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


The Hindu

In the first week of February 2002, I got a call from the writer Mahasweta Devi. I had met Mahasweta only once—in a boarding house in Delhi where we both happened to be staying—but knew, of course, a great deal about her. I had not read her novels—I don’t read much fiction—but had been profoundly moved [...]

By |2011-11-08T17:43:16+00:00January 29th, 2006|Categories: History|


The Hindu

A book I cherish greatly, and which I bought in the great Sunday book bazaar in Delhi’s Daryaganj—since closed by a philistine police force—is a 75th birthday tribute to Mahatma Gandhi. Four hundred pages long, beautifully bound and printed (at the Karnatak Printing Press, Bombay—also probably by now a victim of history), it assembles essays by [...]

By |2011-10-07T20:42:10+00:00October 23rd, 2005|Categories: History|


The Hindu

The wives of the Ieading Indian nationalists lie shrouded in obscurity. Tagore, Nehru, Patel, Rajagopalachari, Bose, Ambedkar—in the meticulous documentation of their careers, their spouses figure scarcely at all. One reason is that in most cases the wives died early; another, that even while they lived the wives were expected to stay out of sight. The [...]

By |2011-10-07T20:41:34+00:00October 9th, 2005|Categories: History|


The Hindu

In April 1919, a group of soldiers led by a man named Dyer fired at a crowd of unarmed Indians at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. Speaking in the House of Commons, Winston Churchill described this as ‘a monstrous event’, a ‘great slaughter or massacre upon a particular crowd of people, with the intention of terrorising [...]


The Hindu

This week forty-one years ago, I was hustled out of my school in the (then) little hill town of Dehradun to watch a helicopter land. In that age and place, vehicles that flew were rare in any case. This one was made more special by its principal passenger, who was Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India. [...]

By |2011-11-18T10:19:54+00:00May 22nd, 2005|Categories: History|Tags: , , |


The Hindu

I first visited Punjab in the summer of 1973, to play a cricket match in Patiala. Later that same year occurred an event of some significance in the history of Punjab and India. In October 1973 the Working Committee of the Shiromani Akali Dal met at the great gurdwara in Anandpur Sahib, and asked the Government [...]


The Hindu

On 30th January 1948, Mahatma Gandhi was murdered by a right-wing fanatic named Nathuram Godse. The act shamed most Indians—but not all. For there has always been a significant minority who have been on the side of Godse. At different times, the Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray and the then RSS chief Rajendra Singh have praised [...]


The Hindu

‘[Karnataka state BJP president Ananth] Kumar said Gujarat BJP unit president Rajendra Singh Rana will hand over the original national Tricolour to Uma [Bharti]. This flag was first hoisted by the great freedom fighter Madam Cama at the International Socialists Conference held at Stutgert (sic) in Germany in 1903. As Rana’s forefathers were freedom fighters, Madam [...]


The Hindu

Three men did most to make Hinduism a modern faith. Of these the first was not recognized as a Hindu by the Shankaracharyas; the second was not recognized as a Hindu by himself; the third was born a Hindu but made certain he would not die as one. These three great reformers were Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal [...]


The Hindu

There is a wonderful book waiting to be written about Western representations of India in the twentieth century. Before and after Independence, the sub-continent attracted an array of foreign writers determined to dig up the ‘truth about India’. Many came to report on Gandhi’s struggle for freedom. If they were socialist, they tended to celebrate it; [...]