Prolific scholar of South Asian politics : The Tribune India

Tribune News Service

Paul Brass, an American political scientist who knew Hindi and traced the evolution of politics and communal violence in post-Independence UP, has passed away. He was 85.

His three-volume biography of former PM and farmers’ leader Charan Singh, which was translated into Hindi, gives a clear idea of how he intimately knew post-Independent politics in then unheard hamlets such as Chapprauli and Garh Mukteshwar.

“Paul Brass does not shy away from critiquing the communal side of his subject of study. In the first volume, he draws out some very uncomforting shades of Charan Singh. In hindsight, some of his remarks on the communal question rings an eerie familiarity with the kind of vitriol that passes in the name of nationalism dominated by majoritarian identity politics these days,” recalls journalist Prabhat Shunglu who translated the first volume (1937-1961) into Hindi.

Upcoming political scientists of that era in India recall his seminal works on communal politics such as his lucid articles in “Economic and Political Weekly” on the ‘institutionalised systems of riot production’ and his books “Riots and Pogroms” (1996) and “The Politics of India since Independence” (1994).

“Paul was a prolific and original scholar who explored comparative and South Asian politics, ethnic politics and communalism,” wrote his life-long friend Frank Conlon, Professor Emeritus of history at University of Washington.

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