Sanjoy Hazarika

Author Of

  1. Strangers of the Mist

  2. Rites of Passage: Border Crossings, Imagined Homelands, India’s East and Bangladesh

  3. Writing on the Wall

  4. The State Strikes Back: India and the Naga Insurgency

  5. Conflicts in the Northeast

  6. The Degeneration Of India

  7. Bearing Witness: The Impact of Conflict on Women in Nagaland and Assam

  8. Little Known Fighters Against the Raj: Figures from Meghalaya

  9. Climate Change in the Eastern Himalaya


Sanjoy Hazarika wears many hats, with great distinction. On the creative level he is a writer, journalist, editor and script writer, producer and a film maker. On the practical level he is a social innovator, political commentator, and activist.

SanjoyHe holds the Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew Chair  and is the director of Centre for North East Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

He is  the founder and Managing Trustee of of a trust which works actively in the NER, the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research ( The flagship programme of this Trust  is the Boat Clinics on the Brahmaputra where  about three lakh people are reached  regularly and annually in partnership with the National Health Mission (NHM). Such is the difference this Trust has made to people living on the margins of the economy of Assam that the editors decided to append a note about it below.

The films that Sanjoy has made reflect his social conscience and concerns. A section below details his work as a filmmaker.

Sanjoy Hazarika anchored  the NFI NE Media Exchange Programme (NEMEP) which  exchanged  no less than 75 journalists from  the NE and other parts of the country with the object of building  communications bridges between the regional media and that in the rest of the country.

As a builder of bridges, Sanjoy Hazarika  hosted the North East Update TV programme on Doordarshan for nearly two years; founded the North East Page in the Statesman as a Consulting Editor (it’s continuing but leaves much to be desired in its current state);  continues to write a  regular column for his  home paper, The Assam Tribune, and irregular columns for The Hindustan Times, The Hindu, the Indian Express, The Wire and The Tribune of Chandigarh.

A former correspondent for the New York Times. Dr. Hazarika was a member of the first National Security Advisory Board (1998-1999) and a member of the advisory panel (North East) for the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution. He is a former member of Committee to Review the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), and a member of National Council of the Indian Council of Social Science Research.

Sanjoy is a conscious communicator.  His Face Book  posts regularly carry his pieces in the media. But he has not forgotten his alma mater and fellow Edmundians: he makes sure that all his posts  go to SEPPA too.

“ Sanjoy is an institution masquerading as a human being” – editors

Summary of #1 –  Strangers of the Mist. Penguin 1994

This book is an understanding of the North East and discusses with a wealth of circumstantial details problems of this area. StrangersIt is a story of neglect, apathy, subversiveness and the change and the social in-equilibrium that came with it. Most important, the book suggests solutions.










