I'm Sahaj Sankaran, winner of Yale’s South Asian Studies Prize and Diane Kaplan Memorial Prize for my historical research, and this is Today in Indian History. Four days a week, I'll dig into the context and consequences of an event in India's history that happened on that date. I'll walk you through what happened, what the world around looked like at the time, and how it shaped the India we live in today.
email: sahaj [at] honestyisbest [dot] com.
August 2, 2020
The Complex Past and Present of Indian Fighter Jet Purchases
After years of delays and renegotiations, 36 Dassault Rafale fighter jets are being delivered to India, to become part of the Indian Air Force’s efforts at modernization. While many in India are celebrating the delivery, many others are questioning the costs involved, delays, reduced size of the final purchase, and the Rafale’s utility against hostile neighbors that may well have already passed it by. This post isn’t an attempt to take a side in the debate, but rather to illuminate some of the unique history behind the Indian Air Force’s fighter jets – and, above all, to show that the current Rafale drama isn’t anything new. India’s aircraft purchases have always been complex and bizarre things, mired in tangled international and domestic politics…
July 17, 2020
Madras is Renamed Chennai
On 17 July, 1996, the Chief Minister of the Indian State of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi, announced that the state capital, Madras, would henceforth be known as Chennai. The immensely popular move followed decades of assertions of Tamil independence…
July 3, 2020
British India and Tibet Sign the Simla Convention
On 3 July, 1914, the British and Tibetan governments signed the Simla Convention clarifying the semi-autonomous status of Tibet and demarcating the border between Tibetan territory and British India. The treaty followed years of political plays in the region between the British Empire, Russia, China, and Tibet, and was meant to solidify British India’s North-Eastern borders…
June 24, 2020
The Indian Opposition Resigns from Parliament to Protest the Bofors Scandal
On 24 June, 1989, 73 Members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha, the Indian lower house, resigned their positions and walked out of the chamber en masse. The move was a public protest of the government’s handling of a massive scandal centered around arms procurement. Their actions would shake faith in the Indian government, radically affect the results of the general election held that year, and change the face of Indian politics for decades…
June 22, 2020
Humayun Wins the Battle of Sirhind
On 22 June, 1555, the armies of the Mughal Emperor Humayun and the warlord Sikandar Shah Suri met near Sirhind, in what is now the Indian state of Punjab. After 15 years in exile from India, Humayun had come to reclaim the territories in India conquered by his father, Babur…
May 28, 2020
The First Pakistani Nuclear Test
On the 28th of May, 1998, there were minor earthquakes in parts of Balochistan Province, in Pakistan. The cause became clear a day later, when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressed the nation; Pakistan had just successfully tested a nuclear weapon.
Truth be told, the test had been a long time coming. India had first detonated a nuclear explosive over 20 years previously in 1974, the famous ‘Smiling Buddha’ test. One would expect Pakistan to have wasted no time conducting their own test, to bring a certain equilibrium back to the power balance of the subcontinent….
May 24, 2020
The beginnings of the Naxal insurgency
On 24 May, 1967, in West Bengal, dozens of laborers and tribals armed only with bows and arrows attacked a force of 50 police officers, killing their commander. The resulting uprising across the state would grow into the larger Naxalite-Maoist insurgency in India. Since then, the Naxals have aimed to violently overthrow the Indian state and replace it with a Communist government on Maoist lines. The resulting conflict has claimed some 15,000 lives since 1996.
Uniquely for its time, India’s far-left uprising wasn’t a response to a right-wing government. The economic Right in India was nonexistent as a political force, lingering only through the occasional magazine or think tank; exactly two years after the Naxalbari uprising, in 1969, The Economist referred to India’s ideological spectrum as ‘left, lefter, leftest’ where economic policy was concerned. The question at hand in West Bengal, and indeed all over India, was not “Should India be socialist?” so much as “What kind of socialism?”…
Subscribe to Today in Indian History
What is Honesty Is Best?
We find ourselves living in interesting times. This is a moment of great pain, incredible uncertainty, and collapsing realities — fertile soil for new ideas, new paths, and new institutions. Honesty Is Best brings people together to think about how we got here and to explore what we should do next in order to build a fundamentally better world on the uneven foundations upon which we are perched.
We will play host to a number of regular series about technology, policy, and culture spanning writing, podcasts, and video. Each of these series will be written or anchored by one or two people working actively in the specific area the series is about. The distinct style of each series will reflect that of its creators, with the common threads being a focus on concrete ideas and a commitment to telling the unvarnished truth as they see it.
We invite to explore and subscribe to our three current offerings:
Today in Indian
History, a four-times weekly series about the context and consequences of events in
India’s past written by Sahaj Sankaran, winner of Yale’s South Asian Studies Prize and
Diane Kaplan Memorial Prize for his work in Indian history
a twice-monthly podcast about Computer Science research hosted by Soham Sankaran, the founder of
Pashi and a PhD student in Computer Science at Cornell
Kernels of Truth, a weekly series taking a deeper dive into recent hyped-up developments
in artificial intelligence by Ethan Weinberger, a PhD student in machine learning at
the University of Washington.
Take a look at some recent work from Honesty Is Best, or subscribe via email for updates from all our series below: