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Volume 46 Number 9 September 2022
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The persistent under-representation of the Indian Muslim in the legislative arena has been a longstanding feature of Indian politics. The community comprises 14 percent of the population, and their average representation in the Lok Sabha, for instance, stands at 5 percent. This is same as their representation in the Lok Sabha after the last parliamentary elections in 2019. Therefore, it would not be wrong to argue that the Muslim under-representation in the legislative arena, and the fact that the community also lags behind on almost all socio-economic indicators, is not a recent trend but a longstanding feature in Indian politics


Editorial

Niraja Gopal Jayal

Citizenship Imperilled: India’s Fragile Democracy by Professor Niraja Gopal Jayal unravels the complex and contested layers of the theory and practice of citizenship in independent India. The underlying query of the book is whether the constitutional ethic of Indian citizenship as an inclusive and egalitarian civic-national norm has been imperilled and ‘irretrievably undermined’ in more recent times. In response to this question, the book argues that the expansion or erosion of Indian democracy is contingent upon its citizenry.


Reviewed by: Swaha Swetambara Das

Tripurdaman Singh

Books on Jawaharlal Nehru are seldom rare—Nehru, indisputably, is a perennial favourite of publishers and authors, as can be seen in the countless books on him that relentlessly keep pouring out, year after year. In the recent past, Nehru’s views, his persona and his policies, have become a matter of intense debate, and shall I say controversy, especially with the present ruling dispensation propping him up as an ideological counterfoil to polish its grand Hindutva narrative.


Reviewed by: Syed Areesh Ahmad

Arvind Narrain

The phrase ‘undeclared emergency’ is not new to Indian political discourse. The features of the Emergency period (1975-77), imposed by the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government, have since then provided political actors and analysts alike with a framework of comparison to evaluate the state of Indian democracy.


Reviewed by: Janaki Srinivasan

Subrata K. Mitra

The legislative initiatives of the Narendra Modi government in the cases relating to CAA/NRC,  the repeal of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India and the speeches made by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, while raising plenty of heat and dust, also highlighted the significance and the reach of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the constitutional and political affairs of the country.


Reviewed by: Ajay K Mehra

Madhav Godbole

In celebrating Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, the issue most debated is federalism in its various manifestations. Because of the implicit majoritarian manifestation of the Bharatiya Janata Party, questions are being raised regarding accommodation of and tolerance to opposing political parties in power in different federal units. On the basis of the evolving nature of federalism in India, nomenclatures like ‘quasi’, ‘bargaining’, ‘cooperative’, have been affixed as adjectives to the Indian version of federalism. 


Reviewed by: Pratip Chattopadhyay

Manas Ray

The books under review are actually two accompanying volumes with forty contributors, the genesis of which lies in an issue of the journal Seminar that Manas Ray had edited in October 2015. Both these volumes engage with the concept of democracy in an unconventional manner. They take the reader beyond the realm of a traditional understanding where the concept and idea of a democracy is mostly perceived and discussed as a ‘political system’ with a written Constitution.


Reviewed by: Juanita Kakoty

Devanoor Mahadeva

In the new lows that we have reached in our national public lives, none has been as troubling as the self-imposed silence by many writers on the depredations of the RSS and the BJP.  Of those who do write critically, about the multiple erosions of our democracy and cultures, it is to a consenting audience or as in the English academia it is in the language of liberal social sciences.


Reviewed by: AR Vasavi

Mohammad Ishaq Khan

Mohammad Ishaq Khan’s book, brought out eight years after his death, is a collection of articles published/presented over the years by him. The articles have been selected in order to match the theme of the book. In a time when serious aspersions are cast on the concept of Kashmiriyat, and also when the concept has been gravely abused, the book is an attempt to save Kashmiriyat against such raging tides


Reviewed by: Waqas Farooq Kuttay

Jyoti Mukul

Jyoti Mukul’s debut volume catalogues the ramifications of the nationwide lockdown announced on 24 March 2020; the subsequent shutting down of the Indian Railways which caused emotional turmoil to millions of migrant workers separated from their families amidst dire economic crisis and a health emergency; and the complete breakdown of the healthcare system during the second wave of the pandemic in 2021 leading to a humanitarian tragedy.


