/Politics and Current Affairs

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

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 [...]

The Struggles Of A Muslim Modernizer


The Telegraph

In different but complementary ways, the debate on triple talaq, and the debate on cow slaughter, both demonstrate the medievalist mindset of modern India. Why, when even the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has abolished the pernicious practice of triple talaq, has India not done so? Largely because the leadership of Indian Muslims is in the hands [...]

Why This Revival Of Hindu Chauvinism?


Hindustan Times

Some years ago, I was at a literary meeting in Bhubaneshwar. Odia had just been declared the sixth classical language in India, after Tamil, Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. My scholarly hosts were naturally delighted; one taking particular pleasure in imagining how President Pranab Mukherjee felt when he signed the relevant file, since his mother tongue, [...]

The Resource That Will Determine Our Future


Hindustan Times

The ecologist Jayanta Bandyopadhyay once wrote that water, not oil, was the resource whose availability and quality would determine India’s future. I recalled that remark when reading a report recently submitted to the Government of India, entitled, A 21st Century Institutional Architecture for India’s Water Reforms. Rigorously researched and closely agued, this report displays a deep [...]

The Political Career Of Sonia Gandhi


The Telegraph

A line often quoted by columnists, and attributed to the British politician and writer Enoch Powell is this: ‘All political lives end in failure’. The full form of the quote reads: ‘All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and [...]

By |2017-04-23T22:52:18+00:00March 18th, 2017|Categories: Politics and Current Affairs|

Rediscovering One’s Land


The Telegraph

On the second day of 2017, I drove from the colonial hill station of Coonoor to the great old port city of Kochi. Thus began a month of almost continuous travel, in which I took many flights, but also spent long stretches on the road, seeing the land from up on high and from  the ground [...]

By |2017-03-04T22:25:48+00:00February 4th, 2017|Categories: Politics and Current Affairs, Culture|Tags: , , |

When Eleven Women Of Bengal Took On Gandhi


The Telegraph

While working in the archives of the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, I came across a fascinating letter to Gandhi, sent by eleven young women of Calcutta. The letter was undated, but it appeared to have been written in January 1939. It was addressed to ‘Most revered Mahatmaji’, and was signed individually by the eleven women, all [...]

By |2017-03-04T22:19:55+00:00January 7th, 2017|Categories: History, Politics and Current Affairs|Tags: , , |

Why We Must Listen To JP On Kashmir


Hindustan Times

On the 4th of October 1966—almost exactly fifty years ago—the great Indian democrat Jayaprakash Narayan spoke at a seminar on Kashmir held in New Delhi. The Valley was in turmoil; the popular leader Sheikh Abdullah was under arrest, and the State Government was widely believed to be both incompetent and corrupt. ‘JP’ began his talk by [...]