Discrimination, Challenge and Response: People of North East India [1st ed.] 9783030462505, 9783030462512

This book explores discrimination against Northeast Indians, who have been frequently stereotyped as backwards, anti-nat

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Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xxi
Discrimination, Challenge and Response in India: It’s Time for Truth Telling (Venkat Pulla, Sanjai Bhatt, Rituparna Bhattacharyya)....Pages 1-15
At the Intersections of Discrimination of Caste and Beyond (Venkat Pulla, Elizabeth Carter, Sanjai Bhatt)....Pages 17-30
Viewing Racism through Gendered Lenses (Rituparna Bhattacharyya, Venkat Pulla)....Pages 31-55
Understanding Ethnic Violence in North East India (Venkat Pulla, Bhairabi Nandini Kaushik, Bharath Bhushan Mamidi, Sanjai Bhatt)....Pages 57-71
Women’s Collective Action for Peace in the Northeastern Region (Rubi Devi, C. V. Kanchana Lanzet, Venkat Pulla)....Pages 73-96
North East Indians and Their Contribution to Indian Literature (Dhurjjati Sarma, Venkat Pulla)....Pages 97-114
Nagas: A Bitter Past—From British Period to Nehru (Rituparna Bhattacharyya, Venkat Pulla)....Pages 115-140
The Nagas Saga and an Uncertain Future? Nagas after Nehru to Modi (Rituparna Bhattacharyya, Venkat Pulla)....Pages 141-159
Look/ Act East Policy and North East India: Issues, Concerns and Opportunities (Venkat Pulla, Gunindra Nath Sarmah, Hiranya K. Nath)....Pages 161-175
Recognising, Understanding and Responding to Racism in India (Venkat Pulla, Elizabeth Carter, Rituparna Bhattacharyya)....Pages 177-195
Back Matter ....Pages 197-203
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Discrimination, Challenge and Response

People of North East India Edited by Venkat Pulla Rituparna Bhattacharyya · Sanjai Bhatt

Mapping Global Racisms

Series Editor Ian Law School of Sociology and Social Policy University of Leeds Leeds, UK

There is no systematic coverage of the racialisation of the planet. This series is the first attempt to present a comprehensive mapping of global racisms, providing a way in which to understand global racialisation and acknowledge the multiple generations of different racial logics across regimes and regions. Unique in its intellectual agenda and innovative in producing a new empirically-based theoretical framework for understanding this glocalised phenomenon, Mapping Global Racisms considers racism in many underexplored regions such as Russia, Arab racisms in North African and Middle Eastern contexts, and racism in Pacific contries such as Japan, Hawaii, Fiji and Samoa. More information about this series at http://www.palgrave.com/gp/series/14813

Venkat Pulla Rituparna Bhattacharyya  •  Sanjai Bhatt Editors

Discrimination, Challenge and Response People of North East India

Editors Venkat Pulla Senior Research Fellow (Adjunct) ILWS, Charles Sturt University NSW, Australia

Rituparna Bhattacharyya Research Consultant & Editor-in-Chief Space and Culture North Shields, UK

Sessional Academic Charles Darwin University NT, Australia Foundation Professor, Brisbane Institute of Strengths Based Practice NSW, Australia Sanjai Bhatt Professor, Department of Social Work University of Delhi Delhi, India

Mapping Global Racisms ISBN 978-3-030-46250-5    ISBN 978-3-030-46251-2 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46251-2 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: Dhritiman Biswa Sarma, Kings Priory School, Tynemouth This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland


Some years ago, I coined the phrase ‘One thousand years in a lifetime’ to express the breakneck speed at which political, economic and social developments have swamped North East India and its people. The region is a magnificent and tragic tapestry of people, events and nature. You can be touched by its rivers, rain and mist, overwhelmed by its seeming gentleness and stirred by its powerful and evocative history. There is strength and fragility in its immense diversity—more than 250 communities in eight states with a population of about 42 million people. Communities with kin in neighbouring countries. Not less than five countries abut on its region, which juts out of the mainland of India towards Myanmar, with long borders with China, Bangladesh and Bhutan. Indeed, 98 per cent of its borders are with the five nations. A bare 2 per cent is India’s share. Is it surprising, therefore, that people and communities there feel alienated and very distant, not just from Delhi, but the rest of the country? There are many truths here, conflicting realities, especially in terms of perceptions. Indeed, it is these differing perceptions that lie at the root of most conflicts in the region, between India and its perceived northeast as well as within North East India itself. The northeast is Asia in miniature, where communities and oral histories span national boundaries as seamlessly as the mountains and the v

vi Foreword

forests run across them. The only land connection with India is a narrow corridor, the ‘Chicken’s Neck’, through which flow natural and finished resources such as oil, gas and tea in the out direction and consumer goods, food and other essential and non-essential items into the North East India. There are sensitive and complex problems that have defied solution for as long as independent India has existed. Our population of well under 50 million is an anthropologist’s delight and an administrator’s nightmare. A settlement in one district that satisfies one group will alienate five communities in another part of the same district, not to speak of the state! There are special laws, constitutional provisions such as the Sixth Schedule and Article 371A, which seek to protect the traditions, lands and rights of various hill communities. In fact, no land can be bought by a non-tribal, even if he or she should live there. There can be no alienation of land. These are issues which again bring out the insider–outsider, the local and ‘the other’ conundrum which has long troubled the region: not a single state of the eight has been untouched or unsinged by this tension. It’s been a place where innovation in administration, politics and social experiments and dynamics have been extensive, ambitious and met with mixed results. Thus, one of the original experiments with limited self-­governance is the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which was launched in the 1950s. At that time it was hailed as was a pathbreaking effort to give small tribal communities, disadvantaged by lack of opportunity—educational, political and numerical—extensive powers through the system of autonomous district councils, and to protect their traditions as well as their land. To a substantial degree, these laws have worked. But there have been repercussions, including inadequate development, a multiplicity of authority and, in a number of cases, majoritarian groups in small states, such as Mizoram and Meghalaya, have applied pressure on small ethnic groups within their territories, depriving them of the very rights for which they fought against India or a larger state, such as Assam. The process has become muddied with greed, malfeasance and bitter battles for political power. Some political leaders in some of the northeastern states even want the disbanding of the Councils, saying that there is duplication



and over-bureaucratization leading to ineffective administration and programme implementation. Laws such as the Sixth Schedule need substantial change to make them more representative, so that they reflect the interests of gender, non-tribal communities and small tribes. Democracy grows only through continuing democratic practice and what often passes superficially in the northeast as ‘traditional’ democracy is nothing less than male-dominated fiefdoms and feudalism. It also needs to be understood that the region does not have a tribal majority. Tribals hold a majority of the non-productive land in the hills, but two-thirds of the regional population lives on one-third of the land. The conflicts between mainland India and its northeastern periphery began before independence and have continued since. One is not sure if many Indians are aware that one of the reasons that a state like Assam is in India today is due to the courageous stand of Gopinath Bardoloi, the first Chief Minister of Assam, who fought the Muslim League’s effort to include Assam and other parts of the North Eastern Region (NER) in East Pakistan. The Congress Party at the national level would have acquiesced to this had it not been for a revolt by Bardoloi, backed by the Assam unit of the Congress Party and supported by Mahatma Gandhi and the Assamese public. We know so little about each other; no wonder there is so much misunderstanding. The conflicts in the northeast, in terms of armed revolts, ethnic struggles or fights against the Indian state, no longer draw on the romanticism and idealism that sustained fighting groups and communities for decades. Dreams have degenerated into nightmares; the fighters have turned on each other and on the people in whose name they claim to speak. The entire network of cadres, recruits, informers and political leaders is based on extortion and extraction: extortion from business houses and petty traders, from professionals, contractors and politicians. Few are spared. The extraction process even involves government officials, especially in states like Nagaland and Manipur where officials (who do not pay income tax) hand over two to five per cent of their salary to various underground groups. No wonder corruption is a problem.

viii Foreword

After decades, following long negotiations between different armed groups and the Government of India, conflicts have eased and for the past decades there has been an abating of the violence that characterized life in the region. Yet, new challenges have grown over issues such as migration and citizenship. These are highly divisive issues: for instance, the contentious National Registrar of Citizens, which has created much fear and suspicion as well as anxieties of impending statelessness. Matters are not helped by a poor resource base and local government incapacity to generate new revenues; these are primarily dependent on the Government of India for their survival. There are warlords within and without the system. Yet we can take some encouragement from limited successes: negotiations between the Government of India and the main Naga faction led by Th Muivah have continued for over 20 years and a ceasefire has held, despite initial hiccups, for that time too. Although there is hope and concern about a possible ‘deal’ in the making with the Nagas, in the Naga Hills, most of the armed groups opposed to the IM have come together under one banner. People are speaking out, civil society has found articulate voices through a platform for Naga tribes, the Naga Hoho, as well as church leaders. That this has reached such a phase where local leaders speak of a to be ‘historic’ agreement without spelling out the details is no mean achievement: the Government of India, representing a billion people, has been talking on equal terms with the most powerful of the Naga groups. This is as much a tribute to Indian democracy as it is to the realistic appreciation of both sides that this problem needs a political and not a military solution. Governments speak increasingly of walking the walk with connectivity to neighbouring countries, whether Bangladesh or Myanmar and Thailand. New consulates have opened up and new routes too. But we need to overcome the security-centred mindset that still guides policy. There are efforts to start business connections and academic as well as media and cultural exchanges between Southeast Asia and North East India. This effort, enshrined in what is known as the Act East Policy, also has drawn in substantial expertise, funds and focus from Japan.



The current volume sets out to address some of the issues sketched above. It seeks to do so by looking specifically at a handful of cases, particularly bias, through the lens of both the ‘outsider’ and the ‘insider’, from an academic perspective and from an activist point of view. We hope that readers will regard this as an important contribution to the literature on this set of related issues; that literature, though growing, is still sparse. International Director Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative New Delhi, India December 2019

Sanjoy Hazarika


As authors and editors, we wish to thank the numerous respondents who have shared their narratives with us. We wish to express our gratitude to our families for their support during our writing phases. To Sharla Plant, our Publisher, Scholarly and Reference Books in Sociology and Social Policy at Palgrave Macmillan, UK. The first editor and initiator of this project Dr Venkat Pulla has only accolades to describe the production handling by Poppy Hull our Production Editor and her wonderful team Hemalatha Arumugam and Jasper Asir for keeping him on the track. As editors we wish to acknowledge Professor Sanjoy Hazarika for his meticulous reading, and for his thoughts and his foreword, our own peer referees and our coauthors, Elizabeth Carter, Ms. Bhairabi Nandini Kaushik, Bharath Bhushan Mamidi, Dr Rubi Devi, Dr Kanchana Lanzet, Dr Dhurjjati Sarma, Dr Gunindra Nath Sarmah, and Professor Hiranya K. Nath. One can never forget Professor Ian Law the series editor for Global Racisms. His encouragement, patience, and clear suggestions made this book possible. He stood by this project and had faith in this script that it will turn up a new sleeve on a little-understood racism in the subcontinental context. At a personal level Dr Venkat Pulla is grateful to his Research Associate Elizabeth Carter and to, Professor Suresh Pathare, the Director of Centre xi

xii Acknowledgments

for Studies in Rural Development, Institute of Social Work and Research, Ahmednagar, for facilitating a number of meetings with the northeastern student community in Ahmednagar. Hospitality and cooperation were unconditionally offered by him and his staff. The focus group meetings with social work and non-social work cohorts that live and study in Ahmednagar, a city near Pune in India, were facilitated by Dr Venkat Pulla and Mona Lisha Phukan Roy, a student, and a former Associate Faculty of the Centre for Studies in Rural Development, Institute of Social Work and Research, who later joined the Dibrugarh University as Assistant Professor of Social Work. For those many stories about the way the mainstream society dealt with student in Ahmednagar and for sharing insights from her own research about Khasi women in Ahmednagar, Mona Lisha Phukan Roy deserves mention and the gratitude of the team of editors. We are equally thankful to Dr Nripen Barkataki and Mrs Fiona Goswami for connecting us with few informants in North East India. And ‘big thank you’ to Master Dhritiman Biswa Sarma, the then 13-year-old studentt of Class 8, for designing the cover page for us.


1 Discrimination, Challenge and Response in India: It’s Time for Truth Telling  1 Venkat Pulla, Sanjai Bhatt, and Rituparna Bhattacharyya 2 At the Intersections of Discrimination of Caste and Beyond  17 Venkat Pulla, Elizabeth Carter, and Sanjai Bhatt 3 Viewing Racism through Gendered Lenses 31 Rituparna Bhattacharyya and Venkat Pulla 4 Understanding Ethnic Violence in North East India 57 Venkat Pulla, Bhairabi Nandini Kaushik, Bharath Bhushan Mamidi, and Sanjai Bhatt 5 Women’s Collective Action for Peace in the Northeastern Region 73 Rubi Devi, C. V. Kanchana Lanzet, and Venkat Pulla 6 North East Indians and Their Contribution to Indian Literature 97 Dhurjjati Sarma and Venkat Pulla xiii

xiv Contents

7 Nagas: A Bitter Past—From British Period to Nehru115 Rituparna Bhattacharyya and Venkat Pulla 8 The Nagas Saga and an Uncertain Future? Nagas after Nehru to Modi141 Rituparna Bhattacharyya and Venkat Pulla 9 Look/ Act East Policy and North East India: Issues, Concerns and Opportunities161 Venkat Pulla, Gunindra Nath Sarmah, and Hiranya K. Nath 10 Recognising, Understanding and Responding to Racism in India177 Venkat Pulla, Elizabeth Carter, and Rituparna Bhattacharyya Index197

Notes on Contributors

Sanjai Bhatt  A senior professor of social work. Held the role of Head of Department of Social Work, University of Delhi, and is currently the National President of the Association of Social Workers in India, and is the President, (South Asia) International Council on Social Welfare, Alliance Ambassador, Global Social Service Workforce Alliance (GSSWA). He is a leading writer, social policy advisor, an authority consulted on social work in India and within the SAARC nations. Rituparna Bhattacharyya  Associate Fellow, Advance HE, UK. Obtained her PhD from Newcastle University, UK, in 2009. An independent research consultant in universities across India, the UK and in Bangladesh. She is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Space and Culture, India. She received the award New and Emergent Scholar, (2011) for Gender, Place & Culture (Routledge). She has widely published in outlets published by Springer, Sage, Routledge and Elsevier. Elizabeth  Carter, BA, MSW Undertook her education from the Australian Catholic University and is a Research Associate, Brisbane Institute of Strengths-Based Practice. She is a current reviewer for a number of Sage journals including the International Journal of Social Work. Her research interests are ethics, human rights and international students’ welfare. xv


Notes on Contributors

Rubi Devi  Began her career in Gauhati University, Assam, Holds a PhD in International Development, University of Southern Mississippi, USA, an MPhil in Folk Culture and Research from Gauhati University, and an MA in English Literature, Tezpur University, India. She held a position as a Project Associate (Curriculum Internationalisation and Partnership Development), IUPUI Office of International Affairs, Indiana University– Purdue University, Indianapolis. C. V. Kanchana Lanzet  A cultural anthropologist and research consultant who works from Bonn, Germany, and obtained her PhD from University of Pune. Dr Lanzet has contributed to women-empowerment strategies in the non-state sector in India and has been a trainer in community development. Formerly Vice President of the UN Women, German National Committee. Bharath Bhushan Mamidi  Sociologist, Osmania University, Hyderabad, India. He has been associated with civil society organisations since 1985. Director and founder-secretary of Centre for Action Research and People’s Development. Writes and is involved in children’s rights and participatory forest management. He worked as advisor to state governments in social development initiatives and co-edited Some Aspects of Community Empowerment and Resilience, 2015, Allied Publishers, New Delhi, with Venkat Pulla. Bhairabi Nandini Kaushik  Currently Associate Professor, Roda Mistry College of Social Work and Research Centre, Hyderabad. She holds a MSW, School of Social Sciences, Kaziranga University, and has been a ‘Teach for India Fellow’ of their two-year programme starting from June 2018. and recently worked with the Centre for Action Research and People’s Development. Hiranya  K.  Nath Professor of Economics, Sam Houston State University, and current partner at Business Information Technologies (BIT) Global Research Network. He has studied at the prestigious Delhi School of Economics and Jawaharlal University, and obtained his PhD from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas.

  Notes on Contributors 


Venkat Pulla  A leader in the field of strengths approach to social work, resilience and hope-building. He is a qualitative researcher who writes and believes in human rights, teaches ethics and social work and an expert in grounded theory methodologies He has held many roles as Head of School, Senior Lecturer, Coordinator, in Australian universities and is currently Senior Research Fellow, Adjunct at the Charles Sturt University, Australia, Sessional Academic at Charles Darwin University, and is Foundation Professor & President of the Brisbane Institute of StrengthsBased Practice. Dhurjjati  Sarma  Studied at the University of Delhi for his MA in English and MPhil in Comparative Indian Literature degrees. He earned his PhD degree in English Literature from the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Presently, he is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Modern Indian Languages and Literary Studies, Gauhati University, Assam. Previously worked as a production editor at Sage Publications, New Delhi. Gunindra  Nath  Sarmah An Associate Professor of Lakhimpur Commerce College, North Lakhimpur, Assam (India). He is the author of A Text Book on Microfinance and Rural Development: Microfinance and Self-Help Group Interface. He also edited Microfinance and Sustainable Development of North East India, in addition to publishing papers in national and international journals. Currently, his research interest is in microfinance and globalisation in the context of North East India.

List of Figures

Fig. 7.1 Fig. 8.1 Fig. 8.2

Fig. 9.1

Fig. 9.2

Fig. 10.1

The Nagalim. (Source: Authors of this chapter. Map prepared by Sanjay Prasad, Director, SAMNE Associates Pvt. Limited, Delhi) 117 Naga Timeline from British annexation of Assam, 1826 to the present to now. (Source: Created by the Authors) 142 Fatalities in Nagaland 2000–2018. (Sources: South Asia Terrorism Portal, Datasheet, Nagaland. Retrieved January 25, 2019, from http://www.satp.org/datasheet-terrorist-attack/ fatalities/india-insurgencynortheast-nagaland. And SirnateDrennan [2015]. Note: The y-axis represents the number of fatalities) 146 Population of North East India, 2018. (Source: List of Indian States by Population, Statistics Times. Retrieved June 12, 2019, from http://statisticstimes.com/demographics/population-ofindian-states.php)164 Percentage shares in total (India) Gross domestic product, 2015–2016. (Source: Created using data from the Handbook of Statistics obtained from the Reserve Bank of India website: https://m.rbi.org.in/Scripts/AnnualPublications. aspx?head=Handbook%20of%20Statistics%20on%20 Indian%20States, downloaded on 7 September 2019) 165 Illustration of equality and equity by Angus Maguire (2016). (Illustration courtesy: Interaction Institute for Social Change Artist: Angus Maguire (2016); interactioninstitute.org and madewithangus.com)185 xix

List of Tables

Table 3.1 Discrimination and challenges in four metro cities: New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta and Bangalore 37 Table 3.2 Racial attacks on North East Indians in metropolitan cities of India40 Table 3.3 Security tips for students/ visitors from North East India in Delhi (Dos and don’ts for northeast students according to the Delhi Police) 45 Table 4.1 Displacement of people in the North Eastern Region of India 59 Table 4.2 Showing the Territorial Councils of the North East Region 66 Table 4.3 The Statutory Autonomous Councils in the North East Region 67


1 Discrimination, Challenge and Response in India: It’s Time for Truth Telling Venkat Pulla, Sanjai Bhatt, and Rituparna Bhattacharyya

The idea that India is a raceless society is a myth. India has a legal framework that assures racial equality but there is no evidence that any of these legal arrangements have been useful in preventing the incessant assaults on young North East Indians in the metropolitan cities of India. Trajectories and outcomes of racialised and dehumanised behaviours, V. Pulla (*) Senior Research Fellow (Adjunct), ILWS, Charles Sturt University, NSW, Australia Sessional Academic, Charles Darwin University, NT, Australia Foundation Professor, Brisbane Institute of Strengths Based Practice, NSW, Australia S. Bhatt Department of Social Work, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India R. Bhattacharyya Research Consultant & Editor-in-Chief, Space and Culture, India, North Shields, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 V. Pulla et al. (eds.), Discrimination, Challenge and Response, Mapping Global Racisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46251-2_1



V. Pulla et al.

including the ‘othering’ of internal migrants, are explored in this book; a study that deepens our understanding of global patterns of racism and the variety of forms that taken by racial states today. Racism is everywhere and its manifestations are global and local. The unleashing of power and privilege by dominant racial groups leaves the less powerful with shattered lives and this is increasing. As each day unfolds, a new target group, a new ‘non-belonging’ group, seems to emerge in every nation, underprivileged, oppressed and discriminated against. Citizenship, whether by birth or naturalisation, offers no protection when the powerful decide to push these people away. A critical examination of the power, privilege and racial hierarchy operating in India, and their effects on the marginalized, is crucial for challenging racial inequalities in today’s world. The conversation on racism in India has already started, as evidenced in Professor Duncan McDuie-Ra’s poignant anthropological narratives of urban migrants from North East India (McDuie-Ra 2012). He recorded that over 80 per cent of North East Indians have felt discrimination in the country’s metropolitan cities. Inspired by this and other works, the first author of this book, Venkat Pulla, sought to contribute to and continue the conversation on racism. This opening chapter utilises a structure of thematic subheadings that introduce the chapters in this book. Additional comments will help the reader to discern the way each chapter treats its theme and content.

Discrimination Beyond Caste At present, immigrants from northeast Indian states to other parts of the country are the focus of discrimination and racism. The Constitution of India laid the foundation stone for an egalitarian society based on democratic values. The principles of liberty, equality and fraternity enshrined in there, as they operate in every day society, are critiqued in Chap. 2. Venkat Pulla, Elizabeth Carter and Sanjai Bhatt, argue that the racism in India is not new or solely directed at those that have come from East African countries to work but is also directed against Indians who move within the country. As Indian citizens they have a constitutionally guaranteed freedom to move and settle anywhere in India. People come into metropolitan

1  Discrimination, Challenge and Response in India: It’s Time… 


cities to find a job, escape from native poverty, for higher studies, in some cases to flee ongoing insurgency, or simply to find a better life. Their sustained political struggle for identity and rights, and their quest for selfdetermination, has tinted them as wild, unruly, violent and uninvited. The authors have made an attempt to answer the question ‘How did North East Indians become the target of discrimination and racism, where did it all start?’ As a group they are doubly disadvantaged. In their familiar environment they face ethnic conflict; at their destination, they are victims of discrimination and violence ranging from discriminatory practices, derogatory and verbal abuse to physical attacks, killing and rape. The federal government has made honest efforts to improve the connectedness between the northeast and mainstream India through the ‘Act East’ policy. It was expected that improvements to infrastructure would facilitate and normalise the flow of goods, people, and the exchange of ideas. What were they addressed as? ‘Momo’, ‘Chinky’, ‘Chinese’, ‘Chichi Chu’ etc. Purely disparaging remarks relating to race, culture, identity or physical appearances thrown at fellow Indians. Should such remarks be made punishable, even although they may not violate a law but ‘merely’ bring down fellow human beings’ morale? The Bezbaruah Committee made a couple of suggestions to insert section 153C into law, which deals with the imputations and assertions prejudicial to human dignity, and section 509A, which deals with words, gestures or acts intended to insult a member of a particular racial group or of any race.

Racism Through a Gendered Lens The culture in North East India starkly contrasts with the culture that prevails in most of the country. North East Indians practice equality and the region’s women enjoy greater mobility and visibility than in any of the states in the rest of the country. When North East Indian women migrate to the main cities in India with their broad-based egalitarian values and expectation of equal esteem, they are perceived as a threat to the mainstream conservative ethos. In addition, most North East Indians (barring the caste Hindus) do not fall within the four caste hierarchies, although mainstream Indian society has always looked upon them from


V. Pulla et al.

a caste perspective and thereby sought to inflict discrimination and racism. In Chap. 3, Rituparna Bhattacharyya and Venkat Pulla present a concerted view of racism through a lens of gender, utilising a feminist perspective. In-depth interviews with individuals/ students from North East India and stakeholders of civil society organizations probe the nuanced forms of prejudice and discrimination faced by Northeast Indians. The narratives here are pitiable, corrosive and wretched, clearly depicting the conspicuous commonplace racism endured by the majority of Northeast Indian women in the metropolitan cities. It has been found that lack of awareness and knowledge about Northeast India in the rest of the country is extraordinary. The deeply rooted notion of sub-nationality and power intersect to produce prejudices and discrimination. A year ago, a national English-language daily newspaper published a survey with the caption ‘81% of North East Women Harassed in Delhi’. The majority of the women and men from North East India maintained a clearly defined ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ in the public spaces of the metropolitan cities. A 2016 popular Bollywood film, Pink, written by Ritesh Shah, portrays the common prejudices towards north eastern people that independent, single Indian woman living away from their home and parents suffer in the cities. The film features a character, portrayed by Andrea Tariang, representing the way in which women from Northeast India are targeted based on shallow judgements and pervasive prejudices. Their willingness to assimilate, friendly behaviour, appearance and distinctive dress codes are mistaken for signs of loose character, immorality, and being ‘an easy lay’.

Inter-ethnic Violence in the Northeast The Indian state’s reaction to tribal disputes in the northeast can be considered to be a paternalist approach. The state has intervened with force and police action, rather than listening to the indigenous population and trying to find common ground. Military resources have been required and the press has generally highlighted violence, and this has resulted in mainstream India being given a poor picture of the northeast. This violence is one of the contributing factors to migration from the northeast to the larger cities; people are trying to find a safe place to live. The

1  Discrimination, Challenge and Response in India: It’s Time… 


pervasiveness of violent conflict in North East India is routinely ascribed to the region’s backwardness and the ‘natural’ propensity for violence of its indigenous populations. According to Gen. V. P. Malik, the former chief of the Indian Armed forces: Terrorism is neither state-specific nor an ideology. It is a method of employing violence in the pursuit of an ideology. He finds fault with the approach that is too militarist and supports those who believe that ‘ideologues’ must be included in fight against terrorism. (Malik 2012, 13)

Venkat Pulla, Bhairabi Nandini Kaushik, Bharath Bhushan Mamidi, and Sanjai Bhatt have examined the inter-ethnic violence in north eastern states of India that is depicted as institutionalised violence fuelled often by vested interests having stakes in spreading political violence and conflict between rival tribal communities. The region has witnessed ethnonational movements established in diverse ethnic groups to further sub-national aspirations, often triggered by the fear of losing a distinct identity. Geopolitics, multiple ethnicities, porous international borders and internal immigration have combined to cause the entire region to be gripped by tension, conflict, protest and violence. From self-rule to separate statehood, the history of ethnic violence is traced in the chapter, noting the actions of territorial councils and autonomous councils for governance legitimizing a few tribal groups over others. One cannot deny that the lack of a government proactive, constructive anticipatory developmental agenda is a reason for unrest, though it is equally true that ethnic violence erupts over resources and their allocation, provoked by some in the region, including political bosses. The scenario in the northeastern states is not pretty. Professor Sanjoy Hazarika, who was a member of the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee set up to review the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 and to suggest measures for repealing it, had the following to say: The intensity of the challenges are immense: these range from ethnic standoffs and struggles for land and space as well as political rights. In the past half century, another major change has affected the violence: on both sides of the ‘barrier’, the lethality of weapons and their easier


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a­ vailability has transformed the power and quality of the fighting. RDX, AK-56s, machine guns and sniper rifles are used extensively. The immediacy of communications has also effectively changed the profile of these organizations as well of fighting: people can see, hear and even communicate with them by email! A consequence of such long-drawn out conflicts has been the collapse of governance in a number of the states; the security of the citizens is at extreme risk, from security forces and the militants. During this period, there have been some positive gains—awareness of human rights has increased in India and the world, the media is stronger as are non-­ government organizations and civil society groups. Violations of human rights by state forces and by non-state armed groups cannot, in these days of instant information, be hidden any longer. (Sanjoy Hazarika 2005, 147)

Women of the North East and Peace Processes Peace activist Sanam Anderlini, says that ‘wherever war and violence exist, women exist — and they have things to tell us’ (UN Women 2016). The Iron Lady of Manipur or ‘Mengoubi’, the Fair One, Irom Sharmila Chanu, took to non-violent protest through voluntary abstinence from food. She is known for her fast and hunger strike against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act: the longest known non-violent social action in the world, from 5 November 2000 to 9 August 2016. No book can ever be written about contemporary Northeast India without reference to, her. Clearly conscience-driven change emanates from those who care for people and those who care for the preservation of ecologies that foster peace, and in this task there can never be a doubt that women are at the forefront, capable of creating and building lasting peace. The effects of violence and armed conflicts on women and girls are two of the twelve areas of concern which require action by all governments across the world. India is no exception to this. In Chap. 5, Rubi Devi, Kanchana Lanzet and Venkat Pulla present an account of ‘Women’s Collective Action for Peace in the Northeastern Region’. There is a long history of women’s movements, from reforming and welfare works to gendered rights and women’s empowerment. India has witnessed women’s activism

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in both pre- and post-independence era. Indian women have been actively involved, and often have played major roles, in social movements. The sub-nationalism of North East India has always been its unique characteristic—be it Nagaland, Manipur or Assam. There are many examples such as Assam Pradeshik Mahila Samithi, Tezpur, District Mahila Samiti, Naga Mothers’ Association, Meira Paibis, the Leishiyer Tangkhul Women and the All Tangkhul Women’s Association. Women in the region enjoy a certain degree of freedom and social space and have played significant roles in social movements. They have also paid a heavy price for their active involvement in activism via humiliation, personal assault, rape, and sexual violence. It is important to note one of the significant protests about the rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama Devi on mere suspicion: twelve Meira Paibi adopted the collective slogan ‘Rape us! Kill us! Take our Flesh!’ along with their banner ‘Indian Army Rape Us’ and carried out a ‘nude protest’ in front of the headquarters of the 17th Assam Rifles.

 agas: A Bitter Past—From the British Period N to Nehru In Chap. 6, Rituparna Bhattacharyya and Venkat Pulla attempt a concerted historical review of the Nagas’ bitter past, from the British Period to Nehru, the first Prime Minster of India. They further comment in the subsequent chapter, on Nagas after Nehru to Modi, about their uncertain future. The Nagas’ struggle is tumultuous. The concept of greater Nagalim, as conceived by National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), has been discussed. The word Naga is an umbrella term for tribes dwelling in both India and Myanmar; the Nagamese language is similar to, yet different to, Assamese and uses a blend of both Naga and Assamese phrases and words. The Angami Nagas were the first to express resistance to British rule. There are historical facts of war waged by the Naga against the British regime and later on for independence. Independent India clearly found it hard to deal with the Nagas’ demands and problems, first


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the Nehru government and later on the present government have opposed and suppressed claims on the issues of self-rule, integration and autonomy and so on. The chapter traces this history from the Naga Club to the Naga Hills District Tribal Council and on to the Naga National Council; a journey that has witnessed both peaceful, non-violent and violent movements for a free Nagaland. Nehru was not apologetic about sending the Indian Army to suppress the Naga rebellions, contrary to the approach of the Indian government that had many appeasement moves to offer. It is factually correct that his successors did not make any major changes to the Indian state’s Naga policy. The dissension and dialogue were continued, as was armed conflict. until a section of NNC/ NFG/ NFA members decided to renounce arms and ammunition and unconditionally accept the supremacy of the Constitution of India, resulting in the Shillong Accord of 1975 and the Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) in 1978.

The Nagas’ Saga and an Uncertain Future? The spirit of Naga Nationalism remains in the heart of every Naga. Generations have grown up with this aspiration, underpinned by the weight of the Naga National Movement. Hence, final signing of a peace agreement will definitely beget increased autonomy and development for the Nagas, both within the state and in the Naga-inhabited areas of the neighboring states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) has split off many fractions, such as the NSCN (K), (KK), (IM) (U), NSCN(R) and so on, but it was the NSCN (Reformation), formed in 2015 (that is, in the Modi era) that believed a solution based on nonviolence and peace had a place. Chapter 7 holds that the peace negotiations that Prime Minister Modi has announced within the Peace Agreement framework, and his government’s pledge to keep Nagaland out of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, promise much. Besides this, one of the critical questions on Nagalim has also been discussed, as geographical utopian dream and as a possibility of cultural issues. There is clearly a need for out-of-box

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thinking to integrate the Nagas into the mainstream and further boost the rich language and cultural diversity of the Indian nation. What started as a political demand and insurgency in the Naga Hills, now Nagaland, has developed into a number of militant armed uprisings in no less than five other states—Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. These have international connections with various armed groups and forces inimical to India and to democratic forces. In addition, there are the problems of illegal migration into the region, especially Assam. Hazarika (2005) further remarked that he was optimistic that many of the armed groups in the northeast were keen on conversations which could bring armed confrontations to an end and restore dignity to civil society, and the rule of justice and law (Hazarika 2005). The authors Rituparna Bhattacharyya and Venkat Pulla suggest that, amongst other issues, the level of massive ignorance amongst the mainstream Indians about the whole region, largely due to cultural difference, calls for efforts to bridge the gap, preferably through holistic development. One way to diminish the cultural divide might be to recognise Nagamese Creole, the lingua franca amongst the Nagas, as the 22nd Modern Indian Language (MIL).

Look and Act East Policy In Chap. 8, Venkat Pulla, Gunindra Nath Sarmah, and Hiranya K. Nath raise the continued expectations of Northeast India in relation to infrastructure development, socio-political stability, ecological balance, and improvement in institutional quality. These, indeed, are to be seen as basic preconditions for economic growth and overall development. Additionally, forging closer and deeper economic integration with eastern neighbours, particularly with the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, would allow the dismantling of barriers and speed up the process of growth and development. The erstwhile Look East policy (LEP) has been critically reviewed, and the concerns, issues and opportunities in the context of the more recent Act East policy (AEP) for the region have been discussed. Both sides: building infrastructure, ensuring socio-political stability and ecological balance, and improving


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the quality of institutions within the region; and the forging of closer and deeper economic integration with eastern neighbours (ASEAN countries) have been part of the discussion. Despite the different initiatives for the development of the northeastern region, its economic status is far below the national average. Three Cs—connectivity, commerce and culture—are the three pillars, and approaches from both land and sea are the essential aspects. Development also takes care of issues like insurgency. LEP/AEP can create various opportunities for Northeast India: the region possesses geographical advantages and has cultural similarities with Southeast Asian Countries. It is blessed with natural resources, horticultural products, and boundless tourism opportunities. Prime Minister Modi coined a new title for the region: Asthalaxmi (eight-wealth goddess) in contrast to the old seven sisters, and optimistically looks forward to peace and prosperity. AEP is concerned with education, exchange, education, environment and the engagement of people.

 he Emergence of Literature T from the Northeast In Chap. 9, Dhurjjati Sarma and Venkat Pulla succinctly review the contribution of North Eastern Indians to Indian literature. Marginality is the constant factor in each and every age of literature. The balance between centre and periphery keeps shifting as time changes and new literature is produced. Marginality in literature also makes it necessary to study political and sociological theories. Such a study assists us in ascertaining the standard of literature and its characteristics at any given time or place. The review essentially recognises the complex interrelationships between society, literature, politics and marginality. Several writings on North East Indian culture, politics, economics, society and its varied aspects by different authors seem to suggest that there is no specific category of literature that could be called ‘Northeastern’. However, the distinct niche for the region’s writers is based on their specific choices of language as well as the subject matters depicted in their poetry and stories set against the backdrop of their environment—tensions, conflicts and

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geography. The chapter’s brief exploration looks at the various movements that have carried forward the literary cultures of the region to the present day and into the mainstream Indic culture.

Responding to Race in India A need to look at both the symptoms and the underlying (historical) causes of contemporary issues and injustices is pivotal to achieving lasting changes in the context of North East India. This involves working in genuine and positive partnership with the people of the region and an absorption into and understanding of their lived experience of the conflict. The above conception is strongly advocated by Venkat Pulla, Elizabeth Carter and Rituparna Bhattacharyya in Chap. 10. With a mainstream society that experiences interstate migration, including migrants in search of hope, opportunity and productivity, we need early intervention and prevention strategies across all workplaces, institutions, schools and wider communities to deal with diversity and induce respect for diversity in an inclusive manner. Education on racism ought to address its impact at all levels of society. No discussion on racism should ever be limited to structural explanations; it should also address the issues at a personal level by demonstrating the naturally ethnocentric nature of groups. Societal facilitation and educational approaches may find that even if individuals are willing to explore their own values and beliefs they may subconsciously engage in resistance. When individuals or groups are confronted with identity-threatening information, or faced with evidence of their own actions and attitudes, they may try to reframe self-­knowledge by seeking socially acceptable explanations for their actions. Chapter 10, considers the impact that social identity formation, group processes and threats to identity have on individuals and their response to racism.

Truth Telling For the British, the North Eastern Region (NER) was unappealing to rule. Plausibly, they were not enthusiastic about undertaking a long,


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arduous journey through the hills and slopes of NER peoples as it was by too many tribal groups that in their administrative opinion could look after themselves. India after independence, with Mr Jawahar Lal Nehru as Prime Minster, was busy putting out the pyres that were burning in the wake of partition, and dealing with the exodus of people fleeing from the newly constituted Pakistan. Several issues followed. His government and its successors carried on a similarly weak posture towards the entire River Brahma Putra Valley and its people. The region learned to live with weak internal administration, weak border controls, internal dissent and massive dissatisfaction with the Union of India’s lackadaisical resource allocations that made the northeast region an easy target for abuse by internal groups equipped with ideological leadership and financial support to sustain terrorist momentum. Even today, viewed from the state and centre relationships, the 24 per cent of the population of the nation that lives in Northeast India seem to capture very little space in the discourse on Indian democracy. A plausible reason for India not bothering about its northeast could be that thoe states in the region field return about two dozen members to the national parliament in New Delhi. If this is the case, it implies little or no respect for democratic processes. Political numbers make the difference in economic terms too. It is important to consider and accept that wrongs that have been committed in the past and are being committed on an ongoing basis. It is about telling the truth to achieve justice and healing, and improving relationships between people. People of the hills and people of the plains. Part of this truth-telling process for India is acknowledging that the people from North East India are an important part of Indian culture and have much to contribute to society. India’s history has been characterised by theft of resources, intentional marginalisation, violence and overt and unapologetic racism directed at the people of the northeast. Cultural diversity is either deliberately ignored or expected to be synonymous with acts of assimilated tokens. Against the backdrop of perpetual cultural destructiveness, how does one usher in a non-discriminatory economic and social environment? Truth telling has become the buzzword for reconciliation. Why is truth telling so important? It is important for rebuilding lost trust and for all

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civil collaborative endeavours between people and societies. It is important for the survival, thriving and flourishing of human life. Shared truth telling gives individuals the opportunity to not only share their own ideas but also to understand other people’s ideas. Truth telling also gives people access to information, such as reports on current events as well as historical events that have impacted racism in one’s own country. Truth telling should not only be limited to the individuals who have been impacted by racism but should be actively sought from all, as every person has a position and understanding of racism. Social work has, for a long time, expressed that commitment towards inclusive practice. But with inadequate information about the nature of the problems it would be impossible to apply its methodology or utilise public education strategies and interventions. The concept of truth telling, sharing and collaboration embraces a commitment to inclusive practice. This book is a starting point for any social work practitioner and social scientist who wishes to embrace truth telling about racism in India and perhaps tell his or her truth. Three of us that brought in from the current scholarship a combination of native and mainstream authors to discuss racial oppression and resistance, and the whole racialising process. Our empirically based chapters are intended to contribute to the discourse on race-related scholarship and human services interventions and policy making. Additionally, our analysis of narratives has utilised axial coding, a process that sensibly deploys variables such as caste, class and religion within the Indian context. This anthology on ‘Discrimination Challenge and Response’ critiques current public policies and generates a discourse around options that relate to governance, assurance of human rights and human services in Indian society and its public and educational policy making. As authors we are confident that our anthology adds to the current understanding of critical race theory and global scholarship on race theories across national lines and ensures a narrative of trauma, large-scale deprivation and violation of human rights. We have presented here narratives from the field of people who have constantly found themselves to be at the intersections of coping, resilience and hope. This volume provides avid South Asia watchers with a grounded theory-based treatment of consequences, tactics and strategies


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envisioned by the collective of authors in their respective fields. The chapters connect and stay in the human rights discourse, and public policy framing in relation to discrimination practices and the resultant trauma. We have a practical approach to policy and programme initiatives that desist racial inequalities by deploying a strengths approach (Pulla 2017) that would promote a much healthier approach to racial equations, through application of the principles of cultural safety (Gopalkrishnan and Pulla 2016). The notion of cultural safety discussed in the Chap. 10 is a very important aspect of social work and human services management across cultures and we believe is adaptable to the Indian situation. We hope, in the context of North East India, that the process of reconciliation and democratisation will foster dialogue and discussion and begin a new peace process in a much-troubled region with a much-troubled history. In the final analysis, what would one look for in India, the largest living democracy in the world? A resurgence of nationalism that prides itself on treating all its people with respect, that accepts mutual obligations to appreciate difference and diversity, that works towards a society where none are assaulted, none are treated unequally and where the new resurgence of nationalism truly means embracing and respecting diversity in the entire nation. The words in this book are not just the authors’ perspective on racism in India but truth telling carved out many, varied voices. They are offered as a further contribution to a genuine conversation on racism which will truly usher in hopeful, disruptive social change in India

References Gopalakrishnan, N., & Pulla, V. (2016). Beyond Cultural Competence: Working across Cultures in a Globalized World. In The Lhotsampa People of Bhutan: Resilience and Survival (pp.  121–143). New  York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Hazarika, S. (2005), Report of the committee to review the armed forces (special powers) act, 1958, (pages 147) Government of India ministry

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of home affairs, New Delhi. https://notorture.ahrchk.net/profile/india/ ArmedForcesAct1958.pdf. Malik, V, P. (2012), Developing a Viable Counter-terrorism Strategy for South Asia Chapter 1, Kumar, A. (ed) The terror challenge in South Asia and prospect of regional cooperation, Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses, New Delhi. McDuie-Ra, D. (2012). Northeast migrants in Delhi: Race, refuge and retail (Vol. 9). Amsterdam University Press. UN Women. (2016). Retrieved 29 November, 2019, from https://www. unwomen.org/en/digital-library/multimedia/2016/10/women-betweenwar-and-peace. Pulla, V. (2017). Strengths-Based Approach in Social Work: A Distinct Ethical Advantage. International Journal of Innovation, Creativity and Change, 3(2), 97–114.

