Mahanirban Calcutta Research group


Published Research Papers from crg


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Policies and Practices 83

The Importance of Being Siliguri, or the Lack Thereof Border-Effect and the "Untimely" City in North Bengal
This monograph explores the possibility of certain conceptualizations about the geo-imagination of north Bengal, from the perspective of Siliguri, at a time when its ideational remit is being expanded by statist defense neurosis as well as everyday practices of mobile peoples. In retrospect, it raises a critical question as whether in the context of changing geo-economies and fluid borders, north Bengal can be re-visualized as more integrally a part of the north-east, with its border economy and its “travelling actors”, than as part of Bengal. It has been argued here that the metro-polarities of Siliguri present a sort of “futuristic archetype” of a border-city. Siliguri or the idea of it has been understood and analyzed in abstraction, both in the Jungian and Deleuzian sense.

Essay by Atig Ghosh 



Policies and Practices 82

People, Politics and Protests III : Marxian Literary Debates and Discourses

The paper on Marxian aesthetics reflects the culture of debating and discussing Marxist philosophy and politics in Bengal in the decades after independence. The Bengali intellectuals based in Calcutta and Dhaka had always been sympathetic to and informed about various shades of left politics. They had engaged with Marxism both at the levels of discourses and practices. Intense debates regarding Marxian aesthetics have shaped the literary, cinematic and other art forms in West Bengal in 50s, 60s and 70s when the politics of the streets, factories and fields were being shaped by Communists of different shades.

Essay by Subhoranjan Dasgupta



Policies and Practices 81

People, Politics and Protests II : Bengal and Bihar

The Defining Moments of Left-Popular Politics in West Bengal: The Food Movements of 1959 & 1966
- The paper elaborates on food scarcity in Bengal which had been a continuous feature since 1940s. The famine of 1943 perhaps marked the epoch of such crisis in colonial Bengal. But the situation did not improve with independence, rather scarcity of food grains and high prices became a constant point of criticism of the Congress party in power. People were mobilized across the state in demand of food and West Bengal witnessed to massive movements on this issue – one in 1950 and the other in 1966. The effect of the Food Movements in West Bengal was so intense that it changed the political complexion and paved the way for Naxalbari, the next militant phase of political movements in West Bengal.
From Insurrection to Popular Movement : Bihar Movement, its Possibilities and Limitations
- This paper has focused on the Bihar Movement under Jayaprakash Narayan, popularly known as the JP Movement. JP has been in equal measure celebrated for its stand against a repressive state and vilified for its lack of coherence in ideology, strategy and tactics and even a positive political programme. The paper demonstrated that Bihar Movement was an event that reflected all the contradictions of contemporary times and by rearranging those contradictions changed the structure of democratic politics in India. It also noted the need to reappraise the role of JP. There is a long held belief of JP being a confused popular leader, but the paper has showed him as a tactical leader who always came up with contingent ideas as a response to the events of the popular movement.

Essays by Sibaji Pratim Basu and Mithilesh Kumar



Policies and Practices 80

People, Politics and Protests I : Calcutta and West Bengal,  1950s - 1960s

‘Refugee Movement: Another Aspect of Popular Movements in West Bengal in the 1950s and 1960s’ -
The paper on refugee politics in West Bengal in 1950s discussed in details how refugees became central to the left politics of the state. The refugees did not see themselves as refugees waiting for government’s charity. They saw relief and rehabilitation as their rights as citizens. Their fight for their rights was led by various left parties. The paper studied the role of various Left parties including CPI, RCPI, PSP, BPI in mobilizing the refugees staying in camps and colonies. While studying refugee politics in West Bengal, it highlighted the heterogeneous character of this group along the lines of class and caste.
‘Tram Movement and Teachers’ Movement in Calcutta: 1953-1954’
The research on the tram and teachers’ movements complemented the research on refugees in many ways. When the refugees took to the street under the leadership of UCRC in demand for rehabilitation, the students and labourers came out in large numbers in their support, turning their movement into a “popular” one. The refugees reciprocated by participating in large numbers in two great urban movements of ‘50s, namely the tram movement against a decision to increase the second class tram fare and teachers’ movement demanding a pay hike for the secondary school teachers. The Tram Movement and the Teachers’ Movement were extremely violent yet they witnessed massive support from the residents of Calcutta. The movements revealed the discontent among the common people. This would be manifested further during the food movements towards late 1950s and 1960s.

