Ramachandra Guha

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Guha delivering a talk at The Doon School's Kilachand Library in 2017.

Ramachandra Guha (born 29 April 1958) is an Indian historian and writer whose research interests include environmental, social, political and cricket history.


  • A ‘fifth-generation dynast’ Rahul Gandhi has no chance in Indian politics against ‘hard-working and self-made’ Narendra Modi, and Kerala did disastrous thing by electing Congress leader to Parliament...Narendra Modi’s great advantage is that he is not Rahul Gandhi. He is self-made. He has run a state for 15 years, he has administrative experience, he is incredibly hard-working and he never takes holidays in Europe...“India is becoming more democratic and less feudal, and the Gandhis just don’t realise this. You (Sonia) are in Delhi, your kingdom is shrinking more and more, but still, your chamchas (sycophants) are telling you that you are still the Badshah.”... the fact that they loved other nations more than India. The rise of aggressive nationalism worldwide and “the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in neighbouring countries are some other reasons behind the evident leap of Hindutva in India in recent times...
  • [On “truly frightening” right-wing Hindu nationalism (by an Indian questioner), whether it will always be a force:] As a citizen, I detest right-wing Hindu nationalism, I will vote for any other party. As a historian, I would say; so long as you have Pakistan, you will have Hindu nationalism. If the political class is alert, it will weaken, but if the political class is weak, Hindu nationalism will be in the ascendant. The Jihadis bomb Bombay to provoke Hindu-Muslim violence. The Kashmiri movement started for rights, was taken over by Jihadis, and expelled Hindus from the Valley.
    • As quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2012). The argumentative Hindu. New Delhi : Aditya Prakashan.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Quotes about Ramachandra Guha[edit]

  • 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.
  • Nevertheless, these quarrels aside, we have to admit that Prof. Ramachadra Guha is an Indian patriot and, in a real sense, a Hindu.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2012). The argumentative Hindu. New Delhi : Aditya Prakashan.304-16

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