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02 Editorial Across the South

Articles 24 Jishnu Dasgupta, Exploring New Ideas and Forms

03 Patrcio Batskama, The Origins of the Kingdom of 26 Munir Fasheh, Technology Cannot Wipe Out
05 Shamsiddin S. Kamoliddin, New Data on the Early
Attack of the Arabs on China 29 Adekeye Adebajo, Mandela and Rhodes: A Blissful
08 Nitin Varma, Chargola Exodus and Collective Action in
the Colonial Tea Plantations of Assam, Part II Reviews
16 Edsel L. Beja, Jr., Capital Flight, Part I 34
30 Joya Chatterji, The History of a Frontier.
Willem van Schendel, The Bengal Borderland:
Special Feature: Special Beyond State and Nation in South Asia, Anthem
Press, London, 2005.
Economic Zones
32 Jerome Teelucksingh, Religion and Rhetoric in
18 Samira Junaid, Special Economic Zones in China Caribbean Slavery: Revolts and Abolition.
Gelien Matthews, Caribbean Slave Revolts and the
21 Soumitra Bose, Special Economic Zones in Theory British Abolitionist Movement, Louisiana State
University Press, Baton Rouge, 2006.

33 Sujata Ghosh, Sangtin Writers.

Richa Nagar, Playing with Fire: Feminist Thought
and Activism through Seven Lives in India.
Sangtin Writers: Anupamlata, Ramsheela, Reshma
Ansari, Richa Nagar, Richa Singh, Shashi Vaish,
Shashibala, Sarbala and Vibha Bajpayee, Zubaan,

Revised Edition posted on 01.08.2007

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We stand, with the publication of this issue at the end of a journey, and at the threshold of another. It is the third, and
therefore, the last issue of this volume. A volume that has been marked by greater changes than in the previous two,
what with the move to a new website, and the concomitant changes made in the e-magazine format. Thus, this issue
marks the end of possibly the most eventful year in the short but lively history of the Sephis e-Magazine.
But, that is not all. This is the last issue that will follow the four-monthly cycle. From the next volume, we will pop-up
even more frequently in the mailboxes of our subscribers, as we become a quarterly. And, that too, is of course, a major
As befitting the issue that marks the closing of a chapter in Global Souths fledgling career, the current presentation we
bring before you is possibly the most varied in terms of both interests expressed and the regions covered.
Patricio Batsikama delves into the origins of the kingdom and people of the Kongo by examining, in great detail, the
oral traditions that have survived, as well as etymological readings of the language of the people. Shamsiddin S.
Kamoliddins work deals with the first military confrontations between the Chinese Empire and the Arab Caliphate. His
work brings to light many recently uncovered details.
As promised, we continue with Nitin Varmas work on the Chargola exodus. This is the second and concluding part of
his article on this upsurge against colonial planters in an obscure corner of India that carries significant meanings for the
reading of the Indian national movement. And, continuing with the project of threads spread across issues, we publish the
first part of Edsel L. Bejas work on capital flight, where he tries to set an agenda by (re)introducing it in the public domain,
so as to effect policy decisions, a matter that closely concerns developing nations.
As the G8 meets with the self-proclaimed leaders of the world, ignoring health hazards, carrying out their heavy duty
(remember the White Mans Burden) of deliberating over the future of mankind, amidst many protests, and the Bolivarian
path for development is proposed by Hugo Chavez as a serious alternative way, we also seek to examine, from two quite
different positions, methodological and otherwise, one such alternative, the extremely controversial Special Economic Zone
policy in China and India. Samira Junaid deals with the Chinese experience and gives a balanced view, pointing out pros
and cons and the evolution of this policy. In a more theoretical exploration, Soumitra Bose deals with the notion in theory.
His exposure of the SEZs put them in line with the colonial penetration of South Asia in the eighteenth century and that of
China in the following one, and seems to justify Balzacs often quoted maxim, Behind every great fortune there is a
In Across the South, we have two essays connected by their dealing of history and memory. The famous opinion that
each time the Irish Question is solved, the question is changed is perhaps even more true about the Israel-Palestine
conflict. Munir Fasheh makes his contribution to a discourse, where determining truth is perhaps more impossible than
even other arenas of conflict. Adekeye Adebajo deals with the current efforts to mix the names of the much-hated imperi-
alist Cecil Rhodes with that of Nelson Mandela, one of the twentieth centurys truly heroic figures in the struggle against
Apartheid. Here, he calls for the separation of the two legacies that their politics demands.
The reviews too present a varied reading, as they are drawn from various regions and experiences, from a women
writers collective to the experience of a porous border to that of slave revolts and the importance of these in anti-slavery
We hope the readers will enjoy this issue. We also await your suggestions as to how to run the next volume, with its
new appearance and format.

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The Origins of the Kingdom of Kngo

Batskama is a Professor of Philosophy and Aesthetics in the National Institute of

Artistic Formation (Luanda). He was an Assistant in the Investigation Department of
National Museum of Anthropology (Luanda) for more than five years.
Patrcio Batskama He is the author of several articles published in National Journals, Magazines and
reviews. His areas of interest include Aesthetics, Anthropology of African Religion,
Language Metamorphoses of Angolan Peoples and ethno linguistics groups among

The old History of Africa is not well known, because it is based on Oral Tradition. Is this source doubtful or sure? We are
going to try and respond. The Oral Tradition about the origin of the Kongo Kingdom seems confused. Several specialists
have defended that its not safe to write the earlier History of African societies. But according to the philology compared
with the Oral Tradition, Kongo people are from the South. The Kikongo language and its idioms substantiate this largely.

The Origins According to the Oral reside,; - yngama: To move away.

Tradition - snda: To finish, to stop, ending;
- snda: To surpass, to pass; to be
According to the various versions of preferable to, superior to, better than;
the ancestral Oral Tradition, the point to be the first, to be on the first line
of origin of the Kingdom of Kngo during the contest; to cross a river
appears to be greatly confused. They while swimming.
recognise nevertheless that Nsndi
tufila ntu, Mbmba tulmbudila malu Ntndu - north:
or Ntu kuna ntndu, malu kuna - tnda: To swim, to pass while
maynda mya nzdi, or, Mpnzu ku swimming or to be going here and
ntu, Kyngala kunnima. there, to walk;
These quotes constantly repeated - tnda: Who is big;
by the depositors of Tradition - tndaba: To go here and there, in a
although in the early access it seems certain place, in a country;
confused in the current language - tndula: To enlarge, to widen, to pull
indicate the downward movement in rubber band, to increase, to
surround the country etc. These linguistic approaches taking
followed by the Ancestors during their account of the shape according to the
different migrations. Duarte Lopes, Mbmba: position of terms and their relationship
Bernardo Gallo da, Lorenzo Lucca da, - bmba: Coler, to fix by the cement, grammatically and phraseologically
Antonio Cavazzi etc. merely to keep with his fingers, to close, to make us believe that the world of the
reproduced these Oral Traditions. stick; Kngos seems to begin in the South.
- bmbakana: To associate, to mix (in Such reads itself besides in their
a work); tranquiliser (friendship); thought. Usually the term Mbmba will
- bmbakasa, enriched by replace the South after the territorial
bambakana: To separate, to split up, structure has been established. In
to go each to his/her/its path. fact, in the Kngo cosmogony,
Ynda: Ma(ynda) not only means South but
- (ma)ynda: Beginning, origin, also refers to the origin, the reason,
principle, reason, foundation; the foundation etc. And as the
- ynduka: (yndula), to feel the heat, semantic plot indicates, the Kngo
big heat; to warm up and flow as the people seem to believe that the South
butters (under the sun); would be where the country began,
- yndula: To spill, to propagate, to and this country of origin had hot
In conformity with the geographical reveal; etc. climate (ynduka, Kyngala).
map of the earlier Kingdom of Kngo, Otherwise an originary abstract named
established and commented on by KyngalaA:
- ky-ngala: Sweat, perspiration heat, maynda followed Mbmba as
several authors, Nsndi is in the North substance. Also the Traditions
and Mbmba in the South (and suffocating atmosphere;
- yngala: What is big; collected by Bernardo Da Gallo,
Mpmba in the Centre). The anthro- Jrme De Montesarchio in the
pological literature indicates other - ynga(la)kana: (doesnt exist in the
dictionary of Laman): to spread, to seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,
synonyms of Nsndi Mpmbu, and by Jean Cuvelier, Joseph Of Munck
Mpnzu etc. The equivalents of recover like a rampant plant.
Synonymous of ynza(la)kana, that etc. and lastly in the twentieth century,
Mbmba are Kyngala, Maynda etc.1 relate quite unanimously that the first
Laman note): to spread like a rampant
Here is the value of the semantic plot plant, variant of ynzama. land established or funded was in the
of these sentences: - yngama: From yngika: To flow on NZNZA NKATU3 another term that is
Nsndi2 a liquid surface; visible, to be raised, the equivalent of maynda.
- snda: To settle, to get settled, to gigantic etc.

J. Cuvelier, Nkutma mvila za maknda mu nsia kngo, Tumba, 4 Edit., 1972, pp. 8,24,39,57; J. de Munck, Kinklu kya nsietoa Kngo,
Tumba, 1953, p. 27
For the verbs see K.E Laman, Dictionnaire Kikngo- franais, I.R.C.B., Bruxelles, 1936.
Cuvelier, Nkutma, pp. 12, 17, 21, 33, 37, 38.

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A literal translation of this named MBNGALA by the Denise Paulme says: The
expression (Nznza nkatu), would be ethnographers (Delachaux, De Pedrals indigenous traditions are confused,
Without the World. The translators of for example). Today, this region is and indicate meanwhile that the
the Bible use a neighbouring term that populated by the Ovimbundu, Ckwe, kingdom of the Kngo was founded as
is Nsia Nkatu or Nz(nza) Nktu in Nyneka-Nkmbi. The words once several kingdoms by the same families
the editions posterior to 1983. These spoken are well diagnosed: mbngala who crowd since Sett Cama until the
terms mean desert. The African although it is taken here for word or High Zambeze5. Of course, the
Continent accounts for two deserts. In toponym or a climatic reality indicates linguistic analysis confirms that.
this way we opt the Kalahari because what could be the origin prmire of
is in the South, or as one would say in the people of the earlier kingdom of
Kikngo Kuna Maynda. the Kngo.
Talking about the toponymy of this
region, some authors mention the
toponym of MBNGALA 4, located
precisely in the southern part of
Angola. And yet, in Kngos language,
the word mbngala designates the
time of big heats marked by the
missed rains (August-September).
Also, the expression kuna
mbngala is translated as There is a Of the other terms, Mbmba makes
very long time. It seems that the us believe in addition to Mbngala
word mbngala preserved more that the South (in the country of big
nostalgias of its old sense. Reason for heats) would be the first home where Conclusion
which, authors such as Jean Cuvelier, the country would have been formed, In fact, the Oral Tradition is reliable.
Joseph Of Munck, Jean Van Wing, and, it is subsequentlythrough It needs its own method, analytical
Rafael Batskama affirm was that extension that it that seems to have instruments, and principles. And in
Kngo-dya-Mbngala was the country resulted in the Kngo kingdom later. accordance with the method used and
of origin of the whole Kngo society. the kind of historic sources cited, the
In other words, Nsndi or Ntndu
But where would this country be origins of Kngo kingdom may be
according to the enumerated roots,
located in concrete terms? located in the South of Angola. Next
(snda: to settle, to get settled, to
According to the elements of the finish; tndaba: To go here and time we shall continue looking at the
language analysed, their origin there,) demonstrate a sequence and affinities between Kngo and several
appears to lie in the lower Kalahari, at the same time conclusion dealt southern peoples of Angola.
where we come across a region report with Mbmba or Maynda.

Delachaux, Lethnographie de la region de Cunene, Neuchatel, 1936, pp. 8-9.
D. Paulme, Les civilisations africaines, P.U.F., Paris, 1961, p. 54.

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New Data on the Early Attack of the Arabs on China

Kamoliddin is a Professor in History at the Tashkent State Pedagogical University.

Author of more than hundred articles in Russian, Uzbek, English and Arabic, his
areas of interest include historical geography and medieval history of Central Asia.
Shamsiddin S. Kamoliddin In 1998 he was awarded the special annual International Prize of Mr. Abd al-
Aziz al-Baptin (Kuwait) from among the researchers of Commonwealth in the field of
Oriental Studies.

The work of Gevond, who lived in the eighth century, and other Armenian historians, has thrown new light on the relations
between the Arab Caliphate and the Chinese empire. The close familial relation of Muhammad ibn Marwan, the Arab
commander with the reigning Umayyad Caliph shows the importance attached by the Caliphate to this enterprise. This
essay details the various aspects involved in the motives of the various participants in the momentous events that shaped
the history of Central Asia in a turbulent phase.

Before the Arab conquest, Central Asia A.H./752-53 A.D. But he could not century, there is information about a
was a part of the Turkish kaganate, undertake it because of his death7 . previously unknown campaign of the
and was included within the sphere of There is information in the Chinese Arabs to China and their embassy to
influence of the Chinese empire. In sources about some Arab embassies the Chinese emperor. According to
the first half of the eighth century, at to the Chinese Yard, the first of which this work, in the reign of the Caliph al-
the time when the Arabs were most was sent in 651 A.D. by the Caliph Walid (8696 A.H./705715 A.D.) the
active militarily in Central Asia, China Uthman ibn Affan. The envoy arrived Arab commander Mahmet, the former
was busy in a long and costly war with before the Chinese emperor with gifts governor of Armenia, asked the Caliph
Tibet, which continued until 133 A.H./ and gave him a letter from the Arab to give him a powerful army to invade
750-51 A.D. During that period, China Caliph, stating that their family had the country of the Chinese and force
made the first and last attempt to win ascended to the throne thirty four the Chinese emperor to submit. The
back Central Asia from the Arabs1 . In years ago and had reigned for three Caliph granted his request and
July that year the Arab commander generations. After that the Caliphs equipped him with an army of two
Ziyad ibn Salih crushed, near Talas, a regularly sent their envoys to China, hundred thousand. From Damascus,
Chinese army of thirty thousand, and the last one was from Harun al- Mahmet made his way through Syria,
capturing a great number of them as Rashid, who sent three envoys at Persia and Khorasan, to arrive at the
prisoners2 . The commander of the once8 . Every one of the Arab envoys, borders of Chenastan (the Chinese
Chinese army, Gao Sian-chji, escaped about fifteen in all, presented various empire). Having set up camp on the
back to China with the remnants of his gifts to the Chinese emperor usually banks of river Botis, he sent an envoy
army 3 . After this bloody battle, which thoroughbred horses and jewels9 . to the king of Tchens, i.e. the Chinese
continued for five days, the Chinese However, the Chinese government emperor, with a letter, wherein he
gave up their claims on Central Asia, never returned the gesture and wrote: Why have you alone not
where the Arabs gained complete considered the envoys coming to their submitted to our lord, whose name
control4 . capital as a mark of respect and makes all the peoples tremble? What
There is information in the Arabic submission, and their gifts, similarly, are you hoping for by not resigning to
literary sources about the campaign of as tribute. The envoys usually arrived our power? Perhaps you consider us
Qutayba ibn Muslim to Kashgar in 96 in China with caravans; therefore the as girls and imagine yourself more
A.H./714-15 A.D. and his embassy to arrival of a caravan is spoken of as beautiful? Now, if you do not submit to
the king of as-Sin5 . However, as an embassy in China even today10 . our power as a slave, you ought to
revealed by the Uygur version of the There is no other reference of any know that we shall destroy all of your
work of al-Tabari, the king of as-Sin, other contact between the Arabs and country and end your reign. Do not be
who is mentioned in the text, does not the Chinese in medieval Arabic and light-hearted and slow to answer and
refer to the Chinese emperor, but to Chinese textual sources; however, let us know your decision as soon as
the governor of Khotan, who also they do find mention in medieval possible.
governed the Kashgar region6 . It is Armenian sources. After the Chinese king, called
also stated, that Abu Muslim prepared In the historical work of Gevond, Djenbakur in the sources, had read
for a military campaign to China in 134 an Armenian author of the eighth the letter, he held a consultation with

L.N. Gumilev, Drevnie turki, Leningrad, 1969, pp. 361,369.
Ibn al-Athir, Abu-l-Hasan Ali ibn Muhammad ash-Shaibani al-Jazari, Al-Kamil fi-t-tarikh, fi 12 ajza, Misr, 1883 1885, vol. 5, p. 212; O. G.
Bolshakov, Kistorii Talasskoi bitvy (751 g.) in Strany I narody Vostoka, vypusk 22, Moscow, 1980, pp. 132-136.
E. Chavannes, Documents sur les Tou-Kiue (Turks) occidentaux, in: Sbornik trudov Orkhonskoi ekspeditsii, vypusk 6. SPb., 1903, pp.
V. V. Bartold, Turkestan v epohu mongolskogo nashestviya, Sochineniya, v 9 tomah, T. 1, M., 1963, p. 200; Y. V. rev, Politicheskaya
situatsiya v Maverannahre v seredine VIII veka, in: Srednyaya Aziya, arheologiya, istoriya, kultura. Materialy mejdunarodnoi konferentsii,
posvyashennoi 50-letiyu nauchnoi deyatelnosti G.V.Shishkinoi. oscow, 2000, pp. 208-209.
Abu Djafar Mohammed ibn Djarir at-Tabari, Annales, M. J. de Goeje (ed.), I III series, E. J. Brill, Lugduni-Batavorum, 1964, ser. II, pp.
At-Tabari, Tarikh ar-rusul va-l-muluk , perevod s arabskogo Sh.Zakirova, perevod s uigurskogo in M. Kutlukova, Matrerialy po istorii Srednei
I Tsentralnoi Azii, vol. X-XIX, Tashkent, 1988, pp. 11-16.
Krev, Politicheskaya, pp. 210-211.
N. Y. Bichurin (Iakinf), Sobraniye svedeniy o narodah, obitavshih v Srednei Azii v drevnie vremena, v 3-h tomah, M.;L, 1950 1953, vol. 2, pp.
E. Shefer, Zolotye persiki Samarkanda. Kniga o chuzhezrmnyh dikivinkah v imperii Tan, perevod s angliiskogo, M., 1981, pp. 579-583.
Bartold, Istoriya kulturnoi zhizni Turkestana, Sochineniya v 9 tomah. T. 2. Chast 1. ., 1963. p. 185.

