The Revolutionary Imagination and Violence: The Hindustan Socialist Republican Army in British India, 1928–31

Sunday, January 8, 2017: 9:40 AM
Plaza Ballroom A (Sheraton Denver Downtown)
Aparna Vaidik, Ashoka University
This paper examines the political imagination of members of Hindustan Socialist Republican Army (HSRA), a revolutionary group active in British India in the late 1920s that wished to bring about an armed revolution against the colonial state. The members believed that if an opportunity such as the Revolt of 1857 or the Great War appeared again in history, they should be equipped with weapons and ready to lead a mass uprising. The time spent waiting and preparing for revolution was to be devoted to spreading awareness, bringing about youth awakening and carrying out political robberies, bombings and assassinations—or ‘propaganda by deed’. In examining the political imagination and actions of the HSRA revolutionaries, this paper interrogates their understanding of violence. Did they see their actions as ‘violence’? Did violence not remain violence for them given the purity of the ideal armed revolution? Or was violence a term that the revolutionaries used when defining themselves against Gandhian non-violence? This paper draws on prison diaries, correspondence, court testimonies, oral interviews and memoirs of the revolutionaries to capture their imagination.
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