The public intellectual in India is an endangered species. Should we care? In this well-argued book, Romila Thapar and others tell us why we should. Thapar begins by defining the critical role that such individuals play in our societies today. Collectively, they are the objective, fearless, constructive voice that asks the awkward questions when government, industry, religious leaders and other bulwarks of society stray from their roles of ensuring the proper functioning of a country whose hallmarks are (or should be) social and economic equality, justice for all, and the liberty to say, think and profess the fundamental requirements of good citizenship. Through the lens of history, philosophy, science, and politics, she shows us the key role enlightened thinkers and activists have played in India, Europe and elsewhere. Today, as the liberal space in India is threatened by religious fundamentalism, big business, and, worryingly, a government that appears to be tacitly (and sometimes overtly) encouraging the attack on freedom of expression, secular values and rational readings of history, there could be no book as timely as this one. With contributions from writers and scholars in the fields of philosophy, science, history, journalism and social activism, The Public Intellectual in India shows us why it is important to have independent voices to protect the underprivileged, ensure human rights and social justice, and watch over the smooth functioning of our liberal, secular democracy.
About the Author
Romila Thapar is Emeritus Professor of History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She is a Fellow of the British Academy. In 2008, Professor Thapar was awarded the prestigious Kluge Prize of the US Library of Congress, which honours lifetime achievement in studies such as history that are not covered by the Nobel Prize. Sundar Sarukkai is a philosopher whose research interests are primarily in the philosophy of the natural and the social sciences. Dhruv Raina is a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and has worked on the intellectual and social context of scientific thought. Peter Ronald deSouza is a professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and holds the Dr S. Radhakrishnan Chair of the Rajya Sabha until April 2017. Neeladri Bhattacharya is Professor of Modern History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Jawed Naqvi writes a weekly column from Delhi for a clutch of Indian and foreign newspapers with a focus on social upheavals, rights campaigns and right-wing religious challenges.