Beyond Capital

Polemics, Critique and Analysis

Sumit Sarkar on Ramachandra Guha’s “India After Gandhi”

with 3 comments


Sumit Sarkar wrote a review of Guha’s India after Gandhi for New Left Review (56, March-April 2009), which he ends with an interesting comment:

“Welcome as India after Gandhi is for its initiation of a new field of contemporary historiography, one is left half-yearning for the book Guha did not write”.

I think Sarkar has sufficiently shown, despite his non-polemic sympathetic tone for a fellow historian, that Guha can never write “the book”. Sarkar does appreciate this “clear and comprehensive account of the course of events”. But

“Guha offers no overall theses as to how the India of 1947 became that of today. Instead he embarks on a narration of political events, deftly interwoven with socio-cultural and economic developments. Along the way he provides a set of individual political profiles, often interesting and amusingly drawn. One occasionally feels that he overuses this strategy, especially since, barring a few individuals—Nehru, Patel, Sheikh Abdullah, Indira Gandhi or Jayprakash Narayan—many were not as significant as the character-driven plot structure, weighted towards party leaders, makes them out to be. Other social forces and structures are inevitably downplayed”.

The narrative is “uncritical” based on “journalistic sources”.

“More broadly, what is missing in terms of Guha’s framing questions is any analysis of the tensions between national unity and democracy, and the ways in which the concerns of the former—military security, internal sovereignty—have not infrequently hollowed out the content of the latter”.

Sarkar finds many “large questions, which Guha does not address”. But why?

“This is not an incidental drawback, but flows from the liberal-Nehruvian nationalism that is the book’s chief ideological marker”.

HENCE, Ramachandra Guha’s book is more an exercise in story-telling – “a thoughtful survey of the period in fluent, lucid prose”.

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Written by Pratyush Chandra

March 31, 2009 at 12:21 am

3 Responses

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  1. I think Mr. sumit sarkar seems to be to much inclined towards left writings. the only thing he likes to read. over here he must acknowledge that some time journalistic views are better than critical historical reviews by the noted left historians. i think he must get out of left historians hangover. and start to see this world in real prespective. rather than seing this country and world through left inclined eyes. in his book Mr. juha discribed very comprehensively about the difficult ways throught which this nacent country was going throug during that period. he took those issues and tried to describe in the most easy way a person with deligent eyes can tel, who himself is facing those situation. rather than through the eyes of so called left intellectual, who sees this world though the prism. so to conclude i would say India after Gandhi is a nicely written book to get the geniune prespective of the building of a great nation in the modern times despite several hardship and difficulties

    Upender Singh

    April 11, 2009 at 12:07 pm

  2. […] Sumit Sarkar on Ramachandra Guha’s “India After Gandhi” « Beyond … 31 Mar 2009 … I think Mr. sumit sarkar seems to be to much inclined towards left writings. the only thing he likes to read. over here he must acknowledge … beyondcapital.wordpress.com/…/sumit-sarkar-on-ramachandra-guhas-india-after-gandhi/ – Cached – Similar – […]

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