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T.C.A. Rangachari

GREAT GAME EAST
By Bertil Lintner
Harper Collins India, 2012, pp. 442, price not stated.

VOLUME XXXVII NUMBER 2-3 February/March 2013

History connects the past to the present. It is left to us as to what we make of our understanding of history. Too often, societies and leaders get frozen in their understanding of history and fail to comprehend the role they could play in dealing with problems and issues left over from history. Nation-building the world over has been a long drawn out and, often, painful process. In Europe the concept of nationhood kept alive conflicts over centuries. It remains, arguably, still riven by nationalist sentiments despite the creation of the EU which is seen by many around the world as a model to be emulated. The US fought a civil war to keep the nation together nearly one hundred years after its independence. The newly inde-pendent nations of Asia and Africa faced a more daunting task in nation-building as artificial divisions or unions were created by colonialists based on conquests made or even administrative convenience. Boundaries were arbitrarily drawn causing the splitting up— or bringing into co-habitation—of distinctive peoples who had inhabited the territory for centuries together, or separately, as the case might be. The resultant territoriality created conflicts arising out of ethnic, linguistic, economic or other factors—real or imagined. The memories of the horrific massacres in Rwanda and killings in Bosnia—the first war on mainland Europe post-War—are unfortunate reminders. In India, the story was not very different. Through its long history spanning many millennia, India’s civilizational unity did not demand territorial unity. The British created a conglomeration of territories they controlled and administered directly—British India. But in 1947, when India became Independent, there were still over 500 princely states some of which harboured ambitions of remaining independent. Sardar Patel thwarted such pretensions. The India that emerged was integrated territorially. But for all other purposes, much hard work still remained; as some unresolved longstanding insurgencies remind us, even today much hard work still remains to be done. This book documents the story focusing on the North East. It is a useful and timely reminder to those who take for granted the ‘Indian-ness’ of India and Indians. Too often, one tends to forget that much of the North East did not become a part of India—one might note, British India—till the nine-teenth century. Assam, for instance was not a part of India till the British annexed it from the Ahom kings of Burma in 1826. ...


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