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his bodyguards and high officials to they arrived on the other bank, the including Azerbayjan, al-Djazira, Mosul
discuss a suitable response to the Chinese king ordered his horsemen to and a province(th-thughur) at the
letter. The response they agreed on attack the Arabs. As soon as the borders of the Byzantine empire. He
was: Is it true that you are the most battle began, the riders hiding inside remained at that post up to 91 A.H./
glorious of all the kings who have the chariots launched a surprise 709-10 A.D.15 . All the events, de-
reigned from the beginning of the attack. They surrounded the Arabs scribed in the history of Gevond
world up to the present the kings of and put them to the sword. Nobody regarding the participation of Mahmet
Babylon, Macedonia and Persia who could save themselves, even by flight. correspond exactly with the chronol-
subdued the world? Know this, that Meanwhile the ropes of the ships were ogy of the military-political activity of
you are as shameless as a dog. You cut, so that the troops could not cross Muhammad ibn Marwan, as mentioned
have only lust and foul voluptuous- the river. Only Mahmet and a few of in the Arab sources16 . Consequently,
ness. Tales of the beauty of my girls his riders forded the river on the back we can conclude that the Arab com-
is forcing you to sacrifice yourself and of their horses. Thus, they were mander, who undertook a campaign to
the lives of your soldiers, who have humiliated by the Chinese king and China in the reign of the Caliph al-
arrived here with you. It appears that returned to their country, never daring Walid, was Muhammad ibn Marwan,
there was no room in Damascus for to go back to China11 . who was the son of the Caliph Marwan
your graves. You should know, that A shorter version of the same story I (64-65 A.H./684-685 A.D.), the
our country has never been subdued can be found in the work of another brother of Caliph Abd al-Malik (65-86
by anyone, and I cannot agree to your Armenian historian Stepanos Taronetsi A.H./685-705 A.D.) and the father of
demands. If it is gifts that you seek, I (tenth-eleventh century), who adds, the last Umayyad Caliph Marwan II
will give them, according to the custom that Mahmet had been contemplating (127-132 A.H./744-750 A.D.).
of kings, and then you shall go back to the conquest of China for a long About Muhammad ibn Marwan it is
your country in peace. time.12 known from the sources, that in 65
Mahmet sent a second letter, to This information has great value for A.H./685 A.D., he was appointed the
Djenbakur: Give me thirty thousand the history of the Arab conquests in governorner of al-Djazira by Caliph
beautiful girls, then we will go in Central Asia, and opens a new page in Marwan I, just before the latters
peace, otherwise, I will go to war. the history of the early campaigns of death.17 In 71 A.H./690-91 A.D.,
The Chinese king appeared to agree to the Arabs in the East. From these Muhammad ibn Marwan came from al-
Mahmets demand and sent him an accounts it follows that the first Djazira with his troops to help the
envoy to inform him that he should campaign of the Arabs to China was Caliph Abd al-Malik in the battle
stay in his camp and wait till his undertaken in the reign of the against the internal enemies of the
demand was fulfilled. Meanwhile, he Umayyad Caliph al-Walid (86-96 A.H./ Umayyad dynasty18 . In 73 A.H./692-
ordered his troops to build cloth- 705-715 A.D.) by a commander 93 A.D., Abd al-Malik appointed him as
covered chariots, and armed riders named Mahmet, who was earlier the governor of Armenia and the Northern
were hid inside these instead of the governor of Armenia 13 . There is some part of the caliphate19 . In the same
girls. It was aimed at entrapping the other information in the same work of year he went from al-Djazira to a
enemy. Gevond, which allow us to determine campaign against the Byzantines 20 . In
They arrived at the river bank accurately the profile of the Arab 75 A.H./694-95 A.D., he again
opposite to Mahmets army and commander Mahmet. According to marched against the Byzantine Em-
camped there. There were forty him, in 701 A.D. Caliph Abd al-Malik pire21 and defeated the Greeks22 .
thousand riders inside the chariots, (65-86 A.H./685-705 A.D.) ordered Around 80 A.H./699-700 A.D.,
and Djenbakur himself remained at a Mahmet to conquer Armenia, then in Muhammad ibn Marwan organised few
distance with a few riders. He then 703 A.D., he suppressed an uprising of campaigns against Armenia23 . In 82
sent word to Mahmet: Come and take the Armenian princes, and in 705 A.D., A.H./701-02 A.D., he was at war with
your thirty thousand girls, which I carried out a bloody reprisal on them. the enemies of Caliph Abd al-Malik in
have selected for you from all over my After that, the new Caliph al-Walid Iraq 24 , and then he undertook a
country. Select an equal number of ordered him to leave Armenia and punitive campaign to Armenia, and
deserving men from your army and appointed Abd al-Aziz in his place. finally subdued that country25 . In the
cross the river. Then I will distribute After that Mahmet asked the Caliph for same year he captured the city of Dvin
the girls by drawing lots, and ensure an army to undertake a campaign to and became the master of the entire
equal distribution. Thus, a quarrel China 14 . country26 . In 84 A.H./703 A.D., by the
among your troops will be avoided. According to the Arab sources, in order of Caliph Abd al-Malik, he
Along with the letter he sent ships for 73 A.H./692-93 A.D., Muhammad ibn cruelly suppressed the anti-Arab
Mahmets troops to cross over to the Marwan ibn al-Hakam, the brother of uprising in Armenia27 . In 86 A.H./705
other bank. the Caliph Abd al-Malik, was appointed A.D., in the first year of the reign of
The selected troops of Mahmet the governor of Armenia and the Caliph al-Walid, he went against the
crossed the river on the ships. When Northern part (wilayat) of the caliphate joint forces of the Byzantines and the

K. Patkanian, Istoriya khalifov Vardapeta Gevonda, pisatelya VIII veka, perevod s armyanskogo SPb., 1862, pp. 25-26; Ter- L. H. Mkrtichian,
Armyanskie istochniki o Srednei Azii, VIII-VIII, vv, Moscow, 1985, pp. 54-55.
Ter-Mkrtichian, Armyanskie istochniki p. 58.
This Mahmet is identified with the Arab commander Muhammad ibn Uqba, and the battle, which had been described in the Armenian
sources with the battle on the Talas river, which took place in 133 A.H./750-51 A.D. See P. A. Gryaznevicha, Istoriya khalifov
anonimnogo avtora XI veka, facsimile rukopisi, predislovie, oscow, 1967, p. 12; Ter-Mkrtichian, Armyanskie istochniki, p. 56.
Gryaznevicha, Istoriya khalifov, 12, pp. 25-26; Ter-Mkrtichian, Armyanskie istochniki, pp. 54-55.
Abu Muhammad Ahmad ibn Asam al-Kufi, Kniga zavoevaniy (Izvlecheniya po istorii Azerbaidjana VII I vv.), perevod s arabskogo yazyka, Z.
M. Buniyatova, Baku, 1981, p. 12.
About him see, at-Tabari, Annales, ser. II, pp. 592, 804-808, 853, 863, 887, 889, 1073-1075, 1096, 1871, 1873, 1876.
Ibid, p. 592.
Ibid, p. 804.
al-Kufi, Kniga zavoevaniy, p. 12.
at-Tabari, Annales ser. II, p. 853.
Ibid, p. 863.
Ibn Wadhih qui dicitur al-Jakubi, Historiae, part I-II, ed. M. Th. Houtsma, E. J. Brill, Lugduni-Batavorum, 1883, vol. II, p. 281.
A. N. Ter-Gevondian, rmenia I Arabsliy khalifat, Yerevan, 1977, p. 73.

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Armenians, defeated them and in- opposed to the Umayyad Caliphs, and Southern Sogd36 . Therefore
flicted bloody reprisals on the Arme- declared, that he would appoint as Muhammad ibn Marwan, having the
nian princes28 . After that the Arme- ruler of China the first of the above charter of the Caliph, could pass
nians sent an envoy to the Caliph two commanders to reach that coun- through Khorasan without any difficul-
complaining against Muhammad ibn try33 . ties and reach the borders of the
Marwan and asking him to change the It should be remembered that Chinese empire.
ruler of their country. The Caliph Caliph al-Walid, who was on bad terms The second problem, which can be
answered their plea favourably and with al-Hajjaj, also had for a long time settled from the Armenian sources, is
recalled Muhammad ibn Marwan and nurtured the thought of undertaking a the location of the Botis river, on the
appointed in his place Abd al-Aziz ibn campaign of his own to China, and banks of which the battle between the
Hatim al-Bahili (86-91 A.H./705-709 may have wanted to take the lead Arabs and the Chinese was fought.
A.D.)29 . As to Muhammad ibn Marwan, over al-Hajjaj in the conquest of that According to the Armenian sources,
he saved his other post as the su- country and appoint there a ruler of Mahmet left Damascus with his army
preme ruler of the Northern part of the his own choice. With this aim, prob- and passed through Syria, Persia and
caliphate, including Armenia until 91 ably a long time before the campaign Khorasan, and reached the borders of
A.H./709-10 A.D., when Maslama ibn itself, he suggested this to his uncle Chenastan.37 The Botis river has been
Abd al-Malik (91-114 A.H./709-732 Muhammad ibn Marwan, who was one identified alternatively with Jayhun,
A.D.)30 , the brother of Caliph al-Walid of the most reliable of his commanders i.e., Amudarya river, or with Talas river
was appointed in his place. After that and was greatly experienced in the art in the Chu valley38 . However, in the
in the Arab sources the information on of war through his campaigns against Armenian sources Chenastan or the
Muhammad ibn Marwan comes to an the Byzantines and Armenians. The country of Chens does not refer to
end, and the Armenian sources tell us Armenian authors testify to Central Asia or Western Turkistan, but
about the above-mentioned campaign this:...(W)hen Mahmet had been it denotes China, and the title
to China31 . instigated against the Chinese34 and Djenbakur is only used for the Chinese
It is known that at that time Caliph ...nourished for a long time in his emperor, while Eastern Turkistan is
al-Walid had been inspired by the swift heart the designs on the land of the refered to as the land of Sin39 . Apart
successes of Qutayba ibn Muslim in the Chinese 35 . from this, Muhammad ibn Musa al-
East and of Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik Consequently, this information Khwarizmis tenth century work, Surat
in the North, and cherished some gives us the basis for supposing, that al-ard (The Face of the Earth),
hopes of a conquest of China, which the campaign of Muhammad ibn mentions that the greatest river of
was at that time the only great power Marwan to China had been undertaken China was named Botis, which had
still not subdued by the caliphate. in 91 A.H./709-10 A.D., or 92 A.H./ been identified with the Lower Huanhe
These trends became apparent 710-11 A.D., when he had been in China40 . The same river was fixed
particularly in 92 A.H./710-11 A.D., relieved of his post as Governor of in the map of Ptolemeus (second
when another Arab commander, Armenia and asked Caliph al-Walid for century) as Bautisos41 . Thus it can be
Muhammad ibn al-Qasim ath-Thaqafi, the command of an expeditionary concluded, the Arab army under
reached the mouth of the Indus and army for a campaign to China. As we Muhammad ibn Marwan in fact reached
conquered Sind32 . At that time al- know in this year the ruler of Khorasan the borders of the Chinese empire and
Hajjaj bin Yusuf, the supreme ruler of was Qutayba ibn Muslim, who was at made contact with the Emperor.
Iraq, Khorasan and the whole Eastern that time busy suppressing the anti-
part of the caliphate, who was earlier Arab uprisings in Sijistan, Tokharistan

at-Tabari, Annales, ser. II, pp. 1073-1075, 1096.
Ter-Gevondian, rmenia p. 73.
Ibid, p. 74.
Ibid, pp. 75-76.
at-Tabari, Annales, ser. II, pp. 1177, 1181, al-Jakubi, II, p. 272, al-Kufi, Kniga zavoevaniy, p. 14.
Ter-Gevondian, rmenia, p. 78.
Ibid. pp. 79, 85, 271.
There is information that he died in 101 A.H./719-20 A.D. See al-Kufi, Kniga zavoevaniy p. 79, note 16.
According to at-Tabari, this event took place in 90 A.H./708-09 A.D. See at-Tabari, Annales, ser. II, p. 1200.
al-Jakubi, II, p. 346; Bartold, Turkestan, p. 243.
Gryaznevicha, Istoriya khalifov, p. 25; Ter-Mkrtichian, Armyanskie istochniki p. 54.
Ter-Mkrtichian, Armyanskie istochniki p. 58.
at-Tabari, Annales, ser. II, pp. 1218-1235.
Gryaznevicha, Istoriya khalifov, p. 25; Ter-Mkrtichian, Armyanskie istochniki, p. 54.
Ter-Mkrtichian, Armyanskie istochniki, pp. 54, 58.
Ibid, p. 58, notes.
A. Ahmedov, Svedeniya o turkskih narodah v trudah Khorezmi, in Obshestvennye nauki v Uzbekistane, 1987, No. 3, p. 58.
Tabulae Georaphicae Cl.Ptolemaei ad mentem auctoris restitutae et emendatae, per Gerardum Mercatorem illustriss, , Colonia Lalendis Julij, Ducis
cliviaecosmographum, 1583, Asiae, VIII Tab.

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Chargola Exodus and Collective Action in the Colonial Tea Plantations of Assam: 21

Nitin Varma is a doctoral candidate at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi and South
Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg. He is working on the colonial labour history of
Nitin Varma
the Assam Tea Plantations after completing his M Phil at JNU with Prof. Sabyasachi
Bhattacharya on the Chargola Exodus.

Chargola in History gardens, shouting Mahatma Gandhi as a new moment in the progressive
K. N. Dutts Landmarks of the free- ki Jai.3 hierarchy of struggles of the plantation
dom movement in Assam, a classic In her zeal to establish the direct role workers. He writes,
text in the nationalist genre of history of Gandhi in the episode the author Development of trade union
writing, in writing about this period in actually plays around with the chronol- consciousness and organisation
Assam, tries to establish the contribu- ogy of the events. For example, among the tea plantation workers
tion of Assam to the nationalist free- Gandhis visit to Assam in September was a comparatively delayed
dom struggle. The established chro- 1921 is appropriated in the cause- phenomenon. Horrid isolation far
nology of all the significant Congress effect sequence where his calls to from their homes, their ignorance,
led movements also becomes the involve the coolies in the Congress want of education, and difficulty of
chronological framework of discussion programme, leads to the historic contact with the outside political
for showing how the Assamese people exodus, a full four months back in May and trade union workers, added
furthered it in their province. The non- of that year! with sharp vigil and revengeful
cooperation movement in Assam was Sanat Boses treatment of the attitude of the employers against
said to be occasioned by a very event in his book Capital and Labour in any attempt for combination were
enthusiastic response to Gandhis call Indian Tea Industry printed under the factors responsible for the delayed
in which even the coolies from tea aegis of All India Trade Union Con- process. Yet their elementary
gardens joined in. The entire episode gress (A.I.T.U.C), is extremely sensi- passion for resistance against
is uncritically appropriated and tive to the nuances of the economic exploitation, humiliation, physical
homogenised in the annals of the downslide and the general political torture, and many other sorts of
Indian national movement: condition. Specific examples of sadism committed by the British
One of the noticeable effects of the gardens from where the coolies left planters matured in gradual course
movement was the awakening it during the time of the exodus are into a higher consciousness to
caused amongst the labour popula- closely analysed to show how the safeguard their interests collec-
tion working in the tea gardens and wages and remuneration provided on tively. Their collective abstention
other industrial concerns in Assam. gardens fell far short of what should from work and their determined
The labourers began to feel an have been a minimum living wage. decision to abandon the tea gar-
urge for emancipation from the The economic conditions argues Bose, dens as happened in May 1921
exploitation to which their employ- induced the coolies already charged actually climaxed the manifestation
ers subjected them. Gandhijis with the spirit of the times to launch a of this consciousness.5
name cast a spell over them and it struggle against conditions of oppres- The transition from elementary
became the starting point of a new sion. However, in Boses work too the passions in the early days in the
labour movement in Assam. 2 element of passivity manifests itself in plantations to higher forms of collec-
his use of the trickle down paradigm tive bargaining as witnessed in
In another work of the same genre, which is emphasised here regarding
entitled Nationalist upsurge in Assam, Chargola, is analysed as the matu-
the reception of ideas Socialist or rity of the forms of protest. The
and sponsored by the Government of Nationalist. Thus he writes, that the
Assam, once again the episode of the delay in Sens analysis is ascribed to
anti imperialist sentiments and success the late development of trade union
Chargola exodus is used to stand as of the Russian revolution leading to the
testimony to Gandhis messianic consciousness and associations among
creation of the first socialist state the tea workers of Assam. Protest and
powers: gradually spread and ultimately its modes are situated in an ahistorical
To the simple, poor people, touched even the distant borders of teleological hierarchy where it only
Gandhiji was an avatar and they the country in the province of Assam matures with the advent/contact of
fondly believed that he had come and awakened the downtrodden tea higher forms of ideology like social-
to Assam to deliver them from their garden labourer from his age-old ism and nationalism. This is very
age-old bondage. Gandhijis visit slumber.4 Moreover, in his final symptomatic of Guhas reading, where
to Assam gave the tea workers an analysis the lack of organisation of the he analysed the exodus as a a
opportunity to take part in the coolies against the highly organised primitive rebel action against
Congress programmes. In May planter lobbies, and the failure of the legitimised condition of serfdom a
1921, the historic labour exodus Congress party to lead their struggles product of an interaction between the
from Chargola and Longai valleys eventually made their attempts a Gandhian impact on primitive minds
of Chachar district began when failure. and the incipient class militancy. 6
thousands of labourers of (the) Sukomal Sen in his study of the Here the militancy of class and
thirteen tea gardens left their Working class of India saw this event Gandhian impact is contrasted and
The previous part of this paper was published in the previous issue of Global South. As promised, we continue with the rest of the paper
KN Dutt (ed.), Landmarks of the Freedom Struggle in Assam, Gauhati, 1958 (emphasis mine).
Shrutidevi Goswami, The Nationalist upsurge: Its impact on peasants and tea garden workers, in Arun Bhuyan (ed.) Nationalist Upsurge in
Assam, Guwahati, 2000, p. 194. For similar writings see Sujit Kumar Ghosh, Labour Strike in the Surma Valley Tea Gardens in Proceedings
of North East India History Association, 7th Session, Pasighat, 1986-87.
Sanat Kumar Bose, Capital and Labour in Indian Tea Industry, AITUC , p. 96.
Sukomal Sen, Working Class of India, Calcutta, 1977, pp. 60-61. Emphasis mine.
Amalendu Guha, Formation of a Working Class in Assam Plantations: A Study in Retrospect in North East India in Problems of tea industry
in North East India, Calcutta, 1981, p. 94.

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 09


kept separate with an action that is By 1895, Sylhet was in fact the The Report of the Assam Labour
rebellious and minds that are primi- largest tea-producing district and at Enquiry Committee, 1906 gives a
tive. The distinction is not just the turn of the century almost pro- plausible explanation for this apparent
terminological but shares a fundamen- duced 4,000,000 pounds more than anomaly for it says that preferences
tal sense of evolutionary logic. any other district of the province.7 An are formed for some classes more
Both nationalist histories and those overwhelming majority of the coolies because the planter is familiar with
dealing with labour written thus far who were employed here were from them than because others are really
have therefore failed to address those UP, and accounted for almost 28 per inferior. To some extent the late
stereotypes that the contemporary cent of the total labour force unlike the development of the industry in Sylhet
writings have managed to perpetuate. Assam Valley plantations, which might have been one of the overriding
The coolies unproblematically assume showed a preponderance of coolies reasons for this pattern. There has
the identity of a labourer in conflict coming from Chotanagpur and Santhal been a fair amount of evidence
with capital or a nationalist resisting Parganas. Interestingly, these up- suggesting a decline in importance of
the forces of imperialism in these country coolies from UP were highly certain catchment areas of labour for
renditions. Passivity again comes out detested in the Assam valley because the overseas plantation, and a simul-
as the hallmark of the coolie action over a period of time they had come taneous increase in labour immigration
where these larger processes and to acquire a notorious reputation of to some inland destinations.
deeper ideologies somehow have an being very weak in constitution, Chotanagpur region which supplied 40-
undeniable sense of inevitability a showing high mortality rates and in 50 per cent of colonial emigrants
pre-given process in history. This is in general having poor labouring abilities. during the 1840s and 1850s became
no way to suggest that pure au- They were said to be afflicted by an an important source of labour supply
tonomy is the central characteristic of irresistible propensity to desert and to Assam in the following decades. A
coolie consciousness and action, but to seemed to find a virtually mandatory similar trend was observable in the
forcefully make the point that it was mention in the annual Labour reports. labour supplying districts of Azamgarh,
not predetermined either. The coolies from NWP thus stood at Ballia, Ghasipur and Jaunpur of NWP,
one extreme of the spectrum of the where there was a decline in supply of
Having analysed the reading of the racialised discourse of labour, while the indentured labourers to the overseas
exodus in the historical literature both perfect coolie came to be epitomised plantation in the last decades of
colonialist and the nationalist in the by the Junglees of Chotanagpur and nineteenth century.9 Surma valley
following section we may take a look the Sonthals. In fact, by the mid plantations especially the plantations
at the specificities of the development 1870s the question of putting a blanket of Sylhet, which were coming up most
of the plantation in Surma Valley ban on up-country emigrants in the rapidly during this period, drew upon
especially with reference to Sylhet and Assam valley plantations was finally this source of supply of labour.
try to open up the our discussion on raised in light of the excessive mortal- So there were important differ-
the Chargola exodus specifically ity observed among them.8 Strangely ences in procedure both as regards
addressing the problems we posed in however, in the case of the Surma the mode of recruitment followed and
the very beginning. valley especially the Chargola valley the form and period of the contract
Plantations in Surma valley and area these very terms of criticism for under which the labourer was placed in
the Recruitment of Coolie Labour the NWP coolies were reversed and the two valleys. The pattern of labour
Wild tea was discovered in the Surma were used as a confirmation of their recruitment through the agency of
valley in 1855 and the first garden was suitability as coolies. sardars in the Surma valley was most
opened in Sylhet, Malnicherra in 1857. In case of Chargola valley characteristic of the Chargola valley.
The progress of industry though was contrary to the general opinion The table published in the Special
slow, especially in comparison to elsewhere, NWP coolies are consid- report shows the sharp variance of
Assam valley and Cachar. The devel- ered the best available, both in prices of coolies arising out of different
opment of Sylhet as a major tea- regard to work and ability to stand recruitment methods, which interest-
producing district vis--vis the other the Sylhet climate coolies of this ingly gets racially defined. 10
tea districts of Assam valley took nationality formed a striking
shape only in the later decades of the contrast to those found in other
nineteenth century. parts of the province (Assam).




Rs.17-Rs. 50 (1-3) 1. FREE SIRDARI, {the sirdar working

1. NWP, including Behar and Oudh and CP
2. FREE SIRDARI {under the control of an
1. Bengalis, including Uriyas and Ganjamese
3. ACT SIRDARI 1. Junglies, Chotanagpuris and Sonthals

Rs.50-Rs100 (4-5) 4. MIXED SIRDARI


J.B. Bhattacharjee, Cachar under British Rule in North-East India New Delhi, 1977, pp. 199-200 and Assam District Gazetteers, Sylhet District,
p. 136.
There was a lot of ambiguity regarding upcountry emigrants but taken to be generally the ones coming from beyond the Rajmehal Hills.
Revenue and Agriculture Department, Emigration Branch, A Proceedings, May 1875, Nos. 18-20 and Revenue and Agriculture Department,
Emigration Branch, B Proceedings, May 1877, Nos. 8-11, NAI.
Pradipta Chaudhury, Labour Migration from United Provinces, 1881-1911, Studies in History, 1992 (8,1), pp.13-14; Gyanendra Pandey,
Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India, New Delhi, 1990, p.77.
Special Report On the Working Act I of 1882 in the Province of Assam During Years 1886-89, p. 19.

