Ramachandra Guha

Ramachandra Guha

Ramachandra Guha is a historian based in Bengaluru. His books include India After Gandhi, A Corner of a Foreign Field, Environmentalism: A Global History, and Gandhi Before India. He tweets as @Ram_Guha

Articles by Ramachandra Guha
To accomplish these varied and complex tasks, Nehru and Patel recognised that, in the choice of their Cabinet colleagues, they must not be constrained by partisan considerations.(HT ARCHIVES)
To accomplish these varied and complex tasks, Nehru and Patel recognised that, in the choice of their Cabinet colleagues, they must not be constrained by partisan considerations.(HT ARCHIVES)

Shed partisanship, reach out to the best minds, writes Ramachandra Guha

UPDATED ON APR 04, 2020 05:07 PM IST
In 1947, Nehru and Patel reached out to their fiercest critics and invited them to join the Cabinet. They worked with bureaucrats who had helped the Raj repress the freedom struggle. This helped the country tide over Partition. Modi-Shah should emulate the example
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It is past reason that the Supreme Court has not yet heard the electoral bonds case, or habeas corpus petitions. But this pales into insignificance in comparison with the alacrity with which the former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, has accepted a Rajya Sabha nomination(ANI)
It is past reason that the Supreme Court has not yet heard the electoral bonds case, or habeas corpus petitions. But this pales into insignificance in comparison with the alacrity with which the former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, has accepted a Rajya Sabha nomination(ANI)

India’s descent from a 50-50 to a 30-70 democracy

UPDATED ON MAR 21, 2020 05:37 PM IST
Our democracy was always imperfect and flawed. It was the Congress which, when in power, first politicised the police and civil services, first destabilised elected state governments, first compromised the independence of the judiciary. But the Modi-Shah regime has taken this process much further and deeper.
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Captain Amarinder Singh, Shashi Tharoor, Sachin Pilot, Bhupesh Baghel, and Siddaramaiah could be possible contenders for the presidency. But throw open the contest to others, including those who have left the party, such as Mamata Banerjee, or entrepreneurs and social activists(Sanjeev Verma/HT)
Captain Amarinder Singh, Shashi Tharoor, Sachin Pilot, Bhupesh Baghel, and Siddaramaiah could be possible contenders for the presidency. But throw open the contest to others, including those who have left the party, such as Mamata Banerjee, or entrepreneurs and social activists(Sanjeev Verma/HT)

Choosing a Congress president, democratically, writes Ramachandra Guha

UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2020 05:48 AM IST
Rather than choose their new president behind closed doors, the Congress should consider organising a series of debates between candidates, conducted in Hindi and in English, and moderated by a television anchor who commands respect
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Both have had productive international collaborations, yet remain strongly rooted in the Indian context. Both believe in the importance of original, primary, research; both have published a series of important books and reports embodying this research(Getty image/HT Photo)
Both have had productive international collaborations, yet remain strongly rooted in the Indian context. Both believe in the importance of original, primary, research; both have published a series of important books and reports embodying this research(Getty image/HT Photo)

In praise of two national treasures, writes Ramachandra Guha

UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2020 03:18 PM IST
Kalpavriksh and Pratham have common features. They began in a single city and then expanded; they have international partnerships but remain rooted; they use research to influence policy
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The Gandhians of Gujarat may abandon him; the politicians of Gujarat may betray him; but in the minds and hearts of many ordinary Amdavadis, the Mahatma lives on(Alamy Stock Photo)
The Gandhians of Gujarat may abandon him; the politicians of Gujarat may betray him; but in the minds and hearts of many ordinary Amdavadis, the Mahatma lives on(Alamy Stock Photo)

Standing with Gandhi in Ahmedabad, writes Ramachandra Guha

By Ramachandra Guha
UPDATED ON MAY 15, 2020 02:39 PM IST
Ahmedabad was once Gandhi’s city. Yet, in recent decades, Ahmedabad has wilfully, deliberately, turned its back on the legacy of its greatest resident
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Mahatma Gandhi’s body at Birla House after his assassination on January 30, 1948.(Courtesy: National Gandhi Museum)
Mahatma Gandhi’s body at Birla House after his assassination on January 30, 1948.(Courtesy: National Gandhi Museum)

