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Singh, Ujjwal K. (1996) Political prisoners in India, 1920-1977. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This is a study of the politics of 'political prisonerhood' in colonial and independent India. Prison going and the struggles inside the prison had, with the nationalist culture of jail going in the early part of the twentieth century become an integral part of the protest against the colonial state. Imprisonment in its multifarious forms also became the major bulwark of the colonial state's strategy for harnessing recalcitrant subjects. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the process by which the notion of 'political' became a festering issue in the contest between the colonial state and the subject population and later between the state in independent India and the various 'rebel' groups, and also the manner in which the ruling classes assumed the sole responsibility of defining the 'political'. We have confined our study to the peaks of nationalist resistance against the colonial state and popular struggles against the dominant classes in independent India. Through this exploration of the notion of political prisonerhood we also attempt to understand the permanence and ruptures in the forms of repression and the nature of penal sanctions which the state deployed against its political opponents in colonial and independent India. In order to understand what constitutes 'political crime', and who were or were not recognized as 'political prisoners' at a particular historical moment, we have examined the role of the ideological discourses which informed penal regimes in colonial and independent India. The theoretical premises and conceptual tools in this study bear the influence of the Marxist studies on Indian politics and the Subaltern school's understanding of Indian history. The material for research has been drawn from various official and unofficial sources viz., archival records of the colonial government and the government of independent India, reports on prisons by various governmental committees, jail manuals, rules, regulations, laws, autobiographies, biographies, prison memoirs, prison diaries and interviews with erstwhile political prisoners.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:13

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