, and trying to find peaceful solutions. Both are examples of great leaders’ respective thoughts and messages outgrowing or not translating well to the followers who brought them to the height of their popularity and prestige.

  2. Thanks Andrea. Nice work.

  3. Andrea says:

    India’s Theater of Independence, Sunil Khilnani
    After reading this article, my thoughts immediately took me to Haiti, a place that is still in recovery from the earthquake of 2010. I also thought about New Orleans and it’s post-Katrina journey. Lastly, Iraq as a war torn country came to mind. One hundred years from now, what will the new Port-au-Prince look like? What will the new New Orleans look like? What will the new Iraq look like? What will make these places unique?
    These places are all highly politicized just as post-colonial India, and the global north, particularly in Haiti and Iraq, is a major player in the rebuilding efforts. Do the poor and marginalized in Port-au-Prince, New Orleans, and Iraq see the rebuilding efforts in these areas as “meaningless” just as some of the poor and marginalized citizens of post-colonial India? Who, in these areas, will speak up for the “villagers” like Gandhi did? Who will have the finesse to work with both the powerful political players and the poor to ensure all voices are heard? Who will successfully lead the oppressed in these areas on missions to “occupy and act” in public spaces just as Gandhi did?
    Port-au-Prince, New Orleans, and Iraq are not experiencing the same confounding factors as post-colonial India, but there is one lesson in the reading that I find very relevant to me: The development of cities and countries is not an easy task. There are so many factors such as culture, politics, power, etc. that come in to play, but ultimately the citizens, whether marginalized, “minoritized”, or elite, are of utmost importance in the development or a city or country.

    • Very cool effort to link the readings to other similar international contexts!

    • Dylan P. says:

      It is certainly true that Kilnani’s work evokes questions about the complexities of restarting a city or village after a difficult and paradigm shifting event or series of events. And I agree that in many ways breaking free from the social and governmental infrastructures in India bears similarities and many of the same challenges as loosing physical infrastructure through natural disaster. Both are traumatic, painful, and immensely difficult. However, it is what the India’s were asking for as opposed to a disaster of no one’s doing.
      Khilnani’s work shows the unique difficulty of breaking free from colonial rule. In the case of natural disaster it is ok and even good to lean on the old way of doing things and the traditions that unite. With anti-colonialism, however, a group must try to find new ways of doing things and not lean on the ways of the colonial oppressor. We see the stark contrast in the difference between Malgudi and Bangalore.
      In Malgudi, everyone was caught up with the fervor of new-found patriotism. While this was a positive force that united the city and certainly shirked the mantel of the empire, it was not without its own problems. Not every street can be named for the Mahatma, and certainly there is something to be said for consistency. This also raises the question of whether the gesture of renaming a park is only an outward expression. Does that represent or replace internal feelings of unity and patriotism?
      Conversely, Bangalore retained largely Anglicized ways. They did not change street names or anything like that, leaving one wondering if the residence of the city even wanted to be free of the British. Or perhaps they expressed their patriotism in different and less obvious ways.

      • Dear Dylan, thanks so much for emphasizing the unique difficulty of breaking free from colonial rule. It is so important that we realize that it is a process, not an event. Also, it is worth noting that one of the TRAGEDIES of colonialism is that groups find new ways of doing things, but also very much remain stuck in some of the old ways. Good thoughts on renaming. FOR CLASS DISCUSSION. why is renaming important? is changing symbols helpful, enough, meaningless? ~WMB

  4. Matt Lyon says:

    India’s Theater of Independence, Sunil Khilnani
    After reading India’s Theater of Independence by Sunil Khilnani, I was fascinated with the Swiss architect Le Corbusier’s tactic of a ‘sterilized’ New Indian city. These readings, although written with a Western academic bias, overtly assume that India’s pre-colonial culture was something to be rejected, overcome. The author speaks of the confusion surrounding the renaming of cities and towns once British Raj was shaken off, and it suggests that, instead of Indians bringing their own kind of order out of their own kind of chaos, European city planners now have tabula rasa in a new and limitless land to construct their masterpieces–or at the very least manifest their megalomaniacal experiments on a newly ‘freed’ populace. Le Corbusier’s vision seems akin to a modern Greek Acropolis, where benevolent philosophers and politicians work and reside in literal ivory towers. It is interesting that the Western and Eastern dichotomy of Thought can be reduced to its basic origins of Greek and Hindu philosophy. And here is a man who is trying to bleach the beauty and suffering of human chaos and experience of India into a Western cold, colorless, static stone edifice with his new city. It is an attempt, be it willfully or ignorantly to subvert Eastern philosophical thought with Western. This may mirror the current debate over secularization in the West. At what point does secularization cost us our culture? Is efficiency and order the inevitable path of humanity? When do rules and parameters strip us of our imagination, our experience outside of the ‘normal’ mode of existence? Has this already happened? How long can order hold chaos back? Le Corbusier’s attempt to bring India’s cities into ‘modernity’ seems at best unenlightened and at worst, cultural and philosophical genocide.

    • Dear Matt. This is a very thoughtful comment. One of my favorite books, called “Seeing Like a State” that I use a lot in my research and theorizing talks alot about this issue of “tabula rasa.” and how modernity often means erasing indigenous structures, which may seem messy from the outside, but have their own internal order, much like the back streets of New Orleans.

  5. Andrea says:

    The economics of decolonization in India, Tomlinson
    According to the book review, the economic and political climate of India made decolonization complex, and ultimately, the balancing act between India, the British, and London proved to be impossible.

    In the review, Tomlinson points out that the capacity for India to fulfill the three commitments set forth by the British was hindered by many extenuating circumstances. These circumstances were “2 wars, the slump of the 1930s, and the changes in India’s world trade.” This scenario sounds very familiar! In recent history the phrases, “we are in two major wars, we are in the worst economy since the great depression, and we need to analyze and reanalyze many of our trade agreements” have been included in many conversations, many news stories, and many political debates in the United States. Same story, different time period.

    Although the plight of post-colonial India and the current situation in the United Sates are similar is some ways, the way to social change will most likely look very different. The question then becomes, “How do we move past our current, unacceptable situations to a place where positive change can occur?” The answer to this question has too many moving parts, and, as with many social change movements, often manifest itself long after the leaders of the movements are gone.

    My major takeaway from this review is the dynamics and effects of major social change movements are very unpredictable, and the formula for the positive change to occur has to be just right. The right people, the right time, the right war, the right economy and the right trade agreements or disagreements, for example, all have to fit into a complex puzzle in order for a major change to take place.

    • Dylan P. says:

      The primary point that struck me about this review by Tomlinson is best summarized by Andrea’s point that there are “too many moving parts.” Tomlinson asserts the appropriateness of Brown’s treatment of the movement for Indian independence that is factually correct, yet may still be completely foreign to a scholar of the subject. To me this indicates the remarkable complexity of these sorts of movements. There are so many factors, which play into so many other factors, that two people may correctly discuss the causes of an event and both could cite completely different premises.
      In my mind, what is most valuable about this assertion is that we do not and will not know the entire story. It is a multidisciplinary tapestry from the psychology of the individuals involved, to the history and politics of the countries involved (and even how those factors contribute to each other).
      Tomlinson notes that the usual suspects “receive scant attention” in Brown’s work. So this work may have great power to shake to cobwebs of Western Civilization survey courses and force us to consider the multilayered motivations and perspectives involved in the conflict. As with most things, it is not simple—particularly not just geopolitical. Brown’s book seems to push the ever-present and very potent but often under-represented force of economics a bit closer to center stage in the discussion.

      • Dear Dylan,

        It is true that these movements are highly complex, and that their nature changes over time as well. I love the concept of “multilayered motivations and perspectives,”(great phrase which I intend to steal) and that type of thinking is exactly what informed my work as I put the syllabus together.


  6. Hi Andrea, really glad you brought up the issue of the Triple imperial commitment. Also interesting that you noticed the similarity with America’s current situation. Many people say that the US is an empire in decline. I do not know if that is the case, but it is an interesting comparison. Also thanks for noticing something that I myself had missed. Interesting point–WORTH DISCUSSING IN CLASS-re what it takes for major change to take place. ~WMB

  7. Dear class. I am seeing some very high level remarks here. Very happy!!! Kudos!!!

  8. Leslie says:

    Gandhi obituary:
    I appreciated the chronological nature and nonacademic language of this news article. As someone who is rather unfamiliar with the life of Gandhi, it was a good basic introduction. It surprised me that he was assassinated by another member of the Hindu faith; I had assumed the assassination occurred at the hands of someone of another faith. The sheer number of times he was arrested also surprised me. I knew he had been arrested on several occasions, but I really underestimated the total number. I am amazed that he had such effectiveness at spreading nonviolent movements without the advantage of today’s widespread media. Today it is not very difficult to get out information and organize people who are passionate about the issue, but in the early twentieth century, Gandhi couldn’t tweet about a non-violent, cloth burning flash mob. His personal commitment to the untouchables stood out to me. He could have lived a much more comfortable life, but he chose to surround himself with the people who were essentially forgotten outcasts. I had also never considered the timing overlap between WWII and India’s move toward independence. I thought it was a brilliant idea to refuse Indian military support for the allies without receiving Indian independence on the front end. When I think of WWII, I do not automatically think of Indian independence and the work of Gandhi, so to think about these two events occurring simultaneously was new for me. The article often refers to his political influence “behind the scenes,” which shows the vastness of his authority among the Indian people. I am left wondering about the state of Hindus in Pakistan today and what impact Gandhi may have had there if he had not been assassinated. I wish we could embrace his belief that the majority and minority can work together in brotherhood—it would make such a profound difference on many of today’s conflicts.

    IIndia’s Theaters of Independence by Sunil Khilnani:
    While I knew in general that parts of India have vast disparities between the wealthy and the poor, I did not know that this can be traced back to the way colonial cities were created and organized. I always pictured the British coming in and taking over Indian cities, but I learned that they often created their own cities instead. I believe this contributed to their ability to rule by displaying how “wonderful” their cities were. I imagine the colonial cities like a mirage to the Indians—they could see it and it seemed so real, but it was always just beyond their reach. The article describes the chronological progression of the colonial cities, starting with port cities, which makes sense because they were easy to access for importing and exporting goods between India and other countries, and followed by military camps. My favorite part of the article was learning about Ahmedabad because it prospered on its own as an Indian city without British influence. When describing the effects of colonialism on existing Indian cities, the author used the word “molesting.” This description really stood out to me because it conveys the fact that the Indian cities did not invite the British—it was an unwanted advance. The British came in and essentially changed everything in an attempt to make it “better.” A question I’ve been struggling with is why do we always think our way of life is “better” and that other cultures must want to adapt it because it would be incomprehensible to reject it? The arrangement of New Delhi further emphasized the hierarchy that the British were so fond of by placing houses at different heights. It really frustrated me that the creation of cities in Europe lessened class distinctions and increased individual freedoms while they were created to do just the opposite in India. The creation of more cities should have allowed the Indian people to come together and unite for the cause of a self-governing country, but it seems to have separated them even more based on their differences, at least for a while. I loved how Gandhi made his own “public places” when they were intentionally left out of the design of colonial cities. He understood that this was their land and they had the right to use it. I was surprised at the manner in which Chandigarhla was designed because it followed a very colonial model and was even designed by a European architect! After India gained its independence, I assumed that the prime minister would have wanted to create a truly Indian capital free from colonial influence. The article’s conclusion was interesting—what will the future be like for India? Will the cities continue to have the most say or will the countryside finally have its voice heard because of the large populations? I’m hoping for the latter because the majority in India seems to have been ignored for far too long.

    The Political Economy of The Raj, 1914-1947. The Economics of Decolonization in India. (Tomlinson) by Judith Brown:

    This was a very short review of a book, but it provided another point of view about why the British left India. Most of our readings focus on more of a social movement headed by Gandhi as the real catalyst that led to decolonization. Tomlinson suggests, however, that England did not leave as an act of goodwill or because they truly believed giving India their independence was the morally correct thing to do. Instead, England left because it was in their economic best interest to leave. The author talks about India’s “triple imperial commitment” of purchasing British goods, providing men for the Imperial Army, and paying interest to the British government. When India was no longer fulfilling these commitments, it made more sense for the British to decolonize. It also made sense for India to stop fulfilling these obligations because of the inflation on British goods and desire to focus on internal issues. While I do not agree that economics were the sole factor in India’s decolonization, I do believe that it is an important piece of the puzzle to consider. Sometimes we only see history through the lens we choose to view it. A non violent gaining of independence led by a man prone to fasting and wearing a loin cloth is a much more exciting history story than one about economics. But it also seems implausible that economics were the only factor. If that were true, why didn’t England withdraw even sooner? A polarized choice between a social movement and economics is unrealistic. I am not a history buff and I did not experience this for myself, but to me the logical conclusion is that there were a multitude of factors that culminated in 1947.

