New Release – The Vernacularization of Labour Politics

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Edited by
Sabyasachi Bhattacharya & Rana P. Behal

March 2016
9.5 x 6.25 inches
viii + 348 pages
ISBN 978-93-82381-82-2
Rs 950

In recent times the decline of trade unionism and the absence of labour unions in the public sphere have generated much discussion. In India as well as at the global level, trade unions are generally perceived today as marginalized and ineffective in terms of political and economic intervention. It has been observed that in the era of neo-liberalism, the strength of trade unions has been steadily depleted, and they are being replaced by other institutions and alternative forms of labour organization. Surrogate labour unionism is now seen in the activities of various voluntary associations. The chief questions addressed in this volume are as follows. In labour politics today, is there a perceptible shift away from the classical paradigm of labour politics – which was derived from the European historical experience – to a vernacular discourse, in the surrogate organizations, social and cultural associations, non-governmental organizations, activities nucleating around primordial identities including ethnicity, and a great many organizations which are not explicitly trade unions of workers? In a shift from the language of class to the language of community, is the agency taken away from trade unions by a plurality of organizations which are purportedly not for employees’ negotiation with the employer, but for serving a whole range of objectives ranging from environmental concerns and women’s liberation from social oppression to celebration of festivals or welfare of residents of workers’ settlements? Is this vernacular mode totally new or were there anticipations of it in the past?

In the Tenth International Conference on Labour History, organized by the Association of Indian Labour Historians and the V.V. Giri National Labour Institute, contributions by a number of scholars
have added significantly to the literature on labour politics which no longer postulates the primacy of categories derived from the discourse of the European and international labour movement since the late nineteenth century. This volume brings together, on the basis of thematic unity, some of those papers. A good number of papers in this collection address aspects of history long before the current trend of vernacularization manifested itself. It seems, however, that there is a widely shared opinion that in the late twentieth century and the twenty-first century, vernacularity has asserted itself forcefully.

Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, formerly Professor of History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) of the Government of India, is the founding president of the Association of Indian Labour Historians (AILH). His recent publications include: The Colonial State: Theory and Practice (2016), The Defining Moments in Bengal, 1920–1947 (2014) and Talking Back: The Idea of Civilization in the Indian Nationalist Discourse (2011).

Rana P. Behal taught history at Deshbandhu College, University of Delhi, Delhi. He is the author of One Hundred Years of Servitude: Political Economy of Tea Plantations in Colonial Assam (2014).


A People’s History of India 7: Society and Culture in Post-Mauryan India C. 200 BC – AD 300

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PHI 7 front cover

Bhairabi Prasad Sahu

with a chapter on Languages and Literature by Kesavan Veluthat

December 2015 • 9.5 x 6.25 inches • xii + 82 pages
Hardback • ISBN: 978-93-82381-75-4 • Rs 200

This book is the companion volume to People’s History of India, No. 6, which gave an account of the political and economic history of the post-Mauryan period from c. 200 bc to ad 300. The present volume deals with the important aspects of the society and culture of the same period. It traces the diffusion of the caste system and describes its detailed codification. The major changes in religion, notably the emergence of Mahayana Buddhism and Bhakti in Brahmanism, are surveyed in depth. The reader will also find much that is fresh and enlightening in the accounts of sculpture,
languages and literature, in all of which fields the period saw much innovation and change.

Bhairabi Prasad Sahu is Professor of History at the University of Delhi. His recent publications include The Changing Gaze: Regions and the Construction of Early India (2013) and Interrogating Political Systems: Integrative Processes and States in Pre-Modern India (2015; edited, with Hermann Kulke).

The contributor of Chapter 4 in this volume, Kesavan Veluthat, is Professor of History at the University of Delhi. His more important publications include The Political Structure of Early Medieval South India (1993), The Early Medieval in South India (2009) and Brahman Settlements in Kerala (2013; second edition).

