/History

History reproduces columns that analyse interesting or important events and controversies of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Cities That Shaped Gandhi


The Cities That Gandhi Shaped

Mahatma Gandhi famously claimed that ‘India lives in her villages’. The focus of his political and social work, and his philosophical writings, was that India was essentially an agrarian civilization, and that it must remain that way. In fact, India had always lived in her towns too. Our epics spoke of the fabled cities of Ayodhya [...]

Gandhi and The RSS: The Historical Record


The Telegraph

This column appears days before the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. That anniversary shall be observed at a time when a former pracharark of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh is the country’s Prime Minister, and when the RSS exercises a hegemonic hold over our political and social life. On 2nd October, nice things will be said [...]

By |2019-10-17T01:30:22+00:00September 28th, 2019|Categories: History, Politics and Current Affairs|Tags: , , , |

Jallianwala Bagh In Memory And History


The Telegraph

On 13th April 1919—exactly a hundred years ago—a British Brigadier-General named Reginald Dyer ordered his troops to fire on a crowd gathered in a place called Jallianwala Bagh, not far from the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Close to five hundred people were killed in the firing. Folklore has magnified the figure to a thousand, and more. [...]

In Praise Of the Dalai Lama


The Telegraph

In the last week of March 1959—exactly sixty years ago—the Dalai Lama fled to India, after a rebellion by his fellow Tibetans had been brutally crushed by the Chinese military. He entered what is now Arunachal Pradesh, and was then known as the North East Frontier Agency. He was riding a yak, and suffering from acute [...]

Dr Martin Luther King’s Dalit Correspondence


Hindustan Times

In February 1959, Dr Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta arrived in India on a three week visit. The American civil rights leader’s pilgrimage to the land of Gandhi has been extensively written about. However, while working in the papers of Dr King at Boston University, I found a fascinating footnote that deserves rehabilitation. Among [...]

By |2019-05-30T07:12:56+00:00March 10th, 2019|Categories: History|Tags: , , , |

When The State Took A Poet To The People


The Telegraph

In some Western countries, copyright to an author’s work lapses seventy-five years after his or her death. In India, the time period is slightly shorter; sixty years. Thus, until 2001 the copyright in Rabindranath Tagore’s writings vested with Santiniketan; till 2008, it was Navajivan Press which controlled access to Mahatma Gandhi’s oeuvre. The copyright in [...]

Three Things Karl Marx Got Mostly Right


Hindustan Times

In the course of doing two degrees in economics I was taught to regard Karl Marx as, in the words of the Nobel Laureate Paul Samuelson, a ‘minor post-Ricardian’. His labour theory of value was rejected by my teachers; and his predictions about the immiserization of the proletariat and the imminent death of capitalism appeared [...]

A Forgotten Precursor To The Rushdie Affair


The Telegraph

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 birth, [...]

When JRD Tata Called For a Strong Opposition


Hindustan Times

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 by [...]

By |2017-11-10T17:25:08+00:00September 25th, 2017|Categories: History, Politics and Current Affairs|Tags: , , , , |

The Struggles Of A Muslim Modernizer


The Telegraph

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 hands [...]