India Moving: A History of Migration

Author:   Tumbe, Chinmay
Publisher:   Viking Penguin
Reviewer:   Kishlay Kirti

Tumbe, Chinmay (2018), India Moving: A History of Migration, Viking Penguin, Pages: 304, ISBN: 978-0670089833

Migration is a diverse area which has attracted scholars from different field of study; with the rising importance to the field in recent times the volumes of scholarly works have increased enormously. Despite that, one may find it difficult to understand the process of migration, especially in the Indian context. The book “India Moving: A History of Migration” is for all those who want to understand the phases of migration in India. The book has plenty of information on the migration process of India. 

Chinmay Tumbe, the author of this book is a faculty of Economics in the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. He is known for his scholarly works in the field of migration. He has also contributed a chapter in Economic Survey 2016-17 of India. India Moving: A History of Migration is his first book which took ten years of research to take the shape. The foreword of the book is written by Arvind Subramanian, a well-known Indian Economist and former chief economic advisor to the government of India. 

The book covers ancient, medieval and modern Indian migration in just 304 pages. The book has six chapters that address the wide area of Indian migration from a historical perspective and explains why India is so much diverse and it concludes on the modern-day discussion of migration and development.

The first chapter focuses on India’s diversity and global migration. The chapter starts with the quote of India’s first Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru towards the diversity and cultural values of India. Then the author raises some obvious questions like- Why is India such a diverse country? Why do Indians speak so many languages, or celebrate many festivals? Accordingly, two reasons have been suggested for diversity- migration and isolation. The author has explained how the social structure and marriage migration has resulted in the Brownian motion of Indians that is in all direction. In this chapter, the author has beautifully explained the management of migration in ancient India, cases of slaves in medieval India and organized migration in modern India; while contemporary migration has been dealt with data and more sophisticated classifications.

The second chapter is titled as “The Great Indian Migration Wave”. This chapter addresses the migration from different Indian regions like Ratnagiri, Udupi, Saran, and Ganjam. These regions are presented as a key example of great migration wave. The reasons of migration are different across these regions; migration as a precaution against cyclone in Ganjam is one such example. Most of these migrations were voluntary but the case of indentured labour started in the same period. The migration wave is continuing and many of these districts are the major origin of Indian migrants.

The third chapter is about the merchants of India. In this chapter author has talked about merchant communities and their journey. Parsi communities of India are an emigrant who left Persia because of war. Globally their population has declined but they were the pioneers of trade and business in India. They were the one who promoted women for education. Similarly, Chettiar, Panjabi, Marwari, and Gujarati or Muslim merchants of India have migrated across the region and they have established networks. Gujaratis are more transnational among them while Marwari has reached every corner of India. It is said that you cannot find a village without a Marwari. The Sindhis has the origin from present-day Pakistan but today they hold a prestigious position in Indian business community, and their presence is global. One of the features of these communities is that they have circulated capitals to their community throughout the world with family and kinship network. 

Chapter four is about the Diaspora and Dreams; here author has narrated the stories of great Indian migration wave where many Indians left the country to go abroad and earn for a few years but some of them could not return. The labours, those who were sent by the British to work in the fields or other colonies, they settled there some of them died as well. All those who maintained the connection with India or Indian culture are referred to as Indian diaspora. These Diasporas can be further classified based on language and region as well. Such diaspora can be found across Asia and other parts of British colonies. The author has explained some of the stories in great details.

Chapter five is about the partitions and displacements. In this chapter, the author has addressed the partitions that took place in the Indian subcontinent. The India-Pakistan partition is referred to as the largest and most rapid migration of human history, which went through a humanitarian crisis. It resulted in both internal and external migration as people moved to occupy the vacated land. The partition of Burma in 1937 was first such case which resulted in a barrier for Indian migrants as they were against it. Partition of 1971 resulted in Bangladesh. The author has also highlighted the case of Tibet, to which every government is giving shelter in India. Apart from these cases, the author has also highlighted the case of Kashmir and other internal migration and displacement within India.

Chapter six is the final chapter of this book which address the issues related to migration and development. In this chapter, the author has highlighted the term development with migration by putting an example of Bihar and Kerala. Both these states have historical evidence of migration yet there is a great difference in their level of development. The flow of remittance is more towards the villages. In this chapter, the focus on brain drain, trafficking and other issues of modern-day migration have been mentioned.

In this book, the author has shown many aspects of Indian migration that we rarely talk or discuss. The author has used simple methodology which makes it easy for readers to understand the message of the book. Author’s way of writing is very simple which keeps the reader fully engaged throughout the reading. Although the author is an economist by training, his work is equally useful to those who look at migration from a cultural, historical or sociological perspective. Further, the references and bibliography on this diverse area are provocative to a researcher of migration and related fields. The author has presented some of the rare pictures related to India's migration journey. 

One thing that I could not found in this book was India-Nepal migration. Historically people of India have maintained the migration link with Nepal. Despite that author has not written a single paragraph about it. Author has touched many dimensions of migration within the dedicated theme of the book due to this it lags detailed information on its diverse topics.

Overall it is a great book that gives plenty of Information on Indian migration. The author has skilfully discussed the issues in six chapters and he has justified the title as he has covered so many regions of India and he has talked about various stakeholders such as people, industrialists, government etc. The book can help researchers of economics, sociology, cultural studies and historians; after reading this book they would find new areas to research upon. General audience would also find it informative and easy to understand.

Kishlay Kirti, PhD Candidate, Department of Economic Studies and Policy, Central University of South Bihar, India.

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