Category Archives: projects

Broadcasting Revolution: “Quit India” & Underground Radio in WWII Bombay

This is the abstract for a workshop paper accepted for the international workshop The Indian Predicament: South Asia in World War II held in June 2016 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel organised by Dr Rotem Geva and Prof Dan Diner through their project Judging Histories: Experience, Judgement and Representation of World War II in an Age of Globalization.

 The Indian Predicament: South Asia in WWII

1942 marked a turning point during World War II in India and Asia, as in rapid succession the Japanese occupied and expelled the British from Malaya, Singapore and Burma, and within colonial India widespread rumours and panic ensued of an impending invasion and demise of the British Empire in India. In August 1942, following the failure of the imperial “Cripps Mission” to solicit nationalist support for the war campaign in exchange for post-war home rule, Gandhi and the Congress Party issued their final, militant call for the British to “Quit India” and for Indians to “Do or Die”.

Portrayed in post-war nationalist historiography as a heroic movement to end colonial rule, “Quit India” was in fact quickly and violently suppressed by a paranoid colonial state, at the height of its fear of internal rebellion and external attack. The “9th Augusters” including Gandhi, Nehru and other leaders, as well as thousands of Congress Party activists were jailed for the subsequent years of WWII until 1945, with significant consequences for post-war politics of Independence and Partition, and the history of anti-colonial nationalism.

Non-Congress politicians and parties such as Jinnah’s Muslim League used the subsequent years to offer competing visions of the future nation-state(s). Younger and radical nationalists like Aruna Asaf Ali, Rammanohar Lohia, and Achyut Patwardhan evaded arrest and internment by escaping underground or abroad, to continue their anti-colonial activities through clandestine and virtual means. While its leadership had disappeared soon after the call to “Quit India”, nationalist resistance and sabotage continued, a mass mobilisation conducted through new technologies of communication and the politicisation of everyday life during WWII in South Asia.

Wireless telecommunication and radio broadcasting grew rapidly prior to WWII in India, with the establishment of All-India Radio in 1936, the creation of the Government Department of Information and Broadcasting in 1941, and the proliferation of licensed and illegal radio transmission and listening sets during WWII. The formation and recruitment of Bose’s Indian National Army (INA) and Provisional Government of Free India in Southeast Asia was communicated to the masses in the sub-continent entirely via “enemy” broadcasts from Japan and Germany, and re-transmitted through amateur and illegal radio operators.

My paper will focus on “Congress Radio” illegal broadcasting from late 1942 to early 1945, based on ongoing research in the wartime police and intelligence archives in Bombay/Mumbai. “Congress Radio” regularly transmitted wartime news and rumours, speeches, songs and poetry with a distinctly radical content, while constantly evading detection or interception by police and military wireless censors both within and outside the city. Studying both the radio intercepts in Marathi, Hindi and Gujarati, and police testimonies of radio operators, engineers and their collaborators, my paper will demonstrate how this emerging field of political communication and popular discourse shaped the everyday experience and understanding of WWII in South Asia beyond the nationalist mythology of “Quit India”.

Education, Society & Science in Modern India

I taught this course for doctoral students in the Graduate School in Science Education at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, in the fall semester of 2015.

Click here to download the full course syllabus as a PDF. All the course readings listed below are available to download on Google Drive.

About the Course

This graduate course is designed to expose doctoral students to the history and sociology of modern science education in colonial and post-colonial India, with a focus on ideas and institutions, concepts and thinkers, and major debates in this emerging field.

The seminar will meet twice per week for four months, and is spread over three units or themes of five weeks each on 1. “Colonialism & Modernity”, 2. “Nation & State” and 3. “Education, Policy & Society”.

Participants shall take turns writing three 500-600 word review/discussion papers on the assigned readings for prior circulation via the mailing list, as well as to lead discussion in that day’s seminar session.

