Popular Violence and Popular Sovereignty: The Police Action in Hyderabad

Thursday, January 3, 2019: 3:50 PM
Waldorf Room (Hilton Chicago)
Sunil Purushotham, Fairfield University
This paper seeks to interpret the constitutive relationship between popular violence, state violence, and the emergence of a new regime of sovereignty in postcolonial India. I argue that the nation-state’s displacement of the Nizam’s sovereignty in the Deccan was achieved through ambivalent efforts to incite, control and subdue popular violence. By investigating the actions of a motley assortment of armed political groups and the expansion of “home guard” units, I suggest that a dispersal of violence into the body politic worked to affirm rather than subvert state power. This violence was channeled, rather, in service of the state. Vallabhbhai Patel referred to the Indian takeover of Hyderabad as “nothing short of a revolution” Patel situated the Police Action within a wider subcontinental convulsion that dismantled an older, colonial sovereign order and gave birth to a new regime of sovereignty. Violence was in this respect both incidental to and constitutive of a national political revolution. I suggest that the events in Hyderabad are best considered as part of a multifaceted and transformational event, one that was foundational of the Indian Republic.