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The Caravan

The Caravan January 2021

The Caravan is India’s first narrative journalism magazine. Stories are reported in a style that uses elements usually reserved for fiction—plot, characters, scenes and setting—to bring the subject to life. Like The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Granta, the context of a Caravan story is something more substantial. In India, this niche—one for the intellectually curious, the aesthetically inclined and the upwardly mobile, has remained vacant. That is, until The Caravan.

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Delhi Press Patra Prakashan Pte LTD
12 Issues

in this issue

9 min
echoes of resistance

At the end of an hour-long radio episode on Bengali protest songs, the singer and oral historian Moushumi Bhoumik performed a song written by Birendra Chattopadhyay, a twentieth-century socialist poet. A witness to the 1943 Bengal famine, Chattopadhyay wrote the lines “Anna bakya, Anna pran, Anna-i chetana”—Rice is language, rice is life, rice is consciousness. Like several other shows on Radio Quarantine, Bhoumik’s programme is concerned with building an archive of regional narratives of political resistance and cultural histories. She interviews folk singers and friends from as far afield as Purulia and Sylhet, and recollects her travels through the Sundarbans to document the region’s folk traditions. Radio Quarantine was started by a group of Kolkata-based filmmakers and scholars in March 2020, as West Bengal went into lockdown in response to the…

6 min
travelling voices

In the 1970s, when the bazaars first came to Uttarakhand’s Munsyari village, people began to purchase grain instead of growing it. Barley, one of the crops native to the region, slowly diminished in quantity and purpose. Rekha Rautela, who wrote about this, learnt about the rise and fall of the grain in her village through scattered accounts and personal reflections. Her memories of barley fields, however, are deeply personal and capture aspects of her identity and culture. Rautela’s story was published three months ago in Voices of Rural India, a non-profit online platform for rural storytellers founded in August 2020. VoRI carries digital snapshots of people both similar to, and different from, Rautela. The website functions as a novel way to offset the tourism industry’s crisis. Guides, homestay-owners and Sherpas—who make…

7 min
psus and nation building

In 1954, while Inaugurating the Bhakra Nangal dam, one of the ambitious projects included in the First Five Year Plan, Nehru christened it as a “temple of modern India.” Laying the foundation for the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam, he would repeat the same gesture and said, “When I lay the foundation stone here of Nagarjuna Sagar, to me it is a sacred ceremony… This is the foundation of the temple of humanity in India, a symbol of new temples that we are building all over India.” Four years later, in an another speech, Nehru would repeat, “The small irrigation projects, the small industries and the small plants for electric power will change the face of the country, far more than a dozen big projects in half a dozen places.” Thus born ‘Modern…

24 min
casting a veil

THREE YEARS AGO, on 1 January 2018, an annual gathering of largely Dalit visitors to the memorial of Bhima Koregaon, near Pune, was attacked by mobs led by Hindu-nationalist organisations. For several weeks, these organisations had been trying to rouse the area’s Maratha population against the Dalit Buddhist community. A day after the violence, Anita Sawale, an anti-caste activist who was present at the gathering, filed a first-information report identifying the mobs as followers of the Hindutva leaders Manohar Bhide—who calls himself Sambhaji Bhide—and Milind Ekbote. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Maharashtra government ensured that little came of Sawale’s complaint. Instead, a week later, on 8 January, a counter FIR was filed by Tushar Damgude, a supporter of Bhide, alleging that incendiary speeches had been delivered at the Elgaar Parishad, an…

62 min
the hindu hoax

COVER STORY / HISTORY DIVYA DWIVEDI,SHAJ MOHAN AND J REGHU {ONE} TODAY, IN INDIA, nearly all media have been co-opted into “Hindu nationalism,” which appears to be virtually the only permissible perspective on politics. According to this perspective, “Hindu” is both an ancient religion and an ethnic group mythically born with it, thus making “Hindus” the eternal natives of India. This political project seeks to return India to an ahistorical past in which Hindus were supposedly free of external “mlechcha,” or impure, mixtures—from the ancient Greeks to the European colonial powers. Many enthusiastic political observers recently claimed that the “Hindu state” has been in effect since 5 August 2020, when the construction of a Rama temple was inaugurated with a religious ceremony. The temple is being constructed on land in Ayodhya, previously known as…

7 min
cultivating deception

In the 1920s, as the Punjab countryside was aflame in what was till then the largest mobilisation against the British Raj, the government of India noted in its files: The Sikh peasant has been committed to a policy of “self-determination” imposed by men who are not his natural leaders, and has been induced by some mysterious process of mass psychology to enter a sphere of activity hitherto [interdicted] by all traditions of loyalty and self-interest. If we substitute the term “Khalistan” for “self-determination,” and the word “misled” for “imposed” we have precisely the same framework that the government and the mainstream media is using today regarding the ongoing farmer protests against three recently enacted farm laws: of Sikh peasants being led astray by Khalistani elements. The British, writing for their own files, had…