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Battles for Delhi: Dilli Kareeb AST- Review

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Title: Battles for Delhi- Dilli Kareeb Ast
Publisher: Indus Source Books
Price: Rs. 595
Pages: 220

For centuries Delhi has been the political centre of the great northern plains that stretches from Sindhu river system to Gangetic Delta. During the times of Chandragupta Mourya and his grandson Emperor Ashoka, the political centre of the northern plains was Patliputra, present day Patna. It started moving to the west gradually and finally keep revolving around mythical city of Indraprastha. In his well-researched book Rajeev Katyal narrates the stories of the battles for this Delhi with vivid details.

Rajiv Katyal is an alumnus of IIM Kolkata, a veteran of the Human Resource Development Industry with over thirty years of experience in the field of Education and Skill Development. Indian history has been his passion for he believes that Indian history should be written in such a way that it develops greater national pride in young Indians. This would change their perspective of India, he believes.


The Battles for Delhi: Dilli Kareeb Ast looks closely at the ups and downs of India’s strength and unity as a nation over the centuries. It examines the reasons that made India strong and weak at different times and how such issues are relevant in the current context, remarks Dr. M. G. K. Menon, former chairman of Indian Space Research Organization. The book seems to have fascinated the scientists, diplomats and top brass of defence services. The central theme of the book – a strong central government is the backbone of India’s unity, prosperity, progress and peace notwithstanding the rulers—Rajputs, Afghans, Mongols, Mughals or Marathas. Whenever the centre was weak India was subjugated and plundered. The author analysis almost each and every major battle for Delhi between thirteen and nineteenth centuries from this perspective.

The stories of the battles are all about political conspiracies, intrigues, jealously, lethargy, humiliation although the native and imperial forces keep changing. The author believes that whenever the national forces stood united it forced the enemy to run for his life, as pointed out by R. R. Jain, a noted publisher. The problem is that who are the national forces? Rajputs, Afghans, Mughals or Marathas? According to the book, whoever ruled Delhi were the national forces at times they could be traitors as well. This is the major contradiction in the very theme of the book. The devil is not in the details but in the theme itself.

The author views the history from the perspective of the modern nation-state, which is basically a western concept based on homogenous society with its major markers–race, religion, language and shared past, etc. Interestingly, no countries in the Indian subcontinent fit into the modern nation state. The all-powerful nation-states—India, Pakistan and Shri Lanka, have not been able to accommodate different identities in the nation-state fold. We need to understand that Indian subcontinent as a whole is united with civilisation and the role of the nation-state is to nurture this civilization based on the value of plurality. Diversity is something like keeping the whole world in separate compartments while plurality means each and every community or identity is having active dialogue and exchange despite conflicts. We must not forget that Indians keep inventing new Gods, religions and religious sects even in modern times.

The uniqueness of the Indian subcontinent is in its landmass and land forms. In the north it is surrounded by the mountain ranges—Suleiman, Safid, Hindukush, Karakoram, Himalayas that stretches from west to east and then Patkai-Arakan range that dips into the Bay of Bengal. And the peninsula is surrounded by Indian Ocean Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. Hence in the middle ages no power from across the mountain ranges could govern the Indian subcontinent for their supplies could have been easily intercepted due to the terrain. They did raid and plundered the fertile Sindhu basin but to rule the northern plains, they had to settle down in the land of monsoon. This geopolitical reality contributed to plural culture or civilization in Indian subcontinent.

While analysing almost all the major battles for Delhi with vivid details, the book completely ignores the geopolitics of the region.

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