Social and cultural historians of South Asia have long called for additional research into the qasbah, or Islamic small town. This essay offers evidence that Bijnor qasbah, through the newspaper Madinah, hosted alternate geographies and temporalities to construct authentic protest to national trends in early twentieth-century British India. Affirming arguments that the qasbah derived significance from opposition to the large city, this essay adds nuance to existing scholarship by arguing that it was in a period of diminished distance between qasbah and city that statements of the character of alterity became more significant. Through discursive analysis of the expansion of the telegraph and railway into Bijnor qasbah, alongside newspaper conversations and state documents, this essay suggests that the timescape of Bijnor was characterized by a sewing together of past, present, and future rather than only a reverence for an idealized past. The alterity of this timescape was tied to differences in local infrastructure and institutional power, enabling distinctive social and political statements in qasbahs, that in turn could empower distinctive political, religious, and social movements. This timescape enabled one qasbah, Bijnor, to establish a claim to a future alternative to the national in South Asia through its engagement in an Urdu print public, a multivalenced literary and social space clustered around communications in the language of Urdu.

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