Beyond Doubt: A Dossier on Gandhi’s Assassination

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compiled and introduced by TEESTA SETALVAD

January 2015
9.5 x 6.25 inches
x + 278 pages
ISBN: 978-93-82381-50-1
Rs 450

People’s History of India 23: The Establishment of British Rule: 1757–1813

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Amar Farooqui

December 2014

9.5 x 6.25 inches
xii + 96 pages
ISBN: 978-93-82381-49-5
Rs 220

This book deals with the establishment and expansion of British rule from the Carnatic Wars and the Battle of Plassey to the enactment of the Charter Act of 1813, which divested the East India Company of its monopoly over the commerce with England, and this opened the chapter of India’s ‘de-industrialization’ through free trade. The monograph examines the military and other causes of British success and the cost of that success that the Indian people had to bear. A long chapter is devoted to the construction of British colonial administration, from which all Indian elements were, by stages, weeded out. Extracts from sources enliven the narrative; and there are important notes on military technology, the ‘subsidiary alliance’ system, organization of the Company’s ‘civil service’ and the construction of ‘colonial knowledge’ about India. Readers will find it a refreshingly lucid and critical account of a crucial phase of India’s political history.

The author, Amar Farooqui, is Professor of History, University of Delhi. He taught history for many years at Hans Raj College, Delhi; and has been Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi. His publications include Early Social Formations (2002); Smuggling as Subversion: Colonialism, Indian Merchants and the Politics of Opium, 1790–1843 (revised edition, 2005); Opium City: The Making of Early Victorian Bombay (2006); Sindias and the Raj: Princely Gwalior, c.1800–1850 (2011), and Zafar and the Raj: Anglo–Mughal Delhi, c. 1800–1850 (2013).

One Hundred Years of Servitude: Political Economy of Tea Plantations in Colonial Assam

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Jacket (5)

Rana P. Behal

November 2014

9.5 x 6.25 inches
xiv + 390 pages
ISBN: 978-93-82381-43-3
Rs 900

This book presents a hundred-year history of tea plantations in the Assam (Brahmaputra) Valley during British colonial rule in India. It explores a world where more than two million migrant labourers worked under conditions of indentured servitude in these tea plantations, producing tea for an increasingly profitable global market.

The book is divided into six chapters. The first chapter traces the genesis and early development of the tea industry, from 1840 to the early 1860s. It examines the links between the colonial state and private British capital in fostering plantations in Assam. It also discusses the nature of the ‘tea mania’ and its consequences, which led to the emergence of the indenture labour system in Assam’s tea gardens.
In the second chapter, the focus is on the process of labour mobilization and the nature of labour relations in the tea plantations. It deals with the operational aspects of labour recruitment for the plantations, which involved the transportation and employment of migrant labourers, from the 1860s right up to
1926 – when the indenture system was formally dismantled.
The third chapter examines the power structure that ruled over the organization of production and labour relations within the plantations. This power structure operated at two levels: around the Indian Tea Association, the apex body of the tea industry, and the coercive authority exercised by planters.
The fifth chapter offers a critical analysis of the quantities of production, market prices, volume of exports and profitability, acreage expansion, labour employment and wage payments in the Assam Valley tea plantations from the 1870s to 1947.
The final chapter tells the story of everyday labour life in the tea gardens, and of the resistance to the oppressive regime by ‘coolie’ labourers who had been coerced into generational servitude. It analyses the forms of their protests, and raises the question whether the transformation of these migrant agrarian communities working in conditions of unfree labour was proletarian in nature.

Rana P. Behal taught history at Deshbandhu College, University of Delhi. He has also held teaching assignments at Cornell University, Syracuse University and Oberlin College. He was a fellow at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi; South Asia Centre, Cambridge University; Re:Work, Work and Human Life Cycle in Global History, Humboldt University, Berlin; and Centre for Development Studies, Geographic Sciences, Free University, Berlin.
Cover photograph: Women plucking tea (Samuel Cleland Davidson, personal collection)

Planter Raj to Swaraj – Freedom Struggle and Electoral Politics in Assam

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Planter Raj cover PB 2014.psd

Amalendu Guha

June 2014

9.5 x 6.25 inches
xxviii + 366 pages
ISBN: 978-93-82381-34-1
Rs 550

This is a re-issue of Amalendu Guha’s influential work on Assam and the North-East more than thirty years after its original publication, with a new Introduction by the author. Guha’s analysis extends from Assam in 1826, the year of the British annexation, to the post-independence conditions in 1950.