Reviewed by: Sampurnaa Bharadwaj

G.N. Saibaba

Having perused GN Saibaba’s recent collection, Why Do You Fear My Way So Much?: Poems and Letters from Prison over the last few days, I’m filled with grief and sadness. The UAPA (Unlawful Activities [Prevention] Act), under which GN Saibaba has been arrested, is a draconian colonial law, and will hopefully be revoked in the years to come, but one cannot overlook the damage it has caused in present times. I am thinking of fellow dissenting voices, scholars (Anand Teltumbde, Umar Khalid), Professors (Shoma Sen, Hany Babu), poet (Varavara Rao), and human rights activists (among others, Rona Wilson, Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, deceased Stan Swamy), who have been incarcerated.


Reviewed by: Shamayita Sen

Myanmar gained Independence on 4th January 1948, less than five months after India.  For both countries, therefore, this year marks the 75th year of Independence. Even before its Independence, Myanmar, then called as Burma, was a province of the British Empire in India and was ruled from Delhi till 1937 when it was made into a separate entity directly administered from London.


Editorial

The origins of the current impasse in India-Pakistan relations are generally dated back to 2016 and since that year the relationship has descended progressively to even lower plateaus. The milestones of the process are well known. One dimension was major terrorist attacks such as at Uri (2016) and Pulwama (2019). Indian Counter Terrorism responses included a shallow cross LOC raid termed as a ‘surgical strike’ in Pakistan-controlled territory and a deeper air strike into Pakistan—the Balakot strike


Editorial

The Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 is one of the historic moments in the subcontinent’s history as the numerical majority decided to separate from the numerical minority. Bengalis supported the idea of Pakistan and were the first one to vote in its favour in the Bengal Legislative Assembly election. It was a Bengali, AK Fazlul Haq, who moved the Lahore Resolution that conceived the idea of separate ‘states’ for the Muslims in the North-Western and Eastern parts of the subcontinent.


Editorial

Firdous Azim

In the last decade, there has been a palpable shift in discussions around the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan. Renewed interest has inspired writers to conduct oral history interviews of people who lived through the period when borders were drawn to carve out the two dominions. The works of Devika Chawla, Anam Zakaria, Aanchal Malhotra, and Kavita Puri are cases in point.


Reviewed by: Sumallya Mukhopadhyay

Ananth Krishnan

One of the most momentous events of 2021 was the quick withdrawal of the American troops from Afghanistan. The irony of the event was that after spending two decades in Afghanistan fighting to eradicate the Taliban, the United States was unable to do so. When the United States withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021, it was the Taliban which was on the path to establish the new government. The authors argue that Afghanistan was the new Vietnam for the United States.


Reviewed by: Gunjan Singh

Gautam Bambawale

Rising to the China Challenge is an engrossing compilation of essays by authors of eminence and provides a comprehensive coverage of the economic issues that underpin the growing disparity in Comprehensive National Power (CNP) between India and China. Starting with the Galwan incident in 2020, the book states that the existing paradigm between India and China, where geographical disputes were isolated from economic interaction, is no longer tenable.


Reviewed by: AK Chawla

Manish Tewari

National security in India has been challenged by episodic events which can neither be treated as stand-alone events, nor ignore the heavier calculations that have adverse effects on the future.  The book attempts to contextualize the national security challenges through a choice of ten flashpoints within two decades beginning with the 1998 nuclear test at Pokhran up to the Kashmir imbroglio, 2019 and the Chinese incursions of 2020.


Reviewed by: Joyce Sabina Lobo

Clémence Jullien

Motherhood has always been deified. As a woman’s ability to bring new life into this world is glorified, her existence is reduced to her maternal and reproductive functions. Despite that, maternal mortality (MM) continues to be a cause of concern. Historically, reproduction has been a strategic site for reform having featured in social and political agendas in varied ways.


Reviewed by: Ramila Bisht

Moinul Ahsan Saber

So this was how they ought to be taught a lesson. This wasn’t an issue with major or big leaders though. They understood the present. They knew which way the winds blew, they knew that politics required different kinds of actions. One could compromise and reach an understanding with them.’Located in a fictional village near Dhaka, The Mercenary is Moinul Ahsan Saber’s attempt at satirizing the political unfolding that led to the creation of Bangladesh, erstwhile East Pakistan.


Reviewed by: Suman Bhagchandani

Patrick Olivelle

Patrick Olivelle is amongst those to whom scholars of ancient Indian history, Sanskrit and others interested in early textual traditions are indebted, as he has, for decades, tirelessly and painstakingly provided access to a wide variety of texts. This volume represents yet another contribution, a typically generous act of scholarship that we have now begun to almost take for granted.


