The progress of uneven development and territorial conundrum in the Geo-body of Northeast India

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Abstract

This paper considers and charts the emergence of the territorial identity of the people of North East India from colonial to post-colonial times. The paper seeks to understand why the region came to occupy a subordinate exceptional space in this period.

The first part of the paper provides an overview of the creation of the region as Spaces of Exception. The role of mapping and surveys presented a spatial fix to the region by imperial/colonial authorities. These borderlands then emerged as a political space in an ‘unruly territory’. The next section unpacks the binaries of Hill versus Plains and its eventual branding as a subordinate space. Here the role of Inner Line Regulation only helped to cement this space and identity. The next section traces the history and geography of ‘protectionism and insularity in the North East, in particular, the essentialised fears of ungovernable spaces, of paternalism, etc. Recognising territorial legitimacy and sovereignty within the ambit of Inner Line Regulations remains contentious for this region.

The next part presents ‘progress as an ideational reality’, by embedding discussions in the context of the region, interrogating Scott’s notion of ‘Zomia’, and of Geo-Bodies. Exemplars are drawn from ideas of staged developmentalism, progress reports of the region, and the key challenges faced by inhabitants in these marginalised spaces. ‘Progress’ thus has emerged as an affliction for the tribals in India. The final sections seek to highlight how mapping became a hegemonic tool erasing traditional configurations and identities. Here the geo-body of postcolonial progress in the region, the historiography of ‘protectionism’, resulted in their insularity, and the emergence of an idea of the ‘Crown Colony Plan’ during the struggle for Independence. Delinking or ‘spatial closure’ from national developmental plans and sovereignty is never a viable option for a region endowed with major resources but suffers from endemic inequities.



Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnvironment, development and culture in South and East Asia- Local, regional and international perspectives. Vol.2 (Development and Culture)
EditorsRajiv R Thakur, Stanley D Brunn, Baleshwar Thakur, Sudhir K Thakur, Ramesh C Dhussa
Place of PublicationUSA
PublisherSpringer US
Volume2
Publication statusAccepted - 10 Feb 2023

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