More makers of modern India

Rajadhyaksha’s review of Guha’s book

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha has a fine review of Ramachandra Guha’s “Makers of Modern India” in Mint.

Reading through the selections of the 19 makers of modern India, one is struck by the sheer diversity of concerns that gripped their minds—the gradual reformism of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, the militant populism of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the enlightened globalism of Rabindranath Tagore, the attacks on caste by E.V. Ramaswami, the feminism of Shinde, the nation-building of Nehru, the futile quest for alternatives to parliamentary democracy by Jayaprakash Narayan, the fight for a free market economy by C. Rajagopalachari, the sharp investigations into caste as a central fact of Indian life by Ram Manohar Lohia and the insights into tribal life by Elwin.

These and other leaders have continued relevance. The splendid economic boom that India is in the middle of will inevitably be socially disruptive as well. It is a well-documented fact that the social strain of such disruption often leads to rebellion or hyper nationalism, to anarchy or oligarchic rule. We see early signs of all these in India, in tribal rage harvested by the Naxalites and the flag waving encouraged by the mainstream political parties. It is critical at such as juncture that India remains in touch with the enlightened political thought that emerged in response to colonial rule and later gave us a liberal republic.

A sound understanding of Indian political traditions would also help us understand the importance of Ambedkar’s perceptive warning on 25 November 1949. [Read the whole thing at Mint]

That Ambedkar’s Grammar of Anarchy speech should make it into the book is appropriate. Contemporary India must read and reflect on perhaps the most prescient set of warnings that the republic’s founding fathers left behind. Ambedkar is well-known, even if his actual ideas are now forgotten, but Mr Guha has done well to commemorate lesser known, not no less brilliant thinkers too. (The book has Gandhi, Nehru, Tagore, Ambedkar, Periyar, Raja Rammohan Roy, Syed Ahmad Khan, Jotirao Phule, Gokhale, Tilak, Tarabai Shinde, Jinnah, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Golwalkar and Lohia)

Mr Rajadhyaksha rightly points out that Mr Guha’s work will be contentious because of who it leaves out. I personally think Goparaju Ramachandra Rao, or “Gora”, should be more than a footnote in modern India’s intellectual history. There are many more.

So why not share who you think ought to be considered a maker of modern India in the comments space? (Note: if you are linking to a URL, please ensure that you enclose it in valid HTML tags)

25 thoughts on “More makers of modern India”

  1. Minoo Masani should have been in. Guha’s selection suggests that there was no tradition of economic liberal thought in India at all.

  2. Arun Shourie – for his scholarship of history, economics, political economy and government affairs ; and his tenure as India’s first Disinvestment Minister.

  3. Should have included:
    1) Sardar Patel
    2)Subhas Bose
    3)Bankim Chatterjee

    Should not have included Jinnah.

    1. Guha recently gave an interview on one of the news channels about this book. I didn’t see the whole show, but remember hearing him justifying the exclusion of Subhaschandra Bose. His reasoning was that, although Bose was a great nationalist & contributed to the independence movement in his own way, he did not have any fresh ideas to offer for modern India. Guha said that he gave more priorities to ideas or new forms of thinking that shaped India while making his list.

  4. IMO, Sir M Visvevaraya should have been in the list.

    I bet if Mr Guha reads my suggestion, he will laugh it off saying that the book is not about the people who built infrastructure in India.

    But, Read Sir MV’s books viz., Reconstructing India and Planned Economy for India; and his correspondence with Mahatma Gandhi, and that’s probably why a Nehruvian Socialist like Mr Guha does not appreciate him.

    Also, Sir MV’s act of resigning in protest against Sir Leslie Miller Committee Report on Reservation, does not go well with these gentlemen.

  5. Mention of Periyar without a mention of Subramania Bharati should be termed conspiracy 🙂

    There are also greats like
    As others mentioned, Patel
    Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya with his Integral Humanism gave a new and different dimension. Many may disagree with it though.

    Instead of Gora’s thought process, I find that there is general acceptance to Viswanadha Satyanarayan Sastry’s thought process. But of course, he was a devout Hindu, not an atheist like Gora 🙂

    Viswanadha Satyanarayana Sastry is well known for his statement in his epic “Veyi Padagalu” (translated into Hindi by PVNR as “sahasra phan”) that “the only strength remaining in the Hindu society today is that of the institution of Marriage. Hindu Society will remain the strong till this institution is strong”. Note that I didnt quote him verbatim.
    Heres a link to wiki page

  6. For the sheer magnitude of his success especially since most of it was achieved during a period when the Indian polity and the ensuing policies were engulfed by a self-defeating socialist mindset – Dhirubhai Ambani. Irrespective of the various charges of unethical business practices that he may have faced, one cannot deny that Reliance is one of the biggest success stories of Modern India.

  7. guha is just boring – he is lost in his sorry world of remaking india’s past via marxist-socialist history using class-driven rants. tired of all these ’eminent’ historians who seem to emerged out of the woodwork.

  8. IMO, The following people should have been included in Guha’s list :
    1. Indira Gandhi : For better or for worse, the politics of today’s India is, to a large extent, inspired by Mrs Gandhi.
    2. Swami Vivekananda : His policy of “soft” Hinduism still has an impact on huge number of Indians.
    3. Dhirubhai Ambani : I believe that Ambani’s policy of creating wealth for shareholders and the idea that it is good/socially acceptable for companies to have huge ambitions did play a substantial role in the post-liberalisation growth of Indian private sector.

  9. Indian intellectual traditions has been completely uprooted and destroyed by the leftist capture of Indian university systems and research institutions under Shrimati Indira Gandhi from 1970 onwards.

    Ramchandar Guha is a product of this same leftist traditions and therefore has excluded the entire pantheon of early Indian nationalists who made no distinctions between Indian nationalism and its spiritual and civilization inheritence. Although his inclusion of Guru Golwalkar is a surprise.

    Notable exclusion would include [some of these names have been mentioned by other honorable posters] – Swami Vivekananda, Bankim Chandra, Aurobindo Ghose, Lala Lajpat Rai, Swami Shradhanand, Keshav Hedgewar, Sardar Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, Homi Bhabha and JRD Tata.

    Also the apt title of the book should have been ‘Guha’s Makers of Modern India’ – just to remove the silly hubris of this man.

  10. In this interview here – [ Link ] Ramchandar says that he did not include Sardar Patel because he wrote very little. This is incorrect. There are more than ten volumes of his letters and writings at the Asiatic Society Bombay.

  11. If the criteria is intellectual contribution, which moulded the Indian history, who is a better person who was missed out than Nani Palkhiwala? He is the man who saved the Constitution from being completely drowned in the seas; he restored some sanctity, some “basic structure” (the doctrine in Keshavananda Bharati case). He is the one who constantly opposed the socialist rules which eventually impoverished India. His writings, his speeches (including the immortal budget speeches) coupled with the seminary cases, which are landmark cases relating to the Constitution, mark him as a man worthy of being called “Maker of Modern India”. The present and future generation would mark him as such than the previous ones, who are soaked in Marxist, Fabian and Nehruvian socialism.

  12. 1. swami vivekananda
    2. dayananda sarasawti (whole DAV school and influence of arya samaj in punjab region)
    3. indira gandhi (she can be easily blamed for many of ills afflicting indian polity today)
    4. bhabha or maholbanis (planned economy)

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