Broken Promises: Popular Protest, Indian Nationalism, and the Congress Party in Bihar, 1935-1946

Vinita Damodaran
Oxford University Press
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“Concentrating on a nine-year period, this study examines the changing relationship between the Congress and its mass base in the penultimate phase of the Raj. This phase of the national movement was particularly important as, in the course of it, the Congress changed from being a movement of opposition to being a party in power. Twice within the period, in 1937-39 and again in 1946, the Congress accepted office. This had far-reaching implications for the nature of the organization and its relationship with its mass constituency. Soon after the Congress assumed office in 1937 a large-scale peasant agitation emerged which aimed to persuade the Congress to abide by its promises to the people and restore peasant rights eroded by landlord attacks and a growing resource crisis. The book highlights the critical ecological context of these agitations. Following the withdrawal from office in 1939, the pressures on the Congress shifted dramatically. This process was to culminate in the Quit India movement in 1942. Immediately after this mass upsurge, the Congress retreated underground and became a more amorphous organization allied to dacoit gangs in the countryside. The activities of these underground organizations, known as the Azad Dastas, have not been described previously, and provide an instructive picture of the nature of popular nationalism.”