Great harmoniser of India’s diversity, writes Ramachandra Guha

UPDATED ON JAN 30, 2020 12:43 PM IST
Mahatma in Delhi: MK Gandhi spoke of the dangers of Hindu majoritarianism on his first visit to Delhi in 1915 and he fasted to oppose communalism on his last visit, in 1947-48.
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The worst year in the history of the Republic was 1984, which saw (among other things) the Indian Army’s storming of the Golden Temple, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the pogrom against the Sikhs, and the Bhopal tragedy(HT Archives)
The worst year in the history of the Republic was 1984, which saw (among other things) the Indian Army’s storming of the Golden Temple, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the pogrom against the Sikhs, and the Bhopal tragedy(HT Archives)

The fourth crisis of the Republic, writes Ramachandra Guha

UPDATED ON JAN 26, 2020 08:28 AM IST
A historian can use the past to understand the present, but a historian cannot predict the future. But that the Republic is passing through a very troubled phase in its history is evident. That it lacks the sort of enlightened leadership that can take us out of our difficulties is even more evident.
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A child dressed like Mahatma Gandhi participates in a protest against the amended citizenship law.(AP)
A child dressed like Mahatma Gandhi participates in a protest against the amended citizenship law.(AP)

Why the CAA is illogical, immoral and ill-timed, writes Ramachandra Guha

UPDATED ON JAN 12, 2020 06:04 PM IST
There are perhaps two reasons behind the Modi government’s unseemly haste in passing the CAA through Parliament. The first is bigotry.
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In the 21st century, travel between countries has become easier than it ever was before. You come and go from a foreign land very quickly; and you breeze through the sites you wish to see quickly too. Hence the sort of Japanese tourist we Indians see rushing through the Taj Mahal, Ajanta and Ellora, the Victoria Memorial, Humayun’s Tomb, and a hundred other places(REUTERS)
In the 21st century, travel between countries has become easier than it ever was before. You come and go from a foreign land very quickly; and you breeze through the sites you wish to see quickly too. Hence the sort of Japanese tourist we Indians see rushing through the Taj Mahal, Ajanta and Ellora, the Victoria Memorial, Humayun’s Tomb, and a hundred other places(REUTERS)

Tracing Japan’s engagement with modern India

UPDATED ON DEC 29, 2019 08:23 AM IST
There is a stock, stereotypical, image of the Japanese tourist, who rushes to and through a monument or shrine in a foreign country, clicking away. Things were once different in the 19th and early 20th centuries when these came as seekers and pilgrims, rather than pleasure-seekers
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Future historians may come to recognise August 5, 2019 as the day on which our political leaders decisively turned their back on the ideals of the Republic‘s founders(Waseem Andrabi / Hindustan Times)
Future historians may come to recognise August 5, 2019 as the day on which our political leaders decisively turned their back on the ideals of the Republic‘s founders(Waseem Andrabi / Hindustan Times)

From Indo-Pak to Chindia and back to Indo-Pak, writes Ramachandra Guha

UPDATED ON DEC 15, 2019 10:48 AM IST
Since May 2014, there has been a rapid fall in India’s standing in the world — from being seen with China as an emerging global power to being coupled with Pakistan as an insular, inward-looking nation plagued by authoritarianism and religious bigotry
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The longer the Congress remains a Family firm, the easier it will be for Narendra Modi to deflect criticism of his policies and remain not just in power, but in control of the political narrative(ANI Photo)
The longer the Congress remains a Family firm, the easier it will be for Narendra Modi to deflect criticism of his policies and remain not just in power, but in control of the political narrative(ANI Photo)

Why the Gandhis cannot lead India’s Opposition, writes Ramachandra Guha

UPDATED ON JUL 25, 2020 02:20 AM IST
Younger Indians are rightly appalled that the party of the freedom movement believes that only a fifth-generation dynast can lead it. Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka may think they owe it to the Congress to stay in politics. They owe it to the country to go
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Their visit was sponsored by an NGO of uncertain origin and still more uncertain funding, but which nonetheless enjoys considerable influence in the corridors of power in New Delhi(Waseem Andrabi / Hindustan Times)
Their visit was sponsored by an NGO of uncertain origin and still more uncertain funding, but which nonetheless enjoys considerable influence in the corridors of power in New Delhi(Waseem Andrabi / Hindustan Times)