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 10


The interesting point to note is that the by the chaukidars policing these lines. facilities given to recruitment by
different catchment areas were Communication barriers, because of garden sardars working under the
characterised by the preference of a the fact that coolies coming from local agents of TDLSA. By 1915 the
particular type of labour recruitment disparate area spoke different lan- Assam Labour and Emigration Amend-
strategy, which costed differently to guages, could also have been a critical ment Act (Act VIII of 1915) was
the employer. The sardar working factor in maintaining this distance. passed, under which the system of
outside the Act almost typical of the Even at the work in gardens and recruitment by contractors was
coolies coming from North West factories located in the plantations, the abolished, and a Labour Board for the
Provinces to the Surma valley, being coolies were placed under the supervi- supervision of local agents and of the
the cheapest mode of recruitment, sion of the very sardars who had recruitment, engagement and emigra-
while the contractor or sardars work- recruited them restricting the inter tion to labour districts of natives of
ing under the ambit of the legal and community exchanges. Therefore India was constituted.
official procedures procuring coolies at there was this continuous reproduction World War I and the Recruitment
the higher rates. of natal solidarities, and the workplace Drive
Thus drive for a cheap labour force came to be geared along the axis of
community, which had an important However it is important to bear in mind
meant a growing preference for the specific context of the exodus
Sardari coolies obtained outside the bearing on the expression of collective
behaviour in the colonial plantation. especially the changes introduced in
Act. However, simultaneously, Act XIII the wake of the First World War. The
of 1859 was brought in to diminish his However by the turn of the century
the unassisted sardari recruitment war had sparked off a boom in the
bargaining powers and execute control industry with a spurt in demands, with
over labour and life. was coming under increasing pressure
and checks. The debates arising out over 100,000 coolies recruited in the
Act VI has been practically dis- of the maladies of the process of free 1915-16 season. The next two sea-
carded (in Surma valley), and recruitment, most significantly the sons however showed a sharp dip in
many labourers work without rising incidence of cholera and the the coolies travelling to Assam, with
agreements of any sort, though the scandals of the abduction of women. only 19,000 coolies being recruited in
bulk of labour force is under Act The 1901 Act tried to redress to the 1917-18 season. The end of the war
XIII of 1859 and cannot therefore concerns by making the process of meant that there was a stoppage of
be described as free in the sense recruitment more stringent. this abnormal demand of the labour
that labour in Duars is free. The This had a negative bearing on the within the recruiting districts.13 The
existence of Act XIII agreement sardari recruitment the valley was existing workforce however was also
steadies the labour force and gives used to. C. W. A. Trevor, the manager getting depleted by the influenza
the planter some guarantee of its of the Chargola Tea Estate clearly epidemics raging in the tea gardens,
permanence the coolie is to a highlighted these concerns before and certain gardens of South Sylhet
certain extent regarded as tied to Labour Enquiry Commission of 1906: were facing a persistent problem of
his garden; if he goes away on desertions to Independent Tiperrah.
leave for two three days, he carries My labour force is entirely North In 1918-19 and 1919-20 seasons more
with him a leave chit from his West. With the abolition of the Act, than three lakh coolies were recruited
manager that it is a fair one that I hope to be able to recruit suc- to the gardens of Assam.14 It was the
the hold which a manager has over cessfully through sardars, as there newer coolies, who formed the bulk of
his labour force is comparable to will be no interference with the men the coolies leaving the plantations
that which a strong zemindar has I send down. Upto 1898 I used to during the exodus. This was con-
over his ryots in backward parts of have no difficulty in recruiting firmed by most of the managers
Bengal. through sardars in Ghazipur and interviewed by the Enquiry Commis-
Ballia; they went down and brought sion, and can be seen clearly in the
A significant fallout of the Sardari up their own relatives and acquain-
coolies recruited in the Surma valley statistics given in the Labour Enquiry
tances as third class passengers. 11 Reports. There were also reports of
mostly without recourse to the Act
was that it ensured a strong commu- This Labour Enquiry Commission was over four to five thousand of the
nity sense in the coolies recruited. It primarily concerned with removing the coolies returning to the two districts of
also ensured a certain degree of prejudices concerned with the coolie Gorakhpur and Basti from where most
continued family life among the new emigration to Assam. It was in favour of the recent recruits came.15
immigrants, for a larger number of of sardari recruitment which it de- These new recruits were seriously
married couples and families were scribed as the best way of working impacted by high mortality during
being imported. In the Assam valley, with natives of the coolie classes is transit, due to cholera and the influ-
on the other hand, the upcountry through headmen who understands enza epidemic prevailing in the labour
coolies were mainly isolated men and their likes and dislikes in a way no districts. What is also interesting is
women with no family or other ac- European can do. This was reflective that there were numerous instances of
quaintances recruited through unli- of the general mood of the British violence against and oppression of
censed contractors, unlike the Sardari administration from the late nineteenth these new lower caste coolies by the
recruitment in Surma valley. century of adhering to the native older caste coolies of Chargola16 from
The construction and settlement of norms of morality and hierarchy.12 Azamgarh and Ghazipur, which had
the coolie lines was done in such a Sardari system of recruitment there- earlier been the major suppliers of
way so as to ensure that each line fore was thought to fit most into the recruits for these inland destinations.
housed coolies of the same stock. scheme of things. By the legislation of Based on this the Deputy Commis-
Interactions across these ethnic 1908, control over contractors was sioner established a connection
coolie lines were sharply limited tightened, recruitment by unlicensed between newer/bad quality coolies and
because of the strict monitoring done contractors abolished and increased the coolies leaving, and in his state-

Proceedings of Assam Labour Enquiry Committee, 1906, p. 144.
The perceived accommodation between West and East, market and coustom, capital and labour, was characteristic of the mood of British
administration towards the end of the nineteenth century. See the introduction of Peter Robb, (ed.), Dalit Movements and the Meanings of
Labour in India, New Delhi, 1993, pp. 17-22.
The all-India area under tea had risen from 624,000 acres in 1914, to nearly 692,000 acres in 1919. P. Griffiths, History of the Indian Tea
Industry, London, 1967, p. 177.
ALECR 1921-22, p. 103.
Report of the Revenue administration of UP for the year ending 30th September 1921. Reproduced in ALECR 1921-22, p. 15.
Forthnightly report of 1st half of May and ALECR 1921-22, p. 12.

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 11


ment two factors for the coolie exodus are only glad to buy.20 But bazaars strange tales going around these days.
are articulated. First, that most of and hats were sites where not just They say that the Angrezi Raj [British
them were new, of bad health and economic relationships were estab- Raj] is at end in India, and that Ghandi
physique on account of indiscriminate lished but also significant information is the King of Hindustan. A rumour
recruiting and in a state of abject networks were forged, which could not has also been heard that the coolies
poverty and second that these were deprive the coolies of news about the on all gardens in Sylhet have gone on
the perfect conditions for them to be general situation in the locality and strike, and that several Sahibs have
manipulated and in the words of the region. In this a very crucial role was been severely beaten, and bungalows
officer bad recruiting made the non- played by the presence of a large and tea-houses have been burnt down,
co-operation propaganda easy.17 The body of time-expired coolies who were and the coolies demand to be sent
transition in this explanatory strategy, settled outside the garden grants in back to their country. It is great
from factor one to factor two as if the neighbouring villages. They zoolum, [injustice] sister, indeed, and
they were stages shares in the frequented the bazaars and hats to sell all this may have happened and be
depoliticisation of coolie action, for any their products but also acted as true; but do these stupid Ghandi-
action with slight inclination of politics important conduits of information and wallahs think they will get better of
has to be attributed to an external news as they shared ethnic and more Sahib-logs. The very use of a coolie
agent in this case the non-co-opera- importantly linguistic affinities with the woman as the narrator is a confirma-
tors. coolie population. These emerged as tion of it being the authentic voice of
However a fragmentary look into sites where the colonial claims of the coolies. Speaking about the
the voices shows that the coolies absolute control were contested. More Ghandi-wallahs zoolum Pano says that
were extremely alive to the prevailing importantly, the bazaars emerging as a Fakeer of late was seen moving in
political situation and economic an arena of disorder in the colonial the lines of her garden and when
condition and were not simply reacting imagination, giving rise to voices of confronted by the Burra Sahib sa-
to the economic depression or non co- dissent and rumour, actually revealed laamed him and called down blessings
operation propaganda. Moreover, the the states inability to police it. This on him. but scarcely had he gone
bad recruiting/new recruit theory did becomes all the more interesting if we out of sight, when the evil one started
not explain why only the new recruits take into account that most of the new inciting the coolies to go on strike and
of Chargola and to an extent Longai labourers were coming from the murder the feringhi as he called the
valley left the gardens? Also how does Eastern districts of Gorakhpur and Sahib. This suspicion of Pano is
this explain the nature of the exodus, Basti, where Gandhi of late had finally vindicated when a gang of
which was not restricted to a particular assumed cultic status and rumours drunken coolies, incited by the
garden and at times not just to the around him were very much in the air. Ghandi agents, assault her for being
newer coolies? 18 Stop this Nasty Chat! Anxieties the informer and lay siege at the
The fact that the eighteen gardens and Initiatives of the State and Managers Bungalow armed with daos
were in close proximity (all the gar- the Nationalists and heavy sticks. The use of the
dens were located within the distance character of a Fakeer establishes the
of 15-20 miles) opened up possibilities One of the first measures taken by the covertness of their activity informa-
of interaction, association and circula- Assam administration, during the tion and news was not being propa-
tion of information outside the strict exodus, was the application of Section gated through conventional channels
confines of the colonial enclaves. The 144 prohibiting meetings and speeches of meetings and speeches by the non
district of Sylhet, being a densely within seven kilometres of the gar- co-operators but through distorted
populated area, the tea gardens and dens. However, the Labour Enquiry manipulative rumours circulated by the
the surrounding village population had Committee soon recognised that, even disguised fakeers, which was creating
significant overlaps in their social and after this prohibition, an insidious the nuisance. Fakeer in this account
geographical space and were not as campaign was being conducted also facilitates in establishing the
divorced as the enclaves of Assam surreptitiously on some gardens.21 externality of this voice of dissension,
valley plantations may suggest. Ganj, Therefore, it was not the regular once again denying agency to the
a very common suffix used in Sylhet meetings and speeches of the non co- coolie, which validates his docile
district, indicated the place to be a operators but bazaar talk and gossip apolitical stereotype but at the same
market place. The 1906 Report which were creating all the trouble. time uneasily expresses the gaps in
indicates to this fact: There was in fact also a proposal by the information grid of the plantation
the government of Assam, to apply the and the inabilities to effectively police
Bazaars are numerous (in Surma Seditious Meeting Act X of 1911 to the
Valley); besides the public markets it.
districts of Sylhet and Cachar and This unease was also reflected in
nearly every tea garden has its declare Karimganj subdivision as a
weekly or bi-weekly hat, to which the measures taken by the colonial
proclaimed area. 22 administration to tackle the situation.
crowds of villagers and tea garden A story titled Non-Co-operation
coolies may be seen streaming Attempts were made to strengthen the
written by a manager describing the armed police, intelligence system was
either to make purchases or with unrest in a tea garden during this
supplies or goods for sale.19 beefed up and counter propaganda
period articulates similar sentiments.23 work was undertaken.24 Special
These markets were a strong bond of In the story, Pano, a Santhali woman assistance was sought from the United
union between the two parties [villag- who was a maid at the Managers Provinces Government to this end, and
ers and coolies], as the villagers bungalow is the narrator relating to they accordingly sent two men to
derive[d] profit from the sale of her friends the coming of trouble in conduct counter propaganda work
commodities, which the garden coolies her garden. She says, there are amongst tea garden coolies from

ALECR 1921-22, p. 12.
Ibid, p. 11.
The Report of Assam Labour Enquiry Committee, 1906, pp. 66-69.
Annual Report on Labour immigration into Assam for the year 1885.
ALECR 1921-22, p. 19.
Strike of tea garden coolies in Assam, Proposal of the Government of Assam to apply the Seditious meeting Act X Of 1911 to that
province. Home Department, Political Branch, June 1921, pp. 143-146. NAI.
Maurice P. Hanley, Tales and Songs from an Assam Tea Garden, Thacker, Sphinx & Co., Calcutta, 1928, pp. 58-63.
Political situation in Assam Increase of the strength of troops in the province for internal security purposes. Home Department, Political
Branch, File no. 534, 1922, NAI.

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 12


United Provinces. Assam rifles were I never advised a single coolie in of the buzz in the town. But this does
augmented in affected areas so that Assam to strike. I do not profess not warrant a case being made that
the continued authority of the British to know the problem of labour these networks could have been
Raj could be impressed upon the there. He should moreover know effectively manipulated by any of
coolies. 25 that there is no non-co-operation these agencies, so as to be able to
The desire to control information going on with capital or capitalists. authenticate what was official news
was not limited to the colonial state; Non Co-operation is going on with and information and what was the
the nationalists also realised their the existing Government as a distorted propaganda and rumour.
shortcomings. A very familiar and system. But there is bound to be Gandhi Baba ka Hookum: Fall of
often quoted explanation given by the non-cooperation wherever there is the Sahib, Rumour of Gandhi
coolies of Chargola valley for their evil, oppression and injustice,
decision to leave was that it was whether anybody wishes it or not. What then were these rumours that
Gandhi ka Hookum. However making The people, having found the were in circulation in the gardens of
this as a case for simplistic connection remedy, will resort to it. If they do Chargola valley? Were these also
with the Non co-operation movement stupidly or unjustifiably, they alone informed by the specific context that
and as an evidence of following the will be the real losers.2 8 coolies lived and worked?
Gandhian creed falls flat on its face The projection of the relationship of
A yearning to give a distinctive orien- manager-coolie within the garden as
when one looks at the matter closely. tation to the movement among the tea
A former non-co-operator from Silchar analogous to zamindar-ryot masks the
coolies is evident from Gandhis controls that the managing agencies,
testifying before the Enquiry commit- statements. However the agencies to
tee said: positioned in Calcutta, exercised over
make that happen were not in place, vital decisions like the fixing of wages.
When I was in the non-co-operation and therefore the claims to own up or The manager who claimed almost
movement I was deadly against the disown the movement appears to be of unrestrained power within the planta-
coolie exodus. When Mr. Gandhi no consequence in this context. tion was sometimes not more than a
visited these parts some coolies Gandhi, in his visit to Surma Valley in mere employee executing the
were produced before him and he September 1921, particularly ex- decisions of superior authorities.30
told them that they had no com- pressed his disapproval of the coolie Such concerns were raised from the
plaints to make and that they had strikes and hartals and censured them turn of the century evident from the
better go back. Mr. Pandey for indifference to what he regarded as statement made by the Commissioner
[Ratabari meeting] spoke to the the more important matters of boycott of Assam valley.
coolies: he did not however directly and the use of spinning wheel suggest-
make any suggestion that they ing such desires and their failings.29 Private concerns are giving place
should go, but his speech did infuse The introduction of the Gandhian to companies, and private owners
a spirit of independence and free message in this context, often at are disappearing. Control is being
will into the minds of the coolies.26 variance with the dictates of Gandhi removed from managers on the
and the official Congress creed, spot to absentee Agents and
The fact that the individual having Directors. The cost of production
changed his political predilections was suggests a lack of control over the
information networks within the (local cost I cannot say about
now on the payrolls of the Indian Tea Calcutta charges) is being re-
Association might have induced him to plantation area (which covered a
number of gardens) and suggests that duced. 31
take such a polarised view of things.
Nonetheless, the whole idea of leaving the circulating population of coolies However some leverage and au-
the garden in a body as being had a peculiar dynamics of operation. tonomy was available to him so as to
organised or even tutored, to the The general climate was one of be able to effect any changes that
coolies, by the non-co-operators does defiance, anticipating a possible end to would steady the workforce and create
not stand the test of evidence. the British Raj and the imminence of a good moral hold over them. Author-
Gandhis Raj. The frequent demon- ity within the plantation showed strong
Gandhis first reaction to the strations, public meetings and hartals paternalistic inclinations most clearly
exodus is very symptomatic in this in the nearby Subdivisional headquar- seen in the person of the manager
regard: ters of Karimganj and the Sylhet town (the Burra Sahib). It was therefore no
I should be sorry if anybody used and the extreme low rates of surprise that a particular garden was
my name to lead the men to desert realisation of land revenue in the often identified with its manager and
their employers, it was clear adjoining villages could have played the discharge of wage and non-wage
enough that it is purely a labour an important role in the circulation of benefits on it was seen to be his
trouble. Das and Andrews in- such ideas. The coolies bound by a prerogative and obligation. The
formed that the trouble is purely rigorous work-schedule with various fulfilment of such responsibilities and
economic. 27 checks on their movement, could not obligations was not just a part of the
have personally attended the public job of the manager, rather it was the
In another issue of Young India, in a basis of his legitimacy.
meetings and speeches in large
reply to a planter accusing him and his But in this period of economic
numbers, but nonetheless the interac-
men of inducing the coolies to strike, boom in the tea industry, managers
tions with villagers, ex-coolies and
Gandhi goes on to write: were left with little discretion in
even the non-cooperators at these
I can assure him (the planter) that market places could not deprive them effecting wage hikes or giving out

Fortnightly report for the Second half of July for the Province of Assam. NAI.
Evidence, ALECR 1921-22, p. 74.
Young India, 8 June in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XX. Emphasis mine.
Young India, 29 June in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XX, pp. 299-300. Emphasis mine.
Khan Bahadur Saiyid Abdul Majid, a minister who visited Sylhet during the period said, [that] the people were quite unanimous in thinking
that Gandhi unseen was a far greater personage than Gandhi seen and the common peoples observation was that he was only a kaya.
Fortnightly report for 1st half of September 1921. Even during Gandhis visit to Cuddapah district in Andhra in September 1921 he was
greeted by enormous crowd of villagers who believed that he would get their taxes reduced and forest regulations abolished many
returned home greatly disappointed. Quoted in Sumit Sarkar, Primitive rebellion and Modern Nationalism: A note on Forest Satyagraha in
the Non-Cooperation and Civil Disobedience Movements, p. 19.
Sharit Bhowmick, Class Formation in the Plantation System, New Delhi, 1981, See Chapter 3.
Letter from P. G. Meltius, Commissioner of the Assam Valley Districts to the Secretary to the Chief Commissioner of Assam. Dated 6th
May, 1904. Rev A, 77-117, Aug 1904, ASA.