    Nation, Reason, and Religion: India’s Independence in International Perspective by Sugata Bose:
    I would have assumed that the end of the raj in India would have been a time of coming together and supporting Indian brothers and sisters. I learned from this article that India’s nationalism also meant religious nationalism, and that led to deep separation between Hindu Indians and Muslim Indians. I shouldn’t be surprised at this outcome, however, because Britain had emphasized the distinction between the “majority” (Hindu) and the “minority” (Muslim) communities for years, despite the 1858 proclamation promising religious tolerance. The author says that religion had a strong place in reason through the early 20th century and that “religious sensibilities” influenced both Hindu and Muslim anti-colonial feelings. However, because of the way the British defined Hindus as the majority, their religious symbols came to represent all of India. This obviously created problems when it came time to create a unified India. If I were a Muslim in India, I would want representation. I would want to know that my interests were being considered and not ignored by my government. Gandhi certainly tried to bridge the divide between Hindus and Muslims, but the author sees some weaknesses in his plan. I was surprised to learn that Gandhi was against inter-dinner and inter-marriage, at least originally. However, I am not convinced by the author that this was a true point of weakness in his overall plan because two groups can work together and respects one another even if they do not eat together or marry one another. I believe his overarching points about brotherhood during a time when India needed a great leader was still heard. I liked the story about Bose and his effort to build unity by insisting that a Muslim officer be allowed inside a Hindu temple for a demonstration. I also did some further research and found out that the author of this article is Bose’s grandnephew. The heading of the final portion, “From Union of Hearts to Amputation of Limbs,” really says it all in a very sobering word picture. I would like to learn more about the partitioning of Pakistan and what finally led to that decision. In the past, Hindus and Muslims had been able to come together for national unity, and the author states that this territorial division may have caused more pain to the minority populations than their actual label as minorities. I would be curious to read a first hand account of how this division made Hindus feel, especially those who were forced to relocate. Did the leaders really think that just separating the majority from the minority would solve everything? To me that is like trying to stop the Civil Rights Movement by setting aside Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas as “black” states and forcing African Americans to move there. It just doesn’t seem like a good policy that will actually work.

    Decolonization in India: The Statement of 20 February 1947 by Anita Inder Singh:
    This is yet another piece of the puzzle as to why the British withdrew from India when they did. This article is not about Gandhi and a great social movement that showed Britain how wrong they were for colonizing India. Instead this article shows the “behind the scenes” attempts by the British to bow out in a way that was most beneficial to them and their international image. I’d like to learn more about the mission plan of 1946 that proposed a “union government and legislature” by giving them the dealing with foreign affairs, defense, communications, finance, and fundamental rights to please the Congress (Muslims). It also offered to give all remaining powers to the provinces, to please the League (Hindus). The way the two would work together made sense to me, but the Congress and the League could not agree to the terms and this proposal was thrown out. I wonder if the eventual creation of Pakistan is actually better than this proposal. When I think about how many colonial withdraws occur (through long, bloody wars), the events that transpired in India become even more interesting. There was no drawn out war on battlefields between the British and Indians; in this case, it was a battle of the forms with back and forth negotiations until the British decided to save face and “get out while the gettins’ good!” The discussion of the increase in the number of Indians in high ranking positions was also interesting. The British seemed to realize that if a mutiny occurred, there was little they could do to fight it because many of those in places of power were themselves Indian.

  9. Dylan P. says:

    What I found particularly interesting in Bose’s work was the question of what it means to be Indian. The assertion and common misconception that to be Indian is to be Hindu has created quite a bit of tension between groups in India at between India and Britain. What seems to me to be an issue of outward determination by the oppressive regime can also be seen as a lazy categorizing on the part of the British. Either way, Bose goes to great lengths to parse out the question of “Indian-ness.” Similar to the discussion in Khilnani about meanings of changes in public space and attempts by the British to outwardly define Indian-ness, it is the British that impose the paradigm.
    Several Indian thinkers assert the changing nature of India and its vast diversity, but the need to make such a statement indicates that the damage has already been done. India goes on the defensive to shirk the definition given to the nation by the oppressor. I do of course recognize the inherent problem in my own language that indicates a false monolithic India, but I speak of the diversity not the homogenous conception. In that sense, some Indians use Western thinkers to justify their own independence. My first reaction was that such action would be inauthentic– to use the tools of the oppressor to reject the tools of the oppressor. However, upon a second reading it became clearer that my initial object only holds weight if there is indeed a monolithic identity of Indian-ness. This we see in Bose is not the case, and it is therefore unproblematic to incorporate new ideas, tools, and paradigms into the varied and ever-changing identity of the Indian people.

  10. Jake says:

    In “Decolonization in India: The Statement of 20 February” Singh’s argument attempts to be a corrective to the Whiggish interpretation of the British government’s announcement of the end of colonial rule. In my mind it’s an over-corrective. She goes into often excruciating detail about the political machinations of the final years leading up to Indian independence, for the sake of a seemingly obvious argument: That the British had a weak hand and were not as benevolent as they declared themselves to be. Duh! The article is more interesting when it’s actually describing the litany of ‘administrative weaknesses’: that their empire was stretched thin; they were fearful of the increasing number and strength of popular uprisings; the gradual indianization of the colonial administration; and the British’s bumbling negotiations with both the Congress and the Muslim League. Singh spends the bulk of the article describing these negotiations; how they were botched by the British gov.’s lack of real power to stand behind rhetoric; and how it became increasingly clear to the British government that—despite their strong feelings to the contrary—it would be necessary to disentangle themselves from an increasingly messy situation of their own making.
    The author attempts to write a more nuanced history of the years leading up Indian independence and the British government’s missteps but sometimes gets lost in the minutia, especially for a reader who is not familiar with this particular era or the historiography Singh is implicitly criticizing. My extracurricular sleuthing did help me understand why it was that the Congress and the League were the only two main negotiating partners. The article did help me think about how the logic of the colonial regime led to the British government’s inability to negotiate openly and honestly. Its kneejerk desire to be seen as in control ultimately undermined its authority and legitimacy. The final sentence of the article is the most provocative—and although I agree the British are ultimately responsible for the conflict post-Independence—the author doesn’t really provide the evidence.

  11. Jake says:

    This was my favorite article of the week’s readings, but it is dense and deserves considerable discussion. The article claims that it was in fact the development of a unitary nationalism— a product in large part of British colonialism’s delineation of majority and minority communities—that was responsible for Hindu-Muslim conflict and partition. Sugata Bose argues that the nationalistic fervor that gripped the independence movement(s) at different stages (and who it included and excluded) was far more destructive than religion. In fact, it was at critical moments in the struggle for independence when interfaith actions galvanized the movement.
    The article was at its most interesting when discussing the intellectual history of the movement. Bose deconstructs the sham argument between modernism, rationalism and Western Enlightenment on the one hand, and authentic Indian culture, emotionalism and religion on the other. More precisely, he situates this argument among many and points to the many different ways Indians were constructing their identities. Bose writes: “The category ‘we’ contained a wide range of internal variation which made certain that ‘our’ modernity was never a monolith.” The point is that there is no authentic Indian-ness just as there is no authentic European-ness. We all construct our identities from the driftwood of reality. To be sure, colonialism complicates how the colonized construct their identities, particularly for those trying to seek political alternatives to colonial oppression. Religion was just one way in which Indians constructed their identities and was perfectly compatible with social and political reform. In fact, because of the British government’s ‘tolerance’ or policy of religious freedom, religion became a powerful weapon for social change. Having lived in Belfast I found the comparison to Ireland both fascinating and spot on. Even a cursory discussion of Benedict Arnold’s Imagined Communities might be a good departure point for this class, especially in light of the article, no?

    • Dear Jake. Valid point. India has one billion people of vast linguistic and cultural diversity. Thus creating an “authentic indianness” is a mirage. Also, good point that colonialism affects identitu formation. Love Benedict Anderson. WMB

  12. Jake says:

    I found “India’s Theaters of Independence” both fascinating and unsatisfying. The urban environment as reflection of colonial regime’s impotence; the city space as avenue for subaltern transgressions; the metropolis as text for how India negotiates the dynamism and destruction of globalization. Part Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life, part puff piece. Khilnani raises a lot of interesting questions and answers none. Khilnani argues that many of the urban environments did not truly become cities until independence. That colonialism sought to impose an imperial order on Indian society and it tried to accomplish this through the strict regimentation of the urban environment. While the ‘British city’ was imposed with little resistance, it was also imposed with very little success.
    Because of the broad questions the article raises, I found myself reflecting on how it connects with the other readings. If the Ghandi obituary reads like great man theory where it is the charismatic leader instead of collective agency that propels change, this article almost goes as far as giving agency to the physical environment. The primary character and agent of change is the city itself. The colonial desire to impose its will in every aspect of life is fascinating, but this article—along with the others—shows the ways in which alternative and counter-narratives are always below the surface. Another common theme is how the British taxonomy and regimentation of society be it in religious terms, caste system or the physical environment itself, made more rigid divisions than existed before—laying the groundwork for post-colonial conflicts. The article raises questions about what nationalism is and how it can/ should be embodied? In the age of the mega-tropolis and the ever growing cities in India, does Benedict Anderson’s notion of nationalism—a community that can only be imagined because face to face interaction is impossible—apply to cities as well?

    • Dear Jake, I like your point that “alternative and counter-narratives are always below the surface.” Of course, I LOVE Benedict Anderson. FOR DISCUSSION? What is nationalism? Can we counterpose nationalism versus tribalism? Has the nature of nationalism changed over time?

  13. Jake says:

    The New York Times obituary of Mohandas K. Gandhi was actually really funny. Gandhi is portrayed as a curmudgeonly revolutionary dietitian who just wouldn’t stop fasting. The man just kept not eating and so the British were finally like “okay, okay Gandhi we get it. Here’s your India already.” On a more serious tip, although the article is not a hagiography it is evident that even before his death he was a larger than life figure. Like Martin Luther King jr. he was maligned and despised by many, but whereas it took many years for us to whitewash and depoliticize MLK’s legacy, it appears that the Gandhi caricature was already there at the time of his death. While Gandhi never had the opportunity to visit the United States, for an article titled “The Indian Leader at Home and Abroad” it is interesting that there is no reflection on how his legacy might have resonated in the United States. More baggage that the article carries: From the article, one would think that Gandhi’s activism was sparked not by British colonial oppression, but by the religious oppression of Hinduism. The fact that he was married three times before the age of seven made him the great moral crusader that he was, apparently. The backwardness of Hinduism is of course reinforced in the very first sentence. Somehow the most critical point is that his death came at the hand of another Hindu. The arc of Gandhi’s life was mired in Hindu primitivism. The Hindus married him off at the age of seven and then they assassinated him. Despite his noble dietary proclivities, he could not escape the primitive, warmongering Asiatics. The article does provide good background information on his life, which while somewhat superficial helped be contextualize all the other articles we read.

    • Dear Jake, that is a really funny point. It is like Gandhi fasting is what got India its independence. Very Colbert of you. However, of course, it was the fact that he was the “Father of the nation,” that people even cared about his fasting. The weakness of the article is that it was of course written in 1948, so carries the slant of that time. Gandhi was a controversial figure in life as well as death. He was no saint. He had a lot of flaws. I assume your tone is sarcastic. WMB

  14. Jake says:

    The Political Economy of the Raj. This book review is well written and may or may not be accurate. It is difficult to determine. I agree with the reviewer that political economy is one factor among many, and that is not deterministic, but certainly plays an important part in explaining social change. As President Clinton said, and is oft repeated, “It’s the economy stupid.”

    • Jake says:

      To tack onto what others are saying about the triple imperial commitment, I might add that this a question about debt. In many ways all of the readings have been about debt. Debt is both an economic and a moral concept and the two are wrapped up together. We learned in last week’s readings how economic debt quickly became institutionalized and imposed by the British colonial regime. At the same time this wouldn’t have been possible without moral debt. The indigenous folks were meant to internalize a sense of inferiority and be indebted to Europeans, to their way of life, their wealth, Western Enlightenment. “India’s Theaters of Independence” illustrated how the British meant to impose their culture on the physical environment itself. This question of who owes what to who is really interesting, yeah? The British government might have made the calculation in 1947 that India was longer indebted to them, but what about what they owe India?

    • Dear Jake, yes the article is really short. But you guys were overloaded. I just wanted to put something in about the economy. WMB

  15. Veena says:


    While reading the obituary, I had a tough time separating my own thoughts and opinions of Gandhi from what was written. The obituary touched very briefly at the beginning on what a polarizing figure Gandhi was, but then it did not mention those polarizing effects anywhere else in the article. Gandhi was beloved, yes, but he also alienated a lot of people. At the beginning of his rise to prominence, he was against inter-caste and inter-religious marriages, but by the end of his life, he would attend only those ceremonies; this shift in principles left many people wondering about his stance.
    I found that there was not a lot of continuity throughout the obituary; it seemed to dwell on certain aspects of his life while jumping over large gaps of time. One thing I have never understood, and that the obituary failed to mention, was why Gandhi was named President of the Congress Party. A lot is known and written of his rise to popularity and his messages for the masses, but I still have no idea how he rose to power within the Congress Party itself.
    Another thing I noticed was that the obituary did not fully go into the reasons behind Gandhi’s fasts. In many ways it portrayed him as being a whiny old man who stopped eating to get his way, which we all know to be untrue. There were reasons behind each of his fasts, but the obituary glossed over them. I would have also liked more detail on the salt march; it is one of the most famous aspects of his legacy, and it was hardly mentioned.


    One of the quotes in this article that really stuck with me was “Since the nationalization of the streets and parks began in 1947, India’s cities have changed utterly. They have become the bloated receptacles of every hope and frustration reared by half a century of free politics and exceedingly constrained and unequal economic progress.” It is true that India’s cities have changed dramatically since 1947; to be fair, they have changed dramatically from the time this article was written in 1997. Slums are now prevalent throughout cities such as Bombay and Delhi and are no longer restricted to the outskirts of the cities, and the growth of the middle class has shifted the focus of the cities entirely. I took great personal amusement in reading about mid-1990s Bangalore and comparing it to the city I know today. Bangalore is probably still the most Anglicized city in India in terms of architecture, but the dividing lines that Khilnani mentions between the Tamils and the Kannadigas are no longer in existence. He also touched briefly on how Bangalore was not a big part of the independence movement, which can be attributed largely to its southern location as well as to its large population at the time of retired British generals. Being as far south as it was, and not yet of large national prominence, Bangalore was mostly left alone during the time of the Raj, other than the cantonment area. Bangaloreans lived mostly in peace and were therefore not as concerned with independence as the citizens of Delhi or Ahmedabad.
    I saw a bit of a disconnect in this article. Khilnani spent so much time explaining in excruciating detail the depth of thought and effort that went into the building of New Delhi and Chandigarh and then jumped ship a bit into discussing the modern-day politics of Bombay. I did find the mention of the Shiv Sena’s celebration of youth to be rather amusing, as this celebration is pretty limited to male youths. Shiv Sena is well-known for their actions against women – particularly young women – who commit “inappropriate” acts such as drinking, wearing skimpy clothing, or visiting clubs. I found it an interesting party to mention.