How the government internationalised Kashmir

PUBLISHED ON NOV 02, 2019 08:09 PM IST
Far from converting it into a domestic issue, the government’s actions have internationalised Kashmir. Even an obscure European politician feels emboldened to offer himself as a mediator
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The incumbent prime minister, a Liberal, was being accused of hypocrisy because of an act of casual racism he had once committed(REUTERS)
The incumbent prime minister, a Liberal, was being accused of hypocrisy because of an act of casual racism he had once committed(REUTERS)

Lucky is the country without a glorious history, writes Ramachandra Guha

UPDATED ON OCT 19, 2019 08:45 PM IST
What was notable about my trip to Canada was how little past achievements were invoked in the election campaign. No leader talked of Making Canada Great Again. Whosoever is the next PM is not going to promise to undo 800 years of slavery. Nor is he going to invoke World Wars I and II
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Gandhi thought of the technique of non-violent resistance in Johannesburg; Bombay was the centre of his first major satyagraha; his most famous fasts were in Poona, Calcutta and Delhi; and he was deeply attached to Madras(National Gandhi Museum)
Gandhi thought of the technique of non-violent resistance in Johannesburg; Bombay was the centre of his first major satyagraha; his most famous fasts were in Poona, Calcutta and Delhi; and he was deeply attached to Madras(National Gandhi Museum)

The cities that shaped Gandhi, the cities that Gandhi shaped

UPDATED ON OCT 05, 2019 04:50 PM IST
All through his Indian years, too, Gandhi’s life was deeply intertwined with the city
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Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru spinning, Delhi.(National)
Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru spinning, Delhi.(National)

A biographer’s journey: In search of the Mahatma

By Ramachandra Guha | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON OCT 01, 2020 05:49 PM IST
Mahatma Gandhi 150th Birth Anniversary: The Collected Works had all the known letters that Gandhi himself wrote; but virtually none of the letters that he received or responded to. Then there were the thousands of letters written about Gandhi by his contemporaries and critics.
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The hardline Hindu Right’s new-found love for Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh is not a product of a belated appreciation of their virtues. It is a product of their deep hatred of Gandhi(PTI)
The hardline Hindu Right’s new-found love for Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh is not a product of a belated appreciation of their virtues. It is a product of their deep hatred of Gandhi(PTI)

Creating a cult of anti-Gandhis

UPDATED ON SEP 22, 2019 05:17 AM IST
The hot-headed Hindu young men of today do not know or care about nuances. That Savarkar was, in ideological terms, well to the right of Subhas Chandra Bose, and even farther to the right of Bhagat Singh, does not detain them unduly
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These Gandhians after Gandhi worked inside Government, seeking to humanise it. They worked in Opposition to Government, seeking to hold the ruling party to account.(Illustration: Mohit Suneja)
These Gandhians after Gandhi worked inside Government, seeking to humanise it. They worked in Opposition to Government, seeking to hold the ruling party to account.(Illustration: Mohit Suneja)

The twelve Apostles of Gandhi

By Ramachandra Guha | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON SEP 25, 2019 10:01 PM IST
The men and women who — within the government, or as part of the Opposition and civil society — carried forward Mahatma Gandhi’s work. They humanised power and held it to account. They fought for economic self-reliance, equality and religious pluralism.
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From being killed and forced to flee their homes to seeing their suffering being used, or misused, by Hindutva to gloss over its own anti-Muslim violence, the story of Kashmiri Pandits is tragic.(AFP photo)
From being killed and forced to flee their homes to seeing their suffering being used, or misused, by Hindutva to gloss over its own anti-Muslim violence, the story of Kashmiri Pandits is tragic.(AFP photo)

