HT Picks; New Reads - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

HT Picks; New Reads

ByHT Team
Dec 02, 2023 10:04 AM IST

On the reading list this week is a book that attempts to highlight what has gone wrong with India’s polity and society, another that looks at Bangladesh and asks important questions about the nature of identity, religion, and the idea of “home”, and a public intellectual’s moving narrative of his personal and professional journey

A community under siege

This week’s pick of good reads includes an attempt to understand what’s gone wrong with India’s polity, a book that ask similar and related questions about Bangladesh, and a narrative of a personal and professional journey (HT Team)
This week’s pick of good reads includes an attempt to understand what’s gone wrong with India’s polity, a book that ask similar and related questions about Bangladesh, and a narrative of a personal and professional journey (HT Team)

344pp, ₹599; HarperCollins (An attempt to highlight what has gone wrong with our polity and society)
344pp, ₹599; HarperCollins (An attempt to highlight what has gone wrong with our polity and society)

Anyone who follows the news knows that the Muslims of India are under siege. They face what author Ziya Us Salam calls the gravest challenge to the community, and to the definition of a secular India enshrined in India’s Constitution, since independence. To be a Muslim in India today is to live with the reality of daily stigmatization and ever-increasing threats of violence. In several places, Muslims are expected to abide by the preferences of the majority community. At others, they might be killed on mere suspicion of cow slaughter. There are attacks on their attire, language and culture.

Unlock exclusive access to the latest news on India's general elections, only on the HT App. Download Now! Download Now!

Being Muslim in Hindu India is an impassioned cry for attention, an attempt to highlight just what has gone wrong with our polity and society. Painstakingly researched, the book talks of the constant “othering” of Muslims, using tactics of both peace and violence. Starting from a denial of tickets to Muslim candidates by political parties or missing names from electoral rolls, the book goes on to talk of attempts to wipe out complete passages of the history of medieval India, as if the period from 1206 to 1857 existed in a vacuum.

Amidst these grave challenges, the book ends on a note of hope. This stems from the fact that even as the community faces political marginalization, the success of many of its young men and women gives India’s Muslims hope for a better tomorrow.*

Of those who were left behind

272pp, ₹399; HarperCollins (Asking important questions about the nature of identity, religion, and the idea of “home”)
272pp, ₹399; HarperCollins (Asking important questions about the nature of identity, religion, and the idea of “home”)

For those who carry the scars of Partition, more than seven decades after arbitrary lines scarred the subcontinent, home is still on the other side of the Padma river. They pine for those who were left behind as a great mass of humanity moved from the east to the west of Bengal to settle in Hindu-majority India. Where are they today in the land that was then east Bengal, which became East Pakistan in 1947, and then Bangladesh in 1971?

According to an estimate from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, there were 17 million Hindus in Bangladesh in 2015, though the population is steadily dwindling. Hindus in Bangladesh in the late 2000s were almost evenly distributed in all regions of the country, with large concentrations in Gopalganj, Dinajpur, Sylhet, Sunamganj, Mymensingh, Khulna, Jessore, Chittagong and parts of Chittagong’s Hill Tracts. Since the rise of Islamist political formations in the country during the 1990s, many Hindus have been threatened or attacked, and substantial numbers are leaving the country for India still.

Despite their dwindling numbers, Hindus wield considerable influence because of their geographical concentration in certain regions of the country. They form a majority of the electorate in at least two parliamentary constituencies and account for more than 25% in at least another 30.

For this reason, they are often the deciding factor in parliamentary elections where victory margins can be extremely narrow. It is also alleged that this is a prime reason for many Hindus being prevented from voting in elections, either through intimidating voters, or through exclusion in voter list revisions.

In Being Hindu in Bangladesh, journalist Deep Halder and academic Avishek Biswas explore the ground realities behind the statistics. Through extensive research in Bangladesh and using archival material and records, they attempt to sift out the truth behind the numbers. Their aim is to find out the lived experience of those who stayed on in the country, and ask important questions about the nature of identity, its connection with religion, and ultimately, the very idea of “home”.*

An academic’s global journey

358pp, ₹699; HarperCollins (A moving narrative of a personal and professional journey)
358pp, ₹699; HarperCollins (A moving narrative of a personal and professional journey)

The word “charaiveti”, from an ancient Sanskrit hymn, means “keep moving”, in search of self-realization. Economist and public intellectual Pranab Bardhan invokes this in his moving narrative of a personal and professional journey.

From his beginnings in a poor neighbourhood in Kolkata and the idyllic days in Santiniketan, from being home-schooled by his father followed by a vigorous student life at Presidency College, Kolkata and in Cambridge, England, Bardhan rose to being among the foremost development economists in the world. After serving on the faculty of MIT, Indian Statistical Institute and Delhi School of Economics, he finally settled at the University of California, Berkeley. In the process he interacted closely with the likes of James Meade, Joan Robinson, Paul Samuelson, Robert Solow, James Mirrlees, Joseph Stiglitz, George Akerlof, Jerry Cohen, Jon Elster, Amartya Sen, TN Srinivasan, KN Raj, Ashok Rudra, Mrinal Datta Chaudhuri, Sukhamoy Chakravarty, Ashis Nandy and Romila Thapar.

In his memoir he provides a fascinating account of his richly varied and widely-travelled life, interwoven with thoughtful comments on politics and society both in India and abroad and on some major strands of international intellectual debates. These accounts are enlivened by a profusion of stories, anecdotes and amusing incidents, and draw copiously from his interests in literature and films.

Witty, wise and perceptive, Charaiveti is more than just a memoir-it is a sharp-eyed look at where we have been and where we may be headed, as seen through the lens of a remarkable life.*

*All copy from book flap.

Catch every big hit, every wicket with Crick-it, a one stop destination for Live Scores, Match Stats, Quizzes, Polls & much moreExplore now!.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, May 23, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On