    This review on Tomlinson’s book by Judith Brown was short and to-the-point. Brown deconstructed Tomlinson’s point that India was not only of economic value to Britain, detailing the “triple imperial commitment” that made British presence in India remain favorable. The British had their market for goods and capital, certainly, but India’s importance also lay in its ability to provide an army to be used at Britain’s will as well as its ability to repay interest on the Indian government debts in various forms.
    I was intrigued to read that Tomlinson acknowledged the swiftness with which Britain left India. For such a long time, Britain made no move to abandon ship, so to speak, failing to be convinced by any of the protests, demonstrations, or speeches that their presence was not wanted or needed. And then, all of a sudden, they decided to leave. One wonders if they had not left in such a hurry, would India have been able to form a united nation rather than having to form the separate nation of Pakistan. I realize that is a bit of a loaded assumption, as there were many factors that contributed to the separation of the two nations, but I wonder how much the swiftness of the British retreat helped to contribute to the strife between India and Pakistan. If Britain had stayed for another year or two simply to focus on these issues, would they have been resolved? Or is it really as simple as Hindus and Muslims never being able to live peacefully together under one government?


    I loved the comparison that Nehru drew between India and Italy. The two countries have long been compared to one another as being similar, and reading this reminded me of a great passage from one of my all-time favorite books, Shantaram: “The Indians are the Italians of Asia. It can be said, certainly, with equal justice, that the Italians are the Indians of Europe, but you do understand me, I think. There is so much Italian in the Indians, and so much Indian in the Italians. They are both people of the Madonna – they demand a goddess, even if the religion does not provide one. Every man in both countries is a singer when he is happy, and every woman is a dancer when she walks to the shop at the corner. For them, food is music inside the body, and music is food inside the heart. The language of India and the language of Italy, they make every man a poet, and make something beautiful from every banalite. These are nations where love – amore, pyaar – makes a cavalier of a Borsalino on a street corner, and makes a princess of a peasant girl, if only for the second that her eyes meet yours.”
    I also found interesting the parallel that was drawn between loyalty to a linguistic community versus loyalty to the Indian state as a whole. In many ways each state in India is like its own little country, and trying to unite so many people of varying languages, religions, cultures, and traditions under the banner of a “united” India would have been a major uphill battle.
    At the outset of this article, I was very interested to read about the role of religion in Partition, but along the way I guess I just got lost in the sheer depth and length of it. I enjoyed the comparison to the independence movement in Ireland and wished that had been explored further.
    One of the things I found interesting was the accusation that the Congress Party was not reaching out to the working classes. This is an argument that still exists today against the party, but it is more because of the lengths to which the BJP [opposition party] goes to get the votes of the working classes.
    Probably my favorite part of the article, though, was toward the end: “It required Gandhi’s genius to fuse the love for a territorial homeland with the extra-territorial loyalty of religion in the mass nationalist movement of 1920.” Once again, Gandhi gets the full spotlight, while individuals like Nehru, Bose, Jinnah, and many others are pushed to the back of the stage.


    “The impact of Indianization on the imperial destiny presented itself not in numbers but in the doubtful commitment of Indians to empire.” It is difficult to see the Indian nation as a whole ready to rule itself after having been ruled for such a long time. Before the British, there was the Mughal Empire. Indians were used to being ruled, so it must have been an adjustment for the many Indians not involved in the freedom struggle to find themselves ruled by none.
    I thought this article took an interesting look at the rapidity with which Britain withdrew from India. It touched on the religious aspects of independence and the talks of separating India and Pakistan. It touched briefly on the significance of Viscount Mountbatten being named the final Viceroy of India, mentioning that he was not looking to extend the British rule in India. The appointment of Mountbatten was almost serendipitous, as he was, while maybe not a proponent of immediate independence, at least a voice for allowing Indians to begin ruling themselves. His role in the process of independence should not be underplayed or undervalued; had anyone else been appointed as the Viceroy at that time, it is very likely that India’s struggle for independence would have dragged on for a much longer time.

  16. Dear Veena, good point that both you and another reader have made about the obituary’s odd tone. Of course it was written upon his death, so of a different era. Yes, I also would have liked to hear more about the salt march, but felt I was overloading you with reading already.

    Re khilnani. I agree that the article could have been improved by focusing more on one or two cities. However, I understand that it is hard to do that in such a large country.

    Re economics-very interesting point regarding the swift departure of the British and whether it could have prevented the break off of Pakistan. Then of course, the British were not in India to benefit the residents, were they? They were there for their own benefit. When the costs outweighed the benefits, as it were, they left, leaving wreckage behind. . . .

    Re International-well now that you have recommended shantaram, I guess I have to read it, right? I do love the God of Small things. Have you read it? I have never been to India. Now I need to go. I have been to Italy, however. I feel like I know India through the large Indian presence in East Africa. I can cook chapati and samosa better than African food and my mother got married in a sari. I think the comparison to the Irish independence is VERY KEY, and we should discuss it. Important point that you make that there are always MANY actors involved in social change, never just one. Not just Mandela, MLK or Gandhi. Always a large, diverse group.

    Very important point about Mountbatten. Another factor in social change is that it often occurs when the activists find sympathizers among their “oppressors” or “opponents.” Very good work, Veena.

  17. Dylan P. says:

    I certainly agree with Veena’s point—Singh makes it clear that India was not ready for nor are they the sort of group well suited for large-scale, top-down rule. The Indian subcontinent seems to run much better as a loose confederation with emphasis on regional and village rule. The British, on the other hand, had been very used to ruling colonial holdings. India seems to be a case of two completely different worldviews colliding, and it is clear in Singh’s work that the unstoppable force that was the British Empire was not effectively influencing the immovable object that was the Indian way of life.
    The British were simply not affective administrators of the Indian population. Used to doing things their own way and imposing it onto their colonies, I get the impression that the British never quite figured out how to effectively manage India. They did use many strategies to keep the country subjugated, but it is generally piecemeal and stagger-stepped. And it is the poor management that contributed to the way that the conflict ended.

    • Dear Dylan
      Alternatively, one may think that in fact, the British were pretty clever if they could subjugate a country of many millions with just a few thousand officers. ~WMB

  18. Andrea says:

    My takeaways from this article are Gandhi was a skilled politician and Gandhi was a man affected by his own culture.
    The way Gandhi framed his message of Hindu-Muslim unity was based on a unified sense of values rather than a shared religion. According to Gandhi, every crime perpetrated by Europe “was not religious or spiritual, but grossly, material” while the Hindus and Muslims had “religion and honor as their motive.” His message was about us versus them and materialism verses humility. He structured his message in a way that a skilled politician would. He focused on commonalities rather than differences. As Jordan pointed out in our study group, we often see Gandhi as a humanitarian, but his political skills were a major part of his character.
    Although he used the message of unity in his political method, his personal biases were evident in his opposition to inter-dining and inter-marrying. I appreciate the author acknowledging Gandhi’s own biases and the weaknesses in his approach. This shows that
    Gandhi had to be strongly influenced by the system and culture in which he existed. Even “do gooders” have biases, but Gandhi seemed to be aware of some of his.
    As I embark on my professional journey in public service, it is important for me to be aware of my own personal biases: )

    • Andrea says:

      My post is about the Bose article

    • Dear Andrea
      Good point that Gandhi focused on commonalities rather than differences, but he also kept people focused on getting the British out. Yes, Gandhi had many many flaws, including, in the end, not being able to overcome his prejudices. It is important for us to be aware of our own biases. And furthermore, sometimes we may choose to keep them. ~WMB

  19. India’ s Independence by Sugata Rose, emphasizes the fact that all Indian leaders: Gandhi, Nehru and Subhas Bose, leader of Congress in 1938, studied at the metropolis, London.
    The article establishes a comparison between these foreign educated Indian leaders and Garibaldi, the Italian revolutionary that started the unification of Italy in the 1860’s mostly by taking land from the Church.
    Garibaldi conquests represent the European modern Westphalian ideal of how nation-state’s sovereign interests take precedent over sectarian and religious.
    India’ s nationalism was reactionary against colonialism and intrinsically religious, as demonstrated during the 1857 and 1907 revolts.
    This explains the ideological references to Sinn Fein in Ireland, between Catholic republicans against Unionist Protestants. In other words, scientific modernity imposed religion as a secondary end of the government, which itself was compatible with the whole principle of Indian resistance or Hindu nationalism. The point break was at the balance between the different religious sensibilities of majorities and minorities.
    In my view Gandhi always believed that the Indians only needed to unite, both home and abroad, like in South Africa, that was always Gandhi’s greatest concern, since he always knew that independence was only a matter of time. The II World War brought in the “winds of change” and that is what Gandhi can be credited for: anticipating the moment and preparing India for it.
    Gandhi’ s Tolstoy colony in Durban, like the communes in India, all alluded to the Khilafat morality to cut across the artificial divisions between religious communities, downright to the scriptures, embracing the brotherhood.
    Gandhi sets the example as a Hindu by supporting the religious sentiment of brotherhood for the Musulman world at an all India scale. He did not fear Pan-Islamism as being contrary to the national interest, instead he innocently assumed Turkey or Iraq would unite with Armenians and Curds.
    The Khilafat is however a stratified social order of values, much like the castes, based on the superiority of Bengal, that embodied the spiritual superiority over the west materialism and assumed that there would always be leaders to appease Muslims and Hindus.
    Eventually Gandhi communal model of nationalism moved closer to Congress between the nationalist Unitarian forces and Hindu “majoritarianism”. The constitutional design was felt to deflect the anti-colonial movement. Subhas Bose, understanding how Britain could get caught in between her divisive policies, after the war broke in 1939 started working on rebuilding unit among India’s religious communities, through unit between Congress and Muslim League. That included a joint Hindu-Muslim demand for a provisional national government.
    Partition instead of Union was not at the center to the Punjab until Britain actually conceded. The issue was distribution of power: unitary nationalism was dominated by Hindu “majoritarianism” in the United Provinces and even Hindu “minoritarianism” in the Punjab. The cause of national unit and the subsequent alienation of religious minorities bled off with the dying days of the Raj.

    Mohandas K. Gandhi: The Indian Leader at Home and Abroad, by the New York Times, is an obituary written on the “Mahatma” journey towards India’s independence.
    In London Gandhi felt closer to his countrymen. Although called by the prestigious Inner Temple to become a barrister, he soon realized the British had converted some of the higher Indian castes to their cause and, just like in South Africa, Gandhi felt he could not turn his back on the majority and on the true cause of freedom. But he also realized that the weights on the scale were so disproportionate that the only way to break the gridlock between the two sides was through militant persistence and not violent resistance. He knew that the elephant would only stand up when he felt so but also that change only comes with time. I think that is the secret behind Satyagraha. Violence would only justify further oppression. With the non-cooperation movement Gandhi leaves the British with a sense of insecurity by disobedience, so well formulated in Sun Tzu’s quote “Can You Imagine what I would do, If I could do all I can?”.
    After visiting Lancashire factories, in 1929 already back home Gandhi adopts the spinning wheel as the symbol of India’s economic self-sufficiency. This symbolizes Gandhi’s goal to protect his countrymen from British textile industry exploitation and go back to the simple ways of the traditional Indian cottage industry: once self- sufficient and in harmony with the vegetarian, simple ways of the untouchables. The Untouchables were arguably direct descendants from the original inhabitants, which also plays well with Gandhi’s symbolism of moral superiority and silent power, but naïve as well. It was however successful in attracting the Muslims and Untouchables to the cause but ultimately failed to do the same with the Sikhs and also between Muslims and Hindus.
    His first “civil resistance” initiatives resulted in outbursts of racial violence, like the Salt March. He put great faith on constitutional breakthroughs, like Lord Irwin’s Delhi Pact in 1931 and the elections for the legislative assembly in 1934, then he would give it truce, as if exposing himself to greater danger in vulnerability to attacks from his enemies on the Untouchables question. One might wonder if Gandhi has not tried to become a martyr before his time.
    Gandhi lost momentum in the period of the II World War. His ambiguity by promising not to embarrass the British war effort but also using Nehru as the escape goat in Congress, created a fifth column of resistance, again reinforced by threatening to open India to a Japanese invasion. Those tactics, when the Congress and the Executive Committee were under Gandhi’s control, did not have the habitual resonance and almost isolated Gandhi in prison, accused of blackmail by the British Government. Fastening for his own release, this time that was credited to the fresh arrived Vice Roy.
    This dark period for Gandhi cost him his front stage seat, up to the point where himself defended secession, even against the Congress will.

    The Political Economy of the Raj, B. R. Tomlinson article is a book review by Judith Brown on the English Historical Review, published by Oxford University Press.
    The book offers an alternative perspective on the British rule and final campaign towards decolonization in India. The review was to my point confusing, perhaps because it clearly was one between other book reviews, and perhaps if I have had access to the rest, it might have been easier for me to understand the authors point.
    The author takes on a different approach to economic exploitation as the classical anti-colonialism argument. He argues that economics in imperial politics, take different sides, depending on such factors as monetary fluctuation. And he contends that the traditional approach to British rule over India is tainted by lack of substantiated evidence.
    The author, according to the critic, uses a triple argument to justify India’s significance on the British Empire.
    The point is that Whitehall and the government in New Delhi did not have the same decision making power, which created a difficult balance in stability, added to the fact that the British did not entail a decolonization strategy. Together this led to New Delhi’s constant trailing behind domestic pressure and eventually forced to drop most outbound directives from the capital. At this point, after the II World War, India was simply not able to continue to bail out Britain and serve its purpose as a consumers market and war time net contributor. The article reviewer criticizes the author’s thesis that purely economic reasons justified Britain’s abandonment of India.

