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The Making of the Region: Perspectives from a Non-Savarna Newspaper (Part II)

The Making of the Region: Perspectives from a Non-Savarna Newspaper (Part II)

hospet junction


P. Thirumal

Continued from Part I

Disciplinary axis

hospet junctionFrom a certain disciplinary and a temporal axis, region has been studied as an objective entity in the form of center-state relations.[43] Presently, the behaviorist-functionalist paradigm referred to as institutional approach seems to be giving way to a more nuanced cultural studies paradigm.[44] A certain dominant strand of Cultural Studies sees the effects of colonialism as pervasive and encompassing the contemporary moment.[45] The effort of this intervention is to locate contemporary as providing a rupture to the colonial times. The contemporary itself consists of several presents. It is the heterogeneity of the contemporary that requires elaboration. While the institutional approach perceives region and more particularly region-state as a monologic and homogenous entity, cultural studies approaches have a potential to render region especially the practices of its community as  dialogic and heterogeneous entity.  This paper suggests that there is a need to work with both institutional and cultural studies approaches in order to enrich the variegated content and form of the category ‘region’. In an oversimplified sense, the institutional approach appears to emphasize the content and the cultural studies seem to emphasize the form.[46] It is true that different pictures of the region emerge with these two different analytical/explanatory tools and both are apparently an incomplete portrait of region.[47] 

More specifically, the study broadly addresses two major areas of communication studies namely Development Communication and Cultural Studies. The study seeks to retain the emancipatory character of development of the 1960s and incorporate the programme of differences initiated by the contemporary Cultural Studies practitioners. The field of Development Communication has either dealt with larger units of analysis like the nation or very micro-units of analysis like village societies. Region as a political form has not been attended to in the field of Development Communication. Communication constitutes nations, regions and village societies as well. 

The textual analysis of the regional language newspaper Deccan Herald (DH) show that the Daily constitutes region both in a pluralistic and in a unitary sense. The ideology of development fosters differences and homogeneity as well.  It is in this sense, that the study treats region as a modern political form that mediates modernity to its members. Deccan Herald is a case in point.   

Capital and Community

The thematic category chosen has direct relevance to capital and indirect consequence to community formation in the region. More importantly, capital and community supplement and complement each other and reside inside the plastic idea of development. Capital is employed in the larger sense with an “emphasis on the ‘resource’ that is created by the organization of large numbers of people”.[48] Among other things, the idea of community also connotes the emergence of a community that “rests on a complex division of labor in which relationships of complementarity bind people together”.[49] Historically, Karnataka’s medieval tradition offers such a vision of contractual society.[50]

The thematic category of “Communication Infrastructure” constitute region through the encoding of the core category ‘development’. The objective of the exercise is to render the argumentative strategies and rhetorical devices as generated within and outside the form and content of the editorials.  The editorials of DH frame Karnataka as a politico-economic region rather than as a cultural-historical region. DH seeks to establish a historical familiarity through the selective invocation of development as constitutive of the organizing principle of the early twentieth century Princely State of Mysore. However, it needs to be stressed that this acquires resonance only in the context of its overlap with the post-Independent Nehruvian idea of development. 

The intermeshing of history with space, of succession with simultaneity, has been frequently referred to in this analysis. Notwithstanding the intermeshing, a spatial explanation has been preferred to a historical analysis of the region. This is due to the fact that certain conjunctural features like competitive electoral politics of India’s federal and regional polities, the instituting of a planned approach towards economy, the interaction between a top down economy and a bottom up democracy, the exclusionary character of economy and the inclusionary (at least of a rhetorical kind) character of politics were responsible for the production and reproduction of the region called Karnataka during the years 1956-83.

In other words, it is in this fashion that the ‘region’ registers itself in the editorials of DH. In fact, the Daily prefers to carry the message and become the medium for the technocratic, elite-driven economy and society.[51] The newspaper acquiesces in and acquires a self-assumed moral spark in the discharge of its responsibility of imagining the region.

