/History

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

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 [...]

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: , |