/Longer Essays

Longer Essays features a selection of Guha’s more reflective and extended articles (5,000 words or more) on history and politics.  

A Man to Match His Mountains


from the Introduction to The Chipko Movement by Shekhar Pathak

I first came across Shekhar Pathak’s name in the files of the Uttar Pradesh State Archives in Lucknow. The year was 1983, and I was working on a dissertation on the social history of forests in the Uttarakhand Himalaya. In those days the U.P. State Archives were well run; the files one ordered came to one’s [...]

Making Indian Cities Habitable – The Legacy of Patrick Geddes


India Forum

‘India lives in her villages’, said Mahatma Gandhi, and that maxim of his has been resolutely followed by Indian environmentalists. From celebrated popular struggles like the Chipko Andolan and the Narmada Bachao Andolan to quieter, more low-key work in rehabilitating village tanks and pastures, the environmental movement in India has been substantially focused on the countryside. [...]

Indira Gandhi and the Indian Emergency


The Hindu (published in June 2000 on the 25th Anniversary of the Emergency)

‘I had always believed that Mrs Gandhi had no faith in democracy, that she was by inclination and conviction a dictator. This belief has tragically turned out to be true’. Jayaprakash Narayan, prison diary, entry of 22 July 1975 ‘I have no more powers than I had before’. Indira Gandhi, in an interview with NBC, 24 [...]

By |2019-04-03T10:41:03+00:00July 11th, 2015|Categories: Politics and Current Affairs, Longer Essays|

Traveling With Tagore


Penguin Classics

Rammohan Roy was able to assimilate the ideals of Europe so completely because he was not overwhelmed by them; there was no poverty or weakness on his side. He had ground of his own on which he could take his stand and where he could secure his acquisitions. The true wealth of India was not hidden [...]

Where Are The Conservative Intellectuals in India


Caravan (March 2015)

There is a paradox at the heart of Indian public life today: that while the country has a right-wing party in power, right-wing intellectuals run thinly on the ground. This makes India an exception among the world’s established democracies. The United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany all have a long lineage of first-rate intellectuals on [...]

Wealth and Power in Modern India


New Republic

Book Review of "Capital: The Eruption of Delhi", Rana Dasgupta, Penguin Press. I The novelist and critic U. R. Ananthamurthy once said that India lives simultaneously in the twelfth and the twenty-first centuries. He might have added: and all the centuries in-between. No city better exemplifies Ananthamurthy’s maxim than the country’s capital, Delhi. The three port [...]

By |2015-01-28T22:15:28+00:00January 6th, 2015|Categories: Culture, Longer Essays|Tags: , , , |

A Nehruvian in China


Caravan

The first Chinese intellectual I knew of was named Fei Xiaotong. The year was 1980, and I was beginning a doctoral degree in sociology in Kolkata. The city was hostile to my discipline, largely because its intellectual culture was Marxist-dominated and Maoist-infested. Those who read Marxism mechanically allowed that the disciplines of history, economics, and political [...]

By |2013-07-08T12:27:10+00:00June 7th, 2013|Categories: Politics and Current Affairs, Longer Essays|Tags: , , |

Democracy and Violence: in India and Beyond


Economic and Political Weekly

In about a year’s time, the citizens of India will vote in their sixteenth General Elections. The last such exercise, held in May 2009, showcased a bewildering variety of parties and politicians. Some 700 million adults were eligible to vote; about 400 million actually voted, to choose five hundred and forty-three members of the national Parliament. [...]

By |2013-04-06T23:09:17+00:00April 6th, 2013|Categories: Politics and Current Affairs, Longer Essays|

Indians Great Greater Greatest?


The Hindu

I... Nations need heroes, but the construction of a national pantheon is rarely straightforward or uncontested. Consider the debate in the United States about which faces should adorn the national currency. The founding figures of American Independence—Jefferson, Washington, Hamilton, Madison, and Franklin—are all represented on the dollar bill, albeit on different denominations. So are the 19th [...]

A Partisan History of the Oxford University Press


Caravan Magazine

In the 1990s, I spent many weeks in what must, or at any rate should be, every Indian’s favourite city—Bombay, a city whose depth of history and richly lived (and intensely felt) cosmopolitanism is in such stark contrast to the even-tempered blandness of my own home town, Bangalore. I would go there twice a year, in [...]