ibnlive » Chat

2.30 pm Nov 23, 2012

On his new book 'Patriots and Partisans'

In this collection of essays, Guha defends the liberal centre against the dogmas of left and right. The book begins with an overview of the major threats to the Indian Republic. Other essays turn a critical eye on Hindutva, the Communist left, and the dynasty-obsessed Congress party. Guha then explores the contemporary relevance of Gandhi's religious pluralism, and analyzes the fall in Jawaharlal Nehru's reputation after his death. In one essay, Guha explains why bilingual intellectuals, once so dominant in India, are now thin on the ground. He presents portraits of a magazine editor, a bookshop owner, a publishing house and a famous historical archive.
26 questions answered
  • Do you think that the word 'Hindu Rate of Growth' was derogatory? In fact contrary to this, the states which have significant minority population (Kerela, WB, UP, Bihar) are the ones which are lagging in economic development? Asked by: Akshat Shankar
  • Ramachandra Guha I think it was a term used ironically-- Hindus should develop a sense of humour!
  • Does your book cover the Communists and Marxists and their role in India and its Polity. How two of the states where they are powerful have not done well from a financial perspective Asked by: Narayanan
  • Ramachandra Guha It does, there are several chapters on the left
  • You have said that the most of the 'internet hindus' are software engineers. Most of my friends are IITians and almost all can be labelled as right wingers. Why is that generally people from humanities tilt towards liberalism while people with a science/engineering background tilt towards conservatism. Asked by: Akshat Shankar
  • Ramachandra Guha It may be because those who study S and T are never exposed to the diversity and complexity of social life, and seek quick and easy solutions to social problems
  • Mr Guha, I wanted to know why the RSS is usually painted black by the pseudo secularists and the liberated minds such as your self? I have asked and questioned several people who lived through 1960s and 1970s, but I did not receive a satisfactory answer. I am not a RSS activist nor am I against any religion in particular. I am a proud Hindu and I respect the decision of another human who wants to practise his or her faith. I wanted a justified opinion on the anger usually reserved for those preaching Hindutva. Asked by: Karthik
  • Ramachandra Guha We must maintain India as a plural and democratic country, and all who seek to homogenize this diversity, as I am afraid the RSS does, must rethink their religious sectarianism. And do not be a 'proud' Hindu, but rather a Hindu who seeks to fulfil the ideals of non violence and social justice
  • We need people like you in Politics. Can we expect you into Politics or supporting good partys like Loksatta. Thanks Asked by: Ram
  • Ramachandra Guha Intellectuals must not join parties-- their job is to provide a mirror to a society's problems and possibilities, not take partisan stances for one party or another
  • Was any good achieved in the 6 year rule of the 'partisans' (Vajpayee Government) Is there anything you would like to credit him for as I couldn't find a chapter on his rule in 'India After Gandhi' Asked by: Manuj Goel
  • Ramachandra Guha He did focus on highways, which was good, he was more open-minded than the likes of Advani, which was also good, but by failing to dismiss the Gujarat Government in 2002 he lost a great chance to show the world that we are truly not a 'Hindu Pakistan'.
  • Mr Guha, I am a great admirer of yours & seriously wish that community of public intellectuals like you steadily rises so that we have a healthy & unbiased perspective on important issues.My questiion is that according to you which is the bigger threat to Indian democracy, Sectarianisn or Dynastic politics across all major political parties? Asked by: Akshay S
  • Ramachandra Guha Both-- sectarianism undermines our pluralism, dynasty undermines our democracy. India would be a more robust democracy if the BJP was to cut itself loose from the RSS and the Congress were to get rid of the Nehru-Gandhis
  • India has typically been an ahistorical society. What can be done (besides a better educational system) to change this? Asked by: Arjun
  • Ramachandra Guha I think this is changing, and young Indians are now more interested in history than their parents, else I would not be able to make a living as a historian! But of course much more needs to be done. The NCERT has recently produced some excellent history textbooks, I wish more State boards would adopt them
  • What was your motivation behind writing this book? Asked by: Neha
  • Ramachandra Guha To illuminate the political and social underpinnings of Indian democracy today, and to make a vigorous case for liberalism against the extremes of left and right.
  • You have pointed out the extreme anger that Hindutva internet brigade seems to posses. What in your opinion are the psycological reasons for this? Asked by: Tyro
  • Ramachandra Guha I think that for the NRI's, living in the diaspora, they desperately want to see India seen as as powerful as China or the US. Also, most Internet Hindus are techies, who do not understand the complexities of social life and seek quick and total solutions to indian problems
  • Do you think liberals go overboard when they start painting every person from RSS as communal. For example issue was raised when media showed photographs of Anna Hazare with Nanaji Deshmukh who despite his RSS background was one of the most liberal grassroot worker India has seen. Asked by: Akshat Shankar
