Caste, corruption and Kashmir

India Review
October 22, 2004

Since 1990, India has witnessed major changes. Gone are the familiar signposts of the Nehruvian state that for so long defined post-colonial India and were the benchmarks for academic scholarship.

Instead, the rise of the lower castes, the liberalisation of the economy and the emergence of the Hindu right are said by some commentators to be "reinventing" India. Ironically, while these changes have increased popular interest in the country, in Western universities Indian studies as an academic specialism has wilted under the impact of successive cuts.

India Review , edited by Sumit Ganguly, based at Indiana University, and with a distinguished editorial board drawn mainly from the US, aims to "reinvigorate Indian studies" by providing a forum for "multidisciplinary social science and policy research". It identifies India as a "pivotal state in world politics" with a diversity that makes it an "ideal laboratory for social development theory and testing". The editorial statement claims that the distinctive contribution of India Review lies in providing a forum "devoted exclusively to social science research on modern India".

The first three volumes provide sufficient evidence that some of these claims are being met. The first issue opens with a useful discussion of Indian secularism by Raeev Bhargava and Gurpreet Mahajan, restating well-rehearsed arguments. This is enlivened by an incisive historical reassessment by Ainslee Embree, who draws on the colonial and post-colonial state's dilemmas in managing religious diversity.

Christophe Jaffrelot, in a wide-ranging assessment of Indian democracy, highlights the debilitating consequences of growing political corruption and the criminalisation of politics, two processes he suggests are intimately interconnected.

The journal's main strength is its coverage of contemporary politics.

Perhaps reflecting the backgrounds of the editor and editorial board, it gives considerable space to contributions on international relations, with a particular emphasis on India's security concerns. Inevitably, Kashmir features prominently. Equally conspicuous are reflections on India's emerging status as a regional power and relations with China and other regional states. These contributions, moreover, are generally by younger scholars.

Against these strengths there are some minor concerns. Several contributors (Jaffrelot, Subrata Mitra and John Grover) make regular appearances, perhaps due to the lack of high quality submissions in early issues. A significant number of articles also resemble policy briefs, and though these chime with the journal's mission, their lightness tends to detract from the more scholarly contributions. The editor's decision to forgo a standard book review section is in line with current fashion, but it overlooks an important area, especially in India. Review essays are invaluable, and one issue is devoted exclusively to them, but they do not compensate for a full review section.

Nevertheless, India Review is essential reading for researchers, teachers and students interested in contemporary India. The editor has a major task on his hands in establishing its position in a market already dominated by the Economic and Political Weekly, Contemporary South Asia and Commonwealth and Comparative Politics . On the strength of the output so far, he is well on the way to realising this objective.

Gurharpal Singh is professor of inter-religious relations, Birmingham University.

India Review

Editor - Sumit Ganguly
Publisher - Taylor and Francis
Pages - Quarterly
Price - Institutions £139.00; Individuals £44.00
ISSN - 1473 6489

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