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 13


other remuneration to the coolies. extra Assistant commissioner of Deductions were made for the weight
Concerns were raised about the Karimganj Subdivision, for example, of the basket, for wet leaf and the
prestige of managers being under- ventilated the complaints of several quality of the leaf plucked. Not only
mined by the hard and fast decisions managers that even with those in- did the managers find nothing wrong in
as regards the wage rates by the creased wages the coolies were doing deducting for the wastage in manu-
Calcutta agencies. There were cases just as they liked and were not work- facture of tea called the factory
of coolies writing directly to the ing satisfactorily.33 The manager of charges, but one manager went to the
agencies for relief, which was said to Singlacherra Tea Estate related the extent of penalising the coolies an
be most subversive of discipline and case of a male returnee who said that additional two pounds in peak seasons
the very necessary patriarchal control he would not have stayed back at the to make up for the loss on plucking
of the manager. time of exodus for even a rupee a early and late in the year when leaf
In such a situation, consider the day!34 was scarce!38 No rules were observed
scene on the morning of the 3 May in This bankruptcy of legitimacy in regard to these deductions and in
the Anipur tea estate described by the probably also stemmed from a kind of some gardens in Surma valley the
manager, from where it all began: scepticism towards European medicine deductions were as high as fifty per
On the morning of 3 May a and hospitals. Dr. Dunlop, of the cent.39
number of coolies demanded an Chargola Valley, read this resistance Later, a novel practice of payment
increase of wages, i.e., 8 annas as a part of the Gandhi propaganda called the ticket-system became quite
and 6 annas for men and women. used to induce people to have nothing common in the Surma valley tea
Previous to this an increase of to do with hospitals and Western gardens. In this system, the previous
wages had not been asked for. I medicine. 35 However, this was not a days work was paid in brass tokens of
[the manager] told them it was simple a case of tradition versus different face values at the morning
impossible for me to give them the modernity but reflective of their muster. There was a feeling among
wages demanded some one general ineffectiveness given the high managers that it encouraged a good
amongst them shouted Gandhi rates of mortality seen during this muster ensuring better attendance and
Maharaj ki jai. They left the period which evoked a deep sense of discipline among their working popula-
muster ground in a body and in half cynicism. More than one and half lakh tion. This meant pressing difficulties
an hour were leaving the garden. people lost their lives in the tea for the coolies, who was practically
estates of Assam in the 1917 to 1921 without any money in hand to buy his
It is important here to repeat the period. It is important to bear in mind daily provisions and forced to take
decisions taken in the meeting of the that gardens in Surma valley tradition- more credit from the local kayas/
managers and local officials held at ally plucked coarse, unlike the gardens mahajans. The gardens generally
Dullabcherra Club on 6 May just four of Assam valley where fine plucking cashed these tokens on a weekly
days into the exodus and already one was carried out. By the time the War basis by the time, which the coolies
thousand coolies had left. The ex- ended, in order to equate supply and might have already been gravely
tremely tense and nervous body of the demand garden agents realised that indebted to the mahajans. The
planters most reluctantly agreed upon the remedy lay in resorting to fine Superintendent of Police of Sylhet,
a hike of wages but emphasised that plucking. This lessened the opportuni- observed that a coolie who took a
such a decision should be communi- ties for overtime work dramatically. ticket worth four annas (twenty five
cated to the coolies at the earliest to Secondly, the precision demanded in pice) to the mahajan got only fifteen
stop the spread of the unrest.32 fine plucking meant an obvious fall in pice in return.40
However the delay in implementa- the quantity plucked, calling for a Therefore the cutting down on the
tion and the withdrawal of concessions revision in the daily task for plucking. expenditure and changed working
on many gardens, after being an- However these changes were not practices within the garden meant that
nounced led to their not being ratified always taken into consideration and certain norms were not honoured
by their Calcutta agents. This could many managers steadfastly stuck to coolies in many gardens were not
not but have seriously eroded the their old rates. given the usual agreement bonuses,
credibility, legitimacy and sense of Wages and tasks often formed the ticca amount was reduced, and they
authority of the managers among the reason for collective grievance and were forced to take leave. In addition,
coolie population and therefore they action. The coolies on some gardens land, which was an important feature
found it futile to engage in a demanded the reduction of nirikh on the plantations of Surma valley,
negotiatary process with him. (task) or nal (measurement).36 Coo- was increasingly becoming a scarce
Some managers on the other hand, lies of the Lungla Tea Estate during the commodity due to heavy influx of
complained against the submission of exodus went on strike for three weeks newer coolies. Also the mad exten-
the government to the demand of in April, asking for the same rates as sions during the time of war could only
wage hikes under the pressure of given in the neighbouring gardens. have intruded into the land held by
strike on a later date. This they But when the new rates with the coolies for cultivation or grazing lands
believed proved counterproductive as increased hoeing tasks were offered for their cattle.
coolies now thought it was on account they refused, continuing with their The South Sylhet gardens, which
of Gandhis orders that the wages strike.37 The fall in volume of leaves were in close proximity to the indepen-
have been increased. Therefore the plucked and no necessary amend- dent state of Tipperah, saw a substan-
decision to hike wages did not neces- ments in the tasks, aggravated by the tial number of coolies moving into the
sarily reinvigorate the sense of oppressive practices in gardens in new gardens being opened there, and
authority as expected by the employ- weighing leaves meant a sharp decline were being offered not just higher
ers and the local administration. The in the daily earnings of the coolies.

Conference of Chargola Valley Tea Planters and Government Officials, 6 May 1921.
Rai Bahadur Panchu Gopal Mukherjee, Extra Asst Com, SDO, Karimganj and H. A. Wray, Manager, Singlacherra T. E. Evidence, ALECR
1921-22, pp. 61-63 & p. 56.
H. A. Wray, Manager, Singlacherra T. E. in Evidence, ALECR 1921-22, p. 55.
ALECR 1921-22, p. 97.
Ibid, p. 65.
Evidence in ibid, p. 42.
Warner, Evidence, ALECR 1921-22, p. 42.
Ibid, p. 32.
Evidence, ibid, p. 31.
Ibid, pp. 87-88.

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 14


wages but land too, for cultivation free repeated complaint of the departing and invincible. The authority exer-
of rent for a term of two or three coolies as Pet nahi bharta44 in this cised by the babus was also resented,
years.41 In making such a decision to instance appears to be a better especially for their corrupt practices in
move, the coolies show that they were indicator of the disenchantment of maintaining the accounts of coolies.49
extremely alive to the situation, made the coolies with the life in the planta- In addition to this the sexual exploita-
evident from statement of the man- tions than the cold figures of falling tion of the coolie women by the
ager of Madhabcherra tea estate: wages and rising cost of living.45 managers also drew deep antipathy.
They [the coolies] put forward their These conditions of a bankruptcy of The Khoreal shooting case where a
grievances for instance they have legitimacy and a general sense of manager shot a coolie who was
been telling me that such and such changed conditions in life exacerbated resisting his daughter being forcibly
garden and such garden is paying 8 problems within the plantations, which taken by him was widely publicised.
annas for a day whereas we give were increasingly articulated during The fact that the Manager got away
them 4 and 5 annas only. During the period. Grievances and at times with a small fine could not but have
the last 4 or 5 years about 50 % of purposeful action was directed against drawn deep resentment.50
the coolies on one garden gradually the structure of authority within the The loss of legitimacy, oppression
but peacefully absconded to plantation. During the April strikes in and the generally depressed material
Tipperah, without causing any the Burtoll and Lydiacherra gardens, and living standards was inscribed in
commotion coolies are attracted the coolies complained of babus the message and person of Gandhi.
to Tipperah because they say that cheating them in payments and drove There were reports from the garden
they would get 8 annas for each out some of them. On being interro- staff, that letters had been received by
hasira and also plenty of paddy gated the coolies said that they wanted certain coolies from the United Prov-
fields. 42 to get rid of the babus first and then inces that said that Gandhi would
deal with the manager.46 J. W. Hallan, arrange free conveyance of coolies to
However the local tea bodies and the the manager of Phulcherra Division, their homes. Some of the departing
planting community signatories to the talked about the absurd demand coolies claimed that Gandhi has sent a
anti-enticement agreement did not made by his coolies that no Europeans steamer to Karimganj to take them
take this merely as a case of the speak to the women and no Babus back to their home districts where they
coolie exercising a better choice. In speak directly to them either and that would be given land for free. There
an illustrative case from the everything be done through their were also rumours of food without
Naraincherra garden of Sylhet district sardars.47 work, and land now under tea to be
in the year 1911, warrants were issued The mechanism of discipline and given to them to cultivate. In some
against certain coolies under agree- punishment within the plantations cases the garden and hats were said
ment who had left for the adjoining needs to be emphasised. The coolies to be Gandhis, and that the manager
Balacherra garden. The assistant though were free in the legal sense had no right over them, and that they
manager alongwith his sardars and with the abolition of Act VI in 1908 but could cut out the tea and plant paddy
two constables proceeded to appre- the use of Act XIII to steady the and sugarcane instead.51 While in
hend the absconding coolies. Two of labour force was a very serious some gardens hearing that the wages
them were caught on the way. How- impediment to their claimed freedom. in the nearby garden have been hiked
ever the news of their arrest agitated The practice of private arrest not agitated coolies stated that Gandhi has
their fellow coolies and other coolies included in the Act was exercised. increased wages and demanded
of the Balacherra garden who came Cases of coolies returning from jail to similar hikes.52
out in force armed with sticks and complete their contract on the garden Gandhi Ka Hookum symbolised the
bamboos. The arresting party was was not entirely unheard of either. yearnings; anxieties and the general
attacked and the prisoners rescued.43 The Manager of Bidyanagar Tea Estate spirit of defiance of the coolies ex-
The management, at times of in the Chargola valley brought to pressed and legitimised through
scarcity and high prices, used to notice a case in which the Manager of cultural/religious idioms, which very
arrange for the supply of rice and a neighbouring garden sent were much in circulation. That the
clothing at concessional rates. But the chowkidars to his garden to bring back coolies of the valley came from similar
arbitrary usage of Act XIII and con- a woman whose husband had left in ethnic/regional background could also
tracting budgets of the gardens were the Chargola exodus.48 The managers have been a strong factor in the
inadequate to satisfactorily live out thus tried their best to maintain their effectiveness of mobilisation along
these obligations even when prices claims to exercise unrestrained power, such idioms. During the time of the
were showing a sharp rise. An oft which was no longer as compulsive exodus there were reports of a boy in

Babu Rajniranjan Deb, Madhabcherra, Evidence, ALECR 1921-22, p. 29.
Home Department, Police Branch, April 1911, 56, Part B.
The rough translation as there is not enough to eat fails to capture the embedded social and cultural meanings of Pet nahi bharta. It does
not merely suggest hunger and deprivation of the speaker but legitimises her/his actions taken as a consequence of it. Action manifested
in variegated forms and could lead to violent attacks, food riots and the collective desire to leave as evident in our case.
Sumit Sarkar in his study of conditions and nature of subaltern militancy argues that the concept of breakdown of the authority structure,
real or often rumoured was central to the most outbreaks. This breakdown, he argues, can have two dimensions a sudden change in the
conditions of life and the rumours of weakening of authority structures. Ranajit Dasgupta has analysed a fascinating instance of agitation
in the Duars tea plantation region in 1916, drawing upon symbols and idioms of the Tana Bhagat movement in Chotanagpur but definitely
showing the specificity of the locale. The rumours of the falling British Raj and the coming of the German baba could be understood in the
immediate historical context. The dislocating impact of the war on the economy and the German victories in its early years gave rise to
the rumour that the British Raj was not only in crisis but also coming to an end. Sumit Sarkar, The Conditions and Nature of Subaltern
Militancy: Bengal from Swadeshi to Non-Cooperation, 1905-22, in Ranajit Guha (ed.) Subaltern Studies III, p. 305; Ranajit Das Gupta,
Oraon Labour Agitation: Duars in Jalpaiguri District, 1915-16, Economic and Political Weekly, September 30, 1989.
Evidence, ALECR 1921-22, p. 72.
J. W. Hallan, Manager, Phulcherra division, Consolidated Tea and Lands Company, Evidence, ibid, pp. 38-39.
Evidence, ibid, p. 86.
Ibid, p. 31.
The local press most extensively covered the Khoreal Shooting case and even news articles in Calcutta were published in evidence of the
oppression of coolies by the planters and complicity of the state in it.
Panchu Gopal Mukherjee, Evidence, ALECR 1921-22, p. 62.
Mukherjee, Evidence, ibid.

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 15


one of the gardens of Anipur proclaim- Religious divide in modes of articula- justified. Many coolies interrogated by
ing that the spirit of Gandhi had come tion of protest fails to appreciate the their managers and sardars during the
upon him and asked all the people to culture of protest and the idioms exodus said that they were leaving
gather around and listen to what he through which they are expressed. because their brethren had decided to
had to say (in effect what Gandhi had The use of religious/cultural meta- go.56 Formal discharge certificates
to say or, Gandhi ka Hookum). He was phors, stories and idioms did not were needed to be obtained for coolies
placed in a Hindu shrine along the lines necessarily mean that they were leaving the gardens serving under an
and worshipped by coolies for two conceptualised in the spiritual rather agreement of Act XIII.57 The
days. Another man made similar than a material domain. Such a Subdivisional officer of Karimganj who
claims in the Singlacherra gardens.53 dichotomy creates a false distinction met many batches of the coolies
There were reports of coolies taking and simplifies the complex of no pointed out this illegality of their
oath over a bowl of holy water not to necessary essentials. action, but agreed upon the practice of
disobey Gandhi Ka Hookum of leaving Victory cries of Gandhi Maharaj ki coming to Karimganj and applying for
the gardens in a body, else they would Jai [Hail King Gandhi] manifested that discharge in the usual way.58 Coolies
be turned into mud or stone!54 defiance into collective action, which admitted to the practice being ob-
Religion has at times been seen as was after all justified. Legitimacy of served in the past but now that as they
playing a specific role in a predomi- the act and its collective nature played were willing to leave in a body, they
nantly peasant society untouched by on this self-perpetuating interplay that were not prepared to follow the
secular creeds where the breakdown it was justified because it was collec- norms and more so they claimed it to
of the world could only be perceived in tive and that it was collective and so be Gandhi Baba ka hookum.59
supernatural terms.55 This Secular/

Evidence, ibid, pp. 57 & 64.
Evidence, ibid. See also P. C. Bamford, Histories of Non cooperation and Khilafat, p. 61. Shahid Amin in his fascinating study of Gandhi as
Mahatma argues that Gandhis pratap and appreciation of his message derived from popular Hindu beliefs and practices and the material
culture of the peasantry. What the peasants thought about the Mahatma were the projections on the existing patterns of popular beliefs
about the worship of worthies in rural north India. The stories of the Mahatma from the Swadesh journal that he analyses falls in four
distinct groups testing the power of the Mahatma, opposing the Mahatma, opposing the Gandhian creed and boons granted and/or
miracles performed. We do not have access to such vast and continuous accounts in the region of our study but the last three categories
broadly apply to the evidence of our case. Shahid Amin, Gandhi as Mahatma: Gorakhpur District, Eastern UP, 1921-22, Ranajit Guha
(ed.) Subaltern Studies III.
Sarkar, The Conditions and Nature pp. 309-310.
C. Townsend, Superintendent of the Longai Tea Company and H. A. Wray, Manager, Singlacherra T. E. Evidence, ALECR 1921-22, pp. 51-
52, 56.
Out of 8,799 coolies leaving 3,715 were under agreement, 2,286 were not under agreement and 2,798 were dependents. Ibid, p. 10.
Coolies frequently came to Courts and applied for a discharge certificate on the ground that they had finished their agreement. There was
no such provision in the Act, which entitled the applicant such a certificate, but it was a well established practice.
Mukherjee, Evidence, ALECR 1921-22, p. 63.

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 16


Capital Flight: An Introduction1

Edsel is Deputy Director of the Centre for Economic Research and Develop-
ment, and teaches at the Departments of Economics, Development Studies,
and Political Science, of Ateneo de Manila University, in the Philippines. His
research covers aspects of capital, trade, labour, knowledge & technology
Edsel L. Beja, Jr. flows; and political economy and history of deregulation, liberalisation, and
globalisation. Edsel has advanced degrees in economics and in geography.
He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Email: edsel.beja@gmail.com

The title of this paper states the main objective: We introduce a research agenda on capital flight. In the following sec-
tions, we explain why it is important that researchers study capital flight; then end this essay with an outline of a research
a heavier burden to address. In short, to developing countries, perhaps with
Why Capital Flight?
capital flight makes the twin goals of the exception of Africa. Scholars in
Early researches suggest that capital growth and development much more turn stopped paying attention to capital
flight is not a new issue. These challenging to pursue. Thus, when flight. By the latter half of the 1990s,
studies document capital flight from developing countries are already however, there was a resurgence of
Europe and the United States in the lagging behind on the economic ladder, capital flight as developing countries
early twentieth century or, in the case capital flight knocks them several faced frequent and more intense
of Europe, even during the seven- rungs down. financial crises. So once again,
teenth century and earlier2 . In the A third reason concerns economic scholars are re-examining the issues.
1930s, and after World War II, there justice, particularly the distributive We argue that there are at least
were concerns about capital flight impacts of external indebtedness and three reasons why a reconsideration of
from Europe to the United States. In capital flight, as well as the legitimacy capital flight is needed today. The first
fact, this was a subject of the debates of external debt itself. When external reason is, as in the past, external
at the Bretton Woods meetings3 . Even debts are being squandered by elites debts. In particular, national indebted-
in recent periods, studies have or inappropriately used to benefit only ness remains a big problem to devel-
documented capital flight from the a few in the form of capital flight, the oping countries and many of these
Organization of Economic Cooperation rest of society suffers. More impor- countries are again becoming vulner-
and Development (OECD) member tantly, the non-trivial costs of indebt- able to debt-related crises. Some
countries 4. edness and capital flight are imposed evidence suggests that increased
But capital flight is an important on the majority of society. Thus it is indebtedness is positively correlated to
concern particularly for developing important to question the legitimacy of increased intensity and frequency of
countries for at least three reasons. external debt itself and the rationale debt-related economic cycles, a
The first is the issue of capital scar- for continuing to honour debts that problem that is especially significant in
city. Basically, capital flight aggra- society on the whole did not benefit Africa 7 . The 1997-98 Asian Crises, for
vates this problem. In addition, it also from. instance, were in part rooted in the
restricts developing countries ability Recent interest in capital flight was accumulation of external debts, albeit
to mobilise domestic funds or access triggered by the 1980s Latin American private external debts.
foreign resources. Consequently, debt crisis. At that time, there were Another reason relates to the
capital flight retards growth and two foci of research on capital flight. economic policies that have been
development. One focus was that scholars wanted to adopted or, in some cases, forced
Second, as capital flight sets in, a understand the relationship between upon developing countries. Since the
negative feedback process can start, capital flight and external borrowing 1980s, neo-liberal policies brought
especially during periods of crises and because capital flight undermined the about wide scale and aggressive
instability. As resource constraints ability of highly indebted countries to economic deregulation and financial
become binding, the additional possi- repay or service their mounting liberalisation without ensuring, or in
bility of being cut off from external external debts5. The other focus that some cases neglecting, effective
sources of funds, growth will be scholars examined whether or not governance and administrative capaci-
further limited and more capital flight external debt fuels or propels capital ties and have thereby created an
could occur as a result. In such a flight, and vice versa6 . environment that is more vulnerable to
situation, economic policies become After the 1980s debt crises, capital financial swings, crises, and conta-
more difficult to implement and raising flight became less of an issue. At the gions. In fact, some scholars argue
the social conditions of people become same time, there was a flow of capital that economic crises are inevitable in

This is the first part of an extensive research on the phenomenon of capital flight in its various aspects. We will publish further articles in
subsequent issues.
See for example C. Kindleberger, A Historical Perspective in Lessard and Williamson (ed), Capital Flight and Third World Debt, Institute of
International Economics, Washington DC, 1987, pp. 7-28.
See for instance E. Helleiner, States and the Reemergence of Global Finance: From Bretton Woods to the 1990s, Cornell University Press,
Ithaca, 1994.
H. Gibson and E. Tskalotos, Testing a Flow Model of Capital Flight in Five European Countries, Manchester School, 61, 2, 1993, pp. 141-
16 6 .
D. Lessard and J. Williamson, Capital Flight and the Third World Debt, Institute of International Economics, Washington DC, 1987.
J. K. Boyce, The Revolving Door? External Debt and Capital Flight: A Philippine Case Study, World Development, 20, 3, 1992, pp. 335-
H. M. Leung, External Debt and Worsening Business Cycles in Less Developed Countries, Journal of Economic Studies, 30, 2, 2003, pp.

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 17


such contexts 8. nal debt and capital flight. So again, unrecorded capital flows, especially
Moreover, as developing countries from an economic justice point-of- when the economic environment has
face a surge of capital flows, they find view, there are distributive impacts been deregulated and financially
it much more difficult to pursue that should not be ignored. liberalised. When there are unre-
economic policies that engender We are revisiting capital flight corded capital flows, they are to be
growth and human development. The because of old and new issues. The considered integral and normal and,
debate on policy trilemma is a case in lessons from the past remain relevant whatever their outcomes, including the
point, which says that open economies to the current context. But with new adverse impacts on society, it is
find it difficult to simultaneously dimensions to the same problem, new presumed to be an optimal situation.
achieve three policy targets of capital lessons have to be learned as well. Clearly, such perspective ignores and
mobility, independent monetary policy, We hope that this paper contributes to does not see the social impacts of
and exchange rate management9. Put that end. capital flight, which can be significant
simply, only two of these targets can Before proceeding to outline the and shouldered by the majority in
be met when a country opens up. This research agenda, there is an item that society. Therefore, while both capital
difficulty therefore poses a related needs to be clarified, and that is the outflow and capital flight share a
issue, which is to what extent should difference between normal capital common feature, there are in fact
developing countries follow the often flows and capital flight. Indeed, some unique characteristics to capital flight.
prescribed path of development of scholars are sceptical about investigat- As such, it may mean that countries
liberalising economics, particularly ing capital flight in the present trends take up policies that address capital
capital flows and investments. towards economic deregulation and flows but, at the same time, include
And thus we stress that the longer liberalisation and global integration. policies that address capital flight
a country remains in a vulnerable But it is precisely in this context that itself.
situation, and the longer it postpones we have to focus on the problem. A Research Agenda
the re-introduction of the financial We note that capital flight is of
governance, the higher are the course a type of capital outflow but We now proceed to outline our re-
chances that economic crises will only because these two have a com- search agenda. In the next essay, we
occur. We furthermore argue that mon feature, which is that both are will present a survey of the literature
crises will, progressively, become movements of capital across countries. on the definitions of capital flight and
more intense and their social costs The similarity however ends there. the measurements. This essay serves
very significant. In this perspective, Capital flows represent portfolio as the groundwork for the subsequent
neo-liberal policies have made the decisions typically undertaken to essays, covering issues like: Estimat-
developing world more vulnerable to exploit favourable returns to capital, ing capital flight from some developing
capital flight. among others. Capital flight, in countries, analysing the determinants
The third reason for reconsidera- contrast, represents a decision to take of capital flight, and lastly, estimating
tion is that capital flight means lost capital out and take refuge in another the cost of capital flight. It is hoped
resources to the domestic economy, country to avoid social control. that with the second essay, scholars
thus it also implies lost opportunities. Put another way, normal capital will take up the research as well and
It is paradoxical that resources are flows are like two-way streets in which examine capital flight in their own
flowing out of the developing countries the traffic of capital is dual-directional countries, hopefully, leading to policy
rather than to them, where resources and presumably recorded in the official advocacy. Crucial to policy advocacy
are most needed to finance growth statistics. In contrast, capital flight is is modelling the determinants of
and development. Indeed it is surpris- more like a one-way street in which capital flight; that is, what fuels and/or
ing that even very poor countries have the traffic of capital is moving out and drives it? Estimating the economic
become creditors to the rest of the typically unrecorded. Sometimes impact(s) of capital flight is important,
world. Such lost resources do not capital flight is financed by capital too, because we need to support the
contribute to the expansion of domes- inflows like external debts. At other claim that capital flight is welfare-
tic economic activities and to the times, capital flight itself finances the reducing, given that capital is already
improvement of social welfare of capital inflows, returning in the guise limited in developing countries. But it
domestic residents. Such lost re- of foreign investments (often to avail is also essential to estimate such costs
sources, or more precisely, the of the incentives extended to overseas because we need to determine the size
accumulated lost resources, imply lost investors). In fact, it is possible to of the potential gains should policy
tax revenues. Given that developing have large volumes of capital flows action were undertaken. Alternative
countries face fiscal constraints, lost across countries and there is no capital policy guidelines are important and we
tax revenues can mean foregone flight involved. It is also possible to hope that researchers open the debate
public goods, infrastructure and have no capital inflows to a country on how to manage capital flows in
services, among others, that are yet there are huge amounts of capital general and capital flight in particular.
essential to produce and sustain flight. We also hope that the debate will go
growth. Of course, it can also mean We further note that when this into more challenging issues of de-
lost resources for debt servicing, capital flow perspective is employed, regulation and financial liberalisation
contributing to worsening the social there will be a problem in understand- and international cooperation. Finally,
burden of external debts, which affect ing capital flight because the notion of we also hope that this research will
many in society. Because capital flight optimal portfolio allocation precludes lead to case studies, particularly to an
is typically undertaken by elites, the the consideration of unrecorded capital investigation of the behaviour and
rest of society therefore carries a flows. Indeed, in two-way streets motivation of capital flight at the level
disproportionate burden of the exter- capital flows, there should not be any of firms and individuals, etc.

