Kapil Komireddi

I am a writer, journalist, and book critic. My book, The Malevolent Republic: India Under Modi, will be published in the winter. I have written from South Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East; and my work has appeared, among other publications, in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Economist, the Spectator, TIME, Los Angeles Times, CNN, the National, the Jewish Chronicle, Foreign Policy, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Tablet, Daily Beast, London Review, New Republic, New Statesman, Newsweek, Guardian, Daily Mirror, the Australian, Le Monde diplomatique, the Independent, the Times of India, Hindustan Times, and Haaretz. This website features some of my published work.

Shashi Tharoor’s book is a polemic, says Kapil Komireddi – beware of Hindu nationalism

Most religions bind their adherents into a community of believers. Hinduism segregates them into castes. And people excluded from the hierarchical caste system — the ‘untouchables’ — are permanently doomed to a life of scripturally sanctioned calvary. This hideousness doesn’t, however, hinder Shashi Tharoor from breathlessly exalting Hinduism as ‘a religion for the 21st century’.

Will the uncomfortable truths of a movie about India's Emergency survive the censor's cuts?

The Emergency, only four decades old, already feels like ancient history. It is not taught in school and many young people have never even heard of it. Such widespread unawareness permits Congress to attack prime minister Narendra Modi as an unusual strongman in Indian history, while proffering itself as the enlightened alternative. But a new film is threatening to complicate matters for Congress.

Revenge of the workers?

Western liberalism is in peril. Europe is disintegrating. America is in retreat. Liberal democracy is shrinking. Russia is on a rampage. China is positioning itself as the de facto leader of the world. How did we get here? In The Retreat of Western Liberalism, Edward Luce advances answers as potent as hand grenades – and he hurls them without a sliver of sympathy at the nabobs who make the annual hegira to Davos. They have seceded from reality, he argues, and their insights are anachronistic piffle.

The politics of time reveals deep fault lines in the harmony of society

Sunshine swamps India’s north-east while the rest of the country is sleeping. But the clocks, controlled by New Delhi, repudiate nature. The westernmost and easternmost parts of India are divided by 28 degrees of longitude. As Indian schoolbooks make clear, 15 degrees of longitudinal distance correspond to an hour’s time difference. This means that the north-east is almost two hours ahead of western India. Yet, strangely, Indians in the east are compelled to hold their lives in abeyance in deference to Indians in the west.

The End of the Asian Century?

Raymond Aron, writing about Europe in the 20th century, called it a "denial of the experience of our century to suppose that men will sacrifice their passions to their interests". That is also Auslin’s message about Asia in the 21st century. He warns against the naïve belief that "China and Japan will not go to war over disputed island territory because their economic ties are too deep, or that North Korea will not launch a nuclear missile at Seoul or Tokyo because to do so would be suicidal".

India’s moral claim to Kashmir has never seemed more fragile

India could once credibly argue for Kashmir’s place within its fold because the religion of a majority of Kashmiris – which is the basis of Pakistan’s claim on Kashmir – was irrelevant to full citizenship of a secular state. But as India transforms under Narendra Modi from a quasi-secular state to a de facto Hindu-supremacist state, it can no longer invoke the foundational arguments of Indian nationalism to retain Kashmir. A Hindu India cannot accommodate religious multiplicity any more than an Islamic Pakistan can. An India that has ceased to be secular has lost its moral right to Kashmir.

Book review: The Addis Ababa Massacre, when Ethiopia ran blood | The National

Italy’s military defeat in 1896 to Ethiopia was a special wound in the long list of grievances that underpinned its renewed search for grandeur on the world’s stage. This time, it made extensive preparations before advancing on Ethiopia. It built a chemical weapons factory on 30 acres of land near Mogadishu in Somalia. The quantities of lethal gases produced at that facility were so large that no fewer than 17 warehouses had to be propped up to store them. The Italians stockpiled 35,000 gas masks for their own protection. Ethiopians stood no chance when the Italians showed up in 1935.

Have India’s rocket men sent a nation on a wrong course in their quest for status? | The National

India made its first foray into space in November 1963. The Soviets supplied a computer and a helicopter. The French provided the payload. The Americans contributed the Nike-Apache research rocket that was lofted into space. The only thing Indian about this mission was its ingenuity. On the site deemed ideal for the launch, in a village on India’s Malabar Coast, stood a church dating back to the seventeenth-century. Religious feelings, especially of minorities, were fiercely guarded under Nehru; the launch could not proceed without the consent of Kerala’s Christian community. After brief negotiations, however, the custodians of the church gave away the building. A commemorative plaque at the old church, now converted to a museum, reads: "The church authorities and the parishioners decided in a gracious and exemplary manner to dedicate this place of worship on the altar of science".

Will non-violent resistance ever work against communism?

Tibetans were once fabled warriors. Their empire, at the summit of its power in the eighth century, extended to northern India, western China and central Asia. The Arabs, making inroads into central Asia, were in awe of them. And China, according to an inscription commissioned to memorialise Tibet’s conquest of the Tang Chinese capital of Changan in 763, ‘shivered with fear’ at their mention. But the Tibet annexed by Mao Zedong in the 20th century bore no trace of its imperial past.

Modi is an unstoppable force – and that’s India’s great modern tragedy | The National

India’s tragedy is that there isn’t a figure – or a party – that can take on Mr Modi. The opposition has rarely been more fragmented. But if demonetisation cannot prompt unity among the opposition, what can? And what else is the man who is incapable of acknowledging the catastrophe before his eyes capable of? The BJP, always a regressive party, is now a pliant vehicle for the reckless fantasies of a deranged man. In 1977, when Indira Gandhi ended her dictatorial rule and called a general election, the opposition at the time – comprising secularists and Hindu nationalists, socialists and capitalists – united against her. They crushed her. That collaboration, though it did not last long, ought to be the model for today’s disunited opposition. Resisting Modi: every difference should be subordinated to this patriotic purpose.

Why did Colombia choose more war instead of giving peace a chance? | The National

The Farc’s chief negotiator began the talks with Bogota’s representatives by proclaiming that he had come to "put neoliberalism in the dock as the hangman of peoples and the manufacturer of death". It is a measure of Mr Santos’s desire for peace that he tolerated such sanctimonious rhetoric from an organisation that has forcibly conscripted children into its militia, massacred civilians, coerced women into sexual slavery, and amassed fortunes from the drug trade.

Book review: Christopher Bennett examines whether the Balkan state is on the cusp of war in Bosnia’s Paralysed Peace | The National

The Dayton Agreement did not cure old hatreds; it froze them. Conflict did not erupt because the Office of the High Representative was backed by the muscle to enforce peace. But the early resolve of foreign peacemakers began to wane, local politicians started mastering ways to subvert authority, and High Representatives stopped being feared.

Raise him up

INDIA’S tenth prime minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, inherited a country on the point of collapse. In the run-up to the election in 1991 separatists were on the rampage in Kashmir and Punjab, the treasury was running out of foreign reserves and 800 people were killed in clashes across the country. Then Rajiv Gandhi was blown up by a Tamil Tiger suicide-bomber as he campaigned in southern India. Rao, a reticent scholar with government experience but little popular support, was his improbable success
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