Space, Ideology and Region

Prior to the re-organisation of states, the basis for the plurality of the nation and the composite ethos of constituent units in general and Mysore in particular lay in the competition for more resource allocation and accumulation of capital. The material basis for Kannada-Kannadiga-Karnataka far outweighed the cultural or moral basis for such a construction. The ideology of development as identified in the editorials provides the link between the abstract space and the concrete place known as Karnataka. 

Region is a socially produced space like nation. The instrumentality of the space is constantly made visible and invisible in the Daily’s imagination of region. It is pronouncedly made visible during tensions between the Central Government and the state Government or regional governments but rarely so between sub-regions. In its plea for adequate federal transfers, the daily invokes the idea of plurality but at the level of sub-regional transfers the idea of a homogenous community is largely maintained.

If space is inclusive of concrete and abstract space[52], the ideology of development and planning focused not only on modifying the physical landscape but also engineered, in the memorable phrase of Berger[53], certain ‘ways of seeing.’ It was precisely with such a framework that Nehru chose to address the building of dams and industries as ‘modern temples of India’.

Though there is an intense editorial engagement with ‘region building activities’ like Sharavathy Valley project, Vijayanagara Steel Plant or Mangalore Deep Sea Harbour, there is an absence of any sacral meanings attached to it. For DH, accumulation and productivity provide the glue for suturing the community. It seeks no further legitimizing and meta-sanctification for affirming this community.[54]

It is possible to identify chronologically and qualitatively two phases in the ideology of development, the pre-seventies and the post-seventies. In the pre-seventies, the ideology concentrated on the autonomous development of the Nation per se and the latter phase revealed a tendency towards the autonomous development of the Region. Qualitatively, in the first phase, the issue was growth and productivity, in the second phase, the issue veered towards social distribution of goods. Though the Daily empathizes with technocratic elite driven development, occasionally and significantly, it also speaks of an egalitarian order.[55] Gender specific and to some extent caste specific notions of development do not surface in the editorial discourse.

The editorials imagine Karnataka in opposition to the Maharashtrians, Telugus, Tamils and North Indians in the post-Independent scenario. The neighbors emerge as communities (or corporations) not only in the context of their capacity to bargain for better resources but also invest them productively and efficiently.

The tension between the nation and the region and sub-regions within the regions are also played out in the editorials. Though the integration of national economy with regional economy is stressed, the Daily’s emphasis has been primarily on integrating the sub-regional economies with the regional economy. From extracting iron ore in Hospet and gold in Kolar, to carting coffee from Malnad, to building steel and fertilizer plants in Bellary and Mangalore, the idea is to increase the scale of economy via integrating the sub-regional economies.

Communication infrastructure included roads for the most interior part of the region, railways to the coffee rich Malnad region, an airport for Hubli and better aircraft for Bangalore. Steel plants, fertiliser plants and power projects of both hydel and atomic energy were advocated in the Daily for the economic growth of the region.

Communication infrastructure and allocations of mainly industrial, and power projects have been implicitly perceived in the newspaper as facilitating not only capital formation but also a kind of organic solidarity based on a new division of labor. The editorials subtly work out a relationship between people, and materials that region comes to represent a domain of interdependence rather than self-expression. Increased industrialization and communication between people of the region connotes the emergence of an urban, industrial workforce and a new type of community formation, the basis of which is the nation-state or the region state.

Communication Infrastructure

The profile of a region’s career is charted through time and space or in the intermeshing of both. Communication infrastructure has the potential to sally forth or rein in the pace of a region’s career by altering the space-time relations. Development becomes a trope through which this career is essayed.  It is another name for an altered space-time relation. The co-existence of bullock cart and Boeing aircraft allows the region to survive in several space-time relations.

