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.
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?”…
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