The many tragedies of the Kashmiri Pandits | Opinion

UPDATED ON SEP 08, 2019 04:22 PM IST
Through the 1990s, as the Pandits sought, heroically, to rebuild their lives outside Kashmir, they found themselves facing a fourth tragedy—that they were becoming the cat’s paw of a rising Hindutva.
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Despite their differences on the question of violence, on the central themes of interfaith harmony, gender equality, and admiration for Mahatma Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru stood absolutely shoulder-to-shoulder(HT ARCHIVE)
Despite their differences on the question of violence, on the central themes of interfaith harmony, gender equality, and admiration for Mahatma Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru stood absolutely shoulder-to-shoulder(HT ARCHIVE)

The Netaji that Hindutva wants you to forget

UPDATED ON AUG 24, 2019 09:37 PM IST
Had Bose been alive in 1947, and, by some quirk of fate, had he, and not Nehru, been the PM, he too would have begun by praising Mahatma Gandhi. He too would have insisted that it was “wrong to suggest that in this country there would be the rule of a particular religion or sect”.
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Three facts about modern Kashmiri history are true. Pakistan has promoted violence; Kashmiris have not atoned for ethnic cleansing of Pandits; and the Indian State has been arbitrary and authoritarian. The first crime committed was the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah by the Jawaharlal Nehru government(HT Archive)
Three facts about modern Kashmiri history are true. Pakistan has promoted violence; Kashmiris have not atoned for ethnic cleansing of Pandits; and the Indian State has been arbitrary and authoritarian. The first crime committed was the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah by the Jawaharlal Nehru government(HT Archive)

Opinion | On J&K, Modi-Shah have emulated Nehru-Indira

UPDATED ON AUG 10, 2019 06:22 PM IST
The abrogation of Article 370, they tell us, is in the best interests of the people of Kashmir, yet those very people are given absolutely no say in how that decision is made. Even former chief ministers are placed under arrest (in a chilling echo of August 1953)
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Kamal Joshi was deeply engaged with his society, seeking to rid it of suffering and injustice.(Anil Joshi)
Kamal Joshi was deeply engaged with his society, seeking to rid it of suffering and injustice.(Anil Joshi)

Remembering Kamal Joshi: A hillman and a true national hero

PUBLISHED ON JUL 27, 2019 07:05 PM IST
Local heroes such as Kamal Joshi, who silently, self-effacingly, serve society, with no interest in fame or power or money, do not get the attention of the media. To be sure, they do not want it either. Yet it is these ‘local’ heroes who more truly embody the spirit of democracy and freedom in our Republic.
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At number eight would be our wicket-keeper-batsman, MS Dhoni, whose third dimension here would be his supreme tactical skills. For this particular team must have Dhoni as captain, leaving Kohli and Kapil free to concentrate on their own game(AFP)
At number eight would be our wicket-keeper-batsman, MS Dhoni, whose third dimension here would be his supreme tactical skills. For this particular team must have Dhoni as captain, leaving Kohli and Kapil free to concentrate on their own game(AFP)

Here is my all-time India One-Day Eleven

UPDATED ON JUL 13, 2019 06:57 PM IST
In choosing this eleven, I exclude from consideration those whose careers ended before the first World Cup
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Apart from exchanging letters for many years, Rolland and Tagore met several times, in Europe. They got along very well; Rolland telling one mutual friend, the musician and mystic, Dilip Kumar Roy, that “no living artist has made on me such a pure and almost spiritual impression”(Alamy Stock Photo)
Apart from exchanging letters for many years, Rolland and Tagore met several times, in Europe. They got along very well; Rolland telling one mutual friend, the musician and mystic, Dilip Kumar Roy, that “no living artist has made on me such a pure and almost spiritual impression”(Alamy Stock Photo)

Writers who stood up for what they believed in

UPDATED ON JUN 29, 2019 08:08 PM IST
The correspondence between Rolland and Tagore makes for instructive reading now, a century after it was first initiated. One can absolutely appreciate writers being attached to the language, culture, and traditions of the country in which they reside
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Girish Karnad seeks blessing from fromer PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee before receiving the 34th Jnanpith Awards, New Delhi, 1999. We should remember Karnad as a great playwright and superb actor, and as a profoundly civilised human being(HC Tiwari/HT)
Girish Karnad seeks blessing from fromer PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee before receiving the 34th Jnanpith Awards, New Delhi, 1999. We should remember Karnad as a great playwright and superb actor, and as a profoundly civilised human being(HC Tiwari/HT)

