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Tag Archives: Zubaan

Five Women Changing The Face of Youth Fiction

If one were to walk into any regular bookstore in India and head to the youth fiction section, they’d immediately notice a veritable forest of colourful books. The age-old Enid Blyton and Lady Bird books in the pride of place, surrounded by more recent hits, like the Twilight series, or books by the indomitable Ravinder Singh. Guided by the fervour of nostalgia or mass popularity, we don’t usually stop to notice the problems that many of these 'traditional' books can pose.


Some of these, written specifically for young American or European readers, fail to resonate with the Indian context or existence. Others, including those written by Indians, follow predictable patterns, reproducing toxic patriarchal ideals, with publishers favouring these time-tested formulas for 'safety'. Youth fiction from all over the world is often full of casual sexism, xenophobia or snobbery, passing unnoticed in the garb of humour.

Young Indians have been gradually gaining access to Western fiction which feature unconventional storylines probing normalised systems of oppression. However, much of the youth fiction available in India, whether originating here or outside, is still regressive and 'traditional'.


It’s understandable, of course. It’s never easy to come out of safe zones into uncharted territory.

But the times they are a-changin', and the hourglass seems to be running out of sand for 'safe' children’s literature. Contemporary authors have shouldered the challenge, and one brave book at a time, are taking over the very structure of youth fiction. Foremost in this word-lead march for change are women, broaching supposedly unspeakable topics (think queer identities) and fighting societal norms.


Inclusive, representative fiction is the order of the day, portraying young protagonists who are going through real struggles that any young person might face. Indian children are now being offered Indian fare, books they can connect to and which affirm their value, no matter how bold or different they are.

To spread the spirit of that change, here’s a short list of five women in India and neighbouring countries who are making this possible with their hilarious and exciting “different” books for young people. They deal with a wild array of topics, ranging from gender equality to newly discovered identities to incomprehensible emotions.


Natasha Sharma 



Though Natasha has experience in fields as disparate as pizza and watches, what she does best is read the minds of children. Her books are a curious mix of laughter and gently slid in trivia which keeps young people wanting to know more. Icky, Mucky, Yucky (Young Zubaan) and the Squiggle’s Adventures in English series (Young Zubaan/Penguin) are two of her extremely popular creations, which broach the issues of bad manners and punctuation without ever being preachy. Wholeheartedly silly and easy to read, they are often chosen for dramatised re-tellings in schools and libraries.



Natasha also writes historical fiction for young people, such as Razia and the Pesky Presents, which tells the story of 'Sultan' Razia, humorously questioning gender performance practices. With the severe dearth of Indian historical fiction for kids and teens, books like this are a welcome gift.


Payal Dhar

timeless land 01.indd


If the lack of gripping Indian YA fantasy fiction had ever been an issue, Payal Dhar exterminated it. Her ability to weave magical worlds into the fabric of mundane adolescent girl issues led to the creation of her A Shadow in Eternity trilogy, published by Young Zubaan. Based in a parallel universe and still somehow relatable, her books strongly reiterate that all heroes are not men.


Payal’s Slightly Burnt, published by Bloomsbury deals sensitively with the question of adolescent queer identities, offering a supportive narrative which could help young people figuring themselves out. And she does this without falling into the YA love triangle plot trap! Her ability to write smoothly about issues which are still not quite mainstream, even in adult fiction, is brilliant.

She has also co-edited a fantastic collection of dystopian, sci-fi short stories and graphic stories called Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean (Young Zubaan). The anthology is proudly feminist but also manages to successfully juggle other critical issues like human rights, food security and environmental degradation.

Rupa Gulab



Rupa Gulab is a columnist and successful author of several YA books. She builds simple stories to address complex emotions which slightly older children may be experiencing. Her Hot Chocolate is Thicker than Blood (Duckbill) addresses questions of adoption, showing it from the non-adopted child’s point of view, intertwining it with themes of family bonding and teenage angst. The protagonist is a conflicted young girl, going through school and life much like the targeted reader would be, as well.


