PREJUDICE OVER FACT

This is a book with a certain topical value but likely to be forgotten soon enough as another doctoral dissertation too hastily published. Despite Shashi Tharoor’s painstaking research, his effort is flawed by his preconceived notions and not quite redeemed by the quality of his scholarship. The thesis is outlined in the intro¬ductory chapter; the facts and the analysis that follow are simply to prove it. The book provides a lesson to students of diplomatic history how not to carry on research.

TERRITORIAL IMPERATIVES

Contrary to its claim of making a comprehensive study of the problem of north-east India’s frontier tribes, the volume under review deals only with frontier-making in that region and examines the ‘forward policy’ pursued in that respect. Chronologically structured, this narrative pays little attention to the ethnolo¬gical details of the tribes con¬cerned, or to their many-sided problems, economic and social. The title of the volume is therefore somewhat mislead¬ing.

AN OLYMPIAN VIEW

Constitutional history has long been the great ignis fatuus of the Anglo-Saxon historical tradition. In this context, it matters little that the Whigs enshrined par-liament with a halo of good¬ness, and Namier shot it down with a relentless expose of the cynicism and self-aggrandize¬ment in political motivation. What matters is that politics remained the crucial subject matter of the historian’s inquiry.

GORDIAN KNOT

In this collection of articles and speeches made by Romesh Thapar during the course of the last three or four years, he tries to sketch an Indian future. He seeks an under-standing of India’s present and casts critical glances at her past. A careful perusal of these writings makes it amp¬ly clear that this vision of India’s future, where it is not vague and confused, is fanci¬ful, quixotic and unconvinc¬ing. Contemporary India is too much with him and he finds it difficult to form a consistent opinion on her multidimensional complex problems. This difficulty is compounded by his imperfect understanding of India’s past.

Furthering a Non-Communal Understanding of History

This volume is an anthology of valuable essays by Professor Satish Chandra, published earlier in different journals and books. Since the earliest of these essays was written in 1946, the shape and direction of history writing have undergone a tremendous change. The essays in this collection reflect – and have also been responsible for determining – new currents in history writing over the last five decades.

PAINTED SCENARIOS

Alvin Toffler, Bucky Fuller, Ivan Illich, Sham Lai, Edward Goldsmith and Orville Freeman are some of the names dropped at the com¬mencement of Kapur’s book. Strange bed-fellows, politically disharmonious, intellectually at variance: put together at a tea party they would scratch one another’s eyes out. Ima¬gine, for example, Illich and Freeman strolling side by side in soulful chat.

WHITHER JUSTICE?

The book under review, as the author states in the Epilo¬gue, was completed in mid-1979 and therefore could not take into account ‘governmen¬tal lawlessness’, for instance, the Bhagalpur blindings of undertrials, the revival of sati in certain parts of India, the scandalous and barbaric treatment of inmates of the Protective Home for Women in Agra, the harrowing tales of inhuman exploitation of bonded labour in Punjab and Haryana, and the count¬less more recent examples of custodial brutality and violence within the Indian Police and some ‘correctional organizations’.

INDIA, THAT IS BHARAT

The international press has not taken kindly to the debate regarding itself which has been rumbling in the genteel con¬ference rooms of UNESCO, off and on, since 1972. It was in 1972 that the General Conference of UNESCO first aired the possibility that the media of the richer nations might be a means towards ‘the domination of world public opinion or a source of moral and cultural pollution’.

THE CAMERA’S ADAPTABILITY

1836, Paris: Louis Daguerre invented the camera. Immedi¬ately, enthusiasts of the inven¬tion hailed the birth of an era of objectivity. Later, a new proverb was born: ‘the camera doesn’t lie’. In the course of organizing some 100 exhibi¬tions of diverse cultural and geographical origin (the latest being Through Indian Eyes), the International Center of Photography discovered again and again that the camera has been, in fact, a very subjective instrument of observation and documentation and that it can be made to lie.