G. Palma, The Three Routes to Financial Crises: Chile, Mexico and Argentina [1], Brazil [2]; and Korea, Malaysia and Thailand [3] in H. J.
Chang (ed.), Rethinking Development Economics, Anthem Press, London, 2003, pp. 347-376.
M. Obsfeld, J. Shambaugh and A. Taylor, The Trilemma in History: Trade-offs Among Exchange Rates, Monetary Policies and Capital
Mobility, Working Paper No. 10396, National Bureau of Economic Research, 2004.

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 18

Special Feature

Special Economic Zones in China

Samira Junaid is a research student working on the history of Delhi in the nineteenth
century at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata. Though she completed her
undergraduate and graduate studies in Delhi (DU and JNU), her beloved hometown, she is
Samira Junaid enjoying her stint in Kolkata as she takes in the sights, sounds and roadside culinary
delights of the city.
She is deeply passionate about her music, her tastes spanning all genres and
continents, with her latest discovery being the late Ali Farka Toure from Mali.

The recent arrival of China as an based on several important criteria. and the Encouragement Provisions of
economic player of consequence is no These selected sites benefited, for 1986. In 1994, there was yet another
doubt a result of the economic reforms example, from a good multi-modal round of foreign exchange manage-
undertaken by her in the late nineteen transportation infrastructure, were ment reform, abolishing the official
seventies and the eighties. The already well connected to some exchange rate and adopting a market
transition from a planned economy to expatriate Chinese communities rate. They also abolished the ex-
what was called a socialist market located within the region (such as in change quota retention system. And
economy required China to open its Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau), and in December 1996, China announced
doors to Foreign Direct Investment strikingly enough, were also located at that it would adopt IMF article A,
(FDI). This was sought to be achieved a distance from the political capital of removing all remaining restrictions on
by the setting up of Special Economic Beijing. The importance of this foreign exchange transactions. All
Zones (SEZs), which allowed the proximity to nearby investors cannot these reforms strengthened the
Chinese government to enter into the be overstated, given that much of the regulatory framework and increased
realm of market economies with some financial capital and technical know- investor confidence in the market.
degree of control by opening up a how that China received with the Of the many incentives that China
few select areas to investment, rather establishment of the SEZs came from provided, perhaps the most important
than the country as a whole, which the overseas Chinese community. In is the preferential tax treatment. The
might, for example, have had an addition to these factors of course, the income-tax rate is fifteen per cent in
unsettling impact on the political Chinese government ensured that all economic zones, high-tech industrial
situation in the country. In addition to the bureaucratic procedural aspects zones, and economic and technological
attracting foreign investment to fuel could expedited, ridding the investors development zones. The enterprise
the economy, the Chinese government of the headache of bureaucratic red income-tax rate is twenty four per cent
was hereby implementing another shift tape. in the coastal areas and provincial
in policy moving from a conscious China first experimented with capital cities. Foreign enterprises can
policy of equal allocation of resources economic reform and attracting FDI by enjoy tax exemption in the first two
to the various provinces to allowing establishing SEZs in the cities of years after they begin making profits,
more autonomous regional develop- Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou, and and income-tax reduction by half in
ment based on efficiency as defined by Xiamen in 1979. These followed from the following three years. Foreign
market forces. Equipped with ad- the coming into force of the Equity high-tech enterprises enjoy tax
equate infrastructural facilities, tax Joint Venture Law (1979) which exemption in the first two years after
exemptions and other fiscal attrac- allowed the legal entry of FDI and making profits and income-tax reduc-
tions, Chinas SEZs have today provided a statutory basis for the tion by half in the following six years.
become an investment hotspot for the establishment of joint ventures in In addition to these policies, the
whole world and have spearheaded China. As investments grew, it export-oriented enterprises enjoy
Chinas growth which was pegged at a became apparent that additional laws having their income tax reduced by
rate of 10.5 percent per annum for the on FDI were needed, and in 1983 yet half as long as the volume of their
year 2006 according to The Economist. another law was passed which pro- annual exports accounts for more than
The success of SEZs in China, have vided greater details on all aspects of seventy per cent of the general sales.
made them an economic model that joint venture operation. The following Enterprises enjoy additional benefits if
other developing countries, such as year, in 1984, the government agreed they purchase domestically made
India, are now trying to emulate. to extend investment beyond the five equipment within the volume of the
It was in December 1978 that the original SEZs and in order to do so total investment. Foreign enterprises
Communist Party of China embarked legally they at last granted private are exempt from business tax if they
on their course of what are known as enterprise legal status. In the same transfer technology. Since 1991, the
the four modernizations: Of agricul- year the government opened fourteen Chinese government has reduced its
ture, industry, defence, and science. coastal cities Dalian, Qinhuangdao, import tariff several times. Further-
Interestingly enough, it was the Tianjin, Yantai, Qingdao, Lianyungang, more, all equipment imported for self-
overseas Chinese communities which Nantong, Shanghai, Ningbo, Wenzhou, use is exempt from tariff and import-
were the first to react to these Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Zhanjiang and stage value added tax. Since the
changes, followed thereafter by Beihai all of which were former treaty middle of the 1990s, China has
investors from the Western world ports and seven open coastal belts significantly liberalised its credit and
(American and European), who were (such as the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl foreign-exchange policy making the
attracted to the possibilities offered by River Delta, Xiamen-Zhangzhou- Yuan fully convertible in 2005.
the huge Chinese domestic market, Quanzhou Triangle, and Shandong and It has been argued that it is the
abundant and cheap labour, flexible Liaodong peninsula). In addition, Chinese political system, being essen-
environmental regulations, closeness fifteen free trade zones, thirty two tially a one-party Communist state
to raw materials and low construction state-level economic and technological where policy is set at the central level
costs. Of course, the process itself development zones, and fifty three and there arent any other strong
took shape gradually, in multiple new high-tech industrial development competing actors at the stage of either
stages, with various adjustments and zones have been established in large policy formation or implementation,
alterations being made to the regula- and medium-sized cities. The govern- which allowed for this kind of reform.
tory framework. The sites for the ment also reformed their regulatory This is critical to understanding the
location of the first SEZs were care- framework through the passage of the formation of Chinas regional develop-
fully chosen by the central government Foreign Exchange Balance Provisions ment policy and establishment of the

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 19

Special Feature

SEZs. Subsequently however, it has even assist foreign investors in affected. Social instability has become
also been noted that the growth obtaining Chinese visas. Equipped an issue of concern. In 2004, the
process was accompanied by consider- with a complete and modern logistics government admitted to 74,000 riots in
able delegation of authority to the system, the park hosts an independent the countryside, a seven-fold jump in
provincial governments. Each was customs zone and a bonded logistics ten years. Whereas a few years ago,
allowed to introduce its own legislation centre the first centre of its kind excessive and arbitrary taxation was
to govern investment relating to approved by the Chinese central the peasants foremost complaint,
foreign investments and local tax authorities. SIP also has one of the resentment over the loss of farmland,
concessions. Local authorities could first fifteen export processing zones corruption, worsening pollution and
clear foreign investment proposals (EPZs) approved by the State Council, arbitrary evictions by property devel-
without referring to the Centre and Chinas cabinet. Located in the opers are the main reasons for
were also allowed to retain a large Yangtze River Delta, the park enjoys farmers unrest now.
share of incremental taxes generated an excellent transportation network of While rural China is up in arms
as a result of the increased economic highways, railways, waterways and against acquisition of land, the SEZs
activity, and invest that in infrastruc- airports. Besides the advantage of an themselves are beset with their own
ture as well as equity contributions to EPZ and special treatment of exports, problems. After growing at a phenom-
joint ventures with foreign investors. in general the park encourages enal rate of around twenty eight
Of the various SEZs that China now exports of locally manufactured percent for the last twenty five years,
has, it is Shenzhens story that cap- products and imports of high-tech Shenzhen for example, is now paying
tured the imagination of economists products by providing various tax a huge cost in terms of environment
and policy makers the world over. incentives. Raw materials and semi- destruction, soaring crime rate and
When Shenzhen city was established in finished products can be transferred or gross exploitation of its working class,
1979, it had a total of 314,000 inhabit- traded freely within the EPZ. Tax is mainly migrants. Foreign investors
ants. By the year 2000, it boasted of exempt for products, machinery and were lured to Shenzhen by cheap land,
around four million inhabitants. In equipment transferred between it and compliant labour laws and lax or
fact, while China experienced a strong other EPZs. Suzhou thus strives to ineffective environmental rules. In
growth rate of 8.2 per cent (in terms attract high-tech industries, such as fact, in 2006, the United Nations
of her real GDP) from 1980 to 1997; software, biological technology, gene Environment Programme designated
the real GDP of the Shenzhen SEZ engineering and various design and Shenzhen as a global environmental
grew at a staggering 28.5 per cent . R&D (research and development) hotspot, meaning a region that had
In the early phases of its develop- institutes, and has the following suffered rapid environmental destruc-
ment, Shenzhen saw the establishment investment structure: Forty two tion. In 2004, China consumed 4.3
of some legal preconditions for the percent Europe and America, eighteen times as much coal and electricity as
existence of a special economic percent Singapore, thirteen percent the United States and 11.5 times as
regime in the SEZ, but saw only slow Japan and Korea, and twenty seven much as Japan to generate each US$1
changes in the level of actual economic percent Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, worth of GNP (The Taipei Times).
activity. In 1984, with the setting up and other regions. According to Science in Society some
of a more comprehensive economic Despite these investment figures twenty per cent of the population lives
framework for the SEZs, as windows and galloping growth rates, Chinas in severely polluted areas and seventy
to technology, management, knowl- policies with regard to the promotion percent of the rivers and lakes are in a
edge, and foreign policies, by Deng of industry and foreign investment grim shape (Peoples Daily). Around
Xiaoping a second phase in their through Special Economic Zones have sixty percent of companies that have
growth was inaugurated. The inflow of come in for a lot criticism as well, set up industries in the country violate
foreign capital, coming in the main especially on account of diverting a emission rules. And according to the
from Hong Kong, slowly accelerated large amount of farmland from agricul- World Bank, environmental problems
but production processes, contrary to ture to industry. China has to feed are the cause of some 300,000 people
expectations, were mostly twenty two per cent of the worlds dying in China each year. The Chinese
characterised by low technology population on only seven percent of government itself has admitted that
intensity and were based on the land. In July 2005, Chinas country- pollution costs the country a stagger-
comparative advantage of Shenzhens side had over 26.1 million people living ing $200 billion a year about ten per
low labour costs. It is the 1990s, in absolute poverty and was home to cent of its GDP.
which can be called the takeoff period eighteen per cent of the worlds poor, While export-driven policy for
for Shenzhen, with foreign companies according to Chinese Minister Li Xuju economic growth has helped China
from all over the world rushing in, and quoted in the Peoples Daily. Every touch record growth figures, the
by 1997, fifty one of the worlds top year, an additional ten million people income gap is widening and rapidly
five hundred enterprises had taken have to be fed. Despite this daunting approaching the levels of some Latin
root in Shenzhen. The export volume target, between 1996-2005, develop- American countries. Going by a recent
of Shenzhen had increased to around ment caused diversion of more than report by the Chinese Academy of
one-seventh of Chinas total at $26 twenty one per cent of arable land to Social Sciences, Chinas Gini coeffi-
billion by 1998 itself and more than non-agricultural uses, chiefly high- cient a measure of income distribu-
thirty five per cent of Shenzhens ways, industries and SEZs. Per capita tion where zero means perfect equality
production was now in the high- and land holding now stands at a meager and 1 is maximum inequality touched
new-technology sectors. 0.094 hectares. In just thirteen years, 0.496 in the year 2006. In compari-
Another success story is that of between 1992 and 2005, twenty million son, income inequality figures are 0.33
Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), created farmers have been laid off agriculture in India, 0.41 in the US and 0.54 in
in 1994, which has been touted as one due to land acquisition. Brazil. Further, the rural-urban income
of the fastest-growing and the most As more arable land is taken over divide is staggering annual income of
competitive industrial development for urbanisation and industrialisation, city dwellers in China is around US
zones in the world. It is sometimes issues relating to changes in land use $1,000 which is more than three times
referred to as one of the nine new- continue to become a major source of that of their rural counterparts.
tech cities in the world and the New dispute between the public and the In April 2004, the State Council,
Silicon Valley. SIP enjoys high government. Protests against land halted the ratification of farmland for
authority in project approvals. It acquisition and deprivation have other uses and started to rectify the
takes three working days to complete become a common feature of rural life national land market. The Minister of
the incorporation process. It can in China, especially in the provinces of Agriculture, Du Quinglin, promised not
approve independently all foreign Guangdong (south), Sichuan, Hebei to reduce acreage of basic farmland,
investment projects as long as they (north), and Henan province. change its purpose or downgrade its
are in line with national policy. It can Guangdong has been the worst quality. China also abolished agricul-

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 20

Special Feature

tural tax in 2006 and increased Zones in China itself, the attempt to parts of China and the rest of the
subsidy for food grain production by introduce similar economic measures world, as labour costs rise firms
ten per cent. To boost rural incomes, in other parts of the developing world, migrate to cheaper locations. The
the selling price of grain was increased notably India, are being met with stiff mushrooming of SEZs and the
by sixty per cent in 2005. In 2004, out resistance, with no quick or ready introduction of open ports and
of a total 900 million farmers in China, solution in sight. In China itself of special zones for technological
600 million received US$ 1.5 billion as course, it is now being argued that development as well as general
direct subsidies. Fifty two million of now that the structure of a command economic reforms in China have
the Chinese farmers have joined in the economy has been dismantled and made competition for FDI harder.
rural old-age insurance system and investment is possible anywhere in the The future of SEZs in China is
2.2 million received pensions in 2005. country, Special Economic Zones have unknown if not uncertain. For the
More than eighty million farmers had lost their original rationale. Moreover, time being however, riding piggy-
participated in the rural cooperative Chinas WTO membership has limited back on its economic success story,
medical service system by the end of its ability to offer preferential policies China prepares itself for the
2004, and 12.57 million rural needy to outside investors and business. The Olympics to be hosted by Beijing in
people had drawn allowances guaran- US, for example, is contemplating anti- the summer of 2008. The whole
teeing the minimum living standard by dumping laws against Chinese manu- world will have their gaze fixed on
the end of 2005. factures. Even SEZs like Shenzhen China.
With all these debates and contro- are now facing competition from other
versies surrounding Special Economic

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 21

Special Feature

Special Economic Zones in Theory

Soumitra is rather hastily catching up with the half century mark of enjoying the
springs and still he longs for a second chance of another Spring thunder- the first one
just nodded and effaced, he was too young! For about now thirty years striving to
bring the Crimson Sun of collective sharing and revolution in India he still longs, he
still dreams and he still walks on....
An activist of the ultra-left dreaming for a peoples participatory republic, Soumitra
prepares for that while earning his livelihood as a daily wage slave of our great and
Soumitra Bose sole Empire... oiling the state-of-the-exploitation engine called IT. Soumitra joined
the march of the people in his teens and while his hair not changed colours so he has
not changed colours either. He hopes to see himself in there as long as he can
Soumitra edits a theoretical marxist journal, pulls up his sleeves in organising the
informal sector workers, is building a hawkers collective, peasants collectives.
Soumitra prepares the have-nots for a not too distant time when they will lead
RED is passe to him, he yearns for CRIMSON!

A Specially Enclosed Zone for forming brought in a more organic composition question the idea of the so called
Capital through production or services of capital, that in turn would have traditional near-static realm of food
within a nation-state and without the meant a more advanced organic production. Cereal had shown all signs
encumbrances of law of the native composition of both fixed and variable of becoming a viable and very impor-
land is what gets called Special capital. That is, along with adding tant cash crop. Economies based on
Economic Zone (SEZ). What speciality more machines to the production agriculture showed a promise of
of economy this zone is going to process, different technical skills will spreading out and becoming the most
provide is hazy and not only from the have to be imparted to labourers. But popular industry. This development
content point of view. clearly such is not the case within the included even heavy industry. The
Can a nation-state, by definition, production process of the SEZs. We production of agricultural equipments
have multiple economies within its must not overlook however that the necessitates capital-intensive industry.
territorial boundary? Can an economy SEZ may not have any production at Storage and preservation, processing
be quantified through any stretchable all. It could be even a centre for and distribution and just-in-time
definition of qualification as one co- hospitality or entertainment. We might supply chains had the promise of
existing with others? Is the usage of call that production, but, undeniably no being most optimised network in
Economic over determined by factors capacity is generated: No means of human history. Capital, and especially
other than Economic or if not then production may be produced. In such capital in the third world, has chosen to
where is the line drawn to distinguish cases Special Economic Zone justifies ignore that route and to go for what it
the exchange mechanism or produc- its nomenclature, as it is a very perceives to be a faster track SEZs
tion process or even production different economic animal where profit for low grade and low skill assembling
relation with the regulating rules and super-profit can be garnered from plants and the hospitality industry. It
relating to human rights, social ben- activities other than production. has chosen to erode existing capabili-
efits and even simple polity of the Primitive accumulation of Marxs ties of agriculture and agro-industries
nation-state? description has come back and is and all for the sake of realty industry
The concept of enclosed space has alive. Capitalism has created within like the famous python eating off its
changed. Marx saw an enclosed space itself sub-sectors and shows partiality own tail. That is the very specific
as a catchment area from where to one over the other. Today, agricul- nature of moribund capital.
cheap labour will be evicted and ture is not outside the capitalist For capital accumulation labourers
herded into industries. Labourers, not project, neither the small scale indus- had to be provided with more jobs,
necessarily specialised, but from tries nor even the Sunset or traditional leading to more distributed income and
specially charted out areas will be industries. Capitalism is becoming in turn to more small savings. The
brought into the most advanced type more restricted, where capital forma- present day SEZ-patterned neo-
of production relation or at least that is tion in one or two preferred sub- modern primitive capital (or what we
how it will be touted. In reality, it will sectors takes place at the cost of other may term predatory capital) is evicting
never be the most advanced type of sub-sectors. The idea of the moribund producing farmers, snatching their
production relation but will entail the nature of capital is still convincing land, gradually rendering them without
most advanced type of surplus extrac- because the project of capital has jobs, provision or skill. In these SEZs
tion. In Marxs day, the entire nation- become more skewed and differently the only aim is to extract labour as
states territorial space was the hearth focussed. cheaply as possible. The reversal of
of capital, spaces were enclosed and Agriculture had just started to form the logic of enclosed spaces is guided
insulated to extract labour power capital with newer machines and factor by this narrow objective of extracting
evict them, make them readily avail- inputs. Agricultural production was the cheapest possible labour without
able for the capitalist sector. Today in getting forwardly linked to other bothering about the provisions given to
SEZs the enclosed space is the special processed products and even giving them for keeping them alive and work-
sector of capital, for which labour will rise to large scale mass consumer worthy for the next day. As a result,
be uprooted and made available. products. The agro-industry was on the traditional definition of wage comes
The specific change in the nature of the brink of a dangerous turn through into question. In the SEZs workers
enclosed spaces requires a large genetic modified (GM) food industry. wages face a constant downward
space or many middle-range spaces to It could equally have taken a rather pressure. This downward shift in wage
be declared as SEZs. Here ad- desirable route of developing retail- or remuneration may be in real terms
vanced capitalism will establish the food consumer industry. In the most or in nominal terms, meaning it may
most advanced form of labour extrac- conservative estimates retail industry be in absolute terms or adjusted for
tion, rent extraction and super-profit in India is estimated to reach Rs. 28 inflation. Enclosing is done also to
accumulation. Let us not harbour any billion in the next two to three years. avoid the competitive wage war
illusion that advanced means sophis- The potential of augmented production between different companies within
ticated. Sophistication would have and processing may have called into one industry that is why it can be

