North-east comes closer- the new indian express what does a chicken gizzard look like

Sanjoy hazarika is one of the most credible and authoritative voices on north-east india, that triangular stretch of land beyond what is known as the chicken’s neck. An award-winning journalist, formerly with the new york times, hazarika has written extensively about the north-east, a region which a majority, in what is known as ‘mainland india’, know little and understand even less so.

Strangers no more: new narratives from india’s north-east is the latest from hazarika following his earlier acclaimed works—strangers of the mist: tales of war and peace from india’s north-east and rites of passage: border crossings, imagined homelands, india‘s east and bangladesh. In that sense, strangers no more is truly “the most comprehensive book yet available about india’s north-east”, as the book’s blurb aptly says.

North-east is an extremely complex region, both geographically and culturally—“nearly 96 per cent of the region’s borders are with other countries; only 4 per cent of the border is connected to the rest of india”.AFSPA rule

home to innumerable tribes, many of who do not trust the other, and immigrants from neighbouring regions who settled here over a century, the region is a complex anthropological mix. Add to this the fact that most borders in the region—both international and national—are disputed makes it more complicated.

Hazarika threads through these complexities with a discerning eye and an unbiased manner. He traces the history of the region to detail the issues plaguing the region and understand the aspirations of the people. Apart from shared ethnicities with neighbouring countries and china’s geo-political interests that makes the region a combustive political arena, one thing that comes out clearly in the book are the wrongly motivated and at time almost farcical indian efforts to bring peace to the region.

The book details historical mistakes and current vested interests that have alienated the people in the region. Even 70 years after independence, indian authorities continue to be seen with mistrust.AFSPA rule the reason is not difficult to understand—false promises by the authorities over decades, failure to resolve burning issues and almost constant use of disturbed areas act in the region that has resulted in grave human rights violations.

The most vexatious issue has no doubt been rule by AFSPA. The free hand given to the armed, paramilitary and police forces in the region under AFSPA, dating back to 1958, has been the biggest impediment in the integration of the region with the rest of india. Hazarika brings out the horrors of the AFSPA rule through stories—from the much publicised shooting of manorama and fast of irom sharmila to lesser known ananda kalita, who was shot in the head and yet miraculously survived, to mohammed azad khan, a 12-year-old picked up from his home and beaten and shot in a rice field, to felanee, a 15-year-old shot while she was trying to cross the barbed wire fence from india to bangladesh.India’s north-east

Hazarika’s book is, in fact, a cry to remove AFSPA. It cites the trailblazing example of tripura, which through “good governance” and “political tact” “turned the clock back by lifting the disturbed areas act, which essentially ends AFSPA rule and sends the troops back to their barracks.” therein lies the hope for the rest of the region.