Diving Into the World of 20th-Century India

By Janeth Montenegro

 janeth montenegro    The quarter in which I found out about the opportunity to do archival research on The Comrade newspaper with Associate Professor Megan Moodie, the history of India was an unusually prevalent aspect of my life. A friend of mine was taking an anthropology of India class and used any chance to tell me about aspects of India’s history we never learned about in high school.

     The following quarter, as I began to actually read the newspaper, I took Magic, Science, and Religion - a course with lecturer Annapurna Pandey. The readings and lessons in that class drew me further into the religious history of India. My interest for Indian history was piqued.

     I had also taken part in the peer advising program the previous quarter, and wanted to be more involved in the department, but I also wanted to find something that would allow me to do cultural anthropology research. I saw this internship as a perfect opportunity to try to do that and more. I didn’t know what went into archival research, but I was intrigued by the prospect of looking into old documents and diving into the detailed history of a place.

     My research now consists of close readings of the 20th century newspaper, The Comrade, created by Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar, a prominent figure in the Indian Muslim Movement. There was quite a bit of online archive digging before I actually sat down to read the document, but once I found and organized the expected number of volumes, I was able to print and begin reading.

comrade clipping     Professor Moodie told me early on to look for mentions of Eastern Europe, with an addition of Turkey and Greece as well as for uses of the word “minority”. At first, I was unsure of how the search for these topics would unravel, but it wasn’t long before I began to understand how they all played a part in what was happening in India at the time. Some of the most interesting sections that I’ve read thus far have had to do with the life of Muslim Indians in a country and a time where Hindu-Muslim relations caused much tension. The position of Muslim women was also of importance to many. It didn’t take me long to take notice that Hindu-Muslim and Indian-British relations where a big part of what The Comrade focused on. In particular, it focused on attempts of many at the time to give Indian Muslims a voice, whether it was through the education of Muslim women, or education for everyone in general. The newspaper focuses on the relationship between India, the British empire and its colonies and potential enemies.

     There’s still a lot of history that I’d like to learn and there are so many interlocking events to take into consideration. I feel very fortunate to have found this opportunity and to get to work with Professor Moodie. I would encourage anyone with an interest in the fine details of archival work to look into this type of research.

Above, a clipping from The Comrade Newspaper.  Janeth Montenegro is pictured at top.  Images courtesy of Janeth Montenegro