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 22

Special Feature

called predatory. The enclosure Singh, a leader of the Congress Party, tion unit had itself been sustainable,
ensures physical insulation from intra- which leads the coalition government then, and only then, could the possibili-
industry competition, intra-market at the Centre he wants the whole of ties of profitable forward integration
vagaries and cross-industry side India to become a conglomeration of have come up, and then we would
effects. Enclosure establishes a SEZs} even then, there would be a have had a return to the conglomerate
corporate fiefdom on the production virtual SEZ market where each behemoth model of the mid-twentieth
process, isolated from the rest of individual SEZ would be a product by century. The separation of the core
society, the production environment itself. In that condition each individual production unit from the ancillaries can
and the nation-state in consideration. SEZ would not have required any be successful only when the ancillaries
This is the crux of the benefit that protection or special insulation from cater to various competitive firms
globalised capital gets from any SEZ the others, it would have had to within the same industry. The very
regardless of the ontological position compete with the other SEZs. That is principle of SEZs inhibits that. Even if
of the industry, its standard, organic the paradox here. So the number of some intermediate products are
composition, technical composition, SEZs cannot be infinite. Thus it has to allowed to develop, the transportation
labour law, democratic polity, com- survive by primitive accumulation of advantage and an optimum supply
parative advantage or disadvantage or labour power from the other sector chain cannot be generated. The
general labour market, any enclosed or the normal economy of the nation- concept of down stream production
zone can be prepared with the exact state. This is the reason why even the chain can never survive long by
desired level of input-mix and then great Capitalist China, with its firm supplying to merely one or a few pre-
package it as one single product double digit rate of growth of GDP has ordained customers. Any change in
exactly right for maximum profit now restricted the number of SEZ to the order pattern would jeopardise the
extraction. SEZ is one package only six big ones. China is also slowly organisation and sustenance of the
comprising the product that is sold in tightening the leash on SEZs through ancillary firm and would bankrupt it.
the market [service, solution or promulgating more and more restric- With the collapse of the feeder chain,
material product], and the service that tive laws. Latin America has aban- the main firm will go through a spiral
goes along with it. The market, doned the very concept of SEZ. It is which can end only in its own demise
however is usually not the open only India and especially the so-called and bankruptcy.
market; it is a specific market in a parliamentary left that is going ga-ga SEZ is an enclosed space
distant territory or a link in the for- over this concept. The dependence of subsidised by the government and
ward chain of an end product. The an SEZ on the other for its suste- exempted from paying the excise
SEZs therefore can not stand on their nance not only limits its growth, but duties and various other normal taxes.
own, dependent as they often are on a this dependence is also its nemesis. If the number of such SEZ units grow
parent firm in some distant metropoli- The growth rate in a SEZ project is then the nation-state will lose out on
tan country. The product is the bound to go down over time and valuable potential income, while
optimised output-mix with the lowest eventually head towards the negative, financial institutions and private or
variable capital or labour involved. after crossing effortlessly the zero public venture concerns will invest in
SEZs abhor, among other things, any mark. Not only are SEZs bound to go these. After the SEZs reach a critical
kind of normal market competition and bankrupt in time, but it will take down number, the marginal returns will start
therefore SEZs go against the classical along with it the entire area, the to diminish for each invested dollar. No
liberal or neo-conservative concepts of ecology, the productive potential, and country can sustain this as the public
the market. Here comes the specific aggravate chaos and anarchy expo- coffers will soon be exhausted, or will
import and necessity of SEZ as distinct nentially. In any analysis based on reach near-exhaustion. It will then
from any producing firm. The enclo- medium to long term potentialities, have to borrow from external financial
sure moreover extends to every SEZ is a proposition for quick and institutions at high rates of interest.
aspect of life of the labourer, whose permanent decay. Any product has a This interest will be nothing more than
entry to and exit from the enclosure is life cycle. Even if it is insulated from the portions of the super-profits
goverened by the profit consideration the competition that normal market generated from regular capital opera-
of the owner of the SEZs. Labourers operations would have exposed it to, tions. Over time, and with the increase
may pour into the SEZ every day and the life span of a product can only be in the amount, the super-profit will turn
pour out at the end of the work-day or extended to a certain degree. A SEZ, into an almost permanent rent and will
they may be interned within. as it depends on one product or one be siphoned off from within the borders
Colonisers colonised the native service or one type of solution or even of the nation-state. Thus, the nation-
land through gradual occupation of combinations of these, has to share state will lose its economic, and
cities and then moved on to the the same fate, that of an inevitable effectively, its political sovereignty.
hinterland for the city markets and doom. In the long run, SEZs are An SEZ needs a continuous inflow
eventually the whole country. SEZ is a nothing but bankruptcy generating, of capital unless all its products are to
mechanism very similar to that kind of devastating devices creating social, be bought back.
project with the only difference being political, cultural and demographic land If its products are bought back the
that every SEZ is different in its own mines. After a couple of bouts or life firm will lose the flexibility provided by
way and for its sustenance has to cycles of a set of SEZs, the whole the market price, and will inevitably
depend on the unenclosed area the land, including the labour force will move towards a decelerating growth
other. Capital is a social relation, lose its recyclable capacity. Thus, the rate. In an inflationary nation-state
according to Marx, in that it transforms future value of capital is lost forever. economy even a static growth rate is a
every human relationship. SEZ does The marginal productivity of each unit declining one, when considered in real
the same thing and more comprehen- of capital will progressively decline. terms and over a longer period.
sively. Whatever short term gains might In case there is no such obligation
This then brings us to a perusal of apparently be made for the nation- of being bought back, the firm will
the model of business to be followed in state, this feature will cause the have to depend on the outside market,
the case of SEZs. The all-engulfing gradual loss of all the accumulated and the cost of acquiring new busi-
market lies outside the SEZ it lies resources of years and decades. nesses is continuously going up as
out there out in the other. Even if Short-term spurts might baffle statisti- more and more SEZ firms located
we take up a hypothetical situation cians (and stock-market watchers) for throughout the world pour in their
where there is an infinite number of a while, but over a period of time, it various products. Here too, therefore,
individually insignificant SEZs [an will result in capital deformation! the rate of return is actually diminish-
individual SEZ is not capable of The entire concept of creation of ing and the advantages provided by
changing the nature of the overall SEZ ancillary industries along with the protection and subsidy will soon die off.
scenario within a nation state] {Please production unit of the principal product We must however note that this is not
note the recent statemeent of Karan is also a chimera. If the main produc- the general neo-conservative logic of

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 23

Special Feature

free markets, because in a SEZ the The metropolitan market or the tigers with ample surplus reserves into
only USP of the final product is the market in the west uses the native basket cases, slipping down to mere
cheap labour involved in its produc- space as a space sub-serving its main tourism destinations that exist only to
tion, that does not grow in quality or product that is either produced or provide solace to the worn heels and
value. Going down the value chain designed within the west and the tired minds of the WEST. The collective
never fetches any medium to long- biggest chunk of the sales revenue experience of the South also has the
term guarantee to the producing firm. minus the operating cost goes over to case of how famous industrial centres
In a normal competitive market in a the Western owner either through of countries like India [Durgapur-
nation-state, protection offered at the patents, or through owning IP or Asansol-Ranigunge belt, Gaziabad belt,
time of inception helps to stabilise the through design consultancy fees. The Old Mumbai belt, Steel plant colonies
company giving it enough time to smaller portion that comes to the etc.] turned from high skilled settle-
develop its value proposition, become native country is used to pay for the ments into veritable deserts within the
capable of competing with the external labour and acquisition costs. With last four decades or so. We experi-
open market that is the primary every such unit sales-revenue, the gap enced how new and promised lands lost
interest pursued by nation-states in between the allocation of revenues their crowns to even newer aspirants.
building up their own army of compet- betwen the east and the west We are even now witnessing how
ing industries. In the case of an SEZ, increasaes and its allocation becomes producing economies and sectors are
on the other hand, the native-nation- more and more skewed. The absolute giving way to the service sector and
state subsidises revenue and does not value of the production-sales-repatria- entertainment hubs and gizmos are
build up any value proposition. That tion cycle looks exciting from the eating away the best of brains and
aspect remains underdeveloped and native stand point only in the early bringing about a new sort of brain and
eventually dies outside the incubator. years till one figures out that in fact skill drain.
In any nation-state economy, the native country is losing the relative The SEZ offers its owners a nice
competing in the international market- value proposition competing with the prelude to the capital flight they would
place, revenue earned strengthens the western peer or co-producer. The carry out to stash these gains in
native currency against the interna- value game becomes, if not all-out financial institutions abroad, to have a
tional standard currency or the SDR. war, then definitely one of attrition. nicer life for may be one life time
This is because repatriation is inward What is the benefit of getting into [without any consideration to their
within the native state. In an SEZ, SEZs then? If it is so gloomy, then progeny]. They search for a lifestyle
however, a major part of the revenue why are all comprador corporates comparable to their western compatri-
generated are either repatriated native to the nation-state rushing ots before the native country ever
abroad or are used to pay for the towards this obvious doom? dreams to have a convertible currency
import of foreign goods. Moreover, There is indeed some gain, regime. The owners do not want to
hard currencies push up the countrys however effervescent and fleeting. take any chances if the native country
forex reserve for a very short while There are some thrills, but they are sinks they are still afloat, transmigrated
and can get depleted just as fast as there only as long as the overall and transmuted into citizens of the
they come in. We must remember picture is ignored, as long as the world and in particular of the western
that foreign direct investments (FDIs) collective is not taken into consider- world. If the country shores up for a
come in a normal market as well as in ation, as long as individual rivalries while then they can always come back
a SEZ with many strings attached. For enthrall the individual players without to reclaim their ancestral rights as sons
unless the domestic market is very any heed to the collective doom. The and daughters of the soil. They will
strong and demanding finished indus- euphoria of chaos, the ecstasy of then enjoy the fruits of their dubiously
trial products, FDIs are always traps. anarchy, the elixir of contrasting earned profits in an economy they have
Companies will only come to the interests and the motto of contention, made cheaper, by depleting it. They do
native country if they find high mar- of killing others to survive, living for a so safe in the knowledge that the
ginal returns to their dollars and that short while, for a fast buck and a moment the signal turns amber they
again entails their getting lured by the cravenness for speed is what SEZs would take the next flight out. SEZ is
strength and volume of the native- would offer it is the same attitude that space, which ensures a safer
market. The entire credit money of that goads homo sapiens to consumer- proposition of capital flight from the
the west would require a producing ism, to over-accumulation and need- native land to the promised metropoli-
economy outside the credit capital or less possessiveness. People live it up tan. Who paid for all these? Dont
debt capital generating sector that can as if there is no tomorrow, and capital even dare to ask.... Of course those
serve the credit offered this is the leads every human relationship half clad, half fed, lesser children of the
monetary aspect of primitive accumu- generating from humans into a native land, those who never could
lation the (M3-M1) of the west will be simulacrum of no-tomorrow! Capital is wake up to comprehend their rightful
served by the M1 of the east. the only tomorrow! claim. Here speed is the mantra the
The FIIs extract interest that gets The faster a third world producing faster you can fly fooling the producers
compounded. The serving potential of and thriving economy would SEZise the smarter you are! SEZ is that smart
a native countrys operative profit itself the longer would the WEST contraption that takes the owner places
goes down with every additional dollar survive and the bigger would it get. and leaves the producer-labour to pay
earned through one more unit of We saw the vapourisation of the Asian for the trip!
labour spent in the native economy.

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 24

Across the South

Exploring New Ideas and Forms:

Exploring Masculinities, a South Asian travelling Seminar, CIEFL, 30-31 March 2007

Junior Research Fellow, ICHR, working on the politics of development in Bihar.

He observes Bihar but participates in West Bengal. Recently agitating against
the acquisition of farmland for industry, he has been charged with six cases,
Jishnu Dasgupta including obstruction of public servants, assault on cops and ministers.
Currently out on bail, he awaits trial.
When not in the thick of political fray, he is an aesthete, lover of book and
music, old things and this city of joy.

As gender becomes more and more apparent immediately that they too the same time, the agent of modernity
the focus of academic discourses, the were tuned into the atmosphere. in the film, an English-speaking
questioning of the very categories and Chats about Imran Khans politics and fisherman called Freddie, is a hyper-
their construction also proceeds apace. his religious vies spun off the discus- masculine figure. The director himself
Exploring Masculinities: A Travelling sion of the image of the great mascu- sent a message that called into
South Asian Seminar is an effort in that line sporting star of Pakistan, now question the politics of the film, when
direction. At the end of March, this trying to eke out a political career. he, in a televised interview, attributes
travelling seminar arrived in The seminar had already started, and Radhas effeminacy to faulty upbring-
Hyderabad, with its array of papers, without the pulpit. ing (emphasis mine). Tharayil
presentations, discussions and films. On 30 March, Rahul Roy of Aakar critiqued the film for portraying the
In the seminar organised by The kicked off the seminar by telling the feminine as funny. He noted that a
Central Institute of English and Foreign audience of the why and more queer group filed a suit, as there were
Languages (CIEFL) in that city, jointly importantly, the how of the travelling quite a few instances of masculine
with Aakar and Anveshi, academics seminar. A noted documentary men beating them up to correct them,
and others from various parts of South filmmaker by prefession, Roy spoke of as Freddie had tried to do to Radha.
Asia mingled, creating quite a heady the need of weaving disciplines like The collapsing, in the films scopic
cocktail for participants. I was there history, film studies, sociology etc. regime, of the effeminate with the
too, covering the occasion for the e- together, rather than creating one gay also is an interesting indicator of
magazine. more niche discipline, Masculinities. its politics, as Tharayil saw effeminacy
Aakar, a Delhi-based trust that The idea of advancing by bouncing in the film as a possible codeword for
organises this series has been en- ideas of each one another definitely gay, or alternatively, as a psychic
gaged in producing and supporting did not smack of academic conflict between bio-sexual identity
research, films, visual materials etc. in vanguardism. Between them, Roy, and the socially given. Following this,
varying areas of gender, culture and Uma Bhrugubanda and A. Suneetha Madhava Prasad, of CIEFL raised the
politics. It is a platform to look at set the tone quite nicely in the opening question of comparing the psychic
current theories and practices on the session, the only possible complaint dilemma for Radha with those possible
themes of masculinities, with violence, against which could be its slightly for Freddie and the other properly
health, discrimination and equality, and protracted length. Bhrugubanda of the masculine characters in the film.
a range of other issues thrown in. As Centre for Cultural Studies, CIEFL, Shashank Pereira, of the Depart-
part of that, the Travelling Seminar stressed this very need for collabora- ment. of Sociology, University of
started its rounds in 2002 and went to tion in such endeavours, and made all Colombo, spoke at length of the
universities in Shillong, Baroda, Delhi present feel even more a part of the politics of the depiction of the Sri
and Chandigarh. It was visualised as goings-on. A. Suneetha of Anveshi Lankan army. His The Male Body and
a pedagogical exercise to inform the Research Centre for Womens Studies, the Politics of Masculinity: Construc-
theory and practice of masculinities Hyderabad, spoke of the need of tions of Bravery in Times of Combat in
and was a resounding success. En- developing womens studies focussed Sri Lanka was an exploration of this
couraged by this, Aakar is now plan- not solely on women. She also raised politics, and the cultural mores that
ning a much wider sweep in the the important questions of the role of went into building this up. He brought
second series, covering ten universi- the state, opening up of governmental in a range of cultural symbols, from
ties in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, space for women, and the importance the chronicles Dipavamsa and
India and Pakistan. As such, it is an of other signifiers, such as caste, in Mahavamsa to the more recent
important exercise in sharing across womens identities. fascination with the Rambo films, to
this oft-troubled region. After the introductory session, the the advertisements that always depict
As I arrived in CIEFL, the host first paper of the conference was the male soldiers as engaged in
institute on the day before the seminar presented by Muraleedharan Tharayil martial tasks, or being engaged as
I immediately realised that this was of St. Aloysius College, Thrissur. His helpful, good men, (such as in rescue
not going to be (thankfully) a stuffy paper, Chandu Pottu: Subaltern operations) to make his point of how
affair, with oh-so-propah formalities. Masculinity and the Queering of Visual the male body of the soldier is brought
My own offer to help out with the Pleasure, was a fascinating study of a into the gaze of the Sri Lankan public,
arrangements were taken up with an recent Malyali film that steps out of, and how it informs the discourse of
astounding degree of seriousness and and yet conforms to, the norms of nationalism and valour in the decades-
I was put to work, hanging up ban- masculinity in popular Malayali cinema. long civil war. He tied this with the
ners, moving funiture, and eventually, The hero, called by a feminine nick- employment of women in the army
to receive people at the airport. This name, Radha, displays markedly non- only in desk jobs or at check posts
suited me fine, as it gave me the masculine habits and traits, while the that went well with this discourse of
chance to launch into conversations villain is placed in deliberate, mascu- the masculine character of the states
with the participants and the line contrast. Even the heroine is armed forces.
organisers, many of whom were old shown to have adopted phallic sym- Radhika Chopras The Male Veil?
friends. bols, and displays manners that are Interrogating a Discourse was an
But when the guests arrived, it was more masculine than the heros. At engaging study of dominant dis-