Review by Dilip Bobb

Perhaps ‘Guerrillas in the Mist’ would have been a more appropriate title, so instant is the subliminal connection between the northeastern states and insurgency, or ethnic strife, ULFA and the Bodos in Assam, Mizoram’s MNF, the TNVF in Tripura, the various incarnations of the Nagaland underground movement, the GNLF and Gorkhaland, form an incendiary alphabet soup.
It wasn’t always so. Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Mizoram had between them the elements of an earthly paradise; stunning scenery ranging from mist-covered mountains to green, fertile plains, lush forests and raging rivers.
Vast natural resources and peopled by tribes and communities who had simple needs and simple pleasures. Paradoxically, all the ingredients necessary for exploitation and ethnic divisions.
Ultimately, geography proved the most dangerous inheritance of all. Cut-off from the rest of the country owing to lack of proper communications, the north-east is a tragic example of shortsighted policies by successive governments in New Delhi, leading to avoidable conflicts and blood-letting on a horrific scale.
Nellie, the site of the worst pogrom on a single day in independent India, is still fresh in collective memory. Over 1,700 people were butchered that day, a direct result of Indira Gandhi’s self-serving decision to hold elections.
Yet, to most Indians, even today, the north-east is like a foreign country, its unrest and ethnic violence so far removed that it matters little. Not so for Sanjoy Hazarika, Indian correspondent for the New York Times.
Hazarika was born and brought up in the northeast and has used his considerable contacts and knowledge of the region to paint a picture that should be hung on the wall of every bureaucrat’s office in the Home Ministry.
From the first shots fired in the very first north-eastern rebellion by the followers of Phizo, Hazarika traces the roots of successive underground movements and profiles the leaders who, from their jungle redoubts, pinned down thousands of Indian soldiers and paramilitary personnel.
Phizo was just one of many. There was a former bank clerk named Laldenga who, in February 1966, attacked and overran Aizawl. Tripura had Bijoy Hrangkhawl who formed the Tripura Volunteer Force.
These, and leaders of other underground movements like the Bodos, benefited from New Delhi’s answer to their demands – massive military force. The brutality and overzealousness of the army and paramilitary troops heightened grievances and fed the under-ground armies with their recruits.
Added to this was the most explosive ingredient of all – migration on a massive scale that swamped local populations and changed the demography of much of the region. Nellie was only the most violent manifestation of this.
Refugees from Bangladesh into Assam and from Myanmar into Arunachal Pradesh, apart from other outsiders arrived in numbers over the years, leading, inevitably, to ethnic tensions and a battle for economic crumbs.
But the north-eastern problem remains basically the same: a feeling of alienation, of being denied a share of the national cake, of being ignored in terms of development, credible political representation and sympathy for local problems.
The outcome, as Hazarika so effectively proves, has even more dangerous implications – the support and succour provided by neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and China, to underground groups for the last three decades while north-eastern insurgency ebbed and peaked.
It is a tragic tale, made more tragic by the fact that, despite peace accords and increased communication, the wheel could easily come full circle again, this time with far more fearsome consequences.
In that sense, Hazarika’s effort is timely, with his own ideas of what could be done to stop the slide, some facile, some perceptive, but all long overdue. As is this book.

Summary of #2 – Rites of Passage cover

Rites of Passage: Border Crossings, Imagined Homelands, India’s East and Bangladesh

The book deals with the sustained cultural, political and religious assault faced by the original communities inhabiting the North East as a result of the movement of disadvantaged communities from contiguous areas, particularly Bangladesh. Large-scale conversions as a result of competitive missionary activity aggravate the problem.






An Area of Great Tragedy

India’s Northeast is an arena where a great tragedy has been unfolding for well over eight decades, three of these prior to Independence. The original communities inhabiting the region are facing a sustained cultural, political and religious assault, largely as a result of the movement of disadvantaged communities from contiguous areas, particularly Bangladesh, and also through a process of large-scale conversions as a result of competitive missionary activity. The imminence of a loss of identity engenders emotional responses that have led to mass movements, large-scale civil disorders, secessionist insurgencies and terrorism.
Despite decades of turmoil, this region has remained an area of general neglect in the literature, and only occasional research has shed small pools of light on the multiplicity of problems that plague it. Sanjoy Hazarika’s Rites of Passage: Border Crossings, Imagined Homelands, India’s East and Bangladesh, is a welcome addition to the discourse on some of the most fundamental issues that underlie the unremitting crises of the Northeast.
In the tide of violence and the politics of hate that is sweeping across this region, it is difficult to retain objectivity and balance, and this is more the case for a writer born to the area of conflict. Hazarika has, however, achieved this in substantial measure with peculiar equilibrium between a passionate narrative style and a descriptive veracity, to write a book that will remain a seminal work, providing important insights on the apparently irreducible problems that arise out of the distress movement of millions of people across the international border between India and Bangladesh.
Hazarika closely documents the inexorable economic, environmental, demographic and historical pressures that have created this movement, and rubbishes the pan-Islamist ‘Greater Bangladesh’ conspiracy, even as he records the callous and short-sighted political manipulation that has sought to mobilize popular and sectarian insecurities for partisan political ends instead of exploring constructive solutions. He has, moreover, displayed an even-handed acuity in discovering the roots of much of the conflict, not in communal differences, but in the linguistic and cultural parochialism of both the ‘indigenous’ and migratory communities. It is certainly the fact, for instance, that the processes of assimilation in Assam would have been far smoother had Bengali speaking migrants not insisted on retaining Bengali as an official language in the 1950s. Even today, it is linguistic sub-groups in Assam, and not the ‘Assamese Muslim’ – predominantly earlier migrants who accepted the local language and culture – who arouse the greatest hostility among locals. There is, equally, an extraordinary fairness in Hazarika’s treatment of a wide range of disconcerting conflicts and issues between the many States within the region and with Bangladesh, an urgent effort to find solutions, rather than a fruitless fixation on historical grievances – real or imagined.
Hazarika’s declared intent in writing this book is “to force a debate, to shake up governmental and societal approaches to the issue of migration.” The problems he documents have remained intractable despite the many ‘solutions’ offered by politicians, administrators, intellectuals and rabble-rousers, alike. In the final chapter, ‘Seeking Partnership, Renouncing Confrontation’, Hazarika offers a “checklist of ‘doable’ programmes which could transform the region.” Many of the programmes listed are capable of execution, given the necessary goodwill and understanding. But in the tangled political situation that prevails in the region, these suggestions will inevitably fall by the wayside. Demographic destabilization is presently entrenched as a plank to power, and no party has displayed any commitment to the implementation of pragmatic policies once it has secured power.
Nevertheless, Hazarika’s effort is exemplary, and Rites of Passage is an important book not only for everyone who has an interest in India’s Northeast, but also for those who concern themselves with the overall problems of the great migrations that have taken place, and continue to occur, throughout the world.