Essays by Sucharita Sengupta, Paula Banerjee and Anwesha Sengupta



Policies and Practices 79

Logistical Spaces IV: The Asia Paradigm
Logistical Spaces: Connectivity as the New Asian Paradigm: The fifth segment made a comprehensive assessment of India’s logistic visions to the East and the West in the light of other competing logistic visions, the One Belt One Road but also the US strategy of Pivot of Asia and Russian Eurasian visions. It questioned whether a logistical vision on India’s East can be realized to any appreciable extent without a complementary design on India’s west and northwest.

Essay by Anita Sengupta



Policies and Practices 78

Logistical Spaces III : Hubs, Connectivity and Transit
Bangladesh: The Key to India’s Look East
The third segment questioned whether logistic questions in the East can be resolved without addressing various issues like that of Kolkata Port with two ports under its management; achieving synergy between Kolkata and Chittagong Ports; the logistics of water sharing, security cooperation, land corridor of Bangladesh with Nepal, reviving earlier inland water navigation routes as also stabilizing relations with Burma and China independent of US strategic preference. It  also examined the tortuous history of settling the “Bengal question” as congealed in the “Chicken’s neck” which must then necessarily engage with issues of immigration, trafficking in goods, services, labour and sex, securitization, land grab, and development of Siliguri as a hub.

Kolkata as a Logistic Hub with special reference to the port The fourth segment examined ways in which Kolkata (with its location as a port, railway, and road hub) could become crucial for the new logistical vision and how the existence of Bangladesh as a disruption in India’s land continuity predicates the possibilities of Kolkata as a logistical centre. Being one of the most populated and economically developed cities in India, Kolkata possesses a unique advantage as regards realization of the Look East Policy and the paper examines this advantage along three interlinked axes: history, infrastructure and location.

Essays by Subir Bhaumik, Iman Kumar Mitra and Mithilesh Kumar



Policies and Practices 77

Logistical Spaces II : Mobilities and Spaces
Borders, Mobility and Migration: India’s Northeast The second segment complimented the first and looked at migration, displacement, insurgency and labour produced as a result of the above mentioned vision of logistical governance. It addressed what happens to population flow and control over resources within the context of the Look East/Act East Policy heralded asbeing transformative for the region. While deregulation of borders leads to a barrier free integration of regions through trade and communication, there remains the need to investigate whether the same holds for movement of people particularly movements that fall outside the purview of law. How do conflicts surrounding ‘outsiders’ or ‘alien bodies’ unfold? Similarly what is the complex relation between the inflow of capital and outflow of labour?

Essays by Sucharita Sengupta and Samir Purkayastha



Policies and Practices 76

Logistical Spaces I: Logistics and Social Governance
Bridge of Spaces: East by Rear East, Ah! The Northeast-
The first segment investigated components of the logistic visions and infrastructural developments related to India’s Look East policy in terms of its connect to the Northeast.It argued that it is in the larger story of extraction of resources, logistical vision, and infrastructural (material and social) programmes under postcolonial capitalism and its interface with the neoliberal mode of governance that one finds clues to how spaces are bridged and in the process acquire new identities. Yet, and as consequence of this, the paper seeks to suggest, there will be areas and hence spaces excluded from this bridging operation waiting for future logistical operation.

Essays by Ranabir Samaddar and Snehashish Mitra



Policies and Practices 75

Classes, People, and Populism


Essay by Ranabir Samaddar



Policies and Practices 74

Cities, Rural Migrants and the Urban Poor-III : Migration and the Urban Question in Delhi

Amit Prakash: This essay examines the ideational premises behind the extant policy and legal framework for governing the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi. This focus of analysis, he argues, attains greater salience with respect to the NCT on account of its peculiar location in the constitutional scheme wherein it is both a Union Territory and a State leading to powers and functions being fractured across multiple agencies and competencies.  

Mithilesh Kumar:The author, in his chapter, discusses the concept of ‘primitive accumulation’ in writings of various earlier thinkers and academics and posits his understanding of the same concept at the heart of the violent processes of land grabbing, displacement and shifting of identity of settlers and workers near and around the Airport City of Delhi. 

Ishita Dey: The essay offers an anthropological account of migrants in a service village in the city of Delhi. The chapter is based on her field-work in several intermittent phases in three sites: Gurgaon, Gautampuri Resettlement Colony in New Delhi and a dera in Faridabad.


Essays by Amit Prakash, Mithilesh Kumar, Ishita Dey