Caste And Elections Define Contemporary India: Guha

New Delhi
Caste And Elections Define Contemporary India: Guha

The twin themes of caste and elections, which capture the essence of the country still remain uncharted territory for modern historians, says noted writer Ramchandra Guha.

According to the eminent historian while a vast corpus of works on the colonial era have been produced with the aid of meagre primary resources, among other things, the period after independence has often been neglected and dismissed as political science.

"We do not have a historian's diachronic perspective on how caste or how elections, even though these are the two most important aspects of our life as Indians. We do not have biographies of remarkable figures in independent India like Sheikh Abdullah, E M S Namboodaripad, or Y B Chavan etc," he said in his address on the inaugural day of the Penguin Spring Fever literary festival late last evening.

"There is a peculiar Indian challenge which is that when the clock struck 12, history ended and political science began. We say that post-1947, it is not an area of history but of political science," Guha said.

He also underlined other challenges faced by chroniclers to overcome while writing contemporary history.

"Firstly, the reader is not passive anymore, but is an active, opinionated citizen of the country. We have our own assumptions about our recent leaders as we live in the consequences of their decisions," Guha said.

Secondly, he said, historians also have their own perceptions or misperceptions about the many socio-political vectors that are in place.

Guha also talked of scarcity of reliable sources for the period after independence as a major hindrance.

"The most sources available are of the colonial period. Our government has not had a proper system in place to maintain records," he said.

Previewing his new book, 'Democrats and Dissenters,' to be published in October, Guha said India is the most interesting country in the world but there is very little written about the contemporary history of the country "where five revolutions - political, national, industrial, urban and social- are on work simultaneously."

"Indian historians have been obsessed with colonial history because primary resources are more available for the time period," he said.

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