(Published in Sunday HT, January 26, 2001)

Summary of #3 – Writing on the Wall

Decades of State and non-State violence in India’s landlocked North-east have taken a heavy toll on livelihoods, incomes, governance, growth and image, besides lives. Despite vast amounts of money being pumped into the region, basic needs and minimum services are yet to be met in terms of connectivity, health, education and power. What are the possible ways forward as the region stands at a crossroads? These fifteen personal essays provide an insider’s take on wide-ranging issues: from the Brahmaputra and the use of natural resources to peace talks in Nagaland; from the writingCentre’s failure to Repeal The Hated Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Threats To The Environment, Corruption In Government And Extortion By Armed Groups To New Delhi S Look East Policy And Much More. Yet, As These Essays Make Clear, Hope, Though Distant, Is Not Absent Or Lost. Restoring Governance Through People-Driven Development Programmes, Peace Building Through Civil Society Initiatives, Assuring The Pre-Eminence Of Local Communities As Evident In Hazarika S Conversations With The Legendary Naga Leader, Th. Muivah, And Simple Economic Interventions Through Appropriate Technologies Boats And Health Care, Community Mobilization And Micro-Credit Hold Promise For Solutions To The Web Of Violence, Poverty And Marginalization. Writing On The Wall Is A Passionate Call To All Stakeholders In The North-East To Embrace Dialogue And Use Given Platforms For Peace, To Go Beyond The Politics Of Tolerance To That Of Mutual Respect. Only Such Multi-Disciplinary, Innovative Approaches, Rooted In Realism, Can Bring Stability And Sustainable Change To The Region.


Decades of State and non-State violence

Despite vast amounts of money being pumped into the region, basic needs and minimum services are yet to be met in terms of connectivity, health, education and power. What are the possible ways forward as the region stands at a crossroads? These fifteen personal essays provide an insider’s take on wide-ranging issues: from the Brahmaputra and the use of natural resources to peace talks in Nagaland; from the Centre’s failure to repeal the hated Armed Forces Special Powers Act, threats to the environment, corruption in government and extortion by armed groups to New Delhi’s Look East Policy and much more. Yet, as these essays make clear, hope, though distant, is not absent or lost. Restoring governance through people-driven development programmes, peace building through civil society initiatives, assuring the pre-eminence of local communities as evident in Hazarika’s conversations with the legendary Naga leader, Th. Muivah, and simple economic interventions through appropriate technologies – boats and health care, community mobilization and micro-credit – hold promise for solutions to the web of violence, poverty and marginalization. Writing on the Wall is a passionate call to all stakeholders in the North-east to embrace dialogue and use given platforms for peace, to go beyond the politics of tolerance to that of mutual respect. Only such multi-disciplinary, innovative approaches, rooted in realism, can bring stability and sustainable change to the region