    India’s Theaters of Independence, by Sunil Khilnani is a fascinating sociological approach to the role of the main cities in India, as the dynamo for national identity, and how their architecture impacted that nationalism.
    The author starts by explaining the attraction to the big cities and how those populations are growing at fast pace even today.
    Big cities in India are creations of the colonial past.
    The British designed the cities in India to reflect the colonial expression of modern rationality and materialism. The British rule applied to the architecture, expresses a form of utopia, of a unified peaceful reality governed by a ruling bureaucracy.
    Nehru, India first Prime Minister, was the precursor of the city as a symbol and expression of modernity. This seems to be in pure contradiction with Gandhi’s appeal to communal and ancestral communities.
    The fact is that today, India still operates from major cities, overpopulated and oversized.
    Three case studies are detailed in the author’s argument.
    First, the author signals the contrast between pre-colonial cities, like Ahmedabad, where Gandhi started his “Satyagraha”, and the XVII Century ports of Madras, Bombay and Calcutta, concentrating all political and primary sector power.
    Second, the British then upgraded their urban style to military style encampments in the XIX Century that ultimately gave way to the monumental palace-cities of opulence, like New Delhi, in starching contrast with the other pre-existing cities that inspired colonial disdain for their decadent pre-colonial significance, like Murshidabad, Fyzabad and Patna.
    On one side laid the pre-colonial mercantile model of prosperity with relatively low levels of religious conflict, prosperous even long after the advent of the British commercial challenge. On the other side rested the coastal governing cities interfering with that traditional balance between castes and social groups, establishing a public rule and a single order and authority.
    The western modernity wiped out areas of the old cities, leading to mass exodus and the construction of compact slums surrounding the walls of European houses.
    Only a minority adopted and emulated the colonial model, the most part never played or wanted any role on this urban life modernity.
    The rational architects of New Delhi deliberately excluded even the Indian bourgeoisie by residential apartheid, placing them furthest away from the center and down from the “line of climax”. They also cut off the old part of New Delhi. There was a splitting of the communal social bonds.
    This inspired Gandhi to promote his “cross-country” walks between villages to reenact the traditional topography of the towns, instead of the roads and railways. He reinvented nationalist politics out on public spaces in defiance of the Raj.
    Nehru did not refute his roots but pragmatically embraced the city model.
    With Independence and the creation of Pakistan, the largest number of refugees settled in cities, and that effect was increased by the events of hunger and war. Nehru’s city patterns pursued a similar logic of that of the colonialist: to start anew. But unlike the British, the politics in the cities happened in the slums around them, failing to follow an ideal of secularism and modernism. Cosmopolitanism however was best accomplished through secular nationalism, independent of the voice of Congress, in cities like Bombay until 1947, or specifically until the advent of partition. In the 1970’s Bombay started its decline alongside industrial downturn. It’s middle class never left the slums and the poorer are still a time bomb in the outskirts. Reenacting its past, poverty continues to guide interest-based political actions back against socially divided communities. Class struggle in India’s major cities is still fragmented and manipulated by private interests and parties like Shiv Sena.
    Only in the 1990’s a post-nationalist city model was “reinvented” in India, smaller type, nation wide, built around the northern metropolitan highways, ironically boosted by rural surpluses, encompassing both village and city identities. The Caste system politics was however reenacted there. A new type of city emerged from this contradiction: Bangalore, an early British settlement, highly invested in education, particularly technology related. Its breaking ground approach is based on technical and technology skills development, as opposed to traditional sources of wealth and status. This attracted foreign investment and was at the birth of a new generational urban society that thrives on private capital and liberal ideas. Bangalore personified globalization and professional mobility, creating unity and stability in India. How this will impact India’s countryside politicized population and service oriented vectors like Bombay Is a question that shapes India’s current dynamics.

    Decolonization in India by Anita Singh is an accurate report of the unfolding events that led to the British statement on the termination of the Raj.
    The author seeks to show evidence pointing out to the fact that Britain s retreat from India was motivated by their lack of capacity to continue to hold India as part of the Empire.
    Evidence shows that negotiations were pending on the dynamics between three major factors: The Labor Party electoral interests, the conflicting reasoning between Whitehall and the British Administration in India and the British national interest to keep face for the benefit of the sustainability of the Commonwealth in the world.
    Also three major variables had to be managed in these negotiations: the Muslim factor and the British assurance to protect the minorities in India, the embarrassment of abandoning the Sikhs and the uncertain loyalty of the Indians in the civil service and armed forces of the Raj.
    Atlee, who had stolen the elections from the Tories and Churchill after the War, was dealing with a dilemma: accepting the declining situation of Britain in ruins as a world power against the rising of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. But, at the same time, exit the stage, particularly in India, as well as in Africa, without signaling weakness, both for the benefit of the national dignity and the preventing an escalation of conflict in the colonies.
    The British Government struggled from 1919 onto 1948 to try an include the Muslim League in what was later called the ‘constituent assembly” for the interim period of transition before independence. Later Whitehall was forced to change its strategy. The transfer of power to an undivided India proved to be unrealistic, attending to the reality on the ground, between Hindus and Muslims, whereas both had secured majorities in the general and Muslim elections, back in 1945.
    A series of proposals were forwarded by the British to placate that ancient divide, but all were tainted with the British traditional secrecy approach to negotiate on a bilateral style and put the opposing sides facing the “fait accompli”.
    It all suddenly became a race against time and the issue was no longer whether Britain had any preconditions but when would they leave unconditionally.
    Communal violence, the betrayal of the League by the British and the impossibility to move troops from the Middle East to India, precipitated the event to retreat.
    The communications between Commander in Chief Wavell, and later Lord Mountbatten with Atlee and of Atlee with his Parliament were increasingly disparate. The government signaled that the safety of British men was no longer the top priority, overruling Wavell, by pushing forward a strategy that could still prove the impracticability of Pakistan.
    If anything the British reluctance over partition was counter productive, considering their experience in the Middle East in 1917 after the Balfour Declaration.
    When not even negotiations were an option anymore, the British weaved a cunning way out of the conundrum by reluctantly assuming that a one party interim government and constituent assembly would not work but that it was not longer their responsibility, since they finally agreed to issue a withdrawal statement, giving in to all Hindu previous demands, back in during the war.

  20. Mitchell Adams says:

    Gandhi’s obituary helps to shed some light on the life of a man who was of great importance to the nation of India and serves as a symbol of peace to the world even today. However, it includes information that I had not known previously and am surprised to know now. For example, I had no idea that Gandhi was arrested so many times. Also, I find it interesting to imagine a 19-year-old Gandhi living in London, with little money, cooking vegetarian meals for himself in some cheap room. I always imagine him as the old man with glasses calmly sitting or generally doing something peaceful. Considering him as a poor college kid just trying to make it is actually pretty funny. Plus, his stay in London while living with the poor actually helped to define his own mission for Indian unity and independence. After reading so much about the relationship between England and India, I am surprised to see so many connections developing between India’s greatest proponent of peaceful resistance and the nation he was resisting. Then again, this obituary makes it seem like Gandhi was actually willing to work with the British in certain situations throughout his life. I believe that this shows how easy it is to paint conflicts in history with a wide brush and miss the subtleties of what actually happened. After reading this is seems obvious to me that the two sides would have to have significant interaction. It is easy to imagine Gandhi as a beacon of peace, and he is, but it is also important to remember that he was a man who also lived through the day-to-day like everyone else and had to make some tough, inglorious decisions along the way.

    “India’s Theatre of Independence” by Sunil Khilnani shows the inherent difficulty of rebuilding a nation that has been irreversibly affected by an outside factor. In India’s case, British colonialism had so deeply affected the culture and practices of everyday Indian life that, in post-colonial India, the process to establish an independent nation was very difficult. I believe this reading is useful in understanding the notion of positive deviance that is the focus of another class at the Clinton School. According to positive deviance theory, the answer to a problem within a specific community is usually found, some may say counter-intuitively, within said community. It rejects the notion of experts from outside coming into an area and “giving” the answer to a specific problem. As is the case in India, this type of interference is usually not adopted by the community from the earliest stages of attempted implementation. The type of rebuilding that was “given” to India was not a helping, but instead an aggravating factor, that by its own construct was doomed from the start. A nation must be modeled after its people and their beliefs, ideas, practices, histories, and many other factors to have the opportunity to become a land representative of its people. Without that connection, there will always be a certain turmoil. Answers that come from the people are always more likely to be adopted by the people. As city planners from Western Europe came into India, they only continued in the British vein of robbing India of its independence and installing components of a foreign system without roots in the nation. However, the attempts by Indian citizens to display patriotism must not be limited to outward reactions based on pride. Any national rebuilding process is necessarily slow and must incorporate a process by which new means, outside of what had been practiced under colonial rule, develop and lead to positive change.

    Statement of February 20th, 1947:
    In “Decolonization in India: Statement of February 20th, 1947, the author shows an interesting interpretation of decolonization as an event largely dictated by British inability to effectively continue their rule and Indian divisions between religious groups. Honestly, decolonization was Britain’s “way out” of a situation that was turning negative for them. The struggles of India translated to a colony that was not simply a cash cow for the empire but a troubled nation that required actual administrative power to navigate, or take advantage of. Furthermore, the negotiations between the Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh people of India created an environment where effective collaboration within India was nearly impossible. This would be shown by later creation of the Pakistani state. The statement attempts to express the dishonesty of the British and the ineffectiveness of their leadership, but this point should already be very obvious to the reader, if not for a basic understanding of the British-Indian relationship, then the common problems inherent in colonial rule. In an example of their ineffectiveness as rulers, the British helped to establish the deep divisions between the three most common religions in India. Effects such as these can be seen in many colonized states as the colonizing country rarely comes into power with an understanding of the nations culture or practices. The statement helps to complete the picture of why decolonization happened.

    India’s independence:
    In Sugata Bose’s “Nation, Reason, and Religion: India’s Independence in International Perspective, the Indian transition out of colonialism is explained by using political, religious, linguistic, and geographic factors. One of the most complex factors in the transition was religion. The various religious groups within India, namely the Hindus and the Muslims, had largely coexisted before colonialism; however, as the British took control of India, they tended to view their role as spreading Christianity to the “natives.” As with other readings, the paternalism inherent in colonialism is often obvious and seems to frequently result in turmoil between both colonizer and colonized as well as between groups within the colonized nation. Though the crown had given orders in 1858 that no subject was to be mistreated based on their beliefs, the mandate did not seem to hold ground in the sub-continent. As an example of the confusion caused by colonial rule, when the British began creating policies that based political representation on religion, it caused the Hindus and Muslims (which both opposed colonial rule) to develop a rivalry. Because followers of the Hindu faith were more numerous in India, they were given more representation than the Muslims and this political inequality created a tension that bled into religious territory. On another note, there were also many paradoxes in Indian intellectualism that formed because of colonial rule. One such paradox was that of opposing colonialism while also using modern knowledge that was largely defined by the west. In this way, Indian thinkers were faced with the difficult task of separating India from Britain while operating within, or at least while using, the Western intellectual framework. These sorts of internal struggles, created in large part by colonial rule, were greatly affected by Ghandi once his ideas became widespread. It was his teachings that called for unity and gave India its best shot at national unity. However, not even his powerful ideas could completely unify India. India’s transition from pre to post colonialism was very complex and the many factors at play necessitate the type of study found in this piece.

    Economics of Decolonization:
    Tomlinson’s review of “The Economics of Decolonization in India helps to show the complex nature of colonial withdrawal. The Indian economic and political climate during the transition out of colonialism was one factor that caused the British to realize that it was time to decolonize. India’s trouble in continuing to fulfill the requirements of the triple imperial commitment of providing men for the imperial army, purchasing British goods, and paying interest to the British government was a leading factor in their withdrawal and came about for a couple of key reasons. First, it did not make sense for the British to stay in India if they were not receiving the amount of human and fiscal resources that they believed to be necessary. The British were willing to stay in India only so far as the relationship was beneficial to them. Also, the Indian peoples desire to focus on their own internal problems had become obvious and had come to a point where the risk to Britain was not worth the possible reward. This tension between the economic inability of the British to maintain the type of relationship with India that they wanted, coupled with social pressure within India for the British to leave and to solve key problems within their own society helped lead the way towards decolonization. That is not to say that the transition was easy for India. The nation had already been greatly affected by colonial rule and success as a nation would not come from a withdrawal of colonial powers, but instead from the reconstruction of a nation badly damaged and wrought with social, political, and economic problems. This reading shows how complex the rebuilding process of a colonized nation can be and should inform our opinions when approaching nations that are rebuilding.

  21. Andrea says:

    This article demonstrates that there is yet another piece to the Indian decolonization puzzle: The British’s incapacity to continue their rule in India even without agitation from Gandhi. Singh’s interpretation of the British’s withdrawal suggests that the withdrawal was result of a relationship that the British did not see as favorable.
    The division created when there was a lack of cultural understanding and awareness coupled with a desire to rule without a capacity hurt both the British and the Indian citizens. The British wanted to basically save face and the citizens of India were divided further along stringent lines.
    I keep thinking about these reading in terms of service and my place as a public servant. I am definitely not a politician, but I am learning from the missteps the British took in India. I am continuing to learn that as a public servant, I must be able to be culturally aware of the people I am serving. The British regime didn’t seem to give culture much consideration. Also, the British seemed to take a top down approach without giving too much attention to the people they attempted to lead, particularly the marginalized. Additionally, effective leadership and service takes planning, the British seemed to be very week in both of these areas. Lastly, if I am serving a community, I have to ensure that my service does not leave a community strapped, but rather sustained. Exit strategies are important!