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 25

Across the South

courses of modernity [that] have too. What made the paper even more class) in popular Indian cinema in her
produced the veiled figure of the engaging was how she pointed out the The Object of Mens Studies in India:
anonymous woman and the veiled inconsistency of the narrative closure An Inquiry through Cinema. She
Jehadi. The alternate uses of the veil with much of the film, thus enabling raised the question of performance in
as marks of passivity and of agency not just different readings of the film terms of these masculinities to bring
threw up interesting pointers about its than that offered by the ending, as the forward pointers towards a re-
role in relation to power. The feminine whole film refutes the end, but that the articulation of the questions of mascu-
veil the chaddar, the niqab, the disappointment of the lovers not linity(-ies). The last speaker on the
burqa all have a muting effect, while meeting at the end is mitigated by the panel was Mohammad Shafeeq, also of
the male veil carried the exact oppo- possibility of other narratives and CIEFL. His paper, The Muslim Man:
site messages of violence, assertion other endings. Masculinity as Pathology showed how
and rioting. Her paper, spanning the Close on the heels of politics of the treatment of Muslim masculinity
Middle East, North Africa and India, love, came that of the equally passion- was informed, in popular filmic repre-
raised several questions about tradi- ate hate; communal hatred, in this sentation, by its opposition to Hindu
tional notions of the veil and the case. In Words that Wound: Archiving men and also Muslim women. There
politics that informs such notions. She Hate in the Making of Hindu and were either (pathological) excesses of
pointed to the role of the veil in Muslim Publics in Bombay, Dipak the masculinity of Islam, or the secular
marking positions in a society too, Mehta, also of the Department of states masculinity, which again were
both among the nomadic Tuareg of Sociology of the Delhi University, put up as contesting categories to
Sub-Saharan Africa and in Oman, talked of texts that were calculated to determine the destiny of the women of
where the male Khanith performs this provoke hatred in the other commu- the state.
role. She raised similar questions nity in Bombay/Mumbai. He marked The last paper of the seminar was
about veiling practices in India, the resonances in the hate-literature of from Pushpesh Kumar of the SRTM
pointing to the use of veiling or the the city, drawing from sources taken University of Nanded. His paper, titled
lack of it as markers of social position from the 1920s to the 1990s, to Disorderly Body in a Middle Town was
in Indian households and society. And, problematise the relationship between an exploration of the marginalised
Chopra, who is from the Department the high and the low discourses of masculinities and the interplays
of Sociology, Delhi University, also communal politics. These discourses on informed by the positioning of these
talked of the role of the hood as the both sides of the communal divide, often bodies in an ethos strongly tinged by
male veil, deflecting the states gaze feed off each other. They are further caste, community and kinship ties. It
from (what it sees as) terrorists. strengthened by mixing stories of valour is in this context that he situated the
The last paper of the day was and honour with those of the depravity, Kothis the non-English speaking
AIDS, Masculinity and the National more often than not sexual, of the other. effeminate gay males in the
Demagogy, where Dilip Das of CIEFL Mehta pointed out the close relationship Maharashtrian middle town.
talked of the politics of morality and that these discourses enjoyed with The seminar was enlivened also by
sexuality that informed the Indian official disciplines such as history, other forms of presentations. There
states first forays into raising aware- particularly of the colonial variety, and was an excellent slide show and
ness about AIDS. The campaign even the legal apparatus, both colonial discussion by C. S. Jayaram, titled
targeted certain sections as carriers, and post-colonial. Man Made: Negotiations of Masculinity
and generally saw them as people to The next session was a panel discus- in Art. There were also two films
blame. Thus, the middle class house- sion featuring three young researchers. Rahul Roys The City Beautiful and
wife could only be the passive victim CIEFLs M. Phil. student Samata Biswas Deepa Dhanrajs Love in the Time of
while the sexually free woman was a discussed the role of women in a AIDS. With the power of the audio-
dangerous spreading agent. Thus, masculinised workplace, through three visual medium, they brought home, to
enemies of moral normativities mainstream Hindi filmic narratives. Her many of the participants, the various
collapsed seamlessly into threats to paper, Women Characters in a Gendered points raised during the engaging two-
the very lives of people. He con- (Masculine) Workplace: Fanaa, Corporate day exercise.
trasted the sexy Kama Sutra adver- and Dhoom 2 analysed the role of women But, to come back to the beginning;
tisements with those of the govern- in these films, either as a tough cop, or in the seminar was special not just
ment brand of condoms, safe fun the corporate world, to be that of because of the quality of the papers
taking precedence in the first, while sacrifice and other such qualities and other presentations, but with the
the latter harped on the need of family assigned to women by patriarchy, whole way that the exercise was run.
planning. The discussant, Veena often embodying the nation-as-mother. And the participatory atmosphere,
Shatrughna, Deputy Director of the It was this sacrificing character, she essential to this continuing exercise of
National Institute of Nutrition, pointed also pointed out, that often gave the reaching out to various places and
out how physicians had been replaced film its ethical charge. Independent sections with a concept that is still
by NGOs in the front-lines of the battle researcher Jenny Rowena sought to quite new, was evident from the day
against AIDS in India, which provided examine the present debates on before the seminar, through the
an interesting dimension to the states masculinity in order to problematize phases in the auditorium, the (custom-
reaction to the disease. the primary object of mens studies. ary) dinner, and the end. Kudos to all
If the conference dinner could have She pointed to the different, stereo- involved in this.
dulled the senses of some participants typed portrayals of men from different
on the second morning, Shohini social backgrounds (caste, community,
Ghoshs ( AJK Mass Communications
Research Centre, JMI, New Delhi)
paper was just the right dose to wake
them up. Her Forbidden Love and
Passionate Denials was a masterful
foray into the politics of a film repre-
senting the apparently more sexually
free genre of recent Bengali films.
She pointed out how these films were
in conversation with other recent films
Rahul Roy
Shohini Ghosh

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 26

Across the South

Technology Cannot Wipe Out MEMORIES

Munir Fasheh is the Director of the Arab Education Forum at Harvard University, Cambridge,
where his responsibilities include organising annual meetings for people from the Arab world
working in various fields. He was founder and director of the Tamer Institute for Community
Education in Jerusalem, Israel, the aim of which was to create learning spaces, especially for
youth, through activities, projects, and seminars. Dr. Fasheh is a member of the Board of
Munir Fasheh Trustees of the Jerusalem School of Economics and Diplomacy and of the Board of Trustees
and the Steering Committee for the Arab Resource Collective, an inter-Arab group working on
networking and communication among Arab NGOs. Dr. Fasheh holds an M.S. in mathematics
education from Florida State University, Tallahassee, and an Ed.D. in administration, social
policy, and planning from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr. Fasheh is an
alumnus of the Salzburg Seminars Universities Project, Symposium 20, The Meanings of
Autonomy, 2002.

The recent events in Lebanon and of Israel in the 1950s, said, the the acts of terrorist Jewish
Palestine brought back a long chain of fathers will die and their children will organisations. I remember when my
memories. It reminded me, in particu- forget. John Foster Dulles (then US father took my sisters and me to see
lar, of when I was four or five years Secretary of State) when asked in the the King David Hotel and, later, the
old. I was born in Lower Baqa quarter mid 1950s what about the Palestin- Samiramis Hotel (both not very far
in Jerusalem in 1941 (i.e., before ians, he repeated the same sentence: from our house) that were blown up by
Israel was created). There was a Fathers will die and children will Jewish organisations. My family knew
Jewish settlement Mekor Haim next forget. [The same relationship still personally the Abu Suwan family
to our neighbourhood. What is hap- persists today: Condolezza Rice (US (husband, wife and their five children)
pening in Lebanon reminded me of the Secretary of State) merely repeats who were killed in the Samiramis Hotel
nights when my parents (as a result of whatever Olmert (PM of Israel) says!] massacre. On 9 April 1948, the Deir
shelling from the Jewish settlement) Ben Gurion and Dulles may have been Yassin massacre was committed,
would make my sisters and me stand able to forget, but not those who went where most of the inhabitants of that
under doorframes, believing it to be through the pain, destruction, and village were killed. As a result of that
the safest place, in case a shell fell on terror. Probably, the only memories massacre and the threats that the
our house. Like all Palestinians, we lost are those of the perpetrators, for same would happen to those who
did not have shelters. What is hap- they dont feel the pain of what they would not leave, my parents decided
pening today reminded me very have done. Jews, out of all peoples, to take us to Jericho, believing it would
vividly of those days and nights. It is should understand the power of be only for a week or two. Two
not easy to forget standing for several memories, but it seems that when months later, they took us to
hours over a period of time, totally people become militarily powerful, Ramallah. 2 During that summer, the
terrified by the possibility that a shell they forget the role and depth of inhabitants of Ramla and Lydda were
may fall down any minute. Such memories in forming people. It was a evicted from their homes; many
memories cannot just disappear, sixteen-year-old Lebanese girl who walked all the way to Ramallah in the
especially when they are accompanied said to her science teacher, we are heat of July. They lived in the fields
by feelings of unfairness and injustice. made of stories, not atoms. Every under trees for a while. We played
Unfairness and injustice at that time person and every community is made with their children. In 1967, more
were felt more towards the British who of stories, experiences, memories, than another quarter of a million
gave the promise to the Zionist dreams, and of what embodies hope Palestinians were forced to leave the
organisation to help them build a and captures the imagination in terms refugee camps near Jericho and
Jewish state in Palestine contrary to of inspiration and dignity. Thats why, become refugees (for the second time)
the mandate given to them by the when I hear people talk about Pales- in Jordan.
League of Nations, which was to help tinian identity in an intellectual ab- What is happening, in Lebanon
Palestinians build their own state. Not stract sense, I feel the shallowness of today, brought back to my mind all
only did they not help us build a state the concept compared to memories those massacres and exoduses.
but made us lose more than eighty two and dreams. Thats why I felt Israel Between 1948 and 1967, I lived in
per cent of the land of Palestine1 and was so shortsighted to claim, for Ramallah, which is less than ten miles
take refuge in neighbouring countries several decades, that there is no such away from our house in Jerusalem, but
exactly like what is happening to thing as Palestinians; they did not could never go there. After the 1967
hundreds of thousands of people today exist as Golda Meir insisted in 1970! war, when Israel occupied the rest of
in Lebanon. One difference between More than any one else she knew the Palestine, I was able to go and see our
then and now is that Britain is replaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians home in Jerusalem, but the people in it
by the US. All subsequent attempts who were forced out of their homes, did not allow me to go in and see the
and wishes to make us forget only and more than four hundred villages inside, where I had a lot of memories
succeeded in making the memories that were totally destroyed between of playing with my sisters and toys.
sink deeper and become more alive. 1948 and 1952. Just like what is My mother and my aunts, however,
They stayed alive not because Pales- happening now, those false words could not make the trip; it was emo-
tinians are stubborn people but were for the ears of Westerners so tionally too painful for them. They
because pain, destruction, and feelings that Israel could go on doing what it worked for more than twenty years
of unfairness and injustice can never was doing. At that time, there was no (sewing clothes) in order to build it. It
go away. They may recede for a Hamas or Hizbullah to justify the was completed in 1933.
while, but as soon as something like attacks. The way to deal with the facts The current events in Palestine and
what is happening in Gaza and Leba- then was to deny that Palestinians Lebanon will add new memories to
non takes place, they become again ever existed! new millions of people. If I were an
very vivid. In response to what My parents became especially Israeli, I would be more worried about
happened in 1948, Ben Gurion, the PM scared about our lives as a result of memories that the current Israeli

In this sense, Palestinians should demand from Britain to give them back what was entrusted to them under the mandate by the League of
Nations: Palestine.
Even UN officials were not spared by Jewish terrorist acts, such as what happened to Count Bernadotte who in September 1948 was
assassinated one day after he wrote his report that Palestinians should be allowed to go back to their homes.

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 27

Across the South

onslaught will create than about falling was education! Similarly, after the Although I experienced bombardment
missiles. Missiles will eventually end occupation of Iraq, winning the minds by shells since I was a little child, over
but memories will remain to determine and hearts of Arab and Muslim youth the years I felt we have also been
a lot of what will happen in the future. was launched by the US through bombarded by words. Bombs and
That feeling of the power of education, TV, newspapers, and books. words have been bedmates. Words
memories was confirmed in my mind The main difference between the are crucial in forming perceptions,
during a trip I took in 2001, to visit my various attempts to dismantle societ- conceptions, and meanings.
friend Gustavo Esteva in Oaxaca, ies through helping them is in the Monopolising who is a terrorist is just
Mexico. There, for the first time, I words used and the actors accomplish- one example of how words shape
came face to face with memories that ing the task. The church in the case perceptions and control minds. How-
extended over 500 years (not only for Native Americans was replaced by ever, words such as underdevelop-
sixty). The story of the indigenous the World Bank (in the case of Pales- ment and reform have done much
populations of Oaxaca and nearby tine) in overseeing the process of more harm than obvious ones, be-
Chiapas 3 (where the Zapatistas have imposing a certain view of the world cause they are subtler and go deeper.
been busy transforming their memo- on students. And, instead of using It was at this level the level of
ries into inspiring and beautiful saving and civilising, which the bombardment of words that I person-
dreams and visions of a world that church used, the World Bank uses ally put my effort to respond to
embraces many worlds as they put developing and empowering. The onslaughts from outside. As a person
it) was a very inspiring and hopeful logic is the same. In the words of who worked most of my life in educa-
story for me. What struck me most Black Hawk, a Sauk chief, in 1832: tion and learning, and with children
was the fact that all attempts to How smooth must be the language of and youth, dealing with such bombard-
completely wipe out memories and the whites, when they can make right ments, and healing and protecting us
cultures of indigenous peoples in the look like wrong, and wrong look like from them, have constituted my
Americas failed. Education was a key right. The World Bank has been much thinking and work for many years.
element in trying to wipe out memo- more successful than churches and Finally, I would like to mention an
ries and cultures. The motto that was armies in shattering societies, aspect that is part of my memory
coined by Captain Richard Henry disvaluing cultures, and stealing though ignored and forgotten from
Pratt, who founded the first Native resources: They do it through na- most discussions about Palestine. It is
American Boarding School, Carlisle tional states, national banks, and an aspect that I consider extremely
Indian School in Pennsylvania, was development projects! It is safer, crucial: The fact that 1948 was the first
Kill the Indian and Save the Man, the subtler, and more effective. The time in history when Jerusalem was
purpose of which was to reject their distractions it uses are harder to practically emptied of its Christian
Native American culture. In the detect. Again, it is history that is inhabitants. The creation of Israel
1840s, the Gradual Civilizational Act crucial in understanding the modern uprooted what (in my opinion) is the
was introduced in Canada. It is a world, and it is history in the form of most special and precious Christian
very revealing story of how the state, memories that can protect us from community in the world.5 We are
church, business, and education falling once again for false promises special and precious not in any intrin-
collaborated in tearing apart families such as the promise given to the PLO sic, superior, or privileged sense, but
and communities and in trying to in 1982 that if they leave Beirut, the in the sense that we are the only
make children forget their cultures: US would protect the Palestinians, indigenous Christian group in the
The state enacted the policy, educa- which the Sabra and Shatilla massa- world. What I mean by this is that we
tion designed the curriculum, business cres proved false. Not a single are the only group that embodies the
provided the money, and the church promise by Britain or the US was spirit of Jesus, through living it from
took care of the execution!4 The role honoured. Soon, we will be hearing one generation to another since Jesus
of education in dismantling communi- many promises being made by Rice. walked on the land of Palestine. Most
ties, belittling cultures, and occupying Technology can wipe out villages Christian families from Jerusalem went
minds was manifested in different and towns, and can kill and silence to Jordan, Lebanon, the US, and
ways in different places and different people; it can destroy fields and distort Europe.
times. In most cases, it was done in facts in official books, journalists No one can predict where what is
ways that were subtler than in resi- reports, and experts presentations, happening today is going to lead to
dential schools. It was done, not only analyses, and debates. But it cannot but, judging from past memories, I
by imposing certain curricula but also, wipe out memories; it would only can say that the following is almost
and more importantly, by disvaluing make them sink deeper. certain:
what people have. When the World While bombs destroyed what was The current Israeli assault on
Bank was allowed to get into Palestine around us, words destroyed what was Gaza and Lebanon will not solve
in 1993 after the Oslo agreement, one inside us, by disvaluing our ways of any problem; if anything, it is
of the first things it got involved in knowing, learning, relating, and living.

One of the books that I read (and which I believe everyone should read, because it really shows part of the roots of what is happening in the
world today) is A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, which was written, about the atrocities in the Indies, in 1542 (fifty years
after Columbus invaded the region) by a Dominican brother, Bartolome De Las Casas. In the words of Columbus (when he and his sailors
came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly), the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. Columbus later wrote:
They brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks bells.
They willingly traded everything they owned.... They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features. They do not bear arms, and
do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their
spears are made of cane. They would make fine servants. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.
In another letter, Columbus was full of religious talk: Thus the eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His way over
apparent impossibilities.
Reading what happened in history will help us see what is happening today. As a result of the failure to make indigenous peoples leave their
cultures and forget what happened, they resorted to a scheme which used education as its main tool: Residential schools. [See, for
example, http://www.shannonthunderbird.com/residential_schools.htm] It is worth mentioning that I am not talking about distant history,
the last residential school in Canada was closed in 1990 only seventeen years ago!
See the following link http://www.sabeel.org/pdfs/Cornerstone%2040final%20Spring%202006.pdf
In addition to www.sabeel.org see also www.annadwa.org

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 28

Across the South

going to add new ones and leftover of European dreams of solutions; insisting on rational
huge ones for that. It is going building empires. A society that and military solutions is unwise
to add more pain, more misery, has no visionaries other than and self-defeating.
more refugees and, thus, more those who seek more control Dominating others is increas-
memories not only for Arabs and more means of destruction ingly becoming a disastrous
but also for Israelis. is doomed. project. This leaves us with two
What is happening is going to People are moved by memories, options: The one that comes
stick as vivid memories in dreams, and by what captures from the depth of five hundred
peoples minds, just as what their imagination. Current years of memories, articulated
happened in 1948, 1956, 1967, events are increasingly making by the Zapatistas in the words
1982, 1987, 1996, 2000, and Islam central in such a captur- a world that embraces many
2002 and all in between stuck in ing of imagination. No matter worlds, i.e., a world that
my memory. Memories are what happens, my guess is that embodies respect, dignity,
swelling all the time, and Islam is going to be a main fairness, and pluralism OR
feelings of unfairness and inspiration. Any attempt to which is the second option
injustice are deepening all the crush that imagination will be continue to try to dominate
time. My guess is that this time, nave and short sighted. Unlike others, which most probably will
feelings of unfairness and national and socialist move- lead to destroying life on this
injustice will go deeper than ments, which lacked rooted- earth.
before because, while in 1948, ness in peoples lives, Islam is A basic fact about life and about
most people around the world rooted very deeply in peoples people, in all places and at all times, is
didnt know what was happen- ways of living. Israel and the that the human spirit is undefeatable.
ing, no one can make such a US have been very ignorant by This timeless spirit is very rarely
claim today. The indifference dealing with Islam the same talked about. It stands in contradiction
and silence that the official way they dealt with nationalist with the logic that is increasingly
world showed today is too much and leftist movements. Western invading societies around the world,
to bear. and Israeli experts on Islam the logic of winning, control, greed,
Just like in the past, every time seem to be only interested in and profit. Humanity can be sup-
Israel thought it succeeded in how to defeat Islam the same pressed in some places at certain
eliminating one group, other way they defeated communism times but, as long as there is injustice,
groups came into being. As and national movements. Islam it will always be boiling underneath the
long as the grievances are not is not just a movement and not surface, and it will erupt by various
addressed, the problem will just a religion or an ideology, it peoples, taking various forms, de-
keep emerging in different is a way of living that is very pending mainly on the living culture of
forms. People are incredible deep in millions of people and the people. Injustice cannot last. Just
and unpredictable. Hope cannot communities. When commu- like a volcano where boiling energy
be wiped out from peoples nism was made illegal in Russia, has to come out, and like an earth-
lives. It is probably the stron- few hundreds of people went to quake where a fault has to be cor-
gest human emotion. the streets to protest. No one rected and the earth has to rest,
Israels technological capacities can make Islam illegal or humanity will erupt and shake some-
have advanced a lot over the reduce it to a vision of having a where, somehow, until justice is
years. In terms of political nation state like what hap- regained. There is no way to suppress
visions, however, it seems it is pened to the Palestinian dream. it completely. This is the beauty and
still stuck with what was there Human problems require human miracle of life.
since the 1940s, which itself is a

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Across the South

Mandela and Rhodes: A Blissful Marriage?*

Adekeye Adebajo is Executive Director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution, Cape Town,
South Africa. He served as Director of the Africa Programme of the New York-based
International Peace Academy between 20012003. During the same period, Dr Adebajo
was an Adjunct Professor at Columbia Universitys School of International and Public
Affairs. He previously served on UN missions in South Africa, Western Sahara and Iraq.
Adekeye Adebajo Dr Adebajo is the author of Building Peace in West Africa: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-
Bissau; Liberias Civil War: Nigeria, ECOMOG, and Regional Security in West Africa; and co-
editor of Managing Armed Conflicts in the Twenty-First Century; West Africas Security
Challenges: Building Peace in A Troubled Region; A Dialogue of the Deaf: Essays on Africa and
the United Nations and South Africa in Africa: The Post-Apartheid Era. He obtained his
doctorate from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar.