Reviewed by: Kumkum Roy

Richard W. Lariviere

The landscape of Dharmaśāstric historiography has changed considerably since the publication of Patrick Olivelle’s Dharmasütras, The Law Codes of Āpastamba, Gautama, Baudhāyana and Vasiṣṭa (1999) and his critical edition of the Mānava Dharmaśāstra (2004). Hitherto, PV Kane’s monumental work, History of the Dharmaśāstras, was the starting point for any scholar on Dharmaśāstric traditions


Reviewed by: Jaya Tyagi

Ruth Vanita

Ruth Vanita’s new book titled The Dharma of Justice in the Sanskrit Epics is a compendium of many articles by her, some of which have been published before and as such not all of it is recent research. Ruth Vanita has been an iconic intellectual who has made significant contributions in the field of Gender and Queer Studies and has been followed widely.


Reviewed by: Shalini Shah

Upinder Singh

Professor Upinder Singh’s new book is bound to intrigue a random onlooker by its title, since one of the most reputed scholars of early Indian history describes the civilization of ancient India as a ‘culture of contradictions’ at a time when an image of a pristine, monolithic, singular Indian civilization, stemming from ancient roots, is not only being projected but often being enforced, and the voices of contradiction systematically shunned.


Reviewed by: Kanad Sinha

Xinru Liu

There has been no major monograph on early Buddhism by an Indian historian after Uma Chakravarti’s book, The Social Dimensions of Early Buddhism (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987). While the body of scholarship on the subject has been growing, Xinru Liu’s engagingly written Early Buddhist Society, originated and published by Permanent Black in India, is an important addition to the historical work on the time of the Buddha.


Reviewed by: Naina Dayal

Jean-François Salles

Gauda as a political entity remains an elusive concept in the early history of Bengal. Although it is considered to have emerged in about the middle of the sixth century CE in the present-day northern Bengal (incorporating parts of modern West Bengal and Bangladesh), there is no textual evidence verifying this. Hence its genesis and rise in the regional power trajectories of early Bengal continue to be obscure.


Reviewed by: Bishnupriya Basak

Zahoor Ali Khan

Zahoor Ali Khan’s Studies in Indian Historical Geography: From Ancient Sarasvati to the Railway Age, a cartographic enquiry encompassing sixteen chapters, takes readers from historical-geography discourses on the river Sarasvati theories to map the impact of railways on the national markets. The book ends by mapping the uprising of 1857—offering a tribute to Kunwar Singh and his comrades


Reviewed by: Balakrishnan P

Bhangya Bhukya

Bhangya Bhukya, Professor of History at Hyderabad University, has written an engaging textbook on the history of Telangana.  The book weaves a socio-economic and political history of the Telangana region from the prehistoric times to 1724 when Mughal control over the Deccan came to an end. In his book, Bhukya underscores the importance of writing a history of the South


Reviewed by: Akhila Mathew

Uma Das Gupta

Born into a wealthy family in Calcutta in 1861, there was very little scope, so to speak, in Rabindranath Tagore’s childhood years for experiencing country life first hand. It was only in the 1890s, after Tagore was well past youth, that he was tasked with the supervision and management of the family’s (zamindari) estates in the rural areas of eastern Bengal.


Reviewed by: Nabanipa Bhattacharjee

Farhat Hasan

As per the recent research, the earliest remains of paper found in India are from early 11th century Multan. By the end of the 13th century, if one believes Amir Khusrau, it came to be manufactured even in Delhi; however, its production and its general availability was so limited that, as per Ziya Barani’s information, the paper would sometimes be washed and re-used for writing again.


Reviewed by: Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi

S. Jeyaseela Stephen

The Tamil country has a long history of being a part of the larger world of maritime trade in the Indian Ocean region, with its trade links extending even up to Rome in the ancient period. The coastline was thus dotted with ports which were essential links between the hinterland and the external world. Whereas the patterns of trade remained remarkably stable over the centuries, the scenario with regard to the ports and their relative prosperity


Reviewed by: Kanakalatha Mukund

Samuel Berthet

Focusing on the northern Bay of Bengal region, this book is a welcome addition to both the corpus of Indian Ocean studies in general, and to the study of smaller regions within this large body of water in particular. Divided into two parts, the first being ‘Chittagong and the Northern Bay of Bengal in the Early Historical Period’, and the second on ‘Shipbuilding Culture and Technology in Chittagong and the Northern Bay of Bengal’, the book, while not being strictly chronology bound, covers a wide sweep of history.


