ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Criminalizing ‘Peoples Raj’: Workers’ militancy and deviance in postcolonial India, 1964-65


Wani Javed Iqbal - Dr. B.R. Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD), New Delhi, School of Law, Governance & Citizenship, New Delhi, India


36 – Interrogating Deviance and ‘Crime’ in Colonial and Postcolonial South Asia


 In August 1964, police firing on protesting crowds lead to the death of seven persons in the city of Ahmedabad. The workers were protesting inflation and delay in payment of dearness allowance. Not only did the administration justify police firing, but it also created a familiar (colonial) template of criminalizing workers’ militancy by pitching issues of national interest. The paper will show that the criminalization of the militant workers’ movement in the city of Ahmedabad took place by popularising them as ‘communist agents’ and therefore fighting to establish a ‘People’s Raj.’ The media and the then ruling Congress government, both at the centre and the state declared such tendencies as infantile and propagated that they created difficulties for the country and its citizens. The paper will show that workers’ politics was extremely complicated at that time and was a direct threat to the assumed hegemony of the Congress party. Congress, now in power, did not deviate from the much-detested colonial response i.e., direct violence. However, it only naturalised it by seeking legitimacy from a section of dominant media and the inquiry commission.