ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reading Fürer-Haimendorf in North-East India

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf's works on North-East India grew out of an interest in the so-called remote pre-contact primitive societies. To him and his contemporaries in the West it was self-evident that the "primitive" or the "savage" are located outside modernity. No one today would use those categories. But this does not mean that we have broken away from intellectual habits which privilege the social imaginary of the modern. In certain parts of the world the politics of indigeneity is associated with powerful critiques of capitalist modernity. But that is not the case in North-East India. Whether or not such a critical sensibility becomes part of the political imagination will depend partly on the epistemological standpoint of those who study the region today.

Whose River Is It Anyway?

The large dams being built on the rivers of the eastern Himalayas have become highly controversial. The hydropower that north-east India is expected to produce is meant almost entirely for use elsewhere. That these dams will be exclusively hydropower and not multipurpose dams and that there will be a great unevenness in the distribution of potential gains and losses - and of vulnerability to risks - accounts for a serious legitimacy deficit in India's ambitious hydropower development plans in the region. The enclosure of the water commons - the inevitable outcome of these dams - will have a devastating impact on the lives of millions, especially the rural poor who depend on the water commons in multiple ways for their living. What is occurring in the Brahmaputra Valley today is resistance by a riverine people against powerful elites bent on pursuing a strategy of accumulation by dispossession, and trying to turn their rivers into free fuel for hydropower plants, in utter disregard of the impact on their lives and livelihoods.

Territoriality, Indigeneity and Rights in the North-east India

For the people of the troubled north-east, citizenship both of India and of a state can provide an alternative political idiom to that of indigeneity and territoriality. The obvious advantage of multi-level citizenship is that it could define political communities in civic terms, and introduce a dynamic element of incorporating new members. It could make a decisive break from the notion of ethnic homelands that owes so much to the colonial propensity of fixing tribes to their supposedly natural habitats.

Protective Discrimination and Crisis of Citizenship in North-East India

North-east India is a region where the politics of protective discrimination for scheduled tribes today raises some of the most difficult issues of justice, fairness and costs on system legitimacy. The time may have come to consider ways of breaking away from the ethnic discourse of the existing protective discrimination regime that, in effect, involves the state forever categorising groups of people in ethnic terms and making descendants of immigrants into perpetual outsiders.

Gulliver's Troubles: State and Militants in North-East India

To deal with the troubled north-east region, India has a counterinsurgency strategy, an economic development strategy and even a vacuous nation-building strategy. What it sorely lacks is a thoughtful state-building strategy - one that could link state and society in a way that harmonises the interests, cultural values and aspirations of the peoples of the region with the agendas of the national state.

Western Cultural Boundary of Assam

The idea of being a speaker (and, increasingly, a reader and writer) of one language exclusively and associating that language with national or ethnic identity is a modern phenomenon. The hard boundaries that we now like to draw, of course, leave out dialects particularly numerous in areas like Assam. We address this difficulty by assuming that dialects are related exclusively to one or the other of the languages. The relationship between language and dialect is, however, more problematical than that.

Gandhi s Inclusivism

Gandhi's Inclusivism Sanjib Baruah Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent Power in Action by Dennis Dalton; Columbia University Press, New York, 1993; pp 279 + xii.

Considerations on Democratic Resurgence

Sanjib Baruah Viewing the crisis of legitimacy of authoritarian regimes as a reflection of the democratic impulse, present even in societies where such regimes appear to be stable, the author argues for the need to reformulate the concept of political democracy.

Minority Policy in the North-East-Achievements and Dangers

Achievements and Dangers Sanjib Baruah The continuation of the British policy that aimed at protection of vulnerable indigenous peoples has led to the successful political integration of dissenting minorities in the north-east. An important part of this policy is the diffusion of a model of culturally defined political autonomy in the north-east. This assumption that there are exclusive territorially based ethnic groups that can be given autonomy may prove dangerous in the long run.

Lessons of Assam

Lessons of Assam Sanjib Baruah THE Assam election where a spectacular 85 per cent of the electorate participated and the coming to power of the Asom Gana Parishad have important implications for the Indian polity. The inauguration of an exceptionally youthful ministry, that consists mostly of student leaders of the Assam movement, at a public ceremony attended by 200,000 people was the latest and possibly the grand finale of the six-year old Assam movement. Not many observers could have predicted the outcome of the election. Most observers basing themselves on past voting patterns of linguistic, religious and caste groups and the presumed reaction of these groups to the Assam movement and to the accord had feared that the election would only bring about a coalition government and a period of continued political instability. However, the Assam accord seems to have significantly reconstituted Assam's political universe and voters did not vote along lines anticipated by most analysts. Moreover, the unprecedented participation inevitably posed problems for analysts; earlier voting patterns were inadequate to predict the outcome of an election with such high levels of participation. The inability on the part of national political parties and observers to grasp the meaning of the election for various groups in Assam, to some extent parallels their failure to understand the historical meaning of the Assam movement.

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