2 At the Intersections of Discrimination of Caste and Beyond Venkat Pulla, Elizabeth Carter, and Sanjai Bhatt

Introduction India has been the melting pot for its people. They comprise more than 2000 ethnic groups, 1652 mother tongues, 22 official regional languages in 29 state and seven union territories. Yet, it is considered to be one of the more successful countries in terms of its multiculturalism, despite tensions, broils and fiery harangues in favour of separation from the union in several states, for example, the Khalistan movement or the movement for a separate and an independent Sikh nation. Notably, many of the protagonists have been non-resident Indians living abroad. Another

V. Pulla (*) • E. Carter Senior Research Fellow (Adjunct), ILWS, Charles Sturt University, NSW, Australia Sessional Academic, Charles Darwin University, NT, Australia Foundation Professor, Brisbane Institute of Strengths Based Practice, NSW, Australia S. Bhatt Department of Social Work, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India © The Author(s) 2020 V. Pulla et al. (eds.), Discrimination, Challenge and Response, Mapping Global Racisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46251-2_2



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continuously simmering situation is that in the state of Kashmir. The former special status of Jammu and Kashmir now stands removed with the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 A of the Indian Constitution; nonetheless, tension continues to prevail in the Valley of Srinagar–Kashmir. The Indian Constitution subscribes to the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. The perception, indeed, is that it paves to a way of life where the embedded beliefs in the three principles cannot be divorced from each other: liberty cannot be detached from equality; equality cannot remain aloof or disconnected from liberty; nor can liberty and equality be separated from fraternity. Viewed in the context of caste, the major feature of Hindu society in India, and the sad effects that continue to torment the lower castes the architect of the Indian constitution, Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, put forward a constructive way of solving caste discrimination. In a fascinating speech titled ‘Annihilation of Caste’, drafted in 1936, Ambedkar referred to his vision of a society based on liberty, equality and fraternity (Rathore and Verma 2011). He asked ‘Who could object to the notion of fraternity?’ He could not imagine anybody sane in society who would object to it. In his terms an ideal society ought to feature multiple interests that consciously communicate with each other. A real fraternity is another name for democracy and not merely a form of government, Ambedkar contended. From that perspective, a mode of living that transcends caste and creed and conveys an attitudinal disposition of respect and reverence towards fellow men and women results in a society where there is no discrimination. ‘Any objection to Liberty?’ Dr Ambedkar asked. He answered his own question: ‘very few would object to liberty as perceived by them as a right to free movement, or right to life of a right to a good life. But why would we not give the same right to the lower caste?’ To object to liberty is to perpetuate slavery, Ambedkar wrote: For slavery does not merely mean a legalized form of subjection. It means a state of society in which some men are forced to accept from others the purposes which control their conduct. This condition obtains even where there is no slavery in the legal sense. It is found where, as in the Caste System, some persons are compelled to carry on certain prescribed callings which are not of their choice

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In the same breath, Ambedkar further asked if anyone had objections to the term equality. Absolute equality, some may contend, is a myth, but even so one must accept it as the governing principle. Ambedkar further wrote: A man’s power is dependent upon (1) physical heredity; (2) social inheritance or endowment in the form of parental care, education, accumulation of scientific knowledge, everything which enables him to be more efficient than the savage; and finally, (3) on his own efforts. In all these three respects, men are undoubtedly unequal. But the question is, shall we treat them as unequal because they are unequal? This is a question which the opponents of equality must answer. (Rathore and Verma 2011)

Ambedkar further, wrote that, without fraternity, liberty would destroy equality and equality would destroy liberty. If, in democracy, liberty does not destroy equality and equality does not destroy liberty, it is because at the basis of both there is fraternity. Fraternity is therefore the root of democracy (Rathore and Verma 2011). In India, to begin with when we talk about discrimination, we would talk about caste, and even today there is a tendency to hold Hindu religion responsible for the existence of the caste system, untouchability and atrocities on lower castes particularly the harijans. Gandhi rejected this, arguing that caste has nothing to do with religion. It is a custom whose origin he did not know. But surely, he knew that it was harmful both to spiritual and national growth. When the British took over India, the caste system temporarily lost its purpose. They were smooth in their operation and left no stone unturned to prompt exploitation of India through development of cities, towns and cantonments, roads and highways to speed up trade and commerce. One thing must be said at the outset: neither Ambedkar nor Gandhi followed their ancestral calling; they and their likes could neither be compelled nor penalised by the custodians of caste in India. the Brahmins themselves began to answer any ‘calling’ that came their way. In a race for place in professions, occupations and trade, they had forgotten that ‘learning’ was once their cherished calling. All agreed that the continuation of such a rotten system was injurious to India. Sooner it was buried


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better it would be. The thinker in Ambedkar perceived it. In a forthright manner, Ambedkar wanted destruction of caste system. However, the activist in him concentrated only on the emancipation of untouchables. Which means did he choose? Could those means advance true interests of the untouchables? Were those means in the interests of India? (Audi 1989, 310)

Audi (1989) further wrote, that internal divisions within Hindu society was its major weakness. India’s enemies have always profited from it. Neither the upper-caste Hindus nor the Dalits, the untouchables, could fathom this in the early days of colonialism. When the orthodox refused to change with changing times, the leader of Dalits decided to retaliate by changing faith. At the Yeola Conference in 1935, Ambedkar advised the Dalits to leave Hinduism and embrace the faith that will give them equality otherwise denied by caste-Hindus. The advice delighted the proselytisers of the Islamic and Christian faiths, who held high hopes of the prospective numbers recruitable into their respective faiths (Keer, as cited in Audi 1989). Conversions did not change much for those Dalit who converted: the caste from which they wished to move away was much too institutionalised. With religion you can be religious or irreligious or free from all dogmas. Changing religion did not do a thing for them (Audi 1989). Discrimination on account of caste exists and affects even those who practice Islam in India. Indian Muslims claim that they too have Dalits amongst them and their issues are ‘rarely addressed, neither by the government nor their own religious community’. Unlike Dalit Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, they are not classified in the ‘scheduled caste’ category, but the fact remains that they often face the same types of discrimination as fellow Dalits of other religious backgrounds. Throughout South Asia, Muslims accept that the caste system prevails, despite Islam proclaiming that it does not exist. In reality, a system of social stratification has evolved and ethnic segregation between the foreign conquerors or the original Muslims (Ashraf ) and the local converts (Ajlaf ) is widespread. A household survey revealed that in 14 districts of Uttar Pradesh, a number of Dalit Muslim respondents reported the existence of

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untouchability in dining relations, habitation, social interaction and access to religious places. Surprisingly, a higher proportion of non-Dalit Muslims corroborated these claims (Trivedi et al. 2016) Segregation, the practice of untouchability, giving left-over food, not allowing the Dalit Muslims to touch the same water source or draw from the same well in the villages of India has been documented. Even entry into the main mosques havse been prevented, so much so that Dalit Muslims build their own mosques (Ahmad, 2014). Ali (2005) writes, that Dalit Muslims are ill-treated on a daily basis by the Ashrafs. He suggests that discrimination prevails in mosques and seems not to leave the Dalit even after his or her death. The detailed description of the plight of Pamarias in a Pathan-dominated village of Bhojpur District is a sad tale to hear. Islam’s slogans for equality notwithstanding, Pamarias cannot bury their dead in the Pathan graveyard (Ahmad 2003, 4887). Ali says that their journey is similar to the same social, educational and economic status and ‘ritual’ status as Dalit Hindus and Buddhists, and Sikh Dalits, that are included in the list of schedule castes and tribes that could receive some positive discriminatory provisions. He further adds: We washed clothes like them. We too were called dhobi (washerman) like them. The only difference was that they had a Hindu name while we had a Muslim name. They too cleaned dirt like us. Again, the only difference was, they were called dom and bhangi and we were addressed as maistar and khakrob or, halalkhor. Likewise lalbegi, halalkhor, nachi, pasi, bhant, bhatiyara, pamaria, nat, bakkho, dafali, nalband, dhobi, saiin, etc., and other numerous castes, who follow different religions (Hindu/ Muslim) but their professions, social, economic and educational status are similar are termed as ‘asprishya’ (untouchable) in Hindu society, while in Muslim society they are called arzal (inferior). (Ali 2005, 2)

Trivedi and his colleagues (2016) narrated that around 13 per cent of Dalit Muslims reported to the research team of having received food and water in different utensils in upper-caste Muslim houses, similar to what was reported for Hindu Dalits in upper-caste Hindu homes.


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Similarly, the caste system exists among Indian Christians, reflected in stratification by sect, location, and the caste from which an individual was converted. The caste system today extends beyond Hindu society: it exists in most religions in India, proving that conversion to other religions has not removed discrimination. A common question is ‘Why worry about caste and religion? Why not pragmatically build an anti-­ discriminatory agenda through a variety of social and educational programmes that are well resourced and developed from rights perspective, taking impetus from the preamble of the Constitution of India?’ What should be the country’s main lingua franca when the country has 1652 native languages to speak in and speak to? Today’s India is embroiled in a language war. The Modi government that was returned with a tremendous mandate began initiating further programmes that will encourage people to learn the national language—Hindi. Tamil-speaking people and their political elites have already taken cudgels against Hindi. In India, racism is not new or solely directed at those that have come to work from East Africa; it is also directed against Indians who move within the country. Maharashtra, with Mumbai as its capital, for some time was hostile to the mass movement of people from Bihar. A political party in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena, openly upholds a position and a theory of its own of the supremacy of the sons of the soil—the natives of Maharashtra. Many contend that the creation of states in India according to the predominance of a particular language was the gravest mistake as it gave birth to sub-nationalism. Do linguistic groups such as Marathi speakers in Mumbai have the right to defend the identity of their city from demographic changes brought about by development, industrialisation, markers and jobs? Can locals stop migrants from their own country from entering their city? There have been a number of atrocities against waves of internal migrants in Mumbai, in particular, people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who moved to the city. Killing of shopkeepers and innocent people led to several public-interest litigations, and on 22 February 2008 the Supreme Court of India heard two Public Interest Litigations, and termed the attacks on North Indians in Mumbai by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena activists as ‘a dangerous trend’. The three-­ judge bench, comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, and Justices R V Ravindran and Markandey Katju, observed:

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It [attack on North Indians] is a very dangerous tendency. What is happening there [Mumbai], we can understand. These [who were attacked] are innocent people. We understand the situation there [in Maharashtra] and what is happening. This is one country and we will not accept son-of-soil theory. We will not permit Balkanisation of this country. (Bhatnagar 2008)

 iscrimination in the Context of North D East Indians In the past, discrimination and racism in India was predominately framed around the caste system and on the colonial stereotypes based on race to justify conquest and establish systems of administration and instruction (Sitlhou and Punathil 2017). During the British colonial regime the education system was used to impose its dominant values and conceptions into the system. This is important and relevant, particularly in a conflict situation where the roots of conflict are primarily located in the identity of social groups and the organic and perceptual history of their identity and the identity of others (Sharma 2018). Currently, the plight of North East Indians who migrate within the Indian national state has become the focus of discrimination and racism. Migration of North East Indians to places like Delhi has blurred the perceived boundary between the Indian national state and the northeast. This migration can be linked to a number of structural features such as high levels of insecurity and violence, a non-functional local state, lack of educational facilities, and a stagnant economy (Karlsson and Kikon 2017). People coming from the North East India to a large city enter a social atmosphere which is different from the one prevailing back home and they face the challenge of adjusting to the totally changed situation, which makes them insecure and often vulnerable to problems. Even if they try to adjust to the new atmosphere, their perceived ‘Mongolian’ features and their pale complexion often make them distinct in public places, and even their easy-going, friendly outlook is often misunderstood, which drives them to stick together with their friends and relatives. The question that needs to be explored is ‘How did the people from North East India become the target of discrimination and racism? Where


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did it all start?’ North East India is home to 45 million people and contains eight states: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim. It is bordered by five countries: Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, Myanmar and Nepal, sharing only 2 per cent of its border with the mainland of India. It has been geographically isolated from the mainstream population, resulting in its people being historically excluded from basic services. Many in the mainstream population have the misconception that the northeast is not part of India. North East India has been a volatile region due the sharing of borders with other countries—problems with refugees from bordering countries, post-independence insurgencies and political turmoil have led to a constant presence of the army in all eight northeastern states (Mukherjee and Dutta 2017). From the early colonial period people from the northeast were considered wild and savage, and it was widely believed that they engaged in violent and terrible acts. The post-independence insurgencies in the area led to North East Indians being stereotyped as uncivilised and unruly. The continued political struggle for indigenous self-­determination that challenges the supremacy of the Indian state has also painted the region and its people as undesirable (Karlsson and Kikon 2017). This is an example of how dominant groups within mainstream India have been able to control the narrative about North East Indians. Categorising individuals due to physical attributes has also contributed to racism. People from North East India are often considered Chinese due to their physical appearance. This is problematic due to the political tension between India and China: conflict between the two countries has loomed over the region since the 1962 war and during continuing border disputes (Ziipao 2018). Press reporting of issues in North East India is another important reason for increasing social alienation as this again controls the narrative about the region and its people. Indian newspapers and television tend to highlight the violence, insurgencies and political turmoil but rarely report on the positive aspects of the region (Mukherjee and Dutta 2017). Cultural conflict has escalated due to the wrong perception mainstream India has about the lifestyle of North East Indians, and has resulted in discrimination in daily life in terms of over-charging of taxi/ auto fares, passing lewd comments, teasing, molestation and being mistaken for overseas visitors to India at tourist sites, museums etc. The discrimination

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and violence has been perpetrated by people from the mainstream population, and ranges from discriminatory practices and verbal abuse to physical attacks such as killing and frequent instances of rape. The use of derogatory names such as ‘Momo’ and ‘Chinky’ are often used in public, and other names such as ‘Chinese’ are often used in an attempt to identify ae person as a foreigner despite the fact that the individual actually belongs to the Indian nation (Sitlhou and Punathil 2017). Apart from this, according to the report, the most vocal complaints from North East Indians has been about the behavior and attitude of the police, which has resulted in a distrust of the police and bitterness about the attitude of police to reported cases of discrimination and harassment. Discrimination can make it difficult for North East Indians to find accommodation, because even though many of the migrants work or study in the city, they need to take cheaper accommodation in urban villages. These areas are largely inhabited by people who retain their conservative rural traits and are negative and vocal about people from the northeast, their lifestyle and food practices. In South Delhi there are instances of resident welfare associations deciding that all North East Indians are ‘dirty people’ and drunkards who make trouble in the area and should therefore be made to leave their accommodation (Mukherjee and Dutta 2017). This can make finding accommodation difficult or lead to eviction if the landlord does not agree with the person’s lifestyle. Due to an increase in racial attacks against people from the northeast in several metropolitan cities of India such as Delhi, Bangalore and Pune, campaigns by the Control Arms Foundation of India (CAFI), Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, Northeast India Women Initiatives for peace (NEIWIP) and other students and leaders pressed the Government of India to look into racial discrimination faced by people from North East India. A committee, headed by M.P. Bezbaruah, a member of the Northeastern Council, was set up in February 2014 after the murder of Nido Tania, a 19-year-old student from Arunachal Pradesh, in Delhi on 29 January 2014. The committee’s mandate was to listen to the issues raised by people from North East India living in other areas of the country, especially metro cities and report back to the government with recommendations. A call emerged from this initiative for legislation to criminalise racism in India; this was accepted by the government.


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Although the government responded favorably towards the following recommendations, it took a while for many of them to be put in place: (a) Insertion of new sections into 153C and 509A in the Indian Penal Code  (IPC) to strengthen the legal framework against racial discrimination. (b) Setting up of a special helpline no. 1093 for people from North East India. (c) Setting up a panel of seven lawyers, of whom five are to be women, to provide legal assistance to people from North East India. (d) In order to educate the people about North East India, universities have been advised that the history of the region and their participation in the freedom movement of the country should be taught at undergraduate and postgraduate level, and for this purpose the curriculum be changed. It is expected that the topic will be taught by specialised teachers that have qualifications and knowledge of northeast history and culture. A advisory board will also be set up to advise on curriculum and required qualifications of teachers. (e) Appointment of a nodal police officer and a police station for North East Indians to register complaints immediately. (f ) A relief fund for helping victims of hate crimes, given under the Delhi Victim compensation Scheme 2011 There is no dispute that this is a problem that needs a solution. With increasing numbers of people from North East India moving to large cities, continued discrimination will lead to continued civil unrest. India’s desire to become important players on the world stage requires it not only to say that it respects and protects human rights but also to be seen to be doing something about it. The question here is ‘How does the government approach such a complex issue?’ Before solutions can be found for any issue, it is important to critically examine the situation. This means that the issue has to be picked apart, its history reviewed’ The values and beliefs of all involved need to be examined and evidence-based theory used to underpin findings. To begin understanding this situation, it is important to acknowledge that racism is an ordinary occurrence and happens as a result of individual’s

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discovering their social identity. This is why the answer lies in understanding not only how individuals develop their social identity and their attachment to groups but also understanding how India’s social identity developed. The hope is that with this knowledge it will become possible to mediate between the in- and out-groups. To start assessing the situation, it is important to decide if discrimination is a result of racism. It is important to acknowledge that all discrimination being faced may not be underpinned by racism but may involve other factors. Racism can eclipse many other problems such as sexism, homophobia, or disability, so it is important to identify if this is the case so the whole picture of the issue can be investigated in the search for solutions. India’s colonial history has shaped the views that mainstream Indians have of the people from the northeast. It is important to consider if there is an ongoing colonialist discourse and, if so, its impact on the current situation. Colonialism proclaimed the superiority of people at an advanced stage along the journey of progress, and permitted colonial domination over those considered less civilised. This led to dominant groups’ beliefs becoming normalised and the imposition of their values and beliefs on others. To address this there is a need to develop awareness of how the dominant culture oppresses subordinate groups and how the dominant discourse, stereotypes and popular culture reinforce the entrenched power of the dominant group. It is important to consider how this colonial discourse has infiltrated India’s institutions and how this is contributing to public policy. Policy needs to avoid populist discourses and examine how measures can bring about change and how they will be implemented by asking questions about participation, resourcing, punitive impositions and outcomes. When creating policy, government must be aware of any paternalistic practice that can contribute to the marginalisation of individuals or groups. What could be considered a paternalist approach is India’s response to tribal disputes in the northeast. Agents of central government have intervened with force and police rather than listen to the indigenous population and trying to find common ground. The fact that military resources have been recruited and the general practice of the press means that all the violence results in mainstream India being given a poor picture of


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North East India. This violence is one of the contributory factors of migration from the northeast to the larger cities; people are trying to find a safe place to live. On the other hand, the federal government has tried to improve the connectedness between North East India and the rest of the country with the Act East policy. Although there are some who would question the success of the Act East policy, with concerns over corruption, its aim was to open up opportunities for investment in North East India. The improved infrastructure is intended to build networks that can facilitate the flow of goods and people, and boost the exchange of ideas. The hope with this policy is to increase employment and improve connectedness, reducing the pressure to migrate to a metropolitan city. Change should not only be structural, as in laws and policy, but also apply to local individuals and groups, such as making use of online communities or drop in centers that provide referrals and recreational activities, empowering marginalised individuals or groups to participate in social change, giving the marginalised a voice at the state level and the local level. Cultural ignorance and ethnocentricity of dominant groups can lead to cultural and racial oppression as well as seggregation; informed and sensitive cultural knowledge is essential to aid the healing and recovery process. Sharing expertise though dialogue aimed at facilitating each group’s learning from others can lead to joint action in the interests of all involved, including the marginalised. Discourse between the groups should be an exchange of knowledge which does not privilege one set of knowledge above another, allowing both parties to learn. For this process to be a success, marginalised individuals need to be supported and empowered to participate and have their voice heard. This dialogue can occur not only in formal situations, such as organised meetings, but also during informal encounters. The creation of support groups, face-to-face or online, recreational activities aimed at encouraging socialisation between groups, or positive media coverage are some of the ways informal dialogue can be facilitated. The news media and, now, social media play a big part in shaping individuals’ social sphere and knowledge of what is going on in their country and the rest of the world. Tapping into this resource could give the government a way to change the discourse about the northeast region and its

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people. It is not possible to stop the negative messages but it is possible to make more noise with positive messages that may change some hearts and minds. Social media can also be used to connect individuals, reducing isolation and improving individuals’ knowledge of the services available to them. It is difficult to hold on to values, beliefs and culture when one’s environment is constantly changing. Economic and social development in India has challenged many traditions held by individuals and groups who are trying to balance change with strongly held values and beliefs. The goal is to work out how to bring people together into one Indian identity while at the same time allowing them to hold on to their values, beliefs and culture. Individuals can become defensive or try to find socially acceptable explanations for their actions if they are confronted with identity-­threatening information. It is timely here to remember that just because the individual is part of a certain culture or group, members of the culture or group are not identical. There are differences between them but, as made clear by social identity theory, those differences become less noticeable when the group concentrates on other groups. For this reason, it is important to listen not only to the group voice but also the voices of the individuals who make up the group. Individuals need to be able to develop their power to think critically about where and how they exist in the world and encouraged to see that the world is not a static reality but a reality in a process of transformation.

References Ahmad, I. (2003, November 15–21). A Different Jihad: Dalit Muslims’ Challenge to Ashraf Hegemony. Economic and Political Weekly, 38(46), 4886–4891. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/4414283. Ahmad, A. (2014). Discrimination, Marginalisation, and Demand for Recognition: A Case of Dalit Muslims in India. Paper Presented at the Second Northern Regional Social Science Congress, Organised by Northern Regional Centre, ICSSR, New Delhi and Giri Institute of Development Studies, Lucknow, 27–28 February and 1 March 2014.


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Ali, A. (2005). Masawat ki Jung [Struggle for Equality] (Mohammad Imran Ali and Zakia Jowher, Trans.). New Delhi: Indian Social Institute. Audi, M. (1989, July–September). Ambedkar’s Struggle for Untouchables: Reflections. The Indian Journal of Political Science, 50(3), 307–320. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/41855436. Bhatnagar, R. (2008, February 22). Supreme Court Rap for Raj Thackeray. Daily News and Analysis. Archived from the Original on 3 June 2008. Retrieved May 6, 2008 https://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/ report-supreme-court-rap-for-raj-thackeray-1152285. Karlsson, B., & Kikon, D. (2017). Wayfinding: Indigenous Migrants in the Service Sector of Metropolitan India, South Asia. Journal of South Asian Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/00856401.2017.1319145. Mukherjee, M., & Dutta, C. (2017). Migration of North-East Women in Delhi: A Macro Level Analysis. Journal of Social Inclusion Studies, 3(1 and 2), 95–112. Rathore, S., & Verma, A. (Eds.) (2011). B. R. Ambedkar: The Buddha and His Dhamma (Critical Edition). New Delhi: Oxford. Sharma, A. (2018). Identity, Ethnicity and School Education: An Institutional Ethnography of Schools in Assam. International Journal of Innovation, Creativity and Change, 3(4), 73–88. Sitlhou, H., & Punathil, S. (2017). Northeasterners and the Bezbaruah Committee Report, 2014. Explorations, ISS E-Journal, 1(1), 90–101. Trivedi, P., Goli, S. F., & Kumar, S. (2016, April). Does Untouchability Exist among Muslims? Evidence from Uttar Pradesh. Economic and Political Weekly, 41(15), 32–36. Ziipao, R. (2018). Look/Act East Policy, Roads and Market Infrastructure in North East India. Strategic Analysis, 42(5), 476–489. https://doi.org/10.108 0/09700161.2018.1523082.

3 Viewing Racism through Gendered Lenses Rituparna Bhattacharyya and Venkat Pulla

The total number of migrants from North East India to other regions of the country increased from 0.4 million in 1981 to 1.1 million in 2001. Between 2005 and 2010 there were nearly half a million more, and Delhi alone received 200,000 people. This chapter is based on in-depth interviews with stakeholders of civil society organisations and individuals, including students, from the northeast pursuing studies or jobs in different metropolitan cites of India, complemented by an evidence-informed approach. We will look at the trajectory of these migrants through a gendered lens. Their

R. Bhattacharyya (*) Research Consultant & Editor-in-Chief, Space and Culture, India, North Shields, UK e-mail: [email protected] V. Pulla Senior Research Fellow (Adjunct), ILWS, Charles Sturt University, NSW, Australia Sessional Academic, Charles Darwin University, NT, Australia Foundation Professor, Brisbane Institute of Strengths Based Practice, NSW, Australia © The Author(s) 2020 V. Pulla et al. (eds.), Discrimination, Challenge and Response, Mapping Global Racisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46251-2_3



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narratives are powerful. Some unravel the corrosive, conspicuous and commonplace racism experienced in metropolitan cities by the majority of women from North East India—racism stemming from ignorance and ethnocentric prejudice contained in mainstream repositories in cities such as Delhi, Bengaluru, Ahmednagar, Pune, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Cochin and Goa. This chapter aims to probe the nuanced forms of prejudice and discrimination that North East Indians face in different parts of India.

Is Assam in India? A group of 29 history students from Guwahati-based Handique Girls’ College1 undertook an excursion in January 2015, to places of interest in Jaipur, Agra-Mathura, Vrindavan and the city of Delhi to appreciate and study historical culture, but what happened at the Taj Mahal gave them a taste of the harassment northeasterners appear to face frequently in capital cities. When they reached the historic monument, the students were stopped and were told that they were not Indians. The obvious reason was that they had Mongoloid features. All the students carried with them their respective identity cards (I-card) and Permanent Account Number (PAN) cards. However, at the entry gates of the Taj Mahal, they were asked to buy tickets meant for the foreigners. When the students showed their I-cards and PAN cards to prove their evidence of being very much Indian, the staff went on to say that ‘though the college identity cards affirmed that they were from Assam, nowhere on the cards was it written that Assam is a part of India’. A student who was part of the group said ‘such ludicrous behaviour has left all of us dejected. Questioning our nationality makes us feel like aliens in our own nation’ (Assam Tribune 2015). A month later, 7 February 2015, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) released its Vision document to transform Delhi into a World Class City. It promised to protect North East Indians in the capital. However, while making its pledge it committed a folly: the party document read: ‘Northeastern Immigrants to be Protected.’ Arguably this was not a  Guwahati is the largest city in Assam, the largest metropolis in North East India.


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mistake of the government’s but of the drafter who wrote it and his supervising higher-cadre officers within the bureaucracy, who could possibly use some education to take on board the nuanced differences between ‘immigrants’, ‘migrants’ and ‘citizens’. One may draw conclusions about the subconscious mindset of the average Indian, many of whom work in bureaucracies and dish out policies. The Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, responded to this error by saying, ‘[i]t’s a typo’; the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, regretted the text, calling it an ‘inadvertent mistake’; the Communication Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, stated, ‘[o]ur brothers and sisters from the northeast are proud citizens of India wherever they are. The BJP walks an extra mile to ensure their safety.’ The opposition used this error as a ‘weapon’ to score some points over issues including support for large-­ scale protests by North East Indians in Delhi. Protests and debates are undoubtedly vehicles that bring up issues. When discussions ensue, affected people expect a reaffirmation of dignity and restoration of their positionality. Undoubtedly, North East India is an integral part of the country. Despite frequent official and formal reiteration of this, however, the region continues to live through and feel the pangs of discrimination. We acknowledge that there are certainly no quick-fix solutions to such insidious discrimination, but the task of acknowledging myriad forms of discrimination must be undertaken at first in order to move towards eliminating it. The metropolitan and other major cities of India have a chequered history of discrimination against North East Indian communities that settle in these cities to work and study (Garg 2013; McDuie-Ra 2012a, b, 2015; see also, Bhattacharyya 2018a, b, 2019). Independent India is over 70 years old; its ignorance of its northeastern region can be traced to the British Raj.

A Brief Methodological Note We deployed ethnographic observation as a tool in writing this account (LeCompte and Schensul 2010; Whitehead 2005). Over 25 individuals originally from North East India spoke to us about their lived


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experience in major cities. About half of them were from a middle-class background; the other half came from low-income households that had stressful reasons for their journey from the northeast to India’s bigger cities. In addition, we report and reflect on selected data from our Ahmednagar study (Gohain 2014; Golmes 2017; Sikdar 2014; Jilangamba 2012; HuffPost 2017; Zargar 2017). Our respondents talked to us about their experience with renting accommodation, sourcing ingredients to cook their ethnic cuisine, language and dressing as well as harassment, discrimination faced at the workplaces and even in colleges and universities, and while commuting. We also spoke to some well-known local citizens living in North East India to provide a context and an understanding of the issues central to perceived and felt racism. We interviewed adopting the ‘principle of saturation’ (Corbin and Strauss 2015), and undertook a thematic analysis until we could find no new themes emerging (Pulla 2014). The key findings reveal unawareness and nascent knowledge about North East India in the rest of the country. We report here many forms of profanity and discrimination dispensed to northeastern women. The findings establish how racism and power intersect to produce prejudice and discrimination.

 alled and Identified as ‘Momo’, C ‘Chowmein’ People Some of our respondents from Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur claimed that they very often faced racial epithets and name-­ calling as ‘Momo’, ‘Chowmein’ (these two are Chinese dishes very popular in India), Chinky, etc. simply because of their ‘looks’. Most narratives demonstrate the unawareness about north eastern people and their culture in what most of our respondents referred to as ‘Mainland India’; further probing revealed a deeply rooted notion of sub-nationality. Sub-­ nationalism is not new to social science discourse: as authors we may regard it as a healthy sign within the context of a community. People genuinely feel it—there is a context and habitat that is legitimately theirs. The concepts of nation, federated state and so on mean something, to a

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point. But language, religion, ethnicity and region are often—usually— deeper, providing an elixir for individuals and groups to hold on to their own/ themselves (Bhattacharyya 2019). Tensions emerge when people living in cities have limited or no conception of people from the hills and plains and lack appreciation of the language and culture of those people. A 12-year-old girl, originally hailing from Assam but studying in Neerja Modi School, Jaipur, Rajasthan, courageously wrote a letter to Prime Minister Modi urging the inclusion of the history of North East India in the school curriculum across the states of India. Part of her letter reads: I know the history of almost whole of India; from Jammu & Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, from the Mughals to the British, from Rajasthan to Kolkata. But where is the long glory of the seven sisters? Some students don’t even know what the seven sisters are. It’s very difficult to find things about Northeast India in my school textbooks. If I could just read a b o u t the history of my state, Assam, and other states in the northeast in the schoolbooks, it would be like a dream come true.2

Amongst our respondents only two women who moved from Guwahati did not face any discrimination or harassment in the cities. After I passed out my grade 12 level, I studied in Delhi, then I moved to Jaipur to pursue my Masters. Now I live in Bengaluru, where I am employed in a multinational company. However, I have not faced discrimination or harassment of any kind until now. In Bengaluru, I live in a rented accommodation with my cousins. None of my cousins have faced harassment. However, when people learn that I am from northeast, they are often flabbergasted and says: ‘Okay! You are from northeast but you do not have the Chinky look.’

Ironically, this is where discrimination begins, a result of ignorance: I thought that only Paharis (people from the hills) live in the northeast as I have heard that northeast is hilly and full of jungles. I had no idea that people resembling like us also live in northeast.

 12-year-old Assam Girl Asks Narendra Modi Why History of Northeast India is Missing from School Textbooks, Indian Eagle. Retrieved on 16 April 2018 from, https://www.indianeagle.com/ travelbeats/assam-girl-aaira-goswami-letter-to-narendra-modi-aboutnortheast-india-history/. 2


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Geographical isolation and the absence of a need to migrate from one place to the other also results in a level of unawareness even within a region. For instance, within North East India, there are many people who have no idea as to which states comprise their own region. A former Director of a civil society organisation in Assam remarked: I grew up knowing only about Assam and its capital as Dispur. I did not know about the other ‘seven sisters’ states. In textbooks of social sciences and history, very little is given about North East India.

This is true; the school textbooks of India have very little or no description of North East India’s history, heritage and culture (Karmakar 2017). The schoolgirl’s letter mentioned above, provoked an action in response within a couple of months. In April 2017, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) brought out a 160-page supplementary publication titled Northeast India: People, History and Culture. This is perhaps the most comprehensive publication of its kind, describing the land, people, history and cultural aspects of all the eight states of North East India. It is freely accessible to all (NCERT 2017). The 12-year-old’s letter is undoubtedly a symptom of limited knowledge about North East India amongst schoolchildren, and clearly, the girl’s dream was translated into reality. Reinforcing the evidence of the letter, the narratives of our research equally demonstrate that North East Indians face racialisation and discrimination mainly because of ethnic stereotyping. The survey—Discrimination & Challenges before Women from North East India: Case Studies from Four Metro Cities: New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta and Bangalore—is a demonstration of the extent of discrimination that occurs in the metropolitan cities of India (see Table 3.1). This survey was conducted amongst 215 unmarried women (aged 18–32 years) hailing originally from all the eight states of North East India. They were all interviewed (Gohain 2014). Of the interviewed women, 11 per cent live in Kolkatta, 22 per cent in Bengaluru, 32 per cent in Delhi and 35 per cent in Mumbai. They were either graduates or pursuing professional degrees. About 33 per cent of these interviewees belonged to households having an annual income of over 7000 US dollars, while approximately


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Table 3.1   Discrimination and challenges in four metro cities: New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta and Bangalore Reasons for migration Better jobs Peer pressure Better education Security No specific reason Problems faced Discrimination in daily life (in the workplace/ travel/ in neighbourhood) Difficulty in finding rented accommodation Harassment by landlord Verbal abuse Common forms of discrimination Overcharging by taxi/ autorickshaw driver Mistaken for a foreigner and abused verbally Overcharged by shopkeepers Decline of tenancy Harassment by young men Teasing/ molestation

60% 14% 13% 5% 8% 60% 26% 23% 42% 27% 26% 27% 14% 4% 26%

What they feel? 49% of respondents felt that discrimination is not limited to women from North East India 30% felt that discrimination is more pronounced against women from North East India 49% are unaware of women helplines 44% still encourage their friends and relatives to migrate to metro cities as these cities have better academic and work opportunities Reporting police 80% of respondents did not approach police even if they suffered discrimination and harassment Some stated that there was no need to approach ‘a corrupt and insensitive police’ Those who had approached cops were ‘unhappy’ and ‘dissatisfied’ Source: Gohain (2014)

50 per cent were from households having an annual income of 700 to 7000 US dollars. Sixty per cent of them who migrated to the four metropolitan cities—Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta and Bangalore—reported unfair discrimination, while 23 per cent of the respondents had been hassled by landlords. Verbal abuse, was experienced by nearly half of the sample and a quarter of them had been heckled and molested. It is


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concerning that 80 per cent reported that they had not been fairly treated by the police. New Delhi was the city with the highest proportion of discrimination, followed by the city of Bangalore, where 60.5 per cent of respondents reported discrimination. Mumbai was rated as a safe city. Finding accommodation in metropolitan cities has been a difficult task for most women. The key findings of the study, conducted by Professor Sanjoy Hazarika, the Saifuddin Kitchelew Chair and Professor and Director of Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research in Jamia Milia University in New Delhi, are summarised in Table  3.1 (Gohain 2014). The above survey found that northeastern migrant women were subjects of deprivation, hardship, discrimination and abuse due to their vulnerability. A respondent had the following comment: It is surprising that Indians on the other side of the northeast look down upon the migrant workers and students from northeast and harass them. We should realise China or Burma or even Bangladesh can exploit the situation as the mongoloid look of the northeast people is what is causing the problem to them. What if they join side and support annexation of their territories with China? We should realise that the northeast people with mongoloid look should be treated with better hospitality as they are real patriots who like to remain as Indians

In the context of northeastern women, a response from an Ahmednagar mainstream male student was: The mainstream attackers can make out quickly that these aren’t local girls and are unlikely to have elders to support—an elder brother or two, this is the main reason for people running after them, teasing and touching physically and making them run for life. I think girls must get training in martial arts so that they can kick under the belly of the perpetrators. ‘Salon ku sabak sikhana’ (Freely translates as ‘The bastards must be taught a lesson)

How many times have people, particularly women, of North East India been subjects of discrimination? A bold young lady attempted to take on mainstream racism through a satirical video on stereotypical generalisations. Merenla Imsong from Nagaland figured out a set of her own

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assumptions about North Indians as a way out. As of mid-May 2020, over 300,000 people have viewed this video on YouTube and a TV station has replayed it.3 She mispronounced names, got capitals wrong and remarks to a member of the North Indian mainstream ‘You all look alike’, The video makes reference to many stereotypes that northeasterners have encountered. Here is yet another public comment after seeing videos on YouTube meant to educate mainstream people: Bematlab ka beech apne me ladne se acha hai Pakistanio aur Chineo se lade. Me Manipuri hu naam se dhokha mat kha jana. Sinha naam Manipuris me bhi hota hai (Free translation) Instead of having meaningless fights amongst ourselves, it would be good if we fought Pakistani and Chini (Chinese) people… I am a Manipuri, don’t be under an illusion because of my surname, we have the surname Sinha, in Manipur

A respondent hailing from Nagaland said that he had come to Delhi decades ago due to unrest in his native state. But of course, there was unrest all over the northeastern states in those years prior to his relocation to Delhi. My parents first sent me to Varanasi to study medicine in Banaras Hindu University. Now I live in Delhi and work here. While I was studying in Varanasi, people used to laugh at my Hindi pronunciations and accent. But here in the capital, the locals often mistake people from northeast as foreigners. We are teased as Chinky, Momo, Chowmein, the way we look, for our dresses and hairstyles. If we tend to counter the locals, our people get rebuked verbally and assaulted even physically

Another participant mirrored similar views: Although we speak English and Hindi but our Hindi is not as fluent as the rest of the locals in big cities over here (Delhi) and the accent is also different. So, the local people behave in a way that they are powerful to us and sometimes try to dominate us  https:/www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJ19jfU4Zzw.



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To illustrate racial attacks in the metropolitan cities, especially in Delhi and Bengaluru, we reviewed incidents publicly reported in the media that identified discrimination and clear forms of assault (see Table 3.2). Table 3.2   Racial attacks on North East Indians in metropolitan cities of India October 2009

19-year-old Ramchanphy Hongray was murdered by a 34-year-old researcher, Pushpam Kumar Sinha of IIT-Delhi in her rented accommodation after he tried to force himself on her. May 2012 Richard Loitam, who hailed from Manipur and was pursuing architecture at Acharya Institute of Technology in Bengaluru was found dead in his hostel with head injuries. May 2012 Dana Sangma, a young woman from Meghalaya, who was pursuing an MBA in Gurgaon was found committing suicide in her accommodation after she was accused of cheating by her institute. In retaliation to this incident, the community of North East India accused the institute of callous behaviour and abettment to suicide. 29 January 19-year-old teenager, Nido Tania, was beaten to death in Delhi’s 2014 Lajpat Nagar by shopkeepers. He was the son of a Congress MLA of Arunachal Pradesh In Ambekdar Nagar in southeast Delhi, two youths from 09 Manipur—Ginkhansuan Naulak (aged 24 years), and his cousin February Vumsuanmung Naulak (aged 25 years) were first teased and 2014 then beaten mercilessly by a group of local youths, calling them ‘Chinky’ and Nepali. They later had to be hospitalised. 21 July 29 year old Akha Salouni, who was returning to his rented 2014 accommodation along with two of his friends (Dihe Kazhiihrii and Nagendra Sharma) to Kotla Mubarakpur of South Delhi in an autorickshaw entered into a tiff with five local youths linked to some traffic incident. While Akha’s friends fled the scene, Akha lost his life. 27 April 18-year-old woman from Mizoram faced racial slurs, harassment 2017 and threatening from an auto-rickshaw driver in Bengaluru. The incident came to light when she posted her torment on social media that went viral. 18 January Jerry, a young boy from Mizoram was beaten by his neighbours 2017 using iron rods over a parking dispute. 6 March 20-year-old, Higio Gungtey, who landed in an altercation with his 2017 landlord over water usage was vehemently thrashed. Gungtey was coerced to lick the shoes of the landlord. Sources: Bhattacharyya (2018a, b), Sikdar (2014), Golmes (2017), Jilangamba (2012), Zargar (2017) and HuffPost (2017, March 13).

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It is arguable that on the basis of prejudices founded on ethnocentric sub-cultural values located within the notion of power, the locals are demonstrating their domination and exploitation. Indeed, it is simply a game of perceived powerfulness versus powerlessness. The notion of ‘power’ can carry both positive and negative connotation, depending on how power is constructed and deployed. In the instances cited in Table 3.2, ‘power’ was largely deployed in the negative sense. Power is in fact inherently spatial and can be felt everywhere and in all forms of human relationships, but the scale and shields of power may vary from space to space and amongst relationships (Allen 2003; Foucault 1978; Bhattacharyya 2009). However, when power transcends the normative standard and embraces coercion, domination and exploitation, it is deeply intimidating. The narratives reported in the media demonstrate how racist attitudes and vocabularies are maintained by simply exercising the power of being local, thereby inferiorising migrants from North East India. Our research validates the findings of Table 3.2, that everyday racism is manifested in the practices of the locals, and this includes economic exploitation. Autorickshaw drivers demand more than the metered tariff, rents are increased by landlords, even vegetable vendors on pavements increase their price as they see a northeastern person. Arguably, violence against women is not restricted to women from North East India alone. After all, 49 per cent of our respondents feel that all women, irrespective of their region of origin, encounter some form of discrimination and that this is significant in all the metropolitan cities of India. Horrific evidence further suggests that on an average 10–15 women from North East India are murdered each year in their rented accommodation by their landlords and other perpetrators (Golmes 2017; Sikdar 2014). Tragically, women in general, including those of North Eastern India negotiate the public space by adopting tactics such as avoiding certain roads at certain times, carrying pepper spray, wearing bindis (a dot on the forehead) and mangalsutras (a holy/ auspicious necklace worn by married women), attending women-only gyms, travelling in women’s compartments in trains, etc. These strategies seem necessary to retain


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respectability, dignity and safety in accessing public spaces (Bhattacharyya 2009, 2015, 2016; Bhattacharyya and Prasad 2020).

Their Modern Dress Sense Irks Others Seemingly, 70 per cent of those who were interviewed reported that the majority of women and men from North East India maintained a clearly defined ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ in the public spaces of the metropolitan cities. They love their dress. They have a great sense of fashion, often wearing glamorous, bordering on sensuous, dress. They tend to have contemporary hairstyles and be neat, clean, cosmopolitan and progressive in their outlook, which is in sharp contrast to the stereotype of head-hunter and savage perpetuated by mainland Indians, as Professor McDuie-Ra has mentioned in his several writings. The women and men from North East India represent themselves as ‘elegant’ and ‘smart’ but also wish to display ‘cultural capital.’ Bourdieu and Passeron (1977), refer to markers of education (knowledge, intellect), physical appearance (including attitudes, values, language, dress, taste) and ability. Both cultural and economic capital are located within the notion of power as both play vital roles in social reproduction (Bourdieu and Passeron 1977; Bourdieu 1984). Northeastern young men and women are not subtle; indeed, the bluntness of their assertion in their attire, hairstyles and outlook, their visible ‘cultural capital’, has, unfortunately, invited discrimination and assault. Here is a scenario: Minal, Falak and Andrea (from Meghalaya) are three young financially independent women. Metaphorically, these three characters resemble ‘new femininities’. They are markers of active agency of change. They live in a shared accommodation in Delhi. They go to a resort with three affluent young men where they drink and enjoy themselves, but Minal experiences sexual advances from one of the young men, she resists by hitting him on his head. Following this incident, these women receive several threats from the young and politically powerful men, who label Minal, Falak and Andrea as ‘prostitutes’

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Is not that a clear backlash against the idea of new femininity? In fact, this scenario was the theme of a film originally made to train and sensitise the Rajasthan Police—the 2016 film Pink produced and directed by Rashmi Sharma and written jointly by Shoojit Sircar, Ritesh Shah and Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury. It sent a full-bodied social message of women’s right to say ‘No’ to unwanted sexual advances and innuendos. The film tried to sensitise the viewers to the common prejudices that independent, single Indian women living away from their parental home face in the Big Smoke. Is not that a pervasive misogyny? Also, it is a vivid description of northeastern women’s anguish that is different to that suffered by mainstream women in Delhi, Bangalore or Hyderabad. The theme of ‘dress code’ emerged strongly from the interview narratives. A common view amongst the interviewees was that: Our girls are socialised and brought up in such a way that they are independent, wear the smartest outfits and the majority of them speak very good English. But they are looked down upon.

A respondent robustly stated: We are open-minded by nature; the majority of our people are friendly. Our girls do not restrict themselves from talking to boys, but this is misunderstood by many locals. Talking to boys does not mean that you maintain a sexual relation with them. It is true that some of us drink, listen to Western music, have parties in our accommodation. It might be true that few of them take drugs also. But the problem is that the local people put us under one umbrella labelling all of us (both girls and boys) as ‘bad people’. Therefore, girls are targeted for sexual purposes and boys get assaulted over trivial matters

Similarly, another participant echoed: By our very nature, we are friendly people, we talk, smile and laugh with people (even people of the opposite sex). But the extrovert character within us is wrongly taken by the people over here [in big cities]. They feel that we are signaling our ‘availability’ (by ‘availability’, I mean… sexually available)


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And another participant commented: I may want to look myself attractive and sexy and therefore I dress or wear even a sari beautifully. But this does not mean that I want to seduce somebody

The first key element that becomes clear in these narratives is their ‘openness’ and the myriad acts of assimilation that they are expected to undertake. Singling out women from North East India is pretty low and pathetic. The narratives did raise the question as to what constitutes ‘appropriate dressing’ and who applies these yardsticks measuring ‘modesty’ and ‘respectability’ for women? How is this supposed to work with people migrating from contexts of sub-national and regional cultures? Is there a huge expectation of assimilation? One of the participants remarked: that scantily clad women scapegoat themselves by provoking crime upon them is a fallacy, and the root of this misconception is deeply ingrained in societal values, which demand maintenance of the conventional role of women: Women ought to hide their sexuality by restraining behaviour that carries unwitting risk of assault in public spaces. I am tempted to think that in the current societal scenario, most men don’t seem to hold women in respect, which explains why they are driven to commit sexual violence.

