Forgetting the Violence, Remembering a Report: The Paradox of the 1931 Kanpur Riots

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Undergraduate Humanities Forum 2007-2008: Origins
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Agarwal, Priya

This project is the culmination of my efforts to understand Hindu-Muslim relations in the twentieth century. My thesis revolves around a paradox surrounding the Kanpur Riots, the major finding of my research last year. After reading about the "carnage at Kanpur" in The Construction of Communalism in North India in the February of last year, I was inspired to learn more about the 1931 Kanpur riots. My efforts to find a secondary source recounting the riots, however, were fruitless. While surveys of modern India mentioned the violence at Kanpur, no single monograph detailing the riots existed. Instead, scholars wrote about the Kanpur Riot Commission Report, a Congress Party authored Report that recounted the riots and included a 293-page history describing Hindu-Muslim relations. My research at the National Archives of India (NAI) and the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) in New Delhi from August 3-September 3, 2007 fine-tuned this paradox. The newspapers I consulted at NMML, The Leader and The Statesman, focused on the atrocities committed and the ineffectiveness of police forces to quell the riots. Similarly, the testimonies of British officials involved in the riots that I examined in the National Archives evidenced how official (British) inaction was the notable feature of the Kanpur Riots. Yet, secondary sources that included brief references to the Kanpur Riots attributed its significance not to official inaction or the brutality of the violence but the literary consequences of the riots, the Kanpur Riot Commission Report. This thesis will explore the Report and the context in which it was written.

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Undergraduate Humanities Forum 2007-2008: Origins
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2007-2008 Penn Humanities Forum on Origins, Undergraduate Mellon Research Fellows. URL:
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