Daddy Come Lately (Duckbill) too, is an emotional roller-coaster, offering the reader an understanding of the internal turmoil that single parent families often face. The captivating and unabashedly feelings-oriented story line sends out the subtle message that it’s okay for life to be turbulent.


Kunzang Choden 



An award-winning writer from Bhutan, when Kunzang turned her hand to children’s books, she chose an endearingly simple medium: picture books. Her two picture books are beautifully illustrated by Pema Tshering, making them favourites of even very young children. While Aunty Mouse (Young Zubaan) is a charming retelling of a classic Bhutanese folktale, Room in Your Heart (Young Zubaan) is an original story, written in a similar folk rhythm.


Inspired by the tales she heard during her own childhood, she firmly states in an interview with the Hindu, 'stories are not just to be told, but they have to be interactive. That is how Bhutanese stories are.' Both her picture books live up to this legacy. The stories feature women who control their own lives, and take their own decisions, even if it leads to a sticky end in certain cases. They can be instrumental in helping little ones think about life choices without feeling like a strict moral lesson.


Geeta Dharmarajan


A well-known social entrepreneur and educationist, Geeta Dharmarajan is also the mind behind Katha Books, which publishes socially conscious literature for children. She deeply believes in the power of translation as a unificatory tool in India, and thus, Katha often publishes books in multiple regional languages. Her interest in children has led her to becoming the Honorary Chairperson of the National Bal Bhavan.


Most importantly, however, Geeta is also an author. Her books for children feature irreverent and unapologetic women leads, who don’t let any restrictions stop them from achieving their goals. So Lachmi, in Lachmi’s War (Katha), fights for women’s education, and Jivuba in Choo...mantar! (Katha) battles opposition to achieve her aspirations. Told in the form of mythical fairy tales, they are captivating and thought-provoking at the same time.

Queer & Here: Your Reading List for Pride Month

New York’s Stonewall Riots of 1969 saw members of the LGBTQ+ community clash with the police in what is widely known as the catalyst for the modern queer rights movement in the United States. Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, two trans women of colour, were the main organisers of Stonewall riots. They protested against arbitrary raids and arrests by the police, targeting the queer community in New York. Their legacy of fighting for the rights of marginalised communities of colours, the LGBTQ community, people living with HIV and drag queens, have been recognised throughout the years. Though the Stonewall riots are sometimes seen as the starting point for the assertion of queer rights across the world, the queer community in every country has its own distinct history of fighting against homophobia and sexism.


In her book Queer Activism in India, Naisargi N. Dave proposes that India’s first known gay protest was organised outside of Delhi police’s headquarters in 1992. The first queer demonstration also occurred in Delhi in 1992, when two hundred delegates walked out of the International AIDS Conference to protest the Indian government’s stand against homosexuality. The first effort to decriminalise same-gender sex in India, came in 1994, with a petition filed in the Delhi High Court; that same court was the first in India to decriminalise same-gender sex in 2009 (though this decision was later reversed). With the Supreme Court in India reading down the archaic Section 377, which criminalised sexual conduct ‘against the order of nature’ in September 2018, queer narratives and literature are fast gaining prominence. However, queer literature in India has existed before the Supreme Court’s 2018 verdict. Scholars such as Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai collected over 2000 years of Indian writing on same-sex love in their collection Same-Sex Love in India. A Lambda Literary Award finalist, this book showed how important it is for non-Western cultures to develop a critical vocabulary and formulate context-based theories which are unique to the Indian subcontinent.


Fierce FemmesLiterature is an important lens through which to examine cultural shifts, as it is, in many ways, a microcosm for our society. Positive portrayals of same-gender love are slowly becoming more mainstream. Kai Cheng Thom’s Lambda finalist Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars is one such book and the latest addition to Young Zubaan’s list of kickass feminist books for children and young adults. (find the link to our web store at the end of the article). For this year’s Pride celebrations, we have curated a list of five books which pertain to the truth of living as a queer person in the global South, or as a queer person of colour in the North.