On winning the single Rhodes Scholar- ment)/Hitler Foundation so why have people in what had hitherto been
ship from Nigeria to study at Oxford Africans accepted this monstrosity? considered the relatively liberal Cape
University in 1990, an alarmed uncle Has Mandela perhaps not taken Colony; forcibly removing blacks to
exclaimed: That thing is dripping with reconciliation too far in rehabilitating native reserves (through the Glen
blood. Cecil Rhodes was a bloody an evil figure that Africans should Grey Act of 1894); and passing
imperialist! really have condemned to the pit- draconian labour laws (including the
My thoughts at the time were more latrine of history? legal flogging of disobedient black
practical: To get a good education at a Rhodes, who died in 1902, un- labourers) that facilitated the contin-
world-class institution, and if the doubtedly remains the greatest ued supply of human fodder to his
money of a robber-baron who had individual historical symbol of imperial- mines.
plundered Africas wealth was paying ism. Zimbabwe tore down his statues The Rhodes Scholarship is the most
for it, then at least a slice of the after independence in 1980. Zambia enduring legacy of this arch-imperial-
treasure was returning to the conti- toppled a statue of Rhodes on achiev- ist. The South African scholarships
nent. I remember my stomach ing independence in 1964, and both have been particularly controversial
churning at dinners at Rhodes House in countries formerly named Southern since they have effectively served as a
Oxford when the assembled dignitaries and Northern Rhodesia respectively form of white affirmative action for a
would turn to a large portrait of the sought to remove the imperial stain by century. Students from schools listed
colonialist and raise their glasses to re-baptising themselves. South Africa in Rhodes will Diocesan College
The Founder. My own silent protest has not yet started a proper debate on (Bishops), St. Andrews College; the
involved refusing to partake in this the numerous Rhodes memorials that South African College Schools (SACS),
strange ritual of the most secret of litter its post-apartheid landscape. and Stellenbosch boys high school
societies. Still struggling to come to Today, Rhodes obsessive quest to (Paul Roos Gymnasium) that neither
terms with my own personal discom- achieve immortality can be seen in admitted blacks nor girls until the
fort with this association a decade Cape Town (statues, street names and 1980s continued to obtain four of the
later, I was shocked to discover the a grandiloquent memorial at the nine scholarships. The first Afrikaner
creation of the Mandela/Rhodes University of Cape Town); Kimberley scholar declined the scholarship in
Foundation in South Africa in 2002. (a statue on horseback); and 1903, as the scheme was seen as
The Rhodes Trust in Oxford contributed Grahamstown (Rhodes University). An privileging Anglo-liberal whites. As
ten million pounds over a decade to effort by the academic, Roger Apartheid South Africa became
scholarships, child healthcare and Southall, to change the name of increasingly isolated, American Rhodes
sporting facilities to disadvantaged Rhodes University in 1994 was soundly scholars led petitions and protests to
communities. I wondered, however, defeated in the university senate. increase black representation on the
whether this was not a tragic perver- Rhodes harnessed both political scheme and even to cut off scholar-
sion of a genuine African hero. As power as Prime Minister of the Cape ships to the country altogether. The
Paul Maylam, the author of a recent Colony and economic power, as a pressure eventually led the Rhodes
excellent book, The Cult of Rhodes, diamond and gold magnate. He used trustees to take the four whites only
noted: The arch-imperialist colonizer his economic wealth to buy political boys schools to court in 1985 to force
of the nineteenth century was being power; and used political power to them to admit blacks and girls. Only
conjoined with the great anti-imperial- protect and extend his wealth. He in 1976 were the first black Rhodes
ist freedom fighter of the twentieth headed the De Beers mining firm and scholar (Ramuchandran Govender)
century. dispossessed black people of their and the first woman Rhodes scholar
Mandela one of the greatest moral ancestral lands in modern-day Zimba- (Sheila Niven) chosen seventy two
figures in the twentieth century was bwe and Zambia through brutal and years after the first South African
effectively rehabilitating a grotesque often treacherous means, stealing scholars went up to Oxford. Four
and cruel imperialist of the Victorian three-and-a-half million square miles black scholars were elected in the first
age. In launching the new foundation, of black real estate in one of the most eighty years of a scheme that still
Mandela noted: Combining our name ignominious land-grabs in modern appears to be more albinocratic than
with that of Cecil John Rhodes in this history. Rhodes was an often-unscru- meritocratic. Even today, there is no
initiative is to signal the closing of the pulous businessman as well as a crude systematic plan in place to attract the
circle and the bringing together of two racist. He infamously said: I prefer best and brightest black talent to the
strands in our history. It is shocking land to niggers; the natives are scholarships.
to visit Rhodes House in Oxford today, like children. They are just emerging Based on Rhodes sordid historical
and to see Mandelas picture with a from barbarism.; and One should kill legacy, a debate on the wisdom of
white bust of Cecil Rhodes lurking as many niggers as possible. Even yoking the saintly Mandela to a
behind him, as well as a painting of before apartheid was passed into law colossal imperialist seems to be long
both of them hanging side by side. in 1948, Rhodes was its forerunner, overdue.
Surely, Jews would not create a taking away the vote from black
Herzog (founder of the Zionist move-

* An earlier version of this paper was published under the title A most Unsavoury Rehabilitation. This is published here by kind permission
of The Mail and The Guardian.

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 30


The History of a Frontier

Dr. Joya Chatterji was educated at Lady Sri Ram College, Delhi, and Trinity College, Cambridge. Her
main research interests lie in the history of Modern South Asia: communal conflict, partition and
independence, and the transition to democracy. Her major publications on these themes include
Bengal divided. Hindu communalism and partition, 1932-1947, Cambridge University Press, 1994;
and The spoils of partition. Bengal and India, 1947-1967, Cambridge University Press, 2007. Dr.
Joya Chatterji
Chatterji has also published widely on the themes of borders, refugees and religious minorities, and
is currently leading a major AHRC-funded project inquiring into The Bengal diaspora. Bengali
settlers in South Asia and Britain: a comparative and interdisciplinary study. Dr. Chatterji is
presently a Reader in International History at the London School of Economics, but will be taking up
a position in the Faculty of History at Cambridge later this year.

Willem van Schendel, The Bengal Borderland: Beyond State and Nation in South Asia, Anthem Press, London, 2005, pp. 429,
Since 1945, the world has been shown metamorphoses and mutations. Some The book has some surprising
on maps as a congeries of nation-states stretches remain unmarked to this day; findings. One is that, despite all the
separated from one another by clear others are fenced off and are relatively violence and instability of the border
and impenetrable borders. These well delineated and well guarded. zones, dwellers along the frontiers have
states, according to conventional Nowhere, however, have these eastern over time learnt to live in the shadow of
wisdom, exercise absolute sovereignty borders proved impenetrable none of the border, and somehow to negotiate
and have a monopoly of the use of the states of the region have had the its hazards. Indeed some
force within their territories. But when will, the manpower and the resources to borderlanders have managed to do
the reality is investigated, as recent close them effectively. On the contrary quite well in these bizarre circumstances
research has begun to do, this view has they have been porous in varying by making smuggling a way of life. Van
come to be challenged in significant degrees: In some parts they are Schendel is at his best when he de-
ways territorial sovereignty is seen to borders in no meaningful sense of the scribes this clandestine economy
be ambiguous and borders both fluid word; in others more sponges than smuggling turns out to be one of the
and contingent. Willem van Schendels walls; and even the few Zones which most profitable and widespread eco-
study of The Bengal Borderland is an are relatively well guarded, they have nomic activities along all four thousand
important example of this new scholar- shown themselves capable of being kilometres of the borders. As he
ship; it is also a model of how hard facts penetrated by stealth, bribery or force. demonstrates, the very different
and subtle analysis deepen our under- The book powerfully illustrates the economic policies pursued by the newly-
standing of the subject. impact of these borders on the commu- independent states in South Asia all
This is an ambitious work that raises nities whose habitat they bisected: the provided fertile ground for a mushroom-
many interesting questions about the new borders brought these people up ing trade in contraband. By giving
nature of states and their control over against eyeball to eyeball as it were priority to import substitution and by
borderlands. As the title suggests, its the most brutal and ugly aspects of protecting domestic industries more
focus is on the new frontiers that, after state authority. India and Pakistan alike determinedly than Pakistan, India
the partition of India in 1947, carved up recruited their border security forces not created in its own territories a hunger
territory between West Bengal and locally but from afar, in order to ensure for goods from outside and an environ-
Assam in India and Eastern Pakistan, that these guardians of the border were ment conducive to smuggling. Phoren
later to break away as Bangladesh. insulated and aloof from local life and consumer commodities were much
How and why Bengal got its particular politics in the borderlands. These more readily available in East Pakistan
borders, and the politics, which lay agents of the state do not come out well than in India, and so these goods flowed
behind them, are not the burden of this from van Schendels account. Venal, ever more vigorously and in ever-
work the borders are assumed (inaccu- bullying and trigger-happy, they im- increasing volumes into India an illicit
rately in my view) to be the sole posed a low-level reign of terror on trade from which some border-landers
handiwork of Sir Cyril Radcliffe. Instead borderland communities, their victims in derived great profit. In the reverse
van Schendel focuses on a different the main being hapless border-dwellers direction, Indian manufactures and
topic: How these new borders actually who strayed, usually by accident, across consumables as varied as table fans,
worked out on the ground, and how the the frontiers. All too readily gunning silk saris, razorblades and medicines
new nation-states of South Asia tried to down local people with little cause and made their unlawful way into East
establish, manage and police them. against all the rules, these enforcers Pakistan. In 1980, after Bangladesh
One of the books most exciting turned a blind eye to smugglers, at decided to make its economy more
achievements is to show the complex times even renting out their weapons liberal, this illegal trade grew in size,
processes by which the governments of and identity papers to those ready and and the methods of the dealers in
these nations, in seeking to secure their able to pay the price. This was Rifle contraband became more sophisticated.
borders, were drawn into protracted and Raj in the borderlands, and van Ten years later, by 1990, raw jute was
inconclusive arm-wrestles with border- Schendels account of it makes grim, if being smuggled through each and every
land communities. Partial and imperfect fascinating, reading. one of the thirty policed transit points
resolutions of innumerable local skir- along the Bangladesh/ West Bengal
mishes between border-dwellers and border. But so too were less innocuous
the agents of the state are shown to items. As van Schendel shows, drugs
have left their mark on the evolution of and guns now began to flood into the
these borders, underlining the vital role borderlands to meet the demand from
of the border-dwellers themselves in all manner of bandits, criminals and
determining what sort of frontiers have insurgents. With their detailed knowl-
emerged in the eastern arc of the edge of the terrain and their personal
Indian subcontinent. connections on both sides of the line,
Far from being straightforward and border-dwellers were ideally placed to
undisputed lines of division, the borders, act as mules in these burgeoning and
as van Schendel shows, have assumed only semi-clandestine, but increasingly
different characteristics in different parts dangerous, transactions. So too were
of their four thousand kilometres, and the border-guards, who had few qualms
over time have undergone many about flouting the laws of the land and

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 31


subverting the control of their masters control of these new states over their well as of the differences and similarities
in far-away Delhi or Dhaka. citizens, and indeed even over their own between imperial and national bor-
So any notion of a nation-state with paid agents, The Bengal Borderlands ders subjects of great potential
effectively sealed borders ring-fencing a tells us a great deal about the limits of interest. This is an exciting and novel
self-contained polity and economy, as authority in nation states limits familiar study, rich in information and insights,
van Schendel shows, is a chimera in to historians of imperialism, but usually which calls to be read not only by
eastern South Asia: An ideal which has not recognised by political scientists who students of the history of modern South
never been realised, nor even system- analyse the successor states. Indeed, it Asia but by all those with an interest in
atically pursued. But this work has a should encourage comparative studies empires, nations and their borders.
relevance beyond South Asia. By of the kind of power and control exer-
showing just how superficial was the cised by empires and nation-states, as

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 32


Religion and Rhetoric in Caribbean Slavery: Revolts and Abolition

Jerome is a lecturer in the Department of History, University of the West Indies, in

Trinidad and Tobago. He has taught at the University of Trinidad and Tobago and the
Jerome Teelucksingh Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies. Teelucksingh has presented
papers at international conferences dealing with Afro-Caribbean personalities such
as Henry Sylvester Williams, Eric Williams, CLR James and George Padmore.

Gelien Matthews, Caribbean Slave Revolts and the British Abolitionist Movement, Louisiana State University Press, Baton
Rouge, 2006, pp. 197, ISBN: 0-8071-3131-8, $42.95.
Gelien Matthews has brilliantly exam- poignant illustrations in their anti- once they had made the transition
ined the impact of slave revolts in the slavery campaigns. from bondage to freedom (p. 146).
British West Indies on the anti-slavery Interestingly, the author makes the The extent of religion being effec-
abolitionist movement. There is a case that the abolitionists felt that the tively wielded to undermine British
focus on the slave uprisings in the enslaved would find motivation from West Indian slavery seems difficult to
colonies of Barbados (1816), outside the system if the impetus for assess given the mixed signals ema-
Demerara (1823) and Jamaica (1831- change was not coming from within nating from the religious advocates of
1832). The author argues that the (p. 139). It seemed obvious that the abolition. This is revealed in Chapter
abolitionists were acutely aware of the sheer brutality of slavery would have Three, in which the abolitionists are
complementary role that slave revolts been sufficient impetus for wide- portrayed as holding views that were
played in strengthening their antisla- spread and continuous resistance, be it contradictory and hypocritical.
very efforts. covert or active. A minor oversight of Matthews used the illustration of the
The historiography on slavery can Matthews is ignoring the role of African Demerara revolt and focused on Henry
be divided into two schools of thought. religious beliefs of the enslaved would Broughams claim that Christianity
The first argues that it was economic have certainly influenced the outbreak among the enslaved contributed to the
factors including the unprofitability of and course of these uprisings. This relatively peaceful course of the
slavery that led to its demise. The shortcoming might have been as a revolt. In analysing the role of the
second group of historians, to which result of abolitionists who underesti- abolitionists Matthews argued that they
Matthews herself belongs, is of the mated or ignored the influence of were not being true to their over-all
opinion that the rationale for abolition religions as voodun (voodoo) among assessment of the relationship be-
of slavery was due to the influential ringleaders and its ability to suddenly tween Christianity and slavery (p.83).
role played by politics and various transform fearful or wavering slaves. Additionally, she also noted Buxtons
religious/humanitarian persons and perception of the Jamaican revolt as
groups. being partially due to the religious
Undoubtedly, Caribbean Slave persecution of the enslaved by the
Revolts and the British Abolitionist planters. This is indeed accurate since
Movement dissects a tumultuous many irresolute abolitionists sought to
period of slave protests in the pre- maintain an element of decorum
emancipation era. Some of the juxtaposed to their sympathies for the
antislavery personalities and groups violent revolts among the enslaved.
highlighted in the book are William Matthews has meticulously ex-
Wilberforce, Thomas Buxton, Thomas plored the multidimensional aspects of
Clarkson and the Anti-Slavery Society. the abolition discourse and perceptions
The author commended Clarkson for emanating from the British public,
providing the abolitionists with a planters and West Indian colonists. In
practical demonstration of how best to Matthews contends, Slaves were this regard the author must be com-
combine antislavery rhetoric and tactic attuned to and curious about discus- mended for incorporating a wealth of
to achieve their objectives (p. 102). sions on the slavery question taking primary and secondary sources.
Despite their brave fight there were place in the colonies and across the Among these are journals and news-
many shortcomings, which plagued the Atlantic (p. 80). Furthermore, that papers like the Anti-Slavery Reporter,
humanitarians and abolitionists. For the abolitionists were aware of the Edinburgh Review, Baptist Magazine;
instance, in Chapter Two Agitating the existence of the influence of the also relevant tracts, sermons and
Question, Matthews argues, What the educated element among the enslaved Parliamentary speeches.
abolitionists did not seem to under- domestics. Monumental developments The authors lucid writing style
stand was that in the last years of in nearby St. Domingue also influ- coupled with cohesive themes and
slavery, improved conditions did not enced the abolitionists commentary on logical arguments will certainly appeal
make contented slaves (p. 40). In the rebellious conduct of the enslaved. to scholars and students. In hindsight,
Chapter Four Loaded with Deadly This has been emphasised in the sub- Caribbean Slave Revolts and the
Evidence one of the revelations section titled The St. Domingue British Abolitionist Movement is an
brought to light by this work is the Bogey in Chapter Three The Other asset to the ongoing debate on the
manner in which abolitionists used Side of Slave Revolts. Likewise, in abolition of slavery. Indeed, the
deaths of the enslaved, following the Chapter Five Apocalyptic Warnings author has successfully overcome the
Demerara outbreak, to pressure there is mention of the forthright challenge of shedding new light on a
Parliament and the public to rethink abolitionist Clarkson, who was critical phase of the turbulent antisla-
and take corrective action on the adamant that this former French West very movement. The outstanding
regime of slavery (p. 118). This was Indian colony could be used as a merits of the book could be easily
done despite the fact that there were model. He felt British West Indian compared to that of Eric Williamss
many previous incidents, which the Blacks, like their Haitian counter- Capitalism and Slavery.
abolitionists could have utilised as parts, were peaceful and industrious

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 33


Sangtin Writers

A mother of three children, Sujata Guha is currently working towards an M.Phil. degree in
Womens Studies at Jadavpur University. She also has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from
the State University of New York, and has been a research scientist for the last seventeen
Sujata Guha years and a visiting assistant professor at the University of New Mexico, USA. She has a
diploma in Ayurveda.
Her varied interests range from ethics and science to womens spirituality.

Richa Nagar, Playing with Fire: Feminist Thought and Activism through Seven Lives in India. Sangtin Writers: Anupamlata,
Ramsheela, Reshma Ansari, Richa Nagar, Richa Singh, Shashi Vaish, Shashibala, Sarbala and Vibha Bajpayee, Zubaan,
New Delhi, 2006, Rs. 395.
For quite some time, I wanted to start indigenous Guatemalan woman who While the book bemoans the
a womens collective, but didnt know talks of her village in the plural I, hierarchies that exist in NGOs, Nagar
how exactly to go about it. Having such that she narrates the experiences herself and the Sangtin itself, albeit to
read this book I think I know how. of the whole village on a personal a lesser degree, can be accused of the
Playing with Fire is about the lives of note. Similarly Nawaal-el-Saadwis, same. The chosen seven are a bit
seven village women from Sitapur Woman at Point Zero, uses this even ahead of their counterparts because
district of Uttar Pradesh, who were more powerfully where the reader is they can first of all write, and they can
grassroot workers for the NGO Nari left with the feeling that the write in not just their local Awadhi
Sahay Yojana (NSY). These seven protagonists personal story has not dialect but in the more standard Hindi
women were brought together by the only merged with the authors but also khadi boli. So these seven are also
two authors, Richa Singh and Richa with that of all women in the world. among the elite in their peer group.
Nagar, in a collective called Sangtin Unfortunately, despite relying on the All of the above criticisms notwith-
Yatra, where they wrote diaries same technique, in this book the use standing, this is not to say that these
documenting their lives and which of the universal we is confusing at women did not gain anything out of
served as a journey of self-discovery first and even ludicrous at times their experience of NSY and Sangtin.
and analysis. Richa Singh was their because certainly the more sophisti- By their own admission, having a job
overseer at NSY while Richa Nagar cated of the two Richas could never with NSY, earning money and travelling
teaches at the University of Minnesota, have experienced some of the hard- and talking to women for their as-
USA. ships that the Sangtin writers face. signed roles at NSY, has been liberat-
Having started on a positive note, The fact that she has to deliberately ing and empowering, both psychologi-
one discovers soon that the book is point out that we is used because all cally and economically.
really one of complaints those of the womens experiences merge weakens The seven Sangtin authors write
Sangtin writers and the two Richas the impact of the collective we that about their childhood, caste, class,
against NSY. A shorter version of this ought to have arisen naturally. Each marriage and work as NSY workers.
English rendition was originally pub- of the seven womens stories is told Unfortunately, in the copy that I
lished in Hindi. The Sangtin writers separately, there is no one merged received the chapter on marriage had,
primary grievance against NSY is that body or voice that speaks. Instead of in at least four places, pages from
though it is the grassroot workers who a one-woman story, it remains seven previous chapters inserted instead of
do the real fieldwork their voices are different narratives, while those of the the correct ones. This was very
not heard. Instead, based on their two Richas are conspicuous by their jarring because whenever one reached
fieldwork, it is the educated, city-bred, absence. the crescendo of an experience the
starched sari-clad, English-speaking narrative abruptly stopped. For people
bosses whose voices, interpretations who might have gotten inspired by
and opinions are broadcast and on these stories, this is very disappoint-
whose opinions funding decisions are ing. Repeated attempts to contact the
made. The Hindi book apparently publisher led to no response. These
created a furore in Uttar Pradesh with copies should certainly not be sold.
NSY accusing the Sangtin writers of Unfortunately, when NSY objected
breach of professional ethics. The strongly to the publication of the
controversy as well as the seven original Hindi version of the Sangtin
writers narratives can be heard writers, Nagar herself brought the
through Nagars voice in Playing with outsiders down on NSY. NSY had
Fire. Not only did she translate their written to the university with which
stories, but the narratives are replete What is even more painful about Nagar was attached complaining of a
with her analyses and comments this book and the Sangtin collective is breach of professional ethics instigated
which do not lend any feeling of a that although Richa Singh, the supervi- by Nagar. Interestingly, a strong letter
connecting thread which might weave sor from NSY, must be fairly sophisti- condemning NSY from Nagars US
together the nine lives as she claims. cated, they still needed the other university silenced the objections!
In fact, we know scant little about the Richa, the highly sophisticated one, to Nagar, therefore, can herself be
Richas lives. The Sangtin writers come all the way from the US to squarely accused of using the same
stories are followed by a section organise them into the Sangtin collec- top-heavy outsider-from-abroad at-
where Nagar airs her version of the tive to complain against NSY. The ease-with-the-dominant-language-and-
argument that NSY had with her and seven Sangtin writers then get doubly culture influencing tactic that she
Sangtin Yatra and a theoretical analy- used: They are used first by NSY and accuses development NGOs of using.
sis of development work. then Nagar uses them a second time The version of the war that was fought
Nagar adopts the style of the around to push her own agenda and between Sangtin Yatra and NSY is the
universal we in the book where the uses their writings for padding her own one presented by Nagar. She makes it
voices of the nine women unite CV. The benefit that these women international and then calls it trans-
seldom, diverge often, or are entirely gain from these writings is surely small world feminism such that the structure
absent. This use of we is in the compared to what Nagar gains from of the dominant North suppressing the
tradition of Rigoberta Menchu, the them. South remains.

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SEPHIS e-magazine 3, 3, May 2007 34


Despite all this, I would still praise method. Just as NSY claimed in their their starched-saris or trousers, and
Nagar for trying out an alternative trans-world letter that the NGO had their English language or their trans-
approach to womens empowerment. trained the seven Sangtin women and world jobs, to strengthen the worlds
Development work does need empowered them so that they could invisible half.
handholding. The bottom-up ap- become strong writers aware of their After having read the book, I still
proach, where village women identify rights, so too do we need more Richa want to start that woman writers
their own problems that need address- Nagars in the world, notwithstanding collective.
ing, is without a doubt a commendable

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