The Journal of Historical Review


In Memoriam: Ranjan Borra

Historian, scholar, and journalist Ranjan Borra passed away on 13 February 1984 in Washington D.C. following a heart attack. He was 62.

Borra was born in Howrab, near Calcutta, in the Bengal province of India. He worked for All-India radio before moving to the United States in the 1950s. He was employed in Washington as a broadcaster and editor for the Voice of America. In 1962 he took a position with the Library of Congress, where be served as a senior reference librarian in the South Asia section until his death. Borra received a B.A. degree from American University and, in 1970, a Master's degree from the University of Maryland.

He will be remembered by many for his staunch devotion to the legacy of the great Indian political leader and freedom fighter, Subhas Chandra Bose. The twelve annual academic conferences organized by the Subhas Bose Society of Washington, which he founded and headed, attracted many leading scholars of South Asian history and won warm acclaim from the Indian government. In 1980 Borra presented a detailed review of the life and historical impact of Bose to the annual revisionist conference of the Institute for Historical Review. His paper, "Subbas Chandra Bose, The Indian National Army. and The War of India's Liberation," was published in the Winter 1982 issue of the Journal of Historical Review.

Although he lived in America for many years, Borra remained an Indian patriot until his death. He maintained close ties to his native land, returning often to visit. Borra was deeply disturbed by the basic structure of Indian society since independence. He felt strongly that the transplanted British political model of parliamentary democracy was alien and fundamentally unworkable. And he considered that, despite Ghandi's important contribution to Indian national freedom, the primitivist and pacifist Ghandian philosophy was utterly inapplicable to the country's pressing social, cultural, and economic problems. A vigorous program and outlook rooted in Indian values and traditions was needed, not an awkward amalgam of weak ideas borrowed from an alien culture. Borra firmly believed that the realistic vision and militant legacy of Subhas Bose was best suited to the needs of his native land.

Borra was a man of surprising talents. He contributed numerous articles on Asian political affairs to the weekly Spotlight and the daily Washington Times newspapers. He was a prize-winning amateur swimmer. An accomplished poet in both English and his native Bengali, be participated in numerous poetry readings and conferences. He was a Bengali-language novelist. He was also a talented musician and singer. Some years ago the India Decca company issued a 45 rpm recording of his renditions of poems by Tagore.

I was fortunate to know Ranjan as a friend. We shared many interests and a common ideal. We often met in his office or for lunch at the Library of Congress. Ranjan was a warm and very perceptive man. He combined an exceptionally idealistic spirit with a firm sense of realism. During a highly productive lifetime, he always remained true to his lofty ideals. Ranjan Borra will be remembered with warmth and admiration by many.

- Mark Weber

Source: Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 5, no. 1, p. 126f.

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