V. S. Naipaul’s India: A Million Mutinies

Article Posted in: Research Articles


by – T. H. Basavaraj (February 2017, Vol.III, Issue.XXV)



In the third and probably the final travelogue of Naipaul on India India : A Million Mutinies now (1990) he is happy to see the sort of changes India is undergoing. According to him, mutinies, or violent currents in thought and action are the signs of change and development. So, Naipaul comes across many ongoing revolutions here. Soon after he alights at Bombay, he notices a healthy change in the lives of the down trodden. At inspection, he comes to know certain progress in the condition of the Dalits due to the reforms of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and the movements of the Dalit Panther. But what embarrasses him is the violent vast network of the Shivasena, whose aim is to create regionalism. As the author moves south and meets Mr. M.P. Prakash, a minister in Bangalore, he realizes the importance of castism and power in Indian politics. In Madras he is told about perriyar and Veeraswami’s mutinies against the established orthodox Hinduism. However, he is unhappy with the Sikh’s rebellion against the Indian government to get a separate state called ‘Khalistan’, Even he is contented about the peasant or naxalite movement in West Bangal, Bihar and Andhra, for socio-economic balance.


For the third time, V.S. Naipaul comes to India in December 1988 and visits many states in his 14 months-stay, and completes his third, and possibly the final travelogue on India. India: A Million Mutinies Now, (1990) is the third sequential travelogue of Naipaul on India. Apart from recording the accounts of prevalent social, economic and political conditions, he also depicts the opinions of the people whom he interviews. But one thing is clear, Naipaul has idealised these opinions and the book is full of opinions and conversations and nothing more than that. K.C. Belliappa regarding the nature of the book opines that; “Naipaul adopts entirely a different strategy in this book. Unlike in the earlier two books on India, he chooses to interview individuals from different professions, backgrounds, religions and states. And what he does is to merely record their answers to his probing questions which are mostly factual in nature and rarely twin to be leading questions. In other words, he lets his subjects speak for themselves and his comments are few and far between. In terms to fictional strategy, he resorts to ‘showing’ and only occasionally indulges in ‘telling’”.1

It is evident through this book that Naipaul has overcome the nervousness and confusion which he had carried all along with him on his previous visits. As he himself admits in the concluding pages of this book;


In 27 years I had succeeded in making a kind of return journey, shedding my Indian nerves, abolishing the darkness that separated me from my ancestral past.(M.M. 516)


He has written this book keeping his earlier two books in mind. It is another revision, another re-seeing of what had been wrongly judged in the past two books. They seem to be inconclusive. He has not succeeded in bringing the various aspects of India and the life of her people within the ambience of nationally, or even culturally.

He gets down at Bombay port and as usual, he notices the crowds and squatters’ settlements. He is baffled when he looks at the never ending long queue of men who have stood there to honour Ambedkar, their dead leader. Later he meets Namdev, the leader of Dalit panther in Bombay. His subsequent visits to Mr. Patil, Mr. Raote and Mr. Ghate show him the picture of Shivasena activities that are still going on in Maharashtra. Each of these leaders of Sena tells him tales about religiosity, theism and castism in India.

Naipaul via Goa comes to Bangalore. His visit to M.P. Prakash convinces the harsh reality that is associated with the corrupt Indian politics. Later Naipaul comes to Madras and, as we read, he meets Veeraswami, the leader of Anti-Aryan and Brahmin Movement who tells the history of Dravidian civilization. He also narrates him the story of Self-Respect movement started by Periyar. Having realized the South Indian life, Naipaul goes to Bengal where he meets Dipanjan and Debu who narrate the stories related to Naxalbari and Communist Movements in the states of Bengal, Bihar and Andhra. In Lucknow, Naipaul, as Rashid and Amir tell understands much about Muslim life in India that is beset by many communal crisis. While in Punjab, two IAS officers Gurtej Singh and Kapur Singh unveil the story of Sikhism in India and Naipaul is told about the tragic life of ‘Sant’ Bhindranwale.

The travelogue is full of descriptions about conflicts and revolutions that are still underway in India, Naipaul, with his powerful narrative capacity, explains us how silent and harsh mutinies are being worked out in India. Naipaul praisingly accepts these changes. Bruce King feels that; “Returning to India during a time when others fear the collapse of the Indian central state because of regional, caste and religious conflicts, Naipaul finds signs of vitality and renewal. There is now a new wealth, a new national economy controlled by Indians and not by foreigners. Many people are prosperous and others can hope to improve their conditions. Notions of freedom and self-assertion have moved from the elite to a broader range of society. A notion of India has been restored, after having been lost for centuries, and it is this sense of identity which is being challenged by further claims of recognition…. Where Naipaul formerly sought a tradition but found decay and chaos, now he has come to accept that life consists of change and to find interest in the ways that people strive to change their lives for the better. In the twenty-seven years between his first visit to India and his current one, Naipaul and the India he observes have changed in analogous ways. They have changed from the confusions that accompanied independence to the many voices and perspectives of the post-colonial”.2

India: A Million Mutinies Now is more voluminous and less artistic travelogue than the other two travelogues in which he exposes the image of the crisis-stricken modern India. It displays how thousands of both – silent and disturbing events and conflicts are at work for the betterment of life in India. A true picture of hundreds of mutinies is delineated by Naipaul in this travelogue. No doubt, India: A Million Mutinies Now holds a mirror to the ongoing turbulences that are underway in 20th century India.

