Books of the Week - Saturday, 25th September, 2021

Home in the World: A Memoir
by - Amartya Sen 

About the Book
Where is 'home'? For Amartya Sen home has been many places - Dhaka in modern Bangladesh where he grew up, the village of Santiniketan where he was raised by his grandparents as much as by his parents, Calcutta where he first studied economics and was active in student movements, and Trinity College, Cambridge, to which he came aged nineteen.
Sen brilliantly recreates the atmosphere in each of these. Central to his formation was the intellectually liberating school in Santiniketan founded by Rabindranath Tagore (who gave him his name Amartya) and enticing conversations in the famous Coffee House on College Street in Calcutta. As an undergraduate at Cambridge, he engaged with many of the leading figures of the day. This is a book of ideas - especially Marx, Keynes and Arrow - as much as of people and places.
In one memorable chapter, Sen evokes 'the rivers of Bengal' along which he travelled with his parents between Dhaka and their ancestral villages. The historic culture of Bengal is wonderfully explored, as is the political inflaming of Hindu-Muslim hostility and the resistance to it. In 1943, Sen witnessed the Bengal famine and its disastrous development. Some of Sen's family were imprisoned for their opposition to British rule: not surprisingly, the relationship between Britain and India is another main theme of the book. Forty-five years after he first arrived at 'the Gates of Trinity', one of Britain's greatest intellectual foundations, Sen became its Master.
About the Author
Amartya Sen is Professor of Economics and Professor of Philosophy at Harvard. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1998 to 2004, and won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998. His many celebrated books including Development as Freedom (1999), The Argumentative Indian (2005), Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (2007), and The Idea of Justice (2010), have been translated into more than 40 languages. In 2012 he received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama and in 2020 he was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade by President Steinmeier.
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The Books of the Week - Saturday, 18th September, 2021

The Violence in our Bones : 
Mapping the Deadly Fault Lines within Indian Society
by - Neera Chandhoke

About the Book

The Buddha, Ashoka, Gandhi—the three greatest Indians who ever lived—were emblematic of non-violence. Yet, paradoxically, their country of origin is one of the most violent places on earth. Do ‘we, the people of India’ have violence in our bones? This work explores different aspects of our society to answer the question. Despite a blood-soaked Partition coupled with many other challenges that all emerging democracies have had to negotiate, India’s record in upholding the democratic values enshrined in its Constitution has been impressive. Yet, violence remains an inextricable part of everyday life. Parts of the country are rocked by ‘low-intensity’ operations against various insurgencies. Our society is also scarred by caste violence, communal riots, and viciousness against women, children, the transgender community, and minorities. The country’s large size, a highly differentiated population, uneven economic development, linguistic differences, regional imbalances, class and caste hierarchies, the politicizing of religious identities, appropriation of tribal lands, agrarian distress, joblessness, poverty, and deep inequality all breed frustration. Violence underlies almost every social and political interaction within Indian society, from the violence of everyday life to the brutal actions of the state or those ranged against the state. The Violence in Our Bones maps the assorted kinds of violence in India, and explores why, even as a successful democracy, violence continues to be endemic in the nation.

About the Author
Neera Chandhoke taught Political Science at the University of Delhi. She is a Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Equity Studies, Delhi. She writes about civil society, secularism, revolutionary violence, and democracy. Her latest work is Rethinking Pluralism, Secularism and Tolerance: Anxieties of Coexistence.
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Books of the Week - Saturday, 11th September, 2021

The Silent Coup: A History of India's Deep State
by - Josy Joseph 

About the Book

‘They were not expected to behave like the terrorists they were hunting. Even in the thickest fog of war, the law-abider and the law-breaker must be distinguished.’
India is justly proud of a parliamentary democracy that has never been threatened by a military coup. No mean feat in a neighbourhood where coups are common and notions of constitutionality shaky. However, for decades now, India’s democratic standing has been steadily declining. An international analysis recently rated the country as only ‘partly free’, while another deemed it an ‘electoral autocracy’.
Josy Joseph investigates this decline and comes away with a key insight: that the process of confronting militancy has warped the system. As insurgencies erupted across India, and grew increasingly more sophisticated in the 1980s and ’90s, the security establishment struggled to keep up. Increasingly overwhelmed, the police forces, intelligence agencies, federal investigation agencies, tax departments and the like came up with ingenious—at times sinister—solutions: from faking and framing evidence to staging massive terror attacks and even creating terrorist organisations. Over time, militancy became a flourishing, multi-faceted business enterprise.
From the Kashmiri militancy to the Sri Lankan civil war, from the attack on Mumbai to the long-term unrest in the Northeast, India’s ‘war on terror’ has made its security institutions more nationalistic and chauvinistic and, inevitably, more corrupt. Most dangerously, there is a near-complete capture of the security apparatus, whether investigative agencies, police or intelligence, by the political executive—serving as stormtroopers with no accountability, rather than as defenders of the Constitution.
The result of more than two decades of reporting on insurgencies, terrorism and the security establishment, The Silent Coup is a wake-up call to the nation. You do not need a military coup to subvert democracy, Joseph says—in India, it has already been subverted.
About the Author
Josy Joseph is a writer-journalist based in New Delhi, and founder of Confluence Media, a platform-agnostic investigative journalism outfit. His first book, A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India, won the 2017 Crossword Award for the best non-fiction book.
He has won several awards for his journalism, including the Prem Bhatia Trust’s ‘India’s best political reporter’ in 2010 and the ‘Journalist of the Year’ Ramnath Goenka award in 2013. The Prem Bhatia trust citation said the award was ‘for his scoops and revelations, which include a list of scams that have become familiar names in the political lexicon’. Josy has exposed some of India’s biggest scandals—among them, the Mumbai Adarsh Housing scam and the 2010 Commonwealth Games scams—and his stories have played a significant role in impacting the country’s social and political narrative.
He was the National Security Editor of The Hindu newspaper until August 2018, when he left to start Confluence Media. Previously, he has also worked with The Times of India as its Editor, Special Projects, Daily News and Analysis (DNA) as an Associate Editor, and several other mainstream publications.
At Confluence Media, Josy is experimenting with creating a commercially viable, scalable, quality journalism outfit.
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