comments to paper 2 - On 4 February 1922 a crowd of...

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“On 4 February 1922 a crowd of peasants burnt a police station at Chauri Chaura …, killing twenty-three policemen,”– this is how Shahid Amin starts his book Event, Metaphor, Memory: Chauri Chaura, 1922-1992 (9). This book focuses on a single event in Indian history that took place in a small market town Chauri Chaura. This event, however, was so important, that it has transformed from a historical event, to a memory; and from a memory to a metaphor that “typifies violent police-peasant confrontations under the British Raj” (192). The author sees history as a combination of the two elements: archival and oral evidence. This is why when writing his book Shahid Amin recovered the event from the judicial and nationalistic record as well as oral testimonies gathered by conducting a fieldwork. In my opinion, by using the judicial and nationalist records as well as oral history of the relatives of the rioters, with benefits and drawbacks of each source, Shahid Amin was able to give a very comprehensive and vivid picture of the events at Chauri Chaura. Shahid Amin’s book Event, metaphor, memory: Chauri Chaura, 1922-1992 is structured in such a way that it can be divided into two major parts. The first part of the book deals with the elaboration on the event using the archival data, such as the judicial and nationalist records. The second part turns readers’ attention to the present-day oral accounts obtained through the process of fieldwork in and around Chauri Chaura. In the first part of the book, having described the anti-police riot of 4 February 1922, Shahid Amin sheds light upon how different people and groups interpreted the event. He starts with Mahatma Gandhi’s opinion on the Chauri Chaura violence. Disavowing himself from Chauri Chaura, Gandhi thinks that the event was a crime. He thinks that the people “have learnt inadequately the lesson of non-violence,” and extract “violence and revenge in most brutal ways” (46). Because of this, Gandhi had to “call off his all-India movement of non-co-operation with the British” (9). In response to this event, Mahatma Gandhi wrote an essay “Crime of Chauri Chaura” in which he implies “what had indeed happened” (43).
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The nationalist narrative had its origins in Gandhi's interpretation of the event as a crime. Nationalists and colonialists both started by labeling the violence a crime (58). A nationalist editorial in the Hindi Aaj interpreted the violence in terms of a “local context and parallelisms from world history” (45). It said that there would always be rogues in every society and that “no campaign can be immune from such creatures, who commit the foulest deeds in the name of the noblest ideals” (46). The pages of European history are “stained red with crimes committed in the name of Christianity” (46). In nationalists’ point of view, the riot could not be accorded a “narrative past”. It could, at most, refer to “past imperfection” in nationalist public (46).
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This note was uploaded on 02/22/2010 for the course IAH IAH204 taught by Professor Haotung during the Spring '10 term at Michigan State University.

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comments to paper 2 - On 4 February 1922 a crowd of...

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