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Separating Sindh, Connecting Partitions: Territorializing Minority Representation before Partition

Monday, March 7, 2022 at 11:00am

Virtual Event

Talk by Uttara Shahani (Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, UK)

The 1947 partition of India is inadequately understood within the context of earlier partitions in the British Indian empire. Sindh, an understudied province in the historiography on partition, provides a particularly important angle of vision through which to view the history of partitioning. The key committees that recommended the shape of constitutional reform in the lead up to the Government of India Act 1935 justified the creation of the new province of Sindh (separated from Bombay) on the basis of religious majority as well as ‘racial’ difference. The debates on the subject of ‘provincial autonomy’ that dominated discussions on the future of constitutional reform at this time threw into sharp focus the question of the territorialization of minority rights and representation. Constitutional deliberations on establishing Sindh as a ‘communally’ defined province were embedded in wider considerations not only of the ‘internal’ redistribution of boundaries on linguistic lines but also the geographical and political severance of certain territories from British India by reason of racial and ethnic difference. Eventually, The Government of India Act 1935 separated Sindh from the Bombay Presidency and established Odisha and Bihar as separate provinces, in addition to enabling a wider process of boundary formation that included the separation of Burma and Aden from British India. The separation of Sindh itself informed nascent ideas of Pakistan and what partitioning Palestine might mean.

Uttara Shahani is a historian and former lawyer who works on the history of Sindh, the partition of India, the Sindhi diaspora, and the history of global refugee regimes. She is currently Departmental Lecturer at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford. Previously she was postdoctoral researcher at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford where she worked on the British Academy funded project Borders, Global Governance, and the Refugee (1947-1951) which has a focus on India and Palestine. Prior to this, Uttara was Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Postdoctoral Fellow at the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge. She was postdoctoral affiliate Trinity College Cambridge, and affiliate scholar, Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge. Her doctoral dissertation, ‘Sind and the partition of India, 1927-1952' was awarded by the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge in 2019. Uttara is working on a book manuscript on Sindh and partition. Her latest publications are ‘Following Richard Burton: Religious Identity and Difference in Colonial Sindh,’ forthcoming in Philological Encounters and ‘Language without a land: Partition, Sindhi refugees, and the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution,’ forthcoming in the Journal of Asian Affairs.

Co-sponsored by the History Department

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, South Asia Program, History


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