Part-time Faculty Its feudal, entitled, and cannibalistic. The original vision of the book also has newspaper cuttings, and found maps. When your investigations in Kashmir came to an end, what changes did you observe in your 'grammar of dissent'? Suchitra is a BSc graduate from Mar Ivanios College (Trivandrum). Suchitra Vijayan is a barrister-at-law, writer and researcher. The pandemic showed us that crises and recurrent disasters that annihilate our lives are here to stay. @narendramodi & his role in the Gujarat Pogrom. Propaganda and poison work in far more sophisticated ways. With profound empathy and a novelistic eye for detail, Vijayan brings us face to face with the brutal legacy of colonialism, state violence, and government corruption. Suchitra is a BSc graduate from Mar Ivanios College (Trivandrum). Vijayan is no stranger to stories of violence. The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, Supreme Court forms expert panel to probe any regulatory failure on Adani issue, India makes renewed push for consensus at G20 Foreign Ministers meeting, Hindenburg Research report on Adani Group | Supreme Court verdict on expert committee on March 2, High debt on Vedanta books puts investors on tenterhooks, Employees Provident Fund: How to activate UAN online, 1947: Madras Devadasis (Prevention of Dedication) Act passed, RMA 0-1 FCB, El Clasico highlights: Barcelona leads on aggregate after beating Real Madrid courtesy of a Militao own goal. Vijayan began her journey in Kolkata. Co-founded the Resettlement Legal Aid Project in Cairo, Suchitra is also the founder of the Polis Project, a research and journalism organisation. The two officers who avert the attack narrowly escape death but are left with broken bodies and broken lives. Second, as the media continued to promote government positions on the crisis, other critical political issues dropped out of public scrutiny. For instance, if you went to school with, say, Indias most powerful publisher, or your dad plays golf or socialised at the Gymkhana with the politically powerful and the culturally influential, then that system is built to get you the resources. This was something I had to resist from the get-go. There are instances when you and some voices in the narrative question their documentation practice. In retaliation, the Indian Air Force carried out an airstrike on an alleged militant training camp in Balakot in Pakistans Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Creative . We believe that literature builds communityand if reading The Rumpus makes you feel more connected, please show your support! The mortality of someone you love affects how you write. Co-founded the Resettlement Legal Aid Project in Cairo, Suchitra is also the founder of the Polis Project, a research and journalism organisation. They create cleavages of fear, xenophobia, and insecurity. So here, 'Midnight' functions as a moment of violent birth, but also perhaps the foundational violence that becomes codified in various ways, especially in the bodies of people farthest away from power. There are two quotes I regularly use by Allan Sekula when I teach: "The making of a human likeness on film is a political act. I have no control over what comes next. Vijayan: Chopra and others like her are a reflection of how popular culture and virality inform discourse and shape it. This discrepancy is just one example of the confusion and misinformation spread to the public by deeply flawed media reports. She's a good friend and kindly agreed to take our City Hall wedding photos. Check posts or bunkers were not part of the landscapes of my home. We see that more clearly when you decide against photographing children at the India-Bangladesh border. Author, lawyer and journalist, Suchitra Vijayan in conversation with Cerebration editor Smita Maitra on her book Midnight's Borders, maps, fragmented identities and postcolonial nation-states. We lift up new voices alongside those of more established writers readers already know and love. It was just a sad moment, and I couldnt celebrate a book when there was so much human tragedy playing out. How do you think this shapes climate justice? They dont. Is that a probable solution? Even those among us who will speak of BLM will not openly challenge Hindutva or the RSS. You need a community of people to support you. The acts of writing, documenting, photographing, and archiving carry privileges of caste and class. The Author Suchitra Vijayan is an American writer, essayist, activist, and photographer working across oral history, state violence, and visual storytelling. Her writing has appeared in The Citron Review, Dukool Magazine, Cerebration, Feminism in India, Times of India (Spellbound edition), and others. History and memory is localwhich means its almost impossible to write about India. So lets be very clear that Indias intellectual literary landscape is deeply problematic, feudal, and alienating," says Suchitra Vijayan to FII, Featured Image Source: Excerpts from the #BBC documentary telecast about PM . Many of the stories didnt make it to the book because it became dangerous to identify people. Suchitra Vijayan talks to FII about Indian politics, communal violence, marginalisation