The main requirement is a long essay or research paper of 5,000-6,000 words, comprising a literature review, social, demographic or other data with a theoretical argument on education, science and society in India. Rough drafts are due mid-way in the term.

All seminar participants are expected to complete close reading of assigned texts in advance in every session, and be prepared to participate in person and online via the course mailing list.

Continue reading Education, Society & Science in Modern India

PhD Dissertation Defense

Listen below to the audio of my talk and presentation at my dissertation defence in the Doctoral Program in History, Anthropology and STS (Science Technology & Society), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on 29 August 2013.

The title of my thesis was Empire’s Metropolis: Money, Time & Space in Colonial Bombay, 1870-1920.

My thesis committee was chaired by anthropologist Professor Michael M.J. Fischer and political scientist Professor Sudipta Kaviraj of Columbia University, and historian Professor Merritt Roe-Smith of MIT were my  additional advisors. I was awarded and graduated my doctorate in September 2013.

Handbook of the Bombay Archives

I am proud to share online this freely downloadable PDF of The Handbook of the Bombay Archives (B.G. Kunte, ed., compiled by Sanjiv Desai and R.S. Pednekar, Mumbai: Government of Maharashtra Department of Archives, 1978).

Elphinstone College, Mumbai (location of Maharashtra State Archives)

Long out of print and unavailable, this is an essential guide to the Maharashtra State Archives, one of India’s richest and best managed repositories of historical documents, located at Elphinstone College in Kala Ghoda. Enjoy and share widely!

 

ChaloBEST: Sustainable Mobility for Mumbai

chalobest_final02ChaloBEST began in January 2011 as a studio-based learning experiment at Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE) to make public transportation data available over the web, SMS, smartphones, and print media using free and open source software, open geospatial and civic data, and crowd-sourcing by commuters.

Our aim is to make transport more social and mobility more sustainable for all citizens in Mumbai. In 2012 we were supported by the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) as first-prize winners in the Sankranti Transform Urban India competition held at the India Urban Conference 2011. See my final ten-minute talk to the jury below.

For technical documention see our project wiki and for the software code see our project on Github. All of our work in ChaloBEST was been made possible through the kind assistance of officials of BEST (Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking) to our students and volunteers in Mumbai from 2011 to 2014.

Mumbai Free Map Community GIS

NASA LandSAT 7 self-made composited imagery with my GPS tracks overlaid, Greater Mumbai and Vasai-Virar 2004-2006
NASA LandSAT 7 self-made composited imagery with my GPS tracks overlaid, Greater Mumbai and Vasai-Virar 2004-2006

This is both the first project proposal (2004-5) and final report (2009) to the Pan-Asia ICT R&D Grants Programme of the Asia Pacific Development Information Programme of UNDP (United Nations Development Programme),

CRIT (Collective Research Initiatives Trust) obtained a grant to pursue this project and organise workshops and labs. In recent years this work has been  superseded by OpenStreetMap.

 

Proposal Abstract

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region is one of Asia’s largest cities, in which urban spaces are the central arenas of political imagination and intervention. The past decade has seen the articulation of a new politics of space in Mumbai — through the contesting claims of the urban poor majority in slums and squatter settlements, assertive residents’ associations and civic reform movements, the prosperous construction industry and builder-politician nexus, and concerned practitioners in the design, architecture and research professions.

In spite of this increased awareness and concern with urban spaces, basic information on housing, land, infrastructure and environment — the right of citizens — remains largely inaccessible, because of bureaucratic obstacles and vested interests. This asymetry of information has given rise to predatory classes of builders and speculators, whose privileged access to information is transformed into “development rights” for construction, eroding accountability to local communities and urban stake-holders, and the planning policies meant to uphold their rights.

Existing applications of new spatial technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS) for commercial services or scientific research remain distant from the needs of these grass-roots communities and local decision-makers. Citizen increasingly demand their rights to information on urban space — and recent legislative enactments and public interest litigation on freedom of information have recently institutionalised this right. Continue reading Mumbai Free Map Community GIS

Beyond Colonial Urbanism: Cities in South Asia

This is a conference panel which I organised for the Urban History Association 4th Biennial Conference on “Shock Cities”: Urban Form in Historical Perspective, Houston, Texas, 6 November 2008.

