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Can Rushdie and Roy save the novel in the age of Trump and Modi?

By Angshukanta Chakraborty

2017 comes bearing gifts.

At a time when the United States stands “unpresidented” and Donald Trump is unable to string a simple sentence together without committing grave factual or lexical errors, we have the return of Arundhati Roy, the novelist, and Salman Rushdie, with his grand American book about a family of Indian immigrants.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Roy and The Golden House by Rushdie are easily the most anticipated works of literary fiction to be published this year. This, at a time when literature itself is at its most disavowed, when language, under the barrage of social media, is increasingly failing to convey the shifts and churns posed by technology and politics, and the past is coagulating into imagined purity that prescribes exclusionism as the cure – is a source of hope. Read more

Source: DailyO


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“Why Did I Shout Slogans Against The Country?” – By Kanhaiya Kumar

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I was taken inside the thana and made to sit in a tiny room. Then the questioning started. The man who had brought me here spoke to me politely. But then another cop came in and said very rudely, ‘This is your country and you shout slogans against it?’

I found this very strange. When did I shout slogans against the country? I have been shouting slogans against Modi and that’s no secret. Had Modi now become the country? By now I was beginning to get the feeling that something was seriously wrong. On what grounds had I been arrested, I asked them. Where was the warrant?

‘You’ll get the warrant in jail,’ he said. ‘There, you’ll get everything.’

After that he spoke to someone on the phone. He asked if he should arrest me.

After disconnecting his call, he asked for my father’s number. I am bad at phone numbers – I don’t even remember my own. Luckily I remembered Pitaji’s since he had been the first to get a phone at home. Calling my father, the cop told him that I’d been arrested for ‘sedition’. Read more


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Why veteran journalist Akshaya Mukul refused Ramnath Goenka award from Modi

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His book, for which he received the prize, delves into the rise of the militant Hindu Right.

Award-winning author and senior journalist from the Times of India,Akshaya Mukul, in a gesture of protest against the rising intolerance in our nation, boycotted the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards on Wednesday, November 2, 2016. The awards that were started by The Indian Express in 2005 are given out to journalists for their exceptional contribution in the field.

Askshaya Mukul had been conferred the award in the category of Books (non-fiction) for his Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India. In his absence, the award was collected by Krishan Chopra, the publisher and chief editor at HarperCollins India, the publisher of his book.

Mukul’s reason for boycotting the event was very simple: he said he was honoured to have received the award but he did not wish to be felicitated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the guest of honour this year. Read more


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Throwing out actors, hating an entire people is small and reductionist: Saba Naqvi

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I was invited in February 2013 to the Karachi literature festival with my book on India’s popular religion and syncretistic practices. I was surprised and touched to see that the opening ceremony of the festival included a dance-drama called “Tagore”. Gurudev’s poem “Where the Mind is Without Fear” was recited to a dance, included in which was a rendition of Gandhiji’s favourite bhajan, Raghupati Raghav Rajaram, patita paavana Sitaram, Ishwar Allah tero naam …

I later overheard some important citizens of Pakistan grumbling about the kind of projection being given to Indian visitors and the theme of the opening. But no matter: what that little event symbolised is people’s search for compassion even as doctrines of hate jolt their worlds. By the time the festival ended there was curfew in Karachi after a massacre in Quetta claiming over 80 lives. Many international visitors had to leave with security escort.

In the worst of times and places people always look for ideas that separate their sanity from their circumstances. Indian political thinkers, writers and poets have been evoked across the world for the sheer breadth and scale of the grand humanitarian visions they posited. Let’s not diminish ourselves because we have a consistent and real problem with our neighbouring country.

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Contradictions that define modern India: Review of Saeed Naqvi’s ‘Being the Other: The Muslim in India’

All in all, Saeed Naqvi’s new book titled Being the Other: The Muslim in India is a great contribution to understanding the making of Modern India and how the political economy succeeded in creating a divide among Hindus and Muslims.

