HarperCollins presents SHEIKH ABDULLAH – The Caged Lion of Kashmir by Chitralekha Zutshi (The second book in the Indian Lives series)


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New Delhi [India], December 12: Sheikh Abdullah: The Caged Lion of Kashmir is as much a biography of one Kashmiri as that of an entire generation of leaders who shaped the politics and institutions of twentieth-century South Asia.

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A Fourth Estate BookHardback | Non-Fiction | History | 384 pp | INR 799Available wherever books are sold | Releasing on 21 December 2023


The Kashmiri leader Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah (1905-82) is one of the best-known and most controversial political figures of twentieth-century South Asia. A fierce Kashmiri nationalist, Abdullah is best remembered for opposing the Dogra monarchy’s exploitative economic and political system; securing Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India in 1947; passing revolutionary land reforms as Prime Minister of J&K; and later for championing the cause of Kashmiri self-determination–as a consequence of which he was imprisoned for two decades–before coming to terms with the Indian government in 1975. He has been alternatively celebrated as a patriot and reviled as a traitor in Kashmir, in India and in Pakistan.

In this richly researched and elegantly crafted biography, renowned historian Chitralekha Zutshi transcends these labels by placing Abdullah’s life in the context of critical global developments in the twentieth century. She deftly illustrates how his political trajectory–forged in the inequities of the princely state system and burnished in the flames of anti-colonial nationalism, Islamic universalism, socialism, communism, secularism, communalism, federalism and the Cold War–embodies the becoming of India itself. Based on new archival sources as well as oral histories, this book is as much a biography of one Kashmiri as that of an entire generation of leaders who shaped the politics and institutions of twentieth-century South Asia.

This is the second book in the Indian Lives series, edited and curated by Ramachandra Guha.

Chitralekha Zutshi says, “Writing a biography of Sheikh Abdullah was a challenging task. This is not only because he is a controversial political figure, but also because unlike most twentieth-century South Asian leaders, he did not leave behind a sizeable body of writing. Other than his letters, an occasional essay, some speeches and his autobiography, painting this portrait required that I draw on a much larger collection of sources. These included oral histories, press reports, government documents, visual materials, and the private papers of a slew of individuals who were associated with Abdullah. Thus, I crafted the narrative not from his perspective alone, but from the viewpoint of those around him, who shaped his political life in significant ways. I hope this biography allows readers to appreciate Abdullah’s complexities as a nationalist, a political leader, a revolutionary, a prisoner and a head of state in the context of his engagement with his advisors, well-wishers, critics and interlocutors, as well as the broader canvas of the intellectual and socio-political currents of the global twentieth century.”

Ramachandra Guha says, “I am truly delighted that Chitralekha Zutshi’s biography of Sheikh Abdullah is the second volume to appear in the Indian Lives series. Many years of research are here brought together in a finely crafted work of scholarship, that provides an authoritative and richly readable account of Sheikh Abdullah’s life and legacy. While focusing on Abdullah, Zutshi brings to bear her training as a social and political historian, such that through this story of this complex and controversial individual we learn an enormous amount about the contested histories of Kashmir, India, and Pakistan. This superb book should find a wide audience among those interested in history, biography, politics, and narrative non-fiction in general.”

Udayan Mitra, Executive Publisher, HarperCollins says, “The second book in the prestigious Indian Lives series, edited by Ramachandra Guha, focuses on the life of a defining twentieth century personality: Sheikh Abdullah. Drawing on a wide variety of sources and bringing to light some previously little-known facts, Chitralekha Zutshi presents a compelling portrait of one of the most interesting and controversial figures of our time. We at HarperCollins are very proud to bring this new biography – which will enhance our understanding both of Kashmir and of modern India – to readers.”


Chitralekha Zutshi is Class of 1962 Professor of History at William & Mary, Virginia, where she specializes in the history of South Asia and the Indian Ocean World. Her areas of expertise include nationalism, regional and religious identities, and traditions of historical thought and writing, with a particular focus on Kashmir. Her previous books include Languages of Belonging: Islam, Regional Identity, and the Making of Kashmir (2003-04); Kashmir’s Contested Pasts: Narratives, Sacred Geographies, and the Historical Imagination (2014); Kashmir: History, Politics, Representation (2018); and Kashmir: Oxford India Short Introductions (2019).


India is not the most important nor the most powerful country in the world. However, it has strong claims to being the most interesting. This modern nation is heir to a rich civilizational history, with the rise and fall of mighty empires juxtaposed with the rise and renewal of great religious traditions. The past two centuries have witnessed an epic struggle against colonial rule as well as the construction of the world’s largest democracy–in the inhospitable soil of the world’s most hierarchical society. This history, ancient and modern, has featured many extraordinary individuals active in a variety of fields: politics, spirituality, social reform, science, literature, art, music, film, sport and more.

HarperCollins is very proud to publish Indian Lives, a great new series of biographies where leading writers and scholars will focus on the life and legacy of important figures from India’s history. The series is curated and edited by Ramachandra Guha and will feature biographies of extraordinary individuals who may be separated in time sometimes by centuries but whose impact on shaping the India we live in is indisputable.


HarperCollins is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, having begun publishing in India in 1992. HarperCollins India publishes some of the finest writers from the Indian Subcontinent and around the world, publishing approximately 200 new books every year, with a print and digital catalogue of more than 2,000 titles across 10 imprints. Its authors have won almost every major literary award including the Man Booker Prize, JCB Prize, DSC Prize, New India Foundation Award, Atta Galatta Prize, Shakti Bhatt Prize, Gourmand Cookbook Award, Publishing Next Award, Tata Literature Live! Award, Gaja Capital Business Book Prize, BICW Award, Sushila Devi Award, Sahitya Akademi Award and Crossword Book Award. HarperCollins India also represents some of the finest publishers in the world including Harvard University Press, Gallup Press, Oneworld, Bonnier Zaffre, Usborne, Dover and Lonely Planet. HarperCollins India has won the Publisher of the Year Award four times at Tata Literature Live! in 2022, 2021, 2018 and 2016, and at Publishing Next in 2021 & 2015. HarperCollins India is a subsidiary of HarperCollins Publishers.


At HarperCollins, we believe in telling the best stories and in finding the widest possible readership for our books in every format possible. We started publishing 30 years ago in India and a great deal has changed since then, but what has remained constant is the passion with which our authors write their books, the love with which readers receive them, and the sheer joy and excitement that we as publishers feel in being a part of the publishing process.

Over the years, we’ve had the pleasure of publishing some of the finest writing from the subcontinent and from around the world, and some of the biggest bestsellers in Indian publishing history. Our books and authors have won a phenomenal range of awards, and we ourselves have been named Publisher of the Year several times. But nothing has meant more to us than the fact that millions of people read the books we publish, and somewhere, a book of ours might be making a difference to someone.

As we step into our fourth decade, we go back to that one word – a word which has been a driving force for us all these years:


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