historian | journalist | peacebuilder

Short biography

Author of more than a dozen books, Rajmohan Gandhi is a historian and biographer involved also in efforts of trust-building and reconciliation.

Professor until end-2012 with the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he continues to teach as visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, and at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.

From 1990 to 1992 he was a member of the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian Parliament). Earlier in 1990, he led the Indian delegation to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

In the Indian Parliament, he was convener of the all-party joint committee of both houses addressing the condition of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Associated from 1956 with Initiatives of Change (formerly known as Moral Re-Armament), Rajmohan Gandhi served as president of Initiatives of Change International for a two-year term, 2009-10.

Through writing, speaking, public interventions and dialogues he has been engaged for sixty years in efforts for reconciliation and democratic rights.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, he played a leading role in establishing Asia Plateau, the 68-acre centre of Initiatives of Change in the mountains of western India, which fosters dialogue, reconciliation and ethical governance, and is recognized on the Indian subcontinent for its ecological contribution.

During the 1975-77 Emergency in India, he was active for democratic rights personally and through his weekly journal Himmat, published in Bombay from 1964 to 1981.

India-Pakistan and Hindu-Muslim reconciliation have remained his goals. Since 9/11, he has also tried to address the divide between the West and the world of Islam.

Recent books by him include

  • Understanding the Founding Fathers: An Enquiry into the Indian Republic’s Beginnings (New Delhi: Aleph, 2016)
  • Prince of Gujarat: The Extraordinary Story of Prince Gopaldas Desai, 1887-1951 (New Delhi: Aleph, 2014); and
  • Punjab: A History from Aurangzeb to Mountbatten, 1707-1947 (New Delhi: Aleph, 2013).

An earlier study, A Tale of Two Revolts: India 1857 & the American Civil War (published in 2009) looked at two 19th-century wars occurring in opposite parts of the world at almost the same time. A previous book by him, Mohandas: A True Story of a Man, His People and an Empire, published in India, England, France and the USA, received the Barpujari Biennial Award from the Indian History Congress in 2007.

An earlier book, The Good Boatman: A Portrait of Gandhi, was published in 2009 in a Chinese translation in Beijing.

In 2002 he received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his Rajaji: A Life, a biography of Chakravarti Rajagopalachari.

Other books by him include Patel: A Life, a biography of Sardar Vallabhbai Patel; Revenge & Reconciliation: Understanding South Asian History; Understanding the Muslim Mind; and Ghaffar Khan: Nonviolent Badshah of the Pakhtuns.

Before teaching at the University of Illinois, he served as Research Professor with the New Delhi think-tank, Centre for Policy Research. From 1985 to 1987, he edited the daily Indian Express in Madras (now Chennai), India.