History / 01.09.2013

By Ahmed Kamran Call for Revolt With the extensive organizational work of the Ghadar Party among Indians spread all over the world, soon party organizations sprang up in China, Malaya, Siam (Thailand), Europe, the Philippines, Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, Panama, Argentina, Brazil, Iran, Afghanistan, Japan, Russia, and Canada. In a few years, by 1916, it is estimated that about one million copies of Ghadar were published every week. Special issues of Ghadar were also printed in Nepali, Bengali, Pashto, Gujarati, and many other languages. After the outbreak of WW1 and Great Britain joining it in August 1914, the Ghadar Party, taking this moment as an opportunity for itself, decided to organize a revolt in the Indian army against the British rulers. Many of the party workers had served in the army at some time in their careers. They were aware of some working of armed forces and its organizational structure...

History / 31.08.2013

By Ahmed Kamran The Beginning Although almost forgotten among the younger generations of today’s India and Pakistan, it has generally been believed by those few who are aware of this part of our common history that the Hindustan Ghadar Party (more commonly known as the Ghadar Party) was founded in California with headquarter in San Francisco. Few trace its origins to the Sikh Gurdwara in Stockton, California. Others believed that the small revolutionary group of Indians that was, later, converted into the Ghadar Party was founded in 1913 in the small town of Astoria, Oregon. Recently, the Ghadar Party and its history have also come into the limelight of some US academic circles. Johanna Ogden, a history researcher, drawing upon her University of British Columbia MA thesis (2010), Oregon and Global Insurgency: Punjabis of the Columbia River Basin wrote an article Ghadar, Historical Silences, and Notions of Belonging:...

History / 27.08.2013

Some forgotten chapters of the Indian Independence Movement (This is the centenary year of the founding of the Hindustan Ghadar Party in USA in 1913. This chapter of our independence movement, together with few other allied movements, is almost completely forgotten in the subcontinent and finds little mention in history books. We are beginning an exciting new series to remember the Ghadar Party together with two other important movements of that time – the Berlin Committee and the Muslim Hijrat Movement. We invite readers to contribute and enrich this history.) By Ahmed Kamran The City Council of an obscure sleepy town in the north-east of US on the Pacific coast is busy with planning a unique centenary celebration in October of this year. One of the City Councilors, Karen Mellin, is particularly excited about it. The city is Astoria, situated near the mouth of Columbia River in the...

History / 11.11.2012

By Vijay Vikram From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia, Pankaj Mishra, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 356 pages Pankaj Mishra is a fascinating creature. He was born to a family of pauperized Brahmins in Jhansi, a small town in the north of India in 1969. By the age of 20, he had spent “three idle, bookish years at a provincial university in a decaying old provincial town.” Like many young men of a bookish disposition, he had little idea of what to do with himself. He harbored literary ambitions, but was uncertain how to fulfill them. Add to this an aversion to “the modern world of work and achievement … careers and jobs” and we find ourselves in the company of a distinctly brooding, melancholy character who would either beat the odds and rise to make a mark on the world of English literature or die in obscurity. He succeeded. By 2012, Mishra had completed the journey from periphery to metropole in a most spectacular manner.
History / 14.10.2012

By Anjum Altaf The present in South Asia is messy, gruesome and unpleasant; no wonder we keep referring back to the past to make sense of it. Most of the time, however, we end up distorting the past to craft seamless narratives that accord with our current sensibilities. I will argue in this essay that there is no such continuity to be crafted and enter a plea for the past to be left alone.
History / 22.09.2012

By Kabir Altaf Pankaj Mishra's new book From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia (FSG 2012) describes the Asian response to the colonial encounter.  The book covers the decades from the mid-nineteenth century to the beginning of World War II.   Mishra argues that the West "has seen Asia through the narrow perspective of its own strategic and economic interests, leaving unexamined--and unimagined--the collective experiences and subjectivities of Asian peoples." His book does not attempt to replace this Eurocentric perspective with an Asia-centric one, but "seeks to open up multiple perspectives on the past and the present, convinced that the assumptions of Western power--increasingly untenable--are no longer a reliable vantage point and may even be dangerously misleading" (8).
History / 05.05.2012

By Kabir Altaf As the lights come up at the beginning of "A Tryst with Destiny", a screen projects news footage of communal riots in India. We see clips from the 2002 carnage in Gujarat, protests in Indian-administered Kashmir, and an interview with Jaswant Singh in which he lays the major responsibility for the Partition of British India on Nehru and the Indian National Congress.  As these news clips fade out, Gandhi and Nehru step on stage and begin discussing their roles in Partition.  From the outset, the play asks the audience to reflect on the question: Was the Partition of India worth the bloodshed that accompanied it? What price did India have to pay for Independence? "A Tryst with Destiny", performed at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Lansburgh Theatre in Washington DC, was written by Amita Deepak Jha, a locally-based psychiatrist and medical researcher.
History / 09.08.2011

By Anjum Altaf I was asked to review M J Akbar’s new book Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan and have done so; the review appeared in the May 2011 issue of Himal Southasian magazine. Here I wish to attempt something different – to convey to the reader a sense of the book through the images that came to mind as I read it. Tinderbox Tinderbox is a particularly apt metaphor for present-day Pakistan. I reached for the book with a sense of excitement and anticipation at the prospect of learning whether the tinderbox would explode or somehow be defused. The issue had been on many minds and the focus of many talks for some time. A member of the family had put it thus after attending one the talks:
History / 14.05.2011

By Anjum Altaf We read not just to be informed but to be provoked, to have our certainties challenged, our biases questioned, and often to have our entire worldviews turned upside down. The texts I cherish most are precisely those that set me off on new lines of thought. It is in this context that I acknowledge a debt to Joseph Lelyveld’s juxtaposition of Gandhi and bin Laden in his biography. As I mentioned in the earlier post, the connection would not have occurred to me. But having thought about it, I find I have far from exhausted the ideas that have begun churning in my head.
History / 31.10.2009

By Anjum Altaf  Bruised and battered as Indian women might be (psychologically, not physically as the poll on this blog suggests), there is another side to Indian femininity reflected in the myths of powerful goddesses. I came across an interesting perspective on this in David Shulman’s review (A Passion for Hindu Myths, NYRB, Nov. 19, 2009) of the new book by Wendy Doniger, The Hindus: An Alternative History: Sometimes the history of India looks like a story about endless waves of virile invaders from the north-northwest – Scythians, White Huns, Afghans, Turks, and, most recently, the British – who slowly grow soft and decadent under the insidious influence of the dreamy, langorous, mystically inclined Hindus…. [But according to Doniger] India’s astonishing talent for absorbing and transforming the peoples pouring in from outside, seen through a Hindu lens, has nothing to do with any softening or melting down of a hard, preexisting monolithic culture; it is, rather an active process of selection and pragmatic recycling, with the female principle – mare, queen, dancing girl, or goddess – driving the rather helpless (often foreign) male.