Malevolent Republic

A Short History of the New India

May 2019 9781787380059 296pp
March 2024 9781911723288 296pp
Available as an eBook
EU Customers


After decades of imperfect secularism, presided over by an often corrupt Congress establishment, Nehru’s diverse republic has yielded to Hindu nationalism. India, the first major democracy to fall to demagogic populism in the twenty-first century, is racing to a point of no return.

Since 2014, the ruling BJP has unleashed forces that are irreversibly transforming the country. Indian democracy, honed over decades, is now the chief enabler of Hindu extremism. Bigotry has been ennobled as a healthy form of self-assertion. Anti Muslim vitriol has deluged the mainstream. Religious minorities live in terror of a vengeful majority. Congress now mimics Modi; other parties pray for a miracle.

In this highly acclaimed critique of post-Independence India from Nehru to Narendra Modi, revised and expanded with a new chapter, K.S. Komireddi charts the dismaying course of the world’s largest democracy. He argues that the missteps of the nation’s founders, the mistakes of Nehru, the betrayals of his daughter and her sons, the anti-democratic fetish for technocracy carried to extremes by Manmohan Singh—all of them prepared the way for Modi’s march to absolute power. If secularists fail to wrest the republic from Hindu supremacists, Komireddi argues, India may go the way of Yugoslavia and collapse under the burden of sinister ethno-religious nationalism. A gripping short history of modern India, Malevolent Republic is also a passionate plea for India’s reclamation.


‘Written with passion and savagery, this is a polemical and highly readable short history of modern India.’ — Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

‘Komireddi [is] a mordant critic of Indian politics.’ — Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

‘[O]ne might just conclude that KS Komireddi is the VS Naipaul of his generation … arresting, essential, devastating.’ — The Spectator

‘A blistering analysis of Indian politics.’ — The Sunday Times

‘In precise and sharp language, Malevolent Republic takes readers on a terrifying and yet illuminating journey through the rapidly transforming political, social, and religious landscape of Modi’s India.’ — Times Literary Supplement

‘[A] searing portrait of the rise of Hindu nationalism in India.’ — Sonia Faleiro, The New York Review of Books

‘Nothing escapes Komireddi’s wrath … a timely intervention at a dangerous moment … both the times and the subject demand anger, argument and urgency. Malevolent Republic supplies all three and is all the better for it.’ — The Guardian

‘[E]loquent on the subject of religious tolerance, communal harmony and human decency, all of which appear to be in harrowingly short supply among the acolytes who surround Modi.’ — The Times

‘Kapil Komireddi ranks high among the wisest, most astute, and most humane observers of modern India.’ — David Frum, Senior Editor, The Atlantic

‘Here lies an important trick of the book: its language, twinned with detail. Komireddi is master of pithy sentences. For someone like this reviewer who has lived through almost the entire time period covered in this book, I was struck by how it was able to keep me engaged.’ — Nilanjan Sarkar, Deputy Director, South Asia Centre, London School of Economics

‘The diagnosis is clinical and in prose that is hard to put down … written in a style that makes it one of the most fascinating nonfiction books I have read.’ — Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, biographer of Narendra Modi, Business Standard

‘[I]ntensely readable … a robust primer of the political history of modern India.’ — Siddharth Bhatia, The Wire

‘It’s difficult to accommodate more than 70 years of a country’s history in 200 pages. The challenge is even more difficult when the work in question attempts to create a genealogy of how India turned into a “malevolent republic” … But for anyone trying to understand the transformation, KS Komireddi’s book is a must read.’ – Kaushik Das Gupta, The Indian Express

‘Komireddi is one of the most thoughtful and thorough journalists writing today. His range of interests is impressive in its breadth and cosmopolitanism … a rare voice that can comment on global affairs from a truly comparative perspective.’ — Amitav Ghosh, author of the Ibis trilogy

‘Kapil Komireddi is a writer of flair, originality and, above all, an absolute independence of mind … His ability to see through posturing and prejudice makes his work both distinctive and compelling. This book deserves to be widely read within India and beyond.’ — Ramachandra Guha, author of India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy

‘What makes Komireddi’s narrative interesting, and more importantly fair, is the care he’s taken to look at all leaders from Nehru to Modi in equal light … The book … merits a wider audience. Here, for a change, is a critic of the present order who is fair-handed even if he is a bit harsh in his anger at the political evolution of independent India.’ — Siddharth Singh, Open Magazine



K.S. (Kapil Satish) Komireddi is an essayist, author, and journalist. He was born in India, and educated there and in England. His commentary, criticism, and journalism—from South Asia, Europe, and the Middle East—appear, among other leading publications, in the The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Economist, The Spectator, the Daily Mail, the Los Angeles Times, TIME, Foreign Policy and the Jewish Chronicle. A columnist for The Print and a panellist on Monocle Radio, Komireddi appears frequently on ABC, CBC, the BBC and CNN, among others, to discuss international affairs. He lives in India, and this is his first book.

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