Another participant asserts: It is man’s inability to properly respect a woman, appreciate her beauty, that leads men to commit rapes. One should see the movie Utsav by Girish Karnad, which shows how even courtesans were respected in ancient India. The sculptures of Khajuraho, Konark—all indicate that women in ancient India were scantily clad but were respected for their beauty and their proficiency in art: be it the art of dance, music or the art of love. Hence, both men and women have to get rid of this idea that scantily clad women are immoral and instead appreciate the beauty of Indian women. Men who rape have no respect for women; are incapable of actually loving any women; have low self-esteem; are perverts. Men rape only to make the woman feel in a very animal manner that women should always serve man.

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Table 3.3   Security tips for students/ visitors from North East India in Delhi (Dos and don’ts for northeast students according to the Delhi Police) Food

Bamboo shoot, akhuni and other smelly dishes should be prepared without creating a ruckus in the neighbourhood Party Your party should not disturb next door Attire Be Roman in ‘rooms’—revealing dresses should be avoided Travel Avoid lonely roads/ by-lanes when dressed scantily Help Dial 100 and always carry pepper spray Dating Go to decent places Sources: Created by the authors from Hindustan Times (2007, July 15) and Dholabhai (2007)

It has nothing to do with dress. So, society should stop dictating to women what to wear or not wear.

Amidst the attitude of the majority of Indians disapproving of women in trousers and shorts, and in the wake of North East Indians facing assaults and discrimination in the metropolitan cities, in July 2007, the Delhi Police published a booklet aimed at providing safety tips for students and visitors from North East India (Table 3.3). While a list of a few safety tips seemed promising, ‘a rule book’ on purely personal affairs as to what to eat and wear addressed to a particular community triggered fury amongst the whole North East Indian community. As Savanai of the Naga Students Union said: Instead of giving tips to the northeast students, Delhi Police should issue general booklets on dos and don’ts for all the students in the capital. (The Hindustan Times 2007)

It is arguable that the booklet not only tried to brand all women from North East India as lacking in ‘morals’ but also tried to impose a sub-­ cultural dictat on the community. The larger question is whether it is only northeastern women who wear revealing apparel or cook smelly food? These are forms of prejudice against a community and connote moral vigilantism and institutional racism. Such flagrant insensitivity from policing is appalling. Reverberations of gender insensitivity were


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evident from a two-week-long sting operation conducted by Tehelka4 on 30 senior public servants of the Police Department based in Delhi– National Capital Region. This operation divulged the typical chauvinistic mindset of the police officers about women in general. The majority of the police officers believed that ‘what a woman wears is one of the reasons for rape. A conservatively dressed woman is safe, but if her clothes are “suggestive” then she is asking for it.’ This is the norm (Tehelka 2012; see also, Bhattacharyya 2015, 2016; Bhattacharyya and Prasad 2020). Whether revealing apparel invites harassment remains a confusing kaleidoscope to many. The #me too movement is a witness of the continuing sexual assault crisis (Bhattacharyya 2018a). Arguably, Saris and ‘traditional attire’ of the states of North East India, too, can sometimes undermine the norms of decent behaviour if worn ‘too attractively or too fashionably’, hence likely to be perceived as ‘provocative’ by some people in mainstream culture and therefore seductive. This raises another pertinent question: if revealing apparel is a precursor to sexual assault then why are babies and minors being raped/ sodomised/ sexually assaulted all over the country (Bhattacharyya and Prasad 2020; BBC News 2018)? An angry young man in Ahmednagar in a conversation with the second author: I tell you what, there is something pathologically wrong with those courts and judges that just give a life time or eight years or some such ‘crap judgment’ in India. I have three sisters. If anything happens to any of them, I will smash every penis of the perpetrators. I will hunt them. I have no faith in the system at least in this case, I believe India we should use the Saudi Arabian Law

‘In any civilised society the burden of shame of inflicting any kind of violence should lie with the perpetrator, not the victim’ (Lahiri and Bandyopadhyay 2012, 21). It is said that, ‘decency’ as a discursive and value-laden concept, resides radically within the notion of power ‘and the hierarchies through which it is instituted’ (Lahiri and Bandyopadhyay 2012, 21). Consequently, what constitutes ‘decency’ concerning women’s  A news magazine known for its investigative journalism and sting operations.


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dress code is contentious and political, and this is invariably overlooked when it comes to harassment against the modern or smartly dressed northeastern women. The debates on the norms of ‘decency’ seem set to continue. Regardless, values of Indian society have considered a woman as the ‘honour’ of a family. This deep-rooted notion refers to the narratives of ‘bodily fear’; fear for loss of shame and honour if a woman is sexually assaulted, more so if the assault is attributed to a particular dress considered inappropriate by society. On a more nuanced note, such assaults are subject to disapproval because they affect the honour of a family rather than the basic right of a woman to live in dignity (Bhattacharyya 2015). As authors, it is obvious to us that the women and men from North East India are considered as ‘other’, originating from a region stuck in insurgency, poverty and underdevelopment, and therefore perceived as ‘easy targets’ by the mainstreamers in metropolitan cities in India. As a result, widespread forms of discrimination and racial attacks trigger trepidation and vitiate the mindsets of the victims. Disturbing as this view is, these forms of racially motivated attacks provoke a deep sense of apprehension in people living in North East India. Those who do not make it to metropolitan cities in India but remain in the northeast feel alienated and fall prey to the appeal of separatist/ insurgency movements, active and fertile in the region (Bhattacharyya 2018b, 2019). We are worried for our children. They are not small. But we are still worried. Although the same country, it costs so much for them to visit us and they don’t tell us anything. It is three years since they came home. What is going on in their world? … World full of tension. … I came here to see my grandson. It seems it is rare, very rare for us to travel from Aizwal, Mizoram (worried 62-year-old grandmother, in Ahmednagar)

Following the death of Nido Tania, the 19-year-old-man from Arunachal Pradesh on 29 January 2014, the Bezbaruah Committee was constituted on 5 February 2014 under the leadership of Madan Bezbaruah. It submitted its report to the Ministry of Home Affairs on 11 July 2014. It is well established that India is a land of unity in diversity signaling solidarity and power. This diversity should be eulogized to build


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the strength of the nation. Against this backdrop, the Bezbaruah committee stated: A study of the concerns of the people of Northeast India, living in different parts of the country in the Metropolitan areas is not just a matter of delving into the nature and issues of discrimination or assuaging and alleviating the feelings of insecurity by them. It encompasses the larger issue of National Integration of the people of India with its amazing diversity. The issues and the concerns of the people of the Northeast in Metros have, therefore, larger and deeper implications for the entire process of building the unity and integrity of the nation. (2014, 4)

Despite facing discrimination, the flow of migrants to the metros has not stopped, will not stop and should not be stopped. To move freely in one’s country of birth is a constitutionally guaranteed right. Sadly, though, with increasing instances of attacks, the majority of northeasterners tend to live together in a kind of a ghetto, segregating themselves from the locals. Additionally, the Bezbaruah Committee report also recommended incorporation of enjoinders into 153(C) and 509(A) in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as a response to racial discrimination against North-East Indian people (Dholabhai 2015). Section 153C makes it a non-bailable offence punishable with imprisonment up to five years with fine, to make imputations and assertions prejudicial to human dignity, or utter words, both spoken and written, or signs attempting to discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, or indulge in activity intended to use criminal force or violence against a particular race. The proposed Section 509A seeks to make any word, gesture or act intended to insult a member of a particular race punishable with imprisonment that may extend to three years with fine. The government advised the courts that IPC will be amended to punish racial discrimination, (NDTV 2015). These stringent IPCs would be useful deterrent only after a crime that has been already committed has been proved in court. Hence, tackling everyday racism remains crucial. The committee has proposed special police initiatives and the strengthening of law enforcement agencies. This can perhaps be accomplished through recruitment of police officials from North East India and, as stated by the committee, recruiting more officials from tribal

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backgrounds. At the same time, these officials should be trained to handle cases of racism. Some of the findings of this committee match our observations. These are: • A perceived and real sense of insecurity and vulnerability • Sub-cultural conflict and wrong perceptions of northeastern people in mainstream society • Discrimination in everyday life • Verbal and racial abuse • Harassment at workplace and prejudice, and finally • Insensitivity of the law-enforcement agencies. A Supreme Court lawyer, Svetlana Khinjinzu, along with a social activist, Alana Golmei, and an India Police Service (IPS) officer, Robin Hibu, submitted 29 measures to a committee set up by the Delhi Lieutenant Governor aimed at increasing women’s safety in the capital (Karmakar 2017). These measures include: • Undertaking a bottom-up approach through consultations with the students and civil society organisations of the region • Commissioning of statues of dauntless freedom fighters of North East India such as Kanaklata and Rani Gaidinliu and having them placed in significant places and parks • Renaming streets, schools and colleges after freedom fighters of North East India . These actions will, over time, assist in developing understanding and respect for North East Indians, particularly women. Box 3.1 briefly describes the life and actions of some significant northeastern men and women who took part in India’s freedom struggle to liberate the country from British rule Seventy years after India’s independence, North Eastern India remains segregated from the mainland (Bhattacharyya 2019). India remains segregated from. The committee therefore suggested bridging the gap with the mainstream nation through increased awareness about the rich, diverse natural and cultural resources of the region. This can perhaps, be accomplished gradually by introduction of a curriculum on the northeast in the schools of


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Box 3.1  Some Notable Men and Women of North East India Who Took Part in the Struggle to Liberate India from British Rule Kanaklata (martyr). At 17 years of age, she led the Quit India movement at the behest of Gandhi the Mahatma. She was leading a procession bearing the Indian National Flag, alongside Mukunda Kakoti another woman activist. Both were shot by the British who were ruling the country, but history records that she held the flag even after receiving the bullet (Pathak 2008). Yet another woman, Rani Gaidinliu, a Zeme Naga by birth, originally hailed from Manipur, joined the Heraka religious movement at the age of 13. This movement later transformed into a national freedom movement. Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, met Rani Gaidinliu in 1937  in Shillong jail and conferred the title of ‘Rani’, the Queen. By the age of 17 she had inspired the creation of a three-tribe Zeliangrong army. This army not only fought against the British in establishing Naga Raj, but also prevented conversion of the Nagas to Christianity. Historical records confirm that Rani Gaidinliu was arrested in Poilwa village in the year 1932 (now in Nagaland) after she lost the Battle of Hangrum (Assam) against the British forces (Longkumer 2010; Karmakar 2015). There are many other unsung men and women who fought for India’s freedom from British rule. Some of the names mentioned in history are Pushpalata Das, Omeo Kumar Das, Bhogeswari Phukanani, Shahid Kushal Konwar, Moje Riba, Paona Brajabashi, Khuangchera, Tirot Sing Syiem, Chandraprava Saikiani, Shoorvir Pasaltha Khuangchera, Matmur Jamoh and Sambhudan Phonglo These unheralded freedom fighters showed the utmost fearlessness and valour in fighting against the British forces.

the states outside the region. Bollywood and the reality TV shows can play a big role in closing this gap. Witnessing children from the northeastern region taking part in national reality shows would be a big step towards recognising the nation’s diversity. Sports figures like Mary Kom and festivals like Namami Brahmaputra should be extolled for their nascent attempts to fill the gaping hole. Undoubtedly, the northeast is naturally wedded to its paradisiacal beauty. The committee has suggested promotion of the beauty of the region as a means of bonding and creation of awareness and understanding through sport and tourism. Further, the committee suggested focusing on the region via information, broadcasting and media. North East United FC, one of the football teams of Indian Super League, owned and operated by Bollywood actor John Abraham, which represents all the eight states of the region is another positive

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contribution to bridging the gap. With proper tourism planning and strategies in place, the region has enormous potential to create job opportunities, and boost economic growth and development. Assam had taken some steps to develop its tourism industry by signing Bollywood actress, Priyanka Chopra, as its brand ambassador, however, she no longer operates as ‘Awesome Assam’ Ambassador. The other states should perhaps take similar steps. Guwahati is to be transformed into a hub for medical tourism. For accomplishing these, both the central and state governments need to build an environment that suppresses the corruption in the northeastern states, devolving bureaucratic management and building proper physical and institutional infrastructure such as road, rail, air, cyber and telecom connectivity, waterways, power, waste disposal and management, all much needed in the region. As far as the mainstream India is concerned better tenancy laws with a welldefined code of conduct for both landlords and tenants that clearly prescribe tenant expectations and behaviours, safety and etiquette for ensuring friendly neighbourhoods, access to law-enforcement agencies when violations occur, and so on, are required to safeguard women renters in particular. We set out to examine the form and shape of discrimination. We have highlighted myriad forms of vulnerability and precarity that loom in the larger society. We suggest that a grassroots approach and sensitisation is required to address these negative and impudent attitudes within mainstream society. It is equally important to note that there are many people in metro cities who are not negative and not prejudiced towards migrants. They do not indulge in ‘othering’ behaviours, they may be focused on integration, getting work done and working with amity. As authors we feel that research focused on these non-racist individuals and why they are so would assist us in building a better society and in answering many questions that will never be resolved if we only interview the racist individuals in our society. This will let us bank on the positive attitude that is exemplary and has the possibility to become pervasive.

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2018, from https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/delhi-profiles-to-protectpolice-booklet-for-northeast-students-betrays-prejudices/cid/694656. Dholabhai, N. (2015, February 13). Amendment to IPC to punish racial discrimination—Centre pushes bill on bias, The Telegraph. Retrieved May 9, 2018, from https://www.telegraphindia.com/1150213/jsp/northeast/ story_3053.jsp. Foucault, M. (1978). The History of Sexuality Volume I: An Introduction. London: Allen Lane. Garg, S. (2013, May 12). India of a Thousand Dreams! The Hindu. Retrieved April 4, 2018, from http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/india-ofa-thousand-dreams/article4706922.ece. Gohain, P. (2014, January 24). 81% of Northeast Women Harassed in Delhi: Survey. The Times of India. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/81-of-northeast-women-harassed-in-DelhiSurvey/articleshow/29270244.cms. Golmes, A. (2017, May 23). Let’s Talk about Racism Don’t Call Us ‘Chinky, Momo, Chowmein,’ Says a Northeastern Woman. Hindustan Times. Retrieved March 3, 2018, from https://www.hindustantimes.com/indianews/let-s-talk-about-racism-don-t-call-us-chinki-momo-chowmien-asks-anortheastern-woman/story-SJckp4InptNV6Te29dlItJ.html. HuffPost. (2017, March 13). Student From Arunachal Allegedly Thrashed, Forced To Lick Shoe By Bengaluru Landlord. HuffPost. Retrieved March 5, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2017/03/13/student-fromarunachal-thrashed-forced-to-lick-shoe-by-bengalur_a_21880662/. Jilangamba, Y. (2012, May 29). Let’s Stop Pretending There’s No Racism in India. The Hindu. Retrieved May 1, 2018, from http://www.thehindu.com/ opinion/op-ed/lets-stop-pretending-theres-no-racism-in-india/article3466554.ece. Karmakar, R. (2015, June 14). Rani Gaidinliu: A Naga Queen and BJP’s Spin Machine. Hindustan Times. Retrieved April 17, 2018, from https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/rani-gaidinliu-a-naga-queen-and-bjp-s-spinmachine/story-kfQG1IggxU6j4Frs7haBFK.html. Karmakar, S. (2017, August 29). 29 Steps to Ensure Women’s Safety. The Telegraph. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from https://www.telegraphindia. com/1170829/jsp/northeast/story_169661.jsp. Lahiri, S., & Bandyopadhyay, S. (2012). Dressing the Feminine Body. Economic & Political Weekly, XLVII(46), 20–24.


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LeCompte, M., & Schensul, J. (2010). Designing and Conducting Ethnographic Research: An Introduction. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Longkumer, A. (2010). Reform, Identity and Narratives of Belonging: The Heraka Movement in Northeast India. London: Continuum. McDuie-Ra, D. (2012a). The North-east Map of Delhi. Economic and Political Weekly, XLVII(30), 69–77. McDuie-Ra, D. (2012b). Cosmopolitan Tribals: Frontier Migrants in Delhi. South Asia Research, 32(1), 39–55. https://doi.org/10.1177/02627280 1203200103. McDuie-Ra, D. (2015). Debating Race in Contemporary India. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137538987. NCERT. (2017). North East India People, History and Culture. Retrieved from http://www.ncert.nic.in/publication/Miscellaneous/pdf_files/tinei101.pdf. NDTV. (2015). IPC to Be Amended to Punish Racial Discrimination, Government Tells Court (July 8). NDTV. Retrieved on IPC to be Amended to Punish Racial Discrimination, Government Tells Court. Retrieved May 9, 2018, from https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/ipc-to-be-amended-topunish-racial-discrimination-high-court-779481. Pathak, G. (2008). Assamese Women in Indian Independence Movement: With a Special Emphasis on Kanaklata Barua. New Delhi: Mittal Publications. Pulla, V. (2014). Grounded Theory Approach in Social Research. Space and Culture, India, 2(3), 14–23. https://doi.org/10.20896/saci.v2i3.93. Sikdar. (2014, July 22). Manipuri Man Beaten to Death in South Delhi, Three Arrested. The Hindu. Retrieved March 5, 2018, from http://www.thehindu. com/todays-paper/manipuri-man-beaten-to-death-in-south-delhi-threearrested/article6235496.ece. Tehelka. (2012). The Rapes Will Go On, April 14. Tehelka.com. Retrieved July 9, 2019, from http://old.tehelka.com/the-rapes-will-go-on/. The Hindustan Times. (2007). This Booklet for Northeast Students Sparks Ire (2007, July 15). Retrieved May 5, 2018, from https://www.hindustantimes. com/delhi-news/booklet-for-northeast-students-sparks-ire/storyWKPR3522wcJ1mqpH7AbDHL.html. Whitehead, T. (2005). Basic Classical Ethnographic Research Methods: Secondary Data Analysis, Fieldwork, Observation/Participant Observation and Informal and Semi-structured Interviewing. Ethnographically Informed Community and Cultural Assessment Research Systems (EICCARS) Working Paper Series, CEHC Cultural Ecology of Health and Change. Retrieved from http://www.cusag.umd.edu/documents/workingpapers/classicalethnomethods.pdf.

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Zargar, S. (2017, January 18). Neighbours Beat Up Mizoram Youngster in Bengaluru with Iron Rods over Parking Dispute. Scoop Whoop News. Retrieved March 5, 2018, from https://www.scoopwhoop.com/Neighbours-Beat-UpMizoram-Youngster-In-Bengaluru-With-Iron-Rods-Over-ParkingDispute/#.als5robba.

4 Understanding Ethnic Violence in North East India Venkat Pulla, Bhairabi Nandini Kaushik, Bharath Bhushan Mamidi, and Sanjai Bhatt

The British allowed these ‘wild tribes’ a certain degree of autonomy. Before the final chunk of Mizoram came under their administration, the northeast’s history was a patchwork of kings and tribal confederations, never consolidated under any of the empires that ruled the rest of India. V. Pulla (*) Senior Research Fellow (Adjunct), ILWS, Charles Sturt University, NSW, Australia Sessional Academic, Charles Darwin University, NT, Australia Foundation Professor, Brisbane Institute of Strengths Based Practice, NSW, Australia B. N. Kaushik Roda Mistry College of Social Work and Research Center, Hyderabad, India B. B. Mamidi Osmania University, Hyderabad, India S. Bhatt Department of Social Work, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India © The Author(s) 2020 V. Pulla et al. (eds.), Discrimination, Challenge and Response, Mapping Global Racisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46251-2_4



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Upon India’s partition in 1947, the northeast became highly restricted, and remained so until 1995, when a woman at the Indian Consulate in New York told my answering machine, in a voice filled with impatient condescension, that my Restricted Area Permit application to visit Assam (which I’d filed so long before, I’d forgotten having done it, and had stopped wanting to go) was unnecessary. I could simply go. Disbelieving, I called the Indian Tourist Office in New York to confirm. Yes, said an information officer, Ashok Sharma, three states are open: Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura. Insurgencies, ethnic pogroms and intertribal wars have subsided. ‘They’ve decided they’re interested in the outside world.’ Kate Wheeler (11 May 1997)

This chapter examines inter-ethnic violence in India’s North Eastern Region (NER) that is depicted as institutionalised violence (Kolås 2017). Conflicts continue to be fuelled by vested interests that hold stakes in spreading political violence and maintaining conflict between rival tribal communities. Terrorist groups operating in the NER have established a complex web of linkages among themselves that are visible at three levels: (a) between any two terrorist organisations cutting across theatres, (b) among terrorist organisations operating within a theatre, and (c) broad fronts consisting of terrorist organisations operating in different theatres (Ramana, 2002). Additionally, terrorist groups enjoy patronage and sanctuaries, do not lack in resources (Singh, 2008), and have well established linkages that extend beyond the borders of North East India. The nature of assistance that the terrorist groups secure as a result of established linkages includes ideological leadership, monetary support and weapons training. The NER, thus, is a witness to ethno-national movements by diverse ethnic groups seeking to further their sub-national aspirations, often triggered by the fear of losing their distinct identity.

Background: Geography, Politics, Ethnicity In the first six decades of independent India, the NER witnessed massive internal displacements of people as a result of inter-ethnic violence (Table 4.1).

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Table 4.1   Displacement of people in the North Eastern Region of India Incident Displacement of people




2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Bengalis from Assam (particularly Bodo areas) and Meghalaya Bengalis from Tripura Fence construction between India and Bangladesh 70,000 people in Tripura ‘Tea tribes’ in western Assam 30,000 Reang or Bru from Mizoram Nagas, Kukis and Paites in Manipur

1980–1990, 2004 2005

1995, 1997–2005 1992, 1997, 2002, 2006 Chakmas and Hajongs from Arunachal Pradesh and 1964 Mizoram 250,000 ethnic Santhals as a result of Bodo attack 1996

In 2006, there were delayed reports in the English-language press about internecine killings that claimed about 90 lives in Karbi Anglong district of Assam. Consequently, 44,000 tribal (Karbis and Dimasas) were displaced. These people have been living in deplorable conditions. The pervasiveness of NER conflicts seems to have been ascribed to ‘backwardness’, and major presence of ethnic clashes between tribal populations; Kolås (2017) argues for ‘ethnic rivalry’ as a key framework for diagnosing the development of armed violence in the region. Kolås, quotes the statement of Tarun Gogoi, former chief minister, on the Karbi Anglong ethnic clashes as follows: Such macabre killings were bound to happen in the jungles. (Kolås 2017, 2)

Conflict seems to be an integral aspect of the NER, which has seen much violence since India’s independence from British rule. It is perceived as a sequel to demands by several tribes, ranging from separation from the Indian Union to demands for establishment of various structures of self-governance and/or reorganisation of North East India into many states (at present there are eight). Cultural and ethnic differences and a predominant sub-nationalism are the emerging themes that help us to understand the local situation in the northeast. The region is a witness


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to ethno-national movements that are aiming to sustain their sub-national aspirations, prompted by fear of losing their distinct identity. The North Eastern Region (NER) is diverse, culturally vibrant and environmentally rich. It is a land where multiple ethnicities reside; every ethnic community has a marked presence in history and vivid cultural reminiscences. The conflicts in their space and in their identity are further intensified by immigrant forces and effects of forced acculturation (Singh 2008). The region is plagued with separatist and militant issues, worsened by nationalist–nativist conflicts (Hussain 2007). Truly considered far away from the mainland, North East India faces the dilemma of being ignored and isolated and for many people in mainstream India, it meant and continues to mean very little. As young people from the region began hitting the space of metropolitan India for jobs or for higher education, there was some awakening in the general public. The newspapers did not and do not carry much about the NER, and even the discerning reader might have no more than a vague memory of an item or two on its topography, its tension, its conflicts and status as perpetually disturbed, and its numerous international borders. It is a land where multiple ethnicities reside and this aspect does not sink in quickly. India’s north-eastern frontier is one of South Asia’s hottest trouble spots. North East India, which comprises the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura, is one of India’s most ethnically diverse regions (Hussain 2007). Hundreds of armed insurgent organisations continue to operate there, and are active, vocal and assertive. Their demands range from secession to autonomy and the right of self-determination, and several of them receive operational backing from support networks set up in border villages and neighbouring countries. This trend is exacerbated by an overabundance of ethnic groups clamoring for their rights and distinct identity; at times not just fighting the Indian state but engaged in self-destructive intestinal strife. Thus, the region has all the ingredients that nourish tension and turmoil. Although the Union of India responded to the interethnic tensions in the NER by constructing eight reasonably distinct states based on the major ethnicities that populate the NER habitat and assembling a credible North East India, the continued brewing of inter-ethnic

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clashes and cross border militancy continues to be a feature of the region (Das 2008). Spreading over 263,000 square kilometres, it shares a highly porous and sensitive frontier with China to the north, Myanmar to the east, Bangladesh to the southwest, and Bhutan and Nepal to the northwest. There are around 220 ethnic communities in North East India alone, and equal number of dialects even more. The hill areas of states like Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland are completely inhabited by native ethnic communities, with a degree of diversity even within the ethnic groups (Jain 2016). The region’s population results from ancient and continuous flow of migrations from Tibet, IndoGangetic India, the Himalayas, present Bangladesh and Myanmar. There are approximately 57 different ethnic groups inhabiting the region1 (Singha 2018). With such a vast number of ethnic communities together and no solid form of government, ethnic violence was inevitable. Every state of North East India is itself an abode of multiple ethnicities. Ethnicity is also often identified with the ideas of a natural phenomenon, or of a primordialism, based on descent, race, kinship, territory, language, history and so on. It is also related to the concept of nativism which seeks a revival, preservation and protection of native culture (McDuie-Ra 2016). Ethnicity, thus, connotes home and collective belonging and cultural and geographical elements to a named community of common myths; an origin and shared memory associated with an historic homeland (Banks 1996). The diverse native population in the NER had witnessed much immigration even before India attained its independence. Tensions and conflicts are natural when internal migraton from within the states and immigration from outside the nation, such as from the neighbouring countries, occurs due to porous borders. The ethnic demand for homeland created a number of smaller states in the northeast. The large territory of the State of Assam was divided into Nagaland in 1963, Meghalaya  According to Singha (2018), there are 57 tribal communities in the NER: Adivasi, Anal, Assamese, Bhutia, Bishnupriya Manipuri, Bodo, Chakma, Chhetri, Dimasa, Gangte Lepcha, Garo, Gurung, Hajong, Hmar, Hrankhwl, Jamatia, Karbi, Khampti, Khasi, Koch, Kom, Kuki, Lushai, Mao, Maram, Meitei, Mishing, Mizo, Monsang, Naga, Nepali, Noatia, Paite, Paite, Pnar, Poumai, Purvottar Maithili, Rabha, Reang, Rongmei, Simte, Singpho, Sylheti, Tangkhul, Teddim, Vaiphei, Zou, and various Tibetan tribes like Tamang, Tiwa, Tripuri, Zeme Naga, Chorei, and Limbu. 1


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in 1972; Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram came into existence in 1987. There are further new state demands, stemming, for instance, from the Tipra Land people, who as a community are on the verge of extinction, or from the long-lasting Bodoland crisis (Dutta 2016). Most tribes in the region seem to nurture a feeling that a share in political power is essential for their social and cultural identity, and one way out is to demand a separate state for themselves. Preservation of culture on the one hand and aspiration to become economically strong on the other are legitimate reasons commonly put forward by the separatist movements. Often, when a minority or even a majority population makes a demand for a separate statehood, it is an expression of its fear that the larger state of which they are part may not meet its obligations and the needs of the people within an overarching equity framework, and, therefore, it is not possible for the larger state to mitigate their perceived disgruntlement. As a result, they demand exclusive administrative boundaries for self-governance, which does invariably end up in a demand for a state. Thus, community conflicts over land, habitat, and notions of territoriality continue to rock North East India with ethnic unrest that invariably becomes violent.

 rief History of Ethnic Violence in North B East India The pervasiveness of violent conflict in North East India is routinely ascribed to the region’s backwardness and the ‘natural’ propensity for violence of its indigenous populations. According to General V. P. Malik, the former chief of the Indian Armed forces: Terrorism is neither state-specific nor an ideology. It is a method of employing violence in the pursuit of an ideology. He finds fault with the approach that is too militarist and supports those who believe that ‘ideologues’ must be included in fight against terrorism. (Malik 2012, 13)

We will begin this section with a brief note of the history pre-British times. Dimasa-Kacharis are one of the earliest inhabitants of Assam valley. The history of the Dimasa-Kachari kingdom, along with the unique

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characteristics of Dimasa customs and traditions, is said to be at the core of contemporary Dimasa ethno-politics. History has it that, in 1830, British India annexed the territories of the last of the Dimasa-Kachari king, Govinda Chandra Barman, following his assassination, while some part of the Dimasa that were ruled by his Chief of Army, Senapati Tularam was annexed later in the year 1854. The hill areas of the former kingdom were largely reunified in 1951 with the establishment of the United North Cachar (NC) Hills and Mikir Hills. Local demands for autonomy were always ripe and the ‘hill state’ has seen many mergers. Dimasa-­ dominated North Cachar Hills and the Karbi-dominated Mikir Hill areas were sub- divided, once again, and the erstwhile Mikir Hills became a part of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous District Council that was established in the year 1952. Later on, Dimasa homeland people asked for ‘Dimaraji’, claiming that the entire territory that was once ruled by the Dimasa royalty, covering the districts of Cachar, North Cachar Hills, Karbi Anglong, Nagaon, and even the city of Dimapur, the economic hub of the state of Nagaland, must be renamed as Dimaraji. The North Cachar District was so named in 1970; in 2011 it was renamed the Dima Hasao district (Singh 2008). The Assamese language movement is another energetic actor in stirring up the Assamese nationalism that drew a great deal from the movement to decolonise India from British rule. In a culturally diverse and large state like Assam, ethnic identity is a powerful force that does not need ammunition to provoke a conflict. Legitimate differences between the ethnic groups such as the Bodos, Karbis, Dimasas, Koch-Rajbanshis, Rabha-Hasongs, Tiwas and Misings—have all caused grievous concerns to the state and central governments of India. Assamese-language and anti-Bangladeshi migrant agitations grew in aggressiveness as the Assamese became apprehensive of losing identity and culture to powerful and vocal migrants from the state of West Bengal. Several thousand Bengalis, both Hindu and Muslim, were forcibly moved and displaced helter-skelter during violence unleashed during the 1960s and 1970s, particularly during six years of agitation led by students and youth groups upset by migration from neighbouring Bangladesh (IDMC 2006). The Assam agitation became a mass movement against migrants in the 1980s with the rise of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), backed by the


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Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AGSP). An armed group, the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was born in the year 1979; their goal was to secede from India. While the ULFA intensified armed action, the mass agitation of AASU–AGSP ended in August 1985 with the signing of the ‘Assam Accord’. Thereafter, the leaders who had spearheaded the Assam movement formed a political party, the ‘Asom Gana Parishad’ (AGP) and engaged in electoral politics. The AGP-led government was tasked to curb insurgency movement. However, the ULFA became more powerful, intensified, and began engaging in armed confrontation with the Indian army; the state administration was severely crippled in the 1990s (Baruah 1999). Since the 2000s, the direction of the movement has slowly shifted towards internal feuds, rendered more vicious by the rapid multiplication of ethnicities in an already prodigiously heterogeneous society. In the process, disgruntled political elites were recognised as an intensely corrupt lot and smaller ethnic groups began re-aligning with larger ethnic groups, raising the flag of diverse ethnic identity and demanding self-rule. Bihari migrants’ homes in hundreds were torched. The trigger for this was the employment data of Hindi-speaking people vis-à-vis the Assamese. Although outlawed, the ULFA began its fight for an independent Assam nation, and ordered Biharis to leave Assam or be killed (IDMC 2006), more than 17,000 people fled Assam and were sheltered in relief camps— an unknown number remained internally displaced within Assam (IDMC 2006). There is no information on the number of people who have returned. Elsewhere within the region, the 1990s saw the emergence of militant outfits defined by tribal, religious and cultural characteristics. The culture of violence propagated by the ULFA and the Bodo groups served as inspiration to these and at the current time there could be more than forty insurgent groups active, though ULFA is the main player. Among other terrorist outfits that appear dormant, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), Dima Halim Daoga (DHD), and Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA) are prominent. The NDFB operates in the Bodo-areas of the State of Assam while the

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UPDS dominates the Karbi-Anglong and North Cachar districts. Most of the other groups listed are currently dormant. The UPDS continues with its ideas of establishing a land for the Karbis, and has clearly followed a policy of cleansing the area of non-­ Karbis. As a result, the Kukis, the Bodos, people of Nepali origin and the Hindi-speaking people in the district have become their targets. Co-existence in tensioned habitats is unfortunately associated with corrupt practices that clearly involve collections of agricultural produce etc. For years the UPDS has targeted the ginger-producing Kukis in the Singhasan Hill range for systematic extortion. The success of the Nagas in achieving their own state, carved out of Assam in 1963, set a powerful example, motivating other groups to make their own territorial demands, although their intractable demand for self-­ rule began several years prior. There are two very comprehensive chapter on the Nagas in this volume. Meghalaya was created in the wake of new administrative units as a result of negotiations with armed groups in 1972. A fair few years later Mizoram took its shape in 1987 as a sequel to an agreement with the Mizo National Front. Similarly, the Bodoland Territorial Council negotiated by the Bodo Liberation Tiger Force came into being in 2003. In West Bengal, bordering Assam to the west, the Gorkhaland Hill Council was established in 1988  in an agreement between the government and the Gorkha National Liberation Front. Mizoram, for instance, shares porous borders with Myanmar, whose predominant religion is Buddhism, and Bangladesh wherein a majority follow Islam, while the population of Mizoram is over 88 per cent Christian. Religious identity, as in the case of Bru people in Mizoram, became an issue too. Mizos share a state with an endangered tribal population on one hand and with migrants including Chakmas, Reang, Muslims, other plainspeople of all hues, and even at times other affiliated tribal people from Myanmar villages. The Bru, who were chased out of the state of Mizoram in 1997, considered themselves as persecuted on the basis of religion by the majority Mizo population, and perceived themselves as being at the mercy and dispensation of the Reang. The Reang themselves have issues, however, being the second largest tribal group of Mizoram and not wishing to remain as bonded labour to the Mizo. They, too, have been demanding an autonomous District Council (ADC),


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based on Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India, in Reang-dominated areas of Southern Mizoram. The demand had been raised under the banner of a new party called the Reang Democratic Party (RDP). From the Mizo perspective, the Reang, Chakmas, and others that cross over from Myanmar border are trouble. One could hardly find fault with the Indian government in recognising and granting statehood and autonomous district status to many habitats that offer the self-rule determined inhabitants the opportunity to make their own administrative decisions and maintain their demographic, cultural and sub cultural uniqueness within the region. In effect, actions such as recognising ethnic ‘homelands’ of certain groups and working within the framework of the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which provides for establishment of district councils, is the right step (Baruah 1999; Haokip 2012). The Sixth Schedule contains provisions regarding the administration of tribal areas in the state of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram (Table 4.2). The main aim is to protect hill tribal communities from the control and power of plainspeople. Such protective measures began with the formation of the first District Councils in the State of Assam as far back as 1951. Extensive powers include administration of justice, powers to establish primary schools, assess and collect land revenue and impose taxes, issue leases for prospecting for or extracting minerals, and make regulations for the control of money-lending and trading by non-­ tribals—all of these in fact constitute a healthy devolution of power. Table 4.2   Showing the Territorial Councils of the North East Region State Assam

Name of the council

Bodoland Territorial Council Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council Dima Hasao District Autonomous Council Meghalaya Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council Garo Hills Autonomous District Council Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council Tripura Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council Mizoram Chakma Autonomous District Council Mara Autonomous District Council Lai Autonomous District Council

Year formed 2003 1951,1976 1951,1970, 2014 1972 1972 1972 1982 1987 1987 1987

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Table 4.3   The Statutory Autonomous Councils in the North East Region State

Name of the Statutory Autonomous Council


Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council (RHAC) Lalung (TIWA) Autonomous Council (LAC) Mising Autonomous Council (MAC) Thengal Kachori Hill Autonomous Council (TKHAC) Sonowal Kachari Autonomous Council (SKAC) Deori Autonomous Council (DAC) Chandel Autonomous District Council Churachandpur Autonomous District Council Sadar Hills Autonomous District Council, Kangpokpi Manipur North Autonomous district council, Senapati Tamenglong Autonomous District Council Ukhrul Autonomous District Council


In addition to the above Territorial Councils, there are Statutory Autonomous Councils established through the state legislative machinery, as detailed in Table 4.3. The strong mandate of administrative power was, unfortunately, matched with weak law enforcement and monitoring, which allowed for corrupt cultures to seep in. It is lack of administrative acumen that has set the stage for violent homeland politics. Thus, the northeast became a site of ‘ethnic conflict’. Over the years North East India has been examined through the lens of ‘ethnic conflict’ by all: national media, political commentators and social researchers. Granting special provisions and status to some has accelerated demand by other groups for similar provisions under the Sixth Schedule, based on the perceived disparities among the people who live in council areas, resulting in the rise of conflict between different groups: tribal vs. tribal and tribal vs. non-tribal. In recent times, the state governments have had to resort to drastic steps to curb insurgency arising from such conflicts (Dutta 2016). There are around 160 Scheduled Tribes, besides an estimated 400 other tribal or sub-tribal communities and groups in North East India. Unrest is not attributable to armed separatist groups alone but is also a consequence of demarcations and recognitions of legitimacy given to some tribes through the processes of council area administration, and of the constant dissatisfaction of the state and council administrators with


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the federal government’s resourcing of the region (Hussain 2007; Kolås 2017). Having said that, the disorder and conflicts in the northeast cannot be explained by a grievance narrative—of lack of resources, isolation and alienation of communities in the region due to post-colonial nation-­ making that concentrated on regions where transport infrastructure was already present, as in the ‘mainland’ Indian states. North East India’s disgruntlement is not only a result of poor access to power, resources and opportunities, it is also due to the way the Union of India has conducted its role—often with limited clarity as to what it was doing. The Government of India, in its eagerness to mitigate regional concerns, has consistently demonstrated limited understanding of the political history of the region (Kolås 2017; Hassan 2006). More recent research confirms that the nature of the state and its role in arbitration is compromised immensely when its capacity to deal with social forces and nonstate actors remains undeveloped. When social forces retain their authority, the state’s capacity to resolve group conflicts decreases and eventually virtually disappears (Hassan 2007). Baruah characterises the concerns and issues in the Northeast as ‘durable disorder’ (Baruah, cited in Hassan 2006). It can be argued that the northeast regional pathology is a result of the outcome of central government’s failure to monopolise security, its lack of familiarity with intervention and its reliance on atypical militarist manoeuvres to respond to challenges posed by militias in contextual spaces of conflict (Baruah 2005). In addition to this, the lack of consistency and decisiveness in the central state’s counter-insurgency policy in the region led to ‘a tolerance for suspension of the rule of law, authoritarianism and large-scale leakages of development funds’ (Hassan 2006, 3), thus creating opportunities for insurgent shares and concomitant practices that led to corruption.

Conclusions Thus, North East India is a classic form of heterogeneity, with widely varying forms of ethnic cultural and linguistic diversity on the one hand and varied hues of sub nationalism on the other. It is safe to argue that

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unrest in the region may stem from the following reasons: desire to have greater autonomy, from self-rule to secessional contestations; inter-ethnic conflict; intolerance to illegal immigrants; and a lack of a proactive, constructive, anticipatory developmental agenda from governments, both federal and the state. There is a need to recognise that at the core of subnationalistic desires are issues of poverty, neglect, deprivation and regional inequalities. The popular belief that selective granting of self-governance for demanding communities assure development or peace within the region does not obtain. Variables for good self-governance are the presence of competencies and dedicated leadership within those autonomous communities and councils. Instead of resolving conflicts, some favoured dispositions of autonomy seem to ignite and keep the flame of the conflict burning bright in this region. In general, within the region, the states of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram and Tripura have seen more powerful insurgency and secessionist violence (Hassan 2007). There is no exceptional narrative of a peaceful state. The root causes of political violence ought to be addressed. A certain use of force may be unavoidable but it can never be the only instrument for effective resolution of the challenges posed by competing ethnic identities. A war precipitated by some action of a warring group and another war unleashed by the state machinery on a warring group is a poor method for resolution of a dispute. Nonetheless, a discriminating approach based on federal and state government trust is required, a procedure taking into consideration the sensitivity of the region, the countries that border it, the illegal migrants, trade in drugs, trafficking, and popular, though limited, support for insurgency movements. While there should be every attempt to accommodate a group that seeks a solution, its appeasement ought not to be a political expedient but an opening of a route to a genuine solution involving social change and development of the people. Ethnic identities are realities as much as they are differences between groups. Ethnic violence erupting over resources is inevitable between groups. The manner in which resources are allocated, aggrandised, or used up even before they reach the people for whom they are intended, is perceived to be contributing to further fueling the tensions within the region.


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The northeast with all its diversity has to address and seek solutions to the issues within the region itself to begin with, and with the other states in India through ensuring action on the recommendations of the Bezbaruah Committee report, the details of which are discussed in Chap. 3 on racism through gendered lenses. Chap. 9 on the Act East Policy delves at some plausible suggestions in this regard.

References Banks, M. (1996). Ethnicity: Anthropological Constructions (p.  224). London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203417935. Baruah, S. (1999). India Against Itself: Assam and the Politics of Nationality (p. 280). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Baruah, S. (2005). Durable Disorder: Understanding the Politics of North East India (p. 252). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Das, R. (2008). Militancy in Manipur: Origin, Dynamics and Future. Asia Europe Journal, 6(3), 561–574, November, Springer. Dutta, A. (2016). The Politics of Complexity in Bodoland: The Interplay of Contentious Politics, the Production of Collective Identities and Elections in Assam, South Asia. Journal of South Asian Studies, 39(2), 478–493. Haokip, T. (2012). Political Integration of North Eastern India: A Historical Analysis. Strategic Analysis, 36(2). https://doi.org/10.1080/09700161.201 2.646508 [Taylor & Francis Online] Hassan, S. (2006). Explaining Manipur’s Breakdown and Mizoram’s Peace: The State and Identities in North East India. Crisis States Research Centre Working Papers Series 1 (79). Crisis States Research Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK Hassan, S. (2007). Understanding the Breakdown in North EAST INDIA: Explorations in State Society Relations. Development Studies Institute, Working Paper Series, No. 07-83, London School of Economics, ISSN 1470-2320 Hussain, W. (2007). Ethno-Nationalism and the Politics of Terror in India’s Northeast, South Asia. Journal of South Asian Studies, 30(1), 93–110. IDMC. (2006). INDIA: Tens of Thousands Newly Displaced in Northeastern and Central States, A Profile of the Internal Displacement Situation, February 9. Retrieved from https://www.IDMC.org/pdfid/44031ac44.pdf

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Jain, N. (2016). Northeast India’s Multi-Ethnicities: Dominant Issues and Problems. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Studies (IJHSSS), 3(2), 275–285. Kolås, A. (2017). Framing the Tribal: Ethnic Violence in Northeast India. Asian Ethnicity, 18(1), 22–37. https://doi.org/10.1080/14631369.2015.1062050. Malik, V. P. (2012). Developing a Viable Counter-terrorism Strategy for South Asia. In A. Kumar (Ed.), The Terror Challenge in South Asia and Prospect of Regional Cooperation (pp. 13–19). New Delhi: Pentagon International Press. McDuie-Ra, D. (2016). Adjacent Identities in Northeast India. Asian Ethnicity, 17(3), 400–413. Ramana, P. V. (2002). Networking’the Northeast: Partners in Terror. FAULTLINES-NEW DELHI-, 11, 99–126.. Singh, A. (2008). Ethnic Diversity, Autonomy, and Territoriality in Northeast India: A Case of Tribal Autonomy in Assam. Strategic Analysis, 32(6), 1101–1114. Singha, K. (2018). Ethnicity-based Movements and State’s Response in Assam. Asian Ethnicity, 19(3), 365–382. Wheeler, K. (1997, May 11). Exploring India’s Far Northeast. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1997/05/11/magazine/exploringindia-s-far-northeast.html.