  22. Britney Sink says:

    Obituary of Gandhi:

    Gandhi’s obituary served as a quick glimpse into his life, both as a public figure and growing up. While reading, I noted that his father was the Prime Minister of the area where he grew up and he was privileged enough to go study in London. Given his life growing up, despite the three arranged marriages at an early age, Gandhi was notably separated from the people he ended up representing later in life. He led a somewhat “traditional” career path until he was beaten while pushing for Indian rights in South Africa. The idea of “passive nonviolent resistance” seemed to not occur to him until he actually had a confrontation with violence. Once he was subject to violence, it appeared to open his eyes to more real problems than what he was dealing with before and so he changed the course of his life. The obituary says that he was imprisoned several times, but also was a dependable servant of the British government. This is conflicting, and the reading does not go into further detail. Once he went back to India and became a part of the Home Rule Movement and later the Non-Cooperation Movement, his life appears to devolve into imprisonment, fasting, action, and doing it all over again. It notes that he is credited with bringing peace between minorities, restoring sanity to Calcutta, and India’s Independence. However, as I read the obituary, my impression was that if he did not get what he wanted, he just fasted. He had enough followers to cause upset and make the government give in to his wants. Later on, a comment agreed with my sentiments that Gandhi was using “political blackmail” to further his movements. This is unsettling to me, especially with the fantastical ideal of Gandhi that Americans tend to know.

    • Dear Britney, important point that Gandhi grew up separated with the people he represented later in life. I agree that he led a traditional upper class life, and then made a radical break. Yes, the obituary does contradict itself, does is not? Of course, this obituary was written in 1948, so some of the weaknesses you see are a product of that time. ~WMB

  23. Britney Sink says:

    India’s Theaters of Independence:

    The design and lack of actual functionality of Indian cities, as depicted in this article, clearly reflect the colonialist attitude in India: white people are at the top of the hierarchy, and should be cushioned from any and all natives, no matter their caste. Then as the hierarchy goes down, so does the space between the “important” sections of the city and lower caste and peasant Indians. The intention to separate lower castes from everyone else was clear, especially given the lack of transportation to and from city centers during this era. This article does give an example of one active part of Gandhi’s career to serve the people, not just fasting. He went against colonial rules and brought Indian occupations and nonviolent protests front and center of the Raj. Did Nehru think through his idea to create a city that would be “symbolic of the freedom of India” by enlisting a non-Indian white man with an elitist attitude to design the place? The reaction of the people to the stark, geometric design and separation of everyday Indians from the higher ranks is clear by the author’s comment that today very little of the city is used as originally intended. Indians also found ways around restrictions by cramping together in city slums, which I would not consider a better situation by any means. Although independence was a monumental occasion for the citizens of India, the continued mindset of high rank Indians and separation of city areas and working people indicates how much further the country had to grow. Through the discussion and explanations of the various cities through India, the article also shows that people’s original attraction to the happening, vibrantly growing cities has waned, and people are happy to live elsewhere, even distaining what the cities have come to symbolize.

    • Dear Britney, I thought it was the apex of insanity that the British felt the need to physically represent the hierarchy of the colonists over the indians in architecture. But it is also funny, while simultaneoussly tragic. An interesting corollary of this in America today is the idea of a dead inner city surrounded by rings of wealthy suburbs. Luckily, this trend is changing as young people want to be near the “action” and revive the old city. Kudos to President Clinton for helping revive Harlem, and indeed, east Little Rock.

      Frankly, I think in a way, this article was one of the best I selected. It had such a rich set of information about so many things, including Gandhi, Nehru, cities, villages, architecture, hierarchy, partition. I like it even more now that we have discussed it. Good work.


  24. Britney Sink says:

    The economics of decolonization in India:

    This article was eye opening in discovering India’s value to the British during the Raj. The idea of the “triple imperial commitment” brings much more understanding to me about the “behind the scenes” reasoning for keeping the Indians under colonial power. Even more interesting to me is the idea that India’s decline in ability to provide all three is what dictated its overall value to Britain. In India acting as a market for British goods, it served as a provider of resources (obtained through unsafe methods and sometimes in opposition to basic human rights of lower caste Indians), which would then be processed elsewhere and sold back to the Indian people as consumers. In this way, Indians served two critical aspects of making more money for Britain. In addition, I have never thought about the meaning of India’s contributions to Britain’s empire during World War II, but now see that any upset in interaction there could cause problems elsewhere, such as in the British fighting the Japanese. India provided an army for Britain’s use in other parts of the world, but then began to push back, especially in supporting democratic initiatives in Japan. This only makes sense because Indians would be fighting for something elsewhere that they have not achieved on their homeland. Finally, India became less necessary to the British cause over time because they had already paid for many of Britain’s debts and were declining in value as a market for British goods. The reading indicates that economics are only one piece of the decolonization puzzle, but the driving causes resonate with Britain’s policies and final pull out of India.

    • Britney,

      good point that India provided an army for Britain’s use in other parts of the world but began to push back. I think that the return of soldiers from colonies and from segregated areas in the US played a key role in the massive wave of social change we saw erupt in the 1950s and 60s across the world and across America. Imagine the irony of being asked to fight for “freedom” for Europeans while being oppressed in your own home. ~WMB

  25. Britney Sink says:

    India’s Independence in International Perspective:

    This reading shows how much of a defining factor religion can be in any situation, much less a tense, colonized land such as India. Nationalism also comes into play, and the overture of religious doctrine within nationalism, which led to the Muslim League advocating for a separate state from India altogether. All of this brings about the question of where religion fits in nationalism, if anywhere. The article speaks to the caste system and strict rejection of inter-caste marriages among Hindus, and Gandhi’s original belief along those same lines. However, Gandhi seemed to change his course of thought (yet again) and support inter-caste marriages above all others. I am unsure about Gandhi’s intentions shown, not only in this article, but his obituary and others, that he originally thought in a very conventional manner for the time, and began to open up to more controversial ideas over time. One of his fasts was to bring together Hindus and Muslims in unity, even declaring several sayings to be incorporated into both religions to show mutual support. However, this was one situation in which Gandhi’s threat to starve himself was ineffectual to the overall conflicts between Hindus and Muslims. An interesting point in the article is Jawaharlal Nehru’s question of “religion versus religious,” especially as an Indian leader. Although not religious at all, Nehru’s point of view is intriguing among the fight between “rational” and “national” reform lines. Others respected religious difference among Hindus and Muslims living in India, but wanted India’s independence to create one state and prevent division into a separate Pakistan from India. As we know from history, Pakistan exists, and relations between Hindus and Muslims are not always friendly. The idea to separate into different states, similar to religious issues in the Middle East, does not appeal to me as a sustainable option, given that despite separate states, issues can still arise, not all of one religion may leave the home they have known for decades, and most likely fighting will only continue. Another complicating factor is the overall need to unite to fight British rule. The British felt that they could not leave the minorities in India to their own devices after independence, and wanted an agreement set up before leaving. However, the Muslim League and the Indian Congress Party wanted very different outcomes.

    • Dear Britney,

      I think you have raised a key issue, which is how nationalism interplays with religion. This is an issue that is emerging in Egypt. Gandhi’s social progression really reminds me of Malcolm X. The longer the leaders became active in the movement, the more thoughtful they became. Both really made big changes in their views in their lifetime. Malcolm X had less time to do it, because he was younger when assassinated. I personally feel bitter about the creation of Pakistan, and the hand Britain played in it, but what can be done? ~WMB

  26. Britney Sink says:

    Decolonization in India- The Statement of February 20, 1947:

    This article creates a better understanding of the history behind the Statement of February 20, 1947. The varying degrees of insistence at different levels of the British government are indicative of the fact that decision makers were unaware of the reality on the ground in India. It is thought provoking that leaders continually tried to assert to powers in Britain that they needed to pull out sooner than expected, yet did not devise an actual plan for decolonization in India. I wonder if Indians were aware of the British’s lack of ability and resources to control the country, or if they were so used to their presence that they did not notice. One question that I thought of while reading this and some of last week’s articles is about the interplay between British head officials in India, and India’s own National Congress Party that Gandhi was a part of, the Muslim League, and any other power-holding institutions of the indigenous population. How much power did these parties have while the British were there? Were they constantly fighting with the established colonial power, or working with the system framework to achieve their agenda? Once it was decided that the British would leave India, the main concern for them seemed not to be about minorities and religious issues in India that could potentially make the entire country explode, but about the view of Britain as a world power after they leave. They wanted to ensure their departure would not be viewed as a weakness to others, which could thereby threaten other parts of their empire. It was the late 40s after World War II, when it was important to keep up appearances among the big players on the world stage. If it had been a different decade, would the same reasoning determined how they left or would it have mattered less? If it were today, given active social media and instant information, there would be no way to hide Britain’s weaknesses and could even instigate a call for their removal.

    • Dear Britney

      excellent point that decisionmakers were unaware of the reality on the ground in India. Even in this day of instant communication, in my view, there is no substitute for going somewhere and checking it out. Hence the crucial nature of fieldwork, or IPSPs. I mean, I think that in general colonial powers do not want or plan to decolonize, and only do it when they have to. I am glad you are asking good questions about the political parties. I do not know the answers, because I am not an India expert, but it shows me you are really thinking about the material. Excellent. ~WMB

  27. jessonnf says:

    Gandhi Obituary

    Entering this course with only a passing familiarity with the independence movement in India, the thing that I found the most surprising after reading Gandhi’s obituary was his direct political influence. I’d always known that Gandhi had extraordinary influence as a social leader of the Indian people, but his obituary made it clear to me that his influence went far beyond that. Frequently Congress trusted him with a great deal of political responsibility, and it seemed as if even when he wasn’t directly in charge he was still helping guide Congress behind the scenes. This usually isn’t the case with those leading protest movements, which led me to start thinking about why that was. Over the course of history social leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela (before he was President) led protests against the system in place, but they were not nearly as involved in formal government functions as Gandhi was. Part of this has to do with the nature of the Indian government of the time. Gandhi usually wasn’t protesting the actions of the Indian Congress, he was protesting the actions of the Raj. And the Indian Congress was not merely a tool for the Raj, it was independent enough to take some action on it’s own. While other civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. lobbied the government to take action, Gandhi was the one taking action on behalf on Congress. I think this is one area of Gandhi’s work that often goes unappreciated. Americans tend to think of Gandhi as someone that fasted or led a few peaceful protests to get things done, when really there was a lot more to his work than that.

    Decolonization of India: Statement of February 20, 1947

    The thing that surprised me most about the British being so hesitant to let India rule itself, was their preoccupation with the precedent it would set for it’s other colonies around the world, as well as such a simple thing as worrying that it would damage their reputation as a world power. To me, these seem like fairly superficial reasons for not withdrawing from a country where you have worn out your welcome. I had always assumed that the reasons the British wanted to hold onto India were much more concrete than that, whether they were economic or militaristic. Yet wanting to still seem like a superpower seemed to be at the top of the list for reasons they wanted to keep the Raj in place. It’s hard to define exactly when Great Britain stopped being a world superpower, though shortly after World War II they were probably concerned with this question. And they were worried that if they backed out of India other colonial countries would start trying to get them to do the same across Africa and the Middle East. In fairness, as it turns out, they were at least somewhat right about that. And the British were not concerned with whether India would be able to sustain itself and rule on it’s own, so much as they were with whether it would look like they would be able to. This is an important distinction, because the British didn’t want to be blamed if and when things went wrong. Their intentions weren’t noble, they were merely worried about whether they would look bad back home, and abroad.

    Economics of Decolonization of India

    This book review does a nice job of trying to explain Britain’s withdrawal from India in concise a manner as possible. It explains the “Triple Imperial Commitment,” and after reading it I pictured a British bureaucrat around 1946 reading the commitment, reading the latest news about India, and having an “Aha!” moment, realizing that the colonization there no longer made sense, then sharing this information with everyone he knew, which led to India’s independence. Of course there was more to it than that. The economic factor cannot be ignored when discussing the decolonization of India, but as Brown points out, “Congress, civil disobedience, and even Gandhi receive scant attention.” I think this brings us back to a larger, more interesting point, of the desire to explain historical events as succinctly as possible. This happens throughout history. One of the questions that always drove me crazy in high school history courses was “What was the cause of X?” Whether X was the American Civil War, Revolutionary War, World War I, and on and on, there was such a strong desire to explain huge historical happenings with one or two sentences. This is almost never the case. There were many, many reasons for each of those events, just as there are many different reasons for India’s decolonization. It cannot simply be answered with “Gandhi,” or “The triple imperial commitment was no longer being fulfilled.” There aren’t many events that can be explained in one or two sentences, and those events are closer to being along the lines of “Why did I eat lunch today? Because I was hungry, I suppose,” than explaining historical events that were decades or sometimes centuries in the making.

    India’s Independence in International Perspective

    This article touches on the evolution of Gandhi’s views, especially regarding the caste system. In 1920, Gandhi wrote,

    “If brothers and sisters can live on the friendliest footing without ever thinking of marrying each other, I see no difficulty in my daughter regarding every Mahomedan a brother and vice versa.”

