Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Ground Realities

K Balagopal (1952–2009) didn't start out as a writer or commentator on contemporary politics. Like that other great modern Indian thinker, D. D. Kosambi whom he read avidly, admired and wrote about, his training was in mathematics, a subject he taught at Kakatiya University, Warangal, from 1981 to 1985. The political culture of Warangal—home to the Naxalite left and resonant with debates around questions of class, justice and revolution—proved decisive in Balagopal turning away from an introspective life of the mind. Instead, he came to train his acute intellect to identify, comprehend and critically examine key political and social concerns. 

He joined the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee in 1981, and became active in civil rights work centred at that time around extra-judicial killings of militant left cadres. Arrested under TADA in 1985 on trumped-up charges relating to the murder of a police sub-inspector, he spent three months in Warangal prison. In 1989, Balagopal was kidnapped by a vigilante group called ‘Praja Bandhu’—believed to be a front of the police, and in 1992 was beaten up badly by the police in Kothagudem. Balagopal trained to be a lawyer late in his life and enrolled in the Bar Council of Andhra Pradesh in 1998, representing a wide variety of litigants whose lives, lands, status and employment were threatened. In fellow-traveller K. G. Kannabiran’s words, ‘Balagopal showed himself as the only lawyer of the poor of his generation with a reputation for competence.’ Owing to differences of opinion on the use of violence by Naxalites, Balagopal left APCLC in 1998. He was one of the founder-members of Human Rights Forum in which he was active till his death.

Balagopal was too self-effacing to put together his writings into a volume. But it is through his writings that his legacy lives on, giving us a roadmap for future struggles and these are collected in Ear to the Ground: Writings on Class and Castepublished by Navayana. 

Balagopal’s writings, from the early 1980s till he died in 2009, offer us a rare insight into the making of modern India. Civil rights work provided Balagopal the cause and context to engage with history, the public sphere and political change. He wrote through nearly three tumultuous decades: on encounter deaths; struggles of agricultural labourers; the shifting dynamics of class and caste in the 1980s and thereafter in Andhra Pradesh; the venality and tyranny of the Indian state; on the importance of re-figuring the caste order as one that denied the right of civil existence to vast numbers of its constituents; the centrality one ought to grant patriarchy in considerations of social injustice; the destructive logic of development that emerged in the India of the 1990s, dishonouring its citizens’ right to life, liberty and livelihood. This volume comprises essays—largely drawn from Economic & Political Weekly to which he was a regular contributor—that deal with representations and practices of class power as they exist in tandem with state authority and caste identities.

Inspired by Naxalism in the late 1970s, intellectually indebted to D.D. Kosambi’s writings on Indian history and society, and politically and ethically attentive to the politics of feminist and dalit assertion in the 1990s, Balagopal refused dogma and shrill polemics just as he refused theory that did not heed the mess of history and practice. 

From an essay in EPW, 1990: ‘There is perhaps no issue on which we are such hypocrites as caste; nor any other which brings out all that is worst in us with such shameful ease. The moment V. P. Singh announces the decision to implement the Mandal Commission recommendations… an avalanche of obscenity hits the country. Caste will undoubtedly be the last of the iniquitous institutions to die out in this country. It will outlast everything else.’   

Binayak Sen says ‘As a human rights worker active since 1981, and slightly older than Balagopal, I remember him as a magical figure. The writings in this volume help interpret the often chaotic developments in Andhra Pradesh, and provide a model tool for understanding other regional realities of India.’

In our Dalit Studies section, in paperback, 488 pages. Rs 550. ISBN 9788189059408

Monday, 28 November 2011

New Faces

Subhash Gatade is an engineer by training and a freelance journalist and translator by choice. His new book, Godse's Children: Hindutva Terror in India is based on his extensive writing on issues of communalism and Dalit emancipation.

Hindutva terror has finally emerged. It was on 6 April, 2006 when Nanded witnessed a bomb blast at the house of Laxman Rajkondwar, a longtime RSS activist, killing his son and another Sangh activist. The blast brought to the fore the systematic manner in which people associated with RSS and allied outfits were engaged in making and storing explosives, imparting arms training and planning to bomb minorities as part of their mission to establish Hindu Rashtra in India. Five years later, investigating agencies are in the know of the involvement of Hindutva supremacists in dozens of earlier and later blasts like Malegaon and Samjhauta Express. The role of international linkages and networks of different Hindutva formations in collecting funds, mobilising resources and supporting the cause has added further ferocity to this project. The present book, the first comprehensive treatment of the subject, shows that Hindutva terror is not a mere regional or rare phenomenon. Apart from bringing forth the commonality of tactics used by these terror modules, the book also looks at the phenomenon historically and presents hitherto unexplored evidence. It also underlines the Himalayan task which awaits the investigating agencies as they are yet to nab any of the masterminds, planners, financiers and ideologues of these terror attacks despite ample evidence.

