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The Post First World War Popular Protests and the Making of Bombay’s Mill District

Dr. Robert Rahman Raman, Centre of Modern Indian Studies (CeMIS), University of Göttingen.

Location : LH3, LHC
The paper examines the unprecedented strike movements and popular mobilisations that unfolded in the post-war period. Workers’ collective actions emerged as a significant strand of popular mobilisation, which challenged the spatial segregation practiced by the colonial government in the civic arena. Moving away from the writings of Ravinder Kaur and Jim Masselos, the paper demonstrates workers’ awareness towards collective interests and economic precariousness and an ability to organise and sustain industrial actions on an unprecedented scale through evolving modes of collective performances. These new forms of public protests shaped during the strikes, and Rowlatt satyagraha not just saw the emergence of working-classes as a new political force in the city but furthermore marked the frontiers of Bombay’s mill district and gave the socially heterogeneous neighbourhood a distinct moral and political meaning. The paper integrates the story of workers’ visibility on the city’s urban landscape with other political strands and suggests that the Gandhian method of Satyagraha sought to confine the radical potential of labour radicalism and form of urban protests.

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