Vinayak Chaturvedi

Peasant Pasts

History and Memory in Western India

University of California Press 2007

New Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in South Asian StudiesNew Books Network August 11, 2011 Dhara Anjaria

The odds are that if you don’t figure in an administration’s records, you won’t figure in the historical record. But what do you do...

The odds are that if you don’t figure in an administration’s records, you won’t figure in the historical record. But what do you do to get into those records? Raising a ruckus is one way. But that works only if someone else hasn’t managed to raise more of a ruckus than you can ever hope to – and this, as Vinayak Chaturvedi tells us in Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India (University of California Press, 2007) was exactly the situation the peasants of Gujarat faced during the last century of British rule in India.

The Dharala peasants lived and worked in the Kheda district, the stomping ground of the powerful Patidar community, who formed a support base for Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha campaigns. The Mahatma’s nationalism did not, however, attract the Dharalas, given that the Patidars had co-opted it for themselves. The Dharalas felt they stood nothing to gain by joining forces with groups that locally exercised economic power over them. But that is not to say they didn’t have their own ideas about the way they wished to live, as Chaturvedi shows.Peasant Pasts skillfully traces how the Dharalas, through many demonstrations employing traditional as well as more recent forms of protest, managed to form a distinct political identity of their own, one that is current and excites much debate in the region. And yes, they did manage to get themselves into the administrative records of the Indian state as well.

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