Book Review: Security and Development in India’s Northeast, Confronting the State: ULFA’s Quest for Sovereignty and Perilous Journey: Debates on Security and Development in Assam

AuthorDeepak K. Singh
Date01 December 2013
Publication Date01 December 2013
SubjectBook Reviews
Military-Madrasa-Mullah Complex 241
India Quarterly, 66, 2 (2010): 133–149
A Global Threat 241
Book Reviews
Gurudas Das, Security and Development in India’s Northeast. New Delhi: Oxford University Press India.
2012. 181 pages. ` 595.
Nani Gopal Mahanta, Confronting the State: ULFA’s Quest for Sovereignty. New Delhi: SAGE Publications.
2013. 348 pages. ` 750.
Rakhee Bhattacharya and Sanjay Pulipaka, eds, Perilous Journey: Debates on Security and Development in
Assam. New Delhi: Manohar Publications. 2011. 257 pages. ` 695.
Northeast India is no longer a ‘Pariah’, at least, in the world of scholarship. The region has come to
attract unprecedented attention over the years. This is evident from a recent spurt in high quality research,
most of which has been produced by scholars from within the region itself (the names of Sanjoy Hazarika
and Sanjib Baruah instantly come to mind), and scholars from within the region are perhaps best equipped
to provide nuanced understandings of the complex realities of everyday life in the region. What accounts
for this surge in scholarship on Northeast India is perhaps a deep realization that it continues to remain
one of the most misunderstood and most misrepresented regions of India. Little wonder then, most of the
leading publishing houses arrange to send their commissioning editors to the region to rope in estab-
lished and not-so-established-young-authors-with-potential-for-excellence to chronicle the history of the
region. The recent initiative by SAGE Publications in introducing a special series on India’s Northeast is
a notable example. Confronting the State: ULFA’s Quest for Sovereignty is one amongst nearly a dozen
books already published under this series. It easily stands out as the most candid compendium on the life
and times of ULFA thus far.
While the other two books under review share the same theme, there is great variance in the nature
and scope of these studies. What distinguishes the two from each other is that while Gurudas Das, or for
that matter Mahanta, are very much from within the region with vast grassroots experience, allowing
them to speak with the advantage of hindsight, Bhattacharya and Pulipaka, who are rank outsiders,
clearly lack the vantage point to be able to capture a nuanced understanding of the complex issues in
the Northeast region (NER). Indeed, a majority of the contributors to Perilous Journey (12 out of 14)
are from outside the region. Based primarily on secondary sources, none of the 14 Chapters makes any
original contribution to ongoing debates on security and development. Much of the argument in the
book, particularly in the chapters by Lt. Gen. S.K. Sinha (retd.), formerly governor of Assam, and H.N.
Das, former chief secretary of Assam, are hackneyed and a rehash of what has been said several times
over. Consider this: the Congress rule in the 1960s encouraged the illegal flow of Bangladeshis due to
‘vote bank politics’, or that insurgency erupted in Assam ‘primarily because the governments both at the
Studies in Indian Politics
1(2) 241–257
© 2013 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
SAGE Publications
Los Angeles, London,
New Delhi, Singapore,
Washington DC
DOI: 10.1177/2321023013509155

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