  • Ramachandra Guha I agree. Nanaji Deshmukh was a most unusual man. After the Gujarat riots of 2002 he said the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition should go together to the riot-torn areas and give succour to the victims. If Mr Vajpayee and Mrs Gandhi had acted on this suggestion we would not have had the destructive polarization and hatred between the two parties which has now brought Parliament and governance to a standstill.
  • Does Narendra Modi has any contribution in the economic development of Gujarat? Asked by: Akshat Shankar
  • Ramachandra Guha Yes, he does-- he is focused, not corrupt, and decisive. On the other hand, he is authoritarian, even megalomaniac. Gujaratis should ask him to be one and not the other.
  • Hello sir,i just got your book.I want to ask you about your thoughts on democracy which India is living with,because people are losing patience.They don't want to accept criticism,especially youngsters.What you think about the situation prevailing in our country. Asked by: Somil Pahuja
  • Ramachandra Guha Yes, the anger and intolerance among sections of the youth is worrying. The two major parties are to blame here, for setting such a shocking example, with the leaders of the BJP and the Congress always bad-mouthing each other in TV studios and in Parliament.
  • Who is the most liberal face of BJP whom you would like as the BJP candidate for PM? Asked by: Manuj Goel
  • Ramachandra Guha That's for the BJP to answer. However, as an Indian democrat, I would like to say that the BJP supporters should look beyond Narendra Modi while the Congress supporters should look beyond Rahul Gandhi. Neither are Prime Ministerial in their conduct. One is a megalomaniac, the other nepotistic and incompetent.
  • Your favourite authors/books? Asked by: Anu
  • Ramachandra Guha Very many. Here are some of them--among non-fiction writers, George Orwell and Christopher Hitchens; among historians, EP Thompson and Marc Bloch; among Indian scholars, Andre Beteille, MN Srinivas, and Sunil Khilnani; among novelists, JM Coetzee, Ian McEwan and Orhan Pamuk.
  • What book do you plan next? Asked by: Himanshu
  • Ramachandra Guha I am currently completing a book on Gandhi's largely forgotten years in South Africa, using new materials I have discovered in archives around the world. It should be out in end 2013.
  • What will make INC to look beyond the family and BJP beyond Parivaar? Do you thin Kejrival is a major force? Asked by: Salil Palkar
  • Ramachandra Guha Kejriwal has provided a wake-up call and to that extent he and his team are welcome, but his agenda so far is largely negative and destructive. He is good at provocation, and highligting the abuse of power, but dont see him as a saviour.
  • I would like to know your intention of writing 'Patriots and Partisans' Asked by: Ak
  • Ramachandra Guha To bring together my essays on Indian democracy, its problems and possibilities, and to provide a liberal, non partisan counterpoint to the dominant points of view in the media, since I am not a supporter of any political party.
  • Any suggestions for the aspiring writers? Asked by: Madhu
  • Ramachandra Guha Read widely, in different genres (fiction/non fiction/poetry/biography/science), read thinkers and writers of all political persuasions (if you are left-oriented, dont forget to read the best conservative writers, and vice versa), and travel as much as you can inside and outside India.
  • Your views on Cong chamchagiri!! Asked by: smriti
  • Ramachandra Guha Read my book -- I have a whole chapter on the subject, which you will enjoy I think
  • On what basis one should vote in elections? Party, ideology or individuals. Seems all parties are not truely secular and corrupt - so what options we have? Asked by: Dr. Amol Gautam
  • Ramachandra Guha yes, it is a bleak scenario, but still, one must vote, for the least bad option if necessary!
  • Why are you so critical about people who do not believe in your ideology.. Your writings do not carry any regard for the ancient history and traditions of India.. which is believed and reverred by millions of people. Asked by: CSG
  • Ramachandra Guha There were some quite wonderful things about our tradition, such as our music, our architecture, and our literary works and epics. Also some really barbaric things, such as the way the ancients treated women and especially low castes. The greatness of Hindus like Gandhi and Rammohan Roy was that they recognised that a blind adherence to tradition was disastrous for India.
  • Why people who are socially conservative, liberal in economic terms. Asked by: Manuj Goel
  • Ramachandra Guha that's an interesting question-- conversely, why are people progressive in social terms so much enamoured of state control over the economy? Social and economic liberalism have alas rarely been found together in India or among Indians.
  • I have often felt that India was not ready for democracy in 1947. Unlike the west where democracy arose from the bottom, here it was sort of imposed from top by our well meaning leaders. Your thoughts? Asked by: Tyro
  • Ramachandra Guha I dont agree-- elections, and religious and linguistic pluralism, have held India together. Read my book 'India after Gandhi' for a full documentation of this.
  • Could you, as a historian, explain, why India, despite its glorious history, is lacking in confidence in asserting itself as a global power? Why do we require a stamp of approval from the west? Asked by: Karthik
  • Ramachandra Guha Our history, as I have explained to another mailer, was both glorious and barbaric (as in the caste system). But yes, we do rather desperately crave certificates from the West. Even the swadeshi RSS is always telling us about white American or European writers who support them!
  • Please co-write a film on Nehru. What say? Asked by: Salil Palkar
  • Ramachandra Guha What a charming and delightful suggestion-- be resourceful, source my email and approach me with a more concrete offer!

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Ramachandra Guha
Historian and author