Seminar: Professor Sekhar Bandyopadhyay, ‘Everyday violence and post-Partition Dalit peasant migration in Bengal, 1950-57’

In Bengal the Dalits (or former untouchables) still remain almost completely invisible in the narratives of pre-Partition violence that broke out in 1946 and post-Partition migration and rehabilitation that took place in 1947-48. This happened because Dalit organisations in East Bengal remained in alliance with the Muslim League and they did not immediately migrate in 1947.  But this Dalit-Muslim alliance broke down in January 1950 when violent riots broke out again, and this time the Dalit peasants were deliberately targeted. This was followed by what this paper characterises as ‘everyday violence’ that resulted in the migration of about 2.1 million refugees between 1950 and 1957. About 70% of these new refugees were Dalit peasants. This paper will look critically at the structure of violence that pushed these Dalit peasants out of their habitat, their arduous journey across the border and their less than friendly welcome in India.  This experience, the paper would argue, created among these Dalit refugees a new historical consciousness of being people without a homeland. This was in sharp contrast to the experience of the Sabarna (upper caste) educated middle class refugees who came earlier in 1947-48.

Sekhar Bandyopadhyay is Professor of Asian History and Director of the New Zealand India Research Institute at Victoria University of Wellington. His academic specialisation is in social and political history of modern India. He has also written on the Indian diaspora and India-New Zealand relations in historical times. He has published seven books, twelve edited or co-edited books, and more than forty book chapters and journal articles. Some of his important books are Decolonization in South Asia (Routledge, 2009), Caste, Protest and Identity in Colonial India (Second edition, OUP, 2011) and From Plassey to Partition and After: A History of Modern India (Second Edition, Orient Black Swan, 2015). Two of his recently co-edited books are: Religion and Modernity in India (OUP, 2016) and Indians and the Antipodes (OUP, 2018). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. In 2014, for his book Decolonization in South Asia he was awarded the Rabindranath Tagore Prize in India. The current paper comes from his Marsden project on ‘Dalit in the history of Partition in eastern India’.

Venue:            Old Kirk 406 (F L W Wood Seminar Room)

Date:               Friday, 2 August 2019

Time:              12:10pm

For more information: Contact Dr Cybele Locke (; 04 463 6774).