By Amir Ullah Khan

Being the OtherIt is such a coincidence that I got to read Saeed Naqvi’s new book titled Being the Other: The Muslim in India (Aleph, 2016) just as we were getting ready to submit our report to the Chief Minister of Telangana. I have been a member of a committee set up by the state government to look into socio-economic inequalities and deprivation among Muslims. The question that we were asked to address was whether reservations in educational institutions and government employment be extended to the Muslim community or not. The report is ready and am sure will be debated over the next few days.

Saeed Naqvi’s book too discusses the various factors our report looked into. It was fascinating to read his book with its amazing insight into what being Muslim in India means today. For someone who has watched the last 7 decades of independent India closely, and written prolifically on the same, Naqvi is a rare breed. This book, partly autobiographical, partly lyrical, journalistic and descriptive, is a vivid account of the journey of a community within a nation. Continue reading


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Kitaab Interview with Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay: ‘India’s biggest challenge is to retain its diversity’

Indian journalist and writer Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay in conversation with Kitaab’s Interviews Editor, Dr. Debotri Dhar

Women are shown in the (love jihad) campaign as being incapable of taking independent decisions – they can only be seduced or abducted; they cannot, by choice, fall in love with a man of another community […] Religion today is not a route to finding peace. It is a tool to subjugate the enemy other.

Nilanjan MukhopadhyayWhen one reads Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay (columnist and author of The Demolition: India at the Crossroads and Narendra Modi, The Man, The Times, published by Harper Collins and Westland respectively), one is immediately struck by his incisive understanding of Indian politics. Engaging in knee-jerk generalizations may be particularly easy given the currently polarized political climate, but his critiques are more meticulous–and munificent when they need to be.

When we first got in touch, I absent-mindedly addressed him as Professor Mukhopadhyay (as an academic, “Dr. and “Prof.” being my default modes). He wryly confessed that he was not a fan of formal education, and was a college dropout. (“Couldn’t resist that wisecrack!” he said.) As someone who agrees that college can sometimes seriously interfere with education, I was delighted. “Then I shall always address you as Prof. M,” I responded, with equal parts of affection and admiration. In our chat below, he generously shares his views on religion, right wing politics, journalism, “love jihad”, Modi, masjid, gender, caste, and the challenges ahead for Indian democracy.

Did you always want to be a journalist? Do share some of your insights on journalism.

I couldn’t have been anything else but a journalist because of the unplanned manner in which I got into the profession. I joined Jawaharlal Nehru University almost straight out of school, to pursue a 5 yr integrated MA course in Russian Language & Literature. But I had an unarticulated angst against formal education. I wanted to be a self-made person and did not wish this route to be through formal education. But by the time I came to JNU, the option of becoming an entrepreneur was foreclosed. I did make some money on the side by picking up stray assignments as a guide for Russian tourists but did not see myself as a lifelong ‘Raju Guide’ type.

I also used to take pictures at the time and was secretary of the photo club, and a friend who was working in a monthly magazine asked if I was willing to do the photos for a story on Chambal dacoits. This was in 1981-82, prior to the big surrenders of Malkhan Singh and Phoolan Devi. I did the pictures and when they were published, I quite liked seeing my name in print – my first byline. Around the same time, a Mrinal Sen retrospective was being screened. During a break, a friend and I saw Mrinal Da in the lobby and mustered courage to seek an interview. He heard that we were students and invited us for breakfast the next day at the hotel where he was staying. I typed out the interview after transcribing it by hand from my tape recorder. That was the first time I had typed anything – and with a single finger, one on each hand! Continue reading


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Indian PM Modi hails Mauritius for enriching Hindi literature

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday hailed Mauritius for enriching Hindi literature through its contribution and said the language has occupied a special place in the world.

On the second leg of his three—nation visit, Modi wished the people of Mauritius on behalf of nearly 125 crore Indians on the occasion of the country’s National Day. Continue reading


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Review of ‘India Shastra: Reflections on the Nation in our Time’

An extensive collection of 100 essays, India Shastra makes for discerning reading, and offers much food for thought on contemporary India and events from its recent history that have contributed to its present state of affairs in the political, social, economic, cultural and communal arenas, writes Monica Arora.

