Reviews of the latest books from and on Southasia

The Origins and Development of the Tablighi-Jama'at (1920-2000): A cross-country comparative study
By Yoginder Sikand
Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 2002
pp xii+310, INR 595
ISBN 81 250 2298 8

Possibly the most widely followed Islamic movement in the world, the Tablighi-Jama'at (TJ) emerged in early 20th century north India as a reformist movement stressing personal virtue above social or political mobilisation. With a dedicated membership said to be active in more than 150 countries around the globe, its meetings are reported to attract the largest congregations of Muslims outside Mecca. Yet, with its emphasis on traditional Sunni jurisprudence and its disengagement from the modern world, the TJ is poorly understood by outsiders. In this work, a scholar of Muslim history traces the TJ's eight-decade rise from a local reform movement to a global force.

The Brick and the Bull: An account of Handigaun, the ancient capital of Nepal
By Sudarshan Raj Tiwari
Himal Books, Kathmandu, 2002
pp x+225, NPR 1150
ISBN 99933 43 52 8

Although the Kathmandu valley's urban settlements are generally viewed as Malla period (circa 1200 – 1768 CE) creations, organised human habitation dates back nearly two millennia. In this work, Tribhuvan University scholar Sudarshan Raj Tiwari examines archaeological evidence and cultural traditions specific to Handigaun, the valley's earliest known settlement which rides a ridge to the east of the ancient town of Kathmandu. He attempts to relate those finds to characteristics of Nepal's Kirat and Lichchhavi periods, of the first millennium CE and first millennium BCE respectively.

Bombay London New York
By Amitava Kumar
Penguin India, New Delhi, 2002
pp xxiii+224, INR 250
ISBN 0 14 302896 0

This collection of essays by Amitava Kumar follows in the footsteps of his earlier meditation on migration and personal identity, Passport Photos. Kumar, born in Bihar and currently a professor of English at Pennsylvania State University in the US, delves into a wide range of topics and personalities, engaging with the loneliness of migration, considering colourful figures such as Laloo Prasad Yadav, and contrasting recollections from his childhood in India with residence overseas. The concluding essay of this volume appeared in advance of the book's publication as 'Tale of the ticketless traveller' in Himal December 2001.

Living with the Politics of Floods: The Mystery of Flood Control
By Dinesh Kumar Mishra
People's Science Institute, Dehradun, 2002
pp 124, INR 360

Translated from a Hindi document published two years earlier, this book provides an overview of ecological, historical, economic and political issues affecting flood management in the Ganga-Brahmaputra river system. Critical of environment- and people-hostile hydroprojects intended solely for power generation, the author argues that water management efforts are determined by politicians who do not know water and engineers who do not know people. The result is a control of natural flow in the watercourses that is sheer environmental foolhardiness. Mishra, an engineer turned activist of the Ganga plains, presents the technicalities of water management in layman's language, with illustrations that would even draw a child to it.

Legal Aspects of the Kashmir Problem
By HS Gururaja Rao
Minerva Press, New Delhi, 2002
pp 595, INR 1000/USD 32
ISBN 81 7662 197 8

Beginning with an overview of settlement patterns and historical contests for power in Kashmir, Indian jurist HS Gururaja Rao analyses the legal framework of the disputed region in the context of the Indian legal system and international agreements. In addition to the author's analysis of the dispute, the volume includes nearly 200 pages of letters, official reports, bilateral agreements, UN resolutions and treaties. This second edition updates a 1967 volume with deliberations on the 1971 war and the reciprocated nuclear tests of 1998, in addition to relevant documents from the past three decades.

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