  • Cobalt Blue - Sachin Kundalkar

CobaltBlueTranslated from Marathi by acclaimed novelist Jerry Pinto, Sachin Kundalkar’s novel traces the story of a mysterious tenant who captures the hearts of two siblings Tanay and Anuja, when he arrives as an artist looking for lodging in their family home in Pune. The novel pairs interior monologues from Tanay and Anuja, both addressed to their beloved boarder, who charmed each of them before leaving without any explanation.


Published in Marathi in 2006, Cobalt Blue is ahead of its time in its representation of queer love. The moments shared between Tanay and the tenant are not written to satisfy heterosexual voyeurism, but realistically depict the joy and agony of love. A tale of rapturous tenderness and fierce heartbreak, Cobalt Blue with its experimental narrative style and daring imagination is a frank exploration of a gay life in India; of people living in emotional isolation and attempting to find intimacy against all odds.


  • A Life in Trans Activism - A. Revathi

A Life in Trans ActivismPublished in 2016 by Zubaan, A Revathi’s second book traces her life, and her work in the NGO Sangama, which works with people across a spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations. It narrates the tale of how she rose from office assistant to the director in the organisation. The first half of the book describes her journey as a trans woman, as she becomes an independent activist, theatre person, actor, writer and organiser for the rights of transgender persons. Later, Revathi offers insight into one of the least talked-about experiences in the gender spectrum: that of being a trans man. A Life in Trans Activism emphasizes the ways in which the trans identity intersects with other identities, and how these intersections contribute to unique experiences of oppression and privilege.




  • Babyji - Abha Dawesar


BabyjiBabyji is a daring coming of age story of 16-year-old Anamika Sharma, a student in New Delhi. Abha Dawesar’s second novel details the exploits of Anamika as she romances three women, juggling her studies and her lovers while attempting to finish school. The story is set against the backdrop of Mandal Commission's recommendations in 1980, which proposed the doubling of seats for backward castes. An upper-caste woman herself, Anamika uses her academic expertise and sexual prowess, to liberate herself from the Brahmanical mores of the society that she inhabits. Babyji is a brave exploration and moral enquiry into what it means to be a growing woman who is coming to terms with her own sexuality. This novel is the winner of the 2005 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction and of the 2006 Stonewall Book Award for Fiction.


  • The Devourers - Indra Das


TheDevourersIndra Das’s debut novel is a love story between two shape shifting werewolves, Fenrir and Gevaudan — a gay couple — and their companion, a young Muslim woman called Cyrah. The shape shifters exist on the margins of society: they wander into Shah Jahan’s empire, fleeing persecution in their homeland. Alok Mukherjee, a Bengali professor of history who narrates the novel, is still reeling from an engagement that was broken off after his affairs with other men came out in the open. The Devourers refuses to be pigeonholed into a single genre; it borrows tropes and writing devices from dark fantasy, speculative fiction and science fiction. A chilling saga that spans across various centuries and continents, this novel showcases Das’s incredible prowess with language and rhythm. The Devourers won the 29th Annual Lambda Award in LGBT Science Fiction/ Fantasy/ Horror category.


  • Sister Outsider - Audre Lorde

SisterOutsiderA collection of speeches and essays by a self-described “black lesbian feminist warrior poet,” Sister Outsider is considered a ground breaking work by Audre Lorde. This book contains a great mix of ideas and tones; it has poems, interviews, journal entries, and speeches interspersed with aphorisms. It proved to be an important and necessary tool in the cannon of progressive theory when it was first published in 1984. Lorde’s work centres the experience of black lesbians and critiques a mostly white, academic community of second-wave feminists for overlooking blacks, gays and women, as well as the elderly and the disabled in their theories.






P.S: The South Asian edition of Kai Cheng Thom's novel Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl's Confabulous Memoir is now on sale on our website.

What We Read: Feminist fiction book club, 2018

Since February of 2016, Zubaan has hosted a book club that reads and discusses feminist fiction every few weeks. In 2018, these discussions covered the following eight books:

Salt Houses, Hala Alyan  [picked from a list of the best books of 2017*]

Swing Time, Zadie Smith [from a list of books by or about artists]

Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng [from a list of books featuring adoption]

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, Balli Kaur Jaswal [from a list of books about friendship]

Kocharethi: The Araya Woman, Narayan [from a list of books by indigenous peoples]

A Life in Words, Ismat Chughtai [from a list of memoirs from South Asia]

Masks, Fumiko Enchi [picked by group consensus at previous meeting]

Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout [from a list of books dealing with ageing]

Next year, we'll start with JCB-shortlisted All The Lives We Never Lived, by Anuradha Roy. Join us at 11am on January 27, at the Zubaan office if you've read it.

