India

In a recent interview, India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, was asked whether his country was heading in what his interlocutor, the Lowy Institute’s Michael Fullilove, called ‘an illiberal direction’. Bristling, Jaishankar denied the charge. India is undergoing something quite different, he argued. It is experiencing a ‘very deep democratization’. This process might be hard for outsiders to understand, but it was positive, not problematic. After decades of rule by an English-speaking, Western-educated élite, the country was at last being governed by politicians who spoke and thought and behaved like ordinary Indians.

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Australian Sikhs delivering free meals to fellow citizens in need has been a heart-warming news story against a backdrop of doom and gloom this year as bushfires then the coronavirus laid waste to life as we know it. Public housing tenants in lockdown, international students stranded without support, and bush-dwellers who lost everything in the fires are among those who benefited from their kindness and competence.

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Almost before drawing breath, we meet two troupes of Indian magicians. One appears in the court of the Emperor Jahangir, early seventeenth-century Mughal ruler and aficionado of magic. In the first of twenty-eight tricks, this troupe of seven performers sprout trees from a cluster of plant pots before the emperor’s eyes ...

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The deadline for this review was 15 August, India’s Independence Day, freedom at midnight in 1947 for India and Pakistan (whose independence is celebrated on 14 August). The British euphemistically called it a ‘transfer of power’. The subsequent division was termed Partition, an anodyne definition of the act of severing ...

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For a book that began as a tweet, Shashi Tharoor’s Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India has had a remarkable journey, taking its best-selling author on a world tour, both to the centre of Empire in the United Kingdom, and its outpost in Australia. A career diplomat who retired as under-secretary general at the ...

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The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash, translated by Jason Grunebaum

by
September 2012, no. 344

Continuously inhabited since at least the sixth century, Delhi is fabled to be the city that was built seven times and razed to the ground seven times. Some believe the word Delhi comes from dehali or threshold, and the city is seen as the gateway to the Great Indian Gangetic plains. In 1912 the British moved their colonial seat of power from Calcutta to New Delhi, which also became the capital of independent India and celebrates its hundredth anniversary this year. It seems apt, then, in 2012, to read about the older Delhi that lies and lurks behind the shining veneer of India’s National Capital Territory, a Delhi that the rising Asian power seems eager to forget and obliterate.

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This year’s Jaipur Literature Festival (20–24 January) more than lived up to the Indian Ministry of Tourism’s slogan – ‘Incredible India’.

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The terrorist attacks of 9/11, and the loosely related jihadi Islamist terrorist attacks that followed in a dozen countries, have left the world more afraid than ever of Islam. Modern terrorism is not the only factor. The West has long had a problem with Islam. This perception dates back a full millennium to a time when Europe was in its dark ages and Islamic civilisation was blossoming. From the beginning, Western anxiety about Islam has been based on almost total ignorance. Well before there was any substantial contact between Europeans and Muslims, Islam was an imagined ‘other’ automatically cast as the opposite of everything that the ‘Christian West’ claimed as its legacy.

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At a time when one is reading of Cabinet decisions to cut many of the remaining constitutional links with Britain (Premiers’ Conference, June), thus moving Australia closer to national sovereignty, it is timely to be reminded of events only just over the contemporary horizon which could be said to have matured this nation into quickening the pace towards that independence of British dominion – no matter how tenuous politically, yet still incipiently present in the Statute Books and by Privy Council.

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