Author: Sanjib Baruah
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN/UPC (if available): 019565840X
This book offers an original and lucid interpretation of the economic and political history of Assam since it became a part of British India and one of the world's leading tea-producing regions in the nineteenth century.
Are decentralized forms of government better able to manage conflict in multi-ethnic polities? In a time of failing states and ethnic unrest this question acquires a new urgency. Baruah argues that loosely organized federations are not only less prone to violent conflict but they also make better democracies. He traces the history of conflicts in Assam and tensions between pan-Indianism and Assamese sub-nationalist concerns ever since the province became a part of British India and one of the world's leading tea-producing regions in the nineteenth century.
He argues that human rights abuses by both security forces and insurgents, ethnic violence, and the steady slide towards illiberal democracy are largely due to India's formally federal but actually centralized government structure. This book combines scholarship, political engagement, and an insider's intimate knowledge of northeast India. It will interest historians and political analysts.
This brilliant book, meticulously researched in the history of sub-nationalism and cultural politics in Northeast India, is the best critique of general theories of agonistic democracy that I have encountered.
—Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Columbia University
…will stimulate critical thought at a historical moment when political and economic forces are propelling India toward a looser federation. And it will provide a base for comparison with ethnic politics in other contexts from Bosnia to Kashmir.
—Susanne H. Rudolph and Lloyd I. Rudolph, University of Chicago
…a remarkably innovative line of analysis that even proceeds to suggest a solution.
—Tapan Raychaudhuri, Times Literary Supplement
List of Illustrations
Note on Transliteration
Theoretical Considerations: The Limits of "Nation-Building"
Colonial Geography as Destiny: Assam as a Province of British India
The Making of a Land Frontier; Assam and Its Immigrants
Cultural Politics of Language, Subnationalism, and Pan-Indianism
Contested Identity, Culture Wars, and the Breakup of Colonial Assam
Protest Against Immigration, Ethnic Rifts, and Assam's Crisis of Governability
Militant Subnationalism, Human Rights, and the Chasm with Pan-Indianism
"We are Bodos, Not Assamese": Contesting a Subnational Narrative
Conclusion: India Against Itself