Dying in hordes, they still didn’t snatch the food to eat. You know why, Babu? Not one, not ten, but hundreds, hundreds of thousands, they went to their deaths. They stretched their hands to beg, tossed in the pain of hunger, they begged for the gruel drained off cooked rice to make it fluffy, they fought with stray dogs pawing through rotting dumps, but they did not put their hands to snatch food. Yet food was within their reach. Thus begins the story “chhiniye khaye ni keno?” (“Why didn’t they snatch food to eat?”), about the 1943 Bengal famine, written in the mid-forties by the celebrated Bengali writer Manik Bandyopadhyay.

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Vijay Prashad’s deeply instructive looks at events and processes that made up the history of oppressed peoples in the 20th century comprise this brilliant work. It is a book profound for being peremptory, and absolutely necessary for being so relevant today that it is imperative for activists and researchers alike. For one, the various assumptions that form a dominant paradigm of Eurocentrism need radical reproving. Yet that would merely amount to a criticism of the thesis itself. Prashad goes beyond that and proposes an alternative narration to the history – not just of the Third World, but also through its lenses, the peoples’ history of the world during the last century. Darker Nations in some ways could be appositely used to speak for aspirations of the oppressed everywhere. In this sense, the book is a celebration of collective hope, even as it traces the demise of a grand project based on it.

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Kiran Desai’s “The Inheritance of Loss,” a narrative of global discovery and displacement that has already won the Man Booker Prize, received another literary honor Thursday night: the National Book Critics Circle fiction award. “To be claimed by the place in which you live means so much,” said Desai, a native of India who now lives in New York.

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The manuscript of the jail diary written by Shaheed Bhagat Singh during his internment in the Central Jail, Lahore will be released for the first time in the form of a book, on March 23, to mark the day of his martyrdom. The 400-page ‘Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s Jail Diary’ in running English script, will have a typed version in English facing each page, the martyr’s nephew Abhay Singh said.

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Yasmin Jiwani arrived in Montreal from British Columbia in 2001. Watching events unfold post-9/11 helped her articulate the theme and title of her book, Discourses of Denial: Mediations of Race, Gender and Violence. The book combines primary research with media representations of events. In one chapter, Jiwani researches how young women experience racism. This research is juxtaposed with the media coverage of Reena Virk, a young South Asian teenager who was murdered by a group of teens in suburban Vancouver, and a horrific case of domestic violence in Vernon, B.C., involving an Indo-Canadian family.

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After a decade, Booker winner Roy plans new novel

The Booker prize winner Arundhati Roy is to write her first novel in 10 years after a decade of campaigning against India’s dam building programme, its possession of nuclear weapons and its support for George Bush’s “war on terror”.  Roy, author of the dreamlike novel The God of Small Things, gave up fiction for a career in social activism that saw her briefly imprisoned and last year reject an award from India’s academy of letters because she opposed the government’s policies.

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Throughout the 1920s, Kagi Nazrul Islam was one of the cultural pillars of the Indian Independence movement. Through his poetry, songs, novels, plays and political and journalistic writing as well as political activities, he expressed protest against slavery, communalism, feudalism and colonialism. This earned him the wrath of the British authorities, who often hindered his activities and even threw him in jail, but gained him the love of those from all communities and classes whose struggles he highlighted and whose spirits he lifted.

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