In this conversation, Romila Thapar, Kunal Chakrabarti, Apoorvanand and Suhas Palshikar discuss the wide arc of Dissent from the Vedic times; to the first millennium BC; the emergence of groups that were jointly called the Shramanas—the Jainas, Buddhists, and Ajivikas; to the views of some Bhakti sants and others of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries AD; to a major moment of dissent that helped to establish a free and democratic India: Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha and finally to the recent CAA-NRC protests.
Romila Thapar is Emeritus Professor of History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has been General President of the Indian History Congress. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and holds honorary doctorates from Universities of Calcutta, Oxford and Chicago, among others. She is an Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and SOAS, London. In 2008 she was awarded the prestigious Kluge Prize of the Library of Congress, USA. Her most recent book Voices of Dissent: An essay is published by Seagull Books.
Apoorvanand teaches Hindi at Delhi University. He writes literary and cultural criticism. He also writes regularly on contemporary issues. His critical essays have appeared in all major Hindi journals. Apart from his academic and literary writings, he also contributes columns in Indian Newspapers and magazines on the issues of education, culture, communalism, violence and human rights both in Hindi and also in English. He is a regular columnist at The Indian Express and The Wire. He also frequently writes on other platforms such as Scroll, Satya Hindi, Al Jazeera, The Kochi Post. He at times also appears on Indian television as a panellist on issues concerning Higher Education, language and communalism.
Kunal Chakrabarti was Professor of Ancient Indian History in the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. His research interests include social history of religion, regional histories with special reference to Bengal, history of environment with special reference to the forest, early Indian political ideas and institutions, and early Indian textual traditions. Amongst his work, mention must be made of Religious Process: Puranas and the Making of a Regional Tradition and Historical Dictionary of the Bengalis. He has also written the ‘Introduction’ for Romila Thapar, The Historian and Her Craft, Vol. 4: Religion and Society.
Suhas Palshikar is an Indian academic and social and political scientist. He taught political science at Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune, and is chief editor of Studies in Indian Politics. He is also co-director of Lokniti Programme on Comparative Democracy, CSDS. He has specialised in the areas of Political Process in India, Politics of Maharashtra, Political Sociology of Democracy.