Quote from 1930s sparks angry exchange between Ramchandra Guha, Guj CM


PTI, Jun 11, 2020, 8:43 PM IST

Ahmedabad: A tweet by historian Ramchandra Guha quoting a British writer’s comment in the 1930s that Gujarat was economically strong but ‘culturally backward’ drew angry reactions from BJP leaders on Thursday.

While Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said that Indians would not fall for ‘tricks’ of dividing them, Guha said the outrage was unwarranted as he does not necessarily endorse the opinions of other persons whom he quotes.

‘Gujarat, though economically advanced, is culturally a backward province… Bengal in contrast is economically backward but culturally advanced’, Philip Spratt, writing in 1939,’ Guha tweeted on Thursday morning.

Taking offence, chief minister Rupani claimed that like the British in the past, some `elite’ Indians now wanted to divide the country’s people.

‘Earlier it was the British who tried to divide and rule. Now it is a group of elites who want to divide Indians.

Indians won’t fall for such tricks. Gujarat is great, Bengal is great…India is united, he tweeted.

‘Our cultural foundations are strong, our economic aspirations are high,’ Rupani added.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also joined in the war of words by tweeting.

‘In 1939, when Philip Spratt, from Britain, belonging to the Communist International wrote this…what was happening in Gujarat: Jamnagar…Maharaja Jam Saheb Digvijaysinhji Jadeja…saved 1000 Polish children,’ she said.

She also posted a photograph of Polish refugees from Europe who were given shelter by the former Jamnagar royal during World War II.

Responding to the backlash, Guha said they should reserve their praise or anger for the ghost of the person being quoted.

‘Statutory warning; when I post quotes by others found in the course of my research, I do so because I find them arresting in some way. I may (or may not) endorse, in part or in whole, what I am quoting.

‘Reserve your praise or your anger for the ghost of the person being quoted,’ the eminent historian said.

‘If the Gujarat Chief Minister is, at this moment in history, (a) so keenly following the tweets of a humdrum historian and (b) so easily confusing the historian with a dead writer being quoted, the State of Gujarat must indeed be in safe hands, Guha said in another tweet.

‘I thought it was only the Gujarat CM, but now it seems even the FM is obsessing about a humdrum historian’s tweets. The economy is surely in safe hands,’ he said in another swipe.

‘I have been trying without success for thirty years to make the writer Philip Spratt better known; thank you to the Troll Army for accomplishing this in a day,’ Guha said in another tweet.

The exchange of words between Guha and BJP leaders reverberated on Twitter, gathering tweets supporting or against Guha.

Spratt, a British intellectual who was among founders of the Communist Party of India, was jailed in the Meerut Conspiracy Case along with many Indian communist leaders in 1929.

Earlier, Guha, the writer of two-volume biography of Mahatma Gandhi, had been invited to appear as guest lecturer at Ahmedabad University, however, due to opposition by some right-wing activists he declined the invitation.

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