*Unless otherwise mentioned, these lists  are compilations of suggestions from book club members, submitted with that meeting's theme in mind.

Letter from the Publisher: the year that was and the year that is


Dear author, supporter, friend of Zubaan,

Another 365 days have gone by (and then another 31) and somehow, although the new year begins with just another day, there’s always a sense of new beginnings, new hopes, of looking back, and looking forward.

At Zubaan, we’ve had a busy year: we published some wonderful books, and reissued some of the best of our classics, our academic list grew from strength to strength, and our non fiction books covered a wide range of subjects. You’ll find a full list, with brief descriptions, of our 2015 titles below.

It’s also been a year of changes: in 2014 Preeti Gill, longtime editor at Zubaan and the brain behind our Northeast list, left to start a new and different professional life. In 2015, Anita Roy, who’s also been with Zubaan from the beginning, relocated to England to be with her parents, although she still continues to work with us, and is a virtual presence in the office every day through Skype.

Monetary constraints – all independent publishers are struggling, we’re no exception – meant that we were unable to bring in new people, and the existing Zubaan team, Shweta Vachani, Ishani Butalia, Meghna Singh bravely took on additional work, with support from our colleagues Satish Sharma, Elsy Paul, Santosh Singh and Usha, who keeps us well fed and ensures a regular (crucial) supply of coffee and tea.

Towards the end of 2015, we began to wind down our three year long project on Sexual Violence and Impunity in South Asia, a project supported by IDRC (International Development Research Centre), as a part of which 50 research papers were commissioned from across South Asia, and these will now be published in a set of volumes, the first of which came out in time for the Jaipur Literature Festival where we had an excellent and well attended (over 600 people!) discussion. The panel was called ‘Body of Evidence: Sexual Violence and the Search for Justice in South Asia’ and it was moderated by our co-coordinator of the project, Laxmi Murthy, with Meghna Guhathakurta from Bangladesh, Sumathy Sivamohan from Sri Lanka and Essar Batool from Kashmir as speakers.

As always, we organised a number of events – our regular Critical Conversations at Oxford Bookstore which featured two lively discussions, one on sexualities and the other on writing from the Northeast. In collaboration with the Heinrich Boll Stiftung, we held a number of discussions on Partition in Delhi, at Jindal University Sonepat, in Kolkata (along with Peaceworks, a unit of Seagull Books) and Ahmedabad (along with Ahmedabad University). Cultures of Peace, our annual festival of the Northeast (also in collaboration with the Heinrich Boll Stiftung) made its way this year to Guwahati (where we partnered with the North East Writers Forum) and Bangalore, and in Delhi. A unique partnership was with EUNIC, the European Union Institutes of Culture, with whose help we brought over eight writers from Europe for a one day programme where they were in conversation with Indian writers. Cross Border Conversations, the programme, will now translate into a book. Our Young Zubaan programmes included discussions and workshops in schools, in bookshops (Full Circle Bookshop, one of our favourite places) and more.

And there’s much to look forward to in this year: we’ll soon be publishing a book that traces the lives of the mothers of Manipur, the women who staged a naked protest outside Kangla Fort in Imphal; a riveting and moving account of her life as a Transgender activist by A. Revathi, a book on the mass rape of women in Kunan Poshpora in Kashmir entitled Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora?, a volume that traces questions of impunity, of speech and silence in relation to sexual violence, by V. Geetha, and our South Asian volumes edited by Uma Chakravarti, Meghna Guhathakurta, Seira Tamang, Mandira Sharma, Neelam Hussain, Laxmi Murthy and Urvashi Butalia.