    Of course it doesn’t take much to point out the fallacies in Gandhi’s logic here. And by this point Gandhi had already embraced many of the facets that grew to define him, his non-violent approach, his desire for Muslims and Hindus to live in a united India. But at this point in his life, when he was already being addressed as “Mahatma” he was defending a system that he later grew to regard as tragically unjust. It’s interesting the way the way that some very important social leaders have had their point of view evolve on such important issues. Malcolm X went through an even greater transformation. We look back at these changes in heart as great steps forward for both of these men, but in American politics today we view such changes with extreme skepticism. Everywhere he goes Mitt Romney needs to explain why he said he was pro-choice in 2002, and is now pro-life in 2012. This stretches back further than just this Republican primary season as well. In 1968 many Democrats refused to support Hubert Humphrey, because he had been the “Happy Warrior” defending the Johnson’s administrations actions in the Vietnam War. When Humphrey decided that he would no longer support the Vietnam War, Democrats viewed his change of heart as insincere, even though he’d railed against it only five years earlier, before it was popular to do so. Many citizens changed their mind about the war in that time frame, but for some reason consistency has become such a virtue that we end up supporting those that don’t look critically at their own beliefs, and we suffer for it.

    India’s Theater of Independence

    The author writes at length about the naming of roads, and how many cities ended up with many of the same names, in an attempt to be as patriotic, or nationalist as possible. This lack of coordination in oversight is kind of emblematic of some of the problems India faced early on in building a nation. India didn’t have an experienced enough government infrastructure to run the nation on it’s own, without oversight from Britain. Naming of streets after patriots has long been a tradition in the west, and India decided to follow that example in this regard. Having grown up on Lincoln Ave, with the cross street of Jefferson, I’ve seen this firsthand here in the United States. I guess the reason we name streets after public figures is because of the permanence that they seem to have. The feeling that your children will grow up on the street named after historical figures. In reality streets are named in the United States and changed only a few years later, depending on new, more popular figures, or news that can tarnish whoever the street has been named after. In Minneapolis the street next to the Metrodome where the Minnesota Twins played was named Kirby Puckett Place, only to be renamed after he’d been accused of sexually assaulting his wife. Such is life.

  28. Mark Eastham says:

    1. Gandhi’s obituary presents an overall glimpse of the extraordinary life of one of the world’s most unique and dedicated leaders. Many aspects of this piece intrigued me. Most notably, Gandhi’s own experiences and development as a leader, his implementation of his ideals, and his steadfastness to achieving not only political, but also social and religious harmony and autonomy in British controlled India. As a peaceful leader of nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi’s ability to change the tide of political and social unrest amazed me. I can relate only very few historical cases to Gandhi’s ability to change the hearts and minds of people through the act of self-inflicted pain. It is interesting to me that Gandhi could, in this way, call for caste unity and equality of the untouchables, reforms by the ruler of Rajkot, and peace between violently conflicting Hindus and Muslims. Gandhi could instigate change, and call for the rise of good over evil, simply by inflicting suffering (and potentially death) on himself. I call this a true benevolent cult of personality, which Gandhi many times used to lead a young India to positive, meaningful, and sincere change. It is unfortunate that, even with Gandhi’s myriad of efforts, cultural unrest, violence, and destruction continued after Gandhi’s death. It is ironic that the great leader could temporarily stop violence between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, but when Gandhi died, the fighting continued. It is a shame that Gandhi’s acceptance of all casts, religions, and peoples could not have effectively trickled down to all levels of Indian and Pakistani society.
    2. Khalini’s introduction immediately reminded me of sub-Saharan Africa. The author did not do this by referencing the continent, the people, or the political governments that rule them. Rather, the reference to the Municipal Council’s effort to nationalize the names of all the streets and the parks. This draws parallels to my times living in Malawi. In the country roads named after Malawi’s first President Hastings Banda are omnipresent in both the capital city and others. I remember seeing a major highway renamed to “Robert Mugabe Highway,” in honor of the longtime dictator of Zimbabwe. It came as no surprise that current President Bingu Wa Mutharika had a personal farm in rural Zimbabwe. Although this has contradictions to the example given by Khalini, which shows the Municipal Council’s trouble in finding one street to honor the courageous and dedicated leadership of Gandhi, it does symbolize the theme of national pride in post-colonial world. In addition to this contradiction is Nehru’s aim to use urbanization to move India to the modern world. It was interesting to me to see the issue of finding an urban entity to honor the placid and loin cloth wearing Gandhi, then to see the efforts of Nehru to move India to the modern world away from its traditional rural make-up to a more Western, cosmopolitan societal atmosphere. It seems odd that, after receiving independence led by a man holding a cane and using a spinning wheel, Indian leadership felt the need to urbanize and modernize to mirror its former colonial occupier.
    3. Brown’s review of “The Political Economy of the Raj, 1914-1947. The Economics of Decolonization in India” links together economics to British colonial subjugation in India. I found it interesting when Brown referenced that linkages between economic changes and imperial policy will remain unclear until the lower “layers” of the official mind are investigated. Alongside with the study of events in India’s colonial history, a better and more full understanding of the British raj. From this, Brown points out the deep and muddled nature of the complex bureaucracy of British rule. I found the fact that the author felt Britain could secure her economic and strategic interests better with an alliance to a free Indian subcontinent. They had stopped efficiently contributing to the triple commitment of purchasing British goods, providing men for the Imperial army, and paying interest to the British government. Also notable is the fact that India ran up a huge balance with Britain because the country decided to contribute to Imperial defense. This is ironic as India was fighting for Britain. I asked myself, shouldn’t this have been the other way around? Even so, this balance ensured Britain that a free India would pay its debt and continue to contribute to the British economy. Brown points out that economics is only one part of the history of British imperialism but it still brings up an important point – nationalist movements were not the sole contributors to decolonization.
    4. Bose’s “Nation, Reason and Religion: India’s Independence in International Perspective” points out one of the major sources of conflict, confusion, and cultural divides during and after Indian colonial rule. Religious conflict is interesting in Indian history because it was constant and remained after the Quit India campaign had succeeded. I was immediately captured by Partha Chatterjee’s reference to Kant so as to support reason in the service of reform. Chatterjee sites Kant’s idea that “to be enlightened is to become mature, reach adulthood, and stop being dependent on the authority of others.” Chatterjee’s reference to Kant is used in an attempt to support the ideas of Renade, a scholar set against the revivalist mindset, who believed that to revive ancient Indian tradition would be to bring back old, non-sustainable ways of living. I feel that Renade’s ideals were in tune with the post-Gandhi political mindset of Indian nationalism and progressive government. In some ways Renade portrays the view that modernization, or westernization is the way forward for India. I am sure that Renade and Gandhi would disagree on the fundamentals of social change and it was interesting to see Renade’s view of reform in light of learning about Gandhi’s minimalist approach to Indian nationalism.
    5. Sigh’s article titled “Decolonization in India: The Statement of 20 February 1947” brings to light parallels with many other historical examples of the pattern of British decolonization around the world. I believe Stan’s comment earlier, stating that the British wanted to “save face by creating the perception that they were leaving on their own terms” holds much truth. In response, many cases such as in Egypt, Kenya, and Zimbabwe where nationalism movements emerged, the British made self-conscious efforts to leave the colonized country when the country was “ripe for independence.” This paternalistic pattern of colonial domination benefitted Britain in several ways. It made the colonial power look like a leader in cross-cultural equality, in spreading democratic independence around the world, and in preventing future conflict (although in many cases colonial rule only created cultural divides that lasted for years in the future and contributed to much political and social conflict).

    • Mark, prepping for class, will reply later. WMB

    • Dear Mark, Gandhi is a great example of how “theory” influences practice. He was influenced by other social thinkers, such as Tolstoy as well as Thoreau. He also created his own theory, “satyagraha”. His methods have been used widely and successfully, in other activist movements including the civil rights movement in the US, and most recently, the Arab Spring. I agree that is work on changing caste relations was some of his best. Good work.

      Of course, before he was a dictator, Mugabe was a freedom fighter. There is no question his work led to the end of apartheid, and helped free South Africa. He has turned into a nasty dictator, but there is a story of the corruption of leadership in that, as well. Many “freedom fighters” become oppressive, and some true “freedom fighters” such as the Mau Mau, are not recognized at all. Very sad. Renaming streets does symbolize post-colonial pride. Nehru’s actions raise the issue of what it means to “modernize.”

      Mark, Bravo, you got the most important thing out of that article: nationalist movements were not the sole contributors to decolonization.

      The Bose article was a tough read, but raised important points about religion. Good point that people can disagree on the fundamentals of social change, and can also disagree about what elements were most important in creating the social change in one country.

      Thanks for some good insights.


  29. Katie Milligan says:

    Katie Milligan
    Journal #2

    Obituary of Gandhi

    The obituary truly tells a story of an incredible man. I think this was a great article to include in the readings. It offers clear insight to how the non-violence movement played out in India. Gandhi’s personal history allows for an explanation of his ability to cross cultural and class lines. It is interesting to see how the very system he fought against (the British) helped create his social class through his formal education. The foresight to use nonviolence to achieve his political goals was genius. The manipulation of the corrupted political system to achieve change is often “dumbed-down” in American explanations, but this article does a better job of explaining the intricacies of Gandhi’s method. Gandhi’s fasting was a risky method to bring peace; it heavily relied on the compliance of many sides in order to save his life. Without his formerly established political power, his methods would have very likely ended in failure. I think the article also does a good job of putting Gandhi’s movement in a global context. The section on the forced participation of India in World War II was particularly interesting, often times colonies are forgotten in favor of the empire’s role in major conflicts. I enjoyed that the article brought in very specific and personal facts about Gandhi’s life. Facts about Gandhi’s marriage at thirteen, drinking orange juice to break a fast, and his personal feelings towards Hitler made him seem more life-like, more real, and less like a historical figure. I also think the author’s comment about Gandhi representing India to the West is completely correct; I cannot think about India without thinking about Gandhi, even sixty-four years after his assassination.

    India’s Theater of Independence

    The creation of public space and use for political movements is something I think most of the world takes advantage of having. In every social movement of the late 20th/early 21st century the imagery is the same, thousands of people protesting in a city plaza or marching through wide avenues. I loved that this article explained the colonial imposition down to the very design of India’s city streets. I like how the article explained divide between cities that the British established and those that were already in place. The modernization of cities and growth of urban areas was so intricately planned by the British. In many ways, strategically creating cities with specialties would assist the British in maintaining control. Cities that were used for economic and military purposes could be placed geographically far away from one another, isolating power in providences and maintaining a divided India. I thought it was very poetic, and strategic, for Gandhi to rise to power in Ahmedabad. The explanation of how the city could not be classified as “British wealth vs. Indian slums” was appropriate for Gandhi’s mission of crossing cultural and caste lines. As with all colonialism, it is disappointing to think about the stagnation the British had on the promotion of Indian culture. The article talks about the lack of “Indian architecture” which is an obvious result of British rule for approximately three centuries. The article showed how involved the British were in planning the growth of India, while striving to maintain cultural and political power.

    The Economics of Decolonized India

    This book review reiterates what this assignment of articles teaches us. The struggle for Indian independence and the willingness of the British to allow a free India was not a simple issue. The reviewer simply criticizes Tomlinson’s book without giving enough credit that economics was a major factor in the decisions leading towards independence. The atmosphere for Indian independence had to be carefully created, which was assisted greatly by the failing British economy. I agree with the idea that Indian independence was gained heavily by the “perfect storm” of factors. I do think that economics is an easier explanation than most. I think the British response to the changing social climate in India during the 1940’s can be best summed up with, “The British did not have any long-term decolonization strategy…” I find that rarely does an imperial power create a way to leave a country they have ruled for three hundred years. This statement does help explain the poor choices the British made in reaction to Indian demands. It is interesting to think of how differently India’s struggle for independence would have been/would have happened at all if the British economy was not weakened by war efforts and rebuilding the European economy. Would India still be under British rule and therefore a member of the European Union? How differently would global politics be with an explicitly Western controlled country in the Middle East? What would have happened with the creation of Pakistan?

    India’s Independence in International Perspective

    I think this article was confusing in the ability to draw the religious parallels between England and India. Both countries obviously have religious significance tied in with their governments, but the similarities end rather quickly. India’s struggle for independence was delayed on the basis of political power being concentrated in religious groups and the opposition between the two. I thought it was interesting to see how England grew out of the “religious imposition” with the spread of Darwinism, while the colony remained heavily entrenched in religious turmoil. The separation gives a very real picture of the West-East differences of culture and traditions that still exist today. Our country seems to fight a modern battle in regard to religion. Conservative Christians are still closely tied with a specific party and issues concerning the separation of church and state remain a hot political topic. This all pales in comparison to the issues of India, where religious groups encompass cultural and ethnic identities. I do think the article portrays how strongly people tie themselves to religion. It seemed as though the citizens could not identify as truly “Indian” under British rule, but could relate to their religious practices, beliefs, and regional influence. I believe that a weakness in Gandhi’s movement, remaining tied to social religious stigmas, damaged the ability for Muslims and Hindus to reach an agreement that would have pacified the British prior to 1947. It is an important lesson to take into future turmoil between two groups, especially concerning those in the in the Middle East.

    Decolonization in India: The Statement of 20 February 1947

    I wish this article had been the first assigned to put Indian history into context. This was the most clear and concise explanation of the events preceding independence. It brought in the global atmosphere during the time, the reaction of the British to demands, and the complexities regarding Muslim-Hindu power dynamics. The struggle for political power and influence helped explain the development of Pakistan. I thought the section on the rise of Indian public servants was a good indicator of how the political tide was turning before independence. The British were steadily losing control as more Indians gained public servant positions and influence. It seems natural that those in power would be opposed to the oppressors that stagnated the growth of their nationalism and culture. It does highlight the desperation in part of the British to try and maintain power. The British do not come out favorably at the end of this article. It is obvious that the British are not innocent in their transfer of power to Indians. I thought that this was the most honest account of how the British responded to the request for Indian independence. I used this article as a reference to the other articles, which was incredibly helpful.

