Free Press Journal

Strangers No More: New Narratives from India’s Northeast by Sanjoy Hazarika- Review


Book title: Strangers No More: New Narratives from India’s Northeast

Author: Sanjoy Hazarika

Publisher: Aleph Book Company

Pages: 296; Price: Rs 799

With three states in the Northeast of India — Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura — busy with the assembly elections this February, all of a sudden there is a surge in the amount of coverage the Northeastern states are getting by news channels that are otherwise largely ignored. Unfortunately, the ignorance regarding the Northeast that comprises of eight states, by the people of the rest of India is equally pitiful.

Thus, the book Strangers No More: New Narratives from India’s Northeast by Sanjoy Hazarika, is a must-read for those that would like to understand the ground realities of the Northeastern states, from socio-economic and political perspectives. It has been twenty years that Hazarika wrote his first book on Northeast, Strangers of the Mist. It was perhaps the first comprehensive book on India’s Northeast and even till this day, his book is referred by researchers, journalists and students pertaining to information on Northeast India. And, now with Strangers No More, Hazarika continues his journey in the Northeast with stories and interviews that provide an in-depth overview of where the Northeast stands, today.

Hazarika uses his exemplary narrative style to tell the stories that otherwise might go untold.  The author not only highlights the issues that are being currently faced by the people of the Northeastern states, but also, provides suggestions and effective solutions to these issues. Hence, this book can be treated as a handbook by political leaders, non-governmental organisations, activists and specialists that are working at grassroots level, to get a holistic view of the Northeastern states of India, and in turn, help them to focus on the betterment of the people in these states.

The author has suggestions in the book pertaining to gargantuan sized projects that are planned for Northeastern states, that could also apply to other states in India, “It’s better to improve what we have instead of launching ambitious projects that would lead to endless corruption, delays, frustration, growing anger and confrontation and massive destruction of irreplaceable species. We have no right to do that.”

While discussing Arunachal Pradesh, the author says, “Arunachal’s political and social stability as well as those of ‘national interest’ mesh and merge at every point in this distant border state.” This aspect makes Arunachal Pradesh an extremely tricky area to tread on, in terms of policies and governance.

Every page of the book is a minefield of information and stories that upholds everything that one needs to understand about Northeastern states. While for most Indians, Sikkim is a beautiful tourist spot, which holds true, but the other glaring truth is that most are oblivious of its history and how it became part of India. As Indians, perhaps we should ask ourselves, how much do we really know about this Indian state and how much of a concern it generates in the public domain.

Hazarika brings forth facts that would force the reader to ponder upon issues that are mostly brushed under the carpet. While mentioning about Meghalaya, the author writes, “A closer examination shows that power-broking, moneymaking, environment exploitation and traditional systems and processes are all caught up and bound together in this mesh. Otherwise, how else can one explain the fact that large parts of Shillong, which gets an annual average rainfall of about 2,167 centimetres spread over the summer depend on frantic calls to water tanker companies?”

“The past always intrudes into the present here and elsewhere in the Northeast.”