and her book Midnights Borders: A Peoples History of Modern India. This is a profoundly alienating place for anyone without the networks of privilege and resources. Another name that came to my mind was 'An Outline of the Republic', only to discover Siddhartha Debs excellent book by the same name. Copyright 2023, THG PUBLISHING PVT LTD. or its affiliated companies. Born and raised in Madras, India, she is the author of the critically acclaimed book Midnight's Borders: A People's History of Modern India (Melville House, New York). Who is expendable, and the manufacturing of rightlessness to render people expendable. A:I dont think an ethical or moral compass exists nowI dont know if it ever existed. Already a subscriber? This article was published more than4 years ago. Suchitra is now a singer-songwriter as well, composing music on her own and in collaboration with Singer Ranjith. Part of this process is a need to turn the lens back at the powerful. Suchitra Vijayanis a barrister-at-law, writer and researcher. She studied Law, Political Science and International Relations, and was trained as a Barrister-at-Law and called to Bar at the Honourable Society of Inner Temple. Along the way, we meet the men and women of TASC, dissenting students, ISIS terrorists and Pakistani military officers. Some of the oldest resistances in our nation are those communities who have been fighting for their own homes from militarisation who seek to exploit their mineral rich home land for mining. Q: Speaking about the content of the work, by including under-represented perspectives on the frequently debated partition and border laws you present a novel perspective to journalistic canon. This is the backdrop against which we map how border practices and policies have played out in India. Vijayans lens not only captures the people but also the past through objects, such as the picture of Kotwali Gate, the remains of a medieval fort that serves as a border checkpoint rife with weeds and trees growing on it, symbolic of a state bent on rewriting history rather than preserving it. Suchitras account of her journeys across the undefinable and ever-shifting borders between India and its neighbours is gripping, frightening, faithful and beautiful. Your email address will not be published. [4] She also worked as a dubbing artist for popular heroines like Shriya Saran and Lakshmi Rai.[5]. Sayantika Mandal is an Indian writer. This is a serious, often funny and deeply revealing book. M, An essential, beautifully written report from the hellish margins of a modern mega-state struggling to be a nation, of people whose lives continue to be shaped by violent political marches across age-old homes and habitats. I'mdyslexic, but have visual and episodic memory, which means I dream and relive moments. 42, Moss Rose Heights, M.M Ali road, WASA Circle, Lalkhan Bazar, Chittogong 4000. I wrote the book, but those who have lived through this hell continue to live and navigate this hell. To make matters worse, between 2013 and 2019, editors of channels and publications have been sacked and replaced, primarily because of their criticism of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Born and raised in Madras, India, she is the author of the critically acclaimed book Midnight's Borders: A People's History of Modern India (Melville House, New York). Rohini Menon for Feminism in India, FII Interviews: Suchitra Vijayan Talks About Marginalisation, Institutional Violence & Political Imagination, Ananya is a chaotic humanities student with a deep interest in the relationship between art and society, a writing obsession, and way too many bizarre ideas involving their camera. The former is an essential act of dissent, even resistance, especially in these dark times. It is here that we subsume all that we otherwise celebrate under the demands of freedom, progress, liberalism, liberty, and secular ideals.". Suchitra Vijayan complicates and expands our understanding of the South Asian American experience, urging readers to consider stories that cast dark eyes at India, a strategic ally of many Western nations. First, the escalation in the counterinsurgency war within the Kashmir Valley under which hundreds of activists were arrested and several Kashmiri civilians killed in gun battles was grievously underreported. The show deals with interesting international happenings. They are arriving from various cities and people I have never met. Like most women, I learnt to navigate this toxic misogyny, the threat of sexual violence, and patriarchy by merely existing as a dark-skinned woman in this country. The travel, the people they encounter, and the political events they record quickly become cameos. I had a very stable home to come back to. Not everyone lived to see its promises. As a lawyer, journalist, and human rights activist who has worked in conflict-ridden territories of Kosovo, Egypt, Rwanda, and elsewhere, she has often met people scrambling for bare existence, caught in a no-mans land. Lets start with a very simple statement that everyone can agree on: the way were living right now cannot continue. The third thing is: were going back to relitigating everything. Then my agent said, Suchitra, you know, I think youre hiding behind your academic language. March 06, 2021 04:50 pm | Updated March 07, 2021 08:05 am IST. All rights reserved. And what does this mean for on-ground communities, governments, armed forces, and other institutional stakeholders? I have two tests. These may not be perfect worlds or even equal worlds, but they strive to be. RT @project_polis: Writing fiction in a dystopian world - @kiccovich in conversation with @mohammedhanif . This is the age of erosion of citizenship rights, a kind of ongoing attrition against human rights, civil liberties, and in the case of India, an accelerated dilution of fundamental rights. Vijayan: Most Indian American writers, especially many of them who occupy the broad spectrum of literary to punditry, come from immense privilege of caste and class. Suchitra Vijayan is the executive director of the Polis Project. Husain Haqqani: Pakistan released the Indian pilot. These new worlds are already herethey are maps of survival, maps of resistance. Indias intellectual, journalistic, and literary landscape is profoundly problematic and alienating. Excellent interview, brave insights and critical reflections! 4 reviews of Suchitra Vijayan Photography "Huge fan of Suchitra Vijayan Photography! The constant making and remaking of who is a citizen, who is not, is accompanied by a profoundly dehumanising process. As a trained barrister, I used to believe in the concept of justicebut now I simply call this freedom and dignity. I had to write and rewrite this book so many times. When the book finally came out, India was undergoing the deadly 2nd wave. Professor Nandita Sharmas work is an excellent way to engage with this history. Love, passion, anger, the desire to make a point about something. Even as 70% of the border with Bangladesh has been fenced, smugglers, drug couriers, human traffickers and cattle rustlers continue to cross to ply their trades. All along the border, the common refrain is, It feels like Partition is still alive., A story from near Jalpaiguri in north Bengal, that of a man named Ali, is heartbreaking. Find him on Twitter at @AruniKashyap. Firstpost - All Rights Reserved. What I was most concerned about and still am are the people in the book and their safety. Nonfiction, Travel, Fiction Member Since February 2021 edit data Suchitra Vijayan was born and raised in Madras, India. And were there any apprehensions since you began working on this book? In an interview with Firstpost,Vijayan talks about her book, the militarisation of borders, ethno-nationalism, and the politics of documentation. Second, we can no longer have certain conversationsconversations are now impossible. I dont have apprehensions. News organizations such as India Today, NDTV, News 18, the Indian Express, First Post, Mumbai Mirror, ANI and others routinely attributed their information to anonymous government sources, forensic experts, police officers and intelligence officers. No independent investigations were conducted, and serious questions about intelligence failures were left unanswered. I almost never forget, I remember entire episodes or events since I was six years old. Firstly, when we talk about violence, we often talk about it only as communal violence, as if both communities have equal strength and power. The second season of The Family Man begins with Srikant Tiwari, a former intelligence officer of TASCa fictitious intelligence agency akin to the Research & Analysis Wingworking at an IT company. Bigotry is also big business. Rumpus: How hard was it to write nonfiction about such a violent contemporary history? As a spy working for TASC, Srikant Tiwari, played by Manoj Bajpayee, has to juggle being an underpaid government employee as well as an absent husband and a perpetually late and distracted father. Accompanied by this globally, democracies are becoming more authoritarian and stripping people of their citizenshipreducing them to subjects, entrenching the fault lines of inequality. She is currently working on her first novel. How did you achieve empathy in your writing, without the privileged lens that is common in journalistic canon? Early on, the idea of bearing witness as a rhetorical tool and as a literary device became deeply problematic. Suchitra Vijayan is the executive director of the Polis Project. It is truly the treason of the intellectuals. We could have attributed this to ignorance even a few years back; now its just silence thats deeply complicit in the Hindutva project. India has consistently warred against its own citizens; this book is about some of these wars. I particularly loved the fact that all our couple shots were very natural and came out truly . Early on, I was very careful to acknowledge this. Also, hope is a discipline. Midnights Borders is part investigation, part meditation on the lines drawn on land or water that separate India from its neighbours. L.L.B., Law, The University of Leeds, 2004 M.A., International Relation . Suchitra Vijayan is a writer, photographer, lawyer, political essayist, and a lecturer. As I travelled, I was very aware of these inherent power differences. So now, how do we respond to this? What makes these lives so vivid is how Vijayan contextualizes them by placing them in the bigger picture of history. As I say in the book, Kashmir changed me, it gave me political and moral clarity to always stand with those fighting for their peoples freedom and dignity. Later on she moved to Coimbatore for her MBA from PSG Institute of Management. Its an immense privilege to be able to write and be published. I was reading a lot of Pessoa when I was in Afghanistan, so another placeholder title was 'Maps/Lines/Cartographies of Disquiet', inspired by the Book of Disquiet. Why the Modi government lies. Suchitra is a sought-after performer at corporate and other such stage shows. What we can do is attempt micro-histories of events, timelines, or local communities. My role, then, and this books role, is to find in their articulations a critique of the nation-state, its violence and the arbitrariness of territorial sovereignty.". I have no formal training as a writer or a photographer, I taught myself and learnt by doing, failing and creating my own grammar. We no longer ask if this will lead to a better society, if it will benefit the vast majority of those farthest away from power. Also, a book is an act of community; it has many midwives. To them he is a man who has settled into a job that has no future. These are stories of massive human rights violations committed by the Indian state in the countrys margins. The failure to forget affects how I use images, and texts; my photographic practice and also how I put everything together. Sometimes lost. There was an NDTV programme, where somebody said Should Indias constitution be secularist? We live in a surveillance economy where we are constantly just bearing witness we are record keepers, unwitting spies, and voyeurs. I was also trying to tell these stories from a repertoire of skills I had, and some I acquired. Stallings, Rumpus Original Fiction: The Litany of Invisible Things. [1], Suchitra joined Sify for a year, after graduating. 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[1] Career [ edit] Suchitra Vijayans new book, Midnights Borders: A Peoples History of Modern India, takes a deep look at such stories by prioritizing the experiences of the silenced victims as well as lesser-known accounts from victims of state violence. But its also important to constantly take account of who is writing about this India to an Indian and global audience. One of the reasons why this book was written was to step back: to say that this violence that you and I listen to and encounter is not new to say that this violence is not new. But, more importantly, I wanted my readers to walk away with a sense of empathy. There are so many nonfiction books about India published yearly but few are so important and subversive. The book was called ``a genre-bending book of nonfictionmade You will see very little critical commentary or public positions on Hindutva, its corrosive role in India, or how RSS works here in the USfunding and now interfering in US elections. Heartbreaking, and still, something we must all notice and understand. M, Unique and ambitious, Vijayans project gains urgency and significance from our moment of resurgent nationalisms, when borders are being aggressively reasserted, in India and across the globe. G, An intervention like no other when it comes to thinking through not just the history of India but for reflections on borders, migration, the elusory nature of nations. Suchitra Vijayan. We also need a fundamental reframing of language. Commentary Politics. Dear reader, this article is free to read and it will remain free but it isnt free to produce. Even the diasporic experience is often told through this limited lens, without taking into account how diverse the immigrant experience in this country is. Midnight's Borders by Suchitra Vijayan falls in both categories. What do words like democracy, freedom, and citizenship mean? She lives in New York. Vijayan: I would say I am hopeful. Worse, we have been disciplined to accept injustice and inequality as given. This is a profoundly alienating place for anyone without the networks of privilege and resources. I have never lived under military occupation, curfew, or a looming threat of violence. Is photographing a woman, who was gang-raped by the Sudanese army and put on the cover of TIMEpractically naked, able to stop the war? A t a time when right-wing nationalism is crescendoing in India and across the world, Suchitra Vijayan's Midnight's Borders raises pertinent questions about the very foundations of India's nationalism the cartography of South Asian nation-states defined by arbitrary lines drawn hastily by the British colonial administration. Why is this particular time of the day intrinsic to the book? Suchitra Vijayan is an American writer, essayist, activist, and photographer working across oral history, state violence, and visual storytelling. I fear we are losing that cosmopolitanism of small places. India and its Borderlands: Suchitra Vijayan in Conversation with Sharjeel Usmani, Book talk with Suchitra Vijayan, author of Midnights Borders, Crisis at the Border: Contestation, Sovereignty, and Statelessness. Q: As you wrote this book, you dont hesitate to meditate on how your personal life bidirectionally impacted