Voices from Peripheral India: Critical Explorations of Socio-Economic and Geopolitical Dimensions of Indian Borders

Panel Code

The panel will explore: How can Indian border communities be understood, given their unique location?; In what way is their political depiction typified and unproblematised?; and, Could alternative conceptions, based on hitherto auxiliary hermeneutics, underpin the trajectories confronted by these communities? Indian borders are reminiscent of a diversified, but hitherto disputed, distressed and disquiet, periphery, the people of which have gone into oblivion. From the vantage point of borderland communities, these regions are the locus where elements of societal continuities and commonalities between India and her neighbours could be mapped out.

The problem, however, remains with the dominant mainstream perception that suggest borders as avenues of conflict, insecurity and risk. This view is contestable on two grounds. Firstly, it rests on a flawed assumption that threat emanate from peripheral parts of the country which is largely due to the lack of social and economic uncertainties in the region. This assumption creates image of an unreal enemy who could resort to villainy of any degree and kind. It also overshadows the turmoil, anguish and profligacy that is suffered by these communities. The second point of contestation surfaces from the sheer lack of understanding about the living, problems and sensitivities of the frontier communities— they are neither monolithic nor emergent. They have a distinct history and context, and this has ensured that, in spite of the circumstantial oddities, their culture, language and habits not only survive but also assimilate and nurture other marginalised values.

A microscopic study of these excluded sites of interactions, with the excluded and vulnerable communities at the heart of the research, could provide a more optimistic perspective on the viability of cross-border cooperation against the birds-eye view of the borderlands, which clearly suppresses the opinion and denigrates the position of borderland communities. Contrary to the unproblematised notion of the Indian borders which is grounded in instrumental rationality, the panel attempts to nuance the concept and proposes a philanthropic rationale. To this extent, there is a critical grounding of the dereliction and extradition that is experienced by the border societies of India.