/Politics and Current Affairs

Politics and Current Affairs reproduces writings on secularism, majoritarianism, diversity, and other contentious themes in contemporary India.

Congress Lawyers Past And Present


Hindustan Times

On an April evening in the year 1917, a lawyer named Vallabhbhai Patel was playing bridge at the Gujarat Club in Ahmedabad. This was, for him, a routine affair; every day, after his work at the Bar ended, he headed straight for the card table. This evening in April 1917 was different. Earlier in the day, [...]

By |2019-03-26T14:14:42+00:00November 4th, 2018|Categories: Politics and Current Affairs|

Three World Cities


Hindustan Times

Ten years ago, in the now sadly defunct Mumbai edition of Time Out magazine, I wrote an essay arguing that there were only three properly world cities; London, New York, and Mumbai itself. They all had an extraordinary diversity of religious, ethnic and linguistic groups; all were great centres of trade, finance, and entrepreneurship; all had [...]

By |2019-03-26T14:08:01+00:00October 8th, 2018|Categories: Politics and Current Affairs|

Lessons From Kerala


Hindustan Times

I first went to Kerala in 1993, in the company of the ecologist Madhav Gadgil. We had been asked to speak at a meeting organized by that remarkable peoples’ science organization, the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad. We were received at Ernakulam Railway Station by the zoologist M. K. Prasad, a doyen of the KSSP. Despite his [...]

By |2019-03-08T07:43:01+00:00September 10th, 2018|Categories: Politics and Current Affairs|

Speaking Satire To Power


The Telegraph

Milan Kundera once spoke of the importance, for subjects of a totalitarian regime, of  ‘the struggle of memory against forgetting.’ As important, to the  citizens of a (professedly) democratic regime, is the struggle of satire against power. Rahul Gandhi has been the butt of jokes ever since he entered politics, and, more recently, Narendra Modi has [...]

Three Things Karl Marx Got Mostly Right


Hindustan Times

In the course of doing two degrees in economics I was taught to regard Karl Marx as, in the words of the Nobel Laureate Paul Samuelson, a ‘minor post-Ricardian’. His labour theory of value was rejected by my teachers; and his predictions about the immiserization of the proletariat and the imminent death of capitalism appeared [...]

Between Rectitude And Responsibility


The Telegraph

One of my closest male friends is a senior IAS officer, now retired. He belongs to a family of scholars and public servants, and has degrees from two of the world’s great universities. He has some special areas of expertise, such as education and health, and speaks four Indian languages fluently. With these skills, and without [...]

By |2018-11-04T13:37:34+00:00April 14th, 2018|Categories: Politics and Current Affairs|Tags: , , |

Choosing The Ten Greatest Indians


Hindustan Times

When, in August 2017, India marked the seventieth year of its freedom from British colonial rule, the Hindustan Times did a series of long stories on seventy of this and seventy of that: the seventy best books written since Independence, the seventy greatest sportspersons since Independence, the seventy finest films since Independence, the seventy most influential [...]

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: , , , , |

Anti-Intellectualism In American And Indian Life


The Telegraph

Books set in other countries and published at other times can sometimes be strikingly relevant to India today. This is certainly the case with Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, published in 1963. I first read this book as a doctoral student thirty years ago, and re-read it recently. As a professor at one of America’s [...]