ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Partition and Minority Rights in Punjabi Hindu Debates, 1920-47

The academic focus on Muslim politics in pre-Partition India has contributed to the quality "divisive" becoming almost synonymous with "Muslim". This paper analyses the politics of Punjabi Hindus from the early 1920s onwards to suggest that their many schemes for partitioning the Punjab coexisted with demands for separate electorates and reservations for minorities. Partition, however, was not as deadly and tormented a proposal in the 1920s as it became two decades later. The critical, operative factor was safeguarding minority rights and, in striking contrast to contemporary debates in Europe, did not entail population transfers.

I thank Anshu Malhotra and Alon Confino for their comments on an earlier version of this essay. I am responsible for all errors of fact and interpretation.

Foregrounding the politics of Punjabi Hindus, this essay tracks discussions around “Partition” and “minority rights” in the Punjabi public sphere. In stark contrast to the existing historiography on Partition that focuses almost entirely on the field of “Muslim” politics, my research examines the politics of “Hindus”, so defined despite being an internally differentiated community.1 Also, in contrast to the new subaltern turn in Partition historiography, my paper re-engages with a study of “high politics”.2

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