Accepted Paper:

Rethinking Meerut: Nehru, the League against Imperialism, and the limits of internationalism in India  


Michele Louro (Salem State University )

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the Meerut Conspiracy Case as a site for the intersection of national, international, and colonial politics in British India. It focuses on the specific case of the League against Imperialism (LAI) as a seditious organization targeted by the Meerut trial.

Paper long abstract:

In the Meerut Conspiracy Case (1929-1934), the colonial state accused thirty-three defendants - trade unionists, socialists, nationalists and communists - of conspiracy to overthrow the sovereignty of the king in India. Indian connections with the League against Imperialism (LAI) were one of the primary offenses on trial in Meerut. However, the British did not arrest and charge Jawaharlal Nehru, the official representative of the LAI in India. In 1929, Nehru served on the LAI's Executive Council and had created an Indian Independence league to coordinate the national and international anti-imperialist fronts.

The aim of this paper is twofold. First, it highlights Meerut as a highly publicized space for the Government of India to flex the muscle of the colonial state and show nationalists like Nehru the consequences of forging connections abroad that operated outside the margins of imperial servitude. From the vantage point of the colonial state, Nehru had strong nationalist credentials, and the Meerut Case aimed to pull him away from seditious elements like the LAI.

Secondly, the paper considers the failures of Nehru, Indian anti-colonial nationalism, and the LAI to coordinate an international protest against the Meerut Case. From Nehru's perspective in 1929, the attack on Indian connections abroad could become a lightning rod for anti-imperialist forces nationally and internationally to unite against the British Empire. Yet paradoxically, at the same time that Nehru worked prodigiously in Meerut to protest colonial repression of Indian connections to the League, the LAI abandoned collaborative work with the INC leader.

Panel P16
Meerut revisited: the conspiracy case in context, 1929-1934