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Living in the Margins

Sanjoy Hazarika

By Subir Bhaumik
Sage Publications, Delhi, 2010, pp. 303, s. 595.00

VOLUME XXXIV NUMBER 9 September 2010

The insecurity of people, faced with helpless conditions of violence, confron-tation, lack of access to basic services, has surged incrementally across India. In regions as ethnically complex and challenging as what is commonly called the ‘North-east’, it has been made worse by the refusal of the Central Government and its wimpish leadership (no matter how loudly they rail against Maoists and insurgents) to understand a few basic points. What are these ‘basics’? Among the main issues across the region and other parts of India, is a growing seething anger among people who feel deeply and bitterly let down by governments at the district, state and central levels. Health and education facilities are pathetic, maternal mortality levels are the highest in Assam for the country and internecine confrontations are visible virtually along every kilometer that one travels. The complex problems that find space occasionally in news headlines but more often in scholarly reports and dry government studies and recommendations, appear to be spiralling, creating problems which appear endless, whether it is the divide between the Nagas and the Meiteis of Manipur, the Bodos and the Assamese, the Mizos and the Chins (many of whom are either refugees or economic migrants from Burma/Myanmar) or the immigrant Muslim settlers and the indigenous in Assam. I first met Subir Bhaumik in his home-town of Agartala, Tripura, many years ago. His booming voice and large presence were charged by an energy that outpaced his bulk. From his early years as a reporter, Subir has been fascinated by the world of insecurity that has dominated political discourse in South Asia, but especially in the North East and Jammu and Kashmir. Over these couple of decades, he has spent a lot of time building up contacts, networks and researching issues relating to the militancies and insurgencies of the area. Bhaumik has interviewed Paresh Barua, the military chief of the United Liberation Front of Asom—and right now probably its only substantial leader outside of jail who is holding out against discussions with the Centre and a possible settlement—more times, I am sure, than he can remember. He writes extensively, anchors a popular Bengali show in Kolkata, is well-known for his booming presence at seminars and workshops—his participation adds a flourish if not depth to discussions—and has been the BBC’s reporter for eastern India for almost as long as one can remember. He ...

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