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Shunting The Nation

Shunting The Nation

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The period 1939-1949 was the most turbulent decade in modern Indian
history—it saw the tumult of the Second World War, the unrest during the
Quit India movement and the final phase of the freedom struggle, and the
horrors of Partition. While most studies of this time focus chiefly on the
defining contributions of the Indian nationalist leaders and the role played by
the British, it is also important to record the efforts of millions of others in
meeting the enormous challenges of the period. Shunting the Nation records the
contribution of the workers—men, women and children—who ensured the
smooth functioning of the railway-based travel and communication system in the
Subcontinent, even as regimes changed, new borders were drawn and everything
seemed to be falling apart.
During perhaps the most demanding time in the history of any railway workforce,
these workers navigated overcrowded trains, food shortage, famine, disruption of
coal supplies, communal riots and an administration close to collapse, in order to
ensure humanitarian relief, swift movement of troops and weapons, and transport
of over three million refugees. Equally remarkable was the workers’ successful
negotiation of the contrary demands of their employment—by the British—and
their nationalist, pro-independence sentiments; as was the class-based solidarity
of their unions which triumphed over barbaric sectarian divisions.
Drawing on memoirs, newspaper reports and government documents, Aniruddha
Bose’s passionate narration of railway history brings to light the inspiring and
valuable role played by these unsung heroes in the modern histories of India and

Tagged with:

Aniruddha Bose / history / indian / nonfiction /