Urvashi Butalia

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Urvashi Butalia
Urvashi Butalia in 2011
Born 1952 (age 61–62)
Ambala, Haryana
Occupation feminist, historian
co-founder Kali for Women (1984),
founder Zubaan Books(2003)

Urvashi Butalia (born 1952) is an Indian feminist, publisher and historian. She is the Director and co-founder of Kali for Women, India's first feminist publishing house, which was established in 1984. Subsequently, she started Zubaan Books, an imprint of Kali for Women in 2003.[1]

Early life and background[edit]

Butalia was born in Ambala, Haryana, India in 1952. She was the third of four children of Joginder Singh Butalia and Subadhra Butalia. She earned a B.A. in literature from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University in 1971, a Masters in literature from Delhi University in 1973, and a Masters in South Asian Studies from the University of London in 1977.[2]


Butalia, started her career working with Oxford University Press, Delhi as an editor, and later for an year at its Oxford headquarters.[2] Starting 1982, she worked as an editor for London-based Zed Books and later returned to India, to set up her own publishing house in 1984, along with Ritu Menon.[3] Her writing has appeared in several newspapers including The Guardian, The Statesman, The Times of India and several magazines including Outlook, the New Internationalist and India Today. Butalia is a consultant for Oxfam India and she holds the position of Reader at the College of Vocational Studies at the University of Delhi.[2]

Her main areas of research are partition and oral histories. She has also written on gender, communalism, fundamentalism and media. She is also a well-known columnist for a B2B publication dealing with the print and publishing industry - Indian Printer and Publisher.

Kali for Women and Zubaan[edit]

Kali for Women, India's first women's publishing house, which Butalia co-founded with and Ritu Menon, is concerned primarily with publishing studies on women. Kali was set up in 1984 as a trust to increase the body of knowledge on women in the Third World, to give voice to such knowledge as already exists, and to provide a forum for women writers, creative and academics.

In 2003, co-founders Urvashi Butalia and Ritu Menon, parted ways due to unresolvable differences. Thereafter, Butalia started Zubaan Books, which besides feminist books also published fiction, general interest books and children’s titles., while Menon started Women Unlimited.[3]

In 2011, she was jointly conferred the Padma Shri award, with Ritu Menon, for her contribution to the nation by Government of India.[4][5]

The Other Side of Silence[edit]

The Other Side of Silence has been one of the most influential books in South Asian studies of the past decade.[citation needed] The book is the product of more than seventy interviews Butalia conducted with survivors of the Partition, and emphasises particularly the role of violence against women in the collective experience of the tragedy.

Butalia's book is widely taught in classes in anthropology, South Asian literature, and Women's Studies classes.[citation needed] The work is based on the fact that the Partition occurred in the shadow of the independence of Pakistan and India in 1947, and resulted in the largest mass-migration in human history. Twelve million people relocated in the course of a few months, and in the violence that accompanied the dislocation of so many, about 1 million people were killed. Butalia points out that the Partition is, like the holocaust, still very much a "living history", in the sense that many survivors are still around and can be interviewed. In contrast to the many projects that have undertaken the documentation of oral histories of the Holocaust, however, no comparable initiative has been undertaken in India.




  1. ^ Daftuar, Swati (28 October 2010). "Identity matters". The Hindu. Retrieved 26 April 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "Bio - Butalia". Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage. Retrieved 26 April 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Urvashi Butalia: I want to prove that feminist publishing can survive commercially". Livemint. Jun 14, 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  4. ^ "Padma Awards Announced" (Press release). Ministry of Home Affairs. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "President Confers Padma Awards". Outlook India. 24 March 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2013. 

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