ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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India: A Plurality of Voices in Conversation and Contestation

Only after the third reading of this slim book Voices of Dissent: An Essay did its full significance become apparent to me. A third reading was required because my mind was cluttered with academic bad habitsacquired over five decades of being disciplinedwhere I saw my job as looking for gaps in the argument, missing references, overstatements, inadequate definitions, unsupported observations, all tasks that comprised just another day at the office. This, however, is not the way to read this particular book. The mind must be prepared differently because the minutiae that Romila Thapar presents, the asides she makes, although interesting, are not crucial to the big picture being constructed.

One must, therefore, begin the review process by defragging ones mind. Then one must recognise that this is not just another one of Thapars several books. While the earlier contributions of the eminent historian and fearless public intellectual have considerably enriched our academic world by their scholarly advances, this book is different. Thapar mentions in the book that as a young schoolgirl, she was asked by M K Gandhi to wear only khadi. This puzzled her. Being in awe of the Mahatma, she took his injunction very seriously. The book can therefore be read as the reflections of a lifetime returning to Bapujis request, unravelling its many layers of meaning, understanding its import for India and the world. Khadi was the aspiration for freedom against domination. The book is her attempt to pull it all together. Her accumulated insights of seven plus decades in the academy, on how societies live and die, on how agency interacts with structure, on the fluidity of critical moments in history when right and wrong turns are taken, on the good and evil of religion, on resistance and dissent, are offered in the book sometimes as articulated text, sometimes as suggestion, and sometimes as the phantom spirit that lies behind the angst that often appears in her analysis. For example, after an illuminating discussion of Gandhis idea of satyagraha, she writes:

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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