This article explores the particular subjectivity of a “colonial” in the higher echelons of imperial governance in late colonial India. Focussing on the Australian statesman R.G. Casey, who served as Governor of Bengal from 1944–46, it demonstrates the unique perspective that Casey brought to his role. Appointed to a troubled province—stricken by a famine now widely recognised as colonially-induced, on the frontline of the Japanese advance toward India, at a time when communal violence was sharply on the rise, and at a critical time in the negotiations over decolonisation—Casey skilfully deployed his positionality as a relative outsider in British India to gain political leverage and to further negotiations with Indian nationalists. Casey might have been rendered ineffective after being identified somewhat disparagingly at the time of his appointment as a “colonial” by Britons, and as an “Australian,” tainted through association with the exclusionary White Australia Policy, by a critical Indian press. Yet Casey deployed these identities to strategically project himself as an engaged intermediary in the standoff between a defensive, reluctant decoloniser and a restive, fractured nationalist movement. The best example of this is a series of talks Casey held with M.K. Gandhi on the political situation in late 1945, at a time when Gandhi’s relations with the Government of India and in particular, with the viceroy, Lord Wavell, had badly deteriorated. This article focuses on the impact of the Gandhi-Casey talks, as they became known in the press, on the cusp of decolonisation.


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