Girish Karnad, the greatest Kannadiga of his age

UPDATED ON JUN 15, 2019 10:34 PM IST
His courage in standing up to fundamentalists has led some to celebrate Karnad as an exemplary ‘activist’ and ‘public intellectual’. This, to my mind, is a mischaracterisation. We should remember him rather as a great playwright and superb actor, and as a profoundly civilised human being
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Even while diminishing Gandhi’s role in the freedom struggle, the RSS was careful to distance itself from Godse. This may no longer be true(Getty Images)
Even while diminishing Gandhi’s role in the freedom struggle, the RSS was careful to distance itself from Godse. This may no longer be true(Getty Images)

Godse worship goes mainstream in India

UPDATED ON JUN 01, 2019 06:09 PM IST
The cult of Nathuram Godse is no more marginal. Its members include not only BJP MPs but also prominent Sangh ideologues. Its representatives sit in Parliament, and may even be in the Council of Ministers
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Jawaharlal Nehru addressing a mammoth election meeting at Golf Ground, Ahmedabad, 28 December 1951(HT Archive)
Jawaharlal Nehru addressing a mammoth election meeting at Golf Ground, Ahmedabad, 28 December 1951(HT Archive)

Recalling Jawaharlal Nehru’s campaign in 1951-52

UPDATED ON MAY 18, 2019 05:58 PM IST
He could easily have blamed the legacies of two hundred years of colonial rule or the malign intentions of our neighbours for his government’s failures; but he did not
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Among others, patriots such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel commanded an abiding respect among those who knew them(HT Archives)
Among others, patriots such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel commanded an abiding respect among those who knew them(HT Archives)

Meetings the patriots in deeds, not words

UPDATED ON MAY 04, 2019 04:47 PM IST
It was a privilege to have met patriots such as BS Pundir and Sher Singh Mewar; theirs was a quiet, understated patriotism, not a loud or hectoring one
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One area in which there has been progress rather than regress is in the counting of votes. With electronic voting machines (EVMs) in place, it is no longer so easy to manipulate ballots and ballot boxes(PTI)
One area in which there has been progress rather than regress is in the counting of votes. With electronic voting machines (EVMs) in place, it is no longer so easy to manipulate ballots and ballot boxes(PTI)

Elections in 1951-52 and 2019: Not much difference

UPDATED ON APR 20, 2019 07:10 PM IST
Despite the passage of time, the increase in the size of the electorate, and the economic and social changes that have taken place in the intervening decades, much of what was observed in 1952 remains relevant to what we are witnessing in 2019
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The spirit of inter-community solidarity that so strikingly suffused the Rowlatt Satyagraha was less visible in later movements led by Gandhi. This was a fact he recognised, and mourned, and his own last years were devoted to recovering that spirit(Getty Images)
The spirit of inter-community solidarity that so strikingly suffused the Rowlatt Satyagraha was less visible in later movements led by Gandhi. This was a fact he recognised, and mourned, and his own last years were devoted to recovering that spirit(Getty Images)

Recovering the spirit of the Rowlatt Satyagraha, 100 years later

PUBLISHED ON APR 06, 2019 08:28 PM IST
Notably, while the scale, intensity and character of the protests varied enormously, one feature was constant: the display of Hindu-Muslim harmony
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Among all of Keki Tarapore’s wards, none has achieved greater distinction than Rahul Dravid. Dravid now serves as BUCC’s honorary president(BUCC)
Among all of Keki Tarapore’s wards, none has achieved greater distinction than Rahul Dravid. Dravid now serves as BUCC’s honorary president(BUCC)

Celebrating club cricket in Bengaluru

UPDATED ON MAR 24, 2019 08:57 AM IST
The BUCC centenary event was a wonderful reminder of the real bulwarks of Indian cricket, the unsung club coaches and club secretaries who have sustained the game in the towns and cities of this land
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