This book traces the historical transition of the Lambada community of Hyderabad State under the Nizams during colonial rule. The study spans nearly two centuries—from the early eighteenth to about the middle of the twentieth century. The author shows how this community, originally caravan traders, confronted the colonial or modern state power which had adversely transformed their lives.
The market economy and growth of transport hampered the Lambadas’ caravan trade. The state discouraged their nomadic ways, inducing them to become peasants on wastelands and in forest tracts. From the middle of the nineteenth century, they had to depend on cattle-raising and agriculture, often becoming agricultural labourers. The state came to view their extension of agriculture as a threat to forest conservation, subjecting them to harassment and eviction. They began losing their plots of land through usurious money-lending and extortion. Zamindars claimed rights over wastelands, and extracted taxes. Exploitation by various agencies reduced the Lambadas to working as bonded labourers on farms. During famines and the off-season, some resorted to dacoity. This led the state to brand them as a criminal community and relocate them as ‘criminal tribes’ under surveillance. Protracted suffering and victimisation compelled the Lambadas to revolt, which was transformed into the Telangana armed struggle at the end of the Nizams’ rule.
The Lambadas had tried to respond to the challenges faced through a programme of self-reform. From the 1820s, leaders emerged from within the community, who rearticulated Lambada history, spiritual beliefs and culture. These find expression in the oral tradition which was crucial in shaping their community identity, now a significant element in democratic politics.
Bhangya Bhukya did his PhD from University of Warwick, U.K and now teaches history at Osmania University in Hyderabad. He is also a British Academy Visiting Fellow in SOAS, University of London. He has published influential works on the history of marginalised communities of India. His research interests are community histories, the effects of power/knowledge, governmentality and dominance over subaltern communities, particularly adivasis (original); the state and nationalism, and identity movements by forest and hill peoples in the nineteenth and twentieth century.
Note on Translation
Map of Hyderabad State in 1911, showing districts
1. The Twilight World of the Caravan: Regulated Market
Economy and the Caravanners
A Brief History of the Lambada Caravanners;
Fragmented Politics, Rivalries and Caravan Trade;
Organisation of the Thanda and Caravan Trade;
Regulated Market and Marginalisation of the Lambada
Caravan; Impact of Technology on the Caravans.
2. Policing Cattle, Policing Nomads: Colonial Rationality
The Lambadas’ Passion for Cattle; Cattle as an Economic
Resource; Policing Cattle; Cattle Diseases and the
Governance of Health.
3. ‘Delinquent Subjects’: Dacoity and the Creation of a
The Colonial Construction of Lambada Criminality;
Towards Dacoity; Policing Criminal Gangs; Criminal
4. Modern Forms of Land Relations: Exploitation and Revolt
Becoming Peasants; Modern Forms of Land Relations;
The Commoditisation of Agricultural Produce; The
Marginalisation of the Lambada Peasantry; The
Lambadas’ Land Revolt.
5. Articulating Cultural Differences, Contesting Power:
The Consolidation of the Lambadas as a Social and
The Genealogy of the Lambadas’ Spiritual Culture;
Technologies of Self and Cultural Assertion; From
Religious Reform to Identity Politics.