We’re lucky to be working with a set of people on whom we can rely for quick turnarounds of our work – these are our typesetters and our printers, who just never say no to our demands and who do their very best to meet our deadlines.

All this put together helps us to survive. But more than ever before, for independents, breaking even, making a profit, however small, is an issue. In this last year, we reorganised ourselves a bit, to enable us to work towards being sustainable. We set up a company, owned by the senior staff at Zubaan, that took over all the publishing activity, leaving the projects to the Zubaan Trust, so creating a hybrid structure. As well, we set up a unit called Track Changes, that takes on consultancies, that offers self publishing, that does design and print jobs professionally, to earn some revenue for Zubaan. Track Changes has been making slow progress, and we’re hoping that very soon it will start generating good business that will help Zubaan to survive. And here again, we’d like to ask for your help: if you know of people who want things edited, who need readers’ reports on manuscripts, who need editorial feedback, or writing skills, or design and production, do please send them our way. We need to work towards making Zubaan sustainable and self supporting, and this is one way of doing this: we’re happy to produce books, reports, take on writing assignments, etc.

We continue to be inspired and moved by the books our writers offer to us, the books that we go out and find; women are writing so much more, they’re doing exciting, joyful, serious, funny and just stunning books. The tragedy though is, that while the books are lovely, it seems to become more and more difficult to sell them. Brick and mortar bookshops have been closing, ebook sales have not picked up enough, so to survive, one has to find new ways of getting the good word out. It’s here that we’ve been helped by our authors and our friends, who put out the word about new books and we want to thank you all for this and to ask for your continued support. Do please review our books, talk about them, tweet about them, and get the word out. For our part, we’ll continue to publish against the grain, and to put in whatever efforts we can to reach the books to you.

We have a whole new set of ideas about how to do this, but we’d also like to engage you, our readers, our authors, our friends, in the exercise of thinking where you would like Zubaan to go in the future, and we plan to come back to you with this question very soon. All ideas, radical and otherwise, are welcome.

So do write and tell us what you think, give us your ideas about how we should develop, change, adapt, and of course that most important thing, survive!


Zubaan's lunchtime conversations go digital

Hello, Zubaan supporter, fellow Internet wanderer, and/or accidental(ly on purpose?) link-clicker:

Welcome to the Zubaan blog, version 2.0! After a brief (read: three year long) respite, we're excited to bring back this space as a forum to engage with conversations of cultural relevance and urgency, ones that occupy central and marginal places within South Asian feminisms. The big stuff, the small stuff. The new and old. Bits of digital ephemera, and the decidedly not-so-ephemeral. Things that Zubaan is pondering, and those of importance to the communities to which we are connected. All in all, a versatile, dynamic space with no one voice - but a space that, like Zubaan, remains outspoken, independent, unorthodox and feminist.

What to expect: think pieces; featured interviews with writers, artists, scholars; archive-digging and its treasures; behind-the-scenes looks at the publishing process; information about Zubaan's literary and research projects; guest posts by young scholars/thinkers - in-depth and wide-ranging in a way that other social media doesn't allow.

What not to expect: freedom from Harry Potter references.

So here goes this exercise in community-building - one we hope that you will participate in as well, to challenge us and make us think, with tongues untied (and sometimes in-cheek).

Constant vigilance,
The Zubaan Team

Zubaan at the World Book Fair

Dear friends
Do come and see our books at the World Book Fair. We can't afford to have a stall of our own - the book fair has hiked up its prices substantially, and we just don't make enough money back to take a full stand, plus, small publishers have no clout so get relegated to corners and inaccessible places (while the large ones can use money power to get the best locations!). So we've taken a considered decision to save money and spend it on publishing the next book!! But meanwhile, if you are visiting, we'd love you to look at our books which are available from our distributors, Penguin Books India and Cambridge University Press. While Penguin will have all our 'trade' or general books (i.e. fiction, general non fiction, young adult, children), Cambridge will have our academic books. They're located at:

Cambridge University Press : Hall No.6, Stall nos 846-59
Penguin Books India :Hall No.6, Stall nos 989 - 1020

Some of our recent highlights include:

