Ramachandra Guha's Blog

December 6, 2014

Commissions of enquiry are often the stock-in-trade of governments to defuse crises and buy themselves time’. Thus writes the historian Gyanesh Kudaisya, in an excellent introduction to a new edition of the Report of the States Reorganization Commission, first published in 1955.


The States Reorganization Commission (hereafter SRC) was set up in response to persistent demands that colonial provincial boundaries be redrawn on the basis of language. It had three members: the jurist S. Fazl Ali,...

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Published on December 06, 2014 20:29 • 29 views

November 28, 2014

I write this on a day when the front page of the newspaper reports that a Cabinet Minister has visited Rajasthan to consult an astrologer. Meanwhile, a back page photograph in the same paper shows the most powerful man in cricket preparing to enter a famous and well endowed temple in Kerala.


The Cabinet Minister in question has recently faced criticism in the press for her (mis)handling of her Ministry. And, it seems, some criticism from her party too—once in sole charge, she now has two Minis...

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Published on November 28, 2014 20:20 • 14 views

November 15, 2014

In an important essay published some years ago, Sunil Khilnani argued that ‘Nehru was a politician without religious faith, but in possession of the deepest moral sense. He tried to develop a morality without the fall-back of religion, and while having to act under the compulsions of wielding power.’


That Nehru was sceptical of religion is widely believed. Khilnani begins his essay with a letter written by Nehru to Gandhi in 1933, where he stated: ‘Religion is not familiar ground for me, and a...

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Published on November 15, 2014 08:24 • 28 views

November 9, 2014

There is a rich literature on how the culture of modern cities has been nourished by immigrants from other countries. Books have been written on how American writers (from Ernest Hemingway and Richard Wright on to James Baldwin and Edmund White) did some of their best work in Paris. Other books explain how London was made less insular by talented individuals fleeing Hitler and Stalin—such as the writers Arthur Koestler, Sebastian Haffner, and George Mikes; the historians E. H. Gombrich and Er...

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Published on November 09, 2014 08:12 • 16 views

October 12, 2014

The best biography of Vallabhbhai Patel was written by Rajmohan Gandhi. Based on full access to Patel’s own papers, it is a rich account of his life and struggles, set against the context of the historical forces which shaped them.


Rajmohan Gandhi’s Patel: A Life, was first published in March 1991. The preface, written in April 1990, begins thus: ‘The establishment of independent India derived legitimacy and power, broadly speaking, from the exertions of three men, Gandhi, Nehru and Patel. But...

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Published on October 12, 2014 08:27 • 71 views

September 28, 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 asked. At least ninety, said my hosts, adding, most likely ninety-nine.


For at least two decades now, the BJP and its sister organizations have worked actively among Indians in North America. NRIs hav...

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Published on September 28, 2014 08:18 • 33 views

August 9, 2014

In her recent book Green Wars, the environmental journalist Bahar Dutt writes: ‘The editor of a leading media house, everytime I pitched a green story, would invariably complain: “Environmentalism is stalling growth; all I am interested in is double-digit growth for this country”’.


The idea that environmental protection and economic progress are at odds is widely held among India’s elite. It is shared by newspaper editors, economists, businessmen, and, not least, politicians. The free-market...

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Published on August 09, 2014 05:37 • 141 views

August 3, 2014

In the year 1970, Rajni Kothari published a major book with the straightforward title, Politics in India. The bulk of the book was devoted to the then dominant Congress party. Kothari argued that before and after Independence, the Congress was successful in presenting itself as the ‘authoritative spokesman of the nation as well as its affirmed agent of criticism and change’.


The reasons for Congress hegemony were several. The party was a broad church, containing many shades of opinion within i...

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Published on August 03, 2014 05:27 • 94 views

July 26, 2014

In October 1984, I got my first academic job, at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences in Kolkata (then Calcutta). A week after I joined, a friend from Chennai (then Madras) sent me a petition on the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka, which he hoped some of my colleagues would sign. The first person I asked was a senior historian of North-east India, whose work I knew but with whom I had not yet spoken. He read the petition, and said: ‘As Marxists, the question you and I should be asking is w...

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Published on July 26, 2014 05:21 • 80 views

July 20, 2014

Shortly after the Trinamool Congress came to power in West Bengal, I was invited to speak at a university convocation in that state. I flew in the day before the event, and was met at Kolkata airport by the university’s Registrar. A three hour drive to our destination followed. I was then taken on a tour of the campus, concluding with a visit to the auditorium where the convocation was to be held. Shortly before dinner the Registrar dropped me at the guesthouse, saying he would pick me up at...

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Published on July 20, 2014 02:39 • 152 views

Ramachandra Guha's Blog

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