Gopalkrishna Gandhi

Gopalkrishna Gandhi read English Literature at St Stephen’s College, Delhi. A civil servant and diplomat, he was Governor of West Bengal, 2004-2009. He is currently Distinguished Professor of History and Politics at Ashoka University

Articles by Gopalkrishna Gandhi

Turkey, Syria and the real threat beneath India’s feet

India, which has the Indian Plate pressing onto the Eurasian Plate, which sculpted the Himalayas by colliding, has a similar razor’s edge right along the great Himalayan arc

They were asleep when the first quaking happened after 4am at 7.8 on the seismic scale of 0 to 10. (AFP)
Updated on Feb 16, 2023 07:57 PM IST

In his death, Gandhi joined a mortal act to an immortalisation

As the rest of India hailed Independence, Gandhi mourned its division. This year marks 75 years of a mortal act that led to an immortalisation. May Gandhi’s ideals always remain a guiding light on the power of ahimsa

Seventy-five years on, this needs to be known: Never in all these decades, not once, did Gandhi’s sons or daughters-in-law or his associates use a single abusive word of hate against the assassin or his collaborators. (Getty Images)
Updated on Jan 30, 2023 08:34 AM IST

Ode to a remarkable era of cartoonists, and their ideals

Cartoons can pack a power punch that can bore a tunnel through sanctimony, vileness, and folly among the powerful. This is the legacy of several remarkable cartoonists that we must remember as we mark Republic Day.

A historic cartoon in India carried by Hindustan Times on January 24, 1950 by ace cartoonist Enver Ahmed. (HT Archives)
Updated on Jan 21, 2023 07:43 PM IST

A call to treat India’s prisoners fairly and humanely

A Madras HC ruling to amend prison rules in accordance with global guidelines is admirable and may bestow prisoners with a life of dignity. This is an urgent need for India’s 550,000-plus prisoners, especially as most of them aren’t even convicts

If we think of prisoners as ‘us’, it would be good for them, but even more so for us, because we could be them. You and I could be reading this where no one would want to be. (Shutterstock)
Updated on Jan 16, 2023 01:11 PM IST

A message from Gandhi to a very troubled world

A bust of the Mahatma will be installed at the headquarters of the United Nations on December 14, affirming his global legacy of truth and non-violence.

There is something very apposite about this, something very right because, though born in India, educated in England, and “made” in South Africa, Gandhi has belonged, for decades, to the common causes of humanity and the imperiled world. (HT Photo)
Updated on Dec 10, 2022 07:49 PM IST

Dadabhai Naoroji, a leader who served India and Britain

This year, 2022, marks the 130th anniversary of the election, in 1892, of the first person of Indian origin to the House of Commons.

Sunak’s is, like Naoroji’s, a narrow majority. But if the Grand Old Man of India, despite that handicap, could challenge Britain to be British and do right by India’s political economy, so can the new PM challenge Britain to give a great “British” lead to do right by the world’s climate. (Bloomberg/Wikimedia Commons)
Updated on Nov 05, 2022 11:33 PM IST

Crafting an ethical mode of governance for India

Gopalkrishna Gandhi outlines his vision for an India@100 that places ethics at the core of its governance

We were told, at the time of Independence, that we will collapse under the debris of our incapacity, our divisions. We have not done so. We can’t, as we turn 100, be a country that worships gods and mammon, but trashes human life, human worth. (HT Archive)
Published on Oct 29, 2022 08:30 PM IST

S Radhakrishnan: A man of egoless impartiality

Constitutional authorities should be impartial guardians, capable of standing apart from the government if need be. Who or what determines that “need be”?

Having demitted office as India’s second president, he retired to what was effectively his hometown, Madras, as Chennai was then called. The scholar-teacher in him chose not to linger in New Delhi, seeking sanctuary in one of Lutyens’ bungalows through the patronising indulgence of the incumbents of high office. (HT PHOTO)
Updated on Sep 09, 2022 07:44 PM IST

The scorching truth of Rushdie’s ordeal

The attack on author Salman Rushdie results from judgment blinded by intolerance. We need honesty to see that the greats of history apart, it is innocents who will suffer if intolerance is not stopped from becoming violent

That the author of Midnight’s Childrenshould be battling for his life as the 75th anniversary of that defining hour draws near makes Salman Rushdie a figure in history. He has moved from the columns of literature to the casements of history (Hindustan Times)
Updated on Aug 14, 2022 07:13 PM IST

Double trouble that haunts me during nighttime reading

Every night, these last few nights, as I settle down to my mandatory bedtime reading, a mosquito appears. And so does my ‘Covid-worry’. 