This section deals with DH’s concern for the career of the region through the establishment of Communication infrastructure. In other words, it is DH’s vision of a modified space-time relation or a notion of development that underlies the charting of the region’s career.[56] Two kinds of proclivities appear to surface in DH’s editorial commentary on Communication infrastructure. On the one hand, it seems to have taken up the task of lobbying for capital and state capital to be precise, in order to usher in development of the enlarged Mysore state through the construction of roads, rail roads, airports and seaports. On the other hand, it chooses to address the problem of welding the newly added areas into the old Mysore state by maximizing density of communication between various people within the region.

DH tends to perceive a possibility of effectively constituting a subject across the sub-regions for the newly formed state with better communication and transport infrastructure. Like a national railway transport in some manner facilitating the production of a national subject, the Daily indirectly seems to suggest that a well-knit regional transport may contribute towards catalyzing a regional subject. It had to implicitly take the task of imagining an economy as well as imagining a regional community.  Communication infrastructure, as a necessary ingredient of a development logic, assumes such an important place in the editorials because it is suggestive of a site where both these, capital and community can be addressed. 

In some received understandings of the conceptual categories capital and community, they are arraigned as contradictory elements.  Capital, as per these conceptions, stands for individual good, where as community stands for public good.  Also, the public good and the individual good are considered to be antagonistic towards each other.  These core categories seem to inform implicitly the self-understanding of the regional newspaper. In its estimate there seems to be no apparent contradiction between these categories. DH premises development to be a category that enjoins both capital and community.

It seems to suggest that investment on communication infrastructure is a necessary condition for enhancing both the material and cultural life of the region. The Daily appears to see a possibility in the forging of a sense of ‘region-ness’ with the laying of roads and railways across the region. More importantly, it perceives that adequate infrastructure provides an opportunity for state investors or private investors to build a material edifice in the form of an industrial and agricultural base for the region.  

The editorials give an impression that the Mysore state that was created in 1956 had large areas that were inhospitable to the movement of capital or people. Since the economic development appears to form the character and content of the Mysore region, its thrust on one of its important constitutive elements, namely its communication infrastructure (like the laying of roads, railways, seaports and airports) is understandable. As the capital for investing in this sector seems unavailable within the region, the editorials argue for bringing pressure on the Central authorities in order to make them respond to the communication needs of the region. 

DH seems to be acutely aware of a continuing situation like “in the eyes of the rail ministry, Mysore doesn’t exist at all”.[57] In the case of formulation of policy on air traffic, the Daily argued thus: “What seems singularly absent at the level of policy formulation is what may be called a sense of regional justice, let alone one of imagination”.[58] Extending this logic, the regional daily appears perturbed with the economic stagnation of the region; a distasteful consequence arising from “the calculated and prolonged neglect” of its communication requirements.[59]

DH considers that the continued indifference of the Centre towards investing in the transport infrastructure of the region has resulted in “industrial possibilities” remaining untapped.[60] The Daily complains that the repeated demands of the commercial community as well as the public of the state seem to have had occasioned no particular effect on the policy makers.

Notwithstanding the fact that a few railway ministers like Hanumanthaiya, Dassappa and T.A Pai hailed from this region, the Daily seems to think that the lack of railway facilities in the region were due to the lackluster, dismal performance of the Mysore “state’s representatives in Parliament”.[61] Since the members signally failed to bring pressure on the authorities, the newspaper presumes that the state has been subjected to a raw deal from the centre. The usage ‘raw deal’ has been repeatedly employed in the editorials of the newspaper.