5 Women’s Collective Action for Peace in the Northeastern Region Rubi Devi, C. V. Kanchana Lanzet, and Venkat Pulla

Women’s Movements: Historical Background Women’s activism in North East India has its roots in the pre-­independence period. As early as 1904, women in Manipur collectively protested against the British colonial rule. The first Nupi Lan (‘women’s war’ or ‘uprising’ in the Manipuri language) in 1904 was organised to protest against the imposition of forced labour for the reconstruction of British property. Almost 5000 Manipuri women participated against the British Raj, R. Devi (*) Independent Researcher, Indianapolis, IN, USA C. V. K. Lanzet Bonn, Germany V. Pulla Senior Research Fellow (Adjunct), ILWS, Charles Sturt University, NSW, Australia Sessional Academic, Charles Darwin University, NT, Australia Foundation Professor, Brisbane Institute of Strengths Based Practice, NSW, Australia © The Author(s) 2020 V. Pulla et al. (eds.), Discrimination, Challenge and Response, Mapping Global Racisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46251-2_5



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immobilising the state. The army had to be called in to restore ‘law and order’. This became a landmark in the history of not only Manipur but in the whole of what was then Assam. The second Nupi Lan took place in 1939–1940 against the trade policy of exporting rice from Manipur, set by the then Manipuri monarch and the British Raj (Yambem 1976). (See Sect. “Women’s Activism in Manipur” for more detail on these events.) Assam has a long history of women’s movements too. As early as 1915, a group of educated Assamese women formed an women’s organisation known as Mahila Samitis (women’s groups/ associations) were formed primarily for the cultural, economic and educational development of women, encouraged by Gandhiji’s principles of non-violence and social activism (Bhattacharyya 2009). This was followed by the formation of Assam Pradeshik Mahila Samiti (APMS) in 1926. Assamese women came to play a greater role in the political life of Assam, actively participating in non-violent protests, marches, sit-ins, and boycotts alongside their male counterparts (Devi 2016). In the 1942 ‘Quit India’ movement more than a dozen of Assamese women, including Kanaklata Barua, Bhogeswari Phukanani, Rabati Lahon, Golapi Chutiyani and others sacrificed their lives, and many women were arrested and jailed for their active participation in the movement. The Assam Pradeshik Mahila Samiti (APMS) was established in 1926 by Chandraprava Saikiani, Hemaprava Das, Amalprava Das, Punyaprava Das along with the women of a few well-known and elite families such as the Agarwala family from Tezpur, and the Chaliha family from Sibsagar who believed deeply in the cause of women’s liberation and social change (Devi 2016). In due course, it spread to local and district levels throughout the state. Binalakshmi Nepram Mentscel from Manipur, in her 2007 paper ‘Armed conflict, small arms proliferation and women’s responses to armed violence in India’s north east’ cites from the North East Network report: Although Assam Pradeshik Mahila Samithi was initially concerned with issues like child marriage, child and widow remarriage, they also worked with refor-

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matory and welfare works like promotion of women’s education. Gradually they joined hands in the National Movement, playing an active role in boycotting foreign goods and in the promoting of the use of Khadi. The women of Assam, irrespective of status and position, came out in hundreds and thousands to participate in the Satyagrahas and various programmes of the Indian Freedom Movement. They took out processions, Prabhat Pheris, picketed liquor and foreign cloth shops, educational institution etc. Women were killed while involved in active resistance and were declared martyrs. Unfortunately, the contribution of the women of Assam towards the Indian Freedom Movement is little known and their sacrifices and valour have not been given due recognition nationally. (Manchanda 2001; Nepram 2007)

Binalakshmi Nepram is a humanitarian, author and activist for the advocacy of gender rights and women-led disarmament movements to stop gun culture and bring peace not only to her home state but to whole of North East India. She is also known as the ‘Face and Voice’ of North East India. In 2018, she was awarded the Anna Politkoskaya Award by Reach All Women in War (RAWinWAR) which she shared with the Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich (Belarus) for women human rights defenders from war and conflict. Chandraprava Saikiani, one of the leading woman activists, broke the social barrier of segregated sitting arrangements for women during the Nagaon Session of the Assam Sahitya Sabha in 1925. In the post-­ independence period, she asserted the need for women’s political participation by contesting in the 1957 state legislative assembly election. In the post-independence period, Assam Mahila Samiti has become a large organization spreading over the entire state, working for the development of women and children; demanding social justice and equality for women and under privileged. There were many social movements in Assam after independence, for example demanding that Assamese be made the state language, demand for a new oil refinery, followed by a demand for a second oil refinery. The Assam Movement or Assam agitation against illegal immigrants in Assam was led by the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangama Parishad (AAGSP) to protest against the inclusion of foreign nationals—mainly Bangladeshis—on the voters’ list, in an effort to protect and provide constitutional, legislative and administrative


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safeguards to the indigenous Assamese people. This agitation saw some violent actions, the most extreme being the Nellie massacre (1983) and the Khurai massacre. The agitation ended in August 1985 with the signing of the Assam Accord between the leaders of the AASU-AAGSP and the Government of India. Women from all walks of life participated in these political movements alongside the men, including forming human shields between the protesting students and the Indian armed forces. In the post-1980s armed militancy period in the state, Assam Mahila Samitis have voiced their protest against militarisation and insecurity, especially against the inhuman killing and kidnapping. For instance, when Sanjay Ghose, the general secretary of the Association of Voluntary Agencies for Rural Development in the North East, was abducted by the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) on 4 July 1997, Tezpur District Mahila Samiti was in the forefront of NGOs and civilian groups submitting a petition for his release, and publicly took a stand against the insurgent groups (Devi 2016). His disappearance, which happened while he was campaigning against the ULFA, went unsolved for 12 long years. The eventual discovery of his murder caused a sensation in the United Nations as his aunt, Arundhati Ghose, was India’s permanent representative to the UN (Borpujari 2009). Assam Mahila Samitis also brought into the light the grievances of women, the insecurities women face due to the countless acts of violence from government security forces as well as insurgent groups (Asia Pacific Research Network 2012; Buncombe 2016; Bhattacharyya  2013; Chanam and Keithel  2012; Chanu 2015; Dutta 2018). Women’s organisations continue to work in the field of peace-­ building and on specific human-rights violations (Asia Pacific Research Network 2012; Buncombe  2016; Bhattacharyya  2013; Chanam and Keithel 2012; Chanu 2015). The Bodo Women’s Justice forum founded in 1993 continues to work consistently by organising meetings around the issues of peace and human rights. Nagaland attained statehood in the Indian union in 1963. One of the best-known women’s organisations, the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA), was formed in 1984. It works to uphold the dignity of women, human rights and values. Right from the start the NMA has been actively involved in efforts in the cause of peace, especially during the peak years of Naga conflict between the National Socialist Council of Nagaland

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(NSCN) and the Indian Security Force. In October 1994, the NMA formed a peace team to help rescue the deteriorating political situation amongst the various armed groups. With the slogan ‘Shed No More Blood’, members of the association started a series of actions to bring peace: they initiated dialogues with the armed groups as well as the state government; organised public rallies for peace led by religious leaders; and appealed to both parties to stop killings (Manchanda 2001; Nepram 2007). Unlike the rest of the country, women in North East India enjoy a fair degree of freedom and social space (Bhattacharyya 2009; 2016). All over North East India, women have been actively involved, and often have played major role, in social movements. The solidarity between women is also very strong, as is often seen in the women’s markets, traditional cooperative systems, self-help groups and other forms of cooperative collective action that come into action as and when the need arises. When male members of the family, including boys, leave to hide or fight, women’s functions in caring and providing for the family and maintaining the social fabric of the community increase in number and scope. Women become proactive first around issues that are immediate, such as individually or collectively searching for missing husbands and sons, relatives, and disappeared daughters. Gradually they take on community-related social tasks, and this often leads to political activism. Some women even decide to join the insurgents (Buncombe 2016; Bhattacharyya 2018; Chanam and Keithel 2012; Chanu 2015; Dutta 2018; Kikon 2009; Kumar 2001; see also; Lowndes 2004; 2006; Kaufman and Williams 2013; Manchanda 2001; Porter 2007).

Manipur and Its Turbulent History Tensions in Manipur are part of the difficult integration of North East India into the Indian Union after independence. Manipur forms the eastern border of India with Myanmar, between the states of Nagaland to the north, Assam to the west and Mizoram to the south. The rise of Naga nationalism (Dutta 2015) during British colonial rule and the merger of the princely state of Manipur into the Indian Union are some of the historical causes of the conflict constellations.


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An area covering large parts of western Myanmar, present Nagaland as well as parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur has been traditionally regarded as the homeland of the tribes who, over a century or more, have come to collectively identify themselves as Nagas. Towards the end of British rule they even aspired to a separate Naga nation sandwiched between Myanmar and India (Dutta 2015). Naga tribes form the majority of the population of the hill districts in Manipur. They are culturally and religiously different from the Meiteis and they have more affinity to Nagaland than to Manipur. In addition, there are the Pangals or the Pangans who are Manipuri Muslims. Manipur has been at the crossroads of Asian economic and cultural exchange for more than 2500 years. Manipur became a subsidiary component of the British Empire in 1824. The then ruler of Manipur, seeking help and defence from constant, devastating Manipur-Burmese wars, entered into a subsidiary alliance with British India. Thus, the British empire became responsible for the external defence of the kingdom of Manipur while at the same time recognising it as a self-governing princely state. During World War II Manipur was the scene of many fierce battles between the Japanese and the British Forces. Manipur was a princely state when the British rule ended on the sub-­ continent. Maharajah Bodhachandra, the monarch, was strongly supported by the Hindu Meitei community. The Meiteis form almost two-thirds of the total population. They inhabit the densely populated Imphal valley which covers about 10 per cent of the area of the state. The Naga and other tribes felt only nominally ruled by the maharajah; they mostly lived their own lives as they had for centuries. The ethnic composition of the state constantly changed, a process which accelerated after the British departure when groups began migrating both within India and across its borders. The princely states had to look to themselves for their own external affairs and defence. The only options left to them were to join either the new Indian Union or the new Pakistan. The Manipur State Constitution Act of 1947 established a democratic form of government, with Maharajah Bodhachandra continuing as the head of state. Faced with the continued threats of war and Burmese invasion, he felt compelled to sign an instrument of accession in Shillong. Manipur thus became a part of the Indian Union in 1949. In 1956 it

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became a union territory and was accepted as a fully fledged state in 1972, with Imphal as its capital. Manipur has had a long record of insurgency and inter-ethnic violence. The first armed opposition group, the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) was founded in 1964 with the aim of attaining full independence from both Manipur and the Indian Union. The People’s Revolutionary Party of Kanglaipak was formed in 1977. It was alleged to have received arms and training from China. Manipur’s proximity to China makes it, like all North East India, a socio-politically sensitive area, strategically of great geo-political importance.

Women’s Activism in Manipur Manipur was home to the first-ever organised women’s protest in North East India. Two historic ‘women’s wars’, Nupi Lan, were waged: the first in 1904 against forced labour, and the second in 1939 against mass exploitation and artificial famine engineered by the British imperialists. The first Nupi Lan in 1904 was against the British order sending Manipuri men to Kabow valley to fetch timber to rebuild the British agent’s house which had been destroyed by a fire. Every male member of society between the ages of 17 and 60 had to work without pay for ten days in every 40 days of work. This was Lalup—forced labour. More than 5000 women took part in this struggle, which lasted for a week, and compelled the British to revoke the order. This was followed by the Water Tax Movement in 1932, once again led by the women of Manipur, protesting against an increase of taxes imposed upon water. On 16 October the same year, the government declared that all those who refused to pay the said taxes would be arrested and put into jail. The women did not give up. The water taxes were reduced; moreover, widows and the poor were exempted (Yambem 1976). The Water Tax Movement was followed by the second Nupi Lan in 1939. This agitation against the indiscriminate export of rice from Manipur by businessmen and the British rulers became one of the most important events in the colonial history of Manipur (Yambem 1976). It is small wonder that the agitation began in the main market of Imphal,


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the capital. Women traded under covered sheds as well as in the open bazaar selling fruit, vegetables, meat, cloth and a myriad of other goods; most important of all was the sale of rice. Because of the export policy of the British and the milling activities of the Marwaris (traders from mainland India), rice was scarce. A near-famine situation prevailed even though it was harvest season. Women rose once again in protest, and the authorities responded by deploying military and police against the unarmed women protestors, resulting even in loss of life. Although the struggle started out as an agitation by the Manipuri women against the economic and administrative policies of the then Manipuri monarch and the British Political Agent Mr. Christopher Gimson (1933–1945), it evolved into a movement for constitutional and administrative reform in the state. The struggle lasted for several months and subsided as a result of the outbreak of World War II. Manipur, as well as the whole of North East India, was ravaged by alcoholism and drug abuse, particularly smoking marijuana and injecting heroin, affecting hundreds of youth, both in urban and rural areas. The 1970s and 1980s saw the rampant spread of HIV/AIDS due to the use of contaminated needles. Imphal and Ukhrul are/were on narco-trafficking routes across the Indo-Myanmar border, and narco-insurgency became a common problem, adding to other insurgencies. This gave rise to the formation of Nisha Bandhis (Stop Alcohol). Manipuri women started this movement against alcohol and for its prohibition in Kakching Turei Wangma on 30 August 1975. It spread quickly to Imphal and other urban areas, forming committees in different areas and leading to the formation of the statewide All Manipur Women Social Reformation and Development Samaj. Nisha Bandhis later evolved into Meira Paibis (Gaikwad 2009; Nepram 2007; Ranjan 2015). The Meira Paibis, or Torch Bearers, an organisation mainly of Meitei women, testify to the great spirit of the women of the region (Bhattacharyya 2018; Sharma 2014). It has evolved from movement against alcohol abuse and related public disorder, to focus on the community as a whole. Starting from the impact of the crisis on women, its reach has extended far beyond the management of alcohol trauma and abuse. (Nepram 2007, citing the North East Network, Women in Armed Conflict, 2005. Delhi).

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Apart from the Meira Paibis, Manipur also has many ethnic women’s organisations. The Leishiyer Tangkhul women’s organisation was formed in 1968 to improve social life and enhance cultural life against alcohol abuse. Many such cultural clubs exist, fostering solidarity among women as a routine, but having and showing the potential to quickly take the shape of social action movements as and when the need arises. The Naga Women’s Union, Manipur, was founded in 1993 as a social and mass-based organisation. Its goals were to assert and defend the rights and dignity of women, to act for the cause of the Nagas in general, and to strive towards strengthening Naga unity. It also provides a common platform for gender equality, advocating for peace, human rights and capacity-building through training, workshops and seminars. The historic declaration of 1993 as the ‘International Year of the World’s Indigenous People’ on 10 December 1992 and its commemoration by the Naga people as ‘Naga Week’ from 1 to 5 December 1993 at Kohima, led to the formation of the Naga Women’s Union, Manipur, with the mission of connecting and strengthening ties with the Nagas. It also works among the Nagas across the border to bring cohesion and to strengthen the pan-Naga indigenous community. Nagas are of the opinion that they face similar problems in India and Myanmar, that is, in both countries they must fight against poverty, oppression and suppression: They feel that women can play a big role in alleviating the situation (Morung Express, January 24, 2019)

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) gives the armed forces the power to maintain law and order in ‘disturbed areas’. Article 355 of the Constitution of India confers power on the central government to protect every state from internal disturbances. The AFSPA gives special powers and the authority to the Armed Forces, the state and the central police forces to shoot to kill, search houses and destroy any property used by insurgents in the areas declared as disturbed, with full impunity  (Bhattacharyya 2018; Dutta 2015; Kamboj 2004; Phanjoubam 2016; Rahman 2014; Ranjan 2015).


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The creation of the AFSPA is rooted in the colonial history of British India. In 1942, the British promulgated the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Ordinance to suppress the Quit India Movement. Four ordinances were declared: the Bengal disturbed areas, the Assam disturbed areas, the East Bengal disturbed areas and the United Provinces disturbed areas. These acts were evoked by the central government in 1949 to deal with the acute security crisis in independent India in 1949, a consequence of the partition of India. Under this ordinance, a commissioned officer of the rank of captain, or a person of equivalent rank and above, was invested with the power and authority to act and issue orders (Bhattacharyya 2018; Dutta 2015; Kamboj 2004; Phanjoubam 2016; Rahman 2014; Ranjan 2015).

 rmed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958: Assam A and Manipur North East India has been and continues to be, though to a lesser degree at present, in a continuous state of turmoil, with ethnic, inter-ethnic and political clashes, insurgencies and counter-insurgencies (Bhattacharyya 2018; 2019; Dutta 2015; Kamboj 2004; Phanjoubam 2016; Rahman 2014; Ranjan 2015). The Naga National Council (NCC) was formed in February 1946, with the objective of working out the terms of relationship with the Indian government after the British withdrawal. It was active from the 1940s to the early 1950s and, under the leadership of Angami Zappu Phizo, it campaigned for the creation of a separate sovereign Naga state. The NNC conducted a plebiscite on 22 May 1951 claiming that 99.9 per cent of the Naga people wanted autonomy. The Indian government and the Government of Assam rejected this. Moreover, the state elections held in 1952 were boycotted by the Naga leaders as well as the people. Nagaland was then a part of the undivided Assam, which included the North East Frontier Agencies and the princely states of Manipur and Tripura (please read the chapters 7 and 8 for details of the Naga National Movement). The region was declared as ‘disturbed area’ and on 21 December 1955, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was enforced to

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suppress the secessionists movements and restore law and order. The Assam Rifles were deployed to the Naga hills, resulting in clashes which eventually led to armed conflict, insurgency and counter-insurgency. Section 4 of this draconian law grants indiscriminate power and immunity even to non-commissioned officers in disturbed areas to use force, to the extent of causing the death of a person who refuses to follow orders, for example by meeting as part of a groups of five or more, or carrying fire arms, or even on the mere suspicion he or she may be an insurgent or have had contact with insurgents. The AFSPA also protects armed forces personnel against prosecution and judicial procedures  (Bhattacharyya 2018; 2019; Dutta 2015).

 omen in Conflict Areas: Responses W and Activism Through the ages, women and girls have borne the brunt of war and armed conflicts. Women and girls are particularly targeted as a war tactic. The most traumatic and dehumanising acts are rape, gender-based violence, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, which often have long-lasting psycho-social consequences  (Bhattacharyya 2013; 2015; 2016; 2018). Rape is deliberately used as a weapon of war: in an armed conflict area or under a repressive regime, rape and sexual violation is neither incidental nor private (Bhattacharyya 2013; 2018). On the contrary, it serves a strategic function, a tool for achieving specific political and military objectives. Further, women victims become the means of harming, intimidating and punishing other women and girls as well as their men and their entire communities. Rape has been used in this manner in the area of the Great Lakes in Central Africa where not only women have been brutally raped and subjugated, but also men and boys, rendering the community powerless and helpless as well as stripping them of their dignity. This is a demonstration of power and the destruction of a culture  (please see, Kumar 2001; Lowndes 2004; 2006; Porter 2007).


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Molestation, Shame and Suicide As an illustration, we will revisit a report published about a young lady, Rose. Yankeli, 11 July 1971 The First Maratha regiment drove out the entire male population of the village and detained the women and children under heavy guard. Many women were assaulted and a pregnant woman, the wife of a pastor was hit with a stone on her abdomen which led to premature delivery of a dead baby. Four girls were forced inside the Yankeli Baptist Church by the commanding officer and his subordinates. There the girls were interrogated, tortured and raped by the army personnel. The girls were all under 18 years of age. Miss Rose of Ngaprum village in Ukhrul, committed suicide the day after she was raped by two army officers (NPMHR Issue Commemorating 25 years 2003). The WISCOMP team that visited the village in November–December 2000 and the village elders presented written material as documentation of the incident. Some were apparently apprehensive about the team’s visit, as the army had warned them of severe repercussions. However, they confirmed the incident and showed the church where the rapes had taken place. It has since been abandoned. They confirmed that one of the young women raped died shortly after the incident and that the surviving three have migrated to neighbouring villages. (National Commission on Women 2005, 27)

As authors we did not succeed in our search for any archival material that could tell us if the officer was punished at all 68 years ago or got away with the heinous crime, as there are always loopholes in law.

Women’s Non-Violent Resistance Movements In the centre of Imphal stands a monument to commemorate the non-­ violent resistance of Manipuri women against the effects of colonization of the Manipuri princedom in 1904. The historic Nupi Lan ( Women’s War) of 1904 and subsequently in the year 1939, undertaken by women protesting the exploitation and artificial food  shortages created by the British is celebrated  on 12 December each year as a State  government

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commemorative event. Since then Manipuri women have continued to raise their voices against injustice. In the troubled regions of North East India, it has been the women who were among the first to stand up against the violence. The Meira Paibis (Torch Bearers), a group of mainly Meitei women, used to follow armed military vehicles at night carrying lighted torches in order to discourage and even prevent the military personnel from extrajudicial killing and other human rights violations (Sharma 2014). They continue to be active against drug abuse and trafficking. Like the Meira Paibis, the Naga Women’s Union Manipur and the Kuki Mothers Association have protested against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which has been responsible for the politicisation of the women of Manipur. Following the brutal torture and rape of Manorama Devi in July 2004, 12 members of the Meira Paibi disrobed in front of the Kangla, the old palace and temple complex in the heart of Imphal, which was then the headquarters of the Indian Army. These outraged women carried placards with the words ‘RAPE ME’ written on them. A strong and a provocative message demanding and insisting an end to this violence, especially sexualised violence. Manorama was allegedly a member of the People’s Liberation Army but this did not give the Assam Rifles the right to rape, torture, shoot and kill her! Manorama’s killing flamed the women of Manipur to unite across ethnic and non-­ ethnic lines in their demand to end sexualised violence (Bhattacharyya 2018; Sharma 2014).

Irom Chanu Sharmila From this cauldron of militarism, armed conflict, ethnic conflict and violence as a way of life emerged Irom Chanu Sharmila. After the Malom massacre1 she pledged that she would fast until the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was repealed, an action that turned out to be a hugely significant symbol of non-violent resistance in the cause of peace and security in Manipur.  A reprisal for an attack on an Assam Rifles convoy on 2 November 2000. Ten people were killed and 42 hospitalised. 1


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Irom Sharmila Chanu is known as the Iron Lady of Manipur or ‘Mengoubi’, the Fair One. Her fast and hunger strike against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is the longest known hunger strike in the world, from 5 November 2000 to 9 August 2016. Born in Manipur, she was around 9 years old when the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was imposed. She grew up in a Manipur which was ravaged by multiple insurgencies and counter-insurgencies, a corrupt state with ethnic movements fighting for autonomy or even for a total break from the Indian Union. These strikes, agitations, encounters and even ambushes were often violent. The massacre at Malom triggered her demand for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in all North East India. She vowed not to eat, drink, comb her hair or look into a mirror until then (Bhattacharyya 2018; Buncombe 2016; Mehrotra 2009; Sahni 2003). She was of 28 years of age. A woman in the prime of her life! Soon after she began her fast, the police arrested Sharmila on the charge of attempting to commit suicide, which is an unlawful and criminal act under the Indian Penal Code. She was then transferred to judicial custody. Her health deteriorated and from 21 November 2000 naso-­ gastro intubation was forced on her to keep her alive. She was regularly released and re-arrested every year of her fast [The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017. (No.10 of 2017)]. On 2 October 2006, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, her ideal, she went to the Raj Ghat in New Delhi to pay a floral tribute to the Father of the Nation. She then headed to Jantar Mantar to protest and demonstrate together with a large number of students, human rights activists, journalists, writers and others. She was once again re-arrested and taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. She wrote to the prime minister and the home minister. Around this time, she also met the Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi and won her sympathies, and she promised to take up Sharmila’s cause at the United Nations Human Rights Council. She has been the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of her non-violent and peaceful protest to repeal the AFSPA. In 2007, she was awarded the South Korean Gwangju Prize for Human Rights; an award given to an outstanding person or a group active in the promotion and advocacy of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights.

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The first Mayilamma Award for non-violent struggle in Manipur, a Manipuri award, was bestowed on her in 2009. She won a lifetime achievement award from the Asian Human Rights Commission in 2010. Later, in the same year she received the Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize. In 2013 Amnesty International declared her a Prisoner of Conscience. On the International Women’s Day in 2014 she was declared as the top woman icon of India by MSN poll voters. The power and influence of her singular action has been compared with other charismatic leaders both past and present, such as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi (Doshi 2016; Sinha 2016).

The Making of an Icon Sharmila’s family was poor. It was a struggle for her to finish high school. All the same, she had a strong inbuilt sense of duty, almost a compulsion which led her to a way to fight injustice. She called this urge as a ‘gift from God’, illustrating her almost childlike naivety. At the time of the Malom massacre, Sharmila was working as an intern with Baloo Loitongbam, a human rights activist and lawyer, helping to document cases of alleged abuses by Indian soldiers, interviewing women survivors of gang rape, and the parents and children of killed civilians. She first heard of the massacre the day after the incident when she saw the photographs in the newspapers. She was horrified, but filled with a sense of the immense uselessness of holding just another rally and shouting, actions which the Manipuri people, the government machinery and the soldiers of the Indian Army had become used to. Inspired by her idol Mahatma Gandhi’s fast during India’s struggle for freedom and independence from the British rule, Sharmila decide to fast too. She naively assumed that people would follow, seeing its immense significance. The next day, she sat at the killing sites and announced her decision to fast until the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was once and for all repealed. Soon a crowd gathered around her. After sunset, they left one by one and she was left alone. Shocked by her decision Loitongbam asked her not to carry out her decision, going against the AFSPA was too big a fight for her. She refused, saying that she had her mother’s blessings. At first, the villagers thought that this was just an act of bravado which would soon


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stop. When they saw that she continued her fast, they did not know what to make of this young woman and her action. Seeing this, Loitongbam, his organisation and Sharmila’s family helped to establish her. On 10 July 2004, Thangjam Manorama, a young woman, was dragged from her home by soldiers from the Assam Rifles, gang-raped, tortured and killed (Bhattacharyya 2018; Sharma 2014). Her body was found dumped near a police station. A judicial inquiry found 16 bullet wounds on the body. Nobody was charged because the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act prevented it! The tremendous outrage and fury of the Manipuris that followed the murder paralysed the state. The people realised that Sharmila had been continuing her fast now for four years— she was now seen as a leader. Political parties began wooing her. The Manipur Pradesh All India Trinamool Congress announced their support for Sharmila and called on party chief, Mamata Bannerji, to help repeal the AFSPA. The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) also supported her cause calling for nationwide agitation. As Michael Safi reflected in The Guardian (11 November 2018), for better or for the worse Irom Sharmila had become a symbol of the Manipur resistance. International awards were heaped upon her. Her poster adorned people’s homes. She was raised to sainthood and revered as a goddess in Malom and by many women activists. People’s expectations of her skyrocketed. Many even thought that she ought to be recommended for a Nobel prize.

Sharmila Ends Her Fast and Hunger Strike Whether Sharmila wanted this or not, whether she liked it or not, whether she was happy with this or dejected, did not really matter. All through the long and difficult years of fasting, she kept hoping that, the day would dawn when the Manipuris would realise the significance of her fast and would be inspired to shed their differences, to organise themselves into a collective movement and force the government to repeal the AFSPA: an Act which bestows absolute powers to the Army with impunity through all its ranks  (Bhattacharyya 2018). Systems have propensity to fall through when public accountability is not a matter of obligation. Where better than North East India with its perpetual internal tribal conflicts and people from both extremes—from the mainstream and the regions

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wanting to make a buck in the bargain. The AFSPA has been used by local politicians too to shield their political gamesmanship. All through these long, difficult and even lonely years, Sharmila  kept writing poetry. She kept writing letters to the different prime ministers during these years, appealing to them to repeal the inhuman AFSPA. She saw that the people glorified her, but they did not really listen to what she wanted them to do, or even comprehend the enormous significance of her action. They did not seem to want to share in the responsibility and commitment of her action. She felt that she was idolised and isolated, living on a pedestal, without a voice and devoid of feelings. That is exactly what an idol is! Desmond Coutinho, a British citizen came to India in 2007 in search of spiritual solace and settled in Bangalore. He came to know about Irom Sharmila’s struggle against AFSPA. He was amazed and filled with admiration for this frail woman being force-fed nasally. He came in touch with her through mails, letters and books soon, and in 2011 he visited her in Manipur. This visit created a furore, shaking the anti-AFSPA movement. Activists, women groups and other concerned people as well as her own family members strongly objected to this partnership. The movement supporters viewed Desmond Coutinho as a threat to the movement (Raju 2017). Sharmila was disappointed as well as resentful  towards  such public reactions. Being on a hunger strike for more than a decade, she developed a deepening understanding of reality around her. Sixteen years is a long time; long enough to put one in the way of several spells of loneliness and despair, emotions which also found their way into Sharmila’s poetry. In ‘Unbind Me’, she writes: Unbind me From this chain of thorns That binds me in this Narrow room For no fault of mine A caged bird In this sinister prison cell Myriad voices cascade No, not the garrulous Chatter 0of birds


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Nor the crescendo of merry laughter Never a sweet song of lullaby But the wailing of mothers…

In July 2016, she announced a date to end her fast. There was a moral outcry against her decision (Bhattacharyya 2018; Tiwari 2016; Weston 2016). Activists, mothers’ groups, various women’s group and her supporters fell away from her. Their cry was that she was leaving the anti-­ AFSPA struggle for the sake of a man and to get married. She was also allegedly threatened by a Manipuri militia. In his report entitled ‘How love and a taste of honey brought one Indian woman’s 16-year hunger strike to an end’, Michael Safi wrote poetically in The Guardian—Live World News (Sunday, 11 November 2018), ‘Sharmila peered at the smear of honey in her hand. Her face was in anguish. She wept. Then, with a glance at the sky, she scooped a finger of honey on to her tongue’. And thus, ended the world’s longest fast! Sharmila had no intention of giving up her fight against the AFSPA. She announced that she would be entering politics and would contest in the then forthcoming state elections. In 2016 she launched her political party the People’s Resurgence and Justice Party. In the 2017 elections she contested two constituencies, Khurai and Khangbok. She stood against the state’s most prominent politician, which proved to be a disaster for her. She won about 90 votes. Two day after the results were announced, she took a flight out of Manipur. Sharmila’s plan to run for the elections and to continue her struggle for the repeal of the AFSPA highlights her political naivety. Democracy in India can be quite messy; most citizens continue to vote along caste, ethnic and religious lines. Votes are brazenly traded for promises, money and gifts. Loitongbam in his interview with Michael Safi said that he told her, ‘Sharmila, you are like uranium. You have enormous spiritual power. But just as you need technology to convert this uranium into atomic energy, you need a whole infrastructure behind you. Without it you cannot convert spiritual energy into political power.’

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Conclusions Sharmila was definitely a symbol of resistance and activism for peace and security in Manipur, especially for Meira Paibis. With Sharmila breaking her fast before the repeal of the AFSPA, her marriage to Desmond Coutinho and her subsequent leaving of Manipur, the Meira Paibis lost their crusader. Though one may say that, the cause should be greater than the leader, it is often seen that, when the charismatic leader is no more there, the movement gets diluted and sometimes even slowly peters out. The Meira Paibis, the Naga Women’s Union in Manipur and the Kuki Mothers’ Association and other women’s groups are not entirely free from their biasness and ethnic interests,  even  though  they have been highly successful in creating trust, solidarity and collective action in their own communities. With the increasing influence of feminism and the need to fight patriarchy and patriarchal structures comes the realisation that women’s concerns are shared and global: networking, cooperation and the joining of forces is needed to break the vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence. The public debate on repealing the AFSPA is on the increase, especially as there is a relative decrease in insurgency and counter-insurgency activities. The military, of course, holds another opinion. They strongly oppose repeal, stating that it would enable militants to play upon the sentiments of local people and benefit from such situations. The armed forces are of the firm opinion that North East India will be a tinderbox as long as militant groups continue to exist. In recent years, the Indian government has had some success in achieving stability in the region. This, however, is not due to the efforts of government personnel alone. For more than three decades non-governmental organisations (NGOs), particularly women, have played a key role in peace-building efforts in North East India, keeping clear of the underground movements and maintaining cordial working relationships with the concerned government agencies  (Dutta 2018). The United NGO Mission to Manipur (UNMN) was founded in 1994/95, initially as a response to the Naga–Kuki conflict. Right from the start UNMN has taken care to include members from the different ethnic groups and made sure that its members accepted and respected their different identities


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and perspectives. Commitment to building peace and having no political affiliation were conditions for membership. The organisation has grown, having committees from the local, district and up to the state level. Women have their own committees and representatives from these women’s committees are part of the central committee. Globalisation and feminism have made these women challenge traditional patriarchal structures (Chanu 2015). The network has been successful in bringing together groups of different ethnicities and with different interests. This was well demonstrated when a staff member of a donor agency was kidnapped in Manipur in 2003; the various mothers’ associations, church leaders and UNMN leaders from all the communities cooperated in securing his release, using the contacts and influence they had with their respective communities and their skills in networking, organisation and negotiations (Berndt 2007). To respect and accept the ethnic and cultural differences of the people in Manipur is the first step towards peace and stability. Person-to-person communication, development, democracy, respect for human rights and the participation of women at all levels in conflict resolution and reconciliation are the ways to build sustainable peace, whereas draconian like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act continue to provoke and enable violence, hate and untold human suffering—violating fundamental human values. The Ministry of Home Affairs of India issued a notification on 8 January 2019 which stated that: The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is operational in the entire states of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (except Imphal Municipal Area), three districts namely Tirap, Changlang and Longding of Arunachal Pradesh and the areas falling within the jurisdiction of the eight police stations in the districts of Arunachal Pradesh, bordering the state of Assam).

In the words of peace activist Sanam Anderlini, ‘wherever war and violence exist, women exist — and they have things to tell us’ (UN Women 2016). How do we bring in disruptive change? That is, conscience-driven change that emanates from those who care for people and those who care for preservation of ecologies that usher peace. Women’s voices are essential to create and build lasting peace, whether it is conflict prevention,

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conflict resolution and/or reconciliation. The effects of violence and armed conflict on women and girls are two of the 12 areas of concern which require action by governments and the international community (UN Women 2016), and the need to promote equal participation of women in conflict resolution at all decision-making levels is vital. As a sequel, northeastern women’s voices can never be silenced.

References Asia Pacific Research Network, (2012). Women-resisting Crisis and War. Philippines: Asia Pacific Research Network. Berndt, H. (2007, May). People Building Peace—Transforming Violent Conflict in South Asia (2nd ed.). Bonn: Evangelischer Entwicklungs Dienst (EED). Bhattacharyya, R. (2009). Examining the Changing Status and Role of Middle-­ class Assamese Women: Lessons from the Lives of University Student. PhD thesis, Newcastle University, UK.  Bhattacharyya, R. (2013). Criminal Law (amendment) Act, 2013: Will it Ensure Women’s Safety in Public Spaces? Space and Culture, India, 1(1), 13–27. https://doi.org/10.20896/saci.v1i1.11. Bhattacharyya, R. (2015). Understanding the Spatialities of Sexual Assault against Indian Women in India. Journal Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 22(9), 1340–1356. https://doi.org/10.108 0/0966369X.2014.969684. Bhattacharyya, R. (2016). Street Violence Against Indian Women in India: Mapping Prevention Strategies. Asian Social Work and Policy Review, 10(3), 311–325. https://doi.org/10.1111/aswp.12099. Bhattacharyya, R. (2018). Living With Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) as Everyday Life. GeoJournal, 83(1), 31–48. https://doi. org/10.1007/s10708-016-9752-9. Bhattacharyya, R. (2019). Chapter Six: Did India’s Partition Lead to Segregation of North East India? In A. Ranjan (Ed.), Partition of India: Postcolonial Legacies (pp. 105–131). Oxon and New York: Routledge. Buncombe, A. (2016, August 9). Irom Sharmila: Indian Activist Ends World’s Longest Hunger Strike—but Continues Fight for Justice. Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/irom-sharmilaindian-activist-ends-world-s-longest-hunger-strike-but-continues-fight-forjustice-a7180896.html


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Kumar, K. (Ed.). (2001). Women and Civil War: Impact, Organization and Action. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner. Lowndes, V. (2004). Getting on or Getting By? Women, Social Capital and Political Participation. British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 6(1), 45–64. Lowndes, V. (2006). It’s Not What You’ve Got, But What You Do With It: Women, Social Capital, and Political Participation. In B. O’Neill & E. Gidengil (Eds.), Gender and Social Capital (pp. 213–240). New York: Routledge. Manchanda, R. (Ed.). (2001). Women, War and Peace in South Asia. New Delhi: Sage Publication. Mehrotra, P. (2009). Burning Bright: Iron Sharmila and the Struggle for Peace in Manipur. New Delhi: Penguin Books. National Commission on Women. (2005). The Impact of Armed Conflict on Women in the Northeast: Case Studies from Nagaland & Tripura. New Delhi: NCU. Nepram, B. (2007, December). Armed Conflict, Small Arms Proliferation and Women’s Responses to Armed Violence in India’s North East. Heidelberg Papers in South Asia and Comparative Politics, Working Paper No:33. Retrieved from http://archiv.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/volltextserver/7867/1/ Mentschel2.pdf Phanjoubam, P. (2016, August 2). The Cause is AFSPA. The Hindu. Retrieved from https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/The-cause-is-AFSPA/article14545992.ece Porter, E. (2007). Peace Building: Women in International Perspective. New York: Routledge. Rahman, Z. (2014, November 18). AFSPA: The Audacious Law. The Assam Tribune, 6. Raju, K. (2017, July 12). Irom Sharmila Set to Marry British Citizen. The Hindu. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.thehindu.com/news/ national/irom-sharmila-set-to-marry-british-citizen/article19265623.ece Ranjan, A. (2015). A Gender Critique of AFSPA: Security for Whom? Social Change, 45(3), 440–457. https://doi.org/10.1177/0049085715589471. Safi, M. (2018, November 11, Sunday). How Love and a Taste of Honey Brought One Indian Woman’s 16-year Old Hunger Strike to an End. The Guardian World News. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/ world/2018/nov/11/irom-sharmila-love-story-worlds-longest-hunger-strike


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6 North East Indians and Their Contribution to Indian Literature Dhurjjati Sarma and Venkat Pulla

Literature, both oral and written, has been reflective of the human sensibility that has met with and witnessed changes in the socio-political set-­up. The aim here is to explore the idea of ‘marginalisation’ vis-à-vis the relationship of north east Indians with the mainstream Indian culture through the medium of literary expressions, particularly in the context of colonial modernity and postcoloniality. Specific to this is a question: are there any distinct flavours of the north eastern narrative and its linguistic influence that one can see in the larger paradigm of Indian literature? Here is a brief exploration of the movements that have carried forward the literary cultures of the region to the present day into the mainstream Indian culture. D. Sarma (*) Gauhati University, Guwahati, Assam, India V. Pulla Senior Research Fellow (Adjunct), ILWS, Charles Sturt University, NSW, Australia Sessional Academic, Charles Darwin University, NT, Australia Foundation Professor, Brisbane Institute of Strengths Based Practice, NSW, Australia © The Author(s) 2020 V. Pulla et al. (eds.), Discrimination, Challenge and Response, Mapping Global Racisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46251-2_6



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Ever since the independence of the country in 1947, the north eastern region of hills and slopes has remained a contested and trouble-ridden area. Located as it is on the periphery of the mainland, the region has often been perceived as a mere offshoot of the Indian territory, inhabited by communities whose attitudes and lifestyles bear little or no resemblance to those prevalent in other parts of the country. While acceptance of its position as a ‘frontier’ is writ large on its face, the ‘frontier’ idea of the north east has also provided an opportunity to build up a conceptual and theoretical framework to a significant number of works across the domains of area studies, humanities, and social sciences. Such works on north east India, for example Myths of the North East Frontier of India and A Philosophy For NEFA (North East Frontier Agency) by Verrier Elwin (2017; 1960), and The North-East Frontier of India by Alexander Mackenzie (1995), or more recently Manjeet Baruah’s (2011) Frontier Cultures: A Social History of Assamese Literature are mostly based on dual perspectives; on the one hand, they attempted to stress the unique position of the region as a ‘crossroads’ between mainland India and south east Asia; and, on the other hand, they emphasised upon the ageold relationship of the region with the larger Indian civilisation. Nevertheless, within the broad sphere of studies on India, the north east has attracted only a peripheral concern. Further, the very category of ‘north east India’ is problematic; if the construction of the category has helped in the projection of the region as an ‘area of study’, the appellation has undoubtedly led to the perception of it being an ‘isolated area’ and also hindered possibilities of viewing the constituent states of the region (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura) as distinct regional geographies. Interestingly, the region itself has been subject to varying interpretations across history. Even though references to the region as a ‘mlechhadesha’ (land of the ‘non-Vedic’ and the ‘barbarian’) are found in many sources belonging to the prehistoric and early historical periods (fifth century bce–fifth century ce), it remained a ‘crossroads’ at the intersection of the Indo-Aryan culture and south  east Asia until the onset of colonialism, when it was transformed into a ‘frontier’, thereby positing it as the borderland of the Indo-Aryan civilisation. Such a view persisted through colonial rule into the post colonial period. The large-scale cultivation of tea during the colonial period enhanced the importance of the area, particularly Assam, as a sustainable economic zone, which

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necessitated its transformation from an inhospitable forest into the garden of the British Empire (Sharma, 2012). The attainment of independence led to the transfer of control from the colonial power to the Indian state machinery. Even now, Assam is known nationally and internationally for its production of tea, which incidentally brought it for the first time into the map of British India and has since  remained one of the dominant signifiers of the identity of the region in the global market. It may be noted in this regard that in spite of the development of the region as a viable supplier of tea, and also oil and natural gas, its economic infrastructure otherwise remained backward for most of the years following independence. This caused a large outflow of students and professionals from the region to the metropolitan centres of the country. While the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed a number of Assamese intellectuals like Lakshminath Bezbaroa, Hemchandra Goswami, and Chandrakumar Agarwalla moving to Calcutta for higher studies, the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries have also  seen a gradual migration of people into the metropolis owing to the persistent lack of educational, vocational, and professional opportunities  back home. Given the fact that the region has, throughout its history, maintained a somewhat distinct identity separate from that of the mainland, the people moving out are likewise seen as belonging to a cultural-­ geographical identity that is often not considered as essentially ‘Indian’. In this regard, it should be noted that the north east is a meeting-point, or rather the habitation, of people who belong to both the caste-Hindu communities as well as those belonging to the communities traditionally considered being outside the fold of ritualised Hinduism. Under the influence of the race theory that gained ground through the nineteenth century and also through coming into close contact with the Bengali intelligentsia, there was a perceived tendency among the elite Assamese intellectuals of the period to identify themselves with the mainstream Indian civilisation, thereby, relegating the non-caste Hindu communities to the margins of the society. In this process, language became a key component of reimagining the past and present, and, as noted by  Sharma (2012, p. 9), “[b]ased on their Asomiya mother-tongue’s historical relationship to Sanskrit and Sanskrit-derived languages, the dominant gentry elite claimed intimate ties with a broad swath of high-status South Asian


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groups. A variety of historically framed linguistic and racial claims allowed local elites, Hindu and Muslim, to assert claims to modernity while simultaneously pushing the burden of primitiveness onto ‘non-Aryan’ neighbours, whether indigenous tribals or migrant coolie plantation workers.” Endeavours of the nineteenth-century Assamese intellectuals like Anandaram Dhekial Phukan, Gunabhiram Baruah, and Hemchandra Baruah were directed towards the recovery of the lost prestige of the Assamese mother-tongue but also in support of a sustained effort towards social reform under the influence of contemporary intellectuals from Bengal, namely, Rammohun Roy and Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar.

Marginalisation of the Northeast Affects Literature While talking about the process of marginalisation, the theoretical perspective of this phenomenon must be recognised. This will require a thorough examination of the caste system of India, the British policy of keeping certain sections of society isolated from the mainstream, thereby formulating a tribal identity, the role of Sanskritisation, the role of socio-­ religious movements like the Neo-Vaishnavite Movement of Assam, and so on. The Neo-Vaishnavite movement in Assam during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries ce was staged in reaction to the esoteric practices that had crept into the religious ethos of the period. Assam had been a fertile ground for the proliferation of tantric practices under various Tibeto-­ Burman cultures which were, subsequently, appropriated by the process of Aryanisation. Saivism (worship of Shiva) and Sakta (worship of the Mother Goddess) are two most prominent non-Aryan faiths in Assam. The Kalika-Purana (circa tenth century ce) and Yogini-Tantra (sixteenth century CE) are the chief textual foundations of Saktism in Assam. This process of Aryanisation was instrumental in bringing many non-Aryan elements into the fold of Vedic Hinduism and also expanding the domain of the latter through assimilation of certain esoteric practices of the former. Banikanta Kakati’s (1948) path-breaking study of the mother goddess cult of Assam (The Mother Goddess Kamakhya: Or, Studies in the

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Fusion of Aryan and Primitive Beliefs of Assam) gives us an in-depth view of a dynamic tradition of Sakta worship that remained in operation even during and despite the radicalisation of ritual and worship practices in Assam under the influence of the Neo-Vaishnavite Movement. Only a careful study of these social-cultural and philosophical-religious systems will lead to a proper realisation of the process of marginalisation. From the perspective of literature, it is seen that the literary cultures of the vernacular languages, particularly of north east India, have often been viewed as subordinate to the mainstream cosmopolitan  culture, which always presupposes a movement from the centre to the periphery. This unilateral approach is perceptible in the formulations of textual traditions, literary history, cultural representation, social status, etc. In the years immediately following independence, the important task was to formulate a singular idea of Indian literature by bringing into focus the literature and culture of the vernacular languages, as well as the oral traditions and folklores of small tribal groups across the country, including those from the north eastern region. Sahitya Akademi (the National Academy of Letters) has also played an active and significant role in articulating the voices of the marginalised. However, there is an awareness of the fact that the marginal literature described above are often characterised as ‘ethnic writing’, without a sense of chronological and demonstratable history and tradition, and often subjected to criticism from above as not being ‘critical’ and ‘substantial’ enough for sustained study in mainstream academic circles. Such partisan and one-sided arguments are condescending and naive at the same time, hence detrimental to a comprehensive study of the textual and other traditions of Indian languages, particularly the ones that have been marginalised on account of being geo-politically remote from the centre. The appellation of ‘ethnic writing’, characterised by an acute consciousness of ‘otherness’, can be extended to include not merely literature composed in Assam/Assamese, but also to other literary cultures of North East India, viz. Manipuri, Khasi, Garo, and Mizo. With reference to this position of ‘otherness’ assumed by or imposed upon the writer from north east India vis-à-vis the mainland and also the dominant trope of ‘marginality’ signifying that particular literary culture to which he/she belongs, Kailash C. Baral (2013, p. 5) has rightly remarked that, “literary marginality [however], against the grain, contests and


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problematizes some of the universalistic assumptions of literature while factoring in and often valorizing the unique ethnic and cultural experience [of the region].” Therefore, it is crucial to keep in mind a nuanced perspective on the cultural dynamics of north east India while understanding the varied manners in which writers from the region have made use of the expressive resources at their disposal to articulate their varied experiences of ‘marginalisation’ through the medium of literature. The dichotomy between tribe and non-tribe is a colonial construct, after the British used the caste/tribe system to divide and rule. The British capitalised on the age-old classification of the dominant Hindus into castes since it was beyond their practical  capacity at that moment to devise any fresh mechanism to reorient or regulate the pre-existing societal classifications; therefore, communities living in the periphery were designated as tribes. Caste, as a social system, has been defined by the presence of a hierarchical structure denoting hereditary attribution and division of labour. In a tribal society, kinship relations as well as lineage and clan regulations are seen as prominent markers of ownership and control over the modes of production. The British administrators, in their attempts to isolate the tribe from the castes, often followed a policy of non-interference in the political and administrative matters of the former. However, this is not to say that the tribes remained outside the fold of the mainstream civilisational paradigm, and possibly, by extension, Hinduism. The history of interaction between caste and tribe has been that of gradual assimilation of the latter into the network of caste structures. Sanskritisation was one of the processes by which the lower-caste groups attempted to raise their status in the caste hierarchy. This seems a plausible and appropriate explanation in this context as to what has transpired with the tribes. The processes were similar and included in many tribal communities’ cultivation of vegetarianism, worship of the Sanskritic deities, and assimilation of a culture akin to that of Brahminical Hinduism. Some anthropologists who researched on India, such as Kathleen Gough, used the term ‘Hinduisation’ to describe such assimilation practices, although Hinduisation was explained as a deliberate induction of tribes into the lower strata of the caste system. Within the context of the north east, even terms such as ‘Kshatriyaisation’, of becoming Kshatriyas (the warrior class) in the case of the Ahoms, Koches, and

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Dimasas, were used to denote similar processes deployed by tribal communities to enter into  and gain acceptance from the dominant social groups in the mainstream (Buragohain, 1989).  However, at the same time, Guha (2015, p.  4) reminded us that, “the bulk of the medieval population of northeast India escaped Sanskritization despite their Hinduized ruling familes.” Nevertheless, ritual-cultural elements from the Sanskritic culture did manage to intrude into the worldview of the tribes despite their non-inclusion into the Hindu way of life. The mainstream-cosmopolitan literature of India has been primarily Sanskrit-centric  thereby also emphasising the hegemonic control they exercised upon the local-vernacular forms of literary creations. The corpus of works composed in Sanskrit, especially the philosophical and religious literature, exerted great influence on the schools and trends of literary composition in the vernacular languages of India. In the beginning, literary compositions in the vernacular languages of India were mostly oral. However, when these languages took to the written form, the poets and composers started imitating the written forms of the cosmopolitan Sanskrit language and, in the process, embraced its aesthetic and ideological worldviews. This led to the gradual marginalisation of the unique and secular aspects that had been present within the literary world of the vernaculars. In order to conform to the aesthetic and literary forms and themes of Sanskrit literature, the vernacular literature gradually lost touch with the regional and indigenous elements of their own  literary cultures. The Bhakti Movement in medieval India provided a strong impetus for the composition of literary works in vernacular languages, which were, more often than not, based on the Sanskrit epics and puranas. The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries witnessed a tremendous efflorescence of devotional literature in Indian languages. The situation in Assam was no different.  It was in the year 1481 that Sankardeva (the saint-reformer of Assam) set out for his first pilgrimage along with 17 companions, including his guru Mahendra Kandali. Through this 12-year-long sojourn, he visited many temples and tirthas including the Jagannatha Temple at Puri. It was during this time that he may have become acquainted with the Bhagavata-Purana wherefrom he derived his ekasarana cult, which prescribed unswerving devotion to Lord Vishnu. He combined three elements to form the main tenets of his creed:


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satsanga (the association of the good, that is bhaktas) taken from the Bhagavata, nama (the chanting of the Lord) taken from the Padma– Purana (Sahasranama-Khanda), and ekasarana (the undivided devotion to one and the same god) as enunciated by the Bhagavata-Gita (Neog, 2006, p. 129). For an ekasaraniya devotee, the worship of other gods and goddesses is strictly prohibited. It has been said by Sankardeva himself that “a Vaisnavite should not worship any other God except Vishnu, he should not enter into any other god’s temple, nor should he partake of the offering made to any other god. In so doing, his bhakti would be vitiated” (quoted from Kakati, 1921). The Neo-Vaishnavite philosophy, which was conceptualised and mobilised as a reaction to the prevalence of the esoteric Sakta and Shaiva cults of worship in early Assam, derived its currency and legitimacy through the description and subsequent negation of the practices and philosophies  of the latter.  In a way, as Guha (2015, p.  125) noted, “[t]he popularity of neo-vaishnavism stemmed from its democratic content—its creed that all men were equal in the eyes of God, that the expensive rituals were meaningless and that a spiritual preceptor could be chosen from any caste even by a brahmin. [However], [t]here was no fundamental challenge to the existing caste rules, only an attempt to modify them at the spiritual level.” Therefore, in spite of the egalitarian philosophy adopted by the advocates of Neo-Vaishnavism, the movement could not do away with the caste-based entitlements of the higher castes. Also, the impact of the movement was far less perceptible among the hills’ population compared to its wide outreach and acceptance among the inhabitants of the Brahmaputra valley in Assam. With the coming of the British in the late eighteenth century, the whole dynamic of marginalisation took a new turn. The onset of modernity in the Indian literature is concomitant with the usurpation of political power by the British. In every regional context, the mode of usurpation was regulated by specific political contingencies which laid open the gates for the British to make inroads into the regions. In Assam, the British takeover of power occurred in the year 1826. But the ground was laid much earlier. Within a period of roughly 50 years preceding this takeover, two important political events took place. One was the Moamoria

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rebellion beginning in 1769 and the other was the Burmese invasion in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. These two tumultuous events shook the foundation of the Ahom Empire which had been  ruling in Assam for the previous 600 years. The British forces sent from Calcutta somehow succeeded in suppressing the Moamoria revolt and the first invasion of the Burmese. There was a brief interim period of respite before the Burmese attacked again and assumed power in 1817. This time, the intervention of the British forces led to the takeover of political power in 1826. In this new social order, Sanskrit itself became a fossilised language for study, and the literature created in this language accordingly became static and marginalised, and in its place, English became the prominent field of study. This was accompanied by the gradual introduction of Western literary genres like tragedy, sonnet, and novel. The British takeover of power was contemporaneous with the arrival of American Baptist Missionaries. Under the auspices of this Baptist Mission, the first journal called Orunodai was published in the year 1846. The publication of this journal was a significant propellant in the onset of modernity in Assam and Assamese literature. Orunodai prompted the publication of other journals by indigenous enterprises. The high point of Assamese modernism came in the closing stages of the nineteenth century when a group of students studying in Calcutta formed an association named ‘Axomiya Bhaxar Unnati Xadhini Xabha’ (Society for the Promotion and Welfare of the Assamese Language) dedicated to the mission of rejuvenating Assamese language and literature. They began the publication of Jonaki—a journal which became the mouthpiece of the association whose members included names already mentioned above, such as Lakshminath Bezbaroa, Chandraprasad Agarwalla, and Hemchandra Goswami. Bezbaroa is credited with the honour of bringing Sankardeva and Madhavdeva out of the monastic space and placing them on a public platform whereby the contribution of these Neo-Vaishnavite saints towards the formation of the modern Assamese identity was made apparent. Further, this led to a series of literary experimentations carried out by the native intellectuals of Assam and, by extension, the whole of India under the influence of Western literature. This, however, has often resulted in the downplaying of the significance of the indigenous forms of literary creation. As Sharma (2012, p.  176) ruefully notes, “Lakshminath [Bezbaroa] and other


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publicists discarded an older kind of identity that was dependent upon an established relationship with sacred geography and ritual boundaries. Instead they turned to an identity grounded in the newly minted categories of culture and progress. ... The bhakti saint Sankardeb became a potent symbol of local particularity within a pan-­Indian pantheon of heroic spiritual icons.” Such an endeavour on the part of the early twentieth-century literary intellectuals of Assam and elsewhere in the country primarily directed towards conceptualising and defining their regional identities in relation to colonial modernity and national identity often glossed over the similar questions of identity and self-assertion concerning many communities which were uprooted from their native culturalpolitical geographies for reasons ranging from colonial policies of resettlement to forced employment as garden or plantation labourers. For the descendants of these communities, the inherited narratives of pain and suffering have become a significant component of their social-cultural identities. In the post-independence period. and even in the present day, the situation has not changed much. The story of the tea-garden labours of Assam is a perfect example. When the British established the tea gardens in Assam, there were not many skilled and competent workers from the region. Therefore, the colonial government recruited workers from places like Chhotanagpur, Purulia, Orissa, Bihar, etc. Even though these workers came from diverse places, all of them lived under similar working conditions and were subjected to uniform laws and regulations. In due course of time, their lifestyles and modes of occupation gave rise to a mixed genre of literature in the form of songs and dances. These literary creations are representatives of the troubles and exploitation that they did undergo at the hands of their masters. Given below are two examples of many such songs prevalent within the community that bespeak the trials and tribulations confronting the life of a migrant teagarden labour inhabiting the margins of the Assamese society (Borah, 2017): Sardar bole kaam kaam Babu bole dhori aan Sahib bole libo pither chaam Haire bideshi chaam Phaki mari anaili assam

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(The ‘sardar’ insists upon more and more work, whereas, the next senior-in-line ‘babu’ talks about capturing more and more labours; the ‘sahib’ threatens to flog our backs. Oh, you people from the foreign lands: it was through deception that you brought us into Assam.) This was a new form of linguistic style consisting of words borrowed from Assamese and their respective mother tongues. The mood of the song reflected the exploitative nature of their occupation, the abuses of their masters, the lies and fake promises made to them; all these feelings find strong expression in their songs. The following song is an example of their helpless living situation: Jinga phul phutar shomoy Ami datun majhi Maai jigyas korle bolbi Aami bhalo asi Jinga  Phul is snake gourd in English. In this song, a newly married woman expresses her situation to her close friend. She is so occupied with her work from dawn to dusk that she hardly finds time to brush her teeth. Jinga flower blooms only during the evenings and it is the time when she brushes her teeth. She further requests her friend to convey to her mother that she is well and doing fine. Such songs are not mentioned or referred to in the mainstream literary criticism of India even though they are significant not only from an aesthetic point of view but also from the perspective of sociological realisation of the region. The novel Seuji Pator Kahini, by Birinchi Kumar Barua, is based on the representation of marginality of the tea-garden community of Assam. It depicts various aspects of marginality in relation to the philosophy of existence and the crisis of identity that comes with the realisation. Further, it stresses the strong undercurrents of social hierarchy (unscrupulously adhered to within the tea-garden community) that pervade its narrative. However, most of these works, composed as they have been by novelists from outside the community, are reflective of attitudes and opinions originating in the worldview of the dominant class/culture to which they belonged. Of late, a few promising writers from the tea-garden community in Assam have made their mark in the literary canvas of the region.


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Commenting on the position of tribal writings vis-à-vis the mainstream literary tradition in Assamese, Kamal Kumar Tanti (a poet/writer from the community) says, “[w]hat we have observed in the last few decades is that basically all tribal writings are always independent from the mainstream Assamese literary tradition and the mainstream Assamese middle class never showed any serious concern towards tribal writing in Assam. ... The main idea [is] ... to come out of the internal colonisation and to establish distinct identities based on the respective literary and cultural traditions of the aboriginal communities” (excerpt from an interview published in The Hindu in 2010; quoted here from Hussain, 2019, pp. 50–51). The consciousness of marginality is a deep-rooted one pervading every layer of our social-cultural existence. Addressing this issue will necessitate going beyond the cosmopolitan-vernacular debates concerning the centuries-old interactions between Sanskrit and the new Indo-Aryan (NIA) languages, and bring forth further instances of marginal experientialities from within the ‘region’, namely, the aforementioned struggle of tribal communities to find recognition from the custodians of high literary traditions and the use of Assamese as a tool to write back to the masters. The writer from the ‘margins’ of the ‘region’ adopts a kind of dual identity, one for the community he/she is born into and the other one for the sake of making oneself visible in the eyes of the world. As Tanti expresses his own position as a writer, “[i]n the present context as a writer, I am carrying a dual identity, first—An Adivasi, second—An Assamese. I write in Assamese with the objective to reach out to a larger audience. Even if the minority communities speak in the majority’s language, they can be heard” (2019, p. 107). In one of his lectures, ‘Representing Marginality: Texts and Traditions with reference to Bodo Language and Literature’, delivered at a Sahitya Akademi seminar in 2017, Pranab Jyoti Narzary traced the origin and legacy of the language, beginning with its existence in oral form and gradually consolidating its position as a written literature epitomised by a growing number of poems, plays, and novels composed in the language. The lecture stressed the vigorous social and political impulses driving forward the state of Bodo literary activities since the onset of the twentieth century, particularly with respect to the contribution made by stalwarts like Kalicharan Brahma and others. The establishment of Bodo Chattra

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Sanmilani in 1919 and Bodo Sahitya Sabha in 1952 attested to the community’s growing consciousness on matters of ethnicity and language. The Bodo literary voice was the voice of the marginalised, articulated with scorn and indignation at the unequal dynamics of power vis-à-vis the centre; therefore there was a relentless concern for the preservation of the ethnic voice. In the same seminar, P. Birchandra Singh (2017), in his lecture ‘Marginality as Represented in Manipuri Literature: A Bird’s Eye View’, dealt largely with two aspects of marginality: marginalisation within the territory of Manipur, and marginalisation of Manipur with respect to mainland India. Interestingly, Singh stated that most of the writers writing in Manipur use the state language, Manipuri, as the language of expression; they have not ventured into the use of other dialects reflective of alternative texts or traditions within the larger Manipuri literary culture. With regards to marginality, the paper raised three important issues: the marginalisation of communities in terms of religion, geographical location, and so on; the differences in terms of gender and the resultant marginalisation of women; and the denial of opportunities for upward social mobility to people from the economically deprived sections of the society. Singh urged the modern-day Meitei writers to strongly articulate the contemporary aspirations and deprivations of the community, much in the line of what Birendra Kumar Bhattacharjya accomplished through his novel Yaruingam (1960) which was based on the post-independence Naga movement for self-determination against the Indian state.

 ransferring Marginalisation to Real-Life T Situations and Its Implications In one of the lectures delivered at the aforementioned Sahitya Akademi seminar, Kamal Ch Saikia (2017) characterised marginality as ‘silences in the archive’. By referring to the theories of nation and nationalism propounded by Benedict Anderson (‘imagined communities’) and Timothy Brennan (‘the nation as an imaginary construct’), Saikia attempted to conceptualise ‘marginality’ as a kind of ‘in-between-ness’. He further


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invoked Robert Ezra Park’s concept of the ‘marginal man’ and theorised the movement of this man through the successive stages of competition, conflict, accommodation, and assimilation in society in order to assert his identity. In addition there is Homi Bhabha’s notion of ‘mimicry’, which becomes the method through which the marginal man seeks to align himself with the manners characteristic of the dominant class. With reference to the articulation of marginality in modern Assamese poetry, he puts forward certain principles whereby ‘marginality’ becomes a ‘veritable mine of various levels of textuality’. The very idiom of modern Assamese poetry, according to him, hinges on the elements drawn from the margins. The modern poet, so to speak, carries within his/her personality elements drawn from ‘folk’ life. In fact, it is through the experience of the folk that one realises the banalities and absurdities of modern existence. In this regard, we can argue that within the collective space of a community or a nation as conceptualised and shaped through the ‘imagination’, the position of the individual as a ‘mimic man’ serves not only to validate the assumptions and premises based on which he envisions himself as a member of the group, but also to complicate the very act of appropriating an identity through the act of ‘mimicry’. The realm of the ‘folk’ provides this opportunity to unravel the layers of framing and seeming that have accumulated over time in the process of acculturating the ‘marginal man’ into the world of the dominant class/culture. The folk has the power to reveal and subvert, and its very location often at the fringes of culture attests to its significance in retaining and keeping alive the ‘silenced’ and ‘unarchived’ voices from the margins.  Coming back to the issue of real-life marginalisation, the modern human who forsakes his/her location at the margins to make a way to the metropolis has to indulge in the kind of ‘mimicry’ in sync with the behaviour and mannerisms of his/her ‘adopted’ community. The experience carried from the homeland enters into a kind of negotiation with the challenges of conformity and adjustment confronted in the new habitat, and thereby inhabits a zone of ‘in-between-ness’. In the Assamese novel Tejere Dhushorita Prishtha by Indira Goswami, translated into English as Pages Stained with Blood, the author recounts the experiences of her early days in Delhi, which coincided with the 1984 riots there. The choice of language also plays a determining role in the position of the

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‘margin-­based’ author competing for recognition in the mainstream. Among the north eastern states, it is mostly the writers from Assam and Manipur who have exercised a choice between English and their mothertongue as the medium of expression. While Indira Goswami (Neelkanthi Braja [The Blue-Necked Braja, 1976], Mamore Dhora Tarowal [The Rusted Sword, 1980], Datal Hatir Une Khowa Howda [The Moth-Eaten Howdah of a Tusker, 1988]), Homen Borgohain (Pita-Putra [Father– Son], Atmanusandhan [Self-Introspection], Matsyagandha  [The Fisherman’s Daughter], Dhumuha aru Ramdhenu [The Tempest and the Rainbow]), Rita Chowdhury (Deu Langkhui [The Divine Sword], Makam [Chinatown Days]), and Arupa Patangia Kalita (Felanee), just to name a few of their novels, have chosen Assamese as their primary medium of expression, Assam also has produced creative writers like Mitra Phukan (The Collector’s Wife [2005], A Monsoon of Music [2011]) and Arup Kumar Dutta (The Bag [2018], The Ahoms [2016], Red Camellia Green [2016], The Anagarika’s Swansong [2009]) who have opted for English as the language in which they mostly write. For writers like Yeshe Dorjee Thongchi (Mouna Outh Mukhar Hriday [Silent Lips Murmuring Heart, 2005], Sonam [1982], Shaw Kata Manuh [One Who Chops the Dead Bodies]) and Lummer Dai (Prithivir Hanhi [The Smile of the Earth, 1963], Kainar Mullya [Bride Price, 1982]) from Arunachal Pradesh, writing in Assamese (rather than their native tongue) becomes their mode of claiming recognition in the literary ‘mainstream’. Another writer from the same region, Mamang Dai, writes in English (The Legends of Pensam [2006], The Black Hill [2014]). While writing in English gives the writers an additional edge over those writing in the vernacular in terms of national and international visibility, the role of national institutions like the Sahitya Akademi and National Book Trust has been commendable in terms of undertaking translations of vernacular works between themselves and into English. Nevertheless, writings from the north east are often categorised by geographical location, and hence attributed certain predetermined characteristics that tend to blur their unique nature, not only from the perspectives of the author but also as expressive of the particular local space from which he/she is writing.  Therefore, while appreciating the choices on the part of many writers from the region to write either in English or in the second most dominant language of the region, Assamese,


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it is necessary to again look beyond the obvious dichotomy between the two languages here respectively considered as the new ‘cosmopolitan’ and the ‘dominant vernacular’ in order to explore the diverse range of linguistic and genre-­based choices made by writers across the region. It is true that a number of languages chosen by these writers for their literary compositions may not come under the category of Scheduled Languages and thereby not receive the national recognition they otherwise merit. However, it must be recognised and accepted that each one of these languages opens a door to new experientialities unique to the cultural geography inhabited by the writers. A renewed emphasis on rediscovering the ‘sacred geographies’ and ‘ritual boundaries’ so endemic to the cultures of the north east will surely go a long way in revealing an amazing range of ‘untranslated/untranslatable’ particularities that have hitherto remained local and specific to the location of their origin and development. As Jeetumoni Basumatary (2019, p. 124) writes in the context of the growing literary discourse on the north east region, “it is high time to look at some of the literary works of the region in a new light, by shifting the focus from the highly political and conflict-ridden content to the day-to-day lived realities of the characters where life, rooted in the folk and traditional cultures, persists.” It is, therefore, necessary to be sensitive to the multi-layered textures of meaning that go into the making of the north east Indian literary cultures. While it must be clarified that there is no such specific category as ‘North East Indian Literature’, the writers belonging to the literary geography have carved out a distinct niche for themselves in terms of certain choices of language as well as subject matters for literary and cultural expressions. Further, when considering the specific instances of marginalisation of literature from the north east, critics and readers alike should spare thought for a series of crucial factors dominating the literary situation in the region. There is a tendency to disregard newer kinds of experimentations in the field of indigenous literature carried out using the localised styles and with the help of new critical thinking. Such innovative methods of reviving interest in localised and indigenous forms of literature require sufficient encouragement. The usual tendency to look down upon such creative works as naive and amateurish endeavours is counter-productive to the literary development of the region. Second, modern literary creations based on themes,

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proverbs, and expressive styles reflective of marginalised societies are accessible. Such creations are not considered equivalent in importance to the mainstream literary works. Equal weightage must be accorded to those works of literature that embody and epitomise the sound and spirit of marginal cultures. Third, there is a tendency to appreciate the literary heritage of a marginal culture only when it is expressed through the medium of new and mainstream literary styles. There does not seem to be sufficient consideration for the significance of the original styles of presenting these works within the marginal cultures to which they actually belong in the first place. Fourth, it is important to recognise the complex interrelationships between society, literature, politics, and marginality, and not dissociate any one of these elements from the others. Marginality is the constant factor in each and every age of literature. The balance between centre and periphery keeps on shifting as literary periods change. Identifying the power dynamics operating behind the shifting of balance is crucial. This can be achieved by applying new and emergent theoretical perspectives in literature to study these changes. Understanding marginality in literature also makes it necessary to study political and sociological theories. Such a multidisciplinary approach will help in ascertaining the standard of literature and its characteristics at any given time or place.

References Baral, Kailash C. (2013). Articulating marginality: Emerging literatures from northeast India. In Margaret Ch. Zama (Ed.), Emerging literatures from northeast India: The dynamics of culture, society and identity (SAGE Studies on India’s North East) (pp. 3–13). New Delhi: SAGE. Baruah, M. (2011). Frontier cultures: A social history of Assamese literature. New Delhi: Routledge India. Basumatary, Jeetumoni. (2019). Community fiction: Mamang Dai’s The Legends of Pensam and Temsula Ao’s These Hills Called Home: Stories from a War Zone. In Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, Aakriti Mandhwani, and Anwesha Maity (Eds.), Indian genre fiction: Pasts and future histories (Studies in Global Genre Fiction) (pp. 121–138). Oxon & New York: Routledge.


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Borah, D. (2017, June 29 and 30). Keynote address delivered at a Sahitya Akademi seminar on ‘Representing Marginality: Texts and Traditions of Eastern Indian Languages’ at Gauhati University. Buragohain, R. (1989). Cross-currents of the Hinduisation process in medieval Assam. PNEIHA, Tenth Session, Shillong. Elwin, V. (1960). A philosophy for NEFA (North East Frontier Agency). S. Roy on behalf of the North-East Frontier Agency. Elwin, V. (2017). Myths of the north east frontier of India. Delhi: Gyan Publishing House. Guha, Amalendu. (2015). Medieval and early colonial Assam: Society, polity and economy. Guwahati: Anwesha Publications. Hussain, Shalim M. (2019). Translating Tanti. In Kamal Kumar Tanti, Post-­ colonial poems (pp. 45–58). New Delhi: Red River. Kakati, B. (1921). A new life, letters and a state. In Sankardeva: Vaisnava Saint of Assam. Natesan and Co. Kakati, B. (1948). The mother goddess Kamakhya: Or, studies in the fusion of Aryan and primitive beliefs of Assam. Guwahati: Lawyer’s Book Stall. Mackenzie, Alexander. (1995). The north-east frontier of India. New Delhi: Mittal Publications. Narzary, P. J. (2017, June 29 and 30). Representing marginality: Texts and traditions with reference to Bodo language and literature. Lecture delivered at a Sahitya Akademi seminar on ‘Representing Marginality: Texts and Traditions of Eastern Indian Languages’ at Gauhati University. Neog, M. (2006). Sri sri Sankardeva. Dibrugarh & Guwahati: Dr. Maheswar Neog Publications Trust. Saikia, Kamal Ch. (2017, June 29 and 30). Chairperson’s lecture delivered at a Sahitya Akademi seminar on ‘Representing Marginality: Texts and Traditions of Eastern Indian Languages’ at Gauhati University. Sharma, J. (2012). Empire’s garden: Assam and the making of India. Ranikhet: Permanent Black. Singh, P. B. (2017, June 29 and 30). Marginality as represented in Manipuri literature: A bird’s eye view. Lecture delivered at a Sahitya Akademi seminar on ‘Representing Marginality: Texts and Traditions of Eastern Indian Languages’ at Gauhati University. Tanti, Kamal Kumar. (2019). An adivasi & an Assamese. In Kamal Kumar Tanti, Post-colonial poems (pp. 106–109). New Delhi: Red River.

7 Nagas: A Bitter Past—From British Period to Nehru Rituparna Bhattacharyya and Venkat Pulla

The following two chapters address the tumultuous struggles of the Nagas, covering the period up to 2019. Their saga begins even before the British colonised India, and for the purposes of this volume we have divided their narrative into two parts. This chapter accounts for the period of British rule and early post-independence, almost up to the 1970s, notably the term of the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. He had much to do with Nagaland until his demise in 1964.

R. Bhattacharyya (*) Research Consultant & Editor-in-Chief, Space and Culture, India, North Shields, UK e-mail: [email protected] V. Pulla Senior Research Fellow (Adjunct), ILWS, Charles Sturt University, NSW, Australia Sessional Academic, Charles Darwin University, NT, Australia Foundation Professor, Brisbane Institute of Strengths Based Practice, NSW, Australia © The Author(s) 2020 V. Pulla et al. (eds.), Discrimination, Challenge and Response, Mapping Global Racisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46251-2_7



R. Bhattacharyya and V. Pulla

 ackground: Language, Ethnicity, Geography B and History The word Naga is an umbrella term for tribes dwelling in both India and Myanmar. According to Shakespear (1914, 195), the Nagas can be divided into four big tribal sections—Angami, Sema, Aoh and Lhota— and two smaller ones—Rengma and Kaccha Nagas. Tohring (2010) classifies 66 sub-tribes of the Nagas who speak Tibeto-Burman dialects/ languages such as Ao, Angami, Lotha, Pochuri, Phom, Mao (Emela), Rongmei (Ruangmei), Poumai, Tangkhul, Thangal, Sumi, Sangtam, Maram, Zeme and Liangmai, but use Nagamese Creole as a lingua franca to communicate amongst themselves (Bhattacharyya 2019). The Nagamese language is similar to yet distinct from the Assamese and uses a blend of Naga and Assamese phrases and words. In Myanmar, the territories of Sagaing Division and Kachin are occupied by Nagas; in India they are found in the states of Assam (Haflong and Diphu), Arunachal Pradesh (Chanflang and Tirap), Manipur (Tamenglong, Senapati, Chandel and Ukhrul) and Nagaland (Phek, Mokokchung, Kohima, Tuesang, Wokha, Mon, Zunheboto and Dimapur). The total area occupied by the Nagas is about 120,000 square kilometres (46,332 square miles). It is this geographical area which the Naga people are demanding sovereignty over, under the name of Nagalim (Fig. 7.1). This chapter will be discussing the intersection of the issue of Nagalim in relation to sovereignty and fragmented sovereignty. Before the British colonised India, the gigantic Brahmaputra plain was ruled by the Ahom Kings for nearly 600 years (1228–1826), while the Meitei Kingdom ruled the current state of Manipur (Imphal Valley), the present state of Tripura, Cachar and Jaintia hills, together with some of the plains of present Bangladesh. The hills, referred to as non-state spaces by Phanjoubam (2014), sandwiched between the valleys provided a home for Nagas, and for Abors, Daflas, Singphos, Miris and Bhutias. The Nagas were ruled by village headmen and chiefs, though some of the villages had a community-based system of governance bearing the characteristics of republicanism but upholding some form of the principles of popular sovereignty (Verghese 1996).

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Fig. 7.1  The Nagalim. (Source: Authors of this chapter. Map prepared by Sanjay Prasad, Director, SAMNE Associates Pvt. Limited, Delhi)


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The kingdoms made efforts to expand their boundaries to the hills abounding in resources. That was resisted by the communities inhabiting them, and they too engaged in ambushes, loot and plunder in the valley. (Fernandes and Borgohain 2017, 5)

The hills served as buffers between the kingdoms, their position resulting in the development of ‘complex and dialectical’ relationships between Nagas and people of the plains. Burmese (now Myanmar) armies took advantage of these unfriendly relations and mounted attacks on the Ahom kingdom, and the kingdoms of Cachar and Jayantia Hills and Imphal Valley in the years 1816, 1817 and 1821, thus gaining access to the eastern borders of the Brahmaputra Valley. This was declared to be the First Burmese War. Aiming to put an end to the subsequent first Anglo-­ Burmese War, the Treaty of Yandaboo was signed between the East India Company and the Governor of Legaing, Maha Min Hla Kyaw Htin, representing the King of Ava, on 24 February 1826, whereby the Burmese relinquished their claims over these kingdoms, with a promise to refrain from future interference. The treaty of Yandaboo is therefore considered as the sign of the political integration of North East India with mainstream British India, in addition to the beginning of British rule in this region and the Arakkan province of Burma (Fernandes and Borgohain 2017). The British not only gained ingress to the Brahmaputra Valley but also won the opportunity to annex the whole region. With the successful initiation of tea production—Camellia sinensis var. assamica—in 1837, and the inception of the Assam Company in 1839, undivided Assam was considered part of the Bengal Presidency during 1826–1873, to be separated again from Bengal in 1874. Manipur was absorbed into the list of the Princely Indian States of the British colony in 1891 (Barpujari 1992; Bhattacharyya 2019). The Angami Nagas were the first to express resistance to British rule. The British had initially imposed a uniform (single) centralised administration on the whole country including this region. Later on, this was modified by the promulgation of the Sixth Schedule, which aimed to grant self-rule to the tribal communities of undivided Assam. The Khonoma village in the Naga Hills deployed fierce resistance to centralised British rule, which ended only with the conquest of Kohima. In

7  Nagas: A Bitter Past—From British Period to Nehru 


1873, the Inner Line Regulations (also known as Bengal Eastern Frontier) were enacted to protect the hilly, forested tribal belt that included the Naga Hills. In substance, these regulations specified the restrictions on entry and mobility within the protected tracts; in reality, they were punitive, introduced to prohibit the people of the plains from gaining access to the protected belts. Missionaries were an exception to this rule. The central aim of Her Majesty’s Government was to protect the tea, oil and elephant trade; this they could only do by restraining the people of the plains from partaking in commercial ventures. Thus segregation, diminished contact and absence of trade relationships added to the alienation of the hill tribes from the people of the plains. The annexation never ceased, and British battalions secured Lotha Naga region by the year 1875 with Wokha as its administrative centre; administration was shifted to Kohima in 1879 (Allen 1905). Similarly, the Ao region was made a part of the Naga Hills district in 1889; and by 1904 and 1910, the boundaries of the Naga Hills district were extended to the territories of Sema Naga and Konyak Naga. The whole was incorporated into Assam province in 1912. Manipur became a British protectorate in 1824 but remained in a peaceful state until the death of King Gambhir Singh (Chinglen Nongdrenkhomba), who passed away a decade later. By 1835, the British had established a residency in the Imphal Valley to gain easy access to the rulers of Manipur. King Gambhir Singh was succeeded by Nara Singh who passed away in 1850. Soon after his death, Manipur found itself being obliged to manoeuvre along a rough road of bloodshed and violent events, and in 1891 the British Political Agent established supremacy by replacing the Manipuri king as the president of the Manipur Darbar, signalling indirect control of Manipur by Britain through a blend of colonialism and feudalism. The entire drive is referred to in British history as the ‘Manipur Expedition, 1891’ and in Manipur annals as the ‘Anglo-­ Manipur War of 1891’ (Kamei 2011). Both the Naga areas in Manipur and the tribal areas in Manipur were excluded from direct administrative control of the Darbar. Similarly, in the region of undivided Assam (the entire North Eastern Region) labour was drawn from the central part of India to work in the tea gardens and to build railways and roads. Most of these developments,


R. Bhattacharyya and V. Pulla

completed by 1830, also eased access for evangelists of many denominations, such as Roman Catholic, American Baptist, Welsh Presbyterian, Lutheran and Anglican. Schools in English were also established for the tribes (Fernandes and Borgohain 2017).

Nationalist Stirrings Renaissance and European Enlightenment ideas did reach India, and people began to think in terms of nationalism, of their own nation. An embryonic form was displayed in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Nagas were not to be left behind; the desire for independence and self-rule inherent in their culture and blood began to take root. Rebellious intent was visible with the Kuki revolt (1917–1919) during which the Kuki tribe of Manipur fought against British colonialism, resulting in blood commotion and the killing of 477 British soldiers. Participation in World War I (1914–1918), when the British government approached the Government of British India for volunteers to join labour corps to serve in both France and Mesopotamia, meant that volunteers, including Nagas and Kukis, were recruited from places like the United Provinces, Bihar & Orissa, Assam, North-West Frontier, Burma and Bengal. Upon return, strengthened by education and ethnogeneses, the Nagas developed a sense of unity, and a pan-Naga identity was forged. The Nagas soon showed signs of vivid intransigence: the formation of the Naga Club in 1918 (Chakravarty 2017; Fernandes and Borgohain 2017) heralded their aspirations for a sovereign nation, albeit their original demand for autonomy was within the Union of India but via a separate electorate.

The Run-Up to Indian Independence The British Government of India Act 1919 (9 & 10 Geo. 5 c. 101), an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, gave assent on 23 December 1919 for a diarchic system of governance, and endorsed increased participation of Indians in the British Government of India over a 10-year period (1919 to 1929). This Act covered the Naga Hills

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District, though treating it as a ‘Backward Tract’ detached from the British Indian Empire. Further, in 1941, in a classified move, the Governor of Assam, Robert Reid, acting on best advice from a number of officers, created a new political British Crown Colony/ Protectorate by carving out the hilly areas of North East India and Kachin in northwestern Burma. Later, in 1946, these included areas of Nagas came under the Coupland Plan,1 which was meant to be a reward for the Nagas for their participation in World War I.  As per  another recommendation of the Montague–Chelmsford Reforms of 1919, the Simon Commission (also referred to as the Indian Statutory Commission), a group of seven members of the British Parliament under the leadership of Sir John Simon assisted by Clement Attlee, arrived in 1928 to review the constitutional reforms of the country. When this commission visited the Naga Hills, a 20-member team of the Naga Club submitted a memorandum on 10 January 1929 expressing their objection to being made a part of India following the Government of India Act of 1935. The memorandum read: Before the British Government conquered our country in 1879–80, we were living in a state of intermittent warfare with the Assamese of the Assam valley to the North and West of our country and Manipuris to the South. They never conquered us nor were we subjected to their rules. On the other hand, we were always a terror to these people. Our country within the administered area consists of more than eight regions quite different from one another, with quite different languages which cannot be understood by each other, and there are more regions outside the administered area which are not known at present. We have no unity among us, and it is only the British Government that is holding us together now. Our education is poor. (…) Our country is poor, and it does not pay for any administration. Therefore if it is continued to be placed under Reformed  In 1941, during the period of governing directly from Whitehall, this plan had failed to receive due attention. It was reviewed in 1946 by Sir Reginald Coupland, a British constitutional expert, and became known as the Coupland Plan. Having acknowledged the services of the Nagas in World Wars I and II, Sir Reginald evaluated the earlier proposal and re-proposed the plan. It ‘envisaged [that] the Government of India and Burma would have a treaty with British Government to share the responsibility for the Naga-inhabited areas as “Trust Territory”’. However, this was rejected by the Nagas and they demanded that the ‘British must quit’; it was also not agreed [upon] by Sir Andrew Clow… Moreover, the Labour Party in England [too] did not want to retain the colony (Kotwal 2000; Syiemlieh 2014; Tohring 2010, 33). 1


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Scheme, we are afraid new and heavy taxes will have to be imposed on us, and when we cannot pay, then all lands have to be sold and in the long run we shall have no share in the land of our birth and life will not be worth living then. Though our land at present is within the British territory, Government have always recognised our privacy rights in it, but if we are forced to enter the council the majority of whose number is sure to belong to other districts, we also have much fear the introduction of foreign laws and customs to supersede our own customary laws which we now enjoy. (Sharma 2006, 33–35)

Thereupon, the Naga Hills was sanctioned to remain as an ‘Excluded Area’ outside the Indian Constitution Act, 1935, which divided the colony into British India and British Burma. The phrase ‘Excluded Area’ is a ‘lineal descendant of the older phrase Backward Tracts’, meaning that ‘the areas enumerated as such in the Government of India Act, 1935 are excluded from the operation of the said Act. They are directly administered by the Governor, and the elected Ministry have no jurisdiction over them’ (Reid 1944, 18). However, on 1 April 1939, vide order 1936, the Naga Hills District was declared the ‘Naga Hills Excluded Area’ under the Excluded and Partially Excluded Area of the Government of India, to be administered by the Governor of Assam, using his discretionary power as the agent of the Government of the British-Indian Empire. The hilly areas of Assam were classified into two categories by this Act. The Balipara and Sadia Frontier tracts, the Naga Hills District, and the Lushai Hills District were classified as excluded areas, denying political participation of these areas so that they were unrepresented in the legislature. The Garo Hills District, the Khasi–Jaintia Hills district (excluding Shillong) and Mikir Hills were classified as partially excluded areas, allowing the people of the areas to elect members to the legislature. In April 1945, the Naga Hills District Tribal Council was established under its architect, C. R. Pawsey, the last Deputy Commissioner of the Naga Hills District. It was a platform intended to serve as a collective agency for the Nagas. However, soon afterwards, on 2 February 1946, this forum replaced the Naga Club by reorganising into the Naga National Council (NNC), a political organisation with founding Vice-­ President Mayangnokcha Ao, Secretary Imti Aliba Ao and Joint Secretary,

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T. Sakhrie Imti Aliba, an Angami Naga. NNC, with its two central councils at Kohima and Mokokchung, asserted the right to self-­determination, and initially this idea was endorsed by Jawaharlal Nehru of the Indian National Congress. But NNC’s agenda was transformed into a secessionist agenda under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo (1904–1990), revered as ‘Father of the Nagas’ by the Naga secessionist groups. In 1946, when a British Cabinet Mission travelling at the behest of Clement Attlee, the British prime minister, arrived in India to discuss issues linked to ‘power transfer’ from British to Indian leadership, the NNC informed it of their demand for an autonomous status for the Naga-inhabited region. Following the publication of the Cabinet Mission report of 1946, the Nagas passed a resolution at Wokha in Mokokchung on 19 June 1946 not only stating their discontent regarding the geopolitics of the grouping of Assam in Bengal, but also calling for a localised autonomy for the Naga Hills District through its incorporation into an autonomous Assam in independent India, in addition to emphasising the need for a separate electorate for the Naga tribe. In November 1946, in response to these demands, Gopinath Bordoloi, the first chief minister of Assam and a Gandhian follower who believed in non-violence, visited the Naga Hills. However, in its Mokokchung winter session in December 1946, the NNC called for urgent implementation of Naga independence following the transfer of power and departure of the British from Hindustan. Accordingly, on 20 February 1947 at Kohima, the NNC council passed a resolution on a proposal demanding an Interim Government of the Nagas (under the umbrella of a ‘Guardian Power’) for ten years. The council resolution, however, did not make clear whom the NNC was referring to as the ‘Guardian Power’ (the Government of Britain, of India or the province). In May of the same year, the NNC reiterated its demand for a ‘Guardian Power’ by submitting a second memorandum wherein it explained the finer details with further clarification. In response to their demands, a sub-committee of the Constitution Assembly of the Government of India, known as the Bardoloi sub-committee, visited Kohima in May 1947 for a three-day discussion of Naga political affairs. Although the Kohima Central Council of the NNC had failed to propose anyone for co-option to the Bordoloi sub-committee, Mayangnokcha Ao was nominated, but he refused to accept the position. Therefore, Aliba


R. Bhattacharyya and V. Pulla

Imti was recommended to take the position. Upon reaching Kohima, the Bardoloi subcommittee found that the position of a permanent president of the NNC was yet to be filled. Further, the subcommittee, without actually visiting Mokokchung subdivision, observed that the overall atmosphere of the NNC had become volatile and was experiencing duress under the leadership of Kevichusa and Lungalong belonging to the Angami Nagas. While Kezehol, an Angami member vetoed the Bordoloi report, Khetloushe, a Sema member had accepted the report, who later on replaced Kezehol upon his resignation. The Bordoloi sub-committee reported that many of the Naga leaders were in favour of the maiden resolution passed at Wokha, which embodied moderate views, yet the pertinacity of a few members belonging to the Angami group had inhibited them from taking a firm stand. Aliba Imti continued to mediate between the NNC members and the government, and as a consequence, on 26 June 1947, the then Assam Governor, Muhammad Saleh Akbar Hydari, visited ‘Kohima’ to put forward a solution to the Naga political problem. In response, the NNC submitted a memorandum. Akbar Hydari proffered a plan for a ‘10-year agreement’, with leaders Sakhrie and Aliba Imti. This agreement, which is popularly known as the Naga–Akbar Hydari Accord (Nine Point Agreement 1947) was signed between Akbar Hydari and the representatives of the NNC (Western Angamis, Eastern Angamis, Kukis, Kacha Nagas (Mzemi), Rengmas, Semas, Lothas, Aos, Sangtams and Changs) at Kohima. The very first line of the agreement read: ‘[t]hat the right of the Nagas to develop themselves according to their freely expressed wishes is recognised.’ However, Clause 9 of the agreement appeared contentious. It presumed that the NNC would be governing Nagalim in the form of a Protected State with India as Guardian Power for a decade; at the end of the 10-year period, the NNC would either have to renew the agreement or enter into a new one. Clause 9 read as: Period of Agreement—The Governor of Assam as the Agent of the Government of the Indian Union will have a special responsibility for a period of 10 years to ensure the observance of the agreement; at the end of this period the Naga Council will be asked whether they require the above

7  Nagas: A Bitter Past—From British Period to Nehru 


agreement to be extended for a further period or a new agreement regarding the future of Naga people arrived at.

