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Rajmohan Gandhi sees link between 1857 and American Civil War

In 1999,Rajmohan Gandhi,in his book Revenge and Reconciliation,had pointed out that nobody had taken a joint view of two events—India’s 1857...

Written by Alaka Sahani | Mumbai |
January 7, 2010 11:38:33 pm

In 1999,Rajmohan Gandhi,in his book Revenge and Reconciliation,had pointed out that nobody had taken a joint view of two events—India’s 1857 uprising and the American Civil War in 1861—that “took place on opposite sides of the globe at the same time”. A decade later,the former parliamentarian has come up with a non-fiction,A Tale of Two Revolts: India 1857 and the American Civil War,which links these two revolts spanning three countries— India,America and England.

“Both events have been of perennial interest across the world. With this book,I have taken an unusual angle to look at them. When the 1857 revolt broke out,the American press reported it regularly. Even though the updates took six to eight months to reach America,they were curious to know the accounts of the mutiny,” says the 75-year-old who launched the book at the American Center in Mumbai on Monday. A man of genteel demeanour,this grandson of Mahatma Gandhi has been passionate about researching and writing on Indian history.

Reports on 1857 travelled through ships to England and then to America. Four years later,when the American Civil War erupted,updates took the reverse route to the Indian press. “With Indo-US relationships in focus,the book can help American youths understand the history of these two nations better,” says Gandhi.

To unify these two major historical events,he found an ally in Irish correspondent William Howard Russell of The Times of London. “I discovered that Russell had covered both the wars. His writings were very descriptive and of great help,” says the author who has also written Mohandas: A True Story of a Man and Understanding South Asian History.

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In his book,Gandhi focuses on five Indians of that time—Sayyid Ahmed Khan,Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar,Jyotiba Phule,Allan Octavian Hume and Bankimchandra Chatterjee. Through their responses and reactions,he tries to describe how Indian intelligentsia had reacted to the happenings in America. He has also narrated the roles played by Karl Marx,Leo Tolstoy and Abraham Lincoln.

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