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On writing and politcs: A chat with author Vinay Sitapti

How long was the research process for the book?

This took me three years. But I was also teaching during this period.


Why this subject in particular?

I am a child of the 1990s, and the two biggest political trends of that decade was liberalisation and the rise of the BJP. My first book, on P.V. Narasimha Rao, was a response to this first political trend. This book was motivated by the second trend — the political rise of Hindu nationalism — that I remember from my childhood.


What has been the most rewarding experience about writing this book?

Front cover of Jugalbandi
Jugalbandi || Vinay Sitapati

While writing the book, I immersed myself in the world of Hindu nationalism — talking to people, reading books and articles, going through archives — over its 100 year period. Then suddenly I began to see patterns and trends, for instance their 100 year focus on organisational unity. It was almost as if my vision had suddenly changed from blurred to focussed.

Any criticism experienced? How about any encouraging instances/incidents?

The most encouraging feeling is that even though the topic is so polarising, the book has not been slotted as ‘left’ or ‘right’. The book has not provoked anger, rather I think it has spurred understanding. That’s a lovely feeling. It means that scholarship, if done right, can bring people together. There have of course been criticisms — that I have been unduly harsh on Vajpayee for instance. I only request that the reader looks at my evidence and asks whether my conclusions flow from it.


What should we look forward from you, next?

I haven’t yet decided on what next. But I enjoyed not just the popular reception to Jugalbandi, but also the process of writing it. So whatever else I work on next must not just be interesting to the reader, it should be interesting to me.


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