Reviewed by: Radhika Seshan

Sailendra Nath Sen

The history of Maratha-ruled States in the last quarter of the eighteenth century is rather complicated, to some extent because it is the intertwined history (apart from the Pune court) of four major States. These four were the territories ruled by the Shinde, Holkar, Bhonsle and Gaikwad dynasties, all of which acknowledged the Peshwa as their nominal overlord.


Reviewed by: Amar Farooqui

Mekhola Gomes

Fernand Braudel’s call for studying the interactions among interrelated ‘ensembles’ (politics, social hierarchies, economy and culture) in a complex society (Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism, 1977, p. 8) finds resonance in this thought-provoking collection of essays on pre-modern South Asia. The seven contributors, including the three editors (who are authors too), demonstrate an exemplary maturity in handling pre-modern testimonies. In the current preferences for cultural studies in South Asian history, often privileging literary texts, synchronic treatments of the past(s) are common.


Reviewed by: Ranabir Chakravarti

Bhairabi Prasad Sahu

The very title of Bhairabi Prasad Sahu’s book The Making of Regions in Indian History: Society, State and Identity in Premodern Odisha suggests that he is looking for processes that went into the making of regions and the associated individualities. The book reminds this reviewer of a volume, Centres Out There? Facets of Subregional Identities in Orissa, edited by Hermann Kulke and Georg Berkemer, published in 2011 where attention was drawn to look beyond the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Bhubaneswar, Puri and Konarak and focus on their hinterland and periphery.


Reviewed by: Suchandra Ghosh

Smita Joseph

The book is a welcome addition to the field of the history of sociolinguistics and sociolinguistic anthropology. Though the book is very short with 122 pages of analysis, the history of sociolinguistics is accurately presented with a nuanced socio-cultural understanding of the Anglo-Indian community in Hyderabad. Divided into six chapters, including the introduction and conclusion.


Reviewed by: Vijaya Ramadas Mandala

Muhammadi Begum

This book is the  translation of a diary in Urdu by a young Muslim woman Muhammadi Begum that was written when she was a student in England at Oxford University in the early 1930s. Born in an elite Muslim family in Hyderabad, she studied Arabic, Persian and Urdu at home, and went on to do a BA at Osmania University where she topped her class; her academic prowess was rewarded by a scholarship to Oxford University by the Nizam’s Government.


Reviewed by: Aparna Balachandran

Nikhil Menon

Around the time India became independent, almost everybody who was anybody within the country agreed, or at least pretended to, that India’s economic development required a strong dose of centralized economic planning. Big Business wanted planning to provide import protection and Keynesian demand management, even some redistribution to ward off Communism.


Reviewed by: Indraneel Dasgupta

William R. Kerr

This racy, jargon-free yet well researched book, interspersed with interesting anecdotes and illuminating facts, demonstrates quite convincingly how foreign talent that found a welcoming environment in the US has transformed American society in general and its science and engineering in particular. It is the author’s contention that recent happenings in the US, particularly the hostility against immigrants, consequent to growing inequality within the US and across the globe.


Reviewed by: Padmini Swaminathan

Brij V. Lal

In the early 19th century, when slavery was abolished in the British empire, more than one million Indians were taken to various European colonies such as British Guiana, Fiji, Natal, Mauritius, Suriname and Reunion as indentured labourers. These labourers, the victims of systemic caste oppression, famine and drought in India, were forced to sign an agreement (a contract) before they began their arduous journey to these colonies.


Reviewed by: S Anandhi

Kaveri Haritas

At first glance it might seem like I am trying to compare apples and oranges in this review as Haritas is a political anthropologist of the city and Haripriya is a poet and a writer, so the books are quite different in their approach and perspective. The reason for doing a joint review is to understand the interdisciplinary nature of the concept of home, in relation to migration, survival and identity.


Reviewed by: Aparna Rayaprol

Gurnaik Johal

Immigrant life is a complex mix of a search for new opportunity and yearning for a lost home. As older generations grapple with life in a new country and culture, nostalgic for people and places from their past, younger generations in turn strive to become full members of the only country they know, while being raised by parents and grandparents who are often at odds with the new culture.


