From Subjects to Citizens: Society and the Everyday State in India and Pakistan 1947 - 1964

Uttar Pradesh, India

Uttar Pradesh or UP (before 1947 known as the United Provinces of Agra and Awadh), is the most populous state in India, and generally considered to be one of the most politically important by academics and observers.

The focus on UP has been generated partly by demography, but also by the range of political movements and agencies which have their origins in the state, and which have had repercussions in the rest of India.

UP, being one of the most ‘rural’ states, was key to the early ‘peasant’ mobilisations in the late colonial period, a vital stage for the eventual Zamindari Abolition and later ‘Green Revolution’. Despite this rural focus, the cities of Lucknow, Aligarh, Banaras (Varanasi), Allahabad, Agra, Kanpur and Meerut have provided the arenas for political mobilisation across the spectrum, from the Hindu right and Muslim League, to a wealth of modern low caste and Dalit organisations, and powerful parties of the left.

For the purposes of our project, UP politics and government provide a key arena in changing local, state and national discourses surrounding governance and the state. It is also a very interesting area in which to look at how the local and national interact, precisely because of its diversity and connection to broader political trends. To some extent, UP has been exoticised in writing both from within and outside South Asia as, the ‘soul’ or ‘heart’ of India, characterised as the ‘cow-belt’ or Hindi heartland. For others it has been derided for being caught for many years in periods of slow economic growth, relatively low levels of overall literacy, high levels of corruption. However, much of the attention on UP has necessarily been at levels well below the state as a whole: this is a very large and diverse region, around which some generalisations are difficult to make. There is no clear ‘UP’ identity.

Across UP’s cities in the late colonial period, politically significant Muslim communities eventually made the decision to migrate to what became Pakistan after 1947. UP’s districts and cities (especially in the west), became an important point of immigration for people leaving what became Pakistan, not least from the area of Sindh.

Although this project looks at UP as a whole, the bulk of the research has focussed on the urban centres, especially around central UP, covering the districts of Lucknow, Hardoi, Sitapur, Kanpur, Bara Banki and Rae Bareli. In particular, it has traced the careers of key administrative figures over the 1940s and 1950s.

A map of Uttar Pradesh


Click here to go to the Resources Page for information on archival sources concerning UP.