Fear, insecurity and anxiety seem to be the enduring sources of genocidal impulses against the Bengali-speaking Muslim minorities of contemporary Assam, India. This paper explores how the tripartite matrix of the border, census and citizenship categories has become indispensable in inscribing fear and anxiety in contemporary Assam’s body politic. Using insights from postcolonial states’ practices, the paper shows how the state suffers from a persistent neurosis, characterised by an “incompleteness-anxiety”, and how attempts have been made to resolve this sense of crisis by mobilising the majority to align its Assamese identity in the direction of an imagined purified “national whole”. Further, the paper elaborates upon the implications of these anxieties with reference to Indo-Bangladeshi relations, in which Assam figures prominently both as a prime border state and as a place that is integral to the region’s riparian borderlands as a whole. Moving away from the official discourses of contemporary Indo-Bangladeshi relations, which are guided largely by postcolonial cartographic anxiety, the paper points towards the creative possibilities of exploring the “relational registers” within the region’s shared civilisational resources as an alternative, in which Assam can act as a bridge between India and Bangladesh.
- Perceptions Autumn-Summer 2019
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