Seventeen, by Anita Agnihotri. Translated by Arunava Sinha
Bitter Wormwood, by Easterine Kire
The Song Seekers, by Saswati Sengupta

Non Fiction
Our Pictures, Our Words: A Visual Journey Through Women's Movement, by Laxmi Murthy and Rajashri Dasgupta

Young Zubaan
Icky Yucky Mucky, by Natasha Sharma. Illustrated by Anitha Balachandran

Dalit Women Speak Out: Caste, Class and Gender Violence in India, by Aloysius Arudayam S.J., Jayshree P. Mangubhai, Joel G. Lee
Shia Women: Muslim Faith and Practice, by Diane D'Souza

Look forward to seeing you there.

The Zubaan Team
Preeti Gill, Anita Roy, Shweta Vachani, Shweta Tewari, Rosalyn D'Mello, Satish Sharma, Elsy Paul, Santosh Singh, Nirmala Chaudhry, Urvashi Butalia

Zubaan at the Jaipur Literature Festival

Are you going to Jaipur? Well, we are, and we hope you're coming along too. And if you do find yourself there, don't forget to look out for our Zubaan authors. They won't always be by the bar or schmoozing with fellow literati, but they'll be around, in conversation with other authors and in panel discussions. How do you recognise them? Well, here's our little guide to Zubaan @ the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Day 1

January 20, 2012


'Prison Diaries'

Anjum Zamarud Habib will be in conversation with Iftikhar Gilani, Sahil Maqbool on a panel moderated by Siddharth Vardarajan.


Day 3

January 22, 2012


 'Amaar Bangla'

Zubaan author Anita Agnihotri will be in conversation with Malashri Lal along with Radha Chakravarthy and Fakrul Alam.

Supported by Ministry of External Affairs (SAARC Division)


Day 5

January 24, 2012


 'Women Writing Conflict'

Zubaan authors Anita Agnihotri and Mitra Phukan will be on a panel along with Devi Rajab, moderated by Urvashi Butalia.



'The Good Girls Come to Jaipur: Last Words from Lovely Ladies'

Annie Zaidi, author of Zubaan's The Bad Boy's Guide to the Good Indian Girl will be in conversation with Qaisra Shahraz, Manisha Kulshreshta and Samit Basu on a panel moderated by Nisha Susan.


A little bit about our authors:

Anita Agnihotri

Anita Agnihotri is a bureaucrat and administrator. She has worked extensively with tribal communities who provide the content for her moving and poetic writing. She has authored over 30 books that include novels, collections, and short stories, and it is this last genre that is the closest to her heart. Her collections of stories include Forest Interludes, which has been translated into Swedish, and Seventeen,  published by Zubaan.

Anjum Zamarud Habib

Anjum Zamarud Habib is the founder of Muslim Khawateen Markaz which was established in 1990 to work for the welfare of women. A year after her release from prison, she founded the Association for the Families of Kashmiri Prisoners and is currently conducting a survey on Kashmiri prisoners in jails in India and their families.

Annie Zaidi


Annie Zaidi is the author of Known Turf: Bantering with Bandits and Other True Tales, and the co-author of The Bad Boy's Guide to the Good Indian Girl, Or The Good Indian to Living, Loving, and Having Fun.

Mitra Phukan


Mitra Phukan is a writer, translator, columnist, ethnomusicologist and classical vocalist. Her published literary works include four children’s books, a biography, and a novel,The Collector’s Wife. Her most recent work is another novel, A Monsoon of Music. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. Her works have been translated into several languages.


For more details, check out the Jaipur Literature Festival Website

Bitter Wormwood: Introduction

The struggle for independence from India by the Naga people, indigenous inhabitants of the Naga Hills, has been a story hidden for several decades. Cleverly concealed by censorship on newspaper reports, there was only one western journalist, a British war correspondent named Gavin Young (The Daily Telegraph) who managed to enter Nagaland illegally in the 1960s and report what he saw of the genocide and rape and torture of the Nagas by the Indian Army.