Reviewed by: Sumana Kasturi

Dietmar Rothermund

The uniqueness of the book under review rests on the way the author has captured modern India—especially of the last six decades—through pen sketches of distinguished men and women whom he met and was most touched by. This tome is a collection of such reminiscences of people of various hues, very well known or hardly known outside their cloisters, from the fields of politics, academia, business, bureaucracy, public life and the like.


Reviewed by: Amitabha Bhattacharya

Shikha Jain

Growing up in the seventies, we cut out any bit of coloured paper that we came across, usually from advertisements in magazines, and all kinds of pictures from our black-and white newspapers: one never knew when something might come in useful for a school project or to add a dash of zing to a birthday gift wrapped in plain brown paper. Pictures, even in B&W, of monuments and animals were particularly treasured; besides collecting them against the proverbial rainy day, we spent hours looking at them.


Reviewed by: Bharati Jagannathan

Meena Banerjee

It is not often that biographies of living persons are written. Vijay Kichlu (now in his 90s) is a fine classical vocalist and teacher but he chose to be an administrator, leading and giving shape to the  Sangeet Research Academy, the ITC sponsored institution in Calcutta. He retired many years ago but clearly his friends, disciples and loyalists in the SRA wanted a record of the achievements. Meena Banerjee, the biographer, a well-known music critic has produced an engaging, appreciative account which although worshipful at times, has enough candour to make it a lively read.


Reviewed by: Partho Datta

Keki N. Daruwalla

An English tea planter, returning to India after two decades, learns of a bomb attack on his old home by a young man who looks ‘quite like’ him. A father, his shoulders drooping with weight because ten years back his son had walked out on him, goes on a shikar. A devout Parsi father turns to history—of the Islamic conquest of Persia—to stop his daughter from marrying a Muslim boy.


Reviewed by: Kiran Doshi

Jhumpa Lahiri

At a lecture1, Issac Bashevis Singer—the Yiddish Nobel Prize-winning author—was once asked: ‘What would you do if you were to meet God face to face?’ And Singer’s answer was: ‘I would ask him to collaborate with me on some translations. I would not trust him to do it himself.’ In other words, Singer is explicitly foregrounding the overarching role of translation in a writer’s literary journey; the necessity of collaborative translation, and the baggage of trust deficit that translators carry historically, among others.


Reviewed by: Umesh Kumar

Saadat Hasan Manto

On the very first page of this book, the translator anticipates and answers, or at least deflects, a question many askance readers may have in mind. ‘Those irked by yet another translation of Manto’s stories,’ says Nasreen Rehman, ‘should blame David Davidar, who suggested that I undertake this venture’ (p. ix). It turns out that Rehman had approached Davidar, the founder of the publishing company Aleph, with a modest proposal to publish a selection of fifteen stories by Manto about film life that she had translated, as a by-product of her PhD thesis titled, ‘A History of the Cinema in Lahore 1917-1947’. But if there is a publisher in India who readily deals in quantity and goes for doorstoppers, it is dear David. Further, if half a dozen publishers in India, Pakistan and Britain were already raking it in by publishing Manto in English, there was no reason why he should be left out, especially when he was ready to do it bigger if not better.


Reviewed by: Harish Trivedi

Karichan Kunju

Karichan Kunju’s stormy social realism novel first published in Tamil as Pasitha Manidham in 1978 can be enjoyed today by non-Tamil readers in its English avatar. Translated into English as Hungry Humans by Sudha G Tilak, the novel within 264 pages and a well-appointed glossary at the back, works for the reader as a social commentary and as an incisive but dispassionate observation of human nature. The early twentieth century positioning of the novel about the social mores transacted in and around the villages of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu and in particular of Kumbakonam, turns the gaze inwards to truths common to all human beings.


Reviewed by: Annie Kuriachan

Dasu Krishnamoorty & Tamraparni Dasu

Telugu is one of the six select languages that were accorded the ‘classical language’ status in India. It was the second most spoken scheduled language till the 1981 Census (it has since slipped to the fourth position in the latest Census of 2011). In 1953, Andhra State became the first State in the country to be formed on a linguistic basis. These distinctions notwithstanding, Telugu—as a language, literature, and culture—figures poorly in the national, not to speak of the global, literary imaginary.


Reviewed by: Vijay Kumar Tadakamalla