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Imagined sovereignty and the Indian subject: partition and politics beyond the nation, 1948–1960

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date15/12/2011
JournalContemporary South Asia
Journal number4
Volume19
Number of pages17
Pages409-425
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article considers the jurisdiction assumed by the Indian state over populations of Indian origin in British territories after 1947. In an intense and often excessive treatment of the Indian subject as citizen, appropriate conduct was promoted, approved political organisations were patronised and behaviour regarded as delinquent was castigated. Using examples from Mauritius, East Africa, the West Indies and South-East Asia, this article examines this short-lived project as a means of interrogating the post-colonial Indian state and more general questions of post-colonial identity, jurisdiction and sovereignty. The terms of the directives sent by the Ministry of External Affairs were derived from domestic agendas and anxieties. A singular Indian identity, free from regional linguistic or religious difference, was promoted. Inevitably, however, this Indian identity was articulated negatively, through the identification of those considered to be communal, separatist and therefore ‘‘non-Indian’. However, local populations in these territories were by no means passive recipients of the diplomats’ attention. In attempting to direct political action, the emissaries of the Indian state found themselves drawn into local political cultures over which they could not hope to exercise control.