Caste and Partition in Bengal: The Story of Dalit Refugees, 1946-1961 (Hardcover)
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The book seeks to situate caste as a discursive category in the discussion of Partition in Bengal. In conventional narratives of Partition, the role of the Dalit or the Scheduled Castes is either completely ignored or mentioned in passing. The authors addresse this discursive absence and argues that in Bengal the Dalits were neither passive onlookers nor accidental victims of Partition politics and violence, which ruptured their unity and weakened their political autonomy. They were the worst victims of Partition. When the Dalit peasants of Eastern Bengal began to migrate to India after 1950, they were seen as the 'burden' of a frail economy of West Bengal, and the Indian state did not provide them with a proper rehabilitation package. They were first segregated in fenced refugee camps where life was unbearable, and then dispersed to other parts of India - first to the Andaman Islands and the neighbouring states, and then to the inhospitable terrains of Dandakaranya, where they could be used as cheap labour for various development projects. This book looks critically at their participation in Partition politics, the reasons for their migration three years after Partition, their insufferable life and struggles in the refugee camps, their negotiations with caste and gender identities in these new environments, their organized protests against camp maladministration, and finally their satyagraha campaigns against the Indian state's refugee dispersal policy. This book looks at how refugee politics impacted Dalit identity and protest movements in post-Partition West Bengal.
About the Author
Sekhar Bandyopadhyay, Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury Sekhar Bandyopadhyay is Emeritus Professor of History at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, where he was the founding Director of the New Zealand India Research Institute. He also taught at the University of Calcutta and Kalyani University in India. Educated at Presidency College and University of Calcutta, his primary research interest is in the history of nationalism and caste in colonial and postcolonial India as well as history of the Indian diaspora. Bandyopadhyay has published extensively in these areas. He is a recipient of the Rabindra Smriti Puraskar and a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata. She mentors research on migration and displacement, public perception, and connectivity. She is the recipient of the Public Service Broadcasting Trust Senior Media Fellowship (2007) and the Kodikara Award from the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, Colombo (1998-99). Chaudhury has also worked with Calcutta Research Group, Kolkata. She was ICSSR Post-Doctoral Fellow (2004-06) at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (New Delhi) and Visiting Fellow at The Maison des Sciences de I'Homme (Paris). She specializes in South Asia, refugees, forced migration, and women in conflict zones.