Summary of #4 – The State Strikes Back cover

The State Strikes Back: India and the Naga Insurgency

In the first decade after declaring independence in 1947, the Indian state faced numerous challenges to its very existence and legitimacy. These ranged from a war with Pakistan over the state of Jammu and Kashmir immediately after independence to the first armed uprising in the country in Telengana led by Communists in what is today the state of Andhra Pradesh. When an armed revolt against the very idea of India erupted in the distant Naga Hills of Naga Hills of Assam state in the 1950s, the Indian government was quick to act by using the full force of the army and, in some cases, the air force, as well as its paramilitary and local police. It enacted special parliamentary legislation such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to give security forces even more powers and protect them from criminal prosecution for any normal violation of the law since these were regarded as extraordinary responses. This monograph addresses the tackling of nationalist aspirations through the use of the AFSPA, with a focus on Nagaland; it analyzes the approach and its impact of Naga society, as well as the fallout for the Indian state. This is the fifty-second publication in Policy Studies, a peer-reviewed East-West Center series that presents scholarly analysis of key contemporary domestic and international political, economic, and strategic issues affecting Asia in a policy relevant manner.








Summary of #5 – Conflicts in the NortheastConflicts in the Northeast cover

Northeast India comprises of seven states – Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. This region has been the theatre of insurgency and ethnic-based armed conflicts for more than half a century making the region one of South Asia’s most disturbed areas.
The instability in Northeast India is characterized by two distinct factors – ethnic clashes among the indigenous groups and political movement against the Union Government. The conflicting dynamics in the Northeast ranges from insurgency for secession to insurgency for autonomy, from terrorism to ethnic clashes, to problems of continuous inflow of migrants and the fight over resources. Moreover, vested interests and inter tribal and inter factional rivalry have led militant groups to continually clash among themselves, plunging the region in a vicious cycle of militancy, social violence and lack of economic growth. These armed conflicts have given impetus to small arms proliferation, narcotics trade and a parallel economy. The democratic deficits and how the Central Government and the states have addressed these concerns are of interest.
The location of the region, politically and geographically, has a fundamental bearing on it and its people who aspire for different goals and how they try to reach these goals. The region shares borders with four countries: Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Tibet/China and is connected to the Indian mainland by a narrow stretch of land. This adds to the trans – border ramifications to the conflicts.
To address these issues CSA with the help of Centre for Northeast Studies and Policy Research, Guwahati engaged a few experts who have contributed papers which were presented at the Seminar in New Delhi in July 2010 and the same stand published through this book.








Summary of #6 – The Degeneration Of India

degenerationA collection of essays that expose the collapse of Indian society, covering education, energy, culture, health, the status of women, agriculture, the environment and the economy.  Talking about the degeneration of India is a bit like pointing to the neighbourhood garbage bin and carping that it is never cleaned. So what’s new? T. N. Seshan, in his latest book on the subject, which he has co-written with journalist Sanjoy Hazarika, falls into that trap and never really gets out of the muck.


Review by Raj Chengappa

His 305-page collection of loosely strung essays (including two appendices and an index) is an attempt to expose the collapse of Indian society, ranging from, as he puts it, “education to energy, security to culture, health to the status of women, agriculture and industry, environment and the economy”.

Most people would have had the humility to admit that the task was beyond them and confined themselves to analysing some aspects of the decay. Not Seshan, of course. Undaunted by the scope, he hops from one garbage bin to the next like a sanitary inspector and then pronounces his verdict: It’s filthy. So what’s new?

In doing so, Seshan gives up the option of trying to focus on a few vital areas and use them to draw patterns for the decline. Worse, by the time he is through with his rantings about how rotten the system is, he has no breath or space left to tell us what the ways out of the mess are.

Seshan himself has demonstrated that he could single-handedly bring about reform in India’s electoral system – something he narrates at some length in the final chapters of his book. Isn’t there a lesson in it for all of us? That all is not lost. and that change is possible if someone decides to utilise the authority he is invested with to say: “Grrr!Ibite.”

The other problem with Seshan’s theme is that in his eyes, India or Indians can do nothing right. And the blame largely falls on venal politicians, black marketeers, unscrupulous industrialists, blundering planners, docile civil servants and biased journalists.

Even the few bright spots he mentions are dimmed by the all-encompassing darkness of decay that Seshan believes India has descended into. If things were really as bad or depressing as he makes them out to be, all of us should have committed collective suicide by now.

For Seshan, however, the glass is always half-empty. Never half-full. He fails to celebrate the successes of the nation. That after 48 years of independence, India has grown into a vibrant democracy.

That the Mandal agitation, or the rise of Yadav rule in north India, is an example of how the nation is setting right the centuries of discrimination that caused the decay in the first place. That there are numerous people (Seshan included) and institutions that we can and should feel proud of.

