A Political History
A journalist’s history of the short yet troubled life of this ‘new’ region bordering China and Southeast Asia, exploring its significance for the idea of India.
As India and the world are roiled by questions of nationalism and identity, this book journeys into the history of one of the world’s newest and most fascinating regions: Northeast India. Having appeared with the stroke of a pen in 1947, as the British Raj was torn asunder and partitioned into India and Pakistan, this is a region of hills inhabited by myriad tribes. Until colonial rule, they had lived in their ancient ways largely unmolested by their neighbours, who were rather keen to avoid their traditions of head-hunting.
Samrat Choudhury chronicles the processes by which these remote hill-tribes, and the diverse other peoples inhabiting the valley of the vast Brahmaputra River below, became parts of the ‘imagined nation’ that is India. Through the invention of the Northeast, he explores two other ideas of India that remain in daily competition: Bharat, the Hindu nationalist conception of the country, and Hindustan, the Persian-origin name by which India is still known as far west as Turkey. Taking a long view, this absorbing political history chronicles the separate pathways by which imperialism, Christianity and the British love of tea brought each of the contemporary region’s constituent states, kicking and screaming, into modern India.
Samrat Choudhury is a journalist and former newspaper editor who has written for major papers and magazines in Britain, the US, Asia and Europe. He has edited anthologies, contributed to academic publications, and authored books including novel The Urban Jungle and travelogue The Braided River: A Journey Along the Brahmaputra.