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Friday, March 2, 2012

Ramachandra Guha explains...

Historian Ramchandra Guha was interviewed by Jai Arjun Singh for The Sunday Guardian at the time of publication of his book 'The Makers of Modern India'. In the interview Guha briefly explains the significance of Hamid Dalwai, whom he deservedly devotes a chapter in the book, in India's socio-religious reform movement.

This text is included here with the permission of Ramachandra Guha

Q. You end the book with a very intriguing figure, the Muslim liberal Hamid Dalwai, who is relatively obscure even though he lived recently. What makes him so significant?

A. I discovered Dalwai in the mid-1990s. I bought his book Muslim Politics in Secular India, became fascinated by it, and talked about him with his friend and translator Dilip Chitre. I quoted from his work in a newspaper article around 10 years ago, and that got my Muslim friends very angry because they couldn't stomach his radicalism. As you know, these things become very black and white. A Hindu can't say Muslims must reform themselves, even if he's already been telling Hindus to be less bigoted – someone like me, for instance, whose views on Hindutva are well known (chuckles).
But Dalwai's real significance struck me in the post-9/11 global world, and given the crisis Islam is facing now. He speaks to that issue. He and Rammohan Roy are complementary figures, because both were fighting the prevalent orthodoxy of their time – Rammohan Roy was as much of a heretical Hindu for his time as Dalwai was a heretical Muslim in his. But Roy lived into his 60s and became well-know, whereas Dalwai died in his early 40s.

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