Frontier Travails

Frontier Travails
Northeast: The Politics of a Mess

My first individually authored major work in terms of books is Frontier Travails: Northeast — The Politics of a Mess, published by Macmillan in 2001.

From the jacket:
Opinions always differ, as do perceptions. And when the opinions and perceptions in question are related to the Northeast, there are as many as there can be. Given the enormous diversity of the region itself and varied subjective convictions and viewpoints about these Frontier States (also addressed as the Seven Sisters), both of the people who live there as well as experts who have an interest in this turbulent region, the average Indian does not know where to begin, or whom to believe.

This very impetus permeates the raison d'etre of the book, which has been compiled and stitched together to review and assess the situation in the Northeast — be it political, social, economic, or cultural — for, the present militancy and chaos in the region is not something that has dropped from the skies. The current flux is an outcome of both the recent and the not-so-recent past. It is foolhardy to make sweeping statements without a contextual reference to the backdrop. Hence, these travails of the Frontier dwell on issues from both the micro and macro standpoints, in a bid to disentangle the threads that make the Northeast an apparently incomprehensible conundrum.

Given these parameters, the book looks at the Northeast — the result of a political mess that it has been perforce made to be. Issues and subjects naturally overlap — but have still been discussed threadbare under the fewest heads possible. If the secessionist movements and the autonomy outcries were to be even just looked at, the region would be a politico-cartographer's nightmare. The ethno-political equations are too intricate and sensitive to be left to the politicians alone. But it is these very Neroesque politicians, both far away at the Centre as well as back home, who have subverted genuine aspirations, fanned ludicrous demands, and raked in the lucre - all at the expense of the commoners who have little to say, far less to do, with the machinations that have decided and distorted their futures.

The author desists from making predictions for the future, but if the present were to disregard the past, then history not would repeat itself as a tragedy, but a gory farce. Penned with a perspective as detached as could have possibly been, the treatment is essentially journalistic. But it does provide the average lay Indian with a starting point — the Northeast is not just a Common Noun denoting a direction, it is a Proper Noun that must be accorded the dignity and understanding that it deserves, but is rarely accorded.

What others said:
Subir Ghosh's book is a welcome addition to literature on the region... His narration in the chapter "The Politics of Territories" of how names like Assam, Tripura, Mizoram came to be shows painstaking research.... Ghosh rightly suggests that the Northeast should not be the responsibility of the union home ministry alone but also that of the external affairs ministry... The difficulties faced by journalists in filing reports are also highlighted.
— JB Lama in the Statesman

He rightly questions the Bharatiya Janata Party's sincerity when it finds nothing amiss in Hindu migrants and builds a votebank with the Nepali migrants in Meghalaya even as the ruling Asom Gana Parishad's duplicty on the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act 1983 is increasingly exposed. He chillingly brings out the insincerity of those who entered into accords only to break them at the first available opportunity. Sixty four pages of annexures, including the Treaty of Yandabu, 1826, which brought the Northeast under the British, increase the shelf life of the book.
— AJ Phillip in the Indian Express

By any measure, the Northeast is a complex place. It takes a brave person to attempt to even look at some of these issues. Subir Ghosh's book is a significant effort at unravelling the myriad complexities of the Northeastern region. It is an excellent compendium, a very handy handbook. It tells us other stories too that help us to fathom the depths of the complex weave that have fashioned the history of this region. It tells us of the trauma of conflict and the politics of discrod. He seeks to do it in one single canvas -- all the states in one go.
— Sanjoy Hazarika in Hindustan Times