Let no one say ‘health is a state subject’. Death is not. It is on no list, Union, state or concurrent. But it is in the mind of the winged demon that is out to harry us. (HT Photo)
Published on Jul 18, 2022 09:50 PM IST

We owe our freedom to the salt of our earth

This jubilee year, this year of collective recalling and celebrating, is, therefore, not just about the leaders but about those who made the leaders, powered the movements, gave the struggle its voltage, velocity and — victory

This year is a year of the Tricolour at its most fluent, its truest vibrancy. How are the people of struggling India to be honoured by the people of liberated India? By seeing this anniversary as more than a celebration of the past. By seeing it, to adapt a phrase from Abraham Lincoln, as a consecration of the present for the greatness of our future — in equity and freedom. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Jun 28, 2022 10:07 PM IST

India must protect its own ‘Antarcticas’ too

By enacting this The Indian Antarctic Bill, India gives itself the moral right to tell the world that its policy towards the earth’s only non-human continent should be: Respectful distance

By enacting this The Indian Antarctic Bil, India also gives to itself the ecological duty to protect the ecosystems, “Antarcticas” of its own, such as the fragile ecosystems of the Himalaya, the tropical forests in our Western Ghats (above) and the coral-reefs around the Rann of Kutch, the Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Updated on May 13, 2022 05:50 PM IST

100 years ago, a movement of Hindu-Muslim oneness

The Khilafat movement’s leaders, the brothers Maulanas Mahomed Ali and Shaukat Ali, with Gandhi’s lead brought his ideal of Hindu-Muslim unity to near-fruition

Zuleikha’s grave is in Kolkata (in photo), her husband’s, Abul Kalam Azad’s, in Delhi. Distance separates them, faith in the destiny of India clasps them in love. (Wikimedia Commons)
Published on Apr 08, 2022 08:19 PM IST

An inspiring statement of honesty and courage

Ashish Jha’s statements as Biden’s new Covid-19 response coordinator comes from a keenness to own mistakes on a road that is rough, to learn from them, and to correct them 

His use of the “we” is important. It shows his sense of partnership with his colleagues and others helping him respond to the virus’s challenge in the US. (AP File Photo)
Published on Mar 25, 2022 07:28 PM IST

Another Lata will not be born again

There’s no one the singer admired more than Mahatma Gandhi for the love he bore for everyone

A photograph of a letter from Lata Mangeshkar to the author. At an event shortly after the 1993 Latur earthquake, she turned her performance into a collective reflection on the strengths of the people of India. (Gopalkrishna Gandhi)
Published on Feb 06, 2022 08:41 PM IST

Abide With Me must continue

For five decades, the 1847 composition has been Beating Retreat’s heartbeat. It is deeply soothing and healing in its quiet impact. Without the song, the ceremony will lose something at its heart

Even without the words being vocalised, the tune played on January 29 stirs with this powerful prayer (Amal KS/Hindustan Times)
Updated on Jan 23, 2022 09:18 PM IST

South Africa’s Parliament will rise from its ashes

Whatever be the cause of the fire, the old National Assembly building is now to be spoken of in the past tense – an unbelievable thing

A building, howsoever grand or imposing, is, however, about the people who have used it and the proceedings that have marked its inner life(Reuters)
Updated on Jan 06, 2022 07:57 PM IST

Vajpayee: The BJP’s star, and his own person

He had a ghar — the BJS and then the BJP, in which he resided with several others. But he also had a gharana — of which he was the creator, the practitioner, of which he was the sole occupant

From the Opposition’s ranks, Vajpayee never spoke a word that hurt, though it reached its target. He never made a point at the other’s expense, never wanted to win a debate or even an argument. (Sanjay Sharma/HT Photo)
Updated on Dec 24, 2021 08:27 PM IST

In an era of diminishing expectations, the judiciary gives hope

Judges can miss the chance to intervene decisively. For now, however, the rise in diminishing expectations has been given a pause by the judiciary

India’s judiciary has not always reassured seekers of justice. (Amal KS/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Nov 23, 2021 09:13 PM IST

Gandhi’s two lieutenants: Panditji and the Sardar

Let no one suggest that Nehru and Patel weren’t different or didn’t differ. But let no one deny that they overcame those differences for the majesty of India

Patel and Nehru were inseparable in the history of our freedom struggle. India needed them together, said Gandhi, as a cart does its two bullocks. Both knew they were, within themselves, very different (Universal Images Group via Getty)
Updated on Oct 31, 2021 12:45 PM IST

