Friday, 15 August 2014

Mithi Mukherjee & the British Freedom Struggle

Back in the Eighteenth Century, two Irishmen, Sheridan and Burke, deeply sensible of the wrongs their motherland had experienced at the hands of greedy English overlords tried to impeach Warren Hastings & by extension the East India Company (which Burke thought a greater evil to the Polity than the Jacobins) but failed miserably. Indeed, things got worse not better in Ireland over the next seventy years. Clearly, Sheridan & Burke are part of the history of Literature but have nothing to do with Indian Political History. Indeed, the Calcutta Supreme Court- as a countervailing power- ceased to be effective precisely because Westminster was shown to be Supreme and Parliament ultimately decided issues relating to India on the basis of a peculiar interpretation of the doctrine of Necessity such that Providence had always already contrived hoary conventions such that the 'governance' type work of the 'Civilian' was minimized leaving him free to maximise Revenue Collection.
1857 created an unprecedented situation. The lazy, overpaid, undisciplined Sepoy (not to mention his Officer
- who could still enrich himself unconscionably through loot)  needed to be taught a lesson. Over the next fifty years, the pay of the Native mercenary went from being double or triple the agricultural wage to something like parity. True, land grants in the Canal Colonies sweetened the pill but the fact is by the 1880's it was clear that the 'Hindu' Punjabi who didn't enlist ultimately ended up better off than his 'Sikh' elder brother. Furthermore, the 'jotedar'- or tenant (actually, the English word farmer originally described precisely this 'kulak' type class)- was taking power from the old 'zamindari' class- i.e. the Permanent Settlement with its equation between 'Magistri' and 'Barristri' was breaking down- and this meant ever increasing contestation of entry into the administrative 'intermediate' class. Unfortunately, the Bengali bhadralok put up a paranoid fight against the Partition of Bengal and this meant that people who had heard of Sheridan and Burke were entirely disintermediated from the political process- though, of course, they were too stupid to see it. Foucauldian methods have no relevance to India. Yes there are textual availability cascades but they gain no purchase precisely because nobody who mattered knew the relevant texts. If this were not the case, any statement about Indian politics would be equally true of Pakistan and Burma and Sri Lanka and so on. Nothing of the sort obtained.
 It was only when its comprador class had lost salience or obligatory passage point status that the Brits suddenly got all Bernard Cohn type Caste constructivist and started searching around for a 'Representative' counterweight to the rising relative affluence of a class that had arisen without having been envisaged or suborned in advance.
Fortunately, for beggarly Brahmins and posh Bengali Bhadralok,  Mahatma Gandhi came along at precisely the right time to start prattling utter shit and run around in diapers and give everybody an enema and beg money from Birlas, Bajaj's and every other sort of Bania on the make.
 But even this could only delay the slide towards everyone getting a PhD in Political Science from Godhulia University and embarking on a criminal career. By 'everyone', I obviously every decent son-of-the soil or Sadhavi of the same.
Bengali bhadralok had to clear out or disguise themselves as JNU jhollawallahs.
 Which brings me to Prof Mithi Mukherjee. Disclaimer- I haven't read her seminal, or menstrual, to be Politically Correct, 'India in the shadows of Empire (sic)' but, in view of my own involvement in the British Freedom Struggle (which itself must be distinguished from UKIP's jihad) I was able to read between the lines and thus present for your reading pleasure my interview with that blushful maiden.

Iyer- Professorji, mutatis mutandis, you argue persuasively for the need to ground our understanding of the current British freedom struggle in the light of the political and legal discourse of successive waves of Colonizers from the Continent. You extend Michel Foucault's analysis to the political domain and deploy the categories of discourse and teleology (explained as goal-specific discourse) to remind readers that polity and political processes in Britain should not be simply understood as if they had no history and as if they originated sui generis. Instead, you maintain, this polity has a political and cultural genealogy, and is a product of discourses and conflicts of the colonial past. My question to you is which volume of Asterix the Gaul does all this feature in?

Prof. Mukherjee- Abhay Chutiya! How dare you? Khabardar! I will fuck you up. I will kill your parents and get your sister raped.

Iyer- (OMG, must have called up Prof. Amaresh Mishra by mistake). Salam Aleikhum, Mishra Sahib. Just called to say 'Eid Mubarak'.

Prof Mishra (for it is he)- Eid was last week, why you are calling middle of night?

Iyer- Sarkar, for true devotees of Dynasty like me, Eid does not occur till we see Rahul's Moon like face.

Prof. Mishra- Rahul who?

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