/Politics and Current Affairs

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

CHOLBÉ NA!


The Telegraph

In Marginal Men, his fine history of refugee politics, Prafulla Chakrabarti recounts how Kolkata acquired its by now well founded reputation as a city of protests and protesters. To demand fair compensation and citizenship rights, writes Chakrabati, the leaders of the movement aimed to throw ‘regimented bands of refugees in the streets of Calcutta and to [...]

CONSCIENCE OF THE NATION


The Hindu

There are basically two kinds of autobiographies. The first kind lays bare the individual self, speaking in detail—sometimes too much detail—about the autobiographer’s life, loves, conquests and failures. The second kind seeks to subordinates the life to the times, using individual experience to illuminate wider social trends and processes. In the Indian context, Gandhi’s autobiography might [...]

A MANAGED MEDIA


The Telegraph

Being an old-fashioned kind of guy, brought up in an old-fashioned sort of home, I came to believe that the duties of a newspaper were to inform, educate, and entertain. It was about a decade ago that I first learnt that, for large sections of the English-language media, these three duties had been superseded by or [...]

THE SOCIOLOGY OF RESERVATION


The Telegraph

The announcement that reservation for OBCs is to be extended to IITs and IIMs has provoked much debate in the press. Critics say the move will undermine the functioning of these institutions by devaluing the principle of merit. Cynics add that the announcement was a consequence of the HRD Minister’s wish to outstage and embarrass the [...]

THE POLITICS OF PERSONALITY


The Telegraph

In her early years as Congress President, Sonia Gandhi was treated as a political lightweight, by her opponents and independent commentators alike. Her public persona exuded diffidence. She spoke English inadequately. Her Hindi was worse. Her command of both languages was made more imperfect by the thick Italian accent in which the words were couched (and [...]

LOVE AND HATE BEFORE THE AGE OF BUSH


The Telegraph

For most of its career as an independent nation, India has not had the happiest relations with the United States. In the words of the historian Denis Kux, these have been two ‘estranged democracies’. The causes of the estrangement were various—America’s enchantment with India’s enemy, Pakistan; India’s affection for America’s enemy, the Soviet Union; the self-righteousness [...]

A DIVIDED CITY


The Telegraph

The city I live in has two names, these captured in the title of the first chapter of Janaki Nair’s fine recent book on the city’s history: Bengaluru/Bangalore. As Nair explains, the first name refers to the older part of the city, which has had a more-or-less continuous existence since the 16th century; the second to [...]

PRIME MINISTERS AND BIG DAMS


The Hindu

Speaking to the Central Board of Irrigation and Power in November 1958, Jawaharlal Nehru deplored a ‘dangerous outlook developing in India’, which he termed the ‘disease of giganticism’. The ‘idea of doing big undertakings or doing big tasks for the sake of showing that we can do big things’, remarked Nehru, ‘is not a good outlook [...]

TWO INCHES OF FOAM


The Hindu

In the long history of Cabinet Government in India, perhaps only a handful of Ministers shall be remembered for having carried out programmes that radically reshaped the lives of their people. As Home Minister between 1947 and 1950, Vallabhbhai Patel integrated the princely states, thus altering the politics and geography of modern India. As Finance Minister [...]

VERDICTS ON PAKISTAN


The Hindu

In this column I have, from time to time, discussed forecasts about India’s future made by political commentators. This time I want to place before you two forecasts made about our great neighbour to the north-west, Pakistan. These verdicts were offered forty years apart, albeit in the same American magazine. In its issue of February 1959, [...]