Ramachandra Guha's Blog

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 • 14 views

July 12, 2014

In his recent book, History in the Making, J. H. Elliot makes an interesting distinction between two different kinds of nationalist ideologies. On the one hand, there is the ‘chosen nation’ syndrome, where a country is said to have special ‘spiritual, biological, [or] racial’ characteristics’ that shall make it dominant in global affairs. On the other hand, there is the ‘victim nation’ syndrome, where a poor or defeated country tends to attribute its ‘misfortunes to others and to ignore or di...

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Published on July 12, 2014 02:25 • 5 views

June 28, 2014

In forty years of watching international cricket, one of the absolute highlights was an innings I saw by the stocky Sri Lankan Duleep Mendis. This was at Delhi’s Ferozeshah Kotla ground, in the first week of November 1975. Sri Lanka, who had not yet been awarded Test status, were touring India, and playing the North Zone in preparation for the unofficial ‘Tests’ to follow.


Mendis’s father was a cricket fan, naming his son after K. S. Duleepsinhji, nephew of the immortal Ranji. Duleep, who—like...

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Published on June 28, 2014 02:18 • 3 views

June 14, 2014

It was the late D. R. Nagaraj who first told me about Siddalingaiah’s autobiography. We were at Koshy’s Parade’s Café in Bangalore, nursing our respective drinks (rum in his case, coffee in mine), when I said that Indian autobiographies, even the best ones, tended to be too serious. One couldn’t remember a single joke or witticism in the memoirs by, among others, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Nirad C. Chaudhuri. Other Indian self-testimonies I had read—by scientists, civil servants, a...

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Published on June 14, 2014 05:58 • 58 views

June 8, 2014

During the election campaign, Narendra Modi said several times that he wished Vallabhbhai Patel had become India’s first Prime Minister. In Patel’s memory, he promised to built a ‘Statue of Unity’ grander than the Statue of Liberty itself.


Mr Modi never spelt out why he admires Patel so much. I suppose it is because the Sardar was a brilliant administrator; because he was sympathetic to business; because he took a hard line on China; and finally, because if Patel had become Prime Minister, the...

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Published on June 08, 2014 05:47 • 55 views

May 16, 2014

In 1906, an Allahabad lawyer named Motilal Nehru wrote to his son Jawaharlal, then a student at Harrow: ‘I think I can without vanity say that I am the founder of the Nehru family. I look upon you, my dear son, as the man who will build upon the foundations I have laid and have the satisfaction of seeing a noble structure of renown rearing up its head to the skies.’


The words were prophetic. For close to a century, Motilal’s descendants exercised a powerful and often dominant influence on Indi...

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Published on May 16, 2014 18:37 • 147 views

January 25, 2014

Two friends recently praised me for my ‘bravery’: one when I suggested that the Congress should look beyond the dynasty; another when I called Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri stooges of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. In truth, both were rather ordinary and obvious things to say, requiring neither special knowledge nor exceptional courage. Far braver was the claim that I made some years ago in the columns of The Telegraph, to the effect that a certain Kota Shivaram Karanth was argu...

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Published on January 25, 2014 08:13 • 159 views

January 11, 2014

In his recent press conference, Dr Manmohan Singh said he would leave it to history and historians to judge his tenure as Prime Minister. This column provides an interim verdict, by assessing his record against that of other men and women who have held the post.


Let’s begin with our first and longest-serving Prime Miister. Jawaharlal Nehru’s time in office falls neatly into three segments: 1947-52, 1952-7, 1957-64. His Government faced enormous challenges; bringing about social and religious p...

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Published on January 11, 2014 08:25 • 129 views

December 28, 2013

For a very long time, historians of modern India relied largely on government records—printed as well as unpublished. Files of different departments, deposited in state and national archives, were the staple source for the writing of dissertations, research papers, and monographs. Some historians innovatively tapped the private papers of politicians and social reformers; others reached out into oral history, conducting interviews with eye-witnesses or participants in important historical even...

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Published on December 28, 2013 01:34 • 129 views

November 30, 2013

When, in September 1888, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi travelled to London to study law, he was carrying letters of introduction to four people. One was Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji, who also hailed from Kathiawar. Gandhi did not meet Ranji then, nor did the two come across each another in subsequent decades, when one became a major political leader, and the other a famous cricketer and ruler of a princely state. So far as I can tell, these two Kathiawaris did not meet face-to-face—but they did meet...

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Published on November 30, 2013 01:29 • 57 views

Ramachandra Guha's Blog

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