  30. Stan says:


    Reading Gandhi’s obituary provided for me a much-needed background on the life of the revolutionary Indian leader. I must admit that my knowledge of his life as well as of Indian history in general is very rudimentary and I learned a great deal about both in reading this article.

    Something I was not aware of was Gandhi’s substantial work and time spent in South Africa as a lawyer and activist within the Indian expatriate community there. His work and experiences there clearly shaped what would later become his nonviolent approach after his return to India.

    Something I learned of and found very interesting were the interactions between India and the British during World War II. The war gave India greater leverage as its cooperation was needed for the war effort, as the threat of a general strike would have great implications for the production of military resources. I had also never thought of the possibility that India might not be so opposed to a Japanese invasion – effectively trading one occupier for another but perhaps a more favorable one.

    I was also not aware of his work to promote the causes of the untouchables and minority religious groups in India. His dedication to these causes demonstrates to me his commitment to all of humanity, rather than just a struggle for India’s independence.


    Khilnani’s article followed the transformation and development of India’s great cities after India’s independence was gained in 1947. It was exciting to read of a time of rebirth in which India took control of the traditional colonial cities and sought to recreate them to better reflect their cultural preferences. It was humorous to read of the frantic renaming of roads and parks – making the cities more difficult to navigate for a time. I also find it interesting how the traditionally rural life most Indians shared before British colonization affected the remodeling of these cities.

    I also learned a bit about the backgrounds of many of India’s best-known cities. For example, the cities of New Delhi, Madras, Calcutta, and Bombay emerged as extensions of British imperial power and ambition, while cities like Ahmedabad enjoyed a greater sense of independence, both culturally and economically. The case of Ahmedabad was particularly noteworthy and struck me as a possible case of positive deviance as it maintained a religiously diverse yet peaceful culture of its own. To me, it goes to show that the greater financial security people have, the less likely they are to have tension or violence based on race or class. Finally, I did not know that Ahmedabad was Gandhi’s political center of operations.

    I also found it interesting to read about the contrast between India’s economic, religious, and administrative cities. This made me think of some United States cities such as Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City, and Detroit that fall into similar categories.


    Tomlinson’s review of The Political Economy of The Raj was very interesting to me as it introduced me to a potential element that may have contributed to the withdrawal of the British from India in the 1940s that I had never considered.

    The book asserts that changing economic conditions may have altered the appeal that India held to the British empire by hindering India’s ability to fulfill the “triple imperial commitment” of serving as a market for the British, providing a pool of potential conscripts for the British army, and servicing its debt. These changes were brought about by both international and domestic economic changes, such as war, inflation, global economic crisis, and the juggling act played by India’s own government attempting to satisfy both the British and its own people. The situation eventually deteriorated to a point that it made more sense for the British to leave.

    This take on the reason for the British withdrawal from India goes against my limited perspective and assumption that the withdrawal was brought about predominately as a result of the nationalist movement in India and wavering support for British colonial practices back home. While it is obvious that the end of British rule in India cannot be attributed to just one perspective or another, this reading has broadened for me the overall set of circumstances that each must have played a role in the ultimate establishment of India’s independence.


    Bose’s article helped outline another aspect of the Indian independence movement that I was not aware of – that of the role the different religions played in the political struggles that occurred both during and after the rule of the British Raj. It was interesting to consider how Indian religious groups – namely the Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs – coexisted relatively well during the British rule. The greatest rifts seemed to develop in the time immediately leading up to Indian independence and the period thereafter. The British rule seemed to serve as a stabilizer to any sort of religious conflict and upon its unwinding greater tension surfaced as minority religious groups sought to strengthen their representation and protection in a new government. It seems to me that the British presence in India provided all indigenous groups there a common enemy for which to rally together in opposition. With the British out of the picture, the conversation turned from an outside occupier to contentious differences between the different religious groups in India.


    Singh’s article outlines the great and increasing difficulty faced by the British in the last throes of their reign over India. This article was similar to Tomlinson’s to me in that it indicated the British withdrawal from India was more a product of harsh realities that forced the British into choosing the least worst option available to them from a shrinking list of possibilities rather than the result of a sweeping nationalist movement or a change of heart on the part of the British.

    The article suggests that successive breakdowns in the capacity of the Indian civil service and armed forces institutions to uphold British authority, along with the collapse of political negotiations designed to foster the development of a self-governing India suitable to the country’s Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh groups, forced the British into declaring an effective withdrawal date. This action was an attempt to save face by creating the perception that the British were leaving on their own terms, as the British were becoming increasingly aware that they would not be able to prevent Indian parties from seizing power and running them out of the country themselves.

    After reading this article, I am interested to learn more about the negotiations between the main Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh groups, and the ultimate two state solution that produced independent India as well as independent Pakistan.

    • Dear Stan,

      Glad you got something about the obituary. It is not the “best” account of his life, but it shows us how contemporaries saw him, which is informative. I am certain that his time in South Africa was life changing for him.


  31. Matt Lyon says:

    I found the obituary interesting in a few ways. Firstly, the impression of Gandhi as a man of morals, ideology, and passive resistance doesn’t seem to be fully correct-even in an obituary. I had not realized how politically connected and cunning he was. That he was using WWII as a wedge between India and Britain was interesting. Threatening to ally himself (and therefore India) with the Axis showed his pragmatism. The article relies heavily on his fasting as a means to an end. It almost made him seem like a petulant child who knew that his tantrum would result in his desired outcome, that he had even been conditioned to respond with a fast every time something displeased him. Looking back, it is easy to see successful rabble rousers as righteous and commendable, but I would not be surprised if, at the time, he had many critics of his outbursts. Walking to the sea to obtain your own salt? The article gives a nice mix of personal steadfastness as well as his political maneuverings.

    • Dear Matt,
      You are correct. Gandhi had many flaws. He was indeed a political genius. I am not an expert, but his threat to ally with the Axis was both pragmatic, yet unsavory. I like the idea of the fast as a political “tantrum.” Great insight. ~WMB

  32. Matt Lyon says:

    The economics of decolonization of India
    This book review seems to be skewed immediately by the authors of both the book and the article’s association with British universities. One may argue that the British have a unique perspective of their own colony and its decolonization, but it certainly doesn’t make for objective academia. I must admit that I know little about the British Raj and its demise, but it seems that we may be missing parts of the story. The article does admit that there is much unknown about the economics of the Raj, and that statistics are scant. The triple imperial commitment of a new market, military might, and debt reduction are surely aspects of the economics of the Raj. Why exactly is India the one who is committed? How can a colony be committed to its colonizer? Shouldn’t Britain be committed to India’s growth in civility, or whatever other excuse it gave for colonizing in the first place? This is a short article that reviews a book, so maybe the questions I ask are answered within the text.

    • Dear Matt, this is a good point about “objective academia.” Conversely, however, academia is NEVER objective. I really LIKE the questions you posed. Now we are getting somewhere. ~WMB

  33. Folks, it is REALLY hard for me to respond when you put all comments in one place. Can you please break up the comments? ~WMB

  34. Trish says:

    “India’s Theatre of Independence”- Sunil Khilnani

    Khilnani does justice to explaining the complexities of the development of urban centers in India, not that I am an expert as I have never been to the country, but the depictions are easily understood nonetheless. The colonial cities, like many I have experienced, functioned as centers for commerce and easily accessible points of embarkation for the military and transportation. The design of these cities, as replicas of cities from the colonial homeland including hierarchical structuring of neighborhoods, as Leslie pointed out, functioned almost as mirages to behold, but never to reach for the lower castes, even the lowest, the Untouchables. On the other hand, Bangalore, for example, appears to have modernized itself, defying the pattern of developing from colonial design and history. Neither is there nostalgia for pre-colonial development constructs, but rather the effort of global citizens to recreate their city as their own.
    I concur with Leslie in her consideration of why one group of people, in this case the British, can’t be satisfied with their own achievements but rather feel impelled to cast judgment towards and disseminate their culture on others. This trend of modernization for the advancement of society continues today in Turkey, as exemplified by this quote from the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan ,“With the new convention centers, sports and cultural centers that we’re building, we’re preparing the way for a modern future on a historic foundation. At the same time, we’re investing to turn Istanbul into the financial center of the world.” (
    This notion of seeking to be the center of world trade has been repeated over and over through the course of urban design and human history, yet if we stop and ask what this “modernization” brings to the masses, often the promises of development don’t trickle down to those it attempts to advance. While I appreciate the artful amalgamation of colonial architecture and design with that of the colonized culture, a phenomena abounding worldwide in colonized nations, if I were a member of the colonized group, I think I would look on these “Theaters of Independence” with distain and long for the removal of colonial architecture, constantly reminding me of my newly ordained secondary and exploited status.

  35. Trish says:

    Hello Dr. Bowman,

    Not to be a “goody-two shoes”, but I am posting before class, on Feb 3 at 10:23, not 4:30pm like my post is saying.

  36. Trish says:

    Ghandi’s Obituary

    Ghandi’s personal sacrifices as demonstrated in his hunger strikes and enduring violent attacks clearly demonstrates his commitment to the cause of Indian independence. I agree with Veena in the notion that the author skips over important aspects of his life, leaving a discussion of the significance of his work to a chronology rather than exploration of its impact. Certainly, the author doesn’t seem to portray Ghandi without fault and instead presents a facet of Ghandi as an agitator. Not surprisingly, a person whose work is as controversial and politically involved as Ghandi’s, he indeed is an agitator. I think that upsetting the status quo is what revolutionaries like Ghandi sets out to accomplish. I do find it puzzling and challenging to the mystified almost deification of Ghandi in light of his disapproval of intermarriage between religions. It leaves me to wonder if something more than bigotry lies at the heart of his opinion?
    I appreciate Leslie’s consideration of the far-reaching effect of Ghandi’s message in an era without social media, the means in which mass revolution has ignited almost overnight. How did Ghandi’s message and actions become familiar and incendiary for so many people across the globe given the limits of communication, as we know it today? Is it indicative of a more fair and upright media, did Ghandi have connections that facilitated the popularization of his movement, was a divine intervention at play because it was the right time for such change, did oral face-to-face communication champion the dissemination of his message, does our increased access to creature comforts and intellectual distraction prompt us to be more apathetic today towards the injustices that others face? The question that Ghandi’s life poses for me, like many others who have relinquished human comfort for greater humanity, ‘Where have all the revolutionaries gone?’

    • Dear Trish, I like it a lot that you are referencing other students work in your posts, like Veena and Leslie. This obituary was actually written in 1948. Several highly critical biographies of Gandhi have since come out. I have done quite a bit of research and writing on the social media issue you raise, so we can talk about that in class. ~WMB

  37. Trish says:

    “India’s Theatre of Independence”- Sunil Khilnani

    Khilnani does justice to explaining the complexities of the development of urban centers in India, not that I am an expert as I have never been to the country, but the depictions are easily understood nonetheless. The colonial cities, like many I have experienced, functioned as centers for commerce and easily accessible points of embarkation for the military and transportation. The design of these cities, as replicas of cities from the colonial homeland, as Leslie pointed out, functioned almost as mirages to behold, but never to reach for the lower castes, even the lowest, the Untouchables. On the other hand, Bangalore, for example, appears to have modernized itself, defying the pattern of developing from colonial design and history. Neither is there nostalgia for pre-colonial development constructs, but rather the effort of global citizens to recreate their city as their own.
    I concur with Leslie in her consideration of why one group of people, in this case the British, can’t be satisfied with their own achievements but rather feel impelled to cast judgment towards and disseminate their culture on others. This trend of modernization for the advancement of society continues today in Turkey, as exemplified by this quote from the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan ,“With the new convention centers, sports and cultural centers that we’re building, we’re preparing the way for a modern future on a historic foundation. At the same time, we’re investing to turn Istanbul into the financial center of the world.” (
    This notion of seeking to be the center of world trade has been repeated over and over through the course of urban design and human history, yet if we stop and ask what this “modernization” brings to the masses, often the promises of development don’t trickle down to those it attempts to advance. While I appreciate the artful amalgamation of colonial architecture and design with that of the colonized culture, a phenomena abounding worldwide in colonized nations, if I were a member of the colonized group, I think I would look on these “Theaters of Independence” with distain and long for the removal of colonial architecture, constantly reminding me of my newly ordained secondary and exploited status.

    • Dear Trish, yes I loved his rich and colorful depiction of the precolonial cities as well as his discussion of how the British tried to change them. Good point about how Bangalore modernized itself. I like how you tie this reading together with an example from Turkey. Good work. One issue that I have worked on quite a bit in my research, and that I am still struggling with is what exactly is “modernization.?” Good work.

  38. Trish says:

    “The Political Economy of the Raj 1914-1947, The Economics of Decolonization in India. (Tomlinson) by Judith Brown

    Although Singh points out that Britain faced immense social pressure to withdrawal as is evidenced by the uprisings and civil unrest in the country, this article emphasizes the economic necessity for the Raj to disengage from governing India. While, “The British did not have any long-term decolonization strategy: even in the turbulent days of 1945-7 their decisions were pragmatic responses to a rapidly deteriorating law and order situation, (p178)”, it is just as likely that the unfulfilled “commitment” of the Raj towards assisting in attaining the political goals of Britain is responsible for decolonization of India.
    The notion of a “Triple imperial commitment”, a tri-fold obligation for India to observe towards Britain, strikes me as absurd. This might be elementary, but in the case of the colonization of India there are the native Indian people who were inconvenienced and exploited by the British imposition of their desire to manifest their destiny as the world power, the Raj consisting of representatives of the Crown who are at odds with constantly trying to appease requests of the homeland with the tension on Indian soil and Britain, ruling and reaping the rewards of its exploits from afar. Who exactly is responsible for this commitment to purchase British goods, provide bodies for an Imperial Army and pay interest back to the colonizers for their uninvited domination services? The Raj ultimately is responsible to ensure that the commitment is met, but at what cost and how could the fulfillment of such an obligation from the oppressed to their oppressors be sustained over time? The writing was on the wall. This economic duty would never be accomplished indefinitely and for the British government to depend on the influx of funds and military service from those they colonize is a ludicrous and inane proposal.

