University of Cambridge The Limits of Total Prohibition in the Madras Presidency, 1937-1943
24 Nov 2016
The Madras Prohibition Act of 1937 was introduced with great fanfare on 1 October 1937. The pet project of the Madras Presidency's first Chief Minister, C. Rajagopalachari, the Prohibition Act has since been historicised as a landmark law and spectacular Congress victory against a morally bankrupt colonial government. Superficially, it would appear that the policy did mark a watershed in the history of Indian temperance; for the first time, legislation was passed affirming the government's commitment towards achieving the prohibition of all classes of alcohol and drugs, as compared to the limited temperance measures which had been experimented with previously in the Indian provinces. However, even discounting the rampant bootlegging and black market profiteering that bedevilled the policy's administration, the private correspondences that were exchanged between the British and C. Rajagopalachari's government on the one hand, and between the all-India and provincial Congress leaderships on the other, throw into question the policy's declared impartiality and comprehensiveness. Instead, they suggest that the colonial government's approach towards Prohibition was part and parcel of its strategy to undermine the nationalist movement. This talk aims to provide insights into the practical politics of Indian Prohibition, which have thus far been largely glossed over by nationalist rhetoric, by exploring the dissensions that the dry law provoked and the compromises that it necessitated during the first phase of its implementation.
All are welcome. No registration is required.