History
History reproduces columns that analyse interesting or important events and controveries of the 19th and 20th centuries.
  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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  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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  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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  When Eleven Women Of Bengal Took On Gandhi, The Telegraph [Saturday, January 7th, 2017]

While working in the archives of the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, I came across a fascinating letter to Gandhi, sent by eleven young women of Calcutta. The letter was undated, but it appeared to have been written in January 1939. It was addressed to ‘Most revered Mahatmaji’, and was signed individually by the eleven women, [...]

 
 
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  The Mahatma On Medicine, The Telegraph [Saturday, May 14th, 2016]

I belong to a family of doctors trained in modern or Western medicine. Back in the 1980s, the doctors I was related to, or friends with, were all sceptical of alternative forms of health care. They had no time for homeopathy, ayurveda or acupuncture, no time even for yoga. Over the decades their attitudes have [...]

 
 
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  Why Gandhi Would Have Been Appalled By The “Gandhi-Mandela Trophy”, The Telegraph [Saturday, October 31st, 2015]

India and South Africa have just concluded a five match one-day series for the ‘Gandhi-Mandela Trophy’. Next week, they will commence the first of four Tests for a trophy carrying the same name. When, back in August, this new trophy was announced, a friend said it was a case of small men wishing to look [...]

 
 
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  Why I’m Not Nostalgic For An Undivided India, Hindustan Times [Sunday, August 16th, 2015]

Sixty-eight years is a fairly advanced age for an individual, but a small span of time in the life of a nation. This must be why, every so often, a book or article appears lamenting the Partition of India in 1947. These blame the Congress, the Muslim League, Gandhi, Jinnah, Nehru, Patel—sometimes one, sometimes several, [...]

 
 
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  The Only Lesson That History Can Teach Us, Hindustan Times [Sunday, August 2nd, 2015]

I am sometimes asked about the ‘lessons’ that history can teach us. The question presumes that the study of the past can help provide guidance for the present—and future. But is this presumption accurate? Can politicians exercise power more wisely if they are better informed about the past? The brilliant, maverick, historian A.J.P. Taylor was [...]

 
 
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