Even in his condemnation, Seshan is far from convincing. Many of his conclusions are based on personal experiences, some of them so frivolous that you begin to doubt his objectivity. If it is not his anecdotes, then he quotes Rajni Kothari’s Growing Amnesia ad nauseam to prove his point. Or the Statistical Outline of India 1994-95 (Thanks a lot).

He also comes up with such trite one-liners as the “fall in probity in public life has led to a situation where the only place we have titans in this country is in the field of wristwatches”. By the end of the book, Seshan comes across even more pompous than he really is. So what’s new?

Summary of #7 –  Bearing Witness: The Impact of Conflict on Women in Nagaland and Assam






Review by the Editor of Assam Times

The Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research and the Heinrich Böll Foundation have pleasure in inviting you to a series of events to be held in a number of cities in India through September to October 2011. The events showcase the Research Report, Film and a Photo Exhibition conducted by C-nes and supported by HBF, under the project titled “Reviewing the Impact of Conflict on Women in Assam and Nagaland”, to a wide ranging audience and thereby, aim to generate awareness, understanding and discussion on the issues of concern.

The research, filming and photography for the project, ‘Impact of Conflict on Women in Assam and Nagaland’ were conducted by the C-NES team between 2009 and 2010. Its major aim was the rigorous documentation of how women in the two states have suffered since the first conflicts between Naga insurgents and Indian security forces – and between the idea of India and those who sought political and cultural spaces outside of it – and extensive dissemination through publications, the production of a documentary film, seminars/conferences and the media. The project sought to place these issues in the larger context of the challenges of nation-building, the enduring issues of human rights and their violations, enshrined in ‘national security’ laws which have been opposed for over 50 years. Regional growth and the failure of stakeholders and non-State groups to address these concerns are also reviewed.

The project has looked at not just who was affected or how they were affected but also the broader issues of just laws, the use of State power and the rights of individuals, especially women, in conflict zones. Violence against women during times of armed conflict has been a persistent and widespread practice over centuries. Until recently, violence against women in such situations has been couched in terms of protection and honor. This has been particularly devastating for women for it perpetuates their subordination in an insidiously deep-rooted manner.

The course of field research generated a diverse and challenging set of new perspectives, concerns, conclusions and experiences. As the C-nes team puts it: ‘To bear witness has been a challenging and disturbing experience; listening to and reading the testimonies of the victims has been particularly painful and saddening – especially as we are deeply aware that virtually none of the victims have had access either to compensation or justice by getting the legal system or even the administrative system to take care of the harm they have suffered. For some, the nightmare persists because they remained unhealed and unreached; for others the nightmare is renewed when they see the alleged killers of relatives or friends walking around free. We have been privileged to have been included in some of the most personal and difficult situations which these women and other individuals have faced. Although the title of the project is “The Impact of Conflict on Women in Nagaland and Assam”, it is not as if the suffering was confined to women. Indeed, while they have suffered acutely, other members of society also has been harmed, across the gender divide’.

We believe that the hard work, dedication and sincerity in bringing out this volume of work would contribute to a larger discourse about the situation in the North-east. The Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research and the Heinrich Böll Foundation have pleasure in inviting you to a series of events to be held across Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Kohima and Guwahati through September to October 2011. The objective is to showcase the Research Report, Film (A Measure of Impunity) and the Photo Exhibition, conducted by C-nes and supported by HBF, under the project titled ‘Reviewing the impact of conflict on women in Assam and Nagaland’, and bring it to the attention of a wider audience. In the process, we believe it will generate awareness, understanding and discussion about the plight, as well as, the courage of the women in these two states of North-east India.


Summary of # 8 – Little Known Fighters Against the Raj: Figures from Meghalaya

The book, edited by Sanjoy Hazarika, includes papers from historians and experts on the North-Eastlittle known


The little-known but significant contribution of freedom fighters from Meghalaya.

Review by Kareena Gianani

If one is looking for an objective account of the Indian independence movement, textbooks are not where we’d find them — not if you are searching for stories of freedom fighters from the eight North-Eastern states.

“We all know it, and a few are now working to change it — instead of complaining that the North-East does not feature in our history textbooks, much like anywhere else, the contributors and I decided to write an objective history. The story of Indian independence is incomplete without acknowledging the region’s contribution,” says Hazarika, who was assisted by Associate Professor, Amarjeet Singh.