Until recently, the historical study of cities in South Asia has had to contend with an anti-urban bias. If, as nationalists often asserted, “the real India” lived in its villages, the countryside was more deserving of scholarly inquiry than cities. When forced to confront rapid urbanization in recent decades, postcolonial planners viewed the city less as a ocial form than as a set of problems, an ahistorical object of state intervention and control. These biases have shaped modern scholarship on South Asia, where urban change has been submerged within the narrative frameworks of colonial power, resistance and identity – concerns which have dominated nationalist historiography and postwar area studies.

Continue reading Beyond Colonial Urbanism: Cities in South Asia

PUKAR Monsoon Doc-Shop

Originally published in Humanscape special issue on Learning Beyond Teaching, edited by Shilpa Phadke, August 2003.

It is a well-known cliche that today, all of us deal with information in much greater abundance and intensity than ever before. The Internet, the sign of this new economy, is a huge repository of information, with signs, images and stories flowing through its ever expanding networks. Any creative and critical engagement today also means learning to deal with such enormous archives and flows of information, and understanding how they are created. While on the one hand the world around us is increasingly mediated by new technologies and media forms that shape our perceptions acutely, on the other hand most of us do not have access to these technologies, nor are we encouraged to shape the mediated reality around us.

Any critical pedagogy today must address these questions, raised by the advent of new media practices, and the increasing importance of information and communication technologies to our everyday lives, especially in cities in India. The response of mainstream educational institutions has been primarily defensive, to shore up their role against a weakening state and an aggressive market — with the introduction of new diploma courses and degree programmes catered for lucrative careers in the corporate media, such as the Bachelors of Mass Media (BMM) courses in Mumbai. The responses from individual teachers and scholars, media producers and activists, and other groups and organisations is still being debated.

Continue reading PUKAR Monsoon Doc-Shop

The Spaces of Post-Industrial Mumbai

This unpublished paper was presented at SARAI ‘CITY ONE’ Conference at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), New Delhi, January 2003. It records the findings of the Post-Industrial Landscapes Project which I directed at PUKAR (Partners for Urban Knowledge Action & Research), 2000-2003.

Deindustrialisation?

The pivotal role that cities have played in the global shift in the dominant sectors of production from large-scale, mass manufacture of durable commodities to the provision of producer services like finance, banking, and information is by now well-established. Like many other globalising cities in the North and South, Mumbai in the nineties has witnessed a number of other dramatic transformations associated with the processes of globalisation.

These include the world-wide integration of finance and capital markets; the increasing importance of the sphere of consumption to public culture and politics; the percolation of new technologies of information and communication through computer networks, reorganising the space and time of social life and production; the decentralisation and informalisation of economic activity; and the erosion of the authority of centralised state bureaucracies and governments to regulate and control social life and production within their national territories. This set of processes are overlapping and historically contingent, and take different forms in different places.

landuse

Over the past decade in Mumbai, a debate on the changing industrial landscape of the city has been articulated by trade unionists and activists, journalists and scholars, architects, urban planners and designers, and the business and policy-making community. This emerging discourse on the city has many been voiced around many inter-connected concerns — the shrinkage and closure of manufacturing industries in the city and suburbs; the “informalisation” of manufacturing production, and the increasing exploitation of migrant labourers, women and children in this new work regime of casual and contract labour, undermining the employment base and solidarity of the old working classes; the notorious instances of high-income gentrification in former working-class neighbourhoods and industrial districts like the Mill Lands (1); as well as the fears of the “death” of the city with the flight of its industries, its declining quality of life, environmental degradation and overburdened infrastructure, and its questionable prospects for future economic growth (2).

Continue reading The Spaces of Post-Industrial Mumbai