As stated earlier, with increased transport, DH seemingly understands that the density of communication between regions and within a region tends to grow and this contributes to the formation of both capital and community. In this connection, it traces the history of railways in the Princely State of Mysore and the transfer of the railway assets to the Union of India on its accession. After Independence, the Indian Union amalgamated the railway property of the Princely Mysore State into Indian Railways. The daily informs that this acquisition included buildings and land along with “Rs. 36 crores earmarked for railway development in old Mysore”.[62] In the 1960s, DH notes the remarks made by the Mysore representative in the Parliament, Mr. Mohammed Imam that “after twelve years not an inch of line has been laid’’ and the incomplete rail lines that had started  “before integration” in the old Mysore State was still “awaiting completion”.[63] 

The newspaper reminds the reader that the demand for extension of line from Chamarajnagar to Satyamangalam “had often been voiced by the people’s representatives even during the days of the Mysore Representative Assembly”.[64] But goes on to suggest that due to the limited political space available in the erstwhile autocracy, the matter was left to hang in the air. The irony is hyped up by the deliberate recall of this history in the sense that DH wants to suggest that nothing much has changed with Mysore’s shift from benevolent autocracy to mass democracy. Though DH usually allies positively to the history of the Princely State of Mysore, this selective recall of a not so pleasant memory deflates the generally benign picture of the Old Mysore State that is otherwise invoked in the editorials.   

The editorials frame the sub-region in terms of possession of communication and transport infrastructure. Its lack of transport facility is contrasted with the sub regions, which are rich in natural resources. For instance, the mineral rich but transport poor region of North Karnataka, its acquisition of 200 miles long coastal line along the Arabian Sea after the Re-organisation of States without modern port facilities, the cash crop rich Malnad region with rail access to the coast etc. The daily assumes that this lacuna constituted a serious infraction to the economic development of the region.

For DH, this communication infrastructure of railways, highways, airports and seaports required the support of the Central Government. The Daily grudges that Mysore state’s claims for better transport facilities were inadequately grasped and insufficiently addressed by the Central Government. Much to the dismay of Mysore, less deserving places in the North (Jagjivan Ram’s – Bihar) seem to have been chosen for more infrastructure investments.[65]

For DH, the “compact North Karnataka” being historically “parcelled out to various administrations” seem to have become worthy of “attention” only with the arrival of the enlarged Mysore State.[66] Building of highways and railways being the responsibility of the Central Government, the Daily demands the railway ministry to “to wake up to the needs of the long neglected region”.[67] It suggests that building of the Karwar seaport and the Hubli-Karwar rail link simultaneously as very important. This prioritizing presumably was meant to facilitate the shifting of ores from Hospet and Hubli. Also, DH expected Karwar to act as a conduit between the North and South India for the transport of petrol and coal, which were otherwise carried in a circuitous route raising the cost of freight. When in 1964, “railway ministry’s the hare brained busy bodies” stated that “there was no justification for Hubli-Karwar rail line” the Daily felt that it led to “bitter disappointment to the public of this State”.[68]

For the Daily, the need to lay the 90 miles railway line between Hassan and Mangalore for providing an outlet to the Malnad’s dollar earning products appears as a “self-evident need”.[69] While attributing shamelessness to the denial expressed by the railway minister Jagjivan Ram towards the laying of the Hassan-Mangalore Project, it notes with disappointment the minister’s glee “over the extension of the broad gauge line in some obscure region in his own state.”[70] It posts a warning by cautioning that such a policy of open discrimination militates against a scheme of “rational development”.

DH is quite certain that Bangalore, the capital city of Mysore and Karnataka need to become the node of communication both within the state and outside the state. It   supported the idea of a trunk route to be laid connecting Bangalore with Trivandrum, Hyderabad, Nagpur and Bombay. It also perceived a need to have a direct broad gauge connection between Mangalore and Bangalore and conversion of meter gauge to broad gauge in the Bangalore-Pune and Bangalore-Mysore line. The “introduction of Viscount is urgently called for” in the Bangalore-Bombay sector to cater to the swelling volume of air traffic.[71]

The language of needs and neglect seems to capture the newspaper’s thinking on ‘transport infrastructure’ for the region. Besides, there is a less obvious construction of the hierarchy of needs. The editorials make a distinction between Malnad’s transport requirements and North Karnataka’s transport requirements. Malnad is associated with affluence and therefore it is looking forward to a more opulent future. In contrast, North Karnataka is associated with destitution and the infusion of transport requirements may help the region in attending to its basic needs. Hence, DH does not unduly bother with the fact that the implications for the apparently similar demand hold out different possibilities for the various sub regions.