The idea of the book came from a 2010 workshop held at the North East Hill University, Shillong, where historians and researchers working in the region presented their papers. “I thought if we compile their information, it could be an instrumental book in filling gaps in our present curricula,” he explains. Hazarika is currently working on offering the book as a teaching tool to college libraries and is in talks with the Vice Chancellor of the Delhi University for inclusion of the text in colleges.

“How many people know of Tirot Singh, the king of Hima Nongkhlaw, one of the 25 Khasi states?” wonders Hazarika. The book reveals that his “his life and death story has become a saga”. After fighting the British in the Anglo-Khasi war, Singh surrendered in 1833 and passed away in Dacca in 1934. According to the paper in the book, “the legend of Singh has only grown and found expression in many forms — in songs, poetry, drama, art and biographies.”

The book goes on to discuss the story of how the Jaintias were disillusioned with the house tax of 1860, the income tax of 1861, news of fresh duties on trade and other commodities, the interference with the traditional festival at Yalong, the firing on the people of Jowai who came to deliver up their weapons and the activities of the missionaries. They found a passionate leader in U Kiang Nangbah, who carried out a popular decision of not paying tax to the government. Nangbah was later hung.

The book includes papers written by Imdad Husain, David R Syiemlieh, Patricia Mukhim, SN Lamare and Abhijit Choudhury.

Husain’s paper explains how, in the North-East, imperialism and colonialism played out in the guise of humanitarian efforts.

Mukhim’s paper discusses the unfortunate shortcomings of the oral tradition when it comes to keeping these memories alive. Most youngsters in India know nothing about them because they are not national icons like Mahatma Gandhi or Subhas Chandra Bose. She also points out how theatre, supported by veterans like Ratan Thiyam, has come to the rescue of the Meiteis of Manipur, who are among the few who have spread their history across India and the world.

Hazarika is now working on a similar book on freedom fighters from Manipur and Assam. He says he is positive about the emergence of more, better and layered fiction and non-fiction from the North-East. “At a recent event in Mumbai, I noticed how most narratives from states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat were entirely fictional. Stories from the North-East, fiction or not, are born from the region’s realities and struggles, and that will take them places.”

Another review

Filling in the Gaps

Review by Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty

“Little Known Fighters Against the Raj: Figures from Meghalaya”, That standard history books about our freedom struggle have tiptoed around these figures and their rebellions in no way make them less significant in understanding the making of an India we have today. Locally, they have been revered figures, their plots against the invaders examples of nationalist pride, subjects of songs, dances, dramas.

Take Tirot Singh, the Syiem (king) of Nongkhlaw in Khasi hills. In what is known as the Anglo-Khasi War, Tirot Singh fought the British for nearly four years before his surrender. Singh was tried and transported to Dacca by the British where he died in house arrest on July 17, 1835. His death anniversary is commemorated every year in Meghalaya on this day.

Or the Jaintia Raja, pensioned and pushed to Syllet, Bangladesh, after annexing his territory, one of the larger hill States in pre-colonial times, in 1835. The Jaintias though didn’t give up so easily. In 1860, and again in 1862, they rose in revolt under the leadership of a commoner, U Kiang Nangbah, who was later hung by the British. Similarly, so many other freedom fighters lost their lives.

Sanjoy Hazarika points out in the Introduction that though interesting details of various struggles were drawn from the past and collected during the 150th commemoration of 1857, “the studies woven around it could not fully reflect the position in regions such as the North East.”

Hazarika however, doesn’t want to “sound negative”, rather focus on “making an effort towards solving the problem.” He outlines the gap that the book aims at filling. “Generally, freedom fighters from Assam are better known to have taken part in what is conventionally termed Freedom Struggle. But there were those who came from small ethnic groups of the region who resisted and struggled against British imperialism in a very different manner and whose names are not known even among scholars and students of that period.” Their lives are rarely remembered, he points out, “except by the work of a handful of academics from the region, occasional writing in the regional popular Press and commemorations by local Government and ethnic organisations.”

