This report on the changing status of women in West Bengal covering a period of thirty years from 1970-2000 is a very commendable effort and worth duplicating for other states. The report has the usual canvas assessing women’s development indicators and the gender gap in health, nutrition, education, economic empowerment, political participation but with additional explorations into law and violence and women’s production of cultural capital. There is a separate chapter on the status of tribal women given West Bengal’s substantial tribal population.
Archiving of photographs, as well as the importance of the photo archive in the writing of social history has had a late start in India. For feminist scholars of history, the difficulties of finding sources that will enable them to reconstruct aspects of history in a gender sensitive rewriting of the past have been acute, as surviving sources have margina-lized women. Since the written archive, especially as officially compiled, has been so obsessed with the powerful among the men—of what they did, as individuals, or as constituting institutions and structures that organized the workings of power, feminist scholars have tried to put together an alternative archive and this has been an exciting and fascinating process of recovery. However, in the main, this venture has been concentrated on putting together the written archive.
Looking at India since Independence in 1947, we are confronted with a situation of multi-dimensional change involving the restructuring of its polity, economy, and socio-cultural organization. India seems always to be a country in the making. This is how things should be; it is proof of vigour and vitality. But the problem with such optimism is that it could be dangerously unmindful of internal stresses inherent in the processes of change. One could highlight the dangers by invoking the notions of ‘contention’ and ‘crisis’, but only in order to cope better with them. And this is what T.K. Oommen does in this book.
The volume under review is a product of the intense debate on fundamentalism generated by the events of 9/11 in the US. Written by a group of scholars from Canada, its aim is to analyse not only “Islamic fundamentalism” to which much attention has been devoted, but to go beyond and to explore the meaning of fundamentalism so as to give it theoretical precision; and second, to work towards a project for contesting the claims of fundamentalism. Interestingly each chapter reflects some personal experience and involvement on the part of the contributors—due to connections with fundamentalist communities—including for some a feeling of vulnerability, which makes the book more than an academic treatise.
It was in the late 80s and early 90s that acts of terror started drawing global attention. Incidents like bombing the World Trade Center in New York in 2001, the Aum Shinrikyo attack of the Tokyo subway in 1995, bombing the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salam in 1998 brought forth the worldwide dimensions of postmodern terrorism. Emergence of the Al-Qaeda, the Hizbul Muja-hiddeen, the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hammas marked the beginning of global terrorism. These terrorist organizations are equipped with WMD, hi-tech systems, skilled activists, committed militias and international financial networking. The possession of nuclear weapons by these organizations cannot be denied firmly.
The publication of this slim volume comes at a most appropriate moment of time when the eyes of the world are focused on the dynamic economic growth of India and China, and a Great Debate is underway on the burgeoning economic engagement between them and on their changing political strategic relationship. With it, the author has entered and hopes to influence this debate. China, as is well known, preceded India on this path by a decade and more, embarking on its reform and modernization project as early as 1978.
The book being reviewed is a collection of revised papers by well known China experts presented at an international seminar in New Delhi in November 2000. However, the issues taken up are of a long term historical interest and hence the various papers retain a freshness of insight as well as information and are well worth reading seriously. They provide important parameters and benchmarks for comparing the relations between India and China when they were both fighting in their own ways to liberate themselves from the yoke of colonial powers and in contemporary times when they are pursuing their own developmental strategies to become economically developed countries with modernized social systems. The central value of such a volume is the comparative analysis it can enable us to do of Sino-Indian relations at a time when peoples were fighting for national liberation and now when they are engaged in devising strategies to grapple with the processes of globalization in a beneficial and reciprocal manner. Madhavi Thampi endorses such a view in her Introduction.
One of the joys of books is that it is the reader who determines what s/he takes from an opus. The author is like a master-chef who lays out a banquet spread of his creation; the reader takes from the offering that which takes his fancy ¾ and each reader is at least slightly different in perception and understanding. As with any of the arts, literature becomes an interplay between the originator of the rasa and the rasik; that process creates and closes the circle of interpersonal communication. Each encounter is unique. These thoughts struck me as I read the graphic, powerful narrative that Mikel Dunham has assembled in Buddha’s Warriors; his identification with the Tibetan cause is complete ¾ it is for you and me, as readers to be convinced of the arguments that he has woven. There lies the rub, at least for me.
There are many facets of diplomacy. Ambassadorial memoirs most often offer a ringside view of the great political, security and economic issues of the day. Jagat Mehta, a former Foreign Secretary, has a lot to tell in this genre and has, indeed, done so elsewhere. But this volume dwells on seven episodes of conflict resolution in which he played a major role and provides a useful compendium of case studies in this regard.
This is a monumental work; it could not be fully compensated monetarily for the years of labour which were fired primarily by commitment to historicity. Since he retired 14 years ago, I have seen Bhasin, day in and day out, hard at work in the library of the India International Centre, reading, compiling, photographing, and obviously worrying that material of importance, including meaningful public comment might get omitted; there were only occasional breaks when he could be seen at his favourite table in the cafeteria. He had obviously banished all competing social interests. This is the real stuff of a true academic mind.
This book written in French by Annie Krieger Krynicki has been translated into English by Enjum Hamid. The book in itself has interesting details on Mughal culture and politics, life in the Mughal court and zenana, personal lives and traits of the Mughal Prince and Princess and the romantic liaisons of Dara Shikoh, Jahanara, Roshnara and above all Aurangzeb. The portrayal of Aurangzeb as sensitive, sensual and romantic is noteworthy, which is in complete contrast to the conventional wisdom on him. The exhaustive descriptions of the imperial military expeditions of Shahjahan and Aurangzeb, the political pragmatism of Jahanara and Roshnara, the Sufi silsilahs, astrology in the Mughal court and Mughal life and many such narratives hold the attention of the reader throughout. But then, one wonders about Zebunissa, the heroine of this book, on whom the book is actually supposed to focus. The details on her as compared to the other Mughals are meagre and rather inadequate to justify the title of the book.
This is a short book on a very long and tumultuous period of Indian history and Judd is ambitious in tracing the rise and fall of the East India Company rule and the subsequent British Raj in this summary fashion. However, this concise account is written in the best traditions of popular history and is aimed, one would surmise, primarily at the general reader rather than an academic audience per se. But while there are no novel interpretations or new data presented, it nevertheless has much to commend it.