Five Lessons For Indian Democrats, Hindustan Times [Sunday, July 3rd, 2016]

Late last year, I wrote in these columns that we were in danger of becoming an ‘elections-only democracy’. Once a party or coalition wins an Assembly or General Election, it considers itself immune from criticism for the next five years. The other instruments of democratic accountability: legislative debate, judicial oversight, a free press (and free [...]

 
 
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  The Press In India: Somewhere Between Free and Unfree [Saturday, May 28th, 2016]

In the first half of 1988, I was doing research in Uttarakhand, when news came of the murder of a brave young journalist from the region. His name was Umesh Dobhal, and he had published a series of articles exposing the link between the liqour mafia, the police and excise departments, and local politicians. He [...]

 
 
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  An Opposition to Despair Of, The Telegraph [Saturday, August 8th, 2015]

I spent the last week of July in New Delhi, my first extended trip to that city since the General Elections of 2014. It was a year and two months since the Modi Government had come to power, and signs of disenchantment had set in. Scholars, executives, restaurant waiters, and security personnel all made sarcastic [...]

 
 
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  Seven Threats To Freedom Of Expression, The Telegraph [Saturday, January 24th, 2015]

India, I have long maintained, is a fifty-fifty democracy. In some respects—such as free and fair elections, free movement of people—we are as democratic as any other country in the world. In other respects we lag noticeably behind. One such area is the freedom of expression. The first threat to freedom of expression is the [...]

 
 
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  How Congress Lost the Diaspora, Hindustan Times [Sunday, September 28th, 2014]

In April this year I was in Houston, which has a large Indian community. I had dinner with a group of NRIs, and we spoke about the 16th General Elections. I was told a hundred college students and professionals from Houston had gone to India to campaign. How many for the Bharatiya Janata Party, I [...]

 
 
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  Politicians and Pluralism, The Telegraph [Saturday, September 7th, 2013]

Indian pluralism was always hard won. The riots during Partition produced an enormous sense of insecurity among India’s minorities. Mahatma Gandhi’s death, by creating a sense of shock and outrage, allowed Jawaharlal Nehru’s Government to isolate extremist Hindus, and bring the mainstream towards a more moderate, inclusive, plural sense of what it meant to be [...]

 
 
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  The Poison of Partisanship, The Telegraph [Saturday, June 29th, 2013]

Earlier this year, I was discussing partisanship in Indian politics with a friend from Bangalore temporarily based in Boston. In no other democracy, I suggested, did the two major parties use such vile language about one another. When the Government of India chose to allow foreign direct investment in the retail sector, the Chief Minister [...]

 
 
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  The Continuing Tragedy of the Adivasis, The Hindu [Monday, May 27th, 2013]

In the summer of 2006, I had a long conversation with Mahendra Karma, the Chhattisgarh Congress leader who was killed in a terror attack by the Naxalites last week. I was not alone—with me were five other members of a citizens’ group studying the tragic fallout of the civil war in the state’s Dantewada district. [...]

 
 
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  The Man Who Would Rule India, The Hindu [Friday, February 8th, 2013]

A journalist who recently interviewed Narendra Modi reported their conversation as follows: ‘Gujarat, he told me, merely has a seafront. It has no raw materials—no iron ore for steel, no coal for power and no diamond mines. Yet it has made huge strides in these fields. Imagine, he added, if we had the natural resources [...]

 
 
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  Appreciating Nehru, The Hindu [Tuesday, November 13th, 2012]

The most admired human being on the planet may be a one-time boxer named Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. To spend three decades in prison fighting racial oppression, and then guide and oversee the peaceful transition to a multi-racial democracy, surely ranks as the greatest personal achievement since the end of the Second World War. For the [...]

 
 
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