B. D. Chattopadhyaya retired as Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His work on ancient India has been widely acknowledged. His many books include The Oxford India Kosambi: Combined Methods in Indology and Other Writings; Studying Early India: Archaeology, Texts, and Historical Issues; and The Making of Early Medieval India.
With analysis of events dating to the 1920s and the establishment of Muslim separatism and Hindu fundamentalism, extending to the 1990s when the Sangh Parivar's narrative of national history' reached its pinnacle with the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the attainment of state power, and terminating in 2004 when the BJP lost power and prominence at the center, this illuminating discourse is readily accessible to students and scholars of contemporary Indian politics and society.
Constructing an expansive historical archive, Ballantyne draws on film, sculpture, fiction, and Web sites, as well as private papers, government records, journalism, and travel narratives. He proceeds from a critique of recent historiography on the development of Sikhism to an analysis of how Sikh identity changed over the course of the long nineteenth century. Ballantyne goes on to offer a reading of the contested interpretations of the life of Dalip Singh, the last Maharaja of Punjab. He concludes with an exploration of bhangra, a traditional form of Punjabi dance that diasporic artists have transformed into a globally popular music style. Much of bhangra’s recent evolution stems from encounters of the Sikh and Afro-Caribbean communities, particularly in the United Kingdom. Ballantyne contends that such cross-cultural encounters are central in defining Sikh identity both in Punjab and the diaspora.