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A Longue Duree Approach To People's Politics

Bidisha Dhar

By Bhangya Bhukya
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, Year 2017, pp.232, Rs.750


Bhangya Bhukya’s The Roots of the Periphery: A History of the Gonds of Deccan              India is a comprehensive history of the Gonds of Deccan India, an adivasi community. The research is based upon a wide range of sources ranging from the manuscripts, census, gazetteers, published government reports, journals and newspapers, unpublished documents, interviews and secondary sources. The author begins with three questions that he attempts to answer. First, why do certain social groups continue to lead a rugged and wild life? Second, why did civilization not reach the hills and forests? And third, why did the Adivasis evade the state and choose to live in the peripheries of empire, which are now referred to as Scheduled Areas? In an attempt to answer the questions the author takes a longue duree approach. He traces the making of the periphery in India from the advent of the Aryans through the Sultanate and the Mughal period to that of the British period, with the focus of this book being the latter. The author argues that the adivasis were mostly self-governing communities and this was their major difference with the caste-Hindu society. The former were driven to the non-state spaces in the process of state making in India, beyond the colonial divide. Bhukya’s objective in this book is to study the effects of this process of state making, especially the colonial period, while constructing the Gond’s social history. The larger argument of this book deals with the formation of the periphery, divisions between the mainland and the periphery and the nature of the periphery itself. The first one, Bhukya argues, is a political act and the second one is consequentially a political and cultural divide. And the binaries of civilized-primitive, tamed-wild, modern-backward, governed-ungoverned are essentialist constructions that attempt to subvert the political meaning of the periphery. These divides in turn are produced and reproduced by the victorious and dominant groups through history in order to subjugate the subordinated in perpetuity. This book, therefore, is also Bhukya’s attempt to trace the history and politics of this divide narrating the case of the Gonds. While talking about the historiography of the Adivasis’ history, Bhukya suggests that the epistemological constructions of the Indian scholars were centered either around the idea of national integration or on the concept of class. For him, Andre Beteille misses the point about the contested history of the making ...

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