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  • Hardcover: 492 pages
  • Publisher: Aleph Book Company; First edition (29 January 2015)
  • Language: English

As a public figure and an eminent politician, Dr Shashi Tharoor has carved a unique niche for himself in public perception and media, owing to his several “trysts with destiny”–of both favourable and unfavourable hues–on social media platforms as well as in real life. Truth, it is said, is sometimes stranger than fiction; and who could be a better example of having lead such a chequered life amidst harsh scrutiny and comments–some warranted and some unwarranted– from all quarters of socio-political arenas and platforms?

What can be said undeniably of this extremely charming, suave and articulate writer-politician with a large body of experience–he was the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, which he served for 29 years, he was a former Minister of State for External Affairs in the Government of India; currently he has been re-elected as a Member of Parliament from the Thiruvananthapuram constituency, and chairs the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs–is that he is a very insightful writer and an author par excellence. His astute sense of perception, and his understanding of both the micro-level of Indian politics at the grassroots as well as the holistic picture at the macro-level, is evident from his latest book India Shastra: Reflections on the Nation in our Time. An extensive collection of 100 essays, it makes for discerning reading, and offers much food for thought on contemporary India and events from its recent history that have contributed to its present state of affairs in the political, social, economic, cultural and communal arenas. Continue reading


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‘Spirituality united Gandhi and Ambedkar’: U R Ananthmurthy’s last interview

Earlier this year, Udipi Rajago­pa­la­charya Ananthamurthy (URA), the Jnanpith award-winning Kannada novelist, educationist and public intellectual, had declared that he would not live in an India run by Narendra Modi. This had provoked lacerating responses from right-wing Hindutva supporters. URA breathed his last on August 22, 2014, before the Modi government completed 100 days in office. Chandan Gowda of the Azim Premji University had interviewed the litterateur for an eight-part Doordarshan series, telecast in June and July. It is possibly URA’s last major interview. Excerpts:

UR AnanthamurthyWhat parts of the Gandhian legacy are important for you?

His suspicion of the modern world system is one. The modern world system will destroy the earth, will destroy the sky, will destroy the balance bet­ween nature and man because it is very greedy. Gandhi’s rejection was sometimes extreme. But extremes can open the gate of heaven, that’s what they have said. So Gandhi exaggerated at times, but in the main you know that. He used trains all the time. But he said we could live without trains. He rightly feared centralisation. Gandhi was also friendly towards nature. There are many valuable Gandhian ideas. The whole idea that small is beautiful comes from Gandhi. So he wanted such ideas to govern the whole country. He didn’t like big buildings. Continue reading


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UR Ananthamurthy, one of India’s most courageous writers, dies at 82

UR Ananthamurthy

One of India’s most courageous writers, UR Ananthamurthy, today died at a hospital in Bangalore. He was undergoing treatment for kidney failure.

The 82-year-old, who was Jnanpith awardee and renowned Kannada writer, was hospitalised for infection and fever 10 days ago.

An educator, writer, and commentator second to none, Ananthamurthy was a new voice in Kannada literature – part of the Navya movement. His novel Samskara questioned established caste conventions and caused controversy when it was published in the 1960s as it was strongly critical of Brahmin conventions.

Ananthamurthy was a staunch critic of the Sangh Parivaar. He had created a stir a few months ago when he said that he would not like to live in an India under Narendra Modi. Modi was then seeking to lead BJP to power in the parliamentary elections. The news of his death was greeted with  fire crackers in some parts of Karnataka. Ironically, the Prime Minister Modi gracefully tweeted on the writer’s death: “Shri UR Ananthamurthy’s demise is a loss to Kannada literature. My condolences to his family. May his soul rest in peace.”

“I felt completely broken when U.R. Ananthamurthy passed away on Friday evening,” said Shiv Viswanathan in a tribute in The Hindu. It was as if a cosmos had collapsed, a way of life had disappeared. It was not the achievements of the man as a writer and a public intellectual, but the man himself as an achievement that mattered.

Here are some of the reactions on Ananthamurthy:

Remembering UR Ananthamurthy: A socialist who took a stand against Modi

U.R. Ananthamurthy’s first novel was a landmark

It was impossible not to be influenced by UR Ananthamurthy

Samskara changed the course of Kannada literature

(Various sources)