India and its Northeast
Prof. Sanjib Baruah probed the history of the term ‘northeast(ern)’ in the context of Indian politics and how, unlike ‘north India’ or ‘south India’, it is a formal and official coinage.
Office of PR & Communications2 February, 2018 | 6 min read
Prof. Sanjib Baruah, Professor of Political Studies, Bard College, New York is one of the names that pioneered studies about the northeastern region of India in university spaces in India as well as abroad. Known for his books like India against Itself: Assam and the Politics of Nationality (1999) and Durable Disorder: Understanding the Politics of Northeast India (2005), Prof Baruah has been teaching political studies at Bard College, New York since 1983. In this talk titled ‘India and its Northeast’, he probed the history of the term ‘northeast(ern)’ in the context of Indian politics and how, unlike ‘north India’ or ‘south India’, it is a formal and official coinage. Whether the term was a mere geographical, directional reference or it contained deep-seated hierarchy and ad-hocism in matters of policy-making were questions that were raised. Moderated by Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty from The Wire, the discussion saw ideas like borderland politics, centre-periphery relations and the role of insurgency invoked and debated.
A major part of the lecture investigated the electoral loss of Irom Chanu Sharmila — who fasted for 16 years demanding that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 be repealed from Manipur – in the Assembly Elections held in her state in 2017. What was the reason for such a popular civil rights activist, ‘the world’s longest hunger striker’, to receive a meagre 90 votes in her own constituency? The session attempted to understand such political quandaries and envisage the way forward.