This actually exposes the editorial’s contradictions in its recurring demands for development.  While the editorials loudly protest against the discrimination in the allocation of resources between North and South India as well as Karnataka and its other Southern neighbours, DH seems to approve of some kind of discrimination within the region.  In fact, it advocates differential treatment of various sub-regions within the State of Karnataka.  Therefore it is possible to read this, as a lack of moral compunction on the part of DH to hierarchize differentially the development needs of the various sub-regions within the Mysore State. 

Also, the editorials seem to promote unabashedly Bangalore as a nodal center, which reaches out to important places within the state and outside the state. Perhaps, this preferential attitude towards Bangalore stems from the newspaper and its readers being largely located in Bangalore. Also, being an English newspaper, it is likely that it arrogates itself the power to decide for the people of the state. While it points out the discriminations that Mysore State experiences with regard to other States, it is not sensitive to differential treatment of sub regions with regard to investment in the area of communication and transport infrastructure.  When it discusses the Railway Minister, Mr. Jaffer Sharief’s move to make Bangalore, a railway zone, there appears to be a no other sub-regional aspirants within the state.[72]  

Old Mysore region and North Karnataka are implicitly recognized in the text as dissimilar spaces and as existing in different times.  Bangalore is constructed as a distinct city with special wants and care. Even in Bangalore a certain section is sharply foregrounded.  It is the dramatization of this section’s problems, which gets expressed in the Daily’s anguish when it lavishes editorial space for the problems of the 40 passengers flying to Bombay.  Associating Bangalore with airports and North Karnataka with bare minimum roads suggests that DH is seeking to establish a linkage between particular spaces with particular notions of time. To repeat, this differential notion of time is established through the demand for roads, rail links and airports. 

These are not just abstract notions of time and space, but a way of trying to frame particular people through this rhetoric. Even while the paper claims that it stands for the entire region, it is also at the same time engaged in fragmenting the homogeneous community.  Thus, the very fact of emphasizing on the delayed time of the 40 daily passengers in the Bangalore-Bombay flight and the lack of roads in Hospet for carrying ores to ports may be perceived as DH’s effort not only to locate the different regions as existing in different times and spaces, but also to understand differently the inhabitants of these regions.

Apart from the spatialisation of the sub-regions within the region, the editorials spatialize the nation also. It constructs North India as ‘pampered’ and South India as ‘neglected’. The supposed neglect of the region is treated as synonymous with the neglect of the South in general. The condescending attitude of the Centre towards the South is frowned upon not just because of the inherent injustice of it.  It is also because the North, in the imagination of the newspaper, appears a little too distant from contemporary times. It seems to suggest that when the South is more ready to take on development projects including communication infrastructure, it makes little sense to invest in a rail project in some “obscure region” of Bihar, which incidentally happens to be the constituency of the rail minister Jagjivan Ram.

The editorials tend to fragment the regional community into commercial community, political class, an abstract citizen commuter and a public. The demands of the commercial community for ports, highways and railways are construed as genuine.  The editorials seem to prioritize the commercial community, plantation owners, and air travelers over the rest of the constituency. The political class, which is constructed as negotiators with the centre is consistently chastised for its lack of bargaining skills. It seeks to highlight the inability of the Mysore representatives to pressurize the central authorities. This inability is attributed to the tactlessness of the members of Parliament belonging to the state. In this context, DH makes a distinction between Janata rule and the Congress regime.  In an editorial drawing reference to Janata rule, it avers “some of the long awaited Karnataka (rail) projects deserve to be given the attention due to them by the Janata Government”. 

