Book Review: Louise Tillin, Remapping India: New States and Their Political Origins

Date01 June 2015
Published date01 June 2015
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 145
multiple ways of relating to land, some of them being distant from claims of possession or ownership.
While it is impossible to satiate every possible query within the bounds of a single book, Goswami’s
work successfully provokes the reader to ask questions.
Her book, marked by deep insights and incisive analysis, however lets down a keen reader by falling
short of offering dense ethnographic details, something that the book promised at the outset. Instead of
a graphic and in-depth description of a living culture based on personal observation—the kind we can
find in Carolyn Nordstrom’s ethnography of conflict zones, Shadows of War, or Diane Nelson’s ethnog-
raphy, A Finger in the Wound (about Mayan–Ladino conflicts in Guatemala)—Goswami’s book offers
only isolated comments and statements coming from non-contextualized subjects.
There are a couple of very minor printing errors, which are perhaps still crucial, since a reader who
does not know Assamese or Sanskrit/Hindi, if presented with a misprinted term, would have no way of
knowing that it is a misprint. Patharughator ran, literally the battle of Patharughat, has been printed as
‘Patharughator nan’ (p. 189). Similarly, daan, a Kautilyan policy of statecraft, has been printed as dam
(pp. 130, 143).
Goswami’s account comes from a very careful study of the ground realities and interethnic relations
in the region. The detailed studies of each of the three communities, both historically and in their present
form, are marked by deep knowledge. The clarity with which minute details of history are presented is
commendable. The clarification regarding Assamese pronunciations and the use of spellings consistent
with them in the work is helpful. The language is extremely lucid and a pleasure to read. This is one
reason why this book, a work of high academic rigour of interest to political scientists, sociologists and
historians, would also draw interest of more general readers.
Santana Khanikar
Centre for Women's Development Studies, New Delhi
Louise Tillin, Remapping India: New States and Their Political Origins. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
2013. 283 pages. `850.
DOI: 10.1177/2321023015575243
Remapping India is a deep and well-documented study of the carving out of Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and
Chhattisgarh from the three major Hindi-speaking states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh,
respectively, in 2000. It is a definitive study of the making of these three states and the politics of the
parent states as they impinged on the rather long-drawn-out process of the decisions that led to them
as well as the long histories behind them. The author also goes into the consequences of their status as
separate states in federal India in terms of their democratic and developmental performance.
The complexity of the process of state formation in the multilevel federal India is underlined by the
noncommittal predictive statement of the author writing so close to the advent of the new state of
Telangana: ‘It remains to be seen whether federal coalition politics evolves in ways that promote the
creation of Telangana’ (p. 192). The comment does underline the decisive role of the federal-level poli-
tics in creating a new state. Shorn of theoretical and methodological models in the literature bearing on
this question (for which the reader is encouraged to look into the book), it would be enough here to
briefly quote Tillin on what she herself has preferred to do:
Remapping India has offered a dynamic causal account which pays attention to relationships between levels of
the federal system, and to the conjunction of political processes unfolding according to different yet often over-
lapping timetables, that inuence each other while also retaining a degree of autonomy from each other. (p. 200)

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