Pokhran at 22: Selected articles and videos on the Perils of a Nuclear South Asia

On the 22nd anniversary of India’s Pokhran nuclear tests of 1998, we are re-posting a select few commentaries, articles, and videos for our readers

Commentaries by Public Scholars Published following the Pokhran Tests


1. The End of Imagination, Arundhati Roy

“My world has died. I write to mourn its passing.” Roy, in her inimitable style, writes about India’s nuclear weapons tests of 1998, and how they signify the end of all sanity and of other possible imaginations about our collective futures.

2. Countdown, Amitav Ghosh

Countdown, which first appeared as an article in The New Yorker, and was subsequently expanded into a book, is based on Ghosh’s travels across Pokhran in the Rajasthan desert following the 1998 nuclear test explosions. The interviews and anecdotes contained in the book underscore the fact that acquiring greater global visibility and stature was at the heart of the tests, rather than any immediate security threat from within the region.

Also read, DiaNuke’s review of the Countdown here.

3. India and the Bomb, Amartya Sen

Speaking at the first Dorothy Hodgkin Lecture at the Annual Pugwash Conference in Cambridge, UK on August 8, 2000, Sen underscored the moral folly that had underpinned the path of nuclearization upon which India and Pakistan had embarked in 1998, and argued instead for nuclear restraint and demands for an effective and rapid disarmament.

4. From Pokhran to Gujarat, Praful Bidwai

Bidwai, among a handful of scholars who made the connect early-on between the 1998 tests and the rise of the muscular, male-supremacist, and virulent Hindutva nationalism, writes of the obsession of India’s right-wing with nuclear weapons, grandeur, and the attendant  legitimation of the impulse for genocidal destruction.

5. Perils of the BJP Bomb, Jyoti Basu

Basu, one of India’s most influential Left figures and a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) writes on the profound damage done by the BJP’s nuclear adventurism and jingoism while also calling attention to the nuclear double standards of Western countries led by the United States.

6. The Immorality of Nuclear Weapons, Amulya K.N. Reddy

Amulya Reddy was among the few scientists who took a principled stand against the 1998 nuclear tests and in this Address delivered at the National Convention on Nuclear Disarmament and Peace speaks about the larger concerns surrounding the impacts of science and technology on human societies, how scientists ought to be morally consistent and not allow political constraints to dictate their quest for knowledge for the upliftment of the human condition.

7. War and Peace (Jung Aur Aman), 2002 documentary by Anand Patwardhan

Jung aur Aman (War and Peace) is among Patwardhan’s most celebrated works – it is an exploration of the Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons tests in 1998, the attendant nationalist rhetoric, and the impacts on the local communities around the test site. The film that threatened to strip the tests of their sheen, was held up in a prolonged legal battle, with Patwardhan refusing to make any cuts as demanded by the Indian censor board. Patwardhan prevailed with the Bombay high court ruling in his favor, and the film was finally released a year later.


Long-term Health Impacts of the Tests

8. Consequences of Nuclear Tests, Pokhran and Beyond: An Interview with Prof. Robert Jacobs

Prof. Robert Jacobs of the Hiroshima Peace Institute speaks to DiaNuke.org on the under-studied human, climatic and political implications of the nuclear tests.

9. The People of The Fallout  & Forty years after Pokhran nuclear tests, villagers complain of frequent cancer deaths

Khetolai village, ground zero of the nuclear tests in the Rajasthan desert, witnessed not only the 1998 tests, but also India’s first atomic tests in May 1974 which led to global sanctions. Khetolai’s burden — of diseased human bodies and dying cattle has found scant mention in the vast extant literature on the tests. These articles offer a peek into the lives of the communities that have been the collateral damage in India’s pursuit of its nuclear glory.  

10. Health Impacts of India’s 1998 Nuclear Tests: A Documentary

Watch this important documentary on the impact of India’s 1998 nuclear tests on the health of communities and cattle in villages surrounding the Pokhran test site.


On Militarization and Jingoism Two Decades since Pokhran

11. India’s (Im)modest Nuclear Quest in 2018: The Measured ‘Normalization’ of a Nuclear State?

In the two decades since the Pokhran tests, India has witnessed an unquestioned normalization of its nuclear weapons domestically, and a heightened militarization and arms race within the region. India’s super-power ambition is plausibly guiding India’s overall nuclear strategy under a grandiloquent and ultra-nationalist Modi regime.

12. Jingoist Electioneering Prevails 21 Years After India’s Nuclear Tests

Although the US and other Western powers would like us to believe that North Korea and Iran are the world’s biggest nuclear threats, the real and escalating tension in South Asia between two nuclear-armed neighbours — India and Pakistan — should be of far greater concern.



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