Cover image for India against itself : Assam and the politics of nationality
India against itself : Assam and the politics of nationality
Publication Information:
Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxiii, 257 pages ; 23 cm.
Electronic Access:
Table of Contents
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DS485.A88 B355 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In an era of failing states and ethnic conflict, violent challenges from dissenting groups in the former Yugoslavia, the former Soviet Union, several African countries, and India give cause for grave concern in much of the world. And it is in India where some of the most turbulent of these clashes have been taking place. One resulted in the creation of Pakistan, and militant separatist movements flourish in Kashmir, Punjab, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Assam. In India Against Itself , Sanjib Baruah focuses on the insurgency in Assam in order to explore the politics of subnationalism.

Baruah offers a bold and lucid interpretation of the political and economic history of Assam from the time it became a part of British India and a leading tea-producing region in the nineteenth century. He traces the history of tensions between pan-Indianism and Assamese subnationalism since the early days of Indian nationalism. The region's insurgencies, human rights abuses by government security forces and insurgents, ethnic violence, and a steady slide toward illiberal democracy, he argues, are largely due to India's formally federal, but actually centralized governmental structure. Baruah argues that in multiethnic polities, loose federations not only make better democracies, in the era of globalization they make more economic sense as well.

This challenging and accessible work addresses a pressing contemporary problem with broad relevance for the history of nationality while offering an important contribution to the study of ethnic conflict. A native of northeast India, Baruah draws on a combination of scholarly research, political engagement, and an insider's knowledge of Assamese culture and society.

Author Notes

Sanjib Baruah is Professor and Chair of Political Studies at Bard College.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The problem of ethnic conflict has become a major source of concern in the post-Cold War world. Baruah, a professor at Bard College, has made an important contribution to the literature on ethnic conflict in his well-documented study of the origins and development of subnational ethnic strife in the northeast Indian state of Assam. In eight brief but insightful chapters he traces the political and economic history of Assam, the emergence of tensions between pan-Indian and Assamese subnationalism in the 19th century and the impact of postindependence Indian government policy on the growth of Assamese cultural nationalism. In its effort to preempt insurgencies in the northeast by establishing new states, he argues, the Indian government's northeast policy created the context for ethnic violence, which not only failed to control old insurgencies but created new ones. A more decentralized federalism, he argues, would have managed the issue much more effectively. India, he insists, needs genuine federalism if it hopes to bring subnationalism and pan-Indianism closer together. This excellent study will be of great interest to those concerned with the issues of ethnic conflict and Indian integration. Undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. S. A. Kochanek; Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. vii
Note on Transliterationp. ix
Prefacep. xi
1 Theoretical Considerations: The Limits of "Nation-Building"p. 1
2. Colonial Geography as Destiny: Assam as a Province of British Indiap. 21
3. The Making of a Land Frontier: Assam and Its Immigrantsp. 44
4. Cultural Politics of Language, Subnationalism, and Pan-Indianismp. 69
5. Contested Identity, Culture Wars, and the Breakup of Colonial Assamp. 91
6. Protest Against Immigration, Ethnic Rifts, and Assam's Crisis of Governabilityp. 115
7. Militant Subnationalism, Human Rights, and the Chasm with Pan-Indianismp. 144
8. "We Are Bodos, Not Assamese": Contesting a Subnational Narrativep. 173
Conclusion: India Against Itselfp. 199
Notesp. 215
References Citedp. 231
Indexp. 245
Acknowledgmentsp. 255