/History

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

The Rise And Fall Of The Term ‘Harijan’


The Telegraph

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 may [...]

What Champaran Meant To Gandhi


The Telegraph

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. Through [...]

By |2017-04-23T23:13:10+00:00April 15th, 2017|Categories: History, Biography|Tags: , , , |

When Eleven Women Of Bengal Took On Gandhi


The Telegraph

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, all [...]

By |2017-03-04T22:19:55+00:00January 7th, 2017|Categories: History, Politics and Current Affairs|Tags: , , |

The Mahatma On Medicine


The Telegraph

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 changed. [...]

Why Gandhi Would Have Been Appalled By The “Gandhi-Mandela Trophy”


The Telegraph

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 less [...]

By |2015-11-13T11:04:29+00:00October 31st, 2015|Categories: History, Culture|Tags: , , |

Why I’m Not Nostalgic For An Undivided India


Hindustan Times

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, sometimes [...]

The Only Lesson That History Can Teach Us


Hindustan Times

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 sceptical [...]

By |2015-08-25T13:19:07+00:00August 2nd, 2015|Categories: History|Tags: , |

Some Forgotten Heroes Of The Emergency


The Telegraph

As we mark the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the Emergency, we shall hear many politicians speak about their sufferings and sacrifices. L. K. Advani has already spoken, and no doubt other BJP leaders will follow. Perhaps we should remind them that Sanjay Gandhi’s wife Maneka is one of their Cabinet Ministers, while his henchman [...]

The Bose Whom Japan Still Remembers


The Telegraph

I was recently in Japan, and asked my hosts what memories remained in that country of Subhas Chandra Bose, the great Indian patriot who fought alongside the Japanese against the British and whose ashes are believed to be housed in a temple in Tokyo. They answered that Subhas Bose was familiar only to specialists in Indian [...]

How Gandhi’s Martyrdom Saved India


Hindustan Times

On the 31st of January 1948, a former Indian Civil Service officer named Malcolm Darling, then living in retirement in London, wrote in his diary: ‘Gandhi was assassinated yesterday. … Very difficult to say what will happen, but it is as if a ship has lost its keel. Further disintegration seems inevitable, and what happens to [...]