India: A Million Mutinies Now is Naipaul’s most authentic work on India, his fore father’s homeland. The book is divided into nine chapters. The book runs to five hundred and twenty-one pages. The language, diction and style, the mode of narration and the track of incidents or events told are very simple but quite convincing and effective. Each of the chapters is a depiction of a variety of mutinies of the present day. They are picturesque and life-like. The mutinies, the men who involved in them and the victims are realistic. They display the crux of the statements that India is developing and prospering with its own fluxes and refluxes. The details enshrined here are certainly striking.

Naipaul writes about Sikhism in India. He meets Mr. Gurutej Singh, an LAS officer who resigned his post just only to serve his religion. Kapur Singh, who too was an IAS officer, due to his political activities, was dismissed. Gurutej served Bhindranwale, the saint. Gurutej tells Naipaul how GuruNanak found the religion and how the successive gurus started a lunger; built the Golden Temple; wrote the ‘Granth’; and founded the’Khalsa’, for the growth and development of Sikhism, a new religion in India.

Gurutej tells Naipaul that Sikhs hated Brahmins, hence the new religion came into existence. But the Muslims who were very barbarous disturbed Sikhs a good deal and killed a few of their gurus, and many times massacred the Sikhs. As a result, Sikhs were compelled to become terrorists to save themselves. But after the lndependence,due to ignorance some Sikhs became militants. Besides, the Government of India encouraged some Sikhs to reform their faith. One sect of them known as Nirankaris. Gurutej says, began to bring some reforms which were opposed by the traditional minded Sikhs under the leadership of Bhindranwale. These reasons made the Sikhs fight against one another or against the Government, and thus, terrorism began in Punjab.

Bhindranwale said Sikhism is a revealed religion and Sikhs are people of the Book. Their gurus are prophets of their religion. They hold the view that irreligiousness is the root cause of misery. And so later on the Nirankari sect, which was like the Hindu religious reform movement was hunted down by Bhindranwale and his followers. Gurutej says to serve their leader, and their faith, men went out with the mission of killing Hindus. They stopped buses and killed the travellers. Later the terrorist activities spread to the Golden Temple and when the army entered it, Bhindranwale was killed. In his article ‘Genesis of the Sikh Problem in India’, Gurutej writes about the cry of Sikhs in bewilderment. The book is about the isolation of the Sikh faith and ideology from the Hindu; it further explains that Punjab is geographically and culturally more a part of Middle East than of India. According to the Sikhs, Braluninism is the great enemy of the Sikhism.

Now India is a land of million mutinies, due to regional, cultural, religious and socio-political problems and conflicts. The destructive Chauvinism of Shivasena the tyranny of the rich, exploitation of the poor, religious fundamentalism are emerging. Corruption, racial politics of the South, the pious Marxist idleness and nullity of Bengal are added. But these mutinies are inevitable. Naipaul concludes:


Excess was now felt to be excess in India. What the mutinies were also helping to define was the strength of the general intellectual life, and the wholeness and humanism of the values to which all Indians now felt they could appeal. And – strange irony – the mutinies were not be wished away. They were part of the beginning of a new way for many millions, part of India’s growth, part of its restoration. (M.M. 518)


India: A Million Mutinies Now, is Naipaul’s last and the gentlest travelogue on India. Nevertheless, it is an excellent piece of work in the genie of journalistic writing. In the words of Paul Theroux,” It is literally the last word on India today, witness within witness, a chain of voices that illustrates every phase of Indian life… with a truthfulness and a subtlety that are a joy to read. Something like love enters the narrative – a real feeling for the land and its people”.4 Another critic K.C. Belliappa opines that; ” The book indeed is different, for it is free from the early Naipaul’s attitudes, and his chief weapons, irony and satire. This is made possible because Naipaul sees India on its own terms. Naipaul is perhaps still in the process of finding the centre. But it is significant that he has finally made a beginning”.5 India: A Million Mutinies Now, undoubtedly, displays Naipaul’s concern for the land – indeed now ‘an area of awakening’.



  1. C. Belliappa, “V.S. Naipauls on India”. an unpublished article, presented at Dvanyaloka on 12th Nov.. 1996, p.7.
  2. Bruce King, “Finding the Centre, the Enigma of Arrival, A Turn in the South and India: A Million Mutinies” in Modern Novelists. ed., Bruce King, MacMillan Press, Ltd., London 1993, pp.150-151.
  3. Ibid, p.150.
  4. Paul Theroux; Back cover page, V. S. Naipaul’s India: A Million Mutinies Now, Minerva Publications, London 1990.
  5. C. Belliappa, “V.S. Naipaul on India”, an unpublished article, presented at Dvanyaloka on 12th Nov., 1996, p.8.



Introduction to the Author:

T. H. Basavaraj is an assistant professor at S.S.A.S.G.F.G College, Hosapete, Karnataka. He has been producing quality research papers regularly.

Explore More in: Academic Research Paper

Read More Articles: