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Shock City of Twentieth-Century India

Howard Spodek

Publication Year: 2011

In the 20th century, Ahmedabad was India's "shock city." It was the place where many of the nation's most important developments occurred first and with the greatest intensity -- from Gandhi's political and labor organizing, through the growth of textile, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries, to globalization and the sectarian violence that marked the turn of the new century. Events that happened there resonated throughout the country, for better and for worse. Howard Spodek describes the movements that swept the city, telling their story through the careers of the men and women who led them.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiii

Ahmedabad has been my second home for almost half a century. Many of the central actors in this book are friends and colleagues. My sense of gratitude to all of them is overwhelming. I hope they feel that this book repays in small part all that they have contributed over the years to the book and to me personally...

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pp. 1-16

I arrived in Ahmedabad in 1964 to teach English. As a first-year graduate student at the University of Chicago, specializing in modern Indian history, I had been awarded a Fulbright fellowship to teach and carry on research in India. There were forty people in my group; we were dispatched to ten different centers across north India...

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Part 1 The Gandhian Era, 1915–1950

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pp. 17-20

Ahmedabad’s historian, Ratnamanirao Bhimrao Jhote, notes that in 1915 both Gandhi and electricity arrived in Ahmedabad. Seen from 1929, when he wrote, this glowing comparison makes sense, but when Gandhi first arrived to found his ashram, the consequences were by no means predictable. His public...

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Chapter 1 Gandhi Chooses Ahmedabad

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pp. 21-36

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s father, and his father before him, served as high-ranking administrative officers in various princely states in Kathiawad, the western peninsula of Gujarat. The British ruled Kathiawad indirectly—that is, they kept the local rulers of its small states...

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Chapter 2 Gandhi Assembles New Leadership

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pp. 37-69

Gandhi’s arrival in Ahmedabad in 1915 precipitated a remarkable generational shift in the city’s leadership. The three dominant leaders at the time—Mangaldas Girdhardas, Ramanbhai Nilkanth, and Chinubhai Madhavlal—had all been born between 1862 and 1864, only a few years before...

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Chapter 3 Vallabhbhai Patel Builds the Congress Political Machine

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pp. 70-93

When Vallabhbhai Patel was elected councilor from the Dariapur ward in 1917, he began his new political career with two goals in mind. As a resident of the city, he wanted Ahmedabad to be healthy and clean, with adequate facilities for water, drainage, sewerage, lighting, and roads. As a nationalist, he wanted to limit, and...

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Chapter 4 Anasuyaben Sarabhai Engages Ahmedabad’s Working Classes

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pp. 94-114

At the time of Gandhi’s arrival, half of Ahmedabad’s population were of the industrial working classes. Anasuyaben Sarabhai saw their poverty, oppression, and need for help. Her vision began with compassion and manifested itself in social work. Her dedication attracted Gandhi and engaged his own orientation toward the poor and the underdog. Together, the efforts of...

Images- between 114-115

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Part 2 The Westernizing City, 1950–1980

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pp. 115-119

The year 1947 ended the era of colonialism and confronted India with the new challenges of independence. In addressing two of these challenges—building a more productive, more equitable economy and encouraging indigenous culture —Ahmedabad stood out as a shock city. As one of the most industrialized cities...

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Chapter 5 Ambalal Sarabhai and Kasturbhai Lalbhai Build an Industrialized, Westernized, Prosperous, Cultured, World-Class Company Town

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pp. 121-139

From the moment of his arrival in Ahmedabad, the shethias—the wealthy businessmen—had welcomed Gandhi.1 Mangaldas Girdhardas hosted him. When Mangaldas withdrew his support because Gandhi brought untouchables into his ashram, Ambalal Sarabhai stepped in. Kasturbhai Lalbhai acted as sometime treasurer for the Congress and as Gandhi’s counterpart in...

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Chapter 6 Indulal Yagnik Challenges the Gandhian Consensus

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pp. 140-164

Even during Gandhi’s time, Indulal Yagnik had fought against establishments. He lost these early battles. Despite Indulal’s objections, Gandhi continued to call for daily quotas of spinning on the charkha (spinning wheel), and Vallabhbhai Patel continued to set the direction of the Congress.1 In 1924, at the age of thirty-two, Indulal left Ahmedabad...

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Part 3 Creativity and Chaos, 1969–

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pp. 165-170

The Gandhian age had brought a sense of unity to Ahmedabad. Four principal institutions provided the formal organizational structures: the Ahmedabad Millowners Association, the Textile Labour Association, the Congress, and the municipality. Apart from their individual, separate missions, these institutions shared three common visions: ending British imperial rule, assuring a minimum...

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Chapter 7 Communal Violence, 1969

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pp. 171-180

The Gandhian consensus preserved the peace in Ahmedabad from 1919 until the national agonies of the 1940s intruded on the local scene in the form of Hindu–Muslim riots in 1941 and 1946 preceding partition, and attacks on government property accompanying the Quit India movement of 1942. The violence of 1956–60 exploded out of the Mahagujarat movement. The police ...

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Chapter 8 Chimanbhai Patel Provokes the Nav Nirman Movement, 1974

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pp. 181-194

Only five years after communal warfare made Ahmedabad a shock city for all of India, the Nav Nirman (Reconstruction) movement, a middle-class protest against corruption and patronage in the state government, brought the city once more to center stage. Nav Nirman fused together three issues: middle-class opposition to patronage and corruption in politics; professional opposition to the commercialization and politicization of the expanding system of higher education; and urban opposition to high ...

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Chapter 9 The Mills Close, the TLA Falters, and the Municipal Corporation Goes Broke

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pp. 195-206

In the 1980s, Ahmedabad’s mill industry began to shut down. The effects devastated the owners, the workers, and the city. Once again, Ahmedabad was a shock city, bearing the brunt of what became a national, and global, trend in the collapse of large-scale older industries. The closure of Ahmedabad’s mills was, however, surprisingly different from the collapse taking place in wealthier, ...

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Chapter 10 Madhavsinh Solanki Invokes the Politics of Caste and Class

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pp. 207-226

The 1980s brought Ahmedabad’s Gandhian era to an end. The mills collapsed, crippling the Ahmedabad Millowners Association and the Textile Labour Association (TLA), and leaving the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) impoverished. The leaders who had grown to maturity under Gandhian influence and had guided the city’s affairs for a half...

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Chapter 11 Ahmedabad 2000: The Capitalist City Out of Control

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pp. 227-247

Ahmedabad rebounded from the loss of its textile industry. In the 1990s, it rebuilt its industrial economy with new initiatives in chemicals, pharmaceuticals, soaps, denim, and diamond polishing. In addition, Ahmedabad’s financial sector grew to service the rapid expansion of the economy of Gujarat state. The city did not attract the international back-office call center operations that captured wide attention for Bangalore, for example, but its manufacturing enterprises supported India’s large-scale entrance into the ...

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Chapter 12 Godhra, the Gujarat Pogrom, and the Consequences

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pp. 248-270

A book on the twentieth century would normally end with the year 2000. But the pogrom of 2002, which left almost 1,000 people dead in Ahmedabad, another 1,000 dead in the rest of Gujarat, and rendered about 140,000 people temporarily homeless, makes that impossible in this case. This pogrom, one of the worst in India since independence, made Ahmedabad once again a shock city for India, in both senses...


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pp. 271-274


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pp. 275-300


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pp. 301-310


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pp. 311-330

E-ISBN-13: 9780253000835
E-ISBN-10: 0253000831
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253355874

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 12 b&w illus., 3 maps
Publication Year: 2011