Book Review: K.S. Subramanian, State, Policy and Conflicts in Northeast India

Published date01 December 2016
Date01 December 2016
Subject MatterBook Reviews
258 Book Reviews
Thus, the optimism of the book concerning the politics of the marginalized to go beyond the confines
of liberal democracy also carries the mark of a certain narrative of failure. A question then invariably
arises: How does the assertion that collective violence is the instrument through which the excluded
people make their claim for inclusion engage with the very problematic nature of inclusion? The book
shies away from adequately addressing this pertinent question. And the problem is further compounded
by the absence of discussions on Kashmir, the northeast and the Maoist movement (though mentioned in
passing in the introduction to the book) which have greatly epitomized the limit of the normative claim
of Indian democracy. The book, nonetheless, needs to be commended for the attempt to provide an
alternative reading of Indian democracy which at most times tends to be relegated or expunged in favour
of the celebratory/normalized narrative.
Ngoru Nixon
Department of Political Science, University of Delhi
K.S. Subramanian, State, Policy and Conflicts in Northeast India. New Delhi: Routledge. 2016. 213 pages. `795.
DOI: 10.1177/2321023016665692
Conflict in northeast India has drawn the attention of academics and policy makers over the years.
However, the research and writings have been carried out mainly by ‘neutral’ observers who are both
outside the state system and not involved in the conflicts. This book is an exception. The author was a
high official in the government, as the longest-serving Director of the Research and Policy Division in
India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, and also the Director General of the State Institute of Public
Administration and Rural Development (SIPARD), Tripura. The author has used his own expertise and
experiences and also his access to resources under state jurisdictions to present and analyze the conflict
and state processes in northeast India. The readers will, however, wonder whether the book really
represents northeast India without a core chapter on Nagaland as it is the Naga insurgency which has
presented the most consistent challenges to the Indian state forcing it (the state) to indulge in a series of
attempts and innovations to find out a solution. The ‘Framework Agreement’, 2015, signed with National
Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak–Muivah) (NSCN [IM]), with all its limitations, presents a significant
interface between the state and insurgency in the region. While the author has comprehensively portrayed
the internal dynamics of the societies in the region, he sees state policies and its military apparatuses as
more important for understanding the prime dynamics of the ongoing conflicts in the region. He analyzes
the role of certain regulatory institutions of the Government of India (GoI), both military and
developmental, and exposes the contradictions among them those in terms of their jurisdictions and
operational modalities in the region. He has, in particular, examined the role of military and paramilitary
forces with special focus on the Assam Rifles (AR) and the role of the Armed Forces (Special Powers)
Act, 1958 (AFSPA) in sustaining discontent in the region. Indeed, he has referred to the atrocious role of
the AR and AFSPA in almost all his critical comments, while trying to appreciate the agony of the region.
The author has also argued convincingly that the policy apparatuses of the GoI concerning northeast
India have been fragmented, exclusionary and insensitive, which in the long run have proved to be
counterproductive for peace and development in the region.
Out of five chapters, apart from the Introduction, three core chapters of the book deal extensively with
the conflict processes in Manipur and Tripura and the coercion unleashed by the AR, using AFSPA.
In the case of Manipur it is explicitly a conflict around the coercion by the state apparatus, whereas in

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