The IWGIA (International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs) 1986 report The Naga Nation and its Struggle against Genocide, recorded that as many as 100,000 Nagas were killed in fighting with India beginning from 1956. Naga Federal government statistics claim that villagers who fled their burned villages and died of starvation and disease bring the number closer to two hundred thousand from the 50s to the 60s. The main source of information for the IWGIA report was Naga historian Dr. Visier Sanyu.

The first killings occurred in 1948 when two Nagas were shot dead by the Indian army in Tuensang, followed by another two killings in 1950, and the attack on Khonoma village and Lungkhum village in 1953. In 1954, the numbers rose to 64 Nagas killed and at the beginning of 1955, 279 Nagas were recorded killed by the army. Between January 1955 and July 1957 the estimated damage stood at: 79,794 houses burnt, 26,550,000 mounds of paddy burnt and 9,60,000,000 rupees worth of goods destroyed (source: The Naga Chronicle p.148 and p.181).

The IWGIA report documents some of the tortures in April and May 1955 by the Assam Police Battalion, beginning with the burning of 200 granaries of Mokokchung village. This was accompanied by atrocities like beating a pregnant woman and forcing her to give birth in public, raping of the village women and killing of the menfolk. In September the harvest was destroyed by the same police battalion and five village women were raped, amongst whom were two minor girls. Both young students and adults were shot and killed or tortured to death by the battalion.

In 1956, the Indian army began taking prisoners and using them for target practice. Groupings of villagers and tortures of the villagers became routine by 1957. The stories of torture documented by both the IWGIA and The Naga Chronicle seem to surpass each other in the army's inhuman treatment of the Nagas: men were tied to poles and burned; they were buried alive; their genitals were given electric currents. Each instance of torture was more gruesome and horrible than the next. The report lists the tortures and repression of the Nagas by the Indian army as "i) execution in public; ii) mass raping; iii) deforming sex organs; iv) mutilating limbs and body; v) electric shocks; vi) puncturing eyes; vii) hanging people upside down; viii) putting people in smoke-filled rooms; ix) burning down of villlages; x) concentration camps; xi) forced starvation and labour." One of the stories of rape had as its intention the desecration of the village church of Yankeli where four minor girls were raped by the Maratha contingent on 11 July 1971. The church building was abandoned by the villagers after that incident.

Of the reports, one of the most pitiable incidents occured in 1962. The village of Matikhru was attacked by the Indian army and all the women and children were chased out of the village. After that all the male adults were tortured and beheaded. This was followed by the burning of the village. The village holds an annual Remembrance day when they re-enact the killing of the 12 male members of the village.

The conflict which began as a peaceful resistance of Indian occupation escalated into a violent full-scale war after the death of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji had supported the Naga right to remain independent of India and even declared that anyone who tried to force them into the Indian Union would have to deal with him first. Sadly the Mahatma was killed in that first rush after independence and Nehru, the first Prime Minister of free India, chose the path of military aggression to make the Nagas submit.

At the height of military oppression in 1956, the Naga Army was formed and its members traveled to China and East Pakistan to find arms to fight the Indian army. Subsequent groups that went to China in the mid-70s were exposed to Chinese Marxist ideology. Factional killings begun by breakaway groups erupted in the Naga National Council in this period, eroding the Naga cause through the years.

In 1980, the first factional group called themselves the National Socialist Council of Nagaland and used the slogan, "Nagaland for Christ." After some years, there was a split in the NSCN, and two factional groups appeared, the Isak Muivah and the Khaplang factions. The factions began killing off the leaders of the Naga National Council, and drug addicts and drug peddlers, as well as members of their rival groups on a large scale right through the 80s, 90s and up till 2008. In the continuous infighting amongst the Naga freedom fighters, Naga society was riven apart by extortion, and rapid brutalization.

Today, many young Nagas struggle with a confused identity. This confusion began after India launched its war of occupation and enacted the creation of Naga statehood in 1963. Statehood was an agreement between a small group of Nagas and the Delhi government. Under statehood, Indian citizenship was imposed on Nagas, but they were denied many of the rights of citizens of India under the Indian constitution. Laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Disturbed areas act took away the fundamental rights of Nagas and continued to put them at the mercy of the armed forces.

