Amrita Shodhan
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The communal question and partition in British India and mandate Palestine
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How does a partition of land between ‘nations’ that inhabit a single colonial territory seem like a sensible solution in 1947/48 British India and mandate Palestine? This chapter suggests that the sociology of colonial knowledge provides some answers. The colonial construction of unitary, fundamentally defined, but politically governed communities occurred over different time spans but in similar ways in both regions. Within this broad formulation, this chapter examines the history of legal governance, and the representational practices that codify and actualise this colonial sociology. British adjudication and laws replaced local authorities and systems of governance in socioreligious groups. This replacement was a complex and negotiated process between the British authorities and the local elite. It occurred over a longer period in India than Palestine, but followed similar processes in Palestine emanating from the British experience of governing in India. In addition, British colonial authorities in both regions looked at the development of political ‘representation’ of important social groups in their administration, by organising various power-sharing arrangements. The chapter suggests that in the process of legal administration and political representation, multiple ‘fuzzy’ religious groups of the early colonial period were forged into highly nationalised, singular religious communities at the time of devolution and partition. Seeing these processes comparatively elucidates British colonial legalities and highlights the common nature of these processes and links across colonial territories.

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The breakup of India and Palestine

The causes and legacies of partition

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