Books on the Shelf
Book: Ashis Nandy and the Cultural Politics of Selfhood
Author: Christine Deftereos
Published by Sage Publications
The book gives the reader an insight into the novel dimensions of Ashis Nandy, insisting that he is not merely a self-described political psychologist but also an intellectual streetfighter who faces up to the psychology of politics and the politics of psychology – which makes him one of the most original and confronting Indian thinkers of his generation. The main features of this book are its original reading and authentic use of the psychoanalytic theory to characterize and demonstrate the importance of psychoanalysis in Nandy’s work. This innovative reading of Nandy’s psychoanalytic approach is explored through his writings on secularism and the rise of Hindu fundamentalism, before looking at how this also operates in The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism (1983), Nandy’s best-known book, and more broadly across his work. The author details the way Nandy confronts his own post-colonial identity and the complexities of the cultural politics of selfhood as a feature of his approach, an arresting and confronting task that can have a disarming effect. The book affirms Nandy’s significance as a contemporary chronicler whose social and political criticism resonates beyond India.
Book: Ayodhya: The Dark Night
Author: Krishna Jha and Dhirendra K Jha
Published by HarperCollins
On December 6, 1992, as India lapsed into communal violence following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, Hindus and Muslims attacked each other. Both sides burned and looted homes, shops and places of worship. The attempt by Hindu kar sevaks to reclaim the Ram Janmabhoomi took a toll of around 2,000 lives, mostly Muslim. But was the claim justified? Was the Babri Masjid site the birthplace of Ram or was it just a ploy to create disharmony?
In Ayodhya: The Dark Night, journalists Krishna Jha and Dhirendra K. Jha chronicle groundbreaking narratives about the incident that led India through one of the most haunting communal riots in recent times. The duo researched and investigated, and bravely connected the missing links to expose the motivations and working of Hindu Mahasabha members who pulled the strings of the communal violence.
According to the authors, the implementation of the Ayodhya plan commenced with the conspiracy that began with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. The book reveals how muezzin Muhammed Ismael was beaten and forced to leave the mosque while a little known sadhu, Abhiram Das, a member of the Hindu Mahasabha, along with his followers, installed an idol of Ram inside the mosque. The writers collate the events of that night through extensive interviews with Das’ brother and cousins, who were all in Ayodhya in 1949. The book also examines the communication between Mahasabhaites and Hindu traditionalists in the Congress.
Book: The Politics Of Poverty
Author: DK Rangnekar
Published by Sage Publications
The book is an anthology of DK Rangnekar’s writings on the economic policies of India and their political ramifications from the early 1960s to 1984. The essays are drawn from his published columns and organised into four themes: the social and political dimensions of development, the international context to India’s experiments, the planning, budget and policies, and the follies of India’s industrialization policies.
These pieces provide clear insight into Indian economic history during the 1960s and ’70s – an important phase for understanding the contemporary scenario. The ideological roots of Indian policymaking are highlighted by contextualizing it internationally and also with domestic political concerns. Having served as the editor of The Economic Times and Business Standard, Rangnekar not only describes what was happening then but also explains the ‘why’ in terms of facts and figures. With rich insight into technical aspects of policymaking, the book addresses issues and expresses hope for a self-reliant India. It includes essays by TN Ninan, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Sanjaya Baru.
Book: Lucknow Ka Coffee House
Author: Pradeep Kapoor
Published by Hindi Wadamay Nidhi
In June, Lucknow’s famous Coffee House, a Mecca for UP’s politicians, intellectuals and everyone else wanting a good conversation over a cup of the brew, was shuttered yet again. It was not the first time the coffee house had closed due to differences between workers and managers. And, as in the past, it opened again, much to the delight of those whose lives feel inadequate without a daily trip to this outlet in Hazratganj.
Pradeep Kapoor, Lucknow Bureau Chief of Hardnews, has eloquently captured the excitement around this seemingly innocuous but lively place which has witnessed some key events in the state and country’s life. This slim book highlights the importance of public spaces in facilitating free discussion in a democratic polity. It is here that chief ministers like Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, CB Gupta and Vir Bahadur Singh would casually stride into the hall and sit with friends, including journalists, to gauge their opinion on where the state was heading. Most remarkable is the absence of security and the ease with which these political leaders interacted with journalists, the intelligentsia or just ordinary coffee drinkers.
Book: The Ocean In A Drop: Inside-Out Youth Leadership
Author: Ashraf Patel, Meenu Vekateswaran, Kamini Prakash, Arjun Shekhar
Published by Sage Publications
India, with its 54 per cent population below the age of 25 is expected to be a country with greater involvement of youth in politics and social development. But it is not so. Only a meagre 6.3 percent of the current Lok Sabha members is between the ages of 25-40. The book is an attempt to analyse this scenario of passive citizenship being taken by young people and also providing solution to it by introducing the concept of 5th Space. The book extends the four spaces in a young person’s life- the family, education and career, friends and leisure to a new fifth space which demands understanding the Self, building meaningful relationship and impacting society.
The book presses on the need to focus on youth leadership and bringing them along by changing their self-absorbed outlook. It underlines the need to empower the youth to empower society, to trigger a path of self discovery for them. It is about making them change-makers wherein casting their vote is not the only thing they should do.
The book is about awakening the youth of their own capabilities and usher in a new era of leadership, driven by the young.
Book: Minority Nationalisms in South Asia
Edited by Tanweer Fazal
Published by Routledge
Nationalism and identities – religious, linguistic et al – are highly contested domains, especially when it comes to the minorities. These issues are also at the heart of the several conflicts that have been going on for long in South Asia. So much so that the minorities have been relegated to the margins by other competing forces, other communities and groups who have a larger presence.
This volume, edited by Tanweer Fazal, brings together scholars from all over South Asia trying to make sense of these competing notions of nationalism in these modern nation-States. And also how these competing identities are trying to negotiate with each other the terms of co-existence.
A paper by Rubina Saigol deals with the interfaces between Pashtun nationalism and the religious conflict on the frontier. An interesting subject, for much of the strategic think-tanks have expended their energies trying to understand the complexities of these tribal strongholds which encompass a vast region in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The idea of a free Pakhtunistan is still alive in this turbulent region. The paper builds on the nuances that demolish the populist view that all Pashtuns are supporters of the Taliban and deals with the ethnic dimensions of the religious conflict.
The chapter on locating Sylheti identity in contemporary India deals with the conflict that has prevailed in Assam on linguistic and religious lines. It says that the moment the order to partition India came through, the sentiments in Assam were already divisive on these lines. For those who wonder how the Sylheti dialect and Sylhetittal survive in the absence of a territorial anchorage in post-Partition India, the paper says that the answers lie in the Barak Valley, a site which carries forward the colonial legacy of ‘distinctly fused’ although reconstructed, Sylheti identity. The chapter by Nabanipa Bhattacharjee concludes by arguing that, although the Sylheti identity was never an uncontested one, the Partition has further magnified this contestation.
In his paper on minority rights and nationalist doctrine in India, Tanweer Fazal underlines the deep-seated nationalist prejudice among the State and the non-state against the very concept of minority. This, he argues, has relegated them to the confines of preservation of their cultural and religious practices without any sort of political empowerment.
This scholarly work is a must-read for all students who wish to understand the nuances of the conflicts that have prevailed for long in South Asia.
Book: The Pakistan Project: A Feminist Perspective on Nation & Identity
Author: Rubina Saigol
Published by Women unlimited
Conflict is perennial in an evolving society, and the idea of Pakistan has been one of the most conflicted and disputed ideas. In her new book, The Pakistan Project: A Feminist Perspective on Nation & Identity, independent researcher Rubina Saigol critically examines how nations are created through the intersection of ideologies and structures of patriarchy. She rejects the notion that force should be used to control and subjugate the other— whether it is the other gender, the other religion, or other community. And to analyze these concepts, the author has looked at the State institutions, educational curricula, madrasas and through parts of civil society to understand the basis of a national identity predicated on religion and the subordination of women.
The book ends with the thrust on feminism as an ideology that should remain political and not be reduced to gender mainstreaming in order to keep the women’s movements going.