A civilisational triumph for a newly independent country

Held between October 1951 and February 1952, the first election was a carnival of celebration, a festival of avowal, a rite of anointment by the people of India of the great cast of the theatre of Swaraj

Voters form a queue in front of a polling station in India’s inaugural general election in January 1952 in erstwhile Calcutta. Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
Updated on Oct 25, 2021 12:00 PM IST

The frolic, gentle, and sharp Keshav Desiraju

Keshav Desiraju, who died suddenly after a few hours’ struggle with a collapsing heart on Sunday, September 5, epitomised all that was “frolic and gentle”. Laughter came to him like a breeze on a mountain top, as did jokes at the expense of their subjects but never of taste

Keshav Desiraju. (Sourced)
Updated on Sep 08, 2021 05:56 PM IST

From India, a note of concern about South Africa

That Nelson Mandela’s rainbow nation should have to experience a dance of death with fire — spewed from petrol bombs — being its chosen weapon, is not something that the world expected

Members of the military patrol through the streets of Alexandra township as the country deploys the army to quell unrest linked to the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma, in Johannesburg, South Africa, July 15, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated on Aug 16, 2021 05:00 PM IST

Four deaths, the right to life, and the Jayaprakash Principle

The government’s prerogative to prosecute is not to be questioned. Nor the court’s to punish. But this much can and needs to be said: No undertrial or convict should be rendered vulnerable and susceptible to disease or morbidity with the condition reaching the point of becoming fatal. He or she must, on sickness being verified, get medical aid promptly and professionally with the prospect of supervised release.

On February 22, 1944, Kasturba Gandhi died of grave illness in prison in Poona. The House of Commons was informed on March 2, “…She was receiving all possible medical care and attention, not only from her regular attendants but from those desired by her family.” To this, Gandhi, responded: “The deceased herself had repeatedly asked the Inspector General of Prisons for Dr Dinshaw Mehta’s help… Again the regular physicians Drs Nayar and Gilder made a written application for consultation with Dr B C Roy of Calcutta… The Government simply ignored their written request and subsequent oral reminders.” (HTPHOTO)
Updated on Jul 20, 2021 07:19 AM IST

The architecture of India’s governance

Form, trust, mutual respect constitute the bedrock of the politician-civil servant relationship. Sardar Patel understood it

The Constitution is the product of much deliberation. Sardar Patel formulated two articles — 311 and 314 — affecting the services. Both protected officials from arbitrary punishment by their political bosses, displaying the trust and respect he had for civil servants and their opinions (HTPHOTO)
Published on Jun 13, 2021 07:54 PM IST

In search of today’s community leaders

Unless community leaders speak up, we will not be able to prevent a third and a fourth and more waves, each deadlier than the one before

In all these mass sgatherings, participants have come from all over India. They have come with piety, returned with the virus hovering around them (AFP)
Updated on May 17, 2021 07:50 AM IST

An open letter to farmers: Suspend your agitation

I have this appeal to make to you, great farming-soldiers, soldier-farmers: Recognising the peril of the virus and the grim fact that your agitation is unwittingly fuelling the virus, please suspend your agitation now, says Gopalkrishna Gandhi

Farmers shout slogans at a site of a protest against the new farm laws at Singhu Border near Delhi. (ANI)
Published on Apr 22, 2021 05:36 PM IST

Elections and violence do not make Bengal; its history and people do

Bengal is bigger, much bigger, than this small tumour of violence in its life and its people are greater, infinitely greater than the unseemly, untypical and unwelcome “goons” who hide within the crevices of its society

The injured being treated after clashes during the fourth phase of West Bengal assembly election in Cooch Behar on April 10. (PTI)
Updated on Apr 15, 2021 07:01 AM IST

How we the people are responsible for the spread of the virus

Can the authorities who are serious about supporting the vaccination roll-out with a compliance roll-in, consider three urgent suggestions?

They wore masks, correctly, admirably, over mouth and nose as the needle went in. And they sent two clear messages across — wear masks, get vaccinated (Satish Bate/HT Photo)
Updated on Mar 11, 2021 06:42 AM IST

The monetisation and dramatisation of TN’s politics

In the years to come, the state may well witness a battle between a splintered Dravidian movement and resurgent Hindutva

Whatever the spectacle Sasikala’s return does or does not do to her fortunes, or to those of the AIADMK or the DMK, it is doubtless going to strengthen the grip of money and caste-based mobilisation in Tamil Nadu’s politics (PTI)
Published on Feb 12, 2021 08:29 PM IST
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