The NNC perhaps misconstrued this clause; it interpreted the agreement as an accomplishment of sovereignty with moderation for self-­ determination at the end of the 10-year period. In Delhi on 19 July 1947, an 11-member Naga delegation led by A. Z. Phizo, Viselie, Khrehie and Seto brought the agreement to Gandhiji’s attention alongside the overall issue of autonomy of the Nagas. The NNC secretary T.  Sakhrie had expressed apprehension in a letter that the Government of India might use military coercion to occupy the Naga territory. As India moved through the last stages of gaining independence from the British, Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress began negotiating with principalities to join the Union of India, and apparently there was discussion with the Naga leaders. At the 19 July Delhi meeting, Gandhi himself assured the visiting NNC delegation in Delhi that: The Nagas have every right to become independent. I don’t believe in force and forced unions. If you do not wish to join the Union of India nobody will force you to do that. (People’s Union for Democratic Rights (1986, 572)

Nagas at the Time of Indian Independence Despite Gandhi’s assurance, in August 1947, against their will, the Nagas became part of the Indian Union. The Naga leadership continued to quote the remarks of Gandhiji, which apparently had the support from the Congress Working Committee. On the eve of India’s independence (14 August 1947), the Nagas of the excluded group (that is, Southern Nagas subsuming Manipur Nagas, Cachar Nagas alongside Konyak Nagas) declared the independence of Nagalim and accordingly cabled this declaration to the United Nations, Britain, the Interim Government of India, and the Commonwealth Relations Office. Simultaneously, the administration of India hoisted the tricolour in areas dominated by the Nagas in Kohima, although there were elements of the Naga community


R. Bhattacharyya and V. Pulla

that attempted to bring flags down. Assurances and declarations notwithstanding, the Naga territory became a part of the Indian Union. On 4 January 1948, Burma, too, gained independence from British colonial rule. The Burmese Army asserted that the eastern part of Nagalim was a part of the Union of Myanmar, and this prompted the Nagas to fight against the Burmese. Following this, on 9 May 1948, a two-member Naga delegation met the Governor of Assam, Akbar Hydari, at Shillong, aiming to clarify the meaning of the Naga–Akbar Hydari Accord (the ‘Nine Point Agreement’). The delegation was informed that the agreement was to be encapsulated in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India, which was to be adopted on 26 November 1949 and which did become functional on 26 January 1950. The Nagas, who had considered the agreement as a form of treaty, were reassured on 11 June 1948 of its full implementation as a way of recognising the right to self-­determination of the Nagas by the Shillong administration.2 The Shillong administration signed the Agreement on 22 June 1948. The newly formed government of independent India, however, continued with the same policy as the British by choosing to segregate the northeast. In so doing, it categorically incorporated the Naga Hills District as an Autonomous District administered by the Government of Assam, with a limited representation in the Assam State Legislative Assembly and the Parliament of India, subsuming it into the Part A tribal areas category. In the Part B tribal areas category, it had incorporated the Naga Tribal Area (Tuensang) to be administered by the Governor of Assam, operating as an ‘Agent of the President of India’. On 8 November 1949, a three-member Naga delegation again visited and met representatives of the Indian government in Shillong to attempt to clarify and hence, jointly with India come to understand the actual status of the Nine Point Agreement and the Nagas’ right to self-determination. Although the Naga leaders interpreted Clause 9 of the agreement as meaning that they would be able to assert their right to independence at the end of the 10 years, the Government of the Indian Union refused to acknowledge this interpretation and the agreement stood repudiated. Following this, on 28 November, an  Vide the memo 490/C-Shillong. H.E. the Governor of Assam and the premier of Assam (Memo No. 88-c/47-570-72). 2

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11-member Naga delegation met the newly appointed Governor-General of the Indian Union, Shri. C. Rajagopalachari, who stated that they: were at full liberty to do as they liked, either to become part of India or to be separate if they felt it would be best in their interests to be isolated. (People’s Union for Democratic Rights 1986, 572)

Yet, the reality turned out to be contrary to this statement, which was unacceptable to the Naga leaders. The intransigent NNC leader, Angami Zapu Phizo, seeded secessionist ideology. Just before independence, Phizo had tried hard to persuade the leaders of Assam, Garo, Khasi, Lushai, Abor, Mishmi and Meitei to join forces in a struggle for separate independent nationhood by not becoming part of Indian Union. Although Phizo failed in his attempt, he emerged as a supreme leader of the NNC by becoming the third NNC chairperson after defeating Vizar Angami of Zakhama village in October–November 1949 in a vote which was held in the absence of the majority of other leaders. Under Phizo’s leadership the NNC endeavoured to secede from India. Accordingly, on 30 December 1949, the NNC, which emerged as the administrative authority in the Naga Hills excluded area, announced a sovereign state of Nagaland at an earliest possible date. However, when the four-person delegation arrived at New Delhi on 9 January 1950 to meet the Governor General of the Indian Union, the External Ministry refused a meeting, instead requesting the delegation to pay a visit to the Governor of Assam, Shri Prakash. The NNC delegation made it clear that the Indian Constitution could not bind the Nagas even though it had been transformed into a piece of legislation. By 24 January 1950 the Government of the Indian Union, the United Nations and all the foreign ambassadors in New Delhi were informed by the NNC that the Nagas had taken a pledge not to accept the Constitution of India. In accordance with this pledge, on 18 February 1950, the NNC did not send any representative to the Indian Union assemblies or parliament. On 8 May 1950, the Indian government called on the Nagas to set up district autonomy; on 25 May the NNC rejected this call. In an attempt to assess the situation in Nagalim, Mr Jairamdas Doulatram, the new Governor of Assam, paid his first visit to Kohima on 29 June 1950. In the midst of the


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Naga crisis, on the evening of 15 August 1950, the whole region of undivided Assam and Tibet experienced a massive earthquake of magnitude 8.6 with an epicentre in the Mishmi Hills. Popularly known as Assam earthquake and considered the ninth-largest earthquake in the world since 1900, it took a recorded toll of 1526 fatalities in Assam and 3300 in Tibet. Due to this unprecedented emergency, the issues of the Naga imbroglio came to a standstill for a few months. Notwithstanding, there was a report that on 16 October 1950 the Indian government had sent the Assam Oil Company to Chumukedima, a site in Nagalim, for drilling and extraction of oil. However, a 50-member team of representatives of the Nagas met the company and requested them not to proceed with the oil drilling operations. There was a press report divulging that the Indian government had received a royalty of INR 30 million for oil extracted from Nagalim, and in reaction to this a 12-member Naga delegation headed to Shillong, the then capital of Assam on 27 October 1950 intending to meet the first president of independent India, Dr Rajendra Prasad. The Government of Assam, however, denied the team access to the president. Hence, the team submitted a memorandum to the president through the Chief Minister, Bisnuram Medhi. Seemingly, on 30 October, the letter was sent to the President Prasad informing him of the firm stand of the Nagas for an independent Nagalim. Since the Indian government maintained a recalcitrant attitude towards the issue of Nagalim, the chief minister of Assam was apprised of the decision of the Nagas to become independent when he visited Kohima and Mokokchung in December 1950. This NNC decision was conveyed to the Indian government on 1 January 1951, leading the Government of India to denounce the NNC as the ‘voice of the misguided’. The NNC continued their peaceful protest by refusing to assimilate into the socio-political system; instead they sent a letter on 30 March to the president requesting the government send a representative as an observer of a voluntary plebiscite, which was conducted on 16 May 1951. The result of this referendum was a 99 per cent vote in favour of a ‘sovereign Naga state’—an absolute majority for self-determination. This figure was not challenged by B. N. Mullik, the Director of the Intelligence Bureau. The full text of

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the speech given by NNC President Angami Zapu Phizo at Kohima on the day of the plebiscite is available.3 The Indian government declared the plebiscite to be illegal. It should be noted that in the initial years of the NNC, that is, from 2 February 1946 to 1954, the protest was carried on through a non-violent civil disobedience movement. However, it gradually transformed into a violent secessionist movement, in response to the brutal suppression by the Indian government.

Sovereignty, State of Exception, and Nagalim We will make an attempt to understand the central concerns of Nagalim through the lenses of sovereignty and the ‘state of exception’. Supreme authority over a political community is referred to as sovereignty. With the rise of European power, the notion of sovereignty became central to international legislation and relations, and was endorsed by the United Nations Charter of 1945; the key objective of this charter is to uphold the human rights of citizens of nation states. Agnew (2005), however, demystifies the notion of sovereignty, calling for ‘effective sovereignty’ by which he proposes that in an increasingly globalised world, the notion of sovereignty varies within territorial, inter-state, and spatial geographies (see Agnew 2005; Taylor 1995). India, for instance is a polymorphous multiplicity of non-linear and hierarchal sovereign power consisting of three tiers of governance—the federal or central government, the state or provincial governments, the municipalities in the urban areas and the panchayats (local administrations in rural areas), combined with/complicated by quasi-state actors (armed forces and paramilitaries, inter-­ governmental agencies and other institutional actors including non-governmental agencies). However, the degree of power, autonomy, and self-determination varies amongst the different actors. In the context of the northeast, non-state actors (insurgent groups) located close to India’s borderlands continually provide political fuel through demands spanning from ‘sovereignty through to creating independent nation(s) or  The full speech can be read at http://www.neuenhofer.de/guenter/nagaland/phizo.html



R. Bhattacharyya and V. Pulla

homeland(s) to demanding better lives’ (Bhattacharyya 2018, 37). Indeed due to the nature of complexities entailed in these arrangements, we tend to agree with Agnew (2005, 431) when he asserts that ‘sovereignty is neither inherently territorial nor is it exclusively organized on a state-by-­ state basis’, instead, as stated above, he calls for effective sovereignty, which is ‘not necessarily predicated on and defined by the strict and fixed territorial boundaries of individual states’ (438). Similarly, ideas of Carl Schmitt (1888–1985) make sense in the context of Nagalim, that any legal order would not be functional without a sovereign authority. He propounded the notion of sovereign exception and identified its association solely with borderland territories. This applies to Nagaland and (or) proposed Nagalim, and not elsewhere. This notion was revisited and radicalised by Giorgio Agamben (1998, 2005). He argued that in the spaces of exception (borderlands, camps), sovereignty is either excessively determined or is deeply eroded, giving rise to a new form of sovereign power ‘in the name of humanitarianism, development and security’ (Dunn and Cons 2014, 92). Earlier, Schmitt (1922, 2005) further contended that in a polity, any person or institution dwelling in topological (disturbed) spaces, is able to suspend legislation completely, though legally required to deploy additional forces to bring in normalcy. As discussed in Chap. 5, in parts of North East India, and in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) continues to operate in a ‘state of exception’ to tackle counter-insurgency/ terrorism, in this way foregrounding ‘fragmented sovereignty’. AFSPA is indeed an archaic piece of legislation, promulgated on 22 May 1958 in the then undivided Assam on the pretext of its being a disturbed area under the Assam Disturbed Areas Act4 of 21 December 1955 (Bhattacharyya 2018; Iralu 2015).5 It is a replica of the Armed Forces  This Act was enacted to provide legal safeguards to the armed forces of Assam Rifles and Assam Armed Police, who were deployed to control the Indo-Naga conflict that emerged in the 1950s in the Naga Hills of undivided Assam. 5  Assam Act XIX of 1955: The Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955. Retrieved on 11 April 2019 from, https://legislative.assam.gov.in/sites/default/files/swf_utility_folder/departments/legislative_medhassu_in_oid_3/menu/document/The%20Assam%20Disturbed%20Area%20Act%2C%20 1955.pdf 4

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(Special Powers) Ordinance, 1942, which was enacted by British colonial rule to curb the August Kranti or Civil Disobedience Movement of 9 August 1942.6 This is why AFSPA7 is considered not only colonial in its content but also draconian—Sections 4, 5 and 6 allow intensive powers even to a sergeant of the armed forces to shoot at sight on mere suspicion, and grant the armed forces immunity for all forms of crime, including murder, rape and gang rape (Bhattacharyya 2018). Although since 2005, a number of commissions (Jeevan Reddy Commission 2005;8 Veerapa Moily’s Administrative Reforms Committee 2007;9 Santosh Hegde Commission 2013)10 have advocated revocation of AFSPA, it continues to be applied in the region, albeit to varying degrees—since 1 April 2018, AFSPA has been revoked from Meghalaya (but it remains effective within 10  km of the Assam-Meghalaya border) and from parts of Arunachal Pradesh (AFSPA continues to be in force in 11 police station areas in Tirap, Longding and Changlang districts bordering Assam, reduced from its earlier enactment in 16 police stations); although AFSPA was repealed from Tripura in 2015, it continues to be in force in the whole of Assam, Nagaland and Manipur (except for the Imphal Municipal area) (Bhattacharyya 2018; Singh 2018). According to Lund (2011) ‘fragmented sovereignty’ helps one to understand the disputes of control over land, resources and geographical spaces between the state and non-state actors (see also Mark 2015; Richani 2007). The Naga sovereignty demand bears a striking resemblance to the engagement of guerrilla warfare (armed conflict) by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army, tempered by  During World War II, Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian nationalist movement, launched a mass rebellion across the nation, demanding withdrawal of the British regime from India (James 1997). 7  The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, Act No. 28 of 1958 [11th September 1958] 8  Report of the Committee to Review the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, 2005. Retrieved from, http://notorture.ahrchk.net/profile/ india/ArmedForcesAct1958.pdf. 9  Fifth Report: Second Administrative Reforms Commission-Public Order, Government of India. Retrieved from, http://darpg.gov.in/sites/default/files/public_order5.pdf. 10  Hegde Commission submits report on Manipur extrajudicial killings, Human Rights Law Network. Retrieved from, http://www.hrln.org/hrln/criminal-justice/reports/1501-santosh-hegde-­ commission-submitsreport-onmanipur-extra-judicial-killings.html#ixzz4Kh7zdWJ6. 6


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Marxist and Leninist ideology (Richani 2007). While the Republic of Colombia is a sovereign member state of the United Nations, the FARC insurgency groups of small farmers and land workers, continued their armed struggles until recently and finally joined a reconciliation process with the Colombian government in 2017. Indeed, the whole journey of FARC is a demonstration of the persistence of violent protests against the bourgeoisie, small groups of elites and big landowners.

The Naga National Movement The foundation of the Naga National Movement (NNM), based on the Naga Club formed in 1918, which engendered socio-political ambition amongst the Nagas in 1929 and their right to self-determination (founded on ethnogenesis of the Nagas) and a sovereign Nagalim with the formation of Naga National Council in 1946 (discussed below), provides another understanding of fragmented sovereignty. This chapter, therefore, uses the dynamics of the challenges of the Greater Nagalim demand and its associated NNM to demonstrate the notion of fragmented sovereignty. AFSPA arguably has become the permanent law of the land through its punitive measures of power—the ‘counter-security weapon’ in a land of fragmented sovereignty. However, the pre-independence demand for Greater Nagalim and promulgation of AFSPA through its draconian exercise of power (from 1958  in the then undivided Assam until current times) have underscored fragmented sovereignty. This section sheds light on the Naga history that demonstrated rebelliousness leading to the Naga National Movement. On 25 January 1952, though India was ready for its first general election and had deployed heavy armed forces in the proposed Nagalim, the Nagas succeeded in boycotting the election. However, ever since 27 August 1948, the Assam Rifles had been engaging in Naga homicide— for instance, incidents from Mao Gate (a border Naga village) to Tuensang region, the killing of Zasibito (Jotsoma), a Naga leader and an Assistant Judge from Kohima, plus other incidents right up to March 1955 (Bhattacharyya 2019; Iralu 2015; Peoples Union for Democratic Rights 1986; Tohring 2010; Vashum 2000; Verghese 1996). On 3 March 1953,

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when the prime ministers of India and Burma reached Kohima to discuss the process of dividing Nagalim between the two countries, they not only received a warm and friendly welcome from the Naga representatives but also more than 10,000 Nagas came to attend the meeting. However, Mr Nehru not only failed to maintain an attitude of openness but also failed to find out the wishes of the Nagas; instead, he told the Nagas what they would have to do. The Naga leaders were denied an on-the-spot interview with Nehru; as a consequence they walked out of the reception and were branded as secessionists by the government. In April 1953, the government introduced the Assam Maintenance of Public Order (Autonomous Districts) Act, amended in 1968. Angami Zapu Phizo could now safely predict that there was only a remote possibility of a peaceful solution to the issue of Nagalim and so, buttressed by the Chang Chiefs of Tuensang, he reorganised the NNC and in September 1954 declared the ‘People’s Sovereign Republic of Free Nagaland’ (Chaube 1999). However, incongruity started infiltrating Naga politics—at a meeting in the Khonoma village in 1955, the native village of Phizo, the Angami leaders T. Sakhrie, John Bosco Jasokie and P. Shily Ao drifted apart following a disagreement with Phizo (Chaube 1999; Samaddar 2017) and there remains a strong suspicion that, because of this rift, Phizo killed T. Sakhrie in January 1956. Following that killing, other dissenting leaders—John Bosco Jasokie and P.  Shily Ao—sought refuge with official Indian forces. As stated elsewhere, the Assam Disturbed Areas Act was promulgated in the Naga Hills on 21 December 1955, a piece of legislation labelled ‘mini AFSPA’ by Iralu (Iralu 2015, 2009); the government declared Naga Hills as a disturbed area in January 1956; and AFSPA has continued to be applied in the areas of Nagalim since 1958. These Acts were exercised to serve as political tyranny in the form of fake encounters, arrest, rape, assaults, pillage, kidnap, blatant torture and terrorism against the Nagas even on trivial matters during search operations, cordon and crackdowns (Bhattacharyya 2019; Ranjan 2015; Iralu 2015, 2019). In May 1953, Assam Police and Assam Rifles launched a massive hunt in Khonoma village searching for Phizo. In retaliation to this hunt, the NNC established a Supreme Court on 4 July 1954. Soon after, the Naga Hills District was declared a ‘Disturbed Area’. On 14 January 1956 the NNC constituted


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and approved the Yehzabo (Constitution) of Nagaland. Following this, on 22 March 1956, the NNC formed the Naga Central Government (renamed the Federal Government Nagaland [FGN] in 1959) comprising Naga Hills Excluded Areas and the independent Nagas of Free Nagaland. On the same platform, the Tatar Hoho, the parliament of the FGN, approved of the name ‘Nagaland’. Simultaneously, to counter the armed forces that remained dotted in the Naga landscape, an underground armed wing, the Naga Federal Army (NFA), was launched. In 1955, the Indian government introduced the ‘village grouping system’ across the Naga Hills, a policy through which many villages were uprooted, amalgamated and relocated in 59 new locations, which turned out to be concentration camps with restricted mobility and with little or no space for cultivation. Iralu (2015) argues that the Nagas initiated a counter-attack on 22 March 1955 only after the armed forces had killed 2000 Nagas. While there is always a denial and counter-denial between the state, central and military forces, estimates of the massacre are found in a memorandum entitled The Fate of the Naga People—An Appeal to the World,11 which was distributed by Phizo to the world’s press on 26 July 1960 in London and submitted to the United Nations on 8 October 1960. The scale of the massacre attested to by Phizo is beyond comprehension. The narrative was least known outside India too, but within India the vast majority of mainstream Indians remain utterly unaware of the horrific accounts presented in the above report. It is arguable that AFSPA as a counter-security tool has been intersecting with sovereignty in Nagalim (indeed, in various parts of entire North East India) to produce a state of exception, which in turn has reproduced fragmented sovereignty. In the arguments of Agamben then, ‘modern [fragmented] sovereignty is founded on these zones of “exception”, whose populations are rendered into “homines sacri” [forcibly reduced to bare life], or people deprived of social and political rights and defined primarily by their abjection and suffering’ (Agamben 1998; Dunn and Cons 2014, 92).  The full text of the memorandum is accessible at Naga National Council, Urra-Nagaland. Retrieved on 27 April 2019 from, http://naganationalcouncil.org/the%20Fate%20of%20the%20 Naga%20People.html 11

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Notwithstanding, in June 1956, Mr S.M.  Dutt, the then Deputy Director of the Intelligence Bureau, called for a meeting with the Naga leaders who adhered to a less revolutionary ideology. He addressed this meeting as a Working Committee Meeting, and as a consequence of those discussions the Naga People’s Convention (NPC) was created. The NPC held its first convention in Kohima on 23 August 1956 giving rise to the creation of Naga Hills–Tuensang Area (under the Naga Hills– Tuensang Area Act, 1957),12 an autonomous district comprising of Kohima, Mokokchung and Tuensang districts to be governed centrally by a Commissioner of India. In the aftermath of the formation of the Naga Central Government, on 13 August 1956 at Phensenyu village, Rengma Region, during the ongoing volatile situation in the Naga Hills, the NNC arrived at a decision to send Phizo on an overseas mission to inform the world about the Naga people’s suffering at the hands of Indian armed forces. Accordingly, Phizo planned his escape route via Angami and Zeliangrong regions through to East Pakistan in December 1956, eventually reaching London on 16 June 1960. On 21 May 1957, Ungma, Mokokchung hosted the Second Naga People’s Convention. In 1958, too, the Naga People’s Convention was held at Mokokchung, which produced a draft for a new agreement between the Indian government and the NPC; the convention accepted the draft, which was known as the ‘16 Point Agreement’. This demanded that the Naga Hills–Tuensang Area should be constituted into a state under the Indian Union, to be known as Nagaland.13 Accordingly, the final draft was approved in July 1959 and later, coinciding with Phizo’s address to the world press, that is, on 26 July 1960, the agreement came into force. This was followed by the introduction of the Nagaland Security Regulation, 1962 on 11 April 1962. Central to this Act was the intention to annihilate incendiary and insurgent activities in the region in addition to the perpetuation of supply of all vital goods and services, and the quintessential maintenance of military requirements  The Tuensang Division geo-spatially located at an average elevation of 4498 feet (1371 metres) above mean sea level was carved out of the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA). 13  The 16 Point Agreement was agreed upon between the Government of India and the Naga People’s Convention. Retrieved on 27 April 2019 from, https://peacemaker.un.org/sites/peacemaker.un.org/files/IN_600726_The%20sixteen%20point%20Agreement_0.pdf 12


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(Kotwal 2000). Prime Minister Nehru moved the bills linked to the creation of the sixteenth state of the Indian Union as the 13th Amendment of the Constitution of India—the Constitution (Thirteenth Amendment), 196214; insertion of Article 371A and the State of Nagaland15— in August 1962, and they received presidential assent on 4 September 1962. In 1963, while the official preparations for the creation of the state were ongoing, the NPC emerged as the Nagaland Nationalist Organisation (NNO), and NNC supporters formed the Democratic Party of Nagaland. Finally, on 1 December 1963 in Kohima, the president of India declared Nagaland comprising an area of 16,579 square kilometres (6,401 square miles) as a fully fledged state, appointing P.  Shily Ao as the first chief minister to govern the state under the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India (as per the 16-point Agreement) and incorporation of Article 371A, which states: Article 371 A provides that the laws made by the Parliament are not applicable to the State of Nagaland unless the Legislative Council of Nagaland passes a resolution in this regard. The Governor of Nagaland is entrusted with the responsibility to maintain law and order for so long as the internal disturbances happening in the Naga Hills-Tuensang Area continue before the formation of the new State and shall take action on his individual judgment after consultation with the Council of Ministers.16

However, ‘the majority of the Naga-inhabited areas fell outside [the] geographical boundary of Nagaland’ (Bhattacharyya 2019, 118) and this continued to spark subversive activities in the name of the right to selfdetermination by several insurgent groups, although the scale of violence reduced greatly after the creation of the state. Nonetheless, sporadic instances of bloodbath and ambushes continued to make headlines.  The Parliament of India promulgated The Constitution (thirteenth Amendment) Act, 1962 on 28 December 1962 15  Later on, it became the State of Nagaland Act, 1962. It became operational on 12 December 1963. The full text of this Act can be accessed at The State of Nagaland Act, 1962. Retrieved on 28 April 2019 from, http://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1962-27.pdf 16  The State of Nagaland Act, 1962. Lawyerslaw.org. Retrieved on 28 April 2019 from, https:// lawyerslaw.org/the-state-of-nagaland-act-1962/ 14

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In April 1964, a peace mission was constituted under the leadership of veteran political leader, Jai Prakash Narayan, Bimala Prasad Chaliha (the then Assam chief minister) and British priest, Reverend Michael Scott, through which an international cease-fire agreement was signed on 24 May 1964 at Sakraba in Chakhesang Region between the Government of India and the Federal Government of Nagaland. This came into effect on 6 September 1964, the death of Nehru on 27 May 1964 having slowed progress of the bilateral peace talks between the Government of India and the State Government of Nagaland.

References Agamben, G. (1998). Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare life (D.  Heller-­ Roazen, Trans.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Agamben, G. (2005). State of Exception. Trans. Kevin Attell. Chicago: University of Chicago Press Agnew, J. (2005). Sovereignty Regimes: Territoriality and State Authority in Contemporary World Politics, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 95(2), pp. 437–461 Allen, B. C. (1905). Gazetteer of Naga Hills and Manipur. New Delhi: Mittal Publications. Assam Maintenance of Public Order (Amendment) Act. (1968). An amendment of 1953 Act. Retrieved April 11, 2019, from https://legislative.assam. gov.in/sites/default/files/swf_utility_folder/departments/legislative_medhassu_in_oid_3/menu/document/The%20Assam%20Maintenance%20 of%20Public%20Order%20%28Amendment%29%20Act%2C.pdf Barpujari, H. K. (1992). The Comprehensive History of Assam (Vol. IV). Guwahati: Publication Board Assam. Bhattacharyya, R. (2018). Living with Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) as Everyday Life. GeoJournal, 83(1), 31–48. https://doi. org/10.1007/s10708-016-9752-9. Bhattacharyya, R. (2019). Chapter Six: Did India’s Partition Lead to Segregation of North East India? In A.  Ranjan (Ed.), Partition of India: Postcolonial Legacies. New Delhi: Routledge. Chakravarty, S. (2017, August 16). A ‘war of independence’ that India Forgot: Kukis Rose up against the British in 1917. Scroll.in. Retrieved January 24,


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2019, from https://scroll.in/article/847136/a-war-of-independence-thatindia-forgot-kukis-rose-up-against-the-british-in-1917 Chaube, K. S. (1999) [1973]. Hill Politics in Northeast India. New Delhi: Orient Dunn, E., & Cons, J. (2014). Aleatory Sovereignty and the Rule of Sensitive Spaces. Antipode, 46(1), 92–109. https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12028. Fernandes, W., & Borgohain, B. (2017). Rethinking Autonomy, Self-determination, and Sovereignty: Search for Peace in Northeast India. North-Eastern Social Research Centre (Gauhati, India), & Indian Social Institute Iralu, K. (2015, July 14). The Assam Disturbed Area Act 1955 And Who Disturbed Who? The Morung Express. Retrieved March 1, 2018, from, http:// morungexpress.com/the-assam-disturbed-area-act-1955-and-whodisturbed-who/ Iralu, K. (2019, March 02). Indo Naga Talks: Impracticable Pragmatism? The Naga Republic. Retrieved May 4, 2019, from http://www.thenagarepublic. com/files/indo-naga-talks-impracticable-pragmatism-by-kaka-d-iralu/ James L. (1997). The Making and Unmaking of British India, Abacus: London Jeevan Reddy Commission (2005). Report of the Committee to Review the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, 2005. Retrieved 5 August 2017 from, http://notorture.ahrchk. net/profile/india/ArmedForcesAct1958.pdf. Kamei G. (2011, 6 November). Colonial Policy and Practice in Manipur, Imphal Free Press. Retrieved 25 January 2019 from, https://www.ifp.co.in/page/ items/2745/2745-colonial-policy-and-practice-in-manipur Kotwal, D. (2000). The Naga Insurgency: The Past and the Future. Journal Strategic Analysis, 24(4), 751–772. https://doi.org/10.1080/097001 60008455245. Lund C. (2011). Fragmented Sovereignty: Land Reform and Dispossession in Laos, Journal of Peasant Studies, 38(4), 885–905, http://dx.doi.org/10.108 0/03066150.2011.607709 Mark, S.S. (2015). “Fragmented Sovereignty” over Property Institutions: Developmental Impacts on the Chin Hills Communities, Independent Journal of Burmese Scholarship, 1(1), 131–160 Naga-Akbar Hydari Accord (Nine Point Agreement), Kohima, 26–28 June 1947. Retrieved February 14, 2019, from, https://peacemaker.un.org/sites/ peacemaker.un.org/files/IN_470628_Naga-Akbar%20Hydari%20 Accord.pdf Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (1986). Disturbed Areas-The Roots of Repression in Nagaland, Mizoram and Andhra Pradesh. In Desai, Akshayakumar

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Ramanlal (Ed.). Violation of Democratic Rights in India. (Bombay: Popular Prakashan), 570–609 Phanjoubam, P. (2014, August 10). The fascinating norms that governed the land before the Inner Line. Imphal Free Press. Retrieved 11 August 2014 from, https://ifp.co.in/page/items/22547/the-fascinating-norms-thatgoverned-the-land-before-the-inner-line?fbclid=IwAR3lzoW7pb3QzE9RZ QTbpYqoN675K0HyN69_H8a4uSIOKtv9dalSb61wbDY Ranjan, A. (2015). A Gender Critique of AFSPA: Security for Whom? Social Change, 45(3), 440–457. https://doi.org/10.1177/0049085715589471. Reid, R. (1944). The Excluded Areas of Assam, The Geographical Journal, 103 (1/2),18–29, https://doi.org/10.2307/1789063 Richani, N. (2007). Caudillos and the Crisis of the Colombian State: Fragmented Sovereignty, The War System and the Privatisation of Counterinsurgency in Colombia, Third World Quarterly, 28(2), 403–417 Santosh Hegde Commission (2013). Santosh Hegde Commission submits report on Manipur extra judicial killings, Human Rights Law Network. Retrieved 10 August 2015 from http://www.hrln.org/hrln/criminal-justice/ reports/1501-santosh-hegde-commission-submitsreport-onmanipurextrajudicial-killings.html#ixzz4Kh7zdWJ6 Samaddar, R. (2017). The Politics of Dialogue: Living Under the Geopolitical Histories of War and Peace. London and New York: Routledge (first published in 2004 by Ashgate publishing). Schmitt, C. [1922] (2005). Political Theology. Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (G. Schwab, Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Shakespear, W. (1914). History of Upper Assam, Upper Burma and North-East Frontier. London: Macmillan and Co., Limited. Sharma, K. (2006). Nagas: The Tribe and the Cult (p. 202). New Delhi: Aryan Books International. Singh, B. (2018, March 6). Neiphu Rio Set to be Sworn in Nagaland CM, Y Patton of BJP Likely to be His Deputy. The Economic Times. Retrieved March 6, 2018, from, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-andnation/rio-set-to-be-sworn-in-nagaland-cm-patton-of-bjp-likely-to-be-hisdeputy/articleshow/63178766.cms Syiemlieh, D. (Ed.). (2014). On the Edge of Empire: Four British Plans for North East India, 1941–1947. New Delhi: Sage Publishers.. Taylor, P.J. (1995). Beyond Containers: Internationality, Interstateness and Intertrritoriality, Progress in Human Geography, 19, 1–15


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Tohring, S. (2010). Violence and Identity in North-east India: Naga-Kuki Conflict. New Delhi: Mittal Publications. Vashum, R. (2000). Nagas’ Rights to Self Determination: An Anthropological Historical Perspective. New Delhi: Mittal Publications. Veerapa Moily’s Administrative Reforms Committee (2007). Fifth Report: Second Administrative Reforms Commission-Public Order, Government of India. Retrieved 10 August 2016 from, http://darpg.gov.in/sites/default/files/ public_order5.pdf. Verghese, B. G. (1996). India’s NorthEast Resurgent: Ethnicity, Insurgency, Governance, Development. Konark Publishers, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi.

8 The Nagas Saga and an Uncertain Future? Nagas after Nehru to Modi Rituparna Bhattacharyya and Venkat Pulla

Nehru, the first prime minister of India, was not apologetic about sending Indian Army to sort out the Naga rebellions, although in his approach he appeared to be sincerely trying to win them over. ‘His successors did not bring any major innovation in the Indian State’s Naga Policy; rather they largely continued with his policy of the carrot of autonomy with the stick of military measures. This in fact has become a standard policy of dealing with such minority nationalism in India’ (Nag 2009, 55) (Fig. 8.1).

R. Bhattacharyya (*) Research Consultant & Editor-in-Chief, Space and Culture, India, North Shields, UK e-mail: [email protected] V. Pulla Senior Research Fellow (Adjunct), ILWS, Charles Sturt University, NSW, Australia Sessional Academic, Charles Darwin University, NT, Australia Foundation Professor, Brisbane Institute of Strengths Based Practice, NSW, Australia © The Author(s) 2020 V. Pulla et al. (eds.), Discrimination, Challenge and Response, Mapping Global Racisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46251-2_8



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Fig. 8.1  Naga Timeline from British annexation of Assam, 1826 to the present to now. (Source: Created by the Authors)

1. Armed Struggle, Human Rights Abuses, Splits and Negotiations Figure 8.1 speaks to the Naga struggles over the years, despite the cease-fire agreement. On 7 April 1965, the Eastern Naga Revolutionary Council (ENRC) was launched at Somra, a Tangkhul Naga village in Burma, to defend their sovereignty against Burmese aggressors. Yehzabo, the Constitution of Nagaland was relaunched after amendments into it on 6 March 1968. Having heard of the amendments to Yehzabo, a few months later, the 8th Mountain Division of the Indian Army visited the villagers of Yankeliun and is alleged to have assaulted the people and even wrecked the consecrated pulpit of the Yankeli Baptist Christian Church. In the interim, that is in the eighteenth year of the Republic of India, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, No. 37 of 1967 was enacted on 30

8  The Nagas Saga and an Uncertain Future? Nagas after Nehru… 


December 1967; the Government of India used this Act as a vehicle to declare the Naga National Council (NNC), the Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN) and its army, the Naga Federal Army (NFA), as ‘unlawful associations’ on 31 August 1968. Following this, in 1972, the AFSPA was further amended as the Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers (Amendment) Act, 1972 (7 of 1972). In retaliation for the ban and the amendment of AFSPA, suspected Naga militants attempted to take the life of Hokishe Sema, the then chief minister of Nagaland on the National Highway No. 39, approximately four miles from Kohima on 8 August 1972. ‘The reason for the ambush of Hokishe Sema was the transfer of the Naga affairs to the Ministry of Home Affairs which was otherwise under the Ministry of External Affairs since 1957’ (Vashum 2000, 93). Being tired of underground militancy and the ongoing volatile situations in Nagaland and its adjacent areas, a section of NNC/ NFG/ NFA members decided to renounce arms and ammunition and unconditionally accept the supremacy of the Constitution of India, met the Governor and signed the Shillong Accord of 1975.1 In the wake of the Shillong Accord, the Nagas felt the need for an organisation which would work for protection and furtherance of human rights of the Naga people. This they achieved with the formation of the Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) on 9 September 1978. This is perhaps the first example of a human rights organisation in all North East India, a land where large-scale human rights abuses continue, though little is known to the outside world. The presence of armed forces remained as a normal practice of daily life. So, on 20 July 1979 the students of Nagaland along with the representatives of the Naga Student’s Federation launched demonstration in five centres of Chakhesang district demanding the immediate removal of the 14 Battalion of the Assam Rifles from the area, which turned out to be fruitless. President Eno Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang of the ENRC merged with NNC on the 10 March 1979. However, 140 dissatisfied members of the NNC/ NFG/NFA under the leadership of Thuingaleng Muivah, Isak Chishi  Shillong Agreement between the Government of India and the Underground Nagas. Retrieved 29 April 2019 from, https://peacemaker.un.org/sites/peacemaker.un.org/files/IN_751111_ Shillong%20Agreement_0.pdf. 1


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Swu and Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang (Hemi Naga from Myanmar), who had nullified the Shillong Accord created the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) on 31 January 1980. One of the significant attacks carried by NSCN was its ambuscade of the Assam Rifles at Oinam village (Manipur) on 9 July 1987; leaving nine soldiers dead and three seriously injured in addition to the snatching of arms and ammunition from the soldiers. In retaliation for this attack under ‘Operation Bluebird’ by Assam Rifles, civilians of 20 Naga villages adjacent to Oinam suffered heinous human rights abuses in the form of killing, torture, rape and extrajudicial executions (Bhattacharyya 2018; Vashum 2000). The NSCN was short-lived, splitting into the NSCN (Isak and Muivah) (IM) and the NSCN (Khole Konyak and Khaplang) (K) on 30 April 1988. Key to this split was, perhaps, the estrangement of the western and eastern Nagas and the struggle for leadership and power. While the western Naga embraces sub-tribes such as the Aos, Angamis, Tangkhuls and Semas, the sub-tribes Konyaks (found both in Nagaland and Myanmar), Yimchungrus, Changs, Phoms, Khiamniungans, and the Sangtams in Nagaland, and the Tangsa in Arunachal Pradesh all belong to eastern Naga tribes. Locally, there is a perception that western Naga sub-tribes are more powerful and developed in terms of political representation, education and healthcare compared to their eastern counterparts (Goswami 2015). There remains a widely held view that NSCN(IM) represents western Naga subtribes and the NSCN(K) the eastern (Goswami 2015). After the death of Mr A. Z. Phizo in London on 30 April 1990, the NNC began to plummet and split into splinter groups—on 1 May 1990, Miss Adino Phizo, the daughter of A. Z. Phizo, was elected as the acting president. Her presidency was supported by the members who had endorsed the Shillong Accord but was opposed by those who had refused to recognise it. This led to further disintegration of the NNC—while NNC(A) was led by Miss Phizo, Vice-President Khodao Yanthan became the leader of NNC (K) only for it to be merged with NSCN (IM) and for that organisation to take the lead in the ‘mother of all insurgencies’ (Kashyap 2017a). In the early 1990s, top NSCN(IM) leaders including Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chishi Swu fled to Thailand. On 23 January 1993, in

8  The Nagas Saga and an Uncertain Future? Nagas after Nehru… 


their third attempt NSCN(IM) was accepted as a member of the Underrepresented Nations and People Organisation (UNPO).2 It was only after the then Governor of Nagaland, Dr Madathilparampil Mammen Thomas, a devout Church leader from Kerela, succeeded in gaining consent that a series of bilateral meetings between the Government of India and NSCN(IM) took place in different parts of the globe: on 15 June 1995 the Prime Minister, P.  V. Narasimha Rao, met NSCN(IM) leaders in Paris. This was followed by a meeting in Bangkok in November 1995 between NSCN(IM) and Rajesh Pilot, a minister of state. After a change of government at the centre, the 11th Prime Minister of India, Deve Gowda again, met the NSCN (IM) faction in Zurich on the 3 February1997, which triggered follow-up diplomatic meetings between representatives in Geneva and Bangkok. Finally, after 80 rounds of talks, a ceasefire agreement3 was signed between the Government of India and the NSCN(IM) on 25 July 1997, which came into force on 1 August 1997. Soon after Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee took office as prime minister in 1998, he arranged for a meeting with Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chishi Swu in Paris on 30 September 1998. This unlatched the door, and on the 30 April 2001, the Government of India and NSCN(K) prepared a 15-point charter of ceasefire ground rules in the state. Subsequently, a ceasefire with NSCN(K) began on 5 November 2001. The board meeting of the second ceasefire supervisory was held in Kohima between the representatives of the Government of India and NSCN(K), where both the parties became privy to resolving the implementation of the ceasefire ground rules. Thereafter, with the change of power at the centre and the formation of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government after the 2004 general election, NSCN(IM) leaders met Dr Manmohan Singh on 7 December 2004. Several rounds of negotiations were carried on until 2007 when, along with the ground rules for peace process that were mapped in, NSCN (IM), while strictly adhering to their demand for a  The details of UNPO can be accessed at https://www.unpo.org/.  NSCN-IM’s Announcement of a Ceasefire Agreement with Government of India, South Asia Terrorism Portal. Retrieved 30 April 2019, from https://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/ states/nagaland/documents/papers/nscn_im_announcement_july_25_1997.htm. 2 3


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Greater Nagalim, relinquished the idea of ‘exclusive sovereignty’ (Dutta 2015). The negotiations succeeded in triggering an indefinite extension of the ceasefire between NSCN(IM) and the government.4 Figure  8.2 illustrates that since the ceasefires by both NSCN(K) and NSCN(IM), the number of fatalities in the state has declined, especially in terms of the killing of security personnel (Sirnate 2015). Sirnate contends that the cause of the present-day deaths of the militants/terrorists is not action by security personnel but, rather, a result of the heinous internecine in-­ fighting between insurgent groups. Nonetheless, on 23 November 2007, an inter-factional ‘truce agreement’ signed at Hovishe (Niuland a sub-division) under Dimapur district between a few members and the leaders of NSCN(IM) and their adversary NSCN(K) gave rise to the formation of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Unification NSCN(U). This form of reunion perhaps paved the way to the organisation of a reconciliation meet held at Chiang Mai, Thailand, between 1 and 8 June 2009, which was attended 120 100 80 60 40 20

02 20 03 20 04 20 05 20 06 20 07 20 08 20 09 20 10 20 11 20 12 20 13 20 14 20 15 20 16 20 17 20 18









Security Force Personnel

Fig. 8.2  Fatalities in Nagaland 2000–2018. (Sources: South Asia Terrorism Portal, Datasheet, Nagaland. Retrieved January 25, 2019, from http://www.satp.org/ datasheet-terrorist-attack/fatalities/india-insurgencynortheast-nagaland. And SirnateDrennan [2015]. Note: The y-axis represents the number of fatalities)

 Two Hundred Thirteenth Report: Security Situation in the North Eastern States of India, Department-related, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, Parliament of India, Rajya Sabha, Rajya Sabha Secretariat, New Delhi, July, 2018. Retrieved 31 December 2018, from 4

8  The Nagas Saga and an Uncertain Future? Nagas after Nehru… 


by the top leaders of NSCN(IM), NSCN(K) and NNC/FGN; there, they arrived at a consensus to sign the ‘Covenant of Reconciliation’ (CoR) on 13 June 2009. Because of this reconciliation, perhaps, the number of casualties dwindled in 2010 (Fig. 8.2). The products of the reconciliation meet proved ephemeral as there was further disintegration amongst the NSCN(K)—following an internal schism with Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang, the NSCN(K) leader; Khole Konyak (a Konyak Naga from Mon district, popularly known as ‘Khole Baba’, and Kitovi Zhimomi (a Sumi Naga of Zunheboto district) launched another splinter group called NSCN(KK) on 7 June 2011. All the insurgency groups started to disregard the CoR of June 2009 and instead re-engaged in arch-rival fighting, which turned deadly, as witnessed by the statistics for 2012 (Fig. 8.2). This observation has been reinforced by the arguments of Sirnate (2015). As she remarks: Reports do indicate that the NSCN-IM did frequently kill members of the NSCN-K and we also know through local newspaper reports that battles between the NSCN-KK and NSCN-K are being fought regularly. The drop-in killings in 2009 and 2010 was due to the Covenant of Reconciliation signed by the NSCN-K and the NSCN-IM and the NNC in June 2009. The killings rose once more in 2011 as rivalries over leadership, which were also internecine in nature, asserted themselves. (Sirnate 2015)

It is worth noting here that all the insurgent outfits operate underground governments that function from remote locations in Sagaing Division, Myanmar (Bhattacharyya 2019). ‘These outfits extort large amounts of illegal tax from business persons, government officials, contractors’ (Bhattacharyya 2019, 120) and others. Surprisingly, on 12 February 2012 NSCN(K) signed a ceasefire with the Government of Myanmar agreeing to abstain from any political talks linked to Nagalim. However, it revoked the 14-year old ceasefire with the Government of India on 27 March 2015. This was of course decided by NSCN(K) President and Chairperson Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang. The question arises as to why NSCN(K) deployed a ceasefire in Myanmar while abrogating the same in India? The genesis of this agreement is probably because NSCN(K) has realised that their demand for Nagalim in


R. Bhattacharyya and V. Pulla

Myanmar is unrealistic as the proportion of Naga in Myanmar is too meagre to achieve to even a modest political deal. Besides, the Myanmar government allowed NSCN(K) to operate its ‘armed camps in the newly created Naga Self-Administered Zone in Myanmar governed by a retired Naga military officer of the Tatmadaw [the armed forces of Myanmar]’ (Goswami 2015). (Un)surprisingly, on 28 March 2015, Chairperson Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang expelled Minister (Kilonser) Y. Wangtin Naga and Minister (Kilonser) P.  Tikhak from both the group and the underground government, as they had participated in the ceasefire meeting with the Government of India. These two expelled ministers believe that the solution to the Naga problem can be executed only through non-­ violence, peace and negotiations and they formed a new group on 6 April 2015 known as the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Reformation) or NSCN(R) and its underground government as the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland (GPRN). Despite various stakeholders’ urgings to re-join the ceasefire, NSCN(K), with a strength of 1000 cadres stood firm on their intransigent attitude towards Naga sovereignty and pan-Naga identity by reasserting its ceasefire cessation on 8 April. On 23 April 2015, nine insurgency bands of North East India together with the NSCN(K) and ULFA faction led by Mr Paresh Baruah formed a consortium known as the United National Liberation Front of West South East Asia (UNLFW). Mr Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang, the NSCN(K)’s chairperson, was elected as UNLFW’s chief.5 With the new-found power and strength of the consortium, NSCN(K) restarted engagement in repeated violence, targeting the Indian armed forces. For example, on 4 June 2015 NSCN(K) orchestrated an ambush in Manipur, killing 18 members of the security forces; again on 12 September 2015, the day when a delegation of the Naga Mothers Association (NMA) arranged for a visit to Myanmar to earnestly persuade NSCN(K) to return to the negotiating table, a heavy exchange of fire took place between cadres of NSCN(K) and forces of Assam Rifles at Nagaland’s Koki village on the Indo-Myanmar border. In these continued incidents, a number of  Government bans militant outfit NSCN(K) for five years (14 July 2018). The Economic Times. Retrieved 20 March 2019, from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/government-­ bans-­militant-outfit-nscnk-for-five-years/articleshow/48985799.cms. 5

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civilians lost their lives, together with militants and security forces (Fig. 8.2). As a result of this, NSCN(K) faced a ‘blanket ban’ for five years (Bhattacharyya 2019; Goswami 2015).6 In the meantime, NSCN(R) signed a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India for a year on 27 April 2015, which opened the door to finding a solution to the long-­ standing Indo-Naga peace process. The following sections discuss the ongoing negotiations to obtaining either a robust or a fragile solution to the issue of Nagalim.

 owards an Effective Sovereignty or T an Incomplete Road to Peace In November 2014, during his maiden year, Prime Minister Modi, made a visit to North East India, including Nagaland, where he assured the people that he would bring a solution to the Nagalim issue. In August 2014, Mr Ravindra Narayan Ravi, a retired Indian Police Service officer, was appointed as the critical interlocutor of the Government of India for the Naga peace process. Mr Ravi, arrived to carry out his inclusive endeavour at Khonoma village in Kohima district, Nagaland to explain the status of the peace talks, wherein he elucidated the notion of sovereignty, its different meanings and shades among the stakeholders, thereby, making it explicit that the Government of India would abstain from further negotiation if sovereignty were to mean ‘total independence’. Instead he made a case for ‘effective sovereignty’—a road to accomplishing ‘shared sovereignty’. Several earlier negotiations starting from the Naga–Akbar Hydari Accord (the Nine Point Agreement) apparently had not yielded any fruit. Possibly, the failure to welcome all the central stakeholders to the negotiating table was one reason for the futility of these exercises. Hence, the process of negotiations assumed exceptional delicacy, became strenuously complex, challenging, and sensitive to all the stakeholders of the peace process who were eagerly awaiting in the neighbouring states of Assam, 6  NSCN(K), AR fight gun battle (12 September 2015,). E-PAO. Retrieved 20 March 2019, from http://e-pao.net/GP.asp?src=23..130915.sep15. The ban was applied under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, No. 37 of 1967, as announced by the Government of India on 16 September 2015.