With the abstract “citizen” standing for the educated middle class fast becoming more mobile, the editorials argue for easier and faster passenger traffic facilities.   In DH’s style of reasoning the boundaries of the region appear to be constantly shifting. While the deprived citizen that it refers to suggests the national citizen, its focus appears to be mainly on the entitlements of the denizens of the region. In its early editorials, it specifies the commercial class as belonging to South India and in its later editorials, it specifies them, as belonging to Mysore .The political class that it cites are representatives of both region and nation as well. In this manner, DH tends to innovate a porous boundary for the region. While communication infrastructure determines spatial and temporal boundaries, it seems to offer ways to resist these boundaries too.


In this intervention an attempt has been made to delineate both a conceptual description and a narrative strategy to plot the post-colonial region. The category ‘region-state’ has been proposed to understand the reproduction of the category post-colonial ‘region’. In the initial decades after independence, the region-state through its material and symbolic practices articulates the community and the economy.   The empirical study demonstrates the meaning of communication infrastructure for consecrating a community. In the process, the tension between Karnataka and the center, other regions including the sub-regions is being played out. In the process, the editorials reveal a heterogeneous field of power relations both within and outside the region.


Read Part I Here


43. See region, politics and culture

44. In the nineteen seventies scholars like Amal Ray SEE DISSERTATION

45. Ashis Nandy in an important critique in this stream of thinking. See “Intimate Enemy”

46. Benedict Anderson has demonstrated that cognitively nation as a concept is hollow and empty. It is not clear whether region needs to be understood in a like manner. Region seems to give the impression that it is more grounded in terms of language, territory and historical memory. Again, region as a political form is the least understood in Indian Social Science academia. Presently, there are numerous efforts underway. 

47. see dissertation for positivist, Marxist and post-structuralist approaches

48. John Harris Politicizing Development The World Bank and Social Capital LeftWord Delhi 2002:4

49. Ibid

50. The strong presence of Jainas (in the eleventh and twelfth) century and their practice of a kind of protestant ethic, Basava (in the twelfth and thirteenth century) and his attitude towards work and dignity of labor, Tippu’s contribution to the building of a strong modern state, all are suggestive of an ethos wherein the organisation of members of a society is made (at least theoretically) possible on non-ascriptive basis.

51.The discipline of Development Communication in its initial intellectual journey viewed the role of media as one of providing a conduit for purveying exogenously constructed messages to non-Western audiences. Unlike the contemporary anti-modernity critique, this study assumes modernity is corrigible and it is irreversible.  This idea is developed in Javeed Alam’s interesting book  India Living With  Modernity. 1999 

52. The idea of abstract space and concrete place has been borrowed from Focualt’s notion of Heterotopia. Satish Deshpande applies this idea ingenuously in the Indian context. See his, Hegemonic Spatial Strategies: The Nation-Space and Hindu Communalism in Twentieth- Century India in the journal Public Culture

53. John Berger, Ways of Seeing, 1990

54. ibid

55. HariKumar, who took over as the Managing Editor in the mid seventies was publicly sympathetic to issues concerning the marginalized. But even as early as 1951, the U.S information Agency had classified DH as a “Communist Front” See T.J.S .George, Joseph Pothen’s India : A Biography  

56. “What Marxists saw as the rise of imperialism via the internationalization of finance capital, the critical social scientists began to interpret as the time lagged diffusion of development (as capitalist modernity) to the undeveloped, traditional, not yet fully modernized parts of the world.  See Edward Soja’s Postmodern Geographies:The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory.

57. DH April 2, 1963

58. DH April 2, 1963

59. DH March 4, 1960

60. DH April 2, 1963

61. DH March 17, 1977

62. DH May 6, 1959

63. DH March 4, 1960

64. DH November 15, 1973

65. DH May 6, 1959

66. DH October 19, 1959

67. Ibid

68. DH October 21, 1964

69. DH May 6, 1959

70. Ibid

71. DH April 2,1963

72 DH April 18,1981 


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P. Thirumal is faculty at Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad.