/History

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

Historians and Newspapers, The Telegraph

For a very long time, historians of modern India relied largely on government records—printed as well as unpublished.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 out [...]

Gandhi’s English Housemates, The Independent

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. Thus, [...]

By |2013-10-31T09:24:02+00:00October 26th, 2013|Categories: History, Biography|Tags: , , |

Some African Gandhians, The Telegraph

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 meant [...]

Politicians and Pluralism, The Telegraph

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 Indian. [...]

By |2013-09-20T09:41:15+00:00September 7th, 2013|Categories: History, Politics and Current Affairs|Tags: , , |

Appreciating Nehru, The Hindu

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 capaciousness [...]

Jinnah Reassessed, The Telegraph

(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 since [...]

By |2012-01-17T10:43:48+00:00December 17th, 2011|Categories: History|Tags: |

HISTORY’S LESSONS, Hindustan Times

Some commentators have compared the struggle led by Anna Hazare with the movement against corruption led by Jayaprakash Narayan in the 1970s. A man of integrity and courage, a social worker who has eschewed the loaves and fishes of office, a septugenerian who has emerged out of semi-retirement to take on an unfeeling government—thus JP then, [...]

By |2011-12-28T10:29:51+00:00August 24th, 2011|Categories: History|Tags: , , , , , |

THREE COMPARISONS, The Telegraph

As the election results started coming in on Friday the 13th, and the spectacular rout of the Left Front in West Bengal became clear, my mind went back to the spring of 1977. I was a student of St. Stephen’s College in Delhi, too young to vote, but old enough to recognize the significance of the [...]

NEHRUVIAN INDIANS, The Telegraph

Some years ago, I coined the term ‘Nehruvian Indian’ to describe those who, in their professional and personal lives, ‘transcended the divisions of race and religion, caste and class, gender and geography.’ Viewed cynically, the term was a cloak and cover for my own confusions. Born in Dehradun of Tamil parents, with a Bengali name and [...]

RECONCILING GANDHI WITH AMBEDKAR, The Telegraph

Books do not change lives, but books can change the way we look at the world. As a student of economics, I was a high modernist who believed in transforming rural communities through industrialization. Concern for the poor came with a heavy dose of condescension. Those who lived outside cities had to be improved and uplifted [...]