The book was born at a workshop on the issue in 2010 at the North East Hill University, Shillong, leading to writing research papers that were presented in 2011 at another workshop organised by the Saifuddin Kitchlew Chair and the North East Centre along with Jamia’s History Department. The papers included in the book are written by experts Imdad Husain, David R. Syiemlieh, Patricia Mukhim, S.N. Lamare and Abhijit Choudhury which draw inputs from various sources including Raj records available at libraries and the National Archives.

Husain’s paper abounds in interesting information, be it the strategic reasons behind the annexation of each territory by the British or nuggets like the formation of a regional history organisation, now a vibrant entity of nearly 2,000 members, born of a long lament at “the virtual absence of any reference to the region in the standard histories and textbooks on modern India”. Mukhim’s paper highlights the struggle in Khasi, Jaintia and Garo communities to keep the memories alive through oral traditions, and also how “these warriors have become a sort of political instrument and a cause for exclusive ethnic pride” instead of becoming national icons.

Syiemlieh points out efforts like, a Bengali theatrical group from Kolkata staging a drama on Tirot Singh in Shillong as early as the late-1940s followed by events like Jairamdas Doulatram, the former Governor of Assam, unveiling a memorial on Singh in Moirang in 1954, and on whose suggestion an account was written on the king.

Hazarika hopes the book finds its way to educational institutions. “Given the continuing lack of understanding of the region

and its people which lead to tragic incidents in process of discrimination, we hope that this book can form part of the teaching syllabus and curricula for graduate and post-graduate levels in the social sciences. We plan to approach the Government,” he says.


Summary of #9 – Climate Change in the Eastern Himalaya



This book is on the topic of climate change in the North-east region of India. It discusses the impact of climate change on traditional agricultural practices in the region and initiatives on climate change and the challenges of poverty, livelihoods and climate change. Linking governance to socio-ecological dynamics of the Upper Brahmaputra Valley, it deals with the interplay of gender issues, natural resources use and conflict with special reference to Assamese literary texts. It showcases innovative interventions by delving into the approaches in Bhutan vis-à-vis impact of climate change and explores how impact of climate change will aggravate socio-political conflicts between areas in India and between regions. It has a number of reference that cite government documents, data from international organisations and interviews among other sources along with case studies.

Other Links

Master link to Sanjoy Hazarika articles:

Master link to Sanjoy Hazarika articles in The Sunday Guardian:

Master link


Links to Sanjoy Hazarika articles in The Hindu:

Link to Sanjoy Hazarika articles in The Little Mag

Link to Sanjoy Hazarika articles in First Post

Link to Sanjoy Hazarika’s  article on Myanmar published in The Hindu


A Note on the Boat Clinics of the Brahmaputra

Boat Clinics

An extraordinary and unique geographical phenomenon characterizes the Brahmaputra  in its 891 km course through Assam: a vast network of islands, home to the most vulnerable.  More than 2.5 million people live on some 2,500 of these islands in Assam- chars or saporisas they are locally called. They represent a significant reality, comprising 8 percent of the total population of the state of 30 million.

Most islands totally lack basic infrastructure and services; from health to schools, from power and roads to drinking water and sanitation. In June 2004-2005, the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research (C-NES) launched a unique initiative to tackle this unique challenge; to bring better  health facilities to communities in the Brahmaputra valley. A team under the leadership of SanjoyHazarika, Managing Trustee worked round the clock to design and build Akha – described also as “A Ship Of Hope In A Valley Of Flood – to provide mobile health services to the poor and the marginalized on the islands in Dibrugarh district. The focus: immunization of children, pregnant women and new mothers as well as treatment of vulnerable adult groups. The concept won a World Bank Award for innovation aimed at bridging rural gaps.

It started small in Dibrugarh, in partnership with the district administration, where Sanjoy  learned about designing wooden boats and even got advice from MIT scholars on the kind of buoyancy needed as well as the engineer power to move against speedy currents.  Later, following a similar strategy, it expanded its services to Dhemaji and Tinsukia. UNICEF then came into the picture to build capacity and training. The National Rural Health Mission, Government of Assam, then proposed a collaboration seeing this as a major opportunity to give sustained health care to those millions who have been beyond ‘normal’ reach.  A unique Private Public Partnership was signed on January 2008 with NRHM.

.           A total of 15 Boat Clinics  operate along the river . The service goes to people, instead of people coming for the service. The services includes the full spectrum of curative care, reproductive and child care, family planning and basic laboratory work.