    • Dear Trish,

      Yes, in DoSC, we have to pay attention to all the different factors which converge to allow decolonization. These include civil unrest, economic disruption, as well as administrative problems. It is interesting how the British couched their relationship to India as a “commitment” extremely paternalistic and noblesse oblige. ~WMB

  39. Trish says:

    “Colonization of India: The Statement of 20 February 1947”- Anita Inder Singh

    Singh does an excellent job of demonstrating the duality of Britain’s position in regards to withdrawal from India. She explains that Britain both publicly voiced an intention to ensure that the country would peacefully and successfully transition into the independent government under the new constitution, while at the same time secretly taking actions that resulted in a delay of the creation of a new constitution and subsequent Indian independence. It was not clear to me, however, through this particular reading, Britain’s stance on partition. In my initial response to this article, I considered why we (human beings) continue to impose upon and exploit groups and countries only to ultimately fail in our conquest and create a web of half truths and smoke screens in order to cover over greed-motivated actions which lead to brutal and negative outcomes for those we seek to exploit? The British Empire over expanded, like most greed-centered imperialist groups often do, both today and in the past. They were forced to contract the quantity of their troops in India and their administration was ineffective and ultimately overthrown, not without the loss of 20,000 lives. It is sad because in the first instance, British greed sought out and effectively exploited the nations resources only to continue the devastation, as the British government was unable to provide administrative services, especially for Muslim and Sikh minorities. Finally, when the Muslim League and Congress were not able to effectively contribute to a new constitution as equal partners with the Labor Party, nationalism grew and violent uprising led to brutal deaths. British colonization became so disruptive and ineffective that they themselves felt they couldn’t trust Indian officials as most were suspected of being disloyal to the Crown. The final blow was Britain’s dishonest scandalous public reasoning for the delay in withdrawal and subsequent refusal to acknowledge culpability in their colonial quest from start to finish, spinning their departure as a noble act of supporting freedom and autonomy for India.

  40. Trish says:

    “Nation, Reason and Religion: India’s Independence in International Perspective” Author(s): Sugata Bose

    I love the comparison of Ireland and India as colonized nations coming to terms with self-governance in a religiously divided, post-colonial society. As in the post-colonial India the struggle between the Muslims and the Hindu majority, Ireland struggled with religious intolerance and the usurpation of political power by one religious group, Protestants, over the other, Catholics. Bose highlights that the nationalist leaders in both India and Ireland, were unable to reconcile religious differences, effectually weakening their impetuous for national unity and identity. I understand the controversy over partition of Pakistan more clearly in juxtaposition with the struggle in Ireland. Through partitioning, though arguably desired by Catholics in the south, Britain was able to relegate dissent away from its political center of the Irish republic in the north. As a result of this partition, civil disobedience in the south as well as much of any activity in the new republic was of little concern to the British government, as can be argued by citing the catastrophes of multiple potato famines.
    Furthermore, Gladstone argues in The State and Its Relations with the Church, “ Propagation of religious truth should be one of the principal aims of paternal government, (p 2091)”. This is eerily familiar in our current political discourse both involving the global struggle of the Christian West with the Islamic East and within the United States between the conservative right and the liberal left. In both cases, each faction defines their own concept of what “religious truth” or morality looks like. When we propagate Gladstone’s notion that religious philosophy should direct and dictate social governance, history and our current situations demonstrate the innate impossibility of governing a society which champions individual freedoms, such as the right to choose your religious beliefs.

    • Dear Trish, I also love the comparison of Ireland and India. My mom is from a place colonized by the British, and I have always felt a real sense of KINSHIP with the Irish. Very good point about Britian relegating dissent away from its political center. Thoughtful note about the “global struggle” although I would posit that this is not a real struggle, but rather a politically created one. ~WMB

  41. Sydney Shearer says:

    Gandi’s Obituary

    This article gave a great overview of Gandhi’s life and his role in enacting social change in India. I was particularly struck by his use of fasting to enact change. This is a method that I am familiar with as I have studied César Chávez, a civil rights leader who worked for the rights of farm workers in California in the 1960s. Chávez modeled many of Gandhi’s tactics including the fast to enact change in the form of better working conditions for mostly immigrant farmers. Gandhi fasted several times throughout his life, sometimes for so many days that he became weak and near death. I wonder what role fasting plays in these movements and whether this mechanism might still be a useful tactic in social change movements today. I believe that fasting was a natural extension for Gandhi’s work. He lived a very simple life, wearing a loincloth that he made and maintaining a vegetarian diet. This way of life lent itself to a demonstration such as fasting in order to bring about change. I also wonder about the spiritual dimensions of fasting. In what ways was fasting a means by which to bring about change and in what ways was it a personal experience? I imagine that fasting is a way to discipline one’s mind and body, which might be extremely helpful when working to bring about the kind of monumental change that Gandhi was working toward. Fasting is a method of Satygraha, which meant “truth force” and was developed by Gandhi. In a sense fasting was a means by which to force the public to look at an issue. It is almost a publicity tactic as people are interested in why somebody is fasting and inadvertently learns about that issues involved. It is a personal protest not too distant from the way in which Occupy protestors have given up their homes in order to protest the economic situation in the U.S. today. In this way I believe that the lessons of Gandhi’s fasts are still being employed today in altered way.

  42. Sydney Shearer says:

    India’s Theater of Independence

    This article discussed the changes in Indian cities throughout the British colonization period. What I found interesting about the article was how you could see the relationship that cities had to democracy throughout time. The British colonists drastically changed the layout of cities. India didn’t have tradition large metropolitans and, in fact, Gandhi hated them. The colonialists, however, created larger, more modern cities to benefit their style of rule. By creating these metropolitan hubs, the British disrupted the hierarchy of Indian society. Upwardly mobile Indians were attracted to these cities where they were essentially tricked into helping the British subjugate their own people in order to gain a higher rank in society. In addition to creating a very hierarchical, top-down mode of governance in cities, the British were very intentional about the way in which they constructed physical spaces in the cities. They made sure that these modern cities had no places in them in which Indians could gather. This meant that there were no town squares and other typical gathering spaces where Indians might plan to resist the colonial rule. This subjugation by manipulating the physical space was extremely well thought out on the part of the British. In his work to bring about social change in India, Gandhi realized this and one of his main challenges was figuring out how to help people organize within the structure of these new cities. This made me think about ways in which those who oppose change create structures that intentionally prevent organizers from resisting oppression and inciting change. I believe that these structure are much less implicit today making it more difficult to understand how oppression is very intentional in today’s society. I do believe that these structure still exist, though, and this article was a good reminder that we must think like Gandhi and find ways to get around these binding structures and figure out new and creative ways to enact change.

  43. Russell Carey says:

    Mohandas K. Gandhi – Obituary – New York Times

    Before reading this article, what I knew of Gandhi was what I could recall from elementary history class and a precursory knowledge of the history of nonviolent resistance. I did not know about his work in South Africa, which I would like to delve deeper into. The reading highlights his struggle for Indian rights, and cites the year 1914 as the year “a commission had removed some of the worst sources of injustice to the Indians living in South Africa” followed by Gandhi’s return to India. This seems to gloss over the struggle for civil rights Indians continued to have as a legally defined secondary class of citizens along with Blacks and Coloreds under apartheid into the 1990’s. This editorial choice was made either to portray Gandhi as the indisputable world’s defender of human rights, or for the sake of avoiding a parallel between an underdeveloped, foreign nation and the United States’ internal struggle over the rights of its own black citizens. The date the article was written leaves me inclined to believe the latter.
    I also found interesting the quote near the end of the article from Viscount Mountebatten, the installed colonial Viceroy of India. The occupying governor praised Gandhi’s efforts for Indian independence from his own country, highlighting the strange, self-deluding conception of occupation that the British held, convincing themselves they were there for India’s own good after the previous occupiers, the Mughal empire, had been forced out by the British themselves. It is difficult not to draw parallels between this system of “for their own good” occupation after a war, and the situation of the U.S. in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The Political Economy of the Raj – B. R. Tomlinson

    The book review highlights three major reasons for decolonization that seem to make Gandhi’s role in independence seem like just being in the right place at the right time, or even simply a coincidence of events. The reviewer admits that “Congress, civil disobedience, and even Gandhi receive scant attention” (p. 177), but it is still interesting to think about Indian independence from an external perspective. If I read the book, it seems that I would get a deeper understanding of an apparent struggle between the Raj within India and the expectations of the government in the British Isles. I suppose that I have read before about how the British Empire created its own demise, much like the Roman Empire, by spreading itself thin over peoples and lands too expansive to govern, but I had understood India as a case where it was peaceful resistance that led to a change in power.
    The review was also helpful in further defining Britain’s justification for occupying India: not unselfishly, but as a matter of self-preservation. Though, with the end of World War II, the reasons for “triple imperial commitment” seem to have all but vanished, once again demonstrating the external circumstances that seem to lead to decolonization. While it may seem that Tomlinson’s book would benefit from a counterpoint arguing internal reasons for decolonization, it is my impression that enough books look at India from this viewpoint, and this provides a welcome alternative.

    Nation, Reason, and Religion – Sugata Bose

    Bose’s article brings to light the hypocrisy of the British colonial efforts to supplant indigenous religion (specifically Hindu in the case of India) with science and rationalism. It seems from the article that Britain held a view of itself as having progressed beyond religious influence in government, despite its own problems closer to home with Catholic Ireland. If the struggle between Christian ideologies was threatening to rend the home front, why should the ideologies of even more disparate religions as Islam and Hinduism not create conflict without better self-representation? It seemed to me that the more pressure was applied through secular governance, the more fundamentalist religious thought became a part of maintaining a distinct identity for the oppressed, and created nationalist movements, not of rational motivations, but of holy rights.
    I found Gandhi’s positions on religion and government to be very interesting. I did not know that he was opposed to the establishment of a state of Israel in Palestine, or of his defense of the Turkish Empire, because foreign policy was being conducted not rationally, but out of religious motivation. Gandhi sought unity between Hindu and Muslims, but the lack of a system to share power. It seems that as India strove for a singular nationalist policy, the importance of religion to its people was ignored, ultimately creating disunity as the Muslim minority felt unrepresented and began to break off negotiations.
    The article also makes the claim that unity could have been achieved given enough time and the right proposals, but partition was forced because of British interests in exiting power when it did. I am not so sure of this claim – looking at a modern example where partition had been considered, but avoided – supposed agreements of unity and shared governance in Iraq – we now see the fault lines spreading between religious beliefs. It seems that Nationalism cannot be structured completely along the lines of religion or reason, but must find a balance when appealing to the hearts of the people.

    India’s Theaters of Independence – Sunil Khilnani

    Looking at India through a history of its major cities, I am struck by how far modern India appears to be from Gandhi’s vision of a country of united villages. I was unaware that Chennai, Kolkata, New Delhi and Mumbai had all been founded as brand new cities under colonial rule, and, as portrayed in the article, constructed as rebuttals of sort to the existing Indian cities and the Indian way of life. Though city construction may not have contained all the malicious intent relayed by Khilnani’s article, it was interesting to see how the layout of many of India’s modern cities reflected the hierarchy of colonial oppression. I am also struck by how these cities, which were designed as administrative tools of the British Empire, and as ports for the extraction of wealth, became the loci for human settlement in independent India because of the promise of wealth, creating overcrowding and an overtasking of infrastructure.
    While I was aware of the political fallout of partition and the current tension between the two countries, the article informed me as the massive migration that took place after partition – over 15 million people remained refugees two years later! This refugee migration is used as an explanation for much of the slum population in Chennai, Kolkata, and Bombay. The flight of much of the Muslim population in Bombay left those remaining as an even weaker minority than before. Immigration and insecurity in major cities led to fracturing of the population along more than religious lines.
    The struggles within religious groups are highlighted all too briefly in the examination of Shiv Sena and its reclaiming of Bombay (now Mumbai) for the Maratha population, excluding Muslims from their cause, but also ethnic minorities within the Hindu faith, such as the Tamil.

    Decolonization in India – Anita Inder Singh

    Singh’s article focused, more than the others, on the amount of violence that took place throughout India in order to make Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance efforts effective. “The Labour government had to think of constitutional expedients to avert violence” (p. 197). British military power was weakened by an increasing reliance on Indian personnel, and suffered multiple internal mutinies of armed forces. The League, deceived in negotiations which the British simply saw as stepping stones to independence, resulted in a call for resistance in which violence claimed 20,000 lives in less than four months (over 130 deaths a day). Hindu violence against the Muslim minority had occurred and continued on a smaller scale unchecked by British forces, including a massacre of 200 people in the Mashouri district addressed only by an official visit a month later (p. 199). The concept of a peaceful turnover of British control to a nation yearning for independence is argued in this article to be a fabrication of the Raj to shield Parliament from the reality of a colony bloodied internally and ready to erupt in full-scale violence against its occupiers.
    This article expressed in more detail the gaps between the political and economic desires of the British crown and the realities facing the Raj in its attempts to keep India productive and under control. Physical distance and a lack of transparency kept Parliament only partially informed as to activities in the colonies. Political aspiration and a preferred perception of India probably helped to maintain this veil of ignorance. In the end, the article presents the Raj’s proposals of action as grand deceptions, purveying a frantic last resort to Parliament as part of a judicious plan for Britain’s future. Could Parliament have had the wool pulled so easily over their eyes, even with discussion of raising troop levels, word of insurgencies, and declining productivity?

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