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Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh—where a sizeable percentage of Naga communities have been dwelling for decades. To accomplish peace, the first step was to bring in all the key stakeholders, including all the insurgent groups. One has to note here that the intelligence agencies of the Government of India have been working with the NSCN(IM) for decades to weaken Naga insurgency; so obviously NSCN(IM) with a current strength of about 5000 cadres (Singh 2017) emerged as the largest negotiating agency7 but ‘[t]he NSCN-IM is a Tangkhul Naga-dominated group. Tangkhul Nagas are mostly concentrated in the hill districts of Manipur, hence not technically in Nagaland’ (Sirnate 2015). Other groups include the Naga Hoho (occupying the highest echelon, the apex body of the Naga tribes), the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO), the Naga Mothers Association (NMA), the Forum for Naga Reconciliation, the Naga Students Federation, the Eastern Naga Students Federation, and the Gaon Burah Federation, all of them part of the process. On 3 August 2015, a ‘Framework Agreement’ was signed between the Government of India (in the presence of Prime Minister Modi, then Home Minister Mr Rajnath Singh, National Security Adviser Mr Ajit Doval and interlocutor Mr R N Ravi) and the leaders of NSCN(IM) at the prime ministerial residence in New Delhi, who had compromised for ‘shared sovereignty’ (Singh 2017, 2018) with the Indian union. Further, a second agreement was signed with the Working Committee (WC) of Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) on 17 November 2017. In its 213th Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, on the Security Situation in the North Eastern States of India of July 2018, the Government of India recognised the ‘unique history and situation of the Nagas’. The nuanced details of these agreements are yet to be made public. Between the signing of the agreements in 2015 and 2017 and 28 January 2019, six Nagaland-based factions, insurgency groups, joined the peace process—the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland/ NSCN  India’s north-east – The spoils of peace: Is the country’s longest-running ethnic insurgency over? (The Economist, 6 August 2015). Retrieved 20 March 2019 from https://www.economist.com/ asia/2015/08/06/the-spoils-of-peace. 7

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(Kitovi Zhimoni), NSCN (Reformation), the Federal Government of Nagaland, the Naga National Council (parent body), the National People’s Government of Nagaland of the NNC(NA), and the Naga National Council/ Government of the Democratic Republic of Nagaland. The NSCN(K), however, had not joined (Kalita 2019). The process of bringing these groups to the negotiating table had been long and complicated. On 22 August 2015, the NNC had announced its intention to reject the Framework Agreement, but later it did come to engage formally with the NNPG’s negotiation of the peace process. Earlier, on 27 July 2015, the Government of Nagaland had requested Naga Hoho and ENPO to jointly meet the NSCN(K) Chairperson Mr Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang in Myanmar and earnestly invite him to the negotiating table. However, before meeting the NSCN(K), 56 Naga legislators and about 50 members of the NSCN(IM) group met behind closed doors at Chumukedima Police Complex, Dimapur, on 26 August 2015 to discuss the details of the agreement, seeking to arrive at a consensus before finalising matters, so that all the stakeholders should be on board. Then, on 1 September 2015, an NMA delegation under the leadership of President Abieu Meru and Rosemary Dzivichu, an adviser to NMA, was on its way to Myanmar to visit Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang and the rest of the NSCN(K) leadership to persuade them to resume an armistice. This effort came to nothing as a result of the savage gunfight at Koki village on the Indo-Myanmar border that very day. On 13 March 2016, the president of NSCN(U), Khole Konyak, formally became vice chairperson of the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagalim (GPRN) operated by NSCN(IM). He then faced expulsion from the NSCN(U). Khole Knoyak died suddenly on 12 December 2018 following a stroke. Earlier that year, on 28 June, Isak Chishi Swu, aged 86, of NSCN(IM) had died in New Delhi. He had failed to attend the framework agreement meeting due to his frail health. Of course, the death of these insurgent leaders was a setback not only to their respective groups but to the overall peace process; nevertheless, negotiations continued. Crucially, on 29 January 2019, Khango Konyak led the NSCN(K) to join the Working Committee (WC) of Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), the signatories of the 2017 agreement, to re-commence


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negotiations with the Government of India on a Naga peace accord. Khango Konyak, a Konyak Naga from Mon district, a stronghold of the Khaplang faction, had been appointed chairperson/president of the NSCN(K) on 20 June 2017 after the death of Mr Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang (aged 77) earlier that month.8 Two months after his elevation, Khango Konyak faced impeachment on the grounds of violating party discipline. The NSCN(K) further fragmented into two factions—Khango Konyak took charge of the Indian side of NSCN(K), appointing Isak Sumi as General Secretary in October 2018,9 and Yung Aung, the nephew of Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang, was elected as the chairperson of the Myanmarese faction of NSCN(K). Khango Konyak had previously opposed peace negotiations, but he led his group to formally join them on 29 January 2019. So, technically, the majority of the insurgent groups in India have come forward to the negotiating table; the Myanmarese faction of NSCN(K) remains aloof. On 19 January 2019, Deputy National Security Adviser R N Ravi remarked that a proposed accord with the Naga armed groups is under way; he said: It’s nearing conclusion with all. In fact, there is nobody left out. Everyone is part of it…. There are eight armed groups which are now talking to the Government of India. NSCN(I-M) plus seven others, they are all part of it. There is no one left out… The efforts to conclude the accord are expected to fructify ‘soon’.10

 The death took place at Taga in the Kachin state of Myanmar on 9 June: SS Khaplang passes away at 77: Chairman of banned Naga outfit NSCN-K died after cardiac arrest (9 June 2017). First Post. Retrieved 9 June 2018, from https://www.firstpost.com/india/ss-khaplang-passes-away-at-­77chairman-of-banned-naga-outfit-nscn-k-died-after-cardiac-arrest-3537031.html. 9  Khango-led NSCN (K) appoints Isak Sumi as general secretary (4 October 2018). Nagaland Post. Retrieved 20 March 2019, from http://www.nagalandpost.com/khango-led-nscn-k-appoints-isaksumi-as-general-secretary/182722.html. 10  Accord with Naga armed groups soon Ravi (19 January 2019). The Week. Retrieved 20 January 2019, from https://www.theweek.in/wire-updates/national/2019/01/19/mds9-defence-naga.html. 8

8  The Nagas Saga and an Uncertain Future? Nagas after Nehru… 


 agalim Geographical Utopia? N But a Cultural Possibility One of the sticking demands of the Naga question has always been the extension of Greater Nagalim into the Naga-inhabited areas of its neighbouring states—Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. Arunachal Pradesh (formerly NEFA) had already sacrificed its Tuensang Division when Nagaland was created in 1963. Since then, the continued utopian demand for a Greater Nagalim almost seven times larger than the current area of Nagaland (Bhattacharyya 2019) has been fuelling only trepidation amongst the residents of the three states bordering Nagaland. Post-1960s, there is compelling evidence to suggest that Nagas have encroached on to approximately 66,000 hectares of land (the majority of which is reserved forest) in the districts of Jorhat, Sivasagar, Golaghat and Karbi Anglong (Kashyap 2017b). There are three Naga civil subdivisions within the territory of Assam (Kashyap 2017b). Geopolitics over boundaries have sporadically triggered considerable outbreaks of violence, and the nebulous contours of Greater Nagalim continue to motivate anxiety and apprehension amongst the residents of the adjoining states (Kashyap 2017b). In recognising the contention in the adjoining states, especially in Assam and Manipur, Mr Ravi has negotiated with all the stakeholders and has arrived at a consensus which deviates from the previous paradigm of Greater Nagalim, as has been revealed in the 213th report on the security situation in North East India: The Interlocutor apprised the Committee about the broad status of the negotiations and submitted that the negotiations were proceeding towards a situation, where boundaries of any State will neither be changed nor altered. Initially, the Nagas had stuck to the idea of unification of Naga inhabited areas, resolutely maintaining their stand of ‘no integration, no solution’. However, they had now reached a common understanding with the Government that the boundaries of the States will not be touched.11  Two Hundred Thirteenth Report: Security Situation in the North Eastern States of India, Department-related, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, Parliament of India, Rajya Sabha, Rajya Sabha Secretariat, New Delhi, July, 2018. Retrieved 31 December 2018, from 11


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A postscript is not the conventional way to end a chapter. However, in this case it would be useful. For what it is worth there are a few suggestions that readers are encouraged to ponder on. There are some hard, obstinate facts: Nagaland was created in 1963 as a special category state by the 13th Amendment of the Constitution in 1962 and with simultaneous promulgation of Article 371A; the 213th report argues that ‘Article 371A, of the Constitution makes it very clear that they are special and a special status has been accorded to them’ (19); there is fervent resistance in the neighbouring states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh to an increase in Greater Nagalim’s territorial share. Should Article 371A be extended to the Naga-inhabited areas in the neighbouring states? But that would be absurd, unacceptable, from the point of view of those states. So, what is left to construct is an inclusive and acceptable solution that creates a pan-Naga cultural body, which would not accrue geo-spatiality but would exert cultural hegemony. Would that still be an acceptable solution for the many drained-out Naga rebels, an honourable end to their saga? Or would it be seen and rejected as a banal platitude? Gramsci can never be blamed for what he reflected in Marxian lines while considering the contours of cultural hegemony. But those were times when people thought about factories, the state, means of production and so on. That was the jargon then. Gramsci (Chino 2019; Ramos 2019) observed how the Catholic church exercised its power and retained its congregation in the fold, a process bordering on manipulation and honing cultural hegemony. As nations and societies, we have come a long way. Those Gramscian materials exist even now— the means of production, the capital to work with it. What we seem not to have in abundance is the cultural hegemony. A deep-rooted consciousness that can penetrate beyond the economic and political questions. Then again, we ought to recognise that no culture can ever be completely hegemonic. There are counter-hegemonies contained within. Today, not all the Nagas in Nagaland or in the neighbouring states, nor many of those who have moved into the mainstream, seem to hold a piece of land or territory as a cherished issue. There seems to be an emerging definition of this cultural hegemony as a form of ‘consciousness’ that would pervasively unite them spiritually across territories rather than bind them within the confines of a geographic state, the Nagaland.

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The Constitution of India mandates freedom of the state through the 16-point Agreement—independent legislature, taxation freedom, ‘freedom to practice customary laws, including the ownership of land and resources’ (Chakravarti 2019). Nagaland receives 92.5 per cent of its revenue from the Union Government of India.12 The spirit of Naga nationalism remains at the core of every Naga— generations have grown up with this aspiration, underpinned by the weight of the Naga National Movement. Hence, final signing of an agreement will definitely beget greater autonomy and development for the Nagas (both within the state and the Naga-inhabited areas of the neighbouring states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh). Reports have emerged that the Government of India has nullified the earlier demand of NSCM(IM) for a separate passport (Singh 2017), but regarding the demands for a separate flag and constitution, it appears that the Government of India has conceded a flag for a pan-Naga cultural body that could be hoisted on the premises of the cultural body, which would serve as a ‘symbol of emotional integration over the incendiary aspect of territorial integration’ (Chakravarti 2019). With respect to the issue of a separate constitution, the Government of India has refused to assent to this demand, arguing that it could engender ‘unanticipated indignation’; instead a form of acquiescence seems to have emerged for a pan-Naga Yehzabo, similar to the one constituted by NNC in 1956 (Chakravarti 2019). While Mr Ravi continues to maintain ‘only one peace process and one agreement’ strictly, he has requested NSCN(K) to review their situation of revoking a 14-year old ceasefire and revive the truce with the Government of India. It is vital to mention here that, in parallel to the close vigil along the borders of Pakistan, the Government of India in tandem with the Government of Myanmar employed stringent measures along the entire 1643  km border between India and Myanmar from 17 February to 2 March 2019 aimed at cracking down on insurgent groups. Several camps in the Taga area of Myanmar, including ones belonging to NSCN(K) and ULFA, were destroyed (Gurung  Indeed, all eight states of North East India that come under a special category receive extensive financial support from the central government state finances. A Study of Budgets of 2016–17, Reserve Bank of India, 2017. Retrieved 20 March 2019, from https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/ Publications/PDFs/0SF2016_12051728F3E926CFFB4520A027AC753ACF469A.PDF. 12


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2019).13 Coinciding with the invitation to the NSCN(K) to rejoin a ceasefire, one can only assume that Mr. Ravi’s request was about revoking the ban imposed on NSCN(K) in 2015. Notwithstanding, NSCN(IM) seems to have rebuffed all the offers (Kalita 2019).14 The refusal to meet and the boycott of Mr Ravi during his February 2019 visit to Nagaland to meet the legislators and stakeholders—the Naga Hoho, the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA), the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), the United Naga Council (UNC) and many other organizations—further strengthens the reclaims of NSCN(IM), who have reiterated their demands for a Greater Nagalim, a flag and a constitution (Kalita 2019).15 On a meeting on 21 March 2019, Ato Kilonser/ General Secretary, Thuingaleng Muivah, the chief of NSCN(IM) addressed its members at its Camp Hebron headquarters and commented: The demand for Greater Nagaland is based on Naga political rights and Nagas will not surrender their rights at any cost. Our demand is for a separate Naga national flag and a separate Constitution. If the Centre does not accept (these demands), there is no way to resolve the political problem. (Kalita 2019)

A similar observation has been remarked by critic Kaka D.  Iralu (2019). Nonetheless, there has been a continuous attempt by the Government of India as well as the (NDPP–BJP alliance) to revive the Government of Nagaland’s pre-poll promise of an ‘Election for Solution’, which seems to be a long drawn-out process. On 26 March 2019, Mr Ravi again revisited Nagaland to meet NSCN(IM) leadership headed by Thuingaleng Muivah, again under a convention of ‘closed doors’ at Chumoukedima, Dimapur; the details of this meeting are yet to be made public.  Crack on Ultras (4 March 2019). The Assam Tribune, page 6.  R.  N. Ravi arriving Nagaland to Brief Legislators, Hohos about Status of Talks (21 February 2019) Nagaland Post. Retrieved 4 May 2019, from http://www.nagalandpost.com/rn-ravi-arriving-­ nagaland-to-brief-legislators-hohos-about-status-of-talks/190855.html. 15  Naga organisations ‘boycott’ R.N. Ravi meetings (27 February 2019). Imphal Free Press. Retrieved 5 May 2019, from https://www.ifp.co.in/page/items/56527/naga-organisations-boycott-rn-ravimeetings/. 13 14

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Notwithstanding, on 31 October 2019, the deadline for the protracted Naga peace talks as fixed by the Government of India lapsed with inconclusive solutions, although the negotiation continues (Hasnat 2019). Nonetheless, it is arguable that with the revocation of Article 370 and Article 35A on 5 August 2019, bestowing both special status and special category status, a flag and a separate constitution to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the stakeholders of the Naga peace process should understand that the utopian demands for a flag and a constitution are unlikely to be fulfilled. While everyone seeks a permanent and institutionalised solution (Sirnate 2015) to the seven-decade-old Naga political crisis, and many hope that ‘shared sovereignty’ can be agreed upon, finding common and pragmatic solutions to the issue of flag and Constitution so that the ongoing negotiations do not degenerate into renewed fragmented sovereignty and generate a region again transformed into a highly combustible land—only time will tell whether and to what extent a tangible solution can be accomplished. Amongst other issues are the levels of ignorance amongst mainstream Indians about the whole of North East India. This is mainly due to cultural difference. Hence, efforts to bridge the gap should be through holistic development. One of the ways to reduce the cultural divide is perhaps to recognize Nagamese Creole, the lingua franca amongst the Nagas, as the 22nd Modern Indian Language (MIL). The other 21 MIL as per the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution are: Assamese, Bangla, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Kannada, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Santali, Sindhi and Urdu; originally there were 14 MIL, but Bodo, Dogri, Konkani, Maithili, Manipuri, Nepali, Santali and Sindhi have been incorporated and recognized.16 Recognising Nagamese Creole as the 22nd MIL would perhaps be one of the first steps to integrate the Nagas into the mainstream and further boost the rich language and cultural diversity of the nation.

 To know more about Indian Languages—MHRD. Retrieved 4 May 2019, from https://mhrd. gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/upload_document/languagebr.pdf. 16


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References Bhattacharyya, R. (2018). Living with Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) as Everyday Life. Geo Journal, 83(1), 31–48. https://doi. org/10.1007/s10708-016-9752-9. Bhattacharyya, R. (2019). Chapter Six: Did India’s Partition Lead to Segregation of North East India? In A.  Ranjan (Ed.), Partition of India: Postcolonial Legacies. New Delhi: Routledge. Chakravarti, S. (2019, March 27). Naga Peace: Flag, Constitution and Other Obstacles. Live Mint. Retrieved March 27, 2019, from https://www.livemint. com/opinion/columns/opinion-naga-peace-flag-constitution-and-otherobstacles-1553710870996.html. Chino, T. (2019). Gramsci’s critique of Croce on the Catholic Church. History of European Ideas. https://doi.org/10.1080/01916599.2019.1653352. Dutta, A. (2015). The Naga National Struggle, ‘Framework Agreement’ and the Peace Prospects. Space and Culture, India, 3(2), 5–14. https://doi. org/10.20896/saci.v3i2.151. Goswami, N. (2015, September 23). Indo-Naga Peace Process: Why a Blanket Ban on the NSCN(K) Is Not the Way Forward. Scroll.in. Retrieved March 20, 2019, from https://scroll.in/article/757224/indo-naga-peace-processwhy-a-blanket-ban-on-the-nscn-k-is-not-the-way-forward. Gurung, S.  K. (2019, March 15). India Tightens Vigil along Myanmar Border after Coordinated Operations against Insurgent Groups. The Economic Times. Retrieved April 20, 2019, from https://economictimes.indiatimes. com/articleshow/68430714.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_ medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst. Hasnat, K. (2019, November 6). Naga Talks to Continue Beyond October 31, Last Round of Negotiations End Inconclusively. News 18. Retrieved November 28, 2019, from https://www.news18.com/news/india/naga-talksto-continue-beyond-october-31-last-round-of-negotiations-end-inconclusively-2361687.html. Iralu, D. K. (2019, March 2). Indo Naga Talks: Impracticable Pragmatism? The Naga Republic. Retrieved May 4, 2019, from http://www.thenagarepublic. com/files/indo-naga-talks-impracticable-pragmatism-by-kaka-d-iralu/. Kalita, P. (2019, March 23). Peace Talks Hit Wall as NSCN Firm on Gr Nagaland Demand. Times of India. Retrieved March 26, 2019, from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/peace-talks-hit-wall-as-nscn-firm-on-gr-nagalanddemand/articleshow/68542850.cms.

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Kashyap, S. (2017a, March 29). Why Thuingaleng Muivah’s New Statement Has Dug Up Old Fears, Anger. Indian Express. Retrieved April 20, 2019, from http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/why-thuingaleng-muivahsnew-statement-has-dug-up-old-fears-anger-assam-manipur-protest-4590030/. Kashyap, S. (2017b, November 27). ‘Greater Nagalim’ Claims: As NSCN(IM) Deal Nears Fruition, Why Three Northeastern States Are Agitated. Indian Express. Retrieved April 20, 2019, from https://indianexpress.com/article/ explained/greater-nagalim-claims-as-nscnim-deal-nears-fruitionwhy-three-northeastern-states-are-agitated-4956070. Nag, S. (2009). Nehru and the Nagas: Minority Nationalism and the Post-­ Colonial State. Economic and Political Weekly {05, Issue No. 49, Vol. 44}. Ramos, V. (2019). The Concepts of Ideology, Hegemony, and Organic Intellectuals in Gramsci’s Marxism. [Online] Marxists.org. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-7/tr-gramsci.htm. Singh, V. (2017, May 19). NSCN-IM Settles for ‘Shared Sovereignty’. The Hindu. Retrieved May 5, 2019, from https://www.thehindu.com/news/ national/other-states/nscn-im-settles-for-shared-sovereignty/article18493154.ece. Singh, V. (2018, April 23). AFSPA Revoked in Meghalaya, Parts of Arunachal. The Hindu. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from http://www.thehindu.com/news/ national/afspa-removed-from-meghalaya-parts-of-arunachal/article23647009.ece. Sirnate, D. V. (2015, August 7). Can an Accord End an Insurgency? The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy. Retrieved January 20, 2019, from https:// www.thehinducentre.com/the-arena/current-issues/article7511878.ece. Vashum, R. (2000). Nagas’ Rights to Self Determination: An Anthropological Historical Perspective. New Delhi: Mittal Publications.

9 Look/ Act East Policy and North East India: Issues, Concerns and Opportunities Venkat Pulla, Gunindra Nath Sarmah, and Hiranya K. Nath

The post-Cold War strategic reorientation of India’s foreign policy towards the countries to its east has created opportunities for the North East Region (NER). The first-ever articulation of this shift in the form of Look East Policy (LEP), launched in the early 1990s, however, did not have any

V. Pulla (*) Senior Research Fellow (Adjunct), ILWS, Charles Sturt University, NSW, Australia Sessional Academic, Charles Darwin University, NT, Australia Foundation Professor, Brisbane Institute of Strengths Based Practice, NSW, Australia G. N. Sarmah Lakhimpur Commerce College, North Lakhimpur, Assam, India H. K. Nath Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 V. Pulla et al. (eds.), Discrimination, Challenge and Response, Mapping Global Racisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46251-2_9



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specific reference of or role for the region. The integration of NER in LEP was an afterthought that added a domestic dimension to this policy in its second phase, often referred to as Look East through Northeast. Although geographic proximity, historic relationships and ethno-cultural affinity are purported to be the underlying principles for embarking on such a regional integration, faster economic growth and reduction of regional disparities are the principal goals. More recently, LEP has been rechristened as the Act East Policy (AEP), focusing on certain key resources and initiatives like transboundary water sharing, cultural and trade exchanges and better infrastructure development for connectivity in the region. The Look/ Act East Policy includes aspects of internal as well as external significance for the development of North East India. On the internal front, infrastructure development, socio-political stability, ecological balance, and improvement in institutional quality are likely to satisfy the basic preconditions for economic growth and overall development. In addition, forging closer and deeper economic integration with the eastern neighbours, particularly with the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, is expected to dismantle barriers and speed up the process of growth and development. While increased connectivity under LEP/AEP is expected to increase trade flows to the region and thereby accelerate economic growth, it is not quite clear what North East India will export to the countries of the East and Southeast Asian region. Given the region’s limited industrial base, it is more likely to become a destination for cheap consumer goods produced in China and other countries in the region than to become a source of exports to those countries. Further, unless and until intra-­ regional connectivity is improved—which is a tall order—it will be impossible for the region to reap the benefits (Barua and Das 2008). In this chapter, we present a critical review of the potential gains from the erstwhile LEP and discuss issues, concerns, and opportunities in the context of the more recent AEP for the region.

The Ground Realities of NER The seven contiguous states of India’s North East Region share several common features. They are landlocked and connected to the mainland of India through a narrow strip of land. The region—that now officially

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includes Sikkim as the eighth member—shares 98 per cent of its borders with other countries, namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Nepal. It remains strategically important from the point of view of India’s national defence. The Indo-China war of 1962, continued border altercations, and China’s persisting claim over Arunachal Pradesh make it politically sensitive. The presence of insurgent groups, their demonstrated actions against the state and the federation of India, and the alleged links of these groups to support groups in Myanmar and Bangladesh accentuate the sensitivity of the region. Although borders are officially closed, infiltration across the southwestern borders is excessive, adding to tensions within North East India and conflict with its neighbours. As remarked in previous chapters, there are over 200 dialects in multiple language families (Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, Austroasiatic) that share common structural features (Moral 1997). Further, with more than 200 ethnic groups, the region is heavily fractionalized (Nath and Kumar 2017). The hill states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland are predominantly inhabited by people belonging to different tribes. However, there is a great deal of diversity within the tribal groups. There have been continuous flows of migration from Tibet, Indo-­ Gangetic India, the Himalayas, present Bangladesh and Myanmar for many years. With only 25 seats in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian parliament) and 14 seats in the Rajya Sabha (the upper house), NER is also on the periphery of Indian polity (Nath and Kumar 2017). A lack of market access is a major hindrance to industrial growth in the region. (Bezbaruah and Sarma 2009). North East India is geographically closer to South and South East Asian countries than to some parts of India. It is connected to mainland India through a narrow corridor of about 21 kilometres width, often referred to as the ‘Chicken’s Neck’.1 Covering 262,000 square kilometres, the region accounts for 8 per cent of the total area of the country. In terms of geographical area, Arunachal Pradesh is the largest state, followed by Assam, while Sikkim is the smallest state in the region. According to 2018 estimates, about 50 million people live in the region. Thus, the eight states of North East India together account for about 3.8 per cent of India’s population (Fig. 9.1).  The reference to this narrow corridor as ‘the Chicken’s Neck’ appears in many books and articles. For example, see Bhaumik (2014). 1


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Fig. 9.1  Population of North East India, 2018. (Source: List of Indian States by Population, Statistics Times. Retrieved June 12, 2019, from http://statisticstimes. com/demographics/population-of-indian-states.php)

In 2015–2016, the eight states generated a total value of 3.8 lakh crores (a little less than less than USD 40 billion) in gross state domestic product, accounting for only about 2.8 per cent of the total gross domestic product (GDP) of the country. With its 1.7 per cent contribution, Assam has the largest economy of the states in the region (see Fig. 9.2). Taken together, a 3.8 per cent population share and a 2.8 per cent GDP share imply that the per capita GDP is lower than the national average.

The Look/Act East Policy2 The primary goal of India’s LEP/ AEP is to forge closer and deeper economic integration with its eastern neighbours, particularly with ASEAN countries. Consequently, India became a sectoral dialogue partner with ASEAN in 1992, a full dialogue partner in 1995, a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum in July 1996 and finally a summit-level  Nath and  Kumar (2017) provide a  brief background that contextualizes the  introduction of LEP/ AEP. 2

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2.5 2 1.5 1










0.5 Arunachal Pradesh

Percentage share


States Fig. 9.2  Percentage shares in total (India) Gross domestic product, 2015–2016. (Source: Created using data from the Handbook of Statistics obtained from the Reserve Bank of India website: https://m.rbi.org.in/Scripts/AnnualPublications. aspx?head=Handbook%20of%20Statistics%20on%20Indian%20States, downloaded on 7 September 2019)

partner in 2002. For the development of sub-regional cooperation, an economic group called Bangladesh–India–Sri Lanka–Thailand Economic Cooperation, (BIST–EC), was established in 1997 with a view to strengthening and reinforcing India’s Look East policy. With the later addition of Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal, the group was renamed the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). When India initiated BIMSTEC in 1997, it received strong support from Thailand, which saw it as a political and economic forum to build a bridge between Southeast and South Asia. The main aim of this group is to create an enabling environment for rapid economic development through identification and implementation of specific cooperation projects in the sectors of trade, investment and industry, technology, human resource development, tourism, agriculture, energy, and infrastructure and transportation. India sees BIMSTEC as a vehicle for establishing economic links with peninsular member countries of ASEAN to boost the development of its northeast.


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During the second phase of LEP, and after the introduction of AEP, there has been a growing realisation in policy-making circles that the development of physical connectivity through road and rail links between NER and South East Asian countries is a prerequisite for expansion of trade. The new phase also marks a shift in focus from trade to wider economic and security cooperation, political partnership, and cooperation in science and technology. India’s pact with ASEAN, ‘Long Term Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity’, has become a cornerstone of India’s LEP. Furthermore, India signed the ASEAN–India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the ten members of ASEAN in August 2009. Several infrastructure projects under the Look/ Act East Policy are likely to bring India closer to East and Southeast Asia. India is participating in the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) initiatives for the Asian Highway Network and the Trans-Asian Railway Network that will connect NER with the countries on those networks. Some discussion seems to have taken place around the World War II-era Stilwell Road that could link Assam with China’s Yunnan province via Myanmar (Shrivastava 2013). The other infrastructure projects in various stages of completion are: the Moreh– Tamu–Kalewa Road, the India–Myanmar–Thailand Trilateral Highway, the Trans-Asian Highway, India–Myanmar rail linkages, the Kaladan Multimodal project, the Myanmar–India–Bangladesh gas and/or oil pipeline, the Tamanthi Hydroelectricity project, and an optical fibre network between North East India and Southeast Asia (Shrivastava 2013). The establishment of connectivity with the South and South East Asian Counties will contribute not only to economic development but also to the forging of cultural relationships with the people of North East India. Although the Government of India has been taking various initiatives for the region’s development since independence, most measures of economic progress show the region lagging far behind the national average. Nath and Kumar (2017) argue that the ICT revolution that took place in most of India in the early 2000s has not been substantially beneficial to NER. In fact, ICT seems to have contributed negatively to North East India by causing large-scale emigration of skilled and low-skilled workers to the growth centres of Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, and Delhi. Limited

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repatriated income of the migrants has been insufficient to contribute to the economic growth of the region. Equally, the argument that mere connectivity with East and South East Asian Countries would boost growth in NER remains merely theoretical as infrastructure development has taken place at a slow pace. Neither public sector investment by the central government nor private investment has shown any distinct difference in their strategy for the NER. The British coloniser built the infrastructure in such a way that they could extract and take out the resources from the region. Even after the independence, the same model continued. There were no initiatives to build industries even on the basis of the resources available in the region. Remoteness from the market and high transportation cost were typical economic reasoning for not developing industries. Because of the sensitive nature of the border region, it is not directly connected to the markets in the neighbouring countries. Everything had to be transported via a long winding route that often goes through Kolkata. (Nath and Kumar 2017)

On a more optimistic note, Kota (2018) sees Act East as a 10-year plan covering the three Cs (Connectivity, Commerce and Culture) as state-­ driven pillars for infrastructure development in North East India with inputs from various concerned ministries.

Issues, Concerns and Opportunities India’s northeast and Myanmar—through which India has access to other ASEAN countries by land—suffer from a myriad of problems caused by difficult physical terrain, terrorist activity, violence perpetrated by various ethnic groups, and poor infrastructure. Several separatist insurgent groups active in North East India continue to operate out of camps in the Sagaing region of Myanmar. New Delhi’s repeated pleas for elimination of these bases have failed to elicit a positive response from Naypyidaw (Bhattacharyya 2018). Although successive governments at the centre wish to establish land connectivity with Southeast Asia through the NER, ‘Look/ Act East’ via the sea looks more feasible and cost-effective due to Southeast Asia’s extensive navigable coastline. It is more reasonable and


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economically viable to build road and railway links to southwest China— which is landlocked—through NER. Reopening the World War II vintage Stillwell Road, however, may create security problems for India due to the presence of Chinese military and the increase of Chinese influence on Myanmar. For policy makers, this may prove to be a strategic stumbling block for India’s Look/ Act East Policy. Expanding the scope of Look/ Act East policy to include China is of vital importance for the success of the policy. Therefore, the initiatives under BCIM (Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar) are extremely important. Both Chinese and Indian governments have taken steps for the progress of BCIM initiatives. A conference was held in Kolkata on 2 May 2014, to formulate strategies to develop the BCIM economic corridor for the expansion of trade, investment and connectivity between India and the countries to its immediate east, extending up to Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific. India’s decision to implement LEP/ AEP through North East India crucially hinges on Bangladesh’s facilitation of transit linkages to help India connect its mainland to the region. The current 21-kilometre-wide corridor between most of North East India and the mainland is not adequate. Re-establishing the pre-partition road and rail transportation linkages through Bangladesh would be critically important for connecting with Southeast Asia through North East India Fortunately, the India–Bangladesh relationship has improved during the last several years. The successful implementation of the 2015 boundary agreement, the opening of border trade in Maghalaya and Tripura, and improvement in land connectivity have boosted business relations and fortified the mandates of the Look/ Act East Policy. The Kolkata– Dhaka–Agartala and Dhaka–Shillong–Guwahati routes represent the most important road connectivity with Bangladesh. However, while improvement in land connectivity may facilitate large-scale migration from Bangladesh—a fear that has caused socio-political unrest in the region over last four decades—it could also be a part of the solution to the vexing migration problem. Appropriate policy options to regulate and control people’s movements across borders without the fear of domination by immigrants moving into North East India should be discussed at the highest levels by the two governments. The Government of India’s initiative to open Chittagong Port for the movement of goods from NER

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is also a boost to the Look/ Act East Policy. One of the long-standing issues with Bangladesh is the Teesta Water Sharing issue, which is to be solved diplomatically to strengthen India’s LEP/ AEP initiatives. Myanmar shares a 1643-kilometre-long land border with four North East Indian states—Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. India has been trying to establish land links to Southeast Asia since Myanmar joined ASEAN. With this intention, India constructed the Moreh–Tamu–Kalewa–Kalemyo highway, and is planning to start on the Trilateral Highway project by connecting Moreh on the India– Myanmar border with Mae Sot on the Myanmar–Thailand border via Bagan. When this project is completed India will be able to access ASEAN countries through Myanmar by road. However, the proposed ambitious Trans-Asian Rail Link plan that seeks to connect Delhi with Hanoi will be much more difficult and time-consuming to implement. Building rail linkages to the Manipur–Myanmar border from Silchar in Assam is the first priority. Furthermore, modernisation of the Myanmar railways would be essential for the proposed plan. Overall, India’s road and rail connectivity with the ASEAN countries through Myanmar is still poor and would require extensive construction and modernisation. Another important connectivity project with Myanmar is the Kaladan Multi-Modal Project that envisages modernization of Sittwe port in Rakhine state and dredging the Kaladan river up to Mizoram in North East India. Upon completion of this project India could not only use the sea–river route connecting its northeast, but could also use Myanmar’s Sittwe port for trade. In general, the success of India’s LEP/ AEP initiatives to establish links with South East Asian countries through Myanmar depends on the following factors: 1 . India’s relationship with Myanmar. 2. Myanmar’s internal conflicts with ethnic minorities. 3. Improvement of Myanmar’s land connectivity infrastructure and establishment of connections with North East India. Although the relationship between India and Myanmar has improved, it has a way to go.


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Another issue that hinders the LEP/ AEP initiatives is the insurgency in North East India, which has been going on for decades. Despite measures by the Government of India, often criticised and opposed due to alleged human rights violations, to contain insurgency along various fronts, including security/ military, political, and economic, several extremist groups continue to be active in the region. These insurgent groups, operating in North East India with support from rebel groups in Myanmar and Bangladesh, contribute to international sensitivity (Nath and Kumar 2017). The Indian government needs have serious dialogues with the governments of these two neighbouring countries to formulate comprehensive policies to deal with this problem for proper implementation of the Look/ Act East Policy. Strong and improved foreign policy initiatives in recent years have helped India maintain good relationships with Southeast Asian countries and reap benefits under LEP/ AEP.  However, more than 80 per cent of India’s trade with Southeast Asian countries is conducted by sea. There are two important issues. First, there is hardly any manufacturing industry in NER with potential for profitable export to South Asian countries. Second, the infrastructure necessary for transporting manufactured goods and raw materials from other parts of India through the regions is yet to be developed. Under the Look/ Act East Policy, there is scope for creating various opportunities for North East India as the region has geographical advantages and cultural similarities with Southeast Asian countries.3 North East India is rich in natural resources, horticultural products and spices. It also has tremendous tourism potential, primarily due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. Opening NER to visitors from the countries of East and Southeast Asia could be a significant contributor to economic development. The biodiversity of the national parks in the region—Kaziranga National Park, Namdapha National Park, Manas National Park, to name just a few—the cultural heritage of Majuli, the natural beauty of Umiam and Loktak lakes, and Nohkalikai and Elephant Falls would certainly  Baruah (2004) discusses regional integration across national borders under LEP as a broad framework for overall development of NER. 3

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attract a large number of tourists from South and Southeast Asian countries. Further, a vast majority of the population of Southeast Asian countries are Buddhists and they desire to visit the Buddhist shrines of India. Creating awareness of the places in North East India with Buddhist monasteries and shrines, such as Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh and Rumtek in Sikkim, would be an important step in promoting tourism under LEP/ AEP. The cultural similarities between people of the northeast and those of Southeast Asian countries, especially in food habits, cultural affinities, and physical attributes, can help create cultural ties and bonding that will go a long way to increase cross-border movements of people that are likely to promote economic growth. There is tremendous scope in the hospitality sector. The people of North East India have a reputation for their hospitality, a rich cultural heritage and reasonably good communication skills. Many of the youth from the region are already employed in the hospitality sector in different parts of the country, especially in the southern states of India, as well as abroad. With better ties with countries in Southeast Asia under LEP/ AEP, there would be employment opportunities for youth of North East India in thriving tourist sectors of countries like Singapore and Thailand. There have been suggestions to develop service industries in the health and education sectors, in addition to tourism (Nath and Kumar 2017). The development of excellent medical facilities in the region could promote medical tourism. Such facilities would attract people from Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh who currently go to Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Mumbai for their medical treatment needs as well as benefitting people in the region. Furthermore, such facilities with quality healthcare are likely to provide an alternative for affordable services to people from the countries of South and Southeast Asia, who currently seek medical treatment in Bangkok or Singapore. Similarly, North East India has the opportunity to become a higher education destination that provides quality education. Note that there are already higher education institutions of national importance in the region, including the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), National Institute of Technology (NIT), and National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER). The establishment of


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the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is currently under way. The city of Guwahati, the gateway to the region, has already emerged as an important educational hub. The doors of these institutions could be opened to students from the neighbouring countries of South and Southeast Asia under the LEP/ AEP initiatives. There are several areas, including English language training, for which there is substantial demand among students from these countries, and some of these institutions in North East India have comparative advantages. Attracting foreign students may also help promote tourism, as they become the honorary ambassadors for the region.

