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Ramachandra Guha (born 29 April 1958) is an Indian historian and writer whose research interests include environmental, social, political and cricket history.
- Tagore’s poems and stories are mostly set in Bengal. However, in his non-fiction, that is to say in his letters, essays, talks, and polemics, he wrote extensively on the relations between the different cultures and countries of the world. Tagore, notes Humayun Kabir, ‘was the first great Indian in recent times who went out on a cultural mission for restoring contacts and establishing friendships with peoples of other countries without any immediate or specific educational, economic, political or religious aim. It is also remarkable that his cultural journeys were not confined to the western world’. He visited Europe and North America, but also Japan, China, Iran, Latin America, and Indo-China. That these travels were undertaken without any instrumental purpose marks Tagore out from the other members of our great quartet. Gandhi studied law in London and later went to South Africa to work. After he finally returned to India, in 1915, he visited England, once, to negotiate with the British Government. Apart from a short trip to Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon), he did not otherwise travel abroad in the last three decades of his life. As a young man, Ambedkar went to the United States and the United Kingdom to acquire advanced degrees in law and economics. Then he came back to a life of social activism in India. In later years, his trips overseas were to participate in political or academic conferences. At first glance, Nehru seems to have matched Tagore as a world traveller. Nehru first went overseas as a boy, to study at an English public school. Later, in the nineteen twenties and thirties, he travelled through Europe to forge links between the Indian freedom struggle and the world socialist movement. Still later, as Prime Minister of India between 1947 and 1964, he visited many different countries and continents. He went in his official capacity, representing and negotiating for his nation. Before and after Independence, Nehru’s journeys abroad were thus wholly political. (The one exception was when his wife fell seriously ill, and had to be taken to Europe for treatment.) On the other hand, Tagore travelled to other lands out of curiosity, simply to see and speak with humans of a cultural background other than his own.
- Most Indians – and, following Attenborough's film, many non-Indians too – are moderately well acquainted with the colleagues and critics of the mature Gandhi. Yet they know very little about those who worked with him in South Africa. Here, his closest friends outside his family were two Hindus (a doctor turned jeweller and a liberal politician respectively); two Jews (one a journalist from England, the other an architect originally from Eastern Europe); and two Christian clergymen (one a Baptist, the other an Anglican). These six men were, so to speak, the South African analogues of Gandhi's famous colleagues in the Indian freedom struggle – Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose, Madeleine Slade (Mira Behn), C. Rajagopalachari, Maulana Azad, et al. They are much less recognized (in some cases, unrecognized), although their impact on Gandhi's character and conduct may have been even more decisive, for they came into his life when he was not yet a great public figure or 'Mahatma' – as he was in India – but a struggling, searching activist.
- Where do Goldman and Eaton and Trautmann and Zelliot and Gold figure in the canon of South Asian Studies? Judging from the country where they work in, the United States of America, not very high. Were they to enter a seminar room at the Association of Asian Studies meetings there would not be the buzz that would certainly accompany the entrance of diasporic scholars ten times as glamorous but not half as accomplished.
- Guha, Ramachandra (22nd March 2003). "The Ones Who Stayed Behind". Economic and Political Weekly.
- Three men did most to make Hinduism a modern faith. Of these the first was not recognized as a Hindu by the Shankaracharyas; the second was not recognized as a Hindu by himself; the third was born a Hindu but made certain he would not die as one. These three great reformers were Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and B. R. Ambedkar. Gandhi and Nehru, working together, helped Hindus make their peace with modern ideas of democracy and secularism. Gandhi and Ambedkar, working by contrasting methods and in opposition to one another, made Hindus recognize the evils and horrors of the system of Untouchability. Nehru and Ambedkar, working sometimes together, sometimes separately, forced Hindus to grant, in law if not always in practice, equal rights to their women. The Gandhi-Nehru relationship has been the subject of countless books down the years. Books on the Congress, which document how these two made the party the principal vehicle of Indian nationalism; books on Gandhi, which have to deal necessarily with the man he chose to succeed him; books on Nehru, which pay proper respect to the man who influenced him more than anyone else. Books too numerous to mention, among which I might be allowed to single out, as being worthy of special mention, Sarvepalli Gopal’s Jawaharlal Nehru, B. R. Nanda’s Mahatma Gandhi, and Rajmohan Gandhi’s The Good Boatman. In recent years, the Gandhi-Ambedkar relationship has also attracted a fair share of attention. Some of this has been polemical and even petty; as in Arun Shourie’s Worshipping False Gods (which is deeply unfair to Ambedkar), and Jabbar Patel’s film Ambedkar (which is inexplicably hostile to Gandhi). But there have also been some sensitive studies of the troubled relationship between the upper caste Hindu who abhorred Untouchability and the greatest of Dalit reformers. These include, on the political side, the essays of Eleanor Zelliott and Denis Dalton; and on the moral and psychological side, D. R. Nagaraj’s brilliant little book The Flaming Feet. By contrast, the Nehru-Ambedkar relationship has been consigned to obscurity. There is no book about it, nor, to my knowledge, even a decent scholarly article. That is a pity, because for several crucial years they worked together in the Government of India, as Prime Minister and Law Minister respectively.
