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Sharma, Kanika (2011) 'A Symbol of State Power: Use of the Red Fort in Indian Political Trials.' In: Foley, Aoife Padraigin, (ed.), Ethics, Evil, Law and the State: State Power and Political Evil. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press.

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A political trial is carried out against those who threaten the very existence of the state. When faced with such a crisis of legitimacy the state takes recourse to political trials. These political trials allow the state to display its power and yet retain an aura of legality. In 1948, the Indian State was smarting under its recent dismemberment and the communal violence that accompanied the partition. The assassination of Gandhi, the ‘father of the nation’ left the state more vulnerable than ever before. At this juncture, the insecure Indian State sought to display its power through the ‘trial spectacle’ against Gandhi’s assassins, which unfolded at the Red Fort. Built in 1648, for over two centuries the Red Fort was the main palace of the Mughal dynasty. In 1858, when the British established rule in India, they underscored their accession to the throne by trying the last Mughal King in his own palace. Adopting the Fort allowed the British to stress the linkages of their rule to the Indian indigenous past and therefore generate certain legitimacy for themselves. Though the Red Fort continued to be used for administrative purposes, in 1945 in the face of the most potent armed aggression by Indians, the British took recourse to the Red Fort, once again, to conduct the trial of the rebel Indian National Army. Over the last few centuries, the Red Fort had become a symbol of the empire, control over the fort indicated control over all of India. In addition to this, the post-colonial Indian state sought to make the fort the icon of a particular brand of secular nationalism. Keeping these various symbolisms in mind, The Fort was chosen by the new Indian State to gain legitimacy for itself and create a spectacle of power in 1948.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Law
ISBN: 9781848880771
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 24 Feb 2018 17:39

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