Working Lives and Worker Militancy. The Politics of Labour in Colonial India

Book announcement

Ravi Ahuja (ed.), Working Lives and Worker Militancy. The Politics of Labour in Colonial India. Delhi: Tulika, 2013. ISBN: 978-93-82381-21-1

Table of Contents

Aditya Sarkar: The City, Its Streets, and Its Workers: The Plague Crisis in Bombay, 1896-98
Shahana Bhattacharya: Rotting Hides and Runaway Labour: Labour Control and Workers' Resistance in the Indian Leather Industry, c. 1860-1960
Ravi Ahuja: A Freedom Still Enmeshed in Servitude: The Unruly 'Lascars' of the SS City of Manila or, a Micro-History of the 'Free Labour' Problem
Ahmad Azhar: The Rowlatt Satyagraha and the Railway Strike of 1920: Radical Developments in the Language of Plebeian Protest in Colonial Punjab
Tanika Sarkar: 'Dirty Work, Filthy Caste': Calcutta Scavengers in the 1920s
Anna Sailer: 'Various Paths Are Today Opened': The Bengal Jute Mill Strike of 1929 as a Historical Event
Ahmad Azhar: The Making of a 'Genuine Trade Unionist': An Introduction to Bashir Ahmed Bakhtiar's Memoirs
Bashir Ahmed Bakhtiar: The Labour Movement and Me

The six essays of this volume reconstruct the now marginalized political history of an 'age of labour' from various angles using previously inaccessible police records, rare autobiographical documents and other neglected material. They examine how political conflict, militancy and trade union activism were rooted in the everyday lives of construction workers and artisans, of 'untouchable' tanners and sweepers, of seafarers, railway staff and factory labourers, throughout the late colonial period. They analyse how transformed politics of caste intersected with the late colonial upsurge of labour politics. They reassess the complex relationships of nationalist mobilizations and labour movements, of elite politicians and an emergent group of 'organic' worker-intellectuals and proletarian militants. They provide meticulous reconstructions of how incidents of labour protest unfolded in India's varied industrial spaces. They argue, in sum, for a reappraisal of Indian labour history as an eventful political history. The volume is rounded off by the political memoirs of Bashir Ahmed Bakhtiar tracing his metamorphosis from militant worker to trade union leader. The memoirs, originally published in Urdu, are made available in English translation for the first time and provided with a detailed introduction.

Dr. Ravi Ahuja
Professor of Modern Indian History
Centre for Modern Indian Studies | University of Göttingen