- Guha, Ramachandra (July 18th, 2004). "REFORMING THE HINDUS". The Hindu.
- I was a student at the Delhi School at the very end of its Golden Age. The departments of economics and sociology were still world-class. Amartya Sen had left for England and M. N. Srinivas had retired to Bangalore; but Sukhamoy Chakravarty and André Béteille remained. There were also other brilliant scholars on the faculty—such as A. L. Nagar and Kaushik Basu in economics, and Veena Das and J. P. S. Uberoi in sociology. Both departments had active research programmes.
- Guha, Ramachandra (29th September 2007). "A SALUTE TO THE COFFEE HOUSE". The Telegraph.
- Hind Swaraj is probably not the right place to start an exploration of Gandhi’s ideas. In the Cambridge edition, Anthony Parel warns the reader against the ‘vast sea of Gandhian anthologies’, but it is to these anthologies that those who wish to properly appreciate Gandhi must necessarily turn. The more thoughtful, the more informed, and the more essential Gandhi are to be found in his articles, editorials, and letters of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, written as he came to more fully understand the people and practices of the country he was to lead to self-rule. The three selections from Gandhi’s writings that I would myself recommend are those made by Nirmal Kumar Bose, Raghavan Iyer (in its three-volume rather than single-volume rendition), and Gopalkrishna Gandhi. Having read these compilations, one can then turn to Hind Swaraj, perhaps to admire its precocious defence of non-violence and religious pluralism, while puzzling over its silence on caste and its demonization of the West.
- Guha, Ramachandra (August 12th, 2010). "A PROPHET ANNOUNCES HIMSELF". Times Literary Supplement.
- Contrary to what is sometimes claimed in the press, there are many fine historians in India. From my own generation of scholars, I can strongly recommend — to student and lay reader alike — the work of Upinder Singh on ancient India, of Nayanjot Lahiri on the history of archaeology, of Vijaya Ramaswamy on the bhakti movement, of Sanjay Subrahmanyam on the early history of European expansion, of Chetan Singh on the decline of the Mughal State, of Sumit Guha on the social history of Western India, of Seema Alavi on the social history of medicine, of Niraja Gopal Jayal on the history of citizenship, of Tirthankar Roy on the economic consequences of colonialism, of Mahesh Rangarajan on the history of forests and wildlife, and of A. R. Venkatachalapathy on South Indian cultural history.
- Guha, Ramachandra (July 26, 2014). "Captive ideologues". The Telegraph.
- In the generation (or two generations) before mine, the leading Indian historians (judged in terms of scholarly books and papers written and read) included Irfan Habib, R. S. Sharma, Ranajit Guha, Romila Thapar, Bipan Chandra, Amalendu Guha, Sumit Sarkar, and Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, all of whom were influenced to a lesser or greater degree by Marxism; and Ashin Dasgupta, Dharma Kumar, Parthasarathy Gupta, Amales Tripathi, Rajat Kanta Rai, Mushirul Hasan, and Tapan Roychowdhury, all of whom were liberals. The leading political scientists included the liberals Rajni Kothari, Basheeruddin Ahmed and Ramashray Ray; the Marxists Javed Alam and Partha Chatterjee; and Ashis Nandy, an admirer of Tagore and Gandhi who like them stoutly resists being classified in conventional terms. The pre-eminent sociologists of that generation were M. N. Srinivas and André Béteille, both of whom would own the label ‘liberal’; and T. N. Madan, who while working on classically conservative themes such as family, kinship and religion would most likely see himself as a liberal too. Even the best-known or most influential economists of the 1960s and 1970 tended to be on the left of the spectrum, as the names of K. N. Raj, Amartya Sen, V. M. Dandekar, Amit Bhaduri, Krishna Bharadwaj, Pranab Bardhan, Prabhat and Utsa Patnaik, and Ashok Rudra (among others) signify.
- Guha, Ramachandra (March 2015). "Where Are The Conservative Intellectuals in India?". Caravan.
Quotes about Ramachandra Guha
- Ramachandra Guha himself claims that he’s a lapsed Marxist, a claim that’s suspect because this Hindu piece faithfully follows the Marxist template. The reason Guha attributes a symmetry between Hinduism and Christianity is because of Marx’s diktat that religion is the opium of the masses. And here’s a religion that refuses to conform to Marx’s definition of religion, which was primarily Christianity. Guha is thus forced to force-fit Hinduism into that definition. And that process necessitates intellectual dishonesty.
- Sandeep Balakrishna, Gandhi was a Heterodox Hindu: Ramachandra Guha