Sachchidananda Sinha and the Making of Modern Bihar; a Study in Constitutional Agitation at the Provincial Level, 1905-1919

Bishop, Cletus James, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Hauser, Walter, Department of History, University of Virginia
Kessinger, Tom G., Department of History, University of Virginia

Towards the end of the nineteenth century there arose in the Bihari districts of Bengal a movement designed to gain provincial status for the area. At that juncture the Bihari districts, or the Lower Provinces of Bengal as they were then termed, were administratively a part of the Province of Bengal. The Bihari area was viewed by the Calcutta based Bengalis and Britons as the hinterland of the larger province, and neither the foreigner who ruled nor the Bengali who administered, was sensitive to the needs or claims of the Biharis who inhabited the region. The movement, dubbed The Sons of the Soil," focused its activity on changing the nature of the bureaucracy and the administrative structure developed as a result of British expansion in North India; for many from Bihar, particularly the younger, western-educated had come to feel that the Bihari districts had suffered needlessly from a lack of provincial autonomy. The leaders of the movement, ·who termed themselves either "constitutional agitators" or the "educated and thoughtful classes of Bihar, were immensely successful, and this study is designed to explain why.

The study neither exaggerates the importance of the Bihari Constitutionalists nor belittles the efforts of those who opposed them. Rather it is an attempt to analyze at the provincial level a social and political upheaval, led by reformers who though moderate in belief and action, managed to change significantly the social and political norms and environment of Bihar in the early years of this century. The intent is to explain how a group of dedicated, westernized elite led a social and political revolt that within fifteen years helped to establish a province, create a high court, found a university, and awaken a political consciousness among their Bihari brethren. The study is also designed to explain how the reform effort, based on the premise that the only way to reform was to modernize and westernize socially and educationally, was organized and brought to fruition through the traditional hierarchy that strengthened much of the very system they hoped to destroy. And the study is, in particular, an examination of how this was brought about primarily through the efforts of a small group of Muslims and Kayasthas, foremost of whom was Sachchidananda Sinha, the man often termed the Creator of Modern Bihar.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Sinha, Sachchidananda -- 1871-1950, Bihar (India) -- Politics and government

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

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