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Exploring Borderlands In South AsiaSubscribe to Exploring Borderlands In South Asia

Borderlands, Empires and Nations

In the first decade of the 19th century, Kumaun was part of the Gorkha Empire connected to Kathmandu by a well-serviced east–west road. Trade in grain and salt by shepherding communities linked it to Western Tibet. In 1815, when Kumaun became a part of the East India Company’s territories, this orientation changed. Gradually, a network of roads and railways transformed the hitherto impenetrable Tarai, to the south of Kumaun. As the Kumaun economy integrated with the British Empire, via the Tarai, the commodity composition of its trade with Western Nepal (Nepal borderland) and Western Tibet (Tibet borderland) was modified. The subsequent mapping of these territories by the British created not only new geographies but also engendered new ways of knowing. The interaction of imperial administrators with the people of the borderlands produced narratives, which ignored earlier cultural identities and generated new histories of groups like the “Gorkha” and “Bhotia.”

Embattled Frontiers and Emerging Spaces

In the years following the India–China War (1962), Tawang underwent a significant makeover. In 1964, the Indian government sanctioned the construction of the Nehru Gompa monastery to commemorate Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to Tawang. Nehru Gompa is a symbol of the new relations between the Indian state and the Tibetan Buddhist institutions that were forged in the early postcolonial period in India’s North East Frontier. This paper looks at the changing dynamics between the Tawang Monastery, the local population, and the state in this context, and focuses on how the Tawang Monastery negotiated with the local administration through the medium of official correspondence.

Bureaucracy and Border Control

Studies on militarisation and borders in South Asia have often remained focused on zones of spectacular conflict such as Kashmir, or Punjab during the partition. This article tracks the production of a discourse on borders by those charged with border security such as the police and other senior bureaucracy in the decades following the partition. It suggests that the “border question” evolved gradually out of a series of everyday concerns over local criminality that finally coalesced into the more abstract category of “national security.” It examines bureaucratic debates on police reorganisation in Kutch between 1948 and 1952 to suggest that contemporary discourses on nation and borders were arrived at through intra-bureaucratic negotiations with the far less abstract categories of village, locality and region.

Frontiers, State and Banditry in the Thar Desert in the 19th Century

Through the instances of banditry in the Thur–Parkar region of the Thar Desert in the mid-19th century, this article explores the intersections between the categories of bandit, rebel and state. In the context of the phrases like “pacification” and “tranquilisation” of frontiers used as mentioned in the British reports, which suggest a state of constant turmoil, this study finds answers to the questions such as: (i) Could banditry in the arid Thar merely be understood through a criminal context, or was it located in a political context of power? (ii) Were the native rulers incapable of suppressing banditry or were their negotiations with bandits a part of historical system of exchange? (iii) Did banditry and the rebelliousness that it was inextricably located in, challenge the ideas about Rajputhood and warriorhood, as they had emerged in the Rajput courts? (iv) Did banditry constitute dissidence, as a number of bandits were outlaws?

Reading Parijat and B P Koirala

This article suggests a feminist reading of borders and nation in investigating the poetics of transborder humanism scattered in the popular genre of Nepali fiction and poetry. While border-crossing is predominantly associated with suffering and despair as well as hope and relief, it may also allude to opportunism and betrayal. My argument is that borders are not only corporeal and political, but also introspective and personal. I reflect on the works of Parijat and B P Koirala whose lives criss-crossed the Nepal–India border on more than one level. I argue that the conundrum of their political and personal engagements might have triggered a new poetic discourse on an individual’s relationship with society, state and the world. This genre of writing speaks to an earlier South Asian discourse dating back to Tagore but more recently, revisited in its psychoanalytic interpretations by Ashis Nandy which interpret borders and nationalism more flexibly to offer an alternative that is different from its more mainstream, Westphalian theorisations.

Relative Intimacies

Described here are stories of families within the borderlands of India and Bangladesh who have kin relations on the other side of the border. They are about the continued making and maintenance of kinship ties across transnational family networks over the changing practices of border control. Officers and constables in the Indian Border Security Force, tasked with preventing all cross-border movements, recognised with sympathy the existence and emotional power of cross-border family ties. This article attempts to answer questions like what normative and emotive ideas about kin obligations and morality prevail upon individuals and families as they decide whether or not to continue investment in relations across borders. How do these sit within the larger political economy of the border itself?

Of Tulips and Daffodils

This article examines the emergence of the concept of Kashmir jannat nazir as a literary and political imaginary in the Mughal court. It represented a distinct imagination about the region and emerged as a literary imaginary in the late 16th century and over the early part of the 17th century, entering into the imperial chronicles. By the mid-17th century, the concept had become a part of the political discourse and the language of Mughal sovereignty. The literary and political imaginary of Kashmir in the Mughal court drew upon older textual traditions like the literature and histories from Kashmir, corpora of Arab and Persian geographies compiled from the ninth century onwards, travel accounts, wonder tales and the chronicles of the Ghaznavid and Timurid courts.
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