A Forgotten Precursor To The Rushdie Affair, The Telegraph [Saturday, October 14th, 2017]

In the winter of 1988-9, there occurred what became known as the ‘Rushdie Affair’. Salman Rushdie had just published his novel The Satanic Verses, which orthodox Muslims denounced as having defamed the image of Prophet Muhammad. In Iran, the fundamentalist cleric Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa on the writer’s life. In the country of Rushdie’s [...]

 
 
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  When JRD Tata Called For a Strong Opposition, Hindustan Times [Monday, September 25th, 2017]

On 15th May 1961, the politician C. Rajagopalachari wrote to the industrialist J. R. D. Tata, asking him to support the newly formed Swatantra Party. A patriot of impeccable pedigree, ‘Rajaji’ had started Swatantra to provide effective opposition to the ruling Congress party, which he saw as insensitive to economic and political realities, and dominated [...]

 
 
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  Anti-Intellectualism In American And Indian Life, The Telegraph [Saturday, September 16th, 2017]

Books set in other countries and published at other times can sometimes be strikingly relevant to India today. This is certainly the case with Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, published in 1963. I first read this book as a doctoral student thirty years ago, and re-read it recently. As a professor at one of [...]

 
 
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  The Struggles Of A Muslim Modernizer, The Telegraph [Saturday, July 8th, 2017]

In different but complementary ways, the debate on triple talaq, and the debate on cow slaughter, both demonstrate the medievalist mindset of modern India. Why, when even the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has abolished the pernicious practice of triple talaq, has India not done so? Largely because the leadership of Indian Muslims is in the [...]

 
 
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  Why This Revival Of Hindu Chauvinism?, Hindustan Times [Sunday, July 2nd, 2017]

Some years ago, I was at a literary meeting in Bhubaneshwar. Odia had just been declared the sixth classical language in India, after Tamil, Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. My scholarly hosts were naturally delighted; one taking particular pleasure in imagining how President Pranab Mukherjee felt when he signed the relevant file, since his mother [...]

 
 
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  The Rise And Fall Of The Term ‘Harijan’, The Telegraph [Saturday, June 10th, 2017]

In his 1984 book The Untouchable as Himself, the anthropologist R. S. Khare speaks of the derision with which Dalits viewed the term ‘Harijan’, popularized by Mahatma Gandhi. Khare quotes a Chamar reformer in Lucknow as telling him: ‘Harijan means what we can never be allowed to become by the caste Hindu, and what we [...]

 
 
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  What Champaran Meant To Gandhi, The Telegraph [Saturday, April 15th, 2017]

A hundred years ago this week, Mohandas K. Gandhi arrived in the district of Champaran in north Bihar. He spent several months in the district, studying the problems of the peasantry, who had been forced by European planters to cultivate indigo against their will. Farmers who refused to meet this obligation had their land confiscated. [...]

 
 
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  The Resource That Will Determine Our Future, Hindustan Times [Sunday, March 26th, 2017]

The ecologist Jayanta Bandyopadhyay once wrote that water, not oil, was the resource whose availability and quality would determine India’s future. I recalled that remark when reading a report recently submitted to the Government of India, entitled, A 21st Century Institutional Architecture for India’s Water Reforms. Rigorously researched and closely agued, this report displays a [...]

 
 
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  The Political Career Of Sonia Gandhi, The Telegraph [Saturday, March 18th, 2017]

A line often quoted by columnists, and attributed to the British politician and writer Enoch Powell is this: ‘All political lives end in failure’. The full form of the quote reads: ‘All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics [...]

 
 
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  Rediscovering One’s Land, The Telegraph [Saturday, February 4th, 2017]

On the second day of 2017, I drove from the colonial hill station of Coonoor to the great old port city of Kochi. Thus began a month of almost continuous travel, in which I took many flights, but also spent long stretches on the road, seeing the land from up on high and from  the [...]

 
 
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