ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Interning Insurgent Populations: The Buried Histories of Indian Democracy

Based on the memories of elderly Naga and Mizo villagers in north-east India who underwent grouping in the 1950s and 1960s, this article shows how the concept of "success" and "failure" used by studies of grouping is flawed, betraying a bureaucratic calculus. Whatever the overt reasons given for grouping, what underlies it is the assumption that all people in a given area, whether civilian or combatant, are potentially hostile. Grouping is thus an act of war rather than effective counter-insurgency. This article describes the process of grouping, forced labour, surveillance and starvation in the camps. While descriptions of the process of grouping are consistent, people's opinions vary on its implications for their own lives, depending on their past and current location.

I am grateful to the Agrarian Studies Program, particularly James Scott, K Sivaramakrishnan and Kay Mansfield, for providing the time and space to write this article in 2008-09. This research would not have been possible without the extremely generous help of Abu (Nekeisanuo Sorhie) and others in NPMHR, particularly Kenneth, Lanusashi Longkumer and Kolo; and in Mizoram, Prof Lianzela, and H Lalthuamliana, who not only interpreted for me, but did many interviews on his own. I thank all those in Nagaland and Mizoram who generously shared their time and insights with me; as well as Karen Herbert, Keely Maxwell, Alessandro Monsutti, Laura Sayre, Virginius Xaxa, Ravi Hemadri, Babloo Loithongbam, Sanjib Baruah, Ramachandra Guha, Khurram Hussain, Aparna Sundar and Siddharth Varadarajan for comments and help of various kinds. This article has been presented at the Agrarian Studies Colloquium, Yale University (April 2009), the History Department, Jawaharlal Nehru University (November 2009), at conferences on forced relocation, Rovaniemi Finland (October 2009), on social conflict, Delhi School of Economics (April 2010), and on grouping in Aizawl (August 2010).


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