War and Nationalism in South Asia
The Indian State and Nagas
North East India is, as Marcus Franke’s War and Nationalism in South Asia: The Indian State and the Nagas (Routledge, 2011) all too convincingly demonstrates, often considered peripheral to ‘India (or even South Asia) proper.’ A densely wooded, sparsely populated tract of hills (in fact the Eastern Himalayas), the moniker refers to the Indian states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Tripura, with the former kingdom of Sikkim often included.
This beautifully diverse, hard to reach region is today home to dozens of separatist movements, fighting against what is often referred to as the Government of India’s indifference, perhaps hostility, to the cultures and lifestyles of the region- customs and rituals which vary sharply from those of the plains of India. Border disputes with China and Bangladesh, and amongst the states, add to regional instability and have resulted in heavy militarization- Marcus’ book talks about the engagement between the Indian governmental apparatus and the Naga people right from the time the British were drawn into these wild hills down to the blockades and skirmishes that attest to the region’s uneasy engagement with the Indian political metropole.
The Indian State and the Nagas is an excellent, detailed analysis of the political and cultural history of the region, and a great primer for understanding the dynamics of the groups fighting to preserve their tribal identities even as they call for greater economic investment in the region.