The Dialectics of Retreat: Orissa, 1943-1950
The last fifty years has seen a lot of debates among historians on the process of de-colonisation in south Asia. The massive corpus of literature associated with this theme has been enriched by studies that examine the specificities and the diversities associated with the transition. This paper focuses on Orissa, in eastern India.2 It explores the way this region interacted with several complexities ranging from the fall-out of the Quit India Movementv the Famine of 1943 and electoral politics (generated during and after the elections to the Provincial Legislatures in 1946) to the mass movements in the 1947-48 period. Along with the anti-colonial movement, this paper focuses on the struggle that contested the local/internal structure of power, control and exploitation. Consequently, it delineates the process that saw the undermining of the hegemony of colonialism and the evolution of the order that replaced it. This is illustrated by the liquidation of the feudal enclaves (princely states) and the emergence of the possibilities of the end of landlordism and land reforms. This volatile period questions the assertions of nationalist historiography and its 'all-in-unity against imperialism' paradigm. The popular pressures and expectations led to the formation of new coalitions and a restructuring that shaped the transition.
The idea of going beyond the conventional 1947 boundary is aimed at examining the areas of conflicts and contradictions that remained, along with the visions of development, which in many ways offer clues to understand the future - or, the last fifty years, viewed from today.
This paper also interrogates the assumptions that tend to focus exclusively on the role of the Second World War in the process of decolonisation. By focusing on the peasants and tribals it projects how the struggles of the oppressed not only paved the way for the retreat
* Dept. of History, Sri Venkateswara College, Delhi University
Social Scientist, Vol.27, Nos. 7-8, July - August 1999