In our Strategic Affairs  and History sections, 400 pages in  paperback,  Rs 360. ISBN: 9788172210526

Sunday, 27 November 2011


What can be done to save the word—be it in the form of the book or the newspaper? That is the question posed by AndrĂ© Schiffrin—for thirty years the publisher at Pantheon and now director of The New Press. Having published authors like Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Noam Chomsky, Kurt Vonnegut, Studs Terkel, Gunnar and Alva Myrdal, and Art Spiegelman among others, ten years after being forced out of Pantheon, Schiffrin wrote The Business of Books. Part-memoir, part-history, this irascible, acute and passionate account of the collapsing standards of contemporary publishing has since appeared in some thirty countries, not only across Western Europe but also in China, Japan and Russia. In 2010, Schiffrin followed it up with Words and Money, which discusses the crises in publishing following the breakdown in the world’s capitalistic system and the solutions that have been sought in many countries to the new problems of corporatization and the unabashed pursuit of the bottom line. 
The Business of Words is the first combined edition of both the books and is published by Navayana. It will make everyone seriously interested in ideas and information think again.The Business of Words is the first combined edition of both the books. It will make everyone seriously interested in ideas and information think again.

Zubaan's Urvashi Butalia  says “Schiffrin’s careful tracing of the growth of independent and committed publishing holds many lessons for India where, despite the overwhelming presence of international publishers, the sharp edge of publishing is retained by indigenous, independent and small publishers.”

Robert W. McChesney, author of The Death and Life of American Journalism: “A masterful assessment of the media crisis of our times and a roadmap to workable and effective solutions… intelligent, informed, reasoned, and humane—exactly the book the world needs at this time”  and a review in Vanity Fair: “Schiffrin shows how media consolidation is pulling the teeth of serious journalism, and how it can get its bite back.”  

In our Media section, in paperback, 296 pages.  Rs 295, ISBN: 9788189059477

Friday, 25 November 2011

Krishnan and Raman

The first four decades of the 20th century were glorious years for science, especially physics. Our view of the physical world changed forever with the emergence of quantum mechanics and Einstein’s formulation of the theory of relativity. India too contributed significantly to this scientific revolution with the discoveries made by S N Bose, C V Raman and M N Saha, all in the space of about a decade. Kariamanikkam Srinivasa Krishnan (1898- 1961) belonged to the same illustrious group. He was perhaps the only Indian physicist of his generation who was equally adept in theory and experiment. Besides a life of excellence in science, Krishnan’s destiny led him to be an able science policy maker and administrator. He was also a great teacher, a humanist and a scholar of Sanskrit, Tamil literature and philosophy.

Kariamanikkam Srinivasa Krishnan: His Life and Work  is the new biography of this remarkable and largely unsung hero of modern Indian science by D C V Malik and S Chatterjee, both associated with the Indian Institute of Astrophysics. Malik's professional research has been mainly in the area of interstellar matter and astrophysics of nebulae, and this biography is the result of several years of his research on the life and times of Dr Krishnan. Chatterjee's interests are in condensed matter physics, astrophysics and optics, and in the popularisation of science and science teaching.

This biography, besides being a detailed and meticulously documented account of Krishnan’s life and his scientific work, is also an exciting account of the history of Indian science of the period. The source material of this work, most of which are being used for the first time, comes from the private papers of K S Krishnan that had remained in the custody of his family.

In our Biography section, Rs 895, 516 pages in hardcover. ISBN: 9788173717482

Krishnan's mentor, C V Raman is also the subject of a new biography by Uma Parameswaran, from Penguin India.  In 1921, while on a voyage to England, Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman was amazed by the spectacular blue of the Mediterranean Sea. Seven years of research led to the Raman Effect, an explanation of the molecular diffraction of light that won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930—the first non-white and first Asian to be thus honoured.

Always a nationalist, Raman strove to win a place for India in the international arena by mentoring scores of students, many of whom became renowned scientists; he also organized conferences for the promotion of scientific inquiry and founded significant journals. After a long spell at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science and at Calcutta University, and a fruitful tenure at the Indian Institute of Science as the first Indian director, he set up the Raman Research Institute in 1948, where his legacy survives to this day.

Raman was famous not only for his sharp intellect, but also for his personal charm, abundant vitality and sense of humour. This comprehensive biography details for the first time Raman’s growth as an individual, taking us through his childhood years, his relationships and his travels.

Also  in Biography, 296 pages in paperback, Rs 350. ISBN: 9780143066897

Monday, 14 November 2011

Inspiring, informative...

Young Zubaan's latest book is The Girl's Guide to a Life in Science (or GGLS), a collection of about 25 mostly autobiographical essays by Indian women scientists. A follow up to (or, in this case, from) Lilavati's Daughters: The Women Scientists of India which was edited by Rohini Godbole and Ram Ramaswamy, this new book adds a third editor, Mandakini Dubey.

Inspiring, informative, ingenious…meet twenty-five of India’s most celebrated female scientists. From astrophysics to zoology, learn what it takes to make a career in science. 
What led them to choose their particular field? Who encouraged them? What were their struggles? What are their sources of inspiration? What are the key questions at the cutting edge of modern research? Why choose a life in science at all?

From astrophysics to zoology, learn what it takes to make a career in science.

The scientists profiled include Sudha Bhattacharya (biochemistry), Renee M Borges (tropical biology) Priya Davidar (ecology), Shobhana Narasimhan (physics), Rama Govindarajan (fluid mechanics), Sulabha Pathak (microbiology), Manju Sharma (botany), Joyanti Chutia (plasma physics), Sulochana Gadgil (meteorology), Priyadarshini Karve (energy studies) and others. With a foreword by Sunetra Gupta (epidemiology) and a biographical essay on Anandibai Joshee.

In our Biography and For Children sections, 184 pages in paperback, Rs 245. ISBN: 9789381017111