The peculiar features of the region’s plantation economy; the imperialism of opium cultivation; the problems of a steady influx of immigrants and the backlash of a local linguistic chauvinism; peasants’ and workers’ struggles; the evolution of the ryot sabhas, the Congress, trade unions and, later, the Communist Party – such are the themes that receive attention in this book, alongside an analysis of legislative and administrative processes.

The narrative is structured chronologically within an integrated Marxist framework of historical perspective, and is based on a wide range of primary sources.

Amalendu Guha is an eminent historian whose work covers twentieth century Afghanistan, medieval Assam, and from the saga of the early Parsi capitalists to tribal unrest in post-colonial North-East India. Trained as an economist, Guha has taught at Darrang College, Tezpur, the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune, and the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. He has been Professor of History at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, and a member of both the Indian Council of Social Science Research and the Indian Council of Historical Research.

Cover design: Ram Rahman

Comprehensive History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh, Volume V- Late Medieval Andhra Pradesh AD 1324–1724

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Late Medieval Andhra Pradesh cover

Edited by R. Soma Reddy

June 2014

9.5 x 6.25 inches
xxiv+764 pages
ISBN: 978-93-82381-38-9
Rs 1500

The present volume on Late Medieval Andhra Pradesh covers the period AD 1324 to AD 1724, which witnessedthe rise of large regional state powers such as the Vijayanagara kingdom, the Bahmanis, Gajapatis, Musunuris, Recherlas, Reddis and Later Gangas. The political formations of the period were military-centred as witnessed by the well-organized nayamkara system, which revolved around the creation of nayamkaras or military chiefs,and was the mainstay of the Vijayanagara rulers.

There was large-scale expansion of agriculture with the introduction of new crops like tobacco, tomato, potato and chillies, and phenomenal growth of trade in commodities like cotton and indigo. The trading and artisanal communities were organized in powerful guilds.

The constant flux of peoples of different languages, faiths, cultural modes and professions led to a liberal spirit of tolerance. Telugu literature flourished, and new genres were introduced in which outstandingworks were created. A significant feature of the times was the evolution of a composite Dakhni (Deccani)culture. Rulers, Hindu and Muslim alike, patronized religious institutions but did not allow religion to interfere in matters relating to administration. Sri Vaishnavism, which won royal support during the reign of Saluva Narasimha, was established in the royal house and court during Krishnadeva Raya’s rule. Numerous royal grants were given to Vaishnava temples and mathas. During Aravidu rule, the Tirumala temple occupied a premier position. Ahobalam was another centre in western Andhra that wielded great influence. The patronage of ruling chiefs of Shudra varna to Sri Vaishnava acharyas and temples fundamentally influenced their social and ritual ranking.

The sixteenth-century temple was an organized complex of sanctuaries and mandapas. Tadipatri, Lepakshi and Ahobalam deserve mention as examples. Placing a chariot in stone in the temple complex was a contribution of the Vijayanagara period. The Aravidu period contributed the gopura as a dominant feature of the temple complex. The detached gopura of Govindarajaswami Temple, Tirupati, is a fine example. The rulers of medieval Andhra seldom violated established norms of dharma, thereby ensuring the security and stability of their kingdoms.


V. Ramakrishna (General Editor), formerly Professor of History, University of Hyderabad, and founder member, Andhra Pradesh History Congress.

R. Soma Reddy (Editor), formerly Professor of History, Osmania University, Hyderabad.

I. Lakshmi (Co-Editor), Professor of History, Osmania University, Hyderabad.

C. Somasundara Rao, formerly Professor, Department of History and Archaeology, Andhra University,

B. Rajendra Prasad (late), formerly Professor, Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology, Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati.