Highway 39: Interview with Sudeep Charkravarti
When did you decide to write on the Northeast? The idea of writing a book on the Northeast has a long history. The only reason I couldn’t do it earlier was because of my profession as a mainstream journalist. The Northeast, unfortunately, was not the region of focus for the publications I worked with. I have seen India’s liberalisation from ground-up and top-down, of which most of us were the direct beneficiaries. I’ve always been astounded with the delusional world we live in. Call it ‘Middle India’, call it whatever. I have many phrases for it. There is this magical creature, the leapfrog. India’s development story is similar to this leapfrog. Its policy-makers are always taking these leaps from point A to point B and the space in between is on no one’s radar — a null space. This space is the main construct of our country. This is what drives me to do what I do now and the book is the outcome.
What is the evolution of the Naga movement? Strictly in the Naga context, there is criticism against many rebel leaders that they have gone soft. They are now ministers in the rebel governments, like any minister in the federal government in Nagaland. These are the fat cats — they live in plush bungalows and enjoy the best of life. But this is now an open debate in the Naga society, which is very healthy. Things have changed over the years. People are coming out into the public domain and questioning the rebel leaderships along with the political leadership. This leads to some amount of introspection even within the rebel groups.