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Razak Khan (Alumnus BGSMCS)


Minority Pasts: The Other Histories of a “Muslim Locality”, Rampur 1889-1949

Minority Pasts: The Other Histories of a “Muslim Locality”, Rampur 1889-1949


This project attempts to re-examine the issue of Muslim identity and politics in colonial India. Unlike, the dominant historiography on Muslim identity in South Asia that works within the categories of ‘Nation’ and ‘Community’ as the units of analysis, this work seeks to rehabilitate the importance of ‘local’ and its connection with ‘translocal’ to understand Muslim identity and politics. I attempt to do so by exploring histories and politics of Muslims in Rampur - the last Muslim ruled   princely state in the United Provinces. Rampur state emerges as an interesting site to understand larger issues of Muslim politics and its internal fissures. The minority Shia rulers negotiated with religious and secular concerns to rule a predominantly Sunni population and large non-Muslim subject population. The project examines processes of regime adoption, transformation, and consolidation under the splendid Nawabi patronage of Hamid Ali Khan 1889-1933 and shift towards modernization and democratization under his son and successor Raza Ali Khan 1930- 1949.

Research Questions

My research work explores debates and political activities of diverse sections of Rampuris. It suggests new ways of looking at politics of governance and protest in princely states by shifting the focus from rulers to subjects.How did people examine and respond to rule by Muslim Nawabs in a region that also witnessed penetration of colonial governance? Who was defined as Rampuri ‘insider’ and who was labelled ‘outsider’? The study of Rampuri public culture allows us a site to understand the many visions of governance that existed in colonial India. Firstly, there was a colonial discourse about ‘progressive governance’ defined by rule of law and rights of subjects. The princely order of ‘strong governance’ was defined by power and the personality of the ruler as political and cultural leader. There were also the more diverse and multi-layered popular public aspirations about ‘good ethical governance’.

Research Methodology

I will examine the interaction between the ‘indigenous’ and ‘colonial’ form of knowledge about politics and governance reflected in state and colonial records. These issues were debated and contested in realm of Urdu newspapers tāzkīrās (biographical memoirs) and tārīkh (historical texts) of the late nineteenth century. I hope to study the emergence of ‘Urdu Public Sphere’ in colonial United Provinces. This nascent sphere was reflected not just in print, but in social and religious bāhās (debate), cultural and everyday discussions on street corners, gossip and bazaar rumours. This reflects interface of oral/print culture and provide insights into the larger realm of vernacular public cultures. The activities ofmodern publicist such as newspaper editors, lawyers, teachers and municipal leaders as well as the role of traditional men of authority like clan and religious leaders, poets, satirists, etc will be taken into account. While, I attempt to build my narrative around the Rampuri experience, this work will engage with the larger realm of ideas, actors and audiences and their varied responses to the issues of identity and politics in colonial India. Thus, this project will also engage with conceptual history of public and private spheres, civil society, modernity, political critiques and public culture to reveal diversity of histories and identities within a ´ Muslim´ locality.

First Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Margrit Pernau

Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Manan Ahmed

Third Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Vincent Houben