Historian Ranjit Guha, who reached almost a century, passed away. Born in 1923 in a zamindar family of Siddhakathi village of Barisal. Radhikaranjan Guhbaksi’s son Ranjit used to see his playing partner in the field or the people who came to their house with only one identity – Praja! Why, why are these people, whose people? From this small question, how the life and philosophy of a future historian became marked forever. Will not – or why? Ranjit’s favorite quote was Marx’s ‘Nothing human is alien to me’! the word Then, everything that is related to people is bound to be his subject. It happened so.
However, to a large section of people, he is known only as an originator of the concept of history of the lower classes. Of course it is. But not only that. A huge historical personality like Ranjit, who is always creative, cannot be tied to that. His first book was ‘A Rule of Property for Bengal’. Among the few books that contemporary historians or experts in other fields considered mandatory reading (certainly still), he must have had this book.
Through his life’s work, Ranjit shows how a landlord becomes an exploiter; Ranjit shows how mercantilism, free trade between countries, as well as naturalism, had a profound impact on eighteenth-century agricultural policymaking. He shows how the need for colonialism, the free trade scheme, and the ad-hoc approach to policy-making diverted him from the intended outcome of the original goal. And how the marginal people, agricultural people enjoy its fruits. And at the center of his demonstration, not a theory, not a policy, not a survey, actually lives people.
So Ranjit Guhar’s thought and its written form were never confined to any particular category. Time and again he has broken the fence in historiography. He has broken it in vain, he had to break it naturally, because he really wants to go back to people, go back–whatever is attached to people, those are also exclusively attached to him.