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Writer, Teacher & Human Rights Worker
Lawyer & Author

Date & Time

Wednesday Wed, 16 Aug 2023


Bangalore International Centre
7, 4th Main Road, Domlur II Stage
Bangalore, Karnataka 560071 India

The summer of 2021 saw a massive rise in the number of infections and deaths from Covid-19 in India. Even by conservative estimates, at least 1.5 million people had lost their lives by June; several times the official figure. As in the first wave of the pandemic, this time, too, the chaos and suffering was in large measure, as Harsh Mander shows, due to mismanagement by an uncaring and cynical state.

The first part of his book, Burning Pyres, Mass Graves and a State That Failed Its People, describes the grave humanitarian crisis of 2020, which pushed the urban poor to the brink of starvation. It shows how this was a direct consequence of public policy choices that the central government  made, particularly of imposing the world’s longest and most stringent lockdown, with the smallest relief package. The second part of the book records the horrors  of the following year, when everything from hospital beds to oxygen and essential  medicines fell disastrously short.

Combining ground reports with hard data and first-hand knowledge, Mander chronicles the greatest humanitarian catastrophe India has faced in a century, the effects of which will be felt for decades. This powerful book is a necessary record of  a national tragedy that too many of us want to forget, when remembering is our only defence against a similar disaster in the future.

The panellists will discuss the issues raised in the book. A Q&A with the audience will follow.


Harsh Mander

Writer, Teacher & Human Rights Worker

Harsh Mander is a human rights and peace worker, writer, columnist, researcher and teacher, works with survivors of mass violence, hunger, homeless persons and street children. He is Chairperson of the Centre for Equity Studies, Delhi. In it, he founded, convenes and edits the annual India Exclusion Reports.

He is also the author of several acclaimed books on  contemporary India, among them, Looking Away: Inequality, Prejudice and Indifference in  New India; Ash in the Belly: India’s Unfinished Battle Against Hunger; Fatal Accidents of Birth: Stories of Suffering, Oppression and Resistance; and This Land Is Mine, I Am Not of This Land: CAA–NRC and the Manufacture of Statelessness.

Among his awards are the FAU (Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg) Human Rights Award 2022, the Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar Gold Plaque 2020, the Quaide Milleth Award 2020, the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award for peace work, and the M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award 2002. The Peace Research Institute Oslo had included him in its 2022 shortlist of people recommended for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Arvind Narrain

Lawyer & Author

Arvind Narrain is a visiting faculty at the Azim Premji University and the National Law School. He is the author of most recently, India’s Undeclared Emergency: Constitutionalism and the politics of resistance.

Priya Ramani


Priya Ramani is a Bangalore-based journalist. She is the co-founder of India Love Project and on the editorial board of news website Article-14. She is a columnist for BQ Prime and The Hindu Sunday magazine