The Way Forward While both the states and the central government would like to see the LEP/ AEP initiatives implemented, it is important to look at their feasibility within a reasonable time frame. The central government has rightly put emphasis on solving the ethnic and insurgency problems that have plagued the northeastern states for decades. It believes that socioeconomic and infrastructure development in the region would go a long way to solving these problems. The integration of North East India with the Southeast Asian countries under the umbrella of LEP/AEP is a bold move. However, its implementation requires a comprehensive plan that encompasses several important aspects of polity, economy, external and internal security and diplomacy. India’s foreign ministry gives a great deal of attention to Bangladesh and Myanmar, two countries bordering NER. This approach is strategically important due to rising power and influence of China over South and Southeast Asian countries. This is not an easy task for the government as the states of North East India have several unresolved issues with both countries. Illegal immigration from Bangladesh and support for the insurgent groups in the region from both countries have created an atmosphere of mistrust and animosity against Bangladesh and Myanmar among the people of North East India . No federal government initiative will work until it is fully supported by the people at the grass root level as well as the political elites. It is tough playing a balancing act of diplomacy

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between the Buddhist-majority country of Myanmar and the Muslim-­ majority country of Bangladesh. The relationship between these two countries is already tense over the fate of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. A major humanitarian crisis has been going on in Bangladesh as more than 1 million Rohingya refugees have taken shelter there.4 According to reports, India has over 40,000 Rohingya refugees, seven of whom were deported after a Supreme Court Ruling that upheld the central government’s assessment of them as national security threats. This was opposed by non-state actors and opposition parties in India. The current government in New Delhi empathised with Myanmar’s concern about ‘extremist violence’ in Rakhine state. More recently, India committed USD 25 million of development assistance over a period of five years to help the ‘restoration of normalcy’ in Rakhine state, after the recent agreement between India and Myanmar for a development programme in that state. India assured assistance with construction of housing for the returned refugees in that state. India’s security network in its northeast needs to be upgraded to the maximum level to meet the security threats that continuously emerge from across the borders. The ‘Act East Policy’ should be seen as a framework that offers a platform for both soft and hard projects that need to be initiated. It may begin with culture, people exchange, education and a complete change in attitude. It is difficult to promote economic cooperation and cultural ties and to develop strategic relationship with countries in the Asia–Pacific region through continuous engagement at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels via NER unless the people of North East India see this as a new mantra to begin ‘acting’ rather than ‘thinking and brooding’. There are long-drawn-out and long-standing bilateral issues with Bangladesh, such as the issue of water sharing, migration etc. The Teesta river dispute that crops up in every bilateral talk between India and Bangladesh highlights the unresolved conflict over water sharing (Pulla et  al. 2018).  Speaking at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly on 27 September 2018, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said there were 1.1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Fox News quoting Associated Press (27 September 2018): Bangladesh point finger at Myanmar for Rohingya ‘genocide’ (https://www.foxnews.com/world/bangladesh-point-finger-at-myanmar-forrohingya-genocide). 4


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It will help India to use Bangladeshi territory for effective implementation of India’s Look/Act East Policy. The Government of India needs to commit to time-bound completion of various ongoing projects with Myanmar such as the Trilateral Highway project by connecting Moreh on the India-Myanmar border with Mae Sot on the Myanmar-Thailand border via Bagan, the ambitious Trans-Asian rail link plan, and the Kaladan Multi-Modal project. Expansion of rail connectivity in North East India is also a prerequisite for successful implementation of LEP/ AEP. A new era of development for the northeast through transport and communication infrastructure and trade would also assist in resolving various ethnic conflicts. The problems of illegal immigration, human and drug trafficking could be obviated to some extent if sufficient cultural resistance capital were accumulated through developmental programmes and better livelihood opportunities. The communities on both sides of the international border can be encouraged to trade and take pride in their goods. After all, investment in North East India under AEP is not just to build a transit corridor but to resource local manufacturing and the region in general. Trade alone will not be enough to project the region onto a sustained development path. Additional local growth would be necessary. As the Government of India implements LEP/ AEP it should encourage public debate and participation as well as opening of doors and windows in the political and economic arena. The creation of Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs and the opening of its branch office in Guwahati are welcome moves that should help address the aspirations of the people of this region and ensure better liaison with the External Affairs Ministry on issues concerning foreign trade, foreign direct investment and cultural exchanges. Kota (2018) writes that the two days of Global Investors’ Summit, titled ‘Advantage Assam’ held in Guwahati in February 2018 infused new hope into the implementation of LEP/AEP. The Government of Assam has created a separate Act East Policy Department and dedicated a diplomatic enclave in Guwahati along with a 64 storey Twin Tower Trade Centre. Bhutan and Bangladesh have already opened diplomatic offices in Guwahati. Overall, the success of the policy depends on the commitment of the government to

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implement various initiatives under the policy and to have the people of NER on board in this collective effort.

References Baruah, S. (2004). Between South and Southeast Asia: Northeast India and the Look East Policy. CENISEAS Chapters No. 4. Guwahati: Centre for Northeast India, South and Southeast Asian Studies. Barua, A., Das, S. K. (2008). Perspectives on Growth and Development in the Northeast: The Look East Policy and Beyond. Margin: The Journal of Applied Economic Research, 2(4), 327–350. Bezbaruah, M. P., & Sarma, A. (2009, March). Industry in the Development Perspective of North East India. Dialogue, Vol. 10, No. 3. Bhattacharyya, R. (2018). Rebel Camps in Myanmar: Will They Hamper the Act East Policy? In A.  Sarma & S.  Choudhury (Eds.), Mainstreaming the Northeast in India’s Look and Act East Policy. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan. Bhaumik, S. (2014, June). ‘Look East through Northeast’: Challenges and Prospects for India. ORF Occasional Chapter, Observer Research Foundation, 51. Kota, R. (2018, February 3). Warp and Weft for Act East Policy. The Assam Tribune, Guwahati, p. 6. Moral, D. (1997). North–East India as a Linguistic Area. Mon-Khmer Studies, 27, 43–53. Nath, H. K., & Kumar, S. (2017). India’s Look/ Act East Policy and the North East Region: A critical Perspective. Space and Culture, India, 5(2), 7–20. Pulla, V., Ahmed, Z. S., & Pawar, M. (2018). Water and Communities in South Asia: A Case for Regional Cooperation. Space and Culture, India, 6(3), 23–40. Shrivastava, S. (2013, June 18). North East India and India’s Look East Policy. The World Reporter.

10 Recognising, Understanding and Responding to Racism in India Venkat Pulla, Elizabeth Carter, and Rituparna Bhattacharyya

Racism in India Recently the parliament of India passed a bill offering amnesty to non-­ Muslim illegal immigrants from three neighbouring countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) specifically provides citizenship to religious minorities escaping from these countries as refugees, especially the Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist

V. Pulla (*) • E. Carter Senior Research Fellow (Adjunct), ILWS, Charles Sturt University, NSW, Australia Sessional Academic, Charles Darwin University, NT, Australia Foundation Professor, Brisbane Institute of Strengths Based Practice, NSW, Australia R. Bhattacharyya Research Consultant & Editor-in-Chief, Space and Culture, India, North Shields, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 V. Pulla et al. (eds.), Discrimination, Challenge and Response, Mapping Global Racisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46251-2_10



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and Parsi communities who arrived by 31 December 2014 as a result of religious persecution (The Citizenship (Ammendment) Act (2019). Now let us see how the world at large and how even people in India have interpreted this. The BBC and the CNN world often tend to present India as being anti-Muslim. Within India the Indian Muslim citizen is made to believe that the current act of the Parliament passed by the Modi Government is an anti-Muslim act. India in 2020 continues to have over a quarter of its adult population unable to read and write, and so with limited to no understanding of complex political processes. Indian literacy data is calculated from age 7 onwards. Muslims have the highest proportion of illiterates at 42.72 per cent, compared to 36.40 per cent among Hindus, 32.49 per cent among Sikhs, 28.17 per cent among Buddhists and 25.66 per cent among Christians. Understandably, a failure of social intelligence and a rapidly manipulative social media play a crude role in projecting forward half-truths and slimy propositions that are unsupported by evidence. Unfortunately, illiteracy coupled with gullibility plays a major role in supporting the hegemonic interplay of caste class and religion. The current Government of India clarifies its position by pointing out that Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are Islamic republics in which Muslims are a majority; hence, a Muslim from those countries cannot be treated as a member of a persecuted minority. Most violent protests against the Act to date have taken place in the north eastern state of Assam, which borders Bangladesh. There has been torching of buildings and train stations over fears that the Act would help thousands of immigrants from Bangladesh to become lawful citizens in the state of Assam. Since the passing of CAA, there have been both anti-CAA protests and pro-CAA marches all over the country. One of such ongoing anti-CAA protests is in Shaheen Bagh located in South Delhi. One of the organisers of the protest of Shaheen Bagh and a former student of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Mr. Sharjeel Imam made a video of hate speech on segregation of North East India from the mainstream. This seditious video, which went viral on 25 January 2020, referring to the Siliguri railway track corridor (also known as the Chicken’s Neck) connecting North East India to its mainland (Bhattacharyya 2018a, 2019) called for the region to be separated from India so that they could make the Government of India listen to their demands on CAA:

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‘If we all come together, then we can separate the northeast from India. If not permanently, then at least for one to two months. We can do this. It will take the administration at least one month to disperse all of them. It is our responsibility to cut Assam from India. When this will happen, only then the centre will listen to us’ (Bennett 2017).

This book project, was never conceived to be commenting on this muchmisunderstood or mis-explained India’s Citizenship Amendment Act. However, within the context of discrimination and challenges that the people of North East India face even after seven decades of the country’s independence, utterance of a hate speech as above is disgraceful. Taking cognizance of Mr. Imam’s rabble-rousing speech, some of the leaders of North East India not only condemned but also reported it to the police and Mr. Imam has been arrested under charges of sedition. The most saddening part, however, is that none of the leaders of the mainstream polity, including the Chief Minister of Delhi, Mr. Arvind Kezriwal, condemned the statement of Mr. Imam. This reflects the openly discriminating attitude towards North East India and its people (Mukherjee and Dutta 2019). Much of the problem in India in relation to race seems to be obscured by a fog of denial. For any serious student of social change in India, or any enthusiastic Western researcher, India’s caste and class structure at the intersections of its religions, namely Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism, amongst others, is a mix is no less crude and provocative than a Molotov cocktail. We noted in Chap. 2 that conversion to Islam, Buddhism or Christianity did not change an individual’s position in the caste structure. Social mobility and changing caste status did not affect the preponderant influence or authority of a caste. Thus, the hegemonic interplay between caste, culture and power is ever-flammable and returns very frequently. Just as we have large chunks of the Western world in which its intelligentsia and its press feeds the gullible, we have a similar situation in India with exponential ramifications of spreading rumour, innuendo and man-created strife. As authors we believe that racism can only be overcome if all people participate in challenging the causes of racism in their world. Each of us have our own set of critical observations of this pervasive phenomenon in India that dates back over two decades. However, when Venkat Pulla began a series of conversations with northeastern students in 2014  in


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smaller cities including Pune, Ahmednagar and Hyderabad, Monalisa Phukan Roy, a teaching research assistant in a social work program (CSRD, Ahmednagar) came up to him and said that her research participants asked if the northeastern people still lived in jungles. Roy was doing her research on Khasi women in Ahmednagar and the discrimination meted out to them. In his subsequent visits to India between 2014 and 2017, he met many young men and women; one that had an impact on him was Management Studies Graduate who also had a Public Health degree but was working in a massage parlour, in Hyderabad. There is nothing wrong being a masseuse, but postgraduate Qualifications in management and a degree in public health ought to have placed her better in the employment market. How can it be justified that Khasis receive paltry wages in retail, in hospitality industry in call centres, spa and massage parlours? This led Venkat Pulla to think about the challenges of diversity and lack of commitment of a critical mass that could make this diversity productively work in India. Take yet another narrative: Raktim Boro is 29 and works in Goa. He recalls his undergraduate days in Ahmednagar and the woes he used to hear of thousands of youths from North East India, irrespective of gender, becoming the targets of mainstream discrimination in India. The majority of the people of North East India look distinctly different in their physical features and this is used to position them outside mainstream society. The social construction of epicanthic eye folds, snub noses, and other phenotypic traits, including delicate build, provides the terrain for the operationalisation of otherness. They are stereotyped as backward and exotic. Life in a small city in Maharashtra not too far from Pune, is different. At one point of time Raktim recalls, there were over four hundred students from the northeast.

Venkat Pulla: Notes from the Field, 2017 Talking about racism can be uncomfortable for some people; it is generally not something that a person thinks about unless they are confronted with it in their life or in the media. Believe it or not, racism is a part of every person’s life, even if they do not recognise it. People say things and

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deny that they have said them. People do things and deny that they have done so. Personal identity, potential biases, and one’s own understanding of and outlook on the world all contribute to racialised behaviours. No one likes to be called a racist, they see it as a negative label, just as no nation state or institution likes to accept that there have been racist excesses in their history. Individuals and groups need to self-reflect on their values and prejudices and how these influence their interactions with others, and undertake conversations about racism. Open and honest discussion can be a good start to an understanding about racism and how it impacts everyone. These conversations should involve allowing everyone a chance to tell their story or truth as they see it. It is absolutely essential that people, societies, and states around the world show resolve in countering racism, in naming it whenever it appears, and in fighting it with every means possible. The celebration of cultural diversity, unity in diversity as Indians call it, does not always lead to racial literacy. It is not enough to adopt a ‘colour blind’ approach as opposed to an openness to having conversations about race. To address the issue of racism in India a conversation must be started about how the country can move towards being ‘just, equitable and reconciled’. The concept of inter-cultural group harmony requires a holistic approach that encompasses rights, as well as symbolic and practical actions. It requires a national debate on prejudice, discrimination and racism, leading to a wider national debate on India’s national identity and the place of the northeastern people’s history, culture and rights in that story. This kind of national debate cannot be driven by one-off investigative committee and commissioned reports, but would require a national expert body to facilitate inter-cultural group harmony in India. It is suggested that the role of this body would be to connect people through shared experiences, expectations and knowledge, and educate people about minority groups within India, their histories, cultures and successes. This work could be carried out through initiatives and programmes across workplaces, education environments and communities. A national integration body, independent, with representatives of all stakeholders and created with the sole purpose of educational promotion should be established at the federal level and state levels, tuned and set to the vision


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of a just and equitable India. A nation’s progress towards recognition is only as strong as the weakest element. The concept of race has been used to classify individuals according to physical characteristics of groups of people. For example in India, an individual’s facial features and skin colour can lead to him or her experiencing racism, prejudice, discrimination or antagonism. It is important to understand that race is a socio-cultural construct with no proven biological underpinning. It is based on socially and culturally informed imaginings or assumptions, rather than anything inherent in our genes. Despite the fact that race is not based on any biological reality the belief that one socially constructed racial group is superior to another continues to be a lived reality for many people in India. Critical race theory gives insight into oppressive aspects of society in order to generate social and individual change. This theory consists of six beliefs about racism: • The first belief is that racism is an ordinary occurrence that permeates all aspects of social life. • The second belief is that race is a system of categorising people according to physical attributes. It is actually a social construction, existing primarily for the purpose of social stratification. Both of these ideas relate to the previous discussion on social identity and the reliance on categorisation to facilitate information processing. • The third belief is that the dominant social discourse, and people in power, can racialise groups in different ways at different times, depending on historic, social or economic need. • The fourth belief is that dominant groups’ account of history excludes minority perspectives to justify and legitimise their power. Dominant groups’ ability to control the narrative can make it difficult for minority groups to have a voice. • The fifth belief is that racism brings material advantage to the majority race and change only occurs when it is in the interest of the powerful. Group behaviour, as described in social identity theory, favours the in-group, and where there is competition for resources it will actively disfavour out-groups, which can result in discrimination and racism.

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• Finally, the sixth belief is that a primary focus on racism can eclipse other forms of exclusion. This last belief prompts us to remember that when addressing racism, it is important not to overlook other forms of oppression, such as sexism, homophobia or economic exploitation (Quinn and Grumbach 2015). This theory identifies that social groups and society play an important role in discrimination and racism, so need to be considered when trying to solve the serious issue of racism. The challenge is ensuring people understand that racism comes in insidious and persistent forms. It is one thing to think of racism only in terms of a belief in racial superiority, or a doctrine of racial purity, but more benign forms of racism also exist. Racism is as much about impact as it is about intention, and as much about effect as it is about purpose. Sometimes this is the most difficult part of racism for people to understand. It is important to point out how ‘freedom of speech’ can contribute to racism. ‘Freedom of speech’ is being used to normalise bigotry and discrimination and has led to the deterioration of public discourse. Free speech can quickly turn into hate speech. Very simply, no freedom is absolute. While there is freedom of speech, it should not involve a freedom to inflict bigotry on others with impunity. Here, the law plays an important role in setting a standard for equality and racial tolerance. Laws alone, however, are not enough. There is also a need for educative measures against racism. The path to inter-cultural group harmony is through developing strong relationships that are not only underpinned by trust and respect but also free of racism. It involves finding common ground without resorting to crude stereotypes. It is often done by looking beyond the surface of appearances, status, education, home address and work role, and being genuinely interested in how others are experiencing their world. Limited personal interactions between groups can be a barrier to inter-cultural group harmony. Finding ways to increase exposure to each other is imperative to improving understanding and acceptance. While it may not be possible to create person-to-person interaction there are other ways to


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learn more about each other. Schools, workplaces and media can all play a critical role. Some ideas to improve understanding and acceptance: • Creation of television content to share stories and ideas. • Critical engagement with mainstream media and calling out subtle prejudices and biases embedded in content. • Training for teachers in other groups stories and ideas. • Adding history and content relating to minority groups within the community to curriculum in schools and higher education. • Encouraging organisations to join inter-cultural group harmony as movement. • Creating online resources giving individuals the opportunity to not only explore other group’s stories and ideas but also give information on what they can do if they witness discrimination. • Encourage individuals to explore not only their rights but the rights of other Indians to be free from racial discrimination.

Equality and Equity To understand equality and equity one must develop an understanding of the concepts by examining the distinct contexts, meanings and measures of the two concepts, while recognising the ways in which the two are mutually reinforcing. Equality can be defined as individuals having control of their life choices, enabling them to participate fully in the social, cultural and economic opportunities enjoyed by the wider community. Unfortunately, in India this is not the case for all; there are obvious and unacceptable gaps between the dominant and minority groups. Equity is simply fairness: not everybody getting the same thing but everybody getting what they need to improve the quality of their situation. Figure 10.1 illustrates this idea.

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Fig. 10.1  Illustration of equality and equity by Angus Maguire (2016). (Illustration courtesy: Interaction Institute for Social Change Artist: Angus Maguire (2016); interactioninstitute.org and madewithangus.com)

Institutional Integrity Institutional integrity is a state of affairs in which inter-cultural group harmony is actively supported by a nation’s political, business and community structures. To provide justice and equity for all requires meaningful communication, cooperation and action between government bodies, minority groups and the wider Indian community. Lack of institutional integrity can stem from tokenistic rather than genuine or authentic attitudes and actions. The greatest obstacle to a meaningful movement toward a multicultural society is the failure to understand unconscious and unintentional complicity in perpetuating bias and discrimination in our personal values/ beliefs and our institutions. Ethnocentric values and beliefs can be manifested in the programmes, policies, practices, structures of


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institutions in Indian society. Institutional racism can foster the enactment of discriminatory statues, selective enforcement of laws, or assimilation forced on the culturally different. To improve institutional integrity, organisations can be assisted to create an inter-cultural group harmony action plan which contains practical actions to contribute to harmony both internally and in the communities in which it operates. Such a plan would enable organisations to build and encourage relationships between individuals, communities, organisations and the broader Indian community. An inter-cultural group harmony action plan can provide a framework for harmony to be realised, and potential for inequalities or inequities to be effectively addressed at the institutional level.

Unity For unity to exist all of Indian society must value and recognise all the cultures that exist within its shared national identity. Learning about and connecting with India’s rich and diverse history is key to embracing and celebrating the heritage that underpins India’s national story. Unfortunately, the narratives of dominant groups within India have overshadowed the important histories and heritage of minority groups. It is important to emphasise the need for a shared national identity; one which effectively reflects all citizens and India’s entire history as a nation. Actively listening to minority groups, developing proposals that have their support and making positive contributions to a national conversation around unity and inter-cultural group harmony are all positive steps. Symbolic aspects of national identity are important to consider alongside the practical aspects. National symbols are often a source of unity and shared pride, but they can also divide and exclude. These symbols need to reflect the histories and cultures of all Indians, old and new, in order to generate a stronger sense of shared pride, and to help unite the nation.

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From Awareness to Acceptance It is important to consider that wrongs have been committed in the past and are being committed on an ongoing basis. This is about telling the truth to achieve justice and healing and to improve one’s practice. Part of this truth-telling process for India is acknowledging that the people from the northeast are an important part of Indian culture and have much to contribute to society. India’s history has been characterised by theft of resources, intentional marginalisation, violence and overt and unapologetic racism directed at the people of the northeast. A lack of historical acceptance is a reason the wrongs of the past continue to be reflected in the present. Unless wrongs are fully and truthfully acknowledged they will continue to hinder true inter-cultural group harmony. A failure to understand the past and how it affects individuals now can lead to the belief that the people from the northeast are responsible for their own disadvantage. To change this requires education about the negative effects of colonisation, systematic racism and exclusion. To achieve lasting change India must treat both the symptoms and the underlying (historical) causes of contemporary failings and injustices. This involves working in genuine and positive partnership with the people from the northeast to learn from their experiences and perspectives and to invest in appropriate early intervention and prevention strategies across workplaces, institutions, schools and wider communities.

National Anti-Racism Campaign The aims of a national anti-racism campaign should be to create awareness of racism and how it affects individuals and the broader community; identify, promote and build on good practice initiatives to prevent and reduce racism; and empower communities and individuals to take action to prevent and reduce racism and seek redress when it occurs. Some practical ideas on how these aims can be facilitated:


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• Ask organizations to commit to the campaign and develop their own anti-racism activities. • Ask individuals to become part of a community of people who are committed to leading by example. • Offer advice and assistance to supporters in implementing their anti-­ racism activities. • Provide a central coordination point for activities happening across India. • Develop materials to assist in the promotion of anti-racism messages. • Develop education tools for a range of audiences. • Share examples of good practice for others to learn from and build on. • Facilitate linkages and partnerships between supporter organizations.

Context in India The reconstructed narratives utilised in all the chapters in this volume are about northeast migrants, (Indian citizens) who have constitutionally guaranteed freedom to move and settle down anywhere in India. They come to metropolitan cities to find a job, escape from native poverty, in some cases from ongoing insurgency, simply to find a better life in another city, town or village in India or for higher studies. A large number of the people dwelling in North East India speak Tibeto-Burman dialects/ language and belong to the family of Mongoloids (Sino-Tibetan) who entered North East India from the north and east before 1000 bce and settled permanently in the plains and surrounding hills of the region (Bhattacharyya 2018b; Prakash 2007). The ancient literature and the epics—the Mahabharata, the Vedas and the Puranas—referred generically to the Mongoloid family as the Kiratas. Critics argue that the Mongloid’s ‘advent in the North-East might have been about the time the Aryans entered the North-West India sometime before 1000 bc. So, it is probable that by the time the Vedas were compiled, the Mongoloid people were already settled along the Great Himalayan Range from north-­ western to north-eastern limits of India’ (Prakash 2007: 50). However, ‘Mongoloid’ is a contested term.

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That India is a raceless society is a myth. We have proved this. Disenfranchising one group and treating some others inclusively is not something that the State does. No sane state and or a nation would like to be embroiled in any controversy and then pay the heavy price of becoming politically correct. India for instance, has the following legal framework that assures racial equality in India: Article 14 of the Indian Constitution states, ‘The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India’. Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth: 1. The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them. 2. No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to— (a) Access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or (b) The use of wells, tanks, bathing Ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public. Article 16: ‘Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment: There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state. No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect or any employment or office under the state’. Article 21 states that, ‘No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.’ In spite of the equality as guaranteed in constitution, there has been rising intolerant racial violence against people from North East India. In the context of the many discussions presented in this volume a final perusal of the Bezbaruah Committee report of 2014 is necessary.


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Clearly there is an adequate legal framework designed to ensure that racial equality prevails in India. But by the same token, there is little evidence that any of this legal framework was useful in preventing the incidents, the incessant assaults, on northeastern young people in the metropolitan cities of India. What were they addressed as? ‘Momos’, ‘Chinkies’, ‘Chinese’, ‘Chichi Chu’. Purely disparaging remarks relating to race, culture, identity or physical appearances thrown at people from the same country. Should such remarks that insult fellow human beings be made punishable, even though they may not violate a law but, demoralise fellow human beings? The Bezbaruah Committee made a couple of suggestions to insert section 153C, which deals with the imputations and assertions prejudicial to human dignity, and section 509 A, which deals with the word, gesture or act intended to insult a member of a particular racial group or of any race. The Committee suggested that any racial slur, or assault must be treated as an offence and 1 . the offence should be cognisable and non-bailable; 2. the investigation of the First Information Report (FIR) should be completed within 60 days by a Special Squad, investigated by a police officer not below the rank of Deputy SP/ACP. A special prosecutor should be appointed to handle all such cases of atrocities. And that 3. the trial should be completed in 90 days. As India moves ceaselessly towards economic globalisation and the current government of Mr. Modi seeks to drive the country to grow at all costs, there are bound to be some who are kept out, disenfranchised, marginalised and excluded from India’s new tryst with destiny. Could anyone provide answers for the racial discrimination that prevails in India, or for that matter elsewhere in the world? Some may still be territorial attitudinally and live in ethno pockets where they have little to do with others but modern communication, connectivity and commerce that has become so vital for human survival leads one to doubt that there is anyone who has remained in one place or habitat without exposure to another who looks different or speaks another language or had to be

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addressed in yet another language. India is a pluralistic, postcolonial nation and is 73 years old in 2020. There is no other country that matches India’s canvas of ethnic groups, its plethora of mutually unintelligible languages, varieties of terrain and climate, religious diversity and varied cultural practice. India has 29 states and 22 major languages, written in 13 different scripts, with over 720 dialects and over 2000 ethnic groups and variations. India is or shortly will be the Earth’s most populous nation.

Postscript Is there a national identity of India? For a research-baiting conversation, the first author (shown throughout the following conversational narrative in italic) engaged in a 25-minute conversation in India’s capital city, New Delhi in a canteen outside a private college in 2017. He took a hand-held placard which had in large clear writing: ‘A free coffee or Tea and Samosa (a local Indian spicy snack) for a two-minute discussion!’ and stood smiling outside a college cafeteria. Two young men came together; a third came by; then a fourth. It was confirmed later that they all belonged to the same lecture group that attended a BA second-year class. The ensued conversation is reported below follows. The first author’s statements are italicised. Come in: anyone of you who doesn’t like coffee or tea and would have a soft drink instead? Respondent-1: Actually yes: I will have a Coke. What’s the discussion about? Sure, we will get coke for you. Are you an Indian? Respondent-1: Yes, I am an Indian, did you think I am a Chinese? I didn’t mean anything. I just asked. Respondent-1: I thought you were teasing me, because, I look different Respondent-2: (without being prompted) I am Indian too! What a question to ask? Are you an Indian? I’m … Yes. Indian born. Respondent-3: In that case, I am, but I am first Tamil. Are you also a south Indian like me?


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Yes, I’m … but when I said I am Indian born, I meant, that I am an Australian citizen and I take great pride in acknowledging both, and I always acknowledge both. Is there anyone who sees himself Indian first? Respondent-3: I guess, I am first Tamil. Resondent-4: I am Indian but from Punjab. Respondent-3 (to Respondent-4): But you don’t look like a Punjabi. Respondent-4: What do you mean by that? Respondent-3: I meant you don’t have headgear, or that cloth on you. Respondent-4: You mean pagdi? Those are Sikh people. Respondent-4 (looks at the author): Look at this madrasi—he doesn’t know that there are other Punjabi-speaking people, other than Sikh. Respondent-3: That’s like how much you know about south, we have Dravidic people, kanndigas, telungu people and Kerala people etc. Respondent-4: Do I need to know them all? Respondent-3: Sounds good to me. We, too, don’t need to know how many different Punjabis there are. It is so confusing. Respondent-1: We don’t even know why we are getting this free coffee? What are you asking us Sir? Hmm. I just wanted to see how many people say they are Indians first, and then I wanted to explore what is it that makes them feel Indian. Respondent-1: I can relate to that. Every time I am asked are you Indian ‘Are tho tekh se hindi bhi bolta nahi’ or ‘Angrz ka aulad hai kya? Ya chini ho’ (‘I am taunted every day. You can’t speak Hindi very well.’ and ‘Are you son of an English, but you don’t look it … you must be Chinese’). Respondent-1: I tell them straight away I am an Indian, this guy (pointing to Respondent 4) is my friend. He asks me many questions. Next year, he will come for holidays to my state, Mizoram, with me. Respondent-3: We are all Indians, but we are all different—I know Punjabis because my father in Chennai has truck company, and we have Punjabi drivers… Respondent-2: You mean a Sikh, the one who wears Pagdi? (Turban?) Respondent-3: Same thing. Respondent-2: It is not the same thing. Sikh is a religion. Respondent-1: That is right. Thanks guys. I don’t need any more comments right now. I guess we all need to know about each other … Incidentally it isn’t telungu, but Telugu people

The above narrative episode described the burdens of cross-cultural education on all counts within India itself. If those who are in the portals

10  Recognising, Understanding and Responding to Racism… 


of the university have limited curiosity and limited appreciation for each other from different states, how can we expect them to build up a welcoming attitude towards an interstate migrant to their town or city? All the more so if the person who has migrated does not even look the same, dark in colour or with slanted eyes? A newer approach that has been tried in New Zealand with the Maori population. It has our vote and we suggest that it can be trailed in Indian context. The basic concepts arose form of intercultural practice undertaken by Maori healthcare professionals in New Zealand (Manchester 2012), with the realisation that the space for cross-cultural interaction can be overlaid with issues of power differentials and racism; they decided on a deliberate effort towards establishing culturally safe spaces. It is important to address the following questions: Are people feeling safe? Do they feel deprived? Denied of their own identity in their own nation? Who are they and what do they need? These were the main questions. Cross cultural harmony is all about shared respect, shared meaning, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience, of learning together with dignity, and truly listening. (Williams 1999, 213) Some of the principles intrinsic to culturally safe social and human service practice include: • • • • • • • •

Respect for culture, knowledge, experience, obligations. No assault on a person’s identity or dignity. Clearly defined pathways to empowerment and self-determination. Recognition of more than one set of principles, more than one way of doing things. Commitment to the theory and practice of cultural safety by personnel and trained staff. Debunking of the myth that all indigenous people are the same. Working with people where they are at and not where you want them to be. Recognition of the ‘right to make one’s own mistakes’, people doing it for themselves, being active and not passive.


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• Careful negotiation of power ‘outside’ professional skills and knowledge which may be used to enhance decision-making. • Making the time required for skills and context to develop a certain level of understanding, to avoid a situation where the knowledge and skills of outsiders dominate organizational directions. • Being consistent with ongoing broad approaches (not one cause, one solution). • Communicating cooperatively. • Clarification of the place and role of non-indigenous staff. • Emphasis on community control or ownership which does not abdicate professionals from the responsibilities of their job and other obligations. (Williams 1999, 214, Gopalkrishnan and Pulla 2016) The notion of cultural safety as delineated in the above principles is a very important aspect of social work across cultures and we believe is adaptable to the Indian situation. As authors, we hope the context of a process of reconciliation and democratisation in North East India fosters space for dialogue and discussion, and begins a new peace process in a much-troubled region with a much-troubled history. There is no point othering anyone who is legally accepted as a citizen in a country. However, othering behaviour cannot be checked with legal rules and court processes. Indian society must commit to build a conducive environment with multi-dimensional efforts to make aware, educate and integrate North East Indians and their concerns on the one hand and to produce more interactive programmes and opportunities for mainland Indians to make them aware about North East India and its people. In the final analysis, what would one look for in India, the largest living democracy in the world? A resurgence of nationalism that prides itself on a population that has respect for, and recognises mutual obligations, of difference and diversity; that works towards a society where none are assaulted, none are treated badly and where the new resurgence of nationalism truly means embracing and respecting the diversity present in the entire nation.

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References Bennett, J. (2017, April 6). India No Longer Fears Racial Attacks on Its Students in Australia. ABC News. Retrieved April 4, 2018, from http://www.abc.net. au/news/2017-04-07/india-no-longer-fears-students-at-risk-of-racialattacks/8424124. Bhattacharyya, R. (2018a). Living with Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) as Everyday Life. Geo Journal, 83(1), 31–48. https://doi. org/10.1007/s10708-016-9752-9 (Springer). Bhattacharyya, R. (2018b). Chapter Six: Did India’s Partition Lead to Segregation of Northeast India? In A. Ranjan (Ed.), Partition of India: Postcolonial Legacies. New Delhi: Routledge. Bhattacharyya, R. (2019). Chapter Six: Did India’s Partition Lead to Segregation of North East India? In A.  Ranjan (Ed.), Partition of India: Postcolonial Legacies (pp. 105–131). Oxon and New York: Routledge. Gopalkrishnan, N., & Pulla, V. (2016). Beyond Cultural Competence: Working Across Cultures in a Globalized World. In The Lhotsampa People of Bhutan: Resilience and Survival (pp. 121–143). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Maguire, A. (2016). Illustration on Equality vis Equity. Retrieved from https:// interactioninstitute.org/illustrating-equality-vs-equity/. Manchester, A. (2012). Advancing the Maori and Pacific Workforce. Ibid.; 18(3): 29. Auckland, New Zealand. Mukherjee, M., & Dutta, C. (2019). Contested Urban Spaces in Delhi: Experiences of Discrimination of Women from North East India. Journal of Social Inclusion Studies, 4(2), 258–280. https://doi.org/10.1177/23 94481118812310. Prakash, Ved Col. (2007). Encyclopedia of North-East India, Volume-1. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors. Quinn, C., & Grumbach, G. (2015). Critical Race Theory and the Limits of Relational Theory in Social Work with Women. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 24(3), 202–218. https://doi.org/10.1080/1531320 4.2015.1062673. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act. (2019, December 12). No. 47 of 2019, Ministry of Law and Justice (Legislative Department), The Gazette of India. Retrieved February 1, 2020, from http://egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/ 2019/214646.pdf. Williams, R. (1999). Cultural Safety—What Does It Mean for Our Work Practice? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 23, 213–214. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-842X.1999.tb01240.x.



Abors, 116 Act East Policy (AEP), viii, 3, 9–10, 28, 70, 161–175 Agarwalla, Chandrakumar, 99 Ahoms, 102 Akbar Hydari, Muhammad Saleh, 124, 126 All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), 63, 75 American Baptist, 105, 120 Anandaram Dhekial Phukan, 100 Angami, 116, 124, 133, 135 Anglican, 120 Anglo-Burmese War, 118 Anglo-Manipur War of 1891, 119 Aoh, 116

Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act, 5, 6, 81–83, 85–88, 92, 130, 143 Article 371A, vi, 136, 154 Arunachal Pradesh, 8, 9, 24, 25, 34, 47, 60–62, 78, 92, 98, 111, 116, 131, 144, 150, 153–155, 163, 169, 171 Aryanisation, 100 Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), 64 Assam, vi, vii, 7, 9, 24, 32–33, 35, 36, 50, 51, 59–66, 69, 74, 75, 77, 78, 82–83, 92, 98–101, 103–107, 111, 115–137, 126n2, 130n4, 143, 149, 153–155, 163, 164, 166, 169, 174, 178, 179

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.


© The Author(s) 2020 V. Pulla et al. (eds.), Discrimination, Challenge and Response, Mapping Global Racisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46251-2


198 Index

Assam Accord, 64, 76 Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 133 Assamese, vii, 7, 61n1, 63, 64, 74–76, 99–101, 105, 107, 110, 111, 116, 121, 157 Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AGSP), 64, 75 Assam Oil Company, 128 Assam Pradeshik Mahila Samiti (APMS), 74 Assam Rifles, 130n4, 132, 133, 143, 144, 148, 7, 83, 85, 85n1, 88 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), 9, 10, 162, 164–167, 169 Attlee, Clement, 121, 123 Axomiya Bhaxar Unnati Xadhini Xabha, 105 B

Bangalore (Bengaluru), 25, 32, 35–38, 40, 43, 89, 166 Bangladesh, v, viii, 24, 38, 61, 63, 65, 116, 163, 168–174, 173n4, 177, 178 Bangladesh-India-Sri-LankaThailand Economic Cooperation, (BIST-EC), 165 Baptist Missionaries, 105 Barua, Birinchi Kumar, 107 Barua, Kanaklata, 74 Baruah, Gunabhiram, 100 Baruah, Hemchandra, 100 Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-­ Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), 165

Bezbaroa, Lakshminath, 99, 105 Bezbaruah Committee report, 48, 70, 189 Bhagavata Purana, 101 Bhakti, 104 Bhattacharjya, Birendra Kumar, 109 Bhutias, 116 Bodoland crisis, 62 Bodoland Territorial Council, 65 Bodo Language and Literature, 108 Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), 64 The Bodo Women’s Justice forum, 76 Bordoloi, Gopinath, 123 Borgohain, Homen, 111, 118, 120 British colonialism, 120 British Crown Colony, 121 British Empire, 78, 99 The British Government of India Act 1919, 120 Bru people, 65 Buddhism, 65, 179 C

Cabinet Mission, 123 Caste, 2–4, 13, 17–29, 90, 100, 102, 178, 179, 189 Chakmas, 65, 66 Chaliha, Bimala Prasad, 137 Chowdhury, Rita, 111 Chutiyani, Golapi, 74 Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA), 8, 177–179 Civil Disobedience Movement, 129, 131 Covenant of Reconciliation (CoR), 147

 Index  D

Daflas, 116 Das, Amalprava, 74 Das, Hemaprava, 74 Desmond Coutinho, 89, 91 Dima Halim Daoga (DHD), 64 Dimasas, 59, 63, 103 Discrimination, 1–14, 17–29, 32–38, 40–42, 45, 47–49, 51, 179–185, 189, 190


Gaon Burah Federation, 150 Garo, 61n1, 101, 127 Ghose, Arundhati, 76 Ghose, Sanjay, 76 Globalisation, 92, 190 Goswami, Hemchandra, 99, 105 Goswami, Indira, 110, 111 Government of India Act of 1935, 121 H


Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO), 150, 151 Eastern Naga Students Federation, 150 Effective sovereignty, 129, 130, 149–152 Ekasarana, 103, 104 Equality, 2, 3, 18–21, 81, 183–185, 189, 190 Equity, 62, 184–185 Ethnic violence in Northeast, 58–70 European Enlightenment, 120 Excluded Area, 122 F

Federal Government Nagaland (FGN), 134, 143 Forum for Naga Reconciliation, 150 Framework Agreement, 150, 151 Freedom of speech, 183 G

Gambhir Singh, King, 119 Gandhi, Mahatma, vii, 19, 50, 74, 86, 87, 125, 131n6

Hunger strike, 6, 86, 88–90 I

Imam, Sharjeel, 178, 179 Indian cities and racial hatred, 26, 92, 176, 177, 181 Indian literature, 10, 97–113 Indian Penal Code (IPC), 26, 48, 86 India’s Northeast border countries, 58 Indo-China war of 1962, 163 Inner Line Regulations, 119 Institutional integrity, 185–186 Inter-ethnic violence, 4–6, 58, 79 International cease-fire agreement, 137 J

Jonaki, 105 Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee, 5 K

Kakati, Banikanta, 100, 104 Kaladan Multi-Modal project, 166, 169, 174

200 Index

Lahon, Rabati, 74 The Leishiyer Tangkhul Women’s organisation, 81 Lhota, 116 Look East Policy (LEP) in India, 164–166, 168, 169, 174 Lord Vishnu, 103, 104 Lutheran, 120

109, 111, 116, 118–120, 131, 143, 144, 148, 150, 153–155, 169 Manipur Expedition, 1891, 119 Manipuri, 39, 73, 74, 78–80, 84, 85, 87, 88, 90, 101, 109, 119, 121, 157 The Manipur State Constitution Act of 1947, 78 Manorama, Thangjam, 7, 85, 88 Marginalisation, 12, 27, 97, 100, 109–113, 187 Meghalaya, vi, 9, 24, 42, 58, 60, 61, 65, 66, 98, 163 Meira Paibis, 7, 80, 81, 85, 91 Meitei, 61n1, 78, 80, 85, 109, 127 Mentscel, Binalakshmi Nepram, 74 Miris, 116 Mizo, 61n1, 65, 66, 101 Mizoram, vi, 24, 47, 57, 60–62, 65, 66, 69, 77, 98, 163, 169 Moamoria rebellion, 104 Modern Assamese poetry, 110 Mokokchung, 116, 123, 124, 128, 135 Molestation, 24, 84 Montague-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919, 121 Mumbai, 22, 23, 32, 36–38, 171 Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA), 64



Mahila Samitis, 7, 74, 76 Malom massacre, 85, 87 Manipur, vii, 7–9, 24, 34, 39, 50, 60, 69, 74, 77–83, 85–92, 98,

Naga-Akbar Hydari Accord, 124, 126, 149 Naga Central Government, 134, 135 Naga Club, 8, 120–122, 132

Kalika-Purana, 100 Kalita, Arupa Patangia, 111, 151, 156 Kandali, Mahendra, 103 Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, 63 Kezriwal, Arvind, 179 Khaplang, Shangwang Shangyung, 143, 144, 147, 148, 151, 152 Khasi, 61n1, 101, 127, 180 Khurai massacre, 76 Koch, 61n1, 102 Kohima, 81, 116, 118, 119, 123–125, 127–129, 132, 133, 135, 136, 143, 145, 149 Kolkatta, 36, 37 Konyak, 144 Konyak, Khole, 144, 147, 151 Kshatriyaisation, 102 Kshatriyas, 102 L


Naga Hills, viii, 9, 83, 118–123, 126, 127, 130n4, 133–135 Naga Hoho, viii, 150, 151, 156 Naga-Kuki conflict, 91 Nagaland, vii, 7–9, 24, 34, 38, 39, 50, 60, 61, 63, 69, 76–78, 82, 92, 98, 115, 116, 127, 130, 131, 134–137, 142–146, 148–151, 153–156, 163, 169 Nagalim, 7, 8, 116, 117, 124–134, 147, 149, 153–157 Nagamese Creole, 9, 116, 157 Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA), 7, 76, 77, 148, 150, 151, 156 Naga National Movement (NNM), 8, 132–137, 155 The Nagas in India, 81, 116, 125–129 The Naga Women’s Union, 81, 85, 91 Narayan, Jai Prakash, 137 National anti-racism campaign, 187–188 National Book Trust, 111 National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), 64 National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), 7, 8, 76, 144, 151 Nehru, Jawaharlal, 7–8, 12, 50, 115–137, 142–157 Nellie massacre, 76 Neo-Vaishnavite movement, 100, 101 New Delhi, 12, 37, 38, 86, 127, 150, 151, 167, 173, 191 Nine Point Agreement, 1947, 126, 149 Nisha Bandhis, 80


Nobel prize, 88 North East discrimination, 2–4, 23–29, 33, 34, 37, 38, 48, 179 Northeastern people, 49, 180, 181 North East India, v, vi, viii, 2–5, 7, 11, 12, 14, 23–26, 28, 31–36, 32n1, 38, 41, 42, 44–50, 58–70, 73, 75, 77, 79, 80, 82, 85, 86, 88, 91, 101, 118, 121, 130, 134, 143, 148, 149, 153, 155n12, 157, 161–175, 178–180, 188, 189, 194 North East Indian Literature, 112 North East Network, 74, 80 Nupi Lan, 73, 74, 79 O

Orunodai, 105 P

Panchayats, 129 Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, 150 People’s Resurgence and Justice Party., 90 People’s Revolutionary Party of Kanglaipak, 79 Phizo, Angami Zapu, 123, 127, 129, 133 Phukan, Mitra, 111 Phukanani, Bhogeswari, 50, 74 Punyaprava Das, 74 Purana, 188

202 Index R

Race, 3, 11–14, 19, 23, 48, 61, 99, 179, 181, 182, 189, 190 Racialisation in India, 36 Racism, 2–4, 11–14, 22–27, 31–51, 177–194 Rape, 3, 7, 25, 44, 46, 83–85, 87, 131, 133, 144 Ravi, Ravindra Narayan, 149, 150, 152, 153, 155, 156 Reang, 65, 66 Reang Democratic Party (RDP), 66 Reid, Robert, 121, 122 Renaissance, 120 Responding to race in India, 11–14 Roman Catholic, 120 Roy, Rammohun, 100

Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India, 66, 126 Social work and race in India, 13, 14 Sovereignty, 116, 125, 129–132, 134, 142, 148, 149, 157 State of exception, 129–132, 134 Suicide, 84, 86 T

Tatar Hoho, 134 Teesta river dispute, 173 Trans-Asian rail link, 169, 174 Treaty of Yandaboo, 118 Tripura, 9, 24, 58, 60, 66, 69, 82, 98, 116, 131, 168 Truce agreement, 146 Twin Tower Trade Centre, 174


Sahitya Akademi, 101, 108, 109, 111 Saikiani, Chandraprava, 50, 74, 75 Saivism, 100 Saktism, 100 Sankardeva, 103, 104 Sanskritic deities, 102 Satsanga, 104 Scott, Michael (Reverend), 137 Shaheen Bagh, 178 Shame, 46, 47, 84 Shared sovereignty, 149, 150, 157 Sharmila, Irom Chanu, 6, 85–91 Shillong Accord, 8, 143, 144 Sikkim, 24, 60, 98, 163, 171 Simon Commission, 121 Simon, Sir John, 121 Singh, Rajnath, 150 Singphos, 116


United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), 64, 76, 148, 155 United National Liberation Front (UNLF), 79 United Nations (UN), 76, 125, 127, 132, 134 The United NGO Mission to Manipur (UNMN), 91, 92 United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), 64, 65 Unity, 47, 48, 81, 120, 121, 181, 186 V

Vajpayee, Atal Bihari, 145 Vidyasagar, Ishwarchandra, 100





Water Tax Movement, 79 Welsh Presbyterian, 120 Wokha, 116, 119, 123, 124 Women of North East, 50 World War I, 120, 121, 121n1 World War II, 78, 80, 121n1, 131n6, 166, 168

Yehzabo (Constitution) of Nagaland, 134, 142 Yogini-Tantra, 100 Z

Zhimomi, Kitovi, 147