The situation in the Indian metropolises is worrying. Students and workers from the Northeast continue to face a large percentage of racist attacks. The Times of India dated Oct 27, 2009 carried a long article entitled, "Girls from NE soft target in city." It listed various incidents including the rape and murder of a 6 year old girl from the North-east, the murder of a Naga girl by an IIT student and the beating up of Naga and a number of North-east people by locals. Sexual harassment and rape of Naga girls were initially denied redressal by the police in Indian cities but by 2009, the Ministry DonNER had decided to set "North-East Connect" to provide relief to beleaguered students (Assam Tribune, Oct 30, 2009).

The North East Support and Help Centre (NESHC), a very crucial helpline begun in September 2007, recorded that 86 percent of people from the Northeast had experienced racist attacks. Shortly after the murder of the Naga girl, the Times of India carried two more reports on Nov 7 and Nov 9, 2009 on the beating up of two Naga students and the molestation of a Naga girl. The bitterness and suspicion between the mainland Indians and Nagas in Indian cities easily triggers new conflicts contributing to the alienation.

In Nagaland, Christian groups and civil society groups such as the Naga Mothers Association, Naga Hoho, Naga Baptist Church Council, the Gaonbura and Dobashi association, Naga Students Federation and Naga Christian Fellowship have vainly tried time and again to bring the warring Naga groups to reconcile with each other. However, in 2009, all the peace efforts seemed to be making some headway. The State Police recorded a total of 12 factional killings as contrasted with a total of 300 in the previous years (source: Comparative Crime Statistics for the year 2006, 2007, 2008 up to 15th dec, 2009. Nagaland Police) give the source of the statistics.

With killings on the decline and the active efforts of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) group, there seemed to be a flickering light in the horizon. The Nagas were hopeful that the quest for lasting peace in these long-troubled, tear-sodden hills of home was in sight. The Reconciliation team is made up of apex tribal bodies and organizations and has been very active for the last 36 months of its life. Led by Dr Wati Aier, the FNR brought the NSCN IM and the NSCN K to sign a "Covenant of Reconciliation" declaration where both parties promised to pursue Naga reconciliation and forgiveness.

Though there have been a few hiccups, the forum is still maintaining course and found support from the international Baptist World Alliance which consists of 120 nations. The BWA which met in Kuala Lumpur in July 2011 passed a resolution supporting the Naga reconciliation process (report carried in The Morung Express July 9, 2011). The FNR's appeal to the Naga public makes the search for peace a community responsibility.

This book is not meant to be read as a history textbook. For the purpose of reading about the history of the Naga struggle, researchers should read comprehensive books on the topic for example, The Naga Chronicle, The Naga Saga, Nagaland File and Naga identities and The Naga resistance. This book is not about the leaders and heroes of the Naga struggle. It is about the ordinary people whose lives were completely overturned by the freedom struggle. Because the conflict is not more important than the people who are its victims.


September 2011.

Debating Feminism in Bangalore...

Sharing - awfully late, but better than never! - write up (by Pushpa Achanta - thanks Pushpa!) of the event we held in Bangalore back in September as part of our 'Cultures of Peace' series.


Shilpa Phadke, Annie Zaidi, Meera Jatav, Pramada Menon

Shilpa Phadke, Annie Zaidi, Meera Jatav, Pramada Menon

We'll be blogging up some of the forthcoming events over the next month or two... Pune... Ahmedabad... here we come!

Interview with Urvashi Butalia in 'Not Just Publishing'

"The world knows the Padmashree awardee, Urvashi Butalia, as an Indian, feminist, historian, co-founder of Kali for Women, and publisher, Zubaan Books. But on NJP, Urvashi introduces herself as, “I am a publisher, writer – in that order, and a feminist. Feminism is something I live so it pervades everything I do.”

“Getting into publishing was completely by accident,” says Urvashi. While doing her MA, she decided no more teaching Shakespeare and Milton. Meeting a friend in her French class landed her the first job at the Oxford University Press.

With NJP, Urvashi shares the intricacies and challenges of her business, and a little more of the non-publishing side of Urvashi."

Read more.....


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