Ranbir Vohra was born in pre-partition Punjab and grew up in a political environment: his maternal grandfather was a well-known member of the Indian National Congress, who spent years in jail for his involvement in Mahatma Gandhi’s pacifist freedom movement. One of his uncles was a socialist revolutionary who, at the age of twenty-four, was hanged by the British in the infamous Punjab Conspiracy Case in 1931. When India was partitioned in 1947, Professor Vohra’s family was forced to flee their home in Lahore and seek refuge in India.
After graduating in 1946 from Government College in Lahore, Professor Vohra joined the government-run All India Radio (AIR) as a program officer. In 1956, the Indian government sent him to study at Beijing University; on his return in 1959, he took charge of the Chinese Broadcasting Unit of AIR. During his eighteen years with AIR, he was in a unique position to observe first-hand the reshaping of the Indian polity, and his stay in China helped to sharpen his understanding of the reasons why India’s path of modernization would always be different from that of China. Professor Vohra left AIR in 1964 to enter Harvard Graduate School, where he received his Ph. D. in East Asian Studies in 1969.
From 1969 to 1997 Professor Vohra taught a variety of courses dealing with the history and politics of China, Japan, and India at a number of institutions of higher learning in the U.S.A., including Harvard University. He is currently Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science (Emeritus) at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Professor Vohra has published widely and is the author of
Lao She and the Chinese Revolution (Harvard University Press), China’s Path to Modernization (Prentice-Hall), and
China: The Search for Social Justice (Penguin). He is now working on a comparative study, entitled
China and India: Two Paths to Modernization.