South Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - States or Estates? Mineral Rights as a Ground for Debating Sovereignty

Friday, July 6
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Casuarina, Lower Ground Floor

In the late nineteenth century, the Foreign Department undertook the task of determining the legal status of many territories in eastern and central India. The endeavor was to bring a sense of clarity in the prevailing situation of legal anomaly. The question under consideration was: whether these territories were ‘States’ or ‘Estates’? Also, whether these polities formed part of British India, i.e. they lacked any traces of sovereignty, or were they ‘Native States’ enjoying some elements of sovereignty? In opposition to the abstractness of Austinian, the Foreign Department officials took recourse to Henry Maine’s writings on the nature of sovereignty.


For a bureaucracy driven by pragmatic considerations, what role did theoretical thinking played in this discussion of sovereignty? This paper discusses the realpolitik of the theoretical principle of ‘divisible sovereignty’ by following debates that ensued in the process of determining the legal status of two Chota Nagpur States—Korea and Chang Bhakar. The status determination process that began with a discourse of justice and equity soon turned into that of property and ownership when the presence of valuable underground resources in these territories was realized. The process of systematizing legal relations with native states was guided by the notion that paramountcy resided mainly in the prerogative of Imperial power to decide where law ended and politics began. The paper shows that the efforts of giving agency to native states under British paramountcy entailed several qualifications and was often employed more as a rhetorical tool than with any ‘higher’ notion of justice.

Sourav Mahanta

Independent Scholar, India

Presentation(s):

Send Email for Sourav Mahanta


Assets

2 - States or Estates? Mineral Rights as a Ground for Debating Sovereignty



Attendees who have favorited this

Please enter your access key

The asset you are trying to access is locked. Please enter your access key to unlock.

Send Email for States or Estates? Mineral Rights as a Ground for Debating Sovereignty