the book. We are consuming subjects in a surveillance economy, not citizens. Ten years later, you were in Kashmir, where you 'hoped to find answers' by talking to a family that had lost a son. This is not the violent right wing and their siege; its centrist and liberal media that is also relitigating history, deconstructing the core values of the constitution. I wrote a book along with it comes love, scorn, and sometimes even ridicule. Yes, men who act as petty sovereigns are everywhere. While Border Pillar No 1 becomes a convenient stump for children playing cricket along the land that India shares with Bangladesh, roughly 2000 kilometers away in Punjab a woman farmer watches on as the army builds a bunker on the few acres of land she owns. On Feb. 14, an Indian paramilitary convoy was attacked in Pulwama in India-administered Kashmir, resulting in the death of 40 Indian officers. She is the founder and executive director of The Polis Project, and the author of Midnight's Borders: A People's History of Modern India, recently published by Context, Westland. 6,253 Followers, 902 Following, 1,165 Posts - See Instagram photos and videos from Suchitra Vijayan (@suchitravijayan) March 20, 2021 09:50:40 IST. A memorable, humane museum of forgotten stories that we must all read and remember. M, What experiences and lives unfold in these pages. Then you sit in a room with a mother telling you that she has no idea what happened to her son and has no way of knowing if hes ever coming back. Perhaps there are lessons to learn from that. We know that the purpose of borders has kept changing for nations. More Buying Choices 1,732.00 (16 Used & New offers) Audible Audiobook 0.00 Free with Audible trial 586.00 ( 9 ) The act of recording and documenting cannot be divorced from the inherent question of power. Our borders had become a spectacle, and we the cheering mob, she says, as she calls for purging hatred for the sake of posterity. Abrogation Of Article 370 Jammu And Kashmir Statehood, BSF foils another Pakistan plot, shoots down drone in Punjab's Amritsar, Light on weight, heavy on damage: India will be able to hit deep inside Pakistan with THIS ultralightweight howitzer, Put issues related to border in 'proper place', work for its early normalisation: Chinese FM Qin to Jaishankar, In Midnight's Borders, Suchitra Vijayan meditates on belongingness, freedom and political implications of territorial demarcations. What do you think the future holds? There are also those who have previously been tacit, if not active, supporters of the right-wing Hindu nationalist Indian state. Although Vijayan critiques the state and its complicity in violence and erasure of lives, she refrains from villainizing the men who serve the state. Also, we shouldn't forget that the border making project is central to capitalist and neoliberal logic. IWE is a body of work where the voices of Indias marginalized are still kept on the fringes; Midnights Borders is anarrative nonfiction book depicting a world that novels from mainland India have failed to depict. It has taken me over a decade to get here. We dont document violence against the privileged like we would report violence against those without power. Nine years ago, she began documenting stories from her travels along the borders of India. The people whose lives are not just materials for the book, who are, in some ways, your co-conspirators in trying to make sense of the social reality. Indias intellectual, journalistic, and literary landscape is profoundly problematic and alienating. While Nehru was still declaring this victory, the slaughter began. Subscribe to the Rumpus Book Clubs (poetry, prose, or both) and Letters in the Mail from authors (for adults and kids). Why dont people see the ground shifting beneath their feet? Perhaps thats their victory. Similarly, motherhood changed me; it radicalised me. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions?". She sang her first song for the movie, Lesa Lesa under the composition of Harris Jayaraj and her co-singer was the legendary, K. S. Chitra. As a bedouin who grew up listening to beautiful stories from beautiful storytellers around a fire, I was transported by her storytelling. We need to think about border practices, policing, and national security policies within the larger historical and political contexts. As a spy working for TASC, Tiwari has to juggle being an underpaid government employee as well as an absent husband and a perpetually late and distracted father. I now think twice about calling friends, worried if this might put them at risk. So I try to learn and listen, and again, as I say in this book, "It is not my goal to 'bear witness' or 'give voice to the voiceless'. Her work looks at theories of violence, war, and human nature. 'Suchitra's account of her journeys across the undefinable and ever-shifting borders between India and its neighbours is gripping, frightening, faithful and beautiful. You need to write what you seethats why you started this project.. He was arrested based on fabricated evidence in the middle of a global pandemic, and he was denied bail and medical help. With the phone armed with a camera, everyone is a photographer; we are all witnesses.