Nehru The Spiritualist, The Telegraph [Saturday, November 15th, 2014]

In an important essay published some years ago, Sunil Khilnani argued that ‘Nehru was a politician without religious faith, but in possession of the deepest moral sense. He tried to develop a morality without the fall-back of religion, and while having to act under the compulsions of wielding power.’ That Nehru was sceptical of religion [...]

 
 
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  Nehru and Patel, Hindustan Times [Sunday, October 12th, 2014]

The best biography of Vallabhbhai Patel was written by Rajmohan Gandhi. Based on full access to Patel’s own papers, it is a rich account of his life and struggles, set against the context of the historical forces which shaped them. Rajmohan Gandhi’s Patel: A Life, was first published in March 1991. The preface, written in [...]

 
 
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  Paranoia and Triumphalism, The Telegraph [Saturday, July 12th, 2014]

In his recent book, History in the Making, J. H. Elliot makes an interesting distinction between two different kinds of nationalist ideologies. On the one hand, there is the ‘chosen nation’ syndrome, where a country is said to have special ‘spiritual, biological, [or] racial’ characteristics’ that shall make it dominant in global affairs. On the [...]

 
 
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  Our Best and Worst Prime Ministers, The Telegraph [Saturday, January 11th, 2014]

In his recent press conference, Dr Manmohan Singh said he would leave it to history and historians to judge his tenure as Prime Minister. This column provides an interim verdict, by assessing his record against that of other men and women who have held the post. Let’s begin with our first and longest-serving Prime Miister. [...]

 
 
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  Historians and Newspapers, The Telegraph [Saturday, December 28th, 2013]

For a very long time, historians of modern India relied largely on government records—printed as well as unpublished. Files of different departments, deposited in state and national archives, were the staple source for the writing of dissertations, research papers, and monographs. Some historians innovatively tapped the private papers of politicians and social reformers; others reached [...]

 
 
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  Gandhi’s English Housemates, The Independent [Saturday, October 26th, 2013]

In April 1931, Mohandas K. Gandhi attended an inter-faith meeting in Bombay. He had just been released from one of his many terms in prison. Now, while listening to Christian hymns and Sanskrit slokas, he had as his companions the Admiral’s daughter Madeleine Slade (known in India as Mirabehn) and the Oxford scholar Verrier Elwin. [...]

 
 
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  Some African Gandhians, The Telegraph [Saturday, October 5th, 2013]

I have been reading the memoirs of the Kenyan novelist Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. Here Ngugi writes of how, as a little boy in the 1940s, he saw pictures of a mysterious bespectacled man in the shop of an Indian merchant near his village. A schoolteacher told Ngugi of who that man was and what he [...]

 
 
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  Politicians and Pluralism, The Telegraph [Saturday, September 7th, 2013]

Indian pluralism was always hard won. The riots during Partition produced an enormous sense of insecurity among India’s minorities. Mahatma Gandhi’s death, by creating a sense of shock and outrage, allowed Jawaharlal Nehru’s Government to isolate extremist Hindus, and bring the mainstream towards a more moderate, inclusive, plural sense of what it meant to be [...]

 
 
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  Appreciating Nehru, The Hindu [Tuesday, November 13th, 2012]

The most admired human being on the planet may be a one-time boxer named Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. To spend three decades in prison fighting racial oppression, and then guide and oversee the peaceful transition to a multi-racial democracy, surely ranks as the greatest personal achievement since the end of the Second World War. For the [...]

 
 
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  Jinnah Reassessed, The Telegraph [Saturday, December 17th, 2011]

(17 Dec 2011) It was on a pavement near Bombay’s Flora Fountain, some fifteen years ago, that I discovered Hamid Dalwai. On the hard dark stone the title of his book leapt out for attention: Muslim Politics in India. I bought it (for something like twenty rupees), and took it home to Bangalore. I have [...]

 
 
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